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Update (2009)

I'm convinced that some of the months in 2009 must have gotten skipped over---how can it be almost 2010 already? I'm sitting here with a steamin' cup of hot chocolate with my own homemade french vanilla creamer (recipe to follow). Join me for a cup. You bring the cookies and we'll talk "the ears off a stone statue!"

Come rest a moment from your labors, dear ones. Ponder the beauty of the season---be still and think of the "One Small Child in the Land of a Thousand."

Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, we worship Thee in the Babe of Bethlehem.
We have seen His Star in the East, and are come to worship Him.
We have heard the angels proclaiming His nativity.
We know the rapture of the mother as she presses to her heart her child and Lord.
But our hearts are full today with the thought that Thou are manifest in the flesh;
that unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given;
that the ladder has been reached down from heaven to the low bed of the manger,
that by it the poorest and meanest may climb back to Thee.
May the Babe become our Counselor.
While we adore Him as Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father,
may He become to us the Prince of Peace.
Let the government of our lives be upon His shoulder,
and of His government and of our peace let there be no end.

We pray that the Babe may be born in the heart of each in this family.
Grant that we may be made Thy children by adoption and grace.

May the life of Jesus Christ be begotten in our hearts, that we may be his brethren and sisters through faith.
We long to bear the family likeness.
We would be sons and heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
Send forth the Spirit of Thy Son into our hearts,
that He may witness with our spirits that we are born from above, crying, Abba, Father!
May the purpose of our Saviour's life, to do Thy will at any cost,
and to bring glory to Thee in the Highest, be ours also.
May the motto of our life henceforth be, Glory to God in the Highest;
for then we know there will be peace in our heart, and good-will will flow out from us to men.

Our hearts go out with love to all men, who are included in Thy great love.
We gladly know that none are too lowly and unworthy to participate in its bounteous provision.
Bless Thy great family today, and help us in our measure to imitate Thine unspeakable Gift.
We have freely received; may we freely give.
May we have something of Thy happiness, O Blessed God, who givest to all liberally and upbraidest none.
Make us like Him who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor,
that many through His poverty might be made rich.
Though poor, let us make many rich,
especially those less favored than ourselves.
Bless the children home from school;
the young men and women gather from all parts to the family circle;
all gatherings of parents, and children, and friends.
In all the festivities in which we may take part
may the joy of our Lord permeate and purify all other joy.
May the purity and beauty of the Holy Child Jesus be poured
like a sweet fragrance through our hearts and home.
Bless the absent and all whom we love, the strangers, and the lonely;
and prepare us for the great home-coming.
We ask it in the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. *1

The Inner Circle

God has blessed our home once again this year with unity, peace and joy. We are grateful for the good spirit that prevails in this very busy household. God has been gracious to me and I thank Him daily for the privilege of serving my dear ones right here in our humble, often cluttered, and dusty home.

My gang on the homefront.

Matthew (19) began his Bachelor of Science in animal sciences at the University of Illinois this past August. He is doing well in both grades and Christian testimony. We are so proud of him! He is living at home and making the 45 minute drive back and forth each day. Matthew calls his dad several times a week with questions about chemistry or math---how is that for a private tutor?! And often with great excitement he will email me with news of another 20/20 on a calculus test. The transition from homeschool to university is usually a little rough; it is learning the ropes more than anything else and I cannot do that for him. He is learning much about life, culture and people at the university and continues to grow in knowledge and wisdom in his spiritual life. I agree with Daniel Webster who wrote, "Knowledge does not comprise all which is contained in the large term of education. The feelings are to be disciplined, the passions are to be restrained; true and worthy motives are to be inspired; a profound religious feeling is to be instilled, and pure morality inculcated under all circumstances. All this is comprised in education." *2

Matthew doing target practice.

Tim (13) continues to sprout upwards, wanting "real meat" at all meals! He has learned to repair equipment and keeps the machines around here running. He and Caleb follow Matthew around constantly when he is home, which isn't often anymore. They just enjoy being around him. Tim has a real interest in biology, actually doing experiments just for fun. He loves birds and can identify quite a few of them now. Due to Tim, I have multiple bird feeders on each tree and several along the fences. Tim, Caleb and Gerald have built up quite a firewood business! We sell it about as fast as they split it. They use sledge hammers, wedges and mauls to split it which develops real muscle on these boys. Who needs to lift weights?

Tim wrote the following essay for a school assignment on his family.

Dad is the one who supports the family with income. Mom is the "fight-breaker-upper" and the first garden sales lady.

