Catching Up On 2015

Hello from Hondo, TX. We’ve just spent a busy two weeks in Texas seeing family and friends, shopping for, wrapping, and opening Christmas gifts, eating lots of food, drinking lots of iced coffee and enjoying the local sights and the warm weather. (More on that below.)
It’s been SO long since I’ve written anything here, so I thought I’d spend this lazy (finally!) afternoon and evening sitting under a blanket on the couch at my in-laws house “watching” the Baylor Bowl Game (we’re winning so far!) and trying to remember ALL of the things that happened in the second half of this year. (Not that I wrote much about the first half!)
The last thing I really wrote about was Owen going to school and before that it was the upcoming Taylor Swift concert.  That was July and August, but I’m going to back up just a bit to document some of the special things that happened over that past 8 months or so. So, here goes…
The month of May always involves baptisms at Puffers Pond.  Those are my favorite days of our church year. This May we also traveled to Texas to celebrate Robert’s parent’s 50th Anniversary. We marked the day by going out to eat at their favorite nacho (yes, nachos!) restaurant near Hondo and having all of the cousins (except for Kory) together. Fun time!
Back home in MA, Kory came home for a few short weeks and we were able to celebrate Father’s Day in Portsmouth, NH and Ogunquit, ME. (It was a bit cold and windy for our beach day…)

 And we also got to celebrate his 20th birthday. I had a hard time with him turning 10. Can’t believe this happened.

Just before Kory’s birthday, a friend and hero of mine passed away. Kory actually texted me while I was at the grocery store on June 15th to let me know it happened. Robert, Kayla and I traveled to Gordon College for Elisabeth’s funeral.

 We participated in the memorial service as well as the graveside even though it was pouring down rain.  Elisabeth was buried next to her second husband, Addison.  It was a beautiful celebration of her life. We spoke with Lars at the graveside service and he got choked up a bit.  I was so thankful to have been able to attend. We took Lars to lunch a month later.  I promised to write about it before, and I will. Soon.  It was a meaningful and memorable time.

 I took a summer seminary class: Ethics.  It about killed me, and I have since sworn off summer courses, at least until all children are out of the nest. I absolutely loved what I learned, but 1000 pages of reading and almost that many pages of notes as well as a 15 page research paper in ten short weeks is just too much for this mom.

 Kory left at the end of June to be a counselor at Pine Cove. Khakis and a belt were the required “Welcome Campers!” attire.

He spent nearly the entire time 40 feet up in the air sending campers down the zip line and coaching them through the high elements ropes course and loved every minute of it.

 July had us spending our usual week at youth camp as well.  Robert was camp pastor and Kayla and Cooper were campers. (Coop’s last year!) I enjoyed leading the female chaperones in Bible study each morning. (Really, all we did was chat and eat chocolate, but don’t tell Allyson C.) The theme was “Deeper” and the sermons were all on Jonah.

 Then, after MONTHS of waiting, the Taylor Swift concert finally arrived at Gillette  Stadium.  We had quite the ticket snafu, and many Craiglist adventures, but it all got worked out in the end.

 I’ll never park in the main lots at Gillette stadium again, as we sat in a parked car from 12am – 2am after the concert, and finally arrived home at 4am, but the show was incredible, and it was all worth the effort.

 And then this girl turned FIFTEEN! And got a Polaroid camera to add to her collection of vintage items. And grew about 15 inches, too!

 In August Robert and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary with a trip to Boston. We took a sunset harbor cruise which I’d been wanting to do for a while.  It was a gorgeous evening!

 We went for runs in the city, ate at our favorite breakfast restaurant (The Paramount), walked in the Common and took a deep breath for the first time all summer.

 Speaking of Boston, in a semi-crazy turn of events, one of my dearest friends from Oklahoma (Karla) took a job in the city and moved to the area. Kayla and I spent a day helping unload the moving van and running errands with her.  Can hardly believe we now live in the same state again!

 Betsy is another dear friend whom I met immediately upong moving to MA over 16 years ago.  Our kids have grown up together and this summer her daughter Brittany got married. Robert was honored to be able to do her wedding and we loved being a part of this milestone.  It was so wonderful, but so emotional!  Betsy is my first close friend to have a child get married. I took lots of mental notes, because she handled it all so graciously.

 Typical trip to Ogunquit, ME in August.  It was nice and warm.  We ran, stopped at the local juice bar, lay on the beach, read books, and soaked in the sunshine.

 Kayla and I started back with Classical Conversations in August after taking a year off. I’m tutoring this fun group of teens this year. Thankful for such wonderful peers for Kayla to “do school” with.

 August and September were pretty crazy. I went to TX after my first Tuesday of teaching to move Kory into his first off-campus home. It was a herculean effort by my dad, my sister, niece, and some wonderful friends in Georgetown (THANK YOU, HARGROVES!). Lots of driving, even more shopping, and tons of time assembling of new furniture.

 I am definitely late to the Fixer Upper fan club, but I managed a trip to Magnolia Market (before seeing an episode) in order to pick up a gift for a friend and mega fan back in MA.  Just so you know, the starting price for all things here is $38.  Tin pail = $38. T-shirt = $38. Candle = $38. Be forewarned. It is a delightful shop, though, and I’m doing my best to catch up on the Gaines’ family adventures now. (Just followed them on Instagram today, thanks to a tag from my sis.)

 Said a quick goodbye to Kory at Baylor’s truly incredible and brand new business school. Kory was a Welcome Week leader, so he was not available for a lot of the shopping and moving in, but we got in some Mexican food with Grandad and a trip to the health center on campus, because 6 weeks of camp counseling ran him down with a cough he could not kick. This is one busy, all-out  kid.

