Mark 5:28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
Another Christmas letter and another challenging verse from which to write. Jerome is always thinking and praying about a verse to carry us through each year. Just like last year, I find the verse ever so hard to write from at first, but as I consider our year and the direction our family is moving in, I usually gain great clarity. In last year's letter, I talked about a family settling in after a series of changes. Well, this year, we had no great changes to our family and we are really centering on endurance and deepening our lives. We are no longer adjusting, settling or catching our stride. The challenge is becoming whole in Christ and that can only be done by reaching out in faith to "... touch but his clothes...".
As I prepared to write I was perusing The Valley of Vision which is a collection of Puritan Prayers. The title is taken from Isaiah 22. To give some sense of our year I will quote verse 5: "For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains." That may sound a little gloomy, but verse 14 is coming "And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts." Discouraging? Maybe at first, but here's the introduction to the Valley of Vision:
LORD, HIGH AND HOLY, MEEK AND LOWLY,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
We have had our share of struggles this year, but it has been a year of going "deeper" and getting more genuine, and what we may have perceived as a rough patch was actually a great valley of vision. We have seen Christ more clearly and depended on Him more faithfully. I can remember clearly praying at the beginning of the year that my children would have a vision for their lives. My prayer came from Proverbs 29:18 -- "Where there is no vision, the people perish:..." Well, the Lord answered with a valley and truly it is a place of vision.
Riane is 20 and moving forward in her life. Entrenched in library work and college she is prayerfully considering her options for life after college. This year, the manager and assistant manager at the library both left their positions. Riane, the library aid, was the last man standing, so to speak. A new manager was hired and Riane was promoted to assistant manager and put in charge of youth services. This is still part-time, but she absolutely loves all her story times, craft programs and visits from the school classes. She is still studying college online and now has junior standing. Visions are definitely centered on teaching, maybe ESL and perhaps travel, but for now she is working the plan for college.
This has been a year of hard work for Braydon. He ended last year being the first full-time homeschooled student to integrate the sporting program at the local public high school. He did well, making friends and lettering in cross country. For his efforts, all he wanted was a letterman jacket. We gave him one. He earned it. The validation of his efforts came at a school awards ceremony where the coach said, "I am grateful to the powers that be that would allow homeschooled students to participate, Braydon has been an asset." It was an experience that I am glad he didn't miss. He kept up with his 4H Shooting Sports club serving as Vice President and taking the top honor at the State Fair -- THE clock trophy (1st Place) senior rifle -- what a moment! The rest of his year has been spent pursuing difficult high school subjects, applying to colleges, taking tests, and ardently pursuing the Naval Academy. There have been applications, essays, senator committee interviews, physical tests, medical exams and on and on... He has soldiered them all and is still waiting. He was invited to a Candidate Visit Weekend at the Naval Academy. That was a great short-term reward and it solidified his desire to attend in the Fall. As of this writing, Braydon has received a congressman nomination for the Academy and for "Plan B" a 4 year NROTC scholarship. We can't wait to see where the Lord will lead. Getting a vision is not his dilemma -- he is pursuing it with all his might.
Mary is 17 and growing into such a fine young lady. She is always cleaning up something or jumping in to fill a need. Mary is so crafty and has such an eye for artistic projects. She has crocheted a beautiful bowl for our living room and is always drawing or painting something. Mary also loves music and has been playing the violin, singing and practicing the piano. She has also turned her hand to baking. Our family has been so blessed with all sorts of sweets and delights. This year the Lord led her to her own ministry at our church and she has been baking bread for the kids arriving each morning for Sunday School. Mary does not have a clear cut vision for her future, however she has toyed with the idea of doing something in missions. I believe the talents she is developing would serve her well if that is where God sends her.
Adela at 15 has entered her freshman year of high school. She has discovered some things she didn't know she liked--such as studying first aid and things about the body. Who knows where this will lead. She could never really enjoy crochet or knitting, but this year discovered sewing. She has a done a bit of very good hand sewing and has begun to try a bit of machine sewing. For Adela it has been a year of trying a few things and being surprised by her interest. I don't know which ones will grab her vision, but for now she keeps trying. One thing is sure -- her absolute love for animals. Her laying chickens are doing well and she has survived a few losses (too many roosters and some unhealthy ones), but she keeps faithful to their care. Caring for our dog has been an ever present issue for Adela and for the whole family. He is aging and Adela has taken the job of making sure he gets his arthritis pill every morning.
Ricky is 14, so he has been casting about for things that really fit him in his life. I mean "fit" in more ways than one! He has grown so much this year I can hardly keep him in clothes. He does love the outdoors and is a crack pistol shot -- he earned his sharpshooter certificate at the shooting sports club. Developing a good vision for his schoolwork has been a challenge. We kind of hit the wall and then things just clicked. I changed his curriculum (BIG SIGH) after I had already planned out a lot of the year, and taught some new study techniques and things have been taking off. I believe he now has the vision for being able to complete his work and do well at it. He also took a big step and started training for cross country with Braydon over the summer. He then ran on the school team for middle school. He made great friends and started the year out as the fastest runner. He did such a good job, we are so proud of his efforts. He is looking forward to trying his hand at squirrel or rabbit hunting. He is our family fix it man when Dad is not home and is forever hanging bookshelves in Riane's room.
Wokelle is 9 and truly "All Boy". Running everywhere -- a natural at most sports and athletic events. He runs 5 K's when he is given the chance. Lately, he has developed into quite a proficient ping-pong player and can even give Braydon a run for his money. He loves to play any game going. He absolutely adores stories, but would rather not have to read all those words! Wokelle wanted to learn the piano for such a long time. He learned a few things on his recorder and we asked him to pray about the piano. I hadn't thought a whole about it, until one day he came and told me that he had been praying almost a year and he really still had the desire. The time was indeed right and he started lessons. He has done a great job and had his first recital this November. His most earnest longing is to know the meaning of his name. We are all in prayer that the Lord would reveal this to us in some way. We researched all the avenues that we know about and have even asked a native Liberian -- so, we will keep praying.
Our little songbird, Heaven, is turning 9 in February. She does love to sing and knows the words to almost all her hymns. She has a sweet disposition and a beautiful smile. She has learned to crochet this year. It was quite a challenge to get it down, but now she is making some nice things. Her next idea is to learn how to knit. When the holidays slow down, I will have to make time to teach her.
Isaiah is our youngest at 7. Smart as whip -- he is in the first grade and I suspect will start 2nd before the year is out. He usually quotes verses at our nursing home ministry, but has been known to insist on reading his favorite passage. He isn't much for public displays or new people, but when it is just us -- he is quite a talker. He has mentioned being a preacher.
Jerome and I have learned much this year. One is that what we think we would like our children to develop, we cannot force feed or fix. We realize it must be a real and genuine part of our own lives. We must walk the talk. To realize that impossible vision, we "... but touch his clothes..." One of the greatest lessons that we have been meditating on, is the power of Christ in our life. We may feel that our to-do list is too long, or that we are too disorganized, but the truth is that with Christ we have unlimited power for all that He has for us. The challenge is to remember that Jesus' greatest power is the power of love. It was his love and its great power that went to the cross for our hope of heaven and it started at Christmas when he stepped out of his royal robes to live as a humble servant to the lost and dying. We are forever grateful.