Friday, October 21, 2016

The Deans Take on the Delta

We are excited to announce that Ryan has accepted a call to be senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Clarksdale, MS, which is located in the Delta, 2 1/2 hours north of where we currently live in Jackson.

If you're reading this and you're not from Mississippi, chances are when you hear the term "Mississippi Delta", you imagine the sediment-filled, muddy water where the mighty Mississippi dumps into the Gulf of Mexico. That's what I used to think too, until people corrected me years ago by telling me that it's actually a stretch of land as flat as Kansas that was once a flood plane between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Post Civil War, through a process of clearing land and building levees, the Delta became an incredibly fertile place for growing crops, and at one time was known as the Cotton Capital of the World.  And yet, this place so richly fertile is also notorious for its barrenness. "The Delta" has become synonymous with racial tension, grinding poverty, and cultural brokenness. These characteristics undoubtedly set the stage for the birthplace of the Blues, what the Delta is most widely known for, producing legends like B.B. King and Muddy Waters who knew first hand the deep troubles of which they sang. It's not uncommon to be walking the streets of a Delta town and run into tourists from Europe or Asia who are following the Mississippi Blues trail. It really is a fascinating place of both brokenness & beauty.

This background all sets the stage for why we believe God is calling us to serve in a small Delta town, but to really get the full picture, I need to give a little background on us. Seven years ago this month, we answered the call for Ryan to serve as youth pastor at Redeemer Church, an intentionally multiethnic church in Jackson, MS. Providentially, we were unable to sell our house in the suburbs of Atlanta at the time and were "stuck" living in the church's house behind Redeemer in the transitional neighborhood of Broadmoor. I know this was no accident, but instead was a part of God's plan to stretch me. He used living in our cute little 1,100 square foot house with one bathroom in a neighborhood I would've written off as unsafe to show me how little I actually do need. But most importantly, he used it to give both Ryan and me a heart for the African American community, particularly those in a community of need. I believe living in our neighborhood has helped us build bridges across racial and socioeconomic lines with many of our neighbors by making us more approachable, which over time, builds trust. We are going to miss living in Broadmoor dearly!

While God was doing this work in our lives here in Jackson, he was doing a similar work in the congregation of First Pres in the city of Clarksdale. Several years ago, burdened for reaching their changing community with the gospel, a committee of lay people got together and wrote their vision statement (based on 2 Corinthians 5:18-19), which is "to live and share the ministry of reconciliation in Clarksdale, in Mississippi, and around the world." They have since spent the last few years making their church more welcoming to people from different backgrounds by broadening their worship styles, hiring an African American assistant pastor, and serving their community through many different community programs & events. So when our paths crossed theirs a few months back, it became very clear to us that this is what the Lord had been preparing us for.

We are sad that this season of serving at Redeemer is coming to a close, for its people have become like family to us, but we are thankful that we won't be that far away and can hopefully continue many of those relationships. We like to think of our going as an extension of what the Lord has been doing at Redeemer, bringing people from different races & socioeconomic backgrounds together in Christ. With all of the divisions that still exist in our country today, this is the sort of thing that the world notices as being different, and thus brings glory to him!

We are also excited about this new opportunity of experiencing the rich culture of the Delta and making new friends in our new church family and the surrounding community. Upon hearing about our upcoming move, a sweet Redeemer friend of ours said that the Deans & the Delta go together like greens & cornbread. Here's hoping!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Top 10 Happenings (So Far) in 2013's been a ridiculously long time since I've blogged about our family. I think there's probably a direct correlation to the fact that I FINALLY got a smart phone in December (thanks to Ryan getting an upgrade to an IPhone 5, with me inheriting his IPhone 4!). It's just so easy to snap a picture & upload it to Facebook that I've not been as good about blogging about happenings with our family.

That being said here's a quick summary of what's been going on this year

  1. I turned 32! Celebrated with a great date night with Ryan at Bravo! (a local Italian restaurant) & Les Miserables.
  2. Much to Ryan's delight, the Atlanta Falcons finally won a playoff game, even if they didn't make it to the Super Bowl.
  3. It snowed!
  4. Evan discovered coloring. This is a big deal seeing as he never gave it the time of day before & now can spend a good hour doing it--can I hear a hallelujah? You parents know what I'm saying!
  5. The Redeemer church session (elders) approved a proposal by me & two other ladies in our church to remodel the Bride's room. I've been getting in touch with my inner HGTV self & having a blast picking out paint, carpet, furniture & accessories. We're trying to have it done as quickly as possible for the approaching wedding season. I will certainly post pics once it's done!
  6. Levi had his first haircut. It was approaching mullet status, so it was about time! I put if off for far too long because I didn't want to cut the curl out of his hair. Thankfully, he's still got some curls left!
  7. Ryan taught himself how to change the radiator in our Jeep, saving us hundreds of dollars.
  8. I discovered the Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls--oh my goodness! Yes, this is a life-changing discovery :).
  9. Evan's peanut allergy went away. Praise the Lord! No more toting around an epipen everywhere we go!
  10. And this week, Levi used the potty for the first time!

