1986: The year John and I got married. We were living in Susquehanna, PA in my Grandpa's house. He had moved into a nursing home just down the street from his house, so we got to visit him quite often and he was still able to walk up to his old house (though I think the nursing home staff considered him AWOL when he did that!). I know we celebrated Christmas with my parents and my sister, Natalie, her husband, Duane, and their baby, Alesha. You'd think that our first Christmas as a couple I would have taken a lot of pictures, but nope! Alesha seems to have been the center of attention as the three Christmas pictures I have from that year have Alesha in them!
As they say, Christmas is definitely more fun when kids are around!
1989: Our next few Christmases were in Niger, two without kids and then one which was Daniel's first Christmas. And as is typical of kids, he would have been happy if we had just given him wrapping paper to play with! He was 10 months old here.
1991: Skip ahead to Christmas of 1991 which was Suzanne's first Christmas. She was seven months old. Again, we have the wrapping paper theme going on here!
1993: Our 1992 Christmas was our first in Tera. But 1993 is big in our memory because we traveled down to Nigeria for Christmas. Both my parents and my brother and his family were serving as missionaries there. My sister and her family were serving in The Gambia and were able to fly to Nigeria. This was the last Christmas that we were all together in the same way and we look back on it as one of our best Christmases.
Fast-forward to 1998. By then there was a small group of Christians in a nearby village, so we met with them for a Christmas service and feast.This was probably the year we made the switch to opening our gifts on December 26 so that we could have more time to enjoy the family time instead of trying to cram everything into one day.
It looks like 2001 was our first Christmas to have the Christmas service and meal in our yard. Those were busy Christmases with shopping for food to feed around 100 people, traveling to a village north to get a family who were the only Christians, and being responsible for the service. In the afternoon we showed the Jesus film.
We have no pictures at all of Christmas 2003. That was probably our hardest Christmas ever. Daniel had started boarding school and was home for Christmas. One night Suzanne told us in the morning that Daniel was making weird noises in the night and she told him to stop and he did. Then about two nights later (probably December 23) she came to me in the night and said, "Mommy, Daniel is making really weird noises and acting strange and he won't stop and it's really scaring me!" I went in their room to find Daniel in a full-blown grand mal seizure. It really scared me, too, and I got John up. It eventually ended and we all tried to get some more sleep, but as soon as it was light we packed all of our Christmas gifts and grabbed some clothes and headed to Niamey. We managed to get a guest house room and an appointment to see a neurological surgeon. We had Christmas in a guest house in Niamey and apparently didn't bring the camera with us or were too stressed to take any pictures. I know we did open gifts, but that's all I remember. I'm sure some friends invited us over for Christmas dinner, but I have no memory of who it was. I'm sure we had a good day, but I just don't remember any of it. I have no idea what the believers back in the village did while we were gone! Whatever we had planned was abandoned by us.
Christmas 2005 we were back in the USA and some of the Hall family were able to get together.
2007 was our first Christmas without Daniel as he was in his first year at Cedarville. We also had Christmas that year in another village nearby. Here I am waiting for the Christmas meal.
2009 and 2010 were fun Christmases. We were in the US those years and were the last two years we were all together as the family of four of us. Our family is growing, but so far we've never all been together for Christmas. Little did we know, but 2009 was the last Christmas we spent with Dad DeValve.
And 2011 was Christmas back to just me and John. We do enjoy church activities and getting together with friends. But we are looking forward to the next Christmas we can once again spend with family.
So, there's a little bit of family history as told by looking back at some of our Christmases.