Beka is the garden manager, cook, nannie and maid.

Rachel is the first employee for the garden, part-time cook, nannie, maid and second sales lady for the garden.

I am the second employee of the garden, chores doer, fix-it man, and construction worker.

Caleb is the electrician, construction worker and third employee of the garden."

Tim and Caleb finish siding the barn this summer.

Caleb (10) eats more than anyone in the family! The girls and I are amazed as we watch him eat plate after plate of food! Two hours later he is back making a snack of ham sandwiches! I'm glad he has a healthy appetite but, oh, the grocery bill!

Caleb and Gerald still enjoy their chess matches. Gerald thinks it won't be long now before Caleb beats him; maybe in 2010?

Caleb enjoys creating things. We don't mind at all when he makes delicious meringues from our home-grown eggs! He has also worked with Gerald on some pre-robotic stuff.

Tim and Caleb can often be seen chasing each other around the yard, wrestling or arguin' about "who won". I don't think "You won!" is in their vocabulary.

Rachel mentioned something the other day about unfair treatment regarding something or other. Caleb calmly counseled her with this statement, "It's ok Rachel. It is normal for most children to feel that their parents always hated them the most or that they are adopted or something". (Where does he learn this stuff?)

Caleb wrote the following essay for school a few weeks ago. The topic he was supposed to write about was a great experience that had happened to him. I was amazed at how polite his main subject was!

The Great Experience by Caleb Aardsma

"James, I need you to go to the store and get some flour, brown sugar, bananas, and butter," said Mom.

"Yes, Mom," said James. He went behind the house and got his bike. He started on his way. It was very cold but he had gotten his coat. Suddenly, pssssss! He quickly got off his bike. He looked at his front tire and saw it was popped. James felt very mad at his bike! He kicked it!

There was a sudden bolt of lightning! James was scared. He shivered in fright. To his disappointment it started to rain!

"Rats!" he exclaimed.

He called his mom on his cell phone but there was no answer. As he stood there wondering what he should do, to his great happiness his friend John drove up and said, "Do you need a lift?"

"Yes, thank you," said James. He put his bike in the car and got in. When he got home he thanked John for the lift and went in to tell his mother about the great experience. The End.

Caleb and Gerald splitting wood.

Caleb, Tim and Matthew. Photo by Laura (Aardsma) Gioja.

'Beka (17) has completed her SAT and done very well. She is glad to have that behind her now. She has her driver's learning permit and Gerald and I are teaching her to drive. She took her first driving trip to the big city of Champaign just recently and I was pleased by how well she did. 'Beka and Rachel are planning to go to Bob Jones University (BJU) in February for a few days visit to check it out. 'Beka has been accepted at Bob Jones University and plans on attending in the Fall of 2010. 'Beka continues with her piano and will have her Senior Recital in the spring. I think I will cry the whole way through. 'Beka is not sure what to major in at BJU---she has many interests and can't settle on anything yet. God will lead her and I'm trying to keep my preferences out of it. It is her life and only she can determine what God has for her.

'Beka did a fine job as farm manager this past year, learning new managements skills and time management.

I have piles of files on my desk all having to do with scholarship applications, adding 'Beka's pile to Matthew's piles. This is very time consuming and often fruitless, but I can only try. We made a "funds for college" chart for 'Beka and the family to see where we are in relation to the goal. We have a long way to go, but we know God is faithful and that He will provide.

Rachel and 'Beka enjoy each other's company. It is interesting to hear their conversations as they work in the kitchen, especially when they are debating and playing "devil's advocate"! They are still best friends, and I hope it stays that way as they grow into adults.

How can 'Beka now be as tall as my Christmas tree?

'Beka's senior picture. Photo by Laura (Aardsma) Gioja.

Rachel (15) has officially retired from writing The Aardsma Weekly. She is moving on towards preparing for her ACT and university. She has quite a few e-mail friends, including her Grandma Aardsma. She loves to write, but not under pressure and deadlines. Rachel is not sure what major to take at university yet. Rachel was a great assistant to 'Beka on the farm, and helping me in the farm market stand. We have a family joke that as soon as I drive out the driveway to run errands, the customers all start to come, much to Rachel's chagrin!

Rachel often needs persuading to go on our daily "physical education" walk. One very cold and windy day last week I announced to the girls that it was time to go for a walk. Rachel replied, "Mom you are indomitable and (cautious pause) insane!" One of us lost and it wasn't me.

