Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Deans!

We want to wish all of you a very blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!

We are busy packing and wrapping to get ready to head to Atlanta for Christmas & New Years. We will be spending time with my side and Ryan's side of the family and hopefully with some of our friends who are still in town. We can't wait to see our loved ones and maybe even some snow in Atlanta!

Here are some great shots of our family that my sister captured with her brand new camera over the Thanksgiving holidays (thanks, Erica, I think they turned out great!):



Monday, November 22, 2010

Learning to Stop & Give Thanks


Far too often, I'm guilty of becoming a slave to my to-do list rather than enjoying the simple, everyday moments in life. When I feel myself getting frustrated with my two year old son for acting like, well, a two year old, it's usually because his behavior is keeping me from getting stuff done. If you are familiar with the story of Mary & Martha in the Bible, I hands-down identify with Martha, the one busy in the kitchen who gets stressed out, then snaps at her sister and Jesus for not seeing that she obviously needs help (I'm sure there have been times when Ryan can relate to the two of them in that situation!). I was born a "doer", and I have to force myself to stop, reflect and thank the Lord for the blessings in my life.

Yesterday at Redeemer, our pastor preached on Galatians 5, living in the battle between the flesh (sin nature) & the spirit (our new lives as Christians), and how we can have victory over the sin in our lives by believing in the Holy Spirit's power and asking him to change us. Then later that evening, we had a special Thanksgiving service in which people gave testimonies as to what they were thankful to God for. It was so refreshing and encouraging to me. I felt that God had convicted me earlier that day of my sin of trying to do too much on my own and not depending on him enough, and then that evening he reminded me of his goodness to me and the rest of his people, and how I truly need him. I left feeling inspired to better foster a spirit of thankfulness in my heart.

This Thanksgiving we'll be traveling to Atlanta to spend time with both sides of our family (yay!). Although I'm sure there will be times of being busy in the kitchen (I mean, we all want to eat, right?), I want to be purposeful to stop and thank the Lord for the blessings I have received: my loving husband, adorable son, a healthy pregnancy, baby #2 on the way, wonderful families that Ryan & I grew up in, supportive friends, and our new church home in Jackson...to name just a few.

I hope that you will take the time to thank God for how He has blessed you as well. In fact, I'd love to hear what you are thankful for if you want to post it as a comment! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Oh, and here are some overdue pics from the fall festival at our church:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend in NOLA


Last weekend, Ryan and I had the rare priviledge of getting away for a few nights as just the two of us. We were able to do this because my mother-in-law Gail (aka Nana) came to visit for the week and offered to keep Evan for us for a few nights. It was a much needed break from the roles of Mommy & Daddy, and time for us to just enjoy being together and going about the days at our own pace (rather than our toddler's!). Thanks, Nana!

We had been wanting to visit New Orleans again, especially since we live a little less than 3 hours from there now, and because we had only been there once, the summer following Katrina to do relief work. At that time, it was still largely abandoned and destroyed, so we did not get to experience the true spirit of the city. This time we definitely got to see what everyone loves about New Orleans!

First of all, the food is AMAZING! We definitely had some great French food, as well as beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde (mmm...a guilty pleasure of deep fried dougnuts with powdered sugar). Secondly, the streets are truly flooded with music--street musicians, people playing in restaurants, etc. We even got to listen to live jazz at the well-known Preservation Hall. We also enjoyed just visiting the local shops & art galleries. On our last day, we visited the National World War II Museum, which, come to find, is HUGE, so we only watched the new 4D IMAX Film on the War, narrated by Tom Hanks, because we didn't have enough time to tour the whole museum (we'll go back for that one day!). The film was an amazing summary of the entire war, much of which we realized we didn't even really know.

In short, our trip was awesome, and we will definitely go back. If you are thinking about visiting New Orleans some day, DO IT! It is truly a one of a kind city!

Preservation Hall (Looks like it's been bombed, doesn't it?)


Live Jazz (front row seats at Pres. Hall!)


Childhood Home of Peyton & Eli Manning (Parents still live here)


The National WWII Museum

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Verdict is In...

Today was my almost 20 week sonogram, and I am pleased to announce that our baby looks perfectly healthy...and we're having another boy! Evan will have a little brother to play with come March! The appointment went very well, and we even got to see some cool 3-D shots of his little face and hands. Technology today is amazing!

