Our Little Whanau Update!

This is our attempt to give friends and family a little update: especially our loved ones far away in the beautiful land of Aotearoa. We also wish you all a very merry Christmas. Enjoy some warmth, beaches, fish ’n chips, sausages and mussels for us, as we enjoy the up-coming snow, Christmas lights, turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie for y’all!

Our family has had many blessings this past year; most significantly we managed to move into our new room on the day of Beth’s 40th birthday. It was a long and difficult project, as we converted 2 small rooms into a large disjointed room. We would not and could not have got this done without the help of many close friends who possess the required skills we don’t. A big huge thank you to the unceasing motivation of David and Debbie Baumgartner who put in very long hours and were determined to get it done by Beth’s birthday. Miraculously it happened. We only moved down the 2nd floor hallway (from #239 to #226), so we are now connected to Muriwai’s room, with Cyrus right next door. What an amazing blessing and we love our new spacious place!

That happened just before our summer (June 17th). Summer was very busy, but good. We were honoured to have many people come from around the globe and the US to visit us. Most significantly; we were graced with mum flying over from NZ to endure us and the Chicago heat for 2 weeks. We were able to surprise mum with a Chicago River cruise, which was actually a gift from a formerly homeless lady who stayed at CCO. A few weeks earlier we had Beth’s brother, Ron with his family, come up from El Paso (Texas) for a couple weeks, while finally getting to meet our adorable new nephew Eli. Together, we were able to travel to Eureka to celebrate Beth’s grandma’s 90th birthday. We were also able to get out of the city both times and spend time with just our families, relaxing at the Bushnell farm away from our chaotic city lives. Bushnell is in central Illinois and is where Cornerstone music festival is held every year.

Our sweet little tamariki…..

Naturally Cyrus and Muriwai love having their parents right next door – that will probably (definitely!) change when they’re teenagers…..

The kids are enjoying life. They are the best of friends and can play together for hours, yet in many ways they are very different, so they do have their squabbles. They are both very creative, talented and love art: Muriwai is constantly drawing pictures of people, toys and things she sees, while Cyrus is always drawing finely detailed pictures that form in his imagination – each piece of his artwork tells an elaborate story while hers are often focused on family and friends. They are both very intuitive, but express themselves very differently; Cyrus keeps his bottled up and can get emotional, while Muriwai will tell us exactly what she thinks. Cyrus is a picture of thoughtful patience, while Muriwai is our little energizer bunny; go, go, go, now, now, now! We are privileged to have two wonderfully compassionate children who love the Lord, their friends, family and the hundreds of unusual strangers and acquaintances that randomly stop us to chat, hug and exchange the friendly fist-to-fist on the street. We posted a couple stories about how they are innocently colourblind and extremely compassionate children!

Cyrus is 7 and in 2nd grade: as some of you may know, he had a very difficult time at school last year. We had him diagnosed and found out that he has dyslexia, dysgraphia and resulting ADHD (which surprises anyone who knows our laid-back son). I won’t get into all the details, but dyslexia is much more than just flipping letters around. His IQ test shows how he is in a very high percentile in certain aspects, yet in a very low percentile in transferring his head knowledge to paper knowledge (processing). The “knowing yet not-knowing” creates immense frustration and restlessness (ADHD), which caused low self-esteem etc. The diagnosis showed a boy who has great matrix skills, designing capabilities and imagination. The sweet lady who tested him kept telling us we just got to get him through these “most difficult for Cyrus” formative years of school (reading, writing and math basics), because his IQ shows he has great potential to be an architect, doctor or engineer.

I hope that “sort-of” makes sense…

Fast forward to NOW: Beth has done immense of study on dyslexia, and we have made huge adjustments at home and school. Most significantly, Cyrus meets with a tutor once a week and attends special classes at school daily with Micki; who he adores. His school has been very understanding and flexible in making the necessary adjustments. He is learning, making positive steps forward and starting to understand the complexities of the English language. He still struggles, as dyslexia doesn’t leave you. But most importantly; Cyrus is happier, growing in confidence, enjoying school and loving life.

