Myra Christmas Letter 2020

Please note our new address:

1036 Cory Lane, St. Cloud, MN 56303

Happy New Year to you all!  What a great year to reflect upon…so here it goes.  With this letter being so long perhaps just my retired friends and relatives are going to get through it all.  If you just read the highlights, I understand.  🙂

Typically we write about the reason for the season at the end, but I’d better start with what is most important at the beginning here.  Jesus Christ- the source of Truth, Hope, Forgiveness, Peace, and Light in the Darkness.  I need help and accountability for digging into God’s word so I’m excited that I found a great podcast that is helping me called Three And One.  Read three chapters of the Old Testament and one chapter of the New and then listen to teaching and commentary by Pastor Dom.  I’ve been listening to the Bible passages on the Bible app as I drive and then the commentary as well.  If you are interested in joining me on this journey, feel free to visit

The Shut-Down

In the spring as we were enduring the shut-down, our pastor shared in a sermon that it is the trials we face today that will help prepare us for the trials that are yet to come.  That is how I look at 2019 and 2020 for me personally.  2019 was really hard but those trials of having my faith stretched, trusting God for our daily bread, etc. helped prepare me for 2020.

We are so thankful for how the Lord has provided for us and the changes He directed in our photography business.  In 2019 we saw a huge drop in wedding bookings.  We went from 20+ weddings in 2018 to only nine in 2019.  Now when we look back, we praise the Lord that we weren’t dealing with a mess on our hands of trying to get weddings rescheduled or dealing with brides that wanted their money back because of covid affecting their weddings.  We only had one spring wedding that got rescheduled to the fall in 2020…otherwise we again did nine weddings in 2020.  We enjoyed them all! 

Todd’s business did have to shut down for three months in the spring.  After 2019 being hard, and then the stay-at-home order, we didn’t know what to expect for Todd Myra Photography.  But once July hit, business totally picked up and we had a great rest of the season- families, seniors, corporate, and a number of last- minute weddings too came his way.  We are so thankful!  Todd even did his first video project for a great company called MistMAXX 360.  Here’s the link that shows the results:

(If you are looking for a product to help fight the spread of covid in home, office, school, or church, you should really check it out and watch the testimonial videos.)

We are also so thankful that our sources of income became more diversified.  In the summer of 2019, I started working for Pine Cone Connection and Cooper Connection, two local neighborhood magazines.  I love the work I do as content coordinator/editor and event coordinator.  I was so blessed that Covid did not have an effect on my jobs.  I also taught piano the whole spring and was thankful to have the joy of seeing my students each week via Facetime and Zoom. 

This past year, I’m guessing we all discovered more about who is an introvert and who is an extrovert.  Last spring all the introverts, homebodies, golfers and those who like to fish were all happy campers!  That was not me—I love and crave community!  I get my joy and energy from seeing friends, interacting with people and meeting my gym buddy at the Y three times a week.  So I was going crazy this spring-  it was really, really hard.   Some of my encouraging, energizing highlights in the spring during the stay-at-home order were going out with Todd and taking “porch” photos for a number of our friends.  It meant so much to me to stop by and say hi to friends and take their family photo outside their house for them.  Then the other highlight was creatively figuring out how to have our Easter Bunny event for the neighborhood magazines I work for.  We created an Easter Egg “hunt” by asking residents in the neighborhoods to put Easter eggs in their windows.  Then families went out for a walk and counted how many they could find.  Those that texted me a photo of themselves on the hunt and a number of how many they found got a visit from the Easter Bunny the next day.  The Easter Bunny dropped off a treat bag as the kids waved from the window.  We stopped at over 40 homes.  Our youngest Corinna fit best into the costume and she did an awesome job being the Easter bunny for most of the home visits.  We had a blast seeing the joy on the kids’ faces when the Easter bunny came to their houses!  (And we doubled over in laughter as the bunny’s ear fell off as she got out of the minivan one time and we had to hustle her back into the car to fix it before the children saw her.)

