How do I have a 4 year old?

We had a big milestone in our house this past week.  A birthday.  For Kinsley.  She is 4.  I know, I know…how did that happen?  How do I have a four year old?

Feels like just yesterday I was pregnant for the first time, decorating our nursery in Kentucky, attending child birth classes, dealing with days of false labor which ended in a c-section, and then figuring out how to take care of this newborn.  And now, faster than I would ever imagine, she is 4.

To celebrate, on her actual birthday, we gave her a few presents, ate dinner at  Chick-fil-A, took her out for ice cream, and watched Aladdin.

Then, we had an actual birthday party for her the next weekend.  We invited family and a few of her friends, made her a big princess cake (this is all she kept asking for so we went all out to make it for her), and then celebrated by opening gifts and playing while they were decked out in their princess dresses.  What was originally supposed to be a park part but had to be moved inside because of the weather turned out to be tons of fun.

I am so thankful for this girl!  She holds a special place in my heart as our first born and she has sanctified and is sanctifying me in many countless ways as I trust the Lord for things that we both struggle with.  She is full of personality, loves to dance, sing, and show off, is independent, is not afraid to do her own thing and not bow down to peer pressure, loves her sister dearly, and has such a tender heart.  I am so grateful to the Lord for her and can’t imagine not having her in our lives!

Womens Retreat

Another women’s retreat in the books!  We had a great time with 13 girls (from Campbell, Wake Tech main and north, and UNCP), 3 other staff women, and 1 faculty advisor.  We laughed (a lot), we cried (a lot), we hugged, we ate (a lot), we shared, we loved, we played volleyball in the pool, and we toured Wilmington and UNCW (or some of it!).

Though it wasn’t the 40 we were praying for, the Lord orchestrated having just the right people at this retreat and honestly, I couldn’t have imagined it any other way.  The theme of our weekend was “Restoration” and by having a small group, we were able to get to know each other well, share significant things, and have fun (you couldn’t play volleyball in a small indoor hotel pool with 40 women).

One girl said this weekend came at just the right time as she is a senior, just broke up with her boyfriend because he wasn’t a good influence in her spiritual life, and is facing pressure but yet is excited to go back to her home country to support her family and share Christ with them.  Another shared how much they have been able to grow through Christian community since being involved with Cru.  Another spent four hours on Saturday (during our free time none the less) worshipping the Lord and studying His Word.  Another is wrestling with how to represent Christ and bear fruit to her non-Christian friends as she has just started walking in obedience to the Lord.  The list could go on and on.

I was slated to speak on Sunday morning and I had spent time the previous week and weekend preparing for my talk on eternal perspective, time management, and boundaries.  Then, on Sunday morning, I woke up and started playing worship music in our room as we were getting ready.  The song “Oceans (where feet may fall)” by Hillsong came on and I found myself worshipping the Lord and crying, though I wasn’t sure why other than being overwhelmed by the Lord by how he has saved me, shaped me, and led me through this crazy thing called life.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord wanted me to share about this instead of what I had planned.  Funny that the thing I have been struggling with the past year is letting go of control and giving it to God and 30 minutes before I was supposed to leave, he was changing what I would speak about.  Seriously, God does work like that, right?

So, I did just that.  I quit crying long enough to jot down Scripture to walk through and thoughts to share and prayed that the Lord would use it and clearly speak through me.  And he did just that.  The gist of my talk was that no matter what expectations we have or what we have planned, follow the Lord even if it doesn’t make sense because his plan is better.  And boy is it!  Reflecting on my life, I am by no means where I thought I would be in regards to career, pay, and even where I am living, but God’s plan for me was and is so much better and I am so thankful that he loves me and has it all under His control.

My prayer is exactly as the song says: “Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you will call me.  Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”  That is my prayer for you as well.

Showering it up!

This has been one crazy week!  In the midst of crazy ministry happenings and drama, I have been helping to plan a shower for my cousin, Craig, and his fiance, Janie, who are getting married next month.  I was really close to Craig growing up because he was so close to me in age (born the same month and year) and I fondly remember many weeks during the summer we would spend together.  I love his fiance, Janie – she fits perfectly into our family and I love that she is so real and laid back.  And she makes him happy so it couldn’t be better!