 Another wedding in August!  Renee and Fady’s on Cape Cod and one of the most incredible weddings we’ve been a part of. These two are so special and we thoroughly enjoyed the Egyptian customs – and dancing. So super-fun!

Home long enough to do another wedding and teach another couple of weeks and then it was time to say goodbye to Coop.  Robert gave him a proper send off at church…

 …and then in early September we were off to sunny California!

 Cooper has his own room at my brother and sister-in-law’s house for his gap year in SoCal, but I’m pretty sure he gets frequent visits from this little guy ~ his two-year-old cousin, Uriah. We spent a week in Cali getting Coop all settled in and enjoyed a visit to California Baptist, which is one school to which Coop deferred enrollment until the fall of 2016.  Not sure where he’ll end up next fall, but he really liked this campus – especially the dining hall! Coop spent the first 6-8 weeks in California (La Quinta, near Palm Springs) working on the maintenance crew at the golf course where my brother is Superintendent, but now he’s parking Porches, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces, washing up golf clubs, and driving the golf ball picker on the driving range. (And texting us pictures of his large tips.)

 A few weeks later, I ran the Boston Half Marathon. Remember the Bible study for chaperones I led at youth camp (i.e. eating chocolate and chatting)? Well, registration for this half marathon happened at the same time I was supposed to be teaching. Thanks to Sarah Moylan’s (Owen’s mom and one of our chaperones) fast fingers on the laptop and a miraculous lottery pick, I got a spot in this race that fills up as fast as Taylor Swift tickets sell out on Ticketmaster.

 It was a beautiful October day, and I ran my best time ever ~ could hardly believe it, and definitely started to drag around mile ten. Yikes. My friend Karla (the newest Bostonian) came and cheered me on and then took me out for a big breakfast afterward.

A couple of weeks later I went to Texas for a third time in one year…

 This time it was for Baylor’s Homecoming game.  It also happened to be Robert’s and my dad’s birthday weekend. We had yet to go to a Baylor football game, and this seemed like the perfect year for it and on the perfect weekend.

 The only problem was that it POURED all weekend. We bought ponchos to walk to the game and still got pretty drenched.  Thankfully our seats were under the covered portion of the stadium and so we stayed dry throughout the game which was not the case for most of the fans.

 Kory stayed very dry, since he has the incredibly difficult job of viewing the game from the press box and hand-delivering stats a couple of times during the game. He actually gets paid for that.

 One of the highlights of our fall semester at church has been this group. We decided to do a co-ed Boot Camp discipleship small group this time around at our house over lunch on Sundays after church. I know some of you have thought we were crazy for this, but it really did my heart good, as they say.  First of all, I love hosting Sunday lunch, and then to have a group of young men and women eager to study the doctrines of the faith each week was such a delight.

 September and October brought lots more algebra II, and British literature, and microscope observation, and DNA extractions ~ from strawberries.

 And our first trip to the Big E ~ complete with strange male photo bombers.

Unbeknownst to Kory, his awesome Baylor friends secretly worked together to raise money and buy him a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving.  They gave him his ticket two days before the trip and we so enjoyed having him home for that week.

 Kayla hosted her 8th annual Christmas tea party mid-December! So fun doing this year after year, and none of the girls ever tire of making “gingerbread” houses.

 December also brings a second round of baptisms. This is Rayna who is also a part of our Sunday Boot Camp.  She has an incredible story of redemption “against all odds” as became our way of talking about it. It’s too long a story to share here, but I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this incredible 19 year old. Wow.  God is so good.

Soon after the December baptisms, and the end of my 5th seminary class (Hermeneutics) and another 15 page research paper, we flew to Texas for the last time this year. Right of the bat, Kayla went with Kory to Pine Cove (where he worked this summer) for a Winterfest teen retreat. She was reluctant about going, but ended up having a great time and conquering her fear of heights by doing the high ropes course and zip line.

 We spent an evening on the San Antonio Riverwalk with dear friends, Jack and Kelly. It was the PERFECT evening.  We ate outside at Casa Rio (of course) and then took the river cruise to see all of the Christmas lights.

 A few days later it was a trip to Fredericksburg and a hike up Enchanted Rock.  It happened to be 80 degrees that day, and even Grandad made the hike to the summit in no time at all!

On Christmas Eve we ate an early dinner at El Jarro’s back in San Antonio and then attended my dad’s church for their candlelight service. After that we made little stop at Starbucks and took this photo. It’s been great to have my sister Melinda and her boyfriend, Brent in town from Denver. Brent is certainly getting full exposure to the Rowland family!

And that brings me back to the couch at my in-laws house. Baylor won the bowl game and now we’re on to the Texas Tech game and the UT Vs. UConn basketball game which my dad, sister Melinda and boyfriend Brent are at.  I just got a text from my dad saying it is a good game so far. It was a Christmas gift for him.

It was such a full year, and I didn’t think they could get any fuller. I didn’t even tell you about the PURE women’s conference I went to in New Jersey in November (because Paige Benton Brown was speaking!) or the Fusion Student conference on Cape Cod where I got to speak to the young women about embracing their femininity “fearlessly,” or the Simply Beautiful Conference that I took Kayla and friends to last month. And I certainly didn’t mention any of the hard things.  There were lots of those, but I’m learning to be grateful for the lessons and the growth in those circumstances.

I’ve said it plenty of times before, but if you are still reading this ~ thank you. Thanks for caring and for praying and for loving us and being a friend.

I love that Christmas is a week before the beginning of the new year. I kept marveling at the Incarnation this Advent season.  The fact that Christ came down and entered my world and even my own heart gives me renewed hope and strength to welcome 2016 and all that it will bring.

And being a better blogger is not really one of my resolutions, but I do hope to keep up a little better. It’s good for me, and I love the connecting with you!

Happy New Year!

