Thursday, October 16, 2014

There's Really No Time To Blog, But...


 ...here's a few things that have been happening and are about to. A Holy Spirit prompt and a little time taken from Women's Boot Camp last night to celebrate the engagement of Becky ~ 2nd from the left.  We had a sparkling cider toast.  Then we got down to business ~ The Doctrine of the Trinity. That's right.
 We returned from Cape Cod on Sunday evening and hit the ground running.  Before that though, we enjoyed a whole day in our pajamas in front of the TV at a friend's home there on the Cape.  It was rainy and the perfect day to do nothing but sit in front of the TV.  We watched the UT game (during which I attempted to study) and then the Baylor game, which was the wildest, craziest, most amazing come-back of a game I have ever seen. (And I know FOR SURE that I have NEVER watched that much football in one day.)
Kory sent us a picture form where he was sitting.  The final score was 61-58, and it was really just unbelievable.  And you know, I don't really care about football that much, but this whole winning season makes me so happy ~ for Kory, who gets to be a student there during a super-exciting time, and for our friends the McCaws, who are seeing the fruit of 11 years of hard work in recruiting coaches and players of character and even Christlikeness which draws attention to the Christian University and hopefully to Christ on some level.

But that Baylor-TCU game was an experience.  Felt like I needed to sleep for about 12 hours afterward.
I enjoyed another long run along Cape Cod Canal this time ~ so beautiful!

And we went to Provincetown, which is the very tip of the Cape.  It is sort of a strange place to visit, has an odd feel, and a bit of a strange mix of people, but the view of the entire Cape from there is a must-see and we also enjoyed some of the shops and cafes. (Care must be taken, though, in browsing.  Some places are R-rated.)
 We climbed the Pilgrim Monument Tower to see it.  116 steps to the top.
In this pic you can see both the tip and the curve of the Cape back toward the rest of the state.
That's all for now.  I'm overwhelmed by the weekend's activities:

  • An all-day field trip to Boston with 30 homeschoolers tomorrow
  • An all-day teen girls' conference on Saturday with Kayla and a few moms and friends
  • A Saturday evening church gathering at a local restaurant to kick off the 15 year anniversary weekend celebration
  • A combined worship service and catered lunch afterward with lots of folks from out of town here to celebrate 15 years with us.
  • A haircut (very important ~ ha!)

All good stuff, but my mid-term exam (due Monday by midnight) and the research paper rough draft (due next weekend) and the need to prep to speak at a weekend retreat next weekend have me totally overwhelmed.  I could hardly focus to pray or read my Bible this morning and I kinda feel like running away.

Actually, I am about to run away ~ all the way down the street to Barnes and Noble.  Going to open up my class notes and start studying and organizing them.  Hoping to get at least a couple of hours in.  Cooper and Kayla are going with me.  We all have work to do in order to have a day off for a field trip tomorrow, and, and, and...

Trying to meditation this:

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
Psalm 94:19

Also ~ I so much want to write about our 15 years here as a church, and the church planting adventure we've been on for that long, so maybe it will just be a bit delayed ~ like maybe until we're 16 or 17 years old ~ who knows?!

Okay ~ bye for now!

Pray for me?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Cape Octobers & Good Things


So...October 8 came and went, and nothing out of the ordinary happened.  Maybe the "good thing" that was supposed to happen is something we don't know about yet, or maybe it was a call to count our current blessings ~ good things that we may be taking for granted. Admittedly, the "prophecy" sounded like it was something big, new, and exciting, but nothing of the sort really occurred.

Lots of regular "good things" have happened, though.

