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9 days: the Christmas letter (the year of upcycled joy)

December 17, 2014

For the last year, our family chose to participate in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes “One Word” theme to bring us closer to God and to each other. After looking in, looking up, and looking out, we had a family meeting early in the New Year and chose “JOY” to be our theme. As Erin put it best, “I like joy because it has been a long time since that was a word we used regularly.” I will confess that when you choose a word, be prepared for all kinds of spiritual warfare, hoping to tear down the walls of faith being built with God. Many, many tears have fallen.  We are still imperfect people with huge holes in our hearts, but we soldier on. There are dark days, moments of despair, but we know the end of the story. Love wins! Shine your light, because love definitely wins!

About the same time we chose our word, a dear friend and I were joking about all the “upcycled” businesses springing up everywhere. Our teasing focused on the fact that we have been up-cyclers our whole lives – giving new life to ordinary and cast-away items. We had no idea how avant garde we had been all these years. While there were unjoyful moments this year, we chose to focus on the joy of God’s blessings in the midst of trials. Becoming much more than a theme, looking for joy became a habit. I found more comfort in the Scriptures and would break into huge smiles when I stumbled upon joy hidden in a verse that I had previously overlooked.

We are not “should-ers”. You know those people who say, “You should do this or that.” We are simply a family who loves God and really tries very hard to love all of God’s people. If your family tries the one word theme, we hope it is as big of a blessing to you as it has been to us. If you don’t, we still love you too! We thank God for your presence in our lives, and we are wishing you a Christmas focused on one present. The babe who came wrapped in swaddling clothes to dwell among us to live knowing he would die. What greater joy could we have than a love that deep?

Here are some highlights of our year!

January was mostly about basketball games. Saturday mornings, Cloie had basketball clinics and the rest of our bleacher time was cheering on the Lakers. Erin started out the season playing B and varsity, and ended the season playing only varsity. Daniel did sneak away from the bleacher seats for the annual cousins’ ice fishing weekend. He had a blast and brought home some great fish.

February is always a bittersweet month. To be honest, we seem to just endure February. We remember our saddest day wishing Reed was still with us, but celebrate the birth of Sawyer, who turned seventeen. Cloie had the honor of singing the National Anthem at both the men’s and women’s SMSU basketball games for Cancer Night.

Top Math Student for Math League!

Top Math Student for Math League!

March held one of my most favorite memories as well as other memorable moments. The kids and I took off for a day for some F.U.N. Totally non-scripted and unplugged, we went to Sioux Falls to just hang out. Because are kids are very involved, we don’t have many moments like these anymore. I snuck in a girls day with Erin and friend to see the NAIA women’s basketball play-offs. Also, one of my blog posts really touched a nerve, and over 25,000 people read it in two days. I conquered my fear of flying travelling to meet my friend, Bug, for a week long cruise. Erin earned her first varsity letter for basketball and earned most improved player.

F.U.N. Day!

F.U.N. Day!

Basketball is a big part of Erin's world.

Basketball is a big part of Erin’s world.

April began the inundation of college letters. While we were proud of his hard work, we were definitely not ready to start thinking about him going away. As junior parents, we were actively involved in helping plan the After Prom party.

May was the month when our joy was definitely tested. After a great weekend of AAU basketball, Erin was at practice for her second team when she was injured. The results proved to be a partial tear of her ACL, grounding her for a minimum of six months no playing at all. Her goal was to get back to playing by the start of season in November. The junior prom was also this month, and along with all the prayers for Erin we saw one of the most amazing things I have ever witnessed when a relative stranger allowed Sawyer to drive his Corvette to the prom. Daniel and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. We also snuck in a trip to North Dakota to see our family there. Two college visits also took place.

Sawyer and the most amazing loan ever!

Sawyer and the most amazing loan ever!


June was the beginning of a whirlwind for us as we finally took the plunge to redo our kitchen and upstairs. Apparently, we hadn’t learned our lesson with the basement remodel a few years ago. Sawyer attended Boys State, walking in the footsteps of his Dad. Father’s Day and Reed’s 19th birthday were the same day; so, we remembered both together. Erin turned fifteen the next day, and the best present she received was the news that she definitively did not require surgery. The end of the month Daniel and I went away for our first ever motorcycle trip with friends while the kids stayed with our former nanny and her children. Cloie loved every minute of having “cousins” at her house!

Birthday trip to Sioux Falls.  Girls with Peep!

Birthday trip to Sioux Falls. Girls with Peep!

