We Went To Camp: Edition 16.0

Finally getting around to writing about camp today, though we’ve been home almost a week now. It was our 16th year to go to Gordon College for Crosswalk – our regional weeklong summer camp for teens. Robert’s first year on camp staff was the summer I was pregnant with Kayla, and we’ve only missed two years since then.  My kids grew up going to camp long before they were old enough to be campers, as you can see.

On our way to the beach! Gordon is only three miles from the closest beach, and this is how we used to spend a couple of afternoons during the week while dad was working on sermons. (circa 2005?)

Cooper has even made Gordon College his home away from home by going to school there.  He’ll start his second year as a student there this fall, but he’s had 16 years of prior dorm, dining hall, and campus  experience. 😉

We love our week at camp for many reasons, but it feels a little weird to tell you all the highlights without letting you know that the weeks leading up to camp and the week back home have been hard.  The days have been consumed with resolving conflicts, receiving emergency texts and phone calls, making hospital visits, facilitating counseling sessions, encouraging dear friends in crisis, and more. In many ways, the intensity of these situations seems greater than ever before. Daily, we are reminded of and burdened by the effects of sin and darkness, but at the same time we are sustained in Christ’s strength.  Still, we would appreciate your prayers.

So, camp was as wonderful and as exhausting as usual.

The staff arrives 3-4 days prior to the teens in order to prepare for the week. Trying out new games is often a weekend activity, and here you can see Itamar and Jared playing Chinny Penny – or keep a penny flat on your chin without letting anyone knock it off. Last one with a penny on their chin wins.

Reconnecting with returning staff, eating, laughing, catching up, praying, and worshiping together are things we look forward to every year. In texting with our director prior to camp about various questions, I said “Won’t it be nice to enjoy sweet fellowship next week?” We both agreed that it would.

Our Western Massachusetts gang – just after arrival.

After campers arrive and get settled, their days start with Morning Celebration:

LeBron James made an appearance on Celebrity Home Improvement last week, as did Justin Timberlake and Selena Gomez.

 

Afterward the camp pastor sends everyone off to group Bible studies.

While the teens are in Bible study groups, Robert and I spend the time in Bible study with all of the adult chaperones. My group played musical rooms this year, and studied both the book of I John and did an overview of the Seamless study and workbook. (Have I convinced you to do the study yet?)

The dining hall ended up being a terrible place to have Bible study. Food and supplies being wheeled in behind me every five minutes. So loud, too!

After Bible study, it’s “Rec” time, and Gordon has such a beautiful spot for this – “the Quad” – right in the middle of campus.

Anthony and Finn playing dodge ball.

 

Kayla and her fellow “Questies” from our group. Each of these guys will be seniors next year and just completed the Quest Leadership Development program during their junior year.
Kayla loved reconnecting with a few from her Scotland team – Trevor and Nathaniel, here.
Even the chaperones can get in on the fun!
Practicing for Mega Relay – which takes the place of Recreation on the last full day of camp.
Lunch follows Recreation – always kind of a love/hate relationship with dining hall food.

After lunch, the teens head to Activity Tracks.  They can choose anything from Arts and Crafts to Missions to Competitive Sports. (This mission track learned about a really great ministry called Sole Hope during one of their sessions.) Free time follows and many of them just stay on the quad playing frisbee, soccer, and football. They can also swim at the Rec center on campus, play basketball in the gym, or go back to their room and read, play games, or paint each other’s nails.

The evening worship service happens after dinner and a short activity at 6:35pm – called 635. 😉 Robert spends his afternoons polishing off sermons he’s tried his best to prepare before arriving, creating PowerPoint presentations, printing notes, and practicing.

This year’s most memorable image may have been the Jenga Tower of Babel. (All sermons were on things built either by God or humans, since the camp theme was Blueprint.) And if you know Robert at all, then you know that about halfway through the sermon, he knocked that tower right over to illustrate what God did to the plans of humans intent on making a name for themselves rather than for their Creator.
Want to see it in action? Click here for the camp highlight video.

I still don’t know how he pulls this off each year. Well. that’s not really true. It’s God’s grace and His provision of ideas and direction and efficient work. Still, I marvel. Six sermons in six days!

(I would like to take credit for some of his wardrobe choices throughout the week, though. It was a crowd of teenagers after all, and I am able to provide at least a tiny bit of fashion counsel so as not to distract from the message.)

Mercyhouse was well represented at Crosswalk this year.  Just look at these four…

Tommy and Kaitlyn served on staff leading Bible studies, Activity Tracks, and playing in the band.  Sarah served as a chaperone for our girls for the third time, and Chloe served as one of our many adorable camp mascots. She even made appearances in two sermons.

And here is Sarah again with Meghan and Anthony. Pretty sure these three would have won World’s Best Camp Chaperones this year if there was such a thing. They were amazing, and I thank God for their eager investment in our teens’ lives last week. They truly went above and beyond.

Anthony shared about his experience seeing God change hearts and lives at Amherst College.
Kayla shared (with 500 people!)highlights from her experience in Scotland.

Shoutout to Ellen, Patrick, and Nick as well!  So fun to be with Mercyhouse people while away at camp!

One final picture of our group on the last day. They all seemed to have such a fun and meaningful time. Lots of heart transformations and life direction received. Many renewed in their desire to “offer their bodies as living sacrifices” which was the other very tangible image of the week – Robert placing his whole body on a small table to illustrate what a whole burnt offering is all about.

 

Saturday morning it’s all over. One last time with Bible study groups, one last song and short sermons, and all the teens are back on the road with their individual churches.

Staff stays around another hour or so for clean up, which may be the toughest job of all.

Because deflating beach balls, giant pizzas, and ring toss cones is hard work, y’all!

Bloom Where You Are Planted/Exiled: Part 2

Okay, so the hostas I reluctantly planted must’ve put down some roots, because they are looking great this year. Healthy, happy, full, and green. And all of this in spite of being uprooted from the foreign land of Betsy’s front yard and exiled to my house a mile away. Evidently, plants can do that sort of thing with quite a bit of resilience.

The Israelites, not so much.

Psalm 137 tells us that in their captivity they sat by the rivers of Babylon and wept. They couldn’t even sing or enjoy music due to the grief of being taken hundreds of miles away from their beloved homeland.

I can relate.

I, too, am hundreds of miles away from my beloved homeland. Thousands, actually. And I had no idea the affect a place can have on a heart. (The hostas and myself are more of a relocation than an exile, but stick with me.)

Despite their deep despair, God tells them (through Jeremiah the prophet) to “bloom where they are planted.” And He’s not vague on the details regarding what “blooming in Babylon” should look like….

Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. ~Jeremiah 29:5-7

I really don’t think this is what the Israelites had in mind.

