Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Since our move to Ohio last year, six sets of friends have come from far away to visit us.

The first was Erik Chandler from Knoxville, TN.  We became friends with Erik & Kim when we all lived in Southern California and attended the same church.  There are roots in this friendship that run deep, and we love watching their cute family grow.  Erik made the day's drive to come meet us the morning we drove our Penske truck and trailer in to Medina.  He helped us move our stuff and didn't even complain that we made him sleep on the floor.  Erik spoke at our church men's retreat last month, which was a real treat.  Not that I was there, but I love the idea of connecting our friends, and Erik is such a gifted pastor.

Our third set of houseguests came from Costa Mesa, CA: the Jenkins family (whom we also know from our California church). They were the first ones to sleep in our guestroom, inspire us to spend a day at the zoo, and wait over 3 hours for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches in Cleveland.  Their oldest, Coen, is Chris's namesake (one of his middle names is Christopher) and godson.  We have been through some times with these friends over the years, and love sharing life and ministry with them across the miles.  Skype and Chinese take-out are our go-tos.  Amber is a wizard in the kitchen and showed me how to make our favorite appetizer: bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese and drizzled with maple syrup.

Houseguests number four hailed from Seattle, WA.  Brian & Michelle McMahon are dear friends of ours from our church in Mill Creek.  Chris is one of Brian's mentors, and Michelle & I used to sing together on the worship team.  We were unknowingly a part of the night they got engaged, and had the privilege of singing at their wedding.  Brian & Michelle have a big heart for youth, and have spent their married life working together to reach the young people in their community and around the state.  They are a spirited pair who frolicked with us in Amish country last winter and helped to encourage the young adults at our church here in Ohio (most of whom work with students). 

Last week, we were blessed to have houseguests number six: our oldest niece & nephew on the Holowaty side, from Burlingame, CA (San Francisco area, where Chris grew up).  Elanor just graduated high school and Nathaniel is a junior.  They came in to our family ten years ago as adopted siblings from Ukraine.  We occasionally reminisce about what that whole experience was like for all of us. The waiting, the prayers, the anticipation, the arrival, the language barrier.. my tears of joy when we first met.  To see who they have become over the past decade is remarkable.  They are kind, creative, engaging, energetic, funny, responsible teenagers.  Yes, responsible, and they can hold their own in adult conversations.  They never cease to amaze me.

Their visit was our birthday gift to them last year, and was a week the four of us have anticipated for months!  We squeezed as much as we could in to their stay and gave them a healthy dose of Ohio life.  I think Elanor would consider becoming Amish, if she didn't have her heart set on doing mission work in Africa.  Nathaniel can't wait to attend Akron University in 2013.  They made friends with everyone they met here, and we loved having so much time with them!

Every day we are blessed by our friends near and far.  Even with all the miles between some of us, you are held close in our hearts.  

Monday, May 30, 2011

late night

It's 2:29am.  I can't sleep.

So, I baked a cake from scratch.  This was my trial run of a red velvet I'm making Chloe for her birthday next month.  The recipe I used needs a little tweaking and the frosting needs more cream cheese (and patience from me).  I plan on using round cake pans on the actual day, and strawberries to garnish.

I'm just hoping for a sugar crash soon, so I don't spend the entire night watching episodes of Extreme Couponing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

crafts & fancy

Saturday was lovely.  I drove around with my new Christopher Williams CD playing on repeat and ventured out to a place I had never been to before.  They call it Westfield Center.  It's not even a mall, but rather a town slightly bigger than Perrysville.  Thankfully, my GPS recognized the zipcode.  

Something I've noticed about every Ohioan city so far is the gazebo. Clearly, it doesn't matter the size of the city, a big white gazebo will always greet you.  Even Westfield Center has a gazebo, and that's how I knew I had arrived.  

The reason I went here was because my friend invited me.  Her name is Karen and she is crafty.  Literally.  She makes handbags, candle holders, gift baskets, burial beds for pets, hand painted decorations and gardening pots, and other nicknacks.  It was fun to see her wares and support her livelihood.  All of the proceeds for that day's event went to the steeple repair fund for the local church.  Is that neighborly or what?  

My other friend, Geri, was also there, so she and I walked around the little fair together looking at plants, baked goods, garage sale items and chocolate.  Then she asked if I wanted to go to Mack's with her. I had never heard of Mack's, but boy do I know now!  Mack's is an unassuming grocery and liquor store in Lodi that houses some of the best homemade beef jerky, sausages and smokies.  

Armed with a sweet Hawaiian flavor and spicy habanero, I came home bearing gifts.  Chris was sold on the jerky as much as I was, and I'm already thinking ahead to our next barbecue.  Mack's offers some fine cuts of meat, in addition to deli items.

