Weekly Update

After battling a cold this past week (and watching it trickle through the rest of our family), I am finally feeling well enough to update you on our last week (well, a little over a week but who’s counting?).

I love living in such a diverse place and learning so much about other religions and people groups. For instance, seeing these tents at Jewish houses and synagogues over the last month reminds me that it is time for the Festival of Booths, where Jewish people remember and thank God for their fruit harvest and also remember how God provided shelter for them when they were wandering in the desert. I also did a culture report for our staff meeting where I shared more about the Chinese Exclusion Act. Our team is going to take turns doing reports on different cultural things that have happened in the US and the racism different people groups (that we work with daily) have dealt with as a result of it.  It was very humbling to learn that American prohibited Chinese immigration for over 60 years back in the 1800’s – it was the first and only time in US history that a group was singled out by name as being undesirable. They never shared about this in history while growing up and I feel it’s a very big deal!

We had our annual Fall Retreat last weekend in New Jersey with all the NJ and NY Cru students. We had 12 students attend (7 from St. Johns, 4 from Queens College, and 1 from Stony Brook Univ.), which is an increase from last year!! I did not attend for a variety of reasons (which I am glad I didn’t as I came down with nasty cold) but it was neat to hear stories of how God grew the students, connected them together, and got them excited about going back to reach their campus. While Ed was gone, we explored a new-to-us park near our new place, we went to church, and we spent lots of time playing and relaxing. At church last weekend, they opened a new library for the kids where they can check out Christian books and return them to get more. I think its a great idea to introduce Christian authors to kids, especially when they start reading chapter books and Christian authors aren’t as numerous. Kinsley got to do the ribbon cutting (along with another friend) for the new library, and of course, their favorite part were the cupcakes and juice boxes to celebrate.

Ed got Monday off – one, because it was Columbus Day and college campuses were closed and two, as a recovery day from Fall Retreat. So, because the girls were out of school as well, we headed to the Bronx Zoo. We love this zoo – it is huge (we have never been able to see everything in just one day) and we love that they really care for and provide great habitats for the animals rather than just putting them in a little cage. We also have watched some of “The Zoo” on Animal Planet which has connected us with the animals as we see the behind the scenes things they have done. They were having “Boo at the Zoo” and our kids loved the Candy Trail and the Costume parade (shown below).

Brynn has been having a hard time sleeping through the night and we thought it was in large part to the fact that she would lose her pacifier and couldn’t get back to sleep without it. So, because we were planning on taking it away soon anyways, we decided to go ahead and do it while we weren’t getting sleep. I am excited to report that we are like 5 days into no pacifier at all and she is sleeping through the night and sleeping longer and better than she has ever done. So thankful! That being said, it has been fun to even see her personality come out more since she doesn’t have a pacifier in her mouth. For instance, she is always finding little places all over our house to hide herself. For instance, one day we found her under the bathroom sink and another, we found her hiding in our pantry. This kid keeps us laughing and I pray it continues.

One thing I am not liking right now – dealing with bugs again!  When we moved to NYC, I already had expectations that we would deal with bugs and ants in our apartment (we had a major problem with ants when we were here for the summer a few years ago). But surprisingly, our apartment was great and we only ever saw 1 water bug. However, moving to a house has been a totally different story. Spiders, creepy crawly bugs that I can’t even name, and ants have been constant since we moved in. Ed is doing some major spraying this weekend to try and get the problem under control, but man, I didn’t miss this!

 

Changes Everywhere

Wow!! Because of moving, it feels like it has been a while since I have posted about real life. So, I plan on doing some of that today, especially since it feels like so much has changed in our lives recently.  But first, I would love to update those who have partnered by praying for my hometown.

