A Final Update on 2013…

2013 has been a year of change, triumphs, trials, growth and many, many memories. I have been awful at keeping up with this blog, which is why I have set a 2014 goal involving more consistent blog posting.

Bryant wrote a wonderful letter for our Christmas Cards, and I thought copying it here would be a good way to update everyone on our 2013 and transition into more writing in 2014. We hope you had a wonderfully Merry Christmas and wish you all a blessed New Year!

It’s hard to believe that it is already time to write another Christmas letter. In fact, it snuck up on me so much that Rachel felt the need to voice her concerns about my procrastination. I suppose living in our fourth location in the past two years has a way of making you lose track of time.

The past year has been filled with a lot of change for both Rachel and I. In January we loaded up our stuff and moved 1000 miles from home to the Raleigh, North Carolina area. I had a position at the John Deere marketing center for commercial mowing equipment. The position involved a ton of travel which involved a total of a month in Florida during the winter (certainly nothing to complain about!) and over 40 flights in just the short six months I was there. In addition to my travels for work, Rachel and I took advantage of living so close to both the mountains and the beach with several weekend trips.

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At the Top of Chimney Rock

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Biltmore Estates ~ Asheville, NC

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Outer Banks ~ Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Rachel’s plans to substitute teach while we lived there fell through, so on a whim she decided to post a profile to Care.com. God knew what He was doing and three days later she started working as a full-time nanny to 3 year old twins, Levi and Fynn. She loves kids and these two were some of the best. I never got tired of stories and pictures she would bring home every day. Many of our evenings were filled with her telling stories and talking my ear off. I guess when you spend all day talking to small children you feel the need for some slightly more intellectual conversation when you get home. When June came it was hard for her to leave the boys but I was ready for a new challenge.

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Last Day of Work with Fynn and Levi

In late June we moved to Des Moines, Iowa to start my first permanent position with Deere. We bought our first home in Ankeny and we really love our neighborhood. We’ve quickly learned that homeownership comes with downsides as we turned what I thought would be a four hour job into a two weekend job. It turns out those YouTube videos on refinishing a deck really make it look quicker and easier than it really is!

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Our New Home!

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to get up to speed on my new position. My responsibility is to gather customer feedback and to incorporate that feedback into a handful of GPS guidance products (basically tractors that steer themselves). I enjoy getting to work with customers on a regular basis and it is fun working on the technology side of the business and having the opportunity to see the new stuff that will be coming to market over the next 5 years. The highlight of the year was getting to take a trip to Brazil to follow around a sugar cane harvester for a week. There’s nothing quite like riding around in a twelve feet tall sugar cane field with an operator who does not speak a word of English.

When we moved to Des Moines, Rachel had her heart set on finding a teaching job. Unfortunately, nothing nearby was open by the time we learned where we would be moving. She applied to substitute teach at several schools and had just worked a couple of days when she received a call about an opening she had applied for at the FFA Enrichment Center. Two interviews and just over a week later, she accepted an offer to become their Leadership Development Manager. It’s the perfect job for her as she gets to develop and implement leadership training to agricultural education groups (FFA, PAS, etc) and to local corporations. Also, it turns out that her office is about 3 miles from the house! This opportunity was one of those times where we were reminded that even though we may not know what our future holds, God has a good plan written for us.

We sincerely hope you and your families had a Merry Christmas and wish you all the best for 2014! Above all, we hope you each took time to reflect and remember the true reason for the Christmas season is to celebrate God’s ultimate gift, the birth of our Savior!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
~ Isaiah 9:6

Long Time Coming…

It’s been about three months since we’ve shared anything through this blog, and that is far too long in my opinion! I have missed writing and am ready to be back.

There are a couple of reasons for the lack of blog activity, first being the overwhelming response to my last post. I am so humbled by the reaction to Peace, Direction and a Mission – I’m Done Being Part of the Problem. Thank you all for taking the time to read and share it with those in your life! I cannot take any credit for those words, they truly came from God. I don’t think I have ever had Him speak to and through me so clearly. I hope that you are all intentionally seeking opportunities to pray for our Nation and leaders. If I’m being honest, there have been days where praying for these things has slipped my mind, but I am doing my best to prioritize these items in my list of prayer requests each day.

