Friday, October 31, 2014

A weekend of unexpected "blessings"

*Note - This entry is a bit late but that is because of the nature of it! :) :) :) It's actually from a few weekends ago.

You know how people say, "It was truly a weekend to remember..."? 
Well, we had a weekend to remember. Really. In fact, I don't think Justin and I will ever forget it. 
We spent the weekend in the mountains of Sacramento, New Mexico. Yes, there is a Sacramento, New Mexico. It is small. But it is beautiful. 
We traveled the five hour journey to Sacramento for a couples retreat put on through our church, and, as I had mentioned in a previous entry, we were leading worship with some dear friends of ours, Jay and Amy Lewis.
It was a blessing to get to lead worship in such a beautiful place. And, because it was a couples retreat, we really felt like we were "retreating" together. 
We got there early to practice on Thursday, and ate lunch with a wonderful group of leaders and friends. It was very laid back. We ate at a cute little place called "Big Daddy's Diner," (Yes, it is called Big Daddy's) in Cloudcroft, NM. Really good food and good service. 

Jay Lewis and Justin

From left - Melissa and Jim Petty, Joe Kelley, Justin, me, Amy and Jay Lewis, and Keith and Jackie Hackfeld. Nathalie Kelley, Joe's wife, was taking this picture.

We did a little shopping there, and while shopping, I came across these cute little squirrels. I never would have bought squirrels, of all things, but I thought they were something the kids would love, since we go on walks a lot and see them at home. Plus, they love acorns right now and the squirrels had acorns in their little paws.

While I was buying them, I couldn't help but notice the rainbow on the tag, and the message that read, "A wish come true". I thought that was interesting. I love rainbows, and they are God's way of reminding me he is there, and of his faithfulness.

 Then we headed back up the mountains to our retreat center, the Sacramento Methodist Assembly, to practice before the retreat began. It was a faith tester for both of us, because I was preparing to lead worship in a different form than I have done previously - on the piano, and Justin and I were doing a special together where he was playing guitar while I sang. We truly were being "stretched"! :) 

Friday came, and the retreat began. It was a blessing to be amongst the couples we were - every one of them are such sweet people. Some were younger, some older. The older ones kept reminding us younger ones to enjoy this time of life and not to take it for granted. :) 

There was a newly wed game, and then followed the first worship service. We led worship with Amy and Jay, and then Jim Petty talked on marriage, and our dear friends Cindy and Mike also spoke about their marriage. I sang the song, "Worth It All," by Rita Springer and played the piano. And couples received prayer over their marriages - and were asked if there were any specific prayer requests. Ours consisted of a possible blessing of a new baby from the Lord, if it be His will. Jackie and Keith prayed for us. :) 

The next day was Saturday, and we woke to another worship session where Jackie and Keith Hackfeld spoke, then Nathalie and Joe Kelley. Melissa also spoke. It was just a really good time of learning from different couples, in all walks of life. Everyone had something really good to say. I cannot even tell you how much I learned from it. It's too much! 

But Saturday.

Oh, Saturday.

This retreat was a blessing from God to us. I know that I say that about every trip I take, and every church trip is such an amazing experience - the only way to describe them is indescribable. Really. Because that is GOD. He IS indescribable. But truly, this one topped them all so far, for me...

You see, we went down there expecting so much. Spiritual renewal. Hope. Joy. To be closer to each other. To learn about the Lord. 

But we received SO much more than we ever would have expected.  

