Henry in Church

We have been incredibly blessed, as pastors, over the years. We have experienced loving churches…and, as a clergy couple, we’ve sometimes made that difficult, for instance, the churches seldom get to see our spouse.

Both of our amazing churches were excited for the arrival of little H and when we returned from maternity leave (and, then, paternity leave) they were excited to worship with H…and they have been understanding has been split between church with mommy and church with daddy. When H does come to worship I love to see the faces of the congregation and little H! It’s so fun to see love being shared.

My church doesn’t have a nursery program and Henry is generally the only baby…so the people of the church pass him around and take care of him. It has been lots of fun to watch and, then, tonight, we got a special treat because we got to worship together as a family on our first Christmas Eve.

Church is a wonderful place to raise a child!

(I originally published this article at CollinsvilleFirst.org on Nov. 30, 2018)

I remember a few big gifts under the Christmas tree.  I remember when Santa gave me a gift that would become one of my favorites: a Tandy Color Computer II.  I had been wanting a computer so badly and I had written the letter and just knew that it would arrive.  I had a specific computer in mind: an Apple IIe computer with floppy disk drives and a monitor.  Some people my age may remember the software that might come with such a computer:  Oregon Trail, Pac-Man, PrintShop, AppleWorks… I was just sure that on Christmas morning I would have a powerful computer that could print banners shoot buffalo & deer, and publish my first book :-).

The color computer II hooked to a tape recorder to load files and hooked to a television.  My parents were so happy for me as I opened the package, but I wonder if they saw the disappointment in my face.  They had worked very hard to get me a computer and I suspect they had invested a lot of their hopes in that package. They thought that a thing would make me happy…and so did I. We both invested our hopes in a computer.  We all thought that if the right gift was under the tree it would make Christmas Day great.

So you know, that gift gave me hours of fun and launched my interest in computer programming, but I don’t remember that Christmas because I got a computer.  I remember that Christmas because I feel shame for not having gratitude for my parents’ sacrifice.  I believe that what truly fulfills us on Christmas is the connection to one another: How we show love (or fail to, in this example).  As an adult, I have vivid memories of Christmases past, but the great memories aren’t usually about the gifts.  It is the memory of all of my extended family crowded around a large table at grandma phillips’ house.  It is the memory of cousins sitting in the floor and handing out Christmas gifts to all the adults before we started opening gifts.  It is the memory of my uncle sticking gift bows on my aunts head and, on the Carnes side, of all the adults falling asleep in the living room in the afternoon while the grandkids played with their toys.  It is the memory of my sister and parents gathering around the tree: my mother taking pictures of us as we opened each of our gifts and the excitement of going through the stockings that mom had hand-sewn.

The memories of Christmases past are not made of what we get.  They are made of the people with whom we share Christmas and how we treat them.  We can get so focused on the perfect pies or ham that we spend all day cooking and forget to look up at the memories being made around us.  We can get so focused on the perfect gift under the tree that we forget the perfect gift is our presence around the tree.  We can get so focused on making the perfect day that we make everyone miserable (oh, we all know someone who has done that, right?)  Perhaps the messiness of loving relationships and the imperfect time we spend with one another is what really makes our holiday perfect…

Two Weeks in Greece

We’ve had a house guest for the past two weeks. My sister-in-law and her husband went to Greece and needed somewhere for T, our nephew. Well, I’m on paternity leave with H (our little guy) and T is in school during the day…so…sure. Carrie and I have enjoyed a great, great, great time with our temporarily expanded family.

It wasn’t super-easy, by the way. We had to get up and have T at school over in Saint Louis every school day. Those were early mornings, but, of course, we were already up with a baby, anyway. 🙂 It was also just hard because Aunt Carrie and Uncle Scott do things a lot differently than at home. Aunt Carrie and Uncle Scott tried to make adjustments but T was also really flexible and did a great job.

In the picture above you can see a meal that T made with Aunt Carrie one night!

We are a little sad that T is going to go stay with his Nana & Babop (his grandma and grandpa Berry) for a few days until his mom & dad get home…so we ended with a big family dinner. My parents and Carrie’s parents all came to Collinsville to eat with H, T & Carrie and me. It was a great night and we feel blessed by this family!

Happy Holidays!

This isn’t exactly a traditional “Christmas letter,” but with such a long silence on our family blog I thought it time to share an update and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

This has been a tumultuous year for the Carnes family.  We have moved to a new city and both have new jobs.  We sold our beloved home and left our former churches in the capable hands of other United Methodist pastors.  Whew.  Hard…but also exciting!

