How I Learned to Make Adult Friendships

College dorm life was a dream come true for an extrovert like me. Coming from a small family with only one brother, I loved having seventy girls on my hall to hang out with at any hour of the day. Not only that, but each of my roommates became my new soul sister. It felt like glorified, year-round Bible camp.

In 2001, I left dorm 19-2 of Liberty University, got married, and moved to Northern Virginia. Although being married to my best friend was amazing, it was still an adjustment. Our new church didn’t have many young girls my age and life suddenly got busy with a full time job and ministry. My life went from busting with friends to a barrenness of friends.

DSC_0045

One year the women of my church and I went to a women’s conference and one of the sessions was on developing close friendships. I can remember feeling awful and actually leaving the room to sit in the hallway for some reflection. It was bad enough that I didn’t have close friendships with anyone where we lived, but now I was being told that I really should. I mean, that’s what I longed for, so why were intimate friendships so elusive?

I went home and wept in my husband’s arms, emoting about how hard it was to make friends. Every relationship in my new life was so shallow and I longed for more.

After he patiently listened and explored my distress, he finally said the most profound thing. “You’re too concerned about HAVING friends and not concerned enough about BEING a friend.”

Woah.

He single-handledly, in one sentence, turned everything I’d thought about the subject on its head.

“You’re making this too hard. Just be a friend to the women in your life, and don’t worry so much about what you get back.”

Huh? Focus less on myself and more on others? That sounded familiar. Philippians 2:3. “In humility, count others as more significant than yourselves.”

Why had I thought this subject was an exception to this principle? For me, I was very focused on having heart-to-heart conversations and felt frustrated when my new friends were not meeting this “need.”

Colby continued. “Every friendship is different, and you can’t expect to connect with EVERYONE on a heart level like you did with your college roommates.”

This conversation was something I would chew on and wrestle with and explore for the next decade.

In the last ten years of living in the transient, urban congestion of Northern Virginia, I have learned a lot about friendships.

They are precious.

They are a gift from God.

They are each unique, just as each person is unique.

They are designed to sharpen us.

They are made to mold us more into the image of our Creator.

Relationships are more important than anything else in this life. We know this, but do our schedules reflect this? Do we leave margins in our lives for relationships? Are we willing to drop our tasks at a moment’s notice for a significant conversation or a friend who is in need?

Let’s not make this subject more complicated than it needs to be. Be a friend to the people God places in your life. Nurture relationships with time, kindness and trust. Some relationships will be deeper than others. But all of them contribute to a beautiful mosaic that makes life richer.

The Night I Asked For Prayer instead of Chocolate

 

Recently I called two friends and asked if we could get together for prayer and accountability. I knew it wasn’t going to be much fun. I mean, I would have much rather asked them to go to Applebees for a Triple Chocolate Meltdown, but I knew I needed this. I needed to reach out and admit that I wasn’t doing okay and that I needed prayer. It was the last thing on earth that I wanted to do–be vulnerable and share my sin struggles. It’s a lot easier to put on like I’m strong and have things together. It’s a lot easier to pretend like marriage is easy and never a struggle.

 choco

My friends counseled me late into the night, much later than stay-at-home moms should stay up. They gave me tools for my toolbox, truths to chew on, and verses to savor (at one point I even asked for a pen and paper so I could take notes). They listened. They led me like a groping blind person who just needed to find her way.

 Some of my notes that night included:

      1. God is a great recycler.God doesn’t waste our marriage struggles. He uses them    to expose our sin, humble us, and make us cling to Him like never before.

  1. You can either be miserable or LET THINGS GO (!!). Choose wisely.
  1. Focus on loving instead of being loved. The question, “How can I make HIS life happy and peaceful?” should be on the forefront of your mind. (P.S. The flesh will HATE this activity and kick and scream like a toddler who has just had a toy stolen)
  1. Put it in perspective. Your husband loves you, but is also a depraved sinner. You are too, by the way.
  1. Trust God and respond lovingly when you feel you are being wronged. Look to Jesus for this example.
  1. When you lean entirely on your husband to meet your need for attention, affection, affirmation, encouragement, you will most surely fall. He is not God.
  1. You need to practice saying the words, “Yes. You are right. I AM that sinful.”
  1. You have equal opportunity in the relationship to set the tone/mood/thermostat. If he is headed down, you have the power to help him. And, by the way, helping him is the better choice than throwing a temper tantrum.
  1. Sometimes we lose our way and need to ask for prayer. We need to be strong enough to admit weakness (I’m pretty sure Beth Moore came up with that quote and not me). It doesn’t help anyone when you pretend you have it together.

