Journal

Life
  • Ch Ch Ch Changes

    It's that time again — we're moving! If you've followed our journey the past few years, you know we've moved to England, California, and back to North Carolina all since 2013. After getting pregnant in Cali, the plan was always to move back to NC to spend the first year of our daughter's life in my home state before moving back to England. 

    From our 6 months in the UK in 2013, we felt a keen desire and pull to move back as soon as possible to spend a bigger chunk of our lives in the place where David is from after spending most of our marriage living in the US. However, we're heading to Germany for four months first. What? Why? you may ask. 

    Well, immigration ain't easy. As is, I can only be in England as a "tourist" for up to 6 months. Even as an English citizen's spouse and mother to an already dual-citizen little girl, there are stipulations for my up and moving to England. Isn't it odd that David and Talitha could go straight there to live no questions asked, but throw me into the equation, and the requirements are these: David's income would have to be over $23,000/year (equivilent to £18,000) for at least 6 months prior to our move and he'd have to already have a job secured and waiting for him in England upon arrival. These income requirements don't even take into account my own job and earnings or ability to work via internet once in England, which to be honest, isn't at all fair to me, but nonetheless, that's how it goes. When we were making our plans, we realized it could take longer than we were willing to wait for David to meet those requirements. So we sought out another way. 

    Despite the UK's recent vote to leave the European Union (which hasn't gone into effect yet), David is still a citizen of the EU, and each country has its own laws concerning spousal immigration. Germany will accept me into their country on account of being David's wife, and I can apply to be a German resident. Once I have that, and we establish a "center of life" in Germany for at least three months, the British immigration office will look at me completely differently (as a resident of Europe instead of just an American). I'll be allowed in for longer than just the 6 months and able to then apply for British residency. 

    So why Germany? Two reasons. During our first year in California, we shared a house with a German couple our age who became some of our dearest friends from our time in Redding. Seriously, they are pure gold. They've moved back to their hometown in Germany and opened up a cafe as well as had their first child this summer. So, we're excited to move to Duisburg, which is in the midwestern part of Germany (about 2 hours from Amsterdam), and to share life in community with them for a little while. David will be helping in any way he can at the cafe and/or seeking employment elsewhere, and I'll resume my writing for Romper whilst doing the mama thing with my sweet friend and her newborn. The other reason Germany was so appealing is that David is practically fluent in German, so that makes one of us that speaks the language. I've been told English is very common, but I'm eager to pick up some useful German phrases — and it's certainly possible that Talitha will, too! — even though I'm a little nervous about the language barrior. I'm sure I'll learn a thing or two about patience having to have things translated for me often, but living in a new culture is always an adventure I'm excited to take.

    The plan is to head to England in late February 2017 to most likely Ramsgate where David's family lives. Our church there that we made such a connection with (we love you, New Life-ers!) is in the next town along the coast just 10 minutes away, so it's possible we could end up there or anywhere in the surrounding area really. David isn't sure what type of job he'll look for or take once there, but we're open to lots of things, and I'm very grateful I can take my writing job with me whereever. We're just excited to plug into the church, do life with David's family for a while, and essentially spend a chunk of life in David's home country.

    Our timeframe is loose, but we're ready to stay somewhere longer than a year and 8 months, which is the longest we've stayed in a place since early 2013. But we can't say we'll exactly settle either, because how can you when you have family and friends in two countries? We think the longest we'll stay is around 5 years, but the idea is to take it one year at a time. We are eager to have another child as well, so once in England and by next Spring, I'd love to become pregnant again. Our life goal is to remain living a simplistic lifestyle, to refrain from accumulation of material things, and to always be ready for change. Travel, new places, a sense of adventure — probably turning out to be the DNA of our little Drozdowski clan. 

    When we leave on Monday, Oct 3, we are flying to LA where we'll have an overnight stay with my cousin who lives there, and then we'll drive up to Redding to visit Bethel Church and our friends there for a week. Then, we'll make the drive back to LA for a brief visit with my cousin again and fly out from there to Europe. As I type this, I can hardly believe it's all happening. Time is such a funny thing. Before I know it, we'll be back again, but watch this space (ok, well, really Facebook/Instagram) for everything in between. 

  • The Pregnancy I Prayed for & the Delivery I'm Praying to Come


    (Strand of photos from my own birth hanging on the wall in Talitha's room.)

    When I first got pregnant, I wrote a few declarations of faith over our baby, my body, and my hubby. I spent the beginning of my pregnancy reading those paragraphs out loud as the desire of my heart for how I wanted things to go. As I look back over what I wrote — what I prayed — I see how those specific requests were answered. 

    For Talitha, before I knew she was Talitha, I declared:
    "You are growing healthy," 
    "You are receptive to your parent’s words," 
    "You will know exactly how to position yourself once it’s time to leave this bed," 
    "All of your parts are in order."

    She is certainly a healthy (and seemingly big) baby, and she definitely responds to our touch and our voice especially her daddy's! She's been in the "launch position," as my doctor called it, for weeks now, so she knows what she's doing there, and all her little parts were complete and adorable when we saw her on the sonograms. 

    For myself, I declared: 
    "Womb, you are creating the perfect habitat for this child,"
    "Legs, you are strong pillars to carry this new life for all nine months well. You will not tire or swell,"
    "Pancreas, you function normally,"
    "Back, you have a strength you never knew, and you won’t feel any burdensome pain,"
    "Your beauty is exponentially increasing."

    I've had probably the closest thing to a stress-free pregnancy I could imagine. I had no morning sickness, no weird things going on inside. And even though I've been pregnant during the summer, I really haven't had issues with swelling. Here at the end, if I'm on my feet for a long time, then yes, I've definitely gotten those kankles! I didn't have gestational diabetes nor have I had preclampsia. I've felt bouts of discomfort from time to time, but I haven't had any signficant back pain. I've also very much had moments where I would cry for no good reason, but my mood swings have been minimal, and I've always known I could control any harsh words if I felt them wanting to arise. Lastly, looking back, it seems almost strange that I included  something about my own beauty, but instead of feeling fat and tired and ugly like many women are portrayed to see themselves in pregnancy, I've seen a deeper side of my beauty and femininity than ever before. 

    For David, I declared: 
    "You carry revelation for your family, vision, and insight into the workings of the Kingdom for us."

    David is a deeply philosophical and theological kind of man anyway (and a huge goofball/funny man to boot!), but he told me just the other day that he feels he is constantly thinking about thoughts he feels are from the Father and receiving revelation from God like never before! My whole declaration for him was actually more overarching into his role as a father, but he's exceeded even my own expectations. He's been such a pillar for me during the pregnancy taking care of me in the night when I couldn't go back to sleep, fetching food and drink for me at all hours, giving me massages when I asked. Of course, there was a time or two when he felt helpless, and he just had to wait it out and let me cry. He's also been super supportive about decisions I made about our doctor/hospital/birth plan. He listened to me read about pregnancy to him at bedtime. He's been a real partner to me, which is the way we believe God always intended. 

    Let me just stop here, and give the Lord some praise! I'm not saying there was a special formula to get what I've recieved in this pregnancy or that my words were somehow magic. But I am saying and realizing and sharing with you that the way we position our thoughts towards ourselves and our circumstances certainly influences the outcomes. Everything good I've experienced in this is totally the work of the Father, but he chose to let me partner with Him in seeing it come to pass. 

    (One of my favorite early 20th century pieces in Talitha's room that my mom got in an antique store a few years back. I knew I'd want it featured in her room when we moved back home, because vintage vibes were totally on my mind in decorating.) 

    This brings me to the declarations I've written for the labor and delivery that I just finished the other night. Please feel free to pray these with me just as I asked in the beginning. 

    FOR TALITHA:

    You have grown for nine months in my womb as a healthy baby. You will leave this womb in health and supernatural ease. You know exactly when to begin your journey, and though you are the first to come through, your brave yet gentle spirit makes your movement a sweet adventure. You will greet us with joy and without delay in wholeness and newborn glory.  

