Never Give Up

by Liz Cecchettini

I almost made it.  Today is a Monday – and at 10am, women are gathering to pray.  I am not there. 

Yes, surely I can pray from home, and DO. However, my intentions were to be there, and I’m fully aware that when we want something, we move toward it.

I did move… and dressed… and had my coat on… and even got the call from my husband saying “Better late than never”… and I didn’t make it out of my house.

Though in the words of Steve Martin’s character in the movie The Jerk – “I blame myself” – I also feel the power of something bigger… that something (or someone) whose name I don’t want to mention, so I’ll call that power: The Big Bully. And the Big Bully, who ”prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” who “knows where the cracks in my armor are” …seeps in, through them, and strangles me with… DEPRESSION, and all its weapons… Its weapons of uncertainty, misunderstanding, and all the ones you’ve heard about way too often on TV: hopelessness, despair, lack of interest, low self-esteem, to name a few. Those commercials have probably done more to desensitize people to the seriousness of this killer, and what is at the root of it… though I’m certainly thankful for whoever is helped by them. 

In truth, I am at a “GOOD PLACE” as I write this – feeling productive and leaning into the strength of God’s Word, knowing that the Holy Spirit is working through me as I write. 

You see, I’m writing to counteract my “bad behavior” (aka: feelings of disappointment in myself, feelings of disappointing others) by choosing to use my own weakness/thorn-in-the-side and letting you (the reader) know that there is POWER within you as a child of God.  There is HOPE in His plan for you.  He holds you in the palm of His hand.  He has given His angels charge over you to guard you wherever you go.  You can go to sleep in peace for He makes you dwell in safety.  (I’m not someone who remembers the verse numbers; though I know the verses I cling to for support.) Such as:  “You, Lord, are all I have –

       You give me all I need –

       My future is in your hands.”

It’s a Psalm verse, though I’m not sure which Psalm, one of the first six or eight.

So, if I’m so strengthened and in such a good place, why couldn’t I make it to a prayer meeting, you may ask, as I did? (Now ask: what threat am I to the Big Bully when I am weak? Why would I be attacked when I am gaining joy in my life? Who would benefit from my NOT fighting back?)  Yes, writing this to you feels like FIGHTING BACK – because, as I wrote a few months ago, amidst my “despair”,

      “IF someone is BOLD enough to tell you they ‘battle depression’ BELIEVE THEM. It is war in one’s own head – GOOD vs. EVIL… JOY vs. SORROW – one battle at a time, and often surprise attacks.”

                                          E. Cecchettini 2014

…And, until I wrote that down just now, I hadn’t remembered that last line: SURPRISE attacks, like this morning.  Then suddenly, the rest of a verse comes to mind: “Be sober – BE WATCHFUL”… all about that “roaring lion” – the Big Bully.

So, how do we defend ourselves?  Sharpen your own sword!  “Neglect not the gift that is within you.”  What if you can’t figure out what gift is within you?  Stay in THE WORD OF GOD!  Find out!  Get a coach!  Read a book!  Take an assessment!  Chances are you already have an idea.  And, more likely than not, if you are not USING your gift, it’s because you’re AFRAID of your gift, or of what using your gift may commit you to. 

AFRAID? Yup! Which goes directly AGAINST the most oft-given command in the Bible: “DO NOT FEAR.” Don’t.  JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW.  Where there is fear, there is NOT FAITH. So, HAVE FAITH, AND HOPE, AND LOVE, AND FIND YOUR GIFTS, AND USE THEM! FEARLESSLY!

And, as I write this, I am compelled to share it with you – because I know that I have Christian sisters who are praying right now – for others, for themselves, and maybe even for me.   And though I’m not with them physically, I want them to know that I AM PRAYING WITH THEM – AND FOR THEM.

And, I suspect, there are others “out there” who can’t quite get themselves to the meetings and lunches and fun gatherings, and I encourage you, specifically, not to give up.  You are loved… and you’ll be fine.  We’ll all “get there” in our own time with God’s guidance – no guilt necessary.

It’s time to work on those gifts, now. (This is my offering – looking forward to yours.)  In an effort to “not be afraid” I will sign and submit this.

                              In Christ,

                              Liz Cecchettini

       

Liz is married to Tom Cecchettini, who serves as the Director of DC-8 Operations for SP. 

Liz is married to Tom Cecchettini, who serves as the Director of DC-8 Operations for SP. 

