Saturday, April 14, 2012

St. John USVI... our 20th Anniversary!

We just got back from one of the best weeks of our lives... truly. So hard to explain, such sweet memories... we took our kids back to the place that we honeymooned... 20 years ago... St. John, USVI. We even rented the same house!!! It was one of the sweetest things I've ever been a part of... so relaxing, so refreshing... 20 years ago, Michael and I wrote a "bucket list" of all that we wanted to accomplish in our lifetime... on this very deck. One of the items on that list was that we wanted to bring our kids back to St. John... and we have now accomplished that. In honor of that list, we all created new bucket lists... the girls lists were priceless... and Michael and I will do our best to help them accomplish their list. What a blessing to accomplish what we have just simple, yet so profound... a celebration of our history... or our life together. It will remain with me for a lifetime!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kristin's 13th Year!

For both of our daughters, Michael and I put a great deal of thought into training opportunities throughout their lives. One of the things that I believe God put on my heart years ago was the Jewish concept of "Bat Mitzvah". What a concept! Ushering in the age of responsibility, putting your childish ways behind you, beginning to participate in religious and community activity all on your own. In America we just hold our breath and HOPE that WE survive their teenage years... most 13 years olds biggest responsibility is "putting out the garbage"! Not in our house!
When the girls turned 13 we chose a number of adult women who had a position of influence with our daughters. These women each had a spiritual maturity that had earned them the trust of Michael and me to speak into the lives of our daughters. We asked each of these godly women to take a character trait out of verses like 2 Peter 1:5-8, 1 Tim. 4:12 (faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perserverence, godliness, kindness, love, humility, purity and being an example in life). The ladies were to meet with our 13 year old or write her a letter. They could take it to whatever level they wished, but overall, needed to communicate the biblical character trait and provide for me a written description of what was discussed. This would be used to create a scrapbook so that these concepts could be referenced in the future.
This was accentuated by a gift to each 13 year old of a charm that represented either the person or the trait. For Kasey we chose Pandora, and for Kristin we chose Brighton.
Kristin just received her charm bracelet but Kasey has had hers for two years now and it is so very sweet to Michael and I that she can still walk thru her charm bracelet meticulously as to who gave her each and what trait they covered.
Either at their birthday (with Kasey) or at the end of this training time (with Kristin) we had a closing luncheon to wrap up the experience. This was a way to thank all of the dear women that participated as well as our opportunity to "have the last word" so to speak. We took this opportunity to have Michael address our daughters and challenge them toward spiritual maturity and to be passionate about their walk with the Lord. I took a few moments to address the families Christian Heritage. This was reflected a number of ways: in the inherited place settings, china, silver, linen napkins, etc. We also gave each daughter a study bible. Kristin's day was highlighted with the gift of her very godly great grandmother (Margaret Stark's) last bible. Kristin was named after this amazing studier of the Word. What a object lesson to hold a godly womens bible all tattered and torn, with years of writing in it with precious papers tucked in to the pages. Only one picture was found in her bible upon her death: one of her holding Kristin as a baby. So precious. Absolutely priceless.
These challenges got quite personal which brought many shed tears. With our oldest we had the luncheon in a restaurant but decided, since it was highly personal, that for Kristin we had the event in our home. This turned into an authentic English Tea which was so much fun! Lots of little tea sandwiches, crumpets and scones, devonshire cream and lemon curd... but more than anything it was meant to physically project Kristin's heritage and to make her feel like the guest of honor.
One thing we presented to both girls was a china plate. Kasey was given a plate from her grandmothers (on her fathers side) collection. Kristin was given the plate in the picture above which was her great grandmothers given to her on her wedding day, Dec 12, 1931. Grammie Bea passed away just last year at 104. Kristin had a sweet love for her grammie which made this plate hold deep meaning. The plates were NOT my idea. It came from a book I read called GENTLE PASSAGES by Robin Jones Gunn. Here is a synopsis:

Young Natalie, Robin’s eleven year old neighbor, was upset that her parents would not allow her to go to a particular movie with a group of her friends. Natalie felt that her parents were overprotective and could not understand her. Robin had been making chocolate covered cherries, and asked if Natalie would like to eat some with her while they talked. Robin then proceeded to dig through the garbage can and pulled out some paper plates stained from
hot dogs and baked beans! When Natalie asked if she had any other plates, Robin agreed that dirty paper plates really were not suitable to serving her guest. She went to a china cabinet and pulled out a beautiful china plate. She explained that these were very special plates of which she was “probably too protective.” Natalie agreed that Robin was right to be careful of such valuable
plates. At this moment, Robin went on to say, “that’s why I want to keep them clean and ready so I can use them to serve others.”

