Dear Friends and Family,
“Daddy, I am nervous about going to Cambodia,” worried Kristi. “Why, Kristi?” I replied. “The heat and humidity, bugs, germs, different foods and culture.” “God will use this trip to change your heart. Try to keep an open mind.” Kristi was going to help with eyeglasses as four, previous family members had done. They had been telling her about some of the difficulties that lay ahead. Back in 2012, Jonathan had the same apprehensions and fears. As we were packing to return to the USA he said, “Dad, if there is any way, I would love to come back.” I was certain that this would be the same for Kristi. We left at night and to my surprise, I discovered that we were flying from Vancouver, BC to Hong Kong, to Siem Reap, for a total of about 30 hours of travel. This would be my second trip being the team medical director and I was going to give lectures on Zika virus infections, malaria and tuberculosis. This was my first time doing something like this and I didn’t know who my audience was going to be beside team members. It may be local doctors, dentists, students, pharmacists, health care workers, and social workers. I wanted to do well, but I knew that teaching was not my forte.
What had God in store for Kristi and me? We met some team members in Hong Kong. We met the rest in Siem Reap going through customs. You would think that I would be used to going through customs, but I always have this nervousness, as if something on my paperwork is not accurate. I wish that someone would do this for me, but no one ever does. We had our four 50 pound checked bags, two carry-ons, and two personal bags. Everything went smoothly. We all arrived on Saturday night. Rode to our hotel, and crashed. After breakfast we took buses to our final destination. To get ready for our first clinic day we packed medications in packets for the pharmacy and met the translators. Getting to know all the team members and translators names is always a challenge, but this year seemed easier than most. Kristi and I were in charge of setting up lunch preparation for the team members. The staple had always been peanut butter or Nutella and bread, but this year we would try some meat and tuna choices to add variety, along with our normal snacks. Kristi and I got the next day’s lunch prep ready, talked for a while, prayed, set the alarm, and went to sleep, for Monday was to be a busy day and had a two-hour bus ride each direction. The alarm went off and I tried to get out of bed, but couldn’t. There was excruciating pain in my back and down my left leg. I had seen it enough in my patients but never had it myself. A pinched nerve in my back sending pain down my left leg. All I could do was to get to the bathroom and back. The only halfway comfortable position was on my back with my left leg crossing over my right knee. “Kristi, I can’t do the lunch prep, can you do it? Can you also get Dr. Mike.” He was our team leader. He tried to reassure me that the team could go without me. But I so much want to go. I am the team medical director and I should be there. Mike pray for me. I told him, “I’ll take some ibuprofen and see how I feel at the scheduled departure.” The pain had let up a little and I decided to go for it. I got to ride shotgun every day. Normally I love the long bus ride, as we sing, share testimonies, talk with translators and team members. Not for me this time. I just tied to survive the long bus trip, with rare breaks where the pain was more manageable. Those were the times I tried to talk with some of the translators. Clinic actually went fairly well, as I stacked 3 to 5 chairs on top of each other. This high seat actually took some pressure off my back. Every day was almost identical to the previous. I was hoping that there would be an improvement. Every evening I would thank God for the day and pray for healing. The mornings were the worst, where sometimes I could only walk 15-20 feet before I had to lie down. Everyone was so helpful. Someone always volunteered to carry my bags, water, set up my chairs and work area. I had fleeting thoughts of questioning God for allowing this to happen. I reasoned that I am trying to serve God and this came at absolutely the worst time. Why? I was reminded that I am not the first to suffer. In fact, some of my patients, my father, and many others have more pain than what I am experiencing. What if this pain never goes away. It would be easier to be patient if there was an end in sight. Ibuprofen became my friend. I would have to take it every 4 to 6 hours or even more often. I lost count, but likely much more than recommended. It would lower the pain, to where I could think of something