Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Joyous Surprise...

For the last few weeks, I've been feeling under the weather...stuffed up nose, sore throat, exhausted despite getting 8 hours of sleep, and to top it off, a rash developed on my arms, neck, and chest. Finally, I broke down and decided to see a doctor on Wednesday, determined not to let this thing beat me.

As the nurse was taking my history, she suggested I take a urine test. No problem. Send me to the lab. I finished up, cleaned up, and made my way back to the exam room and waited...

The doctor came back in and said she had planned to prescribe me some cortizone cream for my rash, but she couldn't because I'm Pregnant!

Whoa. My stomach jumped into my dry throat. My eyes got watery. I think I stopped breathing for a second...I was pretty surprised. Then overjoyed. Wow. New life, a perfect little gift from God. A blend of my precious husband and my own qualities. Our first arrow in our quiver. The next world changer.

I didn't even care about the other symptoms. How could I worry about a sniffle?

Brandon called on my way home and invited me to eat some dinner at the office...his staff had ordered our favorite pizza.

I stopped by the store and bought a bib that says "My Dad Rocks". When I got to the office, I took him aside for a little while and gave him his gift. Oh the look on his face when he got it. Priceless. He said the same things I did when he proposed, "What? Are you serious? Oh my gosh!" Then some sweet tears and hugs. I couldn't believe it was really happening.

It still doesn't feel real (except that I've been nauseus all weekend).

So many questions, thoughts and prayers have crept into my mind in the last few days. I wonder what the next nine months will be like, let alone the next 20 or so years. Our lives will never be the same. Forever changed for the better.

Please stand with us in prayer for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. We are excited and very humbled, and are seeing God in a whole new light during this season in our lives.

Baby Berry! :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Personality Types

I have been working on a Masters degree in Cross Cultural Studies with an emphasis on Leadership Development. Since I've been in South Carolina, I've been working with a production company (wearing many hats) and have had the chance to do some personality testing for the company. I have been working hard on the DiSC personality profiles, and have been busy evaluating the results of the tests and figuring out how all of our personalities work together. This is so helpful for many teams. Knowing your own personality and the personalities of your teammates can really help you navigate through tough times. Below is a modified Myers-Briggs personality test done online. Though it is very brief, and a lot less in-depth in the explanations than the DiSC tests I've been working with, it is pretty accurate and close to what I have found myself to be. What are you? Let me know!

You Are An ESFJ

The Caregiver

You are sympathetic and caring, putting friends and family first.
A creature of habit, you prefer routines and have trouble with change.
You love being in groups - whether you're helping people or working on a project.
You are good at listening, laughing, and bringing out the best in people.

You would make a great nurse, social worker, or teacher.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I heart fall...

Fall has to be my favorite time of the year.
Here are some of the main things I love about fall:

Pumpkin Spice anything at Starbucks. (I tried a tall, skinny Pumpkin Spice chai the other day that was divine!)
The Crispness in the Air.
HomeComing (Furman's is October 20-21, and it's my 5 year reunion!)
College Football (And snuggling on the couch while watching NFL on Sundays after church).
Breaking Out My Sweaters
Afternoon Runs
Colorful Leaves (And making a special trip to the mountains to see them.)
Fall Weddings (Though ours happened to be in the summer)
Halloween Costumes and Goodies
Thanksgiving (enough said)
Warm Hugs on Cool Days
Curried Butternut Squash Soup (and one day I'll be able to afford those cute butternut squash ceramic bowls they sell at Pottery Barn so I can serve them properly).
Taking Outdoorsy Pictures.
So if you see me smiling for seemingly no reason at all, you may figure it has to do with the season... :)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Truckin' across the country....again!