We decided on a Gamecocks theme because they live in Columbia, SC, he attended USC, and they love the Gamecocks!  Our whole family loves the Gamecocks so it was a win-win for everyone.  We decided to go with a tailgating theme since it was a shower for both genders and we decided on tailgating food and games to make the shower complete.  Here is what we came up with:

First, the lovely bride and groom to be.  Love her dress.  Seriously loving Chevron right now…can I pray it doesn’t ever go out of style?

My cousin Traci was in charge of the decor since she lives in Gamecock land.  Is she a genius or what?  I loved all the decorations – she did a phenomenal job!

The desserts were oh so good!  See that chocolate cake in the back? It is my grandmother’s 16 (or is it 17?) layer chocolate cake – uh, yea, to. die. for.

I did the deviled eggs and had a grand plan to put chives on the top to make them look like football laces.  It was an Pinterest fail.  I scrapped that idea real fast!

What tailgate is complete without corn hole and ladder ball?

It was a great time celebrating their coming union and we love any excuse to get the family together!

We are learning about public servants in school, like police officers and firemen, so how appropriate that one of my friends would schedule a trip to the fire station for all our church kids?  Kinsley loved it and did such a great job of listening, following them around, waiting for her turn, and following instructions (gave me hope she will do well in school next year!).  She also loved the hat and sticker they gave them as they left!

It was a busy week and this week isn’t slowing down either…whew!

It Is Worth It

This last week has been a crazy emotional roller-coaster-of-a-ride week.

We booked a large number of hotel rooms and got a great rate because of the large number of hotel rooms for our ENC women’s retreat in Wilmington March 21-23.  We had to book the rooms back in February and based upon the number of women who came last year and who came to Fall Retreat, we would be able to get 40ish girls there.  So we booked 15 rooms, knowing we would have to have 8 to get the deal.  8 would mean 20 girls at the minimum and 4 staff.  Based on past showing, this would be no big deal.

Sign up weeks came and they went.  And after registration closed, we had 10 girls coming.  Only 10.  I am thankful for these 10, don’t get me wrong.  But they aren’t the 40 we were praying and hoping for, nor are they the 20 we needed to come out on budget.  And it makes no earthly sense to us why more girls haven’t signed up – like we seriously can’t understand it.  So after lots of talking back and forth with the hotel, praying, and talking amongst our team, we were able to extend the amount of time we had to turn in a rooming list and pray that we could get 16 more girls to come so we could make budget and not go in the hole by at least $600.

I was real tempted to be worried and stressed – I wanted to bend people’s hands and get them to sign up.  REAL tempted.  That is my go to – control over trusting the Lord.  But we all felt really compelled by the Lord to pray – that he would provide the girls and cause a miracle to happen.  And that is where I have been all weekend.  Having this huge weight hung over me and trusting the Lord even when it makes no sense.  And then I was reminded by the Lord of something he struck me with last week.  An epiphany per say.  And it helped me to know the Lord is at work and moving even if I don’t always see it.

I had traveled to Campbell to meet with a few girls involved with us there (we partner with our local church here in Fuquay).  As I met with them and we talked through life, I was amazed at how much they had personally grown throughout the year and how much of a difference I could see that Christ had made in their lives in just a year.  It is one thing for them to tell me that they have grown spiritually (which they did) but another for me to see it with my own eyes.

I got to hear about how one of the girls has started pursuing discipleship with an older lady in our church and drives 45 minutes one way to meet with her once a week.  They sometimes sit down and talk through Scripture and spiritual things, but sometimes they grocery shop together or the lady teaches her to cook.  She also told me that another girl involved with us and that goes to our church has started discipleship with another older lady in our church. Living life with older woman just like Jesus modeled.  They shared what a difference this, along with bible study, community group, and fellowship with the church body, has made in their lives.  Another girl shared about how excited she was to go to Africa this summer, serve the Lord, and to test out whether she wanted to be involved in medical missions the rest of her life as she pursues her medical degree.

Ed and I have spent a lot of time debating over this school, frustrated that ministry wasn’t “growing” in numbers like we would want to see it grow, trying to figure how to reach this school that seems to be so different, evaluating whether this is a place we should be spending our time, and even evaluating with our church whether we should be investing there.  But the Lord gently reminded me through these girls that it is all worth it.  The growth they have seen personally may not be measured in increased numbers but it is worth it.  The time investing in their lives that could be spent somewhere else is worth it.  The partnership with our church that beautifully teaches them how to reach their campus and the value of connecting to a local body is worth it.  The lessons these girls are learning about pursuing older woman to pour into them are worth it.  The places the Lord can take these woman so they can impact others is worth it.

