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Update (2005)

Greetings dear friends,

Here is my yearly update, from my heart and home to yours. There is so much news to share, I don't know where to start! It has been a busy and in some senses difficult year, but through it all God has been faithful and good to me and my family here in Loda, Illinois.

Let me start at the end, that is with the child on the end, Caleb. I guess we all have to accept that he is truly the end of the line, though the girls are begging and praying for me to have another baby. I tell them that it will have to be an act of God, like a baby on my doorstep in a basket or something like that. I never underestimate the prayers of a child; who knows what may happen?

Snowdrifts, December 2005 (photo by 'Beka).

Caleb

Caleb (I will have to ask him how old he is because I am getting too old to remember such things...6 he says) is doing first grade using Rod and Staff curriculum. This is my last child to teach to read. You would think I would be good at it by now, but I'm afraid I am not. I am still as impatient as ever, as I wait for him to sound out and read the words. Caleb is doing well, but I find that I have to slow the curriculum way down. If I teach the required work each day, he gets drowned. We do about half a lesson per day, sometimes less. He seems to do much better with math, and so I have been having him do two lessons in math each day.

When Matthew starts Driver's Ed at the local high school in January, I will be sitting in the car every day for 45 minutes. I plan on doing a lot of school with Caleb then, strengthening his reading skills with lots of review.

Timmy and Caleb after a bath. "How do you like these, Mom?" Fall 2005

If you want to know what Caleb is doing, just wait until I talk about what Timmy and Matthew are doing. He is their shadow. Big brothers are great things to have. Such heroes! I'm thankful he has such great role models.

Caleb loves to sing. He can often be heard in the living room singing as 'Beka practices her piano. Like I said when he was about 18 months old, I believe he may have a career as a singer someday. He reminds me of those young English choir boys. I was hoping he would sing for our Christmas program for our family reunion on December 31st. But, he said he just couldn't; that he was way too young for that sort of thing.

A few weeks ago, after finishing my morning walk, I began picking up trash around the yards. I heard "click, click, click". I looked behind the tree and saw Caleb with my staple gun.

"Caleb, what in the world are you doing with my staple gun?"

"Shooting birds, Mom. I haven't got one yet, but I'm sure to very soon."

Caleb and Timmy, December 2005.

Timothy

Timothy, whom we often call Timmy (9) has started homeschooling on the computer this year using Switched on Schoolhouse. (I lose my santification every year as I have to relearn how to load it; and, yikes---they now have a new version! The children know it is serious business as I sit at the computer, trying to figure out how to load it, manuals in hand. I hear the children behind closed doors whispering "Don't you dare disturb Mom! She's loading up the school work. Don't bother her with..." Sometimes I think books are easier! But I only think that in September. Once this stuff is loaded it is pretty clear sailing the rest of the year.)

Timmy is doing well in third grade. It was quite an adjustment going from books to the computer. Back and forth I went helping him for the first few weeks. (Who needs Curves?) But he is doing well now and learning alot.

Timmy saved up and bought his first BB gun. Talk about excitement! He does target practice with Matthew and Gerald. He got his first sparrow a couple of weeks ago. Pretty impressive. At least the guys all thought so.

Caleb and Timmy playing dress-up: Summer 2005.

Timmy works along with Matthew, helping him with all his chores. He is learning much along the way. Matthew plays the Tom Sawyer role well.....you know. "You guys will just love mucking out this goat stall!" Actually, I think Matthew likes the company more than the help with the work. But, I find that when Matthew has to be away, Caleb and Timmy can easily pick up his chores for him.

Timmy has a great sense of humor and has quick quips to add to almost everyone's comments. Sometimes it gets tiresome, but usually he gets a good laugh. A few days ago while everyone was talking about what they are learning in school at present, he quipped, "I'm learning short division---the long way!"

Rachel

Rachel (11) is next. Rachel is a happy girl, talkative, and active. She loves writing and is working on a novel every chance she gets. I've never seen it. But I do mark her school essays. They are quite good, but long. It reminds me of my English essays. I always thought writing essays with lots of pages would get me good grades. It did.

Rachel decided not to continue on with the violin lessons this year. Several things contributed to this, but mainly she just didn't enjoy playing it even though she was quite good. I had a struggle with letting her quit, which meant she had a struggle telling me. My philosophy on "electives" is that the child must really want to do it. I think I am wasting my money and my time, as well as hers, if she really doesn't want to do it. Her teacher was most upset. Every time I see him in town he frowns at me and begs me to make her come back. His philosophy disagrees with mine. He thinks parents need to make their children take lessons. I'd rather have a happy child who follows her own interests than an unhappy concert violinist trying to please everyone else.