Settle down in a pagan culture? Raise families there? Pray for and seek the good of the city? Especially difficult to escape were the words of the false prophets telling them the exile would be short, that God would be coming to rescue them and deliver them back home any day now. In reality, they would spend seventy years in Babylon, which meant that most adults would never see Jerusalem again.

Are you beginning to think of times when God has asked something similar of you? You may not have been literally driven from your home because of your rebellion (or maybe you have), but you’ve been asked to endure uncomfortable circumstances, less than ideal situations, seasons of life that were unexpected and difficult, tragic loss. Not places you’d choose to be, but there you are anyway?

I can relate.

I didn’t grow up anywhere near New England, but I did dream of traveling here one day. In fact, growing up, this Texas girl’s dream honeymoon was a New England one. New England…that far away land in the top right corner of my geography class map. Lobster, bed and breakfasts, quaint small town inns, scenic back road drives with falling leaves, white steepled churches, rocky coastlines, and fires burning in every wood stove. Maine was probably the only state I could name and locate at the time, but it just seemed like the perfect romantic fairy tale to me.

That I did not end up having a New England honeymoon is not just an understatement. The only similarity my real-life honeymoon had to my fantasy honeymoon was its proximity to a coastline. The Gulf Coast coastline in this case. Robert and I spent a week in Galveston, TX staying near a less-than-beautiful beach at a family-friendly resort. (A family I babysat for during college had given us a coupon for the place.) We could hear the older man in the room next to us snoring each night, as well as hordes of children running up and down our hallway on their way to the pool all throughout the day. It was a far cry from my romantic northeastern ideal.

Robert was a youth pastor in Austin,TX at the time, and I was still in my last year of college at the University of Texas. Living on one ministry income while finishing college meant that you gladly take the coupon to the family-friendly resort being offered to you. It was a honeymoon after all, and so it wasn’t that difficult to “bloom where we were planted” in that case.

7 years later, though, the Lord did grant a trip to New England. So far that “trip” has lasted 18 years.

It was not exactly what I had in mind.

In 1999 God opened a door and invited us into ministry in New England. Robert had a desire to plant a church in an area of the country that was in need of more churches, and right after he completed seminary the opportunity came to do that very thing in Amherst, Massachusetts. I think we both thought church planting (which was a fairly new thing at the time) would be something we did in our forties and fifties, not in our late twenties and early thirties. (Now that I think of it, we are still sort of church planting in our forties and almost-fifties, so we weren’t all wrong in our thinking.)

We visited Boston and Amherst in January of 1999 (our first-ever trip to New England) and moved to Amherst with our 4 and 2 year old boys in July of 1999. I was pregnant with my daughter by December of that year and really did not know even one soul in Massachusetts, let alone an OB/GYN. It was bitter cold and snowy. My husband was very busy trying to meet folks in town and plan our first worship services. I was at home on the couch with relentless morning sickness and two toddlers running around, except when I was hosting college students and out-of-town mission teams for meals.

Then, very soon after I found out I was pregnant, the headline of our local newspaper proclaimed the new abortion services being offered at the nearby hospital. I don’t know exactly why, but that glaring headline sitting on my doorstep felt like a tipping point. This foreigner was very lonely, probably depressed, and semi-horrified that I lived in a town proud of its abortion services. Where had God brought us? It was not romantic or fairytale-ish at all.

It felt like exile.

To be continued…

Summer So Far

It’s 2:30 on a Monday and I planned to have all of this posted mid-morning.

Have you guys noticed that life has a lot of interruptions? A hospital visit was not on my long to-do list this morning, but that’s where I spent a good portion of the time. If you think of it, pray for a friend who is there. An “interruption” to my carefully planned day, yes, but also a planned-by-God privilege to be able to bring some encouragement, reassurance, and prayer.

I can’t believe we’re in the second half of June. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but while I always long for summer and a break from the busyness of the school year, it definitely has a fullness all of it’s own. It probably feels especially crazy, because there is no pattern or routine – just a lot of events and happenings and random activities.

We are five weeks in to seven weeks of small groups at church (one of the “routines” of summer), and I LOVE MY GROUP. You might have noticed that we ordered the wrong version of the Seamless workbook, but we decided to proceed with the teen girls’ version.  It has worked out just fine, and we’re all learning or re-learning a ton. Vi (pictured below, right in the middle) made us these awesome flash cards of the icons used in the workbook to help get a visual for the timeline of the whole Bible. (Crosswalk Chaperones, you may see these again next month!)

(No, we are not learning the Bible backwards (though I think a lot of us do!), it’s just that they organized the cards from their left to right, not ours.)

We’ve hosted a couple of Sunday lunches, one of which held an impromptu birthday party for Joseph, age 2. And you know I love a crowd around my dining room table – especially when they are this cute.

A couple of weeks ago, Robert and I found ourselves in Indianapolis for the second time in three months – The Gospel Coalition Conference in April and Grant and Melissa’s wedding this month. It might be appropriate to call this The Year of Indianapolis, because Robert will be back there to perform another wedding ceremony in August. We’d never even been to Indiana until this year.

We’ve enjoyed running about a 4-5 mile course on the Cultural Trail both times now.  Getting our bearings a bit more this time, we ran more along the canal, which is really beautiful.  Then it was breakfasts at outdoor cafes, coffee stops, enjoying our downtown hotel, carpooling to the wedding venue (about 45 minutes out of the city) rehearsal dinner, and wedding.

These two…

They worked so hard to create a wedding venue out of a field of weeds which happened to back up to a pretty brook.  They mowed and weed whacked and moved tree trunks and planted flowers and watered flowers and mowed some more and arranged chairs and I’m thinking they could rent that field out for future weddings now.  It was just gorgeous. And if I had time and space to tell you their stories, you’d find them even more beautiful.

It’s yet another privilege of being in ministry and close community with so many…spending wedding weekends with students (and others) who’ve been a part of your church. Really.  Such a joy.

One guest was especially encouraged by the faith of these young college students and recent grads. He pulled both Robert and me aside at different times to express his delight. “They get it!  They love Jesus and know how to give Him glory.  These kids are going to change the world.”

I totally agree.

We toasted with milk and chocolate chip cookies. (And if that’s not world changing, I don’t know what is.)

The sad part about that wedding weekend was that in between morning runs and late night dinners and rehearsals and sometimes during all of those things, we were texting and talking with dear friends whose marriage is falling apart. Dear friends. Covenant friends. 30 years of friendship friends. Children confused, hurt, and angry. Hearts ripped apart. Just so difficult to process the darkness and complexity of the seeming end of a marriage while experiencing the light and joy of one just beginning.

Pray for my friends. I still have hope for them.

My days have been filled with lots of coffee dates with women from church, and a special DIY project that I can’t wait to tell you about. We’ve also been slowly making our way through some much needed home improvements. I have the pics of an almost brand new kitchen and mud room and will post soon.

