Thursday, November 30, 2006

Birthday Princess!

We are back home again, and do intend to update this blog with more pictures and reports from the Faith & Freedom Tour, but first we have a very important event to cover.

Today is the birthday of a very special little girl. Caroline Joy Erber has now reached the advanced age of two years! Her sweet smiles charm us, and her vocabulary has been growing incredibly over the last month! It is so fun to watch her grow and mature. May the Lord bless you and keep you, Caroline! We love you SOOOO much!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I'm really rather braindead right now, as lack of sleep and LOTS of delicious, crisp and windy fresh air are presently taking their toll! Hopefully the following two entries make sense... if not, check back later as I hope to be a little more with it tomorrow and can fix it - AND add pictures!!

Day 2

Today was a "simpler" day than yesterday. We really only had two stops: Plimouth Plantation and Salem.

Our first stop was Plimouth Plantation. For those of you unfamiliar with the location, it is an authentic recreation of the original village built by the Pilgrims as it was in 1627. There are a number of Pilgrims there, too, going about their daily chores, or just walking around talking with their guests, or (better yet if visiting on a cloudy late-November morning) inside one of the huts sitting by a warm fire. They all are 100% in person.

They have an individual character they are reenacting, and their vocabulary, sentence structure, accent, views, knowledge, opinions, beliefs, convictions are as nearly exact as it is possible to come. And they don't come out of character for an instant. If you use words that weren't in use at the time, they'll ask for clarification. They will explain and discuss the answers to anything you might ask - whether it be about their clothes, their homes, their families, or their theology, their hopes, their fears, their history, their politics, or anything else you can dream up to ask them about! I had a chance to talk with several of them, one of note being their doctor, Samuel Fuller. We discussed a wide variety of issues ranging from common ailments/injuries among the colonists - and the differences between physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries, to their current economic state, to how they hoped to divide up the land, to what was a standard dowry for a new bride... and more!

A quick visit to the book shop on site, and then we headed out to the buses - our family serving the day's lunch to the attendees as they boarded. The menu today being a nameless entree made of a tortilla filled with chicken, cheese, sweet red peppers slices, shredded lettuce and ranch dressing. That was accompanied by the typical sides of chips, baby carrots, cookies, etc.

Once on board, the buses drove us up to the town of Salem, Massachusetts. There we were met once again by Dr. Paul Jehle of the Plymouth Rock Foundation. He led us on a walking tour of Salem highlighting three main concepts as we discussed Nathaniel Bowditch (walking past his birthplace) and the infamous Salem Witch Trials. The three themes were seemingly very diverse, but very interestingly connected in Salem's history: Vision, Architecture, and Jurisdiction. Truly a fascinating afternoon. AND, if you have never heard Dr. Jehle's lecture on the Salem Witch Trials you REALLY have to! It can be purchased from Vision Forum HERE.

Concluding our visit to Salem, we visited Derby Wharf and saw a replica of one of the ships Nat Bowditch sailed - the Friendship. Some of our group also had the opportunity to visit America's oldest candy shop - where they have on display some of the candies they made... 175 years ago, and they haven't gone bad yet!!

By 6:00 we had bid adieu to Salem and were on board the buses back to Plymouth. Tomorrow is supposed to be pretty relaxed. Lots of feasting, though! I apologize for the lack of pictures on this day... we didn't often feel inspired to remove our cozy gloves for the sake of a picture!

Day 1

Greetings from America's Hometown - Plymouth, Massachussettes.

I was hoping to post this all last night, but as the number of hours of sleep we were going to get began to get down to the very low single digits I decided that sleep was of much greater priority than blogging... so here, today, is a quick recap of Day One of the 2006 Plymouth Faith & Freedom Tour.

Of course, bright and early we were up and about making approx. 150 roast beef sandwiches and 20+ sandwiches of the good old classic "PBJ." By 7:30am we were meeting with our group in the hotel lobby and then, all bundled up, we headed out the doors into the beautiful - and crisp - autumn air. The hotel we are staying at is just across the street from Plymouth's Atlantic coast, giving us a fabulous view across the harbor. Our morning excursion in Plymouth was a walking tour of the old town, and the monuments located there. Our first stop - Plymouth Rock.

