A Winner & A Podcast

So fun!  I would have been so thrilled to send a Bible study workbook to any of you who commented on the last post, because each of you are really precious to me. Really. I truly love connecting with you here, and sharing life’s battles and our common faith. But, Sara Evans was the winner, and I’m so glad I get the chance to introduce her to you.

(And just in case you wonder how I chose, here’s the site I used and the results.)

Sara’s husband, Austin, was a part of our Manchaca Baptist Church (Austin, TX) youth group way back in the day. (Circa: 1991-1995) “Austin from Austin” is the way girls from other youth groups would refer to him when we were at camps and conferences…if you know what I mean. Yep, he was quite the catch back then, but Sara was the eventual winner of his heart.

They met at Pepperdine University while studying and surfing the SoCal waves. Just kidding. I don’t think they surfed all that much, but Austin did play baseball there.

Sometime after they married, they were crazy enough to pack a U-Haul with all of their earthly belongings and drive it to Amherst, Massachusetts to live and work and help us with our church-planting endeavors here.

I absolutely loved having them here, and miss them very much now that they’ve moved to Bend, Oregon. Now, whenever young families join our church, we almost always say “Oh! I wish the Evanses still lived here. You guys would have totally hit it off with them!”

Sara exercised both the gift of hospitality as well as her gifts for administration and bookkeeping in such joyful and generous ways, and I absolutely loved spending time with her. One of the great highlights and privileges of my life was participating in the birth of her firstborn son, Dominick. It was a water birth. It was without any pain meds. And it was absolutely amazing. Sara remained her beautiful, determined self throughout the entire process and I was on cloud nine for at least a week afterward. What a blessing.

They went on to have another boy named Nolan, and then they adopted a little girl from China whose name is Maelyn. Currently, they are in the process of adopting a little boy from China. It is truly an incredible story in that their son, Nolan, was diagnosed with Freeman Sheldon Syndrome early in his life, and little YouYoung shares that diagnosis in an even more pronounced way. The tears just start flowing when I think that not only will YouYoung soon have a forever family, but he’ll have a brother who shares a common struggle and syndrome – even if he shares a different ethnicity. And Maelyn will have a brother who shares her ethnicity soon. It’s all just so beautiful to me.

If you’re interested, you can follow their family’s story here. 

So, congrats, Sara. I’ll contact you soon, so you can tell me which workbook you’d like!

Okay. So I really wasn’t planning to ever mention it again, but the podcast I mentioned in a previous post aired today. Bethany texted me last night to give me a little heads-up about it, and I wish I could say that I did not experience the same horror I felt in the days leading up to the interview (which had begun to subside) all over again. But them something really sweet happened.

With much trepidation, I pushed play on the podcast app as I started off on my morning run. I truly expected to cringe at the sound of my own voice, but that’s not what happened. The story was not as random and disjointed as I imagined, my voice was not as awful sounding as I had assumed, and things that are very dear to me came out in ways that I couldn’t have manufactured on my own.

Somehow, God used my listening to myself tell my own story to very sweetly encourage me.

Somehow, my estimation of myself changed as I listened to the ways the Lord has carried and sustained me.

Somehow, I could see and hear His love for me, His acceptance of me, His working in and through me.

Somehow, I ended up in tears over the ways I don’t see myself as He does, how I condemn myself, limit myself, and believe things that aren’t necessarily true or right.

Somehow, He used my own podcast interview to comfort me and remind me of His love for me.

I did not expect that at all. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what I expected.

He is so good like that.

(And Bethany, thanks for having confidence in me and for being such a great host, minister, wife, mom, and encourager of the church in New England.)

(You can find the podcast here, here, and here.)

Soul Food

Last week I was tasked with writing a devotion (a Bible reading/prayer/meditation plan) for a friend who is walking through the darkest days of her life so far. Actually, three of us would write a devotion, so that she would have three days worth of truth to focus on while she’s away on a tropical vacation that had been planned long before the darkness invaded life as she knew it.

It wasn’t as easy of a task as I thought it would be, and up until the night before her departure, I wasn’t sure what to write, what direction to take. But then I remembered a conversation we’d had about a passage from Stepping Heavenward.

(You know, my favorite book? The one which, if you’ve read it and don’t like it, I start to question our friendship. The one that Elisabeth Elliot also likes, and said we could be friends over? Yeah, that book. You can order it here.)

Here’s the passage I came across. It’s one in which Katy (the main character) is talking to Mrs. Campbell (an elderly woman and patient of Katy’s husband) and asking her about her illness and enduring the trials of life.  Here’s what Mrs. Campbell says:

“I was bound to my God and Savior before I knew a sorrow, it is true.  But it was by a chain of many links; and every link that dropped away brought me to Him till at last, having nothing left, I was shut up to Him and learned fully what I had only learned partially, how soul-satisfying He is.”

And here is what I ended up writing for this dear friend in hopes of helping her overcome the fear and deep sadness she is facing, with a few edits as of today, because I’ve had more time to think and research.

Isn’t that a beautiful way of describing it? We are bound to Christ in our salvation, but the distance between us (or gulf between us in intimacy) is so much greater than we realize – many, many links in the chain. There’s the link of self-sufficiency, of pride, and of fear. One especially stubborn link is that of control and even more fierce – the links of health and material blessings. Ask me how I know! Cutting those links of metal requires a serious tool, and because there is life in this particular chain, it hurts deeply when the links are cut away.

But the more that are cut away, the closer we are drawn to Christ. And the closer we are drawn to Christ, the more soul-satisfying we find him.


Doesn’t that just sound so good? Can you imagine being completely satisfied from deep within your soul? No restlessness. No fear. No insecurity. No anxiety. No hiding. No putting on a happy face. In fact, the smile is natural, because it comes from way down deep in a soul completely at rest in her savior.

Oh, how far from that kind of satisfaction, that level of contentedness I am!

So, in order to better face these days when the chain links are being cut away, I thought you and I could both focus on how soul-satisfying Jesus is today. That’s right, both of us. I need this as much as you, and have committed to meditating on the same things I’m asking you to this week. I want to learn it fully, and not partially – just like Mrs. Campbell said.

When you can get alone and undistracted for a little while, look up these verses. I’ll give you some prompts or questions after each one.

Haggai 1:5-7  (…there is not enough to be satisfied. v. 6)

 “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

What things did the Israelites think would satisfy them?

Pray about ways/places/people in which (or whom) you’ve sought satisfaction apart from Christ.

Write them down.

Matthew 14: 19-21 (…and they all ate and were satisfied. v. 20)

“Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.”

About how many were satisfied with five loaves and two fish?

What other needs might Jesus’ followers have been trying to satisfy?

