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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Our Transition to Retirement

 


It's been a bit silent here, as we've been transitioning into this new season of life for us. After 49 years of marriage, and 48 years of being in full-time ministry together, this is definitely a new season!

Also in addition with our transition to retirement, we, along with the rest of our country and world, have had quite an unusual year 2020.  We're all charting unfamiliar waters, filled with many challenges, but also, filled with unexpected joys, as we are held in God's faithful, loving care.

Two of the unexpected joys we've experienced recently have been two wonderful trips! Unexpected because of the extended Covid quarantine life we all have been living in one degree or another. 

These two recent trips in September/October have truly been gifts from God! There's nothing like a long road-trip to make a person feel the joys of retirement! Here's a little peek at our 15-day trip with dear friends, Jack & Linda! We started planning this trip in mid-July, and left on Sept. 9th ...

First of many digital scrapbook pages from our Glacier Trip.

There are no words to describe the joy of traveling with kindred-heart friends! Our main destination was beautiful Glacier National Park in northwest Montana, followed by Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, Arches NP, Canyonland NP, and Rocky Mountain NP. Also the gorgeous Grand Mesa National Forest near Grand Junction, CO. Such beauty everywhere, even on the roads and highways traveling between these parks in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. We're thankful for God's protection as we traveled, and for the soul-filling fellowship and fun that we enjoyed!! 


We also greatly enjoyed the very special treat of being with Cristy & Mark, and their family in Wylie, TX (near Dallas) the beginning of this month! Even more special during this Covid year when we haven't been able to be with family as much as we would love to. Cristy & Mark are down to only having one of their four children still at home now ... our sweet granddaughter, Brianna (8th grade). 


We were also able to spend time with Luke, a freshman at nearby Dallas Baptist University, when he came home during the weekend. It was very fun to meet his girlfriend, too.


Also some sweet times with Crystal, who is an intern at a recording studio in Dallas, after graduating from DBU in August! It was such a treat to see her, and also Luke, as we had missed both of their graduations (Crystal from college, and Luke from high school) during the summer because of Covid.                                                                                                               

We sure missed seeing Abigail & Addison on this trip to TX, as they are now serving in Japan with World Venture! We love connecting with them in various ways that social media, and texting provide.

It has been a big transition for us from full-time ministry for 48 years, to now actually being retired! There have been many details to care for, and with these two amazing trips, we definitely are now "feeling" the joys of retirement! The challenges of life continue (daily tasks, doctor appointments, responsibilities, also the challenges of this Covid season and election season), but we continually are thanking God for clearly leading us to this point. It has also been a joy to connect with Jake (now as the Cru Omaha leader here!), and also some former Cru High students in the area!

We took a day to enjoy the fall beauty along the Loess Hills scenic highway in mid-October. Here is a scrapbook page picturing some of what we saw ...


We cherish the gifts of family, friendships, and the beauty of God's creation! And we look forward to keeping in touch here during our retirement.

Also, here are some links to blog posts Cherry has written during this month on her Pursuing Heart blog. Gary also looks forward to writing his thoughts on a variety of subjects here in the weeks/months ahead.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Joys of Gardening

It is hard to describe the absolute joy that we both have in gardening, for watching beauty grow from seed, for seeing God's majesty displayed even in our own yard. And during our fresh new retirement, we have had even more time to give to our various gardens.

Gary is the main one with the "green thumb", having grown up on a farm. For me (Cherry), it's been a gradual learning from him, and we both admit that my thumb has turned a soft shade of green after all these years of living as "one".

The photos above were taken in May of this year, highlighting our herb garden (right outside our patio doors by our kitchen), our weigela plant that we moved to a new spot this spring, and also our 10x30 foot veggie garden spot that we started back in 2012. 


These next photos (above), were taken during the following month of June! You can see the growth in our herb garden, our veggie garden, our patio planters. Also visible are some vinca that we planted beneath our side steps. This is something we've wanted to do for quite a few years, and now finally had time to plant these vinca now that we are retired.


The photos above show glimpses into our garden during the month of July. Photos can hardly capture the beauty of the growth! There is so much joy in watching things grow. Now, at the time of this writing in August, things are changing even more. We've started some fall plants (zucchini, and butternut squash), which are now taking the space where the green beans and potatoes were earlier. 


Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Story of God's Amazing Love and Grace

How do you put into words a story that is so meaningful, so precious? Where we very clearly sensed God leading us step by step? Here is our attempt to share our story of how God led us from 48 years of full-time ministry to our recent retirement to Staff Emeritus. 

The following is taken from a letter that we sent our team of about 140 financial supporters last month. We wanted to share our hearts of thanks to them for making it possible for us to serve with Cru for the past 29 years, and now, we want to also share it with all the other dear friends and family in our lives, who have also been a part of these past years through your friendship and your prayers.

