Friday, November 08, 2013

Tree House video!

One of our summer projects was building a tree house - complete with a zip line!  Everyone worked extra hard to have it finished in time for the boy's combo birthday party in September.  Much fun was had by all :).  Here's a little video Duane put together of the fun! It's a little bit random and a lot creative!  Anyone surprised?


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

redefining extraordinary

Two questions have been begging to be answered in my heart lately.  The first - Why in the world don't I blog/write anymore?  The second - If I did, what in the world would I write about these days?

While there are probably many reasons that I've stayed away from this space this year, one of those reasons is becoming increasingly clear and convicting at the same time.  Last year around this time I began dreaming of what it was going to be like to be blogging from Ndola, Zambia.  I eagerly anticipated the joy of sharing through my writing what God was doing through our family and in our family from the other side of the world.  Previous to that I had the privilege of sharing our journey to and experiences in our new neighborhood.  And previous to that I was able to share the ups and downs and excitement of our adoption.  But by the fall it became painfully clear that God was saying, "Not Zambia.  Not now."  And then by the winter we heard him say, "Not this neighborhood. Your time is finished here."  And neither of those things was at all what I wanted to have Him say.  And the raw truth is this - it's just been a really crappy year for us.  Yes, there have been bright spots and yes we've still lived in and seen God's goodness and faithfulness through it all.  But on the whole - just not super good times.  I'll spare myself and you the pain of reliving it here.  But who wants to read my blog about how we've been barely managing to keep our heads above water spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically, and pretty much any other -ally you can think of?  Anyone?    

I really hope I'm being honest with you and with myself when I say that I truly believe it was never my intention to bring glory to any other than God as I shared our different journeys and paths over the last several years.  We were experiencing God in so many new and exciting ways and I really wanted to share that with anyone who would give me their ear.  But where does that leave me now?  How do I answer that second question?  Much to my dismay on many days, we don't currently live on foreign soil OR in an intentional missional neighborhood.   We are not currently in the process of an international adoption or anything equally exciting.  How am I supposed to point people to the God that I so desperately want to bring glory to in the midst of what is not my finest or most exhilarating hour?  

And this is what convicted me out of my bed to the keyboard. The Spirit gently reminded me that finding God and his glory in the midst of the extraordinary is actually pretty easy.   Finding Him and sharing Him in the midst of the mundane (and even the crappy) is much more difficult.  Finding Him and bringing glory to His name through the basketball and the braces and the temper tantrums and the potty training requires a deep desire and a strong commitment to doing that.  Finding Him among the struggle to find a community of believers to live life with, the half remodeled house, kids struggling to adjust, chins busted wide open, and personal hurt that fades too slowly - that takes something that I really don't think I've been giving.  

Jeremiah 29:13 says "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me."  

I pray and long for the day that God shows us the next "extraordinary" way that He desires to use our family.  But until then, perhaps looking for him wholeheartedly, finding Him, and bringing Him glory in these mundane and sometimes difficult days is the truly extraordinary task He is calling me to.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Here we GO.

 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.  What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”  Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.     -James 4:13-16

Clearly not much has been happening here on the blog.  But do not be deceived - much has been happening with our family. Once again we have been reminded that following God's plans for our lives and walking in the path He has laid out before us is never a dull or boring process!  

In September, we decided to pursue more fully the opportunity placed before us to move to Zambia and work with a great organization called Wiphan.  It was a huge decision for us and not one that we took lightly or made easily.  However, as we did pursue the opportunity more fully, it became increasingly clear to us that this was not the path God was calling us to walk right now.  There were many things factored into the decision.  And just as the decision to fully pursue it was difficult - the decision to let the opportunity pass by was difficult as well.  The reason for that being that we LOVE Africa.  And we LOVE orphans and widows.  And we LOVE our God and we wanted to be careful and confident that we were not telling Him no.  But as we gained peace and clarity that this was not the case, we became more and more confident that the time just was not right for our family of 6.  It also became clear to us that, even though it wasn't to Zambia, God was asking us to move.  As we began trying to discern what that meant for us, a strange but beautiful thing happened.  God laid a city on both of our hearts - separately - but at nearly the same time.  As we talked and shared what we were feeling, we discovered that God had given both of us a strong desire to move to Nashville. Now, to those of you who know that this is my home town and where my family is, you may be tempted to think that this was less a God thing and more of a "I just wanna go home" thing.  But let me tell you - we are fully convinced that God placed this desire in both of our hearts. First let me say that I have a wonderful relationship with ALL of my family.  I have amazing parents, the best brother and sister, the cutest niece and nephews, and the craziest and best extended family you could imagine.  YET, I have NEVER wanted to move home.  I can't really explain it.  I think it has something to do with my fierce independence and also involves my tendency to move on from a place and not look back.  I'm not a nostalgic person.  At all.  Aaaand it could have to do with my control issues - who knows?  But Nashville has just never been on our radar.  Yet we both felt fully confident that God was saying, "Nashville."  

