Are you living in a Relationship Simulator?

Saturday, June 3, 2017


“Hold it a little further to the right,” he said. “Yes…like that. If you want the plane to make a full circle, you have to align the white line on this gauge with the direction you’re heading…”
My eyes locked onto that gauge and its bright readout, then came back to watch the horizon as it slipped past the windows.
“I can see the Shelburne harbor!” I cried. The plane was coming around now and the lake opened out before me, a startling blue beneath the cloudless sky.
The man beside me smiled. “Okay, now have a try at bringing her down. There’s the runway to our right.”
I could see it plainly – a straight black line cutting through the grey-green forest and surrounding businesses that looked like little bug homes from 5000 feet of altitude. I zeroed in on that stretch of pavement. I had to make this.
The altimeter told me I was descending, and there was a jerk as we shifted to the right with changing wind patterns. The yoke was cool under my excited hands, my heart beating a thrilling rhythm. I was getting a taste of my lifelong dream of flying.
“Pull up slightly,” the man said gently, guiding me expertly as the ground came up beneath us. There was a fleeting sensation of floating; that feeling of which I have dreamed for so many years. And then the slight bump as the wheels touched the pavement and we were down.
“Congratulations on making a successful landing,” he said. Then he paused for a moment. “That was really good,” he added quietly.
I let out my breath slowly. Every part of me felt keyed up in a beautiful, wonderful rush. I was living my dream.
Only, I wasn’t. That was just a very, very high-tech flight simulator at a free VT flight academy event.
There’s a reality to the dream of a private pilot’s license: time, effort, and money. Lots and lots of money. Lord-willing, I hope to achieve this dream sooner rather than later! But it’s going to take a lot of work.

A “Relationship Simulator” is a great relationship that mimics marriage, only without the responsibility, without the practical learning, without the reality of joint decision-making, without the deep-level resolution of differences. It is excitement and affection without in-depth examination or compatibility analysis.
I’m not talking about a particular couple here! :) I’m referring to a trend among young people, a situation that church leaders are facing frequently.
Spring has arrived and there is an increasing number of Christian couples who get together and are Just.So.Excited to be “in a relationship!!!!!!!!!” They are naturally so enthusiastic about being liked, about living their dreams, about experiencing the romance of coffee dates and the excitement of phone calls and the beautiful emotional rush of having a special someone to care about, that the real work of finding out if they’re suitable for each other – or possibly the difficult consideration of maybe-this-isn’t-the-right-one – is pushed aside. And when you don’t think too hard about core suitability issues, well, it all feels so right!
Just like in a high-tech flight simulator, there are all the sensations of the real thing. In a simulator like the one I experienced, the whole structure moves (sometimes startlingly) under one’s guidance of the yoke, the brakes work, the flaps cause the aircraft to shift, the ground whirls past below and the wind is unexpected. But one can make a mistake or fail to check the plane over thoroughly and there are no long-term consequences. Ultimately, it is not fully “right”; it is not real. It is a thrill-a-minute without analysis, paperwork, license, or cost.
In the same way, one can experience all the pleasant exciting feelings of being in a relationship, the highs and lows and the minor relational bumps along the way, along with the beautiful dreams of an approaching future as a Married Person, without being fully honest with oneself about the rightness of this person as a lifetime match.
The couples who make it into old age are the couples who get out of the simulator and who save the romance for after the analysis stage.
Their advice to us? Face the hard questions, do the work of relationship-building, and build a solid foundation for a lifetime of love, parenting, and beautiful old age together.
Cheers to awesome, excitement-filled marriages that last!!

A sign of spring...or not yet

Thursday, May 11, 2017


This is what our yard looked like two days ago!

This is what it looks like now:


Yes, those are snow clouds, doing what snow clouds do best: painting our valley white again. We woke up this morning to find a thick layer covering everything, and it was just slightly discombobulating because for a moment, I couldn't remember what season it was. Fall? Winter? Spring? A combo? Huh?

Then I remembered: this happens every year. And Spring IS coming even if it's wearing a white coat at the moment. I know that because 1) the daffodils are still blooming, 2) the grass is still greening, and 3) the Robins are still singing.

