Welcome to our "Annual (Christmas) Letter" Page!
Each year I try to write a summary of key family events. I grew up in the era of Christmas Cards. Each year as Christmas approached people would get out their Christmas Card list and send cards to all their friends. Usually everyone you knew much at all got a card: family, friends, business contacts, co-workers, and more.
Even as a kid I thought it strange to send cards to people you see everyday but it was the polite things to do and most did it. The avalanche of mail buried the post office and they hired all sorts of extra help leading up to the Christmas holiday.
One Christmas I worked at the main Chicago post office as a temp on the night shift. At Wheaton College you could wear a badge that identified you as a temp worker so the profs would know you were working nights and not ding you if you fell asleep in class. (Really.)
Most people sent a card with just a signature. They might add a brief note or even a picture. Some would send a letter inside to catch you up on their lives. This was especially true with friends for whom life had moved in another direction. It was always nice to find out how they were doing.
I determined that I would only send cards to people with whom I would not be able to share Christmas greetings in person. And I liked the idea of a letter to provide more details and a picture. Actually it started out simply and longer letters came as the years unfolded and the list of people from past lives increased with each move.
So, my annual Christmas letter started out while I was in college and continued as Jan and I married and the family grew. The only problem was the discipline required to actually write the letter and mail it out during one of the busiest times in the church year. Most of our “Christmas” letters went out about the middle of January or later. At least one year it did not go out until after Easter!
At least one was drafted but never mailed.
My plan for this segment is to put them in reverse chronological order starting today and adding past years as time allows.
Richard (January 31, 2019)
Thanksgiving 2018 Family Photo—We do Thanksgiving on the Saturday after to avoid scheduling problems with the various in-laws. Jan came up with the idea a few years ago and it is working well for us.<< New text box >>
Back row: Nephew Brandon Tuttle and wife Jenni. Son Tim, wife Jen and granddaughter Abi, Rob’s wife Angie, Jan’s brother Steve and wife Joanne, Son Rob.
Second row: Jan’s mom Gracie (92), Daughter Tracy and dog Teddy, Scott’s mom Joan and dog Chloe, Richard (aka Rick), Tracy’s husband Scott.
First row: Tim’s Ben, Jan, Tracy’s Lauren, Brandon’s Lexi, Tim’s Ryan, Tracy’s Megan.
Concklin’s (Richard and Jan) Christmas Letter for 2018.
Part A, by Jan,
January 2019, (aka Christmas 2018)
As we write this, we are in the middle of a snowy January (-19 currently after a high today of 14 below zero). Which is ok, because this is – after all – January in Wisconsin. To bring you up to date on our family:
Richard is President of the Model A club and we have made a lot of new friends through the Club. The 1928 Sport Coupe (think Rumble seat) is approaching finished, with just some trim items to go. We had a skin cancer scare early in the year, but with treatment, that’s behind us.
Jan continues to find the advantages of retirement. She teaches a Ladies Bible Study on Tuesday mornings and we both lead a group on Wednesday evenings. This past fall, she had a “misbehaving” parathyroid removed surgically: we’re thinking it’s been a couple of years in the making. Immediately, she felt better and is now in the process of rebuilding bone calcium. Jan’s Mom, Gracie (92), moved into an Assisted Living place in suburban Chicago this past fall and seems to be making the transition slowly but surely.
Daughter Tracy is working on her Doctorate in the field of Math Education. With a part-time job for a Professor, she has her hands full. Hubby Scott works for American Family Insurance and is our resident computer expert, and he has been a big help on more than one occasion. Both of them have a full-time job keeping up with the schedules, lessons, and practices for Megan (13) and Lauren (11). Megan is in sports and Lauren is in dance.
