Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Witness (Not Whining)

So, the following post could sound a lot like whining, but I am not writing it to complain.  I am writing it as a testimony.  God provides!

I'm a bit late in posting about it, as the story starts about a year ago, but here it is....

     Having a new baby always costs money.  Even before the hospital bills hit, there's the expenditures of MORE diapers, more water bills, and eating out because a sleepless mama can't bear the thought of planning meals.
     Paul's truck went in for some warranty work last February.  Initially this was a blessing, because the (FREE!) rental they supplied got better than twice the gas mileage Paul's truck did.  And then.....  A tie rod broke on Paul's truck when they were aligning it post-repair. We ended up with a $1000 mechanic bill, which kicked off the most financially stressful period of our entire marriage. 
     In addition to the baby hospital bills, we also ended up with bills from the emergency room (Gideon), another surgery (me), and procedures for treatment of my severe varicose veins. 
     Then we found out our roof needed replaced following a hail storm, and insurance was only going to pay half. Our washing machine and mower also broke down. And then I blew a tire on the van, so ended up having to buy two new tires.  In the midst of all this, our normal yearly taxes and insurance were due. 
But God supplied all our needs! About the time that all savings accounts reached empty, Paul and I had a discussion.  I felt like our finances were out of control.  But I was also being convicted because we weren't giving God his portion.  We were giving every month, but I had not been giving the FULL tithe that we had decided on a couple years ago.  (Of course, I justified it with "but I give my time" and "we give in other ways.")  Paul and I talked about it, and decided we needed to give God all of His part.  
     So.  In faith, I wrote a check.  It's faith, to write a check for a couple hundred dollars, when you know you have several thousand dollars in bills coming due within the next couple months, and that we didn't have enough in savings to cover them.
      The same day I put the check in the offering, Paul was offered a part time job helping a man with roofing, which paid for gas and groceries those few months. We had to learn humility in admitting we couldn't afford certain things, and in taking assistance through free food that was offered us. It was tight, but we made it, and continued to give our full tithe the rest of the year.  We still had Christmas!  And the children got a chance to see the blessing of passing along blessings that have been given us when we were able to help a needy woman.
     "My God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory."  (Philippians 4:19)  We all know there's so much more that he supplies, things of eternal value, but this is one instance of him providing for our physical needs - because He's such a great God!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Rhodes Report 2016

I typed this up, but never got it sent out.  As always, January finances were in upheaval.  It's always the super-tight month after Christmas expenditures and before receiving Paul's holiday overtime and tax return.  February was super-busy and I didn't have time to address the envelopes.  Then came March, and I'd forgotten about it.  So when April hit, I asked, "What's the point?"  
But for you loyal readers, here it is......

