New Leaves

An early snow, just a few days ago!

Gray, TN

Christmas Letter 2017

Dec 13, 2017 by Bonnie

Welcome, all wonders in one night! Eternity shut in a span!

Summer in Winter! Day in Night! Heaven in Earth and God in Man!

Great little one whose all-embracing birth

Lifts Earth to Heaven, Stoops Heaven to Earth! – Richard Crenshaw

God has truly blessed us this year—a busy but very special year. . .

There have been some good times and some sad times. We lost my amazing second cousin John Weeman even before the year began. We also said goodbye to my mom’s only sister, my Aunt Elaine, this summer. And in October we lost Peggy Smith, our dear friend from Toccoa Falls days.

But there were good times as well. We did a lot of local travel and letterboxing, exploring places we had never taking the time to see before. Our good friends Dot and Glen Whittington, who have live here all their lives, showed us around our own county on different outings. We also explored mountains, lakes, and waterfalls around Asheville, and the Cherokee and Pisgah national forests. We are blessed to live so close to so many amazing natural wonders.

Art At Blue Hole
Art at the Blue Hole in Carter County
Dot & Glen At Weir Dam
Our friends Dot and Glen
An unnamed waterfall on a country road

In March, after much prayer, we decided to go back to Johnson City Alliance Church. It had been four years since we retired. Pastor Larry Vaughan welcomed us back with open arms, as did the congregation. It was a good decision. It has been good to be “home” and enjoy catching up with all the old-timers and getting to know the new folks. Pastor Larry and his wife Carroll are doing a wonderful job and the Lord is using the church to have an impact on the community and to grow the Kingdom of God. We feel privileged to be a part of it in any small way. We were also blessed to attend Alliance General Council in Columbus, Ohio. We hadn’t been to Council since 2011, before Art retired. We were amazed to see what God is doing through the Alliance around the world, and challenged to make more of a difference for the Kingdom. It was also good to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Council Meeting
The Alliance gathers to worship in Columbus
Judy Gaskin In Missionary Parade
Our good friend Judy Gaskin enjoying the missionary parade

On June 19, we headed up to Michigan for an extended visit, beginning June 24 with Aunt Elaine’s memorial service. We were blessed to celebrate her life with a large group of family members. Even though it was a sad time, we felt the love of God and family wrapping us up and binding us together.

Family At Elaines Memorial
The extended Doten-Gardner family at Elaine's memorial
Family At Elaines Church
Cousins with Mom Gardner and Uncle Bill

On July 4, we were blessed to see our granddaughter Emma play clarinet with her homeschool band in the local parade (where VP Mike Pence was the surprise Grand Marshall!), and then again in the Cherry Festival parade in Traverse City. Picnics, fireworks, grandson Josh’s birthday, and a visit to the camp where grandson Caleb and his girlfriend Hannah were working for the summer were other highlights.

Josh 5th Birthday
Josh's 5th Birthday
Fireworks At Daves
Fireworks at Dave and Amy's
Emma Grandville Parade
Emma (with clarinet) at the Grandville parade
Caleb Hannah At The Camp
Caleb and Hannah at the camp
July 4 Picnic At Karen See Home
July 4 picnic at Karen See's home

We also were able to be up north in Bellaire for cousin John Weeman’s memorial service at the farm he loved. While there we took trips to see Tahquamenon Falls at its fullest and to Hartwick Pines to see the last old growth forest in the state. Heading back down-state, we enjoyed visiting the unusual Alden P. Dow house in Midland, and stopped at Cranbrook, to enjoy its unique architecture and to visit an exhibit of the works of Alexander Girard, an artist I admire. Then it was home to Tennessee until the next phase of our summer: a family reunion and camping trip in Georgia!

Tahquamenon in all its glory
Bonnie At Hartwick Pines
Old growth forest at Hartwick Pines
Dow House
Alden B Dow Home
Dow House Pond
Dow house pond
Girard Sculptures
Alexander Girard sculptures
Girard Nativity
Girard nativity

Bryan, Vickie, and Jonathan spent their vacation in the States again this summer. In August, they spent a few days here, and then we all went to Georgia to camp near Brenda’s home. Bryan’s and Laura’s families joined us for a few days at Lake Rabun. We hiked, swam, played games, and had campfires together. And for Jonathan’s 16th birthday, some of us went to a Braves game in the new stadium in Atlanta! Too soon, it was time to say goodbye and we all went our separate ways: to Michigan, Georgia, and Russia! But later in the month, we went back to Brenda’s to see the TOTAL eclipse from their yard, an event we will always remember! We celebrated Laurel's birthday the same day!

Games At Mt  Airy Church
Fun with the family
Waterfall At Lake Rabun
Waterfall at Lake Rabun
Family At Braves Game
Family at Braves game
Eclipse Shadows
The eclipse made all the shadows into crescents
Laurels Birthday
The Nguyen family (and Mom Gardner)at Laurel's Birthday

Art had hurt his leg about a week before, and after we got home, his condition deteriorated to the point where he couldn’t get around. Pastor and the elders came to anoint and pray for him. Then they helped him get into the car and we all went to the hospital. The next day he had improved so much that he was able to go home the following morning. It really was an answer to prayer! We never knew exactly what had happened, but are very grateful to God for his healing! Daniel was worried about him, so he flew in from California to spend a few days with us and help with Art’s recovery. We had a wonderful few days together, and Daniel really helped us a lot.

Art Daniel At Weir Dam
Art and Daniel at Weir Dam
Arts Birthday Cake
Art's birthday cake

In early October, we got the word that our friend Peggy Smith was gravely ill, so we took a quick trip down to Savannah to see her. We stayed for several days, and returned home by way of Toccoa, where we stayed for Homecoming and Jenny's birthday before heading home. Unfortunately, just a few days later, Peggy passed away, and we planned to go back for her memorial service. But the day before we were to leave, I developed acute appendicitis, and before midnight my appendix was removed! I am now completely recovered, for which we thank God.

November brought us a beautifully mild Fall, and at Thanksgiving we went to Brenda’s along with most of our family, 22 in all, and they all slept either in the house or Mom’s apartment! We slept in our van. Brenda worked really hard to make it a special time, with food, games, hiking, and good fellowship. We also celebrated Ethan's birthday! Lots of birthdays in our family!

John Peggys Retirement Dinner
John and Peggy Smith at John's retirement dinner in January
Brenda At Homecoming
Brenda working at Homecoming
Jennys Birthday
Jenny's birthday
Bonnie Kids At Thanksgiving
Bonnie with grandchildren making ornaments
Ethans Birthday At Thanksgiving
Ethan's 6th birthday
Dave With Turkey
Dave with his deep-fried turkey

It was good to see our family so many times this year! We are heading up to Michigan in a few days to spend Christmas with Dave’s and Laura’s families, and to await the birth of Dave and Amy’s third child, due Dec. 20. We could very well have a Christmas baby! We are eagerly awaiting its arrival, of course, and hope to be of help to the family while we’re there.

God has been very good to us this year, for which we praise Him. Our prayer is that you too will know His blessing, His love, and His mercy in the coming year.

Challenge for the new year: “Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn't consider it robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” - Philippians 2:5-11

A blessed Christmas to you and yours,

Art and Bonnie Joyce