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.

Greece Is The Word (One More Week!)

I couldn’t help myself with that title. You guys know it refers to one of my favorite childhood movies and musicians, because even at age eight I was already a big Olivia fan. Thankfully, almost all innuendos were completely lost on me at the time. Being in second grade meant it was all purely “isn’t she so pretty?” and “isn’t her voice so beautiful?” and “aren’t they so romantic?”

Now, forty years later, I can be much more spiritual (though I can still quote the movie) and say that my title here refers to the WORD (God’s Word in the New Testament, that is) being originally written in Greek. So, Greek is the Word…or the Word is in Greek.

The point is, we’re going to Greece!

(Lord willing, of course. And there have been a few twinges of fear and apprehension that it might not be His will, but so far, so good.)

 It’s an anniversary trip, and we leave on August 1 (one week from today!) which will be our actual 25th wedding anniversary.

One afternoon in April after an out-of town trip, Robert had a freshly cleaned house these things waiting for me on the table when I arrived home.

25 years of marriage seemed to us like something to celebrate, something to commemorate in a special way, and we’ve really never done anything quite like this before – well, except for that one time we went to Switzerland almost 10 years ago. (Hi, Romy!)

My memory is fuzzy on our 5th anniversary – probably because we had a two year old (Kory) and an infant (3 month old Cooper) at the time, but I think we may have gone to a bed & breakfast in Guthrie, Oklahoma. (Not exactly a romantic destination.) Robert’s parents stayed at our house in Stillwater with Kory, and we took Cooper with us.

On our 10th anniversary, a group of college students and grads from our church here in Massachusetts were helping us move into the house we still live in.  At the end of a hot and sweaty day, they gave us a box of Reynold’s Wrap (#10 is the aluminum anniversary 😉 ) and a gift certificate to a couple of nice restaurants in nearby Northampton. I remember hearing Twila Paris’ “How Beautiful (Is the Body of Christ)” in the background that day, and thinking that though it was not an “ideal” celebration, God had given us a family in these students and young adults. He’d given us laughter, too, in that box of tin foil.

Anniversary #15 was spent at The Copley Square Hotel in Boston and doing things in Boston we had never done because of having small kiddos – a Duck Tour and The Blue Man Group. It was three days and nights, I believe. We were so happy to sit for hours in cafes just talking or quietly reading.

Sunshine!

For Anniversary #20 we went to Bustins Island off the coast of Maine. I was very leery about this due to it only being accessible by ferry (all food and water had to be carried in) and not really having any electricity, but friends offered it, the price was affordable ($0.00), and Robert agreed to shop for and cook all meals. (I was pretty skeptical about that.) It turned out to be an incredible getaway, and kayaking around the island at sunset? Well, Sandy and Danny only came close to that kind of romance in Grease. (Oh, and Robert did indeed take care of all the food and even let me beat him at Scrabble a few times.)

I’ve been dreaming of visiting Greece for several years. I think it’s a combination of missing the sun so much after nearly two decades in New England as well as becoming more and more interested in biblical history and geography. Where better to indulge in both loves?

Greece is the word.

More sunshine! (So exciting, after a very rainy summer here.)

When we began dreaming about a vacation for anniversary #25 way back in October, our first thought was Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. (Greece seemed a bit unrealistic at the time.) That way we could stop for a couple of days in Palm Springs to visit our newest niece, Taya, and then head out for a warm, beach vacation. I texted my brother for some insider info on the resort island. He agreed to send me an email with plenty of ideas, but when he found out our other idea was to go to Greece, he said, “You’re trying to decide between Catalina and Greece? Go to Greece.”

In his mind it was a no-brainer.

Still not convinced, we looked up August’s average temperatures for both places.

Athens, Greece = 85 degrees.

Catalina Island = 75 degrees.

History, archaeology, architecture, and my brother’s advice aside, I was convinced. Oh, how I love 85 degrees. I can have 75 degrees on the beach in Massachusetts or Maine anytime, shivering in my hoodie all day. I’m not even packing a hoodie for Greece. (Well, maybe for the plane.)

We still didn’t think we could swing the financial aspect of  a trip like that, but an unexpected tax return and our camp paychecks enabled us to book all flights and Airbnb lodgings. It didn’t hurt that nearly every Airbnb listing in Athens said something like this: “$37.oo a night. View of Acropolis.”

Crazy.

It was so hard to limit ourselves to visiting only one island, but after much comparison and reading up on them, the biggest one, Crete (we’ll be in Chania), was the winner.

Having already booked travel to and lodging in Athens and Chania, Crete, last week we were finally able to sit down together and create a more detailed itinerary for our trip. It was so much fun, and we can hardly wait!

Here are some things we have planned…

Thursday, August 3: Skip the Line: Walking Tour of Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and Attalos Museum

Friday, August 4: Gourmet Food Walking Tour in Athens

Saturday, August 5: Corinth Half Day Tour From Athens

Sunday we’ll fly from Athens to Chania, Crete (attend a church service?) and explore the city.

