Thursday, February 9, 2012

Family Letter 2011



Dear Loved Ones,        

We pray that this letter finds you rejoicing in the blessings and provision of God in your lives! He is so gracious to all, and His loving care and wisdom have been clearly abundant to us throughout 2011.
As you read this letter, be reminded of the greatness of God, the Giver of all good gifts! I (Grace) enjoy sharing the family highlights from each year, and I hope you enjoy reading them!
We are so thankful that we have been able to continue ministering in many ways, whether it’s traveling around the country, fellowshipping with others, learning life lessons, sharing in music, or striving to be a blessing to others. While we can’t share everything that’s happened this year, hopefully these highlights will give a quick glance! If you want to see more, be sure to look up our blog - www.mieczkowskis.blogspot.com - where we have posted thousands of pictures, videos and stories about the events that have happened at home and on the road for the past 3 years.

This past year, we revisited a church plant in the Grand Rapids area to share in music and testimony. We also continued our yearly tradition of vacationing at “The Barn”, our grandparents’ cottage in Upstate New York. The five oldest children and Dad attended the Student Statesmanship Institute (ssi-online.org) for the third time, gaining hands-on knowledge about our government systems. The eight oldest attended the Orion Chamber Music Society String Camp in August, and spent a week practicing and attending classes, and having a lot of fun! We were excited to host our friends the Palazzolos both in February (their visit was a complete surprise to us children!) and August. In March, Dad and the boys attended the Family Economics Conference in NC, learning many practical tips on having an entrepreneurial mindset as a family. If you’d like to see pictures from any of these events, just head over to the blog!
Most recently, we were on the road to the National Bible Bee (biblebee.org). Seven of us participated in the summer program, memorizing up to 800 Bible verses and studying the book of 1 Peter. We learned many lessons of diligence, depending on God, steadfastness through difficulty, and perseverance as studying at times was challenging. We learned many principles from God’s Word that have impacted and will continue to impact our hearts.
The summer Bible Bee study culminated in the Local Bible Bee, held at our church August 27. The event was a blessing to the many families that attended. A few days after the Local Bee, we learned that both Melody and I had qualified for the National Competition in the top 100 for our age category. We were assigned the book of 2 Peter for inductive study, getting familiar with the content, cross-references and key Greek words of the book, while learning 300 additional verses.
The 2011 National Bible Bee and Family Discipleship Celebration in Nashville was a huge blessing to our family as we participated in workshops, heard preaching sessions, and most of all, lifted up the Word of God with hundreds of other families. While neither Melody nor I made it to Semi-Finals, we were spurred on to a greater love for God’s Word through getting to know portions so well, and we look forward to how the Lord will use His Word.
After the Bible Bee, we went to visit our dear friends the Palazzolos in Alabama, packing a few days with music and fun. A couple of other families were visiting at the same time, so with 32 people in the house, there was never a lifeless second!
In January, our church hosted the first biennial Truth Conference (truthconference.org). The emphasis on staying faithful to the truth of God’s Word and prioritizing holiness was a refreshing challenge. Check out the website for recordings of this year’s sessions, and mark your calendars for the 2013 Truth Conference January 4-5.
This past year, Dad and Mom took two trips, celebrating their 20th (though belated from 2010) and 21st anniversaries. They are becoming experts in Michigan Bed and Breakfast locations! Dad continues his employment with Versata as he works with Ford dealers to maintain their websites. He also looks forward to helping several of the children with entrepreneurial ventures, and branching out as a family with new adventures, broadening our vocational and practical experience. Mom is our menu planner, list writer, “bus” driver, joke cracker, bargain finder, and a whole lot more! We were saddened to find out that the little one that Mom was expecting during the beginning of the year went to be with the Lord in April. Though we aren’t sure if the baby was a boy or a girl, what we do know now is that he or she is in heaven with fully “grown-up” comprehension, praising our glorious God. We named the baby Peace.

Jonathan’s schedule this year has expanded to include weekly trips to Lansing, where he interns in the office of State Senator Mike Green. He has made many connections and learned important lessons, and he has had several neat experiences such as having his picture taken with the Senator and Governor Snyder, and being on the Senate floor during legislative sessions. Another opportunity that the Lord has brought Jon’s way is to take over the home remodel/repair business that Dad started in 2009, which has provided him with the necessary income for his college expenses (and car repairs!). Jon continues to test out of college-level classes, and plans to enroll in Thomas Edison State College as a Junior in 2012.

I have stayed busy this year! In March I presented my Senior Recital, fully enjoying the occasion to share what I’ve learned over many years of music lessons, as well as to play music with family and friends. A month later, I had the amazing opportunity to solo with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra! God abundantly blessed when I won the RSO’s Young Artist Competition early in the year, and the whole experience of preparing for the performance with my beloved teacher Rebecca Mayer, having a beautiful dress custom-made by a dear friend from church, and the actual night of the performance (playing Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1) was a whirlwind-like blast I’ll never forget! As I move on to the goal that God has placed in my immediate future - music teaching - I was excited to attend Suzuki Teacher Training this summer, learning a wealth of information on teaching beginning musicians. Between studying for the Bible Bee and switching to new music teachers this fall, I tackled the project of making matching jumpers for all of us girls and Mom. Check out the finished product in the above family picture!

