Saturday, July 25, 2009

If The Shoe Fits...

I know this is going to shock you... but I'm going to be totally transparent here and tell it like it is...again.  The bottom line is, I have been in stuck in a whiny rut lately.  Not so much out loud, but in my head I have been whining a lot.  Too much.  I have been meditating on my whining.  It's not good.  At all.

Basically, I've been assuring God that I am in way over my head.  You see, my world has been slowly spinning out of control, and I don't like it.  I like orderly, I like manageable, I like under control.  But, over the last 6 months that has not been my world.  Before we left to get Abe, I had worked hard to lessen my commitments in many areas of my life.  We had gotten ahead in school, I had handed over my church responsibilities, the closets were all cleaned out, you get the picture.  I was totally prepared for at least 12 months of family focus.  I was there.  

But, it was not to be.  The layoffs at church began the increase of my commitments and that was simply the beginning of an intense season of responsibilities.  So, I have basically been talking to the Lord about how He surely needs to do some reassigning.  I get that the 5 children are all mine, that's a non-negotiable.  I still think it's humorous that He would choose me to parent 5, but there it is.  So, what about church, what about my homeschool co-op, what about my bi-monthly housekeeper moving to Georgia?  Couldn't something give there?  I have prayed about which of these things I need to give up or walk away from, and He clearly isn't releasing me from any of them, YET.

So, I have been whining.  I have been looking at the lives of the women around me and wondering what it would be like if God would just call me to put my kids on the yellow school bus.  Or what if he would just call my husband to a 9-5 office job, where my role was simply to have dinner ready when he got home.  I have been discontent and I have been resentful, and I am confessing it right here on blogger.

The other night I told Ryan, "The thing is, I don't really feel overwhelmed, I am just afraid that soon I will start to feel overwhelmed.  I am amazed at how well it's all working right now with all of the plates we're spinning.  But what if it stops working?"  

The very next day, Abe became fascinated with a pair of Abby's shoes.  He was entertaining himself with taking them off and on and then attempting to walk.   I grabbed the camera to capture the moment and just a second later he went into a screaming fit because he couldn't get his feet to work together with those shoes on.  He wasn't able to walk forward, and he had a meltdown.

And literally, in that moment, it was if the Lord said to me, "He's frustrated because they're not the shoes that were made to fit him."  And instantly I made a connection about the shoes Abe was wearing and the "shoes" that I have had on these past few months.  You see, I have wanted to wear my slippers, and yet instead, I've been in my running shoes.  I have been kicking and screaming, but I have laced them up and put them on, and surprisingly, when I'm not complaining, they're comfortable. 

And I thought to myself, how often have I gotten up in the morning and put on the wrong shoes?  How many times have I put on my running shoes when God would have me to put on my slippers, or vice versa.  And I realized again that there is no formula for any given day.  I so wish there was.  I so wish there was a map to the perfect day.  But there isn't a map, there isn't a flowchart, there isn't a formula.  Instead, there is a Holy God who has equipped us with everything we need.  And, if we'll just listen to him, walk with him, seek him, he'll be the perfect wardrobe consultant.  He'll direct us, one day at a time to a live that pleases him.  

The bottom line is this, God has called me to this busy season.  Now, I realize that busyness can be a stumbling block and can hinder our relationships, and I must be vigilant to make sure that I don't allow that to happen.  But, knowing that the things I am currently committed to have been placed in my life for this season, I know that I can trust God to give me enough time, enough energy, enough resources, and enough love for all of it.  He can.  Does that mean I'm having to be a good steward of my time, energy, resources, and emotions?  Absolutely yes.  But it also means that I have the opportunity to invest in folks- little ones and big ones- in a way that I never could if I wore my slippers all the time.   

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


It's no secret that I love books.  I always have.  My mom jokes that before I could read to myself she would tell her friends to claim they couldn't read if they came to visit or else I would keep them so busy reading, there would be no time for conversation.  

It's also no secret that I totally lack self control when it comes to reading.  I get in much more trouble in a book store than a shoe store and once I start a good story, the world stops until I finish it.  Ryan claims that early in our marriage, before kiddos took priority, he would come home to a nearly dark house and find me with my nose in a book- so intrigued that I'd forgotten to turn the lights on.  

That's one of the things that I love about summer.  I always make time for reading.  Not the non-fiction reading I allow myself all year long, but the fiction reading that I love.  So far this summer I've enjoyed 4 good stories, mostly from the church library.  My favorite was The Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers.  Ahh, I love Francine Rivers.  

Reading is one way that my kids and I have always made memories together.  When I get especially frustrated with them, I often call them all to the couch, pull out a good book, and a chapter later we're all on the same team again.  We've read hundreds of books together and it's one of my favorite mommy things.

