For the last couple years, we have been putting our family letter on the blog
after our hard copy mailing (over 450 letters this year!)
There are two screenshots of our letter in print layout, and beneath is the text,
with hyperlinks to various blog posts of the events from the last year.
Dear Loved Ones, December 2013
We hope you have had a blessed year in 2013! We pray that all is going well in each of your lives - God's steadfast love never ceases! He continues to shower blessings on all of us, even though we don't deserve it.
A recurring theme of this year was thankfulness for the gift of God’s Word. Our family was blessed to participate in the 5th year of the National Bible Bee, memorizing around 60 verses and studying the book of 1st John during the months of June, July, and August. The summer participation is very manageable for any family, and a great encouragement to learn from the Word together and hide it in our hearts. Please head on over and check out the Bible Bee at www.biblebee.org!
Anna was grateful to make it to the National level of the Bible Bee this year, and we had a wonderful time of celebration November 20-23 in Sevierville, TN. We were able to catch up with friends from previous years, as well as make many new friends from around the country! We were especially excited when our friend Lucy Alessio placed 2nd in the Senior Division. But the biggest prize of all for everyone involved was and is the gift of God’s Word, hidden in our hearts and then applied to our lives.
Besides the trip to Sevierville, we have been privileged to travel a few other times this year as a family. On the way home from the Bible Bee, we visited our friends the Beachells near Raleigh, NC (Laurie Beachell was Melody’s voice teacher when they lived in MI). Back in June, we took a trip to Grand Rapids to play music at a retirement center and Westside Baptist Church, as well as to celebrate our cousin Maddie’s one-year anniversary of the bone marrow transplant that caused her to be leukemia-free! July held a new experience for us - we attended the Sforzando String Camp in the Chicago area, and greatly enjoyed the good teaching and fellowship there. Our annual trip to “The Barn” (our grandparents’ cottage in Upstate New York) occurred at the beginning of August. In September, we went to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to visit our friends the Beckmans and to do some sightseeing. The trip was slightly more eventful than we had planned, since our 15-passenger van developed transmission problems on the way up, and had to be repaired in Canada, therefore prolonging the trip by a few days. Thankfully, the repairs and trip home went smoothly, and we have many great memories of visiting and sightseeing in the beautiful UP!
Once again, I (Grace) helped direct the Orion Chamber Music Society String Camp this year, and we were excited to have a record attendance of about 100 students! The brochure for the 2014 String Camp (July 14-18) will be posted on our blog once the date gets closer. This year was bittersweet in many ways as we said goodbye to several dear friends and extended family members. Although we grieve, we do not do so as those who have no hope, since we know that those who have trusted in Christ will spend eternity in heaven with God.
Jonathan continues to work four days a week as a legislative aide for Michigan Representative Tom McMillin. He has enjoyed working directly with many constituents, as well as continuing to make connections and learn from those who have walked the road that he’s on. On Fridays, Jonathan works in our family side business, Heritage Building Services, doing home remodeling and repairs. He often has Joseph and Caleb as co-workers!
I (Grace) continue to teach piano and violin lessons (the Lord has blessed with almost 40 students!). As part of teaching, I enjoyed having my students play recitals in May and November and minister at a nursing home in December. Another project from this year was running the Elementary Fine Arts Festival for the Michigan Association of Christian Schools in March. This event is a great opportunity for elementary students to receive feedback on their music, speech and art in a non-competitive setting, and I’m excited for the 2014 festival on February 28! One other project that I was able to accomplish this year was the making of 9 Roman shades for the large south-facing windows in our dining room. Check out the blog for pictures of the whole process!
Melody is the newest driver in the Mieczkowski household; she obtained her permit in July and is currently practicing her driving skills with Dad. Along with the rest of the girls, Melody enjoyed going to a conference in August by the Bright Lights ministry (www.brightlights.info), which covered important topics such as Radiant Purity, Guarding Your Heart, and Emotional Purity. Melody continues to take cello lessons from Anthony Elliott at the University of Michigan and teaches several students. Melody and I attended training courses at the Chicago Suzuki Institute this summer, which were incredibly practical and helpful as we continue to strive for excellence in our music teaching. Melody has started to study the field of herbal remedies extensively this year, and recently received her Family Herbalist certificate.
