Saturday, January 01, 2005

Christmas 2005

We greet you this Advent season, with the joyful testimony of Peter, “We have beheld the majesty of the only begotten.” This greeting is chosen with intention and with a spirit of hope for many have recently disparaged the existence of God, summing up their doubts with the simple question, “If God really existed, would not he make his existence more obvious?” Many make sense of tragedy and evil by concluding that a good and loving God has not trumped the persistence of evil. What do we require as evidence that God exists? Perhaps we demand an audible voice, a message in the sky, the end of suffering, the triumph of good, the reign of peace, the fulfillment of desire, a miracle of healing, the answer of a desperate prayer, the presence of love or an explanation for all that is obfuscated. We greet you with hope, confident that no matter how long the list grows, we remain, in every instance, eyewitnesses of his majesty. For who would have ever demanded of God, that to make real his reality, he must take upon our flesh and live and walk and die as man among men? An outrageous request. Would he who made us become us? This is our God.

The work of God among us has been present in many ways throughout this past year of change and rebirth. This spring brought a change of ownership to Bentley Farm. A Dutch investing group bought the farm with hopes of building a small Dutch style settlement. The sale of the farm brought many changes. In April most of the animals were sold. The dairy herd was temporarily relocated to a neighboring farm. Soon after the animals left the farm, everything that was not built on a foundation was auctioned away. When the creaking old hay wagons were driven away from the auction, I felt like my childhood memories were undergoing painful surgery. A lump settled in my throat as I remembered how I passed many hot summer days sitting on one of those wagons awaiting the somewhat irregular throw of the baler's kicker. A family friend brought us several packets of seeds with prayers for rebirth and new life for the farm.

These prayers have been answered in many ways, as the farm is truly undergoing a transformation. We are enjoying relationships with our new Dutch neighbors and still hoping that the Dutch Settlement will include an agricultural sector.

In a sense the changes on the farm have most significantly influenced the youngest five members of the family. Luke, as the oldest child at home, has taken a large initiative in making many of the changes on the farm. Luke is very handy and would prefer to work outside at all times. He works most of the day with our Dutch neighbor, Hans, repairing the barns, demolishing old sheds, removing fence line, and plowing snow. It could be said that Luke has spent this year undoing that which we spent our previous years doing. If before we put up fence, now we are taking it down. If before we repaired, now we remove. Luke requested two gifts this year that he has been extremely pleased to receive: a motor for his Gravely and a miter saw.

Jacob follows suit with Luke’s occupations and was thrilled to spend much of the summer mowing with a LT-190 John Deere tractor. Jacob, Caleb and Dad took a special camping trip to the Catskills over Labor Day Weekend. At the Dutchess County Fair, Jacob and Rebecca’s cows competed and Jacob walked away with a blue ribbon. Jacob and Luke worked at a new event at the Dutchess County Fair: a cow maternity ward! Every week Jacob looks forward to attending an older boy’s youth group with Luke. When Isaac is home, Jacob is his shadow and helper. Jacob is always at the center of action and likes to make people laugh.
Hannah went to Camp Cherith with Rebecca this summer and traveled to a Girls of Faith convention with some of her girlfriends this fall. This summer our family friend Trip provided weekly guitar lessons to Hannah and her friend Olivia. Hannah is truly a dairy maid at heart. She is a faithful attendant at the 4:00pm milking event at our neighbor Clarence’s farm. Hannah is very good with children and takes care to make special events for Rebecca and her friends. Hannah said recently that she may enjoy being an elementary school teacher when she gets a little older.

Rebecca has become quite socially active this year. When she is not working on their school work, or doing laundry for the entire family, Rebecca spends most free moments with other farm neighborhood children. Rebecca enjoys her Friday nights with the Pioneer Girls at the local church. Rebecca has a very nurturing spirit and fulfills the family nursing role. She is not squeamish and particularly impressed us with her kind washing and care of Luke’s post-wart removed feet. She thinks that she would like to study nursing in college.

