Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: June 2015

The First of the Lasts

 Q VBS game

The stage was set. The entrancing grand entrance built. Glittery stars hung. Kitchen piled high with snack foods and lemonade mix. Craft supplies laid out. Volunteer team assembled. Anticipation built. It could be none other than Vacation Bible School week at LovingtonNaz. And it’s the first of the (big) lasts in terms of our time here.

Margaret story-telling 2

Vacation Bible School week is one of my favorite weeks of the summer. I have great memories of VBS as a kid (everything I learned about VBS, I learned from Shawnee Church of the Nazarene), but I may have an even greater fondness for VBS as an adult. When we arrived at LovingtonNaz almost exactly 7 years ago, there was not a child to be found. The youngest couple other than ourselves were Jaron’s parents. While they’re very energetic 50-somethings, they don’t quite fit the bill of a young family.

Vbs water game

One year later, with new life and renewed passion for ministry to children and families blossoming, our church family tackled the church’s first Vacation Bible School in years. It was successful. It was energizing. Relationships were built. New families came. It proved that our church was alive, that we could DO something.

While VBS doesn’t fit every context or community, it has become a significant piece of our identity as we seek to intentionally shape the lives of families in our community and point them to Jesus. Many people in our church would say that Vacation Bible School was the first point of connection for them. Others would say it was the very first place they actively engaged in ministry. I would say it was the first place our people began to catch the vision for themselves of what God is calling our church to be.

Vbs Lilly & Alexiah

Just a couple of years after our first VBS, while prepping food for my sister’s wedding reception, a family friend from Shawnee Church of the Nazarene shared this story:

When I was a girl, my dad worked in the oil field. He moved around from town to town, wherever the work was. Before I was born, my family lived in a little trailer in Lovington, NM. One day, a lady showed up at our family’s trailer and invited my older siblings to Vacation Bible School at the Nazarene church. They went. My older sister started going to church regularly. My family moved not long after that, but in every town, my older sister would find the Nazarene church and take my siblings (and eventually me). Today, my sister is married to a Nazarene pastor. My family knows Jesus because a little lady invited my siblings to VBS when they lived in Lovington.

I stopped slicing the pineapple. Our longtime family friend had been impacted decades before by the ministry of our church. What a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness. It’s the kind of story that we rarely get to hear, and the kind of story that makes all of the glitter in the carpet and late nights more than worthwhile.

Vbs thumbprint

But there’s this other thing that I just love about VBS at LovingtonNaz. For it is in that one week, that perhaps more than any other week in the year, we are the Body. Every man, woman, teenager, and child engages in some capacity to love on hordes of kids. Whether it’s singing and dancing, serving cups of lemonade, donating hundreds of hot dogs, or counting endless change from the offering, everyone does something. It’s a most beautiful expression of the Body lived out in a Kingdom way. And every year I just want to bottle up that kind of symbiotic expression of the Church and keep it going all year long. Who needs sleep?

This morning, as I picked some remnants of blue sticky tack off of the walls, I was a bit sad that I won’t get to lead the world’s most amazing VBS team next year, but I was even more proud that this piece of the legacy, which really began decades before I was born, will continue in some wonderful capacity after I am gone. They don’t know it yet, but they don’t really need me. Because what this church family knows is how to love people well.Vbs pie in the face


Note: Even these pictures were taken by other members of the VBS team who willingly shared them with me.

For the Love of Stuff

Q and B the Indian princess checking out Max the horse.

Q and B the Indian princess checking out Max the horse.


“What about Quentin’s new bike?”

“What about Quentin’s swing set?”

Q and his special friend Ellie.

Q and his special friend Ellie.

The initial phone call about the opportunity to serve in New Zealand came on the same day as Quentin’s third birthday party. We were busy decorating and setting up. Jaron’s phone rang in the middle of a last minute run to the grocery store. He didn’t tell me about the phone call until after the presents had been unwrapped, cupcakes eaten, Max the (real-live) Horse had been ridden, and the party guests had left. The very first thought that popped into my head was, “What about Quentin’s new bike?” My parents had just gotten him a vintage-looking radio flyer with training wheels and a super cool helmet for his birthday.

Out for a test run on the new Western Flyer

Out for a test run on the new Western Flyer

To be perfectly honest, the very first thoughts that both Jaron and I had in regards to moving to New Zealand involved our stuff. I am embarrassed to admit it, but before I even shed a tear over the relationships that would change, I cried over all of the nice things and great house that we would have to sacrifice. We work very hard not to let money control us. We live below our means. We drive 10+ year old cars. We give a lot and save a lot.

But suddenly, I saw myself as the rich young ruler. And the image was alarming.

In Matthew 19: 16-22, a man asks Jesus what good thing he must do to get eternal life. Jesus says, “If you want to enter life, then keep the commandments.”

