Greetings from the frozen Minnesota Northland! We are currently enjoying snow-caked trees, freshly decorated Christmas cookies, and lots of time with family and friends. We hope your holiday finds you in similar circumstances as we celebrate the Incarnation of God – Merry Christmas indeed!
The past year has been unique for us in many respects, mostly because of its lack of major life transitions: We made no big moves, no graduations or career changes, and no new additions to the family (yet). We are settled in northern MN and can hardly believe it’s already been 1½ years with Jared serving as the Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Families at our wonderful church. We have a loving church family and have established great friendships in our church and wider community.
Last year began in the warmth as Jared and Caitlyn went on a January cruise with Caitlyn’s family as a gift for Jared and Caitlyn’s completion of the grueling seminary life. We were able to leave the girls in with Jared’s mom, Mary, as she graciously guarded the home front while we cruised the Florida seas. January ended on a tragic note when Jared lost his uncle to a sudden heart attack. Jared’s family grieved this loss and still mourns the absence of Brian, but the shock was absorbed on the shoulders of a strong family that has borne the burden well. In this, we have also grown much closer to Jared’s cousins and Aunt who live in nearby Grand Rapids, MN.
The rest of the winter and spring was spent making the most of the mild winter and early warm weather. We hosted a Polar Swim and Sauna with our youth group and jumped through a giant hole in the ice on a balmy 50 degree March day. Aleah continued her gymnastics classes until summer and gleefully bounced around on the long trampoline and swung on the bars and rings every week. We were also blessed to move into the church parsonage in May and begin our very own garden! Aleah and Sophi were certainly overjoyed to join us in the garden, where one child meticulously planted a row of wonderful sweet peas and the other mostly just smeared dirt all over herself. Perhaps you can guess which was which.
In June Jared took a 4-day camping trip with his dad, brother, uncle, and several cousins into a remote lake bordering Voyageurs National Park. They set up camp on a beautiful island and spent their days fishing from canoes, swimming, and jumping off cliffs. Shortly after, we went to the Twin Cities for the wedding of Michael and Caroline (Caitlyn’s little sis) and again we celebrated with family and friends. The rest of the summer flew by with more camping, daily trips to the beach, and the annual Belcher family reunion in Michigan.
Fall came fast and with it many new challenges and adventures. Caitlyn took on the role of coordinating the church’s Wednesday afternoon Kids’ Club program, and with lots of hard work she managed to implement an AWANA curriculum and recruit the necessary volunteers. The program has been humming along. Aleah attends a full day of school twice a week and enjoys practicing her alphabet and writing words, but she comes home completely exhausted and adorable – we are proud of her. She continues gymnastics and is developing the vaulting skill…Yikes. Sophia spends her time screaming (‘cause it’s funny), randomly asking if she can take her clothes off, and grabbing our new kittens by the head. She’s incredibly clever and silly, frequently leaving the rest of us in the family shaking our heads in amusement. We are also expecting one more Bangs in early May and wondering what this next little ball of humanity will be like! Yipppee!
In November we met Caitlyn’s folks, Paul and Barb, in Florida where were able to enjoy Disney World with the girls for their first time! We had a wonderful time and the girls’ have had princess obsession ever since. We spent Thanksgiving in Fergus Falls, MN with Jared’s brother, Jesse, and his family, along with several other cousins and relatives. December has been full of church and community Christmas events, but we are starting to relax with Jared’s folks, Mary and Steve, as they celebrate with us.
Here’s to a great year and another one to come…Merry Christmas!