Praise God my parent’s hometown barely flooded!! There was minimal flooding in a few areas, but compared to the 5-10 feet they were expecting, it was nothing. Our town came together for a big prayer rally a few days before the flooding was scheduled to get bad and a lot of people say that is when things started changing. The forecast started changing and even though they were saying there would be flooding, the amount of flooding was significantly lowered. But then Thursday and the weekend came and went, and hardly anything flooded. Which is HUGE and such an answered prayer!  Just up the road about 30 minutes, houses were flooded in water up to their roofs, but when it got to Georgetown, the water slowed down and spread out in to the marshes. It has been really fun to see so many people in Georgetown thanking God and recognizing that He was the one that spared our town. And my grandmother moves her stuff back into a DRY HOUSE today!!

As far as updates on our lives, so much has changed. We are officially moved into our new house we are renting and so far, we absolutely LOVE it.  I love having our family spread out a little more amongst the different levels and letting them be able to be kids a little more instead of constantly telling them to be quiet and to quit jumping, running, etc. We also found out that our neighbor across the street is a family with a little girl Kinsley’s age AND she was in Kinsley’s first grade class. She started attending school in Manhattan at a speciality school for 2nd grade, but Kinsley was so excited to be reunited and there have already been tons of play dates!

Our new place is in a slightly different area of town (still in walking distance to where we were but closer to different stores) so it has been fun to do some exploring around it. I joined a new gym that wouldn’t have been an option where we were living before and we even get to wander onto movie sets like this one.

They were filming “The Godfather of Harlem” (or something like that) 2 blocks away so we walked there hoping to see Forest Whitaker. While we didn’t see him when we were there, we saw the set, saw parts being filmed, and saw this post from a person in our neighborhood which did show Forest filming. So fun!

After searching for over a week and having lots of frustration related to dealerships and prices (whole ‘nother story for a whole ‘nother day), we bought a new-to-us van!  We were able to drive to church this week (it took us 20 minutes versus 50!) and to the grocery store yesterday. While we will still be doing tons of walking and not driving the car every day, I think it will be life giving for our family to drive out to Long Island or to drive and get out of the city and be able to get a break from the city. It will also help Ed will getting to campus quicker and carrying things and students should he need to. Praise God for this very sweet blessing!

Our church small group now has 2 new babies! They are adorable and while I am done with having some of our own, the girls are loving getting snuggles from them.

Lastly, I am really thankful for God’s hand of protection over Blake this past week. We had heavy pantry delivered to our house and when they delivered it, is was placed leaning agains our entry way but in the neighbor’s driveway. Because I knew they would need to get out and because Ed wasn’t going to be home until late that night because he was leading the Athlete’s Bible study at St. John’s, I decided to try and move it. After struggling up the steps, a neighbor helped me carry it inside and we leaned it up longways against a wall. The kids were getting ready to take naps so I thought it would be okay there for a minute, but before I could really even walk away, Blake pulled the box over on top of him. I lifted it off of him and the neighbor helped move the box to lay down. He had a HUGE knot on his head and his nose bleed a little and he kept screaming that his nose hurt. So, I took him to Urgent Care and after looking everything over, they though that his nose would be okay without going to an ENT and that he didn’t have a concussion. He has continued to have bruising and a “bad look” but thankfully, it wasn’t anything more serious. It could have crushed him! Or Brynn if it had been her. In hindsight, I should not have put the book like that even with it leaning but in a split second decision, sometimes you just don’t think. Lesson learned! When I ask him how it feels now, he says “It feels awesome!”

Thanks for all your prayers for my hometown and for our family. I feel like we are starting to come out of the moving fog and digging back into life here. More updates to come!!

Urgent Prayers Needed

After a busy week, we are all moved in!  Moving is such a long, tiring, fun, exciting, tiring, costly process.  We are loving our new house we are renting and can’t wait to post updates about how it’s going. I will say that not having to tell my kids “Shhh…be quiet…people are still sleeping next door” is a very, very freeing thing. I will also say that we had a whole lot stuffed into closets into our apartment – geez, it held a ton! We started our new house off with a bang – we moved on Wednesday (not getting everything in until 4:30 that day – mostly because taking things down 21 floors on an elevator takes quite a while and Parker Towers wrote down the wrong day we were moving and stopped our movers and tried to charge us $1000 for moving on the wrong day even though it was their mistake), had our small group over on Thursday night, had staff meeting here on Friday, and had 4 friends from Raleigh stay in our basement Friday am through Sunday am. So fun and so crazy!