A Story of God's Amazing Love and Grace

One year ago at the beginning of June 2019, the plans on our hearts were to continue on as full-time staff indefinitely. Though we were approaching significant birthdays (75 for Gary, 70 for Cherry) in 2019, we still had the desire and passion to continue on as staff. After all, the founders of Cru, Bill & Vonette Bright, continued on through their 80's and to the time of their transition to heaven!

However, quite unexpectedly God led us to change these plans. Over Gary's 75th birthday in June 2019, we reserved a few days away at a beautiful little private retreat center just a 45 minute drive from our home. While there we were blessed with a few refreshing days of quiet connection as a couple, and also as we spent uninterrupted time reading and being renewed in God's Word, and in connection with Him. Also through some sweet conversations over the delicious meals that our hosts prepared and served to us, some new thoughts quite unexpectedly came to us regarding our future. It was like a lightbulb turned on ...

Is it possible that God would clearly show us when it is time for us to retire, just as He very clearly led us to join Cru staff years ago?

This was a new thought to us, and we left the retreat center with the idea that we would watch for that time to come in the future. But, also quite unexpectedly again, over the next 5-7 days, we both individually, and together as a couple, were drawn over and over to multiple verses and thoughts from Scripture that led us both to clearly see that yes, God was clearly showing us to begin to make plans for living a quiet life. (I Thess. 4:11, Psalm 46:10, and more) There was no doubt in our minds that this is what we were to do. Just as there had been no doubt in our minds back in 1991 that we were to make the big change from church planting to join the staff of Cru's High School ministry.

We were very amazed and full of thanks to God!

For though we had the passion to continue on, our energy level was (is) not the same as back in 1991 when we joined staff, and we were really longing for a quieter life, more time to focus on our growing family, and also on some personal projects including writing and sharing our stories of God's faithfulness over the years.

There were, however, several things that we felt needed to be in place before we could transition out of leading Cru High in our Omaha area.

First, of course, was that there would be a replacement for Gary as the Director (or Team Leader) of Cru Omaha. 

Quite amazingly, at the same time last June while we were at the retreat center, our fellow staff person, Jake Loftis, was in Colorado receiving his training to take over as Team Leader in Gary's place! The plans were already in place last summer that we would at some point switch roles with him, and he would be the Team leader for Cru Omaha, while we would both continue on for multiple years to be team members with him.

God had already provided a new Team Leader!

It was difficult for us to share our hearts with Jake & Chelsea at Staff Conference in Colorado that next month of July in 2019, that God was, in fact, leading us to transition off of staff in the near future. The main reason it was so difficult for us to share this news, was that we did not want to leave Jake without other team members. For though we have 20+ very amazing volunteers working with us, we felt that Jake should have some other full-time staff for the Cru Omaha team. We had been actively pursuing every opportunity we had to find more individuals to come on staff to be part of our Cru Omaha team, and had also been asking our national leaders for more staff members to be sent to Omaha for our team. But nothing had materialized.

However, in God's great faithfulness and love, there was already a plan in place.

For during the school year 2019-2020, God was already at work in providing for this need! Jake is the first one who come in contact with Daniel. Daniel was already on part-time staff with Cru on the UNL college campus. He had made the decision to join staff full-time upon his graduation this past December. But after learning of the high school team here, he made the decision to work with Jake on our Cru Omaha team! Isn't this just amazing? This summer as we have transitioned off of full-time staff to Staff Emeritus, Daniel will be raising his financial support to be full-time staff here on our Cru Omaha team, together with Jake! God is so good!

As you can see, we are so very thankful and excited for what God has done, and for what He has ahead for Cru Omaha! 

We continued on in our July Newsletter that we sent to our financial supporters, letting them know of ways they can keep on with designating their future gifts towards Cru Omaha. One of three ways to continue on supporting Cru Omaha (if they feel God leading them to do so), is to transition their gifts to Daniel! And, if any of you reading this post here, wish to do so, as well ... please contact us. But most of all, we would love for you to pray for the next season of leading middle school and high school students in the Omaha area to know Jesus! This is definitely a unique time in history ... please pray for many students to find a deep relationship with Jesus during these troubling times.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Glimpse Back at the Month of May

Our days and weeks were very full in May as we continued ministering to students through Zoom calls, and connecting with them in various others ways, while also being involved in other Cru ministry responsibilities. It was a challenge to continue to connect especially with some of our urban students, who don't always have the technical capabilities at their homes.

We were also busy preparing for our big transition to "Staff Emeritus" on July 1st. Who knew how many things there are to take care of to prepare for retirement, after nearly 48 years of full-time ministry (19 years in church planting, and then 29 years on staff with Cru)? We're thankful that God clearly called us to plan for retirement a year ago, for we have definitely needed a full year to prepare. 

