Saturday, June 28, 2008

We're HOME!


It's good to be home! It's good to be home! I will post some more about our trip later, and upload some more pics, but I have to tell you about a surprise some wonderful people at our church gave me. Perhaps you have heard of the Extreme Makeover series on TV? The show highlights changes made by people who undergo plastic surgery, exercise regimens, hairdressing and wardrobe consultations before being presented back to their adoring friends and families. There have been several spinoffs, including a Wedding Edition and the most popular, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Well my church family did them one better with Extreme Makeover: Office Edition!

Lori and I came up to the church this morning to lend a hand to the AngelFood distribution day. After the initial rush was over Bud Frederick told me he needed to talk to me and started walking me outside. Little did I know that he was setting me up! He walked me to the side of the building where a big truck was parked, blocking my view of the office wing. As we talked, Lane Fletcher started the truck up and pulled it away. Bud directed my attention to the office wing and I saw that new doors had been installed where we had planned to move my office! I also saw beautiful steps had been installed! But that was only the beginning!

Cell Phone picture of my new officeAs we walked towards the door it swung open to reveal over 20 members of our church gathered for the "reveal" of my new office!!! During my two weeks absence they had completely renovated and redecorated our old conference room / print shop / work room into a gorgeous office! I've uploaded some pictures to my Flickr account that will give you an idea of the amount of work they did. You can see them at:

I don't know how to say "thank you". This is such an overwhelming thing, such an incredible expression of love. I'm used to being on the giving end of this kind of thing, not on the receiving end. It is humbling and exhilarating all at the same time! I serve with an AWESOME group of people and it's a privilege to serve with them. Thank you - every one of you who participated in making this blessing a reality!

Now it would be impossible for me to thank everyone who participated in this, partly because I wasn't here so I don't know what everyone did. However, there are a few standouts that I need to mention:
  • My mom and dad, Betty & Buddy Martin - I've been told by several that my mom was the force behind this. And dad supported it all the way. Thank you guys, so much!
  • Bud & Donna Frederick - As I look through the pictures I see Bud and/or Donna in most of them. You guys are incredible!
  • Fred Mennerick & Lane Fletcher - These fellows put the "grunt" in "grunt work!" There's NOTHING these two can't do!
  • Jenni Baier and David McBride - Computer techs extraordinaire! I'm blown away by the machine you built for me. I have to fasten my seatbelt just to turn it on!
  • Kyle Frederick - the floor is beautiful! It gives the room such an elegant, finished look. You da man!
  • Warren Spurgeon - the entry steps are gorgeous! What a great touch, matching the stones on the front of the building!
  • A few others that I noticed in the pictures: Mike & Debbie Campbell, Will Campbell, Ronnie & Randy Faulkner, Ian & Stephen Frederick, Debra & Jamie Funderburk, Ben Himes, Jacob Mott, Brenda Mennerick, Alan Murrel, David & Josh Stellwagon, etc
If I missed anyone, please accept my apologies. But please know that I DEEPLY appreciate this incredible gift of love. You guys are the most AWESOME church! Like I always say,

I LOVE serving Jesus with YOU!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Second Update from DC

Hello all!

We're continuing to have a wonderful time in our nation's capital. Thought I'd give you an update on what's happened since my last update on Thursday night:

