Saturday, January 7, 2017

What Are You Hoping For?

I don't do New Year's resolutions.  And as someone learning to keep walking away from perfectionism, I don't even really do goals for the new year.  Oh, I used to have all kinds of categories, outlines, action steps and plans that ended up just becoming a huge yard stick with which to slap myself when I failed to execute them all time and time again.  Not that there is anything wrong with setting goals!  I just learned that the way I typically used goals was in partnership with my perfectionism to set the standard by which I often try to earn love and approval.

So these days I don't start the year with a list of goals that are up to me to achieve.  But I do take the time to consider and write down my hopes for the year.  Hoping feels risky, and the bigger my hopes are the more obvious it is that they are out of my control to "make happen."  However, having done this for a couple of years now, this has been one of the biggest ways I have watched how God has shown up in our lives in ways I never could have imagined.  Each year I feel Him leading me to hope for bigger things and asking me to grow in my ability to believe that His intentions for our lives are truly beyond what we can even imagine.

It is true that hoping opens us up to disappointment.  Along the same lines as experiencing both beauty and pain when we stop numbing our hearts (see Brene Brown's quote in the previous post), when we spend time hoping and dreaming, we acknowledge the reality that life may not work out exactly the way we are hoping it will.  We are beginning our tenth year of hoping for our hearts' desires to be parents, and the journey that this blog was started to share in the first place!  It is crazy to think that it has been a decade-long hope that has gone unfulfilled, yet God has given us the strength to continue hoping.  Along the way, there have been many times we have abandoned that hope - especially when we have been trying to carry it by ourselves without God's strength and the support of those who have chosen to walk alongside us.  Each time He has lovingly helped us to pick it back up (and really, to give it to Him where it belongs.)

We choose to keep hoping, as we do for many other things in our lives, because we believe that God is ultimately faithful and that He intends good for all of our lives.  Our hopes point us to the One in whom our ultimate hope should lie.

So what are you hoping for this year?  By the way, they don't all have to be monumental, sky-scraper hopes.  Obviously there are some, like the hope for a child, that are significant and big picture.  But I have other hopes for this year that I enjoy writing down right next to the big ones.  There are some great books I'm hoping to read this year.  I'm hoping to go bowling more often.  I hope to spend some more time making an impact in the beautiful community that God has placed us in.  And even in these smaller hopes, I want to invite Jesus in to bring His life, love and the joy that He longs to share with us in 2017.

I encourage you to spend some time hoping and dreaming, and to actually write those things down somewhere that you will revisit them throughout the year.  Ask God to partner with you in the longings of your heart, and you will be surprised when we come to another December just what has happened in your year...

 "It’s good for the heart to do some dreaming; it pulls you out of the rut, lifts your eyes to the horizon. Hope follows, like children running to the song of the ice cream truck. Desire awakens hope, and hope is really good for the soul."  (John Eldredge, "Love & War")

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How Long Is The Wait?

It's one of those questions that always makes me cringe internally when I have to ask it...  Especially, at a crowded restaurant.  Double especially when that restaurant is the Loveless Cafe, because the answer is almost always about an hour longer than I am prepared to hear.  

I think the anticipation of knowing what is on the other side of that wait (namely hot, fluffy, delicious biscuits slathered with blackberry jam) often makes the waiting harder.  But it also makes it worth it!

 There is something about just knowing how long the wait is that makes it a little more bearable.  Think about what it would be like if you walked into a busy restaurant and asked, "How long is the wait?" and the host looked at you and said, "I have no idea, but here is a buzzer and we will call your name at some point in the future when your table is ready."  Nope, not doing that!  Cereal for dinner again.

But that is what most of the waiting in our lives is like, isn't it?  We don't get a rough estimate or a buzzer that will go off when that time has elapsed.  After a few months or a few years go by, we don't get to check the list and see how many people are ahead of us before it is our turn.  It would be so much easier if Natalie and I just knew, "OK, you will only have to wait 2 more years, or 5 more years but then you will definitely have a baby."  And the anticipation of knowing the joy that will be ours when we finally welcome a child into our lives often makes the wait harder.  But it makes it worth it too...

I often struggle to wait well.  To have patience, joy and peace in the midst of it.  But I desire to grow in those places, because waiting is a reality in all of our lives.  Waiting well takes many different forms.  For us it is often releasing our expectations and demands that life look exactly the way we want it to.  It is choosing not to numb even when life is painful.  Brene Brown says, "We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions."  When we choose to numb ourselves to the pain, we also become numb to the beauty that is around us.  Much easier said than done, to be sure, but we have begun to experience the truth of this as we choose to feel the full scope of emotions and experiences in this long season of waiting.