After my morning in Small Town USA, Chris and I got dressed up and attended a Friends & Family pre-grand opening event at the newest restaurant in Brunswick called Melrose Grille.  

Our friends, Greg & Kelly Clement, basically rescued this national tourist destination from closing it's doors for good and revamped the entire operation.  Melrose Grille is attached to a property called Mapleside Farms.  Read more about it's rich history here.  

The Clements hosted a fine affair, complete with tours of the facility, house wine and cider tastings, creative appetizers, homemade apple butter and cupcakes, live music and a festive atmosphere.  Greg and Kelly have fine taste, but without the added pretense.  The restaurant reflects their personality and includes a neo-rustic decor and quality menu offerings, while maintaining a comfortable ambiance.

Did I mention the view from the upstairs dining area?  You can see for miles on a clear day.

I am really impressed.  Chris and I were given a tour of the property a month ago when it was skeleton pieces and dressed in dust. Now, it is a magical place where I cannot wait to make our dinner reservations. They already have festivals and concert events planned for the summertime.  

This is my kind of country living.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

drive back roads

© photo credit: christopherw.com

The title of this post can be found printed on the front of my husband's Christopher Williams band t-shirt.  I think it's one of the best metaphors for living life; though, I suspect it was meant to be literal, since Christopher Williams started his music career driving around the country in a red van.  He was a master of road trips and often found lyrics and stories during those side street tours.

If you haven't heard CW, you really must.  I first saw him play when I was a college kid splitting time between the classroom and coffeeshops in Seattle.  

Fast forward eighteen years and I'm still a fan of Williams' music. Hubby and I have hosted CW in every state we've lived in and try to see him perform live at least twice a year.  While living in California, I actually convinced two of my girlfriends to spontaneously drive six hours (round-trip) from Costa Mesa to Santa Barbara, in the middle of rush hour, to see CW play at a restaurant called SoHo.  

My friends love me.  A lot.

Last Friday, Christopher did a show at our church.  We were so excited to share our friend's music with our Ohio family.  It was a quaint gathering, but an important connection, and one I doubt any of them will ever forget.  I had the privilege of giving CW's introduction that night and selling his CDs.  It was a joy to watch children dancing, people clapping and CW doing what he does best. He has a new album coming out called stone water wood light.  What I thought was going to be a Fall project, he decided to do in forty days.  Lucky for us, he brought his two-day-old records with him to the concert and I've been listening to my copy on repeat ever since.  
This CD will be released on May 23rd.  So you know, buy it.

After the gig at Cornerstone Chapel, we took CW to the most happenin' place in town on a Friday night: Applebee's.  We enjoyed their happy hour specials and conversation.  Christopher kept one eye on The Red Sox game and we had fun chatting it up with our server. A thunder & lightning storm brewed while we were inside, which made the evening that much more electric.

If you get a chance to see Christopher Williams in concert, please do. And don't forget those back roads.  

That's where all the scenery is.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

happy trails

Remember this beauty I bought off Craig's List last year?  Well, I'm finally putting some miles on her tread.  

I'll be honest, I'm not one who likes riding my bike around town.  I would much rather have a trail where other cyclists and walkers and runners coexist.

I found one nearby called the Lester Rail Trail.  It's just under six miles round-trip, which is perfect for my amateur riding legs.  I'm getting stronger, though.  I've rode this trail eight times now and eventually hope to traverse it more than once both ways.

The trail itself is like a pop-up book, only better.  The scenery doesn't seem like much at first, but once you get in to the wooded areas and start looking around, there are plenty of wild critters and colorful birds to greet you.  My favorite parts are the yellow wildflowers and lilac bushes you smell before you see.       

Now that I'm a biker, I've learned a few things I feel I should share with you:

1. Flying insects like gaping holes, so don't leave your mouth hanging open when you breathe.
2. When watching someone's dog chase a wild bunny, be sure to keep one eye on the road or else you might veer off the path in to the bushes.
3. Sometimes people without homes sleep in the woods.
4. Persons running in the distance look like trotting horses.
5. I really need to get my eyes checked.
6. Bugs will collide with your forehead.  And cheeks.  And arms.  And legs.
7. Wear sunscreen.
8. Smile as you pass by others along the way, even if it means holding in your unladylike panting (from not having exercised in months).  It's the polite thing to do. 
9. Getting caught in a downpour is refreshing.
10. Poop on the ground will not avoid you.

Also, no one looks cute in padded bike shorts.  Even still, I think it's time for me to go shopping.  My rear-end is plenty padded all by itself, but is no match for the part of the seat that digs in.  You know what I'm talking about.  

Pedal to the metal.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

face the change

Recently, we had our junior/senior high Spring retreat in Perrysville, Ohio.  The theme: "Face the Change."

