Saturday, December 7, 2013

Random August 2013

Here is another post of randoms. What a great summer we had! Here are some photo's of the fun times.
Adding the final touches to our 'Thank you' farewell
morning tea for the Pompton Plains church

Fun at a church member's pool
Shield of faith
Handsome Knight!
ohh, what a beautiful lake, I mean girls :)
Zara and Kate
Having breakfast with fellow Kiwi's!
Me with a past seminary student wife,
 who now is the new Pastor's wife!!
Very thankful for the YMCA membership
We lived here over the summer!
Look at all the free goodies that were waiting
for me when I got home!
The very talented Hannah made this for us!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Home Front Update 5/12

Can't believe it's been a while since I have updated you all. So without much further ado, here is another update on what we have been up to!

We got our first snow!
We got our first setteling snow early November which for the locals is potentially bad news as this is pretty early in the season but for us foreigners it is great news! Bring on a snowy winter! The snow didn't last long and so while it was falling we went out there and promptly made a snowman which involved 'stealing' snow of the neighbours lawn which I'm sure they wouldn't have minded ;).I'm sure that in our street, the locals think we are crazy being outside in the first snowfall!

Zara is continuing to do very well and is very keen to learn. Sonlight does a 'good' job (like I'm an expert) of engaging the reader with their stories. Unfortuatly for the girls, it's all school until Christmas when we will have about three weeks off and then we'll carry on going until the middle of May. No breaks for them which is slightly cruel I know but I've got good reason. You see I would like to finish the 2014/15 American School year by April so that I've got a month to pack up the house/clean etc. Since each school year has 36 weeks, if you do the maths that doesn't leave too many weeks for holiday considering the 'deadline' is April 2015. Before you all start to feel 'sorry' for my 'poor' girls, we only school four days a week and often double up on days so that we can go away for the weekend or have some no-school days. So here it is all not as bad as it sounds, ok you can tell my girls that :)! 

Grace and Michaela and the teacher's pet
Well where to start, it's been a busy couple of weeks for couponing. See for those of you who don't know about the American Calendar, it was Thanksgiving last week. With Thanksgiving come HUGE coupon deals, Black Friday and lots of Turkey (got that cheap too!)! I'm getting 'fussy' since I've got a pretty good stockpile on most toiletries, toothbrushes anyone? (I only have about 30!). So the coupon criteria for me has changed. I'm only interested in toiletries for my stockpile if I get them free (I still pay tax on the item) or I make money on them unless it is something we really like. My ipad mini has been invaluable in enabling me to keep tracks of all the couponing blogs through feedly. I have also uploaded a new app on my ipad called ibotta (only for USA) on which I again get things free or make money on them. I do a fair amount of printing of coupons and ofcourse I get the paper free with the ink cartridge very cheap through e-bay. No point in paying more than you need too. I try to go only once a week when Albert is home and one of the girls is allowed to come and usually gets some sort of treat :). 

Here is my pre-Black Friday 'haul'
I didn't get everything 'free' in the photo but I made money on some items (like the toothbrushes $1.50) and so enabled me to buy some of the luxury items, like the nuts, chocolate (got that very cheap about $0.40 a bag) and eggs as a filler item. I'm going to miss this back in NZ, it's going to be a HUGE shock having to pay for toiletries again.

Grace has been a bit under the weather with an ear infection earlier on in the month. Since we have no medical insurance per se (only travel insurance) I paid cash for the doctor, thankfully the antibiotics were free :). The other girls are doing well :). I have been battling some sort of cold, nothing major but thankfully I was better by Thanksgiving as last year I was quite sick. Albert is hanging in there and overall is doing well. He is a busy 'boy' (so he should be!!) and will be for the next week or so as exams start next Monday the 9th of December. It is hard to believe that in 2 more weeks we are half way through our life/adventure in the States. That thought brings mixed feelings, while are looking forward to seeing family/friends and NZ, we will miss the people we have met, friends we've made very very much :(. 

Thanks to the generosity of our fellow Christians here in America we are able to spend three nights an indoor water resort after Albert finishes his exams. One of our church members has a membership with this resort and so they arranged for us to get the stay on their discount and various other people from churches have given us money (with specific instructions to use it for 'fun'!) and so we are able to have this holiday! This is not something that we have in NZ and since I grew up with water parks it is great to be able to share this experience with them. 

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that we have a regular visitor at our house, in fact he seems to 'follow' us around America! I challenged him in this blogpost on when his next visit would be. Well I'm pleased to report that we are being blessed with another visit from him and this time he is bringing his two sisters! We are soo looking forward to meeting them for the first time and showing them around our area! 