We are also discovering that the degree to which we are waiting well is also tied to how much we are placing our hope and desires solely in this life.  During this season of Advent, we not only remember the coming of Jesus as Emmanuel - "God With Us," but we also look forward in anticipation to His coming again.  Jesus calls it the "renewal of all things" in the gospel of Matthew.  We are reminded that regardless of how much waiting, longing, pain or loss we face in this life, the day is coming soon when "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.  All these things are gone forever."  (Revelation 21:4)  This is meant to be more than just a passing thought from time to time.  It is actually meant to be an incredible source of hope for us in our daily lives.  It reminds us that we are waiting for something so much richer than even our deepest hopes and dreams for our lives on earth.

I don't know what your season of waiting is.  But I know it is not easy.  Some days it feels impossible.  Maybe you are waiting for the test results or the diagnosis.  Maybe it is for a relationship, a job, financial relief, or just for a break in the clouds of unbelievably difficult circumstances.  We are waiting along with you.  The buzzer hasn't gone off yet, and in the meantime we are choosing to trust and believe before we can see that goodness is coming.  This is our prayer for all of us this Advent season:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (Romans 15:13)

We wanted to share a song that has brought us great comfort in our waiting.  It is called "To Those Who Wait" by Bethany Dillon.  It reminds us that God is always working even when we can't see it.  She sings in the chorus:

"You can do more in my waiting than in my doing I can do."  

We encourage you to take a couple of minutes and let this song wash over you...

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Story Worth Living

We all live in the context of story.  Our lives are a story, constantly unfolding in new ways each day, and we are all continuing to try and understand just what that story is supposed to be to make sense of it.

Along those lines, we are really excited about a beautiful film that will be playing in theaters around the country for one night only:  next Thursday, May 19th.   It is called "A Story Worth Living," and though describing it is hard,  I will call it "an adventure film with deep meaning."  Set in the stunning landscape of Colorado, it follows six riders on an epic motorcycle adventure that tests them to their limits.  In addition, there is meaningful conversation about story, love, loss, shame, and many other things that make it more than just another really cool adventure film.

Check out the trailer:

You can find out where the film is playing in a theater near you by going to :

You won't want to miss this one night only event!  We will be going to the Green Hills showing, for any of you in the Nashville area.  We would love to see you there!

"You have to find a story that equals the depth of your heart" (John Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart)

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Prepare: Bringing Buck Home

In our last post, we wrote about how God gave us the word Prepare as a theme for this year.  Obviously we are believing for big things in our journey to become parents, but even as we wait we are taking steps of "preparation" in some large and small ways.

One of those ways involves something we have both wanted to do for over 10 years but haven't had the right circumstances for it to become a reality.  Natalie and I both grew up with dogs and have always wanted to have some as part of our family.  For various reasons the timing just wasn't ever really right, but when we moved to Tennessee a little over two years ago we knew that adding a four-legged family member would definitely be part of this chapter.

Although we have wanted to be parents for a long time, we have also learned how to enjoy the time that we have had as a couple.  We have gone on a lot of adventures together here in our new home state, but we have also been very intentional in living a quiet and simple life.  We realize that will all change quite a bit once a baby comes into the picture, but we have tried to take advantage of the rhythm our life has had for the last number of years.

At the beginning of this year, we both felt like it was time to start looking for a furry Fockel to join our family.  After doing our homework, we found a wonderful breeder about 45 minutes from our town and last Friday we finally brought home an 8-week-old English Springer Spaniel puppy.

Meet Buck:

As we began to plan and prepare for bringing home a puppy,  we talked about what life would look like and we realized that there would be an element of disruption involved.  We would have to give up the luxury of having all our time to ourselves and the ability to pick up and go wherever we wanted without having any responsibility waiting at home.  But through the lens of "Prepare," we saw this as an opportunity to take a step in the direction of being parents, responsible to care for another and adapting our lives to new schedules and demands.

This first week has been full of joy and cuddles, sleepless nights and puddles in the house.  We have experienced the ups and downs of being worried Mom & Dad..."He just ate that!", "Why is he whining now?", "I just took him outside" and lots of "Is that normal?" moments.  It has truly been a disruption as we have new full-time supervisory jobs at home, but it has definitely been worth it.  Maybe to most people having a dog is just a regular part of life, but for us we are declaring that it is a step of faith and a step in preparing...with a lot of wonderful wet kisses included.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Trust, Believe, Prepare

Today, Natalie and I have officially been Tennesseans for two years!  It would be pretty tough to summarize all that took place during our second year here, but overall 2015 was a really good year!  We continue to feel our roots deepening here as we walk with God further and further into the story He is writing with us.

