Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Catching Up On 2015


Hello from Hondo, TX. We've just spent a busy two weeks in Texas seeing family and friends, shopping for, wrapping, and opening Christmas gifts, eating lots of food, drinking lots of iced coffee and enjoying the local sights and the warm weather. (More on that below.)

It's been SO long since I've written anything here, so I thought I'd spend this lazy (finally!) afternoon and evening sitting under a blanket on the couch at my in-laws house "watching" the Baylor Bowl Game (we're winning so far!) and trying to remember ALL of the things that happened in the second half of this year. (Not that I wrote much about the first half!)

The last thing I really wrote about was Owen going to school and before that it was the upcoming Taylor Swift concert.  That was July and August, but I'm going to back up just a bit to document some of the special things that happened over that past 8 months or so. So, here goes...

The month of May always involves baptisms at Puffers Pond.  Those are my favorite days of our church year. This May we also traveled to Texas to celebrate Robert's parent's 50th Anniversary. We marked the day by going out to eat at their favorite nacho (yes, nachos!) restaurant near Hondo and having all of the cousins (except for Kory) together. Fun time!

Back home in MA, Kory came home for a few short weeks and we were able to celebrate Father's Day in Portsmouth, NH and Ogunquit, ME. (It was a bit cold and windy for our beach day...)
 And we also got to celebrate his 20th birthday. I had a hard time with him turning 10. Can't believe this happened.
Just before Kory's birthday, a friend and hero of mine passed away. Kory actually texted me while I was at the grocery store on June 15th to let me know it happened. Robert, Kayla and I traveled to Gordon College for Elisabeth's funeral.
 We participated in the memorial service as well as the graveside even though it was pouring down rain.  Elisabeth was buried next to her second husband, Addison.  It was a beautiful celebration of her life. We spoke with Lars at the graveside service and he got choked up a bit.  I was so thankful to have been able to attend. We took Lars to lunch a month later.  I promised to write about it before, and I will. Soon.  It was a meaningful and memorable time.
 I took a summer seminary class: Ethics.  It about killed me, and I have since sworn off summer courses, at least until all children are out of the nest. I absolutely loved what I learned, but 1000 pages of reading and almost that many pages of notes as well as a 15 page research paper in ten short weeks is just too much for this mom.
 Kory left at the end of June to be a counselor at Pine Cove. Khakis and a belt were the required "Welcome Campers!" attire.
He spent nearly the entire time 40 feet up in the air sending campers down the zip line and coaching them through the high elements ropes course and loved every minute of it.
 July had us spending our usual week at youth camp as well.  Robert was camp pastor and Kayla and Cooper were campers. (Coop's last year!) I enjoyed leading the female chaperones in Bible study each morning. (Really, all we did was chat and eat chocolate, but don't tell Allyson C.) The theme was "Deeper" and the sermons were all on Jonah.
 Then, after MONTHS of waiting, the Taylor Swift concert finally arrived at Gillette  Stadium.  We had quite the ticket snafu, and many Craiglist adventures, but it all got worked out in the end.
 I'll never park in the main lots at Gillette stadium again, as we sat in a parked car from 12am - 2am after the concert, and finally arrived home at 4am, but the show was incredible, and it was all worth the effort.
 And then this girl turned FIFTEEN! And got a Polaroid camera to add to her collection of vintage items. And grew about 15 inches, too!
 In August Robert and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary with a trip to Boston. We took a sunset harbor cruise which I'd been wanting to do for a while.  It was a gorgeous evening!
 We went for runs in the city, ate at our favorite breakfast restaurant (The Paramount), walked in the Common and took a deep breath for the first time all summer.
 Speaking of Boston, in a semi-crazy turn of events, one of my dearest friends from Oklahoma (Karla) took a job in the city and moved to the area. Kayla and I spent a day helping unload the moving van and running errands with her.  Can hardly believe we now live in the same state again!
 Betsy is another dear friend whom I met immediately upong moving to MA over 16 years ago.  Our kids have grown up together and this summer her daughter Brittany got married. Robert was honored to be able to do her wedding and we loved being a part of this milestone.  It was so wonderful, but so emotional!  Betsy is my first close friend to have a child get married. I took lots of mental notes, because she handled it all so graciously.
 Typical trip to Ogunquit, ME in August.  It was nice and warm.  We ran, stopped at the local juice bar, lay on the beach, read books, and soaked in the sunshine.
 Kayla and I started back with Classical Conversations in August after taking a year off. I'm tutoring this fun group of teens this year. Thankful for such wonderful peers for Kayla to "do school" with.
 August and September were pretty crazy. I went to TX after my first Tuesday of teaching to move Kory into his first off-campus home. It was a herculean effort by my dad, my sister, niece, and some wonderful friends in Georgetown (THANK YOU, HARGROVES!). Lots of driving, even more shopping, and tons of time assembling of new furniture.
 I am definitely late to the Fixer Upper fan club, but I managed a trip to Magnolia Market (before seeing an episode) in order to pick up a gift for a friend and mega fan back in MA.  Just so you know, the starting price for all things here is $38.  Tin pail = $38. T-shirt = $38. Candle = $38. Be forewarned. It is a delightful shop, though, and I'm doing my best to catch up on the Gaines' family adventures now. (Just followed them on Instagram today, thanks to a tag from my sis.)
 Said a quick goodbye to Kory at Baylor's truly incredible and brand new business school. Kory was a Welcome Week leader, so he was not available for a lot of the shopping and moving in, but we got in some Mexican food with Grandad and a trip to the health center on campus, because 6 weeks of camp counseling ran him down with a cough he could not kick. This is one busy, all-out  kid.
 Another wedding in August!  Renee and Fady's on Cape Cod and one of the most incredible weddings we've been a part of. These two are so special and we thoroughly enjoyed the Egyptian customs - and dancing. So super-fun!
Home long enough to do another wedding and teach another couple of weeks and then it was time to say goodbye to Coop.  Robert gave him a proper send off at church...
 ...and then in early September we were off to sunny California!

