Our Week in Pictures

If you have been following me for any time at all, you know that I pretty much fail every week to take pictures. This week, though, there are LOTS of them. So, I decided that instead of giving you stories or ministry updates, I will share our week in pictures.

For the fourth week (maybe its only been 3 weeks?!?), we had another Nor’easter come through….Nor’easter #4. Thankfully, my parents got out of town right before it hit. They canceled school on Wednesday (which rarely happens!) and we ended up getting over a foot of snow that day. We had a great time enjoying an unexpected day together and getting to do it playing in the snow and cooking favorite “snow” treats like soup and chocolate chip cookies. Our dear friend Marie even trekked all the way from Brooklyn to join us for some of it. Now we are ready for spring!

Friday, we had staff meeting and a fun team social at a delicious Peruvian restaurant. Then, we headed back to an apartment to play games. Then, Saturday morning, I flew to Raleigh to get to witness the marriage of some friends of ours. It was too expensive for all of us to travel so I took one for the team ;).  Because Brynn is now officially weaned, I considered it my I-AM-DONE-NURSING-FOREVER celebration trip. I met my friend Ellen from Boston at the airport, we saw lots of fun friends at the wedding (including our old NC State team who we love), had meals with dear friends, visited our old church, and stayed with a really precious friend of mine. I flew back EARLY this am so Ed could work (there should be a law about waking up before your kids when you don’t have them with you) so it was a whirlwind of a trip, but it was just the breather and refresher this momma needed.

While I was gone, Ed had a bunch of meetings and trainings with our church that he had committed to, so we had to arrange lots of people to help with our kiddos. Thank you Marie and Stephanie and Faddy. It takes a village and you are ours! The weekend I was gone also was the same weekend Ed won 4 free tickets to see Marvel Universe Live so we hired a sitter to stay with Brynn and he drove (thanks for the car loan Doran and Amy!) the other three kiddos to the coliseum. They had a blast seeing the characters and getting all kinds of sweet treats. Thanks to this night, Blake won’t stop karate chopping with his hands and feet all around our house.

Sunday afternoon, Ed broke out the big guns and celebrated the spring and summer that hasn’t arrived by letting the kids watch Moana while sitting on beach towels, under an umbrella, eating popsicles. Seriously, dad of the year award. He sets the bar so high…come on Ed!

Today, after flying in early this am, I made Kinsley’s birthday cake and we celebrated her birthday tonight. Thankfully, she wanted stuffed crust pizza for her birthday dinner, so that made that part of the celebration super easy. She wanted a Shopkins cake and found this one on Pinterest…she said I nailed it…truth be told, it was one of the easiest cakes I have ever made. She opened gifts and then we had to pull her away from everything to get to bed for school tomorrow.

I can’t even believe that tomorrow I will have an 8 year old. She is so compassionate, sensitive, friendly, and such a huge help to me. This girl is a typical first child and her tendencies mirror my own from the rule following to wanting to do well in school to having to have it all planned out. So thankful for her and the ways that the Lord is using her to grow me and teach me so much about him, her, and myself. I love that just this year, you made a decision to follow Jesus and we have seen fruit of that decision in your life. I can’t wait to spend many, many more years loving and being challenged by you and I can’t wait to spend eternity with you in heaven!

Living It Up

It has been an amazing two weeks having Spring Break students from around the country in town to work with us on the campuses here in NYC. I hope to share more later, but know that God did some really exciting and fun things. Just to give a quick recap, we had close to 100 students and staff travel into the city, 640 spiritual conversations were had, 259 Gospel presentations were done, and 26 NYC students prayed to surrender their lives to Christ. Ed saw 2 of those happen!

After a few crazy busy weeks, we were excited to have my mom and dad come visit. It has been nice to have family time and get to do some fun things in the city, as well as just live life with them. Here are a few highlights of what we have done:

Friday, after the girls got out of school and Ed off of work, we went with them to the NBC studios store and got to sit in a chair like they have on “The Voice” as well as sit at a desk that is like they have at “The Today Show”. Then, we wandered over to the American Girl store where the girls had appointments to get their hairs done along with their American Girl dolls. They loved getting to pick out the fun hairstyles as well as get their hair braided the exact same way. I love watching them love being pampered. They couldn’t stop smiling!!

