Day 161: Reunited
"Look who's back?!!!" -- Katie
This is going to be very, very quick because I got to talk with Katie…I was at church until late…and I have to get rolling early in the morning. It's Round 2 of our back-to-back men's/women's retreat weekends.
I just wanted to say that I was very happy to get the picture Katie texted of her and Maybelline. I think it's great that you're all together again. Maybelline was a very good motivator through Virginia and a real Trail Angel/NYC Tour Guide. I hope and pray you are all able to spur each other on…to hike with abandon…and reach Katahdin soon! I'm going to go back to that familiar Bible passage from Ecclesiastes 4:9-10:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"
Enjoy the rest of your stay in Hanover…then get back at it! We need you home.
Day 162: No Writing
Preparing for men's retreat...
Day 163: Wilderness Experience
"I know I'm supposed to say something like, 'I feel so close to God' or something like that, but I can't. I feel lost and distant and unsure if we should even do this."
When Stephen Krieger said this Thursday night, I thought to myself, "He's in the perfect place to head out into the mission field!"
Listening to Stephen Krieger give his thoughts and feelings about he and Hillary (and their yet-to-be-born little baby) heading off to a 4-year missions trip to England was eye-opening and honest. He shared with an honesty that's rare in just about anywhere else--except Flatirons. Stephen didn't pull any punches when he told everyone in the room (most of whom were their financial supporters!) that he was scared…and doubtful…and feeling distant from God. You could see a lot in the room lean forward or shift awkwardly in their chairs.
I got goosebumps.
I couldn't help but think about the spiritual and emotional desert Stephen was in…and all those other desert or wilderness experiences God let people walk through in the Bible: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah…and Jesus. There almost seems to be a pattern in how God sends people into the wilderness before He does something big or amazing with them. Moses led the Israelites for 40 years in the desert…living off of daily provisions from God…until they finally entered the Promise Land and became a sovereign nation. David ran for his life into the wilderness…living a very hard life in caves, climbing like a mountain goat…and eventually came back to civilization and took the throne as king of Israel. And even Jesus went off to the desert…for forty days and forty nights…without food or water…and then started His ministry and changed the world.
Listening to Stephen Thursday got me very excited about what God has in store for the Kriegers next. I have so much hope for them because I firmly believe that God is allowing him to walk through this spiritual desert in preparation for the big and amazing things He's got in store for them next. Driving home that night…I thought of you two…and the wilderness you've been walking through since April…wondering what big and amazing things God has in store for YOU next! Will you come back to your Promise Land? Will you establish your own kingdom and live out your lives as a couple "after His own heart"? (1 Samuel 13:14)
Only God knows…and all I know is that it will be big and amazing!
Day 164: Echoes
His voice echoed across the hills surrounding the gymnasium and hot tub. I was walking down the road that led from the guest house I was staying at for men's retreat and the center of Crooked Creek Ranch in Fraser, CO. I was too far away to recognize him, but he looked like he was in his mid-40s. It was near the end of Free Time and this man and his buddy were just lounging in the hot tub in the 78 degree sun at 9,000 feet altitude. The water in the hot tub and the hillside that wrapped around it made it acoustically perfect. He sounded like he was right next to me:
"Yeah. My dad never hugged me or showed any affection. Never. Never told me he loved me, either. STILL hasn't! I don't know. I guess it's the way it's always gonna be."
This guy said it with little, to no, emotion. No pain. No anger, just a simple statement. Like he was telling his buddy what he had for lunch that day. It made me sad. I thought to myself, "Who doesn't tell their kids 'I love you'? And what kind of dad doesn't hug his son? But the truth is, there's a lot of them out there. Lots of them end up in my office…and sitting in the hot tub at men's retreat. A lot of them hide the wounds and scars left by their fathers; scars of abuse, passivity or neglect. I spent the weekend at Crooked Creek again with 500 men from Flatirons for our fall installment of the ROYAL Men's Retreat…and lots of these men fit into that category; hurt and wounded by their fathers.
The great thing about this weekend: I got to see a lot of those men learn that they have a Father…One that loves them…and has given them a portion of His kingdom. They got to hear how God can help them love with a whole heart…with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27) and how to deal with the pain and anger left by their fathers. Ephesians 6:4 reads:
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."
