Saturday, December 5, 2009

Waking up to snow

Waking up to snow
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Maggie and Seth (and us too) were excited to wake up to their first snow ever. They insisted on going outside to play in the 1/4" of snow. Watching them revel in scraping up enough snow for a snow-peanut, and making a snow angel on the pavement (learned from a book, of course) was a delight - oh to be thrilled by such simple things...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cousins - Thanksgiving 09

Cousins - Thanksgiving 09
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
See below for details!

Thanksgiving 2009

We've had a wonderful week with family, and have been mindful of all we have to be thankful for. Our sister-in-law Erin's parents came down from Minnesota, and we shared several meals with them, and a hike in Red River Gorge to Gray's Arch on a stunning autumn day. The litluns held up remarkably well, and had a big time scrambling up rocks and climbing along narrow ledges and through small spaces to reach the base of the arch (see more photos at our Flickr account).
In preparation for Rebecca's family driving in from Illinois, we spent 3 days turning the third bedroom from the 'holding area' for all our unpacked boxes into an actual guest room. We also hung pictures and photos, swept floors, cleaned - partnering with God in the ongoing work of bringing order to chaos! It's quite astounding the difference having an ordered space makes to our overall sense of well-being.
We joined the Martin/Bailey/Watterson clan for brunch on Thanksgiving morning before driving back to Lexington for Will & Lisa Samson's community Thanksgiving feast, enjoying time with them, their friends and neighbours, and Communality friends and family. The food was quite spectacular, and we finally got to meet Claudia Burney and her family, who are good friends with the Samsons, and who Sean connected with somewhat randomly through Facebook before both our families moved here.
Friday saw the Martin clan descend on our home for brunch burritos, books and games before a hike at McConnell Springs, and then heading downtown for the Lexington Christmas parade. We drove out to Wilmore on Saturday for one last meal together, and began to make plans for Christmas in Greenville - the first time the cousins will be together for Christmas. But between here and there is Advent, which we began in darkness at the High Street House on Sunday night, as once more we wait for the Light of the world to be born in us anew...

Thursday, November 19, 2009


For the past three months we have been gathering at the High Street House with folk from Communality to share a bowl of soup and to share our stories. We have received these times as sheer gift, as we continue to get to know the people we are choosing to do life with here in Lexington. There has been lots of laughter, many beautiful and/or goofy photos, some tears, a few revelations of the "I can't believe I didn't know that about you" kind from those who have been family together for years, along with much courage as people have shared painful and difficult chapters of their story, some the writing of which has yet to be completed. After hearing from two people each week, we sit them on the missionary chest that serves as an altar for our community, and then spend some tender time in prayer for them, with gratitude and blessing for their story as it gets caught up in the unfolding Story of God.
Last night we heard two more beautiful stories, both of which offered the precious gift of vulnerability. I found myself thinking about them as I lay my head on the pillow last night and again as I rose to run this morning. Both of these stories are being shaped by relinquishing, by letting go of something.
A young woman shared the damage that the perfectionism she had internalized had wrought in her life and of the freedom she had found in making the decision to walk away from formal education as a bright and motivated student who was paralyzed by the fear of failure. Relinquishing expectations and opportunity has begun to heal the harm perfectionism has caused her. She concluded with eloquent tearfulness, as she described something else that has caused her pain over the years of which she is being invited to let go: her perception and experience of a profoundly masculine God. This belief has led her - as a young girl and as a woman - to question what it means for her to be made in the image of God: something which God intends to lead to wholeness and identity security, but which for her has led to feelings of somehow being "less than" simply because of her gender. As she opens herself to experiencing the femininity of God, she is continuing her journey towards wholeness and shalom.
The second story we received has also been deeply shaped by relinquishing and was told by a young man who is a relative newcomer to Communality. His two decade search for a life and community that embodies his evolving understanding and experience of the God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures has led him into voluntary homelessness in Lexington. He shared his experience of being invited by God to be homeless for a season, to relinquish the security of home and the stuff to which he finds himself deeply attached. I found the gentle and authentic spirit with which he told his story compelling and it has continued to cause me to reflect on my own need for security and control, and the comfort I find sitting in the midst of my books, something which he has specifically chosen to relinquish.
The gift of story is profound and one for which I am deeply grateful as I seek to live more faithfully into the Story of God.
(I found the image for this post online, but was unable to identify the artist for which I apologize.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Staghorn Sumac
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
We've been enjoying the colours of autumn for the past month. The depth of hue of reds and oranges and yellows has been a delight to the eye, and we've been reacquainting ourselves with Kentucky flora, such as this Staghorn Sumac, and the Ginkgo trees that Maggie and Seth love. The sun has shone in blue skies and the air has been crisp in the morning, warm in the afternoon. We feel gently eased into the Kentucky climate - a mild summer, a warm autumn, and the first cold drizzle of winter today.

