Saturday, December 17, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016 from US!

 Merry Christmas from Us!! 

The new  NBC TV Show, THIS is US is certainly a family drama that has gotten the world's  attention in just a few months.  I am a sucker for Hallmark movies, happy endings and seeing a family evolve from the 70's to the present is pretty cool.  I am not sure if you have joined the millions and watched an episode but there is plenty of time to binge watch it before January 10th when it returns.  Why?  Well, don't judge me but I crave  shows  about family and its dynamics,  and if I had teens in my home - I know there would be plenty of fodder for discussion at our night time devotion/prayer time.  But enough about that show- this is about "US"!    And it is kind of cool to see the 70's set and be reminded of my growing up!  

On plane, headed to Colorado!
Well, THIS is US -- My kids and my hunk of a man!  He is still cute, isn't he?   Sometimes I look at him and think, whoa -- I can't believe that 35 years ago I asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.  That would of made an episode of This is Us.   And I pray he looks at me and is thankful  that he agreed to go to Balistrarie's after that fateful basketball game!

Family time  -- that still happens,  it is just some  very treasured moments now, because they don't happen daily anymore but still often enough to make this "ma" and "mumzie"  so thankful!   Now, it  looks  like sitting around the living room after a rough week eating wings in our cramped little cottage ,  or in the family room of the cabin we enjoyed this past summer, or it could even been the banter back and forth in our family chat with our IPhones.  When one of my kids suggests a pod cast to watch and the other one mentions, " I did!" -- this 50 year old mother of 2 is on cloud nine!     Memories.   I think this past month when HP would text, "got a final today - please  pray" and I was able  to watch the rest of them reply, "done" or "I prayed" -- again, my heart would just swell up with appreciation  for Our God!   He is the perfect restorer!   We are a family -- prayerfully not to full of drama or ourselves, but full of the JOY of the Lord and  every week Brendan and I  relish the  extra  time  together when it happens!      This empty nest thing is not so bad and as your adult children grow,  become parents, and seek us as company -- it is a new normal that we are enjoying!  As the photos  display, we have enjoyed many meals together, trips to Wisconsin and Colorado, and the planning is already starting for next summer!! 

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 If you can't tell by the photo  above and the Owl, we are celebrating Hunter's graduation from FAU with a BAA in Accounting.  He begins an Internship with Grant Thornton in January and  after that -- he will be BACK at FAU taking  Master's Classes to finish the goal of being a CPA.

I actually asked him if he wanted to be a CPA and he replied, "well, that is not what I want to do the rest of my life!" He has actually considered law school,  different areas of accounting,  coming back to Okeechobee and helping with the Insurance office, but he'd really like to get into investment property where you flip businesses  and go from there -- he has plenty of time to figure it out!  He was blessed with  such a photographic mind and loves numbers so this upcoming internship will indeed help him decide what he wants to do next.  He will be working 60+ hours a week with different teams and auditing different clients.  He has been warned or told ahead of time that this sort of internship will provide several job opportunities so we will see where this leads.    We are very proud.  Yes, I posted a photo of his "magna cum laude" status but mainly I was SO impressed that ALL 4 of his names were on the program!  Hunter Edwin Lowell Pritchard!  He played Division 1 soccer his first two years at FAU and was a scholar student athlete, but the past 18 months he has been "just" an honor  student working a part-time job.  So, he finished in 3.5 years -- but as I stated he is not done.  Brendan reminds him daily to stay focused on what God is leading him to do and serve Him. 

He enjoys his soccer buddies and the friends he has made through his Scholarship Accounting Program so we don't see him too often, but that is also  because he has been working about 30 hours most weeks this past year and we entice him home for a home cooked meal and I do his laundry.   He also loves the beach and loves to add himself to pick up soccer games there and in local parks.  He also helps Team Boca still train the young soccer players.  I would LOVE to actually witness this in person  but neither Brendan nor I want to do that trek of driving during the school week ever again.    I spent a good amount of time this evening cleaning and looking through some old scrapbooks at photos of him when he was 3, 5, and so forth -- playing in the pool  or yard with Darby and Daron,  gaming with Diego, and hanging with Ben Vuleta.  And the soccer photos and the memories of Bren and he leaving town at 4:30 two maybe three nights a week to return by 10:30  where I would have a 'midnight' plate of food for both of them.   Memories!   All very sweet memories and I know he is an adult, but now,  my baby is  no longer a baby!   I guess it is pretty sweet of God to give me another baby....

