Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Family Christmas Letter

Christmas is quickly approaching and we are trying to speed up our gift making here in the Dixon home. Over the past few years, we have been challenged by Advent Conspiracy to think differently about the gifts we give and how we give them. We make gifts, buy second hand, and give gifts of time, so that we can give more to people who may actually be in need.  It does take a little more effort and has us scouring Pinterest quite a bit, but it's ultimately more fun (at least until we get down to the last days before Christmas and gifts are unfinished).  We are reminded of how greatly we have been blessed by Christ and this great gift of life we have in Him. We have life only because of His willingness to give up all He had to come to earth to bear our trials and die in our place, and we have hope because of His victory over life and death.  We struggle at times to consistently live it, but we know that all we have has come from God and He only gives to us so that we can give to others. This season we celebrate Immanuel - God with us... He has been so present throughout our year.

Like every year, not everything has been easy this year, but great good has come where there has been struggle.  God has been shaping us, growing us in grace, humility, and love.  We have been driven to points of uncertainty, reminded that we are not in control, and challenged to trust God more. We have been blessed to have been able to share our home and lives with others, to share in their trials and to have them share in ours. God is good all the time.

Many of those who read this letter will be familiar with our Facebook posts about some of our greatest blessings.

Caleb is currently 12 and has started middle school this year.  He seems to have adapted well; he has made new friends and is excited about being in the same school as some of his good buddies from church.  At home, he can mostly be found with his nose inside a book until interrupted by a little one desiring his attention or antagonized by Reuben. One of his highlights this year and last has been his participation on a Lego Robotics team.

Katie, currently 10, now wants to be called by her full name, Kathryn [though we're having a hard time adjusting]. She is responsible and hard working, but equally fun loving and silly. Whatever she does, she puts her heart into.  Her great love is horses, and though that is a somewhat illusive dream, she gets her fill in reading about them.  She loves the social life, but is learning more about who to keep close.

Reuben, age 8, is our impulsive child; he is often devising plans, building forts (inside and out), climbing structures, and has a great fascination for Rube Goldberg machines, traps, dominoes, marble tracks... He needs to have a project at all times or he's bored and / or hungry.  Sometimes he can be distracted by "Calvin and Hobbes" or "Bone."

Jordan, age 6, is our disorganized, absent minded, head-in-the-clouds, funny guy.  He'll do a lot to get a laugh and is interested in knowing what the world record for burping is as he is confident that he can break it. He has shown great creativity lately in his Lego building, commemorating Remembrance Day with a display, and is now devising a display for Christmas.

Molly, age 4, has been Ezekiel's surrogate mother since he was born.  We suspect that this may be why he didn't crawl until he was a year old (July) and doesn't walk yet.  She was attentive to his every cry, picking him up and lugging him around, up and down stairs, through various rooms of the house.  She definitely has maternal instinct. She can be a "diva" at times and likes things to be done for her.  She also has a peace making, diplomatic side to her; she is often in situations where she is working to pacify her younger sister, while also serving her own sense of justice.

Emily, age 3, is a spitfire.  She has an independent spirit, believes that she can do just about anything on her own (as long as she wants to do it), and is quick to volunteer.  It has taken a bit of getting used to - this independent spirit - as doing something for her that she wants to do herself (eg. flushing the toilet) can lead to an automatic tantrum. She is a tough little nut, not intimidated by size or age, but also loves pink and tutus.

Zeke, age 1, loves his big brothers and sisters.  He is a happy little guy, for the most part, but likes to stick close and be carted around / cuddled.  He likes cars, balls / balloons, and books (well, he mostly likes to hold books and "talk" about them, not so much read). He loves music - loud music (no surprise there!), and is showing signs of the same destructive streak that some of his older brothers had (no surprise there, either).  He is particularly fond of bathrooms, specifically toilets.