Both Rachel and 'Beka have been helping their Dad and brothers split wood. Great fitness training---who needs yearly memberships to the gym? It has been amusing for me to watch them out the window while doing dishes. 'Beka enjoyed the workout and the asthetic appeal of the wood, and Rachel---well, she didn't. But it was a change from doing dishes and they say that a change is a good as a rest, don't they?

I switched Rachel to Saxon Math this year as I was not happy with Switched on Schoolhouse's (SOS) math program. We felt that Matthew wasn't really sufficiently prepared for university using SOS. I think Saxon is an excellent program, but I do dislike the manual marking that is required. It is handy at times for Rachel to be able to grab her text book and go with me on some errands or other; this allows her to work on some schoolwork while she is out.

I did order all new SOS for Rachel this year (except Math) because her new laptop no longer supported the old software. Sigh.

The children have just had a spate of dentist appointments, Rachel included. It is interesting how different the children are in their reaction to getting their teeth fixed. 'Beka looked about half dead and was vehement that she would never go back. Rachel came out saying "Well, that wasn't as bad as expected". Tim was very concerned that he wouldn't be able to eat real food for a few hours and Caleb said, "Now I know why people hate going to the dentist and why the suicide rate is so high!"

Rachel is almost taller than my tree!

My two beautiful daughters! Photo by Laura (Aardsma) Gioja.


Gerald---there is none his equal! We have so much fun together!

Gerald's health continues to be our biggest concern and heartache. I know so many of you are praying. Gerald has felt over the last six months that he is slowly weakening despite the monthly IVIG treatments. In August we went to Rush Medical Center in Chicago for a second opinion. They recommend staying away from chemotherapy (immuno-suppressants) as long as possible. But we may be heading in that direction if Gerald continues to weaken. It is the only option we have left. We will delay it as long as possible because of the horrible side effects and dangers. Whenever I think about chemo I feel like someone has just kicked me in the stomach. I waken at night and cry---that is the only place I can do so without upsetting the others. I am pleading with God for a miracle---a medical breakthrough, a healing, I don't know what kind of a miracle. I will take any kind. If you have the faith, please pray along with me.

My fears can easily take over, especially in the wee hours of the morning. My emotions get all worked up, I fret and stew and worry and bite my finger nails thinking about the future and all the what ifs and what will I do if, and how shall I cope if.... I grab myself by the neck and say, "Self, don't ruin the joy you have now with worries about tomorrow."

Gerald is such a good, compassionate, loving, godly man. Why him? It seems so unfair. I often think of this verse, "For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:45.

Gerald reminds me so much of Job. Always trusting, always gracious, always kind. I hope I'm not like Job's wife! I hate not being in control of things. When it comes to surrendering control of our lives, the moment when we are converted to Christ is just the beginning. That moment sets the stage for a lifetime of surrender, continually saying no to self and yes to God.

Yes, Lord, yes! I say it when I don't feel like saying it, when I feel like screaming, "No! No! No!". God helping me --- "Yes, Lord yes."

We continue to live each day for the Lord, asking for strength and grace to face whatever the future holds. Even so come Lord Jesus! And thank you for your continued prayers---please don't forget us.

Gerald and our grandaughter Katie sharing an apple from "Grandpa's" tree.

Two are better than one...for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

It's All About Me

Hopefully, only this next section is.

I don't know how I manage to get busier, but somehow I do. Caleb says I need to slow down or I will have a nervous breakdown. After a long day, when I'm still busy in the office Caleb says, "Mom, don't you ever quit?" I assure him that I do whenever I lay down to go to bed. He just sighs and says, "Mom, you are getting too old for this!" Some days, I agree with that statement.

My office looked like this while I was working on this update.

My homeschooling load is less this year, now that Matthew is attending university. The children were able to buy their own laptops this year with their savings---no more old computers to break down, causing me to have meltdowns!

I trained 'Beka to help with the bookkeeping work this year and that has helped. At least misery (me) now has company ('Beka)! Accounting work has taught 'Beka some new skills which should benefit her in life. It also taught us that when two people are doing a miserable job, you have two miserable people doing a miserable job.

After strawberry season I had painful tendonitis in my right shoulder, causing me to grit my teeth and even weep some days. I rode it out for four months, but after sleeping terribly that whole time, I finally broke down and went to the doctor. I ended up seeing a specialist and have just finished one month of physiotherapy. I will have to do exercises for 30 minutes daily for the rest of my life to keep the muscles strong. I have to be careful lifting heavy things and learn different ways to pick things up so as not to stress my shoulders. I'm not very patient (I'm a "do it now by myself" kind of a person) so this is a character builder for me!