  

We were fortunate that in a difficult economy our home sold quickly (despite the water main breaking right in front of the house) and we still consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have had some really great neighbors in that neighborhood!

I did a lot of the packing, of course, but the actual move and the initial unpacking and setting up of our new home was on Carrie.  You can see that she had her work cut out for her when the movers left that day.  I was off in Chicago working on my final summer residency for my Doctor of Ministry.

My doctor of ministry is in preaching so my preaching each Sunday is part of my education and my education is affecting my preaching in very real ways.  I’m loving it!  When I got back from school I was in my first Sunday in my new congregation, Collinsville First United Methodist Church.  Carrie had already started the previous Sunday in her congregation at “Journey” a church start of Belleville Union UMC.  Carrie is appointed by the bishop to be the associate at Belleville Union, but she seldom works in Belleville.  Her primary work is in Freeburg, IL at Journey.

The Collinsville Church provides a parsonage in which we live.  We appreciate their hospitality and we are constantly working to make it ‘our own’ and when that involves painting…we thank the trustees for being so accommodating! 🙂

One way that the church showed hospitality and generosity, both, was partnering with us to put in a fence for our dogs.  As you can see from the picture of Jack, above, the dogs are loving it.  While we miss our former communities, friends, and congregations, we have found new places of love and support.  Also, being in the Saint Louis area allows us to be near to Carrie’s family.  We’ve been able to participate in family events and be with our nephew.

It was also fun to be near the total eclipse and we were fortunate to be able to go down to the lake and go out in the boat for the eclipse with other family and friends.  One of the highlights for Carrie was our purchase of half a hog.  Not only did we get the traditional cuts of meat, but she got some of the organs and she is excited to experiment with the hog head.  I have to say…I don’t know.

Lastly, we both had the opportunity to go to a preaching event at Garrett-Evangelical in Evanston in November.  We enjoyed an evening in Chicago before it began and immensely enjoyed it.  I think that is just about all that is fit for print.  We are preparing for the holidays and look forward to our time with both sides of the family over the next few weeks!

House Renovations

We’ve had to do some work on the house, lately.  It’s one of those things that snuck up on us.  Since we moved in three years ago, we’ve intended to get the front steps tiled to match the porch.  Soon after we moved in a pipe leaked into the basement and we had to tear out a wall so the plumbers could properly fix it.  That wall has been torn up ever since.  Some plaster cracked in the bedroom and we needed to get it repaired.  We waited too long and the crack became too big to do a simple repair.  We looked around and realized that all these small jobs had turned into a huge job.  So we called a handy man and dug deep into the wallet.

Our relationships are like this.  Maybe a person gets angry and yells at their spouse, but if we talk about our feelings…process what happened…then that “small crack in the plaster” can easily be fixed.  Maybe a person really messes up and breaks trust with a parent or child.  They say that they will pick them up or take care of them, but, then, the person forgets or chooses not to. It’s like the basement wall, though: If we get in and repair it correctly…and rebuild trust right away, we can get back to enjoying life and it may not have to cost us so much.

With any relationship issues: ignoring the problem is not a good option.  The longer we ignore the problem, the bigger the problem becomes.  Sometimes, when we don’t properly talk through our smaller problems the relationship breaks down and soon it is far too expensive to repair.

With our house, I think we caught it in time.  We had to use quite a bit of savings, but our house is nearly all fixed up: even better than when we moved in.  If you have a relationship that has broken down, don’t wait any longer.  Get to work fixing the pain and begin the process of rebuilding trust.  I think you will find that it is worth the risk, time and expense!

Our Holiday Letter

This has been a year of extreme highs and terrible lows for our family.  This year began with illness and surgery.  Scott was experiencing terrible pain and the doctors misdiagnosed it.  He walked around with appendicitis for almost four weeks before a specialist rushed him into a successful surgery.  We cannot say enough about the care he received at BroMenn Medical Center in Bloomington, and will remain silent in regards to another facility.

Scott’s recovery was swift and we were able to travel to Israel-Palestine in February.  In 2014 the conference graciously allowed Scott to defer his ordination trip so that we could, instead, travel as a couple on the 2016 Ordinand Trip to the Holy Land.  It was an incredible trip not just because of the sights and sounds, but also because of the many colleagues and friends who were on the trip with us.  Not only that, but Carrie’s sister decided to join the trip.  We were blessed to be part of such an incredible experience with such amazing people!

