Saturday, September 15, 2018

From Seed to Sequoia

And one year later she blogged again. Ha! 

I seriously can’t believe it’s been just over a year since my last post. I feel like this blog has become more of an annual report than the detailed, photographic stories it use to be, but hey… life happens and things change. And life has certainly happened to us in the last year; twists and turns we never expected, pruning and new growth in places we didn’t know needed maturing. A major shift has happened in our life and I’ll be honest, it completely caught me by surprise. In many ways, it’s what we always hoped for, but it just looked and looks a lot different than we anticipated. But I guess that’s just… life right? It never goes how you think it will. Ever. :)

Most of you know that for the last 15+ years Zach has worked in full-time worship ministry. This has been his passion and very clearly, the place and purpose God has called him to be. We’ve loved the wonderful people and congregations we have been a part of and have been blessed to have a front row seat watching the body of Christ share the love of Jesus with the world. Even though ministry has always been our primary focus and Zach’s vocation, he’s dreamed of being a professional songwriter for a long time. For years we’ve talked about what it would look like to give his time to the church vs being a full-time staff member, but it just was never our reality and that was totally ok. We were content with where we were. As Zach’s job responsibilities within ministry steadily increased over the years, his attention on songwriting really just… fell to the back burner and we weren’t pursuing it at all. Our ship was clearly sailing in the direction of ministry leadership and we were perfectly happy with that. 

And then one fateful day in 2016 the wind abruptly changed when his song Grow Old (a song written 8 years prior, before we were even married) was cut by Florida Georgia Line. Let me be clear: He did absolutely nothing to make this happen. lol (Now that we are in the music business, we realize how strange, surreal, and unheard of that is.) This event shifted our sails and Zach began traveling to Nashville monthly and writing with new intensity. We prayed and prayed that if this was not the direction God wanted us to go that he would close doors and show us when we needed to do something different. To our surprise, the opposite happened - doors were flinging open- confirming our path, and we began wondering if that old, dusty dream was going to become our reality. A few months later, the stars aligned for Zach to have a worship pastor job AND a song publishing deal in Nashville. One of these things by itself would be a miracle, but both? At the same time?! Although the timing of this move was not what we wanted, we knew we had to follow this rare opportunity and let go of some other dreams we had back in Atlanta. 

We were so hopeful of what God had in store and so Zach headed off to Nashville while Allie and I stayed behind for her to finish the school year. The day after Zach arrived in Nashville to start his new job at the church, his song publishing deal fell through. Literally THE. NEXT. DAY. The publisher had a sudden leadership change and as those folks transitioned out, Zach’s offer went with them. To say we were shocked, confused, and disappointed was an understatement, but we continued to trust that God was in our circumstances and that none of these unforeseen events were outside his plan for us. It seemed like He had created the perfect storm just to make us move, but for what purpose? We weren't sure.

When Allie and I joined him in the summer of 2017, I transitioned from my job in Atlanta to part-time self-employment doing contract marketing. I had never been self-employed before and in many ways I really enjoyed it, but it was also very challenging not having coworkers, working from home, and not having full-time work. I did that for about 6 months and then the winds changed for me too and that work seemed to be coming to an end. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, but soon an opportunity to return to my previous industry opened and I began working full-time again. It was/is a huge blessing and I really enjoy what I am doing even though I no longer have a completely flexible schedule. This job transition for me proved to be a Godsend because literally THE. DAY. AFTER I started my new job, Zach transitioned out of his church job. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of why, but it was a massive blessing even though we had no idea what on earth we were going to do next. We simultaneously felt such relief that specific season was over, but also such panic over the future. It felt like the wind that was once blowing strong, had suddenly left our sails completely and a storm was brewing on the horizon ready to sink us. For months we asked God lots of questions… not understanding why he would open so many doors to bring us to Nashville and then close so many once we arrived. It didn’t make sense. It was a brutal winter - dark, cold, quiet (literally and figuratively), and we had no idea what to do next. It was hard. My anthem during this time was Seasons by Hillsong and I clung to the truth that God was preparing us for something in these quiet, still, hidden moments, we just didn’t know what. Zach explored a plethora of ministry opportunities, but most of them were in other cities in other parts of the country and it just didn’t make sense to relocate again even though it seemed like nothing was ever going to materialize in Nashville.