We are anticipating yet another blessing: an eighth child to join our family somewhere near the end of May or beginning of June.  The kids are excited; names suggested have been Calvin, Hobbes, and Suzie.

If anything, this year has taught us that we cannot predict what the future will bring and we are not the ones in control.  However, we do know the One who is:

"Many things about tomorrow, I don't seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand." (Ira F. Stanphill)

So, we look confidently to the new year, not knowing what it may bring, but reminded by the verse that hangs over our front door, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous, do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go." (Joshua 1:9) Our prayer for you is the same, that you would go into this year, free from fear and discouragement, confidently trusting that The Lord goes with you and before you wherever you go.

Merry Christmas!

Love, the Dixon Family

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Family Christmas Letter


As we look back over the year of ministry and family, we have much to be thankful for.  We have been truly blessed, though it bears reminding every now and then.  The year has been a challenging one, as we knew it would be going into it… we knew we were standing on the verge of change, though we didn’t know what that might look like (and now, in the midst of changes, we still don’t know what things will look like but we trust our God).  We constantly rely on the words of God in the Bible in Joshua 1:9, something that has become a key verse for our family – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Some of these changes have included the birth of our seventh, Ezekiel Thomas; the transition in our church of our senior pastor, Bob Knowles, to a vice presidency role at Crandall University (we miss their family but are happy for them)); children getting older… our fourth little guy, Jordan, started Primary in September… Some changes have been easy to see as blessings, while others we have to have faith that, in the end, they will have become blessings.   In everything, God has remained faithful and present; “God is good all the time; all the time, God is good.”

Many of you follow our Facebook posts and have a good idea as to what things are happening in this family adventure of ours.  It has been a great blessing that, with the addition of children to our family, God has also increased our sense of humor. 

Caleb at the Hobbit
Upon writing this, Caleb is just on the verge of turning 11 in a few days.  He is almost as tall as his mom (not that that is any great feat, really).  His adventures have much to do with Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and robotics.  He won a Remembrance Day contest at school, for a poem he had written.  He has a rich sense of fantasy, honor and glory (not uncommon to hear the war cry, “For Narnia!” at our house) and, quite regularly, solves most of the problems of the world with very simple solutions (if only governments and armies would follow through with his suggestions!).

Katie [age 9] is a great helper, is quick to include and care for the people around her, and isn’t afraid of hard work.  She is creative and adventurous - our best climber - and intrigued by mystery.  She is really into classic Nancy Drew and, as of her birthday, even has her own kit to practice sleuthing.  She has a strong sense of justice (especially when it comes to herself), and is quick to defend “the little guy.”

Reuben
Reuben [age 7] is “heedless and impulsive… (he) just does whatever comes into his head, that’s what!” He loves to make forts, make “mouse houses” and catch bugs.  If you follow our posts, you know that he’s the guy who climbs out windows using bed sheets and also climbs to the top of jungle gyms and trees. He is quick and, though squirmy, we have found that he does actually take in most of what is said to him.  Just now, he could be the kid who sings, “All I want for Christmas..” as, yes, he is missing his two front teeth. 

Dad and Jordan
Jordan [age 5] started school this year.  We cautioned his teacher that he seems to have his head in the clouds a lot of the time and is far from being organized… and also, will do just about anything for a laugh.  However, his first term report came home with praise for always bringing a smile to her face, so apparently his personality is working in his favour.  Jordan is like a sponge for learning and has come home singing songs from class, doing sign language, and has even educated us as to what ellipses is (we had never heard it by its proper name before).  He uses his “eagle eye” when reading and has really caught on to reading quite well.  Besides having to deal with a fight that occurred between he and Reuben on the bus, the school year seems to have taken off to a good start. 

Katie and Molly
Molly [age 3] is strong and independent… which has its good and bad points, as most parents can testify.  She is a girl of many faces, which is quite amusing.  She loves to paint and is quite a good little artist for a three-and three-quarters year old.  She has taught herself to print both hers and Emily’s names.  Perhaps we will concentrate on “preschool” more after Christmas… the fall has been busy with an infant and dog (which really is more like having another child). 