Most of the leaves have now fallen - some will provide a warm covering for the roots of their trees as protection against the cold of winter, and will nourish the soil as they decompose. Others will be raked, bagged and carried away, and mulch will be purchased and spread around to mimic the Creator's design with a 'tidier' aesthetic...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The men in black

The men in black...
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Last weekend I spent a rowdy and wonderful evening with four friends who span 25 years of my life. I first heard John Smith speak at Greenbelt in 1983 (I think) - his preaching profoundly changed the way I thought about Jesus and the life he invites us into, and in many ways John set the course for the way my life has unfolded. I met Matt Russell at Capernwray Bible College in England in 1986 where, after a wary beginning, we became firm, and then best friends. Matt has shaped my life in more ways than I will ever know. Greg Leffel I met in 1998 when I began graduate school at Asbury Seminary in Kentucky, and became part of the experimental grounded missional community that he and John wanted to have a go at - Communality - which we have returned to 11 years on. Greg is one of the the brightest people I know, and I will continue to learn much from him. I met Travis Reed in Houston six years ago. He is the creative genius behind "" - providing visual liturgy and provocative film for the church on mission. He also makes me laugh more than any other person I know.
We spent 4 hours talking, laughing and creating another pub memory together - caught on film, of course, by Travis. The only thing missing was other dear friends of more than a decade here, Geoff Maddock and Billy Kenney.
Good times.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Seth turns 4

Seth & birthday cake #4
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
We celebrated Seth's 4th birthday a couple of weeks ago, with a shindig at the Ferrell's home, joined by Jeremy, Erin and the boys. We played lots of games on the lawn, some dug up from Sean's childhood ('pin the tail on the donkey', 'musical statues'), others from Rebecca's outdoor education background ('pin the clothes peg on someone', 'giants, elves, wizards'). Lots of laughter, and a beautiful butterscotch sponge cake a la Nigella Lawson.
Seth is a delightful little boy, and has a variety of states of being. He loves to run ahead of us when we're walking somewhere, climbing on steps, or walls, and laughing out loud.He has a rock star mood, when he plays air guitar with a very serious face, then cracks himself up. Or his construction mood, when he's concentrating hard on building a tower with wooden blocks or 'Wedgits', which he got another pack of for his birthday. He is into cutting paper with his scissors, spending this afternoon drawing and coloring ghosts, cutting them out, then sticking them to the walls with scotch tape. He enjoys being with Maggie about 96% of the time and we love watching the creative play they engage in.
We are deeply grateful for the gift of Seth in our lives.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Apple goodness

Apple goodness
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Last weekend we made a tentative first step towards 'putting up food' for the winter. We've been steadily eating our way through the 50 pounds of apples we picked at Reed Valley Orchard on Labor Day - including a delicious spicy apple pie courtesy of Delia Smith, renowned British chef and owner of my home team, Norwich City Football Club.
So, we have apple butter and apple chutney to put in the freezer, and dehydrated apples for the pantry. We'll return to Reed Valley in October to pick Fuji, Gold Rush, Granny Smith and Arkansas Black varieties, and see what we can do with them.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Roots & Heritage Festival

This weekend we're enjoying the nationally acclaimed Roots & Heritage Festival right here in our neighborhood. Things kicked off last night with live music on the main stage, just down the street from our friends the Maddock's home, and within easy listening distance of our bedroom, as we tried for an early night! This morning we sat in glorious sunshine for the parade, getting a feel for some of the community organizations in the East End as they marched, rode and drove by. We grilled hot dogs and burgers in the Maddock's drive, and gave them away as the crowds passed, collecting donations for the East End Fund - a community fund for home renovations, tree planting, street signs, and other ways to develop the local community. Two stages of live music tonight, lots of vendors, and joy on the streets of our new home - great stuff.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One month in...

Seth & 'Sugar' the chicken
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Maggie and Seth started at the Co-operating School this week, and so we have had our first experience of a week with some kind of structure to it. Rebecca and I have spent two afternoons together, beginning to reflect on our first impressions of Communality as it is today. We sat in Shillito Park on a beautiful afternoon today, and dusted off our worship 'design' gifts to craft a (hopefully) meaningful communion service that explores the gift of meaningful work, the importance of rest, and justice issues that Labor Day gives us pause to reflect on. We are really looking forward to leading worship together again, and the opportunity to be creative in our worship of the Creator that a smaller community provides.