(Also, DIY projects, home improvements, and plenty of time to meet with women means I dropped my summer seminary course.  The first assignment was due the week after Kory’s graduation and the final exam would have been during a special 25th anniversary trip we’ve planned. It had to go. More on our trip later, because we might need your suggestions.)

Father’s Day was really fun.  Also Child Dedication Sunday, we dedicated 15 children – and had well over 40 children at church. So crazy and so wonderful – especially when you take into consideration that my own kids were the only kids in the church from 1999 until just about seven years ago.

Later it was ice cream at Flayvors – our local dairy farm…

…and burgers by Cooper wearing a 1987 vintage (i.e. older than Cooper by 10 years) Texas FCA shirt. I honestly think it might be worth some money to a handful of folks, but we’re not parting with it anytime soon.

I’ll close with this:

Yes, he does love the SnapChat filters.

Thanks again for joining me here and being patient as I learn to navigate this new space.  (It’s not quite as easy as it was before, but maybe I’ll get the hang of it soon.)

Happy Start-of-Summer to you!

Spring: “Filled & Fried”

“We were both so filled at Easter, and also kinda fried,” is what my friend Christina said the other day when we were catching up via text message. (Hopefully she doesn’t mind me quoting her.)

She is also a pastor’s wife, but you don’t have to have that role to feel that way. Everyone I talk to lately has been feeling the same…filled by the warm weather, the meaningful times of worship, the sweet fellowship, the fun activities, but also fried by the frenzied pace of it all.

Here’s a little glimpse into our spring – things that have passed and things upcoming. Warning: this is a long post (again), but I just needed to get it all down.

Weeks of Shakespeare rehearsals and then a weekend of performances – also known as the time of year I get to live out my secret ambition of being a hairstylist. Jessica’s hair was a bit of a dilemma, since she had to turn into a boy in the middle of the play (As You Like It) and then back into a girl.

Kayla did an excellent job in her smaller role, which she always has to balance with her track practices and meets. Lots of hurrying back and forth for both of us the last weeks of March.

Our church’s women’s retreat had been booked and on the calendar for a year, and then the Shakespeare play was booked for the same weekend. This meant I could only help with dress rehearsals and one performance on a Thursday night.  Friday, it was off to New Hampshire in the middle of a raging March 30-April 1 snowstorm!

Every time a woman arrived at the conference center, I was silently thanking the Lord for safe travel. It snowed for over 30 hours and left over 18 inches behind before it was all over, but in the end, all of these ladies made it, and we all had the best time being snowed in together.

 

With Sarah hosting games, this is Elisabeth and me – about to compete at charades.
Household chores the theme; “Dusting a lamp” was our acting assignment. 😩
Every Sunday after church we hosted a small group Bible study, except that it wasn’t very small. Some of you know that one of my favorite things to do is have people over for lunch after church. Hosting a small group at that time is really just a sneaky way for me to get to do this regularly.

We enjoyed discussions on the book of John, and then broke into smaller groups for prayer.

Abby and Maddie, two Mount Holyoke students, came home after the first service with me every week and helped prepare the meal. Kayla and I loved spending time in the kitchen with them chopping veggies and making multiple pots of coffee.

(We also did some informal scientific research during those weeks and came to the conclusion that more women than men enjoy hazelnut coffee, which led to changes in grocery purchases, and number of pots of regular vs. hazelnut since we had far more women in the group than men!)

I should have put these next photos right after the retreat photos, because less than 45 minutes after I arrived home from the women’s retreat in New Hampshire, Robert and I left for Indianapolis for The Gospel Coalition Conference. Unlike the scheduling of the Shakespeare play which we had no idea would fall on the same weekend, we were well aware of the back-to-back nature of these events. But the conference was going to be in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the list of speakers included all of our favorites and more. We couldn’t resist, and we’re so glad we made it happen.
Josh Moody is one of Robert’s good friends and a fellow pastor. He used to pastor in Connecticut, but is now at College
Church in Wheaton, IL. We had fun catching up over dinner one evening. Josh has written several books lately –
you should look him up at God Centered Life!

I’m just now realizing I didn’t get a picture of our whole group, as we had friends from Ohio join us, but Chris and Katie were with us for the whole conference – and beyond. (!) Both from Texas, newly married, Chris an Amherst College grad, and Katie a University of Texas grad, they are now on staff with Intervarsity on our local college campuses and a part of our church as well.

It was so fun to have them with us, but I think they got much more time with us than they bargained for, as our flights home were canceled mid-trip, and we were forced to take hotel vouchers in Detroit. It was quite an adventure, and I think I have finally learned that is it wise to take some toiletries and a change of clothes with me in a carry-on bag. I bought a $6 t-shirt at the airport to sleep in and Katie was kind enough to let me borrow some mascara the next morning. Thanks to Katie and that fateful morning, I am now in love with this mascara. Grounding us in Detroit was clearly God’s way of showing me His mascara will.

Then it was Holy Week and Easter. We had a wonderful Palm Sunday, 9pm worship services at Amherst College every night after that, a Passover Seder, a Crosswalk through town, a Good Friday service, and ended the week with an 82 degree Easter Sunday and fun lunch gathering at our house.
Grant is a senior at Amherst College and preached at one of the evening services.
(I’ve just turned off the “live” photo feature on my phone, since it gives me 2 second videos
rather than still photos.)

Friend and church member, Shannon, took photos of anyone who wanted them after each service. They all turned out so great!

 

Robert led the congregation in a song he wrote especially for Easter. Cindy accompanied on viola. So beautiful.

 

Coop was home for the long weekend.
More college kids home – friends old and new.

 

The warm weather meant we could be outside.

 

 

Texas, Iran, Massachusetts, Rwanda, Kenya, Mexico, and China – all represented around my table
Such a beautiful sight, a true gift, and a glimpse of heaven.
Some of the frenzy is by my own choosing, but peer pressure plays a part. The following Saturday I ran my first half marathon trail race with Betsy and her friend, Liz. The race was Betsy’s idea (definitely not mine!), and since she moved to Natick last year, I decided to join her as a way to spend some time catching up. This meant that during Holy Week and the week after Easter, I was having to up my running mileage quite a bit to prepare. You know…not much else going on those weeks, so why not? Sigh…
These things always sound like a great idea two months prior.
I’m pretty sure that running on an actual trail would have been highly recommended for training purposes, but the edge of the bike trail is the closest I got to the real thing. There were some rocks and roots, but no mud or hills. Oh well.

The route was a 6+ mile loop…or cloverleaf? It rained the whole day before as well as the last half hour of the race. We were freezing by the time it was over and all had blue lips when we met up at the finish line. I was the last of the three of us to finish at 2 hours 24 minutes – about 30 minutes slower than my last half marathon.

Kayla has been running and jumping a lot herself lately with spring track. She’s been doing the triple jump, the 100m, 200m, the 4×100, and the 4×400.

