Additional Stories

So, this week has been a big week. Being in ministry for a long time, I can tell you that some weeks are super slow and you go through the motions wondering if God is even at work. Then, other weeks, you KNOW he is and see it everywhere. This week was one of those weeks.

I shared in our prayer letter that is getting ready to go out to ministry partners (if you want this sent to you monthly and aren’t getting it, let me know!) about how the Lord is moving at LaGuardia Community College and how blown away we were at how He showed up when we visited this new campus (ok, so its new….we just don’t have a ministry here). You can read that update by clicking HERE.

But, there were a few other things that have happened in the last week or two that are also amazing stories to share. So, where better to share them than here?

Erin, a girl on our staff team, wrote this quick summary:

     “How does a Cru student in San Francisco have impact on a student that goes to        school in Queens? Well, the connection there is in Brooklyn. This week at our weekly meeting, Hannah, a Junior transfer showed up for the first time. I started talking to her and asking how she heard about Cru. What I heard, was awesome. Hannah has a friend from growing up in Brooklyn that went to college in San Francisco. This friend got involved with Cru, and is now on STINT in Europe. Hannah saw a change in her friend and how much Cru impacted her, that she wanted to get involved. Problem was, she went to a school in Brooklyn that Cru wasn’t at yet. However, this semester Hannah made the switch to Queens College for the sake of her major. She commutes TWO HOURS each way for school (4 hours of travel… that is commitment). At the club fair several weeks back she saw our Cru banner and started following us on instagram. This week, she came to school two hours early just so she could come to Cru to get involved. I love how random our connections are, and where the Lord brings new students who want to follow Him to join with us in reaching the campus. How cool!”

And then, this week, we hosted two big outreaches at Queens College and St. John’s University. The goal of these outreaches was to simply get surveys from students so we could connect with them – either to get them involved in Christian fellowship if they were already Christians or to be able to sit down and have Gospel conversations with them if they were interested in learning more about Jesus.

At Queens College, we went Reverse Trick or Treating – instead of getting candy from students, we passed out candy to students in exchange for a survey. While there were definitely some things we can improve for next time, we still collected over 150 surveys!!

At St. John’s University, we partnered with our faculty advisor, Gina, and the communications department (which she is a part of) to host a pumpkin painting contest and cookie handout in exchange for surveys. My older brother works for Lowe’s and was able to get us 50 pumpkins donated through Lowe’s to use for the students to paint. So, so generous and we were so grateful for this donation. The students LOVED painting the pumpkins and those that weren’t interested in painting were interested in receiving pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies. And lets be honest, they LOVED anything that was free – pumpkins, competing for Amazon gift cards (for those who won the contest), and cookies.

We had about 200 surveys filled out and the best part is the guys responded (which can be a struggle at times in campus ministry). 11 guys indicated yes – they were Christians and were wanting to get involved and help with Cru on campus, 4 guys said yes – they want to meet because they have questions bout jesus, and 30 guys said maybe – they want to be involved with Cru or talk to us about questions about jesus.

Please pray for us to connect with students and other Christian faculty at LGCC (mentioned in prayer letter), for us to followup with the students who filled out surveys at Queens College and St. John’s University that said they wanted to be contacted, and for us to finish the semester well (crazy we only have about a month left!).

Happy birthday to…..

I seriously can’t believe it is only Saturday night. This weekend has been so full of so many good things…but oh so full. I will go ahead and recap because believe you me, we won’t be doing much of anything tomorrow besides church and recovering.