other than the pain. I missed out on several activities because of the pain. God provided for me in the most unusual way. There was a swimming pool at the hotel we stayed at. The coolness of the water and the weightlessness brought almost complete relief from the nagging pain. I grabbed every opportunity I could. It was a great time for Kristi and me to connect. Several translators also joined us. Who would have thought of a swimming pool in Cambodia? God did and I thanked Him for thinking of me. He reminded me of the many previous times He protected and provided for me. The most significant provision that God has done for me is to save me from the punishment of my sins. Back in 1984 to the present, I have served God and He carried me through extremely difficult times and blessed me with untold wonderful times. How can I can I turn my back on Him now? I decided that even if this pain never goes away, I will continue to remain faithful to my Savior, Jesus Christ. Even though the pain never ceased, God was my strength. Through pain and suffering, I found myself clinging even stronger to God. He was breaking my pride. I often forget my age and think I can do anything. My nearly 60-year-old body reminds me every so often that I can’t. I hate to admit that I can’t do this or that. Now with this, I very well can not do all that I used to. This will radically change my life. Am I ready for this? I know that God could heal me. But if He chooses not to, will my trust in Him waver? I face each day with hope, with patience and joy for a new day, whatever that may bring. The plane trip back was most painful and I couldn’t even sleep. As the cabin lights were all out, I snuck out. I was ready to lay down on the floor in the restroom, but there was not enough room. I check for flight attendants and they were none in sight, so I laid down in the passageway between the two aisles. Maybe 5 minutes went by before the flight attendant found me and asked me if I was alright. I told her that I was resting. She told me that I can’t do that and ordered me back to my seat. That five minutes is what I needed to get home. Being thankful for even the little things. I got home on a Sunday and scheduled to work on Monday. Will I be able to work? I was able to work, but not much else. I got so far behind in my Greek studies and Old Testament, that I attended class only. Day after day went by and no improvement. Around the clock pain and restless sleep, unable to find a comfortable position. Days went to weeks. I ended up losing 20 pounds. After seven weeks total, I decided to see a doctor. I really don’t like seeing another doctor. An MRI was ordered. That same day I was told that I had a very large herniated disc, compressing nerves at two levels. An urgent neurosurgical referral had been made. I don’t want surgery! I don’t even want an epidural steroid injection. I made the appointment. It was in Seattle and Lori would drive me. The day that the appointment was made, I actually could tell that there was a change, for the better. At the appointment, they reviewed the MRI and offered epidural steroid injection, physical therapy, and surgery if not better. I told her that I was actually improving and would contact her if I needed. From then on, I continued to improve. I no longer needed around the clock ibuprofen. To have episodes where there was no pain, not just less pain, was such a relief. I thanked God for His healing. My left leg had atrophied and still numb but not painful. I needed to work on exercising my weak leg. To this day, it is still smaller than my right leg. God has brought nearly complete healing. Even if God chose not to heal me, He is still my God and I will serve Him my whole life. This experience loosened my grip on this world and helped me to set my sights on God and heaven, where the Bible tells us: “He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelations 21:4) Is heaven your final destination? If so, then praise the Lord! Any pain and suffering of this life are only temporary. If you are uncertain or want to know how to be certain that heaven is your final destination, it would be my honor to meet with and help to show you how you can be made right with God and know for certain that when your life here on earth comes to an end, you will truly experience life with God. Death is no longer to be feared. Since man could no save himself, God sent us Jesus to be our Savior: ““Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) That’s really what Christmas is all about, the birth of Jesus. I hope Jesus is your Savior. Have a blessed Christmas, from our family to yours.
Now with my favorite: Up Close and Personal.