Several of her fans joined us at a recent meet, and she had fun racing some of her beloved kindergartners, first-graders, and toddlers.

Yep…breaking all of the blogging rules with the length of this, but here are a few more things we’ve done this spring…

A trip to the Boston Opera House with friends to see The King and I. So good!
Betsy’s son (and Pete’s!) Dustin was baptized last Sunday. He had to have a special, early
baptism due to his UMass Ultimate Frisbee team schedule.

After Dustin’s baptism, we hosted a graduate luncheon at our house – about 20 of them were able to join us, but as you can see there are so many more leaving us this year! This pic reflects only those in the second service.

 

 

 

Alena (and Lois) were over on Saturday night and Sunday helping prepare, host, and clean up.

 

Grant and Parker – we’ll be back in Indianapolis next month for Grant’s wedding!

This week included Kayla’s Challenge III Protocol Night. Along with the Challenge I class, we enjoyed an Italian dinner at a local restaurant and then headed to Amherst College for their Christian A cappella group’s spring concert.

 

Challenge I (Freshmen) and Challenge III (Juniors) classes together

 

I took my final exam in Theology III on Wednesday…

…and instead of blogging, I should be reading that top book and writing a 5 page paper on it, because it’s due next Wednesday at midnight, but we’ll be in Texas by then…

…and helping another graduate move out of his house in Waco. I am so happy and so sad all at the same time over this. Happy that he has had such an incredible experience and education at Baylor and sad that he’ll be entering the real world which will no longer include long holiday breaks and summer vacations during which he can come home for extended visits.

He was kind enough to take one last picture for me on his last day of class, and while I know he was
celebrating this day, I was truly grieving!
So…Wednesday we’ll move him out (and I will finally move IN to the Magnolia store and bakery for some shopping rather than stare at a hopelessly long line of Fixer Upper fans – hopefully!?), Thursday we’ll have a party, Friday we’ll head back to Waco, Saturday we’ll graduate, Sunday we’ll do church and lunch with him in Waco, and then say goodbye as he heads to Pine Cove Camp for the summer. He’ll move to Austin in August for his first “real world” job at Oracle.
Cooper won’t be able to join us in Texas for the graduation festivities due to his final exam schedule at Gordon, and this totally ruins my plan to have a family photo for the Christmas card this year. It also signals the end of a season – the full nest season – and it’s affecting me more than I thought it would. I’m so happy that my kiddos are growing and thriving in their individual lives and paths, but so sad that there will be so much less family time.
So…yes – filled by the recent joys and fellowship and experiences and hopes for the future, and fried, too – by the pace and the effort and the emotion of it all. I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way, but am looking forward to some rest as well as some different adventures this summer. (It will be our 25th wedding anniversary in August!)
Back soon with graduation picks and maybe even some updates around this little space. June will mark 10 years of blogging (and nearly 800 posts) for me, and I’m looking forward to celebrating with a bit of a “fixer upper” of my own.
Happy Spring!

 

Girl on a Mission

Only half of the crew here ready to pick up the rest of the team in Boston.
On our drive to Northborough to meet up with her team, she asked me if I was nervous about her trip to Scotland. “Not really,” was my answer. It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, and I was more excited for her opportunity to serve God and others than I was scared for her safety.
That casual sentiment only lasted until about 9:30pm when I realized she had been flying over the North Atlantic for about an hour. Then I panicked and began picturing all kinds of awful scenarios in my mind, the most hopeful of which involved inflatable slides and flotation devices near the coast of Iceland. She must be so cold and scared, I thought.
Thankfully, hardly any of my irrational fears ever actually happen, but you can imagine how relieved I was when I saw this photo on the Quest blog the next morning:
Double decker busses, coffees in hand, smiling faces, and a cute little redhead in the back. Whew. They made it safe and sound, and I’m so thankful.
Here’s another photo of the Scotland team, and there are three other teams of teens and adults traveling to South Africa, Hawaii, and The Dominican Republic on mission trips that are part of a leadership and discipleship program (called Quest) for juniors in high school offered through the Baptist Convention of New England.
Tommy is one of the adult leaders on Kayla’s Scotland trip.
Our church sent out two teens and one adult on Quest mission trips last Sunday. They each shared what they had learned through the program and a prayer request for their trip.
Each teen was required to meet with a mentor once a month, and our teens pretty much had the dream team of mentors.  (Thanks so much, Sarah M. and Chris G.!) They worked through a two Bible studies: Chasing Last and Jesus on Leadership. Really wonderful learning and equipping tools.

Sarah, Kayla. Finn, and Chris

Our Classical Conversations community also gathered to pray for the four young ladies from our campus who left on mission trips. Three with Quest and one with Young Life.

Jessica (Hawaii), Maddie (The Dominican Republic), Kayla (Scotland), and Carol (Ecuador)
And just like that, this little baby-doll-mama grew into a young woman who travels to far off places without her own mama.
And in the blink of an eye she also became a critical thinker, a fierce debater, a lover of Christ, and a defender of people. She became a loyal friend, a loving sister, and a witty one, too.
Should the U.S. Government Significantly Alter its Entitlement Programs?

She had a lot to do leading up to this trip. Not only did she have to memorize Shakespeare lines, write a thousand word history essay (in advance), complete her logic, math, chemistry, Spanish, and prepare for a policy debate, but she also had to babysit, volunteer at church, catch up on thank you notes, shop, and pack.

Tough Cross-Examination by fellow Questie (and another fierce debater!), Jessica.

She handled it all with diligence and grace, and hardly needed her Mom or Dad at all.

Notice the game, Catch Phrase? Kayla always brings the fun. Always.
“Hey, Kory! Our Quest backpacks are exactly the same! It’s like we’re related or something.”

Those left-handed check marks are also marks of her independence and initiative. She did her packing. Not me. She made sure the list was complete. There was no prodding and reminding on my end. I’ve actually always been impressed with her self-motivation and overall responsibility. She is so much more mature and tuned in to what life requires than I was at that age. In many ways, I still trail behind her.

But don’t worry, she does have a few glaring issues that we’re still working on. Last week I counted 13 empty mugs and glasses in her bedroom. THIRTEEN. Many of them had dried up tea bags inside. She balked at my counting of her empty-mug sins, but I stood my ground and insisted upon repentance. After the mug issue improves, maybe we can work on the knee deep layer of clothing that typically covers every square inch of her room.😉

But I’ve heard that semi-chaotic, less than organized living conditions are signs of creativity, and let me tell you, Kayla’s got  many more signs than that.  The girl is truly an artist. Here are just a couple of examples. (There are so many more, but these were easy to access!)
She recently painted this. It’s a beautiful (and very realistic right now!) rendition of our little house.

