SM Week 3

Shew ya’ll! I am feeling the uptick in our normal schedule and pace this week from project. Add in sickness (colds) for 4-5 members of our family (including a sinus infection for Ed) and it has made for an eventful week.

However, God is doing some amazing things on campus and amongst our students and staff. We have had some hard moments of conflict resolution amongst students which is always faith stretching. We have spent an extended afternoon processing with the women what it means to truly surrender our lives to Christ and even process some areas in our life that we haven’t wanted to or known that we needed to let go. We have had 193 spiritual conversations and seen 6 students begin a relationship with Jesus! We have had some really crazy and awkward moments, both in just normal life and on campus interacting with students.

Here are some pictures from the week:

These first two are students who made a decision to place their faith in Jesus – Brenda and Winston. The following pictures after that are just students/staff on campus having spiritual conversations and goofing around.

Last Friday, we went to Coney Island – to the beach during the day with the staff and then to the amusement park with the students and staff. It was fun getting to just enjoy life together and the plus side of it being a week day? No lines and way less people!

Blake and Kinsley enjoyed the slower rides and rode this train 7+ times – I lost count after 5! Emerson, however, cried because she couldn’t do all the big roller coasters with her dad. So funny how the Lord makes kids so very different! One of my favorite parts about project is our kids getting to be around other students and staff who love Jesus and love on them. They have lived in a constant state of excitement since project began and ask everyday who is coming over that night. Jonathan, one of our staff guys, took turns running after Brynn for me and I turned around to see the two of them laughing at the people on the log fume. Such a sweet picture!

We had ethnic dinner at a Caribbean restaurant (curry chicken is where it is at!) and then had a super eventful trip home as Ed and I got separated, miscommunicated on what subway stop we were going to meet at, AND he had my phone in the stroller WITH HIM. Thankfully, two gracious people let me borrow their phones to talk to him to figure out where to meet up, but lets just say my habit of getting separated from my phone didn’t make my husband too happy.

One evening, we had a family dinner at our apartment (yummy tacos and ice cream with all the toppings!) and another evening, we went to see the Broadway musical “Come From Away”. It is about people who got rerouted and stuck in Canada after 9-11. It has no intermission and goes for 100 minutes straight but it was absolutely fabulous. It was probably one of my favorites I have seen and was so well done. The actors were amazing!

I got to attend our annual meeting at church last weekend and was so encouraged to hear about our church’s vision for the next year, all the ways people are experiencing growth, and challenged to see this slide and be reminded (though I am reminded daily!) of why the Lord has us in NYC…if each borough in NYC were its own city, this is how they would rank with other cities in the US. As the new members went around and shared where they were from, I was amazed to learn that only about 15% of them are from here – the rest were from Puerto Rico (lots from here and we are thinking they came here because of the hurricane), South Korea, Hong Kong, Colombia, etc.

We also got to have a baby shower to celebrate a couple in our church small group who are having their first girl. We love, love, love our small group – we are so grateful to God for gifting us with people to read the Word with, challenge each other, pray with each other, celebrate each other, teach each other, etc. The guy with Blake is named Fady and he was one of the first guys in our group and when Blake met him, he just latched on.

And this kid? This week, she is killing me with her climbing, mess-making, and getting into everything!!  We have a microwave on an island in our kitchen and we turned around one day and she had climbed from the stool to the window to the microwave and was STANDING on it!  Many days I have found her in the sink with the water on and this day, she wasn’t just playing with the water in the toilet (which happens more often than I want to admit), but she was full in the toilet! Emerson prayed tonight that God would give me another baby girl in my belly and I told her that if he did, I am pretty positive I wouldn’t make it. 🙂

We have two more weeks of project left. Please pray for perseverance for us as we balance the last full week of school and the activities that come with that (class parties, appreciation breakfasts, kindergarten graduation) with project happenings. Please pray that students and staff would continue to push in and initiate conversations with students as they finish out the home stretch. Please pray that God would continue to use us to impact this city!

