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Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer Vacation

Another summer vacation has ended, all too soon. I enjoyed an unplugged week of relaxation in Missouri. The cabin at The Brook of Bethpage was incredible. I am excited that several couples in Southern Missouri saw the need for a free respite for pastors and worked together to create this beautiful retreat. I read through the stories in the guest book in our cabin and was moved to tears. So many pastors and their wives have slept in that gorgeous cabin, desperately seeking God's face after terrible hurt and burnout in the ministry. Many of them left renewed and refreshed. What an incredible ministry! I am touched that people saw the need to minister to pastors in such a practical way!

The retreat was created for pastors to be able to spend hours in quiet reflection and meditation. While it would be a perfect place to go as a couple to seek God's face, especially when facing a big decision, or even alone to be able to just sit and write, it was a little boring for the kids. They enjoyed reading, watching some movies, and swimming in the pool. However, we were in the middle of poison ivy season, so we were unable to do any hiking.

We drove the hour and a half over to Branson one day, did a little school shopping and watched the Noah's Ark Musical. Our four year old, Abby, loved the musical. She was excited to see the animals and hear the story of Noah. She was curious about why God was living in the big flashlights. (The spotlights were used to represent God speaking to Noah.) The older kids tolerated the show, but it was a little over dramatic for them. They have some hysterically funny impressions of the actors, however. (No offense if any of them are your relatives or friends)

Thursday was probably the kids' favorite day. We found a river a short drive from the cabin and took them swimming in the icy cold water. If we ever have the opportunity to return to the cabin, now we know where to find better hiking and outdoor activities. It was a beautiful state park, with great fishing and hiking.

I would say that Thursday was my favorite day as well. Thursday morning I was sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch having my quiet time. I was meditating in Ps. 150, 149, 148, and 147. I don't know why I randomly started reading from the back of Psalms, but as I was reading thunder began to boom in the distance. I continued to read about the God who forms the rain clouds and waters the thirsty earth as clouds rolled across the valley. I read about the God who controls the lightening as it began to flash over the hills in the distance. As the drops of rain hit the porch roof, I was captivated by the language of the Psalms and began to just sing those words back to my Creator.

Yep, it was probably a cheesy song. Most of you would have laughed at my off key voice belting out the melody over the booming thunder. But I was absolutely in God's presence Thursday morning. I enjoyed the time of worship, just me and God hanging out in the storm. I enjoyed a moment alone, to remember just how mighty a God it is that I serve.

Who blankets the heavens with the clouds
Sends down the rain to the thirsty earth
Who counts all the stars within his hands
Fixes their number and gives them names
Our God is great with mighty power
Let's sing to Him our joyful praise

Let the music begin
praise his name
Open up your mouth
give him thanks
Sing praises to the eternal one
Our Lord is great
Let's give Him praise

He binds our wounds and heals our hearts
Hears our cries and brings us peace
He raises us up and gives us strength
The Eternal One is listening
Let's sing to Him our joyful praise.

I would say that one of the other highlights of vacation was starting devotionals with our kids. We spent time every night around the dinner table talking about a Scripture and taking turns praying for each other. I loved hearing the kids' ideas and thoughts and prayers. My other favorite thing was visiting with my cousin today. It is good to rediscover family after many years of being away from home.

I am excited about what's next for The Crossroads and what's next for our family. I know that life is about to hit us hard and fast, but I am thankful to have had a week to catch my breath before the race begins. I am praying that God will use me this year in ways bigger than I can imagine for His glory and his kingdom. I am praying that our family will be guarded from evil and that we will find the time to create memories, laugh, and love each other.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Why Vacation?

Until recently I have never questioned the tradition of a summer vacation. Since I was a child, my family always took off a week or two and headed out on the open road. We primarily took destination vacations - seeing lots of sights and spending tons of hours on the road. As adults, Shawn and I have continued that tradition. We have taken the kids to Disney World and Disney Land. We have seen the Grand Canyon and the Sequoia National Forest. We have been to Sea World and multiple destinations in Arkansas, our home state.

