Christmas Letter 2009

“Because of God's tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace." Luke 1:78-79


Twas four weeks before Christmas

and all through the home,

not one child had written his Christmas news tome.

I begged and pleaded but to no avail;

No one was ready to tell his tale.

Time is the problem; it’s what we all lack.

That nonrenewable resource we never get back.

We start the year vowing to improve our habits.

Twelve months later, we’ve chased too many rabbits.

It’s not that our days aren’t filled with meaning.

Working, studying, cooking and cleaning.

What is our purpose? Why are we here?

Could it have something to do with this time of year?

As we pause to reflect on our Savior’s birth,

Remember the reason He came to this earth.

For God gave us love in the form of His son.

A love we are meant to pass on, every one.

So, take hold of the time that so quickly passes.

Love one another and serve all classes.

Spend your life relaying the story.

Of JESUS who came to reflect God’s glory.


The highlight of my year was officiating the marriage ceremony of my daughter Rose and newest son, Michael. The spiritual and emotional experience is one only understood by a father. I am a totally honored and proud father. In June, I resigned from the Walsh Group and decided to re-enter the architectural design field. You have heard it said that “Timing is everything.” I would like to re-phrase that to," The Lord’s timing is everything.” In the midst of an economic downturn and a freeze in the healthcare design industry I decided to search for a position in healthcare design. I accepted an offer from HDR Architecture, Inc., the #1 Architectural design firm in the country as their Healthcare Principal in the Atlanta, Georgia, office. Yes, we are moving to the heart of the south! At this time, I am commuting each week to Atlanta while we find a home and relocate. The decision to work with HDR has proven to be God’s plan. Next year’s letter will have all the news of the move. I look forward to the day when this transition is complete. I am thankful for the countless blessings of this year and hope and pray that your testimony is comparable. Merry Christmas! Continue to trust in Him whose birthday we celebrate in this season!


Howdy to all! At the close of each year, I look back and think how busy it was, hoping life would slow down enough for me to catch my breath. This year, I realized that life would not only refuse to slow down, but will speed up. In May, we went to Florida for a much needed week of rest. Along with the usual baking in the sun, beach volleyball, battling the waves, and swimming with dolphins, I went deep-sea fishing with my brothers. Among the many grunts we caught, I actually caught a keeper grouper! I was a finalist in the Nashville Symphony Youth Concerto Competition and tied for first in the Young Artists Harp Seminar Concerto Competition. During the summer, I attended three harp seminars, including one in upstate New York, The Saratoga Harp Colony. The weather and scenery were wonderful, as were the concerts and master classes. We attended The Philadelphia Orchestra concerts featuring famous musicians like Joshua Bell, and had master classes with Jana Bouskova. For the next six years, I will be attending college, majoring in harp performance. I have applied to eight different schools. The ACT’s, SAT’s, and application essays are finished; next month the audition process begins. I have been working at Oakland Farm again. In the past, I had just worked with the horses once or twice a week. This time I am feeding and working with the horses daily. Two colts were born this fall and three more are expected in late winter. One of the mares had a surprise colt. The owner was trying to breed her and didn’t know she was already expecting. Last week, the owner gave the colt to me!!! Now, if I can only get him in the van when we go to Atlanta!! Happy Trails till we meet again!

Tony and Rachel

Greetings from the frigid north! We had a wonderful break from the cold in February when we spent three weeks in Tanzania, East Africa. Tony used all his vacation days so we could participate in a training course designed to help acclimate future missionaries to African culture. After about nineteen hours of flying from Detroit to New York to Dubai to Tanzania, we realized that we had lost 49° of latitude and gained 80°F of temperature! While enjoying the tropical sea breezes of Dar es Salaam, we learned some Tanzanian history, picked up a tiny bit of Swahili, and had an incredible time experiencing Africa. Though we will greatly miss our friends and family, we look forward to being in Musoma, Tanzania, full time next year. To that end, we finally finished up the house remodeling and put our house on the market in May. No offers yet, but let us know if you’re interested in buying a house in Michigan! Nevertheless, since we are still in Michigan for the time being, we enjoy visiting the Great Lakes as frequently as possible, especially while camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Tony has taught me how to skip rocks, but he’s still my better in maximum number of skips. We deeply enjoy the beauty of God’s creation and the refreshment it brings to every part of our lives. May the Lord bless you and keep you in His presence; Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