Emily
Emily [age 2] is a little shadow and parrot.  She repeats most of what the others say, and wants to help with whatever might be the task at hand.  Both she and Molly love to bake with Mom, though most ingredients go in the mouth in the process… thank goodness that heat kills germs! She is a tough kid and isn’t afraid to jump into the fray of wrestling children.

Ezekiel [5 months] is a smiley, chatty little blessing (though pretty good size for his age).  He is not a great sleeper so his sunny personality is a great survival mechanism.  He is adored by his brothers and sisters; Molly and Emily are quick to volunteer to look after him, which is a mixed blessing. 

Mom and Dad, well, we’re just doing the best we can by God’s grace. It has been a busy fall and, for Sharalyn, who isn’t a fan of busyness, it’s been a challenge to carve out the needed “down time” for everyone but it’s coming.  Jon loves both family time and ministry time and tries hard to balance both well.  We love the Valley and God is at work here, changing us and our community.      

We leave you with a wish for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and the words from a great old song (from “White Christmas”) we often use as a lullaby here (can’t you just hear Bing Crosby?):

When I'm worried and I can't sleep,
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
When my bankroll is getting small,
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings.
I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one,
I count them as they slumber in their beds.
If you're worried and you can't sleep,
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings.

“My Year”

Caleb: This year, I did robotics.  I learned how to play guitar.  I went to Camp Peniel with Carson and the rest of my family.  I went to Wilderness Camp with Aunt Angie.  Nana and Papa came to pick me up and we went to “A & W,” where I finally ate onions.  We had VBC.  In September, I went in grade 5.  I have done D.A.R.E. in school.  In October, me and Carson were on Challenge kitchen maintenance.  We had a fabulous Halloween (alternative) with the Jones, Syphers, Hunts, and other families. 

Katie: I like my new teacher; she’s nice.  Her name is Mrs. Hatton.  Even though, I still miss Mrs. Kendrick.  I got a letter from Mrs. Kendrick saying she wasn’t going to be my teacher.  Last summer, I went to Camp Mount Traber.  I was in Western.  I got to ride horses for hours. I also went to Camp Peniel.  I went to Upper Clements Park, too.  It was fun.  I had a pyjama movie party at school.  I have learned coordinates in Math.  I love life! 

Reuben: This summer, I signed up for soccer.  It was fun.  In school, we’ve been writing poems.  I went to Camp Peniel and there was a bat in the cabin.  That was scary.  Today, I got a ticket for any sport (to watch at Acadia).  Soon it will be my brother’s birthday.  We’ve been missing our old cat.  He hasn’t come back since last month. 

Jordan: This year, I went to school.  I like school.  Merry Christmas!

Molly: Christmas time is coming here.  How are you? Are you having a great Christmas? I’m going to invite Ewan and Jude and Aunt Deborah and Uncle Scott to my birthday.  Come to Molly’s Birthday.  And we’re going to play games. 

Emily: “Twinkle star.” Jude.  Hello, Jude. 

Zeke: Eat.  Burp.  Gurgle. ZZZzzz. Repeat. Love my life!


Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Family Christmas Letter

It's Christmas Eve and here we are sitting down to write about our year... as per usual, we are a bit behind- still wrapping gifts, making cookies...  it's funny when people ask (prior to this) if we're ready for Christmas. They're really asking if decorations are up, if gifts are bought and wrapped, etc.  And, though neither parents in this house like shopping (thank you, kijiji and online shopping), we really do enjoy thinking of gifts to give people... this year, we were also busy making some of our gifts... BUT does that make us ready for Christmas? When thinking  of true prep for Christmas, we're reminded of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Jesus.  If we prepare to welcome and celebrate the Christ Child in our lives, perhaps that means repenting (as was the message of John) of all the distractions we've allowed to take His place.  It's a great challenge to lead our family through this - but it's been very clear that we need to repeatedly focus on the Truth, as we've had Jordan at every turn saying, "I want...!" and "What about me?!" (Funny how the human condition seems magnified in the character of children, probably as a clearer reflection of our own selfishness).  And we in turn say, "Is it YOUR birthday?!" and "What do you know about St. Nick? He loved Jesus and gave to the poor.  We should do the same."

