Thursday, August 27, 2015

These People

Well, we are about 80% packed for our upcoming move and one day until we drive off. The decor has disappeared and the boxes have multiplied.

Many of you know that I've been eager to leave this town and head to our next assignment for many, many months. Long before God ever revealed the who, what, where and when of it. Ready to shake the dust off our feet and hopefully put some distance between us and the trauma represented in this town.

But here's the problem with making a clean getaway....these people and a few more not pictured. Dave, Paula, Lynne, Ed, Eddie, Sue, Joyce, Judi, Marcia, Bruce, Penny, Krista, Dave, Debbie, Mike, I'm looking at you.

Each one makes it sad and harder to leave than we want it to be.

It's been said that it is better to give than receive. I believe that's true for a number of reasons. Not the least of which is that four letter word control. When we are the givers, we are in control. If we take a few minutes to consider it, these are the times when we are most comfortable. I mean we shine, don't we? We receive so much joy when we can minister to, meet a need, and take care of someone else.

But the flip side is not so much fun. When we have little to give and find ourselves positioned to receive, we squirm. We are humbled and touched, of course, but it truly is a love/hate relationship. We absolutely love being shown love and sensing we matter to someone, anyone, but we equally hate being the needy ones. Feeling like our need and burden is tiresome to everyone around us.

This is exactly how you could characterize our last three years. But these people. They didn't let us go. They could have. They should have. But they didn't. Some of them even paid a price for sticking with us.

They kept us in their tight circle. They believed the best about us. They invited us to family gatherings, birthday parties, took us out to eat, checked on us and prayed for us. They pursued us and didn't let us retreat into an isolated loneliness. They came to our kids' sporting events, concerts and musicals and supported their mission trips. They met many needs both physically and emotionally. They gave us community when we no longer had a place to fit in.

They loved us and extended friendship to us the way the Bible teaches.

A friend loves at all times....Prov. 17:17

Do not forsake your friend...Prov. 27:10

I haven't even mentioned the laughter. They made us laugh when it seemed like nothing was very funny. Thank you a million times over for the laughter.

They taught us about generosity in a way that will forever change how we care for others and give. 

I have shared these next verses in thank you notes to many of these friends:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

 As it is written: "He has scattered abroad His gifts to the poor; His righteousness endures forever." Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.  
2 Cor. 9:6-15

Amen and amen. There are few things I enjoy and benefit from more than watching Christ followers live the Bible. These friends are living and breathing examples of all the above and it's been our pleasure (albeit reluctantly at times) to be the recipient of their obedience and generosity. We thank God for each one of them. We praise God for each offering on our behalf. We know that every one flows out of close relationships with God and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Glorious!

We will love you forever and never, ever forget your countless gifts to our family

If I haven't expressed it enough, know that God has used and continues to use you to breathe life into weary souls and bring joy to the brokenhearted. Don't ever stop. You've taught us how to do it and we promise to carry on that legacy.

So even though my house may be emptying, this heart is full.

PS. It would be incomplete to not mention the many other friends and family who have prayed us through these last few years as well, you too are so very appreciated. You know who you are. This post is a shout out to those living in this town, right here in the day to day.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Whose Idea Was This?

Hey there! I hope your summer is winding down well. My Facebook feed is loaded with pictures of kids settling into college dorms and even today the first day of school for some little ones. It will be so weird around here when the few days after Labor Day mean absolutely nothing at all to me.

Today I stumbled across the Back to School flag that my kids have been photographed in front of for all of their first days. Not sure what to do with it now.

We are more than half way through our two week transition to moving to the Adirondacks and starting our new jobs, all while selling a house, packing it up and getting our youngest two kids to college. Go big or go home, baby.

The last time I wrote we were just home for a less than 24-hour turn around of bringing Ben home from his summer ministry, unpacking, doing laundry, repacking and off to college in Chicago. Whose bright idea was that?

The story is more fun to tell in pictures.