I love to decorate for Christmas in old country style.

Dear friends of our family introduced us to Alistair Begg's ministry Truth for Life. We are getting some wonderful teaching via his website for our Sunday morning house church. I encourage you to listen to some of his sermons. No milk here, but solid meat. And it will quickly stir you up to action! The other day he made this statement. "We are but one breath away from eternity. How can we amble through our days filled with pleasure and other selfish pursuits?"

My prayer for 2010 is this:

“God, you have put me here on this earth for such a time as this.
I want my life to be invested and poured out for you—
better or worse, hard times, good times, easy times, richer or poorer, whatever—
I want my life to contribute to the furthering of your kingdom
and the bringing about of your glory here on this earth. Amen and Amen.”

The Outer Circle

Several grandhcildren were born to us this past year.

Laura's baby, Brooklyn with Grandma for Hallowe'en.

Philip, Laura, Brooklyn and Kelsey Gioja.
Photo by Laura (Aardsma) Gioja.

David's little Cailyn visiting Grandma's house for Hallowe'en.

Kathryn, David and Cailyn Aardsma. Photo by Laura (Aardsma) Gioja

Grace Diana
Stephen and Jenna Aardsma's first baby.

We added three grandaughters, eleven grands for Gerald and me. We are blessed!

Our 2009 Family Reunion in New Hampshire

We had another very unusual family reunion this year. It was held in New Hampshire at the request of Gerald's mother. All of Gerald's siblings were present. Six of my ten children attended. I worked together with Gerald's sister for two years planning this event. It was great to visit my mother-in-law and her extended family and to visit the areas where she grew up. We have sweet memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.

We had over 40 people in attendance.

Six of my ten children attended this once-in-a-lifetime event!

Jennifer (Aardsma) Hall, Gerald, Gerald's Mom, Joshua and Gerald's Grandma; five generations!

The Homestead

Mulberry Lane Farm has had a great year! I added a Journal to the farm website. You can Sign Up. It is a great way to read about our farm and what we do, stay in touch with our family and see some neat photos. Check it out!

Odds and Ends

A Dozen Ways to Make Yourself (and quite a few others) Miserable in 2010

1. Count your troubles, name them one by one---at the breakfast table, if anybody will listen, or as soon as possible thereafter.
2. Worry every day about something. Don't let yourself get out of practice. It won't add a cubit to your stature but it might burn a few calories.
3. Pity yourself. If you do enough of this, nobody else will have to do it for you.
4. Devise clever but decent ways to serve God and mammon. After all, a man's gotta live.
5. Make it your business to find out what the Joneses are buying this year and where they're going. Try to do them at least one better even if you have to take out another loan to do it.
6. Stay away from absolutes. It's what's right for you that matters. Be your own person and don't allow yourself to get hung up on what others expect of you.
7. Make sure you get your rights. Never mind other people's. You have your life to live, they have theirs.
8. Don't fall into any compassion traps---the sort of situation where people can walk all over you. If you get too involved in other people's troubles, you may neglect your own.
9. Don't let Bible reading and prayer get in the way of what's really relevant---things like TV and newspapers. Invisible things are eternal. You want to stick with the visible ones where it's at now.
10. Be right, and be sure to let folks know it. If you catch yourself in the wrong, don’t breathe it to a soul.
11. Review daily the names of people who have hurt, wronged, or insulted you. Keep those lists up-to-date, and think of ways to get even without being thought of as unreasonable, uncivilized, or unchristian.
12. Never forgive a wrong. Clutch it forever, and you’ll never be unemployed. Resentment is a full-time job.*3

A Great Children's Craft by Jennifer (Aardsma) Hall

Jennifer told me about a neat Christmas craft she did with her children. She kindly offered to write it up for the update.

Steve, Ethan, Joshua, Jennifer (Aardsma) Katie, and Samuel Hall.

I read in a Christmas book that other countries have a tradition of hanging lace doilies on their Christmas trees. When I read that, an idea popped into my mind. I'm not much of a "crafty" person, but I thought it would be fun to try making snowflakes out of paper doilies, and then use them to decorate our Christmas tree. We tried it, and it turned out to be so much fun that I thought I'd share it with you.

