Christmas Letter 2016

Dear Friends and Family,

When I sit down to draft up the annual Christmas letter, I find that it’s an excellent exercise in memory and gratitude. In the midst of a demanding work schedule for Josh and full time mommying at home, it’s easy to both forget and appreciate all the things that happen in the day to day. As you know, we moved to Ohio a year ago and it seems like we’ve had many little (and big!) firsts. I guess that’s how it goes with children because everything is brand new to them and, through them, it feels new to us as well.

John-Paul…I can’t even remember all his firsts! It seems like they happen every day! He took his first steps in our first home that we bought. He started talking – although many people probably need Josh or I to play translator if you plan on communicating with him. He tried ice cream and donuts and loved them. He played in the splash park, and though hesitant at first, found some bravery and did not want to leave. We had the first of many mommy-son Panera dates. He played in the snow for the first time. He became a big brother. He learned that egg nog is his JAM. He went to his first (again, of many) time outs. First Easter egg hunt (which he was not interested in. at. all.). Enjoyed lunch at Poppy’s favorite old hot dog place, Coney Island, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Spent a long weekend without mommy, while I traveled to Oregon (by myself! No kids! For the first time in 2 years!).

We welcomed our daughter, Abigail Esther, in October and she has brought so much newfound joy to our family. She is an extremely easy going baby so far and as I’ve remarked on Facebook and Instagram, JP DOTES on her all day long (I’ve probably said “gentle kisses!!” about 4,592 times in two months). She hasn’t had many milestone “firsts” in two months, but she does sleep through the night most nights and smiles all the time. She, obviously, had her first bath. She received her first Sacrament – Baptism! She loves when we talk to her and make faces. Unless conditions are perfect, she does not like riding in her carseat.

Josh started working as an instructor for the first time. The job has proved quite demanding and takes a considerable amount of time outside of the M-F 8-5 time frame. It’s been hard. But Josh is grateful for the chance to really dive into learning the details of HVAC. Since he has to teach it, that means he gets the chance to really learn it well. We know this will pay off in the long run, but that doesn’t make the long hours feel any shorter right now. Josh also had the opportunity to go to a controls conference in Wisconsin which was both fun and professionally edifying. Can I brag, too, a little? Josh has spent the last couple months getting minimal sleep trying to balance both work and family life. The late nights, early mornings and weekend hours are never easy on him and he misses us. We miss him! And Lord knows I’ve done my fair share of complaining and shed a few tears. But I’m proud that he is a person who owns both his professional and familial responsibilities…out of love and duty. I just wish, for his sake, he could catch some more sleep!

For me, I had many mom firsts….like cleaning pee out of the dryer after one of JP’s diaperless excursions. And taking care of a toddler while having extreme morning sickness. And somehow managing to get him back to the van when he had a meltdown during our town’s 4th of July 5K. But also the most heart melting of firsts – when JP, unprompted, declared “Love Mama!” and when started saying “Jesus!” and “Mama Mi!” (Mama Mary). I gave birth completely naturally for the first time. I found that my parenting questions are less about how to physically care for my child – sleeping, eating, health, etc  – and turning into “How do I teach my child that having a tender heart is good?…that he doesn’t have to harden his heart to “make it” in this world? How do I teach him that it’s good to let it go when others wrong you but that it’s also ok to stand up for yourself? How do I let them be kids and do their crazy thing, but also teach them discipline and rules?” We’re all learning and growing.

Our lives are made up of many ordinary moments, daily rhythms that we hardly even notice or remember…often we’re waiting for and looking to the next big thing. But with reflection I see how sacred all of the little firsts and daily moments are. We receive extraordinary grace in these daily moments because of Emmanuel – God is With Us! Our days may be simple and humble…ours are pretty routine. But when we put them in the light of a simple and humble manger each year, we see how important family and new life are. Thanks be to God for this year of firsts! See you in 2017.

With love and prayers,

The Dills

Some of my 2016 little favorite moments

2015 Annual Christmas Letter

Dearest Family and Friends,

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! We sent out cards and posted this letter a couple of weeks earlier than usual because we are moving! We wanted to get our cards out before the move and to make sure you had our new address. Our official move out date is December 10. If we are on your list for Christmas cards, and you plan to have it arrive after December 10, please send it to our new home in Ohio (address is on our Christmas card, or feel free to email me if you need it). We’re very excited for our move! Because we were in State College for so short a time and because that time coincided with the whirlwind of being first time parents, it was difficult to plant roots. Knowing we will live in Ohio for 3 years gives us hope of getting more settled. We also bought a house! So being first time homeowners adds to the excitement. If you find yourself roaming around Ohio, please give us a call! It would be our pleasure to host you.

