School Schmool

For some reason, this site is blocked in China.  I haven’t had time to sit down and figure out what the deal is, but since I am in Hong Kong right now, I thought I would take a moment and tell you what has been happening on our side of the world.

There is so much I want to tell you!  We have been back for a little over two months now and it seems like every day has held a new adventure.  I will do my best to go back and catch you up on all the fun things in the next few blog posts.

For me and the girls, our days are consumed with school.  I do mean literally consumed.  We eat, breathe, and sleep it.  Because of our very laid back approach to the school year while we were in the states, we are quite a bit behind in our school year.  None of us would change how we handled the school load while in Texas, so there are good attitudes all the way around, but it still makes for long, tired days!  By the end of the day, I barely have words left.  I am sure Cam won’t complain!  Ha!  Hopefully we can wrap up this school year in time to start next year in August.  

A couple weeks after our return, we were able to head down to our former city to join in on a Unit Celebration with our homeschool friends there.  The girls had to write a paper on anything they had learned so far this year.  Even in the midst of jet lag and settling back in, the girls pressed hard and got it done.  
After they presented their reports, we all headed outside for the Greek Games.   The laughter was abundant, the competition fierce, and the joy contagious.  Being reunited with all their friends was worth every effort!

Then, a month after that, we headed back down for Gracie and Faith to participate in a Science Fair.  This is the first time I have ever been a part of one, either as a participant or a teacher.

Y’all.

No one ever told me how much stress is involved with one of these!  I wasn’t sure we were going to make it!  Gracie and Faith chose their topics and worked diligently in their spare time to complete their projects.  I was SO proud of their hard work and efforts!  Their boards turned out creative and cute and truly expressed their personalities perfectly!  Gracie chose to prove that listening to music while doing math actually improves both speed and accuracy.  Faith set out to determine which brand of gum blows the biggest bubble.  There were 8 participants in the fair, and Faith won a trophy for top three!  

While we may be hitting the books hard, we aren’t forgetting to have fun and enjoy the moments together!

Most of the time, we can’t even imagine what Ellie will do next.  Fourth grade is still pretty hands on, so we have spent a lot of time reading books together and doing experiments.  She is full of creativity and is always busy.  We watch her closely.  🙂

Gracie is taking Biology online this year (and rocking it with a 99 average!).  Ellie has joined in the dissection times with her goggles and Cam’s swimming ear plugs turned nose plugs.  We didn’t tell him about it.  We thought it would be super funny to wait until this summer when we uses his ear plugs for the first time.

I am sure Faith is having fun too, but I don’t have any pictures of her.  Unless I post the selfies I have found on my phone, but that doesn’t seem very nice.  She is still doing handstands all day.  I am pretty sure she spends most of her waking hours upside down.

I love doing life with these sweet daughters I have been blessed with!

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Counting the Costs

As I sit here in a quiet house, in the dark of night, alone, I feel like it is costing too much.  My mama is having surgery right now.  Everything in me wishes to be there, sitting in the waiting room, waiting to hear she made it through just fine.  I want to be the one making her meals and cleaning her house when she can’t do it.  I want to pay her back just a little for everything she has so selflessly done for me.  And I can’t.

There are moments when life over here feels so worth it.  When everything feels like sunshine and rainbows.  The language clicks, the friendships form easily.  Conversations are fruitful and lives are changed.

Then there are days when nothing goes right.  When you find yourself tucked into the corner of the kitchen sitting on a stool weeping into your arms because you just can’t figure out how to keep going.

It seems like every day is a new day of counting the costs.  What am I giving up to be here?  What of those things do I need to lay at Father’s feet because I am not actually entitled to them like I feel that I am?  It is an endless cycle of refinement, filled to the brim with the evidence of my sin and utter need for a Savior.  And you know what?  Jesus knew this about me.  He knew I would struggle.  He knew I would cry.  He knew I would throw little fits and let my emotions carry me up and down.  And He still chose me.  He chose me.  That, my friend, is love.  True Love.

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Hitting the Ground

We have been back now for about 6 weeks, and I finally feel like I can take a breath.  We have been running since the wheels hit the ground!

