Chevron Background

Thursday, August 20, 2015

When God's Plans Trump Ours - Moving...Again

Over the course of the last few months, God has been moving in ways we were not expecting. When we first moved here, our little family looked like this:

Jennifer Tilghman Photography
My husband and I have felt led to adopt since before we even got married, and every time I looked at this picture I wondered when the next little face would appear in our family. We tried to pursue adoption a few months ago, finding an organization we were thrilled about, only to feel no peace about filling out any of the paperwork.  We prayed and felt like our current living situation in the church parsonage was too unstable to pursue a home-study that may cost up to $2,000, in a home we may have to soon move from in the event the church's next full-time pastor needed it.  So we said, "OK God, this is not your plan for us to adopt at this time, we will wait until we have a more permanent home."

Then, we realized that we could still work with orphan care via foster parenting again. Logically, we completed PATH training - 8 weeks of Monday night classes, getting a babysitter, driving 45 minutes both ways, doing the same homework we did 4 years ago for PATH training when we did foster care in Tennessee the first time.  A home study through the state would be free, and if we got a foster child and had to move, we could still allow the child to move with us within the same area.  Although, we weren't looking for foster kids, per se, but rather, a pregnant teen, or a teen mom with a baby.  I have felt very led to work with young pregnant moms lately, and we thought foster care would be a great way to do that.  John was on board, acknowledging that most of the extra work load would be on me, but fully supporting the idea of us welcoming a teen mom into our home.  We agreed that the church parsonage had been so generously given to us to live in for this time, it would be good stewardship to try to share it with another person.  We moved Jonah and Karis into sharing a bedroom, and began preparing the spare room for a teenager. 

The first week of PATH training, we found out that I was pregnant.  This was a rather big surprise.  Let's just say the "Natural Family Planning" methods aren't as 'safe' and 'predictable' as they like to tell you.  This rocked our world in another big way, because it was totally unplanned by us, but of course, God already knew.  I felt that just because I was pregnant did not mean God had stopped calling me to want to work with a pregnant teen, now I would just also be pregnant with her, so we continued with the process.  Also, during this time the "Planned Parenthood" videos on how they are profiting from aborted babies began to surface, and my heart was breaking even more for all these young moms who felt they had no other options, and for these little babies who were so unwanted.  

John has been preaching the "Contemporary Service" at our church (First Baptist Church of Somerville, TN), for the last 15 months, and leading young adult and youth ministries.  I don't think ministry anywhere is ever easy, but we did have more bumps in the road than we initially expected.  Broken humans ministering to broken humans, all fighting a battle so much bigger than ourselves for the Kingdom and cause of Christ - I'm not sure why we imagined less struggle.  However, we were not applying or looking for jobs elsewhere, because we felt sure that God had called us to work here, and our work did not feel complete. 

Then, in a huge unexpected turn of events, the great little church plant that we attended and loved for 7 months while we were in Alabama, while we were unemployed, searching for answers, and waiting on the Lord, that same church that we had attended, called John about taking over as Lead Pastor, because their pastor resigned for personal reasons.  We were rather shocked at first.  This is a small contemporary church, and John will be a bi-vocational pastor, as in, needing to find another job within a few months just to pay the bills. We love this church so much, and know at least half of the people there, and greatly enjoyed attending while we lived in Huntsville, and completely agree with all of their ministry goals and activities (sharing the gospel weekly, local and foreign missions regularly, tons of small group options, casual, great music worship time, reaching out to local homeless, helping in a local school, adoption and orphan-care focuses, wonderful nursery and kids programs, Elder run, etc).  It's like the dream model church, in our opinion. 

I found myself asking questions of God like, "Why would you have us leave Somerville already, when we specifically asked you to move us somewhere for years?"
"What will happen to the people here if we leave?"
"What will happen to the relationships we've built with people we love here?"
"What will happen to the Contemporary service?"
"Where will we live when we get there?"
"Are we ready for this type of position?"
"What will John do for a second job?"
"What if we can't make ends meet?"
"Why did we just complete PATH training if we can't use it?"