    (Little details on the dresser: dried roses from Mother's Day and the day we found out she was a girl, a cherished journal gifted by a dear friend, floral Cath Kidston box, and origami flower made for our family baby shower.) 

    FOR MY BODY:

    You were made to do this. Just as you have endured the journey brilliantly, you will finish in victory. Cervix, you open right on time and consistently. Body, you will not be overwhelmed. Mind, no fear comes your way, because perfect love covers you. Birthing canal, you are redeemed, a pathway cleared of doubt and the curse. Breasts, you give life and sustainance from the moment it is needed and wanted. Body, your task at hand is your joy to complete without stress or delay. 

    FOR DAVID:

    As husband and partner, you are an encouraging coach and a real-time intercessor. You know how to call things as they need to be an advocate for your family. Your presense calms the atmosphere and fills it with an undeniable faith. your excitement creates a happy energy that inspres our endurance. Your love is a covering that brings freedom and acceptance from the very moment of delivery. 

    (Perfect little nook I've been enjoying her room and waiting for her in and where I've sat writing this entire post getting excited about the day I'll get to bring her home.) 

    Thank you for reading and sharing a little bit of the journey with our little family. I can't explain the way we've already been loved on so well by our family and friends and church families. From all of us, thank you, you know who you are. 

  • Labor & Delivery Playlist

    I thought it'd be fun to post the songs I've compiled as a playlist on my phone for our time in the hospital as I birth Talitha Leigh Ana. For someone like me in which music has played such an important role in her life, I can't help but to think about what I want to be listening to in the time just before one of the most life-changing events of my existance. It's important to me. 

    I don't keep all of my music on my phone all the time, which means the stuff that's on there is either the current worship music I'm listening to or some of of my all-time favorites that I like to have easy access to. My playlist might actually seem a little short from other mama's I've seen out there online, and mine is admittedly a bit more serious in order to cultivate a faith-filled and worshipful atmosphere to bring our daughter into the world. But some of the titles of the songs I have chosen are almost comical in the circumstance! I mean, phrases like "in over my head," "I will not be silent," and "everything was beautiful and nothing hurt" are just a little ironic, don't you think? ;) 

    Here's what's going to be filling my ears in those moments leading up to her big debut in no particular order:

    "Like You Promised" - Amber Brooks
    "Home" - Hunter Thompson
    "In Over My Head" - Jenn Johnson 
    "You Make Me Brave" - Amanda Cook
    "It Is Well" - Kristene Dimarco
    "Dwell" - Harvest 
    "Love Song for a Savior" - Jars of Clay
    "Future/Past" - John Mark McMillian
    "God is Love" - Jonathan David Helser
    "I Will Not Be Silent" - Jonathan David Helser
    "Praise the Lord" - Kristene Dimarco
    "Explode My Soul" - Melissa Helser
    "You Won't Relent" - Misty Edwards
    "Tightrope" - Misty Edwards
    "I Dare You To Move" - Switchfoot
    "Malibongwe" - We Will Worship
    "Surprised By Joy" - Heath McNease
    "Sons and Daughters" - Jason Upton
    "The Lord Is My Shepherd" - Keith Green
    "Alive" - Kim Walker-Smith
    "The Mystic's Dream" - Loreena McKennitt
    "Everything Was Beautiful And Nothing Hurt" - mewithoutYou

    Outside of my playlist, I'm sure I'll bring up some feel-good/chill music on Spotify, which is likely to include Florence + the Machine, Future of Forestry, and Sigur Ros. And maybe David and I will even lighten the mood and take it way back to the beginning-of-us days and play some goofy Five Iron Frenzy to sing along to! Or maybe we won't have any of that on our minds at all and it happens in a whirlwind. Either way, it's fun to think about making this time hopeful and stress-free, calm and happy. Y'all, it's happening so soon! 

  • Life Back In North Carolina

    I figured it was about time to write a new blog post. Things are all very different from the last time I posted. We're no longer living in California. In May, we left our little home in Redding and drove across country back to my home state of North Carolina. Our trip was just about as perfect as it could have been. We got to visit my cousin in L.A., we saw the Grand Canyon, and we toured Graceland in Memphis.  Being on the road while pregnant wasn't too bad after all as we took the trip at the right time in the pregnancy before I got too uncomfortable. 

    At this point, I'm much bigger than when we left California. AND we finally know that we're having a little girl! It's been really cool bonding with her since we've known for sure — calling her by her name and imagining exactly what she's going to look like and what not. I didn't realize I'd enjoy the process so much. We've been buying for her and getting things prepared. It is hard to believe that she'll be here in just over two months! 

    It's been interesting being back in North Carolina in a part of the state that we didn't live in before. We're farther away from our friends and family than we were before. Even though we get to be with my Mom and Dad everyday, we do miss what our life was like in Asheville. But I am finding the little things to be grateful for: it's beautiful in this part of the state, we're blessed with a budding friendship in one of the young couples in my Dad's church, and the time we get to spend with my parents is invaluable as we've been away from NC for quite a while before this. 

    I had to scale down my hours writing for Bustle recently. I knew that would happen as I got farther along in the pregnancy. It's crazy how just working from home writing articles on my laptop can make me so tired! But I was writing 3 pieces a day/5 days a week. Now I've just gone down to writing 8 pieces in a 7 day period and at my own pace instead of being "on shift" for 6 hours a day. I'm very grateful to my editor for being flexible with me. So far, though I have found the job challenging in some ways, I have really enjoyed my work. I hope limiting my hours will give me more time to prepare for our little girl — and possible to work more on my novel, which I've been neglecting ever since I took the position for Bustle. 

    I am missing many aspects of our life in Redding. Being apart of Bethel Church is a dream for many people, and there are many times that I miss the community and the church life there. I often still miss our life in England, too. I find it difficult loving so many places at once. For now, I'm soaking up this time in North Carolina for as long as it will be. I'm trying hard to live in the present and not yearn too much for everything I want to see in the future. But isn't that everyone's struggle? We look back and look ahead, and sometimes we forget to look all around for the glory of what we have right now. 

  • Why I'm Not Likely to Buy a House Anytime Soon

    Somewhere along the way in our Western culture, we made up societal standards of success for each other. They're like unspoken rules that govern the way many of us live. One of them is owning a house. According to the culture at this point in my life (I'm 30), I'm supposed to at least be thinking of buying a house if I haven't sealed a deal already. Already? Thirty years is no time in my opinion. I mean, hasn't it flown by like crazy? If you think about it, I've only been an adult for 12 years and statistically speaking, I'll live until I'm 80. That's at least 50 more years of adult life. And I'm expected to have bought a home in the first 12? By the numbers, it sounds a little premature to me. I'm writing this in response to seeing some of my peers close on their first houses recently, and it made me think about why exactly I'm not in that position. If you’ve been thinking about it, too, maybe something here will put words to your feelings and encourage you that you aren’t the only one who doesn’t want to buy a home. Here are my reasons why I'm not even entertaining the idea currently.

    Settling Down

    I'm just not ready. I don't know that I ever will be, but I mean, sure, maybe one day. If you're ready to stay in one place for the majority of your life, well hey, you're doing the right thing by getting a house. I recognize that owning a home doesn't necessarily keep you in one place. Many people own a home, but rent it out to other people because they are living somewhere else for some other reason. But I know that if I made that big of a financial decision to actually purchase a home, in reality, I'd want to actually stay in it, because I'd be thinking "I'm still paying for this right now, so why would I want someone else to enjoy it?" while I'd also be paying for where ever else I lived. Of course, if money weren't an issue, and I could buy a house out right to let someone rent it, well, that's a completely different story, and there would be no point to this entire blog. For now, in my current financial state, the state I'm sure many of my peers are in, I could not see buying a house as a rental property as a good investment at all. But back to settling down, the bottom line is even though owning a home doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in one place, it more than likely means you will be. It’s basically our default thought process. For example, my housemate was discussing an idea to store some things in a friend’s garage, because in his words, “They own the house, so it’s not like they’re going anywhere anytime soon.” There are always exceptions to the “rule,” but I don’t think I have make the point any stronger. I mean, most of the time, people buy a home because they want to settle down.

