Christmas Greetings!

Dear Family & Friends,

John 14:1-3 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may also be.”

I write to you from a new room.  That’s right: I’ve made the jump and moved from Gaithersburg, MD to the Nation’s Capital this year.  I’ve been working downtown since the fall of 2010, but the 75 min. commute each way finally got to me, and as I continued to build friendships and work relationships in the city, God led me in my decision to move and ‘set up life’ in a new local community.

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So, as of October 15, I am now ‘on the Hill.’ (No, not over the Hill quite yet…just living on Capitol Hill.)  My new roommate, Christin Siems, (pictured middle) attends a church called GraceDC, hails from Dallas, Texas, is a true Artist and Playwright, loves children and nannies for a family full-time, and makes great scones.  In the past 6 weeks, it has been a joy and blessing to live with her, and I am thankful to God for bringing us together and providing me with a new friend.

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Christin also joined our family for Thanksgiving, and so I was particularly blessed to be able to spend the holiday with both my family and good friends!

But I am jumping ahead.  2012 has been quite the year for me personally and for the Jansen family at large!  No doubt, I’ve had my fair share of challenges and disappointments; but, God has proven Himself to be faithful once again, and I am convinced that the words of Octavius Winslow have rung true in my life this year: “Christians can never sink beneath the Everlasting Arms; they will always be underneath them.”

In January, I visited Nora and Travis in Phoenix, AZ for a brief – but sweet – trip.

DSC_1125Playing “Auntie Em” for a week is always a blast, and it’s been fun to watch my niece Kate (4) and nephew Grant (2) grow up and start to become these unique little people with dynamic personalities, talents, and even particular senses of humor.  They keep Nora and Travis on their toes, but I can’t think of better parents to care for them and help channel each one’s strengths.  Here, Kate and I are pictured with my face masks, which she loves.

In February, my career took an exciting turn towards an international non-profit organization, Meridian International Center, where I am Memberships Manager in the Department of Development & External Affairs.  Since living in Kenya, I have continued to have a passion for international affairs, and the opportunity to explore and cultivate this passion through Meridian was not one I could pass up!  Meridian’s mission is to advance and strengthen public diplomacy between countries, cultures, and communities, both locally and abroad.  As we are uniquely positioned in Washington – home to the international diplomatic corps and all of their representative embassies – Meridian has been bridging U.S. and foreign leaders together for more than 50 years to dialogue about current global issues and strengthen international understanding between public, private and diplomatic sector leaders.  In particular, Meridian is known for its implementation of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), which has educated and equipped 66,000+ emerging leaders from around the world.

As Memberships Manager, I support Meridian’s Corporate Council, Council on Women’s Leadership, and Rising Leaders Council, which are compromised of corporate representatives and individuals who support Meridian, engage in our mission and initiatives, and benefit from the Center’s network, programs, and events.  One of the greatest highlights of my year was helping to plan and facilitate the Global Business@Meridian Downtown series, breakfast dialogues for our corporate members with featured Ambassadors.  Between June and December, I organized breakfasts with the Ambassadors of Turkey, Brazil, and Singapore.  At each on – hosted by a Corporate Council member – guests hear the featured Ambassador’s insights into business and trade in his country, and then engage in a dynamic Q&A session.

Other 2012 highlights include Meridian’s D.C. Premiere Gala on September 12th of the “Half the Sky” documentary based on the bestselling book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunities for Women Worldwide”; and, Meridian’s 44th Annual Ball and Global Leadership Summit on October 12th, which included 24 pre-Ball Embassy-hosted dinners.  Below, with Ball guests, and meeting America Ferrera, Actress & Advocate of the Half the Sky movement.

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In the springtime, I enjoyed a variety of activities, including: being a bridesmaid in my friend Demi’s wedding down in Durham, NC…

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…facilitating a couple “tea and talks” for a group of 9th grade girls, visiting Florida for a long weekend, going to Lake Anna with a group of girlfriends, attending a classical piano concert at the Swiss Embassy, co-hosting a Cinco de Mayo party with my best friend Britt and Mom, taking long bike rides, and cultivating a veggie patch at Meridian’s campus garden.

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In June, I promoted and participated in Local Food for a Global Impact,” a fundraising event put on by Opportunity, International (OI), one of the largest U.S. micro-finance organizations, to advance their 2012 agricultural campaign:

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Since 2011, I’ve served on the leadership team for Opportunity’s “Young Ambassadors ” D.C. chapter, which broadly support OI’s mission and seeks to raise awareness of its global campaigns and initiatives at the local level through events and meetings for young professionals. “YAO DC” is a great outlet through which I can cultivate my love for entrepreneurship, and belief that micro-finance ventures and micro-loan solutions truly are successful avenues through which we can make a true difference in the lives of men and women from developing countries, such as my dear Kenyan friend, Emily Maingi.  [Above: pictured with two girlfriends, Buki and Alexandra, who I introduced to YAO-DC.]

