Harder Family

Harder Family

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas Letter 2018

Galatians 4:4-5 "But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship."

Merry Christmas from the Harder Family! 

We pray that your 2018 was wonderful for your family. 2018 was a year filled with many memories and adventures for our family. 

Harder Family 2018:

  • We celebrated the one year anniversary of the boy's adoption.
  • We celebrated three years since Wayne's diagnosis of brain cancer. We celebrate that God has kept him around longer then the diagnosis of 12-18 months. We continue to celebrate every day with him as we know they are a gift from God!
  • Our family took a trip to Washington DC and the East Coast. We were able to spend some amazing time as a family learning about our country's history.
  • Wayne came home on disability in September. Due to his brain cancer, he was experiencing some long-term effects of treatment. This has been a great blessing to our family to have him home. Although we all have been making adjustments, overall, it has been great for our family. 
  • My parents moved closer to us (about a six hour drive). This has been another huge blessing in our lives. After being so far from our parents since we moved to Chicago, it is great to be a half days drive from family!
  • We entered our ninth year of doing homeschool. Each year brings new growth and challenges. We thought that we would have two kids in school this year, but God had other plans and all 8 kids have been home. 
  • Rebecca ran five half marathons in 2018, to get her to 26 states. It is hard to believe I am over half way to my goal of all 50 states! 
  • Abigail is passionate about books, writing and the library. She has been volunteering at our local library two days a week getting great experience. Her goal is to study Library Science in college so she can be a librarian. She continues to do well in school, loves debating, and loves to read!
  • Grace started pursuing her love of photography this year. She is one of our most creative children and can create beautiful projects out of junk. Grace is doing well in school too, but, she doesn't love school and she loves to procrastinate. 
  • DJ continues to learn English well and you can find him building projects out of Legos and K'nex. DJ loves helping around the house and he enjoys doing the dishes.
  • Naomi continues to be our budding scientist. She loves performing science experiments, including her current experiment about germs in bathrooms (how to dry your hands without picking up germs). Naomi has also budded into an avid reader, maybe her roommate has worn off on her?
  • Shan Chen is another avid reader and loves to build with Legos. He is excelling in school and in English. This year he is taking a writing and English Grammar class and he is getting an A in both! We are praying this year that we discover answers for the physical issues he is facing.
  • Sophia has budded into our animal lover. She loves the chickens at my parent's house. She continues to do well in school, especially math. She also loves watching baking shows so she can try new techniques in her baking.
  • Micaela joined her older siblings this year in their class and she is doing great! She is continuing to get better at reading with her reading tutor. She loves to read! Micaela is our tenderhearted child who loves everyone around her...but watch out because she has older sisters and is tough!
  • Joella is learning how to read and is excelling in school. She has been taking a fun class with her friends. They have been reading great books and learning about related subjects. Joella is the child that will walk out of the house in winter in sandals and a mix-matched outfit and not care. We may have ended up at the store where I realized she had gotten into the car in sandals and Grace's pajama bottoms!!! She keeps us laughing and on our toes!
We are praying that each of you have a blessed New Year!

The Harder Family

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Reflecting on 40 Years

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is seen is eternal."

Today is my 40th birthday. I really do not know how I am already 40. I still vividly remember celebrating my dad's 40th birthday, so how can I be that old? I decided a fun way to mark this "momentous" milestone would be to write down 40 things that I have learned over the last 40 years. 

#1: God is faithful, trustworthy, forgiving, ever-present, and the list could go on for pages. I have seen first hand God's attributes through many trials in my life.

#2: God never leaves us and is always with you, even in the darkest times. There are some moments in my life that I have clearly experienced God's presence. His faithfulness and love for me sometimes blows my mind.

