2014 brought us more surprises, big decisions, heartache, happiness, adventure and more! We are thankful for each event, positive or negative, because it has ultimately drawn us closer as a family and more importantly, to our Savior, the reason we celebrate this wonderful holiday.
In January we had the privilege of traveling with the Oasis staff to Detroit and Frankenmuth, MI for a retreat and vision casting trip. It was eye opening for sure. We saw first hand what just a small amount of money could do in that area - make a HUGE difference! It was then that we saw Pastor Guy Melton's vision for "Love Cities, Love Pastors" come to life. We are honored to have been part of that vision and will continue our support and prayers.
MARCH - JULY
In March, through lots of tears and prayers, Jenn made the difficult decision to leave the ministry position she loved and held for 8 years at Oasis Church to be a stay-at-home Mom. That was the first leap of faith our family took this year. It was not easy or fun but it was necessary. That decision was the catalyst for everything else, though we didn't know it at the time.
This summer, we were prompted over and over by God, hinting here and there about what it might be like to start something new. But what? God showed us the business He wanted us to create and we began to realize He needed more of our trust and faith. This required Joel to also decide to leave the ministry position he loved and held for over 8 years. Again, not easy. Leaving steady income, insurance, benefits, a staff we loved and was like family was heart-wrenching. Through it all, God whispered "I'll take care of you. Trust me."
July was Joel's final month at Oasis Church. Also in that month a new opportunity was presented to us from our good friend Pastor Chris Hughes from Life Church in Franklin, NC. This was not in our plan. We were going to stay in south FL where we had contacts, friends and dear family for support during this new chapter in our family. But God had other plans! Chris offered Joel a part-time job at Life Church doing what he loves - creating video, working with volunteers and overseeing the technical ministry. While also giving us plenty of margin to pursue our calling of 99 Hills. Life Church is a Network church of LifeChurch.tv in Oklahoma City where Craig Groeschel is the Pastor. In that Network, there is lots of potential to work with other Network churches and get contacts from churches all over the country.
This sounded exciting and promising...but moving to North Carolina?? That was scary and definitely not part of the plan. God kept whispering, "Make your choice, I will be with you wherever you go. I will take care of you." After much prayer, tears (sensing a theme?!), and a good pro/con list, we decided to make the move.
august - september
We moved to Franklin, NC in August and fell in love with the mountains. Things were going well and we had so much support from our amazing friends, Chris and Emily Hughes. Life was good, we were excited to be there and try a new adventure. More surprises came our way, though, as Jenn took a pregnancy test and yes, it was positive! Immediately we were excited and very thankful! But Jenn started to have a very hard time with morning (read: all day) sickness and balancing everything on her plate. Joel started working 3 jobs and the adventure began to look grim. Again, God whispered, "You will get through this. I will take care of you."
In October, the sickness started to subside and Jenn started to feel more normal which was a huge blessing! Jenn's parents came to visit and it was a very sweet time. We celebrated Halloween in our new town and had a blast welcoming friends from FL to Franklin.
In November, we found out what baby #3 is - a BOY! Girl or boy, we are thankful for whatever! Our greatest desire is a healthy baby and Mommy. God is so good to give us this blessing. In April, we will welcome this new little life. We also traveled to south FL for Thanksgiving and had a wonderful visit with family and saw many friends as well. Thanksgiving reminded us how blessed we are, even on the hard days. We are so thankful for what God has done in our family this year.
december - 2015
This month, we are looking forward to our first Christmas on our own in a new place to start new traditions together. Joel's parents will come stay with us and we are excited to have them - it will be the first time since our first year of marriage that we will celebrate Christmas with them. And it will be the very first time for our kids to celebrate Christmas with Mimi and Papa. (Hoping for a first White Christmas!)
Whew! That's just the tip of the iceberg of what's happened, all that we've felt and all God has taught us this year. So many changes and big decisions in one year can be emotional and difficult and it has been. But, we know that God is stretching our faith, growing and challenging us. I know we will look back on 2014 as a crazy year but we'll be thankful for what we went through because we will be better because of it.
If you're still reading, thanks for taking this journey with us this year. Thank you for supporting 99 Hills with your encouragement, prayers and love! We hope 2014 was a wonderful year for you and your family and pray that 2015 will bring more opportunities to trust Him, have more faith and know He will take care of you!
here's to more faith, more adventure & wild rides in 2015!
Merry Christmas! Love,
Joel, Jenn, Sadie, Everett and Baby Boy,
The Collins Fab 5