What do you do for the summer?

So, we get this question a lot as a staff member with Cru – “Since you primarily work with college students, what do you do when they are gone for the summer?” This is a great question and hopefully this blog post will provide some clarity.

For most Cru staff, summers are spent in 1 of 4 ways (there are a few others that I am not listing here but they are more the exception than the rule):

1. Sabbatical – Cru suggests that you take a sabbatical after every 7 years we are on staff. It is a time to rest, reflect, re-evaluate, be refreshed by the Lord, and learn. We took one a few summers ago and seriously LOVED it – we loved the slower pace, concentrated times to be with the Lord, and time to reevaluate things.

2. Seminary Classes – As staff members with Cru, we are required to take certain seminary level courses such as Inductive Bible Study, Old Testament, New Testament, and Church History. We either take these in Orlando or Colorado – Colorado if it is the year we are having our bi-annual staff conference or Orlando on the alternate year.

3. Ministry Partner Development – This means the summer is spent growing our team of ministry partners and working towards full support so we can remain on campus full-time.

4. Summer Missions – This is what the majority of staff do during the summer and one of the things we love to do the most during the summers.

Summer missions are an opportunity for staff and students to see God move with their own eyes and through their own lives. Cru full-time staff missionaries lead the trip, which usually consists of anywhere between 10-80 college students from around the country, and they focus on pouring into the students by guiding, training, and encouraging them, so that the students can pour into others, both for the summer and once they return to college.

I think that our summer missions are like a spiritual greenhouse because students get one-on-one discipleship, community with a body of believers, involvement in a local church, and get to engage in a common mission as they reach out to others who don’t know the Lord. It is very, very rare to hear of students attending these summer missions and not seeing the Lord use them to reach others or grow in big ways in their own lives. For most students, these summers shape who they are for the rest of their lives.

Summer missions can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 10 weeks in length, and can consist of students getting jobs (their main ministry is to their co-workers) or not getting jobs (their main ministry is evangelism on campus in a culturally relevant way). Summer missions are held all over the US and all around the world. If the missions are longer and the students get jobs, the staff will leave halfway through the trip and turn leadership of the summer mission over to the students, which is a great way for them to grow in leadership.

Ed and I both attended Gatlinburg summer mission as students and for me, the Lord used the summer to give me confidence in sharing my faith, to humble me (I shared a room with 3 others girls and worked at a restaurant where I wore these hideous old women dresses to wait tables), to teach me about grace, and to teach me how to lead others well. As staff, we have led numerous other summer missions throughout the years and each one is challenging, rewarding, and oh so good. I have attached a few pictures from some of our summer missions through the years, minus Russia because I couldn’t find pictures from there 🙁

in 2009, we were in Santa Cruz. The first picture above is one of our Duke students working in his job on the boardwalk. The next picture is our students at an outreach event at their hotel where they invited their co-workers and one of our students shared their faith story after dinner.

We spent two summers (2010-2011) helping to start and lead the Historic Charleston summer mission. Above is a picture from a beach social we did. The next picture is us with our students who attended the project from Kentucky (where we were on staff at the time).

In 2012, we did a training for the summer for new team leaders since Ed was just starting to lead the team in NC. In 2013, Ed went to Senegal to lead a two-week summer mission and then we took seminary classes in Colorado. This is a picture above of him and some students (the white guys) with the guys he met in Senegal.

In 2014, we were on the NYC summer mission where Ed helped to provide leadership to the project. This is a picture of our students having a spiritual conversation with NYC college students using a picture survey. In 2015, we took sabbatical which was very needed after a hard few years ministry-wise in NC. In 2016, we did Ministry Partner Development to grow our team so we could move to NYC.

This summer, Ed is helping to lead the NYC summer mission. The students just arrived last week and today is their first day on campus having spiritual conversations. Although Ed and the other leaders have been planning the last few months for this summer mission, it has really been more of an afterthought to me. Even two weeks ago, when they were planning at our apartment, I realized that I have a tendency, after this many years, to slip into the habit of it feeling like “just another mission trip.”