#3: Speaking of dark times, it is usually in the hardest, darkest places that you will sense God's presence more than any other time in life. It is also the time for your faith to grow. Hard times will either make your love and dependence on God grow, thus growing your faith, or it will break you. If you are in a dark, hard place, don't take your eyes off of God. He is GOOD, even if you cannot feel it right now...which leads me to #4

#4: Cling to who God is! Knowing God will help you persevere through any trial. God's Word is true and what the Bible says about God is true. Cling to that truth and DON'T LET GO! God's Word is living and active!

#5: Your emotions and feelings change all the time. Express them, but don't depend on them, they will deceive you!

#6: Prayer is an important spiritual discipline to develop. We have the privilege and opportunity to approach the very throne of God! He longs to speak and commune with us. Not only is prayer a great thing to do alone, find a group to pray with. There is nothing sweeter then being able to pray with other believers and approach God. 

#7: When you are singing in church do not worry about the songs or the people around you. Remember why you are there...to worship God! I have allowed my fear of other people's thoughts about me to impact my worship. Instead of freely worshiping, there have been times that I have held back out of fear. God has been reminding me that it is not about ME, it is about HIM! When we have our focus in the right direction, worship is so much more meaningful.

#8: Don't allow good things to become idols in your life. I am still working on this one. I have a tendency to allow being busy doing "good" things overshadow things that are really important like spending time with my family, cultivating relationships with others around me, and most importantly, spending time with God. 

#9: Be passionate about something: dream big and pray bigger. If God has given you a desire, shoot for it and don't stop until God closes the door. I have seen people who had a wild dream and God blessed that dream and has accomplished amazing things. I recently had the privilege of meeting a sweet lady in NC who had a big dream to start a business that could help orphans around the world. God has honored that dream. God was able to take a dream of a mom, who had a huge heart for orphans, and turned it into a blessing to many families around the world!

#10: Don't be afraid to say yes to "scary" things that God is asking you to do. We would have missed out on so much if we allowed fear to stop us from obeying God a few times in our lives (moving to Chicago to go to Moody, adopting two boys from China when Wayne was undergoing treatment for brain cancer). God has chosen to use us in accomplishing His purposes here on earth, let's join Him in His work, even if it sounds scary.

#11: Pray for your missionaries. Missions is a hard and, many times, a thankless job. We need to lift them up before God daily to encourage them, that God provides financially for them, and that God would use them as they faithfully serve Him.

#12: No matter how many times you read a passage in scripture, God can always teach you something new. God's Word truly is living and active!

#13: If you really love God, then obey Him. Just like your children show you they love you by obeying you, we need to do the same. God is still working with me on this one too. 

#14: Marriage is a wonderful gift from God, but it is hard work. You must be willing to communicate clearly, put in time and energy, and be fully committed. 

#15: Date your spouse. Make sure that you set up dates with your spouse to keep your marriage strong. When the kids were younger and money was tight, we did "in-house" dates (aka put the kids to bed early and watched a movie with food to go). 

#16: Speaking of marriage, keep your expectations low and your commitment high. Life is not like the romance books or Hallmark movies we all enjoy. If your husband helps you around the house or rubs you feet at night, that is love. You don't need some rich, lonely widower or some executive who decides to give up his job for you (as seen on the movies), to experience "love". 

#17: Find something positive to focus on every day and in difficult situations. This is an area I am still working on. This is especially true about your spouse. If they leave their clothes around or their dish on the table, find something positive to think about instead of getting mad about the dishes and clothes. Instead of focusing on that, think about how your husband worked all day to provide the money for the food. Or, instead of being upset at a child for not picking up their garbage, be thankful that you have been blessed with a child. People enjoy being around positive people. Strive to be positive instead of a negative Nellie.

#18: Raising kids is hard!!

#19: Raising 8 kids is even harder, especially if you have 6 girls!!

#20: Each stage of children brings challenges: when the kids are young, you are physically exhausted because you aren't getting enough sleep. When you have teenagers, it is mentally exhausting and physically exhausting (did you know using your brain to deal with hormonal teenagers and come up with creative ways to connect and discipline wears you out?...neither did I!).

