Friday, May 25, 2012

A New Adventure

This week has been a very busy week.  Monday marked the beginning of the last week of school.  It has been hard to stay on top of it this week.  We went to awards day today.  Both Ashlyn and Aaron received attendance awards and honor roll awards.  We are so proud of them.  We had a rough moment today at lunch when it hit Ashlyn that she would not be returning to RM Moore and would not see some of her friends again.  I just held her in the restaurant and cried right along with her.   It broke my heart, but I am so glad that I can relate to her and know what she is feeling since I moved as a kid as well.  We are trying to be real with the kids and not try to gloss over it or tell them that they will see those friends again.  That might be easy for us to do in the short term, but in the long run they will remember us being truthful and I feel like the grieving process will go much better by being honest.  I told her that I can't change the fact that we are moving, but if she needs to talk or cry, she can come to me and we will cry together.  It hurts that I can't "fix" this one for my kids.  It is just something they are going to have to work through.  Who am I kidding, I have a lot to work through too. As hard as this appointment has been and as much as we want to move, I have some really great friends that I have to leave behind.  It's just sad no matter how good the move is for our family.  

We are finally into summer mode around here.  However, the beginning of our summer will be a hectic one.  Our move date has been set for June 18th.  The movers have been reserved and we have arranged to have the kid's play set moved.

Tuesday we drove up to Hiawassee with Ashlyn and Aaron to meet with some of the leaders of the church and to see the parsonage.  It was a pretty drive and the kids were excited.  We were greeted at the door by our new Staff-Parish Relations chairman and he introduced us to the church staff.   They all seemed very excited and happy that we are coming.  The church tour started quickly and the ladies took me straight to the nursery.  They must have known how important that one room is to me.  It is such a sweet little room with lots of toys and bright happy murals and colors.  I was happy to see that we would not have to introduce Safe Sanctuaries to this church because they already have it in place.  They even have a nursery pager system to contact parents when they are needed in the nursery as well as a TV monitor so that the volunteers can see and hear the service.  I am ready to sign up for my turn on the rotation.

The music minister showed us around the choir room and the sound room.  The church has a good bit of technology and I know that Sam is excited about learning to preach using Power Point.  This is something he has never had the opportunity to do before.  This does, however, require much more sermon prep!  It will be good for him!  The music minister shared with us that she is beginning to put together a praise band.  She said she is putting it out there and waiting to see what talents emerge.  I like her!

The youth minister showed us the youth room and was very proud to share that 4 years ago, they did not have a youth group and now they have 15 kids along with many professions of faith and re-dedications. It is obvious that he has a passion for Christ and the youth.

We did not get to talk to the administrative assistant too much, but you can certainly tell that she is good at what she does and Sam is looking forward to working with her.

After our tour, we drove out to the parsonage.  I described it in my last post.  By the way, that is Mrs. Pam on the front porch.  She told me to just tell everyone that she is my maid.  I love her sense of humor already.  The house was built in 1984 and the church purchased it new, so it has always been the Hiawassee UMC parsonage.  I wonder how many clergy families have lived there over the years?  The yard is AMAZING.  I forgot to take a picture from the porch view so I will do that the next time we go up.  The house is big enough for us and has a lot of character.  It looks bigger in person than this front porch photo.  It is pretty dated and will need some work.  The current pastor has been out of the house since November, but the church did not learn of his retirement plans until about 2 months ago, so they have just been doing basic maintenance.  Once they heard they would be receiving a new family, they decided to wait and see what we needed or wanted done.  The Trustees are painting the kid's rooms and the wood paneling in the den before we move in.  Mom and I are going up June 1st to try to get all the wall paper in the bathrooms down.  Sam, me, and the 3 older kids will go up when they have VBS and will paint the three bathrooms and maybe the master bedroom.  I was able to call in the paint to the Sherwin Williams store up there and use my brother's family discount.  They appreciated the 40% discount on all the paint and supplies.

The kitchen has a whole other area not pictured.  It's a separate eating area and our table fits.
The kitchen wall paper will be our biggest project so that will have to wait until other painting is done.  The kitchen is a good size with a lot of counter and cabinet space.  I have never been a fan of home improvement projects, but maybe this will be fun.  Maybe?

