Sunday, August 18, 2013

We've Moved!!

This post is a little late, but I wanted to let my friends and family that read my blog know that we moved!  Early June we moved from our sweet on campus apartment at Gordon - Conwell, a couple miles down the road to Ipswich MA.  We have had a whirlwind of a summer, and our apartment is slowing starting to come together.  I'll post pictures of our new place soon!  Till then, here is our address!  Please send us mail or just have it when Christmas Card season comes!

Thanks for reading and more photos and updates to come soon!

Brian, Marya & Connor
108 County Road #210
Ipswich, MA 01938

Love Y'all!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Healing Through Grace - From the Valley Into the Garden

Healing Through Grace - From the Valley into the Garden

I sit here again wanting to write about what God has done for me!  I ended my last blog post in the midst of the valley.  God was there but it was a low place.  I was using gratitude and faith to sustain me through the valley.  I was learning to trust even when I so desperately wanted something.  While in the valley, I asked myself, God what's next?  What if you do finally provide the thing I so desperately want?  Will I then be out of the valley because I got what I want?  God didn't exactly answer me, but I just didn't feel right about the question.  Could getting what I want really take me out of the valley?  Again, that question just doesn't sit right.

As I continued to give thanks and trust I started to feel different in fact I can honestly say that I am rising/risen out of the valley.  No, I haven't received what I have desperately wanted for years now, but I have received something even better, healing.  My heart has found healing through grace and grace only.  Through the valley I leaned into my Savior, I trusted him, and was grateful for what I did have.  However, even in this, what I wanted was in a way enslaving me.  It created this valley, where I was with God and along and couldn't see what was happening on either side of me.  I could see enough to know that my next step was safe, but I couldn't see the scenery very well.  I still want and desire for this to be part of my life, but I am no longer enslaved by it!  PRAISE THE LORD!! I am so grateful that I see the trees around me.

A few weeks ago, I read through the entire book of John over a few days and one of the verse during Jesus' last days stood out to me.  John 18:1 "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.  On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it."

I was struck by this verse, Jesus went through the valley of Kidron and entered the garden.  I want to clarify this before I continue and say that I haven't read this verse as a promise that after the valley there is a garden, but when I read it I asked the Lord, can I go to the garden when you bring me out of the valley?  I want to go to the garden and pray with you.  If you continue to read this chapter you will find that the garden is a place that Jesus and his disciples went often.  I want to be in the garden, a place where I am close to my Jesus and his friends.  Where we can have intimate fellowship and prayer.  A place that is also full of growth and beauty.  The valley can be dark and dry, the Lord is there but its not in an intimate place.  The garden has growth and it is a place where Jesus found strength and friendship.

I am humbled to say that God has moved me into the garden.  He has healed the desire that so enslaved me and allowed me to still want and walk in the garden rather than the valley.  I still want things to be different.  I certainly didn't expect my life to look the way it does right now, but I am learning that God isn't at all who anyone expected him to be.  Jesus was supposed to be Israel's king, but he was born in a barn and laid in a feeding trough and then was publicly humiliated and crucified.  However, even though this is not at all how the Jews thought their Messiah would be and live, it was necessary and GOOD.  I am constantly reminded that even though my life is not at all what I expected it to be, it is good and God is in all of it.  I want a good life that is blessed by God.

Lastly, I can honestly say that I would have never chosen to walk through this valley.  If God had said, would you like to wait years for something and walk through a valley to know me even more deeply or would you like me to give you what you want?  I know I would have chosen what I want!  I know it! I can honestly say that i would not want to go back and do things differently, it has been so hard but I know God deeper and more intimately because of it.  He has strengthen my faith in a way that could have never happened had I not walked through the valley.

You may be walking through a valley or walking through a garden or somewhere in the middle, but hear this, God is there.  He loves you and He is good.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Giving Thanks in the Valley

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
    ever singing your praise! Selah
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.[b]
As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    each one appears before God in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.
12 O Lord of hosts,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you

What does it mean to give thanks?  What does it mean to you to give thanks?  How do you give thanks and praise the Lord in the valley?

