Thursday, January 31, 2013

{iPhone Rewind} :: January

Because I do {A Year in Review}, I decided not to do an {iPhone Rewind} for December. Plus, let's be honest- December was a bit crazy. But never fear...we're back at it for January! :)

Mike officiated a former student's wedding, so we got to enjoy a fun date night out.

We also had our first Celebration Gathering for our home church...such an exciting time for a church plant!

My parents had given me a gift card to NY&Company for Christmas, and I was finally able to use it. I was so excited about the deals I got- nothing over $10!

I got to go wedding dress shopping with Laura, which was OH SO FUN :)

My new DSLR camera arrived, which was SO exciting! I haven't had a ton of time to play with it, but what little time I have spent tinkering with it has been really fun.

We had a random snow day where we had a good 2-3 inches that stuck for a couple of days...and then it went back up into the 70s. Gotta love Texas :)
Usually in the mornings, I feed Sasha and she heads back to sleep in her kennel. But lately, she has taken to joining me in the bathroom while I get ready...she's my "getting ready in the morning" buddy! :)
Mike and I have been walking through some of the pieces of the residency by meeting with varying people at CF. The first piece is Prepare & Enrich; I am happy to announce that we are a "harmonious couple" - we just have to work on communication :)
The second piece is the SOI (Styles of Influence). Mike is a Persuader, and I am a Specialist. It has been interesting to see how our different personalities and communication styles affect our relationship dynamics.
I got my first Birthday present from my sweet mother-in-law! :)


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Heart of Joyful Sacrifice (Link Up!)

I am really excited about the release of The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart by fellow church planting wife Christine Hoover. I have had the opportunity to be a part of her launch team and have been blessed to not only read it but also share it. I will be writing a review soon, so be on the lookout for that!

Today, I'm linking up with Christine over at Grace Covers Me as she releases her book and collects heart stories from church planting and ministry wives. Join us?

How has God used church planting to create a heart of joyful sacrifice?

I can't pretend that I have some incredible widsom to offer when it comes to church planting and what I have learned through it. If anything, I have very little to offer at this point; mostly because I am still at the beginning of my journey as a church planting wife. But the Lord wastes nothing, and He has certainly taught me a lot, even in my short journey. And I know He will continue to teach me more as we seek to fulfill this calling to reach the city of McKinney for the gospel.

We chose to do things the difficult adventurous way. My sweet groom left his job at an existing church, we got married, left our church family and all of our friends, and moved to McKinney. All in the same month. There we were, newlyweds in a new city, on a mission to start something new, only knowing one other couple. Lots of change all at once for this lover of consistency/routine.  :)

In order for us to be able to move to McKinney and pursue church planting, I needed to keep my job. Mike had started working at Starbucks and at a church in town with raising support, but we still needed my income, as well as some semblence of normalcy admist all the change. My job, however, was located near downtown Dallas. If you are unfamiliar with the DFW area, McKinney to Dallas is about a 45 minute drive without traffic on one of the main thoroughfares that runs North and South. In order to get out ahead of the traffic, I was getting up at 4:45am to be out the door by 5:45am and in the office by 6:30am. My commute home was always longer, so I would get home, make dinner, go to bed, and start over the next day. I was thankful that my office allowed me to adjust my work hours, but it became increasingly more difficult to keep that schedule. Mike had started meeting people in the community, but I was doing all I could to make it through another day; we have often described it as feeling like I was just sleeping in McKinney. But because I knew my role was important to what we felt called to do, I made the necessary sacrifice.

But I will be honest and say that it was FAR from joyful. As a new wife in a new city, I was at a loss of knowing how to balance it all. I was lonely and missed my friends. My morning quiet times went out the window because I just couldn't get up any earlier. I literally cried my entire commute both to and from work for months. I began to question God; not even on what we felt called to do, but mostly on what was being required of me in order to be obedient to that call. If this was what things were going to look like, how on earth would I survive a life of this? And then the seeds of discontent and resentment started growing. Why did I have to make this huge sacrifice? Wasn't leaving behind my community of church and friends enough? Wasn't choosing a life of service in ministry over comfort and security enough?

