Friday, September 25, 2015

The Change of the Seasons

Today I'm tackling a subject that is not meant to coerce anyone else making a decision to make my decision; it is meant to share my experiences in facing a new phase of life. My hope is you can relate to life's changes more than you can a particular decision or outcome that I chose.

In May 2008 I graduated college (Da Bears!) and set out for the first time on a career path. I had had a few jobs in college but having a career was taking a job to a new level. Fast forward four years and I had been teaching middle school. While it got tiring and I was often worn out, I have such fond memories of my co-workers and students. I learned more in that 4 years than I could put into words. Many days I still forget that I'm not a teacher; that was so much a part of who I am.

the good ol' days of teaching at AMS with these babes and getting off at 4 so we could still hang out all night!
When Cash came into my life and we got married, I felt I was ready for a new career. I had really allowed the stigma of teaching overwhelm me. I lost my ministry in it; it had become a job. While now I can look back and say "wow" to all of the experiences, at the time I felt there was something different for me. And at the time there was.

I moved to Midland in 2012. In the previous years I had wanted what I considered a professional career: one where you wore business professional and went to lunch with clients and had evening events. I had seen my dad work in this environment my whole life, and I looked up to and respected the position he held. If I could just be like that, I would have made it (I thought).

For nearly 3 years I worked for a community bank. They were amazing to me. After hiring me to ultimately help start a training department, they quickly gave me all the things I thought would make me feel professional. And it did. I was proud of my work. I worked my tail off.

sending selfies to my sister during a conference call; oh, the corporate world
During that time I felt I was where I needed to be and never would have foreseen a change. I had a terrific boss and a lot of freedom in my creativity and development of the department. Within a couple of years, I had been promoted twice and had become the Training Manager and an Assistant Vice President. Let me pause there.

I remember the day so vividly that my boss walked in and handed me flowers with a card that said congratulations on my latest promotion. Wow. I couldn't believe it. It was humbling to have worked so hard and be given such a great opportunity. When she left, I began calling Cash and my whole family. "You won't believe this! I'm an AVP now!" They all said kind congratulations. They knew I had worked hard, because they were on the receiving end of all the nights I was away from home.

While I was filled to the brim with excitement and pride, I remember going home that night and home...I was Avery. My husband did not love me more nor did he love me less. My parents did not begin to see me differently. My dogs weren't wagging their tails a bit faster. I think that's when my mind began a shift from look what I can do to Jesus, what do YOU want me to do?

In the same time frame Cash and I began decorating our Christmas tree. I found an ornament one of my first students had given me tucked away in a box full of Christmas cards from past students. I broke down. In front of me I saw how lives had been changed. God had used me for that time of my life to be His vessel into my students' lives. I had let that go. It was beginning to become another hard lesson in the chapter of listening more to God than myself.

That was in December. In March we found out we were expecting our first child. I had already begun praying, "God, You have allowed me great opportunities. You gave me what I thought I wanted. I feel empty. I miss the rewarding aspect of a ministry for you. What do you want me to do?" Let it be known that there definitely is a ministry in every job. I had been able to write a leadership training that influenced the lives of many co-workers and hopefully be a witness to others on a daily basis. But what I could not determine at the time if that was the ministry God wanted for me.

Let me take you back a few years. I remember my second year of teaching telling a friend of mine, "I could never leave teaching. To not have the opportunity to minister these students--I just couldn't imagine." That was where my heart had been for 8 years of college and working. And then I had taken a leap and went into the corporate world. While it was a great experience, I was just beginning to feel I had turned my back on God's calling for my life. I think I had wanted to make more money, have a little more (what I considered at the time) prestige. And what I found with that was that at home I was no more of a "real somebody" and in my heart I felt I was missing out on my calling.

So we found out we were having a child. Not something I had originally known I wanted in my life, but I found out quickly that my whole world would be turned upside down in the best way possible. In no time I had quit shopping for myself, eating for myself, thinking for myself. I found myself on my knees more than any other time in my life (even if it was hard to get up and down the bigger my belly grew!). What I felt God begin to tell me was rocking my world.

