To all our friends and family, greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We always look forward to hearing about what the Lord has been doing in your life during the year. This letter is a brief summary about what He's been doing in our family.
Our family motto for this year was “Lay treasures in heaven in twenty-eleven”. As we've pursued living out this motto, God has motivated us to invest in relationships. There have been many opportunities to invest deeply in people we know, and also to go out of our comfort zone in starting few relationships. We’ve made mistakes along the way, but the Lord is showing himself faithful toward completing the good work he’s begun in us. In February, Allen and Jennifer traveled to Wake Forest, NC for a couples only conference hosted by Scott Brown. They arrived in the general vicinity after dark, but could not find the exact location. After driving up and down the stretch of road several times looking for the address, they noticed there was another car that seemed to be doing the same thing. The next time they passed the other car in criss crossing the target area, Allen rolled down his window and the other driver did too. Allen and the man asked each if the other was looking for the NCFIC conference, and the answers were yes. The other couple found the place and led us there, and we spent the conference sitting at the same table and getting to know each other, and several other Godly couples. The conference gave important guidance and testimony on building for marriage and strengthening existing ones. Allen and Jennifer were deeply blessed. Then in October, Allen and Jennifer re-met and introduced our whole family to this family and several other couples from the February conference who brought their whole families to a follow-on marriage conference just outside of Raleigh, NC. It was the NCFIC conference called “Gospel-Centered Marriages for a Glorious Church.” This conference explained many fascinating facets of marriage, with topics including: Getting Married Early, Friendship in Marriage, Preparing for Marriage, and The Role of Romance and Emotions. You can get the recording of this conference at www.ncfic.org. This conference sent us home with many ideas to talk and think about. During the conference we made opportunities to meet several new families and deepen relationships with families we already knew.
For our family, it was a conference kind of year. Another conference we attended was the second annual Family Economics Conference. This conference emphasized entrepreneurship and fathers working in home-based businesses instead of external corporate jobs. The conference thoroughly covered these subjects and elaborated on them in subtopics including nuts-and-bolts instructions, Biblical principles, and life stories told by people who've really been living out family economics. Kevin Swanson started off the conference with a passionate talk on where we are as a nation, encouraging us to build fruitful families on the ashes. Until recent times, nations were composed of a family economic base. When dads left the home for employment, a chain of events began that resulted in some of our present societal problems. As dads choose to return home and to lead their families economically and spiritually, they'll be present to disciple their families. We were blessed to fellowship with other families who were serious about serving the Lord. Another overarching principle presented in this conference was that there is no secret recipe for success. We must go back to God and to His Word as we make our plans and start our businesses. The only way our nation is ever going to be changed for the better is through repentance and humility “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land”. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The Family Economics Conference helped us solidify some plans and strategies to the point where we're actively planning and working toward Allen's retirement and transition into a home-based family farm business. As a result, we have been gearing up for some new and exciting changes in our family. One of the implications has been major chores in getting the house ready to sell so we can move to a farm. The larger projects being: Replacing a 5000 square foot deck, laying sod in the front yard, and renovating 5 bathrooms. The whole family has been busy fixing up the house in preparation to sell it. Tim has been learning some new skills while remodeling our bathrooms. He is laying ceramic floors, installing tile and shower walls, and doing the required plumbing. Tim just completed the first shower. Others have done tear-out, dry wall preparation and painting.
- Jon is still working for DRG and is using his free time to program small applications – the one he is working on right now is a smart ergonomic keyboard for the Android Tablet PC.
- Emily grew and canned more than 100 quarts of tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables. She was Dad's main garden helper, and they learned and extended their gardening experience together. She's also getting lots of experience on painting accent walls and ceilings.
- Tim worked on developing a woodworking business, but has recently has been focusing his energy on home renovation. We see his woodworking business as a potential contributor to a family economic model and a small farm. A few of this year's notable projects for Tim are an adjustable height computer desk (raised and lowered by two sets of scissor bars riding in rails, with garage door springs that offset the weight), custom built-in cabinets, and wood burnt driveway signs.
- Becky finished her high school academics, is focusing on piano performance and Pedagogy, and is continuing her viola lessons. She's also pursuing further education in music and accounting. Accounting will be particularly helpful in our family business.
- Maryanne & Suzi are working with mom on their school work, and are excited about farm life and caring for animals.
Another exciting activity has been investigating all sorts of plants and animals for a future farm. Beef cattle have had particular interest. In the past several months we have been reading some of Joel Salatin’s books as a family to glean from his alternative farming techniques. One thing we learned about was a better way to care for our chickens. Instead of cooping them up all of the time, we're giving them a fresh airy place to roam and enjoy the healthy sunlight. But if we let them free-range they would be a perfect dinner for a fox, raccoon, or hawk, so we needed something to protect them. We've been trying out a portable electric fence which protects them from most varmints, and can be easily moved for fresh forage daily. We may also get a few guard geese to protect from hawks.
We wanted to move some of our horticultural investments of the last 10 years instead of losing them when we sell the house. We've built up over 240 row feet of hybrid thornless blackberries, 10 large blueberry plants, some fig trees, 5,000 square feet of Zoysia grass, fruit trees, nut trees, and other significant items. A family from church generously volunteered for us to put some of our plants on their farm temporarily while we get ready and sell our house, so we've moved some of our of plants there.
We are intrigued by the idea of running a small family farm for more reasons than one and believe it can certainly be a workable economic model. We see it as a venue through which we can invest in what is really most important in life – relationships.
Our family is learning to accept whatever situations and difficulties the Lord brings our way, and to be thankful, and joyful in them. Please pray for our family to grow in unity and anticipate what God has in store for us next!
Allen and Jennifer
Jonathan, Emily, Timothy, Rebecca, Maryanne, Suzanna