Maine-ly About Turning 17

Summer birthdays can be really awesome or really weird. Parties can be big, all-out shindigs, or altogether nonexistent, because all of your besties are camping or traveling or working odd hours in summer jobs. Fortunately, Kayla is happy to celebrate anywhere we happen to be at the time. Due to its July 28th date, we’ve celebrated her special day in various places…once at the home of an old high school friend of mine while visiting D.C, once in Connecticut at the home of fellow church planters, and this year we celebrated in Maine.

We have been going to the same cabin in Ogunquit, Maine every summer for as long as Kayla has been alive. (She started her cabin stays in a Pak N Play, and has since graduated to a twin trundle bed.) The cabin is a ministry to those in ministry, and a has been huge blessing to our family. Robert and I left a couple of days early and stayed in New Hampshire, and then Cooper and Kayla met us on Wednesday for lunch and the rest of the drive into Maine.

We invited Lars Gren to join us for lunch, since he lives very close to our route. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that Lars is one of the “Saints on Strawberry Cove.” He is the widower of Elisabeth Elliot, and has now been without her for a little over two years. The last time we had lunch with him was on July 15, 2015 – exactly one month to the day after Elisabeth died. I was eager to catch up with him and see how he’s been. Despite a head on collision with a drunk driver last August, and dealing with residual pain of several compression fractures, he’s doing well.  He had just returned from California where he attended a wedding and spent time with the family of the bride – a young woman who had been homeschooled and part of a conference and ministry at which Lars and Elisabeth were often asked to speak.

We enjoyed his stories and sitting together on the patio, though it was hot and I’m not sure how Lars endured it with his long sleeves and sweater.  He also ordered hot water (with lemon) and let us know that he never drinks anything cold….unless it is a 7-up, and then, of course, it requires ice. When we told him we’d be traveling to Greece for our anniversary, he said he also traveled there “years ago, courtesy of the US Navy.” Said he’d trade duties with other officers and take the night watch, so that he could go and explore the various cities in which they docked during the day.

We discussed the family of Jim Elliot, whose brother died in the last year. Lars traveled to attend Burt’s memorial service, which sadly also ended up being a memorial for Burt’s wife, Colleen, who slipped on ice walking up stairs, hit her head and never recovered. Tragic indeed, but in a strange way also very meaningful to celebrate two lives at once and a marriage dedicated to Christ and missions together.

It was a really nice visit, and the Wenham Tea House was just as you might imagine – little old ladies eating scones, salads, and tea sandwiches catching up on all the local scuttlebutt. If you’re a Gilmore Girls fan, think Emily Gilmore and the ladies of the D.A.R.

Then we drove up to Ogunquit, walked across the drawbridge to Perkins Cove for ice cream, grabbed some chicken and veggies at a cute downtown market to grill for dinner, and played a cutthroat game of Spades.

Cooper’s girlfriend, Madison, joined us for the day on Thursday which was really nice, and began with a big breakfast together at one of our favorite restaurants, The Roost.  Gluten free pancakes, muffins, and waffles are always on the menu there.Friday was Kayla’s birthday, and the only day we spent at the beach. It was nice and sunny that day. Since 17 year olds and 20 year olds like to sleep way past 7am, Robert and I went for a run, stopped at The Love Shack juice bar on our way back (beets and carrots and parsley!) and then started working on the birthday girl’s special breakfast – gluten free waffles (made in one of her birthday gifts, a mini waffle iron) and pancakes, eggs, bacon, and fruit. Her other gift was a pair of long-desired Birkenstocks. Cooper gave her a pair of Crocs, so I’d say she’s all set for summer footwear.

After breakfast, we packed our lunch cooler and headed for the beach.

Though it was warm that day, it was not really warm enough to get in the water. (In my opinion, of course.) Kayla kept begging someone to go in with her, but when Robert finally agreed and hit the waves ahead of her, she wasn’t so sure anymore. Eventually, they both took the frigid plunge

She’s planning a waffle birthday party for herself this week while we’re away in Greece, and has lots of other activities lined up for the week without us – babysitting, assisting a wedding photo shoot, and time with friends.