  • I started the day meeting Tom Zinn for breakfast at Panera while the girls slept in. Delicious breakfast sandwich on ciabatta bread. Yum!
  • Arlington Cemetery
  • Got back to the hotel and got everyone moving to head for Arlington National Cemetery (after dropping off some clothes at a laundry! We spent a lot more time there than we originally planned. It's beautiful, moving, inspiring, etc. Here are a few highlights:
    • JFK's grave is visited by millions each year. Supposedly when he visited Arlington House and saw the view of DC he commented that he could stay there forever, a darkly prophetic comment.
    • We saw many headstones of famous and not so famous people. Over 300,000 are buried here and on average over a dozen funerals take place here very day.
    • Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
    • The changing of the guard is absolutely INCREDIBLE! To watch the dedication of these soldiers, the precision, the complete commitment to their duty is very inspiring. I filmed it on my digital camera. If it came out I'll post it to YouTube.
      • (I don't know if you'll be able to hear it but there was actually a funeral taking place during the changing of the guard and you could hear the 21-gun salute faintly in the distance. Very moving.)
    • The view of the city from Robert E. Lee's Arlington House is nothing less than fantastic! However, it was sad to hear that this home was essentially confiscated from his family for the cemetery by those who hated him for leading the Confederate army. It took the Supreme court to grant proper compensation to his heirs.
  • After leaving the national cemetery we stopped in downtown to pick up a few souvenirs before heading to Baltimore for supper. Believe it or not I got a parking ticket! I still had 4 minutes left on the meter but apparently I parked in an area that doesn't allow parking during rush hour. You have to pay CLOSE attention to the parking signs.
  • We drove to Baltimore to eat on the Inner Harbor. My father-in-law, Dale Chapman, is from Baltimore and we really wanted to connect with his old stomping grounds. The Inner Harbor is hard to describe. It's cutting edge modern mixed with old-world charm. After supper we rented a paddle-boat and spent a little time on the water before heading back.
That kind of wraps up Friday. We got back fairly late but got a good night's sleep and cranked it up Saturday morning with plans to visit some of the memorials we hadn't seen before. My cousin, Meliheh, started the morning off with a great surprise - I had looked online to try to get tickets to the top of the Washington Monument but the next availability was in July so we had resigned ourselves to not getting to go up. But she and her boyfriend went at 7:30AM to get in line and secured some of the tickets that are reserved for local distribution! Here's a synopsis of our day:
  • We started with breakfast at Panera. I wanted Lori and the girls to get to experience their excellent fare.
  • We split into two groups and headed for the monuments. Meliheh took the girls in my van and I rode with Tom. The girls got a great parking place but Tom and I ended up parking over a mile away from the Lincoln Memorial! But it was a nice walk on a very pretty day - and we got bonus points for getting to walk through the FDR memorial, which a lot of folks miss.
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • We met our crew at the Lincoln Memorial after getting to see the Korean Memorial. We spent a good bit of time reading the quotes. I was especially moved by Lincoln's statement that both sides, North and South, read from the same Bible and prayed to the same God. Very poignant words.
  • We then headed to see the Vietnam Wall. It is as moving as people say it is. It starts out small then grows huge then goes small again, kind of how the war started small, grew exponentially and then shrank into oblivion. There were lots of folks, some making rubbings of names, others leaving momentos, etc. Very moving.
  • We made our way to the newest of the monuments, the World War II Monument. It's an expansive place full of imagery of victory and sacrifice. Even though it's the newest, it was very crowded. (A lot of grey heads in attendance.)
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Then we headed to the Washington Monument for our appointed time. We headed to the top and took in the majestic view of the panorama. Meliheh had gotten some extra tickets and invited a couple of friends who had never visited. It's amazing how many people live in this city and don't take advantage of all it has to offer. It was great to get to experience it with them.
  • We parted ways with Meliheh and company after the Washington monument. We drove around until we found a place to get a good picture of the Capital with the $50 bill. (I got the Lincoln memorial with the $5 bill earlier.) We then headed to get a bite to eat and back to the hotel.
  • Even though we had gotten a hotel with a pool, we hadn't slowed down enough to even go swimming yet so the girls decided to go swimming while Lori and I made our way back into the city.
    • Ebenezer's Coffee House - outside
    • I wanted to attend worship services at National Community Church which is pastored by Mark Batterson whose blog I read regularly. They have Saturday evening services at Ebenezer's Coffee House which is owned by NCC.
    • We got there late but really enjoyed the service. The funny thing is I was hoping to get to hear Mark preach, but NCC is a part of the One Prayer and they had a video of Dino Rizzo preaching. National Community Church at Ebenezer's Coffee HouseFor those who don't know, Dino pastors Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge! So we drove over 1,100 miles to hear a pastor from my own back yard!
  • After church Lori and I walked around Union Station before heading back to the hotel. We met some nice ladies on the metro from North Carolina. At least I thought they were nice until they broke the news to me that LSU had lost to NC in the College World Series! But really they were nice ... sort of!
Well, that wraps it up for now. I've uploaded a few more pictures if you're interested. You can view them at:

We're having a magnificent time! (I'm running out of adjectives, so I'll use exclamation points!!!) Tomorrow we're headed to church with Meliheh and a lazy afternoon in the city before heading to Philadelphia and then on to New York. Memories, memories, memories! Thanks to everyone who helped make this possible!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

First Update from DC

Hello everyone!