It really hit home for me as I was reading the blog post of a guy named Ben, who is student with us this summer. My mom actually brought it to my attention that Ben is the brother of my brother’s old college roommate. Small world, right? As I was reading his blog and hearing the story of how the Lord led him to be in NYC this summer, I realized that each of these students has a story of the Lord leading them to be a part of this summer mission trip. I also know that the Lord could really use these students to make a difference here in NYC for the summer and on their campuses when they go back in the fall. Not to mention the growth He wants to happen in their lives. I was so thankful for the Lord helping me to realize my “just another mission trip” feeling and Him helping me to change that to excitement for what God can and will do through this summer!

Please pray for the students as they take huge steps of faith, as they open up their lives to one another, as they serve in a local church, as they navigate a new city for 5 weeks without their parents, as they deal with things like stolen backpacks and roaches in their room, as they live in rooms with one another and have to deal with conflict resolution, as they see the Lord use them, as they have grace with their imperfect leaders, and as they realize that they can be life-long laborers for Christ long after graduation. Please pray for us as we lead these students, as we balance kids in school with summer mission demands, and as we continue to deal with sicknesses (I was just diagnosed with strep throat yesterday 🙁 ) and big decisions in our family in the midst of summer mission. Thank you for joining with us each and every summer!



Pictures speak a thousand words

Man, our life has been full these past few weeks. Finishing out the year on campus in Queens, planning for the summer project that is beginning tomorrow, school activities, having lots of fun visitors staying with us, and so much more!  Because pictures speak a thousands words, here are a few that tell more about our last few weeks.

We are loving life with this little one. She is growing so fast, and although she is still a hard baby, those sweet coos and big smiles make things a bit more bearable. It also doesn’t hurt that she is pretty much sleeping through the night 🙂

On Mother’s Day, I saw SO many people posting pictures of them and their kids in their Sunday best…which was great to see. But, lets be real. Life with 4 and life in the city where you barely manage to get to church and back, much less get a picture showing it, is what I am dealing with. So, we did manage to snap this picture later that afternoon while I was relaxing with all my baby chicks.

We have officially finished ministry on campus with our Queens team for this school year. This is a picture of the Queens College group at our last meeting. Ed has been heavy in the midst of planning for our summer project here in NYC and we are excited to see how the Lord continues to use us, our staff, and the students to reach the city this summer.

Look who got her cast off!!  Another record appointment of 2 hours or so, but she left with a big smile and a castless arm. She is one tough cookie – other than crying when it happened, she didn’t cry when the doctor touched it to see how tender it was, when they put the cast on, OR when they took the cast off. She kept saying that evening “Look, I can shake it, I can shake it!”

Ed took Emerson on a morning daddy/daughter date to Dunkin’ Donuts before school.

We went to a science fair and curriculum night at Kinsley’s school. She was proud to show off her tower that she and some of her classmates had been working hard on.

My mother, grandmother, 2 aunts, and 3 cousins all traveled to NYC to spend the weekend with us. I love girls’ weekends (though Ed tagged along for some of it 😉 ). I love seeing new people discover the city but also experience what our new life is like. They stayed in Queens and rode the subway with us, helped pick the girls up from school, went to church with us, and then did lots of fun things in the city too. We/they went on a long bus tour, ate dinner with my brother, tried lots of different desserts, rode the Staten Island Ferry, went to the 9-11 memorial, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, went to see The Lion King on broadway, and they watched the kids so Ed and I could have a date night for our anniversary! 12 years we were celebrating!!

While at Rockefeller Center, we got to see Access Hollywood shooting live. A little fun to see Natalie Morales in person.

Ed ran the Brooklyn half marathon on Saturday morning. It began in middle Brooklyn and ended at the Coney Island boardwalk. We didn’t get to go see him because the trip would take 2 hours by subway, a $50 Uber ride, and subway lines were running super slow. But, we cheered him on via Facetime as he crossed the finished! He didn’t get a personal record, but he did a great job anyways! So proud of him!

While my family were touring the 9-11 museum, we took the kids to a Firefighters Museum, got hot chocolate at Starbucks, and let them play at a playground overlooking the Hudson River. I love that the city has parks ALL OVER and it is so fun to explore new ones.

Then, while they took the girls with them to a Broadway play (that we sadly had to miss because I had a nursing infant and you can’t take infants into the play), we took Blake to a food festival on 9th avenue where he got to people watch and jump in a bouncy house.

