I know it's just a number but WOW! Here we are. No filter on that pic. That's all me - lifelines and all! I just couldn't let a big one like this go by without sharing here on Cheval Glass. I've been gone from here for awhile (yeah, I gotta work on that) but here are some of my reflections at ...whew...I've never typed it out...at 50! Here we go.
So much of my 20's through 40's was exploration - Nine moves and five different cities. My 20's felt like a patch-work quilt. Todd and I found "our people" all along the way and I'm so thankful for those friendships through church small groups, our work lives, and community connections. Many of those people are still a part of our lives. You know who you are. I love you.
People would say to us that we "waited" to start our family in our 30's, but Todd and I became a family THE DAY we were married. We grew up together in our 20's. I was diagnosed with panic anxiety disorder in my late 20's & got professional help. I changed a lot of my lifestyle and my eating habits. It was a challenging time, but I am so glad I hit it head on. We traveled quite a bit internationally on missions trips and personally in our 20's. I spent a lot of time songwriting and producing/playing in the studio. Most importantly, I had a massive crisis of faith most of my 20's which means I was questioning EVERYTHING about God, faith and the church and worked through quite a bit of that in my 20's.
We thought we would live in Atlanta forever when we moved there in 1997, but God had different plans. We sold our cars, our beautiful new home and most everything in it and moved with our 15 month old daughter to the Upper West Side of NYC in 2005 to help our friends, Carmen and Aaron Coe plant The Gallery Church. We used to laugh that we lived a pretty stationary life for 8 years and then all the sudden we started having children and started moving all the time. God truly has a sense of humor.
We had a miscarriage in NYC between our children and that was a dark time for me as it is for any woman who goes through it. I know there is another Cullen I will meet in Heaven one day. NYC took us to HHI in 2007 with now our almost 3 year old and 6 week old son to plant Hilton Head Island Community Church. Now, 16 years later, I would never have dreamed that this is where I would be at 50.
I never imagined that sorrow and joy could co-exist. I look back on my life at this point and realize how much they have both been there all along the journey... hand in hand. Leaving our extended family, our home church, and my best friend in ATL to meeting new friends in NYC that have become life-long friends as well. Leaving NYC to move to HHI (Yeah I didn't want to move here!) to "returning" there now with our college girl now in the city. Losing my dad to cancer at 67, but now seeing my mom thrive in her 2nd act. Watching our kids grow up too fast and yet so happy about who they have become.
I never thought I would enjoy living on HHI like I do. I thought this was the place that musicians, artists, & an artistic community go to die! I was SO wrong. My first friends were great musicians... Andy Pitts, Dean St. Hillaire, Randy Looman, & Dave Masteller...still are great musicians and good friends. Since then, I have gotten involved in our arts community with ISCA, HHDT, The Junior Jazz Foundation, and the community theater world when I can. I'm so thankful for my "artsy" friends and our artistic community. Now, I have a dancer daughter and son who is an aspiring jazz drummer because of the incredible artistic community here. Words do not adequately express my thankfulness for this community and their mentors in their lives.
I never thought it would be so hard to be married and raise kids. I shared a few weeks ago in our services on Mother's Day about spiritual warfare and how it is real and how if I didn't know it existed, Todd and I might not still be married. I meant that. We just celebrated 28 years by God's grace. Life is hard, being pastors is 24/7, and raising kids is not for the faint of heart as many of you know. I am so thankful today for Todd, our church family, and Sydney and Sean.
I have never breathed "thank you, God" as much as I do now. Every day is a gift. Every moment with my kids and with Todd. I slow down a lot more now. I say " I'll do that tomorrow" a lot more. I pray more throughout the day, constantly praying for my friends, our community, our world, and whatever God brings to my mind. I wake up and begin thanking God for rest, the home I live in, and the people He has blessed me with...family, friends, and our faith community. I am so thankful for the friends that God has blessed with me to do life with here on the Island. I'm thankful for the extended friends through social media I have made and the ability to stay connected to my extended family.
So I celebrate life itself today. All the parts of the journey and yea, this feels weird to think I'm 50, but I am so thankful. I will keep saying that to God in my breath prayers and whatever the next 50 hold, I will always say God is good. He is faithful when I am not. He always provides even when I don't manage what we have well. He knows what's best even when I get frustrated with circumstances. His mercy and grace are there each morning for me to receive. He's got it and He always has had it and He always will.
"For the Lord is always good. He is always loving and kind, and his faithfulness goes on and on to each succeeding generation." - Psalm 100:5