Friday, December 29, 2006

My Dad bought an IPod Nano step in the Mac direction... ;-)

Monday, December 25, 2006

Well, I suppose that it has been a rather long time since I posted last. But, as I have said before, if you knew my family and the things that have been going on in our lives, you wouldn't be shocked that it has taken me so long to write. It isn't that I haven't had things to write about, it is just finding the time. So, since I am absolutely exhausted (we went to bed around 1:00 am last night and woke up at six something this morning) I've decided to post our family newsletter. :) I'll try to be better at posting, but I won't make any promises.

Dear Family and Friends,

What a year this has been! There have been so many changes in our lives it would take a whole book to tell you about them all. Therefore, I will restrain myself and only give you the highlights. Aside from Christa’s wedding which I’ll describe later, I suppose the most significant news of the year would be our move to Illinois. It was very exciting, (and somewhat traumatic) but, we made it! Dad accepted a pastorate in the midst of corn fields, Cardinal fans, and Lincoln license plates.

The church is called Providence Church in Peoria. The name is appropriate because we have seen the leading of the Lord and His providence throughout 2006. We have fallen in love with all the new families here and we’re having a blast getting used to country living! Yes, we actually have a well! Jessica was relieved to find out we didn’t actually have to go outside and draw water out of it to wash the dishes!

Early in November, our dear friends, Jim Bob and Amy Howard, came along side us to bear the blessed burden of Homeschooling Today® magazine. As an answer to prayer, they are now handling all management and operations of the publication. Praise the Lord!

Back home in Texas, the tea room is in the capable hands of our precious friends and part owners, Joey and Faydra Jones and Brenda and Ford Taylor. Please pray for them as they labor to be a blessing in the Katy area.

In addition, we sold Books on the Path to a Christian family in Idaho, the Osborns. Please pray the Lord continues to bless this new family and the work He allowed us to start. We have many precious memories running our bookstore and traveling to conferences, so, the children, as well as Mom and Dad, found the transition bittersweet.

Mom and Dad are setting new schedules for us all. Since Mom and Dad’s business management responsibilities have diminished, they are pleased to be able to focus more on our family, homeschooling, and the ministry of the church. They are also hoping to have time to work on their new book projects, which include more resources for families. And you know Mom – she is developing new schedules and checklists for our lives in the country! Oh, how thankful we are to be getting back to some semblance of normalcy!

As many of you already know, on November 24, 2006 the oldest McDonald daughter, our sweet Christa Marie, was joined in marriage to Daniel Blanchard. As Christa walked down the isle toward her eager groom, we were reminded of our own future Wedding Day—the day Christ, our beloved Groom, will be united forever to His spotless Bride, the Church. It was a simple, yet beautiful wedding and there were many tears shed as she set out to join her new husband, back in Texas. Although we would have loved to have had all of you join us, we understand that the distance was great and the notice was short. Thank you for your prayers and notes of celebration and encouragement. We love you all! For those who trekked the miles to join us, thank you for your efforts and we were so blessed to have you with us. A wedding is such a beautiful reminder of the covenantal way we as Christians should live our lives.

We also experienced our first heavy snow just one week after Christa’s 65 degree, sunshiny wedding! We boasted over 7 inches of snow and watched the thermometer dip below 0! Dad felt his age after shoveling snow with “the boys” and we’re all getting used to scraping our windshields, wearing socks, and actually zipping our coats! (Mom even has her own personal heater with a carrying handle!)

James (23) is still living in Texas but is staying with us for the Christmas season, which we’ve all enjoyed very much. He hopes to move up here sometime in January or February. He continues to do design work for our publications, and is also helping with some legislation efforts at Samaritan Ministries.

Tiffany (20) is now taking on the responsibility of being the oldest daughter in the house. She has enjoyed driving a LOT since we’ve moved, and has acted as Mom’s personal chaperone because of her wonderful sense of direction. She is known as our “walking, talking, GPS system.”

Melissa (18) has especially enjoyed being around birds since we’ve moved to the country. She has the duty of filling the bird feeder every morning and for some reason the birds have taken a liking to her! She is able to distinguish which birds are which and has many of their names and habits memorized. Melissa is looking forward to painting some of the beautiful scenery we have right in our backyard!

Jessica (16) still enjoys acting and drama very much. She is helping put together a movie with some other young people at church and hopes to one day have something ready for Vision Forum’s film festival. She is still a book worm and reads every chance she gets! Sparked by her recent reading of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Jessica is looking forward to studying the French Revolution this year. Tiffany, Melissa, and Jessica are also arranging their own music and are having a lot of fun singing together!

Caleb (10) is growing up so fast! He’s becoming a man right before our eyes! He is all “boy” and loves swords, guns, dirt, bugs, and animals. We recently had a secret and uninvited “visitor” to our garage. Caleb read all about shrews and helped us catch him! When Mimi and Papa came to visit us in November, Caleb had a great time fishing with Papa in our lake. He even ate the fish he caught! Mimi and Papa surprised Caleb with a BB gun—and no, he didn’t shoot his eye out!

