Jalosky Family Christmas Letter – 2023

Jalosky Family Christmas Letter 2023

Our Family Photos by Kara Abbey Photography (scroll to see more!)

Jalosky Family Christmas Letter – 2023

“It’s remarkable
To think that a baby boy born in a stable
No prestige, no privilege
No social media or social status
Political campaigns or private airplanes
And yet, he turned B.C. into A.D.

He flipped the world on its head
He’s the most famous name around the globe
Inspired the most read book ever written
He reconnected us to Heaven and, in turn, brought Heaven down to Earth

And now he offers us redemption
A fresh start, freedom
So that we can hold our heads high
And march through this life knowing that we are never alone

That every woman and man, boy and girl
To all of us who feel like we have nothing left, nothing to bring
That we can know that God is smiling at us
That he’s loving us, that we are enough

So light up that Christmas tree
Stand under the mistletoe
Surround yourself with the ones that you love the most
And together, let’s celebrate
The greatest news this world has ever known”

A Christmas Monologue by For King & Country

Merry Christmas to you and yours! We have been tremendously blessed and surprised this year by our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. As we’ve looked back on where this year started and where it is ending, we are in awe. I hope as you read about our year, you can see God’s goodness and grace as he has led us every step of the way.

I could write an entire book on all that has happened to us in 2023. It has been incredible to see God be with us, leading us every step of the way. I’ll try to keep it short, but the long version just kind of overflows and I can’t help but share all of the Lord’s goodness to our family. I will forever testify to the goodness of God, particularly this year!

In January, Jonathan and I celebrated 6 years of marriage and took a trip up to Niagara Falls for a few days. As expected, there was no snow, but it was not quite as warm as our wedding day (65 and sunny). We hiked around New York and Canada in the chilly temps and made so many wonderful memories. The food was delicious too!

We came back home and dropped right into remodeling our one and only bathroom. It’s needed redone since we moved in. And with our plans to remodel Jonathan’s mom’s house for us to live in, and eventually sell our home, there was never going to be a good time to do it. So we jumped right in. My dad worked so hard every day while we were away to get our new tub installed and for several more weeks when we returned from our trip to complete the remodel. It turned out beautifully and we were so happy to have an updated, functioning bathroom again!

The end of January, for me, was one of the scariest times of my life though. I had finally decided after several years of prompting from my doctor, to see a dermatologist about a mole which I’ve had as long as I can remember. The biopsy results were pretty alarming and they scheduled me for a full excision which they said would be a very simple procedure, maybe 5 stiches and no big deal.

The doctor came into the room the day of the procedure and told me this was going actually going to be very major and I was very lucky to have come when I did because he could be sending me to the cancer center had I waited any longer. I ended up with a 3 inch incision and 36 stitches. He told me I wouldn’t be able to stand up without being in extreme pain and that I couldn’t lift a thing for 6 weeks.

I ended up spending a few days at my mom’s house with my girls so she could help me with them. Praise God, the day after the procedure, I was able to stand up and walk around with no pain at all! Though, my complete healing took over 6 months.

In June and July, I had two more very minor surgical procedures, and I’ve been told there are more in my future. But for now, all is well. 

Everything about my situation is very unknown and makes no sense, but that’s just the story of my life. I’m 100% used to being told, “We don’t know why this is happening to you,” as I’ve been told many times since I was just a child. The Lord has always helped me through, and He’ll continue to be by my side no matter what comes my way.

I had to make some huge decisions regarding my overall health early in the year, separate from what I just told you about. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and finally had an answer as to why I miscarried my last two babies. But I did not have peace AT ALL with starting the medications my doctor had prescribed. 2022 was the most stressful year for all of us, with Jonathan’s mom being in the hospital for months, then coming home on hospice and eventually passing into eternity in October. If you have ever wondered if stress can actually kill you, the answer is yes. And I was on that downhill spiral, going faster and faster. I had hoped that this year would be far less stressful and then it started out the way it did. Ha. But God stepped in and used my sister Amy to lead me to a natural heath company called Earthley. They had some natural remedies for hypothyroidism and many of the other issues I was having. I decided to give it a try. There was nothing to lose anymore. It either worked or it didn’t.

After two weeks of using Earthley natural medicine, my hair stopped falling out. It was the only symptom I had of hypothyroidism, so I hoped and prayed it was actually working. I was supposed to go back to get my bloodwork redone in March, and lo and behold, I had to cancel that appointment because Jonathan and I both came down with a horrible stomach virus which left us unable to get out of bed for 72 hours.

I’ll be honest, everything else feels like a whirlwind. Thinking about what came next…it has brought me to my knees many times in hope and in fear.

