Saturday, December 28, 2013

Family Christmas

Exactly three weeks after our Family Thanksgiving, we gathered again for our Family Christmas! Our daughter, Cristy, and family had come up from Dallas for Thanksgiving, and for Christmas, we were blessed to have Seth come from San Francisco! Together with our one son and three daughters (and their families) who live nearby, and also Gary's brother, and my father, we were a group of 18 for Christmas! So incredibly thankful for family ...
We chose a different menu for our Christmas - sukiyaki! A fun dish that is cooked in electric frying pans right at the table - and so delicious! The top photo above shows us in the kitchen after the meal, cleaning up together. There isn't much that brings me more joy than to have our grown kids home - and also, in the kitchen with me!
The grandkids had a lot of patience to wait until mid-afternoon for the opening of presents! Christmas is so much fun with children - we enjoyed watching six grandkids opening their gifts (Levi - 11, Ali - 6, Cruz, Jake & Cole - all 4, and little Eva - 1). Of course, there were gifts for the rest of us as well ... but the greatest gift of all is just being together.
Later in the evening we put out a spread of snacks and goodies for all to enjoy while we played games together ... maybe a favorite part of our Christmas together.

So much to be thankful for at Christmastime ... the Greatest Gift of all, JESUS ... the gift of a loving family ... and expressions of love as we share gifts of love, good food, and presents together. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Family Thanksgiving Day

We are always so very blessed when our family comes home - and on Saturday, Nov. 30, twenty-three of us gathered here for our Family Thanksgiving Day! All of our children and grandchildren were here, except we missed Seth (in CA) who wasn't able to come, and we're thankful he'll be coming for Christmas. Cherry's father (92 years old), and Gary's brother also joined us for the day.

Click here for a few more photos of our wonderful day together - posted on Cherry's Pursuing Heart blog. And now, we are preparing for family home again for our Family Christmas - such a wonderful time of year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fall Freezer Meal Day

A couple of times a year our three daughters (who live nearby) and I get together for a fun and productive Freezer Meal Day. We each bring ingredients for a main dish recipe or two, and multiply it to make enough for each of our households, plus an extra for a son who also lives nearby (and who joins us on some of our Freezer Meal Days). We are so blessed to live close to each other so we can do this together, and it is wonderful to have meals to put into our freezer for the weeks ahead.

Saturday, Nov. 16, was one of these days for us - and it has been so helpful to have meals already prepared and just waiting to be heated up during these busy holiday weeks! Please click here to read more, and for links to the recipes that we made.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Boyer Chute

Just a few miles east from our little town, you will find the Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge. We are fortunate to have this prairie-like natural habitat so close by, and we have gone there often. 

"Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1992 to restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat in and along the Missouri River. The refuge is one of more than 550 refuges across the country. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the largest network of lands and waters in the world set aside for the benefit of wildlife.

The Boyer Chute (or channel) lies at the center of the refuge and runs parallel to the Missouri River. The chute carved out its path from an island formed by the Boyer River. It was blocked in 1937 to make boat travel on the river easier, not knowing that this would disturb valuable  wildlife habitat.

The Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked together to restore the Boyer Chute. With the help of other conservation partners, the 
chute is once again a functioning part of the Missouri River. This cooperation continues today to benefit fish, migratory birds, endangered species, and resident wildlife." (Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge brochure)

As a couple we have been there often, and also, Gary likes to make the short drive there even more often, and go for long walks along the water, and through the fields. A great place to go to over the weekend, after a busy week of work/ministry - walking, praying, and enjoying God's amazing creation.

On a recent visit, he came back with some photos of animal tracks - deer, turkey, coyote, racoon, and fox footprints. So thankful for the opportunity to live close to this refuge.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Our Mahoney Retreat

Instead of traveling a distance for another of our allotted vacation weeks for this calendar year, we chose a restful, quiet spot not far from where we live - at beautiful Mahoney State Park. It was just perfect for our needs to get away, rest, and be refreshed in the midst of a busy life of family and ministry. 