    Finances

    I touched on it just briefly already, but there is no way I see owning a home as a smart money move. You always hear that renting is throwing your money away, and instead putting it into something you will own is much better. I can see that later in my life, but I still think it’s too early. I’d rather be investing in opportunities that actually create wealth for me, not just sitting on a hill somewhere. Obviously, buying a house, keeping it up and even making it better, and selling it on could return a great reward,  just like buying and selling anything, but it takes capital and a housing market mind to do that. For the majority of people, that isn’t our lifestyle, but we are still persuaded into believing that we’re doing ourselves a favor by buying a home now. Financially, for the average person my age, I just can’t see it. I don’t claim to know everything about money, but I do not want to know what it feels like to have a huge chunk of my money and future money going to something the cons outweigh the pros on for the time being.

    Maintenance 

    You know when you're renting how someone else mows the grass, fixes that leaky faucet, broken refrigerator, or well, anything else broken in your apartment or town house? Yeah, that doesn't happen when you have your own home. Yes, you can take pride in what is yours and revel in your handy ways when you're taking care of your own place, but I've found a lot of pride and happiness in taking care of the places I've rented and have had way less stress in my life so far not having to deal with the broken this or that. The thing about buying a house is it's not over once you've paid your monthly bill or even paid off your house for good. All the extras are coming out of your pocket, too, and honestly, I'd rather spend my "extra" money on other things for the time being. 

    Baggage

    This is sort of along the same lines as settling down, but what I mean here is the weight that comes along with having material possessions. Please hear me out, having stuff (and even nice stuff at that) is by no means inherently bad. But feeling the weight of their existence IS an inherent reality. Owning a home is certainly still a privilege, but it's also a responsibility. We can definitely choose our mindsets and not adopt one of fear or worry, but the fact remains: it is something that will occupy space in your brain and take up time and effort in your life and rightfully so as that is essentially what a responsibility is, but for me, that is not what I want on my mind right now. 

    Accumulation 

    This one is key for me. When I was newly married, we lived in a three bedroom home that was owned by the church where we served. Because we had the space, we accumulated SO MUCH STUFF. You don't even know it's happening. It wasn't until we moved out of that home that I realized just how much junk we had in less than four years, and it was a pain to deal with. Everyone knows moving sucks, and it's partly because we all have way too much clutter in our lives. As the years have passed by, my husband and I have de-cluttered our lives as we moved in to smaller places. Two years ago, we literally got down to two suitcases, two carry-on bags, and flew to live with family in England. Since then, we've been back in the states, but because of our circumstances, we've still practically lived the same way. When we moved across the country to California, we had a car full, and that's still the same as we live in community with other people who have all the stuff. Yes, you do have to have some stuff or access to it to live decently. Eventually, we'll get our own place again, but our resolve is the same: we never want to get into the trap of accumulation. It can easily happen when you buy a home, though, and like I said, if you know you're going to be there for a good while, then it really doesn't matter as much, but I don't want the space or availability for it to happen. 

    So there you have them: the reasons I'm not likely to buy a house any time soon.

    "BUT WAIT," you might be asking, "YOU'RE ABOUT TO HAVE A KID. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU AREN'T READY TO SETTLE DOWN? DON'T YOU WANT A PLACE TO RAISE YOUR FAMILY?" 

    Because yes, I am pregnant right now, and the answer is yes, I do want a place a raise my family. I just happen to think that you can raise a family in more than one place, which is most likely what's going to happen for the Drozdowski clan as we grow. It's all about how we each choose to live and operate our lives. Some of us are a little more unconventional than others. I’m sure there will come a day when I reassess these thoughts and see if I’m still in the same place, but for now, I feel comfortable with this. Will it be hard with a baby? Yes. But wouldn’t it be hard anyway? When you know you are being led in a certain lifestyle for a reason, and you see that reason, it completely affirms your decisions. As an adult, that’s the one thing I’m most proud of and see as success: being confident in the choices you make no matter what other people are saying. Knowing yourself and knowing the One Voice you’re listening to, you can’t go wrong.

  • The Social Scene

    I'm talking about the online social scene. It's tricky, isn't it? So much fun AND functional, but it has the potential to literally take over your life, right? 

    It had for me - I woke up instantly connected. Went to bed browsing everyone's life. A bit detrimental as it took away from time I could have been doing much more productive things, or connecting with the people right in front of me, including my husband. That one struck a cord with me, as David had let me know how often he saw me on my phone. So one day a couple weeks ago, I decided I was going to take a little break from the posting and browsing. Here's what I learned in those 10 days:

    1. It doesn't actually change much in my life to not be constantly aware of what everyone else is up to. It's great, don't get me wrong. But it's really not as necessary as I thought it was. 

    2. There are some people I actually do think enhance my life in this way. These are the people that I will keep following. I hate to say it, but it really comes down to that. So I'm going through and actually unfollowing people or organizations that have just cluttered things up a bit. I know that sounds harsh, but no one can keep up with so many people and stay sane. At least not me. 

    3. I have a really weird, anal-retentive habit of browsing through until I finish seeing absolutely everyone's posts since the last time I got on. This is only for twitter and instagram, but it was seriously intense. I would spend an hour going through it all if it took that long. And that HAS to stop. 

    So now I'm giving myself new rules when it comes to social media: 

    1. Resist the urge to post EVERYTHING. I will stick to the important and/or proud moments of my life that are actually worth posting. We all know those posts that are seriously ridiculous. Who needs to know that I am listening to a cool, new band I found? Or that I'm currently eating some amazing pizza. Not really anyone. I was only doing it to look cool. I had to be honest with myself. 

    2. Browsing through should only be during truly free times when there isn't something else I should be doing or when I'm giving myself a break from life - because that is valid for short periods of time. 

    3. No comparing my life to others when I see something that makes me feel jealous. That's the worst thing that has come out of social media, and I'm just done with it. My life is amazing, and it's time that I quit thinking "they are so much better than me." Also just being really honest with myself here. 

    I believe I'm on the road to a much healthier relationship with my iPhone. Here's to balance and moderation! 

  • The Story of My Joy Strands, Part 1

    This is a story of taking one thing and redeeming it into another. What one may call dreadlocks, I call joy strands. I've given them a new name. It's part of a mandate on my life to change culture, to see it shift one atmosphere at a time beginning with the atmosphere of my own heart. 

    I've always admired wild, crazy, big hair. Maybe it was because I grew up with a mom who had fiery auburn hair that she would tease and spray with Aqua Net and a Dad who would compliment her on those feathered back bangs. Maybe it was because one of my favorite childhood icons was Jem, the rocker chick cartoon with equally wild hair. Whether because I was a product of the 80s or just my own personality, I can't say for sure, but I've always thought long or big, free locks were the way to go. Sadly, I was gifted with thin and mostly flat, straight hair (though a lovely and sometimes indescribable color, a sort of strawberry blonde, molasses tint) that wouldn't hold curl for longer than an hour. Except that time in second grade when I got a perm - what a glorious few months! Anyway, although I loved my hair and always knew it was one of my best physical features, I would often dream of doing something radical to it. 

    Call it the crisis of the last year of my 20s (or not), 2013 was definitely the year of a recognizably different approach to my physical appearance. Losing our job in January 2013 set the stage for a sort of personal freedom I had not actually experiences in my 20s at all. Let's face it - the culture of the university I chose to go to and the jobs I had thereafter did not afford me this opportunity of free expression. There are guidelines, spoken and unspoken, for a Baptist college student turned youth minister, turned librarian, turned custoner service rep turned house mother at a group home all in the Southern United States. But BAM - there I was at this major turning point in life where several key factors had alligned, and I was free. No job, no office (or otherwise) culture holding its guidelines over my head.

