What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas to You and Yours

Dear Ones~     
When I think of Christmas Eves, Christmas feasts, Christmas songs, and Christmas stories, I know that they do not represent a short and transient gladness.  Instead, they speak of a joy unspeakable and full of glory.  God loved the world and sent His Son.  Whosesoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  That is Christmas joy.  That is Christmas spirit.  ~ Corrie Ten Boom

Merry Christmas!  I hope this note finds you in the midst of Christmas Eves, feasts, songs and stories that are lavish and festive and glorious.  Because God is these things (and to the extreme!), we need to not only celebrate that fact but emulate  Him in it.   So…bring on the fudge and wrapping paper!  Jesus became Man and He is KING!  Time to party!

May we all have eyes to see the wonders He has done for us and given to us, not only in this glorious Christmas season but in the whole of 2019.   See it in the fluorescent skies of sunset and the floating dandelion seeds; taste His goodness in the wine and bread, and steak and ice cream; hear Him in the red-winged blackbirds and thunderstrikes and phone calls and giggles; feel Him in the love of a neighbor, the hug of a child and the warmth of the sun. 

I know you are all just dying to hear about our family (har har) so for those of you who want a further run-down on our shenanigans…read on!  All the rest- Merry Christmas and much love!

At the beginning of the year, Corynn made the lofty goal of reading 100 books in 2017.  She wound up finishing that many around August and has read 153 so far.  (That number will have changed by New Year’s Eve, I am sure.)  Things like Austen, Bronte, Wodehouse, C.S.Lewis, D. Wilson and N.D.Wilson, Gene Stratton Porter, L.M.Alcott with plenty of J.K. Rowling and B. Selznick mixed in.  She writes the titles in a journal as she finishes them and I think it will be a great treasure for her, some years down the road, to look back on all that she has read.  She may have exceeded her own expectations in this, but she has exceeded so many of our expectations in so many other ways.  It is frightening to look at her growing and acting so grown up these days; at 15, her years left living at home with us are dwindling too rapidly.  I can’t think about that right now.  As a homeschooling mother, I have been with her almost every single hour of every single day of her life and yet- it still doesn’t feel like enough.  It still goes by too fast.  I know~ I am so greedy!

Andrew is 12 this year- his last year before he becomes a ‘teen’.  We measure each other at the start of every new year and mark it on the kitchen wall- and when we looked the other day, we discovered he grew over 6 inches since January!  He is becoming downright manly these days and as much as it makes me sad, I appreciate so much the manly help that he does around here for me- especially when Matt is away.  He splits wood and wields an ax with skill, splitting me kindling and helping Matt with firewood.  He helps to tend the fire sometimes and he is the one we all depend on to get the crazy renegade cow back to where she is supposed to be.   He got to go to the PA farm show this year with a good friend and it has been one of the greatest adventures and memories of the year.  He took a hunters’ safety course and went hunting by himself for the first time this year and got a nine point buck on the first day out!  He still dreams of deer farming and now has some experiences to go along with his dreams as he was able to help out at a neighbor’s deer farm.  He has been saving money for this dream for a while.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you read about this dream becoming a reality for him in the next Christmas letter.

Adele’ is now double digits and, unlike last year, her birthday passed with no broken bones!  (Praise God!)  She is a quiet soul and can have a hard time coming out of her shell with people she doesn’t know but when she is totally comfortable- better watch out!  She loves to whistle- and in ear-piercingly high notes too.  We always love that.  ;-)  There are times when she will just randomly clean my sink for me or will ask to make supper or go to visit some older neighbors who she loves.  She learned to knit this year and has been enjoying reading chapter books- a milestone she has looked forward to for quite some time.   She very bravely took on the scariest rollercoaster at Knoebels this year and I realized that behind that quiet fa├žade is a warrior!  She is always surprising me…I wish everyone could have an Adele’. 

