Woops, it happened again!

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Good grief, I’m getting bad at this whole summer blogging thing. Sorry about that. 

July slipped away rather suddenly. It was quite emotional to see it go, too. I like July.

Brian is safely home from Florida. My parents are tucked into the suite at MRF for the time being. My dad had an unfortunate injury and so they will be here a little longer than planned. He is just fine, don’t worry.

Since returning from Florida, Brian has been able to work full-force on the shed. It is almost completely sided and coming along nicely. Currently, he’s working on internet issues, which are his nemesis.

The BCM World is in full-swing. Brian has multiple projects from the BCM home office on his plate right now, so as soon as he comes home from work on the property and gets the kids to bed, he sits on his computer.

I am back to teaching on Sundays for children’s church. Praise the Lord, we are FULLY STAFFED in every kid’s program! It’s unbelievable! Now, I begin the process of training and filling schedules. August is filled with meetings every Sunday and a few on weekdays. The end of August is our Family Carnival, so I’m busy recruiting, planning, directing, and rehearsing, too.

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Before my dad’s injury, he managed to acquire tickets for a Railrider’s baseball game for Brian and E, who has been begging to see one for two years (she’s obsessed with baseball). When plans changed last minute, we decided to take BigJ and purchase another ticket for me while my mom watched the baby. While the game didn’t move as quickly as a certain 6 year old thought it would, they still enjoyed it (especially after shade moved over us and ice cream was purchased) and we managed to stay for all 9 innings (and an awesome win by the Railrider’s!).

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Kids got to meet the team mascot, Champ

School starts in just a couple of weeks. Our scholarly, social little girl has been begging to go back since August 1st! She can’t wait to see her friends and start 2nd grade. Big J will begin K4 and is ecstatic…mostly because he gets his own backpack.

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Thanks for praying for us! August is very full and we could sure use your prayers – to prioritize, spend quality time with each other, get everything done on time, and be ready for the school year and (shiver) cold weather to arrive.

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And then *poof* the calendar turned a page…

If you follow our blog, you may be wondering, “Where have you been?!” If you follow us on Facebook or get our newsletters, you know exactly where we’ve been: going crazy.

That’s right. We’ve been going crazy the last few weeks. I blame my parents.

My dad did his retirement thing in June and then decided it’d be fun to pack up and move to Florida. Yet, not move to Florida. And yet, move everything they own to Florida. Or, most of it. Confused yet? Welcome to our July.

Brian is currently IN Florida and won’t be home until sometime this weekend. My dad made one trip to Florida the beginning of July to take some things and do some work in the condo. Then it was mad packing for them as they got ready for closing on their house on July 21. Brian helped load the trailer, but the day before closing it was obvious the trailer was just not quite big enough. And that’s when the skies opened up.

Literally, actually.

I walked through my parent’s home one last time with my children, then took them home to feed them and get them to bed before my parents showed up to spend the night. We were home about 30 minutes when the skies let loose and it POURED! Our power blinked and then *poof* – nothing. We never lose power, so my children had no idea what was going on and of course, good ol’ me, was ever the unprepared mother! I found little battery-operated candles and read to my children by candlelight since the storm had made the world very, very dark.

Brian didn’t get home Thursday until 10:30pm and then spent a good chunk of the night trying to fix MRF’s generator and on the phone with the power company. He actually brought the spotter up our road and showed him the giant tree on the lines. At 4am, the power truck came up the road, passed said tree, turned around in our driveway, and left. The main road at the bottom of ours got power at 5:30am. We had nothin’. The entire MRF road was dark. After many more phone calls, we finally got someone to tell us we were next in line and by 2pm, our lights turned back on. Woo hoo!

