Monday, December 31, 2012

Walk With Me Through 2012...

We have made it to the end of another year! I think this is one of my favorite posts to write each year; this will be the 4th year for me to blog about {A Year in Review}. It is just such a good way to stop and reflect over the past year and on all the Lord has done. He has certainly shown His faithfulness, and I am so thankful for all He has done in our lives!

In January, I was excited about the fresh start and new beginning that a new year always seems to offer. I was beginning to feel the Lord's grace on my life, as He was gently whispering to my heart and restoring my weary soul. My challenge was to listen to what He had for me and truly experience His presence. Mike and I had been praying for an opportunity to open up our home for a Bible study, and in January we met for the first time. It was exciting to see new faces and the potential for a body of believers to share life with. I revived an old hobby and began crocheting again, a fun past time that I hope to continue. I was also blessed in countless ways by my sweet husband, who was reminding me of his selfless love in the little things.

February was full of celebrations: a girls weekend, my birthday, Valentine's Day, and a sweet friend's lingerie shower. Mike spoke at a men's retreat, which gave me some good girl time with my mom and Laura. For my birthday, Mike took me out to dinner for tacos and margaritas, and he surprised me with a basket full of crochet items and Sprinkles cupcakes! For Valentine's Day, I went the cheesy route and made him as many overly-cheesy valentines I could think of. He put together a thoughtful basket of all of my favorite food items :) My sweet friend Kelly had her lingerie shower, and it was fun to bless her before her wedding!

The month of March was a month of long-anticipated and prayed-for change. We had been praying for the Lord to provide another job closer to home, and He provided abundantly! I said good-bye to my friends and co-workers at Wortham, and started working at Independent Bank. This was a HUGE answer to prayer and an incredible weight lifted off my shoulders. We were so blessed by the way the Lord provided for us, and it has been such a great story to share of how He has taken care of us!

In April, I found myself adjusting to the new {fantastic} work schedule. I started to feel "normal" again and as though I actually lived (and not just slept) in McKinney. I finally felt like I had the energy and time to dive into other things outside of work. I was helping a friend plan her wedding, helping fulfill Bridesmaid duties for my sister-in-law, and getting more connected with people in our home group. We celebrated Easter with my brother, as well as both of our moms' birthdays, and I received a sweet gift for my first Administrative Professionals' Day!

In May, we celebrated our 10 month anniversary, and I was reminded of several blessings in our first few months of marriage. I was helping our friends Matt & Daisy with last minute wedding details, and it was nice to help make their wedding day special. I attempted a Photo-A-Day challenge, but would later realize that I preferred {iPhone Rewind}.

I started walking through a Sermon on the Mount Bible study in June. I was in desperate need of an organized study, and Laura was all too generous to walk through it with me. We had a couple other girls from home group join us, and it was such a blessing. Lindsay and Ben got married, and it was so fun that Mike and I both got to be in the wedding party. Their wedding was a BLAST, and it was great to be a part of their big day. My parents came to the wedding too, so we got some extra time with them, which is always a blessing. And my sweet baby Sasha turned 5!

In July, my parents came back into town (which was awesome!) and we were able to celebrate Father's Day and my brother's birthday with a Rangers game and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer (their pick!) We also celebrated our 1 year anniversary! It was hard to believe that the first year had gone by so fast. But we are so thankful for our first year. Mike surprised me with a new top layer for our wedding cake, as well as a frame with our wedding notes to each other. It was the perfect 1st anniversary, and I am so thankful for my sweet husband!

We were in the midst of applying for a church planting residency in August. The Lord had been forming a growing partnership between us and our new McKinney church, and we were seeing Him provide in incredible ways. The assessment process was pretty intense; but we were so humbled by the church's heart in wanting to be a part of church planting, specifically with us. I was connecting more with the girls in our home group, through Bible study and our first Pinterest Party. We also got to spend a week in Colorado on vacation. We stayed at Wind River Ranch, and it was such a great chance for us to get away and have a relaxing week together. I climbed my first mountain! :)

In September, we said goodbye to life BCP (Before Church Planting), and Mike officially started as the Church Planting Resident at Christ Fellowship. We also said goodbye to summer, and transformed the house with Fall decorations. The weather didn't quite follow suit, but that's ok :) I finally made a doctor's appointment for the stomach/intestinal issues I had been having, and they found H.Pylori in my stomach. I was on a 2 week intense antibiotic regimen, in hopes that that would fix the problem. We rejoiced with our sweet friends as they welcomed their 2nd baby! We also enjoyed an afternoon of pumpkin carving with our home group.

