Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Good List 6-26-13

10. The fact that this exists. If I had a stupid amount of money, I would totally buy it for Jared. :-D

9. Good tap water. This stuff is not to be taken for granted. Ours is delicious and even refreshingly cool right out of the faucet. Grateful.
8. Cartoon clouds. Y'all know what I mean, right? The kind that look like you should either jump up there and bounce around on 'em OR grab a spoon and eat 'em like whipped cream.
7. Peonies. They're so huge and awesome.

6. Covered bridges. Passed this cute little gem on a golf course in North Conway last weekend.

5.  Quechee Gorge. I can't fully explain why I'm so drawn to that place. It's so calming and refreshing to me.

4. The White Mountains. One of my favorite areas.

3. The Burdeauxs are on their way to us today! Fun times ahead!
2. Today is JoJo's birthday! I'm not saying she's my favorite sister, but she *is* the only one who moved to Vermont to live close to me. :-D (Love you, Vick and A! :-P)
1. On Saturday, I'll celebrate 17 years of marriage with this guy. By God's grace, I love him more every single day.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Active Stillness

Inspired by lots of time wandering through nature recently, I'm reminded of something that's been rolling around in my mind quite a bit since I moved to Vermont.

For so many years, I longed for something I had no idea how to define (or even recognize really). I've recently come to understand it as "active stillness." (This is not to be confused with rest, which is equally important, but quite different.) My definition of active stillness involves deliberate effort to be still and quiet and free from distraction in order to engage my mind and heart in active pursuit of prayer and interaction with Scripture and Christ. Easier said than done, I know. Certainly counter-cultural to attempt to live this way. It seems as though many these days equate stillness with laziness or lack of motivation. We should *always* have things to do, places to go, people iPhones & computers & the occasional person to interact with.

Is it any wonder so many people live in a state of perpetual exhaustion?

Too often we bow to the idol of busy-ness. We feast at the table of activity. We crown ourselves with tasks completed and achievements earned, none of which can quench our thirsty souls like a moment with our Savior. And surely he is able to get our attention through the noise of life, but of course he desires our undivided attention from time to time as well.


OK, confession time. Under normal circumstances, I'm terrible at this. Surrounded by distractions, I can come up with a dozen reasons at any given time to be busy. Hence the need to be deliberate in this pursuit. For me, that usually involves nature. Walking away from distractions and into the woods or up onto the mountain. Surrounded by nature, I can hear his voice. And nature itself reminds me of the very state I'm trying to achieve. Quiet, but not completely devoid of sound. Still on the surface, but actively growing and thriving. Receiving light. Receiving refreshing rain. Sometimes receiving various forms of pruning. And responding accordingly. This is the way I want to live.

Lord, help me to be still and listen so much more often. . . even when I have "things to do."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Good List 6-19-13

10. Jared and Macy came home from D.C. with Einstein bobbleheads for both the girls--just like in the movie Night at the Museum. Pretty cool.

9. Grace is on a Buddy Holly kick. It makes me giggle.
8. Another souvenir from the Washington trip. We got the New York City version in this same series when we visited NYC last fall. Love the artwork!

7. Jeff and Amy brought over ICE CREAM last night to add to our "We-don't-own-a-house-anymore" celebration dinner! Awesome.
6. From high atop his perch on our back deck a few days ago, Indi barked long enough to scare off a beaver. Now he thinks his little 20-lb. self is pretty tough, so he paces the deck every day looking for something to yell at. It's pretty funny.

5. I love it when art folders come home at the end of the school year. Here are our favorites from Macy:

And from Grace:

4. Jared is taking me away for a couple days this weekend to celebrate our upcoming anniversary. He never tells me where we're going, but he never disappoints, so I don't mind. ;-)
3. A (my sister Amy) and her family are here! More cousins for Macy and Grace! Looking forward to spending the day with them!
2. Nana and Papa are here! More spoiling for Macy and Grace! ;-) (not complaining, btw. That's what Nanas and Papas are for. :-D)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Final Farewell

***Sorry for the cruddy pictures. I couldn't find the originals and didn't really think it was important enough to spend a lot of time looking for them. ;-)

Today we say a final farewell to the first (and so far only) house we've ever owned. I thought it would be a bittersweet experience, rich with excitement and hope for the future but tinged with bits of sadness. 

I have a confession. 

There's no bitter at all, and the sweet is as rich as the best chocolate I've ever tasted. 

I'm not quite sure if that's good or bad. 

I mean, this was our first house. I don't want to seem ungrateful. Lots of incredible and life-changing events happened here. We had 3 babies while we lived here (one of which was born way too early to survive life on earth, but that is a story for a different day.) Jared wrote his first book here (which is finally due to release in a couple months. How's THAT for full circle? ;-) We hosted dinners and parties and impromptu swing dance lessons. We celebrated holidays and special events. We watched first steps and heard first words. We developed and nurtured some of the most amazing friendships of our lives. And we learned to cling to Christ like never before. Indeed we are grateful to have built a home in this house for many years. 

