Wins & Losses (September 9-15)

Wins

  • It was another weekend of family visits here in Gray. My mom, grandmother, brother, and sister rolled into middle Georgia late Friday night and spent the weekend with us in our new home. We had nothing planned and that was just fine. Our Saturday was spent being lazy around the house, watching TN football, and playing with the girls. Reagan and Kennedy were elated to see her extended family and had an absolute ball with them. It was also good for us to see some more Tennessee family as well. October brings more family and we can’t wait!

                              

  • We have started something different at church. Once a quarter, we have an evening service called “Family Meeting.” Since we have two services on Sunday morning, this gives everyone a chance to worship together and do something different from Sunday morning. Despite some vocal issues on my part, we had a swell time. Great music, communion, mission trip stories, and a great devo from our men’s ministry director. We finished off the night with ice cream sundaes and banana splits in the fellowship hall (my idea!). I loved it so much and can’t wait for the next one in December.
  • For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been trying (and failing) to get Kennedy to take a bottle. We figured out early on that she didn’t care for the Dr. Brown bottles Reagan had used. So we packed those up and donated them, and ordered some Avent bottles. I immediately loved them because there are less parts to clean! While Kennedy struggled at first, we finally were able to get her to drink from a bottle with no problem. It’s definitely a gamechanger because this gives us some freedom to leave the girls with a babysitter if we want or need to leave the house together. Parenting win!

Losses

  • It was another week of sickness in our house. Reagan contracted Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease while I suffered from a sinus infection. Becca also had a cold. The only one to stay remotely in good health was Kennedy (who has an immune system of steel because she’s breastfed). I feel like we Lysol’d everything that would hold still and went through so many pumps of hand sanitizer.
  • Most of you may not know, but as of the time of this post going live, our house will have been under contract (without closing) for two months. We should have closed at the end of August and delay after delay after delay has continued to put it off. Our stress level is at an all-time high and our patience is running low with people who have absolutely no sense of urgency nor an idea how to do their jobs. It’s very hard to sleep at night when finances are so uncertain. We would sincerely appreciate prayers that this house closes quickly so we can be done with it.
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Things I Miss 2.0

When I moved to Memphis in August of 2015, I wrote a blog post called Things I Miss where I outlined all that I missed from small town Adamsville and what I didn’t miss. Now that we’re three years removed from that moment and find ourselves again in Small Town USA, it’s time for the second edition. Obviously, this one will be a sort of role reversal from the original since we went from big city to small town.

I love relaxation.Everything moves with an easy-going pace around here. No one is in a rush and it’s okay if things don’t happen immediately. I had to adjust to a life of rushing and instant gratification in the city, so it’s really nice to take things nice and easy again.

I don’t love the heat. Now, I’ve been raised in the South my entire life. I know West Tennessee humidity and I understand that it’s just plain hot down here. I’m used to that and never would live up north where it’s cold for a long amount of time. But I always assumed that the weather in TN, MS, AL, NC, SC, AR, and GA was relatively the same year-round (coastal areas are an exception, of course). But Georgia heat is much more in your face than Tennessee heat. “Hot Georgia” really means something.

I miss family. This kind of goes without saying because it’s expected. Our closest blood family members are about 4 hours away and most are 6-7 hours away. My cousins reminded me that being away from family like this makes time spent with them that more precious. I very much believe that, and look forward to each time we get together.

I don’t miss the big city. I’m just not a city guy. Never have been. Everything is so cramped and there is just not a lot of room to breathe. I also find it extremely difficult to find your way around a big city. There’s only so many places to go in a small, so navigation is rather minimal. That’s why I’m glad to live in a little hidden pocket in the geographic center of Georgia. It’s a beautiful area where I look forward to spending several years with my family.