The Kitties

Our other joy and connection with people last spring was sharing our adventure of fostering baby kitties!  I am not a pet person, but others in my family are.  I heard of fostering and in early 2020 signed up to get on the email list since I thought maybe I could handle a small commitment like this someday.  I don’t think I was really planning to do it… but on March 2, Todd read the email saying that the shelter needed a foster home for a pregnant mamma cat.  Todd and Corinna called me while I was out with Kaitlyn begging me to say ‘yes’ to the foster cat.  I gave in and two hours later Todd and Corinna had Poppy in our home.  We enjoyed the adventure of having Poppy, the mama and then watching her give birth to 5 kittens.  I had no idea what I was doing and hadn’t read the manual yet and Todd was out ice fishing when she went into labor!  I was freaking out a bit when she wasn’t staying in the bucket to give birth and was trying to figure out how to pick up a cat (I never pick up cats) that was in labor/pain to try to get her into the bathroom where we wanted her to give birth. Somehow I did.  I called my friend, who rushed right over to calm me down and be the cat midwife! Fun memories!  It was an amazing experience and we loved having those five kitties- Sugar, Monkey, Coconut, Fluffy and Oreo.  I would have loved to have friends over to see them and play with them.  Instead we had to go with another method so I had my debut on Facebook Live and shared them with our friends that way.  So many of you joined in watching and commenting- thank you!  It was so fun to hear from you! What a joy it was to watch them grow.  And it was a huge blessing that the girls ended up being home from school to be a part of the whole process.  I don’t think I could have handled it had they not been home.  The last two weeks it was quite a big job wrangling 5 growing, climbing, curious kittens.  We were thrilled to find great homes for them all via Facebook Live.  All the kitties are doing well! 

Spiritual Life

Like many people, we worshiped from home online last spring and were so blessed that our church chose a method where I felt like we were still experiencing community.  The pastor did live-streaming from his house and gave the sermon from his desk.  Since this was on Youtube, everyone had a chance to type in the comments section.  As we gathered, people would type in their greetings to one another.  Then after the sermon, the pastor would ask if anyone had any prayer requests or praise reports.  Then people would start typing and he would read through all the prayer requests and let everyone know that the church was praying for them.  We are so thankful for the church and the presentation of truth and God’s word—the source of LIFE and true encouragement!

As many of us have missed worshiping with our church body, I was so blessed by the song The Blessing.  I loved the videos that areas of the country and the world made and posted on YouTube.  It was an amazing reminder that even though we are apart in our own homes, we are together united in Christ.  I’m so thankful to the people that made these beautiful videos.  Here is one from California Bay Area Churches. It still gives me goosebumps when I watch is so beautiful.

What did we do for fun?

We went on more walks and hikes as a family.  We were excited to find and explore more areas for walking in the woods in our city that we did not know about.

A few of the walks we did were actually treasure hunts!  Our pastor’s wife and local artist hid a piece of her pottery about once a week this spring for people to head out into nature and use her clues that came in one by one on Instagram to try to find one of her beautiful pieces.  They were a challenge but we were super excited to find the treasure two different times.  Then Todd hired her to make a custom mug for him which he was really excited about. 

Last January I called a few resorts in Brainerd to ask if they might be willing to do a photo trade in exchange for a get-away for Todd and me.  Craguns was the first to take us up on the idea.  They wanted photos done in May but kindly let us come up in February which is when Todd and I wanted to do our get-away.  Then when May came, we expected to have Todd run up there and take photos…instead they invited our whole family to come up and stay for two nights while Todd took photos.  Part of the trade included use of their boats at the marina.  Summer came early and we had a great time out on the water!  While Todd was doing his afternoon of photos, the girls begged me to take them tubing.  We are not boat owners so my first time driving a boat was that morning on the pontoon when we went out fishing as a family.

I gave in to their request and enjoyed the blessing of a completely empty lake to take our girls tubing on given that it was and weekday in May and people were still mainly staying at home at that point.  We had a blast!  So much fun that my parents decided it would be great to take a trip together to Craguns later in the summer after finding some great coupon deals.  In addition to those visits to Gull Lake we also went to Quarterdeck Resort on a photo trade.  They are a smaller resort with a handful of very nice houses.  Again, since not that many people were going to resorts even mid-summer, we got to stay in one of those houses and enjoyed a few days there.  So thankful for this blessing for our family and getting to spend relaxing time together by a lake.

