Wednesday, November 19, 2014

After the Dust Settles.....

The dust seems to be settling around the Caldwell house. Most of our boxes have been sorted through and put away (or are in their permanent location- the garage!). The kids are now well adjusted to their new schools and schedules. We have made a decision (90% sure) about the church we will attend permanently, and I have only been getting lost in this traffic about three or four times a week now (compared to almost every day when we first moved :) . Zack's job is going well and he feels very productive and is helping lots of customers and companies. But as the dust has been settling, the one are that hasn't been settling is my heart. Yesterday morning, thanks to the help of the Holy Spirit and Him working through my husband, I think I know why.

It all boils down to surrender (or lack thereof, in my case) and fear. My heart is unsettled because I have not completely surrendered my life to whatever God has for us here in Charleston. Why? The fear of never returning home to London. The fear of this (Charleston) being forever.

As I thought through the last couple months here, I realized that shortly after we arrived in Charleston, I decided in my mind that this would be a good place to live for a couple years, and then we could move back to London. I reasoned that this would give Zack a great experience working in a large city with large accounts, and that it would provide the children with lots of great educational and extra curricular activities, and a chance for them to experience cultural diversity, something important for all of us, but maybe especially so for them, given our family's makeup. I (emphasis on I) had it all planned out. And no doubt, this plan could definitely still work. We are free agents and can do what we want. In other words, no one can make us stay here....and I was kind of finding a lot of comfort in that fact.

But here is where the dust settles in my spiritual life: Without complete surrender, complete faith in God and His plan for our lives, I don't know that my heart will ever have peace. For me, I know that complete surrender at this point in my life means not putting any time constraints on God's plan for our family in Charleston. I can't hold onto my "two year plan", and I admit, this is hard for me to even type. In fact, I told Zack yesterday morning through tears that I don't know if I am ready to surrender it all. Not that much. Not ever going home. Not the fact that this could be where we spend the rest of our time on earth. Zack gently reminded me that unless I lay this down, it could keep us from experiencing all that God has for us here.....the relationships He may want to forge, the people He may want us to serve, and the ministries He may allow us to serve through.  Basically, my unwillingness to surrender could actually limit the abundant life that God wants to bestow on us. I don't want my lack of faith and trust to result in this, and so my daily prayer is for God to give me the faith, strength, and trust to surrender all to Him. How many times have I sung that old hymn, "I Surrender All" in my 30 plus years?? Hundreds I am sure. But actually doing it is another story.

 I know what you are probably thinking as you read this: "Oh cry me a river. You are complaining about living in a beautiful city that most people go to for a vacation??!! Get over it." And you would be somewhat justified in thinking that :) Charleston is definitely a beautiful city, and it's not like God is asking us to go to the jungles of Africa or a war torn Middle Eastern country. Trust me, through this experience I have even more admiration and respect for those who answer the call to serve God in other countries and "hard places". I truly thank God for their obedience. And I get the line of thinking that wouldn't understand what the big deal is. But no matter how much beauty a town possesses, or how great the shopping or food is, it's the relationships in life that matter. The people that we love, the experiences that we share, the memories that we have. Nothing can replace those. Maybe God's will is for us to return to London one day, bringing the experiences and lessons learned back to London with us.  But maybe not. Maybe He will provide in other ways. And if that's the case, with His help, we will give thanks for the new relationships, new opportunities, and new mission He has for us here in Charleston.

I have been meditating on Hebrews 11 this week, and have been greatly encouraged by it. Consider what Hebrews has to say about faith:

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:8-10

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance,obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Hebrews 11: 15-16

15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country--a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

In family news.....the first picture above is of the kiddos after AWANA, which they LOVE! What a blessing it is to see them putting God's Word into their hearts each week. This past weekend we made a visit to the Lowcountry Children's Museum in downtown Charleston. PNC Bank sponsors several free nights every year, so this was a special treat for our family. They have several very cool areas including a Pirate Ship, Medieval Castle, and Waterworks, just to name a few.

One of the great things about the schools here is the amount of parental involvement that they encourage and support. This past week Emmie's class had an opportunity for parents to come in and watch some of the activities that the students participate in, and even help lead the activities.