Too Much To Bear In The BEST Of Ways

This is Owen. He started school today like millions of other kids, but I can’t believe it. There is so much I need to get done today, but I’m completely distracted by the fact that this kid started SCHOOL today. KINDERGARTEN. At the same school where his mom teaches. I got to see his new lunchbox yesterday at church.  Robert had a FaceTime prayer with him this morning before he headed out for the day.  For the last couple of months my conversations with people at church have included the random, out-of-the-blue question “Did you know that Owen is starting KINDERGARTEN this fall?”  I haven’t been able to help it. Some of them politely indulge my incredulity.  Others are as incredulously happy as I am.
You see, his parents were UMass students just yesterday, it seems. They used to babysit our little ones.  His dad even made a trip to the ER with our kids once. They eventually got engaged and married.  Together they did more babysitting of the little Krum kiddos. (They even took them camping once.  And once was enough.)
Then they had their own kiddo…

 And after that they had another one. And then somehow mine got old enough to babysit for THEIR children…

I really don’t know how all of this happened.

I may be more overwhelmed and sentimental about Owen going to Kindergarten than I have been about the growing-up-and-going-places that is happening in my own home.  It’s a weird feeling and I love it.

So yeah, one of the Krum kids whom Owen’s parents used to babysit is now a JUNIOR IN COLLEGE. (Which means that he is now OLDER than Owen’s parents were when we first met them.) First semester in the new, beautiful Baylor Business School. My dad and I, along with help from my sis and niece, got him all moved into a house off campus which he shares with two roommates. (A house nicer and bigger than mine, I might add. Cabinets, and counter space, and bathrooms, oh my!)

 I was certainly not eager to leave him after our days of shopping and unpacking and eating out, but there were no tears.  He’s doing so well, surrounded by great friends, professors, becoming a real leader on campus, and serving God and others in many ways. I couldn’t be happier for him.  I couldn’t be more proud.  But I’m praying like crazy for a year of really tough classes and lots of leadership responsibilities.

 And now it’s this kid’s turn…

This pic was taken at church yesterday when the pastor called him up front to properly send him out.  Cooper has been a part of the church since it began 16 years ago. (He didn’t really have any choice in the matter, I guess.) He was 2 years old when we came to start it. (You know, those years when Owen’s parents were his age.) Now he’s 18, a high school graduate, and on his way to what I truly believe will be an incredible year of growth and adventure in southern California. I don’t know if I’ve ever prayed for anyone more than I have for this kid, and that will continue as he leaves home and steps into a fresh, new independence. It’s time, and I’m really excited for him.
He even performed all of his own original music and lyrics in a special concert last night along with two friends he regularly “jams” with. There was a nice-sized crowd, and there may have been a few tears over this.  I knew he was creative, and I hear him playing guitar in his room every day, but it was a joy to see it all come together, and watch him pull off something he’s passionate about.

I teach all day tomorrow, (Owen’s dad will bring me a microscope to borrow for my classroom soon and for the third year in a row) and then Coop and I leave for the airport around 4am on Wednesday. We land in Palm Springs around 5pm. I return on a red-eye early next Tuesday morning.

I’ll have two young men out of the house.

My little baby 15-year-old girl will be an only child, sort of.

It will be Owen’s second week of Kindergarten.

I didn’t really grow up “in community.” We weren’t really a part of a church.  My parents didn’t have a close network of friends. So this whole “life together” concept was new to me when we began this marriage and ministry thing 25 or so years ago.

I’ve learned that there can be many heartaches and disappointments when you live in close community with people. It’s no different in the community of the church. (And those often feel more difficult to recover from.) But long term friendships, the stages of life on display, weddings, meals together, babies being born, kids going off to college, and OWEN GOING TO KINDERGARTEN are just the BEST.

It’s too much to take in, and I thank God for that today.

As If…

Got this email reminder yesterday.  
As if we needed one.  
As if the countdown didn’t start way back in November or some crazy-early time like that ~ when the tickets were purchased, and after I spent a couple of hours of my life researching strategies for acquiring tickets to shows that sell out in the first 10 minutes.
As if we haven’t been Enchanted by the 1989 album ever since its release.
As if the outfit/costume planning didn’t begin about two months ago.
As if there was a Blank Space on the calendar this Friday night.
Friday night!  Just 4 more days! (Still don’t know what I’m wearing!)
We have a group of seven going, and one of my friends in the group, Missy, is a Special Education teacher near Boston.  Her students made a video spoof of Taylor’s “Shake It Off” and it is just so fun.  Take a few moments to watch it and share if you could.  They are really hoping to get Taylor to stop by for a visit when she’s in town this week. She’s well known for this type of kindness and generosity, so I think it’s a definite possibility! 
Isn’t that GREAT???
We just returned from a week of youth camp which is always wonderful and exhausting but mostly wonderful.  Laughing, worshiping, playing, and enjoying such sweet fellowship with those who return year after year.  Robert and I got away for a quick lunch with Lars (Elisabeth’s husband) who’s only five minutes from the Gordon College campus, and I’ll tell you about it as soon as I can.
First….about 200 pages of Ethics reading, two quizzes, a 12 page research paper on biblical patriarchy vs. modern day fatherhood (focusing on Dominionist theology, Rushdoony, Doug Phillips, the Quiverfull homeschool movement, etc.), feeding my family (no food here after 10 days away at camp!), and…………shopping for my concert outfit, of course. 

Said Goodbye Again, But Not Without A Pic This Time

It’s a new season of family life around here.  I realized that again over the holidays when I was trying to create our annual Christmas card and discovered I had not even ONE photo of our whole family together from the previous year.  So, taking family photos was a top priority for the four weeks that Kory was home between his sophomore year at Baylor and his job back in Texas at Pine Cove Camp this summer. 