The view from the upper level of our tree-topper cabin looked out over the Platte River - such a beautiful season to be there with the changing colors of the fall leaves. We spent hours there, reading, resting, being refreshed - with windows on all four sides of the room to view the beauty through, and warmed by the wood stove. 

Beautiful weather for taking walks along the Platte and through the hills of the State Park - the perfect time of year to be there. Click here and here for more words and photos on Cherry's Pursuing Heart blog. We are so very thankful to God for giving us this quiet retreat - perfect for our needs, and beyond what we even hoped for.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Family Day

A beautiful fall day for family fun at Skinny Bones on Saturday, October 19th! Here are a few favorites from the many photos that we took ...
Sharing a beautiful day together with three daughters, one son-in-law, and six grandkids!
Adorable little Eva - 19 months old
This play jail was one of the grandkids' favorites at Skinny Bones
Our four youngest grandkids
Love this shot of Levi with ET
Our fun day ended with a bonfire at Sean & Sara's, which included a birthday cake and presents for grandson Levi, who had turned 11 on the 11th!

Click here to see a few more photos, in digital scrapbook form, from our day together (on Cherry's Pursuing Heart blog).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Colorado Vacation

After taking part in the DCC planning meetings near Denver the weekend of Sept. 19-22, we stayed on in beautiful Colorado for a week of much-needed vacation time. Our summer had been very full; no time for a vacation trip, so this was the perfect time. 

We drove to Grand Lake, Colorado, where we had reserved a cottage for the week of Sept. 23-27, and stayed for night on the way at the ski resort of Winter Park (with their lower off-season rates). A first for us to stay in at a ski resort, so that was fun. And even more fun, as we woke up to snow the next morning!

Driving from Denver to the beautiful mountains.

The first snowfall of the season in Winter Park.

The cottage we had reserved online by Grand Lake was just perfect - so restful, and with a gorgeous view, overlooking the other cottages and Grand Lake in the distance. 

Our restful Eagle's Nest cottage.

We could not get enough of the beauty all around us. Our first full day we walked or drove to a number of spots nearby, right on Grand Lake. The weather was perfect ... 

Gorgeous Grand Lake with a view of the mountains.

Our second full day we drove past Grand Lake, to Shadow Mountain Lake, by Granby Lake, and then spent some time at a beautiful little lake, Monarch Lake. We spent several hours hiking the four-mile trail around the lake. Again, it was just perfect weather, even though rain had been in the forecast.

Restful, peaceful Monarch Lake.

The next day we drove to nearby Adams Falls and walked the mile-long trail along the streams and up to the falls. 

Along the trail to Adams Falls.

After lunch back in the town of Grand Lake, we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park, and walked the Coyote Trail through a quiet valley - so peaceful, and such gorgeous views.

Walking the Coyote Trail.

On the way back to our cottage we drove through a magnificent display of aspens in their beautiful fall foliage. We were continually amazed at the perfect timing of our stay in the area - the days were just gorgeous, and the trees were at a peak of brilliant autumn color.

Beautiful aspen trees.

We took many, many more photos - this is just a very small sampling. There was so much beauty at every turn. We thank God for the incredible blessing of this week away. Besides the walks and drives to the nearby lakes, we spent many hours at our cottage - resting, relaxing, reading, and being filled up with God's love and the rest that He provided for us.

(Many more photos will be used in the coming weeks/months on Cherry's Pursuing Heart blog.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

DCC Planning in Denver

Student conferences are a big part of Cru, as conferences are a place where college and high school students are often impacted for eternity. And as staff, this requires a lot of prayer, planning, and concentrated effort, following God's leading to put on conferences that will meet students in their places of need, seeking to create a place where great spiritual growth can happen.

We traveled to Denver as a couple for the weekend of Sept. 20-22 to be part of one of these planning sessions in anticipation of DCC (Denver Christmas Conference), the student conference that takes place in Denver between Christmas and New Years. 