Seems like I would be sad to see it go. 

But the thing is, I didn't really leave anything there to mourn. It's kind of just an empty box. My babies, Jared's books, and all those precious memories left that house a long time ago. They all live with me here in Vermont now.

I'm still unsure as to why God allowed this process to take so long. Seems like that will remain a mystery until I can ask him in person (if I still care by then), but I'm grateful for the way he used the time to teach me so many life-changing lessons such as these:

He completely adjusted my perspective regarding resources. For 4 years, we paid a mortgage in Tennessee AND rent in Vermont on a (small rural church) pastor's salary. I'm sure I don't have to elaborate on the many ways that math just doesn't work. But God provided over and over again. Sometimes through writing contracts and speaking engagements for Jared, most of which he didn't even really pursue (point being that many times God provided before we even knew what or how to pursue), sometimes through a consulting gig for me or the transcription job that was pretty much handed to me out of the blue one day (I didn't even know such a thing existed.) For a portion of the time, He provided through the supplemental income of renting the house, which, by God's grace, was an easier experience for us than for many we've known. And many times, God provided directly through the gifts of his people. More than ever before, I'm so gratefully aware of the fact that everything belongs to God, and we are merely stewards. Such freedom in this truth. All that I have belongs to him and all that I need will come from him. This is fantastic news.

He crushed my pride. I don't know about everyone else, but I really like the idea that I have things under control. More specifically, I like the idea of others thinking I "have my act together." I don't like to need help. I certainly don't like to have to ask for help. And I can pretty easily convince myself that this is because I don't want to inconvenience anyone, but the greater truth is that I like to protect my pride. But. . . a little over 3 years ago after living 6 states away from my family for 9 months, my church decided that was enough (primarily because they saw that it was killing us) and moved me up here, declaring that they would cover our mortgage until the house sold. Guess what happens in that situation. Pride dies. It has no choice. I had nothing to offer. No job to bring. No finances to contribute. No control over whether or not the house would sell in a reasonable amount of time. Nothing but total dependence. This was one of the most beautifully difficult gifts of my life. The utter destruction of my pride. (not that it doesn't still try to rear its ugly head sometimes often daily, but I'm much better equipped to fight it now than ever before.)

He taught me to trust and rest. These are not my default modes by any stretch of the imagination. By natural design, I tend to live in the thought processes of "It's up to me to make this happen" and "I better stay busy until the job is done." But finding myself repeatedly in situations over which I had no control forced me to stop working and start trusting. And because God is God and unequivocally worthy of trust, he proved himself over and over again. So much easier to trust the trustworthy, right? But only by God's grace. And do you know what happened when I finally realized everything didn't depend on my work or my plans? Then came the rest. Oh, sweet rest in Him. 

He increased my patience. Notice I didn't say he "taught me patience." There's no past tense here. Sadly, I haven't come anywhere close to mastering this ongoing lesson yet. (nor any of the others, but this is one of the hardest for me.) But certainly waiting 4 years for a house to sell *after* waiting 15 years for a lifestyle change developed some level of patience in me. This is one of my least favorite lessons, but I'm grateful that God shows kindness as I wait. And while he certainly doesn't owe me an explanation, sometimes he even sees fit to give me glimpses of why the waiting occurs. But never does he show up late, and it's a thrill to my heart when I actually remember to dwell on that truth. I love those a-ha moments! Evidence of sanctification. Tiny little revelations of complete joy in God's sovereignty, even when it doesn't match my plans. In the deepest part of my heart where only HE can reach and only HE can transform.

Maybe there are other reasons I'll discover somewhere along the way. Maybe there are other reasons I'll never know about. Maybe these reasons are enough. I don't know.

What I do know is that God is good. All the time. He was good for the 4 years we owned a house we no longer wanted. And he's good to bless our family by helping us put this chapter to rest. And he'll continue to be good as we wait for whatever he has planned for us next. So grateful for all the ways he loves us in every season.


(I feel like singing the "My Chains are Gone" version of Amazing Grace, but I don't want to be blasphemous and make it seem like I think selling a house is as important as being set free from sin. But y'all understand, right? ;-) )

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Good List 6-12-13

10. Roasted garbanzo beans. My new favorite snack when I need something crunchy, but healthy.
9. Looking at floor plans with Macy and Grace. It was fun from the very beginning, but once I explained to Grace that none of them are set in stone, and all can be adjusted any way we like, the graph paper came out, and the REAL fun began. She's sketching out all kinds of fun designs. ;-)
8. "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North. It speaks for itself, and I bet there isn't a soul on the planet who can't relate at some level.

