Saturday, October 15, 2016

Declan Michael and Life With Four

A little over three weeks ago, this handsome addition to our family arrived!  We are so very thrilled to have Declan Michael with us.  His name is from Irish origins, meaning "Man of Prayer."  Our prayer is that he will live up to his name, seeking Jesus first in his life.  The girls are beyond excited to have a baby brother. Declan spends much of the day getting passed between them and being showered with many, many kisses on his velvety little head.  He is a very relaxed baby for the most part, as long as he has someone close by!  He also eats a ton and I'm happy to say that he had already grown an inch and gained more than a pound since his birth.

As with the others, I am endeavoring to breastfeed him for this first year.  Let me just be perfectly honest. That is a challenge for me. I do enjoy nursing my babies, but it is so hard for me to take that time to be still, especially with older siblings clamoring for my attention.  Nursing is something I consider to be a good bonding time with them when they are little, so I do make it a priority.  I'm just saying it doesn't come easy!

Speaking of challenges, I'm going to share one I'm going through.  I think one of my biggest challenges (and failures) in motherhood is trying to avoid the trap of comparison.  Social media makes the struggle even greater.  I read these amazing things that other homeschooling moms accomplish and see their little school set-ups and the projects they do with their children and I am both inspired and depressed at the same time.  I can't figure out how they have the time for these things or how they get their little darlings to participate so well! Trying to get back into the swing of homeschooling has brought this struggle to a forefront for me as we also juggle the preparations for a move (down the road just a bit) and just life in general.  The week Declan was born, our ladies' Bible group was going over the Belt of Truth in the Priscilla Shirer "Armor of God"study. I can't even begin to describe how much that lesson hit home.

Without me even telling him of the struggle, Josh began speaking truth into my life as well, reminding me that God made me who I am and I will do things differently than other moms.  He tells me that I am doing a wonderful job and he is so glad I am his wife and the mother of his children. I have many texts and emails over the last weeks affirming me in these ways.  I am so thankful for the wonderful man that God has blessed me with.  He challenges me and encourages me, and he shows his love for our kids daily by going that extra mile beyond work (and ministry) to read with them at night and listen to their happy chatter about their day.

These next weeks ahead have so many changes for us, and I look forward to sharing updates as they come both in our family life and ministry here.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Update

Homer Family Newsletter for May/June/July
When I began working on this newsletter, I would like to note that it was still June and I had all the intentions of getting our updates out to you before the end of the month. Obviously, that didn’t happen!

Let me start with the end of April and move forward.  First of all, the closing on our house in VA was April 27th!!!!   We are so thankful that this particular detail of our move out here is finalized and although there were a number of hiccups at the end, God worked each one out and we are happy to give Him all the glory for taking care of it!  
Also at the end of April and during the first week of May, we were blessed by a visit from Amber and Elise Dean, Jess’s college roommate and her daughter. Shannan, Amberlyn, and Elizabeth were delighted to spend time with their Auntie and cousin.

That first week in May, during her visit, we spent a lot of time in prayer, first for a family who lost their young daughter to suicide, and then, just after Mother’s Day, several young men from the community went missing. One of the young men was a grandson/nephew to some ladies in our church. More than a week later, that search ended with the unhappy discovery of their car accident.  Josh and I have spent so much time talking about how precious life is, and cried for the families who had to unexpectedly say goodbye.  How often has that happened lately in our lives?  As I type this, the news headlines are covering the deaths of the officers in Dallas.  Life is not a guarantee and each moment is a gift.  In the book of James, our lives are referred to as a mist that appears for a time and then vanishes.   Life is beautiful and precious, and I know lately I’ve been thinking about making the most of the time that I am given.

Also in May, we were blessed with the news that our new little bundle is expected to be a boy! We are all so very excited to meet him in September.  The girls are all thrilled, but I think Shannan is especially. She has been praying for a baby brother for years (and yes, I have video to back it up) and her prayers have finally been answered.

