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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back on 2017

In January, Hutch and I experienced his first Monster Truck Jam, but by intermission, our eardrums had taken a beating, so we went to Wendy’s for a Frosty. After enjoying the processed cocoa, in traditional New Year’s fashion, I started exercising and ended up shedding 20 pounds, just in time for bikini season. By the time of the writing of the annual summary, I have officially returned to my fighting weight with solid plans to repeat the cycle in 2018. We finally finished the backyard treehouse, which the kids nicknamed “Odyssey.” It’s already hosted a dozen middle school Bible studies and a few “peeing for distance” contests. Our church began construction on our new property at New Garden Park, formerly a 9-acre landscaping nursery located by the airport. It’s been an incredible answer to a decade of prayers. In February, we said farewell to “The Greatest Show on Earth” and watched our last Ringling Bros. circus. Our kids became enthralled with “American Ninja Warrior” and my brother, Blake, taught Honey to ride a bike. It was a treat to get to speak at Calvary Day School’s morning chapel and be back in my old stomping grounds.

After seven long years of allergy shots, I finally got to hang up my needles and can now take a bath in pollen. The spring never smelled so good. For some reason, our kids fell in love with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” and it became the post-dinner dish-washing soundtrack for March. After the table was cleaned, we developed a routine of playing a few new card games called “Sushi Go,” “Sleeping Queens,” & “Shaboom!” Honey would highly recommend adding them to your family’s game cabinet. We sadly had to replace both our vehicles, but the Lord showed off in typical fashion and provided through dear friends. Our driveway is now home to 2 mini-vans. (Mama, I made it.) In retired grandpa fashion, my dad graciously built a loft bed for the kids’ room. They still feel like they’re sleeping in a playground. Nat discovered her true calling doing skits for the women’s retreat. She does a mean “Lil Nemo.” Our annual college guys reunion coincided with another Final Four victory for the Heels and Honey stayed up late with me on Monday night to watch Roy’s Boys cut down the nets! It was a great b-day present as I entered my final year before climbing over the hill. In May, our local toy store held their annual Lego building contest and the Hill kids surprisingly brought home the silver medal and accompanying gift-cards. They quickly spent their spoils with great delight. After seven years in Greensboro, we finally attended our first Grasshoppers minor league game, although I’m not sure the kids watched a single at-bat. Honey had her first dance recital and was on stage for 6 minutes of the 90-minute show. In May, Hutch turned 5 and sadly said farewell to his best bud, Simeon, as the Lovejoy family moved to Fayetteville. After officiating Evan and Sasha Albertson’s wedding in Asheville, Nat and I enjoyed a brief get-a-way to celebrate Mom’s Day while the kids caught turtles and tubed with the Crafts and Hills at High Rock Lake.

In June, Nat turned 37 and spent many days sunbathing chasing our kids at the neighborhood pool. We planned an adventure with ten other families to bike 17 miles on the Virginia Creeper Trail. The ManTrip tradition continued as I took a dozen high school guys camping, hiking, and jumping off waterfalls in the NC mountains. They caught frogs, cooked them over a fire, and shamed me into tasting one. Is it still called “peer” pressure if they’re 25 years younger than me? The guys got to spend a day at Carolina Point during a week of Capernaum Young Life camp. During the Hill/Craft Beach extravaganza, we took a family photo wearing all khaki. It took scouring a few thrift stores, but we were able to almost perfectly match our clothes with our skin tones as well as the sand. During the photo shoot, my sister, Abby, revealed she was pregnant and we can’t wait to meet that baby boy in January! Our summer interns, Justin and Lindsey, helped us pull off the 3rd year of Camp Booyah. The camp speaker was my college-friend, Dave Reule, and my parents came again to help with everything from community service projects to the “50’s Sock Hop.” In July, Honey turned 8 and celebrated by riding motorized animals around a mall. One of the year’s most memorable moments happened by the Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop as we watched Natalie’s mom navigate an electric zebra scooter around a crowd of middle school boys. I led a summer group for college guys where we learned ancient spiritual practices from St. Ignatius like the Daily Examen, Lectio Divina, and Imaginative Prayer. Natalie cherished catching up with her college gal pals in Cashiers, NC at their annual gathering. This year, they took a page out of the ManTrip manual and went sliding down Turtleback Falls. After losing Nat’s dad and Mamaw over the past two years, we wanted to switch up the typical Leonard family beach vacation and create some new mountain memories, so in August, we went to Boone. The kids loved Tweetsie Railroad and canoeing at Price Park. Hiking the Grandfather Mountain trail with Honey, cousin Pierce, and Uncle Nate was a few hours I won’t soon forget.  

We began our 3rd year helping run The Covenant School, and it’s been one of the most faith-building experiences of our lives. In August, Macy Heart turned 3 and started two day-a-week preschool down the hall from Hutch, in pre-K. Honey started 2nd grade, and they all adore their teachers. We experienced “solar eclipse regret” after missing our chance to witness totality, but we’ve marked our calendars for April 8, 2024. The Lord answered another huge prayer by providing help in my roles at Redeemer. Caleb Harris came on staff as our worship intern, and Melissa Lewkowicz and Valerie Sagero joined the youth team. They’ve been Godsends and feel like family. In September, Nat’s brother, Nate, turned 40 and we helped Suellen throw a surprise party in Morehead City. Natalie joined a Thursday morning Bible Study and has been encouraged pursuing Jesus alongside these women. We took a trip to Bath, NC with the Sassers and Dukes and it was a blast until Friday night around 9pm, when in a moment of klutz-like miscalculation, I slipped between the boat and the dock and broke a couple ribs. It was an 8-week long recovery, and I tried to milk it for as much sympathy as I could get, but in the end, it made me grateful for the ability to sleep in the fetal position and for every single moment I get to wrestle with our kids. In October, we made a few trips back to Winston-Salem, one for the Dixie Classic Fair and another to celebrate 60-years of Young Life in Forsyth County. My college friend, Antony Yiu, came to visit us from Hong Kong and Graham Monroe and I pulled off a surprise visit to our good buddy Peter Twaibu at Elizabeth City State University. Our Tuesday night small group continued the beach weekend tradition of 5 families under one roof. Nat and I celebrated 13 years of marriage with flu shots, soft pretzels and thrift store Christmas shopping. Honey began her first season playing basketball and thankfully she has her mama’s hops. After a year of writing and many rounds of edits, I finally finished a 60K word manuscript that is being published by New Growth Press and comes out in August of 2018. The title of the book is “Alongside: Loving Teenagers with the Gospel.” I wrote it for parents of teenagers, Young Life leaders, and anyone in youth ministry. Natalie is the real MVP as she held down the fort over many weekends while I went away to write. For Christmas, Santa broke the NO PETS rule and brought two Gerbils. "Lil Bob" and "El Loco" survived their first week in the Hill house. 

Happy New Years! -Drew, Nat, Honey, Hutch and Macy Heart

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