A Taste of my Summer

I wish that summer could keep going forever. (Cliché, right?) I’m living the dream here at Glorywood Farm. I wake up around 8:30, and mosey down the stairs to our Keurig where I make my 2/3 coffee, 1/3 French vanilla creamer morning beverage. I let our wild-child 1.5 year old yellow lab out of his kennel, and we venture outside. I play with Cedar for a bit, trying to tire him out one round of fetch at a time. I clean two stalls, get grain ready for the evening, put hay in stalls, fill water tanks, dump manure, shovel clean shavings, and in general love living here. I give Cedar more attention, mostly just to make sure that he isn’t destroying anything in our yard, then return to the house for the rest of my breakfast and my morning devotions.

The rest of my day might include anything from making phone calls about limos and cakes to (finally) driving into town to register to vote to driving down to Akron for a visit to filling out applications for a real-life teacher job.

I hope that I was thankful for this summer while it was happening. I mean, I really hope that I thanked God daily just for his grace and blessings and inordinate goodness to me. Because now, looking back at the past few months since I returned from Niger, I am deeply grateful for the joys and challenges and space that God gave me. I’m reminded that I don’t need to get stamps in my passport in order to see where God is working. I can witness Him and I can join in right here, from Glorywood Farm in sweet little Freeland, Michigan.

Now that I’ve given the broad overview, here are a few details/insights into specific areas of my life this summer:

Freaking out—Wedding Planning Style

I hadn’t even been home a week when it happened. It started with a slight anxious feeling that threatened to escalate to a bursting point. I got smart, grabbed my journal, a pen, and a blanket. I positioned myself strategically on the hammock—outside where maybe I could relax, somewhat removed from family goings-on, in a comfortable position. Then the waterworks started. I was either naïve or clueless, though, because I didn’t grab Kleenex from the get go. I cried and journaled and asked God and myself lots of questions. Everything from wedding planning to my attitude to friends in Niger to my dad (more on him later). Through the tears and snot and subsequent headache, I released fears and lies to God in exchange for peace.

My wedding does not need to be perfect. In fact, it won’t be perfect. It can be good and fun, but it’s also not a direct reflection of Stephen and me. And if I can recognize that yes, I do care quite a bit about various aspects of our wedding, then it will make it a lot easier to communicate and exchange ideas with my fiancé and my mom. 🙂 (I now know to preface certain statements with, “I’ve already thought about this, and I’m attached to this idea, so if you don’t agree, please just tell me gently.” Yes, I’ve actually used that line, and yes, it has helped.) After my confessional and refocusing time, wedding planning has been significantly more fun, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

The best parts about planning this wedding:

  • We still have lots of time, so we don’t feel rushed.
  • Stephen is wonderful and very helpful in all of the planning. And he’s not just a “This is my opinion because I think it’s what you want to hear” kind of fiancé. He has his own opinions, he communicates them well, and he likes to work together on various aspects of this day. Yes, he’s a total winner.
  • I’m living at home, so that simplifies communicating with my mom. Also, I like my mom, so that makes working together on this just that much more fun. 🙂
  • I’m actually quite enjoying working with different vendors. I never would have met these people otherwise, but now we’re talking and interacting and sharing visions and working together and I had no idea that I would enjoy this process the way that I am. I think that’s the collaborator in me.
  • Every time I work on wedding details, I think about marrying Stephen and finally living in the same place, doing life together. Heck yeah.

Now, we’re in the “8-10 months out” phase of planning and preparing. I’m still definitely working on wedding plans, but I’m also being reminded to focus on marriage prep. Stephen and I started asking about and looking into some Gospel-focused marriage books, so we’ll probably start reading one of those pretty soon. Of course, nothing will truly, fully prepare us for the life-change of marriage, but hey—how could it hurt to read some good books? 🙂

If you walk with your Daddy—a Children’s book by Abby Cline, shamelessly modeled after the works of Laura Numeroff

When your Daddy is building up strength again, he might want to go for walks.

And if Daddy is going for walks, he might want some company.

Maybe, when you come home from Africa, your Daddy might ask you and your fiancé to go on a walk with him. You’ll say yes.

