Sunday, July 15, 2018

"Soul food, just not YOUR soul"

We found a new favorite show, Somebody Feed Phil. Phil was the producer of Everybody Loves Raymond. He travels the world - eating food! What a job, right?!  I think what we love is the connection he has with the people!  He was with this guy and the guy says "what's this place?"  Phil says "Soul food, just not your soul".  Haha  Phil has Jewish heritage so his comfort food was quite different than the gentleman who was with him.

Last night, Team Thomas (ALL FOUR OF US!!!!! did a momma's heart so good!!!!) sat down to a table full of "soul food".  What our family calls comfort food! You know the type where your fork is halfway to your mouth by the time you hear the word "Amen"?  We had 2 Peruvian dishes - Papa A La Huancaina and Arroz Con Pollo. Here's where the miracle comes in.  At one point during the meal a man-child proclaims "mom, I think you did it!!!!" 

Ya see... for 20 yrs I've tried to master Arroz con pollo. I'm not exaggerating! My sweet mother-in-love just throws it all in a pot and POOF - YUMMINESS!!!!!  Somehow my rice would be extremely mushy OR crunchy. There was no in between.  You can imagine my delight with that first bite; it was not crunchy OR mushy... JUST RIGHT!!!!   Now, I may never get it right again but we sure enjoyed this pot haha

Like most things in life, this just made me think.  Ya know how this food speaks to our soul??? We connect with it on a deep level! It brings the people and culture to the forefront of our mind and makes us smile!!!!!

That's how we should feel with God! His word, thinking about Him, remembering His love... we should connect on a deep level, we should EAT IT UP!!!!!!!  Soul food!!!!!!!!  Savoring every character trait He reveals to us!!!!

That is the kind of food all God's chill'ns have in common!!!!  It feeds our souls!!!!!! 

Then there's coffee......... but I digress because apparently there are SOME people who don't like coffee, I just don't get it...... :) 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Memember when...

For some reason, a season of change or reaching a big milestone brings about remembering - or as my boys used to say "memembuurrr".  I can go back as far as graduating high school, at that point we gathered pictures and went over all the school years with almost all fondness :)  Then engagement, marriage, kids, moving, kids birthdays, kids graduations.....  each change comes with its own set of remembering.

This new adventure we are on has proven to be the same. How in the world did we get here???  I mean, not in a bad way at all. Just simply, wow! we are here... look at all that transpired to get - HERE.  Depends on which version of the Bible you have but it's safe to say the Bible mentions the word/concept "remember" over 150 times.

Remembering the past is a funny thing, it can be the chains that hold you tightly in one spot, full of fear OR it can be the freedom that catapults you to the very person God intends you to be. 

Today, we were blessed to visit a place full of memories! We went back to the church building my family attending WAY back in the 70s. Wow! Just saying that out loud reassures me... I'm getting old. That's ok... I mean, look at the memories and stories!!! It's fantastic!!!!  My family attending Shiloh Baptist Church on Virginia Boulevard here in Huntsville Alabama. We also lived just down the street.  One thing I've noticed about childhood memories - things always seemed BIGGER. I walked into this church and thought "wow, I sure do remember this being bigger".  HAHA  This sweet little church has a community of believers meeting there on a regular basis.  It was such a blessing!!!! 
Sang my first solo there - The crayon song
Fell and bit my tongue in two on that playground
Remember hearing my first missionary come speak

And now... here we are, YEARS later.
These memories serve as a sweet reminder, God is writing our story! He pens every chapter. He artistically draws every illustrated picture.  I'm SO EXCITED!!!!! 

This next chapter is going to be EPIC!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Journey Continues...

Hey Friends!!!! It's been a while...

We have some EXCITING news to share!!!!!  Jeff and I are moving to Ocala, Florida to work full time with ITEC!!!!!!

There, I did it! I said it!  Ya know how long I've had all these ways of sharing this in my head???  It's like giving a birth announcement. You think of all of these creative, fun ways and then you finally just
GO WITH IT! Get it out there!!!!!