Let’s begin with the youngest first:
Jairus: (12) It is not easy to be the youngest as Jairus has always been the shortest, but he has passed up Lori and a few of the girls. He is beginning his growth spurt and every time I look at him, he is taller. You never know, he may become the tallest of us all. It seems that the young men in our family have a hard time talking with those outside of their age group. Jairus is no different, but younger boys just are drawn to him like a magnet. There are some pluses to that also and it became evident when one of his buddies was in the hospital. Jairus wanted to go for a visit and this young man so much appreciated that visit as they played games and legos together. Spending over two weeks in the hospital seem so long and a visit can really break up the monotony. One thing that Jairus doesn’t like to do is to feed the chickens especially at night as the “bears can get you.” We were down to just one rooster. This year I decided to get ten more chicks and start all over again. I purchased them at a local feed store and Lily and Jairus just loved them and the chicks loved them also. Now they are full grown and are beginning to lay eggs. This summer he went backpacking which is one of his favorite things to do. Everything that a young man could want—challenging rock climb, snowfields, fishing, and mountain goats all around the camp. He really enjoyed shooting and catching a lighted rocket copters at night. That’s until it went into the lake and that was the end of that. Fun while it lasted. He has thoughts of being an engineer, perhaps because his next older brother is pursuing that field. That may be his strength. He can definitely think outside of the box. If you have a problem that just is stumping you and you just can’t think of a solution, run it by Jairus. You may be surprised that his solution just may be what you needed. From fixing the toilet flusher to fixing a broken computer, he has done it. Jairus and Lily have a new music teacher. I really like her and it is unique that their lessons always begin and end with a bow. His viola skills have improved, where he occasionally plays in the orchestra at church. While he may kick and complain, I’ve learned that doing things he may not like may help in the long run. Facing difficulties and pushing through them builds character into their lives and you never know what blessing may come out of it; just ask Jonathan. Jairus’ chore is mowing the yard. It just got easier this year with a self-propelled mower. When Aaron leaves he will be my main man!
Lily (14) is our most advanced violinist, being the only one to pass Level 10 proficiency, which is the highest level with that teacher. She and Jairus now have a new teacher. Lily eventually wants to teach violin and so she wants to get as far as she can. Good for her. She is one who never needs to be told to practice but tells us that she needs to practice even when we are away or extra busy. Every spring she plays at the University of Washington and gets critiqued by their music teachers. I wouldn’t have her courage. It is always a fun time to get away and visit my alma mater. This year we went down and viewed the UW crew house. It was closed but had pictures and stories of the 1946 gold medal championship team at the Berlin Olympic games. It had pictures of Louis Zamperini the main character of the best seller: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. Amy bought me this on CDs and I listened to the whole book. In fact, I listened twice to this epic tale of forgiveness, perseverance and endurance. If you have never been to UW in the spring, the cherry blossoms are worth it! I can’t believe it our youngest daughter turns 15 in 2019. What that means is that I take her on a father and daughter date to the Space Needle. Last year it was closed for renovations. It now has a glass floor to those not scared of heights. The rotating restaurant makes any occasion special and this always is such a wonderful time. We get to talk about her future, purity, boys, and the highlight is giving her a purity ring. She wants to take over keeping the fire going while I am at work. She has one of the best helping spirits around, always eager to lend a helping hand and rarely ever complains. Lily grew up where she never knew a time when God was not spoken about, and the Bible was not read regularly, but still questioned if she was truly saved. Two years ago she wanted to be certain. She repented of her sins and placed her trust in Jesus as her Savior. Lily got baptized this year, not for her salvation but as a public declaration that she is a follower of Jesus Christ. She has such a tender heart toward God. She and I are often the early birds, reading our Bibles and praying.