I am sure no one would argue that it wasn't the most ideal situation; I wouldn't recommend it to anyone if it can be avoided, nor would I want to go back {you can read the story of God's abundant provision of relief here}. But the Lord definitely used it to mold and shape and conform my broken and weary heart. You see, I had forgotten and missed altogehter what sacrifice really meant.

sac - ri - fice [sak-ruh-fahys], verb, giving up of something valued: a giving up of something valuable or important for somebody or something else considered to be of more value or importance

I was certainly giving up things I valued: time, sleep, expectations, comforts, etc. But when I read the second part of that definition, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Giving up something valuable {yes, I got that part} for somebody or something considered to be more valuable {ouch}. This is where peaking into the depths of my heart got uncomfortable. I knew who the somebody {Jesus} or something {the gospel} was supposed to be. It was supposed to be why we moved to McKinney in the first place. By the looks of it, I valued Jesus and the gospel. I had, after all, made the big leap to move out here; I gave up some expectations and comforts and securities to say "yes" to this calling. But when things got hard, and more was required, the things that I wanted to be valuable started to outweigh the things that actually are valuable. The dark recesses of my heart were revealing where my values truly were. When I said I was willing to sacrifice, I only meant the easier things, or the things I wanted to sacrifice. How much and what was I really willing to sacrifice? Did I really value Jesus more than {fill in the blank}?

Another dark corner of my heart was how selfish my "sacrifice" really was. During those hard months when I was commuting, I slipped into making the sacrifice all about me. What I was giving up so we could be in McKinney. The dreams and comforts I had to put aside. How hard I was working. What I was doing for the Lord and for my husband and for our ministry...if I think about it, how can anything selfish be truly joyful?

Again, it wasn't the most ideal situation. I was giving up a lot and working really hard. But left unchecked, my heart can {and will} wander; I can lose sight of my calling as a church planter's wife, and more importantly, as a Christ-follower. While things are ten times better now that I am not commuting, those heart issues will inevitably resurface if I don't address them. Because there will be more sacrifices in the days ahead. They may look different in the future, but they may still be hard and will still be required of me.

So where does the joyful part come from? Well, I'm still learning that part :) But I can say that a recalibration of my heart is always a good place to start. Realigning my values and reminding myself of the joy I felt when I first said "yes" to God's calling on my life {both in following Him and in obeying Him} helps too. The joy in the sacrifice comes when I see my husband operate within His gifts, and I realize that I need to do whatever it takes to make sure he can continue to do that. It comes when I see God's grace and provision poured out in my life. It comes when I step out in faith and I see His faithfulness.

But more importantly, the joy in the sacrifice comes when I do truly see Jesus as most valued in my life. It comes when I know that following Him is worth the sacrifice {no matter what it is} and so much more. It comes when I get to see others meet Jesus and learn to value Him as most important in their lives, learn that following Him is worth the sacrifice. It comes when I remember the joyful sacrifice He made for me.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy 60th Anniversary Dr Pepper Hour!

Every now and then I find myself missing Baylor. I really enjoyed my time there, and I am just so thankful for the opportunity I had to attend such a great university. I love that my alma mater has so many long-standing traditions. One of its oldest traditions, Dr Pepper Hour, was definitely one of my favorites :)

A now a little backstory for your reading pleasure...

The tradition actually started out as Matinee Coffee Hour in 1952, when a staff member began to serve coffee every week in the Student Union Building's Barfield Drawing Room. The event often featured piano music and board games to allow students to socialize and escape the typical school day. In 1953, they began serving hot chocolate and "frosted cokes." The event was renamed "Dr Pepper Hour" in 1997 when the Waco-born beverage became the university's official soft drink (just another reason to love Baylor!) Source

60 years later, students still gather every Tuesday from 3-4pm in the Barfield Drawing Room for the famed ice cream float. I most definitely took advantage of this wonderful tradition many times while I was a student. Dr Pepper, ice cream, and free...yes please!