Students from our Omaha area campuses will be traveling to this conference in late December. Last year was our first year to bring students to this conference, as we had previously taken them to the FastBreak Conference in MN. We are grateful to be asked to join DCC with our high school students, and it is a valuable time to be in on the ground floor of planning this conference. Our presence is important, as we give input from the viewpoint of the high school students that we work with.

More detailed news about DCC 2013 will be coming in the near future, and will be posted on our Cru Omaha blog.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Our Sweet Crystal Mae

It has been quite a year so far for our beautiful, sweet 15 year-old granddaughter in Texas. And there is much more that she will go through this calendar year.

After some physical concerns in the beginning of this calendar year, and after a series of doctor visits and lots of testing, we heard the devastating news that Crystal has Juvenile Nephronophthisis. This is a very rare genetic kidney disease (chances are one in a million), where a person's kidneys will fail sometime in their teen years. There is no cure; and the form of treatment is to have a kidney transplant.

At the time of diagnosis, Crystal's kidneys were functioning at about 40%, and the doctor estimated that she would be in need of a kidney transplant by the spring or summer of 2014. 

However, at Crystal's testing and reevaluation in August, it was discovered that her kidney function had already dropped down to 24%. This is the level when preparations for a kidney transplant begin in earnest. All the paperwork in preparation for a transplant and for insurance coverage has been done, and has been approved. And tomorrow Crystal will be going through a full day of lab work, testing, and meeting with an array of doctors who will be involved in the process of transplant. 

We don't know yet when the transplant will be, but are assuming that it will be before the end of this calendar year. Cristy & Mark, our daughter and son-in-law, will be considered first of all as possible donors. Cristy will begin some of the necessary lab work tomorrow to see if she will qualify. Both Cristy & Mark's blood types are good matches for Crystal, but there is much more that is checked to find exactly the best possible match. 

Please pray for Crystal, for her parents, and the rest of their family - Abigail (17), Luke (11), and Brianna (7). It has been a year with a lot of doctor visits, and a lot of unknowns. We are so grateful for their strong faith and trust in the midst of this difficult situation. 

Even Crystal has been so strong, and has often been the one who encourages the rest of us. She suffers daily from the affects of poor kidney function, struggles with nausea through much of each day, needs to have repeated shots, takes medications to keep her blood pressure in normal ranges, and experiences general overall fatigue. She continues on with her sophomore classes in the midst of all that she is going through. Her sweet spirit and her faith and trust in God are a blessing to us; we thank God for His presence and love in her life.

Of course, this is so hard for us as grandparents, as well. How we would love to be nearby and be of help on a continuing basis. Our trip to TX the end of May was a very special time. And we are so grateful for the support and encouragement we have been given by our leaders at Cru headquarters in FL - granting us time off to help our family for two to four weeks at the time of transplant.

You are invited to read many more details that our daughter, Cristy, puts up on Crystal's CaringBridge site - click here. And we greatly appreciate your prayers - and thank those of you who have already been praying for our sweet Crystal Mae. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Legacy of Love

We love because He first loved us.

Because we are loved, we love. Because the author of Love, the One who is Love, loved us by giving His very life for us, we are set free to freely give love.

The words above from I John 4:19 were printed on our wedding programs forty-two years ago this week. In our twenties, as we prepared for our wedding ceremony and hoped to capture the depth of what our special day would signify, these words came to our mind. Filled with gratitude to God for His Love and for the love we would celebrate together as husband and wife.

God's love is perfect, beyond our comprehension, and has no end. " ... Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

And because of this never-ending, all-encompassing Love, we can live in the best of love. On the days when all is well, and love bubbles up, overflowing and spilling out everywhere. And also when life is difficult - when we feel helpless to love. In all these days, we are held tightly together by His Love. For we love, because He first loved us. 

His Love, in us - flowing out from our marriage to bless others. A never-ending supply of Love. For though we are imperfect, and weak, we are loved by a perfect God who through His Spirit in us, loves others through us.