 Cooper has his own room at my brother and sister-in-law's house for his gap year in SoCal, but I'm pretty sure he gets frequent visits from this little guy ~ his two-year-old cousin, Uriah. We spent a week in Cali getting Coop all settled in and enjoyed a visit to California Baptist, which is one school to which Coop deferred enrollment until the fall of 2016.  Not sure where he'll end up next fall, but he really liked this campus - especially the dining hall! Coop spent the first 6-8 weeks in California (La Quinta, near Palm Springs) working on the maintenance crew at the golf course where my brother is Superintendent, but now he's parking Porches, Bentleys, and Rolls Royces, washing up golf clubs, and driving the golf ball picker on the driving range. (And texting us pictures of his large tips.)
 A few weeks later, I ran the Boston Half Marathon. Remember the Bible study for chaperones I led at youth camp (i.e. eating chocolate and chatting)? Well, registration for this half marathon happened at the same time I was supposed to be teaching. Thanks to Sarah Moylan's (Owen's mom and one of our chaperones) fast fingers on the laptop and a miraculous lottery pick, I got a spot in this race that fills up as fast as Taylor Swift tickets sell out on Ticketmaster.

 It was a beautiful October day, and I ran my best time ever ~ could hardly believe it, and definitely started to drag around mile ten. Yikes. My friend Karla (the newest Bostonian) came and cheered me on and then took me out for a big breakfast afterward.

A couple of weeks later I went to Texas for a third time in one year...
 This time it was for Baylor's Homecoming game.  It also happened to be Robert's and my dad's birthday weekend. We had yet to go to a Baylor football game, and this seemed like the perfect year for it and on the perfect weekend.
 The only problem was that it POURED all weekend. We bought ponchos to walk to the game and still got pretty drenched.  Thankfully our seats were under the covered portion of the stadium and so we stayed dry throughout the game which was not the case for most of the fans.
 Kory stayed very dry, since he has the incredibly difficult job of viewing the game from the press box and hand-delivering stats a couple of times during the game. He actually gets paid for that.
 One of the highlights of our fall semester at church has been this group. We decided to do a co-ed Boot Camp discipleship small group this time around at our house over lunch on Sundays after church. I know some of you have thought we were crazy for this, but it really did my heart good, as they say.  First of all, I love hosting Sunday lunch, and then to have a group of young men and women eager to study the doctrines of the faith each week was such a delight.
 September and October brought lots more algebra II, and British literature, and microscope observation, and DNA extractions ~ from strawberries.
 And our first trip to the Big E ~ complete with strange male photo bombers.
Unbeknownst to Kory, his awesome Baylor friends secretly worked together to raise money and buy him a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving.  They gave him his ticket two days before the trip and we so enjoyed having him home for that week.
 Kayla hosted her 8th annual Christmas tea party mid-December! So fun doing this year after year, and none of the girls ever tire of making "gingerbread" houses.
 December also brings a second round of baptisms. This is Rayna who is also a part of our Sunday Boot Camp.  She has an incredible story of redemption "against all odds" as became our way of talking about it. It's too long a story to share here, but I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this incredible 19 year old. Wow.  God is so good.
Soon after the December baptisms, and the end of my 5th seminary class (Hermeneutics) and another 15 page research paper, we flew to Texas for the last time this year. Right of the bat, Kayla went with Kory to Pine Cove (where he worked this summer) for a Winterfest teen retreat. She was reluctant about going, but ended up having a great time and conquering her fear of heights by doing the high ropes course and zip line.

 We spent an evening on the San Antonio Riverwalk with dear friends, Jack and Kelly. It was the PERFECT evening.  We ate outside at Casa Rio (of course) and then took the river cruise to see all of the Christmas lights.
 A few days later it was a trip to Fredericksburg and a hike up Enchanted Rock.  It happened to be 80 degrees that day, and even Grandad made the hike to the summit in no time at all!

On Christmas Eve we ate an early dinner at El Jarro's back in San Antonio and then attended my dad's church for their candlelight service. After that we made little stop at Starbucks and took this photo. It's been great to have my sister Melinda and her boyfriend, Brent in town from Denver. Brent is certainly getting full exposure to the Rowland family!
And that brings me back to the couch at my in-laws house. Baylor won the bowl game and now we're on to the Texas Tech game and the UT Vs. UConn basketball game which my dad, sister Melinda and boyfriend Brent are at.  I just got a text from my dad saying it is a good game so far. It was a Christmas gift for him.

It was such a full year, and I didn't think they could get any fuller. I didn't even tell you about the PURE women's conference I went to in New Jersey in November (because Paige Benton Brown was speaking!) or the Fusion Student conference on Cape Cod where I got to speak to the young women about embracing their femininity "fearlessly," or the Simply Beautiful Conference that I took Kayla and friends to last month. And I certainly didn't mention any of the hard things.  There were lots of those, but I'm learning to be grateful for the lessons and the growth in those circumstances.

I've said it plenty of times before, but if you are still reading this ~ thank you. Thanks for caring and for praying and for loving us and being a friend.

I love that Christmas is a week before the beginning of the new year. I kept marveling at the Incarnation this Advent season.  The fact that Christ came down and entered my world and even my own heart gives me renewed hope and strength to welcome 2016 and all that it will bring.

And being a better blogger is not really one of my resolutions, but I do hope to keep up a little better. It's good for me, and I love the connecting with you!

Happy New Year!

Monday, August 31, 2015

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.