As we stood around the famous rock, our guides - Doug Phillips & Bill Potter - discussed the historic, symbolic, and providential significance of this memorable and unusual stone.

From Plymouth Rock, we walked over to the Pilgrim Women's Monument. Here we learned of the faith and fortiude of these women, the very significant trials that they faced, the hardship and death endured. Interestingly, while only a handful of the Pilgrim women survived that first winter, yet their direct discendants number over 30,000,000. Here we also discussed the Pilgrims views of family life, marriage, child training and more!

Next we walked up the hill to the monument ereted in memory of those Pilgrims who did not survive that first winter in New England - those who had survived the painful journey across the sea but hardly stepped onto the land before being laid to rest beneath it. During that first winter when the colonists suffered a 50% mortality rate, the Pilgrims feared that if the nearby Indians knew how many of them were dying, they might chose such a time to attack. Thus the grieving Pilgrims would lay their friends and brethren to rest silently in the dark of night, careful to leave no trace of the graves. Thus, for many years no one knew where these men, women and children had been buried. However, in a providentially timed storm, some of the hill began to erode and the unmarked graves were revealed. Carefully enscribed with the names of those who died, along with quotes and scriptures, the monument is a sobering and quietly inspiring place to stand.

Moving along, Josiah and I (Jessica) parted ways with the rest of the company to head over to the Church of the Pilgrimage where Dad had driven with all of the lunch stuff - and the makings for lots and lots of hot cocoa. While the rest of the group went on to visit the Massassoit statue, and learn of the amazing relationship between the Wampanoags and the Englishmen; the Brewster Gardens, and see the Pilgrim maiden statue; and a couple other notable locations, we heated, mixed and prepared to serve the hot cocoa.

Thanks, Lourdes, for helping us fill all those cups! :-)

The Church of the Pilgrimage is the continuing congregation of the church founded by the Pilgrims in Leyden, Holland, in 1606. This week they celebrated their 400th anniversary! As their pastor - who is also a leading historian on the Pilgrims - was going to address our group they also opened their building for us to use as a place to serve lunch, and after the hot cocoa and the address from Pastor Gary Marks, we did just that. Lunch.

Following a relaxed lunch and another brief stop in Plymouth town, we headed over to tour the Mayflower II. Only a fraction of us could fit comfortably on board at a time, so we divided into small groups to tour through the Mayflower replica. Those not on board chatted on shore, visited the little gift shops, or (as in my case) talked to those back home!

Following our visit to the Mayflower II, we boarded our busses and were driven over to Plimouth Plantation, where we were in for a very exciting evening! Upon our arrival they ushered us into one of their theaters where we were addressed briefly by Dr. Jehle, who then introduced to us one of the directors of the Plantation, who talked to us about the preparation and study that goes behind each and every character reenacted in the rebuilt Plimouth Plantation.

He shared with us some of the incredible research they have had to do in their attempt to keep very accurate historically. He then also recreated for us two scenerios with two different Pilgrim men - acting them out in the first person.

After a few questions, they hurried us over to a banquet room where we were served an authenic 1620's dinner, with 1620's utensils (or lack of), and with a handful of Pilgrims walking around talking with us or singing for us while we ate. A very fun evening. We sat between the Zes and Reid families during the dinner and, of course, enjoyed discussions with them as well.

Bill of Fare
Bread and Butter

First Course
A Sallet
Mussels Seeth'd with Parsley and Beer
A Dish of Turkey, Sauc'd
A Pottage of Cabbage, Leeks & Onions
A Sweet Pudding of Native Corn

Second Course
Stewed Pompion
A Chine of Pork, Roast'd
17th Century Cheesecake with Dried Fruits
Fricassee of Fish
Holland Cheese & Fruit

We were more than satisfied with the meal and had a blast eating it with our fingers as we were provided with large napkins (which they called tablecloths) and no forks. Oh, and it was served family style - with no serving spoons, with the exception of a few of the dishes. A very unique and memorable experience!!