Caleb is an independent spirit and impresses us with his sayings. He has recently started reading through The Chronicles of Narnia series and reports that the books “sharpen the imagination.” Indeed his imagination has been sharpened. He writes journals and draws pictures about Lego Land including detailed descriptions of economic transactions.

When the cows moved to a neighboring farm this spring, Isaac moved with them! Isaac woke up at 3:45am every morning this summer with Luke to milk cows with his friend Clarence. He repainted all of Clarence’s barns and enjoyed using big equipment that worked. Isaac is enjoying the academic challenges of studying animal science at Cornell in Ithaca. Isaac is working three jobs at Cornell including a job that requires him to walk a mile every morning and arrive at work by 6:00am to, yes, milk two dairy cows. Isaac always communicates such a zest for life. His motto in life could be succinctly described by the title of his favorite song: Just Another Day in Paradise. He calls home more than he thought he ever would to keep in touch with the changes on the farm. He recently told Mom, “I’m living my dream.”

Mom and Dad don’t hear as much from Nathaniel. In his own words Nathaniel is “a farmer at heart posing as a scholar at Princeton.” After spending a very full summer working for our new neighbor, Nathaniel quickly adjusted to his new surroundings, beginning with an orientation week spackling houses with other students in an urban New Jersey community. Nathaniel has become involved with a very vibrant Christian community at Princeton. In addition he was accepted into the James Madison Young Fellows Program. Nate’s involvements have given him audience with many statesmen, including Condoleeza Rice and Karl Rove. Nathaniel’s friends, Clint (Alaska) and Tsheko (Zambia) came for the Thanksgiving holiday along with all of Dad’s siblings. Our family was entertained with stories of bear hunts and hippopotami chases. Nathaniel is very social and keeps hours that would lead one to believe that he is more than posing as a college student. Nate has been known to say, “I love Princeton, it’s just too bad that I have to take classes.”

This year has been one of my most academically intense years. I spent the summer writing my chemistry thesis and defending it for my Master of Science degree. Soon after, I started student teaching 11th grade chemistry and 8th grade physical science as the last requirement for my Master of Arts in Teaching degree. Student teaching has definitely convinced me that teaching is my vocation. I am eagerly anticipating moving home from Binghamton at the end of this month to look for a chemistry teaching job in the Hudson Valley area. Thankfully this year did provide some time to be with friends. This past semester a childhood friend roomed with me in Binghamton. In January, I was in Oregon for my friend Trina’s wedding. While visiting, I went back to George Fox University to present my graduate research. October brought another trip back to the West Coast where I got to spend time with friends Trina and Kristiane. One of my lifetime dreams came true this summer when Nathaniel, Hannah and I went camping in Acadia National Park. We went on the scariest hike of our lives up the Precipice Trail where only hot iron bars separated us from F=m(9.8m/s2). In my return home, I am looking forward to being a part of the spiritual community that family provides.

Mom and Dad are steady and faithful. Throughout all of the change of this year, they have been bulwarks of comfort, love and direction. One may think that parenting would be less of a challenge as we get older, but we look to Mom and Dad for more wisdom and counsel than ever before. The sacrifices that Mom and Dad make for the family have only increased. Dad and Mom have faced the changes of the past year with faith and trust. Dad continues to assume more responsibilities with Dutchess County Public Defender. But his favorite occupation is still spending time with Mom. In my four years away from home, I have often thought about the work that my parents intentionally pursued in raising family. In their efforts to train children to love God and neighbor, I have concluded that Mom and Dad have chosen one of the most influential careers of all. I am completely convinced that the fruit of their labor and love will have an impact on many generations to come.

In fact, it has often been this story, the story of my parents dedication to God and family and the loving community that I have witnessed as a result, that has spoken to me of the existence and continuing work of God in this world. For as much as I value and cherish my parents’ faithfulness, the glory belongs to the One to whom they have been faithful.

And as only eyewitness of His majesty, we wish you a Merry Christmas,

Sarah (for the family)