Sharing Each Other's Burdens

by Betsy Cain

This quote by Ann Voskamp has been convicting me ever since I first read it: "You love as well as you're willing to be inconvenienced by others."  Lately, God has been teaching me about tangibly serving others.  Galatians 6: 2 - 3 and 9 - 10read:  "Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.  If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself.  You are not that important. . . .  So let’s not get tired of doing what is good.  At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.  Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone -- especially to those in the family of faith."  

When my family and I first arrived in Boone, North Carolina, in August of 2010, I had a five-month old and a sixteen-month old.  Both boys.  Very little free time.  We came here because my husband Matt had accepted a job with Samaritan's Purse at their headquarters.  And we bought a fixer upper, because the cost of living in Boone was high.  We wanted to be wise with our finances, yet we didn't want to be isolated somewhere far away, especially with this mountain terrain that was so new to us.  My husband Matt wanted a commute to work that would be less than ten minutes.  So we bought what we could afford in town -- a small three-bedroom, one-bathroom house that needed a lot of work.  Matt is handy and was sure he would enjoy the house projects.  His job description as a Regional Manager in the Projects Department included sixty to eighty days of travel abroad each year.  Little did we know we had bitten off a whole lot more than we could chew. 

Matt left on his first trip to Africa six weeks after move-in day.  I was a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to change almost everything about our fixer upper, but knew any changes we could possibly afford would be a long time coming.  I had buyer's remorse every day.  And there I was, home alone with my two baby boys, with an extremely high learning curve ahead of me in regards to how to manage taking care of the kids and our home on my own while my husband went overseas for half a month at a time.  And I had never before lived two hours from an airport!  Our location seemed so remote.  Caring for two babies was exhausting.  Marriage wasn't going easily.  House projects took up most of our evenings and weekends.  The first winter was very isolating.  Such was the start to our life in Boone.  It was a tough adjustment.

And I needed help when Matt traveled.  Sometimes I would try and road-trip ten hours north to where my parents lived when my husband was gone so I could have their help with the kids.  But that wasn't always possible.  And it was exhausting.  (Every bathroom break and diaper change along the way meant a double stroller holding two babies going into a public restroom.)  One of my first and most vivid memories of being cared for in this community was within those first few weeks of our arrival when a new friend asked me what I needed while my husband was gone.  I answered honestly.  I needed help getting my two baby boys bathed and to bed in the evenings.   And so twice that week, women from our church came over and helped me in that way!  I needed it so much.  And now that we've lived in Boone over five years and have a third son, I have experienced over and over again how needy I am when my husband travels. 

Photo: These guys are 11.5 months apart!

Photo: These guys are 11.5 months apart!

Before I knew people here very well, I would grin-and-bear the tough situations of my life.  I would be as self-sufficient as I possibly could.  And even though well-meaning people would say "Let me know if you need anything while your husband is gone", I never called them because I wasn't sure if they really meant it.  I got lonely and tired when Matt was gone, butI didn't know if others would see my needs as legitimate.  Everyone looked so busy!  Could I ask them to watch my kids so I could have quiet time to read and journal?  Could I ask them to babysit so I could go for a run and take a shower?  Would they expect a favor in return? 

Usually I just decided not to bother anyone.  Sometimes I've hosted a ridiculous amount of play-dates just because I'm social and no one had invited my kids and me anywhere, and I didn't want to get lonely, so I took the initiative and invited people to my house repeatedly, no matter the number of children that were entering my house along with my friends. It was exhausting!  But at least I got to be around other adults.  And then there were the trips where the kids got sick or there were snowstorms that cooped us up and isolated us for days (you wouldn't believe the amount of times both of those have taken place!).   And the weeks when the baby just wouldn't nap.  And the nights when the wind howled so loudly I couldn't sleep.  It hasn't been easy.  Not with small children in a small house!  And sadly it's rarely been fun either.  It's a hard ministry to be called to.  I often don't feel like I am a part of any ministry.  I often feel like I am strictly in survival mode.

But all along, God has been teaching me through this challenging lifestyle.  It has been humbling.  I know myself much better now and I am learning my needs and my breaking points. I also know better how to reach out to others in similar situations when my husband is home and their husbands are traveling.  I'd love to share with you some of what I have been learning! 

