Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Beginnings

The post title has so many meanings.  

It's so weird to begin here, where we are today, with this story, because SO much has transpired in the last several weeks that I really don't know where to begin.  This story is hard, but it's good.  This story is sad, and yet joyful, too!

Jeff and I have lived (and loved) Bartlesville, OK for nearly 8 years. It's where our life as a married couple began.  It's where our children will always get to say "I was born in...and started life out in..."  We moved into the Holiday Inn (currently La Quinta) just shortly after arriving back in Oklahoma from our honeymoon.  We lived there for about a week and then moved into a too-sweet-for-words rental thanks to a sweet family in the church!  We lived there and did ministry there. We conceived our first child there.  We moved and became first-time homebuyers and have stayed in that (this) house ever since.  We've had all three kids' nurseries in this house.  They all learned (learning) to walk, talk, and play here.  We've sent our first born to school for the first time right around the corner (Jeff was able to walk him to school too, something he’s always wanted).  We've loved here.  We’ve watched friends turn to family.  We've really lived life here.  It's forever a part of us.

But, before we even knew what was going on, we felt the Lord tugging our hearts away.  How could this be?  We love our church/ministry.  We love our home.  We love the school.  We love everything about this place.  This is life and we were living and happy.  Content.  

About August I'd say is when the Lord began working out loud in our hearts, but we didn't understand.  Jeff had uneasiness in his spirit, but we pressed on in life, ministry, work, etc.  When nothing really changed, we somewhat moved past it.  

Around this time Jeff had read Radical by David Platt (I recommend).  It was a God-timing thing too, because he had begun the book months prior but never finished.  Finishing the book is where the Radical Experiment begins.  He had me read it and we decided this was where we were and aligned with our hearts and knew the Lord was calling us for big change.  We began just giving away so many of our things and trying desperately to simplify life, and begin praying fervently for the nations/countries.  Little did we know this was just the beginning.

With where we were with our Radical Experiment (RE), and the other ways the Lord had begun to prepare our hearts for major change, we felt the Lord calling us away from Bartlesville.   But just didn’t know in what manner.  Another part of the RE is to serve outside your community/comfort zone.  Our hearts have been in Haiti for a long time even though our hands and feet hadn’t been there in 8 years.  We began thinking maybe we would just get to Haiti and then see what the Lord had planned.  

In November (I think) we get a phone call out of the blue from a church in Bixby, OK, called New Beginnings (NBC).  
The way it all transpired is somewhat comical.  Jeff's sister Jennifer puts on a youth conference in Enid every year and has had
a lady Carol Sallee from Bixby (NBC) come speak several times.  I think a couple times her husband, the senior pastor from NBC (Phil), has also come.  There are details here I am fuzzy on, but anyway, they liked Jennifer so much and thought she did a great job they asked her about moving to Bixby (?) and she of course declined.  But mentioned she had a youth pastor brother that was "amazing" that they should check out if they ever needed a youth guy.  (don't quote me on all that).  Anyway, 2 years ago they didn't need a youth guy.  But this year they were looking and they'd just come back from the event and spoke again with Jennifer.  

So, the random phone call for us came...

Jeff initially said no, we weren't interested.  I (for some reason) said, "let's just go hear them out" and I believe Jeff had told GCC at this time what was going on and they said it's a good learning experience and we should go ahead and go.  So we went.  It was a yummy lunch and great conversation with the pastor and his wife and then we went home.  We didn't think too much about it at the time, because things were just good and we didn't want to leave.  Then a few days later they asked us to come to a formal interview.  I said "no" this time, but Jeff said, "I'll just let them know where they stand and see if they still want us to come."  He said, “on a scale of 0 to 10, you're a 1 and that's only because a 0 takes God out of the picture.”  So after being brutally honest, they still wanted us to come down.  So we did.  The interview went very well and really perked our ears and pierced our hearts.  They had a vision that was very in line with where we were as a family.  It was different and yet it made so much sense.  Their ministry vision was exciting, and that excited us.  We really felt the Lord’s hand in this in so many ways.  We felt He was confirming over and over again in so many details that this was what He had planned.

We met one more time with the Phil and Terry (the church administrator) to go over what would be very specific details. They offered the job early December. We prayed and talked and prayed and talked and prayed and cried and talked and prayed.  It was a heart-wrenching decision.  The loss seemed too big for something unknown and new.  We prayed some more just to confirm with the Lord that this was His thing and not ours.  We still felt the path forming in front of us, so we accepted the next week.  We were elated and sad and every other emotion in between.   

