Thursday, June 13, 2019

In Which She Blathers About Nothing!

Soooo, maybe my blog will be quarterly!๐Ÿ˜‚But finally, it is summer vacation!  School is out!  We have survived and I am coming up for air!

I have tried to make the most of my first week and a half of freedom. We have done a couple of hikes, we helped some people work on a cabin that they are building.  Lills and I had a "girl" day and hung out drinking coffee and doing a little shopping.  I planted flowers!!! That is a big deal because when we were with YoungLife, we were always gone for most of the summer so  it was never really worth it to make the yard pretty.  This year...I have flowers EVERYWHERE!  I love it!  I am just drawn to be outside reading or playing with the dog or just watching the kids because it is so pretty...and, southern friends, comfortable (think 80 degrees and no humidity)!  We built a new flower bed out in our front yard where the grass kept dying and this week I put in a tiny vegetable garden!

My favorite accomplishment, however, is actually doing something that I have been wanting to do for several years...I made a summer capsule wardrobe.  If you are not familiar with that, it is basically just a small wardrobe filled with pieces that can be mixed and matched for several different outfits.  Everything works together and it forces you to shop more deliberately.  I am definitely famous for impulse buying and then having a closet full of nothing to wear!  I also tend to keep pieces that I don't really like because I feel guilty for having spent money on them.  I also have just come under personal conviction (no judgement here) about shopping ethically...especially fair trade where clothes are not made in sweatshops and the people making them are making a living wage.  These clothes can, naturally, be more expensive and so I am trying to be very thoughtful about how I shop, buying only what I need but being willing to spend more to make sure that the clothing is ethical. 

That said, while this has been rolling around in my mind for a long was overwhelming to me!  This week, I just plunged in and did it!  I took everything out of my closet, tried things on purged and purged and purged some more!  I went to a couple of second hand shops and found several pieces I could use there (second hand is an awesome way to buy sustainably).  Then I made Lilly help me put together outfits and make hard decisions.  In the end, I ended up with about 30 pieces in my summer capsule (this does not include shoes or accessories because I ran out of oomph--it also does not include my workout/athletic wear).  I would still like to pick up a couple more pieces to really round out my wardrobe...but I am struggling with those last two pieces.  Here is my dilemma:  I have shopped my closet and I have gone second hand but there are a couple of pieces I have not been able to find either place.  I have searched endlessly at places like TJ Maxx, Marshall's, Ross, etc. because I have read that they sometimes have ethical apparel at those places.  We have an AWESOME ethical shopping place here that is actually on a truck that moves to different places.  It is called Beautiful Uprising and you should totally check them out.  I have several pieces from them...but they do not have the last couple of things I am looking for.  Whole Foods (crazy, right) also carries a few ethical brands but also does not have the specific things I am looking for.  So, that leads me to shopping online...which I am not opposed to...but here is my problem.  I am an over forty not so tiny, not modelesque (I may have just made that word up) woman.  I really want to try things on!  What looks good in the online picture doesn't necessarily look good on me!  I know this after going in to a place a few days ago and trying on like 15 workout tops...15...workout tops...and I didn't like ANY of them!  So I really want to be able to try things on before ordering, waiting, trying on and then having to send back.  I also am a little hesitant because one of the pieces I am looking for has to go with a pair of light yellow shorts...yes, I know I can order white...but I have all the white I need and would like to add a little color, but I am a little afraid when ordering online because the color you see on the pictures varies from computer to computer and, again, I do not love the idea of ordering and then having to send things back because, have you met me...three years to complete my first capsule wardrobe...obviously getting things done, like returning packages is really not my forte!  So, if you have any great ideas, suggestion, or just want to send me a personal shopper or some super cute ethical clothing, feel free to call, text, email, send a carrier pigeon, or come visit me.  If you visit I can take you to some AWESOME hiking trails!

ANYWAY, who knew someone could blather on that long about a tiny wardrobe!  Can you tell that this has been a bit of an obsession for a minute?  Next up, once we get the kids out of the house, I want to go tiny living with my house...imagine the blog posts on that!  ๐Ÿ˜œ

In other news, we are headed to TN tomorrow!  I cannot wait to visit friends and eat some crazy good food and maybe not gain 20 pounds!  Please, TN friends and family, do not be offended that every time someone asks what we are going to do, we list all the places we want to go eat...the list is long and there are NOT enough days!  So, I guess I should go and finish the prep work.  Today involves a quick shopping trip to get Annet a pair of flip flops to replace the ones our dog ate, a trip to Harmon's grocery to get crazy good coffee to share with our TN peeps, taking our dog to my sister and hoping that she is still speaking to me when we get back, and of course, going to the gym because I love torturing myself 6 days a week!

If I am really on my toes, I may even try a blog post or two from our travels!!!  Aside from that, I'll probably be back around September!

Saturday, March 2, 2019


So almost a year ago, I made a commitment to try to post more regularly...I made it two posts...and then, the bottom sort of fell out of our little world for awhile.