Were there leftovers after the meal? How much?

Remember and make a list of the ways He’s provided for you, satisfied you, given good gifts.

Thank Him.

John 6:30-35 (…he who comes to Me will not hunger. v. 35)

“So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” 

Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’ “

What do the people want? What Old Testament reference do they make?

What does Jesus say the bread of God gives to the world?

What/Who is the true bread? What happens (or stops happening) to those who eat this bread?

Thank the Father for Jesus. Ask to have your soul satisfied in Him alone.

Write out John 6:35.

Offer it in adoration to Him throughout the day…”You are the Bread of Life. You satisfy every desire.”

Now, just a few more tasks for today…

  1. Find some pieces of rope, seaweed, palm branches, vines, (toilet paper? 😀 ) etc. and make a short chain out of them. Take a picture and text it to me. This will remind you that in the removing of links there is soul-satisfying nearness to Him happening.
  2. Buy a loaf of artisan bread in a local market or store (or…grab a piece of toast from the hotel’s continental breakfast?). Text me a photo. Slather on your favorite toppings – butter, jelly, peanut butter, honey? Savor it and with every satisfying bite, give praise to the True Bread of Life.
  3. Lie on the beach. Close your eyes. Meditate on these words: “My soul is satisfied, My soul is satisfied; I am complete in Jesus’ love, And my soul is satisfied.” It’s the chorus of the hymn “My Soul is Satisfied.” (And the whole thing is worth reading!)

May your soul be at rest today, and fully satisfied in Jesus. May every link that is cut away deepen your satisfaction in Him and your intimacy with Him. I love you, friend.

I did a little research on the Greek word for “satisfied” in the Matthew verse.  The word is chortazō and it carries all of the meanings you would guess – to fill, to fulfill – but it can mean something even more grand than that: to gorge or supply food in abundance in order to fill, feed, and satisfy.

Today I’m praying for my friend, for myself, and for you ~ that we would gorge ourselves (I think I like the terms savor and delight and indulge better than gorge) on Jesus and all that He is and provides. He is truly enough, even in our most despairing seasons and on our darkest of days. In fact, nothing and no one else can satisfy.

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!

The Wonderful Women Of My Week

Last year’s women’s retreat.  Don’t think we’ll be playing broom hockey on the frozen lake this year. 
Yesterday at church, I gave an announcement about our upcoming women’s retreat. (April 15-17th. You should come!) I love planning for this event each year. I love helping to provide the opportunity for fellowship, good biblical content, and a refreshingly fun time away for the women of my church (and now three other churches as well). It got me thinking about how much I love the women of my church as well as how thankful I am for the other women God has so specifically and generously placed in my life, which then got me thinking about the week-full of women that led up to yesterday.
It really was FULL.  Just take a look. 
MONDAY: This is Sarah, and I only really met her last Thursday. (Technically, I met her about four years ago at a Chili’s in Ft. Worth, but that was too quick to count.) I said goodbye to Sarah and her husband Christian on Tuesday morning after spending much of the extended weekend with them ~ even went to Worcester and Boston with them all day Friday.  Robert took them to Vermont all day Monday, and then they were back here for dinner Monday night. They were here checking out the church planting scene and trying to discern a call to ministry in this part of the country. Sarah homeschools four children ages six to twelve and works part time at her church organizing the children’s ministry there. Full of life and faith and spunk and practical wisdom, it was so good to laugh together and share background and ministry experiences with her. Don’t tell her, but I’m hoping and praying that they come to live in Massachusetts for good.

TUESDAY MORNING: I teach at Classical Conversations all day Tuesday, but sometime early in the day I got a text from my longtime friend Shemaiah. (Not the best pic, sorry.  Had to take a pic of a pic.) We keep in fairly constant contact and prayer this way, especially lately, as the Lord has her on one of the most difficult journeys of her life so far.  It involves a very sick husband (also a longtime and dear friend) who’s been in and out of the hospital more times than any of us can count at this point (actually, Shemaiah probably knows the count), and an adoption process that is quite tenuous and extremely emotional. I don’t know if there is anyone in my life whom God has entrusted with the amount of trial and suffering this godly friend has carried, but she does it with great faith and strength. She is a constant reminder to me of God’s power, sovereignty, and intimate involvement in our lives, and she has been since she was a freshman at Oklahoma State University (which was a LONG time ago).

 TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Our typical routine after Classical Conversations is to take all of our teens to Barnes and Noble for coffee drinks and socializing. (Sometimes I think my homeschooler has way too much socializing.  I can hardly keep up.) Lately though, they’ve been practicing for a Shakespeare play and have to stay at the church where we meet until after 6pm. That meant that my friend Deb and I could have a Barnes and Noble date by ourselves. I love catching up with Deb and appreciate so much her listening ear and her faithfulness to pray for me ~ always following up and even letting me know how the Lord is leading her to pray specifically.  This particular coffee date really helped me to process a couple of recent struggles, and I’m especially thankful for Deb’s gentle, godly wisdom, as well as her willingness to share her own struggles.

Here’s Deb again as well as four other WONDERFUL women I get to interact with on a weekly basis.

WEDNESDAY: This is Lizzie.  She’s a sophomore at Smith College. (I could be her mom.) Lizzie goes to my church and comes to our Sunday lunch/afternoon discipleship group. Several Sunday mornings ago, I said this to Robert: “I’d really love to start going over to Smith and hanging out with Lizzie and maybe a few of the other girls.” Fast forward a few hours, and Lizzie was standing in my kitchen after our small group asking if I might have some time to meet with her in the coming weeks. No doubt that the Lord worked that one out. This past Wednesday we planned to meet at the cafe we had met at previously, but then she texted and suggested getting ice cream at Herrell’s since it was nearly 80 degrees. Perfect!  The line was long, so we opted for bubble tea and frozen yogurt down the street, and had a great conversation about her time at a political convention over the weekend, school, family dynamics, God, the Bible, boys, and marriage.  Lizzie is brilliant and brave, and earnestly seeking to grow in Christ.  What a joy to be with her.

 THURSDAY EARLY MORNING: You probably already guessed that Betsy would show up in this list.  We have a run-five-miles-every-Thursday-morning-date. (Well, except for the six Thursdays of winter that we carpool to snow ski in Vermont for a ski school program.) We pack in all of our catching up for the week in this hour of running and driveway chatting, and I love it. Betsy’s faith and joy are contagious, and a Thursday never goes by that she doesn’t share with me what she’s reading in her Bible or praying about, wrestling through, and confessing. This enables me to freely share the same things.  I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t always happen naturally in friendships with other women.  I’m so thankful she paved the way for this type of authenticity.

