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May your Christmas be Merry & Bright!

December 22, 2013
Photo by Inspired Portrait Photography

Photo by Inspired Portrait Photography

This is the first family picture we have taken by a photographer who was not a close family friend because we struggle so much not having Reed in the picture.  The empty chair melted our hearts.  And if you know me at all, the photographer is now a friend.

I have finally found a few minutes to sit down and write our family’s newsletter.  We have gone from one sports season to another, and it seems that we are never too far from the bleacher view of the world. It is a good thing that Santa gave us bleacher seats a few years ago.  Recently, I have been teaching 2nd grade again at a local charter school which has certainly kept me busy.  I loved every minute of it. Other than adjunct teaching at the university, I have kept busy with writing, gardening, crafting, and working in my new ministry, Sweet Grace – all things that I love.  Following God’s will, my ministry took me all the way to Kentucky to meet new sisters in Christ.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I returned to a long lost love this year, as I took on the position of Cheer Coach for a football team Sawyer coaches.  After sewing skirts and a huge breakaway banner, I discovered – once a cheerleader might have some merit.

Daniel is still with the Schwan Food Company, working as an analyst.  He enjoys hunting, including the annual trip to Montana for mule deer.  He has snuck in some motorcycling, fishing, and volunteering with the Hunter Safety classes.  He enjoys a good project, and this year he finished the remodeling of our basement as well as the upstairs bathroom, laying new flooring for Cloie’s room,  and building a new fence for the hot tub.  However, if our kids are playing somewhere, all that goes on the backburner.  Following our kids’ activities is his number one hobby – hands down.

We all loved attending the Nowatzki family reunion, going to the Brookings Children Museum, and our super fun Easter weekend day trip to Sioux Falls.  For Reed’s birthday, we went hiking in his favorite state park and made cheetahs for his legacy program at the hospital where he passed. We made a special trip to the Ronald McDonald House to donate stuffed cheetahs and golden retrievers.  It was an amazing day to remember and to count our blessings.

Sawyer and Rachel take Brayden (one of Reed's friends to the prom).

Sawyer and Rachel took Brayden (one of Reed’s friends) to the prom.

Sawyer is still our gentle giant.  It is rare to meet a kid that isn’t instantly drawn to him. He is now a junior in high school, and he is so active that we seldom see him.  He earned letters in Math League and Football this year.  He wasn’t able to participate in golf this past spring.  (More on that below) He enjoyed attending HOBY Leadership and “med school” camp this summer.  He is president of our 4H club, FCA leader, Jazz Band Member, president of the Junior class, and a youth leader for his youth group.  If you were to ask him, he would probably list two things as his greatest accomplishments this year.  First, he is almost done with reading through the Bible in a year, and second, he led the Pumas (the Special Olympics football team he coaches) to an undefeated season, including a trip to play at the Minnesota Vikings Winter Park.  All too soon, we will be making college visits, and he works very hard to stay up on his studies.

Erin newspaper shot

Erin is a freshman this year. Playing college basketball is her dream, and she has spent countless hours to work toward that goal.    She played on her AAU team last spring in the Twin Cities, where she was nicknamed Super Star by her coach, and spent the summer trying to reach a goal of 20,000 made shots.  She did it, and we are seeing all that hard work pay off as she currently plays one half of the B squad and both halves of the varsity game.  Erin is a much sought after babysitter, and she has some neighborhood kids who adore her.  Aside from basketball, Erin plays first base in softball, is a Student Council Member, Vice-President of the 4H club, and active in youth group & FCA.  Daniel is not thrilled that boys have discovered her as more than one of the ball playing chums. Seriously, he doesn’t like it all.

Cloie turned 9 years old a week ago.  Where did the time go?  I think all of us big people are really struggling to see our baby grow up.  Following her big sister’s footsteps, she played basketball last winter and is looking forward to that again in the New Year.  She has been drug along to watch her siblings play sports since she was born, but we never realized how much she actually took in.  During a game last year, she had her hand in the face of the girl she was guarding.  The girl swatted her hand and told her to stop doing that.  She responded with “You must not know a lot about basketball because this is how you defend someone.” Her biggest goal is to become a professional singer like her musical idol – Taylor Swift. Erin & I surprised her with a trip to Fargo to see Taylor in concert, which she loved every minute. Currently, she takes piano, ukulele, and voice lessons.  Three times, she has sung the National Anthem at our school, and each time received uproarious applause. She is also active in 4H with the big kids, loves all things Lego, and writing her own songs.  One of the highlights of her year was having both Grandmas at her house for a few days – at the same time.

I have struggled with writing this newsletter because our year has had some dark patches.  Reed’s graduation was this year, and all of us were heartbroken.  It was a sadness that loomed over us for months, both before and after the actual commencement.  Additionally, Sawyer had surgeries 6, 7, and 8 that were a direct result of his injuries from the bus crash.  http://www.ksfy.com/story/23281897/avera-medical-minute-am-using-surgery-to-move-past-tragedy  The surgery featured in this news story was the one that kept him from golf.  Over the summer, Sawyer contracted mono which led to a late start of the football season for him. Then after years of pursuing some issues Erin has had, we felt like we had been punched in the stomach when we were told that her nose had been broken on the bus which had caused all sorts of problems and exacerbated other ones.  At times, it felt as if crisis was the only thing we knew how to do well.

I did the only thing I knew to do which was pray and try to cling as close to God as I knew how.  For those who follow this blog, I am sorry that it has been unusually silent.  I have spent the time rediscovering what joy really means.  I promise I have a lot to share on what God has taught me during this writing sabbatical.

Today’s devotion reminded me of all that I have been working on with God. His gentle ways have shown me that the origin of my joy began on that first Christmas day.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2

Yes, we have walked in dark places, but Christmas as foretold by Isaiah, provided an everlasting Light that shines so brightly in our darkness.   And guess what? We may have to walk in other dark places, but we will never truly be in the dark alone.  THAT is something for which to be truly JOYFUL!

We opened this newsletter with our portraits, but we will close with a couple pictures of the real Team Stevens – the ones who love Jesus and love a good laugh.

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Oh yeah – the ones who are really fond of superheroes!

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