As I write, our yard is being re-coated with snow after a week of warm fog, cold drizzle, and sloshy puddles. Our tree sparkles in the living room while Christmas music plays and the woods become white once again. All is well. However, a recent episode of The Middle convicted both Caitlyn and I about the silliness that often befalls Christmas letters. I mean, are our lives really that simple, sweet, and straightforward? Of course not! And if all we want are the highlights, can’t we just wait for those year-in-review videos Facebook puts together for us in a few weeks?
So let’s get a few things straight: Life is complex, peculiar, and challenging. Sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and sometimes it goes wonderfully. But Christmastime isn’t just for celebrating how dandy our lives our, it’s for celebrating that fact that The True Light that gives Light to everyone has come into the world, and we need it always. Life is full of highlights and lowlights, and Christ came for it all.
Now, about our lives (and yes, we’re only giving the highlights. If you want the lowlights, call). Life in Cook continues to be exciting and fulfilling. Last winter was what the kids would call, Epic. The snow reached 40 inches in February, and we were jumping off our roofs, sending the girls into piles of fluffy powder. Winter this far north certainly lingers, often with fervor, but we find ways to enjoy it! A wonderful reprieve came in March when we visited Jared’s folks in Colorado. We spent warm days sunning ourselves in the green grass, but also went to the mountains for what the kids call shredding. The girls skied the bunny hill with Nana and Papa while Jared and Caitlyn snowboarded at 13,000 feet. We also encountered two moose on a hike near Estes Park. Northern Minnesotans have to go to Colorado to see moose – go figure.
Summer was just as adventurous and enjoyable as we’ve come to expect. June was busy with our church’s VBS program, followed by a trip to Eagle River for a farewell weekend for Courtney (Cait’s sister) and Daryl Ellis as they left for their new pastorate in Southern California. In July we enjoyed a Bangs Family Reunion in Fergus Falls, celebrating Jared’s grandma’s 80th birthday while connecting with relatives from all over the country.
When we finally settled back in Cook for July, we were anxious to enjoy our own neck of the woods. We take every possible opportunity to swim at area beaches and enjoy our beautiful lakes. Aleah and Sophia graduated out of life jackets as they confidently jumped, paddled, and swam like the perch they share the water with. Hudson cruised the beach, learning to throw rocks and disturb his sisters’ sand creations. We also ventured into the wilderness for several family camping trips. We dove for clams in Voyageurs National Park, roasted Marshmallows with friends at Pfeiffer Lake, and ate fresh Pike along the edge of the Boundary Waters as the Maples, Oaks, and Aspens filled the shoreline with fall colors. We love making the most out of this wild and exciting place we call home.
We continue to enjoy our annual trip to Muskegon, MI for the Belcherama family reunion in early August. The time with family is a cherished tradition, and late night Mafia with the cousins never disappoints. As August came to a close, Aleah (and two nervous parents) prepared for all-day kindergarten. She has thrived in school all fall, and we love seeing her progression into a little girl who reads and writes! Sophia attends school two days a week, and spends her other mornings at home with Caitlyn, doing puzzles, dancing in the living room, building forts, and generally being quirky. Hudson is constantly putting on shoes and boots (often not his own) while trying to escape from the house so he can explore the woods on his own. He’s pretty determined.
Our new adventure this winter is girls hockey! Aleah and Sophia both play on an 8-U team for Hibbing, and while the early practices were a struggle, they are learning fast. Caitlyn helps coach the team, and has been deeply rewarded as our daughters follow in their momma’s skate marks – playing a sport she loves. Looks like Hudson and I will be spending some time behind the glass this winter. Have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year! Love, The Bangs