The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
My name is Melissa Bennett, but please call me Missy. "Melissa" is reserved for job applications and those times when I am seriously in trouble with my mom. I have lived in Rozetta for nearly ten years, which is handy since my husband Jim lives there. (He is the pastor of Rozetta Baptist Church).
Many years ago, I was Missy Dutton, the oldest child of David and Linda Dutton, from rural Alexis, Illinois. I spent the entirety of my educational career in Alexis public schools, which sounds very cosmopolitan, but I actually grew up in the more laid-back suburbs of Alexis-on a farm that has been in my dad's family (established by my grandparents, Eldon and Garnet Dutton) since 1942. And, because it's good to be balanced, I'm also firmly rooted in farmland on my mom's side too! (Fred and Grace Hall, who farmed in the Little York area, were my maternal grandparents.)
Once upon a time, after graduating from Monmouth College in 1991, I was an English teacher at the institution formerly known as Monmouth High School. Early in my tenure, I had a star pupil named Lisa Bennett. Lisa was mature, responsible, and an excellent writer, so I sometimes asked her to babysit my daughter Krystal (who was almost eight years old at the time). As Lisa and I got to know each other outside the classroom, she decided that she knew me well enough to play match-maker. At first, I was resistant, but then a chance encounter with the uncle Lisa was proposing changed my point of view. Jim and I met on a blind date on November 27, 1993. We celebrated the three-month anniversary of that first date while we were on our honeymoon! And, with that, my little family of two became a family of five, as Krystal and I joined forces with Jim and his daughters Lyndsay (then seven) and Kayla (five).
I have often heard it said that if a little of something is good, then a lot is even better:and with that mindset firmly in place, we have proceeded to add seven more children to the mix: Grace, Jamie, Hannah, Daniel, Mary, Mercy, and Sam. And when ten kids no longer felt like enough of a crowd, we commissioned our older girls to recruit us a couple of sons-in-law and stock up on some grandkids for us! So far, we have six:which we consider to be a fine start!
After leaving the teaching profession in 1999 (when Jim accepted a position as the News Director of a Christian radio station in Blue Earth, Minnesota), I refocused my educational energy closer to home, and that marked our first year of homeschooling.
With seven kids still at home-all of whom are homeschooling-the vast majority of my "free time" is spoken for. Plus, I live in the church-yard, so it goes without saying that much of my remaining time is spent at the church. And I wouldn't want it any other way! I couldn't have dreamed of a better life than the one with which I have been blessed: Home is the base of operations for my husband's job, I get to watch my children grow and learn every day, and our every day is centered around Jesus-following Him and caring for His people.
Of course, we do break out of Rozetta Township from time to time. In addition to whatever little getaways we can manage throughout the year, we always take the kids to the Stoney Creek Inn in Moline for Christmas. Several years ago, we decided that the money we would spend on gifts for so many kids-gifts that would be broken or forgotten in a very short time-could be better-spent making memories. And it turns out that the kids don't miss the stuff:but if we tried to alter their Christmas vacation, we would have a fight on our hands!
Jim and I love to travel sans children as well, though we don't get to travel as widely as we would like to. (Frankly, traveling "as much as I'd like to" is probably an impossibility!) We absolutely love Chicago, and we hop the train to the city as often as we can. Last year, we checked a major event off my life list when we went on a cruise. To make it even more perfect, we were sunning ourselves on a beach in Grand Cayman, having just gone swimming with sting-rays and dolphins, when we checked in with the kids to discover that we had missed a spectacular late-February blizzard. Sometimes life is just too sweet!
We would love to travel to Europe together as a couple. But we would also love to take the kids on a monster cross-country road trip, mirroring one that Jim and his parents took when he was little. I guess we'll just have to see which comes first: the money for Europe or the courage to face a couple weeks in the van with seven kids!
All travel dreams aside, though, our foundational goal lives in 3 John 1:4:
I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth. And even though none of us has arrived at a perfect Walk-neither students nor teachers-we shall continue to strive toward Deuteronomy 6:7:
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.