Weepy Eyes. Full heart. Can’t Wait Till Christmas.

Ya’ll already know how much I love to have people around my dining room table, but these people right here are my favorite ones to have gathered in one place. They are my favorite people to cook chocolate chip pancakes and bacon for. This is my favorite group to hang out with and laugh with and reminisce with, and I got to do all of that and more this last week. It’s why my eyes are a bit weepy today, but my heart is so full.

We picked up Kory and his girlfriend, Rebecca, from the Boston airport on Friday at noon and drove straight to Beverly, MA for lunch at Atomic Cafe and GF cupcakes at Crave Cafe & Bakery. Cooper had a 2pm exam, so we had to kill some time before going to see him in his natural college habitat. Coop and his girlfriend, Madison, gave us a great tour of campus, and we all enjoyed coffee and apple cider at Chester’s on campus.

The campus was decorated so festively, and it was perfect fall weather – even a little on the warm side. My dad and the rest of our group were impressed with the beauty of Gordon College, but Grandad was not so impressed with Cooper’s actual habitat – a.k.a. his dorm room. He probably would have appreciated it much more if he had seen and smelled Cooper’s previous dorm room at the end of last year. Yikes.

Gordon College is only three miles from the coast, and so we decided to visit Singing Beach on our way to dinner. Fresh out of the water, a man greeted us as we walked onto the beach. He strongly encouraged us to go for a swim saying the water was nice and warm. And I think it really was – warmer than the air temperature anyway, but none of us were really up, or dressed for a swim.

We did try to take some photos, though. I was pretty disappointed that Cooper was unable to attend Kory’s Baylor graduation back in May, mostly because it seemed like my one chance to get a family photo for the Christmas card. Well, we made several atempts, and as you can see, none of them are perfect.  Parents of young children take heart. It does get better through the years, but not that much better.

The sunset was easier to capture that evening right before enjoying a nice dinner in Manchester-By-The-Sea at 7 Central.

Cooper followed us back to Amherst that evening, and Saturday had us driving to Vermont in order to enjoy the fall colors via the chairlift at Mt. Snow on the last weekend they offer it. Whew.

But you have to drive right past the flagship Yankee Candle store to get to Vermont from my house, and we just couldn’t NOT expose Rebecca to the wonders of the “Scenter of the Universe.” Robert set his phone timer to 30 minutes, and we managed to see Santa Claus (who was decorating pumpkins with kids that day), get snowed on (it happens every 4 minutes there), walk through the castle, see the trains, and smell lots of candles – clearing our palates every now and then with coffee beans.

You might see this one on a Christmas card though.

We managed to buy absolutely nothing, and we missed the Green Mountain Boys show, but we scored some free samples of apple cider, and still made it out in 30 minutes exactly. Definitely a record of some sort.

The colors have been a little slower to show this fall, probably due to the warmer weather lately, but driving north a bit made a big difference. It didn’t hurt that Saturday might have been the most perfect fall day ever. The view from the chairlift and peak of Mt. Snow was really gorgeous.  We were able to spend an hour or so at the top before riding back down at the beginning of sunset. The lighting at that time of day made the colors even more vibrant.

Or maybe this one?

I’ve only been at the top of this mountain in the dead of winter, so I had no idea that was water down there. It was really fun to see it in a different season. And please remind me to never ski down Chute ever again. It is scary-steep looking with snow, and even more so when you see it without. No wonder I did damage to my tailbone on that run. I am definitely getting too old for that.

Sunday was church, and then we had a few people over for lunch who know and love Kory. It’s crazy, but there aren’t that many folks around who know him anymore.  I have to say things now like “my oldest son, Kory” or “my son that lives in Texas” because he’s been gone over four years now, and we have a big turnover in our mostly-college-student-congregation in that time. The Moylan family couldn’t make it to lunch, but they were so sweet to stop by later in the afternoon to say hi and meet Rebecca. You might remember the Moylan fam from this post.

Cooper left early Sunday morning, because he was invited to tryout for the Gordon basketball team and needed to be back on campus by 10 or 11am in order to get ready and warm up. And with this unexpected event, my plans for an afternoon family photo shoot were derailed yet again. At least we got a few shots together on Saturday.

Robert took Kory and Rebecca to Boston to catch their flight on Monday morning (they missed it!) and then left for a three day pastor’s conference/retreat in New Hampshire.

