Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Opportunity to Say Thank You

For our days off this week we left town for a quick overnight. Our new friend who I wrote about a few weeks ago is in a play in Lincoln, New Hampshire. She invited us to come and I didn't want to miss it. So Scott and I took a Sunday drive through New York and Vermont. We are surrounded by mountains, people.

Since the play didnt start until 2pm, sightseeing was on the agenda first thing. Cannon Mountain our destination.  See that tiny spot way up there in the sky? Yes indeedy, we went there. 4,100 feet. Have I ever mentioned I don't really like heights? Yeah, I don't. But I do want to see splendor, so up we went.

I'd like you to imagine we hiked all the way up, but I think we all know better than that. Why would we want to risk sweating or worse, injury when a perfectly awesome tram runs to the top every fifteen minutes?
Yes, I have mittens on (so glad they were still in the pockets from last winter). We woke up to frost on the car and it was 39 degrees at the top of the mountain.  I liked it.
 New Hampshire, you don't disappoint.
Scott learned from a fellow passenger that we could see New Hampshire, Maine, Canada, Vermont and New York from where we stood. And it was glorious.
I was quite taken with the sight of the tops of the trees. The tops of the trees that tower over us. I couldn't help but draw the parallel that from God's viewpoint, what is huge and scary to me is small and manageable to Him. Everything.
 And the little trees. So cute! We mused that all the trees should  have white lights on them.
We hiked around the rim for better views. The path was lined with evergreens.
 It unmistakeably smelled like Christmas. My heart was so happy.
 It was a beautiful day in so many ways. Our girl here is not just a terrific tour guide and finder of the best food for us, but she's a wonderful actress. I even cried a little when her character died. What a treat to spend more time with her while she's nearby.
Speaking of heights, this is the Quechee Gorge in Vermont. We stopped for a quick look on our way home. We were at street level here. Yikes!
That's a lot of height. I was a little queasy to tell the truth.
 Oh one other little thing happened. I almost forgot to mention it. At the theater, we were privileged to meet an amazing woman whose family we've admired from afar for years. No, it's not Betty White or Mrs. Claus. Yes, a few of my friends guessed this.
Mrs. Barbara Bush, once First Lady of the United States of America, was in the audience to watch her daughter-in-law perform. We had a heads up that she would be there but didn't think access would be so easy.

Oh how I hate to stalk, but well, there she was. So beautiful. I asked if we could talk to her. She said, "Of course" and motioned us closer.

It went like this:

"Your husband is the first President I voted for."
She smiled warmly and thanked me.

"I read your memoir. It is still the biggest book I've ever read." (I shared one of my favorite stories from it here.)

BB: She confirmed the story and said, "You're a reader."
"Yes ma'am. I also read your son's book about your husband and absolutely loved it."

BB: "It's a love story, you know."

"I know! I was hooked from the first page. I believe there is no one alive today who is more qualified to be President than your husband. He's an amazing man."

BB: "He is still a wonderful man. He couldn't be here today. But he is the most kind and gracious person I know - and that's after 60 years of marriage!" I think she slapped her knee and laughed. (She told a cute story about President Bush here.)

"I'm sorry he wasn't re-elected. He should have been."

BB: "Oh, don't cry over spilt milk. It wasn't meant to be. We've had a very good life."
Mrs. Bush deflected compliments humbly.  What a refreshing response.

Eventually (because we may or may not have been monopolizing this dear lady), Scott and I thanked her for her family's service to our country and asked for a picture. She not only agreed, but her people got up from their seats for us and took our phones at her direction to take the shot.

What a gracious, beautiful soul. She was much tinier and frail than I expected, but absolutely stunning with her BIG white Texas hair. What a thrill for us.

Who could have magined meeting a First Lady in a small theater in New Hampshire? Later when I had time to reflect on the exhange, I wish I had also said:

"I know for a man to achieve such greatness, his wife has a lot to do with it. Thank you for all the sacrifices and contributions you also made."

"Thank you for being an excellent, honorable role model for women. You're one of the best. These days, someone like you is hard to find."