Betsy and I have had lots of adventures together, from half-marathons, to White Mountain Backpacking Trips (Yikes), to cross country skiing, to downhill skiing, to soccer games, and basketball games, graduations, and weddings of children. I’m so, so thankful that she’s a regular part of my week.

THURSDAY MID MORNING:  Ran home from Betsy’s, took a shower, checked in with Kayla on schoolwork, and headed to Gardner for a late breakfast with Christina who is a fellow pastor’s wife. (She is also the worship director at her church and the mom of two grown sons.) I got to hear about her recent trip to Rwanda to work with pastors and wives and their churches there.  She brought me Rwandan coffee and shared about the spiritual warfare that seemed evident on their trip overseas as well as the reality of it in their church recently. And not only the battles, but the victories, too. It helps me so much to hear her stories and gives me a more realistic perspective on church ministry. Christina is a deep thinker and full of compassion. She has been a constant and intentional encourager to me through the years (emails and texts and phone calls), and Robert and I have both been helped by Christina and her husband Neal’s friendship and godly counsel lately.

FRIDAY: Lauralee and I have been trying to make a lunch date work for about a year now, and we finally accomplished it on Friday. I first met Lauralee just after Kayla (who is about to turn 16) was born and she brought over a meal and a hand painted (by her!) t-shirt as a gift. I didn’t even know her! We were new to MA, and the church we attended while planting ours graciously ministered to us by providing a couple of weeks worth of meals once we got home from the hospital with baby #3. Just knowing this about Lauralee should tell you what a kind and compassionate woman she is. Recently, she and her family became members of our church, and so we have re-connected. Lauralee loves the Lord and young people so much. You can usually find her participating in some crazy Young Life skit or mission trip, cheering on teenagers (who are not even her own, but don’t tell her that) at their sporting events, or shedding tears over God’s goodness and work in other people’s lives. We had a heart to heart about life and marriage and parenting over salads at Panera Bread.  Such a sweet time.

SATURDAY: Kayla had play practice until 6pm on Saturday evening. I picked her up and we drove straight to Wilbraham, so that we could spend the evening with one of her best friends, Mary, and one of mine, Izckra ~ Mary’s mom. This is just the perfect arrangement. Really. Both moms and both daughters love each other dearly and have for over 12 years. We all went out together for my birthday last month. So fun. Saturday night Kayla and Mary ate pizza at home, baked cookies, and watched a movie while Izckra and I spent about two and a half hours at a local restaurant trying to catch up on each other’s lives as best as we could. Izckra is one of the wisest, strongest women I know. And joyful. Her spirits are always up and her eyes are always on Christ even in the most difficult times. I treasure time with her so much.

Now that I’ve finished telling you about all of these wonderful women, I almost feel guilty. Women are not always easy to relate with, and yet so much of my week was spent being encouraged by women who are full of life and wisdom.  Women who love me for who I really am. Women who love their Lord with their whole lives. Women who are so gifted and so committed to their work, studies, husbands, children, churches. Women who make me want to grow in grace and surrender to the Spirit’s work in my life. Women who challenge and sharpen me.

And this was just one week. I didn’t even get to mention Kayla (my own daughter is a huge blessing and example to me), or Sarah, or Karla, or Aimee, or Amy, or Chris, or Christie, or Jenna, or Jenn, or Katie, or Kelly, or Kim, or Yvette, or Sherri, or Nichelle, or Rachel, or Rayna, or Molly, or Becky, or Deborah, or Mandie, or Melissa, or Mariah, or Melinda, or Laurie, or Romy, or Lois, or Cindy, or Isabelle or a hundred others, really.

Wonderful women from a recent summer small group.

Some weeks it’s more giving than receiving, more ministry than friendship (not this week though!), but really, no matter what, I always receive something in the spending of time with women. God knows my desperate need, and He’s provided so generously. Today, I’m thanking Him for the gift of many friendships with incredible women.

And I’m praying that our upcoming women’s retreat fosters both intimacy with Christ and with other women.  We have so far to grow in Him and so much to gain from each other in that process.

P.S. Listing all of these women makes me think I should feature one per week on a more in-depth level.  What do you think? That would take me quite a while ~ years actually ~ but it would be really fun. If I did feature a woman per week, what questions would you want her to answer? What things would you like to know?

Lunch With Lars: Root Beer Marinated Steak Tips & Holy Moments

The lunch date was July 15, so it’s been a little over six months now.  We were at our annual youth camp, held every year at Gordon College, and just a hop, skip, and a jump from Lars and Elisabeth’s home in Magnolia, MA. Elisabeth had passed away in June, we’d been to the memorial and graveside services, and even spoken with Lars there (he all but begged us to come over to the seminary and help them eat some of the 500 chocolate chip cookies he’d asked a local friend to make), but I really wanted to see him again and see how he was doing. I also wanted him to know that our friendship over the last 15 or so years wasn’t just about Elisabeth.
So, I called him from camp.  The line was busy. A few minutes later I called again. Busy. I waited a while longer and called again.  He answered.  He asked if I’d been trying to call earlier, and I said that I had been.  He explained that he’d been on the phone ever since he’d gotten up that morning, and could he get dressed and eat some breakfast and call me back? I said “Of course!”
Lars ALWAYS does what he says he is going to do. If you call him, he will always call you back.  If you write him, you WILL get a handwritten note in return.  It might be in a few days or it might be few months, but a response is a guarantee with Lars. And not only that, but the response will be a specific response.  He will remember why you called and follow up with that, or he will address something specific in his written correspondence. Last week this came:
He had received our Christmas card, read the accompanying letter, related to Cooper’s work on a golf course, and shared something from his own youth and experience with golfing. How nice. Really. In this age of technology and efficiency and urgency, I love picturing Lars sitting down with our letter, reading it thoughtfully, and then taking the time to write back in his own hand and from his own life experiences. Truly a treasure to me, and something I aspire to. It communicates true care, concern, and Christian love.
Lars called back several hours later. I told him we were at Gordon College for the week and would love to come by and take him out for lunch sometime. He said he would be available on Wednesday and asked Kea (the lovely live-in caregiver to Elisabeth) for some restaurant suggestions. Kea had told him that she and her dad had been to Cala’s in Manchester-by-the-Sea and that they have Root Beer Marinated Steak Tips on the menu. That sounded quite delicious to Lars, and so we decided that Cala’s it was.
We met Lars there, and were offered a table near the back of the restaurant. There was a bar in the center of the restaurant and unfortunately, even though it was fairly empty, it was pretty loud.  At one point, Lars requested that they turn the music down.  The waiter agreed to that request, but we still had to talk pretty loudly in order to communicate.
We looked at the menu and quickly found the Root Beer Marinated Steak Tips.  Robert decided to order them, but Lars went for the Chicken Caesar Salad.  When we acted surprised that he turned down the steak tips, he said he was sure Robert would not be able to eat all of his and would be happy to help him finish them off ~ ha!
Over lunch we asked Lars about how he had proposed to Elisabeth, and he happily and hilariously recounted how she made him move out of her house as soon as she sensed a romantic connection and how that made him mad.  (He had been a boarder there.) He told us about how he was still at the house every day painting something or fixing something. He explained how Elisabeth would spend summers writing on Cape Cod and how he had proposed in a letter during one of those summers while she was away. “I’d like to have you for a wife,” was the horrific way (his description) he had put it. “I don’t recommend that approach,” he said dryly. She did not respond to that letter right away, which also made him a bit angry.
She wasn’t necessarily playing hard to get. Rather, she was concerned about the “scandal” of getting married a third time.  The very idea lacked propriety in her mind. But Lars was not easily deterred, and she eventually gave in.
(There is a MUCH better rendering of this story by Lars and Elisabeth themselves which you can find here! Worth every minute to listen! Lars had a copy of this in his pocket on CD and gave it to us at lunch.  We listened to it on the way home from camp and couldn’t believe we’d gotten the story from him at lunch and then again on the way home.  That’s the other thing about Lars – he always has a book or recording of Elisabeth’s to pass along to you.)
Lunch was filled with catching up on the Krum kids and what Lars had done before (a hospital chaplain) he became Elisabeth’s book manager. When we finally asked how he had been doing since Elisabeth’s passing, it seemed to dawn on all of us at the same time.  It was one month to the day.  An anniversary.  He had lost her on June 15 and it was now July 15. There were tears (his and ours) as he recounted the night and early morning of Elisabeth’s home-going, and we knew it was a holy moment. A true privilege to have a glimpse into both the love of a husband for a wife and the raw pain of losing a spouse.
I had made him a card with pictures from our past lunches together, my visit to their home two summers ago, and some quotes, verses, and lyrics from the memorial service.  Here’s what the front looked like:

And the inside:

I re-read Passion and Purity on the days leading up to the funeral, and was tickled to find what she had written in the preface.  If you can’t read it from the bottom of the above photo, here’s what it says:


“In the providence of God, I have had three chances to reflect on and try to practice the principles I write about here.  I have been married three times: to Jim Elliot, killed by Indians in the Ecuadorian Jungle; to Addison Leitch, killed by cancer; and to Lars Gren, who is feeling fine on the day I’m writing this.  Lars has lasted nearly six years which is longer than either Jim or Add, so he says he is the ‘front runner.’ May he outrun me!”


I shared this with Lars after the graveside service and he cried.  He had outrun her, but he was grieving that reality. They were married for 37 years in all, I believe.


On the back of the card I wrote this under a picture of our family:

Dear Lars, Thank you for loving Elisabeth, and thereby Christ and His church so well. 
Love, Melanie and Robert

The family photo overshadowed some of the words, so I decided to read it out loud to him. This brought more tears. For a moment, it felt wrong to ask questions and share sentiments that made him cry.  I felt bad about that. I really don’t think he minded, though, and I don’t think I would have either. I think I’d much rather people delve into authentic conversation if I’m suffering a loss or facing a trial, than try and keep things unrealistically happy or not bring up the obvious out of fear or discomfort. I think I would be comforted by their interest as well as their shared memories. It seemed that he was grateful for the encouragement, even if it contained moments of grief.

Lars was getting down to the final bites of his Caesar salad, and so I motioned to Robert to be sure and leave him a couple of steak tips. He did, and Lars was more than happy to help Robert clean his plate.  They both agreed that it would have been nice to taste a bit more of that root beer marinade.

Deep pain, hearty laughter, great loss, treasured memories, loud music, and root beer marinade. The ordinary and the extraordinary.  All of it sacred though. All of it holy. I couldn’t help thinking that this is what life is all about ~ especially life in Christ who uses it all to His glory and to our good. Participating in these moments together as believers.  I came away understanding better how to love and how to grieve and how to look to Christ in all of it ~ resting in Him, trusting Him. And oh, how I long for these examples and experiences! I often feel so ill-equipped for life in general, and so to have this older, godly man share his frailty and as well as his strength was a great source of grace and equipping to me.

I regret to tell you that it wasn’t until we said our goodbyes and began driving back toward Gordon College that I realized I had forgotten to take a picture.  I hardly ever forget to take a picture in case you hadn’t noticed, and so I wanted to turn around and track him down in order to capture the moment. But then it occurred to me: the moment was not to be captured on film or by pixels. It was a moment to ponder, not visually, but in the heart and mind.

And that’s sort of been a theme the Lord keeps bringing up in my life: the need to ponder, to reflect, to remember.  I’m always moving on to next things at the speed of light, and consequently I often miss the message, take for granted the answered prayers, have to re-learn the lessons. I don’t want to do that anymore. That the Lord took my thoughts off the phone and camera and kept them swept up in the holy moments with Lars was good for me. Writing it all out here is good for me, and maybe for you, too.

So, there’s no photographic evidence, but I’m hopeful that there’s some heart evidence from the time spent with Lars over salad and steak tips. I am so grateful for those moments and look forward to many more.

Too Much To Bear In The BEST Of Ways

This is Owen. He started school today like millions of other kids, but I can’t believe it. There is so much I need to get done today, but I’m completely distracted by the fact that this kid started SCHOOL today. KINDERGARTEN. At the same school where his mom teaches. I got to see his new lunchbox yesterday at church.  Robert had a FaceTime prayer with him this morning before he headed out for the day.  For the last couple of months my conversations with people at church have included the random, out-of-the-blue question “Did you know that Owen is starting KINDERGARTEN this fall?”  I haven’t been able to help it. Some of them politely indulge my incredulity.  Others are as incredulously happy as I am.
You see, his parents were UMass students just yesterday, it seems. They used to babysit our little ones.  His dad even made a trip to the ER with our kids once. They eventually got engaged and married.  Together they did more babysitting of the little Krum kiddos. (They even took them camping once.  And once was enough.)
Then they had their own kiddo…

 And after that they had another one. And then somehow mine got old enough to babysit for THEIR children…

I really don’t know how all of this happened.

I may be more overwhelmed and sentimental about Owen going to Kindergarten than I have been about the growing-up-and-going-places that is happening in my own home.  It’s a weird feeling and I love it.

So yeah, one of the Krum kids whom Owen’s parents used to babysit is now a JUNIOR IN COLLEGE. (Which means that he is now OLDER than Owen’s parents were when we first met them.) First semester in the new, beautiful Baylor Business School. My dad and I, along with help from my sis and niece, got him all moved into a house off campus which he shares with two roommates. (A house nicer and bigger than mine, I might add. Cabinets, and counter space, and bathrooms, oh my!)