Noelle (16) loves a challenge. Amy challenged anyone to read 10,000 pages this past summer. I am not certain if there was a prize or not, but probably that didn’t matter to Noelle. She set out to take on this challenge and finish. Other children tried also but soon were left in the dust. For me a slow reader, that would be an impossibility. As the summer wore on the list of books grew longer and the remaining pages grew shorter. Some titles were: “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper, “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas, “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This past year our garden had some volunteer pumpkins (that means that no one planted them, but they just started growing and we just kept them there). We got two large ones and several small misshapen ones. This year we bought some extra ones, so everyone had their own and we set out carving away. Some used templates, while others found designs online. Some scary looking ones and some artistic and there is Noelle’s. It stood out. She chose the large homegrown one and carved a Darth Vader head. We did not vote on the best, but hers won hands down. Her attention to details and her competitive spirit, helps her to excel. She likes adventure also, from jumping into the cold river at family camp, being first heading down the Wenatchee River in inner tubes, zipping down a zipline, eating as many sprinkles as possible after decorating cookies, to intimidating all other players in Nerts with her lightening fast card handling abilities. She is the fun one to have on your team because she is out to win but mostly to have fun. Fun is what we always do anyways. When she was young she was the only one to have naturally curly hair. They say that she gets it from me. Now it is hard to tell as my hair is falling out faster than it is growing. When I am overdue for a haircut, they say that it is long and curly. I can’t see it because it only likes to grow where I can’t see it. She has the longest hair in our family and this gives her to most options in hairdos. Personally, I like long hair and has taken me some time to get used to the other girls cutting their hair shorter. Noelle has a lot of outfits and shoes. Not everything is allowed. It needs to get approved by the fashion and modesty inspector. I also have veto power in this category, but so far it has never gotten that far.
Aaron (18) got to do things that even Jonathan didn’t get to do. In our family as much as I like things to remain the same and keep old traditions, we learn, we experiment, we reject certain things, we hold fast to others, mid-course corrections are always a possibility. Aaron probably has experienced the most changes in our child raising. This past summer he was a camp counselor at Island Lake, a Christian camp near our home. He lived there and came home for Sundays only. Actually, it was good for him to be under another authority, follow other rules, some which he didn’t initially agree with, work with rebellious and disobedient campers, doing work that no one else wanted to do and do it without complaining and doing things well even when no one else would know. These are all things that I’ve tried to instill in him but often seemed to not stick. Somehow this experience has helped him in that area and that’s a good thing. He is also the first to go full-time at Olympic College. He is going for an engineering degree. There is a lot of free time and that needs to be monitored and I am his accountability partner and he is one of mine. We all need that. Aaron and I took Greek and Old Testament survey class offered through our church. I started well and even initially did well in even Greek. The trip to Cambodia got me way behind and I was not able to keep up. I ended up dropping out of Greek and completing the Old Testament. Aaron completed all and was the only one to keep up the Greek. I think his Latin background taught by his mother helped him. We are taking Systematic Theology this year again offered through our church. This summer Aaron had a high school graduation celebration with relatives during our gathering at Lake Chelan. This winter Aaron and I will go skiing again. We only went up once last year, since I herniated a disc in my back. This summer we flew down to California to attend Lori’s uncle’s memorial service. On the way, we visited California Baptist University. Nice campus and we met with the admissions advisor and even met with one of the engineering professors. We were impressed by both and Aaron liked the campus, sunshine and the college atmosphere. The $40,000+ per year price tag was more than sticker shock, especially compared with Olympic College, a local community college. More discussions to follow. He like Bethany and Kristi are learning to drive with me as their primary instructor. His driving instructions were placed on hold for two months. It was not easy for him as he saw his siblings passing him up in driving experience and practice. As long as we learn from our mistakes, it is all worth it. One thing that young adults often fail to consider is the long-range goal, as they often focus on the moment. I like looking down the road, what I call the “5 and 10-year plan”. Where would I like to be 5 to 10 years from now, what would it take to get there, and what sacrifices today are necessary to make it happen? Preparing Aaron for his future is part of my responsibility. I see him eventually getting married and being the spiritual leader of his home. I wondered how I might help him prepare for that role. Even though I’ve been modeling what a spiritual leader looks like for years, I’ve never given Aaron the opportunity to lead Bible discussions. That is what I did and Aaron did well. His “family devotions” are different than mine, which is fine. He played the guitar and we sang. This was new for all of us and now is part of our Neighborhood Bible study. Thanks Aaron!