"Who are you going to vote for in November?"

Ah, I kid. I wouldn't have.

Just a PS for my kids who may be reading....THIS is another reason why you must READ books. All kinds! Especially biographies of greats. Remember, how I told you reading makes you an interesting conversationalist? See how it comes in handy when you least expect it?

Listen to your Mama.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Best Quest

Greetings! Life has slowed down considerably for us now that we are post-Labor Day and into Conference Season here at Camp. Guests are mostly only here on the weekends leaving us time to be home more. You know what that means? Projects. Yes. Here are a few things I've been working on. And when I say 'I', you might guess it requires two.

First, new lighting in the dining room. This here is a nod to the screen porch I miss from our last house. Isn't it so festive though? Warm and cozy.
Hanging the lights together was super fun too. And when I say 'together', I mean I held them while Scott climbed up and down a chair driving nails listening to his wife tell him when they were even and perfectly spaced and when they weren't. He loves my ideas.

Enter Pinterest idea. This was my Sunday afternoon project this week. I even managed to do most of this myself. Only needed help with the hanging.
I don't believe this will be the final landing place for these cute little Fall lampshades but it works for today.

Did you know that they make strands of lights that are brown, yellow and orange? For Fall? Well they do (get to ACMoore post haste!). You can't really tell from this picture, but trust me, they look amazing up there. You might notice I like lights. Especially festive lights. Just wait 'til you know what. Scott says we singlehandedly keep the electric companies in business in December. Oh how he exaggerates.
Earlier in the summer I saw one of these coffee mug racks and fell in love. I did not however, fall in love with the price. I thought, "Psh, I can make that for way cheaper!". Hence Scott's next project. Technically I did most of the work. I picked out the paint colors and stencils and painted the boards. He only needed to find the boards, cut the boards, space them out, nail them together, screw in the hooks, and hang it on the wall straight. Yup, mostly me.

If you're on my Christmas gift list and would like one of these, I'd be happy to whip up one for you. And when I say 'I', well, you know.

Lastly, I made my first order to Lindsay Letters. Brittany, my very creative and gifted artsy daughter-in-law pointed me in this direction a while ago. She may or may not have gone down a few rungs on Scott's favorite list for this. Mid-summer I happened upon a Christmas in July sale. Coincidence? I think not. Naturally, I had to pick up a few things. Are these the best or what? Don't worry Christmas purists, these won't go on the wall until after Thanksgiving. I promise. But I can't guarantee how long they will stay up. That bottom one, though.

Now that you've waded through the fluff of this post, may I share something more significant? I think I've mentioned here before that I'm reading through the Bible again this year. It is the most gratifying spiritual discipline. It is possible to do. The first time I got the notion, not counting the self-imposed feelings of guilt when preachers would suggest it (and after failing several attempts), was when I read biographies of spiritual giants. Can you guess what they had in common? Most of them read the Bible in its entirety multiple times. Clearly this had shaped them, their growth and effectiveness. I was jealous. I want the same thing when I get to the end of my life. So the quest began. 

I can't underscore loudly enough that if I can do it, you can do it. Yes, it's hard (at first). Yes it takes time (we must make it). Yes, you will be tempted to quit (oh so often). Good news - I have come up with a foolproof success plan. Fasten your seat belt, this is really deep. Are you ready? Here it comes...

Get ahead. When you have extra time on a given day, read the next day. When you're in the book of Numbers and it's just lists of names, skim (while noticing important details/change in text) and read several days at a time. This way, when you miss a day (and you will miss many days in a year's time), you won't get behind and discouraged because you'll have a cushion in your backpocket. Trust me, it works!

Another suggestion, don't set a time frame. There's no reason to feel the pressure of reading the whole thing in one year. If it takes 13 months or 16 months, it's still mission accomplished. There is nothing like the feeling of completion, let me tell you. You gain the muscle to know you can do it again. And you'll want to.

