Summer's Grand Finale: Part 2

Summer has officially ended as the calendar indicates that we've marked the autumnal equinox this week.  Time relentlessly and hurriedly marches on, no matter how I will it to slow its cadence.  The month of September has almost entirely slipped away, and I don't know why that surprises me at all. But it does.

In the days following the end of family camp, we celebrated with Derek and Julie their 2nd anniversary (on Aug. 21), and Nathan's birth was celebrated by a group of "chosen family" friends who honored the Johnsons with a lovely baby shower.  Before the dust settled on either celebration, Derek flew east to Uganda and Julie, Nathan, and I flew west to California so Nathan could meet his great-grandparents before returning to Uganda.  Concurrently, Paul drove a U-Haul truck from Boston to Virginia to California to help complete Lisa's move to California, and we reunited in time to celebrate Paul's and Brandon's (3rd) birthdays.  

Barbara Steele and Kelly Plosker hosted the shower honoring Nathan and outdid themselves!

I've hinted at Lisa's big life change and will now "fill in the blanks."  After 5 wonderful years in Harrisonburg, Virginia, serving at James Madison University as an athletic trainer for women's soccer, she "threw her hat in the ring" when UCLA posted an opening for the head athletic trainer position for women's basketball.  Through a series of events that confirmed orchestration by God, she was offered the position in early June and moved her life to the greater Los Angeles area in early July.  Leaving a place you love and in which you're loved is never easy, but Lisa felt that God was definitely in this, so she pressed on.  The transition has had its challenges, but after two months of living "out of a suitcase" and fighting a long commute, she's now settled in an apartment in Sherman Oaks and is feeling more at home each week.  The silver lining of living out of a suitcase and commuting a long distance was living with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon during those weeks. They all loved that arrangement and had they been able to figure out a manageable commute to Westwood, they would've made it  a permanent living situation.  Lisa will steal away to Santa Clarita as often as possible.  

Lisa loves being an athletic trainer, but loves even more being an auntie to two adoring nephews.

Arriving at Gabe and Kari's house, all were ecstatic to see little Nathan at 4 weeks old.

"Papa" arrived just in time to celebrate his and Brandon's birthdays, after driving over 3,000 miles in a blissful state of introversion.  Just what he needed after 9 weeks straight of family camps.  :)

Brandon is 3!

Our days in California were so sweet.  Kari and Gabe hosted an open house to welcome Nathan which allowed many of the extended family to meet him.  Our weekend in San Diego held many precious moments as Great-Grandma Essie loved on Baby Nathan and Brandon, and a Labor Day picnic in the park facilitated a quasi-family reunion.  We cherish these opportunities to reconnect with those we love.

The Friesen family who made it to Gabe and Kari's open house/welcome-Nathan party
enjoyed reconnecting.  So much fun!

Great-Grandma Essie loves holding her great-grandson.

Picnic at the park with the Collins extended family.  Perfect day for a mini-reunion!

We flew back to Boson on Sept. 6, within hours of Derek returning from Uganda, and another happy reunion was had.  For the past two weeks, we've squeezed everything we could out of the time we've had with the Johnsons.  Though much of the time was spent going to doctor's appointments and tying up loose ends (like procuring supplies and taking care of business), we managed to take walks almost daily and we made a couple of day trips to Maine and Cape Ann.  It's impossible to express how blessed we've been to have them in our home since early June and to share these precious first 8 weeks with Nathan. 

Enjoying an Indian Summer late September day in Gloucester.

A few other highlights of this past month include Paul speaking at Iron Sharpens Iron in Worcester on Aug. 24 with Dennis Rainey and a few others.  He was very well received and grateful for the honor of being part of that strategic men's ministry event.  We attended the beautiful, God-honoring wedding of Leslie Jamison and Eric Musser on Sept. 7, grateful to be in town for this gala event.  We spent a great "night on the town" with our dear friends John and Marilyn, who took us to see "Wicked" in Boston in honor of Paul's birthday.  We had a blast.  And finally, my youngest sister and her husband, Laura and David, spent the last week with us getting acquainted with their youngest great nephew before oceans and continents separate them.  We took full advantage of the Indian Summer weather and poked along the coastline by Rockport, Gloucester, and Manchester for a couple of days.  Loved every moment of their visit.

Uncle David and Aunt Laura can't get enough of their great-nephew.

Shortly after taking the Johnsons and their luggage to the airport and exchanging tearful farewells, we headed to Pennsylvania to speak at the Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church and then to Sandy Cove to speak at the Atlantic region BIC Pastors’ Conference.  It was an honor to join with this very committed group of pastors and spouses and our time together was rich.  

The airport scene: all 8 pieces of luggage and Mom, Dad, and baby made it safely to Uganda.

The Atlantic Region Brethren in Christ Pastors and spouses conference held
at Sandy Cove Conference Center in Maryland.

We drove in from this conference last night, and it seemed unnatural to walk in to an empty, dark, quiet house; it’s in this state for the first time since early June!  The reality finally hit that our kids are back in Africa (they safely arrived Monday night.)  No more early morning snuggles with our little Nathan or walks in the stroller.  At least not until the end of December, when we'll journey to Uganda to do some continuing marriage ministry.  Though the sadness is palpable on some levels, I'm more overwhelmed by the gift of having such a generous amount of time with them.  It was amazing to be undaunted by the growing piles of mail and layers of dust, by the tasks undone and the disheveled state of the house, as we embraced the fleeting moments of this unique time with them.  The stitchery which hung in our nursery back in 1980 reminds us:  "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow, for babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow.  So settle down cobwebs, dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."  

It's true that babies don't keep, but memories do and we're treasuring the memories we've accumulated over this beyond-our-expectations summer.  We're pressing forward into a fall full of opportunities, hope, and promise, with long, lingering looks over our shoulder at crystallized moments of God's unmistakable and unmerited favor to us.

Let fall begin.