Monday, October 3, 2016

October Newsletter

October 1, 2016 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 17 … Though everyday life has changed with Anna's departure, our routines have in general stayed the same. I have my driving permit right now, allowing me to drive the family around. It's gone pretty well, and I enjoy it a lot. (I think the family is pretty used to this by now, me being the sixth child.)  I'm also pushing really hard with my schoolwork. I'd like to graduate at the end of summer, 2017, which means I need to continue getting through vast amounts of material up until it's done (about 50 work pages and over 100 pages of reading per week).  Because part of what I'd like to do after I graduate is be a piano teacher, I am also trying to fit in enough piano practice to keep my skill level up.

From Becca, 20 … These last two months have been fun and busy.  In August Anna, Michael, Seth, Laura, and I drove three hours to attend the 162nd Annual East Texas Sacred Harp Singing Convention.  We got to sing our hearts out with a few hundred talented singers for about five hours.  The week after that we did a lot of projects around the house to get ready for the wedding.  We also spent a lot of time feeling sad and saying, "This is the last time to do such-and-such with Anna."  Then came the flurry of activity around the wedding.  We had such a nice time with our relatives who came and the wedding went off beautifully!

In September I had the opportunity to sell bread at a large artisan market and a small craft fair.  I baked more bread in one day then I ever have before -- about 30 loaves.  I enjoyed talking to people at the market and giving out samples.  It was so satisfying to come home with completely empty bread baskets at the end of the day!

Laura and I kinda-sorta held the household together while Mama recovered from surgery.  There were so many things to think about and keep track of!  And the grocery shopping was very traumatic.

From Seth, 23 … Our small groups at church have been going through a study of 1 John for the past several weeks, and it has been really great.  It's very good to be reminded each week to "abide in Christ" or to "walk in the light as He is in the light".  As we contemplate Christ and the gospel, how can we continue walking in sin?  If we abide in Christ, we will turn from sin.

From Michael and Anna … Today marks five weeks since we got married!  In some ways, it’s hard to believe it has already been that long, but in other ways it feels like we’ve been married forever.  Marriage is a lot of fun so far!  When we think about how much our relationship has deepened just in these first few weeks, we can’t wait to see what it will be like to look back 10 years from now.

We went to Kauai (Hawaii) for our honeymoon.  It was a beautiful island, with a little bit of everything—beaches, waterfalls, mountains, canyons, caves.  We really enjoyed having some time away, with no to-do lists or projects to worry about.  Some of the highlights included a zip line course, a sunset boat tour along a dramatic, mountainous stretch of coastline, and a hike that took us behind a giant waterfall.

From John, Megan, James (4), Ezra (2), and Joy (1) … Life continues to hum along.  Joy is becoming more of a toddler and less of a baby, although James and Ezra still very much consider her a baby.  She is trying to talk.  James is learning to read.  He and Ezra greatly enjoy "doing school".  We’ve made trips to the museum of natural science, the zoo, and the aquarium.

Megan recently became an independent sales consultant for a company called Norwex, which manufactures and sells chemical-free cleaning products designed to clean better and healthier than conventional products and techniques.  Not only has she been able to make extra money, but having the products ourselves has made several housework tasks faster, easier, and more child-friendly, which is a great boon in our stage of life.

From Ray, Katie, Peter (6), Samuel (5), Andrew (4), Grace (2), and Benjamin (6 months) … We went on a fun vacation for a couple of days to an indoor waterpark.  There was a toddler pool with little water slides, and some of us enjoyed the big water slides too.  We liked the wave pool, which simulated being at the beach.  There were also fountains, obstacle courses, a hot tub, pizza, ice cream, a kids show, and a fun cabin-like hotel room.  We all had a great time except Grace, who doesn’t like water.  She preferred pushing the stroller everywhere!