I know parents are supposed to say wonderful things about their children, and especially on their birthdays, but I don’t feel any obligation to exaggerate here.  Kayla is just a wonderful young woman, and I thank the Lord for giving me the gift of being her mom. We’re watching her work out her own call to ministry and seek the Lord for direction about college and beyond, and I’m always impressed by her discernment and wisdom and willingness to listen to God. She’s focused on meaningful things, and though tempted, not swayed by the different choices and direction of others.Saturday morning had me up with the sun and sitting on a bench along the Marginal Way with my Bible and journal. The gift of quiet and beauty all around, I finished the coastal-view walk with a trip into town for coffee and gluten free muffins for our final breakfast together in the cabin.

I hope Kayla looks back on her 17th birthday with happy memories of “the cabin in Maine” and a day at the beach. Maybe someday she’ll even be glad for the time with Lars (though she baked in the sun and wondered if she’d end up in a blog post) and being joined, even if ever so slightly, to the story of their family and ministry. Maybe she’ll even join their ranks as a missionary and hero of the faith.

She’ll be reading this soon, of course, so I’ll sign off by saying…

Kayla, Yes, you ended up in a blog post again. 😉 I love you and thank God for your life of faith and faithfulness even (and especially) at age 17. God has gifted you with a strength and confidence and calling that I know He plans to use for His glory and the good of others. I really love being your mom, and I can’t wait to watch it all play out in His time.

Wild Summer. Good Father.

Just returned from this gorgeous scene on Friday night. I don’t know if any U.S. coastline compares to this particular stretch. Maine is just beautiful, and I have to pinch myself when I’m there. Truly the stuff of dreams, I can’t believe this is how we’ve spent about one week of every year for the last 17 years. Between skiing in Vermont every winter and hanging out in Ogunquit, Maine every summer I try and emphasize to my kids that some people only fantasize of this life, but I think it’s lost on my New England-raised-kids. This Texas girl, however, continues to be in awe of my surroundings and grateful to God for all of it.

 Prior to our arrival home on Friday,  I had been in my own home and bed only about 72 hours between July 6 and August 12. Summer is always kind of wild and crazy, but this one may top the list.

I spoke at a Classical Conversations Practicum for 3 days in June. It was wonderful.  Not my speaking, but my worshipping over the things I was learning as I prepared to speak on a Christ-centered, Classical curriculum.  Wow. More on that later…hopefully.

Our oldest turned 21 a week later.  That seemed crazy enough, but then we decided on a Monday to go and surprise him on Friday of the same week. He only has Saturdays off, and so it seemed perfect.  We’d fly in on a Friday evening and spend all of Saturday and even Sunday morning with him.  Turns out it was the worst weekend we could have chosen. It was a staff change weekend.  First half staff was leaving and second half staff was arriving.  As a senior counselor, Kory was required to work all day on Saturday re-training staff on the ropes course and more.  We got to participate in the closing ceremony for that week of campers on Saturday morning and go to the staff meeting afterward, but then we had to say goodbye until around 8:30pm.  We grilled steaks for a late dinner and had a pancake breakfast together the next morning and did a lot of laundry, and our 18 hours together flew by too quickly.  No regrets though!  It was SO good to see this kid in his natural summer habitat!

I could go on and on about the excellence of Pine Cove and the high level training in leadership
and ministry that Kory has received here.  So grateful!

 Then we went to camp again!  Crosswalk Camp at Gordon College.  I think this was year 15 or something.  I know I was pregnant with Kayla the first time Robert was on staff and we skipped a year here and there.  We took our largest group of campers ever this year and had a blast.

 The camp pastor (a.k.a. my gifted husband) did an incredible job of teaching through the Sermon on the Mount…

 …and I had such a great time with all of the female chaperones working through the Sermon on the Mount by using the inductive Bible study method.  Here they are discussing and making posters of their “observations, interpretations, and applications.”

 We got home on a Saturday evening from youth camp and left the next Tuesday morning for this:

 When we got the invitation to Chris and Katie’s Colorado wedding, I knew we needed to go. So, months ago, we decided to make a week’s vacation out of it, and we are so glad we did. It doubled as a 24th anniversary celebration for us, since I would be in yet another state for the actual day. The trip was made even more do-able because of a generous gift given to us by members of our church!

