Monday, February 8, 2016

February Newsletter

February 6, 2016 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

Our recent loss …

A week after we wrote our December newsletter, my 87-year-old father died unexpectedly.  It was a great sorrow to our family.  I am grateful to the Lord for his hand in my life through my father.  Dad and I loved each other dearly through all the ups and downs and he readily gave his love to Gerald and our children.  We will miss him, but we have many good memories.  (by Judith)

From Laura, 17 … I had a birthday recently!  I was so glad to be able to celebrate with my whole family.  It’s such a blessing to have so big a family to love me.  The little ones are sweet in a special way.  This year we were able to enjoy a time of playing our bluegrass instruments together (“jamming” as we call it).  It’s something fun that involves all of us and, especially when I was younger, made me feel more like we were equals.  Playing music together kind of unites us through the wide age gap from myself to Katie.

From Becca, 19 … I have been thinking about the shortness of life and the longness of eternity.  From where I stand, life seems to be mostly ahead and it looks big and unknown (and fun).  I have to remind myself of the saying “Only one life, twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Regardless of what the culture says, I am not here on earth to enjoy myself.  I am a soldier in a great battle.  This life is the only opportunity I’ll get to help further God’s kingdom.  “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Tim. 2:4) The “civilian pursuits” are just so enticing though!  It’s hard to have the discipline to refuse them and turn to the more fruitful use of time.

From Seth, 22 … I started back up with school last month at a university near downtown Houston. Since it's local, I can still live at home, taking the bus and train into town each day. I'm working on a graduate degree in water treatment engineering, with the goal of either being a professor one day or doing research and development. Right now, I'm trying to keep caught up with my classes, and in a couple weeks I'll likely start doing laboratory research.

From Anna, 25 … I recently started a year-long theology class through our church.  I’m enjoying the opportunity to delve more deeply into some of what I believe.  I’ve particularly been noticing the vital importance of maintaining the authority of Scripture in all areas of our belief and practice.  All people have some kind of authority in their lives that determines what they believe and how they live; if it is not the Bible, it will be reason, science, feelings, or some other manmade standard.  The question of which authority we follow will have implications for every part of our lives.

From John, Megan, James (3), Ezra (2), and Joy (6 months) … Our biggest news is that the old pantry is down, the new is in use, and the new support beam spanning the living room and kitchen was put in last week!  We are making steady progress with John working every Saturday.  The boys love to "help" John in any way they can.  Ezra likes to use his toy tools to saw and drill like John.  Usually we head out to the library, or to someone's house to play, or to run errands during those mornings to keep the kids from being underfoot.

Joy is cutting her second tooth and can rotate around to chase after toys.  She is on the heels of being six months old.  Time has flown!

James is starting to learn his letter sounds and is excited when he sees the sounds he knows in books.  It's hard to believe he'll be four next month!

From Ray, Katie, Peter (6), Samuel (4), Andrew (3), Grace (1), and baby (due April) … Ray took a trip to New York City at the end of January.  He went for a real estate agent conference, but it was his first time to New York, so he did some sightseeing also.  He took a harbor cruise that went past the Statue of Liberty, visited the World Trade Center memorial, and went to the top of the new One World Trade Center tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.  He also got some good ideas and inspiration at the conference, and he didn’t freeze to death, so it was a good trip.  While he was away, the rest of us kept busy with things like seeing a monster truck at Chick-fil-A, and making Mickey Mouse pancakes for supper.

The boys got a bunk bed for their room, which they’ve been quite excited about. It has a double bed at the bottom, a twin on top, and a little staircase on the side.  Bringing it home and putting it together made for quite a Saturday, but with the great help of some friends and family, we got it done.

From Judith … With my father’s advanced years and declining physical condition, I knew I wouldn’t have very many more years with him.  Nevertheless, I’ve realized the path of grieving isn’t necessarily shortened or made less hilly by mental preparedness.  You can’t fully prepare for the person to be gone until he or she is really gone.  At death the ebb and flow of the relationship completely stops.  A sharp shift occurs as life now goes on without the loved one.  Those closest feel this most acutely.  In order to somewhat “extend the time” with the loved one, one may, as I have done, muse over old letters, photos, and memorabilia.  It has helped to soften the harsh finality of my dad’s death.

