Merry Christmas Friends!
I’ve got one last post for the year before I take a writing break to celebrate Christmas with my family. After a couple year hiatus from writing my usual Christmas letter (Seriously – who’s idea was it to mail more letters and cards than we do during the entire year combined, at the fullest season!), I’m finally getting back to it at the gentle urgings of my guy. And since a girl’s only got so much time to write each week if she wants to stay sane & pleasant, this Christmas letter is going to magically double as my weekly blog post.
If you and I don’t have the pleasure of knowing each other personally, reading this letter could be as painful as watching someone else’s home videos. So may I wish you warmest blessings for a meaningful Christmas, but you are now excused until January when we launch into an uber-practical study on Proverbs 31.
If you have a vested relational interest in my family, then read on for a long over-due update on the Surettes!
December 30th marks the date when I have officially been married as long as I was single. At the fresh age of 20, I chose in unromantic fashion, to select a noble husband with my head and not my hormones. (Thank you C.S. Lewis for that insight!) And a wonderful decision that proved to be. We are now at year 20 of seeing what happens when you combine an imperfect man and a flawed woman who live fully aware of their capacity for sin & selfishness, and treat that ailment with daily doses of the wisdom and grace of God. We are far from perfect but we thank God for his faithfulness to honour our attempts at obedience to his wisdom. We truly cherish the resulting 20 years of peace, grace and beauty.
Besides being overjoyed at the fact that Glen has seen fit to keep me for the last two decades, I have been blessed by the recent gift of a healthy & hunky hubby. In 2013, Glen was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. That diagnosis joined the dangerous ranks of high blood pressure and the painful company of chronic gout that already plagued him. Glen realized that if change was not imminent, death and disease would be.
In response, Glen joined a guy’s weight loss program that promotes dietary education and sustainable, healthy eating. Without shakes, supplements, special food or shots, Glen lost 120 lbs and cured his high blood pressure, gout and diabetes. (I wrote a blog post on that if you’re interested.) The gym is now his home away from home, and in addition to being healthy, he’s also the hunkiest guy around. Happy Anniversary to me!
Glen continues to serve our now 3-year old church, Southshore Bible Church as an elder, the A/V guy, the help-single-moms-move-and-repair-stuff guy, and the loving-husband-and-dad-example guy. His family business continues to do well and holds an excellent reputation in their field. They moved to a new office last year that is both classy and closer to home.
Taylor the Strong
When Glen and I think of journeying into adulthood with our sweet “Baby T”, the first word we think of is “privilege”. (Well, Glen might think “pimples and pads and puberty, oh my”, but we’ll go with my word “privilege” for the record.) In the last year we have seen Taylor grow into a woman in many aspects. She’s less than an inch away from catching me in height, hits harder than me in volleyball, has begun to accompany me on some speaking engagements to minister to women with her voice & guitar and makes more money babysitting than I do blogging.
She’s become an influential leader at her school and is a fun, warm-spirited, safe haven for the many younger children that adore her at school, church and her baby-sitting jobs. She consistently wins character awards at school which is no surprise as aspects of her character have become simply radiant in this last year. She’s looking more like Jesus these days.
In addition to music, one of the platforms that Taylor has leveraged for positive influence is athletics. She’s graduated from fast-pitch softball to volleyball. Glen went through an extended period of mourning. I rejoiced. Though she’s played for her school team for 3 years, she now plays competitively for the Barrie Elites Volleyball Club.
Though her new love is volleyball, she plays other school sports and comes home with the hardware at her School, Zones and Regional track meets. Taylor also helps me coach the Junior Girls team at the school.
Avery the Good
Avery has been dubbed “The Heart of the Family” by her older sister. Brilliant, creative, zany, easy-going and witty, Avery provides our regular dose of laughter and oddness. Avery is a teacher’s delight, her best-friend’s rock, and a coach’s dream. Her greatest qualities are discipline, reliability and honesty – among the many things she has been recognized for at school. She has a keen interest in the things of God and a good mind to comprehend, retain and implement them.
She has dabbled in many sports but has finally settled too, on volleyball. (With basketball getting an honourable mention.) She was a stand-out on the school team and is being eyed closely by the competitive league. Avery took home her fair share of hardware in Track & Field at all levels, excelling in jumping like her older sister.
Other than sports and academics, the primary love of her life is her little sister, Scarlett. They’ve given each other pet names and we don’t know what Boogie would do without her Bean. Speaking of Bean…
Scarlett the Loud
Scarlett joined her sisters in the ranks of character-award-winners this last year and was thrilled. (Especially after a couple year drought…) She has a whimsical, artistic side and a keen appreciation for the aesthetic side of life. It is fun to see that expressed in her art, attire and music and we look forward to seeing what God will use that for in her life. She has a powerful voice which can be beautiful when harnessed and can be gradually deafening when one is exposed to it daily for nine years.
