Christmas Newsletter

"For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:17


Tom

Where do I start?  There most likely is not a person reading this letter that is more blessed than I am.  My family continues to grow in number (two new grandchildren) and stature.  I am too young to have four grandchildren!!  Especially with a six-year-old daughter and a wife that looks 30!!  I have complained for many years about my gray hair but would now be grateful for a head FULL of gray hair.  Reflecting back over the past year is daunting.  I thought these years of my life would provide some quieter times and more time to be with Lynn.  Well, I was wrong.  As you will read in this newsletter, we continue to develop new passions, hobbies, jobs, and adventures.  We share experiences that make us laugh and some that make us cry, but all make us grow in our dependence on our Lord and in thankfulness for one another.  My work at HDR continues to be enjoyable, though challenged by a difficult economy.  Thus, it requires extra time and effort.  I have re-engaged with hospital design in China and have enjoyed reacquainting with old friends there.   I look with great expectations to the coming year.  I trust and hope that as you look ahead, you are encouraged and find the peace, hope, and rest found in the birth of Christ our Lord.

Trying to get the grandchildren to all smile at once!


Lynn

Greetings to all of you!  We pray this letter finds you well.  We are doing very well, thanks be to God.  The worst thing about this year is that our family did not have an opportunity to all be together at one time.  Hence, the separate individual family photos on the enclosed card. But, we will be together this Christmas here in Atlanta. I am finally pretty well adjusted to life in Atlanta.  The big city has its advantages and disadvantages.  We have met many wonderful people and are attending a great church.  But oh, the traffic!!  I try not to venture out of the house before 10 am or after 4 pm because I never have been a fan of sitting and waiting for traffic lights to change! I am keeping busy teaching Jade. She is a great first grader and learns quickly.  Much of my time this fall was spent on Micah’s eight college applications.  In a few weeks we will begin traveling to each of them for his live auditions.  The house will be emptier next year with Micah going away to school.  It is pretty difficult, and a little sad, to cook for just four or five people.  Katie and Rose do visit often with the grandchildren. We took the photo here at the park when the kids were worn out from playing.  We just could not get them all to smile at once! What a blessing to have grandchildren.  We pray for many, many more!!  May God richly bless you and your family.



Rose, Michael, Rosalind, Aniya and Nakaya


Merry Christmas Friends! It has been another wonderful and busy year! Perhaps the most memorable part of this year was the arrival of our daughter, Rosalind Grace. She already showed a flair for the dramatic by showing up 3 weeks before her due date, on April Fool’s Day. She sure fooled us! I was NOT ready! She weighed 6lb 10oz - a perfect size, in my humble opinion. She had a head full of blond hair and the bluest eyes we have ever seen. (They are still that blue!) I was beginning to think this “mothering” thing was pretty easy until, after a couple days, Rosalind began to act very lethargic for a day or so. On Wednesday her body temperature started dropping. We called her pediatrician at 2 am. Less than a week after our first trip to the hospital, we found ourselves racing back. (I told you she has a flair for the dramatic!) Upon arrival to the ER they discovered lapses in her breathing (at least 20 seconds). The next 24 hours were probably the scariest hours of my life. In a matter of 20 minutes we watched the nurses take our sleeping baby from my arms and put her, naked, in a heated infant bed, take numerous blood samples, urine samples, a spinal tap, give her a breathing tube, multiple sedatives, including one for possible seizure activity and three antibiotics. We were given realistic information: there were signs of meningitis from the spinal fluid taken. I have never felt as helpless as in those hours in the ER. As the days passed and tests came back normal, it was obvious that God was healing. So many tests, scans, spinal taps, but no one could point to the reason for all of this. After 12 days in the hospital, we left with a completely healed baby. As for the cause, I think my guess is as good as theirs at this point: she contracted some illness (probably at the pediatrician’s office the day after we left the hospital) and her body was not strong enough to fight it. During the days in the Pediatric ICU, I learned what it feels like to be completely helpless. No matter how long I stared at her monitor, it did not affect her ability to breathe on her own. God alone controlled her breaths. I am so thankful He is our protector, and Healer. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to the end of your life?” Matthew 6:27. We were so humbled by the extreme generosity of our friends, family and even doctors and nurses, during that time. We were blessed beyond measure by the gifts, support, and prayers that were offered on our behalf. Aniya and Nakiya came a few days later for Easter and were delighted to meet their new little sister! They spent the summer with us also and we had a great time as a family, enjoying our healthy little Rosalind. She has been perfect since we left the hospital. She is such a good baby. It has been fun taking her to the doctor and seeing how she has grown. It did not take her long to jump into the 95th percentile, and then beyond!  God has been so good to us this year, always teaching and growing us. We hope you are having a wonderful Season of remembering Christ! With love, from the Grays. Aniya (15), Nakiya (14), Rosalind (8 mos.)