Well, we made it back to the South. It was an awesome trip across the country, and our Honda (whom we affectionately call 'Rhonda the Honda') purred like a kitten the entire way. We started with a long driving day, leaving Los Angeles at 5am headed towards Phoenix. In Phoenix, we stopped at Last Chance, our favorite store, and stocked up on great deals. Then, we managed to make it all the way to Amarillo, TX, where we spent the night with Ryan and Rochelle Chancellor at their new home. It took us 16 hours to drive the first leg. We took Sunday off and spent time with them at church, and enjoying celebrating their life, business and new marriage. On Monday, we made a pit stop to visit Ben Bainbridge in Oklahoma City for lunch, and then made it to Little Rock, AR (home of Bill Clinton). Then, we boarded again and made the hop, skip and jump over to Nashville, where we hung out with Shannon and Patrick Jordan and their daughters, Lindsey Miller and Brooke. It was so good to catch up with old friends and let each other in on some of our out-of-town friendships. The next afternoon, we hit the final destination...Greenville, SC! We unloaded our car and headed to church with Brandon's parents andd were so glad to be home! Thanks to all who put up with us! We look forward to being home.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 5: Bethlehem

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem...
I do know that song...kind of. At least I know it around Christmas time, right? Well, we made it to Bethlehem. It's kind of cool how much I feel like I'm learning from being over here. Before I left, I had to sit down with a friend who had been here before and have her pretty much brief me on the last 50 or so years concerning the Israel/Palestine conflict. I didn't even know that Bethlehem is actually part of Palestine, or the West Bank, and is an occupied territory (stay tuned for more Layman's terms information about that later).
We were picked up by Basheer, the second oldest child of four to the Zoughbi family. Pastor Issa Zoughbi started House of Bread Church. It didn't take long for our families to warm up to each other, and soon all of us 'kids' were joking around and laughing a good bit.
It's amazing to think that we were less than a football field away from where Jesus was born, that we could walk to the fields where David, as a shepherd boy, tended his flock and wrote beautiful poetry and songs to the Lord. It is a shame, though, that this area is now enclosed by a 30 foot high cement wall, its inhabitants prisoners without bread in the city of bread. I got a lot of my information for my paper on the conflict from the Zoughbi family, as they were so gracious to share with me their side of the story. As we fell asleep, we could hear the rumbling sounds of Israeli tanks and jeeps patrolling the streets below. I will never forget that sound.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 3: Culture Shock

If you have ever been out of the country, you will be quick to agree with me that a change in surroundings, culture, language, religion can be, 'how do you say...' a bit stressful. This is a fact I have found to be true in many different situations, and in many different countries around the world. For example...

I remember enduring stress as fifteen year old, when my family took our first out-of-the-country trip to Argentina to visit with my grandfather and relatives for a few weeks. I had been taking Spanish to help prepare, but found myself longing for home, my friends, and familiar ways of doing things. Everything was 'weird' and it didn't take long for me to be counting the days until departure for SC.

After graduating college, two weeks after 9/11, I had a chance to visit friends in Austria and the Czech Republic. For the first hour that I was in Europe, I think I cried, worried, and almost peed my pants while a taxi driver whom I was convinced was really part of the Austrian Mafia ready to take me to a schnitzel house and slit my throat tried to figure out where he was supposed to take me through a language barrier. (Note: for more details on this story, please inquire personally).

My journal entry from my first mission trip to Sri Lanka is complete with drawings of streets with cows, rickshaws, bicycles, people, and mud...my first experience there involved the Missions Director praying over me so I wouldn't get carsick (I had never dealt with motion sickness before) and me just barely making it to the toilet in the lobby of the hotel before losing my airplane breakfast.

I could go on....I may be boring you. Am I boring you????

Well, for your time's sake and mine, I'll fast forward to this experience in Israel/Palestine, and would like to share a little bit of wisdom and knowledge that I have obtained from my way-too-expensive Master's Degree in Cross Cultural Studies and Leadership Development...

Culture Shock is a very real issue that people must deal with not only when they arrive in a host country, but also sometimes when they return home.