Tire ProblemsWell, we're here! We actually got to DC on Tuesday afternoon after a LONG trip up. To the right you can see a picture of my van that NO ONE wants to see on vacation. Around Chattanooga we noticed the front end was wobbling a bit. I pulled into a Firestone to see if we could figure out what was going on. The fellow immediately noticed that the front right tire had a belt separation problem and suggested I replace the tire. Since I had just bought two new tires at Walmart I headed over there to get a matching tire. While there we noticed that one of my brand new tires on the rear had a bubble developing. So two tires and two hours later we were back on the road! I think the Lord may have saved us from some other problems down the road.

We got into DC Tuesday afternoon and after checking in to the hotel we hooked up with my cousin, Meliheh Mousavizadeh. She went to university here (George Mason?) and is now an attorney working in DC. She took us on a driving tour of DC and then to an EXCELLENT supper at Buca di Beppo's, a great Italian restaurant near Dupont Circle. Highly recommended!

The next morning we were up at 5:30 (4:30 our time) to head to the White House to meet our Representative, Rodney Alexander at 7:45. His office had arranged a tour of the White House for us, including my cousin. We were not allowed to bring ANY cameras, bags, etc, so I don't have any pictures of the tour, but suffice it to say it was incredible! To walk through the rooms where so much history has been made was phenomenal! It's hard to describe the feelings.

Lori was feeling really poorly so she went back to the hotel after the White House tour. I took the girls with me to Congressman Alexander's office for a scheduled tour of the Capital. I was able to take a few pictures, which I've uploaded to my Flicker account.

The girls were pretty tired after all the walking so we headed back to the hotel, arriving around 2:30. We rested up for awhile and then headed out to have supper with Tom Zinn, an old friend who attended Christian Challenge in the early 80's while stationed at what was then England Air Force Base in Alexandria. We've stayed in touch over the years but haven't seen each other in MANY years. It was great to catch up.

We got back to the hotel around 1:30AM so we slept in the next day and met Meliheh for a late breakfast. We headed back into town for a couple of tours - we spent a few hours at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Not nearly enough time. Then we headed to the National Archives. It took over an hour waiting outside in line, but it was WELL worth the wait to get the see the original founding documents of our nation. Again, hard to describe what it feels like to look at the very documents signed by our founding fathers. Very moving.

$20Meliheh headed off to an appointment and we walked up to China Town for supper. Then we walked back over to the White House to take some more pictures and enjoy it in the twilight hours. We had a wonderful chat with a couple of the uniformed Secret Service officers and a fellow citizen who was as in awe of being in the capital as we were. We also took a couple of really neat pictures - holding up some of our currency in front of the actual building depicted on the currency. We got the $10 and the $20. The $1 doesn't have a monument on it so we're going to try to get the $5 (Lincoln Memorial) tomorrow. I don't have a $50 but I'm going to try to get one. The $100 has Independence Hall in Philadelphia on it so we'll try to take that picture on Monday (if I have any $100 bills left! ). Other people saw us doing this and started doing the same thing. Hey, we're trendsetters, what can I say?!

You can see some of the pictures I've uploaded to my Flicker Account at: - hopefully that link will work for you. Feel free to leave comments!

Well, that wraps it up for now. We sure are enjoying this trip and are very appreciative of our church for sending us. You guys are the GREATEST! Thanks for loving us so much!

Nathan (and family)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

DC here we come!

Hello all!

How can I describe what I'm feeling right now? Words fail me as I try to express the deep feelings of gratitude I have for our church family. Christian Challenge has given my family a 2-week vacation to Washington, DC!!! We left this afternoon after a wonderful Father's Day meal at my mom and dad's house. We didn't get too far, we've ended up spending the night in Jackson, MS. But tomorrow we'll get an early start and knock a good chunk of the trip out.

This is exciting for a couple of reasons. One, it's our first "real" vacation in about 4 years. I've made several mission trips and we've had some trips to visit family, but we haven't done a true vacation in several years. Another reason I'm excited is since Joy graduated from high school this year, who knows when we'll have another chance to do something like this as a complete family. Thank you, Christian Challenge! You're the BEST!

I'll try to keep y'all posted on how things are going. But if you don't hear much from me, it's because I'm having too much fun!!! See ya later!