We also mailed out our last Cru Communique newsletter to all our supporters and friends, a mailing list of close to 350. It's hard to imagine that this regular sending of newsletters will soon be changing after so many years. We're thankful that friendships will remain!

On the home front, here are three digital scrapbook pages that capture some of what took place during the month of May. It was a special gift to welcome the beautiful season of spring in the midst of the "stay-at-home" COVID-19 weeks/months. We loved the many opportunities to spend time outdoors!







Thursday, May 21, 2020

COVID-19 "Quarantine" During April

The weeks of COVID-19 "quarantine" have continued on longer than we imagined. And maybe especially for those of us in the "vulnerable" age category. 

A lot of unusual things have taken place for all of us, and just for fun, we thought we'd share a few photos with you. 


The digital scrapbook page (above) captures a birthday parade for our two grandsons who live nearby. Their April 2nd birthday will hold very unique memories for them! 

We sure miss spending time with our two daughters (and their families) who live nearby, but it's been such a treat to see them when they bring us groceries or garden plants. And communication can happen even while social distancing!


It was a different Easter for everyone, but being able to be part of our Citylight family through live-streaming of services (photo above) sure helps. And being at home more has brought various blessings, as well ... such as bread-making, making masks, and learning a new creative hobby of embroidery. 


Zoom meetings have saved the day, allowing us to meet with Cru students, with Cru staff, and also with our CityGroup (small group within Citylight). Photo above shows a special time "together" as nine CityGroup gals. Our husbands have met by Zoom, as well.

Another added blessing is that spring has come. Such a joy to be able to enjoy our yard, and to plant our veggie and herb gardens, as well as flower spots.

These three digital scrapbook pages give a glimpse of our lives during the month of April; the whole month spent "at home" except for a few brief errands and short drives. We're thankful for God's care, and for sweet connections with Cru staff, with students, and also with our dear family.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

From a Very Quiet Place

Citylight Omaha, now live-streaming 

How things change in just a matter of a few short weeks. Even just a month ago we would have never imagined what our new norm is now. And the new name that we have given to this blog space (renamed as we approach our retirement very soon) is more appropriate than ever ... this has become a very quiet place.

How are we doing in these days where we are staying at home due to COVID-19?

On the Cru front ...

Our days continue to be very full, but this is not quite how we expected our last months as full-time staff with Cru would look! This unexpected turn of events means that we no longer can meet with students on campus, or even meet with them anywhere. It has been quite an adjustment to switch to online Zoom gatherings instead of face-to-face meetings.

It is especially difficult for us to keep in touch with many of our inner city students, who may not have adequate resources to connect online very well. It has been a joy to watch some of the students take leadership themselves, reaching out to encourage their fellow students in creative ways.


On the home front ...

Our six grown kids are watching over us closely during these days, and are pretty much keeping us on lock-down here in our home. Because of being in the most susceptible age category for this virus, they are wanting us to be extra careful. We feel so loved and cared for, and are grateful. They have even been bringing us our groceries and other needs! 

Our family text group is active all through the day, each day, as we hear directly from NYC (two sons), Wylie TX (a daughter), McCook and Plattsmouth NE (two more daughters), and from close by us in Allen Hills (another daughter). We are loving this constant daily, continual connection, and also receiving first-hand updates on affects of COVID-19 in these areas. We also love hearing from our oldest granddaughter Abigail & her husband Addison, as they moved to Japan on March 1st as long-term missionaries with World Venture.

Please pray especially for our two sons (Seth, Lance) living in the epicenter of the coronavirus in the US now, and also our daughter (Sara) serving on the 'front lines' as a social worker in a hospital in Omaha.

And in our hearts ...

We are encouraged, sustained, and at peace as we continually adjust and lay our expectations before our faithful, never-changing, loving God. Even though we miss our physical connections with those we love and serve, we never have to miss His close presence with us. We are so very blessed to know Him, and pray for many all over the world to be drawn to Him during these days of challenge. 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock
where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him,
for God is our refuge.
(Psalm 62:5-8 NLT)


How are you doing?

We trust that you are each doing well as you care for and love your families and friends during this time. We really would love to hear from you! Thanks for your friendship, your prayers, and for reading this ... and please share any prayer needs that you would like for us to pray for during these challenging times.

For more reading, you're invited (especially the gals), to read Cherry's posts this past month on her Pursuing Heart blog:

Two devotional posts:

Two recipe posts:

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A New Year 2020


This online space, "From a Quiet Place",
has definitely been quiet.
But not necessarily because it's 
been quiet here in our lives,
but because life has been so full!

We started this space up again last fall with a new title, sharing about our 75/70 year, and our plans for retirement from Cru (coming soon on July 1, 2020). We put up two more posts in the fall, and now, here we are at the beginning of 2020. And it's past time for an update!