I’m thankful that I reached out for prayer and counsel when I felt the sting of relational stress recently.

What about you? Do you reach out to a trusted friend or do you try to cope alone? I understand both sides of this argument, but I would encourage you to find someone you can trust when marital stress or life in general begins to rub you raw. Ask God to help you have wisdom to know who to talk to and when.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to GOD and not to us.” (2 Corinithians 4:7).

When You Forget the Most Important Thing

Well, it happened.

I’ve heard of it happening to others, but never imagined it would happen to me.

Everything was packed and ready for our missions trip to Iceland. I was taking a team from our church to Reykjavik to run an English camp for Icelandic children. I had the lesson plans, construction paper, multi-leveled books, writing paper, stickers, small prizes, and had even remembered to bring extra staples in case we ran out.

My list had all been checked off and I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

ice

My husband and four kids dropped me off at Dulles airport and we had a long, emotional good-bye. I pushed my smart cart up to the ticket counter and smiled at the IcelandAir representative. While I was rummaging around in my purse for my wallet, she said casually, “Can I just see your passport?”

I screamed so loud that the people in line at Luftstansa looked over, alarmed. My hands just covered my mouth and I kept saying, “Oh, Dear God, have mercy!” After a few rounds of screams and hyperventilated “Lord have mercy”s, I burst into tears and walked a few steps away, unable to process if this was actually happening in reality or a dream.

She looked confused.

“Do you want to at least check your bags?” she asked as people waited patiently behind me in line.

My crying increased in intensity and despair.

“No, I absolutely do not have it. It didn’t even CROSS MY MIND to pack it.” The IcelandAir workers looked at each other as they tried to fathom such a thing.

“Can you go home and get it?”

“No…no, we live too far away.”

There was no exception to this rule of needing a passport to travel internationally (Yes, I asked), so my husband got a phone call before he made it five miles down the road.

My children looked confused as I climbed back into the car and announced sheepishly, “Mommy’s home!”

Once a phone call was made and a flight was secured for the next night, my husband relaxed and the ride home was not as bad as one would think.

STAPLES…I remembered STAPLES!” I kept reminding my husband as though that awarded me some amount of points.

staplesh

He assured me that this experience would not be a waste and that many sermon illustrations would come out of it. Oh, goody.

So here I sit, one week later, at the Icelandic airport waiting for my flight back home. I’m reflecting on this costly mistake and trying to squeeze as many lessons out of it as I can.

The main one that I keep coming back to is this: It doesn’t matter what we remember IF WE FORGET LOVE.

Isn’t that the most important thing that we shouldn’t forget? There were 613 Old Testament laws and Jesus said, Just forget about those…I ONLY have ONE THING for you to remember. Love God and love others (Matt 22:37-40).

Today I’m praying that this one makes it to the top of the to-do list. Not only that, but gets etched so deeply onto the to-do list that it carves into the table I’m writing on (are you following me?).

I’m praying that this one doesn’t get left behind in a forgotten suitcase when it’s the only one that matters.

Okay, my flight is boarding, and you know my husband won’t be as forgiving if I miss THIS flight… People, learn from my mistake…

Don’t remember the staples but forget the passport.

Conflicted

Tonight I decide to sit and just watch Penelope.

She’s digging through her Color Wonder tub mumbling, “Ellow…” and I decide instead of reading or cooking or organizing or cleaning, I would just watch her.

After all, she won’t be 21 months and 27 days ever again.

DSC_0111

She starts to dump the entire tub over, but I become aware enough to screech a sound that brings her to a halt. We make eye contact.

She continues digging for a marker until she eventually just dumps everything out. This time I’m not quick enough.

Before I rush to clean it up, I just watch. She’s on to the broom now…oh, I see…she’s trying to sweep up the pile of markers and sheets of color wonder paper. It lasts a few seconds before she moves the broom to the carpeted living room. My mind wanders for a second.  It’s relaxing to just watch instead of try to control (key word: TRY).

My daydream is cut short by a thud, a crash and simultaneous scream coming from the stairwell. I follow a trail of strewn baby wipes to the scene of the crime where I see the broom (that she had apparently tried to FLY down the stairs), glass, and a busted picture frame on the floor where Penelope is lying.