Albert has done some preaching in DesMoines (blogpost to follow) which went well. We also took our now annual trip to Michigan to visit the Warners for Thanksgiving.

I think that's about it for now, hopefully I will have some time to finish my draft blogs of our summer adventures soon. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Albert's Update 4/11/13

Watching the sailing at our neighbors house. 
It's been a while. It's been a busy time for the family, and it's getting pretty busy at the moment for me as well. Hanneke continues to do a great job with her updates, and her gentle reminders mean that you get an update of how things are going for me.

I have been working pretty hard at my studies. I also had the opportunity to preach last Sunday. In the morning I preached at Redeemer, our Home Church here in the US, and in the evening I preached at Lynwood URC, which is the church where Andre and Anita Holtslag and family were based. It was good to get 'back in the saddle' again. It's funny, but it was a different feeling being in the pulpit again after a break. I'm looking forward to my next internship already.

In the morning I preached from Isaiah 55:1-5, simply entitled "Come", and in the Evening I preached from Psalm 121, entitled, "Think Widescreen!". Both were messages that I had written and preached over the Summer. I also used a modified version of Psalm 121 in chapel.

As much as I would like to write some new sermons to preach, it is simply not possible to do so. With our workloads we are kept busy. And that is exactly the way that it should be! I am working on two new sermons at the moment, for my classes. The OT sermon is on Joshua 7, the defeat at Ai, working title "Sin Matters, Deal with It!", and an NT Sermon on John 12:12-19, no title as yet. We preach them in class, and are marked on them by our peers and professors. A tough audience, but what a way to learn!

I also spoke briefly at a Seminary Promotion Dinner in Michigan a few weeks ago, on my experiences as an International Student. I also was part of a five man male choir, believe it or not! There I got to meet Rev and Mrs de Jonge, which was a real blessing. I also met Rev and Mrs Tyson a few weeks ago. It is indeed a small world!

We are also going to a Church in Des Moine not this weekend, but the next. It’s about a five hour drive, so we are going to stay for a few nights. A family that was in New Zealand recently is going to host us, which is exciting. I will be preaching on Psalm 125 in the morning: "In God We Trust", and Ephesians 5, HC Lord's Day 17 in the evening, entitled "The Greatest Rescue Mission Ever".

This week I am working on a paper for Anthropology, looking at Romans 7, and what state Paul, or the "I", is in, are they regenerate or unregenerate? It's a 20 page paper, so it requires a fair bit of work. I am enjoying trying to get my head around the passage. It is not an easy one, and it is a bit of a minefield, but it is a good challenge. I am realizing that I have bit off more than I can chew, but it is too late to turn back now. I have done about 70% of the research, so that will keep me busy for the next couple of days.

Next week is a Greek Comprehensive, so a lot of the week will be taken up getting my Greek back up to scratch. It's amazing how quickly it gets rusty! The tricky thing with all the work that we have before us is balancing time on each subject. But you can only do so much each day. We are often told that it is good practice for the Ministry. I am sure they are right.

Another paper that I have in the works is a paper looking at the subordination of Christ, for Christology. This should be an interesting one.

And that's my lot at the moment. Thank you all for your continued prayers. We very much appreciate it. At the moment you could pray for wisdom for me as I manage my workload, and that everything gets done when it should! Also that I remember that I am a husband and father first!



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vacation Bible School

While in Pomptan Plains the Church ran a Vacation Bible School (VBS). Albert was transformed into a knight for the week, the Church into a castle and the classrooms to rooms of the castle, with a dungeon complete with dragon, a secret room behind a cave and various beautiful decorated rooms. The theme for the week just in case you hadn't guessed already was to do with a kingdom and not just any kingdom, no the world's two kingdoms, the light and the dark. The material came from Answers in Genesis. I was very impressed with the material and the way the church executed VBS. I have never seen anything like it. I didn't realise how big an operation this was but it was huge! 

