Monday, July 20, 2009

This Isn't What We Had Planned...

Joe and I took the kids on a last-minute weekend getaway up north. I love it up there. I have been going to the same area every summer since I was 10 and Joe started coming up with my family when we were in high school. He absolutely loves it there too. Our boys definitely love going and Ayla is following in their footsteps. We enjoyed a couple of days at different beaches, exploring and looking for beloved Petoskey stones. Joe enjoys rock collecting almost more than the boys, I think. We ate good food and took in glorious sunsets. It was a much needed little trip.

On the car ride home, Joe and I started talking about how our life together has not turned out at all as we had anticipated it would. Not that it has turned out too shabby, just not what we expected. A lot of our plans that we had for ourselves and our children have pretty much crumbled to the ground. We always thought that we would have a cottage and take the kids up almost every weekend in the summer, spending our days exploring God's creation and our evenings singing songs around the campfire and roasting marshmallows. We wanted our kids to have a passion for music and the outdoors. We wanted to spend good quality time together, taking it easy and relaxing with each other as a family. We never wanted to run the rat-race of dragging our kids from one activity to another. We always wanted to sit down and eat dinner, all of us together, not scarfing down Happy Meals in the van with a DVD playing. I always said that I would NEVER be one of those crazy hockey moms!!

And here I am, not only a hockey mom, but a baseball mom and golf mom (is there even such a thing?). Joe and I definitely have a hectic, chaotic life together which is totally the opposite picture that we had in our minds before we had kids. And we are to blame. We are the ones who have signed up for this. Part of it is what feels comfortable. Joe grew up playing sports, that's what he knows. As a young married couple, we wanted to break the mold a little bit. Almost rebel, if you will, against the typical household in our city. But here we are running in our little wheel, trying to balance it all and by gosh, we aren't going to break a sweat, at least not enough for anyone else to notice. So we just keep trying to juggle it all, work, activities, commitments, obligations, sports, etc.

The question is, "Is this God's plan for our lives, or is it our plan?" Where does divine intervention intervene into our free will? Is this God's pre-chosen, pre-determined plan for my life and my family's lives or is it my doing? How did we end up here? I find myself reverting back to the Calvinistic doctrine that seems to have been taught to me most of my life and have to admit that I do think that our lives have been predestined to be where they are. If not, I am given way too much credit for choices and in that much more weight than I can bear. And I don't think that we are little pawns either, I'm not saying that. I just think that God's plan is much bigger than all of my little plans and He is going to do what He wants to, whether I'm on board or not. So maybe I should just stop questioning and jump on, even if it's not what I envisioned or much more chaotic than I would like!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Full Circle

Last year was probably the absolute busiest and most stressful years that Joe and I have faced since we have been married. Where should I begin? Lets see, in March, Joe started coaching Jonah's hockey team (thankfully we had someone step up as manager, but he had never done it before and Joe ended up co-managing as well.). In the beginning of April, I quit my job and opened up a salon/spa with my family that was a work in progress for over a year and had to be kept "top-secret" so that my sister and I could retain our clients and not lose our previous jobs. (No stress there, really) In the beginning of June, we both felt led to start attending a new church and leave our place of worship that we had called home for the previous seven years. In that same month, Joe made the decision to take a new job with a new company. This new job would be closer to home and an awesome opportunity but he had to attend training in New Jersey for the whole month of August. On top of the daily challenges of parenting young children; taxiing them to their activities, breaking up fights, kissing skinned knees, helping with homework, giving baths, tucking in, and the never ending piles of laundry and endless crumbs under the kitchen table, Joe and I were both trying to adjust to our new jobs. I started working more than I ever had since before Jonah and I don't regret it but it was just a little chaotic to say the least.

So anyways, we were a little busy, a little hard-pressed, if you will...
And everyone's busy. And we chose to busy ourselves. We do that, don't we? So I'm not complaining, just trying to explain my rationale behind why I haven't been able to really get too involved in my new church. I tried a few times and felt God pulling me back to my family and focusing on them, especially my children as my ministry. Yet there has been this small gnawing in my spirit for the past several months. And it is so cool how God has pulled this whole thing full circle.

I have had a little place in my heart for school-aged children since I was a young adult. I have to say "little" because after working in a summer day camp for 6-12 year olds the summer after I graduated high school, I decided that I really didn't want to be a teacher and pursued a completely different career, hence the hairdresser I am today. And looking back, I know full well that God had His hand on me in that decision. But I love kids. I love the crazy things that fly out of their mouths. I love their sweet innocent faces and their inquisitive nature. And as a mother I have grown in learning how to deal with and reason with little ones, so much more than I ever could at the young age of 18. Besides working with soloists for the Christmas plays at our previous church, I really didn't lead young children. Joe and I taught the high school Sunday school class and were more involved with singing and worship. So this is just totally a God-thing that I have finally felt the confirmation to volunteer in the kids church program.

