Saturday, May 15, 2021

March Memories

We must be really enjoying our retirement ... so much that we haven't even been able to keep up with posting here on our blog! Actually, life continues to be full even during retirement, as we are blessed with a big family, and also many friends. These past few months have also been filled with helping with arrangements and much prep for Gary's brother, Neum, to move to Assisted Living. We're thankful we have been able to help out, and now that the big move has happened, we're back here with another post. 

We do desire to keep in touch with our friends! Here are four digital scrapbook pages filled with memories from March ... from early spring memories, to a granddaughter's birthday, to a dream come true of putting up a border fence on the west side of our big yard, and more.

We also had our first dose of Covid vaccine the end of March, mostly done in anticipation of being with all of our family this summer. We are so excited to finally all be together again, and this time, for a big occasion ... to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary! We've reserved a big VRBO rental home, with room for all of us! It will have been over two years since we have been all together, extra long because of the pandemic. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

February: Christmas Memories, Snow and More Snow, and a Few Good Reads


Greetings from a cold, snowy, winter wonderland! As we begin writing this update to our family and friends, the weather app on my (Cherry's) iPhone says it's 3 degrees, with a windchill of -12 degrees. Wow, that is cold. I think it's a good day to be indoors! We're also in a "Winter Weather Advisory", with more snow falling as I write.

Also, as I am writing this, the sounds of a snow blower have just started up out on our driveway. We have the most amazing neighbors, who have been clearing our driveway through each snowfall. On one recent, significant snowfall, they cleared our driveway about four times during the snowfall, keeping it from accumulating too much. One time was at 7 am. How amazing is that? Thank you Todd & Lynn, you are such a blessing!

Well, here we are in the second month of 2021. We'll start with a look back at our Christmas, as we haven't posted here for a number of months.

This past Christmas was a most unusual Christmas for us, as we were not able to host our usual big family gathering. How we missed that, a highlight of the year for us. That just couldn't work with the unusual pandemic season we are living through. But surprisingly, it turned out that we could still be with part of our family. Our daughter Carrie & husband Tyler invited us to join them in McCook the week between Christmas Day and New Years. Two of our other daughters, Amy from Beaver Lake, and Cristy from TX, and some of their family members also joined us there. Though we missed those who couldn't be there, it was such a fun, blessed, memorable time together! We absolute loved it! The two digital scrapbook pages below capture some of this joy! Thank you, Carrie & Tyler, for your amazing hospitality to all of us!

We're entering our 9th month of retirement now in February! How can that be? How can time go by so fast? We have yet to have a day when we are "bored", and both of us do not really know what that word means. Our lives are so full ... keeping up with our big family, spending time with our CityGroup (small group) friends, Citylight Midtown services on Sunday mornings, caring for our home, doctors appointments, taking care of some of Gary's brother's needs, keeping up daily with current news and concerns to pray for, and seeking to find time for multiple projects that are on our hearts and minds. It is a gift and a joy to be experiencing retirement together.

Christmas Eve was a very significant time for us as a couple, as we celebrated 50 years from our engagement! 50 years!! And this also means that this year 2021 we'll be celebrating 50 years since our wedding day in 1971! We are blessed beyond measure to be sharing life together with the one we love for almost 50 years now! Thank You, Lord, for leading us together, and for caring for us all these years.

And thank all of you who sent us Christmas cards, and for all the other multiple ways that you connect with us, and encourage us. It is always a joy to hear from you over social media, email, mail, etc. 

My Pursuing Heart blog has been fairly quiet over the past months, but I do love to put up a few posts each month. My first one of 2021 was focused on "In the Kitchen" - you can click here to read it.

And my other post last month focused on "In the Word", and "In Community". It is so very important to keep these essentials in place, even, and maybe especially during all the concerns going on in our country and around us. Keeping our hearts in the right place is essential. Click here to read the post.

Last of all, we both thought it would be fun to share a list of a few books that we each have read recently. It's a great time of year to curl up on the couch with a good book. Here are a few of our favorite recent readings:

From Gary:

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery -  by Eric Metaxas

Uncle Tom's Cabin - by Harriet Beecher Stowe

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty - by Eric Metaxas

From Cherry:

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot - by Ellen Vaughn

It's Not Supposed to Be This Way: finding unexpected strength when disappointments leave you shattered - by Lysa Terkeurst

Hidden Among the Stars - by Melanie Dobson

Along with our love of reading, you'll also often find us watching a movie together in the evenings, close by our new electric fireplace stove warming up the room. We've recently had fun watching a few good ones from past years: "The Hiding Place" (1975), "The Sound of Music" (1965), and "The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001). We're also currently enjoying two series airing now from Masterpiece Classic: "All Creatures Great and Small", and "Miss Scarlet and the Duke". 

We'll close off this winter update with a quote from "The Fellowship of the Ring". Gary shared the image below recently on Facebook, with these words:

"I love how Gandalf answers Frodo here. It really blessed me as we were watching The Fellowship of The Ring once again last night. Frodo went through so much and Gandalf was such a wise counselor... J.R.R. Tolkien gave the world such great insights through his stories."

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 timed our trip so that it would be over a weekend when we could watch Brianna cheer at a junior-high football game! We loved being able to be there for that!

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.