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We are working furiously to catch up on our school work, as we decided to take a slower approach while stateside in order to soak up the time with friends and family.  I am not confident that we will finish by August, but it won’t be for lack of effort!  Gracie is taking Biology this year, and the first dissection she had to perform was an earthworm.  I, being the cruel headmaster mama, made her wear goggles.  It was purely for my enjoyment and, while she knew it, she graciously played along.  Ellie decided she wanted to be the assistant so she also donned goggles but decided to take it up a notch and found Cameron’s swimming ear plugs to stick up her nostrils to block out the stink.  Ha!  Ellie has enjoyed being reunited with all her dolls and Legos and most days one or both attend school with her.  Faith tends to stay upside down half the day, perfecting her handstands.

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I have been enjoying baking again, especially now that I have this beautiful mixer, courtesy of some sweet friends at Lane Prairie Baptist Church.  The first time I made homemade bread, my girls sighed with happiness and asked why we ever buy bread from the store.  Ha!  We have also really been enjoying the Smithfield bacon that we can now buy locally!market

Speaking of local.  Early one morning Cam and I went to the market to get our fruits and veggies.  I think I must have forgotten about the smells because I waltzed in holding my coffee cup with a contented smile on my face.  The record player screeched and I never took a drink of that coffee.  Some things just aren’t made to smell before 8am.

We are getting back into the groove of China life and figuring out this new city we live in.  So far, we are really enjoying it!  We have found some new places nearby and are starting to see the same faces and be recognized when we visit.  It is starting to feel like home!

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We are back in China!

It has been so long since I have updated y’all, and I apologize.  Life got busy and I just didn’t have the words left in me at the end of the day to write anything.

We have successfully returned to our island home and found it in perfect condition.  Our return has brought with it so many emotions that are difficult to define.  On one hand it feels like we came home.  We seamlessly were able to jump back into living here, and it all felt “normal”.  On the other hand, it felt like we were entering the loneliest place we’ve ever been to.  Perhaps that is because we have been with our family and friends non-stop for six months.  Maybe it is because we don’t really have friends in this new place.  Maybe it was just a reminder that Father is where we need to go to fulfill the desire for community.  I’m not sure for the reason, but I am so thankful that the tears of loneliness are subsiding!

We truly are thankful for this life we live.  While we miss all the people that we love, there is something to be said about being in the center of obedience to the One we love most.  It brings with it a soul deep peace that makes even the worst days seem okay at their core.  That doesn’t mean we don’t cry and dream of walking through Target while sipping on an Icee.  Because that totally happens.  Ha!

So.  Bottom line.  We are home.  We are safe.  We are happy.

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NYC, a dream come true.

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I have had this dream for as long as I can remember to go to New York City.  In my mind it was the most magical place in the world, full of romance and colorful fall leaves.  Hand holding, book reading while laying under the swaying trees in Central Park, dogs running, nannies pushing prams.  New York City has it all.

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Then 9/11 happened and the desire in my heart went up another notch.  You see, I directly relate that day with the last day I held my baby, 9/14.  The two will always be forever mingled in my mind.  The week that truly rocked my world.

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Cam, in all his awesome husband-ness, booked us a trip to this city full of music and lights to celebrate our 17th anniversary.  Seventeen years with the boy I dreamed about, hoped for, and prayed to marry.

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The smile never left my face.  As we walked hand-in-hand, more in love today than we were all those years ago, everything seemed new and shiny.  We had pizza every single day.  This girl was in heaven!  We walked through Central Park, kissed under the bridge, rode the ferry to see Lady Liberty.  We spotted the golden balls of the big bull on Wall Street.  I drew the line at posing with them.  Gross.  We saw that naked cowboy that everyone talks about.

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We rented bikes and rode from one side of the city to the other.  In a skirt.  We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and stood on top of Rockefeller Center.  We went to the History museum and saw all the things made famous in the movie.   We went to the largest Macy’s ever in search of flip flops because all my shoes rubbed blisters on my feet despite being broken in.  New Yorkers apparently don’t wear flip flops, so we went into every shoe store we saw in hopes of spying the elusive rubber shoes. Those silver sandals I finally paid an arm and a leg for will forever be my most memorable pair of shoes.