Once again, Joseph spearheaded the family garden this year, as we tried a new method - called Back to Eden (www.backtoedenfilm.com) - that involved layering paper (to block the weeds), manure (to fertilize) and woodchips (to equalize moisture as well as to block the weeds) onto the garden surface. By all indications, the method was very successful; we only had to weed a couple of times throughout the summer, (and quite minimally at that!) and the moisture stayed so even that the ground was never too saturated, and we barely had to water at all! Joseph also continues to work with engines; repairing snowmobiles (both to sell and to use ourselves), our two four-wheelers (which are used extensively around the property for wood-cutting and other purposes), and the family truck.
Anna has had quite an eventful year! Besides qualifying for Bible Bee Nationals, Anna was privileged to perform a violin solo in May with the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra as a result of winning their Youth Artist’s Solo Competition. Anna continues to make excellent progress on her harp; she has played at several events this year, and looks to expand her playing for weddings, banquets, nursing homes, and many other special events (visit her website at www.clarityharp.weebly.com). Anna took on her first harp student this year, and has enjoyed learning through that opportunity as well.
Between his bow and its accessories, special gear and clothing, and a game camera that tracks the wildlife with pictures and videos, Caleb is getting to be quite the strategic hunter - we are all anticipating his first conquest soon! Caleb and Joseph continue to work once a week at a friend’s farm, and are learning many valuable skills while working with animals and property maintenance. He also made and sold 2 harp carts this year in his business Carts by Caleb.
Lydia has taken over most of the work with our family blog (www.mieczkowskis.blogspot.com), writing posts and taking pictures of family events and special memories (she’s getting pretty good with a camera, I might add!). Lydia attended the Student Statesmanship Institute (held in Lansing, MI) for the first time this year, and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the Christian worldview, our country’s political system, and our civic involvement. You can often find her crocheting lovely hats and other accessories - she does take custom orders! Lydia joined Anna in taking violin from Kim Kennedy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this year, and is enjoying her excellent instruction!
Mary is growing quickly - as evidenced by the fact that she got a new cello for the second year in a row! She joined the church orchestra this year, and is progressing rapidly with Melody as her teacher. Mary also participated in Elementary MACS on both piano and cello. Though Mary has now lost all of her baby teeth, she managed to lose her last baby tooth on the same day that both Julia and Rebecca lost teeth!
Julia loves to play music - both piano and violin - and has joined in quite a few musical opportunities this year: our family’s Bible Bee fundraiser concert, Sforzando String Camp, and a concert that we played with our friends in the Upper Peninsula. Julia and Mary have been very creative recently, making colored duct tape flower pens and pencils. The younger girls continue to crochet quite a bit (and have sold some of their handmade products) and enjoy finding fun patterns and yarns to work with. Julia was recently talking about porpoises, and was sure they were “pure poseys”!
This summer, Rebecca finished reading through the Bible for the first time; she can often be found with her nose in a book, and it can be quite a task to get her attention when this is the case! Rebecca continues to enjoy playing music, and is progressing well on both piano and violin. She says she likes her eggs “Sunday” side up, and is grateful for God being the “Great Fizzican” (Physician!).
Mom and Dad celebrated their 23rd anniversy this year, and are already planning for their 25th! As Rebecca has said, “You’re a cute couple, and you have cute children!”
God has blessed us with both sets of grandparents within an hour’s distance. Grandpa and Grandma Mieczkowski come over regularly, and we enjoy their involvement in all sorts of projects, whether crafts or bow hunting or taking care of things on the property. Both Grandpa and Grandma Birchard celebrated their 75th birthdays this year, and we praise the Lord for the many years of service He has given them! Our cousins on both sides keep busy with many activities, and we enjoy the time we spend together.
Thank you for the special place you have in our lives! God’s blessings in 2014!
The Mieczkowski Family