Oh, this season! In the last four minutes that it’s taken me to type the above paragraph, she has gone through the living room taking every last thing out of it’s place with a mischievous smile.

This age is unbelievable.

I have been thinking lately about how conflicting this season of life is.

Everywhere I turn, there is fresh inspiration to write about something. I will mentally document our day, describe the details and tell the stories that we find, but by the time I put the kids to bed and actually have time to PHYSICALLY write down my thoughts, they’re gone.

I wish I didn’t have a desire to write during this season of life. It would make things easier..

Less conflicted.

I wish I could have a desire to write at a time when I COULD actually write.

Like in 10 years.

Yes, I know the right answers.  I know that this season is to be enjoyed.  But, it also is to be captured.  Writing for me is a way to immortalize the moment…how I wish the moments didn’t slip through the fingers so fast.

It all comes down to choices, I realize.  To choose to stay home with my kids right now is to sacrifice time to myself.  Right now I’m choosing to put my kid’s needs above my wants.  Sometimes I’m bitter about that. Sometimes I get it right and I find joy in that.

Most of the time, I’m caught in the tension between the two.

BRMCWC 2014

Last week I was able to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. What a week!  It’s hard to sum up exactly everything that happened or what I gleaned, but here are some highlights:

  • Meeting agents, publishers, and editors who are committed to creating excellent Christian content
  • Sitting with the Hollywood screenwriter Brian Bird at breakfast and hearing about his latest projects and screenplays
  • Finding other bloggers and writers who have a passion to share the message of Christ
  • Pitching my book idea to different people in the writing industry and getting feedback
  • Learning from others how publishing works
  • Genre night where I dressed like a disheveled mother of four girls:

photo

 

  • Realizing just how technologically illiterate I am and that I really need help in this area (No, I could NOT figure out how to rotate the above picture!)
  • Attending workshops and classes where we worked on our writing/blogging skills
  • Hearing multiple God-stories and seeing future authors work to get these stories documented

I was honored to be around so many amazing writers, literary agents, and publishers at this conference. There are multiple stories to be told, and I’m more inspired than ever to record the ones I see unfolding around me every day.

There are many other things THAT JESUS DID

which if they were written

ONE BY ONE

I suppose not even the world itself

could contain THE BOOKS that would be WRITTEN.”  

John 21:25 HCSB

Fluorescent Urine

I’m curling my hair upstairs, getting ready to meet our new Ethiopian church planters when I hear a scream–two screams, actually–so convincing that I’m sure someone’s life is about to end.

I sprint downstairs, banging into the wall on my way down, only to find a stark-naked Gracie standing in a puddle of bright yellow urine.

“I couldn’t hode it ANY LONGERW…and the toilet was bwo-ken!”

I sigh and walk over to the toilet which is dismantled, but in the 3.47 seconds that I’m away, Penelope slips and falls into the pee-pee puddle.  Now she is screaming and her outfit is soaked and we are supposed to be LEAVING.  Not only that, but I realize that in the process of the fall, she has broken the closet door.

I’m trying not to miss the journey, but honestly I feel lightheaded.  A  bowl of Cheerios for breakfast apparently isn’t enough for this marathon that I’m on.  For the past two hours I have been simply trying to feed us and clothe us and clean us up, but unfortunately that is enough to make me feel WINDED.

The urine is still on the floor–fluorescent yellow because Gracie apparently just had a multi-vitamin–and I’m up here writing all this down because that’s what I was told to do in this season of insanity.

Laugh and take notes.

DSC_0046

I met someone at a BBQ on Monday who was telling me about her job.  “I love it,” she said and she truly exuded it.  She stared up at the sky as she talked about her work and how it fits her personality and giftedness so well.

So, right now I’m practicing saying, “I love it,” because I know someone will ask what I do and I know I need to cultivate contentment in all things.

I’m practicing smiling, even when Penelope is looking down the back of my yoga pants with a flashlight while I stand at the kitchen counter (Yes, that is happening as we speak).

I’m practicing contentment, choosing to be grateful for what this season gives.

I’m practicing joy, refusing to swallow the spirit of the age, which my Pastor-husband says is personal fulfillment and entitlement.

I’m practicing perspective.

I’m practicing…being in this moment…because I’ve heard it passes pretty quickly.