So, Saturday. Saturday was literally life changing. You see, I didn't expect at all to have the life change that we received...That night I took a pregnancy test. ;)

Let me back up a bit. That night, while on a bathroom break during the service, when I went in there was a line. There were two pregnant women on the retreat, and one of them was in line, along with Melissa. I told Snow (yes, her name is Snow, and it's awesome, isn't it?) that if she wanted, she could pass some of those pregnancy germs onto me. They laughed. Then, Nathalie came in, and while we were still on the subject of pregnancy, she said, "Yes, Amber, I had been wondering about you, as a matter of fact, last week. Are ya'll thinking of having another?" 
And I told her, "Yes, we are."
And she said, "You think it's time, now?"
And I said, "Yes, I think it is."
And, for the first time, I realized I felt very, very at peace with the idea. 
Well, anyway, later that evening, I decided to go ahead and take the pregnancy test I had in my bag...Yes, I had brought it with me. At this point, because we have been trying, and because I wanted it so badly, I was not going to wait to take one when I even slightly thought I might be. I wasn't even going to wait until we got home! It was pretty much perfect timing. 
For some reason, this time, Justin and I prayed beforehand. We have never done that before. And I've taken a LOT of pregnancy tests this year. 
But anyway, Justin prayed a simple little prayer, then I nervously took the test, and realized it was one you have to wait three minutes for to get the results. I don't normally take this kind, and because I was nervous, I told Justin, who was lying on the bed playing with his IPhone, to check it for me. I didn't even want to check it myself! 
Our "hospitality" room was a couple rooms over (a sweet little place at the retreat made for fellowship, with couches and free treats and drinks) so I figured I'd give the test some time and get some water. 
When I returned, Justin was in the same spot he'd been in before I left! 
So I said, "You are still in the same spot! You didn't even look?"
He said, "Yes. I looked."
I said, "Well??? What did it say?? It said no, didn't it?"
I was prepared for that negative.
He shook his head, saying, "It said No."
I said, "Seriously?" 
Bummed, as usual.
But I went to look, anyway, muttering something about how I'd "have to see for myself." 
Then I screamed...You know what they call a Big Fat Positive? 
That's what it was.
A weekend of unexpected blessings.
That's what we had.
I had of course, already played out in my mind how I would announce this baby if it was, somehow a positive. 
So I made Justin do it!
During worship the next morning, I could not wait to tell people. I am NOT the kind who can wait twelve weeks then start telling people like my mom. No. 
I have to share with EVERYONE right away. I figure that if you wait, and something bad does happen, then you don't have the support group you would have had, anyway. How's that for an excuse? ;)
Plus, we'd waited this long (a year and a half, to be exact, since we'd started "trying") so why not?
Anyway, before we led worship that morning, Jay told everyone that we had an announcement, and Justin used my idea - 
"So, ya'll thought we had come without our kids, but we actually brought one along with us. We are expecting...And you can pray for us."
Of course, Melissa, who is the retreat organizer, cried, and Jackie jumped up and down in the back of the room where she was sitting. They are what you call some of my sweet "spiritual mommas." They are truly a gift from God, and Jackie's been praying for us in this area for a few months now, and Melissa has known we wanted another little one for quite some time. I think she had even mentioned on Friday that she wanted to be able to tell people about good things that happen on these couples retreats, like maybe even babies? ;) My sweet friend Sarah was also there in the back, an amazing prayer warrior, who I told about a year ago to start praying for us about a baby, shedding some happy tears. 
This church family is so amazing, and I probably wouldn't have shared so soon honestly. 
But seriously, every detail this weekend was orchestrated by the hand of God. Everything, from the ride up there, watching the beautiful scenery, to the hike we took on Saturday and found a rock shaped like a perfect heart for Brookelynn (she LOVES rocks) and a pine cone for Kaleb, to the big painted rainbow on the outside of one of the buildings at the camp, to the rainbow on the tag of the little squirrels I bought the children that read "A wish come true," to the song Jay, our head worship leader had planned to sing the morning we announced (So Good To Me, by Cory Asbury - "I waited patiently upon the Lord, and he inclined and heard my cry...") to all of the perfect people being in just the right place at the right time to hear about the new baby they'd been praying for with us.  
Jesus is so good, ya'll.
Since this is about our sweet new little bundle, I want to share something else with ya'll while I'm at it, and sorry - you'll just have to put up with a long entry this time! ;)  
If ever there were a time to be longwinded, I feel like this is the time! :)  
I really felt like I heard the Lord very specifically about this sweet one. 
Okay, a few months ago, I was in prayer, and I had one of those times where you are really honest and crying, and you feel very strongly that you actually waited long enough to think you have heard him speak back? Yes, one of those times. 

