Worth Every Penny

Another move away from my family, another tear shed. Didn't we move back to Indiana from South Carolina to be closer? And only 2 short years later we turn around and move back down south. This move was most definitely the hardest move we have had to make even with the knowledge that what we'll be doing in Charlotte is what we were created for.

When I heard that my family was driving through Charlotte on their way home from Florida I was ecstatic! I may have been a little bummed after finding out it would only be a day trip but even to spend those 30 hours with them was well worth it.

As Travis and I were sound asleep, my dad, Emily, and Zak were driving the 10 hours from Ft. Myers, Florida through Friday night into Saturday morning. We knew they had finally made it at 6 am when the Shak's (who graciously let us housesit for the weekend) dog, Lulu began barking. 6 AM!! I thought to myself, there is no way they will be coherent to do anything tomorrow! or rather later that day! But sure enough around 10 am everyone was up and at 'em sitting around the breakfast table eating rice krispies and catching up. After discussing our day's plans, my family surprised me again by agreeing to visit the US National Whitewater Center here in Charlotte. We had never been so we weren't sure what to expect but we had heard it was awesome. And it was just that! As we arrived we were greeted with a giant man-made river. Rafts with 8-10 people were cascading down while kayaks quickly followed. To the right we saw the giant zip line that soared over the river and to our left was where we were headed for the day: the ropes courses. After purchasing our $15 tickets we began our trek to our destination. Knowing we had an 1 1/2 hours wait ahead of us we hopped in line and began talking about movies. We were relieved and excited when we finally began putting our gear on.

As we walked to where our ropes course began we were stopped short when the end of the line had a sign that read 90 minutes from here. What?! Another 1 1/2 hours! ok, ok, I guess we can keep on chatting :) We were so close when the winds started to pick up. Only one more group of 5 ahead of us and the ropes course was all ours! We were told that the center had a device that detected lightning and when the siren would go off we would have to take off our gear and exit the area. We anxiously waited and prayed the storm would hold off just until we made it through. Our chances were looking good when Zak was hooked in and started across the first obstacle. Emily followed with Dad just behind her.

As Travis and I cheered them on we were hoping that we would be next but just as the rope guy called me to go on next the siren blared! NOOOOOOOOOOO! We were so close but yet so far away! Zak, Emily, and Dad had to turn around, we had to take our gear off, and decide whether to wait the storm out or leave the park like everyone else was doing. We decided to wait it out a little bit since the park did not give out refunds. After another hour of running and standing in the rain we reluctantly left the park. It was 7 pm now and I felt like our one day with my family was a complete waste. I felt horrible. But my family was incredibly great sports. My dad gave me a huge hug and told me not to fret. We drove away drenched and exhausted but with great anticipation knowing a pizza and a movie were waiting for us at home.

Looking back I realize that our day was not wasted at all. While we did pay for something we did not get to do, the company and conversation were great. We were forced to spend over 3 hours just talking and I would not change that experience for the world. After my family finally made it to Ohio, my dad texted me and thanked me for a wonderful trip. He said he loved spending time with Travis and me and waiting in line for those 3 1/2 hours was worth every penny. While we know Charlotte is where we're supposed to be for this season in our life it does not take away the fact that I miss my family so very much. I cherish every opportunity I get to see them and spend time with them and I eagerly wait until I see them again.

P.S. To those who were missed this weekend: Mom, Stef, Rich, Terri, Troy, and Carly, we love you dearly and wait with great anticipation to see you all soon!


Is this too good to be true?

I can't stress it enough--this is what Travis was created for! Soccer and ministry, why didn't we see it from the beginning? Why, when Travis was balling at Otterbein, did he not think, "I can do both!"? Why is this soccer ministry thing a new idea for us? Regardless of what roads we took and how we got to this place, the point is: WE ARE HERE! And we are ready (well, I guess, as ready as we're going to be)!

Monday, August 1st, Travis's first day with MAI and the Urban Eagles. Excited and anxious would be an understatement for how we both were feeling that morning. As I drove to drop him off at the office (we're still driving only one car and I'm not going to spend my hours
cooped in a house all day!) my mind was reeling with phrases like, "we've made it, this is what we've been praying and working for for over a year now, I can't believe this is it!" I even thought to myself "we need to pray or something, we need to get down on our knees and praise God for getting us here!" My thoughts were interrupted as Travis said "let's pray." :) The rest of the day I kept myself busy with reading, working out, and cleaning, preparing myself to hear how Travis' day went. "It was amazing, Jess!" He just kept saying... Ok, ok, it's only been a week and of course we're going to be excited so you're probably thinking "it's too good to be true" or "it'll only get worse, it's a job!" But regardless if it is too good to be true or if it's only a job, this first week has been even more confirmation that this is exactly where we are supposed to be. How can we not drop to our knees and thank God for His abundant blessings?!

Tuesday, August 2nd, our first time in the neighborhoods! Grier Heights, primarily an African-American community, is led by 3 guys, 2 of which actually live in the neighborhood in a house owned by a partnering church. Nerves rattled my mind as we pulled into the driveway of Juan and Ben's house--2 guys who play on the men's Charlotte Eagles soccer team and are leaders in the neighborhood. "What is tonight going to look like? How many kids will there be? How will they look at me? Will I have to embarrass myself and actually play soccer? :) ) The night went better than I could have imagined! When we arrived, dinner was already prepared by a mom and her 2 kids from Myers Park United Methodist Church (Grier Heights church partner). As the kids (all boys) began flooding Juan and Ben's backyard we brought chairs out from the shed to place around the tables. We had to call the kids over from playing soccer not just once or twice but quite a few times so we could pray and then eat together. Conversation was rich as we discussed what this next year will be like at school. One boy, DeAndre, couldn't wait for school to begin, "I love school!" The conversation then turned to what they did that day, one boy exclaimed, "A guy came running into my house. He was hiding from the cops because he had punched his girlfriend in the face". Almost all the kids knew about this incident and the way they described what happened made it sound like this was not unusual occurrence. After stomachs were full and plates were thrown away, Mitch (the third leader in the neighborhood) gathered the kids for bible study. He began by asking what the kids wanted to be when they grew up: "An engineer, a comic book artist, (and my favorite) a husband and father". I love how these kids were creative in their thinking! We then discussed how to pursue their dreams, making sure God is number one, and then going down the right avenues that will ultimately lead to those dreams. (i.e. taking and excelling in art and English classes to be a comic book artist).  Soccer was last, but certainly not least, as the kids could not wait to get out on the field and kick the ball! It was an amazing display of Christ's love as goals were scored and hugs and high fives were given all around. Small conversations here and there were taking place amidst running kids and adults and playful banter was given after each play. (Even me, who has no soccer abilities whatsoever, touched the ball a few times!) As the night drew to a close and we put our arms around one another in prayer, I couldn't help but have the biggest smile on my face and joy unspeakable in my heart. Travis and I are so blessed to be able to say this is our job--and it's so much more than a job, it's our new life. We walked away that evening with overflowing peace, and after dropping 3 boys off at their houses we looked at each other and both said, "wow, that was awesome!"