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The training wheels are off

This has been a hard season for us, but not without merit.

You never know what the classroom of your life will be until you find yourself sitting at an uncomfortable desk with a bloody hard test in front of you that you are pretty sure you didn’t study for.

I’ve been waiting to write this post until we were on the other side of the lesson but there is no guarantee when that will be and that’s okay. If anything the last five months have taught me in spades is “God’s got this.” He has the answer key, he wrote the test, he’s proctoring it in fact.

He’s got this.

We bought a house 7.5 years ago. At the time we knew we paid a little too much for it but we found it the day it went on the market and we had thirty days to move and they weren’t willing to dicker on price. We’ve never had any desire to be house poor and this was still on the low end for what we qualified for. We just had that “Aww shucks” feeling that if we had a little more time we could have gotten them down a few thousand more. Still, we loved that little cottage in the city. A 90 year old Craftsman bungalow with charm oozing out it’s pores. We upgraded the plumbing, kitchen, master bath, landscaping, anything we could save up for to make it nicer. Who knew in 2008 the realty market would begin a very rapid downward spiral. We can only work with the facts that are presently in front of us and we made a financially sound decision at the time. Sadly my crystal ball was broken or we would have chosen differently.

Isn't she darlin?

Isn’t she darlin?

You have all heard the stories of whoa over the last few years on the news about people foreclosing and going bankrupt left and right. Hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt over houses they couldn’t afford or unload. Scary stuff. A good name is better than great riches Psalms tells us. Who wants their credit smashed into tiny shards of glass like that? Devastating.

When we moved out to the country almost three years ago, we moved with our city house being under a lease purchase contract. What that means is the couple agrees to buy the house at the end of a year. They put down a hefty deposit because they just need a little more time to get their credit up to snuff and get their loan in place. There is definitely risk involved. If I had more time to tell you the beautiful, DETAILED, way the Lord brought us to our current house you would have the same peace we did in moving forward with the lease purchase offer. It’s a great story.

Much to our shock and dismay the couple at the end of the year had actually worsened their credit and decided to bail. (Cue our jaws on the ground…nervous laughter….what in the what????)

You ever been faced with the reality of two mortgages….it’s super fun, you should try it. Nothing has hit my panic button faster. Along with my broken crystal ball our money tree wasn’t growing either.

NEWS FLASH….YOU CAN’T MAKE YOUR HOUSE SELL!

I don’t care how awesome your realtor is, how great their marketing is, how much people LOVE your house (and believe me…people love this house). Only God can decide the timing of lifting that burden. And so we can submit with grace or go pout in the corner and lick our wounds.

Last year we ended up renting to a great couple. Did we want to be landlords? Nope…not one bit. Due to the awesome economy we could only charge our mortgage cost so we made zippo every month to put into savings to help us out if anything went wrong with the house. So zero times 12 months equals zero right? It’s almost a 100 year old house…so you can imagine things happen. Heck, stuff happens to brand new construction houses…that’s home ownership.

The couple moved out on Halloween night this last fall and there we were again, for the third time in a row, trying to sell this house. The unfortunate thing is what we owed the bank and what that neighborhood was going for since the market crash didn’t end in the same numbers. Me thinks this is a problem.

Due to all my health drama last spring, our car needing repairs, a trip we already booked to Costa Rica before we knew this was all going to go down, our savings account was about at zero when November’s mortgage was due. You know what’s sad? They won’t let you pay in charm at the bank. I’ve tried. Bankers need to lighten up for reals.

Haha…someone figured out how to add gifs to her posts (I know that’s so 2000…but come on they are fun….we were bleeding hundred dolla bills ya’ll)

And so we did a hail Mary with our photography business and we offered “mini sessions” for the first time ever in November and low and behold they filled up lightning fast. November and December mortgage paid for….whewwwwww….. A little bit of margin and financial breathing space.

Don’t you wish you had booked with us? I mean this is one just one amazing family we photographed. Our buds and fellow photogs. If you are in NC…book them!

