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!!