It is crucial that we share one another's burdens.  This lifestyle is wearying.  The risk of burn-out is high.  Our location can be very isolating.  The stay-at-home spouses of traveling spouses need support and encouragement.  They need to be remembered.  And they need to be offered specifics. 

If you really want to help, don't just say "Let me know if you need anything while your husband is gone," and then turn around and go back to your busy schedule.  Others can see if you are busy.  And so most likely they won't bother you, unless it's an emergency.  Instead, here is what I propose: if you have margin or can create margin in your life, ask God how you should use that margin.  He may show you people he wants you to reach out to.  If that is the case,  pursue them.  Offer specific ways of serving that person instead of merely saying "Let me know if you need anything".  Offering specifics also forces us to check our hearts.  It forces us to evaluate if we truly want to give. We can't get away with just saying something that sounds generous but not acting on it.  Instead, we must be honest about whether we truly want to help, and then realistic about what we can offer.

Each of us has the potential to be such a blessing in the life of someone in our community.  Here are suggestions of how we can offer specifics in an effort to share one another's burdens.  Perhaps you could say to someone:

·       "You are carrying a heavy load.  You are in a season where you are maxed out.  I want to carry your burden with you.  Which would you prefer -- coming to my home for dinner or me dropping off a meal for you and your family?" 

·       "I want you to have time to do whatever refreshes you, like running or journaling or crafting or meeting up with friends without your kids along -- can I come to your home to babysit or would you like to drop off your kids at my home for me to babysit them there?" 

·       "What's your favorite treat to have dropped by?  Coffee, tea, a muffin, a scone, . . .?"

There are many specifics we can offer to one another.  Fellowship over a meal.  Care for others' children.  Surprise someone with a loaf of fresh bread and check on how they're doing.  Mentor.  Companion with someone who's suffering or grieving.  Be intentional about speaking words of encouragement.  Make a creative care package with snacks, or hot cocoa and marshmallows, or activities for the kids.  Open up your home.  Seek out what unique ministry God has for you to do in this unique place in your unique season!  And then follow through!  Share each other's burdens. 

Even if all you can offer is the gift of a listening ear, don't discredit that gift!  It is a wonderful thing to be on the receiving end of.  There are many days where all I have needed is someone with time to listen.  As one who does not work outside the home, it can be very lonely when my husband travels for two weeks at a time.  Sometimes what I need is the gift of presence.  Stasi Eldredge describes this well in her book Captivating:  "The gift of presence is a rare and beautiful gift.  To come -- unguarded, undistracted -- and be fully present, fully engaged with whoever we are with at that moment.  Have you noticed in reading the Gospels that people enjoyed being around Jesus?  They wanted to be near him -- to share a meal, take a walk, have a lingering conversation.  It was the gift of his presence.  When you were with him, you felt he was offering you his heart.  When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus.  And we invite others to do the same."  Make yourself available, and see what God might be pleased to do!

I will add, I write all this as accountability to myself, because I believe that this is what God is calling me to in the future.  When I am finished with this season of caring for my small children, which nearly maxes me out, I believe God is calling me to reach out to women who are in a difficult season.  Rather than jumping right into full-time work just because I can (or because a double income would be nice), I have sensed God asking me to leave margin each week to be available to serve, wherever he might lead and direct me to serve.  This may or may not be what God is calling you to.

I want to also mention that very few of us who have moved to Boone to work for Samaritan's Purse have extended family nearby that can help us.  We miss them dearly!  We wish our children had the regular influence of loving grandparents and aunts and uncles.  Their absence is strongly felt.  Could you step into this role for someone here?  What a beautiful gift that would be to them -- someone who truly enjoys being with their children and wants to pour into their lives.  Someone who loves their family unconditionally.  A blessing indeed. 

Flowers dropped off by a friend as part of a surprise care package she created for us when my kids were sick and my husband was traveling (the contents also included Sprite, Pedialyte, pretzel crisps and dark chocolate!).

Flowers dropped off by a friend as part of a surprise care package she created for us when my kids were sick and my husband was traveling (the contents also included Sprite, Pedialyte, pretzel crisps and dark chocolate!).

Something else I have been reminded of recently is that the way of Jesus is to seek out and care for those who can't repay us, those who are forgotten, and those who might be difficult to be around.  We are to invite those that will never invite us back.  A gift must have no strings attached.  Gifts aren't trades!  Sean Johnson writes in "How to Become a Mentor": "The thing about a gift though is that you don't expect to get paid back.  Otherwise it ceases to be a gift -- it becomes a transaction."  I am learning to offer such gifts, as well as humbly accept them with gratefulness when others give them to me.  I am having to acknowledge that I often can't repay the giver (or even bake them anything anytime soon!).  There is beautiful freedom in that.