On Tuesday, my dad and I did something I’ve wanted to do forever – or ever since I heard you could do it: a tour of Fenway Park. I’ve taken him to do the Freedom Trail, Boston Common, The Prudential Building, John Adams’ house, Lexington and Concord. We’ve even done the capitol building in Hartford, and Ogunquit and Kennebunkport in Maine.

The Fenway tour was awesome.

This was the part where the tour guide let us sit in the press box and told us that portions of the movie Moneyball were filmed in that very spot – so we were breathing air in a space that had been inhabited by Brad Pitt.

We had burgers and fish tacos at Cask and Flagon after the tour and then walked the one mile it takes to get from Fenway to the Prudential Building, which my dad was only slightly concerned about. (I promised we would be on public transportation at all times after that.) He actually enjoyed the walk, and he mentioned several times how neat it was to see the brownstones in Back Bay. Plus, it ends up being part of the Boston Marathon route, so there’s that as well.

It took some strong exhortations on my part, but I did convince him to walk a little beyond the Prudential to the marathon finish line at the Boston Public Library.  When he got a little grumpy about it, I just reminded him that he would not be able to tell his friends he saw the finish line or stood right where the bombings happened if he did not continue on to about 1.2 miles. He just laughed and kept walking, and then took several photos of the famous landmark. He was totally unimpressed with Eataly – the incredible new food court at the Prudential, and so we headed straight over to the Marriott Starbucks to rest our legs and warm up over coffee. We ended up hailing a taxi back to Cambridge where we had parked just to skip the T at rush hour and the need to change trains half way through.  Plus, we were just tired.

Side Note: I can now say I’ve met someone from Benin, Africa. Benin, Africa! Our very kind and friendly taxi driver was from there, but has lived in Boston for 20 years now. I pulled it up on Google maps as we rode into Cambridge and showed him, asking him if I was correct in spelling/location. He loved talking about it and then telling us a few stories about his previous work in the U.S. in a psychiatric ward in which a patient once broke his wrist! The list of friends and acquaintances God has brought into my life from African countries continues to grow, and I truly love it. They are always such lovely people, and I learn so much from meeting and knowing each one. It’s one of the gifts of living in a college town and near a major city – a gift for which I’m really thankful.Wednesday, my dad and I left a bit early for his flight out of Hartford, so we could have breakfast at Sylvester’s in Northampton, and then do a little bit of shopping in West Hartford. Some of you know that my Dad likes to shop, and enjoys clothes and fashion very much having worked in the industry his entire career. What this means is that there is almost always a trip to the mall for a new outfit for me when he visits, and this time Ann Taylor Loft was having a 40% off sale. And just in case you don’t do math like a true shopper, 40% off means that you buy MORE clothes than you usually would.

I feed him home cooked meals and make him walk 1.2 miles to Boston landmarks, and he buys me new fall and winter clothes. It’s really a win-win. (Kayla got a new sweater on Wednesday, too, and she wasn’t even with us.) Don’t ever suggest to him that he enjoys shopping, though, because he will deny it every time.

But new clothes don’t make up for the quiet house and near empty nest I’m living in again. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone this week. Maybe it’s good that the goodbyes happened in a staggered fashion – Sunday, then Monday, and finally Wednesday. Christmas is only 65 days away, though. The countdown clock at Yankee Candle was a bit frightening at first, but then I remembered that we’d all be back together again, and I can’t wait.

Homeschooling: The Beginning Of An Ending

I can’t believe I wrote this post eight years ago. Today arrived much faster than I anticipated: Kayla’s first day of her senior year, and my first day of my last year of homeschooling.

Does that mean it’s my senior year, too? Because it kinda feels that way.

Just look at this cute little second grader working on her “months of the year” with those Saxon Math worksheets.And learning keyboarding skills years ago on that ancient computer in our dining room…
…to working Algebra II problems at the kitchen table. Today, I’m remembering all the highlights of this homeschool journey…The days and hours at home to nurture and learn with my kiddos.

The big breakfasts, lunches at the picnic table or by the fireplace, and snacks at 10am and 3pm.

The read-alouds on the couch every afternoon, where I was either fighting off sleep from exhaustion or tears over The Bronze Bow.

Pregnant frog dissections

The family prayers around the table after “Bible Time.”

