Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Road Trippin' and the Blessing of Friendship

" Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?" 
                                                                                          CS Lewis

There are certain advantages to growing up the way our kids have. They have seen many different places and aren't very intimidated by new adventures and meeting new people. But  there are also some disadvantages to moving roughly every 3 years. I used to think that my kids just didn't have the same kind of relationships that kids who grow up in the same town for most of their childhood do. One of my favorite movies from childhood was Ann of Green Gables. It was one of the first VHS tapes I owned and I must have watched it a 100 times. There are so many wonderful things to love about the story of an orphan being adopted and raised on a little island in Nova Scotia, but I always a little envious of the friendship between Ann and Diana. Ann refers to Diana as "A bosom friend- an intimate friend, you know- a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul."  I always longingly wanted this type of friendship for not only myself, but also for Emily.

Last weekend, I realized for the first time how truly blessed Emily has been with a few dear friends from around the world. Deep abiding friendships that have stood the test of time and have been strengthened despite distance and separations.

It was Jessica's 17th Birthday and the Greenwood High Prom. On Friday the question came: "Could I please drive down and eat lunch with Jess tomorrow and spend some time with her as she gets ready for Prom?" It was on the tip of my tongue to say no, when my ever practical husband shocked me by saying she could go. What?? It's an hour away! She's never driven that far by herself! and with gas near $4 a gallon!! What was he thinking??? Perhaps he was remembering that our little girl isn't so little anymore and that at her age he drove from Birmingham, AL to Fort Jackson, SC for army basic training. Whatever the reason, last Saturday morning Emily took off on her first road trip to see one of her oldest and dearest friends. I had one condition...I wanted a picture of the 2 of them.

Emily met Jessica when she was 7 years old, just before the start of 2nd grade. We had just moved to Greenwood, SC. Looking for some fun, the kids and I went on an outing with the church we had visited the Sunday before. Jessica's Mom, Susan has truly never met a stranger and she greeted us that day as old friends, introducing the kids around and making us feel at home. Turned out they lived just around the corner from us and Emily and Jessica were going to be in the same 2nd grade class. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Music Camp 2003
A friendship filled with walking home from school, church, choir, brownies, matching ladybug overalls and days spent in each others houses giggling and being silly. Two girls who embraced their differences and loved each other; able to rejoice in the other's triumphs and grieve along with the hardships. Jessica's family was there the night we loaded the last of our belongings in the van and left Greenwood for the Philippines. There were quite a few tears that night. See, Jess also has a brother who is a dear friend of Will's. It's always an added benefit when your friends can provide playmates for your pesky younger brother.

A Final Goodbye 2005
I will never forget a few years later when everyone in Greenwood kept the fact that Emily was coming home for the summer a secret from Jessica so that Emily was able to show up on her doorstep for a sweet surprise reunion. (Also filled with a few tears)

Surprise! 2007
In the year and a half following our return to the US, I spent many days driving an hour down the road for the kids to spend time together, never going more than a few weeks without a visit. But time marches on and as we settled into a new life and Emily went off to high school and made friends in a new town, those visits got fewer and fewer. They still keep in touch though. In fact recently, Jess just had to text Em late one Saturday night  after Prom to get the scoop on the evening.

LM Montgomery writes in Anne of Green Gables that “True friends are always together in spirit." Jessica and Emily are a living example of this. A friendship build over 10 years that neither time nor distance can destroy.

at 17!
A man of many companions may come to ruin, 
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 18:24 

Emily has been greatly blessed by a few other abiding friendships. Her first "best friend" was Micaela. Their friendship started out by default when they met at the age of 3 in gymnastics and their mothers and brothers became best friends.

in 2000 at age 4
They really had no choice but to be friends since they were constantly in each other's company. At times that relationship struggled as they were so different. But through the years and with a little maturity, a beautiful friendship has developed. The girls text and Facetime on their iPods often. When we get together they laugh and giggle about times past and speak earnestly about the present and the future. Sharing hopes, dreams, and deep secrets. That friendship has been good for two young Christian women traversing the stresses of the teenage years.
on a family vacation together in 2007
On the other side of the world, living most of her life in the Philippines, is Jaina. She welcomed Emily into a new country and a new school and the life of an MK.  They became fast friends which helped ease Emily's adjustment into life in a foreign land. In July, Jaina will be visiting us for about a week while she is in the States for the summer looking at colleges. Hopefully, Emily will be able to return the favor as Jaina begins to prepare for life in America after high school.

