Popping Tops and Breaking Seals

I knew it would happen, but I just wasn’t sure when that would be. Craig and I have always said that once the seal is broken or the top is popped that the rest would be history. I’m not trying to speak in code or be vague about anything. Ha! If we’ve spent any time together then you’ll agree that being vague just isn’t my style. I tend to be the complete opposite if anything. So what is this mysterious top being popped? Seal being broken? Let’s talk about it.

I’ve shared in the past that we headed to seminary for Craig to study missions. On our first date, we talked extensively about not wanting to live life in a box. The box is the oh-so-good and grand American dream of a house with a white picketed fence and 2.5 kids and a dog where parents worked typical 9-5 day joys completing menial work where people live life on autopilot and look as though they have been zapped by the modern-day culture bug zapper that ultimately enslaves them to what this world has to offer. All of that really made us want to barf. As young adults, we just couldn’t wrap our minds around it. Throw in the fact that we were in the midst of significant growth of growing in and understanding what it means to be intentionally walking with the Lord and living a life of faith in Jesus. Whew! Yet, somehow it tends to happen.

As life has it, we married. Had menial jobs. We served in the church. Built a house. Started a family. Then Craig changed his full-time job to a job in ministry. We sold our new house and most of the things in it. Moved to another state to go to seminary and started pursuing international missions. Each time we tried to head to Africa we found out we were expecting a baby. We lived life on mission amongst the internationals in the DFW metroplex all while being very intentional in raising our kiddos and sharing the gospel with our American friends. . . and we still never left the country. It really is mind-boggling how many people in today’s world have never heard of Jesus, much less understand the depth of His love for them!!!

Fast forward to the present day. It’s pretty fitting that we moved to Virginia to lead a church that is centered on missions, yet not fully understanding the depth of their desire for international missions or really thinking that flame still existed for our family. The Lord really does have a way of working all things together for His good if we will just trust Him to do His thing!!! The top that has been popped or the seal that has been broken is this, after 11 years of trying to go internationally for missions, Rushes have done it! Or should I say, the Lord has done it through us? So far for 2022 Craig has been to Athens, Greece and all five of us have traveled to La Paz, Mexico for mission trips. Not only did we absolutely like it, but we all LOVED it. The 3E’s begged to stay and can’t wait for the next grand adventure! Where will we go next? I’m not sure where or when that will be, but this I know is true, the seal has been broken and the Rushes are ready to explore!

Where would you go if given the opportunity to travel internationally for the sake of sharing the gospel with some of God’s people who have yet to hear or fully understand the life-changing story of the gospel of Jesus of Christ?

Quiet Empty Spaces of Hopes & Dreams

Disclosure: this blog originated December 2021 and has been a work in progress over the past few months.

It’s in the quiet moments that we often times find ourselves fully transparent and fully vulnerable not only with ourselves but also with the ones around us. It’s like our coffee hasn’t kicked in completely. Some people operate like this and for some there never really seems to ever be a quiet moment. Constantly going. Constantly creating. Constantly talking or thinking. Places exist like both of these.

I remember so vividly the first apartment community we lived in when we moved to the DFW metroplex. The apartment community is located at the intersection of Campbell and 75 right in the heart of the telecom corridor in Richardson, TX. Shops and restaurants line the bottom of the buildings while the apartments fill the next three stories. At any moment the whiff of bison burgers could potentially overtake the aroma of fresh coffee and pastries or the yummy all American versions of your favorite pasta dishes. Top all of that with the colorful window display coming from the froyo shop located at the corner of it all. And if that isn’t enough, breakfast tacos with fresh jalapeño ranch sauce and chips will surely satisfy any craving left untouched. Imagine it now. It was a foodie’s delight.

Being that our community was located next to 75 we also had the pleasure of experiencing the daily humming, drumming, wizzing, and whirling of the DART train system. It started out as the sound that we tried to drown out with sound machines and by the end of our time in that community it became the sound machine we found comfort in. The noise blended into the quiet still moments. Never a dull moment or even an empty sense being stimulated. Yet through it all, you could still feel the tenderness of each new day.

