Now It’s Already Autumn: An Update on This Year

2015 has flown.  Our first frost hit a few nights ago, the geese have long since gone South and the space heater has made it’s debut in my office. Sure signs. Not ready! I think. Even though it’s clear, golden-lit and perfect out there, I’m still not ready.

In the Winter

I’m tempted to say that there are worse things than long winters, but I can’t really think of many. I lived in New England 14 years and didn’t garner the stoic Yankee hardiness. If I ever had it, I lost it en-route to college in Virginia. It seems to me one should draw the line when your damp hair crystallizes and drops snowflakes on your feet. Thank goodness the snow is fluffy here, the winters aren’t Siberian and the sun shines a lot.

Here it was, warm enough to explore downtown Denver without feeling like an icicle. To the right, the wintry view from upstairs.

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 Luke took on a worship pastor position within the church community we had been attending. When I say he took on this position- I mean he took on this position. Music and sound revamped, musicians nurtured, lyrics and theology explored. Rehearsal action-shot below. Keep in mind this is after we were practicing for weeks in our basement. Long story, but suffice it to say our basement looked like this for a good few months

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Worship rehearsal in our worship space

I also continue to work hard doing clinical care management for Rocky Mountain Health Plan and Beacon Health Options.  This is an administrative role and requires a  bird’s eye view of the mental health issues that affect our families, communities and nation.  The mental health and substance abuse crisis is just that- a C-R-I-S-I-S and we need resources: infrastructure, education, programming instead of psychiatric hospital visits. The question of the church’s role and mine in it continues to dog at me. There are suicide attempts, failing marriages, profound insecurities, lifetimes of addiction and in our apathy and ignorance we, (albeit inadvertently) convey that the Gospel can’t handle it.  If Christian community  doesn’t become a hallowed and formative place of Truth and Restoration, than what is? Church should be a lifeline. On a lighter note:  I get to work from home and my office is purple.  Additionally, I love horses especially after living in Kentucky and wanted to place her (see below) downstairs in an…er…more prominent space. Luke is usually really generous with paint, throw pillows and trinkets but he said the crimped horse hair was just too much. So, my sister and I named her Misty and that was that.

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“Misty” The Office Horse

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Katie, Me, Ellie, Emily, Jenny, Jeff, Grace, Abby, John, Jimmy, Michael, Carly and Brian. Fun Fact: We actually write and sing songs at each family reunion.

Also in this season, we lost my grandfather, “Opie” after a long battle with cancer. He truly left a legacy in my life and those of my cousins– from our storybook summers at our family cottage, to our handmade cousin songs. We love him. This photo was taken days after the funeral in Greenville, Delaware, there are 13 cousins, total.

All the while, days keep going. In milestone times like these- times of great loss, sadness it seems like the clock should stop, but the sun keeps rising and setting and I continue to think of my Nanny doing life anew after all these years. She keeps on keeping on. If you think of my Nanny, still pray for her and this new and hard balance of things.

In the Spring

In March I got do see my dear friend, Sarah and her adorable sidekick, Lilah.

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I’m pretty sure I could talk to Sarah for 36 hours. We talk about all the things that matter and when we can’t find any more soul-speaking, life-giving, kingdom-come kind of topics, well, she just makes me laugh. We got to pray together, eat french toast and get stuck in the snow. It was perfect. Sarah has an extraordinary capacity to be present to my life. She cares for me and challenges me. I love her, so.

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You’ll notice Sarah and I are both in cozy clothes. In general, that was just a cozy weekend.  However, it was also MARCH, and wouldn’t stop snowing. (I know, I know welcome to Colorado). We thought the snow was just an opportunity for us to be EXTRA snug, but I didn’t like it much after she was gone.  Every so often that March, the day would break into this (random), so we’d try and scoot out for a hike:

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After the snow, spring kept coming at us with buckets of rain. The limey green grass and the damp mountain air still, completely irresistible. Coloradans said: “This is the rainiest spring!” But, we made it work like everyone else. Was it John Muir who said: “The mountains are calling….” ?

Cliche, I know.

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In April, we celebrated four years by staring up at the Collegiate Peaks in Buena Vista and soaking in the hot springs.

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I’d never been to a hot spring and couldn’t get over the way the RIVER felt exactly like a Jacuzzi but it was a flowing RIVER…with rocks and sand and gravely matter.  Say whaaaat? And here we are:

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For our anniversary, Luke didn’t really do anything that major. He just  built a deck and a front porch…

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Freshly built front porch rail

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Back Deck Construction

Then, my mom arrived! It was lovely to have her in our home. Also really special for the three of us- my mom, sister and myself to spend time together.

My mom bought us rocking chairs to sit on our newly built front porch. It makes me feel colonial and who doesn’t want to feel colonial, right? If you had these rocking chairs and the noonday sun you might want to feel colonial, too.