The wonderful friends we all made – me with an increasing number of truly incredible women, and my kids with sweet playmates-turned-confidantes and sisters in Christ through the years.

The education I received from educating my own kids.

Protocol Nights..Boston Dinner and Dancing Cruises

The thrill of seeing a child learn to read and write, and being used by God to teach them those basics.

The stages of maturity we celebrated.

The field trips to museums, symphonies, farms, big cities, re-enactments, mountains, theaters, and ponds.

The first day of school special breakfasts (cookies? pie? ice cream?) and new supplies.

The liberty to learn through a biblical worldview, and to consider other worldviews against it.

The swapping of kids from house to house for school with friends.

The sick days and snow days – on which someone was always doing school.

Tuesday “class” days with peers

 

The freedom.

The flexibility.

The fun.

Several years ago, I was tutoring a high school seminar on economics (in Classical Conversations Challenge I) and we learned about “cost-benefit” analysis. I couldn’t help but think about our choice to homeschool in those terms. The costs are pretty high in choosing the homeschool route (and I’m not just talking about living on one income and buying textbooks), but I believe the benefits outweigh those costs, and I would do it again.

I don’t regret any of the last 17 years of this homeschool journey. (My kids might regret a few!) Oh, I have a lot of moments that I regret, mostly having to do with my own impatience, but today I’m thanking God for the years and for His sustaining grace throughout.

Thanking Him, also, for the blessing of all these highlights…or benefits.

One more year. One last kid.

Senior year, here we come!

When Every T-Shirt Holds A Memory

“Mom and Dad, can you guys just take these two bags to Goodwill?” he said while we packed up his house in Waco just before graduation.

We agreed, loaded them in the moving truck, and hauled everything to a storage facility in San Marcos. I kept the two white trash bags, though, a bit skeptical about what he’d chosen to give away.

Call it a mother’s intuition, call it a lingering grief over college graduation, or call it hoarding, one of those bags I chose to hold back contained freshly washed and neatly folded t-shirts representing major milestones and special occasions in my biggest kiddo’s life. There was no way I could bring myself to throw them in the Goodwill receptacle.

Robert was now the skeptical one. Were we really going to transport all of those t-shirts back to Massachusetts in our already-pushing-fifty-pound suitcases? (Though he did find some treasures for himself in the other bag. Button down dress shirts? Those were keepers for sure.)

I explained that there are companies that make quilts out of t-shirts, and that Kory’s birthday was next month. This bit of information got him more on board with my vision, and can I just say how thankful I am for a husband who doesn’t squash my seemingly outlandish and almost always inconvenient ideas? 

Back at home, I mentioned the t-shirts to my friend, Betsy, and that I was thinking of sending them off to be made into a quilt. To which she said that she was in the process of making TWO t-shirt quilts for a couple of her kids and that I could definitely make it myself.

Of course Betsy was currently making two t-shirt quilts. What is she ever not doing?

I’ve written about Betsy a lot here. She’s the one who talks me into things like harrowing backpacking trips in the White Mountains, Olympic-length Triathlons, and half-marathon trail races. Challenging things. Epic things. Death-defying things.

I view quilt-making in those categories, but once again she convinced me.

“I’ll help you,” she said.  And she did.  We consulted back and forth with picture texts, and she walked me through the process.
One especially challenging part was that I had loaned all of my sewing tools to my friend Isabelle, who led a breakout session on sewing at our women’s retreat in April. She had everything except my machine, and just happened to be on a camping trip the weekend I decided to start this project. Somehow I found some not-so-good pins, a pair of not-very-sharp scissors, and some poster board scraps I could use for making not-very-straight-patterns.

It was kinda like sewing back in the Little House on the Prairie days, except for my electric sewing machine and iron.

There’s just really not much time for projects like this in my current season of life (not convinced there ever will be), but I was able to work on it here and there for a couple of weeks until it was finished. As you can see, it took up quite a bit of floor space (dining room table space, too), and so it required everyone living here to live around the quilt – eating, walking, watching movies. Not always an easy task.

My goal for finishing was Monday, June 26, and I actually finished up on Sunday night the 25th. This left me plenty on time on Monday morning to get it wrapped and boxed and shipped off to the birthday boy who would turn 22 in Texas on the Thursday the 29th.

