Monday, October 3, 2016

My Sad & Lonely Life (a.k.a Holy Ground)

 I have lost count of the number of times I was on an airplane this summer.  It was a lot, but I didn't really mind. A change of scenery is always refreshing. New places, new faces - I love it. The airport is one of the best places for people watching, too, and I even kind of enjoy/dread seeing who will be seated next to me on the flight. I've had some memorable seat-mates to be sure, the most recent of which was the older lady in the aisle seat on a flight from Dallas to Austin.
I considered stealing those eyelashes for the upcoming wedding.
"Are you from Austin? I'm a pet sitter there." she asked/told me immediately upon buckling in. No "Hello," just a firm question and statement.

(I never know quite how to answer this question.  Where exactly am I from? The window seat girl was off the hook by saying she lived in Marble Falls and quickly putting in her ear buds.)

"No ma'am, I don't live in Austin."

"Well, do you have pets?" she asked. Again, focused and firm. No niceties.
Hanging out in the waiting room while Daddy gets his staples out.
 "No, I don't have any pets." I said, feeling bad for not mentioning Kayla's Betta fish, Buckaroo.

"Oh! What a sad and lonely life you must be living!" she exclaimed in all earnestness.

A bit shocked by her sweeping conclusion regarding my life, I couldn't speak for a moment, but then my summer flashed before my eyes. Things just passed, and things still to come whirled through my mind, and all I could say was...

"Definitely not lonely."

"Well, you just don't know what you're missing," was her sharp reply before promptly securing her eye mask and falling asleep before we were even in the air. And though it is a very short flight from Dallas to Austin, she never said another word to me.
It rattled me a bit. 

I noticed that she had been reading some sort of a Christian novel, and even had a bookmark with "Jesus" written on it. A Christian? No wonder we often get a bad rap. She cares more about her business and a pet-less life than the living, breathing soul sitting next to her? Why not ask the occasion for visiting Austin? Or if I had any human family? Or why I had found myself in Dallas? Her eye mask sent the message that she wasn't interested in further conversation, or I may have gotten past my shock and frustration to inquire about her pet-sitting career.

But any anger or frustration quickly turned to pity.
My sister and niece preparing to host a bridal brunch and tea party.
And the phrase that had been on repeat in my brain for the last couple of weeks started again: Holy Ground. 

No, I don't have any pets, but I have a lot of humans. Like, A LOT. And no, they are not really mine, but we belong to each other in community in a way. Many of those humans had recently allowed me to be an intimate part of their lives, and to me it felt not sad and lonely, but like I was on holy ground.

Not the literal burning bush, take off your shoes, God is speaking audibly kind of holy ground, but a privileged position from which He allowed me to participate in some of the things He is up to in the lives of human beings. Things involving great fear, deep pain, and long term suffering, and also times of gladness and celebration.  Places of strife, raw emotions, of surrender and weariness, and also places of great faith and much joy.

Holy, sacred ground. That's the way I was seeing it.
The bride gave us all Kendra Scott necklaces ~ floral robes, too!
A last-minute, nine-day trip to Tulsa allowed me to care for two little boys (one adopted and one about to be), their dad who had recently spent about 35 days in the hospital due to complications from Crohn's Disease sporting a scar down the middle of his belly, which has now been opened up about seven times, and their mom who is working full time and trying to maintain hope and strength in the midst of it all.

I got to change diapers, read books, play outside, buckle carseat straps, do the naptime routine, drive to doctor visits, and cook a couple of things. I got to see and feel the tensions of marriage and parenting in the midst of great trial. I got to have fun conversations and hard ones. I had to be bold and walk on egg shells. I got to have deep fellowship with two friends who are steadfast believers and watch them walk a path of long term stress and suffering with great faith.

