Big News for the Earls!


This past Sunday at the conclusion of my sermon, I made an announcement to the members of my church: in early March, the Earl family will be leaving North Carolina and will embark on a new ministry journey.  My last preaching Sunday will be February 28, and we will ship out sometime in the following week, Lord willing. I realize this may come as quite a shock to some of you, so allow me to detail what God has been doing in our lives.

When we first moved to the North Carolina High Country, Michelle and I agreed before God that we would remain here, serving His church for as long as He desired.  We never had any intentions of making any ministry changes, and we resolved to stand fast – even if we faced difficulty. This Sunday, I will celebrate five years as the pastor of Higher Ground Church of God.  Those times of difficulty have been rare, and we have come to know and love a church family that, I would imagine, can be found in few churches in America.


But several years ago, I began to sense that God was going to be moving us. It’s kind of a long story really, but I began to feel a burden for the city of Chicago. Now at the time, I knew this had to be God because neither Michelle nor I have ever been there, and we zero connections with it. So, we made this “urging” a matter of prayer.  For the last several years, we have sought God and His specific purposes for our family.

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A Newborn Baby’s Cry

Ah, the sound of a newborn baby’s cry… especially your own!

On Monday, July 02, we welcomed into the world a new edition to the Earl family, Malacai Huntington, weighing in at 7lbs, 13oz.  Malacai is our third child, and I think I was more excited to see this little guy than the first two.  Not really sure why – maybe it’s because we haven’t had an infant in the house in three and a half years, and the memories of those moments have faded somewhat.

“Let’s get this show on the road!” (Man, she’s good-lookin’!)

Michelle had a pretty good pregnancy.  No crazy weight gain, not TOO much sickness – but, there was the PUPPPS.  What’s PUPPPS you ask?  Well it’s an acronym for Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy, an overly technical way of saying “pregnancy rash.”  Poor Michelle struggled with PUPPPS with our first (Kaelyn), and this time again with Malacai.  The “rash” affects about every one in two hundred pregnancies, and really it isn’t known what ACTUALLY causes it.  Most guess an increase in hormone levels, but either way, it’s annoying.  Michelle really struggled with it during the last trimester, a typical timing for the onset, and the unusually hot weather up here in these mountains seemed to aggravate it.  So, needless to say, she was ready for the baby to come! (PUPPPS slowly goes away a few weeks after delivery.)

This third time around was a little different for all of us.  With Kaelyn, she came right on her due date, and Connor was ten days early, so we assumed that little Cai (short for MalaCAI) would be early.  Malacai was due on July 1, so, right around June 20, we began to wait.  First the Braxton Hicks began, then some contractions.  Day after day went by, and still no sign of baby.  As we came closer to the due date, we began to try everything to induce labor, short of force-feeding Michelle castor oil.  We ate Mexican food a lot, took lots of brisk walks, but the week before Cai was to arrive, he didn’t.  The contractions got worse, but they were all so erratic- we couldn’t time anything.  I remember on Thursday night, June 28, after eating Mexican food and taking a long walk, Michelle began having strong contractions.  And, they were timing down to ten minutes apart.   I was excited, so I encouraged her to call her midwife.  After calling, the midwife told us we could come into the hospital, or wait it out.  Michelle decided to wait it out.  Well, the night waned, and we waited.  By midnight, no water breaking, no strong pain, so we went to sleep.  Much to my disappointment, I woke up the next morning – no baby (both of our other kids came at night).

Saturday night rolled around, and we (me) were all going stir crazy waiting.  I said, “Hon, why don’t you call Heather (midwife) and ask if she can induce you? Your rash is really bothering you anyway!”  Michelle felt awkward calling with such a request, but she broke down and did.  See, by this time, Michelle was already 5cm dilated.  Heather felt sure we’d be in by then, so she called the doctor-on-call after hanging up with Michelle, and explained the situation.  He said to Heather, “Third child, 5cm dilated, and no baby? Bring her in Monday at 7AM.”  Well, we were all excited.  FINALLY, there was an end in sight.

