The End and the Beginning.

On our flight from Beijing to Dallas, we were exclaiming over all the leg room that we had, saying this plane was the one of the best we’d been on, and definitely the best for a long haul flight.  A little bit into the flight, I got up to use the restroom and noticed that not everyone had the leg room that we had.  Weird.  When I got back to my seat, I observed that the label on the overhead bin said Economy Plus.  Y’all.  All five of us were in upgraded seats at no cost to us!  It was the easiest 13 hour flight we have ever been on.

orange.pngArriving home always invokes all the warm fuzzy feelings.  Seeing the people you love for the first time in months and getting to hug them is indescribable.  The best feeling!  I wish I could bottle it up and experience it every time I need a pick me up.  This return home, although we’d only been gone for 6 months, was no different.  There was anticipation and excitement and a feeling of relief that we wouldn’t have to say long goodbyes anymore.

Then jet lag set in.   Suddenly I had the wee hours of the morning, before the world awakened, to quietly process all the changes that had taken place in our life.  My heart felt so much joy in these first moments.  There was an underlying terror in my soul, that would rear its nasty head later, but I mostly felt glee.  The kind that makes you want to dance.

The first full day we were back, we went house shopping.  Our realtor happens to be the mama of our sister-in-law (Cameron’s brother’s wife) and has been a part of our family longer than we have been a family, so she had been showing houses to my mom for us for a couple of weeks before we arrived.  We were prepared to hit the ground running!  As we walked in and out of houses that needed so much updating and work, my heart started to drop.  The joy was leaking out like a balloon with a pinprick hole and the fear was started to bubble up in a slow boil.  We only had so much money we could spend and it didn’t feel like enough.  Satan was doing a real good job of stealing our joy.

A good friend of mine reminded me before we left China that Satan would try to do this.  That he wouldn’t want us to experience the joy of walking with Jesus; that he would try to infiltrate our minds with all the negative things he could find.  How wise her words were!  After a few days of weepiness and house hunting and arguing at home, I realized that I had let my worry overtake what should be a sweet, fun time in our lives.  As I let the worry go and chose instead to sit right next to Jesus and let Him direct us, peace flooded my mind once again.  It’s amazing to me how quickly I forget how good it feels to let God carry my burdens.  He is capable and willing to take all the things I worry about, stress about, and get upset about and figure them all out for me.  I just have to let Him.  Sometimes I have to just stop and roll my eyes at myself.

After what felt like walking through every. single. house. for sale in our city over the next two weeks, we walked into one that caused me to lose all objectivity.  I wanted it from the moment we pulled up.  It is in the neighborhood I was hoping for.  It is red brick, which is my favorite.  It has a big, white kitchen with so much space to bake.  Split bedrooms.  A master bathroom with two closets and a bathtub.  Let me just pause and soak that in.  For a bath-loving girl, this is huge!  I have lived for the past 5 years in homes with no bathtubs.  When we were fortunate enough to stay in a hotel with a surprise bathtub, I would take two baths a day.  I know.  Hotel bathtubs give me the creepy crawlies too, but y’all.  I was desperate for a good, long soak.  I was also desperate for this house.

With fingers crossed, we submitted an offer that afternoon.  It was kicked back with a counter offer.  Neither of us were willing to pay closing costs.  Remember that time about 24 hours before this, that I figured out Satan was stealing my joy?  I let him do it again.  Stupid.  I know.  <insert yet another eye roll here>

I went into this attitude of, “Whatever.  Just pick a house.  I don’t even care.”  I did care, obviously, but I was acting like a two year old.  I was also feeling numb.  We had barely been back in America for two weeks at this point.  I was in a place that I get where I can’t make choices well and I cry a lot.  I was also starting to really doubt if we heard God correctly, and it wouldn’t be the last time I was filled with doubt.  Things just didn’t seem as smooth as I expected.  We still hadn’t found vehicles.  Or a house.  We were both starting work in about two weeks.  The girls were still sleeping on air mattresses.  We sat down and looked at financial numbers (bad idea).  I just felt…scared.  And I had, at some point, taken the burden of my life off Father’s shoulders and decided to carry it myself.  Again.  So I gave it all back to Him and asked Him to just figure it all out.