Emmie and I made fun owl graham cracker snacks together and I got to see how she uses the Smartboard to learn math skills. It was a fun morning. Later that morning at the optometrist office we discovered that Emmie will need glasses as she is quite farsighted (very interesting!). Now, I know that I am bias, seeing that I am her mom, but really people, does it get much cuter than this??

The next week will be busy and full of excitement and fun, as my parents, my inlaws, and Zack's college roommate and his wife and daughter will be spending Thanksgiving with us! One big happy family. We are greatly looking forward to their visit!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Highlights of the Past Two Weeks.....

The past couple weeks have flown by down here in Charleston. The weather is beginning to cool (we even had some 30 degree nights!) and a fall time feel is slowly beginning to take hold- I love it!!!

 Halloween was a fun time here. The boys school had a Trunk or Treat that over 1000 people attended. The kids had a great time, even though we saw no one we knew! I have to admit it is a strange feeling to be surrounded by that many people and to still not know anyone. A lonely feeling, but each week that passes seems to bring a little more of a sense of familiarity.

 On Halloween we attended a Fall Festival at Summerville Baptist. It was very reminiscent of the fall festival we have at FBC London- inflatables, games, food, and fellowship. The kids had a blast, and we did recognize a few faces from our time attending Summerville, so that was a nice feeling. Here in Charleston Trick or Treat is from 7-9, so we were able to visit the Fall Festival and still have time for Trick or Treating too. It had just started getting dark when we got back to our subdivision. We met up with a new buddy of Caleb and Noah's- his name is Ben, and he just recently moved to our subdivision. He lives just down the road and he and the boys have become fast friends. They play together almost every day and share a bus ride home from school each day as well. I am thankful for this new friend for them. The kids and I spend time talking about our London friends, and I assure them that their friends back home aren't going to forget about them. Emmie wanted to pray for her "old" friends to come here so she would have someone to talk to :(  Right now she tells me her friends are her teachers, Ms. Carrie and Ms. Vickie. I know she will make friends soon, but it makes my heart sad to think she is lonely.

Since Emmie is only in school until 10am each day, she and I get to spend a lot of time together. One of our favorite things to do is ride bikes through our neighborhood. We have a great place to ride bikes- sidewalks, and safe, wide roads that go for miles and miles. Every day I truly look forward to our time of bike riding. She is a loyal partner :)

Since being here, our family has made a new fun family tradition- first, let me explain how it came about. Every Sunday morning while we were at FBC London, our wonderful kitchen crew at church provided donuts, fruit and coffee. We loved being able to eat breakfast at church and fellowship around the table. I am ashamed to say this, but having that every Sunday morning for the past 8 years was something we took for granted. We have visited three different churches on Sunday mornings since we have been here in Charleston, and none of them have donuts :) So, on Sunday afternoons, we drive down the road (literally, a quarter mile down the road) to Dunkin Donuts and get a half dozen donuts and have a little family time before heading to Sunday night church. The kids get so excited every Sunday afternoon to see what new variety of donut will be is a fun time!

We have also discovered a pretty cool Barber shop in North Charleston. The boys thought it was a cool place, and they do definitely know how to give a guy a cool haircut. The boys now refer to the barber by his first name, so I think he has secured two loyal customers :)

This past week Noah received an award for being on the Honor Roll at his school. This was a special accomplishment because Noah was placed in what South Carolina Schools calls a "GATE" class (gifted and talented education), and the work is very rigorous and challenging. It has been so amazing to see Noah rise to the challenge and take responsibility when it comes to completing his homework, studying for tests, etc. He takes his work very seriously and wants to do his very best. He makes us so very proud.