We are getting a feel for our neighborhood as we walk and bike around it. It has been many years since we've ridden, and we are re-acquainting ourselves with muscles we had lost touch with. The weather continues to be unseasonably cool, and we are relishing the brisk mornings that greet us. We are one step closer to raising chickens, beginning some hands-on learning that Seth in particular is really enjoying. Small seedlings are breaking through the rich soil in our plot in the community garden, and we continue to enjoy the bounty from the Maddocks' backyard. (See entry below.)

I got to spend my first afternoon with Seth's class yesterday, and became acutely aware of how far I still have to go with honing my communication skills with small children. If you have a specific response in mind, don't present it as an option, Sean. '"How about we stop splashing each other, ok?" may not be the best directive for 4 year olds at the water table. I am already in awe of Mrs Littrell's ability to speak with clarity consistently, and am really hoping some of it rubs off on me quickly. Seth and Maggie have certainly been presenting us with lots of opportunities to practice, as they continue to adjust to the huge transition we have undergone.

Seth and Maggie both got sick last week, and Seth had a febrile seizure - which we thought he had grown out of. We are going to talk to a paediatric neurologist next week to make sure there's nothing else going on. They're both full of beans again, bouncing off the walls at their first Chuck-E-Cheese party to celebrate Isaac's 6th birthday on Tuesday. Communality had its last picnic of the summer this past Sunday, and we were struck at just how many little kids there are in the community now - the most striking change we've observed. Maggie & Seth are navigating the waters of friendship with new peers, and seem to be going back and forth between paddling well with others, and knocking them out of the boat.

Local food

Pavlova treat
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Rebecca, Maggie & Seth made pavlova this morning, for afternoon tea in the community garden with the Maddocks, who just returned from the Greenbelt Festival in England.
Meringue made with eggs from our friends the Brown's chickens, whipped cream skimmed off the milk from a local dairy farmer, and topped with raspberries from the Maddock's backyard - a delicious, local treat.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Settling in

Raven Run Sanctuary
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
One of the gifts our move to Kentucky has brought us is to be living close to Rebecca's brother Jeremy and his family: aunt Erin and cousins Jed, Caleb & Andrew. We spent a delightful couple of hours this past Sunday hiking the trails at Raven Run sanctuary and sharing a picnic lunch. They joined us later that afternoon at the High Street House, where we met with our new community for the weekly gathering and to be welcomed with a potluck dinner. We continue to be deeply grateful to have been sent out with love by our Mercy Street family, and to be received with love by our Communality family - an uncommon experience and a profound privilege.

We have the living space of our new home sorted out, but the guest room is not quite ready to provide a comfortable welcome to anyone. Maggie asked us today why we had stopped unpacking boxes when we still had so many. Maggie spent 3 days at Kindergarten last week, but we really struggled with her being there for more than 7 hours each day. In looking for a pre-school for Seth we discovered the Lexington co-operative school, which has been here for more than 50 years, and which has a kindergarten that meets for 3 hours a day. We really enjoyed our visit, and so enrolled both M & S. School meets from 12-3 each day (Seth stays home on Fridays), and Rebecca and I will have the opportunity to spend several days a month volunteering in their classes - part of the co-operative nature of the school. We are very much looking forward to the opportunity of spending time with Maggie & Seth in their classroom this first year in Lexington - an opportunity we recognize may not present itself again.

The leadership of the community have been gracious in affording us the time to settle in to our new life here - we have our first meeting with Greg & Billy tomorrow morning, followed by a meeting with all the leadership (or as they like to say, "the people with responsibilities") on Monday. We are eager to begin to find a rhythm to life here, and to discover what our partnership in the missio dei will look like...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lexington, Kentucky

We got internet service in our new home today, and so I thought I'd end the day with a brief update on our transition from Houston to Lexington.

Our last week in Houston was a blur - more details to take care of than we anticipated. But thanks to the exceedingly gracious hospitality of Bonnie & John McMillan we survived. One highlight of the last week was Seth finally gaining confidence in the swimming pool, thanks to Gigi's (Peggy Hennek) steadfast 'coaching'.

Our last night on the Street was overwhelming. We were showered with love by the community that we have had the privilege of belonging to for the last 7 years, and who are sending us out with their blessing and support to live and serve and "keep the main thing the main thing" here in Lexington. It was a bittersweet time, saying 'a dios' to so many people who we love, and who love us and who we have experienced much of God's grace with in the messiness of our common life over the years. People were so generous, kind and thoughtful with their words and gifts and we left deeply humbled by the evening, and deeply aware of how much we have been blessed during our sojourn "keeping it weird" at Mercy Street. There really aren't words right now.