Chris, the groom, has been a student at our church for the last four years.  An Amherst College football player from Texas, he and Katie have been dating since 8th grade. She graduated from UT Austin this May, and their wedding was in Crested Butte, CO – a favorite family vacation spot for her. It would take several paragraphs to describe this incredible wedding weekend, and so I’ll spare you all of the amazing details (I’m still basking in the beauty of it all!), but this is where the “Good Father” portion of my post comes in.

This crew.  Football players.  Groomsmen. Great friends.
And powerful witnesses for Christ on the Amherst College campus.
The handsome pastor on the right enjoys spending every Tuesday afternoon with them in the dining hall on campus.

The above photo was taken at the rehearsal dinner. A literal mountaintop experience. The cocktail hour had a 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks, and the dinner itself  – a white tablecloth affair under a nearby tent –  lingered with the most heartfelt toasts to the bride and groom that I have ever experienced. Both fathers spoke at length about the bride and the groom, but it was each father’s toast of the bride that had me close to sobbing.

Both her own father and her soon to be father-in-law spoke of her beauty, her kindness, her faith.  They each treasured her femininity, her intelligence, her character. They gave specific examples of those things.  They expressed joy in knowing her. They thanked God for her. They sincerely celebrated her. They acknowledged her great worth and delighted in the gift she is to both families.

I could not hold back the tears. (I wasn’t the only one!)

I stole this photo from Facebook. Katie looked like a princess.
The ceremony was at a private river valley resort. Absolutely beautiful.

I went to bed that night still rejoicing over the beauty of that dinner, those toasts, the humility of each father, their great affection for their kids. But there was this underlying sorrow still with me the next morning.

To be treasured like that.
To be built up and honored.
To have your femininity called beautiful and celebrated.
To have your faith and acts of service noticed with gratitude.
To be thought well of.
To be loved and cherished by the older men in your life.

Those are things I have not known from any earthly man but my husband. I’m sure it will sound a bit dramatic to some, but I was grieving the absence of those fatherly sentiments in my own life. (To be fair, those men who could and should be giving it, never received it themselves, and so I understand, but it doesn’t remove the desire.) Just a few days later, a forty-something acquaintance posted on Facebook about a call she got from her dad telling her how proud he was of her, of the family she is raising, and the new business she just started. She mentioned that no matter how old she gets, she never outgrows the craving for fatherly love and approval. Upon reading her post, I felt less silly about my own emotions. The longing is real and deep. And when it is satisfied, there is true rest and security and freedom. When it is absent there is striving and insecurity and bondage.

With a still-heavy heart, that next morning I opened my Bible to what just “happened” to be the next chapter in my reading plan.  It was Psalm 36, and God the Father spoke to me so clearly and specifically:

Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
Your judgments are like a great deep.
O Lord, You preserve man and beast.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
9 For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.

And there I was in Crested Butte, Colorado, literally surrounded by His mighty mountains – unmoving, lifting eyes to the heavens – visible images of His ability and willingness to faithfully and righteously love and protect me. As I was taking in the abundance of His creation, He was also saying so clearly and so personally, that HIS house is like that: abundant in love, a strong, affectionate refuge, and full of delights.
Whatever I grieve as a loss or scarcity on earth, He makes up for in abundance. The fatherly approval I long for He gives extravagantly.  The fact that He had me read that Psalm on that specific morning is only further evidence of His intimate love and affection. I was in tears again.
And when we climbed the highest of those surrounding mountains the next day, it was difficult not to think of His goodness, faithfulness, and unwavering love for me. 
Truly beautiful. 
A gift.

Our flight home was canceled due to severe weather in Houston, so we had to spend another day in Colorado.  Rough life, I know.

But what that meant was that instead of being home for two days before leaving again, I would only be home one day, and that day happened to be Kayla’s 16th birthday.  Not at all the way I wanted it to happen, but we had a fun day celebrating with the time we had.

A nice new camera was what she was hoping for, and we loved surprising her with it. (Well, sort of.  The box was delivered and sitting in our mudroom while we were away in Colorado, and there was no question what was inside, due to the markings on the box.  Oh well…)

We went to the Montague Book Mill for lunch (a great place for picture taking!) and the Esselon Cafe for cupcakes and coffee on the way home. For dinner we drove to West Hartford and her favorite restaurant – P.F. Chang’s. (Passing the airport that I would be back at only about 6 hours later.) I’m so thankful we had at least one day together, because…Sweet Sixteen!  Wow, can hardly believe it.

