Harder Family

Harder Family

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Isaiah 9:6-7 "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."

Merry Christmas from the Harder family! As Wayne and I sat down to reflect upon this last year, it was amazing to see all that has occurred in our lives during this time. After being spiritually challenged and stretched in 2014, we wanted 2015 to be a year of intentional life lessons, for both us and the kids. 2015 turned out a lot different then we had envision. It has been a year of joy, heartache, peace, challenges, and changes. For those of you who may not have heard, in February of this year, Wayne was diagnosed with brain cancer (GBM). Unfortunately, apart from a miracle, this kind of brain cancer is terminal. God has taught us some wonderful life lessons this year on this cancer journey and He has been so faithful! I wanted to share one amazing answer to prayer that we experienced right away in our journey. When Wayne went in for brain surgery in March, we were told that he would experience complete loss of movement and speech for at least two weeks until his brain could learn to use the other side of his brain. The doctors told us that Wayne would be in the hospital for at least a week and then in rehab for a month. The morning of Wayne's surgery, a friend asked me if I had any specific prayer requests. I asked her if she could pray that God would allow Wayne to move and speak after surgery, despite the doctor's warnings. I figured it couldn't hurt to pray for a crazy miracle and see God move. God is sovereign and could have answered that prayer any way He desired, but it was phenomenal to see God say yes! It wasn't something I had shared with anyone else, it was just a prayer request between friends. The answer to those prayer requests (Wayne moving and talking after surgery, leaving the hospital for rehab just three days after surgery, and bring released from rehab after only two weeks!!) were just the first of many prayer requests that God has answered in the last 10 months.

This year has taught us to number our days, to appreciate every moment as a family, be grateful for health, and so many more life lessons. We may have thought we knew what kind of lessons we were going to learn and teach during 2015, but God had something different in mind. 

Thankfully, Wayne was able to return to work at the end of June. He was able to balance work and his chemo cycles, which ended in November. Since his chemo ended, Wayne's strength has slowly returned. He has been able to play basketball again at Moody during lunch, take bike rides, take walks with the family, and so much more. We are thankful for every day God gives us with Wayne. 

This year taught me, Rebecca, how to lean on the Lord for everything. Taking on the role of caretaker, on top of all my other roles, was very difficult. I loved all the extra time I had with Wayne this year and I have learned a lot during these months. I have a deeper appreciation for my friends who are nurses...I could not do the job that you do and we are so thankful for you! I have spent countless hours doing research on GBM cancer, supplements, diets, etc. In addition, I am thankful for the amazing friends and family who stepped up to help us during difficult times (teaching my kids, driving Wayne to rehab, people watching the girls during countless doctor appointments, meals, and more). I can't imagine walking this journey without the body of Christ!! 

I am continuing my quest to run a 1/2 marathon in every state. In December, I ran a race with my sister in Massachusetts. I am thankful for a husband who encourages me in this area. Wayne had told me about cheap Southwest tickets and told me to find a race. Somehow despite all the craziness of 2015, I was able to squeeze in two races this year (MN and MA). I now have run in 18 states...only 32 more!

I am typically a planner, so this year challenged me in this aspect as well. I had to let go and just trust the Lord to lead my path. It wasn't until August that we made the decision to homeschool the girls again. We decided with all that was going on in our lives to step back in a few areas. One area we cut out was Classical Conversations, the homeschool group we've belonged to for four years. Instead, we decided to use My Father's World for the girls. We have really enjoyed this change and it has worked well for me. I needed something laid out for me since I didn't have the time to plan out everything as I normally do.

Abigail, 12, is now in 7th grade and is still part of Classical Conversations. It has been thrilling to see her take ownership of her education and apply herself in learning Latin, geography, math, literature, and rhetoric. Abigail is thriving in school. I have discovered that she does better under pressure. If she feels like she has too much time on her hands, she will get a little lazy. When there is a time crunch, she is able to get a ton done. Abigail is our reader. If I would let her, she would lay in bed all day and read. She has a constant list of books she wants to read. Abigail read every book in our library on the Holocaust! Abigail also has been growing in her love for the Lord. She is enjoying youth group, her girl's small group, and being discipled by Tabita.