Rachel wrote some pretty good limericks recently. Here is one:

There was a lady from Loda,
Who drank way too much soda!
Then one day she burst,
Quenching her thirst.
That was the end of the lady from Loda.

In case someone asks, this is in the fiction category!

Rachel is entering a writing contest on www.alifeoffaith.com and has been busy working on her submission. (This site is a great alternative to American Girls Dolls.)

It is fun to mark Rachel's school work (6th grade) because you never know what she is going to come up with. I can remember some of our children (unnamed) who when asked to write limericks or poems in their school work would send me a message in their note box. "Hopeless Mom! Just give me a zero." (And the $100 question is, did I?)

Rachel, Christmas 2004.

Rachel is so excited about Christmas. She loves to organize everything and everybody. Yup! Just like me. Gerald walked into the kitchen the other day where Rachel was working and he thought it was me! It is interesting having a child so much like me; it helps me relive my childhood to some extent, and also helps me to understand her better.

I'm having Rachel take "Office 101." This happens when I get overloaded with office work. I am training her to file, organize for income taxes, ST-1's, and W2's, etc. She re-organized my files the other day, and put all the stuff that was in the files in order by date.

Rebekah

'Beka (13) received a hope chest for her birthday this year. I got a real find after advertising on the local radio station. It is handmade of white oak wormwood. It is made to look like an old trunk. I was going to have Stephen make one for her, but he said for the price I paid for the trunk, it would have cost him that in materials alone. Beka is slowly filling it with things. All those future dreams packed away in there!

Rebekah with a large icicle: December 2005.

'Beka is in 7th grade and does her work slowly, carefully and methodically requiring very few corrections from me. She is perfectionist by nature, which she does not get from me (!), but from my husband Gerald. (Yes, he did have quite a few adjustments when he married me!) She likes things neat and tidy. Whenever it is time for the kids to clean their rooms after breakfast, it only takes her a few minutes. She reminds me of her Grandma Aardsma. Likes to be quiet, read, and knit. If everyone is talking, she just listens, laughs some and watches. She loves her Daddy and is often seen sitting with him quietly doing puzzles.

'Beka recently wrote this about her Dad, her hero. I thought it was pretty special.

"My Dad is a wonderful man. He works hard in his laboratory. He could be very wealthy if he had decided to teach at a University. Instead of this, he chose to work for the Lord. He has many important discoveries that he tells us about at our family devotions. He worked for many years to earn his Ph.D. He is always willing to help where he is needed, though his work is far more important. He serves the Lord and provides for his family."

'Beka decided not to continue on with her cello this year for several reasons. She found that a really proficient teacher would mean a 45 minute drive each week, something I just can't do. She did get to play Jennifer's folk harp this past fall, and now would like to get one of her own. These musicians and instruments; kind of like hunters and guns. Never enough. She is saving to buy one. Her piano teacher is also a harpist, so 'Beka could have her harp lessons back to back with her piano lessons.

Rachel reading a Sherlock Holmes story to 'Beka: December 2005.

'Beka is advancing quickly in piano. She practices faithfully every day and is often at the piano on her break time. She doesn't really enjoy performing, but did very well at her first piano recital this past spring, which was a pretty big affair. 'Beka talks of attending either PCC or BJU and taking piano. But she thinks they are too far away from home and that she really doesn't want to think about leaving home. I suspect that will change in a few years!

Matthew

Matthew (15) has really grown up this past year. I can't believe how muscular he is getting. Matthew has proved himself quite capable in many areas. He has managed to run the homestead, work part time on the lawn business he inherited from David, work part time for a farmer, as well as doing odd jobs for different folks. His days were long, starting early and ending late. This works great with my parenting philosophy for teenagers; keep them so busy they are too tired to get into trouble. I make sure there is no boredom here.

He sold his goats for several reasons. Gerald wasn't able to drink the milk, we all didn't care for it all that much, Matthew was getting too busy to keep up with the milking and chores, and he found he didn't really enjoying milking all that much. Our neighbors bought the whole outfit. I suppose Matthew lost money on the venture, but he learned a lot of new skills, and, as Gerald puts it, it was very inexpensive education.

