New Holiday Traditions

Merry Christmas from the Joneses!
We're trying something new this year: Christmas by ourselves! We won't be making the traditional trek back to Columbus for many different reasons. Am I sad? Yes! But am I excited to spend Christmas with my man alone for the first time ever? A million times Yes! One of the reasons why we won't be making our journey north is because of everything that is going on here in Charlotte. I'm sure most of you can relate to crazy Christmases, maybe even 3 or 4 in one day. What Travis and I need is a relaxing Christmas where we can focus and seek God's guidance in this next big step. Beginning in January we will transition into the role of being the point leaders of the Albemarle Community which will hopefully be followed by us moving into one the apartments there. So heading back home for the holidays is just not an option for us if we want to focus on the responsibilities and the move ahead of us in less than a month. We will miss our families tremendously but we know we need to take time for ourselves this year. I'm pretty excited about experimenting with new traditions; maybe pancakes on Christmas morning, spending most of the day in our footie pjs, and reflecting on the joy, peace, and love our Emmanuel has brought to the World!

(I won't admit just yet though that I'll miss the white stuff on the ground, ask me Christmas morning and I may change my mind :)


While We Were Gone

So life didn't stop when we left for our 2 week vacation trip--wish it did though so we wouldn't have missed all the great things that happened while we were gone! Here are just a few things that took place:

1. Soccer practices, tutoring, and bible studies went on as usual. However, the Woodbridge Albemarle Community is now practicing at a field close by instead of the tennis courts. The kids have been really receptive to this change and enjoyed going somewhere other than their own "turf" for practice. 

2. Two Thanksgivings took place in two neighborhoods! Along with the Urban Eagles, there were three other ministries, including the church Travis and I are attending, that came to Birchcroft to put on a Thanksgiving meal on November 19th. Canned goods and prayers were given at every door and a potluck of Thanksgiving deliciousness was outside for everyone to enjoy. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving Grier Heights had their meal and moms were making their best Thanksgiving dishes and girls were putting on a dance performance for everybody. A community came together to share in the praises of the past year and families became one as they celebrated what God has done for them. I so wish we could have been a part of both these wonderful celebrations!

Grier Heights: not on Thanksgiving but a few weeks before--gives you an idea of what it was like :)
Birchcroft: Mom & David
Birchcroft: waiting for a delicious meal 
Birchcroft: enjoying a delicious meal


Blast from the Past

After 4 months we finally made the trip back up to our old stomping grounds and visited great friends (and one sister :) in the infamous Anderson, Indiana. On our way we just had to stop and see the one and only Miss Lindsey Marler who is a grad student at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. Who knew there were still old river ferries around, especially in the mid-west?! In order to see our great friend we had to ride a car ferry that fits at the most 3 cars and takes all of about one minute to cross a river that you could throw a stone across and clear the bank! It was such a neat experience and a great memory from a great visit. We talked with Lindsey into the night and encouraged one another in both of our current endeavors. The next morning we were delighted to have breakfast with Lindsey and also with our dear friend and fellow AU alum, Gina Shaner! It was a great time of catching up and hearing stories of our various lives before heading out and up to Anderson. 

It was such a surreal feeling pulling into A-town. Just 4 months before we were leaving with our whole lives and now we're back visiting so many who mean so much to us. We visited East Side Church and reconnected with GREAT friends, supporters, and our youth kids who we've missed so much! It's so great seeing how HeartBeat Preteen Ministries and LivesMatter Student Ministries is going! Heather O'Connor and Preston Kegley ROCK and they're doing such an amazing job! We didn't have any doubt that they could do it but they are going above and beyond even our greatest expectations :) 

Monday was a special day. We were able to see what an amazing job Austin Shaner is doing leading Unity Soccer. Most of you know that Travis started Unity Soccer a couple of years back (the same time Urban Eagles started and gave Travis a call) and Austin felt led to keep it going. It was so encouraging to see some of the same kids we played with when we were still leading Unity, and to see Austin's heart and passion put into this ministry is such a blessing. He is living out the gospel and bringing the Kingdom to this neighborhood--he's only 15! 

