Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

May this Christmas season find you filled with joy and thankfulness for the Incarnate God who is still with us and among us to this day! With what humility God Almighty entered the earth so that we could know Him, so that we could behold His nature. What great cost He paid to live among us and to pursue us, so that we could know that He first loved us, so that we can find our joy in Him and experience life in all of its abundance.

Yes, life is abundant here at Bentley Farm. Our hearts are overflowing with thankfulness and with contentment, grateful for the consistent and new mercies of our gracious Heavenly Father. We remain honored to share with you, in this Christmas season, the highlights of our year and are grateful for your interest in taking the time to share a portion of our lives through this newsletter.

Caleb is the most imaginative child among us. As a family friend recently pointed out, “In the salad of Angells, Caleb is the jalapeƱo pepper!” Yes, he is! His major fascinations include reading fantasy novels for hours on end and inventing medieval Lego sets. Caleb lives a life of adventure and competition and turns out to be a big sports fan. He has completely devoted himself to the Yankees and doesn’t miss a game! He played both baseball and soccer in a local church league this year. Caleb recently bought himself a bow and arrow set and has had a lot of fun living his boyhood to the fullest possible extent. He is developing his agricultural side, little by little, and cares for the only remaining farm animals at Bentley Farm – a flock of chickens.

Rebecca is a very sweet, compassionate, cozy and cuddly sister. She still is so excited to be a nurse one day and she does a great job practicing at home, bandaging up all that is cut and sore. Becca loves soccer and was thrilled to play soccer for the first time with a league. Rebecca is an extremely responsible member of the family and does so much organization in the home – she washes our clothes and cleans the house and keeps us all on schedule – with a lot of smiles and hugs! In addition to her dedicated work at home, she also continues in her role as local dairymaid as she and Caleb spend several hours every afternoon milking cows on Clarence Knapp’s Middlevale Farm.

Jacob was able to live every man’s dream this summer when he operated an enormous excavator that was at use on Bentley Farm to move big stumps to clear land for the planned development project in the back woods. Even though the project has currently been halted due to economic hardship, Jacob continued to make himself quite useful, mowing lawns and tilling fields. Jacob loves being in the center of any action and doesn’t mind working hard to get there. He is still involved in agriculture and is a member of a local 4H chapter. His cow, Vanilla, placed quite well in this year’s Dutchess County Fair, winning Ayrshire Reserve Junior Champion. In the home Jacob practices his skills of oral discourse (he loves to input ideas and share information) in preparation for his hopeful legal profession! He also has a very humorous side and he particularly enjoys entertaining the family by mimicking the joking German juggler from the county fair. Jacob also has enjoyed being the right-hand man for Grandma (Mom’s mother who lives with us) and it is a very common scene at our house to see them both laughing together about a shared joke.

Hannah excels at taking on tasks and accomplishing them effectively and efficiently. She is bright and very quick and is excited to be applying to Cornell as a transfer student in business and economics. She says that she would one day love to be the organizational manager of Isaac and Luke’s combined medical and veterinary offices. Hannah and I have enjoyed running together a lot this year and we are finding it bonding (especially the night runs with the coyotes) and a lot of fun. Hannah has a great gift of enthusiasm and often finishes her run saying, “That was just great. That was the best run ever!” Hannah is quite committed, even in the midst of her studies, to the agricultural life in our hometown. At least three evenings a week she can still be found milking cows.

Luke is an extremely diligent student. He still is dedicated to the pursuit of medicine and is working hard at Dutchess Community College with hopes of transferring to Cornell in the fall with Hannah. When Luke has a break from school, you can be sure to find him outside on a tractor. He put his skills to great use early this summer, together with our Oregon brother, Jake, and did an incredible job landscaping in our yard which was suffering the consequences of last year’s major addition to the house. There is no one I know who gets more excited about food than Luke, and lucky for Luke, the production of sweet baked goods at the house has exponentially increased due to our dear grandmother who makes us feast after feast! Luke is also a country music enthusiast and one of my favorite emails is Luke’s “Country Music Song of the Week” selection.

