Monday, December 31, 2007

What a week!

Hello everybody! It has been quite a week for me (Joel). This Sunday I preached my first sermon in front of the church (my first time in any church). I had the opportunity to challenge our congregation to set their priorities in 2008 in light of an eternal perspective. I think it went well, and I know that God used my words to challenge at least one man in the church to make some changes this year. If you are interested in hearing the sermon it should be posted on our website sometime later this week (not sure when with the holidays and all). The site is

There is a lot more to the week that I have yet to tell. On Friday morning I decided to leave the house and find a quite place outside somewhere where I could get away from all of my normal distractions so that I could spend a few hours in prayer and preparation for my sermon. At first I drove around some of the back roads of my little town and just prayed for the people of Hutto. Then I drove to a low water crossing that I know about that is away from much of anything. I parked on the side of the road and hiked in a little ways to get away from the road to a place where I could just focus on my sermon and prayer. It was a great time, and I really got some good prep work done for Sunday. At a little after 11:00am I headed back towards home because I knew that I needed to stop by Wally world to get a DVD-R so I could burn a video that I was using for the sermon. After I left Wal-Mart I headed toward home. I decided that I would go by McDonald's and grab a quick bite to eat as I headed home in time for Laurie to call during her lunch break (I left my cell phone at home). I didn't make it to McD's, however. As I approached the biggest intersection in Hutto a woman made a left turn in front of me and in a split second tires squealed, and airbags deployed. I had about a half second to hit my breaks before my 6000 pound Suburban plowed into the passenger side of a Chevy Tahoe at 50+ miles per hour. The lady in the other SUV thought that she had a green light (the intersection has just undergone some major expansion so it can be a bit confusing), but it was red for the turn and green to go straight. It took a few seconds to regain my bearings and realize that, by God's grace, I wasn't injured. I quickly hoped out and went to make sure that the other driver was ok (there were no passengers in either vehicle). Despite the force of the collision neither of us were injured. I have been pretty sore, and I am sure that she is too, but nothing serious. The impact was so strong that one of my headlights was stuck in the side of her SUV. There was extensive damage to the front of my vehicle and I found out today that it is totaled (I have had it for only 3 months). I did end up going to an urgent care facility on Saturday to get something for the pain that I was having, and for some muscle spasms that resulted. My insurance company is handling the details for now, but it will still be a couple of days before we can get a copy of the police report (I'm not sure why it takes so long but maybe that's just the way that do it in a small town). Laurie and I just went to get some things out of the Suburban, but we forgot to take the camera so I had to take pictures with my cell phone, so they probably aren't that good. Please pray for a fair settlement and a quick resolution to all this mess. Also pray that I will be able to find another replacement vehicle soon. Thanks! Here are some pictures, God bless you all!

Glad I decided to leave Ranger at home!

I think it's broken

Driver side

Passenger side

Thursday, December 13, 2007

God loves details

Hey everybody, I just wanted to share with you all something that happened to me about a week ago. It was God working in amazing ways. I already typed the story out in a concise manner so that Bo (our pastor) could use it as a sermon illustration so I am going to just paste the text from that in for you all to read. You'll have to imagine all my quirks like I am telling the story. Hope you enjoy! Remember that you are God's beloved and He is in tune with even the smallest details of your life. He has a plan for you. Praise Him!!