We did have a safe drive to Cape Cod on Tuesday night. We arrived around 11pm, got a good night's sleep, and didn't have to set alarms for early morning wake-ups. We've been coming to Cape Cod every October for many years thanks to the generosity of a sweet family in our church.  It's been a good time to take a break after all the craziness of the end-of-summer and fall church activities.  When you live in a college town and have a congregation full of students August and September are full speed ahead.
Robert's back is just about completely healed.  His constant pain is almost no more.  He's even been able to run a bit, but not with me on the pavement yet.  Hopefully soon.  This healing is such a good thing ~ something we've prayed for daily since December.  And it's all come about in the last week.  We are so grateful.
Important communication happened on the 8th.  Maybe even breakthrough communication that has possible benefits for everyone involved, granting growth, maturity and freedom.  And this was communication with several different folks about several different things ~ hard, burdensome things, and wonderful, celebratory things.

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


This week is an "off" week for Classical Conversations and homeschooling and that's a good thing for  Cooper and Kayla ~ and me.  They put in a lot of hard work during the week to meet deadlines and complete assignments, so it's nice for them to have a bit of an academic and mental vacation.  It also happens to be fall break for my seminary, and while it's nice to have a reprieve from a heavy reading load and weekly quizzes, I do have a mid-term exam next week and a research paper due at the end of the month.  It's okay though.  I really love what I'm studying and researching.  Good things.
Thursday morning, before we went to the beach, I went for a long run.  Running is such a good thing for me.  It's a gift to have health and strength, to be outside in a beautiful place, and to have time to think and pray. I've also been memorizing Romans on my runs.  Amazing how memorizing it and therefore meditating on it can be so different than just reading it.  It feels like I understand it so much better.  I read Hebrews 9 and 10 before my run.  I love Hebrews ~ maybe more than Romans, I don't know.  And what I read this morning is relevant to my research paper.  Wow. Good, good things.
I didn't realize how close I was to the beach at the mid-point of my run!
Speaking of running, I received the gift of new running shoes while here at the Cape.  Church Planter Catalyst (Robert's new 2nd job) wives were each given a $100 gift card recently. I knew exactly what I would buy.  My old running shoes had over 1300 miles on them, and so it was time.(Actually, it's time at 500 miles, so this was overdue.)  The local Sports Authority had just my size and brand. This morning's 8 mile run felt especially good in these new Asics, and they are perfectly timed with the training I'll be doing in the next couple of weeks for a half-marathon with my friend Betsy.
We're missing Kory on this trip, but here's a throw-back to 2008 when all five of us were here, and we played a fun round of miniature golf.  We did talk to him on Wednesday night.  He was super-exhausted and super-excited all at the same time with things join on at school.
Tuesday night he interviewed Ian McCaw, the Athletic Director at Baylor, in front of a crowd of 300 students in the Lead Living-Learning Community. His day leading up to the evening event was completely chaotic, and he sent out a desperate plea for prayers via text early in the day. We prayed for him and for the event, and it ended up going well ~ all of it.  Good things.
So, lots of good things this week. Not of the prophetic dream sort, but still our life is often overflowing with good things that I never stop and acknowledge.

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mondays, Prophetic Dreams, Piper Impersonations, & Senior Pics

Real pic from Monday's morning run.
 I like Monday mornings, and yesterday's was especially enjoyable. We were up just after 6am and enjoyed some time in a quiet house (before teens were awake) to read our Bibles and pray ~ Robert in his office, me at the dining room table. I guess I should say that the morning became enjoyable, because in those first moments alone with the Lord, there were fears and tears. The tears were a surprise, because I thought I was free from the minor disappointment. The fears were regarding something still yet to come.  Robert was told a few weeks back that something good was going to happen to him, to us on October 8.  It was a prophetic dream by a somewhat confirmed prophetic-dreamer.  I write it here partly so together we can know if there was really truth to this fore and forth-telling. We will be waking up on Cape Cod tomorrow for a mini-vacation, so maybe that's the good thing, but that's happened regularly in October for years.