Although Zach was quickly back to leading worship at another church in town, it was/is just contract and not a staff position. Since no local, full-time worship positions were available, Zach decided that he would take the time to expand his songwriting skillset and teach himself how to produce music. (For those outside the industry, this is like digital composing and actually creating all the instrumental aspects of a song, recording all the vocals, etc). This would give him more to offer a publisher and also open the door for contract work as a “track guy”/producer. Over the next few months, Zach put in an enormous amount of time and effort to learn this aspect of the industry and 6 months later, he has become one of the best “track guys” in town. Even though a lot of his success is based off his ridiculous talent, I am SO proud of him and how tirelessly he works to support our family. Often times musicians are stereotyped as being undisciplined, lazy, and aloof, but Zach is the antithesis of that. He works harder than anyone I know and I am inspired by the determination, diligence, and excellence he maintains every day.

And because of all this and his mad production skillz, on September 5th, Zach FINALLY got a publishing deal!!!! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Ya’ll… we’ve been waiting on this for 2 years! (Insert a million praise hands emojis!) Since his original deal fell through, there has been a lot of interest from other publishers, but for one reason or another, something always stood in the way of the deal materializing. Even though at times we wished the last two years had gone differently, this deal was worth the wait and is honestly more than we could have ever hoped for. I am very happy to announce Zach is now a professional songwriter for Sony ATV (the biggest publisher in the world!) and is partnering with renown songwriter Jon Nite. At the moment, that is all I can share, but there is a lot of momentum and things happening behind the scenes right now that are really encouraging and exciting. I pray daily that God will bless Zach’s efforts and I am so grateful we are seeing fruit come from the work of his hands. And ya know what’s really crazy? Remember how he started a new church job and one day later lost his original pub deal? Well this week he started a new role at our church and one day later SIGNED his pub deal. I mean… the timing is for realz cray. Only Jesus.  

Simultaneously to all this professional stuff going on, there is our sweet daughter Allie. She is amazing y’all. If you don’t know her it’s 100% your loss because she is the loveliest teenage girl there ever was. She is smart, wise, kind, funny, respectful, patient, creative, and just a total gem. We are so blessed and honored to be her parents. The biggest heartache for us leaving Georgia was leaving her school and friends, but wouldn’t ya know… God had that figured out too. :) The christian school she attends has been exactly where she was meant to be and has opened up so many new doors for her. Last fall we did some college counseling with Karina to help Allie identify her gifting, wiring, and what might be the best path for her career-wise after high school. Based on that experience and taking graphic design at school, she’s planning to pursue graphic design in college. This is a great fit for her and she has so much natural talent. We are really excited to see how God plans to use these gifts in the years ahead. 

As for college… in addition to the college coaching, this past winter/spring we did 4 college visits and fell in love with Lipscomb University. We honestly knew nothing about it before visiting, but it is truly the perfect school for Allie and bonus - it’s only 20 minutes across town! This summer Allie was one of 60 students accepted into Lipscomb’s Summer Scholars Program. She spent 10 days on campus taking a class for college credit, living in the dorm, and doing a lot of special activities just for SS students out and about Nashville. She had a blast, met a lot of wonderful people, and got to experience Lipscomb and college life up close. This experience sealed the deal for all of us on where Allie’s next step would be. Due to her admittance into this program and the Lipscomb dual enrollment classes she does through Goodpasture, she is already accepted to the university! We don’t even have to apply. How crazy is that? And due to dual enrollment courses, AP class, and her summer class at LU, she will graduate high school with 27 college credits! This is huge and will give her a significant jumpstart on her college courses. She is very excited because after senior year, she will never have to take another math class! haha

We feel so deeply blessed that God has answered so many specific prayers in regards to her education journey and are just giddy with what the future holds for her. It is overwhelming to think through all the ways God has perfectly timed and aligned this opportunity for her. Although my heart is already heavy with the realization that this is her last year at home with us, I am so hopeful for what God has for her and believe the next 5 years are going to be filled with so many wonderful things. I wish I could list out all the ways God has shown up in her life - the absolute miracles and open doors, the people, the experiences… and how much she has grown over the last 3 years specifically. I know it might seem like everything has been a breeze and been all sunshine and rainbows, but let me tell you, this has not been an easy journey. 