    So that tattoo I had sketched out for over 10 years? I got it. And once we got to England, the dip dyes I had seen made popular since 2011 and secretely wanted to have (and had to reprimand or not let my girls at the group home have)? I went and got the bottom half of my hair bleached and turned it green, purple, and pink while I was England! That was seriously so much fun. At some point, I admit, I said to myself, "You're in your late 20s, and you're wearing your hair like a teenager. What are you thinking?" But then I'd be able to remind myself, "You are simply enjoying this amazing goft of the time given to you to let loose and be creative and find out more of what you like." Because here's the thing - those things that make your eyes light up and your heart skip a beat? You were born to do those things! They were put there for a reason, and honestly, those things we think are just too "secular" or "worldly" and not spiritual enough? They are likely the exact things God likes to see you pick up and run with and change things with. 

    So having fun with my hair was a spiritual, godly practice? I'm convinced of a big, fat, brightly colored YES! 

    Stay tuned for why in Part 2. 

  • #8isthenumberfornewbeginnings

    That was the hash tag I used for some of my posts relating to my 8th wedding anniversary that took place Sunday, the 22nd. The 8th year was certainly one of exactly that - new beginnings all over. In fact, it wasn't just a fresh start, this past year our entire life was turned upside down. Two moves, thousands of miles, and dozens of people later, I've got some time here at the close of 2013, the quickest year of my life, to reflect on all the changes it brought to me. 

    p r o f e s s i o n a l  c h a n g e s //
    I detailed the account of losing our job in January here. Since then, I have been basically unemployed. When you've worked your entire married life, it's a strange feeling to not be working. Strange but incredibly enjoyable. This year I've learned that God really is a good Daddy, who always takes care of His children. I'm willing to work, though, and at this point, I'm praying for insight into where I should be looking for a job here in Redding. 

    l o c a t i o n a l  c h a n g e s //
    North Carolina to England to California - three very different places each with its own unique charm. The biggest thing I've found out is that I'm happy in any of these three places and can see purpose and destiny in all three! I don't think that's a coincidence, but it's going to take some time to sort out which place will take precedence for life after BSSM. 

    r e l a t i o n a l  c h a n g e s //
    The moves have meant inevitable changes of the people I spend the most time with. Everyday interactions have become long distance relationships twice over. David and I thrive off of making family everywhere we go. So we have these families we miss from all over - our biological families both in NC and in England, the girls we had at Crossnore, the youth and church family at both our church in Asheville (Redemption) and in England (New Life Family church). Relationships have had to change with the distance, but I think we're navigating that challenge with as much grace as we know how. There are days that I simply ache for certain people - just the ability to hug them. Major life events, i.e. weddings, deaths, births have happened to the people closest to me, and I wasn't there for them. I've had to go through some pretty hard processing with some of those things. But there were weddings, deaths, and births that I was there for that I wouldn't have been otherwise, so I trust God that I was were I needed to be at the right time. And now there is this whole group of people I have in my life now at Bethel, my housemates, my small group, my revival group, they are all my family here. I'll have to say goodbye to some of them in a matter of months now, too. The ebb and flow of people is sharpening me in a way I thought I was already pretty good at. The challenge is taking me deeper, though, and that's where I always wanted to go, isn't it? 

    p e r s o n a l  c h a n g e s //
    I got my tattoo in February. I had waited and prayed over that thing for ten years. It represents the things about me that will never change no matter how many new places I go or people I meet. I admire and reflect on it often. I happened to be alone when I got it, and I won't forget the moment I had in the room with just me, the tattoo artist, and the Lord. It's a seal upon my heart, a seal upon my arm (Song of Songs 8:6). The tattooist asked me what all the symbols mean, and with teary eyes, I got to tell him that it represented my covenant with God. It was a beautiful moment for me. (And yes, some of my tears were because of the pain, but mostly I was emotional about the meaning behind it all.)  Dreading my hair (started in October) is the other main personal change I've made. I plan to write a post completely dedicated to that, but I will say now that it's been a reflection of what's going on in my spirit currently. You'll see. 

    l i f e s t y l e  c h a n g e s //
    You couldn't have told me that I would live in the same house with other people ever again when I got married. I figured it would just always be me and David and eventually children of our own. Working at a group home changed that a little bit, but especially after working there, I would never have imagined voluntarily putting myself in a situation where David and I weren't the sole head of the household. But we've done that twice this year. I can be an introverted homebody at times, and I've learned and am learning so much in this area and what living in community is all about.  It's a challenge, but with all challenges, there are rewards. Another part of the lifestyle change we've experienced this year is not having a car. Since getting rid of our stuff to prepare for the move to England, we've ridden bycicles or gotten rides with other people to get where we need to go. It's such a different way of living. I've learned how to be dependant on people, which is a weird thing when you were so independent for so long. I'm still working through that one, actually. 

    I'll cherish 2013 for all that God has done in me. It was a year in which so many seeds were planted deep within me. I believe 2014 will be the beginning of seeing those seeds grow into what they were designed to become. 
     

  • Paris Then & Now

    Back in 2004, my boyfriend turned fiance now husband took me to Paris to propose to me on the Eiffel Tower. *Gush* On Monday/Tuesday we went back to the City of Love for the first time since then. I thought I would post some then and now photos. 

    Then - just after proposing:

    Now - coming back to the same spot:

    Then - before I knew what was about to happen:

    Now - loving every moment spent with him:

    Then - on top Notre Dame:

    Now - basking in the sun in the Tuileries Garden:

    Then - on the train back home:

    Now - He always lets me have the window seat:

    Here are a few more shots from Tuesday:

     

  • "Seek not an adventure but an encounter."

    As our new life in England then California begins, many people have sent well-wishes for the "adventure" about to be had. What's interesting about that is the word "adventure" make sense, but it's not exactly what I'm after. It's a word that came to mind when praying about Bethel began last fall. And, in my prayers, I heard the Lord say to me, "Seek not an adventure but an encounter." 

    This whole thing has to be about him, or it's in vain. And I just need to say: I am so done with vanity. Last Spring, after my study in Ecclesiastes, I couldn't stop thinking about all the things that truly are pointless under the sun. I began to desire to live "above the sun." 

    So let's dive into what exactly the difference between an adventure and an encounter is. It's fun to do that with images. I compiled a few images that returned when I did a simple image search with each word. Check out the difference between the two. 

    Adventure:

    Encounter:

    From the images, you can see that adventures are about places, and encounters are about people

    Take the dictionary definitions of the words as well. 

    Adventure:

     

    Encounter:

    What I find interesting in reading their dictionary definitions is what these words have in common. Both, used as nouns, are actually still an action. You have "to do" in both of them. Going on an adventure requires going. Meeting with someone requires getting up and getting out. 

    We're not going to England for England. Sure, the setting is lovely, and the country itself has a special place in my heart. But it's the people there that would cause us to move for 6 months. 

    After that, we're not going to Redding, CA (or Bethel Church) for the place either. I'm going to seek out the face of God. Yes, I could seek his face here or wherever, but he's asked me to meet him there come September. What's exciting and important to remember during this preparation time is that the Lord wants to meet with me every step of the way as well. 

    Now, I'm not saying that encounters can't come with a little adventure as well. Certainly, the nature of these travels lends us to an adventure, but I've just been praying that the encounter would be my first thought and desire. If you would, please join me in that prayer as the next months roll in. 

  • Life as a Live-in Nanny, Day 10

    I'm sitting down to blog, and I'm exhausted. I don't know how anyone should be expected to do this work with these ages (three toddlers plus a 7 year old and teen) without relief. That's how it works here for my parents. No week off (like I had at Crossnore from 9 teenagers) or even a few days. It's a little absurd. A night off is possible if they hire someone to do it for them. But only one night. It's supposed to be totally like a real family. But that doesn't make sense, because even in real families, a weekend at the grandparents is an option. That's not the case here. 