God Planned my Day
Events took place on December 5th 2007

On Wednesday morning I woke up early as usual to get ready for Journey Men [this is a Bible study at our mother church on Biblical manhood]. After having been sick for the past 4 days though I was very tired and seriously considered just going back to bed. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to miss one Journey Men session, besides I could listen to the pod cast later. Still I decided that it would be best to go even though I didn’t feel like it. After the meeting, Cody Pope [youth pastor at HCBC Pflugerville (our mother church)] had an appointment canceled so we were able to get together to talk about our upcoming high school retreat. Because of this unexpected meeting I got home about 2 hours later than normal. When I did get home I decided to take my puppy for a short walk. We have a normal routine; we walk to the end of our street, and then turn right for 3 blocks, take another right, walk 1 block and then head back home. That morning for some reason though I decided that we should walk to the end of the street, another block down. In between my normal turning point and the end of the street I met a man who wanted to pet my dog. The man began telling me about how he always feeds biscuits to dogs when they are walked by his house. Talking to my dog he said that if he came by 223 on the next street he could get a treat. My planned walking pattern, however, would never take us by that man’s house. He also told me a story about how he and a neighbor found a little lost dog and were caring for it. The dog was deaf, and although they had called the phone number on the tag many times were unable to reach the owner. With that he drove home, and we continued on. At the next street, where I had intended to turn and head home I felt compelled for some unknown reason to continue on a little further. This time I walked past the man’s house and onto the next street where I finally turned toward home. It was then that I noticed a little community bulletin board that until then I didn’t know existed. Out of curiosity I turned to check it out. It was there that I saw a posting for a lost dog that matched the description the man I just met gave me, including that the dog was deaf. At the bottom of the paper it said, “new to this neighborhood.” They weren’t able to reach the owner because the number had changed. With a little excitement I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number. “Hello?” “Is this Cheryl”, I asked? “I think I know where your dog is.” Just hearing the excitement in the woman’s voice as I explained what had happened that morning was such a joy. Within a minute or two I knocked on the door of house # 223, the biscuit man. He answered the door and I put him on the phone. The woman would soon be reunited with her lost friend, whom she thought she would never see again. As I turned to walk home with my little buddy I just praised God that when I woke up that morning he had a plan for that day. He loves that woman so much that he orchestrated the events of my day to help reunite her with a beloved pet and friend. I couldn’t help but smile for the next 4 blocks as I thought about how loving our God is that even the smallest details of our lives don’t escape His notice.
Have a blessed Day!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sad Saturday

Well, last Saturday was a sad day for us as we had to say goodbye to one of our family members. Let me explain, nobody died. We had always been told that if you get one dog you should get two so that they aren't so lonely when you have to leave them at home. Apparently that advice isn't good for litter mates. As we were adjusting to having two new puppies everything seemed great, until we tried to train them. The were so close to each other that we couldn't keep their attention for any period of time. We enrolled them in a puppy training class at a school in Hutto that is very well known for their training. After two weeks, our head trainer told us that the puppies were too bonded to each other and so we should isolate them from one another for a month. If we didn't, then they wouldn't bond with us, and would be very difficult to train. We agonized over what to do because we had already grown to love them so much, but in our little house, there was just no way for us to be able to separate them completely from each other. We finally decided that the best thing for both of them would be to find one of them a good home. Little did we know that God had been orchestrating these circumstances. I was talking to one of the ladies that works in the office about our situation, and she suggested the I let a family in our church know. The Spencers (Greg is one of our elders) had a German Shepherd for a long time (11 years), that had recently died. With hope I sent an e-mail. The long story short is that they came to meet the puppies and adopted our Sydney. We had never seen Sydney warm up to anybody as quickly as she did to Christina, the Spencer's 9 year old daughter. They were delighted, and this is about the best possible situation that we could have imagined for having to re-home one of our puppies. We know she is in a loving home and we will be able to see her sometimes and find out how she is doing. Lisa Spencer said several times that this was an answer to prayer for them as well. Even in situations where we least expect it, God is already working. All praises to Him!!