After getting their hair done, we ventured over to Black Tap Burgers and Shakes. We had to wait quite a while in the cold, but it was all worth it when we got to eat delicious burgers and let mom and dad try their HUGE shacks. So, so good!

Saturday, we went to Long Island City which is a neighborhood in Queens that sits right on the East River. We played at a playground and enjoyed the view of the city from across the water. It was cold but lots of fun! Emerson is so adventurous and she freaks a momma out. Liking to climb high and being accident prone are not good combinations. Thankfully, no broken bones that day.

On Sunday, we went to church and then spent the afternoon after naps riding bikes at our local park and making homemade pizza. Today, mom and dad headed into the city while the girls are at school to visit the 9-11 museum.

They leave tomorrow morning and we are not ready for the fun to be over. Seriously, living far from family is one of the huge costs of living here in NYC, even if our friends and church in the city help fill that void a little. If you live close to family, don’t take it for granted. I am off to enjoy them the rest of the day and look forward to this next visit!

Happy birthday Ed!

Today is a very special day…it is my hubby’s birthday!

I am so grateful to be journeying through this life with you and am so grateful our kids have an awesome dad who loves to get down on the floor and play with them but can also enact strong boundaries if need be. You are faithful, loyal, understanding, easy-going (most of the time 🙂 ), adventurous, servant-hearted, and fun. I love that you think the best of people when I tend to think the worst and that you are so attuned to helping keep us safe, especially in this crazy city. I also love that even after a long day of work, you come home and jump right in to the chaos, willing to help change a poopy diaper or cook dinner or help with baths or finish homework (well, until you send them to me, that is). Life is better with you in it and I am so glad you were born! I am sorry we won’t be able to celebrate until the day after your birthday but hope you feel celebrated and loved on your actual birthday anyways!

This week, we have over 70 college students from across the nation in town for their spring breaks to spend the week on our campuses helping us to meet students, share the Gospel, launch movements, learning more about the city, getting challenged to spend the summer here, etc. Because of that, we won’t be able to celebrate with Ed until tomorrow night, but we are looking forward to eating some lasagna, cheesecake, and opening presents to celebrate. In fact, the kids are so looking forward to celebrating him that it may take all I have in me to keep them from breaking out the candles and unwrapping his gift tonight.

If you ever visit NYC and have kids (or even without kids!), make sure you have time to visit the American Museum of Natural History – it is huge and could take a whole day, but it is awesome and I think their special exhibits are almost better than the museum itself. Last year, we splurged on a family membership, not knowing how much we would use it but knowing that even if we went 3 times, it would be worth our money. We have visited at least 3 times and our family loves it more and more each time. They had an amazing exhibit on mummies with the chance to see actual mummies, they have an awesome butterfly exhibit that our kids love visiting in the hopes that one will land on them, and they had a senses exhibit where you get to explore all your different senses with interactive features. This past weekend, they had a members only preview for their new Oceans exhibit. It was really neat and our kids could have spent hours in just that one exhibit exploring what is under our ocean. And the neatest thing is how much we learn each time we go. We also met our friend Marie there and got to take her to the butterfly exhibit for her very first time.

Please pray for the students on campus this week and please pray that some will decide to come back to NYC for the summer. We desperately need more students to surrender their summer and spend it with us in NYC.

Slowing Down

Alright, time for vulnerability. God is teaching me so much in this season and while it is so good, it is so hard. I thought I would share one big thing I am learning.

God is teaching me all about slowing down. Go, Go, Go, Do, Do, Do, Check, Check, Check – Its the American way. Its the New York way. Its the Blake (my maiden name) way. My dad only slows down to crash and sleep or when he is on vacation. My mom always had multiple jobs in addition to kids. On the Strengthfinders test, I have Achiever, Responsibility, and Discipline as three of my strengths. Meaning, being high-capacity, doing, and on top of things isn’t just what I have seen growing up or what I have learned through the years, it is innately a part of who I am.