It has been almost a year since my last post which I just read through and felt all the feels all over again.  The funny thing is, as I was struggling with the hard, I had know idea that in just a few short days, things were going to get so much harder.

I remember that, as things got tougher, wanting to blog.  I remember feeling like a failure, again, because I had made a commitment and I was not following through.  (I, in no way thought anyone was waiting with baited breath to read my words, the commitment was really to myself, not the three people that will come and read this!)  However, I also realized that in the hurt and confusion that I was feeling at the time, if I got on here and blogged, it would be one or ten of those cringe worthy posts that you see on social media where you shake your head and know someone will regret the over sharing at some point.  I also know that, had I posted back then, there would have been some passive-aggressive hope that the people that I blamed for our situation would read the words and feel some of the pain and anger we were feeling and be consumed by horrible regret and remorse, yada, yada, yada.

So, I decided to just be quiet.  I would like to say that today, I can look back on the events of the last several months and laugh at my angst...I cannot.  I can say that, through the hard came some peace, some resolution and that we are  in a better place than we were a year ago.   I also must say that I am still trying to get over the feeling of hurt and betrayal that we felt.

I  have struggled with whether I am at a place where it is okay to start blogging again.  I hope I am.  I know this will sound silly to some, but I used to love to sing.  I was no professional, but I loved singing in church choir and sang an occasional solo here and there.  However, I haven't sang in choir in years and have limited my "joyful noise" to church worship services.  Last year, the first week of school, I lost my voice...and it has never completely come back.  I get hoarse very easily, and I can no longer voice is scratchy and hoarse sounding and quite unattractive.  It makes me sad...and I often think of the story in the Bible about the talents and how the guy that didn't put his to good use lost them.  I never was going to be a professional singer and the opportunities to sing in choir these days are limited as churches are going to a praise team format, but I think about that often and mourn the loss of that "talent".  Another thing I love is writing.  I used to dream of being an author and writing a book...and maybe someday I still will, but somewhere along the way, I lost my inspiration and the busy and crazy of life got in the way.  Lately, I have been thinking about that, and I don't want to lose that talent, too.  So, although some of the wounds of the last year are still a bit fresh, I still want to get back on the saddle and try again...even if it is just for me...because I actually love going back and reading the journal that these posts become and seeing how God was working in me and how I have grown and changed over the years.

So, after that wordy introduction, let me just share where we are right now. 

Chris is no longer with YoungLife, and while we are grateful for the 3 years he had there, we are so blessed that he is now a part of a church staff here in the valley.  We  have seen how God has directed us, by using YoungLife to get us to Utah and then by leading us to K2 the Church.  It is so refreshing to be a part of a local church again.  For the first time in 3 years, we actually have community!  I was so very hungry for that.  I thought that we would have it built in with YoungLife but, to be honest, that was one of the loneliest times of my life!  At K2, I finally feel at home, we have friends, we are building relationships through our life together group, we have a support system with the church staff, our children are being discipled by someone other than us is just so sweet!  It is also a huge relief to actually get to do ministry instead of always being worried and focussed on fund raising.  This is not something we ever thought we would seek out or a change we expected to make, but I love when God's plans trump ours!

I am still at my school.  It has been a hard year.  I had to change grades and a lot of other "stuff", we will also be getting a new principle next year so there is a little uncertainty about what is to come.  However, as hard as it is, I love being a part of a hard school.  I love getting to love on kids that do not always get loved anywhere else and I love feeling like I am making a difference.  I cannot say that I have made a life changing impact on any teachers there...but I do know that I have had the opportunity to have discussions with a couple of them about grace and how God loves us because He is love and not because of what we do...I only hope that He continues to speak into their lives.  Y'all, God is working in this valley!  Please continue to pray!

Last July, our oldest, Brooks married his beautiful high school sweetheart, Hannah.  We could not love that girl any more and are looking forward to what God will do with them.  Right now, they both just graduated college.  Hannah is continuing her education and working on a Master's degree and Brooks is trying to find full time work while continuing to work at Starbucks and build his media business, Neely Media (which you should totally check out, by the way).

Adam graduated high school in May and 4 days after the wedding, he headed off to the Navy.  He has since completed Boot camp and A school and is stationed in Washington State.  He graduated as the honor graduate of his class for orientation and dropped into his company (he is working alongside the Marines) this week.  He is loving it!  He will also turn 19 years old tomorrow and I am both amazed that I have another young adult child and that my recent graduate has grown to be such an amazing and mature young sailor!

Lilly is a sophomore in high school, attending the same school Adam graduated from and loving it.  She and I love to sit and dream about owning a coffee shop some day with a little boutique in the back with ethically sourced accessories and clothing.  Cooper is planning to be our baker and we have a rock solid business we just need a few thousand dollars to make it a reality!  :) 

Coop had a rough year at my school last he changed schools and actually attends a charter school that meets in the same building our church meets in.  He has LOVED it!