  I think my fears involve the fact that sometimes God's "good" is different than what  I might define as good.  Sometimes His good feels really bad for a time.
The view from where I sit at church on Sunday mornings.
I couldn't get the picture to do the actual scene justice.
 What happened though when the tears and prayers ended and the Bible reading began was Hebrews 6 and the reminder of anchored hope. And as usual, I didn't go searching my concordance for "hope verses." They were just there in the next chapters of Hebrews which I've been reading on my way to Revelation.  I'm almost able to say I've read through the Book from cover-to-cover.  I've never done it that way before, and I highly recommend it. Have I told you that He meets you in His Word wherever you are reading and speaks to whatever it is you're needing?  Well, it's true.

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying "I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you"... In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath so... we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us...
Hebrews 6: 13-20
Totally unedited!  I had to stop running and capture these bright leaves
as well as the view of the path above. My running app even lets me store photos
along with the statistics from each run.
Hope.
In Jesus.
Who has gone before us in all things.
Sure and steadfast.
Promises of God unable to be broken.
Purposes unchangeable.
Take refuge in this.
Our soul is anchored in this.

I need not mistrust the "good."  I need not fear the "bad" that the "good" is sometimes accomplished through.  His promise to me will not ever change.  In this I can take refuge.

So, I guess I'll have to let you know what happens tomorrow.  There will be a "blood moon" I hear. Ugh.  I may be struggling with anger at the prophecy giver, because of the anxiety he's produced however unintentional he may have been. 

Hope....anchor...refuge...Jesus.

But Monday morning was still good.  The quiet time was interrupted by the desperate need for a haircut by Cooper who had big plans for a hike and lunch with friends and a senior photo shoot later in the day. So there was prayer, Bible, hot tea, and a homemade (yikes!) haircut before leaving the house for my run and Robert's Planet Fitness workout around 7:30am. (His back is getting better!  If you prayed, thank you.)
Kayla planted a tree on Monday, too! It was our favor from a wedding over the weekend.
Perfect timing to replace the one we said goodbye to last week.
 After an hour of exercise, Robert and I headed to Whole Foods for our typical Monday morning breakfast.  It was good to talk through the weekend and the week ahead over a smoothie and eggs and their delicious maple smoked bacon.  On the ride home, I got to hear about the John Piper sermon Robert had listened to while on the elliptical and treadmill.  It was on what Mr. Piper believes is the best chapter in the entire Bible.  Can you guess?

My first guess was Romans 3. Not quite.  Then John 15.  Nope. I should have known to stick with Romans.

The answer was Romans 8.  Robert was in complete agreement, and I suppose I am too.

I could not control my laughter, though, as Robert began to impersonate Mr. Piper and his Romans 8 endorsement all the way home.  Complete with hand gestures (as much as possible while driving) and booming voice intonations.  If you're wanting a John Piper at your next worship service, and the real pastor in unavailable, my husband is your man.  So funny.  And laughter is such a good gift on a Monday morning or anytime really.
 Back at home an endless list of tasks awaited, the most pressing of which was apple butter making. The apples had been simmering in the crock pot for 18 or so hours, and needed processing. (Maybe I'll share the photos and recipe on Friday. Unless...) Then there were seminary assignments, and emails, and phone calls, and an appointment for Coop's senior photos with our sweet and talented friend, Ify. It felt like my 7 mile run turned into a marathon once back home. Thankfully we have a week off from homeschooling and Classical Conversations!

Somewhere in the middle of the day, I sat down to check email and Facebook and this was one of the first things to pop up on my news feed.  More hope. He wanted me to really believe it, I guess. He has this way of gracefully reinforcing the pertinent and necessary truths.

Later, we picked up Ify and headed to Northampton for photos downtown and photos at Smith College.  The weather was perfect yesterday, as I'm sure you could already tell.  And speaking of perfect...just take a look at this young man and these photos.  I couldn't be more pleased, and these are only a few teasers from the hundreds of photos taken yesterday.
 Classic Cooper is what these are. His good looks and laid back personality perfectly captured. So thankful for him in my life and thankful for these treasures that will help us remember this special year of his life. He's got big, exciting plans for after graduation that I haven't told many of you about.  Maybe soon!

