Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: July 2015

Runner Ready?!

The race is well underway. In fact, the lead off runner has nearly completed his portion. He is rapidly approaching the transition zone, holding out the baton. The second runner is reaching behind, looking back, and starting the slow jog. The pass from one runner to the next is critical. It must be an expression of fluid teamwork. The baton must not be dropped. For a moment, the runners are one as they both grasp the baton. Then, the lead off runner lets go, allowing the second runner to take over, play his role on the team, and carry the team forward…

These days, we’re operating in this mindset of a runner in a relay race getting ready to pass the baton… or pass many batons, rather. We have been incredibly blessed to participate in leadership in the life of the community of Lovington in some idyllic ways. We recognize that we may never have many of those opportunities again. And, we realize that it’s time to pass the batons, make space for new leaders, and allow for others to carry the vision and the ministry forward.

In some areas, we’re approaching the second runner who is anticipating the reception of the baton. In others, both leaders have a firm grasp on the baton, working together to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

One of those areas is After School Adventures, LovingtonNaz’s after school program. After School Adventures was a dream that grew from a seed planted several years ago when an after school care program failed to take off because there was no one to run it. It was a gaping hole in terms of the social services and educational opportunities available to our community. That seed grew and After School Adventures has proven to be an essential social service, a vital ministry of LovintonNaz, and an excellent means of partnership in the education and formation of our community’s children. It is everything I dreamed it could be, and with the addition of Summer Adventures, even more. I have been delighted to dream and direct something that so significantly impacts kids and families.

However, I am also delighted to introduce you to the second runner in the race, After School Adventures’ new director, Gina Acosta.

Gina, Abel, & their daughters.

Gina, Abel, & their daughters.

 

Gina Acosta is a mother of two daughters, Alexiah and Analise, ages 8 and 6. She was born in El Paso, Texas, but is a lifelong resident of Lovington, New Mexico. In 2005, Gina and her husband Abel took on the endeavor of owning and operating a Sonic Drive In in Denver City, Texas. After 5 years of business growth and a learning process, they decided to leave the franchise. A short time, thereafter, they moved back to Lovington.

After a couple of years of being a stay at home mom, Gina decided to take a leap of faith and try something new. She started working at Cornerstone Coffeehouse where she has been for 2 years. Gina is currently a barista and the front of the house manager. She really enjoys the public interaction and getting to know the community through their mutual love for coffee and sandwiches.

When Gina is not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, running, and the occasional golf game. She is very excited for the opportunity to be the new director of After School Adventures and to be able to connect with and influence children of the community through this creative program.

Gina first became involved with After School Adventures when she enrolled her daughters for the 2014-2015 school year. She brings management expertise, public relations experience, and a parent perspective to the After School Adventures leadership team. Gina and her family call LovingtonNaz their church home and are actively involved in the life of the church.

Gina Acosta with her daughters.

Gina Acosta with her daughters.

Currently, Gina and I both hold the baton. While she is officially the director, I will continue training and supporting the ASA team through much of the fall. Lisa Reed will continue working as the Program Coordinator, which will also provide a great sense of continuity.

I anticipate great days ahead for After School Adventures (and yes, Summer Adventures too). Gina will bring her own personality and flare to leadership. She’ll learn and grow and ask a lot of questions, but she’ll also love the kids of our community well, greet parents with a warm smile, and provide a high caliber of leadership. I am grateful she’s the next runner on our team.

Kissin’ Cousins

We’ve had the gift of some great extended family time lately. Jaron’s brother and sister-in-law, Tyler and Amanda, have been in town with their daughter B a few times this summer. Then, over the past week Jaron’s extended family descended on Lovington to celebrate the life of his grandma. We also got to celebrate the lives and energy of a passel of little people—Imojune’s great grandchildren. The littles laughed and cried, wrestled and played for days on end. Their exuberant activity only paused at the mandatory eating and sleeping times, which were occasionally punctuated by meltdowns, proving that without food and sleep, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Farewell tackle hugs

Farewell tackle hugs

Quentin and his second cousin M are just six months apart. At Christmas, they weren’t sure who was boss. This time, they simply couldn’t get enough. This snapshot of their farewell “tackle hug” pretty much sums up their mutual love for all things loud, imaginative, and 100% all-in.