At the Dog Beach one late afternoon - running the puppies!
 Speaking of trips, we did enjoy some Wisconsin time and we headed to Colorado as well.   Brendan plays in a Golf Fund raising Tournament for GNJPM.  It is a very worthwhile cause and he has made it an annual trip.  This past summer we took the kids with us.  We traveled to see my Aunt Gloria and Deb and then headed to the Springs to enjoy some time with Bren's cousin, Dean  and his wife  Linda.  We then we spent time in Buena Vista as well, as Dean and Linda graciously opened their cabin on the Arkansas River to us.   Their grandson, Wiley Skaret also has a very special project he is involved with and we were blessed to see a preview of a fundraising effort over in Colombia.  I would ask you to visit,  and consider making a donation.  Wiley's dad is our United States Ambassador to Columbia and I believe this international fundraising is certainly tremendous!   If nothing else,  please watch how our cousin, Wiley, plays the piano - he is only 14!!  I have two  nieces and nephew  that started piano lessons this past year and I was thrilled to watch them play Hot Cross Buns!  Wiley certainly has talent and I know he will play for the world one day!  Just watch -- I promise you, you won't be disappointed!

 Jake had been in the Springs as a Freshman and played for the Air Force Academy so that was one tourist spot we made time for.  We also enjoyed laughing and just being together as we explored Aspen, Black Hawk, Boulder, and Denver!   Rudy's was our favorite spot to enjoy BBQ and we had to stop here and there so Hunter could make his famous instagram/snapchat videos that had us rolling on the floor laughing.  Perhaps you follow him -- what a natural comedian!   And yes, we stalked the home of John and Lisa Bevere!   They live in Colorado Springs!  Hunter asked me, "mom what are you going to do, walk up to their house?"  I replied, "well, I don't know, if I see them getting their mail, I may just hop out and ask for an autograph!!" If you watch "THIS is US",  our  ( my ) stalking could probably make it a rather funny episode!   I must clarify -- so you don't think I need therapy.  John wrote a book Good or God and it released this year.  Brendan and I led a book study of it at our church and we did bring it with us to Colorado and we made the kids watch all six dvd's with us as well -- it is a VERY good book and a perfect study as we entered into the daily dram of the Election.  So, I just felt it would be cool to see if God would give me favor and perhaps I would see  them enjoying Rudy's one night or even out walking their dog.  LOL!   And if one of you hear this story from Brendan's point of view, don't let him fool you -- he was right there driving and suggested we explore their cul-de-sac! 

 Did I mention babies?   Taylor's dog Elsa  (Boston Terrier)  and Jake's dog Hank (Pit Bull)  ended up as  parents.  It is a very humorous  but expensive story, but 3 pups graced our family in January and it certainly was so sweet watching them grow.  The pups did not go far, Taylor and Jake kept one, Mickey.  One went to a friend from school so Nala is close for photo ops and one. Moose,  went to Jake's brother and the family sees their brother LOTS!

My daughter and my sisters!
Taylor and Jake officially got married back in September of 2015 but we celebrated in February of 2016 when family could join us.   Yep, we had a 2nd ceremony!   It was a beautiful day and God gets the glory!  It gave us the chance to get some photos done, entertain friends and family, and we also celebrated a birthday -- I was 50 over that weekend and Brendan turned 50 later in summer.   A milestone!  50 brings new challenges but we are loving this new number.  Often we realize we are the 'oldest' here or there and love each time someone says, "really, you are 50? I thought you were about 45!"  

Taylor and Jake both teach.  They are in the process of buying a home as they live in Ft. Pierce.  Jake teaches at a K-8 school  where he is an ESE inclusion teacher and Taylor is teaching 4th graders  at Central Elementary School in Okeechobee where she graced the halls some 15 years before!  Both continue to enjoy working out, watching movies, and hanging with their friends as well.  They also teach/lead Children's Church every 3rd Sunday at their church home which they love.   And, they are parents of more than just some crazy dogs! 