And of course, in His faithfulness, He did.

The realtor called and the sellers decided to pay closing costs after all.  Some distant friends/church members who own a car dealership were going to auction to find us vehicles.  They were able to find exactly what we asked for within our budget.  It was immediate.  When you let go and allow God to work things out, He does a far better job than you can even imagine doing on your own.  For some reason, even though I know this truth, I can’t seem to remember not to be controlling.

Early the next Saturday morning, I was spending some quiet time with Jesus and asked Him to provide a bed for Ellie’s room.  We had decided to build bunkbeds for the big girls (I decided this, and I hope Cam, when he reads this, remembers that I asked/told him he was building them built-in bunkbeds.  Yay!), but I wanted to find Ellie a wooden bed with a  trundle pull out.  About the time I finished praying, Cam walked in and asked if I wanted to go check out the garage sales around town.  I love garage sales.  Cheap things that you can transform and breathe life back into are some of my favorite things.  And guess what we found?  Yep.  A wooden bed with a trundle for Ellie.  For $25.  As I told the older gentleman who was selling it that I had prayed for this just that morning, I was really struck again at how Father cares for me and the little things that matter to me.

Amazing, y’all.  We love an amazing God!

 

 

 

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The Middle, Part 2

As we started to think through the logistics of a move back to Texas, our minds went into a hyper speed where coherent thought and speech became nearly impossible.  It reminds me of the time Cameron and I watched an internet-downloaded version of Planet of the Apes.  Because it was downloaded, the subtitles didn’t transfer.  We watched that whole movie trying to figure out what the Apes were saying when they grunted.  We mostly had to make our own commentary using context clues, but oh the laughs we had!  I don’t think there was a lot of laughter as we contemplated a move across the world.  Again. But there was definitely grunting!pinkstipesyellow.png

When we sat the girls down and told them we were praying about moving back to Texas, their responses were surprising.  One started crying and said she didn’t want to leave China.  One was excited because Chick-Fil-A is in Texas (go ahead, you can roll your eyes. We did too.), and the other was stunned and began immediately thinking of the friends she would have to say goodbye to but also the possibilities of social activity in a world where most people speak her language.  I honestly had expected them to squeal and jump up and down in excitement, but I am so thankful that I got to see how God had turned their hearts towards our life in China too…that it wasn’t us being “mean” to make them live there, but rather a joy that God had allowed this life for them.  Very soon after we told them, we started to field questions.  Thousands of them that had no answers.  The top of the list was schooling.  Where would they go to school?  Would they be homeschooled?   Could they please go to Wall because my best friend goes there?  (Wall, Tx is a tiny farming community about 10 minutes outside of San Angelo and has a FABULOUS, very highly ranked school).

I had no idea what to even tell the girls, but I was pretty sure that last option wasn’t really an option.

I texted a friend who is a teacher in Wall ISD and asked her if they accepted transfers.  This text was before anyone knew about the decision we were fighting to make, and her response was so in line with who she is.  She, without asking questions, said she would find out.  Then she got excited and encouraged my socks off.  Over the past couple of years, this friend has prayed for me, cried with me, loved on me, and encouraged me so much more than she will ever know.  She replied back and said transfers weren’t allowed but that a Teacher’s Aide position was coming open and it would allow my girls to transfer into the district.  She said she would talk to the principal and explain everything.  The next thing I knew, I was scrambling to create a resume, after not having held a job in 18 years.  Y’all.  It was blank.  I told Cameron that this principal was crazy if he called me for an interview.  Yet, he did exactly that.  We face-timed an interview; me in China, him in Wall, Texas.  I had a peace and excitement growing in my heart and felt that, deep down, this is what God had lined up for us.  We began praying about it as a family and it became a joke among us that if God could do this impossible thing (me getting a job), then anything really is possible!

