Tomorrow

Sometimes “tomorrow” is a bad word — “Instead of doing (fill-in-the-blank) today, I’ll do it tomorrow!” (i.e., procrastination).

But, other times, tomorrow is an inspiring word. Tomorrow gives us the opportunity to dream, envision, and plan for the future. Tomorrow is an opportunity to take what we’ve learned yesterday and today and apply it on the next leg of our journey.

Scripture cautions about how we view tomorrow, though. James wrote …

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4.14-16)

And, Jesus said …

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6.34)

However, Jesus also talked about the importance of looking ahead in counting the cost of being his disciple, saying:

… don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ (Luke 14.28-30)

I think one lesson is that we need to entrust our tomorrows to God — don’t take them for granted, don’t worry about what may or may not happen — but be prepared to pay the price of following Jesus and helping others follow Jesus, too, for the transformation of the world!

So tonight, June 30, 2008, we look ahead to tomorrow when we (officially) begin the next leg of our journey in Clearfield. We look forward, with great anticipation, to all that God will do in and through us as we seek to serve God faithfully!

The Move 2.0

Picking up where I left off in The Move 1.0, we arrived in Clearfield just before 6:30 am, Thursday, and the movers showed up a few minutes later.

Overall, it was a pretty smooth day of unloading.

But the tragic news of the day here in Clearfield took place at Trinity UMC, where a shooting occurred in Trinity’s basement (at about the time we arrived in Clearfield, ourselves).

The incident is being covered by several media outlets: The Progress News, The Altoona Mirror, and WTAJ TV. According to these reports, the latest news (as of this post) is the shooting victim has died and the shooter later shot himself (after a confrontation with police) and is listed in critical condition.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of those involved as well as everyone in the community who’s been touched by this tragic occurrence!

Aside from the news of the day, we are glad to have the move behind us. While we have a lot of work to do, unpacking and getting settled, we do not expect to have to put in any more all-nighters!

We are grateful for everyone who has made (and are making) this transition as smooth as possible. Some people the Manor Hill Charge (as well as Joleen’s mom) watched Ethan while we packed over the course of the past week or so. Without them, we’d still be packing!

And here in Clearfield, members from West Side and Centre Grove are providing evening meals Thursday/Friday and Monday/Tuesday, respectively. They’re also setting up baby sitting for Ethan on Monday and Tuesday so that we can get as far as we can in the process of getting settled!

Thanks to all who are helping with our transition!

The Move 1.0

IMG_1030I wanted to write this post yesterday but as you’ll soon discover that wasn’t much of an option!

On Tuesday (the day before our loading day), we got up around 6:30 am to finish packing. We knew we had a good day’s work ahead of us, but we didn’t know we had *that* much work left to do!

We had planned to finish packing, then spend the night at Joleen’s mom’s house in Williamsburg (35 minutes away). Toward late afternoon, it became painfully clear that we were going to be up late. Around 7:30 pm, Joleen dropped Ethan off and her mom’s house, then returned home to continue packing.

As it turned out, we were indeed up late, so late, in fact, that we *never* got to sleep — we worked all night. Ironically, we did one final walkthrough shortly after 6:00 am. We arrived back down stairs at 6:32 am, just as the movers were getting out of their vehicle.

Needless to day, it was a challenging night. But, of course, our work wasn’t done at 6:30. For most of the day, we supervised, answered questions, and after the movers left, we had some final work to do. All in all, we were up for 34 to 36 hours (I can’t remember for sure! 🙂 ), working virtually non-stop.

When we arrived in Williamsburg (late afternoon), we joined Ethan, whose nap was already in progress, and got about an hour of sleep, ourselves.

After 7 hours or so of sleep overnight, we got up at 4:30 am to drive to meet the movers in Clearfield for the unloading.

I’ll pick up there in the next post.

Goodbyes are hard!

Sunday was a day of saying goodbye. We spent our final Sunday worshiping with, and teaching, the people we have been serving in our current ministry appointments. It was an emotionally intense day.

We’re grateful for the time we’ve had here in the Juniata Valley and Huntingdon areas, for the people we’ve had the honor of knowing, loving, serving, and leading. We pray that the seeds that have been planted in our time here will continue to bear fruit for God’s kingdom in the years ahead!

We also pray for the pastors to whom we pass the leadership torch. May God use them to lead the congregations we leave behind that they may accomplish God’s purposes!

Goodbyes are hard, but they go with the territory. With our final Sunday behind us, we now turn our attention more fully to preparing for our journey ahead.

Well, that an finishing up our packing on Tuesday, moving to Clearfield on Wednesday and Thursday, and then unpacking! 🙂

Packing Report

Less than 3 weeks ago, I wrote It’s Time to Pack. While packing has progressed fairly slowly, we have made some real headway in the last few days.

On Tuesday, Mary Ayers came to the house and spent the day entertaining and caring for Ethan while we packed. It was a cool day so we spent a lot of time going through boxes and stuff in the attic (which can be a pretty hot place sometimes). And, after dinner with Ethan, Joann McCrum took Ethan for a walk while we did some more packing before EBT (our acronym for “Ethan’s Bed Time,” which we usually use when talking about what things we need to get done after Ethan goes to bed). Anyway, Tuesday was a very productive day.

