Monday, September 30, 2013

The Ugliest Word


My heart is beating out of my chest as I type this post. I don’t want to. Gosh, this year has been so hard, so full of unexpected twists and turns and challenges that have left me on my knees (or in a heap) more than ever before. My blog has been unusually silent over the last few weeks and it’s not without reason. (I promise I will wrap up the second week of Zach’s sabbatical this week!) I typically loose my gusto for writing when I am stressed and lately I just haven’t had it in me because of all that has been going on in our life. 

But Isaiah 40 is true and God gives strength to the weak. Strength to those whose coping skills are less than par these days. Strength to those that desperately want a break from the waves of life that just seem to continually pound overhead. Strength to those that are burdened and anxious and facing what feels like constant, unwanted life change. 

Some back story...
As many of you know I have been leading a DGroup for almost a year now. It has been an incredible experience for me and the 12 ladies that fill my home every Monday night. Rewind to December 2012. As January approached last winter, our group was challenged to pray over a word and/or passage of scripture God wanted you to focus on for 2013 and set some spiritual goals for the year. When I began praying about this, only one word entered my mind. Literally. I wanted to dialogue with God over coffee about this, I wanted to consider the options, I wanted to be strategic and thorough and make a pro/con list, but as I asked this question I could literally only think of one word. It was actually pretty frustrating that mentally I couldn’t even consider another alternative. Haha But... after a few times going to God about this and getting the same answer, I wrote my word for the year in the front of my journal...

Surrender. 

I had no idea at the time that this 9 letter word would become the ugliest and most painful word I know. In the beginning of the year I remember telling my friend TLC I felt at war with this word, with what God wanted me to do. It’s no secret to my parents or Zach that I have always been a strong-willed person. It was evident very early on in my life. Haha! My mom tells stories of me, age 3, arguing with her that the song really was, “Mary had a little famb” and no mommy, it is not really “lamb” because my teacher at school CLEARLY said FAMB. (Obviously what I lacked in hearing/comprehension I made up for in will....:)) 

Even though it might go unnoticed, I’ve done tons over the years to solidify my position on the Battle of Wills podium. This... will of mine is a blessing and a curse because although it has led to a lot of determined success in my life, what I just recently realized is that I subject God to my willfullness just as much as everyone else. Haha! This year, God has brought more pain and heartache than I have ever experienced in my previous 29 years combined. He has brought more challenging circumstances and in the midst of it all he had the audacity to ask me to surrender. Surrender my anxiety, surrender my pride, surrender my plans, surrender my pain, surrender my comfort, surrender... EVERYTHING. The only thing he left me with was the question, “Do you want ME more than you want My blessings?” 

Ouchy. 

He’s sufficiently backed me and my now failing will into a corner with the ugliest word I know and figuratively left me there to battle it out.  And he’s been waiting to see what I would do. At first, I did what any willful person would do. I threw a tantrum. A really ugly tantrum to go with the ugly source of said tantrum. Faith fail. Haha Full disclosure! But soon I realized... well, all of this I’m typing now, how it was all connected, and the real center of my problem - idolatry. 

Double ouchy. 

God has challenged Zach and I both to put our money where our mouth is and live the way we challenge others to do so. If I really believe what I stand up and tell kids every weekend, then I must surrender it all and ride out this wave called the real christian life. And even though it’s the ugliest word I know now, I know that when I fully surrender my will to His call on our life this word will create a more beautiful, Christ-filled me and that will be worth it! As my friend Mel recently reminded me... the time has come to put on my big girl panties... 