We are still trying to figure out where we are going to put the kids.  The rooms up stairs are a little small.  The room downstairs would easily fit the three boys.  The master and 2 other bedrooms are on the second floor.  I think the small rooms will be fine since they will have a play room and a school room.  Their bedrooms will mostly be for sleeping.

Back in the day, parsonages where completely furnished.  Pastors and their families just moved their clothes and personal belongings from church to church.  This house does have some furniture, but they let me decide what to keep.  That will not be much since we have a house full of our own stuff.  They will be selling the rest of it to raise money for parsonage improvements.

Kid's bedroom 1

Kid's bedroom 2 (the larger one downstairs)

Kid's bedroom 3 
Living room

The school room

The playroom

One of the cool things about the house is that every entry has a big or small wooden porch, so there are several nice places to sit and watch the kids play.  It has a gas log fire place that actually pushes out heat.  That will be nice in the winter.  Thankfully the carpet is not out dated and is in good shape.  The church is having the carpet professionally cleaned.  I am looking forward to getting in there and making it our home. It will be a work in progress, but I am grateful that the church is willing to work with us and are ok with whatever changes we need to make.  By the time we are done, I am sure we will have painted every wall!  One of the things that Sam and I hope we are known for as we move around the conference is that we are a great parsonage family.  Part of our gift to a church as we leave is a parsonage in better shape than we found it.  It will be an adjustment going from the house we are in now.  The Waleska parsonage is brand new and we haven't had to do much to it, but we knew leaving here would mean a big housing adjustment whether we got another parsonage or even a housing allowance.  I will post more pictures after our next trip up and as we move in, paint, and decorate.  Thankfully, my mom is as good as Martha Stewart in the decorating department.

As we get started on the packing, we grieve over the friends we are leaving, but look forward to building new relationships in our church and community.  One thing that was obvious as we met a small part of the Hiawassee UMC leadership is that they are a praying, Holy Spirit-filled church.  There is much to do in ministry in Hiawassee and we look forward to joining in with this congregation to build God's kingdom together.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Official

The announcement was made this morning.  Sam is being reappointed this year to Hiawassee United Methodist Church in beautiful Hiawassee, Ga located in the North Georgia mountains.  If you don't know where that is, it is just north of Blairsville and Young Harris.  It's very close to the Georgia/North Carolina border.  We are very excited about this opportunity.  However, I have to admit that I cried for 3 days once we got the news from our district superiendent.  We were certainly prepared and even requested this move, but I did not know what to expect as far as location goes.  When I learned that we would be moving to a rural setting, I immediately flashed back to my 2 1/2 years in rural Kentucky.  That was the only thing this suburban Townelake girl had to compare it to.  Our Kentucky years, while we served a student appointment, were very dark for me.  It was a really hard time because Sam traveled back and forth to school 3 days every week and left me at home with Ashlyn who was just a baby at the time.  We gave up our on-campus Asbury experience to serve two rural churches to make ends meet and because it was highly suggested by our conference officials.

I was so isolated and no matter what I tried, I could not break into the social structure there.  Everyone had lived there their whole lives and were just born into their social networks.  They did not need things like MOMS Club or MOPS to connect with each other, so there were no groups like that.  There were days that I would walk across the parking lot from the parsonage to the church and realize that I had not left the house since the previous Sunday.  I am convinced that is the reason Ashlyn could speak clear as day the moment she said her first word.  For several days of the week, she was the only person there for me to talk to! 

Anyway, all I could think of was that experience.  I did not want to go back to that place again.  After getting the call within a few mintues, I was scouring the internet looking for mom support groups and preschools for the kids.  God is so great because I found both of those things.  I got up the next morning and e-mailed the MOPS group and got a very quick response.  The first mom I talked to has SIX kids.  God is good!  She was a wealth of information and encouragement and also put me in touch with someone else in the group who directed me to a preschool.  I called the preschool and secured the only 2 spaces left for Aiden and Anna.  Again, God is so good!

Then, my worry turned to the parsonage.  After contacting our DS to get more information we recieved word that the house has 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, a living room, a dinning room, a den, a full basement, pastor's study, and TWO ovens in the kitchen.  It has a big front porch and sits on 5 acres, 3 of them wooded. It sounds like this house was made for us.   Again, God is so so good!  