I am four years old now. My niece, Celeste, is one year old and we love playing together, especially outside. She sits in the wagon while I pull her slowly. Celeste also loves riding my old car, but I have to push her. I was the flower girl in Rose and Michael’s wedding. My green, shiny dress was so pretty. I picked it out of the catalog. In the spring, we all went to Florida. I swam in the ocean and played in the sand. Remember last year when the seagulls took my hamburger out of my hand? This year, they took my mom’s peanut butter sandwich, but she didn’t cry. In the summer, Daddy took Mommy and me to Chicago. While Dad was working, Mom and I went to the aquarium. My favorite part was the penguins. I put on a penguin suit and played on the penguin playground. Daddy took us for a ride on the big Ferris wheel on Navy Pier. We could see all the buildings in Chicago. Then we went up north to Michigan and Uncle Jimmy took us fishing on his fast boat. I even caught a perch! My piano lessons are so fun. I play lots of songs. My favorite is the “I Like” song. Cause I like everyone and everything!! Well, except green beans and thunder. Merry Christmas!

Rose and Michael

Where do I begin? First things first. I hope your year has been as exciting and full as ours! On January 6, Michael Gray asked me to be his wife. He knew the road I take to work and waited for me to pass by. It may seem like a strange place to propose, but there is significance in that spot…for lack of space and interest…I’ll move right along. On Jan 22, I began my own business of selling high-fashion jewelry. Besides saying yes to Michael, this has been the BEST decision I have made all year! I love the company, love the jewelry, love working for myself…and plan on quitting my full time job on the anniversary of the first day working for myself! While I spent the first 3 months of the year planning our wedding, starting my business, and working a full time job, Michael was starting his college classes (engineering) and working in his construction business. Our wedding (April 25th) was most perfect! I would not change a minute of it…except to have more cake! A few words that describe our wedding: chocolate cake, milk, dancing, jazz trio, chocolate covered strawberries, AMAZING food, glamour, feathers, ROSES! The perfect combination! Eight weeks later, we found out we were pregnant with our first child! That would explain all the enjoyment I had eating steak in May and early June. (I do not usually eat red meat.) Michael’s daughters, Aniya and Nakiya, came for the summer. We had a great time playing games, walking, swimming, and telling others about their soon coming baby brother! We didn’t try camping or floating any rivers this summer…J In September, we sold our house and moved into our temporary holding place: my parents’ house. I went to the doctor the next Monday and learned our son, Caleb Riley, was no longer with us. He was with Jesus. I went into labor the next day and delivered him. We had a sweet graveside burial service for him at a family cemetery nearby. I was privileged to carry him for 5 months. Now his Heavenly Father is holding him until we get there. My doctor discovered the reason for the miscarriage and assured us we can avoid this next time. As we gear up for the holidays, my business has skyrocketed from Christmas sales and Michael is working hard at Calculus. Hopefully, life will slow down a bit in January. Since we did not take a honeymoon after our wedding, we decided to take a little one last weekend. We had a four day honeymoon at a B&B in NC. Nothing exotic…just a quiet time together, which was what we needed. We have learned much and grown in so many ways this year. God is a gentle and patient teacher. We may never know why God brings us through what He does…but we can rest knowing He is faithful. We hope you are enjoying family and friends this season. Have a wonderful Christmas from Michael, Rose, Aniya and Nakiya Gray!