This was midway through the great beard experiment of the year!

This was midway through the great beard experiment of the year!

July snuck up on us as we were focused on all the decisions for the remodel and on trying to squeeze in time together as a family. Cloie was invited to sing the National Anthem for the American Legion baseball team.

August was probably our busiest month yet. First we had the fair, where the kids showed pigeons as well as general exhibits. Erin earned her first ever trip to the State Fair. At the closing of the fair, Sawyer and I flew down South for him to attend the National Flight Academy held at Pensacola Naval Air Station. While he was at camp, I enjoyed visiting with my Mama Cloie and my parents. It was a blast to have my parents all to myself. We concluded our trip with a visit with my Uncle Rendell and a high school friend and his family. When we returned home, he started fall football camp the next day. Two days later, Cloie and I loaded up to go on a girl’s trip to Chicago so she could follow in the footsteps of her big sister going to the American Girl store. We returned home a little earlier than planned for Clo to enter the hometown pageant, where she won the title of Lyon County Queen. After months and months of training, Daniel took and passed on the first try (which is rare) the Business Analyst Professional test. School started, football began, we had to move into our camper due to construction, volleyball began for Cloie, more therapy for Erin, and we ended the month, with a 3 day trip to the cities for me and Erin to attend the State Fair, where she earned a blue ribbon on her homemade laundry soap.

Hamming it up with fair ribbons!

Hamming it up with fair ribbons!

Sawyer's call name at Flight Academy

Sawyer’s call name at Flight Academy

Breakfast in Chicago

Breakfast in Chicago

state fair ribbon

September was all about construction, construction, and more construction. We put in long hours because we were doing all the work ourselves. Thank goodness a few friends took pity on us in the months that followed by feeding us a few times and pitching in with the painting. The month ended with a trip to replenish cheetahs at Avera McKennan hospital for the Reed Stevens Memorial Legacy program there. The cheetahs are given to the surviving siblings of any child who passes away at the same hospital as Reed did. A Laker football win melted my heart when I snapped a picture of our #74 sandwiched between what were Reed and Jesse’s football numbers on the sidelines.

Best sideline scene ever!

Best sideline scene ever!

October was another fun filled month of construction. The homecoming dance was the first weekend. Erin was cleared to ease back into playing, but will play with a brace indefinitely. Other weekends were spent taking senior pictures, apple picking, and practicing football and cheerleading for our beloved Pumas. Sawyer once again coached his Special Olympics team at the state tournament. They brought home bronze medals this year. Cloie and I were once again involved in the cheer team. Halloween was spent with our big idea of a created family. There were kids, teenagers, college students galore! Our girls continued our family’s mission to “adopt” college students. Each girl picked a favorite student whom we could not adore more.


November was another whirlwind. More construction and let me tell you, we are wearing thin of the details. Another bittersweet moment as we closed a door on Sawyer’s football career. Another mom and I were on the decorating committee. Our personal goal was to make the banquet one our boys would always remember. I think our hours of planning paid off. The highlight of my evening was when Coach Sawyer awarded a football letter to one of his players. A little hunting trip was sandwiched in for Daniel and the big kids, followed by another college visit for Sawyer. I attended women’s retreat for our church, and then next weekend, Cloie hit the big league, singing the National Anthem for the professional hockey team, Sioux Falls stampede. Basketball officially started for Erin, and she had her first varsity start. We had a wonderful impromptu visit from ND family for a weekend with lots of good food and pinochle. Thanksgiving was spent at home, and it was a beautiful peaceful day.

Hitting the big times! Singing the anthem for the Sioux Falls Stampede!

Hitting the big times! Singing the anthem for the Sioux Falls Stampede!

December has been a peaceful month. Erin and I along with a friend from church directed the children’s Christmas pageant. It was a blast to teach them the true meaning behind Advent. Cloie began travelling basketball and had her first tournament. We took Sawyer to another college visit. He hasn’t officially made his choice yet, but we know he has one school he really loves. That seems to be exactly what all our friends told us to expect. Cloie turned ten the same day as our pageant. We went out for lunch, and then we had a few family friends over for supper. It was a blessing to celebrate all together. We will be home for Christmas, and my parents will come for a few days. Then other friends will come for New Year’s where we will party like Newfoundlanders (where New Year’s is 9:30 our time) with all the little ones!

The Newfoundlanders!

The Newfoundlanders!

Joy is found when you really look for it. Often for our family it is the little moments where joy shines the brightest. May the JOY of God’s love find you wherever you are today!

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