Sunday, January 16, 2011

so long, 2010

dear friends,

(and you are a true one if you clicked on this to read it! or possibly a fb stalker who i barely know but who will know all about me after this. haha! either way...)

psalm 23 has always been a favorite Scripture of mine. and each year God brings another reason - new circumstances - to help me understand it and personalize it. deeper still. 2010 has had it's share of green pastures and dark valleys. but through it all, my Shepherd was there. i did more crying out, more plain old crying!, more running to Him, more thanksgiving, more being blessed! than ever before, it seems. but i think i could say that very thing every year. praise the Lord that He deals with me in such a way that i always need more of Him!

this past year has been a roller coaster for us. it hasn't been boring, to say the least! i don't think i remember a year so full of mountaintops and valleys.

the mountaintop:
a week into the new year of 2010... it was andrew's birthday, january 9th. we found out we were gonna have a baby! God was blessing us with another child and we were so thrilled!

the valley:
we rung in the new year facing a terrible economy in oregon in which andrew couldn't find a job to save his life! or ours... the national guard was on-again/off-again for a full time position. when it was on, we could almost make ends meet! when it was off, the night job at walmart just didn't cut it.

we were so blessed to be near family during this time! we lived almost rent-free in a house that my dad owned and we were so grateful for the family support around us. it was a time of training in humility for me. i'd rather meet needs than have them!

the winter and spring flew by in a flurry of volunteering at branches church, a valentine's visit from andrew's parents, easter, national guard duties, and having fun with our 1-year-old, paisley. God seemed so near to us as He held our hands through a very low-income valley that we didn't even know how to navigate. we worked hard to make our pennies stretch and somehow, they always did!

God was teaching us to trust Him in a new way and we watched Him actually physically provide for our needs - time after time - in the most unexpected ways. by using means that i'd only ever heard of in other people's testimonies! and have i mentioned our wonderful parents?? we couldn't have made it without them.

He was also teaching us that our plans aren't always the best. sometimes they do work out, but that's just when they happen to line up with what God was already going to do. lucky! 

we (andrew) knocked on so many doors, submitted scores of resumes and applications for employment in as many fields, jumped through so many hoops and got our hopes up just to be shut down over and over again. we were just left questioning God, "why? why can't we get a job?" and "do you have something to teach us, Lord? please let us learn it quickly!!" but andrew had some faith. probably about the size of a mustard seed, which was all he needed. : ) he kept telling me, "cass, i just feel like something's about to break through!" "it's GOT to!", i thought.

finally, it was summer! when summer comes to oregon, all is rosy again. the grey skies clear and we feel like life can go on! i was gifted with a relatively easy pregnancy this time around (or it just flew by since i had paisley to chase around!) and i was now closing in on my 3rd trimester. we were anticipating the arrival of our second daughter in september and the pregnancy was going perfectly.

but how were we going to provide for the new little one? where did God want us? was He trying to direct us and we were missing all the clues? we rode every train of thought imaginable. more military? start a business? become a contractor? more school? more walmart? (please, Lord, no! that wasn't working too well!)

out of the blue, andrew got an email that he almost deleted without reading. it looked like so many other "offers" from or another job site that wasn't really legit. but after a few emails and phone calls, we realized this could be God's will! but it sounded too good to be true. in a week or so, after passing telephone interviews and language tests, andrew was whisked off to baltimore for processing. we were suddenly being offered a wonderful job in the exact field of andrew's military training!

it would be a big move and there was so much to consider, but we kept seeing God's hand in the entire opportunity. after so many closed doors, we were so relieved to see some start swinging wide open. one of the miracles was that this company had found andrew through his old resume on - which expired just days after we received our first communication from them!

the mountaintop: an excellent job with great benefits in the midst of a bad economy, and with that, the chance to provide for our going-on-two babies.

the valley: leaving my beloved family and trusted friends and moving back across the country (just a couple hours away from where we came to oregon from)! God was asking me, "do you trust Me? am I enough?" He gave me the grace (and i somehow caught it!) to let go of my plans and hopes and desires and to follow His leading through my husband. it seemed like God might have more for me to learn in good ol' georgia.

we didn't know it at the time, but when andrew left for baltimore on july 11, he was leaving oregon for good. because of a slight miscommunication, we thought he'd be coming back home to help us pack! that's the down side of these all moves too fast! he passed all the entrance exams and checks and would be sent straight to his new job. paisley and i were left at home to organize, pack, say our goodbyes, and plan all the details of getting us both to the augusta area, too.

the valley:
doing all of that alone. 7 months pregnant and with a toddler.

the valley:
we were apart for our anniversary. again. we're currently 2 for 4.

the valley:
the loneliness was already starting to creep in. and the fear of the unknown was gripping my insides.

the valley:
too many emotions!