When Allie came to live with us full-time in 2015, she was transitioning from a homeschool setting and was not prepared for traditional school. Her first year was SO HARD- for many reasons, but especially academically. I pretty much audited her classes so I could help her learn how to take notes, study, prepare for assessments, manage a schedule, keep up with assignments, learn how to communicate with teachers, etc. She was in tutoring - before school in the mornings and privately after school. It was a brutal uphill battle every single day, but she pushed through and made it. We all made it. And then she changed schools. lol Although we were so grateful God miraculously opened the door for private school (it’s been the very best setting for her), private school provided new challenges and expectations. I hated her having to start over somewhere, especially when most her peers had been going to school together since kindergarten, but she needed that environment to stretch her in different ways and help her grow. It was hard, but she did it. We made it and she eventually fell in love with her community there and was thriving. And then we moved to Nashville. And she started over again. Sigh. And faced another new environment with different people and a different culture, but she has handled it SO WELL and grown so much and I just… cannot even believe how far she has come academically, socially, spiritually, mentally, everything. So when I say she is already accepted to our college of choice and will be graduating with 27 college credits, maybe you can somewhat understand why this is such a humongous deal and celebration for us. It is truly astounding and so much evidence of Christ in her life. We are just beyond thankful and give all glory to God for the beautiful gift of Allie and the life that He has built and is building for her. 

Reflecting back on this past year… a few thoughts….

  1. It was honestly one of the hardest, heaviest seasons for us. THE STRUGGLE WAS/IS REAL. At times it felt directionless, lonely, and down right terrifying. I wondered, “Was God with us? Did he care? Why was he allowing this to happen to us?” I began asking myself a really critical question: “If nothing worked out in Nashville and everything was a total failure … could I still have joy?” To be honest, initially my answer was no and it revealed a lot about the foundation of my faith. I realized how much of my security had been found in salaries, steady employment, and having control instead of trusting God. I knew I needed to let go and let God be enough, even if I never saw another physical blessing. Psalm 34 is the only complete chapter of scripture I have memorized (thank you DGroup) and the first line always stops me in my tracks. It says, “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise will be continually in my mouth.” It’s so convicting. In all circumstances, can I or will I choose to bless the Lord? Will I praise him when I face hardship, frustration, disappointment, difficult people or only when I get what I want? I am working towards being able to say “yes” in all circumstances and resting in the truth that He is enough no matter what my circumstances are.
  1. This seemingly desert time has also drastically improved my views on entitlement and gratitude. I think subconsciously, I always felt like the “norm” was for everyone to have a quiet, simple easy life without much drama or pain and I’d get frustrated when that didn’t seem to happen for me. I’ve come to realize that brokenness and difficulty are the norm, and the quiet, uncomplicated, seemingly perfect, care-free moments we get to experience are simply glimpses of heaven. I find myself relishing in those moments a lot more than I use to -finding wells of gratitude I didn’t know were within me over the smallest thing or “easy” moment. 
  1. It’s kinda crazy to look back and see all the threads of our story being woven together over the last few years and how efficiently God has been using our circumstances to move each one of us forward in a myriad of ways. What at the time felt like capsizing was really… just the wind changing direction to take us somewhere new- somewhere we always hoped to be, but we just expected to take a different route. If you think following Jesus and trusting him with everything you have is some sort of crutch or weakness or spiritual nonsense, I can assure you… nothing yields more adventure, more true richness from life than following Jesus and trusting him with everything. Trusting God with everything you care about is incredibly HARD and a daily choice, but so very worth it. 
  1. It also is kinda surreal to see your dreams come true. Not just in regards to Zach’s work, but also in Allie’s journey. For years we prayed that God would intervene and give us primary custody, and then he did. We prayed for private school doors to open and they did. We prayed for great friends and he’s brought so many wonderful people into her life. We've prayed for "eyes to see" what she needed and how to help her grow and he's come through every single time. We’ve wanted so much for her, so many new experiences and she’s had so many wonderful opportunities to grow. I didn’t realize it at the time, but moving to TN when we did fulfilled a dream we didn’t know we had- a dream of her attending a small, christian college close to home. We always knew a small school was going to be the best fit for her, but we never dreamed it would work out so beautifully for all of us. 

