Thursday, March 19, 2015

How God Brought Ladies to My Living Room....6 Months in Charleston

This week saw the completion of something I didn't think possible only a few months ago. To be honest, something I didn't want to be possible at times.  But praise God that He works through our stubbornness and weak faith, and takes us to new heights  in ways that only He can.

If you read my previous post about the book "Interrupted", then you know how God was using it in my life. If you didn't read that post, just know that God was using this book to literally blow my mind. In a good way.  When I finished the book, I literally sat in the floor of our guest room and wept. God has used His Word and this book to literally break me in ways I didn't know existed. This was, and continues to be, a good thing. A good, and very hard thing.

When I finished the book back in January, I felt God asking me to share this book. Not just on my blog or calling my mom and telling her about it, but like share it with the current group of people I knew, in a way that would allow the scriptures and ideas presented to be studied, discussed. Basically like a Bible study (of course the first thing I did was check to see if there even was a Bible study to go along with the book....there was. Dang it. Couldn't get out of it that way :)  So the question in my mind God? How do you share something like this with people you really don't know too well....honestly really don't know at all? This book was not a shallow, happy go lucky type of read that makes you just feel warm and fuzzy and all over.  So, I did all I knew to do and basically told God this: Lord, if you want me to share this book in the way that I think you want me to, you are going to have to make the way, because I just don't know how.

Well, cut to a few days later, when I got a Facebook message from one of the first ladies I met at Summerville Baptist. Her name is Nancy, and she was one of Emmie's mission friends teachers, among other things. She wanted to know if I wanted to come over to her home with some other ladies from church (a couple of them were newbies too :) and make a Valentine craft and chat and have some snacks. My first reaction was to say "No," because anyone who knows me knows I am not crafty. At all. I can visualize how I want things to look , but beyond that, I am at the mercy of someone else to bring my "vision" into fruition. And that someone else has always been my mom :) Sorry mom, big letdown in that area.  So, to me, this evening sounded like a chance to show some sweet ladies at SBC just how terrible I was when it comes to crafting and Pinterest activities. Oh, and UK was playing that night. Let's just say the odds were stacked against me going.

 At the same time, intellectually I knew that if I was ever going to make friends here in Charleston, I was going to have to make some kind of an effort. Sigh. So, against all odds (I am being dramatic here, I know) I decided to go. And boy am I glad I did. First off, Nancy is someone who can make anyone feel comfortable with her easy going and caring personality. And she is a great conversationalist, so I almost instantly felt pretty comfortable. Plus, she has a very warm and inviting home, and two other new ladies I had met from church were there as well. So, it wasn't as bad as I had made it out to be. Also, no one else brought their craft supplies, so I was off the hook on that one too....God was definitely in my corner that night (joking, joking). We chatted about a myriad of different, adoption, our hometowns, etc. We went into the living room and got comfy on the couch. I honestly have no idea what the conversation was like that led up to this next point, but all I remember is Nancy asking me and another lady if we had ever heard of Jenn Hatmaker. I remember literally sitting up straight on her comfy couch and enthusiastically saying "Yes! I have! I just finished her book 'Interrupted' and it is soooo good". Then I immediately wondered if I had come off "too strong" with my enthusiasm. You won't believe what came out of Nancy's mouth next. She looked at me and said, "Wow, I just downloaded that book today".

What??!!! You mean the very book that God had just told me to share with others was just downloaded by the lady who invited me to her house to make Valentine's Day crafts the same night that the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats were playing??? Coincidence.....I THINK NOT. Well, I was at least able to not completely go crazy and freak everyone out by telling them how God had totally wrecked my life with this book and how He had asked me to share it with a group of ladies. I just remember saying over and over how good it was. (FYI: Nancy later told me that she did notice my jumping off of the couch when she mentioned that she had downloaded the book...guess I didn't curb my enthusiasm as well as I thought :)

I stayed for a few minutes longer because Zack was giving me text updates of the game and we were way no hurry. Hehe. When I got home, I told Zack what had happened. I was kind of still in awe. He asked me what I was going to do about it. I told him I thought I would email Nancy in the morning and explain to her what God had revealed to me. So that is what I did. And to my delight and joy, she responded and said she would definitely pray about co-leading a study of the book with me. I was thrilled. And very nervous and scared.