In between phone calls, Brian was finishing up cleaning out my parent’s house before the final walk-through of the buyers. My parents scrambled out the door for closing. We crashed a friend’s house for lunch since I literally had nothing to feed my family that was not in the fridge (again, great mom-award to this one right here). My sister and brother-in-law arrived from Vermont moments after power got restored (literally, the truck was coming back down the hill as they were going up). Andy, my brother-in-law, took one look at the trailer and said, “No way is that going to Florida.” At 4pm, they were busy unloading the trailer in order to turn back around and reload it all into a rented U-haul trailer. The guys finally pulled out at 7pm Friday.

Everything is unloaded and in the condo. Everything in the condo coming back to MRF is loaded up. But, there’s still work to do as the condo is in shambles and my dad wants it nice for when they arrive in September, so Brian will help get it ready (Andy flew home tonight) and then they’ll make their way back home.

Thankfully, my mom is able to live here at MRF while they’re gone. She’s right next door and at my every beck and call. Well, not really. But, it is nice to say to the kids, “Yes, please, go see Grandma!”

Here at MRF, Brian was running like a mad man trying to finish projects before he left. He was roofing the shed last Wednesday (thankfully with a team and not alone!) and installing the garage door so power could go in while he was gone (which it has). He had other random jobs to do, but with no electricity on Friday, he couldn’t exactly do the electrical jobs that were left!

It’s also nice having my mom next door because she’s helping me inventory the place. Since she’s essentially living there for a few days, she is helping me figure out how to better arrange the kitchen and what kitchen items need replacing before new guests arrive Saturday. This is quite helpful!

As for me, I feel like I sit and write every spare moment I get. I’m working on three articles for the BCM World plus a submission to a mom blog that got accepted (woohoo for that, too!). I’m writing some other material and having that critiqued, which also takes time. Now it’s late enough in the summer that I am full-on planning for the fall, as well as revamping teams and scheduling trainings and staff meetings. The Family Carnival is literally one month away, so all of that is kicked into high-gear, too. I’m now meeting weekly with one of our Kidz Konnect girls for discipleship time. Oh, and I have my own three kids on summer vacation!

If you think of our family this week, please pray for us without Brian and safety for Brian and my dad while they’re gone. Pray for me to prioritize my to-do list and to be wise about what has to get done and when it’s due by. Pray for Brian to be able to relax while he’s gone and not stress about work that’s not done yet up here or things he has to do as soon as he gets home.

I’d leave you with a snappy picture, but I haven’t taken many lately, so just imagine three smiling kids right here:

What a weekend!

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Months of planning finally came to fruition on Saturday as we held an Open House to celebrate my parents’ 50 years in full-time ministry. 50, people! That’s a long time! My parents began their life of ministry in France, where they met as young adults. They served in France, Kansas, Canada, Vermont, Canada again, and Pennsylvania. My dad is not retiring from ministry; just moving to a new ministry that is no longer full-time. We couldn’t let him fade into the background, so we threw him a giant party and had close to 200 guests come and celebrate all God has done.

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My whole family was here – first time we’ve been together since our furlough in 2010. My children met my brother’s little girl and they had a blast together! It was so nice being all together!

But, the weekend was not without its trials. I kept telling Brian, “What is going on?! We are so badly under attack and I don’t know why!” He gently reminded me, “We are celebrating the very thing Satan would love to destroy – a life of ministry that has touched thousands. Why wouldn’t he want to wreck it and make us all miserable?” He was right. Satan worked over-time on our family this weekend, but let me tell you, he did not win.

It started off with my brother not getting his rental car and having to drive a giant truck from Florida, getting 12 miles per gallon! An already expensive trip made so much worse by that little detail.

Then, my dad went golfing and his allergies kicked in, leaving him coughing and hoarse.

Thursday afternoon, Brian got home from clearing some brush complaining he got bit by a spider. By evening, the “bite” had swelled and was very red. Friday afternoon, his lower arm was extremely swollen, fiery red and hot, and had a nice red line streaking its way to his shoulder. He marked the line, and by dinner, it was almost 2 inches higher, prompting a trip to the ER where he was given an IV with antibiotics. Not in our plans and can I say, quite scary!

Also Friday, my mom started out just fine, but by evening was very ill. Everything was a mess – my uncle took Brian to the ER, my dad took my crying children home to bed, and I borrowed a car to go finish decorating. I got back home around 8 and cried with my dad, something I haven’t done in a very long time.

Brian was released late Friday night and was doing better Saturday. We woke up to BabyJ having some weird diaper issues that we didn’t think anything of… but immediately after family pictures Saturday at the party, he got sick all over Brian. What?! So, Brian stood in the civic center bathroom waiting for clothes from a friend and ended up wearing a free t-shirt from the civic center the rest of the day! We shipped all our kids home with our babysitters just to be on the safe side, but then I was quite paranoid the rest of the day about them, of course!

However, the event itself was beautiful and went so well – lots of wonderful sharing, good food, great fellowship. We’re so glad we pulled it off for my parents. My mom made it through the event, but is actually still not feeling well today, so you can pray for her.

The baby was still sick when we got home, but is fine today. Not sure what happened, but nothing we could do about it, so we just kept pushing through! I’m thankful for a husband with great presence of mind to manage himself with decorum through each crisis. And while I really prayed for a better weekend than that, God is sovereign and everything worked out just fine.

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Now it’s back to life as usual. I have a special Kidz Konnect this Wednesday that I’m prepping for. Brian is trying to finish the tile in Unit #3. We have laundry from 3 homes to wash this week and 2 homes to arrange. There’s other random things coming up, including my dad’s last Sunday and all that entails and our 12th anniversary this Sunday. You can just pray for our health, stamina, and wisdom in prioritizing!

On the plus side, we’re not bored and life is sure not predictable in our house! 😉 

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Oh, and this one finished 1st grade!

Spring

As promised, here’s a wrap-up of other events we’ve been a part of this spring:

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In April, Brian and I helped lead a Marriage Conference at our church. Brian was burdened about this about two years ago. He kept bringing it up to a number of people until finally, it took root and exploded. We went from thinking just a couple families might attend, to having a room full of 23 couples. For the first time helping lead a marriage conference, we were very pleased!

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We led it with our good friends, Mike and Karrie (he’s one of the pastors), and it was such a good time. We used the program “Love and Respect” which basically ran itself. Now, Brian and I are in charge of a couple of follow-up sessions and we’re in the planning stages of seeing when we can do this conference again.

Early May found us celebrating our youngest’s 2nd birthday!

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This little guy keeps us moving. He looks all sweet and innocent, but looks are deceiving! 🙂 While he is just adorable, he sure is stubborn! Yet, he’s quick to apologize and loves to give kisses and hugs. We love this little guy so very much and can’t believe he’s already 2.

Our daughter had her spring program last Friday and did a fabulous job as part of the choir. I wish my camera could take beautiful shots in the dark, but alas, it does not. Just trust me, she knew all the words to every song during the hour and a half play and she sang with great enthusiasm! We were very proud of her.

We ended our Wednesday evening Kidz Konnect last Wednesday with a great group of kids with their families. We promoted our wonderful 6th graders and gave out a few other prizes. This has been a challenging year, yet one full of fruit. We ended on a high note and already have people excited to join our team and kids who can’t wait to return! We’re going to keep the momentum going by having once-monthly Kidz Konnect meetings all summer. Usually, we stop in May and return in September, but I’ve always thought that was a very long break, so I’m excited to offer some fun nights over the summer months, too.

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Next up is my father’s retirement party. My parents have been in full-time ministry for like 46 years and he’s finally retiring… from full-time ministry. Once you’ve been in ministry that long, there’s no way you can just retire completely! He’s actively looking for where to go next, but knows that it won’t be full-time or as intense as what he’s been doing. We didn’t feel like he could just fade into the background, so we’re throwing them a party on June 10. My brother is coming with his family and that’s probably most exciting since the last time we saw them was 2010, so he has 2 nephews he’s never even met! It’ll be nice to be all together again for a few days. Our daughters are just a few months apart, so it’ll be good for them to get to know each other. If you know my dad and would like more info about the party – which is essentially an open house, free to anyone to attend, feel free to ask.