Benjamin got a clean bill of health from our family doctor, who confirmed that he is a normal, healthy baby other than his crossed eyes. We’re doing patching for now, per the eye doctor’s instructions, and it’s nice to be observing that Benjamin does see.  He smiles at people now, and is starting to reach for toys that are in front of him.

From Judith … Earlier this year I began to suspect that things had gone amiss in my pelvic region.  In May I saw doctors about it, which revealed that I needed to have pelvic reconstruction surgery.  It would include several procedures including removal of my uterus.  Fortunately the surgery could wait until after the wedding in August.  On Sept. 13 I had the surgery.  It was all successful and none of my recovery challenges are surprising to my doctor.  I’m managing and trying hard to be a good patient.  I’m able to do most of my usual activities, but I’m to not lift more than 10 pounds for at least another month.

This experience has been good for me beyond just the physical repair.  I have found myself marveling at the wonder of God’s handiwork in his creation of the human body.  Of course, I have been taking it largely for granted all my life – all the systems have just continued running on their own 24/7 for decades!  Also, this has given me a little view into the world of the infirm.  Albeit on a small and temporary scale, I have been dealing with pain, limitations, and self-care, in-home, medical procedures.  My mostly healthy, natural, simple world has been invaded by medications, medical supplies, and complicated insurance matters.  In all of this the hardest part is having to ask others to help me.  Time is a precious commodity and it means I’m asking for that person’s time to be given to me.  But I have to remind myself that in this communal family life here, we are serving each other daily, as unto the Lord, which is of mutual blessing.  It’s incumbent on me to graciously and humbly receive this service of others.

From Gerald … About once every month and a half, on a Sunday evening, we have a hymn sing in our family room.  We gather with friends and we sing hymns by request.  We sit with others singing the same part (soprano, alto, tenor, or bass) so it is easier to learn our part if we do not already know it.  The room is acoustically live, so it is lots of fun to sing in there.  Everyone sounds better when they sing in the shower.  Our family room is a bit like that but without the water.  If you live in the Houston area and think you might want to join us sometime, just let us know and we will add you to the e-mail group for the announcements we send out.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Getting Ready for the Wedding

Mama arranging flowers.

 Anna trying on her dress.  (This picture is no longer highly classified!)

Moving Michael into his new house.

Anna setting up house!

Papa working on the driveway.  Two weeks before the wedding we got rid of the driveway.  Then it rained for a solid week, so we didn't have time to put in the new one.  Happily, though, the dirt dried out enough to park on when we had sixty people here on the wedding eve.

They were really excited about getting married.

The wedding week was full of lasts for us.  Last time reading the Lord of the Rings with Anna.

Last time tearing lettuce with Anna.

 Last time to go to church with Anna (also Laura's first time to drive us!).

Last time for Anna to fix our hair.

Last time for Seth and Anna to wash dishes together.

Last day of sharing a room with Anna.

We had special times with our relatives from Colorado in the days surrounding the wedding.

Is Uncle Steve still taller?

The twins.

Tea with the bridesmaids on the morning of the wedding.

Part of the great team of helpers who made the wedding a lovely success.

The bride getting ready for her groom!

Promising till death do them part.

We stopped by the newlyweds' house to drop off their presents and they answered the door like this.  Are they cute or what?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August Newsletter

August 6, 2016 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 17 … I started learning how to drive recently!  I have my permit now, so along with the online courses, I can also do practice driving on the roads.  In Texas my permit has to be held for six months or until I turn eighteen.  Being six months out from turning eighteen makes it all very convenient and I can get licensed right around my birthday.  Besides the fact that I think driving is really fun, I am looking forward to some of the opportunities being able to drive will open up for me!  I'm the last of my siblings (as with everything, being the youngest) to learn how to drive and it will be nice having a more equal amount of independence as the others.

