Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend 2010

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend this year. As you may recall, our last 2 Thanksgivings have been humble affairs, although Thanksgiving 2008 at least found us eating turkey products! This year we were so blessed to have part of Darin's family join us in Michigan. His parents, brother Israel and little Rosa arrived late Wednesday night and were able to attend the Thanksgiving service with us at EGM. We were especially thankful to have them make it to Michigan because Darin's mom had hit some ice on the drive up (they drove two separate vehicles for part of the trip) and had slid across the median and over the oncoming lanes of traffic before ending up in the ditch! As Israel said, the angels were certainly watching over them! We managed to put together a wonderful meal, although technically what we had qualifies more as Easter dinner, complete with ham, party potatoes, corn and strawberry fluff-minus the strawberries that were in scarce supply at our area Family Fares.
Enjoying our meal
Cheesy Rosa enjoyed her cheesy potatoes
Grandma Karen brought her sewing machine along and was able to help me patch up jeans for Darin and Tyson and also make some fun new things for Jori. Both kids loved watching Grandma sew, but Tyson was especially entranced by what Grandma was doing and how the sewing machine worked. He even helped her sew a little.
Learning from Grandma Karen
Turning a broken "gown" into a fun new skirt!
I had found a pattern to make Jori a dress a few months ago, and in one day, mom made it a reality! I followed the instructions on line, cut out the 2 sides of the dress and even sewed a little. Mom made the straps how I wanted them, without a pattern, and sewed the majority of the dress, which I could not have done with such wonderful results! She did this while also helping me finish up Jori's Christmas present, which included making a shirt for Jori's doll, Charity, turning a long sleeve shirt of Jori's into a super cute short sleeve shirt and appliqueing butterflies on both of these. I can't WAIT til Christmas!

Jori's dress
It used to be a men's shirt, so the dress back was the shirt front
On Friday, we went with Darin's aunt, uncle and cousin to the Bodies Revealed exhibit at the public museum. Rox and Al were supposed to go to Edgerton for Thanksgiving, but decided to stay put because of the weather. Amy is at Calvin and was going to ride home with them to see her family. We are glad they could come with us!  It was pretty interesting to see. Even the kids enjoyed it. They also liked looking around the rest of the museum. Tyson was especially impressed with the Amway exhibit because he got to dress up in a lab coat. Jori liked touching the animal pelts. I also liked the Amway exhibit because I was able to prove to Darin that I really do have abnormally cold hands and he should not make fun of my when I keep my gloves on inside! They had one of those machines that you can stand in front of and the "hot" parts of your body show up red or orange and the cold parts are blue or green. My hands were the only blue/green ones of the bunch! Grandma Karen's nose was also green. Darin and Tyson were all red.

On the carousel (click the picture to view it full size)
The whole gang, including Rox and Al, and Amy.

On Saturday, all the guys went out for breakfast. Darin went out and got us donuts first for the women-what a guy. Jori ate one donut too many and ended up feeling sick the rest of the day. When the guys got back home, Mom and I took the boys to run some errands. First stop was Meijer to get the long promised Lego Star Wars set! Tyson was so happy to finally have it in his hot little hands. Then we ran to Target to get Jori some new polka dot pants as Grandma managed to get her to give up her old polka dot pants that were two sizes too small, as well as 3 other pairs of too small pants that she loved. I must admit, I will miss seeing her little buns squeezed into those pants! After stopping to pick up some more sewing supplies, we headed home. Then we started sewing. While we sewed, we also made cookies for the kids to frost. It was a bit of a mess, but they had a great time.
Topless Jori-she got wet "washing" dishes for us

Jori's final product. Got frosting?
He really was having fun
Dad and Rosa stuck to eating peanuts
Then the men took all the kids except for Rosa to the bowling alley. Mom and I kept sewing until the needle on the machine broke! That night Mom and Dad treated Darin and I to dinner. It was so nice going out with the two of them. The kids did great for the babysitter and were all still smiling when we got home. Even Jori, who was laying on the sofa with a "throw up" bowl next to her when we left had perked up. After getting all the kids to bed, mom and I got right back to sewing with the new needle we had picked up before dinner. It was nice to sit and chat together.

