*Some parts left out to somewhat protect privacy from people who may read this who we don't want reading it!*
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all of our family & friends! We hope 2008 has been a good year for all of you. It has been a year of huge changes for our family!
*Sadly, we lost my grandfather, Richard Essner, in February. He is missed by all of us, but we rejoice knowing of his faith in God!
*In March, Chris accepted a transfer with ________, the company he’s worked for since we moved to Aiken in 2001. The transfer was taking us back to Texas-back to where Chris & I met and lived for almost the first 7 years of our marriage-back to where Gracie was born-back to GREAT Mexican food and BEEF BAR-B-Q! However, this move also took us away from many wonderful friends and a great church home. It took us a lot farther from my parents, BUT it put us a lot closer to Chris’s parents. We’re actually almost exactly half way between the 2 sets of grandparents now. It was definitely a move of ‘give & take,’ but we felt God was leading us back to Texas for some reason, so we took a leap of faith and in April we made the move to Houston! This is a different part of Texas than where we’d been before, so it was something new to get used to. We left a town of approximately 30,000 and moved to a town of approximately 4 million! WOW-what a change!
*With MUCH help from a new friend I met through a mutual friend in Aiken, we chose an area of Houston & an apartment to live in which included a school for Gracie to finish out the last month & a half or so of 2nd grade. She did GREAT with this transition which was such a blessing! Chris started his new job and LOVED it from the beginning. It is definitely a blessing for him to come home happy with the work he is doing. He is busy, challenged, & tired but also happy!
*We visited different churches and decided to make ________ Church of Christ our new church home. It is a larger church than we’ve been used to, but it is becoming more & more home all the time and is a wonderful place filled with loving Christians and new friends! My brother used to go to church with some of our new friends which has helped us a lot in meeting new people as they have been great about welcoming us & helping us get involved. They are also huge Dallas Cowboy fans which bonds Chris to them immediately-he even got to enjoy a game in Dallas with Kevin a few weeks ago which was a highlight to his year!
*My mom came in early June to help us during the last days of my pregnancy and to be here when our precious baby would make her arrival. On June 24th, Ellie Hollyn Shanks entered this world at 12:50 pm, weighing 8 lbs. 3 oz. and measuring 20 ½ inches. She is a joy & has brought such happiness to all of us! Gracie & Katie are both wonderful big sisters. Gracie is very nurturing with her and has a natural “mothering” nature. Katie loves dancing for her and making goofy faces at her!
*Our house in Aiken sold right after Ellie was born which was such an unexpected blessing based on the housing market at the time! We couldn’t start actively looking right away since I’d just had Ellie via c-section, but before too long we got serious about it.
*We had already decided we wanted to live in a different part of the city than where we were in our apartment-a lot because of Chris’s commute to work-and had decided _____ is where we wanted to be. After spending time online looking at what was out there, we started actually looking at houses. Long story short-we found a house and got a contract on it and moved in less than a week after the start of this school year. We were able to start Gracie at her new school even though we hadn’t actually moved in the new house which was yet another blessing and positive answer to prayer. She had already been to 2 different schools the year before, so we really wanted her to be able to start where she was going to finish this year (and the rest of her elementary years)! She is a wonderful 3rd grader who continues to love school and has a very sweet teacher and enjoys socializing with the other little girls in her class & at church. Katie is staying home with me this last year before Kindergarten and is such a fun little 4 year old! She makes us laugh everyday with all the funny things she does. She is truly a joy to have in our family!
*With the help of many friends from church, we were able to get moved into the house and are now STILL in the process of unpacking & getting it the way we want it. We LOVE our new home and the area of Houston it’s in. We are able to walk Gracie to school which takes about 6 minutes. Despite how bad Houston traffic can be in general, I can get to any of 4 different grocery stores or the outlet mall in less than 10 minutes. Katie enjoys that we are within walking distance of 2 different parks. It’s just a really nice area. Chris has joined a vanpool for his commute to work which saves him a little money and a lot of wear & tear on his car. Plus, he can relax on the way home! He now has about a 35 minute commute thanks to traveling on the toll way. Again, a HUGE blessing when you look at the fact that his commute to our apartment was well over an hour in the afternoon with him driving by himself the whole way.
*We also survived Hurricane Ike about a week after we moved into our new home. It was terrifying and something I hope to never experience again. We boarded some windows and tried to sleep that night although we didn’t get much sleep because of what was going on outside. (Gracie & Katie slept fine!) We were blessed to have no major property damage, minimal power loss, and we were safe!
*We have been blessed with many visitors already which has been great! Both sets of parents have come, as well as Chris’s brother’s family. My aunt & uncle visited when Mom & Dad were here, we’ve been able to see Chris’ cousin, Ashley, who lives in San Antonio and her parents who were visiting her, and he has some other cousins who live here in Houston (although 50 miles away!) who helped tremendously when we first moved here! Some friends from Dallas came before Ellie was born. My mom came again because she couldn’t stand not seeing Ellie again, my brother & niece have visited, and my friends, Melissa & Mary Beth, have both come which was lots of fun! I think Katie has the way to the airport memorized! We also enjoyed a trip to San Antonio-one of our favorite cities-in August which is now just a few hours away and spent Thanksgiving in New Mexico with Chris’s family. It was wonderful to make the trip in just 1 day and so nice to see Nana & Papaw (Chris’s grandparents) enjoy spending time with the girls, especially Ellie, their newest great-granddaughter! My parents & grandmother will be joining us for Christmas.
*Looking back over the last year, we have made such huge changes: moved across the country, added a new baby to our family, sold & bought a new home, survived a hurricane….God has been with us through it all and has blessed us tremendously, and we thank Him for those blessings! We miss our friends in Aiken but are thankful for technology such as Facebook, unlimited long distance, texting, & email as it allows us to keep in touch easier! We have been blessed to add new friends to our lives here in Houston. God is surely wonderful!
Chris, Jacinda, Gracie (8), Katie (4), & Ellie (6 mo.)