Good morning .... good, snowy, spring morning! As I watched flurries outside my window, I thought, "If April showers bring May flowers, what do April snow showers bring?!"
Hopefully, the April showers and and the April snow showers will bring lots of healthy moisture to our newly laid sod. Since we first were able to lay sod in the lot next to our house 4 years ago, it has taken a beating. The margins near each wall were decent, but the well-worn path from all of the people passing through the main part of the yard were patchy at best. The worst spots were where the grass was totally absent, and then exposed dirt was entirely too enticing to our kids for hole digging. Of course they were digging holes with good intentions --- they filled the holes with water to go fishing in them! Turns out that the holes are actually much better for twisting an ankle than for fishing though.
So this year our yard got a fresh start. In the same way that we are starting out with a full lush yard for our summer ministry, we are praying and thinking hard about how to plan ministry that is fresh and new. Each year our block continues to change, and many of the kids who we could always count on to come and participate in our summer activities now live far away. While I'm sure we could scrape together a meager number of kids to come and participate in the same kinds of actives that we have done in the past, we see this as an opportunity to take some risks and try some new things. One idea is to have some of the older kids on the block serve as paid interns for the ministry events we have planned ---giving them an opportunity to work, learn some more leadership and serving skills and give us a hand with the logistics of events like movie nights, worship nights and possibly even an art gallery display or talent show. Trying new things can feel overwhelming, but please pray that we will have insights and ideas that will really meet the unique needs of families in our neighborhood.
Frank was able to invest this time in the yard in part because he has come to the completion of a one-year season of having a part time job at our church. It was perfectly timed for a really financially vulnerable time for us, but also made for a really demanding year. Since he had to be the first one there to open & and make coffee, and the last one to leave, I (Elizabeth) was spending Sundays getting the kids ready and to church on my own, and probably making people either wonder what kind of business I had going to church or thinking I could do with a double-dose of church when they heard me getting the kids out to the van every Sunday. I jest in part ... it wasn't always so bad, and in reality it was Frank who not only did the hard work of 5+ hour workdays every Sunday morning, but other than the handful of times that we travelled and visited other churches, he never got to enjoy just sitting and hearing a sermon or worshipping in song. While he thrived at doing his job, there are also parts of his heart as an encourager, pray-er and father that he was missing out on.
So it was a really joyful day on the first Sunday in April when we got to all drive in the same vehicle to and from church together for the first time in a year! It was really restful to enjoy a plain ol' Sabbath. And with that season behind and a new season ahead, Frank is looking forward to getting to be a part of the prayer team at our church, to spending time at The Last Stop here in our neighborhood, and to helping with some of the repair and maintenance needs at the church building where our kids go to preschool. Things have fallen together really beautifully, and we are feeling grateful for the time that Frank had in this job at our church, but hopeful about what is ahead. (And incidentally, our financial support with Adventures in Missions has been steady and sufficient, and so we were able to balance out that loss of his church paycheck with a little AIM pay raise!)
Meanwhile, God continues to care for us.
Some highlights of 2016 so far ...
I (Elizabeth) was able to take on a new childbirth class series that I really, really enjoy teaching. It meets for 5 full classes, so I really get to know and invest in the couples who take it. I also started offering a "hybrid" birth class so that couples strapped for time could do a combination online/in person class. If it catches on like wild-fire, you saw it here first, folks!
We got to enjoy some extra time with our kiddos and did a LOT of laundry during February & March when "scabies" went from being just a word that you heard that made you itch, to knowing all of the ins and outs of how to treat for and prevent re-infestation. Not fun. Also when our washer decided to putz out! Thank you Pennsylvania State tax refund for arriving just in time!
We were able to spend Spring Break in Virginia with the Westfall side of the family, and even got to spend a few days at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. The last time we were there, Selah was two and Callum was about 6 weeks old. Now Selah is a rollercoaster lover, and even Clementine shocked us with the thrilling rides she rode again and again! We are really enjoying our family time with the age that our kids are.
As we enjoy full days, God steadily keeps us living a life with wide margins for all of the things that just come up. Last night a neighbor knocked on our door because a woman was passed out on another neighbor's steps. The fact that something like this happens where we live, and that Frank is the one that neighbors turn to in these situations is really the heart of why we are here. The woman's name was Erin --- she's 43, and she has a shelter about a mile or so away under the interstate. (and by shelter, I mean a collection of stuff, out in the elements --- not a homeless shelter) Frank got her mom on the phone so they could talk, and took her down to her spot. Erin was not in a state to receive and remember much of anything, but Frank was able to encourage her mom. Pray for Erin, her mom, her son & daughter who are being raised by other family. But for the grace of God, it could be any of us. And hopefully by the grace of God, there is still much much more to her story.
I'll leave you with this ---- this month at our church, several members are being given the opportunity to preach about "The Difference that Jesus Makes." I was asked to speak this last Sunday, and the sermon can be heard on our church website and on SoundCloud. It's a really honest expression of where my heart and life are now, and is meant to be really encouraging and energizing --- give a listen if you can! http://www.mosaicphiladelphia.org/#...
Also, below I will post some pictures of the process of the new grass, and other pictures from the year this far. Don't worry --- no pictures of scabies!
Love, grace and peace to you all!