Most importantly, read it with the intent to get to know God more intimately. If your goal is simply to endure, trudge through, read it because you're supposed to or check it off a list, you will find it tedious and unfulfilling especially when you get to difficult passages that seem to have no modern day value.

But, and this is a big but, if you read it because you want to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus as many a New Testament book implores, your eyes will be opened to amazing drama, real people you can relate to, and the passion of God's purposes in every aspect of life. 

This time around for me, I'm absolutely thrilled with emerging themes. Things I simply didn't notice in previous readings (This is another reason to make this a repetitive practice because the Spirit opens our eyes to different things at different times of our lives and they apply. Trust me, they apply.).

As I head toward the 2016 finish line, I'm plodding through Ezekiel. Oh Lord, this must be the longest book in the Bible. It is not, but it feels like it. However, the surprise and delight is this....the number of times I have underlined one phrase - "that they may know I am the Lord". Friends, seriously, this is a 48 chapter book and these 8 words have jumped off the page at least once but usually several times in almost every chapter. Don't skip by that too quickly. When we read this much repetition, there's a reason for it. God wants us to notice and pay attention.

Another repeated phrase in this portion, and consistently throughout the Old Testament, is the overriding heart of God's passion (theme #2) - "That they shall be my people and I will be their God. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes."
I can't overstate how many times this appears throughout the entire Bible. Just ask Scott, I marvel to him regularly. Makes me wonder, could it be that simple?

God just wants a people to call His own. He is for us. Our job is to believe and obey. That's it! True, we lose our way often, but He is constantly providing a way for us to find our way to Him (theme #3). He wants to show up and show off for us. He wants to reveal His mighty power on our behalf. He wants us to know He is holy and become like Him in our own holiness (theme #4 - see what I mean about the themes?). I will revisit this one another day because it's huge.

That's the gist. Suddenly it's so obvious. It's not complicated. It is repeated. Again and again. Book after book. He wants us to know Him. It's all there! Had I not made the effort to read this ancient document in its entirety (more than once), I wouldn't have had the thrill of discovering it on my own. I'm not talking deep study people, this is simply reading it everyday and paying attention, asking God to show what He wants to be seen.

One last thing. I mentioned above that the New Testament repeats the phrase "knowledge of God" in many contexts. Think about that for a second. How can we grow in the knowledge of God if we don't seek to learn about Him? And where else can we learn His characteristics and expectations than from the eyewitnesses God has recorded and preserved for us?

2 Peter is also loaded with repetition regarding this quest for knowledge. Check out this promise, but notice the catch:

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence." 1:3 

Oh please, I beg you, discover the wonder for yourself. It will change your life in the very best way.

Monday, September 12, 2016

A Lake Pleasant Miracle

Oh it's starting to happen. Glorious Fall coming up next.
And now that the summer season of Camp has ended, we go back to a 5 day, 40 hour work week, which means these happy campers can get outside and enjoy some of the beauty that surrounds us here. Especially before it's dark at 4:30pm. You know that's coming too.

Another highlight of my week was meeting a new friend who was just here for a few weeks to work. I could tell she was someone I wanted to get to know better, so suggested we get together off hours. Because the weather is so gorgeous, it just had to happen outside.

I have wanted to try paddle boarding but admit am not too confident in my skill level. I mean, that's a serious balancing act. This young'n assured me I could do it.

Ahem. Sometimes there is no place for pride. You've got to just go with it and hope that as a 48 year old wife of 26 years, mother of three and grandmother of one, you don't make too much a fool of yourself.

 I can't believe it either. It's not that easy to stand up from your knees with a paddle in your hands. But check it off my list - I've done it! I didn't fall off once. It was a Lake Pleasant Miracle. And it was super fun.

After paddling out a ways, we sat down and talked for a long time. It's so good to hear others' stories. We need to marvel at how God works individually and lovingly in all of His childrens' lives. We need to tell our own stories for the same reason.

No wonder the Bible tells us to encourage each other. Life is hard and we often need someone to remind us to keep going. Life is also beautiful and it's good to rejoice together.

