Tuesday, April 4, 2017

April Newsletter

April 1, 2017 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 18 … I have had the joy this year of experiencing teaching piano for the first time!  It's something I've wanted to try my hand at for probably over a year, but I had no students until just a few months ago.  My first experience with a beginner was with the woman who came to live with us just after the first of the year.  She quickly showed an interest in learning to read music and play an instrument, so I gave her free piano lessons throughout the duration of her stay.  It was very beneficial for me as the teacher as I learned a lot about the process of learning for someone just starting out.  Then, just over a month ago, I was approached by a dear friend who wanted to use me to provide piano lessons for his grandson!  I was honored by the request and the trust he put in me and my ability.  Now that we've had a couple of lessons, I am thoroughly convinced that teaching is one of the greatest blessings.  The thrill I get from seeing him progress and knowing that it's me who has helped him get there compares to nothing else I have experienced.

From Becca, 20 … For my last week or so in Costa Rica I got to be with my friend Caro and her mom and Grandma.  Our gracious hosts, the Ramirez family, took us all on a road trip to see some other parts of Costa Rica.  We got to ride a zip line high above the river and we went to a beautiful beach with black sand and crystal clear water.  I rode a horse and milked a cow for the first time.

It was so hard to leave at the end of the month.  I felt torn in two because, while I wanted to see my family, I wasn’t ready to leave Costa Rica.  I didn’t know I could feel so at home in a place that was so different from my home.  Praise God for the body of Christ that gives us family in all the countries of the world!

From Seth, 24 … In January I started working a couple of hours a week as a mechanic at the on-campus bicycle shop.  It's been a blast interacting with customers, getting greasy, and working with my hands.  Fixing bikes makes for a good re-energizing break from desks and computer screens.

From Michael, Anna, and baby … We spent this weekend on a mini-vacation near Austin.  We stayed in a studio apartment right on Lake Travis, so we were able to enjoy a relaxing weekend eating on the patio, kayaking, walking by the lake, and enjoying sunset views.  The weather was perfect, and the lake was beautiful!  We were both glad to have some time away together.

The pregnancy continues to go well!  We're officially in the third trimester now, which is hard to believe.  It's still kind of surreal that there's a third person in our family now.

From John, Megan, James (5), Ezra (3), Joy (1), and baby … One of the exciting things in our life right now is that our small church is considering merging with an even smaller church.  We are two weeks into a six-week trial period of combined services, at the end of which we will have a vote to determine whether or not we will move forward.  We have been having a mixture of people from both churches over for dinner every weekend to get to know them better and facilitate the same for others.  It's been a great blessing to expand our circle of fellowship and to share life with a new group of people who are also living for the gospel.

Otherwise, our life hasn't had any major changes in the last month.  Joy is starting to say a few recognizable words.  Ezra is enjoying doing a little bit of preschool and learning his numbers.  James is enjoying knowing how to read.  Megan's pregnancy is going well, but she is very ready to have the baby on the outside.  I'm continuing to get new knowledge, skills, and responsibilities at work.

From Ray, Katie, Peter (7), Samuel (5), Andrew (4), Grace (2), and Benjamin (1) … 
We enjoyed a visit from Ray's dad in late February, with lots of games, stories, and playing outside, plus a tour of the Houston Ship Channel.

We were blessed to find an excellent new eye doctor for Benjamin, and a good plan for treating his lazy eye.

In school, Samuel was excited to discover that he can now read his name (Sam). Peter is excited about starting to learn to play the piano.

From Judith … The woman we took in at the beginning of the year has moved on.  We saw many “red flags” in the new situation she went into, but she was convinced it was God’s provision.  She was with us for two months, during which time seeds of biblical truth were planted.  God used her time with us to provide many blessed conversations about the truths of the Bible.  There were also sweet moments when visiting grandchildren heard some of those conversations at our table during family worship.  We have no regrets.  Her stay with us wasn’t about her or about us.  It was about following the path God had placed in front of us for his purposes and for his glory.  We leave the outcome to him.

By God’s sovereignty, I’ve not been sick very often in my life.  (I’ve had “structural” problems, but not “germy” problems.)  Well, last month I was given the opportunity to grow in my sympathy for those who suffer with frequent or constant illness.  I was knocked off my feet by a full-blown case of influenza for a few weeks.  My dad had a lot of physical suffering in his last years, so I thought of him when the flu gave me symptoms similar to his.  In the latter stage of my flu, I was nauseous for several days, which brought Anna and her severe morning sickness to mind.  I’ve almost fully regained my strength now and am grateful for how God uses difficult times for my good.