Wins & Losses (September 2-8)

Wins

  • We are really close to Macon, GA…I mean, REALLY close. I look at it as very similar Memphis, only about a quarter of the size. We probably travel there at least once very two weeks for various reasons. This past Labor Day (while Becca’s parents were still in town), we went to Macon to look for a double-stroller. After we bought it, her parents suggested a restaurant that was supposedly the #1 place to eat in Macon, according to TripAdvisor. While that place was closed, we did find another local joint around the block called Parish on Cherry. It was authentic Cajun food, my favorite type of food in the world. It was absolutely delicious and I’m so glad we found it. It was also a pleasant, easy drive from our house that didn’t require any interstate at all. The food was absolutely delicious and the weather was perfect. I loved the downtown area we were in and can’t wait to get back there soon!
  • Every worship pastor/music pastor/worship leader/minister of music wants a lot of things. They could be spiritual, emotional, material, musical, or a plethora of other things. But one thing I guarantee that every worship leader wants is a singing church. A congregation that sings together with all their mind, body, and spirit. The most accurate test of a singing congregation is singing acapella. Last Sunday, I decided to sing the tag of “How Deep the Father’s Love” acapella. And when we did, that sanctuary filled up with the voices of believers singing that gospel truth: “His wounds have paid my ransom.” This happened in both services and lifted my spirits like nothing has in a long time. I love that my congregation sings when all the bells and whistles are going and I love that they sing with the one instrument they each know how to play…their voices. It was beautiful.
  • I am so happy that college football is back. Despite Tennessee’s sloppy game against West Virginia, there’s not much I love more than having football on the TV all day long on Saturdays. Even if it’s a team I don’t care about, it’s good for the soul to have it on all day.

Losses

  • Sickness has once again invaded the Brash Cave. Reagan got sick, and then I got sick. Runny noses, sinus pressure, and hoarse voices plagued (and continue to plague) our house. Sleeping was miserable for the Lil’ Gipper and I. And while we both are just bleh, I can’t help but hurt more for my wife who has to watch all of it, help tend to Reagan, AND keep that second-born healthy. I’m predicting that this next week will be a whirlwind of sanitizing and chasing and medicine-taking. Y’all pray for us.

Wins & Losses (August 26-September 1)

Wins

  • One of the best things about my job is that there is always something to do. Going into full-time ministry, I’ll admit there were time when I was afraid that I’d be stuck twiddling my thumbs watching the clock go by. When I work, I like to be doing something all the time. Even if it’s a mundane task, at least I know I’m earning my keep. And I’ve been so happy to be busy at my new job. Every day, I make a list of the tasks to be completed (knowing full well that the entire list won’t be checked off at the end of the day). Having daily goals keeps me moving and reminds me that people are counting on me to do my job well. Despite my frustrations sometimes that there aren’t enough hours in the day, I’m grateful that there is always something to do.
  • We live in a digital world and it ain’t going away. We can either healthily adapt or be left in the dust. When we moved, we decided not to subscribe to a cable service and stick with internet only (in the days of streaming services, we jumped on the millenial train of ditching cable TV). Reagan obviously has shows that she enjoys. Her personal favorite is Bubble Guppies which we’ve been watching for a long time. But as her parents, we’ve tried to expand her tastes in television shows. And thank goodness for it (the “Outside” song can only be sung so many times in a day). We’ve tried Puppy Pals, Dora the Explorer, and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. But the other day, I discovered that the ENTIRE series of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was on AmazonPrime Video. This absolutely made my day and I immediately started immersing Reagan into its goodness. Since I was on the tail-end of its broadcast growing up, I’m also getting to enjoy the earlier episodes from the late sixties and early seventies. She seems to be enjoying so far and I love getting to watch it with her.
  • We had our second round of visitors over the weekend as Becca’s parents spent the Labor Day weekend with us. We enjoyed showing them around the area and it also gave us a reason to travel over to Macon to see them. It’s the second of many fall weekends with family coming to see us and we love it each time. We’ll FINALLY make it to Tennessee around Thanksgiving, but will be happy that we see a lot of family before then.