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The ground stayed muddy BUT Ashley’s baby boy was getting ready to make his big debut, so we bought tulips, cut out pastel elephants and indulged in chicken salad and cake pops. All parties should include crafts, flowers and cake pops.

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May 2015

Cozy community in our living room, reminded me of my sweet friend Faith and the baby shower we had at our house in Wilmore, last year.

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Wilmore, KY 2/2014

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Colo Spgs, 5/2015

For Ashley, elephants, for Faith, pink hearts. I miss Wilmore. In these full-house, full-heart moments I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and the way even snippets of community in different seasons have been the presence of Christ to me.

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And, then, in that way that baby-to-be’s always do, in June, Ashley and Erik’s baby came.

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Speaking of community, it has been a gift to live life closer to family. Between my sister in the Springs, my aunt and uncle in Denver and Luke’s parents, sisters, nieces and nephews spread out over Colorado we’re now able to ask: “Hey, what are you guys doing this weekend?”

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Em on her birthday, in April of this year

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As you can see, I haven’t mastered the selfie. However, have enjoyed seeing new places with my sis. Here we are at Red Rock Open Space

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Luke’s with his grandparents. Grandad 100, Grandmother 98. 80 years of marriage!

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Luke teaching his niece guitar at Easter

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Me with Luke’s sisters and his mom. Love all these ladies!

In the Summer

The summer began with Luke’s beard reaching record lengths, so we decided to drive to Canada.

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No joke:  Luke, Luke’s beard, myself and Aja started off the summer by driving 36 hours to British Columbia. Our van is a lady of LEISURE y’all, and she took care of us. We loved Missoula, Montana, Sheridan, Wyoming and some great rocky, piney stretches Idaho. My dad was turning the big 6-0 and British Columbia is beautiful so we took on the Wild West. The celebration was grand complete with trips to Victoria, the Butchart Gardens, Vancouver and the seashore. I love the mountains and also miss the ocean– its treasury of seashells, hidden tide-pools and salty breeze.

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Happy birthday, Dad!

Also in June, Luke had the privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony for and old and dear friend, Bobby and his lovely wife, Michelle.

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Aja was supposed to be the ring-bearer.  As much as I’m convinced that Aja is actually a human wearing a dog-outfit, we really did ask Bobby if he was totally, 100% sure he wanted our girl to walk the ring down the aisle.  Bobby and Aja go way back, so he said he was sure. However, the Estes Park rangers told us there weren’t dogs allowed in the  park. “Parking lot only for dogs,” Ranger said. “But she’s supposed to be the ring-bearer!” We said back.  I thought it might back him budge. It did not.  Aja opted for photos after the ceremony.

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Bobby and Michelle picked a run of the mill venue, you know, nothing spectacular or anything.

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It was an absolutely gorgeous Colorado day. Cold, hard sunny sky. Peaked mountains. I mean…do you have words? Because, I don’t. Such a holy, happy, day. We love you, Bobby and Michelle and your sweet, growing family.

Colorado mountain air can’t be beat in the summer, and lucky for us, Luke’s parents live in the Sangre de Cristos and their home, property and company are beautiful respites.

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Luke and his Dad out in the jeep after working on it together

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Lounging forever like I do at their house

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Out in front of their property

Indeed, it was the summer of parent milestones and in July I made my way back to the East Coast for a girl’s weekend in Boxford, Massachusetts.

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My home I grew up in: Boxford, Mass.

My cousins, aunts and “Nanny” on my mom’s side gathered to celebrate. One of my mom’s many endearing traits is her ability to be enthusiastic about EVERYTHING. She is a most gracious receiver so every time we surprised her she acted like we just gave her another star to hold. Then, when the sailboat ride in Boston topped off the weekend, you’d have thought we gave her the actual moon.

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We lounged by the pool, ate lobster like New England sea-queens and then sailed around Boston harbor! Sounds quite indulgent, doesn’t it? It totally was. My Aunts and Nanny are most generous. Happy Birthday, Mom!

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Another highlight to this weekend was a quick and full stop with my dear friend, Chelsea. I’ve known and loved Chelsea for 10 years now and her spiritual friendship was the catalyst to something spiritually new and fresh in my life.

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Chelsea does ministry with all of her heart and all of her mind and she loves God and the people she pastors at her church intensely. My sweet, big-hearted, truth-telling friend. We stayed up until the wee hours in her quaint bedroom that night and then woke up still chatting. Did I mention she lives in an old tavern? She does. Quintessential New England. She loves all the things about New England that I miss so it feels like she gets to hold them for me, like hydrangeas and white, colonial clapboard. I like it. And I love her.

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Our camping trip for the summer was a venture into the San Isabel National Forest in the Leadville area.