The second reason I have been M.I.A. here is the craziness that has been the last couple of months of our lives! On December 13th, Bryant wrapped up his marketing rotation in Ottumwa. December 14th brought the packers and movers to our rental home and we were completely moved out of Iowa by 4pm with almost all of our worldly possessions on their way to North Carolina. We were able to keep things in storage through Christmas, so we had about three weeks to spend with family before making our big move. The time we spent in Archie, Maysville, and in Oklahoma with family was such a blessing and just what we both needed before moving over a thousand miles from home!

We met up with Bryant’s brother, Britt, and his best friend, Bob on the evening of January 1st and stayed in St. Louis to get a jump start on our road trip. Bryant loves road trips and had the trip planned so that we would be able to see everything in the daylight and wouldn’t be driving at night. This was good in theory, because we did get to see some beautiful scenery, but this plan also resulted in several evening hours to kill at each stop along the way! We finally made it to Cary, NC on the evening of January 3rd and the movers arrived with all of our things early on the 4th. We really enjoyed having Britt and Bob join us on the trip; we had a lot of fun and didn’t have as much time to focus on how far we were getting from home! They were great help as we got settled and we enjoyed some time not working by going to the movies and checking out the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill before they flew back home.

We are finally feeling settled and enjoying our time in the Eastern Time zone. Bryant is now working as a marketing rep. in commercial lawn mowing and likes the team he is working with. He is spending a lot of time in Florida for a training event over the next couple of weeks, and will have more trips scheduled later this spring for photo shoots and other trainings. Before making the move, my plan was to substitute teach in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), and I submitted my application before Christmas. About a week and a half after the move, I learned that WCPSS has had a significant influx of sub applicants, and it could be four months before I even hear anything about the processing of my application. I knew that homesickness would quickly become a problem if I spent as much time at home as I did in Iowa, especially with Bryant traveling as much as he’s scheduled to while we live here. As I explored other options, I decided to create a profile on Care.com. God was working out the details without my noticing, and less than a full day later I had an email from a family looking for a Christian nanny for their twin three-year old boys. After a brief interview, prayer, and discussion with Bryant I accepted the job! It is a perfect fit, and while working with twin preschoolers certainly keeps life interesting, I am genuinely enjoying my time with them. After just three weeks, I know leaving them at the end of Bryant’s rotation will be very difficult!

Our first month in North Carolina has certainly been full of adventures, and we’re looking forward to whatever God has in store for our time here. We’ve been attending Cary First Baptist Church and really enjoy our Sunday School class and the preacher. We’re hoping to find more ways to be engaged there in the coming weeks.

As our time here in Cary progresses, we’re praying that God will use us here as He intends, and that our future after Cary becomes more clear. If you would be willing, we would greatly appreciate your prayers on these matters as well. I sincerely hope (and am planning) that our next move allows me the opportunity to teach in a high school agricultural education program. Due to the timeline of Bryant’s rotations, it may be challenging to find out where we’re going next in time for me to gain certification and apply for open teaching positions. Prayers for His timing, guidance, and peace are so greatly appreciated. We know that He has a plan, but our type-A personalities are struggling to hand over all trust and control to Him! J

As I wrap up this [overly] long post, we would like to thank the many of you we know have been praying for us during this big transition! If you have some vacation time and would like to see things out East, we would love to have visitors!

Until next time, God bless!

Peace, Direction and a Mission – I Am Done Being Part of the Problem

Elections are over. As a country we have selected a President, Senators, Representatives, and Governors. Now, the ugly aftermath of reactions is unfolding right before our very eyes… I, for one, have been on a complete roller coaster of emotions throughout the past few months, weeks, and days due to the elections. In the final days leading up to Tuesday, I was extremely anxious. Today, that anxiousness has gone, and in its place is an unlikely mixture of peace and the burning desire to do something. It seems that these days, it is rare to experience moments when you REALLY feel God speaking. Directly, loudly, over all of the noise of this world, right to the heart. At least, it is rare for me. In the past two days, I have felt God speaking to me, practically grabbing me by my shoulders and shaking me. Hence, this post.

