Saturday, November 27, 2010

Artistic Pursuits

Mama decided to do a pencil portrait of Papa's parents as a Christmas present for my Grandma this year.  Here is the original photo that she worked from:

This is the basic outline that she started with.  She used a grid to get a correct likeness during this phase.

At this point, she had begun to do the initial shading. 

She started out working with the light shading, but then she switched and did all the dark areas first.

The artist at work!

The finished product.

The happy recipient!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Participating in a Rare Cultural Phenomenon

Over the last year-and-a-half we have greatly enjoyed the larger lot we've been living on, but it has meant a lot more yard work than we used to have.  At this time of year, it has meant raking leaves and moving them to our giant mulch pile.  We also have a lot of pine needles, so we decided to use them to mulch around all the trees in our front yard.

Becca and I were working on this project the other day, when a red mini-van pulled over, and the lady driving rolled down the window and said that she really appreciated seeing children helping their parents.  She said it made her so happy!  I wasn't quite sure what to say to this, but I got out "thank you" and then she drove off.

There were two aspects of this which caught my attention.  The first was simply the fact that we can never know when what we are doing may be observed and noted by the people around us.  Even when we're going about our regular yard work, barely aware that there are any cars driving by at all, people can notice what we are doing.

I've also been thinking about why the mere fact of young people doing yard work would be notable enough to this woman for her to pull over and say something.

Unfortunately, many young people today are not expected to contribute to the family unit.  They are expected to live off of the work that their parents do without making any return whatsoever-- or if they do make a return, it is only the bare minimum that their parents manage to force out of them.

But what about those parents who force some effort out of their children?  What is the difference between those families and ours?

It's certainly not that we are just better people.  We have just as much potential for laziness and the selfish pursuit of our own desires as anyone else does.  By God's grace, though, there have been at least two factors at work in our family that have given us a very different dynamic than what some families experience.

The first is the culture of honor and respect which Mama and Papa have sought to instill in our home.  We have all learned from a very young age that we are to obey and honor our parents-- and that obeying an instruction halfway or with a bad attitude is not true obedience.  We have been taught this not because Mama and Papa think they are superior, or because they just want to be in control, but because they recognize that this is the way that God's Word commands that children are to be instructed, and that teaching their children to honor and obey them is simply a practical means of teaching them to honor and obey their Heavenly Father.

The second reason is the high value we have learned to place on the family.  We have grown up working together, playing together, and worshiping together.  We have learned by experience that we are able to accomplish more and gain greater satisfaction from the accomplishment when we are supporting each other and contributing to the overall goal.  It is an outworking of the love that we have for each other-- a love that is not just mushy feelings, but rather a desire for each others' good that leads to action on each others' behalf.

Sadly, in today's culture, that has become rare enough to warrant pulling over the car.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Peter!!!

We celebrated Peter's first birthday a week ago! 

Yummy chocolate cake!
Peter had fun opening his presents.

New toys!
I love you Peter!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

October Newsletter

From Laura, 11 … At the beginning of October we went camping!  The weather was absolutely gorgeous.  The campground was also very pretty.  We were there two nights.  The first night I slept in our hammock.  It was comfortable but I got a lot of mosquito bites on my face; it looked kind of awful at first.  The second night I slept on the ground with repellent on.  For the Sunday morning worship time, we sang a song called “Praise Ye, the Lord”.  It was really fun because the men and women alternate singing phrases and when you’re singing you stand up!

From Becca, 14 … We had an interesting experience at the nursing home this month.  While our friend was preaching the gospel, an aged woman interrupted to say, “This is offensive!”  She became angry and left, saying unpleasant things all the while.  But afterwards another woman thanked us for it.  It shows the truth of this verse:  “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”  II Corinthians 2:15-16

From Seth, 17 … Recently we had our international celebration, the culmination of our annual study of a country.  This year we studied Morocco.  I enjoyed learning about the country—its history, religion, geography, economy, government, and culture.  Becca, Laura, and I all wrote a report, and mine was about a mountainous region in northern Morocco.  For the actual day of the celebration, we had our dining room decorated with posters and a hanging rug.  We lowered our table and sat on pillows to eat.  The food was very good, even though it was a little exotic (for example: the beef and prune dish).  It was a great time of experiencing another culture and reflecting on other peoples and their need for Christ.