This year Kristi (20) and I had a wonderful trip to Cambodia. She had to do more than normal because of my back. “And Kristi did not complain!” This comes from a story I tell when Kristi was very young. She is living that out still to this day. In Cambodia God has opportunities for her eyes and heart to be moved and touched and opened. God helped us all out by giving us cooler weather, in the upper 80s vs. 100+ weather. Kristi just jumped right in and was such a help for our team. The translators especially liked her. She was such a help for me especially since my back was hurting so much. I was not able to accompany her all the time. She initiated and joined outings and activities. Toward the end of our trip, I asked her how she was doing and if she would ever want to come back. To my surprise, Kristi said that if God wanted her there, she could see herself actually living there. Wow! I was just blown away. God had changed her heart of fear and apprehension to letting go and allowing God to direct. I had never seriously considered living there permanently. I always am so glad to be there, but also glad to go back “home.” A heart transplant is what God alone can do. Praise the Lord! Back on the home front. Kristi wanted to go backpacking. With all of the variety of hikes, I asked her what was most important to her. I knew that Lake of the Angels was the perfect hike for all of her desires. It has a lake to swim in, fishing, very beautiful setting, mountain goats... The only drawback would be that it is a very difficult hike with a steep rocky face to climb. She loves the outdoors like I do. She climbed like a mountain goat even with a fairly heavy pack. She was the first to jump into the refreshing but very cold water. The funnest time was at night, but it doesn’t get dark until after 10 pm. It was only 9 pm and we were all pretty tired, so we actually slept and woke up at 10 and watched the moon rise, see the skies darken and reveal the countless stars. Kristi brought up her camera and took some amazing pictures. We wanted a moonless night to get a long exposure of the north star with all of the stars spinning around it. We saw a few meteors and satellites. Kristi has always had a creative and artistic side to her. She wanted to combine that with helping people or organizations. She is currently enrolled at Art Institute of Pittsburgh taking their online graphic design classes. She is still volunteering at the local food bank, doing their newsletters. A local school also hired her part-time. She is also my webdesigner. Check it out at: teamtanaka.com
Bethany (22) is probably our most socially outgoing child. I don’t think she has ever met a stranger. She went from as a child being afraid of everyone to loving and accepting everyone. Not certain how this transition came about. Two summers ago Bethany spent the summer at a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) learning leadership skills and teaching English as a second language. Even though this was a new and at times scary for her, God used this to not only get skills to teach English but also give her a vision on how to reach out to people. The Cambodia trip was also instrumental in her life; igniting a passion for missions. She wants to be active in serving locally first. She is currently tutoring a person through an Olympic College program. She said that once she gets her driving license she would like to volunteer at the Coffee Oasis, a local outreach to help with homeless and at risk teenagers. I have never met someone as good as she is at remembering names and faces and minute details, even years later. She said that she would be a great spy. She is probably right, but I would not want her in that position. She had a situation that did place her in an awkward position. She was invited to Canada to volunteer teaching English to some East Indians. I spoke with the host couple with whom she would stay for a month. Things were all set and flew for her first time alone from Seatac Airport. We got a text about 10 pm their time saying that she was being questioned by customs officers. Bethany was trying to maintain composure during this whole ordeal, all the while trying to be honest but not saying more than she had to. After all of that, they said that she would be sent back to USA and if she wanted to come back she would need a work visa. Since it was by that time past midnight, they said that she could stay with the host family but needed to report back by 9 am sharp. The host felt so bad that they toured the city until 4 am and ate out. We all felt so bad for her. The host family and church got more information and papers signed and felt certain that this would be enough to get Bethany through customs, so they invited her back. We got tickets but this time flying out of Vancouver, BC and I would go through custom with her at the USA/ Canadian border. On the way up we rehearsed our responses to questions we thought they may ask. We prayed that God would give us the right people and show us favor to allow Bethany to get to her destination. We planned on crossing through Blaine at the Peace Arch. Traffic was backed up and slowly we got to the booth. We handed the border guard our passports and he stared at his computer screen and then asked what I was going to do in Canada. Bethany said that all of the questions asked was just like a script in a play. I gave my response. He did not like it. He then looked at Bethany and asked what she was going to be doing. She gave her planned out response. He again did not like it and said, “Why were you turned away last week. Again Bethany gave her planned out response. He again showed his dislike of that response and commanded us to park and speak with the custom officers inside. I was instructed to sit down and Bethany was questioned alone and then instructed to sit. After quite some time, we were motioned to come up to the desk. The final decision was in God’s hands and we were powerless in this situation. The lady explained that Canada is trying to protect its workers and that some “volunteer work” actually require a work visa and some don’t. She also mentioned that we should have brought some other paperwork also and would be needed in the future. Her flat affect began to smile as she unfolded an official work visa and wished Bethany a wonderful time. We were overjoyed, but did not want to show our full excitement until we were back in the car. We drove around Stanley Park and ate at the airport. Bethany had a wonderful time in Canada, adding to her list of friends. Bethany, like Lily, got baptized this year, wanting to publicly tell others that she is a follower of Jesus and committed to following Him her whole life.
