Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas wish

A message to my family, near and far,
friends, colleagues and former co-workers

The past 12 months have been tough, in many ways far tougher than I would have imagined. Yet, through it all, there have been some very good, joy-filled moments that have lifted me up in the times I have struggled most with despair.

That is the spirit of Christmas, as I mentioned in my post a week ago. The spirit of Christmas comes in a savior, Jesus Christ, who made such a great sacrifice for one like me who, in spite of the good I try to achieve, ultimately is undeserving of His grace, His love and the sacrifices he made to offer each one of us redemption.

It is in that spirit which I write today, for so many of you have blessed me in ways I do not deserve.

For Lisa

First, in my list of Christmas wishes this year is my wife, Lisa. For you, who have put up with me and all my myriad faults and weaknesses, who have  not been afraid to say what I sometimes was reluctant to hear, I wish all of God’s very best for you. You have tolerated a guy who frequently has not had his priorities in order, who can be stubborn and who has disappointed you in more ways than I can count here. I love you. Your happiness is far more in my thoughts and prayers than you realize.

Our children

Next come our children. They are five in all on this side of eternity, and bless me each and every day. For each of you, I wish you joy in all circumstance.

Brian, the oldest, has grown into a man of whom I am deeply proud, and Marie, his sweetheart, is a dear young woman with a sparkle in her eye and laughter that reminds me of a mountain stream. Hold true to your faith and character, son, and strive always to be a blessing to those around you. Don’t let your passions in life take precedence over those you love. And please, keep playing your drums. The talent your mother imparted to you in that is remarkable.

David, at 19, is a quiet man well, when he’s not playing his guitar and a character. Son, you have the capacity for greatness in ways you perhaps do not realize. You can be a tease, it is true, but you are an artist with fingers that fly over the frets of your guitars like swallows over an evening prairie: There is grace and beauty in what you do.

Daniel, the youngest son, at 17 is on the cusp of manhood. You, like your brothers, have a lot to learn. Yet, you desire great things. God’s call is on your life, and no matter what that is, listen to Him and follow it. You, too, have talent in music — you have come a long way since you started learning to strum a guitar by watching Youtube videos.

Eleven-year-old AnnaBeth, you have a sense of compassion that in many ways is unparalleled. Your voice is sweet like that of the goldfinch, and listening to you sing can lift the dark clouds that sometimes have hovered over me this past year.

Abigail, at 8, you are a remarkable little lady with a great big heart. You are precocious in a good way, have a remarkable capacity for joy and, like your sister, have a songbird’s voice. Your laughter and giggling is infectious — it cannot be confined to one room of our house, but spreads throughout in a wonderful way.

Family, near and far

Then there is my extended family: To you I also wish all of God’s very best this Christmas.

Mom and Dad, your generosity in this time of hardship is incomparable and humbling. My gratitude is immense. Your love as parents is a wonderful thing.

But I’d be remiss not to mention my siblings. You have encouraged me in dark moments, have shown me more love than I deserved.

I extend similarly strong sentiments to my Uncle Pete and Aunt Mary and many cousins scattered around this nation. Judi and Karla, in particular, have reached out via Facebook in the past 10 months and offered encouragement when I needed it, even if I did not realize it at the moment.

Guy and Pat, my wonderful, wonderful second parents, and their daughter Cynthia are likewise on my Chrismas “best wishes” list. You welcomed me into your family oh so many years ago. That, alone, was a great blessing indeed, but you have been so dear, so generous with your love. God bless you!

It also would be remiss of me if I did not extend my deep appreciation and warmest wishes for a merry Christmas to my church family, both at Our Redeemer Free Methodist Church in Elgin and those Christians who attend or lead other churches. Pastor Jeff Suits and Susan are now at a church in Platteville, Wis., and I miss you guys dearly. Pastor Randy Stateler and Melodie have been a wonderful blessing in taking over the leadership here.

Then there’s Pastor Matt Weber. I never attended the Park Ridge church Matt pastored while he was still in the area, and I’m not certain I’ll ever get out to California to see you there. But it indeed is a wonderful thing to renew a relationship via Facebook with a man with whom I attended high school. Matt, your Facebook posts and you’re The Ramblings of “Rev” blog likewise have been uplifting and encouraging.

Mike Bailey and BocaJump

Then there are those who have been colleagues to me over this past year. Mike Bailey and his son, J.J., I have worked with on BocaJump, along with Steve and Ruth Munson.

Mike, your friendship this past year has meant more to me than I possible can begin to say. In the midst of the incredible pain I experienced on the day I was laid off, you reached out and put me to work in a way that proved to be far more fun and even therapeutic than I thought was possible. Then you encouraged me, offered me advice and genuine friendship. You ROCK!!, pal. You also should be proud of your son (I know, you are). J.J. you were fun to work with when you interned at The Courier, but I really appreciated the concern you expressed and your encouragement after I lost one of my freelance positions with Patch and had the hours at the other deeply cut.

Ruth, Steve is another who ROCKS! I wish I’d had more time to get to know him. Know that you are in my prayers, particularly during this first Christmas without him. Steve was a fine, smart and quiet man who, from my perspective, was always unflappable. I am a better man for knowing him, and I extend my deepest thanks to the both of you, as well, for the opportunity to work on BocaJump this past year, and for your encouragement by email and by Facebook. Cling tight to your family this season, Ruth. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Patch.com

Then there is the Patch crew — I had the privilege of working as a copy editor for Tara May Tesimu and her crew of local northwest region editors since late May, and for a time after that, I also worked with Cari Barcas and her crew of local editors in the southwest suburbs. You folks know how to say thanks and well-done better than many of the journalists with whom I have worked over the past 27 years. Each of you have been a wonder to work with, and I wish you all a merry Christmas and hope for a wonderful 2012.

Former colleagues and Sun-Times Media

To my former Sun-Times Media colleagues, both those who have been let go and those who remain, golly I miss you so much and wish you a merry Christmas. A large part of the pain of this past year has been the loss of the daily contacts with each of you. You folks do not realize how much you enrich the lives of those around you. In spite of the trying circumstances of the past several years, working with each of you, whether it was during my years as night editor for The Courier in Elgin or during my years as Web editor in Aurora, made each day easier.

For Sun-Times Media, I wish a merry Christmas to the new owners. I hope you recognize the talent you have, particularly in the people at the suburban papers, and treat them accordingly. They’ve been through a lot of crap and deserve far better than they’ve had. May the new year bring a better business model that will work, end the layoffs and cutting, and perhaps even allow for growth.

Special friends

Steve Buttry and Mimi Johnson, you know you are appreciated by at least one guy in Illinois. Merry, merry Christmas. You have my continued thanks and appreciation (and Steve, I plug your blog, The Buttry Diary, whenever I get the chance. The wisdom you share with your fellow journalists is a tremendous resource. Mimi, I continue to be thankful for finding the blog you wrote that introduced me to the both of you).

As I said starting out, the past year has been tough. Each of you I have mentioned, and scores more I have met — BocaJump readers, Elgin officials I have questioned for stories, Facebook friends, other journalists near and far with whom I’ve become acquainted on the abundant journalism discussion boards on LinkedIn: Thank you for making this time more bearable, for your encouragement, support, suggestions.

Merry Christmas to each of you, and for those who do not celebrate Christmas, happy holidays!