Thursday, November 17, 2005

My Best Friend

I've had the habit of having a best friend for a while now. It started in middle school. Her name was Heidi Best. I talked her into trying out for the Varsity soccer team at Irmo High school with me when we were in 7th grade. She had never played soccer before...she was a softball player. But she came out there in her white softball cleats and, without really knowing much about the sport, made the team. She ended up being one of the best players in the state by the time she graduated from Irmo, and went on to play Division I college soccer and now is in med school. Heidi and I were, as the saying goes, attached at the hip. Where one was, the other was close by. We took classes together, rode our bikes everywhere (before we got our licenses, and then it we drove around everywhere), played soccer together on countless teams (for two years, we drove 2 hours each way 3 times a week for practice with an out-of-town team because they were more on our level), and got into trouble together, too. After we graduated, our lives took different paths, and though we've been friends ever since, the depth of our friendship has dwindled over the years. She's in med school now, and this spring will be Dr. Best! Go girl!

In college, I met a precious girl named Mary Claire Holmes. Mary Claire was in my first class at Furman...an 8am English class. She was beautiful and athletic and sweet...I was a little intimidated. But we got to be friends throughout the term, and found ourselves both new members of Delta Delta Delta that year. By midway through our Junior year, I found out that I was the only one who called her Mary Claire still! I quickly dropped the 'Mary'. We were pretty good friends, and decided to live together with two other of our buddies in an apartment. From there, our friendship was on steroids. We made a commitment to pray together every night. And, the crazy thing was that we stuck to it! We got to know each other's little habits and big dreams. Our hearts were bonded, mainly I believe, because of those prayers. After college, we ended up living together again in Charleston, and the friendship continued. There's just something about living with a person that, in positive circumstances, bonds you to her. We ran together, laughed hysterically, sang into our hairbrushes, learned how to cook (really, she taught me), took fun road trips, and cried on each other's shoulders from time to time. Our friendship, rooted in Christ, is one that I cherish every day, and know that it will continue for years to come. One day, the handsome young Citadel graduate Claire was dating told me he needed to talk to me about something important. Chris proceeded to ask me to give up my reign as her best friend...so that he could be her lifelong best friend. I thought, 'well, you THINK you'll be her best friend, but there's no substitute for a girl". Of course, I gave him 'permission', and 9 months later I was celebrating their marriage with them.

Over the last year and a half, I have been developing a friendship with the most wonderful man on Earth. During my bridesmaid's luncheon, I told Claire that though I had been replaced a while back as her #1 best friend, I had kept her as my #1 best friend until that day. That day, she was getting scooted to #2. There's a new best friend in town, and HIS name is Brandon. Brandon and I were married and moved to California. For a while, he was my ONLY friend here, so it was easy to think of him as my best friend. But, again, there's something about going through life with someone that just bonds you together.

My best friend isn't perfect...but he's perfect for me. In the morning when we wake up, I realize that my delightful dream that I just had about him is actually a reality. Sometimes I have a hard time getting up...and then I'll hear him going into the living room to turn on praise music and then come back in to scratch my back and tell me, "Wakey wakey, Coley. It's a beautiful morning, and you're going to do great things today." He's focused and knows the goals he has set for our life are going to take work to achieve. He's not afraid to take the risk. He loves...not just his wife, but also the bum who lives under the bridge by our apartment, and the guy in his Greek class, and my friends here at school to whom he gives encouragement and is a big brother figure. He loves the kids down in the projects and the guys in Dream Center Discipleship who are getting their lives straightened out. He loves his family and my family. He encourages me and challenges me. He listens to me, and even though, being a guy, he naturally wants to 'solve' my problems, he is becoming quite good at just listening to me. He gives hugs freely, and his smile lights up a room. He isn't afraid to put himself out there...to let people know who he really is. He makes me want to be a better person, a better friend, a better wife. He loves Jesus with all of his heart. People can just tell. There's something different about this guy. He shines even among some of the brightest stars here at Fuller and the Dream Center. He likes to play sports, and doesn't get frustrated with me as I try, for the millionth time, to punt the football correctly. He teaches me how to play the guitar, too...and doesn't get mad when my rhythm is off. He makes the bed in the morning and runs to the grocery store and takes out the garbage and washes the car and vacuums. Then he asks me if there's anything he can do to help me out around the house. He cuts my hair, and doesn't get mad when I accidentally use the wrong guard on his hair when I try to cut his. He makes the best eggs for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. He sing and plays his violin for me with joy. He makes me feel safe and taken care of. He tells me I'm beautiful, even when I don't feel beautiful. He gives long back scratches and massages, not just those short ones that end with, 'now, it's my turn'. We laugh, we play, we explore this crazy city together. He lets me cry on his shoulder when I'm sad or lonely or homesick or overwhelmed. We have little inside jokes and are making memories to last a lifetime together. We pray together and dream about what God may have for our lives together. His simple love for me is a pretty close picture, I think, to how God loves me.