We took Kory to the airport early this morning, and it was bittersweet.  It is so nice having him home, and not only because he is so helpful around the house, at the grocery store, and at church, but also because he is so upbeat and positive and eager.  We laugh more when Kory is home. We talk about life and faith and current events more, because he initiates those types of discussions. (The only thing he asked for for his 20th birthday was the “Leading From Your Strengths” online test and evaluation. Personal development? Deepening understanding of himself and others? He’s all about it.) So, bitter? Yes, but also sweet, because every time he leaves he has such incredible experiences. We are so thankful for that.  Makes it easier to say goodbye.

This summer is especially bittersweet, because Cooper will also be leaving soon. He graduated in May, and in just a few short weeks we’ll fly off to California together and settle him into a room in Uncle Stu (my brother!) and Aunt Rachel’s house in Palm Springs, CA where he’ll work on a golf course most likely and take a year to think and pray about next steps and what he would like to study. He’s been accepted to California Baptist University and Grand Canyon University, so he’ll also get to visit those campuses over the next several months to help him make a better decision.

I’m not sure what we’ll do without Coop around. His originality and wittiness are things we have come to love, not to mention his ever improving fashion sense. He’s a thinker, a ponderer, and when he speaks about the things he’s thinking ~ faith, people, circumstances, it is usually profound. He can also lighten the mood and remind us that we (mostly me) need not take ourselves so seriously or be so easily offended. That’s a good thing. So again, bitter, but also sweet, knowing that adventure, growth, and mentorship by a godly aunt and uncle await him, not to mention sunshine, sandy beaches, and swimming pools.  Two small nephews also await him, so I think his babysitting skills will get some sharpening as well.

This girl will become an only child (sort of) at the end of August!  Her dad keeps telling her that ALL of our attention will then be focused COMPLETELY on her. For some reason, she doesn’t seem thrilled by that prospect.  I, for one, am excited to have the next few years at home with my girl. She is truly a delightful young woman. Her faith is strong (“Mom, I want to learn something new and challenging in youth group…”) and so is her creativity (She completely re-decorated her room this summer with a fresh coat of paint and pops of style and color from Good Will and Target), not to mention her athletic ability (She lettered in Varsity track as a freshman this past year). She will really miss her brothers, though. I’m sure of it.

So, we celebrated Kory’s 20th birthday on Monday. Yes, 20th. Hard to believe. I’m so glad he was home for this.  We had a small celebration, mostly so he could see one of his most favorite families ever whom he kept missing at church ~ the Moylans, but a few other friends (Lois & Harringtons & Speights!) joined in for fajitas and ice cream cake as well.

We spent most of the evening doing this. Small children + balls + trampoline + birthday boy = endless-way-past-bedtime-entertainment. Really.

It was BEFORE the party ~ and I mean RIGHT before the party that we took these photos. I’m not sure how she does it, but somehow our dear friend, Lois, comes to the rescue of many families in chaos. Crisis, too ~ but mostly just chaos. She texted me about what time I wanted to take family photos and I responded that I wasn’t sure I could fit it in with all the other tasks the day was requiring. That’s when she asked me to send her my shopping list.

So, not only did she take these photos from about 3-4:30 on Monday afternoon (in next door Northampton), but she also picked up Kayla at 1pm and they went shopping for all of the party food, unloaded it, and set it out for me to work with later. It was amazing. I could not have pulled the day off without her.  We definitely wouldn’t have had these photos if I’d tried. I only wish we’d had a passerby take one photo with Lois IN IT. Sigh…

Our last round of family photos a few years ago had me strategizing colors and outfits for WEEKS.  (I am not good at that!) Would you believe we pulled these together in about 10 minutes? That’s what has to happen in chaos, but it is not my preferred mode.

We DID manage to make a quick trip into Starbucks before heading home. The photo session happened just around back of the store, and the green mermaid was calling out to us the whole time. She’s very persuasive.

 Kory has just landed in Austin, where my dad is picking him up and probably planning on a Mexican food dinner somewhere.  He reports to summer camp and a cabin of 10th-12th grade boys on Saturday. Cooper is off to a lawn mowing job ~ one of three summer jobs he’s had which have earned him enough money to buy a car once in California.  Kayla is writing a letter to a beloved pen pal and printing recent photos to go with it.  Robert is off to a late meeting at church after a very early men’s breakfast (and trip to the airport!) this morning. I am taking a break from cooking dinner and studying ethics this evening to write all of this down. Somehow it’s helpful and healing.

I didn’t sleep a wink last night ~ watched every hour pass by on the clock by my bed which is currently located in our basement. It’s been a week of chaos and it finally caught up.  Actually, the chaos (with a heaping dose of heartbreak and disappointment) can be traced back for quite some time now. (How many of my blog posts have ended like this, I wonder?) But isn’t that usually how it is in the “now and not yet”? That theme has come up in my seminary courses over and over. I know this is not my home, and I’m grateful for that. Even still there have been great gifts in the midst…

a grocery list texted and taken care of
a gathering of friends
a family together
photos to capture a season
future plans and places
refreshing mermaid drinks
tears wiped and understood
good food
beach balls and trampolines

and even good, bittersweet goodbyes.

Tonight I am so sleepy, but so grateful for all of it.

P.S. I saved the best photos for a future Christmas card possibly coming your way. (Thanks, Lolo!)

Still The Best Convent

Mother’s Day 2009
This is a re-post from 2009.  Nothing has changed except that everyone is now at least 3 inches taller than me, and it’s not ice skating lessons, ballet, field trips, and Little League games, but coordinating the use of the car, track practice, job schedules, college visits and care packages. I still believe motherhood has been the best convent (a community of persons devoted to religious life under a superior) for my personal sanctification. My “community” being my marriage to Robert, and our “Superior” being Christ. 
In The Five Aspects of Woman, Barbara Mouser discusses the sanctity of motherhood – the setting yourself aside for the purpose of motherhood. She explores the reasons women may try and “fit motherhood in around the edges” rather than devote themselves to it as they would a career or a cause. The reasons are fairly obvious…no instant gratification, no accolades, acknowledgments, or awards, no salary, and yet the requirement of an all-out surrendering of your time, your body, your sleep, your mental energy… three words, your whole self.

