Doll you're beautiful- my Uncle Terry

“Doll you’re beautiful” were the first words I always heard whenever I saw my uncle.  Followed by the great big grin and huge hug that made you feel like there was no one else on earth as special as you.  That was my uncle!  He was the best!  As a child and throughout most of my adult life I had little self-confidence.  I never felt pretty.  I always felt awkward.  I rarely felt like I fit in.  Ever.  Then my Uncle would come to town and for the next few hours, I was a star. He made me feel like a princess.  He made me feel like I was THE most beautiful and special thing in the world.  Now understand he would tell my sister the exact same think but I didn’t care.  It just meant that we were both beautifully special.   
My uncle loved me.  I could see it in his eyes and in his smile.  I could feel it in his hugs.  His love was safe and he made me feel safe.  He spent time with me and took me on adventures.  He made memories with me.  Oh my gosh there are so many memories.
He took me on my very first trip to Disney World.  I could write a book. Growing up he owned an amusement park in my hometown.  There were days when we were with him that our “daycare” was that entire amusement park.  He would open up the arcade for my sister and me and let us loose to play as many video games as we wanted.  We had hoards and hoards of carnival size stuffed animals.  One was NEVER enough with Uncle Terry.  It was always like that with him.  His heart was big.  He was so incredibly generous and loved to give. 
There were times when he came to visit that he would put my sister and me in his newest convertible, turn the music up loud and take us movie marathoning.  Movie marathons were so much fun.  He would pick two movies at two different theaters and take us to see both while filling us up on soda, candy and popcorn.  I specifically remember seeing Annie and E.T. on one visit and The Karate Kid and Ghostbusters on another. We would laugh and sing and it was amazing!  He loved the things we loved.  He knew about the things we liked.  He knew how to get on our level. He loved spending time with us and it showed.

My Uncle has spent the last years of his life with a disease that took away his ability to communicate.  The picture of the two of us was taken in the fall of 2008.  I had gone home for the weekend to watch my cousin play football and one of my sweetest memories of that weekend was riding in my convertible with the top down with my Uncle Terry.  He couldn’t say a lot but he made sure I knew that he loved me and that he was proud of me.  I will never forget the specialness of that hour and half in the car with him.  

In life, we all have those who teach us things.  My uncle taught me to love life.  To be generous and to love. To experience the beauty in the world and not take things for granted.  You know at 38 there are not many people in my life you have not let me down.  Who have never hurt me but I can say that about my uncle.  I know he was not perfect and had his fare share of regrets and mistakes but to me, he was the best!  He was generous and kind.  He was fun and full of spirit.  But most of all, he loved me.

Keeping the Romance Alive

I am a bit of a romantic. I love reading love stories.  I particularly love Nicholas Sparks books.  Love how most have sad endings simply because life is not always butterflies and roses.  Doesn’t mean true love cannot happen and instead makes the story more real. 

One of my favorite things about a Nicholas Sparks book is the settings in which the stories take place.  They are typically in quaint little towns.  I love the small town feel of people knowing their neighbors, tree lined streets, local restaurants and stores.  Makes for a romantically perfect setting. 

For quite some time I have wanted to pack up and move to my small dream town of New Bern, NC.  A place that encompasses all those things I love about a small town. So imagine my surprise when the veil was lifted from my “the grass is always greener” eyes the day I realized that I live in one of those quaint little towns.  I was elated with joy!!!

My idea of the perfect home always consisted of living in a place where there were sidewalks that actually led somewhere.  Like to a park, a neighborhood restaurant, the local market, a library and so forth.  A place where the streets were lined with trees and an abundance of flowers and greenery. I live there! 

I live in the adorable little downtown area of Wake Forest, NC and it has all of those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph and more.  Not only do I have my perfect setting but my little house is my perfect cottage.  My romantically sweet hideaway completes the package.

So how does a town keep the romance alive?  Let me tell you.  Have you ever been a newlywed living with five children?  Yeah.  Not an easy thing to do.  Add to that the reality that the budget is tight and going on extravagant outings are out of the question.  This leaves my remarkable little town to provide the romance we need for some serious date night escapades.  We have become quite creative.

When you are happy, fancy dates are not required.  Time spent alone with your significant other laughing, talking, and sometimes eating are all you need.  My small town provides the perfect setting and it’s a little romantic!

Before we were married a simple date was taking a stroll down the street to the neighborhood park.  There nestled in the trees is a green swing overlooking the little creek that winds its way through the trees.  It’s our own romantic little spot in the woods. 