In March I thought God was telling me that the empty feeling I had had for a few months was for a purpose. He was proud I had worked hard, but he was preparing me for something different. By the summer I knew but could hardly face that that different preparation was for me to stay home. I remember crying on the front porch with my mom and sister and said, "But I've worked so hard! Do you know what all I've accomplished? And 2016 is a Presidential election year; I DO NOT WANT TO WATCH CARTOONS DURING DEBATES!!!" They laughed for a moment and then told me that all of those cares about my career and Presidential elections would be different now.

As I continued to pray I tried to understand why would God lead me to 2 different job roles only to have me stay home? Wasn't I smarter than that? What about graduate school? Had all of that been for not?

It did not take God long to totally erase my selfish desires or silly preconceived notions. I began to see very clearly that the more I pursued my own adventures the less I felt like a good wife, a good soon-to-be mom, a good friend. I was bogged down; and I think God let me see and feel that to understand why He was calling me to something different.

Now God's path for every woman is different. For you He may have called you to be in the corporate world and be a life changer there. Or He may have said that you should be a nurse or doctor and save lives and be a life changer there. And in that He may have told you what He told me: let My direction and My blessings be enough for you. His direction and His blessings for you may look different than His direction and blessings for me. But I knew exactly that He meant for me to pull back from the world I was hoping to be in and allow myself to love my family and care for them like I never imagined possible.

My close friends who knew me I'm sure laughed when I told them I thought I would stay home. My friend Megan said, "I never saw that from you. You were so career-minded." I could not shake, however, God's total conviction over this decision. When I gave work a two weeks' notice, they were in complete surprise. I could not have been more thankful for my nearly 3 years there and then how they were completely supportive during this time. They did not try to coerce me into staying or maybe working part-time. They told me they respected my decision. On my last day of work I walked into an office with a baby gift and gift card lying on my desk. I wept.

I wept for the memories. I wept for the kindness. I wept for the love I shared with them. But I did not weep over the decision; I had gotten too strong of a word from my Lord to weep against His will.

The first two weeks were a little bit harder for me in weaning myself off of titles and responsibilities and duties that lead to praise and recognition outside the home. I was afraid Cash would think less of me. I don't know why. Although we had come to this together, I felt like I was not contributing as much or he would think I was lazy. That may sound silly, but it was a deep fear of mine to be seen as less in my husband's eyes. But every day he supported me. When I cried that I wasn't as much as I used to be, he gently reminded me I was even more. When I felt like I wasn't a good enough cook or housekeeper, he would brag on what a good job I did.

my new role of housewife and trying to do my first load of laundry
It's been 4 weeks now that I've been home. While that is not a long time, this decision and working seem like a distant memory. I'm exactly where I know God wants me to be, and I have had the utmost peace in the adjustment. The baby is due in less than 7 weeks, so I've been taking this time to adjust to what my job is inside the home. I've learned so much already. These are merely my take-aways, but maybe some of you can relate:
  • the smell of fresh, clean laundry is the best smell inside of a home
  • the seemingly small task of ironing my husband's clothes makes me love him more
  • having the bed made and the home comfortable for him gives me purpose
  • putting my love into his food makes it worthwhile when I see how happy he is to be fed and full on a halfway decent meal (We are still learning that one!)
  • being at peace with God and with myself brings more peace into our home 
  • doing for my husband and our home has made our love deeper and stronger
I have loved these 4 weeks. I have nothing to brag about. The hubs does not give me raving quarterly reviews or promotions. I have no title to put on LinkedIn. At parties I get to talk about errands instead of deadlines. But I'm where God wants me to be for this season of my life.