This just seems like a very long, painful, and unnecessary route to maturity, respect, and security. And though there are other paths beside motherhood to these things, listen to the requirements of the early church for the taking in of widows who are in need of financial support. These widows were provided for by the church in return for their service in the church and ministry to other women.

“Let a widow be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”  

I Timothy 5:9,10

Mother’s Day 2013
In other words, the best preparation for leadership and responsibility for a woman was not a college degree, or a career crashing through the glass ceiling, but the giving of herself to her own home, her own family, and her own church.

It reminds me of a scene from my favorite book, Stepping Heavenward. In this exchange, Katy’s husband has asked her to visit one of his patients. The patient is a very young woman whose main ailments are boredom, apathy, and selfishness. The young woman talks of her efforts to help poor children (they were unruly and smelly) and mentions that she might have joined a convent, but those are now out of vogue….. (HA!)

“The best convent,” I (Katy) said, “for a woman is the seclusion of her own home. There she may find her vocation and fight her battles, and there she may learn the reality and the earnestness of life.”

“Pshaw!” cried she (Miss Clifford, the “patient”). “Excuse me, however, for saying that; but some of the most brilliant girls I know have settled down into mere married women and spend their whole time in nursing babies! Think how belittling!”

“Is it more so than spending it in dressing, driving, dancing, and the like?”

“Of course it is. I had a friend once who shone like a star in society. She married and had four children as fast as she could. Well! What was the consequence? She lost her beauty, lost her spirit and animation, lost her youth, and lost her health. The only earthly things she can talk about are teething, dieting, and the measles!”

“As you have spoken plainly to me, knowing me to be a wife and a mother, you must allow me to speak plainly in return,” I began.

“Oh, speak plainly, by all means! I am quite sick and tired of having truth served up in pink cotton and scented with lavender.”

“Then you will permit me to say that when you speak contemptuously of the vocation of maternity, you dishonor not only the mother who bore you but the Lord Jesus Himself, who chose to be born of woman and to be ministered unto by her through a helpless infancy.”

Miss Clifford was a little startled.

“How terribly earnest you are!” she said. It is plain that to you, at any rate, life is indeed no humbug.”
I thought of my dear ones, of Ernest, of my children, of Mother, and of James; and I thought of my love for them and theirs for me. And I thought of Him who alone gives reality to even such joys as these. My face must have been illuminated by the thought, for she dropped the bantering tone she had used hitherto and asked with real earnestness:

(Have I mentioned that I love books that use the words “hitherto” and “earnestness?”)

“What is it you know, and that I do not know, that makes you so satisfied while I am so dissatisfied?”

I hesitated before I answered, feeling as I never felt before, how ignorant, how unfit to lead others I really am. Then I said:
“Perhaps you need to know God, to know Christ.”

Stepping Heavenward, pp.262-264

Mother’s Day 2014
Cooper went with me to Texas to move Kory out of his dorm last year over Mother’s Day weekend.
We went to Austin Stone on Mother’s Day and ate lunch at Whole Foods = Perfect!
I wish I could say that I have devoted myself fully to motherhood and not tried to just fit it in around the edges. It is the hardest job in the world, requiring the greatest sacrifice – and I am selfish! I want time to myself, to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them without having to take four other people into consideration! And it may appear that I have completely devoted myself to my family from this glowing blog and the fact that I homeschool my kids and therefore spend nearly every day, all day with them, but don’t be fooled! I struggle with this giving away of self every day. And yet, in doing it by faith for 14 years, I have grown. It has been the main avenue of sanctification in my life, and I can truly say I am thankful for the transforming power it has been. Within the walls of my own home, I have found my strengths and weaknesses, fought many battles, and learned the realities of life. I have had to cling to Jesus, and have come to experience Him in the intimacy my heart so desires.

It has indeed been the best convent for me. 

It has now been 20 years of motherhood for me. (That’s right.  Kory turns 20 next month. How did that happen???) Come August, I’ll only have Kayla at home. (Poor girl!) Kory will be a junior at Baylor, and Cooper will be beginning a “gap year” of work and adventure in California. It is both heart wrenching and exciting to watch them go.  There will be many tears, but also much delight in watching them move into the next season of life. I have plenty of regrets regarding my failures as a mother from the last 20 years, but none regarding the choice to be a mom, even a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom for all that time. Katy’s right, it is Christ who alone gives reality to such joys as these, and I know Him more intimately because of the both the joys and the regrets.

Last Tuesday morning Cooper woke up to a terrible stomach virus. 12 hours of vomiting, fever, aches, chills, back pain.  Just horrible.  We had to head to the pediatrician’s evening office hours for emergency meds to alleviate the nausea so that he could keep fluids down.  He was down for the count for three days and in some ways is still recovering. I hated that he was sick, but I loved one last opportunity to take care of him before he moves out. One last chance to rub his head and tell him it would be over soon. One last time of cleaning up after him and offering him comfort, a cool cloth, and an iced drink. One last tangible way to show him that despite my nagging and frustration with him at times (many, many times), he’s mine, and I love him so much. 

Oh, they’ll always be my kids and I’ll always be their mom, I know.  But the season of hands-on motherhood is drawing to a close and I’m treasuring and pondering every moment.
I hope this Mother’s Day brings you much hope in Christ knowing that the call is one of great challenge and self-sacrifice, but also one of great joy and rejoicing. And I pray that hitherto you will exercise great earnestness in setting yourself aside for this purpose, if you are so called.  It is worth every explosive diaper, pool of puke, bedtime ritual, and Little League game.  I promise.