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We listed with an amazing realtor after much prayer and started to swallow the golf ball reality that now we had to come out of pocket for commission (and that’s if we sold at full price.) I laugh that that was the worst reality we were trying to absorb in November…ha…HAHAHAHAHA…oh if we only knew what was ahead.

Praising the Lord for Ryan’s Christmas bonus so we were able to pay for January and February mortgage. Want to know what’s hard, incredibly hard actually….giving money to an empty house. Want to know whats gotten easier every month….giving money to an empty house.

God’s economy works mysteriously. What a beautiful and freeing thing to rest in. He gives and takes away…blessed be his name!! This is a season of our finances being taken. They just are and it stinks but it doesn’t end there. It never does.

I’m telling ya…Satan was all over this stuff pounding us with discouragement and jabs. We would just come up for breath and another punch would be thrown. Our heat got all jacked up in the house through unknown reasons and we got a $355 gas bill…FOR AN EMPTY HOUSE in February!!! Not gonna lie…cried when I opened that bill. Next month a $270 gas bill. Whoa satan….you aren’t playing. Consequently, the gas company will also not take charm as payment. Whats wrong with people? Don’t they know I’m an adorable 5’2″ girl with a big gummy smile??? Let’s call it even!

As each month rolled on and each bill came in things went from stressful to kinda exciting. We knew we couldn’t make money appear so it would HAVE to be Jesus pouring out His provision. We decided to offer spring mini sessions to figure out how to pay for the March mortgage.

This time….one day filled up and NONE for the other day. Head scratcher. Okay Lord, we are availing ourselves and our gifts to you….let’s go….bring us some people to photograph….come on…what’s the hold up?

A wise couple came to pray with us one night and we were sharing the story how the mini sessions weren’t booking up and he said, “It’s like training wheels guys. That which seems so indispensable to keep you safe is now hindering you the most from trusting God.” The photography is our training wheels. It’s that skill we try to play like our trump card. We know it, we rely on it and fall back on it. When he took that away…..well, it really was “Let’s wait and see what GOD does.” Here is the mortgage bill God, here is that crazy huge gas bill God.

Ryan has the gift of faith. It’s a gift that very few people intrinsically possess. He has the ability to absorb devastating news, rapid change of circumstance and stressful situations with barely a flinch or emotional response. It is wonderful and annoying. (I kid… I’m thankful we are not both in a heap of snot and tears at life’s greatest trials)

I’m Philip. Maybe you are Philip too. Look at these familiar verses in John 6 when Jesus and Philip come upon the crowd near the sea of Galilee.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

You see Philip’s response? He LOOKS WITH HIS EYES and CALCULATES WITH HIS BRAIN the exact solution. An impossible problem to solve with the resources in front of them. Did you notice I left out verse six? Check out this gem (face palm for glazing over it my whole life.)

6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

HE was TESTING HIM. He already knew what he was going to do. (ummmm…fish and loaves miracle anyone?)

Here is Kelly seeing with her eyes our bank account and looking ahead at what is booked on the calendar and it is an IMPOSSIBLE problem to fix with the resources we posses.

Guys….this season of continual financial loss, waiting month after month for our house to sell which has come with setback after setback, extra bills, service calls, repairs, hours and hours on the phone, etc… This is my test much more than Ryan’s. Oh this is a test I want to pass. I want to be the teacher’s pet in fact. I’ve needed to learn ruthless trust and not just saying God is good and his provision boundless…but I want that to be the very air I breath in and out.

Jen Hatmaker spoke about “Real Faith” at IF GATHERING last month. I want you to read an excerpt of my notes:

” Faith does not mean you understand the whole definition of God or that you don’t doubt. Faith does not demand that God explain himself. He is mysterious and Paul says his was are “unsearchable” Don’t wait until you have full possession of knowledge before you take full possession of God. No one ever has or ever will leave this world unscathed. Suffering is a part of life while satan still rules. God is good. You want it to be true in the day, but it’s even better in the night.”

