Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
This is our third annual electronic Christmas letter containing news about our last twelve months. We like the ability this format gives us to share lots of photos.
Seems like it has been one of our busiest and most joyful years. Hope you enjoy reading the news, and that we get a chance to sit down in person with you soon.
Early in the year Dave was invited twice by our pastor (Randy Gariss) to use 8-10 minutes of the sermon time to discuss an apologetic topic. For the first topic, Dave addressed the question, "Are Our Modern Bibles Accurate?" Newsweek had published an article that claimed that the bible we have today is nothing like what the authors originally wrote. To see what he said, check out this blog post. Or check out the sermon video from January 4, 2015 (at chjoplin.org), starting about the 7 minute mark.
For the second topic, Dave and Randy discussed how hypocrisy (among Christians) can be a huge impediment to the gospel message. They then talked about what Christians can do to be more real, transparent, and accepting of others.
Dave was also asked to write a series of blog posts for his company (Leggett & Platt) to post to their LinkedIn page. The topic was a Beginner's Guide to Investing -- they asked Dave to do it since he oversees the company's pension and 401k investments. The six short articles are designed to help a novice investor understand how they might get started. You'll find the blogs at Leggett's page or on Dave's blog site.
- We began premarital counseling with a young couple getting married in May. We've done this several times now with a variety of couples, and always enjoy coming alongside them to discuss several topics that are key to a successful marriage.
- Our son Josh was invited to display his works of art at a local restaurant. He's quite a talented painter, but I think even he was surprised when people started offering to buy some of his paintings! (see photos below)
- Roanne and I got to attend a fancy event (dinner, tour, concert) designed to celebrate the grand opening of the new Mercy Hospital. The prior hospital was destroyed in the Joplin tornado of May 2011. The new hospital is quite impressive!
Roanne continues to be very busy as the primary caregiver and decision maker for both Fran (Roanne's mom) and Karen (Roanne's sister). Fran has been in Joplin at an assisted-living facility since April 2014. We moved her this year to Spring River Christian Village, at her request. Fran's health deteriorated in the fall of 2015, and she was transferred to the skilled nursing section of the facility. She has lost much of her mobility, but has good days mixed in with the less good.
Karen has been living with us since the fall of 2014 (following her sepsis, brain infection, and brain surgery that spring). Roanne led Karen as far through the application process for disability as they could get. But subsequently they hired an attorney to lead them through the process. We believe it could take until mid- to late-2016. Karen is doing much better. She spends much of her time taking care of Luke (her grandson) and going to see Fran (her mom). She also enjoys working with internationals at our church. She still cannot drive, but has learned to use public transit in Joplin. She attends NALA meetings in an effort to regain her reading skill.
Dave began working on a review of his company's long-term performance for the Board of Directors. In late 2007, after significant study, the company changed its corporate strategy. (Dave was asked, in 2005, to begin heading the company's strategy efforts.) During the decade (1997-2007) prior to the strategy change, sales had grown about 80%, but the stock price was basically flat. But during the seven years after the strategy change (2007-2014), sales were essentially flat (steep economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, followed by gradual recovery), but the stock price nearly tripled from ~$17 at year end 2007 to about $45 recently!
Our only grandchild, Rosie, turned 1 year old on the 24th. Josh and Sharlotte hosted a party, but I'm fairly sure Rosie didn't understand what was going on. Even so, it was a good excuse for her to get presents, eat cake, and play with other babies.
Sharlotte's business, Treehouse Yoga, hosted its second annual "Glowga", which is yoga under blacklight with flourescent paint, glitter, glow sticks, etc., i.e. "glowing." There were over 50 people who attended! Sharlotte asked Dave to take some photos for her.
Josh was accepted to the MBA program at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He and Sharlotte went there for new student orientation in late April. Georgetown is very close to George Washington University, where Michael is going to law school. So two of our kids will be in DC for a while.
Rosie came to stay with us for a week while her Mom and Dad (Josh and Sharlotte) were on a cruise. This was her first time away from her parents for so long, but she did really well. We loved having her, especially since they'll be moving to Washington.
In late April, Randy Gariss, our pastor since we moved to Joplin 15 years ago, retired from preaching. We have moved so much (with ARCO) that we've never before had the same preacher for more than 3 or 4 years. Randy is a humble, intelligent, down-to-earth, humorous man who loves people, his family, and God. Our church held a big retirement party to celebrate his 33 years as lead preacher for College Heights Christian Church. He will be missed.
In May, we headed to Ft Worth to visit Ben and Christie. We spent a day at the Ft Worth stockyards -- cattle drive, gun battle, Civil War reenactment, snow cones, life-size maze -- but mostly we just played games and enjoyed being together.
Roanne, her Mom Fran, and all her siblings headed to Houston (just after all the flooding!) to attend our youngest nephew's, Marc's, high school graduation.
After several years in a weekly homegroup with five young (20-something) couples, we decided we should probably move on. We were with these couples through many seasons -- dating, engagement, wedding, graduation, home buying, job hunting, job loss, budgeting, pregnancy, parenthood, etc. We were around for the 18 months or so during which all 5 couples had their first child (all 5 were girls!). Devin and Katie, Josh and Britt, Eric and Kasey, Steven and Rachel, and David and Stormy -- we love you guys and miss seeing you!
For over 2 weeks in June we were on vacation in Summit County, Colorado -- about one hour west of Denver on I-70. We drove 12 hours from Joplin to Frisco so we could bring along our bikes and Dave's camera gear. We stayed a week at a condo in Silverthorne (near Frisco / Dillon) and one week at friend's A-frame cabin just south of Breckenridge. This is the first time the two of us have been away for 2 weeks in a long time. We loved it. We biked, hiked, drove scenic roads, took photos, ate at good restaurants, visited several mountain passes, read books, etc. Dave's sister Deb and husband Lance came to visit from Montrose, and Dave's brother Bill and wife Colette came to visit from Denver.