This is probably where I should tell you how much I love the post office. Stamps, and boxes, and the same friendly postal clerk I’ve been visiting ever since I was pregnant with Kayla – though I also love the automated postal kiosk when the line is too long. Speaking of, I also love this Jane Austen quote from Emma:

“The post-office is a wonderful establishment!” said she.– “The regularity and despatch of it! If one thinks of all that it has to do, and all that it does so well, it is really astonishing!”

I completely agree, Jane!

I remain totally enamored with fact that I can put a stamp on something and then someone else will deliver it to a person I care about – even someone very far away. Like, right to their home or dorm mailbox or summer camp outpost. I love imagining the other person’s delight upon receiving my letter or care package (because, of course), and I adore finding just the right little surprises to enclose. Getting a note back from them? Well, that’s just icing on my postal system dream cake.

Did you know you can put an address and stamps on a potato and send it to your cousin in Texas because sending potatoes is an inside joke between the two of you from back in your Webkinz days? Well, you can. And just imagine the delight of finding a potato from Amherst, Massachusetts in your Austin, TX mailbox!

But this is not a post about post…or potatoes.

Robert agreed to snap a picture before I boxed it up that Monday, and I had to stand on our picnic table to display the entire thing, It felt so good to have accomplished this project myself. (Thanks, Betsy!)

Mission trips, sports teams, fraternity events, Pine Cove summers, favorite Texas hangouts, memories of home in Massachusetts, Young Life in his high school years, Baylor college days, and more. Leaving him behind in Texas was hard, and this may have been just the task I needed to bring about some peace with that.
For anyone interested, I’m going to post more pics and instructions below. There are several Youtube video tutorials about t-shirt quilts, as well as websites listing written instructions, but I found that many of them left out steps I was stumped over. That’s when Betsy’s texts and photos were a lifesaver.

If you are a real quilter, I’m sure you will cringe at the photos and instructions below.  There was nothing precise about what I did, but somehow it turned out fairly straight, and my “machine quilting” at the end will at least prevent the batting from shifting around too much. Read more at your own risk.

Continue reading “When Every T-Shirt Holds A Memory”

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!

In Pain (and tears) You Will Give Birth

Waiting for my dad at the Austin airport

I’ve cried myself to sleep more than a handful of times in my 47 years of life, but I’d never cried myself awake until last week. It made me think of Eve. In the third chapter of Genesis, Eve receives the news of how the unleashing of sin into the world will affect her, as a woman, specifically: pain in childbirth.

But the pain doesn’t end in childbirth, of course. Any mom will tell you that. Nearly every single day of raising a child involves pain of some sort, and it was the pain of impending and indefinite separation that woke me up with sobs that Thursday morning.

We had landed in Texas just two days prior, and spent the day before in Waco packing up all of Kory’s belongings and moving him out of the house in which he spent the last two years of college. It was the beginning of an ending.

 

Boys’ apartments…😉  Robert had bathroom duty.

 

 

After it was all packed and loaded into the UHaul we decided to try and visit Magnolia Market one last time. It would be my first time to actually get into the bakery and store, since the last time I tried was on the Monday of Spring Break in Texas, and I’m pretty sure THE WHOLE STATE OF TEXAS (and possibly Oklahoma) was there waiting in a 2+ hour long line. This, however, was the Wednesday afternoon before graduation weekend in Waco, and the crowd was much smaller. We shopped in the market and even got some delicious gluten free cookies at the bakery.

We took our Magnolia cookies to Common Grounds, because cookies need coffee, of course, and this is the place students get coffee, and study, and go on dates, and attend concerts. We’ve never visited Waco without making a stop at Common Grounds. (The owners live in a Fixer Upper, so we didn’t think they’d mind the imported cookies.) I got a Common Grounds t-shirt for Mother’s Day.

The caffeine and sugar fueled us to make the three-car/truck-caravan-trek to San Marcos that evening. The next morning (the morning of sobs), Robert and I went for a run, unloaded the truck into a storage unit, and picked up breakfast tacos and Starbucks all before 9am. An early start was made possible by my 5am tears and also felt necessary, because we would host a graduation party for Kory later that afternoon, and all of the grocery shopping and cooking still needed to happen. Those things ended up being a good distraction.