Our final event of the evening was a drive over to New Testament Church (pastored by Dr. Paul Jehle) for a hisorical pageant. Within an hour and a half through song and narration they drew us from the covenant God made with Abraham, through the apostolic era, to the spread of the gospel to England, Ireland, and Scotland, and ultimately to the landing of the Pilgrims in the New World. This was done with an emphasis upon the influence of the church and Christianity upon the legal documents and structures. They are hoping to produce the script and music from the evening as a resource for families, homeschool groups, Chrisian schools, etc.

So far, lots of fun, lots of fresh air, lots of laughter, lots of walking, lots of learning...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Adventure, ho!

Aye, friends! We've set sail once again on the sea of adventure. Our travels this time have brought us to the eastern seaboard of the New World. But our travel here was just the beginning of the adventure. Tonight we will be gathered together with our fellow adventurers where we shall introduce or reacquaint ourselves with one another. Over dinner, our guides will prepare us for the pilgrimages up and down this New England coast that lie ahead of us, laying out the centuries of history that have preceded us and brought us to explore these lands. Tomorrow we will bundle up and venture out into the surrounding area to begin our quest - exposing ourselves to whatever weather might come against us in this stormy region.

Why make this quest? And what is it that we seek? A priceless treasure lies hidden here in New England - a forgotten legacy. We have come in search of it, desirous to learn of it, recover it, add to it, and pass it on. 'Tis a legacy of principles, of faith, of gratitude, of perseverance, of self-sacrifice, of covenants, left to us by faithful Christian men who had a vision for something beyond themselves - even if it meant to be but stepping stones, that those who would come after them might press beyond their own great achievements.

To find this legacy we must learn of these great men, walk where they walked, study what they did. For that reason, we stand here in Plymouth, Massachusetts, with the Vision Forum Faith & Freedom Tour, today. Over the course of the following week we will walk all over this city, travel up to Boston and elsewhere in our quest. We will find all around us evidences to the Christian faith and vision of our founding fathers - dating back to the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. On Thanksgiving day we will feast, in remembrance of their feasting. We will give thanks as they gave thanks even in the midst of their great trials. We will give thanks to God for the incredible blessing He has given us in such a heritage.

To survive such a quest, one must have daily sustainance. Thus, our family has once again been requested to prepare a mid-day meal for all 160+ adventurers each day of our journeying. Some was prepared ahead of time and transported here with us, but today we head out to do the mega-shopping required for such a project.

Sadly, we had to bid adieu to Mom and Jonathan upon leaving home as they were unable to accompany us on this trip. We look forward to reuniting with them upon our return and sharing the stories of our respective adventures.

We will attempt - as our schedule allows - to post at least a couple of pictures and brief reports from our adventure throughout the week. But now, the action begins and we pilgrims must not be found lacking in provisions or hardiness. Farewell, for now, friends. Adventure, ho!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Attempt #2

Success evaded us as once again we attempted to get a picture of the four cousins together. Oh, we got pictures of them together, but they weren't exactly what we were envisioning. Altogether we got over 35 shots on the one camera and several on the other, the best of which are below, but...try, try, try, again???

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What we haven't told you...

Sounds like an exciting blog post, doesn't it? Well, it really is just what we've done over the last few weeks that has not made it to the blog yet - which will make for a somewhat lengthy post, but here it is!

Four weeks ago today, Josh, Joseph and I (Jessica) left for yet another business trip. Both catering and conference recording were our duties at this event, and we didn't travel alone. Luke VonHolten and Ethan Webb joined us for the long week in San Antonio. After managing to fill nearly every last bit of space in Josh's suburban (including around our feet and on our laps), we headed south on Saturday, October 14 and arrived at our destination on Sunday morning.

The Hubers were kind enough to welcome us warmly even though we arrived several hours earlier than anticipated (thanks to not pulling the trailer and not breaking down this time!). Monday morning the work time began. Josh, Luke and Ethan spent the first part of the week recording the San Antonio Independent Christian Filmmakers Academy. The rest of us really didn't see them at all from Sunday night until Wednesday night. They were gone before we were up and back after we were in bed. But, from all reports it was enjoyable, educational, and well worth the work.