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We went and saw Jersey Boys as a reminder of all the songs my daddy sang while I was growing up (beware of language for anyone thinking about seeing this show.  I was shocked at the bad language!)  We had a hot dog and ice cream from street vendors. We found a bagel shop and ate bagels and coffee every morning with the locals.  We soaked in the moments.  We made new memories that I will forever cherish.

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But I will never cherish them as much as I do this man.  I adore him with everything in me. I feel honored to call him husband.  He puts Jesus first, above us all.  He leads us into uncharted territory (while all his girls cry) because he is brave and obedient. Because we aren’t the most important.  And for this I am ever so thankful.

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I am also so very grateful that the Lord looked down at me with favor when I was a 14 year old girl asking Him to allow me to marry Cameron.  What a good, good Father!

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Happy 14th Birthday to Gracie!

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This sweet girl turned 14 just a few days after we landed in America.  Everything was new and overwhelming and exciting and sparkling like glitter.  We celebrated her with all the people we love, and our hearts were overwhelmed with gratefulness that we got to do it this way, this year.gracie1

All of Gracie’s cousins from my side of the family had a little tea party for her.  They did all the decorating and preparing for this little impromptu gathering, and it blessed our socks off.  We were still in the phase of “Everything makes us cry”, and this sweet afternoon definitely provoked tears!gracie2 gracie3

We also had a little party with Cam’s side (I hate this phrase!  I claim them too.).  She was spoiled, as usual, and we all reaped the benefits of her birthday with a cookout full of American yumminess.  It was also a treat to see her mercilessly teased by those who love her most.

 

This girl.  She is my rainbow daughter…the good that came after the storm of losing her big sister.  We have spoiled her since we knew of her existence and have treasured her just as long.  She is smart and kind, creative and talented.  She loves to be alone with her art but can also talk your head off when she is passionate about something.  I have seen her on the mountaintops, full of joy, and crushed with no place left to go but up.  She clings to Jesus, and I know, with utmost certainty, that He has mighty plans for her.  He is forming her in a way unique only to her that will someday bring Him the most glory, and I cannot wait to see how it all unfolds!

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Confidence and Poppies

flowers3I am sure you are wondering about the new name I gave my blog.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to call this place where I record the happenings of our lives and the things Father has done for us.

Confidence.  Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  As I think on my life and look back at who I was vs. who I am becoming, I see how I am constantly being sanctified.  It is an ongoing process that will continue until the day I am made whole by Him in Heaven.  I am confident that whatever I may be going through is being used by God to glorify Himself, and that, my friends, makes every joy and trial I walk through worth it, because HE is worth it all.  So, I can run through this life, head held high, confident that my obedience is leading me closer to Him.

Poppies.  Last year, the girls and I read a book called In Flanders Fields. It is a poem written about the First World War and talks of the red poppies that grew over the  graves of fallen soldiers and how the poppy became one of the world’s most recognized symbols of remembrance.  For days, then months, I couldn’t get those red poppies out of my mind.  I would see a poppy and remember.  I would remember the lives lost for our freedoms.  I would remember Chloe.  I would remember the way the Lord has been faithful to us.

The poppy has become a symbol in my heart to remember.  I have always been drawn to the papery thin, dainty flower, but now I just can’t help but to love it, so I knew somehow, some way, the poppy had to be a part of my blog name.

And there you have it.  Confidence and Poppies.  Remembering that Jesus is the King of kings and being confident in His ability to complete what He has started in my life.

 

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The Thirteenth Chance

Another book review because the amazing authors out there who have written books for me to lose myself in deserve praise shouted from the rooftops!  That, annnnnd they let me read their books early if I tell all my friends what I thought about it.

51-6lwixfjl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Amy Matayo is an author whom I became acquainted with when I read a novella collection that one of my favorite authors was part of.  Then I won a copy of Amy’s novel, Sway, and was hooked on her writing.  This newest book, The Thirteenth Chance, was one I couldn’t put down!

But I’ve also learned that bad decisions don’t make a bad man.  Everyone has a past full of mistakes they would like to undo, and everyone has a future full of errors ready and waiting for them.