The truth is... God has worked in SO MANY WAYS I feel the need/urge to share them all but I'm reminded that um.... not everyone wants to read my rants SO, let me just get to the bottom line.

1. We are shooting to be working full time with ITEC around January 2019
2. We are in full support raising mode!  
A little tip for the site - where it says “designation”, select “other designation”
In the memo field enter “Jeff and Joy Thomas”
3. PLEASE pray!!! If God is urging you to come alongside us financially and prayerfully please let us know!!!!
4. Is there a platform (small group, church, family...) you would like us to come share our mission/vision???
5. We are humbly and boldly asking for your help!!!!!

What will we be doing???
Good question, glad you asked...
Jeff will be doing what he does so well - IT
God has given him over 20 yrs of experience in technology and communications that we will now be able to use in full time Kingdom work!!!!  He will also be going as team lead on training trips around the world. (He will get to use his Spanish speaking abilities a lot more!!!)
Joy (me) will be working with the media team using my ever learning photography skills :)  I'm also VERY excited to go on training trips as needed. My rolls are not set in stone but they may range from administrative to counseling to photography to SERVING COFFEE!!!! :)

Our family will be going through major changes and it's easy to focus on what we are leaving behind but God graciously reminds us in light of eternity... we are pushing towards the promise that is ahead.

We do not wage as the world does ~ 2 Cor 10:3-5
Be self-controlled. Resist the Devil. Stand Firm ~ 1 Peter 5:8,9
We fight not against flesh and blood ~ Eph. 6: 11-17
Be strong and courageous ~ Joshua 1:9
Rest in the shadow of the almighty ~ Ps 91:1-4
The battle is NOT ours, it's God's ~ 2 Chron 20:15

Love to you all!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 4, 2017


To compensate for the faults or bad aspects of something.

Today seemed like a normal Monday, the type of day that follows a wonderful long weekend. Well, mostly wonderful but that's another blog post...  My coffee was once again brought to me by my love as usual (a daily gift I NEVER take for granted... EVER!) Woke up in my usual manner of having quiet time and getting set for the day.  Shower, store, stop by to see my mom... normal stuff until...

I'm headed home and there I see him in the distance. I begin to slow down... noticing a large dump truck behind me, I started honking my horn and tapping my brakes thinking maybe it would alert the truck AND this precious dog playing in the highway.  I literally wanted to stop and park sideways in the road and escort the dog across. Thankfully, he made his way across 4 lanes and continued his muddy adventure at our local greenhouse.  I pulled in trying not to panic but wanting terribly to find him and somehow get him home.  It was VERY obvious he was NOT an outside dog, he was totally oblivious to the oncoming FAST traffic all around him.  I didn't realize it until later but I jumped out of my car, left it running and the door open, I started calling him but couldn't see him.  Another lady pulled in having seen him cross her side of the road as well.  We kept calling him until I saw a spec of muddy white come barreling towards me.  He came right to me!!!! Thankfully, he had a collar on with a name and number. I held on to him and gladly petted him and sat with him while the other lady called the number and informed them we had their dog.  We waited a bit and then his momma came driving up.  With tears streaming down her face she got out and was just a mess of thankfulness we had found him.  My new friend's name is Dusty.  I may never see Dusty again but that's ok.

Here's the redeeming part...

A while back, I was dogsitting for some neighbor friends and their sweet dog escaped. I remember the panic and how scared I was.  Unfortunately, her story didn't end so well. She was hit trying to cross this exact road that I found Dusty on.  Although, I could never replace Tinker... I shed some tears of thankfulness for God allowing me to be a small part of rescuing one his little furry friends.  I'm not sure why He chose to not save Tink but.... that's why I'm not God and He is!  I trust Him!  