The highlight of Cyrus’ year has been; at the end of summer we got him a leopard gecko. He named her Smiley. He loves caring for her, feeding her crickets and mealworms and making charts about her daily routine of correct heat, food, water etc. He also goes to swimming every Tuesday.

Muriwai is 5 and in Kindergarten: There are not too many changes that have happened in Muriwai’s life in the past year; she loves playing with friends and is enjoying school and ballet. She is a very determined girl and overcomes any obstacle that confronts her. We all (including teachers, friends and strangers) marvel at the way she manages to do things other children her age struggle with or can’t do, like cutting around a small detailed object, opening and untying certain things and so forth.

For those who don’t know: Muriwai was born without her left hand. She no longer goes to Occupational Therapy and has grown in a lot of confidence when masses of children, teenagers and (sometimes) adults surround her asking “what happened?” wanting to touch, grab and explore her arm. She confidently, quietly and shyly replies, “God made me this way and I can do anything anyone else can do!!!”

Beth has been concentrating a lot on the educational needs of Cyrus this year. As mentioned above; this was definitely needed, Cyrus is extremely fortunate to have his mother as an advocate. She has studied dyslexia, been to classes about it, found tutoring for Cyrus and bought certain tools for us and our school. All this has been extremely beneficial for us, the school and Cyrus. For us, it’s been a revelation as to how dyslexia can affect one’s whole life.

Beth has continued to write and edit Cornerstone's newsletter, work on the CCO blog and update the CCO Facebook page. She works part-time hours because Muriwai still only goes to school until midday, but she covets people’s prayers over what her work in the not-too-distant-future will look like, as there are a number of options floating around. These options include continuing the newsletter and websites, case-management, supervising roles and certain “green” enterprises (bees, worms, fish farm etc). It is all very exciting and daunting at the same time!

This will not happen before New Years, as Beth (with Eve) organizes Christmas for the whole shelter. This is a ton of work and is very tiring; contacting donors, organizing lists, wrapping hundreds of presents and making sure every man, woman and especially the children receive gifts. Our shelter houses well over 400 people every night, we also help many past residents who struggle to afford gifts for their children and some homeless folk who live on the street who are family-less and don’t expect anything. As you can imagine, this is a massive undertaking. Christmas is one of the hardest times of the year for many homeless people, so we do our best to try and be a light in their darkness!

From years past; so many families and also single folk remember Christmas at Cornerstone; calling it one of their best ever. They remember all the gifts they would never be able to afford (especially for their kids), the food they get to eat and, most importantly, the love and sacrifice that reigns down on them through staff and volunteers. I believe they see Jesus and His message shine brightly. This happens every year because of Beth and her team's faithful dedication and untiring work. (This paragraph is Jeremy wanting the world to know how wonderful his wife is.)

Jeremy has plodded along in 2010 doing much of the “same-ol’-same-ol’”; directing some programs, case-management, outreach work, supervising employees, financial assistance, advocating and attending numerous meetings. Though the titles remain the same, the landscape is constantly changing with different faces, personalities, issues and crises. He has discovered that the important thing is to be flexible enough to ride whatever wave he finds himself on and remain calm, prayerful, patient and loving. Because of the position and the people he works with, all routines and structure are shattered, making every day similar, yet very different and somewhat challenging.

This year, Jeremy has done a lot of writing: Basically, his stories / poems focus on the relationships he has developed with his many homeless friends; he sees many injustices and tries to relate all this to his faith, love and what he reads in the Bible. He asks himself, “if Jesus was living in Uptown today, how would he respond, what would he do?” The blog started out as a little self-therapy – trying to figure out what he must do. Yet people have been encouraging him to share these stories; many people have been blessed and challenged by them and are actually sharing them with others!

These stories can be found on his Facebook page under "Notes" and on his blog "Setting Prisoners Free".

In conclusion: we will leave you with some links to some blogs and Facebook pages. 2010 has been a good year for the Nicholls whanau; we feel loved, we feel blessed, we feel supported and we love doing what we doing. Thank-you Aotearoa, thank-you TBC, thank-you JPUSA, thank-you CCO, thank-you to our families, thank-you all……

Jeremy's Facebook Notes
CCO Facebook Page
CCO blog
Jeremy's blog; Setting Prisoners Free

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