From Becca, 19 … It’s hard to believe that the wedding is in less than a month!  It has definitely been at the front of our minds for the last few months, with all the talking about it and preparing for it.  But we’ve been doing other things too.  I have had a lot of fun going geocaching with Seth, Anna, Michael, and some friends.  Basically we’ve been climbing trees, hopping over ravines, poking under bridges, crawling through bushes, and visiting cemeteries and libraries—all this looking for small containers with logbooks inside.

I am reading The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer.  I feel inspired to use the creativity that God has given me to make life more beautiful for those around me and to praise the God who created beauty in the first place.  (I might start by cleaning my room.)  I found that the book is really more about “art” than about “homemaking” and it applies to everyone, not just those who fit the traditional definition of “homemaker.”

From Seth, 23 … I was recently inspired (by what, I'm not sure) to start reading more books, so I asked a bunch of friends for book suggestions. They gave me a very nice variety of reading material, and these books have taken me on a journey that is at various times sobering, insightful, hilarious, tragic, and inspiring. I've had a glimpse of what society might look like if freedom, truth, and history are erased by a totalitarian regime. Through the fictional advice of one demon to another, I've gained a better understanding of the subtlety of temptation and how overflowing, God-centered love is central to the Christian life. A hilarious tale about a group of child geniuses who help save the world provided hearty laughs as well as keen portrayals of the importance of truth, friendship, courage, and sacrifice. An Auschwitz survivor showed with grim poetic rawness the depravity bound up in the heart of man, and how, tragically, the hellishness of the Holocaust caused him to lose his faith in the only One who provides the true answer to man's depravity. Currently, I am being inspired by the story of Eric Liddell, who was one of the fastest men on the planet, but who always kept his running secondary to serving Christ and His church.

From Anna, 26 … It’s hard to believe that I’m getting married in less than three weeks!  It has been fun seeing things come together for the wedding, and Michael and I have been so blessed by the many people who have stepped forward to help out in multiple ways.  As exciting as the wedding is, though, it has been even more fun planning for life together and setting up house!  We’re grateful for the ways that we have been able to use this time of preparation to get to know each other in deeper ways and build a solid foundation for our future together.

From John, Megan, James (4), Ezra (2), and Joy (1) … Life is never dull here.  This month Joy will be turning one on the 11th!  She is walking, babbles, loves watermelon, and is still as happy a little girl as ever, with the addition of being silly.  We went to the zoo this past weekend as her birthday activity.  James is four and is learning to read and write.  He has recently learned to read “See me read.” and “See me eat."  He is very proud of himself!  We are using the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  It seems to be working!  James is almost done with pre-K and will be starting kindergarten soon.  Ezra is two and a half and learning how to interact well with others around him.  He likes to listen in on James' school lessons and picks up more than I think some days!  He is very interested in trains and loves it when we pull out our large model train.  He'll just sit there forever watching it go around in circles!

From Ray, Katie, Peter (6), Samuel (5), Andrew (4), Grace (2), and Benjamin (4 months) … We've been on some fun outings this summer, including a historic ranch, a Lego exhibit, and the demolition of an abandoned apartment complex. We've also enjoyed beating the heat with playing in the wading pool almost every day.
Grace is at a very cute stage with language. She has taken off remarkably in the last month or two. She runs after her brothers saying, "wait me!!"

Benjamin is a squishy, cuddly bundle who is starting to coo and smile more. He still has his eyes crossed much of the time and doesn't seem to see well, so we are taking him to a pediatric ophthalmologist later this month. We didn't think he'd be the first of our children to need glasses, that's for sure. We'll see what the doctor says.

From Judith … In June Gerald and I flew to San Diego for the scattering of my Dad’s ashes out at sea and his memorial service.  I was very grateful to Dad’s wife for providing this opportunity for greater closure and grateful also to his step-daughter who made it all happen and added many special touches.  We had good visits with Jo Ann (Dad’s widow) and I was able to look through some of Dad’s belongings.  All of that was meaningful and special to me.  There wasn’t much I could do to help from Houston, but I was able to put together a picture presentation showing the spectrum of Dad’s life using photos from both his and my digitized photo collections.  Doing that project was an additional salve for me and was appreciated by others who saw it in San Diego.

