My annual Christmas letter

Advent 2012

Dear family and friends,

Susan and I have been empty nesters for a while now, so you’d think the focus of our lives would be on this exciting next chapter of our lives.

Not so.

We’re still mostly focused on the kids and their lives – to the point of texting each other all through the presidential debates last fall and sometimes even during University of Michigan football games. Lizzy calls us on her way to the library, and Sarah calls on her way to the gym. And then we use the speakerphone to hang on every word. I hope that’s not pathetic.

The highlight of the year for our family – without even a close second – was Lizzy’s wedding, and Susan who is now nearly retired spent the better part of the year getting ready for it. I had no idea weddings required so much preparation.

Lizzy met Daniel a few summers ago when both of them were counselors at Camp Roger in western Michigan – ironically enough, the same camp Susan and I attended most summers when we were children. (All former campers may now sing “On the Shores of Little Bostwick.” If you’ve forgotten the lyrics, which I find hard to believe, click here.)

The wedding and reception were held in Holland, Michigan, where our family vacationed most summers and where we still seem deeply rooted even though we’ve lived elsewhere most of our lives.

The weather on that August day was beautiful. In fact, everything about it was wonderful. Wedding day photos included all the favorite Holland locations – from the Peanut Store on 8th Street to Ottawa Beach State Park.

Lizzy is finishing her Masters in Public Health at the University of Michigan and applying to PhD programs for next fall.  I used to help her with editing and proofreading her school papers, something I very much enjoyed, but the last item she sent – titled “Decentralized Financing of Health Facilities: Policy Lessons From Flexible Financing Under India’s National Rural Health Mission” – was very nearly impossible for me to understand. I’m afraid she may have to find a new editor.

Daniel is riding the crest of the wave known as Apple, and now works at their Ann Arbor location. We’re thrilled of course that he’s part of our family – and not just because of his amazing technical skills, though we do seem to have lots of little jobs for him when he visits (like resetting our chirping smoke detectors).

Sarah is living in St. Louis now and serving as Associate Pastor for the Ladue Chapel in the leafy suburb of Ladue. (Yes, another hyperlink. Once you figure these things out, it’s hard not to make use of them!) It’s fun to have another Presbyterian pastor in the family, but to Susan’s dismay lots of our phone conversations consist of much-dreaded “church talk.” Sorry, we can’t help it.

Sarah and Ben bought a house in an interesting and charming University City neighborhood last spring.  Susan and Lizzy went out “to get them settled” which, from the looks of the credit card statement, meant buying lots of sheets and towels and then going out for dinner and drinks.

Ben has a job he likes – with Lockheed Martin – and seems to be making ample use of his graduate degree in environmental policy which I didn’t think would be possible. Not as much fun as his old job with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but fewer really tall people.

The regular readers of my blog already know about the trip Susan and I took to Africa last month. For those of you who are new to Doug’s Blog, welcome, and here’s a brief recap.

Cape Town is a gorgeous city. Table Mountain is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and now I understand why. Kruger National Park and the game preserves in the northeastern part of South Africa are fascinating.  And the tiny bit of mission work we did at the end of the trip was, as these things almost always are, life-changing.

Being asked to preach at the Calvary of Hope Christian Church in Acornhoek, South Africa, was fun and humbling. When I first stood up front and looked at the congregation that morning, with my interpreter standing next to me, I choked up and couldn’t go on. Occasionally I have these moments when I realize where I am and what I’ve been given the privilege to do.

Life in Florida is good.  We’re in relatively good health, and if I finally learn to use sunscreen on a regular basis, I might have a few good years left. We like winters here a lot.  We’re not, however, in love with Florida summers, which seem to stretch well into October. Susan is sadly no longer with Habitat for Humanity, but she’s with me, which I like.

We love the people at our church who have welcomed us warmly and enthusiastically. We were drawn initially by the loving group of people we met, and we continue to enjoy that and – I hope – respond in kind.

As always, I look to this season of the year to re-kindle the hope that God is about to do something new in the world. And so we watch and wait along with people of faith down through the centuries. Advent is also the time of year to renew our friendships with you. We wish you a joy-filled Christmas.


Doug and Susan

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

, ,

6 Responses to My annual Christmas letter

  1. Sandy Steffen December 14, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your Christmas letter with us Doug! You and Susan are a blessing to us and we cherish your friendship! 2013 is a year we are dedicating to our friends & family relationships. As was all to evident today, our lives can be shattered in an instant! Time is precious and we want to make it COUNT doing what God intended in his earthly kingdom.

    Love, Sandy

  2. Georgia Hamilton December 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm #

    Dear Doug,

    I just read your Christmas letter and so enjoyed catchng up on the girls, their careers, husbands, and where they live. I have always liked your writing and musings, Doug — you still engage the reader with your descriptions, humor and down-to-earth language! You spoke of your ties in MI and also enjoyng FL–when you retire you can have the best of both worlds–summers in MI and winters in FL!

    God’s richest blessings on you and your family,

    • Doug December 15, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Georgia. I miss you.

  3. Rick December 17, 2012 at 9:33 am #


    Thank you for sharing. You’re an amazing writer and know just the right words to use, wishing you and Susan and truly blessed Christmas & Healthy New Year!

    Best regards,

  4. Clem Gill December 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Thanx. Great to here from you and hear about all the good stuff you guys and kids are doing.

    Will be in Jacksonville for Christmas with Melanie,etc. Look forward to seeing you in Feb. or March.

    Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Clem & Margo

  5. Laura Foster December 18, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    Merry Christmas, Doug and Susan. What a blessed family. Thank you for sharing. We, too, are expectantly looking for God’s hand in our world.

    Terry and Laura