But even in the midst of moving in, my heart has been so heavy. Even though Hurricane Florence hit over a week ago, my hometown (Georgetown, SC) is just now facing a crisis from it. As you can see from the map, one of the things I love best about Georgetown is all the water access – rivers, inlets, ocean, creeks, etc. That’s because 4 major rivers run from all over down into Georgetown and take Winyah Bay to get routed out to the ocean. Because many of those rivers got flooded and overrun with water because of Hurricane Florence, all that water is making its way down to Georgetown as I am typing.

Think of it like this – when 4 lines are trying to merge into 1 on the highway, traffic backs way up. Essentially, 4 rivers are waiting to get out into Winyah Bay and since they are overloaded with water, the water has to go somewhere, which is going to cause intense flooding. They are using words like historic, catastrophic, unprecedented. It is one thing for them to use words like this, its another for the town to be flooded with Army National Guard building a raft bridge to use to get across waterways when bridges are overflooded with water. Its another to see a local church housing tons of state troopers who have come in for this. Its another for search and rescue teams to be assembling from places as far away as Texas to help people. My friend showed me this picture she took as she was driving through Georgetown yesterday.

They sent out a website where you could go and see your house and see how much flooding was expected. My parents look okay right now even though a creek will overflow into their yard, but my granny is expected to have 5-10 feet of flooding, so they moved out all her furniture and heirlooms and put other things up high on shelves. The intense flooding isn’t scheduled to start until Wednesday and then take 3-4 days until it crests, so this event will be happening for over a week. School was canceled today because they are using it as a shelter and is closed indefinitely.

Would you pray with me? Pray that the flooding isn’t nearly as bad as they think it will be? Pray that people would heed the warnings and get out of dodge? Pray for so many dear friends and family members who are being affected by this? Pray that even something like this will cause people to turn to God and trust in Him like they never have before and that He will be glorified even in the midst of something so bad? I have lived their my entire life and nothing like this has ever happened – it is insane and so scary! Thanks for praying!

Fall Campus Update

Ya’ll…I love the fall on campus. Students are so eager to begin the year and get involved in things on campus. We get to do lots of club fairs and survey tables where we meet tons of students. We get to engage in lots of spiritual conversations and help students get plugged in to Cru and their local church. Excitement is high, for us and for the students.

This year, our staff team has been hard at work organizing, hosting, leading, meeting, discipling, texting, calling, emailing, planning, aligning, casting vision, etc. We talked this morning in staff meeting about all we have seen the Lord do so far in only about 3ish weeks on campus. This list was so encouraging that I thought it would encourage you too!  God is at work and we are so privileged to be a small part of it!