I wrote my 300th blog post in October. We launched our ministry website, which was really exciting! Mike's brother Bryan helped us by producing a video for us to share with potential supporters about our heart and vision for McKinney. We headed down to San Antonio for a weekend; Mike went on his first hunting trip with my dad and brother, and I enjoyed a girls day with my mom! We were blessed with an impromptu date night at a pre-season Mavs game, with helping at Habitat for Humanity, and with serving at the Kids Karnival (as Clark Kent and Lois Lane!)

In November, we made an unexpected visit to the vet with Sasha. She broke her nail near the bed and had to have it removed; it was probably more stressful for me than it was for her! Unfortunately, my stomach/intestinal pain returned, so I was back in the doctor's office looking for more answers. We headed to Waco for a Baylor football game, where I was able to share my alma mater with Mike and then enjoy a sweet victory over #1-ranked Kansas State! We also started the {12 Dates of Christmas} and celebrated Mike's 31st birthday!

December started off with the fun surprise of Laura's engagement! I am SO excited that 2013 will be filled with planning for my best friend's wedding :) December was also filled with some more health issues, as I ended up in the hospital for my stomach/intestinal pain to eventually be diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. We announced our Pray nine3eight campaign, so be sure to connect with us and join us in praying Matthew 9:38 over our church plant for 100 days! We hosted a Carols & Cocoa event at Starbucks, which was a fun way to connect with the community and sing of Jesus in public. We got to spend lots of time with family over Christmas, with 2 McCullough Christmases, and then a week of fun activities with my family.

We have been so overwhelmed by all that the Lord has done in 2012. We constantly reflect back on everything that has happened in such a short amount of time. We are definitely excited about what the Lord has for us in 2013. It will certainly be a year of new beginnings- figuring out life with Crohn's Disease, planning my best friend's wedding, and moving forward with the exciting changes in our church plant. But we cannot wait to see what He has in store for us!


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Post With All the Christmas Festivities

I have to be honest and say that it hasn't really felt much like Christmas these past few weeks. Part of it is because it has been in the 80s for most of the time, and didn't actually get cold until Christmas Eve (but good timing, right?). And part of it has been the whirlwind of events, dealing with my health, and still having to work through most of the time. P.S. working on Christmas Eve should be outlawed. Just saying :)

But despite how different things may have felt this year, we still were able to enjoy LOTS of fun Christmas activities. And I just have to say that I am SO thankful for flexible families. Both sides are wonderful when it comes to scheduling holiday events, and I realize what an incredible blessing that truly is. I was sad to miss out on big family Christmas with my side of the family, as we didn't make it down to San Antonio this year. But I was really excited to have my brother and parents here for a little bit!

On Sunday, we headed over to the McCulloughs for Christmas #1. We were able to spend time with all the kids and exchange gifts.

It was what she had always wanted!


It was also fun to have my brother join us for the festivities. He wasn't able to head down to San Antonio either because of work and a roommate move/change, so he camped out at our house for the week. After work on Christmas Eve, we enjoyed a little family game time and Christmas movie watching. We made dinner together, watched the Christmas Eve service at CF, and had a relaxing evening hanging out and enjoying each other's company.

We had a huge thunderstorm roll in overnight, so I spent Christmas Eve curled up next to the Christmas tree and a scared pup. Guess Sasha got a Christmas wish too ;) The fun part of the thunderstorm was that it finally brought colder temperatures. And we actually had a white Christmas!

Christmas day we got to sleep in, and we enjoyed a Christmas breakfast and Skype date with my parents. We then headed over to Bryan & Christa's new house to enjoy an afternoon and dinner with family for Christmas #2.

Elizabeth wanted her daddy to paint Uncle Mike's with purple sparkles. That's a good daddy and a good uncle! ;)

A fun round of Taboo!

I headed back to work on Wednesday while my parents made the trek up from San Antonio. I was able to take the rest of the week off, which was nice to take a break and actually slow down for Christmas. We got to do Christmas with my parents and brother, with a full weekend of fun activities!

The boys were outfitted in camo for their next hunting trip!

Mom with her Starbucks goodies!

Dad shopping at Cabela's for his Christmas present :)

On Friday we headed out for some good old fashioned bowling fun. It's always fun to have a little friendly competition!

We also had my aunt, uncle, and cousins over for dinner and a game night. It was good to spend some time with them and finally have them over to our house! We played a few rounds of 4 on the couch, guys vs. girls- which was a fun end to the day!

The guys emerged the victors!

Saturday we went to see Les Miserables- which my mom and I thoroughly enjoyed, and the boys were kind enough to endure for our sake ;) We spent the rest of the evening playing games and hanging out.