 Later that afternoon, I received another message from Nancy. She was getting her hair done and brought her tablet along. She had only read the first few chapters, but that's all it took for her. She was in. Wow. From that point, everything moved very quickly. Nancy had led studies in the past, so again, God was already at work, as she knew who to contact at the church to get the materials ordered and get the study promoted And, the other ladies were comfortable with her and coming to her home. What we didn't know was what an overwhelming response we would have to the study. Over 20 women had signed up to participate. Wow God! Great to have so many ladies, but too many for one group. So Nancy and I met again to plan and discuss. We decided the best solution was to offer the study on two separate nights. That way the group wouldn't be too large and it would give more flexibility- If you couldn't make it on Monday night, you could come on Tuesday. She would facilitate one night at her house, I would facilitate the other night at mine.

I was truly in awe of God's provision. But I shouldn't have been. After all, He has all authority on heaven and earth (Matthew 28). He can move in hearts in ways that only He can. Nothing is impossible for Him (Genesis 18:14). Why did I ever doubt that He wouldn't provide a way for something that He had called me to do? Learned that lesson for like the billionth time. Sorry God.

So, we started the study mid-February. I was nervous, I admit.  I wondered if anyone would come to my home. Even though we offered the study on two nights, we didn't do any type of official sign up, so for all I knew only a couple people might have show up. Thankfully my mom just happened to be in town, and I was glad to have the extra moral support. My mom rocks, by the way.

I hadn't had anyone into my home in a group type setting except for the kids bday party, so I wanted everything to be just perfect (glad I have my priorities straight, aren't you?).  That first night we had 6 ladies, counting me. It was a small, but sweet and authentic group. We had great conversations and discussion. All I could think was "Thank you Lord for this opportunity. You are truly awesome and do awesome things".  During the next few weeks sometimes ten ladies came, sometimes just 5 or 6. But it didn't matter. We were talking, reading, discussing, and listening to things that were truly God's heart. Thing like  how He desires His followers to love, serve, and reach the world. How to go to the "bottom" (not the top where the world says we should be) where God is (Matthew 25) and where He resides with the least. That nothing else matters but faith in action (James 2) and the newness that Christ brings (Galatians 6).  It was awesome. And, I got to know some really great ladies in a way that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. God really is too good to me.

I still have so much to process, to learn, and God still has MUCH, MUCH work to do in my heart. For me, this study has opened my eyes to a way of life that is so freeing, but it will take much work in my heart to let go of all that I have allowed to bind me to this world-  caring so much about status, possessions, the pride that comes with these things, comfort, security. Basically everything we as Americans strive to have as a part of the "American Dream".  At the same time, I hear Jesus asking me, "Rebecca, are you willing to lose your life to find out and know what it truly means to live?" (Matthew 16: 24-26).  It all comes down to this question: Will I give my life to Him? Not just a day or two here or there, for an event every now and then, but the very essence of who I am, all of me. Will I value and love the things that He did? The hurting, broken, poor and weary people of this world. Will I go to the places these people are? Whether it be in my own subdivision, the "poor" part of town, or across the ocean?

A quick update on the family.....Everyone is doing great! We were a little bitter that the one winter we don't live in Kentucky we got some awesome snow! We all wanted to be in that mess so badly, sleigh riding and building snowmen, and being frozen from the waist up :) But, the nice weather here is making up for it. The kids continue to love their schools and are learning so much and doing very well. The boys both recently had some pretty cool field trips that I was able to be a part of.

Aquarium with Caleb's class (Emmie got to come too :) 

Uh oh Noah! At Charlestowne Landing....

The boys are beginning baseball season and Emmie is continuing in gymnastics. Emmie also tried to show her hair cutting ability....again.....but short hair in the hot weather is actually a pretty good idea...

 Zack's work is keeping him busy, and he really enjoys it. I recently applied for and received my guidance counseling certification in South Carolina, just in case the opportunity arises for me to use it this fall (when all the kiddos will be in school full time). I attended a county wide education recruitment day this past weekend. It was a little overwhelming, but I feel like it went well and that good contacts were made (this school district serves about 25,000 students!). We are getting more plugged into church, and getting to know more people as well, which is a very good thing for us. Another good, but hard thing.