 I was certainly not eager to leave him after our days of shopping and unpacking and eating out, but there were no tears.  He’s doing so well, surrounded by great friends, professors, becoming a real leader on campus, and serving God and others in many ways. I couldn’t be happier for him.  I couldn’t be more proud.  But I’m praying like crazy for a year of really tough classes and lots of leadership responsibilities.

 And now it’s this kid’s turn…

This pic was taken at church yesterday when the pastor called him up front to properly send him out.  Cooper has been a part of the church since it began 16 years ago. (He didn’t really have any choice in the matter, I guess.) He was 2 years old when we came to start it. (You know, those years when Owen’s parents were his age.) Now he’s 18, a high school graduate, and on his way to what I truly believe will be an incredible year of growth and adventure in southern California. I don’t know if I’ve ever prayed for anyone more than I have for this kid, and that will continue as he leaves home and steps into a fresh, new independence. It’s time, and I’m really excited for him.
He even performed all of his own original music and lyrics in a special concert last night along with two friends he regularly “jams” with. There was a nice-sized crowd, and there may have been a few tears over this.  I knew he was creative, and I hear him playing guitar in his room every day, but it was a joy to see it all come together, and watch him pull off something he’s passionate about.

I teach all day tomorrow, (Owen’s dad will bring me a microscope to borrow for my classroom soon and for the third year in a row) and then Coop and I leave for the airport around 4am on Wednesday. We land in Palm Springs around 5pm. I return on a red-eye early next Tuesday morning.

I’ll have two young men out of the house.

My little baby 15-year-old girl will be an only child, sort of.

It will be Owen’s second week of Kindergarten.

I didn’t really grow up “in community.” We weren’t really a part of a church.  My parents didn’t have a close network of friends. So this whole “life together” concept was new to me when we began this marriage and ministry thing 25 or so years ago.

I’ve learned that there can be many heartaches and disappointments when you live in close community with people. It’s no different in the community of the church. (And those often feel more difficult to recover from.) But long term friendships, the stages of life on display, weddings, meals together, babies being born, kids going off to college, and OWEN GOING TO KINDERGARTEN are just the BEST.

It’s too much to take in, and I thank God for that today.

Said Goodbye Again, But Not Without A Pic This Time

It’s a new season of family life around here.  I realized that again over the holidays when I was trying to create our annual Christmas card and discovered I had not even ONE photo of our whole family together from the previous year.  So, taking family photos was a top priority for the four weeks that Kory was home between his sophomore year at Baylor and his job back in Texas at Pine Cove Camp this summer. 

We took Kory to the airport early this morning, and it was bittersweet.  It is so nice having him home, and not only because he is so helpful around the house, at the grocery store, and at church, but also because he is so upbeat and positive and eager.  We laugh more when Kory is home. We talk about life and faith and current events more, because he initiates those types of discussions. (The only thing he asked for for his 20th birthday was the “Leading From Your Strengths” online test and evaluation. Personal development? Deepening understanding of himself and others? He’s all about it.) So, bitter? Yes, but also sweet, because every time he leaves he has such incredible experiences. We are so thankful for that.  Makes it easier to say goodbye.

This summer is especially bittersweet, because Cooper will also be leaving soon. He graduated in May, and in just a few short weeks we’ll fly off to California together and settle him into a room in Uncle Stu (my brother!) and Aunt Rachel’s house in Palm Springs, CA where he’ll work on a golf course most likely and take a year to think and pray about next steps and what he would like to study. He’s been accepted to California Baptist University and Grand Canyon University, so he’ll also get to visit those campuses over the next several months to help him make a better decision.

I’m not sure what we’ll do without Coop around. His originality and wittiness are things we have come to love, not to mention his ever improving fashion sense. He’s a thinker, a ponderer, and when he speaks about the things he’s thinking ~ faith, people, circumstances, it is usually profound. He can also lighten the mood and remind us that we (mostly me) need not take ourselves so seriously or be so easily offended. That’s a good thing. So again, bitter, but also sweet, knowing that adventure, growth, and mentorship by a godly aunt and uncle await him, not to mention sunshine, sandy beaches, and swimming pools.  Two small nephews also await him, so I think his babysitting skills will get some sharpening as well.

This girl will become an only child (sort of) at the end of August!  Her dad keeps telling her that ALL of our attention will then be focused COMPLETELY on her. For some reason, she doesn’t seem thrilled by that prospect.  I, for one, am excited to have the next few years at home with my girl. She is truly a delightful young woman. Her faith is strong (“Mom, I want to learn something new and challenging in youth group…”) and so is her creativity (She completely re-decorated her room this summer with a fresh coat of paint and pops of style and color from Good Will and Target), not to mention her athletic ability (She lettered in Varsity track as a freshman this past year). She will really miss her brothers, though. I’m sure of it.

So, we celebrated Kory’s 20th birthday on Monday. Yes, 20th. Hard to believe. I’m so glad he was home for this.  We had a small celebration, mostly so he could see one of his most favorite families ever whom he kept missing at church ~ the Moylans, but a few other friends (Lois & Harringtons & Speights!) joined in for fajitas and ice cream cake as well.

We spent most of the evening doing this. Small children + balls + trampoline + birthday boy = endless-way-past-bedtime-entertainment. Really.

It was BEFORE the party ~ and I mean RIGHT before the party that we took these photos. I’m not sure how she does it, but somehow our dear friend, Lois, comes to the rescue of many families in chaos. Crisis, too ~ but mostly just chaos. She texted me about what time I wanted to take family photos and I responded that I wasn’t sure I could fit it in with all the other tasks the day was requiring. That’s when she asked me to send her my shopping list.

So, not only did she take these photos from about 3-4:30 on Monday afternoon (in next door Northampton), but she also picked up Kayla at 1pm and they went shopping for all of the party food, unloaded it, and set it out for me to work with later. It was amazing. I could not have pulled the day off without her.  We definitely wouldn’t have had these photos if I’d tried. I only wish we’d had a passerby take one photo with Lois IN IT. Sigh…

Our last round of family photos a few years ago had me strategizing colors and outfits for WEEKS.  (I am not good at that!) Would you believe we pulled these together in about 10 minutes? That’s what has to happen in chaos, but it is not my preferred mode.

We DID manage to make a quick trip into Starbucks before heading home. The photo session happened just around back of the store, and the green mermaid was calling out to us the whole time. She’s very persuasive.

