The challenge in writing an account of what we have done, is that I’m afraid that I’ll leave out important people and experiences. We have been abundantly blessed during these last several months and I have to start somewhere. Notably, we were blessed while packing up our home in North Carolina.

It’s hard to describe the amount of things that we had accumulated, all wonderful and fun and enriching things. The barn alone was full of handy little gadgets, purchased painstakingly on eBay or Southern States, everything of which seemed valuable. It was very hard for me to sort out. It took months for me (with help) to go through all of our things and decide to part with some of them. This was a very good exercise in identification, as I counted myself alien to as many material things as I could, acknowledging that I am identified with Christ and my inheritance in heaven, and that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11). Now these things and this home had proved to be a lot of fun for us, and we had received them as gifts from God for our pleasure from his abundance. But it was difficult trimming it down to a reasonable level. Very difficult. I had help with this, from my homegroup girlfriends, and from Cassie and Andrea Bollinger, who took and distributed a lot of stuff for me. Later, Kate Sasser took on a lot as well.

We divided all our remaining things into Rubbermaid bins labeled either MD (for Maryland and the PC), or Durham (for when we move back to North Carolina), and got a storage unit for our Durham stash. Also, Gary and Sharon Michels kept a stash of our outdoor things, as well as some last minute help from Mark and Glenda Arnold. People adopted our beloved hens. Mark Schlax brought over his trailer at the last minute and whisked away the mowers and wheelbarrows and even the basketball hoop. Nice.

Things are things, after all. On the other hand, our homegroup was a holy experience. It was an honor to be associated with such inspiring, faithful, and humble people. Over the couple of years that we were a part of it, I was acutely aware of God’s grace overflowing in our little community. You could see it in the affection that disparate people developed for each other, in the humble confessions and sensitive consciences, in the effort to emulate strengths and give help to the weak, in the hospitality and devotion to scripture, the Spirit-filled prayer, the growing warmth within marriages, the willingness to modify cultural impulses in order to honor God in parenting. I was consistently impressed furthermore with the high level of talent and virtuous generous character that God poured into our homegroup to demonstrate his glory.

I remember the night I went to my first homegroup leaders’ dinner and they gave me a binder stuffed with resources for a homegroup leader’s wife, to help her to meet all the different responsibilities which accompany the position. It had a label on it which indicated it was the first book – like there was at least one more binder stuffed with even more directions. Well, I’ve got to tell you that God came to my rescue because the women of our homegroup did all the work (hosting meetings, baby showers, meals for the sick, refreshments schedules, meeting schedules, and more), and I never really needed my binder. I did pray for those women, and I feel like God really answered my prayers. But while growth and community happened while we were there, it seemed to happen without our effort. It was a very refreshing experience from beginning to end, and very difficult to leave.

I remember when the family was gathered in our living room while Eric was telling the children that we were going to leave our farm and move to Maryland for Pastors’ College. Katie had the strongest immediate reaction: “No, no, Daddy, don’t do this thing!” It was kind of ironic because Katie had the least affection for the farm (not wanting her feet to get dirty) and the most to gain through the move (more friends, fewer farm chores). But Katie is a conservative soul, and likes things to remain the same. As her parents, we knew she would be happier and more personally fulfilled as we moved, but she could not see it right away. I know that that is how it is with God and me, but as the years go on, I have increasing confidence that losing my treasures (like the homegroup) is no real loss, because God is guiding me and caring for me. It’s intriguing to imagine that we will see the miracles that we saw in our homegroup multiplied in our life. There is no need to grab hold of God’s Spirit. He’s on the move, and you can’t make him stay anyhow.

We had some last minute difficulties selling our house. Well, there were some difficulties which were overcome. For example, there was a surefire plan to build an airport across the intersection from our house. Ours would have been the closest house in the takeoff/landing zone. Now, a bucolic little hobby farm might just lose its appeal if you kept thinking about a plane crashing into it on one hand, or consider the noise on the other. So, God put a new chancellor into place at UNC and he listened to the constituency, and cancelled the airport just in time to put the house on the market. Bonus.

But then, at the last minute, during final inspections, we found out a couple of bad things about the septic system. First of all, we found that it had never been qualified for a four bedroom home, and second of all, it was in total failure. So, we had to install an entirely new system. There were a couple of issues which required us to step up and honor God with integrity, so it was a spiritual experience in the end. Also, it was a pleasant surprise that our real estate agency also demonstrated integrity and helped us with the cost.

Just before we left, we had a party to say goodbye to everyone. It’s was a rockin’ good time. There was an interesting dimension to that day. For about a year and half Eric had been dealing with a personal catastrophe relating to a severe and tragic allergy to beef and pork. After a six month fast from those tasty treats, his allergist pointed out that his IgA’s (apparently a measure of histamine response) had fallen dramatically, so Eric decided to cautiously reintroduce beef to his diet one day each week. So, at his going away party, Eric had a burger. Later that night, he went into anaphylactic shock again (the third time). It was a going away party in more ways than one.

So, we packed up our stuff and left our home and our homegroup and got ready to hit the road. So many people came and helped us pack up, especially our faithful homegroup. It was exhausting. We drove up to Maryland on June 29, arriving at night. Well, when we got here to this lovely little townhouse, there was a crowd here to meet us. There was a large group from the church (from a caregroup in the church dedicated to caring for us), and they helped us unload the entire truck in record time. I was especially impressed with all the helpful boys who came. One older woman, Beth, watched Adam (sleeping in his carseat) in the van so I could direct some of the unpacking. A lovely woman, Amy Merryman, brought brownies and sodas, and more importantly, little girls. After my daughters had met her daughters, they were able to tell all listeners on our subsequent travels the names of all their new friends. This meant the world to them.