I love it when a feel-good novel brings home hard truths that we all need to hear.  Messing up is a part of life, but forgiving is the part that we all struggle with and need to work on.

In this book, a professional baseball player, Will,  who has plenty of mess-ups in his past, enlists the help of his goody-two-shoes, elementary school teacher neighbor, Olivia, to help him straighten out his reputation.  Neither one of them expects the chain of events that follow that first fateful meeting in the dark of night, with Olivia wearing blue flannel pants while wielding a screwdriver.  Amy Matayo has managed to capture with hilarity the antics of an ordinary woman who is content to be herself and the reactions of the man who finds her irresistible even when nothing in him wants to.

Did you know you can physically feel your self-image detach itself, suspend in front of you, and fall away?  Well you can.  You really can.

I laughed out loud so many times while reading this novel.  I had to try to explain to those around me why I was laughing more than once, and the joy that bubbled up in me because of Amy’s skillfully written words stayed with me long after I put this book down.  You won’t regret your decision to read this book!  Truly.

You can get it on Amazon tomorrow, September 26th!

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My Hope Next Door

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I met Tammy’s pastor husband the first time we ever visited China. He was from Southwestern and participating in the same short-term trip that we were.  He and Cam became friends, and years later, when I learned that his wife had written her first novel, I had to read her work!  I have been hooked ever since.  Tammy has the ability to take real life scenarios and create a story that is not only believable but one that you can imagine yourself living.  I pre-buy all her books and read them on release day.  They make me laugh.  They make me cry.  They make me feel.  I experience every emotion and leave the book, every book, thinking about how I can live my faith out a little bit more.

You want me to believe some holy power has turned your life around?  Well then, Katie, show me the difference.

This book, My Hope Next Door, follows in the footsteps of it’s sister novels.  Katie Stone grew up in a small town where everyone knew who she was.  She didn’t make the best choices and when she returns, years after leaving, to help care for her family, she comes face to face with her reputation.  As she tries to live out her new faith and let her present self rewrite who she is today, she is met with a wall of resistance, from both others and herself.  Her neighbor turns out to be a guy she hadn’t treated well in high school, but through an unlikely friendship with him, they both navigate through past pains and find their way to a second chance they couldn’t have dreamed of.

I know you think hiding is your best option.  But trust me, you have to feel something in order to heal.  Ignoring pain only makes it worse.

This book challenged me as a follower of Jesus to take a closer look at the people in my life, both past and present, and determine whether or not I am judging them for their past.  We are all sinners in need of grace, and I need to freely forgive both others and myself.  It isn’t an easy task, but I do think it is one that is required of us.  I love it when a fiction novel can speak to my heart and allow Father to refine the places that are in need of Him!

September 13, 2016 is the release date for My Hope Next Door.  You can pre-order this novel on Amazon, and by following that link your purchase will also donate a portion of the sale to the Board that supports us overseas.  You can actually add an Amazon smile element to your Amazon account and support us with every purchase you make!

So go!  Right now, go order this novel (and just do yourself a favor and get all her other ones too!).  If you love to read fiction, you won’t be sorry.

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Texas, sweet Texas!

After what feels like months and years, we have landed on sweet Texas soil!  We were met by family with posters and sweet smelling roses and have reveled in being with them for the past two days.  We have talked and hugged and shared meals and our hearts are full and happy.

Jet lag has hit, and I realized real fast that I had forgotten how awful it can be!  The first morning we were here, I rolled over and looked at my iPad for the time.  I wasn’t thinking about how the time hadn’t updated yet, so I mistakenly thought it was 4:30 am.  I laid back down and made myself be still for another half hour before getting up.  At about 6, Cam and I went downstairs and made coffee and tried to be quiet.  I think we were pretty unsuccessful.  At 7, I think we stopped our attempt at being super quiet.  When my sister-in-law made her way to the kitchen in her super gracious, loving, way, I realized that my time was off.  We had gotten out of bed at 4am.  Oops.  We did get to experience the donut shop before 7am though!

Our hearts are overflowing with gratefulness for our family.  We have truly been shown Father’s love and care through them all.  Relationships have picked up right where they left off and the grins haven’t left our faces!

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