Category Archives: Christmas Letters

Merry Christmas!

alan-and-kathi-in-africaWill you forgive me for writing you a Christmas greeting online?summer-reunionI’ll try to make it relatively short and sweet (with lots of photos)!christmas-card-depicting-jesus-in-mangerI haven’t attempted sending Christmas cards for several yearschristmas-card-home-in-snowbut still love receiving cards, e-cards,refrigerator-full-of-photos-and-drawings and joyful photos and drawings—which go right up on our refrigerator.refrigerator-full-of-photos-and-drawings-2016Thank you to each dear person who has blessed our family in this way!tahquamenon-fallsAlan and I have had a memorably happy year
despite the fact that he’s working harder than ever.srping-bouquet-on-tableWe love living in Grand Rapids! eiffel-towerOf course, we also love touring with our kids, medical-meeting-in-hawaiimedical meetings in Hawaii,the-devils-pool-victoria-fallshanging out at the top of Victoria Falls, etc! mink-on-our-dockWe have no plans to retire any time soon, our-snowy-drivewayeven if does get pretty snowy around here, magnolia-blossomsand we’re acutely aware that every new day is a gift from God.couple-searching-for-christmas-treeConcerning Aaron’s family, Carlie pointed out off-to-school-oh-4-boysthat they are suddenly at a crucial new threshold with everyone out of diapers, speaking clearly and totally mobile. gingerbread-house-and-eager-eaters They’re having lots of fun adventures in California,canoe-trip-down-rogue-river although they’ve been very faithful about returning to visit, little-boy-in-canoeand we enjoyed a memorable canoe trip with them last fall. mike-and-grace-at-partnach-gorge-germanyMike’s family is living in Italy now, family-in-europewhere Christmas is foggy and neither white nor bright little-boy-with-ice-cream-cone-in-venice-italybut life is beautiful anyway.
family-playing-of-stand-up-paddleboard-supThey came home to visit us here at “Tanglewood Cottage” last summerfun-in-the-rvand then went on a U.P. road trip “in the RB” (aka/recreational vehicle)mackinac-island-waiting-for-the-ferry with “Papa and Nana.” playing-with-grand-son-at-the-big-boy-marquette-miSuper fun!three-sistersJon and Gerlinde welcomed their third daughter into their home last summer, riding-on-a-merry-go-roundand Nana and Grandpa (different families have different designations for us) beautiful-babywere able to visit during that most happy occasion! manito-park-spokane-waThey’ll be in Germany this Christmas with Gerlinde’s family. young-family-near-harbor-springs-miDaniel’s family lives here in GR, so we are blessed by getting to see thembaby-watching-youtube-dude-perfectnearly every week and watch while Samuel grows up right before our eyes.little-boy-walking-through-autumn-leavesWhat a special joy it is to have them living close by!
young-family-with-babyBrianna is expecting Baby #2 in April. I can hardly wait!

guys-having-fun-togetherStephen is home for the holidays between semesters at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where he is working on a PhD in music history. He also plays part-time at a local church.  Joel decided to drop his graduate studies to take a position as assistant editor with Kregel Publishers here in GR. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been having him back at home! He adds a dimension to life that I’d forgotten how much I missed until he came home again. “The more the merrier” and the more the emotionally richer too, I think!hiking-along-dead-river-falls-mi     Life for me is happiest when lived in community with other loved ones.sunshine-on-river-abstract In fact, I can’t imagine anything better than graduating to heaven one day, where I will share a “mansion” (abiding place) with all those who have become God’s children by faith in Jesus. I am hoping and praying I’ll see you all there!  boy-playing-in-water-in-sunshine                 Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! May you have a splendid 2017!

