Well, this is a first. I'm not sending out Christmas cards via the mail this year. I'm sending them out via this blog. Last year was a first, as well because I didn't send out Christmas cards at ALL! I've ALWAYS sent out Christmas cards, so it felt kind-of weird not doing it last year. Last year time just got away from me in all the stresses of life. But this year, I'm thinking that with Facebook and blogs these days, sending out the annual Christmas letter seems to be rather obsolete anymore. With that being said, I'm finding myself still wanting to share the highlights of the past year (or 2 years) and there are still a few of you who I'm not "Facebook friends" with or who might not even have email (horrors! :-) ), so I guess I'll still be sending out a few Christmas cards the old fashioned way via "snail mail" so that you'll still know that we're alive! :-) Anyway, here is a quick synopsis of the past 2 years of our lives.....
Rachel graduated from 8th grade and took part in the homeschool 8th grade graduation that our state homeschool organization does every year. It was a wonderful ceremony and needless to say, we are quite proud of Rachel for reaching that milestone.
2008 also was the year when Bob lost his one and only client with his computer consulting business. We had known it was coming for a while, but it still was extremely difficult when it finally happened. More on what's been going on for us since then a little later in this update.
Hannah skated in her first regionals competition as a juvenile level skater! This took place in Anaheim, CA and it was quite exciting for her to finally be at this level of competition. She also found out, however, how much more competitive it is at this level, and even though she didn't come in last, she also didn't come in the top, either. So it was both exciting and somewhat disappointing for her. However, she still skated beautifully, and Bob and I couldn't have been more proud of her!
Sarah graduates from highschool. Our 1st homeschool graduate! Our state homeschool organization also puts on a senior high school graduation ceremony, and Sarah was able to take part in this. It was a truly a shining moment in her and our lives! The ceremony was very moving, and we watched with great pride as Sarah marched in, wearing cap and gown, and then received her diploma later on in the ceremony.
2009 was a big year for Sarah, as she also turned 18 years old! At the same time that she turned 18, she also left on a 6-week tour with the Continental Singers! Yes, our daughter was gone on her 18th birthday! I was just a little sad on that day, to say the least! Sarah had a wonderful time touring with the Continental Singers, however, and helping spread the gospel of Christ. This was considered a mission trip, and many of you helped her go by sending in monetary support, and for this we greatly thank you! Sarah came back from this tour a changed person, in many aspects. She now has a "Continental Family" that she loves keeping in touch with, and she even met a special "friend" named Matt, with whom we are waiting to see what God works out in both of their lives. :-)
2009 wasn't all about Sarah, however. :-) Hannah skated in her 2nd regionals competition, still didn't do as well as she'd hoped, but she's learning a lot about the realities of life! She also had an important birthday when she turned 13! Yes, we now have 3 teenagers in our house now! Yikes! In all truthfulness, though, we are loving this stage of being parents of teens just as much as we've loved each and every stage of being parents to our 3 beautiful girls. :-)
Lest you think that Rachel hasn't been doing anything during this year of 2009, that simply isn't true! She has been quite involved in community theater and also has been helping (and getting paid to do so!) with the drama camps that our Performing Arts Center has been holding for younger kids. Some of the plays that Rachel has been in this year have been "Beauty & the Beast", "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory." She also was able to take part in a drama camp put on by an organization called Christian Youth Theater and they performed excerpts from Godspell for us at the end of camp. Rachel had a great time doing this and especially enjoyed making some new friends. She is hoping to be able to take part in some full productions with this group in addition to staying involved in our local community theater.
Oh, I guess I should add that Sarah was also in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", and she was in "Beauty & the Beast", as well. And Hannah made her acting debut in "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", which means our whole family was involved in this one since I was doing stage makeup and Bob was the producer! :-)
So that pretty much gives the highlights of our past 2 years. We have much to be thankful for, and yet, it's also been a very hard and trying 2 years, as well! As previously mentioned, Bob lost his one and only client in June of 2008. Leading up to that time, we knew that his client was changing software, and for a while we were hoping they'd keep Bob on and he'd just learn their new software and continue being their support person. However, that didn't happen, so in July we received our last check from his client, and ever since then, Bob has not had steady work. We've used what little equity we had in our house (and it has since gone upside down in this economy), went through all of our savings including retirement savings, and are now surviving, by the grace of God, with basically nothing now. I am selling as much as I can on eBay, Craig's List and I also have an online store (http://azmomstore.ecrater.com/), and Bob has started working for a company that does financial services, however, there is no pay for that, yet, as he has to build up his own team and clientele. And that will take some time. So he's also been searching quite diligently for a job. I've also been searching for a job and Sarah is trying to find a job where she can work more hours (she currently works for Chick-fil-a and is lucky to get 10 hours a week of actual working time). We are truly learning what it means to live one day at a time and to leave the rest to God. We are not able to pay our mortgage right now, so we may also have to short-sell our house and move into something smaller. Hannah has had to take a break from her ice skating lessons, Sarah has already been taking a break from her horse back riding lessons. Thankfully community theater doesn't cost much, so we are thankful we can all still be involved there. We crave your prayers as we go through this time of trial, but also please know, that as hard as this has been and still continues to be, we know without a doubt, that God is in control and that He has great things in store for us. There are days when we feel beaten down, fearful and scared, but then God always reminds us in some tangible way that He is here with us and to just keep trusting Him. And at this time of year, it is a time to rejoice, no matter what our circumstances, because we are celebrating the birth of the One who is our life saver. The One who came and died for us so that we might spend all eternity with Him. Now THAT is something to look forward to! :-)
If you aren't already Facebook friends with us, what are you waiting for? Facebook is such a great way to keep in touch! You can find my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pam.cole. Of course, you can also email us. Email addresses are as follows:
Bob - bcoleinQC@msn.com
Pam - firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah - AZhorselovrSarah@aol.com
Rachel - ImaAZDramaQueen@aol.com
Hannah - AZIceSkatingGirl@aol.com
We hope you all have a wonderful and Merry God-filled Christmas!