Three Fall Birthdays

Well, 2023 is here, but I already have a throwback to 2022.

Levi and Zoe celebrated their 16th and 11th birthdays in October, and Silas celebrated his 12th birthday in November. If you are wondering why you never get invited to birthday parties at the Drake household, it is because our birthday parties involve sitting around the table as a family and giving each other a hard time. We do celebrate birthdays, but they are simple, low-budget family affairs in the Drake family.

Here are a few pictures from the fall birthdays (except for Marsha’s (October 3), as she is not much for being the center of attention, even on her birthday)…

Christmas Pics

I love Christmas time and am already sad that it is over. Well, almost over (we still get to sing some of the great Christmas hymns of praise in our upcoming Sunday morning service with our church – praise the Lord!). Over the past couple of weeks, though, I have loved time with family, including our amazing church family. God has been so good to us. To Him be all the glory!

Here are some picture highlights from the past couple of weeks…

Joy because…

On January 24, 2018, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Philadelphia to play the Eagles in the NFC championship game. Because the game was played on a Sunday evening and we had a special event with our church, I did not watch the game, except for the first drive. In that first drive, the Vikings marched down the field and got a touchdown, taking an early 7-0 lead, and I remember thinking as I headed into our church’s fellowship hall, “My favorite team might be going to the Super Bowl!

I was excited. You see, the Vikings were, at that time, 0-5 in NFC championship games since they had last made it to the Super Bowl in 1976. Yes, zero Super Bowl appearances in my lifetime.

Well, if you know much about the National Football League, you know the Vikings are now 0-6 in NFC championship games since last making it to the Super Bowl two years before I was born. In that aforementioned game back in 2018, the Vikings went on to get destroyed by the Eagles 38-7. Yes, that is correct – the Vikings scored on that first drive and then got outscored 38-0 the rest of the way. Ouch!

Incredibly hopeful heading to our church’s event that night, I was sorely disappointed when I later learned the Vikings were getting demolished. Such is the life of a Vikings fan. Maybe this year will be different, though! That is, after all, what I have been saying almost every single year my entire life. Maybe this is the year!

Looking back on those rare glimpses of hope – including the 1998 season that ended with the Vikings going 15-1, entering the playoffs as heavy Super Bowl favorites and then losing in overtime in the NFC championship game after the team’s previously-perfect-on-the-season kicker missed a seemingly easy game-sealing field goal in the indoor Metrodome toward the end of the fourth quarter – none of those glimpses of hope ended with joy. None.

Why did those seemingly joyous and hopeful seasons not end in joy? Because they ended in disappointment.

Truly, that is how Christmas would be if not for the cross. We would not be celebrating the birth of Jesus if not for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Without the cross, Jesus’ birth would be like the last six NFC championship game appearances for the Vikings – an exciting moment that only failed to bring joy.

Praise the Lord, though, that He did not fail to deliver. He is so much better than the best of victors in this life because His victory is certain and eternal.

On Christmas morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching from Isaiah 53 on “The Promise of Payment.” Some might think, “Wait, Isaiah 53?! Isn’t that a passage for Easter Sunday?” Yes, typically, but without our suffering Savior, we have no Christmas to celebrate.

The joy of Christmas is not really because of the Baby who was born as much as because of the sacrifice He made. Thus, we are going to fast forward to the end of the story and be challenged to celebrate Christmas by looking to the cross.

He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

Christmas is on a Sunday this year! I love it! Let us worship the King (like always), while singing some of the best songs ever written, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Praise God!

To truly know and experience the joy to come, you have to know and follow the Savior who won the victory. Learn more by checking out The Story today.

What strength and power?

Marsha and I had the privilege of coaching Zoe’s basketball team in our local YMCA’s 5th-6th grade girls’ league this fall. Last week, we lost in the championship game and thus finished in second place. Considering where the girls were at the beginning of the season (only six players and most had never played), I was pleasantly surprised that we finished with a winning record and made it to the championship, losing to a team that we actually lost to early in the season, beat late in the season, but then lost to again in the final game.

Now, why did these girls improve as the season progressed? Practice. Practicing twice each week was helpful – not nearly sufficient for where I wish they could have been, but helpful. There is a ridiculous saying that “practice makes perfect.” The reason that statement is ridiculous is twofold: 1) No one is perfect, except the Lord, who does not need practice for that very reason; 2) Practice only brings improvement if the practice is good. If you practice things the wrong way, then you only get more consistent in doing things the wrong way. Thus, really, practice makes permanent. Habits are formed and established through practice.