It Was Too Cold To Blog

 See what I mean?  You really can’t do anything in temps like that. The winter of 2015 was a deep freeze like we’ve never experienced before. And then my blog disappeared probably also due to the arctic temps. I had to rescue it from cyberspace by approving my domain name via Robert’s near-obsolete chilidogk AOL email ~ ha!  All better now.

The icicles just kept growing and growing until they were scary.

 The picture of our house was taken early on ~ before Christmas.  By the end, the snow was covering the front steps and shrubs…

…and picnic table.
And as much as I wanted to stay under the covers drinking hot tea, we did manage to fit in quite a lot of winter activities. Our women’s retreat was in February, mostly due to no one having anything else to do when it’s below zero outside.  During free time I went snow shoeing with these lovely ladies.  Rachel, on the far right, is from India, and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of excessive amounts of snow and special shoes to trek through it!

Cooper, Kayla, and I enjoyed another 6 weeks of Thursdays at Mt. Snow in Vermont with lots of our homeschool friends. I can still keep up with the young ‘ens for the most part, but their skills improve and their speed increases with each year ~ complete with spins and jumps. I’d just like to be able to keep skiing each winter without killing myself.  Honestly, the lift is the scariest part for me. I’m getting old.
Mt. Snow is absolutely beautiful ~ and so is this little ski bunny!
We had very special visitors ~ Romy and Matt ~ from Switzerland who always come bearing the finest of Swiss treats. Such a lovely time catching up with these two, and then just a couple of days later we FINALLY got to escape our ice tundra for warmer climates and a part of the country to which we’d never been…
San Francisco!
It was wonderful to get away and participate in the Collegiate Church Planter Collaborative in Oakland with these friends and fellow church planters as well as collegiate church planters from all over the country.  Our friend from Stillwater, OK, Brian Frye, was the mastermind behind the conference. I’ve limited myself to an hour for getting this blog out (the to-do list is LONG), so I don’t have time to tell you about the wonderful people we got to meet and the incredible church ~ Gracepoint Oakland ~ that hosted us, but it was all so encouraging and fun. Robert got to speak to the whole group ~ about 200 people ~ one morning, and I helped lead a seminar called “Help, I’m Married To A Collegiate Church Planter” as well as with a video (horrors!) on ministering to collegiate women.

 Chris and Patrick are pastors in Lowell, MA and good friends of ours.  We had a blast seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking through Muir Woods, and hanging out on the wharf with them. (Somehow I managed a semi-muddy three mile hike in a skirt and flats.  Totally worth it.)

The New England Contingency (Why am I the only girl?)

 We extended our stay in the Bay Area so that I could see my one of my dearest high school friends and her family.  It was a quick 30 minute train ride to their home and we packed in as much as we could in just two short days which included quite a lot of physical exercise!  Kerry took me to her Smart Barre (ballet/pilates) class which almost killed me, and then we went for a run on their local bike trail with Robert.  The next day was a 2 hour hike around a beautiful reservoir. It was non-stop talking and catching up and cooking and eating and laughing and just so wonderful.

We went back to San Francisco one night to visit with another dear friend, Greg, but for the life of me I can’t find the picture that I know I took of him and Robert right here on the famous Lombard Street. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening walking and talking and eating In and Out Burgers and drinking Starbucks.
There have been babies born and hospital visits…
The Worcester gals and Baby Analiz!
Soren was born in January ~ most prayed for baby ever!
There was a trip to a casino (shhhh….) with friends and fellow church planters, Shaun and Deshni ~ but only for steaks at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, I promise. We loved seeing their new church building (located between two major casinos and ministering to lots of folks who work there) and hearing about all that God is doing in southern Connecticut.

 Then it was Palm Sunday and Holy Week and the Passover Seder and Crosswalk and Good Friday service and Easter…Whew. (30 people at my house for Easter which may be a record!?)

 Some new family members showed up in the frames on my piano on April 1.  Kayla loves a practical joke and this one was perfect with all our favorites: Grumpy Cat, Jack Black/Bernie, and T-Swift: Insane Girlfriend Version. It is now April 17 and these photos are still on display.  I have forgotten which photos were originally in place ~ and that would be a small indicator of the chaos of life now (and for what seems like forever) ~ no time to do anything but the next thing.

Now it’s time for spring track for Kayla.  She’s tearing it up in the 100m sprint as well as the sprint relay.  She also had to run the 400m recently and like a typical sprinter thought she might die due to the LONG distance.  She did GREAT!

 Just when we thought the snow and ice were over and gone, this happened last week while I was out running.  It was depressing, but we have had a couple of 60+ degree days since complete with sunshine which I thought might be gone forever.

 And then this happened on Tuesday…

Four wisdom teeth out and lots of ice cream and couch time.  He’s still hurting today, but up and about and on the mend overall.

 Oh ~ and it took us forever, but Robert and I finally finished this…

…which was such a great show.  My goodness.  Tears every episode.
But now we can give our full attention to this…
If Parenthood made us cry every time, Gilmore Girls makes us laugh out loud.  Sadly, many of the 70’s and 80’s references are lost on our kids (there are hundreds!), but Robert and I crack up.  If you’re looking for a light, funny, and (almost entirely, but not quite entirely) clean show ~ this one’s for you!
Okay ~ my hour to blog was over about 20 minutes ago, but there’s a quick ~  even if it is kinda shallow (because it’s highly edited to make us look all fun and carefree…) update on the last three months.
Maybe (hopefully) it won’t be so long next time. Thanks for checking in friends!