Robert got up around 6:30 after I’d had time to sit in my dad’s recliner with my Bible and my tearful prayers, and asked me if I was okay. I had actually been pretty weepy for about two weeks leading up to all of this, though he didn’t know that. I didn’t know exactly how to explain. I don’t know…just the anticipation of a more permanent goodbye, the prospect of no more long winter breaks, spring breaks, or summer breaks, the end of those precious, few, and truly wonderful college years, and the beginning of an independent “real” life in another state.

My mind was being flooded with images of the past, too. I thought of the yellow “hundred number chart” I laminated and the inflatable globe I purchased in the weeks leading up to our first year of homeschooling, the Saxon math books, all of the trips to the library, the museum, swimming lessons, Legos, BB guns, pocket knives, paper routes, and countless baseball games and picnic dinners at the ball park.

I’ve never played virtual Tetris, only real life Tetris.

How does a mother let go – even of a son who makes her very proud and is moving on to good and important things? I don’t really know. The ache is still there. It makes me think of other moms who have lost children to angry rebellion or worse, death. I can’t even fathom the pain of the mom of the freshman boy at the University of Texas (my alma mater) who was randomly stabbed and killed a couple of weeks ago on campus just a moment after hanging up from a phone conversation with her – updating her on the pick-up basketball game he had just played at the gym and his upcoming final exams. I had those same conversations with my college kid on a weekly basis, too. I can’t imagine receiving the next phone call she got from a girl standing nearby whom the boy asked to call his mom back and say goodbye knowing he would not make it. I’m praying for her.

My goodness. On to happier moments…

The party was so much fun. Not only did Robert’s parents make a cornhole game for us to play, they also made a life-sized Jenga game. Everyone took their turn.

It meant so much to us that Melinda (my youngest sis) and Brent came from Denver.

 

And Lois, too! She’s seen us through every year of Kory’s life and done more than her fair share of kidsitting.
So thankful she made this her first stop on her summer sabbatical.

 

Kory’s girlfriend, Rebecca, drove from Waco to celebrate with us.

 

The over 40 crowd sat on the deck.

 

A Fossil messenger bag was our gift to the world’s newest businessman.

 

The whole gang – thanks to Lois’ self-timer.

 

A Dad and his daughters. Grandad was at every Baylor move in and out, even when
we gave him the option of staying home and catching up with us later.

Friday morning, we were back on the road to Waco. (That’s right, two round trips in three days.) Kory had one last physical therapy appointment in town, and wanted us to see where he’d been going and meet the staff. It was fun to meet Brandi, whom I called twice a week every week to pay for his appointments and also his physical therapist. It was a picnic lunch at the lake (party leftovers!) after that and then we checked into our hotel.

Saturday was graduation. Kory’s ceremony was at 2:30, so Robert and I took advantage of the morning by going for one last run around campus and getting one last Common Grounds coffee. Actually, he got iced tea and I got the Hotel California. (Seltzer, coconut milk, and lime)

It’s a beautiful campus, and I wish I had a few more pics to prove it!

 

This part of our running route dead ends at Common Grounds.
Baylor IS known for having the largest Starbucks on
a college campus – in its library.

 

We beat the graduation crowd only by about 2 minutes!
We had a very late breakfast at Cafe Cappuccino and indulged in their gigantic gluten free pancakes, and then it was time to go to the ceremony.
With chocolate chips, of course.

We, and many others, were there an hour early, but passed the time watching the graduates give shout-outs to their families on the big screen. Such a great idea! We managed to catch Kory giving his on our cameras and phones.

 

Baylor’s interim president gave a very meaningful and exhortative speech. He addressed the sexual assault accusations and incidents head on, adding that the exploitation of anyone is never to be a part of the Christian’s life. He reminded the graduates that Christians are to be neither complacent in the midst of injustice, nor live in selfish comfort and luxury when there is great need all around. He called them to give and to sacrifice. He asked them to consider the truth that they are accountable to God in this life and in the life to come, and he urged them to use all of their days following graduation to honor Him. Perfect.

Hugs from sis.

 

Melinda and Brent – the newlyweds!

 

No, I didn’t set out to find a green dress, but this one found me at Loft one day recently, so…
Checking out that diploma on the way to dinner.
It was about an hour long wait at Chuy’s – almost everyone’s favorite Mexican food place – but well worth it considering that every restaurant in town had crowds gathered outside. We sipped on iced tea and ate way too many chips with salsa while we waited.

