Thursday, May 5, 2016

life as we've known it...

{I realized that I never posted these pictures from our Christmas card/family photo session, so here they are...6 months later.} 

There is one thing I have left out of those past catch-up posts. And it's kinda major. While this news is its own post, truly it has permeated throughout every day and activity over the last several months.

We are doing something new. While we have had a lot going on, we have also had a lot of lasts.

So, let me just begin by saying...we are moving. We will be leaving the home we have made in Sandersville and closing this chapter of our lives. Joe and I are answering God's call on our family to plant a church. A two-year process with the Methodist church (and truthfully, several year process in our hearts) has led us on an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows, stops and starts, and eventually to the outcome we were hoping for when the appointment became official in March.

In June, we will be moving south to Valdosta where we will begin building a church. From nothing. We believe God is calling us to reach the unchurched, to make disciples, and to do our part in growing His kingdom.

God's will be done.

When God invites us to be a part of what He's doing, it's not so we can bless Him. It's so He can bless us.

This is a leap of faith, obviously. There is no one waiting for us on the other end. We don't know anyone (other than our realtor). Joe will be making much less. I will have to work, too. And together we will work to start this church. As I have told some, we have many challenges and uncertainty ahead of us, but we have God. And He is all the certainty we need.

Remembering God's faithfulness in the past lets us embrace the difficulties of the present and the uncertainties of the future.

We are excited...and, yes, scared. We are sad to leave Sandersville, the home we have loved for five years, and for the special friendships we have made. We are dreading the goodbye. I have found that the tears come easily.

But we are ready to begin this new chapter.

The news of our leaving was announced to the church on April 3. The following Sunday, Joe and I spoke to the congregation. We wanted to share the story of our calling to plant a church and our journey over the last few years to answer this call. It was tough. Joe and I alternated our perspectives and stories. Really I kept it together just fine, until I looked up at one point and saw several of our friends and members of our church family crying. By the end of our message, and especially after the closing hymn, "Here I am, Lord", there weren't many dry eyes. 

The tears affirmed how much our church loves us, for which we are so grateful and encouraged. Joe and I were humbled at the outpouring of love and support. So many kind words.

It was difficult the last several months - even the last year - not being able to talk about this endeavor. The Methodist church leadership told us to wait. We waited and waited, and waited. Even our family didn't know for a long time. This calling to start a church was a well-kept secret between just a few people for almost two years.

Not being able to share with our closest friends was hard. I have a girls small group that meets once a week, where we share and discuss everything from parenting to marriage to faith. We've been doing life together for a couple of years now and I love and pray for these girls daily. It was weird not being able to talk about the biggest thing in my life. Joe had a few conference peers that he could talk to, but most of his friends and our couple friends were in the dark. That was awkward and felt almost dishonest at times.

At the same time, we didn't really want to talk about it until we knew it was going to happen. The way the church works with pastoral appointments, there were no guarantees. So everything is kept confidential until the bishop and his cabinet start making things official. Of course once the appointment is official, the news can be shared.

And the weight could fall off our shoulders.

God's process may be long, but His plan is perfect.

It was weird writing the last several posts of all we have been up to without that little (or big) detail, because in between all of the activities and trips, we've been sharing the news, getting ready to move, finding a home, and trying to live each day to the fullest.

For those that read this, I ask you to pray for us!

Pray that God will continue to lead us in what we confidently know He has called us to do...

For discernment in this process and peace in knowing He will provide...

That His purposes and plans for us will be revealed...

For the people in Valdosta He will raise up as leaders to help us start this church...

For those that will come to know Jesus through our ministry...

For our church here in a time of transition...

And for our family as we say goodbye and settle in a new home.

We know the power of prayer, and we greatly appreciate those you lift up for us.

Father, help me trust my unknown future to you, the known God.

{Words in italics are from Proverbs 31 Ministries' First 5 devotionals I have saved...These devotionals have been an amazing source of peace and encouragement for me.}

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

catching up: part three (joseph's birthday and the rest of april)

So, in finishing out April, there's been a 5th birthday celebration wrap-up (five is a big deal!) and a few miscellaneous happenings...

The kids had their annual teeth-cleaning. Yes, annual. If it was free, we'd go more often. I took them, and while I expected it to be an exciting visit, they both did great. What I really mean is Joseph did great. I knew Hannah would. But little brother is all into everything and wants to know what each and every tool, button and lever does. His curiosity is cute but also drives me batty.