While we were on the extension trip in Ammon, Jordan we received a call from our foster care agency that they had a placement for us.  We, obviously, were not available to take the placement and we were crushed that after such a long wait we were unable to become parents.  Just days after our arrival home we received another call for a 10 year old girl to be placed with us.  We were overjoyed (and nervous)!  She moved in the next day on March 10.  “A” would stay with us for the next five months.  The situation was not what we or the agency expected and our home quickly became unsafe.  She was moved to a more appropriate placement in August.

During that summer Scott completed his second residency (set of summer classes) in the ACTS Doctor of Ministry program.  We are blessed that his church has given him extra time for continuing education and provided him with financial support that makes this possible.  He has one more assigned sermon and an integrative paper this year, one more residency and then begins his thesis writing.  He is almost there!

Carrie also worked hard this year to grow professionally.  She completed her certificate in nonprofit management from Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University) this year.  She also traveled to Chicago for the Mediation Skills Training Institute at Lombard-Mennonite Peace Center which got her interested in a Clergy Clinic process which she began in the fall.

This fall we cancelled our membership with our TaeKwonDo (Korean martial arts) Dojang (gym).  We really enjoyed Master Soo Kim and the other students at Soo Kim Martial Arts, but the times didn’t work with our schedules and the expense was great.  Instead we have gotten a membership at the Riverplex downtown.  Between exercise, healthy eating, and better sleep (and our Fitbit tracking) 2016 has been a year of increasing health for us as a family.

Despite our busy-ness we were able to get away for some days away.  In April we took “A” to Pere Marquette.  It was especially fun to see a little girl’s face light up the first time she stayed in a motel room.  We enjoyed hiking trails and seeing beautiful river scenes as well as a ferry boat ride and an afternoon at the Saint Louis Zoo.  In late April we took “A” to the Mark Twain cave and sights in Hannibal, Missouri and went down to the Berry family lake house in Saint Genevieve, Missouri in June for the twins’ birthday.  Carrie and “A” also got to spend a few days in late June in Saint Louis with family and, then, got to go to the Lincoln sites in Springfield.

In August, after “A” moved out, Carrie took a few days off to hike the Ozark trail.  Then, in September we spent two days in Chicago on a spur-of-the-moment trip.  We also dropped off our wedding rings for resizing (and added some bling to Carrie’s ring) and we enjoyed a day at Shedd’s Aquarium.

This Thanksgiving was spent with Carrie’s family, but at the home of…Carrie’s sister’s husband’s family (confusing? Not really, we’ll take them as full-on family any time)!Thanksgiving Day, itself, was wonderful overlooking downtown Saint Louis, but we also enjoyed several days visiting with Carrie’s family in Town and Country.  Christmas is expected to be with Scott’s family at his childhood home.  We are especially looking forward to seeing Scott’s sister and her husband who will be down from Wisconsin, so Christmas is looking to be just as wonderful as our recent Thanksgiving!

As we move into the holidays we reflect on a crazy year and we realize that we have received many blessings.  We look forward to Christmas celebrations at our churches and we hope that you and yours can count as many blessings in your lives as we do in ours!

Blessings & Peace,

A New Little Girl

After paper work, classes, and paper work, lots of waiting, and…more paperwork, we became licensed to provide foster care last November. We’re excited to share that we got the phone call we’ve been waiting for! It seems as though we will be welcoming a 10 year old girl to our home tomorrow! Her room is ready and waiting!!!

This has been a long process and a long-term dream.  This is how we want family to look, for us.  We believe that every child deserves to have a safe, caring place to call home and people to call a family.  Providing this, for Carrie and I, is part of our Christian calling as a family and we hope others will join us in this work.  You can learn more about foster care here.

Also a quick note:  Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to post details about foster children or their photos on-line and it is important that others in our life will honor that legal requirement as well.

It’s not just WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.

The difference between a foodie and a food snob can be a very fine line.  But I’m going to suggest that “foodies” enjoy gourmet food yet also, hopefully, the experience of eating and the relationships that can grow around that experience.  A food snob allows their experience of food to overshadow relationships.

A foodie will likely send back something that they don’t like…in fact, if asked “Could we improve,” or “What did you not like,” by a server:  A foodie may even offer their opinion, but tastefully, I would hope.

A food snob is more likely to ruin the dining experience for all those around them with comments, sneers and rudeness.