Sunday Mike preached at CF, so it was fun to have my family here to hear him. He spoke from Titus 2 about resolutions, and how as Christians our resolutions should be distinct from the rest of the world. It was such a good reminder of the grace and purpose we live in Christ. His sermon will be available online in a couple of days! :)

We also had an intentional time of prayer for our home group and the future of our church plant. It was such a sweet time to spend in prayer together, and we are so excited for the changes coming in 2013. Don't forget to join us in our Pray nine3eight campaign for the first 100 days of the year!

Sunday evening we wrapped up a fun week of activities with a trip to the Spurs vs. Mavericks game. I had bought tickets for Mike for Christmas, so we were able to enjoy a fun family event ;) Our house is certainly divided when it comes to basketball, but it's so much fun!

A house divided!

Spurs, Mavericks, Lakers :)

It was certainly a FULL week of fun activities! We loved having my parents in town and it was sad to see them go. But it was a fantastic way to wrap up 2012! :)


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer... singing loud for all to hear! :)

As a fun way to promote business at the store and engage the community, we hosted a Carols & Cocoa night at Starbucks. We had such a great turnout, and it was so cool to be able to sing and speak about Jesus in a public setting!

Our sweet friends Jason and Sara, Lindsey, and Daniel sang with Mike, and they did such a great job! Sorry for the grainy was pretty dark. But you get the idea :)

They had a mini concert time at the beginning, but then we engaged the crowd and had everyone join in on some Christmas carols. We even got enough volunteers for a fun rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas!

It was such a fun night, and we are so thankful to the sweet manager Carolyn for allowing us to host the event. What an incredible blessing to sing of Jesus!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

{12 Dates of Christmas} :: Movie Night Out

{On the 8th date of Christmas, my true love planned for me...A Movie Night Out}

Date:  Movie Night Out

Cost:  $15 (Again, thank you Groupon!)

So with the craziness of being sick and taking a hospital visit, and with the busyness of Christmas upon us, several of our Christmas dates were/will have to be put on hold. We're still going to try and complete as many as we can, but we lost tickets for one of the dates, so we may not be able to catch up on all of sad. Maybe next year. I will still list the dates here for ideas, even if we don't complete all of them.

Last night, we went to see The Hobbit. We have a theatre near us that has pretty cheap tickets, but it is pretty old, which means sticky floors, odd smells, and no stadium seating (haha- how spoiled have we become!) Anyway, I wanted to spring for the nicer theatre down the road, but when I came across a deal on Groupon to get a movie ticket for the Studio Movie Grill + a drink for $6 each, I couldn't pass it up! It's a brand new theatre, and it was kind of fun! We enjoyed the movie, and it was a fun date night after the craziness of the past week.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pray nine3eight Challenge

I realize it has been awhile since I have updated everyone on church planting stuff. I mean, things have been just a little crazy ;)

And so... {insert update here}

Mike started the church planting residency with Christ Fellowship back in September, and he has been focusing on some of the leadership development assignments that are part of the residency. He has had an opportunity to preach, head up the Scare Away Hunger canned food drive for the church, and talk more in depth with the networking team about our heart and vision for reaching the city of McKinney with the gospel. We have also been in full support-raising mode, hosting a few vision/support desserts with friends and family and launching our ministry website.

In the coming weeks, Mike will have another opportunity to preach (watch him live here on December 30th!), and we will be meeting with varying leadership for some marriage and individual ministry development. With so much going on, his responsibilities have naturally increased with the residency, especially since we have still been focused on our home church ministry. Because of this, he recently stepped away from his job at Starbucks. He is still going to try to "office" out of his store as much as possible, in order to maintain the relationships he has made, but he will focus his time and energy exclusively on ministry now.

We have a lot of exciting things on the horizon, so we will {hopefully} have more frequent updates in the coming months! The first of the coming changes has to do with our home church. With the start of the church planting residency, we have been in a "digging deeper" phase with our group. All that really means is that we have focused our efforts on building intentionality within the group so that we have more of a community group feel: asking deeper questions, sharing our life stories, taking care of each other like a family.

We will continue doing that, but starting in January, we will add a "growing broader" phase. We are challenging the group to begin praying and inviting people within our natural, God-given circles to join what we are doing in the church plant. We will also add a monthly Celebration Gathering, which really, will look more like a traditional church service for our group. This is such an exciting step for the next phase of a church plant! We have our core little group, and we are going to begin praying to see how God expands that group, to hopefully grow into a larger body of faith. We are excited to actively engage in the process and see how the Lord moves!