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

Merry Christmas: Focusing on The Present

Merry ChristmasMerry Christmas from my home to yours. You’re doubtless every bit as busy as I am (or more), so this will be short and sweet, but I wanted you to know that our family (including 7 kids, 5 with spouses, and 14 grandchildren) is thriving. Christmas Hedgehog Also, this will be the only post for the next couple of weeks while we all celebrate the holidays and enjoy our families. This will be something new for me, as I’ve been trying to post nearly every day for the past year, but sometimes living in the present requires 100% of our attention, doesn’t it? Here’s hoping we’re all able to put aside our past pains, present problems, and future anxieties so we can focus on the goodness God intends us to experience each moment of today in the way of love, joy, hope, and peace in his presence and the present He’s given us: Jesus Christ, His perfect son, who came to show us how to live and then died in our place so that we can have forgiveness for our sins and eternal life. Think of His life—full of pain and suffering, abuse, grief, problems, and reasons for anxiety about the future. Yet, Christ lived a life of perfect compassion and love, fully present with those around him and able to meet every challenge by prayerfully submitting himself to his heavenly Father. He was even able to say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” to those who killed him. If Jesus could live a sinless life in the midst of the terrorism the Jews were experiencing at the hands of their Roman oppressors…without a home for refuge, any transportation besides walking, or even food in his cupboard (backpack?), then can we honor Him by taking time to focus on The Present—Jesus—and the time He’s given us to live today? I hope so. God bless you! See you in January.

Names of Jesus“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,  The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…” (Isaiah 9:6-7a).

 

Merry Christmas, Dear Ones!

White water rafting on McKenzie RiverThis has been another wonderful year… full of ups and downs, but that’s just life, isn’t it? The bottom line for our family (at this moment) is that we’re doing well Samuel on Thanksgiving…at least as well as can be expected, given that our 13th grand child is a preemie living in a NICU. But, let me give you a little update on all of us: alan-and-me-with-grace-and-kids Alan and Kathi: We’ve enjoyed good health this year—which we now humbly appreciate as a great privilege rather than something to be taken for granted. Munising FallsAlan continues working very long hours and comes home with his “mind exploded” many days but finds his job fulfilling and fascinating. Cape Cod Naitonal Seashore I’ve had a truly happy year of blogging and keeping up with family and friends.Aaron's Family Aaron is still working for Facebook, and Carlie continues to home school their tribe of 4 busy boys. Carleen They take the kids on all sorts of far-flung adventures, Aaron's family. Father's Day but they’re really good about keeping connected with family too (lucky for us!). Aaron reading to kidsIt is so fun to watch our kids being parents!  Mike's Family Mike was promoted to major last summer. He’ll be finished paying back the army for his dental training next summer, but they don’t know the next step yet.Mother holding baby In September, their 4th was born, Paladin, so they have 2 girls & 2 boys. The Savior's Quest Grace and Michael are using their love of the arts and Grace’s theatrical training to enhance home schooling their busy bevy. They live abroad, and we miss them!Jon and Linda with kids Jon and Linda continue to teach at Moody’s western campus, and they are also super busy. Jon is always up to his gills teaching, working on innovative teaching techniques via the web, writing books and working on his Aqueduct Project. A+S into mischief! Linda does the lion’s share of caring for their 2 delightful little girls, which keeps her on her toesGerlinde and Sophie In fact, I am deeply grateful for all 5 of the dedicated moms in our family who sacrifice their own interests to love their kids and let their husbands “fly.”
Kathy and Carl with kids Carl is still working full time heading the video and motion graphics department at NorthRidge and has also started his own company, Motion Parade, doing free-lance projects for (among others) the Food Network out of NYC.  Baby in Balls Kathy has her hands full with Iris and Oliver and writes in the nooks and crannies of life. IMG_0951 Alan and I feel very blessed to have their family in state so we can see them relatively often. Dan and Brianna 8.14 Daniel continues as a dentist at H.I.S.(Health Intervention Services, a Christian charity helping the uninsured), and Brianna is working as a nurse at DeVos Children’s Hospital in the NICU. Holland, MI They had two high school exchange students living with them last year but decided not to take in more students in the light of Brianna’s becoming pregnant. preemie-sleeping The baby was due on Alan and my anniversary (February 18), but Brianna developed pre-eclampia and Baby Samuel Azariah arrived via C-section at only 27.5 weeks…a tiny 12.5″ 1-pound, 9 oz. wonder. He’s had a bout with pneumonia and is still very fragile, so we’ve been praying night and day for him.Stephen and Joel Stephen and Joel both graduated with M.A. degrees (Stephen with 2) this spring. Sugar Loaf Mt., MIThis year Stephen is working as the music director at his church, taking classes in 3 languages, presenting and publishing musicology papers, and applying for PhD programs for next fall.  Joel in Cape Cod Joel is now working on his PhD in literature at Northeastern University and has 2 articles in print for 2015! He’s living in an “intentional Christian community” in Boston with 6 other graduate students, where he’s again the youngest of 7. 🙂 DSCN6165  Joel and Stephen have continued to be super good friends, and they’ve been collaborating on writing a memoir about growing up at…somewhere… 🙂Mom poster In all, it’s been one of my happiest years in a long time, and I am so grateful to God for all these blessings! But, most of all, I’m thankful for Jesus, who came down from heaven’s glory to be born as a babe in a manger, live, die, and rise again for us, so that we can celebrate the joy of forgiveness for sins and fellowship with God. It is the birth of this perfect Savior that we celebrate at Christmas—Emmanuel—God is with us!