He expanded his turkey business and raised 30 birds (half were Broad Breasted Bronze and the other half Heritage) this year. This was quite an undertaking. I advertised to my vegetable customers as well as sent out a mailing to everyone we could think of. Matthew sold 10 turkeys. It was busy around here a few days before Thanksgiving; but my what beautiful birds they were! What a treat to have a fresh organic turkey for Thanksgiving. I bought the remaining turkeys for our family to eat over the winter. They are really delicious!

Matthew raised three pigs as well, which are now pork. Pigs are great for eating every piece of scrap compost you can give them. This year we did a new thing all summer long. We took all the really small or damaged potatoes and cooked them in crock pots (outside) and fed the mash to the pigs. The pigs loved it. I think I can taste the beets when I eat the pork. We don't sell pork as it is illegal to do so for all but a licensed butchers.

Matthew and the children did all the butchering themselves. They did amazingly well. It is alot of work! We found a nice website that sells butchering supplies. (www.butcher-packer.com.) We ordered the real butcher paper this year, making the job so much easier. They sell some great knives and sharpeners too.

Matthew still sells rabbit and we enjoy that meat too. It is a trick to cook it right as it is a very dry meat. But once you get the knack of it, yum! (Fry it in oil in a Dutch oven for about 1.5 hours.)

We got our state license for selling processed rabbits, chickens and turkeys. That was an interesting experience for Matthew and me, but we got our official papers just the same.

Matthew purchased a 20 gauge shot gun this past fall and has been practicing using clay pigeons. He has gotten to be a good shot. This was proven when he went hunting with a neighboring farmer and bagged the first pheasant they flurled. Even the farmer was impressed. He got a rabbit that day too. Matthew was delighted and made himself a nice trophy with the feathers, now displayed proudly in his room.

Matthew's first pheasant: December 2005.

We ate the pheasant and rabbit for lunch the next day. Rachel wasn't impressed, and was worried about biting into buckshot. Tastes like chicken to me, but Gerald's brother, Allen calls it "King's food!" Maybe I need to perfect cooking it, and maybe Matthew needs to figure out how to get the buckshot out.

Matthew still wants to be a farmer and go to agricultural school. He loves to be outside. When he has to do school he is like a caged animal. After about one hour he can be seen running around outside. "Just need a break Mom!" In the winter, he throws Timmy and Caleb around the house, just to stay in shape and burn off excess energy. I don't think Matthew would enjoy a desk job when he grows up.

I'm not looking forward to sending Matthew to Driver's Education, I must say. I hate to send my children out into the filth of the world, not to mention the foolishness of teenagers! I know I can't hang on to him forever, and that he needs to learn how to cope with it. I console myself that Samuel left his mother under the age of 6 and that Joseph as a young teenager was put into the temptation of the world in Egypt. Matthew has had a good grounding, loves the Lord, and strives to be holy and pure. I have confidence that he will do fine. I pray about this often these days.

Thoughts on Parenting our "Second Family"

In some sense, Gerald and I feel like we are raising our second family. We feel we know so much more now than we did almost 30 years ago when we started out with Jennifer. There is truly much to be said for experience.

When we started out on this wonderful/frightening journey of parenthood, we bathed our mistakes with prayer, and by God's graciousness, he has blessed us with five grown children who love the Lord and each other and are living for Him. We are so proud of them all, and they are a great delight to Gerald and me.

Ice storm, February 2005. (photo by 'Beka).

I'm sure we will continue to make our fair share of mistakes. Each child adds a new twist, depending on their personality and their inherited weaknesses and strengths. I'm not relaxing with the last five. I pray as much if not more than I did with the first five, that God will cover our mistakes and be gracious to us. My constant prayer is that all of my children will grow up to honor the Lord, serve Him with all of their being, and do what God has brought them to this world to do.

David

David (18) left home in early August to attend Olivet Nazarene University to begin his training to become a policeman. He is number five to leave. The parting never gets easier. I think the departure gets harder the more you let go. I think it is because now you know from experience, that things will never be the same again. They are adults now and have their own life to live before man and God. They still are your children, but never in the same sense ever again. Another mile marker has passed in their and your lives.

Things were tense a few days before he moved out. Everyone knew what was coming. David seemed sullen and moody. He knew too.

I was reminded of this again recently as I was reading to Tim and Caleb at bedtime from "Little Town on the Prairie", the section where Mary goes to college. I had a lump in my throat as I read it to them, having let David go just a few months earlier.

"The last day came. Tomorrow Mary was going away.... As long as they were busy, they could keep pushed deep down inside them the knowledge that Mary was going away. Now everything was done. It was not yet supper time, and the time was empty, for thinking.