7. It's the last *whole* day of school. Graduation tonight. Half day tomorrow. Ready.
6. Temperatures in the 50s and 60s in June. Unheard of where I came from, but I like it.
5. Macy's graduation gift from our church. She was so excited to see her name imprinted on it!

4. Brent and Tiffany are married!!! Such a sweet and Gospel-rich wedding.
3. Baby Max, whose mother was encouraged to terminate him when she lost her amniotic fluid and her pregnancy situation became less than ideal. She boldly and bravely refused to consider it even for a moment. So grateful for her. He was born a few weeks ago weighing 1.5 pounds. The last time I checked in he was almost 3 pounds and getting stronger every day. What a miracle and a blessing!

2. Lunch and precious conversation in rainy Lake Placid with the remarkable Lore Ferguson yesterday. A jewel among us for sure. So good for my heart. So, SO good.
1. The rock solid testimonies of those who cling to Christ with all they have during the most difficult times in their lives. Grueling, painful, exhausting, frustrating, yet somehow also undergirded with steadfast confidence and eternal hope. Only by God's grace.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My HUGE Church

I'm currently relishing this deliciously amusing irony-- that God would move me to tiny little rural Vermont, and more specifically, my tiny little (but ever so epic) rural church, and here (all surrounded by little tininess) he would exponentially increase my vision for the grandeur and vastness and massive power of his Church. His "capital C" Church. The wardrobe door swung wide open when I moved here, and I haven't found the end of Narnia yet. I suspect I never will.

Somehow everywhere I turn, God introduces me to yet another warrior. Someone in North Dakota. Someone in Virginia. Someone in New York. Washington. Maine. Someone in England. In Scotland. Dubai. The list goes on and on. So much irony. I moved from Texas, the biggest state in the U.S., to Tennessee, specifically Nashville, which is arguably one of the most central and "connected" cities in the U.S. when it comes to pretty much all things "Christian." Now I live in Vermont, which isn't central to anything, contains fewer Christians than any other state according to most surveys, and is barely connected to anything. ;-)

And yet. . .

This is where I'm waking up. God keeps telling me and better yet showing me that this little tiny church I love so much isn't really tiny at all. Rather, it's all wrapped up in and tied together with ministries far and wide. People literally all over the world are joined to us and us to them through prayer and all sorts of other forms of support. That's because we're not just "our" church. We're "HIS" Church! His great big, beautiful, thriving, mighty Church! I can't even describe the encouragement lavished on my heart and soul by this truth.

Here's why:

We hope to dig roots way down deep into this literally and figuratively rocky Vermont soil and anchor ourselves here for the rest of our earthly days, which means that by definition of the size of our town (and the size of Vermont in general), there is only so much "growth" we can expect within the Middletown Springs church walls. And while we're not really that concerned with numbers in general, certainly our heart's desire is to see God at work! To see his family growing and thriving! This will never happen in huge quantity within the walls of MSCC.

But. . .

. . . we're not limited by those walls. We're attached and connected to countless others from sea to shining sea and across every ocean into countries we'll likely never visit physically. And the stronger the global Church becomes, the stronger "our" little church becomes no matter how many people occupy our building. Because it isn't our church at all, is it? It belongs to a mighty God who is building it every single day one soul at a time, none of which are insignificant. Let me repeat that. NONE of which are insignificant. What comfort! What hope! What joy!

Lord, thank you so much for this dazzling glimpse into eternity! It makes all of my heart sparkle with hope.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Good List 6-5-13

10. Window a/c units. I'm super grateful not to have the massive summer electric bills that accompanied our central air in Tennessee and Texas, but every now and then here in Vermont, we have a day that makes me grateful for the nice, cool escape of an air conditioned room.
9. The fact that one of Macy's BFF's gave her a cookbook for her birthday, and she LOVED it! Everything about that scenario makes me happy.
8. Face time. It's not the same as being together in person, but it helps when you're 3000 miles away from the one you love the most.
7. Both of the girls are going to a birthday party sleepover Friday night. An actual "go out" date night is in our future! It's been awhile.
6. Surprise packages in the mail from awesome friends. Particularly when they contain GooGoo Clusters. :-D (Thank you, Rachel!)

5. Some friends of ours from Houston just relocated to Maine. Joel will be pastoring a church there. So grateful for the way God continues to work in New England, and so glad to be part of the team here! AND the Burdeauxs are coming to see us in a couple weeks. Jared has spent time with them before, but it will be my first time to meet them in person. Excited!
4. I'm in the middle of an epic "stroll down memory lane" with my sisters on facebook, and it is pretty much making my day. (Although I'm in public, and I'm gonna get kicked out, 'cause I can't stop giggling.)
3. Gracie ran her little heart out at the Girls on the Run 5K last Saturday. She was SO PROUD!