From Gerald … I recently had the opportunity to teach God’s principles related to money.  Our pastors asked me to teach a Sunday school series, so I spent three Sundays teaching the Biblical principles and a Saturday morning follow-up with practical applications.  It has been over a year since I have taught any of this material; it was rewarding to do it again.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February Newsletter

From Laura, 18 … Over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed experiencing some of my first tastes of independence.  I turned eighteen recently and earned my driver’s license just a week before that!  I was permitted to drive independently to a couple of places even before I turned 18.  Oh, the thrill!  I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but right now it's all new to me.

In addition to the independence, I have also, for the first time, experienced some "only-child-ness".  Just after Christmas Seth and Becca (note: my only single siblings left) went to Indiana for a missions conference for a week.  I was very aware of the fact that I was the only one home with my parents.  Now, with Becca in Costa Rica for a lengthy period of time, I'm having similar sentiments.  While I'm not the only one home, it's still a foreign feeling to be the only daughter and have a large bedroom to myself.  I really don't mind it, but I do miss Becca's company.

From Becca, 20 … I have been in Costa Rica for three weeks, staying with friends.  I'm trying to think how to squeeze all the wonderful experiences I've had into one paragraph.  I give up—I'll just tell you some of my favorite things.  Most of all, I love my friends here.  They are full of joy and passionate about sharing the gospel.  Their sweet grandparents and all the church members are so loving and welcoming.  I know enough Spanish now (thanks to my ever-patient teachers) to be able to usually catch the drift of the conversation.  I love the laid-back culture here in Miramar where people sit on porches, eat abundantly, and honk at friends.  And I love the astounding beauty here.  The sunset in the mountains took my breath away, with all the layers of green mountains bathed in golden light and the shimmering blue sea beyond.

From Seth, 23 … Over the winter break Becca and I took a road trip to Indianapolis to volunteer at a missions conference.  It was a great trip... wonderful fellowship with friends along the way, and inspiring, Christ-centered preaching at the conference.  The refrain throughout the conference was that "Jesus is worth it".  Because Jesus is worthy, we strive to serve sacrificially, pray expectantly, battle our sin, love our churches, take risks for the gospel, and make disciples.

From Michael, Anna, and baby … We’ve enjoyed several opportunities recently to have other people in our home.  Hospitality is something we talked about quite a bit before we got married and which is important to both of us, so it is exciting to see that aspect of our life together starting to take shape.  

Speaking of life together, this week is the one-year anniversary of when we officially started our relationship!  It’s been such a joy-filled journey.  We’re grateful for the solid foundation that we’ve been able to build over this past year, and for the ways that we continue to get to know each other in deeper ways.

The pregnancy continues to go well!  We had our second trimester ultrasound a couple of weeks ago.  Everything looked good, and it was so sweet to get to see the baby moving around and count fingers and toes.  We’ve decided to wait until the birth to find out the gender, so no big reveal yet!  

From John, Megan, James (4), Ezra (3), Joy (1), and baby … (by Judith) John and Megan learned that the baby coming in late May is … a girl!  Mother and baby girl are continuing to do well.

John’s new job with the locksmith company has been a good fit.  They recently offered him a full-time job which began this week.  He still has remodeling projects to finish up on his Saturdays.

John and Megan had the excitement of a trip to Canada last week for Megan to be in a friend’s wedding.  It was Megan’s first time out of the United States.  They left the children with us for the 4-day trip.  It was the longest they have been away from each other, so it was quite the happy reunion when John and Megan arrived back!  The children really did very well.  A few video calls perhaps helped with that!

From Ray, Katie, Peter (7), Samuel (5), Andrew (4), Grace (2), and Benjamin (10 months) … Our two oldest enjoyed singing in church with a children’s choir at Christmas time.  They still march around the house singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain.”  Samuel started kindergarten, and is doing well so far.  I’ve found, though, that he’s going to be the kind of student who gets a picture of a mailbox and, instead of telling me what sound it starts with, laughs for five minutes because when he holds it upside-down it looks like a tree in a bathtub.  Benjamin is as happy and chubby as ever.  He’s starting to try solid foods, trying to stand up and walk around the furniture, and getting some curls that are too cute to cut off.  As for the others, Peter is becoming unbeatable at Monopoly, Andrew wants to wear his new dinosaur pajamas all the time, and Grace wants to do everything herself, including get in and out of her crib. Never a dull moment around here!