Pa cleared his throat and went out of the house. Ma brought her darning basket, but she set it on the table and stood looking out of the window." *1

David was sweet in his hugs and thanked us for everything we had done for him. There was crying all around. (I cry now as I remember.) And then he drove away. He was jubilant---I saw it in his face as he drove away---happy that the parting was over; happy to be a young adult and independent. All normal and as it should be.

Five down, five to go.

My life takes another major shift. Now I have just five charges with Matthew the oldest at home. Things shuffle and re-organize. Beka moves into David's room. Rachel into Caleb and Timmy's room, and the little boy's into the girl's room. High excitement for each. A giant mess, but eventually things get straightened out; computer cords detangled from speaker cords. Aw...laptops for each someday!

At our Thanksgiving family get-to-gether at Laura's house David announced, "Kathryn and I got engaged last night and are planning on getting married in June of 2007!"

Kathryn and David, October 2005.

We are pleased to welcome Kathryn into the clan. She is a lovely Christian girl with a sweet temperment, whom we already love dearly. I think she is well suited to David. They are both young, David 18 and Kathryn 19, but mature, and they love the Lord and each other. And so the family grows.

Laura

Laura had her baby on February 22nd; a girl named Kelsey. Laura was planning a home birth but due to complications, the midwives sent her to the hospital. An emergency c-section was performed. This was a great disappointment for Laura and Philip, but they handled it all well. Laura is a wonderful mother, the nursing is going well and I am very proud of her! Kelsey is a darling baby.

Philip started working for our son Mark in his programming business as a graphics designer for web development. Laura and Philip moved to Piper City and bought their first home. Laura stays home with Kelsey, which is a full time job! Laura also assists Philip in his video business (see www.centerstreetproductions.com).

Kelsey, Laura and Philip Gioja, December 2005.

Laura hosted Thanksgiving in her lovely home. It was a first for me to celebrate a holiday in a daughter's home and was very special to me! All of our clan was there, except Jennifer and Steve who live in Virginia. It always makes me a little sad when one is missing, but Gerald has taught me to accept life as it comes, and not demand perfection. That never comes.

Laura did a wonderful job as hostess. The tables were gorgeous! Everyone helped bring food. Matthew donating a Broad Breasted Bronze turkey. (I ended up cooking two; I burnt the first one!) It was nice to relax and visit with everyone instead of running around the kitchens constantly. And it was wonderful to play with my grandchildren: Nathan, Allison, and Kelsey.

Stephen

Stephen is happily married to Jenna. They live in Chicago and pursue their respective careers of wood carving and school teacher respectively. Jenna is working on her Master's Degree. Stephen continues to produce terrific carvings (see www.whisperingoaksstudio.com) and keeps very busy. They bought their first house and Stephen has a great work shop in their basement. They are actively involved in a small church near their home.

Stephen and Jenna are always doing thoughtful things for the family. After Thanksgiving Stephen and Jenna came to our house and painted all the ceilings in the house. They had planned on doing this and brought the paint and all their tools with them. I painted the dining room walls as well as part of the old kitchen. It turned out really nice; it has kind of an Amish look. Very white. When we put up my Shaker peg shelves, then it looked more...Shaker!

Stephen and Jenna Aardsma, December 2005.

This painting gave the house a badly needed face-lift and me a great boost. The house is so bright and clean; well at least the ceilings and newly painted walls! Jenna and Stephen are true servants of the living God; encouraging, uplifting, helpful, kind and caring. The children look forward to their visits; full of eager anticipation to tell their stories to them and share their lives. Stephen and Jenna are gifted in making everyone, even the younger children, feel important and loved. It is easy to see why Jenna would be a beloved teacher.

Mark

Mark and his wife Jenn are doing a fine job with their two children, Nathan (4) and Allison (1). They are both sweet children and getting so big already. Jenn is a terrific mom and devotes herself to them as a full-time mom in the home. Jenn has already begun teaching Nathan to read and he is doing amazingly well. Mark keeps very busy with his thriving business. (See www.aatechservices.com.) He recently begun to develop a recording studio as part of his business.

Allison, Jenn, Nathan and Mark Aardsma, December 2005.

Mark's business grew from his basement to an outside office in the downtown section of Piper City this year. He also expanded his work force, hiring our son-in-law, Philip, and a local student for part time office help. Both Mark and Jenn continue to work on their lovely old house. Our son, David, worked for them part time over the last year, redoing their upstairs bathroom, the hallway, the library and the downstairs bathroom. The last big project is their kitchen, which they hope to do this year. Mark and Jenn's home has a nice, open, and relaxed feel. They use their home often to put up house guests from Chicago and area.