This darling young lady is the first dancer/singer living in New York City I've met. She has an amazing self-awareness and heart that loves Jesus. Hard worker. Dreamer. Obedient. Kind. Funny. She really had an impact here because she intentionally made many friendships in a very short amount of time. A lesson to me for sure. Be generous with your time and pay attention to those around you. It makes others feel so valued. This is one of the many reasons why I love spending time with younger women. I learn so much and am inspired to live better. To shave off some of my comforts and be brave.

Just like the scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, we were so engrossed, we didn't notice where we ended up - a little too close to the shore - on the other side of the lake. Ooops! The wind had picked up by then too making the water choppy, challenging the balance issue. Had I been alone I may have whimpered and tried to figure out how someone, you know who, could come get me but I had to suck it up and be tough. I'm glad I did. Another life lesson - you don't know what you've got in you until you're put to the test.

I made her dinner after our adventure. Our conversation just kept going and going. What a gift! Yup, I knew I would benefit from spending time with her and I certainly did.

In other news, we got this young lady all tucked into her dorm room for 2nd year. If you can zoom in, notice the blanket under her arm. She has slept with this very one for 19 1/2 years and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

Today Scott and I are in the middle of our first two days off in a row together since the beginning of June. Feels good.

I can't seem to sleep any later though. But you know what's great about dark early mornings?

Candlelight devotions. Try it sometime, you'll see.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Unexpected Fruit That's So Worth the Wait

Change is in the air.

My summer buddy is back in the Windy City immersed in classes. He gave me one of my wish list items before he left, made by one of his co-workers. Isn't he cute? Well, both of them.

I miss my Ben. What a treat to have him all to ourselves for three months. Our early mornings all summer were a gift to me. Nothing quite like seeing your child get up an hour earlier than he needed to in order to spend some quality time with God.

I mentioned last week that the nights and mornings have turned gloriously cool here in the mountains. Good change. Being a very early riser, I've noticed another tell tale sign. I get up at the same time, but it's dark now.

None of us like darkness very much except when we're sleeping. We especially don't appreciate when our life seems to be in a period of dark, the future unclear. Count me in that crowd.

This past year God has shown us repeatedly and abundantly how He works in those dark times we experience. It doesn't seem like it to us at the time, but it is true.  He has proven Himself to me in ways I will always remember. Doubt is no longer an option. All His promises are for us and true. Some of them simply require waiting.

This was revealed to me once again two weeks ago when my baby girl Ally graduated from her 1st year at Word of Life (She's heading back for a 2nd year tomorrow - woohoo!). I envisioned both of my sons in that same cap and gown twice each in the last five years. Such an amazing gift, yet it was bittersweet. You see, thirty years ago I should have walked that same stage but didn't.

Oh I attended the Bible Institute and loved it and truly God did steal my heart at that time but because of some sinful choices made prior that led to delayed consequences, I disqualified myself from finishing the program and graduating.

I don't talk about it much because it's a huge regret and loss for me, a heartbreak for sure. The hard part for my 19-year-old self to understand was that I had repented. I had changed. I was 100% different and wanted to be there learning about God more than anything.

But. That is not my story. In God's beautiful grace and mercy, He interfered and stopped me from continuing in destructive patterns by taking me down another path. It was hard and dark and not quick.

"Why God?" I asked. "I love you and your Word and I'm not messing with that sin anymore. Surely you want me here." Why wouldn't he waive the consequences this one time, especially since I was poised to start my new life in Christ, for real this time, at a Bible Institute of all places?

Consequences can be hard to take when they show up later down the road. Unfortunately, some of us (younger me) choose to learn the hard way. It's become my experience that sometimes it's the suffering (which comes in many forms) that leads us to obedience. If we let it. When we receive God's discipline, drawing near to Him in humility instead of turning away because we are mad or confused, amazing things can happen. Not always immediately, but eventually and it's so sweet.

Thirty years of seeds growing in the dark that would one day sprout. Fruit I would never have dreamt, that all three of my children would follow in my footsteps, and finish what I didn't have the privilege of completing.