Well, I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving. It was a little sad for Laurie and me as all of our family was on the East Coast this year. As many of you know, Thanksgiving this year was also our 4th anniversary. Praise God that he provided a "foster family" for the holiday. Our Pastor and his family had us over for most of the day and it was a great time (especially watching football on Bo's 53" HDTV; that was Laurie's favorite part =). We ate a lot of good food, and we passed on an tradition to a new generation. One thing that I (Joel) was sad about it not getting any of Grandma's world famous (well at least family famous) gingerbread man cookies. Growing up that is one thing that always made Thanksgiving seem right to me. We would gather at Grandma's house and she would make gingerbread men and icing for us to decorate them. Oh the great times we had around that table decorating those cookies! Thanks GRANDma! That is one of my favorite growing up memories. Laurie and I decided that we would try to carry on the tradition so we got Grandma's recipe and tried our best (of course we couldn't make them as good as G'ma, but they were still pretty good!). The fun part was that we took them too the Thompson's house with us and I was able to pass my tradition on. The Thompson's have 3 girls (8,10, and 13 I think). Bo's best friend Bobby and his family were also there and their 11 y/o daughter Emma also got to participate. It was a little different with me and a table full of girls, but it was fun, and the girls absolutely loved it! The sad part is that during the night their dog snuck (is that a word? Sneaked? whatever) downstairs and pulled all the cookies off the table and bit all the legs off and licked the frosting and the got sick and threw up on the floor...Ah memories...

We are very thankful to our Lord for ALL the things that He has done this past year. He never ceases to amaze us! We miss and love you all!!!

Here are some pictures from our Day:

The Taylor Thompson

Abbie Thompson

Dani Thompson

The girls and their cookies

Monday, November 19, 2007

New additions

Well, I guess it is that time again. I have been meaning to update the blog for awhile now, but once again have let it slip by for too long. The last month has been very busy with youth responsibilities, and all that. The last two weeks have been extremely busy because...

That's right, we added two new additions to our family. Joel and Laurie received a very generous gift, and decided to use it to buy some new decorations for their house. They got some curtains, and some picture frames, and two German Shepherds....

It took me forever to get them to pose for this picture, but on the left is Ranger (male) and right is Sydney (female). They are litter mates and are a little over 4 months old now. They certainly are a handful. We are working on training them, but they are so competitive that they always want to be right in the middle of what the other is doing.

Well, Laurie is working a temp job at the Texas Association of School Boards, and they recently told her that her assignment is going to last longer that she had originally been told. I had an interview for a part-time supervisor position with UPS (which would be ideal), but they decided to hire someone else, but told me that there will probably be more openings at the beginning of 08. I have arranged some temp work of sorts next month to help make a little extra until then. Other than that, it is life as usual. We are more in awe of God every day as He continues to surprise us with His goodness and faithfulness. Just yesterday he provide a family for us to share Thanksgiving with, which is so nice since all of our family will be over 1000 miles away this year. We sure do miss you all back East, but we know that the Lord has brought us here, and there is nowhere else that we would rather be. God is good! We are so thankful for all of you, and wish you the best Thanksgiving holiday possible. Well, here are some more pictures of the puppies =) Enjoy.



Ranger naping

Sydney following her brother's lead

Earning their new last name- doing what Merritt's do best!

Sibling rivalry-Sydney sitting on Ranger's head =)

Hope you like the pictures. Come visist us sometime! We love and miss you all!