In total, I was home all of about 27 hours, as my plane to Texas left the next morning at 5:45am. I am always shocked to find hundreds of other people at the airport at 4am, and I barely made my flight because of the crowd. I arrived on a Friday night and was able to attend a bridal shower on Saturday for my youngest sister, Melinda.

I also got to meet the groom’s parents and spend lots of time with them over the weekend ~ such kind-hearted people. The following week, I spent at my dad’s house and helped my sister with a few wedding things – namely going along for the food tasting at the wedding’s resort venue. Not only did I get to eat a lot of delicious food, but then Melinda and I received a complimentary afternoon pool pass. A waiter brought us cold drinks and chips and guac while we sunbathed or floated in the lazy river. Such a rough  life, I know.

The following Saturday Bachelorette Party Weekend happened! It was the culmination of over 100 back and forth emails between 6 bridesmaids to coordinate the activities and venues for Melinda’s last hurrah as a single lady.

First there was a pontoon cruise on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin…

Then there was hanging out in the singles’ bar pool at the Hilton…

Had I been by myself or just with my other forty-something sister, we would have taken one look at that scene and headed straight back to the room.  Seriously.  But not only did we squeeze into the only two lounge chairs left on the deck, we also GOT IN THAT POOL and stood there in a circle with the other gals, chatting and acting like it was totally normal. Like we do this all the time. I really don’t think I was fooling anyone in my as-much-coverage-as-a-bathing-suit-can-offer swim attire, and I would be willing to bet that I was the only homeschooling pastor’s wife there. And why the massive, expensive downtown Hilton only offers this one tiny swimming pool is beyond me.  Oh, except for that whole singles’ bar vibe.  Now I get it.

And then there was a lingerie shower in the hotel.  Is this not the cutest, prettiest bride you’ve ever seen?

Then, we were off to dinner at a downtown Austin hot spot ~ Second Bar + Kitchen. So good.

I had to come back and edit this post to include what we did after dinner: Karoake at the Highball.  Our reservation was for 11:15pm.  We had our own private karaoke room (complete with pews, stained glass, and pentagrams.  I just prayed) and I cracked up at the group of 30year old former cheerleaders singing “I like big butts and I can not lie.”  Somehow I missed the 90’s rap era, but I’m telling you, it was alive and well until about 2am that night. Ha!

Sunday morning found us at a popular brunch spot ~ Moonshine. Amazing all-you-can-eat buffet. I even managed to go for a morning run along the lake with all the other Austinites – mostly because I no longer have the ability to sleep past 7am.  It was hot, and I thought I might die.  I prayed for Robert and Cooper while I was running, because they were also running ~ the Rockport, MA Half Marathon.  It was the same temperature in Rockport, MA as it was in Austin, TX, and I don’t know how they did it.  I can only run half-marathons in absolutely perfect weather conditions i.e. crisp, cool air with a steady breeze.

Here they are after the race – which was also the morning after Robert did our friend Pedro’s wedding in Worcester, MA. Impressive, huh?

They stayed at an Airbnb rental in Marblehead that night so they could pick me up in Boston the next morning. My flight from Austin to Boston was even earlier than the flight to Texas – 5:20am. I stayed in a hotel by the airport that afternoon (they let me check in at 1pm after brunch!) and overnight. It was a glorious 9 hours to myself. I read, walked to Starbucks, bought a salad at 7-11 for dinner (which was surprisingly good and fresh), had the pool all to myself for a couple of hours. I watched a bit of Texas Game Warden (quite interesting) before I caught up on two episodes of Blue Bloods since my family betrayed me by watching FOUR episodes while I was away – including the episode in which Erin is shot in the courtroom and the secret family code is revealed when Danny begs the shooter “Please don’t hurt my family.” Oh my goodness. More tears.

From Boston, we headed to Maine and our annual stay in Ogunquit. The cabin we typically stay in was only available two nights, and the kids wanted more time in Maine than that (they have come to love that time away), so Robert found a great place downtown and we stayed two more nights.

We had two great beach days and one rainy shopping day up in Freeport. 