 

Hang on B... Q is taking you for a ride.

Hang on B… big cousin Q is taking you for a ride.

We’re almost constantly thinking intentionally about the days ahead when “tackle hugs” will be a lot harder to coordinate. Last night, we had a Skype voice call with Vikki Moore (the video connection was a bit lacking). Vikki and her husband John are the field strategy coordinators for Australia and New Zealand. It was a “checking in to see how you’re doing and how the transition is going” call.

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Vikki said, “The hard thing about moving to New Zealand is the emotional distance and isolation you’ll experience. When we lived in Europe, we had lots of visitors because it was less expensive and always on the way to some other place. In Australia (where John and Vikki live) or New Zealand, people are either coming or they’re not. It’s not on the way to anywhere.”

Cousin love = cookie sharing

Cousin love = cookie sharing

Yikes. We’re taking those words to heart and praying that God will give us the strength we’ll need when we’re feeling very lonely. We’re also praying some of you will come visit. 😉

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In light of the reality that we’ll soon be very far from everyone and everything we’ve known, we’ve been asking some of our close friends who have recently or are currently parenting small children while living abroad what they’re advice would be. Thankfully, they have some great words of wisdom.

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One thing they suggested was packing lots of photos of friends and family members. They help when you’re missing people or feeling lonely or far away. So on one of Tyler and Amanda’s recent weekends in Lovington, my sister Lisa captured some of Q’s moments at play with his cousin B.

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Q adores B. He wants to hug her and kiss her incessantly. He wants to protect her and baby her. B brings out in Q all of the protective older boy instincts that could possibly fill a 3-year-old body. These photos capture a bit of their 3-year-old and almost-2-year-old shenanigans. I have a feeling that when we’re on opposite sides of the globe, they’ll help us laugh about their mischief, remember how much they love each other, and anticipate how intensely they’ll play the next time they get to see each other.

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In the meantime, we’ll keep treasuring the cousin kisses and tackle hugs that we get to experience in person.

New

The word new has been popping up a lot this week.

The sum of it is that this hasn’t been our favorite week ever. In the midst of a two day period filled with running a summer program, last-minute church camp preparations, a visit from my parents, selling our belongings, and a rather unexpected disappointment, Jaron’s grandma died. Her death was expected, but the sum total made for one of those weeks where life stinks. The reality is that those weeks (and occasionally seasons) happen.

But then there’s that word new.

Isaiah 43 has been rolling around in my head, beckoning me to read and re-read it.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

Check out all that GREEN (and the exceptional "I can dress myself outfit").

Check out all that GREEN at Bonita Park outside of Ruidoso, NM (and the exceptional “I can dress myself outfit”).

God is doing a new thing. Sometimes new things are hard and the process is difficult. And God is faithful. When we pass through the waters, God promises to be with us. When we got frustrating news that felt perhaps bigger than it should have, my mother-in-law hugged me and reminded that when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned.

One of the great bright spots from the week: Q got to hang out with Grammy and Papu and even visited the Smokey the Bear museum in Capitan, NM.

One of the great bright spots from the week: Q got to hang out with Grammy and Papu and even visited the Smokey the Bear museum in Capitan, NM.

The next day, I drove to Bonita Park Nazarene Camp to get ready for kids’ camp. Though I have been there frequently, I saw all kinds of physical evidence of the new thing that God has been doing. Three years ago, Bonita Park was burned in the Little Bear forest fire. You can read about the fire here and more about Bonita Park here. But as we drove into the mountains, we were met with lush green growth. Lush isn’t a word that we normally use in the desert, but lots of snow and regular rain means that even some trees that had been charred by flames are sprouting new branches filled with the color of life. It is incredible evidence of the Creator God at work in the world.