All of our questions though, don't have answers yet. We may not know all of those answers for some time.  I think it's kind of funny that God would throw this many huge curveballs at us the year I declare to be "Fearless." All of these things are my own fears, that I have to learn to surrender again to the Lord.  One of my mentor friends said something to this effect wisely, 
"It's not your job to worry about who and what you leave behind.  The more you worry about them, the more you are telling God that you and John are absolutely the only people on earth who can serve there in your capacity.  He's got a plan for all of them, too, you have to trust that His plan for their lives is good.  It's God's job to find the next people who will work there.  All you can do is pray and let Him do the rest."  That advice has helped me greatly the last few weeks as we have started to say 'good-bye.' We will miss a lot of sweet friends we made here, and keep in touch as much as we can through phones, emails, instagram and Facebook. We will continue to pray for this group of people and this church for a long time! 

No matter what questions and reservations we had, we both felt a huge pull toward this move and ministry change.  Every single time we talked and prayed about it, more positive ways God was calling us kept coming up through scripture and conversations.  Then we went to the "Send Conference" put on by the IMB and NAMB, and we were blown away by the amount of leading God did through every talk from Louie Giglio, Vance Pittman, J.D. Greear, David Platt, Thom Rainer, and more, every lecture, every break-out session we went to, that seemed to say at the end of each day, "You need to move to Huntsville and serve at that church." 

Apart from God's directional nudges, this is in the middle of the town where both of our parents live, and seeing our kids interact with their grandparents is a sweet blessing, and free babysitting.  We already have a foundation built with the people there of love, respect, and trust.  They were there for us when we needed them, and now we can serve them when they need us.  There is the option that we will get to live in a church-owned home for free for several months while John finds that second source of income (answering one question).  John is looking at ISS (In School Suspension) positions and bus driving positions and praying about what and where else to look.  In God's great mercy though, we are not stressed and worried about the other half of our income.  I know that sounds weird, but seriously, we totally trust that God will provide for us because He is calling us to go, just like he has always proven faithful before. 

Like a lightbulb one day while I was praying through these things this week, I remembered wanting to volunteer with the organization "Choose Life" the last time we were in Huntsville, but being unable to because I had missed the training dates. I hopped online and guess what? The training is now monthly and I can totally volunteer there (if I pass the interview process) counseling pregnant moms who may be considering abortion.  God hasn't stopped calling me to love and serve these ladies, He's just moving the target zone.  
I have this T-shirt and have been wearing it often to remind myself.

The new church has a family who just completed the adoption process and are loving on their new addition.  The church came alongside them and helped through prayer and fund raising and have always supported adoption.  I believe that God held us back from adopting here, because he knew about the biological baby he was going to plant, and he knew He was getting ready to move us.  After the next baby is born we will begin to pursue adoption if we feel like it is God's timing.  His plans are so much better than ours. 

We are sad to leave people we love.  We are excited to start a new adventure with other members of the Body of Christ.  When you put this in a "Kingdom" perspective - it's been God's plan all along.  He has taught us and prepared us through so many different opportunities here.  We are leaving a little older and wiser, but just as enamored with our Savior as ever before. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Karis Turned One...6 months ago

Back in January, my little girl turned one. I had high hopes of filling in her "what you were like at exactly age 1" type of blog post. Alas, the ministry wife life is rather busy, and John and I shared the laptop at night, so sermon prep was more important than blogging, and my days were full of child-rearing type stuff.

For your first birthday, both of your sweet nanas came to visit and shower you with affection and presents and cake.  You loved it all.  We had a fun quiet evening at home, so I'm sorry you didn't get a massive party, but I don't think you cared.  I wore my sweatshirt from Granny Em going to the Grand Canyon, to kind of feel like she was there in some way.  Your Granny Em, the one you get your Emily middle name from, she would have thought you were funny.  It was a good weekend.  Then a good friend of ours at church, Valerie Griffin, took some pictures of our family on Sunday to document your big "First Birthday."

As for your personality 6 months ago, it was the same as now, but less expressive. So, Karis, this is exactly what you are like at 18 months old, before I forget again, because I love you so much more than I ever could have imagined!