I can pretty much sum up July and August as swim, bike, run.  Day in, day out, I was training for my first international distance Triathlon!  I had completed a sprint-distance one in October 2011; but, this one – “The Nation’s Triathlon” on September 9 – was the real deal: 1 mile swim in the Potomac, 23 mile bike-ride out towards the MD border, and a 6 mile run near the monuments.

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The triathlon was a blast to train for and complete.  Having not trained strictly, I was surprised to place as well as I did in my age group – so, I think there will be another triathlon to come in 2013.  It is just much more dynamic than a marathon (in my opinion).

One of the best parts about my final weeks of training was being able to do long, open-water swims down in the Outer Banks of NC, where our family vacationed together in late August.  We returned for the second time to a great rental house, “Gift by the Sea” in Corolla, where we celebrated Travis and Nora’s move back East and also rejoiced in God’s provision of my Dad’s new job at Avendra, a national hotel procurement company.

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DSC_0199 DSC_0335CSC_0438As many of you know, the past 4 years have been a long and hard road for my Dad and our family at large, as my he faced health challenges.

Today, I can honestly say that I have witnessed a miracle.  The Lord has not only provided spiritual, mental, and physical healing for my Dad, but has been bountiful and faithful in giving him the opportunity to work again in a field he knows well and enjoys.  Our beach house name – “Gift from the Sea” – was a timely reminder to us to give thanks for the gifts of family, the ability to spend quality time together for a week, Kate and Grant’s contagious joy, practical provision for all of us to go on vacation, and most of all, the restoring grace of God in my Dad’s life and in our family.

In November, Peter and I co-hosted the 2nd annualFriendsgiving” at his house for 22 friends to kick off the holiday season.  Having been a guest at the first Friendsgiving in 2011, I enjoyed this opportunity to help Peter host and draw our distinct and mutual friends together for a potluck meal, great conversation and laughter, and of course, lots of good wine to share.

Friendsgiving

Last year, Peter’s friend Kaveh offered a prayer in Arabic, and this year, my friend Kip provided a Kenyan blessing over the food before we ate.  In such a culturally-diverse city and nation, it is always neat to acknowledge one another’s backgrounds.  While Peter handled the turkey’s, I prepared some fresh veggie dishes, purchased at the one-and-only Union Market!

I also turned 27 on November 23rd, which according to some is “the best year of your 20’s.” I have yet to discover if that is true, but I can say with confidence that I am looking forward to another year of opportunities to: grow personally and professionally, build relationships in my new local community and church, Redeemer of Arlington, and take advantage of the blessing of having my family and Grandma (now in her 80’s) so close.

DSC_0471_2 My Grandma, who continues to amaze me with her cheerful outlook, wit and humor, gave me a mini vacuum for my birthday (yay for responsible, practical adult birthday presents! :))  Despite some health challenges this year, my Grandmother can STILL read a book faster than I can, use vocabulary words that I’ve never heard of, and tell a darn good story without saying “um” or “like”…the older I get, the more I realize how much wisdom comes with age, and that I have a lot to glean from her.  Today’s economic downturn is not a surprise to her – she lived through the Great Depression and World War II, followed my Grandfather to Nigeria in the early 60’s for work and raised small children under rural conditions, and much much more…!
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I also hope to visit my brother Peter after he re-locates to Austin, TX next February, and travel back to Africa for business and pleasure.  As I have time, I am also resolving to start practicing piano again, and am considering taking a semester-long language course this winter (possibly Swahili or French), which I hope will better prepare me to return to East Africa in the future.

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As we approach Christmas and celebrating the Grace that appeared to us in the face of Christ, I am reminded of the good hope we have in God’s unchanging character:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind…remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” [Isaiah 46: 8-11]

The tradition of writing “updates” around Christmastime is not a coincidence. Recounting all that has transpired this year – and all that God has done in our lives – is good for our souls, because we so easily forget His many providences, blessings, and the tapestry of grace that He is weaving in and through us.

Just as we need to remind ourselves of the miracle of God being made flesh and coming to earth to save the world from their sins and sorrows, so too, we must remember “the former things” that have occurred in our lives this year.  And, as we ponder these things, we are built up in good hope that He will AGAIN be faithful to us in the New Year.

We do not yet know all His purposes and plans to come, but we can – without a doubt – trust our Father in heaven who caused us to be born again into a living hope, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.”

May you experience the richness and fullness of Jesus Christ this holiday season!

Emily

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