During the last week of May, Josh took and passed his Praxis test that he needed in order for his teaching license to transfer officially to South Dakota. We greatly rejoiced at that, especially since his teaching contract for the fall was offered at the same time! Also, camp began that last week of May!  We knew that life would be busy, but it was hard to know what to expect ahead of time or how the days would be scheduled. That first week of camp (the last week in May) was a bit more awkward for me as Josh was still working at the school. Teachers were required to stay until June 3rd.
On June 5th, we were privileged to rejoice with a sweet friend at church as she and three of her sons were baptized!  Her youngest son and Shannan get along well and Shannan was super excited to witness this.  God is moving here, and witnessing the baptisms taking place at our church this Spring and Summer has brought great joy to our hearts.
June 5th/6th also began the second week of camp, and this time Josh joined us.  We also celebrated Elizabeth’s 2nd birthday on the 6th
Our routine began to fall into place and here is how a typical camp day now begins for us.  On Monday and Tuesday, Josh arrives around 7:30 to drive one of the camp vans and show the visiting church team where to pick up the kids. The other days of the week, the visiting church team usually supplies a driver. Each day, the girls and I arrive around 8:45 in anticipation of the kids’ arrival around 9am.  We help oversee the check-in and file any new registration forms while the day’s program begins around 9:30.  Shannan and Amberlyn participate in the camp program.  I leave with Elizabeth around 11am to take her home for a nap (and usually sneak in a load or two of laundry and dishes) and then return to camp between 1:30 and 2pm.  At 3pm we oversee the kids boarding the buses and vans for their ride home. Some evenings are spent at the camp with the visiting church teams, although Wednesday nights we still have service at the church.

Now to answer some questions you may have about camp.  Each week we have a different visiting church team (these can be anywhere from 12-60 people, depending on the church) and they supply the program content for the age groups.  Kids are usually divided by age:  6 and under, 7-10, 11-14, and 15+. That division can change slightly by week and we usually adjust it for numbers as they change from week to week.  Every day the kids are picked up and returned home.  The first week of camp, we averaged over 100 kids each day.  Since then, our numbers have stayed consistently in the 60s or 70s, which is still an increase from previous years.  Matt and Amanda, and Josh and I function like administrative staff, for lack of a better term. Our job is to make sure the day runs smoothly, filling in if there is a need, contacting parents as needed, assisting with injuries (unless a church team happens to bring a doctor or nurse), etc.  Josh and Matt take care of physical labor that needs to be done as well, like mowing or in the case of last week, dealing with the septic system.  Each day is packed from beginning to end.  Our kids (and we) go to bed exhausted at the end of the day.

In working with the food pantry ministry, some changes have been made over the past couple months. We changed a form that is filled out and now deliveries and pick-ups are being done the last Saturday of each month. There is the allowance, of course, for emergencies, but in general, for those who receive regular support from the church, we have agreed on a once-a-month delivery.  We first implemented this in May and it wound up being a really neat Saturday.  Some members from our church joined us to help fill the requested bags. We spent time praying for each recipient and the church members helped us deliver them.  It felt so good to work alongside others in our church as we worked to take care of one another.

Now we are into July.  As you can imagine, camp pretty much takes up most of the week. I am still squeezing in some schoolwork with Shannan each day in anticipation of needing a break after the baby arrives.
At the beginning of the year, we received a surprise phone call from Pastor Mike, letting us know that a supporter of the YES ministry would like to offer our family the use of their condo in Jackson Hole, WY,
for a week during the summer. He gave me the number to call and make arrangements with this couple for the use of their place. I’m happy to say that the arrangements worked out and I am typing up this newsletter from the condo!  We arrived here on the 2nd and will be leaving on Sunday, the 10th.  (There is no camp this week for the Independence Day holiday.)  Shannan has already begun her 4th grade year, and we were able to make use of the Every Child in a Park program to gain free entrance to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks.  We watched fireworks from the back of the pickup truck, took the girls on a stagecoach ride through downtown Jackson Hole, played for hours in the river, and took at gondola ride to the top of the mountains in Teton Village.
  Today, the 8th, we celebrated Amberlyn’s fourth birthday.  After a little more exploring tomorrow, we will head back home on Sunday and prepare to jump back into camp on Monday morning.  Camp ends after the first week of August. We will have a clean-up week, and then a week or so to breathe before Josh jumps back into teaching and I begin tutoring again for the Classical Conversations homeschool group that we are a part of.  This will be Shannan’s third year in the program, Amberlyn’s first year, and my second year tutoring.