Around this time each year, it’s pretty customary that people examine what they are grateful for. We’ve been talking about that a bit, and felt inspired by these reflections from Blessed is She. Even though this year has proved a challenging one as we transitioned into parenthood, we feel immense gratitude for Christ’s mercy, a loving family, a healthy child, good friends, a warm and peaceful home and good food. (We are also grateful that Josh finished his thesis!) We remember in our prayers those who are lonely, suffering and lacking the life’s most basic needs. We pray especially for those who fear for their lives as they flee from terrorism and violence. We pray for all those who died at the hand of hatred, in our own country and abroad, this past year and for their loved ones. I know that bringing up reflections on violence isn’t the usual tone or customary form for a Christmas letter… but as the darkness of the world seems to press in on all sides, it reminds me of how desperately we need the light of Christ. We need His eternal lamp to shine out and be our “light in the dark of winter and light for the blind who stumble in an often bleak world,” so that even on the darkest days, filled with anxieties of daily life and despair from the world around us, we can dare to hope in the great promise: love and eternal life with Jesus (Daniel Stewart).

Thank you, God! Help us to receive the Christ Child, His holy Mother and Saint Joseph into the home of our hearts. In turn, Lord, may we remain open and loving to those in need of our love, time and material goods. May we give of our wealth freely knowing that all we have is a gift. Help us to go to and comfort the afflicted rather than feeling uncomfortable in their presence. May we remember that you, too, fled from violence and lived in a foreign land as a child and help us respond to those seeking refuge with compassion. May we be your light!

Come, Holy Spirit. Enkindle in us the fire of Your love. Amen.

May your Advent and Christmas be holy and blessed.

Love and prayers,

The Dills


If you would like to see what we were up to this year, here are links to the blog archives for 2015:

Merry (almost) Christmas

The next few days will be quite busy for us, and so I’m taking my chance now to say Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones! Below is the Christmas letter that Josh and I sent out (the one some of you may be receiving this very day!). Have a blessed Christmas and a marvelous New Year! We love you and hold you close in our hearts always.

Dearest Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas! We are humbled as we remember the day that our Lord was born in order that we may have the chance to live with Him eternally. What love He has for us. May we all be joyful and rejoice in His tender mercy and love!

We thank you for your continued prayers throughout the year of 2011 – we have truly felt the graces of your prayers! We can hardly believe that it has been nearly a year since we got engaged and 5 months that we have already been married… God has been so good to us. The transition into married life has been a beautiful and humbling experience – you sure do learn a lot about yourself. And not always good things… But thanks be to God, he has given us each other to lovingly help the other undergo the refining, sanctifying fire. But we have a long way to go!

Josh is working as a Project Manager for Civil Engineering at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. This is the position that Josh wanted, and he’s thankful to have it. He gets to use his degree and he will gain experience within engineering. That being said, he is learning a ton and he is also pursuing some additional engineering education that the military offers: Civil Engineering 101, Project Programming, Project Management, HVAC Analysis and Design.

I am continuing to finish up my English Literature degree at the University of North Dakota (I really never thought UND would be the college on my diploma!). I didn’t get to take any literature classes during the fall semester… but I am taking several this spring, and I am thrilled to start. Because of the transfer I will not be able to graduate in May; however, I am hoping to complete my degree by next December. This means I will have to have a pretty full schedule, (19 credits, 6 courses) but I think it will turn out alright.

I was recently able to spend 5 days in Boston. It felt like going home! Oh, it was so good to be back in the city. My reason for going was a dear friend named Mother Olga, and her new religious order, The Daughters of Mary of Nazareth. There was a Mass held in the Cathedral at which Mother Olga renewed her vows and 4 young women were blessed as Candidates for the new order. Mother also had a Mass celebrated at the convent. It was so beautiful…please keep all of these women in your prayers.

Currently as I type, my mom is visiting and it has been a blessed trip! I am so thankful that she flew out here to spend a week with us in the Great Plains. It did snow a little for her, but not much (yet!). We are upholding out tradition of watching The Muppet’s Christmas Carol and making Christmas cards. Also, many adventures with baked goods have taken place…and I haven’t heard any complaints from Josh 🙂

Originally we thought that we would be spending Christmas in North Dakota, but it worked out that we could visit our family (Josh’s parents and siblings) in New York! It will be my first Christmas away from my Oregon family, which will be hard…but we are so excited to go to New York for Christmas. And we will spend New Years in New Jersey with the extended family from Josh’s mother’s side (the Hammers). So many blessings!

We love hearing from all of you; please keep in touch – be it letters, a phone call or email. Also, we have a blog: I usually post an update every couple of weeks, if you’re ever wondering what we’re up to out here!

Thank you for your friendship, love and kindness. May you grow ever closer to Jesus this year, through prayer and Sacrament. May He give you the graces to love every soul with unconditional love. When you are tired and frustrated, may you look to Mary who will always point you to her beloved Son. May thanks, praise and glory be ever and ever His. Amen.

With all our love,

Joshua and Ashlie