Part of the intentional prayer will include our family and friends. Beginning January 1, we will launch what we are calling the Pray nine3eight challenge. We are asking people to join us in committing to pray for 100 days. We want to go before the Lord and pray the words of Matthew 9:38...
If you are interested in joining with us in praying for God to spread the gospel to the city of McKinney through our church plant, you can go to the Pray nine3eight Facebook page and "like" the page. Each day for 100 days, the page will post a reminder to pray, which will show up in your news feed. If you would like to receive a daily email reminder to pray, please send me a message or email me, and I will add you to the daily email distribution for your reminder.

Will you commit to pray for 100 days? That God will bring people to connect with us in reaching the city of McKinney for Christ? Imagine what could happen in 100 days when God's people go before His throne on behalf of an entire city...


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

On Health & Doctors...The Hospital Chapter

So apparently when I get sick, I really get sick. I can't seem to just have any normal illnesses or simple doctor visits. Mike says I'm "special"  :)

{Heads Up = this is a long post with lots of medical info; feel free to skip if it doesn't interest you}

As you may or may not know, last Wednesday I was scheduled for my follow up with the GI Specialist. But Tuesday evening I had another bad pain attack. I figured it might be good for the doctor to see me at my worst, so I went to the appointment as planned. We scheduled an upper endoscopy for Christmas Eve (Merry Christmas to me!) and would hope to have some answers then. But the pain persisted and wasn't getting better (and had never lasted any longer than 36 hours). Without any seeming relief in sight, we called the doctor and he suggested I head to the ER, that he would send my records ahead so the ER doctors would have my history and would be ready for me.

We checked in about 3:30pm, and they immediately started me on pain meds, which I was so thankful for. I don't love the idea of narcotics, but it was just nice to get some relief from the pain. After taking blood, doing a CT scan, and talking with my doctor, they decided to admit me and get me prepped to have my upper endoscopy early. The doctor also wanted to do a colonoscopy, so the evening was filled with lots of Golytely fun. (I will spare you the details, but I don't look forward to having to do that ever again). I was just thankful that I didn't really have much in my system to begin with...because it could have been much worse.

The GI doctor was able to do the procedures himself early Friday morning; I am so thankful for that blessing. It was nice to have a familiar face I trusted, and he has been wonderful throughout this whole process. The rest of Friday I spent hooked up to IV fluids, antibiotics, and steroids. I was on an all-clear liquid diet, so I feasted on lots of chicken broth and popsicles :) They wanted to keep me overnight, so that they could monitor my insides and make sure they could get things to calm down. I joked with Mike about taking the absolute most expensive route to finding out answers (ER visits, 2-night hospital stay, extra tests, etc.) But as he reminded me today, God knew I would be sick and was not surprised by the hospital visit. I need to remind myself of that when the bills start piling in...

So...the results of the procedures showed an inflamed ileum (which is the fancy word for the small and large intestines connector). Because it was inflamed and swollen, it was making things difficult to pass through my system. Things were getting backed up, which is what was causing all of the pain. Fun, right? Based on all of the tests and symptoms, the doctor believes I have Crohn's Disease. I have to follow up with him in a couple of weeks, and at that time he will have the final blood results back that will allow him to make a 100% diagnosis. But it looks and walks like a duck...

Basically, Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is hereditary (I found out recently that a first cousin also has it- who knew?), and it is due to a malfunctioning immune system. From what I understand, we have good and bad bacteria in our stomachs. Normally, the bad bacteria is allowed to stay within the digestive tract to aid in digestion (so I guess technically it's good bacteria...or at least appropriate bacteria to be there). When you have Crohn's, however, your immune system identifies that bad bacteria as harmful and attacks it through the linings of the digestive tract, which is what causes inflammation and irritation. So my immune system is doing what it's supposed to, just in the wrong place. While certain foods may irritate my insides, they don't cause the problem. The good news is that the doctor believes that it is a milder case, so it will probably just mean a change of diet and some medication to help manage the symptoms. There's no cure, so this will be a life-long deal, but there is a lot of positive news in terms of managing the disease so that I can ward off the pain attacks and hopefully avoid another hospital visit.

For the next couple of weeks before I see my doctor again, I am on antibiotics and steroids and a strict all-liquid, no fiber diet. This is to let the inflammation subside and keep things calm before re-introducing normal food. I would appreciate prayers over that. I need to be mindful and purposeful in my caloric intake, and the medicine I am on lowers my immune system. So prayers of protection, health, and energy as my body continues to heal are much appreciated.