As soon as the girls got off the bus Friday afternoon, we swooped them up to the apartment, got them changed, re-did hair, and then hauled everybody into Manhattan to get pictures taken in Central Park. A couple who are professional photographers and family members to another staff family in the city happened to be in town this weekend and offered to take pictures for staff families at a discount, so we said yes! We went to this place in Central Park called Gapstow Bridge (good ole’ Google said it was one of the best places to take pics in Central Park and they were right!). The kids did phenomenal, the weather was super nice, and the photographers were awesome and the best part is that no kids fell in the water or scraped themselves up on the rock. I have a love/hate relationship with coordinating outfits, but I think I did a pretty good job and can’t wait to see how the pictures turn out. Heres a preview of what the kids looked like:

Funny story – we walked to the bottom of the bridge to this super popular spot to take pictures. While we were waiting for the person ahead of us to finish, they posed us in another spot to take pictures, right beside the water. As we were trying to take pictures, a tourist started feeding the geese in the water next to us. The geese started coming onto the land to get more food and surrounding us, while the tourist kept feeding them, laughing, and videoing it. While it was funny, it was a little scary that they were that close to the kids because geese can be mean and these geese were not scared of people at all. Once we finished the shots, we continued to be surrounded by geese and one of the geese actually started pecking at our photographer. She said “I just got goosed!” Eventually, they started feeding the geese at a different spot, we moved into the “perfect” picture spot, and all was well – but I seriously have never been almost attacked by geese while taking pictures.

Last night, after pictures, we left the kids with a sitter and went to Sarah and Erin’s apartment (our teammates here in Queens) for dinner and hang out as a team social. We had yummy steaks, a mushroom sauce for the steaks, hash brown casseole, a yummy salad, and amazing apple crisp for dessert. It was also Doran (our team leader’s) birthday this week, so we celebrated with candles in the Apple Crisp and singing “Happy birthday”.

Then, this morning, we had Emerson’s birthday party. You may remember that we have spent a lot of time asking for opinions and processing amongst our family what we would do for birthdays since we couldn’t realistically do big parties for every kid for every birthday every year. We landed on promising them a big party with their friends on big birthdays – like 5, 10, 13, 16, etc. and just doing a family activity/meal/cake every year in between. So, since Emerson is turning 5 this coming week, she got to have a party!

She chose to have it at a plaster painting place – which I was great with because you pay them and they provide food, drinks, paper products, games, dancing, and painting a plaster piece they can take home. We had a great birthday party there! There were lots of great memories – here were a few:

Taking an Uber there and back – this was much different than how we traveled to parties in the past. Yes, in NYC, kids don’t have to be in car seats when they ride in Ubers or taxis. Crazy, right?

The cake. Emerson decided she wanted a PENGUIN party – why penguin? Your guess is as good as mine. During the party, they asked her what her favorite animal was and she said “Bunny”, so not sure why she was insistent on a penguin cake and theme. But, Pinterest came through and I tried to produce this cake as a recreation of one I saw. This cake was almost the death of me. From finding out after I had made it that my cake dish wasn’t big enough for the double layer cake, from the cake cracking down the middle while trying to stack them, and from the icing not smoothing on it, it was almost a disaster. Definitely not my best cake, but the penguins I ordered from Etsy saved it, and the kids loved it.

Painting their pieces. It was so interesting to see what they chose. One of the girls that came chose a telephone because she said that was what she liked. Blake, of course, chose a firetruck (which he proceeded to only paint in ONE spot). Kinsley, sweet Kinsley, chose a Friends Forever plaque that could be hung on the wall (and that she is insisting she wants hung on the wall – how does that fit her decor 😉 ).

Pizza was included and we also brought carrots, ranch, and penguin crackers to match the theme.

This was Brynn’s first time eating pizza but you would never know it by how she demolished her piece.

And the party included lots of dancing and games like the limbo. They played the “chicken dance” and Blake cracked us up by shrugging his shoulders instead of flapping his arms. I had to show it so I uploaded it to our You Tube channel – you can view it by clicking HERE. Seriously, that kid. So, so cute. Emerson said the chicken dance and her friends coming were her favorite parts.

Another funny moment – So, we didn’t know all the kids Emerson invited as some were classmates that we hadn’t met yet. At the end of her party, we got the kids together for a group picture. Can you spot the difference between the two?

