Sunday, August 30, 2009


God is amazingly faithful. Yesterday was a tough day. As many of you know we have been getting involved with the youth, both at our church and in our neighborhood. Well, God has really blessed us, especially with opportunities in the neighborhood. We consistently have anywhere from five to fifteen kids hanging around our house and are sure to have a knock at our door soon after we arrive home from anywhere...with many more knocks to follow. The kids play with all sorts of different things, from the tree fort and tire swing we made in the back yard to video games, Legos, and the computer inside. It has been a blessing for us to have many friends for our children and to be able to minister to many of these children who seem to crave so much attention. Many of their parent(s)/grandparent(s) work long hours in order to get by and the kids are often left on their own. It seems an area where we can really make a difference in the neighborhood. Especially, as there are so many bad options that are open to the kids as they get older. Most of the people working with the youth around here feel that if they haven't got the kids involved by age 10 in some positive influence, that there is a good chance of them instead getting involved with the local gangs.

Yet, it has been difficult at times. To have that many kids around all the times is wearing. The other day when I tried to give Allison a break from the kids by taking ours and some others to the park to play, I returned home awhile later to find five others hanging around the house using the computer. Many of the kids want to borrow our various things...from a basketball, to roller blades, to bikes. But we have had trouble getting stuff back at times...mostly from forgetfulness...and the kids have been a little rough on Allison's bike. Not to mention, that when you get that many kids together there are bound to be arguments and the occasional (and not so occasional sometimes) fights. The kids are tough down here...but that seems to makes things worse as they have to act tough...and when they fight...they mean it...fists, sticks, rocks...whatever.

The breaking point was yesterday though, when we found some things missing from the house. There are so many kids in and out of here that we really can't know who it is...and this hasn't been the first time. It had been a rough couple days with a lot going on...especially with classes having just started. Then to find that the kids to whom we are attempting to minister are turning around and stealing stuff from us...again...was just about all we could take. We both wanted to just call it quits for awhile and tell them they are not allowed over. It was just so frustrating.

Enter God...I knew right away that I needed to rely on him...I even racked my brain to see what he had been teaching me in devotions lately...but nothing first. Then we went to work-out at blow off some steam. My friend JP told me that often he finds things aren't quite as bad as they seem. This didn't seem to help much...until I was praying with Brian that evening. He, like us, was dealing with disappointments. In the traumatic world of an eight year old he wanted to play video games or a watch a movie, but it was time for bed and he was pouting. We spent some time talking about how much God has blessed him and all the good that happened that day. We finished praying and as I walked out of the room God tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of JP's words from earlier and how what I had just told Brian applied to my situation as well.

I'd like to say that this solved the problem, but both Allison and I needed more. We had a long conversation that evening...most of it just talking about how we felt about the situation and how much it was still stressing us out. Not much was resolved...we both knew we should still minister to the kids...but it was difficult. She went to bed and I went next door to beat up on the Madden '08.

But God wasn't done with us. Sunday morning's message was on Galatians 6:9 "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." The Pastor spoke of how hard, at times, it is to do the work which God gives us...especially if people reject us...or steal from us. Yup, he used that exact example. Yet God does not give up on us, and we should not give up either. We have to "keep on keeping on." It was such a message of encouragement that we needed...God really came through for both of us.

We returned home with a renewed determination to reach these might be difficult...and disappointing at times...but having the response we have had is - as a Pastor has said - a blessing. We reorganized the house so that electronic stuff (things that are small and easy for them to grab) is put up and away and we came up with some new limitations...but we are looking to continue moving forward. We know God wouldn't want it any other way.

In the end, although it was difficult, it was awesome to see God work in this area and to once again be astounded by this work. I love these "coincidences" when the exact message you to hear is the one that is preached...or as our Pastor say, "There are no coincidences" ;)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

This and that

A busy week all in all. A lot of work with AO and I'm about ready to never hear the words insurance score, underwriting tier, or anything like that again. But we've made some progress and that is it keeps me busy.

Wednesday was a good day. I finished up my final paper for my summer class...just in time for my other classes to start this coming week...but I had a few days break in between the work. So that was nice. I've been trying to start reviewing some Greek and get into Hebrew a little to ease into this semester...yeah...I'm good at procrastinating :) After I finished the paper I went next door to celebrate with my neighbor by playing a little Mortal Kombat v DC on the 360. As an amateur comic book fan (at least compared to a few friends) I was quite pleased and thought it was well done.

Finally, we took a return trip over to the tattoo artist to touch up my tattoo. That's probably news for most...but as many of you know I lost my wedding ring awhile ago and I talked about getting a ring tattoo...but couldn't decide what to get. In the end, I just decided to go for it and have the lady at the tattoo place (it had some great reviews online) design me something and go from there. You can't get too creative with just a small finger, but she made some interwoven infinity signs (one for each of us) and I think I like the outcome. It hurt quite a bit to get it done...more than I expected...but was also a lot faster than I expected. I'm really always very impressed with artists as my creativity is zero, I can't really draw a straight line well...let alone a circle, and I'm what I like to call color stupid. I can see colors just fine...but I cannot for the life of me tell you what looks good together. So I'm quite happy with it and actually look like I at least have something on my ring finger. Allison loves it...she had no idea that I was doing it...although it did take her awhile to notice...I think her seeing the aftercare instructions laying on the counter that it was what tipped her off. Hopefully I'll post some pictures of it soon. Oh...didn't mention that this was our it was kinda a gift for her. Hard to believe that we have been married nine years now.

Speaking of the anniversary...lots of marriage stuff going on besides the anniversary. They had a couples night at the church which we took our neighbor to. We watched Fireproof and discussed it afterward. This is an amazing video that I recommend to anybody...alright the acting isn't necessarily the greatest at some points. But it more than makes up for it with the content. We had seen it before, but our neighbor had it was pretty cool for us to think about again and be challenged by what it demonstrates. Our neighbor said it was really good and I hope we have time to talk about it some more.