We slept the night in Maryland, and then left all our things here and drove to Rhode Island the next day. There we visited with old friends and saw family. There was one wonderful moment when I was out on the Kickemuit River quahogging with my sistas, and my daughter Katie went for the first time and Jennifer Ostrander too, who had the nerve to take off her water shoes so she could feel the quahogs more easily. Maybe I know too much about the river to (ever) take off my shoes, but I give that girl credit. She’s an adventurer! Magnificent meals, parties with cousins, visiting old friends – it was wonderful.

Then we traipsed off to Niagara Falls with the kids, which was tremendous. Then we drove to Chicago and the little girls, on a big adventure together to take the empty luggage cart back down to the lobby, decided to jump up and down in the elevator and break it, and get stuck while Mom and Dad looked for them frantically. Then we drove up to Wisconsin for Eric’s father’s family reunion. We went to a church there called “Sovereign Grace Church” and although it wasn’t a Sovereign Grace Church, it was great. Then we went to the Great Wolf Lodge at the Wisconsin Dells, which was a blast. Then we drove to Indiana to visit our good friends, the Slonims, who are all grown up and wonderful and we had a fantastic time there. Then we finally made the final trip back here to Maryland!

It took us a long time to unpack all our boxes, get the beds set up, and get the school books organized, but it was a great feeling. We were warmly greeted by everyone here at the church and the Pastors’ College staff and the neighborhood. The kids were extremely happy with friends coming out of the woodwork to play. Emma mastered the bicycle right away and I couldn’t keep the kids in the house. The neighborhood had a movie night and the kids started producing musicals and inventing clubs and baking from morning to night. We joined the Montgomery Village Foundation and began to go to the swimming pool on a regular basis.

Now since my kids had been living on a farm for years, they had scant opportunity to practice and develop certain values and disciplines associated with spending hours and hours unsupervised in a neighborhood. So, neighborhood living really opened our eyes to some parenting work that had to be done, and we are on the job. Our conviction that we had work to do was only punctuated by a sermon by Joshua Harris from Proverbs where he pointed out that the world does not have only one “talk” with your child, and then retreat. It’s a constant conversation.

The first PC family to arrive (aside from two families who already lived here) was Jon and Anna Morales from Florida. They came with their two children, and Anna about to give birth. We became very close (they live two doors up in our townhouse) and watched their children on the night Anna had baby Piper. It is sweet to watch how close God can draw us together when we are all in the same proverbial boat.

As each PC family arrived, we were able to greet many of them on some level and we could tell right away that, from a social perspective, that the year was going to be one big party. Eric’s classmates are so interesting and entertaining!

In August some of the worship team from our home church in Apex came to visit us because they were at a worship conference here. It was a wonderful time, even though they didn’t bring any of their wives. I hadn’t realized how much I missed home and think that the people at home are better than everyone else in the world. That was an eye-opener.

Eric took Duncan and Meagan to the Covenant Life Church youth retreat and they had a tremendous time. They met a lot of people, were touched by the sermons, and felt that it was “an amazing display of God’s glory.” They seem to be genuinely changed by the experience.

Also in August, PC launched the year with a fancy schmancy ladies’ luncheon. It was very elegant and impressive and we all felt much prettier and classy that afternoon. I was struck by how much work went into every detail, and how generous these people, whom I had never met, were being to me.

And then there was PC orientation, which was a big affair. They had the children divided up by families, in groups, so they could stay together, but meet new friends. After a morning of classes and icebreakers (while the kids played games and made crafts), we were treated to a wonderful luncheon which ran for hours. They had a clown and balloon animals and all kinds of fun and delicious food. Then, when we got our car, we found that it had been thoroughly cleaned, inside and out. Detailed. Now that was no small service. So you can just see that there are scores of people, people we do not know, who are pouring care into our lives and welcoming us warmly.

One day in the late summer, Betsy and Gary Ricucci just stopped by for a visit, and stayed for lunch. Now they wrote the book on marriage, Love that Lasts, so I tried to listen very carefully. Every time I hear them speak, I pay careful attention. Our home pastor, Phil Sasser, said that their pastoral care would be the highlight of our year. The thing I hear most valued in their speech is humility. Since I started out the year determined to be healed and improved in whatever way God would help me in both humility and gentleness, I think that Phil was right and that I have a lot of wisdom to gain from the Ricuccis.

At the end of the summer, we were also faced with a delightful surprise. We theorize that our strategies were tripped up by the stress of moving and travel, and beginning a new thyroid medication dose. While we probably wouldn’t have chosen to have another baby just now, well, we didn’t prevent one effectively, and so God’s generosity to me has overflowed. We don’t know the gender yet, but last week I saw an ultrasound of the little baby and heard his/her heartbeat. We’ll probably find out in another month and a half. The baby is due on April 13th next year.

I’ve had a couple of wonderful opportunities to visit with my sister Anncy, who lives very close, just north of Baltimore. I’m sure I’ll be able to spend some time with Kenny and Laura, who are also here in Frederick, Maryland.

Welcome to the Holter’s Blog!

Duncan here- Dad’s having me set up our family’s blog! So far, I’ve gained access to the WordPress admin page, set up a new theme, and added a stylized family portrait to the page header! Pretty nifty, huh? Check up on this site to hear family news!

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