There's a reason Paul only speaks to fathers here; only fathers can wound and hurt (exasperate) their children this deeply. A father is supposed to love and protect his kids and when he doesn't…through abuse, passivity or neglect…he hurts them deeply and they end up carrying that burden for years…until God is allowed to lift that burden and heal them.
I got to see and hear that healing last night…under a clear sky littered with a billion stars…standing by a raging fire…as man-after-man threw his past into the flames and chucked his burden into an abyss of darkness. And as each man ended this ritual…the other 500 bellowed into the cold night air a howl of, "Aaahoo!" that echoed like nothing I'd ever heard before. Over and over again. Over 500 times…500 men's voices…all in unison, "Aaahoo! Aaahoo! Aaahoo! Aaahoo!……"
The echo of our voices shook the night.
It was powerful. And maybe God was able to use that raging fire…and those burdens flung into the night…to finally bring peace to a lot of exasperated hearts. And maybe the echoes of our "Aaahoo!Aaahoo! Aaahoo!…" were able to devour the echo from the hot tub earlier that day…and all the other voices and lies that have echoed inside those mens heads for years.
(Watch the ROYAL Men's Retreat wrap-up video at: www.flatironschurch.com/mens)
Day 165: The Depths of the Sea
So, I can't help it. My mind's still working through all the stuff that happened this past weekend at men's retreat. My head is cluttered with all the great conversations…and meetings…and experiences I was able to witness. And I keep wondering about ALL the other stuff I never saw…or will ever see; things that only God is privy to.
There's a lot of personal stuff that I can never share, but there's one that I can…and that I want to share. Here goes:
We've been very careful not to tell folks about what goes on at the ROYAL men's and women's retreats because we did back-to-back men's and women's in the spring…and we're repeating the exact same thing here in the fall. We didn't want to let any of the teachings and experiences out in the spring…and possibly ruin the experience for men and women in the fall. But I'm safe now. By the time anyone else reads this on my men's blog…both fall retreats will be over. And I think I'm safe in telling you…over 1,200 miles from home.
A big part of this weekend revolved around the burdens each of us carry; burdens of sin, shame, regret, abuse, and so on. To emphasize this, each man this past weekend (and woman this coming weekend) was given a cloth backpack…one of those simple canvas tote bags with the strings you can carry on your back. They were told to take the bag, then to pick out a large rock from a pile..put it in the cloth backpack…and wear it…at all times…until you were given instructions to take it off. That was first thing Friday night. On Saturday morning, Jim told the men to write on strips of paper the junk and names and lies the men have been told…or believed about themselves…and to put those things in the bag. I won't get into the rest, but suffice to say, they were able to deal with those stone burdens…and those strips of paper filled with lies…in a powerful way.
But the thing is…some of those men didn't write on paper. They wrote on the stones themselves…and on Sunday…after ridding themselves of those rocks on Saturday night…they were given a rock back and told it had changed. It was different now; no longer a burden, but a rock to build a SOLID foundation on (Matthew 7:24-27). Well, we couldn't give anyone one of the rocks that were written on, so I took all those and went to get rid of them.
First of all, looking at those rocks was like coming across someone's diary or journal. They were all anonymous, but it still felt like I was invading someone's privacy. I didn't read them all, but what I could see was heartbreaking. The things that some of those men think about themselves…or the lies they've been told…sank in my heart…like the rock itself.
And that's when I got the idea of how I was going to dispose of them.
I couldn't just chuck them over a hill. Someone may come across it…and once again (like I did) invade an anonymous privacy. So I loaded them up in one of the camp's mini-trucks and drove to the pond at the front of the camp property. Then, one-by-one I took those stones…and those lies…and those names…and threw them in the water. Each of those "burdens"…about 10 in all…and sunk them in the pond. It felt great! I know I've already shared Galatians 6:2 with you before, but it's the verse that was in my head as I threw each of those rocks into the pond:
"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
I stood at that pond and was overcome by the honor I had that morning. I was not only carrying someone else's burden…I was helping them get rid of it…for good…burying it underwater…never to be seen again. And I thought about the promise we have in Jesus…and how God deals with our sin the same way when we put our trust in Him where we're told:
"You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19)
What do people do without that hope?