Spring Break is coming up in a week and a half, and guess where we are going... Kentucky! Can't wait to see home, sweet home. Unfortunately Zack can't come with us, as he is saving up vacation for the summer.  I should also add that it is also very fun and cool to represent Kentucky Basketball here....especially right now....we wear our UK gear loud and proud :) GO CATS!

We have now been in Charleston for over six months. After being here for over 6 months, it doesn't feel like at all like home yet, but it is becoming more normal, if that makes sense at all. Some days I still can't believe we live here.  Other days it feels like a very long extended trip. It's a different feeling.  That's the best way I can describe it. Some days my heart aches for home, for the familiarity of home, for my friends, and for my family. For the little things I took for granted that comes with living in a small town. But I believe now, more than I ever have, that Charleston is where God wants us. Will that be the case a year or two from now? Maybe. I don't know.

But what I do know (and this is still very raw for me) is that life is more than the things I love (and I do mean love) about my small hometown and the great state of Kentucky (I love you KY Wildcats and the wonderful four seasons of Kentucky). Life is more than my precious, precious friends back home and my family that I love more than life itself. That is so hard to type. And don't think for one second that the previous mentioned things aren't wonderful, beautiful, and good gifts from the Father, who gives us good, good gifts (James 1:17).

 But this is life: Life is about Jesus, and bringing Him glory and honor. Life is about serving others, loving  others, and giving of ourselves for the Kingdom. Great joy and contentment await this type of life. But also great sacrifice and pain, at times. Through it all, He promises to be there, even to the end of the age. Praise Him for that.

I have always been a HUGE Toby Mac fan...even all the way back when they were still DC Talk. His newest single kind of sums up where I want to be living my life- beyond myself, with God sized dreams. In a place where He has to show up. Living by faith. Let's live that way. Can't you just imagine how a broken and hurting world could be transformed if believers began to live like this? Relying on Him to do amazing things. For His Kingdom. Let's do it!!

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah, it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin' on You
I'm leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin' it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me
Yeah, it's out of my league
It's way beyond me
It's way beyond me

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown

It's way beyond me, w-way beyond me
It-it's way beyond me, w-w-way beyond me

Yeah, You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
Yeah, it's out of my league (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me (it's way beyond me)
It's way beyond me

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own (it's way beyond me)
You take me to the place where I know I need You
Oh take me to Your place
Take me to Your great unknown

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Best Valentines Day Gift You Could Give Your Spouse....

With love in the air and Valentine's Day coming up soon, I decided to postpone my followup post to "Interrupted", and save it for the next blog post.  Instead, I want to tell you about what I think is probably the best Valentine's Day gift you could give your sweetheart.

But first, a throwback picture....

Awwww. This was in 2006, just a couple years after Zack and I were married. I think we kind of look all dreamy in this picture (it was before the wedding of a dear friend), but honestly, our marriage at that point wasn't exactly a dream. It sometimes resembled more of a nightmare :)  Zack and I ran across this picture the other day, and I asked him what this picture made him think of and he said exactly what I was thinking.... "rough times".  We both smiled and in some strange way it was comforting that we both thought and said the same thing. Weird, I know.  Please don't hear me say that we never had good days or times in our first couple years of marriage. We definitely did. We had a blast. But it is also true that on more than one occasion  in our young and fragile marriage, both of us honestly wondered if we would make it.  The reasons for this line of thinking  at that point in our lives were complex and would take too long to detail here. But suffice it to say that pride (sin), bitterness, and a lack of grace and mercy are a pretty solid recipe for a disastrous marriage, and that is what we had been cooking up during those times.

Thankfully the story didn't end there, and God's redemptive power took hold of mine and Zack's lives, and eventually our marriage. It took time and grace on both of our parts.  We never, ever,  gave up. What both of us knew deep down, but often times couldn't articulate to one another was basically, "As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the Holy Spirit living in us. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. He is big enough to transform this marriage".