Saturday morning cool down routine with Daddy...

... Joe sends me a text right before he leaves the house (I'm typically still sleeping) letting me know when he's going to be back. The kids get ready and wait for him to round the corner at the end of the street and come into view from the front yard. Then I sit on the front steps with my coffee as they run with him up the street and back, his "cool down".

Sometimes Joseph runs and sometimes he rides the police motorcycle. Hannah is always running alongside her Daddy, arms swinging and long legs in a future-runners stride. Sometimes I'll walk to the street and capture it on camera. We have a collection of these photos. It is a highlight of their weekend and, I hope, a memory they will never forget.

We took Hannah and Joseph to see their favorite big girls (and babysitters) all dressed up for prom. They do it big here; it's like a wedding day, starting in the morning. The girls get ready in groups, the seniors meet at of their houses to take pictures, then they go to another house and have pictures taken with the juniors. Then they head to the dinner and dance. We met up with them at their first picture spot. I'm telling you, after the amount of photos that were taken (way more than at my wedding), I don't know how they held up for round two, and then again at "Grand March" at the school where the parents and friends are invited to come see the prom setting.

JOSEPH is FIVE, did you hear?! He has told everyone that will listen.

The celebration continued all that weekend prior to his birthday. He got to open a couple presents from Meme early, including a super cool Giraffe clock for his room and this Nerf gun below. We went to a local middle school baseball game and then had lunch at Diary Lane.

{I interrupt this subject to show you these pictures of this toothless beauty (in my glasses) following church.}

Back to Joseph. His actual birthday was Monday, April 18th. I sat with him at breakfast and then brought cupcakes to school in the afternoon, taking Hannah out of class to join us. Joe came home in the afternoon and we played with his new toys.

He got the remote control race car of his dreams. Seriously. He picked this toy out at Walmart back at the beginning of March and reeeeeeally wanted it. Please Mommy, pleeeeeeease. There were tears.

{Yes, he's barefoot, and when I sent this picture to Daddy you can imagine his reaction, "Where are his shoes?! It's WALMART! Hello, bacteria!" I will say he'd been in the cart until he saw this display and climbed out. I wasn't too worried...}

Joe went back and got it the next day and Joseph found it in the back of the car when Joe got out and ran into his office for a second. Then he had to go about six weeks knowing we had it but that he couldn't have it until his birthday. Torture. It's all he would talk about when asked what he wanted for his birthday. He only wanted that "race car".

The boys made the birthday cake and we played outside. Going out for pizza was a no-brainer. This child would eat pizza every single day. Then we came home to sing and have cake.

Joseph had a couple of local field trips - one to Washington EMC (the electric utility co-op) and the other to a grocery store. Very exciting. :) He loves to ride the bus:

The following Saturday, April 23rd, Hannah and I attended the Girl Scouts Taster's Tea. Her troop represented China. Other countries represented were Mexico, Ireland, and Puerto Rico. We learned a little about each country and tasted all kinds of different foods.

Hannah wore a little Chinese dress my mom had brought back from Chinatown somewhere (San Francisco? NYC? can't remember) years ago. It is way too small but we made it work as a top with leggings.

They made the lanterns and other Chinese things over the last month. It was neat to see it all pulled together.

Later that day, we drove over to Dublin (45 min) and met Uncle Will Will, Aunt Crystal, and Stella for bowling and dinner. One final 5th birthday celebration. It was our first "real" bowling experience as a family (there was a miniature version at Great Wolf). While we waited on the Brooks trio to arrive, Joe and I showed Hannah and Joseph how to shoot pool. Back in my college days, I was pretty good. I must say, it's not like riding a bike. I haven't played in forever and I was terrible. But we had fun!

Bowling was a blast. The kids played on one lane with the bumper rails up, while the grownups played on the next one over. Hannah tried several techniques, including granny-style. She was intense and focused...similar to her skee ball approach.

Joseph loved sending the ball down the lane, oftentimes with a loud bang on the floor first (we grimaced every time, wondering if the wood would crack). He might have been most interested in the ball return, though.

We gave Uncle Will Will a hard time for having his own bowling shoes (he did buy them back in college) and playing the worst. I will say, about half the time, he did bowl with a one-year-old on his hip...