Bringing Takis to Anderson! These kids love Takis like our kids in Charlotte do! :)

Our Tuesday was spent with 4 amazing little girls and 1 amazing sister! Ah, to see the Holmes girls again made me miss Anderson all the more. They are getting so big and the babies (can't really call them "the babies" anymore) are talking like crazy. I was afraid they wouldn't remember me. When Travis and I walked in they looked at me for a few moments and then after a slight hesitation they both came to me and gave me a big hug. I knew right then that they hadn't forgotten (then they couldn't stop saying our names! :)

I can't forget to mention the family we stayed with and how amazing they were to open their home to us after only moving in 2 weeks before. Thank you, Courtney and Katie Taylor for your kindness and your friendship! Your beautiful daughters Abigail and Emma are too cute and so much fun to play with :)

We are so grateful for our community of friends and supporters in Anderson! If I were to give everyone a shout out who we saw and visited with while in A-town this blog would be way too long (might already be!) We love you all and can't wait to return again soon!

Now off to Carmel to visit our best friend, James, and his awesomely big family! 


Happy Hallelujah!

Maybe I was being a Debbie Downer or it was that I didn't have a whole lot of time to get into the spirit. Either way, I just wan't feeling Halloween this year and all the festivities that go into it. Maybe it was just that I could have liked if summer went on a little bit longer. Oh well, after seeing these guys below, my heart changed and I was ready to put on my facade and eat some candy! 

Junior as a cowboy as Winger; 2 costumes in 1!
Darwin as some kind of ninja

Tron and another ninja

I ended up being Hannah "Swift" Turner,
THE Lady Eagles soccer player
The lovely couple :) Travis in his traditional Gator Bob/Uncle Earl garb


Hablo Espanol!

Well not really! 
But Ashley (a 10 year old in Woodbridge)  did say she is my tutor so I'm on my way to speaking like Selma Hayek by December! Here are a few of my friends who so graciously accept my broken Espanol and just enjoy a good book:

Memo reading "La SeƱorita Nelson Ha Desaparecido!"
(Mrs. Nelson Disappears!)

Paco reading "Froggy Juega Al Futbol"
(Froggy Plays Soccer)

Memo, Paco, and Rosa


Lost in Translation

What do you get when you cross 2 Americans, 2 Nepali, and a Walmart? You get a language barrier!

Ok, maybe not the best joke, haha! But that's exactly what happened last night. It was a typical night in Birchcroft as we prepared to get ready for Bible Study. Travis was practicing for worship with a few youth girls who play the violin and cello, and Caitlin (who Travis and I live with) and I were trying to round up the girls in the neighborhood. Corbin (one of the missionaries living in Birchcroft) asked if Caitlin and I would be so kind as to take two women who needed a ride up to Walmart. With still 30 minutes until Bible Study started we hopped in the car with these ladies who hardly speak English and headed the mile or so up the road to the store.

"We'll meet you right here at the cash registers when you are done, ok?"