Losses

  • Poor Reagan was sickly (on top of teething) for part of the week. We had a pre-scheduled trip to the new pediatrician on Wednesday, so we were grateful for that. It was so difficult to see her so miserable, and I let her lay her head on my shoulders for as long as she liked each night. I have come to understand just exactly what my parents meant when they told me how hard it was for them when I or one of my siblings was sick. It’s downright awful.

Wins & Losses (August 19-25)

Wins

  • On top of a little babbling and cooing, our sweet second-born gave us her first laugh last week. Since I got to experience Rea’s first laugh, I was really hoping Becca could be there for K’s. And she was. She texted me at work to tell me about it and I go to hear a little chuckle later on that night. She has laughed a few times since then, and it’s just as cute every single time. We love watching her grow and develop, and I’m so excited that Becca gets to be at home to watch it happen in real time.
  • Anyone that knows me knows how much I love football. Specifically, you know how much I love high school football. Although I never played it (except for one season of jr. pro in elementary school), I love watching football with friends. That’s always made better with pre-game tailgating. That’s where you would have found our family on Friday night. We gathered before the game with several members of our church family for hotdogs and desserts before the Jones County home opener. While the girls went home before the game, I stayed and watched it with our student pastor. It didn’t take me long to get into the game and enthusiastically cheer for the Greyhounds. And to make it even better, Jones County and Adamsville High (my alma mater) have the same fight song. Providence?
  • We were absolutely delighted to spend Saturday evening with our new friends, the Abneys, here in Gray. They are the new middle school directors at our church and have a daughter close to Reagan’s age. We’d met them right as we moved here, and really wanted to get together to spend time getting to know each other a bit more. After a DELECTABLE meal, we played a round of Spades and of course, the wives beat the husbands. We’re thrilled to have made friends so quickly here and look forward to doing more of it!

Losses

  • It was a tiring week. Just about every evening had me somewhere. Some were obligations, others were optional that we chose. Either way, I’m looking forward to an easier week at home most evenings.
  • Let me say this one time and be done with it: I thought Tennessee was hot. I lived in Memphis, which was hotter than the rest of Tennessee for some ungodly reason. I am used to walking outside to get the mail and walking back inside drenched in sweat. That’s just West Tennessee and Tennessee in general. When people I knew referred to “hot Georgia,” I assumed it was about like what I had grown up with. NAW. Hot Georgia is a million times hotter. It’s humid and the sun is out for a little longer in the evenings. Granted, I am one that prefers warmer weather over colder weather. But I am convinced that someone in the Peach State has set the thermostat to the “hell” setting and has left it on for a good while.

Wins & Losses (August 12-18)

Wins

  • The first real, regularly scheduled work week in Gray was quite nice. I’ve already developed my weekly schedule, which makes life a little bit easier for me. I’ve always been one to get more things done when I assign certain tasks to specific days. If I don’t do this, I’ll end up starting 8 projects and maybe finishing one. Monday is planning day (services, choir, long-term), Tuesday is staff meeting, Wednesday is music printing & placing/choir rehearsal, Thursday is visitation/praise team rehearsal, and Friday is off. If other things get done during those days, whoop-dee-doo! I’ll just be thrilled that I got more stuff done!
  • While this did come as a surprise to me, I am now directing children’s choir (252 Kids Praise) at church. This is a Sunday night ministry, and I was really worried about it starting off as it had been a long time since I had led smaller children. I told the children’s minister not to expect much. However, I had a great time with those kids. It wasn’t a total disaster and the time went by really fast. I hope I can remember the names of everyone this next time around :/
  • Over the weekend, we welcomed Becca’s brothers to Gray. These are our first family visitors since we moved and we were glad to have them. The weekend consisted of many games of Spades, Battlestar Gallactica, and wonderful food prepped by Mimi. They helped out with the girls over the weekend and went to church with us on Sunday morning. We’re expecting lots of family during the months of September and October, and can’t wait to show them our new town.
  • Have we mentioned that EVERY BOX IS UNPACKED?!

