a new phase [general life update]

We have successfully moved from Charlotte, NC to Richmond, VA. Successful = nobody died in the process. (Although we did forget to pack one entire drawer in our kitchen which housed our silverware. Whoops. We’re eating with our hands these days. Nothing out of the ordinary there.)

There are a million thoughts going through my brain these days, so I’m going to just start with a general life update … which is basically code language for anything I want to tell you that is maybe too small for one blog post.

HOME

For the past several weeks, I have entertained a new home decor style with a major emphasis on boxes. With a side of packing tape. As of this past Monday, the “box motif” has been evicted from my home. (Except for several that are filled with books. Which shall not be evicted until shelves have been installed.) 

Here are some picture moments from this past week:

for more pictures, see my instagram here.

After we unloaded all the boxes, I made it my goal to unpack ASAP. Sure, it meant working like a crazy woman for several days – and I may or may not (emphasis on the may not) have taken a shower every single day – but guess what? We’re moved in now and back into the swing of homeschooling. Hal.le.lu.jah.

Sometimes I knock routine. I think it’s boring and predictable, so I want something new and exciting! But hear, hear: there’s something absolutely delicious about routine when you haven’t had it for a while. I’m smack in that delicious feeling right now and not looking forward to getting out of it anytime soon.

NEW CITY

So no, Richmond isn’t technically a new city to me since my family moved here when I was in 5th grade. But a lot has changed in the past 12 years. Like the fact that I have 4 kids now. In Charlotte, some of our favorite things were the libraries and greenways/parks around the city. We also had some used bookstore and thrift store haunts we liked to hit up every once in a while. I’ve already located and shopped at my nearest Aldi, so there’s a big point in Richmond’s favor. Next stop: library.

FAMILY

A major perk of our new location is being close to family. I already mentioned this, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. I’m so thankful to be near my parents as well as my sister and her family. I love that my kids can play with their cousins and that we live close enough to just drop in. Unannounced.
For dinner.

Okay, maybe not. But the point is that we live close enough to do that! And they live close enough to do that to us! Hooray! Since we’re planning to be here until Jonathan finishes his PhD (approximately 2 more years), I want to soak up this time with family even more than usual – knowing that this is potentially the closest we’ll ever live to each other.

EMOTIONS

Pretty much all the emotions have been covered over the past few weeks, with a spike in intensity riiiiight around the days we moved. Go figure. One of my prayers throughout this moving experience has been that God would help me to stay grounded. My theme verse for January was Isaiah 26:3 –

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

I’m so thankful for how God has answered that prayer. Moving from a place and people you love is emotional. Not only emotional, but just plain tough. There’s no antidote for that. But there is God’s grace, which is far better than any antidote you could find. This grace has the ability to lift my eyes up from temporal circumstances to God’s unchanging Word and character. There is absolutely nothing more grounding than that.

 

ONWARD

We are so thankful to be right where God wants us to be. There’s rest in that, isn’t there? It’s been such a great teaching tool to remind our kids that God led us here. Here’s to settling in and writing a new chapter.

Oh, and to all our Richmond/Charlotte friends? Our home’s ready for ya. #fistbump

Unplanned Teaching Moments

Last week, a friend told Jonathan and I about a conversation he had with Nate, our 5 year old:

“So Nate, what do you think about moving to Virginia?”

“It’s good . . . and it’s sad.
But it’s what God wants us to do.”

Hearing of this conversation reminded me just how important it is to continue speaking truth to our children – not just in the formal times of planned conversation, but especially during those unplanned moments. Like the time they come into the kitchen and see me crying. That’s exactly the time I need to remind them why we’re moving. It’s because this is God’s next step for our family. We remind them that taking the next step is often difficult and hard. But we’re doing it because we want to obey God. It’s funny how this whole “reminding your children” thing goes…often I find that I learn more when I’m talking it through with them than I do just by thinking through things on my own.

That’s the great thing about shepherding children through changes. It makes you talk about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Then you actually live with your little students and they get to observe firsthand whether Mommy and Daddy really believe what they say you believe. Yikes.

Of course, we always mess up, don’t we? We sin, make mistakes, and often say things that are either partially or completely wrong. Then God gives us the opportunity to teach them about grace. We’re not perfect. Nobody is. That’s exactly why we need Jesus.