As often God does, He takes a situation and says "look... I've been trying to tell you this, dontcha see..."  (although I'm not sure God says dontcha...)  All day He's been lovingly whispering to me about what a Redeeming God He is!!! He redeems time, people, circumstances... etc.  Even when our own humanness is to blame - He lovingly, in His mercy, Redeems!!!!!!  

Meet Dusty! He needs a bath... and so did I :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

I see you!

The job of a preschool photographer is similar to herding cats. A friend made reference to herding cats this morning and I fully understand! These little ones are so unpredictable it keeps things very interesting. One little boy got my heart this last week...

As he comes in his teacher fixed his obviously new shirt, buttoning it straight. He looks at me with a shy grin.  His teacher tells me he's a poker face - challenge accepted! He sits down on the floor next to me and we talked.  Not about anything particular, just chatted like old friends. His friend was having his picture taken.... err... I mean - PLAYING. We don't use the words "having picture made" it sends kids into a frinzy faster than the word "dentist".  As we sat there I said "oh, that was an awesome smile". I looked down and said "you have a smile in there?".  He gives me this BIG BEAUTIFUL grin and I thought "fantastic! we broke through before he even gets in front of the camera". As his friend finished up we sat and chatted a little more.  Then, his turn.... he goes and sits down and.....
nothing. Not even a slight smile.  We worked and worked, trying all the tricks we knew to try.  Thinking I had a connection with him I go up close and talk to him. He looks in my eyes... deep into my eyes, without saying a word I think he was reading my soul. He answered with his eyes "ya know, I really want to smile but I just can't.... not now".   Sweet little boy!!!   So, we were done. A photographer HATES not to get a smile... it feels like failure ya know.   He starts to walk off and I said "hey... come here".  I give him a hug thinking - I'll hug him real quick and just let him know everything was cool.  He hugged me, not just a hug but a bear hug that wouldn't let go... as in I couldn't let go.  Had there not been other amazing little smiles we needed to capture I have a feeling I would still be there.  Without a word from either of us, just a strong "hey, it's all good" hug... he headed back to his class room.  Although he walked out of the room, he left with me the smell of a man. It was then I realized, his sweet momma or daddy dressed him up and put cologne on him that day, getting him all ready for picture day.  His sweet tender heart was so shy he just couldn't smile. He wasn't being mean at all... just couldn't do it.  I'm a smell person, smells get to me. My memories are connected to smells... for the rest of the day, I carried this smemory (it's a word, trust me).  I prayed for him - I prayed for this sweet one who wanted to say so much but could only hug.  That's ok little one, this momma needed a good little boy hug..... carry on sweet little man - I see you!!!!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

My Little Buddy

Have you ever spent any time with a 3 yr old????  They are amazing right?!?!?! 
I've learned so much by working with preschoolers.

They don't know how to be anyone else but themselves. I love this!
They say what is on their mind.
Dinosaurs and Super heroes are SO SO SO COOL!!!!!

I have 2 boys, trust me when I say I know how trying they can be on a day to day basis.  Trying, annoying, difficult.... all the things! BUT... as an adult with adult kids I see 3 yr olds as something truly inspiring!!!  Maybe because I get to send them HOME but still.....

Let me unfold a story for you - Family walks in for a photo session. 2 precious little boys! While mom and dad were getting there picture taken I was being entertained by this amazing 3 yr old boy! "and... and.... you know what??????"  Not quite clear what followed each time he said that but I'm convinced by his tone and expression it was VERY IMPORTANT!!!!  The sweet mom had brought a bag of goodies for the boys to use as props (I LOVE it when that happens... it's so fun for us AND the kids).  In this bag was this little man's favorite book. At some point he says "you want to read this?".  My reply was quick and meant to distract him from wanting to read this entire book "sure, maybe later".  The photo session went a little long but they did SO GOOD!!!  As they were getting ready to leave this sweet boy says "will you read this now?".  Yeah, tell me you wouldn't have given in, just tell me....
So we sit down on the floor and I open up his favorite book "The Monster at the end of this book".  Knowing I had to still stay in "work mode" I was determined to skim through this book and "read" it so he would be satisfied and all would be good.  No thing doin! He had every word memorized, no summarizing was accepted.  We did make it through the entire book and I didn't even cry. He was happy, I was happy, all God's chill'ns was happy!