I wish our team could have been better, but we did not have nearly enough practices. Furthermore, the girls did not work on their basketball fundamentals much, if any, during the off-season. Thus, they entered the season with a lot of bad habits, and when those habits continued in more regular practice (for example, bad shooting form that was not corrected), then the bad habits became more cemented and established.

This is truth that not only applies to sports but to life. Practice makes permanent, but only the Lord makes perfect. Sure, we can improve and get really good at things (or better at being bad), but we can never be perfect on this side of eternity. Most importantly, we cannot be morally perfect and free from sin, apart from trusting in the Only One who is. Turning to Jesus is the only way to experience perfection – the status of perfection now and the eternal reality of perfection in the future. Thanks be to God!

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing my sermon series through Galatians, preaching on “The Power of Grace” (Galatians 6:11-18). In our pursuit of perfection (or, at least, greatness), we all long for strength and power. Yes, we can grow in strength and power, but that strength and power are never sufficient for what we need. We simply cannot attain a level of perfection (or even greatness) apart from God’s grace.

Again, practice makes permanent, but only the Lord makes perfect. So, in my message, I hope to communicate two necessities for experiencing God’s gracious power. What strength and power? Not ours but rather, the Lord’s. The key is not to look within ourselves but rather to look to Him. He alone is sufficient. He alone saves. He alone changes our hearts and lives. He alone empowers us. Any other supposed strength and power will fade away.

Are you looking to the Lord for your strength and power? Are you surrounding yourself with others who are prioritizing the same? Let us seek and depend on the Lord, and let us walk together in this journey. To God be the glory!

Zoe with her cousin Reese after the game

The Only Two Things I Really Dislike About Living in Callaway County

I love living in Callaway County, and the reasons I love living here (family, church family, the community, the schools, etc.) are far too numerous to list and explain. Praise God for this great county in this great state in this great country! Truly, this is a great place to live.

No place is perfect, though, and sometimes that reality sets in more than others. The two things I truly dislike about Callaway County have been on my mind lately for the reasons you will see below.

1. DISTANCE FROM EXTENDED FAMILY

Since nearly all of my family lives in Minnesota, I do not get to see them nearly as often as I would like. Also, one of my sisters, my brother-in-law, and two nieces live outside Chicago. Thankfully, they make it to Callaway County at least a couple of times each year, and we visit them, but we still do not see them nearly as often as I would love to see them.

My grandmothers (pictured below) are dear to me, and I wish I could see them weekly, not to mention a lot more often than once every year or two. Same for my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Well, the distance from family (not the fault of Callaway County) is the biggest thing I dislike about living here. The second thing is very much the fault of this county, though (or at least people making some important decisions).

2. GRAVEL ROADS

I absolutely despise the high volume of gravel roads in Callaway County. We are unable to open our windows in the summer time because the dust from the gravel roads west of where we live is so overwhelming. And, we do not even live on a gravel road, but the roads southwest and west of us are gravel. Furthermore, many people in Callaway County live on gravel roads, and I visit a lot of people. If you have a tire business, this would be a great place for you to live because vehicle tires surely cannot last very long with all the gravel travel.

You might think, “Well, this is a farming community. Of course there are a lot of gravel roads.” Consider, though, that there are subdivisions on gravel roads in this county! There are roads where dozens of homes exist, and yet those roads are gravel. Regularly, there are gravel trucks and road graders “fixing” our roads. I never thought I would long for asphalt so much!

Now, you might be wondering why I am writing such a post. Despite my venting and complaining above, particularly about the gravel roads, I write this to say – this county must be pretty great if those are really the only two things I can think of that I sincerely dislike. And, one is not even the fault of Callaway County but just the reality for me (and some others like me).

So, if you can put up with some gravel dust but want to be around great people in a conservative county with good family values and good churches, consider moving to Callaway County. The cost of living is low (I would be happy to make it much higher for paved roads 😉), and the location is actually really good (rural and yet close to Jefferson City, Columbia, and the Lake of the Ozarks).

Gravel roads stink, but other than those, Callaway County does not. Praise the Lord for my home where I have now lived longer than any other place in my life!

Practice!?

In the past week, we have enjoyed attending training camp practices for the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs, the two NFL teams for which we cheer.

During the first one – our trip to the Twin Cities – we were sitting in the stands of the TCO Performance Center (the Vikings’ amazing practice and training facility), when Marsha told Micah, “Okay, it’s almost time for their practice to start.”

Micah’s reply was priceless. He said with exasperation, “Practice?!” He was thinking that surely, with thousands of fans waiting in a packed house, we must have been waiting for something more than practice.

Still, it was fun, especially considering how close we were to the players. Everyone except Micah – not yet much of a football fan – really enjoyed the experience.

