Dear Family & Friends,
It’s a serene, snowy, Sunday afternoon, and despite the post-25th date, it still feels like Christmas here at the Soukup home. It probably will for a while longer, come to think of it, since Daniel says we’re keeping the tree up as long as possible. It is a lovely tree. 🙂
Our first Christmas together has been full and sweet, marked by a refreshed and deepened knowledge of what this celebratory season is all about. We rejoice that the gift of Jesus, that baby in the manger, was the gift of Emmanuel – the gift of “God with us.” But not just “God with us” in any way. For surely, if Jesus had been “God with us” in judgement, His incarnation would be a terrifying event to even remember, let alone to celebrate. But God’s Son did not come into the world to condemn sinners when He humbled Himself and entered Mary’s womb. Instead, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He was found as one of us that we might be reconciled to God by being found in Him through faith. We pray that each of you have believed and are standing in this good, life-giving news.
The year 2014 (for us, anyway) quite literally started with our engagement to be married. On New Year’s Day, having received Papa’s blessing to ask me a week earlier on Christmas Eve, Daniel took me to St. Paul’s beautiful (and warm) Como Park Conservatory. There, on a bench under lush forestry and then on a secluded stone walkway, he read me a lover’s poem and asked me to marry him (he got down on one knee and gave me a sparkling diamond ring, too)! The next several months were spent preparing for our wedding and marriage: engagement pictures, dress shopping, pre-marriage classes, apartment-hunting, bridal showers, etc. I continued to teach music part-time while Daniel worked as a valet and finished up his junior year at Bethlehem College & Seminary (BCS). Other spring highlights included a Valentine’s date with Daniel to hear the Rose Ensemble by candlelight, my sister Jessimine’s marriage to a wonderful man, Mike Hackett, and two premier ballets involving my siblings.
Our wedding day was Friday, May 30th, and it dawned sunny and warm. The lilacs I had prayed for were in full bloom, and with the help of an amazing sister-in-law and several others, dozens of purple bouquets were assembled that morning for pictures and our 7:00pm ceremony. The whole day was so special for Daniel and me. We’re so thankful for those who pitched in to help and for each guest who shared the day with us. We felt deeply blessed by God through all the outpourings of love toward us. We’re especially thankful for our parents and families, who have given us such a strong, godly heritage to build upon.
Summer happenings included our honeymoon to Florida (thanks, Aunt Trudy, for a lovely stay at your beachfront condo!); two missions trips to Osnaburgh, Ontario, to help lead two weeks of Vacation Bible School for the children of Mishkeegogamang (an Ojibwe reservation); my first taste of the famed Scobbie family reunions at a picturesque, lakeside lodge in northern Minnesota; and a Hall family weekend up at Lily Bay with grandparents, PDP & Dama. Of course, summer also included getting settled (rather, the beginnings of getting settled) into our cozy, Minneapolis apartment. We have a dining and living room big enough for hosting friends, beautiful wood floors, and a big window overlooking a fairly quiet, shaded street just blocks away from Bethlehem Baptist, where we attend church and school.
Daniel started his senior year at BCS this fall and is looking forward to graduating with his bachelor’s in Biblical & Theological Studies in the spring. I’ve continued teaching this semester, with a studio of 19 violin and piano students. I’m also looking forward to graduating (with my associate in Christian Worldview) this spring after I finish up my language requirements (in Greek). We’re very excited that Anna, Daniel’s younger sister, is now attending BCS and lives within walking distance. We continue to be blessed by the community at BCS and Bethlehem Baptist, where faith and knowledge are not considered at odds, and serious joy, though ultimately a gift from God, is something that is pursued through humble, diligent study of His Word and His world.
The past four months have been busy but good, with Nikkia and Jordan’s wedding in September (I was “matron of honor”), a 5K run with Daniel, baby Elsa’s birth (our newest niece!), volunteering for the Desiring God national conference, a weekend at Storybook Lodge with our Normandale Baptist friends, a girls book study meeting in our home twice a month, and volunteering for the senior high Sunday school at Bethlehem. We also grieved the tragic death of a good friend in September – a test of faith that caused us to hide ourselves even deeper in the cleft of the Rock of ages. His love truly is a shelter from the howling winds of this broken, sin-stained world.
A note of pain brings us full circle to the gospel. It would be silly for anyone reading this to think that this past year has brought only happiness to Daniel and me. We, like you, face fear, discouragement, sorrow, confusion and frustration. We face darkness without and lingering darkness within. But we do not face it alone. It is not naive optimism or a desire to “keep up appearances” that motivates me to write a Christmas letter focusing primarily on the sweet things God has done for us in 2014; it is my trust in the promise of God that He turns even hard things around for our good because we are in Christ. It is because of the gospel that we can overflow with thankfulness and praise for the merciful, sufficient grace He has provided and rest in His Spirit as we await (yes, with a patient kind of groaning) the final, glorious redemption that Christ will bring His people and creation at His second coming. We have tasted and seen the overwhelming goodness of the Lord in 2014, but we long to be with Him and experience in ever-increasing splendor the wonders of His love.
May each of you be blessed with real, sweet experiences of His wondrous love this season and in the coming year!
Christina (for Daniel and me)