It’s about the people, y’all

Oh me, oh my.  Where to start?  Where to start?

I have written several blogs in my mind over the past several weeks, yet nothing seems adequate to express all that is going on in our lives, so I think I will try bite-size pieces and just start typing and see where this goes.

Three Sundays ago Josh announced to our Sunday School class (of 14+ years!) that we would be moving to North Carolina for a new job (more on the job another time…don’t want to get ahead of myself, but suffice it to say that the Lord opened a door for us and we have been hanging on to our hats ever since…what a whirlwind!).

BUT, the Sunday that Josh announced we would be moving was a tough morning.  I felt like I was getting ready for a funeral that morning.  This class has been a part of our life in some way, shape or form for most of our married life, so stopping is just plain weird. Josh cried pretty much the whole 45 minutes while he tried to tell the class all that has been going on in our lives, and yet no one knew exactly why we were going to move to North Carolina at the end of class.  Hilarious.  He was focused on letting them know how we arrived at this place and how God had been guiding us in such personal ways. It was a good morning, but a hard one for Josh and me.

The next Sunday Josh taught his last lesson and gave the class a word of warning, a word of encouragement, a word of challenge and a word of thankfulness.  He made it through with just a few tears at the end.  I was sitting there listening and watching and was looking right at him when he closed his Bible on the podium.  That moment made an imprint on my heart. He won’t be teaching in that room, at that podium, to those amazing friends anymore.  The Lord is moving us on with Him, and we want to keep in step.

Last night we had a going away drop-in at The Dutton’s house, which was only appropriate.  They have been in our class since Day One.  Yep, Day One.  And they have been so faithful!  And such good friends!  We loved being in their home and getting to see all of our friends in a relaxed environment and spending time catching up with one another. Here is a picture I will treasure forever:

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There are many sweet families not in the picture that mean the world to us;  this picture represent some of the greatest relationships we have.  Beautiful families that have shown my family such kindness and generosity over the years.  Their love and encouragement have been such a blessing in my life.  Young couples. Older couples and many in between.  We have celebrated babies being born, new houses, salvations, baptisms, new jobs, adoptions and more.  We have also carried each others burdens like losing a job, losing a baby, loss of a house, rebellious children, cancer, loss of a sibling or parent, and other challenges to every day life like broken legs or an overwhelmed pregnant mom who needs help, car trouble, learning disabilities, …”fake” heart attacks even make the list.

The people.  That is what I will miss the most from my years here at Woodstock.  Oh, we will be leaving all that is familiar to us and a comfortable and fairly predictable life, but we are more than ok with that.  We will get familiar with our new city and new life there, but these people in particular will be greatly missed.  They are what have made our time here so rich.  Those relationships that cannot be replaced.  I was pregnant at the same time as many of these ladies in the picture.  We bonded over crazy hormones and sleepless nights stories.  You can’t re-create that!    I know the Lord will bring new friends in my life in this season, and they will be just what our family needs.  I am not worried about that one bit. But I do just want to take a minute to say WOW!!!!!!  I have some amazing friends here in Woodstock.  I am taking stock of what makes it sad to leave a place and it’s the people, y’all.  What have I invested in the people around me?  What have they invested in me?  It’s not easy to pull up a tree that has deep, strong roots.  It takes effort and work and there is some untangling to do.

That’s what we are experiencing.  It’s definitely clear that it is time for our family to pick up our roots and plant them in Charlotte.  But it is taking some effort, some work and planning and there is some untangling going on.  We’ve been invested here.  Roots have gone deep here with people we have grown to love like family.  What life day-in and day-out will be like without them right up the street remains to be seen, but for now let’s just say we feel overwhelmingly blessed by the friends the Lord has given to us here.

This morning was our FOR REAL last Sunday in class.  They used this time for food and hanging out and some fun stories about Josh over the years.  Some appropriate for a group setting and some not.  But that’s ok–we leave soon.

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The many hair-dos Josh has been given by our talented friend, Guy, were shown in large print outs.

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A fun memory of a Masters Golf party was shared, and we were given the Green Jacket to keep forever.

