We just wanted to give you a recap of our time in Chicago and offer some huge thanks to those who served our family so incredibly during this time. I already shared with you God's immense travelling mercies on our way to Chicago. Those continued on the way home as well, with the worst circumstance simply being our Trader Joe's cookie butter, one a treat for our family and the other a gift for Hope beloved educational assistant, being confiscated in security as not allowed on board! : ( We were sad, but the phrase we've coined for such disappointing or frustrating circumstances was still indeed true. . . "it's not the end of the world!" : ) But boy we wish we had thought of opening it and each having a quick spoonful to try before it hit the garbage can! ; ) Lesson learned for next time. . . make sure you check peanut butter or peanut butter-like substances when flying! : )
Our time in Chicago was so very precious to us, rich with special visits with dear friends, times of great encouragement, and simply being loved on so tremendously by all those around us. It was humbling to say the least!
The Miller family hosted us for the week, and in spite of having a busy week including the sudden loss of two family members, they were such an example of Christ's humility and love to continue to serve US! We are so thankful for these precious friends and would ask that you would keep them in prayer, as well, as they grieve and support their families in the loss of these loved ones.
The girls and I had a couple wonderful days visiting with the Millers before the conference, while Trev flew to L.A. and attended a men's conference there with our Harvest Calgary men! We were super blessed on Sunday to meet up with our Harvest Calgary church family that was able to come for Harvest U, as well as our WONDERFUL Harvest Chicago mission team members from the past two summers who had come to serve in Calgary for the week of our VBS each year! We had such a rich time of fellowship and catch up with these precious people! LOVE THEM!!!
The Harvest U conference started Sunday evening and went through until Wednesday at noon. We had so many amazing loving people who served our family, making it possible for us to attend the long conference days, by caring for our sweet girlies. Mary Miller booked a kindergarten room. . . the one belonging to Gabi's very dear Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Gray!. . . and Hope hung out in this room for much of the conference time. Being in the same building, Trevor and I were able to come and check in on her and help her transfer for bathroom breaks. . . it worked great!!! This was all made possible by the many precious hearts that came and spent time with Hope (and sometimes Gabi, too). They played games, made crafts, read stories, wrote stories, had snacks and meals, and simply had a TON of fun!!! Thank you, THANK YOU, to the these wonderful people who came and spent time loving on our girls. . . the Tatum family, Haley Morris, Maria and Haley, and of course sweet Mary!
We also had many wonderful people and kids who came and visited Hope. . . it was precious for our Hope to meet prayer warriors like Irene Burks, that she had never met before, but have been praying faithfully and sacrificially for her from early in this journey! Hope was delighted to have visits from several of her past classmates at Harvest Christian Academy in Elgin. A visit from Jen Hawkins was another highlight for our girls. . . she was the FIRST face of Harvest for our girls way back in August of 2009 when, after 3 days of driving/travelling, we pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex we would live in for the next 10 months of Daddy's HBF training centre time, and there was Jen loaded up with a huge box of donuts and a beautiful welcoming smile. . . easy to understand why they developed a deep love for this godly servant-hearted woman and dear friend! Also precious was the time where most of the pastors/wives that attended HBF training centre with us, were able to come visit Hope, and then pray over her. Precious!!!
Trev and I enjoyed connecting with so many people throughout the HBF family. . . 97 churches now, 14 countries and 5 continents! What a BIG God to be building His church world wide! Some highlights included watching a parade of international flags representing what God is doing around the world in building His Kingdom, worshipping with our dear Harvest Calgary church family that was able to attend, and connecting with so many precious people. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to pray with a dear Harvest pastor's wife that has recently been diagnosed with cancer and currently undergoing treatment. The Lord is enabling her to bring much glory to God as she submits to this unwanted circumstance in her life, trusting that He will be faithful to see her through, to do a work in her life and the lives around her, and to redeem this trial and suffering for His perfectly loving purposes. Please join our family in praying for dear Jaime and her family!
