Sunday, September 13, 2009

Maryland Friends

One of the best things from last year if not the best are the people that God brought into my life. I moved to Maryland not knowing what to expect about anything and all I can say is that I experienced God's blessing more abundantly than I ever could have asked or imagined through these dear friends.

The day we moved into our  town house Helen Lowe came over with a loaf of friendship bread. My head was in the clouds at the time and I was utterly exhausted so I don't remember much of our first interaction other than her kindness and how cute she was: short, blond and six months pregnant. My second memory of Helen was on a Sunday afternoon and we were sitting outside while the kids and husbands were playing something. That was when I first learned of Matt's brain tumor and first experienced Helen's incredible faith in God. I was amazed at her acceptance of whatever the Lord had for her and her family. Matt and Helen had moved from Michigan a few years prior. They had left a beautiful home, their life, family and friends to be apart of Covenant Life Church. At the present time Matt had already undergone two brain surgeries and sometimes frequent, sudden seizures. Matt and Helen have six, wonderful, vivacious, creative and loving children (she was preg. w/ the sixth when I met her). During that Sunday afternoon conversation with Helen my heart was immediately knit to  hers. I told Eric that I didn't think I'd be able to move away from Maryland in June and leave her and this was only one week after being there. In my journal I wrote that I had wondered if the real reason God had us in Maryland was because of the Lowes. It was a highlight of the year to help Helen and Matt and to have the oppurtunity to know and love their family. I miss her so much. I miss making a pot of coffee in the afternoon and taking it over to her house only to be continually interrupted by Ollie. I miss encouraging each other on South Beach and talking about how much weight we were going to loose. I miss watching her kids and listening to the boys talk about "Clone Wars" or building Legos together. I miss Emma coming over for a very short lived math class but always apologizing for being too early or too late. I miss Ollie always wanting to give Annie a treat and Dalton being Dalton. I miss our double dates, hanging out on Sunday nights as couples, coming over for a glass of wine after a long day, Matt's friendship with Eric and just living life together as neighbors. 
Betsy Ricucci is one the most encouraging people I have ever met. What's truly special about her encouragement is that it is entirely and completely built on a solid understanding and genuine belief in the gospel. She truly is amazing the way she builds others up. If you were to share in a ladies meeting something your were struggling with - her focus wouldn't be on your sin but on the reality that God is at work in you, showing you your sin, bringing conviction and that it is the same spirit and power that is showing you that is going to help you. She'd be so excited and rejoicing with you at God's work in your life and heart. She's the ultimate cheerleader in faith, hope and godliness. The first time I met Betsy was at a lunch for the wives. She stood at the door with a big grin, a hug, communicated gratefulness to all of us for our sacrifice to come and then she said "I so look forward to learning from you" What? Well at the end of the year Betsy and Gary had a list of all the things that they had learned from each of us. I was awed by their humility and belief that because God was at work in each of us that there were real ways to encourage us. Betsy is, as someone said last year, one of the most quotable people you want to write down. If I wasn't in a conversation with her then I wanted to listen to her in a conversation with someone else. I'd be encouraged, faith and hope would be built because she was always sharing victorious truths of the gospel. I had met Julie Purswel years ago but didn't really know her. I am so grateful for the oppurtunity to become friends with her. Julie, like Betsy, is also very kind, encourgaing and gracious. The first week at Pastors' College I received a birthday card and journal from her. That was the first of notes, offers to pray and encouragement that I would receive. Watching Julie up close was a treat. Her love for her husband, Jeff and her two boys was joyful and lively. She was an encouragment how she served her family and especially how she released Jeff to serve the College, Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Again, her life and actions were because of a deep love for her Saviour, to bring him pleasure with her life and a love for others which was manifested in the many ways she sacrifices of herself for those whom Christ shed his blood. I don't even think she considers her life a sacrifice but rather a joy and priviledge to serve.
Jen Lockhart (Good Friends post) was another PC wife and neighbor. I really, really miss Jen so much and if I think about if for more than a nano-second I get all weepy. Jen, like Helen, was one of those people you could just hang with. I loved finishing up school, letting the kids loose and getting to visit with Jen. She is so humble and laid back. Jen would always be asking questions about stuff and my favorite that she would regular ask was just "what are you having for dinner tonight". Everyday, Sarah would want to go over to Jen's to play with Ezra and Ella and most days she did go over. When we left Maryland it was so hard for us to say goodbye to the Lockhart family. Sarah cried for weeks and had set up what Rachel and I called the "Lockhart altar" with their family picture. She's doing better......on most days. 
Amanda Jordan and Tiffany Hansen were in my fellowship group last year. I am so grateful that the three of us were put together. I was encouraged and provoked all year by these ladies humility, faith and wisdom. Though our times to get together were sporadic I really, really miss it and them. Unfortunately, they both happen to live very far - Texas and Arizona so I won't be able to catch up with them any time soon. Missing all the dear friends that God blessed me with last year makes me long for Heaven when we'll all be "home" together.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

