On our honeymoon 2 years and one month ago (2 years...what?!?!), Ryan informed me that he had signed us up for a service project through his church, The Summit.  So, in my first week of living in Durham, during the unloading boxes and getting settled in phase of new married life, we went and worked alongside others from The Summit on a house with Habitat for Humanity for the "Week of Hope" (now called "ServeRDU"). 

It didn't take long to realize that The Summit Church is serious about taking care of the needs of its local community (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) and I've never seen or been a part of a church that has such a heart for serving others all the time.  We are supposed to serve others just like Christ did, but we don't always do that.  The Summit is constantly seeking out needs in the community and advertising opportunities for members to serve and gives lots of money to organizations that lack funding for their needs. God has really blessed Ryan and I and taught us so much through this church in the two years we've been here (six for Ryan - it's the same church he went to during college). 

Cheesy as it sounds, Ryan and I made a list of goals one time soon after we were married on the drive back from GA (too many 5 hour drives up I-85...what else is there to do, ha!).  It was a list of things we wanted to do over the span of three years and included fun stuff, serious stuff, etc.  Like go to Italy...11 months left to make that happen...doubtful! :) Anyways, one of our goals was to participate in ServeRDU every year that we live in Durham, as well as other serve opportunities throughout the year.  While The Summit is constantly providing ways to serve in the community, ServeRDU is a full week of service projects that a ton of people from the church participate in every year in July.  So, our first year, we did the Habitat project that I mentioned above.  Then last year, we along with our small group worked in a local park that was pretty run down - we painted the bathroom house, trash cans, playground, picnic tables, benches, grills; picked up trash; pruned the grounds etc. 

This year, our small group was working on different projects instead of one together, so Ryan and I were trying to decide which one to do.  One of the things The Summit did this year was partner with all of the local schools: elementary, middle, and high, and provided volunteers to meet whatever needs the school had in an effort to establish a relationship with each school in the community.  One of the projects that Ryan discovered was working on one of the local high school's football facilities that needed some work, but didn't have the funding for it.  He mentioned it to Matt, Wes, and Banks who got excited about it and Matt even announced it to the football leadership group which brought Patrick Egboh on board.

So, on Friday afternoon, Ryan and I took off work and we all headed over to Riverside High School to join about 15 other Summit members to paint lockers, repair broken locks, and clean paint off the floor with turpentine.  The Head Football Coach, who was out cutting the football field grass himself in 90 degree weather when we arrived, had been wanting to hang some shelves in his equipment room/storage closet that he had not been able to get around to, so Ryan, Matt, Wes, Banks, and Egboh took on the project while I swept the mounds of dirt, trash, spiders and crickets that were hidden behind all the equipment we moved out of the way to make room for the shelves. 

It was an outdoor storage room with no AC and it was HOT!  We were all drenched with sweat and dirt after 10 minutes, but these guys were workers!

And managed to have some fun despite the heat... (Patrick Egboh...aka Egboh)

I mean, how could they not have fun when they had power tools to play with? (Adam Banks...aka Banksy)

The Head Football Coach came in to meet the guys and thank them.  He seemed to really appreciate their help.  In high school football around here, it's a one-man show for the football coach apparently.  He cuts the field grass himself, keeps up the facilities on his own, does the laundry, manages the equipment...all of it himself.  So clearly, these much-needed shelves and the locker room repairs had gotten bumped down his to-do list with so much else to take care of.  Made Matt and Ryan realize how special of a high school football program Buford is, where they have facilities as nice as Division 1 colleges athletics' facilities!

I don't think these guys would have even taken a break to sit had it not been for needing a tool and having to wait for someone to run to Home Depot. 

I think it really meant a lot to the coach that these college football players that he watches play in the fall came out to volunteer their Friday afternoon to work on his high school's football facilities. 

And it was cool to see that these guys were so enthusiastically glad to do it.  After grabbing water during the Home Depot run, they went inside and asked what they could be doing while they waited, so they got on hands and knees and scrubbed paint off the floors.  Then they stayed an hour after the project was over to finish up and put everything back together that they had moved out of the equipment room. 

All in all, when the week of ServeRDU was over, there had been 20 project locations, over 1,500 volunteers, 6,566 hours of service, and tens of thousands of dollars donated to the local community. 