From Judith … At the beginning of January, we took in a needy 30-year-old woman.  A few other times in our married life, as the Lord led, we engaged in opening up our home.  In Ft. Collins a friend came to live with us for some months as we explored Christian community.  In Glenrock, Wyoming, we had a foster daughter for about four months.  Now God has brought into our lives another live-in situation.  Our new friend is very hungry for the things of the Lord.  She is reading the Bible every day and is often amazed at what she is finding there!  She willingly shares in our family worship each morning and evening and attends church with us.  Along with discipling her in the Christian faith, we are also mentoring her in her life skills.  We’re beginning to explore with her what her future path will be.  For now, she is contributing to the work here and voluntarily submitting to the rules of our home.

From Gerald … Our church is doing a 12-week Bible study titled “Behold Your God.”  We are in the third week now.  It is an excellent study.  There is a workbook with daily lessons to complete at home and then a video lesson with discussion on Wednesdays at the church.  The theme (at least so far) is getting to know God, as opposed to just knowing about him.  It is exciting to see many of the church members participating.  

With love from the Pedersen clan

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December Newsletter

December 10, 2016 -- Pedersen Family Newsletter

From Laura, 17 … We had a fabulous time camping last month!  A terrific rainstorm blew through right after we arrived at the campground on Thursday, but the rest of the weekend was pretty much free of rain.

That one storm sure was epic while it lasted, though.  We could see the clouds gathering as we began to set up our tent and canopy, but before we had either staked down, one of the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced blew in bringing buckets of rain that just drenched us to the skin.  The tent began to roll away and the canopy started collapsing in on itself.  We captured the tent and dragged it over to the canopy where Papa held one hand on the tent and the other on one of the canopy legs.  Mama was underneath, trying to keep our lunch things from blowing away.  Becca and I were on either side of the canopy where the wind was putting on tremendous pressure, bracing ourselves as much as we could to hold it up and keep it (and us) from being destroyed/blown away.  There was nothing to do but stay where we were until the wind died down, which was about 20 minutes later.  The rain drifted off a while later.  Later in the afternoon, although everything was soggy, there wasn’t a breath of wind.  We couldn’t believe just a couple of hours before there had been what seemed like a hurricane.

From Becca, 20 … At the beginning of November, I started volunteering for the pregnancy care center that just opened up in the building in front of our church.  I have been going on Tuesdays to be their receptionist.  I do various tasks like making phone calls, sorting clothes, typing up data, making flyers, and labeling pamphlets.  I like working with the other ladies there and I am excited about helping the clients and getting to know them better.

Laura and I finally finished rearranging our bedroom, so now we have a very cozy sitting area set up where Anna’s furniture was.  Also, we started going contra dancing and have had SO MUCH FUN.  I am still teaching ESL at the library with three students.  This week we had a wonderful time hosting a Christmas potluck for them and their families.

From Seth, 23 … Classes just finished at Rice, so now I just have a few final projects to finish up, and then I'll spend the rest of the month working in the lab. 

We spent a weekend camping in central Texas in November ... camping is always a blast.

I've read a few good books recently.  One was a biography of Sam Houston ... if you think politics today are messy, try time-traveling to the early 1800's!  Another was a book on prayer by the Beeke brothers.  I appreciated the point they made about loving other people by praying for them to grow spiritually and seek God and fight sin, just like you would pray those things for yourself.  Right now I'm reading The Reason for God by Tim Keller.

From Michael, Anna, and baby … Our big news this month is that baby Cheng is expected in June, 2017!  We had our first midwife appointment last week.  Everything looks good and we were able to hear the heartbeat and see the baby waving at us on the ultrasound.  We’re thrilled with this sweet blessing of new life, and humbled by the privilege and responsibility of becoming parents.

We spent the week of Thanksgiving in Illinois with Michael’s family.  We were also able to do a bit of sightseeing in the Chicago area and visit Michael’s old church.

