Lolli and Pops graciously hung with the grandkids for a week so we could head to Orlando for the Young Life staff conference. Later in the month, my NWHS Senior Guys Campaigner group went on the SNOW-MAN-TRIP, a snowboarding trip to the NC mountains that was ironically cut short because of too much snow.
Nat’s nightmare came true and we had the stomach bug for 10 days. Honey got her ears pierced, just in time for the fancy city-wide Daddy Daughter Dance. Emily Roberts, a dear friend from Denver Seminary days, came to visit from Texas. Drew “competed” at intermission of the US Olympic Table Tennis Trials and was embarrassed by a 14-year-old girl. We celebrated Mamaw Craft's 90th birthday. Nat and I had the privilege to speak at our church’s marriage retreat. We told the story of how, over the last four years, the Lord has brought incredible healing and resurrected our marriage from a place of deep brokenness.
Our nephew, Bennett Allan Sharpe, was born. We visited Abby, Allan and baby B in Charleston and enjoyed some of the greatest parks and playgrounds our kids have ever seen! My dad retired after 34 years as the “minister of fun” at Calvary. Natalie continued to foster her love for Young Adult fiction as she read “The Selection Series” by Kiera Cass, which also contributed to my lack of REM sleep due to reading lights not being turned off at a proper hour. I continued meeting with my spiritual director/life coach, Jerome Daley, who was the most influential person in my life this year.
We had our annual Tarheel guys reunion in West Jefferson and celebrated 20 years of friendship. The timing was perfect as we watched the Heels win on Saturday night of the Final Four. The championship game was sadly a heartbreaker, but Roy’s Boys are looking hungry for another shot. Our church found out the exciting news that we were going to be able to purchase New Garden Nursery and have recently closed on the property. We hope to be meeting in the new location by May, 2017.
Honey lost her first tooth. Nat lost her voice. It was the beginning of a frustrating 5-month journey. She was constantly hoarse and unable to project her voice, which made conversations quite difficult, especially at places like wedding receptions, loud restaurants, and trying to get the kids attention at the pool. We wrapped up the first year at The Covenant School and while it was way more work than we ever imagined, it was super faith-building to watch the Lord answer so many specific prayers. Hutch turned 4 and I retired as the music teacher at his preschool. Honey started her 2nd year on the swim team at Green Valley Pool. I was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church and started my 6th year on staff at Church of the Redeemer. We hired Austin Drake as our summer youth intern and he quickly became a member of our family. When he returned to Berry College in the fall, the kids quickly experienced “Austy Withdrawl.”
The guys in my Campaigners group graduated from Northwest High School and we celebrated with the ManTrip, a backpacking expedition in the Pisgah National Forest. Uncle Nate, Aunt Su, Pierce, Creed, and Selwyn came to visit us from Morehead City. The Hill-Craft beach extravaganza did not disappoint and continued the traditions of nightly homemade ice cream, crabbin’, OIB pier walks, and watching Jimmy Kessler rip his shirt off during family sing-a-longs.
Nat had a relaxing reunion with her college friends in the Hamptons. Honey turned 7 and learned to water ski on High Rock Lake thanks to Uncle Terry driving a boat like a boss. We had an unforgettable week at Camp Booyah, our second year running a camp for Anglican youth in North Carolina and Virginia. Watching teenagers encounter the love of Jesus never gets old. My parents joined us at camp and were a huge help, both with our kids and serving behind the scenes. Pops spent 3 hours microwaving 50 bags of popcorn! After camp, my mama had double knee replacement and we’re planning on her learning to water ski next summer.