Some symptoms of culture shock:
  • Heightened irritabilty
  • Constant complaints
  • Criticism of people & culture
  • Preoccupation of being robbed or cheated
  • Refusal to learn language
  • Utopian ideas of home culture
  • Preoccupation with going home

A lot of culture shock

I'll suffice it to say that we have been experiencing some culture shock within our 'team' and need a little extra time and space. But that is NORMAL and OKAY. Ah, the joys of traveling.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 2: Jerusalem

Jerusalem Tales
We left Galilee and headed south, with a stop at the Dead Sea to float around a little bit. The feeling of weightlessness was truly incredible...and the salt in the eyes is also something I won't forget. Yuck. But overall, we had a great time covering ourselves in the mineral-rich mud from the bottom of the Sea and trying to make ourselves sink. The freshwater shower afterwards was extremely refreshing, and we found a fun beduoin tent to take some pictures in (but we haven't done a picture exchange yet and John and Pepper took those pics, so just take my word for it).
After swimming and floating our hearts out, we drove past Jericho into what may be the most coveted piece of property in the world...Old City Jerusalem. It was like nothing I've ever seen. We drove through the Lion's Gate, where Stephen was stoned in Acts 7, past the Israeli soldiers, and to our temporary residence, Ecce Homo Convent. It was dark, and there were but a few Arabs walking through the stone streets. The Muslim call to prayer from the mosques was blaring...we were definitely not in Galilee, Jesus' workplace, anymore. But the Lord was still with us.
Our first day in Jerusalem found us on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed before being arrested. We then followed the Via Delarosa, or way of suffering, and retraced Jesus' footsteps as He carried the cross on the day He was crucified. I was hoping for more of a spiritual experience, but alas, the stresses of a foreign culture, issues within our 'team', and the hustle and bustle of busy yet narrow city streets somehow took a toll on my ability to reflect on the significance of the experience. Thankfully, we will have many more opportunities to retrace these steps throughout out time here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Israel/Palestine Trip Part 1: Galilee

The Adventure Begins!

We made it into Tel Aviv on Friday, June 9, and were greeted by John, Pepper, John and Denice (Brandon's Bro, Sis-in-Law, Dad and Mom) at the airport. It was late, but Tel Aviv was hopping! We stayed at a hostel about 2 blocks from the beach, and the nightclubs were bumping their beats well into the morning...actually all night until the sun came up. They say, "Work in Haifa, Worship in Jerusalem, and Play in Tel Aviv." I guess the people there got the memo.

We headed to Galilee via Nazareth, and spent some time at an reenactment of a 1st Century Nazareth village where Jesus probably lived and learned carpentry. As we drove through the hills of the countryside, we all got excited to see the Sea of Galilee where the disciples were called and Jesus did much of his ministry. We stayed with an American couple who have a Study Center/house there, and were very thankful for the wonderful accomodations and yummy food while overlooking the breathtaking water. Throughout our 3 day stay in Galilee we hit almost all of the toursity sites. Our personal highlights: Tabgah: the area where Jesus met the disciples after the resurrection and instructed them to throw their net over the other side of the boat, a 3000 year old gate thought to be the one Abraham walked through when he was being obedient to God and came from Ur, Peter mother-in-law's home, which is said to be one of the first house churches, & the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Here, we stood in different spots on the mountain that was naturally shaped like a roman ampitheatre, and Papa John stood down at the bottom as Jesus was believed to have been. From there, he spoke in a normal voice, and we were all able to hear him as he read from Matthew 5-7. It was a great experience, and really made the Word come alive to us!

Also, to remind ourselves that it is a small world...

While we were in the northern Galilee area of Tel Dan (the place where the tribe of Dan finally settled), we were exploring the ruins of the city walls and gates when someone called out, "Nicole!". I turned around and gasped to see at friend and co-worker of my mom's coming towards me. Heather Matthews was a news broadcaster in Columbia for many years before she made the move to Nexsen Pruet, where my mom also worked. There they became friends, and Heather's love for the Lord and sweet personality was evident to Mom. I also enjoyed getting to know Heather during my visits to the office, and was really surprised to see her there...out of business attire and into tourist mode! She and her husband, Jim, had come with a group from Columbia and just happened upon us in a remote area of Israel! What a glimmer of encouragement that Our Father knows us where we are, and is even concerned enough to allow small spurts of joy throughout our day.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lots of Changes for the Berrys

Hey y'all,
Sorry it's been so long since our last post. Things have been crazy busy here, but I think we're going to make it.

We made it home for Spring Break to help out around the house and give some support to Mom and Dad after Mom's scare in the hospital. This was really sweet time for all of us. See 'Updates' for more detailed information.

Getting back to school and ministry, we felt like we were jumping right in. It was a time of a lot of prayer and reflection as well. We have been praying about our future here in Pasadena...