From John, Megan, James (4), Ezra (3), Joy (1), and baby … We learned recently that we are expecting to welcome another baby into our family at the end of May next year!  So far the pregnancy has been free of any serious concerns, for which we are grateful.  Megan has experienced varying levels of exhaustion and nausea.  We have heard the heartbeat, and Megan has started feeling some movement.

In other news, I recently began the process of changing careers.  I have decided that running a remodeling company is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Therefore, I'm now in the process of closing down my company to pursue training and experience in locksmithing and physical building security, my chosen new profession.  Currently, I'm working on finishing up some last projects while working part-time for a local locksmith company.  I'm expecting a full-time offer from them when I finish my other projects.  I'm really enjoying the profession so far, and I think it will be a much better match for my interests, abilities, and personality.

From Ray, Katie, Peter (7), Samuel (5), Andrew (4), Grace (2), and Benjamin (8 months) … We took a trip to the Smoky Mountains in October.  We saw beautiful fall colors, and enjoyed our time seeing another part of the country.  We did some “touristy” activities like riding a Ferris wheel, and also took in the sights of Smoky Mountain National Park.  We did lots of climbing over rocks and nearly falling into the shallow creek.  We saw historic buildings, and a mill wheel.  We also navigated a traffic jam, complete with motor home and Prius drivers yelling at each other, to get to a lookout on the highest mountain in the park.  The views were worth it!  We also spent a day at the Biltmore, where the highlights were the blacksmith, the kids’ sandbox, and the display of old farm equipment where Samuel told us how the brake on a historic wagon worked.  He’s mechanically minded, that’s for sure!

From Judith … On Dec. 6 I reached my 12-week mark since my surgery.  I had my last visit with my surgeon this week.  (Along the way she became my friend, so I invited her to dinner.)  Thank you to those of you who have prayed for me during this time.  I have healed well.  I’m allowed to lift more than 10 pounds now, but I should never try to lift excessive weight, such as 50-pound bags of oats.  I’m gradually working back up to my pre-surgery exercise routine.  My pelvic exercises, which the physical therapist gave me to do before the surgery, will be a part of that ongoing.

It has been a very full year.  Many of life’s changes have visited us – some with sadness, some with joy.  The year began with mourning the loss of my dad – a death.  Then in April, Benjamin Wade joined us – a birth.  Anna got married and moved out in August – resident family reduced to five.  I had surgery in September – a time of recovery.  Two pregnancies were announced – births coming.  John is changing careers – a new direction.  In the midst of life’s changes, though, the Lord never changes.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

From Gerald … I have had a chance recently to get back to doing a bit of remodeling.  I am building cabinets for our guest suite kitchenette.  Because it is a small space and we want to maximize the storage, it has been a bit of a challenge to design.  Early on we realized that stock cabinets would not do what we want, so I am building them from scratch.  John has agreed to build doors and drawer fronts.  The overhead cabinets are ready for him; I still need to complete the base cabinets. 

With love from the Pedersen clan

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Great Campout at Pedernales Falls, by Judith

This picture has a story.  Just after we arrived and had set up our canopy and tent, BUT NOT STAKED IT DOWN YET, an amazing storm hit!  It was a torrential downpour with very high wind!  Gerald grabbed the tent as it began rolling away, then joined the other three of us who were holding onto the canopy.  After about 20 minutes of holding onto the canopy before the storm finally started to let up, we were all utterly drenched (note the hanging wet clothes) as was our tent.  We took stock of our situation.  The canopy was bent up, but usable with some help, and, remarkably, we found that our soggy, dirty, collapsed tent was undamaged!  Thankfully, our other gear was all still dry in the truck and the weather cleared soon enough for us to recover before nightfall.  We then enjoyed beautiful weather for the rest of the campout.

Note the bent frame as we were packing up at the end of the campout.  Gerald added some support to get us through the weekend.  We don't know yet whether or not it can be sufficiently repaired or if that was its final campout.

The newlyweds arrived shortly before us and had the good fortune of having their tent and tarp staked down before the storm hit.  We were glad Anna wasn't too sick with morning sickness to come on the campout.

We did lots of climbing around on the falls.  The many different falls, pools, and rock formations make this a very interesting place.

John and James

Geocaching Team

James was very excited about his geocache find!

Grandpa and his grandsons on the way back from geocaching.

River Fun

Some were goofing off a bit before we headed home.

As always it was a great weekend of sweet fellowship out in God's creation!

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