As wonderful as these last several months have been, it is good to be home and finally be able to step back and examine all the thoughts and feelings that come with births, accidents, visits with family and friends and weddings.

We purposefully raised our children to be strong, independent adults with an understanding that the world is wide and full of opportunity.  Each of them have followed their hearts and gifts and gone where opportunities and experiences await them.  Two have now chosen partners who share their passion and adventurous spirits as well as their commitment to each other and to their families.

In many ways it is this attitude in our children that allows us the freedom to do what we are at this point in our lives.  We know that this comes with a cost to us,
our children and grandchildren and we often talk about how we will view this decision when we are old and gray or at least older and grayer.  Even though our lives take us in many different directions, there are still some times when we just need to be together as a family.  A hotel works but it is just not the same as a home and my biggest fear is that we will miss out on these memories.

God knows our heart and has wonderously blessed our family through the gift of very dear friends, Al and  Shelley.  They have a very real understanding of our commitment and our needs because they also have walked this road.  They  have a lovely home which we have enjoyed on a number of occasions, most recently for Liz’s wedding.

Al and Shelley don’t just invite you into their home, they encourage you to be a family in it, whether it is a BBQ by the pool, a place for family and friends to drop by for a visit, a  movie in the family room, endless meals around the island in the kitchen or lots of beds to crash in.

We spent a week there with Liz,  had an Open House on Friday evening to  welcome the Epp and Wise families as they arrived in London, the girls all spent the night there, got dressed and had the initial photos done and Ros also found a place to stay with them.  On Sunday, Ros went into action and hosted a lovely lunch for many family and friends who dropped by just to say their farewells. This has now happened often enough that I think Ben and Abi are convinced that either it is our house or Shelley is somehow their extra-Grandma.

Although Al had to be away with work, Shelley remained quietly in the background  welcoming guests she had never met before, managing the caterers, cooking, cleaning, washing endless sheets,  helping the girls dress and most importantly providing a voice of experience and reason amidst times of chaos and a handkerchief for mopping up tears and sweat.  While we enjoyed all the luxuries of their home she slept at the neighbours to allow us time together as a family.

Shelley is a serious student of the Word and I and many others have often been blessed and challenged through her teaching.  I have enjoyed our walks and chats and have especially been encouraged when so often Shelley has spoken words that I have been unable to express and given me a better understanding of God and of myself. Teaching is one thing, but living everyday of your life demonstrating what it truly means to live a Christ-like life is another, and Al and Shelley are an amazing example to us of the living body of Christ.

We know that as we look back over these years we will cherish the family memories that we have built which are a precious gift from Al and Shelley.  I also know that we are not alone in this as there are many others who have been welcomed, encouraged, counseled and strengthened in their walk by the privilege of calling this dear couple their friends.