I've come to discover that true friendship is not dependent on just living in the same town as someone for a long time. True friendship is built on certain things:

First, it loves unconditionally. "A friend loves at all times." Proverbs 17:17. Unconditionally means even when you have heard about NASCAR and Matt Kenseth until you think you might scream. Or when hurtful words are spoken. Being accepting of each others' weaknesses and imperfections

Second, it involves trust and faithfulness. "There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24) Through thick and thin, distance and time, they will be there for you whenever you need them.

Thirdly, it involves the ability to speak truth even when it hurts. Proverbs 27:6 says "Wounds from a friend can be trusted." Is there anything more precious than a friend who is willing to stick by you and tell you in love, those hard things we really don't want to hear. To illuminate our sin and call us to a restored relationship with our Savior.

 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

Who knew 17 years ago that Emily would have a good friend who goes to her high school and her church that she has known since birth. She would tell you that family doesn't count as friends, but I think she's wrong. What a blessing that 2 girls born as cousins would turn out to be the best of friends.

Cousins or Friends? Can't it be both?

Update: After posting the above blog, my friend Susan sent me pictures of a scrapbook page she made when the girls were in 2nd grade and they had on their matching ladybug outfits.

I love the precious words Susan wrote at that time:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's time for a change

In light of my last post, I decided it was time for a blog makeover. (and also because I figured out how to change it)  Allan and I started this blog in 2005, before the days of facebook, as a way to keep in touch with our family, friends, and supporters and let them see a glimpse into our new life in a new culture. What I didn't know at the time was that would become a place for me to journal and work through some of the things God was teaching me. During most of our time in the Philippines, I tried to blog about twice a week. Lots of it was goofy as we learned to adapt to living overseas and made plenty of mistakes. Some of it was serious as God changed us through serving Him in missions and our hearts broke at things that break His heart. It's also been a record of the growth of our kids over the last 7 years.

Over a year ago our mission agency closed it's books and ceased to exist and we  removed our website from the internet. Therefore, it's probably time that this blog was called something other than Philippine Mission. I could have just begun a new one, but I don't want to just start over. My life has been a journey of faith as I have traveled with God and towards God. Traversing life's peaks and valleys has shaped me into who I am and hopefully, if I let it, who God wants me to become. The last 7 years have been an important part of that shaping and becoming and I don't want to lose sight of what the Lord has taught me, but it is also time to move beyond defining my life as Philippine Mission. I want the title of this blog to reflect who I am today.

So who am I? a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend; a middle-aged stay at home mom on the brink of being an empty-nester? Yes, I am all of those things, but I want to be defined by so much more: a God seeker, passionate about and for Christ. Seeking to glorify Him in every aspect of my life, caring for the least of these, and living a life that shows His love has radically changed me.

Living Recklessly Abandoned to Christ, without care or regard for consequences.
Never holding back. 

I want this to be the motto of my life so I think it is a good place for the new name of this blog to come from. Whether I'm in the Philippines, or Kenya, or Greenville, SC, or some obscure little place I haven't even heard of yet......or  just in my own home, I want to be recklessly abandoned to the One who gave me life and gave up His life for me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I want to Live Like That

Sometimes I wonder, What's the purpose of us being here in Greenville, SC? This is not what I thought God had called us to. Didn't He have plans for us across an ocean somewhere? The last 3 years have been a struggle as Allan and I have wrestled with this issue. We have settled into a life here now, but there are times I still wonder...What do you want me to do now, Lord?