JADE
Celeste, Aurora, and Jade at Disney World

Hi.  I am six years old now.  I learned to read last summer.  Mom takes me to the library to get books.  My favorite book is Little House on the Prairie.  I started the first grade this year.  I learned all of the United States and capitals already.  We do memory work every day, things like, “What are six parts of the digestive system.”  And skip counting the sixes all the way to 72.  Mom says I memorize fast, so I should learn it now and the harder school will be easier later.  Mom and I go on field trips to places like plantations and dairy farms.  In February, we went to Disney World.  I saw Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Pinocchio , Cinderella, Aurora and Belle.  It was so fun.  Guess what!  I have two new nieces named Rosalind and Abigail.  They are really cute, but too little to play with me.  Sometimes I talk to them to keep them happy.  They smile at me a lot.  I am still taking piano lessons and I have two trophies from recitals.  You know that song, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth?”  Well, I am only missing one tooth right now, but there are three more that are wiggling.  I hope I can still eat Mom’s Christmas cookies!  Merry Christmas.
Jade and Rosalind

Bekah
Bekah in front of Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian, China
Every year that passes seems to blend into the previous ones, but when I look back and contemplate what was accomplished, each year is indeed so different.  I completed my first year of music study at the University of Michigan. There were many challenges that pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow in so many ways. I was involved in the top two ensembles and took interesting music classes.  In May I traveled with 120 members of the U of M Symphony Band to China for a 3-week tour. We began the tour with a fantastic concert at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor.  We played nine concerts at different venues in six cities, including the Shanghai Concert Hall and National Grand Theatre of China in Beijing. We finished the tour at Disney Hall in Los Angeles. I really enjoyed the food, performing, and sightseeing. We tried some pretty strange foods during the trip, many of them quite difficult to identify. Some of the stranger dishes included chicken gizzards, aloe vera gelatin, donkey meat, and jellyfish.  Every performance made me happier that I was part of the U of M Symphony Band.  My favorite sightseeing event was definitely the Great Wall of China, though I had been there five years ago when I traveled to China with my parents to pick up Jade. It was pretty awesome to stand on the top of the Great Wall of China and say I had been in that exact place five years ago. This was my second summer in our new house in Atlanta. Compared to the school year, summer was pretty chill. I babysat a lot and did some other random odd jobs trying to earn enough money to buy a harp-mobile.  We searched since the summer and finally bought a Ford Explorer.  I decided this year I would dress up for Halloween, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I spent Halloween weekend in the hospital with a staph infection. That was my first time in a hospital, and I was not happy. Other than that, though, my school year has been going very well.  I practice about four hours a day, give or take a few and am enjoying being back with the Symphony Band.  I look forward to another wonderful school year filled with challenges and excitement.  Happy trails until we meet again! 



 Tony and Rachel

Tony and Rachel at Sequoya National Park


Just as dusk’s shadows creep towards us, we finally spot the anchors that mark the end of our 1600 ft rock climb on Royal Arches. We’d just spent 11 hours scrambling up small waterfalls, wedging ourselves into cracks, dealing with a lot of rope drag, and generally abusing our hands and feet, occasionally remembering to turn around and admire the incredible view of Yosemite Valley. After the first couple hundred feet, the distance simply became unfathomable: we were exposed on the surface of the rock and the only way down was to keep moving up. Of course, finding the anchors just meant we had 2 more hours of rappelling to do. In the dark. We had some incredible adventures this year, mostly focused around climbing and hiking in some fantastic locations. California was first in June, where, before Yosemite’s breath-taking scenery, we took in King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Park. Besides climbing, highlights of the trip included standing inside ancient Redwoods, hiking 15 miles to and from Glacier Point, and taking 200 pictures of Yosemite Falls. Later in the year, we took another climbing trip to West Virginia. Though not as popular as Yosemite, The New River Gorge has beautiful fall colors and great cliffs.  Part of the reason these trips are so important to us is that our lives have suddenly become much more stressful. I, Rachel, started a PhD program in Human Genetics in July. Though I enjoy learning the crazy details of human genetics, it’s certainly not an insignificant undertaking. Tony is also taking classes toward his Masters degree.  I suppose it’s all about maintaining balance. May this Christmas bring you new opportunities and rewards from your labors.