Politics sure seem to have a way of bringing the ugly parts of our hearts to the surface… present company included. I have been torn between having great peace in the knowledge that God has a plan and His will be done, and really wanting my own plan to happen. I have been guilty of praying for His peace, His direction, and His work in the lives of the candidates one minute and then in the next minute sharing something within social media was less than peaceful.

It’s clear that we are more divided as a country now than ever before. It has burdened my heart to see good people so divided, to see Godly people behaving so unkindly to one another simply due to differing political views. I have watched as Facebook and Twitter have become a battle ground. If you have been on Facebook or Twitter within the last 24 hours, I’m sure you have also seen the ugly nature of people’s reactions for yourself. It’s brutal, and it’s not fun to be a part of. These negative reactions are only serving to divide even further.

I have admittedly fallen prey to political postings and fueling the fire. Last night, as I checked social media frequently, I found myself getting angry and felt a knot forming in my stomach when any one of my Facebook friends or those I follow on Twitter posted something in support of a candidate I did not vote for. I went to bed last night and woke up this morning so upset with myself. God was urging me to recognize that it is okay to be passionate; but it is not okay to hold bitterness and resentment in my heart towards another person simply because their views, opinions and beliefs are different from my own.

This morning as I was trying to unravel all that God was laying on my heart, I sought His word for clarity, conviction, and understanding. That’s when He  came out and smacked me with the truth, I am a part of the problem!!  No longer. I’m done. I’m done creating more of a mess and failing to do what God has called me to do as a Christian.

First, He has called me to trust Him, to wait for Him, and to have faith in Him. Whether or not we can see it in this moment, God has a plan in action.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

“We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” ~ Psalm 33:20-22

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

I have had to stop and ask myself, am I seeking His plan? Have I been really asking and listening to God for what He has intended in all of this political mess? Or, have I been so caught up in my own views of what should happen that I’ve missed something entirely? His timing is perfect, I just have to wait patiently, with faith, and seek Him earnestly. Today, I have great peace and great urgency. My God has a plan, He is in control, and He is still sitting on His throne. It is my turn to have faith in His great majesty and to follow His commands.

Second, God has called me to be above all of the political rhetoric, to keep my eyes on Him, and to keep doing the work he set out for us to do. All that has happened and will happen are part of His plan. I am responsible for remaining focused.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Third, God has called us to action. He has commanded that we respect, follow and submit to our leaders. It is God who has placed these individuals in positions of authority.

“For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” ~ Colossians 1:16

“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” ~ Hebrews 13:17

 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except for which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” ~ Romans 13:1-2

No matter who you voted for, that last verse kind of stings huh? ;) God has commanded us to submit ourselves to the authority that HE has placed over us. Rebelling and speaking poorly about those in power is like rebelling against God’s own plan, and only brings judgment upon ourselves.

With this peace and direction God brought to my life, I now feel called to take action, my new “mission”. There is so much talk within politics about a lack of bi-partisanship and the polar divide between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. People are calling for our elected officials to work together to create progress, but here is my question: How can we expect our President and other elected officials to reach across the aisle, to work with the other party instead of against, when we won’t even accept that someone else has valid political opinions that are simply different from our own? How can we expect them to work together when we are so divided about who we support? In a time when our nation seems to be more divided than ever, I think as a Christian I have been called to help unite rather than perpetuate the divide.

So, here is my two-part mission, and my challenge to anyone reading this:

First, what if, for at the very least the next four years, we commit to praying FOR our leaders, to practicing love for our neighbors and acceptance of those that are different or think differently than us? In fact, we are called to do this:

“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior” ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-3

I am making this commitment. Here and now. And I hope you will join me and help keep me accountable.