Oh, and as I was looking out the kitchen window this afternoon, I saw the very first Eastern Bluebird of the season!! It made me shriek with delight! Ibs can testify to this fact. I LOVE bluebirds.

I'm still waiting for the Indigo Bunting to show up. Any day now...

Back home again

Friday, March 24, 2017


It is hard to believe that our time on Les Iles de la Madeleine is already history, and we are back in our Vermont home again, with only the memories of another trip come and gone to fill our prayers and our dreams.

The time was beyond good. Not only was it a wonderful, awesome adventure - but more importantly, it was an incredibly intense time of ministry, and we are grateful for the opportunity to be a tiny part of God's plans in this remote corner of the world.

If you want to receive email updates and news about what we were doing there ministry-wise, please feel free to contact me!

On the blog-post-able side of things...

{Ike on top of our mountain}

Hiking the mountain beside our house has always been a favorite activity. It's hard to see in this picture, but through all that blowing snow is the vast expanse of the ocean, stretching away on three sides to the unbroken horizon. On sunny days said mountain is a paradise; on wintery days, a wild adventure as hurricane-force winds rip at your jacket, suck your breath away, and threaten to blow you over. Literally.

Going up isn't much of an issue because the wind almost always comes from the North, so it pushes eager hikers from behind as they scale the steep rocky trail on the exposed northern mountainside.

Going down is another adventure altogether. Most often, we opt for the "tunnel trail" - an aptly named slippery chute that points you headlong down through the trees at a 45 degree angle; in the winter this trail becomes a completely iced luge track with only a thin, rat-eaten rope to cling to as you descend at dizzying speed and hope not to hit a tree. It is also advisable to watch for hard, frozen roots poking up out of the ice in unexpected places. (!)

This time around, I avoided the roots, but it had been a long time since we'd slid down the tunnel trail and unfortunately, I did not know that the lifeline rope was broken in one key spot. I hit the place at rather startling speed and felt the frazzled end of the rope jerk through my gloves, dangling uselessly above my head as I hurtled downwards unimpeded over the smooth ice, the trees rushing by in an alarming blur... all except for that one straight ahead that seemed to be getting bigger as I approached...

...And the next thing I knew, my arms were around the tree, my breath coming in relieved gasps, my head inches from the protruding branches, and my ankle in a disturbing twist. Hmmmm. It was very definitely sprained.

But hey - it was our last day on the Islands, so I knew I wouldn't miss many more grand adventures! Plus, I was very grateful that the next two days we were on the road, so I was able to keep my ankle still and let it heal before we arrived back in Vermont, where the mountain tops were covered with five feet of fresh powder and the slopes were calling!

And, a very important fact: a ski boot is a LOT like a cast. :)

Which means that skiing is like medicine. Or something like that...

Leaving for Les Iles de la Madeleine!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


This is where we will be in just two days!!!

Tomorrow, in the early hours of the morning, we will leave on an intensive ministry trip to the Magdalen Islands. We are all super excited as well as sobered by the enormity of the darkness and the critical nature of the meetings ahead.

Please pray for strength and wisdom as we minister there!

I'll post an update soon... :)

Snow on the head

Sunday, February 12, 2017


This is what you get when you live in Vermont, and approximately 5000 pounds of snow accumulates on your roof, and then the temperature rises and said snow decides it would rather be in your front yard.

At which point it comes down in an unexpected roar of catapulting ice chunks and squashes flat as a pancake whatever happened to be under it. Thankfully those of us who have experienced this phenomenon have lived to tell the tale - but only because a fast dash saved our heads!!!

The other day I came out the front door, glanced up, and saw this heavy pack silently ooching out into space:


But happily, this kind of snow is also ideal for packing!

I managed to score three direct hits with carefully aimed snowballs and then I became the victim of a terrific barrage.

I'll end with a picture of these lovely people, who are some of the few Vermont Christians we know:


Good times, y'all!!

A day at Mad River Glen

Monday, February 6, 2017


There are six epic ski resorts within half an hour of our home. I think Vermonters have realized that if you are going to survive - and stay sane - through the winter here, you have to find a way of enjoying it to the fullest.