 

SM Week 2

Summer Mission Week 2 is in the books!  This week our students and staff settled into a more regular routine with going to campus every day, prayer morning, training more, extended time to study the Bible, Bible study, discipleship times, etc. Emilee, one of our students that came on summer mission with us last summer, wrote this on her Facebook account about her first week:

“My first full week back in the city has been a whirlwind, but it has also been so sweet being back in NYC! I am so thankful that the Lord brought me back here to do ministry again this summer. We went to campus three days out of the week, and the conversations we have had have been so encouraging! Already this past week, we saw two people give their lives to Christ! Y’ALL the Lord is moving here in amazing ways, and I am so excited to see how He continues to work as we go into our first full week on campus!!”

For me, I am not on campus with the students every day, but between keeping up with the finances for the summer mission and the NYC campus teams, being at 3-4 summer mission things a week, and doing all our normal life things here like school and mom’s group (things here go through June because school doesn’t end until the end of June), we haven’t had a lot of down time. However, this past Friday night, Ellen, a sweet friend who is also on summer mission with us, babysit our kids for us to go out on a date and connect with some friends AND then Saturday, because we had the day off, she went with our family to Central Park Zoo. It was a nice break (minus the frantic phone call to Ed that resulted in WAY more work for the weekend that there might be bed bugs at the hotel the students and staff are staying at – thankfully, there isn’t!!) and we were glad to have some family down time.

Check out pictures from this week:

The kids at Central Park Zoo and some of our favorite animals (Kinsley LOVES the Red Panda and at first we couldn’t see him at all and THEN, he came up the branch right in front of us for just a few minutes before he disappeared again – it was one of the best moments of her life 🙂 ).

This are some pictures of our students/staff eating lunch and sharing the Gospel on campus (the one with the water fountains and the view of the city is at Queens College and the other is at Columbia University).

For a fun social time, we (minus the kids and I because it was a weekday when they had school), went to Central Park to play games and hang out and then headed to Top of the Rock to view the city from up high. I am amazed every time I see these views.

Tomorrow, we are headed to Coney Island with the students and staff to enjoy the beach and amusement park and then Sunday, they will head to church to serve and worship Jesus. Then, the week starts over! Crazy to think there are only a few weeks left! We saw one girl trust Christ today at Columbia University – pray that the Lord continues to move in students’ hearts and that he uses our students to impact lives in NYC!

 

Only The Beginning….

Today marks exactly one week since our students arrived in NYC for the summer. It has been a busy, busy week for our staff and students as they got oriented to the city and navigating around, went through lots of briefing from the history of NYC to how to spend time in the Word to how to share their faith, did a scavenger hunt around the city, spent two days on campus sharing getting into spiritual conversations, went to our first Ethnic dinner at an amazing restaurant in Chinatown, had our first family dinner at a local apartment, spent time getting to know each other, and so much more! Here are a few of the students and staff joining us this summer:

We have loved meeting them, hearing their stories, and watch how amazed they are with this city (and how tired from navigating it) and it is so fun to think that in 4 weeks, they will be radically different. As the staff were sharing about our week this morning, it was fun to hear the staff who paired up with students who were here last year (3 students came back this summer who were here last summer!) talk about how fearless and confident and faith-filled those students were as they went on campus for the first time this week. It is just such a reminder that ALL of our students will be like this by the end, Lord-willing.

And some fun, fun news! This week, our team went on different campuses like Columbia, NYU, and LaGuardia Community College on Wednesday and Thursday this week and both days, someone in our group saw a student place their faith in Jesus. The first day was a guy named Gabriel at LaGuardia Community College and the second was a girl named Joscelyn (pictured below) at LaGuardia Community College. Now, we will attempt to meet up with them regularly, helping them to grow in their new faith and get plugged into Christian community through a church.

Students spent time reading their Bible and journaling this morning and then we have a student social in Central Park and at Top of the Rock (seeing the city from way high up!) this afternoon. Then, they and the staff (who have been here 10 days now) get a much needed Saturday and Sunday morning off/free. Here are a few fun pictures of their time so far in the city – the first few are the scavenger hunt they did in the city.

5 people squeezed into the back of a taxi cab!

22 people squeezed into a small NYC apartment! Prayer walking around NYU!