    But thinking about that today made me realize that this is exactly how it would be if I chose to have children back-to-back, which is how I had sort of seen myself doing it since we've waited quite a while to even begin, and four children is a number we've liked for a while now. I've even thought about how, perhaps, I might fancy having twins to get two in one go. Yes, I could do it. But it really would be very similar to this: exhausting. But then, as I was speaking to my mom about it, it would also be "a joy" as she said it. This made me think of how children are a heritage and a reward, as said in Psalms 127: 3-5. They are "an arrow in the hand of a warrior." There is so much depth packed into those memorable verses. To raise your children, then let them go, as arrows, at a specific target in battle is a beautiful metapor of how God uses family (specifically fathers/mothers and sons/daughters) to get work in the Kingdom done. How much more important should we be seeing the job of parenting and spiritually parenting to this generation?! Parenting is absolutely vital in order to see not just our country, but this world prepared for the coming King (the bride prepared for the Bridegroom). 

    But back to the week. Friday, Mom and Dad both spent the night up at their Spruce Pine house, so we experienced the household completely on our own. It was a foretaste of what's to come when they leave for their cruise on Wednesday. We'll have them totally on our own for 5 days. We're using my parents Suburban to get the kids around, and we took them out to dinner on Friday night. I looked at David as he drove and said, "I definitely feel like the all-american family." It was a funny moment. David even had to give the whole, "Don't make me turn this car around," spiel. Kids are kids. 

    Unfortunately, from her meeting with her social worker on Friday, we lost the teen to another house here on campus. My mom and I both feel it was a total bogus decision. It doesn't matter where you are, decisions are made that are out of your control. We had a great last night with her on Friday, but I am left feeling a little empty, not being totally sure what's going on with that, and what the Lord wants to do there. Pray that we will find peace with that, and continue to pray for her to be drawn to the Father. David and I both sensed an intentional withdrawal from her, because she's probably running from the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, it is his hand that guides her and keeps her, so from our hearts, we place her there! 

    Today was a fabulous Sunday. We drove up the mountain to a body of believers we've come to love, and got to see several people dear to us (some even from Crossnore!). My brother met us there, which was wonderful to worship with him. He is starting to recognize God's direction in his life. We had a nice buffet lunch, then took the kids out to a park. They are so cute when it comes to playing, and though they may not say it specifically with their words yet, the fact that they do so well out in public is thanks and joy enough to know they enjoy it. Here's to a week and a half more! 

  • Life as a Live-in Nanny

    We finally got internet access here at the house in Nebo, so I thought I'd do a little update for those interested.

    It was a bit tiring and messy (yet still liberating) to begin the process of going through our things and paring down to the honest essentials in preparing for our big move. There is still more to do, too, because, unfortunately, we are still those people that leave things to the last minute in many ways. **This is me sighing a quiet "b l a h" under my breath when I think about it.**

    We've been here five days now. Apart from going to church on Sunday morning, I have not been anywhere outside the walls of this house since Friday around 5pm. Not sure that's natural for a family, so I'm eager to know what you guys think. It's just that having three toddlers (aged almost 2, almost 3, and almost 4), a 7 year old, and a teenager in the home, the fact that it's been very cold outside, and that the bus picks up and drops off the school-goers, there really isn't time or desperate need (considering the amount of effort it takes to get everyone in the car) to go out. 

    David has been the link to the outside world. He went on Saturday with the teen to get about a week's worth of food shopping. He's gone to the post office and to Dollar General for a few quick things (quick being a relative word here as even just the DG, the nearest store, is 15 minutes away - we are literally in the middle of nowhere of Burke County at the closer end to McDowell County.) He was also the one to go get the 7 year old today who had to be picked up from school as he was running a fever. Poor lad. At least he's feeling better now.

    One wouldn't want to disturb the intentional flow of the routine my mom put into place for the toddlers here. Disturbing that routine means more whining, crying, and sending to rooms. But inevitably, life happens, routines get disturbed, and things have to be put back in order. That seems to be our main role here at the moment - keeping order. Because at the end of the day, we're only here for the next two weeks. We are not, in the eyes of most people, really building lasting relationships here. 

    But it's hard to just see it as a two week "gig" when you have been given so much purpose and anointing in this particular area, even if just for a couple weeks. Particularly for the teenager. 

    You might know from twitter or whatnot, but the teen girl here used to be at Crossnore. She was in our cottage only for about a month after about a three month stint in another cottage. She had gotten into some trouble at Crossnore, and her time was inevitably limited with us (by order of case manager and social worker), but in that short time at our cottage, she began to seek the Lord. We started praying for a miraculous intervention for her to get to stay at Crossnore with us in our cottage. That did not happen. But as it always is with our God, he does things so much bigger and better than we can even know to pray for (Ephesians 3:20). And he paved her way back to us, through my own parents, a year later.

    So we now have this daily contact with this lovely, broken girl for yet again, a very short time. I feel in my spirit the beginnings of a revelation on "short times" and how they can make very real and important eternal impacts. Please do share your thoughts. And pray, pray, and pray, because we want our time to be as productive as possible. 

    Pray for:

    -time with the teenager, because the sibling group of four (especially the three little ones) take up so much time naturally that a teenager in this situation can be quite overlooked. 

    -supernatural energy, because I am certainly not used to this sort of work with small children (though it is coming pretty well - God gives so much grace!) 

    -continued flow of respect and consideration with my parents, who are living here but are still trying to recuperate from surgery (mom) and work a detailed job  (dad). 

    And anything else you hear the Spirit laying on your heart to pray!

    As for tomorrow (well, today as its now passed midnight), my parents have graciously given us the evening off so that we can continue with our third week of the Alpha Course we began with the youth ministry at our home church in Asheville. Obviously, I'm thrilled to get out a bit, have some other people interaction (love those kids in the small group), and have a quick stop at the apartment to pick up a few things my parents can use here after we've moved. It's basically non-stop until our flight leaves out on Febrary 27, but I hope to get in a few more posts about the way things go and what the Lord is up to. 

    Thank you for taking the time to read. It's usually just for me to get it out, but it's nice when people connect with what's going on. To the end! 

    -C.

  • Changeover: A New Season, Two (or three) Moves, and All the Details

    For the past (almost) three years, Tuesdays have been known as "Changeover Day" having a "changeover" meeting in the morning either representing coming on shift at Crossnore or going off shift. These days were always a bit difficult, switching out of one lifestyle and into the other. Last Tuesday, though, was the most difficult changeover I could imagine. 

    Our meeting time was set for 11am. We were preparing to go off shift, but about two hours before that, we were asked to come into our supervisor's office. 

    "We regret to inform you that your position has been terminated." 

    The words were coming from her mouth, and I heard them, but in that moment and for several hours afterwards, they were not understood. In one way, as in the reason why those words were even said, I still don't understand. But I've had the last week to take what's happened and come to terms with it.

    That being said, I'd like to share those terms here as a public announcement to what's about to take place in mine and David's life. Those closest to us already know the big life changes that are taking place, but here is the rundown for those of you who are interested to know.  

    Last Fall, one week on shift I was sitting in the Friday morning ladies' prayer group at Crossnore when I saw in the spirit David and I in some sort of school setting. I knew exactly where we were, even though I have never been there before: Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California. Some time before that, probably a year, David mentioned the school in passing saying that he could see himself going there one day. I nodded and smiled and we both moved on never giving it anymore thought at all. 

    But that night, after having seen ourselves there in prayer, I couldn't get it off my heart. As we climbed in bed, I told David about it. He was enthusiastic and interested, saying we should look into it, because it was surely something that wouldn't have come from my mind alone. I was more perplexed, because why would God drop that in my spirit? What would be the purpose in going out to California - a place I've never once felt "called" to. 

    The idea consumed my thoughts over the next day or two, so much so that I decided I would not think, plan, dream, or even pray about it for one month. David honored my commitment. All the while, as God was calling me to rest in Him, He was asking David to become more intentional in his thoughts and plans about it, a definite role-reversal for the two of us and how we have generally worked together in our marriage and life as one. 