So it is with mixed emotions and much hope for the future that I announce we are moving back to Atlanta. Zach has an incredible opportunity at 12Stone Church and I am so happy for him. Really. I know that the scales will tip and my heartache over leaving our life in Charlotte will lighten as our excitement for what God will do next in our new place grows...

but for now... I just wanna say... thank you Charlotte. From every corner of my aching, broken heart. Thank you for being our treasured home for 3 years. For being the first place I’ve actually felt rooted since I moved out of my parent’s home at 18. For being a place with community that has fed our souls and brought so much love and life to our life. For being the place my personal ministry journey began and for being the place our life as a family of 3 was solidified. Thank you for being a place I watched God move, almost visibly, in our lives and for being a place that will always be so so so special to me. Oh Queen City, you will never know the depths of my love for you and how dearly you will be missed!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sabbatical Part 1

Did you forget I even had a blog? Ha! Sorry it's been awhile, but I will do my best to catch up!

At the end of August, Zach was on a 2-week sabbatical- a time to relax, refresh, and restart. For someone who has been in ministry over 10 years and never really had a break, this was MUCH needed. I prayed that God would really used this time in a variety of ways, but mostly for Zach to be able to de-stress and clear his mind.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go along with Zach and work remotely during part 1 of his sabbatical. Our first stop? A family friend's farm outside of Madison, GA.
Zach was super pumped to be able to "go country" and fish, ride 4-wheelers, and get back to his southern 'Bama roots.


 Mountain man
The Kennedy family
 Zach's friend Alex also drove up to fish with the boys. I have never seen someone love to fish more than this guy! And look at one of the fish he caught!

 Boys in a boat in a reflection pond
Aaaan it wasn't just fun for the boys. Jenny and I threw on some of the guy's camo and headed out to explore the property on the ranger. SO out of my element. Ha! First time I've been on a ranger, or worn camo, or killed over 10 spiders in 20 minutes. Haha
Hunting cabin was full of character, or should I say characters.
On Tuesday we drove to Alabama. This is my favorite farm between Decatur and Athens.
Zach took me down many memory lanes while we were here. One of which was stopping on Interstate 65. As a 16 yr old, Zach surrendered his life to Christ under these power lines. We reminisce about this critical moment in his life every time we pass them.
Rusty tower
Rock quarry  (high school hang out)
Crossing the bridge into Decatur at sunset
I love staying at my MIL's house which is practically on the bank of the Tennessee River. She has done a great job renovating the place!
Office
11 pillows on the bed? This makes me feel better about the 12 on my sectional. Haha!
I am jealous of my MIL's green thumb and relaxing patio
Allie and my MIL getting ready for the day on the balcony
Zach and Allie looking through old pics
 Best. Photo. Ever. (Zach and my MIL) I will be submitting it to Awkward Family Photos any day now...
Another first for me during this trip was golfing with Zach, or rather, driving the golf cart for Zach so he could golf. :) He played a round with my MIL and Ron one afternoon while I kept myself busy by doodling on the score card.

Visiting Alabama wouldn't be complete without a trip to Big Bob Gibson's for a BBQ baked potato. Since this is gluten free, it's healthy right? Haha
And one of the most exciting things about our trip was visiting my MIL's new restaurant in downtown Decatur - Back Alley Bistro!! She has been working SO hard on this place with her bf Ron and his son Ronnie. Honestly, I was completely blown away when I walked in the place! It was so lovely!


Love the pew banquette
and all the Edison bulbs on the ceiling. AH! My favorite bulb :)

Crostini app
Espresso brownie a la mode dessert
We had such a wonderful time enjoying MANY meals here, but definitely the most fun part about it was watching Allie "help" at the restaurant.

Allie and my MIL chatting at a table close to closing time

Allie's adventures at the restaurant began with the kitchen - and learning how to make her very own apple blossom a la mode.
My MIL demonstrating how to decorate with caramel
And I think she's pretty pleased with her first tasty creation :)
Allie's restaurant 101 course moved beyond the kitchen to polishing silverware, folding napkins like a pro,
 and diligently cleaning menus.
First Shirley Temple :)
 She also learned how to operate the computer system and even delivered us our bill like a real waitress!
Time to pay Daddy! Haha Allie was like a kid in a candy store here getting to play "grown up." :)
Zach and I were both a bit stunned that the more Allie wanted to help, the more they let her. On Saturday night she ended up hostessing and not only greeted REAL customers at the door, but got to seat them and distribute their menus!!! 