Yes, there is another girl in it!  She walked in while we were taking the picture and her dad encouraged her to hand us her card. We just assumed she had got there late and asked her to come get in the picture. It did seem weird to me that Emerson didn’t go up to her and looked confused. After the picture, I asked Emerson who she was and Emerson didn’t know her! The party hosts said to let her know she could pick a piece and take home, to which we responded that we thought maybe she was there for the next party. They went to ask her and sure enough, she was early for the next party that was coming up. How funny that we have this picture with this random girl and she just joined in without knowing anyone!

After the party was over, we returned home to open gifts and this girl (and her siblings!) was in heaven playing with all her new toys the rest of the afternoon/evening.

Tonight, we ended the night with a few family games. The kids are loving Jenga right now and we love that it is a fun game that everyone can play.

And little Brynn loved the balloons, dancing, and all the new toys. She is mobile now so she was everywhere. She doesn’t really crawl, but she does pull up and scoot her butt everywhere she needs to go. It is pretty funny to watch so I am including THIS video so you can see her doing her butt scoot.

Like I said at the beginning, you will find my introverted, home-body self chilling at home tomorrow after church, but gosh, this weekend has been full and so fun!

Lets Get Real…

As I was thinking about what to post this week, I realized that nothing glaring stuck out…sure there is the normal school routine, how the kids are doing, what Brynn is doing now developmentally, how ministry is going, what everyday life is like, that our microwave and bookshelf broke this week after only a year, and so on….but I wasn’t inspired to write about any of those things. Instead, the thing that kept coming to mind was to share what is really going on for me personally right now.

So, it’s about to get real. Wanna know what I am struggling with right now? Getting back in shape and losing weight after having a baby. I have struggled with weight all my life, but getting older and having baby after baby takes a toll on my body, which I can totally tell. Starting to work out and get back in shape after having a baby is BRUTAL. Like, seriously brutal. I started Weight Watchers this summer, lost like 15 pounds, only to gain back 7 of those as we traveled and I got off track for a few months. So, I was pretty much back to square 1 and feeling horrible. I don’t have clothes that fit (because they are all slated to fit me pre-baby), I don’t have a ton of energy, I don’t feel confident, and I am just miserable at how I feel like I can not beat this food thing. I feel/felt so defeated, shamed, guilty, tired, and the list goes on and on.

In my mom’s small group here, we are doing a study on “Lies Women Believe.” The study looks at lies we believe that affect our behavior. We may not think we actually believe these lies, but our actions show that we do believe them. The past two weeks, we have looked at lies we believe about God, specifically pertinent to me were that God could fix my problems and God’s ways were too restrictive. As I was studying this and verbally processing with our group, it hit me that I totally believe these lies when it comes to weight loss. I pray for God to help me – take away the cravings, help me to make wise choices, help me to have self-control, help me to want to work out, etc– but wasn’t willing to do my part to make these things happen, and yet I got frustrated he wasn’t making them happen. I also would never say that God’s ways are too restrictive – God doesn’t say not to eat and I just really love food – what is the harm in eating good food or sweets or what I wanted? Yet, God tells us to take care of our temples and to pray for self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit, something that he works to produce in us. Eating like I wanted with no regard for whether I was full and not being able to stick to a realistic eating plan really showed that I did think God’s ways were too restrictive and that I knew better. And honestly, not having discipline to work out and eat right blantantly showed to me that I really struggled with self-control, which wasn’t a surprise but just a reminder that I still have so far to go and I need Jesus’ help to get there.

I am so thankful that the Lord pointed these things out to me, hard as they were to realize. Recognizing the lies, speaking them out loud, replacing them with the truth, taking responsibility for my part, and asking Jesus to help me instead of fixing it himself or lacing up my bootstraps and trying to do it all on my own have been so valuable.

I decided to stick with Weight Watchers and I started being disciplined about a week and a half ago. I am already down over 6 lbs!! I feel better, I feel free (not like I am in bondage to these things – see, Gods way aren’t restrictive but actually bring freedom!), and I feel motivated. But even better than that is the mental shift that has occurred as I have really sought to understand what is influencing my behavior. This isn’t to say that I will not have valleys, I will not eat more than I should, that I won’t get off track, that I won’t gain some weight back, etc. but I am motivated to lean on Jesus for help and do my part of the work.