It is encouraging to remember that life is full of seasons.  And God gives grace for each different season we walk through.  There are some seasons where we have much to give, and others in which we can hardly give anything and need lots of nurturing.  A friend of mine shared this passage with me from the book Biblical Femininity: Discovering Clarity and Freedom in God's Design for Women (Chrystie Cole):

"As a woman, your calling is certain.  You were created to be an ezer, to be one who comes alongside as a corresponding strength or essential counterpart. This is who you are and that never changes. How you live out your calling, and with whom, is clarified through your individuality and season of life. Your calling is not determined by your individuality or season.  However, your individuality and season do bring clarity to your calling. For example, a woman with a strong shepherding gift, in a season of helping her aging parents, may not have the time or energy to mentor a young teen.  The same woman, in a different season of her life, may be able to spend considerable amounts of time and energy in a discipleship relationship.  Her individuality (her shepherding gift) and her season (helping aging parents) factor enormously in how she lives out her calling on a daily basis.  You must know the purpose for which you were created (to be an essential counterpart) and who you are uniquely (your individuality) to apply your calling as a woman created in the image of God."

If you'd like to create margin in your life, take a long and hard look at what your priorities are and how your time is being spent.  The concept of "slow living" has quite a following right now.  I don't encourage that for selfish pursuits, but rather for the purpose of loving one another well.  Is there a way you can trim down your schedule and put boundaries in place in order to share the burdens of those around you?  Restoring Margin to Overloaded Lives (Richard Swenson) is an incredible resource that I highly recommend.

If you are in a season where you do not have much margin and are maxed out and hemmed in, accept God's grace, and trust in His timing.  Lean on him, and let him refine you and bless you in the midst of this season.  Mothering small children is a season with little margin.  Rather than grumbling, cultivate contentment by giving your longings to him.  You don't need to deny that you have desires, but don't let them rule you.  I encourage you to journal when you have the time.  Journaling opens my eyes to what is really going on deep inside my head and my heart.  It can also be a form of prayer if your direct your writings to God.

A delicious meal dropped off by friends when my husband was in Africa and my kids got sick and we couldn't make it to their house for dinner as planned.

A delicious meal dropped off by friends when my husband was in Africa and my kids got sick and we couldn't make it to their house for dinner as planned.

I am so thankful for the friends who have shared my burdens.  Invited the kids and me to dinner.  Brought dinner to us.  Babysat for free.  Ran errands for us.  Picked up medicine when my kids were sick.  Shoveled and salted my driveway.  Delivered surprise care packages.  Held my babies.  Prayed with me.  Listened to me.  Been present to me.

Carrying each other's burdens well requires intentionality and creativity.  It also requires sacrifice and inconvenience.  It is a beautiful blessing to those on the receiving end!  May we seek what the Lord is calling us to and find specific ways to serve those around us.  I believe it can transform what life looks like for many in our community! 

 

 

Matt and Betsy Cain with their three boys.  Matt serves with the International Projects Department at Samaritan's Purse.

Matt and Betsy Cain with their three boys.  Matt serves with the International Projects Department at Samaritan's Purse.

The Shift

by Lynn Windmeyer

 

Lynn, Tim (serves with Int'l Projects Dept. in Boone), Stella and Bennett, as they started their journey to meet their new daughter in Uganda this past December.

Lynn, Tim (serves with Int'l Projects Dept. in Boone), Stella and Bennett, as they started their journey to meet their new daughter in Uganda this past December.


As I write this I’m staring down a trip to Uganda. However, it is not my husband who is traveling, it is me, and this trip has an indefinite ending. With all the travel we’ve prepared for you would think that nothing would surprise us anymore, but the other night we experienced something unexpected. I should have expected it, because “the shift”, is not new to me. But this time was different, because our roles are reversed. He was the one lost in thought, powering through the evening routine with his mind spinning in one hundred directions. I finally had to ask him to please tell me what he was thinking about. He humored me and started to tell me the barrage of things rolling around in his mind. He was dreading me leaving as well as trying to think through all that needed to be done before my trip. His swift moving around the house and complete silence had nothing to do with me and at the same time everything to do with me. This is how the shift always begins.