P.S. Ben eat some pie and gingerbread men for me... ;)~

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back from another adventure

Well we just got back from a jr. high retreat at our church. This is my first event as the student pastor at our church. It is becoming apparent that I have trouble going on youth events without sustaining injuries. This trip was no different. On Saturday while playing the camp game I once again decided that it would only be right that I expose the camp's safety hazards by demonstrating how dangerous it could be. Of course being the dramatist that I am I wanted to make sure it was convincing so I just went ahead and made it real (aren't I a good youth pastor). Ok ok so what really happened? As usual I was too caught up in the game and tried a last second heroic effort to save my team from loosing the game and was so focused on the goal that I didn't notice a dip in the road and so I tripped fell right into the middle of a rock road. I always say if you're going to go, go all out. So in just a fraction of a second I managed to mess up both hands and both legs. I got cuts on the insides of both my hands pretty bad, and I got about a dozen cuts on the outside of my left leg and hit my right knee straight on the rocks. You might remember that on my Mexico trip I had a construction accident and cut just below my right knee pretty severely and had to have the first stitches of my life. So when I fell, I hit the knee pretty hard and got one bad cut and a lot of little ones, but I think I must have bruised it pretty good as it swell some, and is pretty stiff. Thank the good Lord for a fairly high pain tolerance. I am getting quite a reputation among the students for being accident prone, but also for being very tough which is good as it makes the more likely to obey my instructions since they think I am really tough (maybe I'll write a book on how to get your youth group to listen, a few injuries handled properly and they'll think you're really tough. Haha I have them all fooled). Anyway, that was exciting. The trip went pretty well, but I do have one "special" child that I know is going to be a challenge. All in all the trip was very good. Laurie has been kind of sick for the last week, but really wanted to attend the trip so she wasn't feeling well today. If she doesn't make some improvement soon, then it will be a trip to the doc to see what's up. And before any of you ask, no she isn't pregnant.
Yesterday after church one of the older ladies was leaving and fell going down the steps outside of the middle school where we meet and shattered her femur. I am told that it was pretty bad, and she is going to have surgery today I believe. She is old and has been having other health problems as well, so if anyone would pray for her, her name is Gail.
There is a lot of things going on. I am still looking for another part-time job. Also car troubles recently have been causing a little bit of financial strain, but we know that God is faithful to take care of all our needs. One thing that is really exciting is that God has provided a discipler for me. Bobby Pruitt who was Laurie's youth pastor when she was a teenager has agreed to meet with and disciple me. I praise God for providing such a wise man to help not only train me to be a better youth pastor, but also a better man of God. Thanks for your prayers. We love an miss you all! If anybody wants to come visit just let us know =)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pictures continued

Artemis-our baby Colombian red-tail boa is about to shed again

Joel's new pet

Entry way

More Livingroom

Some More Pics

Another angle of the living room.
Yep it's big and I like it that way.

One angle of the living room

Laurie's kitchen

Our dining room

Sorry, no pictures from the outside, it is raining today, plus the outside pretty much looks the same anyway.

A picture or two

Here is a street view of our new house!

Honestly we haven't taken and recently so I will need to take some pics and then will post some more. Hopefully soon!

If anyone is still reading this...

Hello all! If you are still checking this thing for updates, then I guess it means that you really love us. I know I have done a terrible job of keeping this thing up to date, but it just doesn't seem to come naturally to me. I am home right now with at least my 4th or 5th outbreak of shingles so I figured it is about time I just did it. I keep getting e-mails and comments about needing to do it so here it goes. Laurie and I moved into our first house in the beginning of June. God has really been leading us on a great adventure of faith and trust. During the Summer Laurie and I went to Mexico to help lead a mission trip. While on the trip Laurie's temp job ran out of work and so she came back to no job. Shortly thereafter my Summer job ended and real estate has been really slow. We decided that I needed to look for a real job that would pay money immediately instead of 2 months after selling a home...
Anyway the most recent news is good, in fact it is great! Laurie found another temp job that will keep here at least through the end of the year. For me things have gone a little differently, and the Lord has fulfilled a dream for me. About a week and a half ago, the senior pastor and the elder over student ministries at our church asked me to meet them for lunch, where they asked me to come on staff part-time as the Student Ministries Pastor. The church was not expecting to be able to hire a SM pastor this soon, so it was kind of unexpected. After much consideration and prayer Laurie and I accepted the position and I started last week. This is something that I have been waiting for for a long time, and although only part-time, there is nothing else I would rather be doing. The sad part is that it was announced this past Sunday that I had been hired, and I missed the announcements, because I was at home with shingles which we discovered Saturday evening. So now I am looking for another part-time job that will have insurance benefits. If you guys would pray for God to provide that for us it would be awesome. You all are awesome too! We really miss all of you back in South Carolina and surrounding areas. If anybody is planning a trip to Texas, just let us know we would love to see any of you. If you don't know how to get in contact with us I will put it in this post. I lost a lot of your phone numbers because my cell phone died while on the Mexico trip and they weren't able to retrieve the contacts. Our home number is 512-538-1888; (Joel's cell) 512-417-6357; (Laurie's cell) 512-417-7041.
An our new address is: 131 Flinn Street, Hutto TX 78634
We love you guys! Let us know how things are going.
Joel and Laurie

Saturday, April 21, 2007

House news.