Now that we’re married we have discovered the simplicity of using the car as a getaway. A favorite outing is taking a ride to our favorite little take-out place once the younger kids are in bed and sharing dinner together in the car while watching an episode of something together on Netflix using my phone.  We laugh and have an hour or so of just “us” time.  I love it! 

Another thing we utilize is Redbox. A couple of weekends ago, my hubby recommended renting a movie.  We do this a lot.  This time instead of driving the two minutes is takes he suggested we walk.  We took a stroll down those adorable tree lined streets of our little town, talking and holding hands and rented our movie.  We wouldn’t have had that precious time had we taken the car.

Earlier this summer hubby and I took a second honeymoon so to speak.  Know where we went?  No where.  We stayed home.  What a concept!  One of my favorite nights was spent simply getting ready and taking a walk to a little restaurant in town for dinner.  A few days later a neighbor who had seen us on our walk stopped us.  He had asked where we were going and once we told him “on a date” his reply was “you two looked so happy and in love.  Keep it up!”   Yes!  We definitely will! We will because we know the importance of keeping the romance alive. Because we know the importance of time spent together.

My life is simply amazing.  It is not always butterflies and roses and we have our struggles.  Nevertheless, because we know the importance of “keeping the romance alive” we are able to overcome those struggles.  We also know the importance of kisses, snuggling and cuddling and lots of I love yous.  I have discovered that in today’s world there are many who think we can be too much but from where I have come from there is no greater way to keep love alive then “loving” your spouse too much!  I also believe that it is very important for my kids to see that marriage is about loving each other not just with words but in action too.  It took some getting used to for them and they still tell us to get a room sometimes but you know what?  It’s worth it!  It is worth it because it creates laughter in our home and a closeness in our family that is created because love is truly alive and well.

Today I am thankful for the way in which God handpicked my home and the little town we now live. That story in and of itself is pretty special too.  This place is where our love story began and it is where it will continue to grow until God shows us something different.  Until then we will continue the work of keeping the romance alive!

Romance and marriage are hard things.  (especially with kids) It takes work.  It takes effort.  But the more you put into your marriage, the more romance you have the more you are going to get out of it!  And trust me when I say, it is totally worth all the effort!!

What Matters Most

God is amazing.  He uses our tears and our pain, if we allow Him, to bring glory to His name.  I have been writing for five years.  I would have never thought that my writing would have traveled the globe the way in which it has.  God has taken my story, my hurt and my trials and given me the opportunity to be a missionary in places I would have never thought possible.  When we are willing to be used, He will use us.  Flaws and all!  It is incredible to know that my pain was not for nothing. That daily someone in this world might find what I wrote and know God loves them.  How amazing!  HE is good!

Throughout my journey over the course of the past few years, I have written a few postings that truly express my heart through it all.  These are just a few. 

Jesus did not die unnecessarily

Divorce- the unpardonable sin?

“Isn’t it staggering when you think that one sermon on the day of Pentecost produced 3000 Christian people? And we had some cities yesterday where 3000 sermons were preached and nobody was saved. And it doesn’t even faze us. The church used to be a lightning bolt, now it’s a cruise ship. We are not marching to Zion – we are sailing there with ease. In the apostolic church it says they were all amazed – And now in our churches everybody wants to be amused. The church began in the upper room with a bunch of men agonizing, and it’s ending in the supper room with a bunch of people organizing. We mistake rattle for revival, and commotion for creation, and action for unction. Look, I think this is a critical hour in history, the most critical hour in history; the Middle East is ready to blow up… the prestige of this nation we love has gone down … As someone said, “We live in a theater of the absurd…
When did you last tiptoe out of the sanctuary when you dare not say a word? The church has to rediscover two things. One, the majesty and the Holiness of God, and the other, the sinfulness of sin.” —Leonard Ravenhill

The photo shoot

Family photo shoot.  This is something I have wanted to do for a while but it was most definitely NOT in the budget.  The constant postings of others on good ole’ Facebook and their gorgeous photo shoots didn’t help the matter either.  That salt and wound kind of thing.  In fact seeing them typically left me feeling sad simply because I wanted something special of my kids and not just my pitiful little photo snaps taken on my lovely little EVO. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy I have a camera to save those memories but I wanted something SPECIAL. Patience my impatient child is what God is typically having to whisper in my ear.

Several weeks ago, I received a text from a friend.  It was a text asking if she could photograph my family for her new and upcoming business.  I cried.  I was overwhelmed.  I was in awe of God once again.