You are the most affectionate little baby girl toddler I have ever seen.  The nursery workers frequently tell of you kissing and hugging other babies and kids.  You say "Mmmmmm...hug" while you hug, a very effective hug with both your little arms around someone's neck and your cheek pressed up close to theirs.  You pass out hugs at home a lot.  Jonah receives your hugs about 50% of the time. You spend a good deal of time trying to chase him down, and then running in equal delight when he turns around and chases you instead, although you missed that hug. You also give kisses, mostly on the lips, and mostly to mommy and your grandparents, and frequent attempts at Jonah. You also say "I love you" frequently, although it sounds like "Luh Yew!" and sometimes you say it while you are hugging someone.  If you think it looks like Daddy is leaving the house, you start yelling at him "Luh Yew!" and then you pucker up and fully expect him to kiss you.  It is adorable.

You love to be held, and say, "Hold me!" However, when you say it, it sounds like "Homie!" and it melts my heart most of the time.

You liked to climb inside the cabinets for a few months.

I attempted to make you look like a little princess.

You spent this entire 'photoshoot' trying to grab the glasses from Jonah,
and this was your face when you finally achieved it.

This was a surprise for Daddy's birthday in March.
On the card I wrote "From your Mini-Me and your Little Princess."

It all ended like this. 
You adore reading books and being read to all hours of the day.  You become obsessed with a book or five for about a month and you want us to read them over and over, while you find more interesting things in the illustrations every single day as you pour over them.  You tell us about the illustrations, and you want us to acknowledge that we understand you before we are allowed to turn the page.  Your favorites lately have involved the boxed set of 4 Elmo books with flaps discussing: "Balls," "Babies," "Puppies," and "Food," then some classics like "Goodnight Gorilla," (which you call 'Rilla' without clear 'L' enunciation, so to you this is 'Riwa'), "Hand, hand, fingers, thumb," "That's Not My Train," "Marcos Counts," (which you call "Marco"), "Peek-A-Who," and "Johnny Tractor" books because you adore pointing out all of the farm animals and making the appropriate animal noises.

You talk frequently and astonish us with new vocabulary every day.  You do not like loud household machines such as the vacuum, and the blender, and you run away or toward me saying, "Scared!" which sounds more like "'keered."

You do not appreciate me putting your hair in pig tails or in a little top knot, but at least you do not pull your bows out nearly as often as you used to, so I am more motivated to keep putting them in.  It takes less than 5 minutes, and after the 30-45 minute hair sessions I had with our foster kids, your whining and wiggling is nothing. I will continue to win this battle in the quest to give you cute hair, and keep the longer strands out of your eyes, so I wish you'd just get used to it and stop fighting.  Although you resist getting your hair done, you always smile in the mirror at the finished product.

In the car, after the zoo one day.

That one time I took you to the "Winter Jam" Concert and hoped you'd fall asleep.


Easter Sunday

This has been a favorite activity of yours for months:
Climbing on top of the toilet to play with the flush or the paper.

Your smile.

You love being outside.

Smiling at Ms Donna and Mr. Ronnie, some of your favorite
'adopted Grandparents.'

The first time you threw a fit in the front seat of the basket at Kroger,
and kept yelling "Car! Ride! Car! Ride!"
because you wanted to be in this with Jonah.

First pigtails day.

You have also discovered your tongue and
you think this is the funniest face you can possibly make.

At a local playground they have these tricycles all over.
You don't even try to pedal, but love being pushed around on them.

Your favorite toys are baby dolls and their accessories, mainly the paci and the stroller. You are such a sweet little 'mama' to your babies, hugging them and kissing them, when you're not jabbing their eyeballs saying "Eyes! Eyes!" emphatically.  You still attempt to do this to real babies, too, so I am super hesitant and close whenever we spend time with infants.  You are fascinated by eyes.

After your baby dolls, you like stuffed animals, and walking around pretending to make the animal noises.  You loved a rocking horse, but got way too proficient at that, and looked like you were constantly about to rock right off the front onto your face, so we had to put it away.  You do push Jonah's cars and trains around on the table with him sometimes, when he lets you, and you don't see a baby doll.  You like to say "Twain - CHugga-chugga ChOO-ChOOOOOOO!" in a very loud, high pitch train-whistle attempt. When you can get ahold of our phones, you hold them up to your ear and say "Hew-Oh!" multiple times, as if no one ever answers your calls.  You attempt to enter our pass codes and lock our phones up for minutes at time. You have also figured how to swipe up to get to the camera without unlocking the phones, and this results in 20 or more selfies/strange images of whatever is in front of you.