We wrote back in 2014 a little about how God had spoken the word "Trust" over that year and how it was such an important compass to help us keep turning back to Him, learning to trust in so many situations that we couldn't have figured out or navigated on our own.

At the beginning of last year we again asked God to speak any words or themes He had over the coming year, and He brought us the word "Believe."  As with "Trust," we didn't really know quite what to do with it initially.  As the year unfolded though, we saw many different areas of our lives where it felt like God was asking us to believe in a new way.  One of the most significant was in the area of our infertility.  We realized that we had begun to believe that the only way for us to have a child would be through options other than getting pregnant naturally.  It's not hard to find yourself there after almost 8 years of trying, failed procedures, miscarriages and heartache.  And God wasn't holding that over our heads or condemning us for having landed there.  He is a loving, compassionate Father.  He very gently and persistently reminded us that, over time, we had let what the doctors and the tests all said become louder than what the Creator Himself says.  (He says nothing is impossible with Him!)

Toward the end of last year we considered the possibility of trying another less intense, less expensive (though less statistically successful) fertility procedure that some doctors are starting to offer.  But we felt God asking us not to.  We heard Him clearly asking, "Do you believe I could do this without a procedure?  Do you really believe?"  And as we considered our responses, we began to find that we were able to answer "Yes" much more whole-heartedly than we had been in times past.  It felt really hard and scary, but yet really hopeful!

We also still have the possibility of using a gestational carrier, an amazing and generous friend of ours who offered to carry for us right before we moved to Tennessee.  (We wrote a little about that story here) But again, though we don't sense God completely closing that door at this point, we do feel He is asking us, "Do you believe I might not need this route?  That it isn't the only way I could do this?"  Some days it feels harder than others to surrender that to Him and allow Him to lead us into deeper waters of believing for a miracle in a fresh way.  But God is always committed to the long, slow and holy process of growing us up.

This year, we heard God say the word "Prepare."  Gulp.  Umm, what does that mean, God?!  It is obviously very fresh, and we know He will show us much more as the year goes on.  But one thing was obvious to us pretty quickly:

You don't prepare for things you don't believe can or will happen...

So as we seek God this year and watch Him unpack that in our lives, we are taking some steps to prepare.  It feels risky, but it feels right.  (It feels so risky even just to share!)

As we have written before, we want to live the kind of lives that will only work out if God shows up. Thankfully for us all, it's what He loves to do...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reflections On A Year

It's hard to believe, but today marks one year since we landed in Tennessee!  There is so much we could say as we reflect back on all that has happened and all that God has done this past year.  But, we thought it would be really fun to come up with some questions about the year for us each to answer to give a glimpse into what the first 365 days of our lives as Southerners was like...

What is one of your favorite things about Tennessee?

Natalie: I love the pace of life here.  Andrew and I specifically desired to live a slower pace of life but didn't want to feel like the world was passing us by.  It seems as though the overall pace of culture and lifestyle here is a just few clicks slower than what we were used to and yet there is plenty going on at any given time.   

Andrew: I love the mixture of people who moved here from other places along with those who grew up here.  It is always fun to hear the stories of what brought people here and how it all happened.  (It actually makes our story seem a little less crazy.)  But I also love talking to people are from Tennessee and hearing their perspective on life.  I love that as I am chatting with a lady cutting my hair, I discover that she owns goats.  

What has been one of the hardest adjustments in moving to a new place?

Natalie: The hardest adjustment has been leaving the comfort of our safe and close-knit community of friends and family in San Jose and being patient while building new relationships and friendships here.  Deep and close friendships require risk and vulnerability and take time to develop.  Being an introvert who longs for a safe and close circle of friends, this has taken longer than I initially thought it would.  That being said, I am so thankful that our relationships in California have not dwindled away and we have met some incredible people here.  We are experiencing the beginnings of some very real, deep and true friendships out here for which we are very thankful! 

Andrew: I call it The Roller Coaster.  It is the swing of life going from absolutely amazing new experiences, discoveries and the thrill of being in a new environment - to the utter loneliness, worry, confusion, disappointments and struggles that are part of starting a new chapter of life.  More than any other season of my life, these happened more frequently and in larger swings from high to low than at any other time I can remember.  