Sic 'Em Dr Pepper Hour!  :)


Friday, January 25, 2013

Laundry Room Makeover

Mike and I are fairly organized people. We share the cleaning duties around our house, and I am so thankful that he likes to keep things tidy as much as I do.  :)

But like most people with busy schedules, sometimes things just get crazy and disorganized. Such was the case for our laundry/utility room. We have our washer/dryer out here, but it is also a storage closet of sorts. It had evolved into the catch all for the things we couldn't keep outside in the shed, but didn't really know what else to do with. And since we keep this door closed, we had just started stacking things...

We had already started the organization process at this point, but I wanted to get some "before" photos)

The stacking and clutter had started to grate on my OCD organization brain, so I told Mike we needed to make a change and get this room organized. We had some gift cards from IKEA that we hadn't used yet from our wedding, so I made the suggestion that we use those to get organized. So like the loving and sweet husband that he is, he took me to IKEA one afternoon after church and let me have at it. I'm pretty sure he tweeted something about my love language being home organization equipment. That may or may not be true.  :)

So while it's still a dual-purpose room and not the fanciest of makeovers (we are still renting after all), things are organized and functional. It's just nice when everything has its proper place. So here are the "after" photos:

We added some additional shelving and drawers, and we "hid" our folding chairs behind the washer/dryer in such a way that they won't be tumbling out into the middle of the floor anymore (like they so often did before). This room has zero insulation, so it gets COLD out there in the winter! So the floor is ice cold when we go out to do laundry or get food for Sasha. So the rug is a nice addition to help our poor feet, at least a little :)

We keep our stash of drinks and paper products for our home group out here, as well as all of our tools and cleaners. So it was nice to organize that stuff too.

We hung our ironing board so it was out of the way, and we added a drying bar for laundry.

We also added a little decor to make it feel a little homier. I got the "Laundry" sign at Hobby Lobby for $10 (50% off sale!). And I made the colored "Sort, Wash, Fold, Iron" signs on my computer and put them each in a $2- 5x7 IKEA frame. Simple. Mike said I made them so he wouldn't get confused haha :)

So there you go. Thank you to the sweet family and friends that gave us IKEA gift cards for our wedding!


Friday, January 18, 2013

Crohn's, Blessings, and Talking Pens

So I am still trying to figure out and navigate this new world of Crohn's. There is still a lot I have to learn, but there have also been countless blessings; I am just so thankful for how the Lord has already taken care of us.

Counting My Blessings
It wasn't fun to be in the hospital, but the fact that I was able to have all of my tests done at once and find some answers within a few days was a huge blessing. The hospital bills are not going to be fun (we got a sneak preview from our EOB...I think my initial response was "holy cow"), but the Lord allowed Mike to accummulate HSA savings, which will help us pay for those bills (He was taking care of us, even before we were married and knew these bills would come along). I am thankful for insurance. And I am thankful for my sweet husband who is honoring his "in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer" vows :)

And speaking of my sweet husband...he has just been amazing through this whole thing. I feel like most of my response lately has been "I am tired" or "I don't feel well" but he has patiently and lovingly taken care of me. Without complaints. He has listened to my "I googled searched this and did you know this could happen??" panic moments and has patiently and lovingly comforted and reassured me. He is always good about reminding me of God's provision and watchcare over us. I am so thankful for him and that I don't have to figure all of this out on my own.

The diagnosis wasn't fun either, but I am thankful to have answers and to have a seemingly milder case. Right now, I don't experience symptoms on a daily basis like many people with Crohn's do; I don't ever want to take this for granted, especially since there is the potential that could change over the course of my life. And there have been so many advancements in Crohn's treatment from even just 10 or 15 years ago.

My treatment option involves a self-injection. I am not thrilled about that idea, but I am thankful that we live in a time and place where medicine is available. I am thankful for doctors and modern medicines. When we first started talking about treatment options, the cost of the recommended medicine was not going to be paid for by insurance. And because there are no generics and the medicine is considered a "designer drug," we were looking at an unreal amount of money each month. But even before we could make a final decision on how we would proceed, the Lord provided another option that would make our costs affordable.