She is spunky, brimming with life and full of grit. This year was her first opportunity to try out for volleyball and she made the team from practice and sheer determination. And it was a great first year because our team finally won our Zones competition! She plays in the house league with her sister Avery and has already established herself as a serious player. We couldn’t have planned a better sporting outcome if we tried. She is also anxious to try her hand (or feet) at Track & Field this spring as this will be her first opportunity. She’s already practicing long and triple jump in the sand pits at the park.
Scarlett has taken on her first official leadership role at school doing a fantastic job of lunch-helping a younger class. Besides her beloved Boogie, Scarlett also loves Beanie Boos, her Action Bible (super cool!) and Lego Friends.
Great (as in Super) Grandparents and Cousins
We have always been blessed to have Grammy & Papa Surette close by to dote on, spoil and invest in our kiddos, but we were doubly blessed this last year to have my parents, Gramma and Papa Hartlen relocate from Maine to the Barrie area this past February. Now we have two sets of grandparents to spectate at sporting events, take kids on dates and most importantly, have them over for sleepovers! Woohoo! Scarlett’s birthday request for this year was for Grammy & Papa Surette to invite her for an “alone” sleep-over and lobster dinner. They kindly accommodated with treats & Lego to boot!
Not having had my parents close by for the first 19 years of my adult life (I know – my fault for moving to Canada), I cannot express what a treasure it is to have my noble-spirited, sacrificial, exemplary and loving parents as part of my everyday life. My heart still skips a beat when I see them unexpectedly and having quiet, writing days in their home complete with coffee & snacks delivered is a little bit of heaven!
In addition to having two sets of loving and engaged grandparents, a slew of fun and like-minded cousins has been a great blessing to our family. Though the Bois set is still far away in Florida, we are delighted to have the Austin clan here in Barrie and the Lands not too far away in Sarnia.
I am a happy girl. My man is noble, kind and good to me. And when I don’t want to strangle them for squabbling or dropping their clothes on the floor, my girls are amazing and growing in character and in concern for their old mother, who turned 40 this past July. (Well, except for when they name my age spots by continent or recoil in horror if they walk in on me while I’m getting dressed.)
My greatest change in the last year was to add “adulty” writing to my repertoire of children’s manuscripts. Though I fought it for years, I have been enjoying the study and discipline of writing weekly posts. The blog is called “Kept” and features delightfully practical insights on the preserving nature of biblical wisdom. I essentially write about how God’s wisdom intersects and blesses the everyday lives of women if we will learn & apply it. My subjects include things like marriage, speech, parenting, diligence, friendship and… ahem… why we don’t believe in Santa. If you are interested in checking it out or subscribing to the blog, you can find it on janetsurette.com. Because I’ve been spending more time writing, we set up an official office for me right off of the kitchen family command center. I’ve been loving it!
I continue to travel and teach at Christian women’s events in Ontario, English speaking Quebec and occasionally down in New England. That is a delight for me and I’m looking forward to a full spring line up this year.
I will also be attending my second writer’s conference down in Asheville, North Carolina in May. That has proven to be a great investment for my development as a writer and an important opportunity to meet with and receive writing direction from industry agents and editors.
As with the other members of my family, I am heavily invested in our adorable church. We love Southshore Bible Church and the people that make it up. Now three years in, it is a thriving church with solid teaching and it’s chock full of people who love each other well and intentionally walk through life together. As we expected, it has been a delight to work alongside my sister Laura and brother-in-law, Pastor Jason, in this exciting adventure. We are overwhelmed and overjoyed by the depth and strength of the friendships we have developed within our church family.
For fun, I’ve coached the Junior Girls Volleyball Team at Hewitt’s Creek Public school for the last three years. And I was just asked to coach the Intermediate Girls’ team in the new year which Taylor and I are both thrilled about. It is a delight to invest in the lives of young ladies at my daughters’ school and participate in what my girls enjoy so much.
Phew! Trying to encapsulate all of life in a couple pages is hard and I went to bed grumpy last night, frustrated at the task. But I trust that fills you in on our lives. I can only include a few photos, but if you are interested in more details of our crazy escapades, find me on Facebook for a more complete slideshow.
May God richly bless you this Christmas by either reminding you of His great love for you or drawing you to it for the first time. If I could ever introduce you to this great God I am so privileged to spend my life serving, please contact me. There is nothing I would enjoy more and nothing that would more beautifully change your life.
All my love,