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Archive for April, 2008

Fresh Grounded Faith

My friend Jennifer is special indeed. The first thing most people notice about her is that she is, in the words of her husband, “aesthetically pleasing.” That’s PhD talk for beautiful. And she is. The next obvious thing is that she is articulate, geniune and fun to be around. You could learn many things about Jennifer in a short conversation, and then somewhere along the way you’d learn something that surprises most everyone. She can’t see. Jennifer has unwittingly fooled many with her well focused eyes that sparkle with spirit…cashiers, waiters, new acquaintances and a girl on a plane who cursed her up one side and down the next for not returning the offer of a handshake!

Jennifer has written six books (and is working on her seventh) and criscrossed the country speaking and singing and defying all notions of what most think about blindness. She is a friend of purpose and deep loyalty, and I love her dearly, and last weekend I had the unexpected privilege of sharing a stage with her. She has begun hosting a series of regional conferences called Fresh Grounded Faith. You might remember the pictures I showed you of the first conference this past January in Waco. Well, the most recent event was in Richmond, Virginia, and Jennifer asked me to be the emcee.

Jennifer and I have done lots of things together over the years. We began our friendship by writing together. Then traveling together. Doing a lot of life together. Eating lunch in her bathroom together (in the middle of taping for the Billy Graham tv special). Sharing our love of chocolate together. Leading thought provoking classes called, Chick Chat, together. And much much more. But this weekend brought a new shared experience, and I was delighted to be able to tell the 1,000 or so women who gathered in Richmond about my friend. Those of you who know her know what I mean. And for those of you who don’t, I hope you’ll get to meet her one of these days soon.

For now, here’s a peek at our weekend…

Part of the FGF crew…Kathryn, me, Jennifer, Phil, Varyn and Mary Jo

Women focused on a lovely time of worship…

And then during some fun…

Jennifer, on stage, showing the world what God can do…

Jennifer and me sharing some laughs with the women…

Shelley Jennings, Jennifer, Phil and me…Shelley is a wonderfully gifted musician, worship leader and songwriter, Phil is Jennifer’s very own Dr. Phil (He’s her husband who has a PhD, and his name is Phil)! Sharing the time with the people was refreshing and thrilling all at once. They are deeply committed and it shows in their joy and passion. God was honored by their work this weekend, and I’m still basking in the glow.

My friend and me. Can you see why Dr. Phil says she’s “aesthetically pleasing?” Augustine said a friend is “one soul dwelling in two bodies.” So here we are, soulmates doing what God has given us to do. There is no greater joy.

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Rugged Beauty

A few weeks ago, my dear friend, Rhonda, invited the kids and I to spend the day with she and her girls at their family ranch. The ruggedness of this spectacular landscape is so different from the sights I’m used to seeing, and its beauty drew my thoughts to the incomprehensible wonder of the God I love.

It’s hard to grasp that the same mind who fashioned such magnificence out of these jagged cliffs and limestone rocks also imagined the the majesty of the seashore, the quiet splendor of the Ozark hills and the refined beauty of the English gardens. The original creative mind has surely inspired every other one that has followed. Whether an artist takes up a paintbrush, a chisel, a formless lump of clay, pen and paper or some other medium, he will always meet his match in the divine Creator who makes a canvas of the world we see and longs to engrave His wonderful name deeply on our hearts.

The day was perfect and was made even more so because of the delightful people who shared it with us. We ate lunch by the river, fished, swam, basked in the sun and loved getting to spend time with our friends. I have to tell you that the ranch’s caretaker is named J. R. A Texas ranch with a guy named J. R. running the show…How appropriate!

Rhonda has three girls: Lyndy (Princess), Mallory and Alyssa, and they are all such fun to be around. You’ll meet Alyssa in the pictures below, and I’ll be sure to share a photo of all the Wheeler girls with you soon…

Here’s Rhonda, the kids and our wheels for the day…no seatbelts, no doors and lots of fun.

I love the view in this picture. That’s Rhonda in the background and her daughter, Alyssa, there in the pink.

Mason fished and threw rocks most of the morning. We were a little concerned about losing some of those rocks since there seems to be a shortage!

Maddie and Alyssa…sweet girls…sweet friends.

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The house is almost complete. We’ve had a few bumps in the road lately…a chipped bathtub, poorly laid sod and now mint green trim. Most everything looks lovely, but we definitely have some kinks to straighten out before we close next week. They’ll completely re-enamel the tub, re-lay the sod and re-paint the trim, and it re-minds me that doing things right the first time saves a lot of time and trouble!

The kitchen is complete now except for putting all of the outlets into the wall…and my dishes into the cabinets.

The mint green trim…it’s actually much more pronounced in person. We think they just mixed the paint incorrectly. It will get a new coat of paint today or tomorrow. I can’t wait to see our “real” front door go on soon.