#21: Enjoy your kids while they are young. They grow up so quickly! The days do drag by so slowly, but the years truly do go very fast. Enjoy every moment with your children, even on the hard days.

#22: Take a road trip with your kids...it is fun! Just make sure you have lots of snacks! If you are just starting to have kids, train them while they are young to endure long road trips...it makes it easier later on. For older kids, find games to keep them busy (aka license plate game, etc). One time we paid our kids $0.01/antelope they saw to keep them busy. It was well worth the $3/kid to keep them busy watching the migrating antelope.

#23: Enjoy God's creation...take a road trip. There are so many beautiful national parks. Since we are large family, we decided that visiting National Parks was more economical and valuable then going to Disney. We couldn't see one day at the park being worth $1,000 (just to get in). Our kids have visited 41 states and have been to around 30 National Parks!! My personal favorite was Glacier National Park.

#24: Make time for what is important in life. You will not wish for more things on your death bed, but for more time with family. Make the most of your health and the time you have here on earth. Enjoy the blessings God has given you.

#25: Getting your haircut every 6 weeks is just a way to spend more money and isn't necessary. If you are "frugal" (aka cheap) like me, 2-3 times a year suffices. Also, if you embrace your age and age gracefully, you can skip dying your hair, which saves you even more money.

#26: You know sayings like, "If it rains, it pours"? I will never get those correct - I always mix them up, which leads to my family laughing at me. It's good to give people something to laugh about, embrace your weaknesses.

#27: Find good friends and spend time developing those relationships
. These are the people who will walk by you when life gets hard and who will laugh with you until you almost pee your pants. We all need friends like these in our lives. You will also find that you have different best friends from different stages of life. Really good friends are the ones that even when life gets busy and you can't see them for a long time, when you finally do get together, it is like you just saw them.

#28: Embrace your body, another one that I still struggle with. Has anyone else noticed that there are times when you don't "like" your body, but when you look back at pictures you wish you looked like you did back then? I've decided that I need to stop looking at magazines and reading about how I need to be "hot" and "fit". God has made me the way that I am, and as long as I am eating well and exercising, who cares what size I am? Also, I have to admit I'm jealous of men's metabolism. I can eat salads for weeks and lose a couple pounds, Wayne stops drinking tea for two days and loses 10 pounds. I exaggerate a little, but women, you know it is true!

#29: Speaking of health: Eat healthy and exercise, but also save room for some chocolate. Chocolate makes those hard days bearable.  

#30: Truth: I'm sorry, but those "healthy" cookie recipes don't taste as good. I lie to myself and tell myself they taste just as good, so that I eat better, but there is nothing like a real chocolate chip cookie hot out of the oven or a piece of pie made with white flour! Speaking of taste: why is it that most food that tastes good isn't good for you and food that is good for you doesn't taste as good? I love my vegetables, fruit and protein, but pizza and ice cream sure taste good too! 

#31: As good as chocolate is, the best therapy is to get out and exercise. Taking a walk can make your day better, even if it is just a short walk. I am a much better mom and wife when I exercise. It releases happy endorphins and allows me to blow off steam. 

#32: Take time to read a good book. There are some days that I sneak into my room to read a good book when I need a break from the chaos around me. If you are desperate enough, sneak a book into the bathroom and lock the door...if it works for guys, we can make it work for us too. 

#33: Learn to laugh at yourself, learn from your mistakes, and apologize when necessary. It is better to say sorry, even if you weren't in the wrong, then to lose a relationship.

#34: People aren't looking at you all the time, so stop being so self conscious. I'm preaching to myself on this one. Celebrate the beautiful, unique person God has made you.

#35: In God's kingdom, there is no such thing as a small and unimportant job. Whatever God has called you to do, caring for children or working as a banker, give it 100% since you are working for God and not man. God doesn't just use the preachers and missionaries to accomplish His work. He uses each of us, if we are willing, to accomplish His purposes. God has been teaching me to chill and be still. I don't have to be a full-time missionary overseas to be accomplishing what He wants me to do. 

