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.

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