I was pretty stunned by this chalk unicorn that she and Mary just whipped out one summer day.
And while I don’t have any examples of her photography skills, I do have a picture of her with her 16th birthday gift. She has a great eye and is being given real opportunities to hone her skills. (Thanks, Shannon S.!)

I can just hardly believe that this precious, toothless first grader…

…is now a capable, intelligent, beautiful, and still very precious 16 year old woman. I can hardly take in the privilege it is to be her mom. I loved having my boys first. Raising and enjoying this little sister has been icing on the cake. So sweet and necessary, in my opinion! She is truly a gift from God to us.

And while I’m bragging on my girl, I just have to tell you how natural she is with kids. She’s a sought after babysitter, and she loves it. Recently, she told me and another mom’s she sits for (Hi, Ashleigh!) that one of the reasons she loves babysitting is because it gets her mind totally off of herself and her own struggles. It forces her to be truly selfless, and she’s really grateful for that.

And isn’t that true of any service we engage in on behalf of others. It’s always a remedy for selfishness, and she’s catching on at an early age.

(But she does get paid for all of her kidsitting, and to this date she’s saved nearly enough to purchase her first car. She’ll have her license next month, and buying her own car has been a goal for quite some time. Diligent and determined, this girl. We’ve loved watching her meet her goal.)

Reading to cousin Uriah.
Science experiment fun with Cohen.

Serendipitous find in my local grocery store’s greeting card section. 😄
So, we weighed her suitcase and found the all-important airplane neck pillow on Tuesday morning. We made a couple of stops in town…CVS for an ID photo, Old Navy and Marshalls for a new Sunday dress, Whole Foods to grab lunch, and Starbucks to get a drink for our drive. We took a quick mudroom selfie with Dad, who could not make the drive with us, and were off to meet her team.
A couple of years ago, after she’d watched her brothers go on Quest mission trips to Africa and Asia, she told us she did NOT want to follow in their footsteps. She was NOT going to do Quest. She did NOT want to travel out of the country without her family.
Though we probably would have required it, she decided on her own to go through this year long process. She faced fears and persevered in spite of the many hesitations of her own heart and mind. In the end, she trusted God, and I could not be more proud of her or excited for all that He will do to change her life forever in the coming week.
She has been out of the country before. She traveled to the Dominican Republic with Robert a few years ago to work in a small, impoverished community.  That her dad was there made all the difference in deciding to go. This was the scene in our living room upon her return…

I’m expecting a similar scene when she gets home a week from tomorrow, and I can hardly wait…to see her precious face and to hear the precious stories of a girl who trusted her God and went on a mission. And I pray it is only the beginning of a life on mission for Him.

P.S. Here’s a link to the Quest blog.  You can keep up with Kayla and the other Quest trips here if you like. Your prayers are very much appreciated, too. She does have to fly home over the Atlantic again, you know.

He Calms the Seas AND the Season ( Plus…A Giveaway!)

Tea Party Prep!
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays always start the same way for the 40-somethings at my house. 
Up early. 
Workout clothes on.
Bible reading with a side of hot tea. 
Out the door for a run – on the nearby rail trail or at the nearby Planet Fitness depending on weather conditions.
(On Mondays we add the special treat of breakfast together at Whole Foods and a “What do you have going on this week?” conversation.)
But last Wednesday I couldn’t do it. 
The homeschooling. 
The holidays. 
The endless (but good!) events, deliveries, visits, houseguests, conferences.
The deep needs of people – both inside and outside of my home. 
The anxiety rising up in the heart of this introvert who could not remember the last time she was alone and not required to either talk or actively listen. 
And the stark reality that Christmas was just 10 days away.

Drove slowly through the snow to see Ebeneezer Scrooge: A Christmas Carol.
In those coming 10 days there would be several coffee dates, doctor appointments, a retreat planning meeting, a trip out of town for a musical, church, a congrats party, a meal delivery, babysitting gigs for the teenaged girl, a trip to New York City to celebrate her dear friend’s Sweet Sixteen, airport pickups, an annual tea party, an open house, a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, and a Christmas morning worship service.

And not one gift had been bought. Not even one.

I should confess that these are all my choices and felt responsibilities and desires. I like to be busy. I like to put extra effort in celebrating the Christ-focused holidays. I like to serve and host. I like people and parties.

But I still don’t know my own limits.

I think I’m fine. I feel strong and full of life in all of this whirlwind of activity and people. And then it hits me, and all of a sudden I’m weary, and slipping into despair. I wish there were clear ways of calculating when this will happen. A formula to follow. (Not that I would follow it.)

So, last Wednesday, I stayed in bed in the early morning hours. The other 40-something brought me a cup of tea before he went out the door to exercise without me.

I was so tempted to grab my computer and start shopping, because….NO GIFTS! How many days do I have left before they won’t arrive in time for Christmas? I had already received a reprimanded by my father who had been calling me daily for ideas and sizes for all the grandkids.

I resisted the urge in my driven heart and restless mind to start crossing things off my very long list, and grabbed my Bible instead. Immediate temptation rose up again – to not read everything I usually do. To skip the advent devotion…or the Proverb….or the New Testament chapter. Or prayer. (Oh, how often that one gets cut short. Prayer is “the greater work…” as someone reminded me last Sunday, and it’s so true.)

So I started reading.
I read everything I was “supposed” to read.
And He spoke. (As He ALWAYS does in this situation.)
And what a gift…

“And He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, ‘Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ And they became very much afraid and said to one another, 
‘Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'”
 Mark 4: 39-41

“When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, 
but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” 
Proverbs 10: 25

“So that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 
I Corinthians 2: 4-5

And I prayed (like, wrote-it-in-my-journal-prayer)…

Lord, I am in need of your peace and your wisdom in the whirlwind of Christmas. There have been so many people and concerts and meetings and even gift-wrapping gigs for CC and more. I fought the tears of the accumulation of input and interaction all day yesterday. Please help me to have faith in your power and your wisdom and not in mine. I don’t know how to manage my time well and factor in my own needs. I want to be poured out for your church, and so I say yes to a lot of people and seeming responsibilities, but then I crash. Show me how to have a better balance, so that I’m not going from one urgent request or need to another with no time for reflection or real prayer. Help me to prioritize that. Show me how to be thoughtful and mindful and how to pray and how to listen to you – hearing your guidance.

I went on to pray for help focusing on and resting in Him, for gift ideas for friends and family, for wisdom in preparing for the retreat meeting, and for protection from the enemy who is truly ramping up his game lately. (Maybe more on this later?)

Small Group Christmas Party
True Highlight of the Season: Amherst College Christian A Cappella concert

And He is answering my prayers. He’s bringing to mind those scriptures and realities…

My faith is not in earthly wisdom. (i.e. Christmas is about gifts! Get an early start!) God is the one with power and true wisdom. (Christmas is about Him. Emmanuel. God come near to be with us.)