When the email came offering me the position, the smiles in our house were blinding.  We had one thing about our future lined up.  Now on to a home and vehicles and furniture…

When we called Cam’s parents to fill them in on our upcoming life changes, they immediately offered us everything in their house.  You see, God’s timing is perfect.  It leaves no stone unturned and nothing left to chance.  The doors were bursting open and our path was highlighted in neon.  Cameron’s parents were moving to another state to retire/take care of Cam’s grandma/work in a new area.  They didn’t need to take anything with them and were getting rid of all the things we were needing to buy.  A refrigerator, couch, bed, television, kitchen things.  Everything.

It seemed like every time we started to doubt whether or not the decision to leave China was right, God did something big to pull our eyes back and affirm to us that we were indeed following after Him.

As we began to sell all our things, again, and pack our lives into 13 boxes, God used everyone around us to help.  The body of Christ truly stepped up and became family.  I had two friends travel up by train to help me organize and pack and, honestly, to calm me down.  They kept me grounded, encouraging me and reminding me that God already had the details figured out.  The students that were there working with us kept us laughing and constantly sought out ways to serve us and our girls.  Our local friends threw dinners and goodbyes for us.  There were emotional goodbyes that broke our hearts.  I saw a side of Cameron that I hadn’t ever glimpsed before when his closest friend, an older gentleman, grabbed him into an embrace and told him he would miss him and that he was unlike any other foreigner he had ever met because he cared so much for the people around him.  And it is so true.

Over the past 18 years that we’ve been married, God has spiritually transformed Cameron into a man that is almost polar opposite from who he was when I married him. God has a way of stripping you in order to use you, and China did a number on us both.  Cameron has become such a servant.  I have watched him give his heart, his time, his sleep, his comfort.  He would travel any distance on our island to help a brother in need. The leaders he worked with soon began to realize that Cameron was different.  He wasn’t going to give them money, but he was going to walk with them.  He would be there for every event, he would train them, he would encourage them, he would show them by example how to lead their churches into becoming healthy churches that could make disciples and reach the nations.  He would laugh with them, joke with them, be REAL with them.  He shared hotel rooms, ate very questionable food that would make most of us gag, and he became one of them.  They let him inside their circles and their hearts, and he couldn’t have been happier.  In fact, I have never seen Cameron enjoy life the way I did when we were in China.  He was truly working right in the middle of the giftings that God had given him, and the goodbyes were heartbreaking.  When you watch your husband weep because sending the email resigning a job he loves is too hard to do, but is what you are supposed to do, you can’t help but to fall in love a little bit more.  And feel thankful and humbled that God allowed you to be his wife.  I also felt so much trust.  Remember how I told Cam on our walk that I didn’t think he would ever leave China…this moment was when I knew I had been allowing Satan to steal my trust from Cam.  Cam walks tightly with Jesus and is sensitive to the leading of the Lord.  I knew that in my head, but somewhere along the way it got disconnected to my heart.  Following Christ isn’t easy, y’all.  There’s a reason we have to commit daily to following after Him, and it’s because it goes against what the world says is good and right.  It’s like swimming upstream when the current is unrelentingly pushing you the other direction.  Everything in you wants to just let go and allow the stream carry you, but, friends, we are called to fight!

Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:14

When we got on the bus that carried us away from the life we’ve known for the past five years, our eyes turned toward the new battlefield that was waiting in front of us.  Girded with Truth and the knowledge of being in His will, we entered our homeland once again.

 

 

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The Middle of the Story

As we began to process and pray over this new opportunity, God began to open doors.  I don’t mean crack them, I mean He threw them wide open and put flashing arrows above them to let us know He wanted us to walk through them.

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In an effort to make sure all our i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, we reached out to our immediate supervisor.  He and his wife are kind and full of Jesus, and we knew we could trust them to help guide us.  He encouraged us to get away separately for a time of prayer and fasting and to also reach out to someone whom we trusted that would be unaffected by our decision (not family or IMB personnel).

So, we both reached out to trusted friends and asked them to pray with us and share their wisdom.  Both gave encouraging words and asked hard questions and ultimately led both of us closer to the decision to return.