Sunday morning was Mother’s Day, because why not compound the emotion of graduation with the day set aside to honor moms? Ugh. Who came up with this idea? I’d like to make a motion that we move Mother’s Day to July, or maybe just get rid of it altogether. I fought the tears from the first worship song of the morning at Kory’s church, and then completely lost the battle in the parking lot after Robert prayed for Kory and we hugged him goodbye. I’ve learned on a few different occasions that the Greek word for “weep” is “klaio” and connotes “uncontainable, audible grief.” So, weeping. Yeah, that is exactly what I was doing. I felt bad for not being able to control it for Kory’s sake.

But I’m so grateful that my grief is really a good kind of grief, the kind that indicates the love and the bonds of motherhood. The kind that grieves the loss of more time together and delights in remembering happy memories from years gone by. I’ll take that kind over the alternative any day. This is the pain that gives birth to life, and though I was resisting it, in my heart I know that this is the way it’s supposed to be. Childbirthing is just plain hard…but also good.

So, it was a long trip back to my dad’s house that afternoon, but a stop in Austin for a “family happy hour” at my sister’s house was a nice way to break up the trip. She put together a little buffet of beautiful and tasty snacks and cold, refreshing drinks. The girls chatted and laughed in the kitchen while the boys all watched the Spurs game on TV.
My sister inquired about the weekend. “Did you cry?” she asked.
Gulp.
There was no crying on Monday, though. Floating the Texas rivers is such a fun and nostalgic activity for me, but it doesn’t mix well with sadness or tears. I’ve been wanting to return to this childhood pastime for years, and Monday was our day. High 80’s, blue skies, lots of sunshine, and no place to go except into the water for the next two hours and straight to get ice cream afterwards.

We topped off the day with steaks on the grill, a lingering dinner on the deck, and fireflies lighting up our view of the wooded yard. Kory sent text messages to say he had arrived at Pine Cove (where he’s working only for the summer) and was about to embark on getting his CDL, so that he and his fellow counselor, Ja’Kory (true story), can drive a school bus full of Overflow campers (the two-weekers) around this summer.

Kory and Ja’Kory, the bus drivers. Surely this will end up in a camp skit someday soon.

It’s the birth of a new season for him…and in spite of the pain, I couldn’t be more happy.

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!

 

Potty Training, Prayer Training

It’s probably a big parenting no-no these days (pretty sure I did all the current no-no’s), but way back in the 90’s I used to give my kiddos M&M’s as a potty training incentive.

Actually, we started out with stickers.

Sit on the potty, get a sticker.  It was all very exciting.

We kept a small poster board with all collected stickers on display nearby. This new routine made for many “sit on the potty” trips to the bathroom. You didn’t even have to produce anything. All you had to do was sit.

(I’ve found that stickers remain a motivator even to college girls in a small group Bible study which requires weekly homework, but that’s a different post.)

After a while of practicing with stickers, the prize increased exponentially with M&M’s – one for #1 and 2 for #2. I should have expected that there would be even more trips to the potty with this delicious, sugary, chocolatey, red dye #40 reward. Who would have guessed that you could eke out #1 several times an hour in order to obtain what would amount to a handful of M&M’s? I  quickly learned that no one has to teach us to milk the system. It’s in our nature from the very beginning.

Now that I think of it, M&M’s kept in the bathroom might not have been
the most sanitary. At least there was a lid?
And don’t ask about the crayons. No idea.

I think that God, in His abundant grace, uses that selfish nature to His advantage and ours at times.

Recently, I was feeling pretty discouraged about my interactions with one of my big kids. In my opinion, they were acting with disrespect and dishonor and selfishness. Funny how that kind of behavior can train a parent if we’re not careful, and I found myself being trained. I would avoid asking for help or making suggestions or requiring obedience or doing anything that I knew would produce eye-rolling or heavy sighs.

I’ve also learned that the problem only gets worse in that kind of a cycle, so I decided to confront the kid. This was met with more disrespect, dishonor, and selfishness mixed with anger and disdain. Not fun at all, and even more discouraging.

Sadly, prayer was my last resort. I hadn’t yet read my Bible or prayed that day, so I went to another part of the house, read from Matthew (I’m still trying to read each gospel each month), and then began writing out my prayers in my journal. Maybe halfway through, it dawned on me that I could pray about this parenting situation. Now, I’m not always this slow to take things to God in prayer, but self-sufficiency is definitely an ongoing battle for me. Why bother God with this? I can figure it out on my own.

