easter party.

Easter is the most important holiday of the year for David and me, because it’s our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. For most of our marriage, we’ve tried to celebrate in style, whether it was brunch and mimosas with friends during seminary, a rooftop terrace get-together in South Asia, or buying our kids a special Easter gift each year.

Because this is our day of days; it’s the reason we have for the hope within us.

And so this year we threw a party in our backyard for our church, a week late to allow more folks to come. The band who played at our adoption fundraiser, Volcanoes in the Kitchen, was such a big hit we brought them up from Charleston again. Everyone pitched in and came laden with food and drinks. There was laughter and introductions between newcomers and old friends, and good music and lots and lots of kids jumping on the trampoline (with no injuries, thankfully!).

Here are some of the people who have become family to us over the past two years. They make our life immeasurably rich. They are the reason I love being a pastor’s wife.

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what we’ve been up to.

Hello friends! Well our year started with a flurry on January 1st and the busyness has swept us along all the way to now. I remember taking a deep breath at the start of 2015, looking down the calendar at months of David’s speaking engagements, travel for mission conferences, CPC new members’ class, all in addition to homeschooling and normal church ministry and saying, “After the Easter service things will settle down.”

Well four days after Easter I can’t say that the dust has settled yet, but aside from some fierce, family-wide pollen allergies, we’re all holding up! We’re thankful for a full, productive winter and love the signs of spring all around us ushering a new, somewhat slower season. At least for a bit.

Here’s what we’ve been up to lately . . .

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After a long hiatus, Friday night pizza night is back! And this time the kiddos are making their own personal pan pizzas.

 

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Family bowling. Need I say more?

 

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Classical Conversations. Miss Amelie has become so poised and confident in her weekly presentations this year (also can you tell she has a favorite outfit?).

 

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Learning to play Pokemon! Thanks to cousins Tristan and Gavin for the inspiration.

 

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Trying Nigerian food with our friend Billy.

 

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I was on a roll this winter and not only created Amie’s baby book on Shutterfly, but our 2014 family yearbook. This is a new-ish tradition for us and one I love. We have all had so much fun remembering and processing our year through a photo book.

 

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We enjoyed a very low-key family Easter celebration with an egg hunt, burgers and hotdogs on the grill, and sparkling mint juleps.

 

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I’m drinking lots of hot tea again since I’ve given up coffee. Again. Same anxiety issues as before (why oh why didn’t I learn my lesson the first time?). And venturing into the intriguing world of paleo baking.

 

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Our friend Lucas wrote a song that was performed by the Left Bank jazz band at USC. We had a great night out going to watch them play.

Happy April!





living in my story.

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Last night brought a cold snap right in the middle of spring, so though there are new buds on the trees outside my window and a thick coating of pollen on the ground, I’m wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. For a little while at least. And I’m gazing anxiously out at the little tomato and pepper seedlings that went in the ground just last weekend, hoping they weather the cold. I know it’s early still. But we were impatient to get our garden planted again.

It’s no secret I’ve struggled these last months waiting for our baby. We started the adoption process one year ago, so in a way it feels like a whole year of waiting (plus many more years if we count the time since we started wanting to adopt).

I’m being so careful to eat healthy food and reduce caffeine and to exercise (okay, the exercise is still a little patchy), and yet this week I sat in my doctor’s office this week with my head down, accepting another prescription for anxiety medication to help with my stress level. Because as much as I want to hope an end is just around the corner, we all know that The Waiting could continue for months, and I need help. My body has never carried stress well.

It’s better in some ways since I started Streams in the Desert. I highly recommend this little, old-fashioned devotional book, which brings a daily reminder of God’s purpose in trials. I’m thankful for the prayers of many and wise words from those who have walked hard roads themselves, roads on which God appeared absent.

I’ve taken my friend Tara’s advice and made a “reminder book,” just a little notebook that I copy my favorite quotes from Streams in the Desert, snatches of songs or Psalms that speak to me. She said, “Julie, keep that book with you at all times – open on the table while you’re homeschooling, in your purse when you go out. And when God feels silent or when the Enemy tells you lies, read it and remember the truth.”

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Because that’s where the rub is. God’s silence.

Every day brings new, wonderful news of babies born or adopted, and I rejoice with those who rejoice but at the end of it I turn to God and say, Have you forgotten me? Why are you blessing them, not me too? Why are you so silent!?

I’ve begun to notice a pattern in my heart. I realize that there are swaths of time that I long for our baby but also feel grateful for my life, with the busyness and people and blessings of right here and now. But then my gaze turns onto someone else, on what God is doing for them. And the despair comes close after. I feel cast aside and forgotten and sometimes jealous.