Eating our first Ethnic dinner in Chinatown!

Our kids are loving that project has started – they feel like they have 21 new best friends to play with!

While it is hard to balance project responsibilities with the girls in school and real life continuing for us with church and friends, we are enjoying our staff team and students and are excited about what God is going to do this summer. Thanks for your prayers and support!

This City

I turned on the news this morning while Ed was taking all kids to the bus stop (bless him, Jesus) and was listening as they talked about Harvey Weinstein turning himself in at a NYC police precinct. I just finished watching a TV series that was based solely on NYC socialite life. In the past 2 weeks, I have had 4 Facebook friends visit NYC. Another show I watch just had a reunion in NYC. As I walked to a mom event in the city last week, I walked down Fifth Avenue past Trump Tower and the armed guards and once again reminded that not only does our current president own the building, he has made his home there for as long as anyone can remember. I heard from a friend in another city that when her parents came to visit, they met in NYC because this is where their family wanted to visit. I have friends, or know people, who do everything from working for the United Nations for their country (Indonesia) to working for the Manhattan District Attorney, to designing the main gown/costume for Elsa on Broadway, to working with sex trafficking victims at a medical clinic, to owning a food cart that made an appearance on “Good Morning America.” I am reminded daily of the influence that NYC has in our culture, our country, and the world.

We just finished our first full year on campus, our first full year solely on the Queens team, and we are begun our second summer mission here in NYC. As I spent some time this week reflecting on all of this, I was hit was an overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. It still feels unreal at times that we really live here, that we sold most everything we own and downsized into a small apartment, and that God provided for us to live and invest in this city that is so influential. While there are for sure lots of things about living here that are super, duper hard, overall, I am super thankful.

I am thankful for an amazing staff team who feels like family and who are a blast to do life and ministry with (how can we be apart for 2+ months this summer?!?). I am thankful that we have seen God do really cool things in ministry this year – a year that has been full of learning, trying new things, failing, succeeding, learning some more, frustrating moments, and then moments where we see God’s hand oh so clearly. I am so thankful for ministry partners who have been faithful to give, encourage, pray for, and invest in what God is doing here in NYC. I am thankful for an amazing church where we feel encouraged, challenged, poured into, empowered, and where our kids LOVE to go and learn about Jesus. I am thankful that this church was a significant part in Kinsley coming to faith and getting baptized this year. When I think about how lonely I felt even a year ago, I am thankful for friendships with people of all different backgrounds and cultures, and for a few of these friendships which have gone deep and have allowed me to be loved and known. I am thankful for a few of my friends who don’t live here but because of the distance, we have had to become even more intentional with each other and I feel like I know them better and am more connected with them now than ever before.

I am thankful for lots of adventures we have had as a family this year and the experiences our kids have gotten to have that they would not have had if we lived somewhere else. I am thankful for great conversations I have been able to have with friends who don’t know Jesus and that God has challenged me by placing me in a place where I can count on two hands the number or believers I know (outside of our church) and would need 10 hands to count the number of non-believers I know. I am so very thankful for how God has grown me in understanding and relating to people of different cultures and backgrounds – wow, it would take me all day to elaborate on this. I am thankful that Ed and I’s marriage is stronger here than it has been before and I think our location has a lot to do with that. I am thankful for the immense ways the Lord has sanctified me, taught me so much about myself and others, and drawn me closer to Him – again, so much I could elaborate on here.

Again, I could probably list as many hard things as good things, but today, and for this week, I am choosing to be thankful. I don’t know if we will be in NYC for 4 more years, or forever, but I do know that God 100% knew what He was doing moving us here.

Our staff for the NYC Summer Mission arrived Tuesday, wide-eyed and not really sure what to expect spending the summer in this city that never sleeps. We spent Wednesday and Thursday casting vision for reaching this city, spending time getting to know each other, walking through our schedule that we will jump into next week, and spending significant time in prayer for our students and the campuses we will be working with. The students arrive today and then things will be off and running. Pray that not only is God glorified and His name made known here in NYC, but pray that they fall in love with this city as much as we have.