Judah, now 8, didn’t wait for his birthday to break a bone…he just decided to fall out of a tree this summer instead.  We learned something new about Judah during that time- he is petrified of needles and doctors and any medical attention even remotely directed at him.   No matter that they were fulfilling the Hippocratic Oath and doing him only GOOD.  He wouldn’t listen- he was too busy screaming.  J   He broke his left arm, which was his dominant one and so the months of recovery resulted in him becoming truly ambidextrous!  Not everyone can claim so cool a feat, but I wouldn’t say he would think it was worth it.   He and Adele travelled to New York City with Grandma and Grandpa and their cousin David just a few weeks ago which was an amazing experience that they both adored.  Judah is still a Hoss of a boy and he grows more and more able with each passing day~ but I know there is still a little boy inside him who needs love and direction, as little boys do, and I try not to let those moments slip past my notice.  I know what time does to children…

Ineke is a hair shy of three, though she got her birthday presents a bit early this year so they wouldn’t have to compete with Christmas presents.  She still sports the wild and crazy troll hair that she always has and still prefers “pwiddy dwesses”, specifically the “bid ones” (the big ones).  Girls are called “doyels”, mermaids are “berbaids”, alligators are “a-leg-ilators”.  Oh man, I love toddler talk.  These are precious times.

                Matt works so hard for his family and provides well for us.  He does the work God has given him to do with tenacity and grace.  When he isn’t working for Dairy One, he is busy with splitting wood, building a wood splitter from scratch with his Dad, sawing up lumber for a new shed come next summer with his brother or building gorgeous stone patios.  He always finds some new project to work on.  We got to enjoy him on three separate overnight trips this summer-away from “work work” and away from “home work” -which means all he could do was RELAX.  It was AMAZING.  This year was a stretching year for me, when certain hard providences made for struggles that seemed to overwhelm me and my heart felt a bit shattered.  Through it, though, I  was reminded how much of a gift Matt is to me….he scooped me in his arms and let me be broken and vulnerable while also strengthening me by patiently meeting me in my brokenness and speaking Truth and wisdom.  Over and over and over again.  He is a good man. And after 16 years of marriage, I have renewed gratitude that it is HIM that I get to share my life with…this smart, patient, wise, and loving man. 

                In May, I was extremely blessed to fulfill a lifelong dream of going to the Netherlands, where my mothers’ family is from (and, in some cases, still is!).  I went with my Mom and her siblings…without any children in tow.  It was glorious.  My world became much larger in that trip- metropolitan life is so vastly different than the life I lead- and the trip was filled with beauty- from the paintings of the masters in the Rijksmuseum to the old windmills, from the Dutch language dancing from the lips of newly introduced relatives to the orchids lining windows, from the grandiose architecture to the artfully presented cuisine and bottles of sparkling water.  I took it all in, every bit of it…  And yet, I was reminded that all the amazing sights in the world cannot compare to the ones I wake up to every morning.  Matt, with his smiley eye-wrinkles.  Ineke and her tousled hair.  Corynn and Andrew goofing off together.  Adele in her pretty dresses.  Judah drawing pictures of bison.  The pheasants that visit each morning.  The pollen of homegrown flowers.  The sweetness of soft puppies.  The taste of sun ripened cherry tomatoes. Sweet pan chili.  Frosted grass, crunching underfoot. The beauty of a dragonfly wing. Yes, God is lavish indeed.

                May we all have eyes open wide to his goodness and hearts filled with gratitude, no matter where He puts us in this coming year.  And may we all have JOY in all circumstances, because God loved the world and sent us His son.  Even with nothing else, that is enough.  Merry Christmas! 
Love, Rebecca (et al.)    

Friday, December 14, 2018

To The Christmas Tea Elves

For those of you participating in the O Christmas Tea secret elf swap, thank you!  There are over 30 of you and I am so pleased about this... it was an even better turnout than I expected.  I can't wait to see how it all turns out!

Just a few little notes on the subject:

~ Apparently, the Elfster website is used often by people to post gift wishlists for family members and others for more serious gift-giving exchanges.  Which, by the way, is a BRILLIANT concept.  I might just have to fill it out so Matt can have some gift ideas for birthdays/Christmas!  But if your partner happens to have a wishlist full of large, expensive gift ideas/wishes- that will most definitely NOT fit in a little tea box- have no fear!  They probably have a wishlist made up for friends and family.  Disregard it entirely, or peruse to learn the kinds of things that make them tick- but don't be discouraged.

~ Also within Elfster is the opportunity to contact your partner anonymously.  So you may be receiving emails with questions for you.  This is your secret elf trying to learn about you and how they might best surprise you.  So be on the lookout for those and make sure you answer!  We have a few concerned folks who haven't had any responses...so ease their minds a bit, would ya?

~ Make sure you include a note or letter in your package, introducing yourself to your swap partner.  The longer and juicier, the better!  That is one of the best parts.