Now, on to that puddle…

DSC_0045

 

To My Mom on Mother’s Day

Our backyard is freshly mowed, and I lay out blankets on the grass like a child playing picnic.  Only, I’m not a child and my hip is shooting pain, my canker sore is throbbing, my wisdom teeth are FINALLY coming in with much pain, and I’m really out here to take a nap. But, the Virginia afternoon is perfect and I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

2014-05-11 18.23.17

I get out an old journal so I can write down my blessings.

1. A quiet backyard that births azaleas, fiery pink.

2. Adamant birds that flatter me with their whistle.

3. Wind chimes (my Mother’s Day gift) whose high pitch reminds me of a child’s noisy play…and of my sweet girls.

4. Penelope Raine and her stubborn/angry/whiny/needy/difficult ways that I’m hoping are SOMEHOW growing me into the image of Christ.

I pause.

My neighbor comes out and begins to cut azaleas from her side of the bush.  I startle her by saying, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

We talk about the weather, then she says, “I’m just cutting these to put on my mother’s grave.”  I smile sadly and tell her how much her azalea bush blesses our yard.  “My mom would love that,”  she says.

She leaves and I think about something.

2014-05-11 18.17.29

Why wait until someone’s funeral to say how much they mean to you?

So many people have passed lately, leaving so much regret. Funerals are full of kind words for the deceased, but how sad that they’re not there to hear it. 

I want to take some time over the next months (years?) to use my words to bless others. To tell them how their life has impacted mine and thank them for their footprints through it.

Today there is an obvious person to start with:

Dear Mom,

How did you do it?! Motherhood seemed to come so easy for you. When I think of my childhood, I think of sunshine flooding in through the windows and your voice, animated as though you were performing for a crowd of hundreds, reading a story to me. I can still smell the pages of “Snip, Snap, and Snur,” and feel the heat coming in through the register.

I didn’t realize then, but I realize now.

You sacrificed sleep, comfort, quiet meals, adventure, money, and a clean house to take care of me. I had no idea. I guess I just took it for granted all those years…thought that’s what a mom is SUPPOSED to do.  Now, I see that a mom doesn’t HAVE to be sacrificial but chooses to be sacrificial. 

2014-05-11 18.25.41

You were patient because you recognized I was just a child. You made edible peanut butter play-dough for me and cleaned up after me. For years.  You were there at all my track meets, wearing a button of me the size of a small wheel.

You were everything that a little girl could ask for in a mom: nice, loyal, helpful, patient.

But, you didn’t settle for that…You were so much more: excited, energetic, a picture of good health, positive, always taking classes and learning, hard-working, and just plain FUN (everyone who knows you agrees).

Now, as an adult, your qualities are still blessing me. But, the gift multiplies.  Now my girls get to enjoy you too.

So, today, as the azaleas bloom bright and loud, I want to speak just as clearly.  Thank you, Mom, for being just the best. I’m so thankful that God gave me a mom with such God-honoring qualities. I’m so thankful that you gave me a childhood full of laughter and joy. I’m so thankful for your sacrifices that have molded me into the person I am today.

I’m so thankful God gave you to me. 

Love,

Your Annie B.

2014-05-11 18.24.13

Moving Walkway

Bad news.

That’s been the theme of the past couple months.  Family members who are sick, friends who have died, church members who are dealing with both sickness and death.

Our neighbor rings the doorbell right as we are tucking in both our children and the long day. I can hear him talking through a tight throat as I say a goodnight prayer in the other room.   Cancer. His father. Kidney and pancreas.  It won’t be long.

The phone rings the other day but I don’t answer it.  It’s someone who rarely calls so I assume they’re informing me that either someone has died or is about to.  I just stare at the phone.

And that’s when I think of it.

DSC_0101

It’s as though all of us are on this conveyor belt…this moving walk-way, if you prefer an airport analogy.  We don’t realize it because it’s just our reality. We are all born onto this conveyor-belt-life and it’s really not that big of a deal because it moves so slowly that we forget we’re even moving.   Some of us are taught that we’re on a conveyor belt, some of us aren’t.  Deep down we all know, but we’re young and even if someone has informed us, we’re too busy to care.

Then one day, someone we love comes to the end of their conveyor belt and drops off into apparent nothingness.  We are horrified. Numb and heavy. Especially if their conveyor belt seemed to run long in front of them.  Even though we’ve heard there’s an end to all of our conveyor belts, the lull of the mundane skews perspective.

We forget that we won’t be here forever.

We forget that this isn’t all there is.