One interesting  highlight of last week was visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles....four one day. Yes, we visited the very nice people at the DMV 4 times. Good thing they were friendly. One of the reasons we had to visit them so many times is the fact that South Carolina requires basically every document the government has ever issued to you since you were born- birth certificate, marriage certificate, social security card, drivers license, and a proof of your current residence. And, each document can only serve one purpose. So no "double dipping".  Another surprise was the costs of licensing your car and registration/taxes in good ole' SC. After it was all said and done, we had spent almost a cool $1k to have SC drivers licenses and license plates. So, since we spent so much money, I figured I might as well share my license picture. Please note that I intentionally wore a Kentucky blue shirt. I also have two, not one, but two, Kentucky Wildcat license plates on my car. True Blue baby!

We continue to get mail, emails and texts from folks at home, and that means the world to us! Though we are feeling more settled, reality still hits us that the people we love the most are not here. But at the same time, we know that God is growing us, stretching us, and has opportunities here for us that we would most likely not have been able to experience at home. So that keeps us going. Just this week I have found some very cool ministry opportunities for our family. More about those soon!

Love from Carolina!!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why Sundays are the Hardest.....

What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been. On Wednesday, October 15, we signed  papers and bought a house! Yes, Zack and I have done this several times in the past, but never in a different state than Kentucky.....not much was different in terms of the paperwork, but it was a strange feeling knowing we had bought a house in a town where we really don't know anyone. It was the like the final piece making this whole thing seem real!

The weekend before we close, Zack and I had driven to London with the kids on Friday night, got up Saturday morning and packed a Penske truck, then drove back to Charleston the same day. It was a quick and hard trip. Not something I want to do again. But, in the long run it saved a lot of money, as everything packed in the Penske truck was less the movers had to pack and bring, and that is where the savings came in :)  So, on the day we closed, we had a Penske truck packed full of our things to unload, and the movers brought the rest the following day. My mom's cousin's daughter and I connected on Facebook, and we found out that she lives very close in the next subdivision! She and her husband were so kind and offered to help us unload the truck on Wednesday. She also took the kids over to her house and let them hang out so we could get some work done. Also, on that same day, my parents came into town to help out. I was so excited for them to see our house and well of course just to seem them!! So we had a great crew of helpers, and got the truck completely unloaded Wednesday evening. The next morning the movers showed up and brought in boxes as fast as they could. All of our furniture, boxes, everything we owned was either in the garage or our house in about two hours. Needless to say, it was two hours of total chaos.

That same week one of my dad's favorite cousins also happened to be in town! They were so gracious and on Thursday night (the day the movers came) brought us a wonderful dinner. It was so nice to see them and the dinner was much appreciated. She brought me a sweet framed reminder of My Ole' Kentucky home, and brought all the kids UK apparel....definitely needed down here!

We truly have felt very blessed with the help, support, and love we have been shown over the last couple weeks. We could not have gotten moved in and settled in the short amount of time we did without the help and thoughtfulness of so many. So a big thanks to all who have helped and prayed!!

We have spent the last week unpacking, painting, organizing,  changing out light fixtures, decorating,  and taking things to Goodwill. God help me not to buy anything else I DON'T NEED!!  We really love our neighborhood and our house. It is actually less space than we had in London, but I honestly think the space we have meets the needs of our family just as well, if not better, in most ways.  We don't have a huge yard, but the yard we do have is flat (of course, this is South Carolina :) and we are very close to our community pool and playground, and there is a huge field to play soccer, baseball, etc. So all we have to do is hop on our bikes and we are there in a jiffy! Speaking of bikes, it's a great neighborhood for bike riding as well. So here is the house....I think it looks more fancy and bigger than it really is. It is an older home, just a comfortable house. I don't have any pictures of the inside of the house to share yet....but soon :) We really love it and feel very blessed to have found it.

My amazing inlaws were here with us almost the entire week and were a HUGE help. We painted our kitchen (which wasn't as easy as it sounds because it was covered with wallpaper :) installed several light fixtures and ceiling fans, and of course checked out downtown and Charleston's amazing parks. They left today after church, and we all already miss them. We had a great time.