I mainly write about this to give all praise and glory to Jesus for His watchcare and provision over us. But I also write about this to remind myself of how He takes care of us; because some days are hard and scary and overwhelming. Some days I don't feel well, or I get nervous that a flare up is coming, or I worry about what things will look like long term. So I can easily lose sight of the blessings that abound. And I want to remember that He is walking through this with me. That He is not nervous or worried; that He offers comfort and peace on the hard days. And that the hard days are designed for me to press into Him.

Learning to Live with Crohn's
I just have to say that everything is still a little bizarre to me. There's a part of me that doesn't feel like I have a disease at all. But then there are times when I am very aware of the fact that I do. The more I learn, the more I find myself thinking "Oh yeah; that makes sense." I really don't have a ton figured out yet, but I am trying to learn a little at a time as I attempt to figure out life with Crohn's. The tricky part about it is that no one has the same story. There's not one formula for the symptoms or the treatment, so it's hard to identify hard and fast rules on how to deal with it. The answers I keep hearing are "maybe" or "it depends." Fun, right?

As far as my DIET is concerned, I have started keeping a food journal in an attempt to identify any trigger foods. This may or may not be successful, as some people have specific triggers and some people don't. There are, however, some general things that I should avoid: greasy & fried foods, super spicy foods, beans, grains & bran, nuts & seeds, popcorn, corn, and caffeine. The caffeine has been sad...I miss coffee and Dr Pepper like no one's business haha. And then there are some general things that I should limit: raw vegetables, red meat, acidic foods (like tomatoes, lemons/limes, citrus fruits/drinks), alcohol, wheat, berries & fruits with skins. The diet gets even stricter when I am experiencing a flare up. I have to be super-conscious of what I eat, as my body won't absorb nutrients like it should. Thankfully, I have been able to re-introduce a lot of foods over the past few weeks, but everything is trial and error at this point.

A major thing I can no longer have has to do with pain relievers; NSAIDs, ibuprofen, and aspirin are off-limits for people with Crohn's. That's difficult for a girl who relies on Advil for pretty much all things pain related...cramps, muscle aches, migraines, etc. So I am on a hunt for natural pain relievers, if you know of any!

For TREATMENT, I have chosen to take Humira. While I had hoped to maybe not take medication, it just was not the best option. In order to try to get my Crohn's into remission and avoid any complications in the future (i.e., future hospital visits, surgery), this was my best option. At least for right now. So life now consists of specialty pharmacies, self-injecting pens, and sharps disposal kits (what??) It's all a little bizarre to me. But the injection seems fairly simple. I mean...I have a practice pen that talks to me. Technology.

In English and Spanish :)

I had in-home training with a nurse and had my first doses. I will go back to my GI doctor in a couple of weeks, then will be on a normal schedule of injections every other week. So it's not even every day. It's a bit surreal, but again I just feel thankful. I would definitely covet your prayers, that this medicine will work for my Crohn's symptoms and that I would experience no (or maybe realistically, limited) side effects.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hello DSLR Camera!

Today, this wonderful item arrived:


My camera is here! And I am SO so SO excited :) As I had mentioned before, I want to develop my photography skills this year, and the first step was purchasing a new DSLR camera. With the generosity of some Christmas presents and my sweet husband's contribution from some extra side jobs, I was able to order the camera I have been eyeing and it arrived today. I feel like a little kid in a candy store :)

I was really proud of my purchase. I had done my research to find the make and model that I wanted; I don't need all the bells and whistles, but I wanted a good introduction camera as I start tinkering and developing my skills. I had a Canon before, but everything I have read about Nikon, particularly the D3100, made me go that direction. For the features and the price, I think it was a good purchase. And the fun part is that with the packages that you can find on Amazon, I got way more for my money!

So excited to start refreshing and relearning the world of SLR! :)


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Reading List

I probably should have included this on my New Year's goals, but oh well. I will just make a separate post!