Typically, about three to four days before he leaves for a trip my mind begins to take over. It looks something like this: “Oh! He needs to sign that paper, did I ask him about that issue with the car? Did we tell the kids he’s leaving? I CANNOT forget that one thing….wait…what was it again? Man, I’m going to miss him. I wish he didn’t have to go. Why does he have to miss another birthday???” You get the picture. The shift is kind of like one hot mess all contained in my mind. The mental swing from operating as a team of two to keeping it all together as the lone ranger. I can get so lost in all of my thoughts and not even realize its effecting how I’m interacting with my husband and my kids. I can get a little snippy with everyone and really “in my own head”, just as Tim was doing before my trip. This time, being the one about to travel, God gave me a glimpse of what goes on in his mind before his many trips. “I wish we could all go together. There will be fun moments though. I’m really going to miss them. So much time to think on the airplane! Is that jacket clean? I need to check…what’s my return date again? Oh wait, I don’t have one yet.” Okay, so he usually has a return date booked, and I do not BUT there is dread, and mental prep going on in this side of the shift too.

Then comes the first three days he is away. Even after all of that mental preparation I still struggle with these first few days. Part of this could be because my husband is such an amazing team player and helps with EVERTHING around the house. Then he leaves, and doing everything on my own feels a tad overwhelming. Honestly friends, there are weeks where I do not even touch the laundry! He is truly the best. I don’t have as much fun making dinner while he’s away either so that can be a downer. Then there is the fact that I just. Plain. Miss. Him. Weekends and evenings are always the hardest for me. However, I’ve noticed if I can get through the first three days of overwhelmed, and sad me…the shift is complete and I can manage on my own again….. with God’s grace of course!

Does this resonate with you? Have you experienced the shift? Would love to hear about it sometime!

If you want to hear about our reentry post trip, check out “The Parable of the Merry Go Round”.

Winter Field Trips

We have enjoyed warmer than normal weather these past few months.  As the "real winter" comes for its visit, you might enjoy some of the following activities, especially if you have small children or visitors with kids.

You might want to check out High Country Parent (whether or not you are a parent) because this blog highlights High Country events in a post for each weekend.  ToddsCalendar.com also lists various events taking place in the area.

 

 

Overnight Trips

Great Wolf Lodge - Concord, NC - Several moms agreed that one night is all you need at this fun water park.

Wilderness at the Smokies - Sevierville, TN - Check out the Wild Weekday specials for $99 per night.  This is a fun indoor waterpark.

The Cove - Asheville, NC - Samaritan's Purse staff receive great discounts.  2016 discounts will be published soon - You can call The Cove or our wonderful Human Resources dept. at SP for details.

Ridgecrest - Black Mountain, NC - Did you know that since we serve with Samaritan's Purse, we are eligible for the ministry discount to stay at Ridgecrest?  This is also a great place to stay and explore nearby Asheville. 

 

 

Day Trips

Discovery Place Kids - Huntersville, NC.  One mom advised to call and ask if any field trips are going to be there that day as it can be very crowded. 

Mountain Play Lodge - Arden (near Asheville), NC.  This is a great deal for those two and under - only $6.  Regardless of child's age, parents don't pay an entry fee.  Everyone gets a hand stamp and you can come and go for the day.  You cannot take your own food to eat there (they have concessions) but you can leave or go outside to have lunch and then return to the Lodge.  They also have a sectioned off toddler area.

Children's Museum - Greenville, SC - This museum has three levels and SO MANY activities for kids of many ages.  One mom spent three hours DURING naptime at the museum and her daughter had a fabulous time. 

Asheboro Zoo - Asheboro, NC - save this one for a warmer day

Sciworks - Winston Salem, NC

Acquarium at Concord Mills - Concord, NC

Children's Museum of Winston Salem

Catawba Science Center - Hickory, NC - Closed to the public on Mondays.

Foothills Gynmastics - Hickory, NC - Open Gym time on Thursdays, Fridays for children under 5.  $6 or punch card for $5. 

Valley Hills Mall Indoor Play Area - Hickory, NC

Lazy 5 Ranch - Mooresville, NC

Zootastic - Troutman, NC - Check website for early March pre-season dates

Biltmore House - Asheville, NC (you'll need to put this one in your budget since it costs more $)

The Pit Indoor Kart Racing - Mooresville, NC

Billy Graham Library - free tour

Barter Theatre - Abingdon, VA

Hands on Museum - Johnson City, TN

Bouncin' Kids - Morganton, NC

Bo's - Lenoir - bowling, laser tag, putt putt, games, etc.