It was the beginning of a new journey and even though the details of it all began to unravel years ago, it had come together seemingly so fast to us.  It was kind of a whirlwind next few weeks. 

With any job change there is an order of how things have to play out, with church staff it’s even more intense.  It’s really out of your control, because it’s not about you, it’s about the whole.  We wanted that too, even though it was hard selfishly.  We had to keep it a secret, and I felt like I was living a lie.  I hated every minute of it really.  I felt terrible that we knew we were leaving but because of the holidays and break and vacations and just about a million other things, we had to keep mute about it for what felt like eternity. 

But things were firing on all cylinders, of course, in this Type A brain of mine and so we went house hunting and Bixby exploring and had to do it all without getting outwardly excited.  It was good too though because it allowed us time just Jeff and I to have ample conversations and time together. 

Grace decided timing would be best to let congregation know on Sun. January 2nd.  We were very sad because we had plans already to be out of the state and wouldn’t be there for the announcement.  Again, it wasn’t about us, but what they felt was best for the whole church.  So, we waited.  It felt like the longest few weeks in a long time.  Once that day hit, so did the texts and calls.  But the weight of the world left my shoulders.  I was so thankful I didn’t carry the secret anymore.  Now it was time for the conversations though and that was harder than I ever thought.  We’ve had cries, cussing, happiness, laughter, sadness, madness, smiles, encouragement, discouragement and everything in between, but nothing we didn’t expect really.  We’ve been serving in the same church for a long time and we weren’t leaving because things were bad (in fact we have never felt so supported and enabled to do ministry), so it was a shock to most, and we knew we would be missed as much as we were going to miss them!

NBC introduced us to their church family January 9th (yesterday) and we will be starting February 1st.  We will still live in Bartlesville until the house sells.  For so many reasons I hope this house sells very fast!  Keeping it “show ready” with 3 kids is just an impossible task.  Plus, once Feb 1 hits, I really hate the idea of Jeff having to commute an hour and a half each way.  So, if you are inclined to pray, please pray for us as we step out on our New Beginning (journey) and that our house would sell quickly.

There are so many things that just are God-things.  For remembrance sake for us, I’ll just list the main ideas so we can look back and see how the Lord provided and showed up, and confirmed in our hearts: the 21.4K price drop on a home we loved so it’d be in our price range THE day we were going to look at other houses, the acceptance of a contract on said home, Adoption Ministry, Haiti, financially meet US standards to adopt internationally, Bylaws pass, Model B, Tuesday Morning Pastor’s wives breakfasts, close to CPO, Mothers Day Out, and I am sad to say I know there are more I’ve already forgotten.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas be continued

We have the blessing of having 3 Christmases each year! It's quite fun. This year we will be in 4 states by the time December is over (the last Christmas and 4th state are coming Thursday!)  Our first stop was Enid, OK with Jeff's mom side of the family.  Jeff's sister, Andrea and her little girl Reagan, were able to come up from Colorado and that was great to spend time with them. Since they are so far away we rarely see them. Creighton loves playing with the other "Rae Rae" in the family :)  The slept on the pallet together each night! :)
 Taylor joined us for Enid Christmas this year and it was great to have him around. He is sporting the FOOTED pajamas that Jeff and I got for him! :)  he loved them
 "Christmas morning" in Enid 2010.  Jackson (as typical) was excited and grateful for EVERYthing he opened....but he was very excited about his remote control car. I must say it's pretty fun to play with!
Charleigh cuddled with several of us during the opening of presents but didn't have a whole lot to do with unwrapping gifts this year.  She's just too sweet for words. This is her sweet smile (the best pic I got of her unfortunately) after she opened and hugged her new Cabbage Patch cloth doll.  It's a sweet little biracial (light) baby with dark curly hair. I love it. She likes to kiss her and give her hugs.  She got sweet fun girly things and lots of new cute clothes to wear!
 Creighton, on the other hand, (also typical) was not excited about anything she opened until this.  After she opened her "Tangled" set (Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, and horse) she stated, "I don't need to open anything else, this is all I wanted" Oh baby, I love you, but we have so much work to do on that personality and people skills! But I am so glad you love your Tangled characters :) She plays with them NONSTOP
Jackson was very disappointed after he opened all of his presents from Grammy and Pop that he didn't receive the ONE thing he wanted most.  He asked Grammy for it, but he also was able to ask Santa (for the first time in his life) for a gift this year.  Well,  he wanted the DELUXE BUZZ LIGHT YEAR with remote control.  It's pretty stinkin' cool.  He was ELATED that he was able to open it because apparently 
"Santa" (Grammy) couldn't wait because she was so heartbroken that he was so heartbroken.  He was SO excited!