If you and your fiancé walk with your dad, you might create a pattern. So when your fiancé goes home, you’ll still go on walks with your dad.

If you continue going on walks with your Daddy, you will probably talk a lot with him. You might have silly talks about almost nothing. You might have serious talks about deep social issues. You might even start telling your Daddy things that you haven’t told your mom yet. (But that you tell her later. When you remember. I love you, Mommy. 😉 )

And when you walk and talk with your Daddy, you will realize that even though you were scared when Daddy was sick, God was still in control. Even though Daddy was in pain, and Mommy sometimes worried, and life got really hard for your family for 8 long weeks, these walks might show you just how faithful God is.

And if you keep walking with your Daddy, you will soon realize that you, your Daddy, and your relationship with him are all getting the same thing: stronger.

Afterword to “If you walk with your Daddy”

First of all, if anyone wants to illustrate this story, I’d be okay with that. Secondly, here are some details to help fill the gaps. A week or two before I left for Niger, around the end of March, my family found out that my Dad had throat cancer. As you can imagine, this did not make me excited to leave my family for 2 months. My dad started treatment before I left. He then continued his 8-week treatments while I was gone. I can’t really speak for just how hard that process was back home. For me, it was

  • wishing I could be home, even though I couldn’t have tangibly helped.
  • Thanking God for my friends at Sahel. Students, teachers, and friends were all lifting my dad up in their prayers. If I hadn’t gone back to Sahel, I don’t think all those people would have been praying for my dad. Just another way God brought things together for good.
  • Not really knowing how bad things were at some points.
  • Learning to trust God and surrender my dad and mom and family to Him.
  • Two very busy months.

Then I came home. At first, recovery was hard for my dad. After 8 weeks of 5-days-a-week radiation and 3 chemotherapy treatments, his body had taken a beating. So had his spirits. But God. God has been so faithful to my Dad and my family. Over the past 4 weeks, my father went from not speaking and using a stomach tube to full-on-conversations, going to work partial days, eating and drinking lots, and yes, going for walks. And I’m reminded right now, as I write this, that I have so very much to thank God for.

My dad’s PET scan (the scan to see where any cancer might be) is not for another few weeks. Between now and then, we’ll just keep building strength and menu options. And we’ll keep thanking God for how He has carried us all through this dark valley.

God’s grown-up-style blessings

While some of these announcements still freak me out a bit, they’re also really exciting and totally grace a Dieu (thanks to God)

  • I have a job! This fall, I’ll work at Valley Lutheran High School as a Special Needs Aide. It’s a part-time position where I get to work one-on-one with several students, helping them with schoolwork, organizational skills, and general success at school. I’m so grateful and excited to join the VLHS staff in this really student-oriented position.
  • I have a role in a play! Actually, I have two roles. 🙂 I auditioned for a community theatre production in July, and I had a blast just at the auditions. The show is called Runagate, and it’s an original production based on the poem “Runagate, Runagate,” by Robert Hayden. I’m sure I’ll post more about this later. Our performance is November 14, and rehearsal begins September 12, and I’m ecstatic!
  • I started looking for a new car. Weird, right? For those who don’t know, I’ve been driving my older sister’s ’97 teal pick-up truck since about my sophomore or junior year at Cedarville. Don’t get me wrong: I love Killer. But after 201,000 miles, two run-ins (literally) with a parking garage, and kind of terrible gas mileage, it might be time for a grown-up car. So, the process has started, and once again, I’m so grateful for my Dad who went with me to look at new (new to me—clearly used) vehicles.
  • I’ve been working through a really great devotional book called Taking Every Thought Captive by Alaine Pakkala. I stumbled across this book as Stephen’s church was clearing out their old library. Basically, Pakkala has been offering verses to memorize and strategies for Bible study, and it’s all been really straightforward and really helpful. I haven’t been consistent or even adequate at memorizing Scripture since I left Grace Christian School in 2007. It was about time, and it’s been a wonderful transition.

Thank you

Thanks for reading. Thanks for praying. Thanks for loving my friends, students, and colleagues in Niger. Sahel Academy started school on August 12. Please continue praying that they have an amazing school year, even as they are a bit under-staffed.