Saturday, July 23, 2011

Back at Highway

A few weeks ago, Jon’s mom called and asked if they could have the kids for a couple weeks in Oklahoma. Little Rock, Arkansas, is the half-way point between our homes, so last weekend Jon and I made the trip over so that we could hand the kids off to the grandparents. While we were there, we stayed with some of our very special friends, which we always enjoy.

Even though Jon’s from Oklahoma and I’m from Michigan, Harding University and Highway Church of Christ are where “We” began. We became friends freshman year, started dating senior year and married after Jon graduated. The day after our first date we went to church together at Highway, and we spent our entire dating relationship there and our first year of marriage too.

So many of the churches in and around Searcy have a huge influx of college kids who are looking for somewhere to worship while attending Harding. While at Highway, Jon and I didn’t want to be ‘just one of the college kids’. We wanted to be active members who could build relationships and grow as a result of being a member there. Several other close friends of ours felt the same way, so we all enjoyed attending Highway as well as hanging out ‘in real life’ too. We joined a Heart Group, which was a small group that met in members’ homes for a meal, bible study and prayer. We attended baby showers and wedding showers. We brought food to the potlucks and helped with service projects. Over time, we really started to genuinely feel like the people at Highway were like family to us.

It’s interesting, in retrospect, to hear about how the ‘real church people’ at Highway felt about the college kids coming to Highway. They told us that at first they were a little upset because there were so many. They didn’t like that we were making it hard to find a seat. They didn’t like us coming into their groups and trying to belong. Over time, though, we all started to grow closer. They started to get to know us and we all became so attached.

One family in particular has been so very special to Jon and me since the beginning of our relationship. Kevin and Cindy Western became like our ‘college parents.’ Even with the craziness of having 3 boys of their own, they invested themselves in us. They went from strangers, to mentors, to friends, to family. They’re enough older than us to have very relevant advice to share, but they’re young enough that they don’t even seem older. Over time, we really became close friends. We’d keep their kids sometimes. Cindy and I shopped together. Kevin and Jon hunted together. Even after we moved to Huntsville, they came to visit us and we returned to visit them. We grew one of those special relationships that not everyone has and that doesn’t come along every day.

Even today, when we head back to Arkansas we stay with the Westerns and we stay up til the middle of the night catching up and reminiscing. We really, truly love them. We were their first group of college kids, and since we’ve been gone they’ve taken in several other college kids over the years.

Well, last week after dropping the kids off we stayed all weekend and worshipped at Highway in the morning. As soon as we walked in the door, it still felt like our home. We were received with smiles and hugs from so many old friends. We participated in a wonderfully heart-felt worship service and heard a very touching message. I did catch myself day-dreaming a little bit as I saw so many familiar faces. I felt such gratitude that as a college kids we felt such acceptance and received guidance there. As a young wife I felt so nurtured by the ladies there. As a young couple we were blessed by the generosity there.

Toward the end we sang a song that, to me, is very reminiscent of Highway and our time there because it was a favorite of ours while we were there—Mansion, Robe and a Crown. Cindy leaned over and said that one of their current college kids couldn’t sing that song without giggling because the bass part would get her so tickled. I love that song so much, but that day I couldn’t sing because my throat was choked up and my eyes were trying to hold back the tears. I leaned over and whispered, “I can’t sing this song without tearing up, because it reminds me of being here.”

Well, after church we went to a small Mexican restaurant with the Westerns and another family and ended up sitting there talking for a couple hours before it was time to hit the road back to Huntsville.

As Jon drove home, I stared out the window reflecting on the weekend. I love being in Huntsville and I love our current home church, Mayfair. I’m excited for the journey ahead and the relationships that will form as a result of our next move. But I am SO thankful for the blessing that our friends at Highway have been to our lives and for the meaning they still have for us. They really helped shape us as a young couple and helped us get started in the right direction and they will forever be special to us.

It’s always special to me to be back at Highway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Packing. Again.

May 25th will be our 10th anniversary. Since we’ve been married we have moved 8 times. We are currently packing for our 9th move and this one will be the farthest one of all. That’s right, we have begun to face the daunting task of going through all of our possessions, deciding what we should pack, sell, donate or toss. It’s a little bit crazy, thinking that in a month we are going to pack our belongings on a container that will sail across the sea to our family’s new home.
Going through everything during a move is always a little bit nostalgic for me. It’s inevitable to come across things you haven’t seen in a long time, and I love to take my time remembering the people, places and activities that those things represent.

Jon and I went through our closets this past weekend. It’s pretty shameful, actually, how many clothes we had hanging in the closet—we completely filled up each of our closets. The problem is just that we never sat down and culled through them, so with each move we just kept toting along all the excess—the clothes that were torn, worn out or too small. I finally decided that we were going to take it all out and cut it in half—no mercy! It really turned out to be fun because we reminisced about all the memories over the years.

A t-shirt from the day we started dating. My platform flip-flops that I wore on our wedding day. Ratty old t-shirts that bore paint stains from both of the houses that we’ve completely repainted—together. Memories of so many activities with the youth group at Mayfair. It’s so neat, the story they tell.

It’s not just the clothes, though. Going through the bookshelves. Seeing pictures and albums that have been gathering dust for a while. Reading my baby book. Sorting through drawers that have piles of sweet pictures and drawings from the kids. Things that I am keeping and treasuring because I want to be able to look at them when I’m old and gray and remember these days. I’m thankful God gave us the ability to remember; it really is such a gift.

Packing, again, has been a refreshing walk down memory lane, and it’s calming to me. It's also a reminder that even though things remind me of special times in my life, that things aren't that important. The memories I keep are what mean so much.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Any move involves a lot of logistics, simply because there’s a lot of details that need to be taken care of. Making an international move, however, has unveiled an even longer to-do list. I’m sure, too, that since we haven’t actually moved yet, there will probably be a thousand other things that come up that I’m not even expecting.

For the past several months, though, I feel like I have had a constant swirl of activity in my mind. All the pieces of the giant puzzles that are floating around. I feel like I have to keep thinking about them because if I don’t they’ll float over to a corner, get lost and I’ll never remember it again!

Things like getting a passport picture of each kid…scratch that—getting a GOOD passport picture of each kid. Actually just having to get passports for each kid. Getting new copies of birth certificates for all of us so that we can get a special notarization called an apostille (sounds like aaap-oh-stee-yay). Yep, I’d never heard of it either, but apparently we need it to move to Honduras. Figuring out whether or not to ship our things in a container, and whether or not our things will fit in a container. Figuring out what container company to use, what size of container to get, how much the container will cost, when the container should get here and how in the world we will load the container in 2 hours.

Things like trying to figure out all of the policies we need—medical insurance, life insurance, evacuation insurance (yep. We have to get evacuation insurance.) A post office box so we can still have a state-side address. What sort of company we’ll use for maintaining a US phone number. What kind of computer to get because our old one is going to explode any day. I’m almost sure of it.

Things like ‘cleaning out’ my kids’ bedrooms while they’re gone so I can slip some stuff they won’t miss in the trash. Things like scourging the closets of everything that we no longer wear.

Things like going through every drawer and cabinet trying to sort out the junk from the good stuff. The stuff I’ll need and the stuff I won’t.

Things like trying to figure out what we’re going to need while we’re there but won’t be able to buy there so we need to buy it before we leave and take it with us.

Things like searching the entire country looking for a great deal on a vehicle that will meet our needs as a family and still be able to maneuver effectively on the, ahem, rough terrain of Honduras. Then test driving vehicles, making decisions on purchasing the vehicles and trying to figure out the puzzle of how to get the new vehicles to Honduras, sell the vehicles we aren’t taking and still have a vehicle to drive in the meantime…tricky.

Things like sending my husband to Honduras so he can find us a house to rent. Not just any house, either, but a house that meets the needs and maybe even some of the wants of our family. A house that has things like running water, a hot water heater, a good measure of security, several bedrooms and a little grass for the kids to play on.

Things like planning out our last 8 weeks down to a T, trying to make sure that we get everything taken care of and that we are able to spend some time visiting with everyone that we really want to visit with before we depart.

That’s not every single thing we have to do, and not all of those things are that huge. It’s just a list of a few of the things that have been assaulting my thoughts over the last several weeks. It’s crazy. In January, when you say you’re moving in September it seems SO far away. Even in April or June, September seems distant. Two-thirds of the way through July gets here, though, and suddenly September is very, very close! It’s almost enough to justify a little bit of panic!

Thank goodness for mentors who are walking us through things step-by-step. Thank goodness for a husband who has been on top of things like making calls to companies I never knew existed about things that I never thought about needing. And thank goodness that in the big picture, these little details really are just that—little, bitty, give-or-take details.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Community

Last week I went to my Bonco group to eat, play, visit and laugh with a group of girl friends. We get together to have a meal and then we play Bonco. After playing, someone shares a scripture or thought then we share prayer requests and pray together. It was my night to share a thought, and there had been a lot on my mind that week. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to share to encourage my friends, but couldn’t quite settle on an idea. One sweet friend asked if it would be my last Bonco before moving, and I realized that next month, I will go to what will probably be my last Bonco for a long time. That hit me.

Probably 8 years ago, a new friend called and invited me to play Bonco, which was something I had never, ever heard of. We had just moved to Huntsville, and we didn’t have many friends here. I thought, “Why not try it? It might be fun!” That first night, there were 12 of us there and we ate dinner and learned how to play this ridiculously simple game. And we had a blast. We decided to make it a monthly event, and almost a decade later I still make it as often as I can.

It’s not the same, mind you.

Over the years, our group has grown. So dramatically, in fact, that we’ve split. A couple times.

We’ve changed the night we meet. A couple times.

We’ve welcomed new members as people move into town.

We’ve said good-bye through teary eyes to dear friends as they’ve moved away.

We’ve welcomed babies into this world—lots and lots of babies.

We’ve rejoiced as friends got married.

We’ve shared advice and tips and tricks and stories.

We’ve laughed together, often to the point of tears.

We’ve wept together, sharing in each other’s sorrow.

We’ve shared our lives with each other.

It’s been such a huge blessing to meet together with ladies on a monthly basis. Even through the changes, I’m thankful for the relationship I have formed with all of the friends that we’ve played with—past and present. Even though we’re not all at the same stage in life, we all enjoy a night of food, fun and fellowship. It’s a neat community that we’ve formed.

It really is evident to me that community is something that God has given us as a gift. It really helps to meet some of our needs and it can help us grow in so many ways. There are lots of ways we experience—family, friends, at church. Especially as ladies, we have a connection as wives, moms and Christians.

I thought of this passage in Ecclesiastes:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one
falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no
one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how
can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend
themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Think about it—“Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” How sad it is to me that some go through life without the support and encouragement that I have found in my sisters in Christ. I’m so grateful that I am a part of their community.

So that night at Bonco, I shared these thoughts with my friends. Out of the ladies who were there, none were part of the original group. I shared how the changes a group goes through can sometimes hurt, but it also can encourage even more growth. I tried to encourage them to support each other, reach out to each other and be there for each other. I want them to take full advantage of what being a part of this group can offer to them.

To close, I shared this verse that a dear, dear friend shared with me years ago. She had been such a friend and mentor to me, and she read this verse to me before I went back to college one year.

We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the
gospel of God but our lives with you as well, because you had become so dear to

When she read that to me it touched me deeply, because that revealed to me the model of how our relationships should look when we are in Christ. We should not only be open to sharing the Good News about Jesus and the hope that he provides, but we should also have relationships with people where we are not afraid to dig deep and be real. Ever since my friend shared this verse with me, I have tried to be conscious about the kind of relationships I keep.

This has also become the verse I share as I sort-of go through these stages of saying good-bye to all of my different groups of friends. I want them to know how much the friendships we’ve shared mean to me and will continue to mean to me even when I’m a little bit farther away.
It amazes me when I really think about it how well our Father knows us. He knew we would be social, and have a need to share and be with others. I love how he instituted the church, too, which is one way for us to have that need fulfilled.

It’s a good feeling when you realize that Someone has been lookin’ out for you. He’s got our back.