Monday, December 6, 2010

Our First Weekend in Rock Hill and Christmas Decorations

Last weekend was our first here in Rock Hill. Our house was full of boxes and all I wanted to do it unpack, but I knew the boys needed to have some fun and I wanted for us to enjoy our first weekend here as a family. We got here just in time for an annual festival called Christmasville. It was a lot of fun. Friday morning a new Children's Museum opened on Main Street and our friends got us free tickets. It is really cute! And the boys had a blast.
Here are some pics from the museum:
 Caleb and Noah playing house with their friends Jayce and Charis

 Puppet time! Yes, Noah has finally overcome his deathly fear of puppets!

 Josiah checks out an otter puppet

 The train table with Conductor Noah and Caleb

The Muesum

 Caleb the Knight

 Noah the mean knight

 Caleb the conductor

 Noah the pirate

Our family-the museum is an old bank and they kept the vault and turned it into the dress-up area. Very cool! Caleb was very sad that we had to leave. 

Then on Saturday we decided to enjoy more of Christmasville. We went to Santa's Toy Workshop where the boys got to make toys with Santa. It was very cool. We started on the young kids area and the boys glued and painted snowmen, but the older kids side had hammers and of course Caleb insisted we go over there. So then we went and built a bug box together. It was really a neat event. Then the boys went to jumped in the inflatables and we loaded up the van and drove a few minutes to Glencairn Gardens for Storytime with Santa. He read the story of Rudolph and then the kids got to sit on his lap and get their picture made. Even though we don't really do Santa in our house, the boys had a good time and both told Santa they want a "new toy" for Christmas (whew!). 

Jack had to stay in the picture because, as you can see, Josiah was not so sure about Santa! 

Sunday we got up and went to our friend, Phud's, church and we enjoyed a lunch right in the middle of downtown at Old Town Bistro. We got a booth by the window and the boys had a great time watching the Christmasville festivities outside. Then we drove about 20 minutes out to a cut your own Christmas tree farm. It was very fun (and on a side note, we got a great Christmas card photo there!). If you know me and my preference for Christmas trees, you know that I want a BIG one- tall and fat. Unfortunately, this farm only had smallish trees! It took us forever to choose one. But we finally did. And actually it turned out good that I didn't get the large tree since our smallish one fits quite nicely in our new living room. After we got our tree, we traveled home and decorated outside and inside. We had fun and I think it turned out pretty great!

Ready to cut down a tree!

Daddy and Noah

 Daddy had lots of help!

 Decorating the tree


The fireplace in the family room does not have a mantle, so we improvised! 

All in all, it was a great first weekend in our new home town. I am looking forward to making lots of memories here!

All Painted and Moved In

Well, last weekend the house was painted by Jack and my Dad and then on Thursday the movers brought all of our stuff here... and MAN do we have a lot of stuff! Most of it is unpacked now, although the screened in porch is still full of boxes and bins that need unpacking for the storage and laundry rooms! But, I thought I'd show you finished pictures of the before and after:

Living Room Before:

Living Room After:

Dining Room Before:

Dining Room After:

Family Room/Kitchen Before

Family Room/Kitchen After:

Looks pretty good! And now it's all decorated for Christmas, but more on that in another blog!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jesse Tree

It's almost time to start the Jesse Tree again this year! We started this tradition last year for the 25 days of Advent helping keep our focus on the celebration of Christ as the reason for Christmas. We absolutely loved it, and so did the boys. Every evening after dinner we did a devotional and created an ornament for our Jesse Tree. Many of you have asked this year about what we use for the Jesse Tree so, for my own reference and for all of you, here are the 25 devotions that we use for our Jesse Tree along with an introduction to a Jesse Tree if you are unfamiliar. I highly recommend it for any family looking for a way to keep your children and your family Christ centered this season. You start on November 30 and end on Christmas Eve.

Jesse Tree-
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5 & 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10 & 11

Day 12 & 13

Day 14
Day 15
Day 16
Day 17, 18, 19, 20 & 21
Day 22 & 23

Day 24
Day 25

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Lot to Be Thankful For

This Thanksgiving, our family has so much to be thankful for- so many ways God has provided for and blessed us. I am so in awe of His love for us in His Sovereignty, in His Son, in His gifts.