Most of our time in Texas was like this. Full of all the things and noises. Full of opportunities for growth professionally and personally. Seasons of spiritual growth and physical growth. Full moments of growing a family. All of this was amazing yet still never filled the empty spaces of hopes and dreams that only came up during those few quiet moments. Things that because of “the noise” and the constant movement were hard to accomplish because we literally never sat still. Physically or metaphorically and I had no clue that I was tired.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, I’m pretty sure he didn’t think it would end up being 40 years of wandering. Can you imagine? I would have been so tired! Then time and time again the Lord would hardened Pharaoh’s heart which led to plague after plague. Hardship after hardship. But what we see in the end of the story is that all of that had to happen in order to fulfill the promise of the coming Messiah. Our coming King. The redeemer of it all!

Like the Israelites, we were tired. Tired of having our hearts hardened in one way or another. Hardened from good things and not so good things. Tired of feeling like those empty spaces of hopes and dreams were never going to be accomplished because reality is they probably wouldn’t as long as we were in the middle of all the noise. So I ask you this, what is “the noise” in your own life that keeps you wandering? Maybe resulting in brief seasons of growth, but yet never fully surrendering you to the “promised land?” I’m leaning into the quiet moments and digging into discovering what to do with those empty spaces while trusting the Lord to quiet the noise while my season of discovery continues to unfold.

Yard Card Queen Norfolk

About that small business I started during a global pandemic. September 8, 2020 we made our initial investment and became Yard Card Queen – Norfolk! Maybe you’ve heard of it and maybe you are like most when I say yard cards. That look, I can see it now, “what’s yard cards?!?!?” In short, we are a yard greeting rental company that specializes in celebrating anything and most everything! Here’s a visual.

Our 3E’s on their first day back to school for 2021-2022 school year!

This greeting I put up super quick before kids walked out the door to head out for their first day of school for the 2021-2022 school year. It was also our first day in Norfolk Public Schools.

That’s a yard card greeting folks. The possibilities are truly endless! Due to the nature of pandemic and what seemed like quarantine that lasted FOREVER, starting a small business that requires no contact with others has been the perfect fit for our family.

I mentioned that we ended up homeschooling our children during the 2020-2021 school year so we ended up using our new small business as an economic project. What better way than to teach them how hard it is to make money compared to how quick and easy it can be to spend it! I think the 3 E’s would attest to the fact that working can be hard and sometimes just not fun, but playing baseball and being a part of a competitive cheer team are exciting and also very expensive so they do their parts of pulling yard cards and cleaning them up and putting them away afterwards. Team Rush is (hopefully teaching and learning) lots of life lessons.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about YCQ specifically other than we love it! It’s work but it ties in what we love about life in general. We adore people. We love celebrating people and we love when people feel special. So having a job that does all of that and more is just the icing on the cake!

Words are great but pictures can be better. So, I’ll leave with you some photos of greetings we have designed over the past year!

Super proud of this one! Craig created this display from start to finish!
A Minnie Mouse inspired greeting!
Being a military town means we get LOTS of requests for various patriotic displays! Retirement displays are some of my favs!

What’s your favorite? Are you celebrating any big milestones this year? Let us know we want to hear!

It’s Been a year…

“Actually…” (as E3 would say) it has been 61 weeks since I “graduated” with my Masters of Science in Management and Leadership! July 4th weekend of 2020 I finished my masters degree! Wahoo!!! A major personal goal that I have had for quite sometime.

And that’s a wrap! Moments after submitting my senior capstone project completing my MSML degree!

It all began because I honestly wanted to wear a hood (my master’s degree was 100% online, so I didn’t even participate in a ceremony) and say I had completed master level coursework. Now, if you’ve spent any time with me at all you’ll know that sitting still and focusing on “schoolwork” for significant amounts of time is almost an oxymoron hence the reason for the goal of completing master level coursework!

The goal slowly morphed into obtaining my masters in order to further advance my career in post secondary education. I worked in post secondary dental hygiene education and loved it! My dream was to be a dental hygiene program director which required a Master’s degree! As life would have it, our family needs changed as did our location which meant I no longer would be teaching collegiate level,

Now you may be reading this and thinking “that’s a whole lot of change!” Yes, it was. These changes occurred over the course of 6 or 7 years. All while we were having babies, my husband was finishing his master’s degree at DTS, and I was thanking the Lord daily for His continued provision of amazing jobs that I LOVED and that supported our family while Craig was earning his degree and working for a church. I didn’t even start my master’s degree until after I was finished teaching collegiate level and was close to the end of my career in teaching high school. And I would have never thought I’d be working through my master’s while in transition! Much less finishing it during a global pandemic!