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Richmond and the River

I arrived home last night after spending the weekend in Richmond, Virginia with my precious friend, Jennifer Rothschild, at her Fresh Grounded Faith Conference. I’m waiting on pix from Phil and Jennifer and will share them along wtih news about the conference soon. It was a super highlight to get to be there with Jennifer and to emcee the conference with a delightful and enthusiastic group of women. I can’t wait to tell you about it but will hold onto the details until I have some pictures to help tell the story.

Today, our church held a river baptism service at the Guadalupe River. There were tons of people there to watch and lots of people to be baptized. This is such a joyous celebration and was extra special because my friend Kelly’s youngest son, Joseph, was baptized.. There’s something wonderful about doing baptism’s in the river with lots and lots of church family watching on and enjoying each other’s company. I love the informality and the symbolism. It’s easy to imagine Jesus Himself walking right onto the scene. Enjoy a few pix, and come back soon for more news from the weekend…

The crowd of onlookers and the long line of people waiting to be baptized (on the far right side of the photo)…

 My little buddy, Joseph, being baptized…with his Dad, Donnie in the orange cap, and his Mom, Kelly, in the pink…

Our pastor, Max, and one of the elders, Keith, getting ready to baptize two sisters…

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Here’s a picture of me with my three of my favorite Texans: Julie, Me, Rhonda and Kelly…photo by the truly amazing Mallory Wheeler.

Each of them is a gift from God to me, and I’m so thankful that God has crisscrossed our paths. I’d love for all of you to meet them in person, but for now, I’ll make my introductions here…

I met Rhonda on one of the first Sundays after we arrived in Texas. She serves in the youth ministry and had met Maddie earlier that Sunday morning and then introduced herself to me. Next thing I knew, Maddie and Rhonda’s daughter, Alyssa, had struck up a sweet friendship over a game of foosball. From there, God has given me more and more chances to get to know Rhonda and her dear family: Cliff, Lyndy, Mallory and Alyssa. At Christmastime, we staked out a spot at the Boerne Christmas parade, then weeks later ate lunch at a quaint local bakery and found ourselves together in the same Bible study group…with Rhonda as our group leader. Rhonda has taken it upon herself to keep me posted on all things Texan. Did you know that ponds are called tanks in Texas? I don’t get it, but she said it’s true. She offered her family’s horse trailer to me yesterday, because in Texas that’s how people move from one home to the next…so much for aromatherapy and feng shui. Mason pretty much wants us to move in with Rhonda and her family because he likes hanging out with them so much…even though it’s a house full of girls. Now that’s saying something!

I met Kelly next. She introduced herself to me on the Sunday our family was introduced to the church. Literally, Gerry met her husband, Donnie, and I met Kelly in the hallway right after the service, and in separate conversations they both were immediately tellling us that they had purchased land just north of the city and that we should come be their neighbors! That’s what I call southern hospitality! A few weeks later, I ran into Kelly at the registration table for a women’s event where she wrote down her phone number for me on a spare name tag and then tried to stick it to my shirt. Kelly is a burst of joy, and thankfully she’s decided to take me in like a long lost friend. We’ve shared lunches, Bible study, shopping and tears together, and I think that’s all that’s necessary to declare this as an official friendship.

I met Julie because of Kelly. Julie and Kelly lead Bible studies together, and Rhonda and I are their groupies. Julie has been gracious enough to have our family over a couple of times already…and I think we sort of invited ourselves. Now that’s a real friend for you. After we’d spent one evening at their house, Gerry and I commented on the way home how it felt like we’d been with friends we’d known all our lives. Only God can do that. Later, Julie told me about this nearby nature park where she likes to run the trails, so one beautiful day a few weeks ago, I took the kids over to explore and take a nice walk. Well, Julie is more woman than I am because this was no leisurely stroll. We hiked and climbed and huffed and puffed…up, and across and down the rocky terrain that she called a “trail.” I was sore for at least two days and decided to not take Julie’s word on walks in the park again! But I will gladly keep her as a dear and wonderful friend.

Julie and Kelly have allowed me to be the third wheel in their friendship, and now that we have Rhonda too, I think we’re rolling along really well. Two of these girls, who I will not name, are turning 40, so we celebrated this week by going to lunch and giving our waiter something to talk about the rest of the day! When we moved here eight months ago, I figured it would be years before I found friends like these. Thanks for the joys, my friends. God has been good to me by giving me…you.

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Feeling at Home…15 Days to Go

Lots of action at the ranch today. Carpet was laid yesterday. Trim and tile are complete. The front and side yards are filled with top soil and awaiting sod, which should go down tomorrow. Stucco should be finished up in the next couple of days. So we’re mostly down to details now.

Sod was delivered today.

Sod

A better view of the fireplace at the end of the family room than the one I posted earlier. We’re hoping to build shelving or cabinets into those archways.

The kitchen is complete except for glass in the cabinets and the stovetop.

The backyard…that little red canopy you see in the background is the pool…A good place to spend south Texas summers!

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17 days to go

The stone work was completed today. Here’s the front of the house and the fireplace. If they’d let me put my hands on a trowel and paintbrush, I think I could finish this job off!

 

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