Over the past 7 or so months I have been reading One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp.
Before I started reading this book, I would have told you that giving thanks was good.  It was good to be grateful for what you have.  It was the right thing to do.  I would have NEVER thought that giving thanks would transform my heart and help me walk through a valley.

When I first started the book, I was reading it because a friend had said I should and gave me her extra copy.  I didn’t like it at first, I didn’t think it was going anywhere, and I didn’t really think it was going to mean much to me.  Other people just said to keep reading and see where it takes you.  I am so thankful that I have kept reading because this book has shown me and allowed me to see how God is transforming my heart (I’m getting ahead of myself though).

I should take a few steps back and say that God started preparing and transforming my heart at a women’s retreat with my church in October.  The speaker at the retreat spoke about the passage above Ps. 84.  Right now I don’t remember a lot of what she spoke about except the portion that is in bold.  “As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.”  The key word for this phrase is that they are going through the valley. Through this Psalm, I can learn that the valley is a place that can be traveled through, it is not a place where I will have to settle.  Even more, as they travel they make it a place of springs.  I am not the one to have taken seminary, so I could be interpreting this wrong, but I feel like the Psalm is saying, that they found blessings as they walked through this valley.  They didn’t walk through the valley with their head down grumbling, but they found springs and God bring rain to cover the valley.  God was still there!  He is still taking care of his children.

I am confident and resting that God is good to us and He is faithful to his children.  This promise has been unfailing through this valley.  Brian and I have been walking through this valley together for quite some time.  At first, I didn’t think it was a valley, just a small low point but I knew God was with us and it wasn’t so bad.  However, instead of rising out of the valley, I realized that I/we were sinking lower and lower and the mountains were getting higher and higher. 

There were months were it was very dark and emotional.  I knew God was good, but he didn’t feel very good right then.  I wanted something desperately and for some reason this was not being provided for me.  I knew he loved me, but I didn’t feel his love right then.  It felt lonely and confusing.  How can I want something so bad and God not provide?  Am I asking for the wrong thing? I kept reading One Thousand Gifts and I kept trying to give thanks.  I kept trying to see God in my life and in the small things.  I was trying to change my perspective of the valley and see God.  As Ann Vockamp puts it, “I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God.”  I didn’t know what else to do.  God knew what I wanted, we had certainly talked about it.  So I kept trying to give thanks and see what I already had in front of me because it was all I really had at that moment. 

As the darkness started to fade, I began to see that even though I was in the valley, God was right beside me holding my hand.  It was as if we were walking a path, he was with me and I was at peace.  I can’t see what is ahead and I can’t see where I am going but I can see my next steps and I know I am safe with God.  I moved from knowing that God was good and loving and trustworthy to walking the road of God’s goodness, love and trust.  As I moved to this place, I continued to read One Thousand Gifts and Ann put it better than I ever could

“Nothing has materially changed since yesterday’s fears, last week’s anxiety.  But I have.  I’m changing.  I am changing, deep changing, and I am giving thanks, doing eucharisteo and eucharisteo is eureka and I know why there’s no fear and why I had never seen it before? I can mark the spot on Road 178, right at the bridge, where epiphany blinks like snow: Thanks is what builds trust.”

I would have NEVER told you that thanks builds trust.  However, I can confidently say now that it does.  Giving thanks, seeing Christ in all has built trust and faith in my heart.  Even in this valley, I can walk with God and trust in his goodness, love and provision.  I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t know when I will be out of this valley.  What I do know is that God is with me.  He holds me and breathes peace when I can’t breathe.  I have shed many tears of joy and sadness but with faith all the same knowing he is holding me and saying “I love you.”

I say all this to say that the valley isn’t easy, it’s still hard.  I still desperately want this gift that only God can give.  But I am grateful to know I have been transformed by Christ in this valley.  Christ has given me a hope that He is all I need in this life. 

I want to leave you with a prayer, I received the book The Valley of Vision for Christmas.  It is a collection of Puritan Prayers.  I have been wanting to read it because it is often quoted.  I have only gotten to the first prayer and it was my own prayer (put in better words), that I haven’t moved any further in the book.  The prayer is titled “The Valley of Vision”

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty
thy glory in my valley. (emphasis added)

I write this out of obedience to my Lord, that you may also find hope in Christ in your valley.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Family Trip to Niagara Falls

In January, we purchased a Groupon Getaway for a hotel in Niagara Falls on the Canada side!  We gathered our passports.  I put together a basket of goodies to keep Connor entertained and he took an 8 hour drive to Canada.  This trip was on our bucket list for things to do while we lived in New England and we excited that we were finally able to make it happen!