It was holy ground.
Mr. and Mrs.!
Being in Tulsa also allowed for a girls' night out with a couple of other dear friends and a stop-by-the-house visit from another. These nights were not filled with laughing and chick flicks and junk food, but were laden with each woman's battle scars and filled with stories of fear and grief. One whose own parents are already (and too early) gone, now facing the brain tumor of her father-in-law. One working, homeschooling, and raising 3 biological children and one adopted - all of whom require unique care in a family who advocates daily for the orphan and widow. And another who lost her dad suddenly and unexpectedly in January, who now has to care for her mother in many ways, who works full time, raises two boys and now faces the recurring stage three melanoma of her own husband who is not even 40 years old. (Major surgery this week. Please pray.)

There were updates, and tears, and shared pain, but even still, hearts full of faith.

My own faith grew from their example. Our 4 hour dinner at IHOP was holy ground for me.

My siblings minus the bride.
(I'm not even telling you about my day trip to Stillwater where I saw two other dear friends and spent the day laughing and crying and catching up. Mexico Joe's and a back porch with an iced tea and a warm fall breeze. Holy ground, both.)
The California brother and family! (Coop's surrogate parents from last year!)
 Got to hang with the little guys at the pool and give Mom, Dad
and soon to be little sister a break!
The reason I was flying from Dallas to Austin (really Tulsa to Dallas to Austin) was because I needed to meet up with the rest of my family for my littlest sister's wedding. Robert performed the ceremony, my other sister and I were bridesmaids, my brother was a groomsman, and my boys were ushers. There were rehearsals, and bridal brunches. There was immediate and extended family. There was drama. There were prayers and fights and teary poolside conversations. There was laughter and reminiscing. There was a beautiful bride starting a brand new life.

It was privileged and holy ground.
After party - Comfy clothes and french fries!
We returned to a church overflowing with students back in town for a new semester.  This is always holy ground. People seeking, people growing, people hurting, people worshipping. I've met with at least six different women since being home. They've entrusted me with their passion for Christ and desire to serve Him on their campuses. They've shared their darkest, most sinful and rebellious moments. They've cried tears of deep shame and regret. They've reached out for help and hope. They've told me their life stories, their salvation stories. I feel privileged each time.
Second Service the Sunday we returned.
If I ever write a book on life as a pastor's wife, a friend, a mom, it might be called Front Row Seat: The View From Up Close or something like that. A long time ago I took my kids to see the theater production of The Music Man at UMass. We were only three rows back from the stage. We could see the tiny microphones and the sweat running down the actors' faces as they sang and danced. My kids were mesmerized.

That's kind of how I feel. I'm mesmerized by the people in my life who take up their crosses and follow Him moment by moment. I'm in awe of the ones who continually deny themselves the option of anger and bitterness and selfishness and embrace His call, no matter how painful it is. I'm struck by the sweat of their service.
First we did brunch after the first service, and then we did a taco bar for lunch after the second.
Long shopping list and a half day trip to Costco. Also, cracking about 200 eggs!
It's like the Lord always buys me the best tickets to the show. The ones where you can see for sure that those folks are really human. The ones where you see all the tiny flaws and tools for presentation and have your own heart strengthened by their performance.

So, I guess my life is sometimes sad as I watch loved ones walk through trial and loss. But it's definitely not lonely. It's filled with privilege and perspective and people truly in Christ.

Maybe my pet-sitting seat-mate doesn't realize what she's missing.

I, for one, am thankful for a summer of walking on holy (and human) ground.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Big Kids Back To School

It's been so fun seeing all of the back to school photos on Facebook lately.  We used to be able to take back-to-school photos, too. Here's one from about 5 years ago. Chocolate waffles, bacon, and new school supplies greeted my homeschoolers that day. Always a fun morning and a fresh start.

I've only got one left at home to take photos of, and here she is the morning before her first day back to Classical Conversations. Kayla's a Junior this year...
...but it seems like yesterday that she read her first chapter book all on her own. Ten years.  It's been ten years since she read Dingoes at Dinnertime all by herself.  Today she's preparing to lead tomorrow's Challenge III class in a 45 minute discussion on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. A lot happens in ten years, and I'm impressed with this young lady's discipline and diligence.