On Sunday morning it was time to say good-bye. That is always the hard part. First the kids got their Christmas presents, or should I say the rest of their presents as they had been weaseling gifts out of Grandma all weekend : ) Tyson opened his gift first. He actually pulled it out of the bag and assumed it was for Israel. When Grandma said it was for him, his face just lit up! It was a whole box of Lego pieces. He was so happy.
Tyson and his Lego's
 Then Jori opened her gift. First she pulled out a coloring book and a CD, and then she hauled out a book that literally weighs about 5 pounds. She thought it was so cool to have such a big book!
Checking out the big sticker book
Then it was time for our guests to leave. While we watched them drive away, Tyson started crying. Later on in the day, Jori said her tummy hurt and after ruling out all the reasons why she couldn't eat she said "I think it's because Grandma went home". So sad! We are so thankful for the time we could spend together as we know we won't be able to do this much longer! Thanks again for making the drive to see us. We love you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Denial...'s where I am at and where I plan on staying for as long as possible. Maybe it isn't healthy, but I don't think I am ready for reality yet. Reality means having to say good-bye to my friends and family. Reality means no more play dates for Jori and JJ, no more Cadets for Tyson, no more house on Elm Avenue with our path, pond and backyard ice cream shop. Reality means having to actually try and grasp what it means that we are moving overseas LONG TERM. We don't know how long this will be, but we assume it will be at least 5 years. Reality means I can't call my mother-in-law in the middle of preparing my first whole chicken to get her advice. It means I can't just call my mom to tell her Jori thinks describing my hair as a sand hill is a major compliment. Reality means I can't stop in to see Rachel before I get Jori from school and I've already touched on how much I am going to miss Rachel. Reality means no more phone calls between 9 and 9:30 from my sister Laurie as she drives to work in a time zone 3 hours earlier than where I am. Reality means no more Wednesday morning Bible Study with a group of women that I have come to love and respect over the past 3+ years that we've been meeting together.

This afternoon, reality tried to slip in, but I quickly shut it out. Rachel called to see if we would be available to do something on March 23, 2011, and the reality is that I can't commit that far out. I don't know where we'll be at that time. Reality creeps in when I think about wanting to go see my friend Tami in California and realize that I can't keep "thinking about it" and need to get a ticket or time might run out! That's the kind of stinky part of our reality right now-we don't really know when any of this is going to happen. In my mind, we are now going to be here til May or June (even though we still say March or April), so if things happen to go a lot faster than that, I am in big trouble! I am not ready to switch gears from denial to reality. It makes me sad. Really sad. Even when little bits of reality sneak in, it impacts me for a few days. I cry during TV shows and commercials. I try to share sweet things that the kids said and my voice gets all choked up.

I find it easy to get down on myself, especially when I hear about the realities that a lot of other people are facing-death, disease, all kind of loss. When I hear about these kinds of realities, I feel guilty for being sad about something that we have chosen to do. I am trying to work on that, as I do believe that I am allowed to grieve and hurt and feel sad, I just have a lot of mental conversations with myself about needing to suck it up and deal-then I go lay on my bed and have a good cry.

