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Last week a generous friend gave me 4 tickets to a Carolina Hurricane’s game. (Complete with parking pass, I might add.) He had won them at a golf tournament and mentioned that he thought they would be pretty good seats.


We 7 rows off of the ice with a great view of the crease on one end.

It was pretty amazing to see the speed and size differentials of the players up close.

I’ve been to four NHL games since I’ve been in Raleigh and each time I’m stunned by the energy the crowd generates when the team is playing well.

The end result didn’t favor our guys, but we had a great time anyway.

Here are a couple of shots. Sorry for the foggy pics. Guess all that lint in my pocket has found it’s way onto my phone’s camera lens.

Shawn, Elisa & Jen

Some action at our end

Last week Jen and I made the trek back to Lexington to be a part of a wedding. Not only had I committed to help officiate the ceremony well over a year ago, but the groom and bride are both incredible people and good friends. We made the trip kidless thanks to the generosity and grandparently courage of Mr. & Mrs. Howard Balm. Medals of childwatching valor to you both!

All in all it was a great trip. Yes, we missed the kids and did spend two full days of the four day excursion driving in the car. But we got to see some friends, be a part of an incredibly sweet wedding and have lots of uninterrupted adult conversation- a rarity in our house. We’re especially grateful to Chris & Cherlynn Stevenson for their hospitality and the free run of the house.

I’ve made similar trips before- heading back to a place and people that I’ve loved and served in the past- and have often felt a little awkward because everyone (me included) has moved on and things just aren’t the same. This visit was pleasantly different. Yes, things have progressed without us and people have changed. But we were welcomed with open arms. And while it was great to be back in KY and reconnect with a bunch of folks we love, we also found ourselves excited to get back home to NC and hang with the new people God has brought into our lives. Talk about a win-win.

You know that old saying that “It’s great to have a friend that owns a __________.” Usually that blank gets filled in with words like “truck”, “boat”, “big screen tv w/the NFL package”, or “vacation home”. Yesterday we found a new noun to complete that phrase- “giant inflatable waterpark”.

The Bazer’s are some of the most generous and hospitable folks that Jen and I know. They are constantly looking for opportunities to share what they have been given with others. That includes their inflatable waterpark- which consists of 2 different slides and a pool. With Monday’s playgroup facing temperatures creeping towards triple digits, they decided to blow it up and let the kids get wet-n-wild.

In theory, Addy couldn’t wait to tackle the water slide. In praxis, she isn’t much of a daredevil.

But after a few runs, she found her groove and had a blast:

Kind of makes you want to grab your suit, huh?

Thanks to Shane, Tomra, Ashton & Ireland for the fun. Gracias to Anissa for her fine camera work.

This past week I said goodbye to my 1988 Ford Bronco. Although I loved having it, I was beginning to cringe every time I hit the gas pump. Around town I was getting 9 miles to the gallon. No, I didn’t forget a digit there. 9mg at $3.80 a gallon. I was pouring $150 a month in the tank and not really going much of anywhere. On top of that I needed to spend close to $1K in repairs to get it past its scheduled NC inspection. So, farewell…

Ironically, as we were saying goodbye to one old friend, three others dropped by to see us. Jeremy, Casey & Lily Mae Walker stopped to see us on their way back to Elizabethton TN from a week at Nags Head at the Outer Banks. We’ve known the Walkers for coming up on 6 years now and have loved them from the first Mexican Dinner we shared together at Church Planter’s Assessment. They are kindred spirits and we still hold out hope that one day we can open that retreat center together.

Funny how life pairs things together, isn’t it?

Over the past 5 years we’ve been honored to call the Carter family our friends. Actually “friends” doesn’t really capture it- we think of them more as family.

For some time now they’ve been working to open their first MARCO’S pizza franchise in the Tri-Cities area of eastern TN. With the grand opening scheduled for Monday, Sunday was deemed “Friends & Family Night”. It also happened to be Mother’s Day. Blend that on high and you know what you get? ROAD TRIP.

After celebrating Mother’s Day on Sunday morning (Jen got a hummingbird feeder, an outfit that Addy helped pick out, and a hot stone massage), we went to church together and grabbed a quick lunch at a local cafe we like (Barry’s for all you Raleigh folks). Then we ditched the kids….errr….left them in the loving care of grandparents, and headed east.

We enjoyed the drive, some time to talk without “distractions” and the scenery. In addition to the mountains we saw some nice stretches of wildflowers.

We were able to surprise Bryan, Erika & Brady by showing up unannounced at the store.