“Which ones,” the man asks.

Jesus rattles off a list of commandments, perhaps as if stating the obvious, ending with, “love your neighbor as yourself.”

“I’ve done all of these things,” the man insists. “What else do I lack?”

“If you want to be perfect,” Jesus answered, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The man walked away, feeling sad, because he had great wealth.

Um…yeah…its brutal isn’t it? The parallels are undeniable. Change the man in this story to a woman, and that was me. The truth is, even on our pastor’s income, we have great wealth, resources at our disposal that most of the world cannot even fathom. And I knew that we had to give it all up.

Bapa and Cowboy Q

Bapa and Cowboy Q

That’s not the only place I’ve been hearing this message lately. Over the past several months, we’ve been journeying through the Book of Revelation as a church. It’s been hopeful, fascinating, and incredibly challenging. And over and over again, John addresses the idols of our own making, the prostitute that is the empire, the glitter and glam of the world that tempts and distracts and vies for our allegiance. That phone call brought all of the images of Revelation rushing back at once. You can hear Jaron’s reflections on how Revelation 15:1-16:21 specifically speak to our process of letting go of stuff here.


My mom—one of the most faithful and generous women I know—is here this week. She has confessed to saying to herself as she sat on our back porch, “It’s just a house.” And, as we placed more things in the “sell” pile than the “store” or “take” piles, she has whispered, “It’s just stuff. It’s just stuff.” While it’s not even her stuff, it feels like a sacrifice to her too.

The bottom line is that as Americans it is way easier than we care to think or admit to let our stuff, our desire for stuff, or our pursuit of stuff determine how we use our resources. In the end, we’re planning to take Quentin’s bike with us, but his swing set and many other things that we have enjoyed will go to a new set of owners. We are grateful for our stuff, but we can never allow ourselves to be in a position where our stuff or the pursuit of stuff keeps us from responding in faithful obedience to God’s call on our lives.

The beloved Max the Horse

The beloved Max the Horse

Living in the Tension

A Patman family tradition...3 generations enjoying the Lea County Fair and Rodeo

3 generations enjoying the Lea County Fair and Rodeo… a Patman family tradition.

So excited. So sad. Such a sense of anticipation. Such a sense of loss. So much to gain. So much to release. These days, we are living in the tension. We feel the weight of all that we will say goodbye to…a home (already under contract!), a family nearby, a community, a church family that we love dearly. And yet, we anticipate all that we will get to experience… beautiful landscapes, a new culture, another church family to love, a different pattern to our lives, more relationships. We have a sense that living in the tension is a very faithful way to live.

We are living in the tension in other ways too. This week, we are in the process of saying goodbye to Jaron’s grandma (Geen—a name lovingly bestowed by toddler Jaron 30 years ago). We are grateful for her life and her faithfulness. Our family—Geen included—has an overwhelming sense of peace and hope as she prepares to be with Jesus. It’s beautiful. We anticipate the day when we too will be raised to new life in Christ along with her and others who have gone before us. And yet, we will miss her desperately. We are celebrating the legacy and grieving the loss of a beautiful, feisty, strong, stylish, loving, determined woman who pointed her family to Jesus. We can’t wait for her to be resting with Jesus, pain free, and yet at the same time we are very aware of the gaping hole her death will leave. The tension is real.

Imojune Patman (Geen) with two of her grandchildren, Quentin Patman Graham and Breckyn Elizabeth Graham at a family birthday party on May 22.

Imojune Patman (Geen) with two of her grandchildren, Q and B, at a family birthday party on May 22.

This tension is exactly the kind of thing that living in this already-not-yet Kingdom of God calls for. We live on this side of the cross. We know that there’s hope. We see the ways God’s Kingdom is breaking in all around us. We celebrate healing and wholeness. We walk with hope. And yet, the Kingdom has not been fully realized. We see it in the brokenness and pain and loss all around us. We experience it in our own lives. We know death.

It is in acknowledging that God’s Kingdom has begun and that it is not yet complete, in embracing the tension between grief and hope, loss and anticipation, death and life that we understand what it means to live as kingdom people today. For to be faithful to Christ in this already-not-yet Kingdom means that we must grieve deeply all that is broken in our world and celebrate passionately all that is right and good.

When we fully and faithfully embrace this tension, something happens. We are compelled to intentionally live the Hope of the Kingdom into the broken places. Our sense of anticipation gives us means to speak Life where there might otherwise only be death, to offer grace where condemnation would otherwise reign, to experience joy where others might only experience sadness.

So, as we walk this journey, we are reminded that this tension is exactly where we are called to live… where the hard and the exciting, the painful and the good are all mixed up together. We can do so confident that ultimately, by the grace of Christ, all that is Good and Right and Life-Giving will endure. That’s a work that we want to be a part of…wherever we are.


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