Macy Heart turned 2 and began introducing herself with her full name and age. I went to a youth ministry conference in Wisconsin. Natalie continued to indulge in Young Adult fiction with Sabaa Tahir’s series, “An Ember in the Ashes.” We jumped on the Michael Phelps bandwagon and savored the summer Olympics. Mamaw Leonard was diagnosed with cancer, 11 months after Nat’s dad passed away. We were grateful to be with her for the Leonard-Ludwig Beach Week before she moved into a nursing home in Salisbury. The “freak-out moment” of the summer happened while riding the giant inflatable North Myrtle Beach waterslide. Uncle Nate and cousins Selwyn and Pierce were at the top of the slide, 40 feet high, when it began to deflate on one side and tip over. It felt like the entire beach started screaming and everything happened in slow-mo. By a miracle, everyone escaped without injury. We got our money back and used it to ride carnival rides next door, which I’m sure were much, much safer. A carny convinced Honey she could capture Pikachu at the top of the Ferris wheel, so actually, that was my biggest “freak-out moment,” wrestling my iPhone away from a 7-year old while she’s playing Pokemon Go at 150 feet.
We started building a retaining wall to make our sloping backyard more usable and create a space for our youth group to hang out as “Sunday Night Live” is held in our basement each week. The Covenant School kicked off our second year with 40 students and 6 teachers. Hutch started 4-year old preschool and Honey started 1st grade. I spoke at the Cru Fall Retreat and Macy Heart fell in love with a baby cow at the camp. The cow’s name is Chocolate and Heart prays for her nightly. Our small group has been meeting on Tuesday nights for 6 years and each September we do a weekend together at the beach. This year we were at Ocean Isle and with 16 kids, age 9 and under, in one house. Hutch almost drowned, but Charlie Heritage pulled a Hasselhoff and saved the day. We also spent a couple amazing days playing on the Pamlico River with the TCS board and families.
After 5 months with barely any voice, one afternoon in October the Lord miraculously healed Natalie. It was crazy! We’re so thankful! I adore getting to listen to her sing again, especially when her headphones are in and she’s doing dishes and singing really off-key on those Lauren Daigle ballads. Hutch had an eventful month as he learned to ride his strider bike and also punched out his sister’s 2 front teeth. Honey was so thrilled to double dip from the tooth fairy that she wasn’t even mad. While Honey lost her teeth, Hutch lost his hair. The preschool sent out the dreaded email to all parents: “We want to make you aware that one of our students has lice.” The next day the Hutch man showed up completely bald, bearing his scarlet letter. Honey got the hair bugs too and thus began “The Lice War of 2016.” After dozens of loads of laundry, hours of vacuuming, disgusting Google searches and really expensive shampoo, we finally emerged victorious from the field of battle.
After 3 years of dreaming, the backyard basketball court finally became a reality. Even more exciting than the court was the miracle that my cousin Kinsley and her husband Andrew bought the fixer-upper next door and hope to move in by the spring. We celebrated our 12th anniversary with a 34-mile tandem bike ride on the Virginia Creeper trail. The first 17 miles were so fun. The last 17, not so much. We can’t wait to go back and do it again with our kids. If you haven’t been, we can’t recommend it enough! Without a doubt, the most exciting part of 2016 was when my parents discovered Bitmoji and created personalized avatars that they now regularly use on our family’s text messaging group.
While there have been dozens of joyful highlights from this year, as I close out this letter, my heart is heavy. The news screams of devastation, plane crashes, and wildfires. Dear friends are in the trenches of broken marriages, sickness, and addiction. It is in this season of Advent that we cling to the hope of the coming Christ. We look to Jesus and see the God who cannot be seen. We fix our eyes on the One who heals the brokenhearted and brings the dead to life.
This Christmas, it’s our prayer that, no matter what trench you’re in, you would know the nearness of Christ. He’s closer than the skin on our bones.
Come let us adore Him,
Drew, Natalie, Honey, Hutch and Macy Heart
PS- Natalie would like me to include that she has also read some Adult Non-fiction books this year.
Young Life Support
I am still raising support for my role on staff with Young Life in the Communications Department. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can do so here: http://giving.younglife.org/DrewHill. Thank you!