Day 166: Wild Places
Tomorrow we get to go to the mountains.
I know you've been in the mountains for most of the last 5 1/2 months, but not us. Tomorrow Jim and I are taking Jonah and Emery up to the property. I think Jim needs to check the progress on the installation of his road or something. He told me that he was taking Jonah up there with him and asked if I wanted to get Em and join them. Of course, the answer was "Yes!" I can't wait! Em LOVES being in the wild…and playing in the creek…and throwing "Big Wocks" into the stream. Ali promised to send the bug spray with her. Emery's still got the remnants of the bug bites from July 4th weekend.
(Emery and her hiking pack)
Katie, Emery reminds me so much of you at that age. She's fearless and adventurous when it comes to being in the wild. I love that we get to indoctrinate her at such an early age…like Mom and I did with you, Katie…with all those camping trips to Eisenhower State Park in Texas. You seemed to be covered in perpetual mosquito bites through most of the summer when you were growing up. Then, as you moved into high school and out of school…you went camping with your friends on your own. What would have happened if we never took you camping or let you experience the wilderness? It makes me sad--thinking of all those girly-girls who are afraid of bugs and wildlife and being outdoors. Katie, I love that you love nature and hiking…and even love the two skunks that invaded the shelter you, Maybelline and Kismet stayed in the other night after taking Maybelline to the hospital for her allergic reaction to peaches. Wow. Anyway, most women (your mother included) would have cashed it in a LONG time ago…way before the skunk invasion.
I have a strong feeling Em is going to be one of those girls who thrives in the woods and the wild places…and I can't wait until you get home and help her learn some more. Until then, she gets to go with her Grampa, her Pop Pop, and her cousin Jonah to build on her lifetime of loving the outdoors.
"He (God) makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work. (Psalm 104:10-13)
By the way, Katie. Thanks for the picture of you on top of Mt. Moosilauke…and especially for the note:
"360 miles to go!"
We're down to days...
Day 167: Peanut
"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals." (Psalm 36:5-6)
We're getting ready to leave to head to Indiana and Ohio. I've had this trip on my calendar since early spring. When I was asked by Scott Hundley to come up to his church to speak I thought, "That would be great! Katie and Nick will be back from hiking the AT and they can house-sit and watch Peanut." Now, 6 months later…things look a little different than we expected. Mom and I are still heading north, but you two aren't here, so Peanut's off to the farm! My new admin Carleen and husband John have graciously agreed to take Peanut while we're gone. We couldn't be more grateful…but Mom is worried. Tonight she said, "I'm afraid Peanut's going to make John and Carleen's life miserable while we're gone…she's SO neurotic…and it's my fault!" I can't disagree. Mom has coddled that dog to the point of excess…and now…all we have is a Jack Russell who is spoiled beyond ALL compare. Her only saving grace is that she can be SO cute.
(Katie and Peanut, circa 2010)
I never thought Peanut would live this long. 12 years ago…I thought I would have killed her by now.
I love dogs. I always have. Nana and Papa were from a different generation. Papa grew up on a farm…where dogs lived outside and had a purpose; usually for protection and detection. The first dog I remember was Duchess…Papa's collie that he had as a kid. I remember visiting my Grandpa and Grandma Foote's farm and riding Duchess like a horse. I was probably 3 years old, but I still remember the sweet smell of her fur as I clutched the hair around her neck…as Papa steadied me and Duchess walked around the yard in front of the farmhouse. She was so sweet and gentle and looked exactly like Lassie from TV.
The next dog I remember was Snoopy. I think Uncle Dave and I whined and complained enough that Nana and Papa let us get Snoopy. He was a little black , long haired mutt. I think he was a cross between a schnauzer and a rat. I was in 2nd grade when we got him and never really established a connection with him. It's hard to bond with a dog when he has to stay outside. It was also hard taking care of Snoopy and he became destructive (digging in the yard) and nipping at everyone. Eventually, Snoopy went to "stay" at Grandpa Foote's farm. Shortly after he left our home we went and visited. I was looking forward to seeing Snoopy again, but when we got to the farm…I was told he ran away. It took a few years before I put the pieces together and realized that "staying at the farm" and he "ran away" were euphemisms for a .22 caliber to the head.