Jennifer

Jennifer and her husband Steve continue on in their church work in Virginia as Assistant Pastor, taking care of the music and youth ministry. This year they began working with Bible Truth Music, (see www.bibletruthmusic) and have sold some of their original compositions to them. Steve and Jennifer are becoming increasingly involved in free lance work with their music. They are incredibly busy as they work for the increase of God's Kingdom.

Steve, Katie, Jennifer, Joshua and Ethan Hall, December 2005.

Jennifer and Steve are coming out with a new lullaby CD, "Near to the Heart of God" and I can't wait to hear it. Here is what Jennifer wrote me about it. "This CD will minister to both parents and children with themes of children as blessings and God's special plan for each child. It teaches simple but profound truths suchs as: the Bible is God's Word, and God made me and takes care of me. It has 17 songs on it; 12 of the songs are original songs from us, which have been inspired by our three blessings over the past five years. The CD has live harp, violin and guitar. Titles include: It's Bedtime, Jesus Loves Me, Song of Heaven, Little Hands, When I'm Afraid, Night of Nights, and Winter Walk. It will be available, Lord willing, by the first of April 2006, in plenty of time for Mother's Day!" (See www.hallmusicministries.com.)

Ethan (on right) as Joseph in Sunday School program, December 2005.

Jennifer keeps very busy with her three little ones, with helping Steve in the church work, with writing and performing music and doing much of the leg work for Hall Music Ministries. She began homeschooling Joshua in September. I can't believe my grandchildren are being homeschooled now too! Teaching Joshua has changed Jennifer's schedule and she has had to give up teaching piano lessons. There is only so much time in a day. Jennifer continues to nurse Katie (just turning 2 today as I write this!) and is a wonderful mom, wife and Pastor's wife. Jennifer calls frequently (free long distance!) keeping us close even though the miles separate us. I generally use my headphones when she calls, attacking some cleaning job that I've been putting off. But sometimes I just relax in my office chair and savour the joy of talking to her! With her living so far away, it continues to be hard for me not to see her and the children more. But that is what God has for us both, for now. We'd love to see that change, but as God wills and allows. I wouldn't want her to be anywhere but in the center of God's will.

The Prayer Perfect

by James Whitcomb Riley (1853-1916)

Dear Lord! kind Lord!
Gracious Lord! I pray
Thou wilt look on all I love,
Tenderly to-day!
Weed their hearts of weariness;
Scatter every care
Down a wake of angel wings
Winnowing the air.
Bring unto the sorrowing
All release of pain;
Let the lips of laughter
Overflow again'
And with all the needy
Oh, divide, I pray,
This vast treasure of content
That is mine to-day!*2

Gerald

Gerald has had a difficult year healthwise. It is a long and roller-coaster story---much too long to share here. Briefly, after ten years of having Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and, as a result, a very restricted diet, in February of this year he began to show symptoms of severe fatigue and weakness. After supplementing with B12, Vitamin E, and L-Carnitine, and other vitamins and minerals he began to improve and is presently slowly getting better.

This health crisis has been a rough time for us, lasting for most of 2005. I was having a very hard time sleeping, thinking the worst and wondering what I would ever do without my husband. How could I raise five children on my own? I remember days when I would feel so helpless, so on the verge of tears, I thought I couldn't take it anymore. On my daily walks (now without Gerald, who was too weak to walk with me as we have for years) I would cry out to the Lord, literally with tears down my cheeks, begging God for answers, for healing. The only time I could cry was on my walk. I had to be strong for Gerald and for the children. Gerald was so fragile, I felt like I had to hold him up, that if I didn't, he would collapse.

A Poem by Ella Conrad Cowherd


I'm too tired to trust and too tired to pray,
Said one, as the over-taxed strength gave way.
The one conscious thought by my mind possessed,
Is, oh, could I just drop it all and rest.

Will God forgive me, do you suppose,
If I go right to sleep as a baby goes,
Without an asking if I may,
Without every trying to trust and pray?


Will God forgive you? why think, dear heart,
When language to you was an unknown art,
Did a mother deny you needed rest,
Or refuse to pillow your head on her breast?

Did she let you want when you could not ask?
Did she set her child an unequal task?
Or did she cradle you in her arms,
And then guard your slumber against alarms?

Ah, how quick was her mother love to see,
The unconscious yearnings of infancy.
When you've grown too tired to trust and pray,
When over-wrought nature has quite given way:

Then just drop it all, and give up to rest,
As you used to do on a mother's breast,
He knows all about it---the dear Lord knows,
So just go to sleep as a baby goes;

My grandaughter, Kelsey, Summer 2005.