Son Tim continues his teaching job in an Alternative Learning School. He started out the “newbie” and as life happened, he’s now the most senior teacher and finds himself with more supervisory responsibilities. Wife Jen has accepted a paid position with a local charity as Director of Operations. It is an organization that meets the needs of the community. In very general terms, think Pantry, Meals and much more. She is their first to hold this position and her organizational skills are being used to a great degree. Son Ben (12) plays the trumpet and is currently in Basketball. Daughter Ryan (10) is in Ballet. Daughter Abi (7), for whom many of you have prayed and often expressed interest, is doing well in school and defying early medical predictions by walking and even limited running.
Son Robert continues working for a specialty printing plant, producing a lot of the food and candy wrappers we all recognize. Wife Angie is working on her master’s degree and holding two part-time jobs in the meantime. They bought and moved into Angie’s childhood farmhouse after her parents built a new home just down the street. Angie was the General Contractor and did a great job coordinating a LOT of moving parts.
As always, but more and more, we are living Psalm 16:5-6. “The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places.” As we look at the things we have (food, clothing and shelter), we are grateful. But we are also grateful for so much more: family, friends, a good church, and most of all a relationship with the Living Jesus.
Listening to the news, we realize more and more that the real Hope of the World is not to be found in passing another law, but for Jesus to change us from the inside outward. That’s change that lasts.
Jan Concklin, for the family. (January 29,2019)
1 May the Lord answer
you when you are in distress;
May he send you help from the sanctuary
May he remember all your sacrifices
May he give you the desire of your heart
Psalm 20:1-4 NIV
Richard's Part B continues here.
Restoration of 1928 Model A Sport Coupe The car is assembled and running. I put 1808 miles on it over the summer. Still cosmetic details and mechanical issues to finish up but the bulk of a frame-up restoration is done. I’d have never made it without the support and help from a few of the men in the Model A club and it still took three years!
Sale of 1929 Model A Tudor. In 1988 I sold my 1928 Roadster and a bunch of extra parts and exited the antique car hobby. In 2009 I got back in when I purchased a 1929 Tudor Sedan. That led me to get involved with the local Model A club. The members there were more than kind and helpful and have become good friends. I have no need for two antique cars—not to mention no room.
Barb and Rob Owsley were part of Faith Baptist Church when we first came to Madison. Barb was our kids’ piano teacher. They went off to teach in China for 30 years. In 2007 we visited with them in Tianjin at the end of our China trip. They have now returned back to the States and we joined the welcoming crowd at their retirement this year.
50th wedding anniversary. Robert was born on our 13th anniversary. My observation to Jan in the delivery room, “You realize of course that this kills our steak dinners for the foreseeable future.” Somewhere around our 45th anniversary we started talking about what we wanted to do for our 50th if we were still on speaking terms by then. Well, our 50th came and went in January 2018 with no special marker. As I write this we have just passed our 51st anniversary and still have not celebrated. But we’re still talking. Maybe this year.
Basel cell cancer. February 2018 evaluations of skin spots indicate that there is no longer any active cells and I’m good until next time. Almost a year later there is no “next time” yet. I can remember my Grandmother coming home from a check-up with her doctor and saying, “My heart is good, my lungs are good. I just don’t know what I’m going to die from!” She was 80 plus something at the time.
Class on the Minor Prophets. I have taught numerous classes over the years for Wisconsin students who are preparing for ministry. The Wesleyan Church has a program for folks who are called to ministry later in life and have work and family responsibilities. The district classes have mostly been preempted by the on-line college courses but occasional traditional classes are offered and I was able to teach an Old Testament class last Spring on the Minor Prophets.
Visit over Easter with Lingle’s in PA. Dave Lingle was a classmate of mine at Gordon Divinity School and a groomsman at our wedding. We visited with them last spring and discussed some possibilities for a belated 50th. They were game to come but the event never happened. However, while we were discussing possible participants the name of groomsman Don Jarka came up. We had lost track of Don and I had tried a couple of times to chase him down but always came up short. Jan went to the computer and came back with his phone number! (I should have turned the search over to her earlier!)
