3 years ago

Something wonderful happened for us about this time of night 3 years ago. Charlie came into the world just after 11pm, a squirming, squealing little red man. And Team Sublett has been blessed beyond belief through him.

We honestly thought we were done with babies. 2 adoptions of older kids had gone really well, and we hadn’t changed a diaper in our house for years! Then Charlie’s birthmom entered the picture, asking if we’d consider adopting him. I thought we’d be more likely to bring her into the family, help her figure out how to get on her feet and raise the little boy. But she didn’t want to parent, and thought we’d be a good family for her child.

We prayed about it, talked it over with the fam, and jumped into the mix. And I couldn’t imagine what our life would look like without him.

He’s been a gift to us, especially to Annabelle, Josie, and Isaac. Most of the children they knew growing up in China were in an orphanage, abandoned by parents who couldn’t keep them. They didn’t understand what it was like to want a child, to bring a baby into the family. We wondered if they would bond with the new addition. In no time at all he’d won them over. In fact, I began to wonder if the boy would ever learn to crawl; he never touched the ground because everyone wanted to hold him!

Charlie has been absolutely redemptive for us as a family, and it’s been fun to watch how God is moving in us through him.
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Monday was a big day

Kim and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary Monday. The kids stayed home and took care of Charlie while we went out to dinner at our favorite place, The Tavern. We enjoyed a delicious meal, uninterrupted adult conversation, and the luxury of lingering over a cup of coffee after dinner.

24 years ago we were so excited about starting our new life together. I had just graduated from Toccoa Falls College with a degree in youth ministry. I’d been hired to be the youth pastor at Greensburg Alliance Church, in a town a few miles down the road from Kim’s family. I don’t think we were scared about being newlyweds, starting a new job, or stepping out on our own. Maybe we were just so in love–or so naive–that we didn’t know any different!

I must have been a little nervous, though, on our wedding day. The day progressed smoothly without any major hiccups. But there must have been something going on in my head or heart. When I took my bowtie off at the end of the day I spotted something unusual. Around my neck, where the bowtie had rested for hours, was a little ring of blisters! Yep, I’d worn my tie so tight that it gave me blisters, and I never felt a thing!

24 years…what an incredible journey. God has blessed us tremendously. I am married to my best friend, my partner in life and ministry. It sounds cliche, but it’s absolutely true: I love her more today than I did 24 years ago. But that hair was something special, right?Kim & Stac toast Stac & Kim wedded bliss Stac & Kim married Stac & Kim just married

sports camp makes me cry

Our church wrapped up our yearly sports camp Thursday evening, and I got to invite the 5th graders to join me and the other youth leaders for a few events this summer designed just for them. The parents of all the children were gathered all around the watched the various teams step to the front to show some of the songs they had learned. They were wildly enthusiastic and loved sharing with the parents, but something else caught my eye.

As our youth pastor, I am all too familiar with the fact that 60-70% of high school grads will walk away from church and faith. That fact is driving me to re-examine a lot of our practices in our church, and in my family. I want to know what we can do to help students develop a faith that lasts a lifetime.

As I watched the coaches (volunteers who led the sports camp) gather for their final huddle, I realized that almost half of the leaders were either students from our youth ministry or former students who are now in college. A huge wave of emotion rolled over me as I began to think about the links in the chain of influence. The leaders in our student ministry have shaped the lives of the young men and women who were now leading this sports camp. And they, in turn, are speaking into the lives of the next generation of boys and girls, modeling what it means to live for Jesus.

I hugged and high-fived as many of those leaders as I could tonight as they exited the building. I don’t know if they see what they’re doing, if they sense the importance and feel the weight of their influence. It’s likely that most of them think they were simply volunteering for a fun sports camp. But the truth is that they were cementing their own faith, and leaving a legacy for those elementary kids to follow.

I don’t know if there are guaranteed ways to help students stay connected to Jesus and the Church as they graduate. But I do know that finding ways for them to share in the story, to be part of the life of the Church, to speak into the life of those following behind them is about as good as it gets.

a gift from the past

When I turned 40 Kim and the kids (only Levi, Lilly, and Sadie at that point) made me a little scrapbook. It had notes from each of them and a plan for the coming year. On the 27th (my day of birth) of each month they planned to take me out, either individually or as a fam, for something fun.
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Kim’s so creative like that.