We got the full tour of the restaurant, watched Brady make fresh pizza dough and sampled the wares to our heart’s content and stomach’s limits. We ate nearly everything on the menu and enjoyed it all. The Italian sausage and CinnaSquares were standouts for me. The store officially opened at about 1:30 on Monday and I had the honor of being the first paying customer. What did I buy? CinnaSquares of course.

Although it was a quick trip, we had a great time getting away, supporting our friends and reconnecting with each other. We’re so excited for the Carters and this new chapter in their lives. If past ventures are any indicator, this will be wildly successful.

If you find yourself hungry in Johnson City, stop by the Marco’s Pizza right across from ETSU. And don’t forget the CinnaSquares!

If you are interested in opening a Marco’s franchise in the Tri-Cities, Knoxville or anywhere up I-75 to Lexington, let me know. I’ll put you in touch with the area rep.

He’s like a brother to me.

Yesterday Jen and I installed our first click together, cork floor. Thanks to our friend Shawn who showed us the ropes and ruined his back in the process.

Today we moved about half of our stuff into the garage of the new house. Everything else gets moved on Tuesday. I’ll give you a full update after that

It probably happens more often than I realize, but on occasion I actually notice the words from the Bible playing themselves out in my ordinary little life.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Read these verses from Philippians 4:11-12.

Now check this out. Last week I posted about sitting in the last row at a hockey game- and having a blast. Last night Jen and I ended up in the same arena, watching the same team play- in much different seats. Yes, that’s $140 per ticket in the picture- which included cushy chairs, a sweet view and a couple of nice buffets with drinks to boot.

We had a great time, and not just because of the tickets. Our friends who graciously shared them with us were incredible hosts.

Now it isn’t quite the poverty or plenty mentioned in the scripture, but the idea is much the same. Last row or luxury club level- life is good either way.

Do you have any friends in your life that you want to see- no matter how little time you get with them?

Bryan, Erika & Brady Carter are some of those folks in our lives. They were some of our dearest friends in KY- and we count them as family- meaning we’ll be in their lives regardless of geography. (Sorry, but you are stuck with us.)

The Carter clan was in D.C. last week and went out of their way to see us as they headed home. We’re so glad they did.

Even though we only got to spend a day together, it was enough to tide us over until next time. Which will hopefully be soon.

Love you guys!

Last night I went to an NHL hockey game. Yes, Raleigh DOES have a pro sports team.

Now, I’ve never been much of a hockey fan, but I have seen a few games live. This particular trip was inspired by my friend and co-worker Shawn- who played professional hockey in the Canadian minor leagues.

We sat in the last row. Not just proverbial, but literally. Here are some pics:

(my buddy Shawn, waiting for a good fight to break out)

(the view to my right- yep that’s the back wall at the top of the whole arena)

(View of the action. Not bad seats really.)

Had a good time at the game, but noticed some things while I was there:

  • Friendship takes you places. I probably wouldn’t have gone to the game without Shawn’s prompting. Knowing it was special to him made me enjoy it even more. Friends enlarge our perspectives and experiences.
  • Community closes gaps. It is a lot of fun rooting for the home town team. Of the 20K of us at the game, I’m guessing many of us didn’t know or care much about hockey before the Hurricanes came to town. Rallying around a common cause puts us on the same team. Need proof? Complete strangers talked to, cheered with and high fived each other last night. Even the sober ones.
  • Enjoying life tames envy. 99% of the folks in the building had better seats than we did last night. But I didn’t care. I was enjoying myself and didn’t think to compare my experience or view to others.

Good reminders. Guess the ticket was worth the price last night.

Last weekend four of our friends from Lexington made the trek to Raleigh to hang out with us. That sentence probably isn’t descriptive enough. Our friends left Lexington around 10pm on Friday and drove straight through to NC. They were in town less than 36 hours and had to bunk in a hotel because our apartment was full up. We savored each moment we had with them. They made us feel loved. As we said goodbye, I had this sense that my friends had done for me what that Barnabas guy in the Bible did for the folks around him.

But that wasn’t the best part. The best part was that seeing our old friends head home didn’t leave us homesick. We really are loving our new church community and feel lucky that so many people have embraced us so warmly. Just last night Jen was out for the first time with a lady I knew she’d hit it off with. They went to dinner around 6:30pm and came back around midnight. Tonight she’s out to coffee with another gal who is so sweet and down to earth. Today I had lunch with a great family who has been as hospitable to me as anyone I’ve ever known. (Of course, feeding me enchiladas with tomatillo sauce is an easy way to my heart.)

Our old friends don’t leave us homesick. Our new friends aren’t “replacing” our old ones.

We truly are blessed on both sides.