From Anna, 20 … Earlier this month I had the opportunity to spend a few days helping a family from church who had just had a new baby.  This was baby number six, and the oldest will just be turning seven this week, so it’s a busy household at any time.  It was a very good experience for me on multiple levels.  I was able to use various skills that I’ve learned, like grocery shopping, cooking, and driving a big van, in a different setting.  I also enjoyed experiencing both the ways their family was different from ours and the ways it was the same.  Every family has a different personality, which leads to different approaches to schedules, education, meals, chores, and family worship, but, despite the differences, their family and our family are like-minded in terms of faith and ultimate goals which leads to a wonderful unity and kinship between us.  Besides all that, my stay there included sweet times of holding a brand-new baby, reading aloud to the older children, pushing swings and pulling wagons, and sharing edifying fellowship with the parents.

From John, 26 … On October 22-23 our church hosted our fourth annual Semper Reformanda conference.  The conference addresses a wide range of topics, from preaching and church planting to courtship and hospitality.  The theme that runs through the entire conference, however, is an examination of how we live our lives personally and corporately, and how we need to change in order to be more closely conformed to the Word of God.  This year we had over 700 attendees from all over the country and even a few international locations.  Our family and many others put a lot of time and work into making the conference happen, but in the end it’s always a blessing to hear how people’s lives have been impacted by what they have heard.
 About Ray, Katie, and Peter … Here are a few exciting tidbits from their lives.  Ray just had a closing on a house he sold.  They heard the heartbeat of the new baby a couple of weeks ago; Katie is 13 weeks along.  Peter is making lots of funny faces these days, is very close to walking, loves to eat, and will be one year old this Saturday.  Also, Peter had an absolutely fabulous time camping earlier this month.

From Judith … It has been a very busy and eventful month, indeed!

It began with our fall campout (see Laura’s entry) which was quite large.  We counted 147, which included 30 people who didn’t stay overnight either of the two nights.  Each fall and spring we pick a spot, usually a Texas state park, within about four hours (or less) of us and set a date.  Then we invite people who have shown interest or camped with us before.  Our only planned activity is a Sunday worship time.  The group makes its own impromptu fun the rest of the time which is always dotted generously with sweet fellowship.

Next was my birthday with the delightful annual concert that my family does for me.  I was particularly touched this year by the reality of the great blessing my family is to me.

A few days later we had our monthly folk dancing and, the next day, our visit to the nursing home (see Becca’s entry).  Then we turned our attention more fully to our Morocco celebration (see Seth’s and Gerald’s entries).  The following weekend was the annual conference our church puts on (see John’s entry).

We happen to have two weekly Bible study groups meeting here right now.  (That happened somewhat accidentally.  After we started one of them, the other needed a host home.)  There were a few other assorted visits this month as well as Anna’s few days away (see her entry).

This was unusual.  Our calendar is rarely this full.  As we move into the last few months of this year, it should loosen up quite a bit.  Perhaps we’ll then make some headway on our house projects.

From Gerald … Each year when we do our international study it causes me to reflect on how blessed we are to live in a place where we can worship God in relative freedom.  Morocco is 99.8% Muslim and non-Moroccans are the only ones allowed to be in a Christian church.  Humanly speaking, there is no way that those people can be reached with the Gospel.  Yet, the Berbers, who make up nearly 35% of the population, have a Christian heritage from the early church, including Tertullian and Augustine.  God not only knows who are his, but will provide a means for them to hear the Good News and be drawn to him.  We must continue to pray for as-yet-unreached people groups like those in Morocco. 

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura