Serve-a-Thon, Part 1

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Thursday afternoon, we welcomed a group from E’s school to do their first ever Serve-a-Thon! The school was divided up into groups and MRF was just one of various places the groups were sent to serve. The second group assigned to MRF was to come on Friday, but forecasted rain caused them to postpone.

Brian had everything all planned out and within ten minutes of their arrival, four groups were spread about the property working on the different projects.

Group #1 put in edging and mulch behind the Main House:

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Group #2 cleaned out the flowers around the fence (that will soon be replaced) lining the driveway to the Main House:

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Group #3 was my assignment and we worked on clearing leaves (years and years’ worth!) from an area near the mailboxes – not a consequential area except that it changed the aesthetic as you pull up the MRF road substantially!

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We made probably over 50 trips with a tarp to move all the leaves!

Group #4 was with Brian, removing tree limbs and branches by Compton Hall. The power company came through at least a year ago (maybe more?) and chopped down limbs for the power lines. They were just left behind and never moved, which was really not an issue, until now! The new storage shed is going in and they will be putting in a little driveway so Brian can get the tractors in and out easier. To make the driveway, all that brush has to be cleared out.

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The kids worked very hard and made great progress! There is still plenty left for the next group to do, too. Brian and the principal are excited about making this an annual event.

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Even our oldest boy got in on the action! He was ECSTATIC to work with sister’s classmates. This little guy cannot wait to start K4 in the fall; it simply can’t come fast enough for him.

By tomorrow, we’ll have two new residents on the property (one is a BCM co-worker who stayed about a year and a half ago!). Two families will be pulling out in June and quickly replaced by new residents. Turnovers in the summer go very quickly, which is one reason why Brian is anxious to finish Unit #3, which is currently a disaster zone. He assures me it’ll clean up fast and I just have to trust him on that one!

A lot of other stuff is going on, too, so in the next entry I’ll try to fill you in on all that. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Marriage Conference summary
  • Wrap-up of our church’s Wednesday evening program for the school year
  • Little J’s 2nd birthday (click here for the time being)
  • E’s spring program at school
  • Upcoming summer events (including a big retirement bash for my father in June!)

I leave you with our baby who turned 2 today!

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Cleaning Up!

The blizzard of 2017, “Stella”, really did a number up here in NEPA! We got about 32″ of snow when it was all said and done, most of that falling Tuesday during the day, sometimes 2″ an hour. Brian was incredibly thankful for the new tractor, which made digging us out so much easier.

While we were busy cleaning up snow, we began to receive messages from friends in Peru regarding the massive flooding. By now, you have probably seen it on Facebook, on here, or received emails from BCM about it. In a nutshell, the rains in the Andes have caused flooding in the coastal regions, up and down the entire coast of Peru, including the BCM Peru property outside of Lima where we used to live. The property has been decimated and it’s unclear yet when or if they will be able to move back home and begin ministry there on the property again. We ask for your continued prayers and support as they go through the weeks and months ahead. You can securely donate by clicking here.

This Saturday is the annual training day at our church. I’m wrapping up prep now and looking forward to the day. I head to Lancaster for a writer’s conference in a couple of weeks, hoping to glean some more information for future reference. Brian and I are helping plan a marriage conference for April that we are super excited to be a part of. We have some very close friends whose baby has been in and out of the NICU since the beginning of March. Brian helped take them down to Hershey to a better NICU and as they come home this week we’re part of a group doing all we can to be their support system during this exceptionally difficult time. Pray for Jax and his parents, Jeremy and Kara; the last few weeks have been really trying for all of them.

E is back in school this week! No word yet on when her last day will be, but we know it’ll be later due to all the snow days. Baby J has taken off talking lately! Most of his vocabulary has to do with vehicles: car, bus, “kuck” (truck). He FINALLY learned how to say “Joe Joe”!! He ran into his brother’s classroom after my Bible study Tuesday yelling “Joe Joe!” at the top of his lungs to let him know it was time to go. Big J is busy playing fireman as I write this and he just informed me that he will, in fact, one day leave me in order to be a fireman, but it’s okay because I can go visit him whenever I want.

Watch your inboxes for a newsletter this week! Don’t get it yet? Let me know and I’ll add you!

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Snow Day!

I want to see how quickly I can write an update since I need to call in my snow children very soon or else they will be frozen children!

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this was about 9am – you can see the van behind the pile on the railing, just barely

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This is in the afternoon – keep in mind, Brian cleared the porch completely between the two pictures! And he’ll have to clear it again in the morning.

We are nearing the end of a very legitimate blizzard. The last real blizzard we’ve had was back in South Dakota the day after Easter, 2006. I believe we’ve actually more snow here in PA than we did back then! We have more than 2 feet and it’s still snowing super hard – and is supposed to continue for a few more hours yet! The wind is beginning to pick up and school is already canceled for tomorrow.

Brian went out before 9 this morning to begin clearing off our porches and get the tractor out. By law, we have to have the MRF road clear in case of a fire emergency. But, it’s taken Brian and Don literally all day and they still have not finished the road. The snow has come down so fast and hard, plus there’s a layer of ice underneath, so they keep sliding around! Brian was home three times – twice just to swap clothes in and out of the dryer and once for a quick lunch. He’ll need to stop soon with the sun going down, but they’re hoping to have the bulk of it done by then.

The kids think this is glorious! And I don’t blame them! They got a little nervous this morning, though, as it was coming down pretty fast and hard and Big J kept getting stuck. This afternoon, our neighbors are out with them, building forts and igloos and pulling Big J out when he can’t move anymore! They’re having a blast and I hate to end it, but E was just inside for a minute and she is RED and so, so cold and wet. I think I’d be a bad mom if I let them stay out much longer…

Here’s a brief family update in the interim:

  • Training at the Chinese church on Saturday went very well. We were told to plan on 25-30 and we had 35-40 trainees. Very attentive, so welcoming and considerate. It was a joy to teach them and see the grasp concepts and plan to put them into practice. Had some great conversations afterwards and am looking forward to returning next year, Lord willing.
  • I have been struggling with a cold/cough for three weeks now and it’s finally got out of control on Friday. There was really nothing I could do about it by then, so I got a bunch of cough medicine and powered through Saturday. By Sunday evening, though, I was pretty sure I was getting Influenza A because I was so sick and run down. I dragged myself to urgent care Monday morning and was told I didn’t have the flu, but I needed to rest (she even offered a doctor’s note if I thought I needed it, so I guess she was serious…) and she got me some stronger medication. So far, the only difference has been no fever. I’m pretty wiped and ready for bed, but that can’t happen for a while yet, so I’ll hang on a bit longer! Brian’s coughing too; praying he doesn’t get as bad as I did!
  • Brian has the one bathroom down to the studs and has purchased a new cast iron tub for in there. It has a ways to go, but it’s going to look much better. All of that is on hiatus during this blizzard, though.
  • The printed BCM World should be off to the printers any day now. Final edits are happening and whenever Brian can take a breath from all this snow, he’ll do the updates and it’ll be ready to go! Phew.
  • My article is off to the editor for the e-zine, which Brian will begin, again, after this storm! There’s just not enough hours in the day…
  • The 25th is our church’s training day so now that I’m done with NJ, I can really finish up prep for ours.

That’s pretty much life in a nutshell! Okay – off to call in the snow children and figure out what in the world to feed them… Stay safe & warm!

It’s the most busiest time of the year…

We wear many hats, but like I’ve said before, very rarely do they align into a perfect storm.

But… sometimes they do. Like March. Possibly April. And definitely June. But, we’ll worry about that when the time comes.

A “perfect storm” for us just means lots of deadlines in a variety of different areas, all coming at the same time. Not unlike your life, I am sure! But, here’s what it looks like for us these days:

Currently, Brian is finishing up the printed edition of BCM World. His graphic design skills have greatly improved and this edition came together faster than the last two. But, it’s not quite done yet. Hopefully, it’ll just be a few more edits and then off to the printer!

While the print edition is almost complete, he is beginning the next e-version. The articles are arriving in his inbox, which means he has to begin sorting and adding pictures and layout, along with the building of multiple web pages and emails.

The beginning of each year also finds Brian doing updates on various BCM websites around the world. This year is no exception; he has quite a few requests for new websites and consultations planned in order to update old ones.

He does all that work after the kids are in bed. During the day, he’s been working on Unit #3 (click here for older pictures). Needing many updates, Brian has begun in the bathroom (this one has one and a half baths), which is currently emptied of everything but the tub… which, upon further inspection, will also vacate the premises later this week. He’s praying the wall behind the tub is fine, otherwise this job just got even bigger. The house is a mess; I think he said he has six weeks to finish… I hope that’s enough!

As for me, I have my article for this edition of the BCM World well underway, but nowhere near completion. March is my month for trainings, but unexpected meetings also cropped up at church, which involved a substantial amount of prep work. This Saturday, I head to New Jersey to train a group of 30 Chinese in children’s ministry. I’ll meet a friend and BCM Appointee there and we will co-train, relieving some of that burden. Then on the 25th is the annual training day for our church that I lead. Of course there’s prep, plans, and programs in between then, too. Oh, and an impromptu trip to Connecticut to spend some much-needed time with my big sister for her birthday! I am SO EXCITED for our time together even if it will equal only about 24 hours in the end!

Naturally, we all got sick on top of it all. Like clockwork. Every time we get super busy (and every time the BCM World is due), we get sick. I had zero voice Thursday (much to my boys’ great amusement!) and spent Saturday in bed. I just hope Brian doesn’t get it as bad.

As for the kids… they’re holding up just fine. E is getting ready to loose a top tooth (which is big news for any six year old). Big J has finally discovered coloring! He LOVES to color and very carefully roll (not fold – roll) each precious picture and tape them closed as gifts for his family, especially big sister for her return from school. Baby J has adequately learned the word “No.” I’m really hoping he’ll move on from that one soon and learn something a little more pleasant, like “Yes!” I’d even settle for his big brother’s real name, “Joe!”, not just his nickname of, “No!”, that is usually screeched repeatedly all day long.

I finally found my camera. I leave you with a few recent pictures:

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We had a nasty weather system move through the end of February – you may have seen on the news that a tornado touched down in our general area. If you look closely, the brown sludge out there is a river of water washing away our driveway. Our phones gave us tornado warnings all evening, but my dear mid-western husband sat on the porch and watched it roll in until it began to hail and kept yelling through the porch, “Doesn’t look like a tornado to me!” And then during a little delay in the storm, he threw on his boots and went outside to unplug the drains – which actually saved us from a very flooded basement, so I’m not going to complain too loudly! I’m also thankful he had the foresight to quickly return the metal-handled rake to the basement as soon as he heard thunder.

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E had spirit week at school. Thanks to some friends, we got her all dressed up as a little pink cowgirl for one of the days!

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Dancing Skill Nite during Wednesday evening kid’s program last week. So fun! We followed it up with a talent show and my daughter wanted to show off her art, but I think she instead showed that she loves to teach (don’t know where she got that from…)

 

A regular update!

Okay, time for something happier!

January is always the month to try to get back into a routine – as I’m sure it is for you, too! We had a great holiday season, but, personally, I crave routine. It’s been nice to get back into the swing of things, even with snow days, delays, illness, and bad news thrown into the mix.

One of the oldest homes on the property is finally vacant for awhile, so Brian has spent all month working in there. It’s a modular and it’s feeling its age! He took out some old cabinets that were bowing and not serving much of a purpose anymore. He took out a giant china hutch that had no use except to collect dust. He is working on fixing the bathroom. Got rid of a family (or three) of mice. The carpets will be professionally cleaned in the next week. There are some other problems that need addressed, but the house should make it for a little while longer now.

Another family left us last week after almost a year’s stay. They were hoping to stay for only about six months, but just could not get the support they needed and ended up staying longer. This is probably the one job where we’re happy to see families leave because it means they finally have the funds to return to the field! The house they were in, though, has not been unoccupied in a couple of years and it has had some major wear and tear during that time. Hopefully over the next few weeks we can do some rearranging, move in some new(er) furniture and a mattress, and make it a little more welcoming.

These two homes alone are keeping Brian plenty busy. Once he gets the big grunge work and the big cleaning all set, then I go in and rearrange, make beds, and finish cleaning up. We’ll be busy for at least another week or two getting these homes ready to go.

On the BCM front, I will be going to Clark Summit University in February for the annual missions conference. I’m not teaching this year, so it’ll be a pretty chill couple of days. I won’t finish the conference because that Friday, I’ll get on the plane and head to Houston by myself. I got into a special one-day-only conference that Beth Moore is hosting for women in their 20’s and 30’s who want to use writing, speaking, or teaching as a ministry. I have a friend in Houston who is helping with housing and transportation and the conference was a whopping $25 entrance fee. I’m not particularly looking forward to the travel time, but I’m excited about the conference and really hopeful that it will be beneficial to future ministry. But, that’s not for another few weeks so I’ve got time!

Church is keeping us steadily busy. We had a cooking skill nite last Wednesday with a whopping 29 kids in attendance (which is really great for us)! In February, we’ll take the kids to a nursing home for a service project. Summer events are already in the planning stages as well as my annual training day which will be in March. Brian is down at the church once a week for a meeting and then he does work around the building.

As for the family – E. showed us again how big her heart is by donating her hair a couple of weeks ago. She had finally grown it to a pretty good length and I sent her with her dad so he could get a haircut and she could get her bangs trimmed (she always talks about wanting to be Rapunzel so I wasn’t going to ask her to get it cut). She came home with a new haircut – all the way to her chin! – and said she’d donated it. We’re so proud of her!

The boys keep themselves quite busy at home. Big J’s favorite thing on earth is going to work with daddy. We are blessed to have the kind of ministries that allow for that so at least once a week, Brian takes him to work with him. And he really does work! He’s hungry and exhausted by the time he gets home, but SO happy that he got to spend the day with daddy.

Little brother is talking up a storm and into absolutely everything. He’s adorable as all get out, but such a big troublemaker! And WOW does he pick on his brother and sister! But, he makes everyone laugh and somehow that makes up for the tornado he leaves in his wake.

Thanks for continuing to pray for my extended family, and for us! I’ll get some pictures up for the next entry. If I can find my camera…

Thanksgiving Week!

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E’s turkey puppet with thankful feathers

For those of you not on the East coast and maybe not aware – we have had an absolutely gorgeous fall. Idyllic, really. Beautiful colors, not a lot of rain, barely any cold snaps. Yesterday, it was genuinely warm out. We took the kids out to Sweet Frog in the evening to enjoy some fro-yo for the last time this year in warm weather. By the time we finished grocery shopping afterwards, the skies had completely blackened and the wind had kicked up. Brian grilled steaks and was positively freezing when he was done – the sleet had begun. When we went to bed, there was almost 2″ of snow on the ground! This morning – at least 6″! Brian had to hook the plow up to get us out this morning! Crazy. It’s snowed pretty much all day and the wind has HOWLED non-stop. Brrr! Buh-bye, fall. We’ll miss you!

In other news…

We had asked you to pray for BigJ as we needed to find him a dentist asap. He had some dental work done in September and it went fine. We went back a few weeks later to finish up and it did not go well. They didn’t use any sort of numbing agent and he went through the roof. It was horrible to watch. They couldn’t finish the work and there was no way on EARTH I was going to take him back there! The MRF Director suggested a local dentist for a 2nd opinion. They got us in right away, checked him out and even did an x-ray for free. They refused to touch the work since they’re not a pediatric unit. So, we got referred to the next city over, about 25min away, to a really great pediatric office. Unbelievably, this place got us in the same day they called us! Last Monday, I took him in expecting just a consultation and left with the work completely done and a super happy little boy in the back seat! So thankful for laughing gas and an amazing pediatric dentist that, miraculously, also takes our insurance!

We had some great times in the kid’s ministries in November.

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There was a puppet skill nite, which was a lot of fun!

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Last Sunday after church, we took 20 kids (10 families) to the local State Police (2min from church) to drop off 20 ‘survival kits’ they had put together with candy and a booklet.

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This past Wednesday, we had our first ever Christmas Shopping Nite. We always have a Store where the kids spend points they’ve earned. This time, we asked the church family for specific donations for family members so the kids could ‘shop’ for Christmas presents for their families. Wow – HUGE success! It was a blast! They shopped, had the gifts wrapped, made cards, ate Christmas cookies, and watched Christmas movies. So. Much. Fun. E has a big bag of gifts stuffed in our closet waiting for Christmas Day. Best statement of the night was from Paul, the leader seated in the picture: “Okay boys, we don’t just wrap. We present.” Such a good night.

Our church is now preparing for our annual Living Christmas Village which is Dec. 3-4 (Click Here to see what it was like last year). Brian will run sound and I will be helping with seating people and moving them through the tour. Last year, we had over 2000; we’re praying we get just as many, if not more, this year. I had a part in editing the drama and I think it’s going to be good!

MRF has its annual Christmas dinner on Dec. 1. This year, since we have 18 kids living here, I’m going to do some special stuff with the kids. We always look forward to the dinner; it’s just a nice get-together with everyone.

Brian had taken an old, rotten porch off the back of one of our oldest houses and discovered the siding underneath was rotten as well. He was hoping to get that siding done before the snow flew. We weren’t expecting quite so much this weekend, so that is now put on hold! That home is the only one with no residents at the moment, so it’s not a problem for now. Brian will be working on miscellaneous projects during the winter, while his back heals and the homes are full.

The BCM Christmas giving catalogue is almost completed! And the next edition of BCM World is in the works! Essentially that just means that we’re never bored. 😉

Kids are great, though coughing like everyone else right now. E is looking forward to a longer break from school. They’re all looking forward to seeing their aunt and uncle from Vermont this week!

Finishing Fall

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Unfortunately the leaves don’t look like this anymore! They are mostly gone with just a few stubborn trees hanging on still. It’s beginning to look more dreary. It’s already flurried once and it’s COLD when we ship our daughter off to school in the mornings! However, I say that, and yet today it’s supposed to be around 70* again! We can’t complain too loud!

Brian has seen the doctor about his back and was told it’s a herniated disc and just to take it easy and not lift things over 20lbs. He’s been doing more work and has noticed that lifting is not nearly as painful as before. He’s looking into some other ideas to help his back heal more fully. It’s been such a slow process; he still struggles with not getting discouraged. Getting back to work has made him feel more like himself again, though, so that’s good! We also are SO THANKFUL for all of YOU who blessed him with sweet cards over the last few weeks after I sent out the plea via email (if you’re not on our newsletter list, you missed that one! Sign up today!). It really did encourage him – thank you for taking the time to write those!!

Only one home will be mostly vacant this winter. Every other home on the property will have residents throughout the rest of 2016 and most of 2017. We’re really enjoying getting to know everyone on the property these days. Really unique families with unique backgrounds and ministries.

Brian is hoping to finish siding at least one more side of the main house before the snow flies. He finished winterizing the pavilion, including digging (very slowly, on his knees) a trench to help drainage around it. I’m not sure what all his plans are for the next few months since the homes will be full.

With BCM, he finished designing the 2017 calendar (and it looks awesome!). Right now we’re working on a Christmas catalog and I have two articles on my plate for December’s BCM World. This Friday is the annual BCM Banquet in Lancaster which we won’t be able to attend this year. However, if you’re in Lancaster and would like to go – please do! It’s a great opportunity to hear in person what God is doing through BCM around the world.

Church has been going very well. We’re running just about 30 kids both Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings in our main programs, along with 20 kids in the younger classes and 10-15 in the nurseries! We packed 10 shoeboxes together on Wednesday night for Operation Christmas Child. In two weeks, the Sunday morning kids will take “law enforcement survival kits” to the local State Police Department. They’ve been contributing candy and we’ll put them into little bags with a cute note and a booklet (“How Good is Good Enough?”) and a business card with the church info on it and hand deliver them to the officers after church. My goal is to have one service project in both the fall and spring semesters for the Sunday and Wednesday kids and so far, so good!

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Kids are doing well! They were sick with nasty colds for awhile, but nothing too drastic or abnormal. E just went on a field trip with the 1st & 2nd grades to the Crayola Factory and Brian got to go with her! I think it’s pretty awesome that her dad was able to take time out to go with her and they had a great time.

You can be praying with us that we can find a good pediatric dentist for Big J. He needs dental work and we had a very traumatic experience last Friday in the process. I need to find him a pediatric dentist right away. Poor kid; dentists are not going to be his friend anymore than they were mine I think.

A formal newsletter will be going out soon! If you’re not on our list, drop us a note and we’ll add you.