Several months ago, we all were blessed to meet  Ava Lynne.  She has indeed changed things up a bit!   In September, Brendan and I were able to meet and hold our little bonus grand baby!   You can't hold her too much, she began to walk by the second weekend we got to hang with her!  Ava celebrated her 1st birthday this past November.  Taylor gets to be a bonus mom and Jake is a wonderful, wonderful  daddy.   With God's mercy and grace,  we continue to pray that they will have her a little more than every other weekend but we know God is good!  In the past 3 months we have fallen in love with her -- and stop and think about how blessed we are to have her in our lives and how empty it would be without her.  Yes, there are challenges and difficulties when you share custody, but we believe God is bringing light  to all involved, and beauty out of this  new relationship  among all parents and grandparents involved and I am so excited to watch our  little Sweet Pea grow!   Both Taylor and Jake have their eyes wide open to what God wants them to do and how to handle this new normal, but His mercies are new every morning and she is certainly a gift.  When you think of Jake and Taylor,  I would ask that you say a prayer as all parents with toddlers need prayer!    It is funny, but she reminds me SO much of Taylor as a toddler!   Funny or is this God's favor? !  She is very animated and knows  how to get what she wants.   Currently she is cutting teeth -- molars and wants to chew everything she can - including my finger last weekend! 

 Brendan and I are enjoying our 29th year of teaching.  Brendan will retire after the next year.  30 is where he is going to  stop.  He still spends his afternoons marketing and working at the Insurance Office  as that is one of his passions.  We still have the Harley and we don't ride as often cause it is housed in storage,  but we still get it out and enjoy a trip for breakfast or an drive to see the lights!  He loves to read and college football is indeed the highlight of the week!  He checks in with the kids each day as he loves to hear what is going on and he is usually the one planning the get togethers  and trying to figure out how he can have more "Ava " time!

The 'original' US!
  Me -- I am teaching  at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School and this year I am part of a team where I am doing the writing instruction and history for 30 students!  I adore  the people I work with  and enjoy my job tremendously.  It is a new experience each day,  I have never worked harder from 8-3pm, but as I drive home the "hardness" is forgotten and I can enjoy the benefits of being a teacher.  It is a ministry mission now - teaching that is, whether you are in a public or private school.  But I get to share my love of God when He orchestrates is.  I am  truly blessed.   And this past May I convinced my dear pal, Rachel, to join us out there as she took a 4th grade  teaching spot.  It has been great fun car pooling and catching up on almost 6 years of not being 'neighbors'  each day!  We talk about everything from the children, our children, who were suppose to be married to each other (Darby and Hunter) to how to get the kids to use their Elizabeth Beck Vocabulary in their expository writings.   In my free time, I watch TV.  No -- I do other things too.  LOL!

We both are pretty active in our church home and enjoy being used of God and try our best to serve as He calls and leads.  We see HOW God continues to show favor and we consider our lives and our marriage  a miracle so we do approach the opportunity to pray for a couple or help another  believe that God does the impossible ---a task that He has prepared us for! A task He has anointed us to do!   God wins!   We do hope and pray that others see Jesus in us.  We  believe that no matter what the enemy may have one person thinking, we are going to stand and believe on God's promises and trust HIM to remain fighting for us.  Exodus 14.14 says that.  And if you have never read the book of Hosea, we believe that God will do whatever it takes to get the attention of His lost children.  Both Bren and I realize that time is short but God is able!  

God certainly is a God of second chances. 

A highlight of my year was flying to St. Louis with 3 really cool " sista chicks " and meeting another set of 3 really cool " sister chicks!"   My Wisconsin family joined my church family  and they "met us in St. Louis".  What a weekend!   I have to say, to see 24K women and a few men all praising God and  worshiping Him.   Tremendous!  Holy.  Breath taking!  God was speaking and ministering to EACH person  in that America's Dome.  It was a Joyce Meyer conference which ministered to me specifically.   It felt like God orchestrated the weekend just for me.  And I know each person there felt the same way if they allowed God in.  God is so stinkin sweet!  There were friendships fostered that  weekend that will remain forever special.   And God did a work in everyone's heart and head.  God won!  People changed.  I changed.  The weekend ended with an incredible anointing of peace -- that has not left me! It was a Jesus high that has not left me.  Prayerfully, I am going back next September!  So, if you are interested in meeting me in St. Louis - please contact me!! 

So, as I wrap this up  -- I will extend a warm welcome to  "hot" Florida. If you visit, NO, we still don't have a home -- living life in a cottage still -- but we are working on getting that house and we are VERY close.   Building soon or buying -- just waiting on God to show us directly WHAT He is going to do.   Brendan and I pray daily, hourly, for God to move in this area as we want a home!   However, Brendan and I can meet you anywhere if you want to visit  - we drive!   And I will call my sister - she has a guest house!!   ( Well, ok, a guest room - she won't mind!)