Who am I, that I would have a best friend like Brandon? I know that I don't deserve him, but I'm glad to have him.

So sorry, Claire...it looks like you'll be #2 for a long time (and I'm sure I will, too, as you enjoy Chris' friendship for many years to come). But how great is it that our #1's are such holy hotties?!?

My life ROCKS! Thank you, JESUS!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Best and Worst of LA

(I wrote this a day or two before we found out about Jack, but hadn't posted it yet. Thanks to all of you who have responded so lovingly during this time. We are doing a little bit better each day. Brandon's been really good about letting me recall Jack stories, and that's helped. We appreciate your prayers and notes so much. Attempting to regain a sense of normalcy, here it is...)

We really can't believe that it's been almost 3 months since we've moved across the country! The culture shock has (mostly) worn off, and we have been able to enjoy some great aspects of Southern California living...here are the top 5 things (Nicole's opinion).

LA's Upside Top Five

1. Beach and Mountains- Even though it's said that South Carolina has it all, beach and mountains, anyone who's been there knows that it takes at least 3 hours to get from one to the other. However, in Los Angeles, you can be surfing one minute and hiking the mountains in less than half an hour (when the traffic isn't ridiculous- see LA's downside).

2. Beautiful Weather- Out of the 3 months that we've been here, it's rained maybe 5 days total. Every other day has been sunny and nice. Even when it's 95 degrees, LA doesn't have to deal with humidity.

3. Randy's Donuts- We visited this joint on our scouting trip in March. Ever since, we've talked, dreamed and thought about the scrumptious goodies we had there. I'm a glazed fan, and Brandon is obsessed with the Apple Crepes there. We finally got to go back on our way home from the airport and appease our tastebuds with a taste of heaven. Another rediscovered love: 7-11. We love the slurpees and coffee bar!

4. Rose Bowl- Not only is one of the coolest sporting events in our backyard every January, but the Rose Bowl is the perfect running venue. The three mile trail goes around the famous stadium (Home of the UCLA Bruins), peewee soccer fields, and a golf course. My friend, Christy, and I run it a couple of times a week. Brandon and I have run it together a few times as well, when we're feeling the need to get rid of the honeymoon weight!

5. Diversity- This place truly is a melting pot! In our apartment complex, there are Korean, Chinese, Russian, Indian and Japanese people. At our school, I think that it is more common for people to speak English as their second language (maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration). We can be driving around downtown, and all of the sudden not be able to read the signs. There's Chinatown, Little India, Little Armenia, and Little Eithiopia just to name a few. We have eaten some really good Mexican food (every other restaurant in LA is a mexican restaurant). We got to try pineapple with chili sauce one day at our Food Truck location. It's a great place for us to learn to love people of all races and walks of life.

Now, before you go packing your things to come out here, let me warn you that it's not all fun and games. It's not for the faint at heart. You've gotta be tough to endure...the top five downside aspects of Los Angeles.

LA's Downside
1. Traffic- If you hit it just right, a trip that would easily be 10 minutes could turn into over an hour. Other insights: 16 Lane Highways. Double Merging. People flying past you (when you're going 85 just to stay with the flow). Many cars with 'bumps and bruises'. Traffic even on Saturdays and Sundays. Rush hour is every hour. On the upside: Carpool lanes. Since we only have one car, we're almost always together on the interstate, so we're eligible to take the fast lane.

