Roadtrip Birthday Complete With Cinnamon Rolls and Jellyfish

 “We are ALWAYS going somewhere!” is what Kayla said as we packed suitcases and backpacks one more time this week.  The suitcases have been out since early May and have indeed been in some state of packed, unpacked, or in between since then.  It has been a chaotic summer, and this week was no less full than the others ~ especially since it included Kayla’s 11th birthday AND we would be on the road.
Tuesday, Robert and I returned from a trip to Boston and a dinner there with other church planters and pastors.  The very next day, we loaded up and headed to southern Connecticut for a 16th birthday party for one of my Classical Conversations students, Megan.  We decided to stay overnight with our friends Shaun and Deshni in Norwich, CT, since we had been invited to Mystic, CT for Thursday by a family from our church.  Shaun and Deshni are also church planters, so it was fun to see their place and hear their stories. Deshni made a big breakfast and even had a birthday card and shopping money for Kayla yesterday, the morning of her birthday.  I supplied the gluten free cinnamon rolls, and brought along the other gifts ~ the main one being displayed on her feet in the above photo! 
Yep, she’s had her eye on those shoes for weeks!
 She also got more spending money for a shopping trip with friends coming up tomorrow afternoon and she’s now in a dilemma over how she will spend it ~ clothes or a Nintendo DS?  Tough decisions!
We said goodbye to Shaun and Deshni Wednesday morning and headed to Mystic, CT (Actually, Mason’s Island) which is only about half an hour away.  After some meandering, and a quick peek at the Mystic Seaport area, we arrived at the beach house of some friends from church.  They had urged us to come this week, as next week a family from Manhattan arrives to rent the place for a month.  I’m so glad we were able to take them up on it ~ truly a wonderful experience!
 First up was lunch on the sunny deck, and then a kayaking trip!  The boys each had their own; Kayla and I shared.  We paddled all over ~ getting to see lots of different boats anchored in a beautiful area where Long Island Sound, Fishers Island Sound, and Block Island Sound all sort of meet together.
 After kayaking and a birthday ice cream outing, we went swimming around the dock.  We were a bit unnerved by the fact that it is the season for various types of jellyfish in the area!  
Yes, jellyfish.
Our friend, Jennifer, simply explained that all that was needed was someone to stand watch on the dock while others were swimming.  Admittedly, I was skeptical until I actually saw one of the jellyfish.  They were easy to spot, fairly slow moving, and the water was clear.  Jennifer stood watch while Cooper and I braved the waters ~ so cool and refreshing, but still a little scary.  We did get up enough courage to jump of the end of the dock a few times, though.  By the end of the day, everyone but Kory had taken a dip.  He opted for fishing and more kayaking. (Can’t really blame him!) At high tide, we got to see lots of jellyfish, and Cooper and Kayla even began catching the non-stinging clear ones!  They were like little clear globs of Jell-o.
 We stayed until nearly 9pm ~ had one more meal on the deck, watched the sunset, and returned to the dock to look for more jellyfish, and observe the rising tide level.  I love how the seaside provides endless entertainment for my kids.  They never tire of looking for new creatures, swimming, gathering rocks and shells, watching the beautiful boats, and staring at the surf or sunset. 
 And though I was feeling a bit guilty for not being home on Kayla’s special day, it turned out to be quite special anyway!  Cinnamon Rolls, pink and black Converse high tops, shopping money, the ocean, ice cream, and jellyfish ~ who could ask for anything more?
And I love this picture of my sweet 11 year old girl!  Her Aunt Melissa (my sis) took it back in January, and it is one of my favorites.  
Happy Birthday to Kayla who is such a gift from the Lord to our family!

Mr. Izzy: I Once Was Lost….