And modeling for American Eagle is not one of them.  At least not that we know of.
So, tomorrow is the 8th ~ the day of good news, good happenings supposedly. Last night I dreamt that someone close to me died.  Kayla also had a dream about this person dying not long ago. And I wonder, where do these dreams come from?  The proclaimed prophetic ones about good things to come.  The terrifying ones that leave you paralyzed in a dark room in the middle of the night too scared to even go and check the cell phones plugged in downstairs to see if you missed the grievous phone call. (All was well.)

I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I know a lot of things I hope it will not bring, but I know that the unchangeable God who says "yes" to every promise in Jesus is the only safe refuge every day of the week.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Gluten Free/Paleo Friday: Chicken Tenders With Creamy Cider Sauce

Last Saturday was the perfect day for apple picking.  It was even hot outside, which I always hope for in September.  We went to an orchard we've never been to before called Cold Spring Orchard which is actually the one run by UMass.  I remember having someone from the orchard come and speak at The Amherst Woman's Club years ago.  He brought samples from a large variety of apples.  It was my first time to try a Honeycrisp and a Macoun.  Both are delicious.
 I don't remember the variety we picked last weekend, but they were large.  Very different from the Macintoshes we typically pick.

Kayla and Cooper were thrilled about picking apples, or was it that they were thrilled about what came after apple picking (a trip to the mall) and just decided it was a necessary evil?  Oh, they really didn't mind it at all, but it's so funny to watch the transformation over the years ~ from toddler giddiness to teenage nonchalance.  At least they don't try and climb the trees anymore and throw apples at each other. Actually, I'm a little surprised about that last part.
 The big apples filled our two half-bushel bags in no time at all.  Robert headed home to finish up sermon and other work for Sunday, and the kids and I headed to the "big" mall to meet up with the McCullah family girls in search of wedding clothes for this weekend.  We did not have any success, and I told my crew that the six mile run I'd been on earlier that morning was a breeze compared to walking the mall for four hours with five teen and tween girls and one baby.  Oh my.  And to leave empty-handed....

The wedding is tomorrow, and none of us have any clue as to what we'll be wearing.

Monday night we returned to our tradition of having Lois over to watch The Voice.  She made bouquets for the bridesmaids while watching.  I made some homemade applesauce and also a paleo version of this recipe from about three years ago for our dinner together.  The only differences are that I did not "bread" the chicken tenders, but rather baked and broiled them, and that I substituted coconut milk for the heavy cream.

This pic is of the GF "breaded" version from a few years back ~ and before the cream was added and sauce thickened.

And here's the paleo version:

Chicken Tenders with Creamy Cider Sauce

10-15 chicken tenderloins
4 Tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, finly chopped
1 apple ~ peeled, cored, sliced thin
1 tsp thyme
2 cups apple cider (not juice)
1-2 cans coconut milk (or cream) ~ I used two because I wanted extra cream and sauce overall.
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

For chicken: Place tenderloins on a baking sheet.  Rub with olive oil (or coconut oil) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake in a 375 degree oven on middle rack for 15 minutes.  Turn the broiler on after fifteen minutes and move chicken to top rack.  Broil about 2 minutes each side.

For Sauce: Heat coconut oil in skillet adding onions, apple slices, and thyme.  Sauté 3-5 minutes until apple and onion are softened. Add cider and bring to a boil.  Keep boiling until liquid is reduced a bit.  Stir in coconut milk (or cream), dijon mustard, and salt and pepper.  Continue simmering and stirring until the cider sauce is slightly thickened.

Spoon sauce over chicken tenderloins to serve.

Our side dishes were sweet potatoes and sautéed kale.


Enjoy ~ and have a great weekend.  We'll be rehearsing for the wedding tonight and spending most all of our day wedding-ing tomorrow with a wonderful couple from our church.  Kayla and her friends will be serving during the cocktail/appetizer hour as well as throughout dinner.  We're praying for no rain and a beautiful outdoor-among-the-gorgeous-foliage ceremony.  S'mores and camp fire will be the grand finale if the weather cooperates.