In the spring, we got the surprise of our lives. Another baby! A precious miracle. And I was (rightfully) scared to death of losing this one. Everything was so unknown. My doctors were so gracious and helpful with getting all of my testing done as quickly as possible to address any issues immediately. To my surprise, and the surprise of all my doctors, my hypothyroidism was GONE! My numbers were completely normal.

Most importantly, my baby was healthy and growing right on track. Talk about a miracle! We found out this summer that we’re expecting a third precious girl, who our girls have named “baby strawberry.” They pray for her each and every day. And as I’m writing this, we’re just a few weeks away from her arrival! We cannot wait to meet her!

Okay, now let’s rewind just a little bit.

As I mentioned earlier, we had made plans to completely remodel my mother in law’s house, which would be done by summer of 2024. We had a new roof put on, and Jonathan gutted a huge portion of the house himself. We reached out to many contractors to do the remodeling and only one said they were even available. So we proceeded with getting a quote in July. They came out several times since it was going to be a huge job, and they seemed very willing to work within our budget. We were told it would be 3 weeks to get us our official quote. And that 3 weeks turned into 3 months.

In October, we were packing up for a week of vacation with Jonathan’s family in New York, when we finally got the email with the quote for the work. It was so far over our budget that we knew immediately that we could NOT follow through with this plan. So on our 6 hour drive up to New York, we had a lot to talk about. Including the sadness that was in the fact that we had really felt like this was what God wanted us to do, plus it was the home Jonathan grew up in. There is no way we could ever do the work on our own. And so, we prayed for God to give us a new direction.

It broke my heart at the thought of bringing our baby girl home to a house where we didn’t even have room to put a crib at anymore. We had quickly outgrown our home and were looking forward to having a little more space. But now it felt like our hopes and dreams were being shattered on the ground.

But not for long! We arrived in New York around midnight, and once we got the kids in bed, Jonathan immediately began searching for homes for sale near us, that would cost less than the quoted price of the remodeling.

If you have paid any attention to the housing market this year, there is not much to choose from! And everything is way overpriced.

But that night, one house showed up. One big and beautiful home that was LESS than the cost of the remodel. It had everything we wanted: big closets, a finished basement, a two car garage, plenty of space for my own office, and much more.

There was just one thing. It had been on the market already for 6 months, and had gone through an $80k price drop. Why had no one bought this home?

We called a realtor the next day to set up a viewing at the end of the week. Then we tried to push it to the back of our minds and had the most wonderful vacation time together, celebrating Jonathan’s birthday with his family, taking a train ride, and hiking through Watkins Glen to see so many waterfalls. It was incredible! We loved every moment. 

Even though we ended our vacation two days early, we felt like we had accomplished so much and made so many memories. But we headed back on Thursday for the house viewing Friday morning.

We were truly overwhelmed and stunned with how beautiful the home was! And how HUGE the rooms and closets were. Again though, why had this house not sold? Over the next two weeks, we found out what that answer was. Nothing was wrong with the house at all. But the process of putting in an offer, and getting a response was excruciating! Our realtor had never seen anything like it before. It was an insane process in which we never received any responses by our requested dates. In fact, after we never heard anything back by the expiration of our offer, we decided to keep looking at other houses.

The day after the expiration of our offer, we got a phone call that they had given us a counter offer. We had decided to not go any higher due to some of the unknowns, but it felt right to proceed with an inspection and see if anything was actually wrong – then decide if in the end it was actually worth it.

My goodness, by this point though, I was all in. Let’s do this. Whatever it takes. The house is perfect for our growing family. It’s all we’ve ever dreamed of and more. Jonathan had to talk me back so many times, knowing that it might not happen in the end.

The process continued to be a complicated one, but I’m happy to say, two days before thanksgiving, we bought this beautiful home! We began moving in Thanksgiving weekend and we’ve lived here ever since!

We see at least 5 deer right outside our door every day. Our neighbors closest to us are wonderful folks, about the age of our grandparents. The neighborhood is quiet and we no longer live on a main road. Man, that is nice! Our girls love it here too. Alethea told me the other day, “Our old house was so boring.” I asked her what that meant and she said, “We have so much space here to play!” And it’s true. They’ve taken over the whole basement and their giant bedroom and basically play all day long. It’s amazing.

So, we’re having a baby girl soon, and we bought a new house! Those were our two big things this year. Now onto other things.

Jonathan has been working his tail off every day for the last year and a half. He gets up for work at 4:30 and some days he doesn’t come home until after 5pm. For most of the summer, he would go straight to his mom’s house and do as much emptying out or gutting as he could until he was ready to drop. With our move, he is significantly closer to work. So, he is able to make it home in 10 minutes or less; a drive which used to take him nearly half an hour. That has freed up so much time for him and reduced the stress of rush hour traffic.