Connor was so excited to be able to stay in a hotel and see a waterfall that is bigger than his house!

Going in the winter was perfect for our family because we love the cold and snow and anything icy.  The falls did not disappoint.  It snowed the night we arrived and it was just beautiful all around.  The mist from the falls makes everything a little icy which in my opinion makes it look that much better.

It was hard to pick which pictures to post, but I hope you enjoy!

Above - is a view of the Niagara Falls.  The mist is so intense that it is really hard to see the entire horseshoe of the waterfalls at one time!

Above - this is the view from down at the base of the falls!  

There was always a rainbow (or two!) to be see from the falls when the sun was out! 

 This was behind the water in the falls.  They had tunnels were you could go behind and see the water rushing in front of you!

See...doesn't ice make everything that much prettier!

 We were able to eat on the 9th floor of a hotel and were finally able to see the entire horseshoe from there!  Just amazing!!
The American Falls, just a little bit down from the Niagara falls!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Way 2 Long!!

Oh my Goodness...I am ashamed that the last blog post that I posted has a date of 2011!!  How did I go over a whole year without posting???


How did Connor grow up so fast?  Here is a pic of Connor last time I posted and below is a current picture of my big boy!

Whoa!  What happened?  Time flies when your having fun I guess!

I don't promise to do better at keeping this updated, but I do feel bad for having a blog and not updating it at least a little bit!

I will try to post some pics of life here in Massachusetts!

Again, I apologize for not posting more.

Till next time,


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 5: New England Camping & Friends!!!

After the last few days of sentimental posts.  Here is a simple post of some fun things we had the opportunity to do this summer. 

We were able to go camping twice this summer and we had a great time both weekends!  Our first camping weekend was in July.  We spent in Western Mass at Savoy Mountain State Park.  Our friends Jen and Patrick Bourckel joined us.  We did some hiking on Saturday and saw 2 beautiful waterfalls.  If we had found the waterfalls before our full day of hiking, we probably would have just stayed there.  We enjoyed some great food all weekend and were lucky enough to get a mandolin serenade each night by our very own Patrick Bourckel.  That was an awesome way to spend our evenings.  It was also nice to be able to start a fire (and actually use it for warmth) in the middle of summer! 

IMG_5126IMG_5156 - Copy

We took this with our handy bendy tripod!




A few of us took naps in the car!


One funny story from the weekend was courtesy of Connor.  I will preface this story by admitting that we were able to enjoy a laugh at the expense of our son’s inability to pronounce certain letters correctly.  This will probably lead us to major counseling bills later in life from the emotional trauma of this particular event, but at least we get a laugh now, right?  (haha)  We were all sitting around the campsite at dusk.  We had decided to build a fire.  With us focused in on  getting wood for the fire, Connor decided to point out a certain ‘log’ to us, or as he said it, ‘wog’.  His normally sweet and very sympathetic mother then decided to kid with Connor and started asking him what a ‘wog’ was.  Well, after a couple emphatic corrections by a 2 year old that did not understand the “humor” of mom’s saying, Connor admitted defeat in a most amusing way.  After Mom asked him what a ‘wog’ was, Connor informed his mom that a ‘wog’  was part of a frog, you know, like a pollywog.  Well that answer is pretty impressive for any 2 year old to come up with, but given the situation and the abruptness and unexpected nature of the response, we all were laughing pretty good including our very own comedian, Connor.  This became a sort of catch phrase for us all for the rest of the weekend.  Thank you Connor!

Jen & Patrick,

We had a great time with ya’ll!  It was a great memory for the summer and I am so grateful ya’ll were willing to “try” camping with us!  Thanks for all your help. 

Love ya’ll!