A few photos of the events:

Gotta hold your tongue just right


Bye-bye curls (tear)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Fourth Birthday, Evan!

Evan as a newborn, November 2008

It's hard to believe that four years have passed since I became a mother when Evan Wallace Dean entered the world at just over 6 lbs on November 25, 2008. Now he is a 30 lb. bundle of imagination & joy. Being a mother to Evan is such a blessing. His favorite thing to do right now is dress up & pretend to be anything from Spiderman, to a doctor, to Dark Gator (aka Darth Vader). He is very into clothes and likes to wear all one color if left to his own choosing, I'm talking shoes, socks, shirt, pants, underwear, the whole nine yards. He's a very particular boy & loves to know the "plan" for the day (hello, Type A! I'm afraid he comes by it honestly). Evan's also very sweet & sensitive. Whenever I get a "motherly tone" (you all know what I'm talking about) in correcting a behavior, he likes to make sure we are reconciled by saying, "I still love you, Mommy." Be still my heart!

Last year, Evan had his first friends birthday party at a local park. We invited lots of folks & had fun, but this year we opted for a smaller gathering so that our sometimes shy little boy (excuse me, BIG boy, as he would immediately correct me) could feel more comfortable. I had heard that the same number of friends per year of life is a good gauge for number of guests at a kid's birthday party, so this year we invited four close friends and their families. He had a blast! It was a pirate party, and much to his enjoyment, he & his friends got to dress up as pirates & run around the playground.

Sword fight!

Tripp & Evan

Levi looking cool at the table!

Hard to say "Arr!" with your mouth full of food!

The party table (this is in our youth room, the colors are perfect, right?)

Treasure hunt time, with picture clues for our non-readers

After a little help from Tripp's big sis, Karis,
the treasure was found!

Cake made with love by me & Grammie (via Pinterest idea!)

One happy birthday boy!

What a crew!

All of us!

One last photo op before Grammie & Poppy went back to Georgia
(I love how Evan & Poppy have the same expression!).
It was a great time & I think the kids, including the birthday boy, really enjoyed themselves. Happy birthday, Evan!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Halloween!

The boys got to dress up twice this year! First up was "Let's Pretend Day" at their Mom's Morning Out program.

Dalmation & Spiderman, respectively

Evan with his teachers Mrs. Jere' & Mrs. Dawn
Second was the Fall Festival at our church. It was a lot of fun!

Me & the boys (& one sad looking puppy)

Walking over to the festival, ready for some candy!

Evan's favorite game, Angry Birds!

Nana & Evan

Nana & Levi (slightly distracted by his sucker)

Levi on the Groovy Bus

Takela painting Evan's face

His robot face!

Oh, & here's the story behind those cool pumpkins on our front porch:

Checking out the inside of the pumpkin

Evan sticks his tongue out while focusing just like I do :)

Levi loved the freedom of painting it any way he wanted to!

Check out the end result on the steps behind us!
Not bad for our first time decorating/carving pumpkins!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Youth Ministry Update, 3 Years Later

Fall Retreat: Tug of War

This month marks three years since we loaded up all our stuff & moved from Georgia to Mississippi to serve at Redeemer Church in Jackson. It's become a tradition for me & Ryan to take the time each October to reflect on all that God has done in & through our lives while serving here. I wish I could sit down with each of you personally over a cup of hot tea (sorry, not a coffee drinker!) and share with you from my heart how God has been working. But since that's not a possibility with most of you, this blog entry will have to suffice for now.

If I had to briefly sum up the first two years in ministry here, specifically regarding youth ministry, the first year would be exciting. Everything was new, we were fresh. You could call it the honeymoon stage. If the first year was exciting, the second year was hard. The newness wore off, we began to realize the complexity of urban youth ministry, the difficulty of reaching students from different socioeconomic backgrounds & cultures. Frankly, at times, we wondered if it really could be done effectively. Adults have a hard time bridging these gaps, so could we really expect teenagers to be able to do this? This was a question we really weren't certain about the answer to.