Benny gets his haircut in the hood. He digs an "edge up". I guess this is what they do when they want to trim the bulk of the hair without taking off too much, though clearly he could spare to lose some. Afro anybody?

That's more like it - back to the clean cut boy I recognize. And yes, I did buy him that tshirt for his birthday. Don't judge.
First stop on our whirlwind mid-west tour was to see Drew and Brittany in Indianapolis for a few days. We got to tour their new church, see Drew's office and crowd into their little apartment. We enjoyed every minute. And got to eat at Chick-fil-A. Twice. In case you wondered, everybody loves Drew - even the CFA cow. Ha! (Actually, this is one of the boys in Drew's youth group).
For Drew's birthday, Brittany had bought him a map for his office and sent me this.
I know.

When we toured his office, I was looking for it. This is what I saw.

I mean, seriously, don't you think she needs to sell her work? I love this.

Next stop, Moody Bible Institute in downtown Chicago. Downtown. As in city. I didn't need Ben to tell me that it's the third largest city in America.

I'm sort of blocking out that little detail.

At Drew's we had just had a conversation about how he was buying a new Bible. We all laughed because we are Bible junkies. I think I counted how many Scott and I had between us once and it was a ridiculously high number.

Our kids could say the same. So we giggled when at our first stop in the registration line, Ben was given a new Bible. There could be worse things to collect. Like I tell them, as long as you're reading it and living it, go for it.
We got Ben all set up in his room, met his roommates and walked around the city a bit, not forsaking eating some Chicago deep dish pizza.

Then the last thing before "family and friends say goodbye" on the schedule we attended a dedication service.

I am so happy we did. The president of Moody spoke, underlining the fact that none of these students are here by accident. God has a plan for them, will teach them great things and they should give this experience all their energy and effort as they prepare to serve God for life.

I was doing pretty good up to that point. Then the students were asked to stand. The parents were to recite a prayer in unison over them. I think I got the first two words out in my normal non-croaking voice. After we said amen, the parents were asked to stand and our kids prayed a prayer together for us. Oh boy.

Lastly, the faculty and staff stood and prayed over all of us. What a tremendous gift to a mom and dad's heart. Totally put us at ease and full of gratitude that God brought Ben to this special place to continue his studies.

Til Thanksgiving, we bid our little guy goodbye. He's kind of like a man now though. Eek.

The next two days were spent visiting some special friends and places we used to live. This was fun and I'm glad we had the time to spend with people we love and don't see very often.

What I didn't mention above is that while all this was going on, I was having a dental emergency which I was trying to ignore. The previous week I had a tooth filled but instead of that taking care of my pain, it only heightened it. Every day it got worse. So much so that we walked 9+ blocks in Chicago to find a Walgreens that my dentist could send a prescription to.

We left Michigan at 4:30am to arrive here....everybody's happy place...before they closed. Totally not cool. After a few wicked painful xrays, I was presented with a choice.

1. Root canal. Takes two long appointments, two weeks in between. Couldn't start it that day, would have to wait until after the weekend. $2,500.

2. Extraction. Right now. $250.
What would you have done? I'm not going to go into the gory details because it was so traumatic. Let's just say when Scott picked me up, I did the ugly cry not because of the pain. Why didn't they put me out?  I'm happy to report all is well and I couldn't be more grateful for all those bottles on the counter.

For months now I've been shooting off at the mouth how I can pack this house in one week. It's time to put my money where my very sore mouth is. We have begun our marathon four day packing binge.

Oh, did I mention we accepted an offer on our house one hour after I got back from the chair?

God amazingly answered my prayer to sell it by the time we got home so I could pack it up before we head north. If you're keeping track, it was on the market for two weeks. He did it! We are so excited and continuing to marvel at how He is writing our next chapter.

So this is what it looks like around here now.
I just have one thing to say. I'm estimating that we own 4,289,617 books. Someone needs to stop the madness.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Last Week of Summer Camp

Just got home an hour ago.

