Dear Friends and Family,
Merry Christmas! I am going to be working on my conciseness techniques in this letter as last year we had sickness and I was unable to send a Christmas card/letter. Our “illness year” began in March of 2009 when I kept having various symptoms that continued to increase until May when I finally started having tests. After three doctors in Indiana and Ohio, nothing showed up on the tests, yet I continued to have problematic symptoms, such as night blindness to the point of not being able to drive in the evenings for six months and such confusion that public speaking and teaching were getting to be problems (among other challenges). Fast forward to the last six months, and it was found, through simple blood tests that I was severely Vitamin D deficient, leading to some sort of pre-diabetic, carbohydrate intolerance. I just needed to up my Vit D exponentially and eat low carb. (“Just” eat low carb—that’s an oxymoronic statement!)
Throughout that process, my dad fell extremely ill in October 2009 and found himself unable to stand, walk, or “feel internally” when a virus attacked his spinal cord, leaving him with para-paralysis. After a month in the hospital and a month in rehab, he went home to continue rehab. Several months later he has regained most of his feeling and now walks two miles most days with his walker. Halfway through my dad’s recovery, Ray’s mom had a severe stroke and all that, that entails. After time in the hospital and rehab, she too, is on the mend and is back home living with Ray’s brother and nephew and regaining her skills. Over about a six month period at the end of 09 and beginning of 2010, I found myself in hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and rehab units nearly one hundred times for me, Ray’s mom, and Dad. (Now you see why I didn’t get a Christmas letter out last Christmas!) On the other side of all of that, I am just so thankful. So thankful that we are all three well or getting well—and that both of these parents are still with us. Thankfully, Mom’s health has been excellent and my step-mom’s lupus has been under control more often than not.
Ray and I have been doing the same things we say every Christmas letter: teaching the kids, spending time with our adult kids, traveling to see our kids, playing with our kids, mentoring our kids, advising our kids, loving our kids…yeah…same thing for nearly three decades! But they have been the best twenty-eight years! Parenting has been phenomenal—and we are so grateful to be able to share our experiences through our homeschooling ministry and publishing company, Training for Triumph; our parenting blog, Positive Parenting 3*6*5; our speaking ministry; character training seminars; books and curriculum materials; and any other avenue we can find! Our “cottage classes” to homeschoolers continue to grow and bring us great joy as we help parents homeschool their kids by offering writing, language arts, science, history, apologetics, and math classes to second through twelfth graders. Ray has been enjoying teaching physics and chemistry the last two years—two new classes for him. And I enjoy it that he does the math and science in high school! Ray also coaches Jacob’s Upwards, plays basketball with his four boys at a church in Bluffton once or twice a week, dances with me every chance we get, and thinks of everybody else more than himself. (And yes, he still works full time at Buckhorn as the Materials Manager, too!)
We only have two officially in school since Jonathan does mostly college classes. It’s strange to have so few students—but still lots of fun. I continue to write and edit—we have over two thousand students now in all of our curriculum books around the world (just hit the 14th country, Papua New Guinea, the week before Kayla was to go there for a national HIV/AIDS ministry outreach!). Love writing, editing, and teaching—and LOVE helping people with parenting and homeschooling. In between all of that illness and work over the past two years, we managed to travel to OH, PA, and SC to watch Jonathan and Kara perform; OH, IN, MI, KY, and IL to speak; TX and MO to visit Kayla and move her; and FL to do a character training seminar and take a family vacation (all eleven of us!).
Joshua and Lisa still live near us in Bluffton. They took their first-ever “just them” vacation last month to Disney World. Joshua still paints for Yaste Painting and writes, teaches, speaks, and typesets with and for me with Training for Triumph. Joshua is an outstanding history, writing, literature, and apologetics teacher. He and I have been expanding our Correspondence Writing Program—and having fun working together. Lisa continues to key punch for our books too. They are an amazing couple!
