Merry Christmas!
It’s that time of year again, time for our annual report known as the Christmas letter. And we have lots to report from our house! This past year has brought about many changes. Where to begin?


Last year at this time Mark had just been offered the position of youth director at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa. He accepted the position, and began working there in February. We are both loving being at this new church. It is a very young congregation, and feels like a good fit for us. We have already made some wonderful friendships there that we anticipate being life-long. It is interesting to see how God works, because we had actually made the decision to start attending Rock Harbor last year. We thought it was such a neat church that we wanted to be involved even if it meant Mark finding a job outside youth ministry. Little did we know God would provide a job for him there. It has definitely been a challenge for him, as the church has never had a youth group before. Our congregation is so young that there are not many people with teen-age children, so most of our kids come from families not attending our church. Mark spends lots of time during the week at local schools, getting to know kids in the community.
More big news this year is that we bought a home! We moved into our new place in Aliso Viejo in February. Finding our place was really a blessing – we are only four miles from the beach, and about fifteen minutes from church and my job. However, we are now feeling the urge to move to Costa Mesa to be closer to our work. Commuting in California is not fun. So who knows where the next few months will lead us!

My big news is that I graduated with my Master’s degree in May. Yippee! I am really glad to be out of school for a while. After all the graduation festivities, my friend Tricia and I took a trip to Greece that we had planned since our first semester in the program. A sort of incentive/reward for graduating. We spent two weeks in the Greek isles, visiting Santorini, Mykynos, Paros, and Athens. The landscape of the islands was so beautiful – white-washed houses with blue doors and red bougainvillea built up on cliffs overlooking the ocean. We had a great time relaxing and soaking up the hot sun.

I pretty much took it easy this summer – it had been a hard last semester at school and I felt like I needed a break before starting an internship. I got a chance to go home to Florida for a week, and I went to summer camp with Mark and the youth group. Mark and I also took a trip to Ensenada and Rosarito Mexico with our good friends John and Wendy Maurer.
This fall I took a job as a counselor with Journeys Counseling in Costa Mesa, and I have continued with my job at UCI doing research for a psychiatric clinic. I am enjoying much more free time now that I am out of school, which I have filled by taking dance classes, rollerblading at the beach, and volunteering at church with the youth ministry and on the worship and drama teams. Rock Harbor has provided me an outlet for my theatre passion – our drama team put on a Gong Show in the fall (note attached picture – someone needs to gong my outfit). For Halloween we put on a spoof of Scooby-Doo (I played Daphne – red wig and all) and we have a big Christmas play coming up. So fun.

Mark has had a busy semester working at the church and going to school full-time. This also included his counseling practicum, where he did therapy in an outpatient setting primarily with adolescent boys. He really enjoyed this experience, and feels excited about using his counseling skills in the future. He will graduate with his Master’s this May. Since I got to go to Greece after graduating, he is scheming a cross-country motorcycle trip. Hmmm . . . we’ll see.

This Thanksgiving we took a trip to New York with our good friends and fellow thespians Jenn and Chad Halliburton. Our objective was to see as many Broadway shows as we could – and we did. We waited in line for several hours for Lion King tickets – which is sold out until 2001 – and got orchestra seats. I think we would all agree it was well worth the wait. We also did some sight-seeing in Central Park, Greenwhich and Soho. For the Christmas season, we will be spending a few days in Big Bear with the Howertons (Mark will be snowboarding, Kristen will be falling), and then we are heading to Florida to hang with the Lowens.

Our families are doing well – The Howertons also bought a new house this year. Micheal and Jodie are expecting a little girl – we can’t wait to meet our first niece! Sarah graduates this year from PCC. The Lowens are still in Florida despite our attempts to lure them to California. Brooke is moving back this year, as she finds the cost of living out here to be too much for a student. I am pretty bummed. Kim finished school and the police academy this past year and is now a police officer! Our nephews Austin and Derek are as cute as ever.

In all, it has been an exciting year for us. Our life is slowing down to an enjoyable pace, and we are looking forward to Mark’s graduation so that we can experience married life as NON-students. We wish you all the best during your holiday season.
With Love, Mark and Kristen Howerton