Without even asking if you may,
God knows when His child is too tired to pray.
He judges not solely by uttered prayer,
He knows when the yearnings of love are there.

He knows you do pray, He knows you do trust,
And He knows, too, the limits of poor, weak dust.
Oh, the wonderful sympathy of Christ,
For His chosen ones in that midnight tryst,

When He bade them sleep and take their rest,
While on Him the guilt of the whole world pressed---
You've given your life up to Him to keep,
Then don't be afraid to go right to sleep." *3

Gerald works hard and keeps long hours. He always has. He feels called to his research at the inferface of the Bible and science as much as any pastor to his church or missionary to the mission field. Through the years we have come to expect Satanic opposition in my forms, and have suspect this health crisis is just one more attack. Through it all we have trusted that God knows what is best, and that was alright with us. Gerald has never complained or questioned God. He is like Job who said "If you slay me, Lord, I will still trust you." My faith, a little shakier, has stood the test of these past months and is stronger than ever.

Gerald is far from well yet, and if God should bring him to mind, we would appreciate your prayers for his complete healing.

Gerald's work on his research continues on target (see www.biblicalchronologist.org). and has not suffered because of his illness, for which we are thankful. Family devotions remain a daily activity, as well as Gerald reading to the little boys. They are on "The Last Battle" of the Narnia books. This may be the last time that series is read to our children. I think Gerald must have read this series ten times over the years. We will always cherish the memories of, "Oh Dad! Just one more chapter, please?"

Gerald reading "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner": Summer 2005.

Our marriage has strengthened over these past months despite the health trials. We love each other more than ever, are the bestest of friends and continue to want to be with each other more than anyone else! We are grateful for 31 wonderful years together. I miss our daily walks and talking time, since Gerald hasn't been able to walk much, but Gerald has made up the time with me by coming over from work earlier than he used to. I can't wait until we can do our 45 minute walk together again every day. It was the highlight of my day. God willing, that will happen before too many months are up.

And Me

My days are like many homeschooling moms---a three-ring circus. With five to teach this year, the most I have ever taught at one time, I find that I am walking from room to room to requests of "Mom, can you help me here for a minute?", solving their problems and teaching them concepts, showing them spelling errors, or just telling them "Please try a little harder to solve the problems on your own!" The other day I said to Gerald, "I just don't understand why I am so busy. I don't have babies any more, and yet I feel like my days are so full, they fly by." A few days later it dawned on me. Besides running a home and assisting my husband as his business partner, I'm teaching 5 children!

I mark essays, and remark essays, and have them hand in their "Dr. Aardsma's Spelling Drill " and "Dr. Aardsma's Math Drill" reports at devotions each day. We have a grading scheme and reward them with a little candy or nuts depending on their score. This way they help me to remember to collect the drills.

There is the usual cleaning, and organizing the job lists, and then checking the jobs done. My girls are pretty much able to run the household, and the house stays pretty clean most of the time. I do major cleaning jobs with them, dejunking and re-organizing as I go. Caleb and Timmy have little jobs each day that they do as well, and I have Matthew do a small repair job every day. Today he has to take down the fan in the kitchen window and store it for the winter. Tomorrow he will replace some trim that was damaged.

Me and grandaughter Allison, Christmas 2004.

I also do the family accounting and bill paying. This is pretty routine now, but time consuming. I help Matthew send out his bills for his lawn customers and file all his paper work for future IRS filings. I also take care of the books, orders, and any other secretarial type work for ARP and AARCON (the two home business structures facilitating Gerald's research). The government paperwork for such businesses is amazing. No wonder people hire lawyers to do this kind of work. The jargon is a whole new language.

This bookwork takes me about six hours per week. I enjoy the desk work, but am glad I don't have to do it eight hours a day in an office surrounded by strangers! I don't get paid for the work, but do it for love, my family, my husband, and my Lord. What greater joy is there than to be surrounded by those you love, serving them?

This reminds of what I read the other day, I don't remember where.

"What nobler decoration of honor can any godly woman seek than her scars of service, her losses for the crown, her reproaches for Christ's sake, her being worn out in her Master's service!"

When the boy's moved out of our room, I decided to move my office into my bedroom. I was hesitant at first, wondering how I would like it; mixing work with a leisurely atmosphere. Since my room is fairly large (10 x 12), and our house relatively small, I really needed to make better use of that space. (Of course, it was originally used as our "family bed room" which sadly, is no longer needed for that purpose).