You want to know what I saw happen on March 15th?

The day our mortgage bill was absolutely due. As in the LAST DAY of the grace period of paying it. The huge gas bill was also due that day. Up to that point we had seen some deposits trickle in for the one day of mini sessions we booked. We had half the money we needed to pay those two bills on the 15th. I was giving it to 2:00pm that day for the mail to come to see if a miracle would happen or if I would have to call in those bills on a credit card. I was not crying guys, I was excited. Do you know that morning two people asked if they could PayPal me their full mini session payments today, Ryan called to say he had received a reimbursement for some doctor bills at work and in the mail came two more deposits. God did it…..to the minute. We had the money to pay those bills. It was amazing.

This calls for another GIF!

Do you know it’s been a year since we have booked a wedding? We have been slowly leaving the industry over the last five years just taking a few a year for fun and extra income. For some reason the Lord has all but dried up this area of our photography until two days ago when we booked a wedding, or should we say…God blessed us with April’s mortgage payment. I mean really Jesus? So incredible.

It’s 12:50pm on Friday. In about ten minutes an inspector is coming to our city house because we have a contract on it!! I have asked our prayer circle to pray what I am calling a “Daniel and the lion’s den prayer”. Whatever could kill, destroy, maim or stop this contract from going through… may it be silenced. We have an inspection and an appraisal to get through. We also have to come to the table with a sickening amount of money in order to close on this house. I don’t know how this story will end, or how we will ever recoup the tens of thousands of dollars lost but I know that this has been one of the hardest and best seasons of my spiritual walk.

Jen is right, God is good in the day….but he is even BETTER in the night.

Don’t be a Philip. Stop calculating with your eyes and your brain your circumstances. Don’t dwell on scenarios that may or may not come to fruition. Let God fully have your trust for His ways are unsearchable and they are always, Always, ALWAYS good.

Thimbles or Buckets

We decided to brave an “after church meeting” last Sunday. We are at that dicey age with Rhett where technically we can push him past his nap but do we want to? How will one pay for it in the end? One never knows until one pushes a three year old past his breaking point. It was a ministry team meeting and well…being a 20 year member…. it’s really good to attend these meetings.

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It only cost me one gigantic poo blow out when I picked Rhett up after the meeting. The kind you have to gather yourself, blink back your incredulous tears and make a plan. It was clear when I lifted to “check” that the shirt was already collateral damage. We left church with a shirtless, shoeless, one pound lighter Rhett and me with pit stains and the sneaking suspicion I smelled like a sewer. This was the last straw…we are officially potty training the last 7 days (bites fingernails nervously…it’s going “okay”)

But back to the meeting. A large portion of it contained prayer. Imagine that! We talk about ministries in our church then wait for it…wait for it…we pray over them. It’s good stuff. We were sitting at a table with a couple of younger guys, one of them being a dear, dear friend of ours. We joke that he is my emotional twin but male and 14 years younger. Eric and I process and assess in very similar ways. I get him and he gets me. We will probably write each others eulogies one day. I kid but not really.

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For his age, Eric, is a seasoned man of the word and his prayers have a maturity that leave me in tears many times. He was praying about one of our missions initiatives when these words tumbled out of his mouth.

“Help us not to be satisfied with the run-off of you God but instead that we will go straight to the source and receive you fully.”

Yes, yes my heart cried! I discretely pulled my phone out to jot down this juicy steak of a line and then snuck my technology back in to my purse. I couldn’t shake those words for a few days.

Because that’s me!!

I play in the brooks and the puddles of God’s goodness and mercy. I lick the dew off the rocks and open my mouth for a raindrop to desperately fall onto my parched tongue and dried up heart. I pat and play in the mud and try to sooth my broken heart and fragmented mind with a little moisture of God. AS IF THAT’S ALL HE IS OFFERING ME. I foolishly say that I’ve been “refreshed” by the Lord and I’m “good” but really I know I’ve settled for a few trickles of run-off. I’m spiritually dehydrated and my soul is malnourished.