201. family together
202. new paint for a new house
203. a husband and a dad who sacrifice a holiday to work on our new home
204. a baby boy making animal sounds
205. moving company to pack us
206. shopping with my mom
207. christmas movies and music
208. time off
209. pie and ice cream
210. a nice strong heartbeat on our new little grain of rice
Our new little grain of rice, scheduled to make an appearance in July! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

We Found a House

Yes, we found a house. Last weekend we went back up to Rock Hill to look at more houses for rent. We signed a lease. Originally we were going to wait until we had a renter for our house here before signing a lease in Rock Hill- the boys and I would stay here and Jack would go on without us (crashing at a friend's house) until we got a renter. But none of us liked this idea. This is a time of big transition for our family and we need to be together, plus we found a house that we like and the landlord was coming $400 down off the rent for us! We knew he wouldn't wait indefinitely for us to decide, so we stepped out in faith. We are trusting God to provide a renter for our house here and we went ahead and paid our security deposit, first month's rent and signed the papers! We are officially renters again (and still home owners too, wow). Continue to pray with us for God's provision. We know that He will meet all of our needs and we completely trust in His sovereignty in it all!

The house in Rock Hill is a brick ranch. It is in an amazing neighborhood with older houses- some small like ours and others quite large- with big yards, big trees and sidewalks. It is only 0.7 miles from Winthrop's campus which is awesome. It has a great screened in porch and a fenced back yard. When we saw the house on Saturday it was filthy.... seriously filthy. Originally the landlord said that since we were getting such a deal on the rent, we'd have to take care of cleaning it, but I am not sure he knew how bad it was! When he saw it with us, he apologized several times and said he was embarrassed at the state of the house- and then he said he's take care of getting it professionally cleaned! And he also said we could paint! A fresh coat of paint always makes things feel clean and fresh. So, today we went to our favorite Austell General Store and got 7 gallons of paint for $22! Jack and my dad are going to go up on Thanksgiving weekend and paint and do yardwork. Hopefully some of our new friends in Rock Hill will help too!

The house has a living room, formal dining room, kitchen with a family room/den ajacent, a large screened porch, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We plan to put the piano, a sleeper sofa (for guests) and TV in the living room, our kitchen table in the dining room, and use the family room off of the kitchen as a playroom/school room/family space with the boys toys, our sofa, and a table for school time. I am pretty excited about getting it all set up! Here are the pics of the house. I'll post more after it is all cleaned and painted.

I have a lot to be grateful for this week, and always. Can you believe I am up to 200 in my list of 1,000 Gifts?

191. a house to live in
192. a landlord who blessed us with an affordable rent
193. a God who is greater and bigger than houses and rent
194. fresh paint for really cheap
195. feeling so loved and appreciated by our friends as we say good-bye
196. knowing that with Christ there is no such thing as good-bye
197. new friends and reuniting with old friends
198. a moving company to pack and load and unload
199. a few days with downtime together before the craziness begins
200. Him and His endless supply of gifts

920 Hawthorne Lane Ext. Rock Hill, SC 29730

 The Backyard

 The screened porch

The living room

The dining room

Looking from the family room/den into the kitchen

Looking from the kitchen into the family room/den

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Want This

It's just a want, not a need. I know that. I know the difference. But I really want this!

It is an in-car overhead DVD player. It is installed in the van so that all three boys can see it. It has infrared wireless headphones. It will be where I can reach it from the front seat. And soon, we'll have more miles and hours separating us from the grandparents and it sure would be nice to have something to entertain on those long car rides! Right now we have a portable DVD player. It is great, but every trip we have to get it hung so that Noah and Caleb can both see it and where it won't fall down and where the headphone wires can still reach it. And it is in the back with them so Josiah can't see it (which is not a big deal now, but give it a few months!) and somehow inevitably EVERY SINGLE TRIP they have some kind of issue- it skips or doesn't start right or they want to switch movies and I have to become a contortionist as I try to climb from my seat into the back seat, fix the problem and climb back again (all while the car is moving 70 mph down the interstate!). Don't get me wrong- I am grateful that we have the one we have. I can't imagine car trips without it! But on my wish list, my wants but not needs list, is an installed DVD player for our van. So, any of my wealthy readers interested in helping me fulfill my "purely superfluous full of wants not needs list" can go here to get me one! :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Good-byes, Hellos and Gratitude

On Friday, Jack was offered the position as the Baptist Campus Ministry Director for Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. We are super excited! This job is the result of two years of searching, wondering and seeking God's will for our lives. It is the perfect marriage of Jack's gifts and abilities- he will get to preach, mobilize students for missions, facilitate small group discipleship and reach a lost campus with the Gospel! The town of Rock Hill is a great one for families- with that small town, community feel but all the amenities of a city. Plus we're just about 30 minutes from Charlotte, NC which I hear is a really cool city!

Although we are very excited about the future and all God has done, yesterday was a very difficult day as Jack announced his resignation at Ewing Road Baptist Church. Ewing Road has been our home for the past 6 years. All three of our boys were born while Jack has been on staff here. We've had the great privilege of ministering to incredible students- seeing many saved and grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. We have made life-long friends during our time here. It will be hard to say good-bye next Sunday. And yet even our goodbye will be with hope- for many of our dear friends we will see again! Our friendship requires at least a yearly visit with many of them! And for those whose paths we may not cross again, in Christ we have the amazing hope of eternity!