Our story is by no means over- there are still questions to be answered, doors to be opened, provision to be provided, lessons to be learned, etc. but I’m thankful to be where we are and letting God lead no matter how strange, unexpected, or rocky the path might be. 

In closing, I do want to share a few highlights from the last year. You didn’t think I would post something without pictures did you? For those of you who actually read this entire novella, thanks for hanging in there and you deserve a prize! Haha

Zach and I went to Phoenix last September. I had never been to the desert before and it was such a fun trip!
 It was here I discovered my all time favorite kombucha flavor.
Allie's school is super hard core about the Homecoming floats competition between the upper classmen. Its a BIG deal and they pull off some of the most amazing amateur floats I've ever seen. This year the theme was Disney movies and they (obviously) did the Little Mermaid and WON!
In November, Allie had a birthday weekend back with her besties in Atlanta. I sent her off with this sleepover kit full of Bob Ross paraphernalia (they love Bob), face mask making supplies, sparklers, and lots of treats!
For Thanksgiving we took our annual trip down to Mom and Dad's in FL and had a great time with our extended family. 
 We always go to the beach at least one day because you HAVE to go to the beach when you're in Florida. haha
We dogsat our favorite little pup Therman a few times this year and love his visits. Isn't he just the cutest?!
Our very first college visit with Allie was Berry College in January! 
Allie also had jaw surgery in January and it produced A LOT of initial
but eventually a beautiful, perfect smile when she got her braces off a few months later! haha She was SO HAPPY to be able to eat chips again. 
Adventures in charcuterie board making for various work events... These are so fun and so easy to make! 
In April, Allie's friends from her old school invited her back for prom and she had the BEST time. I am so glad she got to do this and continues to maintain a friendship with these girls. 
A few weeks later she attended her school's annual Junior/Senior banquet and looked stunning.

In May, Zach and I took a trip to San Francisco and had a great time exploring Muir Woods and the coast. 

At school, Allie was asked to do all the graphic design for the spring musical (Mary Poppins) and did a great job. 
 Got a much needed visit with my bff of 23 years before her family moved to Hawaii!
 Celebrating 1 year in Nashville!
Summer wouldn't be summer without my aunt sending me pickles! She makes my grandma's recipe and they are SO GOOD I have to force myself not to eat the whole jar in one sitting.
Zach has played a few shows at the Listening Room this year, but none were as fun and funny as this night with special guests Dennis Quaid and our amazing friend Kiley Dean! 
At the end of June we got a few days over at Lake J with my parents. I love this old house and pray it stays in our family a long time. Mom and dad have been doing such a good job taking care of it!
Kayaking on this lake with these two is one of my very favorite things.

In July I went to Jacksonville to celebrate my grandma's 90th birthday. Isn't she adorable? I was so happy to be there with the family to celebrate her beautiful life.
 A few weeks later we dropped Allie off at Lipscomb for Summer Scholars. Such a punch in the gut dropping her off at college lol, but she had such a wonderful time. We love this school. :)
And in August, Allie had her SENIOR pictures done by Lindsay Alexander. Lindsay is one of my true ride or die friends who is more like a sister (which is ironic since her name is Lindsay). She is encouraging, full of wisdom, and never shies away from speaking truth (even when it's not what I want to hear). haha She is a true , faithful friend and I love her so!
 The last time she took pics for us was 5 years ago when Allie looked like this: (pic on the left below compared to one from her senior shoot on the right)
I mean... look at how much she has grown up! Lindsay lives in SC now, but traveled here just to do the photos and I am so thankful we had this super special weekend with her. These images capture our plant-loving sweet girl so well! Here are a few from the shoot...

I mean isn't she gorgeous?!

Well, that's all for now. If you read this entire post, chances are you actually care about our family and for that I am so thankful. All the prayers, encouragement, and support mean so much to us so thanks for coming along on the journey with us! 