So, we showed up at the hospital bright and early Monday, and Heather broke Michelle’s water at around 9AM.  We waited around for a while, and then the strong contractions started.  By about 11:30, Michelle wanted an epidural, so they called it in.  Noon came, and the anesthesiologist arrived.  He began working on Michelle, and the contractions got really strong and close together.  Michelle looked up at her nurse and said, “I need to push.”  The nurse just said, “No, don’t push, just relax.” “Are you sure?” Michelle asked.  Again, she felt like she had to push.  “I’ve got to push!” Michelle described it to me that she felt like someone was trying to push open a door on her insides.  I think the nurse saw Michelle’s desperation, so she called Heather over.  Heather arrived shortly, checked Michelle and said, “Let’s have this baby!”

The “Before” pic

By this time it was about, I don’t know, 12:30, 12:45 or so.   This is a good time to note that at this point, the epidural didn’t do a thing for Michelle.  She felt her legs, her toes- you know, everything.  And the pushing began.   All I could do was hold her hand and kiss her head.  She pushed hard, and I could see it was hurting.  Everything in me wanted to burst out crying as the pain was noticeably worsening for her.  At about 12:55, I could see the head.  It scared me.  It was a deep blue color, and I could see the cord on his neck.  No sound.  Heather said, “Keep pushing!” “I can’t do it!” Michelle said, but she pushed on.  I was increasingly more scared as I saw this baby.  And then, just as quickly as could be, Malacai was released.  It was 1:01PM.  But, still no cry – I’m talking like, maybe a good 30-40 seconds of silence from this baby.  I kept asking, “Is he okay?” Heather reassured me he was, but he still didn’t cry.  They were suctioning his throat, and FINALLY, Cai coughed and then began crying.  Actually, so did I.  My mom was in the room, she did too.

The “After” pic

Proud Parents

K & C LOVE him!

Friends, this is our third child, and I can tell you, I’ve never been so happy to hear the sound of a baby’s cry.  Anyone reading this who’s a parent knows how stressful it can be to hear a baby cry (well, for long periods of time anyway).   Malacai was a little bruised from his quick delivery, but now looks as sweet and handsome as ever.

I can tell you, this little guy is a huge blessing from the Lord.  I’m not sure what it is, but he just is special to me.  I love ALL my kids the same, but this feels different.  Maybe God is just showing me how easy it is to take these gifts for granted.  Right now, I really appreciate this little boy.  I can’t wait to watch him grow up, right alongside K & C.  And, should the Lord bless us with another, I’ll remember how Cai came into this world, and I’ll appreciate a newborn baby’s cry.

Follow-up to Higher Ground’s Veggie Tales Event on February 17!

Our Friday, February 17 showing of Veggie Tales latest movie Robin Good and His Not-So-Merry Men, went, well, merrily!  Like any event with children, it was over before it began.  I think it is safe to say that everyone had a blast!

A BIG THANK YOU to Jennifer Houck, without whom this event would never have been possible.  We had a good time planning the event, and I believe we make a great team.  (Never mind the list stuff we will do next time that we left out!  You live and learn right? Stay tuned for next time on that one.) Visit Jenn’s blog at One Mom’s World.  She often has great product reviews and even giveaways of cool products that you could win!  Not to mention a beautiful family that I and my own are super fond of! I keep telling her she is kinda famous, and I feel my VIP status go up a bit when we hang out, but she won’t listen to me on that!

The kids loved getting prizes! Here's a little one drawing a name out for Josh.

Me working it out to a lively Larry version of the Hokey Pokey. Well done if I do say so myself!

Here are the sweet kids dancing!

Here is a picture of some of my dear friends from Charlotte – Erin and Vanessa. They are the sweetest and most selfless people, who also by the way, cleaned the whole kitchen and did not let me help!  In all the craziness, I don’t think I ever said thank you! Thank You wonderful ladies! You are so dear to me!!!!!

Oh yeah…in case you were wondering, here is the skinny on the movie:

VeggieTales movies are never one to disappoint and Robin Good and his Not So Merry Men is no different.  Instead of traditional Robin Hood like movies where they steal from the rich and give to the poor, Robin Good actually fundraises from the rich and gives to the poor.  That was enough to make me smile.  In the end, when the Prince of the land starts taking the townspeople’s hams (lol, hams), Robin Good’s not-so-merry men decide to give stealing a try.  Robin Good sticks to his convictions and casts his cares upon the Lord, trusting him to take care of the not-so-good situation.  This movie is sure to make you and your children smile, not to mention teach a lesson about the power of casting our cares upon God.