The afternoon we arrived home, Robert had to go straight to a wedding rehearsal and dinner for these two. He was home earlier than expected, because the poor bride fainted (it was very hot and steamy) just before the rehearsal and ended up in the Emergency Room. There ended up being no rehearsal and no dinner, but you wouldn’t have known it by the beautiful ceremony the next day.

We had so much fun experiencing a Russian style dinner and dancing, and we are thrilled that these two will be staying around for a while.

Oh, there are so many other things to report on.  It was a wonderful whirlwind of a summer.  And of course I’m only telling you the glowing parts.  There was drama, there was strife, there were doctor visits, there was anger and disappointment, and there were LOTS of texts and phone calls with dear (and much too young) friends facing serious, life-threatening illnesses.  Climbing mountains and running marathons are also metaphors for the difficulty of this life and the stamina required. I thank the Good Father for providing both the glorious gifts and the grace to endure the not so glamorous parts.

Tomorrow is Cooper’s last day at home before leaving for college. There will be a cookout tomorrow night ~ hamburgers as requested, and then we’ll head to Gordon College on Friday morning. My van is currently loaded down with everything Target has to offer for dorm living. Pray for his transition if you think of it!

Kory begins his senior year at Baylor on Monday, which is just crazy.  And Kayla will be a junior ~ doing Challenge III at Classical Conversations this year.  I won’t be teaching at CC this year, but my 6th seminary class begins tomorrow – Christian Philosophy.  I am looking forward to it, and two of my textbooks are books I’ve already read for CC! (Sort of.  One is an almost identical title and premise.)

Robert is gearing up for year 18 of our church and the return of students to the area.  We are excited about being a part of what the Lord has planned for this year.

Thanks for reading, friends.

Maine: Building, Running, Celebrating

I love this picture of my two big boys building a sand castle.  This has been happening every summer for 15 years.  The holes get deeper and the piles get higher every year. We just never outgrow the enjoyment of playing in the sand.  There were little kids all around us on the beach each day last week, and it was so fun to watch them do the same thing mine used to do ~ dig and build closer to the water, where the tide will inevitably fill up the moat, but then eventually destroy the entire castle.  They would squeal and scurry around building bigger walls and barriers, and this would occupy them for at least an hour, but always to no avail.

Building houses OF sand and ON a foundation of sand can not withstand the storms, it’s certainly true to Jesus’ parable. In fact, they can’t even withstand the daily tide. A dear friend said to me the other day, “It’s not the dragons.  It’s the gnats.”  So true.  The daily tide of life (conflict, work, parenting, relationships, rejection, finances, betrayal, people’s needs) can be so difficult to endure for the long term. This wasn’t supposed to be a post about trial, but the truth is that there was a bit of that hanging over this vacation. The good news, though, is that getting away granted a bit of reprieve from its disappointing, discouraging nature.

Getting out of the house and spending time in a different location always helps put things in better perspective, and we did have a refreshing time away, so back to the sand castles….

Kayla enjoyed hanging out in the one that Kory made one day ~ sort of an inverted one, built deep down in a valley of sorts ~ as well as showcasing her own masterpiece. We spent nearly three whole days (afternoons) on the beach, and two of them were fairly chilly. I had to wear a sweatshirt the entire time one day. Oh, New England… 
But on our last day, the temps were up around 80 degrees (sigh…), so we made the most of that one.
 Cooper built a castle, too, but his looked more like a Hershey’s Kiss ~ only slightly larger. (Sorry, no photos) He eventually gave up and took to simply sunbathing and well, just generally looking cool.
Everyone braved the 60 degree water except for me.  It actually didn’t seem as cold as usual, and I did make it in to my knees. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon shivering on the beach, though, so I stayed dry for the most part. Plus, I was being swept away via words on a page to both southern India as I read the biography of Amy Carmichael, and also to Depression Era New York City and Ireland, as I finally picked up Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  It’s been in a basket in my room or on my nightstand for years.
Robert thought the cold water might give him some relief from back pain, but sadly, it really didn’t.
Pretty sure they were just numb by the time they came out of the water!
An attempt to warm up. (Well, and avoid another photo.)
If you know my daughter at all or read the last post about Kayla’s birthday, you won’t be surprised that a unicorn made an appearance on the beach.  She also recently acquired a t-shirt that reads “I liked unicorns before it was cool,” and it’s true, she did, in her generation anyway.  I cringe at the latest fashions ~ high-waisted, button-fly, acid-washed jeans, cropped tops, rainbows, unicorns, and all things 70’s and 80’s.  Don’t these kids know how we 40-somethings look at old photos of ourselves wearing those exact same things with so much regret?
Kory working on one of his three sand castle designs over the course of our trip.