Here's Kayla's course list:

Advanced Mathematics/Pre-Calc
American History
Latin: Caesar & Cicero readings
Spanish II
Philosophy: Consequences of Ideas
Shakespeare & Poetry

Your Facebook photos really made me want to have back-to-school photos of all my kids, so I sent the two away at college a text message begging and pleading them to please send a photo of themselves on their campuses on the first days of school. I may have promised a cookie care package.  Here's the first one I got:
Kory works in the athletic department at Baylor, and he loves it. His good friend, fellow student, and athletic department colleague, Paul (also a dedicated Gluten Free Krums reader ;-) ), took this photo. (Thank you, Paul!)  He's sporting his work and game day uniform here, and I know he can hardly wait for football season to begin. He watches the games from the press box, so that might have something to do with it.  

He just told me his schedule on the phone yesterday:

MWF 10am-12pm: Business Law and World History
T/Th 11am-3pm: Project Management, American Literature, and Social Dance (<---Fox Trot was last week!)
Fridays 2:30-5:15: Human Resources, Talent Acquisition & Staffing

He's a college Senior this year, but I'm pretty sure we took these kindergarten and first grade photos just a few short weeks ago.
Cooper was not as quick to get me his back-to-school photo, so I sent him Kory's as a challenge reminder.  Cooper thought Kory's photo was lame: "He doesn't even have a backpack on!" And then this appeared via text:
Coop started at Gordon College this year. He could have started last year, but decided to take a gap year after graduating high school. He spent about 8 months in Palm Springs, California living with my brother and his family, working maintenance crew and then outdoor service at Rancho La Quinta Golf Club. He dug a lot of trenches, trimmed a lot of hedges and edges, parked a lot of Porches, and made a lot of big tips. I think he was ready to hit the books again after all of that, but it was a good year and great learning experience for him.

Our week of preparation to leave for college began with this purchase...
...because this one wasn't gonna do the job. (A little bulky for a dorm room, too.) It was great for learning to type and write papers many years ago, though, and Coop is the fastest typist in our family.
Kayla got to help move Coop into his dorm. It's a triple (three guys) and it's tiny! It's redeeming feature is the suite style bathroom - sort of.  Six young men have to share that bathroom. I can tell you that it already smelled like a boys' dorm by nightfall. Girls live in the dorm, too, but on separate floors. We went to one of those floors. It smelled like flowers. 

Girls' dorm floors: flowers.  
Boys' dorm floors: stinky socks. 
Some things never change.
The Lord provided for a lot of really special things to happen throughout the course of the weekend. For one, we ran into these old friends of Cooper's at the local Target: Isaac and Lauren. We know them from youth camp and the leadership program, Quest. It was such a nice surprise and really fun to catch up with them.
We also met up with another friend of ours. Rachel was a former church member when she was a student at UMass. She saw that Cooper was going to Gordon and sent me a message saying she and her husband live just a few minutes from campus and would love to be of any help to Cooper while he is at Gordon. When I asked her what town they were in, she said Beverly. I messaged her back saying I just happened to be at the Target in Beverly.  She said: "Me too!"  We met up front at the Starbucks for a mini-reunion.  (Target + Starbucks. Was there ever a better duo?) Cooper got to re-meet her and receive more encouragement and lots of offers of help, food, and laundry facilities.

Two more things: We enjoyed meeting Coop's roommates and their families - one from Austin, TX and one from Nashville, TN. Upon chatting with the Austin, TX mom, I learned that her son, Sam, had been homeschooled through high school. I told her that Cooper had also been homeschooled. Always fun to meet others who have been on that journey, as the kids tend to keep it on the down-low. 

