It's hard to believe that 2006 is on the verge of being over!
Our family began the year with me convalescing after spending 7 weeks on bedrest and a mirage of medications because of two protruding discs at the bottom of my back. Just before Christmas the orthopedic surgeon informed me that because I had followed every instruction given to me (and because the Lord touched me!!) I would not need back surgery! It was still several months before I felt completely well, but have been 100% free from pain since the spring! I never, never want to have to go through something like that again!
Once I was feeling up to it, our family began to do some traveling and ministering again. In May we did something new ... we packed up some sound equipment and FLEW to beautiful British Columbia to do some concerts. What a time! God's favour just completely surrounded us the entire time! We did 7 concerts in two weeks, visited several friends and some relatives, and covered about 2600 km in our rental vehicle! We then flew to Winnipeg, Manitoba where our good friend, Mark Shaw, met us with our tour bus. He had driven the bus from Ontario, then handed it over to us and flew home. We spent the next five weeks traveling Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in our bus doing concerts. We also had the opportunity to spend some time with some friends and relatives on that part of the journey as well ... making good memories! The highlight of the trip was when my mom and dad met us in Red Deer, Alberta for the Canadian Gospel Music Fan Festival. We were able to spend about 3 1/2 days with them introducing them to lots of our friends and enjoying the great singing! Andrew joined some friends on the main stage on Thursday night and brought the crowd to it's feet! Following the convention we said good-bye to my parents and headed towards Ontario. We did a few concerts on the way. We spent the end of July and August doing concerts close to home so our kids could have the chance to spend some of the summer with their friends.
MacKenzie and Savannah had their first opportunity to go to camp! They spent a whole week in August at Joy Bible Camp with several of their friends and had a wonderful time! They made lots of memories which they still talk about nearly every day!
At the end of August MacKenzie and Savannah both entered a local contest hosted by Mode-Elle Model and Talent Agency. Each of the nearly 100 contestants had the opportunity to meet with top Model scouts from Velocci in Toronto, answer a few questions and be critiqued. What a joy when they announced the winner in the 12 and over category ... "MacKenzie Martin"! We were still wiping away tears when they announced the winner in the 4 - 11 category ... "Savannah Martin"! It's the first time in 16 years of having this competition that siblings have won! The girls each won a $100 gift certificate to the mall and then a free photoshoot with a top Toronto photographer, Richard Sibbald. In October the girls began a course at Mode-Elle called "Professional Modelling, Acting, Image and Self-Enhancement" which is Tuesday evenings until February. At the end of October they each auditioned and were accepted, with only 250 top models and talents in Canada, to meet with over 50 of the world's top agents at the Canadian Model and Talent Convention (CMTC) in Toronto in May. They have begun to take CMTC preparation courses on Friday evenings. They had their first photoshoot in October complete with wardrobe, hair and make-up and huge lights and big cameras! The prints just came in last week and we were shocked at how each photograph captured so much beauty! Their portfolios have begun!
On September 3rd, Andrew and I were just finishing watching a movie when we received a phone call from our local police department asking if we were the owners of the bus parked on the edge of town. It was engulfed in flames. After several weeks of investigations, it was discovered that the fire started because of some faulty wires in the bulkhead running between the floor of the bus and the top of the luggage bays. The fire followed the paths of the heating ducts, engulfed the couch and then the curtains on the passenger side and then just surged through to the back of the bus. Almost everything was consumed. Thank God for insurance! We got a fair settlement, but decided not to buy another bus. We purchased a beautiful, top of the line Savanna Van with an Explorer conversion. The van is very, very comfortable and has been a joy to drive! We are presently hoping to buy a cargo trailer so we can haul our sound equipment behind the van.
Homeschooling continues to be a joy for our family! MacKenzie is in grade 8 this year and Savannah in grade 6. We continue to use a menagerie of curriculum. Last year, because I was unable to do much of anything with my back situation, the girls learned a lot about self-discipline and independent learning. It's been nice this year to be able to supervise the independent learning, but also to be able to be more involved again. They both continue to excel in every subject.
This fall we have continued to travel and minister in Ontario as well as one trip to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and then another trip back to New Brunswick. It's been a few years since we've had the opportunity to be on the East Coast and we had almost forgotten how wonderful the people are and Andrew had almost forgotten how wonderful fresh seafood tastes!
Over this year, our concerts have evolved even more into not only excellent singing, but real heart-felt sharing. We've added some new aspects to our concerts including a question and answer time with the audience which has been soooo well received! We continue to see God moving each time He opens a door. What a joy to hear how music can change a person's outlook on a situation or how God uses our testimonies to give others hope! This month we are busy doing a bunch of Christmas concerts and 2007 is already filling quickly. By the looks of things already, we'll have the opportunity to again travel coast to coast next year.
I must mention our families. Both sets of parents continue to be well for which we are very thankful. My dad had the opportunity to have laser eye surgery in February and has been able to see things this year that he hasn't seen since he was a little boy! Thank God for medical advances that make things like this possible!
My sister and her husband are in Iowa and we haven't had the opportunity to spend time with them, but Char and I often chat on the phone. More recently when I call, the phone picks up and I hear "Hello, Bicki!" Our niece, Alandria, is now 2 1/2 and although she was born 12 weeks premature, she has caught up to, and I'm sure passed, other kids her age! What a joy to hear her chatting away on the other end of the phone! She loves to sing, so maybe she'll take after her Uncle Drew!
Andrew's sister, her husband and their kids live close to us in Ontario, but because of our schedule it's been hard to spend time with them. Our neice, Michaela,is almost 8 and our nephew, Brandon, is 6. Whenever we get together they surround us with warm hugs! We made a priority of spending Thanksgiving weekend together with Andrew's parents, his Gramma and his sister and her family. We all went to the family cottage and spent the weekend playing games, watching movies and enjoying Andrew's sister's cooking! We all bring a bit to the Thanksgiving Dinner, but Lisa does the majority of the work and we all appreciate it sooo much! The leftovers were just about as good as the original meal!
Andrew's maternal grandparents just celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary last month! In a world where people give up on relationships so easily, we have been blessed to have been surrounded by marriages that are examples of enduring love.
My parents will fly in to spend a week at Christmas with us so we are looking forward to that! We will also be able to spend time with Andrew's entire family which is always a joy!
Andrew and I will leave MacKenzie and Savannah with their Auntie Lisa and we'll fly out to Spruce Grove, Alberta to sing in the New Year with Freedom and High Valley. Should be lots of fun!
Our wish for you this Christmas is that you would remember the reason for the season ... our Saviour was born ... and that you would have the opporunity to celebrate with those you love!
From our family to yours ... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
With much love,
Andrew, Vicki, MacKenzie and Savannah Martin