#36: Laugh frequently. Laughter truly is good medicine as the Bible says. Go on Facebook and join Dry Bar Comedy now, you will thank me. Each night before we go to bed, we watch a short clip and laugh. That is a great way to end a long, hard day.

#37: Enjoy your family, even if there are days they drive you crazy!

#38: Be humble and willing to accept wise council from those who are older or wiser then you. You do not know everything!

#39: Don't compare yourself to others. As my mom said, "There are only two results, neither which is godly. You either see yourself as better and become proud, or you feel inferior and become jealous of what the other person has."

#40: Growing old is part of life and it happens all too quickly. Make the most of every day God gives you! I'm thankful for every day God has given me. I pray that my life brings God as much glory as it can. 


Classic 90s photo with DC Talk!

High school graduation photos

Graduation from Santa Rosa Jr College

Engagement photo

In January, I will have been married to Wayne half my life (our 20th anniversary is coming up).

Graduating from Sonoma State

10 years ago at my 30th birthday

40 years of being blessed beyond all my imagination with a God who loves me and a beautiful family! God is good!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Catching Up: Fall Fun and Answered Prayers

Psalm 8:3-4 "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"

The past two weeks have been full and busy. We recently visited my parents at their new place in KY. It is great for our kids to be able to experience country life. The kids helped clean out the chicken coop, catch chickens, pick up eggs, and even learned how to butcher and de-feather a chicken. I vividly remember doing these things as a kid, so I was excited to have my kids have the same experiences. The first thing we did was find rubber boots for everyone to keep at the farm. Tennis shoes do not cut it when you are playing all day out in the field and catching chickens. The kids had a blast with my parents and their cousins. 

We drove home Monday morning and spent the day doing school in the car. I love the flexibility of homeschool that allows us to take time as a family exploring new places and having adventures. I know the kids learned more at the farm with hands-on-learning, then they would in a book. The chickens worked out great because we had just learned all about birds. The kids were able to see first hand the different feathers a bird has. We also dissected parts of the chicken for them to see how the body parts function.

On Tuesday, we decided to get up early and go to Starved Rock to see the beautiful fall colors. The kids once again took some of their school work in the car to get school in. Then we spent two hours hiking (aka PE) and enjoying God's creation. 

I spent Monday and Tuesday afternoon at doctor appointments for Shan Chen in Chicago. These visits were worth the time. We found out that Shan Chen does not need surgery at this time. He does not have scoliosis (praise the Lord)!! Shen Chen was excited that God answered his prayers. He did not want surgery again and was so happy to hear that he didn't need surgery this year. Tuesday afternoon, we stopped by the zoo to capture some more Fall colors downtown. 

This photo was taken by Grace. She wants to be a photographer and she has been taking classes from a friend in CA. I love seeing her skills improving as she practices with the camera.

Abigail, Grace and Naomi had a Fall dance with their homeschool group tonight. They were excited to use the dancing skills they learned in the spring at their dance class. I cannot believe how quickly my girls are turning into beautiful young women, both inside and out!

Tomorrow we are celebrating DJ's 13th birthday. We have talking about and planning his special cake for a year. Tonight while the older girls were at the dance, I made his cake. I'm excited that I only have one more cake to make next year for Shan Chen's 13th birthday. Going to Baskin Robbins and picking out an ice cream cake is much easier. These cakes are an expression of love. I have so much respect for my friends who do this for a living...more power to you!

Last night our dear friends, who are missionaries, came and spent the night with us. We loved hearing how God has been working in their lives. They were missionaries in Brazil for many years and now are serving at the headquarters of New Tribes (Ethnos 360). The kids loved the special treat of donuts for breakfast from them. We are so thankful for so many of our friends who serve God on the mission field. It was very encouraging to catch up with them.

Thank you for all of your prayers for our family, especially lately for Shan Chen. Please continue to pray that God does work in DJ, Shan Chen and Joella's heart so that they will know Jesus as their Lord and Savior! We are so thankful for each of you!