The story continued with the conversation between Robin and Natalie, and Natalie came to an understanding that she was like the china plate. Her parents were protective of her because they wanted her to be kept clean and set apart, so that she would be ready to serve others.
Robin and Natalie read together from the Bible, 2 Timothy 2:21 “If you stay away from sin you will be like one of these dishes made of purest gold– the very best in the house- so that Christ himself can use you for his highest purposes.”
Here is the complete verse from the Living Bible which is what I used at the Tea Party:

2Timothy 2:20-21 (TLB)

In a wealthy home there are dishes of gold and silver as well as some made from
wood and clay. The expensive dishes are used for guests, and the cheap ones are used in the kitchen or to put garbage in. If you stay away from sin, you will be like one of these dishes made of purest gold- the very best in the house- so that Christ himself can use you for his highest purposes.
These plates are hanging in each of our daughters rooms... a bit of an odd decoration for a teenagers room, but yet a wonderful, personal challenge to each and a daily reminder to keep their eyes on being used for God's highest purposes. We wrote these verses on the back of each plate and a special message from us.
Here are some pictures from this past weekends tea party. Not all of the ladies could attend as three of them are on the west coast and one just had a baby but as many as could attend did.

Here are some pictures of the table just to give you a glimpse into the day...

The tea cozy was my Mom's (who was not able to be there) but ironicly, we were able to visit Scotland this past year!
Kasey made the scones! She did a GREAT job!
Here is Michael (the only guy at the tea parrty!) presenting his challenge to Kristin. He also shared some points that he gleened from his bible study from that morning. It was VERY sweet.
Michael, Kristin and me!
Auntie Pammie from CT!
me, Kristin and Coach Foxen (volleyball and softball)
Kris and Aunt Cindy from CT!
Auntie Bev from Westerlo!
Stephanie, Kristin's middle School Sunday school teacher!
Grandma and Kristin...
The whole family... Kasey included!
Bottom line, both events were deeply personal and I hope made memories that will last a lifetime. The people that I've talked to seem to think that this was extraordinary. I say it was not... what it was, is INTENTIONAL.
So many birthdays go by with cake and ice cream, a silly song and lots of presents. I love parties... and believe me, my kids have had their share of parties, but I want more for my girls. Michael wants more for his girls. We only have a few years... it is our JOB to speak truth over them, to train them to reflect Christ, to talk about scriptural things as often as possible and to empower our children with as many tools in this life as they will need to do more for the kingdom of heaven. We believe that begins and ends with scripture. Did these events take planning? Absolutely. Did they take extra time? Yup. Will my girls ever look at their charm bracelets as just jewelry? Never. It came with a lesson... a lesson for life...and love... and godliness.
Only a few short years and our training of our girls will lessen substantially. Tea parties are of utmost importance for today. They are memories and lessons that will carry our children into their future and to set the spiritual bar for them that is higher than the status quo. How else will they become more like Christ under our watch? And anyway, Tea parties are fun... and we ALL will remember them forever!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Devastation of IRENE...

We've weathered a few storms in this area but I HAVE NEVER SEEN a storm as devastating as this one... Heres some shots of the storm and the day after...
Dukers Copper Roof rolled off like a sardine box...
Dukers guest house... and Rte 143 road colapse starting...
The town next to Westerlo... Clarksville...

This is our friends, The Richardsons, driveway... the culvert pipe is downstream...
Jerry Boons farm... and our road... Rte 143...
Our pond at max capacity... it was about 4 feet down... we didn't think it would fill until next spring...
Dukers Driveway after the storm...
The road colapse in front of Dukers...

The road collapse at Jerry Boons..
Westerlo Town Park...
My girls trying to float in a "bucket"...