"He died for everyone,
so that those who receive His new life
will no longer live for themselves.
Instead, they will live for Christ
who died and was raised for them."
(II Cor. 5:15)

A Legacy of Love - coming from the Source of Love, lived out day-by-day and moment-by-moment. A channel where this Love flows through us from the Source. Flowing through the imperfect and the weak - so that it is obvious that it is not our own, but it is His Love. Because He first loved us, we are free to love.

Thanking God for 42 years of living and loving as a couple - for the joys of love, for the lessons in love, and that we are blessed beyond measure to know the Source of Love. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rotator Cuff Surgery

We started out the month of August with ... surgery. Rotator cuff surgery. Early this calendar year, Gary began to notice that something was not quite right with his right shoulder. We are thinking that it probably came as a result of his doing pull-ups on a wooden bar in our family room. Something he has done off and on for years, but over time, it seems that it caused some stress and pain.

The pain had started gradually, but increased over time, and he began to experience difficulty in using his right arm, especially when extending his elbow and arm above shoulder height. He also began to experience pain while sleeping on his right side. 

He tried various kinds of treatment, including weeks of chiropractor visits, then physical therapy for several months at the advice of his doctor. Nothing seemed to help, and finally, the doctor prescribed surgery after an MRI revealed that he did in fact have a torn rotator cuff. 

So, after a full summer of travels, the surgery was scheduled for the first day of August. The outpatient surgery went well on Thursday, and we were back home by mid-afternoon. Besides the anesthesia for the surgery, Gary also was given a "block" - total numbing of his right shoulder, arm, and hand. 

And after three days of recovery so far, we are thankful that all is going well. It was a relief when the numbing wore off, as Gary is now free to use his right hand - carefully, even though he is not to use his right arm above the elbow. Doctor's orders are to keep his arm in a sling, and use it only while at therapy. For four weeks. It will be a challenge to function without the use of his right arm for this whole month. 

We're thankful for minimal pain. On Friday he experienced quite a bit of nausea. We figured out that the nausea was coming from the pain meds, and took the risk of skipping a few doses. Amazingly, he is not experiencing much pain! So, three days after the surgery he is doing well even without pain meds. We are so thankful.

Please pray for complete healing, and for full use of his right arm and shoulder again. Also, please pray for us this month, as it is a full month of starting up with another school year of student ministry. Pray that we will pace ourselves, giving adequate time for healing from surgery - and that we will trust Him with all the details of family and ministry. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Garden Blessings

Last summer we set apart a 10 by 30 foot area in our backyard - the perfect spot to have a veggie garden again. Our son, Lance, came out and helped us prepare the soil, and border it with 4x4 cedar wood to set it off from the rest of our yard. 

All the preparation of the garden spot last year made it so much easier when it came time for planting this year. Gary planted our veggies, and also some decorative flowers in late May/early June. The straw covering the garden soil (from the year before) kept the soil so moist and fertile. I'm thankful for my hubby and his "green thumb"! The garden is so productive, and also so beautiful. 

We just arrived back from two weeks at our staff conference in Colorado, and hoped that our garden had survived the heat of the past two weeks. How exciting for us to find that the garden had not only survived, but had flourished! (Thanks to two "angels" who came and watered our garden faithfully while we were gone - thanks, Tim & Audrey!)

I had picked out some ornamental pole beans to try this year - they add such a beautiful touch to the garden! They look great climbing up the teepee frames that Lance had made for us last summer.

Our first day home we enjoyed some fresh goodness from our garden - cucumbers, green beans, and potatoes. A wonderful welcome home!

Thanking God for His gifts to us ...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cru Staff Conference 2013

We always look forward to our every-other-year Cru Staff Conference, and this year was no exception. And this year was our eleventh trip traveling to Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, for this valuable time of training and learning together with other Cru staff. Our time in Fort Collins was broken down into three different segments.