    In that month of silence, Holy Spirit continued to confirm what I had wondered if the Lord was saying about going. It came in prayer, sermons, and even dreams. The biggest confirmation came in early October, when  I surrendered to a major shift in my spirit, letting go of the things I loved most in this world and emptying that place they held in my heart, which opened up so much more room for the Holy Spirit to fill. I apologize for being a bit vague here, but this part deserves its very own post sometime. Promise I'll get to it when the time is right! Anyway, the Lord gave me the "why" for going during this time. Why would I need to go to a school where they teach supernatural ministry? Because God wants me to minister in a supernatural way! There are some specifics that go along with this distinct calling, but for now, I'd like to keep all these things and "ponder them in my heart" as Mary did (Luke 2:19). 

    After that, we began telling our immediate family, a few close friends and spiritual family, and our pastors. The news was recieved with gladness and encouragment, which helped to solidify our decision. By Thanksgiving, we started the "first year" (of two) application process for the 2013-2014 school year which runs from September to May. The details of leaving Crossnore and moving were the next major things to discover. 

    As our lease for our apartment is up in early May, we had to make a decision of where we'd live from then to the time school started. In December, David's father asked about living and working in England knowing that the pound is stronger than the dollar and that once its converted, a three month stay in England might have been worth it. At first, David wasn't keen on the idea at all knowing that I wouldn't be able to work in England without a pricey work visa. Then I asked David about the idea without even knowing that my father-in-law had, which prodded David to consider it more deeply, and we began to seriously put the idea to prayer. By the beginning of this month, we had our Skype interview with the school and about a week after that, our acceptance emails. And after crunching the numbers, David was sure we'd be able to pay our first year tuition by May! The doors were definitely open for an extended visit to David's hometown. 

    As he began to consider the implications of returning home for longer than three weeks for the first time since we were engaged in late 2004, the Lord gave David a weighty sense of calling and purpose back in his old stomping grounds. He had already found a group home that he would apply for and the excitement about doing what we've been doing for youth at Crossnore in his hometown settled in. The need for spiritual parenting is everywhere! Not to mention the purpose David has in being a "beloved" (what his name means) brother and son. May to late August in England was a lovely added gift from the Lord in this transition in life. 

    By the time of our, unbeknownst to us, last shift at Crossnore (January 8-15), we were beginning to understand that saying goodbye to our sweet girls would come before we knew it. May was just around the corner. It's odd to think that this was so much truer in that sense than I have just suggested the phrase "come before we knew it" to mean. Sunday night of that shift, the girls in the independent living cottage had a surprise leaving party for one of their staff. As I witnessed the campus saying goodbye to this lovely lady, I had thoughts about what our goodbye would be like. We were preparing for it to be gentle and loving, making plans for things like a spring break trip to Six Flags with the girls in April that would have been a fun last "hoorah" with them.

    During that last shift, there was some anxiety on campus about staff moving around and things changing, but in no way did I consider my position one that would change. In our weekly staff meeting, we had even been told not to fret, not to be afraid of getting fired, to know that if we had not been talked to previously, then nothing was changing for us. That's why Tuesday's news came at such a surpise to us. We just didn't see that we were some of the people to take a hit from the fear, worry, and doubt that generally prevades the campus coming from the top down. We knew we had always done our job in order, and we always tried to do everything led by the Spirit, so we knew that there was no reason for us to be let go except for the fear-based decisions that we can't control from leadership. Most of these things could have been solved with proper and honest communication, but unfortunately, that is the major weakness we discovered at Crossnore. 

    Looking back, it would seem that God was certainly preparing us in subtle ways for the change to come, but we just didn't realize how soon. One night during that shift, David listened to a download from our iBethel.tv subscription from a Sunday Evening service at Bethel Church where Heidi Baker spoke. She gave a prophetic word over the church saying that dreams, goals, and expectations from people there would be "birthed" quickly and happen soon, comparing that to the story she told of the quick birth she prayed for and saw of one of her grandchildren. We hadn't listen to this talk until after our acceptance into the school (and, essentially, the Bethel family). We have realized this word was for us, too!

    Unfortanetly, the absolute worst part of it all was not being allowed to say goodbye to our girls that day. It was left in the hands of our supervisor and their case managers to tell them we were suddenly gone. I don't know what was said to them, how they responded, or what has happened since, but I am so confident in the Holy Spirit that the bonds we created and the seed we planted in the spirit is eternal, and Holy Spirit will comfort where there needs to be comforting. Our spiritual relationships can not be severed. And so even though the natural goodbye I would have wanted to give was taken from me, it is a reminder that there really was never a need for a goodbye anyway. My spirit has been heavy in prayer for each of them. 

    What's so beautiful about our God is that he takes such gentle care of us. I couldn't have asked for a better last shift. After we had packed all our things up and left campus, we put on worship music in the car and just let our hearts soak in God's love. What a gift it was when I realized that I had absolutely no regrets from that last shift! Sometimes, upon getting off shift, I would think about how I should have done something better or said something differently, and I would make an intentional effort to change it when I returned the next week. There was nothing like that to nag at me! I thought to each of the girls, and I could honestly say that I had loved each of them as purely as I could that week. I had special time with every one, and I will cherish those times as my last memories with those beautiful girls. 

    So, in the last week, the door has opened for our new season to come earlier than we thought it was coming. After discussion with our families and time in prayer, here is our new timeline for the moves taking place this year.

    We are moving from our apartment in Asheville to my parent's foster home in Nebo on February 1st. As my mother is recovering from major surgery, we will work as the primary caregivers to the five foster children who live there until they return to full-time work there around the 19th. God has an interesting way of restoring things that are lost. One of the five that live there is a girl who we once had for a short time in our cottage at Crossnore. Since she was placed in my parent's home in November, I have known that the Lord was returning her to a place of spiritual provision, and I am thrilled and honored to be apart of it. He certainly has His hand on this girl. I'm excited for our time there with those kids, because three of them are under three years old, and David and I are in need of a little practice before we have children of our own! It will also be a nice time with my parents (and some with my brother, I'm sure) before we leave for a long while from being near to them as we have this whole time being married. It's just a mark on my family that we do ministry together.

    After that, we will have about a week in Asheville again before our big move to England, which we leave for on February 27th. We will live with David's parents in Ramsgate. During our time there, we'll get to live life with family that we haven't been able to as we've lived here in the States, minister to youth in David's hometown, and see the birth of our fifth niece or nephew in May. We will miss one major event here - the wedding of our dear friends - in June, but they have been so gracious in knowing that we are following the Lord's direction. 

    The season in England will last exactly 6 months as we fly back to North Carolina on August 27th. Two weeks later, our classes begin at Bethel. So, in those two weeks we will spend as much time with family and friends as possible and then begin the trip across the country by car to Redding. We anticipate being in Redding from September 2013 to at least May 2015 after two school years. The rest is unforseeable to us, but God will guide us along the best pathway (Psalm 32:8). 

    I write all of this to say that our hearts are settled and at peace in what some would call an "upset" in life. David and I determined long ago, though, that we wouldn't live our lives in a state of emergency. Our steps truly are ordered as it says in Psalms, so what fear or anxiety should we have? I am beyond excited to step into this new encounter with the Almighty, and I'll likely be unpacking the depths of it as I journey along the way. Stay tuned. 

  • Friday Evening Things

    So here's what I did with my Friday: It started out with a coffee date with my beloved friend Valerie that lasted three hours! I love that gal. And it does a heart good to be able to catch up on things you've missed out on in friends' lives. I made dinner - Chicken Alfredo with broccoli, red peppers, and black olives. David and I watched Groundhog Day. For some reason, I had never seen this classic.

    I put together this:

    I made it when we were on our beach trip two weeks ago. It was divine! Definitely puts a little twist on traditional egg salad. 

    Also, today I decided on

    Perfect little fix when you really need to give your hair a wash and it's too dirty to wear down. 

