Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What a weekend!

What a weekend we had! We were invited by a friend of ours to speak at the church he is pastoring. It's in Seaford, Delaware, just a hop over the Delaware Bay from some people we dearly love!

Stephen's sister and her family drove down from New Jersey to spend a little time with us. That was special, as we'd just spent a weekend with his other sister the weekend before. Here are some photos from those visits:

We played at the beach and had a good time. We made plans to meet again before we left so that we didn't have to say goodbye just yet (it's sooooo hard to say goodbye!). From there we spent the evening with old friends, dear friends, also from New Jersey. It was so exciting! One couple brought their 3 girls, who are very special to us. When we were a young married couple in the pre-kids era of our lives, we used to spend as much time with these little girls as we could! It was great to see them after so many years and see that they were a little bigger but a whole lot more grown up! What a joy that brings. Here's a photo of those sweethearts!

Our dear friends Mike and Tammy came too, bringing along their 3 girls who are so gorgeous and sweet! Our boys had a great time playing with the girls. And time with these friends is just always too short. It was a tearful goodbye, with promises to meet up again at the beach some day! I actually think this year will be the longest we've gone without seeing them. The kids are excited to be pen pals! This is a photo from the last time we got together about 6 months ago (I didn't get them all this time!)

And our gracious hosts were Ed and Nixie. They have a special place in our heart, too. While we lived in NJ we were part of a small group bible study in their home and we learned much from them. We learned about marriage, parenting, and living a Christian life. They've been great role models and friends to us for many years. Ed is now pastor of Atalanta Road Alliance Church there in Delaware, and he invited us to speak at his church for the Sunday night service. We enjoyed hearing him preach in the morning about the Resurrection and then spent time with friends all afternoon.

At dinner we went to Friendly's with my in-laws we had seen the day before. I'm really blessed to have such great in-laws. Stephen's family is pretty fantastic! My 2 nephews and 1 niece who were there are super smart and sweet (and silly) and I always enjoy seeing them. They've grown up over the years since our wedding when they were all little squirts! They are almost all taller than me now! Steve's sister and her husband are always a joy to see. They've welcomed me to the family from the beginning. They have lived the city life and always bring a great perspective to me on the world as I grew up in a suburban town in Texas. Anyway, we had a good dinner and rushed off to the church to speak. We were totally excited that their family joined us for that. It helps to have family in the audience supporting us!

Many people at the service blessed us after with kind words and encouragement. We said a tearful goodbye to family and friends as they departed and then we left the next morning.

And now we're home to a house that needs packed up! I have just 8 days now to pack it all in suitcases. Wow! I better get off the computer and get to work...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Goodbye Minivan...

We sold our van today.

It was a sad day. We put the car seats in the truck and Stephen drove the boys while I followed in the 2009 Toyota Sienna I got to own for just over two years. I cried the entire way there.

It was a great van. But, I don't think it was just because we were selling the van that I was crying. It was just that reality was setting in. I began to realize that in another couple weeks the truck would go too, and with it, much of the American freedom I have. I'd be using these legs God gave me (and an occasional moto-taxi, which is a trailer pulled behind a moped) in a third world country.

I realized my world was about to change.

I mean, it was just a couple years ago, at 39 weeks pregnant with a 10lb baby that I bought that minivan. It was loaded with all the bells and whistles! It had it all - DVD player, GPS navigation, leather seats, satellite radio, automatic sliding doors that opened and closed with the click of my remote, and even a sunroof, which no one really needs in a minivan but I decided I'd take since it came with the package! Here's me and my big belly right when we got home with the car that day:
Now, 61,140 miles (I think), 18 states (I think), dozens of movies (at least), countless memories, and 4,327 cheerios later (I'm pretty sure), it's out of our lives. I mean, why not? We still owed money on it so there was no since in keeping it sitting around here for a year while we are in Cambodia and making payments on it and insurance, right? And yet it was still so sad.
Everything in our little world is about to change. God made such a big world out there and we've seen such a tiny part of it. It's hard to remember that sometimes. We are blessed with so much, especially in America. Tomorrow is our son's birthday - not the one in my belly above but the first one. He'll be turning five. We had to explain to him that valuable things are not the presents that come in boxes. That's hard to do with a five year old. I'm sure I'll have stories about that tomorrow, so we'll wait for that!
For now, since the kids feed off my emotions, I'll try myself to remember that the van is just a "thing." And though it was a pretty great treasure that gave me memories I'll always treasure, God tells us to store our treasures in heaven because what He has is so much better.
Time is ticking. We leave in 28 days. Oh, how life is about to change!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I've been shot!

