Joshua 1:9

“ Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

 As I sit to write our Christmas letter this year and ponder the year gone by, January feels like an entire lifetime ago.  The places we have treaded this year seem impossible, but to know that they are true as evidenced in our current lives.  I’ll write this letter chronologically, since I know no other way to tackle the enormity of this year, and invite you to read my Advent Letter also, if you haven’t already. 

 Our year started in Saskatchewan.  We had not planned to travel with infant twins back to freezing temperatures; however, with the passing of Ryan’s Grandma Braun we welcomed the travel to be able to celebrate Grandma’s life and spend precious time with extended family.  Indeed, we had a lovely time.  After returning home Ryan’s parents headed to Florida, and my parents flew out to give helping hands with the twins (Ryan’s mom helped ALOT the first 2 months with the twins).  Our babies were all-consuming in these months, so after my parents left we made our way to Ryan’s parents’ for 3 weeks of sunshine.  Rayna LOVED absolutely every moment at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  We kept it simple, sticking around “home”, swimming lots, and a couple of trips to the zoo.

 In March, my parents returned for a couple weeks, and I don’t know what I would have done without them!!!  The rest of spring through July (which was chilly!) feels like a bit of a blur.  These were hard days with the twins. But, I started running again 3 days a week and Ryan kept on pickling (playing pickleball). Through out the year he has continued to attend tournaments whenever possible. We also attended Rayna’s dance performance in June.

 At the end of July we road-tripped for 3 weeks to Saskatchewan.  The twins kept it crazy, but Ryan and I managed to keep it together and Rayna, again, loved every minute (and we love this girl for keeping us going on the adventures we do like to go on!)  First stop was my parents with my sister and her family (husband + 5 kids) in tow.  Rayna has decided she doesn’t like Saskatchewan; unfortunately this trip she met Saskatchewanmosquitoes – in swarms!  However, our next major stop was a huge highlight.  We went to Camp Oshkideein Meadow Lake Provincial Park(where Ryan and I were married and where Ryan grew up going yearly to family camp).  The logistics were pretty much a gong-show with the twins; but, by the end of the week we were indeed able to connect with some great people (Thanks Sheena and Jeremy for essentially adopting Rayna!) and Rayna loved the freedom the camp environment offered (she was able to go places “by herself”).  As always, God’s presence is evident when you are at Camp Oshkidee and I managed to receive a bit of spiritual fuel for the challenges ahead.    We were also able to connect with some of our extended family in Saskatoon, as well as our close friends, Brad and Ashley, and my friend from University, Erin.

 The end of August and beginning of September were lovely.  Our weather was fantastic and we were able to make impromptu trips to Cultus Lake (a favorite memory is when Ryan and I took the twins swimming there one afternoon when Rayna was at her Daycare which she attends 3 days a week.) I also started playing soccer again with the team I played on a couple of years ago.  This was my first consistent (weekly) “me-time” since the twins were born and it felt fabulous!!!

 By the end of September I was starting to experience dizziness.  I had also had an occasional migraine, which was new to me, but I chalked up to stress of mothering 3 kids.  I felt gradually more “funny”, and was starting to explore if it was because of vision changes etc.  Three days before my tumor diagnosis I had difficulty functioning properly at soccer and backing out of my parking spot afterward.  The next couple days I was struggling just to get food on the table for my kids, even with omitting outside time from our schedule.  Then on Wed. Oct 5 after pushing the twins while I went running (during which I was dizzy), I brought them to the playground, had them in the swings but could not figure out how to get them out.  This along with a funny sensation in my right arm (like it was dissociated from my body) brought me to call Ryan and head to the ER.  I was given a CT scan that day which diagnosed a brain tumor.  The next morning when we saw the neurosurgeon he gave us promising words as the tumor seemed to be contained.  It was removed Oct. 19 (gross total resection) and unfortunately when the pathology came back early Nov. it was cancerous (yes, the paperwork got lost but I didn’t really feel a sense of urgency given the surgeon’s initial impressions). And treatment (radiation and chemo) began Nov. 24.

 Now we are on a journey that I have been documenting on my blog.  Please feel free to continue to follow our journey there.  We have been blessed with so many beautiful encounters and wish to thank everyone who has shown such generosity with food, gifts, childcare, prayers and support. Unfortunately, I have not been able to respond to and thank you all individually, but we are truly grateful.  Some moments this journey seems unfathomable; but, we are surrounded in love and hope.  Also our kids keep us going (and of course keep us tired too!) and this is a blessing.  This last week I’ve been pondering Mary’s joy: “oh how I praise the Lord! How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me.  His mercy goes on from generation to generation to all who fear him.” (Luke 1: 46-50) Likewise, I am delighting in our children and that God has blessed us with “bonus” twins!

 I am tired these days from my treatment (I feel years beyond my age and have to pace myself so much).  But fatigue, indeed cancer or ailments, cannot steal joy.  And what joy we have at Christmas.  We invite you to join with us in taking tally of the blessings in your own lives.  It is truly our prayer that Christ’s joy is in your homes and hearts and well.

Much Love and Merry Christmas,

 Ryan & Cheryl,  Rayna (4 years old) Garrett and Allison (14 months old) Rostek