~ Please, everyone, make sure that you have your address in your profile.  It will only be shared with your secret elf and no one else.  Obviously, they will not be able to mail you your surprise if it isn't there!

~ And please, please- if you signed up, make sure you mail your package in time to be received by Christmas!  If you have signed up but something comes up where you can not follow through- please email me or leave a note here on my blog.  I don't want anyone feeling left out and sad because their partner never followed through.

That's all for now.

Have an eye-twinkling, elf giggling, cookie eating, Christmas-tune humming, jolly good weekend.

Two Hands Full

If you want to take a picture of the birthday girl...

and a boy sees, he will jump right in.  If he jumps right in, another girl will see...

and will need to jump in too.

She was overwhelmed at her good fortune to receive 60 large white eggs for her gift.  ha! 

She did NOT receive 60 large white eggs for a gift.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Adele added another finger to her age- making her two whole hands full now.  

10 years we have had with her- and what a gift to us she is.  

She asked for meatloaf and mashed potatoes for her birthday dinner and FUNNEL CAKE for dessert (atta' girl!) which made for a delicious day.  Among other gifts (including TWO sparkle pillows!), I crocheted her a hat and shrug.  The shrug was just made up but the hat pattern comes from here.  

Best of all, she broke her birthday curse.  No broken bones this year!  

May the Lord grow you to be ever more lovely and good in all the days He gives you, girlie.  We love you.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Soles for Souls

We had a brush with fame recently and I just had to share!  We had the great pleasure of hosting Jamie and Val Soles in November on their singing tour of the Northeast. They traveled all the way from Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada and we just happened to be right smack dab in the middle of two churches on their tour.  They spent the night in our Spare Oom and gave us a little impromptu concert in our very packed living room.

Ever heard of them?

Jamie and his wife are singer/songwriters who have a passion for putting biblical truths, stories and memorization facts to music.  His music is geared toward making these things accessible to all ages- even to very small children.

 This is how the children I do so much of our memorization work- music has a really wonderful way of etching things into the hearts and minds of people.  I am really surprised I had not heard of them- but was so glad to meet them and hear some of their music!  A whole new world has opened up for the children and I-- we have already gotten to work on memorizing some of his songs.

As a bonus, they happen to be some of the sweetest people!  Never having opened my home up to complete strangers before, I didn't know what to expect.  And in my mind, all I saw was the scratched up dingy walls, the single, solitary bathroom, the clothes rack in the Spare Oom.  But they were very kind and gracious to our meager offerings.

Not to mention:  If ever I had to pick the best laugh in all the world, it would, hands down, be the laugh of Mister Jamie Soles.  He has the most wonderfully jolly laugh I have ever heard.  (And I've known quite a few excellent laughs in my day.)  His exuberance is contagious.

It was such a pleasure to meet them.

If you are interested in supporting Jamie, Val and their important and good work you can head to their website, support them on patreon or buy some of their cd's or mp3downloads on Amazon or through their website!

His music would make excellent Christmas gifts for the children and grandchildren!  Just sayin'.

(I don't make a red cent writing this.  Just wanted to share with you their good work!)

Tree Trimming


In which we eat a dinner of SnacksWeNeverGet, we hang oodles of lights and we toast to a season filled with Light.

Monday, December 10, 2018


This photo practically gets me lactating.  We need a new baby in this house.  ASAP.

Thursday, December 06, 2018


Grandma and Grandpa just left to take the children to a Christmas tree display for a few hours-leaving me with a few precious hours of alone time in which I will be converting the house into Santa's Secret Workshop.  We will be celebrating Ineke's birthday on Sunday which means there could be birthday crafting in the mix too.  

Maybe I'll plug in A White Christmas for some background music.

And I can guarantee there will be a nice hot cocoa suffocating under an obscene amount of whipped cream somewhere close by me at all times.

***  Just a reminder:  Today is the last day to sign up for the O Christmas Tea swap so if you were planning on joining up- better not put it off much longer!  Names will be drawn tomorrow.  WooHoo!

So glad for the enthusiastic response~  apparently I am not the only one who gets excited at little surprises in the mailbox!  There is one person who may have signed up but I can't seem to 'accept' into the group because you may not have provided an address or email?  If you are "Jesse Lee" and want to participate, I think you have to fill in that information before you can be accepted into the group.  It will only be shared with your secret swap partner and no one else.  I wanted to write that here because I don't want you to miss out or be disappointed by not being included.  ***

Saturday, December 01, 2018

A Little Something for December: a Gift Exchange!