Sky Zone Trampoline Park - Charlotte or Airbound Trampoline Park - Winston-Salem

Carolinas Aviation Museum - Charlotte, NC

 

High Country Fun

Avery County YMCA Pool - Linville, NC - $5 per guest per visit.  Take a lunch/snacks with you.  There are water slides but one mom mentioned that to use these you must be able to swim the length of the pool first.  It's always good to call and ask specific questions about the rules if you have never visited.

The Children's Playhouse - Boone, NC

Libraries - Ashe, Watauga, Avery, Caldwell, Hickory, AppState

Ashe County Parks & Rec Family Central Gym

Watauga Parks & Recreation Cove Creek Gym Rental - $50 for four hours of play (split it between a few folks and you've got half a day of fun!)

Liberty Theatre - Wilkesboro - $4 movies all day

Parkway Theatre - West Jefferson - affordable prices

Ice Skating

Skiing/Snowboarding - special rates for students on Snow Days (when school is out) and for Home Schoolers

Blowing Rock Art & History Museum - they also have some great programs/classes for the kids at affordable rates.

Beech Mountain Sledding Hill

I.G. Greer Films - sometimes they have "sensory showings" for child-friendly movies at 2pm on Saturdays.  Keep a watch on the schedule.  $2 at the door.

Watauga County Swim Complex - get a one, three or six month pass for some fun times this winter

Play Checkers at the 1883 Mast General Store - Located in historic and picturesque Valle Crucis, the store still offers a cup of coffee for a nickel.  Enjoy your coffee by the large pot-bellied stove over a game of checkers before shopping for old-timey goods and clothing to keep you warm.

Dark Sky Night at the ASU Observatory - next one is 1/30/15.  Check website for updated details. 

Samaritan's Purse Tour - Call the main number to ask for a tour - a great way to spend time with guests, too!  The tour is wonderful!

 

Do you have more ideas for field trips?  Please post them below or on the Facebook page. 

THRIVE 2015

Hi Ladies!

We hope you are signed up to join us this weekend at THRIVE: 2015, a women's conference for Samaritan's Purse ladies.    Lynne Rienstra will be sharing with us and Amanda Opelt will lead us in worship.  We can't wait to join you in worship and fellowship in Christ!

A huge thank you to Lynn Windmeyer for spearheading this retreat and all of the ladies serving on the retreat committee.  You are loved and appreciated!

New Girl

Last week we talked about how to welcome those that are new to our SP family.  But what if you're the "new girl"?  I don't love that term but I hope it caught your attention.  The truth is that you are part of a wonderful family and we are SO GLAD you are here.  You matter so much - whether you've been here two weeks or twenty years!

I thought I would share a few tips to help you as you get settled into the community.

  • Ask - Is there something that you need to know?  There is honestly no question that is silly.  I love it when ladies ask questions of all kinds.  Many ladies like to post here on the Facebook page.  If not, consider asking someone in yours or your husband's department.
  • Attend - Have you been invited to events?  Consider attending a few.  It can be awkward and overwhelming.  But it's worth it.  Even though I tend to be introverted, I wish I had attended a few more events when we first moved here.  One tip is to spend time having a longer conversation with another lady at events where there are quite a few people, if your tendency is to shy away from larger crowds.
  • Know Yourself - At the same time, know yourself.  If it's too overwhelming to attend many of the things you're invited to, pick one and commit to that.  Choose one that seems to be the most feasible for you and your situation.
  • Host - Once you feel a bit settled, plan your own gathering.  Once you find a few connections, invite these ladies over for an evening of snacks or games, etc.  My favorite ladies' nights have been relaxed evenings of tea and coffee.  You have the freedom to make it as small or large as you like. 
  • Pray & Purpose - Remember your CALLING to be a part of the SP family.  Ask others to pray for you.  If you can find even just one gal to share your prayer need with, it is worth it.  I remember last year when I connected with a sweet lady that moved here and very quickly we started to share prayer requests.  She quickly became a part of my texting prayer team and for that I'm so thankful.
Joe and Lauren Stengele joined our SP family earlier this year.  Try to find their two kiddos, Malachi and Alaya in all of the paper!