Last summer, the girls and I had a book club.  I wasn't that ambitious this summer.  But, I did want to get in some good read-aloud books that weren't school assignments, so I ordered several  early in the summer and we've been plowing through them.  One of our favorite book club books last summer was The Penderwicks, so this summer I ordered the sequel The Penderwicks on Gardam Street.  It has set on the book stack for several weeks while we've read others, and at least once a day one of them would ask if we could read it.  So, with great anticipation, we finally we started the book yesterday.  

Now, this is the story of a family of four girls who live with their widowed father.  Book one told us little about how the mother dies.  Book two fills in the gaps.  In the prologue.  Very sweetly.  Needless to say, it is very precious,  very sad, and I got very emotional.  I mean I was  ugly crying emotional, as I was reading the prologue.  We were sitting around the breakfast table and I started weeping as I tried to read.  Then I looked up to see 3 of my 4 children weeping too.  Isaac actually had his head in his hands and was sobbing, shoulders shaking sobbing as he pictured the scene.  And then we all looked at each other and started to laugh hysterically at one another.  Laughter through tears, I love those moments- the ones that can't be created, they just happen at some of the most unexpected times.  

I guess we've made another funny memory together, all compliments of a good book.  Did I mention that I love books?  

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Camping Fun

One of my "coping mechanisms" when I’m feeling overwhelmed is to plan a get-away.  Sometimes simply planning it is enough, but sometimes we actually go on said get-away.  Back when we were knee deep in VBS preparations, I planned a trip to tent camp in Boone.  After a week or so of plotting it, we decided to actually buy play tickets to see the Horn in the West, and therefore committed to going.  So, this weekend, we packed up 3 rubbermaid tubs, a tent, and various other necessities, and headed for the mountains.  

We had a great time!  We drove up on Thursday and spent the afternoon at the campground.  That was our night to do the whole fire thing.  We roasted hot dogs, and s’mores.  It took us forever to get the fire going as it had been raining and the wood was moist.  So, basically we cooked our hot dogs and marshmallows over pitiful little flames.  About the time we were completely finished, the fire took off nicely and we had to laugh.

Abe loved the s'mores!

Friday we visited the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis.  One of the buildings had barrels FULL of 600 different types of candy.  Needless to say, the kids had a blast choosing their own personal stash.  We drank cold soda pop out of glass bottles as we sat beside the stream and ate a variety of sugar confections.  

By the time we were finished, we had great need of protein.  But, we’d spent our lunch money on candy, so we took our paper plate cow masks we’d made back at the picnic table and headed to Chick-Fil-A for Cow appreciation day.  It was fun seeing some of the costumes people had come up with, and the food was extra yummy as it was free!

Friday night, we took the oldest 4 to see the Horn in the West outdoor drama in Boone.  It is a Daniel Boone/ Revolutionary War tale that went along well with all we had studied this past year.  It was so family friendly and the kids really enjoyed it.  The guns and cannons could be a little loud at times, but we had prepared them, so they did well.  

One of the things we learned when Isaac did his Daniel Boone report this spring is that Daniel Boone never wore a coonskin hat.  Apparently, the costuming department had a different reference source than Isaac did.

Abe spent that time with some folks who were friends of friends of friends and were kind enough to open their home to him so that we could take the older kids to see the play.  We shared a pizza dinner with them before we left him. Our 5 kiddos and their 6 kiddos had a great time playing together.  As Elizabeth said when we were pulling away, “If we lived in the same town, they would be good friends.”

Saturday morning we made our favorite camping treat, homemade donuts, before packing up to head home.  We made a stop on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Cone Manor National Park.  We had just enough time to enjoy a picnic lunch before a downpour came out of nowhere.  We all scurried around to get the food and blankets back in the Suburban before we got soaked to the bone.  

Not bad for a summer house, huh?

Abe's first Oreo

Here are my two favorite kid quotes from the weekend:

“Mom, I really think we need to go find an employee! I am sure they could help you.” Said by Lizzy when she thought Ryan and I were taking too long starting our campfire.

“Hey! Somebody peed on my pillow last night.” Heard by Isaac when he awoke to a dew-dampened pillow on the first morning.

All in all, it was a great weekend and we thoroughly enjoyed some family time.  Ryan will be traveling 3 out of the next 4 weeks, so we were glad to get some time with him before the busy month ahead.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photo taken by Casey Chappell of Poiema Photography

According to the grammar book I used when I taught 5th grade, a sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought and all sentences contain a subject and a verb.  That being said, Abe has finally said his first sentence!  The exact words were, "Isaac, stop!"  Which sounded like "Iyak top!"  He said it as he held his hand in front of his face while Isaac was squirting him with a water gun.  