When the whirlwind passes (and it will), I’ll still be standing. (Both the Christmas whirlwind, and the eternal judgment whirlwind!)

He has sovereign control. (Over the raging sea AND over this season. It’s all going to be okay.)

Oh, I’m working down the list. The packages are all mailed off. The Christmas cards go out today…all 225 of them. The teenaged babysitter has been dropped off and has already had Starbucks and lunch delivered to her. The trip to NYC is tomorrow, and I’m not even fretting about the tea party for a bunch of teenaged girls which is two days later. It’s really going to be okay.

The Christmas Eve open house for our church members will be icing on the cake, and I can’t wait. We’ve even recruited some dear helpers for the evening. (Thank you in advance, Corey & Yulia!)

After my tea-and-Bible-in-bed-morning, I went out and did some shopping and then had a couple of appointments. I made up my morning run on Thursday morning, and miraculously the earth kept spinning on its regular axis. I even almost finished up the shopping after that morning workout.

That Christ has power to calm the sea, gave me peace all throughout those days. That I’d still be standing on December 26 (and forever), because He promises to sustain, gave me hope.

He even gave me the idea and desire to offer you all a couple of gifts, and I’m super excited about sharing some of my favorite authors and trinkets with you. If you comment here on the blog or on Facebook or via private message with a verse that is sustaining you this advent season (or in the recent past), I’ll put your name in the hat for one of these bundles. There will be two winners – one for each bundle.

Here’s the first:

Bird’s Nest Necklace from JoyWares

And the second:

Bird’s Nest Necklace fro JoyWares

I have not read The Broken Way yet, but I asked for it for Christmas. If it appears under my tree, it will likely consume the remainder of my Christmas day. Ann Voskamp has an intriguing style, and I find it so full of truth and encouragement. Her son makes the necklaces and several other wonderful items for encouraging faith in families. Check out his site, JoyWares.

Ok – comment away!  I’ll pick a winner on the morning of Christmas Eve, so you’ve got until midnight Friday. I’ll let you know via message and will post it here as well.  You can expect your goodies by the middle of January.

In the mean time, may you find peace and hope in the One who presides over the seas and is the very reason for the advent season.

A Week Of Thanksgiving

Last week went way too fast, and had to be highly scheduled as you can see.  Our boys arrived home for the Thanksgiving break Monday night after Robert, Kayla, and I had gone to bed. Cooper picked Kory up in Boston on his way home from Gordon College which was so perfect. Since Kayla and I would be gone early the next morning, I had to leave them a schedule for Tuesday.

The schedule included a list of mealtimes and appointments.  One kid to the spine & sport clinic for a scoliosis check up (all is well!), one kid to the dentist for a cleaning and wisdom tooth evaluation (which led to a wisdom tooth extraction appointment for the Christmas break), and one to the eye doctor, because a much needed prescription for new contacts was being held ransom there until an updated exam was in the books.

When you add in the cooking meals, monitoring of everyone’s checking account, school schedules, social engagements, and summer plans, it really becomes a full time job. The calendar is always up on my phone, and I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone “alerts.”

I decided to include cookies to soften the rude awakening: Welcome Home! Now…get up, get dressed, get in the car, and hurry! Time’s a wastin’!

There was, however, still time for reunions with old friends.  My boys got time with several of their “back home” friends – both at our place and at their friends’ new places. And Kayla got time with her friends at a Gilmore Girls party the day after Thanksgiving.  (More on that soon!) Thanksgiving Day was also a fun reunion of old friends.  That and enjoying lots of new friends, too.

My family still likes to eat breakfast on Thanksgiving Day while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, so I made two paleo dishes: Sausage-Rosemary-Sweet Potato Frittata (from Danielle Walker’s Meals Made Simple) and Almond Butter Blondies. (I double that recipe.) Lots of protein to keep everyone satisfied until our 1pm meal.

I had to make these in our toaster oven, since the big oven had a 20lb turkey in it.
It worked surprisingly well!

Pies and sweet potatoes were all made the day before, but not until the late afternoon, since our backsplash was getting its grout on Wednesday morning. Not having access to the kitchen for most of the day was a bit of a Thanksgiving challenge, but I’m so happy about these much needed upgrades.

This pic is actually from Tuesday when the backsplash was installed.
Our across-the-street-neighbor put it in and gave us a tutorial and a few tedious jobs
along the way. We were so thankful for his willingness to teach us.

Our first guests arrived fully awake at around 10am – can’t you tell? Actually, their mom forced them out of bed, so she could come early and help with the meal prep. Can’t believe these guys are all in COLLEGE now. Just yesterday they were all 7 years old.

From left to right: Baylor, Boston University, Gordon College, UMass)
All gluten free except for the flaky crusted fruit pies which Izckra brought.

 Here they are a little more wide-eyed, because…food.

This year we tried moving our dining room table into the living room and using smaller long tables from church in the dining room.  It seemed to work pretty well.

Our guests were a true blessing. Our worship leader, Cindy, and her family, since she had not yet given birth to baby #2 (4 days overdue at that point!) was here, and local students, too – one from New York, one from Kansas, one from Vietnam, one from China, and one from Kenya. Three from Amherst College, one from UMass, and one from Smith. Each one with a story and each one with a competitive spirit in the after-dinner game of Taboo. My friend, Izckra, and her family as well as our beloved Lois were also able to join us.

This guest book was a wedding gift 24 years ago, and we are only a couple of pages away from it being totally filled up. If I remember correctly, it was given to us by one of my grandmother’s friends, and it seemed like an odd gift at the time. Turns out it was somewhat prophetic, and having a steady stream of guests in our home throughout the years has been one of our greatest blessings. Truly. A blessing to us, and to our kids, too.  In fact, it would not really be a holiday or a Sunday lunch if we weren’t “having people over” to put it in their words. The community the Lord has provided for us over the years is something I am so very thankful for. Each person has left their mark, and we are forever changed.

I splurged on a couple of tablespoons of white potatoes and even had a piece of pecan pie for dessert, but am
still trying to stay on the GAPS/Candida diet for the most part. Feeling lots better, too!
Forgot to get a before pic!
Here’s a pic of the new counter (with appetizers!) and backsplash – though we hadn’t wiped off the haze of grout yet.
Even though it was cold and drizzly on Friday, we managed to pick out and chop down a Christmas tree at our favorite local tree farm. We even ran into friends from church there. (Hi Brett, Jenna, Edison, and Graham!) Wish we had thought to take a picture with them.
It was so nice to be able to chop down the tree all together this year, but I couldn’t help wondering if it might be the last time, and so I was determined to get a photo. They’re growing up and outgrowing home in some ways – ways that are probably good and healthy, but it’s all bittersweet to me.