Our second trip was the weekend after Labor Day in September.  I guess technically not in the summer, but it was before Brian and the other guys started classes!  We went with 3 other couples and rented 2 campsites total.  There were 2 couples with kids, us, and the Thissells (Randall, Mercedes, Evie, and Lily).  The other couples were what I have termed as “single” couples, couples without kids the Rose’s (Matt and Katharine) and the Torress’s (Jesse & Mara).  Since it was September it was beautiful cool weather but still green everywhere.  The kids had a great time running between the two campsites together and the adults did a great job working together for the meals! 

The “single” couples were great with the 3 kiddos running around!  I know Evie, Lily and Connor loved having extra people to play and we appreciate ya’ll being so much fun!

Saturday we all started on the same hike and then eventually broke off and did our own hikes.  Matt and Katharine did an awesome hike on the ridge that I am extremely jealous of.  However, we (the Marsh Family) were able to hike a trail called Lonesome Lake and saw a beautiful lake at the top of a mountain! 

It was a great experience even with the wind keeping us all awake the first night!


Connor and Evie


Mara and Jesse


The picture above and below were taken with our handy bendy tripod!  We love that thing!


Lonesome Lake!  Beautiful!


Connor was in love with mushrooms that weekend, so we took lots of pictures of mushrooms!


One of the 2 campsites…our tent is the green one!



These last pictures were sent from Mara!  Thanks for sharing your pictures!


Mercedes, Evie, Randall, and Lily is on Randalls back


Katharine & Matt


The whole crew!!

Thanks ya’ll for making the trip!  We had a blast and hope to camping again when it gets a bit warmer!

Till Next Time,

Marya (The Marsh Family)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 4: My Wonderful Wife Marya!

So, as you might have guessed, this is not Marya.  I, Brian, am venturing out to try my hand at a blog post. 

Marya is already sound asleep, and I am still awake.  I got the great idea to post a blog for her since she did not get to do one today.  I got on and figured out how all this works, the whole time thinking to myself how surprised she will be that I posted a blog.  I had the great idea to post about her.  I am thinking to myself how great it will be for her to see that I posted, and on top of that, I posted about her before she posted about me.  Well, as I said, this was BEFORE I opened up the blog.  I type in the blog address and what pops up but a blog about me.  WOW!  I can truly say that this was a surprise.  I start to read, and by the end, I find myself starting to tear up but am not sure why.  Is it because I am tired (it is after midnight), or is it because some huge manly-sized piece of dust randomly flew into my eye, or is it because my wife is truly that amazing?  (Picture break to add to the suspense)


(Lighthouse in Marblehead, MA)


(Family Wedding)


(Franconia Notch State Park NH)


(Franconia Notch State Park NH)



Well as you might have guess, it was because my wife is truly that amazing.  I feel blessed and humbled that God has allowed me to share life with such an amazing individual.  I cannot imagine where I would be or what I would be doing if she were not a part of my life.  When people up here ask us about how we met and started dating, she like to tell the story about the first time she really acknowledged me (I reworded that slightly, haha).  We were sitting in the movie theater waiting on a couple of our friends and I (for some reason) decided to tell her about how I thought that God was calling me to go to seminary.  She says that after that conversation, she realized that I was someone she wanted to help achieve this goal in whatever way possible.  She heard genuineness in my words and responded.  Now, at this point, marrying me was not really on the agenda, and I don’t  think she could have ever imagined how that thought would really play out, but here we are some 10 or so years later fulfilling the our visions.  It is amazing to see how God has worked out his plan for us so far, and I can safely say that Marya has more than fulfilled those thoughts she had way back then.


I love you and I want to thank you for all the sacrifices you have made.  I thank you for working to support us, because I know that you desire to be a stay-at-home mom.  I thank you for moving away from your family and friends, because I know that this was not easy for you.  I thank you for believing in me, because without that belief we would not be here.  And above all, I thank you for your faith in God, because without that faith this would not be possible. 

I thank you for being an amazing mother.  I thank you for loving me, even when I am not easy to love.  Marya, most of all I thank you for being you.  I thank you for being someone that I can confide in, someone I can trust, someone I can laugh with, someone to experience both the good and the bad with, and someone who is there for me.  I thank you for being my best friend.  I love you Marya.  I love you, I love you, and I love you. ~Your most appreciative husband, Brian