From Gerald … A friend of ours is a machinist and programmer for a local machine shop.  He set up a tour for folks who wanted to see the shop.  Becca and I went; I really enjoyed it and I think Becca did too.  We got to see the machines and learn about what they do.  They even had one running a program to make an aluminum keepsake souvenir for each of us.  It was really fun for me because it took me back to my high school and college days when I worked in a machine shop in the summers and part-time during the school year.  Much has changed since then, but much is also the same.

On the day after Christmas, a Saturday, we had an open house for our neighbors.  In the seven years we have lived in this house, we have been able to meet a handful of our neighbors, but there were many we did not know.  So we printed invitations for each house on our street and for a few others on nearby streets whom we had already met.   We went up and down our street knocking on doors and inviting folks to come.  At the end of a week, we mailed the rest of the invitations to those we had not caught at home.  We had a good turnout and it seemed like everyone had a good time.  It was really nice to get to know folks a bit better and to meet others for the first time.  We hope to make it an annual event.

With love from the Pedersen clan

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Swedish Day

Our Swedish celebration was back in November, but I thought I would go ahead and post the pictures from it.  Click here to see pictures from many past international celebrations and a description of how we got started doing them.

We started off the day with the classic Saint Lucia day breakfast, saffransbullar and pepparkakor (saffron buns and gingersnaps).  I had a lot of fun making these.  The recipe for the gingersnaps was all in metric units, so I didn't realize what large amounts it called for until it was too late.  We ended up with ten dozen cookies. 

I was Saint Lucia, so I had to serve everyone breakfast.  We made the crown using an embroidery hoop, twigs, candles, and florist's tape.  It was scary having fire on my head.  

For lunch we had Smørrebrød, open-faced sandwiches.

We decorated the table using the Swedish national colors, yellow and blue, and we included plenty of flowers to make it feel like a Swedish Midsummer feast.

Here is our dinner buffet: knäckebröd, a flat round rye bread with a hole in the middle so you can hang it from the ceiling for months at a time; the crucial lingonberry jam; regular rye bread; coleslaw; cheese and fish; pea soup; mashed potatoes; and, of course, meatballs.

Here is Laura giving a presentation including pictures of the (adorable) Swedish royal family.

For dessert we had the Midsummer classic, strawberry cream cake.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December Newsletter

December 5, 2015 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 16 … Lately, I have been contemplating the beauty and power of music.  A movie depicting epic pictures of nature is lovely to watch, but, when stirring music is combined with it, the images are transformed into scenes that are powerfully alive.  In addition, the many different types of music provide for any situation.  After a long and stressful day, a peaceful song can do wonders to enable relaxing and unwinding.  Then, when your heart is full of joy, sometimes music that just makes you want to dance is best!  

From Becca, 19 … This month I learned how to make turkey and fudge.  Here’s my philosophy of cooking: to have friends, you must have fellowship.  To have fellowship you must have food.  To have food you have to cook.  And cooking is an adventure!  Well, sometimes it is; other times it’s just … blah.  But even blah cooking is for a good cause.  Anyway, I had fun this week making ten loaves of cranberry bread and ten packages of fudge for a customer, all in the space of two crazy days.  I’m so glad I get to do these things.  I love making food and it’s good for me to be really busy with deadlines to meet because it keeps me from being lazy.

From Seth, 22 … Over the past couple of months our church has been going through a book together about counseling.  I appreciated what the author said about getting to know people (namely that we should do it).  Too often it's easier to keep our interactions with people casual, non-invasive, and "safe", and to never go beneath the surface and learn what makes them tick.

From Anna, 25 … Our church held its annual fall conference at the end of October.  I've been helping with registration for our last several conferences, but this year I was responsible for co-organizing the entire conference.  It was different being involved with multiple aspects of the conference, instead of focusing on only one, but I enjoyed it.

Our topic this year was a critique of the Word of Faith movement.  It was a much more relevant and intriguing topic than I expected beforehand.  I had never thought much about the actual beliefs and theology behind the outward manifestations of this movement, and looking at it in that way made me realize that these ideas are much more prevalent than I tend to think.

