Monday, December 31, 2018

{The Twelve Months of 2018: A Musical Letter}

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Dear Friends and Family!
In lieu of a traditional letter (alas for my sentimental heart!),
I bring you this digital format, which allows me to share pictures so much more easily.
So pour a cup of tea, let the familiar tune float through your head
(ignoring the poor rhythms along the way), and join me for . . .

"The Twelve Months of '18!"


“On the first month of ‘18 our Bethie, she did say,
'I’m off to SkyZone today'”

Bethie turns 18 in just a couple of weeks. She continues to enjoy working at SkyZone, our local trampoline park (she especially loves to see familiar faces, so bring the kids on in!), and keeps up her senior year studies as a Running Start student at Clark College. Her readiness to hop in the car and chauffeur or run errands is a huge help as we manage many ever-shifting schedules!


“On the second month of ‘18, son Aidan did preside
O’er the Glenwood musical slides”

Aidan -- our 15-year-old sophomore -- keeps busy with a variety of activities, including monthly slide projection at Glenwood, outreach events with the youth group, and daily texts, memes, and Snapchats (did I get that right?) with his brother, cousins, and friends. He also recently (and bravely) taught me the Hype dance and concluded, "Well, you're doing it right . . . it just doesn't look right." Such is midlife.


“On the third month of ‘18 the Lawsons, they were bound,
For a brief stay away in the Sound”

As our family grows, we become increasingly aware of how quickly time and circumstances change. It won’t always be the six of us, gathered in the home nest! We took advantage of this season of togetherness and spent Spring Break on Whidbey Island in the Puget Sound. How grateful we are for Jamie's video production business -- he's enjoying his 10th year as the owner of Team 302 -- which allows him to work from home and take time off for such special occasions.


“On the fourth month of ‘18 we sensed eternity
And God’s love for the Stevens family”

April ushered in a powerful time of transition for our family as my Dad’s mom -- our Nanee -- went home to be with Jesus. How blessed we were to share the last months with her, to hear her spin the final, familiar old stories, to witness her testament to God’s faithfulness through it all: “It’s been a wonderful life!”     


P.C. Carolyn Nichols

“On the fifth month of ‘18 my mom and I did pray
O'er the birth of our musical play”

Many years ago, my mom had a little seed of a dream planted in her heart. That dream was to write a children’s musical. Over the last couple of years, that dream blossomed and bloomed. She invited me to co-write the script, and it was an incredible joy to see the May performance of my mom’s heart work, “Wisdom in the Wild.” And the icing on the cake? Avery Kate -- daughter and granddaughter -- took part in the production.


“On the sixth month of ‘18 Julianna did see,
A quick plane trip -- and lots of VBC!”

It’s been a joy and privilege for me to serve on the Glenwood staff in Children’s Ministries for three years now. June is always a busy time in the CM world, and I was delighted to work with the preschool Vacation Bible Camp class this year . . . especially since it gave me opportunity to share Bible stories through a favorite medium: shadow puppets! My parents and I also hopped down to California to celebrate Nanee's life and legacy with family down there. We were so close to Disneyland, that Mary Poppins' mantra proved irresistible: "If we must, we must!"  


“On the seventh month of ‘18 our household was awhirl
As we prepped to journey ‘cross the world”

July was filled with meetings and studying and packing and purchasing and double-checking. We were prepping our little hearts out for the August trip to Slovenia: connecting with the students who would be joining us, keeping in touch with Johnny and Brooke for last minute updates, purchasing supplies for the middle school students we’d be meeting!


“On the eighth month of ‘18 we got the passport stamp,
And headed toward a week of English camp”

Jamie and I had the incredible honor of taking a team of students to Celje, Slovenia, where my brother and his family live. There, we helped lead an English camp for middle school students. We are extremely grateful to those of you back home who supported us through prayer, financial support, and the cheery comments you delivered via Facebook and Instagram as you kept up with our activities. Because all financial giving was anonymous, we have not been able to individually thank those of you who joined in this adventure. Please accept our warmest gratitude! It was a life-changing opportunity for each one of us.


On the ninth month of ‘18 we bade farewell to Drew,
Who travelled back to Eastern U”

Drew, just a few months shy of 21, is a junior at Eastern Washington University, working toward a double major in Public Relations Journalism and Print Journalism. This fall he was thrilled to land a position on the school newspaper, “The Easterner.” He covers a variety of sports, which is right up his alley, and we’re always thrilled when we pull up the online paper ( and see that familiar byline!


“On the tenth month of ‘18 our table stretched and burst
With a special meal -- the honorary first”

Jamie and I continue to work with the young adult ministry at Glenwood, "The Calling." In October we instituted "Lawson Family Dinner," and, much to our delight, hosted a table full of students for lively conversation, belly laughter, yummy food . . . and even some Neil Diamond records. (Pictured is our November meal.) It is an honor to get to know these men and women, and we are grateful for the privilege of spending time with them.