As I close, please be praying for the kids that we work with at the camp. We have had several make decisions to follow Christ, and a couple express interest in baptism.  And in between, a whole lot of questions being asked by kids of all ages, asking how Jesus fits into their culture. 
We thank you for your prayers, and thank you for hanging in with my long update!

Much love, Jess and Family

Friday, April 1, 2016

March Update with Big News!

Chanku Waste Sign.jpg
Homer Newsletter March 2016

March Greetings

This update is a little later than I intended it to be. So much this last month has had me running and scrambling to keep up.  So many good and wonderful things happening, and so much on my heart. Let me start with a few updates and then I’ll get to that last bit.
We began the month of March observing a lot of digging in front of our house as Matt Hadden and Jeremy Mouw worked to get the water lines hooked up to the church and our home.  Then, one magical weekend, we came home on a Saturday to having fresh, clean water running in our house!  That morning Matt had taken out and capped the 30 foot well in front of our house (we got to glimpse the nasty brown water pouring out) and by the end of the day, the pipes had been flushed and clean water was in.  The girls have been delighted to have baths again, and even better, for the first time in years, we were able to baptize people in the church on Easter Sunday. Seven people were baptized, including Matt and Amanda’s daughter, Leah. God is so good and we are so thankful to have good running water in the church and our house. It makes such a big difference!
Over this month, the church has also had quite a face-lift. For those who have been out here before, you would hardly recognize the inside!

Also at the beginning of this month, we were startled with the news that our hometown of Waverly, VA, had been hit by a tornado. That tornado passed maybe 100 yards behind our house, and yes, there was damage. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, but still a lot of clean up. We got word that the buyers still wanted to go through with the sale, for which we were very grateful.  Within hours, friends from MPBC (our church in VA) began arriving and assisting with the cleanup.  The tornado was Thursday, and by Monday all the debris had been removed and hauled away.  As of this past week, all other damage has been repaired. A new playset and shed are ordered to replace the ones that were destroyed and the insurance has finally kicked in so we can pay for all the repairs.  Josh and I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of help from our VA church family. The body of Christ is an amazing family to be a part of! Final closing date is still April 26th, although may be moved sooner.
In March, the Adorned Campaign took off. This campaign is the vision of Amanda Hadden and focuses on teen girls’ depression, self-harm, and suicide, and teaches them about their self-worth.  Amanda has been working with local schools to get the message out, and three schools have already committed to working with the program. Girls will be reached by being able to meet with a peer who has struggled with the same thing and hear how she has received help. Girls will be given a special bracelet and a t-shirt with the message “You are more”.  There are other special events planned for them as well. As a part of this, I am joining ladies from our church and two other churches this weekend for a Ladies Retreat in Rapid City.  We will be packing boxes and preparing bracelets for the girls and praying over each one. There will be about 200 to pack right now.  I highly encourage you to take a few minutes and look at the website. There is so much that I simply don’t have the room for in this newsletter.  You can help by finding out more at their website and sponsoring a teen girl here.  
Our last bit of update news is very exciting for all of us. At the end of September, we are expecting an addition to our family!   Lizzy is pretty clueless in all the excitement, but Shannan and Amberlyn are thrilled are asking repeatedly if the baby is coming “soon.”