As the year draws to a close, we realize how very blessed we are.  We are doing what we love: serving God in our community, and raising our family of six kids.  We are constantly being challenged... in some ways, this has been a challenging year of ministry that had left us with more questions than answers , but we are in a place to grow.  We are anticipating God moving and working mightily in our church and community.

Our family is, of course, a great source of joy and laughter, and of challenge, at the same time.

Caleb is 10! Can't believe we got to be so old! He is enjoying his academic subjects, reading... and robotics club this year.  He is learning the value of hard work and has been our main man to take responsibility for our new dog (golden retriever), Kolbi (she is four years old - no puppy behaviour... yay! She is beautiful, loves the snow, and we love her).  Back to Caleb, he is very creative and innovative - we enjoy the new discoveries and "inventions" he comes up with!

Katie is 8 - she's been busy with sewing projects, making gifts for everyone in anticipation of Christmas. She is a hard worker and very determined (usually in a positive way) .  She is our little mama and takes on quite a few of the responsibilities of her younger sisters - she and Molly are the best of friends.

Reuben (6) just got "the plate" for reading his first chapter book and is quite proud of his accomplishment.  He is very imaginative (plotting, sometimes) and loves to make forts and "mouse houses" - architect?

Jordan (4) is a self learner.  This year, we tried to teach him to ride a 2 wheeler, but he refused to even really try.  A month or two ago, he came in the house and declared that he knew how to ride his bike... sure enough, he had taught himself how to do it! (He still has quite a few crashes but he's got his balance - just have to work on the steering!)

Molly is 2 and was potty trained in the summer.  She is a little imp - her smiles are contagious... but she is as determined as her older sister, perhaps more so.  We've had our battles, for sure.. But as with Katie, she is a good little helper and loves her sisters.  She loves the boys, too, though we've had to work through her "just girls, no boys!" motto.

Emily (15 months) is on the move! As a result, you can find Christmas ornaments (from the lower branches of the tree) from one end of the house to the other.  She is a joy (with a bit of a temper and sensitivity issues and came with her red hair we believe!)… and though the most jealous of our children, she loves her brothers and sisters, and is a Daddy's girl.

We are looking forward to the ways that God will grow us in the year to come, in our ministry to church and community, and in our ministry to our own family.  He can do mighty things with our feeble resources and efforts if we are faithful to put them in His hands.

"May the Lord bless and keep you.  May his face shine upon you, and be gracious, and give you peace."  May He also challenge, convict, and grow you in this year to come.

Merry Christmas!

Love,
the Dixons

P.S. Next year, we will be hanging one more stocking!

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Family Christmas Letter

Welcome to the 2010 Dixon Family Christmas letter,

Proceed at your own risk. Entering this zone is much like traveling to the “place where the wild things are: and sometimes we (parents) wish that we, like Max, had a boat and could “sail away through night and day, and in and out of weeks...” but, truthfully, we do love our wild things and our crazy life.