“On the eleventh month of ‘18 the days did simply flee
As we shared some time with friends from JV”

This year has been marked by many rich, jaw-dropping moments. One such occasion was our opportunity to spend time with Urh and Doroteja Kolar, Slovenes -- and friends of Johnny and Brooke -- who work with Josiah Venture. We gobbled up their time here in Vancouver and delighted (often with misty eyes) over the way God brings His people together.


"On the twelfth month of '18 the mixer whipped and whirled
With creations by our Avery-girl"

Avery, 13, is in 8th grade this year. She spends a vast majority of her time thinking about culinary creations, whether she's whipping up cupcakes, watching the Great British Baking Show, dreaming of fondant, sketching a cake design, or trying out a new puff pastry technique. (As I write, she's pulling vanilla cupcakes out of the oven!) We are all highly in favor of this hobby.

* * * * * * * *

On this 12th month of 2018, we look back with hearts full of gratitude,
and we look ahead, filled with the hope of Jesus that never fails,
the love of you -- our precious friends and family -- who put action to that love,
and to the promise of the peace and presence of our Emmanuel, God with us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Dear Ones!
With love from The Lawson Family

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

{English Camp: The Music and the Message}

My sister and I grabbed each other's hands and began to twirl around the living room, dancing and laughing hysterically. We had the bare bones of a routine choreographed, but in our teen hearts we were convinced it was phenomenal. At the approach of the chorus, our dad turned up the volume. We pulled out all the stops and kicked our legs up as high as we could, duly impressing our family:

But I would walk five hundred miles 
And I would walk five hundred more; 
Just to be the one who walks a thousand miles 
To fall down at your door.

Never would I have guessed that this song would bring tears to my eyes. But, three weeks ago, that's exactly what happened.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

By Thursday morning, we had this whole camp gig down pat. We also had the whole hostel gig down pat, which was rather ironic: it was time to leave. There was a period of three or four days where the rooms were unavailable to us, so it had been arranged that we'd stay in the homes of the JV missionaries for a time and then return to the hostel.

Thus, my Thursday morning tea took the slightest turn. "May I have it in a paper cup? To take with me?" Once again, our hostess understood, and my tea was ready to go. Along with our assorted 50 lb. bags and suitcases. By 7:20 a.m. (We were very thankful for our brawny young men who eagerly shuttled our bags down the flights of stairs and into the awaiting van.)

Once at the church, we began as usual. Our combined team shared in morning devotions, and when the campers arrived, each team member fell confidently into their various roles, whether describing a game, leading an activity, or displaying song motions.

One of the highlights of camp was the music. Music brought us all together -- and quite literally, too. Some songs were meant to draw us into the same room (we had a camp song that, when played, was our signal to gather together, which we did with much dancing a laughter). Other songs were played for all-out fun and community, such as "Lean on Me" and "I'm a Believer." Still other songs filled the void in order to enhance hilarious games like "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."

Our camp song, "Reign Forever," was a partner song with choreography, which everyone learned. By the end of the week we had those moves down (although I never could manage to make my twirling grapevine land in the right place). We also knew who to partner with in order to achieve a successful trust fall. This was important, for obvious reasons.

But for me, it was "500 Miles" that caused a lump to form in my throat. I hadn't heard this version of the song -- "We Have This Hope," it was called -- but I sure did know the tune. As soon as Johnny started to lead us that first day, we caught each other's eye. This song had a history. Years of images flashed through my mind in an instant. I pictured dancing in the living room with my sister. I pictured the many theatrical performances we coaxed our brother into joining. (Some of which included signed contracts; we just couldn't risk his fatigue or boredom, inevitable at age 8.)

We never could have imagined that, one day, he would be standing on a stage in a country called Slovenia, strumming that recognizable beat, teaching it to a crew of students and leaders, with a heart that beat wildly for Jesus. I was proud of him. Tears filled my eyes, and I was in awe of the way God faithfully -- and often unexpectedly -- lavishes the sweetest grace upon grace.

And I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the one who walks a thousand miles
To stand firm in my Lord.

It's a riotous, fun song. (And not really a tear-jerker at all, I suppose, unless one happens to be terribly sentimental. Like some people I know.) But the message is one we hoped to introduce to the campers that week: it is worth it all to stand firm in the Lord. And it's a message I've proudly watched my brother, sister-in-law, and niece live in their home in Celje: it is worth it all to stand firm in the Lord.

Jamie and Johnny both had opportunities to share this message throughout the week. Our late afternoon program included a session in which they introduced the Bible, King David and, ultimately, King Jesus. The talks were followed by discussion groups, which were entirely conducted in Slovene, the heart language of the students.

