Our family is not special, yet we are also not typical. We have a sign in our home that reads: “Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a nice, normal family.” We all find this humorous because we recognize that there is no longer such a thing as “normal” and that many people consider our family far from the norm.
We have said many times that we are an average family with not-so-average experiences. While dating, Tyce and I spent many hours discussing pacifism versus military service. It’s perhaps unusual for a Mennonite pacifist to marry an F-16 fighter pilot. (It may be important to note here that Julie no longer considers herself a pacifist. Read Romans 8:5-13 or the chapter titled “Why I’m Not a Pacifist” in C.S. Lewis’ book “The Weight of Glory” for more about that.)
When our first child was born, labor began on Good Friday at sunset, and Caleb was born on Easter morning at sunrise. Perhaps that is a little unusual. When I was pregnant with Abby, my doctor ordered strict bedrest due to previous miscarriages, Caleb’s early arrival, and preterm labor. I spent several months on bedrest while I watched others care for our 2-year-old. During this time, we also learned that Abby was not growing normally, and the possibility loomed that she may have some medical concerns. When she was born, we learned that she has Down syndrome. We were told the odds of having a child with Down syndrome were 1/1200, so that’s a little unusual.
The year we decided to begin homeschooling, I spent several months on bedrest again while pregnant with Luke, a month in the hospital prior to his arrival, and just a few weeks later, Abby had open-heart surgery. That’s even a bit more unusual.
Fast-forward through 18 years of homeschooling. Our oldest son, Caleb, has two undergraduate degrees and is about to complete a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. In addition to his studies, he has been active in various other activities and environments, having worked as a teacher’s assistant and led Bible study groups and is now newly engaged to a kind and wise woman – also named Abigail! Our daughter, Abby, has overcome the challenges of Down syndrome to become a public speaker who is confident and able to articulate her thoughts about deeper subjects. You can learn more about Abby and Down syndrome in the section of our website titled “Down syndrome and Being a Family with Unique Needs.” Our youngest son, Luke, began taking college courses as a high school sophomore, spends his summers working as a sailing instructor, and plays violin in the FWYO Philharmonic Orchestra, among other activities.
Our family enjoys spending time together. We talk about anything and everything. Our kids love each other. And to top it off, we have two adorable puppies. You may see or hear about our adventures with Chester and Jake in the near future!
We’ve navigated the education of our kids while Tyce worked as a commercial airline pilot, often away from home for several days at a time. We’ve been active in ministry at church and in other non-profit organizations. Writing lullabies, exploring musical interests, sailing, water-skiing and other such activities fit in along the way. None of these on their own are especially noteworthy, but when we mention these together, our family is often considered to be unusual. We don’t often “go along with the crowd” or engage in the most popular things in our culture. We probably haven’t seen the latest movies and may not know which football teams are currently winning or follow the latest pop artist.
While we may not be “normal,” we also aren’t particularly “special.” We abide by the words of 1 Thessalonians 4:11, which states: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands.” We go to work, buy groceries, do laundry and yard work… all the usual, normal, typical things people do. We have utilized readily available curricula and joined popular homeschooling groups or co-ops, but we also have probably never followed any particular program as the author or director intended. While we have not always employed typical methods for educating our kids or engaged in common behaviors and patterns, we have achieved certain goals that others deem to be the determining factors of success.
Success, however, is a subjective term. What defines success? In speech and debate, success could be defined according to who wins the awards. In academics in general, it could be defined according to grades earned or degree programs completed. In family life, it could be defined according to how long you’ve been married or how often you interact and how much time you spend together. In sports, it could be defined by who wins the game. Success could also be defined by what you learn when you don’t win the award. It could be defined by how you respond when you lose the game. It could be defined by how much kindness you exhibit rather than how much you accomplish.
We recognize that others choose differently than we do. Each of us – including you – are unique individuals, created by God with unique talents and skills and interests. None of us make the right choices 100% of the time. We all make mistakes. Our family may focus on certain achievements, for example, that can sometimes lead us to be less loving towards others than we might hope to be. We are continuing to learn and grow, but our hope now is that we can share what we’ve learned from both our failures and successes so you can learn from them also. Perhaps the first and most important lesson you can learn from our story is that anything we’ve done that you might consider a success has only been possible through God’s help. Any failures, well, those are all on us! We know, as the Bible says in James 1, that all good things come from God. Anything good in us is from God. Our failures, mistakes, sin – those are the result of our poor choices. Thankfully, God provides forgiveness and redemption through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ. This forgiveness is available to all, and it’s our hope that you will accept it for yourself and join us on this journey of living in God’s love.
Because we have had some successes in life, people have often asked to hear more about our experiences and how and why we made the choices we did. Because we often have limited time to explain, we hope to share a slightly more comprehensive discussion, one reason for this website and our new book, “Powered by Love.” In reality, even these are far from comprehensive, and much will be left out, but perhaps they will help to satisfy the curiosity of those wanting to learn from our experience and fill in some details where there may be questions. We pray that these will also serve to help those attempting to navigate the world of parenting, education, and discipleship. To begin learning even more about our family and how we have taught truth in our home, subscribe to our email list and you will receive our “12 Tips for Teaching Truth” as a place to begin.