Our family is right in middle of the “good & sad” part of moving right now. With just under 4 days left in Charlotte, everything seems extra intense from the physical side of packing up our home (& a few sick kids thrown in the mix!) to the emotional side of all the “lasts.” Spiritually, we rest in the fact that amidst the good, hard, happy and sad, we are at peace knowing that this is God’s next step for our family. We’re not moving because one step is better than the next, but because our Good Shepherd is leading us to this next step. There is immeasurable comfort resting in the arms of Jesus, isn’t there?


If you are looking for ways to make Jesus & the Gospel a part of the daily conversation with your kids,
I greatly benefited from reading Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with your Children.
You can find my personal review + quotes here.

Our Big Change

My family has a big change taking place in 2017.

In order to make this as undramatic as possible, I’ll just come out and say it: we’re moving.

Long story short: my husband, Jonathan is going to be an assistant pastor at my Dad’s church in Virginia.

Short story long:

well, how long do you want?

The semi-novel-length version is this:

My husband has been working on his PhD for a couple years. Most of you already know this story. Our tentative plan has been for him to finish his degree and then pursue a senior pastorate position. But a while ago as we were praying and talking through our next steps, we started talking about what a great experience it would be to learn from another ministry before setting out in a senior leadership position. The idea seemed a bit far-fetched, though, as we were only looking to be at a ministry short-term (2ish years) – and we couldn’t imagine that a ministry would be interested in an assistant pastor for that length of time.

Enter God.

I mean, He’s always in the picture, of course. But sometimes we see Him in a clearer way, especially when He blows our idea of what could never happen out of the water.

Soon after Karis was born, my Dad contacted Jonathan and asked if he would consider serving as his assistant pastor for a couple years until our PhD journey is complete.

Enter many hours of prayer, thinking, talking, and advice-seeking. Through this time, we were conscious that this was the exact type of opportunity that we had talked and prayed about a year earlier. After many conversations with God and each other, a skype “interview/getting-to-know-us-session” with the church in Virginia, and a unanimous church vote, we knew this was God’s next step for our family.

I am not exaggerating even the tiniest bit when I say that I felt incredibly sick to my stomach the night Jonathan told our dear church family here in Charlotte that we would be moving to Virginia. Oh, the many precious relationships God has given us here! Although we don’t have any actual family nearby, God has so knit our hearts with the hearts of our church family that the idea of breaking those day to day relationships is just plain old painful.

But through it all, God is kind, isn’t He? And He shows His kindnesses through daily feeding of His Word, hundreds of blessings throughout the day, and love from those around us.

Our family is in transition now. Our home has been invaded by a gazillion and two boxes. My kids are excited to live near family (my parents and oldest sister’s family live in Virginia), but also speak tearfully of leaving sweet friends here in Charlotte. And while my Mama heart aches to think of their sadness, I can’t help thinking how much this is preparing them (not to mention their parents) to live a life of obedience and faith. Faith doesn’t make decisions based on the ins and outs of every future detail because faith isn’t living by what you can see.

Faith-filled decisions are concerned with one thing: Am I obeying God? If the answer is yes, then your decision has been made. Nothing else matters compared to pleasing and obeying God. So cling to the One Who has put these changes in your life. In every change, He faithful will remain.

 


Because of our current stage, I am developing a new hobby called packing. Therefore, my writing time has been even more scarce than I imagined when I wrote this post stating I would not be blogging regularly. But considering writing is cheaper than therapy and oh so much easier to come by, I have great goals of continuing with more frequency. At least more frequent than once a month. Which means that even if I only write 2 posts this month, I’ve just doubled my frequency. Way to make high goals, Christa. #fistbump
I still haven’t shown you the seating for our table, so there’s that. I’ll see what I can do.

Thank you, friends, for following along on our journey.
I’m thankful that the internet world isn’t limited by things like location, aren’t you?

The Most Generous Thing God Can Do For You

Last week, my parents blessed me in a huge way. It was as if they sat back and thought, “What’s the most loving and generous thing we could do for Christa right now?” And then they did it.

As that came into my mind, I thought, “What if God always did the most loving and generous thing for me? That sounds like a pretty great deal.”

And then I thought:

Well, what is the most generous and loving thing God can do for me?