Reunited with Don Jarka. Don and his wife are living in a city near Grand Rapids, Michigan. I called him on the phone and spent almost an hour catching up. He was game to come to a party and we planned to send more details as they gelled. By the time we got back to him he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We drove to Michigan to spend a couple of days with he and Donna. It was a good time with many memories. At this writing he is still hanging on and talking about Jesus to everyone he can. Don is one of the few Christians I know who have a gift for evangelism and can share Christ’s good news with people and never be offensive.
Den and Marilyn’s visit. Speaking again of our 50th, Den and Marilyn Leeds came for a visit to Madison. Den was best man in our wedding and I was best man when he married Marilyn a year and a half later. Den was pastor in a church in Lone Rock a few miles west of Madison. They had a church anniversary celebration and invited Den, as a previous pastor, to come and share with the congregation as part of the celebration. They stayed with us and we went to the service. Den did a nice job. I can hardly wait to hear what he has to say at our 50th—whenever that happens.
North Ridge small groups. Ever since North Ridge Church started small groups, Jan and I have been involved in that ministry. North Ridge is a church plant of the Wisconsin District of The Wesleyan Church. Jan leads a group of ladies that meets Tuesday mornings. And we jointly lead a group of ten adults on Wednesday evenings. Grand daughter Megan attends church youth group on Sunday nights. Jan and Megan were talking about the Tuesday lady’s group and Megan did not know what to call it. So she said, “You know, your youth group.” Jan told the ladies and now they call their small group, ‘our youth group.’
Electrical work at Rob and Angie’s. Rob and Angie have moved into the farm house where Angie grew up. Her parents decided to build a new house for themselves about a city block away and sold the old homestead to them. As part of the refurbishing of the house they asked me to come and help with the electric. Since I worked with electricians at both Wheaton College and Gordon Div. School I have a modest expertise. Other than plastic boxes and ground fault interrupters, it is amazing how little house wiring has changed in the past forty-five years.
Contact lens use in December. Since I was pretty much out of circulation during the time with the Myanmar congregation, other preaching opportunities dried up until late in 2018. As I prepared I realized that I was having difficulty reading my sermon notes. It took more than a glance to see what was next. So it was back to the contact lenses.
Model A Restorers’ Club presidency. At the end of 2017, I was elected to a two-year term as president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the Model A Restorers’ Club. It is hard to run an effective negative campaign when there is no opposition candidate. I did manage to win and we are doing fairly well with cars that are 87 to 90 years old and many owners not far behind.
Hearing aids. “What?”, “I’m Sorry?”, “Say again, please?”. After saying these or similar responses enough, it became obvious that it was time. I went with Beltone and have been quite satisfied. Adjustment has been minimal and Jan does not have to watch TV with her fingers in her ears.
Unusual Christmas gift. Christmas of 2017 Tim found a deal on gun parts and bought them in triplicate. His idea was that he, Rob, and I could get the rest of the parts and each assemble his own gun. A few months later we met in his shop and between the three of us we were able to put together three working guns. Then we actually went out and tried them at a local shooting range and they all worked! We haven’t shot them since, but maybe more testing this spring.
Active shooter training. At North Ridge Church they announced that the city of Waunakee would be offering a special presentation on how to deal with an active shooter situation in school or at your work. Ever since my membership in the Auxiliary Police in Everett, I have been interested in policing and policing tactics so I attended the training. They provided some very practical ideas on how to survive one of the rare but very real scourges of our time.
Para-thyroid surgery. Part of our 50th anniversary lack of enthusiasm turned out to be related to Jan’s para-thyroid. Four small glands each about the size of a grain of rice govern how our bodies use calcium, and impact a bunch of other physical issues. Now that the overactive one has been removed, energy and enthusiasm are returning and life is coming back to the old normal and we are thankful for that.
Tracy’s birthday celebration. In the scheduling of our family Christmas celebration we have bumped to the Saturday after the 25th for the past couple of years. This year Tracy called, “Foul!” because her December 30th birthday was getting short-changed. So we celebrated the birth of Jesus on Saturday at Robert’s house and the birth of Tracy at our house on Sunday.
