Thursday, November 29, 2007

We're home!

As Mom mentioned, most of us have been out in New England for the last week or so for Vision Forum's Faith and Freedom Tour. As of 4:09am yesterday, we are back home safe and sound!
We survived the snow, ice, rain, travel, bus rides, food preparation, late nights, early mornings, wind, and cold... and not only survived, but enjoyed every second of it! Praise the Lord for His many blessings! What a privilege it has been to attend (and work on) these tours for the last 10 years.

As you may know, our responsibility on the tour is to make sure that the 150+ attendees are fed lunch during the week. Usually by the end of the week, the secret as to when and where we are preparing these lunches manages to leak out and we often get a few extra volunteers stopping by to help (as pictured above). Thanks, guys!


Oh, and the buses! Can't forget to mention them! We had a couple of the same drivers as we've had in the past and enjoyed their service again. For those of you who've been with us before - they were a couple of the good drivers that we got again, not the ones that got us lost and sick...

The tour group was made up of almost entirely first-timers, this year. But there were also a few families that returned!

And, as usual, the 3rd floor lobby was a popular place to be during the evenings!

Although this was our 11th tour in 10 years, we did still manage to come home with a bunch of pictures, stories, and - yes - inspiration. We came home with yet more stories that illustrate the providence of God, more heroes to emulate, more respect for our pilgrim and patriot forebears, more for which to give thanks, more excitement about what God is doing today, and more zeal to stay the course and carry on the work of the Kingdom! Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! I don't have time right now to post a bunch of pictures and stories from the week here, but click here to view an album of about 90 of our pictures from the week!

Monday, November 26, 2007


As many of you know this past week most of our family has been in Plymouth, MA serving meals during the VF Faith & Freedom Tour. What a blessing the tour has been!

A couple of us needed to stay back in Illinois due to responsibilities/commitments/classes.

The house is so much quieter than usual. I, Maggie, actually had time to read a few articles and part of a book! I woke up this morning thinking about one of the articles I read. It is entitled, Music is not "Nice" by Andrew Pudewa. Excellent article.

Here's one of the many things to think about from his article, "In 1925, mass-produced electronic recordings became possible, a development which profoundly changed the relationship of man to music. As the great Hungarian composer and music educator Zoltan Kodaly predicted: we changed from being a race of music producers to being a society of music consumers. A hundred years ago, if you wanted to experience music you either had to create it yourself or get very close to someone who could..."

Mr. Pudewa goes on to explain the powerful transformational effects that music has on the individual and society, and states that we usually ignore this effect at our own peril. He goes on to explain the research that has been done and how learning to play an instrument, and even just listening to different kinds of music can have significant effects-both positive and negative on our attitudes, behavior, and mental capacity.

He also underscores the importance of music training in children, stating that it should be a core part of a child's early education and should continue throughout the school-age years. Whether or not a child determines to quit as a teenager, all that time and money is not lost, he is better for it- in many tangible ways.

I am very grateful that my parents exposed us children to great music at a very young age, and they sacrificed much to have us trained in music. It was a wonderful experience that helped mold each one of us.

The Psalms command/encourage/exhort us to praise the Lord with our voices and our instruments. Let us do just that! Are we just listening to others sing and raise their voices in praise? Or, do we actually do it ourselves. (Are we producers or consumers?)

And another question to ask is - In worship, do we sing and/or play music to please us?
Or, do we sing and/or play music to please the Lord?

Andrew Pudewa concludes his article with, "Music isn't just something 'nice;' it has a profound effect on individuals and on society, and will contribute to either the building up of a Christian culture, or speeding its further destruction. We must choose wisely."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Autumn Joys

There have been so many joys this autumn.

First and foremost has been the September birth of
Nathan & Jeanine's third child, Camille Idelette.

Isn't she beautiful! She's also so very sweet natured.

...and then, there are "the four". . . !
Life is always hopping when they are around!! :-)

A couple of weeks ago we had a celebration at our house. There were games, all the chili you could eat, singing around the campfire, birthday cake and more desserts than you can possibly eat!
Here's a glimpse at some of the fun we had...
(thanks Yens, for sharing your pictures with us!)

Above is Joanna with little Maggie.

Spectators! What could they be watching??

It's Joshua and Stuart! Yes, they're jumping rope for the obstacle course!

And so is Jonathan! What grace!

One more time around guys... don't fall over!
(Joe & Dustin)

Time for some birthday cake(s).
Blowing out the candles are Dustin Webb, Joshua Erber, and Solomon Hirst!

Autumn would just not be autumn without friends sitting around the campfire...

Time for the campfire and . . .


...Hey! Did you see all those stars??

Keeping warm by the campfire.

And here's a couple that really enjoys campfires!