What was a favorite memory of your first year here?

Natalie: I would have to say Memorial Day and 4th of July were particularly amazing days.  Andrew and I spent Memorial day together by packing a picnic and going to one of our favorite spots, Arrington Vineyards.  We watched one of the most beautiful sunsets and spent time discussing and processing through what the first few months out here had been like together. 

We spent 4th of July with some of our new friends out here.  We were so excited to be invited over to someone's house and we had a ball eating, playing games, sitting around a fire pit and shooting off fireworks (which are totally legal here!)  It was a day we talked about for a long time and really one of the first times I can remember feeling totally "home" here. 

Andrew: When Fall came and we discovered all of the amazing festivals and "goings-on" that were happening around middle Tennessee, we went full-on geek mode and busted out a spreadsheet so we could plan out all the possible activities and see how much we could pack into the fall months.  Looking forward to all of the amazing things coming up was almost as fun as going to the events themselves.....but not quite.  Whether it was the Banana Pudding Festival, the Chili-Cookoff, shooting pumpkins out of a cannon or watching the Hillbilly Pig Races, it felt like being a kid again.  Joy upon joy!  (Fried Oreos didn't hurt either.)

OK, I also have to throw 4th of July in too.  The way people celebrate it out here and the absolute awe of a whole neighborhood lit up with fireworks for a solid couple of hours was nothing short of epic.

How has God shown up / surprised you / what have you seen Him orchestrate or teach you this year?

Natalie: We held on tight to the word "trust" over the last year and we needed it every single day!  I had a seizure the day we moved into our new home and was not allowed to drive for six months.  Of course, this wasn't what we had planned on our first six months looking like, but little did we know, at that time, how precious and truly healing that time off of work would be for me.  I was able to get much needed rest and work on making our house a home.  I loved having the house clean and having meals ready for when Andrew got home from work.  We spent many, many nights eating outside and taking long evening walks together.  This is a time I will always cherish and never forget.  

Soon enough, it came time for me to go back to work.  I wasn't quite able to drive yet, so first started looking for jobs at CHS, where Andrew was employed.  (We worked together years ago and always hoped we would have the opportunity to do it again.)   I applied for a couple of positions there and was hired a couple of weeks later!  We now get to drive to and from work and have lunch together every day.  How cool is that?!? I could go on and on and on, but those are two instances where I clearly saw the hand of God at work - surprising and delighting us in so many ways.  

Andrew: I think we wrote about this earlier last year, but I was absolutely taken aback by the way God uses beauty as a way of both revealing Himself and nourishing us.  I didn't really have a category for that before, but now I look forward to it.  I long for it.  The beauty of a sunset, a piece of music, laughter that comes out of nowhere, and even just a quiet morning.  

We got to see God do some pretty big picture things this year as He orchestrated the details of moving across the country, providing a place to live, jobs, and show up big ways.  I began to learn to trust Him in ways I hadn't before.  But He has also continued to show me how much He loves our ongoing, daily, moment by moment relationship on all of the normal days of life.  When things are routine.  His presence when I am brushing my teeth or sitting at my desk.  And how there is so much more to Him than I will ever, ever begin to comprehend.

What has been one of the most surprising things about living here?

Natalie: I had no idea how incredibly beautiful it is here!  I think it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, ice storms and all!  My heart races at the sight of beautiful flowers blooming in the spring, fireflies in the summer, leaves turning too many colors to count in the fall and even the majestic sights of icicles hanging from the rocky bluffs (or our house eaves) in the winter.  

 I have always been a definite "indoor" type of girl, but since moving, my favorite thing is to either go on long drives out in the country or go for walks in beautiful places all around us.

Andrew:  You can't buy wine at the grocery store.  Also, we had cows show up in our back yard one day!  I am actually surprised at how many places you can drive where people have cows, horses, donkeys, goats, sheep, buffalo and bulls in their yard.  I am equally surprised that no matter how many times I drive past one of those yards, I am as excited to see those animals as I was the first time I drove by.

Have you noticed any words that people here say differently than you are used to?

Natalie: YES!  Allow me to translate some of my favorites:
You guys = Y'all 
Shopping Cart = Buggy 
Garden Hose = Hose Pipe 
The black and white waddling bird I have always called a Penguin = PINGuin

Andrew:  I like when someone says they "might could" do something!  Some people refer to both cars and shopping carts as "buggies."  And I once heard a friend describe a storm as a "Toad-strangler."

What is your favorite thing to eat here?

