Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas from the B’s!

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The highlight reel of our 2015 is unbelievable. Between the four of us, we’ve hit Europe, South America, Mexico, and the U.S.A. What a crazy year!

David and Joey embarked on a “rite of passage” trip to the United Kingdom in honor of Joey’s 16th birthday. He’s quite the young man: driving, taking college classes, and even teaching. Joey planned the entire UK trip, including Scotland, London, Dover, and sunrise at Stonehenge on the Solstice. It was the trip of a lifetime. We even ended up on Google Street View on Downing Street!

While the older boys were in Europe, Christy and Will took a cruise to Mexico. It was a laid-back trip full of sun, sea, sand, and scrumptious treats. Will planned the excursions and even convinced Christy to let him bring a friend. He’s smart, funny, handsome, persuasive, and compassionate.

David and Christy went to Brazil for the fifth ustime. This was their 5th chapel-build, with plans to return again in 2016. Each trip is a unique and beautiful experience full of miracles and adventure. These trips have been so incredible that in 2016 all four of us are planning to go! We have no idea how the $$$ will work out, but our generous friends, family, and God have always helped get us there.

 

There’s so much more to say… Joey is looking at colleges and dreaming about MIT. Will is falling in love with the art of writing. Christy loves impacting lives as a science teacher. David is attending seminary and was licensed by the church. He even performed a wedding. God continues to prove the depths of His love and His sense of humor!

Our holiday prayer is that your lives are rich with the fullness of life with God.

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Stumbling across serenity

After we ordered dinner and paid, the waitress said “You can’t eat here. Take away only, love.”  We had been on our feet all day. I was hungry. Like a hippo. Carrying our dinner around Greenwich looking for a park bench wasn’t my idea of a relaxing meal.

“Let’s head back up to the pier.” It was just a few blocks away. Once there, we spilled IMG_5363ketchup on our shirts and mustard on our jeans while balancing the burger and chips on our laps. But the breeze of the Thames was relaxing and refreshing. And then…there was the sky. Peeking through the clouds and reflecting off the river…it was more gorgeous than we expected or could have imagined. We accidentally found a hidden gem of beauty and serenity.IMG_5374

We were in the UK for 9 days. Of all the unbelievable things we saw, this was my favorite moment. Stumbling across serenity. That’s how life can be. We plan, prepare, dream, and build. Then life reveals its own unexpected surprises.

So when your plans don’t go quite how you intended, look around for unexpected beauty. There isn’t always a silver lining…sometimes it’s golden.

Stonehenge, sunrise, solstice!

IMG_4879The summer solstice is the biggest day of the year at this ancient “Wonder of the World.” Our colorful tour guide (a whimsical fellow who was a writer and poet when he wasn’t a guide) informed us that more than 40,000 people were expected that day. He had done the coveted “double shift,” leading a tour at sunset late in the evening followed by sunrise on the solstice.IMG_5618

“You can feel the vibes!” the Bard of Bath told us, with a voice equal part reverent whisper and jubilant squeal. He also told us he won the title of “The Bard of Bath” in a writing contest years ago. Personally, I believe him.

Most of our fellow sunrise watchers were definitely feeling the effects of something beyond everyday reality. The atmosphere was vibrant and chaotic.

It was impossible to remain inside the inner circle of stones. Although the sea of humanity was fluid IMG_4886and welcoming, the chaos was virtually impossible to navigate. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t establish a solid claim on any patch of ground in the inner ring. We allowed the tide to wash us just outside the inner ring and stood firm at the base of a gigantic monolith. It was the perfect vantage point to watch the creator paint a masterpiece in the heavens.

The crowd was a strange mix… there were tourists and families just like us. There were a few people dressed in full druid (or wiccan) garb, exuberantly cheering and chanting. Joey snapped a picture of Gandalf. Just after sunrise a middle aged man with a saxophone started playing jazz standards while leaning on a stone. Most people seemed to be there simply for the party. For them it had been a long night, full of thrills and mood altering substances (from beer to Monster to “other things”). They were trying to hang on for the grand finale. Most made it, too. Others slept through sunrise wrapped tightly in a blanket, oblivious to the thousands of pairs of feet trampling by mere inches from their slumbering heads.

