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We have a big weekend coming up: the annual Family Conference at our church in Co. Waterford. A bunch of families from different parts of Ireland and UK come together for fellowship and special topics relating to family. We’re looking forward to it a lot. Gabriel is in charge of the music throughout the weekend. I’m excited about learning from the guest speaker, John Coblentz. What helps the anticipation is knowing there is childcare provided throughout the sessions for adults. 🙂 (Do I even remember how to take notes?) So. We’re looking forward to it.

The struggle I face is this: the conference hasn’t even started, and I’m already feeling prickly. Irritated at rubbing shoulders all weekend. Sure that my buttons will be pushed in all kinds of ways. Knowing I’ll feel overwhelmed by the crowd after about two hours.

This is annoying because, folks, these are wonderful people who attend the conference, and I would like to enjoy fellowship with them. Why in the world am I feeling irritated at spending a mere two days with them? Does it mean I’m an intelligent introvert who needs lots of alone time after being in crowds? (I like that one.) Is it the devil trying to take away God’s glory from the weekend? Is it just my inherent selfishness? (Probably.)

What do you think? Are feelings like this legitimate or should they not be given consideration? I’d love to hear your thoughts, people.

Cheerio,

Jennifer

P.S. Val Yoder, the former principal of Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute, used to say that those initials actually stood for Students Molded By Irritations. Ha.

Apparently I’ve been rendered incapable of producing a cohesive piece of writing, so here are some scattered observations on New Year’s Eve.

I’m listening to Bronwyn sing to herself as she plays with Duplo, her Christmas present from us. I didn’t know they’d be such a hit, but she’s been playing steadily with them ever since we gave them to her yesterday. We won’t tell her that the set was a thrift store find. She’s perfectly happy with it, and so are we.

We’re planning to sleep the New Year in. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Hopefully the neighbors have similar plans or else are invited far away for their parties.

Gabriel and I have spent a lot of time rocking, walking, bouncing, or jiggling Gregory to sleep–only to discover that often he goes to sleep perfectly well by himself, in his cot. Now for a way to get him to bed earlier than 10:30pm. No matter how I try, it seems he just can’t settle before then. But then he sleeps until 6:00 or 7:00, so I shouldn’t complain.

We celebrated four years of married life by going to Newgrange with Gabriel’s parents and sister, who were visiting us from Ukraine at the time. Newgrange is a burial mound/religious site that is older than Stonehenge, purportedly built a few hundred years after the Great Flood. (This is a must-see if you tour Ireland.) Each year at sunrise on winter solstice (the day that is also our anniversary), the sun shines into the entrance to the mound all the way to the back of the chamber. You can enter a drawing to be one of the few hundred allowed in to see it at sunrise over the few days this happens. We put our names in for next year. As it was, the day was cloudy, but we still got to enter Newgrange on winter solstice, on our anniversary.

Our Ford Galaxy van, which we love so much and which has made our weekly trips to church and back so much easier, has had the clutch go out and needs extensive repairs. At least it didn’t totally go out until exams were over. As it was, the first time it happened was to me on an early morning trip to the airport, the day of Gabriel’s last two exams. I couldn’t get it into gear, so Gabriel got a taxi to the airport (5:00am is too early for city buses) and drove it to the mechanic in second or third gear. Sometimes it would let him shift, but other times he’d have to turn it off, put it into second, turn it back on and immediately GO.

I mentioned airport trips. Living close to a major airport in a city with no other Mennonites means we get a decent number of overnight visitors heading to or from the airport. We enjoy it. One of Gabriel’s friends thinks we should have our own parking bay at the airport — not a bad idea considering how often we go there.

This story made me laugh out loud.

Last weekend we went down to Dunmore East for Council Meeting on Thursday night in preparation for Communion Sunday night. Bronwyn’s head cold got a lot worse. It seems like whenever we leave home for a few days, she gets sick. I’m so ready for spring to take away all these sick germs.

We stayed at the guest apartment quarters connected to Dan and Barbara’s house. Barbara is giving sewing lessons to church ladies on Friday mornings, so I took my knitting over to get in on the fun. Left to right above is Linda Miller, Victoria Gregory-Smith, Rachel Patten and her daughter Marian.

