Much of our family news has already been posted on Helen's Journal throughout the year, so I will keep this update brief. If you want more details on our family life, have a look over there. You can even Sign Up to be notified by e-mail whenever I make a new journal post. I love hearing from so many of you and enjoy reading your comments on my journal updates.
I have sprinkled quotes (in italics) throughout this update from "Women and Beauty"* written almost 30 years ago by actress Sophia Loren. Sophia Loren was made famous in the 1950's and 60's. I hesitate to quote from her since she played in movies that I certainly do not endorse. I do find it fascinating that this is a woman who had it all, as far as the world goes, and yet had very strong feelings about commitment to marriage (she was married only once) and motherhood. Her principles are actually biblical in nature, even though she would probably not say that. Sometimes we get too familiar with certain Bible verses in regards to women and their roles. Some we have learned to play mental gymnastics with, to make them say what they clearly do not say. Others we have just tuned out as same old same old that is meaningless in today's world. Sophia's advice echoes biblical truths in an unfamiliar setting. I felt refreshed by her comments and I hope you will also be refreshed. Applying her wisdom in our homes would make them a better place for everyone in them, including ourselves!
My lilacs ready to burst open.
In order to find love, you must be disposed to love. You can't be like a princess in a castle waiting for someone to risk his life crossing the moat and scaling the wall. You must create a bridge and a ladder.
Pride is the greatest enemy of love because it closes your heart. It encourages you to compete. Once you think about love---real love and not a passing amusement---as a game, you have lost. There are always those moments when your pride makes you want to snap back, to have the last word. Let me tell you, although I know how hard it can be, that silence is better. You will ruin many wonderful moments in order to prove yourself.
And that's not all: when you make those comments or criticisms---ones you might regret later---you are often excited and your tone of voice is powerful. Your words will be convincing, perhaps more convincing than you know. As time goes by, these words will echo in your lover's mind and, like drops hitting a stone, eventually they will do their damage and there will be no repair. Those little bursts of pride which seem so justified at the moment will eventually destroy even the strongest love.
You must also recognize as a mature adult, that trouble is a part of love. I think this takes time to learn. A young couple swings wildly from passion to revulsion. But as you grow wiser you come to realize that every cloud doesn't signal a hurricane. Some differences are worth a discussion, and sometimes an argument.
You certainly can have an argument or even a fight without destroying love. You must want to look beyond the fight, and if you both want this, you will achieve it. Perhaps this is one of the greatest values of marriage; it is a formal agreement that, if you value your promise, will carry you through the times when it may seem hopeless. And the more troubles you overcome, the more reasoned and understanding will your love become.
Love should be savored every day.
As a loving wife, you must not neglect the small things. The little matters of charm and kindness are the core of love. Too often you may forget them once you have won someone's heart. When you take your husband for granted and lose the desire to look and act your best for that person, the relationship will become strained and the joy will disappear.
Love and perfume you must not hoard. Love is not something, like an evening dress, for a special occasion. Love should be savored every day.
There is another virtue in cherishing the loving details of daily life. The more you do to express your love, the more love you will feel. If you spend the morning wondering why your husband didn't put his breakfast dish in the sink or why he never remembers your anniversary, I guarantee that you will be accumulating a reservoir of resentment. At the end of the day, you will be poised for new hurts and failings. Primed for disappointment, it is very likely that you will get what you are prepared for. If, on the other hand, you spend your time thinking about your husband's good points and doing things for your mutual pleasure, your good feelings will grow.
You come to love those you help. When you do something for someone, you feel a commitment to him and an investment in his well-being --- you feel love. So it is a mistake to wait for love to grow without attention as if it were some magical force outside your control. It is no good waiting for that one special night, the night you put on your evening gown and feel love. You want to feel it all the time, and the way to achieve it is to do all the little things that nourish love and make it grow inside you. (pg. 171)
Gerald has had a good year health-wise. In April we began Gerald's treatments for his CIDP at home. Gerald administers the treatments himself with a little help from me. The treatments are now sub-cutaneous rather than intravenous. The treatments last about three hours and are done two evenings a week while we read or talk or watch a movie. There is concern for liver and kidney function because of the treatments, so Gerald has to have blood work done every six months to check on those. I know many of you faithfully pray for Gerald, and we do thank you!