I used to joke – “If I don’t have something to do, I will make something to do.” And while its so true, I am learning its not okay. Its not okay that I can’t sit for 5 minutes without feeling like I should be doing something with my hands or mind. Its not okay that I can’t play for 20 minutes on the floor with my kids because I am not good at that and better at getting things done. Its not okay that I can’t let the crumbs on the floor sit there while I chose to focus on having a heart-to-heart with my kid.

When my mom’s trip got canceled last December, I was bummed. Bummed that I wouldn’t see her, bummed that I wouldn’t have help while Ed was gone, but as I processed why I was so upset, I was also bummed because I was looking forward to using that week to slow down and just be present with my mom and kids. This was my first warning light that something was wrong.

In January, I started reading the book “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist and the Lord began to use it to rock my world. As I read it, I started to be able to put words to exactly what was wrong and what needed to change.

“No more pushing and rushing. No more cold pizza at midnight, no more flights, no more books, no more houseguests, no more of all of these things, even things I love, things I long for, things that make me happy. No more. Only less. Less of everything. Less stress. Less crying. Less noise. Less TV. Less wine. Less online shopping. Less one more thing one more thing one more thing, whether that one more thing is a trip or a movie or a boat ride or a playdate. Less cramming 36 – or 56 or 106 – hours into a day that has only ever held 24.”

“What I ache for these days is space, silence, stillness, Sabbath. I want to clear away space and noise and things to do and things to manage. I was less of everything. Less stuff. Less rushing. Less proving and pushing. Less hustle. Less snapping at my kids so that they’ll get themselves into the car faster so we can go buy more stuff that we’re going to throw away. Less consumption. Less feeling like my mind is fragmented and my stomach is bloated and my life is out of control.”

“As I unravel the many things that brought me to this crisis point, one is undeniably my own belief that hard work can solve anything, that pushing through is always the right thing, that rest and slowness are for weak people, not for high-capacity people like me. Productivity became my idol, the thing I valued and loved above all else. One of the early stories I told about myself is that my ability to get-it-done is what kept me around. I wasn’t beautiful. I didn’t have a special or delicate skill. But I could get stuff done, and it seemed to me that ability was my entrance into the rooms into which I wanted to be invited.”

These things she wrote all resonated with me in a big way. And I realized that I had to slow down or I would miss out on so much. Really knowing and relating with Jesus. Being present with my family and enjoying every moment of their lives that is flying by way too quickly. Knowing my husband’s hopes and dreams instead of just viewing him as someone to help me do all I have to do. Being able to grieve and be in touch with how I am feeling versus just powering through things. And here is what I am finding.

I really, really like it. Slowing down has been balm for my soul.

Lets just note that I am not there yet. In fact, I feel like I am on the cusp of something that if I chose to take my eyes off the prize and stop relying on Jesus for one minute in this journey of learning to slow down, I will go right back to where I came from and what I know. Intellectually, I know I need to change but when it comes to action, it is SO HARD.

BUT I am learning to treasure moments of silence and stillness to just be with the Lord and hear from him. I am learning to enjoy moments where I get to just sit on the floor with the kids and hear about every aspect of their day. I am learning to say no to more things, even things that are things that I really want to do. I am learning to be okay with having a wide open day where we just sit at home. I am learning to have nothing or very few things on my to-do list on the day, which is unheard of for me. I am learning that at the end of a busy week, we just need a day of Sabbath.  And it is all so very good.

To be honest, I am still trusting God for the balance. I do like to have challenges and responsibilities and even looking at my Strength Finders, God has made me like this, so to deny who I am wouldn’t be good either. And I have 4 kids so things can’t just stop or slow down altogether. And I am still actively involved in ministry so I am working part-time even while staying home with the kids. So figuring out how to slow down and have moments of stillness and silence and not always doing and going in the midst of my life stage, ministry, and other demands is challenging. But I think slowly, very, very slowly, I am learning that even God rested and if He rested, I desperately need to figure out how to rest too.