Hello everyone. I know that the postings are few and far between at this point, but we have been very busy of late. I have taken and passed the State and National real estate exams and am now a licensed Realtor. I started work a little over a week ago, and have been doing a lot of training. It is tough getting started, but the Lord is taking care of us. I wanted to post quickly to let everyone know that Laurie and I have decided to put a bid in on a HUD owned foreclosure. We will meet with my training manager tomorrow who will help us through the bidding process, as it is pretty complicated and I am just learning it (although I have learned a lot already). We would love it if you would pray with us about this big step. If we win the bid then we should know by Monday evening or Tuesday. The house would need some work but nothing major. The best part is that after a little research I found out that the home is listed for $30,000 less then it sells for brand new, and it was built in 2005. The house is only a couple of miles from out church, and about a mile from the church office so that would be nice. We have to drive 40 minutes each way as it stands right now. Anyway, we would definitely love to have your prayers with us if you read this soon. Thanks! We miss you all. At least I will be back in Columbia probably on May 8th for a week. Laurie may be able to come too. See some of you then.

Friday, April 6, 2007


I know that it has been an incredibly long time since an update, but things have been very busy and I wasn't sure that anybody was still reading this thing. I have been assured that at least my Mom and grandmother are reading it still so here is new info at least for them. I started my real estate career yesterday with orientation at my new firm, and will be doing a lot of training in the coming weeks. I would love your prayers, as it is a lot to learn, and of course I don't make money until I sell something. This Sunday will be the first official service at our new church. We are very excited. Please pray though as the youth ministry definitely needs some work. With it being new there is no youth staff, and most of the volunteers are very busy as is typical. It looks as if Laurie and I will be taking on some additional responsibilities and I will like be assuming the point person role shortly to try and help bring some better structure to the ministry. This is very exciting, but very challenging as well.
We no longer have South Carolina numbers as my mobile will be the primary way that my clients can get a hold of me. Our new cell phone numbers are as follows:
Joel= 512-417-6357
Laurie= 512-417-7041

Feel free to call us! For some reason I can't think of much else to say right now, but I love and miss you all. We (or at least I) will be back sometime during the beginning of May. I would like to be home for 2 Sundays if possible, but don't know if I can practically afford to miss that much work. We'll see.
Thanks for your prayers!!! Keep them coming

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Sorry it has been so long since the last update. A lot has happened. Last Saturday Laurie and Joel attended the very first membership seminar for Hill Country Bible Church Hutto, and became members of the church. Also on Saturday we went to a work day at our new church office. It is so exciting to see how the Lord is providing for everything. We have a early 1900's house (I think around 1940 or something like that is when it was built) and it is awesome. We have fixed it up and it is a cool place. There are a couple of offices as well as a kitchen and living area. The living area is going to be open for people to come and just sit when they want and it will have free wireless internet so people can even work from there. It is a great location and easy to find. On top of that most of the furnishings for the house we free! It's awesome when God works the way he does. This coming Sunday night we will have our charter service where we will sign the charter and vote for the elders and officially become a church. It is very exciting to be a part of all this. I (Joel) am especially excited because right now Hutto only has 1 high school and 1 middle school (and we are meeting in the middle school) so we will have easy access to the students in Hutto since there isn't really any happening youth programs in Hutto (only one youth group in the whole town!) This will provide lots of opportunities.