Then, we planned overnight getaways at a local hotel for each of us.  We decided not to talk about what the Lord was telling us until we both were finished with our time.  When we came together to share what the Lord had spoken to us individually, we learned that Father had used the same scriptures to speak to both of us.  We had both meditated on the book of Philippians and then over to Ephesians.  For me, these are the scriptures Father used to bring peace to my heart about the decision to return to America:

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.  Ephesians 3: 20-21

Our family had memorized Phil. 1:6, so it was already on our hearts.  I am positive that was no accident.  He is faithful to direct our paths way before we know they need to be directed, as we would soon see in numerous ways.  As I reflected back on my life, He began to remind me of my prayer to someday live near my family.  Then, as I read Ephesians 3:20, about Him doing far more than we ask or think, I was struck that He was answering my 10 year prayer.  He wasn’t just sending us back.  He was sending us back to the church all my family attends.  Where my Dad is on staff.  Doing a job that Cameron is uniquely gifted for.  He had worked it out so much better than I could have even imagined it.  And He wasn’t finished yet, as we would soon find out.

I really had to wrestle with what felt like failure.  For so many people, the calling to move overseas is a lifelong calling.  We have never held tightly to the calling, never claiming that it was forever, but we were prepared for it to be.  The Bible (James 4: 13-17) tells us that we don’t know what tomorrow holds and we are arrogant if we say tomorrow this, or tomorrow that.  We should say “If the Lord wills”.  We have tried very hard to live by this standard, re-evaluating with Christ the things we are doing and making sure we are continuing to walk down the path He desires.  We were ready and willing to live in China forever.  Frankly, we expected to. But we never wanted to live there forever if Christ didn’t want us to, regardless of how easy it would have been to do so.

That last statement may make you scratch your heads a bit, wondering how I can say that when just yesterday I said that living in China was hard.  The hard part about living in China for me was the distance between myself and my family.  There were smaller “hard things” in each city we lived in, but the biggest was always the longing to be near my family.  The rest of living overseas was such an adventure!  Growing up, I always told my dad that I wanted to live in a big city.  I wanted hotels and airplanes and what, then, I felt, was the rich life.  After living in a city with 14 million people, flying on airplanes more times than I can count, and staying in hotels more often than I want to remember, I was ready for the empty mountains of Colorado where all I could hear was the roaring of the gushing river.  I wanted to feel the brisk coldness of mountain air on my face as I unzipped a tent to walk to the fire where I could smell the percolating coffee.  All the things I hated as a child, I longed for when I was in the midst of the life I thought I wanted as a child.  BUT.  I wouldn’t trade the adventures.  We played with baby tigers, zip lined through the mountains of Thailand, vacationed in Taiwan, and saw more beautiful beaches that I ever thought possible.  We rode scooters as our main transportation, had heart conversations in Chinese with friends the Lord gave us, held hands and prayed with friends as they made the biggest decision of their lives, to follow Jesus.  All those longings in my heart as a child were fulfilled in spades.  I loved it. It also made me realize that I love the simple things too.  I don’t need fancy hotels and airplanes.  Powdered donuts and tents, crammed into overflowing trucks, and family are more than enough.  More than that, being in the midst of what God wants for me, is exactly what fulfills my heart.  I never would have learned that He is all I need if He wouldn’t have taken me out of a world that I could control.  I am so thankful.  Living in China will always be one of the greatest blessings in my life.  He gave me friends that will forever will be my friends. He gave me an eternal perspective that changed my life.  Staying there, friends, would have been okay with me.

As Cameron and I shared with each other what the Lord spoke to us during our time away, we made the decision to move back.  Phone calls and emails ensued, and after what felt like years, but was, in fact, only days, we were able to share with our families and friends.  There was shock.  There were tears.  There was uncertainty and there was excitement.  There still is.

But there was more to come.

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The Beginning of the Story.