I was so excited when I realized what he was saying.  Partly because it was his first sentence, and partly because I hope it's the beginning of a language explosion.  Abe still tends to scream- a lot!  And I really think it's just frustration.  He KNOWS what he wants, but he doesn't know how to communicate it.  So, he screams and screams, and then he screams some more.  We're all very anxious for him to find the words to express his desires instead.  So, as simple as it was, we will celebrate this little step and look forward to the next.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hooray for the Red, White, and Blue

Yesterday, we celebrated the Fourth and had a fun time.  We shared the afternoon with our good friends, the Nemitz family.  The kids had a great time swimming, sliding on the slip and slide,  jumping on the trampoline, and just enjoying good ol' summer fun.  Ryan and I had a good time gabbing, eating too much, and getting stomped in ping pong.  

Eve, the Nemitz mama, and I are very similar in personality.  We're both recovering elementary teachers turned homeschool mom.  She's the only person I know who loves her rubbermaid and label maker as much as I do.  We both tend to have a plan A, plan B, and plan C on hand at any given time.  The good thing about that is that we tend to understand each other.  She can grasp why I get such satisfaction in an orderly attic.  However, she's also good at reminding me that it has little eternal value and that I need to get out of the attic and have fun with my kids too.  Most of the time, we're good for each other.

In typical Eve and Christy fashion, we decided to tackle the t-shirt project on the cover of this month's Family Fun magazine.  So, yesterday afternoon, we found ourselves elbow deep in a variety of red, white, and blue t-shirts, ribbon, buttons, and thread.  The kids tried to hang with us, but in the end some of the finish work was left to us.  The t-shirts turned out cute, although the painted ones her boys chose didn't dry in time to wear them to the big Franklinton fireworks put on by the American Legion.  Of course, I snapped some pics of the day, and of course here they are for your viewing pleasure.
Posing for a picture before heading to the fireworks festivities
Isaac and Ian- good buddies!

The whole Campbell Clan
Enjoying snowcones at the Franklinton football field.
Abe wasn't picky about who he begged snowcone from.
Emily Nemitz escorting Abe down his first inflatable slide run.  That was also his last for the evening.  Let's just say he wasn't loving it!
Abe enjoyed licking the flag more than waving it, maybe next year!

Friday, July 3, 2009


15 years ago today, I was in Alaska.  I was working as a student summer missionary through a partnership with the Alaska and Kentucky Baptist Conventions.   I had spent my first 2 college summers working as a camp counselor at a G.A. girls camp in KY.  I had a guaranteed job there for the summer of 1994 and I was planning on returning.  But, when the KBC released their summer positions in the fall of 1993, I felt compelled to interview for the Alaska spot.  My friends thought I was nuts.  I've never loved the great outdoors and my idea of a perfect day is reading a book cover to cover with the blinds closed, by myself.  So, traipsing a bunch of youth around the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula for the summer was hardly up my alley.  

Not to mention the interview process.  That involved a gruelling weekend of interviews and team building activities where people watched you while jotting things down on a legal pad and whispering to one another.  There were way more applicants than there were positions, and I was certain I would get a rejection call.  But, I knew God was calling me to apply, so I endured the weekend and I was shocked when I got a call on Monday asking me if I would like the Kenai slot.  With much fear and trepidation, I accepted and I'm so glad I did.

By the time I had arrived in Kenai, Ryan and I had just broken up.  It had been our 3rd break-up in as many years and I was certain it was over this time.  I was pretty much resolved to being single for at least the next decade, so I dug into my assignment with vigor.  My partner Misty and I immediately began our first of 3 consecutive weeks teaching VBS.

I was assigned to live with a newlywed couple who were members of the church I was working out of.  That ended up being a tough situation, and I confessed this one afternoon to a very nice and very talkative church lady who took us out to lunch one day.   The next day the pastor called me into his office.  He asked me why I had confessed everything to Mrs. B when he didn't have a clue what a mess I was in, and taught me the painful lesson of who and who not to confide in when you have a problem with someone.  That was the first of many lessons he taught me.  

The next week his wife and kids returned from a long trip to the lower 48 and I was moved into one of their downstairs bedrooms.  Now, let me tell you that as nice as these people were, they were weird.  They had 5 children, they homeschooled, and they were BY FAR the most conservative people I had ever met.  I could have never known that the 10 weeks I spent sharing dinners at their table, feeding carrots to moose out their kitchen window, or helping with housework would go so far in preparing me for marriage, ministry, and parenting.  