I told Cooper that Sam had been homeschooled, and when Cooper asked him about it, Mikey, the other roommate was in the room.  Mikey overheard their conversation about being homeschooled and then "confessed" to having been homeschooled himself. All three roommates homeschooled their entire lives.  Pretty cool.  (Mikey may have even been wearing his homeschool co-op t-shirt at the time. Ha!)

THEN I check Facebook and noticed that my friend, Sara, from my college days at UT Austin commented on a photo and told me to tell Cooper to be on the lookout for a guy named Sam from Austin, that she and her family are family friends of his and co-small-group leaders at their church. I couldn't believe it, and could hardly wait to tell her that Sam had already been spotted on campus - in the bed just across the room from Coop! They both play guitar and love basketball. Small world. Good Father. 
Gordon did such a nice job of including parents in the first two days of orientation and then sending us off with a special worship service. It also felt a little mean of them to have us all worship together, drape our kiddos in special Gordon scarves, and then send us out of the chapel to say goodbye for the semester. It made for quite a mix of emotions, but I suppose I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

He was nervous, but also excited to finally do the college thing. There have been lots of texts and calls about book buying, adding and dropping courses, and how the first week of classes went. So far, he has over-studied and been able to answer lots of questions in class. Here's his schedule:

MWF: History (Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome), Accounting, and New Testament
T/Th: Discovery (or Gordon College 101 for all freshmen and transfers)

He's planning to major in business and minor in music, so he'll also take a non-credit classical guitar lesson in order to prepare to audition for the music school. They only have classical music options at Gordon, but Coop is eager for the challenge. (He just released his first single on iTunes! I'll post information when it is fully available. Super-talented musician, this kid.)
So, no more wooden blocks and Playmobil guys to re-enact the Fall of Constantinople at our house.  It's all books and computers, calculators and work-studies, group projects and presentations for my crew now. I do miss the old days, but I have to say I'm really enjoying watching these new academic and life adventures they are on. I've loved being their teacher, and I love that they'll still indulge me with back to school photos and stories even though they are such big kids now.

Cookie care packages on the way. :-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dress Alterations and "All Those Republicans..."

I did not sleep well at all last night. It was cool outside but warm in the house, and the window unit in our room doesn't think it should cool our room in that situation.  I was hot and achy and tossed around all night long. I'm telling you this, because what follows might just be a result of my sleep deprived crankiness today. I don't know. I'm asking for forgiveness ahead of time for any rash words.

(Also, I'll be outing myself politically, though I'm sure it will be no surprise to most. I've revealed my leanings on my blog before, but try and stay away from talking about them in church and on Facebook, etc.  I truly want people to hear about Christ first and foremost, and I know that politics, especially conservative politics, is often something that keeps folks from truly understanding Him. Robert, too. We agree on politics, but we also agree that they should not be tied to sharing the Gospel in any way.)

Today was Kayla's first day of Classical Conversations.  She's a junior this year and in the Challenge III level with one of my sweetest friends as her tutor - Aimee or Mrs. Gould. (I am not tutoring this year, and though I love CC, it's so nice to have a break.) I knew I would be dropping Kayla off this morning at 8:15am, so a week ago I made an appointment to have the bridesmaid dress for my sister's wedding altered just after getting Kayla settled in for her first day of class. My appointment was at 9am, so I read my Bible at Starbucks for a few minutes over hot tea before heading over to the appointment.
Ours is the strapless one on the left. With pockets!

I was greeted by a lovely petite woman with white hair in her late fifties, I'm guessing. Really, she was just so pleasant, and I could even tell from her website that she was a gentle and kind person. It's part of why I chose her shop. We took a look at the dress, and then she left me alone to change.

When she came back in, she began pinning and chatting some more. A few years ahead of me in having a crown of white hair, she asked me if I was highlighting mine.  When I said no, she went on and on about my hair - it's color (or non-color), it's cut, it's length.  It was so sweet, and I love it when people are so free with their genuine and complimentary thoughts. (Though hard to receive!) It's something I'm trying to get better at myself.