There was the annual post-Christmas-tree-chopping trip to Starbucks, and then we said goodbye to Kory on Friday afternoon, but not before we put him to work on our Gilmore Girl party preparations (!). Cooper took off Sunday afternoon after having his old friend Cameron over on Saturday evening. Lots of basketball playing, zombie killing, and junk food eating.

All of it making me thankful. A full schedule. A full house. A full heart.

(And a full report on our Gilmore Girls Party and movie marathon is coming up next!)

Thankful: Plants, Pillars, And No Outcries

Last Thursday I drove halfway across the state (which only takes an hour here in Massachusetts) to meet my friend Betsy for coffee at Panera. Betsy moved to the Boston area this past summer and left me without one of my dearest friends in town and my every-Thursday-morning-running-partner. After coffee with Betsy, my friend Christina showed up for lunch. We talked Betsy into joining us for soup and salad, and it ended up being a wonderful morning of catching up and me getting to introduce two of my good friends to each other.

Christina and I had about an hour together after Betsy left, and she asked me how I’d been doing lately. It was a knowing and intentional question, since it had been just over a year that Robert and I reached out to Christina and her husband for some counsel, friendship, and support.  As a fellow pastor’s family, they were so encouraging to us during what had become a really confusing and challenging time. As we drove away from their house last October, I don’t think we realized just how challenging the coming year would become – probably one of the most difficult and emotional years of our marriage, ministry, and parenting. And not because a lot of terrible things were happening at the time, but rather a lot of things had happened in the previous 3-4 (or maybe 7) years that had taken their toll without us realizing it.

As I thought about how to respond to Christina’s question, Psalm 144 immediately came to my mind. I had just read it a couple of days prior, and used it both as a prayer for the future as well as a way to give thanks for all that the Lord has accomplished in the past year.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my lovingkindness and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge… v. 1-2

The Lord had truly been our rock, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield. He used the difficulties to remind us that we are indeed in a war here on earth,
here in Amherst, MA,
here in a church,
here in a family.
here in our own hearts.

He sharpened our battle skills and our weapons. And He gave refuge in the form of Christina and her husband as well as another pastor-turned-friend with whom we met regularly. It was hard, but as usual with a God who is redemptive in all His ways, it was good.

I was telling Christina about how the Psalm paints such a vibrant picture of a flourishing home and family life through what the Psalmist, David, requests…

Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace. 
v. 12

…and how my sons and daughter are becoming these things – mature and wise young men who are making good and godly choices and a young woman strong, beautiful, bearing up under trial, and full of integrity.

Grown up plants.

A corner pillar as for a palace.

Our kids have been such a joy to us in recent months. We marvel at their hard work in school and in their part-time jobs. We miss them when are scattered across the country and state. We laugh at their stories. We pray for their mid terms and oral presentations, for their dating adventures and their break ups. We text and SnapChat and Face Time. We share secrets and inside jokes. The kids themselves keep in regular contact and truly enjoy one another as siblings and friends. They are growing up, blossoming, and bearing fruit. They are standing firm and adorning the palace, the household of God. They are a blessing, and I thank the Lord for the privilege of raising them, of knowing them.

Oh, I know it could change in the blink of an eye. Tragedy, sickness, conflict, rebellion, sin. No one is immune to these things, and even I was in a much different place this time last year. It did not feel like a time of peace and abundance last October. I talk with other moms regularly whose kids are either suffering personally, or rebelling against them and God, or both. It is truly heartbreaking, and so I give thanks to God for this season of flourishing in my own home.

Last home football game of his senior year.  So bittersweet.
Freshman Orientation at Gordon College.
Sweet Sixteen and a budding artist in many areas.

I’m also grateful for a husband who prioritized me, my concerns, complaints, critiques, and consternation. He truly made them his own. More than that, he pointed us to Christ.  He prayed when I couldn’t. He pressed in when he didn’t want to. He sought to understand what was really going on and what God was teaching both of us.

Lots of mountain climbing this year… 😉

We just came in from our morning run, and I was able to tell him these things, to tell him how thankful for him I am. It was a hard year, but he was patient and proactive.  And all the while, faithfully (and bravely!) teaching truth to our millennial congregation and training leaders to do the same. I am so thankful for his unwavering faith in God and his faithfulness to me.

He had no choice but to dance with me…as it was John and Olivia’s Grease hit – “You’re the one that I want”

The verses that follow continue to illustrate a desired a time of abundance and blessing…

Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce, and our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; let our cattle bear without mishap and without loss, 
let there be no outcry in the streets!

How blessed are the people who are so situated; 
how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord! v. 13-15

Though David is asking to be rescued in this Psalm, his prayer is one of hope and vision. Though he’s asking that God scatter his enemies and protect him from their weapons and deceptions, he trusts in God’s ability to bring about justice and blessing. Though things look very grim for David, his trust is not in his current circumstances, it is in his covenantal God. He knows a time of abundance is coming both in this life and even more so in the life to come.

There has been a a lot of outcry in our nation’s streets lately. I read Psalm 144 just after the election, and could not help thinking of the many protests, the school walkouts, the picketing, the boycotting, and all of the Facebook/Twitter outrage. Just across the street from us, Amherst College canceled classes and had counselors on hand. A block in the other direction, UMass sent campus wide emails about “safe spaces” and opting out of mid-terms due to distress. In next door Northampton, MA, Smith College placed “tissue stations” all over campus for women grieving and depressed and fearful.

I had a lot of snarky thoughts on all of these things, but then I remembered Psalm 144. The request/vision of David that there “be no outcry in the streets” was directly related to “how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” The people whose God is also the Savior don’t need to be outraged. They don’t need to rant on Facebook and thereby reveal themselves as bigoted as they accuse the other side of being. They don’t need to fear or accuse or blame. (Many of my female, black, latino, immigrant, homosexual friends feel the same, in case you may be inclined to attribute my peace to privilege rather than to Christ.)

They are not without concern, of course. There is work to do especially for those of us whose God is the Lord, for those of us who are the body of Christ. But there is no need for outcry except to God Himself on behalf of a nation who does not know Him, and has no hope except in laws, and courts, and policies. May they come to know real hope. May they come to know the One who loves them and longs to be their fortress, deliverer, shield, and refuge, the One who can and will subdue their enemies and grant peace and hope in the midst of the war.

How blessed are the people who are so situated… v. 15

So, I’m thankful today.  Thankful to be “so situated.” Thankful to have been through a year of challenge and brought into a time of blessing and abundance.

Grown up plants.

Corner pillars.

No outcries in the streets.

My situation may change. In fact, it’s a given. So when that time comes, will you remind me of Psalm 144 and of David’s hope in spite of fear and war?

Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I Love Sundays II

I’m a bad pastor’s wife/church member and always neglect to make myself a name tag, but if I had made a name tag and written something I was thankful for on it, “Sundays” would have been high on my list of choices. Right now I am thankful for so many things, so maybe I’ll write again on Wednesday and tell you more about that.
These cheerful faces often greet me and everyone else who arrives.
UMass and Amherst College each have the entire week off, so the student crowd was a bit smaller than usual this Sunday.  Lots of former members were there, though, because of a wedding the night before.  It was a fun reunion weekend.

Cindy (our worship leader) was at church, but it was also her due date with baby #2, so she recruited others to lead…

 …including a beautiful young lady who helped her mom lead the worship band. Gwyneth was born with spina bifida, but she’s beating all the odds for her condition. Her parents regularly testify to God’s healing and provision in her life. She did a GREAT job on vocals and violin.

 Robert’s sermon was on…the rod. (Yikes!) But it’s difficult to preach a sermon series on Proverbs and not mention it. It was the grand finale of weeks of potentially controversial sermons. The sex sermon was a month ago. Then it was the godly manhood sermon from Proverbs 31:1-9, and last week it was a godly womanhood sermon from Proverbs 31:10-31.

I stayed home for that one.

It’s not that I don’t love Proverbs 31. I do. It’s just that so many don’t, and the possible reactions have come to make me nervous over the years.  Plus, somehow I always wind up being mentioned by my hubby in those sermons, which makes me even more uncomfortable.

 So yesterday’s sermon was on God’s discipline in general and parent’s discipline of children specifically, including spanking. Faith is not my top spiritual gift, and so I’m pretty sure I said something to Robert as he was walking out the door for church like this: “Babe, I’m pretty sure spanking is illegal in Massachusetts.”

“And?” was his response.

As usual, he did a GREAT job with a very uncomfortable topic. The kids sitting in front of me kept looking over at their mom and dad and giving them big smiles and knowing looks. Later their mom and dad let Robert know how encouraging the sermon was.  The kids then brought Robert all of these drawings after the service.
(Pretty sure that’s a cow jumping over the moon in the Nativity scene.)
Want the links to those crazy controversial sermons?  Here ya go:
(This one was preached by Chris Gow, a 2016 Amherst College graduate/football player, who decided to return to Amherst with his new wife, Katie – a UT grad, and serve on staff with Intervarsity there. Really incredibly delivered sermon by such a young man!  We are so thankful to have them in as ministry partners in this town!) 

 Amanda and Kevin got married on Saturday afternoon, and it was such a fun celebration and reunion of lots of old friends and church members who now live in Boston. People regularly leave this area, which is one thing we grieve in this church.  Everyone eventually graduates and moves to Boston, or New York, or Philadelphia, or D.C.  So sad, but to be a “sending church” of sorts is good, I suppose.

Gigantic Jenga and regular table-sized Jenga were the activities while we waited for the bride and groom to take their pictures.
Robert and Gabe set the wedding record at 23 blocks high. It was a nail biter!
Last Sunday’s lunch and small group was a bit challenging without countertops. We are slowly renovating the kitchen, and the granite installers cut this piece wrong, so we had to wait over a week for them to come back with the proper piece. Cookie sheets across the future granite backsplashes were the makeshift serving space for corn chowder and sausage-kale soup two Sundays ago.

This Sunday’s lunch had a brand new and even larger space from which to serve – black “leather” granite.  Not shiny and slick like typical granite.  I love it.

The tile backsplash went in this morning and things are beginning to come together!

Here’s a peek:

A Mexican-themed lunch yesterday…

 And we finished up John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life over the last two Sundays…

 …with drawings portraying the integration of faith and work…

 …and discussions regarding the call upon everyone believers life to be a missionary in one capacity or another.

There’s always one last stack of dishes…
After everyone left, these two stopped by. Brian washed every dish left over from small group that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher (there were a lot!) while Molly and I caught up over warm drinks at the dining room table. These two, who became dear friends while they were students, moved to Philadelphia after they got married in April.  See what I mean?  Everyone leaves us. Sigh…
It’s always such a joy to be with them. Lots of laughter. Lots of love. They brought Robert coffee and me tea – tea that’s good and soothing to the tummy.
(And speaking of tummies, I am feeling SO much better!  So many of you reached out to me over the candida issue, and I was so encouraged. It was a relief to know you have been through this exact issue or similar ones, or just to hear that you cared and were praying.  Thank you!)

After they left, I put on my pjs and drank some of that delicious tummy tea – ginger, licorice, and turmeric – and dreamed about my new tile backsplash while watching an episode of Blue Bloods with Kayla and Robert – our favorite these days.

I’m thankful for Sundays – overflowing with worship, the Word, friends, and fellow believers – even pjs, hot tea, kitchen upgrades, and Tom Selleck. 😉

P.S. MY boys are BOTH coming home from college tonight to spend the week, and I can hardly wait!

I’ll see you Wednesday, so I can tell you what I’m thankful for and how it all relates to them and to Psalm 144.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I Love Sundays

A half hour to read and review after Robert and Kayla leave…
The cutest, smartest Sunday morning co-pilots you’ve ever seen…
 View to my right…
…and to my left. Proverbs 31:1-9 today…on what makes a man.
Self Control. Sober Judgment. Sacrifice.
 Back home and a helper…
 …coffee brewing…three pots.
Real dishes and silverware…I love real dishes and silverware…
 …and fresh, homemade food. (With help from two talented co-hostesses…Laura…and Laura)
Baked Ziti, Butternut Squash, Tossed Salad, Garlic Bread this week.
Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Veggies, Pumpkin Souffle last week.
 Half of the smiling faces fit around the table…
 A vegan dessert for one of our favorite “Smithies”
Real conversations about spending both life and death for Christ…
 Inspirational viewing…Williams College…Haystack Prayer Meeting…Student Volunteer Movement
“If we are exiles and refugees on earth (I Peter), and if our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3), and if nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8), and if His steadfast love is better than life (Psalm 63), and if all hardship is working for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians)…
…then we will give to the winds our fears and ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6). We will count everything as rubbish in comparison with Christ (Philippians 3). We will ‘joyfully accept the plundering of our property’ for the sake of unpopular acts of mercy (Hebrews 10)…
…We will choose ‘rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,’ and we will count ‘the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. (Hebrews 11)”
~ John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
I even enjoy washing the Sunday dishes, but I usually have some help…
…even from the pastor at the end of a long day.
Catching up with the college kiddos…tests…friends…football…sermon discussions…
…and then he’s off again…an evening appointment with a non-church couple seeking marriage… but learning Christ for the first time…and how can he refuse that?
Self Control. Sound Judgment. Sacrifice.

My helper is off being a helper to another evening Bible study.  She’s watching the little ones so the bigs ones can freely discuss and share and pray.

So…tea that’s good for the tummy and an epsom salt bath for me, and this, that my dad sent and has taken me weeks to finish…

Texas Monthly articles are LONG, and so are Sundays, but I love them!