Hmmm... to bring you up to speed on the past year... perhaps we will start by sharing some things we did NOT do:
  1. We did NOT burn the house down- Katie did, however, bake cookies 200 degrees hotter than intended and set off the smoke alarm a couple of times. She was trying to increase the time on the timer but, instead, mistakenly, increased the temperature.
  2. We did NOT go to the zoo this year; we had our own instead. In fact, we even added to the zoo this year. Emily Ann Dixon joined the team on Sept. 27 and is a sweet little thing but can yell with the best of them. Her nickname is “Mouse” because she squeaks. Past history of nicknames: each of the kids, as babies, received nicknames (Caleb = Moose / Dino Boy, Katie = Little Bear, Reuben = Rooster, Jordan = Silly Monkey, Molly = Tiger or Duckie.
  3. We did NOT get around to getting Reuben's Christmas (2009) kitten fixed so we had five kittens in the middle of August... and, after finding homes for three, we are now a zoo of six kids and four cats.
Things that we DID this year:
  1. Jordan DID get potty trained: HALLELUJAH! As a result, he got to add to his “CARS” collection. One of his best friends is Lightning McQueen and many of his car friends have often been found parked in bed with him.
  2. Reuben DID go to school this year. His favorite subject is recess. In spite of our misgivings about sending Reuben to school earlier than the other children (he didn't turn 5 until November), he has earned many “Bravos” and has traded them in for various prizes.
  3. Katie DID lose several teeth this year, mostly by tugging on them until they became loose and fell out (though she got started on the first by a kick in the mouth from Reuben). She actually pulled one out, interrupting a speaking session while she was away at a retreat with her Dad (who was the speaker). She has been very forgiving of the Tooth Fairy, who seems to always be a night behind the times.
  4. Caleb DID have his first paying job this year, collecting flyers for the neighbors while they were away in the summer. Consequently, he learned about tithing and added to his Lego collection. Perhaps, in the future, he will learn about saving.
  5. Molly DID learn about being a big sister - she's loving it and doing a great job. She moved to a big bed, and she is eager to go to the potty (full training to happen in the new year). She has also developed a sense of humor.
  6. Emily DID finally find her thumb. When we had the ultrasound about halfway through the pregnancy, she was very clearly sucking her thumb. Outside, was an entirely different matter, however, and she spent a lot of time sucking on Mommy's finger but has recently discovered that she has her own.
God has been good and has blessed us over this year. He is daily teaching us patience and humility; sometimes we are poor students but He has given us a great example in Jesus. We are looking forward to celebrating the hope He has given us in Jesus as we near Christmas; we have searched for ways to make it meaningful for our children so that we can give them more than what the world has defined as Christmas... we still have much to learn. We wish you a very Merry Christmas, filled with hope and joy.

The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Sharalyn and Jon Dixon

And, in their own words:

Dear Family and Friends,
My year was good. This year, my report card said all A's. My teacher is Ms. Carr; student teacher, Ms. Nunn. This year, I went to camp. I had a top bunk. I had a Lego birthday. I got Lego books and board games. Farewell, friends.
Caleb

To Family and Friends,
I had a birthday in June. My name is Katie and my nickname is Little Bear. I love my sisters. We have a big house and we go to 2 camps. My mom had 9 kids in her family and I have 6, and Daddy had 2. Our Christmas tree is 7 feet. At one of the camps, I was in a cabin. My dad is a pastor and I go to New Minas Elementary School.
Katie

Reuben: I went to school and met a lot of new friends. I went to Camp Peniel and Orchard Camp.

Jordan: I got Lightning McQueen cars and played with Brock and put up a tree.

Molly (as printed verbatim by Katie): At home. Meet friends. Camps. Played games. Got a Christmas tree. Make gingerbread houses.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2008 Family Christmas Letter

Feliz Navidad!

From the Kids (being encouraged to share about their year with you):

Caleb: “I have a new teacher at school. I've gone from 'I' Books to 'L' books. We have an advent calendar, we have our stockings up... and we have three new video games. My favorite video games are 'the Incredibles' and 'Mario Party 7.' I got new Lego for my birthday. We have our tree up. I've made new friends at school.”