    Lastly, I had fun:

    I found these journals in a consignment shop at the beach, and they were just waiting to be drawn on. I'm actually making them pretty for the prayer room that our dear friends have begun in the newly renovated loft attached to their home. Hopefully, in a few months time, these journals will be filled with prayer requests, testimonies, and revelation that people have recieved during their time praying in the prayer room. If you're interested in visiting this prayer room, contact me! 

  • Time to Get Busy

    All of a sudden, out of nowhere it seems, though it's really always been this way, there's a desire to get some things done in life. And it's because there's been this sudden whirling around of dreams and ideas caught in my head. I keep thinking of this one particular thing - I shall not disclose at the moment - that just popped up on Friday. It'd been mentioned before by David, but I never gave it any real thought. There are some things - dreams, hopes, desires - that I just won't let myself have the freedom to think about, usually because at the time, they seem so far-fetched from what I'm doing at the moment, and I have never been one to drop what I'm doing now to go and do something else. I commit. I stay on the same road. I finish the course. But the thought came in...and there it was all bright and glistening and...real. I even had a strange dream about it a couple of nights after. 

    So it's got me thinking: That part of me that holds on so tightly to what I've set out to do - does it hold me back from things that are just waiting in the balance? Waiting for my taking? Life is short, isn't it? So letting things pass you by just isn't worth it. Opportunities come and go, and there are no guarantees. But I have come to find that you get out of life what you put in, and that you do decide your destiny. You make your own choices. You live your own life. And you only get it once. Some of this sounds so cliche, doesn't it? But I suppose that's what makes things cliche - the fact that they are true for everyone. 

    In this moment of dreaming up plans, I can get a little overwhelmed. I start thinking and planning and rearranging...and worrying and stressing and...f.r.e.a.k.i.n.g out, right? You know you do it, too. But I'm determined to not let that happen. It's clear to me that I have a Father who will take care of the details and will do all of the rearranging and planning that would have to happen. In fact, He already has. I just have to walk in it. And that is the biggest thing I'm trying to learn to do - to walk in His voice. He gave me a phrase the other night as I was casting my care upon Him:

    "Seek not an adventure but rather an encounter." 

    This means a great deal to me, because I tend to do a thing because it seems like it'll be fun, it'll be grand, it'll be that thing I can wait for in anticipation for forever and then experience it and then it's over just like that. Like a big trip somewhere. But I can't live my life like a trip, because it's not. It's a gift. And what I'm I doing with it? I no longer what just the next best thing, the next adventure. I need in my life an encounter! The face of God in my own before me guiding and instructing me. The Lord brought me to Proverbs 23:12 - "Commit yourself to instruction. Listen carefully to words of knowledge." And verses 15 and 16, too - "My child, if your heart is wise, my own heart will rejoice! Everything in me will celebrate when you speak what is right."  

    This is what I set myself to now. The age old principle of seeking first the Kingdom and His righteousness and then all these THINGS will be added unto you. These things that pop in my head - yes, they could be distractions. But they could also be destiny. There's only one way to find out. 

    Image Credit: baggelboy and wwwsales

  • Updates & Interests

    The blog is so in need of a post, isn't it? Well, I haven't been posted as much as usual because of the busyness of summer, I suppose, and because of a real lack of distinct ideas to write about here. There's only so much personal stuff I'll share, and the other stuff I haven't really ever sat down and wrote it all out except in my own personal paper journal. But I thought it time to at least give a little update.

    Life is what I'd like to call stretched at the moment.

    In June, we officially became the team leaders of the the student ministry at our church. We aren't in a full-time position, but we're responsible for gathering kids, their parents, and volunteers for special events this summer, and in the future, a youth bible study & worship time. We're totatlly excited about this new endeavor as our hearts have always been turned toward Asheville area's teens. So far, we've met a few amazing volunteers slowly creating a power-packed team. We took a small group down offically on our own to Unite, the monthly gathering at our church's main Greenville campus last month, too. Here's some links to our ministry's social media if you'd like to check it all out: twitter.com/MovementAvl and facebook.com/movementAVL 

    A few of the girls at Unite Flashback, June 24, 2012

    Obviously, we're still working at the group home we've been at since April 2010. The joys of working there have really blessed us this year. Our campus is growing spiritually at a rate that's astonishing when you think of all the stuff teenagers have to deal with today, especially our girls who are struggling with not just their identities, hormones, and peer pressure, but also with the hurts of their pasts and sometimes the abandonment of their mothers or fathers.

    During this time, I've become not just a house mother to some of these girls, but a spiritual mother to them.

    This relationship transcends the boundaries of being at Crossnore, meaning I'll be in a particular few's lives forever, ever guiding them on to spiritual maturity and pressing in to what God wants them to be. This is truly exciting to me, and I've realized that my aspirations to be a mother doesn't just begin with starting my own family. It's pretty amazing really. 

    I've found a place in my heart that can actually give to a child what I thought was reserved for my own children one day.  

    One of my spiritual daughters and I on our recent beach trip with the girls to Ocean Isle Beach, NC

    The other component of the three-fold streched out life is our business. We're working harder to obtain new clients in our health & wellness and beauty business. It's a challenge to stay consistent.

    With any business or dream or goal, you've got to remain faithful to your priorities.

    That's what we've taken a few months lately to establish - what exactly are our priorities? Our main things? David likes to say it this way - keep the main thing the main thing! It's so true, and we rely heavily on the scripture that says if we keep His Kingdom and His righteousness first, all these things will be added to you. We believe deeply that God wants us to build a business that gives Him glory by providing extra income in order for us to do more ministry.

    The fact remains - ministry requires resources, which means time and money.

    We believe our Amway business can do that for us if built with the right focus.

    Me with several business ladies at a recent conference - we're dream building in the Peter Island Conference room.

    It's so nice to have had the time to put out a few updates in life here. Hope everyone has a lovely July 4th today - we're going to have a good time with food and friends in a bit, and I hope we'll get a glance of somem fireworks!

    Lovely & lovingly yours,

    -C.
    xx.

  • Car Camping

    Ever since we got the Subaru last month, David has wanted to go camping in it! At first, I was a little hesitant of the idea, but David thought it'd be fun. Once I thought of making a picnic out of it and some get-away-from-the-noise time, I got more excited. 

    We've been having really nice weather coming into Spring, and Wednesday was no exception. Around 5:15, we headed down to Bent Creek River Park for a picnic first.

    After that, we went looking for our "camping spot" off the Blue Ridge Parkway - this is only about 10 minutes from our apartment, by the way. We had hoped to find a road off the parkway, but there's really no good places for dispersed camping since a lot of the land off the parkway is private. Anyway, we found what seemed to the best spot we could. 

    I went out tracking through the woods trying to find a trail or something, but I ended up just climbing to the top of a hill and sitting on a log from a fallen tree to journal and pray. At one point, as the sun was setting, it popped out through some clouds and shown what felt like right in my eyes. I thought of it as a sweet little gesture from the Lord. It was beautiful. 

    I stayed out until it was almost dark and got back to the car around 8pm. David had been sleeping! We sat in the car listening to music and chatting waiting for it to get completely dark. That's when we realized how we really had nothing to do except try to go to sleep. Fairly comfortable with our layers of blankets and the temperature just right, we layed talking for a while. Around 10pm, we both fell asleep for about half an hour. We couldn't get back to sleep, so we played "I Spy" from things we remembered were in the car and then named as many countries of the world as we could. We came up with 138! Not too bad considering there's about 196 (says about.com). We got a little hungry during this time and broke out our trail mix.

    Then we still couldn't go back to sleep, so we decided to take pictures, which was funny because the flash was so bright in the darkness so it was hard to keep our eyes open.

    Finally, it was about midnight, and I still couldn't go to sleep, so we were, like, "Let's just go home!" And that's what we did. Haha! The end.

  • A week out & Changes

    So we left lovely England a week ago. We spent one night in our apartment. Was so good to see our little Phoenix (the cat). The next morning we headed to the group home we work at, and we've been there on shift until tomorrow. It really will feel nice to properly unpack our suitcases and spend some much needed time at home among our things. 