Today was my first day. I woke up at 6:00am and that is completely abnormal for me. I am not a morning person. I was up very late last night too so it was REALLY abnormal. I was nervous. I was excited. I was nervous. To make matters worse, Micah almost started to cry just as we were going in and told me that he did NOT want me to work in his class. I asked him why and he replied,

"It's just embarrassing Mom, to have you in there."

Go figure. After the jitters wore off I can honestly say that I felt so "at home". I just felt like God was re-confirming in me my decision. It's so true that you really feel blessed when serving. And I have to admit that I really enjoyed the lesson. But it wasn't until tonight as I tucked the boys in and we were talking all about what they had learned at church that the Holy Spirit confirmed in me how this was just what God was pulling me toward. I was so much more equipped to engage with them in the conversation. I was able to refresh their minds and share with them so much more than usual. And I just think that it is so cool how after feeling so led to focus on my children as my ministry that God has opened up this opportunity for me to serve them even more and my church body all at the same time. Our God is so good. He has brought me full circle with this and for that I am entirely grateful.

Proverbs 22:6 (NASV)
Train a child up in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

An American Soldier

My dad's older brother Gary joined the Marines at the peak of the Vietnam War. He wrote this letter to his pastor four and a half short months before he was killed. On this 4th of July I would like to honor his memory and thank him and every single soldier like him who has sacrificed his/her for the sake of our freedom.

24 Sept. 1967
Dear Rev. Jones,

You'll have to excuse me if I started this letter wrong, cause it's the first time to a man of the Gospel. I really don't know what to say, but I'll try anyway.

To get things straight, my name is Gary W. Holbrook, son of Mr. and Mrs. Garrett Holbrook, 2216 Grange Rd. Trenton. If you will remember I talked with you a few times before I left for Vietnam.

I guess that most people getting letters from the men in Vietnam, would like to know a little about what it's like over here. This is the way I think of Vietnam.

The mountains are beautiful even if they are Vietnam mountains, and the water in the rice paddies is so clear you can see yourself in them. The sun is like a great light that never ceases to let you know it's always on the job. And at night the beauty of this far eastern country is unexplainable. I guess you might say it's like one of Walt Disney's Kodak Colored Pictures. That's what Vietnam appears to be like. Only God and the men that are over here giving up their lives truly know what Vietnam is like. to them it is always hot, wet, muddy, and above all lonely. All the outward looks of beauty that pertain to Vietnam's landscape and Vietnamese people is just a falsehood which hides death or destruction behind every bush or from the vast low banks of the lonely green paddies. During the day when the sun is shining brightly above and sending life to this ever expanding vastness of green foliage and jungle terrain. The fighting man must be especially leery because from these beautiful grass lands and majestic jungles there are those who would take his life if given the chance.

During the night when all is still and peace seems all around you, (for Vietnam doth truly seem peaceful at night) once again you find the American fighting man awake and waiting, for during these hours of blissful peace and constancy is when the enemy takes advantage of our fighting men, for at these beautiful times he sometimes lets his mind wander back to his loved ones far across the ocean, he asks himself, "Is it all worth it, being over here amongst all this beauty which is only a front for death?" He asks himself, "Is the price of peace and happiness for his loved ones too dear to pay with his life?" All these questions and many more run through these brave young mens' minds and there is still the same answers with God on our side and us being a free people and believing in Him, He will stand by our side no matter what the price. For I'm an American fighting man and will do my best to serve my God and my country. And although Vietnam is truly beautiful, it is just as deadly and even more so lonely for the American fighting man. Well I guess that's enough of my philosophy about Vietnam.

Well Reverend, I guess there really isn't much more to say except that I'm pretty sure I am not the only one that has a strong and compassionate feeling for Nam and it's people. I would certainly appreciate it if you would pray for all of us over here, and maybe some Sunday you could give a sermon on Vietnam, so people can do a little more about it then just say, "Well Vietnam's way over there and I am over here." I believe they should be made to realize that there is a little of each of us over here living and dying to help us all free and save, for tomorrow the sun will surly shine on a free and God-fearing people. I will also send you my address in case there are a few people in the church that might want to write. Thank you very much for listening to my problems. I only hope God heard them as well.

L/Cpl. Gary W. Holbrook U.S.M.C.

P.S. Feel free to tell others what I wrote, maybe it will give them a better understanding of what goes on over here.

Some final thoughts,
I hate war. I was always taught that it is a necessary evil, and maybe it is. The pacifist side of myself is totally against it yet the logical side of myself deems it as justifiable. Hopefully, one day God will answer all of the questions I have on the issue. But just like during Vietnam, I do believe that we need to pray for each and every soldier fighting for us, even if we don't agree with it. Just as my uncle cherished every prayer uttered on each American soldier's behalf, I think our troops today would as well. So will you join me in praying for our soldiers?

Happy Independence Day!!!!