I mean, it’s easy to forget.  Food has to be bought and washed and prepared and served and cleaned up and that alone is enough to make a mother of small children need a morning nap. There are immediate needs like laundry and homework and it kind of crowds out this thing called eternity.

Then, we suddenly remember because someone we love dissolves from our day to day and moves to this thing we call the eternal.

How then shall we live?

DSC_0100

All I know to do is to follow the example of my new seedlings that have so bravely emerged from the dirt. When I open the shades in our bedroom, this is what they do.  Reach with all their little might. Lean hard to the light.

What else can we do?

Grope in the darkness until we find the Light.

His name is Jesus.

And, just in case you’re wondering…He’s not hard to find when you ask Him to find you.

***

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,”  Jeremiah 29:13

A Girl Named Noel Devin

Today there is a funeral in Texas.

I’m sure there are many other funerals happening around the world today, but this one is for my friend, Noel.  I’ve never met Noel, so it may appear strange that I wrote something to be read at her funeral.  But, actually the opposite is true.

I wish I could have flown to Texas today to read this in front of everyone, but I couldn’t.  But the following is what I would have said:

**

My name is Annie Garman and I have never met any of you.  But our lives intertwine in such an amazing way today because of our Noel.

Let me explain…

You see, in 2008 our family left our home in Northern Virginia and moved to Iceland as Southern Baptist missionaries.  There were no missionaries from our organization there, and we decided it would be the best use of our time and energy to go there and try to plant a gospel-centered church.

I started a blog that year so that we could record our stories and our adventures and keep up with friends and family.  I’m glad I did. Living in Iceland had its share of challenges.  Right after we quit our jobs and rented out our home to leave for Reykjavik, Iceland, the government denied our VISA.  We went to Iceland on our passports and waited over 15 months for a VISA.  It was a trying time.  During that time, I also had a miscarriage, our home in Virginia experienced a major fire, and a friend died in Afghanistan.

Culture shock was intense, and blogging was an outlet for me during that time.  I didn’t know who all was reading it, but I continued to pour my heart out into cyberspace year after year.

In 2010, after finally getting VISAs and settling into the country, we got pregnant again.  At the 20 week ultrasound, less than a minute after hearing that we were having a girl, we found out that something was wrong with our baby’s heart.  Our whole world changed in a matter of seconds.

Very soon after we had to leave Iceland and move to America where we could get the best care for our daughter.  It was a scary time and nothing was very certain about our future.  Would our daughter survive?  What would happen to our family?  Would we move back to Iceland?  Would we find a job in America during the economic recession?  My prayer life was reduced to one word (Two on a good day):  Help.  Please Help. 

On June 12th, 2010 I turned on my computer and found the following message:

Annie (and all the Garmans),

My name is Noel Devin. I live in College Station, Texas, and you don’t know me from Adam! 
I’ve been harassing a dear friend about starting a blog for months and sending her examples of blogs that praise God by showing how He works every day. She has these beautiful twin boys that I’m so grateful I can call my nephews. In this whole thing I’ve bounced all over the world reading and rejoicing in how God’s working everywhere all the time. Last week, on Wednesday, I landed on your blog. I’m not sure how I even landed there! I feel like a bit of a voyuer, peering into your lives.

At the same time, though, I feel genuinely blessed to have encountered you.
 Your family, especially the tiny Garman, has been on my heart. I’ve been praying about this need to help your family financially. What I believe God has in mind was more than I could manage on my own and I couldn’t see a way.

On October 13, 2009, my grandmother was called Home. She was consumed, her whole life, by an insatiable thirst for the Lord. Last night, after a week of praying for a way to follow through on what God had laid on my heart about your family I got a phone call from my mom letting me know that Mammy’s estate had been settled.

God’s given me the means. Will you allow me the opportunity?

I understand that this is out of the blue and may seem a little bit odd. I’d encourage you to pray about it and to discuss it. It is my fervent hope that you’ll feel comfortable with this.
In any event, thank you so much for sharing your story. My family is praying for yours and will continue to do so.

Noel Devin

***

At first I thought it was a scam.  Suuuuure….someone in Texas that we’ve never met wants to give us money?  Does this “Noel Devin” character just want our bank account info?

My husband and I prayed about it, sent more messages to this stranger, and sought advice from friends and family.  Eventually, we told this stranger who was slowly becoming a friend that if she felt led by God to give us money, we would let her.