Wonderful Winter Catch Up

Those aren’t two words I would normally use together ~ “wonderful” and “winter” ~ but there’s no denying that winter has brought many wonderful things so far.
It was -1 degree here yesterday.  (Not so wonderful.) Betsy stopped by at 7:45am to pick us up for our weekly ski trip to Mt. Snow, Vermont, and as we were standing in my driveway loading up gear and lunches, she said, “It’s cold.”
I think we were both of the mindset that the negative temps were over (we already had a week or so of those), but we live in New England, and it’s still January, and that sort of thinking will only set you up for disappointment.
Icicles on your eyelashes isn’t all that wonderful either ~ but laughing over it with a friend is!
We survived this week’s blizzard just fine, and truly enjoyed a day off together ~ though the pastor wrote a sermon, paid bills, and had a conference call. Even so, we managed to make our way through four episodes of the Gilmore Girls, which is the whole family’s latest addiction. (Ahhhh…Lorelai, Rory, Suki, Dean, Luke, and Lane… now we all want to move to wonderful Stars Hollow and be your best friends!) We only got about 10 inches of snow, whereas our Boston and Worcester neighbors had more like 34 and are still shoveling out today!

 Thankfully, it was not -1 in Vermont yesterday.  It actually got to be 28 degrees there and that temp plus sunshine is just perfect for skiing!

We really still can’t get over the fact that we get to ski in Vermont every Thursday for six weeks in the winter.  It is something we look forward to each week.  An hour and a half of ski school (yesterday we did a black diamond and learned how to spin!) and then a couple of hours of free skiing.  So much fun! So wonderful.

 The pics above and below are pretty standard poses for these kiddos.  For some reason, the guy below is always sitting or lying on the snow ~ when he’s not in motion, of course.  He loves his (well, his brother’s) trick blades very much.

When we’re not on the slopes, we’re often at the gym for one of Coop’s basketball games ~ his last year to play…

 …or we are hanging out at some indoor track facility (Smith College in Northampton or Reggie Lewis in Boston) watching Kayla run various winter track events.  Her favorite event by far is the 55m sprint, and tonight is her last night to qualify for further meets.  She needs to go from an 8.17 to and 8.12.  I told her to just go for the 8 seconds flat.  I mean, what’s so difficult about that?

Turns out it is fairly difficult, and we’re so proud of her hard work and great times as a freshman.

I never got around to telling you how wonderful our Christmas was, so here are a few (lots of, actually) photos to fill you in on just how wonderful it was.
Part of the recipe for “Wonderful Christmas” was having Kory home from college.
And not only did Kory travel from Texas, but my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew came from California, and my youngest sister traveled from Colorado ~ their presence bringing together even more wonderful ingredients to the holiday.
Day after Christmas shopping at West Farms Mall in Connecticut.
Christmas Eve Chili and Queso dinner before and after a Candlelight Christmas Eve service at Mercyhouse.

Probably THE most wonderful moment for me was being gathered at the dining room table on Christmas Eve, taking turns reading an Advent devotion, and then ALL praying together, thanking God for the gift of Jesus at Christmas.  Hearing everyone’s heart for Christ through their prayers and coming together as a family to worship him was just so wonderful.  Really.  I can’t think of anything more wonderful.

At the Candlelight Service

 And second only to those precious moments of worship, and making Christmas extra-extra-wonderful was having THE CUTEST TODDLER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at my house for Christmas.

Just see for yourself…

He liked his blocks, Aunt Melissa!

See what I mean?


Okay ~ I think we’re all caught up now. Well, except for telling you about Robert’s two week trip to Texas and Oklahoma in January.  It was wonderfully exhausting.  And I started back to seminary.  I’m only taking one class again, and I still really love it.  Learning tons.

And I’m leaving out all of our church happenings, too.  We’re getting started on small groups this week, and are also in the middle of planning a women’s retreat.  Lots of meetings and preparations.  Again, wonderfully exhausting.

A trip to California for a church planting conference is just around the corner for Robert and me.  Pretty sure we’re the old fogies they are bringing in to participate in discussions about collegiate church planting which wasn’t even a “thing” when we accidentally did it 15 years ago. (It was highly discouraged, in fact. Ha!)  Anyway, we look forward to being with young church planters and seeing a new part of the country for us ~ the Bay Area.  I get to see one of my very best friends from high school while we’re there and can hardly wait.

Happy Friday ~ and have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Running in the New Year (With the Forerunner)

Yesterday I made my third airport run (in a car, not on foot) in six days.  We said goodbye to family over the weekend, dropping them at airports in New York City and Boston.  Then we had to say goodbye to Robert who headed to Texas and Oklahoma out of Hartford yesterday for two weeks of preaching, reporting on the ministry here, appointments with friends, family, and supporters, and probably several Mexican food dinners, too.

Thankfully, Robert and I got to have an overnight getaway before he left.  During the holidays, and especially when the house is full of guests, there’s not much time to “be married.”  It was so nice to be away from the house, eat two meals out at nice restaurants (via his birthday gift cards!), stay in a hotel, and to talk and reflect on the past year. Over dinner on Tuesday night, we went through a set of questions designed to help with the reflecting…

What was the best moment or time of the last year?
What were the biggest obstacles?
What were the greatest joys?
What were the unexpected difficulties?
List three words to describe the past year? etc.

The answers to each one are blog posts within themselves!

After two days together, it wasn’t easy to drop Robert off at the Hartford airport and say goodbye for 12 days.

Driving his red truck, we pulled into Starbucks on our way out of town.  I had been fighting with the sun visor which has a CD storage thing-y dangling from it.  It’s full of CDs, so it swings heavily if you pull the visor down to shade your eyes and becomes only a source of injury and frustration beyond any shielding it may do at that point.  I had taken the thing off a few weeks back (no one listens to the CDs anymore), but my hubby had returned them to the visor fearing they would be stepped on by some teenager riding in the cab jump seats.