There is also a short story before the movie about Junior Asparagus. He learns a lesson about the ever-forgotten leap year.

My personal favorite on the dvd is the “silly song.”  I think it is Larry the Cucumber’s five o’clock shadow that does me in here.  Ill let you see that for yourself!

Ian Von Fange closing the event with prayer

 You can purchase the dvd here, on the VeggieTales website.

What a great time this was!  Perhaps the most interesting thing to happen was the leftover pizza I found yesterday in the church oven.  It was 3 weeks old.  It was surprisingly not moldy.   Preservatives anyone?

We should be having more of these pre-release events in the future, so stay tuned.  Josh and I also plan on renting out the Bob and Larry costumes for the next one, so If that doesn’t grab you….

For more information about events and happenings at Higher Ground Church, visit our website.

It’s a Girl, I Know…

Well, it is officially a new year, so Michelle and I thought it would be the perfect time to dust off the old blog site. Instead of this being strictly a ministry blog, we’ve decided to make it a blog about our family and also ministry here in the High Country. Being so removed from most of our friends (in Charlotte and elsewhere), this will be a great way for us to keep everyone “up” on things here with us. We hope you enjoy!

I knew it was a girl.  I was sure of it.

I shook my head with a yes, eyes squinted with all seriousness, as I looked at the ultrasound tech and said, “It’s a girl, I know.”  At that point she looked at me and laughed, chin up in the air and everything.  My face must have certainly expressed confusion, as she said, “There’s too many parts to be a girl – it’s a boy!”  At that point, Joshua (who was tending to the two other kids in the brood with his back turned), heard the “it’s a boy” part as if he had been standing right by my side.  He walked over and said, “Wait, what?” And I, humbled and extremely surprised, had tears of joy and excitement in my eyes as she showed me what she called a “pretty scrotum.”

Needless to say – we are so excited for a boy! Connor will have a little brother to be home with when Kaelyn starts school this August, and Kaelyn will love anyone she can take care of, so we feel abundantly blessed.  Its funny, however, I am a little saddened that he is a he and not a she.  I set myself up for us to have another little girl, for Kaelyn to have a little sister, and for Josh to have one more little girl.  I only thought of girl names (although I would never admit any of this prior) and I was excited to pull out all of Kaelyn’s baby stuff that I haven’t looked at in five years.  Not to sound super extreme or hormonal, I’m almost mourning someone I never met.  Perhaps, the weirdest thing for me is that my SURE ‘gut’ feeling was wrong.  Either way, as I retrain myself to think blue and not pink, I feel like this is one more lesson I can learn.  One more thing to let me know how not in control I am and how God usually doesn’t work how I expect or think He will.

Most of you know, Feb 6, 2011 we moved to the mountains of N.C.  It was the hardest thing I have had to do since I have been walking with the Lord.  It was a true surrender to His will, in a decision where my will was anything but His.  Fast forward 370 days later, and some days I can’t even remember why it was so hard to move in the first place.  We sometimes spend so much time and energy looking for BIG meaning in things that happen to us in life.  I hoped at one time we would get up here and our church would grow immediately and I would make friends immediately and we would be so busy doing ministry immediately.  It did not happen like that in the least.  I even felt like we were back-peddling at times.   Now, we are seeing some of these things are starting to come – yay for friends and growth, ALL glory to God!  I see God’s perfect timing and I am thankful.  The past year he has made our little family so tight-knit, that I feel if this was the only purpose of us moving up here, it was more than worth it.  There is so much more to this, but I feel like since I am such a work in progress, I’ll stop there.

I take all this space up in the world of blogging just to say (even if just to me): stop trying to figure it all out.  If you are walking with God, then He is in control and not you.  Before I fill in the rest of this space with a bunch of cliche sayings like ‘let go and let God’ or ‘grow where you are planted’, I’ll leave you with this:

Ramping up (again..)

Hey folks!

Ok, so we took a little break.  Well.. how about about a 9 month break.  But, we’re going to be starting back up again soon.  I (Josh) am getting settled into a new role in my life, and this blog will be quite useful soon.

So, the point is, Pressing OnWord is coming back to life, and will be used as both a combination ministry blog and personal blog.  I am excited about it, so, stay tuned!