There were many reasons to celebrate in 2014. Plus there were a few reasons to mourn. Wanting to start this blog entry off on a positive note, I’ll talk about the celebration aspect first!
Easily grabbing the top spot in the “celebration” category is the marriage of my daughter, Brittney to Landon Hastings. This time last year I had no idea that this was in store. I believe it may have been June of 2014 when Landon approached me to let me know that he had an interest in my daughter. So we began to meet weekly to talk through things, get to know each other better, and to review a few theological resources that I wanted to give him. Brittney was “in on it” at this point, as she knew that Landon had asked and that we were starting this process. Everyone involved expected that if all went well the wedding would happen sometime in 2015, probably in the Fall. Things seem to be going well. Landon seemed like he was a good match for Brittney. We discussed several things from scripture. It was a good time to dig into the Word together. Then in October Brittney informed me that they would really like to get married this year. In fact, they’d like to get married in about 5 weeks from that point. What’s strange/funny is that Landon had not really “officially” asked me to marry my daughter. Of course, we knew that was the end goal of what we were preparing for. But both of us had an understanding that that would need to happen before we moved forward with wedding plans. Being a protective dad I honestly would have liked a few more months of preparation and study with Landon first. But also knowing that the scripture blesses marriage and passages like I Corinthians 7:36 indicate that “if his passions are strong” we should “let them marry,” I prepared myself to accept Landon’s “official” request for the hand of my daughter in marriage. I planned an evening where Brianna watched the little ones, and I took Sheri, Landon, and Brittney to Red Lobster where we could visit. Landon could ask me right then and we could all share together in the moment. We sat down and ordered the food. We reminisced about times when Brittney was younger. We shared some of our times about Jamestown and the awesome trip we took there in 2007. But I kept waiting for Landon to “ask the question.” It never came! We finished the meal. And we awkwardly left the restaurant. We had all ridden in the same car. I was totally confused and wondered what just happened. I think there was a communication breakdown between Landon and Brittney. In the course of our meeting I had given Landon some questions that I had asked him to respond to in writing. After receiving them from him, there were a few points of clarification that I had really wanted him to respond to. So I found out later that while I was waiting for Landon to “ask the question” he was waiting for me to ask him questions about the answers he had given to my initial questions. He was seeing that as a necessary step before he asked the all important question of me. It is true that I would have liked a little more time to go over those answers and draw a few more details out of him. But I had just been informed that there were only five weeks to go before they wanted to “tie the knot.” I felt comfortable enough in giving my blessing, even without thoroughly hashing out the details in his answers to my questions. Plus, I knew that if we were going to get started planning the wedding, that critical step of his asking had to take place. Riding back to the house, we stopped off at Braum's. I can’t remember if the excuse was to get milk for our family (like we always do), or if we were going to get an ice cream. But in any case, after pulling into the parking lot Brittney spoke up and tried to clarify things. Unknown to me, she and Landon were texting each other in the back seat so that I couldn't hear their discussion. Bottom line is that he finally asked the question, I gave my blessing, and we began frantically planning the wedding for five weeks later. So here we are at the start of 2015 and I have a new son-in-law! He really is a great guy. I’m glad to have him in our family. I’m confident that he will lead my daughter and any children they have well. He is a solid believer in Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that they will be married for the rest of their lives until the Lord takes one or both of them home.
Since I started with my oldest this year, I’ll go through the list of updates starting with her. Besides the wedding, Brittney also bought a Mustang GT this year. It is an 2004 model. Five speed, red with tan leather seats. It’s in great shape. I’m really fighting the temptation for coveting my own daughter’s car as I head out to work each morning in my grandfather’s 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful that I have a car that works for me. And it has a lot of room in it. But one of the mistakes I made in my lifetime was selling my 1997 Mustang when Brittney turned 16. I got antsy with insurance concerns and didn't research the financial realities the way I should have. It really wouldn't have been as bad as I had imagined. Brittney proved that by buying herself a GT, which would have been higher premiums than I would have had on my 6 cylinder. Oh well, live and learn. I’ll get another Mustang someday.
