(Better late than never!)
What a year 2013 was! There were ups and downs, surprises and blessings, challenges and changes, and through it all – God was, and is, ALWAYS faithful!
Let’s start with what stayed the same: We still live outside Ottawa. Paul still works at AGC (just finished his 14th year!). I still stay home with the kids. We still attend Ottawa Bible. Our parents are at their same homes, and doing well.
Now let’s talk about our biggest change: We had another baby! We were very, very surprised to find out in April that I was pregnant. Zadie wasn’t even a year old yet, and even though we were fairly sure we wanted another baby – we weren’t expecting to have two so close together (20 months)! But God loves surprises, and we were thrilled to welcome another boy into the world on December 9th. We named him Gideon Robert. Gideon has the eating thing figured out (he’s gaining about a ½ pound a week!), but we’re still trying to establish days and nights. He sleeps all day – despite the noise and chaos of his brothers and sister – and will sleep at night…..only if he is snuggled with someone. But he’s been more alert during the day, and I think (fingers crossed!) we may be making headway to him enjoying his space in his own bed at night. We’re very proud to have another future warrior for God. (Gideon means “mighty warrior.”)
Zadie continues her reign as princess of the house – like it or not, she IS the princess. She turned 1 in April, and is a sassy, spirited little girl. She still doesn’t have a very big vocabulary yet, but she communicates her wishes (demands) very clearly. Her words usually make no sense to us, but she regularly will walk up to someone and “give them the what-for” – and it’s obvious that, to her, whatever she’s saying makes complete sense. Zadie adores her baby brother, and is constantly petting on him and mothering him. (Honestly, we were a bit worried, as she would get jealous whenever I would hold other babies or children.) She’s a big girl, and holds her own very well with her big brothers. She’s also a girly-girl (oh my!), and loves clothes, shoes, and jewelry. We love our beautiful little girl.
Jacob turned 4 in October. We started pre-school curriculum with him at home. He already knew a lot of basics, like colors and shapes and numbers, from learning them alongside Nathan. He’s coming along with learning his letters, although we had to get creative to entice him to want to learn, which we did by playing matching games with his flash cards. He is slowly progressing on violin (slow because we aren’t diligent about daily practice); he can now play the first line of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” He started his first “official” year as a Cubbie in Awana this fall. Our hearts were overjoyed when, in February, he asked Jesus to forgive his sins and come into his heart. Jacob has a sensitive spirit, yet a stubborn will, which is a unique combination to learn how to parent! We are very proud to have him as our son.
Nathan turned 6 in September, the same month we started 1st grade with him at home. We are minimalistic on our curriculum this year, for two reasons: 1/ We knew that welcoming a new baby in the middle of the school year would take up a lot if my teaching time, and 2/ Nathan has no interest in reading, so I wanted to allow plenty of time to focus on that. So we are pretty much just doing phonics/reading and math. Homeschooling a very strong-willed child means daily battles. If Nathan doesn’t see the point of something, he will argue it to death, or else flat-out refuse to even try. So progress on reading is slow. He would rather try to hurry through it by guessing, which makes it take twice as long. (Try convincing him of that, though!) He can read simple words and stories, but since it takes effort, he’s not keen on it. He enjoys math, because it makes sense to him. He’s working on his addition tables and counting money. Nathan started his 2nd year of Sparks in Awana. He is coming along with his violin, and gets excited when he masters new songs or skills with it (even though, as mentioned earlier, he argues it to death while learning it!). He has nearly a dozen songs memorized, and is pretty adept at playing by ear. We’re starting to teach him to read music, and I think his ability will really take off when he figures that out. He’s lost 7 teeth – but 3 were in accidents, so are slow to come back in. :S He is a huge help with his little sister and baby brother, and with chores around the house. We are proud to have Nathan as our oldest son.
Paul’s Grandpa Rhodes passed away in February, at the age of 88. We took our first long trip in the van to Colorado for the funeral. It was a wonderful service honoring him and his service to the community and his country as a World War II veteran. We enjoyed the time with all the relatives together, although sad it had to be under those circumstances. (Grandpa Rhodes was Paul’s last living grandparent.)
This fall, Paul and I both felt God telling us it was time for us to step down from the praise team at our church. We felt it separately, and when we talked and realized we both had been feeling it, I wrote a letter of resignation to our Elders. I have been leading worship weekly for 7 years, but we both have been involved in the worship ministry at church for 13 years, so it felt like a huge decision. We’re not sure why God called us away from that ministry, but we’re looking forward to seeing what He is going to use us for in the future.
Paul has been very involved with a ministry called Men’s Encounter this year. It is a weekend event that challenges men to surrender every area of their lives to God. He, along with my brother JC, has helped organize and “launch” groups from the area to go to four Encounters this year. They started a men’s Bible study following the first one of the year. It has just been a blessing to watch these men grow and challenge each other and lead their families. “As iron sharpens iron….” – being involved in these ministries and studies has made Paul an even better man. Paul encouraged me to go to the Women’s Encounter in April. I went, and was blessed and challenged. Some of the challenges I’m still working on. I returned in July as a server, and we had 9 other ladies from our area go at the same time. It was an uncomfortable weekend for me, forcing me out of my comfort zones, but one that ended in uncontainable joy: to be able to share in the salvation of one of the ladies that went with us. (To find out more about the Encounter ministries, check out www.EncounterTheCross.com.)
In October, we were able to go on a “mini vacation” to Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, with Paul’s parents and sister. The kids loved it. It was wonderful to be able to go and spend time as a family, and extended family, and also get some couple time for Paul and me. And the fact that adults outnumbered children made for a mostly stress-free weekend!
We, along with Paul’s sister, were privileged to provide music at two weddings this year. We love playing the music to set the atmosphere for these most special of days. We also were part of two community “worship nights” where we got together with musicians from a couple other churches to provide a night of “just worship” as an outreach and blessing to others, where people can sing their praises and connect with God on their own level. We look forward to doing a couple more of those this coming year.
My sister Carlsie made it home from Zambia, Africa, after two years there with the Peace Corps. We are beyond thrilled to have our family complete again. I’m sure she’s tired of our questions about the experience and culture, but we love hearing about all of it!
And I think that wraps up the big news for the year. As I said before, GOD IS FAITHFUL. We are privileged to serve such an awesome God who has all things in control, and who knows our future, and who loves us deeply. And to think that the God of the universe longs to have us know Him!
In HIM we live and move and have our being,
Paul & Rachel
Nathan, Jacob, Zadie, Gideon