Katie, Roberto, Abigail, Celeste, and Robbie


The Diaz family has had an exciting, eventful year, as always, beginning with a great family vacation at Disney World! Celeste’s energy and excitement were unparalleled, which those who know her will understand to be a significant statement. When she met the Winnie the Pooh characters, she was definitely out-bouncing Tigger.  The kids are growing quickly. Celeste and Robbie both took survival swim lessons, which was a dramatic adventure! Robbie actually learned to float and swim before he could walk.  The lessons were a bit difficult to watch, but the end result of having swimming toddlers after 6 weeks was well worth it. It enabled us to spend a lot of time at pools this summer, a refreshing way to spend my third trimester! Celeste is most definitely our dramatic child, with a vocabulary full of superlatives. Everything is either her favorite, the best, cutest, or perfect. She is super friendly, and strikes up conversations with just about everyone.  It is a joy to share her happiness and smiles. Her favorite weekly event is her “ballerina class.” Robbie is 100% boy, but has a sweet, gentle personality. I love that he crawls up in my lap to cuddle every day. We thoroughly enjoy our weekly Kindermusik class together. The highlight of the year was the birth of our third child, Abigail Elizabeth, on August 8th. It was an exciting day, particularly since we did not know her gender until she was born. Celeste and Robbie have adapted very well and are super sweet with their little sister.  In May, Roberto’s Mom was diagnosed with cancer. His parents moved in with us for the summer so she could receive treatment at Emory. We enjoyed our time with them this summer, though the circumstances were difficult.  She passed away on December 6th.  We all will miss her terribly. 
Have a Merry Christmas!



David

David's new hobby, skydiving!!
Greetings friends and family! I hope this year has brought you great joy and many lessons learned!  For me, this year has been very eventful and quite an exciting ride.  I’ve been working for a small computer programming company here in Atlanta, which I’ve enjoyed greatly.  I’ve had many opportunities to be involved in growth projects and have really benefited from the experience.  In addition to work, I’ve found several ways to make the boring ‘city’ life rather exciting.  A few of my new hobbies include skydiving, riding polo ponies, and riding along in racecars!  I guess spending so much time away from horses was getting to me, so I went searching for horses here in the city.  I found a small polo horse farm nearby and spent some time riding and learning the sport.  The horses were all thoroughbreds off the track and boy, could they run fast!  The next adventure was skydiving, which was quite a thrill!  I never imagined how exhilarating and beautiful it would be to freefall from 15,000 FT at terminal velocity towards earth.  Jumping was not scary in the least bit, and I look forward to many more jumps in the future.  Recently, I had the opportunity to ride along in several different racecars at a track here in Atlanta.  I actually had the opportunity to drive a Lotus Elise. It was truly amazing how quickly it accelerated and how fast it could take the turns on the track.  While riding shotgun on the track, we reached speeds of 150+ MPH.  If I knew how addicting these hobbies were going to be, I probably would have thought twice about trying them out!  This year was truly a blessing for me and my family, and I hope ya’ll have had an equally blessed year!  May your Christmas season be a great ending to a splendid year, and may the Lord bless you and your family in the New Year!


Christian


At the Stone Mountain Highland Games with Jade
Here we are after another year full of blessings and lessons.  This Christmas season finds me in the middle of my senior year at Union University.  I have kept busy with many classes this year: Physical Chemistry, Nuclear Physics, Differential Equations, Advanced Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry, to name a few.  Though these classes were challenging, I enjoyed the material and greatly value the knowledge I have obtained about God’s creation.  Early this year, I traveled with my chemistry seminar class to Anaheim, CA, for the Spring National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.  I presented a poster on our student chapter of the ACS, of which I was the president.  Anaheim was not as pretty as San Francisco (last year’s trip), but it was still a valuable and enjoyable experience.  During the summer I was very fortunate to obtain a position conducting organic chemistry research at Vanderbilt University.  This opportunity was a great blessing, since I hope to pursue organic chemistry in graduate school next fall.  May God bless you richly this upcoming year.  
Merry Christmas!

Micah



Wow, another year has flown by! This year held a great many changes for me and a promise of even greater changes to come. I am now a senior and it's incredible to think that my high school days will soon be over. Last summer I attended the 6-week Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine. During the camp I had weekly lessons, chamber rehearsals and concerts. I enjoyed the fantastic teaching there as well as the gorgeous weather. I made several trips to the ocean and enjoyed Maine's famous clam chowder!  At the beginning of the school year, I was named concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra. I am very honored to hold this position of leadership and greatly enjoy our weekly orchestra rehearsals. During the fall I was kept busy applying to colleges and conservatories. I will be pursuing a major in violin performance. I have been practicing many hours of violin and am already looking forward to my live auditions at conservatories in the spring. Even though this has been a bit of a nerve-wracking year, I am extremely excited to find out where I will attend college and what God has in store for me during the next four years. Feliz Navidad!


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