Speaking of church, today was the third time we have visited Summerville Baptist Church. The church is about 15 minutes from our house, right in the heart of downtown Summerville. It is a fairly large church, with two church services and soon to be two Sunday School hours. It is a very traditional Southern Baptist Church, so Zack and I feel right at home in that regard. We have felt very welcome at Summerville Baptist, and the kids love it. No tears at all for Emmie, which we honestly think God used to help us decide between this church and another church we had visited. The minute we would pull into the parking lot at the other church, Emmie would break into tears. There was no rhyme or reason for this! But at Summerville,  Emmie just walked in, went straight into her class, and said "bye mom!". We have attended Sunday School each Sunday we have visited and the class is a good size group of 30 somethings, all that are in the same season of life as us. They have children's church for the kids, and Awana on Sunday nights, which the kids absolutely love. It has been fun watching them get excited about putting God's Word into their hearts. We haven't made it to a Wednesday night service yet, but they have a church choir and they practice on Wednesday nights (a must for me :) and the kids also have music and missions on Wednesday nights. Oh, and they have a church softball team (a must for Zack). Most importantly, we have found the teaching to be very Theologically sound.

So why did I title this post "Why Sundays are the Hardest"?  I just told you what a great place our new home is and how great Summerville Baptist is, and what good experiences we have had here. What is hard about it? This is what is hard about it- On Sundays, I am reminded of this:

These people are not here! 

And come to think of it,  lots of other people we love aren't here these people....

And these......

And of course these....

  Zack and I both agree, we are in some type of grieving season right now. We are faking it for our kids....I mean, they know we miss our friends, but we don't mope around and cry all the time. We try to be positive and encourage them, because they are doing awesome!  But inside, we feel a huge hole. I am not sure if everyone has such a special group of church friends, co-workers, and high school buddies like we have been blessed with, but I have to think it is a pretty special, once in lifetime (or maybe twice in a lifetime :) kind of thing.  They are the kind of friends that you want to have for the rest of your life. They are the kind of friends that you want your kids to grow up with so they can have friendships with their kids. They are the kind of friends that know you and still love you. They are the kind of friends that right now, seem like we will never have again. I know what you are thinking- you'll make new friends. And yes, I know that God is faithful and is capable of bringing new and wonderful relationships into our lives. He can do whatever He wants, and I do trust that He will meet all our needs.  And I even believe that He is using their absences to create character in us that wouldn't have happened otherwise. But these friends will never be replaced. A piece of our hearts will always be with them, and with our church body at First Baptist London- we miss all of you terribly! 

Zack and I both know God desires to work in our lives here in South Carolina. We are trusting Him to grow us, mold us, and lead us. He already has through this time of separation from family and friends. We are relying on Him more and more each day to guide and direct us as to how He desires for our family to serve Him where He has planted us. We have decided the only way to go about this is to go "all in" here in South Carolina, whether it is for a few years, or for the rest of our lives. So we plan to get involved in every way we can- church, school, community. We want to give God our best and let Him lead us. So many of you have texted or emailed to let us know you are praying for our family as we transition. To think that you would pray for us is just overwhelming and we feel so blessed. Thanks for your prayers. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Beauty of Charleston and Giving God our Dreams!

 One thing you can't deny about Charleston is that it is a beautiful place.....

 Especially downtown. The architecture and attention to detail of the homes, shops, landscaping, etc. It is lovely. Picturesque is a good way to describe it. The water is serene and tranquil (hopefully most of the time, anyway). I can definitely see why people like to visit Charleston, and some decide to call it "home". Now, as you probably know, I am still up in the air about whether or not I would ever want to call Charleston home, but one thing that the Lord has shown me over this last week is that my attitude needs to reflect the reality that for now (and until further notice) it is our home, and there is something great, wonderful, and God ordained  for our family here. Through prayer, daily devotions and Bible readings, God has shown me that He is ready and willing to do great things through our family in Charleston, if we will but only ask! Consider this thought from one of my daily devotion readings from the magazine Journey: "If we get to know God and His perfect and loving character, we'll joyfully release our dreams into his mighty hands and wait with great anticipation to see what He'll do with them".  I realized that I have not been releasing anything since we arrived here, and especially not joyfully. You see, I have realized it all comes down to how I view God, and if I truly trust Him. If I view him correctly, as the loving Father He is, then I have no reason to not put my full trust in Him, and that includes my hopes and dreams! Consider Jesus' words in Matthew 7, verses 9-11: "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" 

It struck me as I read this passage how much I love to give gifts to my children. I love to see their reaction, their smile, their excitement. But even my best attempts to give good gifts do not come close to comparing to what God desires to give us as His children. Now I am not speaking of material blessings, though sometimes we are blessed in that fashion, but I am talking about the abundant Christian life- a life that is so much more than possessions and earthly things. A life that has eternal purpose and value.  I am asking God to each day help me to release my dreams for this sort of abundant life to Him, trusting that He loves me beyond my comprehension, and desires to work in and through me, for His glory.