At the end of the letter are some pictures from Craguns, many of which were also featured in the Nisswa Minnesota 2021 resort magazine.


We are so blessed to have our kids at St. Cloud Christian School where they have been “All In” since the fall.  Everything functions better when they are in school so I am very, very thankful.  It has gone very well this whole time.  I have been volunteering at school a few times a week helping with the chapel worship team.  We actually started practicing this summer since we had lost a lot of the older leaders due to graduation and moving.  Kaitlyn is one of the team leaders on guitar and Svea sang first semester and is also working on keyboard.  I love working with my girls and the other students seeing them develop their skills more and more as worship leaders.

Speaking of the Kids

Corinna is having a great year in Ms. Oistad's 4th grade class.  In first grade there were only two girls in her class.  We are so thankful that now this year there are seven girls!  Corinna LOVES animals and loved having the kitties.  Her favorite was Fluffy.  She looks forward to getting to know all the dogs that walk by our house in the new neighborhood.  She hopefully will get some pet-sitting opportunities.  Highlights in 2020 for her were going to Craguns and Quarterdeck resorts near Brainerd.  She enjoyed taking out the paddleboard and balancing carefully doing the bridge.  She amazed us with how quickly she learned ukulele during quarantine and she continues to play piano as well.

Svea is happy to now be in 7th grade.  She got to play volleyball in the fall, but it looks like she won't make it into the basketball season because of a stress fracture in her foot.  Svea started teaching piano last summer and looks forward to taking on a few more beginning students this spring.  Her favorite subjects are math and science and she also participates on the worship team.  We love her interest in baking- she is a big help to me in the kitchen.  She was pretty excited about all the Pampered Chef gadgets we got when Todd became a consultant.  Her highlight of 2020 was getting to drive the pontoon on Gull Lake.

Kaitlyn turned 16 on December 26 and got her drivers license on December 30.  She is in 10th grade and her favorite subject is Spanish.  She also enjoys art and was super excited to get an Apple Pencil for her birthday.  Since the pandemic interfered with summer babysitting jobs, Kaitlyn started teaching virtual piano lessons like I was.  She plans to offer lessons again but in person this time once she is done with her basketball season.  We were glad she also got to have a tennis season in the fall where she again played for Apollo High School.  Kaitlyn also enjoys photography and this year joined in to assist us at two weddings! Her favorite kitty was Oreo.

Todd’s Health

And a few words from Todd…who went through some extremely hard months of undiagnosed chronic pain this year.  It took many appointments and a long time to get answers.  Thanks to many of you that have been praying for him!

"I’ve had diabetes for about 6 years and it has always been well controlled… until this past August.  My problems started with a circular area in my upper left back- it felt like a bad sunburn.  It grew into intense pain in that area so bad I was on Vicodin and Advil 24/7 for 2 months.  I was so tired I would take 2-3 naps a day.  My world was almost a constant fog. My chest also had issues- very different from my back.  The skin was so sensitive that water in the shower hurt and I had to hold my seatbelt away from chest because it hurt so much!  (I did take the medication for shingles but that didn’t help so that wasn’t it…).

I had over 20 blood tests and it seemed like I was always going to the doctor.  It took over two months, a lot of pushing from me and Lisa, and many doctors to finally get helpful answers.  As it turns out it was my diabetes that had gotten out of control.  My A1C went from 6.5 to over 10. My blood sugar which should be 70-180 was regularly well above 400!  My doctor had never acted concerned about my numbers and even after seeing my high numbers in August, did not put a plan into action.  All this to say, if you have blood sugar issues, I encourage you to be proactive and make changes even if your doctor doesn’t seem too concerned.

Apparently, I had gotten diabetic neuropathy- the neurologist said I had permanent nerve damage!!  I was told that it might get a little better but never completely go away. I was beyond miserable all day, every day and I was just told that it was never going to go away!

I started seeing a diabetes nurse and nutritionist as well as taking insulin (before this I was just taking a few pills).  Through these changes, I quickly got my numbers under control and then started seeing improvement.  Now four months later I am about 80% better!  My back and chest are still not completely better but at least I’m not on pain meds anymore.  If this is the way things are for the rest of my life that would be terrible but at least I could manage.  I am beyond relieved that things have improved as much as they have.  Now we are praying for a complete recovery."