Losses

  • With hitting the ground running here in Gray, my schedule has been pretty tight. This has left me, at times, quite tired. Getting enough rest has not been the easiest task on my plate. I’m hoping hat I’ll organize my schedule a little better moving forward so rest will come easier.

Wins & Losses (August 5-11)

Wins

  • Our move to Gray, GA was a great success. The moving company, All My Sons, did a stellar job packing, loading, transporting, and unloading. We were extremely impressed with their professionalism and efficiency. For those looking for a moving service, the Brashers highly recommend All My Sons Moving and Storage.
  • Before we left, my dear sweet cousins (David, Laura, Jude, Silas, and Asher Dawkins) stopped by to bid us farewell. They are missionaries in Spain who are in the USA on furlough right now, staying in Memphis. We had planned to spend a lot more time with them, but then Georgia happened. I was so happy to see them, even for just an hour or so. They imparted some wonderful words of wisdom on us as we prepared to jump into this new life. I hope that they can possibly find some time to come see us in Gray (*hint hint*).

  • Once we got here (even the night we arrived!), our church family descended upon us with help from all sides. Some brought us meals, some unpacked boxes, some watched the girls, and some ran errands that we didn’t have time to run. After 4 days, every box had been unpacked. We are absolutely overwhelmed at the kindness being shown to us. I knew I loved this town from the moment I first arrived and it’s being confirmed left and right with these gestures of kindness.
  • I was able to dive right in once we arrived and got a good chunk of our stuff unpacked. Debut of two services, staff meeting, facility meeting, planning worship services, rehearsing with musicians and choir, and a host of other things. My involvement here made us extra grateful for the help that showed up at the house.

Losses

  • Unfortunately, one of my first duties here in Gray was leading the music for a celebration of life for a church member who died suddenly. I did not know her personally, but I’ve been told she was definitely worth knowing. A schoolteacher who at one time taught in our church’s preschool, it was evident by the crowd at the service that she was well-loved. I was honored to lead singing at this lady’s home-going service.
  • As you can see, we have had a laundry list of items on our to-do list since we got here.Because of that, my patience with others hasn’t been even remotely up to par. I’ve had to apologize numerous times to those that I have hurt by mistake, realizing that they did nothing to deserve my sass. I’ll certainly be glad when some routine is established down here.

Wins & Losses: Summer 2018 Recap

What I thought would be a two-week rotation of W&L turned out to be nothing even close to that. A whirlwind of a summer put blogging on the backburner, and so I hope to recap everything in a concise, but thorough manner here. And away we go…

Wins

  • You can probably guess that the arrival of Kennedy was the highlight of the summer for us. Welcoming this laid back child into our family last June was an event for which we had grown very impatient. She’s been such a joy to have and I have loved spending my days with her, her sister, and her mama.
  • In mid-July, I accepted the call to come on board at First Baptist Church of Gray, GA as the Pastor of Music & Creative Arts. While I originally had written this place off due to other circumstances, the Lord made it very clear that we were supposed to be here. I love the staff here, and can’t wait to get to work with them. The transition is uncomfortable (as is with all transitions), but we couldn’t be more excited to begin a new stage of life in the geographic center of the state of Georgia. Y’all come see us!
  • A quick trip to the beach with Becca’s side of the family, right after our Georgia trip, was well worth the wait. We normally take vacations in June, but Orange Beach in July did not let us down or make us wish we’d come earlier. It was a great time to get away, especially after we’d just been confirmed at FBC. Reagan absolutely loved playing in the sand and the pool. I can’t wait for the day when all four of us can be in the water at the same time. That will be fun for sure.
  • Several times throughout the summer, I was given the opportunity to accompany congregational singing at Grace Community Church (PCA) in Cordova. Playing with those talented musicians was always a swell treat. Philip Himebook, the music director, came to be a dear friend with whom I could share great conversation. We always enjoyed talking about church work, hymns, Reformed theology, and other topics that interest music nerds like us. He does great work at GCC and I’m thankful that he thought to let me play with them from time to time.