So that’s where we are.. or where we were. July 4th weekend of 2020. I turned in my final coursework and graduated with my master’s! A dream of a decade and close to 17 months of hard work! But what to do with it? Especially now since we live in a totally new place, in the middle of a global pandemic unexpectedly homeschooling my 3E’s. The questions have been asked more times than not and they generally sound like this. “Now what?” or “So now that your kids are going back to school are you going to pickup some days cleaning teeth at a dental office? How about see if ODU is hiring for a clinical professorship?” All meaning questions and inquiries. Ones that I’m afraid my answer to all of them (at this current time) are the same, “the Lord hasn’t released me to step back into dentistry!” People who have been through the journey with me sort of gasp when I say it. Dentistry has been my life for the past 15 + years. I have worked hard and diligently to help develop processes and protocols when I began teaching college and then when developing a dental assisting program for high school. Blood, sweat, and tears!!! And to accomplish the next educational journey needed to progress and then walk away from it?!? Yep. That’s it. So, what then?!??

As you can imagine completing my degree, in a new state where we had relationships with only a hand full of people only months into this global pandemic thing meant I had tons of free time on my hands. I mean I was preparing curriculum choices for the upcoming school year for my 3E’s, but still there was lots of time! And I don’t do well with free time. New school year kicked off. We settled into our daily methods and routines. Kids were doing great, but I just wasn’t being challenged FOR ME!

September 2020, while visiting on the phone with my sweet friend back in Texas she mentioned she had done a thing! A thing that she was loving. It was pandemic friendly and was affording her opportunities that frankly wouldn’t exist otherwise. You have my curiosity. Tell me more! I left that conversation that evening with a spark of interest and a prayer to pray. A prayer of maybe this could be my thing. A fun thing. An educational thing. A family thing. We prayed. Ran numbers. And we jumped in feet first! WE STARTED A SMALL BUSINESS DURING GLOBAL PANDEMIC!

Stay tuned for more on our small business!

Travel ball during Global Pandemic

Hi y’all! This blog was written on Monday, June 21, 2021. At the time we were a month into being mask free! Man it felt great! Seeing smiling faces just does something for my soul!

Recently here on the blog we’ve talked a lot about life during the pandemic and what the Lord has taught the Rush family. Today, I’m just going to share the fun we have experienced since moving to Virginia. It’s been so different than what I would have ever conjured up, but we are making memories and living life together. Let’s get going.

Our initial plan was for all three E’s to hop right back into baseball and softball. We did some research and discovered a Pony League close by that all three could participate in. Awesome! Signed them up and went and did evaluations for Elliott’s age group. The other two were placed on teams and met their coaches. We were all set… and a week later Pandemic! Spring Season canceled. Summer season canceled and my three E’s were still anxiously awaiting to be into activities to make some friends and burn some energy. Throughout our waiting two big things happened. We were introduced to travel baseball & we started a small business!

Let’s talk travel baseball first. When I realized that pony and rec leagues weren’t happening for a while, Craig and I started exploring options. What would we do? We didn’t want Elliott to miss out on a year or more of playing and practicing. A new team popped up for evaluations and so we decided we would give it a try. August (or September) of 2020 Elliott tried out for the 10U Tidewater Horns team and made it! Over the course of the fall and winter seasons, we practiced twice a week as the team was formed and went to an indoor facility for conditioning during the cold. Looking back this really has been a life line for our family. Due to the nature of the amount of time spent together, and the climate of the world around us, these families really served as a constant for us. Friends were made that we will take with us outside of baseball.

2020/2021 – 10U Tidewater Horns
My fella after pitching his heart out!
Let’s go 24!
Last minute games while your besties are in town means the biggest fan club of all ages!
Just a momma watching her boy do his thing!

These are just a few of the moments that were captured on camera! Not sure what next baseball season will look like for our family, but I can say that during a time where we were still newish and we knew few people and NOTHING was happening, having the constant and consistent Tidewater Horns baseball team was our lifeline!