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Luke knows my penchant for history so he planned a tour of the Tabor Opera House, old homes and mining museums. I was in hog-heaven with all the stories. Aja-dog was in hog-heaven with all the smells. True mountain creature, our girl.

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We nestled our van right up against streams and into aspen groves and wished we could be cozy forest people for life.

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For my birthday, Sarah gave me a book of liturgical and scripture readings. We’ve challenged each other to stay tied to these texts united in our longing for Jesus-centered transformation. It’s been a challenge, but I’ve committed to early mornings of quiet reflection. Sometimes I don’t make it out of bed in time but when I do, I am washed– yes by these mountains but more by the words and the distant, close company of my friend reading the same words under her Oklahoma sun.

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Early Mornings

I began reclaiming, throughout the summer, my dedication to novel-reading. Growing up, summers always meant shelves of novels books to plow through. I lost it somewhere along the way and don’t read fiction nearly as much as I used to.  There are other books I tell myself to read but really, I just want to be told a story.  I’ve read a handful- the highlight was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  A good story just widens your heart, doesn’t it? It does for me. Fills up some kind of emptiness I didn’t even know I had.

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Back deck, story sanctuary

We ended August with a celebration of my cousin Katie and her new husband Pete. The event was mixed in with our family reunion in Wisconsin- albeit bittersweet as it was the first one without our Opie. Holding things in tension is hard: loss and new life; fear and joy; sadness and satisfaction…so we did our best. We danced and hoped and missed our Opie, too.

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Now it’s Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year. It’s the best metaphor I can think of for that tension I mentioned: the beauty of the leaves is also their downfall.  All the while we don’t go on and on about how the leaves should just hang on. Instead we wouldn’t say anything but: Let it be what it is! What it is, is beautiful.

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This metaphor was especially poignant for me as I learned about the death of a beloved, teacher, mentor and my dean of the Garland School of Social Work at Baylor. She died September 21st and we headed to Crested Butte days after.

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I sat in these Aspens and could not stop marveling at their beauty while also thinking of Diana Garland: her tireless, tireless love and her sudden, sudden death.

I did not know Diana intimately but will have an abiding love for her my whole life for her care and influence on me, personally. I felt sad in those Aspen groves, especially as I thought of her family and her close friends, but then—that gold.

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The dying leaves were SO brilliant that they just begged me for gratitude. I noticed the sheer movement to their trail: this late September there were still untouched patches of forest–green trees that had not yet experienced the fiery, yellow exit march. These aspens, they are fierce about their coloring and they blaze on through. This was what my beloved teacher did. She fired things up in good, golden, God-fearing ways because she was called. I remember her telling me that we aren’t called to be perfect but we are called to be faithful. That faithfulness of hers left the world something glorious. And the aspens, faithfully turning just as they should, doing just as they do, were the glorious reminder on that poignant fall day.

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As this season of harvest approaches we have gathered together in our living room in the spirit of discipleship and community. We are hopeful and expectant each week that God meets us in relationship as we meet each other. Luke and I are both growing to care deeply for these delightful humans.

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Dark photo but here we are in our living room, Nov. 2015

We’ve also had the privilege of spending some QT time with our nieces

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Rayne (7) Vienna (4). Vienna had a custom seat designed for the van

while their mom and dad stay-cation’ed and continued to enjoy having our friend, Steve living with us. Steve arrived in July on a quest for mountain air and a new job. He’s also not your average artist.

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Steve on our deck….painting

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Steve out behind our house…painting.

So besides getting to share some life together, we also have a gallery in our home, which, you know, makes us feel quite cultured. In all seriousness, if you are interested in his art shoot him a message through his blog. Coloradans, if you see a guy painting on the trail, it’s probably Steve. Might I suggest you stop, chat and take in the vista and the talent.

Will you join us in prayer as we enter a new season? Luke is wrapping up his biblical studies degree this December (woot!). Per.sev.er.ant. is the word I have for my husband, right now. The final stretch, it’s brutal but doable we keep thinking.  Brutal but doable. I have had deep respect fur Luke’s commitment to excellence and competency- “Just get the grade!” I say. “That’s not the point” he says back. (Nicely, of course) Jobs are different than callings. Callings are also harder than jobs. But, we truly believe there’s nothing else on this great green earth that Luke could do besides pastoral ministry, so we stay grateful.

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Luke preaching his first sermon Sept 2015

Grateful for this difficult, joy-filled call. It’s sacred and doing it together, makes it all the more so. We are in the throes of transition, as we have been before and will be again, and full of conversations, changed plans and moderate bouts of panic. BUT, just like my Nanny is keeping on, just like so many of you are keeping on in faith, we are keeping on too. All the while reminding ourselves that our boundaries have truly fallen in pleasant places and tomorrow has its cares, but this, THIS is the day.

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You will show me the way of LIFE, in your presence is fullness of JOY -Psalm 16:11

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