2. Tea- If you go to a restaurant and ask for sweet tea, the server and your LA native companions look at you like you're crazy. Then a few packets of Equal or Splenda are thrown at you hastily. We've invited some of these poor souls to our home exclusively to share with them the secret of southern living. Almost every Westerner, Midwesterner, and Yankee that we've shared it with have liked it...of course!

3. Weather- Despite the fact that we love the sunshine and warm temparatures, enough is enough. We really miss the beauty of an upstate fall season. Palm trees don't have leaves that change. We wish for the crispness in the air, and long to pull out some warm winter clothes. So far, the furthest we've gotten is my denim jacket and Brandon't Furman Football fleece pullover.

4. News- We don't have cable television, and rarely do we even turn the thing on, but every once in a while, we'll turn on the news. It's horrible! Whereas in Hendersonville or Irmo (our hometowns), the local news would feature one or two sad or bad stories and then follow up with local high school football or something more uplifting, here in LA, most of the news is about murders, hit and runs, and drug busts. The commericials are all political, urging voters to vote "YES" on one PROP and "NO" to the next. (The next commericals will illustrate the opposite view).

5. 2430.58 miles- That's how far we are away from home. From our friends. From our families. From our church. From Jack Kitty (my beloved cat at my parent's house). From Sweet Tea and Collard Greens and a land flowing with Texas Pete. From the Blue Ridge Mountains. From El Paso in Hendersonville. From familiar roads and familiar accents. From hometown news and Mamaw Clara. From kayaking down the river from Carmelita and Troy's property. From Furman football and soccer games. From our beloved mentors in Greenville and Mt. Pleasant. From Chic-Fil-A and Sonic. From Brandon's beat up old truck. From real cornbread and milk, done Denice's way. From the idea that we really do know people and they know us.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jack (Kitty) Malseed August 1, 2001 - November 7, 2005

It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of our precious kitty friend, Jack.

When I found Jack, he was in a cage at the Humane Society with a bunch of other kittens. He was so small, that he had to climb into the bowl to eat his food. My roommate at the time, Michelle Vogel, had persuaded me to 'just go look'. We came back with two baby kitties that day, Jack and Jake. I named Jack after my Daddy because he had said, 'no more cats!' and I knew that if I ever had to move back home, I better have a way to get Daddy to like him. Jack and Jake wreaked havoc in our little apartment, and we enjoyed watching them grow up so much.

I did move home a few months later, and Jack Kitty and Jack Daddy quickly became good friends. Jack Kitty would wake Daddy up every morning at 4:30am with his cold, wet nose. He would put his nose to Daddy's nose again and again until Daddy got up and fed him. One day, Jack was missing. We couldn't find him anywhere. I remember that I had walking pneumonia and was really feeling awful. After church, I went back outside to call for him again. Faintly, I heard a pitiful meow. What a blessed sound! I ran around to find him...I looked up...At the top of a huge tree (at least 50 feet up) was my baby kitty hunched up against the trunk. I ran as fast as my sick self would take me to get my dad. I couldn't even breathe when I got to him. Daddy got the ladder, and at a risk to his own life, climbed the tree and rescued Jack. Even this experience didn't deter Jack from chasing squirrels.

Jack and I moved to Mt. Pleasant. We lived in a great neighborhood without much traffic. The kids all loved Jack. He would let them pick him up, pull his tail, pet him. He was so gentle. He quickly became the neighborhood mascot. One day he was missing...three days, 100 fliers, and many tears later, I got a call from a neighbor who said that he was at their house and asked if they could keep him! what? no way! I quickly retrieved him. I was the one who got the 4:30am wake up calls, but I didn't mind much at all. After he ate breakfast, he would always sneak back in my room and cuddle up next to me and purr until he fell asleep.