the mountaintop:
i really couldn't see one this time. but it was there. it had to be because God promised it! a giant mountain of grace. a Rock, actually. especially for those times when my heart is overwhelmed. and this was definitely one of those times. His grace was overflowing to me evidenced by the fact that most of the time, i was actually honestly excited about the new adventure to God's country (or the south, as we westerners call it)!

coincidentally, most of my family was headed back to raleigh, nc, for a family wedding right then. it seemed like a good idea for me and paisley to fly there, too, to rendezvous with andrew after he was finished in baltimore. then the three of us left my family and drove a rental car to our new base of operations to scope out the land.

it had only been 3 weeks since that first emailed job offer. here we were in georgia, again. augusta, this time. and it was HOT! living in hotels (4 - or was it 5? - different ones) with no job start date, no money (well, borrowed money), a borrowed car, no doctor for me, no idea where we would have the baby, house-hunting on craigslist... and counting on a first bonus check or paycheck to get us into something. as for moving our stuff? "the company" was supposed to pay for a moving company. so it was all still sitting in our house in oregon.

the valley:
the major life stresses all at once! moving, new baby coming, new job, finances. none of them easy on their own, and together they're impossible to handle graciously! (so we didn't. haha!)

the mountaintop:
our marriage was strengthening by the day even through the stress! (i'm pretty sure God was showing *somebody* that His promises are true...)

Lord, we're kinda hangin' out to dry here... are You still there? do you see us? a month of hotel living? really??

of course He was there. of course He saw. He was the One with the plan, remember?

over the next several weeks, we saw God perform miracle after miracle to meet our needs exactly. He led us to a doctor, a house, and a hospital in record time! (not without much nail-biting on my part!) we were in our new rental for a little more than 2 weeks and then arlyn royce harper was born on september 10th. she was definitely the highest and most beautiful mountaintop of 2010!

an extra fun detail: my sister-in-law, jenny, had their baby girl on the exact same day! twin cousins! my mom was here and my dad stayed there. if only we coulda been in the same hospital...!

the details surrounding arlyn's birth were also a series of miracles from our Sovereign God... too many to tell here. but suffice it to say that i had to have an unplanned c-section and our sweet doctor essentially saved the lives of any future children God may still have planned for us. for real. we are so grateful for her!

the lowest valley of the year came on september 27th when we lost a dear friend and an angel on earth, cristina de hoyos. she battled cancer for 16 years, but that wasn't what we saw when we looked at her. the beautiful cristina we knew was a faithful wife to a great man, mother to 5 wonderful children, friend to everyone who knew her. she was a hero of the faith, a prayer warrior, a wise counselor, a trusted leader, and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

a day or so before she passed away, my mom and i got to hear her voice one last time on the phone. as we huddled around the phone's speaker so we could hear every word cristina breathed, she prayed for us and our families and told us how much she loved us and treasured our friendship over the years.

i felt so selfish just soaking in some of her final moments and unable to do anything for her or her grieving family. i should have been encouraging her and praying for her and yet that's what she was doing for us, for me. that's the kind of woman she always was. i want to be that loving, that selfless. and i want to teach my daughters the same. she will always have a place in my heart and i will never forget her.

our loss made it a valley. but september 27th was the day cristina lived her whole life for. it was her mountaintop! she got to run into the arms of the One she served with all her heart, the One she trusted with all her might, the One she pointed others to with her life. i'm so glad we get to live together forever!

the fall and winter saw us settling into our place, finally receiving our truck-full of stuff from oregon, and more visits with our families. we got to see andrew's parents on thanksgiving weekend, my whole family met in disneyland for some epic christmas fun, and we had a lovely christmas week with our little family, complete with a visit to jacksonville to be with andrew's extended family.

we're trying to get plugged in to a church that we're kinda excited about! we have goals this year that involve meeting people and making friends. who knows? maybe by the time we leave augusta, we'll be sad to say goodbye to people who have become very special to us. i hope so!

i do miss my family every day and wish my girls could be closer to their cousins, uncles, aunt, grandparents, but God knows that. and He knows where i am. and He can keep our hearts close across the distance. (selfishly, i just want to be close to my parents! the daddy hugs that i always need, the living room chats with mom, the free babysitting!)

God's promises are true. His plans are best. and His blessings are more than we can handle!

i am so grateful to be a daughter of the King of kings, the wife of my superman (4 1/2 years!), and the mommy of the 2 most beautiful girls i've ever seen. paisley faye just turned 2 and arlyn royce is 18 weeks old. i didn't even take time here to talk about them! my letter would get too long. but who am i to deserve such gifts? thank you for my family, Lord, and please make me the wife and mom that You've created me to be.

and now we close 2010 rejoicing in God's mercy and love that He showered on us throughout the ups and downs of this year and looking forward to what He'll bring us through in 2011! thank you, friends, for caring and reading my lengthy "year in review." may our God richly bless you and keep you in the coming year!

with love,
{andrew & cassidy, paisley, and arlyn}

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