Other than that, we decided yesterday that I am going to start classes to get my real estate license and work for a broker here in Austin. I will actually start my first class today, and hope to have all my classes finished by this time next week (I am taking them by correspondence). Your prayers would be much appreciated during this time, as it is uncertain when I will be able to start making money. For the past week Laurie and I have been praying and talking to people and doing research, thanks Mom, and feel that this is what the Lord has for me next so we know He will provide. I hope people are still reading this, I know it has been a while since I updated it. Thanks for being part of our lives! We love and miss you all very much!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

More surprises

Laurie said that we needed some pictures to make the blog more interesting so here is a picture of me in my warrior pose. Well in another turn of events, we once again need your prayers (as if we didn't already anyway). Tonight I (Joel) quit my job. I have never quit a job after less than three weeks before, but I couldn't continue to do the job. Sales is always a tough job, but in order to do the job the way they wanted me to, I would have to lie to people, which is not something I am willing to do. I have tried to get around this and do the job without lying, and I have actually been able to do well, better than any of the new people on my team in fact. However, I know that I cannot do what they want me to do without knowingly deceiving people, and that is just not something I am willing to do. My integrity is not worth any paycheck. My supervisor was quite surprised, but I think it will end up being a good testimony to him. So like you can imagine we are back in the trusting God to take care of our needs (I mean we always are, but you know...). We are uncertain about what will happen financially, but we trust that God will reward us for our obedience to Him. After all you can't serve God and money. So all that to say please pray that I will find another job soon. Thanks everybody. We love and miss you all.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Some news

Hey everybody, sorry there haven't been any updates for awhile. There hasn't been a lot of news to report, and Joel (me) has been sick since Saturday. I am starting to get over it today it feels like. Wanted to let everyone know that Laurie got a temp job doing data entry, and she started this morning. It doesn't pay great, but it is better than $0, and we can get benefits through the temp agency right away. The big thing is that now Laurie is working days, and I work in the evenings and so we don't have much time to see each other. There have been some other things also that have come up at Joel's job and he has a lot of decisions to make, so please pray for him about that situation. We have also had some other unexpected expenses come up this week. So far this has definitely been an adventure in trusting God as he stretches and shapes us for the future things He has for us. Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. We do miss you all very much.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Phone

Hey everybody, thanks a lot for all the prayers, we really appreciate them! Just wanted to let everyone know that we finally got our home phone working. The number we will be using is 512-538-1888. We still have our cell phones with the 803 area codes so you can call us on those with no long distance charges for the time being. We can call you back from our home phone as we have unlimited local and long distance with the digital phone. If anyone wants to know how to get your home and family protected for about $1 per day let me (Joel) know. I have an amazing offer for ya (really I do). Hope that everything is well.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Good News

Well there is finally some good news to tell. Yesterday, on his birthday, Joel paid for some very costly repairs to his car only to find out it still isn't passing the Texas inspections standards so he has to take his car back tomorrow so that the guys he paid a lot of money to can fix whatever isn't fixed. They offered to provide Joel with a rental car while they fix his car. Anyway, onto the good news. Joel was offered a job today by Wal-Mart, but neither he or Laurie liked the offer very much as the pay is not really what they need, and the schedule is so crazy it seems like they let a toddler on massive quantities of energy drinks go wild with a pack of crayons on the time sheets. On top of that no one who was there during Joel's 2 interviews this morning could explain the benefits to him. Still, Joel and Laurie didn't feel like they had many options, and not much has been working out. It was a rough afternoon as Joel and Laurie tried to remind themselves and each other that God led them here and would provide for their needs. At about three in the afternoon Joel made a last minute phone call in response to an ad that he saw in Sunday's classified ads. He had to leave a message for the guy. At about 4:00 Joel received a call back from that guy who said that today was the last day that they were doing interviews and training started tomorrow. Joel got ready right away, and left for an interview. Joel was offered a position and he accepted it. That's right, Joel got a Job!!! Praise Jesus!!!!
It isn't exactly what they wanted, as Joel will have to start out working in the evenings [2:30-9:00pm] and working on Saturdays as well. It isn't a great schedule, but it is at least the same every week, and if Joel does well he will be able to move to a day shift which will be better. Joel will be working in a call center for a company called Protect America Inc. as a sales rep. It will be a big challenge for Joel, but it has a guaranteed hourly base that is better than what Wal-mart was offering, plus commission and monthly bonus opportunities. Joel will be selling home security systems. If anybody need a quality home security system to protect your family and home, then let me know =)
If anybody wants to know, Joel did have a good birthday, Laurie made him a delicious breakfast and in the afternoon took him to a movie that he has been wanting to see (Rocky Balboa). Laurie's parents took them out to dinner at a very nice restaurant where Joel got some great food! Joel finished off the night by playing some games with William Stewart which was very cool. We miss you all, thanx for reading this. I have to go as I have a long day of training tomorrow.