At Missouri Western State University, home of the Chiefs’ training camp, Zoe waited by a gate for 2.5 hours with the hopes of getting Patrick Mahomes’ autograph (it was QBs and RBs day for autographs). While she did not get Mahomes’ autograph, she did get a couple others, along with some great experiences, including Jody Fortson coming right up to Zoe, signing his gloves, and giving them to her. Needless to say, we are now huge Fortson fans, as well as bigger fans of Mercole Hardman (Zoe got his autograph on a jersey for Noah), Juan Thornhill, Justin Watson, and Austin Edwards, all who took a lot of time to come over, visit, and sign autographs.

Click HERE for some pictures of both training camps.

Also, HERE is the video of Fortson coming up to Zoe.

Memories in Minnesota

We have had a great week in Minnesota this week, even though we were in the Mall of America when an active shooter was there (Thursday afternoon). Praise God for His sovereign provision (I will have to share more someday about some of the things that happened)!

Below are some pictures of our time in Lanesboro, Chatfield, Rochester, and Minneapolis. You can see more pictures HERE.

Zoe’s Testimony & Baptism

A few weeks ago, I had the amazing privilege of baptizing Zoe and my sister Ashley. Praise be to God! Below, you can see their testimonies and baptisms (first video) and/or just watch Zoe’s testimony (second video).

Never have I been more proud to be Zoe’s dad and Ashley’s brother than when they publicly professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord by sharing their testimonies and being baptized. What a blessing and privilege it was to get to baptize them!

Adopting Micah

Five years ago today, Micah officially joined our family. It may seem hard to believe (for those who know him well), but Micah did not like me for the first several days after joining our family. And, that crushed me! 😦

He was also a wild child! Within the first few days of him joining our family, he bit Silas on the stomach, slapped JoAnn across the face, and knocked the glasses/hats off of anyone within an arm’s length of him! He also loved to run away, if given the chance. 

I laid down in bed at our hotel one night in China and felt utter panic. I wondered how in the world I was going to handle a wild and independent kid, on top having four other wild hooligans to care for. He was lying right next to me in a baby bed when I looked over at him sleeping peacefully, and he looked absolutely precious. My heart just exploded at that moment, and all my fears and panic melted away. I reminded myself that Micah’s whole life had been turned upside down, and he needed to be shown lots of grace and patience. That night, I determined in my heart that I would work my tail off to win him over. During the next several days, I played on the floor with him a ton, read the same three books to him over and over, fed him, rocked him, etc. And by golly, by the time we landed in the United States, I officially became Micah’s favorite.

I will also never forget our first day with Micah back at our house. I was so excited for him to see his new toys, and especially for him to finally be able to run free in our yard, without me worrying about him getting hit by a car (as I continuously worried when we were in China). His behavior shocked me. He never wanted to be more than six feet away from me, and he also wanted to be held almost constantly. He was a completely different kid! 

Over the next two years, Micah was my shadow. He never wanted to be far from his mama. On Micah’s second night in his new home, he was struggling to fall asleep, and he did not want me to leave the room. I laid on his floor until he fell asleep that night. Then, I proceeded to lay on his floor every single night until he fell asleep for the next 18 months! Yes, crazy, I know! I do wish I had not laid on his floor for quite that long ;-), but I am so glad I was there for him during those first days of him grieving. Our sweet boy had lived with a foster family for the first two years of his life, and I have no doubt that he experienced deep grief those first few months. 

Those first two years with Micah were far from easy. Having a clingy kid at your hip 24/7 can be exhausting. Little by little though, Micah gained confidence and independence. His true personality slowly but surely emerged. He is nothing like the wild and unruly kid we met initially. He is also not the super clingy, needy kid that emerged right after we adopted him. He is now a calm, somewhat quiet and shy, happy, thriving kid who is well-loved by all who know him. 

Micah’s deep love for me is still very evident. I get several hugs from him everyday, and he constantly tells me he loves me. We still read books every night before bed, too, but thankfully I can give him a hug and kiss and then be on my way. 😉

The decisions to adopt Micah and Zoe were hands-down two of the very best decisions Nick and I ever made. People are often apprehensive about adopting because they worry they will not love their adopted children as much as their biological children. I can tell you from personal experience, however, that my love for all five of my kiddos is equal. Even though Micah and Zoe did not come from my womb, they might as well have, as far as my love for them is concerned. It is hard to even remember life without them. 

Not only are Micah and Zoe incredible gifts to Nick and me, they are also a treasure to their siblings, grandparents, cousins, and countless others. I do not talk a lot about adoption, but it is something that I am incredibly passionate about. I wish more people would open their eyes and hearts to the possibility of adopting, because there truly is not much in life that is more rewarding.