Joe and Lauren Stengele joined our SP family earlier this year.  Try to find their two kiddos, Malachi and Alaya in all of the paper!

Welcome to the SP family!

Welcome (Back)!

Hi sisters!  Welcome back to the blog and welcome to the SP family!  We have enjoyed (and are still enjoying) a lovely summer, fellowship and rest in the Lord.

We have had several new families join us this summer and many are remembering their one year anniversary as they arrived this time last year.  I am reflecting on how much the ministry has grown and how many wonderful friends we have made in the past few years.  Matt and I recently celebrated six years with SP/OCC since we moved back to Boone in July 2009.  it is amazing to see and be a part of God's hand and his work in and through this ministry and community.

As you meet new families that have moved to serve with SP recently, consider how we might surround them with Christ's love and welcoming arms.

  • Communicate - If you hear about a new family in your department, try to send a message or note to say welcome and share a bit about yourself.
  • Have Courage - Think about your "welcome" experience.  Was it positive?  Was it challenging?  These reflections can help us think about how we might want someone new to be encouraged as they settle into the community.  It takes courage to reach out but it's worth it to share Christ's love in this way.
  • Connect - It's always fun to learn about our new friends and help connect them with other ladies that:  share similar interests, can share information, have children of similar ages, etc.  I've seen some pretty amazing connections take place and it only took a few minutes to put ladies in touch with each other. 
  • Share - Does bringing snacks or a meal bring to friends bring you joy?  What about sending a little note?  Would your kids enjoy playing with their kids while our new friends unpack their home?  Offer to let her ask questions that may seem silly.  Share your story and how you've grown and what the Lord's done in your life.
  • Pray - Ask how you can pray for her.  And if you make a connection and feel comfortable, share your prayer needs with her, too.  These prayer connections, usually via text message, have been immeasurable in my life and I am so thankful for the Lord's provision in this way.

Welcome to our new families and I'm so thankful for those of you that have been here a long time.  Everyone matters and to quote our dear sister, Susan Wilcox, there is always room at the table. 

Summer Fun: Top Twenty

If you're new to the area (and especially if you arrived during the 20 months of winter have - just kidding!), you might be wondering what kinds of things you can do in the High Country during the summer.  Here's our top ten list of things to enjoy!  Thank you to ALL of our wonderful SP family photo contributors!  May this inspire you to make every minute count in the sunshine!

1.  Wildcat Lake - Banner Elk - Lots of families enjoy this for swimming and fun in the sun, plus other fun activities!

The Benson's enjoy Wildcat Lake.

The Benson's enjoy Wildcat Lake.

2.  Ft. Hamby Park at Kerr-Scott Lake - If you're on the eastern side of Watauga county (or you live in Ashe or Wilkes), this lake is much closer than Wildcat.  They have a playground for kids, picnic area, as well as a marked swimming area and a little beach to play on.  Our family has enjoyed a fun time at this lake, as well as some fun times with friends.

Nayeli Huxley & Marianne Cottrell enjoy a snack (or sand?) at Ft. Hamby Park/Lake.

Nayeli Huxley & Marianne Cottrell enjoy a snack (or sand?) at Ft. Hamby Park/Lake.

3.  Blowing Rock Pool - This is pretty much the only public outdoor pool in the area.  It's a fun place but it can become pretty crowded.  We usually go once or twice each summer.  You might consider the Mountain City Pool if you want to go somewhere less crowded, but it will be a further drive, unless you live closer to TN.

Jonathan Jones (son of Robyn & Clayton) has a blast at the Blowing Rock Pool. 

Jonathan Jones (son of Robyn & Clayton) has a blast at the Blowing Rock Pool. 

4.   Cascades Waterfall & Hike - This is a great hike if you're carrying a little one in the pack or you have a toddler/kids.  It's short and you can go slow and have a picnic afterward.

Teesa Klear and her children, Hudson, Carolina and Sam enjoy a hike at Cascades.

Teesa Klear and her children, Hudson, Carolina and Sam enjoy a hike at Cascades.

Ruby Putnam enjoys the sunny lawn at the Jones House.

Ruby Putnam enjoys the sunny lawn at the Jones House.

Marianne enjoys peaches and live music at the Jones House.

Marianne enjoys peaches and live music at the Jones House.