You never know what'll happen around a campfire, right Abbey?? ;-)

Thank God for autumn!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Handel's Messiah!

You are invited to the…
“Do-It-Yourself Messiah”

Civic Opera House in Chicago
Saturday, December 22
2:00pm Performance

For the last several years many of us have participated in the annual Do-It-Yourself Messiah held at the Civic Opera House in Chicago. This performance is for those who can, and will, lift up their voices as choir members singing through one of the greatest choral masterpieces in history.

There is a full orchestra and four professional soloists on stage.
The choir is the entire audience at the Civic Opera House.... and YOU are invited to be a member of this choir! This is quite an amazing event!

Tickets for the event itself are no-charge. But, tickets “sell-out” immediately… So, be sure to follow these instructions:

Thursday, November 15, at 8:00am is the time to be logged in to order your tickets for the 2007 Do-It-Yourself Messiah performance! Visit this link for information on how to order tickets. (If you've requested tickets through Ticketmaster before, make sure you know your username and password for quick log in this time!!) And be sure to be there at: 8:00am sharp! (8:05 may be too late!)

[Update: the website now has 10:00am listed as the time to order tickets. I think you should still check at 8:00, but they might not be available until a little later.]

Saturday, December 22, at 2:00pm is the performance of the Messiah that we will be attending. So if you want to come with us, be sure to order tickets for that performance!

Since it is (for the first time) an afternoon performance, we'll be making a whole day of it and going out for some Chicago-style pizza afterwards and taking in a few sights in Chicago... We love having out-of-town-ers join us for the weekend, so just drop us a line if you think you might be able to make the trip this year and we'll get the rest of our details to you.

For those of you who haven't heard of this event before, (or if you just want to have fun looking at old pictures) you can visit a couple of previous posts Here and Here.

Questions? Please call or email us! We hope you can join us!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Update on Our Week

It's Saturday. The week is almost over, and it has been a very full week. Our days have been full, and our hearts have been full.

On Sunday, a young man we've known (and worked alongside of) over the last few years was killed in a car accident. Others, who knew him better, can and have written much on Michael and his 19 years of well-lived life. The news of Michael's death cast a shadow of sorrow and sobriety over our entire week. The shock, bewilderment and sorrow are very definitely present, yet we rejoice in knowing that he is with the Lord he loves, and we thank God for the peace of knowing that all things are in the hands of the Almighty, and that somehow even this horrible event will bring glory to the name of our God.

The rest of the week, though subdued, held much of the normal busyness of school work, church responsibilities, music lessons, etc. It also, however, included the baking of 120 dozen cookies for the 2007 Faith and Freedom Tour on Wednesday and Thursday.

On Friday, a couple of us drove down to southern Missouri to be with the family and friends gathered for Michael's funeral. Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?

Today, our day began with lots to get done on this our first Saturday in quite a while that we are all home and available - and the last Saturday before winter that we will all be at home and available to get the house and land ready for the coming cold. That to-do list included cutting down a number of dead trees, and splitting the wood to heat the home over the next months. Inside, us ladies planned to make a bunch of pumpkin doughnuts for us to enjoy and to share with neighbors and friends.

However, our plans were interrupted when a car crashed in front of our neighbor's house. Our guys were among the first on the scene (along with a few other neighbors) and found that one of the two young men had been killed instantly, and the other died soon afterwards. Before the second passed, Dad had an opportunity to pray with him and instruct him to call to Jesus for help. Both were 16 years old, friends of our new neighbors. How quickly life can be snuffed out. One day each and every one of us must leave this world. May we all be ready before it is our day.

Outside, the wood pile is growing, and from the kitchen the smell of cider-glazed pumpkin doughnuts wafts through the house. But our conversation is quiet, our hearts heavy, and our focus being fastened again on our hope and confidence in the grace and wisdom of our ever-loving Father.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Happy Birthday, Joshua!

Josh sure has had a lot to be smiling about these days!
Happy birthday, brother! Have a wonderful year!!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Here and There...

Well, it's taken awhile to get settled back into things. But for disruptions such as we've had this past month, we're willing to take the time!

On October 11, the travels began. Unfortunately, we somehow managed to come home with very few pictures... and I think some of those that were taken are still on the camera that Josh took with him today for his weekend trip. So here is a mainly textual report of the last three weeks:

In the early morning, Mom and I (Jessica) flew out of Milwaukee airport to Seattle, to spend 10+ days in Washington state. That same afternoon, Josh (and Luke VH) flew out of O'Hare airport to Phoenix, Arizona, for a weekend conference.