But I have be thinking about that word new in other ways as well. Over the past several days, I’ve had this conversation with Quentin several times.

Me: Hey Buddy, it’s your turn to pray now.

Q: I am praying inside my head.

Me: What are you praying about?

Q: That God would make Geen (Jaron’s grandma) new.

Oh Buddy, he sure is. He’s making all of us new. And he’s making all of creation new. And he’s doing a new thing. And the rivers will not sweep over us.

Grateful for this guy, his inquisitive nature, and his faith that encourages mine (and the Grammy Nanny that has come to our rescue many times this summer).

Grateful for this guy, his inquisitive nature, and his faith that encourages mine (and the Grammy Nanny and Papu that have come to our rescue many times this summer).

God’s work in our lives. The hope we have of being raised to new life in Christ one day. The promise that God is making all things new. There’s so much new and hopeful work going on in the world. It’s beautiful, if only we can perceive it. God is making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland of the brokenness of creation and the challenges of our lives. As I own that truth after a less-than-amazing week, I can’t shake the words of “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

We are grateful that the Creator God hasn’t stopped and promises not to stop doing new things in us or through us.

Making the Cut

It’s garage sale week at our house. Maybe “garage sale” isn’t the right term. It just doesn’t quite encompass the enormity of the task at hand. Estate sale? (We’re not old enough and there aren’t other beneficiaries). Life sale? Maybe… I mean, everything we own in our lives is for sale (for the right price). There’s practically a department store set up in my in-law’s over-sized two car garage.

Holy moly. A picture is worth a thousand words, but one picture can't even capture the full magnitude of it.

Holy moly. A picture is worth a thousand words, but one picture can’t even capture the full magnitude of it. This was early in they day. It has a full-on department store look now.

 

When we said, “Yes” back in May, one of the first things I did was create an Excel spreadsheet. It has four columns: Pack, Sell, Store or ReHome, and Maybe. I started thinking through the items in every room of our house. Then, I practically created a flow chart out of these questions. Does it have a significant amount of sentimental value? Will it store easily? Is it essential for daily living? The “Sell” column on the spreadsheet got really big really fast. There are only a couple of items remaining in the Maybe column. There’s just not much that’s worth keeping in a tub in a dusty garage for 5+ years.

The purging process in my mind went something like this...

The purging process in my mind went something like this…

 

So what made the cut?

Our perfect-for-naps-and-cuddles-couch didn’t. Neither did our bed, our dresser, our dishes, the Kitchen Aid mixer, or our current most used appliance–the Cuisinart Food Processor. We also put price tags on Q’s furniture and all of those too-big-to-put-in-a-suitcase-baby-toys. And farewell Christmas tree, pretty wreaths that hung in our big picture windows, gym equipment, and many often used tools.

On the other hand…

My grandma’s beautiful table and buffet that I had shipped all the way from Idaho to KC after she died has been temporarily rehomed to my sister’s house where it will be loved, appreciated, and cared for well. For this, I am grateful.

My grandma's table and buffet in her house in Rupert, Idaho.

My grandma’s table and buffet in her house in Rupert, Idaho.

Grateful for the life that has taken place around the same table in our home a couple of generations later.

Grateful for the life that has taken place around the same table in our home a couple of generations later.

 

The china and crystal that our grandparents gifted us for our wedding has a spot in storage as do the one-of-a-kind night stands from Jaron’s grandparents, our pots and pans, the large painting we bought in Europe, and a storage tub or two of the things that make our house most feel like “home.”

Still on the fence about the pretty little chair in this picture. Good thing I don't have to make all of the decisions today.

Still on the fence about the pretty little chair in this picture. Good thing I don’t have to make all of the decisions today.

 

What’s going with us?