Perrysville is tiny, and actually considered a village by Wikipedia. Having less than a thousand residents, I can see why.  It is beautiful country and farmland and easy to get lost in, if you don't have GPS or a reliable caravan.

Normally, we hold our youth retreats at Camp Luz in Orville, but due to a scheduling change, we found ourselves at a new camp called Pleasant Hill.  

Our speaker for the weekend was Pastor Greg Ford from One Church in Columbus.  Pastor Greg is a young, energetic, godly man with good looks and biceps.  Even with all of the girls crushing on him, he had this way of getting inside the hearts and minds of the students.  He challenged them to forgive those who've hurt them, grow stronger through their weakness, long for the presence of the Lord, ask for more of the Holy Spirit, and not to be afraid of vulnerability.   

Seeing all of the kids with their arms raised made me so proud and weak in the knees.  

I had the privilege of hearing confessions, giving counsel and praying for several young ladies, which included long hugs and the most honest of tears.  I actually came home with mascara stains lining the shoulders of my shirts.  I thank God for each one of those marks, because I know they were met with healing and redemption.

We also had skits:

The Angel Sisters made an appearance:

And some of the leaders had a spontaneous dance party:

(Thank you Kris Barski, Rachel Schmidt and Krista Armstrong for all of the fun pictures!)

True to form, there was coffee in the morning and more cookies than I could stomach.  I love having access to the candy stash.

During the Wednesday following retreat, the students have an opportunity to share testimonies and stories of how they were changed over the weekend.  I wanted to hug every single one of them for their courage and humility and for allowing their peers to see them broken.

Remember kids, "God will not waste your pain."

Not only were the young people challenged and renewed during the weekend, the leaders were, too.  Sure, we lost sleep, got the last shower and had to do a lot of parenting while we were there, but the other parts made it so worth it.  

Vulnerability is where the good stuff is.

The Running Man and Stanky Leg dance moves are pretty great, too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


© photo credit: medinagazette.northcoastnow.com

Today is the 60th annual National Day of Prayer, and a lovely day at that.  The sun is shining and the birds are singing.

At the townsquare this afternoon, Chris helped lead young musicians from the Psalmist School of Music & Fine Arts in an hour of hymns and Scripture readings for our community.  Several other gatherings are taking place all over the city.  I love knowing that for one day millions of people are all praying for our nation.. together.

"Just as our faith strengthens our prayer life, so do our prayers deepen our faith." - Shirley Dobson

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

love wins

© photo credit: cheshireherald.com

In a 24 hour period, hubby and I watched our DVR'd version of The Royal Wedding (followed by a viewing of The Queen with Helen Mirren) and learned about the death of Osama bin Laden.

My emotions are mixed up.

The wedding celebration was festive and ornate.  The bride looked stunning in her Alexander McQueen gown and the groom looked nervous and boyish.  The crowds were inspiring, and the ceremony itself was reverent and honoring to the Christian faith and humanity. I knew that look on Kate Middleton's face as she stood next to her new husband.  Granted, I never had to walk down an aisle that long or even consider being seen by the entire world in that moment, but I do know those nervous and excited butterflies that were no doubt fluttering about in her stomach and that grin in-between kisses.

Osama bin Laden's death was shocking, relieving and saddening.  I still feel sick about it.  I am relieved that this man can no longer inflict harm on others, but my heart hurts when I see scores of Americans chanting and cheering and turning this news in to a national holiday.

I am reminded of Matthew 5:44.

Facebook blew up over the news, and the status updates from some of my friends were chilling.  I even overheard my dentist tell one of his other patients today, "I want to see Osama bin Laden lying on a slab."  My brother was in the military, but he never saw combat.  I don't know what it's like to lose a loved one to war or even what war really feels like, but I do know that love and redemption are paramount in this life; and sensationalizing the death of anyone feels wrong, even when it's the death of a major terrorist.

Our pastor in Seattle sent this message to his church today:

"I've long felt that my primary allegiance is to my King Jesus and my true country - heaven.  I'm a citizen in the Kingdom of God long before I'm identified as a citizen of the United States of America. That said, I've also considered myself quite patriotic - and very grateful to live in this great country of ours.  I'm really proud of extremely well-trained SEALs who bravely sought to bring justice about to a man who has bred hate and death among so many in our world.  But I do not rejoice in the death of anyone.  I so appreciated Pastor Ben sharing on his Facebook page of Ezekiel 33:11 and God's desire for people to come to repentance - he does not delight in the death of the wicked.  He does, however, allow nations to render decisions that bring about justice on this broken planet (Romans 13).  So, many of us probably feel something of relief, yet also recognize that we are not those who are called to respond to hate with more of it.  Be wise, my friends, in your responses to this news."

And I read this written by a mother of three.

Lord have mercy on us all.  For better or worse.