Ethan spent Thursday at his grandmother’s house in Williamsburg, so, after spending the morning preparing for Sunday, we were able to get some more packing done in the afternoon.

We have Friday through Tuesday to complete our packing. And, to get it done, we’ll have to work around several activities — a Juniata Valley Ministerium farewell picnic for us, a 70th wedding anniversary for Joleen’s great uncle/aunt, a graduation party for Joleen’s step-nephew, and some visits with people before we complete our ministries here. On top of all that, this Sunday will be our last one here. It looks to be a pretty intense several days!

We’ve got a long way to go, but, fortunately …

  • Our house is filling up with packed boxes
  • We are donating a lot of items that we no longer use to ES Ministries Thrift Store, a ministry that grew out of Joleen’s charge which operates in one of Faith UMC’s buildings (the one in Mooresville)
  • We are throwing away a lot of other stuff that isn’t worth donating
  • We will drop off a bunch of cardboard boxes (mostly shipping boxes that we’ve collected over the last several years that are too small to be used for packing) at the recycling drop-off spot in Pine Grove Mills (where we regularly drop off plastics, metal cans, glass bottles, and cardboard)
  • Several larger items are sitting in our front yard with “for sale” signs on them (desk and chair, grill, coffee and end tables, and an exercise bike) with all proceeds going to E.S. Ministries

Just a couple quick observations (things that you probably already know!) …

  1. It’s amazing how much stuff we hang onto that we never use (and probably never will)!
  2. It’s amazing how hard it is to throw some stuff away, even stuff that we never use (and probably never will)!

Ethan’s Baptism

Last Sunday, we had Ethan baptized in a special service in the afternoon so people from all of our churches could be invited, and both Randy and I could be there. 🙂

We were grateful that both sets of Ethan’s grandparents were able to be with us. (Randy’s parents traveled from Tennessee just for the weekend, bringing two of Ethan’s cousins he had not yet met.)

For the baptism Ethan wore the traditional Korean dress called a hanbok that he received as a gift from his foster family in Korea. It is very colorful. And as you can see in the picture below, boys wear pink!

It was meaningful to celebrate this event in Ethan’s life with our church families, Manor Hill Charge and 12th Street and Hope. They have been with us through the journey into parenthood and helped pray Ethan into our lives. It was also special to have our District Superintendent, Dave Norris, to officiate. He and his wife Jean have been supportive and shared the joy of this life-changing event.

The service was to include a slideshow to the song “You’ve Given Life to Me.” See Randy’s post, The Missing Slideshow, for details, and to view the slideshow.

The Faith UMC Choir sang “How Great is Our God” which was a special selection they sung for me right before we left for Korea to get Ethan. We included the congregational song, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” a congregational song from our wedding, too.

We played a recording of the World Vision Korea Children’s Choir singing in English and Korean, “Lord, I Want to Be a Christian” (see last year’s post on this choir’s concert in Huntingdon). And Open Timbre, a bluegrass group from Faith UMC, sang “The Blessing.”

Another special touch was the use of the Statement of Faith of the Korean Methodist Church in place of the Apostle’s Creed. We also used the ceramic pitcher and bowl that my grandmother (Ethan’s maternal great grandmother) had painted.

There was a good bit of music, but I like music! And so does Ethan. Ethan was a bit wiggly through a lot of the service, except when the music was playing! Now that he’s walking he wants down to get around.

Following the service, the Manor Hill churches provided a farewell reception. Joann, who (along with her husband, Dick) babysits Ethan on Sunday mornings, baked and decorated a beautiful baptism cake for the occasion.

We are grateful for this special day in our lives and in life of Ethan. We believe baptism to be a way in which we experience God’s grace. As an infant, Ethan can do nothing to achieve salvation. So it is with us all. God offers it freely.

Now we pray that Ethan will grow up to accept and claim this free gift of God as his very own.

Images from the day (the first one taken with our camera, and the other 3 by Ethan’s two grandmothers) …

The Missing Slideshow

Ethan was baptized Sunday (we’ll say more about that in another post). We intended to include a slideshow presentation at the beginning of the service, showing photos from the last 4 months. Unfortunately, I was not able to get it to work.

I’m not exactly sure what was wrong. My Apple PowerBook detected the projector, but apparently the projector didn’t get the message (I used this projector last fall at “community day,” but with a different cable). I should have conducted a trial run the day before and/or allowed more time beforehand (time was short due to Sunday morning activities and having family from Tennessee with us).

Anyway, we were extremely disappointed that it didn’t work; it would have been a good segue into Ethan’s baptism service. We invested a good bit of time on the presentation (on the slideshow plus shopping at Best Buy stores in Altoona AND in State College to get the necessary cables to connect the projector to Faith’s sound system so that the accompanying soundtrack could be played through the system).

A number of people got to see the slideshow during the fellowship time after the service on my laptop. And thanks to the latest version of Keynote, an Apple presentation application that I used to create the slideshow, I was able to send the slideshow to YouTube and then post it here.