Gerald continues on his book, "Noah's Flood Happened 3500 B.C." This is a second book in a series, the first being The Exodus Happened 2450 B.C. The research has been fascinating to be a part of and I love hearing about his latest understanding of the Biblical flood.
Gerald continues to be my best friend and counselor. He treats me just like I Peter 3:7 tells men to treat their wives. "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered."
"The glory of a man is his wife. Nothing tells you more about a man than what you see in his wife. When you look into the countenance of a man's wife, you will see everything he has invested or withheld. You will see what kind of character he has."**Coach Bill McCartney
Even though Gerald has made so many discoveries in his research, has traveled and spoken at various places in the world, is involved in leading-edge research as a Christian and a scientist, the greatest work he has done is right here in our home. He has given me ten children to love and raise for the Lord. He has led in family devotions every single day for almost forty years, day in and day out, without fail. He is always available for counsel, for hugs, to answer questions of all kinds***, (recently at our dinner table a college student asked him, "Do you know what oiler's equation is?" [actually, that's "Euler's Equation"; I'm just reporting what I heard.] He responded with words like 'ease' and 'eyes' and 'pies'. Nobody else knew what it meant, but the student said, "Oh, wow! You're the first person I've been able to talk to about this!"), to help fix this or that, to be a shoulder to cry on, a friend to pray with, a grandfather to hug, an accessible resource to a college student with questions about radiocarbon dating, a Sunday preacher, a piano repairman, listening to a broken hearted child, a walking companion for a lonely wife (me), and a million other things. If the true sign of a great leader is that he is a humble servant, then Gerald is a great leader! Gerald is one in a billion million and I'm so glad God gave him to me. If I could live my live all over again, I would change only one thing---I would marry him a year sooner.
***I thought you might enjoy reading this question from our 10 year old grandson Ethan, and Gerald's reply. Ethan writes the question through his mom, Jennifer, our oldest daughter.
I have been thinking about a verse in the Bible. The verse is in Job 40:15. It says something about
a behemoth that eateth the grass like an ox, his bones are as strong as pieces of brass, his bones are like bars of iron.
What do you think this is talking about?
I think it is talking about a hippopotamus. Here's why I think this.
There are two clues to work from. The first clue is the description which God gives to Job (Job 40:15--24). The second clue is the root meaning of the word "behemoth".
The description of the animal and its habitat seems to fit the hippopotamus well. They are large animals, for example, weighing as much as 5 tons when full grown. This makes them immediately impressive. As a further example, the Encyclopedia Americana says they can walk on the bottom of lakes and streams. This fits well with "under the lotus plants he lies down" and "the lotus plants cover him with shade". Lotus plants are water lilies, whose leaves (or pads) grow flat on the surface of the water. So this seems to be describing an animal which is at home even when completely under the water. You can look up "hippopotamus" in an encyclopedia or on the Internet to learn more about them.
I have heard someone say the tail doesn't work out too well, because the Bible says it is "like a cedar" (which is a tree) while the hippopotamus' tail is relatively small compared to the size of the animal. But I think they weren't being careful enough. The Bible doesn't say the tail is like a cedar. Rather it says behemoth "bends his tail like a cedar". The idea seems to be how strong even the tail is, not how big it is.
The second clue comes from the root of the Hebrew word for behemoth. Scholars who spend their lives learning about where words come from suggest this word comes from the Egyptian word pehemu. Notice the similarity in sound between the word pehemu and the word behemoth. Pehemu means "ox of the water". The "ox of the water" in ancient Egypt was what we today call a "hippopotamus".
Hope this helps.
What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel that they are
joined for life,
to strengthen each other in all labor,
to rest on each
other in all sorrow,
to minister to each other in all pain,
to be one with
each other in silent, unspeakable memories
at the moment of the last parting.