Now that we know we get to save money on clothes :), it's time to start picking out that "perfect" name!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Providential Encounters on our 1st Anniversary


It's hard to believe that a year has passed since our first Sunday at Redeemer Church in Jackson, MS. We have met so many wonderful people, and we look forward to seeing those friendships deepen as time goes on. By the way, I apologize that this entry will be a little long, but I think it'll be worth the read. Let's just say there's some surprising stuff at the end :)...

To be perfectly honest, the past month and a half have been pretty exhausting ministerially speaking. Some of that exhaustion comes from sheer busyness (like the kick off of the tutoring ministry for me) and some of it from the stress of becoming involved in other's personal lives (with both youth and families in our church). Maybe that's why God was especially gracious to us by reminding us of his presence in our lives and church's ministry just this weekend.

It all started Saturday morning with a parenting conference that Ryan organized at our church with speaker Dr. Bill Richardson, a Christian marriage and family therapist, which was incredibly practical and encouraging. We had a pretty good turn out, but it wasn't the number of the turn out that was so cool, it was who all came. Most of the parents who attended were from our own church, but we had some visitors from the community come. Part of our church's mission is to reach the lower-income, African-American community directly behind our church. This is often hard to do, and Ryan & I were thrilled to see visitors from the neighborhood come. One of those visitors happened to be the Parent Liaison for the local middle school near our church. She was so excited about the material presented that she asked the Christian therapist who presented the conference to come present to parents at her school! She also wants to work with me to coordinate tutoring for some of her students. We had been praying for a way to connect more with the community, and God brought our connection to us! It'll be cool to see how that fleshes out.

As if that wasn't enough for one day, God had more up his sleeve. Ryan spent much of the afternoon relaxing (while Evan and I were both napping) and reading his new book Open Friendship in a Closed Society: Mission Mississippi & Theology of Friendship by Peter Slade, which gives a background of a state wide initiative to bring Christians together across racial lines. He happened to be reading the section about the riot that occurred when James Meredith enrolled at Ole' Miss in 1962.

That evening we attended a neighborhood block party with live music and BBQ. We noticed some friends at a table so we walked up and sat down. We also noticed an elderly African-American man with an Ole' Miss hat at the other end of the table. Ryan introduced himself, and do you know who it was? Why, it was James Meredith himself! Ryan was, of course, shocked and told him that this must be providential because he was just reading about his story. The two of them became engrossed in a very long conversation about his experience and his hopes for, as well as his frustration with, his people today. We learned that he had visited Redeemer awhile back, and he said that he had never in his life seen such a thing at that scale (blacks and whites interacting and worshipping together). He said he believes that reconciliation is going to have to come through the local church.

Eventually, Ryan left to take Evan to the inflatable jump castle, and I was left with Mr. Meredith. Something came over me (call it the Holy Spirit!), and I saw him not as a famous person in our nation's history, but as the kind man seated in front of me who had been through a whole lot of trials in his life and needed some encouragement. So I asked him if he had a church home, to which he replied he hadn't since a child, but he did believe in God. I asked him, "do you mind if I ask, why?" (where in the world was this boldness coming from?! You've got to understand that around people I don't know, I'm usually much more reserved!), and he responded, very slowly, "It's complicated, let me think of how to answer that." What transpired was another long conversation in which I listened to his struggles with overcoming judging others and trusting those in the church (seeming to imply particularly white people). A year ago, I might would've found this a bit offensive or off the mark, but after serving in this ministry for a year, I believe God is really beginning to help me & Ryan see the world the way many African-Americans in Mississippi see it--as one in which they do not have as many opportunities or privileges, which often results in hopelessness. We are no longer naive that the effects of the past still hinder relationships between the races. We ended the conversation by me encouraging him to come to our church to see how it is the gospel that is transforming lives, not us or our efforts.

Later that night I told Ryan about my conversation with Mr. Meredith, and he couldn't believe how bold I'd been. Neither could I once we turned on the TV to NBC and saw a local civil rights special and a discussion panel of which he was a part-on TV that very night! Can you believe it? Tell me that's not crazy! It was then that I felt a little overwhelmed that I had spent so much time talking one-on-one with a living legend. It was like I'd just talked with MLK, Jr. or Rosa Parks-Whoa! I had to keep reminding myself that it was God who had given me His eyes for a moment to see him as any other man who needed encouragement in the hope of the gospel for himself and his people. I'm humbled that I met him, and I know I'll never forget it. I tell you this part of the story, not to brag on myself (because this was most certainly a rarity), but to boast in Christ. Surely God is working in Mr. Meredith's life even now to give him hope, and he's working in mine to make me unashamed of the gospel.