Our daughter, Gracie Garman, was born on 8-9-10 at 11:12 pm (depending on which clock you were looking at in the room).  She had a major open heart surgery a few days after she was born and through the prayers of God’s people, survived.

post-surgery

It was the highest amount of stress we had ever experienced as a family.  We couldn’t return to Iceland because of how severe Gracie’s heart defect was. What would become of us?

My husband spent many days and nights applying for jobs from room 717 of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.  Gracie had another open heart surgery that year and we still didn’t have a full-time job.  Did I mention that the stress was high?

But, let me also mention that God was there.  He took care of us in many profound ways.  One of them was through Noel.

Noel sent us $10,000 that first year of Gracie’s life.

In one sense, God used Noel Devin to keep our family alive.  Her money was used to buy groceries and gas and pay medical bills.  Her money was more than just a physical blessing…it was a reminder that God saw us, cared about us, and would take care of us.  Noel’s gift made us stand in awe of the God that we served.

Noel and I wrote a lot to each other during that time.  Here is one of my messages I sent to her in 2011:

 

Hey there my favorite Texan!

I know Colby wrote you a few weeks ago, but I wanted to take some time to write you myself also.  I just wanted to tell you again that you are very much appreciated.  There have been MANY times in the last several weeks that something has happened to us and the least stressful solution involves spending money.  In the past this would have really stressed me out, but lately Colby has been saying to me, “I have TWO WORDS for you….TWO WORDS:  Noel. Devin.”  I just wanted to tell you that today.

I don’t know much about you at all, but I know that you are sensitive to God’s Spirit and for that we are thankful.

Love from VA,

Annie

**

Because Noel had given us money and friends were letting us stay at their home, we lived in Northern Virginia during that year as we looked for a full time job.  When Noel’s money finally ran out in 2011, it was like we were freefalling again.  But, with such peace.  Surely God would provide again like He had in the past.

A few weeks after Noel sent her last check, my husband was asked to be the pastor at Pillar Church in the suburbs of Washington, DC.  Pillar was a new church plant that our old church had planted 7 years previous.  Pillar was focused on planting new churches, specifically planting a church near every major Marine Corps Base around the world. 

We knew that going to Pillar would be a step of faith financially.  Pillar was a baby church plant and couldn’t really afford to take us on.  But, we had learned a lesson–a very important lesson– from Noel.  God could literally bring money out of nowhere.

In June 2011 we said yes to Pillar and have been there ever since.  We have been working tirelessly at training church planters and sending them out.  There is now a Pillar Church in Quantico, Virginia;  Stafford, Virginia;  Jacksonville, North Carolina;  and Oceanside, California; and Washington, D.C.  And each of these churches are working on planting healthy, reproducible churches as well. If Noel hadn’t  given us the money, we wouldn’t have stuck around Northern Virginia and landed at Pillar.  We feel like Noel’s money was what God used to bring us where we are now.

Over the last few years, as new people have come to our church, we’ve told them the story of the past few years.  As you can imagine, Noel is a huge part of our story.

What else could I possibly say to you all? I never met Noel Devin.  In fact, the very last message I sent to her said, “I would love someday to have you come out here, meet the Pillar family and see how God is working in and through us to plant churches around this area.”  My only regret is that I didn’t buy her a ticket sooner.

After we heard the tragic news this past week, my husband and I held each other and cried.  Then we gathered the children around us and said we had a story to tell them.

We read them the first message Noel had ever sent us.  We read them all the messages that Noel sent us over the years.  At the end, we told them that Noel had passed away, and you cannot imagine the weeping and genuine sobbing that came from my three year old, my seven year old, and nine year old.

Or maybe you can.

We all held each other and cried, grieving the loss of someone we had never met, but who had sacrificed so much of herself for us. Through my tears, I looked up at God and could just feel His eye on us.  He loved us so much.

Over the years as I’ve pondered what Noel did for us in our time of need, I’ve been humbled.  Can you even imagine?  Our Great God heard the prayers of the Garman family and He whispered a solution to OUR problems into Noel Devin’s heart.  And He gave HER the strength to be obedient to what He was asking of her.

What a story of grace.

Thank you, Noel, for painting us such a clear picture of Christ’s love.

May all who gaze on it be changed.