Our Random Week

IT’S A WRAP!!!  That is what we have spent the week saying….we finished our planning meetings for the fall, participated in our vision dinner to raise funds for our campuses to operate for the next year, and we had an epic team social to cap it all off. Here is our team all dressed to impress for our annual Vision Dinner in NYC. Doran, the guy in the middle next to Ed, is our fearless leader.

As I mentioned, after finishing planning meetings and before everyone leaves on their summer assignments, we planned a fun team social to cap off the year. Amy, Doran’s wife, suggested that we go zip-lining at the Bronx Zoo and then to eat Italian at the real “Little Italy” in the Bronx.

Moment of truth, I was terrified. I didn’t use to be afraid of heights, but over the last few years (I attribute to having kids that need and depend on me!) I have gotten more and more afraid. And this….having to actual step off a platform and let your harness catch you as you zip lined over trees and a RIVER….whoa!  It was fun, but definitely wouldn’t say I want to do it again. My adventure loving husband, on the other hand, wanted to go again right after it was over!

Seriously, we LOVE our team. We have experienced that you could be in the best location with great ministry but if your team is horrible, everything is horrible. On the contrary, if your team is great, you could be in a horrible place with ministry not going well and it would be okay. I absolutely second that after this year. Our team is always a highlight for us and we love doing ministry and being like family with them!

Then, to celebrate one of our last free weekends before our summer mission started, we took the family to the NYC Transit Museum. We almost missed it as the entrance is an actual subway entrance, but once we got there, it was awesome. Old trains, old buses, learning about the history of public transportation in NYC, and our kids being able to drive and let loose a little…it was fun. Blake bought a MTA bus that he is still sleeping with!

Also, to celebrate the end of the school year, the NYC moms completed a bucket list item by having afternoon tea at the plaza. Lets talk about fancy!!  Though it was way too fancy and expensive for it to be a regular thing (obviously!), it was fun to do it once and to be able to celebrate and process how this year was for each of us.

The girls both had field trips and a cooking class at the Young Chef’s Academy this week, and because we were in the week between campus and summer mission, Ed and I got to take turns going with the girls. I only have pics of Emerson’s field trip and cooking class because Ed has the others on his phone and he is sleeping away right now (keep reading for why!), so I only have half to post! Emerson’s class went to this open gym and bounce house place and had a great time running around and playing. Kinsley’s went to this indoor recreation place where they played soccer and did gymnastics. Both girls did a cooking class where they got to make muffins and almond butter (Emerson) and onion rings, apple pies, and mini hamburgers (Kinsley).

This is seriously one of my favorite parts about NYC. Most smaller towns don’t have fun things like this cooking class for kids to be exposed to but here in NYC, the possibilities for kids are endless. They love baking and cooking so this was an absolute delight for them!

Then, yesterday, while the kids and I were feasting on watching the Royal Wedding, Ed was out in the rain running the Brooklyn half marathon. He was bummed about the race and thought between that and it being the busiest half-marathon in the country, he would have a slow time. However, he PRed it! (meaning he made a personal record!) Great job, Ed…we are so proud of you!!

Tomorrow, one of our summer mission director arrives in town. Tuesday, all the other staff for the summer arrive. Wednesday and Thursday are all day briefing for staff and Friday, the students arrive. Our life is about to get crazy and fun! Please pray for us as we have a hectic few weeks of briefing and pray for our kids to transition to the increased pace well. We are excited to share how God has used this summer mission to impact this city!

Baptism and other fun times!

We have had a busy but very fun week!  We finished up our last planning meeting for campus for the fall so other than a team social next week, we are released to go to our summer assignments. And with summer project rapidly approaching, we are in full-on planning mode for that.

Last Tuesday, we had a city-wide campus staff appreciation time where we celebrated what God had done, recognized staff who had completed their core training program, and said our goodbyes to staff who were leaving/moving on to other things. This little stinker below cried and wouldn’t stay with the sitter, so instead, she feel asleep on her daddy. We don’t get many sweet moments like this anymore, so we definitely treasured it!