That's amazing grace, my friends. He gave my blessing to my kids. Turns out God wasn't mad at me. He wasn't punishing me. He had a plan that was clearly more wonderful. Don't we all as parents want our kids to have more than we did? It's so abundant! Only He could have planned to bless and surprise me with this so many years later. That's enough to silence all the old questions.

Never doubt the kind heart of God. He is always good. He always wants the best for you.  I know it doesn't always look like the best, but that's where trust comes in. May I encourage you? Even when it's dark and His hand is invisible, He knows everything that concerns you. He is there working, planning, preparing. He will surprise you. Expect it.

Don't quit hoping. Don't quit believing. Don't despair. No matter what, don't turn away from Him. Do pay attention. You wouldn't want to miss it.

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?  Romans 8:32

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. 
For the Lord is a God of justice, blessed are all who wait for Him! gracious He will be when you cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teacher will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."  Isaiah 30:18-21 

Listen to the Voice and walk in His ways. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

That Was Quick

Well, here we are at the beginning of our last week of Summer camp. Fastest summer I can remember. I haven't written in a few weeks because, well, it's been kind of nuts around here.  A real zoo, in fact. I sit in this window every morning and this is what I see.
And deer. They practically let you walk right up to them.  

I don't know if I've mentioned some of the endless perks to our jobs up here, but one of my favorites is daily Chapel. Most of the time I listen through the speaker on my desk phone, but every once in a while I can sneak out of the office and actually go to the auditorium. A few weeks ago Crawford Lorrits was here with us. I love his style and his study. That week I put on a hat (incognito) and snuck in the back on my day off to get a much-needed message. So great!

Of course you've noticed that summer is slipping away. I've always been one who is eager for Fall but not so much this year. Since it's rarely super hot or humid up here in the mountains and the nights and mornings are gloriously cool, I don't wish it away. Especially because I know that we dwindle back down to a 40 person staff and only host guests on the weekends. My summer staff has been slowly going back to college for 2 weeks now. Sniff. In other words, it's way less busy and bustling. That's got its pros and cons for sure. Essentially though, I've loved this summer and will be sad to see it end.

Because of our insane schedules, we've barely had time to sit back and enjoy the view. That's coming up after Labor Day too. In the meantime, let's just pause a moment and take it in.

Sometimes you just have to find a beautiful place to sit and be quiet. These are a few of my favorite spots.
As if adding a new member to our growing family, baby Adeline Grace (see gratuitous pic), wasn't a big enough event for us to marvel at, this other little thing happened last week.

Our baby girl graduated from the Word of Life Bible Institute in Schroon Lake. I was introduced to WOL when I was 18 and our brand new pastor suggested I attend. I remember wondering, "Why would I do that? Will it make me a nun?" Oh, youth.

I won't tell the story of how I got there today but suffice it to say, Jesus stole my heart during my time at WOL and completely changed the course of my life and I couldn't be more thankful. I fell in love with His Word, the Bible, and His people. I surrendered my will and promised to follow His ways for all of my days. Best decision I ever made. 

Later we annually sent or took our kids to WOL Camp every summer but didn't even consider that they would follow in my footsteps and attend the BI. My emotions can't handle (aka - I weep) that all three of our children now have the same foundation heading into adulthood. Isn't that just like God? He blesses us beyond what we can imagine (Eph. 3:20, 21). 

Back to our CAMP-of-the-WOODS perks, our kids always have a job when they are here. Now that Ally's l9, she can run the grill at the TeePee. No complaints from her. I'm sure it's her work ethic or the fact that she can eat all the fries and mozzarella sticks she wants. Whatever.
As sort of a graduation/we know you need to get away present, the other night we put her on a train to spend a week with her brothers. First stop, Chicago and the big city, then on to Indianapolis for baby love. 

Gotta love public transportation. It's cheap and convenient. We were both a smidge nervous about her travelling alone all night, until we saw some of my people waiting for the same train. Phew.
Still, I texted Scott and Ben to tell them she was on the train but scared.
Feel the love. 
Happy last week of Summer everyone!