 Kory has just landed in Austin, where my dad is picking him up and probably planning on a Mexican food dinner somewhere.  He reports to summer camp and a cabin of 10th-12th grade boys on Saturday. Cooper is off to a lawn mowing job ~ one of three summer jobs he’s had which have earned him enough money to buy a car once in California.  Kayla is writing a letter to a beloved pen pal and printing recent photos to go with it.  Robert is off to a late meeting at church after a very early men’s breakfast (and trip to the airport!) this morning. I am taking a break from cooking dinner and studying ethics this evening to write all of this down. Somehow it’s helpful and healing.

I didn’t sleep a wink last night ~ watched every hour pass by on the clock by my bed which is currently located in our basement. It’s been a week of chaos and it finally caught up.  Actually, the chaos (with a heaping dose of heartbreak and disappointment) can be traced back for quite some time now. (How many of my blog posts have ended like this, I wonder?) But isn’t that usually how it is in the “now and not yet”? That theme has come up in my seminary courses over and over. I know this is not my home, and I’m grateful for that. Even still there have been great gifts in the midst…

a grocery list texted and taken care of
a gathering of friends
a family together
photos to capture a season
future plans and places
refreshing mermaid drinks
tears wiped and understood
good food
beach balls and trampolines

and even good, bittersweet goodbyes.

Tonight I am so sleepy, but so grateful for all of it.

P.S. I saved the best photos for a future Christmas card possibly coming your way. (Thanks, Lolo!)

It Was Too Cold To Blog

 See what I mean?  You really can’t do anything in temps like that. The winter of 2015 was a deep freeze like we’ve never experienced before. And then my blog disappeared probably also due to the arctic temps. I had to rescue it from cyberspace by approving my domain name via Robert’s near-obsolete chilidogk AOL email ~ ha!  All better now.

The icicles just kept growing and growing until they were scary.

 The picture of our house was taken early on ~ before Christmas.  By the end, the snow was covering the front steps and shrubs…

…and picnic table.
And as much as I wanted to stay under the covers drinking hot tea, we did manage to fit in quite a lot of winter activities. Our women’s retreat was in February, mostly due to no one having anything else to do when it’s below zero outside.  During free time I went snow shoeing with these lovely ladies.  Rachel, on the far right, is from India, and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of excessive amounts of snow and special shoes to trek through it!

Cooper, Kayla, and I enjoyed another 6 weeks of Thursdays at Mt. Snow in Vermont with lots of our homeschool friends. I can still keep up with the young ‘ens for the most part, but their skills improve and their speed increases with each year ~ complete with spins and jumps. I’d just like to be able to keep skiing each winter without killing myself.  Honestly, the lift is the scariest part for me. I’m getting old.
Mt. Snow is absolutely beautiful ~ and so is this little ski bunny!
We had very special visitors ~ Romy and Matt ~ from Switzerland who always come bearing the finest of Swiss treats. Such a lovely time catching up with these two, and then just a couple of days later we FINALLY got to escape our ice tundra for warmer climates and a part of the country to which we’d never been…
San Francisco!
It was wonderful to get away and participate in the Collegiate Church Planter Collaborative in Oakland with these friends and fellow church planters as well as collegiate church planters from all over the country.  Our friend from Stillwater, OK, Brian Frye, was the mastermind behind the conference. I’ve limited myself to an hour for getting this blog out (the to-do list is LONG), so I don’t have time to tell you about the wonderful people we got to meet and the incredible church ~ Gracepoint Oakland ~ that hosted us, but it was all so encouraging and fun. Robert got to speak to the whole group ~ about 200 people ~ one morning, and I helped lead a seminar called “Help, I’m Married To A Collegiate Church Planter” as well as with a video (horrors!) on ministering to collegiate women.

 Chris and Patrick are pastors in Lowell, MA and good friends of ours.  We had a blast seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, hiking through Muir Woods, and hanging out on the wharf with them. (Somehow I managed a semi-muddy three mile hike in a skirt and flats.  Totally worth it.)

The New England Contingency (Why am I the only girl?)

 We extended our stay in the Bay Area so that I could see my one of my dearest high school friends and her family.  It was a quick 30 minute train ride to their home and we packed in as much as we could in just two short days which included quite a lot of physical exercise!  Kerry took me to her Smart Barre (ballet/pilates) class which almost killed me, and then we went for a run on their local bike trail with Robert.  The next day was a 2 hour hike around a beautiful reservoir. It was non-stop talking and catching up and cooking and eating and laughing and just so wonderful.

We went back to San Francisco one night to visit with another dear friend, Greg, but for the life of me I can’t find the picture that I know I took of him and Robert right here on the famous Lombard Street. Anyway, we had a wonderful evening walking and talking and eating In and Out Burgers and drinking Starbucks.
There have been babies born and hospital visits…
The Worcester gals and Baby Analiz!
Soren was born in January ~ most prayed for baby ever!
There was a trip to a casino (shhhh….) with friends and fellow church planters, Shaun and Deshni ~ but only for steaks at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, I promise. We loved seeing their new church building (located between two major casinos and ministering to lots of folks who work there) and hearing about all that God is doing in southern Connecticut.

 Then it was Palm Sunday and Holy Week and the Passover Seder and Crosswalk and Good Friday service and Easter…Whew. (30 people at my house for Easter which may be a record!?)

 Some new family members showed up in the frames on my piano on April 1.  Kayla loves a practical joke and this one was perfect with all our favorites: Grumpy Cat, Jack Black/Bernie, and T-Swift: Insane Girlfriend Version. It is now April 17 and these photos are still on display.  I have forgotten which photos were originally in place ~ and that would be a small indicator of the chaos of life now (and for what seems like forever) ~ no time to do anything but the next thing.

Now it’s time for spring track for Kayla.  She’s tearing it up in the 100m sprint as well as the sprint relay.  She also had to run the 400m recently and like a typical sprinter thought she might die due to the LONG distance.  She did GREAT!

 Just when we thought the snow and ice were over and gone, this happened last week while I was out running.  It was depressing, but we have had a couple of 60+ degree days since complete with sunshine which I thought might be gone forever.

 And then this happened on Tuesday…

Four wisdom teeth out and lots of ice cream and couch time.  He’s still hurting today, but up and about and on the mend overall.

 Oh ~ and it took us forever, but Robert and I finally finished this…

…which was such a great show.  My goodness.  Tears every episode.
But now we can give our full attention to this…
If Parenthood made us cry every time, Gilmore Girls makes us laugh out loud.  Sadly, many of the 70’s and 80’s references are lost on our kids (there are hundreds!), but Robert and I crack up.  If you’re looking for a light, funny, and (almost entirely, but not quite entirely) clean show ~ this one’s for you!
Okay ~ my hour to blog was over about 20 minutes ago, but there’s a quick ~  even if it is kinda shallow (because it’s highly edited to make us look all fun and carefree…) update on the last three months.
Maybe (hopefully) it won’t be so long next time. Thanks for checking in friends!