From John, Megan, James (3), Ezra (2), and Joy (4 months) … Life with three children 3 and under has been very busy to say the least.  The boys love their sister, and Joy loves her brothers.  She will be 4 months old next week.  A few weeks ago Ezra turned 2!  His vocabulary continues to grow and he is starting to speak in sentences!

We have moved on to a living room/kitchen remodel for our house while putting the master bathroom on hold.  This past month we have gotten the new pantry built and it's nearly finished!  After we get things moved from the old to the new, we can remove the wall that separates the living room and kitchen.  It will be very nice to no longer have a wall between rooms so I can keep an eye on children more easily, and when company is over so people are less separated while visiting.

From Ray, Katie, Peter (6), Samuel (4),  Andrew (3), Grace (1), and baby (due April) … Peter finished kindergarten in early November.  He is an eager learner, and it’s so much fun to see new things unfolding for him.  It’s also impressive how much the other boys pick up along the way.  We’re taking a break for the holidays now, and are enjoying some extra projects and activities related to that, along with reading books from the library.

Our baby on the way is doing well.  We’re halfway now!  I enjoyed seeing him or her moving around during the ultrasound this week.  We’re waiting until the birth to find out the gender.  It will be a fun surprise.

We had a special time with the Pedersen clan on Thanksgiving.  Although we see each other often, it’s always extra special to be together on a holiday.  This time, I found myself reflecting on how much we have to be thankful for through the ups and downs and changing seasons of life.  What a blessing to be led by our unchanging, faithful heavenly Father.

From Judith … For our annual international study/celebration this year we chose Sweden.  We learned about the country over a period of weeks, then prepared for a special Swedish meal with decorations, music, and costumes.  These are always fun and interesting.

We will do one more of these international studies next year.  We’re down to our last child to formally educate.  After Laura graduates in a few years, we’ll be done with homeschooling our children.  It will have been thirty years since we started with Katie in 1987.  That sounds like a giant change, but really it has been gradual.  The balance of how our time is used shifts a little bit more as each one graduates and even as each one has become a more independent learner.

From Gerald … I recently taught a class to members of our church.  It was an all-day session on God’s principles of finances.  It has been a long time since I have done this, and it took some time to put it together, but it was very rewarding.  My prayer is that the participants in the class will have an increased awareness of what it means to be stewards of what God has entrusted to us and that they would be able to use the tools and guidelines provided to carry out that responsibility.  We hope to do this class twice a year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2015 Fall Campout

For the second time this year we went camping in the rain.  We had a great time, despite torrential rain, gusty wind, a tornado warning, a flash flood warning, and multiple falling-in-the-creek incidents.  

This was our first time back to Bastrop State Park since the 2011 wildfires.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that the campground itself is much the same, although the surrounding land is full of burned trees.  

We got to be in a movie!  Click the link to see:

We are getting to be pretty expert tarp-setter-uppers.  Our 1200-square-foot tarp kept us cozy and dry.  And there were no places where the water pooled, like last time.

This was Grace's first campout as a walking baby.  See her little boots?

Michael was showing off to her.

We had a nice fire with hymn-singing, Bible-reading, and marshmallow-roasting at the old shelter built by the CCC.

The rain didn't last the whole time -- we got to go on walks and play volleyball.  Here is Seth in a bush, trying to get our volleyball out of the creek.

He ended up being the fourth person that day to fall in the creek.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Four Babies

These are the four firstborn children of some of our dear friends (and John and Megan).  They were all born in the spring of 2012.  I just counted and there are now eleven children collectively in these four families!

Here are the older pictures of them, in the same order.  They just keep getting cuter!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

August-September Newsletter

October 3, 2015 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter 

From Laura, 16 … Recently we were able to attend a conference near Fort Worth.  It was entitled “The Distinctives of Baptist Covenant Theology”.  I am glad to have learned so much regarding these important truths.  Now I understand so much better what is meant, for example, by the old and new covenants and especially how instrumental is a proper view of them.  What mercy God has extended in both covenants, for, in the old covenant, His people looked forward to the work of Christ on the cross, and, in the covenant of grace, His people look back on the redemption purchased for us.  Glory!