I was outside watching the stars and enjoying just praying to the Lord and really talking to him, and, of course about a baby, because that's what I always talk to him about these days. No, I'm not persistent! Lol.

But anyway, I had been telling him about all the upcoming trips we had, and that I really wanted a sweet baby to come along, despite the fact that I might have morning sickness during all these trips. And he KNOWS how much I hate being nauseated. Ha!

And I really felt like he was ASKING me, "Amber, do you really want this baby now? I can give it to you now."

And I know this may seem strange to some people, but I heard October or November. And at the time, I thought, "Hmm. Okay. That would be cool, but not sure if I heard that correctly."

But, that was when I started planning how I would share during the retreat about a new baby, just in case. 

God is faithful, ya'll. 

It has been at least a good year of trying. A year of questioning, trying, then sometimes not trying out of frustration. A year of why's? A year of hmmm...maybe three is not for us. Maybe we're not good enough parents? All these things go through your minds!

And it always seemed that when I was reading the Psalms, I would fall across the ones about your children being olive shoots around your table. Doesn't that always happen when you are wanting something? You just "come across" the subject in the bible. No...I was probably searching for it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was. And the story of Abraham and Sarah. I couldn't get it out of my head.

And now we are here. 

And I just keep remembering hearing God say, "It's in my hands. Don't worry. I got this."

Oh yes. 

He did. 

I'm so glad for new beginnings. I'm so glad for unexpected blessings. 

We have an indescribable God.

Room 103. 

Psalm 128

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways. 
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours. 
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Thus is the man blessed who fears the Lord. 
May the Lord bless you from Zion all the days of your life; 
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem, and may you live to see your children's children.
Peace be upon Israel.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is it really fall again?

Helloooo fall!

Winter coats!

Yes, we tried on our winter coats on a 90 degree day a few weeks ago...I am actually excited for hot chocolate, s'mores made from the fireplace, pumpkin spice latte's, scarves and boots. Changing seasons, people! But we have had quite a few very beautiful, mild days recently, and it's gotten us even more ready for the fall season. It's funny here in Texas though...I have a hard time teaching the kids about fall, because well, we kind of skip fall and jump right into winter. The leaves don't change as much here as they do in Washington, where I'm used to seeing the bright maroons and yellows and oranges starting mid September. Instead, we have a few milder days, and, before we know it, we are stepping outside and seeing our breath. But - I love every moment of living here - the sunsets every day are truly worth it! I missed them in Washington. ;)

Anyway, off my rant! It has a been a great few weeks. I wish that I could explain all that has gone on in one blog, but that would be impossible. 

I wouldn't be doing God justice if I didn't say something though, about his goodness! My retreat was AMAZING, and it was truly refreshing in so many ways. God is good! And of course, I truly came to appreciate Justin even more for his willingness to watch the kids for me while I left him. He is more than I could have asked Jesus for in a husband! 

We have had a wonderful last few weeks as a family, as well, because we are getting ready for this next trip to New Mexico to help with the church and lead worship together. It's been busy, and we usually hit the pillow at night exhausted, but refreshed at the same time. Hard to explain, but true.  We also lead worship at church once a month. Never thought I'd be able to be involved in ministry with my husband, so this is really a dream come true in front of my eyes. :) To God be the glory!

On another note, I have also started homeschool with the kids. 
We usually try and do at least three or four days a week, and they are doing well! They have their days, but for the most part, they LOVE to learn. And what a blessing that is for this mommy! I feel so unworthy, almost, of having two completely healthy, smart, inquisitive children who like to learn. 

