Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting There

The West Bank. Algiers. The French “Qwahtah.” The CBD. St. Charles. Freret. Uptown. It’s hard to believe that just two and half weeks ago those words were just a string of syllables attached to New Orleans. Now they hold meaning and memories and faces…and direction! Now those words conjure up thoughts about the DMV and how complicated it can be to change your driver’s license; about tiny cupcake stores in the midst of the inner city (thank you Sarah Collie); about bachelorette parties where friends care about each other; about local art and funny smells; about street cars and homeless people; about new businesses trying to make it and their owners who you know by name; about playgrounds and grocery stores and puddles knee-deep.

Part of immersing in a culture requires that we understand the place where we live and how to get around. We all do that in our own ways. Dave loves riding his bike a different route every other day and learning how everything connects. Others of us (like myself) prefer driving with someone in the passenger’s seat who knows the way, at least the first couple of times. And right alongside us, our kiddos are figuring out this place too. Silas has different “signs” that tell us we are almost home—like the clump of short palm trees about 2 blocks from our house. Even Myah knows the name of the street where the street cars run, St. Charles which sounds more like “Saint Chawuls” when she says it.

A couple of days ago, I took the kids out to run some errands with me. I was feeling decently confident about getting around and was narrating our progress to the kids. “Well, we’ve been to the post office and to the bank and now we’re on our way to the grocery store,” I announced. From the back seat, Silas pipes up, “And all that without Dad. Good job, Mom!” Well, I guess it’s no secret who is better at directions in this family!! Nonetheless, we are all navigating the streets of this new culture with excitement and joy. My prayer is that as we discover the culture, our love for the people deepens. May our understanding of the love of Christ for us compel us to meet the needs around us. May you be blessed as you drive or walk or bike the road you are on—familiar or not. The Lord is with you and with us. He guides our way, even if we don’t know the way yet.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Tree of Life

This morning we had the joyous privilege of participating in the wedding ceremony of Beth and Taylor, two single adults who are a part of our team here in NOLA. It was a beautiful day and an awesome wedding. The ceremony took place under this tree in a big Park here in New Orleans. The tree was called "The Tree of Life" and it was magnificent!!! It was probably 16-20 ft. in diameter and its huge branches reached down to the ground and was actually sprouting new trees. It is one of the coolest trees I have ever seen.

After the wedding Silas decided to climb the tree... well one of the branches anyway. You can see his face on the left there. He was so confident when he started. He had seen some of the other boys climbing it and wanted to do it as well, but when he got to be about 5-6' off the ground he began to freeze up and say he couldn't go any further. It wasn't until I took his hand and gave him some encouraging words that he was able to go past this point in climbing this awesome tree! Look at what Ephesians says in Chapter 3:16-19 -
"16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

To be honest, the last couple of months have been really exciting for us, but they have also been really scary for us. We have seen and talked to so many people that have left all the security of life to go to a place that God was calling them. We have seen God do amazing things in their lives, and like Silas seeing the other boys climb, we wanted to follow God where He was leading us. We got really excited, packed up our house, and quit our jobs and began the trek to New Orleans. Once we got into it though, I personally lived with a lot of fear. I had thoughts like: "What have I done to my family?" "What if it doesn't work out?" "What if people don't get the vision and support us?" "What if God wasn't talking, and it was just me?" It wasn't until people like you began giving us your hand so to speak, that we began having real confidence in what God was calling us to do. We have had people come alongside us and give us encouraging words, financial support, notes of gratitude and thanks, we have received phone calls (which I like a lot), and we have been prayed for by so many people.

This wedding today was such a beautiful picture of this for me as well. Here are two people totally sure they want to be together and they have seen other marriages work and they want that too. On the flip side though, we were there because we know that there will not only be smiles and joy in that marriage. There will be heartbreak and sadness. There will be misunderstandings and hard times. Those of us who came to witness the ceremony were also there to say, "Take my hand, we want to walk this journey with you. We want to encourage and help you on this new adventure."
So here we are in New Orleans. We have been here a week and the thing that I have thought about the most was not unpacking boxes, or figuring out where the store is so we can eat, although those are important things. The thing I thought about the most was how confident I was in the Lord because there are so many people who are holding our hands and praying for us and routing for us as we step out on faith on this new adventure. So I would like to say a big THANK YOU friends, family, prayer warriors, financial supporters, for being that hand that has given us the reassurance that the climb may be scary, but we won't fall and we won't be alone. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

Before I end this short epistle of gratitude, there are two people that I really want to say thank you to. They have sacrificed their space, their food, their time, and their lives to make our first month of this journey a success and a beautiful launching pad for the coming months and years. Thanks, Mom and Dad Collie, for all the little things you did and sacrificed for us to be in this place now. We love you and are proud to call you not only family, but friends!!! Thanks for holding our hand and giving us confidence in the Lord God Almighty!!! Cheers!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

NOLA - Home Sweet Home!!!

Well, here we are!! Look at the Collies sitting on their front steps in New Orleans!!! Three and a half days ago we pulled up in front of 2601 Octavia Street New Orleans, La. 70115. Within a few hours of arriving our new team of friends helped us unload our moving truck. By dinner time we and our new friends were eating and laughing in our new living room on our couches!!! That night, each one of the Collies fell asleep in their very own beds with their own pillows for the first time in six weeks. It was GLORIOUS!! Praise God for the journey, the safety, and the fellowship we enjoyed during the past six weeks. We would like to give a great big shout out and thanks to Buck and Sue Collie for making our California trip absolutely FANTABULOUS!!!!

We would also like to say thanks to The Weston Family in Jackson, Mississippi, for a great night on the town, delicious dinner, and their encouraging words!!!

Thanks also to The Clark Family in Jackson, Tennessee, that we had the privilege to spend time with and relive the old times, pray for each other, and make new memories as we were the first to wish Dave Clark a Happy Birthday since we were still up chatting it up after midnight.

Look at this cute picture here. These people we will miss greatly. Family is a wonderful thing, especially when that family loves God, loves each other, and is willing as a family to sacrifice so others can be introduced to the grace God offers to all. We had such a wonderful time spending the night and morning with such awesome loving people. Thanks Larry and Rita, Michelle and boys, and Trent and Sarah!! Our last night in Campbellsville, Kentucky, was amazing!!

As I mentioned before, California was superb. This wonderful family made it possible to get to the airport on time without having to get up before God on Tuesday morning. We couldn't have asked for a better last night in California. From the time relaxing in the pool, to the fantastic food for dinner, the wonderful company, and a great game of Settlers of Catan. Thanks Darryl and Tania and boys, for allowing your home and lives to be used to bless so many with your love and hospitality. Pleasanton, California, is a better place because you live there.

So as I close, I say thank you, God, for getting us here safely. We look forward to what God will do with us as His tools. We say thanks for all those who have made the journey to this point possible. From your support financially, to your wonderful hospitality and meals, your prayers and texts. We love each one of you who are behind us on this new ADVENTURE!!