Now...to find something to wear for all the boys and girls here at my house!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Love Affair With Trees (and Fetuses)



It was time, he explained, as he brought his business card to the door to warn us of the coming work in close proximity to our home. Cavities developing, branches dead, dying, and falling down meant that proper action was required for the sake of the tree and the people and homes nearby. Knowing it would soon disappear, I managed to remember to capture some images of the beautiful maple beforehand.
Plot maps show that we are not the  "owners" of the tree, though it is much closer to our home than our neighbor's. Because of that, I always considered it ours. I didn't realize how attached to it I was until the warning came of its removal, and I began to go about my days wondering how the whole landscape and the view from several of my windows would be radically altered. I loved seeing how it would change dramatically throughout the seasons through this window at the top of our staircase ~ a first glimpse of the day upon waking and heading downstairs to make the morning pot of tea in the kitchen where the maple greets us again through the side window. She felt like a familiar friend.  (We first met in 2002 when Robert discovered this little gem of a house for our family.)
But the workweek arrived and the progress was swift. Jamie, the foreman, saw me watching from the backyard and came over to talk.  He took me to the tree and explained exactly why she needed to go, pointed out the poison oak that was making its way up her trunk, and assured me that all roots and divots in our yard would be smoothed out and covered over. Delighting in his unusual kindness, compassion, and thoroughness, I felt the freedom to ask if Kayla and I could count the rings when they got to the trunk. 

"Of course," was his reply. "We always count the rings for our records, and I would guess that this one is about 130-140 years old."
We were captivated by the whole process, and found it difficult to stay on the normal tasks of our day. The chainsaws were loud (and sometimes got stuck!), the whole house shook each time a branch came down, and the chipper roared all day long chewing up leaves and smaller branches.


There were often men on our roof, and a bucket truck sent different workers hovering high and low all over our yard and right within our view.  Talk about distraction.  I suppose we could have packed up and done our schoolwork elsewhere ~ Barnes and Noble is a favorite locale ~ but it seemed we ought to stay put just in case. Plus, it was an education in and of itself.
On the same day the tree work began, I left the house early for my morning run. Walking past my other neighbor's house ~ the one on the opposite side of the tree work, I caught a glimpse of her newest bumper sticker. Bumper stickers are an interesting and entertaining way to get a pulse on the culture of our town and region. Mocking the Christian Ichthus symbol, Darwin fish (with feet) abound, "My Other Car is a Broom", "Friends Don't Let Friends Vote Republican", and "Eat More Kale" are seen fairly often, and my favorite: "Get Real: As If Jesus Would Have Ever Owned a Gun and Voted Republican."  Some of these seem quite incompatible with the other prominent bumper stickers: "Coexist" and "Teach Tolerance."

My neighbor's new bumper sticker says this: "Wendy Davis for Texas State Governor 2014"

(Remember now, I live in Massachusetts. We're 2000 miles away from the Lone Star State.)
Bumper stickers and trees may also seem like incompatible issues for a blog post, but the two events happening on either side of my house this week got me thinking.  At one neighbor's house, a statement about stewarding well the earth and nature, albeit it through the necessary removal of a beautiful creation.  At the other neighbor's house another blatant (to those in the know) statement about "stewardship" through the removal of a beautiful creation.  Yes, both of the issues involve the choice to remove life.  It's just that the former brings renewed life, sustained life, protection of life and the latter only ushers in several forms of death.

Wendy Davis made herself a national hero (to some) when she filibustered for hours recently to prevent the vote on a measure that would ban abortions in Texas after 20 weeks.
For many, the removal of a fetus is no different from the removal of a tree ~ a necessary and prudent choice. Both may be stricken with disease or deformity.  Death may be inevitable for each. Ending their lives may seem an act of kindness. Both may prove to be an enormous inconvenience someday, therefore early intervention and prevention seems wise.

