Merry Christmas to all our friends and family…near and far! Christmas is a time for family gatherings and gifts of love and joy. But being with “family”takes on a different meaning for us this year… as Lara spends her first American Christmas with the Schreiner’s!
What we have all learned over the years is that “Family” doesn’t always mean immediate relatives, or blood relatives. Family is who you truly bond with and who is close to your heart. Some people have lost loved ones over the years or do not have a relationship with mothers, fathers or siblings or simply just live too far away to gather with family. Such is the case with our family.
Terry’s parents live in Nebraska. We spent every Christmas with them for 7 years when we lived there. Then, after we moved to Arizona in 1993, they started traveling here to spend the holidays with us. But now… it’s just getting too difficult for them to travel. We miss their visits but talk to them almost every day, visit every other summer and we are all as close as ever with them. Terry’s sisters also live in Nebraska and Colorado so it’s been many years since we’ve spent a Christmas with them.
My family is Terry’s family…parents, sisters, kids and all!!! I moved away from Chicago when I was 18, married Terry at 27…and had 3 stepchildren right away. A few years later we had Travis and Brittany. They’ve all been my true family ever since! My father passed 12 years ago and one of my brother’s passed 10-1/2 years ago. My other brother lives in Houston and we don’t see each other or talk too often.
Several years ago, we started to celebrate holidays with Terry’s first wife, her husband and her daughter. Many people find that surprising because most divorced families don’t… can’t… and won’t do that. Well, several years ago, we started a new tradition and THAT has also become part of our holidays. I remember the first year we were ALL together for Christmas. Terry’s 3 older children said it was the best Christmas they had ever had because their entire family was in one room at one time. THAT explanation is the true meaning of “FAMILY”.
So… my “immediate family” consists of many people who are not “blood relatives”. I have some Aunts and Uncles who live close by who I am related to by blood. I’m closer with a couple of them than others… like Bernard and Jan. They are like a mother and father to me… and like grandparents to my children… are truly “family”.
And this year, we have Lara, our German Exchange Student. I refer to her as our Exchange Student in the Blog for writing purposes… but that’s not REALLY what she is. She is TRULY a member of our family… as if she’s been around us for years. In the past 4 months, we have built a natural bond with her and we ARE her family away from home. We hug her and tease her and shop for her and wrap presents for her and love her. We are her temporary family away from home but she will always be “family”. When she leaves in June, she will be far away… but, like Terry’s parents who live far away…. she will be loved like family and missed every year at Christmastime.
I know her parents, brother, grandparents and friends miss her dearly this Christmas. But I also believe they know in their hearts that she is experiencing life to its fullest in America and that we are her family while she is away. You may ask how a 15-year-old is coping with being away from home for so long and at Christmas time? Well, she said it doesn’t “feel” like Christmas… mostly because there is no snow and because she is not by her relatives. But I also feel she is looking at this time in her life as I am seeing it… she knows she is part of OUR family too and that we are always here for her.
So on this Christmas 2011 remember… it’s not “blood” relatives that make up your “Family”. It’s the people near and dear to your heart…. the people you trust and love dearly… the people who would never hurt you or leave your side. And if you are missing family far away, remember that those you are spending Christmas with are the ones you choose to build relationships with… and THAT is your “Family”.
God Bless you and may the reason for the season — Jesus — shine upon you each and every day!
*****Below is our 2011 Christmas letter that was sent out with the photo above*****
2011 was one of the busiest years EVER for the Schreiner’s! Our Schreiner Realty Property Management division is growing faster than imagined! It’s been such a blessing to help Owners and Tenants! Terry is still playing racquetball several times a week and busy with rental repairs. I’m busy marketing the business with a couple networking groups and am excited to serve on a Charity Committee with a Nationally-sanctioned Realtor’s group to help the Child Crisis Center.
Our family grew in 2011! Tyler and Sharon married May 22nd! And the best news after that… they’re expecting a baby June 21, 2012! We’re going to be Grandparents! This month, Tyler officially graduated from ASU, after a few degree changes! It’s an exciting time for them!
Travis graduated from Highland High School in May! Now he’s attending Mesa Community College and completed Real Estate School. The next step: passing the State Real Estate Exam. He’s working at “Just Sports” and busy with ASU YoungLife — a Christian ministry. His long term goals include becoming a YoungLife Leader for High School kids and attend the Art Institute for Game Art & Design.
Brittany’s also involved in High School YoungLife and we host about 60-80 kids at our home every Monday night! It’s a lot of fun! Brittany and Travis attended YoungLife Summer Camp in Colorado and Brittany served on a work crew in Williams, AZ. Brittany’s in her 2nd year on the Yearbook Staff as Sports Editor, she was a Pitcher for the school’s Freshman Softball Team and for a City League and has a new passion for modern dance! She’s always on the go! Yes…she IS her mother’s daughter! J
We’re hosting a German Exchange Student this school year. Lara arrived in August from the Hamburg area. She’s 15 years old, same age/grade as Brittany, and will be here until June. We’re blessed to have her in our family and are all learning from each other! In October, Terry and I took Brittany and Lara to Washington DC and New York City. It was quite a learning adventure! Lara will also join us on a family cruise this January. In 2012, we’ll visit the Grand Canyon, Disneyland and Las Vegas! Be sure to check out our pictures and stories on our Blog about being a Host Family to an Exchange Student: www.lifewithlara.wordpress.com.
Melody has a new job as an English Teacher at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert. She and Brian still enjoy hiking with their dog and watching sports. Amber keeps busy with her pets and starts a new position at Bank of America in January! She and Lara have developed a special bond with their culinary interests!
2012 will certainly be another exciting year! We wish you all health and happiness in 2012! May the spirit of the Christmas season always be with you! Jesus is OUR gift! God Bless You!