New Leaves

Each pointer represents the location of a blog entry in our 16K+ mile trip. You can click on those entries by going to the map button at the top of this page.

Gray, TN

Christmas Letter 2013

Dec 20, 2013 by Bonnie

Christmas 2013 - Dearest family and friends,

Greetings to you all this blessed Christmas season! We have been blessed beyond measure during this first year of retirement, but those blessings pale in comparison the awesome gift God gave to us over 2000 years ago!

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July 4th at Nguyens. Photo taken in front of the cottage we built for Mom, next to the Nguyens’ house - Art, Brenda, Laurel, and Ben are missing in this photo (Mom, Bryan, Jonathan, Vickie, Dia, Daniel, Andrew, Caleb (with Jack the dog at his feet), Quang, Emily, Jenny, Bonnie)

How can we summarize the most amazing year in our lives? Art retired on February 4, my 66th birthday, and we set off that morning for an adventure that continues until this moment. Short story—we spent ten months living in a van and traveling over 17,000 miles “around the edges” of the western US and Florida! Details below, if you’re interested. If not, skip ahead!

Click here for a PDF summary!

The PDF is text only. If you would like to see a “mini” album (“only” 351 photos out of 12,000), click here:

Or check out this “micro-mini” album, which shows only scenic highlights (only 89 photos):

Or if you’re interested in a particular place we visited, you’re right here already. On the home page, click on the “Map” link at the top of the page, then click on one of the markers to read what we wrote from that spot. We spent a lot of time in libraries, recharging our computers, writing blogs, and posting photos. On the website, you can subscribe to our blog if you’re interested.

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At Dave and Amy’s house in Michigan (Laura, Aaron, Katie, Emma, Amy, Art, Bonnie) not shown: Ethan and Joshua
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This is how Dave shot the photo, standing on the rail of his deck, about 15’ off the ground!!

Our trip was an amazing blessing, and we were overwhelmed with the beauties of God’s creation in all the variations we saw throughout the country. Even more special was the privilege of being together “24/7,” having leisure to read the Word and pray together, asking God to show us Himself and His purposes for us, both today and in the future. We were also blessed to be able to see many of our family and friends whom we had longed to visit for many years, and to make some new friends. Over the course of the year, we were able to be with all of our five children and eleven grandchildren, as Bryan’s family took their vacation in the US, in order to settle Andrew, their oldest son, for college.

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Thanksgiving with the Nguyens and Mom in Georgia (Mom, Laurel, Emily, Ben, Brenda, Quang, Jenny, Art)

We spent three months with Brenda’s family in Georgia, finishing a cottage next to their house for Mom to live in. With children in Russia, Michigan, California, and Georgia, and siblings in Florida, Vermont, Iowa, Washington state, and Vancouver, BC, is it any wonder we bought a van? We were able to see Art’s mom, who lives with his brother Bill in Florida, and all three of my brothers, who live in the west. Next year, Lord willing, we hope to be able to see my sister Dot, who lives in Vermont, and also to attend my 50th high school reunion in Michigan.


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Dave, Amy and Josh. We were blessed to be with Josh on his first birthday!
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Aaron & Laura, Emma, Ethan, Katie in front of their house

This year brought a few challenges, but mostly blessing. I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) in June. It is a type of blood cancer, but one that is often slow-progressing and symptomless. If I had to pick one type of cancer to have, this would it! So far, my blood counts are stable, and I am not unfamiliar with the disease, since my dad had it and my brother Garry has it also. I am totally at peace, knowing that God is in control and I am in His hand. My dad’s only sister, Aunt Ruth, passed away in September at the age of 93. We were blessed to be able to visit her in Florida, (where she lived with her daughter Judy and Judy’s husband Jerry) near the beginning of our trip.

And on the other end of life, my niece Sadie (sister Dot’s daughter) gave birth to her first child Oliver, on October 16 in Vermont. What a blessing it is, this time of year, to remember the miracle of the Incarnation—that God became flesh and lived among us, the God Who came near. He knows every hair on our heads, and the deepest longings of our hearts. When we feel alone, when no one else understands, He is there. “As martyred archbishop Oscar Romero once said, it is only the poor and hungry, those most aware they need someone to come on their behalf, who can celebrate Christmas. For the child whose mother left and whose father was never there, for the melancholic soul that laments the evils of a fallen world, the Incarnation is the only story that touches every pain, every lost hope, every ounce of our guilt, every joy that ever matters. Where other creeds fail, Christmas, in essence, is about coming poor and weary, guilty and famished to the very scene in history where God reached down and touched the world by stepping into it.“—Jill Carratini“

It digs beneath the surface, works through the rest of our knowledge by unexpected channels, harmonizes best with our deepest apprehensions… and undermines our superficial opinions. It has little to say to the man who is still certain that everything is going to the dogs, or that everything is getting better and better, or that everything is God, or that everything is electricity. Its hour comes when these wholesale creeds have begun to fail us.”—C.S. Lewis

If you are standing in a difficult place, perhaps feeling alone or confused, know that there is a loving, forgiving, eager God who already knows you and is only a prayer away. What better way to celebrate Christmas, than to reach out to the One who left heaven’s glory to walk among us and give His own life to redeem us and make us His brothers and sisters.

A blessed Christmas to all,

Art and Bonnie