Second, it is my belief that burdened hearts should be moved to action. Our great Constitution begins with “WE the PEOPLE” not “The President” or “Congress’ or “Elected Officials”. I am committing to be more engaged in our political process. It’s so easy to say that we “hate politics” and try to avoid all things political when an election isn’t happening, but the system only works as well as its citizens do. It is my belief that we can ask God for anything at anytime, but that does not mean that we should not work for what we believe in, for what we want, as well. He sees those things. I am committing to pay closer attention to what is happening within my state and country as laws and decisions are made that affect me. Our Congressmen and women are in office to represent us, and they will intercede on our behalf when we ask them to. I will write letters and make phone calls when necessary. I have been so guilty of telling and pleading with others to do these things, without truly taking any action myself. I’m committing to change.

I’m not saying it will be an easy, overnight change. I’m not saying I won’t still be passionate about my views on politics. I’m saying that today I hope you will join me in making the commitment to try harder, to pray for our Nation and for our leaders daily, to be Christ-like to all those I interact with, and to be engaged in the political process as God has directed. I’m sure than many of you have a stronger Biblical knowledge than I do, and could cite verses that address these points even more directly than those I found. I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read these words that God pressed upon my heart today. God bless!

P.S. — If you need some guidance in formulating prayers for our leaders (like I do), check out this post and the comments over on Living Proof Ministries blog!

My 2nd Favorite Holiday (It’s Not What You’re Thinking!)

There’s nothing quite like going home. For the past six years, “home” for me was Columbia, Missouri and “CoMo”, as it is affectionately known, will always hold a special place in my heart. I could write an obnoxiously long post on my favorite things about Columbia and Mizzou, but I’ll spare you and get to the point. Without a doubt, the top of this list of “favorites” is Mizzou’s Homecoming.

Second only to Christmas, Homecoming is my favorite holiday. Just like the Christmas season, Homecoming at Mizzou is not simply a one day event (I saw Christmas stuff at Wal-Mart and Kohls this week!). Campus and Greek organizations begin preparations months in advance and many events are held in the weeks and days leading up to game day. The energy on campus leading up to Homecoming is almost palpable, it’s hard to explain. Every year that we lived in Columbia, I would become almost giddy as the Homecoming festivities approached. Seriously, in grad school my colleagues made fun of me for my enthusiasm! I’ve chalked it up to the fact that they just don’t get it! ;) Mizzou is actually the birthplace of Homecoming, which is a big part of what makes it so special. You can read more about the history of Homecoming at Mizzou and this year’s accomplishments during Homecoming festivities here. (In addition to uniting students and alumni with campus, Homecoming actually does a lot for the community through service events.) With all of this gushing about my obsession love for Homecoming, you can imagine how excited I was to hit the road and get to Columbia last weekend.

When we arrived in Columbia the first item on our “to do” list was to deliver the hard copies of my thesis to my committee members on campus. (Whoo hoo!) We did some shopping at the campus bookstore, and then met up with the rest of the Kagay’s and had dinner. Seeing family in addition to celebrating Homecoming made the weekend even more special. The “main event” on campus Friday night is Homecoming House Decorations or “House Decs” in Mizzou’s Greek Town. For people who aren’t familiar with House Decs, fraternities and sororities are paired together and create these elaborate backdrops and skits for families to view as they walk around and visit with friends and alumni.

Bryant was an AGR and so is his brother. This is  their house decs from Friday. They placed 4th, I think they got jipped! :)

This was another group’s house decs and skit characters. Each group had a theme based on “Mizzou through the ages”.

Not only did I get to see my wonderful in-laws (who I missed the opportunity to get a picture with!), I also got to see my beautiful sister!

On Saturday morning we woke up insanely early to see the Homecoming parade. The parade started at 7am due to kickoff for the game being at 11am. In my first photos the sun is not even completely up yet! The Homecoming parade features all of the typical things you would expect to see in a parade, plus extravagant floats designed by campus and Greek organizations – those are my favorite!