Right….

I must have been two sentences into my “Lord, please turn this child’s heart to You and to me. Show me how to respond…” when the kid walked into the room and said humbly, “Mom, I’m sorry I was being mean to you. I’m just really stressed and overwhelmed right now…”

And the child sat down and we talked. True feelings were revealed. Inner battles were described. Shoulders were rubbed. Pep talks were given. Hands were laid. Prayers with and for the child were said.

I immediately thought about my potty-training strategies from long ago. Talk about positive and immediate reinforcement. God had not just given me one or two M&M’s, but more like a whole bag.

I had to laugh. Here I was trying to parent my kid on my own with a tiny trickle of prayer about the situation. Little did I know I was the one being parented.

And what was God trying to reinforce? Well, I suppose it’s pretty obvious, but here it is: He wants us to pray. At all times and about everything.

The verse is probably so familiar. It’s one of the first ones I ever memorized, but also one of ones I most neglect:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 
Philippians 4:6

In everything.

Through the years, and though I’m slow to grow,  He’s taught me that I can and need to pray about everything.

Am I scared at the recent turn of events in our world? I can pray for President Trump and for Syria and Turkey and North Korea. Big things.

Am I stumped over what to do for my husband’s birthday? I can pray for creativity and gift ideas. Seemingly little things.

And when he answers the little things, it gives me peace that He’s at work in the bigger things as well.

More than that, though, His often and immediate answers, show me that He loves it when we pray. He loves it even more than I love it when my kids are finally toilet trained or come and open up about their struggles.

He’s a good parent, and I’m so grateful for His patience and grace in raising this big kid.

Want some more incentive and encouragement to pray? Check out this great list.

Knee Mercies & The Gift of Nurturing

Remember this post? The one where I talked about how much that Lamentations verse keeps coming to mind? How I pray a version of it each morning? How I discovered that “mercy” here means “womb”, or “cherishing the fetus”? How the Lord is using it to remind me of His love for me, of how much He cherishes His daughter?

Well, as I sat in Providence Hospital in Waco, TX last Monday afternoon, I sort of forgot all of that. They had said it would only be about an hour long surgery. Maybe an hour and a half. So, as one hour turned into two hours and I nervously walked down the hall to check the surgery status screen to discover that my oldest son was still in the operating room, I thought that God might have forgotten me. I thought He may have also forgotten Kory and the protection and healing we’d begged Him for in the last days and weeks.

But as I walked back toward Kory’s room to wait some more, I passed the nurses station. The dry erase board behind the counter caught my eye. There was the verse. Written right there for me to discover in a moment of fear.

Subtle and gentle, but loud and clear.

 Not too long after that, the nurse came to get my dad and me to meet with the doctor and talk about how the surgery went. She led us to a waiting room filled with other people and asked us to wait for the doctor there. About five minutes later she returned and told us we needed to follow her, as the surgeon had requested a private conference room for the surgery update.

Now, I knew it was just knee surgery and that nearly everyone I know has had this surgery. (Even Robert had the surgery just two months after we were married due to jumping out of our apartment complex dumpster after I accidentally threw away our marriage license and other important documents, but that’s another story.) But something about the request for a private conference room had me jumping to all sorts of tragic conclusions, and I forgot the promise, and God’s mercy, and even the very recent – as in 20 minutes prior – dry erase board reminder.

Well, I forgot only momentarily, I suppose. I was eventually able to remember and entrust myself and my son to a merciful God, but it took effort. It took obedience. It required a Spirit sustained surrender. I also had to tell myself that even if it was bad news, it wouldn’t be evidence of a lack of God’s mercy, but that His mercy would be with me all the more in those moments and tomorrow morning and every morning thereafter.

Myles and Tyler were still around for spring break and came by to check in on Kory.
Close friends and great guys.

We had a two hour drive to San Marcos post surgery. Poor kid.