Annet still attends school with me, and FINALLY, after 4 years, I convinced them to test her for Resource.  She now gets 1 1/2 hours of help a day and 30 minutes of speech.  Her teacher said she is already seeing a difference!  Hallelujah! 

To be honest, though, Chris and I would really love the opportunity to home school the two younger ones again.  SLC is a HARD place to go to school and a hard place to be a Christian.  It is lonely and the crowd that accepts you if you are not LDS is not always the crowd you want your child to be in.  We have seen with Adam and now with Lilly how hard this can be...however, it is so much more expensive to live here than in the south that we really cannot afford to go without my income.  So for now, we continue to shower our kids in prayer and just keep plugging away and trying to seek God as we make decisions about their education.

I am really trying to start pouring into the lives of a few ladies in our church, which isn't always easy for a full time working mom who is also a textbook introvert and really just wants to go home and hide in my bedroom, but I feel like this is one area that God is leading me in and I am excited to maybe form some close friendships that I have really missed the last few years.  Chris and I are also still going to the gym...and I still hate it!  But I know it is important and we need to do it...I have fallen off the healthy eating a bit in the past few months, years of bad habits and lots of life changes have kind of sabotaged my efforts, but I am trying to get back to good choices.

Oh, one more life update.  We lost our sweet, precious Malibu dog this summer.  It was totally heartbreaking as she was seriously the sweetest dog we have ever had and had totally captured my heart.  She seriously was used by God to get me through some of the hardest Utah days the past few years.  Anyway, in November we made the mistatke decision to bring another dog into our home.  We got a little Shmaltese (Shitzu, Maltese mix) puppy we named Sailor (our homage to Adam).  He is completely adorable and a total pain in the _____.  I am sure that in a year or two, I will look at him with the same love and adoration I had for Malibu...right now, I just keep saying, "What were we thinking?  We are NOT puppy people!"  Incidentally, this breed is known for being a great apartment dog because they don't bark much...our dog is defective.  He barks.  All. The. Time!  Heaven help us...the bark collar company is about to love our family!  He also has destroyed every dog toy in the house, loves to bring sticks in the house and destroy them, enjoys pulling the little bolt cover off the toilet and destroying it.  He destroys soda bottles, blankets, rugs, etc. and enjoys nothing more than tormenting birds in the back yard while barking obsessively resulting in our neighbor writing us a note about how we need to keep our nuisance dog in the house...good times, people!

Anyway, that is our life right now.  We love having older kids and the adult relationships we are building with them.  We are realizing that we are really old parents to our younger kids and are apologizing to them on a regular basis and explaining to them that this is why God gives children to younger people!  Luckily, there is grace!

Hopefully, I will be back before another year is gone!


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Nailed It!

Soooo, maybe regular blogging hasn't happened yet, but two weeks is a lot better than two years, right?

Things are just rolling along pretty normally around here.  Spring Break is creeping up on us and I CANNOT wait!  I seriously never appreciated the awesomeness of Spring Break until I was back in a traditional school setting.  Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Mother Nature that Spring Break is just about here, so Chris and Coop are helping some local people pack a moving truck in the snow today!๐Ÿ˜

I, on the other hand have stayed toasty warm inside cleaning the house like a boss!  That is, after spending half the morning watching mindless shows.

Saturdays, Chris and I have started a little tradition of coming down before the kids get up, fixing coffee and watching a house show together...we ,unfortunately, started referring to this as our Saturday morning adult cartoons and really did not realize how bad that sounded until it was kind of a habit to say...I promise, it is totally PG!  Our current series we  have been watching is Hometown, which is about some people in Laurel, MS trying to revitalize their small town by fixing up the old houses.  It is so fun to see the transformations and dream of all the things we could do to make our house cute if we had money!  ๐Ÿ˜€

After Chris and Cooper headed off to help people move, I totally intended on getting up and going to the grocery or cleaning house or exercising, or something productive, but Lilly introduced me to another show that you totally need to watch.  It is a Netflix series called Nailed It.  It only has 6 episodes so you can totally binge watch it today and not even waist a whole weekend.  The premise is that they take amateur bakers and give them challenges to recreate cakes or baked goods done by professionals.  Y'all, it is a HOT MESS!  I sat on our couch, totally by myself laughing until I is funny because it is so accurate, those total fails are totally what would happen if I tried to bake that stuff.  I stopped watching after 2 episodes because:

  1. I wanted to be a responsible home owner and mother and gift my family with a clean house and possibly even groceries for real meals this week (still on the fence about that last part). 
  2. I felt that, as a loving wife, denying Chris the enjoyment of watching this with me was just too cruel...even after almost 23 years of marriage...I am a keeper, y'all!  
In complete honesty, number 2 carried a lot more weight than number 1.  Please, set aside some time this weekend to just try out 1 can thank me later!

So now, I SHOULD be sitting down to meal plan for the week and go shopping.  Instead, I am typing a blog.  Because, priorities!  Honestly,  Chris and I did something that we have been saying we were going to do for over a year but we finally bit the bullet and did it this week...we joined a gym!  BLAH!  I know this is a good thing, I know it is necessary for health, I know this should be considered a good use of money...but y'all, I hate gyms, and exercise, and eating healthy!  I just want to be little and cute and still eat yummy food and binge watch Nailed It.  But, since that hasn't really worked out for me, we are trying to be good and eat right and go to the gym...although, today, we are feeling several days of gym membership and may skip a day or two.  But, if I am going to spend money and time in a gym...I guess I should make better food choices as well.  I told y'all last blog that I was doing a weight loss Bible Study but that I was struggling with it.  Still struggling...still on day 10 after starting a month ago.  I was thinking about it this week and wondering why it is so hard for me.  I honestly get angry when I open it up and start working on the Study and trying to decide where my boundaries will be.  Why do I react like that?

This is what I have been wrestling this week and this is where I have landed...the last almost three years have been rough for me.  I had this picture of what life would look like doing ministry in SLC...but our actual life looks a lot like those fails on Nailed It.  I pictured walking along side Chris, hand in hand doing ministry together.  I imagined a church that embraced us and wanted to minister with us.  I imagined doing women's Bible Studies with our leaders and becoming a second mom to them.  I imagined using my place in a school to help make connections and build a bridge between life and ministry.  I imagined nights around a fire singing "Kumbaya" and kids in and out of our house constantly with fresh baked treats.  The reality is, being a full time working mom is HARD!  I can remember breaking down at one point when we were looking for houses here.  The market in SLC is so ridiculous compared to Jackson, TN  and the houses we could afford were depressing.   Not only that, we were restricted to living in a certain area of town.  Then, something happened at work that left me without a job for the next year that I thought I was going to have.  I remember just bursting into tears in the classroom saying I was just so sick of not being in control of anything...and I guess, in a way, I am still having that temper tantrum.

EVERYTHING is hard here.  Getting immersed in a church while also doing a parachurch ministry is hard.  Finding a real friend in the midst of a totally different culture is hard.  Working in a Title One school is hard.  Trying to help Annet in school when she just keeps falling further behind is hard.  Trying to find leaders that will just commit to leading is hard...and forget any community building or group Bible Studies.  Rejoining my family and trying to figure out where I fit in after being away for 20 years is hard.  Trying to fix supper and spend time with my family and get homework done and still find time to do Bible Study and have a little needed quiet time (Hello, introvert) is hard.  I am soooo tired of everything being hard.  So, as I realize that I NEED to be healthier, I want to look and feel better, and I need to make better choices...I also resist because I am TIRED OF EVERYTHING BEING HARD!  I really do not want to think about whether I am making a good food choice.  I do not want to count calories or resist my craving for chocolate...I just want something to be easy.  However, I also want to look not disgusting for Brooks' with that picture in mind, Chris and I are trying to be encouragers and not enablers and we are trying to be serious about exercise and good eating....except part of today...because 50 cent corn dogs at Sonic today, let's just be real!

So, this week, I am trying to happily embrace the hard.  I am going to try to remember that things that are hard are the things that are most worth it and that victory after a hard fight feels so much more amazing than something easily won.  And if I'm not as successful as I hope, I can find friendship in the Nailed It contestants!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Back in the High Life Again???

Soooooo, the Neely family is still kicking.  I know I am always saying that I am going to get back to regular blogging...I just never seem to be able to manage it.  However, the other day, I got onto the blog and was just rereading posts and I loved seeing the journal of where we were and what was going on in our lives and I miss that I haven't done that in the last couple of years.  So, once again, I am going to try to get back in the saddle.

This time around, I am a little more comfortable with these interwebs and I am just embracing our names and online presence because, frankly, I am just too tired to try to remember nicknames, etc.

So, quick update.  We are living in Salt Lake City and Chris is working for Young Life.  Chris has taken up downhill skiing and is totally in love with it!  He loves the northwest, the mountains and the cool, dry weather.

I am teaching 1st grade at a local elementary school.  I don't cry every day this year and sometimes, I don't even have to bring work home with me.  I am a Wyldlife (for the middle school kids) leader and official chauffeur for YL kids.   There is a rumor I will be moving to second grade next year and, honestly, I am not super excited about that but, I will survive!  I am also trying to get wedding ready before July which is totally not going is so much more fun to put weight on than to take it off.  I am trying to do a weight loss Bible study to renew my mind and perspective but I am honestly going into it kicking and screaming.  Why oh why can't carrots taste like chocolate?

Brooks, our oldest, is attending college in TN and is on track to graduate in December, along with his fiancรฉ.  Their wedding is planned for the end of this July and contrary to how that appears, I am totally NOT old enough to have a child who is graduating college and getting married!  He is graduating with a degree in Christian Studies and is planning to attend seminary and also has a side business doing videography...he is quite talented and not just because I am a proud momma! 

Adam is the next in line, and will be graduating high school in May, refer to above comment about age!  He has waffled a little in what he wants to do as a next step but hopefully, plans will be solidified soon.  Adam is also a talented photographer and videographer and can rock some graphic design...I really do not know where my children got their artistic streak.  I, for one, cannot draw a recognizable stick figure and the one beautiful picture I ever took we had put on canvas and is hanging on our living room wall because it is an anomaly!

Anywhoo, I digress.  Lilly is about to be a sophmore in high school and will be moving to the high school campus next not even talk to me about the fact that my daughter could possibly asked to a dance by a punk boy next year!  She continues to be a friendly, out-going girl that loves to do hand-lettering, sewing and all things artistic...again, where did this gene come from?

Coop is in fourth grade and goes to the school I teach at.  He LOVES Legos and plans to be a world traveler, in between being an archeologist, Lego engineer, a sound effect guy for movies, a Lego designer, a chef specializing in quesadillas, a paleontologist, a geologist, a horologist and he may throw in being a blue cow just for old times sake!  :) He also loves to ski and has his own YouTube channel about all things Lego.

Nettie is in third grade, also at the school I teach at.  She LOVES her friends...a lot.  She likes to talk to them before school, after school, at recess, during school...she really enjoys talking, much to the frustration of her teacher...we are working on that!  She has plans on being a chef at a Mexican restaurant when she grows up...the girl also likes food!  Talking and food, life is good!

Nettie has also asked me to include the newest member of our family, Malibu.  She is a fourish year old Poodle/Shitzu mix that we adopted almost 2 years ago.  She is my little lap baby and may or may not be my favorite child.  She is the one animal Annet actually likes...other than her pet fish, Sharkey, who met an early end a few weeks ago.

Life in SLC has been a weird adjustment.  The culture here is unlike anywhere else.  It has been super hard to find a church and even harder to find good friends.  Ministry here is tough.  The number of Christians is tiny and churches have not totally embraced YL.  With so few Christians and very limited resources, I think churches and other christian organizations feel threatened that we are trying to take their workers or their money.  There isn't a lot of unity among christian organizations here and the work is SLOW and hard with very little encouragement.  Sometimes, the disappointment and frustration is overwhelming...but the fact is, there are people all over the valley that desperately need the hope that Jesus offers so, we just keep plugging away!

Tonight, we are celebrating Adam's 18th birthday, which means I was like 10 when I gave birth, right?  We had a little Chili's and will be hitting some cake and ice cream soon but the highlight of his birthday is that his high school just won the state championship for basketball...there was more basketball talk than birthday talk at dinner!

Anyway, just a little Where are They Now post that will hopefully become a little more regular.  In the meantime, feel free to continue praying for the Neely family and for the young people in SLC that we are trying to reach.  Also, pray for our volunteer leaders.  Again, ministry is tough here and leading is often very unglamorous.  Pray that they will be strengthened and encouraged and that they will not burn out.

Thanks all!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Quick Hello...Quick Goodbye

I has been forever...again!  I really though I would be so good at updating this blog.  I was wrong.  We have now been in SLC for almost ten months.  That is so hard to believe.  It seems like years since we have hugged the necks of dear friends and only moments ago we were registering for school.  Our kids have survived their first year of school in Salt Lake.  My parents have survived nine months of 6 extra people in their house.  Chris has survived his first Young Life season.  So much has happened!

I have been shocked at how hard this life change has been for me.  I mean, for the first time in over 20 years, I live in the same state as my parents and one of my sisters...I didn't assume it would be seamless, but I never imagined it would be so hard!

To be perfectly honest, this year has been spiritually really hard on me.  While Chris has thrived and loved every minute of his job, I have felt like I have barely kept my head above water.  I have been through every emotion, but  have spent most of the last year in a pretty low place.  I have cried more  in the last 10 months than I have in the last 19 years of parenthood...and THAT is saying a lot!  My faith has swung from amazing highs to amazing lows and is resting somewhere on the lower side of normal right now.  I love being a part of a church plant...but I miss the encouragement of like-minded women.  I love the opportunities that abound (and I mean ABOUND) to share truth with people...but I get tired of being the only Christian in most settings I enter.  I love seeing Chris' excitement in his job...but I am having a hard time finding the balance between supportive wife, loving volunteer, and a working mom.  I totally realize that this year has been FULL of answered prayer...we were fully funded before starting the job, we sold our house despite a lot of unexpected issues, we found a house in our ministry area despite a ridiculous housing market, all of our kids flourished in school, I found a part time job for this year and have a full time teaching position next year, my family has completely blessed our socks off with hospitality, Chris' family has been beyond supportive despite the fact that we moved 2,000 miles away from them, we have seen God provide over and over in our ministry, we have watched Him provide full scholarships for kids to go to camp...I could go on and on.  And yet, I struggle.

That is part of the reason the posts have been few, because I felt like if all I could do was whine, it was better to be silent.  But, I think the fog is beginning to lift and I hope that in a month or so, I can come back and not be a big baby.

However, I wanted to get on here to let my few sweet readers know what we are doing and how they can be praying.  Chris and the two big kids left today headed for Seattle.  The Littles and I will get on a plane Wednesday morning and meet them there.  We will then head 5 1/2 more hours to Egmont( I think), Canada where we will get a ferry that will take us to Malibu Harbor where we will get a water taxi and travel another hour to Malibu Club in Canada where Chris is on Summer Assignment for the month of June.  He will be head leader at the Young Life camp there for the first four weeks.  Our family gets the privilege of going with him and loving on the volunteer leaders that are bringing kids to get to know Jesus!  We are super excited!  (We are also super stressed because we just started moving into our house 2 weeks ago).  Please be in prayer for our family and for all the kids that will be introduced to the amazing love of Christ during this time.  We will be almost totally out of phones and super limited internet access, so there will be no updates or social media posts...but we will be sharing a lot when we get back in July!

Also, please be in prayer for Adam.  He is struggling spiritually.  This is a hard place to be and he hasn't had anyone besides Chris and I to pour into him and that has been hard.  We are praying that this summer at camp he will make some connections and maybe get some encouragement but he could use the prayer support.

Chris' parents will come spend the last week of camp with us and then drive back to UT for a few days.  Then, Brooks and Hannah will be coming to visit on July 6th (Yay!).  The last week of July, Chris and Adam will be heading to Arizona for our kids' camp and two weeks later we will be taking our Jr. High kids to CO to camp.  Our niece will be getting married right after that and then school starts back again and I will be starting a full time life isn't really going to slow down any.  Please be in prayer for a little bit of rest and recoop time...I don't handle change well and we have had a lot in the the last year!

Please also just continue to be in prayer for this area and our ministry.  There is just SO MUCH NEED and so much opportunity but funds and volunteers are limited.  Pray for direction on what opportunities to take and what to table for the time being.  Pray for the planning of some fund raisers and that God will provide all necessary funding for the work He has planned.  Finally, and selfishly, please just pray that I can get back to the person I used to be.  I know that I have lost a lot of my sense of humor.  I am cranky more than I laugh.  I am cross with my children more than I want to be.  I am cross with my husband more than I want to be.  As an introvert, I know I need time alone to process and refresh and that has just been impossible for many months.  Pray that I would learn to manage my time in such a way that my soul in being nourished so that I can continue to serve those around me.

I love you, sweet friends...Bye for now and I'll "see" you in about a month!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Longest. Post. Ever. God Bless You if You Hang on Until the End!

Yep, we are still here!  We are almost 5 months in and we are settling in to a new normal.  I was looking back at the few blogs I have written over the last few months and it is really neat to see what God has done and how prayers have been answered.  We miraculously got 100% funded in a matter of a few weeks.  Our house did sale, although the selling price, fees, etc. we had to pay left us with almost nothing to put towards a new house.  Our son has completed his first semester in college, and so far, we have been able to pay what we need to...but he will have a LOT of student loans to repay :(.  Our kids are all enrolled in school and thriving and our daughter even got a chance to witness to a student at her school a couple of weeks ago.  Chris' parents are doing well and we are hoping that they get to come visit us in the not too distant future.  Clubs are going well and we have had a lot of growth in the number of students that are attending.  We are on a little break until February, so hopefully we will see a return of all of those kids.  Chris is LOVING his job and feels completely confident that we followed God's will and are doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.  We have even found a church plant that we are getting involved with that we are loving!

We had a great Christmas and loved Brooks being home!  We had a VERY white Christmas, took the kids sledding, ate way too much, had TONS of family time, took some great family photos, worshipped together as a family and a church and Lilly and I watched a LOT of Hallmark channel!

All that being said, I still find myself struggling.  This is so frustrating to me because my husband is over the moon happy in his job, I live close to my family for the first time in over 20 years...really close to my, in their basement, and my kids are thriving.

I think of the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13, "Not that I am speaking of being in need for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  That is where I want to be, I want to live victoriously no matter what situation I am in...and yet, I find myself fighting feelings of defeat and frustration almost daily.

I am frustrated with my "career".  I like my job...for those who do not know, I am working as an aide in an Autism support classroom.  It is really a great job.  I love my students and I feel like I have learned so much from them and have learned to be a better parent, teacher, etc. as I have learned to deal with and embrace their "quirks".  In a way, I think I have a pretty good thing going...I am in a classroom and enjoying the kids but I never have to bring work home with me because I am not the main teacher and I do not have any paperwork, conferences, etc.  However, I cannot help but worry about finances.  As an aide, my job is discretionary from year to year and I will not get paid through the summers.  I have tried to find out what it would take to get certified to be a traditional teacher in Utah but, despite reaching out to several people both at the state level and through my school, I can get no one to tell me what to do.  I know I would have to take classes and we would probably have to take out loans and I am not sure we can afford to do that...I'm not even sure I want to, but it would be nice to at least know what would be required.