We had Spatz the Cat for a long while. He was a good cat (if there IS such a thing), but he was no dog. Spatz died of old age 2 weeks before I left for college.
Mom and I foolishly took home a beagle we named "Ed the Pup" when we were about 6 months into our first year of marriage. It was stupid. We both worked and the last thing you can do is keep a puppy cooped up in a 2 bedroom apartment all day while you're off at work. We had Ed for 3 days before he was quickly adopted at the pound. I thought that was it for us and dogs…until Ella.
We got Ella when Katie was about 2 years old. She was the sweetest, most obedient dog--as most yellow labs are. We had Ella for 12 years. Katie never remembers life without a dog…and I've always said, "The hardest things I've ever had to do is drop Ben off at college…and put Ella down." The two of those happened within about a year.
Peanut came into our lives the Christmas of 2002. Katie was in middle school and one night, on the way home from youth group, she said she wanted a puppy for Christmas. I looked over at her in the passenger seat. In the dark driving home…lit only by the streetlights on Bethany Road…Katie looked like a little lady, not a little girl. I knew, soon, she would be too big for puppies and Christmas Wish Lists…so we got her a puppy. We had just watched "My Dog Skip" on video and I thought, "That's a cute dog. I'll look for one of those." I didn't do the research. All I did was find a breeder…buy her…and put a ribbon around her neck on Christmas morning. It was one of our best Christmases ever!
Then we went through Hell.
Who knew that Jack Russell's are one of the hardest dogs to train; big dogs in tiny, little bodies…pushing their owner/trainers to the brink. About 9 months after Peanut entered our home…I thought for sure I would do her in and bury her in a shallow grave in the backyard. I didn't…and slowly…she won my heart. Now, almost 13 years later…she has been pampered and spoiled to the point where we feel like we can't send her to anyone else…but you two. She loves you two like no other…except for Mom.
Peanut's old now…and requires a lot more care and attention than she did as a puppy. I know she'll eventually do well at John and Carleen's, but really…she needs to have you back too. Like the rest of us, she misses you. They say that dogs have a 200 word vocabulary…and "Katie" and "Nick" are part of Peanut's. The truth is…Peanut is an "acquired taste" and as she's aged…her circle of friends has grown smaller. It's like the quote from Josh Billings:
"A puppy plays with every pup he meets, but an old dog has few associates."
Other than Gertie and us…Peanut's friends are few. I've written this before…and I'll keep writing it until you are back in Colorado: Hurry home. There are lots of people…and one funny, pain-in-the-rear doggie who need you home.
Day 168: Patience
I had little, to no, patience today. I'm not sure why.
It was another crazy day, but really, no crazier than any other day. I was scrambling around trying to get everything done that needed to be done before Mom and I headed to Indiana and Ohio. Really, today was no different than any other Thursday. Still, I was frustrated in traffic...impatient in meetings...and in my head, angry.
I left the office late...in a cloud.
I drove home in silence. I'm still sticking with my "media fast" in my truck as I drive to and from places. I've been enjoying the quiet...and as I already wrote you...I'm hearing God's whisper again. But the inner anger and impatience today blocked any whispers. All I had in my head were waves and waves of turmoil.
I was I could pinpoint what it was. I also wish I had a quick fix or antidote for it.
And all I can do is try to give it to God, but something in me wants to keep it...to hold on to it...to wallow in it. Something in me wants this anger to last...to fester...and grow.
I'm glad the Bible tells me God doesn't handle His anger the same way.
"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)
Sorry. That's not very encouraging or insightful tonight...but it's honest.
Day 169: No Writing
Traveling to Indiana...
Day 170: In God's Hands
"It's in God's hands now. We're not going to stress about it. If we finish in time, we finish. If not, we don't...but we're not going to get all stressed about it." (Katie, on the phone, Saturday, September 18, 2015)
Katie, hearing you on the phone today made my heart ache. Knowing that you two have been pushing yourselves the way you have been; hiking farther than you should have, pushing yourselves to the point of possibly hurting yourselves and then, running out of food...it made me hurt for you.