Through it all…

Do you ever have seasons where when you actually stop to think or slow down long enough to process, you realize that time has been marching on but in the move of it all it really seems as if it’s been at a stand still? That’s a statement that some of us would agree with completely and then for others we may say we haven’t experienced that in the last year & a half. Either way we probably wouldn’t be wrong. Or would we?

We can agree that life came to an abrupt halt March 2020 and has felt like an extended spring break that really still hasn’t ended. We could say that everything slowed to a snail’s pace or it stopped all together. Schools went virtual which meant no early morning hustles, commutes or afternoon activities. People who are fortunate enough to work from home have been doing so and for others employment ended. Large group gatherings are so 2019 and buying a ticket to a sporting event now means you have access to the live stream and will more than likely be able to find your face on one of the jumbo trons around the arenas. So, in all of this it’s slowed down tremendously but why then do we have to stop and process all that occurred last year & a half?

Now let’s fast forward to April 2021. We are 13 months into this global pandemic thing and significant changes are being made. A major contributor to change is the vaccine. We have all had to make decisions on whether to vaccinate or not. The decisions have come easier for some than others and still there are those who just can’t decide. One thing we can all agree on, though, is that with the scientific development of the vaccine it is bringing about change and opportunity. People are beginning to open their doors and feel comfortable to step outside in public. Hand shakes are happening again and not just fist bumps. Churches that weren’t already opened back up are opening their doors and the schools that have been empty for a year are finally having students back on campus. Yes, for those in areas where your schools didn’t skip a beat, there are others who have been virtual this entire school year. Why now? Why all of a sudden? The vaccine?!?

Side note… there are so many angles, views, ideas, beliefs, and opinions about all of this and the past 13 months. I acknowledge that. Some families have been affected by it worse than others and some families haven’t skipped a beat. All of it makes me so incredibly sad and breaks my heart. This post is not intended to share my opinions or thoughts on any of it and it’s definitely not intended to hear yours. It is solely being written as a point of documentation of what has occurred over the past 13 months. It may be cancelled and for some, the upper portion of the blog may cause anger or whatnots. All I can say is we have to check our spirits and make sure we are aligned with the Father, THE Holy Spirit, The Maker of heaven and earth, and insure that our actions and words bring Him glory and are fulfilling the purpose of knowing Him and making Him known. So, back to our main road.

I really was one of those persons who thought the intended 2 week extended spring break back in 2020 was going to be marvelous and then we would all resume to what was our normal scheduled programming. So for me, this entire thing has really thrown me off my A game. Even in all of that, the Lord still remains in control and He is still good. Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about what #raising3rushes in a perfect sinful world has been up to for the past 13 months.

As you may remember, Rushes moved to Virginia end of January 2020. Just in time to get settled in a rental and kids in school. Little did we know that on campus would be short lived and we would all end up back at home together to finish out the year virtually. At the end of the 2019-2020 school year, the 3E’s had attended school in public, homeschool, private and virtual learning. With everything up in the air, as a family we decided we’d take 2020-2021 school year to simmer and hopefully find a new east coast Virginian groove. We decided to homeschool. We have dabbled with it off and on in the past and I have taught on various levels of education so I knew that I could, but honestly wasn’t sure how we’d all make it.

It’s May 2021 and I can tell you we survived! We have all lived to tell about it. Some days we had loads of laughs and some days tears were streaming from ALL of our eyes. Because of the season, we didn’t do as many field trips as we would have liked, but we grew together as a family and learned how to be people who could adapt and bounce back fairly quickly. Our children grew in ways that some adults I know still haven’t grown in. Children really are resilient!

It has been neat to see our individual hearts rest in not only “knowing” in our head that Jesus is Lord and is in ultimate control, but truly wrestling with Jesus is Lord and is in ultimate control in our hearts. And then experiencing how our individual hearts joined together as one in this idea. The confidence levels of each of us (my kids specifically) have grown exponentially. Confidence in their own ability to ROCK their end of year testing. Confidence in who they are as a human being and what they have to offer instead of just trying to figure out how they fit into a group of peers. Confidence in believing the fact that when we truly submit our lives to the Lord, that the God of the universe will honor that and use it/us to accomplish His mission. This one has been so cool to see and hear during our family conversations. We may be a little more in tune with listening to their hearts on this one since our family experienced a major cross country move 7 weeks before pandemic, but none the less our kids are seeing through the lenses of “our lives are not our own and we are called to places for seasons and reasons and when our mission(s) are accomplished, He reassigns us and that is ok.” But for now we will grow where we are planted not holding onto to what was in the past or clinging to what is in the future but living and loving in what is the present.