Stefanie (24) has always had a caring heart. When she was young, when someone was hurt, Stefanie was the one in tears. She has found a perfect job that fits her personality and strengths. She works as a CNA at a local nursing home. It is not a job for her, it is her ministry. She has a smile for each of her patients and coworkers. We have had her coworker and her husband over for a meal, so our family has also been blessed through her work. I drive the Prius to work, Lori has a Highlander and Stefanie drives our 15 passenger van to her job in Silverdale. Such a large vehicle for her and not very fuel efficient. She is saving up for her own car. Something not so showy and high demand. I am a recipient of her income. For my birthday I got a Weber with all of the trimmings, charcoal chimney, briskets, lighter fluid and cover. It should last longer than I will. My Mom still has one when I was growing upover 45 years ago. Besides our church, other charitable organizations also are recipients as I can deduce from the mail addressed to her. She and I really like to listen to sermons by John MacArthur. When I became a Christian back in the 1980s, I put away my Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Chicago, Boston, Stevie Wonder, Fleetwood Mac, Supertramp, Billy Joel and turned to listen to Twila Paris, Steve Green, Keith Green, Maranatha, Amy Grant and sermons by John MacArthur. Thirty something years later, John MacArthur is still preaching, “Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time.” She can’t go wrong with learning God’s truths. She was our only other driver, so she has selfless ly done most of the errards. It will be nice to have other drivers. This year Stefanie built a garden trellis that she found online. Beans and squash climbed all over it. What a nice design. She and I both like gardening. Stefanie likely more than any of the other children. Not certain if she likes fishing, or just wants to spend time together as she asked if I would take her out fishing on her birthday. We went to a local lake and had a good time together and saved all of those fish for other fishermen. We will go out fishing again, since we both have licenses. She went fishing at Lake Chelan and caught the most trout. I think that her patience gives her an edge over those who give up too easily. While backpacking Stefanie patiently fished and caught more fish than all of us, but she got a sunburn as a result. I guess that was the cost. We all loved eating those fish!
Texas is home for Jonathan and Emma. New Year’s Eve is their third anniversary. That is hard to believe how time flies. I want to keep in touch with them. I find it not easy. Our family has a family website and blog. This really helps to keep us somewhat updated and connected. Jonathan is famous for taking pictures of his food. Famous, well maybe only in our circles. Looks like he is eating well. Emma, you are a good cook. I still have not used “facetime”, google hangout, Marco Polo, or other tools. It may be easier if I have a smartphone. I still have my Tracfone and it work if I remember to charge it, turn it on, turn up the volume, feel the vibration or remember to take it with me. I still like a phone call, but the very best is to talk one on one over coffee. I’ll probably need to get used to one of the above to bridge the gap until we can go out for coffee. Emma and Jonathan came up for the Christian Heritage Home Educators’ conference as they ran the Heritage Defense booth. This has worked out well as it is located close to the Hopkin’s home and church. When Emma and Jonathan come into town, we usually make a trip to Seattle. Seattle is very hilly and there is a spot that has stairs going in all different directions. We took our family portrait there before they got married. For some reason to this day, those stairs are still called “Jonathan’s stairs.” Well, this year we went to Pike Place Market. With all of the shops, foods and sights and smells, it has something for everyone. There is a place known for throwing your fish you bought. I have only seen them drop one fish. Must take a lot of practice as fish are so slippery. They have a scary fish called the Monk Fish. Not certain how it got its name, but maybe Monks ate it, as I don’t think anyone else would. Jonathan was known for fun and games when he was growing up. He still likes it and the rest of the family expects it, even now. A baseball game in the driveway is almost a given. I got a laser tag game at a father-son breakfast and I think everyone played that. Jonathan took the Texas bar exam and did not pass. He plans on retaking it in February 2019. I sure hope he passes it then. I heard that the Texas bar exam is one of the hardest. Any three-day exam sounds hard. I have to take a medical board exam every 10 years. It is only a one day exam and it fries my brain. I can’t imagine a three day exam. One thing nice is once you pass, you don’t have to continue to be recertified like I do. Go Jonathan! You can do it! Emma you are the best cheerleader! Jonathan can get discouraged and you have been the best support for him. They are coming over for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving Day is held over at my sister and brother in law’s place in Seattle. Usually about 50 people are there and more than enough food. My Mom usually comes from Spokane. She will be almost 95 years old tied with my uncle. They are our oldest living relatives.
