*initially posted May 19th, 2021 in ”pages”. I have decided to re-publish as a post instead, just finally got around to it 😊
The following was our Christmas letter that we mailed out to many of our friends and family last fall(2020). Since it has been a while we figured it was a good excuse, and about time, for a public update. Perhaps this will spur more regular posts 🙂
“Who are you?” The line hit me with a bit of shock sitting in the newly finished church in Telegraph Creek, still waiting for the installation of the last few holy fixtures of the crucifix and the stations of the cross, while reflecting on the scriptures for the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Relegated, at least that is the feeling, to simply keeping the church open on Sundays for people to ‘pop in’ for personal time with the Lord is a bit underwhelming. The comfort of an hour long scheduled gathering for worship & communion seems like a distant yet fond memory, yet this is where we are. What do you mean ‘who am I’? Well, “I am a husband, a father.” These are my immediate reactions. If someone asked me this as I was walking down the street these would probably be my first responses. As important as these things are, as I dwelled a bit longer on this word I hoped that I could be asked this question out of curiosity of why I do what I do in life, as a husband and as a father. “Who am I?” I am, our family is, we all are, called to testify to the light. And as we are nearing the celebration of Christmas this theme of light resonates back on this year, beyond, and forward to the new year just around the corner.
It is amazing to see where we have come over these last couple years; ‘New life’ and ‘light’ in so many ways. The greatest sign of this for us was the wonderful sunflower ‘bush’ (pictured below, on our move in day).
that we discovered in late Spring that had sprung up on the edge of the upper terrace of our yard, 100 or more feet from our old garden where we had previously (before the wildfire) planted sunflower seeds. It was for us a beautiful sign of the work that God has been doing all along. It has been a reminder for us to trust In His plan and to enjoy the journey and cherish relationships.
We really enjoyed our time in Dease Lake, having sparked new relationships and having had the time to spend with the church community there. Our favorite past time would have been going down to the lake, via the path at the end of our street, and ice fishing or walking on the trails. One of the highlights for the kids in late spring was their two-day lemonade stand where they made almost $200! They made all sorts of wonderful noise enticing customers, a welcome joy many mentioned as they stopped by. There were several generous customers that paid $20 for their cup of lemonade. They were raising money for their sponsor child and kept just enough to each get a double scoop ice cream cone at “The Shack,” the local take out restaurant.
We were blessed with the presence of 2 young workers who came to help us with the continued work on the house & church: siding, painting, and building both both wood and storage sheds. Just having their presence and company was so wonderful and the children loved their time with them.
A lot of the year was spent in joyful expectation of the new life in Denise’s womb, with talk of name ideas and voting on whether the baby would be a boy or girl, light or dark, taller or shorter.
Another highlight was a visit with family (both sides of grandparents & cousins) mid-summer, with a secondary purpose of bringing back a full trailer load of pews & IKEA cabinets (and a snowmobile as well, diving into a whole new world). In our plea for help for extra workers, to our bishop, we returned with seminarians, who lived with us for 6 weeks and helped with painting of our doors, and installation of cabinets, pews, wainscotting, doors, and trims. Wow, it was a lot, but what an amazing help! The kids’ favourite time with these guys was our after supper board games, which got pretty heated at times but brought much enjoyment.
Josh spent much of his time this year continuing to coordinate work on the house, while also making late summer runs for appliances to Terrace & for countertops to Prince George.
Despite our desires to wait to move in to the new house until it was completely finished we opted for the best option of being able to settle in before we left to head south for the arrival of our newest little life. Our time living in Dease Lake, sadly, came to an end at the beginning of September. While it was sad to leave it was so wonderful also, to be living back in Telegraph Creek, despite all of the changes in our hearts and within the community; the grief, the growth, the planning and coordinating, the waiting, the stress, the expectation all coming to a culmination. There was, and still is, that peaceful feeling that we were meant to be back and that we were once again ‘home’.
But amid this feeling it was also slightly hectic as we moved back amid incomplete wiring and finishing work, only to be leaving 3 weeks later. However the leaving again came with the excitement of time with our family and the new life that would be arriving soon!
Above all, our most cherished time this year was the arrival of little, or should we say tall, Malachi. We were blessed with 6 weeks with extended family. And while we would say that it was quite busy adjusting to being back in our new home still with a few things to finish, with a newborn, homeschooling, and isolating for 2 weeks upon our return it allowed for much growth as a family in many different ways.
The saddest part has been, perhaps, the delay of the dedication of the Church, that had initially been planned for November 29th, although it has allowed us to take the time to really be present with our children and slowly pick away at the work and the final touches still to be done. Do I dare say that COVID has made our lives more purpose focussed and presence filled?
This Christmas, as we will not be able to gather for the traditional evening Mass with a priest and the community we recognize that the Lord is calling us to testify to the light of this newborn child in a manger who brings peace, clarity, wholeness, and purpose through every situation, to every life. We recognize this year He is calling us in new ways to bear this light to our community here. We pray that you may be blessed, regardless of whether you have been yet this year, with an encounter with His peace and His light in your life that you may be able to testify… ”The light has shone in the darkness …but the darkness has not overcome it!”
For pictures of the construction & progress of the house and church you can go to the Whitehorse Diocesen website for a full video gallery of the project from start to finish. ENJOY!
Dearest Denise and Josh,
I absolutely loved reading this and recognizing your little (and bigger!) ones as they have grown and matured in the years since I last got to play with them in person. I can easily recognize Kateri, Gianna, Tobias and Aliz in their older forms, and was grateful to see Emmaus and now Malachi as well. 😊
As an update on my end, I have decided to try to go back to school in the fall in the hopes of eventually becoming a registered therapeutic counsellor in a few years (hoping I get accepted to the college program I’m applying to!). After almost 20 years of doing my own personal work, I have found myself finding fulfillment in sharing what I have learned to help those closest to me in my life, and realized I am more passionate about and engaged by this work than I am by teaching.
I haven’t given up on the hope that maybe in pursuing something that is more aligned with who I am deep down, I might still one day in the not-to-distant future find the person I have been seeking for so many years to start my own family with.
Sending you all much love,
Hi Denise and Josh! We checked in on your blog tonight delighted to see your beautiful family. Please write more updates. The experiences you have been providing your family in nature are excellent. It has been so long since we have seen you. We hope you are well.
Jesse and Julia
We started this six months ago…YouTube – “The Kuesters” on Faith, Minimalism and Homeschooling