Thursday, December 25, 2008

Alexander Christmas Letter 2008

Merry Christmas from the Alexander family!

To read a recap of the events that shaped our family's year, please visit the following four links:

Enrollment in the School of God's Greater Glory

Provision of Piglets and Pasture

Sullivan & Harrison's Salvation Story

God Provided the Milk We Prayed For

Our family wishes you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2009!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve with Elliott and Oliver

This Christmas Eve, Oliver and I (Elliott), stayed home to milk the cows while the rest of the family went to our grandparents' house for a Christmas gathering. We decided to grill some pork chops for our lunch. It was delicious. We also grilled a pig tail. It was much better than the last time we had one.
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome Jack!

Our family is so blessed to be able to join our dear friends, the Twogoods, in praying for the homecoming of their precious newborn son, Jack, born October 19, 2008 in Taiwan. Dan and Gretchen, along with Jordan, Grant, Audrey, and Ruth eagerly await the adoption of their new baby boy.
We share the Twogood's desire this Christmas to bring their baby home and we think of Jack every time we hear this upbeat Christmas tune.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

21 Years and 21 Months: The Most Incredible Blessing

(Meredith at 21 years and Sheridan at 21 months)

Today we celebrate the 21st birthday of our firstborn. As I (Joy) consider how greatly Meredith has blessed our lives, I am aware of my inability to find words to express the thoughts of my heart.

When we received the sweet gift of a baby girl more than two decades ago, Timmy and I had been married for 3 years. Becoming parents at age 22, we were but kids ourselves. This precious daughter has filled our lives with joy and laughter that has carried us from our youth to our middle years.

I remember on Meredith's 18th birthday when the realization hit me suddenly and unexpectedly that the greatest portion of parenting her was over. We were essentially "all done" raising our daughter. Sure, we'd continue to share our life experiences with her and encourage her in her walk with God, but the training, the mothering, the great amount of daily discipleship was over - done - gone. I felt unprepared for the harsh reality. I had enjoyed raising a daughter so very much. It passed by so quickly; all those years seemed condensed into a brief moment. Although still ahead was the joy of raising our sons, I realized that Meredith's 18th birthday marked the beginning of the end. I tried as best I could to hide my tears of grief at the passing of what had been my childhood dream - to be a mother and raise children. I sadly calculated how many years I had left before Harrison, the youngest, would also be "done" and the most joyous chapter of my life would close - never to be reopened.

But then God....

But then God stepped out of the portals of Heaven and against the darkest of clouds - a multitude of miscarriages - He sent us another baby girl to love and hold and call our own! A chance to begin again! The work of mothering that had brought me so much joy was only just beginning! There would be hairbows, nursery rhymes, tights pulled up over chunky legs on Sunday morning, lullabies, and an immeasurable amount of laughter. In Sheridan's birth, God gave us great gladness!

So on this morning, we celebrate not only the joy of an incredibly delightful 21 year old daughter who has turned into a young woman that far surpasses our greatest dreams, but we also marvel at the goodness of God to give us Meredith's toddling, 21 month old sister. "We are praising the Lord for His great love and for all His wonderful deeds to us." Psalm 108:31

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tattoo Challenge

We live on a very quiet gravel road dotted with a couple dozen older homes tucked into the landscape of beautiful pasture on rolling hills. Until recently, I (Joy) have never even glanced in the direction of the other homes as I speed to my house tucked far away in the woods off the gravel road.

However, since two of our neighbors now let us use their pastures, we're communicating with them often and beginning to hear the "neighborhood news". Several weeks ago, Timmy heard a report of one neighbor's forty-three year old husband dying and another neighbor's baby dying just one week before her due date. I just couldn't imagine it was true considering we have so few neighbors and assuming they were all elderly. As we drove out one day, we saw another neighbor and asked him about the validity of the news. No sooner were the reports confirmed, than did the young mother who lost the baby, drive by and Timmy pointed her out to me. I didn't even know we had young people living on our street, much less someone who had been expecting.

As I talked with the Lord about her the next morning, as well as the confirmed new widow with three children ages 12 and under, I confessed that although I wanted to share Him with these hurting girls, I was very intimidated to visit either of them - knowing that I knew nothing of the pain they were experiencing.

Armed with prayer and a batch of Meredith's freshly baked cookies, the little boys and I headed out to meet these hurting neighbors. We drove to the home supposedly occupied by the young mother, her husband, and their four year old daughter. The only confirmation I could find of its current residents was a withered graveside wreath on the porch steps. We knocked on the door, but no one answered.