We all came to camp with our own heart languages that week. It was an honor and privilege for Jamie and me to lead a group of young adults who learned more and more to listen to that language, to understand more and more what it means to walk a thousand miles for our Lord. Sometimes the miles are swift and beautiful, traversing lush meadows and fragrant forests. Other times those miles are dusty, uphill miles, filled with ruts and boulders. But, with our Lord, they are all good, good miles with breathtaking vistas and marvelous landscapes we never would have encountered on our own.

Thursday evening, in our various missionary homes, we had opportunity to share more of this heart language with one another. It was a blessing to be welcomed into their homes, to talk about the deep things, the things that matter. The week of English camp may have been winding down, but we knew our hearts were still on the path of life-long loving and learning. A thousand miles stretched before us, our Savior beckoning, our Savior welcoming. And we wanted to be counted among those who would walk 500 miles, and 500 more.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

{English Camp: Afternoon Games}

I sat before my black tea on Wednesday morning, delighted. Our server had arranged our meals on wooden trays, knowing exactly what we had wanted. Language may have been a slight barrier over the course of our stay, but solid communication still took place. She showed us that she understood us and valued us. Once again, I felt the beauty of being understood, of understanding.

Confident in our ability to exchange ideas, I thought it would now be appropriate to introduce the next phase of tea perfection. I had already located the packets of raw sugar on Tuesday. One thing remained. "Do you have cream?" Her brow furrowed. I clarified, "Milk? For my tea?" Ah! Yes! She smiled and poured the daintiest little pitcher of milk for me. It looked quite charming alongside that wooden tray. I'm sure I was very loud and American when I pointed it out to the other girls, "Isn't this the darlingest creamer you ever saw?" They agreed it was and proceeded to partake of my unused portion.

In today's post I'll highlight the Afternoon Games, which were organized by our team and directed by Bethie. She did an excellent job describing the games each day. In preparation for camp, she and Jamie had taught the week's worth of games to the rest of the crew during orientation. This proved to be a very valuable sneak peek, as most of the games were new.

Bethie had the challenge of not only explaining new games to the campers, but in describing them, once again, with succinct, easy-to-translate phrases. Her translator, Iza, also did an excellent job of interpreting and communicating a variety of foreign ideas to the eager middle school students.

Monday's game was Rabbit Sticks, and it proved to be the favorite camp game. It had to be adapted somewhat in order to accommodate the layout of the church grounds, but once again, Bethie met the challenge, modified the rules, and made it work exceptionally well. (So well that we played it on multiple days.)

On Tuesday we introduced Haluta, a crazy variation of kickball. This ended up requiring multiple creative explanations, as the concept of baseball (on which the game is loosely based) was also new to the students. We were able to use a nearby field, and the kids pretty quickly picked up on the fun of the game, if not the precise rules of the game. I don't have pictures to document Haluta, as I was valiantly attempting to run the bases myself. Please accept instead this darling picture of Bethie and Nastja -- our amazing camp director -- with two of our campers.

Wednesday's temperature soared to the mid 90s, so it was a perfect day for the water war. (The day prior, Jamie and a few team members had sequestered themselves on the side yard of the church, where they filled hundreds and hundreds of water balloons.) We began water day with a (somewhat) organized, points-based game, and then unleashed the remaining water balloons for an all-out campers vs. leaders war. This, of course, was a big hit.

P.C. Urh Kolar

P.C. Urh Kolar
P.C. Urh Kolar
P.C. Urh Kolar
P.C. Urh Kolar
P.C. Urh Kolar

Thursday's activity strayed from the athletic, but it was just as fun. We headed to the nearby mall for a photo scavenger hunt.

"Team Pyramid"

"Find something foreign"

"Recreate a movie scene." 

Finally, on Friday, the kids (and leaders!) participated in a series of silly relay-type games. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.


And now, back to Wednesday. Following the water war, the kids made tie-dyed shirts as part of their theme day. We then transitioned to a nice, calm, well-chosen mid-week activity: an afternoon showing of Ferdinand. The church windows were blacked out with large garbage sacks, movie theater snacks were provided, and we all enjoyed a cool, relaxing close to the otherwise very hot and very active day. 

That evening, our Glenwood team headed to the mall in preparation for the next day's scavenger hunt. We split up, some of us to work on the hunt details, some to shop for souvenirs . . . and some to hunt down ice cream, the most important mission of all.

When we arrived back at the hostel that night, the common room was full, and folk-type music filled the air. I was intrigued. "I think there's dancing or something!" I eagerly announced to the team upstairs. It seemed only appropriate to go back downstairs, order a drink, and linger. Just in case there was dancing. One can never be too prepared.

So, a few of us sat on the patio with our orange Schweppes (a favorite among the students) and carefully observed. Not only was this dancing, this was organized dancing. The ladies all wore the same shoes, the couples all followed the same serious, measured steps. It soon dawned on us that this must have been a class. Accordingly (yet regretfully), we decided it would be best not to join them. After all, not only had we not even been invited to this class, but we'd been participating in our own camp dance all week; our feet were beginning to show decided signs of wear. But, once again, that's another story for another day. 

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