Our evenings were filled with grilling some yummy dinners, trips into town for ice cream, a movie on a rainy night (no need to pay good money to see “And So It Goes” ~ FYI!), and a nightly Spades tournament. Cooper and Kory beat Kayla and Dad in the best two out of three.  Mom couldn’t stay up that late, and somehow fell asleep each night just feet away in spite of their laughing, yelling, and arguing.

View from the Marginal Way

 Maybe my favorite parts of getting away were the early morning runs I was able to go on and our anniversary breakfast.  If you know Ogunquit, then you know the “Marginal Way.”  It’s a narrow mile-long walkway along the rocky coast and overlooking the ocean. It’s beautifully and naturally landscaped, and provides incredible views.


 From there I could run into the quaint downtown area and then access the sandy beach, running for a couple of more miles, enjoying the quiet, the sunshine, and the thoughts of our great, infinite, and majestic God.  One morning when I got back I looked up this verse:

For the Lord is a great God, and a King above all gods
In whose hand are the depths of the earth, the peaks of the mountains are His also
The sea is His, for it was He who made it, and His hands formed the dry land
Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker
Psalm 95: 3-6
Low tide and a few other runners and walkers.
This map must show the high-tide view! Looks like I was running in the ocean ~ or swimming.
I returned “home” to this pretty view of Perkins Cove and sitting on the deck with Robert while
our three teens slept.

Robert’s back is still giving him so much grief. He’s been in constant and worsening pain since December, which means he hasn’t been able to run with me in months. We did go out for breakfast together after my run and while the kids slept to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, though.

We definitely cheated on our paleo diet for this breakfast celebration.  Robert had a toasted blueberry muffin along with his omelet, bacon and homefries, and I finally got to try a lemon-ricotta pancake.  I see them on the breakfast buffet at Whole Foods each week on our Monday breakfast dates there, but they are never gluten free.  I ordered one on the side of my two-eggs-over-easy, homefries, and bacon plate, and it was delicious! I’m craving another one as I type this.

When we returned, we made one pajama-clad child come outside on the deck and take our picture.

So thankful for some time away and some sunshine!

So thankful for this 15 year Maine vacation tradition!

1 Birthday, 1 Bedridden & 5 Beach Bound

Her complimentary Birthday Chocolate Dome at her favorite place to eat: PF Chang’s.

 This pretty girl turned 14 yesterday!  She started the day with a trip to the gym at 7am.  This was not her preferred wake up time, of course, but turning 14 means that you are now old enough to go to Planet Fitness, and she’s been wanting to “work out” at a gym with mom and dad for a long time.

Only her Daddy could take her and show her the ropes at the gym, because I needed to stay home and take Kory to walk-in hours at the pediatrician.  It is a very long story, but it (sort of) began with him passing out on Saturday evening after our family talked through Ephesians 6, the armor of God, and stood to pray, holding hands.  After we finished praying, Kory’s eyes rolled back into his head, he fell backward, breaking the door of our TV cabinet, and slumped onto the floor. He was out long enough for Kayla to call 911 and give the proper information.  I thought he was having a seizure, and it seemed like forever before he finally came to, but it was probably more like 10-15 seconds.  Paramedics came. Vitals checked out okay. A ride to the hospital was refused, but after they left, he spiked a 102 fever which stayed consistent until this morning around 3am ~ over 48 hours.
Yes, it really happened, as have many other scary and disappointing things in the last two weeks, and I’d love it if you prayed for us. 
(And yes, the paramedics asked what we were doing when it happened. They didn’t skip a beat when we said we were praying ~ that it was even Kory’s idea to stand and hold hands.  They did explain that prayer is not the typical reason for “passed out 19 year olds in Amherst.”  Comic relief was nice at that point.)
Anyway, Kayla returned home from the gym to her requested breakfast ~ chocolate chip waffles, eggs, and bacon.
And gift opening…
Arizona Tea and iTunes (from Cooper), Unicorns, and Taylor Swift Quotes ~ some of her favorite things

And the much desired iPod touch!  She was really surprised!