I still have a lot to learn about Crohn's and what my treatment will look like. There's a part of me that is nervous and sad for what this will look like in the day to day. But there's a larger part of me that feels blessed and so thankful for all the circumstances surrounding this. I am thankful to finally have answers so that we can move forward and get back to "normal." I am grateful for the doctors, nurses, and staff that took such great care of me at Baylor Plano. For health insurance and access to medical care to get this mystery solved. For a diagnosis that is manageable and will still allow me to lead a relatively normal life. For patient bosses and co-workers who picked up the slack in my absence. For my sweet husband who patiently and lovingly took care of me these past few days (although he did say that I cashed in my "in sickness and in health" card early haha). For the sweet friends and family who took care of Sasha while we were in the hospital. For the outpouring of prayers, love, and concern from countless people. And for the grace and healing from Jesus as He took care of and comforted us through this crazy ordeal.

My boss this morning saw me at my desk and said, "Hey- lookie here! Day #2 and you're here! You gotta celebrate the little's 9:00 and you're not in the hospital! Now that's a GOOD day!" Most definitely blessed.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Any Reason to be Crafty

I don't necessarily need an excuse to work on a crafty project, but in a weird way it makes me feel better when I do. I guess that's the justification process at its best...

My best friend Laura recently got engaged, so what better excuse to be crafty?? :) I still needed to find the perfect Christmas present for her, but my brain is clouded by thoughts of all things wedding right now. So this year, Laura got wedding-related Christmas presents!

Of course, with the next few months designated for wedding planning details, there will be more than enough of my fill for crafty time! ;)

Present #1: Wedding Day Countdown
She can count down the days to her wedding using a dry erase marker and then use the cute frame for something else later. I think I might have a thing for frames-as-dry-erase-boards right now...but they're so great!

[Pictures coming soon! Apparently I made a terrible awful!]

Materials: 4x4 frame from Michael's, scrapbook paper
Tools: Paper cutter, adhesive, printer
Total Project Cost: $8 (sales and coupons)

Present #2: Engagement Silhouette Frame
This is just a fun memory for their engagement anniversary :) Seriously- easiest DIY ever. I found the proposal shilhouette on google images, added the color and text in Pages, printed at Kinko's, and put it in a frame. Simple.

Materials: 8x10 black frame from Michael's, 8.5x11 color print from Kinko's
Tools: Pages program on my Mac, paper cutter (to trim down the print)
Total Project Cost: $7.50 (the color print at Kinko's was $1.34 for an 8.5x11 cardstock)


Saturday, December 8, 2012

{12 Dates of Christmas} :: Starbucks & Christmas Lights

{On the 7th date of Christmas, my true love planned for me...A Starbucks & Christmas Lights Date}

Date:  Starbucks & Christmas Lights, McKinney

Cost:  $2.57 (thank you Starbucks discount!)

I absolutely LOVE driving around neighborhoods during Christmas time to see the lights. For this date, we grabbed a cup of coffee and drove around a few neighborhoods to see how McKinney decorates.

Sorry, no pictures for this one. McKinney keeps it pretty simple and classy. No crazy light shows anywhere ;)


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

{12 Dates of Christmas} :: A Stratego Date

{On the 6th date of Christmas, my true love planned for me...A Stratego Date}

Date:  Stratego Game Night, Home

Cost:  My pride Free

My husband loves this game. It's not my favorite; I'm just not very good at games like this. So I have to really be in a loving and giving mood to be able to play ;) But I know how much he enjoys the strategy behind it, so I gave it my best shot.

Preparing for battle...
Contemplating his strategy...
Defeated. As usual.
He was even not feeling 100% and still beat me. Oh well. I know he enjoys the game :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

{12 Dates of Christmas} :: Christmas Movie

{On the 5th date of Christmas, my true love planned for me...A Christmas Movie Day}

Date:  Christmas Movie Day, Home

Cost:  Free

Nothing says "welcome holidays" like the first screening of our most favorite Christmas movie. For this date, we had a quiet afternoon at home watching Elf.

I mean can you NOT love this movie?? :)


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Laura is Engaged!

I am so excited that my best friend Laura is engaged! We had hung out earlier in the week and talked about the prospect of her getting engaged, but little did we know that it would actually happen just a few days later :)

The surprise birthday party for Laura was cleverly planned as a surprise engagement party too! It was fun to celebrate with her in more than one way. Another sweet part of the surprise was that David had made sure that our friend Nicki was there too. Love these girls!!

I am so happy for my sweet friend and her new fiance David. It has been so fun to watch Laura date and fall in love with him, and it brings me so much joy that she has found her Mr. Laura. I love sharing this with her, and cannot wait to spend the next few months helping her plan her special day.

Congrats to the future Mr. and Mrs. Daniels!! :)