I'm sitting on my couch with feet on the coffee table, some news station on the tv in the background.  Number 2 of 48 loads of laundry in the washer. Aaaaahhh. You just don't realize how much you miss being barefoot on carpet and sitting upright until you are in a tiny cabin with just a bed and bathroom for eight weeks.

These last two weeks of camp have been wonderful. Scott and I have been plunged into training for our new positions before our predecessors leave. So much to learn, but we are loving it.

We've had lots of other fun too. Like a large Craft Fair - right here in town. What luck! Scott was thrilled. So I went with a girlfriend instead.

I mean, everything we saw just screamed Adirondack!

I could make that ladder. Somehow Scott's prayers were answered and I didn't spend any money.

Well, except on this popcorn, warm out of the kettle.  So so good.

I mentioned a few posts back how we work six, nine hour days a week. So this is what life in the cabin looks like most nights. Just two crazy kids, livin' wild without our kids!

My mom came up for a visit, mostly to see my kids, I think. So off to Word of Life we went. Have I mentioned how much I love that we are only 45 minutes away? I suggested to Mom that since we are at camp too, maybe she might want to being us a care package. I guess you never get too old to stop needing your mother. The contents get a little more sophisticated with age.

And we ran into a longtime friend. Extra bonus- hi Lois!

Our summer contracts at Camp of the Woods ended yesterday. Last night turned out to be a little tough as we said goodbye to most of our summer kids. These young men and women really captured our hearts in a short time. We sent them on their way back home and to college with hugs, some kisses (me to the girls), and our prayers.

How I love the family of God. Even if we never see these kids again on this Earth, we will be together forever in heaven one day because we share the same faith in Jesus Christ. That's a great hope.

We now have two weeks to deliver one son to college and get our affairs in order to begin our next season of ministry and new life in the Adirondacks.

He's home (all bushy haired and chocolatey brown)!!  For a few days anyway.
Stay tuned for more adventures....

Friday, August 7, 2015

When the Boat Reaches the Shore

"Immediately (after witnessing the amazing miracle of Jesus feeding 500 men plus women and children with merely five loaves of bread and two fish) Jesus made the 
disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the 
other side, while He dismissed the crowd. 
After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance 
from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified, 
"It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. 
But Jesus immediately said to them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
...Then Jesus got in the boat with them."*

Have you ever felt like those disciples?

Have you found yourself fresh from watching Jesus do a string of amazing things with and around you?
You know, the stuff that makes you giddy with excitement.
The stuff that begs you to pledge your life to follow Him anywhere He goes so you can see more.....

only to find yourself out in a boat in the middle of a storm, battered by waves and wind in the dark unable to find the shore, wondering what happened and where Jesus went?

Maybe you were adrift at sea in total darkness and you could no longer see land, your sure footing a mere memory.
Maybe the waves and the wind beat you up and whipped your senses into a frenzy, leaving you insecure and fearful.
Maybe you wondered if this is the new normal, your old fruitful life dead and not coming back.

You can't figure it out. You trusted Him. You did what He said. You got in the boat. You expected more fun and excitement. But instead...

You got the storm. The darkness. The confusion. The fear. The despair. The silence. For a really long time.

Well intentioned friends and family encouraged you. They could still see Jesus with you in the boat. They said to keep trusting Him even though you can't see or hear Him. They dared you to believe that even in this God was up to something good.

And you did.

Then one day, when God said the time was right, when the work He was doing in you was complete, light started spilling into the boat. You could see the shore. As you approached the shore, there was indeed something good waiting for you. Turns out it was better than you hoped for. It was Ephesians 3:20, more than you could ask or imagine.

And you marvelled. And you squealed with delight. Then you knew it was worth it because the light is so much brighter when you have overcome darkness.

Scott and I have been in the boat for over three years. Sometimes it feels like a storm. Other times a desert. Often like a prison or a pit. Always winter, but never Christmas.