They had their own catering ladies who cooked breakfast and provided morning tea for all the helpers and of course managed the morning tea (snacks for the Americans) for the kids. They had an art room with the crafts carefully prepared in Snaplock bags for each child (think 70+ children *5 days). Then there were the teachers and helpers, each 'room' (there were about 8 I think) had at least 1 teacher and 1-2 helpers. There was also a play each day with the scrip written by one of the church member and ofcourse the actors were needed too! They had a sports/game team of adults, puppet lady, nurses, welcome ladies, craft helpers, music ladies. Like any great event there are also the people behind the scenes. One of the ladies was extremely talented in design and so transformed the church into a castle!!! She also made a knight costume especially for Albert. As part of Albert's internship, he taught the bible lessons at VBS each day. I'm extremely biased but I think he did an AWESOME job of engaging the kids. One of the helpers also used her talents and put together a DVD of the week for all the kids, what an awesome idea! Ofcourse last but not least, the manager who put the whole 'show' together, she worked tireless behind the scenes and Albert and her had several meetings re VBS. Unfortunately for her she lost her voice during the week and so Albert had to step in and also be the 'up front' man. All of this couldn't be done without the churches full support both in time and money but also the ladies that provided morning tea for the kids. 

A couple of highlights for me and things that stood out:
  • People used their talents! (even if it helping out with craft or washing dishes, we all count!)
  • The church's support - what an awesome outreach, I managed to talk to several ladies from outside the church. Some these ladies/families attended quite a few VBS's over the summer (think free childcare all week) but yet still came to the closing ceremony (with the gospel being preached!). Some good contacts were established, not sure if this came to anything but even if only one seed was planted all the effort was worth it!
  • How effective different learning styles is to tell the gospel! The gospel was exclaimed everyday and not watered down but yet different methods were used to portray this message! Albert was dressed up as knight and explained the armour of God everyday and the different kingdoms, he was assisted by a puppet and various other characters, he got 'shot with a water pistol' on the last day by the associate pastor (all for the sake of the gospel!!). For the music the kids didn't just learn the words, no the talented music ladies, taught the kids, ranging from about 4ish to 12ish, the sign language to the songs! My girls were still singing the songs in the car on the way back from Pompton Plains!!
  • Most of the crafts related to the key message for the day! Again the gospel!
  • Men - for you NZders to put this in proper perspective, most Americans only get 2 weeks holiday from work and so to sacrifice a week to teach/help out at VBS, WOW. In this day and age having a father/godly man to look up to is getting rarer so good on you men!
There is plenty more to say about VBS and I'm sure I've forgotten to mention things so if you are reading this from PPRBC, please forgive me! Here are some photo's that I took during the week. The photo's that I took from the inside of the church didn't turn out very well, sorry. 

Zara and Kate as princess on dress up day.
(The dresses were borrowed from a kind family)
Michaela as a knight!
Michaela doing craft
Albert in the church hall doing his daily bible lesson
Zara in the craft room
Handsome Knight!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Home Front Update 26/10

Feeling Blessed with Sonlight curriculum
(This is 2 years worth, look at all
those wonderful books)
It's been awhile since I updated you all :). Life has been going on with nothing special to report from this side of the world. On a good note the homeschooling is going well with Zara finishing Kindergarten (year 1 in NZ) and she is now doing Grade 1. She know the alphabet with the sounds and is learning how to read. This is a learning curve for the both of us and it is really only by the grace of God (and Sonlight) that we are both doing well (in our learning!!). As any mother knows who teaches a little one to read that it is time consuming. So at the moment I'm happy if I do school with all the girls and we eat and have clean clothes on. A lot of the other chores haven taken a back seat, like my junk draw (it now lives up to it's name!!), changing over the summer to winter clothes, shop for extra winter gear and sadly my account reconciliation (I'm blaming the junkdraw as I'm sure it has eaten some of my receipts!!)

I have however added extra exercise for me, PE time for the girls and catching up with Seminary Wives all in one morning! The ladies and I run/walk, girls bike/run and we catch up at the same time. The girls get to play on the playground, surely that is part of homeschooling somehow. 

Another change that has happened is that our homeschool co-op has switched to the afternoon and so that makes it easier for me (it's all about me ;) ) to finish homeschooling in the morning, instead of being out all morning and then having to get into the swing of things in the afternoon, not one of my strong points. 

We've also been pretty busy with hospitality and have really enjoyed having some of the new Seminary students over and getting to know their families! Also it's been wonderful to have another NZ couple in our midst and we are enjoying them very much. The girls in particular are awed by Hannah's art talent and Hannah to her credit has been kind enough to help them draw their favourite characters! 

Our church has started a woman's biblestudy that runs at night which I'm attending and really enjoying getting to know the other  ladies as well as having to be disciplined to do my 'homework'. We are studying "The Lamb of God" by Nancy Guthrie. I'm enjoying it so far. One thing I find very helpful is that the author has recorded her book on video, so instead of reading the chapter, I've been watching it. 

