Annual Christmas Letter

December 10, 2015

We’ve been lighting Hanukah candles this year. No, we’re not Jewish, but there’s a desire within us to celebrate the light and hope that reaches deeper and broader than our own Christian boundaries. With the recent acts of terror in San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Paris, Lebanon and many earlier in the year, we are so well aware of the violence and the fear, and our need for healing and peace. We are also thoroughly convinced of the goodness of the human spirit and the desire for mutuality that unites us.

In 2015 we’ve intentionally lived into that generosity of spirit by opening our home to travelers through Airbnb. We began listing our spare bedroom in March and had our first guest in April. Since then we’ve hosted nearly sixty women and men from all over the globe: China, Taiwan, India and Malaysia; Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Netherlands; Brazil and the USA. We’ve welcomed Christians, Jews, Hindus, Atheists, and “Nones.” It has been our joy to listen to an impromptu viola recital by the principal violist in the Malaysian Symphony orchestra, a man originally from Hungary, as Harley sang along. We played cards, Scrabble, and other board games with young people, one couple who wanted to share their 2nd anniversary by getting to know their middle-aged hosts playing a hysterically crazy card game. We talked gardening with a master gardener (also a pastry chef) and the social implications of technology with a couple who worked for Google and routinely drove driverless cars. Mostly we’ve been practicing hospitality, a spiritual practice that spans generations, faith traditions, and ethnicities. For us, it’s been a symbol of peace and a tangible step into hope.

The Airbnb adventure was a response to Wendy’s half-time employment. She needed something new and adventurous, and we both needed something that would make us keep the house clean now that we had to give up our housekeeper. We appreciate the little extra cash, but, more importantly, it’s been a way for Wendy to keep her head above the waves of depression and grief that came as she slowed down, redefined herself, and discerned what God was doing in her life.

For Wendy, it’s also been a time of learning. In continuing education, she did two week-long training programs in conflict mediation and religious fundraising. She also discovered MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and has been addicted to learning in many disciplines. In the last twelve months, She’s completed online courses taught by renowned professors in well established universities: Moral Foundations of Politics (Yale), Sustainable Development (Columbia), Advertising and Society (Duke), Marketing in a Digital Age (University of Illinois), Terrorism and Counterterrorism (Universiteit Leiden). And today she started, “Constitutional Struggles in the Muslim World” (University of Copenhagen).

Her work with Monmouth Presbytery has continued half-time as General Presbyter. The adjustment to part-time work means that her time is primarily focused on the routine and the crises. She hopes that 2016 will enable her to work with the presbytery in developing some new emphases in congregational development.

While Dwayne was ordained an elder when we were in Texas, this year he was asked to serve actively on the session (board) of the Allentown Presbyterian Church. In addition to music, governing, and worship leadership, he has been active in small group leadership. Actually we both have. This year we hosted three small groups; two during Lent and one in the fall. It’s another way we love to share our home, our friendship, and our faith.

Dwayne changed companies at the beginning of the year. He was “bought” by another contracting company to do the same FEMA work he’d been doing. So, it’s a change, but it isn’t. He still has the long commute to the basement every morning, so work life has been pretty stable for him.

He has been working a great deal. There always seems to be a new “roll out” in the next month. Yet he still finds time for pet projects, like installing a weather station in the back yard. Do you want to know the precise weather at our home? Just bring up weatherunderground.com (or the app) and you can see the stats as well as a video feed of the backyard. Dwayne also worked on a push notification app for students to access the crowd-sourced information at thegradcafe.com. He got interested in that when we were monitoring Kate’s process applying to Ph.D. programs this spring.

Kate applied to seven highly competitive programs, and we were so proud that she was wait-listed at Yale. Imagine our disappointment when she didn’t get in! We were dreaming of her and Ben and the dogs being close enough for a day trip. Despite the disappointment of not beginning Ph.D. work this year, Kate and Ben made a major move to Fort Collins, Colorado, this summer. They are now adjusting to a real winter. Ben is working as an electrician’s apprentice, and Kate is working part-time for the University of North Texas remotely and volunteering as a lab assistant at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Having just completed another round of Ph.D. applications, we are hoping and praying that having her “foot in the door” in Colorado will pan out into an acceptance either there or in California.

We’re sad, though, that we won’t be able to see Kate and Ben this Christmas. We did get to take a week in August to visit them in Fort Collins. We drove through Rocky Mountain State Park, toured a local brewery and the Celestial tea factory, and got to see their home. We also saw them in April when we took a trip to Texas for Dad and Penny’s wedding on April 25th.

Looking forward to 2016 … we see few changes, but, then, we are always amazed by what life brings. What we hope for is peace. We will keep working for that through our church work, our community involvement, and by building relationships with our house guests. Of course you are always welcome to come visit … friends and family always take priority in booking our guest room! We won’t charge you AND we’ll still bake you a scrumptious banana bread, cinnamon rolls, or pound cake.

We wish you a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukah, a blessed holiday season and a joyous new year!