Our family--Christmas, 2008

Our family--Christmas, 2008

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Happy New Year, 2008!

We are thankful for every remembrance of you and for your many prayers on our behalf. Jesus is our reason for living. Without Him, life is nothing. We rejoice in knowing the great love our Father God has for us in that He sent His only begotten Son to come to this earth to live and suffer for us. Jesus lived a perfect life. He is very God and very man. Yet the Scriptures tell us “for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross and the shame”. We who believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior are that “joy” that He voluntarily gave His life for. He voluntarily carried the incredible weight of our sins on His shoulders. Hallelujah, what a Savior! We hope that all of you receiving this letter personally know Jesus Christ as your Savior. He is the greatest Gift we could ever receive!

Here is a summary of the year 2007--
Chris is still battling multiple sclerosis with all his might. He daily “buffets his body and makes it his slave” so that he can work another day for the glory of God. He is fully aware that it is God and God alone who sustains him each and every day. His neurologist said that four years ago that Chris should be bedridden. Chris often says “when you look behind me you did not see two sets of footprints. You only see one set of footprints and they are God’s. He has carried me for several years”.

Nonetheless, Chris has been used by God to do many things this year. He continues to work full-time for the Home School Legal Defense Association as Senior Counsel. Heis still traveling as well to home school conventions each year, with Tracy’s, Jesse’s, or Megan’s help. Radio interviews are also part of his work, and he is thankful for his voice and mind to serve the homeschool community.

Chris is again teaching a government class to homeschoolers each week and loves it. It is a joy and blessing to see how these kids have been impacted by the class to become more interested in how our country’s freedoms were founded, and to desire to work to maintain that freedom.

A Special Honor Given—In June, Chris was chosen to receive the Captain John Smith Perseverance Award from Vision Forum during their week-long celebration of the quadricentennial anniversary of Jamestown. The whole family and Tracy’s parents were there to see him receive the award to a long standing ovation, a big thank from the homeschool community for Chris’ service to homeschoolers for over 22 years. Chris testified to God being his strength and help, and gave God all the glory.

Tracy is still homeschooling the kids. She spends much time with the children teaching them, and seeks to grow in the Lord so she can lead her children in the Lord. She also uses well her wonderful talent of her voice and love of music. She is directing a homeschool choir again of about 30 kids, and she serves at our church on the music team and helps organize a children’s choir for special services. She still loves singing as the Lord allows, and hopes to sing for President Bush before he retires from the presidency. :o) This photo is of Tracy and the kids at our church retreat in June.

In addition to taking a couple summer workshops and week-long art school, she looks for time to work on art, doing oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, art journaling, and custom photographs, and has won several awards locally for both her artwork and phototography. She also produces very beautiful note cards which she sells. This drawing is a pastel landscape Tracy made for notecards this past summer. Though life seems overwhelming often, she longs to keep her eyes on Jesus, looking to Him for strength, and encouraging others in the Lord. Her favorite verse is, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who trusts in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints, for to those who fear Him there is no want.” ~Psalm 34:8-9

Our trips
Make-a-Wish Vacation (almost!)--This past March our whole family spent a special week in Florida that combined vacation and homeschool conference speaking. Of course, everyone went to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios! Here's Chris and the kids at Epcot Center. Both parks were very accommodating of Chris’ physical handicaps and we got around pretty well. We really did have a great time. Our kids have only been to these parks when they were too little to remember (11 years ago!), so it was a huge gift from the Lord, especially since different friends helped us with free tickets to Universal Studios, a week free in a condo near Disney, and use of a minivan for the week. God is so kind!

Besides visiting old friends and making new friends at the Vero Beach homeschool conference, everyone got to see Tracy’s 92-yr.-old grandfather. The kids hadn’t all seen him for many years—having a great grandfather still is such a gift from the Lord! And sunburns from the beach didn’t diminish the blessings from this wonderful week together!

Erin go Brea (Ireland is beautiful)--In addition to the family’s trip to Florida, Tracy got to spend a week in Ireland in March with her good friend Julie Randall, driving around the beautiful countryside, and taking lots of photos for future art references. It was a very restful time for her and much needed break Chris so generously let her have. This is one of Tracy's photos of the Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost tip of Ireland.