The weather was really weird yesterday ~ storms off and on all day ~ and so Kayla, Cooper, and I headed to West Hartford and the “fancy” mall to do some shopping with her birthday money and eat at her favorite restaurant ~ PF Chang’s ~ which is also inside the mall.
Robert stayed home to keep and eye on Kory and his fever, get some work done, and begin packing (in faith)  for our vacation to Maine ~ our usual trip to the cabin on Perkins Cove in Ogunquit.

We even had a unicorn sighting at Urban Outfitters.  It wasn’t a very pretty or cute one, though, and no sparkly glitter or rainbows accompanied it, hence Kayla’s disturbed face, but we enjoyed the time away.

Things were not looking good for Kory last night, who said he has never felt so terrible.  Cooper was beginning to feel feverish, too. We prayed for them, for protection, for mercy, and healing last night before bed.  I checked on them in the middle of the night, and they both felt feverish.  Thankfully, Kory’s fever finally broke early this morning and he ate breakfast. When Cooper got up, he said, “I really can’t believe I woke up well.”

So we are headed out with much gratitude, and looking forward to some time away in one of our favorite places.  Thankful, too, for the Smith family who have so generously allowed those in ministry to stay in their wonderful studio cabin for decades.

See ya soon ~ and hopefully with sunny beach photos to share!

Majesty in Maine

These were some of our first glimpses of Acadia National Park upon arriving and driving down the park loop road. It was Robert’s fourth, my third, and Kory’s second time to be there, and we wanted to share it with Cooper and Kayla this summer ~ all of us together before saying goodbye to Kory in a week.
We also got to enjoy the beauty of Maine with long-time, dear friends!  We camped in the park for 3 nights with my friend Izckra, her kiddos, and her grandmother.  We even camped halfway there in Freeport, ME.  I do enjoy camping, but four nights is PLENTY.
Camp food is one of the best parts of camping: bacon for breakfast tacos (see the bacon chefs below), bacon to go with pancakes, bacon grease in foil packets to cook meats and veggies over the campfire.  Somehow I was able to gain five pounds on this HIGHLY active vacation, and I don’t think it was the bacon that did it.  Pretty sure it was the s’mores, the tortillas filled with marshmallows, bananas, peanut butter, and chocolate chips and then roasted over hot coals, and the ice cream outings. Oh, well.  It was fun while it lasted!

There was lots of climbing around on the rocky shore and watching the lobster boats pull in their haul.

There were beautiful (and treacherous!) hikes, bike rides on carriage trails, and swims in lakes and the ocean.

When we reached the peak of “Beehive”, we sat down to eat our packed lunches, and Robert read all of Psalm 8 to us…

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes 
You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
4 What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
5 Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
6 You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

…and we all shared the ways the name of the Lord was made majestic in the creation around us, and what it means to be a “ruler” or “steward” of that creation.  Then, Kayla thanked God for all that we were seeing and experiencing.
The beach below is also the beach you can see behind the group in the above photo ~ Sand Beach.  We spent one afternoon there enjoying the sunshine.  The boys played Spike Ball and drew lots of attention to this new game ~ even met a friend of the co-founder of the company, and the girls soaked up the sun and ate a picnic lunch!

On our last morning in Acadia, we got up at 4am in order to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain and watch the sunrise. Cadillac Mountain is the “highest point along the North Atlantic Seaboard and is the first place to view the sunrise in the United States from October 7 through March 6” according to .  The other “first places” during other months of the year are also all in Maine.  Majestic, I tell you! (<—For you,  Izckra!)
It was very cold and windy, and I’m not sure Kayla or Mary ever really fully woke up for the special event, but they did their best.  The boys (even the one, KLK, who said he would) could not be aroused from their tent for the adventure.  Shocking, I know.  They certainly missed out!

We were between layers of clouds on the mountain ~ seeing them high above us and down below, and then just as the sun was peeking up from behind the earth, a huge cloud engulfed us and all we could see was this hazy glow.  We were sort of disappointed, and there was a collective groan from the hundred or so others who had also made the dawn journey.  But then, on the way back down, the clouds cleared and we could see the beautiful colors.  People were pulled off to the side of the road taking photos of what they had missed at the peak.