Abigail (8) is also growing up quickly. She has become quite the “young lady” and tries very hard to be like her big sisters. She loves to help in the kitchen, whether it’s baking, cooking, or cleaning and enjoys helping with the younger children. She is a wonder of creativity, working on yet another novel already!

Virginia Grace (5) is our family chatter box. She loves meeting new people and likes to do whatever Abigail does. She is the newest reader in the family, which will earn her a brand new Bible this year. She is especially excited about having her name engraved on the front! She loves school and is looking forward to a busy school year. All the children are looking forward to learning Latin this year!

Emma Katherine (4) is our youngest and busiest maiden. Competing with William for Mom’s lap each morning, she still likes to pretend she’s the baby of the family. Emma is learning her letters and likes to “do school” with the big girls. Emma also enjoys helping around the house and follows Abigail and Grace wherever they go (they’re our three little peas in a pod). She loves to play “mommy” and tote her “baby” about the house. Sometimes (much to his chagrin) William gets to be her baby!

William (19 months) is growing way too fast! He’s the family hunk-a-chunk and loves to cuddle. He is learning many new words, both real and made up. His favorite song to sing during family worship time is one he made up himself. It is called “God” and apparently no other words are necessary and the tune is irrelevant. However, he intently stares at his hymnal and belts out his sweet song to the Lord!

Many times these types of newsletters ooze with all the good and exciting things a family has experienced and ignore the real stuff of life. Yes, God has been amazingly good to us and yes, He has poured out His mercy on our undeserving family, allowing us to see many exciting days, traveling to new places, meeting new friends and rejoicing with old.

However, 2006 has not been a year filled with waltzing through gardens or mornings of dew covered roses. As we lived life in 2006, we found more valleys than mountaintops. Yet, even in the darkness of the valley, God was with us, making it clear that He was the one orchestrating our lives and guiding our steps. Our much too hectic schedule, coupled with unforeseen opposition, left us broken and empty at times—thirsting for His strength. We became keenly aware of how weak and unworthy we are and how awesome and powerful God is. Busyness sapped our strength and strained relationships. We learned that doing more isn’t equal to accomplishing more.

God has humbled us and purged a little more dross from our rebellious flesh this year. Our motto for 2007 is “Promise less and do more.” We are learning to thank Him for showing us our sin – as excruciating as it is. We are also learning that it isn’t wise (or godly) to polish our magnifying glass for the purpose of looking at the sins of others. Rectifying our own sin should keep us plenty busy.

As Christians, we should put others interests before our own, love our neighbor as ourselves, and let our speech be gracious and our answers soft. If we could purpose to spur one another on to good works; to serve one another sacrificially; to live in humility and peace; to focus on correcting our own sin first, rather than jumping to shine a spotlight on the sins of others; to pray for one another; to encourage one another; to lift up those who have fallen; to visit one another; to practice hospitality one to another—what a year 2007 could be!

May God bless you and your children for generations to come.

Soli Deo Gloria,

James and Stacy, Tiffany, Melissa, Jessica, Caleb, Abigail, Virginia Grace, Emma, and William Alexander

Saturday, December 02, 2006

snow update...and photos!

Well, on our very first snowfall, we were snowed in. The private drive to our house was piled high with snow, making it impossible to get out. Our neighbors had a wedding rehearsal to go to, so they climbed into their car, backed out of their driveway, and didn't make it very far. Actually, they got stuck in the snow and not only was it impossible for them to get out, but they couldn't get back to their driveway either. :) So, James, Caleb and another neighbor helped them get back home.

But, we did have a blast outside yesterday. We don't have very large hills, but the ones that we do have we used for sledding. Grace suggested making a snowman, so I figured that they couldn't be that hard to make, so we set out to make one. For some reason, the snow didn't roll and stick together the way it does in the movies, and making the snowman was almost impossible. But, being the stubborn person that I am, I decided that we were not going to give up. So, we made a snowman. He's not the usual three layer one, but he was bigger than the one that we made in Houston the year we had a bit of snow for Christmas. That one was only has big as my finger. :) His head is much too small for any of our hats, so we pulled a branch off of a tree and gave him hair instead. He ended up looking more like a Caesar snowman than Frosty, so we named him Frosty Augustus.

And, of all days that we could run out of coffee, guess which one it was. Yes, the day we were snowed in. We were only able to make half of a pot yesterday, and today we have not had any. We were hoping (I guess rather selfishly, ;-)) that the Evans's power would still be out so that they could come to stay with us. But when they arrived back home, their power was on. So we were not able to host them, and they didn't get to come out and bring coffee. :) Hopefully, we will be able to get out for church tomorrow...

Here are some photos that we took. I also put a few on my photo blog.