When I was working, I tried to keep strong to the verse found in Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." I find that still true as I work inside the home. Paul continues in verse 24 "knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." These words rang true for 7 years of professional life. And today, as I sit here on a Friday afternoon with a roast in the crock pot and clean sheets on the bed, they still ring true to my time as a stay-at-home-wife/mother. And I encourage that for you too. Whatever God has led you to in your life, do it with all your heart. You, my dear friend, are serving the Lord Christ.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Saturday Down South

I am one upset little Piggie for the Hogs' loss to Texas Tech this past weekend. Didn't we finish strong last year? Like, weren't we ranked going into the year? And now we've lost to Toledo (holy Toledo!!!) and Texas Tech. I'm sitting here still wondering what happened to my Hogs.

Sunday on the way home I was so mad that I threw a tantrum and said, "That's it! I'm taking the hog nose off the crib AND I'm cheering for A&M this weekend." That was bold, Avery. That was bold.

But now I've recanted somewhat and can't just let my Hogs go like that. For now I'll just concentrate on the fun we had tailgating and at the game. Yeah, that means I got to go to Arkansas to a game on the Hill! My heart needed to call those Hogs with the best of them. And we did just that.

Let's Call Those Hogs! WPS!
While most of my family met us at the game (they had a big off-roading trip planned that morning, Hello Arkansas), Cash and I along with my brother-in-law, Mom's cousin, and uncle went up the Hill. I love tailgating! Mostly I love eating all afternoon with no one telling me I shouldn't, but I also loved the company.

Cash and my BIL Dustin grilling nothing other than sausage links--don't all mascots eat themselves? ha

I'm sure my BIL was making up some kind of story here and Cash was like, what the heck is he saying?!

I love this pic, mostly because some rando behind us intentionally photo bombed us.

It has taken 4 1/2 years to get him in that shirt and sporting a Razorback coozie.

I found the coolest cupcakes! And I had 5 (or more) of them.

Moving to Texas I was amazed with the enormity of high school football. Our local teams may have mediocre years, but they always have a couple kids go D-1. That was foreign to me, and I have loved seeing the local guys go on to awesome collegiate careers.

However, what Texas doesn't know about football is the atmosphere of the SEC and a Saturday in the real South. Whether the SEC is down this year or not is still up in the air; what I love about the SEC is the tradition, the tailgating, the outfits. In Texas the girls wear cowboy boots. That's fine. But in the South they wear their Sunday best. It's a different world. (Sadly my husband refuses to wear what he calls "SEC hair" but I'm learning to love a different style all the same. ;))

As a Hog fan not much more is as exhilarating as calling the Hogs (can I get an "amen!"?). But I also love when Tusk and the cheerleaders come into the stadium, the band forms the A, and 70,000+ people are on their feet screaming for the state troopers to lead the guys on the field.

running through the A

Now we all know the Hogs got roasted on their own field, but I still have hope our little one becomes a Hog. So until we can get to another game at Donald W. Reynolds, here's to tailgating at the house 600 long miles away.

everything about fall on one banner

7 more weeks to go...and that little one already kicks with excitement when I call the Hogs

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

ATX to PCH (and a little one to boot)

Hi! I've missed YOU! The Pullins have been busy little people, and I have to start out with our most exciting news in all of 2015: We are expecting! In case you don't believe's what happens to a pregnant girl at midnight:

Don't judge.
The cravings are a real thing. Okay, I don't know if they are or not, but I sure use it to my advantage to have muffins at midnight, go get hot fresh donuts at 9:00 pm, and to not have to eat Rosa's. I'm a little nervous as to how life will be once I can't say, "But I'm pregnant! And I need a NAP! A donut first but then definitely a nap!"

We are due in November and currently hitting the 6 month mark. Time flies! While waiting for the little one (we're not finding out if it's a boy or girl so I just call it both), we have been trying to soak up every moment we have left of just us. It's so hard to believe how our world is about to change. Cash already notices when he sees daily Zulilly purchases hit our bank account.