  • First Athletes Meeting at St. Johns University – 9 students showed up INCLUDING a guy! The new students that came came because OLD students invited them. 3 soccer girls had stood up in their soccer practice and invited their whole team and one girl brought 3 freshmen soccer girls with her to the meeting. We haven’t done any publicity but students are hearing about us and coming anyways!
  • Weekly meeting at Queens College – ice breaker was “nope, dope, hope” and two girls expressed that their hope was that they would get to go to Fall Retreat in October with us.
  • With our normal Cru movement at St. Johns University, students are finding Cru, rather than us finding them since we have done no publicity (3 students did this). Students are coming because they know friends involved with Cru at University of Tennessee Chattanooga or because they were flaky last year and want to be more committed. One girl brought her friends and one girl blocked out that day so she can come. Most of the students from the previous week came back to the Cru meeting the second week.
  • We have a potential guy at St. Johns who is leading a small group with Indian pharmacy students and he desires to reach the whole campus so he may be jumping on board with us. This is exciting!
  • The weekly pizza social at Queens College has been really encouraging. Kelly, who has been attending, brought a friend. 9 students have been coming regularly and most are freshmen.
  • Noel and Frank made decisions this week to place their faith in Christ!!! Tim (brother of Chris, a former student of ours who is serving short-term overseas with Cru like mentioned in a previous prayer letter) was with Doran, a staff guy on our team and they were following up a survey from welcome day filled out by a guy named Noel. Upon sharing the “Knowing God Personally” booklet, Noel realized that he wanted to be the circle of the person who has surrendered their life to Christ but knew he wasn’t and understood that you moved to that circle by by receiving Christ through faith. He said he wanted to keep growing and learning and pursuing God and he prayed the salvation prayer and even changed the words to make it his own. It was so sincere.
  • Frank was another followup from a survey that God had been doing something in – he had had two friends/mentors who were Christian who have spoke into his life and encouraged him to pursue Christianity. He has been coming to the pizza social (we shared about him at our last prayer letter). Praise God…he made the decision to place his faith in Jesus and become a believer!!
  • A big-time basketball player at St. Johns University named Greg Williams circled 10s and yeses on his survey (this means he had a high interest in exploring God, being a part of a Bible study, learning more about Christ, etc.) and Ed was able to have a small conversation with him and exchange numbers. Ed is hoping to connect with him this coming week and potentially get him involved in our Athlete ministry and have a spiritual conversation. He could have such an impact at St. Johns because of how well known he is.
  • Ksenia, a girl from Queens College who knew some Cru staff at her church, was introduced to us on welcome day, she came to the ice cream social, and said she wanted to be a part of Cru and wants to help us become an official organization. She is so excited to reach her campus. She also signed up for Fall Retreat.
  • 4 students are registered for Fall Retreat so far…we are praying for 10!! What a great start!!

This is some awesome things happening in just a few weeks. Please pray that God continues moving and we are able to share more awesome things like these that glorify His name!!

Remembering

Isn’t it funny that even as the years fly by, some things never fade from your memory? For me, today, those things that I can’t get out of my head are Hurricane Hugo and 9/11. What triggered these memories today?

Even though we now lives hundreds of miles away from my hometown of Georgetown on the coast of SC, because of Facebook and family still living there, we can stay very connected to what is happening there. For instance, tonight, I have learned that people are making real-time decisions about whether to ride out Hurricane Florence. They are watching the TV like a hawk trying to figure out where the hurricane is going (can we ever really know?). They are boarding up windows and stocking up on food and sharing tips about how to best store water in case they don’t have it for weeks. I also learned that they are closing down the hospital and Wal-Mart in Georgetown as of tomorrow, which NEVER happens there, even with past storms. My brother is officially working crazy insane hours as he is on hurricane duty with his law enforcement agency.

Most people have no idea what it is like to live through a hurricane. When Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989, it made landfall south west of Georgetown, putting our area on the northeast side of the storm which is the worst for catastrophic damage. Not only do I remember huddling and sleeping in the hall at my grandmother’s house with my aunts, uncles and cousins, but I remember the sound of the wind, how long it took to get places because roads were wiped out, the trees that hit the house, the insane hours my dad worked with law enforcement adn relief efforts, and the absolutely horrible damage it did on all the places that I knew and cherished. Hurricanes have fond memories for me as a time when our family would come together and spend time playing games and hanging out, but lets be real…they are super scary and damaging. So tonight, I am remembering and praying for all of those in the South we know (Georgetown, Charleston, Raleigh, Wilmington) who are bracing for this big monster of a storm.

9/11 will always be a time that is etched in everyone’s minds….where you were when it happened, how you felt, what you did afterwards, how it has changed your life, etc. It is bizarre to me to think that this year’s college freshman was barely a year old when it happened and only know it as “that time my parents talk about.” I was in college, getting up to cram for a test, when I heard that I needed to go check out the communal television. Obviously, classes were canceled, convocation was held, tears were cried, people were stunned, and our worlds changed.