Katie, Roberto and Celeste

Just like everyone else, the Diaz branch of the Wallen family has had a busy year. We have mainly been busy preparing to move, moving, and adjusting to life in Atlanta. We purchased a home and officially moved August 1
st. It has been a great experience, with the changes going much more smoothly than I had anticipated. Roberto thoroughly enjoys his new job at Emory as an assistant professor of radiation oncology. He spends 3.5 days in his lab, and the other 1.5 days working with patients at one of Emory’s satellite hospitals. He works with a great team of physicians and researchers and is looking forward to a rewarding career here. Celeste continues to be the joy of our lives. She is growing up fast, running around the house all day, babbling constantly. I’m not really sure whether or not I want to understand everything she says! She is a relatively easy, almost always happy toddler. We spent her first birthday in the Dominican Republic with Roberto’s family, which was a nice break. Celeste enjoyed the beach, seeing family, and learning some Spanish. I am now trying to prepare her for her little brother who will be arriving early in February. I think it will be quite a shock for her to learn that parents are for sharing! When not unpacking boxes, I have enjoyed a lot of traveling this year. We visited family in Michigan, Florida, and the Dominican Republic. Roberto and I were able to get a much needed break in Chicago for four days. Mom was great enough to keep Celeste for us so that we were able to spend some quality time together before the baby comes in February. It was a refreshing trip filled with some great food! We spent Thanksgiving week with our good friends the Earle’s in Ireland! We so enjoyed visiting with them and seeing a tiny bit of the beautiful, wet country of Ireland. May God bless you and your families as we celebrate this Christmas season!


Howdy! This year has been very eventful. College has gone well, and will actually be over next week! I am really excited about graduating, and eager to see what God has in store for me in the future. I have not made any firm plans yet, but am thinking of doing a little bit of traveling and a lot of sleeping until the New Year begins! If there is one thing I did not get enough of this year, it was sleep. Likewise, I have not had time lately to go hunting either. My brothers and I did have a chance earlier this fall to hunt dove out in our fields. I was looking forward to using an old 16-gauge shotgun I purchased in the summer. Tony had a little trouble figuring out which birds to shoot at, but finally managed to shoot one that was a dove. It will not be long before Jade is old enough to join us boys out in the field hunting dove and Bambi. I am teaching her well that deer are for eating, and not only for Disney movies! I am hoping to have some extra time to start training a few horses with my sister, Bekah. The New Year will probably be full of mechanical work as well. There are a couple of cars in the driveway waiting for some attention, and an old Yamaha street bike that needs some finishing touches before it is ready to take out on the road. I hope you have a splendid and blessed Christmas season and a happy New Year! God Bless!


I hope this year has been as instructive and full of blessings for you as it has for me. As a sophomore at Union University, I am amazed at how much I have learned, not only in regard to my studies, but also about God and people in general. I am currently working on a major in Chemistry, and a double minor in Physics and Math. Of all of my classes this semester, I particularly enjoyed Organic Chemistry, Calculus Three, and Calculus-based Physics. Participating in extracurricular activities such as intramural sports has helped me deal with some of the stresses of college life. This summer, I worked on an inorganic chemistry research project with one of my professors at Union and have given several presentations on it. Although overwhelming at times, it was an invaluable experience. I continued to play the bagpipes in competitions this year, and have risen to Grade 2 status in my piping association. One of the greatest opportunities I had this semester was being a Life Group Leader. A Life Group is a group of incoming freshman led by a partnership of two non-freshman. The leaders are responsible for assisting freshman in this new stage of their lives with both practical issues and their spiritual walks. Being a Life Group Leader has taught me a great deal about leadership, about the wonderful rewards of working with others to further God’s kingdom, and about God’s unfathomable faithfulness to His children. I hope that you all will be encouraged in this time we have set aside to celebrate God’s greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!


Well, now it’s my turn to tell you about my year! First of all, another sibling bit the dust (got married, actually). It was Rose this time. She and Michael were married in April. The wedding went very well. However, as good as our family weddings have been, I must say my favorite part is the dinner afterwards! Rose had a live band play jazz music. It was a lot of fun being able to talk to so many friends and family at the same time! We went to Florida again this year! This year we found something new to play on the beach! Volleyball! I played about 2 hours of beach volleyball every day! My brothers, Dad, and I went on another fishing trip! I continue to hold the record with the biggest catch! In the summer I attended a four week orchestra camp, which was great fun! I practiced violin pretty much all day, and at night I played Frisbee and basketball! My weekly lessons here at home continue to challenge me. In the last 3 months I have doubled up on my weekly lessons and am practicing 3 hours a day! It is a bit difficult to stay caught up in schoolwork, but I will find a way! Feliz Navidad.


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