Michael turned 19 this year. He has had a full year. He graduated from high school. We had a graduation ceremony for homeschoolers in our co-op group back in May. He started working this year at Kimray. That has been a great opportunity for him. He’s really enjoying it. However, his biggest passion is firefighting. This year Michael volunteered for our local volunteer fire department: Woodcrest Vol. Fire Dept. He is loving it. He’ll get called in the middle of the night. When that happens the same son who I have a very hard time pulling out of bed in the morning when I need to wake him up, jumps out of bed, pulls on his clothes, and heads out of the door in a flash to “come to the rescue.” Michael has a heart to help people. So he’s living in his groove when he can rush out the door to help actually save someone’s life. He’s learning all about emergency medical care and firefighting. They are giving him some great training, for free, at the Fire Department. I expect that sometime in the next year or two Michael may be able to transition into a full time paid position at a fire station. When that happens he’ll be living his dream.
Brianna is in the middle of her senior year in high school. She’s doing awesome in her studies. She’s had a bit of a challenging year. Brittney has always been her best friend. So this was the year that her best friend moved out of the house when she was married. On the flip side, Brianna finally has her own room! Brianna has been a huge help with the little ones this year.
Justin turned 13 this year. So that means that we held his “rite of passage” ceremony. Very similar to what we did for Michael in 2008, Justin received a book that I wrote for him entitled “Charges for a Southerland Son.” This was an extensively revised edition based on the one I wrote for Michael. Justin also received a Geneva Bible, Family Bible edition. Lastly he received a beautiful Claymore sword with a custom scabbard. Unfortunately Brittney somewhat “upstaged” Justin with her wedding. So out of town family, knowing that they would be in Oklahoma for a wedding in November weren't able to come twice so close together in October. But Landon and his family were in attendance. I was happy about that so that they could witness what we do with our sons. I’d love to work with Landon when the time comes to help him do the same for my grandsons. Justin is also excelling in his schoolwork. Justin is now taller than me. He has changed in looks quite a bit over the past year.
Paton is continuing to excel in his violin playing. He’s doing great in his homeschool co-op. Paton has started drawing very good pictures. He is quite talented.
Sarah Grace has started piano this year. She’s doing very well. She had a recital this year at Guthrie’s Victorian Walk in December. She has an ear for music and has caught on very fast. Just this past week Sarah got her ears pierced.
Samuel is growing. He’s becoming quite a helper around the house. He’s also very funny even when he doesn't mean to be! The biggest news with Samuel is that this is the year that he professed faith in Jesus Christ! This brings great joy to my heart.
Melody is growing too. She’s becoming quite the little mommy with her baby brother David. I’m amazed at the vocabulary she has developed. I guess when you are the 8th child of a homeschool family you tend to pick up on a lot of words.
David has left behind any concerns we had about him with low weight. He has really grown. He’s walking all over the place now and saying several words. This year we were able to move him from our room into the office. We didn't think it was a great idea to try and squeeze him into the room with the other four boys. I think he’d wake them up, and they’d probably wake him up too.
For me, this has been an eventful year. In my job I began the year still employed with CSI at Tinker. But in September I returned to Chesapeake as a contractor. I really enjoy the private sector, and Chesapeake in particular. I can relate to the culture there. This year I closed AnswerSoft, but started a new opportunity. I bought my own business called Life Leadership. It is a leadership development business. There are a ton of high quality encouraging materials available.
This was a sad year for our good friends, Bruce and Connie Kessler. They lost one of their sons this year. Then later in the year, Connie lost her father. Bruce and Connie are some of the nicest and caring people you’ll ever meet. We love them and mourn their losses with them.
A former church member and colleague of our pastor, Brian Wilson, passed away this year. He was pretty young.