What has life been like for us on the Cru front?

The first semester of the 2019-2020 school year went by in a blur! Our main focus with Cru has been encouraging Jake (now the director of Cru Omaha, as we will be retiring soon). He is doing a great job, and we are so grateful for how God has brought him to this place, at just the right time! He is perfect for this position!

Our next focus has been (and continues to be) to encourage our volunteers at the three campuses that we have been primarily in charge of ... Omaha North High School, Omaha Central High School, and Accelere Alternative School. They are doing an amazing job! Our focus is to build them up, and help them feel equipped to lead as they continue on in the coming years. We thank God for Syndi, Seven, Bill, Vicki, Danette, and Ron. They'll continue to receive leadership from Jake in the future, and will play a significant part in Cru Omaha as capable and passionate volunteers.

Volunteer, Syndi (left in back row) with some of her Cru North students!

PLEASE PRAY FOR:

* Syndi (in photo above) and our other volunteers as they give of their time to love and disciple students in the midst of already-full lives. That they would be encouraged during this time of transition as we step away from the campuses.

* A part-time Cru staff guy, Daniel, who may be placed in Omaha this next fall - he would be an amazing addition to the team here, and a great help and encouragement for Jake!

* Jake as he has many responsibilities, including leading a Cru High summer mission team to Columbia this coming summer.

* Students from our area to join Jake on this summer mission to Columbia. This mission is one of seventeen groups from Cru High going overseas on mission this summer.

Click here for more info as you pray.


And what has life been like for us on the home front?

Though God has clearly led us to plan for retirement in the middle of 2020, this change also clearly holds a wide variety of emotions for us. Change is exciting, and also can be difficult. It means slowly releasing God's calling to serve full-time through Cru, while at the same time continuing to embrace the heart of ministry that He has for us as long as we are on this earth. 

What will life look like for us on retirement? We are curious to see ourselves how this will look! We do know that our lives as followers of Jesus will continue to be an everyday listening to Him, and following His direction. Abiding in Him day-by-day, and having His love and grace flow through our lives to others.

We are anticipating spending quality time with our dear children and grandchildren ... four daughters, two sons, and their families. This is of high priority for us. We also anticipate continuing to encourage those in leadership here with Cru Omaha, being available to mentor and build into the lives of others in ministry. 

Another pull on our hearts is to have time to write and record our stories of how God has been faithful in the midst of great joys and also great trials. Desiring to pass on these stories of God's grace. And, of course, we are anticipating some slower days, more times of quiet, and time to pursue various projects we both have.

__________

PLEASE PRAY for us as we "let go" in the next few months, and as we embrace the new season ahead. Also, for all the tangible matters that need to be cared for ... changing from Cru's BCBS insurance to Medicare (which can be quite confusing as we search for the right plan), and also as we make adjustments to live with a smaller income upon retirement.
__________

Some special highlights with family recently ...

* A visit to see daughter Cristy & Mark & family in TX this past September. It was our first time there after they moved into a beautiful brand new home last summer.

* Several day trips to see daughter Amy & Joe & family at their new home by Beaver Lake (a 45-minute drive from here), including spending a very special Christmas Day with them there.

* Time with daughter Sara & Sean & family (just a 7-minute drive from us), including a delightful Thanksgiving Meal at their home. And also attending multiple events their boys are in.

* Two trips in December to see daughter Carrie & Tyler & family in McCook (5-hour drive) - the latter one to be with them at the time of the memorial service for Tyler's grandpa. We're so glad we could be there at that time.

* And though we miss seeing our two sons, Seth (& girlfriend Fer), and also Lance, all in NYC, we love every phone call, text, and connection that we have with them. We are hoping to make a trip to NY to visit them on one of our first trips after retirement!

And, sharing our most recent highlight ...


Our Family Christmas
with 23 family members here in our home! 

Schedules were too full to make it happen in December, so we celebrated a January Christmas! It was wonderful, and extra special as we also got to experience a "White Christmas". We were missing three family members who would have loved to be with us, but couldn't make it work this time. 

We also had a special evening together honoring our oldest granddaughter & her husband (Abigail & Addison), as they will be moving very soon to Japan to serve long-term with World Venture! It was a joy to honor them, and also emotional to say good-bye, as this was their last trip up from Texas before they fly to Japan on March 1st.

Just look at these wonderful grandkids of ours ... all home for our January Christmas!

We are cherishing the memories of our January Christmas, and thank God for His gift of family.

And thanks for reading this long update ... we value your friendship, and your prayers! 

Thanks also for your generous gifts/donations to our account in recent months (meeting our end-of-year need!), and thank you in advance for your prayers and support this New Year!