A lifetime ago, I struggled with this same question. I had a loving husband, one little baby and was quite comfortable living the "American Dream". But I knew God had called us out to live a different sort of life. I was wrestling with a change, but I didn't know what. I just knew God wanted us to step out of our comfort zone and into something different. We had talked about missions from the beginning of our dating relationship. Was this the time? What were we supposed to do? With a little trepidation, I approached Allan with the statement, "I think God is calling us to do something radical, but I'm just not sure what it is." Hoping that he wouldn't think I was crazy. I should have known that while God was working in my own heart and life, He was also working in the heart of my other half. Allan's response though was not quite what I had ever envisioned, but it was perfect.

"It's funny you should say that. I have really felt called to go to medical school and then into medical missions. It's crazy, I know. I've prayed God would take this desire away if it's not from Him, but it keeps getting stronger."

For me, this was all I needed to hear. My optimistic dreamer self jumped onto this bandwagon with both feet. My realistic husband, on the other hand, knew this was no easy feat. There were prerequisites to be taken, MCAT testing, applications to med schools where only a small percentage of applicants were accepted and then if all of those things happened there would be 4 years without a salary while he was in school. We prayed throughout the summer and slowly took the first step of faith... Biology and Organic Chemistry at a local college. We decided we would just follow this path a step at a time until God shut the door. It was something we kept just between the two of us. No need to worry the parents or for other people to think we were crazy.

We entered the fall, now pregnant with baby #2, with Allan working full time and taking classes at night. There were times of stress and doubt as we looked ahead to what the next few years would look like. Was this really God's plan? Could we do it? If he got in, the years of medical school loomed large on the horizon. How could we survive with me at home with the babies and Allan in school with no income? We knew God would take care of us if this was His plan, but there was still the feelings of insecurity and doubt.

Late in the fall, as Allan's finals drew near, I went, with my sweet baby girl, to visit my parents for a week. Mom and I worked hard to get our Christmas shopping done. One day we went to a local Christian bookstore looking for just the right gift for my brother. Mom and Emily stopped in the book section to find a book while I headed to the back to find the CD she was looking for. I quickly walked through the section of knick-knacks and art that seems to fill over half of Christian bookstores. No need to stop there. Suddenly, my eyes were drawn to a little picture hidden on the wall among the larger pieces surrounding it. It was a tiny little world map with a key and the verse:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to
harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

 It was if God had spoken audibly to me. I broke down right there in the Christian Armory. I knew then, whatever plan God had for us would be for our benefit. I bought that picture and gave it to Allan for Christmas. It has hung in a prominent place in every place we have lived ever since. 
Through the next 4 years of Med school, 3 years of residency, and our time in the Philippines, Allan and I reminded each other that if we follow the plan God has set before us, it will be for our benefit, no matter what happens. And in so many ways, it was easy to believe. God blessed us so richly, not monetarily, although we never really struggled in that area, but with the peace and comfort that comes from being in the center of His will; with His guidance and direction into residency and onto the field; with children who were excited with the idea of living in another culture; and parents and family who grieved our leaving yet were able to give us their support and blessing, placing us into God's hands and His plans. 

With excitement, we stepped out in faith and moved a world a way for what we assumed to be a lifetime..... But that's not what happened. I never dreamed 16 years ago when we started down this path that we would be living in Greenville, SC.; that my kids would be going to the local public high school. Yet, here we are making a life for our family, not in some strange foreign place, but in a culture we know well and have always lived in...the American South.  

and I struggle.... "is this right Lord? Is this where you want us? Did I miss something? Were we wrong before?" 

and at times, if I'm truly honest...... "Was I not good enough to serve you there?" 

So on an ordinary Friday, doing ordinary housework, I backed into the wall as I was vacuuming, knocking "the picture" askew on the wall. As I straightened it, those words again went straight to my heart. He "knows the plans" He has for me and His plans are for me to live a life that glorifies Him. To honor and worship Him where ever I may be that a lost and dying world can see Him through me. 

I often pray for my kids to be filled with a passion for God, to not just be good little Christian kids, but to love Him fully, to be passionate for Him; to let Him control every aspect of their lives. And I wonder, is it right to pray something for your kids that is no longer true of myself? Have I let the fact that God's direction for my life didn't follow the map I made squelch my passion for Him? I may never know why we are here in Greenville, but it's time to let go of what was and live in this moment with what He has placed before us here. To live once again recklessly abandoned to Him. 