Melody is busily working on her schoolwork, since Bible Bee study inevitably took priority! She is also diligently progressing in her cello studies, having the opportunity to take lessons from Tony Elliott at the University of Michigan - she comes home from every lesson with an abundance of good practice ideas and ways to make music flow from her heart more effectively. Melody and I competed in the Birmingham-Bloomfield Symphony Orchestra Competition and both received Honorable Mention. Melody was runner-up in the Louis Potter Cello Competition, and used the award toward the purchase of her new cello, which has made a big difference in her technique and sound! Melody and I were agents in the Student Statesmanship Institute’s Ambassador League this year, completing assignments as diverse as writing biblical word studies to volunteering for a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Melody received the John Quincy Adams award and scholarship for completing all 36 assignments.

A new adventure for Joseph has been bow hunting! Grandpa Mieczkowski bought him a compound bow, and Joe has been out hunting a few times (he’s seen a few deer, but out of range). Joseph also has been very diligent in his Bible study, recently switching to the English Standard Version (a fellow ESV user!), and it is a joy to see his caring spirit. Joe also enjoys stamp collecting, hatchet throwing, bicycle riding and gardening (he is browsing seed catalogs for next year!). His violin playing is a valuable addition to our church orchestra and the Orion Chamber Music Society. Joseph is a great assistance to Dad, helping with maintenance around the house. 

Anna is a great blessing to our family in so many ways, whether it is her “lunch prep” duty (she’s cooking as I write!), her role as “chief vacuum operator extraordinaire”, her quest for musical excellence, or her cheerful encouragement for all around her. Early this year, Anna was extremely excited to purchase her very first lever harp after saving since 2007! She is making good progress as she takes from her wonderful teacher Kerstin Allvin. Anna and I also take from a new violin teacher – Kimberley Kennedy, the acting concertmaster of the Detroit Symphony. We are grateful for Mrs. Kennedy’s commitment to excellence and her passion for sharing music from the heart to give God glory. Anna has also grown in poetry writing, and presented several beautiful and meaningful poems to her loved ones this year.

Caleb launched a new entrepreneurial venture this year! As owner and chief operator of Garden Whimsies, he provides quality garden decorations at an affordable price to dozens of satisfied customers. He has sold his wares at the flea market, a local garage sale, and here at home when unsuspecting friends visit. Along with Joseph and Lydia, Caleb is taking violin lessons from our former teacher Mrs. Hsiu-Hsiang Yang in Ann Arbor. Both Joseph and Caleb took a Hunter’s Safety class, and Caleb followed in his older brother’s steps by purchasing a compound bow!

Lydia has definitely graduated from the rank of “older little girl” to “younger older girl”! In fact, she has been admitted to that close inner society of Sharing the Older Sisters’ Clothes, a privilege that every “little girl” longs for their entire young life. Lydia is a big assistance in many practical ways, as she heads up the folding brigade, makes countless sack lunches, and is the creative genius behind most of the three little girls’ activities. Lydia is the proud possessor of a new violin, on which she is making excellent progress….believe it or not, Melody, Anna, Lydia and I all have new string instruments as of this past year! We are so thankful for God’s provision as we continue to enjoy the gift of music.

The year 2011 was a big one for Mary, because she attended String Camp for the very first time! She is continuing to progress on her cello under Melody’s direction, and benefited greatly from her inaugural orchestra experience at String Camp. Mary’s interests include crocheting and cross-stitching; she and Lydia have started a business: “M and L Needlework Creations - Producing beautiful designs to fit your order.” Mary is a very creative young lady, and a great blessing to our family.

Julia, along with the rest of us girls, has been blessed with the addition of carpet in our “new girls’ room” in March - we’re all thankful for the added comfort! Julia followed her older sisters and started her own needlework business: “J’s Crocheting - Anything to suit your fancy”. Julia is a very loyal young lady, and an enthusiastic “hugger”, (she’s also had a pretty toothless grin this past year), and her magnetic personality is lots of fun to be around!

Rebecca flits about the house as our burst of sunshine. She is currently learning how to read, and will start making up a story if she runs into a word that she doesn’t know! Rebecca has started violin lessons (I love teaching her!) and she also tags along on Mondays to Ann Arbor for our string lessons (maybe it will be an inspiration!). As she strives to keep up with many siblings, it is sweet when she asks questions way beyond a four-year-old!

We are grateful to have both sets of grandparents in the area as we praise God for the gift that they are to  us and those around them. Grandpa and Grandma Mieczkowski are enjoying their new granddaughter, our cousin Lexie Luella! We are rejoicing with Brian, Sheryl, Bella and Miley on their precious new addition. There was a lot of celebration going on this year as it marked Grandpa and Grandma Birchard’s 50th Anniversary! It was very special to plan the celebration with Gordon, Janelle, Danielle, Josiah and Gideon as a way to honor the faithfulness of our parents/grandparents over the past 50 years.

As 2011 comes to a close, we encourage you to consider several questions that the world has tried to answer, but can only be fully understood through the Bible. Please read this wonderful message which explains how these questions can be answered in light of God’s Word - the best way to start 2012. We would count it a privilege to share more with you on this topic - if you have received the wonderful gift God has offered, please share the Good News with others!

Thank you for the special place you have in our lives!

God’s blessings in 2012!
With love,
The Mieczkowski Family

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