This past week we had a wonderful visit from my mom and her best friend, Belinda. The visit came at just the right time as my homesickness had seemed to peak the day before they came. We had a great time visiting the quaint downtown of Summerville and its many boutiques and unique stores, checking out the awesome consignment and Goodwill stores (and they are awesome!), driving through the many subdivisions,  and of course exploring downtown Charleston. We tried out a great seafood restaurant downtown called the Noisy Oyster. Very yummy.

In just a few days both my parents will be here as we will be moving into our home. We are all excited to have the chance to be able to run and scream and "spread out" once again. The kids have been troopers over these last several weeks and have had to learn a new type of respect when it comes to apartment living. If you know my kids you know they tend to be loud and rough and tough, and you just can't do that in an apartment with neighbors all around (we found out the hard way....a couple times :) I am very proud of them for being so flexible and patient as we have waited to move. I am very proud of them in general. They continue to get up every morning bright and early like troopers, and have great stories to tell me when I pick them up. They are making friends and challenge me to have as positive of an attitude as they do!

I promised to write about our experiences visiting churches here, and I will definitely do that in the next post. We have had good experiences and have been treated very kindly, but have found that Sundays make us the most homesick of all day. We love and miss our church family. More to come on that soon.....

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Starting Week Three in Charleston....

We are starting week three in Charleston!!! Everyone is doing well and though we are still homesick, things are becoming somewhat more normal. I thought I would write just a quick post to show you a little about what our life has looked like since the big this post mainly the kids schools and where we are currently living.

Let's start with where we live. We have been living in temporary housing since we got here. We live in a 2 bedroom (mostly furnished) apartment in Summerville, South Carolina. It is about 3 miles from our new home (we will be closing in a little over a week....yipee!!), and about 5 miles from Caleb and Noah's school, and about 7 miles from Emmie's school. It is close to lots and lots of shopping centers, restaurants, name it! So it is a very convenient location. We live on the third floor, so carrying bicycles up and down has been quite a work out(we need it!). Though it is small (only about 800 sq. feet), our family has had a great time here. There is a community pool and playground, and the kids like riding their bikes here. Lots of bonding :) Here are some pictures:

Next, the kids schools- Noah and Caleb attend Eagle Nest Elementary. There are over 900 students in K-5! It's huge!! School starts here at 7:25, and dismisses at 2:10. Charleston is a very, very diverse area, which is awesome. There are children from a wide range of ethnic groups in the boys' classes. I or Zack take them to school each morning. Even though our apartment is only about 5 miles away, it takes about 45 minutes round trip due to the traffic. Very crazy!!

Here is a picture of their school:

Emmie just attended her new school, Windsor Hill Arts Infused Elementary School,  for the first time this past Friday. She received speech services back home in London, and she will continue to do so here in South Carolina, thankfully. There were no spots available at the boys' school, so this school is the next closest school to where we live that also can offer Emmie the speech services she needs.

Many of you know the difficulties Emmie had when beginning preschool in London last fall. I was very concerned that this would be a tough transition for her, but the day before she started she went in and met her teachers and saw her classroom and did great! Her first day went just as well! She walked into the school like she had been there all along, went into her classroom and was ready for breakfast. I am so amazed by the progress she has made in a little over year. She had a great first day on Friday and is ready to go back tomorrow. In South Carolina, the 4K program is only half days, so Emmie still gets to spend time with mommy too :) I like that. Emmie's school is a little smaller than the boys' school, but still has over 700 students! From our apartment, it takes me about one hour to take Emmie to school and come back home. Really crazy!  Here is a picture of Emmie's new school, her classroom, and of Emmie on her first day:

The way in which the kids have adjusted to their new schools has been a such an amazing thing. We are so thankful and thank God for answering our prayer for our children! Noah was even invited to a birthday party this past weekend by a classmate- he had a great time. Caleb tells stories everyday when I pick him up about what he and his new buddy, Luis, have been doing at recess. Though we know they still very much miss their friends from home, it is a huge relief to see them talk with such enthusiasm about their new experiences.

