I wasn't joking when I said we were home briefly after our Feb. 12–24 California speaking tour. Two days of counseling, and we were off! Or, I was off, to Paradise, Pennsylvania, where I spoke for an Amish-hosted scrapbooking weekend.
Yes. As oxymoronic as that sounds, that's what I did.
And it was a dream come true for me. Ever since 1969, when my family moved to Northern Virginia and we discovered the delights of the Amish people, who lived a short 2.5 hours north of our rented home in Alexandria, Virginia. We made many day trips to that back-in-time enclave of devotees committed to simplicity and to an undistracted-by-worldliness lifestyle . . . and a place in my heart was formed for these people. Drawn in by their seemingly uncomplicated lives and their pursuit of focusing on the basic-needs-to-live philosophy, I secretly longed to spend a week or two with them. Notice I wasn't deluded enough to believe I could make a total switch, but truth be told, I'm more comfortable with their simplicity than I am with American culture's obsession with "stuff." (On the other hand, if you've noticed the many pictures I've posted over the years, maybe it's not so hard to imagine me there, as repeat performances by my "uniform" outfits appear over and over and over.)
My friend Liz Lane, whose pastor husband Steve serves as senior pastor of Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church, gave Rachel King, owner of From the Heart Scrapbooking Shop, a copy of my book Raising a Trailblazer: Rite of Passage Trail Markers for your Set-Apart Teen and Rachel loved it. That's what led to me having coffee with her and her five children at their home in Paradise, which led to dreaming about a scrapbooking conference, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What a sweet, sweet time. Rachel hosted Liz and me in their home—without electricity, technology, or a car. Yes. No car. No TV. No computers. Besides those "differences," which were honestly almost unnoticed as battery-operated lamps lit the way, the home was full of the delights of a large family growing up together. Five adorable children who are obviously well-loved and well-trained by their parents. And parents who truly love each other and who love Jesus. Junior (Rachel's husband) cooked omelets for us to round out Rachel's yummy breakfast muffins and after eating, the children drifted off to play games or read. It was refreshing to see no iPod earplugs or iPads in hand. I would've gladly just stayed in the home for the day, but the conference beckoned, so off to the barn we went.
Her scrapbooking shop is built above their barn, which houses their horses and buggies. Fourteen ladies filled the work space with various creative projects and I spoke 3 times between Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Rachel and two of her five sisters served lovely meals and kept things going.
It was one of the most fulfilling and inspiring things I've done. Rachel is a beautiful woman, immensely gifted artistically and relationally. Her shop is only open a few months of the year because she's a wife and a mother first and doesn't want to miss out on raising her children or loving her husband. She's practical, down-to-earth, genuine, wise, hospitable, and winsome. She knows the difference between "religiosity" and "personal relationship with Christ" and she lives authentically and devotedly for Him.
My first real experience in an Amish home far exceeded my lofty expectations.
And joy! She wants to do it again. Bring it on!!
|The Amish farm just across the street from Rachel's home . . . freeze drying the clothes. Love it!|
|Liz Lane, Rachel Esh, and Rachel King, celebrating the success of the scrapbooking conference.|
|The ladies who attended: an eclectic but very congenial group which quickly bonded during the weekend. All had in common their love for Rachel King and her beautiful shop.|
The aura of 24 hours of living Amish quickly dissipated, sadly, as I rented a car and drove from Harrisburg, PA, to Baltimore, MD, to catch a flight to California. The 1hr 40mins trip would get me to the airport hotel easily before 8 pm, and I'd get a good night of rest before catching an early morning flight. "Easily" turned out not to be part of this journey, I soon found out, when for reasons then unknown to me, traffic backed up for miles about 30 minutes shy of my destination. 1hr 30mins delayed, I eventually found out that 83 South had been closed due to the potential collapse of part of the highway, and the subsequent delay and detour, though warranted, sabotaged my "isn't life peaceful and perfect" reverie less than 2 hours after leaving "Paradise." Finally to the hotel by 9, I decided to return the rental car so as to not have to worry about it at 4 in the morning, and the first gas station I stopped at to refill had non-functioning pumps due to a shift change and computer downloading process. But I waited for 10 minutes with an impotent hose in my gas tank before giving up on the "it'll only be a minute" explanation I'd been given twice by the attendant. Off to another station, which boasted having a Subway sandwich shop inside, and with a momentary sense of happiness, I decided the Lord kept the pumps closed at the other station so I could grab a bite to eat at the second station. Notice the word "momentary." After filling up, I went in to get a Subway . . . only to find it closed. Missed it by 10 minutes: the 10 minutes I was waiting at the first station. Oh well. Off to return the rental car, I carefully entered the address of the car return in iMaps and off I went, determined to trust the GPS, which caused me to ignore the signs to the rental car return area. Following it, I was suddenly in the middle of an abandoned air strip with nothing but eerie flashing warning messages to watch for possible emergency vehicles in the area. Thoroughly freaked out at 11 pm, in the dark, alone, I turned off iMaps and retraced my steps back to the rental car return signs and successfully returned the car. And then I waited for a courtesy bus to return me to the hotel, which a few short hours later would take me back to the airport.