This year, with finances a little tighter than usual and much to do with our home, school, and the church plant, I questioned that tradition of the family vacation pretty hard. Is it really that necessary for our survival as a family? I think that answer may vary from family to family, but I think for us, that answer is "YES!"

A few years ago we stopped doing the majorly busy, go, go, go vacation. A slower economy, a bigger family, and a smaller salary forced us to rethink how we vacationed. The turning point for us was 2006, the year Abby was born. Under great duress, we felt that we needed time away from the ministry, but Abby was too little to travel far. We rented an inexpensive Condo in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a week. Our only agenda was to eat ice cream every day and go swimming. It was the best vacation of our lives. We relaxed, there was no rushing, no early mornings, no stress. I could sit and feed the baby without feeling like I was holding up the rest of the family. We returned to what was a difficult time in our ministry refreshed, renewed, and enabled to continue for another season.

Since that time we have stayed in a cabin in the Ozark mountains, road tripped to California with family, and camped in a variety of beautiful locations in Arkansas. We have amazing memories of lazily laying in cold mountain rivers and letting the water rush over us. We have great stories about the crazy stuff that happens to us when we are camping. We have spent many late nights roasting marshmallows over the campfire and laughing at our feeble attempts at ghost stories. We have hiked amazing trails to beautiful locations, using the opportunity to show our children the beauty of God's creation. We have invested long days and late nights into loving our kids and just being with them, without any distractions. Our kids love to tell our vacation stories, creating a sense of tradition for them. A tradition of magically beautiful moments.

This summer it would have been easy to stay home. We had originally planned a massive roadtrip across the West to Yellowstone, but our schedule didn't work out for the extended time away from home this year. With only two weeks left before I start back to work, I have tons to do here at the house, and many reasons why it would be more practical to just stay home.

However, I know from experience that on August 23, our lives will crank up to an entirely new level of crazy chaos with sports, school, fall church events and small group launchings. I know that I will not have a single extra minute to breathe for the next several months. So that is what this next week will be. An opportunity to breathe. We are staying in a cabin in Southern Missouri. We plan to swim, hike, lay in hammocks, read, strum the guitar, and play board games. It sounds boring - no amusement parks, no shopping trips - but it is an opportunity for our family to just breathe. It allows us to regroup, recharge, and return to ministry with the energy and focus that is necessary for success. It is possible for us to pour out our lives for others when we have spent time as a family getting filled up. We will spend this week doing lots of laughing, but we will also spend time praying together, reading God's word together, reflecting on the year past, and looking forward to the future. This week is one week that is just about us and our family and our God. I can't wait!

Monday Morning Update 8.2.10

Today the Mexico mission team shared in our services at The Crossroads. I think that capturing and sharing the impact and heart of a mission trip is incredibly challenging. Our team did a great job of sharing how the trip impacted their lives and how they saw God at work. I appreciated their honesty and focus. It was great to hear about the lives that were changed, and the 28 salvations that took place. I love that God is using The Crossroads both at home and around the world. It also really meant a great deal to me that several ladies volunteered to cover children's so that I could stay and hear about the mission trip. That was such a huge gesture of love!

I was so impressed with our worship team today. They all arrived extra early (without being asked) to help with set up, knowing that we would be short handed on stage. I appreciated their willingness to pitch in and work a little harder and a little faster than usual. I don't know how many times I turned around to run a cable or check a sound issue, and it was already being handled. Rachel did a great job leading the set, and I thought we did okay even without our fearless leader. I was proud of the team and how well they worked together this week to make this worship service happen.

Overall today I felt a little like a proud parent, I guess. I saw our people loving on each other, supporting one another, and giving testimony about how God is at work in their lives. I heard people praying over each other and watched them hug their friends. It is good to see people living out their faith in very real and practical ways. It makes me glad all over again to be a part of The Crossroads.