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.”
Ha!
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?

CUTEST THING EVER.

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.”

fore·run·ner
ˈfôrˌrənər/
noun
  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.