Hope. Love. Joy. Peace. And Christmas.

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Well, hey there you. Whether you arrived at this little place because of our Christmas card or because you happened to be fumbling around social media in need of a story or two, I’m glad you’ve stopped by to read our 2016 Christmas letter.

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As I write this little letter, Brad is stoking the fire in the living room. He’s got a pot of chili cooking, which heralds cold weather and something that feels possibly like a winter’s evening. We don’t get them often here in Austin, so we celebrate them fully. I’ve often said that, in a perfect world, I would live in a place where sundresses and bare feet are welcomed every summer, and sweaters, jeans and boots could be the official uniform of colder days. Yes, there would be four real seasons in my perfect place, evenly distributed and full of color.

And family would be there. Full-on God-crafted family to enjoy the days and dinner around the table. There would be laughter and Jeep rides through the countryside and sunsets that take your breath away. And at Christmas, people would still visit the homes in their neighborhood and carol – it would be slightly off-key and just a bit magical. Brad says caroling is a great idea too – as long as there’s snow.

I believe that place exists.

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This year has me believing a lot of things. As we celebrate the Advent season, I’ve thought a lot about the beauty of expectancy – in every candle lit and hymn sung and word spoken. Advent means “expectant,” you know, and I believe we are created to be expectant people – we are built to believe. Hope, love, joy, and peace are all expectant words. And each one has woven its way into the heart of CasaRock this year. The year has been filled with good stories, even in a year that has been filled with headlines that have made our hearts ache. This world is in need of Advent. It groans with expectation.

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Both Brad and I continue our work in ministry – he as Development Director for TEAM, and me as lead writer and social media manager for Orphan Outreach and as a reporter for Mission Network News. He’s still doing website work for a few clients and supporting the ministry efforts of some close friends, and I’m still writing and working on the books and enjoying #kitchentherapy whenever possible. There’s a lot of travel between the two of us, and we laugh that it hearkens back to our dating days and the first years of our marriage, when we would sit with a calendar and play a game of “who is going to be where when” and “can we meet in the middle somewhere?” We’re both humbled to get to do what we do, and we are thankful for this season in our lives. If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that seasons change. And there is beauty to be found in every single one of them.

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2017 will find the seasons changing again. It will be the first year we can’t babysit on the fly or have a last-minute family dinner. Ian, Gina, Sawyer, Tyler, and old-man Reese the Corgi are driving west to Arizona soon after the first of the year. It’s a wonderful, answer-to-prayer adventure for them, as Ian becomes the Next Steps Pastor for Sun Valley Community Church in Tempe. They already feel so welcomed by the folks they’ve met on the journey, and that gives this mom great comfort.

Remember the words of Advent? The expectancy? Yeah, we’re holding on to all those words now.

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Hope has found us here, in an opportunity that is different – and bigger – than the parental prayers that have been prayed for the longest time about “opening new doors” for Ian.

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Love has found us here, in the savoring of every small moment we have together. We’re already learning to love texts and FaceTime more, and I’m collecting cards and trinkets to send to the littles.

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Joy has become our strength as we talk about a future that doesn’t include the same area code or time zone. I guess it’s time to buy stock in Southwest Airlines (and Kleenex).

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And peace – wow, peace. When Ian called us and let us know he had accepted the position, we all wept. And I thanked the Lord that night that peace and pain have permission to live in the same space in our hearts. That peace just might be the most expectant thing of all.

As I write this, I’m already thinking about next Christmas and what the letter might say. Seasons change, and I think Arizona is only a fractal in the stained glass image that might emerge. Yes, you could say I’m expectant.

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A few weeks ago, Sawyer sidled up close to me and whispered, “GiGi, I know the truth about Santa. He’s not real. But don’t tell Tyler – she’s too young.”

I must admit, it was the first time I didn’t agree with my little man. Normally, we see eye to eye on things.

(Well, with the exception of bananas. I like them. He doesn’t)

So to Sawyer, and to all the rest of you who don’t believe, I offer this.

“Nicholas was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships (because of their importance in delivering food and supplies).

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. He died December 6, AD 343. It is said Nicholas gave everything he had away to help those in need.” (excerpt from the St. Nicholas Center)

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Hope. Love. Joy. Peace. I think even Santa Claus (which is a Dutch derivative of “St. Nicholas”) would likely say to you this year, “be expectant.”

I pray your holiday season is filled with expectancy – of hope that doesn’t disappoint, of love that never fails, of joy so full, and of peace that passes all understanding. I pray you’ll allow Advent to enter in by pouring yourself out to the least of these – those least likely to ever repay you or praise your name in public. I pray Advent will find you wiling to embrace new seasons. I pray you will be willing to let Advent whisper its divine story to you.

The Christ is come. For all of us. For each of us.

Merry Christmas.

P.S. I made this little playlist for you. It’s the songs of Advent – and a reminder of the season. I hope you like it.

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About Ronne Rock

Ronne Rock’s heart finds its strongest beat where beauty and pain collide – because hope always finds us in the shattered places. There’s more than 30 years of marketing and communications experience in her bones, and she finds great joy in sharing leadership wisdom as a regular contributor to Orange Leaders and QARA. But more often than not these days, she's with the vulnerable in difficult places around the world, gathering stories that change stories. Find Ronne's words in "For You, Love" the prayer journal that invites you to respond, and in Everbloom, a collection of stories from the Redbud Writers Guild. She is currently writing, "Building Eden: Principles of a Grace-Filled Leadership that Restores and Redeems." 

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