There were lots of projects at schools, charter schools, boarding schools, free medical/dental/eye clinics, cribs were built and baby showers were thrown for women at Pregnancy Support services, there was a Red Cross blood drive, and lots more...

Here's a brief video summary that was shown at church Sunday morning of this year's ServeRDU last week. 

ServeRDU from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

It was a great week of The Summit serving and building relationships all around this community and I'm so glad we were able to be a part of it!



If you know me, you know that I LOVE surprises.  And I'm always scheming up a good one.  So, a few weeks ago when I was able to get ahold of some Toby Keith concert tickets that happened to fall on the first weekend Matt was back in Durham after spending the first half of the summer at home AND his birthday weekend, I started scheming... :)

TJ has been talking about wanting to make it up to Durham for a long time since he hasn't been up here in over two and a half years - he hasn't seen where Ryan and I have lived since we've been married or visited since Matt first started school here.  So, when we were all home a few weeks ago, I mentioned to TJ that if I could get Toby Keith tickets, he should fly up for the weekend and go to the concert with us and we could surprise Matt.  Mom and Dad were standing right there and said they'd "sponsor" the trip with some skymiles, so we booked his flight and managed to keep Matt in the dark for the next couple of weeks.

Matt came back to Durham last Monday and brought Jamie with him to stay for the week.  She had a flight back to ATL on Friday, so I planned to drop her off at the airport and pick TJ up in one trip and there I had my alibi.  :)  Matt and Jamie got to hang out while I was at work every day, then we'd all meet for lunch and Jamie and I got to hang out in the evenings, even got pedicures one night (Mom's treat - thanks Mom!), my first since right before our wedding - so good to have some sister time with her!

So, Friday rolled around and it seemed like the week had gone by too quickly and Jamie didn't want to miss out on all of the fun with TJ coming, so she decided to just stay until Saturday night instead. We didn't tell Matt though. :)  I played things cool and even asked Matt if he wanted to ride with us to the airport to drop Jamie off with us, but quickly threw in that I had to run be fitted for a bridesmaid's dress on the way (not really though, just to make him not want to come), so he quickly opted out.  So, Jamie and I headed to the airport.  Ironically, Ryan was headed to Alabama for his grandfather's funeral and his flight was 30 minutes after TJ landed, so he joked about maybe seeing TJ in passing at the airport since he wasn't going to be around for the weekend anymore. As it turned out though, Ryan's flight left from the same gate that TJ's flight came into and Ryan boarded the same plane that TJ had just gotten off of!  So, when we got to the airport, we had to circle a few times waiting on TJ because he got to catch up with Ryan for a few. 

Now, for the surprise - here's how we pulled it off... :)

Matt wanted Kurama's, a Japanese steak-house for dinner, so he and a few friends were there and he was expecting me to join them for dinner since I had just "dropped Jamie off".  On the way, TJ called Matt and Matt told TJ he was just getting ready to head to dinner with some friends for his birthday and asked what TJ was up to.  TJ told him he and Sam (his roommate) were just getting ready to head downtown (Gainesville, Florida) to go find somewhere to eat for dinner too, ha!  We had a few extra minutes to stop and grab a card and of all things, Jamie found one that sang a Toby Keith song when you opened it, so Jamie made imitation concert tickets to stick inside the card with each person's name that was going.  Then the last one had TJ's name on it.  So I was going to walk up to the table alone, as expected, and give Matt the card....

Here's Matt's cheesin' it face after opening the card and seeing the concert tickets, which he thought was the big surprise, not knowing that there was more...

I told him to take a closer look at the them...
(beware of the poor quality...still a really fun video though!)

Be sure and press pause on the ipod on the left sidebar first though!

The next morning, all the guys got up and left at 5:30 AM for a bass fishing tournament, so Jamie and I just hung out by the pool until the guys got back around lunchtime.  We then made some last-minute plans to meet up with Andrea, Jimmy, Alicia and AJ for dinner on the way to dropping Jamie off at the airport, probably our last chance to see them before they move to DC :(  It's been so fun having them only a little over an hour away the entire time we've lived here, but that means we'll definitely be taking more DC trips in the near future!  Amazingly, between Jimmy being deployed (Air Force) so much and TJ never being in NC, and having such short Christmas breaks due to bowl games, we realized that Jimmy and TJ hadn't even seen each other in six years!  Jimmy hadn't seen TJ since he was a little ole' eighth grader! 