George Elliott (aka Mary Anne Evans), from "Adam Bede".
Photo by Tim Aardsma.
Freedom in Love
You must be free in your love or it is not real love. We all know and accept this with our minds, but is it not so easy in practice. The more difficult aspect of freedom in love is allowing the other person to have it. I don't mean freedom to do anything according to whim---that would be damaging to the couple's bond. I am talking about allowing your loved one the freedom to be himself.
Here is a scenario we all recognize. Mary and Tom are at a party. Mary starts to frown. Tom begins to tell his story of losing his luggage in Guatemala. The frown breaks into a scowl. Mary, grabbing Tom's arm, says that everyone has heard that story. Tom tells the story, oblivious of her irritation. Mary spends the rest of the evening trying to rein him in. When she finally gets Tom alone, she refuses to speak to him....
Doubtless we have all had occasions when we have winced at our man's behavior. My husband Carolos, for example, tends to fall asleep at parities. But I think we must, difficult though it seems, admit that his person, is not a part of us. He has a right to his innocent quirks of behavior. Probably no one at my mythical party was bothered by Tom's obvious enjoyment of the evening. Perhaps no one had heard his luggage story. Indeed, if there was any discomfort, it was no doubt caused more by Mary than Tom. Most often in these cases, sympathy is with the renegade spouse.
I use this example of the couple at the party because it is such a common one. But you can think of many situations in which you feel the desire to make your man conform to your standards even in simple ways. We seem to have this drive to make the other person into what we consider a perfect version of himself. It is so curious that we are attracted to people for certain reasons, and then, once we are together, we often try to change those very things that first drew us. Once upon a time, Mary was probably attracted by Tom's spirited ways; now she would prefer that he become reserved, like herself.
The next time your husband does something that you find irritating, stop and think a minute why it upsets you. Is there really anything wrong with what he is doing? If in fact his action is innocent, why not relax and let him be himself? You will both find life easier when, lovingly, you grant each other the freedom to be yourself.(pg. 120)
Here I am reading a story to my grandaughter, Cailyn.
The Aardsma Five
Matthew is half way through his junior year at the University of Illinois (U of I). He is working three jobs in various aspects of research at the U of I as well as carrying a full time class load. Matthew continues serving at his church in Champaign and enjoys leading a Bible study in his home on a weekly basis with several Christian men.
A wise son makes a mother and father glad.
The father and mother of the righteous will greatly rejoice,
and they who beget a wise child will delight in him.
Let her who bore you rejoice!
Matthew moved into his own place in the fall, along with his two dogs, Buddy and Farley. Matthew still comes home for just a few hours almost every weekend and we all enjoy the time he spends with us. He was able to bag an nine point buck (his first deer of the year) this fall and put ninety-nine pounds of venison in the freezer.
Gerald and I are delighted and thrilled to announce Matthew's engagement to his queen, Esther! (Matthew's second dear of the year!) Matthew and Esther have been on the courting track for two years, which, we all assumed would lead to marriage. What joy we have had watching these two God-fearing young people mature and deepen in their love for each other. Young love with all its idealism, sparkle, innocence and delight! It is what a young girl's dreams are made of. And Esther is a mother's dream for her son.
We gladly welcome Esther into the Aardsma clan, though Esther has felt like a daughter to us for a long time already. Esther is sweet, quiet, kind and gracious yet she has an inner strength and fortitude that can move mountains. Esther's goal is to be a Proverbs 31 woman, nothing more and nothing less. I applaud her in this noble calling and bless her for it! May God bless this new home and may all of Ester's and Matthew's dreams come true as they set out to honor God in their lives together.
Gerald and I have been privileged to be an intimate part of Matthew's courtship---counseling and cheer-leading on the sidelines. It is a privilege we do not take lightly. It has been a very rewarding experience for me as a mother with warm and precious memories to last in my heart for a lifetime.
Matthew and his 9 (non-typical) point buck.