The second year, & honestly, half of the third, really brought us to a place of humility, an utter dependence on God, realizing that in our power, yes, this ministry looks impossible. But what I love about the hope of the Gospel is that in Christ we have the power to do all things. I really began to pray fervently for Ryan, that God would give him wisdom on how to run this ministry. He was open about the difficulties he was facing, requesting prayers from others. Those prayers really began to change things.

Over this past summer, Ryan really focused on pursuing youth that he knew would be excellent leaders, those who had a heart for the Lord & just needed a little push to step up & help him lead. He met with them, trained them, & helped them understand the vision of the church & our youth group, which is to minister to families in our church as well as the people of our neighborhood.  Ryan recruited & trained more adult leaders, bringing in a local expert to help train them in how to handle behavior issues that often occur on Wednesday nights at Crossroads (youth group worship service). He created clear rules & specific consequences that are posted in the youth room. I am so proud of all he has done.

The result? It has been an amazing start to this first semester! All of these changes have made a drastic change in the climate of Wednesday nights. The Student Leadership Team has done an amazing job stepping up and leading all aspects of the night. The adults understand their role & feel empowered to speak up if students aren't following the rules. Students who used to have major behavior issues have realized that they've got to "get it together" if they want to keep coming, & the good news is they do want to keep coming, so they're "getting it together". Does this mean there have been no issues this year? Of course not. But all of these structures have really served to create an atmosphere in which these students can really hear the word preached & be given opportunities to serve.
New rules & consequences,
modeled by Quinton

New registration table, run by students
 (with cool attendance IPad Ap to keep better track of visitors)

Ryan & I now believe that not only is a youth group like this possible, it's absolutely necessary! This is what God calls the church to be like, made up of different people, from different walks of life, gathered around one essential thing: the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We also believe that when students leave our youth group, they have the opportunity to walk out the door as pretty mature Christians because they will hopefully learn to see people through the eyes of Christ, not through the eyes of their culture.

We are entering our fourth year here at Redeemer excited about all that God is doing through our youth group. We love these students we've been entrusted with & desire for those who know the Lord to grow in their faith, and for those who don't have a relationship with the Lord to put their faith in Him. As always, we covet your prayers as we continue to serve here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Awesomeness

I love fall, the cool mornings, low humidity (well, most days...), changing colors, & an excuse to bake & devour pumpkin bread. Ahhh...these are life's simple pleasures.

Another thing I love about fall is the endless array of outdoor activities there are to choose from here in Mississippi this time of year. I think there's a particular concentration of fun things to do right now because we've finally risen out of the oppressive heat & awakened to remember that there's a beautiful world out there to enjoy!

Earlier this month, Ryan & I enjoyed a date morning after dropping the boys off at their Mom's Morning Out class at a local church by going to the Canton Flea Market, which is a huge outdoor arts & crafts festival. We had a good time, mostly browsing, but I was thrilled to purchase a cute, artsy birdhouse (it's actually a bird-chapel with a cross steeple, perfect for our manse) for our backyard. The boys were excited too, & we bought birdseed, but for some reason, we've had no takers. Not sure how to get the birds to visit. Any ideas?

For about two weeks in October, THE thing to do around here is to visit the Mississippi State Fair. We took the boys & they seemed to really enjoy it. There's a petting zoo, pig races, lots of spinning rides (which neither Ryan nor I care a thing about), and more carnival junk food than a person could possibly eat. .
Evan can barely contain his excitement awaiting the pig race.

Ryan & Levi at the pig race

And they're off...

The boys loved feeding the animals

The cute furry bison

Notice the striking (albeit frightening) resemblance

Ah, the pure joy that comes from eating fried batter with
powdered sugar on top (aka Elephant Ear)

Finally, this past Saturday we went to the Mississippi Agricultural Museum for their Pumpkin Patch experience. We got to take a hay ride, have a milk & cookie snack, & pick out a pumpkin to take home. It was a beautiful day, & the boys had a great time. 

Evan's silly face

Levi enjoying a sugar cookie snack

Me & Levi on the hayride

Ryan & his boys on the hayride

Picking the perfect pumpkin

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Late Summer Vacation, Part 2

After an incredible week one of vacation in Atlanta, we hiked on up (okay, drove) to the Great Smoky Mountains for a family reunion on my side of the family in Gatlinburg, Tennessee over Labor Day weekend. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with family we had not seen in awhile (the time together just passed too quickly!). I had not seen the mountains in several years, and man, I missed them!

Evan was quite excited about his new pirate gear
from Grammie & Poppy.

The whole clan gathered for dinner! Gotta love the huge
table at the cabin!
Levi, enjoying another ride in the car

Playing in the creek

Fun with Poppy looking for golf balls since the creek was by a golf course