2. I'm gonna be an aunt again!!! Jeremy and Danielle are expecting on December 29th! 

1. Yesterday during Ladies' Bible Study, my friend Rita recited *almost the entire book of James from memory. I don't know how to describe how special that was.
*She recited all the way through the middle of Chapter 5 and is working on finishing the entire book, but yesterday was our last meeting before breaking for summer, so our leader asked her to go ahead and recite what she had and read the rest. It was pretty much awesome.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Prayer Time 6/4/13

Today I'm shouting out huge THANK YOUs to God for bringing my man home safely last night and for the sweet reports from the Pacific Northwest where he got to interact with 2 different churches and communities. There is already talk of a return visit, and next time, I wanna go with him! ;-) There are some precious people there I'd love to know.

Also, I'm continuing to pray for the smooth completion of the process of closing on our house in Tennessee later this month. Inspection and appraisal were due to happen yesterday. We haven't gotten any feedback yet, but hoping (and certainly praying) for a good report today.

Lots of other praises and petitions on my list. Feel free to add yours. Comments on this post will not be published publicly for the sake of privacy.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Big Move: an Essay by Grace Wilson

I love the end of the school year when the girls start bringing home art folders and writing projects. Grace brought home this gem today.

The Big Move

     One day I got told that we were going to move to Vermont. It was a very exciting yet scary and sad adventure for me. This is the story of how I learned about Vermont and how my experience was on this big move.

     When I was 5 years old, in kindergarten, I got told that our family was going to move to Vermont. At first I was very confused, because I didn't even know that Vermont existed. I didn't even know if it was a city or a state! When I figured out where, why and when we were going to move, I was a little sad, because I was smart enough to figure out that that meant I was going to have to leave all my friends and even my Mom for a little while, so she could take care of the house and talk to the realtor about stuff. Mom told me that she was still going to fly up to Vermont a few times, but I was still sad. In fact, I was devastated.

     We still lived in my Nashville house for a few more days so we could pack and Dad could talk to our realtor too. I wasn't happy even though I still got to stay a few more days. I didn't want to leave my bedroom, my friends, my church, or my school, and most of all, I didn't want to leave my Mom in Tennessee. I knew I had to though, because the whole reason we moved was because Middletown Springs Community Church needed a pastor, and my Dad was going to be that pastor!

     On the last day in Tennessee and the last day living with everything in Tennessee, I went to school and got my class's and my teacher's (Miss Adams) phone number on a piece of orange construction paper. I lost it before we were even in the car, but I didn't care much because I knew I was going to lose it in Vermont anyway. When it was time to go, our car was loaded with our clothes, books, blankets, toys, snacks for the trip, movies, art supplies, treasures, plastic jewelry, pillows, and almost anything a little girl could do anything with. It was time to go.

     It took 2 days to get from Tennessee to Vermont, and I enjoy road trips, so it was pretty fun for me. I liked staying in the hotel for the night in between the 2 days it took to get here. Macy (my sister) and I were pretty occupied in the car with all our toys and things. It felt like such a long time in the car, because I was a little less disappointed and actually a little excited about moving by then, and it always feels like a longer time when you are excited about it. I don't know what made me change my mind.

     When we finally got to the new house, I really wanted to see what the house looked like. When I got out of the car and went into the house, I felt strange and different, since I was in a place and even state I have never been to before. I looked in all the rooms, and I looked at all the land around the house that we were renting. That day I was very happy and learned a very valuable lesson through those first few weeks.

     The lesson I learned is that even though you may be scared, and even a little mad about things, they almost always turn out to be good. I look back now and think, "Why was I mad?", because now I am here in Vermont, in a wonderful place, with a wonderful community, with wonderful friends. You should never be scared. You should always know that everything will almost always turn out to be ok. This lesson will help me later on for when I am scared. I will just think about when I moved and everything turned out to be ok.

Good Ol' Nat. . . Even Better Jared

Several years ago when I was in the midst of a particularly difficult situation at my job, Jared was feeling helpless to "rescue" me, so instead he worked really hard to love me well even in the middle of the struggle.

One morning as I opened the door to get into my car and reluctantly drive away from my family yet again, I found a CD on my seat with the words "Play Me" printed in Jared's handwriting. When I slid it into the CD player, this melody flowed through and filled my car so magically and luxuriously, I couldn't begin to describe it. 

I felt like a princess in a fairy tale. I played the song over and over and over again during my 30ish minute commute. And I smiled and grinned and maybe even giggled a little as I realized that no matter what happened during that day, eventually I would get to leave my office and go home to the man who loved me enough to come up with such a creative way to make me smile.

I don't remember all that happened that day at work. I'm sure it was stressful and discouraging like most days at the office were during that season of my life. But I distinctly remember feeling so much lighter throughout that day, twirling around in my mind to the music that lilted through my thoughts all day long. It was a good day.

Missing my man today. So grateful he's on his way home to me tonight.