As we began to drive away, I noticed what appeared to be the young mother's truck just ahead at another house. I remembered that Timmy said her parents lived on our road as well. As we pulled over at the house with the truck, I noticed several women in the yard. One came to greet us and smiled so sweetly as she took us to meet the grieving mother. As I stumbled through my words of sympathy, all my fear melted as this tender, precious young girl reached out to hug me. She told me all about her pregnancy, the fear that the baby's inactivity brought, and the suspicion that the ultrasound confirmed of the baby's death just one week before her anticipated arrival. She smiled with great joy as she spoke about the 8 to 9 hours she spent with her baby after the forced c-section, remarking on the baby's perfect features. She quickly showed me a picture on her cell phone, apologizing for the poor quality.

I spoke of the hope we have through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, how Jesus can get her through these dark days today, and lead her into eternity to forever more be with her baby. She sweetly listened, at times biting her lip to hold back the flood of emotions that she surely was experiencing; pain that will forever be hers while on this earth; pain like I've never known and cannot even comprehend.

Even though we left and visited with the young widow next - a dear, sweet girl my age who lost her husband after a long fight with diabetes - my thoughts continued to return to the grieving young mother - specifically to a tattoo that I had noticed when I had been standing in the yard talking with her. I noticed that the tattoo was freshly applied, and bore her baby's name neatly written under a large cross. When I commented on the memorial on her arm that she was eager to display, her conversation became even more intimate as she talked about the choosing of that particular artwork to commemorate her baby girl's life and death.

While reflecting on this later, I wondered if the tattoos increasingly present in society are really messages being sent by those who are hurting. It was as if this young, grieving mother was saying, "Since you may not make any effort to ever really know me, here's a sign on my arm that tells you that my heart is hurting."

I have asked God to give me a sensitivity to the hidden message behind the tattoos people wear. May God shake me from my cold-heartedness where I drive down my road oblivious to the broken-hearted households and may He do a great work in giving me a heart for those who are hurting.

Yesterday, as I approached the cashier in the check-out line at Wal-Mart and saw her message imprinted into her skin, I asked, "What happened on 9-1-06 and who is Z.O.E.?"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Giveaway at Mere's Blog

I (Meredith) am excited to offer a Giveaway for a Dillards Mill Peanut Company Classic Gift Box! Our Classic Gift Box includes Peanut Brittle, Salted Peanuts, Sugar-Coated Peanuts, and Chocolate Clusters.

Dillards Mill Peanut Company is a business my brothers and I began in 2006 and I have continued during the holiday seasons of 2007 and now 2008. Please check out my brand new website!I look forward to drawing a winner at my blog this upcoming Sunday, December 7, at 10 PM ET.

I will be spending the remainder of this week with my grandmother, Oma, at our house in NC preparing gift boxes for our tractor business clients, for the store that sells the boxes, and to sell at a booth at the Ryland Christmas Store on Saturday. I'm also very hopeful that I may get some orders at my recently launched website. As in the past two years, I am praying that God will bless my efforts and people will purchase the boxes as Christmas gifts.

This Giveaway is open to anyone (including those in other countries). Please enter your name at my blog. If you post a link to this Giveaway on your blog or website, your name will be entered twice. Good luck!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Fun with Friends

We had so much fun with our friends, the Steidingers, over Thanksgiving! The Steidingers arrived Wednesday night and stayed through Saturday morning.We really enjoyed visiting with them. Their family is such a blessing to talk to. They owned a big dairy farm in Illinois until a couple of years ago when they felt the Lord leading them to sell the family farm and move to Atlanta, GA. We loved hearing how the Lord has lead them and opened doors for their family in Atlanta, and we enjoyed hearing their farming stories. Usually we spend Thanksgiving at our grandparents' house and they prepare the Thanksgiving meal, but I really liked cooking our own meal at home. We had one of our turkeys, along with the traditional sides-- mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, rolls, corn pudding, green beans, etc.

We recently learned about a very small adult home on our lane and have been hoping to find ways to bless the lonely folks that live there. The younger kids made Thanksgiving cards for the residents. We went over and sang songs and recited Scripture. Some of the residents sang along with us and one of the ladies started crying and telling us that her cousin was supposed to pick her up for Thanksgiving but she never showed up, so she had been very disappointed but that she was so glad we came. It was so sad. We definitely want to find other ways to bless these folks that live practically across the street from us and have very little (if any) family caring for them. The Steidingers taught us several fun games. We stayed up late each night visiting and laughing! We were so blessed by their visit and hope they can come again soon!


Oliver's 15th Birthday

Yesterday Oliver turned 15!
After church, Oliver opened his gifts and I made him a Coffee & Rocky Road ice cream cake. Oliver's favorite gift was a whip (pictured below). Daddy did the evening milking with Elliott in Oliver's place and afterwards we all went to Uno Pizzeria for supper!