Happy New Year! We hope that you all have enjoyed a winter full of celebrations and the creation of special memories with family and friends.
We enjoyed a very nice low-key Christmas where we squeezed in a few opportunities to do some of our favorite traditions --- decorate the house, visit the Living Nativity, watch our favorite Christmas movies and spend time with family & friends. We'll include a link to another tradition two years running -- a family trip to Bounce U for Christmas Eve. (click here)
We hadn't planned on traveling at all, but the last minute opportunity for Elizabeth & the kids to spend a week in Virginia gave Frank the chance to make some progress on our kitchen overhaul. With a little time in "Nanaland," Christmas celebrating got to include gingerbread house decorating, going to a lights display with cousins and a Nana shopping spree that got the kids outfitted with winter boots … which is all they ever want to wear now!
We initially moved into the holiday season with a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. Our AIM support dipped to where it looked like we would be in the red in November. We expected to have to drop our salary significantly at the start of the new year. While we haven't gotten monthly pledges to make up the gap, special gifts have come in that have us in the black through all of January and most of February. We are now coming into the new year with a greater sense of peace and confidence that God will continue to meet our needs.
It's still likely that we will have to take some degree of a pay cut, but it has been put off for a few months and Frank & I have both been given some opportunities for paid work that will help to soften the impact. Our finances feel a little like the widow's flour and oil, but whether he chooses to provide in daily portions or a stockpile, He is faithful today and He will continue to be!
Another way that God has provided is through the donation of gift cards that we've been able to keep on hand to meet the needs of neighbors beyond what our own budget would allow. Just this week we were able to buy groceries for a family who was going to be trying to eat on $15 for the next 10 days, buy plumbing supplies for Frank to try to repair a burst pipe for that same family and buy a filter for an elderly neighbor's furnace. God's generosity to us through other people allows us to approach these situations with joy that we have something to use to help rather than exasperation and anxiety over having to say "no."
The ongoing project of our kitchen is exactly that … ongoing! In late August we began planning a Halloween party for the neighborhood, by which time I was absolutely certain that I'd have a functioning kitchen to pop popcorn and make hot cider. Then I was sure that I'd be cooking a Thanksgiving turkey in my oven. After that I was positive we could celebrate Christmas with a meal that included some boiled shrimp cooked on the stove. About two weeks ago it looked like the end really was in sight -- I almost created an Evite invitation for an oven baked cookie party for Jan 13th. Now I will simply say, "It will be done when it's done!" We are getting closer --- we already put our deposit down on a new countertop & sink and have the paint for the walls sitting among the supplies. And once it is done, you will never meet a woman more thankful for her kitchen sink!
Since it really seemed like the kitchen project would be finished by now, we filled up our calendars as if we would be in the clear and now we are looking at an incredibly busy first two months of the year. Elizabeth is teaching her first two sets of childbirth classes and is on call for four expectant mothers. Frank has been running Saturday outreaches along with the food cupboard ministry at Cast Your Cares. We made lots of plans to catch up with friends and have company in our home. All of this extra activity has helped us to stay determined and steadfast. And maybe just a touch crazy - but the *good* kind of crazy that keeps life lighthearted and keeps you from caring too much whether you have it all together or not.
Here are some prayer requests we would love for you to keep before the Lord with us:
We are in the waiting game as far as seeing what our options will be for Selah's schooling next year. We've turned in an application for the public charter school we'd most like to send her to, and now wait for the results of the lottery held on March 14th. We will likely turn in applications to additional charter schools and weigh our options (home school or cyber school) once lottery results are in. Please pray for patience, trust and confidence as we wait to see what options we have and then make a decision.
Pray for our neighbor Priscilla and her family. She has made the hard but good decision to temporarily move down to Florida where her mother and grandmother are living. Shortly after the water supply was fixed this past fall, the sewer drain began to back up. Frank saw the full, stinky extent of it over the weekend when another supply pipe froze and burst. He went to the sewage filled basement to try to fix it. It became clear that the situation was far beyond what Priscilla's best efforts and our resources could help her fix. Besides the issues with the house, the girls' father was not really able to provide them with adequate childcare. One morning last week the 3 year old showed up knocking on our door because she had wandered out of the house while her father slept and mom was at Job Corps. With the support of being in another household instead of trying to run one on her own, the hope is that she can gain traction, finish Job Corps and come back in several months when she can move into an apartment of her own or have the house next door fixed. Please pray for God to place people around her in Florida who will help and encourage her to follow Him as she tries to pursue a good path for her family.
Speaking of moving, our shared-wall neighbors spent their first night in their new home a couple miles away last night. They are still coming and going to move some remaining items out and are daily brining their kids down here for school. Please pray that we can continue our relationship with them, that God will work himself into the center of their relationships and bring peace into their household, and also for the fate of the actual house next to us. The owner doesn't seem to have put it on the market, and with taxes going up this year we are wondering if it could end up being available for sheriff's sale again. We still aren't in any position to think of buying that house short of God working out a miracle on our behalf. It's still a hope and a dream, so pray with us for God to do just as He has planned, and for us to be patient and full of trust.
We hope you are all enjoying life that is that same "good kind of crazy" as our lives right now--- savoring grace for your faults and shortcomings, trusting God to provide and care for the smallest and greatest of needs, finding delight in the people he's surrounded you with. We are so thankful for each one of you and the role that you play in keeping us cared for and encouraged in the work that God has called us to here.
Blessings and love,
Frank, Elizabeth, Selah, Callum and Clementine