6.  Valle Crucis Park & Watauga River - Head here for playground fun, a picnic and a good splash in the river!

Sophie Law and Carolina Klear enjoy some fun at the mini house village at Valle Crucis Park.  Photo by Athalia Whitworth.

Sophie Law and Carolina Klear enjoy some fun at the mini house village at Valle Crucis Park.  Photo by Athalia Whitworth.

Hudson Klear peeks out from a little cabin at Valle Crucis Park.  Photo by Athalia Whitworth.

Hudson Klear peeks out from a little cabin at Valle Crucis Park.  Photo by Athalia Whitworth.

Reagan Peavy, daughter of Rich & Kristan, has a great time in the Watauga River at Valle Crucis Park.

Reagan Peavy, daughter of Rich & Kristan, has a great time in the Watauga River at Valle Crucis Park.

7.  Tubing or canoeing on the New River & Riverside Restaurant - Please note there are multiple businesses with whom you can tube/canoe down the new river, or take your own tube.  Just google "tubing/canoeing on the new river, nc".

The Klear's children canoe down the New River with friends.

The Klear's children canoe down the New River with friends.

Marianne enjoys canoeing at Price Lake.

Marianne enjoys canoeing at Price Lake.

9.  Virginia Creeper Trail (Biking) & Camping & Grayson Highlands - Last year we camped here for two nights and rode the Creeper Trail one day.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  It would be even more fun with friends along for the ride!

Fun times camping near the VA Creeper Trail in Damascus, VA.

Fun times camping near the VA Creeper Trail in Damascus, VA.

10. Price Park - Fun for playing in the creek, playing frisbee, hiking a portion of the Boone Fork Trail (or the whole 5 miles) and having a cook out or picnic with family and friends.

11.  Tweetsie Railroad - The best deal on this is if you get a season pass, and even better if your kids are under three because they are free!

Elijah Cain explores the Tweetsie Railroad map.

Elijah Cain explores the Tweetsie Railroad map.

Sam Klear, age 2, in front of the train at Tweetsie Railroad.

Sam Klear, age 2, in front of the train at Tweetsie Railroad.

Reagan, Kristan and Davis Peavy visit Tweetsie on A Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Reagan, Kristan and Davis Peavy visit Tweetsie on A Day out with Thomas the Tank Engine.

12.  Zipline - Hawksnest & Camp Sky Ranch

13.  Challenge Course - This is a new ropes course type activity that will open next to Tweetsie in the spring.  Looks like a challenge AND fun!

14.  Parks/Playgrounds

Betsy Cain's sons, Elijah & Bryson play at Rocky Knob Park

Betsy Cain's sons, Elijah & Bryson play at Rocky Knob Park

Betsy Wood shares a photo of a hike around Bass Lake in the fall.

Betsy Wood shares a photo of a hike around Bass Lake in the fall.

Sarah Symer enjoys her time at Bass Lake.

Sarah Symer enjoys her time at Bass Lake.

17.  Horn in the West - This is better for older (school age) kids as it is an evening activity that lasts until after dark.  Little tots might not be able to last the entire performance.  A fun, outdoor drama - great to do at least once.

18.  Blueberry Picking - Take Hwy 105 to Banner Elk. Turn right onto Tynecastle hwy/184. (Basically turn right where McDonald's and Lowes Food are on the left.)  Go all the way to the stoplight at the end of the road and turn right. Turn left on Gualtney Rd. You will see signs for Banner Elk Winery. Turn right on Lee Gualtney Rd., which is gravel. Go about 1/3 or 1/2 mile up and turn right where you see sign for $5/gallon blueberries.  (Don't get distracted by turning into the winery for $10/gallon or the signs at the place for $7/gallon.)

Honor system cash box payment. Bring your own containers. $5/gallon.  Note there are two cash boxes - one for one side of the field and another for the other side.  Please make sure you pick from one side so that the money goes to the correct farm.  Best time to pick is last week in July/first week in August, although we had better berries/more to pick from the first week in August last year (2014).

Reagan Peavy picks some yummy blueberries.

Reagan Peavy picks some yummy blueberries.

Ruby Putnam and the Hampton kids enjoy blueberry picking in the summer.

Ruby Putnam and the Hampton kids enjoy blueberry picking in the summer.

Betsy Wood enjoys Linville Falls.

Betsy Wood enjoys Linville Falls.

The Peavy family at Linville Caverns.

The Peavy family at Linville Caverns.

Please feel free to share any other summer fun activities in the High Country!