A recent project for me was to assemble the flowers for the wedding.  Anna bought the silk flowers she wanted used and I took it from there.  She bought 4 pre-mixed bouquets that didn’t need much work and will be used on the reception tables.  They aren’t decorating the church, so that just left the bridal bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres.  I enjoyed the work.  Using artificial flowers is sure a lot less stress than using real flowers!

From Gerald … My biggest recent project on our property is our driveway.  It was horribly broken up and uneven due to damage from tree roots.  Because of the trip hazards, we have removed the concrete pavement and are planning to bring in gravel.  But there are some issues related to drainage that I am working to resolve before the gravel comes.  (Our garage floods with heavy rain.)  So, currently our driveways are worse than before we started this work.  It’s all sandy soil now, so if it rains we’ll have mud.  It’s not an unusual circumstance that conditions get worse before they get better; I just hope the time between bad and better is not too long.   

With love from the Pedersen clan

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Anna and Michael

Michael and Anna will be getting married in less than four weeks!  Here are some pictures of them from the last few months.

Michael scattered rose petals all over the family room and proposed to Anna at the beginning of May...

We had an impromptu popcorn party to celebrate.

Then we drove over to Michael's new house and had a tour.

A few weeks later we had another party and Michael gave Anna a beautiful ring!

We have been working on various projects to get ready for the wedding.

Addressing invitations...

...and arranging flowers.

Friday, June 10, 2016

June Newsletter

June 4, 2016 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 17 … In April we had the pleasure of hosting a lovely little family from Costa Rica in our home for a week!  Our Spanish got a strenuous workout, which was great.  They knew a fair bit of English too, so communications went all right.  It was so encouraging to meet people from a country, language, and culture so different from ours, yet to have them be such dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Fellowship in Christ so easily crosses borders!

From Becca, 19 … Many exciting things have happened lately.  We had a wonderful time with our Costa Rican friends in early April.  I just got my passport this month, and I can’t wait to travel the world!  Benjamin, my fellow fifth-born and “B” Buddy, was born the day after our guests left and the day before the first storm that flooded Houston.  Laura and I had fun riding the bus with Seth down to Rice University one day.  He showed us his laboratory, his tiny office, and the stately campus.  We also visited the sky lobby of the Chase tower, the courthouse, the art museum, and the monster in the bayou.  Anna and Michael got engaged, which has generated a flood of wedding planning and a confusing mixture of emotions for some of us.  I finally figured out how to make really yummy crusty bread (without destroying the oven!) and I got a bunch of new customers at a church event.  

From Seth, 23 … I recently had the opportunity to go to a conference in Bellevue, Washington, on the topic of membrane science and technology.  It was a good time of learning about membrane research and meeting fellow "membranologists".

Since I was there over a weekend, I also visited two churches near Bellevue.  It's such a blessing to fellowship with my brothers and sisters and to sit under the preaching of God's word.  Later that week, a brother I met at church took me with him while he shared the gospel with people waiting at the local transit center.  It was beautiful to see his gentleness and loving boldness in sharing the good news of Christ, and to see people hear this precious news for the very first time in their lives.

From Anna, 26 … It has been just over a month since I got engaged!  In some ways, it feels like the last month has flown by, but it’s also hard to believe how much has happened in such a short time.  Michael and I will be getting married in August, so there were a lot of things that we needed to at least generally plan pretty quickly.  It has been fun learning how to make decisions together and see how we each think about things as we make plans for a wedding and life together afterwards.  I’m so grateful for the ways that God has been at work to bring us together and for how our relationship has deepened over the last few weeks.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us together!

