Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

What a joy it is that these ever circling years always wane with the glad and golden hours of the Christmas-tide season! And though the gladness and the goldenness of this season are often found amid laughter and carols and gaiety, perhaps the most special and meaningful beckoning of the Advent season is to rest, reflect and watch. Oh rest, beside the weary road, says the famed Christmas carol, and hear the angels sing! Yes, it is in resting that we have time to simply adore, to love and worship the Creator who took on flesh to know us in the infirmities and strivings and stresses of our humanness, to impart to us forgiveness, newness and a more excellent way of life. It is in resting that we have time to reflect on the story of our lives, and our gratefulness for each and every breath of the past year. We become mindful of the fact that our story is but a small piece of the marvelous story of God at work in the world. And yet, even so, we remain privileged to share with you the joys and celebrations of these ever circling years at Bentley Farm.

This summer we adopted our 92-year-old cousin, Maryella, into the family. Maryella is a wellspring of winks, hidden smiles, laughs and kisses and we are so happy that she is with us. She has the best verbiages and she loves to say, “Oh, boy! That’s my favorite expression! Oh, boy!” Maryella also is very good at giving advice and we girls have noted that she is a great fashion consultant because she is so honest with her opinion!

We also continue to cherish the gift of our Grandma Farmer’s presence with us at Bentley Farm. In a few months, we will be celebrating Grandma's 80th birthday! She has a way of spoiling us all with her thoughtfulness. She has even been known to send overnight express packages of her much coveted freshly baked cinnamon rolls to the Cornell crew. We are so proud of her because, in addition to all the encouragement she gives to her family and friends, she has recently started reaching out to the community by volunteering at our local hospital, a job we think she is well gifted for.

Dad is very visionary and talks often about “commitment to place” and has spent many hours caring for the now fallow lands at Bentley Farm. Dad has continued this year to make deep-rooted investments in the community. He has been involved in the development and orchestration of a new program to help formally incarcerated persons make positive inroads into the community upon their release. He has also continued to work diligently with the Stanford zoning and planning boards to provide optimum conditions that would allow for the establishment of local agricultural communities. Dad steadfastly continues serving as and administrator for the Dutchess County Public Defender’s Office. After all of Dad’s work has been completed, he is sure to be found on a date with Mom or playing board games with the Jacob, Becca and Caleb – we all know these are the moments he enjoys most of all.

We like to tell Mom that if she was compensated for all her labors, she would be the highest paid employee in Dutchess County! But, in actuality, we know that there is no way to repay her love that binds and holds us all together. Her heart is as big as the world as she consistently teaches the three youngest children, provides endless hospitality, counsels all her children in college and at home, cooks the best food in the world, and provides a beautiful and happy home for us all to return to at the end of the day. This spring and summer, Mom orchestrated a major renovation project in the house that resulted in a great rearrangement that allowed us to adopt Maryella. Mom's wonderful and fun sister, Joanne was also able to spend over a month with us on the farm this year, which was a treat for us all, especially because we got to watch Mom relive memories of her childhood as she and Joanne performed several musical duets they sang as girls!

My chemistry teaching at Arlington High School continues to be meaningful. I have great students who are thoroughly enjoyable and it is truly my privilege to be involved in the teaching profession. This year has been so rich for me, rich in the lived experience of faith, rich in celebration. There are no words that could ever describe the experience of opening the door at 2am on October 31 and finding my Adam, whom I had been praying and hoping and longing for during the last two years waiting for me with open arms! How did we ever let go? Waiting for Adam was a true journey of faith. Being with Adam has been an absolute dream of all dreams and delight of all delights! Adam is a true man: focused, determined, disciplined and energetic. Adam is youth pastor in a Friends Church in Wichita, KS, and even though the distance between us is still great right now, we look forward to the day when there will be no distance at all; in the meantime we are so incredibly grateful for school holidays and airplanes, phone conversations, and of course, paper hugs sent with a postage stamp!

The theme of Isaac’s year has been his loving adoration of Allie Blue! No matter the general subject or the occasion, Isaac always finds time to ask, “Now have I told you about my Allie Blue?!” Even though he certainly has told us about her many times before, he always finds new occasions and reasons to tell us more! What a dream it was for Isaac to learn early on this year that Allie, along with Hannah and Luke, had all been accepted into Cornell and would be able to join him in Ithaca! Isaac is finishing his third year of vet school and just celebrated with his official white coat ceremony where he was coated by long-time veterinary mentor and friend, Dr. Hart, and pinned by – none other than – Allie Blue.

