June 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope you’ve had a great year!  This year seemed to fly past rather uneventfully for us, yet looking back we see how busy we’ve been.  We may be a little later sharing our memories than we usually are, but wanted to continue our tradition of sending out our newsletter mid-summer.

Our third year of marriage began with a wedding celebration.  Our maid-of-honor, Lori Baldridge, found the love of her life, Kyle Wood, and both Mark and Alison were blessed to be a part of their wedding ceremony in June.  We pray Kyle and Lori have a long and happy marriage, and may God bless your new life together.

Throughout July came another summer’s session of Vacation Bible School, where Alison again helped with the preschool department.  On Sunday mornings, we were temporarily moved back to the two-year-old Sunday School class for the summer, and as always enjoyed our time with some of God’s littler lambs.

August inevitably brought Alison’s birthday, and of course the annual trip to the circus.  Pictured is Alison in dazzling ringmaster wear with niece Taylor sporting her clown nose.  The following day, we suffered through...I mean, enjoyed...an outing to Six Flags over Texas.

Mark remembered that Alison had mentioned her desire to again own an unusual pet (her hedgehog, Velcro, died shortly before we were married), and so for Alison’s birthday, Mark gave her a sugar glider.  Origami (One Rather Impish Glider AM I) has been a fun addition to the house as we’ve learned about these adorable little creatures with big eyes.

Origami admires himself 
in the bathroom mirror.
Enjoying a snack in his "pouch."
Alison likes to play with her new pet.

We again participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.  We were always hesitant to step into the position of chair, and someone else was prepared to take over, so we remained faithful members of the planning committee for the fall event.  Now, our R4L event has been moved to the spring, making it difficult to stay involved due to other commitments during that time of year.  Alison moved into a team captain position with good friend Janette, and together they did a great job with creative fundraising.

Alison’s brother, Justin, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in December.  Unfortunately, the graduation ceremony was cancelled due to recent storms, but we were present for his Army commissioning ceremony.  Since then, he has gone through various trainings and is soon to be stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.  Congratulations goes to Justin and girlfriend Sabrina for their recent engagement.

We love our church family and are happy to remain involved in the different areas of the church.  This year, Mark and Alison worked in the four-year-old Sunday School class, making it the third year we’ve had a few of our kids.  Mark still plays the piano with the worship team each Sunday, and Alison loves her job as nursery worker.  Our small group became a large group, so we were regrouped into three, and we very much enjoy our time with those friends.  In the pictures, Mark hammers part of a wall and Alison helps lift a wall of the Habitat for Humanity home Fellowship Bible Church workers helped frame in the spring.

In February, we had a wonderful visit from Mark’s sister and family.  Russ and Dina Kowal are missionaries to southeast Asia with New Tribes Mission.  They were in the States for furlough, and found time to come through Texas.  We had fun at the Discovery Science Museum in Tyler, taking the kids to the park, and just hanging out at home.  They shared a little about their ministry with our small group and served us all a customary meal.  We really enjoyed the time we could spend with niece and nephews we obviously don’t see often enough.

Mark with his niece and nephews (and the dog)
at Alison's parents' property in Midlothian.

Mark’s interest and skill in computer work has kept him steadily employed as senior programmer/analyst over web development in the Information-Technology department at LeTourneau University.  They are currently in the process of implementing a new enterprise database which will track student records, financial aid, etc.  Mark is one of the project managers  for that process, focusing on the web interfaces that will allow students to interact with the new system, as well as  building interfaces between that software and several other critical systems around campus.  The new system is scheduled to “go live” in November.

As part of the implementation process, the University sent Mark to the Campus Insight conference in Florida.  Alison enjoyed the week off work to join Mark in Orlando, and we found time to do a little Disney while there.  Our choices for the limited time we had were Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  Favorite attraction?  Mickey's 3-D PhilharMagic Show.  We also visited upside-down building WonderWorks, and took advantage of the trolley system.


Back at work, Alison faced her principal with the decision to resign from her position.   Having taught Kindergarten for nine years, we were both ready for Alison to focus her attention elsewhere.  We have experienced God’s peace with this decision as well as His leading in opening doors.  With the ability to be more involved with the children’s department at church, Alison has accepted a position with the new MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group as coordinator of the preschool program.   The summer has already been busy researching, planning, and organizing curriculum. 

At the beginning of June, we took a vacation with Alison’s mom, sister, and niece to northern California.  There we stayed with Alison’s wonderful Aunt Carol and Uncle Roger in Santa Cruz, taking a day to visit Alison’s “baby girl” Madison (now 13!) and mom Teri in Ripon.  We enjoyed the Santa Cruz boardwalk, shopping, a little time at the beach, and listening to Uncle Roger and Taylor argue over the Wii.

In the backyard at the Hardin's:  
Alison, Teri, Madison, Taylor, Mark

Mark and Alison at the
Santa Cruz beach

Mark sneaks a kiss 
inside a giant redwood.

We’ve  now celebrated our third anniversary, and are entering into our fourth year together feeling like it’s been longer than that.  We had a good year and are happy to share  our lives with you, family and friends.  May God fill the upcoming year with wonderful blessings and happy times.

Mark and Alison