     As a new year dawns, we can look back over 2016 and see just how blessed we are. We are promised that "God will meet all [our] needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19), and we can see that He has faithfully done that.
     We opened 2016 looking forward to the arrival of our 5th baby. Elsa Anne was born March 15. Now, at 10 months old, her personality is beginning to shine. She is a very happy baby, who loves smiling and waving. She is noticeably smaller than our other 4 were at the same age, but no less adventurous. She has crawling figured out, and has recently discovered the stairs. She is timidly attempting letting go of her support as she stands, but doesn't seem to be in a hurry to conquer that skill. Her siblings adore her, and are all very helpful in entertaining and watching out for her.
     Gideon turned 3 in December, and is a little Mr. Smarty Pants. He's got the world figured out, and fears nothing. Surprisingly, his "adventurousness" is not what earned him our family's first trip to the emergency room. In June, he fell getting out of the van and got 3 stitches in his forehead. But even in this, he was Mr. Smooth, charming the nurses and doctor, while kicked back on the gurney with his hands behind his head. Gideon has a very large vocabulary, and his expressions are hilarious. He knows most of his shapes and colors, and he loves building with his big Legos and playing with farm toys and trains.
     Zadie turned 4 in April. She is a very tall girl, with most mistaking her for a 6 or 7 year old. We started pre school with her on the fall, and she loves the writing and coloring, but sees no use for trying to remember the names of letters and numbers. Miss Zadie is a sass, and all her dad can do is shake his head when she is telling him how the world works, complete with finger-wagging and head nods. She loves drawing, coloring, and writing her name, along with playing with her doll house and ponies. We discovered "girl Legos" this year, and she spends hours creating and interacting with them.
     Jacob turned 7 in October and is in 2nd grade. He is very quick with picking things up in his schoolwork, although his attention to detail could use some work. Jacob shadows his big brother constantly, and as a result sometimes isn't sure about what he likes to do on his own. He enjoys farm toys, Legos, dinosaurs, mowing and raking in the yard, and exploring outside. He really enjoys helping Pa-Pa on the farm.  He got a beginner’s compound bow for his birthday and has enjoyed target shooting with it.  His patience will pay off in that area.
     Nathan turned 9 in September. He learns tasks very quickly, and is very careful and trustworthy with being allowed to do things that most kids his age can't do. This year, he learned how to run Grandpa's small chain saw, how to operate the riding mower, and how to drive Paul's truck. Nathan is in 4th grade on some subjects. He says reading is his favorite subject, which is a HUGE change from when we started school a year ago, and he could barely read. His brain works differently, which is apparent by the way he randomly writes with his left hand - without even noticing. So we still are working on the fact that some things aren't interchangeable, like the order of letters or numbers. But he does well at school and we are pleased at his progress.  He bought a BB gun at the end of summer, and enjoys target shooting.  He’s very responsible with this “real” gun and keeps it carefully stored.  However, his arsenal of play guns are all over the yard and house and are constantly being smuggled in the van.  (A parent at Awana told me they appreciate his patrol each week!)  Besides camouflage, guns, and army – Nathan enjoys Legos, farm toys, and helping Paul work on wood building projects.
     Home school is going well. It's a challenge with a small, mobile baby, who can't decide if she wants to be in my arms pulling things off the desk, or on the floor putting things in her mouth. Attitudes are better this year, but we still have days of absolutely maddening lolly-gagging. Nathan is to the age of knowing what's expected and getting it done on his own, which is VERY helpful, since Elsa's sleeping and nursing whimsies basically dictate my entire day.
     Paul and I are to the point of being old and boring, and that's just fine. Paul finished his 17th year at the glass plant. He is still very involved with the Encounter ministry, and has been visiting the youth detention center with our associate Pastor a couple times a month. Obviously, cooking and looking after this crew takes a lot of my time, but I have been able to be involved in putting on some special events the church has hosted. Paul and i celebrated 12 years of marriage in March. Being married to your true best friend is so nice. 
     We are involved in the Awana program at church. I teach Cubbies (preschool) with Zadie, Jacob has finished his second book in Sparks, and Nathan is learning how to study the Bible in T&T. 
     In December, most of the family were involved in our church's Bethlehem presentation. Elsa portrayed Baby Jesus (our 4th child to play the part), with Paul &  I as Mary and Joseph, Nathan was a shepherd, Zadie was an angel, and Jacob was a general cast member. We really enjoy presenting the Christmas Story to the community. This year, over 1,400 passed through in 3 nights.
     In January, Paul took his truck to the dealer for an inspection, and they discovered the frame was nearly rusted through. Apparently Toyota has a lifetime warranty on this. The downside is that it took them several months to completely replace the frame and several other components involved. The upside is that parts and labor were free, and Paul was given a free rental for those 5 months. He took the rental in for an oil change, and the only replacement they had was a Dodge Challenger. Driving a shiny black muscle car sure was tough for Paul to do....
     We didn't get much done on the house this year, but Paul did manage to finish up the basement bathroom early last year. It's quite nice to have 2 full bathrooms, plus the bonus back bath. Paul does such great work.
     Obviously, no vacations happened. Even though we planned to take some short overnight trips, the reality was that camping with a baby and 2 year old was going to be entirely too stressful. So Paul and the kids did some backyard camping, and fishing trips to the neighbor's pond, which they all thoroughly enjoyed.
     Seeing how God has provided and blessed us makes us excited for what He has planned on 2017. "He who began a good with in you week be faithful to complete it." We anticipate and want to be open to doing His work and fulfilling His calling.
     We hope this letter finds you blessed and well. Give us a call any time you're in the area. Visitors are the pinnacle of excitement around here!
     From our home to yours,
          Paul & Rachel
          Nathan, Jacob, Zadie, Gideon, and Elsa