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Marc shared a funny story from 15 years ago!

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This shirt made an appearance in 2009, I think, at a Christmas party.  It was good to see it again.

And then there was this amazing gift given to me!

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How perfect is that?!?  I absolutely love it and cannot wait to see where to put it in our home.  North Carolina and Georgia overlapping with a heart in Woodstock and Charlotte.  Love, love, love!!!!

Josh’s gift was also perfect for him.  He talks a lot about Matthew 11: 28-30—about the invitation God gives us to yoke with Him.  It has been instrumental in our prayers over the last few months as Josh challenged us not to get ahead or to fall behind, but to keep in step with our Father.  It means so much to Josh that the class thought to choose this as his gift.  It will have a special place in our home forever as a tangible reminder of God’s Truth and a reminder of these fabulous friends!  We want to continue to keep in step with the Lord, and we want all of them to do the same!

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They prayed for us.

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It’s the people, y’all.

And then there was this picture of Mack’s class and one of a good friend of his in his class that was sent to me….

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Oh, the people.

And then this row of girls that sit together week after week….

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The people! Precious, precious people.

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This sweet lady represents the Elementary Department!  Denise leads an amazing team that has helped encourage my children in The Lord and His ways.  We are grateful for all the Sundays we showed up with our children and they were met by loving, kind teachers that had prepared for them.  What a huge blessing!

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And these two cuties above dressed like twinsies and didn’t even plan it.  I love the bond they share!

So again, let me just say– It’s about the people, y’all.  We haven’t been perfect friends or perfect Sunday School teachers (that goes without saying!), but over the years we have been blessed by so many people in so many ways.  Words could never suffice, but I am so thankful for the people God placed in our lives here in Woodstock.  We are better for it!

Edisto 2016

Several weeks ago our family took some time off and went to the beach.  It was a nice, relaxing time.  None of my family likes the beach as much as I do, so that was sad, but at least I had time alone on the beach. 🙂

Things are kind of busy around here, so there won’t be much commentary on the pics.

Molly brought my Nikon camera and took some of her owns shots.  Here they are:

We enjoyed the time in the sun!  And with my parents for a couple of those days.  If you’re interested in a very laid back, non-crowded beach, Edisto is the place for you.

Africa: Part IV

This post should cover the last part of our trip.  The part where Mack was eating dinner and said, “Oh my!  Have I died and gone to heaven?”  The food during most of our stay wasn’t his favorite and a few days he survived on apple sauce given to him by one of our fellow-sojourners.  And french fries.  There seemed to be potatoes at every meal.  But of course, he survived just fine!  It made him that much more appreciative of the resort meals.

We stayed at Kichwa Timbo.  It was super-nice!  The bed was so plush and clean.  The showers were hot!  They had a blowdryer in the room!  They delivered coffee and cookies to your room when you told them to in the morning.  Ah-maz-ing.  I enjoyed the ride into the safari resort.  I enjoyed an evening drive out to see animals, and I also very much enjoyed opting out of the morning safari drive.  The room was just too good to leave!  No lion or tiger or elephant could have lured me out.  Besides, I had a front row seat to a monkey at my room and a warthog laying in the sun at breakfast.  That was enough adventure for me.

Here are some of the pictures from Josh’s phone. He and the kids went to the border of Kenya and Tanzania on the morning I stayed in. They saw the wildebeest migration. Pretty cool!

So obviously, it is clear why Mack might have thought he had gone to heaven at this place! It was nice.  Really nice.  An unexpected way to end an unforgettable trip.   Until next time, Africa!

Africa: Part III

The next morning we took a few small plane rides to leave Kenya and enter Uganda. Mack enjoyed this experience the most out of all of us.  I had never ridden in a 9 passenger plane before; it was neat to see the land below the whole time we flew.  We took off and landed in the most interesting places.  This first take-off couldn’t happen until Pastor Simon got the donkeys to move off the runway.