Hilarious.
Ironically, one of her favorite things was bussing tables! She LOVED doing it and actually left our dinner table (between the salads and entrees) to go bus a couple tables she saw left unoccupied. Lol! Zach and I were a bit nervous about all this, but we were blown away by Allie's professionalism, charm, and speed! At the end of the night, the other waitresses actually tipped her out because of how much she helped and she was floored! Go Allie!

Roses in the window after a good week in the restaurant business!
In addition to staying in the north Alabama area, we drove down to Birmingham to meet Zach's brother Ian for dinner. We are so rarely in Alabama that we have to be sure to make our rounds! :) After dinner we did some window shopping and saw the most awesome balloon EVER in Books-a-Million. Seriously, isn't this the best? It actually looks like it's following you when you walk. Haha
 Allie and Uncle Ian rockin' some stylish shades

And before leaving town, we had a nice drive down memory lane on Samford University's campus. I almost when to school here, but my best friend Susan did so I got to visit a few times back in 2001- 2004. I had not been back since and it was so fun to remember this charming college.

One of our favorite places near Zach's hometown is Mooresville, AL. If you've seen the movie "Tom and Huck" with Jonathan Taylor Thomas, you've already seen bits and pieces of this adorable, old town.


Old Brick Church
 Mini photo shoot of Allie in the church enclave.
Isn't she breathtakingly beautiful?




This ivy-covered house is our favorite one in this quaint town. One day I hope we own it!
Beautiful decay
And this is the CUTEST ice cream shop I've ever seen in my life. I was so bummed it was closed when we were there, but I am determined to return when it is open.
Or "make an appointment." Seriously? Ice cream by appointment? That's amazing.
Family picnic in the churchyard

 Naturally we are eating Back Alley Bistro panini's! Yum!

 Relaxin'
We also visited the neighboring 1818 Farms because I heard they grew lavender and recently I have become obsessed with lavender farms!
Welcoming committee
 Want this.

Watching the animals



Manicured rows of lavender and other crops. If I ever have a farm, I want it to look as tidy as this! Haha
 Country girl rockin' her daddy's cap
Always an adventure with these two. Yes, we are walking between the interstate in search of an alligator. SMH...
Searching for signs and tracking the wild beast.
Pretty marshland. Luckily, we did not lay eyes on said alligator.
Allie and the bearded man. She is the #1 fan of Zach's beard. How is that possible??!! Gross. Haha
My girl
 Nana's girl.
On Sunday afternoon Zach decided to take Allie fishing. We went to the bait shop (first time for me!) and bought some basic poles and wiggly worms. Eww.

Teamwork to ready the poles

Allie ain't afraid of no worms.
Tennessee River fishin'

Daddy daughter time

  We didn't catch any fish in open water, so we headed back to the boat dock to try our luck there.

Apparently that is where the brim were hiding! Daddy actually caught 4!
 And Allie got them off the hook :) Allie ain't afraid of no fish :)



But really... this is my type of fishing. Haha! Letting the pole do all the work :)
 On Sunday evening we took Allie back to her mom's house out in the country. Here's the sun setting over the pond on their property.
We also got to meet all the farm animals we have been hearing about for the past few months!
Introducing her goats to Daddy. Allie has always loved animals and she is mildly obsessed with caring for these goats!

They did seem very friendly :)

We also got to meet the last remaining, lone survivor chicken named Ellen. All the rest have been killed by various wild animals, but Ellen... she must be a fightsy, clever chicken.

All in all it was a great week, but maybe the very best part was telling Allie on Sunday, "See you on Friday!" Gosh that felt good! And it was even better to have our sweet girl back at home in Charlotte 5 days later. Wahoo! Stay tuned for more of our adventures during Sabbatical Part 2!