Church and Brunch and Love and Lunch

 It was a good thing both Kayla and Cooper had a full day of plans for Saturday, though we could have used their help, I suppose. Cooper went to Springfield to help out with Club Hope which is an outreach ministry to homeless kids and their families.  Coop’s friend Cameron and his family started the ministry within the last year.  Coop loves helping out with the kids, riding in the vans and playing basketball with them.  He always comes home with cute and sometimes sad stories.

Kayla enjoyed her day in Salem, MA, though I’m not sure how much actual history she absorbed.  The reports I got were that the teen girls spent most of the day singing Frozen songs and Christmas carols at the tops of their lungs all the way through town. Some of the chaperones reportedly thanked God that they had only given birth to boys…

And another (ahem, male) chaperone told the kids that the red line that tours you through Salem was painted
with the blood of those found guilty of witchcraft.

So, while my kids were away with other parents and families, Robert and I got to work preparing for the church brunch and lunch that would be on Sunday.  We spent the morning setting up chairs and tables in the church basement “cafe”, and I even let him help me with the table coverings…a bit.  They were brown butcher paper decorated with words to worship songs written in black Sharpies. (Thank you, Pinterest!) One border needed polka dots, so I let him fill them in. Mike, a college student who was helping us, offered to write on some of the coverings, but I was mean and controlling and refused to let him “help” with that.  I was probably underestimating his poster-sized penmanship and lettering skills, but I happen to have a lot of experience with this from my football-run-through-making days.

Rachel, Isabelle, and Molly putting it all together!

After all the chairs and tables and table coverings were finished, Robert and I went to Whole Foods for a quick lunch outside at a sunny picnic table. Then he went home to polish and practice his sermon, and I took off grocery shopping, which really didn’t need to take the four or so hours that it did, but I was also on the hunt for new coffee urns/percolators for church.  Would you believe that Target and WalMart had none?  Millions of Keurigs, no coffee percolators.  I finally made my way to Bed, Bath, and Beyooooooooonnnnnnd (as Tim Hawkins would say), and they had ONE variety, so I bought two.

 I spent the rest of the evening cooking a couple of things that would keep well overnight ~ muffins mostly.  Robert even got in on the action by browning all of the sausage for me.  (Isn’t that what ALL pastors do on Saturday night?)  A breakfast taco bar with some side dishes was the plan.  Here’s what was on the buffet:

Scrambled eggs
Ground, browned pork sausage
Black beans
Cheese, salsa, sour cream
Blueberry Croissant Puffs (reg. and GF) with Blueberry Syrup
Pumkin “Doughnut” Muffins (reg. and G/D free)
Vanilla yogurt with granola (reg. and GF)
Hot Apple Cider
Hot Tea
Orange Juice
We were at church by 8am the next morning. While Molly and I worked on the brunch which would be at 10:30am, Isabelle, Rachel, and a few others worked on the lunch which would be at 12:30pm.  It was crazy in the kitchen AND it was raining outside, which meant that the lunch, which was originally planned for outdoors, had to be moved inside.  We hoped two hours would be enough turn-around time to accommodate both crowds, and it ended up working out fine.

 Here’s what was on the lunch buffet planned and executed by Isabelle, Austin, and Lois:

Cold Cuts & Sliced Cheese for Sandwiches
Mustard & Mayo
Lettuce, Tomato, and Pickles
Salads of several Varieties
Pastries, Quick Breads, and Muffins for Dessert
Hot Apple Cider
It was so delicious ~ perfectly fresh and satisfying meal! Yum.
The reason I added “love” to the title of this post is because BOTH of the couples above met as college students and married in our church ~ well, not the actual building, but you get the idea.  Dan and Sarah are old fogies with kids now ~ after meeting as UMass students and through work WAY back in the day.  Dan is a daddy, a high school teacher and now an elder on our Lead Team and Sarah is mommy, elementary school teacher and childcare organizer extraordinaire. The couple in the middle, Austin and Isabelle, who are now our church interns, actually met AT the church lunch cookout two years ago.  We like to play up the fact that you just might meet your future mate at the church “brunch and lunch.” Haha!
Austin and Isabelle’s wedding rehearsal this summer.

Katie and Ian, below, with baby Tristan and baby-girl-on-the-way met in the UMass marching band, were each baptized in our church and then married by Robert a few years ago (during the Summer of TEN WEDDINGS!).  Ian is a fabulous tutor, writer, preacher/teacher and business meeting moderator, and Katie is a fantastic mommy and childcare volunteer who has also been a great small group leader and member in the past.

Lois, on the far left, has been with on staff at our church for 14 years now (and we’ve known her for many more than that!), and Cindy has been with us almost that long as our worship leader. Cindy and her husband, Ben, are expecting a baby boy this winter as well.

 The photo above includes an Amherst College student, an adoptive and Young Life Mom, and a table full of “Smithies” ~ girls who attend Smith College, an all women’s college in nearby Northampton, and below is a table full of “Mohos” ~ ladies who attend the other all-women’s college in our area, Mt. Holyoke.  Being a Christian on those campuses is NOT a favorable identity or an easy path (though “tolerance and diversity” remains the mantra), and so we love it when we can pour into their lives (and tummies) and encourage them in their faith.  They are always an incredibly strong and and sincere bunch.

 Cooper spent the night with Cameron after Club Hope, but he made it back in time for brunch, second service, AND lunch.  Kayla helped me in the kitchen all morning ~ and with the cleaning all afternoon!

Mostly a UMass crowd in this pic!

It was a great day.  I love to feed people and watch them laughing and enjoying fellowship over a meal. I also may have gotten into a cleaning frenzy after all the meal was over, which often happens when I work in the church kitchen which has a strong tendency to get very gross very quickly. But shiny, cleared off counters make me happy, too, so yes, a great day.

Kayla was more than ready to go home, and we finally did around 3pm.  Robert had many hours to go, though.  His men’s boot camp started up at 4pm and then he had a sermon debrief gathering at 7pm. He texted me at 8:30 pm and asked me to come pick him up at church, since we’d left him with no car. I had just changed into pajamas, put my feet up, and cracked my seminary books open to study for a quiz due Monday morning. Thankfully it was dark outside, because I just slipped on Kayla’s flip flops and left the house dressed for bed. 
Once home, we just gave up and got in bed ~ bodies exhausted, but hearts encouraged by a full yet wonderful weekend.  Hope yours was great, too!