    So much changed in our cottage while we were away. We knew that could easily happen as it's the nature of the job. One of our girls moved on to a more independent cottage just before we left for England, but her presence is missed now that we've returned. Another one of our long time girls suddenly left (we had no idea of it even possibly happening beforehand) because her mother decided to place her somewhere else. It always feels weird not getting to say goodbye to someone. We are hoping, though, that since her new placement isn't far from our home in Asheville, we might get to visit her sometime. (I have a gift I bought her in England I still want to give her!) And then there was a girl who was only recently placed in our cottage who also left while we were gone. Our first day back, we recieved a new girl. It's been a challenge for her knowing she is not at home & her mother is not going to come and take her back home. 

    The week ahead will include hanging out & seeing friends/family we've missed since we've been gone, some major working out (gained 5lbs on our holiday!), and resting (hopefully). 

    I miss England as expected. I'm sure the weather is getting colder now, but I will always remember those surprise warm days we had this time around. They meant more to me than I can describe. 

  • Updates

    I can't believe this is our 11th day in England, and I'm loving the fact that we still have 9 more! But being that it's more than halfway through our trip, I thought I'd post an update, especially because I've been so slack at posting pictures for the last week. 

    To be fair, I am currently uploading the past week's photos onto my computer, which can take a while, and I promise to have photos up later today...

    Right now, it's only almost 6am for my family & friends in the US, so I doubt anyone will really read this first before seeing the pictures anyway. But I'll go on with this post...

    Exactly a week ago, David and I set off for our (retro) roadtrip to London/Reading/Cambridge. Retro because we drove around in an '89 Ford Fiesta, which is a model that I presume is just in England, but it reminded me alot of a slightly tinier version of a Ford Pinto, which by the way, was one of my parent's first vehicles together. So even more retro points for that fact! 

    Once we returned from our roadtrip on Wednesday, only 2 days remained until my sister-in-law's wedding! So we've been busy getting ready & celebrating with her. It's the day after the wedding, and we finally have some time to rest & just think about nothing if we like. :) 

    The weather has certainly cooled since the first week (which if you didn't realize before, we had great actually quite summer weather for the first 5 or 6 days here), and now we're experienced much more normal weather for this time of year. I'm happy to have had my dream fulflilled of experiencing summer weather in England (as I've never been in the summer), but I'm just as content with sweater & scarf weather, too, as I happen to love autumn fashion. I can do without heavy coat & gloves weather, though, so I'm definitely not speaking that for now! 

    Speaking of autumn fashion, I've bought the October edition of the UK Vogue magazine with the lovely Adele on the cover:

    Yes, the whole world is a bit inundated with her right now. But I don't think I can get enough. She's just brilliant. 

    I've also taken advantage of my sister-in-law's 25% staff discount at H&M and bought some cute clothes, including the dress I wore at the wedding. Don't worry, you'll see it in the pictures.

    Well, that's it for now. Off to edit some photos!

    -C.
    xx. 

  • Less than 2 weeks...

    Our trip to England is, yes, less than 2 weeks away. Monday, Sept 26th, after we get off shift, we are heading straight to the airport to jet off to London then get picked up and whisked off to the little town of Ramsgate, where my husband grew up. If I'm painting this is a slightly romantic way, it's because that's the way England makes me feel. I am so much the happier when I'm even talking about going there, and only a few people in my life know just how fabulously content my little heart is when I'm actually there.

    I've been checking the weather everyday leading up to our holiday.

    Ramsgate today:

     

    compared with Asheville and Crossnore (because I spend half of my life in each town):

     

    Quite a big difference today - although last week it was quite similar between Crossnore & Ramsgate since we got that colder front. 

    Here's tommorow: 

    It may turn a little cooler by the time we get there, but I'm hoping, and I think, through prayer and positive speaking, we can see high 60s during our trip. 

    -C.
    xx.

    weather images from the best way to check the weather // hello weather // also linked from my links page

  • On Tomatoes...

    (Tomatoes given to me by a friend from her own garden a few weeks ago.)

    You may possibly be asking, "How can one find it neccesary or even interesting to post a blog about tomatoes?" No, this isn't a food blog (neccesarily). I'm not about to divulge some secret recipe with tomatoes to make THE perfect salsa. (Although the friend that gave me those tomatoes above made salsa once that was to die for: she had guacamole, pan-seared corn, and several other yummies mixed in it to make the best homemade salsa I've ever had.)

    What I am going to do (and what I do so often) is tell you how I've found meaning in something as mundane as a simple garden tomato.

    Let me give you some background first. My parents will attest to how much I hated tomatoes growing up. I just wouldn't eat them. If I found them left on a salad, I would pick them off. I ordered my hamburgers and sandwiches without tomato, please. And I never ate tomato and mayo sandwiches. My parents loved them, and Mom often told me I was just plain missing out. Ketchup with my fries? Fine. Speghetti sauce? Salsa? Fine. But a slice of tomato by itself let alone on something? Never.

    A couple of summers ago, I started being okay with tomato slices on an occasional salad. And by occasional, I mean...twice a year. But something changed this summer. All out of the blue, I tried a tomato here or there on a sandwich or burger. Call it the change in tastes that people say happen in life or sudden tolerance for the texture, but whatever it was, I was hooked. I am now craving "mater sandwiches," and realizing just exactly what my mother once told me I was missing out on. I have those sighs of delight  (which my husband likes to bluntly and perhaps not always appropriately call "mouthgasms") while eating a good, perfectly ripe tomato. I have offically subscribed to that plump little fruit (or vegetable, culinarily speaking) that we call a tomato.

    But this got me thinking...what could it mean? What could it symbolize? Why is it that all of a sudden I'm into tomatoes so avidly? I know some readers may be thinking, "Does there always have to be a meaning behind something like that?" Well, no, there doesn't. But I love it when it happens. And perhaps it happens much more than we take the time to realize.

    When I first started giving this some thought, I wrote in my personal journal about how tomatoes remind me of a childhood best friend. She loved tomatoes so much, she would eat one like it was an apple. I found this so peculiar, because, of course, at that time, I really hated tomatoes. How could anyone just bite into one of those things? But thinking about that sweet memory of my friend made me reason that perhaps the tomato can represent friendships/connections/relationships in my life. Currently, at 27, I'm quite "ripe", if you will, with meaningful, close friendships. But it hasn't always been that way. There have been times in my life when I felt lonely (we've all had those times, right?). So I thought maybe the "great tomato connection" was the presence of great friends surrounding me.

    But taking a quick look on wikipedia changed it up just a bit. And this is what I'm really excited about:

     The word "tomato" comes from the Nahuatl word tomatl, literally "the swelling fruit".

    Tomatoes are one of the most common garden fruits in the United States and, along with zucchini, have a reputation for outproducing the needs of the grower.

    If you can't already tell, the whole idea of a tomato being a "swelling fruit" really pleased me. I can see that my life is "swelling." Lots of good things are happening, and I'm happy to have a "big" life. The second statement I took out of the article resonated with me just as strongly. It's a bit of the same idea, but the fact that tomatoes are commonly known to grow in abundance excites me. If you have more than you need, you can share so much more liberally than you could before. There is this overwhelming desire to be given much so that I may give much. I have a feeling that abounding blessings are around the corner.

    Perhaps I didn't need the tomato to teach me that, but it's been one ripe reminder.

    -C.
    xx.

  • Starting Anew

    As I work on my new website, I'm thrilled to have a place to put myself out there. I think most people shy away from that, but gosh, I've been wearing my heart on my sleeve since I was a pre-teen.

    A new blog, a new place to share what drives me, what tickles my fancy, what interests me and makes me think...ahhh!

    While I'm working on getting content up, I'm feeling a little vain, but the concept for the real purpose of this site is really coming together in my mind. I was up one night until the wee hours of the morning, because I just couldn't get to sleep with all the the thoughts and ideas I had stirring around my brain.

    Here's to more dreaming...

    -C.
    xx