Monday, August 7: Hike the Samaria Gorge and stay overnight in Agia Roumeli

Tuesday, August 8: Return to Chania. Afternoon/evening Boat/Swimming Tour.

Wednesday, August 9: Half day trip to Monastery of Agia Triada

Thursday, August 10: Return to Massachusetts

You know, just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Acropolis.

Out of curiosity, I looked to see if there are any Starbucks stores in Athens. Silly me. There are actually six, but we have agreed to not drink their coffee or tea. It will be strictly local cafes and markets for us over the next two weeks, however, I may have to purchase an Athens “You Are Here” mug.

As exciting as all of this trip dreaming and planning is, I can honestly say there is no one I’d rather experience it all with than my husband of 25 years, and I thank God for that gift. To be happily married and longing for more time together in faraway lands is a truly gift. We could never have maintained this kind of love and affection and devotion in and of ourselves.  We know it comes from God, and we can’t wait to celebrate His generosity toward us with a very exciting adventure next week.

So, now that I think of it…

Gift is the word.

And the Giver is so good.

Cape Octobers & Good Things


So…October 8 came and went, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.  Maybe the “good thing” that was supposed to happen is something we don’t know about yet, or maybe it was a call to count our current blessings ~ good things that we may be taking for granted. Admittedly, the “prophecy” sounded like it was something big, new, and exciting, but nothing of the sort really occurred.
Lots of regular “good things” have happened, though.
We did have a safe drive to Cape Cod on Tuesday night. We arrived around 11pm, got a good night’s sleep, and didn’t have to set alarms for early morning wake-ups. We’ve been coming to Cape Cod every October for many years thanks to the generosity of a sweet family in our church.  It’s been a good time to take a break after all the craziness of the end-of-summer and fall church activities.  When you live in a college town and have a congregation full of students August and September are full speed ahead.
Robert’s back is just about completely healed.  His constant pain is almost no more.  He’s even been able to run a bit, but not with me on the pavement yet.  Hopefully soon.  This healing is such a good thing ~ something we’ve prayed for daily since December.  And it’s all come about in the last week.  We are so grateful.

Important communication happened on the 8th.  Maybe even breakthrough communication that has possible benefits for everyone involved, granting growth, maturity and freedom.  And this was communication with several different folks about several different things ~ hard, burdensome things, and wonderful, celebratory things.

The beach is always a good thing ~ especially the beach on a sunny, blue sky day.  We took a walk in the sun and wind and enjoyed the refreshment that comes with being out of your usual surroundings and away from your usual responsibilities.  Shoes off, sand between your toes, sunshine on your face. Good things.

This week is an “off” week for Classical Conversations and homeschooling and that’s a good thing for  Cooper and Kayla ~ and me.  They put in a lot of hard work during the week to meet deadlines and complete assignments, so it’s nice for them to have a bit of an academic and mental vacation.  It also happens to be fall break for my seminary, and while it’s nice to have a reprieve from a heavy reading load and weekly quizzes, I do have a mid-term exam next week and a research paper due at the end of the month.  It’s okay though.  I really love what I’m studying and researching.  Good things.

Thursday morning, before we went to the beach, I went for a long run.  Running is such a good thing for me.  It’s a gift to have health and strength, to be outside in a beautiful place, and to have time to think and pray. I’ve also been memorizing Romans on my runs.  Amazing how memorizing it and therefore meditating on it can be so different than just reading it.  It feels like I understand it so much better.  I read Hebrews 9 and 10 before my run.  I love Hebrews ~ maybe more than Romans, I don’t know.  And what I read this morning is relevant to my research paper.  Wow. Good, good things.
I didn’t realize how close I was to the beach at the mid-point of my run!
Speaking of running, I received the gift of new running shoes while here at the Cape.  Church Planter Catalyst (Robert’s new 2nd job) wives were each given a $100 gift card recently. I knew exactly what I would buy.  My old running shoes had over 1300 miles on them, and so it was time.(Actually, it’s time at 500 miles, so this was overdue.)  The local Sports Authority had just my size and brand. This morning’s 8 mile run felt especially good in these new Asics, and they are perfectly timed with the training I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks for a half-marathon with my friend Betsy.
We’re missing Kory on this trip, but here’s a throw-back to 2008 when all five of us were here, and we played a fun round of miniature golf.  We did talk to him on Wednesday night.  He was super-exhausted and super-excited all at the same time with things join on at school.

Tuesday night he interviewed Ian McCaw, the Athletic Director at Baylor, in front of a crowd of 300 students in the Lead Living-Learning Community. His day leading up to the evening event was completely chaotic, and he sent out a desperate plea for prayers via text early in the day. We prayed for him and for the event, and it ended up going well ~ all of it.  Good things.

So, lots of good things this week. Not of the prophetic dream sort, but still our life is often overflowing with good things that I never stop and acknowledge.

We still have three more days at the Cape, and it’s good to be away. When we return home, life will be very full and fast-paced.  It will be so good, but so busy. For now…we’re soaking up the good rest and good times with each other.