So, here's to a new year of ministry in Jackson, MS!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Boys and Their Buggys

Every Tuesday morning, Evan goes to my friend Julie's house while I'm teaching preschool. Julie has four children: three girls and the youngest a boy named Bear who is one day older than Evan. This week she captured some cute pics of the boys using play baby strollers as little race cars while enjoying this beautiful weather. Funny how boys utilize girls' toys (notice how nothing is riding in the strollers!).


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Three Becomes Four

I am pleased to announce that we are expecting baby #2! We are super excited and are doing our best to prepare Evan to be a big brother. We've been talking about the baby growing in Mommy's belly, but all that's seemed to have done is to make him more curious about belly-buttons. Oh well, all in due time!

The due date is March 7th, so I am 13 weeks pregnant. We will definitely find out whether it's a boy or a girl and post it once we know! We are very thankful that the Lord has blessed us again with another child, and can't wait to meet him or her!

(P.S. This also explains my lack of postings the last month and a half. Now, instead of getting things done during Evan's naptime, I, too, am taking a nap!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Winding Down & Starting Up

Since 1986, my life has followed a pretty distinct schedule: August through May, school; June & July, time to play! From Kindergarten, to college, to my teaching career, I have quite enjoyed this routine. Well, it seems that ministry follows this pattern, too, except, come to find, youth ministry is the busiest in the summer because of all the free time the youth have to simply hang out and have fun (oh, the days of old!).

So as we near the end of summer (ignore the fact that it's over 100 degrees and summer is technically not even close to leaving!), things are winding down. The insanely busy youth schedule is slowing to make time for them to go back to school. Ryan and I have also been co-teaching the high school youth Sunday school class, which has been a theology course based on Knowing God by J.I.Packer. It's been an awesome study, and we'll be finished with it this month. We are also done traveling until the holidays, having just come back from a great trip to Atlanta to see family and friends.

While on one hand things seem to be slowing, other things are kicking back into full gear. Ryan is preparing for the upcoming school year by plotting out his teaching series and making the youth's fall schedule. I am busy preparing to coordinate Redeemer's after school tutoring program for neighborhood kids beginning in September. I'm also excited to announce that I will be teaching preschool two mornings a week at Covenant Presbyterian Preschool! This position is a great way for me to meet some new folks, teach a little, and make some extra money. Evan will be with Ryan one of the days, and one of my new friends here agreed to keep Evan for me on the other day. Teaching preschoolers is definitely going to be different than third graders, but I welcome the challenge!

Here's some photos from our trip back home!

The boys and their black trucks:


Ryan and our niece Lydia:


Evan and Lydia hanging out:

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Toddler is Like a Box of Chocolates

Lately in the Dean home, it's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. I expected this to happen, but not quite so soon. I've heard the twos are doozies for some kids, others, the threes. I guess Evan decided to practice his emotional outburts during his pre-twos months. He is now 19 1/2 months old, and I'm not at all implying that every day he's upset or throwing tantrums. In fact, many days he's a perfect angel (in toddler form of course). The truth is, you just don't know what you're going to find when you go to get him up from the crib: a beaming smile, or a cranky scowl. But be assured, each expression is a sign of the morning or afternoon to come. At least he gives us fair warning, right?

My mom can attest to this new development in Evan's life. We just spent a wonderful week together as she was visiting us while Ryan was out of town for the youth's summer camp. It was absolutely fabulous to have her company. We had some fun Grammie bonding during the day, and girl time once Evan was asleep (hello, girlie movies!). We've been working on Evan saying Grammie's given name, but so far, "Mammie" is what we get : ). Below are some pics of Evan & Grammie time.




Monday, June 21, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemonade



Ever have one of those moments where you want to pinch yourself to see if something's really happening to you? I did just yesterday. I was sitting on a park bench, Ryan's arm around my shoulders, watching Evan play in some water fountains during the cool of the evening, when it hit me. My life is pretty darn good. God has blessed me with a wonderful marriage, a happy, healthy son, and brought us to Jackson to serve Him in a vibrant church we have come to love.