Today it hit me that this is bad fruit in my heart. If I gauge God’s care of me by what He’s doing for other people, I will be filled with doubt and despair — or conversely with pride. Comparison is always poisonous. It doesn’t just hurt other people; it eats away at my own heart and makes a prison for it.

But God is offering me something else right now. He’s offering for me to leave the prison and embrace the freedom of living in my own story, the one He’s writing for me.

I needn’t feel threatened by the gifts He’s giving other people. They have no bearing on what He’s doing for the Gentino family. That’s one of the mysteries about God: He created us all so unique and complex and the ways we can glorify Him are as varied as humanity.

Maybe one of the ways I can most glorify Him right now is being content with my own story, not asking Him for someone else’s.

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This morning I opened my devotional and read, “He will do ‘wonders never before done’ if you will learn the mystery of His silence and praise Him every time He withdraws His gifts from you. Through this you will better know and love the Giver.”

So that’s what I’m doing today. Every time a lie sneaks its way in, making me doubt God’s goodness, I’m praying, “Just let me live in my story today. Help me learn the mystery of your silence. Show me how to thank you and honor you in it.”

And there’s a spark of freedom there, I feel it already. When I think of my friends’ blessings I feel so happy. They are living in their stories and when I stop comparing I can stand back and see how big God is.

He isn’t just good and loving when He gives me what I want, in the way I want it. He’s good right now, in the mystery. Today I’m at peace with that.

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tuesday gratitude.

149. a road trip (all by myself! to orlando!) last week
150. my cousin Evie’s new baby, Aria Grace
151. the best chicken curry I’ve tasted, made by Allison
152. a dark & stormy each evening
153. ladies’ lunch at the Dandelion Cafe
154. hot Florida weather
155. missing my husband and kiddos
156. phone chat with B
157. Streams in the Desert (I love this devotional already)
158. Judah is begging to read more of his first Magic Tree House book
159. getting (slowly, painfully) back into shape
160. new buds on the trees
161. ’tis the season for afternoon iced coffee
162. our friend Chuck installed as pastor of Lexington Pres Church
163. comfort from my CPC family when I’m sad
164. my kids fervent, daily prayers for their baby brother or sister
165. getting to grocery shop all by myself today
167. 5 months waiting means we’re 5 months closer to meeting our baby!

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books are comfort.

Hello there friends,

I’m sorry for my lack of posts of late. In truth, my words feel all dried up. I’ve never felt like this before. I sit at the computer and pull up a Word document (where most of my blogging starts out) and stare at the screen and . . . nothing.

Maybe I just downright said everything I could possibly have to say during my October writing challenge.

Or maybe it has something to do with this strange season of life we’re in, this waiting season, which I feel as though I’ve referenced here way too many times. I feel like I’ve become kind of a downer in this space and I’m sorry (or maybe I’m just not writing much because if I did I’d be a downer).

I realize that I’m pretty good at reflecting on a hard season after it’s over. I’m not as good at doing so when I’m in it. I’m not feeling reflective in general at the moment; just trying to chin up and stay busy and get through it.

Whatever the reason, know that I’m still here. I want to be inspired. I want to have ideas rolling around in my head again, trying them on for size, in a great big hurry to race home and get them onto the page. Someday I’ll be really back, I think.

In the meantime, I’m finding refuge where I always do — in books.

I tried finding refuge in TV for awhile. But I grew bored of it. I’m really not a TV person. I’ll find a show I like, follow it enthusiastically for awhile, then just sort of lose interest and trail off, like during season 6 of Gilmore Girls (is it really worth finishing the series?).

What I am, is a book person. Books are where I go to be inspired, to become a better writer, and sometimes just to lose myself.

Books are comfort.

I thought I’d share with you a few of the books I’m finding comfort in right now.

 

Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
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I’ve mentioned this novel in my gratitude lists and it bears repeating, because it’s a hidden gem. I discovered it on Modern Mrs. Darcy, and once I got past the 1980’s-vibe cover and vague title, it took my breath away. Leif Enger has my utmost respect because he achieves what I constantly look for and almost never find in novels: the combination of complex, memorable characters with fantastic plot with beautiful prose. This is one of my favorite books.

 

The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White
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Most of us know E.B. White for his classic, Charlotte’s Web, which, quite frankly, I’ve never been enthusiastic about. I found The Trumpet of the Swan on a book list of read alouds for first graders, so decided to give it a try with the kids. After a slow start, Judah and Amie and I became thoroughly engrossed and looked forward to our daily chapter. This is a fun book for adults and kids alike.