In our concert attire, we headed out to meet Andrea, Jimmy, & Co., drop Jamie off at the airport (SAD!), then head to the Toby Keith/Trace Adkins concert. Where's your shirt, Matt?

yet again, family divided!

Had to get a pic of the rare reunion!

Take 2...

We pretended we were headed to the concert, no stopping at the airport on the way...we were in denial that she was leaving really.


But alas, we had to drop James at the airport before going to the concert.  Lo and behold, she flew out the same gate as Ryan AND TJ.  Poor Jamie, headed back home to be an only child again with all of her sibs five hours away in different directions.  She'd had Matt there for the first half of the summer which was so fun for both of them while he was living at home during his internship in Atlanta for our Lt. Governor, Casey Cagle, a good family friend of ours. Bet she misses him already!

Why did I get so many "goodbye" pictures and not more concert pictures? 

I don't know, but here we are at the airport again (third trip in a weekend!), seeing TJ off on Sunday evening.  Ryan got in late Saturday night from Alabama right after we got back from the concert, so we got up and went to church on Sunday morning, then had lunch at Tyler's, one of our favorite after-church lunch spots.  It's a Durham place, so we had to take TJ there.  Besides, it's his name-sake (TJ=Tyler James). :)



We will miss Pa...

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Self-control.  If there was ever anyone who lived out the fruit of the Spirit (Galations 5:22-23), it would be Ryan's grandfather, Pa.  Pa was one of the most loving, gentle, kind, peaceful people I have ever been around and thankfully, he instilled these qualities into his son Dexter (Ryan's father) who also passed these characteristics along to Ryan.  As far as men go, these three generations of Woods are some of the most patient, kind men I have ever known.  And as far as leaving a legacy goes, Pa left his through instilling these qualities into my husband and my father-in-law.

While I am so thankful for the legacy that Pa left behind and for the character traits of Pa's that are so evident in my own husband and in my father-in-law, I am so sad that we lost such an amazing man when Pa went  home to be with the Lord last Wednesday morning. 

When Ryan recieved a phone call from his dad when we were getting ready for work telling him that Pa had passed away during the night, Ryan and I both sat on the bed and mourned the loss of his grandfather together.  My heart broke for my husband who just lost his grandfather, for Ma, his grandmother who just lost her spouse of over sixty years, for my father-in-law who lost his father, for Ryan's aunt Lisa who lost her father and for all of the Wood family, but it also broke because I lost someone who was special to me.  In the nine years that I have known Ryan, I have grown to love his grandparents.  They have always been so good to me and make me feel like one of their own grandchildren.  They have so many first-hand stories of times they have lived through that I have only read about in history books.  Every time I am around them, I wish I had an extended amount of time to spend with them because they have such valuable things I would just love to learn from them.  They garden and can and cook and appreciate time spent with family without the distractions of cell phones, tv, video games.  It's like a breath of fresh air to spend time with them and learn from these sweet people who have taught Ryan so many of life's lessons throughout his childhood. 

The thing that makes me the most sad is that my (future) kids will not be able to grow up around Pa, learning life lessons from him that Ryan and Dexter were able to.  That is why I am so thankful for the strong legacy he left behind in Ryan and Dexter so that my kids will know Pa through their own father and grandfather who are so much like him in so many ways. 

I'm thankful for the time we recently were able to spend with Pa and Ma in Alabama when we stopped in for visits on our way to and from the beach just a month and a half ago. 

And here's a picture from a little over two years ago on our way home from the beach right before our wedding.

While I did not make it down to Alabama for the funeral, I'm so glad that Ryan was able to be there with his family to celebrate Pa's life.  TJ and I had made plans a while back for him to fly to Durham to surprise Matt on his birthday for the Toby Keith concert and to spend the weekend.  Jamie was also able to be here for the weekend so while I absolutely hated to not be in Alabama with Ryan and his family, I stayed behind to be with my siblings since this was TJ's first trip to Durham in the last two and a half years.