So yes, the fall was very tough as Todd was feeling that way all while we were making an offer on a new house, packing, moving boxes into storage and running a fairly busy photography schedule (extra visits from my parents helped tremendously).  God provided in miraculous ways for Todd to meet with all his clients and do all their photo shoots.  There were a few weddings where we didn’t know how in the world he was going to make it through the 10-12 hour day.  We had many people praying and each time God provided big time-- lessened Todd’s pain and brought him energy to get through the day and allowed him to do his usual awesome job for the couples we were working for.

Our Real Estate Journey

About mid-August we were finally getting with the program and learning that perhaps we should refinance our house.  Todd talked to someone about it and found out if we were ever going to sell our house that doing that at the time of refinancing would be a really good idea.  I was totally against entertaining the idea of moving- my reasons being practically speaking, we did not have the time or the money for such a thing.  Todd said he really wanted to get a realtor in to appraise our house and just look at numbers because he really wanted to get into a better neighborhood…somewhere that just felt safer for our girls to be out and about.  So he went ahead and on September 3rd, our realtor friend came over and looked at our house.  Then we met with her in her office on September 8th.  All the while I was telling Todd that I didn’t want to waste her time and I didn’t want her to think we were actually interested in moving.  At the end of the meeting I told her that it really wasn’t in my plan to move but if God had other plans then I guess it would happen.  I went home with zero interest in looking at houses.  Then a friend of mine who loves looking at houses started sending me ideas and got the ball rolling.  At this point we still hadn’t told our kids about all this since I didn’t want to get their hopes up.  On September 10th we went with our realtor to look at our first house which got snatched up for way more than asking price the next day.  Then on September 11th we saw two more houses that we weren’t interested in.  Then September 13th we found a house that we really liked and by the 14th we put in an offer.  There we three offers so then we had to make our best offer.  We were thrilled that ours was the offer that was accepted!  We couldn’t believe how quickly we went from an idea of moving to finding a new house!  And I didn’t know how the busyness of real estate meetings was fitting into our already very busy schedule.  We went to that new house a lot to meet with contractors to make plans for remodeling the basement and kitchen (overwhelming projects).  Then we met with the inspector and were discouraged with all the problems he found.  And by this time I was also getting concerned with the smell that was in the main level of the house that was there every time we walked in.  I started feeling the need to have a mold test, we found out that the owner was not willing to make any fixes to what the inspector found, and we began feeling very uneasy about the whole thing.  We went to bed on the 23rd ready to call it off.  Then the morning of the 24th we found out the owner dropped us and called off the whole deal.  We are SO thankful for the Lord’s guidance in this and are thankful He saved us from a home that I think was really falling apart despite some of the pretty and modern features in some of the rooms.  This was the same day that the stager came into our house to put in 7 hours of work staging our house. At this point I was pretty stressed because there was no way that I was going to sell my house without having a house that I was going to move into.  After finding out that owner dropped us, we headed out and saw three more houses with our realtor.  One was in the Westwood area.  Two were no way.  One was a maybe but we really weren’t sure about it.  It was hard to visualize how we would arrange our family in there and where all our stuff would go.  My mom and a friend saw the house too and thought it would work great- they really encouraged us to pursue it.  We talked to some neighbors to ask what they thought of the neighborhood- they were really nice people and said how much they loved the neighborhood!  We also found a great walking path across the street that offers a beautiful amazing walk with great photo opportunities along the way.  All through the process we knew this was a sellers market so there was the pressure of acting fast if we wanted to put in an offer.

In the early afternoon of September 25th, we went back for one more look at the house.  At this point Todd was the hesitant one.  We were both hesitant about where to put all our stuff.  This home was nicer, newer and in a better neighborhood.  It had more living space but not as much storage space.  At that second viewing, we found that there was an attic above the garage that would offer some much needed storage.  That finding made it possible for us to both be on board with putting in an offer on the house which we did that day.  We offered asking price and were hoping that it was not going to get into a bidding war since it was at our max.  We were amazed to find out on September 26th our offer was accepted!   The sweet owner told me later that they were praying for a family like us to get their house.  Then I really knew God had his hand in this whole thing.