God of love,
our life is in your hands
and so we need not be anxious for the future.
We ask you to bless Matthew and Esther,
Help them as they prepare to travel the path of life together.
Under your protecting hand
may they pass this time of preparation and anticipation
in reverent love and responsibility.
With faith in you and in mutual trust
may they grow ever closer together.
We ask this through Christ our Savior.
Sometimes, manners, like horseless carriages, seem to be an idea whose time has come and gone. Today's culture is so informal and so flexible [ed. if Sophia could see it now, almost 30 years later....] that we tend to think manners are outmoded and that common sense will serve us better. I think this is a big mistake. There are many structured situations in which an accepted form of behavior will ease the way. Indeed, manners can and should affect every transaction we make through every day of our lives. They can make the difference between cheerful existence and a miserable one. Every exchange you have with another person is touched by manners, good or bad. Whether you are dealing with your mother or a cab driver, your manners will affect the tone of the exchange.
Manners are really about graciousness, the quality that makes others feel at ease. If you keep that in mind, you will understand why they are important.
Study correct manners if you don't feel comfortable with what you already know. Read a book on etiquette and observe the behavior of those who seem able to make you and everyone else comfortable on social occasions. I do not suggest that you make a career of learning manners, but everyone can use a refresher course now and again. And if you are a mother, you have a big responsibility to teach your children manners. The home is the place to learn them. If your children grow up with good manners, their lives will be much easier. (Pg. 140)
After attending two different universities, 'Beka has decided to stay home this next year and take online classes from Liberty University. She loves being home with us and seems happiest to be right here. She works for our various businesses and enjoys making quilts and other sewing crafts, playing the piano and guitar, doing complicated paint by number and taking a daily walk with Rachel and me.
'Beka lights up our lives with her smile!
Kindness in the Home
You have probably heard Tolstoy's line "Happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I believe the common quality that happy families---and happy couples---share is kindness. Perhaps kindness sounds to you like a virtue for children---certainly it is not nearly as romantic as courage or honesty. But it is kindness that smoothes the rough spots in a person's spirit.
Kindness can be expressed in so many ways. Sometimes it translates into silence. When your husband loses his keys for the fifth time that day, you have a right to be annoyed. Perhaps his mind is on a problem, perhaps he is preoccupied with some work or household concern. But do you really think your irritation will help, or make him less forgetful the next time? More likely, it will lead to resentment and sharp words in return. On such occasions, kindness, the open sympathy of the heart, will make your husband feel understood and loved. Certainly you will be happier: not only will you feel the love of your husband for your understanding, but you will be content with yourself for your wisdom. Mutual forgiveness for small failings can be a genuine inspiration for love. You know that I am not encouraging tolerance of serious failings and problems; these should be confronted and resolved. But innocent failings---and who does not have them?---can be the irregular side of a puzzle piece that allows two people to lock together.
Most examples of kindness are so small that they evaporate in the heat of an examining light. But believe me, these kindnesses amount to love. They are the grains of sand in the cement that binds a couple together. (pg. 171--173)
Rachel is a senior in our homeschool this year. It is hard to believe our last daughter will graduate this coming spring!
Rachel plans on taking online classes next fall after she graduates. Rachel has received the highest SAT score of any of our children yet: 2160! Rachel is now testing out her driving skills, as Gerald, (this is the 8th child he has taught to drive) takes her on the Illinois roadways. Rachel enjoys talking on the phone and Skyping Joey, (need I say more?).
Rachel had the joy of going to California this Christmas to spend the holidays with her boyfriend, Joey, and his family and came home with a diamond ring! We are delighted to announce Rachel's engagement to Joey! We couldn't be more pleased! Rachel is so blessed to be marrying into a godly, kind and gracious Christian family who are giving their blessing to this union with as much joy as Gerald and I! Joey's parents have been our dear friends for some twenty years, and now the friendship is moving to a whole new level!
Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your wisdom in arranging
that man should not be alone but should unite himself
to another to form a living cell or unit,
bringing forth new members for your kingdom.
