Christmas cards are so 20th Century.

I hope in lieu of a mailed card with a family letter folded inside, you’ll accept this as sincere greetings from us to you. Our life course has cut a path so wide, it would be impossible to mail an update to everyone who matters to us.

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So whether you are a local we see often, a childhood friend, a missionary family in some far-off country, or our family members in the midwest, here’s our family Christmas card, blog style:

2016 was a year of accomplishments.

We marked our five year anniversary in Katy, TX! On Father’s Day, 2011 we made the long trip south and settled in the Lone Star State. In some ways it feels like we’ve been here a decade, in other ways it feels more like a week. Either way…this is home to us now.

I continue to serve as student pastor at Current — A Christian Church. I’m also on the teaching team and get my fair share of preaching/teaching opportunities. I also tackled a new challenge this year, teaching New Testament II at a local seminary in their Bible Certificate Program.

The work of The 25 Group continues, and this year it’s looking like we’ll give away more than $100,000 for the first time in our history. We grew our team this year and gave away money to six great organizations in the United States, Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and Uganda.

My writing ministry continues as well. I’m contributing regularly here on the blog, for Youthworker Journal, and in my home town newspaper, The Salem News.  My work with Teen Sunday School Place continues as well.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the whole year was Kari’s graduation from Texas Women’s University (YIPPEE!), where she earned her masters degree and is now a Family Nurse Practitioner with Christ Clinic here in Katy. She graduated, predictably, with high honors, and is absolutely in a groove with her career. Christ Clinic is a fantastic organization and she has hit her stride there.

She also continues to lead a small group of high school girls who she has helped shepherd since they were 7th graders, and the fact that they are now seniors reminds us of how long we’ve been here and how beautiful (and messy) discipleship can be. But she’s doing a great job and the group is better because she chipped into their lives.

Nora is now a sixth grader, is 11, and is in our Jr. High Group at church. I stare out from stage sometimes to see her and wonder where the time went. She is enrolled at Aristoi Classical Academy, a small charter school here that suits her well. She won the Spelling Bee, besting 23 other students and moving on to the district bee in 2017.

She also started volunteering in our children’s ministry and is beloved by her three-year-olds and the adult volunteers she serves alongside.

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Malachi is in third grade, is 8, and finally got a bike that suits him and he can ride. Scooter days behind him, he looks about 14 when he rolls down the sidewalk, carefree and curly hair blowing in the wind. He asked me recently, “Dad, what is it about me that makes everyone like me?” It would’ve been an arrogant question if it weren’t true, he were two decades older, and/or he weren’t just sincerely wondering.

So among his other accomplishments, what stands out about Malachi is that he’s just a really likable little dude. He’s a third grader at King Elementary and loves all things Pokemon and general orneriness.

Other family achievements include our May trip to Disney World (a first for all four of us) to celebrate Kari’s graduation as well as buying a home again. After renting for three years so we could be more generous and pay for grad school in cash, a great place came up for sale and we took the plunge.

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We are eager to launch into 2017. Last year at this time my daughter was in elementary school, my wife was in grad school, we’d never been to Disney World, and Malachi couldn’t ride a bike. So who knows what we’ll have to say in twelve more months. Life has a way of surprising you.

Merry Christmas from the Benton Family. Wherever you are, if you’re reading this, you’re a part of our family, and we’re thankful for you.

 

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