As I have pondered all that God is doing, I am reminded of my journey towards a life of gratitude. Amongst the good byes at Ewing Road, the hellos in Rock Hill and all of the details that must be worked out in between, I am praying for a heart of gratitude- a heart that finds joy in the everyday gifts I am given.

181. a loving church family
182. new friends who even now are working to find us a place to live in rock hill
183. life-long friendships
184. family support
185. phud and christie
186. a loving God who goes before us
187. looking back and seeing how far God has brought us
188. knowing He is in control
189. the sweet college girls who God used- sierra, ruthie, jessica, audrey and erin
190. prayers and petitions made for us

Jack did an amazing job with his resignation. It was heartfelt and honest and I am so grateful for the way he has handled this entire situation. He is such a godly man who challenges me, loves me, and is Jesus for me everyday. I want to post his resignation here so all of you who weren't in our church yesterday can read it. And tune in next week when we reach the 200th gift!!

In November of 2004, Ewing Road Baptist Church extended a call for me to come as the pastor to students. It was an exciting time for us as a family. Seminary graduation was just around the corner and we were eager to move into a full-time position, working to equip teenagers to know and live the Gospel. So, after feeling God's leading, it was with much enthusiasm I accepted the position and we packed all we had and moved into our new home in Austell.

 In the months and years following God granted me the amazing privilege of seeing students come to know Jesus and then follow Him. I lost track of the number of times I had the opportunity of baptizing teenagers who had given their lives to Christ. From mission trips and small groups to Disciple-Nows and one-on-one mentoring, my desire was to see students come to know Jesus, grow deep in their faith, and be on mission for Him. And it was amazing to see God do just that.

 In December of 2007, we attended our first Youth Evangelism Conference in Macon. While there, I began to sense God's stirring in my heart. Though I was very happy here and didn’t understand why He would be stirring me to something else, I began asking God exactly what it was that He was preparing me for. I knew that He had given me two passions: missions and discipleship. I began wondering how God would want to take those passions and use them. I began to feel that it was possible that He would move me into a role at a local church doing those two things. I even sat down one morning and wrote out a plan of how I would go about designing and implementing such a ministry in a church. However, the few positions I applied for were not for me.

 This led to a time of difficulty for me. I had no doubt that I sensed God doing this in my life, but there were either no positions available or I didn't qualify for the ones that were. I strived to remain faithful serving the congregation here at Ewing Road. I never stopped loving this church or the incredible group of teenagers here. But still I was seeking where God would have me to go. To be honest, it didn't make much sense. I could not understand why God would put this in my heart but not open the door for me to move forward with it.

 I began wondering if maybe I had misread things. I began surrendering to things I had been somewhat closed to. I surrendered to going to the international mission field or even being a lead pastor. Every time I felt God putting his arm around me, telling me He was glad I was willing, but that this was not what He was getting ready for me. I was not unwilling to go where God led, I simply didn't have a path to walk down.

 Then through a course of events, something else happened. My precious wife asked me if I had ever considered collegiate ministry. This was amazing because for a few weeks, I had been thinking about collegiate ministry but hadn't said anything. I began to pursue this avenue and through an email sent to a man I had never met, in a state I had never lived in, about a job I had never held, a conversation began. And through that conversation God's grand design for our family began to unfold a little more.

 Through a series of questions I was asked, God began to open my eyes to the way He had been preparing me in those three years of searching. From mentoring relationships to missions experiences to books I read, He was grooming me for a position that I have come to believe is perfect for me and my gifts and passions.

 On Friday, I was offered the position of Campus Minister for Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Though there are several specifics, the position boils down to campus evangelism-viewing the campus as a mission field and the students as a people group, small group discipleship, and missions mobilization. As well, I will have the opportunity to preach on a regular basis, something I would more than likely not have been able to do in other positions. It is an incredible mix of the gifts and passions God has given me.

 Though this is bittersweet for us, Carrie and I have stood in awe of God's sovereignty through it all. We thought we were ready to move, yet God wanted to do more with us here. And though at the time we wondered why, throughout the process different events- a pastoral transition, a catastrophic flood- would happen and I would sense God telling me afterwards, “Here is another reason I have left you here. You were needed for such a time as this.” But then quite suddenly, God opened this door at Winthrop University and just as before when I could see why God had not moved us, I can also now see His plan and timing in it all. As our church faces a financial strain, God has lovingly provided at the same time relief for the church and a new position for me. It is just another example of His goodness and provision in His perfect timing. I am reminded of God's words in Isaiah:

 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9

 Ewing Road has been home to us for the past 6 years. It is where we saw our family grow from 2 to 5. It is where we grew to love your children as our own. It is where I have so many times shouted with joy over what God has done in the lives of teenagers and worshiped Him because of the evidence of His hand in their lives. To be completely honest, though it is hard to leave you all, it is hardest to leave the greatest group of students I have known.