But living here in NYC, 9/11 has taken on a totally different meaning for us. And not just because we regularly walk past the memorial or see the One World Trade tower. We are living life next to people everyday who lost their father, mother, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, friend, etc. in 9/11. We are living next to people who looked up and could see the huge towers of black smoke leading to the sky. We are living next to people who went to help in the relief effort, who comforted their neighbors who didn’t know if their loved one was dead or alive, and who walked past missing posters everyday as they walked to work. We are living next to people who endured major racial profiling and feared for their safety simply because their ethnic background matched those of the terrorists. We are living next to people who share their stories about their mother who is alive because she “happened” to be late to work that one day when she usually never was. We are living in a place that has humanized 9/11 in a way that it never was for us. So, as I think about the 17th anniversary of 9/11 tomorrow, I pray for those who are continuing to grieve the loss of those who were so dear to them.

In the midst of lots of packing, the start of school craziness, and the fall semester rat race that is part of campus ministry, I am choosing to stop and remember that there is so many other things going on for so many other people that go beyond my immediate world and worries. Thank you Jesus for being the one who controls the winds and the waves. Thank you Jesus for being the one who can comfort us in a way that no one else can. Thank you Jesus for giving us the great privilege of praying and interceding for others who are preoccupied with so many heavy things.

 

Moving Already?

Something pretty big happened in our lives this week. Having tons of surveys filled out by students on campus? Yes, that happened, but that’s not it. Connecting with new freshmen and getting to share the Gospel with them? Yes, that also happened, but that’s not it. Surviving in above-record heat here in NYC? Yes, again, that happened, and we survived, but that’s not it. So, then, what could it be?

We signed a new lease on a HOUSE!!  For probably 6 months or longer, Ed and I have been praying and thinking about moving. We love our apartment and complex and neighborhood, so our list of what the new place had to have was quite extensive: we wanted to be closer to the girl’s school (we found out last spring that Kinsley, now in 3rd grade, doesn’t qualify for bus service anymore and we would be walking the kids to and from school every day, about 3.5 miles round trip), we wanted to be in the girl’s school zone (so when Blake goes to pre-school and kindergarten, we wouldn’t have to worry about him being on a waitlist or not getting a spot), we wanted to potentially be on the bottom floor of a place so we didn’t have to worry about kids running and jumping and making too much noise for people below us, we wanted to still be close to Forest Hills shopping and the subway. If we could find a place where we could park a car without a hefty monthly price tag (our parking garage in our neighborhood was $300 a month and street parking is almost non-existent) and a place where we could host our weekly small group and groups of students and guests better, that would be the icing on the cake. But again, because we loved our apartment, it would have to be the perfect place. We also knew the timeline would have to work out as we had signed a lease on our place until October 25 and couldn’t pay for two places for long.

We have asked family, friends, and ministry partners for wisdom for us as we looked and decided, and when we returned from our summer travels, we loosely started looking. Then, this past week, we amped up our looking. Houses in the girl’s school zone are pretty expensive so finding something in our price range was pretty challenging but we looked at 3 great options. One was a townhome with a little too much space with a bigger price tag, one was a townhome with a little smaller than we have now with a lower price tag, and one was a house that was in between on everything. It also came with a finished basement, a garage, a driveway, a closer walk to the girls’ school, and a tiny yard. It is still pretty small like NYC places and compared to houses in the South, but it has the garage for storage, which is nice. After putting in an offer and the owner originally saying no (there was some confusion about our income because we have minister’s housing allowance which makes the income on our tax return look lower than it is and she didn’t think we could afford it), she changed her mind and said yes!  We meet her a few days ago to sign the lease, get to know her, and to get instructions and such. We found out through talking that her daughter is a Christian but her daughter says her mother is Hindu/tolerant of all things, so we are even praying that God allows us chances to minister and share the Gospel with her. We are seriously so thankful to the Lord as she had so many people interested and we were not the most attractive on paper (others had way higher incomes and could move in sooner), but she changed her mind and leased it to us. Even after she accepted our offer, she had diplomats look at it and love it so much they wanted it. We are praying this house gives life to our family in so many ways and allows us to minister more effectively here. It also looks like we will be able to get a car soon too!

I am a little apprehensive about the next few months – in the midst of the beginning of the school craziness (our campuses started last week with the exception of St. Johns which begins this week), Ed taking a seminary class in October that requires a lot of reading, the girls starting school, and us focusing on growing our team of ministry partners, moving is just something else to add to the list and make life more crazy. Would you pray that we don’t get overwhelmed and that God provides all we need to make it through? He provided this place so I am trusting He will provide everything else.

