Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Letter

In what seems like a short span of time, I've made the switch from bachelor to husband. That switch comes with monumental changes in a person's life that extend far past adjusting one's Facebook relationship status from "single" to "married". I welcome those changes but still find myself catching up to what it is that married humans do. Writing a Christmas letter to send to family and friends is so far down on a bachelor's list, it hovers near "hunting for the source of that moldy smell" and "baking cookies to give to the neighbors and not eat all of them by yourself". I'm not saying Christmas letters are a bad idea...just one that didn't occupy my world until recently.

Heidi and I sat down and wrote a Christmas letter several weeks ago, but were unable to print it off and send it out to our families. We found ourselves traveling to the East coast for a lovely wedding and working every spare minute in between, with the Christmas letter falling beneath "sleep" and "eat" on our to-do list. But like good Mennonites that don't want to let anything go to waste, I'll post our Christmas letter here, rather than allow 2017 to show up without people knowing what Heidi and I are up to.

December 2016

Greetings, family and friends! Heidi and I wish a very Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

Okay, am I done?

“No cutie, you’re supposed to tell everyone what we’ve been up to.”

Oh, right!

Heidi and I have been blissfully married for just over 6 months, and for all the unmarried cousins reading this, we highly recommend the whole operation.  We’ve done a little bit of traveling but for the most part, Heidi has been transforming my humble trailer in the woods into a beautiful chateau perched near the English River. After kicking out my roommates (essentially by telling them how many cooties they were going to contract if they stuck around after our wedding), we began to meld two houses into one. Several friends and brothers pitched in to transport Heidi’s baby grand piano.  I admit I didn’t think there would be space for it in our trailer but it fits naturally in the living room and looks extra festive with a small Christmas tree perched on the lid. It took a few weeks, but the application of candles and scented oils purged out the baked-in bachelor stenches that had permeated the household before Heidi moved in. 

During the week, Heidi housecleans, babysits, delivers insulin to me when I leave it at home (which is more often than I'd care to admit), and fights off the crafty mice that have found their way into our chateau. She’s recently started repainting the rooms in the trailer, which have been in serious need of updating. Heidi is intensely focused when it comes to renovation projects but will set aside time to speak life to friends, family members, visitors, strangers…she is positively bursting with words of affirmation and love. 

I’ve been working at Graber Heating & Air, our family business. There are all sorts of wild stories to tell about the basements and attics and crawlspaces that I’ve been in, but I can’t possibly tell you about those because they may involve YOUR basements and attics. :D I’ve been busy attending classes to become licensed in Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning, or HVAC for short. I’m currently three years in to my 4-year apprenticeship, with a Journeyman’s program to be taken after that, and a Master’s exam following that. It sounds like a lot, but it’s relatively few classroom hours. I've already completed the apprenticeship's required 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, since they allowed me to grandfather in all the years I've already worked.

Heidi and I took an impromptu trip to Omaha, Nebraska recently to deliver an ancient gas pump to a collector, in order to keep it from falling into the hands of a greedy swindler. That tale requires its own letter, so I'll save that one for later.

How’s that, honey?

“Great! Did you mention Coach yet?”

I was totally getting to him, but then I got sidetracked and forgot. Thanks for the reminder! Coach is our stubborn golden cat that behaves like a dog. In my opinion, that’s the best kind of cat behavior.
EDIT: Coach died suddenly and unexpectedly on Christmas Eve, and I cried more for him that I've cried for any pet. I never thought I was much of a cat person but Coach and I had a strong connection. True to his nature, Coach stubbornly refused to let something like a work van make him move from his comfortable perch in the middle of the driveway, and got squished. In the dark, rainy hours just before the dawn of Christmas day, I buried him in the woods a short distance from our trailer.

Heidi and I have been meeting with a small group of believers on Sunday at a school house in Kalona. The group is called Cornerstone Christian, and it’s been wonderful to see God at work in the fellowship. We had a Christmas Eve service in lieu of attending a service on Christmas day, and it was lovely. Heidi and I were in charge of a children's meeting, and I read a story I found written by Dave Miller, which is worth the read. I'll leave the link for that story here.

I married a marvelous chef, and my body bears the evidence. I’ve gained 15 lbs since our wedding thanks to her incredible home-cooked meals and treats. Heidi’s family created a secret barbecue sauce recipe that requires all sorts of exotic ingredients. I’ve been commanded not to share it…well that’s not true. They don’t realize how revolutionary this barbecue sauce is, so I’ve decided to keep it a secret myself. Once I start marketing it as “Mama Zook’s Zesty Spread”, we’ll become millionaires, like that Sriracha guy. 

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
–Hebrews 13:20-21

As Heidi and I nestle cozily under warm fuzzy blankets inside, we watch fuzzy snowflakes blanket the yard outside. We wish you all a Christmas as warm and joyful as ours.

“And a happy New Year too.”

Oh yes, and a Happy New Year to you and your families!


Shawn & Heidi Graber