Annabelle was looking through the book with me when I stumbled onto the last page, which was the coolest thing. There’s a picture of me, Lilly, and Sadie working at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, raising funds for Chapman’s adoption organization, Show Hope.

Beside the picture, Kim wrote the words, “Hi Annabelle! We love you!”

It would be another year (22 months actually) before we would actually travel to China to go get Annabelle.  What a wonderful adventure this has turned out to be!

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a pile of married years

A few of the Calvary pastors went away for a day-long meeting Tuesday, working on some big-picture things.  I love these men, and love being part of a team with them. We are a diverse bunch in terms of theological backgrounds, church experience, and even geographical homes! We’re wired differently, approach problems differently, and blow off steam differently. But we’re all united around our love for Jesus, his church, and the call to lead here at Calvary.

We started the morning by taking a few minutes to review, to catch up, to see how things are going in our particular arenas of ministry, to share places we see God at work, and to give thanks for growth in those areas.

That’s when Dan Nold reminded us that today is his wedding anniversary. He’s been married to Lynn for 30 years. Vic and Kay have been married for a whopping 40!  The Dorseys just celebrated their 27th, Kim and I are closing in on 24 years, and Steve married Jess 15 years ago.

That’s 136 years of married life…that hit me with a wave of emotion.

I have learned many and varied lessons from each of these men about life and leadership, ministry and marriage, raising kids and being a man. I am incredibly grateful for these men, blessed beyond belief, and definitely feel challenged to keep up with them!

Mentors are all around us if we’re willing to be teachable.

endings and beginnings

Our eldest graduated from high school Saturday morning along with 600 or so of his closest friends. I thought the commencement speaker (James Houck) was splendid, and even jotted a few notes from his talk. Levi and a few of his buddies were featured in the senior video that showed during the ceremony. That was pretty cool…
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Saturday afternoon was about as nice a day as we have in Happy Valley, which made the Grad Party extremely pleasant. Family and friends gathered to eat Clem’s barbecue, play KanJam and wiffle ball, and spend time chatting in the back yard. The locust tree did its best to dampen the mood by dropping little locust bombs on us all day, but most folks just learned to cover their drinks and party on! Levi’s friends stayed long into the night, sitting around the fire pit, reminiscin’ this an’ that an’ havin’ such a good time…

About 24 hours later the young man found himself wandering into the South Halls, looking to check-in for Penn State’s New Student Orientation. He got paired up with a roommate he’d never met, attended a few classes/forums covering everything from finances to scheduling to PSU culture and campus safety.

I don’t know if any of us is really ready for this…

Kim and I have been blessed to have Levi as a son.  We are proud of the young man he’s grown to be. He is sharp and sensitive, creative and funny, great with children, knows most 80s songs from the opening lick, and loves the Atlanta Braves more than I do! He’s got a heart for Jesus, and we are praying that the next season of life will be used by God to water the seeds that have been sown.

I am looking forward to watching what God does to develop character in Levi, and where the call of God will take him.

One chapter ends; another begins. The adventure continues. And since Levi shares a birthday with Bilbo and Frodo, I’ll close with a some wisdom from Bilbo/Frodo:

not a bad day at all

As we wolfed down our dinner tonight Josie was in a particularly good mood. Turns out that it was contagious, and Team Sublett is going to bed feeling pretty swell.

Josie’s rugby season is over, but the team got together today for a practice–just for fun! It didn’t hurt that the coach offered to take them all to Dairy Queen after practice!

Lilly’s dear friend Avery is in town for the first time in 3 years, so they’re having a sleepover, which means they’ll likely be up all night.

Levi’s all jacked up excited because tomorrow is his last official day of high school. Of course, he’s working feverishly on some Spanish homework tonight. His teacher is going to make him go to class next week if he doesn’t get it done and turned in tomorrow!

Tomorrow is Sadie’s 13th birthday, so she spent some time baking cupcakes for her classmates! She’s pretty excited to turn 13, because that means she can officially get a gmail account, which will allow her to change the background on her Chromebook and download apps! What a goober!

The middle school kids performed their Cabaret for the middle school today, and Isaac was one of the featured singers. He got asked to do an encore performance of MaNaMaNa! He’s a hoot, and his schoolmates love him. Sadie got to sing as well, and Annabelle was part of the tech crew.

Kim started off the day with a bang, meeting 11 high school girls for her weekly breakfast at Waffle Shop! She also made lasagna for 2 moms with new babies (I love me some babies!)