I took the plunge, and moved everything in. A good day's work. I was worried I wouldn't like it and then would have lost a day's work---not to mention Matthew's patience as he helped me move everything.

My dining room peg shelves, December 2005.

It has worked out really well, though still not perfect. I enjoy the quiet in there. It is in the newer part of the house. It is dark (no windows, so works well for computer screens). I have all my special things around me on my homemade Shaker peg shelves. I can listen to music while I work, and it is the cooler part of the house in the summer. The bad thing is that there are times when I can't sleep (after 4:00 a.m. usually) that I would like to get up and do quiet desk work, but that would ruin Gerald's sleep. Someday, I would like to have an office of my own, that has a window out front so I can see who drives up, and take care of them without having to come from the back part of the house.

I am officially through menopause and on the other side. I didn't take any hormones but went through menopause naturally. It had it's trials but I knew it was part of God's plan for me and I wanted to go through it the way He intended I should. I figured I would come out on the other side the better for it. To this day, I don't take medications of any kind and love getting out of bed every day to serve my family.

God has truly been gracious to me and I'm grateful for the ten children He blessed me with. I do long for more babies at times, but now my children's children fill those empty arms with cuddles, love and kisses. Oh, those precious little hugs and snuggles!

"The Three Musketeers!" Caleb, Rachel and Rachel: Summer 2005.

One of the ways I stay current on political and social issues is to be part of One Million Mom's (see www.onemillionmoms.com). This is an internet activism group which is part of Don Wildmon's American Family Association. They send you e-mails regarding issues, and then they make it very easy for you to respond. For example, lately they have been talking about how various companies have not been using the word "Christmas" in their adverising or in their stores. Employees are told to say "Happy Holidays" or they call their trees "Holiday Trees". In the e-mails, you can respond by just clicking on the response e-mail and your letter of complaint or thanks is sent to the various companies. I love feeling that as a busy mom at home I can still keep up with what is happening "out there" and also feel like I am making a small difference for a more godly America. Warning: Some of the e-mails contain offensive content. Children should not have access to these e-mails. I do not store them on my computer, but respond to them, as soon as I get them and then delete them.

Our Trip

One of my dreams for several years was to be able to go down to Virginia to see Jennifer, her home, her church, meet her friends and get to see some of the beautiful Shanendoah Valley. Every year Gerald would say, "Can't be this year, honey." I was trying hard to be patient. We hadn't had a vacation in 10 years! This past spring, I begged him to let us go in the fall. The children and I needed a break and we badly needed something to look forward to. He said if I could raise the money ($1,400) we could go! Alright! Talk about an incentive to save. How long do you think it took for me to call Jennifer and tell her the news?

Jennifer and Katelyn at Jennifer's house in Virginia: October 2005.

Gerald thought we should detour on our trip and to see his mother and sister in New Hampshire whom we had not seen for many years. That was quite a detour! But we felt that this was important too. It would mean less time at Jennifer's and more time on the road. We had only one week to do it in. Oh well, better than not going at all.

My son-in-law, Steve Hall, Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia: October 2005.

I launched a campaign with all the children at home. Every dime saved meant a dime saved for the trip. I asked the older children to contribute to the "Trip to Virginia Fund", instead of giving us gifts for our birthdays and anniversary this year. We made a "thermometer chart" with a ribbon, and raised the ribbon every time we got $100 more for the trip.

You never saw such excitement. All talk was about the trip. "Can you believe it, we are actually going on a vacation!" "I never thought this would ever happen." "No, we can't go to the Dairy Queen. We need to save every dime for the trip."

All summer long the children worked hard. They even volunteered to pick the strawberries by themselves this year without hiring outside help. I never saw such diligence!

Gerald's older sister decided to fly up from Texas to see us in New Hampshire. That meant both Gerald's sisters would be present. That made it even more meaningful. Gerald's grandmother and her husband also planned on seeing us. It had been 31 years since we had seen her.

A few weeks before the trip, Gerald's health was very poor. The children prayed like you never heard them pray before. I was discouraged, feeling like the trip would never take place. Two weeks before the trip, all funds were in. Gerald made the decision a week before the trip that we were going, him in a wheelchair, if necessary. How could we disappoint his mother, sisters and Jennifer?