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An instagram of a spiritual saying can make me take pause for 10 seconds or so. Mmmmmmm I say to myself. That was good. That shall carry me through today. That’s all I have time for on this busy day. I’ll just ponder those few words and feel satisfied. A crumb I will make into a meal to nourish my hunger.

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Maybe it’s a blog post of friends that bleed their guts out onto the computer in beautiful and raw ways.( I love this woman, you should immediately follow her. She is my friend and an endless encourager through her words) They pour some from their cup into my cup. I drink it up but it doesn’t satisfy to my marrow…why…because I am simply relating to their human experience, humor, drive to know Jesus, and love of a Holy God. HOWEVER, posts like those beckon me a little deeper to The Source. A virtual linking of arms to come…let’s go deeper…together.

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Imagine, if you will, the woman in Napoleon Dynamite being shown the clipper ship by Uncle Rico. She exhales her southern drawl,covetously looks at the ship, and the following words tumble out of her mouth: “I want that”!

That’s the magnetism I feel towards The Source when I read well written raw blogs, listen to sermons, read books that make me stop after a paragraph because of the intensity of truth, bathe my afternoons in worship music or keep my nose in God’s word.

It’s like going from ankle, to waist, to shoulder deep in the waters of my Savior. I don’t need to lick the dew off a rock when I am invited to plunge the depth of His love.

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I attended the Beth Moore Simulcast on Saturday at my church. Beth never disappoints. It takes me about 20 mins to adjust to the volume of her voice, being called “girlfriend” and the active way she wants this introvert to talk back to the screen in endless “repeat back to me” moments. But oh that woman loves Jesus. She loves His word, she loves women, and story telling, truth that is uncomfortable and prayers that come from the gut. She was handing out cups and cups of living water all day long and I was drinking it by the gulp-fulls.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

John 4:13-15

She said a simple, yet profound truth about our process of going to God. We constantly ask God to REVEAL himself. “God I need you, come to me, answer me, be near to me, give me wisdom, help me through this trial, etc…” and HE does. He comes near, He draws near, He IS near offering every spiritual gift, wisdom and comfort because He is a God of love and compassion. GREAT is His faithfulness. He is also a HOLY God so when we ask Him to draw near and we are steeped in sin then He will expose that darkness in our heart and mind, He will not co-habitat with it. So his drawing near can crumple us to our knees into full repentance. The only path back to Jesus.

HOWEVER….

We sit there with our arms out to receive. Oh how blessed it is to receive from the living God. Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink, drink.

BUT THEN WE STOP….

Do we not know that we have not closed the circle? God asks one thing of us after we have received from Him and that is to RESPOND! What are you going to do with my revelations, my refreshing, my wisdom, my correction, my truth, my mercy, my goodness? Who will you declare your freedom, comfort, answered prayers, forgiveness, emancipation, or redemption to? How different will our lives look if we RESPONDED back to God and were brave enough to say “What would you have me DO in response Lord?” and then we DID IT!

We are a selfish people. We LOVE to receive. Gimme, gimme, gimme but whoa to the one that is asked to take action. We are quick to shove our taking hands back into our pockets. Do we not know that the even greater gift is when we walk out our obedience in action? Blessed is he who is not just a hearer of the word but a doer.
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I once had a friend tell me, “Kelly you can’t help but be passionate about those in bondage being set free. It’s your story. It’s your experience with Jesus being pulled from the miry pit. You feel compelled to share your story and to see others restored before the KING in the same way.”

I think it’s why I cry so easily when I tell my story…never out of shame but out of desperation for others to GET IT, to KNOW my Redeeming God, my redeemed marriage, my life this is not easy but is gloriously fulfilling because I have broken free from my bondage. I don’t want people to waste another minute in captivity. My response is to help lead others to freedom in Christ.

