Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How am I supposed to wait for Christmas...

.... when I see this under the tree???

Miles told me he couldn't find a way to wrap the gift he got me, so he would "leave me a note to tell me where to look."

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to just keep sleeping inches above this mysterious gift??

Strider the Strider and Jumper

 Strider seems to have hit his stride this year, his senior year, at his new school.  He finally has the opportunity to be on a track team, and he is loving it.

They had their first meet last week with about 6 different schools, so he competed against a multitude of students in each of his events -- triple jump and long jump.

In triple jump he ended up in the middle of the pack, and in long jump he came in THIRD!  We are pretty impressed since he just learned how to do these jumps for the first time a few weeks ago.

He seems to be taking after his father, who also excelled in these two events.  The Frank men must have good jumping legs.

Some Advent Events So Far

We've had a full calendar and full hearts these last couple of weeks.  How thankful we are for the community we are in, and the friendships, traditions, and festive gatherings the Lord continues to give us.

Here are a few of the highlights...

The placing of the star:

Jinna has been sooo excited for the Christmas season to arrive and when I asked her a few weeks ago which part about Christmas she was most looking forward to, she said, "Putting the star on the top of the tree."  So we made sure to make that happen this year!

The Annual Making of the Wreath:

The Annual Church Pageant:
 This year our family was represented by Caesar Augustus, a shepherd, and an angel who would not stop dancing through the ENTIRE performance !

And, some gatherings:

We had some of Pete's students over for dinner...

... and another night had the women from church over for festive evening.

The calendar reports that we have more events planned in the days to come...  Lord Willing, the festivities continue!

First Homeschool Handicraft Fair

This week our kids were invited to participate in a local craft fair at Marvin Efird Park.  Each family made something to sell (between $1 and $5) and then everyone went around and bought gifts for each other.  Our kids sold Wingdingers -- and it was a great success!

At the end of the event, the kids were given an opportunity to donate some of their profits to buy a goat through Compassion International for a poor family, and they ended up donating $178, enough to buy 2 goats and a chicken!

St. Nicholas Day

As always St. Nicholas Day was a major highlight of our year!

Once again the Burke family joined us to celebrate and we had our traditional Moroccan Chicken (even though Nicholas was from Turkey.... we've all had enough turkey by this time of the year  ;)  ).  After a brief reminder of who St. Nicholas was and why we do our "candy caning" in his name, we set out for our stealth missions!  The boys will tell you we WERE ALMOST CAUGHT -TWICE! -- but we made it through maintaining our incognito status.

Afterwards the Burkes took us to this phenomenal house to see their Christmas light display -- completely over the top!  This house will be on ABC TV special in a couple weeks, so we're eager to see how they fare in the Great Light competition.  It was a remarkable experience!

Hiking in the Hocking Hills

(Most of) The Frank Cousins

The day after Thanksgiving may be known as Black Friday to some, but for us it was our third day in a cabin and we were all eager to get outside.  We were thankful to discover that not far away there was an incredible hiking destination!
But first... everyone had to survey the maps

 What a unique afternoon!  (I was rather embarrassed that I had grumbled about it beforehand.  :) )


This year was another Franksgiving in Ohio, and 22 of us gathered in Logan at a couple of cabins.  (Each year I find the drives get easier and easier!)  
We had a lot of fun cooking, eating, hiking, stretching, and hot-tubbing (a few of us).  My favorite part was talking with the now-adult nieces and nephews who are such interesting people!

Cousin Andrew carrying Jinna on the rougher terrain

 We also celebrated Christmas early with our traditional Yankee Swap game.  No tears this year!!

And there was even a little dancing!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dear Church...

Dear Church of the Redeemer, I saw a tree today and thought of you.

My kids and I walked over to Dogwood Park this afternoon to soak in all splendor of the fall season, and we decided to compete in a “Best Leaf” contest.

Off we all scurried to find the most perfect fall leaf.  I started gathering leaves off the path, but felt that the elusive “best” one was still out there.  Then I saw a gorgeous, shining tree and figured I could go pluck a perfect leaf right off of it.

But once I was close enough to examine each leaf I saw that they were all flawed!  Every single one had brown spots or holes or tears or was half-dead already. 

And that is when I thought of the Church.  Here we are, all messed up and torn, blemished and spotted, desiring to be holy but still hole-y.  But somehow, when we’re all together, reaching toward Heaven as one, God transforms the mess of us into a radiant, glorious creation.

I looked at the top of the tree and saw some leaves were missing already.  A series of saints have preceded us to Heaven, Sandy Lawson being the most recent…  But the space they leave behind still contributes to the beauty of the tree and reminds us that this world is not our final destination.  The rest of us leaves will not be far behind.

A little while later I came upon a snake crossing the footpath.  After my heartrate had returned to normal and I stopped freaking out (no pictures of this part of the afternoon, don’t worry), I thought about how true it is that a Snake is still in our garden, prowling around.  He wants to whisper to the leaves that they don’t need to be part of a tree.  They don’t need each other, much less a faulty, hypocritical institution such as the church.

