I have experienced a lot of personal growth this year, and while I have grown spiritually, I have also grown in other areas. If you know me from my Florida days, you might find some of these pretty comical. Here is a list of things that have changed about me this year:
- I eat sandwiches!! As a matter of fact, one of my most favorite places to eat is the Church Street Deli in Spencer. The owners are fellow Floridians, and we have grown to love the food almost as much as the sweet people who own it.
- I eat leftovers. Leftovers are a staple in our lives now. Before moving here, I would never DREAM of eating a leftover meal. But we have learned to like them, and like them well.
- I actually enjoy a hot dog! Another WV staple is hot dogs with hot dog sauce. Definitely one of my favorites.
- My road rage has completely disappeared. The lifestyle is so laid back here. You just don't get in a hurry, and you learn take the time to enjoy the simple things. When I'm back in Florida, I am the person everyone is honking at or giving finger of fellowship to.
On a more serious note, our family as a whole has had to learn to trust in Jesus wholeheartedly as we have navigated so much change in a short amount of time. When we were called to WV, God had given us clear direction that our calling was to build and serve at a youth camp. So we began the building process. As soon as that stage was nearly complete, God called us away from that ministry. You can read my previous post here for more details on the move. The unknown can be so scary, but I'm thankful we serve an all-knowing God who sees the entire picture.
It is a hard place to be when you don't have one particular niche to fit into...a daily routine to give you security. A specific ministry to belong to and hang your hat on. But we have had to learn to find our security in the One who created us, called us here, and is orchestrating things we cannot see. Our life looks NOTHING like what we had imagined when we pulled out of that driveway 365 days ago. And that is ok. There are days that we are frustrated and discouraged, but our Heavenly Father has surrounded us by some of the best friends we could ever imagine who lift us up and encourage us daily. Full time ministry is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Until you are really all in, it is easy to look at it and think "Wow! It must be so nice to love on people all day long. To make a difference in the lives of others. To tell people about Jesus everyday." Those things are all wonderful, but they come at a cost. It has cost us our everyday routines, control of our financial security, our families back home, and even close friendships. If we dwell on those things too long, the devil tries to convince us that we gave it all up for nothing. But our faith is stronger than that. Though it has been difficult at times, it has been overwhelmingly fulfilling.
This year we have been able to spend more time as a family since we all work together and I homeschool some of the kids. We have traveled many places and have gotten to see so many beautiful things that we would have never gotten to do. We found a church that we absolutely love to serve in. We are working with the teens, I have been playing the piano, and we have been working on a lot of outreach and missions projects. Through a relationship at church, we are going to be able to work with a local wilderness camp this summer in several different capacities. The everyday stress is no where near what it was when we were spending as much as we were making at our jobs. We have learned to live a more simple life, which makes us see and enjoy what is most important...our relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other. One of the hardest things for us to do was to leave my family back home. In a way that only God can do, He provided the most wonderful people who we call family. It feels just as if we were home. We eat together, go to church together, and spend time together. A piece of my heart that was left at home has started to mend. While no one will ever replace my family in my life, I feel doubly blessed to have two families who love us unconditionally.
The addition of Zoe to our family has been a wonderful gift. Even if she was the only reason God called us here, it was worth every second of it. I'm not going to lie and say that the transition of adding another child to the family has been a breeze, but I will tell you God is knitting our family together and I couldn't be more honored to be used by Him in such a way. Cade, SaraGrace and Emmy are amazing as always. They are the real human heroes of our ministry. You never realize what impact full time ministry has on the children, but I can assure you it isn't easy on them. They often talk about how much they miss their lives in Florida, but they all understand that God has called us all to serve Him in WV in this season. I am so incredibly proud to be the mom of all 5 of my wonderful children. Holly is still with us here and taking classes at Glenville State College. She is an asset to us, especially in the areas of homeschool and babysitting.
So what does our ministry look like at this moment in time? We are still forging ahead with opportunities as they arise. We know our calling is to the people of WV, and has taken many shapes and forms besides youth camp. We are learning to love through hurt and disappointment. We are learning to always point people to Jesus, instead of our own personal opinions and feelings. We are learning that we cannot survive in ministry if we aren't on our knees in prayer asking for wisdom, direction, strength, and encouragement to do whatever He has for us to do each day. We are learning to trust God in each day to provide opportunities to love and honor Him, and to share that love with those around us. We find ourselves in the role of encourager more than anything. We have had many opportunities to love on young couples and families, and encourage them through some tough seasons of their own. We are currently working with our church in some outreach programs and the teen classes, working with the wilderness camp on some construction projects (and getting ready to help in some fundraising for them), raising our family, ministering to our new daughter who just turned 16, loving on our college student as she navigates the next steps in her adult life, and we are always available to lend a helping hand to anyone who has a need. God has truly blessed us more than we could ever imagine.
If you know the story of our daughter, Faith, then you know that one of our favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future." That verse, and many others got us through the darkest days of our lives. His promise for us and our family hasn't changed. He has great plans, and we are patiently trusting and obeying Him in each step. Did you know He has great plans for you, too? My prayer is that you know Jesus as your Savior, so that you may have the hope and the future He has planned for you.
Here are some pictures of our year in WV. We have made so many memories, and are looking forward to many more here.
Our first day here-
Our first Sunday
Ace Adventure Water Park
Cade's 13th Birthday
SaraGrace's 9th Birthday
First Day of Homeschool
Family Pizza Night at Pizzas and Cream
Family Fun Day at Butcher Farms
Trick or Treat
Emmy's 4th Birthday
Picking out our very first real Christmas Tree
Christmas at home with my family
Zoe's 16th Birthday