The hard facts are that Mom is sick and we are 3,000 miles away. This has brought on much stress to us being so far away. It's hard not to be close enough to see them, to be there when they need us the most. We've been praying about the situation, and feel as if God is calling us back to the Southeast so that we may be a physical presence alongside our family during this time.

We plan on finishing up the school year and then taking our five-week trip to Israel/Palestine for vacation/study/missions in June and early July. After we return, I will take two intensive classes at Fuller while Brandon packs up our apartment and prepares for the move. We will then head back across the country (hopefully with some fun stops along the way) and will probably be in Greenville, SC. From there, Brandon will work full time and I will be finishing my school full time online and via distance learning while making short trips down to Columbia to spend time with Mom, help out around the house, etc...

Although this is a big change, we are excited about what God is going to do in and through us as we are obedient to Him. Leaving the Dream Center and Angelus Temple is going to be hard, but we feel like God has shown us so much already there, and that in a year's time, we have really had a chance to be very hands-on. That will be valuable experience that we will carry on with us into our next phase of life. We still feel as if God is keeping us in a preparation period, so that He might mold and make us into His likeness, ready to do His will.

Your prayers are welcomed and coveted during our time of transition.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's Three A.M. Do You Know Where Your Pimp Is?

A little controversial title...I know, I know. If it offends you, sorry, but my aim is to make the rest of this post worth your discomfort.

At Furman, I remember the sororities and fraternities used to get together and have a 'pimp and ho' party. The girls would dress in as little as possible, and cake on the make up. The guys would show up in fake fur coats, big sunglasses, and Gucci shoes. They'd carry canes and hug up on the ladies. It was pretty raunchy if you ask me, and no, I never participated by dressing up like a prostitute. Everyone would laugh and joke around and think they were so cool. A bunch of rich white kids whose Mommies and Daddies were paying their way through a $30,000/year school so they could all grow up to be doctors or lawyers or business people. We all had no idea what it was really like.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm some expert on the ways and lives of ladies who walk the street selling their bodies for money and the men who have trapped them in that lifestyle. Honestly, until this morning at about 3am I had never seen a real prostitute...Julia Roberts was as close as I had come (in Pretty Woman, of course). But, this experience really opened my eyes to see it differently.

We hit the streets around 3:45 am...it was prime time for what was happening. Arriving on Sunset Blvd after getting prayed up, we donned roses and cards which had information for these girls to contact the church if there was ever a situation in which they wanted to get out of the lifestyle. We would have the opportunity to talk with the girls, give them a rose, tell them how the rose represents God's love for them...that He cares for them and that He sees them as a beautiful, delicate rose.

I couldn't imagine hearing that if I were in that situation. No one has cared for them lately. These girls, sometimes too young to have a driver's license, have been thrown away, scared, and have seen and experienced more trauma than anyone should. They don't want to do this with their lives. They had dreams when they were little just like I did, I bet. But they haven't been given the same opportunities that I have and maybe that's why they're walking the streets after midnight, and I'm working on my Master's Degree homework after midnight.

There was, for the most part, a pretty good response to us asking them if we could pray for them...for safety that night and for hope in their lives. We then gave them a hug, told them how beautiful they are, and went on our way.

After the time walking the streets...after the roses were all given out. We went to the donut shop. There we saw the epitomy of pimp...the expensive SUVs with the rims and the bass pumping. We saw some guys with fur coats, Gucci shoes and gold plates/diamond studed teeth. That was what I expected...

What I didn't expect was to have some sort of good conversation with them. But that's what happened. Through the people who were leading the outreach (they have built trusting realationships with these guys over the years), we met and talked easily to about 10 pimps at that donut shop. I was surprised to see how genuine, how well spoken, and how driven these guys are. I was impressed at their listening skills, too. They'd ask us questions, and really want to know the answer. We asked them questions, too...questions about their lives, and they were pretty open to answering.

The interesting, but not surprising thing that I found was that these guys, too, have lived hard lives. They were abused, saw a lot of hardships growing up, and sometimes thrown away by their families and society. Getting out of jail, it's hard to get a job sometimes, and so one thing led to another, and some of them have been managing these girls for 15-20 years. They really are pretty good business men, y'all! Think about it...they know how to market a product, provide a need, and get payment/results. They have strong drive, and for the most part, are pretty successful.