We met them after the play and the girls were thrilled that they got to meet the characters from the Lion King – Cimba, Nala (as a little cub), and Nala (as an adult). Kinsley was beside herself.

I really love my family so it was extremely hard to see them go. We all lived in the same city growing up and got to see each other often – now we are spread out and seeing each other is few and far between. But, I will cherish these memories with them, laugh thinking about all the weird and funny and memorable things we experienced, and look forward to the next time we can be together. Love you all!!


Needing Answers

I have struggled with whether to write this blog. But, because I believe in honesty and value your prayers for us, I am going to write it. It may be lengthy but stick with me. We need your prayers. Like majorly need your prayers. We have a few big things going on in our lives that we need Jesus to show up and show out in a way that only He can. Would you read about this and really pray for and with us?

1 – As I briefly mentioned before, Kinsley and Emerson are slated to be in two different schools for the fall. How did that happen? The short of the story is that when we moved last fall, they didn’t have any open seats in first grade for Kinsley at our zoned school PS 144, so they sent Kinsley to a nearby school that did have available seats (in a school that is higher rated than our zoned school which was a plus!). We were told it would be no problem for Emerson to get a spot there for Kindergarten. Then, we applied for Emerson to kindergarten and listed our choices – Kinsley’s school first, our zoned school next, and so on – thinking we would surely get PS 101, the school Kinsley is at.

The school system uses an algorithm to place students at schools and places students in this order – zoned students with siblings at that school first, zoned students next, non-zoned students with sibling priority next (US!!), and then non-zoned students with no siblings. When we received our offer letter giving us a spot, it listed our zoned school – PS 144 – NOT the school Kinsley is at, and that we were put on the wait list at Kinsley’s school. Then, we found out that they the school district had messed up and given non-zoned students with no siblings spots before us.

After talking with the school, they said we were number 2 on the wait list, and they encouraged us not to call the school district but just to wait until April, because surely not all students would take their offered spots. April rolls around, and guess what? All offered spots were taken. Then, they encourage us to wait a few more weeks to see if they add a class at another school and some students will switch. Well, that happened and we still didn’t get a spot because they had more students registered than they could have and they had to go with them first. I don’t get it. Then, they encouraged us to wait until the middle of May and surely, some students would drop out to move or for other reasons. Well, its almost the middle of May and we still don’t have a spot. I could call the school district, but it would be a huge headache and I am not sure if they would fix their mistake.

So, here’s the gist. I CANNOT have two different kids in two different schools in the fall. We don’t have a car and both schools are about a mile from our apartment in different directions. The bus drop-off for both schools is in two different locations at the exact same time. Not to mention trying to arrange for kid’s activities or parent/teacher conferences or anything else at two different locations. I don’t want to move them back to our zoned school because Kinsley has made friends and dealt with so much change already.

Would you pray for us? God is in control, He can resolve this without lifting a finger, and we know He works all things for good. Would you pray He resolves this situation in the next week and we get a call offering us a spot? Or that we would know we need to call the school district and go about it that way? If we don’t get this resolved by the end of June when school is out, they will have to start at two different schools. Pray that I would not be anxious or impatient but trust the Lord to move as only He can.

2 – I also briefly mentioned about Kinsley having to see a podiatrist. Basically, she has really flat feet (like 8 out of 10 on a scale where 10 is the worst) and her feet turn in – she isn’t having problems now other than being tired when she is active and a little bit of hip pain. After seeing the doctor, he presented us with two options – orthotics or a surgery called HyProCure. After lots of research and talking to people, we though both options were good, but were leaning toward the surgery. It has been around for over 5 years, our doctor alone has performed 200 surgeries and over 100 of those were on kids and have been successful, and they would insert a stent into her ankle area to correct the misalignment. The surgery would be outpatient, would require a boot for a week, but then no other recovery or physical therapy, and would have to be done separately for each foot. After the surgery, she would not have to wear any type of orthotics and this should correct the problem forever. If the surgery doesn’t work, they just remove the stent and go with orthotics.

Orthotics would probably work for her but would be like a band-aid on the problem, whereas the surgery would correct it, especially since her bones are still growing and she is young. Orthotics would have to moved from shoe to shoe and she wouldn’t be able to wear sandals or get help when walking barefooted, but the surgery would fix it so she would have no problem no matter what shoe.

