December 6, 2013
N 32° 57.67’, W 75° 17.05’
We are writing to you from someplace in the Atlantic between the Bahamas and New York City, the sea stretches out before us, the sun peaks out of the billowing clouds, and Christmas carols ring out all over the ship. We are on Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest and largest vessel, the Breakaway, as VIP collectors of art, guests of Parkwest Gallery. That means we’ve spent a great deal of money on art over the years. We never thought of ourselves as “art collectors,” but we’ve frequented art auctions on cruise ships for almost 15 years now. We love hearing the stories of the artists and seeing their unique perspectives. On this cruise we met four artists, one of whom is Peter Max, 1960’s pop artist. This ship is a tribute to Max; he designed the mural painting of the hull, and much of the featured art on the ship is his. We’ve been enjoying the pampering, buying more art, and making friends with other collectors in the US and Canada.
This trip is a serendipitous ending to a year of celebration. The first half of the year was consumed with preparations for what Wendy dubbed “the wedding of the century.” Kate and Ben were married on June 22nd in Denton, Texas. The wedding was not only beautiful but perfectly reflective of our daughter and son-in-law: classy with an authenticity which was delightfully light-hearted yet deeply relational. The light-heartedness was evident as the newlyweds danced to Kermit The Frog singing “Rainbow Connection.” The importance of the relationships in their lives was signified by their wedding rings being passed to each guest so that they could “warm” them with good thoughts, prayers and blessings. We are so thankful for the numerous family and friends who joined us in Texas on the 22nd and/or in New Jersey for the Meet the Newlywed party in our backyard a week later.
It was a hugely transformative year for Kate and Ben. Not only did they make marriage vows to each other, but they both started new teaching jobs in the fall. Ben is teaching middle school math in Plano, Texas, the school district he graduated from. Kate is a Teaching Fellow at the University of North Texas. As she completes her Master’s Degree in Linguistics, she is teaching Technical Writing to freshmen and sophomores. We love hearing the stories about their students. And we are very proud of both of them.
It was only a few days after the party in New Jersey that Wendy’s family gathered at the Spiritualist camp in Connecticut to scatter her mom’s ashes. The setting was beautiful, overlooking the Long Island Sound. We all missed Mom, as well as Ben’s grandmother who died this spring, at the wedding, but we are confident they were present in our thoughts and prayers. Dwayne’s grandmother, Twila Gustafson, also passed away this spring; she was 96 years old.
Wendy spent the past year delving into the family histories of Ben and Kate. No, they don’t seem to be distant cousins, even though both families have a similar history and roots in western Pennsylvania. It was a year, though, of collecting dates and names, and researching through ancestry.com. She published a book for the newlyweds that shares as much information as we have for up to eight generations.
Work for Wendy continues to be both challenging and fulfilling. Now a year after hurricane Sandy, the shore churches are well into a routine of recovery. The future of the Church, though, continues to be a stressful issue for congregations and pastors. Wendy is determined to continue to plant seeds of faith, and to help the people to be prepared for whatever God has in store for us next.
Dwayne continues to work from home doing website programming for FEMA and other government agencies. His work took him to conferences this year in San Francisco and Portland. He presented at one conference in Washington DC in August.
We wish all of our friends and family a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Dwayne & Wendy
5020 Crosswicks Hamilton Square Road, Hamilton, NJ 08620