It’s been two years since we last sent a Christmas letter, so here it is Christmas Eve and no one, not even Buddy, is going to bed until this is sent to our near and dear . . .
Here it is the day after Christmas and no one, not even Buddy, is getting out of this car, until this email is sent to our near and dear.
Buddy? I thought your dog was Buster? We got Buddy, who had been raised with a houseful of Jack Russels and still acts like them at times (dancing on his hind legs) just a few days before our beloved Buster died. Which was just hours before Betsy and her 77-year-old mother left for England and France with Betsy’s sister, Laurie. We had planned a tasteful cremation but that would have taken days, so for this sad reason Buster was laid in a shallow grave in the back yard and covered with white rocks while we wept through boxes of Kleenex. We hope he is the forgiving sort.
The Moll sisters and their mother rendezvoused in Heathrow, spent four days in Haddenham, England in the home Anna’s hospitable in-laws, then traveled on to meet relatives-we-did-not-know-we-had in the Basque Country. We proudly carried a family tree we had constructed that went back three, maybe four, generations but quickly crumbled it into a little ball when our Uncle Guy shared his family tree which went back to the 16th century. Most amazing, we and our offspring were on it! The trips to the family home, now a barn, and family graves, as well as the picturesque villages, including Itaxasou where Grandpa grew up, were highlights.
In January of 2006, Betsy signed up for ballet. During the first class she managed to get her leg up on the barre . . . only to hear and feel something akin to a giant rubber band snapping, near her lower back. After which she could barely make it to the car. About three weeks later, after much Vicodin and many prayers, she was able to resume, a bit more carefully this time, and now expresses astonishment that she managed to live without ballet for over half a century.
In July of 2007, someone we barely knew called to ask if we would consider taking in an exchange student from Ukraine. Right away, we felt that this was something we should do and in August, after much wrangling with the local school district, Sofiya arrived. She is about six months older than Sarah and attended the local high school. We did our best to show her the sights but we are old and she and Sarah are young, so thankfully others more energetic that us took the two girls to Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York.
In March of 2008, we did however make it out to Covina, Betsy’s hometown in the suburbs of L.A. for Grandpa’s 80th birthday. It was a surprise, conceived by Betsy, who had to break it to her dad, “I have a confession to make . . . “ Providentially the man who had always eschewed birthdays enjoyed his celebration at In-and-Out Burgers and all of us enjoyed an almost family reunion with Betsy’s two sisters, brother-in-law, brother, and sister-in-law. We missed Betsy’s brother, Bob, his wife Susie and their kids but understand that travel with eight children is not undertaken lightly. We went to Disneyland, Newport Beach, Balboa Island, and Universal Studios; of course, we hiked Mount Baldy, as well as devoted hours photographing Sofiya in front of the famous “Hollywood” sign with ever closer proximity.
What happens when you are the high bidder for a three-hour consultation (valued at $300.00) with a home decorator? Those who know us well have already guessed that, yes, Sam placed the winning bid ($15.00) at a fundraiser for Sarah’s chorus. Sam argued that after seventeen years in our current home, the house was sorely in need of some attention. Initially Betsy was extremely doubtful of the wisdom of having acquired such a service when cash is in such short supply, but warmed up the idea when the decorator arrived with 100-ideas-for-renovating-your-house-on-a-shoestring. Most of them involve large amounts of manual labor and now, after assisting our contractor in laying wood floors, we know why contractors are so buff! Those strips of wood don’t weigh much, but the deep knee bends required to place them, when multiplied by thousands of little strips of wood, have made us cross thin thighs off our wish list. We know how to get there now, but we are unwilling to do what it takes.
After 16 years at TASC, Sam’s contract ended and he became one of the employed-but-not-really-because-you-have-no-project. At first he wanted to stay in the NRO building, or at least keep working for TASC but after a few weeks of limbo and the threat of a “real” layoff he doggedly went after a new job. He misses his old friends in the NRO building but is enjoying his morning commutes into Washington, D.C. with little brother, Dana. Dana supplies the car; Sam has the free parking spot just four blocks from his new job with the State Department. Yes, Sam Stalcup, king of conservatives now reports to Hillary and Obama. Weep with him.
Sammy transferred to the University of Virginia in the fall of ‘07, and got into the architecture school in June of ‘08. We have not seen him since. Just kidding, he is home right now for Christmas vacation. But they do work ridiculously long hours. His professors have been known to say things to him such as, “Don’t bother going home tonight,” or ”Do you really have to go on that retreat?” During many long phone calls we encourage him to live a balanced life and let the victimizer victimize someone else. When he is rested, he loves architecture and we remember fondly Sammy’s continual requests, as a young lad, for Lego kits which he tore into and then turned into something entirely different than the model pictured on the package.
Sam and Sammy say a highlight of their year was a trip to Philadelphia to a Redskins-Eagles game where their friend, B.J. convinced them their lives would not be in danger if they sat on the Eagles side. This was true, but only if they did not cheer which became increasingly difficult when the Redskins pulled ahead in the third quarter. After a tailgate in which cigars and brats were prominently featured, B.J. had been heard to say while approaching the stadium, “This is the best day of my life.” On the way to the car, after his team the Eagles lost, he moaned, “This is the worst day of my life.”
