Dear Friends and Family,
Christmas is not a holiday just for children, but children sure can make Christmas special. Can children really understand what Christmas is all about? I think so! Amy and Johnathan already have a love for Jesus that seem beyond their years. They know that Christmas is a special time that we celebrate God’s love of us, when He sent His Son, Jesus. What is a child’s perception of love? Let me take you into their world.
Each of our children has her or his special stuffed animal or doll. Amy’s stuffed animal or doll. Amy’s stuffed dog is called “Ubu.” She got Ubu from my brother, Ed. Ask Ed how he named it, but it stuck. They were inseparable for many years, although the bond is softening. Jonathan has a stuffed Polar Bear named “RJ.” RJ was not always his; in fact, RJ used to be Lori’s. I gave it to Lori for Christmas the year before we got married. She named it RJ short for Richard John, something special in her life. You guessed it, those are my initials―now wasn’t that sweet! If you have met Jonathan, I’m sure you have met RJ. They are nearly inseparable, although I don’t know how many times our whole family is frantically looking for RJ, so Jonathan can go to sleep or we can go on vacation. Stefanie has an interesting doll named “Baby.” Pretty original! I don’t know who got the credit for that name, but it stuck. Baby wasn’t Lori’s or my first choice for her. In fact, we had many wonderful stuffed animals around the house, but Lori and I wanted one new one just for her. We thought and searched and finally decided on a really cute and very soft grey elephant. Needless to say, it didn’t catch our Steffi’s heart like a simple doll given to her by my nurse, Dee. TO me it doesn’t even look that cute. Kind of like one of those Cabbage Patch Kids. It even has a plastic head, so it is not that soft. Oh well, Steffi loves it and that’s what counts.
Our children have a love for their “Ubu,” “RJ,” and “Baby” that rivals their love for us. What do they see in them? Their word is much different from ours. They don’t have all the worries, concerns, and demanding schedules that we all have. Their concerns are like: What are we going to eat? When’s Daddy’s coming home/ How come Jonathan gets to go first? Where’s my RJ? Their love is much simpler also. You see, Ubu’s nose has a big hole in it. RJ is just threadbare, has a few holes in his sides where stuffing falls out and his nose has been sewn on at least three times. Baby has a big hole in her left cheek where Steffi bit it off and even has teeth marks on her right cheek, which I’m sure will meet a similar fate. You see, a child does not love on the outside, but the inside. They are able to look below the surface and love unconditionally―something we adults cannot comprehend
A story that depicts this simple love quite well comes from a children’s book called “The Velveteen Rabbit.” IN the story there is a conversation between a stuffed rabbit named “Rabbit” and a stuffed horse named “Skin Horse.” It begins with these question: “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick -out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, nut just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t’ often happen to people who break easily, or have been loved off, and your drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I know Ubu, RJ, and Baby are REAL to our children. Their capacity to love is similar to their ability to believe. They don’t question everything like we (adults) tend to do. They just believe that God made the heavens and the earth, Jesus is God and died on a cross for their sins and rose again and that anyone who believes in Jesus should not perish but have eternal life. Amy and Jonathan have already professed their faith in Jesus as their Savior. How much can a three-year-old understand? He has a tender heart for God and I’m sure that will continue to grow. I think Jesus understood the hearts of children when He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Second, to my love of Jesus and of Lori, come my children. The Bible says, “Children are a gift of the Lord.” When I think of Christmas I often think of all the gifts. There is a gift that is worth more than all the gold yet is free and can’t be bought because it has already been paid for―” eternal life.” My greatest hope for my children, more than their health, education, and financial standing, is for all of them to have eternal life. The Bible says, “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
I believe children are most receptive to God when they are young. Everyone I talk to says how quickly they grow up. Amy is looking for evidence in my life of my trust in God. She frequently asks me when I’m putting her down of the night, “What time are you going to wake up to pray for me?” She is very happy when she finds me praying or studying the Bible when she gets up. The children love to hear Bible stories. They are also learning much through Sunday school and a church program called AWANA. This year, I am AWANA leader for 3rd through 6th graders. It is great to serve at our church and to impact these young men’s lives for Jesus.
I’ve been at my new work about 1 ½ years now and it has been a big adjustment, but I’m now feeling much more settled there. I have a terrific nurse named Dee. We make a good team. I also like my fellow co-workers and support staff. They have been very friendly and have really helped me make the adjustments to working here. The hardest working person in our family is Lori. She has her hands full. She homeschools Amy, Jonathan, and Stefanie; how she does this I don’t know, but she does a terrific job. She is also a full-time homemaker. Just this fall, she is helping to lead a young mom’s Bible study and she has also helped accompany some of the singing at church. All of this while pregnant with Bethany Keiko.
Lori and I really love our church. People have been friendly and we especially like the challenging and insightful preaching. We feel we are learning so much each week. I love the Pacific Northwest. It does rain a lot, but it sure helps you appreciate the sun more. If you don’t like the rain, come visit us during the summer―they are super. Our family went on vacation for a few days on Mt. Rainer. It was spectacular! Awesome! Gorgeous! We drove up to a lodge called “Paradise,” appropriately named because that is as close as you can get this side of the grave. Lori calls me “Mr. REI” ―I love the outdoors. The children love it and I think Lori is growing to like it also. Our family also had a wonderful family reunion in Estes Park, Colorado this pas August. I was extremely pretty there also. Great food and fellowship
Bethany was born on November 1st. She is our first baby born in Washington. Her labor was so different form all our others. Unfortunately, though, all of them are painful. She so far is our heavyweight―beating out Jonathan, weighing in at 8 lbs., 12 oz. I wish all of you could have been here when Amy, Jonathan, and Stefanie first saw Bethany. All of them were yelling at the top of their lungs, “Can I hold it? Hold it? Hold it!!!” Bethany is getting plenty of love and attention. Either we’re getting older, or just out of practice, but taking turns being up at night sure can be tiring. So, if you are having difficulty sleeping if it is any comfort, Bethany, and Lori or I are probably up walking the halls. She is a precious bundle of joy. Her tiny hand grasping my little pinkie, I am reminded what a miracle babies are, but at the same time, I feel the privilege and responsibility God has placed on Lori’s and my shoulders to train up this child to know, love, and hopefully, one day trust Jesus to be her Savior.
God showed us that He is “Rea” when He sent His Son, Jesus. Jesus showed us that His love was “Real” when He died for us and later rose from the dead. Our children love to hear the Christmas story. It truly is a wonderful story. This year Amy could be Mary, Jonathan-Joseph, Stefanie-a shepherd, Lori and I -the wise men, and Bethany-baby Jesus. Our family hopes that all of you have a special Christmas as we reflect on God’s greatest gift―his own Son, Jesus. Merry Christmas! Please keep in touch.
Rich & Lori
Amy (5 1/2), Jonathan (3 ½), Stefanie (2 ½), and Bethany (2 months)