We set out early Sunday morning for the 2 day drive North-East, which was relatively uneventful (at least compared to the same drive the week before in the U-Haul with Geoff). We arrived late Monday afternoon, and enjoyed the first of many meals with the Maddocks - mostly made with vegetables picked from their garden just beforehand. We have been slowly unpacking, making lists and taking care of the myriad details a move entails. We've enjoyed being pedestrians again, and went to our first pot luck tonight with some local food enthusiasts - cheese grits, ummmmm. We catch glimpses of what our life will become here, which offsets the chaos of our home, and weariness from lack of sleep and the sheer pace of the last few weeks.

Maggie and Seth have jumped into their new situation with both feet, and love spending hours and hours with Isaac and some of the other kids in the community. Rebecca and I are bone-tired, and decided yesterday that it feels like we're visiting on vacation - hanging out with friends, sharing meals, doing some fun things - rather than this being our new home. I imagine the reality of all that this transition means for us will sink in in the days and weeks to come.

We look forward to becoming much more intentional with the blog as this new season in the life of our family begins...

Friday, July 10, 2009


Cousins - Colorado 2009
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
The good news is I (Sean) woke up feeling much better this morning, and have been able to get out and enjoy our last day with the Martin clan. We spent several hours at a beautiful stream-side park in Frisco, and finally managed to take a photo of all 7 cousins. We've enjoyed morning visits from a velvet-clad buck - this morning I was sitting in the hot tub at about 7:30 when he strolled by just a few feet away. Maggie and Seth are enjoying the diverse wildlife we're encountering - the deer is their favourite. Tomorrow we say goodbye to the Martin clan, and drive back to Crested Butte to overnight with Sean's friends, the Hegstroms. Then on Sunday it's a 5 hour drive to Durango, Colorado for the last week of our vacation - staying with friends from Mercy Street.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Our dusk visitor

Most nights we've spotted this fox, but last night he/she(?) decided to come hang out by the hot tub for awhile. She came up to the back door at one point, so our guess is people have fed her in the past.
We're having a great time hanging out - enjoying the weather with more hiking and biking, and a visit to a kids pool with water slides that was a smash hit with the kiddos.
Sean is still sick - was diagnosed with "walking pneumonia" yesterday - we're hoping the Z-Pack kicks in soon!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Silverthorne, CO - on the trail

We made it over the Continental Divide on Saturday and arrived safely in Silverthorne for a week with Rebecca's family, after enjoying the 4th of July parade in Crested Butte. As of today, Seth is in great health, Maggie seems to be over conjunctivitis, Rebecca is slightly improved, and I am feeling somewhat less lousy, but now have conjunctivitis. But it's another beautiful place to be sick in!
The seven cousins are having a blast getting reacquainted, and today we took a leisurely 4 hour, 3.3 mile hike along Lake Lilypad trail overlooking Frisco. Another stunning day - a highlight was watching a beaver swim around the lake while we ate lunch. Maggie and Seth were stars - a long hike with no complaints or requests for rides.
The house we're all staying in is a tad more luxurious than we're accustomed to! We look out over the mountains, and can step out the back door and into the woods - or the hot tub, which is Maggie and Seth's new favourtite thing. Sean and Jeremy were soaking in it last night and watched a fox slink past just a few feet away.
The kids seem rested now, but Rebecca and I have little left in reserve. It's good to be with family.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Colorado trip '09

I was having trouble uploading from Flickr

Crested Butte '09
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
- now it is working. See below for more on our trip!

Crested Butte '09

We're a week into our Colorado trip, and enjoying the gracious gift our friends Todd and Angela gave us of a week in their place in Crested Butte. We pulled out of Houston last Thursday (102 degrees) and have woken up here to about 40 degrees each morning. We spent Thursday night with Uncle Dave, Aunt Sharla and Stella in Arlington, then drove through Texas, just getting into New Mexico Friday night. We arrived in Crested Butte late Saturday afternoon, with just over 1100 miles on the trip odometer.Crested Butte is absolutely stunning. We spent Sunday and Monday hiking and biking and walking Elk Street, enjoying Fat Tire Bike Week. CB is a very bike-friendly, if not bike-based culture. We enjoyed a fantastic pizza at the Brick Oven Monday night, and were beginning to settle into vacation mode after a stressful last few months. Tuesday morning saw Sean and Seth feeling lousy, and we ended up at the CB medical clinic yesterday - Seth with an ear infection, Sean with some kind of upper respiratory virus, and Rebecca with her ongoing cough/cold. So, we've pretty much laid low for 3 days - although, if you're going to be sick, we can think of worse places to be sick in! But we hear the trails calling, and it's hard not to be able to explore more of the area.We're driving into Gunnison this afternoon to get out of the house and pick up a few things, and will hopefully check out "Colorado's best coffee and chai" at Camp4 Coffee.The scenery truly is breath-taking, and the weather deliciously cool in the morning and evening. We've added some new bird species (including a golden eagle roadside on the way here). Check out the photos on Flickr.We're hoping to kick the bugs ahead of Saturday, when we head up to the Breckenridge area to spend a week with Rebecca's family.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Extreme shepherding!