One of the first perks I experienced with the move was the opportunity to develop a relationship with their 2 teenage daughters.  Casey and Brittany were 4 and 6 years younger than I, but we hit it off immediately.  They loved to laugh and so did I.  They loved the Lord and so did I.  They had a lot to learn and so did I.  We thoroughly enjoyed that summer we spent together.   They had almost no TV privileges (part of that wacko conservative thing) and so we watched Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea at least 15 times.  I still can't watch it without memories of the Nichol's basement. They taught me how to sew my own hair scrunchies, which was a valuable skill in 1994 (part of their wacko homeschooled skill set.)  I got Casey grounded for taking her to see Forrest Gump (oops!)  

God is certainly a God of details.  He knew exactly what needed to happen in my heart that summer.  Although I spent that time teaching and leading a variety of VBS, youth camps, hiking and canoe trips, I think I was the one who was ministered to.  He knew that less than a year later I'd be married and within a few more years would be a pastor's wife.  He knew that some of those wacko conservative values I was seeing lived out would soon become a part of my belief system.  I, on the other hand, had no idea.  

Over the next several years, I kept in touch with the Nichol's family, especially Casey.  Ryan and I had the opportunity to host her for a weekend once, and I really enjoyed her company.  After a time, God called us to NC for school and the crazy thing was, Casey and Brittany ended up here at the same time.  We had no idea the other was coming until we were both committed to be here.  We ended up being seminary neighbors and relished the opportunity to make more memories.  Casey had spent the previous years developing her skills as a hair dresser and a photographer, so we spent those school years bartering haircuts and photos for home cooked meals.  

Last summer, the Lord put Casey on my heart.  You know when the Holy Spirit just keeps reminding you of someone and you can't get away from it?  That's the way this was.  It had been a couple of years since we'd spent any time together, but I knew I had to hook up with her.  I found her on Facebook and we chatted enough for me to find out that she was pregnant with her first baby.  I was delighted for her and we agreed we needed to get together soon as we were just living about 45 minutes apart.  Little did I know that once again, God was going to use her and her family to teach me some things.  

Over the next couple of weeks, Casey's world was rocked.  She and her husband really wanted to know the sex of their baby and he simply wouldn't cooperate with the ultrasounds at the Drs. office.  So, at 28 weeks, they went to one of those private ultra-sound places.  They knew from the reaction of the tech that something was not right.  They spent the next several weeks visiting a variety of specialists and experts who insisted that something was terribly wrong and suggested all sorts of options for the pregnancy- none of which they would consider.  They went back and forth between bad news and good news.  They faithfully shared each appointment and update on their blog so we knew how to  pray for them until finally at 37 weeks of pregnancy, Casey went into labor.  Asher Daniel Chappell was born last August, but his time on earth was only for a moment.  

The weeks that followed were intense.  Casey faced all of the grief one would expect.  I cannot pretend to know her sorrow, but in typical Casey fashion, she did it with grace and faith that was jaw dropping.  I would go to her blog and weep and laugh and be amazed at how one young woman could have so much faith. I knew that her heritage which had taught her to trust in a BIG God was a huge factor in her response.  It encouraged me to work more diligently to train my children. It encouraged me to pray for my friend.  It encouraged me to treasure my family.  Following her story and knowing her heart ministered to me as we were on the last legs of our adoption journey with Abe.

A few weeks after Asher passed away, Casey, Brittany, and their husbands came to dinner at our house.  We had an evening filled with laughter.  We talked candidly about the grieving process and about their thoughts about how they might build their family in the future.  Casey brought her camera and took some fabulous photos of our kids (did I mention she's an extremely talented photographer?) You may remember that I posted the link for them on the blog last fall.  Since that day we've been keeping in touch through blogs and Facebook.

We were amazed when November brought the news that they would be adopting a baby girl in just a few days.  The story of Zoe's adoption in and of itself is amazing.  And then we were both delighted and saddened to find out that she and Dan were planning to leave Raleigh this summer so that Dan could attend Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth.  Casey's dad now serves as the chaplain there and so it is a great opportunity for them.  

So, at the end of May, we got to spend one last afternoon with Casey.  She came for lunch and brought baby Zoe.   Once again, she brought her camera and we were blessed by her photography talents.  That's really the point of this post, I wanted to share those photos with you.  You can see them here

We know it may be a while before we get to see her sweet family again, but we are so thankful for the technology that allows us to stay connected.  When I look at my relationship with Casey and her family, I see God's hand in every detail.  He has intersected our paths again and again at timely moments and he has used them to minister to my heart in ways I didn't know I needed it.  I thank him for these giants in the faith who he has placed in my life and given me the privilege of calling my friends.  I love you Nichols- even if you are wackos!

Oh and by the way, if you want to follow her journey or go back and read about all the Lord had done in her life over the past year, go here. Just be sure you bring a box of kleenex!