Christmas Newsletter    2014

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."   
John 1:4-5

Merry Christmas from the Wallen Family

From Tom

From one year to the next, I anticipate some routine to emerge in my life.  Yet, it does not come.  This year was no different.  I am again reminded how important it is to be with family.  Time seems so short because it passes by quickly.  One day I have four of my grandchildren living a few minutes away and the next day they are living in another state.  I wake one morning and my son is in harm’s way in Afghanistan and 6 months later he is back in the states and engaged to be married.  I go to sleep one day and before I wake, I am blessed with my seventh grandchild. (Calem Thomas Gray has the score getting close again – 4 girls, 3 boys.)  As you read the updates in these articles, you will be as awed as I am with the complexity and speed at which time passes.  I guess that is what makes simple time with Lynn and Jade so special.  A weekend alone with Lynn in North Carolina, prayer time with Jade as she cuddles in bed before she sleeps, a few hours fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, boating on my favorite lake in northern Michigan, these times are so rewarding, and humbling too.  I trust and hope that you are encouraged as you look ahead to the New Year, and that you experience the peace, hope, and rest to be found in the birth of Christ our Lord. 

From Lynn

Greetings to you!  It is a joy it is to communicate to you each year this way.  Some of you, we see often throughout the year.  But most of you, we have not seen in years.  Please know that you are ever in our hearts. The house is pretty quiet these days; Jade and I are the only ones home on the weekdays.  We spend our time on schoolwork, piano, and weaving.  Jade has a new loom on which she is learning to weave a scarf.  I am continuing to weave rugs on my large loom, but have a new smaller loom for lesser projects.  Jade and I have kind of taken over the music room with our looms, though the piano still has its own corner!  We were proud of David for serving in Afghanistan for six months, but it was hard, as a mother, to know he was in danger every day.  Thanks be to God, He returned safely in October and began preparations for his wedding in March.  I also thank God for Tom and the hard work he does day in and day out for his family.  We are both starting to feel our age, so to speak, but Tom still heads out each week, living out of a suitcase, doing his work as unto the Lord.  Speaking of the Lord, my favorite Christmas music is Handel’s Messiah.  It is an anointed musical work telling the story of Christ’s life.  This week, I was particularly moved by the piece that quotes Isaiah 40:5, “And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”  I urge you to listen to the Messiah if you can.  And the Glory of the Lord   It will bless you.  I pray that you and your family experience the Glory of the Lord during this season and in the New Year. 

At Long Lake in Alpena, MI

From Rose and Michael

Hello everyone! I hope your year has been full of God's abundant blessings. Ours sure has! As I look back on pictures of our year I am reminded of many events. Aniya, 18, graduated high school and started her first year at the University of Pittsburgh. Nakiya,17, has begun her junior year of high school. Rosalind is 3, Asher is 2, and we welcomed our newest child, Calem Thomas Gray, on September 7th. In June, we enjoyed a fun-filled week in Florida with almost our entire family. It was our first time at the beach with children. Rosalind wasn't too sure about it at first.  When she was faced with walking in the sand for the first time, she exclaimed, "Mom, I just can't do this!"  She got over her fear of the sand pretty quickly, but that was as far as she went. The whole week, she was content to play in the sand and had nothing to do with the ocean. Asher had a blast splashing the salt water, eating sand, and chasing sea gulls. Of course, the best part was spending time with their cousins. After our Florida vacation, we traveled to Pennsylvania for Aniya’s high school graduation. We were so excited to be able to celebrate that accomplishment with her. In July, we travelled to northern Michigan to celebrate the wedding of my cousins, Casey and Joellen Wallen. Thankfully, Nakiya was able to join us for that week. We stayed at a cottage on Long Lake where the kids played in the freezing cold water, and enjoyed bonfires and S'mores. A weekend trip to Atlanta marked the end of our travels before baby Calem arrived. I enjoyed a little down time before his arrival. He surprised us by coming about three weeks early. We are thankful there were no complications and that he is doing fantastic. We look forward to the Christmas season and spending more time with family. I pray the same is in store for you! Merry Christmas!

