Monday, January 19, 2015

Rhodes Report 2014

This is my annual letter - "Christmas letter," if you will - that I send out after the first of the year.  This years was record length, I think.

As I was reflecting on the start of the New Year, and looking back on the past year, the words to one of our family’s favorite songs kept going through my head:
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning; It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, Let me be singing when the evening comes.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul!  Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before, O my soul!  I’ll worship Your holy name.
--“10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

I can’t think of a better thought to begin the New Year – WHATEVER happens – BLESS THE LORD!
This has been a year of “whatever” – and what a year it has been!
We opened 2014 more exhausted than ever before in our life.  Our newest, Gideon (born December 2013), refused to sleep at night.  One or both of us spent every night rocking, walking, holding, and praying for him to sleep.  The good news is, it got better.  The bad news is, it took several months for him to start sleeping on his own at night (and he didn’t sleep through the night –at all- ‘til after he turned 1).  But now all of that is behind us, and Gideon is a happy, active 1-year-old who walks (runs), climbs, wrestles, and explores.  He has 12 (!) teeth and the most adorable smile.  He nods and shakes his head when you ask him questions, and has the most infectious laugh. 
Zadie turned 2 in April.  Even though she jabbered constantly, she didn’t start talking intelligibly until late summer.  In the months since then, her vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds, and we can understand almost every word now.  She is a little mother, constantly bossing the household around.  She is also a girly-girl.  Everything pink, sparkly, fluffy, and otherwise fancy she loves.  She adores jewelry and is obsessed with shoes.  She constantly asks to have her fingernails painted.  Thankfully, she also loves being a “Mommy” and playing with her babies and cooking in her kitchen.  She has recently decided she’s going to use the potty.  That can’t happen soon enough; I am SO done with having two in diapers.
Jacob turned 5 in October.  We started Kindergarten with him this fall.   He seems to pick things up very quickly.  Some of it may be “spillover” from being present as Nathan learned these things, but he just seems to have a very quick mind in remembering things.  Math he’s breezing through, doing several lessons a day, and even though reading is a bit more work for him, but he’s still doing great for a 5-year-old!  He enjoys Legos, kitties, outdoors, and dinosaurs.  He’s always willing to help, whether it be sweeping the floor at home, or doing chores at Grammy and Pa-Pa’s.  In December, Jacob had surgery to repair a small hernia above his belly button – the hereditary weak spot – and it didn’t slow him down one bit.
Nathan turned 7 in September.  He’s in 2nd grade at home.  We are still behind in reading, but made a huge turn this summer when he finally decided that reading might be useful, and stopped arguing and started trying.  He’s making good progress and can read simple books.  We have a deal made for his time tests in Math – if he can complete it in less than 2 minutes, he gets a dollar toward buying a watch.  He always scores 100, but the higher addition tables take a while for him to figure in his head.  Nathan enjoys anything army, camouflage, or gun-related – so of course, Duck Dynasty!  He spends hours playing with his Legos and drawing or acting out army scenes.  He is very helpful with projects, doing a lot of work on the house this year (installing sheetrock and flooring), side-by-side with his dad or Grandpa.
Paul and I celebrated 10 years of marriage in March.  It’s been pretty close to a “perfect 10”, and we couldn’t be happier.  We love loving each other, and are truly thrilled to be best friends.  Paul just completed his 15th year at AGC (6th as a supervisor).  I am so proud of him.  I still “just” stay home.  In July, I had a [repeat] hernia surgery (same spot as Jacob’s).  Hopefully we are done with that issue.
To explain our crazy summer, I have to first start with last spring.  Paul and I wanted to do some updates and improvements to the house.  We knew our floors weren’t level (by several inches), so before replacing doors and windows, we wanted to see what we could do about leveling up the house.  It turns out that our floors weren’t level because two of our rock foundation walls were collapsing.  After having 3 companies come and give us inspections and estimates, and much prayer, we made the decision to completely tear out our stone cellar and foundation…… And replace it with a full concrete basement.  So now we have level floors – and twice as much living space as a year ago! 
We could not live in the house while work was being done – no water or gas, plus the fact that the whole thing was up on jacks!  We spent 12 weeks living in Williamsburg with Paul’s parents.  We so appreciate all of their help and generosity.  We moved back in the first week of October.  Paul has 3 months down on finishing this project….  And 20 years to go!  We tore off our old back porch/laundry room/utility room/disaster area (which would not have stayed attached to the house had we tried to jack it up with the rest of it), and replaced it with a new, taller, brighter back porch/mud room, with a half bath.  We moved the laundry, freezers, and hot water tank to the basement.  We will add a full bath in the basement (at some point), and this summer we will complete a bedroom for the older boys (eventually all 3).  The schoolroom is also downstairs – bliss! the dining room table is clean! – along with plenty of space to play.  With all new plumbing and ductwork – plus no wind howling through cracks in the rock foundation – our house is much warmer and draft free (and no frozen pipes!).
We can’t talk about the basement project without giving glory to God!  It was obvious from start to finish that this was God and He was blessing us in outrageous ways.  From the huge things – like providing the money – to the small – like our freezers were empty when we had to move them to the shop – we have felt His guidance every step.  We are overjoyed that He saw fit to give us this blessing.
Homeschool was an adventure this year.  The combination of a nursing baby, a demanding toddler, and an incredibly tired mommy made for lots of days of doing the bare minimum.  I think we took 3 spring breaks, so we weren’t done with school yet when we moved out in July.  The boys finally finished up in August while we were living at Grandpa & Grandma’s, and we didn’t start up again until October when we moved back home.  That’s the beauty of homeschooling!  We took a break from music lessons this year.  My lack of sleep for six months and our insane summer, combined with daily whining and arguing about practicing, made this one thing that became not important to me at this point.  Life has settled down now and we hope to take that task back up sometime soon.
Last year when I wrote this letter, my little sister was recently home from her two years in Africa with the Peace Corps.  In March, her boyfriend that she had met while living in Zambia came to visit.  In June, he went back home……. As her husband!  Carlsie and Jono now live in Zimbabwe, which is where Jono grew up.  Jono works as Chief Agronomist for Green Fuel, a huge farm that grown sugar cane for ethanol production.  We are thrilled to add Jono to our family!
We were able to take a small trip to Silver Dollar City in October.  We planned it in January, before we’d even imagined the basement project.  We were only home for two weeks before we left again, but it was a great time.  We had a “family reunion” of sorts, which included Paul’s parents , his sister, his aunt and her husband, and his cousin and her husband and their 3 kids.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed their time together, as did the grown-ups.  It was a nice time to just relax and enjoy fun together.
We are still blessed to be part of the family at Ottawa Bible.  We are involved in Awana, and a weekly small group that meets at the church.  The older boys and I helped out with our 14th annual Bethlehem experience, which they loved.  We had over 1200 guests come through this year.  We have also gone several times to local nursing homes to do some music ministry.  Paul is still very involved with Men’s Encounter, and we both look forward to serving at several Encounters again this year.
Obviously, our lives are full and busy.  We are truly blessed, and we count you each as a blessing, that you are our family and friends.  We hope the New Year finds you happy and hopeful as you look to the future.  We may never know what the future holds, but we know the One who holds the future, so we can find peace in trusting in Him.

Love to all,
Paul & Rachel

Nathan, Jacob, Zadie, and Gideon

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