That's why they are the ones we need to be praying for and encouraging towards salvation! If they get saved, they'll be able to free the girls under them. Not only that, but think about the great ways they could impact the world for the Kingdom in ministry and the business world.

They have heard the gospel, and some of them are really counting the cost of following God. One guy said, 'I'd like to be a Christian, but I'd have to give everything up. What would I do, then?" Hey...I'd rather him be there, thinking in that way than not at all and just jumping into it without knowing what he's getting himself into.

So, please keep praying for some of the ladies of the night and the men who control them. God is doing something and it was a privelige to be out there where He's already working. He is molding and making us as He leads us to and fro.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006



Hey y'all. It's been a little while since we've posted, and thanks to a few people who have let us know it's time to get back in gear, here we are again...


Spring Break went really well in South Carolina. Despite the cold, rainy weather, we were able to really enjoy our time there. Mom, being sick, was looking quite frail when we arrived, but I decided to try out some new recipes, and she got her appetite back and gained much needed weight. She had two doctor appointments in Charleston, and both of them went well, and she was not admitted to the hospital, which was a great answer to prayer.

Brandon got right to work after the jet lag wore off. He tackled my parents' bedroom, which was in the middle of renovations that had begun before Mom got sick and just haven't seemed to be able to be finished with all that has been going on. Brandon painted and laid the hardwood floors, and this was a HUGE help to both of them.

Dad was able to catch up on work and sleep while we were home. He had not been able to attend to either for a little while, so he felt a lot better after he was able to take care of business and his own health.

Mom continued to improve over the 10 days I was there. It was good to see it happen, and I was able to come back to California a little more secure about her immediate health. We had some good conversations while we were there, and came to find out that she has put her trust in Jesus as her Savior and Lord of her life. This is an answer to a long line of prayers over the last 10 years. Please pray for growth in her new faith and for healing from Jehovah Rapha, the Great Physician, the Lord that Heals. Though her immediate health has improved, she is still very ill and needs God to intervene.

Brandon made it back to LA in time to help team preach at the Saturday Night Redefined service, and we spent 5 whole days apart! This was by far the longest time we've spent apart since we've been married, and it was definitely hard to do, but we endured. When I arrived back in LA at the airport in Burbank, he greeted me with a flower and a kiss.

We have started the new semester, and Brandon is taking some Fuller-esc courses: Pastoral Care and Abuse, Urban Mission, and Theology of Hip-Hop Culture. I have taken some distance learning courses along with my other two core courses in order to free my time up in case I need to go back to assist again during and after my dad's hip replacement that is supposed to happen in April. Currently, I'm up to my eyeballs in leadership classes and loving it, as well as taking a Church and Mission class and a Biblical Foundations for Missions class...

Please pray for us as we have some big decisions to process and make in the upcoming months. We are confident that God is working and is going to take care of our every need, as well as lead us step by step into His perfect will for our lives and His Kingdom.

Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Writing Crunch

Oh Fuller...

These days are filled with a lot of
<---This and not so much of --------->

It's finals week, and we are plenty busy with writing papers and taking exams. It's amazing how much work can actually get done when you're shut up in the library for 10 hours at a time. We should look into doing that on a more regular basis...we'd be so much more productive! Nah...then we'd officially be nerds, and we can only stand that term if we know 'it's just a joke' (don't tell us it's true...even if you think so).

We're flying home on Saturday to good ole South Carolina:

Home of sweet tea (that means you put sugar in it), collard greens, country roads without traffic

And especially those we love...

Praise report! Mom has made it home from the hospital, and is now recovering nicely, it seems. We will be at home for the next week or so helping out with that recovery, providing much needed help to Dad with some of the 'nurse's duties' (aka...giving him a break) and hopefully bringing God's love and encouragement to them.

Pray for us as we finish this sememster, that we would finish well and be prepared to serve my family back at home during their time of need.