 Cru High School Ministry Days

Our first few days were spent together with other Cru High staff from all across the nation, and some from around the world. Such a rich time: hearing from our Executive Director, Darryl Smith - always pointing us to First Love ... Level 316 leading us in worship (such a great time of worship!) ... and learning from other staff through discussions around our tables and over meals together. 

Finishing off our time together with ice-cream sundaes

Legacy Track

Next, and overlapping with Cru High Ministry Days, was the first-ever Legacy Track. A few days together with other staff who are over 60 - and yes, we qualify for that category! We loved our time of sharing and learning from fellow staff in the same season of life that we are in. It was one of the many highlights of our time in Colorado.

Visit with Uncle Sherwood & Aunt Marion

We had a morning and afternoon free after the first two segments of our time came to a close. We drove from Fort Collins to nearby Loveland, where we met up with Uncle Sherwood & Aunt Marion - a special treat to spend some together with this sweet couple! 

Cru Staff Conference

Our six days of all-staff conference started out with a County Fair - especially enjoyed by the families present. It brought back memories for us of when we attended conference with our kids ... all six of our kids were with us for our very first staff conference in 1991! And now, we are attending as "empty nesters" - how the years fly by! 

One of our Cru Omaha staff families enjoying the ferris wheel ...

Our next six days were filled with sessions - mornings, afternoons, and also evenings. A very full schedule of listening, learning, and connecting with staff. We took time our first full day to have lunch together with our Cru Omaha staff team - what a treat to have each of them there with us!

Mornings and evenings found all of staff (about 5,000!) in Moby Arena for great times of worship, and valuable learning times as we listened to our leaders (Steve Douglass, Steve Sellers, Mark Gauthier, and more), and also to speakers such as Alistair Begg, James White, and many others. Our journals are filled with notes, and we will be processing and integrating all that we heard and learned in the coming days and weeks.

Welcoming the new staff who have joined Cru since our last time together two years ago

An especially memorable time was when we were led through worship in some very creative ways, culminating in the lighting of candles signifying Jesus lighting our lives with His love. A breath-taking time as the creative team led us through the time of worship, using several different tangible objects to give extra meaning to truths of God's Word.

Afternoons were spent attending various seminars that were offered. We attended some very helpful ones, giving us new ideas for ministry partner development, more ideas on using technology, and thought-provoking insight on connecting with our changing culture and being able to love people and draw them to Jesus. 

We thank and praise God for allowing us to serve together with other staff of like-mind. A wide variety of ministries under Cru (the U.S. division of Campus Crusade for Christ) - and many different focuses - but all, with a common vision and common purpose. And what we love and appreciate most of all in serving with Cru is that we are always pointed to our First Love, pursuing Jesus with our whole hearts. And all the serving and ministry is an overflow from this.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

New Beginnings

As we drove to Colorado earlier this month for our every-other-year Cru Staff Conference, we asked God to use the next eleven days for whatever purposes He desired. Eleven days of a break from our normal routine ... eleven days to listen to God through speakers, music, and to other staff from all across our nation and around the world. And we desired to learn all that God wanted to teach us. 

From those eleven days ...

God has filled us up with Him, with truths from His Word, and with new insight and encouragement as we return home to family and to ministry. From the Cru High Ministry Days, to the Legacy Track Days, to the six days of Staff Conference - God has given us much. We will be processing, and integrating all that we have heard into our hearts and minds in the days and weeks ahead, asking God to use it all for His purposes.

And a new beginning ...

In the past we had a blog where we shared photos and news from our home and family, as well as from the ministry He has called us to. When the providers of that blog closed their services down about two years ago, we lost our family/ministry blog. 

Since then, our Cru Omaha blog has become our new online home for sharing Cru Omaha news, what God is doing in the lives of high school students through Cru in the Omaha area. And now, today, we are opening up this new blog to share news from our home and family, and also from our own lives as we are involved in ministry. A place where we'll keep in touch with family and friends, as well as with those who pray for and give financially as we serve through Cru.