I definitely want to spend more time reading this year. It's actually one of Mike's goals to read more, as he used to read SO much more than he has in the last year. Since I am the new factor in his life that may have caused his reading decline...I figured if I spent more time reading, maybe he will too :)

To help me reach my goal of reading more, I thought I would come up with a reading list. I have stacks of books that I have wanted to read for such a long's time to start knocking them out!

So here are some of the books I want to read this year {in no particular order} :

1. The Church Planting Wife, by Christine Hoover
I get to be a part of the launch team for this book, so I am very excited to get an advanced copy this week. I will be blogging about it for sure, so stay tuned!

2. Grace, by Max Lucado
This is what I am currently reading...a Christmas gift from my mom!

3. Emotional Fitness: Developing a Wholesome Heart, by David Furguson & Don McMinn
This is actually part of our residency reading, so Mike and I are making our way through this together. Might as well get credit for it!

4. Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, by John Piper & Wayne Grudem
I need to finish this one, as I started it last summer...

5. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears
This is the one book Mike is recommending to our home group for our Essentials of the Faith series, so I think this should be part of the list. If he will let me borrow his copy ;)

6. Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, by Tim Keller
Mike got this one for Christmas, and is currently reading it. So when he's done, I would like to. I want to read more of what he reads, especially when it comes to church planting.

7. The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer
One of those ones that I have just been meaning to read forever...

8. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
This was one of my favorites in high school, and since we just saw the new's time for a re-read!

9. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
I have had so many tell me that this is a must read. So I am going to try to read it :)

10. Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands, by Gary Thomas
My chosen marriage book for the year :)

I think 10 is a good start. Maybe a little ambitious; maybe not. We'll see!


Monday, January 7, 2013

First Celebration Gathering!

Yesterday we had our first Celebration Gathering for our church plant! We were so excited to make this addition to our home group, and we are very much looking forward to see how God grows us into a church body. This is such a huge step in our church planting process!

Mike worked really hard on the sermon/materials for our gatherings: Essentials of the Christian Faith. Each month when we meet, we will be walking through some of the core doctrines of Christianity, basically what Christians believe and why. He put together these handy binders, with notes, devotionals, and further study resources for each topic.

Our Celebration Gathering has a traditional church feel to it, which is different from our home group meeting, which has functioned more like a community group. The monthly Celebration Gathering will take place in the morning (like traditional church), and includes similar elements- fellowship time (coffee and snacks as people come in), teaching, musical worship, and children's sunday school. Each month, members of our core group will volunteer for a specific area to help with, and we are excited about everyone's enthusiasm to serve! 

While we didn't have any new visitors this first week, we were so blessed by the commitment and excitement of our group. We have started a "by name" campaign to begin praying and asking people to join us. While we want people to connect with our group, we more importantly want them to connect with Jesus. And we are continuing our 100-day campaign of praying Matthew 9:38 over our church plant. It's not too late to join! ;)

I just wanted to share some pictures I snapped of the morning, because it's fun, and I want to be able to look back and "remember when."

Remember when we met in our living room?

Remember when there were 9 adults and 5 kids the first week?

Remember when Mike preached with a stool and a laptop?

Remember when we only met once a month?

Remember when we sat on a couch and some folding chairs?

Remember when the kids met in the back bedroom of the house?

Remember when we had slides up on our TV screen?

Remember when the dog was running around during the church service?

Remember when Mike played the guitar for our service?

Remember when the little kids were running around during the church service?

I want to remember these precious moments, because they are just as sweet and beautiful to Jesus as a larger functioning church. I want to remember these moments, never forgetting how the Lord worked and grew and shaped and formed our little body. And I want to remember these moments, so I can remind myself of why we answered the call to church plant. To remind myself that this is His story, not ours.


{Tying the Knot} Taylor & Calvin

We had a busy but fun weekend! Mike was asked to officiate the wedding of one of his former youth students. As the wife of the pastor, I get to go to some of the fun weddings :) Friday night was the rehearsal dinner, where we enjoyed some good barbeque from Spring Creek BBQ. Since it was a room full of Aggies, they made sure to set up a TV to watch the Cotton Bowl!