 Speaking of my family -- Jeanette and  her hubby still live here in Okeechobee.  My niece, Cali has a beautiful 3 year old and Jeanette and Craig were blessed with  another  new grand baby - a girl!  Jordyn is a daddy!   Daryl and Tiffany's oldest is well into nursing school  and they still have 2  football players at home!  Aaron and Laurie's oldest got married to a beautiful girl , Cora Rose, and he is still a Marine and they live in California.  My brother Nathan and his wife added their 4th son this year!  Chase is not the youngest nephew for now!  Oh wait, I believe he turned one  this past week!   His oldest is now a 5th grader and pen pals with my class!  Trevor and Marcie added a new dog to their family - well, maybe that was last year.  What he did add was a lake home so now we have a COOL spot for the 4th of July!    Chris and Kristi still have 4 but they are all growing so fast. All are very involved with sports and busy busy busy!   Diandra  ( aka, Dee) and Brad added a BRACE to their family.  Their 3 kids continue to grow and excel in sports and music  but she took a bad fall, while trying to run the dog on her bike,  and tore the ACL, MCL, or the PCL,  Patella Tendon, and flipped the mencius as well as chipped something.   I may of gotten the details mixed up but she did a number!!  Say a prayer for her if you will -- thanks!  She is 2 months since surgery and will have a 2nd surgery to fix the ACL in 3-4 months.  It gave me the chance to make a trip home in early November and I was able to enjoy the FALL colors and some fall weather as Florida still thinks it is summer!!

 My folks are good and well.  Dad added a new shed this year to their place.  My Mom still graces Wally World and I know touches many with her beautiful smile and words of wisdom.    Opps, I forgot the baby -- how could I?   Britty and her husband had their 3rd little girl right before the year ended and she recently turned one as well.  They live in Nebraska!   I think I need to make a visit there in 2017!  The youngest is  Rileigh Jennifer .  Wow -- that accounts for all  8 of my siblings.  

Merry Christmas from the Pritchards and the Padricks!
Brendan's folks are well, his dad added a new shed as well!  Quenten and Janette are still teaching and their two girls are now in 7th grade and Kindergarten!  And Brendan's sister, Becky and Carl  are good -- adding in some new construction to their home.  Becky has 4 girls - we are excited as  one of them, Jaiden  and her husband,  moved back to Florida a few months ago, she is stationed with the Coast Guard and it is nice to have her closer and their new daughter just turned one on the 17th!   Could you imagine the party when HP gets married?  There could be 4 little cousins all dancing on the dance floor -- like Alec was at Taylor's celebration.   ( Chase, Rileigh, Brinlee, and Ava!) He, Alec,  was a hit!   But, that is putting the cart before the horse - HP assures me he is not thinking about marriage anytime soon. LOL   ( Little does he know his mother has been praying for this gal since he was born -- God certainly brought the right help meet for our daughter so I am confident that He will answer our prayer for Hunter in His timing!)

Speaking about prayer -- it works.  It is a daily thing and that relationship with God, we pray it is so close to your heart and so much of your world and life that you have no fear and cast out the enemy whenever needed and proclaim victory and then live and walk in that victory.  God did not create you for mediocrity -- but breathed life in you to live abundantly!   May you be emptied of self and be filled with His Holy Spirit and walk with the Comforter continually! In Jesus' powerful name -- amen! 

From our cottage to your home -- we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.  May Jesus be the reason to celebrate and may He be so close to you there is NO FEAR!

 I think that about wraps up this Christmas letter or as my pal David Evans say, "Michelle's Epistles".  We will be celebrating Christmas with friends and family this week and I will continue to keep the a/c set at 68 degrees so I can pretend it is Christmas outside.  I will probably change my screen saver to the photo my brother sent me today with about 5 inches of snow on his truck!!   My Wisconsin family is missed -- but all family and friends are very close in heart.  Praise God for Facetime! 

If you have asked Brendan or myself to pray for you -- please know - we do. 
If you need prayer, don't hesitate to ask! 

Merry Christmas - with all my love, Michelle 
May this holiday not wear you out -- may it be filled with JOY!

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