Grace, 11, is in 6th grade. Grace is one of our creative children. She loves to take "garbage" or "junk" and turn it into creative things. Grace decided to work harder this year at school and has been doing a great job, even though she told me to write that she doesn't like school at all. Grace enjoys basketball, soccer, and piano. Recently, Grace and Naomi have taken a great interest in Chess. 

Naomi, 9, is in 5th grade. Naomi has really blossomed into a beautiful young lady. We seem to have turned the corner with her stubborn streak. Naomi is doing excellent in school and has been applying herself. Naomi loves to play tennis, soccer, and piano. Naomi is our outdoor girl. She would play outside all day long if I'd let her. She loves anything to do with science (reading about birds, watching birds, studying animals, etc). Naomi also loves putting together experiments and working with our Snapcircuit. 

Sophia, 8, is in 2nd grade. Sophia loves math and is actually in 3rd grade math. Wayne and I are often amazed at Sophia. Sophia is our other creative child and somehow manages to use both sides of her brain (left side-math, right side-art). Sophia would draw, paint, and color all day if I'd let her. Sophia has been working really hard with her reading tutor and is getting better at reading. Sophia has been in speech for the last four years. She worked really hard the last few months and is no longer in need of speech services. Sophia loves to play, help cook, and she told me to write that she LOVES art!

Micaela, 5, is in kindergarten. Although Micaela technically wasn't 5 at the beginning of the school year, she asked to start school. She has been working hard learning her letters, sounds, and numbers. She is a delight to teach and loves school. Micaela loves playing games and is quite competitive, loves playing slug-bug, she loves playing with her magna tiles and marble run, and loves to swim.

Joella, 3, is a joy. She loves to "do school" with Micaela and has been learning her letters and sounds too. One of her favorite things to do is sing. We always hear her singing songs as she walks around the house ("Jesus Loves Me", "This Is My Father's World", "ABCs"). Joella loves to play with magna tiles, play with her friend Eliana, and color. 

The girls continue to take a homeschool music class on Wednesday mornings. During their class, I attend a women's Bible study. The girls also take piano lessons and play soccer in the spring. As the girls are getting older, it is getting fun to do things together as a family, especially exercise. In October, the girls ran a 5k with me to help raise money for a local organization called "Christmas Without Cancer". They did a great job, especially since we didn't train. Abigail came in 1st place in her age group!

One of our favorite things to do as a family is take field trips. This year we went to Brookfield Zoo, the Science & Industry Museum, took a trip downtown Chicago to feed the homeless, went ice skating, jumped at extreme trampoline with friends for PE, went to Graue Mill with our homeschool group, attended Bodyology (an anatomy show), attended a science show by Ken Ham, went to the Chicago Art Museum, visited the Little Red School House, went apple picking, and visited the Garfield Conservatory. 

We are rounding out 2015 as a family in Florida. My sister and her husband gifted us with their vacation week at a Starwood Resort. This week has been such blessing to our family! The girls have enjoyed swimming in December, playing games as a family, playing at the beach, and spending time as a family. Since we were taking our Christmas vacation a little early, I had the girls do a Jr. Ranger Badge at Castillo de San Marcos. The last 10 months were hard on everyone and we are so thankful for this time to relax and regroup as a family. We will be spending Christmas with my sister in Kentucky after visiting our good friends in Georgia. 

We pray that each of you have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year! We'd love to hear from each of you. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

25 Days of Chrstimas...Continued!

Zechariah 9:9 "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." 

Day 4: On Friday we celebrated our 25 days of Christmas by making cookies with Aunt Rachel (my sister). The girls had a blast making and decorating gingerbread cookies. 