Before I close, I’d like to share some things that have been on my heart the last couple months but have really hit this past week.  At the beginning of the year, when many of us consider New Year’s resolutions, I decided that my personal one for the year would be finding joy, or maybe more specifically, paying attention to moments of joy in the midst of a chaotic day. Let’s face it, as mama with three girls and homeschooling our oldest, my day can look a little crazy and very often, I miss the fun moments amid trying to get my to-do list done. I know our God is the author of joy, and I found I was missing a lot of that in my task-oriented mentality. It’s something I often have to purposefully consider during the day and lately I find myself frequently stopping to enjoy things a lot more than I used to. This past week, I received news that a good friend of mine from college lost her husband. This couple is the same age as Josh and I and they have a little girl not even 2 years old.  In a few moments, my friend’s world changed and now she faces a future without the husband she loved so much. I prayed and cried a lot the first couple days after I found out. I squeezed my kids a little more tightly when I gave them a hug.  We have no guarantees in life, other than Jesus. He is the only constant.  He is the source of our hope and joy and the One who defines our worth.  Without Him, you can’t find those things. This is why we are here. This is behind the Adorned Campaign.  This is behind the ladies in our church who meet on Monday nights and we spend time praying for our families.  Where are you looking for joy? I pray you are looking to the Source!

Josh, Jess, Shannan, Amberlyn, and Elizabeth
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HCR 49 Box 242, Porcupine, SD 57772

Saturday, February 20, 2016

January/February 2016 Update

2016 Greetings!

The year has just begun and already things are changing around here quickly.


The above photo probably represents the biggest change going on around our home. This past week, Matt Hadden and Jeremy Mouw began digging the trench and laying the pipes that will bring clean, drinkable water to our home and the church. These two guys work quickly! They began work on Tuesday and by the weekend, much of the pipe was laid in the field and back underground. We do not have the entire cost for this project raised, so tying the pipe into our home will have to wait until we have the funds to replace the pipes inside our house along with the water heater, so as not to contaminate the clean water coming in. Progress is being made and we are grateful!
As if this news wasn’t exciting enough, an offer came in on our house in Virginia, and after a brief couple days of negotiation, I’m excited to report that it is under contract with an anticipated closing date of April 26th.  God is awesome, and when He moves, He clears the path in such a way that we can only give Him credit! And His timing?  Just wow!  I am so thankful to our dear friends in VA who have kept an eye on the house and are now organizing an effort to clean the house one more time before the sale.  Please continue to pray with us as we move toward the closing date.
All these exciting changes have come on the heels of a rough to the New Year. While we were delighted to spend the week after Christmas with Josh’s dad and his brother’s family in Utah, we came home feeling under the weather. Elizabeth developed pneumonia and I was off my feet for over a week, struggling with something similar.  It took until the end of January before we all began feeling normal again.
Despite that, Josh had a good start back to school, both in teaching and in the two classes on Lakota history that he is taking, as required by SD teaching standards.  He has been steadily ploughing through, and still balancing the time to work with the guys teen night and Wednesday night Bible study.
During these chilly winter months, we have been endeavoring to do more school activities with the Hadden and Mouw families. To celebrate accomplishing 100 days of school this year, we got together and had a fun craft day, thanks to Sarah Mouw and her awesome ideas for our kids. This is our little group, minus Elizabeth and the Hadden’s youngest boy, Noah.  We have a nice little herd of munchkins, no?
This past week we took our little homeschool group on a field trip to the SD Game, Fish, and Parks Outdoor Center.  The kids were able to study the different local animal habitats and take a nature walk on the property, and the best part for this mama is that it was free! I am so blessed that God has paved the way for us to continue on our homeschool journey while we are here. It is a joy to spend this time with my kids and not miss a thing as they grow up!
This month, please join us in prayer for the following:
  • Funds for water coming into the house and church
  • A smooth closing on our house in Virginia
  • Continued health for all of us
  • Josh’s classes
We love hearing from you all, and you have been so faithful to say hi via texts, Facebook, and snail mail. It brings so much encouragement, and I am constantly overwhelmed by the family that we have in the body of Christ.  Thank you, ever so much, for remembering our family in prayer. Love you all!

Josh, Jess, Shannan, Amberlyn, and Elizabeth
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HCR 49 Box 242, Porcupine, SD 57772