Saturday, I spent the morning cleaning and de-Christmas-fying our house. It's always a little sad when the Christmas decorations come down, because it means the holidays are over and the house just looks so bare. But it's good to have everything clean and organized now :)

That afternoon, we headed out to Howell Family Farms in Arlington for the wedding. It was such a sweet little venue. It was a smaller, more intimate wedding, and I loved the country casual feel!

We sat out on blanket-covered hay bails...only in Texas can you have an outdoor wedding in January!

Mike officiating :)

Lookin' good! The barn in the background is where they had the fun!
I may not have known the bride and groom as well as Mike, but I feel like I have a new responsibility to be praying for each of the couples that my husband marries. What a privilege to be a part of their special day and a blessing to pray for them as they begin their new lives together!
Congrats to Taylor and Calvin on their new marriage  :) 


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

We said goodbye to 2012 with some sweet friends, and it was a night filled with laughter and fun. We have missed many of these friends since moving to McKinney, but are so blessed to be able to spend sweet times with them when we can.

Yes, it was a plaid-themed party :)

Today I am curled up on the couch, sipping hot chocolate, and just enjoying a day off. I have been able to catch up on some reading and some emails, but am planning to spend the day resting. Which also gives me a good opportunity to reflect and plan for the new year :)

I am usually not one to make new years resolutions; not because I don't agree with them or have something against them. I simply just try to make resolutions as the Lord lays them on my heart; January 1 just seems so daunting sometimes so I try not to add the pressure of expectation. But with all the new changes around the corner, I feel like this is a good time for me to recalibrate and set some definitive goals to work toward in 2013.

Goal 1: Intentional and Deep Time in the Word
I have seriously neglected this time in recent months. It's the same old story...things get crazy and busy, the time slips away, I get lazy, etc. So my first commitment is to read through the Bible in a year. So help keep me accountable! :) I started my new Bible reading plan this morning, and I am really pumped about it. It's similar to reading plans I have done in the past, in that it takes a few chapters from the Old Testament, wisdom literature, the Gospels, and the New Testament each day. But it comes in this handy bookmark form so it can easily slip into my Bible to help me keep track.

Goal 2: More Intentional Prayer Time
I really don't mean to be cliche, but this is another one that I need to be more intentional about. I have been so humbled by the prayers that have been lifted up on our behalf, that it has challenged me to be more in prayer for others. With our Pray nine3eight campaign kicking off today (it's not too late to join us in committing to pray for 100 days!), it has challenged me to spend more time in specific and intentional prayer. As we move forward with our church plant, prayer will be such a vital component. I want to be a woman of prayer, for all aspects of our lives- the church plant, ministry, marriage, health, relationships.
Goal 3: Be the Best Matron of Honor I Can Be!
SO SO excited that 2013 will be filled with planning for Laura's wedding! :) I plan to take my MOH duties seriously and help her plan her special day however I possibly can. We are starting to schedule planning events, dress shopping, etc. and I cannot wait to get started. So excited for my sweet friend! :)

Goal 4: Become a Crohn's Expert
This one is kind of funny, but I am committing to learning any and all I can about this disease. I have signed up for newsletters and even downloaded a GI Buddy app to help track everything. It's still all a little surreal and strange...I mean, an app to track your symptoms? There truly is an app for everything ;) But I want to be proactive and get ahead of this as much as possible. I would certainly appreciate your prayers throughout this process, for wisdom and direction on knowing the best course of action. This goal also encompasses some overall health and fitness goals, as I seek to find ways to exercise and eat healthy to help manage my symptoms. I don't know what that looks like just yet, but I am committing to figuring it out!

Goal 5: Develop my Photography Skills
I have wanted to do this for awhile now. I took photography classes way back in high school and fell in love with it. For a long time I had an SLR camera, but ended up selling it because it was just too expensive to develop film. And who uses film these days anyway? ;) So part of my Christmas present from Mike is to start saving for a new DSLR camera! Part of my goal is to actually purchase a new camera, and then start tinkering with it. I'm not looking to be a fancy professional; but I do want to learn more and develop my skills. Even if it's just to take better pictures for my blog :)

Happy New Year!