I love the slide transitions available in Keynote (you’ll see a few of them in this slideshow). My favorite transition, and the single most biggest reason we were disappointed that it didn’t work Sunday, is the final photo and subsequent “droplet” transition (water ripple effect), which was intended to be a good lead-in to the baptism service.

BTW, I left the soundtrack out of the slideshow on YouTube (due to copyright), but you can preview or buy/download the song here at Amazon.com (see lyrics below).

“You’ve Given Life to Me”
(The Praise Baby Collection)

You are my hope, you are my light.
You are the way, the truth, and the life.
You have created all I can see and
You’ve given life to me. You’ve given life to me.

Though you are God, you became man
Walked here beside us so we’d understand.
All you created, all we can be
Lord, you have set us free. Lord, you have set us free.

And we praise you. And we praise you.
And we love you. And we love you.

So, without further adieu, here’s the nearly-5-minute slideshow; just click on the image. Please be aware that we have NO control over any of the other video/content/links from YouTube!

The Missing Slideshow

Ethan’s 1-year Doctor Appointment

The one-year doctor appointment is not fun. It means at least four shots, one in each leg, one in each arm. This was on top of Ethan having a slight cold (cough and runny nose).

I think we were all worn out from Annual Conference and then we came home from air conditioned buildings to a sweltering house. We broke out the window air conditioners on Sunday and the first night we had Ethan’s room too cold. (We weren’t going to get out the air conditioners … here we are, we’re supposed to be packing, and we are unpacking stuff! But we didn’t think we could stand to pack in the heat.)

After Wednesday’s appointment, Ethan was quite fussy. The first couple of hours of the night he was waking every 15-20 minutes. We finally gave him some Children’s Tylenol, hoping to ease his aches.

The worse thing of the appointment was talking about our move, which Dr. Ettenger described as a “trauma,” similar to that of the death of a parent. Not exactly the words of assurance we were looking for. 🙂

However, Dr. Ettenger continued to explain that while Ethan will lose most of what has become familiar around him (not to mention that he just went through this a mere four months ago), he will still have his primary caregivers (mom and dad) with him!

Ultimately our assurance is from God. We trust that this move is God’s will and he will provide everything we need!

This was Ethan’s last appointment with Dr. Ettenger due to the move. We deeply appreciate Dr. Ettenger’s work with us and Ethan over the course of the last few months. At one point he said, “I don’t need to tell you, you are doing a good job.” Those sure are reassuring words for new parents to hear. Everyone needs a “That a boy!” every now and then. And we send one to Dr. Ettenger, too.

Happy Birthday, Ethan!

Ethan turned 1 year old on Sunday, June 8, 2008.

We celebrated Ethan’s birthday at Grandma’s house along with family and friends. The highlight of the day was watching Ethan dig into his first birthday cake (see photos below)!

This is a good time to remember the gift Ethan is to us — how God guided our steps throughout our inquiry into the possibility of adoption and the decision-making process, the choice between domestic or international adoption, the selection of an adoption agency, the application process, choosing a country from which to adopt, to name part of the process.

Beyond all of the decisions that we had to make, God’s hand has clearly been upon this entire journey. God worked out all the details according to his timetable — granting us a referral at the time of our dissertation proposal hearings, reaching the final step in the process at the time we completed the first draft of our last two chapters of our dissertations which cleared the way for us to make travel plans to Korea to welcome Ethan into our family, and still leaving us just enough time to complete our revisions and defenses in order to graduate in May 2008.

What an adventure this has been and, with God’s help, will continue to be!

Re-energized!

Tired, sleep-deprived, and worn out.

That’s an odd way to begin a post called “Re-energized!” But while annual conference is physically tiring (and not just annual conference, but annual conference with a baby for the first time), it is still very energizing, spiritually and missionally!

Of course, while spending hours together with a community of Christ-followers in worship and worshipful work is always impacting and re-energizing, it is also a time to refocus on the mission — the main thing, why we do what we do.

Everyone, including leaders, need these kinds of times renewal and refocusing. Leading on the front lines of the mission is challenging. In every organization, including churches, there are strong forces at work to simply maintain the status quo (or go back to the way things were at some point in the past), to take the easy road, or to seek the comfortable way.

The temptation for leaders is to grow weary of the journey of leading people in mission and to allow these forces to inhibit them from fulfilling their God-given task. Leadership *always* involves challenging the process (to use the language of Kouzes and Posner in their landmark book, The Leadership Challenge). It’s certainly not for the fainthearted!

But we all get tired. We all battle doubt and despair, at times. We must regularly find ways to fan the flames, to stir the passion, and to keep moving forward. For us, annual conference is one of the ways that keeps us focused, encouraging us to stay the course, and to lead with courage.

These times of renewal serve as reminders that this is ultimately God’s work. God always gives us the equipment we need for us to complete the work he’s given us. The journey is never easy, but because of God’s power and presence, it is always do-able!

BTW, Ethan did well today, his third/final day of annual conference. He was obviously tired, though. We are grateful for Jean, our district superintendent’s (Dave Norris) wife, who cared for Ethan during the closing ordination service in the afternoon. And, Ethan finally got a much-needed nice long nap during that time! 😎