I know I've written this before, but I want to write it again: this is your hike. I want you to do this for yourselves...for Nick and Katie. Not for Mom and me or Ben and Ali or Em and Micah (Okay...maybe a little for Em and Micah. Kidding.). When you told us the guy in the hostel said you hiked DOUBLE what most people do through that area it made me worry like I haven't worried for you before. So PLEASE take care of yourselves...and don't stress out over finishing before the weather hits Mt. Katahdin. Katie, you said it best, "It's all in God's hands now." That's true, but I want to remind you: It's been in God's hands from the start...it's been in His hands all along.
"But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand..." (Psalm 31:14-15)
Your time is in God's hand...and that's a safe and peaceful place to stay. Carry that home. It will do you both well the rest of your lives.
(Nick and Katie summiting Mt. Washington in New Hampshire)
Day 171: Dominos
"…God designed us to be transformed primarily inside a community. There is no such thing as a personal relationship with God. Although you are a person and can relate WITH God without anyone around, you are NOT designed to grow by yourself." (Author Hugh Halter, "Flesh")
God continues to surprise me on this journey in ministry through Flatirons.
There have been so many connections to the past that have intertwined here in Columbus, IN. First of all, it starts with Scott Hundley. As I said when I spoke at Community Church of Columbus (where Scott's on staff leading their counseling and community ministries), I've known Scott longer than I've known Mom--by 3 days! Scott became friends with Tom Brunsman during their freshman year at Milligan College. I met Scott the next year in 1979...3 days before I met Mom.
So...Tom and I were best friends growing up...and he became friends with Scott Hundley at Milligan. Like dominos, one friendship tips and bumps into another...then that domino falls and so on: Me-to-Tom-to-Scott...and back to me.
Then, 3 days after Scott and I bumped into each other...I met Mom in the lobby at Hart Hall where a few folks had thrown her a birthday party. Victor Hull and I only went because we heard there would be cake. Then, as we stepped into Hart Hall...I saw Mom. I saw how cute she was...and the next thing I knew...I was sitting across from her...eating Oreos from the care package Nana had sent me. We sat and talked and ate Oreos and drank milk. I knew then...I was falling in love.
And another domino fell...
That's the way life is...we're all just dominos tipping...falling into each other...causing a chain reaction of relationship. Being in Columbus, IN only highlighted this. 36 years later, Scott and I are still friends. We're both overseeing he same ministry at our respective churches...and while I was at Community Church of Columbus the dominos represented were:
1) Scott, my friend of over 36 years
2) Mom, my wife of over 34 years...whom I've known for 3 days less than Scott
3) Scott's wife Penny...and Gracie, their funny, engaging daughter
4) Duane Helmick, a kind and gentle man who managed Stony Glen Camp. Stony Glen is literally a mile down the road from where I grew up! I graduated with his daughter Tammy and had NO idea he was a member of Scott's church! Serendipitous!
5) Tommy Oakes, the campus pastor at East Tennessee State University while I was at Milligan. Tommy is the campus pastor who told the Chronicles of Narnia story about Aslan the Lion (the Christ figure in the series) "un-dragoning" the boy. Jim Burgen was there that Sunday...and God used that story to change his life. That's the story that thrust Jim into a reconnection with Jesus...and thrust him into ministry.
Dominos. One bumping into another, then another...
I know this is happening to you out there on the AT...as it already has in your lives. One of the great blessings of getting older is being able to look back over time and seeing the trails...the paths those dominos have taken. We get the wide angle view and we get to see the patterns our relational domino trails have led. You don't get to see it in process, but it's beautiful in hindsight.
You are down to days now. You are almost done. And this journey you've been on...this trail you have taken...there's no telling where those dominos will lead...what relationships will be effected...and the lives that will be changed or re-charted from having bumped into you two. But it's exciting to think about, isn't it?
"Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways." (Proverbs 4:26)
Day 172: No Writing
Driving to Louisville, KY...
Day 173: Uncle Buzz
I found the envelope as I pulled our suitcases out of the trunk of our rental car.