Bless Joey and Rachel who have manifested their intention
to unite in marriage in the future.
Keep them close to You and to one another,
deepen their spirit of prayer and love,
and lead them to receive the covenant of Marriage with joy and happiness.
We ask this in the Name of Jesus the Lord.
Timothy turned 14 this year. He continues to grow tall and now he looks down on me, but hopefully only because he is taller than me. He has reached his goal of high school and therefore, no more dishes to wash. (Men do not do dishes in our home, but more masculine type things.) Tim recently purchased a nice camera for taking pictures of birds. My backyard, back near his bedroom window, looks like a bird sanctuary. He gets some great pictures right from his bedroom window. Tim went hunting for squirrels with Matthew and Caleb and was pleased to shoot one. Tim helps with our yard care business during the summer months and was glad when the last fall cleanup was completed in November.
Tim getting his first squirrel.
Caleb, 12, continues on his electronic hobbies. He built an adorable little robotic mouse that was hilarious to watch, all out of spare parts he had in his very large spare parts box. Caleb assists with the yard business, and has many responsibilities with the animals on the homestead.
The other day after Caleb came in from cleaning out the cow stall, he walked past me and I said, "Caleb, you need to have a shower."
He replied, "Well, I'll just change my clothes."
"Caleb, you must take a shower now, and then change your clothes!"
"Oh Mom. What about if I just wash my hands?"
He lost. I won. A mother can always tell when boys start liking girls. All of this wrangling stops and they ask you to please add hair spray to the grocery list. Caleb isn't there yet.
Caleb loves to do paper crafts. Check out this great site for lots of fun projects! If your children are bored, this will keep them entertained for hours.
Caleb jumping off the office roof into a pile of leaves.
Caleb working on a robotic project.
Taming the Internet Monster
Gerald and I continue to be deeply concerned about unfiltered Internet in homes across America. I have counseled several very distraught women this past year who have been completely shocked to discover that their husbands and sons are steeped in pornography---husbands who stand up in church on a Sunday morning and pray, and then in their leisure moments in the wee hours of the morning fill their minds with trash, devastating their spiritual life and their wives and families when they find out.
The scars and wounds go very deep for these women.
I am always amazed at how naive many women are. "Oh, my husband would never do that." "My children love the Lord and they just aren't interested into that kind of stuff." "I trust them. They always tell me what they've been doing on the Internet."
One woman put it very well when she said, "When it comes to temptation regarding pornography, there are two types of men: 1. male and vulnerable, and 2. dead male and not vulnerable."
Gerald and I created The White Knight (a hardware whitelist filter) for our own family because we found that all of the Internet filtering programs we tried failed to work well enough to give us peace of mind. We have been using The White Knight for several years and are very pleased with it. We were privileged this year to set up several homes and one church with The White Knight.
Dr. Aardsma's Internet Filter
Our grandson Sammy, at our Homecoming 2011. (Western Theme!)
Pregnancy and Motherhood
My first pregnancy was the most extraordinary period of my life. I had wanted a baby for years, had suffered two miscarriages, which had thrown me into despair and, at last, at the age of thirty-four, I had conceived again. Because the doctor I trusted lived in Switzerland, I moved to Geneva to be near him. If I had to move to the North Pole and live in an igloo for nine months to wait for my baby, I wouldn't have hesitated.
Pregnancy should be a magical time for a woman, but for me it was not. I was terrified that I would lose my baby. Confined to a hotel, in bed most of the day, I made every effort to stay clam---which, for me, was almost impossible. My emotions were always at war; yes, I am pregnant and about to become a mother and soon I will hold my little baby and be the happiest woman on earth; no, I must not get my hopes up too high or I will invite a tragedy. I awoke every day relieved to have safely passed another twelve hours, and went to bed at night with the same thought.