Easier to articulate now (though we still have so much to learn). Not so much then. Which brings up a good question.....Why? For two people who have grown up in wonderful and loving Christian families and who have been raised "in the church", why was marriage so tough? Again, another loaded question. No doubt that the way in which our culture portrays marriage and love played into it.  Marriage and love (according to our culture) have become so about "us" and are such self serving concepts in our culture. It is very unfortunate and frightening to see these beautiful gifts from God extremely distorted from the selfless, sacrificial love that we read about in scripture. What Zack and I failed to realize in our early years of marriage is that the byproducts of loving God with all our hearts, seeking first His Kingdom, and sacrificially loving and serving our spouse are truly what makes for a joyful, peaceful and loving marriage.  When we begin to take the focus off of ourselves, and seek God and His very best for our spouse, marriage truly becomes what it  was meant to be. 

Which is where my  idea of the best gift you could give your spouse comes in (Sorry, I just took the long way around to finally get to it :)  

 It's not fancy, sexy, or cute. It's a book. But it has the potential to rock your world, and in turn your marriage upside down.... in a good way, of course.  Here it is......

Now, I have read my fair share of books about to improve it, how to diagnose what's wrong with it, how to keep it get the picture. But never  have I read a book on marriage as profound as this one.  It is not necessarily what you would think of as a warm and fuzzy book about marriage. I mean, right on the back of the book it says, "Marriage is great, but it's not forever."  Sound harsh? Well, let's think about it this way- When you look back on your marriage years from now, what will you see? When you stand before God one day (as we all will), what will He have to say about how your marriage served Him?  I don't know about you, but I fear that many things that I think are so important now, might not seem so important then. What will matter is if you have a marriage that has shown the grace, love, and glory of Christ to all who have known you and your spouse. What will matter is how your marriage helped to bring God's Kingdom to earth. How your marriage reflected the very love that Christ has for His church and for a world that so desperately needs to see genuine, sacrificial love- that will matter.  My prayer is that one day when Zack and I stand before God we will hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant". I want our marriage to function in such as way that hearing those words is our main goal for our marriage. By the continued grace of God, I believe that truth can be a reality for all of us who seek to bring Glory to His name through the precious and wonderful gift of marriage.

I know Valentine's Day is two days away, but order this book anyway and let it be a belated Vday gift, or an extra surprise a couple days after, or just order it for you and then you can give it to your spouse to read when you are done. Just buy it. I promise what may seem a little harsh or rough around the edges when it comes to a book about marriage will open your eyes to the beauty and depth and purpose of marriage that God intended when he created this beautiful union between man and woman.

Before I finish this post, I do want to get a little mushy (sorry, I can't resist) and tell my husband just how much I love him and how proud of him I am. The last few months have not been easy, and I think Zack has had a much more difficult job than I have had in terms of adjusting. He has had to adjust not only to a new city, new home, new church, etc., but also to a new job and new coworkers, new customers and new demands. And he has done so in a most excellent way, excellent in both work performance and character. I am so proud of the man, husband, and father he is. When I kiss him goodbye every morning, I have gratitude in my heart to God for my husband. He really is my best friend. He dreams big dreams with me, encourages me, cries with me, and laughs with me. He is with me. God has given him to me to be my fellow sojourner in this world, and together with God's help and grace, we will strive to show others the love of Christ. It is Christ alone who keeps us, guides us, and strengthens us. 

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. There is truly no replacement for the amazing love of God.  Don't be fooled by anything the world may try to offer in its place. May all of our marriages be a light in this dark world, reflecting and revealing what love is all about. Let's not settle for anything less.

Romans 5:8New International Version (NIV)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 1:19-20New Living Translation (NLT)

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Matthew 25:21New International Version (NIV)

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Monday, January 26, 2015

I Hope You Will Still Like Me After You Read This: My Life Interrupted, Part 1

You know those moments when you can do nothing else but stand in awe of God, and just praise Him for even remotely considering using you as a part of His plan? Been having a few of those moments lately.

In my last post I wrote briefly about a book my dear friend Rachel Hyde gave me for Christmas, and how God was using it in my life. The book, "Interrupted" has had quite an impact on me. Well, since that post I have finished the book. The day I finished it, I literally sat in the floor of our guest room and cried (one of many times this happened while reading this book). I have been completely taken aback by this book. In a good way, of course. And I have tried, for the last week, to put into words all that God has shown me by reading "Interrupted", but I just can't seem to put it into words. So, you will just have to read the book. You should. It has the potential to change your life.  I guarantee that at the minimum it will bring you to a crossroads and you will have to make a way or the other. So don't say I didn't warn you.