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This week, it’s time for the final Serve-a-Thon (Friday) from E’s school. Brian is also part of the Ordination Council on Saturday for two of our pastors who would like to become official “Reverends” before my dad retires. At MRF, we are welcoming more new short-term residents this week and within a month, a few more long-term, so we’ll be cleaning and getting homes ready this week.

If you are still (somehow!) not a part of our newsletter recipients, you are missing out! Drop me a note so I can add you to our list; a letter went out last week.

“Today’s the Day!”

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We do our best to read a Bible story or a children’s devotional each night before bed with the kids. We are far from 100% faithful, but we do our best. We’ve been working our way through the Jesus Storybook Bible {again}, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and last night, we made it to the final story.

P1100831The author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, does a beautiful job explaining Revelation in the simplest form possible. She succinctly describes the glory of heaven and the ultimate defeat of Satan in a way that is profound enough for adults, yet simple enough for children to grasp. She ends the whole thing with this:

John came to the end of his book. But he didn’t write “The End.” Because, of course, that’s how stories finish. (And this one’s not over yet).

So instead, he wrote: “Come quickly, Jesus!”

Which, perhaps is really just another way of saying…

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The kids looked at me and said, “That’s it? For real?” I had them grab a regular Bible and I showed them that yes, it really does end like that! A total cliff-hanger…because the story’s not done yet. We talked about how everything else in the rest of the Bible came true just like God said it would, so why wouldn’t the rest of it happen the same way? Jesus is coming back! And everything will be made new!

But, we don’t know when.

And my little boy jumped off the sofa, a huge smile on his face, and proclaimed:

Today’s the day I’ve been waiting for! I want to ask Jesus to take my sins away! I’m ready now!

Now, he’s known truth for quite awhile. He can repeat the Gospel back to me, no problem. But, for whatever reason, it hadn’t sunk down into his little heart. Every time I’d straight-up ask him, “Do you want to ask Jesus to be your Savior tonight?” He’d say, “No. Not yet. I want it to be perfectly quiet and do it all alone because I don’t want anyone to know.” He just wasn’t ready.

He was ready last night. I had his sister sit quietly next to me while I asked him questions to ensure he truly knew what he was doing because I am a firm believer of not scaring children into salvation with talks of hell, and hell had definitely come up in the last few minutes. I put all thoughts of heaven and hell aside and asked him if he knew what sin was, what sins he had committed, why couldn’t he be with God, what did God do for him so he could go to heaven, and what does he need to do in order to be with God? He knew it all. And before I could ask if he wanted to pray, he said, “Mommy, I want to pray right now!”

And right there, on our couch in the living room, my little boy had a sincere talk with God and became His child.

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The reality is that I wouldn’t have cared who led my boy to the Lord. It could’ve been one of his church teachers, a babysitter, or a grandparent for all I cared. We just want our children to know Jesus! But, the fact that Jesus has now allowed me to pray with two of my own children… I couldn’t be more ecstatic! Leading any child to Jesus is a privilege, a joy, and a humbling experience. To pray with my own kids? There are no words {and trust me, I usually have plenty}.

His big sister sat down next to him, gave him a big hug, and said, “And guess what? You don’t ever have to do this again because you are saved forever!”

I tucked her into bed and she looked at me and said, “Okay, Mommy, now we need to pray for James!” Absolutely, little girl! She even talked about how her brother is starting a new life now with a clean heart. Man, she gets it. She really gets it.

If you ever prayed for my children’s salvation, I thank you. You had a part in this, too!

The Gospel never ceases to amaze me. Only our God made salvation so simple, a 4 year old can comprehend it, yet so profound that we’ll spend our entire life never fully understanding all it entails.

Beautiful Easter!