But it doesn't end there. Once back in the hotel, I decided to confirm the time of my early morning flight, only to discover that for reasons known only to the cyber-gods, I could find no trace of my reservation confirmation on my computer. No worries. Call Paul, the one who makes all such reservations. Wait—he's in the air himself, flying to California to do the funeral that I'm flying out for. By now, I am beside myself. Exhausted, hungry, and frustrated, with the memories of the most idyllic, peaceful scrapbooking conference completely obliterated. Tears. Bad thoughts. Oh! How thin the line is at times!
Two hours later, Paul landed in LA and wished he hadn't turned his phone on immediately to read a cryptic text from his very distraught wife, languishing in self-pity in a 2-star hotel in Baltimore. Within minutes, he had located my flight information and I fell into a beyond-exhausted heap for a short, short night of sleep.
But it still doesn't end there. Off to the airport, I flew from Baltimore to Phoenix without a hitch. That was nice. And productive. I was then to fly to Orange County, arriving at 11:40 am for a 2 pm funeral. Easy breezy. But not really. After turning down the offer to take a $300 "bump" and be placed on a flight to Ontario (which would land 30 minutes after the Phoenix flight would and then be bused to Orange County) because I didn't want to risk missing the funeral, the announcement came through that the Phoenix flight was delayed due to a lavatory malfunction. No worries, they said. A 30 minute delay could be expected. If you fly much, you know that's code for "we'll say 30 minutes to start with, so you all don't mutiny, and then we'll keep adding the minutes according to our need." We were finally boarded 1hr 30mins later, and just after pushing off from the gate, the captain announced, "Good news, bad news. Good news: we're pushed back. Bad news: Air Force One has landed and we're grounded for another 30 minutes until air space is cleared for security."
Seriously??? My seat mate is probably still wondering what tragic news I was discussing on the phone with Paul at that moment as I was really, really close to . . . well, I'm not sure what, but I was close to it.
Thankfully the story ends well. The flight did take off and it did safely land at 1:20 pm, and my dear friend Wendy Turney did pick me up after a last-minute frantic call from Paul arranged the connection, and after getting my luggage, changing my clothes, and driving to the funeral home, I arrived at 1:55 pm. Just in time. Whew!!
And that's how life rolls at times. Two 24-hr periods of time, back to back, different as night and day. The second 24-hour period rebukes my "everything SHOULD go right and according to my time table and expectations because I have important things to do" mindset and reminds me that "she who lives without margins can easily be derailed."
The funeral honored the life of our very dear friend Wendy's Auntie Lynne and Paul did a beautiful job of leading the service. The joy of being there was connecting with Wendy's extended family, all dear friends of ours. It was a great celebration and I was exceedingly thankful that I was there.
|Standing with sisters Pam and Wendy and their wonderful Mom "Gami Jo" Baker|
the morning after the funeral.
Up next, with the residual dust of Amish simplicity still resonating, we checked in to a 5-star "boutique resort" in San Diego for the annual Pro-Athletes Outreach (NFL) conference. It was clear I wasn't in "Paradise" Pennsylvania any longer. Our room was half the size of our home and dripping with elegance. Rose petals. Chocolates. A Nespresso machine. A small swimming pool called a "tub." Oh, and electricity and TV's. Talk about a swing to the other side. Crazy.