Katie: “I go to school. I have a good teacher. I like to play with my brothers. I love my family. I like my friends and their moms and dads. I'm excited about Christmas because we celebrate that Jesus is born. I liked Caleb's birthday because it was a special day. We got to have ice cream. I liked that my aunts visited. I like to go to school. I like that Caleb's at school with me. I like that Reuben is three now. I like that Jordan is a baby and I like to play with him. I like that our Christmas tree is up. We have our stockings up, and we have our advent calendar with candy and verses. I like that the Christmas ornaments are up. I like the video games. I like my stocking. I like to watch tv. I like to play on the computer. I like to read books. I like to cuddle with my Mom and Dad. I like to have a wrestling match with my brothers and Dad. I like that the star is on the tree. I like to play with toys and Pollys. I like my cat. I like all my necklaces. I like the pictures on the wall. I watched 'WallE' before. I like to play downstairs.”

Reuben: declines comment

Jordan: “No...” and something about “doggies”

“It's the most wonderful time of the year!” The kids have been very excited about decorating for Christmas, making Christmas crafts, playing in the snow (when we have some), and Jordan is especially excited about pulling ornaments off the tree and running off with them.

As the year draws to an end, it's a good time to reflect on what's happened in 2008. (And it's funny that, while being a good time for reflection, the mind tends to draw a blank as Katie screams something about the havoc the younger boys are creating in the next room).

Caleb has just turned 7, is in grade 1, loves his teacher, and has become an expert on all things. He is enjoying school (despite his comments to the contrary) and his reading has improved tremendously this year. He especially enjoys the “Magic Treehouse” books- evident in the fact that we found him reading in our bathroom at 5 am- and takes great pride in that he now reads chapter books. He is constantly thinking, creating, and plotting- and seems to identify with pirates at the moment.

Katie, 5 years old, is eager to let everyone know that she is now in school. She loves it and loves her teacher. She stays after school once a week at the “After the Bell” program (just playing games) and would probably choose to stay late every day given the option. She loves the social life and we scratch our heads wondering how we ever produced such a girly girl- it's all about the dresses and the hair... she decorated her lips with marker, not being permitted lipstick. She's made lots of new friends this year, though she sometimes struggles to recall their names. She loves to play “mama” to the boys and to her “babies,” and is actually quite effective in the role and a great help.

Reuben, 3, is very active and energetic, not to mention creative. His list of achievements include flushing the bathtub plug down the toilet (resulting in the purchase of a new toilet); repeat episodes of dumping baby powder, soap, toothpaste, coffee, etc., all over the floor; and “sledding” down the stairs in a laundry basket. We have endeavored to channel some of this “creative energy” by enrolling Reuben in a soccer program. Although he enjoys soccer, he tells us every week that he wishes the teacher wasn't there.

Jordan, at 18 months, appears to be following closely in Reuben's footsteps: very affectionate at one moment, aggressive the next. He enjoys “performing,” always looking to see who's watching him as he takes a fall on purpose, dances (spinning around until he stumbles everywhere) and “sings” (he's also becoming quite the pianist). It's been a “whole new world” (as it always is) since Jordan started walking (while Jon was in the Czech Republic this summer) and is now climbing everywhere. He loves animals and is just beginning to accept that they have names other than “doggy.”

It's been a busy year filled with excitement and new challenges in our ministry at New Minas Baptist Church, especially with the completion and opening of the new expansion of the church. God has been challenging us in the way that we minister to families and children, and we're looking forward to even greater opportunities in our church and community as we enter our fifth year here. God has been so faithful and our family has been blessed to be part of a growing community of faith (and also blessed to be able to contribute numerically to that growth with the birth of our fifth child in February).

As we reflect on the challenges that we've had this year, and on the challenges that we face in the new year, we are so thankful to be able to celebrate Christmas and the coming of Emmanuel: “God with us”- we are not alone and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. That news is just as incredibly good today as it was to the shepherds over two thousand years ago. We hope that you and your families will have a wonderful time of celebration this Christmas.

Love,
the Dixon clan