Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Dear Family and Friends,
Life is moving at breakneck speed, and these are days to treasure! Pictures capture feelings and stories better than words for many of us, so we decided to share a few with you to recap our year.

All our kids are growing up too quickly, but we continue to parent them with prayer and love, despite our own shortcomings, and trust God with the outcome.
Jace is a creative, sensitive, and energetic boy who loves school and life. We are proud with what we see him accomplishing academically. He continues to be involved in a smattering of sports throughout the year, first year of piano lessons, and more recently singing with a kids' choir through College Park Church.

Gwyneth is a powerful little personality we have nicknamed “Sarge”. When she is sick or out with a friend, her absence is felt. She is forthright about what she wants, ready to serve, and sappy sweet with an edge. She is loyal and dedicated to friendships, and I’m sure we’ll be hauling her to parties someday. Everyone is a friend. Though we’ve had her in gymnastics and dance, we tried soccer for the first time this year. She is excited for kindergarten, and we are confident she is ready and will devour the opportunity to learn and be with other kids.

Quinn is a determined, industrious, spunky little lady. She parrots what her older siblings say and tries to copy every action, whether she is ready or not. She loves to move her body, deposit her belongings and ours all around the house, and we have to caution her about all the challenges for which she is not ready.

We are so thankful for how Sarah’s job has provided for us in these years. She has continued to develop professionally, and the practice is led by talented doctors who have administrative gifts in their arsenal. We are so happy that she can spend ample time at home, enjoying family life while still being able to provide. John continues to care for the kids during the day and works four to five nights at Home Depot, getting to bed around 2 a.m. and then up at 7 to get Jace out the door for school. Recently we found a small group we feel encouraged about through our church. We help with the Sunday School program for our kids and have found our church to be a blessing.

May your Christmas be filled with true Peace. May 2015 be a year full of blessing for you and those close to your heart,

John, Sarah, Jace, Gwyneth, and Quinn

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Is. 9:6 NIV


In March, Mason, our "pure-bred Frisbee dog," was laid to rest. We admired his companionship, his love of life, his ability to clean food on our kitchen floor, and his passion to chase down Frisbees.

Our  two night campout to McCormick’s Creek State Park was a ton of fun, even though we got rained out and broke down our camp at midnight to head home.

Sibling love…
On Halloween this year, Mary Poppins, Burt, and Minnie Mouse showed up.

Friday, October 31, 2014

11th Anniversary, Just BE... HERE...

Romantic preparation for our 11th Anniversary has not gone as I envisioned. When I awoke from a four-hour sleep to prepare breakfast for the family on Saturday morning, I was aware that something wasn’t right. I willed myself out of bed and had good reason to return to it in an attempt to grab a quick nap before a neighbor’s birthday party. Fast forward to Sunday morning: I knew I needed to miss church.  I was feeling lousy.  As I creaked down the stairs, I saw that Sarah had all the kids huddled around the laptop, watching the morning online worship service at our church, while eating their cereal. My temp would stay in the 100’s for most of the day.

On Monday morning, it was 104! I would wear a long sleeve T-shirt over the top of a short sleeve T-shirt just to keep from having the teeth-rattling chills. I’d wake up to the realization that I needed to shower and put on some fresh shirts.  I thought I’d kicked the bug when my temperature dropped down to around 98 after a shower and another shirt change, but by 6:00 p.m. on Monday evening, it was back up to around 102.

In the midst of this, Sarah’s demonstrations of love were clear and visible. The kids were encouraged to keep the noise level down, and I was able to rest in our bedroom. She would check on me, empathetically inquire about how I was feeling, bring fresh water, sometimes wipe my forehead, and bring samples of food that seemed appealing. She tried to pick up where I would have led the charge by making sure the kids were bathed as well as assuming other responsibilities that I carry. She chose to sleep in the same bed with me, even if it was the flu, just to be close. She was a companion as I cleared my throat in the mornings, or coughed to breathe clearly in the evening. On Monday, she had a huge day of work, but she was aware of my high temperature. I prepared Jace’s lunch, got him on the bus, then retreated to our room, hoping the two girls, Gwyneth and Quinn, could care for one another. I texted Sarah about how I was doing, and she immediately planned to come home to get lunch for them. I planned to close out the morning with them watching the “Frozen” DVD. When she got the girls fed, she proceeded to ask me what I would love to eat and I off-handedly said, “Soup....” She prepared homemade chicken-vegetable soup and brought it to my bedside. As the day progressed, Sarah arranged for a lady who watches our children to come over before Jace arrived home from school. Our friend, whom we call Aunt Jerri, prepared the evening meal and got the kids ready for bed. Sarah arrived back home right when the kids went to bed. She’d been active for over 12 hours at work while covering at home where she could. Then, she came into our room and took me to the doctor while Jerri stayed with the kids. We were relieved to receive a diagnosis of bronchitis and prescribed antibiotics.  We breathed a sigh of gratitude that our kids hadn’t been exposed to something quite as contagious as another type of virus.