The highlight of my day was spending about an hour with 3 of my leadership guys talking about what God was teaching us as we read through the first 7 Psalms. We’re going to be studying the Psalms all summer with our youth group, so we decided to read 7 a week as part of our lifegroup/leadership team.

All in all, that’s a win for Team Sublett. How was your day?IMG_0898 IMG_0900 IMG_1096 IMG_1308

my wife doesn’t even know me

I had a few minutes open up in my afternoon today. They happened to correspond with the time my wife was taking Charlie and the little girl she watches to the local park. So I zipped over to the park to see if I could catch up with them.

As I walked into the park, Kim had her back to me, pushing the little girl on a swing. Charlie was across the play area near a bench, so I walked around the play area, thinking that I would surprise them. I managed to walk right up to Charlie without Kim catching sight of me. Naturally, he was excited to see me and moved my way. I bent down to hug him, which is when Kim turned around to check on him.

She had no idea who was leaning over her son. Her first thought was that Charlie had fallen and that I was some kind stranger helping him recover. In the next split second her insides got a little weirded out. She started to go into Mama Bear mode and moved toward me.

That’s when I stood up and smiled at her, and she let out this loud, “Whew!” kind of breath.

I’m not sure what she would have done if I had really been a stranger, but I don’t think it would have fallen in the biblical category of showing strangers hospitality!

All things ended well, though, as I got to take Charlie’s shoes and socks off to let him dip his toes body into a chilly Spring Creek. The boy loves to play outside, and he has all the early indicators of a water bug. I think we’re going to have loads of fun together!
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belated birthday celebration

Our daughter Josie turned 17 yesterday.  She spent most of the day in a car, traveling back from the US Rugby high school national tourney.  Our own State High girls rugby team was scrumming it up.  They brought home the 6th place trophy, which is pretty stinking impressive.
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The young ladies on the rugby team have become community for Josie.  She loves them, and they love her.  She stays after school almost every day of the year to work out because she wants to get better, stronger, faster…for them.  They have taken her in, made her feel loved and welcomed and wanted, let her know that she belongs.  One of the girls from last year’s team went with them to nationals last weekend.  Without us knowing, she arranged to get a cake for Josie, lit the candles, and had the team sing, “Happy Birthday” to Josie.

As a dad who prays for his girls to find good friends, words seem pretty paltry when it comes to expressing how much that means.

Josie is a wonderful young lady–kind, thoughtful, always looking to help someone, diligent and determined, quick with a smile, and loyal to the hilt.  She loves to laugh, and though most of the time she’s reserved, if you catch her at the right time, she can be flat-out silly.

We had no idea what to expect when we brought her into our home a few years ago.  But we knew that the Lord brought her to us, and that we were committed to her.  Now I can hardly imagine life without her.
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We took Josie and most of the girls from her small group out tonight for dessert at IHOP. It was fun to see them laughing and having fun, knowing that God has placed her in our home, in our church, in our town to bless her, and to bless us. What a work God has done in all of us over the past 4 years…

Thank you, Jesus, for Josie!

disc golf adventures

I had a blast with my middle school kids (my personal kids, that is) today at the disc golf course out at Harvest Fields.  This might be one of the best-kept secrets in the valley!

As the school day ended I shot them an email asking if they’d be up for a little adventure. They were, indeed, so I scooted over to the school to pick them up, then headed back to Harvest Fields for a little disc golfage.

The wind started whipping just about the time we hit the parking lot, and the sky was threatening rain.  We had a limited window of opportunity due to one of a thousand school band/choir/whatever concerts this week month. So with limited explanation, Annabelle, Isaac, Sadie, and I hit the links.

The first throws went fairly well, but Isaac’s second went a little haywire. It sailed high, got caught by the wind, banked hard to the left, and splashed into the pond! He looked at me, asking, “What do we do now?” I laughed and told him to go get it!
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Fortunately the water only got up to his armpits and he was able to snag the disc with his toes and we were back in business. (HT to @Brodiesmith21 for the fav of the tweet!)

The course is a beautiful one, winding up the hillside, through the woods, past several ponds, meandering around some of the most picturesque property in Happy Valley. Since our time was limited, we only played the first 5 holes, out & back. We didn’t really keep score, though we did count the number of throws for each hole. We just didn’t tally them up. It didn’t really matter who won. The goal was to have a good time and spend some time together playing. So we all won!

I don’t know how competitive we’d be, but I’d take my disc golf team against yours any day! If you want to play, give me a shout.
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