Read: Skiing!!!

Thankfully for us, one of those six resorts is an extremely, amazingly, wonderfully, totally, dirt-cheap establishment that makes it possible for cash-strapped Missionary Kids to avail themselves of the mountain air.

The other five are brutally expensive. Mad River Glen is one example: boasting the most challenging terrain in all of the Northeast, its motto is "Ski it if you can," and the prices relegate it to the stuff of dreams for said cash-strapped people. Until the resort is celebrating its anniversary, and offers everyone the golden chance of a day pass for only $3!!!

Yes. Um, yes. Definitely YES.

And so we found ourselves happily skiing at a world-renowned mountain for nearly nothing, riding the historic single chair lift (the only one of its kind in the world), and drinking in the awesome views. Also getting sore legs. It was an AMAZING day!


It started out as a bluebird day - clear skies and frigid temps, with a thick blanket of snow weighing down all the trees and creating a beautiful muffled scene that this picture does nothing to capture.


That's slightly more like it.

Now add to this picture the delumptious smoothness of gliding on fresh powder, the heart-racing moments of skittering across ice patches, and the exhilarating feeling of pounding through fields of moguls. Oh, and free Ben and Jerry's ice cream!!!!

I didn't object.


Curtis and I took a run together that started out as a lazy sort of meander down the mountain; however, this only lasted for approximately fifty feet. At which point we spied an intriguing snowy path into the woods, and dove enthusiastically into a world of deep powder, giant unexpected drops over rocks, stumps, and waterfalls, and brushy trees with about two inches of room between them. Suddenly we were very, very awake.


This is me, deliberating before taking the plunge...


And here is Northeastern tree skiing at its best! That little tiny spot of yellow far below represents Curtis' jacket.


In the afternoon, snow-filled storm clouds rolled in, and the early sunset was blanketed in a thick cover of fresh snow coming down.

By the way: is it just me, or does that tree look like flailing frog legs??


One of the last runs of the day!

Already looking forward to Mad River Glen's $3 anniversary next year...

Texas trip snippets

Saturday, January 28, 2017


We left Vermont in the earliest dawn of a foggy morning, knowing as the plane swept away in an exhilarating whoosh that within just hours, we would set foot on Texas soil. There is hardly any knowledge more pleasant than that!!!


I told myself that I wouldn't cry when we touched down.

I did very well on this resolution...

For two seconds.


At last! Back in Home Sweet Texas!!!!


One of our first encounters was with an ancient rancher who was dealing with frozen pipes after a recent cold spell. We offered to help - here you can see (at a distance) Augs talking with him as he wandered around in his truck and told amazing stories. What began as a random meeting turned into a fascinating hour in which we heard about the price of cattle, the difficulties of Texas ranching, the joys of tomato gardening, and the history of Blue Bell ice cream. At the end, he rummaged around purposefully under a pile of papers, tools, and unidentified objects in his truck, and finally extracted a small, tasty-looking package.

"Deer sausage," he explained, handing it over, then adding in a confidential sort of whisper, "The deer was dead a few days."

Speaking of meat...


A super generous family treated us to the most AMAZING dinner imaginable, at a Brazilian Steakhouse in San Antonio!!

And now here is The Random Collection of pics from the rest of our trip:


Totally unexpected matching day.


Catching up over deliciouso Mexican food...


...and grabbing snippets of time to talk on busy workdays...


One of our favorite people. Ever.


Um...last time we saw this fellow he was a baby; not so much anymore. I didn't mention hamburgers in his presence. It just didn't seem wise.


We were privileged to spend a day out on the Guajillo, listening to stories, catching up on life, and soaking in wisdom from one of the dearest couples we know.

They took us on an extensive tour of the ranch, telling countless old tales of Indians, Texas Rangers, actual battles that took place right there along the Colorado River, and ancient knowledge of plants, among other things.





He is also one of the best cooks I know!


I'll end with this picture of two of my favorite dogs. They are the best. They are fun, they are wild, they are full of energy, they are sweet, they are unruly. I adore them.

Already looking forward to the next time we return to Texas,

Ems

 
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