Monday, August 21, 2017

All Things New

Wow. I can't believe I haven't posted on this blog since last December. So much has happened over the past 8 months. It's been surprising, exhausting, inspiring, scary, you name it, we've felt it. There's honestly no way for me to do a completely thorough update of all that's transpired, but in my attempt to get back into blogging, here's a somewhat brief synopsis. :)

1. Where are we and why
In June of this year, we moved to Nashville. I honestly still can't believe it. There are two cities in this country that have felt like home to us - Charlotte, NC (where we lived from 2011 - 2013) and Nashville, TN. We always hoped to end up in one of them long-term, but we thought it was a long way off. Insert Zach's song "Grow Old" getting randomly cut by Florida Georgia Line in August of 2016. (The record just went platinum FYI. Insert shocked emoji face here...). This thrust Zach's songwriting from the cool, back burner to the immediate forefront of our lives. As he began pursuing more opportunities and publishing options, he started traveling to Nashville frequently. Even though it was hard having him gone, we were 100% committed to Allie graduating from Mount Pisgah (her school in GA) because she was invested there and it was such a great school. (Oh my gosh, if you live near Johns Creek, GA and are looking for a wonderful private school, MPCS is THE place. This school was such a massive gift to us. We will always be grateful and humbled by the opportunity to have Allie attend and treasure the wonderful friends she made there.) Anyway... back to the storyline...In our minds, we were not willing to move prior to her graduation. But God... (doesn't every good story have a "but God" moment?) had VERY different plans for us. He created the absolute perfect storm to push us away from our own plans and towards his. Even though in a lot of ways it did not make sense to us, we just stepped out in faith, believing his way was better than our own and trusting that he had it all figured out.

2. Our new neighborhood
When we began looking for a place to live we knew we wanted to be in the city. We had a very spread out suburban life in Atlanta and I just... hated being in the car so much. It was brutal, especially towards the end when Zach was gone a lot and the interstate had collapsed. East Nashville was the logical choice because it would be close to Zach's work and Allie's school, however living here is expensive and the houses are pretty tiny.
Most the homes are small cottages - like I'm talking under 1200 sq ft with small kitchens, few bedrooms, and street parking in lieu of garages. Since living in East is also very popular, homes are in high demand and hard to find. The area is going through a massive revitalization so developers are buying up old homes as fast as possible and splitting the lots to build "tall skinnies" - basically two houses side-by-side. These are everywhere and is where we ended up. (We're the one on the right!)
By the grace of God, we found a home that met our needs (3 bedrooms, 2000 sq ft, decent kitchen, and a garage for Zach's CrossFit equipment) which seemed totally impossible. It's a brand new house with some lovely details like reclaimed wood stairs and built-in shelving,

a beautiful kitchen with an amazing pantry,

and an awesome view of Ms. Ruth's beautiful yard and cozy home. She's our 83 yr old neighbor who has lived in East Nashville her whole life. :)

Her house by day...
 ...her house by night.
Once I get more rooms done, I'll post more photos. It's been a fairly slow-go getting things how I want them. It's teaching me patience and the benefit of delayed gratification. :)

We are LOVING living here though- the convenience of everything and how easy it is to get around. I am so spoiled. Now, driving 15 min to Trader Joe's is like... such a huge ask and something I strategically plan for. LOL

Here are some of my favorite things in the new neighborhood:

- The plant shops

Flwr Shop 


Amelia's Flower Truck

- The food
Mas Taco
(Taco pic photo cred: The Nashville Guide)
Lunch dates at Cafe Roze
Shelby Park Farmer's Market

All the sweet treats including Paleo donuts at Five Daughters Bakery,

Jeni's (brambleberry sorbet),
Koko's coconut ice-cream bike,
and Frisson soft-serve ice-cream truck.
- The greenways and bike paths we can access from our house (ps. Zach got me this adorable bike so we could ride together. :))

3. What we do
Since March, Zach has been working at Cornerstone Nashville. It's a church unlike any other we have ever been at and it has been amazing to see reason after reason why God brought Zach to this ministry. He is also pursuing songwriting and working with various publishers.  He has two other songs on hold with different artists and we are just trusting God will continue to open the right doors in the music industry.