He is the most amazing father to our girls! There was definitely a small bit of disappointment though, when we found out baby number 3 was another girl. When we first got married, he told me we would have all girls. So, he just says, “I wish I was wrong for once! Haha.” He picked this little girl’s name though, and he’s totally in love with her already.

Alethea turned 5 in the spring and we started first grade in the summer. She flew through kindergarden last year, so I knew she was ready. She has been learning to read and is doing so well!

She has taken on many helpful roles this year! Every morning, when she and Layla wake up, she makes them both breakfast and helps them both get dressed. She also takes care of our dog, d’Artagnan and is a huge help around the house! She is the best big sister to Layla. They play together ALL DAY LONG. Most people ask me if they’re always this good together, and I’d say 90% of the time, yes. They really are best friends!

Layla turned 3 in the spring, and she and Alethea decided they wanted to have a combined birthday party with a Paw Patrol theme. I made them each a cake with their favorite character and we had a lovely party for them at my parent’s house.

Layla is always very curious. She says the funniest things sometimes. Lately, she’ll start a sentence with “Let me say this this way…” a phrase that Jonathan uses all the time. It makes us laugh so much!

She has been doing some preschool work and learning science, social studies, and phonics right alongside Alethea. She absolutely loves school and I am so blessed to have two fantastic students.

We spent many weekends at Deep Creek this summer. Both of the girls love swimming, but even more than that, they love playing in the sandbox we have there. Now, if you know me, I can’t stand sand. So you’ll never see a sandbox in my yard! But when we are there, they pretty much live in the sandbox.

Speaking of the lake, Jonathan got his boating license this summer! So he was able to take us on many pleasant boat rides! The girls are already asking for him to take us out to eat, by boat, the next time we’re at the lake. Haha! We’ll have to see how cooperative baby strawberry is on the boat before we decide to do that.

Since we’ll officially be the biggest family (on my dad’s side) at the lake house next year, my mom and dad decided to give us their bedroom and do some reorganizing with the other rooms. As it is, we’ve outgrown the house by a lot and have had to make plans with everyone as to when we’ll be there and when we won’t so that other members of our family can stay too.

I’ve already shared a lot about how my year went. As far as business goes, I did really well this year since announcing in fall of 2022 that I am no longer taking on weddings. I photographed a few dozen families this year who were all just completely wonderful! I hired an editor in the spring, something which I’ve been hesitant to do for so long. But I’m so glad I did! My exhaustion with this pregnancy really took over me. I’m thrilled that I was able to do a fraction of the amount of work that I usually do, and pass the bulk of it on to someone else who was able to stay up late – instead of me! I was able to get to bed each night at a good hour and get all of the rest I needed. 

A HUGE bonus to me hiring out that large chunk of editing was that my clients received their photos SO much faster! What would typically take me 3 weeks during normal season, ended up taking less than 10 days. And in my busy season, I cut my turnaround time in HALF! It was seriously the best business decision I’ve made in a long time!

I’m taking a nice long break now (since November) for this baby to be born and for us to get settled in our new home. I’ll open my schedule back up in April sometime for spring photo sessions!

I did not send out Christmas cards this year due to us being in the middle of moving! We had these photos taken just this past weekend at our new home. It was a beautiful sunny day and Kara captured some wonderful memories for us before we become a family of 5! I am planning to send out some cards when our little girl arrives instead.

EVERYONE has been putting in their bets as to what color hair this baby will have. We have a blondie and a red head. Our girls think she’ll be a brunette like me! (Jonathan was blonde just like Alethea, in case you were wondering. LOL) And yes, Layla gets her hair from the Lord. That’s the only explanation and what I tell everyone who asks.

It truly has been a wonderful year! So many surprises and miracles. We have so much to be thankful for every day. God has been so good to lead and guide us every step of the way; always reassuring us that we’re on the right path. There’s so much more to these stories I’ve shared. Like I said, I could write a book about God’s faithfulness to us. As it is, these 6 pages of words just barely scratch the surface of the paths we’ve walked on.

I hope and pray that reading this brought you some joy and that you can see the hand of God in it all. If you don’t know Jesus, what better time to get to know Him than this Christmas season! He is my savior. He has changed my life! And I am so grateful for every opportunity to sing His praise!

May you have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed new year!

From Ellen, Jonathan, Alethea, Layla & Baby Strawberry

If you’d like to keep up with our family on a monthly basis, you can sign up for my email newsletter here: https://ellenjalosky.com/newsletter

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Ellen Jalosky

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Irwin, PA