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At one of the airports we ate pizza–a welcome change to our diet of potatoes, rice and chicken.  When we landed in Uganda, we met some people on the air strip that lived nearby.  Some of the kids in the group had never met a white person.  It was such a blessing to give away the dolls and blankets Molly and I had made.  I also threw a pair of pants in my bag of things to give away because Mack had put them on that morning and they were too little for him.  The Mama of the boy that I gave them to hugged me and said, “Mama!!!”  It was a sweet little bond between Mamas.  We all want good things for our kids.  They have such an appreciation for the necessities.  It was a humbling exchange, and I am so glad I got to meet these people.

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In Uganda we stayed at The Jesse Hotel.  We met back up with Pastor Soston and his wife, Veronica.  They are refugees from Sudan and have quite the community in Uganda.  I was prepared for chaos at my first visit to a refugee camp, but these people were amazingly organized.  They seem to work together well and live with grateful hearts despite such a very hard existence.

Molly played around with making boomerang videos with the kids, which they seemed to think was so funny.

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We rode a good ways to get to the camp and passed by many small communities.  There were water pumps along the way.  Small kids were filling water jugs to carry back to their home. We also saw Samaritan’s Purse World Food Distribution Center, which was amazing.IMG_6684IMG_6687IMG_6849IMG_6692IMG_6693IMG_6698IMG_6699IMG_6701IMG_6704IMG_6714IMG_6724IMG_6728IMG_6730IMG_6731IMG_6734

They welcomed us with dancing and singing!  Africans know how to celebrate people.

I will not be the same after the time I spent with them.  And I don’t know why, but the Lord has made a special place in my heart for Veronica.  I will pray for her as she leads alongside her husband.  I hope you will pray for her, too.IMG_6848IMG_6743IMG_6747

The picture above shows their bathrooms.

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Above is Pastor Soston telling us about the food they are growing!  He was so proud of what they are doing and very grateful for any help that With Open Eyes has given along the way.

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This is their irrigation system that was put in with the help of some people from With Open Eyes.  It reminded me of a statement I learned in a Beth Moore bible study many years ago: “Sow the Word of God into the reality of your circumstances.”  I believe the Lord has helped me to do just that over the past five years or so, and He has given much fruit!  Many times the ground was hard and was made soft by tears and hard work.  Other times the Lord gave energy and vitality so that the work of day to day life didn’t seem burdensome at all and the Word of God made me glad. No matter what the circumstances of life, we must sow His Word into the reality of where we are and watch Him bring the fruit!  It’s a work only He can do, but there is a part for us to play! Sow the Word!IMG_6759IMG_6760

With Open Eyes brought shoes and soccer balls and beach balls and other games for the kids.  They also brought soccer jerseys and shorts, and we got to watch them play a game of soccer.IMG_6765

I had the honor of praying for these ladies in my prayer group.  Many of them don’t have their husbands with them and life is difficult. They worry about providing for their children.  They need money to send them to school.  Pray for these ladies to know the peace of God and the provision of God.IMG_6767IMG_6772IMG_6773

We couldn’t believe it, but these precious people had cooked for us!  I was so humbled that they would take from what they could have eaten and share it with us. We were careful with what we chose to eat, but we were thankful and amazed that they would share with us.IMG_6779IMG_6847IMG_6781IMG_6785IMG_6786IMG_6788IMG_6789IMG_6794

We did a little skit about The Good Samaritan.  Mack was the poor guy who got beat up and left for dead.  I passed him by.  Molly passed him by.  Ruby helped him, and Josh Trammell was the donkey he rode on. IMG_6831IMG_6832IMG_6834

We left the refugee camp with full hearts and went back to clean up and eat dinner.  We would leave the next morning for Masai Mara, a safari hotel where we stayed one night.  Josh has most of those pictures on his phone, but I will add them to Part IV soon.  Thanks for taking the time to look at our pictures and read my little commentary.  I wish each of you could have come with us!  An unforgettable trip, that is for sure!

Africa: Part II

We rode in buses from Brackenhurst to get to Namanga. So much to see as we drove down the streets.

We arrived at our hotel and unloaded all of our stuff.