Then the conversation turned to the wedding.  She mentioned hardly ever seeing wedding party dresses with floral prints, but when I explained the outdoor Texas venue, she thought it would be a perfect match. And after telling me about her niece who recently moved to Dallas, she said something about Amherst being so liberal.  At first I couldn't tell if she thought that was good or bad, but then it became all too clear...

Me: Well, yes, Amherst is very liberal, but I think what pushes it to the far left of left are the colleges and the university.

Seamstress: Yes, because young people finally leave home and get educated.

(I could have been mistaken, but she seemed to be glad that the education led to the liberalness.)

Seamstress: I don't know if I could live in Texas with all those Republicans.  So many Republicans there.  It's so diverse here.

Me: You know, I am originally from Texas, and I find Amherst to be much less diverse than where I'm from, ethnically, ideologically, and politically, but I also lived in San Antonio and Austin for many years.

Seamstress: Oh, you're from Texas? Well, I mean we have so many nationalities here because of the colleges.  I guess if you lived in a city in Texas, you had some diversity. Dallas seems to be all white Republicans though, or at least the area my niece lives in.

Me: Well, my husband and I both grew up in very small towns in Texas.  He was one of the few white kids on his football team.  Many of my closest friends were Mexican, my head cheerleader, Rhonda, was black, as was the cheerleader, Bernie, from whom I inherited all of my cheerleading uniforms.  My computer science partner, Takeru, was Asian. So was our valedictorian.

(Or something like the above comments, but I've tightened them up here for effect.)

Seamstress: Really? Well, I guess it just depends.  There must be a few pockets of diversity there.

Me: Yes, and there are Democrats, too, but I don't find quite the same diversity of ideals and politics in this area. Everyone here seems to vote the same way.

And then we got to talking about our kids, and being in-laws, and grandparents.  When she heard my oldest was 21, she said not to worry, that kids these days get married really late - even after they've bought a house together and settled in, which is nice, because then they often pay for the wedding themselves.

As lovely as this woman was, I couldn't help but think that this type of presumption and narrow-mindedness is part of what has gotten us into the current political and cultural situation we are in. (By the way, I will be heartbroken if my kids buy houses with their girlfriends or boyfriends and then get married years later. I wonder if she knows how high the divorce rate is for those folks.) And I can't tell you how many times I've been in a similar situation since moving here. Don't get me wrong. I know it happens in Texas, too - or wherever there is a majority of one ideology or ethnicity. But no one is exempt! Liberal New Englanders don't get to look down their noses at Conservative Texans and create a narrative about their obvious idiocy and lack of relationships with people of other colors. (We moved here during the 2000 Bush election, so being from the same state as the president meant you must be an idiot. A downtown restaurant changed it's menu to mock the administration at that time. Diverse? Tolerant? No, not at all.)

So, yes, I am a registered Republican from Texas. I think the government is too big and controlling. I think taxes and spending are out of control. I don't want babies aborted or laws that encourage it. I desire traditional marriage to be upheld, because I believe it's by original design and what's best for kids, and the culture. I want freedom of speech and religion. I think people are better off when they are given a hand up rather than a hand out. For all you political scientists and junkies, I'm sure it all sounds rather simplistic.  (And I'm sure it is maddening to some, too.)

However, I have not voted for the Republican nominee (or the Democratic one) in the last two elections, nor do I plan to vote for the current nominee. (Or his democratic opponent, to be clear.) I have indeed voted in every previous election, but in my opinion, the major party candidates have not been true conservatives, and I've felt pretty discouraged and disillusioned by it all. Voting has been no fun at all. (And my vote doesn't count for much in this state anyway.)

I've never prayed for this country like I have in the past several months.  Prayers of confession mostly - in the same vein of Daniel on behalf of the rebellious nation of Israel. We are truly a mess. It grieves me and causes me to hope for heaven more than ever before - which is our only real hope anyway. So many Christians forget that - including me.