What have you learned over the course of the past year? When you stop and think back, can you see where you have grown?

“But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] Will gain new strength and renew their power; They will lift up their wings [and rise up close to God] like eagles [rising toward the sun]; They will run and not become weary, They will walk and not grow tired.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Lost, but not forgotten

Update 11/21/2020: Before you begin reading, this was written three months into the Covid19 global pandemic and is being posted 8 months into the covid19 pandemic. Take it as you will, not much has changed.

Today is a Friday. Friday, June 12, 2020 to be exact. Will this be posted today? Who knows but today is the day I am taking a moment to write. I have written one post since this whole COVID-19 pandemic thing has occurred. Talk about a surreal moment in time and living history at that. For all of you out there that like to use real life to teach the next generation, I sure hope you are taking note of all that is going on in the world around us and how we are being able to not only read or hear about history in the making but we are living it. Day in and day out. I am not so sure that our kids will be going back to school “in the deficit” when it comes to history.

Have you seen those birthday cards that say “if you were born in ______ year” then this is what was going on and this is how much stuff costs? This season of pandemic has made me think of those cards more and more. I often wonder what will the year 2020 card look like? What will the going price of gasoline be? How much will a gallon of milk be listed as? Other than pandemic stuff, what else will be listed as major life historical events that occur during the year 2020? It really blows my mind beyond compare.

Before moving to Virginia, I had the privilege of teaching a dental assisting class to high school seniors at a local career and technical education center. It was a short lived part of my career that I will cherish dearly!!! Seriously, total greatness. Why I mention this is that the last group of students that I had in class graduated from high school this week. That means that half of their senior year was cut short. For some, it was WAHOO we don’t have to wake up early and go to school. For others, and most of them, it was a super sad point in their high school career. I mean, can you think of your senior year? Second semester was by far the pinnacle of what high school was about. Senior prom, senior skip day (yes it exists and yes even those God fearing seniors do it, it’s like a rite of passage), spring break, these are just a few of the things.

I want to think back beyond March 12, 2020, when the schools here in Virginia were put on “shelter in” orders. Let’s think back seventeen to eighteen years ago. What year do we arrive at? 2001 to 2002? What major life event occurred late 2001? 9/11/2001. When were these high school seniors born? Are you following me? Back to my time with my seniors.

I had the opportunity to walk through remembering 9/11 with them. We discussed what happened. We looked at videos. They were curious as to what I was doing and where I was? If I knew of anyone specific had been affected. . . you see, I had one maybe two of my students who were just days old. The rest were in the womb. Can you believe it? The generation of students who entered the world during turmoil are leaving their primary/high school educational career during a world wide pandemic. Do you think this is by coincidence? I sure don’t. I believe that the God of the universe doesn’t make mistakes and he sure didn’t by the timing of all of this. I am not saying He caused it because he didn’t but He has allowed it all. Why? I have no clue and frankly I may never know, not until I reach those pearly gates of glory when my mission on Earth is done. But I do believe that in His amazingly beautiful ways and His loving kindness and grace, He allowed this generation of young adults to enter the world during such a season and end a major season of their life during such a season.

As I have been communicating with my now former students during all of this, I have been placing the challenge in front of them. What if it really is your generation that is called to be the world changers that our world so desperately needs? What if you are the ones that are called to flip the script and lead the way on how the rest of “the world” around you responds to pandemic? Or heck, how they respond to life! Some of those young men and women really processed through the challenge and have been making it their goal to be the world changers that, I believe, we are all called to be in some capacity or another. The challenge stands with you. . . are you being a part of the process in helping to change the world for good or are you being a part of the problem and giving into the media and all the negativity around you? It’s a choice. A daily choice.