"I want to Live Like That
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's for Dinner? part 2

Here's a little mom confession....I get tired of thinking up what to have for dinner. Everyday the family comes home in the evening expecting to be fed. I hate the question, "What's for dinner?" It seems to be one of the first questions my family asks upon walking in the door after school or work, or in the car after being picked up from practice. The kids have been known to even text me this question towards the end of the school day during 6th or 7th period. I hate even more when that question followed by a groan of displeasure over what ever I have painstakingly taken the time to think up, shop for and cook. I also know better than to ask them what they want. It is sure to be something really unhealthy and more often than not would probably involve not eating at home.

I know this is nothing new. Mothers for centuries have struggled with that age old question..."what am I going to fix for dinner this week?" My Mom, as she was meal planning when I was a kid, would sometimes ask me what I wanted to have for dinner. Although, I'm not really sure why she did because I always gave the same answer...PIZZA! To which she eventually changed her tactics and asked "what do you want for dinner? and NOT pizza". In case you are thinking that solved the problem for her, my second choice was always the same too: Betty Malone's Casserole. Now , I'm sure, you are scratching your head thinking, what on earth is Betty Malone's Casserole? It's not really a what as much as a who.

Betty Malone was a woman who went to our church when I was a little girl living in Virginia. That is about all I can tell you about her. I think she also might have been the church organist who sawed off a couple of her fingers with a bandsaw. I'm a little unsure on that point though. It may have really been 2 different women at the same church who get merged together in my head. You know how it is when you are young and memorable events happen to people your parents know. It gets a little mixed up. Anyway, when I was about 5, my mom had to have surgery and being a sweet southern woman, Betty Malone brought us dinner. I actually have no memories of her so she may have been a mean, horrid little thing, but in my mind she is a sweet woman who brought my family the most wonderful concoction. It was the 70s and the beginning of mainstream Mexican food. This casserole was full of "Mexican" yumminess that I am sure no real Mexican would ever claim as created in his country. Ground beef, refried beans, crunched taco shells, cheddar cheese, and enchilada sauce mixed with, like so many 1970s casseroles, cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup. Really authentic stuff, huh? It didn't matter that this wasn't true Mexican food, my brother and I loved it! So my Mom asked ol' Betty for the recipe and in the Miller household, for lack of a better name, Betty Malone's Casserole was born.

I'm happy to say my taste in Mexican food has developed and grown and while we eat Mexican food at least once a week, I almost never make Betty Malone's. My kids think it's good, but they would rather have tacos or some of the other Mexican dishes I make. But every now and then as I flip through my recipes, I come across an old, stained recipe card copied by myself at about age 22 when I was a young newlywed and excited about this whole what's for dinner concept. The memories remind me how much I used to love it and occasionally I decide to put it on the menu. Today was such a day. I don't think I've made this casserole in 9 months or more, but this afternoon, I made 2; one for tonight and one for the freezer.

It often causes me to wonder what ever happened to Betty Malone. Does she still live in Virginia Beach? Is she even alive 37 years later? My parents have kept up with many people from that time and place, but she isn't one of them. So, where ever you are Betty Malone, thanks for the casserole and your name lives on in my heart and my recipe book!

**You may have noticed this blog post is called "What's for Dinner? part 2" The original "What's for dinner?" post is about a different time in the life of the Gilmers and can be read here: The next time Will complains about my dinner choice, I should make him read and remember!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

What happened to my little monster?

It was a lifetime ago; long before the days of driving to dinner with friends, baby sitting on New Year's Eve and high school; long before a move across the sea to another land, even before those fun elementary homeschooling days. It was a simpler time before the pressure of SATs, grades and getting into college and a little 3 1/2 year old girl sat with a square pad of paper and a pencil. She drew alone; the Daddy off at med school, the Mommy probably in the shower or taking care of the baby brother. She meticulously drew the same picture on each piece of paper. She had a plan! While no one was looking, she hid those pieces of paper around the house, in drawers, cabinets, under the covers in the bed, any little hide-y hole a 3 year old could find. Wouldn't the Mommy and Daddy be scared when they found them.