First Week of School

I can hardly believe that the long awaited summer and move back to Chesapeake is over and that school has started. What's even crazier is how the weather has dramatically turned and feels like fall. School started for us on Tuesday which was a bit hard to do since we just got back from vacation last Sunday and had Matthew's birthday on Monday. I have a real love/hate thing with school (homeschooling actually) but I always seem to find myself full of faith and motivation in the beginning of the year. I am especially looking forward to this year so far because Rachel and Ryan are taking classes at our church's homeschool enrichment program. Rachel is taking pre-algebra, a painting class and a second year classical literature class in which she'll be reading Augustines Confessions, Beowulf, The Inferno, Le Morte D'Arthur, Utopia, The Faerie Queen,The Once and Future King, Gawain and the Green Knight, Shakespeare and others. The other three kids are doing a similar literature class with the same teacher but for younger kids. Ryan is taking a math class and drawing 2. Both Rachel and Ryan's art classes are taught by a wonderful teacher who really does well in bringing out talent and creativity in her students. She also teaches art history/appreciation from a God glorifying perspective. The two of them are also taking an online writing course, write@home. Rachel is also in a science class at a friends house that thankfully I don't have to do a thing for. My friend, Melanie and I will be teaching Ryan and her daughter General Science but thankfully Ryan really likes science so he learns a lot on his own with help from Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel. Sarah and Matthew are in a science co-op. We use Real Science 4 Kids and I love it!! They will be studying Chemistry, Physics and Biology. At home Sarah and Matthew are doing Saxon math grades four and five. I also do Bob Jones grammar with the kids - Rachel and Ryan together and Sarah and Matthew together. This has worked so well for us last year to do it two and two instead of four different grades - the kids finally learned something. A new subject for Sarah and Matthew this year is writing. I just havn't made a big deal about it when there's been so much else to do but I bought Susan Wise Bauer's writing book and I love how simple it is and everything is in the book : excerpts from books, dictation, copy work sentences and questions. Then there's Latin in which they watch a dvd and make fun of the instructors huge southern accent. Lastly, is our family favorite - History!!!! We are back in year one studying creation through Rome. The kids just love ancient Egypt, Greek myths and learning about the Romans. This will be our fourth time going this but the first time really (hopefully) doing more hands on projects and crafts. I never had the energy when the kids were younger to make pyramids and such but now that the kids are older it's way easier.

So this past week was really busy with lots of school, Rachel's swim practices and the boys football practices but there was much grace. That's not to say I wasn't tired by ten in the morning, didn't take a couple of naps, went to bed early, got frustrated with the kids when someone wasn't "getting" it or that I wasn't dreaming of next summer to come quickly but that's exactly where I experienced God's grace - when life was it's hardest this week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trip to Ohio

The week after Easter break and having Augie and Heather visit, our family headed to Akron, OH. At the Pastors' College Eric was given two preaching assignments. The first was over Thanksgiving weekend in Brooklyn, NY and the second was at our dear friends' church in Akron. Eric and I have known Jason and Laurie for years. We knew each other before we were all married and we follow a similar time line in marriage, babies and Eric and Jason becoming pastors. 

DC with the Cousins

Our family was thrilled to have Augie, Heather and the kids come visit us over Easter weekend. Augie was very generous and used Hilton points to get both families a room right in the center of DC. The last time they had come up was when we moved up to Maryland and we went into DC then too. Both trips were pretty funny. Last August it was so incredibly hot and we were dying of thirst. The kids were so tired from walking, blisters on feet, etc. It was so crazy you just had to laugh. Well this visit was pretty funny too. Instead of it being hot it we had cold rain. Cold rain, a least an hour wait outside to get into the American History Museum, only two umbrellas between eleven of us and not nearly enough warm clothes. This is definitely something I love about Eric and Augie and their brothers is that nothing keeps them from experiencing all that they can out of life!! My camera battery died that morning so I don't have any pictures of that day but I do from the day before which was beautiful and we were very grateful to still be able to see the Cherry Blossoms.
We taught Augie and Heather to play Settlers of Catan - Augie won

Easter Morning
Elise and ....yes, that's Sarah
Cherry blossom at the Jefferson Memorial

Boys are so easily pleased

Sarah and Elise....they spent two days walking around DC like this

Getaway in Williamsburg and Washington DC

Back in April, Eric and I were able to go to DC for a couple of days. We had a whole list of things we wanted to see and do without the kids so as a "thank you" to me for our move Eric planned a trip. We went to Ford's Theatre and the Peterson House where Lincoln died. We went to the Portrait Gallery, Art Museum and the Holocaust Museum and interspersed was a  lot of walking from the Capital to the Washington Monument - from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial. 
Room and bed where Lincoln died
Peterson House directly across the street from Ford's Theater
Ford's Theater

Balcony where Lincoln was shot
In March we celebrated our fourteenth anniversary by spending a couple of days in Williamsburg. We've done this for most of our anniversaries but the past couple of years we've gotten a great package deal for the Williamsburg Lodge plus tickets to the colonial stuff and a gift certificate to any of the Colonial Williamsburg restaraunts or shops. Obviously, this was a great deal for our tight budget.

Williamsburg Inn -never stayed there but we did have dinner there when we got engaged

I wonder if all guys want their picture taken at the Magazine(armory)

Williamsburg Lodge directly across the street from the colonial area

Zoe Joy Courtney

On February 13th Zoe Joy, my sweet little niece, was born. Here she is at one month.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Crazy weather, a wedding and a birthday surprise

Here are some pictures from our trip to Virginia last weekend. The pictures are a bit out of order but if I try to rearrange them I'll never get this post done. 

The weather in Virginia was beautiful!! What a tease... just days before in Maryland we had a good 6 inches of snow and this week it's back to winter temperatures. Even though the spring like weather came and went all our allergies are in full swing. 

It was a busy weekend with two birthday parties, a wedding, hanging with friends till late and sleep overs. One of the best parts is staying with Augie & Heather and the kids. We miss them so much!

Elise, Claire and Sarah at the Wallis' home for Taylor's party.

The girls and I with Taylor - the birthday girl.

Laura and me at the wedding. I'm so sad she's moving away.

Matthew with his best friend Thomas. We'll miss him so much!
  It was a perfect morning having coffee with Augie and Heather while the kids played baseball in the yard.
Rachel and I made ice cream out of the "clean" snow with condensed milk and vanilla. It was really good and obviously very easy. The boys with Hudson.

Ryan got to spend the night with his good friend Benjamin. Can you guess what they did?