On top of the “shelter in” pandemic quarantine, our world continues to struggle with the lack of racial reconciliation. IT BREAKS MY HEART!!!! Why can’t we just treat people equally and get along? What has been going on is wrong! Yep you heard me correctly, people of color loosing their lives because of the color of their skin is wrong! No matter how you try and slice it or dice it, WRONG! I don’t care who did what or what did who, or started what and what nots. WE ARE ALL CREATED EQUAL IN THE IMAGINE OF GOD. Last time I checked and read my Bible, God created Adam and from Adam He created Eve. . . . and one by one the rest of the generations of people were created, offspring from offspring. So if you want to get into the whole genealogy thing, guess what? WE WERE ALL CREATED FROM ADAM AND EVE!!!!! Let’s stop killing and fighting with people, people some way or another we are connected to! I stand for JUSTICE AND MERCY! I stand for truth!

The short and sweet on why “stuff” happens is because although we were created equal by the same God of the universe and are all some how genealogically related in the family tree, we also are human and all of us have free will and sin natures. Those very two first humans that God created (Adam & Eve) made a big old mistake that set this world into motion that we live in. Eve gave Adam a piece of forbidden fruit, thus sin entered into the world. Why? Well, it opened their eyes to see that they were not God and brought about the realization that we need God. We need a Savior and that without Him we are nothing. Left to our own ways we would continue to allow Satan to kill, steal, and destroy us. . . one by one! The only hero in the story is GOD! What will be written from Christian theologians that are post-trib perspective be and on the flip what will pre-trib Christian theologians write? I hesitate to even write these thoughts out as I am afraid it will create a point of contention causing an uproar of angsts because well COVID-19 quarantine and the lack of social interactions and lets be real most people are looking for something to get all huffy about.

But I write because I am called to write and say the things that most of us think between the inner linings of our left and right eustachian tubes but wouldn’t DARE speak it out loud for fear we may just have to have a real conversation about it. So, this is it. All of it, for me. I personally have no desire to know what side of the fence you stand on politically, socially, emotionally, etc. you get the point, if you first and foremost point of concern is not JESUS and how someone is doing in their walk with the Lord. Heck, if we allow any of the things that have occurred during 2020 to take precident over our concern with whether a person knows how much they are loved by The Savior of the world, it is absolutely wrong!

So. . . here’s my challenge. What is that you are taking away as absolutely and utterly the most important things in life? What have you found out about yourself that you would say “defines you?” Are you seen as a person who loves Jesus (not just professes Jesus as Lord, but LOvES Jesus) or are you that person that people generally tend to slowly distance themselves from? Answer out loud if you like, but I implore you to do the hard introspective work and allow the Lord to help you determine what the rest of 2020 and 2021 will look like despite the cultural context around us.

Welcome to 2020

There are days that feel like a completely surreal moment. When all that can be acknowledged is truly in the Lord’s hand. A few of those days, for me, have occurred over the course of the past four months or so.

One of those days was November 22, 2019. The day we stepped off the plane in Norfolk, VA for the first time. In our heart of hearts we felt a calling to Tabernacle Church from the moment of the first phone interview. So stepping off the plane and meeting people (who had no clue who we were because we were in cogito) brought confirmation for us that these were the people the Lord had called us to. They were people we could do life with, in ministry but also outside of ministry. They are a people group set in an urban setting from various walks of life living authentically in their personal journeys and Norfolk is a city that has more natural beauty than I have ever experienced. Finding a tree for a swing was easy! Though that may seem minuscule, it wasn’t. Finding a place with a tree that could hold a tire swing was key and one of our main prayers. The kids wanted to be able to be outside most of the year and have a swing!

This was the first day that the realization of the journey that we had been on since October 2011 was finally coming to an end. The journey of moving from Louisiana to Texas for seminary. The journey of having babies in the midst of a chaotic life. The journey of serving on staff at an amazing church while Craig was earning a graduate degree. And the journey of the Lord brining Craig to the realization of a calling He has for his life and our course of ministry. We started our journey thinking that we would end up in international land somewhere in Africa sharing the gospel with those that had never heard His name. And through that journey we realized that our missions heart needed a transformation. We did end up on a mission field, it’s just not thousands of miles away and it’s not just to a few select people groups but it’s to several people groups that are similar yet different all the same.

Fast forward to today, I find myself laying in my bed next to my hubby as we get ready to embrace a new day. We are located in Norfolk, VA! The past several months have felt like a blur. We have been in Norfolk since January 23, 2020 and so much life has occurred. Not only have we settled into our rental house, but the kids started attending a new school (and stopped a new school). We started going to a new church and Craig is now a senior pastor of that church. But we have also stopped “attending” that same church. Before your mind starts going there let me explain. (And most of this will be written for the sake of looking back and remembering what this time period was like).

