Notgrass History and God’s Faithfulness, Part 2: 2003-2009

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As I mentioned yesterday, in 1999 we called our publishing endeavor The Notgrass Company. I remember the day we decided on that name. As we began dabbling in writing and publishing part-time in previous years, we chose this verse from Psalms as our theme verse:

Future generations will be told about the Lord.
Psalm 22:30b

And we called ourselves Generations Press. We loved that name, but when our son John worked on our early website, he did an online search of Generations Press and found a Jewish genealogical society in California by the same name. When he told us that, I said to my family, “Let’s just call ourselves The Notgrass Company,” saying that we would never have to face finding another company with that name.

You can imagine the comments we have heard about our name! What is really funny to us is that people still ask us, “If it’s not grass, what is it?” as if we had never heard that joke before. Believe me, we have heard it—and heard it and heard it! However, my all-time favorite question was when someone looked at our sign at a homeschool convention and wondered if we were an anti-marijuana organization. Tee hee.

As I mentioned yesterday, we published our first high school history curriculum in 2002. The Tootsie-Wootsey Medley that Ray and I recorded for you back in January was part of our Walk Through American History in Story and Song program we used to perform to promote it.

Through the years, our family has found that hands-down, our most popular online programs are the ones we do about Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our interest in her grew out of my reading Laura’s books aloud to our children while we were homeschooling. Our first trip to see sites related to Laura was in 1996, when we visited De Smet, South Dakota, setting of By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. We continued visiting those sites after beginning The Notgrass Company. Here are Ray and I in 2003 in front of the home Laura and Almanzo built on their Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Missouri. This picture later appeared on page 458 in the first edition of America the Beautiful (2010) with the caption, “Tourists in Front of the Home That Laura and Almanzo Wilder Built on Rocky Ridge Farm,” but I am jumping ahead of myself.

A New Office. In 2003 Ray and I purchased ten acres and a drafty, fixer-upper farmhouse, built c. 1840-1845 near Gainesboro, Tennessee, in Jackson County, about a half-hour drive from Cookeville, where we had lived since 1993. The entire company fit into its small mother-in-law apartment with room to spare. In the photo below, Ray is standing in our makeshift office in that apartment.

Exploring World History.  When Ray wrote Exploring America, he wasn’t expecting to write another high school history course. However, parents began asking when we were going to publish a world history. In 2004 we published Exploring World History.

As you can see in the photo of Ray above, at that time, we printed all our books on our office printer (visible at Ray’s left), punched holes on one edge with a hand powered puncher (seen in front of Ray), and bound them with plastic coils. Sometimes we put the coils on by hand while we watched old movies. That is what Ray and Mary Evelyn are doing in the photo below.

When Ray saw this picture yesterday, he noticed that big stack of coiled books in front of him and said, “We were trying.” I said, “God took our five loaves and two fishes and multiplied them.”

Exploring Government. In 2006 we published our one-semester Exploring Government curriculum for high school.

Exploring Economics. In 2009, when we had been in business fulltime for ten years, we published Exploring Economics, another one-semester course. It was our first curriculum that was never in a coil bound version.

The photo below shows a student with a paperback version of Exploring America. Her mother sent the photo to us during our first photo contest.

The next part of our story may seem obvious, but it took several years for us to realize that we should do what we did next. I look forward to sharing that story with you tomorrow.

As I quoted Ray yesterday, “We have to give credit to God. We didn’t know diddly about what we were doing.” I love what a dear friend told me after reading Ray’s statement. She said, “I think if people knew ‘diddly,’ many good things would never be initiated.” You may think you don’t “know diddly” about homeschooling your children. Thank you for doing it anyway.

God doesn’t need adequate people who “know diddly.” He needs willing Christians who trust Him. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul wrote about his ministry of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He knew that he wasn’t adequate for that great responsibility and said:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
so that the surpassing greatness of the power
will be of God and not from ourselves . . .
2 Corinthians 4:7

No matter what task God has for us to do, whether homeschooling our children or, as in our case, helping parents do that great work, we work as earthen vessels and the surpassing power to complete the work is of God and not from ourselves.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,
comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

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