From Becca, 19 … I graduated at the beginning of August, so I have been trying to figure out how to prioritize and manage my time now that I’m not in school.  I like being able to say, “Yes!” to so many things, instead of, “No, I have to do school.”  These are some of the activities I’ve been doing since I graduated: working on a few school things that I never finished, taking on more household chores, journaling, writing letters, reading books, doing yard work, helping with adorable nephews/nieces, practicing piano, dancing and singing in the new building, going to the beach, going on dates with sisters and friends, having a birthday, going to shows (a Shakespeare play, a symphony, a couple of movies, and another play), going to a conference about theology, learning how to swim, and attending a class about philosophy.

From Seth, 22 … During the last two months, I graduated from college and went on a trip to Africa.  It's pretty nice having finished the undergrad chapter of my life, and I'm looking forward to going to grad school in the spring and getting a job in one of the labs there (right now I’m still working as an intern for an engineering company).  My trip to Africa was amazing.  I met so many new friends, experienced different cultures, and was really encouraged and inspired by the Zambian Reformed Conference I attended in Lusaka, Zambia.

 From Anna, 25 … This semester, I am auditing a class at a local seminary on the history of philosophy and Christian thought.  We have spent most of our time so far discussing the ancient Greek philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle.  It has been fascinating to learn more about their teachings and beliefs, and to evaluate how they compare with biblical Christian thought.  The most striking insight for me has been seeing how the philosophies that attempt to begin from human reason alone, apart from God and his revelation, ultimately end in meaninglessness and irrationality.  I have also been struck by the contrast between the personal God of the Scriptures and the impersonal forces that other philosophies propose as the ultimate explanation for all things.

From John, Megan, James (3), Ezra (1), and Joy (newborn) …  In August we welcomed our sweet little girl, Joy Constancy, to the world!  Joy was born at 6:55 p.m. and weighed 5 lb., 11 oz., and was 18 3/4" long.  She was 5 days early!  Labor was just shy of 6 hours and went well with no complications.  She is now almost 8 weeks old and is growing fast, now weighing 9 lb., 4 oz.  The boys adore her and are both learning to be gentle.  Every now and then James exclaims, "Look!  She's moving!"  Or "Look!  She's breathing!"  She is a very happy baby!

From Ray, Katie, Peter (5), Samuel (4),  Andrew (3), Grace (1), and baby … We've had quite a bit of excitement in the last month or two.  We sold our minivan and bought a large SUV for the family.  The van was getting pretty old and worn out, and we're getting close to outgrowing it, since we have baby #5 coming next April.  Yay!

We went camping a few weeks ago at a place not far from Houston that had lots of fun activities, including a water park.  We almost had the place to ourselves, and it was great fun.

Peter had minor out-patient surgery recently.  He was very brave, and very cute, asking questions during pre-op, and overall just enjoying being the center of attention, I think.  One nurse asked about kindergarten, and if he liked his teacher.  I was glad he said yes!

From Judith … We have recently been involved with a family that has gone through a crisis.  The mother contracted a serious illness in the hospital just after childbirth (baby #7).  The baby was healthy and sent home while the mother languished in the hospital for weeks with this life-threatening infection.  Thankfully the mother is home now and recovering.

I marveled at the small army of helpers that has been needed to fill in for this one missing-in-action mama.  It was made up mostly of church friends and family members.  One woman coordinated meals while another coordinated having an adult woman helper in the home each day while the mother was in the hospital and during her ensuing convalescence at home.  Dozens of people have contributed in countless ways through making/delivering meals, caring for the home/children, and praying for the family.  It has been a joy to see the body of Christ at work in this way.  When I think of time like money, II Cor. 8:14 comes to mind: “... your abundance at the present time should supply their need ... ”  The Lord brings needs into our lives so that both those who give and those who receive are blessed.

From Gerald … Even though we still have a list of items to be completed in our new family room, it has been rewarding to begin putting it to use.  In addition to family gatherings, we have hosted Becca’s graduation party, a hymn sing, folk dancing, and a bi-weekly fellowship group.  We are grateful to have a space in which to gather in these ways.  It has also been fun to watch movies on a big screen.

With love from the Pedersen clan

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Graduation, Birthdays, etc.

In August I graduated!  

These are my schoolbooks.

I picked out of some of my favorite books to use for decorations.

Andrew turned THREE!  His birthday requests were "cake" and "hats."  

Brother fun.

Seth went on a jaunt around Africa for three weeks and this is all he took with him.