 This is Mr. Izzy.  His name used to be Isabella, when we thought he was a girl. He is not a girl, though, even though we were assured and reassured that he was a girl when we purchased him and our other (so we thought) girl bunny, Chelsea, for Kayla’s birthday two summers ago.  Unlike Chelsea, Mr. Izzy is very docile and cuddly and allows himself to be toted around in backpacks and tote bags.  He even goes for walks on a leash!
Last week, we were grilling lunch out in the backyard with Grammie and Paw-Paw, who were visiting from Texas, when Kayla discovered that Mr. Izzy’s hutch was open and he was GONE.  A quick search around the area did NOT reveal her precious black bunny.  A broader search around the yard and neighbors’ yards was not successful either.  There were big tears, and the grieving process began for all of us, but mostly Kayla ~ our sweet little bunny mama.
We went swimming after lunch and stopped for ice cream on our way home.  Later, we were getting ready to eat a snack supper on the picnic table, when Paw-Paw, who had been sitting in the backyard and looking around a few last times for Mr. Izzy, decided to take one last walk around the back of our neighbor’s yard.  Well, guess who he found?
 Mr. Izzy was frolicking in a wooded area behind our neighbor’s house and yard with a little group of wild brown bunnies!  Paw- Paw looked for Kayla to come and catch him, but she was in the house at the time. Fortunately, Mr. Izzy is not the fastest hopper, and Paw-Paw was able to snatch him up and bring him home.  Oh, happy day!  There was much relief and rejoicing, as well as immediate repair done on a loose latch that probably led to this whole drama! We are so thankful that Paw-Paw decided to take one last look!
(I’d also like to mention that I am thankful for Grammie’s eagle eye as well.  She found me a coffee maker at a flea market for $3.00 to replace ours that was crushed on our way home from youth camp AND a new toaster oven ~ from Target, not the flea market ~ to replace my recently broken one.  Oh! and Robert picked up a FREE juicer at a tag sale on his way home from church last week!  I think it is safe to say that we are doing well in the kitchen appliance department currently.  Coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice anyone?)
 One thing Grammie and Paw-Paw brought along with them was some serious Texas heat, so those severe weather conditions called for several trips to Flayvors, our favorite local dairy and ice-cream shop complete with gluten free cones.
We even said goodbye to Grammie and Paw-Paw there at Flayvors ~ one last round of refreshing and delicious ice cream before they headed back to Texas ~ leaving 100 degree heat here and returning to 100 degree heat there!
Goodbye, Grammie and Paw-Paw, and thanks for everything!

Gluten Free Friday ~ Kitchen Sink Cole Slaw

Believe it or not, it has been about 100 degrees here for the past 2 days!  But I refuse to complain, even though by the time I finished picking blueberries, green beans, cilantro, and basil at our farm yesterday, I was drenched and literally dripping sweat. (And we had dinner guests due to arrive shortly after I got home!) I’m pretty sure I’ve said it before, but I would MUCH rather be hot than cold.  June was just plain cold and rainy, so I am savoring these summer days, even though they are sweltering lately.
 The veggies were so abundant at the farm yesterday, and often it’s difficult to figure out how to use all of them in a timely manner, but this recipe works to get them gobbled up quickly.  I’m calling it Kitchen Sink Cole Slaw, because you can just throw about everything (but the sink!) in this recipe as long as it’s shredded finely ~ carrots, radicchio, purple cabbage, Chinese cabbage, green cabbage, leeks, green onions ~ even radish, kohlrabi, and fennel might work well if you’re adventurous. (Food processor will be quite handy here!)
Then, just make a dressing out of some of the following items: mayonnaise, yogurt, half and half, honey, maple syrup, olive oil, and a bit of your favorite vinegar.  Toss the dressing with the shredded veggies and enjoy a side dish that doesn’t require the oven or the stove top and uses lots of healthy veggies! (I usually turn my kitchen into a sauna on these hot days, because I can’t think of any meals that don’t require heat.)
How’s that for vague instructions?  
You can do it. Just trust yourself and taste as you go.
(Fortunately, my kids LOVE cole slaw.  I’m sure the maple syrup has something 
to do with it!)

I Went TO Camp~ He Went OUTSIDE the Camp

We had such a wonderful week at Crosswalk Camp last week, and I can’t wait to post pictures and write about what a meaningful, powerful, and FUN time it was.  Before I do that, though, I just have to write about another camp that I was reading about yesterday…
“…he shall cover his mustache and cry ‘Unclean, Unclean!’  He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has infection; he is unclean.  He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”
Leviticus 13:  45-46
(Yes, I am reading Leviticus right now.  It’s a great book about the holiness of God!)
When I read those verses out of Leviticus yesterday regarding how the priests are to deal with and instruct those who have leprosy, it reminded of another verse I had read and pondered over in Hebrews last year…
“Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  So let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.  For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.”