Finishing out April, a couple pictures from this past weekend and one other story of note...

I helped drive Hannah's Girl Scout troop to visit a local beekeeper. We learned all about honey bees and the job of a beekeeper. He was very clear as the bees were flying around us, to not panic and swat, but to remain calm. At one point we are invited over to an observation box on his front porch to look at the bees (and the queen) through the glass. Well, you had to walk right through the flight path into the hive to see into the other side. Bees were flying, the girls were walking back and forth, most remaining calm, and all was well.

Then comes my little boy. He was apprehensive at first but wanted to go see so I walked with him across the porch. We looked and started to walk back, when he got stung. Yep. He was calm, walking slowly and doing what he was supposed to...and got stung. I'm not sure how it happened but the troop leader saw the bee flying towards the box and encountered Joseph's little legs as he was walking, perhaps threatened by the movement. I don't know, but it was so not fair. He was tough but couldn't hold back the tears.

Of course, he's had allergy testing done recently and we found he is allergic to several things. We did not know about bees, but I didn't want to gamble on that. I drove the mile over to our house and grabbed his epi pen. The sting hurt and he cried, and he complained off and on of leg pain, but he was fine. So...not allergic to bees!

Those two love that swing set and have made so many memories playing out there together.

The End (of April).

Friday, April 29, 2016

catching up: part two (great wolf lodge)

That Thursday through Saturday of spring break, we went on Joseph's 5th birthday trip to Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte, NC. The four of us and Meme celebrated Hannah's 5th birthday on a Disney cruise and wanted to do something special for Joseph's, too. SO much fun and a vacation spot I'd highly recommend for families with young ones. There is a bunch to do and you never have to leave the hotel. All five of us had a blast.

The indoor water park is GREAT. It's a bonus when you don't have to worry about sunscreen and sand with the kids.

Joseph spent most of his time splashing around in the Cub Paw Pool and playing at Fort Mackenzie, the huge tree-house with lots of fountains, hoses and buckets. Eventually he warmed up to the idea of getting the in the larger/deeper pools. Hannah was all about the pools and the slides...and the slides were awesome. She also conquered the Big Foot Pass and made a new friend, also named Hannah, who was with us most of our time at the water park. Our girl is a water baby through and through.

We hit the Northern Lights Arcade on a few occasions. Joseph kept calling it Chucky Cheese, since that has been his only experience in a place with lots of games, lights, and noise. He loved steering and shooting, while Hannah showed off her skee ball skills. Both racked up on tickets.

The food at the hotel is really good; we were impressed. Both nights we ate at Lodge Wood Fired Grill and, between the five of us, enjoyed a good portion of the menu. There is plenty of entertainment for children, including a nightly story time at the Great Clock Tower.

The characters at Great Wolf Lodge, including Wiley and Violet, come out and pose for pictures. My mom arranged for them to deliver cookies to our room one night, too. Unfortunately they did not give us a proper heads up and we missed them. Probably the only disappointment of the trip.

Day two: Friday

We started a packed-full day with Yoga Tails in the lobby and bowling at Ten Paw Alley (miniature bowling alley and great fun for Hannah and Joseph), with breakfast at The Loose Moose Cottage buffet in between.

We spent most of the day at the water park. Joseph and Meme watched as we got dumped on by the gigantic tipping bucket. Meme captured it all with her phone.

In the afternoon, we headed outside for the kids' first experience with mini golf. Hannah was very focused and determined to get the ball in the hole, while Joseph was more interested in figuring out how all the contraptions worked and moving the pin flags around.

Then, Hannah and I did the Howlers Peak Ropes Course, her first time doing anything like that. She was so brave!

Throughout the hotel there is an interactive game you do with the plush characters you make (similar to Build-A-Bear). You go from kiosk to kiosk following clues until, at the end, you are made part of the Clubhouse Crew. Joseph made a Wiley wolf and Hannah made a Rachel raccoon.

While we did this, Daddy did some work in the room. Then it was back to the water park to play before time to get ready for dinner.

We posed with Violet, played in the arcade and ate dessert from Bear Paw Sweets & Eats.

Day three: Saturday

We spent our last morning getting in a few more trips down the slides and playing in the water. Then, sadly, it was time to go...

It was a memorable trip for sure and one Joseph (or any of us) won't forget. Thanks Meme!