Trying to sell our house and preparing to move hasn't left much time for updating the blog - but here's a video that made us smile in the midst of the busy-ness...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
A beautiful visitor to the backyard this morning on his way north - first time we've spotted this bird.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dad's visit Part I

Stan & Suzie's visit
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Sean's dad arrived for a visit last week, and was delighted to see our good friend Stan's RV parked outside when we returned from the airport. Stan & Suzie stopped by on their way home to Lubbock, and we enjoyed catching up with them in their new RV.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The boys are back!

Although I am still in the 'growing on me' stage for the album overall, there are some standout tracks on 'No Line on the Horizon', including this. Waiting for tickets for the October 14th show to go on sale!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rolf Harris

I introduced Maggie & Seth to "Jake the Peg" today - one of my favourite songs growing up. They laughed out loud at his 3 legs, and we all got tongue-tied singing "The Court of King Caractacas" - another gem. Rebecca and I talked about childhood memories like this, and wondered where the entertainers are today that the whole family can sit down and enjoy together.

If this is your first "Rolf Harris experience" - enjoy!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mexican Flame Vine

Mexican Flame Vine
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
We planted this vine 3 years ago, and have always been excited to see the occasional bloom on it. Suddenly it is full of blooms, and we have a beautiful view through the sun porch of a sea of white jasmine with a riot of orange behind it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

magic wands and cowboys

Maggie's preschool class is currently studying cowboys/girls in preparation for rodeo month here in Houston. We have two cowboy books from the library that they/we have been reading non-stop...interspersed with another book called "The wizard, the Witch and the Magic Chicken."

I overheard this dialogue between Maggie and Seth as I was hanging out the laundry in our backyard this morning:

Maggie: Let's play cowboys. I will be a cowgirl and this is my magic wand.

Seth: uh-huh.
a few moments later....
Seth: I am the bad guy and I take sticks from other people's gardens. And this is my sack of cash.

Maggie: We need Papa to be the 'cookie' (which she tells me is the cowboy name for the trail cook) and drive our wagon train.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Caution - small children!

Caution - small children!
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
We spent a large chunk of our sabbath at Brazos Bend State Park yesterday - about an hour SW of Houston. It was a cold, bright day, and we hiked (strolled) around a couple of the lakes there. We saw several alligators sunning themselves, all on the opposite bank of the lake - although they do often wander onto the trails. We also enjoyed some great birding - identifying 6 new species from our 'twitcher's guide'. For those interested in such things, they were: Anhinga, Blue-Winged teal, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Pied-Billed Grebe and a Scarlet Tanager (we think!). Check out the photos on Flickr. A wonderful day, which also included some down time by a small lake to enjoy a good book.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

House finches

House finches
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
We've enjoyed lots of birds feeding on the sunflower seeds we collected last autumn. This month we've been feeding finches (house and gold), house sparrows, blue jays, a red breasted woodpecker and doves, pigeons and squirrels beneath the feeder.

As well as the birds we're enjoying the beautiful scent of jasmine and satsuma blossoms wafting in through the screens during a beautiful season here in Houston.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Garden

Originally uploaded by the gladdings
And here's one of the beds the bounty came out of.

Backyard bounty

Backyard bounty
Originally uploaded by the gladdings
Rebecca fixed a feast for us tonight - a roast vegetable salad. Here's what came out of our mere 60 square feet of winter garden and onto our plates: 3 kinds of lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, broccoli, carrots, radishes, green beans, nasturtium and (roast) beets. To this we added roast sweet potatoes (not ours!). Then there was the delicious pesto we spread on the rosemary bread, made from backyard kale, beet greens and swiss chard, mixed with some parmesan cheese and toasted pecans. A meal that springs from one of the benefits of the Houston climate - year round gardening.