September 9, 2018 was a special day. Jon and Amy became parents and Lori and I became grandparents, thanks to the birth of baby, Jet (short for Jonathan Edward Trotter). Lori went out for the delivery and missed it by one hour. She got to stay and help out for a couple of weeks. God worked out the timing as originally Jon was assigned for Army reserves boot camp right around the due date. This got pushed back to early October. Jon got one month with Jet before he headed off to boot camp. After Lori, then Kristi tag teamed and after Kristi, Stefanie tag teamed, after Stefanie then Jinshil her good friend and they will drive down to Alabama and stay with the Fords, another good friend. After boot camp Amy, Jon and Jet drive up to Virginia for officer training. They will all be together again! I have yet to hold Jet and from the pictures he is growing right along and healthy. Memorial Day weekend I got to visit them in Kansas. What a fun time! Got to just hang out, go out to farmer’s market, for coffee, visit the capitol, go to their church, meet some of their friends and feel little Jet moving around. Kansas definitely is different than here, but as I told Amy, it has a beauty of its own. They came over here for a surprise visit in August, just one month before their delivery date. We got to do so many fun things, like going over to Fort Warden’s bunkers and eating Stagg’s chili, watch old family movies, new movies starring none other than Jon in “Sandwich Gun”, I hope they can come up for a visit soon.
Lori: (55) My love for Lori, my bride of 30 years has truly grown stronger every year. She is truly my best friend and Lord willing we will grow old together. Sure we have our up and down times, but which marriage doesn’t. I have a married couple in my practice who just celebrated their 71st anniversary. If that were us, I would be 100 years old. She has grown in her service and ministry at our church. She led the book/ Bible study with a bunch of women from our church. It was so well received and many young mothers wanted to glean some wisdom and experience from Lori as well as from the book. I heard from many that they were so glad to participate in the discussions. Lori has just got accepted to Westminster Theological Seminary’s Masters of Arts in Biblical Counseling. Will see how God may use her in counseling women at our church and those she comes in contact with. With only Lily and Jairus as Lori’s students, Lori is working herself out of a job. She has been almost the sole home educator for all nine children. This may be a great time to transition. Lori graduated with a music therapy degree from DePaul University in Chicago and I am certain that is where all of our children get their musical talent. Lori especially loves to attend Handel’s Messiah, and especially a sing-along Handel’s Messiah. We certainly are not the VonTanaka Family Singers, but I must admit, we have improved. That is not saying much. Lori and I have since we have been married loved plays, especially musicals. The best has to be Les Miserables at the 5th Avenue Theatre. What a production! The singing was amazing and you have to be a piece of wood if you didn’t shed a tear, or two, or more. This year we again went to the 5th Avenue Theatre and saw, “Come From Away.” It was nice and a few had amazing singing voices. For Lori’s birthday, she wanted to go to the Y and play racquetball. It was fun, but Lori did not have the zip or placement or speed that she once had, well for that matter, neither did I, but she still beat me. Lori takes care of and waters the hanging baskets around our house. She really has some nice fuschias every year. She says that she doesn’t have a green thumb, but she does a wonderful job brightening up our deck and front porch.
