Here, There, and Everywhere!

We’ve been home less than 48 hours since the photo below was taken on Nov. 21 at the 5th annual Creative Memories Scrapbooking weekend so I suppose it’s no surprise that when we arrive home from St. Louis today, pumpkins and cornucopias will greet us as we enter our home. I’m sure it’s getting old to hear my surprise at how quickly the calendar pages are turning, but it is surprising! Christmas is two weeks from tomorrow the ads remind us; only 14 shopping days left. Does anyone else feel a little panicked at that reminder? We’ve got some catching up to do when we land in Boston this afternoon.

Back to the scrapbooking weekend, Barbara Becker once again staged a memorable and productive weekend for 25 very happy ladies. This year more than any other, there was less talk and more work done around the tables, but there was still plenty of sharing and encouraging happening all weekend. It was a special treat to have Barbara Seifert bring her sister, Lisa, and her mother, Judy to the getaway. Judy had never scrapped and she inspired us all by bringing vintage albums and beginning the task of transforming them into legacy keepsakes.

I gave three short talks on the enemies of contentment: environment, entitlement, and envy. As I prepared, I was reminded of how easy it is to let the complaining culture seep into my own take on life and join the chorus of whiners. It’s easy to connect with anyone if you have a complaint! I challenged all of us to be difference-makers by choosing gratitude and contentment every day.

Honestly, that wasn’t a very difficult assignment that weekend as we enjoyed thoughtful gifts from Barbara throughout the weekend, time to work on our projects, and the joy of being in Christian community. What a delight to be a part of this unique retreat.

The ladies take a break from their hard work scrapbooking to enjoy a wonderful dinner at the Inn.

Barbara Becker is the hostess for the weekend and as always, she made everyone feel very cared for and loved.

Less than 24 hours after the scrapbooking conference ended, Paul and I boarded a flight to San Diego for a week of mostly R and R over the Thanksgiving holiday. Lisa had arrived on Saturday, so we joined her and Julie in Poway for several days prior to heading to the Friesen Family Farm in Pixley, California. We so enjoyed hanging with the girls and experiencing Julie’s world at Physical Therapy School. Lis and I attended her anatomy class and my comment afterwards was, “I thought he was supposed to teach in English.” His vocabulary included very few words familiar to my ears! My respect and admiration for what Julie is tackling increased significantly.

We were fortunate to host a gathering at Julie’s home-away-from-home, honoring my sister-in-law Hanya who hit the 5-0 mark that week. Fun times!

We arrived at the farm late Wednesday night, and it was a true “homecoming.” Paul and I spent many holidays at the farm (where he grew up) during the first almost 20 years of our marriage and it was so familiar and comfortable to return. Paul’s oldest sister, Sandy, and her husband Wayne were well prepared for the invasion, so our days there were relaxing and so enjoyable. The next generation was well represented with numerous nieces and nephews and four great-nieces and nephews. Two of them were less than three months old. Our hearts are so full of gratitude as we see the mantle of faith being carried on so faithfully and we so loved being with these “kids” who have grown up so well and are living God-honoring lives. I really don’t think it gets much better than that.

Just before Thanksgiving dinner is served, we pause for an incomplete family photo.

Lisa and Julie with cousin Katie Herbst; these three were roommates in San Luis Obispo for two years and were so happy to be together again.

Besides lots of great food (which did not include the pumpkin pies I made, which lacked only one ingredient . . . the sugar :( ), we played the traditional family football game, harvested the walnut crop, had family devotions which included a family history lesson, saw the movie Blindside together (and highly recommend it), and hit a few Black Friday sales. It was with sadness that we packed up the car and headed south Saturday a.m. There never is enough time.

Our spirits were lifted by a wonderful couple of hours spent with David and Cherylyn Hegg in Santa Clarita around noon as we made our way south. We were most eager to see them in their new home and church, Grace Baptist Church. After a yummy brunch prepared by Cherylyn, we toured the church and were on our way. The Heggs are not just ministry partners; they’re dear friends and we were thrilled to reconnect with them.

David and Cherlyn Hegg welcomed us into their home in Santa Clarita as we drove south.

We rounded out that Saturday with two more visits: afternoon tea with Wendy Turney and her daughter Sara and her family, followed by dinner with our dear friend Wendy Offield and her son, Calen, and his fiance Amber. Paul will be marrying Calen and Amber in September, so it was really good to spend some time with them over a fabulous dinner prepared by Amber. It was such a good day of celebrating “chosen family” friendships.

Our next few days with Julie were relaxing and productive for “quiet” activities: reading, writing, and catching up. Just what the doctor ordered! Home on a red-eye, in time for 14 hours of counseling between Wednesday early afternoon and Thursday afternoon, and then the Patriot study Thursday night. Out first thing Friday for Charlotte, North Carolina. No wonder it feels like we’re never home anymore!!

Our weekend in Charlotte was delightful in every way as we plunged into the new world of Dan and Susan Yardley and their kids. We’ve journeyed with the Yardleys for many years now, all of which have been at close distance until last October when they moved to Charlotte. As members of the H.I.M. Board and close personal friends, we were very eager to see their new life. Every moment with them was a joy, from attending an uplifting Christmas concert featuring their well-known jazz piano teacher, to watching the three older Yardley kids each play basketball on Saturday; from playing a very fun game revolving around chocolate fondue to holding a cinnamon roll baking clinic, we were heartened by the commitment of the entire family to live together in Christlikeness.

From there we flew to St. Louis for our annual visit with Grant and Emily Williams and their three lovely daughters. They also are committed to honoring God in their home, and our time with them provided sweet fellowship and great joy. We are so thankful that both of these families are so authentically pursuing Christ and living for Him both inside and outside their homes. God is using them as salt and light in their communities which fleshes out our belief that the most effective tools of evangelism we have are found in our homes: healthy, vital marriages and families. We returned home full of thanksgiving for these two precious families.

Dan, James, Joe, Susan, Liz and Timmy Yardley pose with us after the concert. Their newly adopted daughter Abigail Ha-Bin was home entertaining her babysitter. :)

What fun to watch Sarah Elizabeth (aka “Elephant”) perform with her class! Grant, Emily, Meegan, and Madeline also enjoyed the show.

We flew home the 11th in time for the Patriot’s Bible Study and were all amazed that our study season is almost over. We’ve had a faithful, engaged group of 8-12 couples all fall and are so thankful for the opportunity to encourage spiritual growth in this very special group of people.

The pumpkins and cornucopias are now safely stored in the attic for another year and yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Blessings on you during this season of Advent.

Sunset on the Cape during the scrapbooking weekend...definitely put our very finite creativity in perspective!!