We got into Nana and Papa's late in the afternoon and immediately went to meet Uncle Dave and Aunt Sue at their favorite Chinese restaurant in town. As usual, the night was filled with stories and laughter and teasing. We all ended up back at Nana and Papa's for homemade oatmeal cookies and ice cream. I'm going to pay for this trip! I started the day at Uncle Buzz and Jerri's with her homemade bran muffins, then...I HAD to get Skyline Chili for lunch (a 3-way chili and 2 coney dogs...and Tums around rush hour in Columbus, OH).
It was late by the time Uncle Dave and Aunt Sue headed for home. Dave helped me pull the suitcases out of the trunk. That's when I saw the envelope. It was sealed. There was nothing written on the front. I opened it and read the folded note inside. It read:
"Bring the Hikers Home Fund"
Enclosed with the note were 2 crisp $100 bills. Uncle Buzz had slipped it under my suitcase as we packed up to leave Louisville in the morning.
I've always said, "He's the nice one." Uncle Buzz is the most kind and caring of the four of us, your uncles and me. He's always been that way. As the youngest of the four Foote brothers, Buzz/Darren had to endure the jockeying and jostling for attention that comes from a busy household with 3 older brothers. He had to patiently endure the backseat in life...until one-by-one...each of us moved out and moved on. It left him with a thoughtful, caring spirit...a deep well of understanding...and an almost immeasurable gift of patience. He always seems to be looking out for others.
And he's looking out for you. He's given you $200 to help work out a plan to get you home. I know you're not going to push things and stress yourselves out...but can we try and target your "re-entry"?
Uncle Buzz wants to help you land safely.
"...do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4)
Day 174: Memory Lane
"By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." (Proverbs 24:3-4)
Our tour started by driving south to Chardon. There were a lot of houses on our list. It began with:
1) Tilden Ave. Chardon, OH
This is where a slate-grey 2-story house surrounded by 100 year old Maple trees is located. Mom and I first moved in there in 1981 after we got married. During our first year of marriage we lived in the upstairs apartment. We were newlyweds. The rent was $220.00 a month and the 2 bedroom place looked and felt like you were living in a tree fort.
(117 Tilden Ave., Chardon, Ohio)
The next year we moved downstairs to the 2 bedroom apartment below (because it had a basement and we could get a washer and dryer). This is where Ben was conceived and born. Mom and I loved that place on Tilden Ave., but it was very cramped.
Nana and Papa stepped in and helped us by purchasing a house on...
2) Chapel Rd. Madison, OH
This is where we lived for 2 years before moving to New Jersey. We rented it from Nana and Papa. Ben was a one year old when we moved in...and a little over two when we packed up and said goodbye to Ohio...and hello to New Jersey. I had a hard time living in the Madison house, I don't know why. Maybe it was because we were renting from my parents and I didn't feel like Mom and I were completely on our own...maybe it was because the house was in my hometown...or maybe it was simply a restless spirit that God used to move us where He wanted us to go: New Jersey to Texas to Colorado.
Next stop on our list of Madison homes was...
3) Montrose Ave.
My first memories are in this house. It's the home we lived in when I was born in 1960. It's the home we lived in when Uncle Doug was born on November 23, 1963...the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX.
One of my earliest memories was the day they brought Doug home from the hospital. It was a dark day for me, not because of JFK's murder, but because I lost my position as baby in the family. I remember watching Kennedy's flag-draped caisson moving through the streets of DC on our black and white TV...as my parents and grandparents passed this newborn, little interloper around--cooing and "ooo-ing" at him the whole time. It was the first time I felt hatred.
I came to love him...eventually...but not that day. That day...I was mourning with the rest of America...but for other, more selfish, reasons.
Nana, Papa and Mom and I continued to drive around Madison...driving past as many of my former family homes as we could before meeting Uncle Dave, Aunt Sue and the rest of their clan for dinner.
We went past the house on Whitewood Dr. where we lived when I was in 5th grade. It will forever be the place I learned that my Grandma Foote was killed in a car wreck.
We drove past the house on Shore Dr. where Uncle Buzz was born...and the house on Trinity Rd.--the place we rented while we built the home where Nana and Papa live today. We didn't get to them all. I still wanted to see the house on Town Line Rd. and our home on Atwater Dr.
Today was a trip down Memory Lane. Some of those memories are good and some bad. My heart and head were tossed back and forth by them both. I know that right now...the home you live in is being carried on Nick's back. But someday...you will do the same thing we did today; you will re-trace where you once lived a portion of life. I know that will include a visit to Texas to reclaim memories. I also know you will need to revisit parts of the Appalachian Trail too.