L to R: Ivonna, Esther Patten, and Natalia Pylypchak.

Bronwyn is blessed with so many sweet little girls at church who play so nicely with her. This is Ruth and Grace Patten.

She started sucking her thumb (sometimes her finger) last week. It’s the cutest thing. It has also taken 99% of the fuss out of nap time. I give her a cozy blanket, she finds a finger or thumb to suck, and goes right off to sleep.

Sick, tired eyes. Poor little thing.

Ready to head out the door to church.

Today Gabriel drove to the airport to pick up our friends, Joy Mast and Lana Martin, who are coming to visit. He skipped class this morning, took the toll road to avoid traffic, paid to park in the airport car park, and stood around for an hour waiting for them to show up. Then he realized that I had read the itinerary wrong. They’re coming in tomorrow morning, not today. I guess that’s what happens when you trust your wife to be logical and intelligent. He’s informed me that I’m in his debt for pretty much the rest of our married life. I suppose I can handle that. 🙂

We spent Christmas Eve at Ken and Linda’s house. They had oodles of people over and it was so much fun. Deborah had the use of my camera that night and most of these pictures were taken by her (as you can tell, she actually knows how to use it…unlike yours truly).

I love their house. It’s been renovated from an old barn on the church property that used to be the mission’s workshop. The house is long and narrow but snug and absolutely dripping with character.

Is this not a cozy sitting room? I think Victoria has found the perfect place for reading.


So has Abigail.

The place soon started filling up with people. The Millers invited over forty people, and even though not everyone came, it was a full house.

Bronwyn loved this little rocking chair.

We were all supposed to bring appetizers…mmm.

Dani and baby Sarah.

We played a hilarious game that involved unwrapping a present and following whatever instructions were written inside. Here Jeanette is trying to draw a picture on her head.

Linda and Vadym had to work together to wrap a present using only one hand each. (And that scarf I’m wearing was knit by my 11-year-old niece, Callie.)

What warm fuzzies this is giving me…there’s something about being away from extended family over the holidays that makes me even more grateful for the bonds of this church family.

That was the title of the presentation that the three choirs of Dunmore East Christian Fellowship gave Sunday evening, December 5. Our church has a children’s choir, a men’s choir, and a youth choir. Gabriel is the conductor of the last two. Esther and Hannah Yoder did a fabulous job of organizing and conducting the children’s choir. I think the children were mildly excited that evening.

They were waiting until it was time to go on stage.

Do you think he’s wishing he could sing too? Maybe next year, Judah. (This little guy is so precious with babies…watches out for them as best he knows how. It makes it even sweeter that he’s hardly more than a baby himself.)

This is most of the men in our church. They sang two songs between the children’s choir and the youth choir.

This trio was cute. The guy in the middle did a valiant job of trying to keep them on key. L to R: William or Richard (can’t keep them straight) Pylypchak, Joshua Miller, Niall Yoder. I asked Niall later if he was nervous or just excited. “Oh, just excited,” he said. “The only thing I was nervous about was I was just hoping the Flynns would come.” (The Flynns are farmers who live near the church and are Niall’s heroes. They did come to hear the program, so Niall’s wish came true.)

L to R: Marian Patten, William Gregory-Smith, Joseph Miller, William and Richard Pylypchak.

And then the youth choir sang their songs. They’d been practicing for weeks and really, I was blown away with it all. They came a long way in those weeks of practices, and their energy and enthusiasm for the project was such a blessing to Gabriel.

Way to go, honey.

~Jennifer

Yesterday turned out to be one of those heartwarming days that you tuck away into your memory for safekeeping. It started with biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast. After that we were pretty lazy. Bronwyn found out she can stand on the couch to look out the window with Daddy’s help to balance her.

She was excited about that.

They watched the neighbor kids play in the snow.

Later that afternoon we took a drive up through the city to see what we could see. The roads weren’t bad and there was a lot less traffic, so it was an ideal day to be out. We drove around Phoenix Park for a while. It was lovely. This park is a good place to get “away” from the city (although it’s kind of a tourist trap, too). It’s huge, beautiful, and even has a herd of deer living in it.