Many people have asked how we get around in Queens without a car. My answer: our strollers become our cars!  Case in point…this picture was taken coming back from our mom’s group Bible study I attend every week. In it, Brynn is sitting in the front (we have another seat that goes on it too but took it off this day) and Blake and his friend are both riding on a rider board on the back. And even with all these kids on it, I could push it with one hand and it wasn’t a beast. This stroller is literally my workhorse!

Last year, we heard that Frozen on Broadway was opening up and tickets were going on sale ahead of time. We found out that purchasing almost a year in advance, we could get a time that would work for our family (a matinee as 8:00 pm shows don’t work so well for small kids!) and get the tickets at a decent price. Fast forward to this year, I realize that the tickets are smack dab in the middle of a weekday right during school. The girls were too excited to get out of school early and trek into Manhattan for our “surprise” (we didn’t tell them until we were on the way what we were doing) and then to even go out to eat with just mom and dad at a Japanese ramen restaurant. And boy, it was so nice being able to actually eat our food and talk without two extra kids demanding attention!

And for the BIG event of the week – Kinsley got baptized Saturday!!  Last year, as I may have shared before, Kinsley started asking lots of questions about having a relationship with Jesus, about sin, about Jesus’ forgiveness, about heaven, etc. We kept answering her questions, but it wasn’t until she was reading a book with me about Jesus, it all clicked for her. At the end of the book, they discuss having a relationship with Jesus. They list two prayers – one pray that you can pray to God everyday and one prayer that you pray just once in your life to ask Jesus for forgiveness for your sins and to place your faith in Him. After reading through the prayers and asking more questions, she decided she wanted to make this decision for Christ.

Also, toward the end of last year, our church hosted a “We Believe” class where they invite children who are asking questions about Jesus or have made a decision for him recently to join them as they go through the Gospel message. Then, they give parents a list of questions to talk through with their kids and if their kid has made a decision for Jesus, they invite them to consider getting baptized. At first, Kinsley was super nervous about baptism, but after meeting with our children’s pastor and seeing a video of another girl getting baptized, she was super excited and decided she wanted to do it.

Our fabulous church goes all out for kid’s baptisms – they host it on a Saturday (not during church), have a refreshment table, provide a table for our family and friends so we can invite people to watch and join, tape a video of the kids telling about the decision they made, give the kids a great devotion book for children and other fun surprises, and make it a huge celebration! So, last Saturday, Kinsley got baptized!

Not only was it such a special event that she will remember all her life with such an acute fondness, but our other kids (and friend’s kids) got to see what happened and it has even led to conversations with them. I am so thankful for our team (Doran and Amy and their kids and Sarah and Erin and Marie (in spirit since she couldn’t make it)) for making it a priority to come and celebrate with us and for praying and encouraging Kinsley in her faith journey. We are so thankful to have a great team who is like family to us all! Here are a few photos and videos of her baptism.

I pray that she continues to grow in her newfound faith, that she walks with Jesus for a lifetime, and that she is a light for Christ wherever he takes her. I also pray that all our kids make this same decision to follow Jesus at some point and that God is glorified through our family! Thank you to so many of you who have played a significant role in this journey for her, from friends, family, former Sunday School teachers, etc.!

Taking a Breather

Thank you all so much for your prayers….they made a huge difference!  The pace I have been running the last few weeks was something that I used to do all the time – but after learning so much this last year about slowing down and being present and savoring the quiet moments, I have really discovered that when I hit that pace again, my breathing gets faster, my heart starts to race, my anxiety level starts to rise, I start to get angry at the kids, and I am a slave to my to-do list, and I DO NOT LIKE IT. So, this weekend, in an effort to change where things were going and to get off the merry-go-round that never stops, I deliberately took some time off (having kids not at school and Ed not being home made it not optional!), I spent time with friends, practiced self-care, and spent some time with Jesus. While this week is just as crazy, something inside me feels so much calmer. So here are some pictures of the moments that saved me.