The Denver Rally Miracle--On one of Chris’ many speaking trips, he was especially challenged when he fell on the airplane arriving in Denver. He was in so much pain he nearly passed out, but with Jesse’s great help and a lot of prayer, he was able to continue on with the trip and speak to 2000 homeschoolers at a rally where a blizzard was predicted to have hit and completely shut down. Instead, the snowstorm skirted around Denver and missed it entirely! Tracy was amazed to hear the report on national radio and called Chris early the morning of the rally to announce the miracle God had performed, partly in answer to thousands of homeschoolers praying.

"Big Trouble in Little China"food--In the spring, Chris, Megan, and Susanna spent almost a week in Wisconsin with Chris’ parents. Chris spoke at the WI homeschool convention with Ken Ham and also preached in his parents’ church. He had a scary episode of a severe allergic reaction to MSG in some Chinese food he had eaten one evening. Megan, was a very capable helper to Chris, but he really needed a trip to the emergency room and a high dose of Benedryl to help him recover. He had been completely paralyzed from the MSG—with Megan and Chris’ parents praying with him, and Tracy and the kids praying long-distance, God in His mercy heard their prayers!

NC, A Blast from the Past--On another speaking trip in May for Chris and Tracy to North Carolina, Chris was blessed to reconnect with an old friend, Craig Bulkeley. Chris and Tracy brought four of the girls on this trip and enjoyed hanging out with longtime friends, the Van Eerdens, The time spent with them and their 10 kids was wonderful, and the girls developed good friendships with their children, with a special friendship forming between Megan and their oldest son. Chris and Tracy were given a special Marriott gift card by the NC homeschool leaders since it was their anniversary that weekend.

An Artist's Retreat--Besides the spring trip to Ireland, in July Tracy got to spend a week in Montana at Barry Stebbing’s Katrina School of Art, staying with friends Russ and Loraine Wahl, improving her artistic abilities with good friends Beth Raley and Carmen Rockett. Tracy doesn’t have a lot of time to do artwork during the school year, so she is very thankful for the workshops and art school during the summer to continue learning about art.

North of the Border--In September, Chris and Jesse drove all the way to Canada to speak at their National Homeschool Leadership conference. This was only possible because a good friend, Jehred Rockett was their driver. This young man has been such a great gift of a friend to Megan and our whole family, along with his whole family. We are thankful for the past year God has given us with them before they move back to Texas in March. We’ll miss them!

A National Reunion--Every year in September our family attends the National Homeschool Leadership Conference. This year it was held in Albuquerque, and we brought everyone except John and Amy, who stayed with good friends near home. Our kids deepened their friendships with kids from around the country, while Chris helped homeschool leaders. Tracy helped lead worship each morning and sang Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up” for the closing banquet.

Special Visits this year included both Chris’ and Tracy’s parents, many friends from around the country, plus special friends and missionaries from South Africa with Frontline Fellowship, Peter and Lenora Hammond and their children. We had a wonderful time touring around DC with them and reconnecting with them.

Now for the Kids…

Bethany--This has been a big year for Bethany. She turned 20 in November (complaining that she was no longer a “teen”), and is an excellent student as a sophomore at Patrick Henry College in Virginia. She is interested in becoming a spy! Seriously, she is considering pursuing a Government degree with an emphasis on Strategic Intelligence (becoming an analyst rather than a field operative). Her gift for research and writing, and her love for her country and the whole spy thing make this degree perfect for her. In the spring, a great, godly man, Benjamin Arnold-Bik met Bethany at a local contradance and they’ve been courting ever since. Ben was also homeschooled, and is currently in training with the Marines this next year. It is likely that they will get engaged soon, and are planning to be married in 2008. We rejoice in how God has brought these two wonderful godly people together, and know they desire to serve Him with their lives as one!

Megan—recently turned 17, is working hard on her last year of homeschooling and plans to graduate in the spring so she can start college in the fall. She wants to attend Grove City College as a Psychology or Religion/Philosophy major, but is still open to the Lord’s leading. She is working part-time as a barista at Starbucks, and loves reaching out with the love of Jesus to her co-workers, even getting one of the married gals there a tree, decorating it, and putting it in her apartment with presents under it. She is so generous! While she doesn’t have a lot of extra-curricular activities, Megan has a big heart, loves to encourage her companions, is a great friend to her siblings, and is a wonderful help to Chris on his speaking trips. She has also learned, through some trial and error, how to be a better driver…we can’t thank the Lord enough for this! :o) We are so thankful for this gifted young woman who is learning to lean on the Lord more for His strength!