I share all this to let you in on what is happening in my life currently, but also for some accountability. I will try to post on here how I am doing, but feel free to ask if I don’t 🙂  And, I pray you find motivation to figure out the lies you are believing that are affecting your behavior in unhealthy ways.

And as for running, I got on Pinterest yesterday (which I normally never do except to look at recipes I have pinned to cook them) and happened to see some quotes about running. These stuck out to me.

Instead of being frustrated about not being where I used to be, I need to just enjoy the run (and the break from the kids!). And really, like it says, as long as I do the distance, who cares what my pace is or if I am running as fast as I used to? So, guess what happened this morning? I had my best run that I have had in a really long time. I had a great pace (without looking at the clock), I didn’t have to stop to walk, and I felt like I could have kept on running. It also helped that it was colder outside – my body just loves running in the cold. I am so thankful for this HUGE victory.

Thanks for cheering me on and keeping me accountable 🙂

Fall Retreat Weekend

First, thank you all for your prayers. This week has been SO much better homework wise and balancing all our responsibilities and I can’t help but know thats because so many of you were praying for us. It wasn’t perfect, but its a step in the right direction.

Second, its Fall Retreat weekend. I think this is the very first year that I can remember not loading up our car and kids and heading to Fall Retreat. However, just like our move to NYC, some things change/have changed. This camp we host our Fall Retreat at is really known for bed bugs….and while I would love to take the risk and say we survived…I don’t want to deal with bed bugs potentially carrying back to our place through pack-n-plays and baby toys and a host of other things you can’t clean. Literally, Ed will come back to our door, get a change of clothes in our laundry card, go downstairs, change, put ALL his gear from Fall Retreat in a hot washer and dryer, and then come back upstairs. So, we braved the weekend without dad.

We have eaten out (Chipotle for the win!), watched a movie, traveled with our other Queens staff team family to Roosevelt Island for the kids to play at a playground there, made cinnamon swirl bread for breakfast, did our laundry for the week (which was not easy with 4 kiddos in tow!), done lots of discipline, read lots of books and Bible stories, watched 3 fire trucks storm our apartment complex (aren’t sure exactly why but it was sure fun watching!), and so much more.

In true fashion, when the handyman leaves, things break – the bathroom sink and the closet rod. The stopper broke on the bathroom sink broke, so I just took it out and told the kids dad would fix it when he got home. That night, sure enough, I hear “Mom, Blake put his toothbrush down the sink hole.” Oh, yes he did. And it went way far down. I was able to use a long plungy tool thingy (who needs technical terms?) that Ed had to get it out, along with a whole bunch of other gunk, and it went straight in the trash along with a firm warning never to do that again.

And look what this one has decided to do this week – pull up on everything. We found her in the crib like this one morning and from there, she hasn’t stopped. She is also “crawling” thought its more of a butt scoot that allows her to get wherever she wants…it is seriously one of the craziest things I have seen but it is working for her. So crazy how fast she is growing!

Ed is on his way home from Fall Retreat now and I am excited to see him for many reasons – because we missed him, because we missed his help, because I need an adult to talk to, because he has a few things on his list to fix, and because I am excited to hear how the Lord used this weekend in the lives of our students.

Here are two quotes I know of that show just a little glimpse of how God worked this weekend:

Sarah (NYU) – I’m from Singapore. I’m a sophmore. I’ve felt alone, didn’t know a lot of people. I wasn’t going to come. There’s so many people who are ready to talk to me here. I feel like cancer was my fault, I must’ve done something really bad to make God angry enough to give me cancer. But, listening to the talk during women’s time healed some of my wounds. I’m so glad I came.

Haylety (Fashion Institute) – I wasn’t going to come. I didn’t want to come until my mom said I should come and wow, am I glad I came. This is one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. Being surrounded by people who walk with God has a different presence. I’m changed. When I got back to school, I’ll be a different person. He’s renewed me.