We love this conference every year and feel privileged to be workshop presenters for 13 years in a row. With worship lead by the Katinas, and with Francis Chan and Jon and Jeni Kitna (and others) presenting in the plenary sessions, the conference was "off the charts" for the almost 400 in attendance. Reconnecting with many "ex-Pats" and others we've met through the years was so encouraging. God is using the unique privilege of these families to make a difference as they live out their Christian convictions.
There were two highlights of the conference for us. We brought my mom, a rabid NFL fan (with a very specific love for the San Diego Chargers, the New Orleans Saints, and the Washington Redskins), to spend an evening with us (okay, with "them"—though she loves us, she would never have been so revved up for just an evening with us!) and it was a magical evening. The "guys" and their wives were so kind to her! She was glowing. And taking it all in. A very memorable evening was had by all.
|Benjamin and Kirsten Watson ate dinner with us. Can you see the glow on my mom's face?|
The second highlight was having two of our Patriots players come to Christ at the conference. As we witnessed their baptisms, we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the work of the Holy Spirit. Great rejoicing!!!
|Thomas (an ex-Pat) and Margaret Austin (and Baby Austin, due in early April) loved being introduced to Torrey Pines State Beach.|
|Don (also an ex-Pat) and Yannette Davis run the football conference and are such precious friends, in addition to being professional colleagues. God is using them in big ways.|
PAO ended and we spent a couple of days with my mom before flying home. Because our 3rd conference in just over a week was an all-day marriage seminar for . . . the officers of the Salvation Army. Quite a spectrum-of-life experience in 9 short days!!
These moments remind us that we are completely dependent on the Holy Spirit to speak through us. Left to our own devices, we'd come up short being clever or wise enough to speak to the hearts of those ranging from the Amish to NFL players to Salvation Army officers. Really short.
But our day (March 10) in Sharon, MA, with about 80 officers was nothing short of wonderful and we once again felt very met by the Lord. Great conversations between sessions, great interaction during sessions, and all agreed it was a day well spent when all was said and done. Thank you, Lord.
|Major David Kelly, Divisional Commander of the Massachusetts Division of the Salvation Army, and his wife, Naomi, hosted the marriage conference for their team and were wonderful to work with.|
Meanwhile, on the family front, Julie and Derek have been busy on the frontlines of hospital work in Mbale, while Nathan closes in on 8 months and keeps them on their toes. He is smiley, active, and "eat-him-up" cute, which makes up for his sometimes erratic sleep patterns. Julie spent a lot of time during the month of February doing physical therapy for a young missionary couple who sustained significant injuries in a tragic car accident which took the life of their five-week-old baby girl. The family has returned to the States now for further treatment, and Julie's work with the mother was pivotal in her recovery. Pray for this dear family who have a long road ahead of them, both physically and emotionally.
|Nathan, lighting up the continent of Africa with his engaging smile and outgoing personality.|
Lisa's first season as the head athletic trainer for women's basketball at UCLA has ended, sooner than anyone wanted, but with the team down to just six players, it was no surprise that they didn't make it beyond the first round of the Pac12 tournament. She's been "recovering" from the intensity of the past 7 months in a variety of ways, including stealing away to Campus by the Sea for a few days and catching a few hikes with the Garcias.
Speaking of the Garcias, their life is also full of activity between their work with Grace Baptist Church and a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old. They are thrilled to be where they are, doing what they're doing, and especially loving growing their family.
|Auntie LeeLee makes hiking all the more fun for Brandon.|
|Though Ana appears to be not too sure about hiking, everyone else had a blast.|
Thankfully, though we've been here, there, and everywhere, God has been reminding us faithfully that He is, too. Through rain, snow, sunrises, and sunsets, when things go right and when they don't, He is with us in this amazing life journey. We are truly, truly grateful.
Part 3 is coming . . . stay tuned!!
|Sunset from Coronado Beach, California. We never grow tired of this beauty.|