While that comes across as a very selfish question, hang with me for a minute or five. After all, we happen to be quite concerned with ourselves, so let’s just ride this thought train out.

Certainly, God has already done the most generous thing for us in giving us Jesus. And once a person believes in Jesus, God’s desire is to change that individual to be holy – just like He is holy. Here are a few Scripture passages on this transformation:

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

Be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Romans 12:1-2

We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

So God is working to change believers to become like Him. And He does it, Romans 5 says, through suffering:

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.
Romans 5:3-5

Let’s cover one more thing. My original question has to do with God’s generosity and love. But since God is love, He is never unloving. He never does anything unloving. What follows is this: God is always acting towards me in generosity and love.

Now back to our original question:

What is the most generous and loving thing God can do for me?

If the most generous and loving thing God can do for me is to change me to be like Jesus –
and if God is always acting towards me in generosity and love –
then this is truth:

What is happening in my life right now
is the most generous and loving thing God can do for me.

 

That thing that just came to your mind? The situation you didn’t ask for and don’t want?
God is bigger than it. And if you allow, He will lovingly use it to make you like Jesus.

It’s as if God thought, “What’s the most generous and loving thing I could do for ______ right now?”
And then He gave you your day – your month – your life.

Why?
So He could use it to make you more like Jesus.

Whatever is happening in your life today is the most loving thing God can do for you. Don’t try to bear it alone. Take your struggles and sufferings back to the One Who gave them to you. He’s strong enough and loving enough to carry it all.

 

Related:
When God’s Word & Real Life Collide

I Can’t Do It All.

In August, I took time to think through the fall season of life. (I wrote about several of the steps here.) One of the most helpful parts of this planning process was when I took time to list out the things that wouldn’t happen during the fall season of my life.

saying no

Making that list was helpful as I anticipated the fall, but it has been exponentially more helpful now that I’m in that season. Do you want an example of how it’s helpful? Two of the things I decided to say no to during this season were:
1) regular blogging
2) looking like I didn’t just give birth.

Now here’s a peek inside my somewhat mush-ified mommy brain to show you how things go down:

emotional me: “I’m a terrible blogger! Look at all these people blogging five times a week and I haven’t even written once! I need to quit.”
rational me: “You knew it was going to be like this. Blogging isn’t your main priority. You’ll probably get back to writing regularly in the future. If not, that’s really okay too. Settle down and focus on what’s important.”

emotional me: “These pants don’t fit! This shirt looks horrible!!!”
rational me: “Shut up. You just had a baby.”
emotional me: “But she’s 7 weeks old!!!”
rational me: “Don’t make me slap you.”
emotional me: “……….” [looks for nearest stash of chocolate]

Sometimes rational me is literally myself and other times when there’s not a rational ounce of anything left inside, Jonathan steps in and fills that role. [Minus the slapping threat.]

While the above conversations may not have taken place verbatim inside my head, many variations of them have taken place repeatedly over the past 7 weeks. [Key word: repeatedly.] Not only with the above examples, but with my entire list of things I am saying no to during this season.

Here’s the deal:
I CAN’T DO IT ALL.

In my head, I know that. But sometimes I forget. And while I may not try to do every. last. thing. in the universe, I try to do more than I should. During these times, it’s helpful to have a list physically written down that I can reference and remind myself, “Oh hey, that’s not my priority during this season after all. I’ll save that for another season.”

Here’s another part of the deal:
I SHOULDN’T DO IT ALL.

Wanna know what happens when I focus on the wrong things? I focus on things of little importance while ignoring the most important priorities. I don’t intend to; I just get so caught up in something I want that I forget about what really needs to happen. This is where it’s so important to drench every one of these decisions in wisdom and prayer. Because we’re not smart enough to know what’s important all by ourselves. We need God to show us what belongs in our priority list for every season of our lives.

We’re about to embark on the busiest two months of the year. This season, don’t forget to say no to good things so you can say yes to the best.

What are the most important things for you to focus on this season?
Pray!
Ask God to show you through His Word, your spouse, and/or godly mentors.
The great thing is that God wants you to know His will. He wants you to have wisdom.
So if you need it (who doesn’t?!), ask for it! He promises to give to those who ask in faith.
That’s a promise worth claiming!