In this day and age of mega churches and huge ministries, it is easy to be frustrated with smaller numbers and to think the Lord isn’t working.  But he is working and is allowing us to be a part of it.  I am thankful that we have seen growth in numbers at other schools, but this was a good reminder to me that it is not all about that.

As I was tempted to stress and worry about the women’s retreat, the Lord was gracious enough to bring this back to mind.  And to remind me that he is working, even if it doesn’t look like I want or expect it to look.  And that all I could do was pray the Lord would allow women to sign up or a miracle to happen, and trust him instead of controlling.

And guess what happened today?  I got a call from the lady at the hotel saying that I could have the guaranteed rate (that was supposed to be for 10 rooms or more) for any amount of rooms I wanted as long as I told her today how many rooms we needed (we could add more later but had to pay for the amount I told her today).  There is no gain for her in doing this, as it would benefit her to make us pay for 8 rooms as we agreed in our contract.  And she let us drop our meeting room without incurring a penalty.  So ultimately, it was God being so gracious to us and changing her heart.  So, yes, while we are still trusting the Lord to bring more girls with us, he worked it out where we wouldn’t go in the hole no matter how many we bring.  Praise the Lord for how he answers prayers and works!!

Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”


February Challenge and DIY Update

As I shared here, I am joining Crystal from Money Saving Mom for this 12 Months to a Healthier You Challenge.  At the beginning of the month, she’ll introduce the focus area and encourage you to set a small goal for that specific area and she’ll share her goals.  Then, every Friday, she’ll have a check-in post where she’ll encourage you to share your progress & struggles and she’ll share hers, as well. If you want to blog about your progress, she’ll include a link-up at the end of the post so you can share your blog posts on this challenge.

The challenge for January was to exercise regularly by getting active 5 days a week.  I have kept this up through February so yeah for that!  The February challenge was to eat more fruits and veggies.  So how did I do?

I failed miserably.  Okay, maybe not quite that bad.  While I did more consciously think about eating more fruits and veggies, it didn’t always translate into me eating more.  I am super picky about what fruits and veggies I like and then I get bored with the same ones – so alas, I just don’t eat them as much as I should.  I guess if I was even more conscious about eating more, I should chalk that up as a win.

The goal for March is to drink more water.  I plan on trying to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.  I am really good about drinking water during meals, but no so good about remembering to drink in between – so that will be the goal this month.

In other updates, I wanted to show you the DIY projects I did this month as well as new recipes.  In the midst of all the bad weather, I got an urge to break out my silhouette.  I invited my neighbor over to do it with me and we each picked out a project we wanted to do.  Needless to say, they turned out great.  Can I just say again how much I LOVE MY SILHOUETTE?  It is a little sad how enamored I am with it (though I don’t have the time to play with it like I want to).  My neighbor apparently liked it too, because now she is pinning all these things on Pinterest that she wants to do with it 🙂  I love sharing this great blessing from the Lord!

That is all I did for DIY this month.  My wallet needed a break!

As for recipes, I tried a few new ones.

Shrimp Spaghetti – A Paula Deen recipe with lots of butter.  It was really good though and we are definitely hanging on to this one.  Great way to put to use all the shrimp my dad gives us (thanks mom and dad!)

Fried Rice- I LOVE fried rice (especially at a Japanese restaurant), and given that I was craving some, I took to make this recipe.  Actually, my husband tried this one.  It was good, a little dry and needs some more teriyaki, but definitely worth trying again.

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki – we tried this with the rice…go figure.  It turned out well and it is something we would try again.

Crock Pot Cube Steak – It was good and worth trying again.  Not the best thing I have ever had but good enough to get saved!

Crock Pot Teriyaki Pork Chops – I am not sure where I got this recipe from, but I will say it was just alright.  Nothing to write home about, hence the reason I don’t even know where to find it again.

I am excited about some of the things I want to try in March – DIY Dishwasher Detergent, a car seat cover for my dear friend, blueberry bread pudding, and a few other things!