Friday, January 19, 2007

New small group

Well good morning everyone (unless it's not morning when you are reading this). Laurie and I met with our new pastor last night and had a very good time. Bo and Stacie have 3 daughters who are full of energy. We had a lovely time of fellowship (for any Baptists out there you know that means that we were eating) and learning about the area and the new church. We will be volunteering our time with Hill Country Bible Church of Hutto, which launches on Easter Sunday. Bo told us about the couple that will be leading the youth ministry at the launch, and we are going to try to meet them this Sunday to talk about things. Hutto is a small town, or it was. The last census of Hutto revealed a population of 1,250 people. That was in 2000. In less than 7 years the city has grown to over 17,000 people and there are plans to build around 25,000 homes in the near future. Hutto is growing very fast, and Bo estimates that around 75% of the Hutto population are unchurched. The Hutto church plant will be very well poised to reach a number of people who have little or no Christian influence, which is very exciting. We are excited to be a part of the launch team. Please pray that our church will be a light in Hutto, and will impact the whole town with the lafe changing reality of Jesus Christ.
Last night we also met with our first small group. We had a great time, but whatever new small group we become a part of will have really big shoes to fill. We loved our home group at Riverbend, and it is hard to imagine finding another one that great. We met last night with the group that Bo and Stacie lead, and we had a good time. One of the main things we loved in our home group was that there were people in all stages of life. This small group has the same dynamic, and they were very welcoming. We will see if this is the small group the Lord has for us or if we should try others. Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read this and keep up with all the crazy stuff going on with us. And most especially thanks for all your prayers. Please continue to pray especially for finances, as both our cars needed some expensive repairs to pass Texas inspection requirements, and we don't have any job leads yet. By the way you can leave comments and little messages for us if you want to by clicking the little comment link at the bottom of each post. We would love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Joel and Laurie meet their new pastor

It is Thursday January 18th and Joel and Laurie have an invitation to have dinner with our new pastor and his family (he will be the pastor of the Hutto church plant where Joel and Laurie will be volunteering). We are also going to meet with a small group for the first time, which is lead by the pastor, Bo, and his wife.

Well Joel's conference ended at about 3:30 pm on Sunday January 14. He left to come home at shortly there after. While on the way home Joel got a wonderful phone call from his dear friend Artie Brickle who wanted to make sure that Joel knew that the Bears had won their game. Joel and Artie had a great conversation as Joel was driving the tedious 19 hours home. Joel also got to talk to Zach who shot his first deer ever last week. Joel was very happy to have had the opportunity to talk to Zach and Artie. Joel decided to stop for the night at about 1:30 EST. However, when the lady wanted $55 so that Joel could sleep for 5 or 6 hours in a cheap room probably with a horrible continental breakfast the next morning he decided to keep driving. He decided that he would just save the money and drive through the night to get home and surprise Laurie who wasn't expecting him until the next evening. Joel should have known better than to try and drive 19 hours straight, but he thought it might be fun. Besides he had 4 XS energy drinks with him that helped him through the night. About 4 or 4:30 in the morning Joel got another surprise as the freezing rain started. Within a short time Joel's windshield wipers were starting to get completely covered in ice, as was everything else including the roads. This made for an interesting trip. The freezing rain continued, with no sign of letting up. It got really exciting when one smart fellow decided that since Joel was gaining on him that he would hit his brakes and see if he could make Joel hit him before he could change lanes. Joel managed to change lanes successfully in plenty of time to avoid hitting the smart man. The man was so thankful that Joel avoided hitting him, although he slammed his brakes for no apparent reason, that he communicated it by flashing his lights and honking his horn and telling Joel in sign language that he was number 1. Despite all these things Joel made it home safely at a little past 8:00 in the morning. Laurie was very surprised when she got out of the shower and saw Joel sitting on the bed waiting for her.
The freezing rain and sleet/snow continued throughout Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Now things are starting to melt and people are back out and things are running again. Laurie's parents say that this has been the worst ice storm in the 16+ years that they have lived here. I guess God wanted to welcome us to Texas. Here are some picture we took when it started snowing.