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Easter this year was definitely different than last year when we had the stomach bug, for which we are quite thankful. But, it was also different in that ever since we returned from Peru, we’ve spent Easter with my parents. This year, my father is slowly backing out of full-time pastoral ministry and decided it would be wise to take a little vacation during April and let the new team of pastors do Easter on their own. So, no extended family was around for the holiday! Honestly, I was not looking forward to them being gone. But, it turned out to be a wonderful weekend and Brian and I were grateful to be able to spend the weekend with our little family starting new traditions and making memories with the kids.

We began it Thursday evening at church for our church’s remembrance service. BabyJ was the only one who couldn’t sit still, so he ended up with Daddy in the sound booth! The big kids loved the music and were so good for me; I was proud of them.

Friday evening, we did something I’ve always wanted to do: celebrate Passover. I’ve wanted to do it for awhile apparently because the PDF with all the instructions that I had was downloaded back in like 2010. We had been given some lamb by a resident who moved out a few months ago, so I cooked that up, along with some chicken (because I know my kids). We had potato latkes, hardboiled and then baked eggs, radishes, charoset (fruit mixture), parsley, and naan bread (because I couldn’t find matzah). Brian read our little script, we discussed each element, and the kids were awesome at trying a little of everything. They loved it! We decided this will probably be an annual family tradition. It really kicked off the weekend beautifully.

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The table all set! Yes, that’s Ranch dressing and horseradish mustard.. we are American Christians after all. 😉

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E was super excited. She helped prepare some of the food and couldn’t wait to go through it all together.

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Looking for the hidden ‘matzah’

Saturday was opening day of trout season, so I was a fisherman’s widow for the day. 🙂 When Brian finally got home, he dyed eggs with the kids:

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Sunday, everyone was up before 6 (and we were still a tad late for the service at 7!) and anxious for the sunrise service. Between pregnancy and the stomach bug, the big kids don’t remember attending a sunrise service, so they were excited to see what it was all about. BigJ thought we were ushering in the sunrise and was disappointed that the sun was already up when we got in the car! However, this made up for it:

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A rainbow on Easter is morning was a perfect reminder that God keeps ALL His promises!

They loved being outside (and it was like 60* – the warmest sunrise service I ever remember!).

During the breakfast, Brian had to go run sound for worship practice. Everything had worked fine Thursday evening, but Sunday morning, half of the sound system was not functioning! After a lot of prayer, Brian was able to come up with a temporary solution about twenty minutes before the service began! Total Satanic attack. Satan keeps forgetting that the whole point of Easter is celebrating the fact that he’s already been defeated!

I helped my sixth graders do a puppet song they’ve been practicing for the little kids’ Sunday school class and then again for the children’s church. They did a great job! I was quite proud of them.

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I had the privilege of teaching the kids during children’s church with my team. After the lesson, I offered to talk with the kids and answer questions. I spent about 10 minutes with a 7 year old boy who’d never set foot in church before and had no idea Who God is and that he’s loved by Him! While not even remotely ready to understand the Gospel, I loved simply sharing with him that he is loved, he was created with a purpose, and that Jesus suffered all those awful things because Jesus loves HIM. Now we just need to pray that his family brings him back so he can keep learning!

Easter afternoon was filled with naps (phew), finding Resurrection eggs and retelling the Easter story again, an awesome Easter meal, playing games together, and running around in the spring rain. I’m not sure it could’ve been a more perfect day.

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no, he’s not very good at taking things serious!

Now, it’s back to reality. 😉 Brian’s finishing up Unit #3 so I can get in there and get cleaning. Coming into summer, the homes are booking rapidly for short stays, which means everything has to be totally ready to go. At church, we’re part of the team putting on a marriage conference next weekend, so last minute prep is going down for that. I’m wrapping up the Wednesday night program for the school year within the next couple of weeks. Brian’s got web design work to do for another BCM camp and we’ll be heading down to that camp sometime in the next month so he can do some on-site repairs and we can get away for a night as a family. E is finishing up 1st grade and we’re praying about finances already as we enrolled BigJ into preschool and E into 2nd grade for the fall. God will make a way, of that we have no doubt.

