Monday, December 15, 2008

Merry Christmas Letter

Christmas 2008
Dear Friends and Family:

Christmas has a way of helping us to remember our priorities. It is a reminder of how frail life is and a reminder of God’s greatest gift: Jesus. Tinsel and lights, store displays and holiday cheer: this is how the world looks at Christmas, but it is not how our Savior intended it to be celebrated.

One year ago, on November 15, David was fired from his job for refusing to sign a non-compete agreement with his employer. It’s been a hard year – his van broke down, we got behind on our bills, we had medical bills to pay off, and we are now without health insurance. We have little or no security in a paycheck, and each month brings us to our knees believing that God is faithful to supply all of our needs.

Dave is much happier and less stressed out than he's ever been! That doesn’t mean we don’t shed a few tears when dreams are lost or put on hold, but we are learning how to live without those things we thought we needed. (Did you know a haircut is not a need? Just ask Joshua!) Joshua and Nathaniel are prepared to see fewer Christmas gifts under the tree this year, but we are happy because we are so very blessed. We live in America, still the greatest country in the world, in a warm house with food to eat, warm clothes to wear, and a wonderful family and many faithful friends. These are gifts we can never take for granted and, each day, we thank our Heavenly Father for giving them to us.

If it weren't for the hardships, we wouldn't necessarily know or fully appreciate our blessings. Dave has a bright future in his business and we are all learning how to be patient in waiting. We are glad Dave is self-employed. As the head of our household, he is learning to trust and encourage the rest of us. We enjoy our independence and our freedom -- hopefully our children appreciate it too. We are learning that freedom isn't really free -- it costs something -- but its rewards are endless.

Nathaniel turned 11 this year and is in 6th grade. He is flourishing in our homeschool and has grown to love math, science, reading, and spelling. He is far ahead of his grade in most subjects. He loves reading and has already read 2500 pages in 3 ½ months. He’s read the entire Narnia series, Brisingr, and will be starting on Dave’s Robert Heinlein books just after he finishes a few books about the American Civil War. He participated in a Lego Mindstorms camp this summer, completed another Awana handbook, and became a “techie” in the Fine Arts Camp as the “switcher” for all the camera shots. This fall he participated in a homeschool class that culminated in a simulation at the Challenger Learning Center’s Mission to the Moon. That same day he played “Mr. Spielman” in a children’s musical called Christmas County Spelling Bee. His acting days in this group are numbered (he’s in his last year), but he’s enjoyed every minute learning to speak and sing in front of an audience. He is a confident young man who loves Jesus.

Joshua turned 9 in March and is in 4th grade. He has finally started to love reading, finding it necessary to read if he is going to be a computer “nerd” like his dad! He has never loved school, but he tolerates it well. He is reading more, learning that English isn’t so hard, and has gained confidence in every school subject. He is very practical and can think through and solve problems easily. He is also a great “chef” wanting to cook like all the greats on the Food Channel! His favorite part of cooking is “presentation” and he often spends 10 minutes putting food on his plate so it looks as good as it tastes! Joshua is a Guitar Hero junkie and we’ve enjoyed listening to the boys sing and play songs from our past! His GH talents attract much attention at those in-store displays, and he has no trouble showing off what he’s managed to learn. His latest past time is playing The Sims (with Abigail encouraging him when he gets stuck). He also loves photography and used his talents this summer as a camera operator at Fine Arts Camp. Dad continues to challenge him with technology and website design. We have no doubt the Cantwell-computer tradition will live on to the third generation!

Camille is in her third year as the Awana Sparks Director at our church. The kiddos are overflowing – with around 150 children and nearly 50 adults to supervise; it is a part-time volunteer position that keeps her creative juices flowing. In addition, she took over the administration of a cow-share program/food co-op group in September. As a cow-share owner, we receive raw milk from the cows we partially own. The cows live in Parke County and are boarded by some saintly Amish farmers. We also receive organic produce and pastured eggs from our Amish friends. Using her talents to organize and administer the co-op has turned our passion for healthy eating into a new project endeavor – menu planning! We are looking for ways to turn Camille’s passion for organization and administration into a profit-making adventure.

David, as you read above, continues to be self-employed. With many irons in the fire, he is never too busy to spend time with family and volunteer his talents for Christ’s glory. He plays piano for Amazin’ Praisin’ kid’s choir, Fine Arts Camp, and wherever he is needed. He also willingly helps Camille with Awana and helps the widows and fatherless with their computers and technology problems. He gives without expecting anything in return and serves as a great example of Christ’s servant heart.

We spent four days in the Dells, thanks to the Lego-Mindstorms instructor who gave us some of his time-share points to use. It was a blessing to spend some needed time away from home to enjoy water parks, video arcades, and a 1500-sq. ft. condo! With gas prices down and cooking in the condo, the cost to us was less than a day’s wage! God truly blessed us by using an acquaintance who gave generously from his heart! After relaxing in the Dells, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with some of Camille’s siblings in Hustisford, Wisconsin. We were the first overnight guests of Alex and Missy (Camille’s nephew and wife) and were honored to welcome Camille’s sister, Dru to spend over a week with us. We celebrated Thanksgiving Day with Dru, Abigail, Liliana, and our special needs friend, Susie who completely enjoyed having a family with whom to share a meal and fellowship.

Our year started and is ending with one very sweet niece, Abigail. She joined us just after Christmas last year while she was pregnant with her first child. Her husband had pretty much abandoned her and she needed a place to live. Dru came back from England, found a job and home for them in Janesville just before Liliana was born. But the job and the economy weren’t good and Dru decided in November to move to Tennessee. While Dru is looking for a job and home, we are blessed to provide Abigail and Liliana a temporary place to live. Lili will turn 9 months old just after Christmas. She reminds us of the innocence and unconditional love that Christ brought to earth on the day He was born. While we have little to share or give to Abigail and Lili right now, we do have a heated home and unconditional love to pour out upon them. Nathaniel and Joshua enjoy having a baby to cuddle and love. Abigail requires little or nothing from us and is content with what she has. We are blessed to have the opportunity to love and care for them. The time is so short, but we cherish each day we have to spend with them.

Christmas is not about getting – it is about giving. Give first to the Lord by giving your hearts to Him and then give to your family when they are in need. Finally, give to others who might need a hug, a meal, or maybe some help when a computer or car breaks down. We pray that each of you will look for ways to bless others and give – not from your abundance, but from your need. Give until it hurts and give until you can give no more. If we’ve learned nothing else this year – we have learned that you can never out-give God. He will find ways to bless you in return and not always in the ways you expect.

Have a Merry Christmas and find someone in 2009 that you can bless. It will make your new year a happier year for sure!

David, Camille, Nathaniel & Joshua
The Cantwell Clan

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