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This picture above shows a happy family.  And we were happy.  But something would happen every night….and it wasn’t pretty.  I don’t know if it was the bathrooms or the lack of good sleep or having to keep our family of five’s stuff organized, but I fell apart most every evening in some way, shape or form.  Josh wasn’t exactly chipper every second of the evenings either.  The kids each had their moment of “losing it” as well.  Thank the Lord for His grace and love for us…and how He enables us to show grace and love towards others.  We all needed much grace and much love during this trip!  But we made it through all the ups and downs with experiences we will never forget!

We went to Pastor Simon and Mrs. Agnes’ house.  This was a great time.  Frank and Jan’s son, James, was super-close with this family and wanted to build a home behind their home, which he had started to do before he became very sick and died in Africa.  The Harrisons finished what James had started and now the home is used as a guest house for many different people that come to visit Pastor Simon and Agnes.  I enjoyed talking to James’ sister about him and what she misses most about him while we were there.  His death was not in vain, that is for sure.  God has used it to heighten awareness of the needs in this area of Africa in ways only He can!

We took a walk up “Prayer Mountain” and spent time praying together and for the city of Namanga.  A great experience up there!

 

 

We visited a Masai Tribe, which was INCREDIBLE.  The church service was amazing.  They really know how to celebrate!  I enjoyed every bit of being with these people.

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This tribe lives in dung huts.  We went inside one…it is very small and very dark.  Goats were in the one I went inside.  Josh told me that I didn’t notice at the time but he saw the goats pee extremely close to my foot.  I had already been standing in a cow poop field, so what’s a little goat pee?

We spent the night in Namanga again and then got up the next morning to make our way to Namanga Baptist Church.  The kids and I got to help in the Sunday School Class for the children before joining the rest of the group in the church service.  It was quite a different experience from church here in Woodstock, GA.  I enjoyed it very much.

 

What a morning!  It was lovely being with this church in Namanga. We drove back to our hotel for lunch and then the ladies went shopping while the men went on a hike.

 

A full, wonderful day!  There’s more, so stay tuned for Part III….

Africa 2016: Part I

All trips start and end with laundry for mamas!  This trip was no exception. So while I am waiting on clothes to be washed and dried, I will try to post some pictures of the trip.

We had an amazing time in Africa.  Saw so much, experienced so much…..can hardly wrap my head around all of it.  Hoping as I post pictures on the blog I can process some of it.

We made it through the two flights and landed in Nairobi, Kenya where we boarded a bus and headed to our first hotel to try and rest.

We woke up to a rainy day and went to an elephant orphanage and then to a park where we got close with giraffes.

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We ate lunch and continued our journey to Brakenhurst, Kenya where a conference was held by With Open Eyes.  Pastor Johnny taught the ministers and many other people encouraged them through teaching and music and gifts.

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We got in small groups and were able to pray for these ladies who live in different parts of Africa.  The life they lead is more challenging than I can even begin to fathom.  It was an honor to pray for them.

One afternoon we went to a local bead and pottery shop.  This lady with Molly and Ruby has been working and making beads longer than anyone else in the shop.

We traveled from the bead shop towards a glass making store, but the road was not passable, so they sent us a different way where we ended up needing to walk a while to get to the store.  However, the walk was out in the middle of nowhere and then we were supposed to cross over a bridge… I never actually saw the bridge with my own eyes because  I wasn’t going to climb down the cliff to get there.  It was interesting to say the least.  I believe Denise said it best when she said, “I believe this is the dumbest decision I have ever made.”  hahahaa!  Glad we didn’t run into any animals out on our walk.

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Mack led us back to the bus…dodging ants and piles of poop and puddles of water.

We warmed up for a bit and tried to dry our shoes out, finished up the conference and went to dinner before sleeping one more night and heading to Namanga, Kenya for more adventures!

It was such a joy to watch the kids participate on this trip….particularly Ruby.  She was very engaged during the conference and quite observant during all of the time there.  Thankful for all they got to see and hear.  No doubt it will stay with them forever!

More to come!