The experience of pregnancy and motherhood has a strange effect on a woman. In one sense it isolates you from the rest of the world....you are entirely engrossed in your own body and the life it holds. It is as if you were in the grip of a powerful force, as if a wave had lifted you above and beyond everyone else. In this way there is always a part of a pregnant woman that is unreachable and is reserved for the future---her baby. At the same time, when you are pregnant you take on a new role that makes you part of the world as never before. When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. You are connected to your child and to all those who touch your lives. Before, you could come and go as you pleased, get angry, be impatient, burn your bridges. But a mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. She needs the world to be safe and happy.
The biggest problem facing a pregnant woman is not nausea or fatigue or her wardrobe---it's free advice. ....Everyone from the garage mechanic to the childless waitress will have advice for you.
Free advice is a cross that all mothers have to bear almost from the moment they conceive to the end of their lives. By the time your child reaches the age of five and someone tells you to slap him whenever he cries, you know enough to realize that this person is crazy. When you are pregnant, you are vulnerable, so you must be prepared.
Once your baby is born, follow nothing but your own instinct. Good information is available from many sources and you shouldn't ignore it; a mother has to learn about nutrition and discipline and a host of things that will keep her child healthy and happy. But finally you alone know your child and how to handle him. I think the care of babies would be easier if we could be more relaxed, more confident in our approach and more willing to acknowledge that every baby is different. Carolos was a very fussy baby and I believe that was at least partly because I was an anxious mother. Eldorado was calmer; so was I. Your baby may need to be fed every hour, another baby every three hours. One of the joys of motherhood is learning to know your child so well that you can anticipate his special needs and give him just what he requires to meet the world. Don't let anyone take this privilege away from you.
As a woman waits for the birth of her baby, she becomes more tolerant and courageous. She is trusting. She builds armor against anxieties. When she gives birth, she is unreachable in her loneliness. Her thoughts are on the biological event and all she has is faith. When her baby is born, she needs all the courage and tolerance and trust she has developed. The wisdom that she has gained in the pregnancy and birth may seem like a small thing at first---she may even be unaware of it---but gradually it will give her the strength she needs to be mother. (pg. 174-184)
You may have guessed by now that I believe that motherhood is the greatest role of my life. Nothing, not even winning an Oscar, can compete with the pleasure and sense of accomplishment it has given me. I believe that all women feel an instinctive urge to make a family. Some women may use this desire creatively in their work or by living lives devoted to ideas. For me, nothing could substitute for motherhood.
When I became pregnant, my concern for my career evaporated. Nothing mattered to me but my baby. If necessary, I would have given up my work to have a child. If this means I am not modern, then I am not modern. I believe an infant needs to be with its mother as much as possible. This closeness, the endless flow of attention are the accumulation of love that a child carries through his life as a heritage. If you are lucky, your early childhood memories are intense, warm moments of love, of security, of your mother watching you or helping you. It seems to me that people with these happy memories are content as adults because they can still recall the powerful security of being totally loved, while those with memories of being frightened and abandoned find it difficult to find real peace and happiness.
I am aware of the implications of what I am saying, and to be honest, a part of me hopes that it is not true. I know that many women today leave their babies at an early age to go back to work. I truly hope that these children will grow up joyful and that my ideas are outdated. But I wouldn't be honest if I said that I thought a few hours in the evening after a day's work could substitute for day after day spent with your baby.
If you share this desire for children and a yearning to be with them, don't worry about not being modern. Follow your instincts and enjoy your children to the fullest. If you feel secure in your pleasure at being a mother, your children will sense it and life will be easier and happier for the whole family. (pg. 184)
Each year I like to tape up all my Christmas cards and letters on my dining room wall. I do them in a shape of a Christmas tree. (When Rachel proofed my update she said, "You tape them in a shape of a Christmas tree?" I tried and failed I guess.) It is fun to walk by and see so many of your smiling faces and beautiful families! As I go about my day, I pray for someone on my "Christmas Tree"; maybe I'm praying for you today!
Goodbye, goodnight, and God Bless!
Photo by Tim Aardsma.
* -- Women and Beauty, Sophia Loren, William Morrow and Company Inc., New York, N.Y., 1984.
** -- Putting His House In Order"