In this age we see an increase of “just Jesus and me” mentality, and a decrease in the commitment to church membership – and on the face of it, it’s no wonder.  Why would anyone want to attach themselves to a bunch of flawed and torn up folks?

But, the paradoxical truth remains that the most alive and vibrant I have ever felt (and I suspect I’m not alone in this) is when I find myself surrounded by the other leaves, raising our souls to our Savior.  Functioning as a living tree, whether in worship or in service or in coming together to mourn or celebrate, is when we truly are most glorious.

And we don’t have to look far to see what happens to leaves who decide to separate themselves from the tree…

I’ve been reading a book by Martin Lloyd-Jones and came to a very convicting passage recently.
Expounding on Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians to “Submit yourselves one to another,” he says,

“It is the whole that matters most and not the part…. Surely half the troubles today are due to the fact that we are too individualistic in our whole notion of salvation.  Thank God it is individual, as we must always emphasize; but we must not think of it individualistically.  People are always thinking of themselves and looking at themselves.  They come to the church of God to get something for themselves.  Let us try to get a true conception of the church, this great thing into which we have been put.  We are but little parts and members and portions; so let us think of the whole, not the part…. The moment a man begins to realize all these things he will be ready to forego his rights…. He will now be interested in the development and the advancement of the whole, of every other part also – his neighbor, and the one who is next to him, and so on.”  (From the book, Life in the Spirit, chapter 4)

So, Church, we are in this together.  Praise God that He takes these blemished leaves and puts us together in a way that can shine out to the world.  Let’s continue to consider the whole, not just our own rights and preferences, finding ways to build up the whole tree.  Then, Lord willing and enabling, we will stretch out our branches to praise Him, and provide shade and healing to the nations.

p.s. Dogwood Park also is home to another tree I love – I call it the Trinitarian tree:

It’s quite a spiritual place, this park!  Y’all should come check it out.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Colsen is 11!

ALL that Colsen wanted for his birthday this year was a pair of "waders" and a day to go fly fishing in the mountains with Dad.  I'm happy to report that he received both.

Despite having a fever the day before his birthday, he was able to enjoy a nice day off from school and some good food on his big day.  This year he requested an oreo cheesecake, tortellini with marinara sauce and pumpkin pancakes (for breakfast).  I am happy to report, once again, that all wishes were granted.

He also received some fishing gear, art supplies and a yo-yo from various family members, so all of his passions and loves were further fueled!

We love this earnest and determined young man who is both passionate and compassionate.  May your next year be full of God's abundant blessings, Cole-man!

Kiawah Getaway

Our Christmas gift from my parents this year was a weekend away sans kiddos, and we have been looking forward to it for a long time!  We ended up with a beautiful weekend -- with weather that could not have been better, and an amazing location, thanks to our travel agent neighbor who found us a great deal.

We spent most of the days walking on the beach, exploring the resort and riding bikes around the island.

One of the highlights was our (belated) anniversary dinner out at the Jasmine Porch restaurant. I was reluctant to go, but Pete seemed pretty excited about it, so we went.  And it ended up being my favorite dinner ever!  (I know, I know, I should trust Pete by now.)

The restaurant ended up giving us both free appetizers (fried green tomatoes with pimento cheese), and free desserts (coconut cake and pecan pie).  The food ended up being amazing- - Pete had the best shrimp and grits of his life, and I ended up ordering 3 sides: sweet and sour brussel sprouts, beets with yogurt and granola, and macaroni and cheese... all of which were the best dishes I've ever had in those categories.  (Wish I could have some more right now as I'm thinking about it!)

But the best part of the night was when this man, a perfect stranger, came over to talk to us because we were sitting at the same table he likes to sit at with his wife when they celebrate anniversaries there.  They live in Philadelphia, but like to vacation in Kiawah.  He showed us pictures of his wife and kids and we had a nice conversation.  THEN he came back a little while later and brought us flowers and gifts from the hotel gift shop!  Who does that??

 He also brought his friend over to meet us later.... by which point I think they were both rather inebriated.  They were a lot of fun and totally made our night.  :)

Then we got to ride our bikes back to our villa....   a perfect way to end a perfect evening.

The next night we went to a wine bar where they had all kinds of wine on tap and we were able to sample whatever we wanted.  Pretty fun!

 On our way home on Sunday we stopped at Howard and Alleyn's church near Charleston. It was so good to see Howard in his element there!  At the start of his sermon he called up 3 people to be part of an illustration -- including Pete.  Only Howard would think to include a first-time visitor in his sermon!  :)

We enjoyed a nice lunch with their family and were reminded how much we value those long-term friends.
And then.... it was back to reality here.  Pete got increasingly stressed the nearer we got to home, but I thought the re-entry wasn't nearly as bad as it's been in the past.  I do enjoy this stage of life!

But I REALLY enjoy lovely getaways with my husband.