This is my friend Joscelyn. I have known Joscelyn since college, she was in our wedding, I was in her wedding, and we have done pretty-ok at keeping in touch and remaining intentional to see each other. We used to do excellent at this and then multiple kids between us happened. When she messaged me and said she was going to be in NYC at Columbia University for a conference, we made sure that we made a priority of getting together. Dinner at a ramen restaurant, dessert at a cookie shop, and lots of talking was just what the doctor ordered. I love how it is so easy when we get back together and we can just jump back in like no time has passed. Thanks for fitting me in to your schedule, sweet friend!

With Ed at a discipleship class all day, I ventured with all the kids (on the bus!) to a friend’s house and then to a park with said friends. We had a blast in the WARM (finally!!) weather letting the kids run around in green space and catching up on life. It is rare to find friends where all the kids get along well and will switch off playing with each other, not to mention the adults really enjoy each other. I rewarded our trip there and a fun morning by taking an uber home 🙂

During our staff meeting Friday morning, we had a guy named Doug come and share with us about the things he has learned doing ministry with Jewish people for many, many years. He also brought a guy named Scott who is a messianic Jew (meaning He is a Jewish person who believes in the Messiah Jesus) and has a really fun story of how the Lord brought him from darkness to light and opened his eyes to the truth of Jesus.

I have a HUGE heart for this Jewish community the Lord has placed us in and we are finding that ministering to Jewish people can be challenging for so many reasons. It was so humbling to hear from them the things that have been done to the Jewish people by Christians and even mis-steps we can avoid when ministering to them. I could have heard them share all day long about how they have seen the Lord move among Jewish people and the things they have learned along the way. We are praying the Lord allows us to establish significant relationships with some Jewish people in our neighborhood in the next year.

Sunday, I was supposed to help a friend move but figured out the Lord had different plans when I woke up with my back hurting again (it has been hurting on and off through the years but I have been having more issues with it lately and carrying kids up and down subway steps and around town and in carriers is not helping at all). While I was bummed not to be able to go, it was a sweet reminder from the Lord that I needed to spend that day resting with my family.

And check out this picture….this happened this week:

One of the ladies on our team texted us at 10:30 at night with this text: “Hey, there’s a fire in our building. We’re all okay, Courtney and I are shaken up. We had to run through smoke to get out. I’ll keep ya’ll updated but please be praying. I’m watching as flames pour out of a first floor unit.”

Thankfully, all three of the ladies we know who live in their apartment were fine and none of their stuff was damaged. But, it did cause major damage to the building and definitely confirmed my fear of “what if a fire breaks out?” It is so crazy that when you live in an apartment building, you are depending on all those who live around you to do things safely so that nothing happens to any of you.

Truth

Truth. Life isn’t always glamorous, even when you live in NYC. Truth. As much as I never like to say “Life is super busy”, ours lately and in the foreseeable future is just that. Truth. I didn’t want to write a blog post but I have committed to myself to not go MIA for more than 2 weeks.

So, here I am. Tired. Stressed. Worried. Feeling distant from Jesus. Uninspired to post.

It is like April 1 for an accountant – sprint to the finish time. We are finishing up the year on campus and planning for the fall. It is less than 2 weeks away from our large NYC Metro Vision Dinner that I am doing the finances for. It is less than a month away from the beginning of our Summer Mission for which I am also doing the finances for. We had two guys drop out recently, the hotel is holding us up to every penny on our contract, and we are having to make big budget cuts to stay in the black and not start the project out in the hole. There are so many ugly feelings that come from this that would be too much mess to write. I found myself saying tonight “I just want to be a mom – just a mom”. I have been learning so much about myself in the last few years and one thing I have learned/am learning is this – when I hear myself saying that (because most days I love the responsibilities that I have taken on with ministry AND being a mom), it is a huge red flag that my anxiety level is too high and my activity level is too fast and I need more Jesus.

So I will post these sweet pictures of my kiddos – Blake playing at the park (at a fun play date we had with a friend) and Brynn sitting in an American girl doll desk (which isn’t made for her but shhh….don’t tell her), because mostly, my kids right now are a great reminder from the Lord that life is SO much more than deadlines, contracts, numbers, and breaking even.