A monument to the Duke of Wellington.

It was cold for the little baby.

Funny, this weather reminds me of South Carolina when it gets snow—people sledding down hills barely covered with snow, and grownups making snowmen.

After we left the park, we headed home straight through the city centre. We drove down along the quays all the way to the port.

On the way, we passed Heuston Train Station,

and the Dublin Eye.

Some architect had fun dreaming up this bridge …

… as well as this movie theatre.

We drove home, then.

Supper was bread (fresh out of the bread machine) and sausage vegetable soup, with this for dessert:

I don’t usually bake like this just for us. This cake was made with a fellowship meal at church in mind, but then church got cancelled, and so…we got the cake, which was a sweet ending to a happy day.

And…I don’t think we’ll be going to church today. Cozy Sunday, here we come.

The only unfortunate part is the fact that I’m up at 6:34am. Someone around here just doesn’t know how to sleep in. (I’ll let you guess whether I mean Bronwyn or her dad.)

The mission butchered hogs a few weeks ago. The church people are allowed to help in exchange for getting the meat at a reduced price. Isn’t that cool? I got a few packs of sausage and some pork fat from which I made a jar of beautiful lard. (Getting all house-wifey again!)

My baby has lots of doting “relatives” here.

This lady is the brains behind who ordered what cut of meat etc.—she keeps it all straight.

Sausage…mmm. (What’s a working day without tea?)

Even the babies had fun.

Gabriel took a dissection kit along and sawed open a hog’s head to see what he could see.

His anatomy lesson attracted quite a crowd!

We leave the apartment at about 8:15 and get into our awesome car, thanking the Lord that we no longer have to take public transportation. (Boo.)

We drive through the empty streets (Dubliners are party-goers, not early-church-goers, like Belfasters. That was for you, Lucy :P). By the way, “ramps” are speed bumps.

The dear little baby in the back seat takes her morning nap.

Every time we pass this sign, I want to go to a horse race.

We get on the M9 (Gabriel wrote about it here). This road has changed our lives so much, making our drive to church shorter by  more than an hour.

We stare at beautiful scenery.

Well, I stare at it while the handsome chauffeur performs his duties (sometimes I stare at him too):

He has super-cool-way-rad prescription sunglasses.

So do I! 😀

A typical Irish shed (barn).

Gabriel knows the farmer whose land is intersected by this part of the M9. The Irish road department built him this bridge so that he has access to all of his property. That’s not the only bridge like this on this road. Some mornings we see cows crossing them.

When we see this bridge, we know we’re getting close to Waterford, and from there it’s about thirty minutes to our church in Dunmore East.

The bus station in Waterford where we’d come last year when we took the bus back and forth. Every time I see this station, I’m thankful all over again that we don’t need to do that anymore.

The Waterford Tall Ships Race sounds verrry exciting; I so want to see it. I’m told that ships from all over the world participate.

Look closely and you’ll see the corner of Jay-bee’s, the store that the mission operates. It’s a gas station, convenience store, bakery, and bookstore. The mission also sells the outdoor furniture that it makes here.

Getting reeeally close. We get to church at about 10:15, usually. It starts at 10:30 (hee hee) and lasts until about 12:00. Then we eat lunch, and if there’s a service in the evening or choir practice in the afternoon, we stay for that. Then we head home . . .

. . . drinking in a lovely sunset on the way.

Today we went to church. A friend took this picture of us afterwards so we can put it in our church calendar at Fairhaven (our church in Ontario).

I still can’t get over how little time it takes us to get to church with a car. We leave the house at 8:15am and get to church at 10:10am. I love it!

Today I took along a hank of yarn, a pair of needles, and instructions on learning how to knit. By the time we pulled into the church yard, I had completed one whole row of stitches! And now, due to messing up somewhere, I’m back where I started. That’s okay. It’s a learning process, and at least I’m doing something constructive on the way to church (back seat driving doesn’t count).

What’s your drive to church like?

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