We're on holiday and having a wonderful time together. We got away to slow down and connect as a family. One of the specific things we wanted to work through was how this last year of life has affected each of us and our family as a whole. So, we've had a lot of conversations about how we're doing and where we are. We want to share some of the conversation with you since we're on this journey together. To make it really sing, we've come up with 2,019 reflections on the year that was 2019...okay, not really 2,019 but loads of them.
Read on if you'd like and learn more about what we are feeling and are grateful for as this most momentus year of life comes to the end...
A Few Memories
It has been a year of change
Geographically - we moved around and ended up in London.
Culturally - we spent time in a lot of different places.
Spiritually - we experienced more of God and have grown from it.
Personally - we have been tried and stretched.
Socially - we have said goodbye to some, see you later to others, and are making new friends.
We remember the places
We rung in 2019 in Alabama and are now (ringing out?) celebrating the New Year in the English countryside.
We took three trips together in 2019...Together, we traveled the UK for the Acts 29 Assessment Conference in Cheshire and then a vision trip for our Launch Team in London. Together, the two of us together spent a weekend in DC with Restoration City Church. Later in the Spring, together, we took a long weekend in Florida with our dear friends at City Church in Tallahassee.
We traveled as a family a good bit as well...As a family, we have been to Montgomery and Birmingham in Alabama. While living in North Carolina, we spent nights in Asheville, Charlotte, and Pinehurst. In between places we lived transitionally in Morrisville (if you know, you know). We were back in Alabama for stints in Montgomery, Birmingham, and 30A. And then, we moved to London. 2019 was a year of travel.
Thomas also made three trips to London prior to our move. With Summit Network he spent time in Greensboro and Orlando. He also spent a night away in Wilmington speaking at a college ministry event. A year. Of. Travel.
We spent two weeks in England in January
A sizeable portion of 2018 was spent preparing for the Acts 29 church planting assessment. We were invited to Cheshire to attend the assessment conference and we took to that in mid-January. After a few days of being grilled to a crisp, we traveled south to London to spend a few days with friends who were interested in London and wanted to take some time to see things for themselves. We loved the time in London with friends.
We got our house ready to put on the market
We found a mystery leak in our bathroom that needed to be fixed and this resulted in a full - and completely unexpected - demo and reno on our master bathroom.
While Thomas was in London, and while our bathroom was being blown to bits, Elizabeth potty trained Shepherd in the guest bathroom in our Raleigh house.
We said goodbye to Elizabeth's grandaddy
David Hataway was a WW2 veteran, minor league baseball pitcher, manliest man around, who loved his family immensely. He was so proud of Shepherd as his great grandson and dubbed him "Shaq"...because that's what grandfathers do. Thomas got the call while in London and re-routed to Alabama for the funeral. This was a really huge week for us...
The kiddos got their passports
In the same week that Thomas was in London, and Shepherd was being potty-trained, grandaddy passed away, Elizabeth took the kiddos to turn in all of the paperwork at the big post office in Raleigh. Due to a timing issue with the Visas it had to be done with no time to spare. So, it was a massive week in Raleigh that we will never forget.
We sold our beloved Raleigh house in less than a week
With the incredible help of our awesome realtor - Patti - we navigated the sale of our home in an already busy and emotionally-charged season of transition.
We moved into the Summit house
The Summit Church provided in-between accommodations while we finished up life in Raleigh. We moved to the metropolis of Morrisville and into a furnished to finish out this season in Raleigh. It was a blessing to have this detail taken care of us as we transitioned out of the city we love so much.
Getting our Visas...Part 1
Running in the background to so much of winter and early spring was the journey of getting our visas. After loads of paperwork was completed, we drove to Charlotte on June 1 to have our biometric scans taken and drop them in the mail. We won't bore you with the highly dramatic highs and lows of bank records, phone calls, misplaced documents, and more that took place leading into this moment.
Perry lost her first tooth at the Summit house
Mama pulled Perry's first tooth (which was absolutely d a n g l i n g) and both mama and Perry did great. Perry has lost three more teeth since we moved to London.
Perry's Graduation from Kindergarten
This was the definition of bittersweet. This was the only school that Perry and Shepherd knew and and everyone was super supportive through our season of transition. Perry led the pledge of allegiance at graduation and received the "most sociable" award. Thankful for such a great place with great people.
Trip to Pinehurst with Grammie and Grandaddy
We really loved a long weekend away with Thomas' parents at Pinehurst. We were able create some special memories and relax. Thomas cried for most of the way back to Raleigh...Morrisville. It led to a heavy week of finishing up life in Raleigh.
Our last event in Raleigh was Perry's ballet recital.
"Downtown" at Memorial Auditorium, with shaky hearts we watched Perry perform at her ballet she practiced for so much. We walked out, took a selfie, and got in our two loaded cars. We had Zaxby's at the Summit house and then drove out of North Carolina and into a sunset. We slept in South Carolina that night (guess we forgot that one up top) and then drove straight down to the beach to spend time with Elizabeth's family.