That's right... shot... with 5 vaccines!

What a day! I got 5 vaccines, and each of the kids got 2 in their leg. And we get more next week! All this has to be done before we can go overseas.

There is SO MUCH to do before we go overseas! I'm totally overwhelmed right now! How in the world do we decide what to pack and what to put in storage? How do we decide if we should sell the cars and pieces of furniture? How do we finalize all the paperwork for health insurance, bank accounts, travel arrangements, etc...? Goodness, it's easy to get discouraged right now.

And one by one, God keeps showing me that even though things aren't going the way I planned for them to go, He knows the plan, and He's in control.

But I'll take any prayers you send my way. One of my good friends passed on our info to a relative who contacted us and reminded us that how the boys adjust to this transition will depend on how we handle it. Their emotions will feed off of mine. Eek! I hope they aren't looking right now! I'll work on that... at least when they're looking, haha! Really, pray for me to be the example they need to see.

And I see lots of international flags on my feed roll over there on the right! Introduce yourselves! I can always use a new friend! And if you want to read more about our story, you can find information at www.LivingforJustice.com

Thanks for reading, and thanks even more for praying! We leave the USA in less than 5 weeks now!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Home. We're back home. And as I look around, knowing it will only be "home" for another 6 weeks, I think about how much it means to me.

We got married in 2003 and in 2005 Stephen graduated from law school, passed the BAR and then went on to the Army JAG course in Charlottesville, VA. It was there that the wife of the General over the school invited the wives over to her house and offered me perhaps the best advice I've ever been given in the Army. She said "Wherever you are, make it home." I really took that to heart. What she meant was that the military would send us to many unknown destinations and our happiness there would depend on our own attitudes. That is so true. Here's a look back at the places we've called "home" in our marriage:

Our first "home" in New Jersey:

This home means so much to me because it's where our married life began. We got married in January in Texas, and it was 74 degrees, but we left 2 days later for New Jersey and faced one of the biggest blizzards in history - and definitely the biggest I'd ever seen! It was hard to be so far from home without a job, without my family, and without any friends. I had to lean on God and my husband, and through that, He brought us all three closer. It was a time of growth and we met friends and developed relationships with a small group bible study there - our "mini-church." These relationships grew deep and have lasted through many years and many miles. It was truly a memorable time in that little apartment! When we left New Jersey, though, our famliy was growing. In fact, the DAY our movers came there, we also had my 20 week ultrasound appointment of our first little baby.

We went from there to the JAG school I mentioned, where we lived in a hotel for several months and then moved to Fort Lee, Virginia when I was 35 weeks pregnant. Oh, that was a fun time. We upgraded in size a bit for our house, but not so much in style... Here's our home on base there:

It may not look like much to you, but it means oh, so much to me. This is where we brought our baby boy home... and his brother, too! This is a special home. When we moved in, we found out that the movers had sort of misplaced our stuff and it took about 2 weeks to get it. Yep, and I was 35 weeks pregnant. We ended up sleeping on an air mattress on the floor and when I had to pee in the middle of the night a hundred times, I'd have to wake up Stephen and have him push me forward to help me roll out and get up with my big belly. We got the nursery done, though! My mom and sister came to help and I even convinced all of them to paint stripes on the wall! Boy, the things you get people to do with the first baby and grandbaby! That didn't happen the second time around, haha!

But the people here were no different than New Jersey. Well, actually, that isn't true. The people in Virginia were a lot different than the people in NJ, but what I mean is we still had great friends. We were part of a great church where we worked with youth and learned perhaps more than we taught! We loved those kids and the other adults. The neighborhood on post was a great place to meet other moms and I spent countless hours at the "yellow park" or "blue park" as the neighborhood kids named them. People were constantly moving in and out, but with that came so many lasting friendships. We are so thankful for things like email and facebook (and blogs!) where we can keep in touch. But then our time to move came.

We thought we might get to go someplace really exciting! I was hoping for anywhere new, different and fun, or even Texas, where we would be close to our parents. But we got Fort Bragg. I was a bit disappointed as it was only a couple hours down the road! It can't be anything great, can it? Oh, but the job was good for my husband, so we drove down to check it out and decided that since we'd be here for several years, we'd look into buying a house. Our realtor showed us several neighborhoods. We thought they were nice. Then we followed him into one called Carolina Lakes. Oh.My.Goodness.