So excited to hear more. Thank you for making this weekend possible through your prayers and support!

Finding Our Rhythms

Now that school has been in session for a few weeks, we are trying to nail down a new rhythm for our family. Isn’t it crazy how long it takes to do that?

Things like – when is the best time to do homework, when do we buy groceries, what days is dad not home to eat dinner with us so I need something super simple to fix, when do we go to the park, etc.?  Because Ed’s schedule is so wonky the first 6 weeks of fall semester (due to extra events like info fairs and welcome week activities and extra socials and getting Bible studies off the ground), he hasn’t really settled into a schedule, but for our sanity, we have to!

I will say – having two littles that need help with reading and homework and having two other littles who demand time and attention has been super challenging. Thankful for God’s grace because we have needed it this week! It was ROUGH!!  I am praying as we all get into a good routine and rhythm, things will go much smoother.

One thing that has to happen in every week is grocery shopping, Lots of people have asked how we do that in the city, and let me tell you, it can be quite challenging. A good bit of people eat out a TON (which we can’t afford to do), a lot of people use delivery services like Amazon Fresh or PeaPod (which we flirted with but decided it was the more expensive option), and some people do a mix of the two. We have an Aldi one subway stop away and because Aldi and Trader Joe’s are the only two stores that have agreed not to increase their prices just because they are in NYC, they are really affordable. So, we have decided, that for now, it is worth trekking there every week to get our groceries and then getting other small things we need for our local store or our local mini Target which is more expensive. One of us usually goes to Aldi late at night or early in the morning and then treks back with the bags over our shoulders (or in our handy dandy new grocery cart we just bought!) – sans kids. This week, I experimented taking the two littles while the older girls were in school.

To take both of them, I needed my big double stroller. Because the store is at a subway stop that doesn’t have an elevator and because I can’t lift the huge stroller by myself, I couldn’t take the subway. The bus requires that you fold up the stroller, which isn’t easy with my big double stroller and all the stuff I have with me, so I couldn’t take the bus. I could Uber, but by the time I pay that, it makes the trip not as affordable. So, I resorted to walking. It was a little over a mile one way – so not a bad walk according to NYC standards. I even got to talk to my good friend Jenn from NC on the way, which made the walk go so much faster.

This is a picture of what I ended up with after the trip. Notice the bigger bag rode back on my rider board (that you use for a third kid to stand and ride on the stroller) and the smaller bag went over my shoulder.

While the trip wasn’t horrible and the kids did great, I was tired when I got back and it took 2 hours to do all of this. So, while this is doable, this will not be part of my weekly rhythm. Back to the drawing board.

Laundry is another weekly thing that has to happen. Thankfully, laundry is one of the things I love about living in NYC. Our building has laundry rooms in the basement, so it is easy to run laundry down, set a timer to come back and switch it over, and then go back again to pick it all up. I actually LOVE that I can throw in all my loads at one time and get them all done relatively quickly. The only downside is that you have to pay, but thankfully, our building is cheaper than other friends’ buildings that we know.

Every weekend, we try to go do something fun together as a family. I actually told Ed recently that I love that we always have tons of time to spend together as a family on the weekends because we don’t have to worry about yard work, washing the cars, etc. So, for now, we have tried to pick one day/afternoon in a weekend and do something new or fun in the city. This week, we went to Union Square in Manhattan to have lunch and play at a new playground, went to Barnes and Noble for the kids to play in the kid’s section (Kinsley LOVES books just like me so she was in heaven and we even found an autographed copy of Savannah Gutherie’s new book she co-wrote – my guess is they had it left from a book signing they did), and then went to the Apple Store to upgrade our phones. It was a fun day and we had a great time. I love exploring new parts of the city together!

Anyways, hopefully this post just gives you a little insight into what our rhythms look like in the city and answers a few questions we commonly get asked. Please pray we can settle into a good routine for my sake, my kids’ sake, the homework’s sake, and all of our sanity.