Later that day the first one was discovered. "What's this?", the daddy asked the Mommy. The little girl could hardly contain herself, "It's a monster. Are you scared?" She giggled. Over the next few weeks, monsters turned up in all sorts of places, each one greeted with the appropriate "scared" response from the parents. They were typical of drawings by kids of that age, a round circle with eyes, a nose and jagged triangles for monster teeth, 2 stick arms came off each head and an occasional one also had 2 stick legs coming out of the bottom of the head. They were stacked together until there were 30, 35, then more than 40 little monsters. Eventually, monster findings became fewer and fewer and after a while, in an effort to clean up, the mom threw away the stack of monsters. More than a year had passed when one day the Mommy was digging through her makeup drawer and found, tucked in the back under a plastic tray, a little monster. She showed it to the little girl and the daddy and they all chuckled about the monsters before the Mommy tucked the little monster back into the drawer.

Time marched on, and the little girl grew, the family moved, then moved again overseas. The little monster moved along with the family, always living in a drawer with the Mommy's makeup. Occasionally, coming out as the Mom showed him to the Dad and they remembered that funny little girl and her "trick". One day, it came time for the family to return to the US for a year. The monster was packed up and returned with the family. The next year or so was a confusing time as the little girl became a teenager and the busyness that brings. There were a couple of moves as the family settled into life in the states. In all of this, the little monster was misplaced, forgotten and somehow lost.

For some reason, the Mom was reminded of the little monster one New Year's Eve. Perhaps it was because the Mom was looking for something in her makeup drawer or maybe it was that for the first time the little girl wouldn't be home on this night, but instead, off watching someone else's little boy. Whatever the reason, the bathroom was searched, each drawer dug through, the clothes drawers scoured and dumped, but much to my dismay, no little monster was found.

As I look ahead to 2012, I can't help but look back. How did we get here? How did time pass so quickly? Shouldn't my girl be little still?Moving into the new year, I'm excited to see what this year will bring, but it comes at a price and a little sadness. This will be the year that my youngest will learn to drive. It will most likely be the last full year my little girl will live at home. My Dad one time told me that days seem like years, but the years just fly by. I think I was about Emily's age at the time, and I understood the days seeming long as I sat in school each day. Now I truly understand fully what he meant. So my resolution for 2012 is to not get bogged down in the frustrations of each day, but to see the bigger picture, to stop and remember the "little monster" stories that happen during this year. We won't pass this way again and I want to cherish this precious time.

As for the little girl, she still likes to draw, but her pictures have gotten much better. I wish I could show you the little monster, but instead I will have to just leave you with this one drawn just this week.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Home for the Holidays

I vividly remember our first major holiday away from home, living on the other side of the world. I remember it so well because my family seems to like to bring it up and laugh about it.

It was Thanksgiving and we had been living in the Philippines for about 4 months; long enough for some of the newness to wear off. Our ministry partners were back in the states for their son's wedding and we were alone. Being that this was an American holiday and we were no longer in America, it was mostly just another typical day. The kids went to school, ministry continued, but 9000 miles away my family gathered together to celebrate their Thankfulness and stuff themselves with turkey and sweet potatoes. I had tried to talk to them on the phone earlier in the day, but with their house full and getting ready for the big event, they didn't really have much time to talk. I understood, really I did, but that evening as I sat at our table, dripping sweat in the evening heat, and eating our own turkey, I wasn't very Thankful. In fact, I burst out crying at the table. Here is why the kids and Allan like to tease, and giggle, "Haha, Remember that time you cried at Thanksgiving?" I do. I remember it- vividly; a picture imprinted on my brain. (You can read the blogs Allan and I posted about that day here: ;

Holidays came and went in the Philippines and I never cried at the table again. We made new traditions, ate with new "family", and while we made great memories during those holidays, I always had a little part of me that longed to be "home".