I have been watching and reading up on the election and candidates as much as I can, depressing as it is.

(I honestly thought the Democratic National Convention was very well done - as if that counts for anything. Michelle was the wise woman, wife, and mother she usually is, and Bill was as eloquent as ever. He left a few glaring issues out of his speech, but Slick Willy has never been so convincing.)

I have to thank my friend Josh Torrey for keeping me abreast of great articles on the topic via Facebook. (Thanks, Josh!) Here are a few I've read that cause me to think that it's okay to keep voting in a non-traditional way. If we say we want change, then I think this is what it's going to take. (And yes, I know you can find articles that say the exact opposite.  I've read many of those, too.)

How Not To Waste Your Vote: A Mathematical Analysis

Conservatives Don't Owe Trump Their Ballot

Four Issues To Consider Before You Support Trump - What Is Really At Stake

Al Mohler and Russell Moore Explain Why They Can't Support Trump

Though I don't know if I've ever been overly presumptuous (mostly because I've never been overly comfortable with religious and political conversations, so be gentle if you choose to comment), my 17 years in New England have helped teach me that presumptions (which are really judgments, and discriminations in disguise) are not helpful.  In fact, they are hurtful. Even my sweet seamstress has fallen prey to the narrow-mindedness she accuses the other side of having, but I really don't think she'll take it out on my dress. She did like my hair after all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wild Summer. Good Father.

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

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

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

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

I could go on and on about the excellence of Pine Cove and the high level training in leadership
and ministry that Kory has received here.  So grateful!
 Then we went to camp again!  Crosswalk Camp at Gordon College.  I think this was year 15 or something.  I know I was pregnant with Kayla the first time Robert was on staff and we skipped a year here and there.  We took our largest group of campers ever this year and had a blast.
 The camp pastor (a.k.a. my gifted husband) did an incredible job of teaching through the Sermon on the Mount...
 ...and I had such a great time with all of the female chaperones working through the Sermon on the Mount by using the inductive Bible study method.  Here they are discussing and making posters of their "observations, interpretations, and applications."
 We got home on a Saturday evening from youth camp and left the next Tuesday morning for this:
 When we got the invitation to Chris and Katie's Colorado wedding, I knew we needed to go. So, months ago, we decided to make a week's vacation out of it, and we are so glad we did. It doubled as a 24th anniversary celebration for us, since I would be in yet another state for the actual day. The trip was made even more do-able because of a generous gift given to us by members of our church!
Chris, the groom, has been a student at our church for the last four years.  An Amherst College football player from Texas, he and Katie have been dating since 8th grade. She graduated from UT Austin this May, and their wedding was in Crested Butte, CO - a favorite family vacation spot for her. It would take several paragraphs to describe this incredible wedding weekend, and so I'll spare you all of the amazing details (I'm still basking in the beauty of it all!), but this is where the "Good Father" portion of my post comes in.
This crew.  Football players.  Groomsmen. Great friends.
And powerful witnesses for Christ on the Amherst College campus.
The handsome pastor on the right enjoys spending every Tuesday afternoon with them in the dining hall on campus.
The above photo was taken at the rehearsal dinner. A literal mountaintop experience. The cocktail hour had a 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks, and the dinner itself  - a white tablecloth affair under a nearby tent -  lingered with the most heartfelt toasts to the bride and groom that I have ever experienced. Both fathers spoke at length about the bride and the groom, but it was each father's toast of the bride that had me close to sobbing.

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

I could not hold back the tears. (I wasn't the only one!)
I stole this photo from Facebook. Katie looked like a princess.
The ceremony was at a private river valley resort. Absolutely beautiful.
I went to bed that night still rejoicing over the beauty of that dinner, those toasts, the humility of each father, their great affection for their kids. But there was this underlying sorrow still with me the next morning.