Cami and Joseph live in Fort Wayne and continue to run One Heart Disability Ministry at First Assembly—and Joseph bought a bread delivery route nearly a year ago. They both have hearts for the disabled and forgotten—and it is so exciting to see God use them. They are also helping a family with four children who lost their mother in the spring with the kids’ homeschooling and more. Cami and Joseph have the three boys over all the time to stay overnight and play. They are busy, busy, busy investing in so many lives. The “little boys” are so blessed to have Joshua and Lisa and Cami and Joseph close by.
Kayla graduated from Southwestern University in TX in May with a BS in nursing (following her Associates two years before in nursing from IPFW) and a BA in biblical studies. She began her first full time missions position with the Assemblies of God World Missions as a health educator for Global Aids Partnership this fall. When she is not oversees, she lives above her office in Springfield, Missouri and writes curriculum and material for her missions trips as well as for other missionaries to use to reach those affected by HIV and AIDS (sort of a “missionary to missionaries”)—and in her first three months with GAP has gone to Botswania, South Africa, and Papua New Guinea and will be heading to Ethiopia in January. If you are looking for a place for an end-of-year contribution, Kayla is still raising funds for her mission work—and continues to be one of the most responsible, diligent, committed, resourceful, wise, and creative people I know!
Kara has been interning and earning an associates degree in Drama Ministry (plus much more!) at the Academy of Arts in Greenville, South Carolina for the past two years. When in SC, she studies drama and Bible, helps put on numerous “home” performances, does various jobs for the ministry (along with her fellow interns), and more. When on the road (twelve to fifteen weeks a school year), she teaches drama seminars to homeschool groups and Christian schools. We were thrilled to have her team come teach our drama seminar—and even more thrilled that she got to direct Jakie’s Elementary Drama. We miss her terribly—but are so excited to see her blossom in her area of ministry and giftings. She continues to be one of the sweetest young ladies in the world!
Jonathan turned eighteen and will graduate from high school in May. He traveled from Pittsburg to New York to NC with the summer drama ministry teams with the Academy of Arts (where Kara goes to school) for the past two summers—and received his team’s “Academy Award” for highest character this summer. Yep, he’s pretty much amazing. He has become an incredible assistant teacher to me in our cottage classes and plans to pursue English teaching and Bible in college. He also takes early-entry classes at Huntington University and works hard with the One Heart Disability Ministry, often speaking at their services. His love for books is apparent by his extensive Christmas “wish list” of nothing more than books! (Hmmm…reminds me of his oldest sister through the years!)
Josiah will turn sixteen in February, and we will suffer through another student learning to drive. (He will be a great student; I will be a mess!) I truly think that is the worst part of parenting—when kids learn to drive! He is an awesome drummer and also works with the disability ministry. Last summer he served at the Joni and Friends family camp in Michigan for a week. He and Jonathan are amazing order takers and fillers—Josiah can often be found giving a mother homeschooling advice as he takes her order (only when asked, of course!). Josiah loves football, basketball, and ultimate frisbee and loves playing with Dad and his brothers (among other “young adults”) at a church’s open gym each week. Josiah continues to be “his daddy’s son,” exhibiting stellar character in all that he does. He is empathetic, loving, thoughtful, diligent, studious, and responsible…sometimes I think we do not deserve these kids!
Jacob is twelve and has the honor and the curse of being the “baby of the family.” At the top of his Christmas list was “to only have one or two people telling me what to do over the holidays”! He gets tons of attention though—so I think it all shakes out in the end! He loves basketball, legoes, football, friends, and the disability ministry. He, too, has the gift of empathy and has others’ well being at the forefront of his mind and heart most of the time. He still loves to read with Mama—for which I am so grateful!
Thanks for reading—and for whatever part you may have played in our lives this past year—as students, fellow homeschoolers, curriculum users, blog readers, seminar attendees, friends, family, encouragers, leaders—we appreciate all of you. May the baby in the manger be found in your heart and life over the next year.
And, of course, my closing advice for this year: “Whatever you do to and for your children they will someday do to and for others.”
In His love,