Sarah continues at TJHSST, again rated the number one high school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. She has two cousins there, one in her grade, so people often ask, “Are you twins?” and one teacher even asked, “Are you two married?” questions she hates ever since Patrick stuffed an entire burrito into his mouth during lunch, then spit it out because he could not chew. Despite the official name of her school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, she is doing her best to major in music by taking Advanced Ladies Chorus and singing a madrigals group, the ladies’ acapella group, Sirens, and performing in the musical Oklahoma! She has ridiculous amounts of homework and is slavishly devoted to social network sites like Facebook, so she goes to bed long after her parents have turned out the lights. She is driving now, but won’t get her actual license until she finds time to do the behind the wheel training, probably summer.
Summer ’08, Sarah and Betsy went to Redding, California so Sarah could attend the School of Supernatural Art and Worship at Bethel Church. It was a wonderful experience living with a delightful widow whose home was in the middle of wide-open spaces, yet just three miles from the church. We borrowed an ancient Ford Taurus from our old friend, Stuart. The car was the color of mint chocolate chip ice cream, without the chips. We felt that any car so distinctive should have a name, an obvious need that Stuart had neglected and we were happy to supply, so we dubbed our chariot “Lil’ Bucky” (correct pronunciation requires a southern accent). Sarah did almost all the driving from Menlo Park to San Francisco to Santa Cruz to Redding. In between white knuckle moments with Sarah at the wheel, Betsy had a bit of a sabbatical—worship, writing, soaking (in the presence of God, that is) then home to relax, while Sarah learned about worship from some amazingly cool songwriters and musicians. On the weekends Sarah practiced driving to some of Betsy’s favorite haunts including Castle Crags, Mount Shasta (where Sarah declined the rigors of the ascent), Lassen Peak where they both climbed to the top so as not to be outdone by some extremely athletic Norwegian friends, and Burney Falls where we dodged lightning strikes that set half the countryside on fire. Redding was alternately beautiful and smoky depending on the wind direction.
In August, Sarah went to Ukraine to work with social orphans and be reunited with Sofiya. A few days later Betsy boarded a plane for Islamabad. If you haven’t already heard about our trips and want to, let us know and we will send you the full report.
Anna and Dan have been in England with YWAM since January of 2008, traveling in September and October to Kunming and Guangzhou, China, via Hong Kong. Now that they have finished their program they are working hard, earning as much money as they can because in February they will return to the U.S. to pack up boxes for a hike from Mexico to Canada via the Pacific Crest Trail. This should be a cakewalk for Dan, who ran in a 100-mile race. We are charged with mailing boxes of food and hiking boots (you go through six pairs on the trail) to them at strategic times. They are great at blogging so to learn more and see great pictures, check out their blog at www.dananna.wordpress.com. We were happy they were able to join us for Christmas 2007 in Cleveland, where Sam acquiesced to allow Dan to take on the honored role of Santa. Unlike his predecessor, Dan required additional padding to produce a pleasingly rotund belly.
Betsy continues to run the Healing Center at Church of the Apostles, which has expanded to seven ministries and is beginning to plant healing centers in other locations in the U.S. and abroad. She loves her job, but at times feels that the explosive growth of the center has taken over her life.
As many of you already know, Betsy’s mom learned this summer that her thyroid cancer had spread to her lungs and adrenal glands, but they are small areas so the doctors plan to do radioactive iodine in January, possibly followed by laproscopic surgery. Also our sister-in-law, Betsy Moll, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August. She has been soaked in prayer and even though the doctors were not able to remove all the cancer during surgery, she is miraculously recovering. She went to Bethel Church in Redding, in between chemo treatments (the same church where Betsy and Sarah spent a month). In fact the doctor says he has never seen anyone’s cancer numbers drop so rapidly (from 4000 to 200) and when the scan showed no tumor, he insisted on surgery but again found no cancer. I think he cannot believe what is happening, that God is healing Betsy. The doctor insisted that she finish chemo, but in two more rounds she will be done, praise God.
Our sister-in-law, Maria, was also diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer this fall and is currently undergoing chemo. We pray for her daily and ask that you join us in asking God for another miracle, a complete healing.
On December 1, Miriam and Nathan moved into our home. Miriam is from Mumbai (Bombay), India; Nathan from the Pacific Northwest. He works for Coptic Orphans (Egypt) while she is finishing a degree in Pastoral Counseling. We are living in community which means that we share the first floor as well as have our own spaces, theirs on the lowest level and ours on the top floor. We have learned that they are amazing cooks so the schedule (Stalcups every other day) has gone out the window, in favor of homemade lo mein, curries, dhal and all sorts of Middle Eastern and Indian food we can’t name but know we love. Even better this is healthy fare, so some of us are losing weight.
One of our greatest joys in the Christmas season is opening the cards and letters from each one of you, seeing your smiling faces and reading about your lives. Even if this is the only time we connect, we feel blessed to have so many friends and family who had touched our lives through the years and think of you with such fondness and warmth.
We love you all and pray God’s deepest blessings on you in the coming year,
Betsy, Sam, Sarah, and Sammy & Dan and Anna