Merry Christmas 2020

“But, now, when the new-born King made his appearance, the swaddling band with which he was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should be stopped between man’s conscience and himself, man’s conscience and his God. It was then, that day, the trumpet blew—’Sheathe the sword, oh man, sheathe the sword, oh conscience, for God is now at peace with man, and man at peace with God.’ Do you not feel, my brethren, that the gospel of God is peace to man? Where else can peace be found but in the message of Jesus?” – Spurgeon

Giving Thanks for Many Blessings

God has been so good to our family this past year, and we rejoice and give thanks for his grace to us. We have grown deeper in love and closeness to our great and glorious King, enjoyed gathering with His saints to worship him, and found contentment and peace in His presence.

Chris’s mom has come through a year of cancer treatments, and praise God is cancer-free and very healthy. Thank you all for your fervent prayers for her and our family, it has been an inspiration to see her walk through the valley in faithful obedience to the Lord, and her Christ-honoring example has been displayed to many, for the honor and glory of Jesus Christ.

New Beginnings

Chris started a new job at ScriptPro in Mission, Kansas in January and hit the ground running! In his past roles, Chris had responsibility for leading sales teams and the support of a software program Salesforce, that organizes sales data and helps reps work more efficiently. At ScriptPro, Chris has led the development of Salesforce and helped additional team members adopt and get the most from the system. It’s his first role working in an IT group, but he’s been glad that most of his time is spent working with people, even if it’s mostly through a web conference screen.

Our New Yard

When we moved into our new Overland Park house last year, our family was overjoyed with the huge increase in space (we essentially doubled our inside square footage), but we missed our wonderful backyard and epic swingset with wooden bridge, tornado slide, and zip line. Even worse, the new backyard was virtually unusable due to the thirty-five degree slope from backdoor to fenceline. Only one thing to do: rent an excavator and get digging!
Ever since he was a young boy, Chris has had a blast playing in the dirt, and he jumped right into learning how to operate the bucket and blade of a mini-excavator we rented one weekend. It was shocking how quickly the grade transformed, but as help was a bit hard to find that particular weekend, Michelle graciously accepted the job of surveying specialist. As Chris bellowed at her above the noise of the diesel engine, “Did that stake say cut 4 inches or fill 6? Does that look like a 2% grade now to you???” We confirmed later that she prefers to stick to accounting and spreadsheets

After one and a half days of work, the backyard was transformed. But what to do about that huge pile of dirt on the one side? Chris began researching materials for a retaining wall, and found a local contractor supply store that provided a beautiful and high-quality stone and helped with the design as well. After a few AutoCAD drawings (that ISU Civil Engineering degree really paying off…) and some Excel spreadsheets to convert cubic yards to tons, we ended up with 15 pallets of retaining wall block and 30 tons of rock sitting in our yard and on our driveway. One wheelbarrow at a time, these materials were brought down the newly cut path along the sideyard to the emerging 70’ long by 6’ high wall across the backyard. One phrase from the installation instructions video reverberated through Chris’s mind as he set each foundation block: “You can be sure, if your first course isn’t level, future courses won’t be level either!”

Since Chris was working from home most days, we got into a regular and solid rhythm of computer work until 5, and manual labor until dark. With the gym shut down, Chris was generally glad of the opportunity to hoist each 82-pound block into place and move another wheelbarrow full of dirt from here to there. One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of the design was digging out the space behind the wall and then backfilling each course with ¾ inch clean rock and a perforated pipe to evacuate future rainwater and reduce hydrostatic pressure on the wall. In addition, every few courses, a special mesh was required to span 5 feet back behind the wall and stabilize the soil to reduce load on the wall. We will know for sure in about a decade if Chris did all the design and installation properly, but so far it’s looking good.

It was mid-November before the Great Wall of 2020 was finally complete. Due to a miscalculation or mismeasurement Chris made in late summer, the steps coming up the middle of the wall fell just below the desired grade, and in order to get the correct levels, Chris switched from thick stone to thin porcelain tile for the stair treads. It was an arduous installation but turned out quite beautiful. We used the extra block to make a firepit and the extra rock to make a rainwater drainage channel and fill in under the deck. It’s made quite the transformation to the yard, and we’ve all begun to enjoy yard games, football and soccer, and sitting by the firepit on a crisp fall evening.