 

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
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If you know me at all, you know that one of my favorite things is matching books with readers. If someone dislikes a book I recommend, it doesn’t hurt my feelings; I take it as a challenge to try again. There are few things as satisfying as watching someone truly light up over a book. My current challenge is Judah and Amelie. I’m on a mission to help them love reading, just as my own parents did with my brothers and I many years ago.

But I’m being subtle about it. I don’t go on and on about how they should love books; I just read them books. And I play a secret game with myself to scour blogs and book lists and search out ideas of books they’ll light up for. If your kids don’t love chapter books: don’t be discouraged. We’ve tried lots and lots and some are still a flop (like Little House on the Prairie, sadly. We’ll get there someday, I think). But we’re all three enjoying J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

 

Aarti Paarti, Aarti Sequeira
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I read this cookbook cover to cover. I haven’t watched Aarti Sequeira on the Food Network, but I enjoyed her funny, down-to-earth writing and stories of life in India, Dubai, and the U.S. I’m very inspired to try my hand at a few of her recipes too. Selfishly, I don’t make much Indian food because I can’t imagine it without chapatti (whole wheat flat bread), and my gluten-free self can’t eat chapatti anymore. But some friends recently passed along a gluten-free naan recipe that I’m going to try. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Mitford series, Jan Karon
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I read the Mitford series in its entirety every year. You don’t read Mitford for the plot; you read it for the characters, who are as real as if they walked on this earth. A criticism of Jan Karon is that her books are escapism, that all the subplots tie up too neatly with a bow while real life is frayed and messy and often unresolved. I think that’s partially true, but I also think that her characters do wrestle with real-life issues and relationships. Karon has profound insight into human character, and she communicates it in ways that feel fresh each time. Plus, her books never fail to make me laugh out loud.

 

Lizzy and Jane, Katherine Reay
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This book would be a fun vacation read. The writing was not my favorite, but I liked Reay’s theme of family and community, and I enjoyed the literature and food references.

 

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
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What Alice Forgot has an intriguing premise: 39-year-old Alice gets a concussion and forgets the last ten years. In the story she tries to understand how she got where she is in life. A sweet, powerful reminder that priorities need guarding, good relationships need cultivating, and that little, everyday decisions matter. I thoroughly enjoyed Moriarty’s writing and will definitely be reading this again.

 

Spurgeons Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression
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I’m in the middle of this book, but so far it has been my favorite on the subject of depression. Though it’s mercifully short, I’m taking my time with it. I appreciate the way Zack Eswine interacts with the writings of pastor Charles Spurgeon, whose honesty and transparency about his own struggle with depression was surely radical in his day. A lot of wisdom and grace here.

 

And finally, for comfort I read the Psalms. Every morning. Some days, when the words won’t come, they are the entirety of my prayers. Psalm 13 and 16-20 are some of my favorite.

 



particularization.

“Particularization” is a fancy Presbyterian word for when a church moves from being a mission church to being a fully organized church with elders and deacons. We had a service two weeks ago celebrating CPC’s particularization.

And it was truly a celebration. I was overwhelmed looking out over a sea of faces I love, some old friends and some new, thanking God for how many people worked and prayed and gave to help make this dream a reality.

From day one things have raced along at an incredible speed, and I suppose that’s a good thing in that we haven’t had half a chance to settle down and grow comfortable. And now we’re looking to the future, to the three church planting families we’re sending out: to east Lexington, to Orangeburg, SC, and to Southeast Asia.

Starting a church is not easy, just as pastoring it now is not, but there is nothing like this experience of being on a team which is also a family, working as one toward a common goal that’s so much bigger than us. We’ve seen God do incredible things in the last year and a half, and we fully expect that He’ll do many more. I feel deeply honored to play a small part.

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All photos by Ashley Nicole Photography



wednesday gratitude.

133. Brazilian coffee, good food, and laughter at a friend’s birthday party last night
134. the quiet peace of an afternoon to myself
135. I don’t have to spent it cleaning my house because Sandy is coming to clean next week
136. the sun is shining today even if the wind is biting
137. Amie sings the Gloria Patri all throughout the day, thanks to our church worship album
138. reading the Mitford series. again.
139. our new homeschool co-op which the kids call “nature school”
140. Judah’s reading improves every day, he’s beginning to read to himself for fun
141. friends who help carry burdens
142. Gilmore Girls season 6 is a little disappointing, but still makes me laugh
143. park dates with Charissa and our brood of kiddos
144. CPC is officially an organized church instead of a mission church
145. the bittersweet feeling of no longer being church planters, but looking ahead to helping launch CPC’s first church plant
146. wearing flip flops even though it’s too cold
147. finishing Amie’s baby book. finally.
148. four months waiting means we’re four months closer to meeting our baby

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