Our next challenge/adventure is to find a church to call home. The past 2 Sundays we have visited two different churches....more to come on that next time.

Thanks for all the prayers and encouraging texts, emails, and Facebook messages. They mean so much!

Monday, September 29, 2014

What Are We Doing Here?

This past Monday I was sitting by a pool in an apartment complex in Summerville, South Carolina, watching my kids swimming. They were having a great time, the only ones in the pool. I was sitting under an umbrella in the 90 degree heat wondering to myself, “What are we doing here!!!???””

Of course, I knew what we were doing here. Zack had received an amazing career opportunity that we both felt God leading him to take (short answer). That is why I was sitting by the pool this past Monday in Summerville, South Carolina. We had moved to South Carolina. We moved to South Carolina???!!!! What??!!!! Moved from our wonderful, small town of London, Kentucky, a place that I had lived my entire 32 years of life, and a place that Zack and our kiddos had come to love. We moved from London to a place that neither of us had ever even set foot in until about a month ago. A place with really hot, humid weather( I love fall and winter and SNOW) , no hills or mountains (I love the mountains), no one that we really know,  no family, no emotional connection to the state, or anything affiliated with it (i.e. the Gamecocks ), no Kroger( I love my Kroger and especially my Kroger pharmacist J ) . You get the picture…I could have gone on and on that day. Reality had set in. This was our new home. But it sure didn’t feel like home that day (still doesn’t, of course….it’s only been a week!).  

So how did we actually end up here? Well the long answer makes more sense. The long answer is what I have to keep reminding myself of. You see, at the beginning of this year, I felt God leading me to pray Psalm 90:17 “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands”. I wasn’t sure in what way God was going to do this, all I knew what that I desperately wanted Him, and Him alone to be the one to lead our family.

As the year went on, Zack and I decided to try and sell our home….just test the waters. As with almost all the homes we have owned, this home was bought as a foreclosure, and we had done some updates to the home in hopes of one day selling it to make a profit. We listed our house the first week of June, and just asked God to be in control. We in no way imagined that we would be moving to a new town, just a new house! I have to be honest, I was doubtful we would be able to sell our home and make the profit we wanted, but 23 days after being on the market, we had an acceptable offer and contract. We had looked at many houses in London, just in case our home did sell, and after about a month had found a home we loved. It was for sale by owner, in a great neighborhood, had just about everything we wanted and in our price range! Seemed perfect. We met with the owner the first time, and made an offer.  The owner countered back in a couple days with an offer we were willing to accept. We met to sign the contract, but after an hour of meeting, the owner just “wasn’t sure” if they could sign it. We said we understood, and that we would happily give them more time. We even offered to pay full asking price, even a little more, because we liked the house that much. To make a long story short, over the next couple weeks we met two more times in an attempt to sign the contract, but the owner never was able to sign! Didn’t have peace about it, wasn’t sure, etc.  We couldn’t figure it out. In all our experience with buying and selling homes, we had never experienced anything like it.