Hebrews 13: 13-14
(Interesting that those verses land in the same chapter of each book.)
Jesus became sin for me.  He became the outcast leper. He took on uncleanliness and had to live outside of fellowship for a time with His people, but most importantly His own Father ~ all on my behalf.  Josh B. was preaching yesterday on Galations 4:1-7. (Robert gives other men in the church opportunity to preach in the summers.)  Josh did a great job, and something he revealed to us prepared my heart to read these Leviticus verses with deeper understanding.  He taught us that the ONLY time Jesus does not address God as His Father in prayer is on the cross when…
“Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
Matthew 27:46
Josh reminded us that Jesus did that, went through that isolation and separation, so that we could, because of the Spirit of the Son in us cry out…
“Abba, Father!”
Galations 4:6
He said “My God!” so that we could say “Abba, Father!”
The tears of gratitude were streaming at this point in the sermon, and for that I am thankful.  It’s just that in the last two years, in the fallout of fatigue and burn out, I haven’t been all that interested in “going to Him outside the camp and bearing His reproach.”  I’ve even been memorizing Hebrews chapter 11 (for Beth Moore’s Scripture memory challenge) in an attempt to renew my heart because of the verses about Moses…
“By faith, Moses, when He had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for He was looking to the reward.”  (or the “lasting city”) 

Hebrews 11: 24-26
And yes, I just typed that from memory, (I can even do the following 11 verses) but don’t be impressed, because my heart is not completely transformed to that same Moses attitude ~ the one that chooses ill-treatment and considers the opportunity to bear Christ’s reproach great riches.  Nope.  I think I used to have this attitude and eagerness to participate in the great adventure with Jesus, but then I got tired.  Now, I still love the Lord and am so inspired by His Word, but I find myself staying FAR away from the likes of Piper (“Don’t Waste Your Life” and “Christians don’t retire”) and Platt and Chan (sell your possessions, simplify, move to the inner city, or overseas, adopt lots of orphans, and don’t take vacations), because I don’t want to be told to go and meet Jesus outside the camp. (At least this is my overheard take on these guys, since I’ve succeeded in steering clear.) I crave comfort and want to avoid difficulty and unpleasantness. And surely those guys are not even talking to ME!  20 years of crazy ministry! Haven’t I already paid my dues?  I must have if I’m this weary.
But then I open my Bible, and listen to sermons and there are the same exhortations ~ go outside the camp, bear His reproach, this life is short, fleeting, and temporary, He suffered and gave me the same Spirit who enabled Him to do it, the same Spirit who raised Him from the dead, my joy and hope are not in Egypt (i.e. comfort), they are in heaven, in Him, I am His child, He loves me, He is with me, He will strengthen me.
Thankfully, even when I avoid the authors that everyone is talking about, the Lord speaks to me through His word.  And I know it’s far better to get the truth there first and possibly have it re-stated by men later.  And yes, I have been able to “stay in the game” of life and ministry in spite of the onset of weariness, but only by faith, and only as a result of His gift of grace.  My prior eagerness in the following-Jesus-adventure was probably more like sheer will and stubbornness than it was like trust.  I think the Lord prefers this current state of mine, because He gets more glory. Actually, I think He meticulously arranged for it.  It really is all Him, and my prayer is that I would continue to be transformed in my willingness to “go to Him outside the camp”,  to know Him in His sacrifice and to be content and grateful whatever the call may be on my life.  He suffered so that I COULD know this freedom and privilege.