Losses

  • Though we are beside ourselves to move to Gray, it doesn’t come without some sadness about leaving our families and friends in Tennessee. We both love Tennessee very much, and there will be much to miss about it (especially since my in-laws just bought a house with a pool; bad timing, methinks).
  • Every person has those moments in which they are reminded just how broken he is. I encountered a few of those moments this summer. I found myself in places I never thought I’d be and had to totally rely on God’s grace and strength to get me through it. Though we always learn something through the trials God places in our lives, actually going through it is never fun.

Reflections from #1163

I’ve made no secret about my part-time job at Lowe’s since March. It was a job I took to supplement the lost income from my previous ministry. Though it was a tough adjustment and created a tight schedule for our family, I learned a lot of things while working in the Garden Center. I’ll share a few of them here. For those of you that frequent Lowe’s (or any other big-box store), there will be some practical things that will help you on your home improvement journey. The others will be life lessons I’ve learned in the 5 months I’ve worked there.

  1. A customer service associate assigned to a particular department is not an expert in that department.

This is something I was told on my first day. My direct supervisor even said, “I know nothing about plants.” Now, the longer you work in a department, the more you will learn about the products you’re selling. But for the most part, as long as you’re able to read what’s written on an item’s packaging, you can make people believe you’re an expert on the subject. I still can’t identify every plant without a label, but I now know the primary ingredient for milorganite, and it’s gross.

2. The customer’s satisfaction is not the manager’s primary responsibility. If the manager’s employees are treated well, the employees will treat the customers well. Every time.

The management at Lowe’s #1163 was top-notch. I am very grateful for the supervisors that were above me. The manager that hired me was extremely flexible with my scheduling and always had his employees’ best interests at heart. Because of the great management, the store was well-run. I’ll never forget how well I was treated there, and will carry that with me as long as I can.

3. To the best of your ability, enjoy the people with whom you work.

I was really lucky to have some fun co-workers. We all got along great and there were only a few I didn’t enjoy being around as much. Sometimes we talked about work, sometimes we didn’t. We could always cut up and have a good time. In my personal situation, I knew that working at Lowe’s was a mission field for me, so I always looked for moments to tell my story and show Jesus to people. And when I encountered those that I didn’t particularly care to be around, I was nice and then looked for a reason to go do something else!

4. Assume that the customer service associate legitimately wants to see you satisfied.

Perhaps this is just how I’m wired, but if a customer needed help, I sincerely wanted to try to help him/her. Most of the time, the customer just needed to know where something was. Other times, they were looking for suggestions to solve a problem at their home. If I couldn’t help them, I tried to find someone that could. As I shop at retail stores in the future, I’ll remember this.

5. Do your best work, even if it’s the same 5 tasks over and over and over again.

I had a routine pretty much every night. Bag up/mark down busted bags, fill any holes where merchandise was low, blow down the garden center (the equivalent of sweeping), and move misplaced items to their home location. From time to time, there was something unique that needed to be done and I did it. But I tried to always give 100% of my efforts to all my tasks because I know how that place looked was a reflection of my work ethic. This is a reflection that is applicable anywhere in life.

I’m sure there are many other lessons I learned there, but these are the ones that stick out the most. I’m grateful to God for providing some extra income during this time, and I’m glad to have worked for such a good company. Thank you, Lowe’s #1163. You were good to me.

Preparing for Rain: A Story of Joy, Patience, and Answered Prayers

About two months ago, the Lord closed a door to a Tennessee church where we thought we knew we were supposed to be. It was a hard blow to me personally and I began to think that I was going to be working at Lowe’s in the evening for the rest of my life. Irrational, obviously. But I wasn’t too concerned with being rational at the moment.