We took the trip the last week in September and into the first week of October. The vacation was wonderful, the driving horrid, the weather grand, the grandchildren precious, Jennifer's house adorable, views from the Blue Ridge Mountains spectacular, Jennifer's new church building beautiful, Gerald's mom so thrilled to see us all, special time with Grandma Nesbitt, no cooking, too much driving, not long enough to visit.....and now, the memories.

Gerald and his mom looking at scrap books, New Hampshire: October 2005.

The Homestead

This year we sided half of the barn with T1-11. Matthew and I split the costs. This gives us so much more badly needed storage space. Gerald supervised the project and the children did the muscle work. We hope to side the other half of the barn eventually, when we can afford it.

This spring we planted raspberry plants, to expand our product base to our already enthusiastic strawberry and vegetable customers. The plants have really grown over the summer, up to 5 feet tall. They don't bear the first year. We hope to get a good crop this coming summer. Raspberries are harvested a few weeks after our strawberries, extending the fresh fruit season for our customers.

The garden did very well this year. We continue to expand our customer base as folks pass the word on to others. We didn't need to advertise much for the strawberries this year, which increased our profits. We sold all the firsts and all of the seconds this year. I didn't freeze any berries at all! The phone was ringing off the hook for those weeks in June and we were really hopping. We did well on all our other produce, making record sales.

I made bread and rolls for Saturdays, and we usually sold it all. Some customers would come the next week asking for it again. Eggs were in constant demand. I was glad Matthew increased his egg layer flock this year. Folks love the fresh organic brown eggs and will pay $2.50 a dozen for them!

All summer long folks saw the turkeys and wondered what they were. Talk about great free advertising! And that is how Matthew got his Thanksgiving turkey orders.

Psalm 65: 9-13

You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.
You water it's furrows abundantly,
You settle its ridges,
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.
You have crowned the year with Your bounty...

View of our garden from a tree top.

I enjoy interacting with the customers, and this always gives me an opportunity to talk about why we live the way we do, and that usually leads into the Bible and how and why we base our lives upon it. There are so many lonely, needy people out there, with very mixed-up lives. Many of my customers are wealthy and yet I see a look of envy in their eyes as they see how fulfilled and happy I am. Sharing our faith with these dear folks is one of the reasons we market to the public.

The Mother's Companion Web Site

Gerald and I have revamped the Mother's Companion web site. This was a new experience for me. It was a struggle to learn html and how to post pictures. I was thrilled to post my first page, and felt that I had a new "power" to connect with women all over the world. It was a great day for me!

Since we no longer have the support staff to sell hard copies of back issues, bound volumes, and audio tapes, we set up the web site to allow women to download all the back issues in pdf format. (Bound volumes, and tapes are so far not available, unfortunately.)

I have plans to develop the web site further by posting all of the cover letter devotionals that went out with each issue of our Mother's Companion mailings over the nine years we published. I have to make a deadline for myself and drop everything for a few days to do this. There never seems to be enough time to do everything. But Gerald reminds me that we always find time for things we really want to do. I have to make it a priority to do my part in pursuing Titus 2 activities as an older woman. I can easily fill my down time with leisure (I love to read, for example) but I want to use my time for God's kingdom and to encourage Christian mothers in their lonely, and often unappreciated role. I would like to post more articles as I have time to write them.

Well, I've run out of time and I must let you get back to your duties. Been wonderful visiting with you. Do send me an e-mail with your news, and add a photo of your family.

Blessings,

Helen

A Closing Thought To Ponder

We give so much to our children. We give them life from our own bodies, and then sustenance from our breasts. We give our sleep to rock them when fevered. We wash their socks, their shoes, and teach them about Jesus, who washes sin from their souls. We give, and give, and give to the point of absolute exhaustion. We give until we think we can't even give another answer to "Mom?". and then, like a bolt from Heaven, we get it all back again one hundred fold. The other day one of my son's lawn customers took me aside and said, "You know, your son told me, "Everything I am, I owe to my parents." What blessings given, what blessings found.

"Give, though thy gifts be small, still be a giver;
Out of the little founts proceeds the river;
Out of the river's gifts gulfs soon will be
Pouring their waters out, making a sea.
Out of the sea again Heaven draws its showers,
And to the fount imparts all its new powers.
Thus in the circle born, gifts roll around,
And in the blessings given, blessing is found." *4




Footnotes

*1 Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie, Harper & Row, New York. 108-110.

*2 Story Hour Readings by E. C. Hartwell, American Book Company, 1921, New York.

*3 Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert , Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1925, p. 367

*4 Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Mountain Trailways; A Devotional for Youth" by1947, Cowman Publishing Company, Los Angeles, CA. p. 285.




            

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