The morning forecast called for overcast skies but no rain. The cotton ball clouds stretched all the way to the horizon, but then broke. Right where the sky touched the ground, there was a big enough opening to let the brilliant rays from the rising sun break through and dance off the clouds. For a full hour before sunrise the heavens were full of brilliant oranges, purples, pinks, reds, and yellows. And then…sunrise.

That’s when things got really weird. Someone at Stonehenge on the solstice probably saw a glimpse of the sun. We, however, did not. After the stunning pre-dawn show, as soon as the sun was above the horizon, it was behind the clouds. All the color drained from the sky and the world turned a colorless gray.

We wandered around the post-dawn monochrome field and stones for a few minutes. Maybe we were wondering if the sun would break back through in spectacular fashion. Maybe we realized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we weren’t quite ready for it to end. Once the crowd began to disperse, the chill really set in. As we made our way back to the bus, the Bard was talking again about vibes and burial mounds. History and harmony. We certainly experienced both. It was unforgettable and unrepeatable.

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Bump

I’m supposed to be hanging in the sky over the Atlantic Ocean about now. We should be smoothly gliding the jet stream on our way to London.

Our incredible journey hit its first bump before we even left home. About an hour before we were going to leave our house, we received an ominous text. “Your fight has been delayed one hour.” If everything went perfectly, that would give us 20 minutes to make our connecting flight in Detroit. If they made up time in the air and if everything went perfectly, we might just make it. But probably not.

After a few hours of scheming, two phone calls to Delta, and one fruitless round-trip journey to the airport, we managed to get on a different flight. Instead of arriving in London at noon on Monday, we won’t get there until 7AM Tuesday. And we won’t be flying through Detroit.

Instead of sleeping in a cramped seat hurtling over the Atlantic at 600 miles per hour, we rented Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. It’s almost like being there. 

Yes, there is a life lesson in all this. When life hits a bump, keep going. Even though the adventure was delayed, all hope isn’t lost. The impeccable planning that went into the trip has a “buffer” day built into it. Even if we end up missing a few things that were on the list, we are still going to make it to Stonehenge. We’re still going to the London Eye, the Tower of London, and the highlands of Scotland. Don’t panic. Keep calm and carry on.

Tomorrow is a new day.

The trip. Part One

It’s time to go. I’ll be in London tomorrow.IMG_4121

A few years ago I hatched a plan. It was crazy. Extravagant. Audacious. Inspired by my friends Walker and Mark, with a little help from a couple of experiences with “Raising a Modern Day Knight,” I decided to take each of my sons on a father/son rite-of-passage “welcome to manhood” adventure.

The rules were simple. The year they turn 16, we would take a father/son trip anywhere in the world. They would be the “Team Leader,” taking on the responsibility of planning the trip, setting the itinerary, and making sure we got great deals. I would play the role of adviser and angel investor.IMG_3642

He was so little when the plan was hatched. Where did the time go? The day for the trip is here, the adventure has quickly turned from fantasy to reality.

I’ve heard “must be nice” comments about our trip from others. Ten days in the UK? Sunrise at Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice? Overnight train to the highlands of Scotland? They’re looking at the finished product. They are ignoring the humble beginning.

 

Here are a few behind the scenes key points:

  1. Get intentional. Unforgettable things rarely happen on accident, particularly good ones. Make the decision. Write it down. In my case, it was a decision to do something meaningful, memorable, and significant with my sons before they left the house. It’s not just about one trip either, it was a decision to be intentional about fatherhood.
  2. Make a reasonable plan. Because of what I do, how I’m compensated, and the lifestyle we live, I knew that “anywhere in the world’ was a reasonable plan for us. We can’t do it every year, but with enough warning, we can make “anywhere” happen. Not everyone can. That’s okay. There are mind-blowing sights within a couple of days drive of where you live, no matter where you live. A rental car (or van) is more affordable than an airline ticket. As long as you ditch the electronics, a lot of bonding can happen on the road. The adventure is in the journey, not the destination.
  3. Think long-term and take baby steps. Sunrise at Stonehenge on the solstice doesn’t sound reasonable. It isn’t–if it’s an impulse. With a couple years of warning, though, amazing things are possible. Cut back on the premium TV channels and funnel that money into a savings account. Tax refunds or bonuses? Don’t buy that 50-inch TV or the fishing boat…put it into the dream account. Twenty dollars a month adds up to nearly $500 in two years. Every little bit helps. You have to think long-term.
  4. Adjust as necessary. In my head, my son would’ve been a project manager. I wouldn’t have done anything. He would have had budgets and spreadsheets. There would have been multiple options, all color-coded with their respective strengths highlighted in yellow and weaknesses highlighted blue. He would’ve worked a job (preferably for a company he started himself) to help pay for the trip. But one thing I learned through this process…he already works hard. He earned straight As in school, held parts in multiple dramatic productions, learned three instruments, played in two bands, and taught himself how to program. I wouldn’t ask him to drop any of that to start a lawn mowing business. My expectations were too high. So I adjusted. I started off putting the responsibility for driving this project entirely on him. When I made it a “we” project instead, things came together quite quickly. I scheduled a weekly meeting with him. During our meeting, he’d share what he had found and what direction he was leaning on important decisions. I’d offer advice and give him goals for the next week. It worked beautifully. In hindsight, it was exactly how things should have been running all along!