Our house officially hit the market on Sept. 25.  Sure is a strange feeling to have your house all perfect ready for showings and feel like you just can only sit on the couch and fold your hands cuz you don’t want to mess it up.  Fortunately we only had to live like that for 2 ½ days!  An offer came on in Sept. 27 for above asking price.  Praise the Lord!

Quite a roller-coaster and quite a God-thing.  He made it all happen.  We love our house and feel so thankful and so blessed.  We live within ½ mile of some of our girls’ friends from school which is really nice for them and nice for doing some car pooling.  We love the nearby nature walk we can take right from our house.  There are many places on that walk to get some great family photos!  I’m sure Todd will start taking people there on photo shoots this summer.

About Packing-  Not the most fun thing in the world to pack up your whole house.  In the past I dreaded the idea of having to move from a house (we had only moved from apartments previously).  But it was such a satisfying process to finally sort, throw, donate, sell, give stuff away!  I’ve always wanted to go through my house like this but it just never quite got to the top of the priority list.  Even though it’s hard to downsize and get rid of things, it was a great process.  I did not want anyone carrying a box into my new house of things I hadn’t gone through and deliberately decided to keep.  It was a grueling process but so worth it!  And when it got down to the wire and I had those moments of- “How in the world is this going to get done?”, God sent friends at just the right times to help us with the final push.

We bought the house from the kindest owners who also own and cleaning business. They left the house in tip-top shape for us!

We moved on November 16th and continue to work at getting settled in—it takes awhile.  We love our new house and I still can’t believe that this happened.  It was not on my radar at all.  We are thankful and blessed!

New Photo Studio

Amidst our crazy fall with moving and health issues, we got news that our landlady at our photo studio sold the whole building and we needed to be out by February 1.  We knew this could happen someday since the building has been on the market for like 15+ years.  Our landlady took such good care of us and gave us such a great deal to be in that space- there were many times I think she purposefully scared buyers away because she wanted to let us keep renting there.  We also loved the convenience of being only 1 ½ blocks away from our house.  Even though it was overwhelming news to have to also think about moving out of our studio, it was one of those things where you knew God had a plan.  Since we were moving out of the neighborhood and would no longer be so close, we knew there was something else in store.  I told myself that if God could give us an amazing studio once, He could do it again.  That same day I had a thought of who we should call about renting space.  Todd called this business owner about a week later and when he asked about renting some space from her she said sure, that could work.  We are thrilled once again to have an amazing landlady that is happy to work with us and sees how our presence in her space will also be a benefit to her business.  Our new studio is at Best Me 360 in Waite Park (behind Hirshfields and next to Goldeneye Framing).  Best Me is a fashion consultant and coaching business and the inside of their building is absolutely beautiful!  We are so excited about our transition there!  Todd’s website is and our new studio is located at 49 3rd St NE in Waite Park.

Pampered Chef

Todd hosted a Pampered Chef party in December and next thing I knew he went from hosting to become a consultant!  He loves quality products, talking to others about quality products and making great food in the kitchen so this is right up his alley. Feel free to see what he’s up to- recipes, great pictures of the food he is making, videos, Facebook Live, etc. at


Because of Todd’s medical issues and because of the move, he was not able to take part in his favorite November hobby- deer hunting.  But wouldn’t you know, God loves to give gifts to his children…and this year an extra season was added down in Rochester.  This was the two weekends right after Christmas at a time when he was feeling much better.  Todd and Corinna both went out hunting.  The first weekend he didn’t get anything.  Then Todd and Corinna took a special father-daughter trip down to Rochester the next weekend.  Corinna sat out all day with him on Saturday.  They saw some deer but didn’t get any.  She was a real trooper- got up super early with Dad and sat out all day with him without any complaints.  Sunday she decided to sleep in and it was that day at about 9am that Todd shot two does.  He is very excited to fill the freezer with venison again.

If you made it to the end, congratulations!   It’s fun to look back.  When I look forward, I admit I sometimes get nervous and anxious.  But when you look back, you see just how amazingly faithful God is.  He always provides.

May you feel the Lord’s presence as He leads and guides you through 2021!

~With Love from the Myra Family