Saturday, May 21, 2016

Retirement Celebration

In mid-April, our family drove out to Albuquerque for what was the last time to visit my parents there. It's finally becoming official-- my parents are retiring and moving to Texas! On the weekend that we visited, Immanuel held a retirement celebration for my dad. He will continue serving as a pastor there until the end of May and then my parents will both become Texans at the beginning of June. Hooray!

Of course, mixed with the joy of having my parents move out here soon is a bit of sadness to say goodbye to so many Albuquerque friends and memories. The Immanuel congregation (which my dad has shepherded for over 30 years) has always been like a second family to us. The house that my parents are selling is the only childhood home that I remember-- the one that I lived in from when I was 3 until I went to college. Needless to say, it was a very nostalgic trip!

Even with the full weekend of church activities, we squeezed in some good playtime for all 6 active kiddos. The weekend was fairly rainy and cool, so much of our playtime was indoors. The kids listened to LOTS of stories by a variety of readers.

Grammy played "lions" with the 3-year-olds, a game these kids devised at Christmas which involves crawling around the house and selecting one member of the family to "attack" with roars.

Little Nathan showed everyone his newest fashion statement. :)

And then there was some wrestling time...

Uncle Andrew and Uncle Matt soon joined in on the ruckus too.

These kids sure have some great uncles!

Abby graciously lent out her blankets which were perfect for making superhero capes.

Dah, dah, dah, dah! To the rescue!!

We assembled some puzzles together...

...and played a few board games too. This particular game, Hullabaloo, required the adults to be a little goofy.

When it wasn't raining, the kids enjoyed playing in Grammy and Papa's backyard. They even held a batting practice session while donning some old Albuquerque Dukes helmets. These 3-year-olds had some pretty decent form! :)

Throughout the weekend, there were several surprises for Grammy and Papa. First, Kim and Sarah brainstormed a cute art project for the grandkids to make that would be presented at the retirement celebration. Each grandchild dipped his or her finger in paint and then stamped it on a canvas multiple times.

All of the fingerprints formed a heart shape.

Even Nathan and baby Walquist yet-to-come (with Mommy Sarah's help) had a chance to stamp a color.

Sarah added a Bible verse at the bottom in calligraphy: "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God." I John 3:1

Probably the biggest surprise of the weekend was when my parents' good friend Chuck showed up at their doorstep. The congregation had flown Chuck out to Albuquerque for the weekend so that he could be the guest speaker for the retirement celebration. Chuck had contacted all of us kids earlier in the month to see if he could drop in for dinner one night. We were so excited to be in on the surprise and to hear that he was coming! My parents were completely shocked and yet thrilled to see him.

Late on Saturday night, another surprise appeared--this time in my parents' lawn. Immanuel's high school and college aged youth groups filled the front yard with flamingos and a large "You've Been Flamingoed" sign.

The flamingo flocks usually appear in people's yards as a result of a youth group fundraiser, but this time it was simply a fun retirement sendoff surprise.

As you can imagine, when the grandkids discovered the flamingos on Sunday morning, they couldn't be happier! Who needs play clothes to run around with flamingos?

One final surprise came on Sunday morning between the two morning services. Instead of having the typical Sunday morning Bible classes, Immanuel held a special reception for my parents in the church parish hall. Performing at the reception was Mariachi San Pablo, a wonderfully talented mariachi group from a Lutheran church in El Paso. My parents know the pastor who leads this group personally, so it was a special gift to have their group present for the weekend.

Their music was festive, exciting, and worshipful. What a talented group!

Jaden and Cody and their cousins enjoyed both the music and a snack from a front-row spot.

The reception was also a fun time to visit with some Immanuel members, both current members and people who attended the congregation long ago. It felt like a sort of reunion seeing some of these people, including my old 4th grade teacher and many parents of kids I went to grade school with at Immanuel.