I observed this recently in one of the restaurants on our cruise.  A person found their meal to be less-than-satisfactory and began berating the server and making obvious comments and rudeness.  It doesn’t take an etiquette coach to see that others at the table were not enjoying their meal: not because of the food, but because of the experience.

It wasn’t that this woman returned her food or that she offered her opinion it was the way in which she did it.  It wasn’t a question of what but how.

I think an experience, like this, at a restaurant has implications for other facets of our lives.

  • It is not a question of whether we sit in church and ‘hear’ a sermon.  It is a question of experiencing God and others in worship and in fellowship.
  • It is not a question of whether or not I carry my wife’s purse or help her down a step, it is whether my action is an expression of my love for her and done joyfully.
  • It is not just that my in-laws would invite me above deck to the hot tub as an obligation, but that they are truly extending an invitation that I be a part of the family.

And for all of us:

  • It is not a matter of whether we take time to sit around a common table as a family and eat, but it is a question of whether we allow our time spent together to be a family-enriching experience or not.

I hope that as we spend time with others in our lives, whether ‘family or friend,’ ‘friend or foe,’ we would think not just about what we are doing, but about how we do it!  I pray that we would all strive for life-enriching, relationship-growing, community-renewing attitudes and experiences!

Valéncia, Spain


Gardens at the Ciudad de las artes y las ciencias
9:00 am:
Yesterday was a terrific day with tours, relaxation and some time exploring on our own.  Really this cruise thing has been a better mix than I thought it would be.  This morning we came into port around 6:30 or 7am.  By the time our coffee and english muffins arrived and we moved to the balcony (at 7:15am) the ship was just finishing docking.
Carrie and I enjoyed some toast / muffins and tea / coffee on the balcony thinking that we would go eat in one of the on-board restaurants later, but, you know, by the time we had a little something and got ready for the day, there didn’t seem to be a point.  I think we’ll survive until lunch, though…  🙂
Carrie just finished getting ready and now we’re heading out.  When we signed up for excursions we decided not to sign up for a Cruiseline planned excursion here in Valencia, so we are striking out on our own.  The ship leaves at 4pm, so we have to be back by 3:30pm and can spend the rest of the day reading and relaxing by the pool.
I hope that all is well for you…wherever you may be as you read this blog!


4:00 pm:
We’re back!  It was a great day, for sure.  I was grumpy this morning because I had not slept well last night.  It wasn’t a comfort thing… i was just amped up.  Anyway, most people who know me well will know that I get grumpy when I don’t sleep enough.  So, I think Carrie and I argued all the way to Historic Valencia, but, I quickly got over myself and we had a great rest of our day.

A church tower at Plaza Lope De Vega
Our first stop was the Plaza Lope De Vega.  Then we walked to the Cathedral and Basílica, but decided that outside was enough for us, today.  We had planned to go to the Mercado Central (Central Market) but got a report from Bob and June that there were no longer vendors there (it had been converted to coffee shops and restaurants).  We decided to pass on that.

The Cathedral (above) and streets nearby (below)


The argument earlier that day was because iI wanted to go see the Cuidad de las Artes y las ciencias (City of Art and Science) which is a complex of museums in Valencia.  It caught my eye because of the Aquarium where they have and underwater observatory where you walk under the water.  Well, we had time, so we headed out in a taxi for the museums.  Once we got there we enjoyed a walk to the aquarium, but it turned out it was €30 which is about $40 (?) per person.  If we could have just done the underwater walk or if it had been less expensive we might have done it.  But as it was it would take about 3 hours and we just didn’t think we had the time if we were going to enjoy our lunch and get back to the ship with comfort.

A view of the museum campus in Valencia

In the end the time, expense, and exercise we got on the way to the museums paid off by the sights we saw.  The buildings were stunning and we enjoyed walking through the parks nearby.  If we had to do it again, we would…it’s just that we would allow time to go through the museum, too.  Maybe we would plan a day just for the museums on a return trip.
We caught a taxi to lunch.  Katie and Carrie had found a restaurant out in the countryside that was well-known for their paellas, so we met Andrew and Katie outside of town at this country restaurant.  It had been written up and, then, made further famous when Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali ate there.
We also enjoyed our meal.  It was delicious and worth the cab fares for certain!  You can take a peek at our meal, too:
 

We got back to the ship with plenty of time to spare and we are now getting set to relax.  Carrie just headed up to the pool, so I will leave you all behind and follow after her!
Blessings,