For the icing on the cake, my cousin and his wife from SC came up to stay with us to go to the US Open and to spend time with us. We had a GREAT time with them and even in the midst of crazy schedules, looking for a place, signing on a place, etc, it was easy and very life-giving. We took Sunday to travel to Governors Island with them….to get there, we had to travel to lower Manhattan and take a ferry, but it was so beautiful there and we loved getting to walk the island, eat lunch by the water staring at the Statue of Liberty, see the unicycle festival, and let the kids slide on the longest slide in NYC.

Thank you for your prayers for wisdom – we definitely felt them and feel that God led us to just the right place. Continue praying as we continue the beginning of the school year craziness and as the girls start school this Wednesday.

Treasuring the Moments

It happened again this morning. I found myself yelling at my kids. I know, I know….full-time missionaries aren’t supposed to yell at their kids (not sure who said that but it sure is the lie Satan tells me). I had a million things on my to-do list. Ed was hurrying out the door and unable to help. Two kids were bickering and pushing and biting and who knows what else. One kid was sassing and talking back and having major attitude because they didn’t want to do their “school work.” I felt like everyone and everything was in my way and not cooperating and didn’t they know I had stuff to do. And so I did it. I yelled. At everyone. And then, the perfectionist, wanting-to-love-them-like-Jesus-does, momma inside of me felt so guilty.

With only a week and a half of school, I want to savor the days with them. When I think that next year my oldest will turn 9 which is half-way to adulthood, it makes me so very sad. The saying “The days are long but the years are short is so very, very true” but somehow I tend to forget that over and over and over. I want to focus on being present with them, cuddling and reading and talking and playing. I want to parent to their heart instead of responding according to what is easiest and quickest to get the issue over with. I want to really disciple them like Jesus has called me to do instead of treating them like they are just one more task in my already busy day. But it is hard. So very hard. This parenting thing is not for the faint of heart and is so very, very sanctifying.

I have to remember that there will be times when things go really smooth and I look over at them playing all calmly together and think “my cup is overflowing with thankfulness for these little blessings” but then there will be other times when lunch doesn’t get fixed until 12:30 because we had two kids who needed to be disciplined, another who spilled the cup of water left on the table, and another who just didn’t quite make it to the potty causing a river to clean up (true story for our lives just today). And its okay. Things will get done. I will stop running a marathon and sweating and be able to eat lunch before 4. And things may not get done on my to-do list. And its all okay. This is a season that I need to savor no matter what the day brings instead of wishing it all away.

These are the things I am praying, pondering, and trusting Jesus for today.

Gearing Up

The craziness officially begins this next week. Club fairs, move ins, survey tables, weekly meetings, discipleship, followup from surveys, etc. will all begin THIS WEEK. My friend Linsey made this comment explaining her excitement for students this coming year and I love it – “They might not know that He is going to change their lives while in college. They have no idea that these next few years are going to shape them- and that the decisions they make while in college affect the rest of their lives. These students might think that they are going to live a typical college life- but for some, their stories will be different.” While we are expectant and excited to see what God is going to do, we are so very thankful for this past week.

This past Sunday, we loaded up our family in a rental van and drove 2.5 hours to East Hampton, NY to join the rest of our team on a staff retreat. There, we enjoyed time connecting with each other, catching up on our summers, encouraging each other by sharing what God has been teaching us, relaxing together, and spending time with Jesus. We spent time at the beach and in the pool and cooked meals together in our rental house and played games. I love our team that feels like family to us! It was also really fun to say that we have been to “The Hamptons” – I was in complete shock as I counted the number of “nice cars” we passed…and by nice, we are talking about Range Rovers and Porsches and Ferraris and Teslas and Lexus’ – seriously insane. Another fun thing about our time is that we got to celebrate the birthday of our new team member – Kathia!  This is an answer to prayer on so many levels – to have more laborers, to have more laborers who don’t look like us, and to have more laborers who don’t look like us who can identify with college-aged students.