Rich: (59) What a busy year! The highlight of my year has to be the trip to Cambodia. While I was gone our church had nomination and choosing of several new deacons. I was not even aware of this, until Lily pointed out my name in the bulletin. What an honor! I wanted to serve more at church. This is a perfect outlet. I lead a Bible study group consisting of seven families that live in the Poulsbo area. We meet at three homes and share a meal together, sing one song and study the Bible. We finished the Gospel of John and now currently studying Genesis. We have some great discussions. We began Genesis with a young family joining our group. Since we were studying Genesis, I asked, “What does it mean to create?” Finn who is probably about 5 years old, raised his hand and answered, “Making something out of nothing!” Wow, what wisdom at such a young age. Imagine the power one must have to make this universe with all everything it contains, all out of nothing! That is creative power! You can see God’s fingerprints all over His wonderful creation. The Creator is always greater than what is created. We worship the Creator and not the created. I really enjoy getting out in the garden. Several of the children also caught this bug. Th is year we had a wonderful crop. We have a very old rooster and some new hens. I really appreciate seeing the circle of life. We live in an area rich with not only beauty but also food just waiting to be harvested. There are crabs, clams, oysters, shrimp, salmon, geoducks, mushrooms that we still have not harvested. They are right in our backyard. Things that we do harvest are blackberries and huckleberries. These make some delicious desserts or toppings This year at the homeschool conference I purchased a rock tumbler. We have beaches all around and there are so many beautiful rocks just laying around just waiting to be picked up and admired, skipped or now polished. I had such high hopes. You could hear the tumbler going day and night in the garage. Each of the four steps takes about 3-4 weeks. Well when the final step was done…I was very disappointed. The rocks were smooth but not shiny. I was told that I need to match the hardness of the rocks better. I will try again. With winter coming, it is nice to see our woodshed full and I got a leaf blower this year and it really does a wonderful job especially keeping our steep driveway free of slippery wet leaves. One thing that I really appreciate my Dad doing is taking me along when he visited older and lonely people. His compassion rubbed off on me. His servant spirit and selfless love was just part of him and now a part of me. He died when I was eighteen. I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful Dad. I find myself now drawn to those lonely and sometimes forgotten people and now some or all of the family visits some of my patients in the nursing homes or invite them to our home. I am hoping to have our family and possibly those in our Bible study, serve in our local community. There is an organization called, Coffee Oasis, whose goal is to reach out to homeless or at risk 13 to 25-year-olds in Kitsap Peninsula. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities available. This new year I hope all of us can be involved in serving and helping those around. Sharing the love of Jesus with those around us. Isn’t that what we are called to do? That wraps up another year of reflections and insights. I would love to get caught up with what is happening in your life. As I reflect on life. Who knows where our finish line is. Maybe we don’t like to think about it. One thing for certain, there is a finish line. Some come sooner than expected, some at a ripe old age. Are you prepared for this? I am not guaranteed that I will be here next year to write to you again. The Bible says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgement” (Hebrews 9:27) Judgment for what? We will be judged for our sins, which is another way of saying that we will be judged for our rebellion against God. Face it, we have all done wrong things and there is penalty for this. But there is hope. Since God is just, He can not just overlook sins, someone had to pay for it. Somewhat like a debt. God is also loving. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) God is so loving that Jesus was sent to earth, to eventually take the punishment that we deserve. The innocent dying for the guilty. That way “justice” and “love” meet at the cross. Forgiveness, acceptance, peace, eternal life, hope... all of us need and search for. God saved me in 1984 and He can save you also. Let’s meet over coffee. I’ll treat you. Christmas may take on new significance and meaning. Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
-Rich (for Lori, Stefanie, Bethany, Kristi, Aaron, Noelle, Lily, and Jairus)