Arriving in Seattle around the time when Josh and Luke left, Mom and I were in for a treat during our stay. The Washington homeschool organization had invited Mom and I to speak at their annual Mother Daughter teas. The first was held on Saturday, October 13, in Olympia, WA, and the second the following Saturday in Spokane. While technically, we were there to encourage the mothers and daughters in Washington, the truth is that the entire trip was a blessing and refreshment to both of us. The time spent between teas at the Bradrick home was a special time of relaxing and visiting, of resting, housework - and the familiar projects of running a state organization! They did also take a day out of their busy schedule to take us "inlanders" to see the Pacific.

While we were enjoying being hospitably pampered in Washington for a week, Dad also flew out to the Northwest - only his destination was a pastors conference in Idaho. While Dad was flying, Mom and I were enjoying a quiet evening with a cell phone close at hand waiting for it to ring with "The News!"

At the end the week, Mom and I traveled across the mountains through central Washington to Spokane, where the Craig family opened their home to us during our final days in the northwest. The second of the two teas was held that Saturday, and once again, all went very well. Both teas were beautifully hosted, and we had the opportunity to speak with many ladies, from Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, California, and Canada - and surprisingly we saw several familiar faces and former Illinoisans there!

Spokane is located right on the Washington/Idaho border, and so after the tea, Dad drove over and picked up Mom and took her back to Idaho to spend the rest of the weekend visiting with our friends, the Leidenfrosts. I returned to the Craig's house with the Bradrick ladies, for a fun social evening with their families, and some of the other ladies who helped to host the event.

Elsewhere, that evening, a suburban full of people and stuff from Illinois arrived in San Antonio, Texas. Josh, and crew (which included Joseph, and Abbey, of course!) had driven the 20+ hours from home and arrived safe and sound in Texas in preparation for Vision Forum's Film Academy and Festival.

Back in Washington, Sunday was spent with the Craigs and then returning with the Bradricks to western Washington. On Monday, while Amy Ellen Bradrick and I flew from Seattle down to San Antonio, Dad dropped Mom off at the Spokane airport to fly back home, and then he returned to Idaho for another meeting before flying home later in the week.

If you have followed all this so far, you're doing better than most of us. Dad had to make a color coded calendar and post it in the kitchen so we could keep everything straight!

Okay, so we're up to Monday, October 22nd - Mom is now back home with Jonathan, Joanna and Josiah, Dad is still in Idaho, Josh, Abbey and Joseph (and Luke and Ethan) are in Texas recording the sessions and running the AV at Vision Forum's Film Academy, and Jessica's plane is hitting turbulence somewhere over Colorado and will arrive in San Antonio later in the evening.

Tuesday and Wednesday Josh and crew stayed busy at the Academy, while Abbey and I ran all over San Antonio grocery shopping and preparing for the big weekend. On Thursday-Saturday was Vision Forum's annual Film Festival and Josh and crew again ran the AV for the event. Abbey and I were also busy - but in a very different venue. Out of our hotel room in San Antonio, we were catering meals for about 80 Film Festival staff and volunteers. We had a great time together making memories, building our new sisterly relationship, and, of course, discussing wedding ideas! The room we served the meals in (pictured below) is a community room located just above a Mexican restaurant in downtown San Antonio.

We also enjoyed witnessing the evening events of the festival and meeting or catching up with friends from around the country who were also in town for the event. If Abbey can remember names and faces for even half the people she was introduced to that week, she'll be doing well!

On that Thursday, Dad flew home from Idaho, and on Saturday all of the family that was at home headed down to Peoria for a Reformation Day Faire, hosted by Providence Church. Reports are that they had a great time - but our "main" camera is broken, so no pictures, other than this one of Joanna!

The familial dispersion finally began to draw to a close on Sunday when all the leftover food stuff, all of Josh's equipment, all 7 of us and all our personal stuff actually fit into the suburban (it was close, but we were able to actually close all the vehicle doors and windows with everything inside).

After the church service, we bid "adios" to the Alamo and hit the trail homeward! A little over 20 hours later, we arrived home and appropriately celebrated the end of our travels by going to bed.

We arrived home on Monday, the 29th. On Tuesday, the Hill family came over for a special celebratory dinner, and then on Wednesday (that would be yesterday) we had about 80 people from church here for the afternoon and evening. Today, we've done some more unpacking and settling back in, sent Josh off again (with Abbey's family for a family celebration in West Virginia this weekend), taught piano lessons, and got the house ready for the events of tomorrow - Applesauce making! Oh, and we have Caroline and William here for the evening and overnight.

Speaking of whom, the little laddie has just strolled into the office for a little visit and wants to play with his auntie for a little bit - and as he ranks pretty high on my priority list, I've got to bring this already-way-too-long post to a conclusion! Because as absolutely wonderful as the trips were, and as precious as was the time spent with dearly loved friends, home-ties are pretty strong around here and it's good to be back again!