Here's what we did. I purchased 2 packs of small white paper doilies, some glitter-glue, some clear acrylic sealer spray, and some ornament hangers. Then, on the designated day, we began our project. I folded the doilies in half, then quarters, then eighths and sometimes sixteenths. Joshua (9) was the main snowflake-cutter. At first he declined to help with this craft, but he soon discovered how intriguing it was to cut a design into the folded doily, unfold it, and view a masterpiece! Ethan (7) and Katelyn (6) were the main glitter-glue decorators. The glitter-glue worked wonderfully for this craft, producing nice detailed work. I enjoyed cutting and glittering as well. Sammy (1) enjoyed chewing on the glitter-glue tubes and also throwing them all over the room.

After the glitter-glue had dried (several hours), I sprayed the snowflakes with the clear acrylic sealer. I hoped this would make them last longer and help the edges not curl up. I'm not sure that it was really necessary.

We made 42 snowflakes. They look beautiful on our tree! I didn't get out all the "regular" ornaments this year. We just hung the doilies up with some garland, beads and tinsel.

This activity was simple enough to be truly enjoyable for all. I didn't have to do 95% of it myself, as often happens with crafts and kids---instead, the kids could be proud of what THEY had done.

By the way, Jennifer has written some great piano books for students---Joyful Melodies Book 1and Joyful Melodies Book 2. These piano books are for the Gospel pianist---and all arranged by my daughter, Jennifer! Be sure to check them out! Hall Music Ministries.

Good Family Movies

Tom Thumb starring Russ Tamblyn
My Three Sons with Fred McMurray Season 1
Follow Me Boys with Fred McMurray

Copycat French Vanilla Liquid Coffee Creamer

I like CoffeeMate's French Vanilla Creamer. I make myself a drink with hot water and put in one tablespoon of creamer. It really tastes good! But I don't like all the additives that are in it. I found the following neat recipe online for it. It probably doesn't save any money, but it is healthier and can always be on hand when needed.

1 (300 ml) can low fat sweetened condensed milk (or regular... but I use low fat)
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
1 tablespoon vanilla ( I put in 2 tablespoons of French Vanilla syrup by DaVinci which I buy at Sam's Club.)
Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend well (or in a mason jar and stir sweetened condensed milk as it will settle at the bottom, and then put lid on it and shake like crazy!)
Store in the fridge. Will keep for approximately two weeks.

a) Add 1 Tbsp cocoa and 1 tsp almond extract for a chocolate almond flavor.
b) Add 1 tsp almond extract and 1/2 tsp orange extract for cappuccino.
c) Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp almond extract for amaretto.
d) Add specialty flavor syrups (from specialty coffee shops and the like) as needed for additional flavors.

© 2009 Recipezaar. All Rights Reserved.

The Common Duties of Life

" is sinful to neglect the common duties of life under the idea that we shall do something more, by-and-by. You do not obey your parents, young man, and yet you are going to be a minister, are you? A pretty minister will you make! As an apprentice you are very dilatory and neglectful — and your master would be glad to see the back of you! He wishes that he could burn your indentures and yet you have an idea you are going to be a missionary, I believe. A pretty missionary you would be! There is a mother at home and her children are neglected while she talks to her neighbors. But when her children are off her hands, she is going to be a true mother in Israel and look after the souls of others. Such conduct is sin! Mind your children! Darn the stockings and attend to your other home duties! And when you have done that, talk about doing something in other places. If present duties are neglected, you cannot make up for the omission by some future piece of quixotic endeavor to do what you were never called to do! If we could all be quiet enough to hear that clock tick, we should hear it say, “Now! Now! Now! Now!” The clock resembles the call of God in the daily duties of the hour. “To him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin,” even though he may dream of how he will, in years to come, make up for his present neglect!"

by Charles Spurgeon

The first Christmas was a simple one.
So simple that it had all the makings of a first-class disaster.
It's a miracle it turned out well at all. In fact, that's the whole point.
It really was, and remains a miracle---the greatest miracle of all time.
And it really was simple.*4

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Blessings, Helen
Photo by Laura (Aardsma) Gioja.


*1 -- F. B Meyer, Frank L. Houghton, Prayers for the Heart and Home, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1894, 118.
*2 -- T. L. Haines, and L. W. Yaggy, The Royal Path of Life, Star Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, 147.
*3 -- Elisabeth Elliot, The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, Servant Publications, Ann Arbor MI, January/February 2002, 3.
*4 -- Mike Huckabee, Mike Huckabee; A Simple Christmas, Sentinel; Penguin Group, New York, New York, 2009, 1.


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