Christmas 2001 from the Holwicks

Dear friends,

It's Y2K+1 and we're still here. We are now in our thirteenth year in Ledgewood and the cycle of events and seasons carries us forward with its rhythm.

In March Celeste and I went down to Florida to spend time with my mom. Mom had struggled valiantly for three years but we knew her health was leaving her. It was a blessing we were there for her final days and Celeste and Dad made her very comfortable. Many of her friends from Florida joined us for the memorial service and a week later the family gathered in Arlington Cemetery for her interment. The ceremony was very dignified and most appropriate for an officer's wife.

On May 28 Celeste's parents had a surprise 50th anniversary party. Their 50th was not a surprise but whether their kids could get a party together was a matter of dispute. They did and we had a great time. They even renewed their vows in the presence of umpteen children and grandchildren and friends. Celeste and I had our 21st this year - I think I took her to McDonalds. She's worth it.

Every year or so our church conducts a mission trip and Haiti has become a special focus for us. In July I was able to take Sarah and Daniel with the group. We stayed in Port-au-Prince and worked on a new house in a rural area. The kids' specialty was making concrete blocks that were used in the construction. Hopefully no hurricanes will touch this area in the foreseeable future.

Our big vacation this year was the last one I am allowed to plan, according to the kids. We stopped to see the Brennemans in Ohio (and rode a terrifying roller coaster at Cedar Point) and stayed a few days with my dad in Colorado Springs. Our adventures were set in the canyonlands of Utah. We explored an Anasazi Indian ruins in Blanding, hiked to a gorgeous waterfall called Lower Calf Creek, and got stuck in a narrow slot canyon in Escalante - literally. Rebecca was first in line and passed the word back that the walls were pressing on her front and back and "...there's NO WAY dad will ever fit through here." We turned back but weren't sure how to get out since the first canyon we were in, Peekaboo, had a snake in it and Celeste and the kids were convinced from the map that we were actually about ten miles from where I thought we were. It was 114 degrees and no shade except for a few bushes and Josiah had dropped the water bottle in the canyon so we crawled on hands and knees in the direction I insisted we go. My way of course led us directly to the car and I compounded my triumph with the confirmation of my map bearings from a Park Ranger. I still think I could have gotten through Spooky Canyon.

In Las Vegas we drove down the Strip and didn't get out of the car until our trailer broke down. We were in that Wendys for about three hours while a local mechanic welded it back together. We then headed straight for Sequoia National Park and spent the night fending off bears. Then the real excitement began. I was boiling a pot of water on a camp stove on the table and I knocked it off. On my leg. My bare leg. I did a few cartwheels and spent the next two hours in an ambulance wending its way down the Sierra Nevadas. They patched me up rather well but Celeste insisted our camping days were over and it was going to be motels from this point on. Fortunately our friends the Gundersons put us up a few nights and they were very close to Rebecca's new college. We dropped her off at Azusa Pacific University (right outside Los Angeles) and waved goodbye to our baby and $16,000 each year. She is going to be a communications major and wants to be a TV anchor. (This semester she will participate in a special program at Yosemite - all these adventures I "forced" her to go on have rubbed off!)

On the way home we stopped in another Anasazi site, Chaco Canyon, NM. It has the worst entry road of any national park. The way out was just as bad - 20 miles of dirt washboard. Maybe that is why our trailer broke down again in Pennsylvania. We recovered it a few days later and it's still being repaired. Praise God for godly mechanics in my church!

The other kids are also doing well in their education. I am teaching homeschool science and geography to the boys and around ten other kids and Sarah is often on the honor roll at the public high school. Daniel continues his piano instruction and was honored to be chosen for the Morris County adult choir. Josiah became a Tenderfoot Boy Scout tonight and may be Second Class soon. He sold twice as much fundraiser popcorn as anyone by going door to door. Next year he wants to sell MORE. Advance orders are welcome - just send $30 and you'll get your little tin next year.

The rest of our families are doing well. My brother Jeb is a Lieutenant Colonel in Korea, a place he loves. Kristy's husband Roger is a Colonel now and was slated to be the head of the Corps of Engineers in NYC but at the last minute they sent him to Savannah, Georgia (a bigger post). He is glad - a few weeks later came the attack on the World Trade Towers. We watched the TV all day and could see the pall of smoke from a nearby hill. Our church raised a large offering and several of us have volunteered at a Salvation Army / Red Cross assistance center near the Statue of Liberty. Fortunately no one from our church was injured but one member was in the train station beneath when the first plane hit. They were evacuated from the building into the chaos outside. The brother of a good friend of ours was lost in the second tower. The existence of Evil has rarely been more apparent. Celeste's brother Tim heads out to Egypt soon for a work assignment and he is taking his wife and daughter with him. Weren't some of the terrorists from Egypt???

Our church has been blessed this year. I have done more weddings than ever and we are even thinking of adding on a multi-purpose center. Of course they have been considering this for thirty years but you never know. Seven-figure donations are always appreciated. Celeste is running two new youth groups and the kids throw themselves into every activity. In October the church honored us with a generous gift for "Pastor's Appreciation Month" and we used part of it to have a family retreat in a condo in the Pocono mountains. I also got my first Nagler eyepiece for the telescopes which clutter our garage. There should be a "Member's Appreciation Month" but I know I'll never get around to it.

This year I think we had our very first Thanksgiving at our own home base. Dad joined us from Florida and Celeste and the kids put out all the trimmings. We spent the rest of the day watching movies on TV.

Christmas got off to a blazing start for us. Josiah built a Lego crane that was six and a half feet tall. Its sole purpose was to put Christmas ornaments on the tree. He picked the tree out at a friend's field, cut it down, set it up in the house and put the lights on in record time; other lights were put on the front of the house for good measure. I like having older kids! Even better, Rebecca says she will produce the Christmas picture page next year. She compared the quality of this one to a bad zit on her nose. You be the judge.

In all the ordinary events of our lives we continue to see the hand of our God. He has blessed us with great kids and many good friends. We look forward to hearing from all of you. May God bless you richly this Christmas and always!

David & Celeste and kids