Varvel Christmas Letter 2014

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“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

~Job 1:21

As usual before I sit down to write out the yearly Christmas letter, I read the previous year’s letter. The 2013 year was a very exciting year with the completion and premiere of The War Within. This year would only be better with the release of the DVD.  We were ecstatic with the news of a baby boy to arrive in May. At the beginning of 2014, I never would have imagined what this year would bring forth. It still had unknowns, but it looked like it would be another accomplished year.  However, God had a completely different plan than what we had in mind. He had to take away some things to teach us the cost of following Him. He gives AND he takes away.

We started the 2014 year without a consistent income. Due to insufficient funds, House of Grace Films could no longer support Brett financially. However, Brett’s freelance wedding business, Timeless Pictures, was still thriving by God’s grace. Throughout the year, Brett filmed and edited several weddings and corporate videos to meet our financial needs.  The first half of the year I continued to work for Peru Community Schools as their Wellness Advisor/Nutritionist.  However, they lost their wellness grant for the 2014-15 school year and had to let me go.   The last few months of the year we started to become desperate and pulled money from our 6-month emergency fund that we had saved away when Brett and I were both working full-time before Kherington was born.  The Lord provided this money for us 3 years ago for such a time as this!  Even though the Lord took away Brett’s steady paycheck and my supplemental income, He provided the exact amount of money we needed to live by the end of the year.

The Lord revealed our pride in our comfortable living and dependance on money to sustain us. I hated using the emergency fund because it was our “security blanket.” We were prideful that we had that money saved away, and now that it is almost gone we have learned that money does not provide any security. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; He alone is Jehovah-Jireh! “The Lord will provide!”

Even though Brett was not receiving a paycheck from House of Grace Films, it did not mean he could drop all responsibilities. He juggled working to provide through freelance and to continue the work of The War Within.  Brett and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Christian Worldview Film Festival in San Antonio.  This was The War Within’s first national appearance, and by the grace of God, we came home with 4 awards: Best Feature Film, Best Trailer, Best Gospel Presentation, and the Audience Choice Award.

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Then the day finally came on August 19th: The War Within was released on DVD!  After 5 years, we had a copy in our hands. So many lessons were learned through this process. You can read more on my perspective of a filmmaker’s wife here and here.  We continue to pray that more people will purchase The War Within so that the gospel of Jesus Christ will be spread in a society of unchurched homes.

Shortly after our visit to San Antonio for the film festival, we received the news that Damon had duodenal atresia. When you have a perfectly healthy pregnancy, delivery, and newborn for your first pregnancy, you desire nothing else for all subsequent pregnancies. However, here the Lord took away our sense of control. If you have not already, you can read the rest of Damon’s story here.  May 9th is when the Lord gave us our sweet Damon Emanuel. Even though he had a rough start to life, he is a very happy and healthy baby as if he never had surgery. He is eating solid foods, and of course he decided to learn to crawl while the Christmas tree is up! He has been our reminder this year of Emanuel: “God is with us.”

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Kherington turned 3 in October, and has loved being a big sister. Even before we brought Damon home, she was always excited to go to the “hostible,” even though she only saw him once his entire 3 week stay. She plays with him and is constantly making him laugh. Sometimes she loves him a little too much though!  To add to the stressful year, Kherington definitely pulled out all the “terrible-two” toddler tricks!  The Lord has been humbling us as parents; we cannot raise our children as God commanded apart from His grace on a daily basis.  She is a smart and strong-willed little girl, but we are praying that God will someday use her strong-willed personality to stand up for Truth in this immoral world.

Stress can definitely take a toll on marriages. Brett and I had our moments of disagreement, but again, by God’s grace, we have grown stronger in our marriage because of the trials we faced this year. Brett and I celebrated our 6th year anniversary in July.

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Now, we look forward to the 2015 year.  I have stopped planning my life, because it usually doesn’t turn out as planned!  But we have hope, because God’s plans are always better than anything we could imagine for our lives.  We are praising the Lord for the recent news that Brett will be back on salary for House of Grace Films on January 1st for at least 6 months.  After much praying and raging his own war within the past few months, Brett knows without a doubt that his calling in life is to use the most powerful medium of this age, movies, to share the most powerful message, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recently the Lord reminded Brett of this passage found in Luke 9: As they were going along the road, someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’… Yet another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’ ” 

The Lord had to strip away our pride, sense of control, comfort, and security in the things of the world. We were willing to follow Him, BUT as long as we were comfortable and had a place to lay our heads. However, we cannot truly follow Jesus Christ unless we put everything down, don’t look back, and accept His call for us no matter the cost. And the call is to become missionaries. No, we are not physically going to Africa or China, but staying in America to visually tell the Truth of Christ through films, and praying that these films spread throughout the world.  Pray for us as we endeavor to ask individuals and churches to financially support us to accomplish this mission.