Weekend, Wedding, Worship, Quiz & Woes

Coop, Curtis, and A Photobombing Friend in Boston

 It was a very late night for a Monday, but it was worth it. Robert had to be in Boston for a North American Mission Board (NAMB) event, an it was one I didn’t want the kids to miss.  Truthfully, I didn’t want to miss it either, and I almost never pass up an opportunity to go into Boston.  We picked up our friend, Kama, and headed east around 3pm yesterday after a stop at Dunkin Donuts to get drinks for the road. I even got a very long shoulder massage as we drove. Ahhhhh….it was wonderful. Thank you, Kama.

We parked, walked through the Common, and along the Freedom Trail a bit until we got to Chipotle for a quick dinner.  The event was at the Tremont Temple, which we had to pass on the way to dinner, so it was an easy walk back.  A very long line awaited us, but it moved quickly and was full of friends from near and far.  The whole event was like a mini-reunion which made it all the more fun.

(A passing Bostonite asked me what the long line was about, but upon hearing that we were waiting to hear a pastor speak at a worship service, he moved on pretty quickly.)

The event was part of a tour for Send North America (SNA) ~ a NAMB effort to exhort believers to share the gospel in their individual lives and vocations, and plant churches in their various cities and towns.  The Passion City Band led worship through music and David Platt led worship through a great teaching and encouragement time from the book of Acts ~ ordinary people doing extraordinary things because of an extraordinary God.

It was great.  I’m so glad we didn’t miss it. I’m so glad my kids got to experience it.  It was especially encouraging to see each of them, without prompting, give of their own money (well, one regretted forgetting theirs in the van, so we helped out) toward the mission.

And I got to see Rachel ~ a recent graduate from UMass who is now involved in a Boston church plant ~ along with many other dear friends.  Such a wonderful surprise.

Going to Boston on a Monday night was also kinda crazy after the weekend we had. Robert accuses me of filling up all “free” time with activities, and that when I suddenly find myself without an obligation, I simply add a new one. Our weekend was packed, and any normal person would not have planned a trip to Boston on Monday (that they weren’t required to take), according to him.  Maybe this is why my kids seem to be entertainment and adrenaline junkies.  If a day or two day passes without anything fun or exciting happening (according to their standards for such), they sink into a sort of depression. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, they were lamenting that if someone were to make a movie about their lives, it would be oh so boring.  I really don’t think they got this from me, and though my husband would probably balk at me saying this, I LONG for boring and uneventful days.  They just never happen, but he seems to think that’s my own fault.
(But it’s David Platt…and the Passion Band…and Boston…and a gathering of Christians…many of whom we know and love…and when will the kids ever have this opportunity again…and it’s so good for them to be a part of in their teen years….and…and…and…)
(Hmmmmm…maybe it is all my fault.)
(We got in bed at 1:30am.)
Anyway, the weekend was crazy. Saturday, I went on a run, caught up on a bit of studying in the morning, had a phone date with a friend from Oklahoma midday, and then had to get ready for the wedding of this cute couple…
The wedding was at 5pm and it was an outdoor ceremony and potluck dinner, which meant preparations needed to start around 1:30pm.  We finally made it out the door at 4pm in our wedding attire, carrying our Thai Chicken Skewers, and began the 45 minute drive.  To make a very long story short, we got very lost, got caught in a severe thunderstorm, arrived at the wedding site at 5:45pm, sat in the truck for 20 minutes (50 yards from the ceremony) waiting for the thunder, lightning, and heavy rain to stop, almost decided to just drive home, finally decided to venture out, heard the minister say “I now pronounce you…” as we approached the tent, jumped out of our skin at the thunderclap that immediately followed, deposited our food on the buffet table, and found a seat under the tent held up by huge metal (lightning) rods. It’s a wonder anyone survived this treacherous evening.
Not only did we survive, but we had a great time seeing friends from all over Massachusetts (lots of worlds collided at this wedding), and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Tommy and Kaitlyn in their first moments together as a married couple.  The best part of the whole thing was the groom’s speech (“rebuttal” to the toasts) in which he gave all honor to Christ, and shared the gospel with everyone there.
Once home, the thunderstorms had reached our own town.  Robert still needed to practice/preach through his sermon, I had much more studying to do, and the next morning would be the Sunday which is always the “biggest” day of our year with the return of students to the area.

It was a great morning of meeting tons of new people, singing, and hearing the gospel proclaimed from the first chapter of Jonah ~ the new sermons series of the semester.

We had a houseful of people over afterward for lunch, which morphed into meetings for upcoming small groups, which morphed into the making of videos to promote the men’s and women’s small groups.  Molly and I made our debut here as future reporters on all things discipleship. We were both horrified at the idea, but managed to pull this off in about 10 minutes. (We couldn’t be outdone by the men’s group.) Retakes were done when certain teenagers decided to run in a circle around behind us. 
By the time the last person left the house on Sunday afternoon, we were already an hour and a half late to the next event ~ a birthday/memorial party for our friend, Josh, who would have turned 33 that day.  We miss him and it was nice to see others that do, too.
Robert dropped me off at home and was back up at the church for a 7pm meeting/sermon debrief, and I finished cleaning up the leftover dishes from lunch. It was 9:30 before I finished all the tasks that needed to be taken care of at home, but I tried to read a bit more in preparation for my quiz which had to be taken before 12 noon yesterday.  I had to get up very early to finish reading and studying, since we also needed to get an early start with homeschool work that morning in order to make the Boston trip.
It was Quiz #3.  Quizzes #1 and #2 both had problems, so everyone was given a 90%. This one happened to be over general or natural revelation (God’s creation) versus specific revelation (God’s Word), and the various views on natural revelation throughout church history. It was really interesting, and the Lord helped me to make 100% on the quiz. I could hardly believe it. Nine more quizzes to go and they are 25% of my final grade.
And now I’m blogging instead of studying, and it’s Tuesday, and I’m tired, and the Monday at noon deadline is already coming too quickly, and I haven’t purchased any groceries for the week. I have had an near emotional breakdown this morning, however, over an outline of the U.S. Constitution, and proper bibliography form for research papers that were due today for one child.
Oh, and I also shattered the platter upon which I was inverting a recently baked (7am grocery store trip/8am in the oven) cake for one of Kayla’s friend’s birthday’s today, which also rendered the beautiful, chocolate, gluten free ($$) cake inedible, because we didn’t want to lacerate anyone’s throat with sharp ceramic chards.  This meant another trip to the grocery store for a store-bought cake and all of the accompaniments.
So, I have accomplished some things today, just not in the direction of anything very productive.  So, now I just want to sit in my room and cry. (I was kind of attached to that platter.  Used it constantly.)
Maybe that 1:30am bedtime wasn’t such a good idea after all…
(It really was, but I’m going to need a day of recovery, I think. And maybe another massage.)