What I can say about my life after reading this book is that God has opened my eyes to the way in which I HAVE NOT been living a missional life. The spell check has underlined the world "missional" like it isn't a real word, but I promise it soooo is (or maybe I just spelled it wrong....but I don't think so).

 So let's is how I have been living my life as a Christian up to this point.... I attend church regularly, serve regularly IN THE CHURCH, listen to as much Toby Mac and other awesome rockin' Christian music as possible, hang out with CHRISTIAN friends, etc., etc. All very wonderful and good things. Please DO NOT hear me say that these are not beneficial things. They are, and have encouraged me, strengthened me, and filled my life with the Spirit. Good things!

However, they do not replace the mission that Jesus gave to all believers, which is found in Matthew 28- to GO (keyword) and make DISCIPLES (other key word). You see, I am afraid that in my well-intention-ed Christian life I have become so full of Christian "things" (like knowledge, music, friends, etc.) and have spent so much of my time and effort filling myself with these things that I have become spiritually obese. Too much going in (to me, and the church only), not enough going out (to the world).

Yes, I am definitely dangerously spiritually obese. Dangerous because as I have learned in a very painful way, lots of filling ourselves with Christian knowledge and not going out into the world but only using our skills and knowledge in the Church can definitely let pride seep in and puff ourselves up. I never thought of myself as a prideful person (hello, red dumb can I be??) but moving to a brand new state and town and attending a church where nobody knows you is pride killer #1. I am truly a nobody, and honestly, that is the way it should be no matter where we are. I have found it very painful to be a nobody, (which is very different than not being known by anyone) and all that pain just reveals how much pride I have had inside me. Sorry, but its the truth, and I hope you all will still be my friends.  It's not supposed to be about us. Even if we are the best, hardest working, most dedicated servant in the church. Still not about us.

Another danger is that in doing so much in the church and for the church, I have forgotten that Jesus commanded us to "Go"! What a concept! So you mean that I shouldn't expect people who have no interest in church or spiritual things to just magically appear in my church? You mean my life should be a mission to make disciples by the way I live everyday, and not just defined by a few events (great as they may be) that my church holds each year?  I should befriend people who make me feel uncomfortable because God created them and Jesus loves them? You mean I should hang out with people who live in "the bad part of town" and don't act very Christian like because God created them and Jesus  loves them too?  I should give my money (oh yeah,  it is all God's anyway), my possessions, and my time (deep breath....that's my most precious commodity) to develop RELATIONSHIPS!!??? with people that I would really like to just ignore? Jesus, are you sure that's what you meant when you said to "Go"!!!???

And Jesus has confirmed, "Yes, Rebecca. If you want to truly 'Go' and to truly 'make disciples' then you have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone in your nice neighborhood with people like you, and give your time, love, money, possessions, whatever it takes, to people that don't know Me  and just love them the way I would. Just spend time getting to know them. Just invite them into your home and feed them a meal. Just let your entire life be a mission."

Well, shoot. That was honestly my first thought. This is not exactly what I was hoping for. Because I am already having a tough time making "church" friends, and now you want me to make friends with and serve people whom I really don't even want to get to know???! Well, shoot.

For a few days I had moments where I wished I had never read this book and the scripture contained in it. I wished that I could just go back to the way I use to think about my Christian life. It was much easier, felt more comfortable, and was generally less anxiety provoking. I could think more about things that made me feel happy, like if my foyer table needed a table runner, and things to do in Gatlinburg in February. Anybody feeling me?

But thankfully God continued to put up with me and my pitiful, broken, selfish mess, and I prayed for God to somehow move and to help me makes sense of all this. Then I saw God move in two very specific ways, and I realized that I didn't want to go back. As hard as this new way may be, missing it would be even worse. Missing it would mean not being a part of bringing God's Kingdom to earth. Missing it would mean that I would just grow more and more spiritually obese until I would die. And I didn't want that to happen.

