Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Near and dear ones,
And so this is Christmas. What have we done….
Can it really be that our cohort has now outlived John Lennon by about 15 years? As his old chestnut spins on iTunes I’m looking at the decked halls and wrapped packages beneath a lovely little tree and counting the blessings of another trip ‘round the sun in the company of friends.
This one was less tumultuous than the one before. Only one new school. No significant losses. No great changes in work. In middle age, even those of us who enjoy change can give thanks for a certain stability!
If it’s true, as Winston Churchill said, that “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often,” we remain imperfect. That’s fine, because I’m Calvinist enough to embrace my imperfections as the lot of humankind in the state of total depravity!
By Churchill’s measure, Martin probably experienced more perfecting than the rest of us this year because he transferred from the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. While he enjoyed UMW well enough, he craved a more diverse community and VCU certainly offers that. It also offers the best social work program in VA, and Martin seems destined to follow in his grandma Ensign’s footsteps at this point, although he’s only a sophomore so there’s plenty of time for changing directions. Oh, and VCU also has Delanie, Martin’s girlfriend of the past several years, and that is certainly a major point in its favor! Martin spent another summer on the staff at Camp Hanover, extending a family tradition of service there that dates back to the camp’s founding in 1957.
Hannah also enjoyed some time at camp over the summer as a camper. She seems destined to take a turn on the staff there, as well, a few years down the line. In the meanwhile, she is a bright and busy high school sophomore whose classmates, convinced that she’s heading for Harvard, have taken to calling her “Ivy.” She’s way more interested in the day-to-day than the long term at this point, and fills her days with a healthy mix of study and sport. She ran cross-country in the fall, is on the swim team at the moment, and plans to run track in the spring. Despite all that running around, she almost always rolls her eyes dismissively when her father invites her to join him on a run.
Once in a rare great while, Bud will accept such an invitation, though only to a track workout. He keeps in good shape for playing as much Ultimate Frisbee as possible. Over the summer, when he was home following his first year of grad school at UC Santa Cruz, he drafted Hannah to join him on a local rec league Ultimate team. Out in California, his play has been stunted a bit by the combination of graduate studies (he’s in his second year of Ph.D. work in computer science) and the extreme drought that led the school to close almost all of its athletic fields. He’s home for the holidays, catching up with friends, playing lots of games with his siblings, and spending as much time as possible with Monica, his long-time girlfriend, and her adorable Yorkie, Pretzel.
Cheryl continues to love her work as an education outreach specialist at the Library of Congress. We’re all grateful that she had no government shutdowns to endure in 2014, and have hopes for another uninterrupted year. She still loves teaching teachers, and helping them learn how to use the library’s unfathomably huge online collections in their classrooms. She still gets a kick out of her institution’s public exhibits, and we took a busman’s holiday on Veterans Day to tour the LoC’s exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, and its adjacent display of one of four existing copies of the 1215 Magna Carta. You should come check it; we know a good, cheap B&B.
If you visit over a weekend, you can join us at the wee kirk, where David continues to serve a vibrant little community of faith. After almost a dozen years, the work there remains filled with all the joys and sorrows of pastoral ministry, and the laughter and challenges of life in community. Beyond the work-a-day, David added lots of miles to his now 55-year-old legs, completing a 4-miler, 5-miler, 10-k, two half-marathons, and his 17 mile sections of a crazy 200-mile relay as part of a 12-person team that spent 30 hours making its way from the pan-handle of Maryland to National Harbor in metro DC.
As most bi-vocational families know, getting away is a challenge, but we met it a couple of times last year. We visited Bud in Santa Cruz last spring, and explored red wood forests, surfed (ish), hit boardwalk amusements, got a wee taste of San Francisco, and generally soaked in the left coast as much as one can in one week.
Over the summer, Cheryl, Hannah and David checked out the Wild Goose Festival in the mountains of North Carolina, and then David and the kids got down to Chattanooga to visit that branch of the Ensign clan.
So…another year over, and a new one just about to begin. Sadly, war is not over despite the fact that we wish and work for it. On the other hand, light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it. We hold you in the light, with gratitude for friends and family during this holiday season.
Grace and peace from Arlington,
Cheryl, David, Dylan, Hannah, & Martin

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