A week later, we met in a gorgeous park and she began snapping pictures of my chaotic crew.  Believe it or not I think it went incredibly well.  When you have five kids you never know exactly how they are going to behave or whether they will cooperate. Especially when they range in age from 15 down to 6.  So now, I have pics of my kids and me with my hubby AND I’m quite happy about it!!

It is so cool to see God work and bless.  Sometimes waiting is hard but His timing is SO SO SO PERFECT!

So for anyone who is looking for an amazing photographer, look no further!!  I found one for you!

Visit her site and check out some of her work!  And then GIVE HER A CALL!!

Allison Carpenter Photography

After the two weeks notice…

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

Flannery O’Connor

This quote describes me pretty well.  My poor husband lives with this reality. No matter how hard I try to communicate my thoughts verbally, they typically end up a muddled mess.  I usually end up having to write him a letter in order for my thoughts to make sense. 
I enjoy writing. I mainly write for me.  I write to make sense of the craziness in my head but I also write for those who want to read about what is happening in this crazy family.  I know that for many my struggles became your struggles over the past few years and left you praying over all the outrageous things taking place.  So many prayers were said and tears shed. I know I will never know how many but I am thankful for every one of them. I am also thankful for all those who walked with me even when I did not know you were there. It is important for me that you know your prayers were being heard. God was and is continuing to work.  So with all that said my writing serves as a constant reminder of God’s faithfulness, His love and grace in the middle of heartache, darkness and pain and that His mercies are new every morning.  
Lately I have been thinking about my amazing and wonderful kids who drive me totally insane at times.  They have been to hell and back over the last couple of years and have learned a lot about God and seen Him work.  So all my thinking has led me to writing about them.  For those who knew us back in the day you know that financially we did well.  We had a lot of stuff, took many trips and bought pretty much whatever we wanted.  My kids never knew what it meant to be without the things they wanted. Boy has life changed. That is not our life any longer and their adjustment to this change has been quite incredible.
A couple of months ago I resigned from my job.  The sole purpose for my resignation…my kids.  Quitting my job was one of the hardest things for me.  I was good at what I did and had great potential to move up quickly.  I had found something where I could succeed and make a difference.  It was a hard choice to make but I knew it was the right one.  After everything my kids had been through, they were finally back home with their mom and they needed me.  Two of the five were flunking school. Their personalities had all but about disappeared.  The years of training them to love the Lord had pretty much been stripped away and so I took that GIANT step of faith and quit my job.  Meaning I lost my paycheck and my benefits so that I could focus on them.  I say that because the thought of losing those two things terrified me.  Let me make it completely clear to ALL who read this that financially we cannot afford for me not to work.  My husband works incredibly hard but trying to provide for ten people is a lot.  Without outside help financially we have put our feet in step with our words and stepped out in faith to trust God for His provision for our family.  My kids needed me and so now, I am left needing God to provide what we do not have when we need it. 
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Jesus Christ. 

Philippians 4:19
What does this look like for my kids? For my amazing kids who used to have it all it means that for now they cannot play sports, take music lessons, or dance classes because it is just not in the budget.  I cannot afford to put braces on teeth that need them nor can I buy them the clothes or shoes I know that they would love to have but they never complain.  They never ask.  Today I thought about the fact that I have a fifteen year old that trusts me to cut his hair.  I have had no training whatsoever but he trusts me enough to allow me to do it. I cut the hair of every person in this house including my own.  I do it and no one complains. It is crazy ridiculous to me.  How many teenagers would do that?
I am in awe of the way in which God continues to work. It amazes me to see how He is using our situation to bring our family closer.  It means more meals spent around the table.  It means movie nights spent at home together.  It means game nights and pool days.  It means vacations on a mountain in West Virginia enjoying the wild.  It is a totally different life.  It is a life filled with laughter along with love.  Yes there is still fighting among siblings.  It is not perfect.  It is definitely not all butterflies and roses. We still have our struggles and hang-ups but it’s a life now filled with God’s faithfulness and blessings.  We have been given a second chance to experience the God of the Universe and His unfathomable love all because of His grace and I am in awe of this new life I have been given every day! I am in awe of my God!
The bible is truth.  It is filled with God’s promises to His children.  This family has learned first hand that,
And we know that all things God works together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. 

Romans 8:28

An invitation

I cannot say enough good things about my church. I don’t typically link sermons encouraging others to listen but this one is exceptionally good. I came from a very legalistic church that left me questioning my faith as well as God’s character. God brought me to Journey three years ago where I found incredible healing and a real relationship with Christ. If you struggle with the rules and lists that religion offers, take a listen to Jimmy’s message. There is an amazing God waiting to have an intimate relationship with you!