Nicole and Brandon

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Body Working Together

This week has seen its ups and downs. My mom is still sick. This week she has been in the Intensive Care Unit at MUSC in Charleston, SC. She had an allergic reaction to some medicine she was taking, and after that got under control, the doctors found a sac of fluid on her heart and that her kidneys were not working properly. They took her into surgery, and were able to stablilize her by draining the fluid. She spent the rest of that day and night in the Cardiac Care Unit, and is now going to get her own private room (aka...doesn't need extra special care to keep her alive), and hopefully will be going home soon.

As this week has been a rollercoaster of emotions, let me just share some of the ways that God has brought peace to my heart through the Body of Christ...his REAL church.

Friends from Fuller, church and all over have been praying for my parents and us. They have continued to ask me about Mom's conditions and have been faithful to pray for her healing and for peace for Brandon and I as we have two weeks left before spring break. (Of course, if need be, we'd be on a plane at any minute, but at this point there's nothing we can do there, so we feel like we're supposed to finish this semester as best we can and then go home.)

Speaking of going home...we are. On March 18th, the day after school ends, we'll be on a plane flying back east. Dad is supposed to have a hip replacement, and if he does, we want to be there to help both him and mom around the house. Even if he doesn't have the surgery yet, we'll be around for moral support and to relieve him of the stress of being the main caretaker for a little bit.

How are we affording to go home on such short notice? God provides, y'all. We have had three friends offer to contribute to our plane tickets, and were able to find some at somewhat reasonable prices. Plus, the Dream Center/Angelus Temple have been gracious enough to let us go home--Brandon for a week, Nicole a week and a half.

My mentor, Leesa Northrup, who lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC has been a God-send to my family. In a time when my heart aches to be there and I'm not able to, she and her family have stepped up. I called Dad yesterday just as they were taking Mom into surgery. He seemed shaken because he hadn't expected this downturn of events. But who should walk into the waiting room, but Leesa and her husband Dave...with flowers and all. They were there with him during most of the surgery, encouraging him and praying for him. Then they wrote out directions to their home, gave him a key and invited him to stay with them as long as he needed to (he had been sleeping in the hospital or going 2 hours home to Columbia).

This afternoon my dad called me and I could just jump up and down at the change in his voice. He had a great night's sleep the night before at the Northrups. Then, this morning, Leesa cooked everyone breakfast, and he thorougly enjoyed spending time with her loving family.

They also suggested a good place to eat downtown, Five Loaves Cafe, and when my parents' best friends drove down from Columbia today, they were able to enjoy a lunch on a beautiful Saturday afternoon...I'm sure that beats hospital cafeteria food by himself.

It's great to know that God's arms stretch far. When we can't reach someone, He often sends angels by way of others. Thanks to those of you who have been that to and for us...whether her in California or in South Carolina. It is nice to be a part of the family of God.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Ups And Downs

Well, it's been a bit of a roller coaster ride here in Pasadena lately. Which shall we share first? Aw...how about the ups?

Reality is going great! God is really blessing the ministry and our relationships with the young adults. Our meeting unexpectedly doubled last week (watch out what you pray, y'all!). We are having a blast and are really learning a lot about people, ministry, God...it's humbling to be in a position like this, and yet we know that it's not because of our talents or gifts but because of God's hand on our lives that we are getting things done. We are planning on getting on to the USC (That's Trojans, not Gamecocks for you South Carolinians) campus in order to meet some students and get the word out about Angelus Temple.

Speaking of Angelus Temple, I didn't know this before I moved out to California, but Angelus Temple was the original church for the denomination called International Church of the Foursquare Gospel or "Foursquare" created by Aimee Semple McPherson. Aimee traveled the world evangelizing and healing through the power of the Holy Spirit. While she preached at Angelus Temple, the 5,300 seat sanctuary was filled three times a day! Wow! Many of the healings and miracles took place in a room called the "500 Room". And that is where we have Reality Young Adults meetings today! Pretty cool, huh?

Well, my transitioning really could use some help, but on to the other news...
Many people know from word of mouth, but for those who don't, my mom is extremely sick and could use much prayer. For that matter, my dad is scheduled to have a hip replacement in March (and is in very bad pain) and also is in need of prayer. My mom, who has pulmonary hypertension is in a very bad state. Without going into too many personal details, please pray that through this ordeal they would draw close to God during this time and give Him their hearts. Pray for wisdom for the doctors for both of my parents. And pray for us, also, as we are seeking God's guidance in what to do because we feel very far removed from the situation and want to be there to help and encourage them. It's been a very tough time for me personally, and I could use your prayers for strength, patience, and guidance.