Nathaniel had an absolutely phenomenal senior year at Princeton, even traveling to Botswana, Africa, in the spring to do research on ground penetrating radar for his senior thesis. In June, Nate graduated with a degree in engineering. He spent the summer with the family at home, diligently residing the east side of the house with cedar shingles, mowing the lawns and fields of Bentley Farm and hosting the best barbeques ever. In early September, Nathaniel began a job as an oil fields engineer for Schlumberger. His work allowed him to first travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he underwent a week of orientation before embarking to Guadalajara, Mexico, where he was involved in a four-week Spanish immersion program. He was then moved to his assignment location in Reynosa, Mexico, where he is conquering the great challenges of life on an oil rig in a rather deserted sector of the world. In January, he is due to travel to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for nine weeks of further training. We miss having Nate close to home, and we are looking forward to when his cosmopolitan adventures end and we can welcome him back to his roots.

Luke and Hannah both graduated in May from Dutchess Community College before transferring as juniors to Cornell. Hannah is pursuing a degree in business and economics and Luke is working in the animal sciences field and hoping to pursue a medical career. Luke and Hannah have absolutely loved the built-in college community, having the camaraderie of the other and Isaac and Allie as well! Hannah and Luke are all about taking life by the horns and making the most out of every second. Whenever we talk to them they are planning some new dinner party where they cook feasts that rival our Thanksgiving spread and invite neighbors far and wide. They have both enjoyed the company of many new friends in the Cornell area, but are always so happy to come home! When the Cornell contingent comes home, it is always cause for great excitement and celebration – Luke grins really big (and especially gets ever so excited for all of the bread and rolls that our dear grandma graciously prepares) and Hannah jumps up and down and brings joy to all of our hearts!

Jacob has turned out to be quite the apprentice! He has worked during the past year with several contractors in the area and is quite skilled in the machine-operating department. He also received his hunting license this year and although he didn’t bring home any game, he was grateful for the opportunity to spend time with one of his encouraging mentors, Mr. Halton. Jacob is a great project coordinator. If you have a problem that needs fixing, Jacob is the person that you want on your team! He will find a solution and carry the job through to completion. Now that Jacob has his driver’s license, he has taken it upon himself to join Clarence Knapp for the 4:30am milking routine. Jacob also enjoys the companionship of his Uncle Mark – together they spent the summer accomplishing many projects, including the landscaping of many neighborhood lawns.

Rebecca is the best youngest sister we could ever dream of! She is so helpful and sweet and nurturing and her comforting ways bring us so much encouragement. Rebecca has found a passion for soccer and played defense on a co-ed varsity soccer team – she loved it and we loved cheering for her! A dream came true for Rebecca when she purchased a pair of Miniature South Down lambs this spring! Rebecca is an excellent shepherdess and we just love watching her sheep follow her devotedly around their pasture. One of the huge highlights of the past year for Rebecca, Hannah, and me was a ten-day sisters’ camping trip where we drove throughout the Northwest, from Washington to Idaho to Montana to Wyoming to Oregon and hiked and camped at several outstanding national parks throughout the way. We had an absolute blast just being together as sisters enjoying the majestic peaks of the Grand Tetons, the geysers of Yellowstone and the astounding mountainous vistas of Glacier. What special memories!

Caleb is continuing to develop his entrepreneurial skills with his flock of hens that produce a reliable supply of eggs. He is increasingly devoting himself to the work of the land and has joined Dad in the care of our big vegetable garden and frequently offers a helping hand (along with his older siblings) at Clarence Knapp’s farm, feeding all the hungry calves, heifers and cows. Caleb fulfills all the dreams of boyhood and particularly likes to build elaborate Lego creations. And, like most American boys, Caleb loves his baseball – he appreciates being able to play baseball on his little league team and devotedly listens to John Sterling announce every Yankees game. Caleb continues to enjoy reading and writing and often has extended conversations with Jacob about the law office that they one day dream of running – they have slotted Dad as one of their employees!

Thank you for sharing with us our grateful reflections of the past year. We are so honored to experience and know the deep love of family, and likewise, we are so grateful for our friendships and community. These connections make our lives rich and filled with joy. We look forward, with you, this season, to the time when with the ever circling years, comes round the age of gold - when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling, and the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing.

Merry Christmas!

Sarah (For all the Angells)