And lastly – would you pray? Pray that God gives us favor with the hotel. Pray that we have wisdom about what needs to be cut, that no other students drop off, and that students are able to raise the support they need for the summer. Pray that even in the midst of a busy schedule, I will slow down, enjoy sweet moments with friends and family (we have lots planned this weekend!), and spend time with the Lord being filled up so I can pour out.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”                                                                                -Matthew 11:28-30

Amy’s Experience

So….normally when you check on this page, you hear my voice/thoughts. Occasionally, Ed has shared (like 2 times in the last how many years? clearly I am the person who writes in our family 🙂 ), but today, I asked my friend and co-worker Amy to share. She is a great writer and I think you will be an encouraged as I was in reading her post. Here goes…

So, besides those papers in college and the occasional Facebook post that might read like a blog post due to length, I’ve never written a blog post before. April asked if I might want to share something on her blog and I accepted the challenge.

Here goes…

Hi, I’m Amy! I am a mom of 3, been married to my husband for just over 10 years and we (like the Hetzel family) moved across the country from Texas to New York City (specifically the borough of Queens) just a little over 18 months ago.

As I go about my daily life here, my new normal, I often think that life here is very different than what people think my life is like.  What I, too, thought life was like in NYC before we lived here. Don’t get me wrong, INY!  There are the times when I am driving down the Blvd and get a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline or I’m going about my day and look up and see an iconic building that as a teenager I dreamed of one day visiting. Yes, there are days where I think, “Wow, I can’t believe I live here!”

But that is not the NYC I experience daily. Before we moved here, we heard someone refer to NYC as the home of the influencer and the immigrant. And that is very true! The world looks to NYC in many ways as a trendsetter: in finance, fashion, media and so many other areas. It is also the home of many immigrants. According to nyc.gov, ‘over 3 million of New York City’s residents are foreign-born; over a quarter arrived in 2000 or later.’ And in Queens, almost half the residents here are foreign born. If the borough of Queens were it’s own city, it would be the most diverse city in the world!

I resonate most with NYC being the home of the immigrant. Our life and ministry here is more connected to the immigrant. For the most part, it is the child of the immigrant. Our children’s friends, the college students we minister to, the owners of all our local bodegas, restaurants, pharmacies, nail salons, even our beloved 7-Eleven. I study the Bible with a group of women. In that group of 7 women I am the only one who has not had to navigate the process of obtaining a Visa, Green Card and/or becoming a Citizen of the United States. The world truly does live here! I don’t just cross paths with, but share daily life with people from different countries and religions. I love the diversity of NYC, especially Queens. Not to mention that eating out is almost always a new adventure in ethnic cuisine.

This print above hangs on the wall in my living room.  I hung it there for a few reasons. We left a life, friends, house and community that we loved, to move in NYC. It has been hard. I still don’t look like I ‘fit’ here, even 18 months later. I consistently get remarks of, ‘wow, you have your hands full’ regarding my 3 young (and close in age) kids, a rarity in NYC. Sometimes a friendly smile or kind word I might give is met with skepticism or annoyance. This is not the type of environment I was raised in or grew in. This is not my home. But ‘back home’ is not my home either. This hangs on my wall mostly to remind me that my true home is with God. As Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 5: 1-5 (NIRV):

     “We know that the earthly tent we live in will be destroyed. But we have a building          made by God. It is a house in heaven that lasts forever. Human hands did not build        it. During our time on earth we groan. We long to put on our house in heaven as if        it were clothing. Then we will not be naked. While we live in this tent of ours, we        groan under our heavy load. We don’t want to be naked. Instead, we want to be            fully dressed with our house in heaven. What must die will be swallowed up by              life. God has formed us for that very purpose. He has given us the Holy Spirit as a        down payment. The Spirit makes us sure of what is still to come.”

Living here reminds me of this truth in a way that no other place in my life has, and for that I am deeply thankful to live here! I feel God using me in significant ways here. Even though people don’t know it, they see Christ in me. I can tell they see it and I have a profound opportunity to bless people!

Spring Break Madness

One of the differences between living in NYC and living in the South – we are always out of school for something. There are the Jewish holidays. There are the Muslim holidays. There are the Christian holidays. There are the national holidays. There is Winter Break (right after Christmas). There is Presidents Day break (a week). There is Spring Break (which always coincides with Passover since we live in a heavily Jewish area). Seriously, so many breaks!

