Our ‘Christmas Letter’

Here at TheRieslands, things are getting pretty tight financially, especially with the holiday season here.  We would love to send out our Christmas letter to everybody we’ve ever known, but the truth is, we just don’t have it in the budget.

But we want to share what God has been up to for the past year, so here you go (if it seems like too much of a summary, it’s because it had to fit on one sheet), and please let us know what you think:

It’s strange writing our first Christmas letter. This letter is supposed to sum up on one page all that has happened in our lives over the past year…here it goes.

By far, the most important memory from 2007 will always be first year of marriage. We were married in February, and that rest of the year has really been about learning and making the transition from 2 separate lives to one life together. We both agree that it has been the best and most difficult experience of our lives so far. Yet, even the difficulty is sweet, as it whittles away the sin — pride in particular — in each of our lives, and makes it more and more clear how much we need the Gospel in every second of our lives.
2007 has also been a year of transition in our circumstances. We began the year with Zack working full-time in software, Stephanie working full time at a men’s ministry, both of us working in our ‘free’ time with the youth at Abundant Life Church in Oxford, Zack living with his parents, and Stephanie in an apartment… oh, and there’s a relationship in there somewhere… Then came the wedding, and Zack moved into the apartment. Soon after this, our lease came up for renewal, and we started praying about whether to renew it or look elsewhere. God answered this prayer by leading us to a great house that we bought in Creedmoor. Even though we are young and there are a lot of question marks in our future, we want to be wise with what God has entrusted to us, and this seemed like a wise investment… plus we love it here! It’s so much fun to cut our own grass and to be able to wash the car without driving to a car wash… well, it was before the drought…
Looking back, it’s easy to see how God’s hand was on each step of this process. Soon after we ‘moved’ into the house — we use that term loosely because we’re learning that we may never be done unpacking — the Lord put it on our hearts for Stephanie to stop working outside the home for a while. This was a tough decision, but soon after, God pressed in even harder and pulled us away from our involvement with our church. This was a decision that we agonized over, and prayed about for months. We love the youth at ALF and had so much joy in hanging out with them and loving them, and leaving felt like we were abandoning them. Not to mention that all this amounted to a full 40% decrease in our income, right after our bills went way, way up.
But God would not give us peace until we made these changes, and in retrospect, it’s easy to see why: college, college ministry, seminary, a series of full-time jobs, a year overseas, an exhausting long-distance courtship, working at church — we realized that neither one of us had really rested in at least 6 or 7 years, and as much as we wanted to hit the ground running in every area of our lives, we knew that was a terrible foundation to build a marriage on. So we backed off. Way off. We realized that it’s foolish to try and please everyone else in the world if that means coming home empty and unable to love each other well.
We plugged back into the church Zack went to throughout college, in Raleigh, and we didn’t sign up to do anything for now. We get there 5 minutes before the service and eat doughnuts and after church we laugh with friends and go out to lunch with family. We go to an awesome Bible study with 3 other couples once a week and we’re remembering/learning who we are and Who Jesus is.
And God is blessing our decision. He is using our marriage to make us more like Him, and we’re excited that hopefully, someday, it will overflow to the rest of the world. And in the meantime, we’re trusting Him to hold it all together.
We love you and hope to hear from you soon!  -Zack and Stephanie    (visit us at TheRieslands.com)