 Our family loves you all and it is with bittersweet joy I submit to you my resignation as Student Pastor at Ewing Road Baptist Church.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

My favorite season is here! I love Fall- I love the cooler weather, the changing leaves, the colors, pumpkins, Thanksgiving and getting ready for Christmas! We always decorate our house for Fall- with pumpkins, leaves and scarecrows. But as soon as Thanksgiving is over, we pack it all up and decorate for Christmas. And can I tell you a little secret? (Ok, if you know me this isn't really a secret!). I LOVE sending Christmas cards. I really do! I love taking the perfect family picture and writing our update letter. I know in this day and age of Facebook, blogging and twitter, everybody knows everything everyone does all the time. And everyone sees loads of pictures. But there is still something warm and nostalgic about sending Christmas cards through the mail. I look forward to checking the mail everyday of the season and so do the boys!

But this year, our life is CR-AZY! Seriously. I've been wondering if I was going to get Christmas cards done this year! I mean, usually by this time we've already taken  our awesome family photo on the beach. But no beach trip this year due to cuts at work. And our wonderful family vacation to our friend's lake house included a trip to the ER for Noah's check meeting the coffee table! Not a good look for Christmas pictures! What's a frazzled mom to do? Enter Shutterfly!

I've used shutterfly for lots of things in the past- to share pictures of the boys, for baby announcements, but I've never used them for Christmas cards- that is until this year! They have the cutest designs... I'm going to have a hard time choosing one. And even better, many designs allow you to use multiple pictures so I don't have to worry about getting one perfect shot! I really like this design:   

I love the colors- you know I am a sucker for anything blue and brown! Plus I like if we do get a great family pic I can use it while still highlighting pics of each boy!

But I also like this folded card too.
I like that it has room for so many pictures, but I also like that it is folded. I can write our update letter and put it inside of this card. But who knows? They have so many awesome designs, I may end up choosing something else.

They even have cards that have room for pictures and an update- right on the card! That's for you Stacey! Here's one where you can put in 4 pictures and some brief updates- and there are more like it too! No need to write a separate letter!
And did you know you can even get Shutterfly to address and mail the cards for you?!?! (Yes, that's for you again Stace!). You can even add some festive address labels that coordinate with your card (yes, I know I have issues!). Shutterfly also has lots of great gift ideas too. Like a wall calendar. I've done one of these each year for the grandparents and extended family with pictures of all of the kids throughout the year. It's always a big hit. 

This post sure has made me excited about the holidays! I am so looking forward to family time, decorations, laughter and yes, the perfect Christmas card. How about you?

(Shutterfly is providing me with 50 free photo cards for doing this blog post, however, the opinions offered are my own and I truly do love Shutterfly and am so thankful for their Christmas cards this year! If you are interested in blogging about Shutterfly & receiving photo cards, check out this post.)

Costumes and Candy and Fun, Oh My!

What a weekend we had! Once again, we decided to make the boys costumes this year- to save money, but also to create fun memories. Caleb was Sheriff Woody and Noah was Buzz Lightyear! And Josiah was a pumpkin when the weather was warmer and a lion when it turned cooler. Our fun filled weekend started on Thursday night for our weekly trip to Chick-fil-a for Family Night. This week was Costume Night. We had a lot of fun. Noah wore his entire Buzz Lightyear costume, wings and all, for the first time. And we quickly discovered that his wings were just a little too much for him to handle! They made the suit quite heavy and also very wide! We had to open both doors to get into Chick-fil-a! Here are pics from Thursday night!

Friday brought a costume alteration and Fall Festival at our church. The weather was a little cooler, so Josiah changed from a pumpkin to a lion. The boys had a great time playing carnival games and jumping in the larger inflatables. Here are pictures from Friday:

Saturday we drove up to Mom and Dad's for the day. They have a neat tradition in Clarksville where all of the children go Trick or Treating on the town's square and tbe businesses hand out candy. We arrived around lunch time. We cooked hot dogs over a fire and ate cupcakes. The five cousins played in the yard and then they all donned their costumes- Dr. Hayden Gailey, Buzz Lightyear, Sheriff Woody, and two little lion cubs. We went trick or treating on the square, ate pizza for dinner and then headed out to Truett for "Treats at Truett". The entire college was transformed into an amazing community event- roasting marshmallows and making smores, a fun house, the gym was full of carnival games, one dorm was for trick or treating- the girls sat outside their doors and handed out candy as the kids paraded up and down the halls, another dorm was face painting. Jack and I were really impressed and the boys had so much fun!

It was a wonderful, fun filled weekend. Now, if I can just get these kids to come down from their sugar high!