Yup...more marriage stuff. Saturday saw us take off for Greenville (about 1 1/2 away) for our final round of pre-marriage counseling with some friends. It has been a great privilege to get to do this with them. I think that we have been able to share some good things and it has been extremely challenging to both of us go back over a lot of this information in order to reevaluate how we are doing. I definitely can do a better job at loving my wife...and this was a good challenge to show me some areas where I can do that. She is wonderful and deserves everything and anything that I can give her.

The sad part of the day came when we returned to Columbia to find that Kelly had left her doll and blanket in the McDonald's play place back in Greenville. Yup, she could tell us exactly where she left it...but it was an 1 1/2 away and they were closed up by then. We called today and they found it. We have to call back tomorrow to see if they can send it to us or something. Meanwhile we are dealing with a 3 year on her blanket/baby withdrawal...but she's coping pretty well most of the time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Youth Explosion

That's the name of our church's back to school bbq that we had yesterday...and it was just that. It was mostly geared toward the younger kids and was a blast. We took about 14 kids(mostly about Brian's age) from our neighborhood and a couple of their parents as well :) The church was pretty packed and the kids had fun switching between scarfing down food, playing wii, and sliding on the blow up waterslide. If you can't quite picture that...think about combining a slip 'n slide and one of those bounce house things...along with a little pool of water that you slide into at the end. Not too many injuries...a few when the kids decided that it was a good idea to run back up the slide part...but no broken bones. We solved that when we made it a race to slide down and run back to the line...which also had the added benefit of tiring the kids out.

The party ended about 2, but a number of the kids came back to our place for the rest of the day, thankfully the nice lady running the food at the church had given us some of the leftover burgers and there was no cooking to do come dinnertime. My pastor and I were talking about it and it really has been a blessing the number of kids who come over to our house and want to do stuff with us. Yet, it is overwhelming at times and definitely wears us out trying to keep up with them. When they aren't in school, I don't think we go 1/2 and hour without having someone knock on our door, either asking to come over and play or for me to help the fix up their ever failing bikes.

However, it was very encouraging that two of them wanted to, and did, come to church with us this morning. They seemed to have enjoyed themselves and wanted to come again. The kids are in some ways so innocent and in other ways you can see how some hard aspects of their lives are beginning to come through. These will only get worse as they grow older. There is some gang activity around, and it is especially prevalent at the schools, many come from broken homes, and one of the saddest statistics is that our area has the hightest teen pregnancy in all of South Carolina. Please pray for this kids, and especially as we try to get more involved with some of the older kids as well.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

And we're back

Okay...back up and running in so many ways. It's been awhile since we've updated this. We'll try to make a more regular schedule about it. The last month has been quite crazy b/w work and school.

In more recent news feels good to be back and clean again. That may sound strange, but we just returned from camping in Great Smokey Mountain National Park. It was a blast, but a couple days of no showers and lugging a three year old around in summer heat make for a nasty situation.

But all survived and it was a blast. Brian reiterated over and over that he loves camping. We headed up there Sunday, about a 4 hour drive that took a little longer due to some snags at Walmart. We stopped on our way out of town about noon to pick up the last few groceries, some camping supplies, and a few other misc things. So we get all the way to checkout only to learn that you are only allowed to buy groceries in SC b/w the hours of midnight and 1:30 PM on Sunday. As it was 12:30 at this time, we buy just the groceries, head up the road for an hour and stop at another Walmart to get the remaining supplies.

So we finally made it there and Sunday night was mostly relaxing...dinner was hot dogs on the fire w/ some busch's baked beans...and playing some monopoly - newly purchased from walmart - with Brian and Allison. The game had to be postponed til the next night.

Early Monday brought a trip to BK so that I could spend some time working, while Allison, Kelly, and Brian played around camp...Brian took a swim trying to cross the rocks in the river...Allison and Kelly nearly joined him. Later, we headed out hiking in the later morning and made it up to Clingman's Dome by lunch time. It's the highest place in the park w/ a watchtower that you can go up. By go up I mean they have a huge ramp so people can walk up. I swear the place was as crowded as Disney World...just a lot more people gasping for breath as it's a steep half mile walk up there...but they have benches every hundred feet and it's paved. So needing some more rugged hiking we headed out on the Appalachian trail for the "short"...according to my Dad's memory from 30 years ago...hike to Charlie's Bunion Gap. About 2 miles in (all up hill) we met some people with a map who informed us that it was another two miles. As we surveyed our water supply and felt we would not have enough to continue Kelly informed us that she had to throw up (I was carrying her...she wasn't walking) and did. So this ended the debate and back down the mountain we headed. We didn't quite make it where we wanted, but we had fun, saw some nice views, and Kelly seemed fine after she slept for most of the rest of the afternoon.

Brian conquered in Monopoly that night, a quick trip back to BK for more work fun the next morning, and after breaking camp we headed out for some more hiking...this time up Chimney Tops...a 2 mile trail that climbs 1700 feet. Brian did a great job...Kelly said it was hard work giving directions from my back. Chimney tops was a rock spire at the top of the mountain that you could climb up (after hiking the two miles)...we went up a ways...then down...then back up...and so on as we (actually just I) chased the kids). We didn't go all the way as the climbing got pretty dangerous, but Brian and I did see a black bear just over the ledge...I'd say more of a cliff, but there he was...eating berries about 30 feet away. The hike down was quicker, but ended w/ us getting caught in a rain storm. But we made it back and after driving back down here all are tired...Kelly even went to bed on her own saying, "I'm tired"...something I don't think we ever heard before.