More on those two very specific ways in the next post......stay tuned! But here are the scriptures God has been using to really speak to me:

Matthew 28: 18-20
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with youalways, to the very end of the age."

Matthew 25: 31-46
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

James 4:6
But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, "God opposes the proud but favors the humble."

 In "lighter" and "less heavy spiritual" news: Our guest "suite" (bedroom and bathroom, okay) is now ready and open for visitors. We actually had our first visitors this past weekend- my lifelong best friends came down to watch the Wildcats beat the Gamecocks (Sorry SC people). We had a great time at the game. I miss them so much and one weekend just wasn't enough time to catch up. But I will take what I get :)

Weekends are filling up fast (not really) so make your reservations soon!! Seriously, come and visit us people!!!

Guest Bath- This was previously just a half bath- we were able to steal some space from the new bedroom and add a shower (you can kind of see it in the mirror)

New Bedroom (previously a formal living room....something we would never use:) 

The kids are doing great! Noah had another great 9 weeks and achieved academic excellence. Caleb has been invited to participate in a special reading group, and is also doing great. Emmie loves her class, and her speech therapy is progressing well. Zack is coaching Upward Basketball at Summerville Baptist and the boys are playing on his team. They are all having a great time participating. All three kids have new hair-dos as you can see from the below pictures (of course Emmie has in her "fake hair" so don't worry it's not permanent :)

Caleb before the finished product...old man look

Finished product....Good Job Dad!

Way to Go Noah!!!

Until next time....all our love from South Carolina. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Special Visit Home.......Interrupted!!!

The Holidays have come and quickly, I might add. We left on Friday, December 19th with our micro mini van loaded down. Thankfully we had our friends mini-van (Zack's college roommate visited us over Thanksgiving and while visiting their van was hit and had to be left in Charleston for the repairs), repaired and ready to return to them in Kentucky. I am grateful that the timing worked out for both of us, because we needed the extra space and they didn't need to make another trip to Charleston :) A win-win! Our trip home took a little longer than usual, about 9 hours, but I can honestly tell you that pretty much the minute we crossed over into Tennessee I began to smile....nonstop. Then, as we moved closer to Knoxville, then to Jellico, then finally into KENTUCKY...I actually was feeling quite giddy. Emmie was with me, asleep in the backseat (a miracle in and of itself) and I had Christmas music playing and the seat warmer set at its highest level possible. I was a happy girl. It had been 12 weeks since we had been home. I know that isn't a drop in the bucket for people who are deployed overseas serving bravely in our military, or for people who serve selflessly as international missionaries....but for this girl, is was the longest time I have been away from good ole' KY.  And I was elated to be back home. Here is a picture of Emmie, ready to head back to Kentucky.....she might have been even more excited than me, because she literally sat in the car for 30 minutes all by herself before we left Charleston,  just waiting for the rest of us to get it together so we could hit the road!

We had a packed schedule once we got home, and we were all pretty pumped. The first weekend home we had a birthday party, our annual tacky sweater Christmas party, my annual Christmas party with my high school friends (thinking this was maybe the 12th year?) and another party with my girlfriends from church. Throw in two awesome church services at our home church and a service with my parent's church, and that made for one fun filled, reunited and it feels so good weekend!!!  I can't quite articulate the feeling of home, but there isn't anything exactly like it, at least in my opinion. It is comforting, peaceful, just like a big warm hug kind of feeling. I equally can't tell you how special being with precious friends and family was. It was the best gift we could have been given this Christmas!! Here are some highlights below.....

 Annual Christmas Party with high school friends....
we started this our sophomore year of high school!

Tacky sweater Party....loads of fun!

This is supposed to say "I'm nuts for moving to South Carolina"...not, "I'm almonds". Get it?