A Concert, The Cousins, A Chapel, and Camp = Crazy

Life is always so full around here, but especially so this summer.  After posting all of these photos, I couldn’t believe it all happened in the course of only one week, but it did!  Last Friday we enjoyed what has become a summer tradition ~ seeing James Taylor perform at Tanglewood.  Good friends, good food, a perfect summer evening….
 …candles, tablecloths, a starry evening…..
 …and James Taylor ~ not to mention John Williams conducting his Superman and Catch Me If You Can music.
 And then I got deathly ill!  Really, I can’t believe I’m standing and serving in this photo because just 24 hours prior, I though I might die from a horrific stomach bug.  I am convinced that the Lord heard my pleas for strength though, because on Sunday I was able to get up and not only have lunch guests from Oklahoma (Hi Franklins!), but also host Kory’s 16th Birthday Bash!  I also had lots of help from my friends Christie and and Kate as well as my sister, Melissa, who had arrived with her kids the night before. (Robert had to go and pick them up ~ I was too sick to even ride along.  Ugh.)
 Kory was blessed to celebrate his 16th birthday with lots of church friends and family.
 He got lots of “words” of affirmation, as people shared a word that came to mind to describe Kory and explained why.
 Then he got more of the The Word from Robert ~ Proverbs 2.
 Later, he got words of prayer over himself and his future.
 And of course there were lots of games and not just one ice cream cake (his annual request), but FIVE!
 The next day was the 4th of July.  Fortunately, the festivities didn’t begin until 3 o’clock in the afternoon.  We all needed a morning to sit and catch our breath from the weekend!
 Aunt Melissa bought everyone a cream soda and we all enjoyed the downtown parade together.
Later, Robert took five of the six kiddos to volunteer at the local carnival and fireworks celebration.  Our church serves as volunteer staff for this event every year.  The kids especially love taking up donations for the fireworks.
Cute cousins enjoyed a picnic dinner together….
…and the sisters just enjoyed chatting and just being together.  It is NEVER enough, though.  The visit ends and there’s so much we haven’t said and shared.  Missing her especially now after the short time together last week.
Thursday was the cousins’ departure day.  Since they were leaving from Boston and had never been to Boston, we decided to get an early start and see as much as we could before their departure time.  First stop:  The Public Garden and a visit with Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings: Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, and Quack.
Then a ride on the swan boats. (The sun was very bright!)
Next, the crew indulged me in my aspirations to be a Boston tour guide and historian.  Yes, they even filled in blanks as we went ~ be still my soul! (I did bribe them a bit with the promise of Starbucks or ice cream at the end of the tour.)
Can you sense the thrill in their hearts over being at the grave of Paul Revere?
A much needed pit stop for probably the most delicious burger any of us had ever eaten at “b.good” right on the Freedom Trail.  Gluten free buns and hand cut fries ~ Oh my!
Even though I cut off everyone’s feet, I still love this photo of everyone in front of the Old South Meeting House.  Do you know the secret phrase that was uttered by Samuel Adams during a speech he gave here giving the go ahead to dump 342 crates of tea into Boston Harbor???
Sensing the time was coming to an end, these two best friends and cousins decided not to let go of each other all the way back to the Common AND the airport!  I love that they love each other so.
No, this is not a group prayer, but rather a group hug.  So sweet. (and a bit of silliness)
And off they went!  We miss you Maisie, Madeline, and Jonah!
Friday Robert and I headed to Connecticut for…..just guess!  Another wedding.  I had thought it was our 8th wedding of the summer, but it turned out to only be the 7th of 10, and it was so nice.  The service, which Robert officiated, was in a beautiful old stone chapel.  Katherine was involved in our church as a college student, and now is in her third year of medical school.  We enjoyed getting to know her now husband, Tim, and his family.  Don’t know if we’ve ever felt so loved and welcomed by strangers.  Tim’s parents were just so kind and hospitable to us ~ we were truly blessed.
So….from concerts, to near death illnesses, to the cousins coming, birthday parties, fireworks, and picnics, to Boston tours, and weddings.  You’d think it would be time for a little vacation, but not in this crazy summer.  No, now we’re on to youth camp!  That’s right.  We got home on Sunday morning, re-packed, and looked like the Beverly Hillbillies driving down Rt. 2 with our ironing board, bicycles, and suitcases hanging out of the bed of Robert’s truck!
Pray for Robert, who is speaking all week, and for our boys who are participating in wonderful times of Bible study and worship and fun!