I've also purchased a few other books with Amazon gifts cards that I earned through Swagbucks as I didn't think it was fair (I know life is not fair but just leave me in my little world!) that Albert has a whole book case full and I have none. Also I figure that you can never read/or prepare enough for life ahead (ie ministry). Currently on my bookshelf to be read are: 

  • "The Pastor's Family" by Brian & Cara Croft. I follow Brian's blog "Practical Shepherding" which I enjoy. 
  • Also on my list is a book written to the Pastor's Wives called "Letters to Pastors' Wives edited by Catherine Stewart. This book has about 18 letters from well known Pastor's Wives, Mary Beeke, Betty Jane Adams, "Sissy" Floyd Pippa, Margy Tripp to name a few. It covers a wide range of topics that those ladies think new Pastor's Wives need to know. 
  • The Church Planter's Wife by Christine Hoover. I have this book both on my kindle and in hard cover and haven't finished it yet. I do however love her blog very much. 
Weather. I've got to talk at least a little about this change in our lives. It didn't feel that long ago when our air conditioner was working over time, struggling to keep our house to about 74f (23.3C) to dropping to 55F (12.7C) and having to put on our heat. I was hoping from a frugal perspective to have at least a month (like we had last year) of no air or heat to save on costs but it was not to be. We tried not switching the heat on for a couple of days but the house finally lost it's heat and so we were getting cold. Thankfully though, compared to NZ the heating/cooling costs are very reasonable and are only a small part of our overall costs :). I read in the paper the other day that this kind of weather is normally expected at the end of November not the end of October, oh well, more chance of snow, lots of it I hope! I think only the Flinns and us are looking forward to snow ;). 

To sign off I thought I would share a few of the books that I've been reading with Kate and Zara that we thoroughly enjoyed. That is what I LOVE about Sonlight, their reading material undergoes pretty tough criteria and so I'm almost guaranteed an excellent book! I love reading 'true life' life stories in particular. 
  • Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat. I especially enjoyed the part that the pet owl brought home a dead skunk into the dining room! 
  • The books by Clyde Robert Bulla (more boyish books but the girls enjoyed them too), the ones we have read are "The Sword in the Tree", "The Secret Valley" (about the California gold rush) and "Riding the Pony Express" (about the Pony mail delivery across the States)
  • "See how it's made" a DK book. Kate is doing this for science, what a cool book! Do you know how pencils are made? I didn't!! (This is the same girl that didn't know that cream rose to the top of milk or that cows need to have babies in order to give milk until I visited my good friends farm and she enlighten me!!)
  • "Missionary Stories with the Millers" by Mildred A Martin. True stories about missionaries. We haven't finished it yet but my favourite 'Providence' story so far is about a Jack McGuckin a pilot with the Wycliffe Bible Translator's Jungle Aviation Service. The chapter is entitled "The Tiger is Loose" (in a plane). God works in mysterious ways! 
  • "Leading Little Ones to God" by Marian M Schoolland. This is a devotion I have just started this school year with Kate and Zara. I had heard of this book before but never read it. It's been good so far. The girls are enjoying this. 
  • Songs by the Harrow Family. OK it's not a book but one HUGE bonus of homeschooling is that Sonlight has introduced us to the Harrow Family Music. All of the girls memory verses are put to song straight from the NASB bible. An excellent resource of helping us to 'hide God's word in our heart'! The girls favourite 'song' is Prov 28: 18-19! Even after reading Proverbs daily for years, I didn't realise this proverb was in there! The song is catchy though and true to the text! 
What are your favourite books? and what are you reading that your think others could benefit from?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Homefront Update

Oma in her element!
Just thought I would update you on what we have been up to and how life is at the moment.

We had Mum/Oma visit for about three weeks which was great. We all enjoyed it. Thankfully Mama's health was pretty good (for her) during those three weeks, the heat helped :). We did plenty of shopping, seeing some of the sights and the highlight of the visit, visiting the Amish. More photo's to come on the blog of her time with us. She made it back safely, thanks to prayers and an airplane or three. Papa/Opa and Axel (her dog, who sorely missed her!) were glad to have her back home!

We're back into the swing of things now. I'm slowly but surely adding more of their curriculum in as the weeks progress. I can't do it all and so spelling (ohhh) had to wait. Michaela also is learning how to type and I hope that she can start that next week. I have also switched the routine around the with little girls and that seems to be working so far. The big girls's workload has increased this year (which is good) and so more discipline is required from them. Albert is also doing Language Arts (think English especially writing) with the girls which is a huge help to me as it is not one of my strong points. Zara is doing well and I'm hoping to get her reading soon so that she can do some work independently.

