Actually, the conference is over as of today, but we feel like we are just beginning to digest all we were exposed to and the relationships that were forged. The best word I can use to describe it is....Wow! There is such a great spirit of cooperation and unity we experienced this week. So much of Hebrews 4 - that says, "encourage one another daily" - these people are not all about their own ministry - they are about furthering God's ministry to marriages and families, whether it be their own niche that God has called them to or someone else's. They share and promote each other's materials and work to be real and authentic with each other. It was so great to hear about all God is doing across the country and even around the world in restoring marriages. We took this picture with Eric and Jennifer Garcia, the founders of AMFM, as we were leaving this evening, and we just want to acknowledge what a great influence and encouragement they have been to us over this past year. We continue to receive confirmation that we are where we're supposed to be and doing what God has called us to do for this season. In addition to that, we received more tools to help us in the present, and more vision for the future. Right before we took this picture with Eric and Jennifer, their daughter snapped this photo of Tim that I just have to share:
I'm thinking of submitting it to the Garcia's for the cover of next year's conference material - what do you think? I'm sure we'll have lots of people lined up to hear from this suave and debonair hunk of a man, eh?!! :-)And then, as icing on the cake, we were able to stay with my brother and his wife and spend some quality time with them. Here is a picture of my brother and me at the dinner table Tuesday night:
Like I said, we're still sorting through all the amazing things we learned this week, and are just so thankful for the prayers and encouragement we've received that have brought us this far. We're more excited than ever for what God has purposed for us - as Eph 4:10 says - the "good works he's prepared in advance for us". Thank you again for all who have prayed and continue to pray for direction for us and that we would be faithful to follow that direction. You all ROCK!
I hope everyone is enjoying time with their Dads or reflecting on good memories they had with them or enjoying the presence and love of their Heavenly Father. While this is normally a day of rest in the Gregory family it will be very busy as we prepare to leave for our marriage conference in Dallas tomorrow. I'll neeed to take all the kids to the YMCA for showers, go to the laundromat, and stock up on food for the kids so the Perrella's won't have to worry about that while they take care of them this week. Tim's only request for Father's day is that he gets one-on-one time with each of the kids, so I wanto to do all I can to facilitate that! We have been very busy the past few weeks with looking at homes and cars and such. We found a house that we're interested in for several reasons, but I tend to think it will not be the one we end up in. What's interesting about it though is that I think it has helped us narrow our focus a little. It would be easy to buy a ready to live in home, but Tim has always wanted to build a house to transfer his carpentry skills on to the kids. However, it doesn’t make much sense to build when you can get existing homes so cheap. So we’re thinking this would be a good compromise – get something cheap and renovate it with the kids so they learn how to take care of and do repairs on their own homes when they grow up. We both believe that skills transfer is a pretty big deal. It's kind of funny that my last blog was lamenting getting back into the rat race and now we're looking at not only getting back into the rat race but adding on a renovation project. As we've been praying about it, though, I believe the Lord has been changing my heart. Tim went on a spiritual retreat to a local monastery on Thursday & Friday of this week, and that was one of the things he felt the Lord confirming in his heart - to go ahead and buy a home instead of rent. Another thing that keeps getting confirmed as we minister to a local church here is that we are definitely where He wants us right now. There is nothing like being used by the Lord where He has opened doors.
On a completely different subject, Ferman finally finished the repairs on our car on Wednesday and it looks fabulous! While the kids loved the SAT radio, backup camera, auto slide doors and rear door, and just all the room in the rental, they transitioned well back to our little Mazda5. They have been doing great, I must say. I leave you with a picture I took of Nathan, Nicole, and Nicholas just sitting on the couch yesterday afternoon reading - aren't they just precious?!!
I woke up mad this morning. My Grandpa used have a saying, "He'll get glad in the same pants he got mad in". That was true of me today! :-) You know what I'm mad about? I'm mad we aren't on the road. I thought I had given that over, but evidently not. I'm mad that we are looking at houses and cars when I just want to go back on the road. I was mad that my todo list is growing again, and along with it, the stress and the less sleep. Tim was feeling it, too - we both woke up early but were trying to go back to sleep when he finally said something to me to the effect, "are you thinking about all the things we have to do, too?" YES! So we both read some scriptures and spent some time praying together, and I'm not mad anymore. One of the passages from our life journal for today was out of Psalm 94:
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
So, bottom line, once again, we are in desperate need of hearing from God. Conventional wisdom is that we should buy a house since they are so cheap right now and settle in. It feels so much like following the herd it is just rubbing me the wrong way. Yet I know being unconventional simply for unconventional's sake is ridiculous and that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about following God... whatever that means. We have our car in the body shop this week getting repaired, so, through our insurance, we have a rental. It is a 2011 Town 'n Country minivan with all the bells and whistles. We went and looked at a 2004 Dodge Caravan with no bells and whistles to buy as our 2nd vehicle and I didn't want it (it was more $ than we wanted to give for it anyway), but after being in the Taj Mahal I didn't want to settle on a shack. I feel that way about getting a house - I could easily go for the house with all the comforts and overextend ourselves forgetting I've been very comfortable for the past 9 months in our camper. I just don't want to get caught up in that whole rat race again! I feel like I've had time to breathe - to even blog - to talk to people - to have deeper relationships. I went back to my journal from a couple of years ago and this is an excerpt:
I forgot to bring the invitation to the ladies tea last night, but worse than that, I forgot to get a gift card & I forgot the yogurt I said I would bring. I forgot to ask the babysitter today if she would babysit Monday morning. I forgot to send in the paperwork for our camping trip at Lakewood Retreat. I forgot to get a rain check from the grocery store on Tuesday and again yesterday. I forgot to have the kids practice their piano this week like I said I would. I’m thinking about later this morning and I feel like I’m going to forget something, too!