Then, this week, we started our beginning of the year planning meetings to get things lined up and set up for the school year. I am so thankful to great babysitters who enable the moms to be a part of this! It was super encouraging to talk about what we are trusting God for as a Queens team!

Last weekend and this weekend, we decided to venture into Manhattan to enjoy what the city has to offer. Last year, we were told by a friend and ministry partner about this place that is only open during the summer called the Magnum store. Last weekend, we traveled to the Magnum store and created our own Magnum bars. They were delicious!  However, the train ride with Brynn was pretty rough and there was lots of complaining from the walkers about being tired and how much longer we had to go. Ed and I knew to give them all lots of grace as we were all transitioning into the city and even for us, getting used to walking again and subway commutes and even traveling to 4 grocery stores to get all we need has been an adjustment for sure.

This weekend, we decided to travel to Park Avenue where we had heard that for a few Saturdays this month, they shut it down to car traffic and they have things set up all along the way, like booths for vendors and kids fitness area and food samples. The kids had a great time getting free applesauce pouches and running the kid’s obstacle race. Afterwards, we got hot chocolate, went to the American Doll store and Nintendo store, and saw where they were going to be hosting the MTV Video Music awards. It was a very relaxed and fun morning in the city and the kids did SOOOO much better. No breakdowns, kids asking to play on our phone, or bugging us about too much walking. It was such a breath of fresh air to have a laid-back and fun morning exploring this city that we love.

Here are a few fun pictures from the last week here. – scooter riding to the store in our neighborhood, Blake riding his new “big boy” bike at a local park, and Blake trying out a new hairstyle.

The kids don’t start school until after Labor Day, so it will be interesting navigating campus start ups and staff meetings while having them all home. Our hope is that we can take them to some things on campus, I will stay home with them some instead of participating in start of the year things, and that we will be able to hire sitters to help us. More updates to come on how God moves!

 

We are back!!!

The final 10 days of our trip in Raleigh/Fuquay Varina flew by!  In 10 days, we had over 20 meetings, both church presentations and personal meetings with current and potentially new ministry partners!  We split our stay between two families who graciously agreed to host our family of 6 and we were so thankful that not only did it go smoothly, it was very life-giving for both us and our kids. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all who met with us, hosted us, fed us, and prayed for us.

While there are so many things I love about having an 18 month old, flying, eating out at restaurants, sleeping in new places, and riding in the car long distances are not them. Case in point – on our return flight, after playing with Play-doh, eating 4 different snacks, watching two different types of TV shows, playing with the shape shorter, coloring, and going back and forth between her dad and I, Brynn was just done. Tired and done. Did I say tired and done?

She screamed for the last 15 minutes of our flight – not whimpered or cried on and off but screamed bloody murder complete with whipping of all body parts that could whip. People were holding their hands over their ears. People were staring. Mommy, who definitely struggles with people-pleasing and knows how bad people talk about those parents whose kid won’t stop screaming, was straight up embarrassed. When we got our chance to leave the plane, you can bet I was doing just that and fast-like. Ed grabbed my backpack, I jetted off the plane, and we met outside the gate. Thank you to the sweet people behind us who stopped outside the gate just to say that we did a good job with her and that anyone who is parents can understand and empathize and that those who can’t empathize can just get over it….your words helped calm my frazzled nerves a bit. We grab our bags at baggage claim (complete with me asking Ed “Did anyone from our flight see you and say anything to you while they were getting their bags”) and then wait for an Uber that can fit our massive load of bags (meanwhile the screaming baby is now asleep…couldn’t that have happened earlier?” and we head home.

Once home, I realize something major. I forgot to tell Ed to grab my phone which was in the back of the seat of the plane. Uh-oh. Big uh-oh. Like multiple hundreds of dollars uh-oh. We call, file a report, pray, but doubt we will ever see it again. Last night, Ed went to Apple to get me a new-to-me older phone and after getting it all hooked up today, we get a phone call. They found my phone!! Seriously!! Praise God!! Ed went back to LaGuardia today, picked it up, we returned the new one, and we are back in business.