See more, and higher resolution, photos here.
July was the month for family news!
Ben and Christie came to visit for the Fourth of July weekend. They gave us a gift for our house (see photos) that lets us display the names of our grandchildren, and they included a plaque for Rosie (officially, she's Roslyn). Then they told us that a new name would be added to the list! They are PREGNANT and due in late February!
A week later, on Dave's birthday, Mike and Megan called, and Mike said "Megan has something to show you!" They held up a sonogram picture (via Skype). They are also PREGNANT, and due in early February.
A week after that Josh and Sharlotte took off for Washington DC. They drove the moving van and towed their car. We kept Rosie for them -- they didn't think she'd do well in the car seat for the 18 hour drive -- and then a few days later Roanne flew with Rosie to DC, and spent a few days with them.
And during the final weekend of the month, on July 24, Josh and Sharlotte got ENGAGED! Lots of good changes / blessings taking place in our family!
In mid-August we went back to Colorado for a week in order to close on a mountain vacation house we bought in Silverthorne! It's about one hour west of Denver in Summit County at about 9,000' elevation! We've never had a vacation house before, but are excited to have a place to gather with the kids and grandkids.
Roanne stayed for 3 weeks (until Labor Day), but Dave had to come back (for work) the middle week of the 3 weeks. Roanne's brother Jon was our first guest; he came to stay just a short while.
Mike and Megan got to come visit us in Colorado for 4 days on Labor Day weekend. They were the first of our kids to stay at the new house. We hiked, played games, road bikes, went to some good restaurants, drove scenic roads, etc. (Click on the photos for a larger image.)
Sharlotte was back in Joplin for a few days after Labor Day. We got to keep Rosie for two nights. Took some more photos (of course).
We both again participated in two fantasy football leagues -- one with our kids, and the other with the young couples we were in the home group with for 3 years. It amazes us how many players get hurt over the course of a year! Dave's done pretty well, and will made the playoffs in both leagues, but Roanne's teams have had a tough year.
In late September, Roanne and her 3 sisters (Karen, Rhonda, Lisa), her mom Fran, her cousin Ginny, and Ginny's daughter Cindy (who is the outstanding realtor that helped us find the house we bought) all gathered at the Colorado house for a week. They helped Fran celebrate her 85th birthday! (And Roanne's getting pretty good at taking scenic photos! The aspens were changing colors.)
Finally, Joplin had a Balloon Fest the last weekend in September. Pretty fun.
In the fall, Dave's boss for the last nine years announced his pending retirement as CEO at year end. This will be a change, since 9 years is by far the longest anyone has been Dave's boss. Most times at ARCO, Dave would be in a role for 2 or 3 years, and then transfer to a different group. This transition should be smooth since the COO, who's been with the company for 30 years, will step up to become CEO.
We began a new home group with 4 other couples, mainly peers of ours who are also grandparents. We're meeting one evening every 2 weeks to discuss the sermon, talk about life, pray for our kids and grandkids, and just enjoy each others' company.
Dave's been doing some sports photography for fun. In the spring, he took photos of the College Heights high school baseball team (to try out a lens), and then had parents ask if he could take photos of the softball team too. In the fall, some of the same parents asked about taking photos of the volleyball team. We had not been back to a volleyball match since Christie's last year on the team (2007). Dave's enjoyed it, and has learned a lot.
Early in November, Josh and Sharlotte called to tell us THEY are PREGNANT and due in May. So all three couples are having babies in 2016: Megan in early February, Christie in late February, and Sharlotte in late May. The grandbaby tally is increasing quickly (which is just fine with us)!
Dave continues to serve as one of the elders at College Heights; they've been meeting nearly every Wednesday night during this season of searching for a new pastor. He also serves on the church's Personnel Team, a group of six guys (4 elders, 2 ministers) who've grown to be good friends; they have met at 6:30am on most Wednesday mornings for over a year to address personnel and policy issues.
We spent Thanksgiving week in Colorado at the cabin -- just the two of us. It was very peaceful. There was snow covering the ground, but not huge amounts of it yet.
Dave's also been doing a little event, family, and portrait photography, all as just a hobby.
Dave was also asked to photograph a surprise marriage proposal. Logan and Kelly are a young couple we've known for about 3 years now, and have watched their relationship progress. The event was well planned, romantic, came off perfectly, and she was quite surprised! (She said "yes.")
For the two weeks around Christmas and New Years, we were in Colorado again. All three kids, their spouses, and Rosie got to come stay for a bit. Mike and Megan could only be there for about 5 days (given the early February due date for the baby). Even so, it was great to have all the family together for a little while! In our opinion, that's the best Christmas present we could receive. We know it's going to become increasingly hard to get everyone together.
We had a great time in the fresh snow that came almost daily. Got to go sledding and hiking right by the house. The guys went snowmobiling and skiing (but the three pregnant gals had to stay home). Of course we played board games -- new ones we tried include Splendor, Guillotine, Code Names, and Sheriff of Nottingham -- all pretty good. Settlers is still one of our favorites.
That's about it for news this year. Maybe more than you wanted to know.
We are very blessed. At this stage of life (kids grown and moved away) our goals are pretty simple: serve God well, love those around us, be good stewards of what we've been given, spend time with family, try to be a voice of wisdom and rational thought in this mixed-up world, and be a supportive influence on the young families God puts in our path.
Thanks for reading! Please keep in touch.
Dave and Roanne