We’ve decided that since most of the folks we want to stay in touch with are online, we’re just going to connect in this way rather than sending out Christmas cards. While we love getting cards (unless they have glitter – Travis HATES glitter. Stephanie still loves those cards, though), we just know that there are a lot of other things we should be spending money on this time of year, especially giving a little extra to some of the charities and funds that we like to support.* Please print this for any local relatives/friends that you know who don’t have access electronically.

Christmastime has been hard this year, much harder than last year. Last year we still had shock and antidepressants to buffer us through the holiday season, but this year we are soldiering through. We both take comfort in the arms of our Father, who demonstrated the ultimate parental love by sacrificing His only Son for us.

Meanwhile, we’ve had some other changes in our lives. We had “adopted” a dog for my sister’s family last year, who sadly turned out to be afraid of kids. So we now have two miniature Schnauzers, Frodo and Baggins. And our house now has another human occupant as well. No, we haven’t adopted a child. Instead, we’ve adopted a 64-year-old man named Tom. Actually, it’s Travis’ dad who has moved in with us. His parents have been divorced since he was a kid, and his dad was living with Travis’ sister Tina for years. However, Tom’s mobility has been increasingly limited in recent years, and Tina’s home has stairs. Our home is all on one level. In addition, Tina’s household includes her husband and three kids. Tom was willing to relocate from Tennessee to Texas, so we asked him to come live with us. He’s been here since September, and we think he likes our weather.

Stephanie’s DCE (Director of Christian Education) position at church increased to 30 hours a week, which is good since her responsibilities also expanded. Our church recently went through a major A/V overhaul and Stephanie sets up the visual portion of the services (a program that works similarly to PowerPoint).

Travis was invited into the Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI) last spring. This is a four-year journey for both of us, with lots of learning and growth and interaction with some of the most mission-minded pastors in our church body. So for the next few years most of the conferences and retreats he attends will be part of PLI. In addition, Travis has enrolled in a wrap—around Doctor of Ministry program through Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He’s really excited about that.

As we wrap up 2012, we are surrounded by beautiful lights and glitter (to Travis’ horror) and other decorations. We’ve been baking and singing, preparing worship services and attending Christmas programs, supporting local charities and missions, giving gifts and receiving them. But for us, the focus still remains the manger, shadowed by a cross and pointing to an empty tomb. It is there that we find our eternal hope.

God bless us all! – Travis and Stephanie

* Things we currently support, if you would like to join us in giving:

Samantha Renee Memorial Scholarship (Online giving available)

PregnancyCareCenter, HuntsvilleTexas

Group B Strep Association

Good Shepherd Mission- Huntsville, TX