This summer I surprised Cash with a trip for his 30th birthday! I even packed for him as he had no idea where we were going. He has family in the Austin/San Antonio area, so I rented a house on Lake Austin and invited the fam over for a surprise cookout on Saturday. I also got him a paddleboard, something he had wanted since our Hilton Head trip last year. As the surprises kept rolling in, he could not contain his excitement (and excitement is not the #1 emotion ever shown by Cash Pullin-so that was a W for the Mrs.). It was a great weekend with everyone!

Lake Austin

Cash trying out his new paddleboard
Lake Austin was in June, and in July we checked out California for this first time! Wow, how beautiful...and big! The Pacific Coast Highway was just breathtaking as we drove from LAX to Solvang.

Cash had been wanting to rent a convertible to drive the PCH, and he had himself a blast driving on the coast around the cliffs with the top down. We both ended up sunburnt, but hey, you're only in Cali once-ish.

Solvang and the Santa Ynez Valley were gorg! We did a wine tasting tour where I got to smell like 3 sips of wine, but it was very peaceful in the vineyards. It was definitely a laid back lifestyle in the area.

enjoying our last bit of freedom!
 So while the group enjoyed the wine, I enjoyed the scenery. Life was bliss on this Sunday afternoon:

Lincourt Winery
While in the area I convinced Cash to drive by a couple homes. The first was the Neverland Ranch. I thought it was really cool to be at MJ's home! Cash thought it was creepy. I kind of see his point since 2 ladies with the license plate "I heart MJ" were having a full on 5-course picnic at his gate. Needless to say he would not get in the picture.
Neverland Ranch
I also did not get to participate in...well...almost everything at Universal Studios. I say almost everything since I did use my fast pass to get in front of all the 3 year olds for some kiddy ride. Hey, don't judge, it was the only ride I could do and I did not want to waste my fast pass!

Since US was not the kindest to me, Cash promised to take me by the Bachelor Mansion! I know, call me filthy for watching that trash, but it's my outlet. I have no excuse. I just really enjoy the craziness of it all: Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise. I don't judge. I watch them all.

Bachelor Mansion #teambenz
We had our 3rd anniversary while back in LA. My adorable husband planned a romantic sunset dinner overlooking the ocean in Malibu that night. The bump was a rockin', and I felt like an absolute princess in Malibu!

Mastro's Ocean Club, Malibu
The central focus of our trip was to hit up the ESPYs. I would like to note that we bought the trip long before Caitlyn Jenner was a name, so knowing that was happening was a shock to us right before we left! It was an awesome night though seeing the likes of JJ Watt, Peyton Manning, Rachel McAdams, Brittney Spears, Ben Affleck, and the list goes on! We literally almost walked into Carli Lloyd from the U.S. Women's Soccer Team. She looked fab too!

ESPYs 2015
What a celebration in the year of sports! We were rooting for Jordan Spieth in all of his nominations, and he did win 1! Of course he was at the Open, so we did not see him. But, believe me, we will be going to watch the Texas boy in person one of these days!

We spent 4 nights in Beverly Hills. I have never seen anything like it. It's crazy different from NYC, and it was luxury from head to toe. It was a nice week of being pampered before heading back to the real world of West Texas and 100 degrees! Here is the bump at 23 weeks in Cali...
23 weeks
A recap of our summer just wouldn't be complete without a snapshot of the 'rents in Midland at the gun range. Cash built both himself and my parents an AR-15, so of course we had to go sight them in. Nothing says welcome to Midland, Texas, where we love Jesus and George W. Bush, guns and the 2nd Amendment, and Pecos watermelon like afternoon at the gun range!

Oh, and of course, we got to meet LT! He's only a future NFL Hall of Famer, so it's whatev.
Cash and LT
In a week and a half we get to head to Montana and Canada with my parents and my sister's family. I absolutely cannot wait! BUT it's going to be the longest amount of time Cash has ever spent with my family, so I may be coming home a single mom... :)

I hope you are all enjoying the summer! Until next time...


Sunday, January 25, 2015

So lift your voice, it's the year of Jubilee

It's been four years since I met my husband via this silly little blog.

Four years later, and I'm the happiest girl on earth.