Abi’s dancing. When Abi (shortened from Abigail to Abby to Abi so she could write it more easily) was born they said that she would never be able to walk on her own. She has since done a number of things that were said to be unlikely if not impossible with Rodriguez Syndrome. She had been walking on her own for several months when she got a present. It was a plastic roll that opened up to show a working piano keyboard about 30 inches long. At one end was a battery box and a small control panel. You can push the keys on the roll and play a tune or you can push a button on the control panel and it will play a few simple songs on its own. When she first opened it she was very suspicious, even afraid of it. We rolled it out and showed her what it would do. After her initial hesitation she pushed the button to play a song. Then she pushed the button again. Then she pushed it again and started dancing around to the music!
To see her dance made us all feel like dancing. It was a wonderful reminder that our suspicions, fears and hesitations can lead to dancing, if we will just push the button.
May our Lord Jesus Christ fill your 2019 with the joy of dancing! Psalm 20:1-4 NIV
I just discovered that everything in this column carries over to all the other pages!
Another learning opportunity!
If you read this here you will have to go to our "ANNUAL (CHRISTMAS) LETTERS" page to finish it. It continues after Jan's section "A."
Concklin’s (Richard and Jan) Christmas Letter for 2018.
Part B, by Richard, (Optional at no extra charge),
In the business world reports that are sent up to the executives begin with an “Executive Summary.” This is about half a page that gives an overview of the report and enables the decision makers to decide if it is necessary for them to wade through all the details in the full report.
Someone in my MBA program suggested that it had more to do with the attention span of the leadership . . . . However that may be here is your executive summary.
We want to look at 2018 in terms of things that ended, things that continued, and things that started during the past twelve months. We do have a single item under the heading of things that resumed.
The details below are offered for three reasons.
1. History. It is a written summary of a year of our lives and sometimes it is fun or even interesting for us to go back and see what we were doing five, ten or even twenty plus years ago. I have a personal history of the Civil War (the War Between the States for those of you south of here) written by my grandfather’s father. (you can read it by selecting Civil War page above).
It is seventeen handwritten pages which I treasure and which make me wish he had written more.
2. Reflection. We get so busy surviving in the present and worrying about the future that the past just fades into oblivion. But the past holds the reminders of God’s faithfulness, blessings, and love and occasional forays in that direction are healthy.
3. Lastly, it is, for me, prompted by the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12). I find myself thinking and wondering about people that God has privileged me to know. I wonder how you are doing but my prayers for you are really just a shot in the dark.
I very much enjoy getting updates and hearing about how things are going with you and it seems only appropriate to publish God’s faithfulness in our lives. I can’t complain about not hearing from you, if you never hear from me.
For those who hate people who write long boring letters at Christmas time about family members you barely remember, I can only say, “Deal with it.” (with a loving tone, of course)
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Involvement with Milwaukee/Myanmar Church. (pronounced Mee-an-mar) After eight years, the leadership at Myanmar Christian Fellowship, MCF, was gradually turned over to the Burmese pastor during 2017 and reorganized as an independent church. Our final meeting with the leadership was in January 2018 and although we will no longer be involved with them we wish them God’s very best in the years ahead.
Fatal car crash. The deer died, but not before doing twenty-one hundred dollars worth of damage to the driver’s front fender on our RAV4. A hunter complete with a pickup, camo shirt, and cased rifle, stopped to see if we needed help. There was nothing he could do as the police were on their way to do a report and the car was drivable. At my urging he went back and picked up the freshly killed deer carcass. Now the car is fixed and looks fine and the deer, presumably, is lunch meat.
Contact lens use in November. Instead of reading glasses I had been using contact lenses to give me long distance vision and reading vision. In November I realized that I could get along without the lenses and not have the daily care they required. Reading was a bit harder but I could squint and make out most of what I needed to read. I have a magnifying glass in my pocket, just in case.
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