That's not to say that life doesn't have its daily challenges. In fact, there have been times over the past several months where I've fought hard against some sour lemons--homesickness, loneliness, self-pity, etc. But God in His wisdom led the Mom's weekly Bible study I attend to do an awesome five month study on contentment. It could not have come at a better time for me. Now when I feel the pull to become discontent (which can come upon me at a moment's notice!), I just remind myself of Paul's words:
"...for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." -Philippians 4:11-13

I desire to learn to live like Paul did, enjoying the good and enduring the bad that life brings, trusting that God is in control of it all. For now, that means I get to thankfully enjoy some tasty lemonade.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Whew! What a week!


Since arriving back from our vacation to Florida, the Dean family has been in full swing. First off, we had the youth "Summer Kick Off/Cook Out/Pool Party" as Ryan so cleverly named it. Turns out Evan is now convinced he can swim like the big kids and finds his float a bit embarrassing (this results in mommy trying to wrestle with him in the water to stay afloat-quite exhausting!).

The next day Ryan's mom, sister Holly, and nephew Kyle arrived for a long weekend. We had a lot of fun taking them to see the sights of Jackson while keeping the boys entertained with swimming, playing at the park, and splashing in the fountains at the Renaissance (an upscale shopping center). We even fed the ducks at the local fave restaurant Cock of the Walk on the Reservoir. Perhaps the coolest thing was that Kyle got to see the hospital in Jackson where he was born (see pic below). Just four years ago, Holly and her husband David made the journey out here on Easter Sunday to adopt him. He's been a part of our family ever since. Funny how Ryan and I ended up living here! God works in mysterious ways. It was a blast getting to spend the weekend with them!


Monday evening kicked off our week of VBS at Redeemer. Ryan helped lead the assembly music, and of course, the kids loved him. I taught the 3rd grade class (shock-shock!) and totally enjoyed my sweet & sassy group of girls & boys. The gospel was shared, and I pray that it'll take root in their lives.

And now it's on to the weekend and gearing up for next week: the Youth's Local Missions Week. It's a busy life, but we love it!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Operation Beach = Success!

We have returned from our vacation to Cocoa Beach refreshed, slightly tanned, and relieved that Evan actually enjoyed the sand & surf. It wasn't quite love at first sight, in fact, you might even say he played a little hard to get. Here's how the affair unfolded:

Day 1: Hung out by the water bucket, watering the sand and sanding the water, then watering the sand and sanding the water again...you get the picture.

Day 2: Walked to the edge of the ocean. Screamed in fright as the cold water hit his toes, gradually started to smile after a few encounters with this mysterious "wave".

Day 3: Holding Daddy's hand, ventured out into the ocean about knee deep, decided "This is pretty cool."

Day 4: Begged to be taken out into the ocean by Daddy, Poppy, and Uncle Matt, whoever was closest.

Day 5: Unabashedly in love with the ocean (and perhaps a little too fearlessly).


(This is Evan with his Grammie and Poppy)

Friday, May 21, 2010

3-2-1-BEACH!

The countdown is officially on. In just three more days, Ryan, Evan, & I will be boarding a plane to fly directly from Jackson to Orlando, where my folks will pick us up and drive us to Cocoa Beach. My sister and her husband will be meeting us a few days later. Ahhh..I can just about smell the salt water and feel the ocean's breeze. I must admit, I am a little nervous about flying with an 18 month old, but I've sought lots of advice from mommies who have done this before, so we should be okay. I've even borrowed some airport "musts"--car seat carrier, car seat cover (in case we end up checking it), umbrella stroller--and stocked up on new toys and treats. I figure an hour & 45 minutes in the air can't be that bad (at least I'm optimistic!). Truthfully, Evan's a pretty chill kid, so I'm hoping that helps.

Perhaps what I'm most nervous about is Evan actually liking the beach this year. The photos below are his first encounters with the beach and pool when he was about 7 months old. He wasn't too fond of the sand, the hot sun, or the cool water. Because of last year's results, we've been "practicing" for the beach (he has unfortunately inherited his mommy's lack of spontaneity). We've put on his beach shoes to practice walking in them, visited the local sand box at the park, and played in his tiny inflatable pool, which we plan to take to the beach. I promise I'll report the results of the flight and beach after we return!