This is AGR’s Homecoming float – they placed first! The waterfall actually had running water and the Wildcats moved as they “pulled” the wagon.

Of course, we also attended the Homecoming game against the Kentucky Wildcats and got our first win in the SEC! We finished up Saturday with a trip to Bass Pro, an early dinner with the Kagays before they headed home, and visits with some great friends.

As Bryant and I reflected on the weekend, we realized how blessed we are to have so many great friends from our time in Columbia. God brought incredible people into our lives there, so many in fact that there just weren’t enough hours in the weekend to visit everyone we wanted to. We really wanted to get back to Memorial Baptist Church on Sunday, but Bryant had an early flight out to Dallas on Sunday afternoon, so we made our way back to Ottumwa late Saturday night. Both of us were disappointed we didn’t have more time to reconnect with everyone we wanted to. Hopefully we can catch up with more friends during our next trip to town!

For a brief update on our next move, we still don’t know much! We do know that the house we’re renting in Ottumwa has sold, so we have to be moved out by December 15th. We do not know where we are going next though! Bryant expects to get the list of options any day now. He’ll rank his top choices based on the list he receives and then we’ll be given our location. I’m trying not to think too much about the fact that our move is officially six weeks away and we have no idea where we’re going – I know it will just stress me out! I know that God has it all taken care of, so I’m just praying that Bryant gets placed where He intends and can best use us —and that we know something very soon! :)

Until next time, God bless!

Releasing My Inner Blogger: Keeping Up With the Kagays Debut!

For months now I’ve been telling my husband, family and friends that I’m going to start a blog. I haven’t made those statements flippantly… I have really, really wanted to start a blog. Every time I really sat down to create one, however, I became completely overwhelmed. I wanted a creative and catchy name, I had no idea what site to use or how to get it started, and I wasn’t sure I even had anything interesting to say (and I’m still not!).

I follow several blogs, and I’ve had the urge to create my own for quite some time. There have been several moments in my life that have caused me to pause and kick myself for not having one. I’ll make a recipe that turns out great, and wish I had a better way to share it than Facebook. Sometimes I’ll hear a particularly moving sermon or read something during my quiet time that really challenges me, and want to share my thoughts on it. My passion for agriculture will result in a desire to write about my views on a topic that surfaces in the media, and I’ll kick myself for not having a blog as an outlet to share through (or at least a way to direct people in my life to the blog’s of others that have written so much more eloquently than I ever could!).  When a rare crafty moment in my life occurs, I’ll wish I had a better way to share my results. I’m admittedly pretty awful at keeping family and friends updated on our lives, and I’ve often thought that this would be a good way to keep everyone “in the know”.

I actually got serious about starting a blog when Bryant accepted his job with John Deere and we found out we’d be moving several times. I thought this would be a good way to keep those that are interested updated on our lives instead of doing what I usually do bombarding people with too much information on Facebook. :) As I’m sure many of you have deduced by now, it’s been SEVERAL months since he accepted his job, but I’m finally taking the leap.

Based on all of those “Dang, I wish I had a blog” moments, this blog won’t really have one solid theme like many do. This is simply a way to keep people updated on how God is moving in our lives and what we’re up to. I’ll probably post a little about all of those things mentioned above. WordPress allows for “categorizing” posts, so I’ll do my best to put everything into a category (see the side bar to the left). If you couldn’t care less about cooking or craftiness and just want to know about what we’re up to (and if we know where we’re moving next), you can click on the categories you’re actually interested in reading about.

I’ll share my posts through Facebook, but if you don’t have a Facebook or don’t check it often, you can click on “follow” to the left and fill in your email address. That way you will get an email each time we post something new and only when we post something new. Who knows, maybe I can even convince Bryant to write a post every now and then… (here’s hoping!)

I hope that someone (anyone!) you will enjoy reading as I share about our lives. If no one reads my posts, oh well, I’ll just consider this my journal and scrapbook as we embark on whatever God has in store our lives. :)