This past year met Cash and I with so many great things but mostly with growth in love, faith, and marriage.

Now let me tell you about a particular few days in the past 365.

About two weeks ago the music minister at our church asked Cash if we would mind keeping some kids from Uganda for a couple of days. Cash, being the decision maker he is, told him to come find me.

To be very honest, I wanted to say no. Uhh. We just have so much going on, and because we are some of the youngest in our church we get asked to do everything. So I tried to think of a quick excuse, and when I didn't have one I had to say yes.

When I obliged, a couple of things happened. One, Cash looked at me like I needed to be sent to the nut bin. What the heck was I thinking? Two, I was handed a packet of papers that listed what the kids could and couldn't do and could and couldn't eat and when they had to be at church and when they had to be in bed. Whoa.

Eat? Did that mean I had to cook? Yes, yes it did. {Darn. That would've been my excuse had I have known that ahead of time! I don't know how to cook.}

"You will pick the kids up Thursday at 5:00. They will be yours until Saturday at 11:00."

That's all we knew. What we didn't know was that that short amount of time was about to change our lives forever. Eight days after being asked to host, we found ourselves at church meeting chaperones from Uganda who thanked us for keeping 2 boys: Sylus and Eric.

The entire group was from Uganda and members of the Asante Children's Choir. Now I had never heard of this choir nor had much of a heart for Africa. {I know, that is not very mission minded of me. It just wasn't my thing.} But these kids, they walked in single file and sat down so quietly. Their leader, Henry, asked them if they were ready to meet their host families, "Yes, Uncle." they said in unison as they stood.

One by one they walked to the front of the church. Then Henry read off the names of the children paired with the host families. When Sylus & Eric were told they would be with us, they did not walk to meet us. They ran. And they grabbed us for hugs. And they said, "Thank you, Uncle. Thank you, Auntie. Thank you!"

Oh my heart. My heart changed in that moment.

Eric, Sylus, me
You know when you called the Lord your Savior for the first time? Or you met the love of your life? You know that feeling that burns deep inside with passion and excitement? Meeting those boys branded on my heart the love only a parent knows and one so deep that it could only be compared to life's most blessed moments.

Somewhere between "Ask Avery if we can do that" and "But I don't know to cook", God molded our  hearts to be ready for these boys.

That night as we sat around the dinner table (the boys, Cash & I, my in-laws, and the bus driver Bernie), we learned about things the boys like {soccer, basketball, Texas} and things they don't like {spicy food, American football, cookies}. As Sylus finished his dinner, he asked, "Auntie and Uncle, may I please be excused."

I sat there stunned for a few seconds. {My nephew usually doesn't even have clothes on at the dinner table. He definitely isn't asking to be excused!} We excused Sylus, and he began to pick up his plate. Afraid that he would break it, I said, "Sylus, you can leave your plate there, Bud. I'll pick it up." He refused and took it to the kitchen only to emerge and ask every adult if they were also finished. The boys cleaned off the table before I was even done!

I walked into the kitchen, and I could not believe what I was seeing: 11 and 13 year old boys washing the dishes! I did not ask them. They did not say anything. They just did the dishes because they were so gracious for the dinner. And, well, that's what kids do in Uganda apparently.

cleaning dishes and speaking in Luganda to each other
The next day Cash and I took the boys lunch to school, because they really wanted hamburgers from Whattaburger. Yes, they've been in Texas for a while!

On Friday night we took them to the Midland High School basketball game. The boys did not know girls played basketball and were taken aback that MHS had an entire girls' team! They particularly loved watching the guys dunk it during pregame and a few times during highly anticipated plays in the game. We gave them MHS Bulldogs shirts that they wanted to wash and wear again the next day.

Sylus & Eric in their Midland High Bulldogs shirts

The cheerleaders started throwing out shirts to fans, and I taught the boys to wave their arms in hopes to have a shirt thrown their way. They began vigorously waving to the point the entire stands were rooting for these two Ugandan boys to get an XL t-shirt. They were just too precious, and it was obvious the boys had never seen this activity before!