The ladies shook their heads yes and walked off on a mission to retrieve whatever they were after. They didn't grab a cart so we knew they wouldn't be too long. Caitlin and I moved through the grocery section (or lack there of) wondering what was for dinner later that night. After agreeing to the easy but hearty beans, rice, and corn combo we headed toward the check out in the hopes of meeting our fellow Walmart comrades. After about 20 minutes of browsing the magazines in the check out aisles Caitlin and I began to wonder where these ladies were. Did they get lost? What exactly were they coming here for? Did they escape unnoticed somehow? After three circles around the mega store and another 30 minutes we began to worry and wonder what we should do. We even had a Walmart employee helping us. We decided that Caitlin would stay and monitor the store while I drove toward Birchcroft seeing if I could spot these two ladies heading back to their apartment. So many thoughts were reeling through my mind as I drove that long mile, How do you lose two women? What is Corbin going to think? Is he going to wonder if I'm fit for this ministry? Please, Lord, protect these two women! I finally reached the apartment complex as Bible Study was letting out, and as usual the kids were running the streets kicking a soccer ball or just hanging out. I spotted Travis and waved him over to the car. After I told Travis what happened he grabbed Corbin and I relayed the story once more. I let out a sigh of relief when Corbin started laughing. He went to check the ladies apartment and I followed behind in the car. Sure enough there the ladies were, safe and sound at home! Luckily Corbin had a kid with him who spoke the same language the ladies do. One of the ladies told Corbin that they must have misunderstood us and walked home. I knew there were no hard feelings when I saw a huge smile come across that lady's face. She thanked me and we both apologized for the misunderstanding.

After picking up Caitlin from Walmart I finally was able to breathe and just laugh at the situation, a situation I was afraid was going to turn out bad. Language barriers are tough but I know that Christ can break those down; I saw it in the smile of those ladies who after they thought we left them still graciously thanked me.


Kayaking with the Dolphins

Yep, you read the title right, we kayaked with dolphins in the Shem Creek of Charleston!

Mama and baby :)

They got so close to us that we could reach out and touch them,
one had to maneuver his body so he wouldn't hit the front of my kayak!

"It's not everyday you see a dolphin! Enjoy it while it lasts!"
in the words of our fellow dolphin watcher, Konrad with a "K"
Thank you, Dave and Kristen, for an AMAZING Day! 


Dinner with Friends

Usually when you invite friends over for dinner there is the assumption that one language that is understood by both parties will be spoken. That was not the case for our dinner last night and it was beautiful! Jeremy and Caitlin invited a family from Birchcroft over for dinner and graciously asked us to join. Biak, McKenzie, Dat, David, and their mother are from Burma and have only been in the US for 2 years. While Biak and her younger sisters can understand and speak English pretty well, their mother still needs the help from her daughters to communicate. Dinner, made up of chicken and veggie skewers and rice was delicious and dessert was a smorgasbord of cupcakes, brownies, ice cream, and donuts. What could be better than finishing up the evening with Biak and Travis leading us with "You Raise Me Up"?

Travis combined all the dessert options:
a brownie, cupcake, ice cream, and donut

David loved the music!


Girl's Night

Let me ask you: what is better than hanging with 20 girls, making delicious treats, and celebrating a 12 year old's baptism? I think you would agree with me and say not much! Last night Heather's home in Birchcroft Apartments was booming with laughter, songs of praise, and the aroma of homemade caramel apple bites and cookies! It was a beautiful display of God's love as the girls insisted on helping with the baking and rejoiced with Tina as she shared Psalm 17 and her story of why she chose to be baptized. 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 
1 John 3:1


This Week in the 'Hoods

This week has been awesome! We visited Grier Heights on Tuesday where we ate dinner, had bible study, and soccer practice. Get this: one of our volunteers called Chipotle Mexican Grill and told them she needed 45 burritos for dinner that night and of course expecting to pay full price. Instead Chipotle was so excited for what she was buying them for they gave all 45 burritos to her at no charge! I knew that place was AWESOME! Wednesday we had bible study in Birchcroft. Travis and Cody (who is Urban Eagles training from Chicago) led worship. The kids were loving it, they were dancing, running, and singing during Marvelous Light!
We are just so blessed to be able to call this our job! How many people can actually say they enjoy what they do for a living? We can't thank God enough for where He has brought us and the path He chose to get us where we are! We also can't forget those who are praying for us and are supporting us every step of the way! You are bringing God's Kingdom to Charlotte and bringing God's love to those who desperately need Him!

P.S. Travis will share his awesome trip to Trinidad soon! I know you all are dying to hear how it went! :)