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us”
(Matthew 1:23).

The Armstrong Archives (92): Christmas Recollections of 1980. Birth and Rebirth

Chickadee in Snow looking upChristmas, 1980 Somewhere a bird is chirping in spite of the skiff of snow and 20° weather, and I can see three starlings playing. The sun is shining, and they have warm feathers: “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God…He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse; He taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.” (from Psalms 146-147)

That’s what I’ve been learning this year: the Lord wants us to yield, but ONLY to Him. All too often I forget who the “enemy” is and find myself yielding to the flesh or wrestling with the Lord!! My 1981 watchword is going to be “Endure.” When you think of me this year, pray that I will develop endurance, please!

So what’s happening this year? On March 27th, Jonathan Joseph was born. Alan was delighted to have another boy, and now that Jonathan can clap and laugh when “Daddy” comes home, he feels even more rewarded. On May 26th, Michael Martin was born again, trusting Christ as his own Savior in accordance with the promise in Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Aaron was really the one who shared the “Good News” (gospel) with Michael at the time of his conversion…although both Alan and I reviewed the Scripture with him to make sure he understood. Yes, he was sure he was a sinner. (What a sensitive conscience a child has to understand sin, when many adults refuse to admit intentional evil or the depravity of our hearts!) Yes, he believed that Jesus was in fact God and man. (How often we reject as impossible what is so profoundly simple and true!) Yes, he believed that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scripture: and that He was seen…” (I Corinthians 15). Yes, Michael believed the gospel and he wanted to trust Christ, to trust in Christ as the only and all-sufficient sacrifice for sin. “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). So simple, yet so incomprehensibly marvelous. And—it wouldn’t matter EXCEPT, IT’S TRUE!! I mean, it’s true truth. I mean, it’s like what Christ said in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” So, it is of vital importance to consider. And, Michael considered it, and he accepted it, and now he has settled peace, as well as access to all God’s riches in glory…love, joy, self-control, patience (I’m claiming that one!), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and eternal life. But…surely I don’t really believe in that old fountain of youth line, do I? Well, surely I do believe that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten (‘uniquely begotten’) Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3: 16-17). That’s God’s promise; all we have to do is believe it. And, if we have trouble believing, God even provides for that: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Reading StoriesSo, that’s our good news of 1980! The bad news is that Alan is still working awfully hard, and we both need grace and endurance to cope well with that. He will probably be done in a year from this summer, and at this moment is most interested in practicing in Petoskey, Michigan, although he also daydreams about Florida, New England, or California. I also daydream but agree with my eldest son, who said recently to his father, “You pick the tree, Daddy, and I’ll help you chop it down.” Aa asleep with gum and headphones[Aaron fell asleep after having spread chewing gum all over his pants and the carpet, although it doesn’t show up too well in this picture. After that, chewing gum became contraband for many years!]