Two cheerleaders saw the boys going crazy for a t-shirt, so they walked two shirts up to us. I could not even get the boys' attention to tell them as they were having such a good time waving their arms back and forth. Finally, they saw the shirts and were elated! They thought it was neat that they sat the shirts down and started waving for another one. Ha! If it worked once, why not twice?
Sylus & Eric enjoying the game and popcorn

Our friends at the game fell in love with the boys. Of course every person they'd meet they would hug and say, "Nice to meet you, Uncle/Auntie." How do you not love that? {The boys also immediately walked into the house after the game and began doing this dishes. I had told them before the game that we were a little late, so we'd do the dishes later. Apparently later meant the moment we walked in the door. They could not stand leaving a job undone.}

Cash, Sylus, me, Eric at Midland High
Saturday morning they asked to wake up early and "play basketball with Uncle." So. We did.

 If they made a basket, I would jump and scream as if they were Michael Jordan. They got a big kick out of that. I would yell, "Let's go, boys!" Eric finally corrected me and said, "No. We are Bulldogs!"

Cash got a little winded at one point from playing 2-on-1, and Sylus told him, "Uncle, be strong!" Cash admitted to me later that when a young man from Uganda who has seen the impossible tells you to be strong, you somehow get a second wind!

Sylus, Cash, Eric happy after the pick-up game

the boys decided to play it tough

We finished the morning by just playing and being with them. It was becoming evident how hard it would be to take them back just a few short hours later.

Cash and Sylus thumb wresting

Eric & I taking selfies

I am a cry baby; I cry when someone gets kicked off The Bachelor. Cash is a man's man. He is tough and very even-keeled. He gives me reason and strength when I have neither.

I walked into the bedroom before we left for church, and the man of my dreams stood there with tears streaming down his face. "I am going to miss them. I love them. I love those boys."

I had fallen in love no doubt but so had Cash. This was a love we had never expected but found together. It was our first time to love with every ounce of our heart someone we had just met two days before. We could not fathom taking them to church, letting them go back to Uganda, and never knowing what their lives became.

It took us 10 hours to go back home after we had dropped them off. We could not stand the thought of an empty house. It wasn't empty though. We found these sweet and sincere notes: 

On Sunday afternoon we met with Henry to ask options for taking care of the boys. They had blessed us to the very core. They had renewed in us a sense of joy. And they loved us without needing anything in return. How could we ever repay them? What could we do?

We were told we could perhaps visit them in Uganda, but that they would finish through high school their education there. They may or may not ever be back on the tour. But he assured us they would be taken care of with 3 meals per day, healthcare, and a high school education. We felt...okay.

Sunday night we were able to watch the whole choir perform. I sobbed like a baby as they entered the second half of their routine.

A lady from a different church stopped me later. She asked if we had kept any of the kids. When I said yes we had, she responded, "I was watching you, and I know your pain. We have kept some of the kids before, and I know how hard it is to let go. It will get better."

On one hand I hope she is right. I hope it does get better. But on the other hand I never want to lose the feeling of joy and peace that those two boys brought into our lives. I want to go see them. I desperately wish I could find a way to bring them back home; to give them a life here with us. Right now that is not God's plan. Cash tells me that God has bigger plans for Eric and Sylus than Midland, Texas. I am certain He does.

I also believe God does not open a door to shut it two days later. He does not prepare your heart, fill it, and empty it again. God does not just quit writing a portion of your story when he saw what the first few paragraphs looked like. He sees it through. I have no idea what the end of the story will be, but I am trying to remember daily that with patience God will be the best author of our lives. {I do wish God could do some foreshadowing though. C'mon.}

While I reminisce on the most joyful days of our lives, I hope you enjoy this short clip of the Asante Children's Choir. {Please give to Asante if you can. The needs of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi are greater than we can imagine.}

Our boys are in the middle and back row:

Asante Children's Choir singing "Days of Elijah" at Christ Church Anglican, Midland, Texas.