Our annual year-in-review is LIVE! Told, as always, in top 10 style; still in no particular order.
We all knew that it was going to happen. Deanna is just loves learning too much to stay away for long. Over the last few years, Deanna has been feeling called to return to ministry in a professional capacity. But without any specifics in regards to where that might be, the next step seemed to be pursuing higher education in the form of seminary. After a bit of searching, Deanna enrolled at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in their Master of Arts in Christian Leadership program. Most of her work is online, but every semester she gets to join her classmates in Portland for a week of intensive face-to-face sessions, deep discussions, and abundant food truck fare. She has been very busy in her first semester and the family misses seeing her as much, but we all understand when we see her light up as she talks about the newest thing she’s learning/discussing.
In January Darin had a work trip to Epworth by the Sea on St Simon’s Island, Georgia. Conveniently, this is only 40 minutes from our friends who recently moved back to the South with the Navy. Darin flew down for his conference and the girls all followed a few days later to make for a fun family vacation. We had a great time seeing the sights, catching up with our friends, taking a trip to Daytona Beach, and eating so much southern comfort food that we almost burst. While there we watched the Super Bowl with a bunch of college football fans and represented our Hawks so well we earned some serious fan cred in the football capitol of the world. Even if the ending of the game was heartbreaking.
Bonus Meme: (too soon?)
Speaking of our Hawks, one of our favorite new traditions is a delicious soft pretzel recipe that Darin discovered late last year. Every game we make a batch and serve them with our favorite cheese, smoked salmon, or summer sausage. The recipe calls for baking them, but occasionally Darin deep fries them for a little different feel. Either way they are a great family tradition that the whole family (and a few game-day visitors) look forward to enjoying while cheering loudly.
We finally made good on a family vacation option we have been talking about for a long time. First, in January, Darin sold our faithful Subaru that we bought when we were expecting Daisy, and bought a 2007 Dodge Ram 1500. As if that wasn’t enough fun, this fall we added a 24’ travel trailer for easy off-season camping (the only type of family camping trip we can do with Darin’s work schedule).
We took it on its maiden voyage over Halloween weekend and it rained and stormed the whole time. We were blissfully warm and dry, playing board games, watching movies, and making the most of any break in the weather. We even had a couple visitors, and the rain held off one evening so we could enjoy a fire and s’mores. While it’s tight for the four of us and Gypsy, the bunk beds for the girls give them their own space, and no one seemed to mind the close quarters too much.
During an odd August week without guests at camp, we were able to sneak away to visit another set of friends from long ago who now live in Summerland, British Columbia. The town is aptly named and we had a wonderful time. When the smoke from the wildfires in Washington ruined our plans to float a river, we loaded up and headed north to Kelowna and a huge indoor water park run by the YMCA. (Dear American YMCA, please take note.) After another few great days with our friends, we headed towards home and a quick overnight stop in Cultus Lake for Dani’s birthday adventure at a full water park complete with tons of slides and tube rides. On this trip we also discovered the wonder that is Tim Horton’s. (Dear America, please import Tim, thank you.)
Daisy’s year has been marked by many wonderful experiences and accomplishments. She turned 8 and had an epic superhero birthday party, had her first foray into volleyball and a second summer of being a camper. She is also taking her second year of piano lessons. She had a recital early in the year and has continued to grow and learn, impressing us with her ability and rapid improvement. The the little boy in the meme isn’t Daisy who diligently practices without complaint. Instead the boy is Darin, running from the continuous repetition which is apparently part of the learning process. It does get a bit old.
This year Dani has really come into her own. She has always been a strong and unique little girl, but this year she has really just taken it to the next level. At countless times this year her parents have just looked on in amazement as she is captivating and directing whole hosts of kids, adults, and staff members. This happens so much and with such exuberance that Deanna started referring to her as the “cruise director.” She finished up Kindergarten and is loving life as a full-time first grader. She wrapped up gymnastics in the spring, and is looking forward to trying her hand at drama in the new year.
For her birthday Dani received a small fish bowl and a gift card to pick out a fish. She chose a blue betta fish and promptly named it “Tank,” as in, “Do you want to come see my fish Tank?” Tank was not as sturdy as her name would suggest and only lasted a few months. Luckily Dani still had some money left on her gift card and she saved a little allowance to give it another try. This time she chose a sturdy looking male fish and, with a little help from a camp staff, promptly named it “Stix,” as in, “Do you like my fish Stix?” Oh Dani…
This was our second summer at Camp Indianola and Darin’s 15th summer at camp overall. While last summer was much more about observing and learning the culture and traditions here at Indianola, this summer Darin really began to cast a vision for the future of this amazing place and program. As Camp Director, Darin carries most of the responsibility for the direction of the camp overall, and that includes summer programming. Discipling young leaders for their next steps in life and ministry is what Darin loves most about his job, much of which takes place with the college-aged summer staff. This year we had five great staff (one of which is Deanna’s niece) and a wonderful summer of growth and ministry.
The biggest change for the year has got to be the Giant Swing upgrade that happened in May. Check it out the video here and then make plans to come visit and try it for yourself.
Last Christmas Deanna was praying and vision-casting for the re-launch of Teen MOPs in our area, and this Christmas we are happy to report that the ministry is launched and is growing. This volunteer work sometimes feels like a part-time job but Deanna loves leading an amazing team of mentors and leaders as they serve young moms with twice-monthly gatherings, as well as park dates and playdates and other fun. At meetings they eat together, do a craft or learn from a speaker (like one who suggested un-used WIC beans make a great sensory bin), care for practical needs (lots of diapers and wipes are given away), get a break from busy kids and work to build a supportive community. This has been a year full of growth and of challenge, but Deanna is grateful every day for the team she works with and the girls she loves. This ministry is hard, but it is amazing and these young moms are incredibly inspiring with how hard they work to be the best moms they can be.
When asked about his hobbies, Darin has traditionally had a hard time coming up with something. His two favorite things are his family and his job, neither of which can really be called a hobby. Additionally, he has trouble spending too much time on anything that doesn’t yield some product in the end. Luckily he is also confident enough in his masculinity to not be warded off from traditionally feminine hobbies like knitting and crocheting. He tried knitting a while back, but it didn’t stick so this year Deanna encouraged him to try crochet instead. Since Deanna spends most of her evenings studying these days, Darin cues up Netflix and gets to work. He’s made a few nice hats and is working on Christmas presents for the girls’ teachers before undertaking an infinity scarf that is the first of many, MANY requests sure to come from Deanna.
Once again we happen upon the end of the year with gratitude for the adventures, challenges, growth, and blessings. We love our life here in Indianola and we love the friends and family (both near and far) God has given us. We hope and pray you feel God's blessings and love in your life this year as well.
Darin, Deanna, Daisy, Dani Gemmer
(with Gypsy and Stix too)