Day 5: The girls went to First United Reformed Church's Christmas puppet show. They love attending this every year. It has become part of our yearly family traditions. The girls actually attended the puppet show twice. We went Friday night with Aunt Rachel and then our neighbors took the girls Saturday night as well.

Day 6: Since I was out of town (see below), day 6 of our celebrations included watching AFV and hanging new blinds in the girl's windows. Super exciting I know, but it was what the girls told me they did for day 6. 

Weekend Review - Boston: As mentioned above, I took a trip to Boston this weekend with my sister. We were supposed to leave early Saturday morning (8am flight), but due to weather, it was cancelled. Our next flight didn't leave until after 1. The girls were thrilled to have their aunt around for a few more hours. We didn't arrive in Boston until 4:30pm, which limited our ability to sight-see that day. We were bummed, but we made the best of it. Friday night we made reservations at Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in America. Before we ate there, we found a restaurant offering $1 oysters. My sister said I needed to try them. I'm glad I tried them, but I don't think I would go out of my way to eat them again. The Union Oyster House was a great experience. It was amazing to sit in a room where stirrings of the American Revolution began, where Louis Phillippe king of France lived while exiled from France, and where Presidents like John F. Kennedy visited. The clam chowder was phenomenal as well! We walked around the city a little after dinner and then hopped in our rental car and headed to Rockport, MA (a beautiful seaside town). 

We woke up early Sunday morning for my half marathon in Gloucester, MA (about 45 miles from Boston). The views during the run were amazing...the terrain, not so amazing. The course was very difficult, especially since I haven't trained enough for this race. On top of that, I had a chest cold that made breathing difficult. I was so thankful that my sister Rachel was there to be my cheerleader and to walk/run with me the last 4.5 miles. It wasn't my best time by any means (2:23), but I completed state #18!! After the race, we stretched for a few minutes and jumped back into the car to drive back to Boston. We got our hotel in Cambridge and got ready to see Boston. It was now after 2pm and it gets dark in Boston around 4:30. We knew we were on a tight schedule to see the city! 

Our hotel in Rockport

View from the hotel.

Views from the race.

We found a Hubway station near us (a place to rent bikes). We then biked into Boston, switching bikes before our 30 minutes was up so that we didn't have to pay extra money. We rode/walked past Boston Common, Park Street Church, King's Chapel, the Old South Meeting House, the Boston Massacre Site, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, and Paul Revere's House along the Freedom Trail. By the time we got to Revere's house, it was dark and closed. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the Old North Church or Bunker Hill. For anyone visiting Boston and wanting to take this tour, I highly recommend visiting the National Park Visitor Center first and talking to a park ranger. It wasn't until we stopped at Faneuil Hall to get Junior Ranger books for my kids that we discovered a trail of bricks that you can follow for the Freedom Trail. We used our GPS to find places along the way we wanted to see...learn from our mistake. 

Waiting at a light. 

We headed back to our hotel after a long day of fun, and lots of exercise. We got up at 3:45 to catch our 6am flight. After we boarded, we heard that our flight would get in early (7:20 Chicago time). I was thrilled to hear that. When we were about 30 minutes away, I noticed that we slowed down a lot and kept making turns. That would be our pattern for the next 1.5 hours. "Fog" in Chicago made landing difficult and they made planes wait to land (I say "fog" because I'm from CA and the stuff today wouldn't stop a morning of flights). Instead of arriving at 7:20, we finally landed at 8:45am. It was an amazing weekend of fun, but I'm glad to be home. My quick trip to Boston (about 36 hour), made me excited about bringing the family there in the future.

This is what the departure/arrival board looked like at Midway when we arrived. Every flight is delayed and a few were cancelled.


I just want to thank my amazing husband Wayne for making my trip to Boston possible. Thank you for taking on the kids and the house while I was away. You are the best. It is astounding to see how God has worked in your life over the last 10 months. I wasn't sure a trip like this would be possible. I love you Wayne!! God is so good!!!