I see another grand hike in your very distant future.
Day 175: Joy to the World
Okay. Brace yourselves and don't be jealous: We drove into Cleveland today and went to The Christmas Story house!
(The Christmas Story house, Cleveland, Ohio)
Yes! THE house! The house where Ralphie and Randy, The Old Man, and Scut Farkus all came to life with classic holiday film lines like, "You'll shoot yer eye out"..."Sons a'b#%&@n' Bumpus hounds!" and "I triple-dog dare you!" It was everything I wished it would be! Someday, you two need to visit. It's worth every penny of the $10 admission.
All the exterior house shots from the movie...and a handful of interior shots...were filmed at this house in Cleveland. The rest of that wonderful Christmas gem was filmed in Toronto, Canada. The house in Cleveland is a museum to the film and has been completely restored to it's original 1983 glory. Our tour guide informed us that the owner of the museum also gutted the interior of the house and painstakingly recreated the inside to match the movie sets filmed in Canada. It was amazing! It was like we were in the film...you could almost smell the boiled cabbage from the kitchen.
Our tour guide, Frank, encouraged us to have as much fun as we could on the tour. He said we could take as many pictures as we wanted...climb under the sink like Randy does when he thinks The Old Man is going to kill Ralphie (Mom did!)...and put on the stocking caps, elf hats and "pink nightmare" bunny costume (I did!) Frank also told us we could fondle the infamous "major award" (the racy leg lamp) in the front window, too.
(The "major award"…)
It was a blast! The only thing missing was you two.
Katie, I never thought anyone could love Christmas movies more than me, but you take the cake! And The Christmas Story is one of our favorites. It's been on our yearly list of must-see Christmas movies for at least 20 years.
As we walked around the back of the house...where Ralphie almost "shoots his eye out" at the end of the movie...I got a twinge of the Christmas spirit. The temperature had nothing to do with it. It was almost 80 degrees. It was the realization that you two will be home in about 15-20 days. After being separated for months and months...15 days is nothing! And soon (in fewer days than it's been since I saw you in Virginia back in June) we will be sitting in our living room...eating and drinking something festive...and relishing the adventures of the Parker family from The Christmas Story once again! Just one of the many, many reasons to be thankful this year.
Joy to the world!
"And the angel said unto them, 'Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people'..." (Luke 2:10)
Day 176: The Glue of Imperfection
"We don't think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can't accept their imperfections can't accept grace either." -- Donald Miller from Scary Close
It's been a good week. There have been some hard parts, but mostly...it's been good.
It's been 3 years since I've been back in Nana and Papa's home. Like Nana and Papa themselves, the place is the same...only older and a little weathered. The good parts of the week have been all the long conversations...the laughter...the food and the slow pace of life here. Mom and I really needed this. We needed to slow down.
(Papa and me on the square in Chardon, Ohio)
I needed to mend some fences. I needed to spend some time with Nana and Papa and really show them I love them. I know that they know I love them...but I really needed to show them. Their "love language" is obviously quality time and Mom and I haven't been able to spend much time with them over the last couple of years...especially time in Ohio with them. So that's about all we've done since arriving Tuesday: Quality time. And it's been good. I need to do the same with you. I need quality time with you two too. I need the length and breadth of time with you.
The hard parts from this week have been mostly self-imposed. Being back home always dredges up old ghosts and memories of where a lot of my wounds and scars first originated. If I let them...the ghosts will scare off any chance of real healing. They haunt me from the dark corners of my memory banks; reminding me of mistakes long past and...urging me to be graceless about imperfections...not only my own, but the imperfections of others, too.
Mom started reading Donald Miller's book Scary Close out loud as drove on Monday. The quote above was VERY convicting. It stuck with me all day Monday.
It hasn't left me.
That conviction was really digging into to me today. I need grace...and I need to give it. My biggest problem is that I show the least amount of grace to the ones I am closest to...starting with myself...and moving out in concentric circles. Mom has experienced this the most. I hate the fact that even though I know I am DEEPLY flawed...I won't give myself grace...and I'm SO quick-on-the-draw to point out the flaws of everyone else. I'm really, really trying to do better while I'm here in Ohio. Who knows when I'll be back and when (or if) I'll be able to see everyone here again?