Thursday, May 13, 2010

I heart Thursdays


I don't think Thursday would win a popularity contest among the days of the week. It seems to go by unnoticed, and I admit, I really used to view Thursdays as a means to an end--the weekend, that is (sorry, cannot resist an obvious pun). Now, however, my tune has changed. Thursday has become one of my favorite days of the week. Around the Dean household, Thursdays are our "Family Day" in celebration of Ryan's day off after his Wednesday night youth group event. We try to use our Family Day to explore more of this land foreign to us...the great state of Mississippi.

Take today for example. We went to an outdoor arts & crafts festival in Canton. Canton is a great little town with quite a famous square (famous because it was where the movie "A Time to Kill" was shot, starring Sandra Bullock & Matthew McConaughey) and is a great "day trip" from Jackson. I put day trip in quotation marks because in Atlanta, the fact that Canton is considered a day trip would be laughable seeing as it's a less than 30 minutes from our front door. We had fun shopping around, although we only bought food--cajun crabcakes (mmm!), local honey, and of course, FUDGE (I am a true southern belle).


Some of our day off activities so far have included: the Jackson Zoo, Vicksburg (to see the Mississippi River), a couple different state parks, the Jim Henson exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Art, and of course, today's festival. We're always checking out local food joints, too. Evan's favorite? Probably the zoo. He had never seen so many funny looking "dogs" (his word for most four legged creatures).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Art Show & Talent Show & Karaoke--Oh My!


Last Saturday night, we had "Call to Artists Night" for the youth at Redeemer. About a month ago, Ryan gave the students a page of scriptures based around the theme of creation as inspiration for them to create some form of art: painting, photography, sculpture, poetry, etc. Saturday was their night to bring their art to share. We had a decent amount of participation seeing that this was the first time to host such an event (we're pretty sure a good many were nervous about participating and wanted to see what it was all about). I have a creative project of my own following this event. I've been collecting picture frames from yard sales, which I will spray paint black and place the art in to display in our youth room. I'll post pictures once it's done!

Evan attended the event with me and particularly enjoyed the talent show portion, which involved performances such as piano, dance, poetry readings, and a monologue. Hands down his favorite was a modern ballet dance to an African beat (he's a sucker for drums!). You should've seen the smile on his face as the girl danced. He loved it!

The evening ended appropriately with some good ol' karaoke. Nothing makes a good youth event like beginning with artistic expressions of Creation, and ending with songs like "Car Wash" by Rose Royce and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" by Beyonce. Ahh...gotta love it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Calling All HGTV Addicts: You Know You Want a Room Makeover!



I admit it, I'm a recovering HGTV addict. Recovering because I have almost weaned myself off of it--except for Candace Olson's Divine Design. That girl is just too good to let go of...
Anyway, many of you may have heard by now that my sister is an interior designer (so I have access to free design advice--it's wonderful!), and she is giving away a free room design board--no strings attached--to promote her new web business. You can live anywhere and still participate. The giveaway deadline is this Friday, April 30th, so hurry up and check it out at Erica's Inspirations.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog? That has been the question!

And I guess the answer now is "yes, I shall." To be honest, I've never really been into blogs until lately. Back when I was teaching elementary school full-time, I had a friend who urged me to create a blog. I looked at her like she was crazy (any teacher out there can attest to this!). A blog? I can barely get classroom newsletters out on time, plus I have a "classroom webpage" that's horribly outdated. I vaguely remember laughing it off as one of the most ridiculous suggestion I'd ever heard. Who possibly has time for that kind of thing?

So what prompted my change of heart? Well, for those who know me, I am now a full-time stay at home mommy (which means my grading of papers has been traded for the changing of diapers). But perhaps the biggest motivation has to do with the fact that almost 7 months ago, we (my husband Ryan, my son Evan, my dog Ike, my cat Millie, and myself) moved away from the Atlanta area to Jackson, MS. You see, now that I'm far away from family and friends, I need more information than Facebook status updates to feel in touch with my loved ones back home. So for those who have blogs, I've become committed followers to keep up with their day to day happenings to feel connected. Thus, I have decided to join the world of bloggers, too, so that others might get to know more about what's going on with us as well.

Just to fill in those who might not know, we moved to Jackson, Mississippi last October as Ryan accepted a position as Director of Youth Ministries at Redeemer Church . So far, we are enjoying it here. The church is wonderful and has welcomed us with loving arms.

My hope for this blog is simple, to share about happenings in our life--through the eyes of a mommy and a minister's wife. This could get interesting : ).