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

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

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

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

And there I was in Crested Butte, Colorado, literally surrounded by His mighty mountains - unmoving, lifting eyes to the heavens - visible images of His ability and willingness to faithfully and righteously love and protect me. As I was taking in the abundance of His creation, He was also saying so clearly and so personally, that HIS house is like that: abundant in love, a strong, affectionate refuge, and full of delights.

Whatever I grieve as a loss or scarcity on earth, He makes up for in abundance. The fatherly approval I long for He gives extravagantly.  The fact that He had me read that Psalm on that specific morning is only further evidence of His intimate love and affection. I was in tears again.

And when we climbed the highest of those surrounding mountains the next day, it was difficult not to think of His goodness, faithfulness, and unwavering love for me. 

Truly beautiful. 

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

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

A nice new camera was what she was hoping for, and we loved surprising her with it. (Well, sort of.  The box was delivered and sitting in our mudroom while we were away in Colorado, and there was no question what was inside, due to the markings on the box.  Oh well...)
We went to the Montague Book Mill for lunch (a great place for picture taking!) and the Esselon Cafe for cupcakes and coffee on the way home. For dinner we drove to West Hartford and her favorite restaurant - P.F. Chang's. (Passing the airport that I would be back at only about 6 hours later.) I'm so thankful we had at least one day together, because...Sweet Sixteen!  Wow, can hardly believe it.
In total, I was home all of about 27 hours, as my plane to Texas left the next morning at 5:45am. I am always shocked to find hundreds of other people at the airport at 4am, and I barely made my flight because of the crowd. I arrived on a Friday night and was able to attend a bridal shower on Saturday for my youngest sister, Melinda.

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

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

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

And then there was a lingerie shower in the hotel.  Is this not the cutest, prettiest bride you've ever seen?
Then, we were off to dinner at a downtown Austin hot spot ~ Second Bar + Kitchen. So good.

I had to come back and edit this post to include what we did after dinner: Karoake at the Highball.  Our reservation was for 11:15pm.  We had our own private karaoke room (complete with pews, stained glass, and pentagrams.  I just prayed) and I cracked up at the group of 30year old former cheerleaders singing "I like big butts and I can not lie."  Somehow I missed the 90's rap era, but I'm telling you, it was alive and well until about 2am that night. Ha!
Sunday morning found us at a popular brunch spot ~ Moonshine. Amazing all-you-can-eat buffet. I even managed to go for a morning run along the lake with all the other Austinites - mostly because I no longer have the ability to sleep past 7am.  It was hot, and I thought I might die.  I prayed for Robert and Cooper while I was running, because they were also running ~ the Rockport, MA Half Marathon.  It was the same temperature in Rockport, MA as it was in Austin, TX, and I don't know how they did it.  I can only run half-marathons in absolutely perfect weather conditions i.e. crisp, cool air with a steady breeze.

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

From Boston, we headed to Maine and our annual stay in Ogunquit. The cabin we typically stay in was only available two nights, and the kids wanted more time in Maine than that (they have come to love that time away), so Robert found a great place downtown and we stayed two more nights.
We had two great beach days and one rainy shopping day up in Freeport. 
The afternoon we arrived home, Robert had to go straight to a wedding rehearsal and dinner for these two. He was home earlier than expected, because the poor bride fainted (it was very hot and steamy) just before the rehearsal and ended up in the Emergency Room. There ended up being no rehearsal and no dinner, but you wouldn't have known it by the beautiful ceremony the next day.

We had so much fun experiencing a Russian style dinner and dancing, and we are thrilled that these two will be staying around for a while.
Oh, there are so many other things to report on.  It was a wonderful whirlwind of a summer.  And of course I'm only telling you the glowing parts.  There was drama, there was strife, there were doctor visits, there was anger and disappointment, and there were LOTS of texts and phone calls with dear (and much too young) friends facing serious, life-threatening illnesses.  Climbing mountains and running marathons are also metaphors for the difficulty of this life and the stamina required. I thank the Good Father for providing both the glorious gifts and the grace to endure the not so glamorous parts.

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, friends.