And now, we’re about to embark. Two parts of the the family are headed across the pond while the other two remain domestic. The adventure begins.

“I don’t remember getting older…. when did they?”

The Word: 2015

When my friends pick a word for the upcoming year, they’re very inspiring. Freedom, change, refresh, create, help, adventure. Wow. I’ll take all of those!

IMG_9200That’s not what’s hitting me this year. Usually I wrestle to find just the right word. The potential is enormous. A new year brings new possibilities. A blank canvas. This year I didn’t wrestle. One word came to me loud and clear. I’ve let it bounce around for a while and it hasn’t transformed into something more marketable. So here it is.

LEAN.

I know…it sounds like a weight-loss goal. Bear with me, though.

Lean – (adjective) efficient and with no waste.

Lean Household. This year is a good time to simplify. As a family, we’ve been fortunate. This has lead to a level of comfort that has started to become uncomfortable. Maybe this will be like the old “year of jubilee” and will give our house a chance to rest by purging the excess contents which also reducing the intake of new stuff.

Lean – (adjective) thin, especially healthily so

Lean Faith. It’s impossible to have too much faith. But “lean faith” doesn’t mean “less faith.” It involves stripping away the cumbersome excesses that can build up around our spiritual lives. This year will be an exploration of the essentials of my faith. And then I will cling to that with everything I have in me while letting the rest go.

Lean – (verb) cause something to rest on or against.

Lean community. This is y’all. I’m a lone wolf by nature. It’s tough to depend on others. But this year… this lean year… you’ll find me learning to lean on those I love and trust. That’s what community is for. It works the other way, too. I’m hear with an ear, a shoulder, a word, and a back. I’m ready to lend them out.

This year we’ll lean on God and each other while living life the way it was intended to be lived.

A Christmas List

We all have things we’d like in our lives. Places to go, people to see, and adventures to have. A friend of mine calls these “bucket thoughts.” When we write them down, they transform into bucket lists. Once written, incredible things happen. As 2014 comes to a close, here is a peek at our lists.


Will’s List:

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  • Become a Piano wizard (check!)
  • Ride a bike everywhere (check!)
  • Catch a Harris’s Hawk on my arm (check!)
  • Watch classic Twilight Zone (check!)
  • Pull multiple all-nighters (check!)
  • Read Lots of books (check!)
  • Blow stuff up (check!)
  • Caribbean cruise (not yet!)

 

Joey’s List:IMG_4631

  • Become a guitar hero, join a band (check!)
  • Get Driving Permit (check!)
  • Mission trip to Belize (check!)
  • Invent stuff (check!)
  • Go to prom. Dance. (check! oh yeah!)
  • Washington D.C. (check!)
  • Read Sherlock Holmes (check!)
  • Go to England (#soon)

 

Christy’s List:IMG_7290

  • Visit the floor of the Grand Canyon (check!)
  • Fill young minds with science, math, and character (check!)
  • Help 2 kids get driving permits (check!)
  • Help a kiddo graduate high school (check!)
  • Drive a jet ski (check!)
  • Touch the ocean on a beach in Brazil (check!)
  • Go to Jamaica (next year!)

 

David’s List:

  • Take pictures, tell stories (check!)
  • Secure the interwebs (check! Ongoing…)
  • Brazil, Vegas, Branson, Houston, Dallas (check!)
  • Chaplain at the State Fair (check!)
  • Start Grad School (check!)
  • Publish a book (check!)
  • Ride in a helicopter (check!)
  • See Stonehenge (See you next solstice!)

 

It’s definitely been an awesome year! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Bouchards