Our Move to Texas (Part III)

(Please find Part Two here.)

I knew it as soon as the Bible instructor told us to turn to the book of Joshua. Knew exactly what verse I’d end up reading, even before we’d started reading.

He wanted each of us to go around the table, read a verse or two, then pick up where the other person had left off.

A couple of people went before me, and I waited with an expectant grin, knowing what was coming before it came.

When it got to me, the smile about split my face, making me want to laugh, to shout, to dance with joy; the presence of God as real and as strong as though He were sitting next to me.

I read it reverently, knowing the power behind these words:

“‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.'”

Joshua 1:9.

A verse I could have repeated from memory.

The exact verse the Lord gave Dad all those many months ago as he sat in his recliner and the Lord had whispered to his heart: I want you to go.

And here we were.

What were the chances the Bible instructor would choose the book of Joshua to preach on that night? What were the chances I’d sit in that exact spot, to read the very verse my family had clung to the way a sailor hugs a mast in the middle of a storm?

Slim, for sure. Surprising? Not a bit. Coincidence, maybe.

But highly unlikely, considering the sheer amount of “coincidences” it had taken my family to get to this point. 😉

All I could do was marvel.

How had I gotten to this place?

Sitting in Texas, enrolled in a Bible School, reading aloud the very same verse that had brought us here in the first place.

Oh, the mysteries and wonder of God!

Last post I wrote, I shared about some of the struggles in moving. When God’s promises seemed so very far away and how easy it was to doubt.

I shared about how Dad started feeling discouraged in his workplace, how defeated he felt.

Yet even in that God fulfilled a promise.

To keep himself following God when the going got rough, back in Colorado Dad would go to his recliner many times to clear his thoughts and listen for the Lord’s voice. And the Lord strengthened and encouraged him many times, speaking things my dad would write down.

One of those times, God told him that he would become a manager in Texas, getting to exchange the work clothes he’d always worn for dockers and dress shoes instead. Here’s the very paper he wrote it down on:

dads-note-2

“3-6-14   Manager! Dockers & polo shirts. Dress shoes. … You are on the right path. Listen to God & not doubt. This journey is one only you & God will understand. Don’t worry about others opinions. God is giving you His direction, not His opinion. God is showing us His path of life moment by moment. Day By Day.”

 

A year and some months after that promise, Dad did become a manager!

It soon became clear though that it was not something God wanted for Dad long-term.

What He’d said had been fulfilled–Dad was now manager. But it was time for something new.

And that something new was, “Time to find a house, and get ready to leave this job because I’ve got another one for you coming up soon.”

Whew, okay! Here goes.

Not what we were expecting, but then again, not all that surprising anymore, God doing/saying/asking things that were unexpected.

But back to another promise. Remember my dream, the one with the house on the hill and big windows? How I dreamt of me and my parents in the car, and the conversation we had?

It came true exactly the way I dreamt it. Every detail.

Who was driving, what was said, the house on a hill with big windows.

But my parents put in a bid on that house…

And lost.

Ouch. That, for me, was one of the most devastating blows.

It was a beautiful, beautiful house. We all fell head over heels in love with it, were sure it was the one. Seemed absolutely perfect after we’d been searching for months for the perfect place. And it matched my dream completely.

Why, then, had this one not come true in the same way that my dream about the judge had?

I didn’t know. Still don’t completely understand, to be honest.

And trust me, it took me a little bit to rebound from the disappointment of that. But after a couple of days, I realized two things:

  1. The dream had come true, exactly as God had shown me, which meant God had still been faithful to His promise. He’d never shown me in the dream us actually moving into it; just what had happened–Mom being excited, thinking we’d found “the house.” I was the one who’d assumed it meant we’d be moving into it. There was no error on God’s end; if there was anyone to blame, it was me for misinterpreting what He’d showed me happening in the future.
  2. But why would God do that? Show me something that got all of our hopes up, then take away what was everyone’s “dream house”? It seemed unfair and cruel, really. It didn’t make sense. But once again, a choice rose before me: Trust God’s character and infinite goodness, knowing that God is love and nothing He does or allows to happen can ever come from a place except love, or accuse and doubt. No, the situation didn’t make sense to me. But who is the created, and who is the Creator? Once again, I was reminded of another time where it didn’t make sense, and how wrong I turned out to be to doubt the very One who’d made me. Who died on a cross for me. So I’d release the disappointment, the need to understand. I’d accept this turn of events and I’d trust Him once again.

So the search went on.

In June of 2016, my parents at last found and bought their dream home:

dream-home

It wasn’t on a hill, but the Lord knew what he was doing, because to be on a hill meant to be in the country.

To be in the country meant to be miles away from town, the church we’d started attending, and my niece and older sister. (Yep–the Lord helped them find their very own place, too!)

And wouldn’t you know, this home?

It had some really big windows.

big-windows

 

Because this home was so miraculously under budget (another story for another day!), Mom got to design and remodel everything just the way she wanted, with a kitchen to die for and beautiful wood floors. Something my parents had never been able to afford to do before.

With the Lord’s prompting, Dad quit and got another job, one without all the stress and drama of the one before. (Although the one before served its purpose… without it, my parents could not have qualified to buy their dream home.)

My niece started a new school year with a teacher she absolutely adored, made some new friends, and started making A’s and B’s in every class.

As for me, I started finding my niche, ending up for the first time in a job I totally loved and enrolled in Bible School, a dream I had long ago and never thought I’d see fulfilled.

abbas-house

End of the first semester at Bible School with fellow classmates.

 

Probably one of the greatest things of all…

My younger sister and nephew moved to Texas!

Just writing that, I cannot tell you how much emotion and memories it brings up for me.

God is so good. So faithful to His promises!

Having to follow God, knowing we’d leave them behind, I don’t even know how to tell you how hard that was. I remember the absolute pain and fear and sacrifice it took, an actual moment where I literally imagined handing my nephew and sister over to God, and telling Him I trusted Him to make everything beautiful in its time. (If you haven’t already, read about it here.)

And He did.

I handed them over not knowing what would happen, and oh, friends… He handed them back to me! There are no words.

For Rachel and Boe, they, too, love it here and this last Christmas, surrounded by my whole family and in our new home, I heard something I never thought I’d hear my sister say: “I just want you guys to know… there is nowhere else I’d rather be than here, with all of you.”

family-photo

From L to R: My gampie, nana, niece, sister, me, sister, mom, nephew. All in Texas. (Dad was taking the pic.)

 

Please don’t get me wrong and hear me when I tell you–we’re still bumbling around, trying to figure things out. We still miss Colorado often, and there are things that God is still working out that just don’t make sense yet.

But I believe He will work them out. More than believe–I know.

Why?

Because He’s done absolutely more than I could ever ask or imagine. Time and time again proven Himself faithful. More than worthy of our trust and obedience.