From Jade

Hello!  I am 9 years old now and in the 4th grade.  My favorite school subject is history, especially medieval history.  I also love reading.  My favorite book right now is Swiss Family Robinson.  The Robinsons built a really neat tree house on a tropical island after their ship crashed.  They meet all kinds of animals and tame some of them.  In March, we went to Stone Mountain here in Atlanta and climbed all the way to the top.  From the top, we could see a long way.  In June, our whole family went to the beach in Clearwater, FL.  I built lots of sand castles and swallowed lots of ocean water!  In July, Mom and I drove up to Michigan by ourselves.  We stopped at the Creation Museum in Kentucky.  There are lots of dinosaur skeletons there.  We also drove across the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.  We took a tour of a Tall Ship in St. Ignace.  A Tall Ship is a large old-fashioned sailing vessel.  On the way back home, we visited Cumberland Falls in Kentucky.  It is called the “Niagara of the South” and is the only place in our western hemisphere where you can see a Moonbow on a full moon night.  Katie and her family moved to Tampa in June.  Before they moved, they came to stay with us for two months.  That was fun.  In October, we went to visit them in Tampa.  Katie took us to Busch Gardens near their house.  My three favorite rides were the Congo River Rapids, the Sandserpent roller coaster, and the bumper cars.  It was a great day!  I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a superb New Year!
At Cumberland Falls

Sitting on Stone Mountain

My new loom
At the Creation Museum

Big Bass!
Paddle boat in Indiana
At Busch Gardens

From Bekah

My Grouper!
I do believe this year has gone by slightly slower than the past few years. In June, I joined the family in Clearwater, FL, for some salt, sun, and sea. I caught a respectable grouper off a charter fishing boat. In July, we gathered in Alpena, MI, for a family wedding and enjoyed fireworks, marshmallows and canned cherries. My big adventure this summer was a quick 24-hour trip from Michigan to Tennessee to pick up my two horses. A friend and I borrowed a truck and a horse trailer and headed out at 8:00 pm Saturday. We drove all night, stopping only for fuel, popcorn, and coffee. After a few hours rest at a rest stop, and a breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, coffee, and some peanut butter and chocolate pancakes, we drove the last few miles to the farm.  Upon arrival, I found Butterfly limping on three legs because of an infected, swollen foot. I couldn't do much except get her in the trailer and back to MI where I could start treating her. After several minutes of coaxing, Butterfly entered the trailer. Then I turned to Riley. After an hour of heaving, prodding, shoving, blindfolding, coaxing with hay and grain, and every other idea on how to trailer-load a horse, he finally entered the trailer. After just a few minutes rest, we climbed in and headed back to MI. Every time we stopped for fuel, I checked on the horses and gave them water. Butterfly was not happy. Riley was fine, just pouting. He looked away without accepting any food or water, whereas Butterfly drank and ate happily. A little after 8:00 pm Sunday (24-hours after this adventure started), we arrived at the farm where I would be keeping the horses. We unloaded them, showed them the water, and left them alone to get used to their 14 new pasture pals. I spent the next month driving out to see them twice a day to treat Butterfly's foot. That was stressful. The farm owners helped me because I had no idea how to treat an infected foot. I was told there was very little chance Butterfly would pull through. But, thanks be to God, Butterfly healed. After that first month, she improved and I only had to treat her once a day. After the next month, she was almost completely healed and no longer required treatments. I now visit the horses twice a week. I thank God for this opportunity to finally have time with my horses after not seeing them for several years. I hope and pray God blesses you this Christmas. Merry Christmas!

From Tony and Rachel

Time for another installment of Tony and Rachel’s outdoor adventures! We started early this year, with a snowmobile trip in northern Michigan to help celebrate my (Rachel) finishing grad school with my master’s degree. Neither of us had ever been snowmobiling before and we had an absolute blast. I got a little overly eager with one of the jumps and shattered a windscreen with my helmet, but it made for a great story! A few months later, we headed to Yosemite National Park, where Tony packed his days full of rock climbing. One highlight came near the end of the trip, when he reached the summit of Half Dome, an iconic monolith towering 4,800 ft above Yosemite Valley. I opted to complete one of my long-term goals and set out on seven days of solitary backpacking through Yosemite’s northwestern wilderness. I trudged through illness and ashy forest fire leftovers for breath-taking views and a lasting sense of accomplishment. Later in the summer, Tony fulfilled a life-long desire of his own as he drove to North Carolina to experience the eye of hurricane Arthur. There was utter joy in his voice when he called me from the calm in the storm. As always, we are grateful for God’s protection through our many exploits. May you continue to experience Him in ways that are most meaningful to you this season.  Merry Christmas!

