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.