Speaking of school, you may have received a little fundraiser letter from E. We are SO EXCITED to be partnering with her school for a work day out here at MRF in early May! We cannot wait to have a large group of students, teachers, and parents out here helping clean up the property and get it ready for summer. We don’t know yet if E will be helping out here or if her class will go to one of other places, but we don’t really care, as long as she’s learning to serve, too! If you received a letter, we just ask you to prayerfully consider sponsoring her. This school is awesome and has done so much for us in allowing E to attend. This fundraiser is a great way for us to help give back to them. You can contact me with any questions.

Happy Spring!

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Easter Week

Flipping through Instagram nonchalantly this afternoon I ran across the breaking news about the bomb the U.S. just dropped on Afghanistan. It seems like you just can’t escape bad news and catastrophic events these days.

Which makes Easter that much more poignant.

The Thursday before Easter feels, to me, like the real start of the Easter celebration. Tonight we remember Jesus having His last supper and instituting the Lord’s Supper that we celebrate today. From there, the events of the last hours of Jesus’ life commence. It’s a solemn weekend – until Sunday, of course, when the entire world breaks out in song!

What has struck me this year is the need an Easter weekend. A time that is specifically set aside to quit looking at what’s happening around us and focus on eternity.

While ultimately our sins are the reason we need a Resurrection Sunday, the weekend is not about us. It’s about Jesus – His incomprehensible love and sacrifice for us. Not because He had some compulsory need to die a gruesome death, but because He wanted us to spend eternity with Him.

Being purposeful in remembering what this weekend is about has become progressively more important to me as I’ve gotten older. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in world events (especially when they’re so horrible) and in raising kids (even if they’re adorable) that the focus can be completely shifted from Jesus and the empty tomb to a busy schedule with no time to just sit and think.

World events – and simply life in general – can easily squelch all the solemnity and even all the joy out of this weekend if we let it. Remembrance must be intentional or it simply won’t happen.

We don’t have it all together (admittedly, I just spent an hour in my room, alone, while Brian watched the kids because I just needed to be separated from them for awhile!), but here are the few things we plan (I use that term loosely knowing anything can happen with 3 kids!) to do as a family this weekend to intentionally put the focus off ourselves and back on Jesus:

  • Taking the whole family to our church’s annual communion/remembrance service this evening. Usually just Brian and I go, but Brian wanted all three kids there tonight, so we’re going to give it a shot!
  • Tomorrow, I’m going to do some Easter crafts with the kids (if you know me, you know this is NOT in my comfort zone!).
  • Tomorrow evening, I’m going to put together our first mini-Passover. We absolutely love all the symbolism of Passover and the correlation of Passover and Easter, so I found a little booklet online that walks Christian families how to do “Passover” on the miniature with their children. Can’t wait!
  • Sunday morning, we head to church before 7am for the best service of the year: the sunrise service! Yes, we will have tired, possibly cranky children – but some of my best memories are from early morning sunrise services growing up. I love passing that on to our kids (and last year we missed it due to the stomach bug – ugh!). We’ll be at church all morning and it’s going to be awesome.
  • Sunday afternoon is when we’ll do our Resurrection Egg hunt, so that our kids get to do the traditional egg hunt, but we also get to reinforce the Easter story again.

I played very specific music all morning long for the boys and I while I worked, too. There’s just something about music that completely sets the stage for any event (here’s a good one).

Whatever you do with your family, I hope you are able to take some time and specifically remember what Jesus did – for you. It’s almost a breath of fresh air to be able to take the focus off of “here” for a few days. To take the genuinely awful events of this earth and put them back into perspective in view of eternity and what awaits us.

Come quickly, Jesus. 

Happy Easter!