A few years later, it would make that first Thanksgiving and Christmas back in the States all the sweeter as we gathered around the table with our loved ones.

Each year around this time, I'm reminded of those living and serving around the world. Those Americans who have left hearth and home to bring the reason we celebrate Christmas to others. We have dear friends scattered across the globe, some of them living in countries where Christmas will go mostly unrecognized. My heart and prayers go out to them. But today my heart was touched by another group of people that will once again miss being home with family for Christmas.

The biggest export from the Philippines is her people. Filipinos leave their homeland in huge numbers in order to find work. Called OFW, Overseas Filipino Workers span the globe, in almost every country. Current numbers put that amount around 10-11 million workers, roughly 11% of the population. They are working hard and sending money back to support their families. Each year over 16 billion dollars is sent back to their homeland. Moms and Dads who can't find decent work at home, leave their spouses and kids in order that their families can have a chance at a decent life, food on the table, an education. Often educated, skilled workers take on unskilled jobs such as domestic helpers and personal service workers. Doctors become nurses because they can make more in the United Kingdom as a nurse than as a Doctor in the Philippines. College graduates perform jobs in manual labor, migrant work, construction, and fisheries in the Middle East, Nigeria, and Malaysia. The sad part is, many leave the Philippines for years without being able to return. Unlike the American Missionary, most don't get a "furlough" or home assignment. They are working and struggling to provide for their parents, children, and siblings. This year my heart and prayers also go out to them and to all those far from home and loved ones during the holidays.

CocaCola embarked on a project to help ease the pain of being away from home for a few of these Filipinos as part of their "Where Will Happiness Strike Next" Campaign. Called the "OFW Project", they surprised families by bringing their loved ones home for Christmas. Here is a video about the project. You might want to have a couple of tissues handy.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Growing Up

When I was a child, I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1 Corinthians 13:11

I knew this day was coming. It loomed on the distant horizon. In the last few months, it seems we have been rushing toward it. But yesterday it finally happened and I didn't know whether to laugh with joyous glee or to weep. As parents, we face little milestones all the time. Some are big and momentous like first steps, potty training, and beginning school. Some pass quietly by, hardly noticed, like no longer leaving on a nightlight or no longer being asked to help button up a coat.

I knew this one was coming though. Over the last 2 years, I told myself over and over; comforted myself in days of frustration that "this too shall pass". Days of walking by his room and seeing the little colored pieces scattered all over the floor. Nights of trying to walk pain free as I traversed in the dark across the minefield of his bedroom. Debates of "should I pick it up or just vacuum it up?" I just never realized that it would be an innocent question, a little casual conversation, that would have such an impact in the growing up process. Who knew that "What were you doing up in your room?" would lead to him asking to put them away. Asking to put up something he has played with almost everyday since he was a preschooler and asked for every Christmas since.

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I haven't played with them in weeks."

He's right. His days are now filled with school, football, lacrosse, drawing, friends, youth group, and of course, like most teenage boys, video games. He'd rather spend an afternoon shooting his bb gun or
playing around with the lacrosse stick out in the yard. His creativity and imagination are coming from the end of a pencil these days as he draws and creates page after page.

So there I was last night, while the room was relatively clean and he was off with the youth group, packing up bright little pieces of plastic.

"Are you crying yet?" the voice of my husband came from downstairs.

No, not yet, not then. I think maybe I was too happy to see the mess of them gone. But in the stillness and the quiet of the night, I know I will mourn the loss of what this represents; that my little boy is growing up. He is moving on, becoming a man. It's as it should be. I don't want him to stay little forever, but I will miss that sweet child filled with wonder and innocence. But for now, it's time to look forward to the man he is becoming; to the world that is opening up for him; that the time spent building, creating, and dreaming will help him to not be limited by circumstances but to look for unlimited possibilities for his future. Most importantly, it's a time for me to stop and pray that God will use him and his life in a powerful way.