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  -Psalm 37:4

A lot of people read this verse and think, "Oh, if I just delight in the Lord he will give me what I want.  I can have all the desires of my heart!".  But over time we have learned that truly delighting in the Lord means that His desires will replace our own.  If we ever truly and perfectly delighted in Lord (which we are FAR from doing) we would no longer have our own desires, but would only desire what He wants us to desire.  

So...  as long as it's "what the Lord wants us to", it looks like we're moving to Nashville.  We've never before decided what city we were moving to before we knew what we would be doing in that city.  It probably seems kind of crazy.  But hey, have you met us?  

Are we sad to leave the many wonderful friends we've made in Tuscaloosa? Absolutely.  

Does it make sense to us that we moved into our current neighborhood only one year ago because we felt God leading us here and now He seems to be leading us away? No.  

Do we think seeking to follow Christ in America will be easier than seeking to follow Christ in Africa?  No, not really.  I honestly think that in many ways moving to Nashville will prove to be more challenging than moving to Zambia. 

Will it be painful to leave the beautiful house that Duane painstakingly built with his own 2 hands while I was holed up in a small apartment with 4 kids after only being able to enjoy the fruits of his labor and my sacrifice for exactly one year? Uh, YEAH.  But we see it as a great reminder that God has asked us never to build anything or store up any treasure that we wouldn't gladly walk away from if He asked us to.  In fact, we already have a contract on our house - which is nothing short of a miracle.  And the people buying it are anxious to move into the neighborhood for many of the same reasons that we did.  Win, win.  God's been so faithful to provide many examples of evidence and confirmation that we've heard Him clearly and are on the right path.

So, that's what's been happening around here!  And all I have left to say is that I sure hope Nashville is ready for this crazy crew.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

selah turns 2 at the zoo!

For Selah's 2nd Birthday celebration we took a trip to the zoo and then came home for gifts and cake!  It's hard to believe this little girl is 2 years old already!  We celebrated with Sophia too since we missed her special day while I was in the hospital :).

Noah took all of the animal shots!  I think we have budding photographer :).

Sophia got to feed the giraffe!

The old "the coke machine ate my arm" pic...  This is what happens when 2 little boys run off with your camera.

I love my boys.

How cute are these two?

Just another monkey at the zoo.

Who taught her the sorority arm pose already?!

Feeding the fish.

Cake baked and decorated by daddy!

Duane thought he would let Selah lick the candle.  She decided she would prefer to eat it.  

It's hard when it's not your birthday.  And yes, that is the universal sign for "loser".

This girl never disappoints on her gift receiving reaction.

Noise makers.  Must have still been a little loopy on my pain meds when I purchased this.

Cole is the kid's big brother but not young enough to be my son!

And so the birthday celebrations come to an end.  It's always a whirlwind, but we're so thankful that we all have been given another year to live and to love each other and the One who continues to give us breath and life!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just an update... and a thought.

Here's just a little update on Team Dixon :).  

1.  In September, we committed to move forward in the process of potentially moving to Ndola, Zambia to work for Wiphan.  There are still meetings to be had and details to be worked out, but we are very excited about the possibility of working with widows and orphans in Ndola!

2.  This little boy turned 7!  He got a bow and arrow for his birthday :).

3.  This not so little boy turned 12.  *Sigh*  WHERE has the time gone?

This silly little boy turned 40.  We had a very silly celebration.  

This little beauty turned 5!  She had a celebration with her siblings and her Nana.