Okay, I don't want to end on a sad note, so just a few words about school and (tenative) summer plans...we are finishing our second semester, and things are going well so far. We both have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks, but we're sure it will get done. It is just a matter of us pushing forward and focusing. Seminary work isn't exactly hard, it's just in such large quantities that sometimes you wonder how it all gets done.

Brandon's family has bought us tickets to go to Israel this summer! we are so excited and know that it will be a great time for the family. John and Denice as well as John and Pepper will all be there. It even worked out that I will be able to get 8 credits for school by staying 5 weeks. We will be doing missions and a little tourist action. Details to come, but for the most part, we are pumped to have a chance to go and be in the setting where our Saviour was born, ministered, and died. What a privelige!

That's all for now...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!

Well, I must brag a little on my stud of a husband. If you get queasy at mushy stuff, I would suggest moving along in the World Wide Web. Otherwise, let me just share a little something about Brandon's life from this weekend.

So, I've known Brandon for almost 2 years now (I know that's not very long, but I have the rest of our lives ahead of us) and I remember when we were dating people would ask me , 'has he played his violin for you yet?' and I felt pretty bad because he hadn't. I thought, 'why hasn't he?' When he finally did, it was on a dock at the lake I grew up on and it was immediately after he told me that he loved me. That was a really special night. He played beautifully, and though I knew I was already in love with him, too, I felt like I was falling in love with him all over again.

Tonight was one of those nights where I felt like I was falling in love with my husband all over again. Here we are in seminary, across the country, and doing ministry together. He's studying to be a pastor/preacher. I see him in ministry almost every day and I love it, but I haven't ever heard this man preach. The closest I've ever been was when we got commissioned off by his home church, and he had to share a little bit about the adventure we were about embark upon to California.

Saturday Night Redefined is a weekend service for the 'young at heart' (i.e. anywhere from children-teens-college-young adults-adults who 'feel' young), and Brandon was asked to preach tonight to kick off the month of February and a relationship series. So, he dilligently worked on a sermon this week, and in his BBerry way, was putting the finishing touches on it as we were parking the car outside the church...

I always get a little nervous before I have to speak in front of people...nothing big, just a little butterfly-in-the-stomach feeling. But I never thought about getting nervous before Brandon spoke until I started to get that same feeling in my stomach somewhere between the first worship song and the last. I was excited. I was proud. I was anxious to hear and watch him deliver God's word.

Now, don't get me wrong. The boy preaches all the time. Not in a condescending way, but if you could be a fly on the wall of our little apartment, you'd get an earful of sermons in his everyday conversations. I have heard him preach to me and have enjoyed getting excited with him in our living room or at our kitchen table about some of the things God has been laying on his heart. But that couldn't have prepared me for tonight...

Brandon's topic was 'Yokin' Up' and was based on 2 Corinthians 6:14 which warns us not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers. And can I say that my eyes got a little sweaty with the pride that swept over me as I watched my amazing husband be used by God in a mighty way as he preached with passion and fervor tonight in front of a couple of hundred of people. His anointing was so evident, and anyone could tell that he was prepared and also surrendered as he allowed God to speak through him to many hearts that made decisions to surrender to the overwhelming love of Christ.

The best part, though, is that I still recognized Brandon up there. He wasn't any different than the wonderful guy I live with and love doing life with everyday...he just had a mic. And he didn't have the mic because he had clawed his way to the top, but because he had served his way into that opportunity. He loved people so much and served them because of his love for Christ, that he was noticed and given that opportunity. (for more on this, see Make Room for the Broom from September entries).

So let me just champion my husband a little bit by saying that I am so proud of him and am even more excited about where God may take us one day with the gifts and opportunities and anointing He has put on him. Thank you, Jesus!