Garman Year in Review: 2013

Dear Ones All,

Oh, how to recap Garman 2013 for you…

Obviously, there was a lot of this…

DSC_0487

DSC_0002

 

DSC_0091

Yes, we’ve endured our share of teething (Lord, have mercy…are we done yet?!), conflict management, sibling rivalry, stomach viruses, instruction and training in righteousness, and potty training…but we have also had moments that have shone through the occasional rubble:

In all reality, 2013 was a year for the Garmans to learn how to be a family of six.

Let’s start at the very beginning…A very good place to start…

AGP_6636 copy

Penelope Raine is now 1. You don’t need to know that the wrong birthday was written on the calendar for our little Penelope this year. What you DO need to know is that she is very, very loved by all members of our family, has almost a full set of teeth, loves to dance to Toby Mac and RUN across the couch, is fought over by her sisters when she is awake, has learned some baby sign language but has not yet learned how to sign “Get out of my personal space” to her sisters therefore does a lot of screaming when they are invading it. Additionally, she despises bubble baths and tries to escape every time.

AGP_6851

Gracie Kane is now 3 and did an AMAZING job with her open heart surgery this summer. She recovered as well as anyone could have hoped. This was Gracie’s THIRD and FINAL open heart surgery as far as we can tell. Many days go by and we forget that she has a severe congenital heart defect. Gracie loves to sing and has now learned all her letters and numbers. In the past month, she has decided that she no longer takes naps which means she emerges from her bedroom at 3:30 PM adorned with all her sister’s jewelry from their jewelry boxes. Gracie’s mommy has begun taking energy supplements to counteract this phenomenon. Gracie brings much joy to our home…and a decibel level that is tough to rival.

AGP_6866

 

 Darcy Elaine is seven and a true delight to our family (when she is well rested). When our neighbor got a new cat this year, Darcy went to her house every single day to help care for it. She continues to be our little scientist and even asked for a planetarium for Christmas. Darc helped care for our small container garden this year and even planted some corn and beans in the neighbor’s garden. Additionally, she trained a little with Mom and ran her first race: the Turkey Trot One Mile at Marine Corps Base Quantico.  Darcy is an excellent second grade student, violin player, daughter, runner, and sister. Her tight hugs at bedtime are especially helpful when I begin to question the meaning of my existence.

AGP_6877

 

Haley Jane is NINE and in fourth grade which is semi-unbelievable. We forced Haley to sing with us against her will at the Christmas Eve service this year and she did amazing. She has some real musical talent and we continue to try to cultivate it (we did violin lessons again this year). Haley also has shown a real interest in art and at this exact moment has scrapbooking materials spread across the entire kitchen table and is simultaneously trying to open her first oils and canvas set. She excels academically and is in the honors program at school. Haley took tennis lessons from Daddy this spring (Darcy too), and attended a soccer camp coached by her Daddy. Thank God for that Daddy…speaking of him…

DSC_0447

Colby continues to be the most amazing human being on the planet. Given his talents ranging from culinary genius to fashion designer to Old Testament Law Scholar to bathroom cleaner to financial wizard to writer to childcare worker, it’s amazing that he still has friends who aren’t too intimidated by him. Colby and I escaped to San Diego together this spring for my brother’s wedding, and also flew to Iceland together in the fall for a week. We are VERY thankful to the grandparents for affording us these get-aways (See first paragraph).

As for me, I continue to try to keep everyone fed and washed and dressed and happy.

This is not always possible.

My defining moment of 2013 was when I brought a meal to our church pot luck that said, “EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK”….(I have learned the hard way that egg noodles left in the crock pot ALL DAY will disintegrate).

I blogged six times in 2013…an all time low for me. However, I have been working pretty consistently on documenting “Gracie’s Story” in the last twelve months. I have now written 41,000 words, have finished the rough draft, and am now editing it. I continue vacillating about what to do with it and need a lot of prayer in regards to this project!

AGP_6582 copy

So, there you have it. The Garmans are all very thankful for a year full of growing and laughing and loving and learning. Most of all we’re thankful for Jesus, who through His death and resurrection has made a way for us to have a relationship with God that is personal and powerful. It is IN HIM that all our hope resides. It is THROUGH HIM that we move and live and have our being. It is TO HIM that we hope to give all glory. All else will eventually fade and decay and die, and we are thankful that we have something stable and secure upon which to stake our hopes and dreams and lives. We pray that you too will seek and find HIM this coming year. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart,”  Jeremiah 29:13

We’d love to connect with you in person in the coming year so give us a holler when you’re in D.C!
Happy New Year!

Grace and Peace,

The Garman Six

 

AGP_6699

AGP_6836