The boys and I keep busy and have fun just trying to grow up. Speaking of good news, we’ve started a Good News Club for grade school children on Tuesdays, and we have a Bible Club for preschoolers on Friday (which Aaron helps me teach). And, one parting word from Alan, who reminds me every day: “Praise the Lord for good health!” We’re all healthy—what a great blessing that is! We pray for you great spiritual and physical health in 1981!Christmas PresentsjpgP.S.— And thanks a million for coming to visit, Mom and Dad! We love you both so dearly, and Christmas wouldn’t have been at all Christmasy without you! The F, A, and M encyclopedias are already getting their bindings properly loosened! I was going to start on the #1 Child Craft book, but the boys sat on the couch for an hour this morning looking from cover to cover at the one on animals, so before rest time we read the sections on reptiles and dinosaurs. I think I’m going to let them choose and mark which sections I’ve read instead of treating them like textbooks. Michael had to go to the bathroom after about ten pages. I thought he was getting bored, so I continue to read. “No! Don’t read until I get back!!” he begged. Good! They are both going to get a great education!

Jonny Brown Bear discovered the gingerbread house while Aaron, Michael, and I were putting together Michael’s new jigsaw puzzle of the bloodhounds on the doghouse. Little did I consider why Jon was being so quiet under the table! Michael dropped a puzzle piece off the table, and as he retrieved it screeched, “Mom, Jonny’s spreading poot all over the floor!” He was oozing with brown, mushed cookie—all over him and his clothes, the floor, table and chair legs, and even my pants (where he’d climbed my legs). He grinned happily, “Ga! Ga!” and crawled towards me, blissfully unaware. What a guy!

 

 

The Armstrong Archives (80): Christmas Letter, 1979

Thurs., December 13, 1979 Here it is the end of 1979! I don’t think I’ve written anyone but my parents in months, so please forgive me for being so impersonal as to not even write notes, but this will give you some idea of what’s been happening with us. And, my first New Year’s resolution will be to try to improve my correspondence habits!

Alan finished medical school March 31st. He graduated with honors, right near the top of his own class at Wayne as well as in the top 10% nationally on the medical boards. He was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha (national honorary medical society), and in all we were very proud of our “daddy” (as you can see by the fact we’re bragging on him now)!

Shortly thereafter, we moved all our belonging into storage, visited our families in the Sault for a couple of weeks, and then took off for a wonderful vacation to Florida. Fortunately, the boys were good travelers, and we really enjoyed a spectacular spring…springing all the way down from southern Ohio to Miami, and it was still spring when we returned to the Sault a month later. On the way, we visited with many friends, some I hadn’t seen since college, and lots of spouses and children that our family had never met. That was my favorite treat! In Florida we built sandcastles, hunted seashells and sand dollars, caught starfish in buckets, and chased pelicans. Mostly, we just soaked up a lot of each other’s company—something we’ve never been able to do in all our boys’ short little lives! How we love being a family and having one another!

In the midst of our celebrating came the awful news that both of Alan’s parents had died in a totally unexpected tragedy. We drove night and day and got home shortly before the funeral. It took a long time to even grasp reality, and it seemed like months before we thought of much else. We are so grateful for all the love and encouragement we received from all those who were aware of what was going on. It also really helped to spend about a month with Alan’s sibs and families in California; it kind of started us back on the road to the land of the living.

At the end of June we moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Alan began a three-year residency in internal medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital. At the orientation meeting, the chief resident (who’s a Christian) encouraged all the incoming interns by saying that his family had found their first year a very rewarding and positive experience. I felt a little amazed that just such a possibility might exist. Everything I had ever heard or read about what to expect during internship was totally depressing. Internship was supposed to be a tribal rites, trial-by-fire sort of affair, and I could hardly see how that would strengthen any relationship! Well, here is half over (the easier half I must confess), and I will say that our family is more loyal, unified, and in love than ever. It has taught me a lot about trusting the all-sufficient grace of the Lord. He provides for what He orders!