In a way, this week was deeply romantic. Confined to my bedroom for two days, I missed the usual touch of my kids and Sarah.  I felt disconnected from “life” as I know it. But, the gratitude for this servant and life partner beside me, whose love shows in tangible ways, was more powerful than ever. I had a new appreciation for her, a new love for all that she shouldered in just a few days. I had new hunger for just being with my kids. And I’m starting to feel what it is like to be in a healthy body again.

I have friends who are dealing with terminal illnesses, who’ve struggled against odds for months and years, and at times even ended up in hospice. What an incredible blessing if they are surrounded by a presence in the form of a person who really cares. That’s love we all crave when it matters most. Someone who will care, who will be there, who will go the extra mile -- often shown in the least expected ways. We want the kind of love that will just be there. It’s really romantic isn’t it? Great practice for the next 25 years…. Just BE… HERE…!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

God Encounter: Crucial

Face buried in my hands, I was feeling broken, torn open to the core … but it was good. The setting was a much-awaited youth conference for which I’d saved money and attended during my junior year of high school. Thoughts about that season of my youth conjure memories of grappling for meaning in life and an all-out search for God.  But at that moment, I was wrecked -- but in a good way.  Have you ever felt internally exposed and loved all at the same time? Though prior to the event, I’d surrendered as much of my dreams and aspirations to align myself to what I perceived to be God’s will, I’d never felt so unworthy, so convicted about who I was in my heart, so sorry for oversights with people, or oddly, so purely loved all at the same time.

Jonathan Martin, a pastor, summarized the experience well with this quote: "To encounter God is to discover both how small we are and how beloved we are, and we are not prepared either to be so insignificant or so desperately loved. Both revelations are unnerving."

Now, with more years of life under my belt, I’m often amazed at how that event, etched vividly enough to recall, has become a reference point -- a “true north” experience about my relationship to God and other people, and understanding my existence. Awe-inducing reverence of a holy God was the result. It marked me enough to know that I was sick and sinful in HIS presence, but He was LOVE with no limits, so powerful that, though I never wanted to leave the presence I was feeling, it was potent enough to consume me.

This divine appointment  humbled me, purified me, empowered me to love in deeper measure, and helped me to see my own selfishness and self-centered sinfulness in the “good works” of my “sacrificial” offerings to God.  At the time of the experience, I was confident of no greater joy or contentment on earth. In confession, since then, there have been seasons where I’ve failed and not maintained my sensitivity to God’s inner voice and desired to go my own way. And, LIFE within me has died. But I always have that experience of reference where God tangibly showed up.  He continues to from time to time, and it brings about renewal in my sensitivity to Him again.

Have you had an experience like this? If so, what you sensed at the specific encounter and the change in your life that followed couldn’t happen without divine assistance.  Is it all God, or are you and I involved in such a happenstance? For me, it was certainly a season marked by a deep search for God and sense of fulfillment and meaning in my own journey. But for others -- they’d say it just happened. This I know: we all NEED a God encounter. As a Christian, I believe I encounter God through the person and divinity of Jesus. It is a God-encounter that changed me internally, purified my motives, and set my desires on a course to please God more than boss, friend, or even a spouse.

How do you have a God encounter? I think the encounters come in all shapes, sizes, and any way that God chooses, but it seems to start with a desire. It probably involves another person who makes you desire Him more in your life.  And if there is no desire, I guess we need to turn to God and ask for the hunger. “God give us a desire and people around us that will inspire us to know You.”

Jeremiah 29: 13 NIV, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Isaiah 6: 5 NIV, "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."