From Katie and Roberto

Merry Christmas! It has been a busy year of transitions for the Diaz’s. This summer we moved from Atlanta to Tampa, and Roberto started his new job as Section Chief of Breast Cancer in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. He has really enjoyed the new job and is spending a lot more time with patients, which is what he really loves to do. In between jobs, we decided to spend a month in Ireland visiting our very dear friends, the Earles. We all had a total blast exploring the country and just spending time with them in Galway! The kids are growing like weeds! Celeste is in first grade this year and really enjoying her new friends in our Classical Conversations group here in Tampa. Robbie is in Pre-K, and is already reading and doing first grade math.  I think I might have a little genius on my hands! He also earned his yellow belt in martial arts. Abigail is 3 and has started taking ballet lessons.  She and Celeste absolutely love dancing and being the center of attention. Katherine turned 1 in August and is such a joy to have running around.  Her siblings love her as much as she loves them, as evidenced by the constant hugging and kissing. Seriously…there is a lot of affection going on in our home! We have also enjoyed multiple trips to Michigan and Atlanta. Roberto has travelled to Macedonia twice. Our favorite thing to do though is to sit at home and just enjoy being together.  We wish you many happy family memories this Christmas Season!

From David

Greetings from the East Coast! This may be the last time I write from this side of the US, as I hope to be heading out West early next year. This month, I will finish the active duty portion of my time as a Marine and will continue as a reservist.  I am looking for a civilian job out west.  In addition to a big move, I will also be getting married to the woman of my dreams in March! The first thing I did when I got off the plane from Afghanistan was propose to my gorgeous girlfriend, Amanda. She has truly been a blessing to my family and me this past year while I was deployed to Afghanistan. It was a tough deployment, but a great experience. I worked with the Afghan Special Forces to help train them in logistics and maintenance. Amanda sent me numerous care packages while I was over there to make sure I had plenty of treats and reminders of home. I missed most of the summer, but Amanda and I did manage to catch the tail end of the good fishing weather once I returned to NC. She is quite the fisher, and we've cleaned up on several occasions at the nearby pier and beach. We are looking forward to more adventures together out west! Amanda and I hope and pray that everyone has a blessed Christmas this year, and a great start to a new year!

From Christian and Rebecca

Another year has gone by, the most wonderful year of my life.  Rebecca and I recently celebrated our first year of marriage with a weekend trip to Chattanooga, TN.  We visited the TN Aquarium, explored downtown, and enjoyed the beautiful fall scenery.  It was a wonderful way to celebrate our first year together.  We are excited to see what God has in store for us in the years to come!  I have now completed all my classes and exams in the chemistry PhD program at Emory, and lately have been focusing mostly on my research.  However, this fall I was able to act as a teaching assistant for a professor who is teaching two sections of Organic Chemistry, with a total of over 170 students!  Since my plan is to become a chemistry professor, this has been a great experience for me.  This spring, Rebecca began teaching part-time in the Intensive English Program at Kennesaw State University.  Teaching adult ESL is one of her passions, so this has been a real blessing for us.  She stays pretty busy planning lessons and grading for her ESL classes, but she also finds time to do some substitute teaching and volunteer tutoring in some Atlanta middle schools.  This year, we joined a church plant in East Lake, Atlanta.  This area has a history of crime and poverty but has undergone an astonishing transformation within the past 10 years due to a focused effort by a group of people dedicated to cultural renewal here.  The church plant is Ikon Community Church’s effort to bring spiritual renewal to East Lake.  We are blessed to be a part of this body and excited to see how God will work in that community.  May God be with you this Christmas season and in the New Year!

From Micah

Wow, what a year! So many exciting changes and blessings have happened. This past year I decided to switch from being a violin performance major, to a double major of violin performance and ethics/history/public policy major, I will pursue law school after graduation. The new major has been an extremely rewarding experience and I am enjoying my classes more then ever! In the summer, I attended the Masterworks Festival music camp as a resident administrator. We played some amazing pieces of music including Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mahler’s First Symphony! It was one of the most exhilarating musical experiences of my life. While at camp, I was extremely blessed to meet a very special young lady named Christy Hana Kim. It has been a wonderful experience getting to know her and her family this fall. After such a fantastic year I can hardly wait to see what God has in store for me in 2015. Merry Christmas!!!

Fun on the beach!

Micah and Christy

Various family photos

Visiting dear Anita!

Canning Traverse City cherries!


Visiting a Lake Huron Lighthouse

Pensive on the Gulf

A good day's catch!
At Chimney Rock in NC

Visiting the Mackinac Bridge
After a day in the Gulf
Family skating

Bumper cars at Busch Gardens

Snow in Atlanta!


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