Back at the Hubers, Joseph and I rested up, helped with some projects around their house, went to see the new film Facing The Giants, Joseph got to kill a rattlesnake, and I did some major shopping and minor final food preparation. As on our trip to Texas earlier this year, I was in charge of catering the meals for Vision Forum's staff and speakers while Josh and crew worked recording the sessions that were presented during the weekend. This time the event was the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, and I had Joseph with me as my assistant. Somehow we managed to stay busy enough that we came home from this trip with no pictures at all. I think Luke and Ethan have some, though, and perhaps at some point we can see what they got.

Aside from a few fairly minor glitches, the meal preparations all seemed to go fairly well. Joseph was a faithful and capable assistant and gave up the fun of attending the festival for the fun of slaving away in the kitchen with/for me. Thanks, Joseph! (We really did have fun, by the way).

We did, however, get to get in on some of the fun of the festival. While we missed the film screenings and workshops, we did get to the opening ceremonies, Friday evening's keynote session with Stephan Kendrick (of Facing the Giants), the award ceremony, and the nights at the Arneson River Theater with George Sarris and Charlie Zahm. At each meal, we got updates from Josh, Luke, and Ethan regarding their opinions of the good, the bad, and the amusing, of the semi-finalist's films, and their award predictions, so we were kept in the loop throughout the days as well.

The post-dinner events were also a fun time to catch a few minutes of visiting time with various friends and new acquaintances who were in attendance at the festival. All in all, I think the five of us each came back having fully enjoyed the week in San Antonio, and with greater knowledge, experience, and excitement than we left with.

After several days of recovery and catch-up, came Saturday. Now while we had been gone, Sara had mentioned to Mom an autumn family tradition her family has had of making pumpkin doughnuts with an apple cider icing. We decided this sounded like a good tradition to adopt. So, on Saturday, October 28, we made somewhere around 200 doughnuts (and, of course, as many doughnut holes). Sara, Caroline, and William, Jeanine, Corrine, and Winston came to spend the day cooking, as did our friends Abbey & Wendy Hill. The guys and the rest of the Hill family showed up later in the day.

We DO have some pictures from that day!

"Hmmm. Did someone say 'donuts'???"

"They're so busy they won't notice us snacking..."

"Hey, we're still small enough to fit in the doll stroller!"

The house, of course, smelled rather good that day and I think we'll try to keep that tradition faithfully over the coming years.

That evening, however, the mood turned (slightly) more serious. Following dinner, the crowd of us moved into the living room for a planning meeting for the upcoming Liberty Day 2007. I actually haven't gotten around to updating the Liberty Day site yet, but hope to soon. We had some great discussion and were able to make some good progress in the plans for the event - from conference registration and scheduling, to the order of events for the evening celebration, to... well, you'll have to wait and see what all else!

We're almost caught up...

Monday, Oct. 30, through Thursday, November 2, we had the fun of hosting Amy Bentley at our home. I'm afraid I must confess that we don't have pictures of her with us, either! We met the Bentley family way back in the mid 80's, when Amy and I were only little tykes of about 3 years old, and our mothers were only slightly older than we are now! Mr. Bentley was then in the Coast Guard and a few years after we had met was moved across the country once again. Amy and I immediately began corresponding with those delightfully originally letters that a six-year-old can come up with:

"Hi, how are you? I am fine. I miss you. Write back soon. Love from your friend."

I assure you that without any (or with very little) variation, many such epistles flew between the Bentley and Erber residences. Over time, much has changed. Who would have guessed those many years ago that our correspondence now would be made up of lengthy emails covering nearly every subject under the sun? Who would have guessed that though miles separated us, God would lead both of our families through similar changes and growth? A lifelong friendship is a precious gift for which I am very grateful.

Yesterday afternoon we had N,J,C&W, J,S,C&W over for dinner and to get an updated family picture. Well, the picture of us all came together fairly quickly, BUT, some of the little people started to lose it as we attempted other ensembles. The grouping below we just totally gave up on and decided to try again on a happier day. This shot is just such a classic picture, though, that I had to post it anyway!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Birthday time, again!

Happy 22nd, Josh! It's a blessing to have you around, brother!