The more and more I talk to people about the area, the more I know we will love it.  It seems to be a very close knit and caring community.  Lake Chatuge runs through the whole town.  The boys will love fishing there with their dad and we will all love going to the beach and swimming.  The kids are already discussing what tree the tire swing will hang from.  There are Upward Sports, a spectacular public library, a public pool, several summer Bible camps, a MOPS group, a Cub Scout pack, and a great homeschool co-op/network.  I have been wrestling with a call to homeschooling for several years, so after much prayer and discussion we decided this week to go ahead with our homeschool plans for the fall after contacting the co-op up there.  We have also been told that there are other large families in the area.  Everyone I have contacted has been so welcoming and full of resources and information.  The Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds are there as well, and I am excited to check out the weekly farmer's market and produce stands.  What I am learning is that just because a place is rural does not always mean that there is nothing going on there.  I'm looking forward to my kids having the opportunity to experience a slower paced more wholesome way of living away from the hustle and bustle of metro Atlanta.  Sometimes what we think we want is not always what we need. 

As we prepare to leave Waleska UMC, I find myself reflecting over the past 5 years.  It certainly has been a rocky road from day one.  We learned late in the appointment making process that we were moving and the church was none too happy to loose their pastor and recieve a new one.  So, our start here was rough.  I do believe that many of our problems over our time here stem from that one thing.  I also believe that in our Methodist system, sometimes there can be just a bad match.  As hard as this appointment has been, I can finally say that I am grateful for the experience.  I never thought I would be able to say that, but I can now.  It truly has changed our family and our perspective on ministry and our calling.  It has helped us to identify our passions and zero in on what and who we are called to. 

One of those things is family ministry.  Sam and I never set out to have 5 children.  It is certianly something that God has led us to and that we have grown into.  We have a passion for reaching into the lives of families in crisis.   After all, there were several times over the past 5 years that our own family was in crisis.  I can talk about it now, but it is hard to admit that there were several times that thoughts of walking away from my marriage entered my head.  Not because I did not love my husband and my marriage dearly, but because I was buckling under the pressure of his calling. At times I just did not want this life.  It was too hard!   I look back and am baffled by how we were able to function through some of that.  All I can say is that God literally carried us through.  I picture in my mind, Him scooping us up in His arms and carrying us to the other side.  What other explaination is there?  By all accounts, we should be finished.  The things we have been through have completely destroyed other clergy families.  We know of people that it has happened to;  broken marriages and rebellious angry children who walk away from the church all together.  I am so grateful for His Grace!  I believe He saved my marriage and my family.  The least I can do in return is be available and open to reaching out to other families that need Him.  The family was the first institution that God created.  Sadly, I feel like the enemy and our society is slowly attacking this institution in so many ways.  It's our foundation. If the enemy can weaken or collapse the foundation then he thinks he has won and can devour more souls. However, we know that Jesus has already claimed victory!  I pray that our family can do our part for the foundation of the family and play a small role in building God's Kingdom!

God has also given us a vision for teaching children about the Lord and the Bible and equipping parents to instill biblical truths into their children.  Our society has become so biblically illiterate.  Not only that, but we just don't believe what the Bible says or that it even applies to us anymore.  God's Word is relevant yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  We are praying about it, but one day we would love to see this vision turn into some kind of non profit ministry to work to instill biblical literacy in children.  We even have some ideas for a name for that ministry. 

So, as we depart and say good bye to our current ministry post, Waleska UMC, I choose to take the lessons that I have learned here and the wonderful memories of the people who have supported us and loved us, but also to leave my saddness, disappointment, hurt, and anger as I go.  This week I have felt the burdens and baggage that I have been carrying for so so very long start to be lifted from my shoulders.  I have been very angry for far too long!  God has used every difficult and hurtful situation to strengthen me for His work.  I still have a very long way to go, but I have learned so much and I am so grateful for what He is doing in my life and the lives of my husband and my children!  I can't wait to see what He has in store for our ministry in Hiawassee!  One thing I know for sure is that we were faithful to our calling at Waleska and I can see clearly how He is rewarding and blessing our faithfulness in moving forward!

God is so good!