Happy December!  Since it is December 1st- how perfect to announce some fun Christmas shenanigans here at Renaissance.

I was making my morning cup of tea the other day (tea of choice: Bengal Spice) and, as usual, my teabag was the last bag in the box.  (Bengal Spice is a favorite with the children too.)  I went to throw the box away when it occurred to me that a cute little tea box would make a nice little surprise in a mailbox for someone.  And it was just the right size to fit lots of fun goodies!  Not too much pressure to become a burden but just right to make someone's day.

I immediately starting thinking I should surprise someone with a little gift.  Then I thought how much I too would like to be surprised with a little something in the mailbox!  And it occurred to me-

Why not host a little gift exchange here on the blog- for anyone else who might like a bit of Christmas cheer to brighten these wintry days?

Enter ..............    The Christmas Tea Exchange

Details............. This exchange is open for anyone who wants to play along.  I'll keep the sign ups open ONE week.  On the 7th of December, Elfster will pair everyone up and email you your secret friend.

(I have never hosted an exchange with Elfster before but I have participated in them- and it is very simple and handy to use.   You can even ask questions anonymously of your secret friend or add details about your own likes/dislikes on your profile to give (or get) a more personalized gift.  You do have to sign up your email address so they can send you the name of your partner.)

Packages must be mailed by December 21st to get to their destination by Christmas.  Please make sure that if you sign up- you follow through!!  I don't want anyone who has been promised a surprise to not receive one! 

Every surprise must be packaged in a tea box but does NOT have to be filled with tea! 

Some ideas for filling your box-

cuddly socks
hat or headwarmer
something handmade !!
twinkle lights
hair things/ jewelry
a pocketknife (Andrew suggested this-ha!)
card games

Of course, you can simply mail a brand new box of tea, as well. 

Anything at all you can fit in a box of tea- or any combination of things.

There is no end to the possibilities!

And don't forget a note or letter to introduce yourself~ sometimes the notes are the best of all.

There is no minimum cost of your package- a box of tea is just a few bucks.   Handmade goodies can't have a price put on them.  Besides- it's not how much something costs that makes it special, is it?!

I don't want anyone to not be able to participate because they can't afford it!  And I won't limit your gifts either- if you wanna bless someones' socks off- go for it!  Just make sure that your gift is something YOU wish you could receive and I know it will bring joy. 

I trust ya'll to make someone's day!

It's the little things that matter most.  This will be fun.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Month That Was: NOVEMBER

haircut time once again

November 17th dumped over a foot of snow on us.  It's been covered in white ever since.

helping make bread.  Or, by the looks of her chin, maybe just licking up flour.

Notice the tousled girl gets the the tousled doll and the perfectly coifed girl gets the perfectly coifed doll.  Perfectly suited.

When a neighbor shares homegrown leeks...you make leek soup

Andrew's first day out hunting, he came back with a nine-point!  

Pheasants in the flower circle!

The craft show that the girls set up over Black Friday was a fun (and freezing) experience.  Everyone made a few dollars for their efforts and they had a chance to hang with some of their favorite people in the world.  Success!

Everyone contributed something.  Corynn painted canvases and made stationary.  Adele made hair barrettes.  Friends brought knitwear, stationary, paintings, origami, jewelry, mittens, scarves and ornaments.  It was an ecclectic mix but I think their display came together nicely.

and here is the mansion barn where they set up.  It happened to be FREEZING (single digits for most of the first day) but boy was it GORGEOUS.  I wonder if Matt would ever build me a barn full of twinkle lights?  Hmmm, Mattie?

If you take time to look inside a half-frozen gallon of raw milk sometime...you may be surprised by the beauty you discover!

And that was November in a nutshell.  

The month disappeared- as all months are seeming to do this year.  Am I getting old?  Is time speeding up?  

I was having a morning brew of warm tea (Bengal Spice- one of my favorites!) when I had a little spark of an idea!  If you are someone who would appreciate a little surprise tucked in their mailbox this month-I know *I* am!- be sure to come back tomorrow to hear details and sign yourself up for some fun.  

It should be fun.  Even if only one other person signs up!  ;-)