Jesse--is 15 years old and is nearly as tall as his six-foot dad. He is the strongest one in our house now (and knows it!) He enjoys playing basketball and talking to girls (he’s quite good-looking) :o). He is working hard in his 10th grade studies, and has shown a lot of maturity in his relationships with friends and growing love for his brother and sisters. He has especially become dad’s right-hand man. He often travels with his dad or goes on errands with him. Jesse has been through some of Chris’ most difficult MS times with him, and we see how God has developed a true spirit of service and patience in this great young man!

Susanna--is in 8th grade and will soon be turning 14. She is growing up fast and is a beautiful young lady. She has a sweet spirit and has become a faithful helper at home. With her interest in working in the kitchen, she’s recently been nicknamed “Chef Susanna”. She loves to compete in sports and is currently on a basketball team. Her artwork has improved a lot this year, and she has become a good portrait artist. In her studies, Susanna is really enjoying biology, and has become a very good, self-disciplined student. We are so proud of her! Her gentleness is a quality we cherish in her.

Charity--has grown in so many ways this past year. She has gotten a lot taller, and has shown growth in being a more faithful, self-motivated student. Her artwork has become very good all around, and she even won best in show for her scratchboard work. Charity continues to give a lot of love to her parents and siblings! She is cheerful in serving her dad, even late at night, and is a good encourager. She is looking forward to playing Upward Basketball again this year (after a two-year break), and proved to be the best fisherman in our home, pulling in a 5 pound large mouth bass out of the lake in our backyard. Her hugs and kisses are the best in the world to her mom and dad--What a treasure she is!

Amy--continues to be our “miracle”. She was predicted
by the doctors to die 12 years ago but God had different plans. She has been a great blessing to our family that we are very thankful for. She loves animals and faithfully cares for most of the pets, including the hamster, salamanders, tropical fish, cat, lizards, and even John’s guinea pig. She also loves little children and regularly befriends them at church. She has grown in her love for reading, and has been the most reliable student in our homeschool. She has a gift for noticing the needs of others often, and blesses siblings, mom, and dad by her small acts of kindness. We marvel at God’s kindness in working in Amy’s life, and are so thankful for her!

John--is 10 years old already. Though still quite young, he shows a lot of maturity for his age. He loves sports and physical activity. There is not a tree he won’t climb, a boy he won’t wrestle, or a sport he won’t play. He’s playing Upward Basketball this year and though he is a little short for his age, is quick and confident on the court. John is also a tremendous servant to his dad. He carries a heavy burden for such a young fellow, but he also looks to the Lord for strength. John asks great questions during devotions and seems to really want to grow in his faith in Jesus. This “little man’s” tender heart for others is especially endearing to his mom and dad, and all his siblings are thankful to have this comedian around our home. :o)

A New Church Home—Finally, a very big change has taken place in our lives. After being in our church, Gainesville Presbyterian, for over 17 years (the only church our children have ever known), God called us to become part of another local body. Since June of 2007, we have been members of Grace Community Church in Ashburn, VA, part of the Sovereign Grace Ministries denomination www.sovereigngraceministries.org). We have been greatly challenged to grow in the areas of looking at our sin, yet seeing the awesome grace and love of God, and to love more deeply the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ! While it was not an easy adjustment for any of us, we have continued to be good friends with families in our old church, but have also made deep and meaningful friendships with so many at Grace Community as well. Through this whole time of transition, we have seen how precious the body of Christ is, wherever it is, and what a privilege it is to live in community with His people, regardless of location. God is so good!

We give our thanks to God who in His mercy graciously sustained us through another year. We have felt His presence and have seen His hand work on our behalf. God is good. Yes, He is good all the time---in both sunshine and clouds. It is our prayer that you may know Him more fully this year--His grace, His power, His love--and that,
you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:17-19
May God bless and keep all of you in 2008!

Love and prayers,
Chris and Tracy & children