We moved again. Jack was a master at being flexible. This time, there were two white fluffs who ruled the house. Jack was most gracious to Bailey and Tucker. They became buddies, partners in crime. It was normal to see them running around the house together. Jack loved snoozing on the jacuzzi top in the back porch and walking the fence.

One thing that was a particular love/hate deal with Jack was his attitude towards car rides. I don't blame him for being freaked out, but incessant meows for two hours frequently got on my nerves. Sometimes I would meow back at him. He'd stop, and with big eyes look at me and we'd talk together for a little while. I tried to give him sedatives from the Vet, but he was so smart that he'd take them and spit them out when I wasn't looking! Then on the car ride, I would wonder why he wasn't getting tired.

After Brandon and I got engaged, I had to take Jack back to Columbia to live with my parents. It was a hard thing to do, but I knew he was in good hands. With the hopes of going to seminary in California, I knew that Jack wouldn't make the trip very well, and besides that, we couldn't have pets in our apartment. Mom and Dad joyfully took in their grandkitty, and it was no secret that he had captured their hearts.

My time in California has been so good, but one thing that I have really missed on a daily basis is my Jack Kitty. He was such a good friend to me. When I was living at home in Columbia and didn't really have any friends or any direction in my life, Jack was often times the one I would talk to. (I know it sounds crazy.) His sweet demeanor could brighten up even some of my darkest days.

Jack was such an awesome cat that people who hated cats would always say, 'I like Jack' after meeting him. He was laid back and easy to get along with. He never bit or scratched anyone. He would let anyone hold and pet him, and was just a lovable guy. He loved to lay out in the sun and under the furniture on our back deck in Columbia. Brandon and I were just talking this weekend about how our kids will know Jack. We joked that if we wanted to ever name our kid Jack, we'd have to make sure he wasn't confused with Jack Kitty.

This morning, Jack was found in the road and looked like he was sleeping. He had been hit by a car. Daddy is going to build him a little box and bury him.

Please pray for us. Mom, Dad, Brandon and I are all sad to say goodbye so soon. We loved him very much and one thing that we know is that he never had a chance to think otherwise. I know that many of you knew and loved Jack Kitty as well.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Brandon's Big News

OK...everybody start screaming hallelujah!!

For my first blog attempt, I'd like to start off by thanking all of our wonderful friends and family who have made us feel so loved since we've been out here. It's so awesome to know that there are a ton of you guys out there that are praying for us, are keeping up with us through phone calls, emails, and even occasional response posts on this blog thing that I still think is wild.

Man, what an adventure! God has been so good to us. I know this is obvious to anyone that has been keeping up with Nicole's posts on here, but I am still pretty overwhelmed with it all. Married life really is the best thing going. I mean, I 'm out here with my beautiful bride and we get to go through life together. We travel together in our one car, we study together, we serve together, we worship together, we pray together...and yes, occasionally we even cook and clean together. :) And now for the big news... it looks like we're going to get to be pastors at the Dream Center together!! Yeah, we're still trying to believe it ourselves. Evidently God wasn't the only one watching when we were serving at the Dream Center. Pastor Matthew tracked us down one Sunday in the lobby of Angelus Temple and told us he'd like to set up a meeting. Several days later, we found ourselves in a room with Pastor Matthew and Pastor Dave Hanley and they told us they wanted us to become the pastors of the College and Young Adult Ministry. After a few weeks of praying, asking questions, and seeking for God's peace, we felt God leading us to accept the challenge. The Dream Center Leadership are in total support of us continuing full-time at Seminary and have given us incredible flexibility as far as what hours we will work. Pastor Matthew said that he feels blessed just to have us joining the team here. We have already been busy developing relationships with some of the Young Adults that are living and volunteering at the Dream Center and we are SO EXCITED!! God has given us such a passion for this, and we know that this opportunity will only continue to teach and prepare us for what he has for us in the future.

We are also proud to announce that we will be home for 3 whole weeks over Christmas Break! We fly in on December 10 and will leave on January 4. We are REALLY looking forward to seeing so many of the people that we love and miss so much! Until then, keep us in your prayers and let us know how we can pray for you.