Then came a call to Zack a few days before we were set to close on the home we were selling. From out of nowhere he received a call from a recruiter wanting to know if he was interested in a position with an Electrical Distributor in Charleston, South Carolina. Zack thought the timing was pretty interesting, and wanted to know my thoughts. I encouraged him to at least check it out, as the timing of everything going on in our lives was definitely very interesting. He called the recruiter and told him he would be interested in at least finding out more, and in a couple days they had set up a phone interview for Zack and the manager of the office in Charleston. The phone interview took place on the same day that we closed on our house. Zack sat in the driveway in his car and talked to the guy for almost an hour. The next day the recruiter called Zack and asked him if he would be interested in coming down for a face to face interview. They wanted to fly Zack down to Charleston, but Zack, being the smart guy he is, knew I would want to come too J So, we drove. Zack’s interview lasted about 4 hours, and soon as he got in the car, I could tell by looking at t\his face that he was pretty excited. The opportunity he had been presented was simply amazing. On the ride home we talked about our options, and I remember the moment that I knew we were moving. We had been quiet for a while, and then Zack said, “Rebecca, this opportunity could help our family by leaps and bounds…..” I knew he was right.  We spent the weekend praying about it, and when the final offer came to Zack the following week, we both felt a peace in saying “yes”.  

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of trips to Charleston to look for homes, packing, scheduling last minute appointments, and the toughest part, lots of hard good-byes.

Leaving our family and friends and our church family has been a very tough thing. Very tough. Like lots of tears and crying tough. It’s like the lyrics from one of Toby Mac’s songs, “You never know what you got ‘till it’s gone”. Of course, we knew how awesome our friends and family and church were, but I guess not having them physically in our lives has made us appreciate them all the more. They will always be a huge part of us, and their influence will always be felt. Our last Sunday at church was such a special time that it brings me to tears to even think about it. We have been incredibly blessed by the relationships that God gave us while in London (and I am secretly, well, okay, I guess not so secretly now J praying that God will eventually lead us back, if He so wills).
Leaving London meant leaving everything that was comfortable. And, in the big picture, that probably isn’t such a bad thing, but it sure doesn’t feel that good right now. I have had multiple times when the Lord has told me that this life isn’t about being comfortable and feeling safe. I guess this is what that feels like.  I know in the long run it will produce a close family bond, grow our faith and trust, in the Lord and his leading, and teach us resilience and perseverance.

Even though I am quite homesick, we know God is up to something by moving us here, and I am very interested in seeing just what that might be…..I will keep you posted!
For now, some pictures from our first week in Charleston. More to come soon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Someone Had To Have Made A Mistake....One Year After Meeting Emmie.....

One year ago today I surely thought someone had made a mistake. Either Zack and I had incorrectly heard the voice of God calling us to adopt our third child, a daughter from China, or (and I know this will sound blasphemous, but it is how I felt a year ago today) God had led us to the wrong child. This is what I was thinking one year ago today in a hot, crowded building in Nanning, China.

In this hot and crowded building, a screaming, kicking, biting, spitting, (and everything else you could imagine) adorable three year old little girl was experiencing a tremendous amount of grief, fear, and anger as she watched her only caregivers walk out a door to never return. She was  left with two strange looking white people, and she was not happy. I won’t recount the experience that we all encountered the next few days (you can read it in the blog if you are interested ;), but let’s just say it was filled with lots of crying (by everyone), being confined to our hotel room, and lots of prayers, prayers, prayers. Those first few days with Emmie I was convinced that our lives would never again be the same. And one year later, I have found that I am right. Because of the blessing of a precious girl named Emmie Grace Caldwell, our lives have been filled with more joy, love, laughter and excitement than we could have ever imagined, and our lives will never be the same.  

I do want to share with you all the strides that Emmie has made,  but  what I wish I could communicate to you more than anything is how loving and sovereign God is, and how He has designed adoption to be the process that unites children and families. I am convinced of this now more than ever.  

Emmie finished 8 months of preschool this past May. She started with a very, very hesitant spirit, but finished absolutely loving preschool. She has learned a tremendous amount and is speaking English now, though still with a cute Chinese accent. Most people still can’t understand  what she says, but her family can, so that works out well J She will be starting speech therapy when she returns to preschool in the fall.  
Her personality and the affection she shows to her friends and family are beyond what we could have ever imagined those first weeks in China and first few months home. She is caring, thoughtful, compassionate and concerned. On the opposite end of the spectrum, she also has plenty of attitude to go around and says some of the most hilarious things and has some of the most expressive faces.  Things are never boring around our home! 

