Life Together

Everyone needs a place to call their own.  Everyone needs a group of people who know them, support them and love them.  To quote the theme song from Cheers, “You wanna go where everybody knows your name.”

For my family, our church’s small group has been that place for the past decade.  We’ve fallen in love with these people over the years.  Through good and bad, thick and thin, we’ve shared life.  Together.  It hasn’t always been easy.  But it has always been good.

Last night was another opportunity to gather, laugh, study and pray.  It was another reminder of the privilege we have to share this time in our lives.  These are special people and I can’t imagine my life without them.

Day 108 – The Big Party

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve been planning this for weeks.  And tonight, after all the guests have gone and the dishes are in the washer and the trash is taken out, the tables are stacked in the garage and the chairs are folded, it is over.

The food was good and the talk was sparkling.  But there was more that went on here tonight than just some Corn Hole and some cupcake eating.

We enjoyed friends and family who have been with us in good times and in bad.  We celebrated a milestone in our son’s life, sure.  But we also experienced love from people who have invested in our lives over the years and miles.

They are the ones who have laughed with us in the good times and cried with us when life is hard.  They are the ones who support us in our journey and strengthen us when we struggle.

Today’s party was a reminder that we are not on this journey by ourselves.  We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witness who can hold our hand in the dark times and skip along side us in the joy.

I’m so very grateful for these men and women whom I love and who dearly love us.

Day 77 – Two Lessons, One Blessed Day

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Peter, Agassi and Mary Birker pose for a quick picture after a wonderful Ethiopian meal.

While I didn’t get a morning walk in the neighborhood, I did start my day with a walk to the IUPUI campus and back.  It felt good to be out under beautiful trees with perfect weather.

Work was work and nothing more or less.  In my book, that’s a good day.

I try to always learn something new each and every day and today was no exception.  In fact, I think I learned two things.

First, I learned that communication is everything.  Texting is NOT the way to make plans with your children.  Face-to-face conversations are best.  Telephone calls work wonders and often prevent unnecessary confusion, frustration, angry dads and upset children.  Text Scheduling results in a hug and apology nearly every time.

The second and more enjoyable thing I learned tonight is that the dearest friends always stay friends.  Mary Birkner has been a friend of ours from the time we first met her at Epworth Forest Sr. High Institute around 1980.  She latched on to our youth group and spent more time in our cabin than she did her own.  And we were all the better for it.  Her tender heart and infectious laugh made her instant friends with each and every one of our group.

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Mary’s gift to us on our wedding day: Her expertly drawn picture of a man and his nose.

Tonight, Mary, Peter and their amazing son, Agassi, flew into town to visit family.  Thankfully, they requested a dinner with us on their way out of Indy.  It was such a pleasure to share an authentic Ethiopian meal.  It was our first time to enjoy the cuisine and Agassi gave us a good lesson on the art of eating with on hand.

We laughed over old times and caught up on life and family.  We celebrated our children’s accomplishments and bemoaned the aches that come with growing older.

The restaurant locked their doors and we decided it was time to leave.  As they drove off into the heavy rain, I gave thanks for the time we had together.

It truly was a blessed day.

26 years and counting…

Moving to Wilmore, Kentucky in 1987 brought about some change for the new Austin Family.  Anita was a Registered Nurse for the first time, I started Seminary and we met Lynn and Wendy Lewis.  This was in the days before children and we were younger and life was more simple.

26 years have passed since that first meeting.  Over that time we have enjoyed seeing one another during an occasional summer vacation or family trip.  Facebook has offered a renewed connection, but it’s been more than thirteen years since we’ve been face-to-face and enjoyed one another and comfort that comes from like-minded friends.

The Lewis Family are wonderful people and I’m happy to call them friends.  Lynn is a brilliant man who dreams big dreams and trusts that God will make them reality in their perfect time.  Wendy is a passionate defender of the downhearted and her beautiful children.

Imagine my joy when I learned that they live less than 20 minutes from our hotel room here in Houston.  The opportunity to spend time with the dear ones was too much to pass up.  Saturday supper, Easter morning church and a wonderful Sunday Lunch were welcome opportunities to celebrate our nearly three-decades of friendship, catch up on life’s journey and reminisce about old times.

Despite the fact that they are from the deep south and we are cold northerners, we still love deeply.  Although Wendy is a died-in-the-wool conservative and I’m a Obama-lovin’ Democrat, we can tolerate time together at the same table.  When we are together, these things no longer matter.  All that matters is our love for one another.

Our long-standing friendship has stood against the test of time and when we see one another we exchange tight hugs, laugh easily and often, and occasionally shed tears of sorrow or joy.

The trip to Houston has been worth every mile traveled, if for no other reason than the opportunity to share moments with friends like these.

Cupcakes are for Birthdays

We were invited to eat dinner and share cupcakes to help honor our friend on her birthday.  It was a wonderful evening and we ate well, sang in perfect pitch, and loved strong.  We’ve known Jen for twelve years now.  It’s been our honor to share a little bit of life with her and are so happy that we could be a part of the celebration.  Happy Birthday, my friend.