This year has been a year of great blessing from the Lord. After several trials in 2009 and 2010 we received the joyful news in February that we were expecting once again. As hard as it was to do, I believe that the Lord taught me through my past experiences to trust Him to bring about His will, whatever that may be. We prayed, our children prayed, our church family prayed, and our extended family prayed for this little baby. There were times when we wondered if the Lord would take this one as well. But we passed each milestone with joy and thankfulness. We had all the rest of our children with us in the ultrasound room when we learned that we were having a girl! Everyone was excited. I think Sarah was the most excited that it was a girl. There's a nine year gap between her and Brianna, the next oldest girl in our family. Sarah was going to have a baby sister!
Sheri was amazing throughout the pregnancy and before. The Lord has given me an excellent wife and a wonderful mother to our children. When our little girl was born on October 18, Sheri was glowing. It was beautiful to see her with yet another newborn baby of our own. Sheri continues to faithfully teach our children each day in our homeschool. I like to tell my sons, "Marry a woman like your mother someday."
We named our eighth child and fourth daughter Melody Hope Southerland. We had pretty much decided on Hope for her middle name early on. We tossed around several name possibilities, including Charity, Geneva, Sophia, Daisy, and a few others. I'm very happy with her name and I know that we made the right choice.
There were many other happenings this year that are noteworthy.
Brittney became our first homeschool graduate. She did a great job on her research paper that I assigned her. She took on the challenging topic of whether the environmental movement has any legitmacy or whether it is simply a tool of oppression by tyrannical government. She chose the topic. I'm not sure I would have been as creative if I had assigned her one. Brittney is still determined to pursue leather working. I'm pleased with this direction. It is a skill that will be very useful. She will be able to earn money, and it is something that she will be able to bring into a new family when she eventually marries, but will not take her out of the home. It will be a family enterprise that can be continued regardless of what her future husband does for a living.
Michael worked for a man down the street from us constructing an airplane hanger. We live in an airport community with a shared runway and taxiways. Noone in our family flies...yet. Michael has expressed an interest in learning to fly. So another one of the neighbors has offered to teach him. He is a licensed instructor. After establishing his reputation in the neighborhood as a hard, diligent worker, Michael's help was solicited to work on building this hanger. Michael has braved extreme heat and cold in working on this hanger. He has learned valuable skills, such as welding. Michael likes the outdoors and does not envy me working inside with computers. He has shown an interest in possible being a firefighter. As his father, I'm proud that he is showing such diligence in his work. Another exciting event for Michael this year is his turning 16. That means...driving. As of now, he's still doing driver's ed. Because of his busy work schedule we got a little behind in getting his permit.
Brianna seems to be following in Brittney's footsteps in many ways. She is enjoying quilting, along with Brittney. Throughout this year, Brianna has enjoyed "sewing days" with Brittney, and their good friends, the Chathams. Brianna is showing diligence in her schooling. She is usually the first child up in the mornings. When I come in to make breakfast and coffee, she's usually sitting at the kitchen table working on her math. She's being a very big help in taking care of her baby sister, Melody. Brianna's favorite hobby seems to be photography. She's always walking around with the camera around her neck snapping pictures of just about any obscure object you can find around the house.
Justin turned 10 years old this year. He's at that age where he's in a transition from being a "little kid" into one of the "big kids." Add to that, the fact that until Melody was born this year, he was right in the middle of seven children. With Melody's birth, he has joined the "oldest four" while the youngest four are Paton, Sarah, Samuel, and Melody. Justin has a very analytical mind. He is good at problem solving. He asks me intelligent questions. I'm looking forward to how the Lord will be using him in the coming years.
Paton has recently expressed his desire to "be a chef." We'll see if he pursues that into adulthood. But for now, it means helping out in the kitchen and trying to learn what he can in there. His specialty is "Wacky Cake." It seems he wants to bring that to church every week for our weekly meal there.
Sarah Grace lost her first tooth this year. We also finished the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She has been doing awesome in her reading! I credit in large part Sarah's participation in reading the scripture during family worship as a major reason why her reading is progressing so nicely. When she finished her reading book, we bought her a 1599 Geneva Bible. During our family worship time we go around the room and everyone who can read reads two scriptures. Sarah takes her turn along with all the other readers.
Samuel, at four years old, has entered the stage of asking a lot of questions. I've heard things like, "Did God make houses?" So I get to explain that God made all things, and I proceed to tell him how He made the resources needed to make a house, and He made people and gave them intelligence on how to build it. So, then a natural question..."How does God make people?" :-)
One little funny bit of news concerning Sarah and Samuel is the episode when they were trying to set up their own Google account. With Sarah's reading skills and Samuel's computer skills, they just about had it, until they were caught!
And...I've already mentioned Miss Melody. Her mere presence is such a blessing. Add to that her pretty smiles and its enough to melt a daddy's heart.
On the job front, there have been changes as well. AnswerSoft continues to grow slowly. But in November, after returning to work after being out a couple of weeks with Melody's birth, I left TransCore in order to work from home doing consulting work for IVR programming. This has been a huge blessing. I've been able to save money on gas and food. I can wear jeans (or even shorts if I want) every day if I want. I'm also doing more of what I enjoy doing, actual programming. I was a little concerned while working at TransCore that too much time was elapsing between my last IVR position and my current position there. IVR programming is somewhat of a niche. After being away from it for a time, I've realized the value in continuing to devlop my expertise in this specialized field.
This year I received a Kindle Fire for my birthday. I already had a Kindle DX. Additionally, Justin and Paton both have Kindle Keyboards Wifi. I'm enjoying the Fire. The best function that the Fire offers is that with the Logos app I am able to access my entire Logos library on my Kindle Fire. This is a great blessing, as I have many excellent resources in that library. Before the Fire if I wanted to read Logos books on my Kindle, I had to copy and paste them into a new document and convert it to a Kindle document. Now I can read them natively, with fully active scripture references while reading Logos books. All of my Kindle library that I've collected through Amazon also exists on my Kindle Fire. So I can read them there. All in all, I still prefer to read on my DX. First of all, the e-ink is easier on the eyes than a backlit screen. It's just like reading a book. Next, the screen size of the DX is larger. So more text can fit on the screen before I need to turn the page, given the same text size. Also, there's a feature I really enjoy with my DX (that's also available on the boys' Kindles). That is the ability to post my notes on various passages into my Facebook account in the middle of my reading. For some reason that functionality is not available on the Fire. So with all things considered, my determination is that if I want to read a book, I prefer my DX. If I want to do anything else (including accessing my Logos library), the Fire offers more options.
Lastly, I want to mention the blessing that GracePointe Baptist Church has been throughout 2011. The men of the church gather on Saturday mornings and do a doctrinal study of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I've made good friends with everyone in the church. That's a great advantage of a small church. You have a chance to really get to know everyone well. My family has really gotten to know our pastor, Jeff Brown, and his family. For a couple of months during the summer we geographically divided into home groups. Jeff and his family met with us at our house. Those were some good times and we discovered many similarities between myself and Jeff. The desire that God placed within me for eldership that began back in our home fellowship is coming to fruition within the confines of GracePointe. Jason Randall and I are in eldership training. We will be meeting with Jeff over the course of 2012. I look forward to serving the congregation at GracePointe and learning how to minister to God's people.
2011 has been a really good year with a lot of really good memories. Thank you Lord.