Our honest Christmas letter

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us….”

The pairing of those words work perfectly for the opening of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities.” But what about for a Christmas letter?

I’m guessing your reception of something so brutally honest enveloped in festivity has been limited. Granted, I’m not looking for bad tidings to replace the good, but as I thought about what I wanted to write in our family Christmas letter—addressed to all of you—I realized 2017 was a year that epitomized paradox.

The past year has been full of beauty and grace, but also pain and tears. It has been one of change and growth—not always pleasant and pain-free. The year has been one of victory, but also defeat; gain and loss, laughter and joy, stress and anguish.

I tell you those things, in honesty. I want to keep it real. There were weighty things that happened in 2017, but because of the gospel—because of Christmas and the cross—I know nothing that happened in 2017 is meaningless for our family. Whatever paradox you have experienced in the last year, know you aren’t alone in the coexistence of highs and lows, and that there is one who holds it all together!

That said, I give you the Just family Christmas letter:

Merry Christmas from our new address in Hills­boro! The spring found us moving from our sweet little bungalow on the east side of Main Street to a ranch fixer upper on the west. The kids are now enjoying their own bedrooms, and were the first to benefit from freshly renovated spaces. Mom and Dad still have maroon carpet to contend with.

We have enjoyed meeting new neighbors (with lots of kids to play with), getting to know a few neighboring cats, and having a full-sized trampoline. Malinda has set a lofty deadline of summer 2018 to have the house finished. But, with workdays really only comprising Saturdays, being avid DIYers and having detailed vision, the end isn’t really in sight.

In addition to our move, we have adjusted to being a full-blown elementary school family, with all three kids attending HES. Gracelyn (9) is in Mrs. Dalke’s fourth-grade class. Jemma (7) is a second-grader with Mrs. Berens, and Case is a kindergartener in Mrs. Jost’s class. Case actually started school while he was still 4. He turned 5 on Kansas’ cut-off date, Aug. 31!

The girls both take gymnastics at our local gym. We are so thankful to have coach Matt leading the charge at Next Level Athletics, and can’t say enough good things about him as the new owner of the Hillsboro gym! Gracelyn is busy mastering her backflips off the double-mini, and Jemma most recently nailed a round-off into four (unassisted) back handsprings!

Case is happiest playing outside with his friends, playing PBS Kids games on the computer or phone, and watching Wild Kratts. He is a walking encyclopedia of shark facts, and his favorite is the Great White.

Brad is the director of information technology for USD 410, and recently earned a Google certification as a certified associate G Suite administrator. Brad is enjoying expanding his tool collection now that we have a shop in our backyard. He is quite the carpenter, and his handiwork will soon fill our new house.

In addition to dreaming up and helping implement renovation plans, Malinda enjoyed spending a day at Beth Moore’s LIT conference in Houston in February. She could have spent many more hours soaking in Beth’s writing expertise.

With the writing conference, we snuck in a family vacation, making a stop in Waco so Malinda (and kids) could visit Magnolia Market and Harp Design. To complete the vacation experience, our family visited NASA and Brad took the kids on a day trip to the beach while Malinda went to her conference.

Our year was full, and we can’t believe Christmas and the end of 2017 are knocking. With that, we wonder what will be in store for 2018? Whatever comes, we know we are blessed to face it with each other.

Much love,

The Justs

Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing visit her blog, malindajust.com.