New Swingset!!

We kept the kids at bay with a trampoline we bought at the beginning of the summer, but we knew after we spoiled them with the giant swingset at our previous house, that new level yard couldn’t sit long without one. Since Michelle thought Chris has done quite enough construction for one year, we went with a new swingset from a local place that includes installation. Chris enjoyed watching this get built while sitting inside by the fire sipping his coffee!

American Heritage Girls

Lydia and Hannah joined a club called American Heritage Girls this year. They have enjoyed meeting new friends, creating beautiful art projects, and learning about how to tend a fire and conduct a ceremony with the American Flag. They get to determine which projects to involve themselves in and earn badges for successful completion. It’s been a blessing to see them influenced by such a wholesome and God-honoring program.

Our School Year

Our Classical Conversations co-op group has been going strong all year, and it’s made us so appreciative and thankful to have normalcy this year as so many friends of ours have been thrown for a loop by virtual school and ever-changing policies and schedules. Lydia, Nathan, and Hannah all earned their Memory Master certification last year and some big rewards to go with it. These families we get to do life with are such a blessing to us and we are so thankful for the positive impact they have on our kids.

Sports and Bible Quizzing

Nathan is growing fast and constantly has energy overflowing out of him. Any time of any day is good for throwing a football or kicking a soccer ball. He has also been involved in a Bible Quizzing team and loves the practices, games, and weekend competitions. They set up a few dozen chairs in a line with pressure pads connected to a computer, and the host reads a question, “According to Matthew 2:1 where did the Magi come from?” or “Quote Matthew 14:9.” These kids are pretty amazing! Nathan heard about a regional competition coming up where you get to stay in a hotel room!! But since it’s for the older kids he may have to wait a year or two.

Back to Bunk Beds

In our old house, we had 6 kids sharing 2 rooms, so bunk beds were a must. But now that we have 5 bedrooms, we didn’t see the need. But what do you know, Benjamin and Caleb decided to grow this past year, so we recently upgraded them to a beautiful set of bunk beds complete with a real wooden ladder. They still seem to find their way to our bed in the middle of the night, but they enjoy spending some of the nights in their cool new bunk beds.

Juggling Act

Michelle continues to wear a lot of hats as she manages our three-ring-circus. She continues to do part-time accounting work about 10-15 hours/week. It’s a blessing that she can work remotely and set her own schedule (her primetime is about 11pm!), but working from home was made much more stressful with seven other people in the house during the lockdown this spring. Thankfully we have some phenomenal babysitters and support people that help with the kids. Still, between homeschooling, kid activities, and work, Michelle is usually on the go.

Growing Up

All the kids got bigger this year as kids tend to do. As a 10yo, Lydia has embraced the label of “tween,” and her favorite pastimes include texting her friends and taking selfies. Nathan (almost 9yo) has grown quite a bit this year and really held his own in flag football this summer. He’s also become quite the Chiefs fan, so he was thrilled to watch them win the Super Bowl earlier this year. Hannah (7yo) enjoys trying new things; she went to ballet camp this summer and loves American Heritage Girls. Caleb (5yo) continues to grow in his reading skills and also joined his older siblings in choir this fall. (According to them, Caleb cries a lot, but he sang well at their concert this fall. ) He also helped Chris quite a bit with his wall project this year. Benjamin (3yo) keeps us very busy! It’s almost like he knows he isn’t heavily supervised… He started wearing glasses this year, so “Where are your glasses??” is a constant refrain in our house now. And sweet baby Noah (14mo) has turned into a toddler! He’s been walking for a few months now and navigates our many stairs very skillfully. As our “quarantine baby,” he really prefers being close to his mommy.

A Holiday Blessing

We cherish your friendship and loves the relationships we have deepened this year humble and honor our family. Thank you for the part you play in our lives, and may Jesus, the bringer of peace, guide you in all truth and shower you with grace and abundant blessings this coming year!