We also thanked the Lord for Grandad’s recliner. Kory spent the week right there.
I’m sure it all sounds very dramatic. After all, it was only a surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus. It’s a pretty routine procedure these days, but fear was still this mom’s first emotion. And as you can see, Kory is just fine. He’s pretty stiff and sore these days, and he’s still hobbling around on crutches much to his great frustration, but he’s doing really well. In fact, in just a few months he’ll be doing better than ever and possibly even able to hit the basketball court again, not to mention running those beloved bases.
I thank God for this great mercy on top of the mercy of speaking to me so clearly in the hospital that day. He is truly faithful.
We stayed at my dad’s house near Austin, and we had visitors!
Jack (taking the pic) and Kelly (Miss Riggs!) came and brought their beloved Mr. Darcy who cheered
up the patient with his licks and snuggles. I think this was Kory’s first trip outside a few days post-surgery.
(And is my hair really getting that gray? My goodness…)

 You know what else I thanked the Lord for quite a bit during those 10 days in Texas? Besides 80 degree weather, bluebonnets along my morning runs, Tex-Mex, BBQ, and Bluebell Ice Cream, that is?

I thanked Him over and over for the privilege of being able to care for my son. I’ve said it many times before, and I’ve heard other moms express the same exact sentiment. It’s so heart-wrenching when your kids are sick or in pain, but it’s so wonderful to be able to give them the extra nurturing they need on those days. It looks a little different when they are big kids and just this close to being truly independent, but not too much different.

They still need prayer, words of encouragement, help putting on their really tight-fitting Nike socks 😊 , favorite meals delivered to the recliner, and bowls of ice cream with a side of gluten free cookies.

Kory must have thanked me a thousand times throughout the week, but it was truly my delight and privilege. This kid graduates from college in less than two months. He’s moving to Austin, getting his own apartment, and going to work for a big multinational computer technology company (Oracle) like a real grown-up. I may never get that one-on-one opportunity again.

(Did I mention that he also has the sweetest girlfriend ever? Yeah…that too.)

Those ten days with him were a gift.

I did miss some nurturing opportunities by being away that long though.  Look what happened last Saturday…

 Kayla is a fully licensed driver now, and I missed her big day. I suppose Robert missed most of her day as well, since she dropped him off at home immediately and went to babysit for several hours in the next town over before driving herself back for Shakespeare play practice for the rest of the afternoon. As relieved as I am that she can take herself to all of her babysitting, sports, social, and academic activities (and I can have many hours of my life back), I’ll miss the car time and conversations it oftentimes allowed. She still gets tucked in most nights, though.

Cooper arrived in Texas to spend his spring break with Kory at Baylor. Little did any of us know at the time, it would also involve being Kory’s chauffeur and post-surgery-week-two-helper. It started out pretty well with chips and queso while we waited for our table at the Grist Mill with Grandad…

Kory’s first real outing nearly a week after surgery.

 …and wasn’t even too bad once we got to Waco, though our trip to Magnolia while Kory went to his first class on Monday morning was disappointing. It was only an hour long class, and there was no way were getting in to the store in that amount of time with the winding lines out front. Seems like a few other (thousands of) people had Waco, TX on their spring break bucket list.

So, we picked Kory up on campus, went to the grocery store for a bit of stocking up for the week, and then Coop and I drove to Dallas, so that I could catch my flight back to Boston.

Seems like things were a bit rocky in the chauffeuring department after I left…

And poor Coop had to continue in service to his family when he got back to Boston yesterday, since one of my suitcases stayed in Cincinnati on Monday…
Ha! I got a Snapchat soon after of Cooper with sunglasses on, his Converse high tops propped on his duffle bag, and my long lost suitcase nearby as he waited on the curb for the Thrifty shuttle to take him to his car.
I’m not sure he was quite as grateful for the gift of nurturing he got for spring break, but that’s okay. He did enjoy some pick-up Baylor basketball, gluten free chocolate chip pancakes from Cafe Cappuccino, and lots of Taco Cabana, so we’re calling it a vacation anyway.
I got a text message from a friend and fellow pastor’s wife yesterday. (She’s also the music minister at their church.) She and her husband spent last week planning the Saturday funeral of a long time and dear church staff member. She was telling me about the incredible opportunity funerals are to worship and testify to the hope we have in Christ, and sent me the list of hymns they sang – most of which she would also like sung at her funeral.
Great Is Thy Faithfulness was first on the list, and as I re-read the lyrics this morning, they seemed the perfect way to close this post about God’s mercy in my life and the opportunity I had to identify with His love for His children in caring for my own last week.
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand has provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand has provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, and ten thousand beside!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see
All I have needed, Thy hand has provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

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.

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!)