Our schedule is a little like this - 
On Mondays, we stay at home mostly, and I get most of my laundry done for the week. It's just become my laundry day. They help me (sometimes!). We do school. 
Tuesdays, we do school, and then I have bible study that night.
Wednesdays, we do school, and then Kaleb has Mission Friends at church. It's basically an AWANA program. He likes it!
Thursdays, we go to bible club at the park, which is basically a Sunday School class for kids.
Fridays, we do school, or go to MOPS. I have missed the first few, but we have been pretty busy with church stuff. I hope to go sometime soon!

We are also in the middle of several home projects. We just bought Kaleb a new bed. 

 It was a princess "castle" bed and it was pink to begin with! But we transformed it into more of a "fort". :) I hope he likes it and enjoys it for many years. 
We also just got some new french doors in the living room, and are in the process of painting them red.
Our next project after that is to fix the floors (they are in need) and to paint the walls in some places. 
Haha - house projects never seem to end. I have realized more so than ever lately that working on a house project always turns out to be more work than you imagined to begin with. You think, "Oh, we just need to fix the doors." But there is SO much involved in one project! These projects work on my patience more than anything else in my life. I guess that's one of the reasons God allows them. ;) 
And, of course, we have just celebrated K's 4th birthday. What a fun time! We are still celebrating though, because sadly, Nana and Grandpa and Oma and Opa couldn't come to his birthday party last weekend, unexpectedly. So, we are having another party this weekend! (Ah, all the excuses to party we have!;)
But here are some pics from his party with the cousins and some sweet friends! 


When I prayed for you while you were in my tummy, I prayed God would make you like your daddy. I prayed that you would always be strong, always be a leader. I prayed for a Caleb of the bible, and, son, God said "Yes!" You live up to your name in so many ways. 
You ARE strong. You ARE a leader. Even at this young age, I can tell you are going to know how to change your world. Daddy and I have a large calling to help you become the person you are to be, and we are going to do the best we can to direct you in the way for you to lead people in the right direction, to help others, to be BOLD for change, to stand up and do what's right, even when no one else is, just like Caleb did in the bible. 
Your sister is a good example of the fact that you are a leader, too. She follows you everywhere you go, and does everything you do. And, for the most part, you don't mind. You just do your thing, and you let her follow you. 
You can also be so sweet. You love me to kiss you goodnight, and you love hugs before bed.
You are SO smart, too. You learn things very fast, just like your daddy! You seem to already have a photographic memory. 
We love you to the moon and back, Mr. K, and we look forward to God's amazing plan for you life!


A sweet look back...

1 day

3 months

1 year

2 years

3 years

 Our big four year old. Love you so much, Kaleb Lee.

And, as always, I will leave ya'll with the last few weeks in pictures! Enjoy...

Makin G's with toothpicks

She loves all her giraffes (obviously) but pink giraffe is by far her favorite. It's funny, because he was her first toy ever, and he's from Nana. He was with her in the hospital. 

Lately she needs shades. Everywhere.

He's sort of a superhero. Batman...Superman...?

Bein' silly...We kinda do that a lot around here.

She likes to see herself in the mirror. 

One of their favorite things ever right now - to make a road with tape on the rug and play with the cars!

That's a lot of fries huh? Just noticed.

A girl and Yes, this girl loves rocks. And not the diamond kind. She has to collect them everywhere she goes, in every parking lot. EVERY parking lot, ya'll. 

This is the way we eat our sandwich around here.

A very full lake! 

My three favorite people.

I think it was cold, but it's a bucket full of rain. Cool! We let them outside, and this was where they chose to be.

Brookelynn's cake date with Daddy. It's her favorite thing in the whole world. Sorry about the dress! Just couldn't resist posting the sweet date they had! 

God bless ya'll. Thanks for holding on this long, those of you who have! 

A verse to leave you with...

"But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it." Numbers 14:24  

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