A group photo upon departure from our campsite, and not too shabby looking for only having had one eight quarter, four minute shower at the facility down the road!
After the three beautiful days in Acadia, our family drove about three hours south to Ogunquit, ME where we have vacationed almost every year for the 14 years we’ve been in MA, staying in a little studio cabin that is a ministry to ministers. Overlooking a famous cove, and minutes from one of the most popular beaches in Maine, it has been such a huge blessing to us to go there every year.
I don’t know if you can tell from the photos, but the water was ~ always is ~ extremely COLD.  56 degrees to be exact. At first it just plain hurts your bones to stand ankle deep in it, but then your legs go numb, and somehow you can make your way out for an frigid swim. I didn’t get that far, but Robert and two kids did.  “Very refreshing,” the hubby said.

Kory did his usual sand castle building, and Cooper just covered himself in as much sand as possible as fast as possible.  No kidding.  This kid just wallows and burrows in sand the whole time he is at the beach, and then he wants to eat food from the cooler. SANDwich, anyone? This photo must have been either before the wallowing or after the icy swim, because he appears to be sand free, sort of.
Felt so good to be beach bums for a day!
Now, I don’t really know if this truly qualifies as a place in Maine where the Lord’s name is majestic, but I’m afraid I may have been worshiping there on Sunday morning.  The Crate and Barrel Outlet in Kittery is one of my most favorite places to visit in Maine with its shelves of uniform, crisp white dishes, crystal clear glassware, wooden bins of kitchen gadgets, brightly colored cup towels, and sale prices.  My heart even delights in watching the cashier wrap each piece in several layers of newsprint before packing them in beautiful brown, handled bags.  And loading them in my dishwasher at home to prepare them for future use makes me all giddy.  Sigh…Maine just has so many marvelous (maybe not majestic) places to go!
Kayla just came in the room and brought me an original poem that she has been pecking out on her new typewriter.  It’s the perfect way to end this majestic-Maine-vacation-post, and sums up our experience fairly perfectly:
Oceans, sand, and salty spray
A starry night to lead the way
Fishing, lobster, and surfing waves
Underneath the ocean lays
A happy clam and a tiny pearl
A giant snail wrapped in a curl
This place is where I’m meant to be
A tiny cabin by the sea
With pictures hanging on the wall
Upon the roof the acorns fall
A pitter-patter above your head
Telling you to go to bed
A puzzle and a cup of tea
This place is where I’m meant to be.

The Maine Thing

Tomorrow we head to Maine for a little bit of the above picture life, and I can’t wait!  We’ll be camping in Acadia National Park for three nights and then staying near the beach in Ogunquit for three nights.  This trip has become the highlight of our summer.  Really, it’s the highlight of our whole year.  And this year it feels especially sacred, as just nine days after we return, we’ll be taking Kory 2000 miles away for college.  I’m praying for lots of great laughs, talks, meals, hikes, bike trips, and swims as a family before he leaves the nest ~ and good weather, too!

While we are away, we’ve rented our home to a family from Sweden who is bringing their daughter nearly 4000 miles away to college at UMass. (And people think we’re crazy for letting Kory go to Texas!) I’ve had wonderful correspondence with them, and deeply regret that we will not meet them while they are here.  We leave a few hours before they arrive.  It certainly adds a lot of work into the equation of packing for a camping/beach trip to prepare your house bed-and-breakfast style for international guests, but I’ve really enjoyed thinking through things that would make their stay comfortable, and the house is now in tip top shape!

I also had a lot of fun this week (small reprieve in the midst of chaos!?) thinking about what meals we will make over the campfire, and have already pre-made some of the essential components and frozen them to add to the cooler on our trip north.  When we get back, I’ll try to post photos and recipes, but for now think bubbly, garlicky cheese dips for appetizers, marinated teriyaki chicken for kebobs, and marshmallows, chocolate chips, cream cheese, and fruit to dip for dessert.  Yum!

If you’ve never been to Maine, I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.  Truly an amazingly beautiful place!  See ya in a week or so!

P.S.  Our college-bound kid is determined to eat lobster for the first time on this trip!  I’m thinking we will indulge him in this small fantasy!