Family; we are stuck with each other...
We are bound by our flaws...
We are glued together by our imperfections and I really want to lead out with grace.
More importantly, though...this time...I really NEED to leave with grace.
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Day 177: Sunset
The sun sets too quickly.
Mom and I are already headed home to Colorado. I'm writing this from the plane...watching the sun set in the west. It's an amazingly beautiful metaphor; the sun...like our time in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio...is over too quickly.
I'm guessing that mankind has probably always likened life to the seasons and the daily cycle; sunrise-to-morning-to-noon-to-dusk-to-dark. All of it...over too quickly.
Watching the sun set...in its brilliant array of reds, oranges, pinks and blues...only emphasizes what I've been feeling all day. I've been thinking about (and probably obsessing about) the passage of time. It always happens when I go back to Ohio. Every corner of Nana and Papa's house...every road in Madison...and every landscape is filled with memories. And the memories (like my reading glasses) only bring the reality of time's passing into better view.
Nana and Papa are at the twilight of their lives. They wear their age in a more profound way than they did the last time we were together. Being at their home this week brought back memories of the noonday and afternoon of their lives. We lived those days together in-and-around the town they still live. Driving by the various houses we lived at in Madison...and the schools I attended...and the places I worked...made me think of Nana and Papa during those times from our past. Their bodies were stronger...their eyes clearer...and their hair more youthful.
But it's twilight now for Nana and Papa and...like the sun setting out my window...it's beautifully sad. The sun sets too quickly.
The truth is...I can see dusk on my horizon. Standing in the bathroom getting ready this morning I looked in the mirror. It's the same mirror from my childhood, growing up there. I've stood in front of that mirror over the last 40+ years. Through puberty...and high school...and college...and right up until today. From morning to noon to afternoon...and now...I can see dusk.
Dusk is on the horizon. It's beautiful...colored with a palette of a life well-lived with Mom...with you two, and Ben and Ali, and Emery and Micah; children and grandchildren I love and love to spend time with.
Still, I can't help it. As happy and as blessed as I feel...I'm sad. It all goes by too quickly. You guys, and Ben and Ali, are in the late morning...and almost high noon...of your lives. And soon, you'll be looking and feeling the same way about Mom and I as I do about Nana and Papa.
Enjoy the day.
"This is the day The Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)
Day 178: Heart Change
"…'God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.' When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?' Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:36-39)
I love Baptism Weekend at Flatirons.
I wasn't able to help with the baptisms last night, but was able to be there for both services today. It was an amazing time of laughter, tears and celebration. I was at one of the tubs with my new admin Carleen Burch…and stood to the side as Carleen and her daughter Savannah baptized Hunter, Savannah's son and Carleen's grandson. It was very moving and reminded me of the Sunday Nick was baptized at Flatirons. Having Katie and Ben there that Sunday at the tub made baptizing Nick even more special.
I will be forever grateful that I had the privilege of baptizing my kids: Ben, Katie and Nick (Ali was baptized by Jim…which is as it should be). It's a major step…a major event…when someone makes that decision to turn their life over to Jesus. There were multiple times this morning where I looked someone in the eyes and asked them, "Do you believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior?" The responses varied. Some were joyous yeses…and some were tearful, grateful affirmations…some almost too filled with emotion to hear.
It's not like it's magic water. It's an inflatable pool filled from a garden hose. But the transformation we see as people come out of the water makes you wonder. That's what a major heart change does; it transforms you…inside and out. That's what happens when Jesus is allowed into someone's heart. It does drastic things. Some you get to see from the outside like, the soaking wet smiles and celebrations at the tubs. Or the vices left behind…the drinking, the drugs, the sexual sin cast off in the water.
Some of the other changes that occur are a little harder to see…but no less significant. I have a feeling it'll be the same with you two when you return. I'm sure we'll see a lot of the exterior changes immediately (i.e., healthy complexions, toned bodies, etc.). The other changes…are probably going to be the kind of changes that will take years to see the results, maybe even a lifetime.
I sure hope I'm there for that too.