There is always more to the story than what social media and text messages can say, and I wanted to write it down in all its glory so that I may never forget how the Lord called us back to America.bluestipes-4081870048-1501507551450.png

It all began one unassuming morning.  I was in bed, sick with a migraine, when Cameron came in and said that Pastor Kirt (the pastor at our church in San Angelo, Texas) had called.  He looked a little shell-shocked as he told me, so I immediately asked what he wanted.  It wasn’t unusual for Kirt to call as the church was partnering with us to open a coffee shop on the island, but this seemed like more than that.  Then Cameron dropped the bomb that changed our lives, “He offered me a job.”

If you know me well at all, you know that being in China didn’t always come easy to me.  I have always had a deep soul longing to live near my family again one day, but I have also always been willing to lay down that desire in order to be in the center of Gods plan.  I want His plan for our lives much more than I want to be near family, and I honestly never thought He would move us back to our hometown.  Ever.  So when my brain began to process what Cameron had just said, my first thought was, “NO.”  This can’t be what God wants.

Let me make a side note here and get real with you.

  • Sixteen years ago, when Chloe died, I started to believe the lie that God doesn’t give me the things my heart wants.  I earnestly prayed for Him to breathe life back into her body, and He told me no.  That was the beginning of me allowing Satan to fill my heart with lies.  I still battle it.
  • Ten years ago, God asked us to move to Fort Worth for schooling.  I knew without a doubt that He wanted this for us, but nothing in me wanted to go.  We had just bought a house on the same street as my best friend, and we had big plans for a happy life of homeschooling and living life together.  This was just another brick on the wall I was building that said God didn’t want me to like my life.  I began to pray then that someday God would allow us to move back to San Angelo to live near our family.  Near my grandparents.  My parents.  My brother and sister-in-law.  My nieces and nephews.  My friends.  TEN years I have prayed.
  •  Five years ago, He asked us to get on a plane that would take us as far from family as we could physically get.  Then He asked me to give up homeschooling.  For the first time in 12 years, I wasn’t a stay at home mom.  I felt like He was always going to ask me to do the things I didn’t want to do.

I basically adopted an attitude and belief that if I weighed out what I wanted in one hand and the other option in the other hand, God was always going to choose the option that wasn’t what I wanted.  So, I battled.  I fought with Satan’s lies that God wasn’t actually a good father, that He didn’t love me or care about me.  And I fought hard, y’all.  Sometimes Satan won the battle, but most of the time, after some doubting, I would see it all for what it was…lies.  God is always faithful.  He is always good.  He always wants the best for my life that will give Him the most glory.  God has never let me down.  Not even once.  Not when He wouldn’t let my baby live or when He moved me away from my family or when He sent me to China.  He has proven over and over His faithfulness and goodness to me.  He is turning my life into a beautiful piece of art, and that is going to take some pain in the making, but I will accept it.  And hopefully I will accept it with joy, because He has taught me that He loves me more than life, and all the examples I was keeping track of that said He didn’t love me, those were actually the opposite.  He was taking the “me” away so that I could look fully into His face and recognize that HE is God, and that He has mighty plans for my life that will reveal His glory to the nations.

So, back to the bomb.  Cameron is pretty unwavering.  When He is confident in what God is telling him to do, he doesn’t waver.  He is able to stand firm.  {Thank the Lord that one of us is able to!}  So when he stood before me, uncertain, I knew.  I knew this was big.  I knew God was already softening Cameron’s heart.

Another side note.

Man, the rabbit trails!

A little before the phone call that changed our world, Cam and I were talking about life and our hopes and dreams and all that.  We were dreaming about what life would look like when we were in China alone, when our girls were all grown and living in America.  It was a marvelous dream!  Oh the traveling we would have done!  But we also talked about what it would take to call us back to America.  I told Cameron that I thought it would be the hardest decision we would ever have to make.  {I wasn’t wrong.} I may also have told him that I didn’t think he would ever make it.  That I thought God would have to knock him upside the head to get him to believe that God actually wanted us to leave China.  Cam agreed that it would have to be VERY clear, but told me that he always wants to live where God calls us, and if that is in America, then that is where he wants to be.  He won’t hesitate to do what God tells him to do.

What a gift that conversation was to my heart in the weeks to come!

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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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