“Coincidentally,” about an hour earlier, I had just finished an initial Skype interview with the search committee of another church in another state. I had talked to this church’s pastor previously, and thought he and I hit it off well. Though I was certain we were going to the TN church, I decided to at least talk to them. Our discussion was great and it was obvious to me that they were hungry for solid leadership in the music and creative arts ministry (they’d been burned). So, when I was having a pity party later on, I naturally gave this church a little more thought than before.

The pastor and I talked more and more, and each time was better than the last. He had a great sense of humor and was clearly leading his church well. Because I wasn’t serving in a church vocationally at the time, the committee couldn’t come see me lead, which was a bit of a hold-up. I had sent them videos of LEBC services and made a video just for them of me at the piano. Eventually, we decided that I would come down and lead a short, intimate worship session with the committee, staff, and a small ensemble of musicians. This is where the patience rubber hit the road. Remember, my wife was 8-9 months pregnant.

The first scheduled dates fell through because Becca had dilated 2 cm. Considering Rea came early, we didn’t want to take our chances being that far away from our hospital. So then they were going to come see us in our home and Becca and I would lead a session in our music room. Due to too many scheduling conflicts, that also fell through. We finally settled on the fact that nothing further could happen until Becca had this baby. In faith, I pitched some dates in late June for that initial worship session there. They agreed, and we made plans. Becca had that baby on the 24th and I left on the 26th (if you follow me on Instagram, you may have found out where this church is now). The two days I spent there were just fantastic. I met some wonderful people (including the pastor!) and almost immediately fell in love with the town.

Just to confirm that God was at work here, the worship session is where Satan began attacking. The power went out due a thunderstorm TWICE during our singing, but it did not stop us or deter us. I had a great time with the musicians and we all enjoyed cheesecake and coffee after it was over. I began the journey back home with a view-of-a-call Sunday planned a few weeks later.

Trying to be responsible, we began preparing our house for real estate. A few repairs here, some paint there…”preparing for rain” as we heard in Facing the Giants. We filled out paperwork and had our house on the market the day before we left. Again, a faith move…

We left on Friday morning knowing we had two showings scheduled for the day. We arrived (exhausted) about 8:30 on Friday, July 13th with an offer on the house. We decided to pray about it and sleep on it, knowing there could be other offers. The next day was full of activities including a tour of the town, deacons meeting, grip ‘n grin reception, Q & A session, and rehearsal with the choir, band, and orchestra. By the time we had supper at Waffle House at 9:30, we had sold the house. Mustard seed faith, right?

One part I left out was how Satan had continued his attacks on us since my initial visit. Car trouble with both cars, communication issues, and commitment we’re just a few of the ways the devil was trying to drive a wedge into God’s workmanship. Even on Saturday night, the alarm company called us in the middle of the night about a potential break-in at our house after we had accepted the offer. That kept us up for almost two hours doing more praying and talking. Thankfully, we are pretty sure it was a mistake in alarm setting by realtors.

Three hours after that scary call, we were up and at ’em ready to lead a worship service. Black coffee was my friend that morning. Another meeting and an emotional worship service later, I was confirmed to be the Pastor of Music & Creative Arts of the First Baptist Church in Gray, Georgia. Although that was the pinnacle of the weekend, we still had a luncheon to attend and two potential homes to look at. We finally collapsed in bed late that night around 11:30, overwhelmed and joyful.

So, here we are, on our way to the beach with an intense three weeks ahead of us. But no matter how hard Satan had attacked, we are walking away from this weekend with the following blessings:

  • A full-time ministry position, an answered prayer that’s been a long time coming
  • A house under contract with potential for a profit
  • A home-in-waiting in our new town
  • Joyful hearts and curious minds
  • I must be sure to thank our families for supporting us throughout this whole process. They kept us grounded and made sure we were making sound decisions. Full-time ministry was something they knew I had desired for a long time, and they stood by us. We will certainly miss them a lot.
  • This week was a battle of joy and heartache. After the dust settled, joy won soundly. We serve a mighty big God and we’re grateful He lets us take part in His handiwork.