Now, here's where it gets interesting! Ever experience something that should just be a situation and you move on with life but somehow this situation brings a myriad of memories/thoughts/feelings that you're really not sure what to do with at the moment so you store them away until there's time for further examination (WOW that was a long sentence, and I didn't breathe the whole time I was typing ha). This little experience made me remember precious times with my boys when we would sit and read. Their anticipation of what was to come was the same every. time. we. read. the. book.   Letting a few tears flow as these memories seep out on the computer screen. The days are long and the years are short.  I feel like I missed quite a bit of time with my sweet boys due to circumstances beyond my control and I would love to get that time back but... that wasn't God's plan. Things very rarely work out as we "plan", so I will trust HIS plan!!!  

This might be chapter 1 of "Photographer adventures with 3 yr olds!".  This was a favorite from the week, along with a very animated little boy who while eating popcorn decided we would watch a movie AKA his brother getting his picture taken.  When I asked him what the movie was he said "Thomas". Then every time we would try to talk he would say "SSssshhhh watch the movie!!!".   

I'm blessed.

I'm encouraged.

I'm tak'n a trip down memory lane but I'm ok with that :) 

Love em and laugh with em!!!!!!

Until next time - watch out for boogers in strange places!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

And.... there it went....

About 5 years ago we were planning a trip to visit a Mission Agency in England. It felt like it would never happen. We planned and researched, prayed and anticipated. This trip was amazing, it was just what God intended for it to be. We had some emotional healing that took place, family memories that will forever be our favorites and OH THE CHEESE!!!!  Wow, they have the best cheese!!!!  And then.... it was done. Just like that, we were looking back at the memories. What felt like an eternity to happen, went by with the blink of an eye.

And just like that.... we're done. I'm no longer a homeschool mom. I remember when my boys were 3 and 5 and this journey began it was full of planning and anticipation, fears and excitement! Nights spent wide awake praying that we had made the right decision in keeping our boys home to educate them.  Each year we would look at where we were at and pray about what school was going to look like for our boys. I did set curriculums, unschooling, "mommas tired, I'm done", Co-op.... it feels like we tried it all these past 15 years.  I knew I would have these moments of grief and moments of happiness.  Honestly, it's been mostly happiness... I feel so overwhelmingly blessed to have my boys and those L O N G days that felt like they would never end, they are now memories. Sweet, blessed memories!!!  I've grieved my mistakes, asked for forgiveness for my human-ness. My prayer is that in spite of me, God will use my boys to further His kingdom! There's an excitement with this next phase of life... a little scary but I'm ok with that.  I know I'm not alone in this journey, I have so many friends who have kids graduating and are heading in this next phase of life.  As we are not empty nesters per say... there's just a realization that this stage of our life is done.  So... in honor of 15 yrs of homeschooling, here you go...

1. The kitchen is the best class room
2. A park day just might save your life (or your child's life)
3. Quiet time after lunch should be required for all of the human race!
4. A storm is a perfect time for a picnic lunch on a quilt in mom's room
5. Gum does in fact NOT pull boogers out of a little boy's nose
6. "mom, just let me blow" may end with a lego jetting out of a nostril
7. Dining rooms are great school rooms
8. Downstairs neighbors don't care for music class (think pots and pans with wooden spoons)
9. Never be scared of messes... they make the best learning experiences and memories
10. Cliche alert: the days are long, the years are short
11. Boys will break everything. Period.
12. Things are not the most important thing in life
13. "They are just being boys" is never an acceptable excuse
14. It's a proven fact that broken bones heal faster when one eats ice cream
15. Every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year... was worth it!!!!!!!

Team Thomas