Natalie: Hashbrown casserole and sweet tea but not necessarily together.  :)

Andrew:  (Did I mention the Fried Oreos?)


One of my favorites is called the "Redneck Burrito" at Puckett's.  It has pulled pork and BBQ beans in it, and it is pretty amazing.  And I'd probably be remiss if I didn't mention Culvers.  Because sometimes you need a butter burger with cheese curds.  I'm just saying...

What is your favorite getaway spot?

Natalie: This is definitely a tie between Arrington Vineyards and Leiper's Fork

It seems hilarious to us that we spend more time at a winery out here than we ever did living practically in wine country of California!  Arrington is just a quick 20 minute drive from our house but it feels like we are worlds away.  They have picnic tables and tree swings and beautiful views as far as you can see.  They often have live music playing and, of course, great wine.  

Leiper's Fork is a small town on the outskirts of Franklin.  This "village" has a little main street with very cute shops I love to browse in and one of our favorite places to eat.  We have fallen in love with an aritst out there and he has an amazing gallery in a barn - His name is David Arms and you can see some of his work here.

Lastly, our VERY favorite thing to do there is see movies and concerts at their "Lawnchair Theater" while sitting under the stars.  

It really depends on what kind of mood we're in, but both places put my heart at such a state of peace and rest, it is hard to describe.

Andrew:  Since my wife probably already said Leiper's Fork, my answer is actually not so much one spot as it is just the getaway of driving through the beautiful countryside.  It can be anywhere that is just outside of where we live, work or live most of our daily life.  I love that it only takes a couple minutes and we can be in the midst of fields, farms, old barns, corn fields and rivers.  You can just lose yourself in it all, and it is so reviving to my soul.

What are you looking forward to in your next year here?

Natalie: Although this past year has been the most exciting adventure of our lives, I know we haven't seen half of what God really called us out here for!  I am excited to grow deeper in our relationships with people, continue to get involved in new ways of serving our community and church and continue to awaken to the glorious beauty all around us!  

Andrew: I am looking forward to watching God water the seeds He has been planting.  The seeds of relationships, community, ministry, music.  But also the internal seeds He keeps tending to and the new ones He plants - Belief.  Trust.  Hope.  Love.   I love how He takes a seed of something that I think will turn out one way and grows it into something that I totally didn't expect, but that is even better than what I thought it would become.  He is full of surprises!  I'm so excited for the surprises I don't get to know about yet!

Thank you to all who have gone on this journey with us.  We appreciate the love and support we have felt from so many.  Here's to another wonderful year!

Andrew and Natalie

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Holding On To Dreams

Sometimes holding on to your dreams feels like trying to survive in the open ocean with an inner tube and half of an oar.  When the storms come, the waves that crash against your face can be very cold, and very painful.

We believe, one way or another, that we will be parents one day.  We trust that God's plan and perfect timing is ultimately better than our own.  We believe that it is even possible for God to allow us to become pregnant naturally, despite all of the medical issues, diagnoses and obstacles that comprise the huge binder of medical records and results we have from years past.  Yet we still have to face those storms and those waves that sometimes come and threaten to capsize our ship.

We were caught off guard by a recent one.  A cycle missed - first one week, then two.  Natalie was extremely fatigued and not feeling like herself in many other ways.  Three weeks.  Could it be?  ...  The internal war between doubt and hope raged on, often daily.  That voice that says "You don't want to let that hope get out there too far...imagine how hard it will be if this turns out the way it always has..." rang loud and clear, and honestly I mostly just wanted to side with it.  Ah, but hope is an unbelievably powerful and beautiful thing.  It slides through the smallest of cracks in the walls we erect to guard against pain, hurt, loss and sadness.  How amazingly it found its way into the open, and we imagined what it would be like if this actually was our time!...  Nothing is too hard for God.

It didn't end up turning out the way we were hoping.  Once again the reality that this is a "not yet" dream settles back in.  What are we to do when these things come and we are faced with the temptation of just abandoning ship?  We are choosing to fight.  To keep fighting.  To hold on.  Not just to the dreams of being parents, but all of the dreams that are often so hard to cling to.  It is an imperfect fight, to be sure.  Full of doubts, missteps and days where we just don't have the energy.  But God continues to remind us of His goodness and blessings in the midst of pain.  He continues to remind us that the process of holding onto hope and faith, through the circumstances that threaten to rip our dreams apart, is working to shape us into the very sort of people who can handle the things we are dreaming of.  And more importantly, the dreams He is giving us to dream...