I know Albert updates you all, but here is my take on seminary so far :). This semester has been a breeze for us as a family so far. I think we have worked on both our weaknesses (and continue to work on) and as a result life is running a lot smoother. Albert is taking set time to spend with the girls, including teaching PE and doing devotions at our local homeschool group. The workload doesn't seem to be as big this semester which is a huge blessing. Spare a thought though for the new students including our very own New Zealand student Josh (you can read about them here). The first semester is tough!

Seminary Wives
I'm involved in the Seminary Wives this year as secretary (with Audra another student wife) which is a great opportunity to 'serve' the new students in particular and getting to know them all. I really enjoy this aspect of seminary as we are all in the same 'boat' and it's great to mutually encourage each other in the good and bad times. (and ofcourse to eat plenty of good food while we encourage each other!!)

We're back in the swing of things here too and I'm back in my beloved pool! I'm so privileged to be able to swim in this private pool. Albert is also doing some running as well as biking. Some of the Seminary wives are also getting together once a week to do some running/walking with our families. 

I got all of this for free with either coupons,
 store credit or rebates
(We enjoyed fish that night which is a luxury in this house)
Managing to get some great deals here too, a lot of them free. A couple of  weeks ago, I managed to buy 8 tissue boxes but once I got to the check-out, I couldn't use my coupon as it was negative, so I added another 4 boxes and a chocolate bar (such a shame) to make the amount that I had to pay positive! So I'll be fine for tissue boxes (that were basically free plus tax) for a while :). I took my Mum while she was here to my favorite Pharmacy and she couldn't believe her eyes about all the deals! A positive side of this, apart from the fact that we get to have things we would never buy, is that I'm able to share my 'spoils' with other students and people in need. At the girls Gem's club, they were asking for donations for nappies for a local pregnancy center and so I managed to find a great deal on nappies, 3 packets of Huggies for $4 out of pocket. 
(Contents of the photo: a gallon of milk, one Colgate 360c toothbrush, 4 Lind chocolate bars, 2 wholegrain pasta, 2 loaves of wholegrain bread, 2 individual portions of fish and 4 boxes of ibuprofen. I did buy these things at different stores and did pay a little tax, not much though)

The girls and I went to pick some fruit last week at an orchard. It was quite an experience especially since we lived in Hawke's Bay for about 6 years. We were 'driven' by a tractor and wagon to the area where the picking took place. Since it was a Saturday, the place was packed and there were lines for the tractor. All of this is fine until you have to carry back your 'pickings' back to the tractor. Since the apples were like 'gold' (ie pricewise) I didn't let the girls pick any or carry the bags. (I know mean Mum!) I thought the apples were expensive but was told by quite a few locals that $0.99c a pound was a 'steal'. I suppose any price is expensive when we are used to 'glean' them from a friends orchard in Hawkes Bay. In my true 'bargain' style I managed to pick up some 'seconds' fruit mainly pears and peaches. I bottled the pears (I know you are all proud of me!!) and froze the peaches. 

That's all from me for now, anything you would like to know about us, USA, Seminary, life in general? Leave me a comment :). 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Random July 2013

Here is another random post, enjoy :).

Here is proof that it did get hot over summer.
Baseball church league
Watching a baseball church league
Beautiful flowers to welcome the church's
new associate pastor's wife.
(the lady who brought them also bought me one)
We really enjoyed visits from the Warner's and their boys!
Not sure if this needs a caption! :)
A walk in the 'woods' with some friends
Some ladies met for their final biblestudy of the summer
at a local park!
Drawing in the church carpark
Family Clifford Pic!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Celebration and Izaak!

On the 9th of July we celebrated being in America for one whole year! We eat the appropriate food of 'sloppy Joe's' (mince with bbq sauce) on buns with potato chips and watermelon! Yummy. We also had a yummy dessert notice the American sprinkles, whipped cream out of a can and edible bowls! What a treat and what a year it has been, an enjoyable year! 

Also in July Izaak came and visited to which the girls especially were looking forward to! They really enjoy his company and I'm sure wore him out :). We visited NY with him, did lots of swimming, and the boys watched their fair share of Tour de France. I know Albert was glad to have a fellow man to watch 'bikes' with! Izaak also ventured by himself to NY which really is a must see if you are so close.  Izaak, it has almost been six months, when are you planning to visit next? ;). 

Girls and desert!
Notice the sprinkles?
Izaak playing wii with the girls in the basement
At the top of the hill after our hike!
Watching the Tour
Nothing was going to stop the boys from watching the tour.
(90F is 32.2C)
Mountain stage on the big screen!