Buddies glad to see each other :) 

The following week was just as wonderful. On Monday, I had lunch with two of my dearest friends and former co-workers. Love these girls so much. Tuesday we had fun making Christmas goodies, and Wednesday we went to our church's Christmas Eve service, which is always so very special. My parents went with us, so it was even more wonderful. Being able to take communion with your family and then sing "Silent Night" amidst candle light....there isn't a much sweeter reminder about what this season is really all about. After the Christmas Eve service we spent time with my mom's family and then headed back to Bobbi and Pap's house. We opened a few presents, but the highlight of the night was watching the kids excitement at the impending special visitor that would be arriving later on. I have never seen them quite as excited! We even heard some ringing bells outside, which told us Santa must be close. Poor Emmie was afraid she was going to "miss him" as she kept saying. All the kids hurried to bed and of course Zack and I  listened outside their door to try and get a glimpse of what what going on inside their minds! We rolled with laughter (silently, of course) as Noah gave Emmie some big brother advice. He said, "I know how you are feeling! I am trembling right now! Let's just hurry and go to sleep!". So cute. Priceless memories.

Christmas morning came and the kids woke us from our sleep eager to see what Santa had brought. They all opened their gifts and were very pleased and thankful. Then we began the scramble to get ready to make our annual Christmas Day voyage to Ashland. Our mini mini van resembled Santa's sleigh, but we made it! If it had been 12 weeks since we had been to London, it had probably been more like 18 weeks or more since our last visit to Ashland! It was more than wonderful to see Zack's extended family and for our kids to have fun times with their cousins. We had a blast and stayed until Sunday, when we headed back to London.  We had a few more great times this past week- dinner with friends, and a super fun New Year's Eve Party. During many of these gatherings we played a very fun game called "Heads Up". You can download it onto your Ipad for .99, and I promise it will be the best .99 you ever spend. Hours of laughter was had by many, thanks to this fun app.

 New Year's Eve....

On New Year's Day we loaded up our mini-mini van. This was an experience, let's just say that. My husband and father are pretty much expert packers, and it is a good thing. Now those of you who know what we drive understand what I am talking about. Those of you who don't just need to understand that we drive a Mazda 5. See pic below.

It is a great little car (key word "little", especially for a family of 5). I am thankful for it, because I have no car payment, and I love driving it. It really does "zoom zoom" like Mazda says. It is cute, fun and economical (both important to our family). But offer lots of cargo or passenger room for a family of 5??  It does not. But, we made it work, and the luggage only fell over and crashed into Emmie's head one time. She is a trooper. And yes, that really happened.  See the luggage to the right of Emmie in the picture?? Yeah.

I almost forgot to tell you about the best gift I got this Christmas. First I should say that  I greatly appreciated every gift I received, and the thought and generosity that came along with each gift. But one gift I was given has blown me away, and I haven't even finished it yet!! It is helping me hold on, so to speak, through this faith filled time of blindly walking through each day and not really knowing for sure what we are doing here (in South Carolina).  It came from a dear friend whom I have always been able to have some wonderful spirit filled conversations with, and whom I miss dearly. It is a book called "Interrupted" by Jen Hatmaker. I am putting a picture of it right here, because I highly suggest that you buy it immediately. Like right now. Go get on Amazon and buy this book.

It  is a story about what happened to one normal, down to earth family who thought they were doing everything right in terms of living the life God wanted them to....but something still didn't seem exactly right. That is when one simple prayer was prayed, and God interrupted their life....big time. Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar to me. Okay, very familiar to me.  Sounds pretty much  like what happened to our family.  I have been devouring this book, and I know that God is using it in my life, at this exact time, when all I really want to do is abandon ship and book it back to Kentucky. You see, this family heard God's call loud and clear, with circumstances and heart yearnings that could only have been from God. They eventually gave themselves over to His call, and prayed for Him to show their family the next step....but it didn't exactly happen that way. They had to wait on His timing to see exactly where this "interruption" was taking them (I haven't finished the book yet, but I have a feeling it is going to take them someplace wonderful!!).

 And that is truly where Zack and I feel we are. We began praying a prayer for God's work in our lives at the beginning of 2014, and we undoubtedly saw God's hand in leading us to South Carolina. But to be very honest, we really aren't sure what our purpose is supposed to be here, now that we are here, in South Carolina. Basically every day we say, "God, why are we here again?"  It's a painful

We can, however, share with you that God has revealed to us and taught us truths that we believe God could have only done by taking us away from our comfortable place in Kentucky. Not because God wasn't capable of teaching us that in Kentucky, but because our sinful and selfish hearts weren't willing or ready to receive it.

More to come on this last point in my next post....cause that post is going to need some time and space, if you know what I mean :)

Happy New Year!!!!