After church, we went home for a bit of quiet time for the kids (although I'm not sure anyone other than Nathan slept). Then, we were off to a nearby hotel convention center for the retirement celebration. Everything was adorned with baseball decor. Immanuel had titled the celebration "A Cardinal Event" in honor of my dad's beloved baseball team, so all the decorations fit that theme.

Don't my parents look lovely? 

The room was packed, signifying how very loved my parents are in this congregation. Mom and Dad have certainly given of themselves so selflessly to touch many lives! I know they were both honored by the presence of all these people.

During the pre-meal mingling time, Daddy/Uncle Jason kept the kids occupied with a few stories.

When the meal was finally ready, Pastor Blanco (aka Chuck) led the group in an opening prayer, and we were all served a delicious lunch.

Cody and Jaden each ate a bit and then entertained themselves at the table with cars and dinosaurs.

Up first on the program were the Walquist grandkids. We had specifically requested this, not knowing how long all the kids-without-a-nap would handle the afternoon's activities. First, we showed a brief video that Andrew had put together of each child saying what they loved best about their Grammy and Papa and what they think Grammy and Papa should do in retirement. Their answers consisted of "play with us" and "be a gardener." It was quite amusing. Then, the kids stood up on stage and sang "Jesus Loves Me." Don't they look pretty stinkin' adorable? :) 

During the song, all five of the older kids actually participated in the singing. Amazing. We were so proud!

Here is their song on video:

I'm not sure the exact order of events after the kids went, but at some point, Kim, Andrew, and I made a special presentation. I'll share some of our pics from this on the next blog post, but our speech was centered on God's unchanging nature in a world full of change. We took a little trip down memory lane and shared a variety of old pictures from the Walquist household when we were growing up. The audience seemed to enjoy our memories.

We ended our presentation by singing a song with our spouses that Kim had written to the tune of Our God Our Help from Ages Past. Jason accompanied the song on his guitar.

Then, Pastor Blanco gave a thoughtful talk that he titled, WWRD: What Would Randy Do? He joked about some of my dad's funny habits, but then affirmed my dad's role as a humble, hard-working, and faith-filled shepherd to this congregation. After his talk, the deacons gave a funny skit in which they tried to interview a new pastor but none seemed to measure up to Pastor Walquist.

Then, the congregation presented my parents with a gift-- multiple tickets to see the Houston Astros play (including when the Cardinals come to town) and tickets to various downtown musical productions (which they figured my mom would appreciate a bit more).

The presentations ended with speeches from both Mom and Dad. Mom based her talk off the book All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, since she always used that book when she led kindergarten graduations at Immanuel. Her speech was very touching and affirming of the congregation. I was thankful she let me read it ahead of time so that I wasn't crying quite as much this time through!

Dad's speech was a sort of continuation from his morning sermon, when he preached about Paul's farewell speech to the Ephesians. Dad's talk was full of humble gratitude and love towards this congregation which he has led for 33 years.

Dad referenced how Paul knelt down on the beach with the Ephesians and prayed with the people, so my dad, too, knelt down (asking everyone else to do the same) and prayed for all the people present. Dad's love for his congregation was apparent.

The program ended on a musical note-- Everyone sang the words to Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

And then the Mariachi San Pablo group performed a few songs.

It was obvious that the congregation had put in a lot of time to make this celebration special. It was a beautiful tribute of thanks to my parents and a wonderful sendoff. Here are some random family pics we took throughout the afternoon.

Quite likely one of our best grandkid shots!

the entire Walquist-Schleicher clan

Grammy and Papa with a few tired kiddos! :)

the original Walquist 5

me with my two good childhood friends Tyler and Andrea

Daddy & Cody, Mommy & Jaden

Dad and Mom, we are humbled and inspired by your dedicated lives of service to the Lord and His people. You have been amazing leaders and friends to the people of Immanuel, and we are so proud of you both. We are excited for this next stage of your life together and are thrilled that you are on your way to Texas! Love you both so much!