From John, Megan, James (4), Ezra (2), and Joy (10 months) … Since we last wrote, a lot has happened with our remodeling progress!  The new half of the vaulted ceiling is framed and drywalled, and the biggest news is that the wall dividing the living space from the kitchen is finally down!!  We love the open floor plan!  It's nice to be able to visit with friends or family in the living room while still working in the kitchen, and also to watch kids while doing kitchen work.

From Ray, Katie, Peter (6), Samuel (5), Andrew (3), Grace (2), and Benjamin (7 weeks) … We are enjoying our newest family member, Benjamin.  He is 7 weeks old now, and over 12 pounds.  He’s eating and sleeping well, and is such a cuddly little bundle.  All his siblings get excited about holding him, talking to him, and giving him kisses.

Ray opened a new office that is bigger, nicer, and in a better location.  It will allow him to have more face-to-face time with his agents, and will provide space for training and for agents to come work.  It’s exciting to see the business grow.

From Judith … When we moved to Texas in 1999, we committed to making the trip back to Colorado each summer to see our families.  We’ve kept it up for 17 years.  After much consideration we decided that we will skip this summer.  Yes, Anna’s upcoming wedding on August 27 is a significant factor.

It has been a particular joy to see our guest suite “working” for us.  We hired John’s company to begin the remodeling in there in March.  It was a rather undefined and poorly designed apartment when the house was built.  Some years ago, after puzzling over how to correct the space, Anna came up with the most doable solution which has now resulted in a private bedroom with a window, a small office with a window, a sitting area which opens to the kitchen (and draws light from the enlarged kitchen window), a full bathroom, and a small walk-in storage closet.  It has served our various recent guests well even though it isn’t done yet.  (John is juggling more than one project.)  The next step is flooring.  The kitchenette only has its drywall.  What has been done so far, though, is beautiful!

From Gerald … It seems like the last two months have been a whirlwind of activity for us: guests from Costa Rica for a week; Judith’s mom here for a little over a week; out-of-town trips for Seth, Ray, and Michael; a new baby; an engagement; and the various events and activities that make up our usual routine.

The heavy rainfalls this week and a month ago have caused significant flooding in Houston. Several of our friends and neighbors have had flooded houses, but our family has thankfully been spared.  There seem to be two types of flooding occurring: 1) during and immediately after the heavy, localized thunderstorms when the water cannot drain away fast enough.  This is what affected our neighborhood; our neighbors across the street flooded and water came up into our yard but did not reach the house.  This also caused some friends of ours to be flooded last week when they had nearly a foot of water flowing through their house.  2) A day or more after the rainfall, people near creeks and rivers come into danger as the accumulation of water from upstream overflows the waterways and moves into neighborhoods.  This was the cause of flooding in the homes of at least two more families in our church (water is still rising in some parts of the area).  Please be in prayer for those affected by these storms.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Benjamin's First Day

Benjamin Wade was born last week weighing nine pounds, six ounces!  We were all overjoyed to welcome him into the world.  Here are some pictures from his first day...

The children, especially Andrew, were majorly excited to meet their new brother.

Monday, April 11, 2016

April Newsletter

April 2, 2016 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 17 … My three unmarried siblings and I were able to go on a weekend camping trip together earlier last month!  ​We had a blast planning it (although, with no one in charge, it took a couple of weeks to settle on what to eat).  We had never gone on a trip with just the four of us before.  Life holds many changes, so I was glad we could do this together while we are all still living at home and available to each other.  It was nice having it be just us and being able to do everything together: cooking, eating, hiking, singing, and even being cold!  On our hikes we enjoyed beautiful sunsets, gorgeous views, and an enchanting, out-of-this-world (or Texas), 100-foot waterfall.

From Becca, 19 … In February I took an ESL tutor course so that I can teach English at the library.  I haven’t started teaching yet, but I am excited (and nervous) about this opportunity to meet new people and gain experience.  In March I had a lot of fun going camping twice.  I also drove all the way across Houston by myself in bad traffic with a major road closure, an experience which may have included arguing verbally with the GPS, praying, reassuring myself out loud, and singing praises to God after seeing a correct road sign.  On the business front, I made my first successful sourdough bread after several weeks of playing with sourdough starter (I’m still trying to get rid of all my extra not-very-good starter!)