We've invited, even begged God to do something new with us. To feel free to rewrite our stories for the second half of our lives if He wants to. If it will serve His purposes for us.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that about seven weeks ago, the same day our youngest bird flew out of the nest, when Scott's most recent ministry position expired, we packed our summer clothes and took temporary jobs at Camp of the Woods in Speculator, NY.

Within two weeks we knew we had stumbled upon something special. That God had deliberately brought us here in a way we didn't see coming less than a month before.

We were told several full-time year round positions were available.
We inquired.
They were interested.

The next Sunday, I read a 'random' Psalm to God in preparation for worship.

Come and see what God has done,
how awesome His works in man's behalf!
He turned the sea into dry land,
they passed through the waters on foot - 
come, let us rejoice in Him.
He rules forever by His power.

Praise our God, O peoples,
let the sound of His praise be heard;
He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For you, O God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water
but you brought us to a place of abundance.**

Hmmm...."kept our feet from slipping, tested us, refined us, prison, burdens, men riding over our heads, fire and water...that sounds like us. God, are you bringing us to a place of abundance? Are we near the end ? Whatever you decide to do, we want to see Your fingerprints all over it. We want everyone who has waited with us, prayed for us, taken care of us, and encouraged us to marvel at how You bring us out. Our eyes are wide open and ready. Amen."

Within a week formal offers of employment were slid across the desk toward us. Full time. Year round. A job for Scott. A job for me. Starting right around the time when Ally leaves for her first year of college. (Coincidence? I think not!)

The beginning of the next season of our marriage in a new town with a new church, new co-workers to love and with hundreds of guests to serve. At a place called Lake Pleasant. In the Adirondacks no less, my long ago proclaimed happy place. New, new, new. Prayed for that too. Marvelous!

We walked out of the room, papers in hand. I looked at Scott. He looked at me. I whispered, "Is this abundance?" He croaked, "Yes, this is abundance." 

This week, the day I have been waiting months and months and months for finally came! The end of the silence, the wondering. We officially accepted our new mission and now begin making plans to relocate. Scott will take over as the Group Coordinator/Guest Services Manager and I will replace the Camp Registrar.

When it became clear God was opening up this opportunity, Jill looked me in the eyes and said, "I have been praying for someone like you to take this position that I love, to give maturity to the office (a.k.a. you're old) and to mother the college kids in the summer.

Whew. Didn't see that coming. It's one thing to pray and pray and pray for God's will as you approach a crossroads, but it's quite another to know God is using you to answer someone else's prayers.

God's fingerprints. More than we could ask or imagine. Abundance. We marvel.

Marvel with us. He deserves the glory. You deserve to know that He is up to something good for you too - especially if you are in your own boat.
Here's the last part of that random Psalm I just happened to read a few days before our lives would change drastically.

Come and listen, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what He has done for me.
I cried out to Him with my mouth;
His praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
 and heard my voice in prayer.
Praise be to God, 
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld His love for me!**

Jesus loves me this I know. Jesus knows me this I love. I could write ten more blog posts to record all the other intimate details He has lavished on us as He brings us out of the darkness and into the light. Maybe I will yet.

In the meantime, hear this....He is faithful always. Sometimes He does put His beloved children in a boat with instructions to go to the other side. He doesn't always tell how long it will take to get there. He knows from the start that a storm is waiting for us. Not one disciple signed on because life would be fast and easy. They encountered all kinds of hard things. We will too but don't sin while you are in it. We should expect this life to be difficult at times because the Bible is constantly preparing us for it.

"Sometimes God causes severe winds of trial to blow upon His children to develop their gifts....the richest qualities of a Christian often arise under the strong winds of suffering and adversity. Bruised hearts often emit the fragrance God loves to smell."  Streams in the Desert

But we must remember the best part. He promises to be with us in it.

Even when it's dark and lonely and painful, He loves you no matter what.

Even if you can't see, hear or feel Him and it seems like He is ignoring all your prayers, I dare you to believe He is up to something good on your behalf.