Seven (7) weeks after moving to Norfolk, one of the scariest and most surreal events in history occurred. The Covid-19 Pandemic hit the United States. It’s also known as the Corona Virus. Our kids were in school for five (5) weeks before all schools were shut down indefinitely. We were in a church building with our new church family having weekly services for seven (7) weeks before “shelter-in” orders were given to the entire state of Virginia. Thankfully, Tab Church, had already started streaming the service through different social media platforms so the learning curve of going “viral” hasn’t been as steep as it has been for some. Our kids have come back home to completing the year with distance learning in place. Their teachers email all of their assignments and we complete it here, through google drive and different educational websites. It has been the craziest thing I have personally ever lived through.

Through all of this, so far, I have seen the Lord at work. He is drawing people out of their homes and into the streets again. Of course maintaining and practicing the 6 feet social distancing orders that are in place. People are connecting through the use of telephones and not just texting or emails, but through calls, FaceTimes, zoom calls and whatever platform they use to virtually communicate. It seems as though some of our personal desires and things we keep our hands held tight around with closed fists on personal preferences are starting to loosen and maybe, just maybe, we are starting to call upon the Lord and ask and see what it is He wants instead of what we want. Our preferences of doing business as usual just doesn’t hold up anymore, because well, it just can’t. It isn’t an option. We are either having to adapt or die. And by die I mean, hypothetically, unless your one of those unfortunate ones that contract the Covid-19 virus and the odds are not in your favor. Businesses have shut down to “essential” personnel and some businesses have even shut doors completely. Now how do I see the Lord in that? I’m not 100% sure I can say I clearly see it just yet. But I can say I “see it” because God’s Word is just and true and sometimes it’s just a matter of us relying, trusting, and having faith in God and the things that are unseen!

This. Is. Us.

Welp… this picture about sums up a good portion of my life as of lately. . . kids. Our kids. Sweet kids. Silly kids who are making the most of each day but reminisce on things of the past when life is still and quiet. Kids who are enjoying their friends at their new schools yet miss their friends back in Texas and oh man how we miss our schools back in Texas! Being a Dodd Dino was magical and mystical! The teachers, the friends, the people, oh my!!!! BUT, these faces bring me joy.

They make me laugh and they get my quirky sense of humor. They say what’s on their minds and in their hearts and for that I am so grateful. They are loving and they are kind. They are respectful but have learned how to not allow someone to walk all over them. They are loyal and they are fierce. They love Jesus and are learning to walk with Him daily. They enjoy people from all walks of life and every color. They are exactly who they are supposed to be and I love them. There’s nothing fancy to this picture and in fact we are missing our main squeeze. Our captain. Our leader. But this is us. Take us or leave us.

We are who we are and we are committed followers of Christ. Set to live a missional life in our new city of Norfolk, VA. We are committed to doing the hard work of establishing all the “news” for the sake of knowing that the Lord has called us here to use us to be change and experience change. Change of everything we knew and most of what we know. Every. Single. Day is change. It’s a step by step process that can feel incredibly heavy at times. But it’s a calling and I am believing it is worth it.

Change is never easy but sometimes change can be the exact thing that’s needed. Complacency sets in. Self righteousness takes over. Unhealthy lifestyles become habits and before you know it visions and missions are lost. This change has redefined our closeness as a family unit. It has required we rely on the Lord for comfort and unsurpassable grace and faith. It’s required us to give up our personal preferences for the sake of realigning our hearts and our minds to His will.

A simple prayer that crosses my mind most days is this, “Lord would you open my mind, my heart, my eyes and my ears to see what you see and hear what you hear. Would you give me a burden to feel the depth of love you have for your people and show me where I can plug in to your plan for today. Break my heart for what breaks yours. Restore to me the joy of my salvation and burden me with the lives around me that don’t know you or who have never experienced your love. May I be a conduit of your grace and love. And may I allow you to work in me but also through me. My lips are yours, use them as you wish. In your Son’s name I pray these things, Amen.”

So, who are you? Better yet who do you want to be?!?! You can be a life changer for Christ simply by living and loving the person right in front of you. Try it, I double dog dare ya. Take a chance and allow the Spirit to change one thing about your day and then be ready for what the Lord may bring!

