This has undoubtedly been a summer of great celebration, alongside a few challenges and some hopefully invigorating adversity.
As soon as we returned from our last stop on our RTW adventure, within days Walden and Ella left with Teenside (our church’s middle and high school youth group) for Knoxville Work Camp. Walden was thrilled to meet a young intern who was hoping to serve in the international mission field and who was eager to hear many of Walden’s experiences. Sweet Matt also caught him early on at Wednesday night church for a quick Teenside interview about his experience (Ella snuck out to help the children’s classes!)
We have discovered the opportunity to share our experience is a joy and a rarity in the crazy pace of life at home, and we knew it would be. We tried to warn the kids about this before we returned, especially since we blogged our entire adventure along the way. One of my dearest new friends, who I met through Celebrate Recovery, laughed on our first reunion when she asked had we all realized that “no one really cares that we had traveled the world.” Most people cringe to hear this exchange, but she had spent a few years in China and understood what it’s like to return home after this kind of experience. To no fault of those we love at home, life goes on, whether we are there or not, and things don’t change much. In less than a week, we were running in the same schedule as the summer before. We felt like our life was impacted forever by our trip, but the reality is we still know very little about the world and the many cultures of which we only caught a glimpse. As Ella said we felt like we experienced so much, but we still know so little about the world. You can not fully know what it is to be Thai as an American visiting, you can only understand a little more. But I would still take a little more over none any day and thank God for the chance.
Next was Junior Impact, separated by only a few days rest and a visit to Nanny and Pa’s. Impact, which takes place at David Lipscomb University, is the highlight of my kids’ summer. When we were planning our trip, their one condition was that we make it back in time for Impact. The worship is absolutely amazing and no one would doubt the movement of the Spirit among them as the teens grow closer and study His word.
This year Walden called me late the last night of camp and told me he wanted to be baptized again. He first committed his life to Christ at 9 years old, but felt their was no question he was being called to a recommitment. He wanted to honor this with baptism among his friends in this setting and asked Matt to baptize him in the fountain. Our precious Teenside servants took pictures and filmed the event and sent it to me to cherish.
They returned home to sleep a few days and chill out. We were able to visit grandparents and catch up on laundry. Then I took off for Celebration, Lipscomb’s version of Impact for adults, while the kids spent a few days with the cousins. I went early this year for an all day Apologetics seminar with Rubel Shelley and Mark Lanier. It was excellent, but mind wrenching. Susan, Megan, and Lydia met me later that night for the opening Keynote. Unfortunately, our usual reunions with friends this year weren’t possible due to everyone having a lot going on at home. Few of us were able to come this year. It’s funny, I talk like Lipscomb is home, but I actually went to UT Knoxville. Celebration has become one of the highlights of my summer though, so much to learn and consider and the worship is usually awesome. For a few days, you feel like a college student again!
The day after Celebration ended, we headed to Uncle Al’s new house in McMinnville for KK’s Bday party. She turned 10 and always loves birthdays!
Then on to Clyde Christian Camp in Crossville!
This was our first year joining C3, but we loved it and hope to return next year.
I was able to help as a counselor for Ella’s cabin with 7th and 8th grade girls from our church and Smyrna Church of Christ. I grew to adore this group of girls; and, for the first time, thought maybe I could do ministry with teens. They have always been so intimidating to me, but I cherished their stories and their energy and their questions.
I even tried my hand at crafts and introduced fabric marbling, my favorite craft from Peachtree Learning Center. The kids loved it. I mean shaving cream and paint, what’s not to love.
We were ecstatic to hear Shayla was ready to commit her life to Christ, and she led the way for several girls in our cabin who felt the calling of Christ. I have known her since she was a toddler and what a joy to see her give her life to her Savior.
Late another night Lil, one of Ella’s dearest friends, shared that she had been thinking about it for a while and was also ready to commit her life to Christ. I cherish her like my own daughter and the tears of joy were wonderful. I can still see her ruby slippers and pigtails in my mind, and now she is grown into the strong, determined, and gifted woman and athlete I know today. She was ready immediately, and we facetimed her family so they could join us that evening.
As we left the celebration of her baptism and joined the late night Praise with the other teens, Courtney and Alex shared they were also ready to commit their lives and wanted to contact their families to join us for the celebration the next day. Courtney is a beautiful young lady I have come to know better in Club 56 and Teenside, and Alex was an added bonus this week with her adorable laughter and easy smile. I could listen to them both share life all day.
Then Nikia decided to be baptized after our firework show, and we all joined her in the evening around the pool for the celebration. Many of her loved ones were able to join us too for the special moment.
When we got home, Reece (the young man in the “Just do It shirt”) was also baptized to all our delight! And soon after Morgan, making this the best week I think I’ve ever had in many ways!
Near the end of camp, Chris took Ella on a father/daughter date night to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville for a performance of Lala Land. They have the best dates!
The following week, after a lot of sleep recovery, the kids went back to visit cousins and I joined many from our CR Team for the International Celebrate Recovery Summit in Murfreesboro. This place is like a glimpse of heaven. Diversity among cultures is growing, denominations feel irrelevant, and everyone loves each other and is working hard to be totally transparent. High fives and raised hands abound. And, if you don’t do that kind of thing, there’s no judgment. The worship times were life changing, the speakers were inspiring, and the SkitGuys were hilarious. I want so much for Walden and Ella to join me next year.
Then, we went to Roane Mountain for a ladies hike! We joined Ms. Sherri, Lori, and Lisa for Lili’s first backpacking trip! It was an all around experience; including mice, storms, and snorers in the shelters, but absolutely gorgeous and incredible company.
Then, just before school started at the beginning of August, we were able to catch up with Megan on her first hike to Virgin Falls!
Full of blessings, we are ready to get back to schooling … Lord help us after a 7 month break.