The catch? Our insurance will cover the orthotics but not the surgery because they view it as experimental. So, $500 for orthotics versus $8,000 for surgery. Our dilemma? Other than the money, we aren’t 100% sure which route we should go and what the Lord would have us to do for her. We have had friends write us and testify to how much orthotics have helped their kids, but then we have also had friends who have given us money to our staff account already to put towards the surgery because they want us to trust God to provide the money for the surgery.

Get orthotics or trust the Lord to provide the funds to get the surgery done? Do orthotics now and surgery later? Wait on the Lord for clear direction before we do either? Seek another opinion? Ugh.

So, would you join with us in prayer for this as well? Would you join us in praying that God will make it clear which we should do? Would you join with us in praying that we would trust Him to provide ALL the funds if He wants us to get the surgery? Would you pray we would follow Him above even what we think is best?

Thank you for your prayers and lifting up some big things going on in our lives right now. We couldn’t do this ministry without your partnership.

Flying High

There are lots of things we are looking forward to, as a family, in the next few months. Traveling to Colorado for our staff conference, the girls in my family coming to visit us in NYC, our summer project starting, and so much more…BUT the first thing we were excited about was a trip back to NC!!  We decided to travel back over a long weekend to visit current ministry partners, update our church on ministry here in NYC, and to hang with friends.

We were so relieved to be able to go, since Blake has been sick the last two weekends. The first he had croup and had to go to Urgent Care at 11 at night because he couldn’t breathe and the second he was running a high temp for 6 days (it hit 106 one night and with meds and luke-warm bath, I could only get it down to 103.7!!) Thankfully, we were all well long enough to travel. This was Blake the day after his fever finally broke – can you tell he was feeling better?

Getting through security was hectic, but the agents were so helpful and kind and that made a huge difference! Kind of funny, but they even had to check Emerson’s cast to make sure it was safe 🙂  The kids did AWESOME on the airplane. Brynn cried a little, but then slept through both flights, Blake feel asleep on one of the flights, and the girls played with toys and watched a movie. The ultimate key – keep them fed!  We had LOTS and LOTS of snacks and it is helpful the airline hands them out too. Kinsley did get sick from a little bit of turbulence but other than that, everyone enjoyed it! After both flights, we had someone compliment us on how well-behaved they were, which is the ULTIMATE compliment after a flight!

Our time in Raleigh was oh so good for our hearts. They say you should get out of the city every month or two months to just breathe and get away from the busyiness and people, and man, this is so true! The kids shared that they enjoyed seeing their friends and visiting our old church and having a house to run around in and be loud at. Their least favorite part? Riding in car seats. Seriously, they said they couldn’t wait to get back and ride the subway, bus, or walk. They also missed their friends in NYC, so that is a huge win!

My favorite parts? It was so good seeing old friends and neighbors and getting updated on their lives. It was so good to stay with friends and stay up WAY too late talking. It was so good to visit our old church and update them and others about life in the Big Apple and how ministry is going. I enjoyed getting to connect with dear staff friends and Juli, the lady who mentored me for many years (see pic below). I LOVED getting to connect with Jenn, my dear friend who feels more like a sister. I actually shed tears pulling away from her house thinking about how I wished we lived closer but being grateful that she pursues me despite the miles and the only part we miss is being able to physically hug and hang out. (and special thanks to Jenn and her family who went down to one car this weekend so we could borrow their van). Our kids squealed with joy after taking the van through a car wash – oh, its the small things.

I was surprised by a few things this weekend and realized some important truths. Surprisingly, I tend to romanticize what it would be like to have a car now, and going back and being in a car all weekend, I realized that I missed walking and riding the subway. I thought it would be nice to have more space to run and to be around more people who look like me, but I realized that I missed having lots of people around me, the sounds of the city, and that there were just TOO many white people. Most importantly, I realized that I really missed the city, which was a HUGE mental turning point for me in realizing that I am learning to love this place we call home. After most moves, it took me at least a year to get there, so I am really thankful the Lord has allowed it to happen after just 6 months. Needless to say, we are really glad to be home.

And in other news, while we were gone, this little stinker turned 3 months old. Here’s to praying 3 months will bring her the ability to sleep better during the day (while not in my arms!) and be a happier baby all the time. Though you are oh so hard, we couldn’t imagine our family without you.