As I said, we did sell our house, which was a HUGE relief, but we came out of it with very little to put toward anything here.  House prices are so much higher here, and the area that we have been asked to live is one of the most expensive in the valley.  Occasionally, I will get a crazy whim and look on the real estate is depressing and scary.  I figure, if we live in my parents' basement for about 5 more years, we might be able to get into a little shack!  I MAY be over dramatizing a little bit, but that is what it feels like.  Again, I know I should have faith and Chris tells me all the time not to worry (oh, how the tables have turned) because if God brought us here, He has a place for us to live...and I do believe it is true, I am just afraid it may be my parents' basement and that is not a fun thought!

Along those same lines, I am always thinking about school next year.  We know that Adam is set, but Lilly is in her school on a provisional contract that we will get a house in that district.  So if we do not have a house in the district by next year, I am afraid she will have to change schools and start all over making friends, etc. I also have to think about the littles.  This year, they are going to school with my mom but she is retiring after this year so we will have to do something different.  I can petition to get them to go with me to my school next year...but I am not guaranteed to have a job at that school (in all likelihood I will, but you can only request one time, so if I did and then changed schools, we would be in a predicament).  If we did find a house and move, it would be ideal to have them go to their assigned school, but if I am still at my school, the schedules would not match up.  We are doing four different school schedules this year and  it is about to kill me!  Everyone starts at different times, ends at different times, has different days is crazy town!

So, I was in the shower having a nervous breakdown the other morning thinking about all this stuff.  Oh, if only you could see into my crazy would all feel so much better about yourselves.  Let me give you a little view into one of my "prayer times" in the morning.  It begins with a little praise and recognition of who God is and how big He is...sometimes it goes on for a LONG time because I have to convince myself that I really believe that  (just being real).  A while back, I realized that I really do believe that...I was going through a crisis of whatever and I really WANTED to be mad at God and question him but I realized as much as I wanted to doubt or feel angry, I couldn't, I just felt sad and frustrated.  Anyway, I do my little praise thing and then start the juicy stuff!  I pray for the kids and for our YoungLife kids and begin to pray about a place to live...then, I begin to feel guilty about praying for a place to live...I mean, we do have a place...we aren't homeless, exactly, so then I wonder if I should even be asking; God never made us promises for a house and there are MANY people in the world that faithfully serve God without anything!  So, I wonder, should I even pray about this, shouldn't I just be happy with the blessings I have...but then I realize that we are so far from our ministry area here and we don't really feel settled so I should be praying that we find a place in the East Bench area that we can get settled in and do a better job at bringing people into our home, maybe host small groups, etc. so I pray some more... but than I realize that if we do move, what will I do about my job and the kids...I would have to leave EARLY every morning to get the littles to school but would then have two hours of nothing before I went to work, then we would get home late every what should I do about my job?  Then I start praying about my job and then I feel guilty for not appreciating that job I have and being whiny about driving.  That brings me to wondering about next year.  Should I go to back to school or try to stay with what I am doing?  Or should I try to get on in one of our high schools in an office or something so that I could meet students, etc.  Then I begin to stress about not getting paid through the summer and begin to wonder if I should get a supplemental job (you know Tupperware or something :))  but that would be really hard to do and still support Chris with club, etc.  Then I think, maybe God has something totally different, I used to always want to write, maybe I could do something like that, but I have NO inspiration right now and am pretty sure I couldn't make enough money to be helpful...then I begin to wonder what my calling in life is and wonder why I haven't figured it out at 40+ years old.  By then, I am a totally mess and have wasted A LOT of time in the shower so I just give up and feel like I do not even know how to pray or have a relationship with God.

So, I was having one of these breakdowns and I felt God saying "Be Still".  In our Jackson house, we had the words to Psalm 46:10 on our wall, "Be still and know that I am God..."  I also love Exodus 14:14, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."  I say these verses, but it is so hard to do it, but I really felt God saying, "Just be still, I've got this." It felt so good, and for a couple of days, I had such a peace and felt relief that I didn't need to DO anything, just trust God.

However, I am back to my crazy.  I have been reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker and, while I love her style and her humor, I have felt so frustrated reading it..I mean, people, I have issues!  She even has an essay where she talks about your "calling" and discusses how God is not going to drop opportunities in your lap.  I almost threw the book against the wall...I am DESPERATE for God to just drop something in my lap, or send me a flashing sign, or something!  Isn't that what being still is?  Anyway, as I was mentally yelling at Jen Hatmaker, I had to remind myself that she is not God.  She is a funny, wise author but she isn't writing scripture and I should probably spend more time in scripture than reading an entertaining book of essays, which promptly made me feel guilty again, which sent me back into my crazy cycle...I need help, people!

Anyway, as I have said before, this is really just my brain dump place and I kind of feel guilty and embarrassed even opening up my crazy self, but I also think that in the Christian community, we often put our best face forward and try to paint a picture of beauty and serenity and Heaven on earth and that just isn't the truth.  Sometimes life is hard and being a Christian is a little dirty and gritty and we are not doing anyone any favors by pretending that life is rosy and wonderful and we never struggle or question.  The truth is, I have been a Christian for almost 40 years and sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I am doing!  I want to spew out words of eloquent wisdom and be an inspiration to masses...instead, I am tempted to curl up in my bed, cover my head and block everything out.