About July another blessing became obvious; we’re hoping for a new addition to the family around March 5th. We couldn’t be more delighted! Alan is already calling the baby “Jonathan,” although we can both see so many advantages either way that it doesn’t make a bit of difference. Aaron has plans to build a triple bunk bed so all three kids can sleep in the same room, and Michael affirms that he and Aaron are “the big guys” now…they will take care of the baby! (In more ways than one, I’m sure.)

The first few months of pregnancy generally slow me down to a survival status, but by October most of the nausea had subsided and I entered that euphoric middle period when not much seems able to make me worry! The kids and I pretty much settled into the house and society. Alan bought me a piano to while away the lonely night hours, and he build a sandbox and swing in the basement for the boys. He does work awfully long hours, usually 80-100+ per week—but we always enjoy what we can get of him…like the poster of the cat by the window: “Love understands and therefore waits.” It won’t last forever.

There’s so much more! We had a lovely “honeymoon” while Grandma babysat, and then we took the boys to Niagara Falls and Toronto on our week off in November, etc, but I must quit. Hope you appreciate the exposition on the Christmas card concerning Isaiah 9:6. We know that many of you have already trusted and believe on Christ, whom to know is “life eternal.” God bless you all!

Love, Alan, and Kathi 1378385_10151610607586863_1477307427_n

The Armstrong Archives (59): Only Part of a Christmas Letter, 1978

DSCF5352 copyChristmas, 1978 ‘Tis the season—that happy season when my thoughts naturally return to remembering with delight the old and anticipating with hope the new. Remembering all the dear people I love so warmly, and especially recalling with great joy the advent of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our first snow fell, and Detroit looked breathtaking in pure white! “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” For me? Forgiveness like that for me??? “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” And I echo Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul…Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeh all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crownth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies…”

New Year’s Eve was always the time at our house when I was growing up to gather around and share with each other our chief joys, sorrows, and learnings from the previous year. Since Alan and I will be the only sibs home this Christmas, I decided to try to recapture a bit of what I’ve (and in many cases, “we’ve”) learned.

Attending the Gothard Seminar (for the second time) last May really sparked off a lot of new beginnings. It made such a dramatic impact on my spiritually; I wish everyone would take the time to attend at least once! Anyway, I was like those “O foolish Galatians,” who, having begun in the Spirit, were attempting to be made perfect in the flesh. Which, as anyone who has lived long enough (or died) knows, is perfectly futile. I found myself saying with Paul, “For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” I was like a bird trying to flap my wings and fly without the power. Why? Because I wouldn’t die. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The first thing I learned was what it means to repent. Today I think people are told to believe in Christ without first repenting. In Acts 20:21, Paul says he was teaching “both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (In retrospect, I think I was probably never genuinely converted when at age 12 I first made a profession of faith in Christ. I don’t know. I do know that “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I have peace.)

Anyway, I think all this easy-believe-ism so rampant today is the result of people giving lip service to faith in Christ without having repented of their sins. I had been a long time under bondage to the law: “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

That is a good starting place, so for years I tried to understand the “fear of the Lord,” which is the promised beginning of wisdom. Fear the Lord…fear to sin…“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Then Solomon responded with an “I will” so to speak: “pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate.” No, that wasn’t Solomon speaking, that was the Lord, for He goes on to say, “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding; I have strength.” So I said, “All right, Lord, I want to fear you, but I can’t. You do it.” He continued, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (Of course I know that “we love Him because He first loved us,” and that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”)

[The second page of this letter went missing, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’m now wondering if I didn’t think it was “too preachy” and not “newsy” enough so tried to start over and never finished or something. It was a very busy time, and Alan and the kids all got quite ill.]