We drove through a gated entrance with security guards. There were golf carts driving around a beautiful golf course filled with families playing the sport. As we followed the realtor's car, he rounded a bend, pine trees all around us, that opened up to a lake with boats out on it and a beach. He pulled in where kids were playing on a swingset and at the beach. Young girl scouts asked if we'd like to buy some cookies. Seriously? Was this Pleasantville? Could Fort Bragg really be this great? This was too good to be true. Then we figured it out. He showed us the houses and we couldn't afford them. We saw parks, playgrounds, a pool, nature/hiking trails. This neighborhood was awesome. We didn't want to live anywhere else. It sure wouldn't be hard to make this place "home" as the General's wife had so long ago suggested!

So we went home and I quit looking anywhere else. I woke up every day and watched the neighborhood for a new house in Carolina Lakes. One day, for some strange reason, I checked ads on Craigslist. Who looks there for a house? I don't know? Apparently me. Right there was one that looked perfect. We had plans to come back and see 9 houses - all in the neighborhood, but this one was the one, we knew it. It was for sale by owner, but our realtor agreed to come with us. We knew it was right when we pulled in the driveway. And we bought it. We moved in shortly after, and we've made so many memories here. This is "home" in so many ways. It's ours. We love it.
And it's easy to see that we've come a long, long way since our little tiny apartment in NJ. It would also be easy to think of moving to Cambodia as giving it all up. But I think it's quite the opposite. I think it's God showing us that having all this is great, but each move, He's given us more. And Cambodia will be no different. Oh, our house there won't look anything like this. It may not be any bigger than that NJ apartment. But what He gives us there will be so much greater. That's the lesson we want our kids to know. We want them to know it isn't about what house we live inside of, but about who lives inside of us. And that is something we MUST share. We have so much to give. So much compassion. So much concern. So much love.

So, no we aren't giving anything up. And no, we can't take a lot with us. We can just take a few suitcases. But the biggest thing we need is the easiest to carry. Jesus.

And wherever we are, we'll make it home.
I can't wait.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Blessings all over the country!

Well, hello, everyone! I’m sorry it’s been a while since I posted but well, life is a bit crazy now! What were we thinking when we planned a last minute trip to Disney World? We wanted to give the boys a fun vacation before we take them on a “vacation” to Cambodia, and they loved it but, boy, that place wears out the grown ups! Even if we’d had reliable internet at the hotel (which we didn’t), I am still completely confident that I wouldn’t have found any time to use it at all. Oh, we had so much fun. Can’t you see it in their faces here?

And here I am, back online now. We made the journey “home” to Texas after vacation, and we’ve been blessed so much. We got in Saturday afternoon to my Grandma’s house. I love Grandma’s house because it’s always full of people who love me. When we drove up, my mom and dad were waiting outside! They always hug the boys first, but that’s ok with me, I guess, ‘cause they get around to hugging me eventually. And when we walked through the door the house was full of aunts, uncles, too many cousins to count, and of course, Grandma! It was such a great afternoon seeing everyone. I’m thankful for a Christian family who believes in following God wherever He calls.

After that we headed to my mom and dad’s house in College Station, TX… aka, Aggieland! I love this place even more! I think that’s because it’s home.

And it isn’t the place that makes it home… it’s the people. We were given the blessed opportunity to speak at my home church and share our story on Sunday May 1st. It was such a great opportunity. I have so many memories there from the youth department where I served and was served by so many. I remember running on the stage as a kid and singing on it as a youth, and then growing up to learn that I can’t really sing and trying out acting on that very stage instead. I got married on that stage by my beloved youth pastor and every time I visit my family we go to church there. That building holds a lot of memories. But the people in it give me even more.

We stood up on the stage to a room full of people. Well, at the second service anyway. This is a college town, so not a lot of people make it to the early service! And in that room full of people I stopped my gaze on so many faces of people who I love dearly. Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, small group teachers, friends, my family, and lots of mentors. Their smiles gave me the courage to tell my story and the words of encouragement I heard afterward, filled with many scripture verses, give me the courage to keep running this race.

So thank you to my “family” at FBC College Station. Thank you for letting us share our story. Thank you for encouraging us and supporting us. But thanks most of all for helping me grow up to be who I am today.

And may it be a lesson to us all that someone is always watching. The Pastor closed with a familiar saying… “Preach the gospel always. When necessary, use words.”