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 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!

school

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.

bacon

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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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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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!

running

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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