 That sweet smile I can't get enough of.  The cool thing is he gets (outwardly) as excited about just about everything.  This kid LOVES gifts/surprises.
 Creighton asked for Jessie and a skateboard from "Santa" this year.  She didn't seem to notice she hadn't received her because of aforementioned love for Tangled set.  But she was super excited, actually, about getting JESSIE too, because she got the cutest ever Jessie boots that she wears everywhere!  I even had to put her hair like Jessie's (with a YELLOW bow) (I was secretly just excited I didn't have to force her to let me do something to her hair :))
 I don't have pics of Jeff and I from this Christmas since we were taking them all, and also keeping 3 kids and all the stuff organized throughout the morning.  But I was VERY excited to receive a really nice sewing machine and NEW BOOTS! I have worn them already several times and I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. I will have to figure out how to use my new sewing machine since I know nothing about it, but I am very excited to learn!

Jeff got new Oakley glasses, a new BLUE Northface jacket, and money for new Apple product :) He was one happy man! :) We were all blessed with so much more, and are very appreciative!

The kids and I headed straight from Enid to Branson to have Christmas #2, state #3 (state #1 was a trip to Texas with the Holley's December 10th).  The long car drive wasn't nearly as bad as I had anxiety attacks about.  Charleigh doesn't enjoy the car. The madder she gets, the higher pitched her screaming gets. In a confined car, it's really hard...but she didn't do too bad.  She and Creighton slept from Enid to Tulsa, so the first hour and half was great! :)  The latter half of the trip wasn't great, but it's been much worse in the past, so I gave it a thumbs up!  We got there and that's what mattered!  How the big kids acted once we actually arrived was a whole 'nuther story...I thought I was going to go INSANE, but they calmed down eventually :)

I didn't take ANY pictures the first few days. 3 kids and 1 mom didn't leave an extra hand for a camera.  But we did have LOT of fun and made many memories.  We made/decorated ornaments, we swam in the heated indoor pool, we played shuffleboard, we watched movies, we ATE (and ate and ate and ate), we looked at Christmas lights, we laughed and played games and the kids played all kinds of games and make-believe and watched A LOT of TV/Movies.

Then Daddy came!!!! We were all very excited. But when he came, he brought really cold weather with him.  But that's okay we all bundled up (with the exception of Creighton who REFUSED to wear a coat, and Charleigh and Grandma Maxie stayed at the Condo) and went to Silver Dollar City anyway!  It was absolutely FREEZING.

We were only able to ride rides for about 30 minutes before they had to shut them down because it was TOO COLD!  Creighton loves the butterflies~!  I did get her to wear her hat thankfully and she wore that fleece jacket but wouldn't put on ANYTHING ELSE, even after I forcefully tried.  She was FREEZING.
 They had The Living Nativity and it was cool. It was nice to be indoors and thaw out and then warm up too!  The kids got to take a pic with the real donkey :)
 The other show we went to was A Christmas Carol: Scrooge! It was awesome. Great production.  Here's the whole gang in 2 shots.  Jacob, Jackson, Nonna, Clay, Lacy, Sarah, Aaron, Creighton, Mommy...
 Daddy, Aunt Christy, and Papaw (Grandma Maxie and Charleigh weren't with us)
 Jeff took this pic as we were leaving the park because the only camera we had was the IPhone and he didn't want to give it to someone. The lights/tree were beautiful. We were sitting in a sleigh but you can't really tell.  This was closing time and it had dropped in the teens I think. It was too cold to be outside and we'd been there for hours by this time!
"Christmas morning" in Branson was actually celebrated on Thursday morning because several of the group was needing to leave Friday morning.  So we all cuddled in one of the condos and had a good time.  Our presents were the condo, silver dollar city, Dixie Stampede, and then mom and dad got a few things and stockings :)