For Spring Break, we thought about traveling to Washington, DC. We thought about traveling to Philly. We thought about visiting an indoor water park or going skiing. We thought about traveling to Boston. But, what happens when NYC is huge and ALL the schools are on Spring Break and you have to pay for a rental car and housing for a family of 6? Prices to do things are INSANE! It was a little more than we wanted to spend, so we ended up staying here and making the most of our “staycation”.

We attended an Easter Egg Hunt that our church held in a nearby park – there was face painting, there were games, there were pictures with the Easter Bunny, there was an egg hunt, and there were SO MANY PEOPLE. They use it as a chance to love on our community, to invite them to church, and to share the Gospel with them in a big group setting. They did a great job of organizing everything and have lots of volunteers, but what happens when you get tons and tons of people, lots of them not speaking English, and you put eggs on the ground? Yes, a stampede. Thankfully, by the time the older kids got to do their “egg hunt” (Kinsley was super confused about why the eggs weren’t hidden), they had the kinks worked out and the kids actually got to pick up some eggs.

I will have to say that the highlight of the day was hearing Ed tell a story about a lady asking him if you could eat the eggs. He explained to her that “No, they are plastic and you can’t eat them.” and she proceeded to tell him how much better the egg hunt would be if you could actually eat them. File that away as “Things I haven’t heard asked until I moved to NYC.”

We spent time the week before Easter doing the resurrection eggs and talking about the reason for Easter, we helped Kinsley “learn to sew” using a kit she got for her birthday, and we dyed eggs (which is quite fun with 3 eager kiddos and 1 more who has now learned to climb on the table ALL BY HERSELF!). Their Easter baskets are well traveled – they literally are combined of things we bought here, things we bought on Amazon, and items we both (in separate trips) and my mom brought back from The Dollar Tree in SC and NC in our carry-on luggage. There are no true $1 stores in NYC (or things close to that price!), so we save money where we can :).

Check out our Sunday best! I could seriously eat them up…adore them! Nevermind the food in Brynn’s hand, there was no way to get her to let me have it and get a decent picture, so, food it is.

One day on our break, we traveled into the city and went to Barnes and Noble and then the Kelloggs store. At the Kelloggs store, you get to fill a bowl with cereal and then top with as many toppings as you like that will fit in the bowl. Mind you, these aren’t traditional cereal toppings but more like what you find at an ice cream bar. The kids loved it and also enjoyed lounging in the hammocks they had at the front.

We had a few fun play dates with newer friends, went to the library, watched the snow (again!!) and went to the zoo with friends.

They are all smiling in that pic, but let me tell you, the end of that trip around lunchtime, it all went south. Brynn started throwing a fit, Emerson started throwing a fit and talking back to me super bad, and I was DONE. People were staring, I was losing it, Brynn was laying in the dirt screaming because she was wriggling out of the stroller and wouldn’t stand or sit or stay in my arms, and my other kids were nowhere in sight. Our sweet friend gave us a ride home as I shared with her “We have to leave now…I just can’t do it with 2 acting out…you can stay but we have to go.” See, it doesn’t always go smooth when we do fun things out and about….just ask Hannah 🙂

And how fun is this? We had a playdate with a family we met at the park. We found out that they moved their entire family (3 kids) from the South because the Lord gripped their heart with how much NYC needs to know Jesus and how influential it is (less than 3% Christian and all the nations are here) – just like us! When they lived in Alabama, they attended David Platt’s church and a girl named Whitney taught their daughter’s Sunday school class for a few years. Whitney was a girl I discipled for a few years in Kentucky at Transylvania University. Talk about connecting the dots and it being a small world. So thankful for how the Lord is providing community and fellowship in the most unlikely ways.

And one more thing – do yourself a favor and check out this adorable video I posted on our YouTube channel – it is of Brynn dancing. This girl starts moving EVERY TIME any music turns on (ice cream truck, a toy, a cell phone ring, you name it) and it. is. adorable.