It feels good but yet so weird to be back in the city after being gone a month. There was lots of complaining as we walked a mile to meet some friends at a playground today (gotta get used to city legs again) and as we all poured sweat in the heat and humidity that never seems to end. But I love playing at a park and looking around and realizing only one other mom looks like me. I love getting to interact with friends who have become so dear to me. I love being able to smile and wave at our doorman and hear him say “Hey, wait, you have been gone a long time – glad to have you back!”. I love hearing the honks, the trains, the ice cream trucks, the road construction. It feels so good to be home in this city that we are learning to love.

Differences

Coming back to SC and NC this summer, we haven’t experienced as much culture shock as we thought we would. But, here are a few things we have noticed that we haven’t noticed before (ok, maybe we noticed them but have seen them in a new light):

1 – There are so many trees and grass. Anyone that has been in the city for a while has this same reaction. But, it stuns me that this is ALWAYS our first thought. So. Much. Green.

2 – It is so quiet! Again, anyone that has been in the city for a while has this thought, but I honestly think sometimes “Is there anyone out there in the world? It is so stinkin’ quiet!” While the quiet has been nice, it makes our kids seem a whole lot louder!

3 – Riding in a car is so boring. Seriously, the first time Ed and I drove a long stretch with hardly any buildings and lots of trees, I thought “This is so boring and feels like it is taking forever.” What’s funny, we travel the same amount of time in the city to get places by riding on the subway or the bus, but you can multitask, watch the people, sleep, zone out, etc. which makes the time go so much faster!

4 – People talk and wave to strangers a lot! When we first got in at the airport, we were loading everything and everyone into my mom’s car and a lady started talking to Ed. I asked him “What was she saying?” He said “She was just talking.” I said “What was she talking about and saying?” He said “April, your forget this is the South and people just talk to you to be friendly.” Wow. In NY, if they are talking to you, it is usually to tell you what you are doing wrong. Even on a run around the neighborhood, I can’t count the number of waves from people I got….so weird!

5 – Where are all the people who aren’t white? Ok – I know this is a touchy one, but we are seriously used to being some of the only white people around, so it is weird to come here and not see people who don’t look like us. Or to feel like we are in the majority instead of the minority. I have actually struggled with this one the most since being back. I crave and love diversity now.

6 – These houses and lawns are so big! Compared to the tiny houses and NYC apartments, everything seems so big. I get that it is because housing is way cheaper here, but honestly, I don’t know if I would want to clean a place this big!

We are a little over two weeks into our month-long break and I can tell you that I feel like it has been a really good thing for our family. It has been great to be with friends and family, to have a little more downtime, to have more room for our kids to run and be loud, and it has been super encouraging to see God providing everything we need for our ministry to get us back to 100%. Seriously, I almost cried yesterday as I got overwhelmed with how God is providing for us. While starting up ministry partner development for the summer can be so intimidating, I love seeing God work, provide, and allow us to partner with others. Blown away!

Here are a few pictures from our last few weeks:

Enjoying my brother, sister-n-law, niece, and nephew-

When we traveled to Greenville, SC, we were excited to see Ed’s parents AND because our really good friends from Raleigh had just moved to neighboring Spartanburg. Spending time with them and their kids has been so life-giving. If you ever get a chance to find a friend like Jenn, hold on tight. She is intentional, direct, God-glorifying, kind, funny, and just a huge blessing in my life. I love having friends who feel like sisters! It is also a blessing that our kids love each other (the picture below is minus 3 kids!)

The kids have loved being able to read in daddy’s hammock (there are actually trees to hang it from!), wash the “cars”, and swim in pools. Ed has also enjoyed taking a break from working in our apartment or coffee shops, and actually getting to work outside!

And if you see Brynn in the next few weeks, please know that we do not beat our child. She has had a couple of nasty falls chasing after her siblings and she looks rough!

Please continue to pray for a great rest of our trip, for safety as we travel to Raleigh on Saturday, and for God to finish our team of ministry partners.