After the conference, we took our girls, along with dear Mary and sweet Ela, to the American Girl Doll store. . . the long awaited trip had finally come! They were super thrilled to pick out a few items to buy with their long-saved money. Hope was so cute as she carefully decided how to spend her money, and thrifty in only spending half of what she had! Hope chose a Ruthie doll, which is the friend of her Kit Kiteredge doll, and Gabs chose a Saige doll who loves horses and to paint and act/sing. It has been precious to watch/listen to their sweet playtime together since!
On Thursday, Gabs was able to attend school with her buddy Ela, and see lots of her past classmates! The school was so welcoming and kind to her, and so Ela and Gabi had a blast together! Hope also made a stop at HCA to visit her past classmates briefly, and then we were able to fit in a quick shoe shopping trip to the outlets. A precious friend joined us for sweet fellowship while we shopped and then also blessed us with purchasing our shoes! We are continually humbled by the ways that God lays on people's hearts to generously love and minister to us! Hope got a new pair of slip on shoes with pretty flowers on them. . . she was thrilled and super determined to try and then super excited when she was able to keep her shoes on. . . typically they fall off within a matter of minutes, so this was a great way to encourage her to practice keeping her feet in a 90 degree angle resting on the foot rests, which is a good stretch for her because she does not walk/stand as much as she normally would. However, Hope said her favourite part of shopping was dancing to the store music, and playing catch with sweet Mrs. Arosen!!!
Our final night/day, we were able to visit a current HBF training centre pastor and his family, the Birds (of course, the Peacocks and the Birds go together like birds of a feather!) : ) These dear friends were the first faces of the Master's Seminary for us when Trev and I stayed with them back in 2005 as we looked for a place to live in California in preparation to move there for seminary. They have since had three precious boys, the third one we met for the first time now! Trev and Scott worked together for the whole time we were in seminary as well, so it was a great reunion, and we are super thrilled that they will be joining our HBF family, as they prepare to launch a Harvest church next year, Lord-willing! We were also so very blessed to have another TMS family, the Garwoods, that we grew close to during our time there, drive down 2 hours from Wisconsin, to visit as well! They also had another new little one for us to meet for the first time, as well as reunion with their older children, who were great buddies with our girls. All of these children have prayed faithfully for Hope from the beginning and so it was pure joy to see them marvel in God's goodness and power to heal!
It truly brings tears to my eyes, as I type this, to think of how richly God has blessed our family. The people that God has surrounded us with, for "such a time as this!". . . how could we not be faithful to such a gracious faithful God! We are so loved and cared for by you dear prayer warriors. I hope and pray that you will have a sense of how much we truly love you and the ministry that EACH of you have in our lives, all to the glory of the God who is over it all, weaving the majestic tapestry of our little girl's extraordinary life. . . truly not what we would have chose in our limited understanding and knowledge. . . but by His grace, what we are able to submit to and watch unfold and blossom into His glorious power and love at work in every single one of our hearts. . . those touched by Hope's story, those of us in Hope's story, and in Hope herself! I can't wait to share another Hope Proclaims message with you soon, so you can see what God is doing in her heart as well! First though, I have a post almost done, on what God is doing in her body. . . it will be posted tomorrow!
I'll end with this fun Hope-ism. . .
It's a common thing to hear at Harvest, YOU ARE LOVED! For anyone from Harvest Calgary, though, you'll know that Hope's daddy, after every sermon, says this phrase in this way, "Harvest Calgary, know this. . . YOU ARE LOVED!"
This week, Trev was teaching Hope her newest memory verse, Acts 4:10-12. . . it begins with, "then know this, you and all the people of Israel. . . " After teaching her the first line, he asked her to say it. When she had a hard time remembering the first word to start with, Trev quickly gave her the cue words, "then know this. . ."
Hope said without skipping a beat, "YOU ARE LOVED!" : )
Dearest prayer warriors. . . know this. . . YOU ARE LOVED!!! : )