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Why do we not RESPOND to Him? What does that look like to continue to walk out this process past receiving?

OK…let me stop for a moment and ask something. When you think about going to The Source for the living water He offers, do you come holding up a thimble or a five gallon bucket? Do you believe He WANTS to refresh you? Do you believe He CAN refresh you? Do you believe You DESERVE to be refreshed by the Holy God?

I think if we take a moment to close our eyes and picture ourselves entering into the waters with God do we picture ourselves sheepishly loitering around the shoreline, not making eye contact, weakly holding out a thimble to be filled? The run-off will be fine please and thank you.

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Maybe we feel worthy enough to go up to our waist and hold up a cup to the Almighty God. This is good, I’m not that thirsty, I’ll be alright with a cup full.

Or are we swimming with a flat out urgency, bucket in hand, STRAIGHT TO THE SOURCE?

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This visualization exercise exposes one thing only…our broken theologies about who God is and who we are IN Him.

If you can’t say that I charge directly to the source then there is some sort of break or lie in your view of God or self.

When I read the following verses I see a generous invitation to COME as you are, drink as much as you need from his ENDLESS store house of living water, and NEVER thirst again for FREE. It isn’t too good to be true. It is for the righteous or unrighteous. The bound or the unbound. It is for all.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev 22:17

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Is 58:11

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” Is 40:12

“They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Ps 36:8

Do you drag your bucket back out from The Source so that you may begin handing out that refreshement to others? Do you hoard the water for yourself because you don’t trust that the offer will be extended again. Do you stand there paralyzed receiving but not responding.

Link arms with me “girlfriend”…grab yo bucket and wade into the deep end because we are going to receive our fill and in response to our encounter with our Savior we will GO and do likewise. I don’t ever want to go back to the shoreline. I can’t go back to the shoreline.

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NEED YOUR HELP!!

Call this a slight misappropriation of my blog but hey….it’s my blog. I’m sure you are probably wanting an update on Chloe or a before and after post but nay nay….not today folks we have more important things like SELLING OUR OTHER HOUSE to address first. It sounds way more pompous than it is “our other house”. I mean it’s so confusing what house we are talking about we just have so many (eye roll)… We don’t want plural houses. Ever. EVER. So please take this one off our hands.

Our ADORABLE cottage in the city is now on the market today! We need this guy sold and to it’s rightful owners and we need your help if you are in the Lynchburg area and know of anyone looking to buy. IF I could have brought this house with me to the country I would have. I ADORED it and the kitchen….the kitchen…..I miss it so very very much! Its an entertainers dream kitchen.

We renovated and updated many, many, many things and aren’t asking a penny above what we owe. Rock bottom people….can you dig it? Please share the link! Thank you all so much.

Note my screenshot instead of a screen “capture” like Ryan has showed me 1,203,467 times but I always mix them up so now you get to see my tabs and other useless things in the margin. Whoops!

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A full gallery of images and information on the house is here or Zillow.

Bad high five

So there you are throwing your hand up to give me a high five and here’s me…..blink, blink, blink….letting your hand float suspended up high with nothing to come down and smack.

I said I was setting up my next post and I still am….oh yes…we will be talking about some weighty issues like passionate children, homeschooling, how I’ve been broken like a colt, and how merciful God is. BUT….there have been a few wrenches thrown in my gears the last two weeks in the form of SNOW DAYS, VISITORS, I am having a two day indoor consignment sale at my house this week and the fact my best friend and her family and another extremely dear family in our inner loop are moving to the Middle East this week as missionaries.

I have no time or emotional margin right now to dedicate to writing this post this week. I do promise next week…oh next week I will pour out my heart and mind on this. Thank you for checking in…I see you there in my visitors stats you faithful return checkers…. I see you there.

Thank you for your patience.

In the meantime here’s a couple cute picture of my kids. It’s always good to force feed people your children, they really appreciate that :-)

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