For now, the Legos are stored away next to the box of Star Wars action figures. Hours of building, creating, imagining, dreaming are up on a high shelf in his closet waiting for another generation to come along and enjoy the brief moment that is childhood.
Star Wars Legos for Will's 10th Birthday in 2007

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Beginning again and giving them wings

Hard to believe that I haven't posted to this blog in well over a year. It used to be such a big part of my life. While it was a way to keep everyone posted of our life in the Philippines, it also was my journal of life, joys, and struggles. So even though no one ever probably checks it anymore, I thought I would start again; just for me.

The last time I blogged, both kids were still homeschooling and we were just settling into the new normal of life in Greenville. How can so many things change in a year? Emily started public high school a few months later and got her license to drive in the fall. Will made great friends through a homeschool PE class and began to not miss the Philippines quite so much, shot up 6-7", dropped his voice an octave or two, and today I sent him off to his first day of public high school where he is playing tackle football on the 9th grade team.

Here is a little now and then shot of the kids from long ago and today:
Kindergarten and Second Grade

Today: Freshman and a Junior
Sending them to public high school has been a step of faith. Questions and disapproval have come from some of our homeschool friends, while great support and encouragement have come from others. I understand the questions, I really do and I know this isn't the path that God calls every Christian to walk. I would like nothing more than to hold them close and protect them from all the bad things of the world, but Allan and I strongly believe that God has called us to be in the world, but not of the world. How can they learn to stand on their own 2 feet, secure in Christ, if we don't help them through with stretching and spreading their wings and learning to fly.

Last month, Will and Emily left Allan and I alone for 2 weeks while they had a blast at camp. It made for some deep thinking and praying on my part as I got a taste of the coming school year.The following is a letter written to Will during that time.

Dear Will-
I know you are having a great time, but since you've been gone, I've been thinking about a lot about life and about you and Emily growing up. Going off to camp and going off to school are big things in your life right now. It's a time when you step out from the familiar and the comfortable and into a situation that makes you vulnerable, exposed to the world. Things may be going really good right now and I'm glad, but I know life isn't always easy. No matter how hard your dad and I try, we cannot keep you safe and sheltered forever. We cannot save you from evil, from the bad intentions of others, from those who don’t care what happens to you. As hard as we try to protect you, people will discourage you, fight against you, make life harder for you, be mean to you. We would love to hold you tight and never let the world have a chance to change you, to hurt you.

But we can't.

What can do is pray really hard. We ask God to save you and protect you. We seek His paths for you, even when it seems those paths may be filled with pain and hurt. We rejoice with your triumphs and cry with you when the disappointments come. The world won’t always make sense to you, but we are here for you, to help guide and direct you to the One who can heal all hurts and give all wisdom. We will help you find true joy in life through good things that God desires.

When the rain and storms of the world pound you,and they will, we cannot stop it. But we will hold you. We will brace ourselves as a family and hold tight to the promise that you belong to God first and then us. You will always be ours and all the kisses and hugs and laughter that we share will only make this trip through life that much better. I'm so proud of the man you are becoming. Of the strength as a man you are beginning to display. So many changes will come as you move into high school this year. I pray you will remember to keep God first and that you can always come to us no matter what.

There is a song by Sidewalk Prophets that I love that always makes me think of you. I wish I could write as eloquently as this, but These ARE the Words I would say...

It's Three in the morning,
And I'm still awake,
So I picked up a pen and a page,
And I started writing,
Just what I'd say,
If we were face to face,
I'd tell you just what you mean to me,
I'd tell you these simple truths,

Be strong in the Lord and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say,

Last time we spoke,
You said you were hurting,
And I felt your pain in my heart,
I want to tell you,
That I keep on praying,
Love will find you where you are,
I know cause I've already been there,
So please hear these simple truths,

Be strong in the Lord and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say,

From one simple life to another,
I will say,
Come find peace in the Father,

Be strong in the Lord and,
Never give up hope,
You're going to do great things,
I already know,
God's got His hand on you so,
Don't live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don't forget why you're here,
Take your time and pray,
Thank God for each day,
His love will find a way,
These are the words I would say

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Happy 15th Birthday, Emily!