And then I went on to list 14 things I had to do that day, and then I wrote:
And honestly, as I look over the list of things I “need” to do today, the kids are NOWHERE involved. I feel like they are getting older right before my eyes and I’m not spending the time with them that I’d like to because of all this stuff I “need” to do.
That is another huge thing - I've so enjoyed this time with the kids! On the memory front, one of my best friends says she was really worried about me the past few years because I hardly ever remembered stuff she told me. Now I'm reminding her of things and she constantly tells me how happy she is to 'have me back' so to speak.
Now I'm reminded of another verse from our life journal this morning:
13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
OK - I'm done with the introspection for the day. Please pray that, once again, we hear God's voice.
On a completely fun and happy note, we celebrated Tim's birthday on Tuesday! We had a wonderful day ending with a Carvel Ice Cream cake provided by the Perrella's. We didn't take many pictures that day, but we did get one snapshot of the cake, so I'll include it below. Blessings to all!
I woke up at about 5am and finally gave up trying to go back to sleep, so I got up, got dressed, grabbed my computer, and drove to Starbucks at 5:45am and was there for 4 hours before I realized it! It gave me time to write the long post below - so sorry it is so long!
Last week we asked our realtor to look around for rentals in the $1000/mo range – and I’m a little shocked at how small the homes are for that price. I guess I shouldn’t be. I was thinking that even if the house is small it would be OK because if worse came to worse the kids could sleep in the house and Tim and I could sleep in the RV or vice versa, but the lots are just as small as the houses – no place to park the RV! Plus just the thought of ‘throwing away’ $1000+ a month on rent when homes are so cheap right now is difficult. But it is SO nice to be completely debt-free and mobile right now. We know that God’s economy doesn’t always make sense (i.e. ‘throwing away’ rent money vs investing in a house) so we’re just trying to be sensitive to His Spirit! We are thinking that is how God wants us for now, but it could just be us and not Him, so we are continuing to pray for Him to show us His will in this. A friend of mine forwarded an email from someone in her homeschool group who is trying to rent their 5 bedroom home in Ruskin because they’re in the military and being moved to Washington, DC, so we’re going to check it out on Tuesday. Ruskin seems so far away but it is closer to my family in Port Charlotte so maybe that is where we’re supposed to be? Please be praying for us in all this!
This past week has been nice as we have been winding down from school. We think we have another week or 2 left of work (I probably should sit down and figure that out!). We received the kid’s scores from their standardized tests they took about a month and a half ago, and we are SO pleased! They all did great! I was a little nervous because formally we’ve really only done math and a little grammar this year, and the rest we took the ‘unschooled’ homeschool approach. Evidently they didn’t miss anything because they really did great! Whew! I’m still not sure exactly what they’ll be doing next year. I’ll talk more about that below.
I drove to a body shop my insurance company sent me to for an estimate on Tuesday. After the guy looked over my car he said he would be about 15 – 20 minutes writing up the estimate and I had noticed a charter technology school I had heard about across the parking lot. So I walked over to the charter school and did a quick tour of the facility thinking this might be a good fit for Noah, but I discovered that even though he has taken some high school classes with Florida Virtual, and has completed Algebra and Geometry, he could not be considered 9th grade because of his age and this school is for high school students only. I was referred to the lady downtown who coordinates the charter schools in Hillsborough county, whom I instantly liked a lot when I talked to her on the phone. She said there was another technology charter school opening this fall on Faulkenburg (very close to our church) for 6th – 12th grade, and that school may be a better fit for Noah (which made me start thinking it may also be a fit for the others??). It has a 4 or 5 hour school day (I’m thinking it is probably 4 hours on Mon-Wed-Fri and 5 hours on Tue-Thur) so I like that it wouldn’t be all day long. Also, the kids go at their own pace, which is what we’ve been doing, so I like that a lot! I don’t know – I want SO much to keep our lives simple, and I know that would definitely complicate things. But I had a sense that all these things I discovered today were being directed and led, so I’m trying to listen.
I’ll leave you with pictures from a ‘sunset cruise’ Nathan, Nicole, Nicholas, and I took on Thursday on the lake – it was so nice! Sorry this has been such a long post! I’ll try to update more often to avoid these mega-posts!! God bless!
Tim & Jodie