You love reading with Daddy.

After your Baby Dedication

During the Baby Dedication

You are surprisingly good at hitting the ball off the T.

You walk very "Pigeon-Toed" but your pediatrician says not to worry about it
until you are 3, that it is a normal developmental stage,
although you often trip over your own feet from turning them in so much.

Upon just waking up from a nap.

Your tiny foot next to mine

You love these pinwheels Nana got.

You like to make the 'duck face.'

After VBS, you sat down just like Jonah.

One Sunday after church.

Matching with Mommy

Our family picture
Karis, you are really cute.  You smile and laugh easily, and are easy going in your personality.  You like to get out of the house and go places, content now in your carseat for about an hour at a time, as long as your mirror is up on the seat in front of you so you can smile and 'talk' to yourself.  You smile and wave to strangers as we go places, who almost always smile back at you, because how could they not? This smile is extremely infectious.

Your favorite person from birth has been oh so lucky me, your Mommy.  You always run to me with arms wide open, and say "Mommmmmyyyyyy" about 30 times a day. Jonah pulls in a close second on your hierarchy of people.  You smile and laugh at us both.  You call him and it used to sound like "Jew-Nah," but lately you do pronounce it more "Jo- Nah." He responds and can't say the 'R' in your name, so you are his "Kawis." It's sweet.

Although dainty and petite, and weighing it at 20 pound 8 ounces for your check-up last month, registering in the 25th percentile for height and weight, the doctor said you were very healthy, proportionate, and a genius!  You have been walking since ten months, and climbing anything you could reach since you turned one.  You have amazing strength in your scrawny arms, and pull yourself up to new heights daily. You are extremely active, and do not sit still much. Although quietly moving, and not being rough, during this first trimester of our baby number 3, I have become more aware of your propensity toward wiggling and wanting up, then down, then back up, then back down, over and over and over again. I remember you being very wiggly in utero, and you have continued to like to move your little self since you were born.  You do not like to be in a room alone, and chase down Mommy or Jonah to find one of us.

You refused to eat for the longest time. From the time you were 6 months old, I remember being so very frustrated at your refusal to eat the healthy baby food I made you.  We soon learned that you would not eat anything unless it had a generous slab of butter and sprinkled cinnamon in it.  So for a while, that meant apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash were your only foods.  Then you slowly warmed up to the savory side of things, and we could feed you plain potatoes and green beans if we also added putter, salt, pepper, and onion powder. Then right after your first birthday, when you finally got about 4 teeth, you began to love picking up finger foods and anything you could feed yourself was suddenly delicious.  In the last few months you have gotten more proficient at the fork than your big brother, because I think you just like to use it. You are not picky at all now. Your favorite foods are yogurt, cheese sticks, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, cereal, toast, and scrambled eggs, spaghetti, and pizza. You always refused the bottle, and were fully weaned at 15 months onto the cheap "Take and Toss" sippy cup. Your favorite drink is now regular whole milk. You often ask for milk 'miwk' and occasionally want water, 'wa-wa.' If you see us eating anything you point and holler "EAT!" at us, and if we ignore that you start to say "Some. Bite. Some. Bite. EAT!"

You handed me a booger the other day before I realized what was happening, and I was thoroughly grossed out, but laughed because you acted like it was a gift, and smiled so sweetly.

You are such a gift to our family.  Needy, clingy, sweet, busy little you make us smile and laugh and sigh in delight at your long hugs. I cannot wait to see how God uses your little happy, loving personality to further His kingdom.
Sharing with brother

Waving saying "Hi Mommy!"

Your newest obsession with your "Pincess Puss" and "Gasses"
makes you look like a little diva.

At the zoo, in front of the gorilla, your newest favorite animal
thanks to your favorite book "Goodnight Gorilla."

Pointing at the gorilla behind you.