Last week, Emily reached a milestone....She turned 15. She is excited that she got her beginner's permit and is learning to drive. Over the weekend, we were hanging out in her room, when I noticed she had a picture on her desk of herself and her cousin, Laura taken on her 8th birthday in 2003. Back then they were so enamoured with makeup.

They still love to wear makeup. I'm just glad they have learned how to put it on. The picture below was taken at Mellow Mushroom where we celebrated her birthday. These 15 year olds are becoming such wonderful young ladies. Next year they will be attending the same high school. I'm glad they are not only cousins but the best of friends.
Here are a couple pictures I took of Emily driving today. She drove the two of us around town shopping for summer clothes. I've loved spending time teaching her how to drive. She has done so well. There have only been a couple heart pounding moments. Hard to believe she's been driving less than a week.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Valley of Vision

Lord High and Holy, Meek and Lowly
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is t possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be sen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;

Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.

A Puritan Poem

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Snowboarding, Luge, Figure Skating, Skiing; watching these events this week has really put us into the Winter Olympic Spirit. Since the kids are out of school for winter break, we have been able watch the games late into the night. To experience a little of that first hand, yesterday we spent the day on the slopes less than 2 hours from us at the Cataloochee Ski Ranch. With all the snow this winter, the conditions were near perfect with all lifts and runs open. The kids had a great time and are getting really comfortable on the slopes. The only thing that would have made the day better is friends to share it with. Unfortunately, the cousins and our church friends are in school this week and none of our homeschool friends were able to join us.
The temp on the mountain was 13 degrees with strong gusting winds. It was freezing! In order for the kids to be able to stay out for long periods of time, we had to buy neoprene face masks. The kids joked that they looked liked bank robbers, but it did the job of keeping their faces warm. I noticed most of the skiers and snowboarders had similar things to protect their faces.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow day #2

Total snow accumulations seem to be just over 4 ". Enough to cover everything completely and be beautiful. I am inside thawing out while the kids are sledding, rolling, and trying to make a snowman. It's a little powdery so I don't think they are being very successful on that front. Here's some pics from this morning:

On a snowy walk with my Valentine
Allan by the Enoree River
Em and Me!
Mags and Will love to romp in the snow
Bob! by Will
Emily trying to sled
A final shot of Maggie

Friday, February 12, 2010


All winter the Gilmer family has been waiting and hoping for snow. Living at the base of the Smokies means that we often get teased by forecast snow that only falls just north of us. While Asheville and Flat Rock are probably grateful this southern storm is mostly passing them by we are rejoicing that it is far enough north to include us.

Maggie, our golden retriever, particularly likes snow. It makes her just a wee bit hyper and crazy. It's kind of funny for a Filipino born dog to love cold and snow so much. This afternoon she stood at the back door barking at the flakes falling until I let her out to scamper around in the downfall. A few weeks ago we had a minor ice storm and she spent the afternoon out with the kids sledding down the steep hill in our side yard. Even when the kids were finished, she continued to try and slide down on her belly.
After about 1 1/2 hours, we already have an inch and snow is expected to continue until the morning. While we won't get near the amounts that the mid-Atlantic states have gotten this past week, we are hoping for 6-8 inches. That will probably be a bit too much to expect.
For now, I am just sitting by the window watching the big flakes fill up my deck while listening to my new favorite album by Sidewalk Prophets. Too bad the large flakes don't show up in this picture.
Maggie is passed out by the fireplace with the gas logs burning. She's probably dreaming of the big fluffy white stuff.
I love winter! Got to go play in the snow with Will!
Updated Pictures:
These pictures were taken just after 5pm. The clinic closed so Allan came home from work while we were outside. By 8:00pm we had at least 3" and it has continued to snow all evening. The kids can't wait to get out again in the morning! I'm sure we will have more pics tomorrow.
Maggie loves to stick her face down into the snow and push it around.
I have no idea what she's doing.
Emily in front of the new house.

About Us

Allan & Ginger Gilmer, Philippine Mission P.O. Box 2035 Antipolo, Rizal 1870 Philippines