Blogging, Teens and Church: An Update

I have been thinking about this blog lately.

It comes to mind because I still have a lot to say.

Friends ask about it.

Family who live a distance from us say that they miss seeing pictures.

I get emails from blog readers saying that you’re praying for our family (thank you!!!) or asking how we’re doing.

Mark and I have talked (and talked and talked) about what the future of this blog should be. We do want it to continue, but what that looks like? We still aren’t sure.

It is all a balancing act. But I’m pretty certain that all of life is a balancing act.

At any rate, for right now I’m sitting down writing a blog post with the goal of sharing some pictures and giving an  update on our life since last May.

The year has been delightfully wonderful and full for our family.

In case you haven’t noticed, our kids are growing up.

Nicholas was 10 months old when I started blogging.

Nicholas, 10 months, when the blog started

 

He’s now 7.

colby and nick chickfila

Colby (8) and Nicholas (7)

 

Our oldest, Amber, is 18 and we now have five teenagers and two children with a semester of college under their belts!

Back row: Amber (18), Kaitlin (17), Matthew (15), Carter (13), Alyssa (14) Middle row: Savannah (10), Nick (6), Colby (8), Sadie (11) Front row: Bella (4), Valor (2)

Back row: Amber (18), Kaitlin (17), Matthew (15), Carter (13), Alyssa (14)
Middle row: Savannah (10), Nick (6), Colby (8), Sadie (11)
Front row: Bella (4), Valor (2)

You may remember that we got chickens a year ago in February. The boys made two chicken tractors for them and we’ve been enjoying the experience of owning chickens and having fresh eggs.

From designing and building the tractors to learning how to butcher and prepare chickens for the freezer, it’s been a great experience and now they’re talking about a milk goat. (Um, no thanks!)

Butchering chickens

Butchering chickens

Throughout the spring and summer of 2014 we made a concerted effort to spend time outdoors, at local parks, enjoying ballgames, hiking and swimming.

Valor at Cove Lake Park

Valor at Cove Lake Park

 

josiah caleb amber kaitlin matthew alyssa carter sadie savannah colby nicholas bella valor baseball game

Ballgame with friends

Of course we had our annual family campout in September. This was our largest group yet with upwards of  120 people coming up for at least part of the weekend.

bella nick valor hammock camp

Nick (6), Bella (4), Valor (2)

 

Elementary and middle school girls sack race

Sack race for the girls age 12 and under

 

camp out volleyball

Playing games and prepping food

Cross Country

In August, cross country season started for our kids.

The high school cross country team at their first meet.

The high school cross country team [FRONT ROW 4th and 5th from L: Alyssa (14) and Kaitlin (16) right between them in the BACK ROW: Matthew (15)

The cross country program in Knoxville is wonderful….and the races are BIG. Each elementary race has 800-900 kids and the middle school races are about the same size.

middle school boy cross country race

Race start – middle school boy’s race

Because of the crowds our team makes a habit of taking a picnic and we let the kids play frisbee or tag or just hang out after the race while we all eat and the crowds thin out.

Savannah (9) and Sadie (11)

Savannah (9) and Sadie (11)

Some of our kid’s best friends are part of the cross country team and we appreciate this time to spend together.

Katherine and Kaitlin (16)

Katherine and Kaitlin (16)

Carter (12) and Elijah

Carter (12) and Elijah

Each level (elementary, middle and high school) has a weekly race, so cross country season is busy, but fun spending several nights a week outdoors picnicking with friends.

The little kids get lots of sunshine, time romping in the grass and they love teasing the teenagers and playing with other younger siblings.

Valor (2) and Bella (4)

Valor (2) and Bella (4)

Safe Families

This year during cross country season we hosted this precious girl.

Baby G.

Gracie

In God’s good kindness, Gracie was born just days after our first miscarried baby was due so there was sorrow and healing in getting to hold this baby while remembering ours. Gracie stayed with us for about three months.

We were blessed with a good relationship with Gracie’s mom which has continued even until now.

Alyssa (14) and Nick (6) with the twins

Alyssa (14) and Nick (6) with the twins

Since August we’ve hosted 4 infants and 5 preschoolers with Safe Families. We especially enjoyed having twin girls who arrived at our home on their 5th day of life.

Teenagers

We are loving having teenagers in the house and something that has snuck up on me is that when you have teenagers, your house is also full of other people’s teenagers, not just yours. We absolutely love it!!

We love watching our kids make grown-up decisions, manage their time and choose friends by evaluating which boys and girls encourage them to be more like Christ and then make an effort to cultivate those relationships.

The younger kids are enjoying having lots of big kids around. Their life is quite different than what our big kids experienced when they were all little and we’re seeing God shape them into the unique people that He has ordained them to be. It’s lovely to see the teens take time out to include the younger ones.

The kids find a jellyfish

The kids find a jellyfish

Church Plant

In God’s good providence we are working together with about 8 other families to plant a Presbyterian church here in Knoxville. Many of us have been at an amazing reformed Baptist church for the past 3 years. We have loved and been loved in that church. It was a place of healing, love and acceptance for the several families who were in need of exactly that.

When the time came for us to say good-bye in order to start this baby church we went out from that lovely, amazing and Christ-like congregation with their public blessing and pronouncement of love and care for us. It has been a beautiful picture of what the family of Christ should look like, even when there is a necessity to part ways.

The church plant has been a special blessing to our family. We were particularly concerned about our teenagers because they are the only teens in the church plant, but just this morning Amber (18) and I were talking and she mentioned, “Mom, I just love our church!” I agree. God is good.

Visiting the creek in our backyard

Visiting the creek in our backyard

There is so much more to tell; kids going on mission trips and cruises, getting drivers licenses, homeschooling, college classes, etc, etc. BUT I will stop right here because if I don’t I will never get this post up.

God has given us a beautiful, full life here in Tennessee.

snow snowmen

Our days are packed with things that life in a vibrant, Christian community bring. It’s a beautiful, full, often messy, but always lovely life and we are trying to soak up every moment of it.

 

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