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Shondrella Avery is her real name. And ole LaFawnduh paid us a visit at the Angelus Temple on Saturday night. Our Saturday Night Redefined service is for teens, college students and young adults. This month is Dynamite January, and every Saturday has focused on a different character from the movie Napoleon Dynamite. On Saturday 1/21, the focus was Kip, who in the movie is this pencil thin moustache wannabe cage fighter who lives with his aunt and his ghetto fabulous girlfriend (LaFawnduh) whom he met in an AOL chatroom.

So someone on staff at the Dream Center had the bright idea to see if we could get a few actors from this hit movie to grace us with their presence at a service...and what do you know, it worked!

Shondrella and her little brother, who also had an extra part in the movie, were in attendance on Saturday night. May I just say that I was highly impressed with this woman. When asked to come on stage, she was so gracious and poised and gave the audience a great message about believing in yourself and going for your dreams that went perfectly with Brad's message on Kip. Afterwards, she stayed, taking pictures and signing autographs with all who wanted to meet her.

Brandon and I aren't what I would consider star struck. In fact, it is a bigger deal for us to get 10 minutes with one of our pastors to pick their brains that to sip frappacinos with Cameron Diaz or 'Brangelina'. I know that maybe Shondrella wasn't the biggest star of the movie. I know that she isn't the biggest name in show business. But you know what, I'd rather spend an hour with her than some of these young bucks who have made it big and are now too hot to handle. We so appreciated her kindness and effort, her desire to encourage our young people and her bright smile. It made our service extra special and we are thankful!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Not About Numbers

"Oh, so you're the new youth pastor at such and such church"
"Yep, sure am. My wife and I just moved in and got started about three months ago."
"So...how's it going so far?"
"Well, you know. It's hard to get started quickly. We have to build relationships with the students and their families. We have to get familiar with the school system. I'm learning how to use a lot of the church's resources and trying to figure out how everything works together. But it's going well overall."
"That's great. How many kids you got coming?"

Okay...so this conversation never actually happened...or did it? So many times in mainstream ministry a conversation very similar to this comes up. It seems to me that too many times the temperature of how a ministry is going is equated with how many are in attendance. It really frustrates me, and yet, I find myself dealing with the numbers game already at the beginning of a ministry endeavor.

The Young Adults/College ministry at The Dream Center has great potential. A rich history of effective ministry, a vibrant congregation, a heartbeat to share the Gospel with others, a push for outreach that meets the physical needs of many...There are about 15 big colleges within a 45 minute drive of the front steps of the Angelus Temple. The population of the area where the church building stands outnumbers my entire home town. That leaves a great opportunity in our laps--to get connected with more people and to have them become fully devoted to Christ in every aspect of their lives. The thing is, is that we don't want to be a mile wide and an inch deep. We would rather have 10 people who are really going after God full force and building deep set relationships with each other than 1000 people who are just there to hang out and eat some snacks.

This dilemma is an interesting one that we are working through. We don't want to equate 'success' in ministry with how many people attend our events. Any thoughts?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Back In The Saddle Again

Okay, rather than bore you with the minute details of the rest of our trip, let me just go on to say that we enjoyed our Christmas Day with my parents and also with the Johnston family (we stayed at their home while Mom was in the hospital). Mom got out on the Wednesday after Christmas, and we made it up to Columbia to help them get readjusted before making our way to Greenville (for church at Redemption) and finally back to Hendersonville. By this time, we were plenty tired of driving, but were excited to be in Brandon's home town for his BIRTHDAY! The Berrys enjoyed an afternoon of bowling, throwing peanuts on the floor and eating steaks! Brandon's now officially in his mid-twenties, at 24.

We spent New Years with our friends in Atlanta, and besides feeling a little run down from the long hours of driving and staying up late, we had a great time laughing and eating and readily beating everyone at our favorite game, Sequence.

New Year's Day allowed us some time with the Pophams. Randall used to be Brandon's high school youth pastor, and is now the Sr. Pastor of Lanier Hills Church in Gainesville, GA. We enjoyed the service and lunch with the family.

The final days of our tour were spent sleeping off some fevers, vegging out with my parents, and enjoying our final days of being able to order sweet tea in restaurants.

We made our way to Charlotte to spend time with Ryan Carson and Chris Lusk before flying out early the next morning.

We had a nice time at home, but boy are we glad to be back in LA!