From Seth, 23 … This month our church has been reading a really good book called Church in Hard Places by two pastors, one from Virginia and one from Scotland. The book is about how the discipleship, evangelism, preaching, membership, and discipline that occurs within a community of believers (a local church) is absolutely vital for transforming the lives of those living in poverty. The emphasis of the book was on how the local church brings life to the poor, but it really applies to everyone. Even if you are "well-off" or "posh" you are not so very different from someone who is "poor". The book inspired me to be committed to my local church and to invest myself in other people's lives through discipleship, evangelism, and friendship.

From Anna, 26 … I went to Florida for a week at the end of February.  I spent the first few days with a sweet friend who showed me around to all her favorite places, including the beach, a historic lighthouse, and a wildlife refuge.  At the end of the week, I attended Ligonier Ministries’ annual national conference.  Their theme this year was the Gospel, and the speakers were all excellent.  It was so encouraging to spend two whole days marinating in the glory and the mercy of who Christ is and all that He has done for His people.

From John, Megan, James (4), Ezra (2), and Joy (8 months) … Our remodeling has not progressed a whole lot other than some drywall repair being done.  This past month we went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, San Antonio for a performance with Uzori at the San Antonio Folk Dance Festival (both John and I performed), and Huntsville for the bi-annual campout.  Joy is now pulling up on things and is cutting her two top teeth! She will be 8 months old in a little over a week!  James turned 4 in March! In James' words: "I lost my three now that I'm four. Then I'll be five, six, seven!" He is in a big hurry to grow up.

From Ray, Katie, Peter (6), Samuel (4), Andrew (3), Grace (1), and baby (due April) … Ray’s dad came to visit us for about a week in February. We went on some outings to a barbecue restaurant, a park, and a military museum. It was fun to show him some different parts of the city. We also enjoyed visiting and playing at home. He and the children had a great time together, although they wore him out. It didn’t help that we adults kept staying up too late playing Monopoly!

We are getting excited to meet our newest family member, who is due in two weeks. I’m really ready to let someone else hold the baby for a while!

From Judith … We had another close view of death recently.  (I don’t mean to be gloomy, but death seems to be a glaringly regular part of life.)  One of our guests at our neighborhood open house Dec. 26 was a 62-year-old man in a wheelchair with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  His wife and 17-year-old twins (son, daughter) were with him.  On that day he said he hoped to live long enough to see the twins graduate in May.  After the open house we wanted to then start inviting the attendees (household by household) over for dinner and thought we better start with this neighbor and his family.  They came over on Feb. 12 and he died 10 days later.  He didn’t make it to May for the graduation.

It was poignant to be sitting at dinner becoming better acquainted and briefly sharing life with a person we didn’t expect to see alive again -- and with his wife and children as they were living with his soon-to-come death.  Yet in the midst of all this was an amazing peace and joy as this man, who had long since repented of his sin and placed his faith in Christ to save him from the judgment of God, looked forward to eternity with the Lord.  His hope in Christ was clearly sustaining him through his physical suffering, giving him security in the face of death, and directing his priorities in what he said and did in his last weeks and months.  Death is truly awful but, for those who trust Christ, it is not to be feared.

From Gerald … The big news for our church is that after 10 years in a rented facility, we have purchased a building.  It was an existing church building, so we were able to move in quickly and begin holding services the very next Sunday after the closing.  There is still much work to be done, but there is a great deal of enthusiasm among the members and many are pitching in to get things accomplished.  We have only been here two Sundays and have planned a big anniversary celebration for this coming Sunday.

We are excited to see how God will use this facility through us to accomplish his purposes in our lives and those in the surrounding neighborhood. 

With love from the Pedersen clan