Oh, one more thing, now that we are going to be mountain people, I asked Scott if we should buy flannel shirts and snow shoes. He gave me a look I've seen before. 

Something about the Adirondacks screams tall pines and white lights. This poor chap has no idea what's in store for him.

The empty nest adventure continues....

*Matthew 14:22-27
**Psalm 66:5-7a, 8-12, 16-20

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Sweet and Sour

Greetings from camp! Today it's pretty chilly on the beach so I write from a building called the Wigwam. It's probably the oldest one here on the property, decorated with 70s, 60s, maybe 50s camp furniture. I kind of dig it. Can you tell why?

Also it's where the wifi works best, so here I am.

The empty nest adventure continues. Our time here is more than half over and we are not ready for it to end. I've loved learning my new job at the Front Desk, not wearing a black polo everyday, eating some meals in the fancy dining room (delicious!), and getting to know this new group of staff.

Laura, Amanda, Jill, Charlie, Amy, Tim (and Leigh, not pictured) won't replace our first loves here, but there's room in my heart for them too. They are patiently teaching me how to know the answer to every question that might come up. For years I've been accused of having an answer for everything (ahem), but clearly I do not. Which means by the time I do learn it all I could be really obnoxious. Let's hope not.

This last week was particularly enjoyable for me because I had lots of visitors. Several of my very favorite people in the world came to town. I even got two breakfasts at my cute little coffee shop. There's nothing quite like the gift of longtime friends some of whom live too far away for frequent face to face visits. These are the ones who know you (and get you), whom you share history with and can pick up right where you left off last time. Important conversations were had and my soul was enriched. It was so sweet.

Only got a picture of these two - our favorite Senegal/now Budapest missionaries.What a treat!
The sour side to being in the second half of the summer is that our new kids are starting to leave. They have to go home, get back to college or find permanent jobs. It's kind of sad. We have become attached to and will miss them.

This one in particularly has a personality the size of the Adirondacks. These pictures tell the story.
When with young'ns, you must say yes to selfies.


Sometimes he lets me see what Scott is doing throughout the day.

 And other times he gets you when you're not looking, which means you've got to be sharp at all times. 

The things I love about Adam are how funny he is, how he makes fun of Scott (did I say that out loud?), and how sometimes he skips the chit chat and jumps right into a serious conversation starting with a big question. He's the first to leave and we will miss him. God is going to use Him to bring music therapy to children and maybe the elderly. He is one of a kind. I'm grateful our paths crossed. 

One of my sweet friends brought me a gift which required explanation. She said from her vantage point, God has been sifting and refining (Biblical words) Scott and I these last few years. The dross has come to the surface and been strained away leaving nothing but the fruit. I like that. It's a visual I can appreciate. Sweet and sour, sweet being the last taste in our mouths.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  John 15:2

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1 Pet. 1:7

 Reminds me of something I read recently that I hope will encourage you like it has me.

"Never pray for an easier life - pray to be a stronger person! Never pray for tasks equal to your power - pray for power equal to your task.

We must remember that Christ will not lead us to greatness through an easy or self-indulgent life. An easy life does not lift us up but only takes us down. Heaven is always above us, and we must be continually looking toward it. 

Some people always avoid things that are costly, or things that require self-denial, self-restraint, and self-sacrifice. Yet it is hard work and difficulties that ultimately lead us to greatness, for greatness is not found by walking the moss-covered path laid out for us through the meadow...Are you willing to sacrifice to reach the glorious mountain peaks of God's purpose for you?

Be men of courage; be strong. I Cor. 16:13"*

Let's let God do the work of refining, sifting, straining, and maturing in our lives so all that is left is the fruit that brings Him glory. Sweet and sour together, a beautiful, delicious combination.

Today I don't work until 4pm, so I'm off to Arts and Crafts. Have I mentioned how much I love it here?

* Streams in the Desert by LB Cowman Aug. 3