Mommy and Daddy haven't been able to celebrate with her yet, because... THIS momma (who also had a recent birthday but reserves the right as the blog author to not publish her new age) had to unexpectedly have back surgery on her little girl's birthday :(.  I've had problems with my back on and off for about 12 years, but a couple of weeks ago the pain moved from my back to my leg and rendered me useless.  About a week after the pain in my leg started I found myself on the operating table so that the surgeon could remove the fragments of a "severely ruptured disk".   I am now at home recovering.  I can rest and I can walk.  And I can blog.  The doctor didn't say that, but I think it was inferred.  In the aftermath of the pain and the surgery, I find myself in a season of extreme gratitude.  I'm extremely grateful for a husband who takes on the work of 2 parents for weeks with a smile on his face.  I'm so thankful for our friends who, by the time all is said and done, will have delivered 16+ dinners to our family.  I'm thankful for a mom who will drop everything and come bearing gifts to salvage a sweet girl's birthday and stay with children while their mom is in the hospital. I'm thankful for a surgeon who studied hard and had the discipline to learn how to fix me.  I'm thankful for a God who heals and equips and revives.  

And while I'm grateful for all of these things and more, I'm also, once again, painfully aware that my circumstances are so different from those of SO many.  As I laid in my bed, feeling immediate relief from the surgery that I was able to receive without even a thought of how much it would cost within a week of my problem surfacing, I couldn't help but think about millions of women all over this world who probably do or will suffer with similar or worse ailments and have no access to MRIs and pain medications and brilliant surgeons in sterile hospitals.  These women who likely have to work through the pain just so they can secure enough food and water for their children to survive.  I thought and thought about it.  And of course, as usual, I asked the same question I've asked a hundred times.  Why me? Why were they born under those circumstances and why was I born here?  Why do they suffer when I have relief?  

I don't know the answer to that question that I'm sure many of us have asked from time to time.  But I do know that as I laid there thinking about it I had a renewed gratitude and appreciation for the organizations and individuals that are working very hard to help women all over the world.  I thought about my friend Steffany who works with BEMM (Because every mother matters).  And I thought about our friends at EHE (Embracing Hope Ethiopia).  And I thought about Wiphan and how I might have a chance to participate first hand in God's redeeming work in the lives of women in Zambia.  And really I just thought about the fact that it would be shameful for me to take it for granted that I had experienced the miracle of healing.  I know some wouldn't consider it a miracle since it came through surgery.  But it really is a miracle that a man could cut through my back and remove pieces of it, sew me back up and send me home the next day feeling better than when I walked into his office. God equips.  And it would be shameful for me to not do what I can to see that other women can experience healing as well.  God equips.  He's equipped me, and us, with so much.  With so many opportunities to distribute his blessings and his healing.  That's what I've been thinking about as I rest.  And walk.  And rest.  And walk.  And thank Him from whom ALL blessings flow.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wind River Ranch

Without boring you with all the details, let's just say this summer was crazy and hard and exciting and emotional and by the time it was winding down... Team Dixon was worn slap out.  But if I've ever doubted that God sees and knows and provides, He put those doubts to rest on August 9th :). 

This is Vanessa.  Vanessa was one of our amazing students when we worked in campus ministry at Tennessee Tech.  She was, and still is, one of those extraordinary Christ followers who listens, hears, and follows the Spirit in a way that makes you want to be more like her - because you know if you were you would be more like Jesus.

We hadn't heard from Vanessa in years. Thanks to Facebook we had been able to keep up with her adventures, but we didn't even know we were on her radar.  Well, on August 9th Vanessa sent me a message saying she wanted to chat... She had an idea.  When we finally hooked up on the phone she explained that God had been consistently laying our family on her heart during her prayer time. She had no idea about our crazy summer or that we had a huge decision to make about a potential move to Zambia. She had just listened, heard, and allowed herself to be used by God to bless our family in a huge way.  She explained that she had worked it out for our family to come spend a week at the ranch where she was working in Colorado... Completely free.  We had a scholarship to the ranch that even included our airfare!  All we had to do was say yes and get on a plane a couple of weeks later!  So, of course, we gratefully said, uh, YEAH!  And a couple of weeks later we were doing this:

and taking in the beauty of this:

We were playing games

and riding fences

and making wishes

 and swinging and sliding

 and getting dressed up for the hoedown :).

We were painting horses,

being brave,

being proud,

and taking dips.

Duane even got to hang out with Rob Bell and Brett Favre :)

Oh, and don't forget the spotting of the bears

and the making of friends!

It was exactly what we needed. We are so thankful for our faithful God and our listening friend.  We're thankful for our spirits being renewed by The Spirit, who was all over Wind River.  We're thankful for new friends made, old friendship renewed, encouragement received, and rest.  Sweet rest.