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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Nine days.

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We are nine days from locking our front door and not re-entering for 5 months.  There are action packers and suitcases all over my bedroom and chaos in my head.  Trying to figure out what to pack and how to pack is overwhelming and the reason for many, many naps in the past month.

In the midst of my life getting packed away, the thoughts that are running through my head have bordered on crazy.  I have moments of sadness where I am not ready to leave China.  There are so many new possibilities in this new city that I am excited to explore!  Then there are moments of fear where I am so scared to be back in America because what if I never want to return to China?!  What if everything is different and friendships have changed too much to recognize?  What if I am so different that I am unrecognizable?

Yesterday I had a deep moment.  Just one.  The door opened and I admitted that this life isn’t the life I would have chosen.  That nothing about it is what I want except for the part where I am doing what Father tells me to do.  I don’t like the furniture in my house.  I would never have picked out my kitchen table.  I wouldn’t choose to live on the other side of the ocean from the people I love.  I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to learn Chinese!  There are things that happen where I want to scream, “You are NOT a good, good Father!!”  But, because these are the realities in my life, the life that was chosen for me by the One who makes the best, most informed, decisions, I realize that I long for heaven more than I ever have before.  I am daily reminded that I was not made for this life, but for eternity.  My job is to invite people to the party of worshipping the One True God!  If He had given me everything I ever wished for and granted me the life I had dreamed about, would I want to be with Him the way I do now?  Would I long for Him?

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This morning when I checked Facebook I read an update on my sweet friend’s daughter’s fight with cancer, her words struck me.  She wrote out the words to “I Surrender All” and the phrase in the middle that says “worldly pleasures all forsaken” hit me in the face.  Daily I have to lay down what I want for what He wants.  My sin nature tells me there are better things in life than what He is giving me, but that simply isn’t true.  I want to forsake worldly pleasures for eternal ones.  I want to want what He wants.  He is a good, good Father.  ALL the time.  I may have to step back, outside my circumstances, to recognize His goodness, but it is always there.  Without fail.  He is faithful.  He is kind.  He is loving.  He is good.

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Resident of Haikou

haikouIt’s officially done and over.  We have moved and spent the last few weeks cleaning, organizing, napping, breaking down boxes, wondering how we have accumulated so. much. stuff, napping again because of the overwhelming feelings of a task too large, and settling in.

I can now say our home feels like home again!  The kitchen has been reopened for business and lots of sugary things have been coming out those doors.  My girls have decided baking is fun, and who are we to squelch their learning and practicing of such an important art?!  Ha!

We have explored the area we live in and find it to be beautiful and convenient to get around.  We have discovered a local bakery run by a foreigner who knows her way around an oven.  We have had pizza and bagels and apple pies while sitting in comfy chairs listening to praise music.  I do believe the girls and I have found our homeschool hangout!

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And because of all the treats, Cam and I have started running again and much to our delight found that there is a running track that follows the coast.  So, as the sun rises above the swaying palm trees, we can comfortably jog on the padded path as we watch the waves roll in.  I can’t really imagine much that can top that for exercise!  Well, besides NO exercise.

Now that we are unpacked, it is time to pack again for a 5 month voyage to AMERICA!  Yes!!

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Kids and Moving.

movingMoving with children at home is like trying to clean up glitter after a girly craft time.

It doesn’t go well.

There is something about rolls of taps and endless bubble wrap that brings out the creative beast inside my children. The giggly creative beast.  They have been wholly unproductive in packing but have certainly kept the joy bubbling forth in our home!

I’ll be honest.  Packing turns me into mom-zilla and giggles may be my food source.  I know they aren’t doing what they were told when the giggles get loud.  I have found them hiding in boxes, jumping on the bed, free-falling onto the mattresses that are now on the floor, turning boxes into shoes, and popping the bubble wrap.  They turn everything into an adventure full of fun, and as I step back and see the opportunities I have missed to join in the joy, I am ashamed.

Kids have it right.  This life is the only one we have, and we need to do everything in our power to turn our work into fun and our grumpiness into laughter.

Thankfully He gives us new mercies everyday, and tomorrow I am going to embrace my inner child and let the giggles and dances spring forth!

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