Ain't she cute!

It's thicker than it looks!

So that's why they call them ice sickle lights.

This is how it started

Joel's feet get sweaty so Laurie made him go outside so that his feet won't stink so much.

Joel's adventure part 1

Only one week after arriving in Texas, Joel left to drive to Greenville, South Carolina for a business conference. Joel is involved with a marketing business on the side to try and help generate some extra income so that someday when he is a youth pastor they won't have to worry about how to pay the bills so that Laurie can stay home when they have children (which is not yet in case some of you are wondering). Joel wanted to go back for the conference, and got a really good excuse to go when his brother and sister-in-law had their first baby (that's right Joel is an uncle!) on January 3rd. Ben, Stephane and Linnea live in Rock Hill which is about 2 hours from Greenville. Joel was able to spend some time with them on January 11th and 12th before his conference. Here are some pictures of the proud uncle.

Ain't she precious!? Just 9 days old.

I wish I could sleep like that.

Linnea and her uncle Joel talk about the upcoming Bears playoff game where they expect the Bears to advance to the NFC championship.

Joel had a fabulos weekend at the conference although he missed Laurie greatly and wished that she could have been with him. The weekend was simply amazing as Joel learned a lot about the business that he is now apart of. The best part was hearing many of the leaders share the love of Christ and how it motivates them to excell. On Sunday morning there was a worship service that everyone was invited to attend (there were around 11,000 people at the conference and most of them came to the Sunday morning worship service). The Main speaker for the weekend, Larry Winter, shared his testimony and a very powerful and clear presentation of the gospel. Hundreds of people commited their lives to Christ, including 3 members of the team that I am on. It was truly awesome! It was especially cool to see a video from Josh McDowell talking about how great the leaders in our business are. He works with one of the leaders in a ministry called Outreach America which shares Christ with kids through sports camps with top atheletes like Shaun Alexander (NFL MVP 2005). [Stay tuned for part 2]

Car alarm

Well, Joel and Laurie got a nice Texas welcome when the first week we were here someone tried to steal Joel's car while they were sleeping. Fortunately a good car alarm and a neighborhood watch frightened the would be thief away. I guess he didn't see the picture of Joel sellting in in Texas.

Settling In

Nice and tidy

Joel hard at work while Laurie snaps pictures and eats bon bons.

Joel is settling right in with the neighbors in Texas.

Well, Joel and Laurie are settling into their REAL new house. The boxes are mostly put away and things are starting to look normal. This is a temporary situation as we're doing Laurie's parents a favor by living in the house until they sell it. We are making such a sacrifice. We are kidding of course, Laurie's parents have been a real blessing by providing this nice place for us to live while we are settling in here in Texas. It is especially nice since we don't have jobs yet and can't pay rent. The Lord provides. Please continue to pray as we look for jobs.

Friday, January 5, 2007

We're Here!

Hey everybody! Please be patient as we build our first blog to help keep all of our friends back in South Carolina updated on what's going on with us. We arrived in Texas and have been working like wildebeests (ha you thought I was going to say dogs didn't you =) ever since moving us into Laurie's parent's old house, and moving them into their new house. We will try to have some pictures and stuff posted soon, but we have to find where we packed the camera. :) We will post more stuff as we have time, but we wanted to just let you all know that we got here safely. We love and miss you all.

P.S. here are some pictures of our new house. Come and visit!

P.P.S Joel is now an Uncle for the first time and he is VERY excited about it! Linnea Marie Merritt was born on January 3rd at 9:58 pm. He is still waiting for pictures of her due to technical difficulties.

YEAH RIGHT WE WISH!! Ok maybe not, but you can still come visit.