She loves her church, and especially her friends and teachers she has come to know. She is always ready with a smile and hug to greet everyone.  Though her first few months at church I could hardly leave her side, she now runs around the entire church like she has been there her entire life. It is beautiful to see!

Her best friends are undoubtedly her brothers, Caleb and Noah. They are her playmates, helpers, and of course the source of her greatest frustration at times.  I can assure you they have a very normal brother/sister relationship! It has been challenging at times to navigate the interactions between the three of them, and she and Caleb have an especially challenging relationship at times. But overall their love for one another always wins out….it just may drive everyone crazy in the process!

I am honestly at a bit of a loss for words for what else to say, for fear of sounding cliché…but here I go.  Being Emmie’s parents has kind of been like being the gardener of a very fragile flower that was uprooted from its original garden, and placed in a whole new land. It has taken lots of care, cultivation, pruning, and attention. It has taken lots and lots of help from the “Master Gardener”. It has taken patience as we have passed through different seasons, and with the changing of each season we have experienced new growth, and new challenges.  We have seen this fragile flower blossom into a strong, vibrant, confident, and beautiful flower, now at home in its new garden and with its new caretakers.  Emmie’s Chinese name means “beautiful/lovely flower”. And that is truly what she is.

 I am so inexpressibly thankful that we didn’t give up, and that Emmie didn’t give up on us. The thought of what our lives would be like without this little girl is too terrible for me to imagine. And yet one year ago, sitting in our hotel room, I was quite certain, somewhere along the line, a mistake had been made. Turns out, I was the mistaken one!  Thank God for the prayers and support of our family and friends, and for God’s guidance, grace, comfort and peace during those first few days.

 God was, is, and will always be in control and sovereign even if we don’t feel it, or at times don’t even want to believe it. God always finds a way to work for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), and are called according to His purpose.  As we have found, that doesn’t always mean the “working’ is easy, fun, or what we might have imagined or planned for, but it is always for the good.
Which leads me to my final point- Adoption is good! It is soooo good!  Adoption is hard and challenging and painful at times. But adoption is good, because it is what God has chosen to use to unite children with families. Families that can give children the love they were created to have!  If you need convinced of this, look up James 1:27 for the definition of what “true religion” is. Read the parable of the “Sheep and Goats” in Matthew 25 and see who Jesus  identifies with.

 As I type this post, at this very moment, I could show you the pictures of thousands of children around the world, and here in the USA who are waiting, just like Emmie, Caleb, and Noah all were, just like I was at one time, to be adopted. They are waiting for someone to give them the love that only a family can. I am beyond thankful for the care and attention all my children were given in the orphanages and transition homes they lived in before coming to their forever homes, but nothing can replace the God created role and relationship of a family.  

I know what you are thinking. It is scary. It is risky. There are no guarantees. And that would be a 100% true statement, at least from our experience. Every adoption we have been scared at times. Every adoption we have had to take some type of risk. And every adoption we signed papers releasing agencies and governments from lots of guarantees.  It is a step of faith. And there is no way around that!

But here is another 100% true statement: If we, the Church, the body of believers who claim to love God and love others, do not begin to do something to bring orphans into families, an entire generation of children are going to grow up without ever having known the love and meaning of a family. Just think for a moment about all that being in a family entails and the meaning it brings to our lives (the good and bad). Now imagine millions of children never knowing anything of family life. This is the current reality of our country and world if nothing changes in terms of orphan care/adoption.

So now I ask you- would you be willing to intentionally pray for a time about how God would have you and your family to respond to the orphans in our world? 

Zack made a statement once that has stuck with me and it basically went like this: It sometimes seems like couples and families that want to have children and children that desperately need a mom and dad and a family are like ships in the night, just passing one another by.

Why is this, when there is this beautiful thing called “adoption”, that can unite families and children?  May God lead us to trust Him and believe in His word as we prayerfully examine this question.

To all our family (especially our parents, Glenn & Linda Toney and Mark & Punky Caldwell) and to our amazing friends and family and our awesome church family at First Baptist Church, London, we could not have blossomed and grown as a family without your love, prayers, and friendship over this past year. Thank you for all you have done for our family, and especially for Emmie.