Nathaniel is in his senior year at Princeton and is a little sad that college is only four years long. He has discovered an amazing community of friends (many of whom he has persuaded to spend time at Bentley to try their hands at dairy farming). Nate is savoring every remaining moment of college life and he just spent part of his Christmas break with a professor and some college friends in Hawaii where he ran his first marathon! Nate has been interviewing for many jobs recently in the field of engineering and just received an international placement offer from an oil field services company, Schlumberger; Nate has a bit of George Bailey in him and is pretty thrilled about the option of working overseas. After attending a month long geology field course in Montana this June, Nathaniel brought back his cowboy hat and spent the rest of his summer, working with fun-loving Jake, to reside the south side of the house, cedar shingle by cedar shingle.

Isaac is in his second year of vet school at Cornell. He still says, “I’m just living my dream.” He spent most of the past year in Ithaca and stayed through the majority of the summer to work the fields of a huge dairy farm in the Tompkins County area. Isaac left his work early, however, to come back to the farm and run Clarence’s thirty cow dairy in the height of the summer season when he found out that Clarence was ill. This, as Isaac says, was the turning point of his year, because it was then that he fell in love with the girl of his dreams - a beautifully sweet local girl, Allie Blue, who didn’t mind waking up at 3:45am to milk cows! Isaac has kept us entertained throughout the course of the past year with what he calls his, “Husband Training School.” This is a unique school because Isaac is both the teacher and the student. When Isaac started dating Allie, he finally gained an appreciative audience of one for all of his efforts in cleaning, cooking and tenderness!

I continue to find, even in my third year of teaching chemistry, that education requires a lot of focus and energy. I have great students (mostly juniors and seniors) and a supportive teaching fellowship through the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation that continues to help me grow in my profession through a large amount of continued education in universities all across the country. I am so grateful for the gifts of family and friendship, especially with my seven younger siblings who are growing into amazing adults. When I am not teaching, or with family or friends, I enjoy swimming and running (I did my first sprint triathlon with two girlfriends this year!), and National Parks (I hiked Mount Garfield at Crater Lake this summer), reading, singing and playing guitar and piano (slowly learning piano), and blogging. Many of my life’s greatest joys continue to come through my relationship with the most honoring, patient, enthusiastic and energetic young man in the whole world! Adam and I are so excited for the time to come when the distance between us isn’t so great (Adam is a youth pastor in Kansas), but in the meantime we are grateful for each other and for the grace to live each moment to the fullest.

Mom is absolutely the most self-giving person that I know. She is the fan club and the great encourager for the rest of us. Mom spends her life doing the little things that keep this world working, that tend to go unnoticed in the hour by hour play of life. She cooks the best food for us, she makes the house look beautiful, she teaches us how to think (although only the three youngest of us are still homeschooled), she shops for us and organizes our schedules and makes our phone calls and counsels us for hours on end through all of the transitions of adulthood. Not only does Mom give all of us this love and attention, but she and Grandma graciously extend their warm hospitality and good food to a steady stream of house guests. The doors of our house are constantly swinging, and we like it best this way! While Mom loves to host a big group, she also cherishes the one-on-one times with her husband and children; I was particularly excited to get to spend a long idyllic weekend in the San Juan Islands with just Mom this summer! We were all so blessed to have Mom’s father in our home with us this past year. Grandpa suffered from advanced stages of Parkinson’s and in early September, surrounded by prayer and family, he left this life.

In addition to continuing his criminal defense work, Dad continues to be very involved in the life of our small-town community and has spent many hours of this past year rewriting the zoning laws for the Town of Stanford. He is also a member of the Dutchess County Agricultural Society and the Town of Stanford Planning Board and has a special interest in land conservancy for agricultural purposes. Dad has an amazing combination of vision and steadfastness and despite his busy schedule, continues to put his wife and family first in his focus. Sometimes this search takes extra creativity and discipline. For instance, to spend quality time with Mom, he wakes up with her at 4:45am and walks with her for two miles through the dark countryside! That’s dedication!

Through the course of the year, through the fluctuation of the seasons, through the constants and through the changes, we remain extremely grateful that The Creator of the Universe has intentionally given us life, and that our lives are given to us for a purpose. We pray for humility and grace to recognize the specific calling of His purpose for our lives. Yet we also pray that we many never forget that we are ultimately created to simply receive and surrender to the pursuit of the God who pines for our hearts to such an extent that He humbled himself to be born of a woman in a Bethlehem stable so that we could begin to understand how much He longs to love us.

As the angels cried “Glory to God in the Highest!” proclaiming the birth of Christ so long ago, we now exclaim “Glory to Jesus!” in worship of the God who stooped from his exalted place on High to become our Savior, Redeemer and Friend. Merry Christmas! Sarah (for all the Angells)