Allie is now attending Goodpasture Christian School.
Again, we are so grateful for the opportunity to have her in christian private school. So far, the transition has gone better than expected and she is doing really well. I have already seen so much growth in her from last year and am just so proud of the young woman she is becoming. This year she is doing a few advanced classes (including a dual enrollment English class through Lipscomb University for college credit and AP US History) as well as gaining some experience in some new areas of study such as digital audio recording and graphic design. Besides school, she's involved at church, finding volunteer opportunities that peak her interest, and we are starting to plan college visits. I know right?! COLLEGE. We are talking college. I can't believe it. I get this panicked, terrified feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking about how we only have two years left.  I daily have to remind myself that God is in control - I am not - and he has gone before her, making a way. We just have to be faithful each day to take one step forward and eventually we will discover what he has for her.

As for me, I am working as the Creative Director for a new marketing company. The majority of our clients are in either the healthcare or IT industry. Although there are really challenging days, I am so grateful God provided this opportunity. It is stretching me in a lot of ways and causing me to rely on Him to provide for my every need. Not only do I have the blessing of consistent, creative work, but I work from home and make my own hours. I've never had a job like this before so it's taken time for me to adjust, but I am really enjoying the freedom and flexible schedule.

4. Things I am Loving
Besides all of that, here are some things I am loving right now.

One of my favorite places in town is the Opryland Hotel. It has the most amazing garden atriums. Pictures do not do this place justice.

Zach and I came here on a date night and I am planning to bring Allie back here soon to explore and help me find a little corner of paradise to call "my office". haha I totally wanna come work from here like Bob Goff works from Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland.

Essential Oils
For years I have dabbled in using essential oils, but I finally decided to bite the bullet and actually get diffusers and use oils more universally. I love them and am happy to bring another layer of health and wellness to our routine.

Charlie Daniels
I finally took the plunge and got a fiddle leaf fig tree.
We named him Charlie Daniels (for obvious reasons) and he's become a member of the family. I am trying so so hard to keep him alive so pray he makes it! haha

Allie's bedroom
Speaking of plants... since we gave up having a backyard at the new house, I told Allie we could make her bedroom a plant oasis. She has her work cut out for her caring for all the plants in here!
Once her room is 100% done I will post more pics. There are a few finishing touches to do before it's complete so stay tuned. :)

Books I am trying to read

Confession: I'm not an avid reader. It's hard for me to find time to read, but I'm trying to start a new habit of doing so more regularly. These are the three books I am chipping away at currently, but I cannot wait for this book to come out in the fall! I loved her first book and am just so inspired by her story and limitless faith in Jesus.

I took the plunge and jumped back into leading a DGroup. I did not realize how much I had missed it the past few years. If you are looking to grow deeper in your faith and biblical literacy, there's no better way than joining a DGroup. My friend TLC started this ministry 8 years ago and it has been a blessing to so many. If you are interested in joining, see if there is a DGroup near you on the website or start one in your area! Our current study is on battling unbelief and is based around John Piper's sermon series. Even if you aren't in DGroup it is totally worth listening to on your own.

Besides really digging some of Zach's new tunes (sorry you can't hear those), I am totally loving Brian and Jen Johnson's album After All These Years. It's so peaceful and I love to have this playing on repeat at the house.

5. Things I'm looking forward to

Establishing a new routine
Now that Allie home from all her summer travels and back in school, we can finally establish our new routine. Hallelujah! I think we are all craving normalcy and just... having a regular routine and life balance.

One thing I just did not have time for in my prior life was exercise. I am really looking forward to making this a part of my life again now that I have a flexible schedule and am working less.

Arizona trip
Zach leads worship a few times a year out at Central Christian Church in Phoenix, Arizona. This September will be the first time I've been able to tag along and I'm so excited. Since we didn't have the chance to vacay this summer due to the move, I am so pumped to have a little getaway to a new place this fall.

Speaking of fall, I am so ready to experience this season in Nashville! I can't wait to sit out on the porch with a hot drink and just enjoy the cool, crispness of the season.

What's Next
Honestly, I am just excited and curious to see what God has planned for us in this season of life. Since the past 8 years have been a pretty wild ride, I can't wait to see what the future holds! I hope to do a better job going forward of keeping you all up to date on what's happening and how God is moving. Thanks for following along and joining us on the journey!