A week at 30A
We spent a week soaking up the sun and relaxing with Elizabeth's family at our favourite beach. Unofficially, we got more Vitamin D in that one week than we have in the last six months combined.
Saying "See you later" round Alabama
We spent the next few weeks saying goodbye and see you later to family and friends. From Montgomery to Auburn to Birmingham we were on a final tour of sorts. "Goodbye fatigue" was certainly setting in and made getting on the airplane much easier.
Getting our Visas...Part 2
We got the email saying there had been a decision on our visas. Thomas raced back to Montgomery from the Lake one morning to meet the UPS man. Within a few days, Phil at Providence had booked tickets for us and we were headed to the airport.
We departed Montgomery for Atlanta where we had a farewell Chickfila. After a brief layover we made our way to the gate. The kiddos did amazing - both slept through the night. It was seriously great. We barely slept but it didn't matter - we were finally moving into what we had been praying for and planning for so long.
We won't overload you with the details. We spent a few nights in a hotel while we waited on our shipping container belongings to arrive. We moved out belongings into our new home (we're not even getting into the details about Thomas FaceTiming Elizabeth in April when we scoped the place out...or when Elizabeth actually found the place three days earlier while we were in Asheville...or how this is the exact house we looked at six months earlier before it went off the market - we will spare you with that story). We moved our stuff into our London place.
Perry's first day of school
A week and a half after we moved in, Perry started Year 1. She was there for the final 2.5 weeks of the Term.
Lots transpired. We rode the London Eye for Perry's six birthday. We went to two QPR games with the Evans. Perry did tennis camp. We went to Kew Gardens. We played Uno in the back garden. We had some friends come over to visit. The Harts and the Wests came for visits and London became home.
Elizabeth and KK went to Paris
KK came to visit and after a few days in London the girls hopped on the Eurostar to spend three nights in Paris for some sister time. They saw all the sights and walked all through the city.
School started in September
Perry started Year 2 and Perry started Nursery a few days later. The Lord's provision has been so clearly on display through the neighbourhood Primary School. Perry and Shepherd are doing great. They're adjusting well and seem to be having a great time.
The team is coming together
Some of the glue that holds this last year together is the team of people around us. Churches, families, and individuals from the States are praying for us and supporting us to make this journey even possible - and we are so grateful for each of them.
We are especially grateful for the Evans, Browns, and Renee. Daniel Evans is serving full-time with the church as Thomas' associate. David and Ashley Brown are opening a co-working space. Renee is a teacher in the greater London area. To be on this journey without these friends is hard to imagine. Friends have become family. We are glad to have each other to navigate the highs and lows of life together.
We are also very excited to see who God brings together. We're prayerful and expectant about the few more friends God might bring into the Redeemer community.
Redeemer started to gather
Weekly community group bible studies and monthly launch team meetings came together to form the essential gatherings for Redeemer. Some other things have come and gone during this season as well: prayer meetings, pub chats, parties in the park, and other engagements.
Life was lived in London
We settled in to the standard stuff that all families figure out in the big city. Perry and Shepherd each had their first field trip with school. We participated in school dig day and Thomas stumbled onto the PTA committee helping out with communications and fundraising. We had Halloween with new friends. Loads of Stateside teams and partners came through the encourage us and help us get started. We started planning for the first public gathering of Redeemer...
The Carol Service
We shared our excitement just recently...we were so encouraged to see the community come together for an afternoon. We are so hopeful about what God can do in this place.
Christmas in London
We enjoyed a sweet family Christmas in London. We told you about this just a few days ago. Now, we're on holiday and grateful to have some time to think through this last year.
There's so much more. These are a few of the things we've talked about over the last couple of days. Working the conversation through is really helpful. Especially focusing on God's nearness and care gives so much life and definition to the year that has been.
2019 has been the biggest year of life for our family so far.
We've had really high highs and really lows...but God,
We've sat at the table here in the countryside recounting this last year and one thing is abundantly clear: God's grace is all over this last year of life.
We see God's goodness and care through the hard moments that He has allowed us to go through.
We experienced God as our true Shepherd who has kept us and tended to us while we have been in between congregations, peoples, cities, and callings. God is the one who has kept His eye on us and gone before us.
We experience God's love for us as we recount the blessings that He has given to us. Even the loss of a grandfather is evidence that God loves us enough to give us such a gift.
We experience God's provision. Every plane ticket, every hotel room, every piece of paper that was approved during the Visa application process, every invitation to come and to receive, every opportunity to connect again as a family - all orchestrated by the great Conductor Himself. God's grace is all over every provision because we don't deserve any of it and God's mercy is close at hand for all the tougher things that could have come our way but our loving God kindly withheld. Managing our lives under God's Providence. God has given us all we need.
We know and love our Redeemer in a greater way at the end of 2019 than we did at the beginning. Jesus really has made all the difference in our lives. This last year was one memorial stone after another of evidence of just that. He has redeemed us from what we were and is shaping us into what only He can help us be. We're not there yet but by His grace we are on the Way.
Here's to a year of sharing the Redeemer's love as a family in North West London.