So, that is how we are starting 2016...I'm not sure what this next year holds.  I hope we get to meet lots of new kids and share with them the love of Jesus.  I hope my kids get a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people that have never experienced true love that is based totally on grace and not on works.  I hope we get to be a part of encouraging our leaders.  For myself, I pray that I would trust more, believe more, love better and learn to just "be still"...and if I could overcome just a little bit of my crazy, maybe I could reduce the MASSIVE amounts of medicinal chocolate and Diet Coke that I have been consuming the last few months!

And finally, my inspirational quote of the day.  I read this in For the Love, but it is not by Jen Hatmaker, she is quoting another author, Scott Stratten who says, "Don't try to win over the haters; you're not the jackass whisperer."  I am taking this into the new year, you know, for those that choose to hate on my crazy!  :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

From a Momma's Heart

Wow!  By the end of this week, we will have been in SLC for one month.  In a way, it feels like it couldn't have possibly been a whole month already and in a way, I think, how could we have possibly done all we have in only a month!

We are starting to get into a routine...and that should be good, but to be honest today, I am feeling a little sad and nostalgic.  Forgive me for the emotions, but this is my journal spot so I want to put down everything and one day look back and see how God used even the not so pretty.

I don't like change.  I am a creature of habit.  I go to the same restaurants and order the same meals, I read the same kinds of books and my furniture never moves once I have placed it...which was quite obvious when we began to move that furniture out of our house!  :)  I knew that this adventure was a BIG change, but I was excited about it.  I was excited about living close to my family again and I was excited to be a part of a full time ministry.  I was actually embracing change!

But change is just really hard for while parts are good, I find myself still struggling.  I LOVE being near my family and even have loved being in the house with my parents again...that could  have been all kinds of bad but so far, it has been nothing but a blessing.  I have been blessed to get a job really easily...I didn't even interview!  My kids all got established into their schools and we couldn't be happier with their teachers.  So, I should be ecstatic.  But I am struggling.

To be honest, I haven't really even shared this with Chris much.  He is LOVING his job and loving being in ministry.  He is probably becoming a top customer at half the area coffee shops and he is in his element planning and talking and doing.  He is so excited to get clubs off the ground and really pouring himself into the people here.  I am finding myself a little...lost, maybe?

Part of it is just the change, but part of it is the busyness.  I have not worked outside the home in many years and I have had my children close to me all the time.  Things are different here.  The big kids have to leave the house by 6:45 to get to school on time and the little ones leave with my mom at 7:00.  I don't have to be to work until 10:30 so I have been trying to do a little work for my dad, do some housekeeping, run errands, etc.  I work from 10:30-3:30.  Chris picks up the big kids from school and my momma has been getting the little ones.  They get out at 2:40, but my school does not release until 3:30 so they just have to hang out in my momma's room until I can come get them.  We then go home and start homework and get supper and do laundry and before I know it, bedtime has come and I haven't had even a moment to just sit down and enjoy being with my kids...AND, I am tired and cranky so I'm often not very nice to them.  I know this is every working mom's dilemma, I am just new to the game!  Cooper cries before school every day and it is just completely breaking my heart.  I feel so bad abandoning him to traditional school and feel guilty for the short time I invested in home schooling him...yet, I know that is what we have to do right now and it is probably good for him because he is REALLY attached to me.

Chris has me signed up as a volunteer and is encouraging me to get started and to begin to invest in discipling our female volunteers and begin planning the Wyldlife meetings and maybe go with him to the Young Life meetings...but I am just tapped out.  I know this is why we are here.  I want to be in this ministry  and yet I am already finding myself so bogged down in just living that the ministry feels like a burden.

So, sorry for a depressing post, but this is where I am right now.  I know that some of this is just the growing pains that we experience when we start a new period of life but please pray for my attitude and that I will find the joy of ministry.   Please pray that I can work through the changes and find a love and passion for the people that we are here to serve.

We visited a church Sunday that the kids really seemed to like...pray that we will be drawn to the church family that God wants us to be a part of  and that I will make that decision unselfishly.

Please also continue to pray for the sale of our house.  We are still waiting on some of the improvements to be is frustrating not being there to push things along.  Our realtor is not going to officially list the house until the work is completed, so right now, we are just at a standstill.  This is so frustrating and I have to keep reminding myself that God is bigger than these tiny circumstances that seem insurmountable...he can send someone to that house whenever the time is right so I just need to calm down and trust His goodness, but that is hard.

Pray also for Brooks and Chris' parents as they are still there.  We talk to Brooks at least once a day and he is loving school but is really wishing he lived on campus and at those times when there are resident life activities that he isn't a part of, he starts feeling a little lonely.

Despite all the depressing, we are abundantly blessed.  The people here are amazing, I get to be close to my family and we are meeting some great kids!  We also get sweet, encouraging messages from TN friends so often and it is good to know that we have not, yet, been forgotten.  We love all of you who are praying and encouraging us.  Thank you!