Though they sound like such similar predicaments, they are vastly different in God's eyes.  In fact, one is not really a predicament at all ~ though it may seem like it at the time.
As Christians, the first task given to us by God is stewardship of the earth. The animals, the birds, the trees and other vegetation, the rivers, streams, and oceans ~ they are all ours to rule over, to subdue, and to make productive.  The removal of a dying tree falls within godly stewardship of the created world.  

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 
Genesis 1:28

The same rule, however, does not apply to human life.

You shall not murder.
Exodus 20:13

And even before we see it clearly in the Ten Commandments, we see it inherently after the creation mandate in Genesis after Cain murders his own brother Abel.

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" And he said "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"  He said, "What have you done?" The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.
Genesis 4: 9-10

No, we don't have authority over the life or death of another human. God alone has that authority. Psalm 139 portrays well the preciousness of what is going on in the womb.

For You formed me in my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.  I will give thanks to You,  for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139: 13-16
What is foolishly believed by my neighbor and all of Ms. Davis's platform supporters is that the right to end life will bring about true freedom and that this unqualified freedom is what is best for the women of our country.  The strange thing is that we constantly limit "freedom" in this country for the sake of ourselves and our fellow countrymen. Our laws mandate that we not steal, speed, use or sell drugs, kill (those outside the womb), or trespass. Even smoking is now a severely limited freedom in this country. But to tell a woman what she can and can't do with her uterus ~ a thing that is actually quite risky, and harmful to herself physically and emotionally, not to mention the other human involved ~ is, oddly enough, a highly disdained position.

I'm pretty sure my neighbor is not genuinely concerned about the welfare of the state of Texas, and I think she's sadly mistaken regarding the welfare of the women and potential children of our country.

It's so very disheartening to me and a tragic sign of things to come that a majority of folks grieve the one (the loss of the tree) and celebrate the other (the loss of human life).

On Wednesday, when the final cut was made, there was a crowd in my driveway and traffic slowed on our busy downtown thoroughfare. One couple parked, got out, and took pictures.  They requested a sliver of the trunk to show in their classrooms. Everyone wanted to marvel at the majestic life that had once been displayed in that tree. Several of us even gathered around, counted the rings, and celebrated the historical epoch the tree had witnessed in its 120 years.  It was a proper tribute, a godly recognition of the natural world given to us by a loving Creator.

The aborted fetus gets no such fanfare. (And it probably shouldn't in this situation.) Though its life is quite short by comparison, its mutilated parts, in most cases, are quickly and mindlessly discarded. There is no celebration of the majestic and miraculous work which was in progress. Rather, the rejoicing is regarding the life that will never be, and the "freedom" the other seems guaranteed now that it's gone.
Most of the women I know (and I need two hands to count them) who've chosen to end their baby's life in utero are not celebrating, though.  They are grieving. Some decades after the fact. Oh, they know they are forgiven, that "therefore, there is now no condemnation", but the ache remains. They would certainly never recommend their choice to another.  In fact, one of those friends recently took in a young, single pregnant woman, shared her own experience, and took her in for a heartbeat and ultrasound appointment. The young woman made the decision to keep her baby. We all rejoiced and plans were made for her care and support in the process.

Not all women's hearts are aching though, and while that fact may be used as evidence in favor of the "right to choose," I wonder if it's an even more serious consequence in the form of a numbed and hardened heart. If lawmakers think this is a favorable condition for the females of our country, they are greatly underestimating the power in the tender strength of the feminine heart.  Protecting that natural resource would be to their advantage in my opinion.

The trees are lovely to be sure.  Women and children are lovelier. We were completely mesmerized with the process of removing the beautiful tree next door.  I just wish we were as concerned with the removal of children from this world and women's hearts in the process.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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
Homefries
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)

Coffee
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
Chips
Pastries, Quick Breads, and Muffins for Dessert
Coffee
Tea
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!