Since I was driving at sunset and really needed the shade, we pulled the CDs off the visor again.  Jokingly, Robert pulled out a CD and popped it in. I rolled my eyes expecting to hear Sting’s “In Your Eyes,” but to my strange delight it was Twila Paris instead.  Maybe that will give you an idea of just how long that CD holder has been dangling there.

I had forgotten how much I love the music of Twila Paris.  After I dropped Robert off, I put this particular song on repeat all the way back home.

Courier valiant, bearing the flame
Messenger noble, sent in His name
Faster and harder, run through the night
Desperate relay, carry the light
Carry the light

Obstacle ancient, chilling the way
Enemy wakened, stoking the fray
Still be determined, fearless and true
Lift high the standard, carry it through
Carry it through

Mindful of many, waiting to run
Destined to finish what you’ve begun
Millions before you, cheering you on
Godspeed dear runner, carry it home
Carry it home

Runner, when the road is long
Feel like giving in, but you’re hanging on
Oh runner, when the race is won
You will run into His arms

“Runner” by Twila Paris, 1986
(The music is so great, too.  You should really take a listen here. But don’t watch the video.  Just close your eyes and listen.)

I have been in love with this song since I was a sophomore in high school, and may have even scripted a few lines of it on a photo collage for my boyfriend at the time, but I really had no idea back then exactly what those poetic words meant.

 Before we left for the airport yesterday, I read some of Hebrews.  Somehow, it just didn’t seem the right time to start back at Genesis even though I just finished reading cover-to-cover.  I was greatly affected, overwhelmed by this:

God…in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.
Hebrews 1: 1-2

He speaks to me, to us. In Jesus. Jesus is the near and bodily form of His Word.  His voice. Himself.

In Jesus coming as a baby…He speaks compassion to me.
In Jesus living humbly and purely…He speaks encouragement to me.
In Jesus being nailed to a Cross…He speaks sacrificial love to me.
In Jesus forgiving the undeserved…He speaks grace to me.
In Jesus dying…He speaks forgiveness and love to me.
In Jesus rising…He speaks hope and victory to me.
And now by His Spirit inside…He speaks help and wisdom to me.

Truly amazing grace.
But this race is so long and hard that it’s easy to become deaf to His speaking.

And then this morning I kept reading (which I’ve learned really is the key to hearing)…

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6: 10-12

He has taken note of previous work and ministry. Nothing I have sacrificed has escaped His notice, but He wants me to keep going.  He knows it’s the only path to hope.

2015, as far as I can tell, will be full of pretty much the same things that previous years have been…motherhood, homeschooling, church ministry, ministry to women, lots and lots of grocery shopping, even more cooking, cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, scheduling, driving to activities and events, returning lots of emails…

Good, important things. Necessary things. Things that God has not forgotten nor will forget. I used to be so excited about all of those things, but they’ve lost some of their luster.  Maybe you are chuckling at my naivety. Some folks start with a more realistic set of expectations than I did. Maybe it’s easier for them, but I often feel pretty sluggish, not wanting to lace up the running shoes of life. Oh, the external diligence it still there, and the internal sluggishness is sort of a recent development. The pace of life has always felt too fast for me.

God knows all of this and yet still requires diligence ~ for my sake and His.  He knows that diligence will bring me full assurance of hope, and that is certainly not something I want to miss out on.

So Twila’s words were so comforting to me. The music was inspiring, and I sang it loudly for the hour it takes to get back home from the Hartford airport.

And the encouragement came…

This is an important, noble, crucial calling.
There is an enemy and there will be obstacles.
Many have gone before me and they cheer.
Others will come behind me and they watch.
The arms of Jesus are my sure finish line.

That Twila knew and felt those things in 1986 (seems so long ago!) was so encouraging to me.  She’s one who has gone before me (at least by 12 years) and she’s cheering.

Truth is, folks knew these truths and realities in 1950 and in 1860 and even in 1620. They knew them in 1066 and in 586 and in 70AD.

More comforting than all of this is that Hebrews calls Jesus the “forerunner.”

  1. a person or thing that precedes the coming or development of someone or something else.
    “the icebox was a forerunner of today’s refrigerator”
    synonyms: predecessorprecursorantecedentancestorforebear

    “archosaurs were the forerunners of dinosaurs”

He ran this race way, way back in the day, and He did not become sluggish, but remained diligent though the obstacles were many ~ for my sake and for the joy set before Him.

So, if this post seems hopeless (I really hope not, though), let me assure you that I actually look forward to running the race in 2015. He’s taught me so much in the last year, and though they have not all been enjoyable lessons, I feel stronger in Him because of them.  I trust Him more, because I’ve seen His faithfulness, though not usually in the way I desired it displayed.

Yesterday was my first run of the new year.  It was a Thursday, so I met Betsy for our usual 5 miles around UMass. I talked her into a 7:30am start time ~ an hour past our usual, but then I ended up being awake until about 3am (long story involving teenagers out on new year’s eve), and it was 19 degrees outside.  I did not want to run.

But it was good…and necessary. Layered tights and ski mittens, hat and new thermal vest. (I wish I’d taken a picture. You might not have recognized us.) Cold air burning our eyes, we shared stories from Christmas, hopes and goals for the new year.  It was all warm hearts and bodies when we finished, and it felt so great. So hopeful.

And I’ll be out there again tomorrow. And next week. And next month. (Lord willing, of course.)

And all by his grace, so as to experience the fullness of the hope that is in Him, and to enjoy the warmth of His embrace at the finish line.

Here’s to running toward a growing hope in Christ in 2015 ~ in the midst of the best moments, the greatest challenges, the unexpected difficulties, and the great joys.