Magically Ever After

For Christmas Craig and I decided that it was “time” for the ultimate experience gift for the 3E’s. With us having sold our house and would be moving back to Louisiana with a decent amount of time before we transition to our next settled destination, it was the perfect time to pull off the surprise of a trip to Walt Disney World! I’m not really sure who was the most excited… me, Craig, us or the 3E’s!

Mid November I called my friend who is a Disney travel agent and asked for help planning a trip to Mickey’s house. A second friend made my dreams come true of making us matching family shirts and sweatshirts. And my wonderful Southwest Airlines app savvy husband booked our flights… using our sky miles that is!!! It pays to collect those Southwest sky miles. We have traveled more in the past couple of years because we had the sky miles!

Our goal for the trip was 1. to get our kids on a plane and overcome their dreamt up fears of flying and 2. make the most magical memories of a lifetime as the Rush 5 that ushered in what has been the biggest transition in our kids worlds thus far. I can say with confidence both goals were accomplished!

Sorry for the photo dump of a blogpost that I am sure this will turn out to be. My purpose in it is to document our memories, share in some specifics of how we did our trip and mentally relive a few of the moments along the way!

For our adventure, Craig and I decided we couldn’t tell our kids too early what we would be doing for the next week because the anxiety would set in. We waited until the day before we would fly out to tell them.

Give me a minute to paint the picture of packing and what all we took. Knowing we would be flying, I really had to pack minimalistically in the event one of the 3 E’s decided to use their Disney cash to purchase a bigger than normal purchase! Two days before we left, Craig occupied the kids while I locked myself into mine and Craig’s room at my in-laws home. I sorted Disney shirts and packed suitcases. If we have never met in person or spent much time together then you wouldn’t know that I am a bit of an organization fruitcake. I like everything to have a place and everything to be in its place. My kids each have an assigned color that we use and most things are bought in those colors. Let me give you a few examples. When we had our home, each of my kids had bath towels in their colors. Their tablet covers are in their respective colors and their suitcases are even in their colors. It only makes sense that their Disney Magic Bands be in their colors as well. Enough about my organizational character traits, let’s get back to our trip to Mickey’s Magical Kingdom.

The morning before flying out, Craig loaded the kids into the van for church while I was “finishing up my hair and makeup.” In all actuality I was setting out their suitcases with their Disney letters by the Christmas tree. With it being their Christmas present we wanted to make sure they felt like they had a chance to open something up. So they had travel packs with snacks, little goodies, a Mickey Mouse pillow case for autographs (thanks Amazon), a retractable sharpie, a set of mouse ears (from Amazon) and Toy Story 4 figurines that I found at the Dollar Tree. Their tablets were charged and downloaded full of their favorite Disney movies (thank you Disney+ subscription).

My best go of writing a Disney letter for the kids!
Elliott reading and the other two trying to wait patiently!

After church we went back to my in laws home where they found their suitcases waiting and read the letter which led them to opening their backpacks full of goodies. Excited about the adventure, through year filled eyes from ecstatic joy, their excitement continued when we told them to load up because we were going to Dallas right then! They knew we were going to Dallas for the night but thought it was only to see friends not to hop on a plane to meet Mickey!

Disney here come!

I mentioned earlier that one of our goals for flying to Disney was to get them comfortable with flying!!! Here we are arriving at the airport after about 4.5 hours of sleep!

Black and white hides the bags under my old eyes!
Isn’t she lovely!
This kid was brave! He accomplished his fear of heights!
Hopefully you can see from the picture that E3 didn’t have much apprehension! His eyes stayed glued out the window 75% of the flight!
Mandatory first flight picture in the cockpit with the captain!

Upon arrival in Orlando we found our way to the Magical Express transportation station. Y’all, when people say that Disney pays attention to the details, that means every single member of Disney takes pride in their job and performs it to excellence. The cast members at the airport who run the Magical Express exude as much excitement as Mickey and Minnie! In order to get on the correct Magical Express bus headed to your Disney resort they scan your magic bands, tag your luggage and send you to board your bus!

On the Magical Express headed to Art of Animation Resort!

I’ll leave you with the thought, if you could take a Magical Express anywhere and/or everywhere, where would you go and why?