Several of Q’s (easily portable) favorite toys and books. The curtains and quilt my mom and mother-in-law made Q when he was born. Clothes (not too many winter ones though). Photographs. Bedding (we think), some Christmas ornaments and stockings (Christmas in the summer… WHAT?!), standard measuring cups and spoons (cooking with metric, anyone?), our bikes, and… good thing we have a few more months to figure out the rest.

For now, it is enough to trust that these things we have enjoyed will bring joy to others and hopefully help furnish our home in the southern hemisphere. So… if you’re in the market for some almost-new-Ikea-plates or an embarrassing amount of bath towels, swing on by. I have some for sale.

A Growing Family

No, we’re not having another baby. But our family is growing.

My parents took me to church when I was four days old. When I was 24, Jaron and I got married in that same church. I had the same pastors for the bulk of those years. In high school, most of my best friends didn’t attend my large suburban high school. Instead, they were fellow members of our youth group. And boy did we have fun together. Life as a part of that church family defined the weekly rhythm of my childhood, teenage years, and young adult life. It shaped how I viewed God and the world.

Throwback pic from a Shawnee Naz youth group retreat. Photo credit: Kyle Miller.

Throwback pic from a Shawnee Naz youth group retreat. Photo credit: Kyle Miller.

When we moved to New Mexico, I felt a great sense of loss. It wasn’t just because I was missing trees and green grass or city conveniences and certain rhythms of life. It also had to do with a church family that I missed.

But then, this strange thing happened. When I visited “home” in Shawnee, Kansas, I felt a strong place of belonging, and each time I equally missed doing life with my family in Lovington. I had this really strange sense of wanting to be two places at once. I love spending time with my family and friends in Kansas City. I love worshiping with my church family there. And, I love my church family in Lovington. Gradually I realized that in moving to New Mexico, I hadn’t lost anything after all. Rather, I gained a whole other family to love and be shaped by.

Enjoyed a few days of fun with these goofballs in Albuquerque at the beginning of the week. Aaron, Rachelle, Ellie & Maxwell are special members of both our NM and KS families.

Enjoyed a few days of fun with these goofballs in Albuquerque at the beginning of the week. Aaron, Rachelle, Ellie & Maxwell are special members of both our NM and KS families. Group selfie by Aaron Tiffany.

Last week, we spent several days at district meetings in Albuquerque. We were with Nazarenes from across New Mexico. I had a strong sense of being an integral part of this family. It was sad to acknowledge that this was the last time we would gather with them in this role. At the same time, it was exciting to have a sense of being “sent” by them.

Last weekend was significant for me as well because I was ordained as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. My biological family was there to voice support. So were members of my Lovington Church family AND members of my Shawnee, KS church family. They all love me enough to celebrate alongside me. As all of my worlds collided, I was affirmed in this wonderful realization: I’m not losing anything. I am not losing a family or a church or a community that I love by leaving Lovington. Rather, I will be gaining a whole new family.

Ordination service. Photo credit: Jeren Rowell.

Ordination service. Photo credit: Jeren Rowell.

Just as Shawnee Church of the Nazarene is a part of my story and a place I call home, Lovington will always be a part of my story and a place I call home. It is filled with people I love and have invested in, people who have loved me and invested in me. People with whom I will celebrate life’s greatest accomplishments and mourn life’s deepest hurts. Of course, I won’t get to do that on a daily basis, and that will be hard and different, but I am not giving up anyone completely.

Jeren Rowell, clapping behind me in this photo, was my pastor for 13 years. Photo credit: Starla Rowell.

Jeren Rowell, clapping behind me in this photo, was my pastor for 13 years. Photo credit: Starla Rowell.

Rather, our family is growing. There’s another group of people in a community across the ocean that will be added to our family. A family that will help broaden our worldview, teach us what it means to be like Jesus in their culture and context, and challenge us to be more than we have been.

Our big family is only getting bigger.

 

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