 

the-verse

What we call our “altar wall” in our new home, reminding us of all the Lord has brought us through.

 

Following after God, oh, trust me–it can be hard and messy, with highs and lows, and plenty of mistakes on our end.

But it’s worth it. And His grace is enough.

Almost three years ago, February 16, 2014, God told a man to move himself and his entire family to Texas, to watch and wait to see what He would do.

dads-note-1

 

DSC_5887 copy.jpg

A far cry from the man in that hospital bed! In my eyes… a mighty warrior of God, a man of courage and of faith, whose legacy I aspire to. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

 

And He did so much more than could ever be written about.

My family would be the first to tell you, we don’t know it all–would never claim to, and struggle daily not to try to.

But here’s what we do know: we know of a mighty God who loves His children with a mighty love, and as for me and our house?

We will serve the Lord.

me-and-my-house

 

_________________

Footnote: Below is a song Dad would often sing from the computer at home when he got discouraged about being able to move his entire family to Texas. The lyrics say:

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,

Let me walk upon the waters,

Wherever you would call me.

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,

And my faith will be made stronger,

In the presence of my Savior.”

A little while after arriving in Texas, we were able to attend a concert with the very group who wrote this song. The song Dad used to sing privately with tears running down his face in our living room, he now got to sing with 8,000 other people, in the very place the Lord said that He would bring him.

Praise you, Jesus!

Find it here.

 

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Our Move to Texas (Part II)

(Please find Part One to this post here.)

So we’d made it to Texas!

Now what?

Good question.

For so long, we’d just been focused on getting there. So I think we all kind of had a moment of looking around and going,”Hm. Now what?”

First order of business was pretty simple: we needed a place to stay.

Buying a house immediately when we didn’t know the area obviously didn’t make much sense or was even close to possible. So the next option would be a rental, but the kind of rental we needed was a pretty demanding checklist.

Big enough for 6 people.

Within budget.

Space for a 28-foot-trailer.

Would take two huge dogs.

…All before Dad needed to start his new job in five days.

Once again, we were in need of a miracle.

And once again, the Lord provided us with one!

Just so happens, my sister had a friend on Facebook she hadn’t spoken to in years contact her out of the blue when she found out we were moving to Texas. And what do you know, but that she had an uncle who was a realtor in the very town we were moving to.

We contacted him, and this realtor was able to find us exactly two places that fit our needs.

The first option was honestly a little scary, which left option two.

However, on the way to option two, the realtor called us to let us know it had just been rented out.

A familiar phrase that was starting to become a family motto came to mind: now what?

Trust the Lord, that’s what. Just as He’d asked us to do. He is never late, but seldom early! And really, we had no other option than that. We’d made it here on the waves of God’s grace alone, and now that we had, there was nothin’ else to do except sit back and watch Him provide as He’d promised He would.

And He did!

The paperwork of the other potential renters fell through, and after four days of living in a LaQuinta and one day before Dad had to start work, we got into the house.

rental-house

Praise Jesus! All that had gone into just that one moment… the fulfillment of God’s promise, it’s crazy and awing and amazing to think about.

But as difficult as it was at times to get to Texas, I honestly think the true battle started right then.

Because Texas at first was not “the land of milk and honey” as we had dreamed it would be.

Things got tough, and they got tough fast.

Dad had a job, but quickly found out that the job he had involved unfair work situations and people with little to no integrity. He came home often feeling discouraged and defeated.

My sister struggled to find work and her own place to live, and my niece struggled like never before in school, coming close to not graduating the third grade. It would take until almost the end of the year before she was diagnosed with ADD.

Being very relationship-oriented, my mom and I struggled the most with seeing the ones we loved struggling, as well as keenly missing the friendships and family we’d left behind.

The rental house–while meeting our needs–didn’t exactly match our wants. (See “An Ode to the Rental Home I Will Not Miss,” here.)

For a year or so, I lived out of a suitcase, because there wasn’t enough room for both my stuff and my niece’s in the bedroom we shared together. I slept on an air mattress that constantly leaked and deflated and had to be blown up again, and I will never forget our first Christmas in Texas getting sick, laying on the couch as my family handed me presents, and going to my air mattress to get some rest and ending up on the cold, hard floor in the middle of the night.

More times than I can count, I dreamt of having to pack and leave our home, and woke up on that air mattress with tears that had dried cool on my cheeks, because I’d been crying in my sleep. In those moments I’d pray, “God, I am trying so hard, I promise you I am–but I miss home so much.”

My mountains had gotten squished flat. The calming sound of crickets at night became the annoying buzz of cicadas. Peaceful two-lane roads became busy highways of the city, and I went from running into people at the grocery store who were there when my parents brought me home from the hospital, to not knowing a single soul.

It was painful. More painful than I can even describe.

And it didn’t seem to match what God had promised. Not even a little bit.

What was going on?

“A time of rest and peace,” Lord? What is this?

But I remember thinking it once and only once.

Had God abandoned me? Had He brought us all the way here, only to desert us now? Did this hard time cancel out or negate all the other hard times He’d brought us through? Was this the one circumstance that would somehow leave God scratching His head, shrugging His shoulders, leaving us to fend for ourselves?

N0.

I knew it with all my being, and at last something He’d told me and promised long ago finally made sense.

I’d been praying for my own promise back in Colorado, for God to speak to me as He had Dad, just giving me something so that going to Texas wouldn’t be so hard.

I am not taking you to this new place to abandon you, the Lord had said. I am taking you to this new place to bless you. I have good things in store for you. (Read that story on my other blog here.)

What I felt right then certainly felt like abandonment.

I was a stranger in a strange land. Dropped out in the middle of a place I really couldn’t understand or felt like I belonged in, all on the word of God.

Left a beautiful home, a beautiful area. Decades-old friendships, my sister and nephew, an amazing church.

And for what?

I really didn’t know.

But I remembered another time. A time where I questioned God’s motives. Where what He’d promised and the reality of my life didn’t match. I remembered how it felt then, and how what looked like the exact opposite of what God had promised became the very goodness of God Himself.

What the enemy means for harm, God always means for good. All things work towards the good of those who love him, and nothing can separate us from the love of God. He has good things in store for us.

So, then. I had a choice. Stomp my feet, despair, cry, doubt, complain? Or fall back and rest in my loving Shepherd’s arms, eagerly looking forward to see how He’d show His love for us in marvelous ways again?

What God had asked of Dad, He now asked of me.

Will you trust me, little one? I know it hurts. Oh, daughter. I know it hurts. But there was a time when your dad was sick and your heart was broken, a time when you, too, were forced to trust. But you handed me your broken heart, I took it from you gently, and I gave it back to you whole and full of joy. Hand me your heart again? Give it to me willingly?

Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. You can have it. I trust you. I love you. Oh, Lord, I don’t understand and it hurts, but I trust you. And you can have it.

That prayer didn’t come without pain. It didn’t come without a bit of fear attached. But the fact that I could pray it and mean it in and of itself is a testament of God’s work in my life.

Dad says often that without his years of sickness, he would never have been able to do what God asked him to do in moving to Texas.

Without my own battle of depression and the years of Dad being sick, I could not have prayed that prayer.

Two different ways, two different stories, same lesson.

He is trustworthy. God’s grace is enough. At the end of yourself, you will find Me. And it is worth it. Every single time.

Here we were, at the end of ourselves again.

Time to find some Jesus.

(Stay tuned and please check back soon for the last and final installment to this story, Our Move to Texas: Part III.)

Our Move to Texas (Part I)

(If you haven’t already, please find the prequel to this post, “Our Move to Texas: The Backstory,” here.) 

Two dreams, back-to-back.

I puzzled over them as I got out of bed.

There wasn’t anything too remarkable about them. Except that I desperately wanted both of them to come true.

Were they just wishful thinking, my mind projecting what my innermost heart most desired? Or something more, a prediction of the future from the Lord?

I hoped and somehow believed it was the second, but I couldn’t put my finger exactly on why.

I met Mom in the kitchen for breakfast, who instantly picked up on my mood and asked what was bothering me.

Did I tell her? Get her hopes up for something that may not have been from the Lord at all and might not ever happen?

I hesitated only a second more. I didn’t know if it was from the Lord or not, but might as well share. If it came to pass, we’d both know where the dreams had come from. If not, I’d learn for the next time.

“I dreamt that we finally found a home in Texas,” I told her. “We’d been waiting a long time–you were clapping your hands and squealing like a little girl, you were so excited.

We were in the car and Dad was driving. You were next to him, and I was in back.

I was skeptical. ‘This is for sure the house we’re moving into?’ I asked.

You turned back to look at me, with this huge grin. ‘Yes!’ You said.

We pulled up to this gorgeous house. I couldn’t make out all the details, but the two things that stood out the most were that it was on a hill, and had huge, beautiful windows.”

Mom gripped the counter and bowed her head as tears trickled down her cheeks. “Thank you, Lord,” she whispered.

“What?” I asked, dumbfounded.

 I wasn’t really expecting that response. Had already moved on to the very exciting topic of whether I wanted toast or Raisin Bran for breakfast, in fact.

Mom looked up at me, the tears still fresh in her eyes, but a smile, too. “I was just praying to the Lord yesterday about a home and getting discouraged, wondering if we’ll ever sell the house here and get what we want there. And I told the Lord that’s what I wanted–a house on a hill with big windows.”

Now I was really dumbfounded. I’d known Mom was getting discouraged about the whole house situation, but never once had she shared with me that her dream home included a hill and big windows.

It must have been from the Lord, which meant the other one was, too!

Energized now, I excitedly told her about the second dream.

How on earth did we get to that point though, selling the home we’d lived in for 18 years, to go to a place we’d never even visited?

It started with my dad sitting in his recliner, having his morning talk with the Lord. Something he’d been doing ever since he got sick and had continued to do, even though he was healthier now than he’d been in years.

All of a sudden, he felt as though the Lord had something important to tell him, something he’d need to write down.

It was February 16, 2014 when the Lord told my dad to move himself and his entire family to Texas. Here is the piece of paper he wrote on and exactly what he wrote that day:

dads-note-1

“2-16-14   God used the book of Joshua to show me my calling & purpose. To Bring my Family to Texas. He wanted me to always consult with him & obey him. Be strong and courageous for the Lord is with you. He will bring you into the land He promised you.”

Sure thing, Lord. Sell a home we’d lived in for 18 years in a terrible housing market, as well as a 30-year-old business, plus get a wife, three daughters, and two grandchildren all on board to move with you. No problem.

But it was made very clear to my dad that day what God was asking him to do. Along with the call to move, He also whispered some promises to my dad’s heart.

He asked Dad to trust Him, saying: “In the years you were sick, you were forced to trust me. There was nothing you could do to save yourself, your family, or your home. No way you could provide for them as you always had and rely on your own strength, because you were too sick to be able to. But did I not provide? Now I am asking you to trust me willingly. I am taking you into a time of rest and peace–as you were blindsided by sickness, so I will blindside you with my blessings. You won’t know how or where they come from. Don’t try to manhandle and determine how I will bless you; in every decision, wait for my direction before acting, so that the glory will not go to you, but to me. I will take care of every detail. I will provide. Trust me.”

He also lead him that day to a verse in Joshua 1:9, which says: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I can only imagine the kind of courage it must have taken my dad to look my mom in the eye and say, “Hey, hon. So, uh, I know this’ll sound crazy, but I think God is telling me to uproot you and our entire family to move to a land God will show us…uh, once we get to it. He’s asked me to trust Him–I don’t really know any details yet. I just know we’re supposed to go.”

(Which is not how he told her, by the way. More like how I would have done it. 😉 )

Funny thing happened though.

Mom was of course taken aback at first. She was a mountain girl, born and raised. The house we lived in at that time was the house she thought they were going to retire in.

But as Mom describes it to me, she said something in her heart just knew, and she felt an immediate and tremendous peace, like, “Yeah. This is what we are supposed to do.”

When Mom and Dad first told me, I honestly didn’t take it very seriously. Dad didn’t share at first all the details of what God had promised him, just that he was feeling lead by God to move to Texas.

And important to note–never once did Dad tell me or any of us that we had to come with them. He just presented it as, “This is what God is telling me. Mom and I are going, and we’d love if you came with.”

My older sister was on board immediately because she’d been wanting to get out of Colorado since her teens.

I was skeptical at first.

And my little sister was hesitant, not deciding until the very last minute what she was going to do.

Once I saw Mom and Dad were truly serious about the whole thing and that at least potentially four of my closest relatives were leaving, I basically followed along out of necessity.

I couldn’t afford to live on my own, and didn’t want to live anywhere without my family nearby.

But I quickly began to see the same thing as them–God for some reason was calling us to go to Texas.

We looked pretty crazy for a while, telling people we were moving to Texas without a thing to show for it.

“Well, have you listed your house yet?” They’d ask.

“No,” we’d reply.

“Why not?” They’d ask.

“Because we’re waiting for God to tell us to,” we’d reply.

“What’s in Texas?” They’d ask.

“We have no idea. Have never been there.”

“Do you know anyone there? Have any jobs lined up?”

“Nope. Can’t say that we do.”

There were definitely some discouraging days, days where we all wondered what was going to happen and how God was going to bring about what He’d promised.

But we did know and said to each other often: “If this happens, it will definitely be God, because there is no way we can make this happen on our own.”

Eventually, God gave the green light for my parents to put our house on the market.

Simultaneously, my older sister filed to be able to relocate and began a custody battle that would take ten months before we actually got a verdict.

 

It was during that custody battle that I started despairing a little bit. Going into that courtroom to hear a lawyer berate my sister was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Knowing that she could lose, and that if she did, my parents and I would still have to go and would have to leave my sister and niece behind…

Worse, what if my sister lost custody entirely?

It was at that time the Lord gave me the two dreams I started this post with.

The first was about the house.

The second was of the custody battle.

In it, I dreamt of the judge in our home, observing my mom and dad as they played with *Audra, my niece.

The judge carried a briefcase and wore a scarf as though he was on his way out. As with the first dream, two things in particular stood out to me: one was that his back was to me, and the second was that he never said a word.

I could hear and see my parents and Audra laughing and playing, but the judge just watched silently.

He nodded once, firmly and decisively, and I knew in that moment that he’d chosen to let Audra stay with us, seeing the way my parents interacted with her. He placed his hat on his head and walked out the door, his decision made.

Only later would I understand how very symbolic that dream actually was.

Though most judges in those types of situations give a verdict pretty quickly after the initial hearing, our judge was annoyingly unique and known in our area for waiting months, sometimes even years before finally giving his verdict.

Even after all the evidence had been presented, the judge continued to postpone his verdict, never giving any kind of indication of what he was thinking or in what way the gavel would fall.

In essence, it was exactly like the dream God gave me; for ten months, he silently observed us, never saying a word one way or another, leaving us to agonize and pray that God would not make us leave them behind.

I got the call while I was in the mall shopping with some friends.

I punched off, tears filling my eyes.

“They have permission to relocate!” I told my friend, collapsing into her congratulatory hug.

Relief and gratitude washed over me, filled me.

It was over. They could come.

Oh, the faithfulness of God! 

Just as God had shown me, the judge had remained silent, watching, his “back” to me, never giving me any indication of which way this whole thing would go.

But when he finally did give his verdict, it was swift and decisive, leaving no room to argue.

His reasons for his verdict?

“I see no reason to take this child away from the person who’s primarily taken care of her for the last ten years. Additionally, her relationship with her grandparents is a good one, and I see no need to take that away from her.”

Seeing her relationship with her grandparents. 

Just like my dream, where he’d watched them playing, laughing, and interacting with Audra.

If I’d had any doubts about us going to Texas, they were gone now.

Within literally weeks of that verdict, everything began to fall into place.

Our house sold. We only showed it three times before someone walked onto the property and said, “Yeah, I’ll take it,” and immediately qualified to buy.

Dad sold his water treatment company to the very person who’d turned the offer down a year before, and suddenly contracts were being signed left and right.

Next order of business? Dad suddenly found himself in need of a job!

My parents left to scout out Texas for one week. It was all the time and money they could spare before getting back to Colorado and closing on the house.

Dad needed to come back with a job.

With only two interviews and one day before they needed to come back, Dad randomly found the name of a company in a phone book, gave them a call, and got the job.

Later we would find out that the man who hired him never did interviews. For some reason, this time–he wasn’t sure why, he said–he did.

My parents sold their home and business, bought a 28-foot-trailer to put all our belongings in, and we began to pack up our lives for the last 18 years in one week. (Read about some of the story in getting there here.)

We said our goodbyes, and we hit the road, knowing we still didn’t have a home in Texas, but trusting God to provide. Hadn’t He provided everything else?

Leaving my childhood home and everything I’d ever known was hard, but hardest of all… what caused my chest to physically ache… was leaving my younger sister and nephew behind. (Read about that here.)

She’d chosen not to come with us.

Why would God call us to Texas, only to have us leave some of our family behind?

Looking back now, I can’t even believe how incredibly hard and crazy all of that was. How did we find the strength to leave? My heart ached with a fierceness I’d rarely known, but how my mom’s heart must have completely torn, having to leave behind one of her daughters and only grandson, yet following the rest of her family to this new place, knowing it was what God asked of her.

How was I not more worried, me, the biggest worry wart of all time–leaving everything we’d ever known, without a place to live?

The answer is the Lord, and the Lord alone.

As He’d said… the glory will go to me, not you.

In September of 2015, one year and seven months from the day my dad sat in his recliner and wrote the words “he will bring you into the land he promised you,” the Lord fulfilled His promise, and we arrived in Texas.

And what an adventure awaited.

(Stay tuned and check back soon for Our Move to Texas: Part II)

*Some names have been changed to protect privacy. 

Our Move to Texas (The Backstory)

Most often, it’s the hard things in life that teach you what to truly appreciate and what is most important.

Buried in my dad’s hug as he was about to be transported by ambulance to a hospital an hour away, all I could think about was how I never wanted to let go. There was nowhere else in the world I’d rather be, and I couldn’t believe I’d ever taken his hugs for granted.

Dad was starting to slip into unconsciousness, and I truly didn’t know if he’d make it through the ambulance ride or, if he did, if he’d be in a coma the next time I saw him.

If this was the last time I’d ever speak with him, I needed him to understand one thing.

“I love you, Dad,” I mumbled into his shoulder, my voice hoarse. “I’ll see you soon, okay?”

It was a long night in the ER as Dad slipped further into a coma-like state, unable to speak or stay awake for more than a minute at a time. Deep down, I knew… if Dad couldn’t make it through the night, if he didn’t somehow push his way through this mental quicksand he was sinking into, the damage would be done, and it was unlikely he’d ever be the same again.

As the silence thickened and he fell deeper into his deep sleep, I begged God to just let me have even one more conversation with him in the morning. There were so many things I wanted to tell him.

I prayed it relentlessly until at last I heard the Lord respond, “You will.”

You will…

I fell asleep. Had a dream about Dad being able to come home. I woke with a smile on my face, but my heart plummeted as I stared at his still form in the hospital bed across from me.

It was only a dream. A cruel one at that.

But as morning light literally streamed in from the windows behind me, Dad woke up. And he spoke.

I can’t even remember what he said, I just know it’s the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.

God had chosen to give Dad back to us, healthy and whole.

A week later, the dream God had given me came true exactly the way He’d shown me, and Dad was able to come home.

I’ll never forget being in church that Sunday, taking in the sight with tears filling my eyes: Dad worshipping the Healer who’d saved him, raising arms that just a week before could barely move, singing loudly with a voice that had gone mute.

I vowed never to forget. Never to take any of it for granted again. Not his hugs. Not the sound of his voice or our conversations. Nor even the privilege of being able to go to church together on Sunday as a family.

It was the start of a long battle though as Dad went in and out of the hospital for two years. That first time for critically low sodium, emergency surgery to have his gall bladder removed, an infection from having his gall bladder removed, leftover stones in a duct in his liver, brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, and finally a knee surgery.

We’d already been struggling financially, and all of those hospital visits quickly added up to a quarter of a million dollars in bills.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, that first ER visit Dad opened his eyes and thought: I’ve just lost my house.

It was one of the hardest times my family ever had to go through, and while Dad struggled with his health and not being able to work, I struggled with my own battle of depression and beginning to have suicidal thoughts.

I couldn’t understand where the Lord had gone and what He was doing. It seemed as though every time I prayed, or hoped, or believed, not only did the opposite happen, but it just kept getting worse.

Every time I thought Dad was healed and God had heard my prayers, there Dad would be, back in the hospital again.

Some family members went through some rough times, a friend died, I failed the final year in the writing school I was attending from the stress of everything, and on and on it went.

Though I don’t have many pictures from that time, this one towards the end of those two years kind of sums it all up. All of us in the family were purely in survival mode. There was no winning happening, in any area. Finding the strength to stagger up, only to be somehow knocked out cold again. Mom had just had shoulder surgery at the same time Dad had knee surgery, and I remember feeling like the scene was a good representation of what our life had become, the hospital our second home, no time to laugh or enjoy life or hope for anything else… just survive it:

mom-and-dad-surgeries

But oh, friends… God’s goodness is too great for words!

Because it was in that place that Jesus found us. That Jesus found me.

While I accused God of abandoning us… He actively searched for us.

While I demanded of God “where were you when?” He consistently replied, “I AM here” by His presence, His peace, and His love.

When I had nothing left, was too broken to take one more step, that’s when Jesus came to carry me, and He healed me from depression and set me free in ways I never knew were possible.

Not only that, He healed Dad, too, and in ways that still take my breath away in awe of my amazing God.

That bad gall bladder my dad had? A gift from God.

Your pituitary is what helps regulate sodium levels. When he had the gall bladder attack, it stressed out his pituitary more than usual and caused him to start dumping sodium, which in turn caused him to end up in the hospital that first time.

But had he not, doctors would have never done an MRI and found the pituitary tumor until either a) it had kept growing until he’d gone blind, or b) it had burst and he died.

That quarter of a million dollars in medical bills?

Turns out all those bad years of business Dad had in the years before he got sick were exactly what qualified us for financial aid, turning a $250,000 bill into a $10,000 one instead.

Had Dad not qualified without those years of financial struggle before, we’d simply have lost it all.

So many times I questioned God’s character and His love… and still He sought me with His mercy, listening as I accused Him of not providing… all while He knew the very things I was accusing Him of were the very things He was using to provide.

Normal sodium levels for most people are between 130-140.

Dad was at 113.

There is no other explanation for me about why my Dad is still here without even a small amount of brain damage, other than the supreme mercy and goodness of God.

It was a lesson in trust and a turning point in my life for a lot of things.

And we’d need it for what God was about to call us to do next.

(Stay tuned and check back soon for Our Move to Texas: Part I).

*Footnote: Below is a song we used to sing almost every Sunday in church during the years my dad was sick. At one point, I despaired of the lyrics in this song. If God was my healer, then why couldn’t He heal me from depression? Why wouldn’t He heal my dad? It got to the point I even refused to sing it one Sunday in church, because I couldn’t believe it anymore.

From what I’ve shared, you know that God gave me grace I didn’t deserve and did heal. Both me and my dad.

I now sing this song with humbled gratitude, tears always coming to the surface because of memories of arms crossed against my chest, refusing to sing, and of another memory… a man who couldn’t speak, the following Sunday singing this song with abandon, arms raised up high to praise his God.

If you need a touch from The Healer today, may you know this sweet, sweet truth: there is healing for you. There is hope.

He meets us right where we are for the healing we need, and nothing is impossible for Him.

He is healer. There is hope.

Let me know how I can pray for you today, or share your own story of a way you’ve experienced God’s healing by commenting on this post, and let’s keep spreading the word:

There’s healing in the name of Jesus. There is hope.

An Ode to The Rental Home I Will Not Miss

(Note to the reader: Again, one of those things I wrote and never published. This was just a way for me to turn an annoying situation into a humorous one and make light of a difficult time, leaving a city and home that was comfortable and familiar for a city and home that was very uncomfortable and unfamiliar. More happened during this time than I could even write about, but here’s a tiny snapshot. I’ll be writing about the new home and one year in Texas next!)

Dear rental home,

This is an ode to you and what I will not miss. I hope you enjoy.

I will not miss your 1100 sq. feet or the layers of dirt along your floors. Although, on the bright side, the fossil count is now up to 2,882, and we’re looking forward to starting the museum soon.

Nor will I miss the questionable stain atop the ceiling in my room, the one that the family takes a vote on every night as to whether it’s just splashed coke, or the leftover evidence of a crime.

(2-coke, 4-crime.)

I will not miss the trek outside to do my laundry with a basket of clothes in one hand and a machete in the other in case another creature decides it would like to see how high Lizzie can jump.

I will not miss your tiny shower so narrow that the shower curtain sticks to my legs, nor the hours I’ve spent laying awake at night on an airbed, wondering how I could have gotten so low. (Literally.)

I will not miss that moment right as I close my eyes to go to sleep, and the train charges by so loudly it rattles the windows and I lie awake with bloodshot eyes convinced the stain is definitely evidence of a crime for someone having to live in this house.

And I definitely will not miss the cockroaches who scuttle out from under the kitchen sink. I’ve gotten so used to them owning the place, it would not surprise me at all to find one in a tux one day, kicked back in the kitchen and smoking a little cigar.

Or an overachieving fire alarm that works so well, a bag of barbeque chips can set it off.

Propping closed the dishwasher with a chair.

Or walking through the yard, feeling my shoes get wet, wondering when it rained, and even more, why the scent in my nose smells so much like a PortaPotty.

No, dear rental home, I can’t say I’ll miss you much at all.

Although…

I am thankful to you.

For putting a roof over my head.

For keeping me dry from the storms, for not floating away during the floods.

For giving me a place to sleep, and a place to eat.

A place to make memories with my family, comical though they may be.

Like having to pull up a stool and a computer chair for Thanksgiving dinner, or the time Dad caught a lizard for “Mackenzie” and the talk to tell Dad that, “it’s time to let Geico go.”

Or the days and the moments we spend dreaming about the house to come and missing the home we left, united in our memories and in our hopes for the future.

Rental home, you have caused us to dream. You’ve kept us safe. Given us things to laugh about and overcome, on a daily basis. You’ve challenged our bonds as a family, pushed our patience with one another to the limit.

…Like, seriously, the limit.

And somehow…

We’re still here.

In some ways, I guess you’re not lookin’ so bad after all.

…You’ll look even better in the rearview mirror as we drive away never to return again, but you know.

Thanks for making us better, more patient people.

For challenging us and pushing us to dream.

You are the tiniest, biggest pain-in-the-butt house I’ve ever had to deal with.

All-in-all, rental home, I guess what I’m trying to say is this:

You make a Motel 6 look good.

Sincerely,

Me

 

 

 

A Tale of Four Friends

You know those moments you feel are just meant to be?

Attending The Christian Writers Guild Residency in 2012 was one of those moments for me.

At that residency, I met a girl named Katie and a girl named Given. Not only did we have writing in common, but we were also close in age. Most writers get a later start, so the fact that we were all in the same class and in our early 20’s was a major rarity, especially in this program. I remember thinking at the time, “This is too rare to be a coincidence. God must have something up His sleeve with this one, for sure!”

And oh, man, did He ever!

That residency came at a time when I needed it most, in ways I could have never foreseen.

A few weeks before attending, my dad would end up in the hospital with critically low sodium, unable to speak or stay awake for more than a minute at a time. He’d struggle through an intense night, one we weren’t sure he’d be able to make it through.

It would be another two years before emergency hospital visits were a thing of the past, but Katie and Given would be there, praying for me through it all.

The rest of the class fondly called Katie, Given, and I the “babies” of the group, and it was definitely true.

Just look at these pics!

Us then:

Craftsman Residency 1

Craftsman Residency 2

With instructor/mentor through The Guild, author DiAnn Mills.

 

After the residency, although we lived in three different states, we stayed in touch through Facebook and Skype, and were blessed enough to meet up again a few months later at a writer’s conference:

Writing Conference 1

With DiAnn again, and fellow Craftsman classmate Jeannine!

Writing Conference 2

With Jerry and another awesome classmate, Carmen.

Given and Me

 

At that conference, I got the call that a friend of mine had died in a car crash, just miles away from the hotel where we were staying.

In times of tragedy certain images and memories are emblazoned on your heart, and for me one of those memories is of Given and Katie missing the final session, just to be with me out in the lobby as I cried.

At that same conference Katie met a girl named Meagan, and later introduced us all through Skype. Meagan was the missing piece to the puzzle, and with her The Craftsman Girls were complete! 🙂

Katie and Meagan

Now we lived in four different states, but faithfully stayed in touch with weekly writing challenges through Facebook and Prayer Skypes on Sunday afternoons.

Together, we encouraged and cheered one another on through publishing woes and triumphs, celebrations, heartaches, unfair court battles, moves, and more.

Given sent around a book for each of us to read and mark up with our thoughts before mailing it onto the next Craftsman Girl, and we became “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Book.”

Although we were already close, we were about to become closer, because two of the members of our group were about to become actual sisters!

See if you can follow: Katie met Meagan’s brother John on a visit to Given’s house, and after that it was all over for Katie and John. 😉

Katie and John

In the middle of that the Lord called me and my family to Texas, and for the first time ever, two of The Craftsman Girls lived in the same state!

I was overjoyed when I received Katie and John’s wedding invitation, and even more so when I realized that for the first time ever… all of us would be together in the same place!

For the second time, I had that feeling–it was just one of those events, those blessings of God and a moment that was always meant to be.

To think the Lord knew all that when we were just barely high school graduates, all shiny and new and excited for our futures in writing, never imagining that from The Guild would come not only blessings in our writing, but four amazing friendships and even a marriage!

The Lord is so good. 🙂

Here are some of The Captured Moments:

Given and Me 2

Meeting up with Given and her mom before the ceremony! 🙂

 

Hotel

Gorgeous hotel where they were staying.

 

Ceremony

Katie and John are getting married!! 😀 Such a beautiful bride! Cue the tears here. 😉

 

Meagan Down the Aisle

Meagan as bridesmaid. 🙂

 

Mr. and Mrs.!

Officially Mr. and Mrs! 🙂

 

The Cake

The beautiful cake.

 

The Grins

Cutting the beautiful cake. 🙂

 

The Toast

The toast. 🙂

 

Groom's Cake

The Groom’s Cake.

 

The Spread

Their wedding had an afternoon tea theme, and it was so very pretty! 🙂

 

Table top

 

 

 

 

Meagan and John

 

Craftsman Crowd!

What a tremendous blessing and amazing joy it was that Jeannine and DiAnn were able to attend as well! 😀 One of those glimpses in life of everything coming full-circle.

 

The Four Amigas

The picture we’d all been waiting for… Heart. Simply cannot. Contain. The joy. 🙂 Celebrating a wedding, and all of us together in one place for the first time in four years!

 

four-amigas

Love these girls. ❤

 

 

Meagan and Bouquet

After the wedding, I was blessed enough to be able to stay with Meagan and Given for a little while longer before we had to part ways. This is gorgeous Meagan post-wedding with her gorgeous bouquet! 🙂

 

Dinner at Olive Garden

Dinner at Olive Garden with Given’s mama Eileen! (An unofficial though very esteemed member of The Craftsman Girls! 😉 )

 

Short But Full of Joy!

Though there was some sadness in having to say goodbye once more, this pic kind of sums up how everything went: too short, but so very full of joy! 😉

 

 

In four years, so much has changed, and yet, so much has remained the same. We’ve grown as people and as writers; been sharpened by one another and life’s trials; been with each other through four different states, then three, and back to four, and through it all it’s as though we just saw each other yesterday.

There are few friends I trust more. They are the first to read something I write, the first I call when I’m going through something tough. They inspire, challenge, and bless me on a weekly basis, and they will forever be some of God’s greatest gifts in my life.

With that, I am left with only one thing to say:

Thank you, Lord, for the gift that is friendship, and The Hand that orchestrated it all.

The Choice

“The choice.”

Yeah, you know it. The one we all have to make, all throughout our lives, more than once…

The choice between right and wrong.

It’s not always some big, momentous choice, although there are those too. Most often, it’s the smaller, daily choices we have to make that are the real challenge.

If you’ve followed from the very beginning of this blog, you’ll know I’ve used this quote more than once: “There is beauty in every moment.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

No matter where you are in the world or what you’re doing, I’ve maintained, there is always beauty to be found. Something to thank God for and to find joy in.

And that is absolutely true.

Thing is, though, I started forgetting about that little philosophy when things here in this new place didn’t quite line up with all my hopes and expectations.

There were the normal feelings of homesickness and adjusting to a new way of life, but then, well… it started morphing. And I kinda started complaining. And stomping my feet, wondering why God told us to move when we were perfectly happy before.

The moment I realized I was letting things get out of control was at a women’s conference at our new church.

The speaker shared a powerful testimony, the kind that can’t help but impact you.

Only I wasn’t listening all that well. Focused on missing our church in Colorado, and stewing on some past experiences where I’d felt hurt and misunderstood.

So when I felt the familiar tap of the Holy Spirit on my shoulder, saying, “Go and pray for that woman over there, standing alone and crying,” you’d think I’d obey. After all, hadn’t I been that woman before? Didn’t I know even right this second what it felt like to feel alone in a room full of people?

But I’m ashamed to say I ignored His prompting, and for as selfish a reason as it gets: because I was feeling too insecure and angry about my own stage in life to worry about anyone else’s.

God, I can’t tonight, I argued back. I’m tired and I’m still getting used to this place, this church. I don’t even know anyone here.

Conviction followed me the second I stepped outside of that church, and I realized-that bad attitude I’d been allowing myself to have? Yeah, it had just gotten in the way of God’s blessing. Had kept me from reaching out to someone in need of His comfort, and caused me to directly disobey Him.

My “little” sin wasn’t just affecting me anymore… it was affecting others now, too.

And not just that night… God brought to mind a few other opportunities I’d missed as well.

The Lord has an interesting sense of humor, because He also used some of my very own words to challenge me.

About a year ago you’ll remember I was co-hosting a retreat with a friend called “Bloom: Where you are, as you are.”

On the second day, I’d taught on “the where you are” part, reminding the women who’d attended that we could always choose to thrive and honor the Lord where we were, even when we didn’t like where we were.

What about that, daughter? I felt the Lord asking. Will you choose to honor me where you are, even when you don’t like where you are?

Are you going to be satisfied with just teaching the truth, or will you do the harder thing and follow it yourself?

Oh, man. I had really been missing it.

Oh, Lord, I’m sorry, I prayed. I’ve been angry lately that you asked us to move and had us leave so many things behind, and I’ve missed a lot of good right in front of me because of it. I’ve stopped trusting you and started doubting your promises–as if you’ve ever gone back on a promise! But I know you told us to come here, and you are Lord of my life. So whether things ever turn out the way I want them to or not, I’ll do my best to honor and obey you and I’ll go back to trusting in your promises. If there’s any way I can make it right, Lord, please show me.

Thank the Lord for His grace when we mess up, because He did! For all the opportunities I’d missed, God showed me a way I could either apologize, adjust my attitude, or reach out in another way.

That was “the choice” only I could make. And it’s a choice I have to continue to make on a daily basis, in many different areas.

Will I choose to honor Him where I am…

Even if I don’t like where I am?

The temptation to doubt and sometimes complain hasn’t gone away. There are still days where the promised rainbow looks pretty faint in the middle of a storm.

But it has gotten so much better, and you know what?

He is always good, always faithful to His promises, and worthy of our obedience and praise…

We just get the choice of whether we’ll praise Him or not.

 

25th Birthday

In March I celebrated my first birthday in Texas! It was also a milestone birthday for me, turning a quarter-of-a-century-old (which my family tells me is a very grim way of looking at things. Must be the writer in me! 😉 ).

It was hard at first being away from so many friends and family, but I decided I had a choice: stay home and feel sorry for myself, or get out already and celebrate!

I am so glad I chose the second one, because it definitely ended up being a special day to remember.

Here’s some of The Captured Moments:

Mom and Sis

Starting out the day with my mom and sis who were so sweet to take me out for a traditional free drink at Starbucks!

 

Bluebonnet Field 3

Then it was time to do some dancin’! 🙂 (See slogan of blog. 😉 )Off we went to find and pick some of our first ever bluebonnets.

 

Bluebonnet Field 2

Lap of Flowers

Lap full of flowers and a full heart. ❤

 

Bluebonnet

And then it was time for a nice night out!

Restaurant

 

Outside of Restaurant

It was so much fun to get all dressed up and go somewhere swanky–something we wouldn’t really have had the opportunity to do in Colorado! This particular restaurant used to be a post office, so I loved the atmosphere and history of the place, too.

 

Lights on Beams

On the outdoor patio with live Cajun music and pretty lights! 🙂

 

Mom at Restaurant

Sweet and beautiful Mama of mine! ❤

 

Cheesecake

Praline Cheesecake for dessert. Sooo good.

 

Mom and Dad

So blessed to have these two in my life and to have celebrated with them! ❤

 

All-in-all, a great way to spend turning a quarter-of-a-century-old! 😉

Moments From Lately

Man, has it been three months already since I last updated?!

So much has happened!

A lot of good. A lot of tough. And definitely a lot of new.

Until now, I’ve never understood just how hard it is to be “the new girl.” Growing up in basically the same area for more than two decades, I’ve never had to be the new girl.

God has taught me a lot through this season, and I’m very thankful to be going through it because I know He is using it for His purpose in my life.

But it has definitely been a daily struggle.

I love the warmer climate here, as well as the sheer amount of opportunities the moment you step outside your door! Growing up, my family and I never really went on any vacations because we couldn’t afford them. Moving to a bigger city with easier access to things now, it feels like one huge vacation! We are totally making up for lost time, and that part of it is an absolute blast.

Homesickness is definitely still a thing though.

We’re also living in an 1,100 sq. ft. rental home with six people, two cats, and two dogs. Not exactly ideal, although I love the location.

The hardest part has been leaving some very close family and friends. Homes, hangout spots, climates, you can get used to those eventually. But people are irreplaceable, and making new friends takes time. My nephew Boe is my nephew Boe, my friend Rebekah is my friend Rebekah, and ya can’t get ’em anywhere else! 😉

Which is why I am so glad I kept this blog in the months before moving! Those memories are even more precious to me now, and I can go back to them when homesickness hits.

But now to get caught up on all the last couple of months!

Apron

Modeling an apron my mom made me for Christmas! One of the benefits in moving is that it’s a great opportunity to hit a sort of “reset” button. Things are changing so much already, it makes you think about other things that have “just always been” and what you can change. For me, one of the things I wanted to change was to learn how to cook. I bake all the time and have been meaning to learn how to cook, I just haven’t until now. Moving was a great motivation in starting over and trying new things, and I’ve loved it so far! 🙂

 

Taco

Dinner that night! Shredded Chicken Tacos with tomato, avocado, lime juice, and Queso Fresco cheese.

 

Sign

Another fun thing was having the opportunity to go to the book signing of a friend. We were in the same class together in The Christian Writers Guild, and I hadn’t seen her in probably five years. It was such a blessing to be able to go, reconnect, and celebrate her success! 🙂

 

 

Linda and I

Linda and I, along with a copy of her book: The Calling of Ella McFarland! 🙂

 

Sweet Tea 2

There are certain stereotypes I was excited to get on board with in moving to Texas. One of those was drinking sweet iced tea! 😉 On a lunch date with my mom one day, I felt particularly “Texan” with some sweet tea in a mason jar. So much fun! Another one has been eating lots of fabulous barbeque. I’m not a meat fan, so I wasn’t sure I could get on board with that trend. Um, not a problem. If you don’t like BBQ, you haven’t been to Texas.

 

Mom

One benefit in moving I didn’t foresee was growing closer to my mom. 🙂 We’ve always been close, but something about this season has just drawn us even closer together, and I am so thankful for that! ❤ It might have been that we were just too busy in our own separate worlds in Colorado, I’m not really sure. But I am enjoying it now and treasuring the times we spend together!

 

Truffle Fries

Truffle fries with fresh parmesan and a garlic dill aoli dipping sauce. Oh, MY GOSH, so good!! It’s funny now thinking back to how enamored I was with the Truffle Fries at The Hotel Colorado visit, because they couldn’t even begin to touch these. Southern people know how to eat, let me tell you. Whereas before I might have eaten a “gourmet” meal once a year, here it’s more like once a week. Just a tiny bit of a huge cultural change!

 

Concert

This photo could be an entire blog post in itself, but I’ll try to summarize as best I can. 😉 This was a Hillsong concert with 8,000 people in attendance. I have never been to a concert that large, let alone with that many people all praising God at once. It was a really powerful experience I will never forget, but it was also a night of great personal significance for my family. This is a picture of one of the lead members of Hillsong singing her popular hit, “Oceans.” Since God was the one who told us to go to Texas, my dad would sing Oceans anytime he grew discouraged or was overwhelmed trying to follow God’s instructions. When we heard Hillsong would be having a concert only 40 minutes away soon after we moved here, it was a no-brainer to go. It was an amazing night celebrating God’s faithfulness to His promises in getting us here. The song Dad used to sing with tears streaming down his face in Colorado in the privacy of his home, he now got to sing with 8,000 others, in the very place the Lord had promised to bring him. 🙂

 

Reading Bible

One of my favorite things to do here has been being able to go down to the river and spend some time with the Lord or in just being still. Sometimes I’ll journal, sometimes pray or read God’s Word. Sometimes just take pictures and appreciate the beauty around me. And it is beautiful! ❤

 

Yellow Pond Lily

One day I felt the Lord’s pull to go down to the river. When I did, I discovered these beautiful pond lilies blooming! 🙂 It was just a few weeks after Valentine’s Day, and a few before my birthday. If you’ll remember, the Lord did the exact same thing last year with some daffodils (also a yellow flower 😉 ). It’s no coincidence, but a sign of God’s tender mercies, His love and care for each of us, new every morning! I needed the reminder being so far from home and feeling just as far from His love, wondering if it existed here, too, when everything else in my world was so different. He used these to remind me that His love is constant and everywhere, with me wherever I go. ❤

 

Roots

Rooted in love. For a wellspring of life, you have to reach out to The Source. ❤

 

Jesus Loves You

Through Wood and blood on the cross, Jesus saved us in our Fallen and dead state, and gave us New Life. He rolled away The Stone, washed us as pure as white Stone, and now it’s permanently set in stone that JESUS Loves YOU.

 

Feather

Refreshed and set ablaze!

 

Thanks for continuing to go on this journey with me, friends! Until next post.

A Texas Christmas

Last post I wrote, I shared about some of the difficulties in moving and of how I was starting to miss home.

God is so good, because He’ll give us strength to carry on right when we need it, and for me He did this through bringing my sister Rachel and nephew Boe here for Christmas! 🙂

It was heartbreaking thinking about not being able to be there for Boe’s second birthday, or for the first time ever not having the whole family together for Christmas.

At first, we didn’t think we’d have the money to be able to fly my sister and nephew out here from Colorado. I was ready to settle for that and try to be thankful anyways, but when I told a friend much smarter than me about the circumstances, her response was immediate: “I’ll be praying for God to provide a way so that you all can be together then!”

She was so right on, and her faith was a humbling reminder that made me go, “Oh, yeah. I should have gone to God with that. Duh.”

She prayed (I started praying), and guess what? The money we needed to get them here was miraculously provided just a few weeks before Christmas! 😀

It was so refreshing for me to have them here, and for the first time it felt “right” or “complete” somehow being in this new place with Rachel and Boe here.

Maybe it’s because I’m so family oriented, I’m not really sure.

But it was such a gift, such a fun and sweet time, and there’s not a doubt in my mind God heard the cries of my heart and answered it with a little boy’s cuddles and laughter that made a quiet house not feel so empty. 🙂

And it was only a few days after his birthday, so I didn’t have to completely miss it after all!

I actually got sick on Christmas day, but having Rachel and Boe here made up for everything else completely.

I was so worried that Boe would have forgotten about me or been angry with me for leaving and that we wouldn’t have the close relationship we’d had before I left, but see if these pictures tell you anything about how good God is and the fun time we had…

 

2nd Birthday

Celebrating Boe’s Second Birthday! 🙂

Baking Cookies

Baking cookies! 🙂 One of my favorite holiday traditions, and the first year we got to share it with Boe!

Cookies

Shopping Day With the Girls

Kenzie was off with a friend, but it was so fun to do some last-minute Christmas shopping with (almost) all of the girls! 🙂

Playing With Rocks 2

Taking Boe down to the river one day to play with his bucket! 🙂 His favorite thing by far though was the train that went by.

Feeding Ducks

Feeding the ducks on another trip down to the river! I think Boe might have liked chucking handfuls of corn more than actually “feeding” the ducks though…

Sea World

Sea World! 🙂 We didn’t have many opportunities growing up to go on many vacations, so to be able to go to something like this altogether as a family now was like the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me, and I couldn’t have been anymore excited!

Sea World 2

Very impressive, very fun! 🙂 I will never know how they train them so well. Favorite thing I learned: all whales have a different dialect, or way of saying things. Who knew?!

Boe With Gampie 2

Does this make your heart melt like it does mine?! 🙂 So sweet and precious, Boe with his Gampie. The poor little guy was getting so worn out by this time. But he was such a trooper!

Crazy Eyes

Boe climbed up onto my lap one morning as I was getting ready and wanted to take “shelfies.” 😉 It completely melted me! ❤

Such a Sweetie!

Would you just look at that grin?! 😉

Another thing that kept me going when the homesickness was hard was some incredibly thoughtful gifts and cards that came in the mail from some very dear friends:

Gifts From Friends

Starbucks Card and a Christmas card from my friend Meagan, and a card all the way from Africa from my friend Erin! 🙂

Katie's Gift

A card, T-shirt, and Color-in Postcards from my thoughtful writer friend Katie! 🙂

 

Butterfly

Then there was this beautiful drawing from my friend Given, with a quote from a book that meant a lot to both to us. I hope it can be an encouragement to you today as well.

All-in-all, it was a wonderful first Christmas in Texas! 🙂 I was sad to have it end and to say goodbye once more, but thankful all the same.

 

Christmas Party

 At Dad’s Company Christmas Party this year. Merry late Christmas!! 🙂