We have faith that the Lord will give and take away as He sees fit in the 2015 year.  We have seen God’s sovereignty on our family this 2014 year and how everything that has happened is setting the stage for a bigger plan.  Whatever happens this year, we will say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Brett, Christina, Kherington, and Damon

Emanuel ~ “God with Us”

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{Since Brett and I have been married, it has been tradition to send a Christmas picture card with a letter updating our family and friends on the blessing and trials that occurred that year. However, this year we decided to use our blog to inform our loved ones due to the fact that we will be sending out birth announcements in May!}

Immanuel : Emmanuel : Emanuel ~ “God with us”

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” ~ Isaiah 7:14

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” ~ Matthew 1:23

Another year has come and gone. We have become a year older; Kherington has grown physically, mentally, emotionally; we’ve said goodbye to our beautiful dog, Faith; an addition to the Varvel family is on its way; we’ve finished a feature film; ran a half-marathon; faced financial uncertainty; laughed; loved; fought; cried; prayed.  And through it all, one thing has and always will remain: “God with us!”

While the production of The War Within occurred throughout 2012, post-production has been the focus of 2013. Brett has spent thousands of hours editing, applying visual effects (which include rotoscoping, 3D animation, visual effects composition, 3D title work, and special effects), and working with the talented artists at Aire Born Studios for the music, sound effects, and dialogue of The War Within. Brett and his brother, Drew, did what hundreds of people do to complete a film.  On June 8th, we premiered the film to all cast, crew, and donors at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Tobias Theater.

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Then on June 26th, we presented the movie to the rest of our church body, encouraging them to invite family and friends. About 800 people attended. After premiering the film twice, The War Within has proven to have a deep impact on those who have seen it. God is at work with this film! We know of at least 5 people who have accepted Christ as their personal Savior, and so many Christians whose lives have been changed by viewing this film. Praise God!

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Since then, Brett has been fine-tuning the film to its final release state.  He has had the privilege of working with elite musicians to record the film’s score. He also had the exciting opportunity to work with Visual Effects Artists in North Carolina and GREECE! We are close to signing with domestic and foreign distribution companies to release the film on DVD. We are praying that churches across the country will have exhibitions of the film to help spread the message in the movie “God is all you need.” Please pray with us that the Lord will lead us to the right production company to distribute the film with the same mission as House of Grace Films: to further spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, nationally and internationally. Watch the trailer here.

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After the June 8th premiere, Brett and I escaped to a romantic cabin in the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee for a few days. (The location was a complete surprise to me until we pulled up to the cabin!) It had been a rough few months leading up to the premiere as Brett had been locked in his office working long hours while I played the role of “single mom” at home. Needless to say, we immensely enjoyed the peace away from the stress and demands at home.

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In July, we loaded up the van and headed to Outer Banks, SC for the Osenni Family Reunion. Grandma and Grandpa Osenni celebrated their 80th birthdays and 60th wedding anniversary. All 23 adults and 7 children stayed in a massive beach house. It has been several years since the entire family was together! What a blessing to celebrate my grandparents’ lives and marriage because of their unconditional love to another. Not only does our family share an earthly heritage but also a spiritual one because of my grandparents’ faith and perseverance in Jesus Christ.

MasterFamilyCompI have continued to enjoy the title of SAHM (stay-at-home-mom), while working very part time as the Nutritionist/Wellness Advisor for Peru Community Schools in Peru, Indiana. I had the privilege this semester to teach over 700 3rd-6th grade students the importance of eating healthy.  I have learned that I cannot be Super Woman and juggle all my responsibilities, so after 5 years of working at Health and Nutrition Technology I decided to step down from my Health Educator position, although sub as needed.  A goal I have always had is to run a half-marathon. The timing of my life seemed right, so after many miles and hours of training (and developing an Osgood-Schlatter on my knee), I finished the Geist Half-Marathon in May.  It truly was a great feeling, even hobbling across the finish line in pain and rain!

geistKherington has grown significantly this past year, not only physically but mentally. By the time she turned 2 years old in October, she is able to recite and recognize on paper her ABC’s and sound each letter out.  We might have a reader on our hands like her Mommy. Her vocabulary has exploded and some of her favorite phrases are: “O my goodness.”; “What IS that?; “Oh, come on!”; “Mommy, let’s go!”; “Awesome!”  She makes funny faces like her Daddy, and her laugh brings so much joy to our home. We love her more and more each day. We are cherishing every moment with her before our lives soon change…

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In May, Lord willing, we will be bringing our second child into the world. We found out the week before Christmas that we are having a boy.  Deep down we had hoped for a boy, but either gender would have been a blessing. All I ask is that he better look like his Mommy!!! 🙂

GenderReveal5x7And his name shall be called, Damon Emanuel Varvel. Emanuel: God with us. Emanuel is my Dad’s and Grandpa Osenni’s middle name. Emanuel with one “m” is the Italian spelling. Either way, Emanuel: God with us.

As I close this Christmas Letter (Blog), may I ask, is God with you?  Our prayer is that if you have not chosen to accept Emanuel, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior, that this 2014 year will be when God is with you now and for all eternity.

All our love,

Brett, Christina, Kherington Mae, and Damon Emanuel (in the womb)

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To read what the Lord has done with my friend, Megan, and her beautiful family this past year, check out her blog, Meg’s Five.