 Charleigh got a sweet light up duck that she loves!  I don't have pics of the others but Creighton got a new Barbie car she LOVES and Jackson couldn't be more excited about his SPY watch he asked Nonna for!  He's so fun to watch open because he gets SO excited!
 This is Dixie Stampede! The kids LOVED it. I wasn't sure if they would or not, but they did. Creighton LOVES horses and so she was in heaven.  And she loves to sing/perform and so it was double heaven for her. She was in awe the whole time!
 Cute cowboy!
We were suppose to stay until Christmas morning at the condo, but the weather was suppose to get bad and so we ended up leaving casually on Friday afternoon.  Jeff got the privilege of driving the 3 kids home from Branson since I had trekked across the state of OK alone for 6 hours. :) I really enjoyed the nice peaceful and quiet car ride home :)  But he sent me this not too far into the trip. :)  I was glad for his sake
 It was actually nice to be home a day early. I had missed my bed worse than I imagined!  IT was also nice to be just our little cozy family on Christmas Day with NOTHING to do.  It was nice that it could be ALL ABOUT CELEBRATING JESUS!  We started out with baking a birthday cake. The kids loved it.
 The helped and did most of the stuff with the help of the MIXER :)
 All the girls!
 And my sweet boys!
 The finished product!  Happy Birthday Jesus!
 Later that day we went down south to visit with my Uncle Les and his family (I rarely get to see my fave boy cousin Kevin and so that was a treat!) I had made Taco Soup and brought it to eat at my parents' house afterwards.  It was yummy and there wasn't a drop left afterwards.  The kids inhaled it they were so hungry. I was glad to have made dinner for my mom and grandma since they cooked their hearts out the week in Branson! (and it was a bonus they liked it! ;))

These are pics my aunt Wanda took at her house that night! Love this kid to pieces!
 And this one...(and Jax too)

Fun family picture!  The girls were wearing matching outfits from Grammy and Pop and Rae had her new Jessie boots on even though you can't see them in the pic!

We are over and above beyond all comprehension blessed and continue to be.  This has been a wonderful Christmas so far and we aren't done yet... We leave Thursday to go to a trip to Florida (state #4, Christmas #3)!  The kids are so excited for their first ever visit to Disney World!  Jeff's Dad and Debbie arranged for everyone to go for our Christmas this year.  We are going to be there till January 3rd, so my Disney post will be in the 2011 post, but we are SOOOOOOO excited to be there very soon!

Thank you all for our sweet and thoughtful gifts and trips this year.  It's been a Christmas to remember forever! Most of all, and most importantly, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who came humbly and lowly to this earth as a baby boy in order that he might live to DIE for my sins, and yours.  We celebrate Him.  We do it by loving family, giving, and yes, receiving.  We receive you Lord Jesus!!! Thank you for coming.  Thank you for sacrificing for me.

I love my family! be continued in 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I thought of so many who might benefit from reading this

Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

We are by now accustomed to hearing about how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his—ehem—problems with this season is no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe it always has been. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy.

Not too long ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. It’s been a story very hard to forget.

I get it. I mean, it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

But allow me to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

Matt B. Redmond is associate pastor for Branch Life Church in Birmingham, Alabama. A graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas outfits :)

Oh Charleigh... are just TOO cute for your own good.
YOu didn't leave these on long, but you did let me put them on you and even smiled but I didn't have the camera ready! You are funny!  You have just about mastered balance to walk without quite so wicked of a wobble :) You are so proud of yourself and it's pretty funny when you "run" away from me.  

TOday is your last day of school for the year 2010 and every big class was having their party, so I dressed you up too :)  You were so cute riding your horse this morning!

I gave you a bath this morning and washed your hair but I didn't get it put up in time before it went crazy :)

Your sweet Mary Janes were one for mere seconds before you had them off. You look very sweet in your candycane dress.

There is your sweet smile! You are so full of personality.  You were not too happy 5 minutes before this when we tried to get a sibling picture.  Oh well. We'll take this anyday!

The first body part you learned to find was your belly button. It's so cute.  You hunt for it like it's gone missing or may not be there every so often.  Today I happen to catch it on camera. :) LOVE IT!

You thought you were pretty funny too! You are a walking-talking machine now.  Oh and you definitely found your lungs.  I laugh when people mention how quiet you are...which is true most of the time. But they've never been in the car with you.  It seems you don't like your seat let us know in no uncertain terms my sweet girl.  Whew.  And just when we have lots of car trips coming up, too!

Canning 101

I am pretty sure I needed some guidance this go around...but oh well. I think (emphasis on think) I got them all (but 2) canned correctly.

Cruz made amazing Tomatilla Salsa for me to can for staff presents this year. This stuff is just like drinkable good!

The jar were in the dishwasher and the lids were carefully washed by my sweet husband!

The first set doing their thing

both sets out and ready...(well kind of)

Aren't the pretty!? I am going to make them prettier with a little Christmas-y decorations/tags before I had them out. But I am quite proud of myself.

I had to put several back in to boil longer because the lids didn't seal but I think I got them this time...I am hearing POPing loudly from the kitchen. :) (I think that's a good sign)