So, at least for the next couple months, I am planning to stay in denial as much as I can. I know I'll have to face reality this Christmas when I see my family for what could be the last time in a couple years. I don't look forward to the sadness, but I also don't want to miss out on letting them know how much I love them and saying whatever needs to be said. Ugh. Now this is making me cry, so I am going to step back and embrace denial again for a while, while still being thankful that I have such a great reality to miss!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Willing to change

I feel like my head and my heart are just so full of things that I want to write, but sometimes I have a hard time getting things onto paper, or in this case, onto the computer screen. I am not an eloquent writer. I know this. I am wordy, I use lots of exclamation points, too many capital letters, I have poor punctuation and grammar (thankfully Darin catches most of those mistakes) and am usually not able to write my thoughts out in a clear and concise way. Oh well. I have long said that I keep this blog for me and my family as a place to get my thoughts down and keep track of all the stuff that is going on in our lives. I don't scrapbook and don't even print pictures out unless they are needed for a school project, so this IS the record of my kids lives! It is also my space and while I don't plan on being offensive, I do plan on being as true to myself as I can. I want to look back and not only see physical changes in my kids, but I also want to read the words I put down and see how I have changed and how I process things differently over time.

I think change is good. It's hard at times, but good. I believe that too often we hold on to certain ways of doing things because that's how we've always done it. The "we" might be our family, our group of friends, our church or any other group that you are a part of. I read this post today and found myself nodding my head in agreement and wanting to go out and find the book she was writing about. When we were last in South Africa, we were able to see what a big impact a relatively small amount of money could have in that country. My parents church had collected a few thousand dollars, which they sent over with my parents. With this money, we were able to purchase a wash machine, a refrigerator, school uniforms, and more, which you can read about here and you can check out pictures through the Picasa link on the right side of the blog. For the same amount of money, about 1 and 1/2 people could have flown to South Africa, not including any lodging, dining or transportation costs. If this paragraph seems totally random and incoherent, you'll have to just go click on the link above and read the post so you can understand what I am talking about!

I have been doing a lot of reading lately. Usually I stick to Christian fiction-I have a serious addiction, but lately I've been branching out and have been reading a lot of non-fiction. I read quite a few books about the history of apartheid in South Africa, which I once started to post about, but haven't quite been able to get all my thoughts into words on that one. More recently, I've been reading a lot of what I'd call Christian non-fiction, which includes books about what the church could look like, should look like and does look like. Some of my most recent reads have been "Radical" by David Platt, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller, "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan and "unChristian" by David Kinnaman. I just started reading "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. I would give each of the books I've read so far a high recommendation. They have all given me much to think about, which is good, but thinking alone isn't that great. I find that I have been wrestling with a lot of preconceived notions that I have held about the church and the world, about those who are in the church and those who are outside of it. I feel like these books have changed the way I think about things, but on the other hand, some of the stuff I've read has also strengthened beliefs that I already had. I don't want to become one of those people who hops on every bandwagon that happens to come trundling by. I think that's why I waited so long to do a Beth Moore Bible study. I tend to be more wary of things I perceive to be fads both in and out of the church, which is why you will never see my in a pair of jeggings or skinny jeans! Sometimes I am hesitant to read books like the ones listed above because they often come across as hateful towards the church and think that everything the church holds dear should be tossed out. I think that some people might read the same books I did and think "Jonna, that is just what THESE books are saying!" but I really didn't find that. I think they were all crying out for American Christians to take an honest look at ourselves through the lens of scripture, not through the lens of our traditions, culture or denomination. I would highly, highly recommend the book "unChristian". It's subtitle is "What a new generation really thinks about Christianity...and why it matters". This book really made me reexamine how I have responded to those outside of the church and how I have expressed my views about different issues, such as homosexuality.

I guess the whole point of this post is that taking another look at how we've always done things, or said things, or dealt with things can be beneficial, not only for ourselves, but for those around us. I don't think we are supposed to just blindly follow along and stay on the same path because that's the way it's always been. I also don't think we can just assume that we are still on the same path that Christ first set his followers on. I think that there are a lot of places where we have strayed, but sadly, these things have now become the norm and are often just assumed to be the "right way". As I said at the beginning, I am not a writer. My thoughts are random and rarely cohesive. I guess I write how I talk, which drives my husband crazy! I guess the less I worry about how stuff comes out, the better I'll be at just getting it out there and unloading some of the weight that I've been carrying around.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tonight I am feeling sad for my kids. I feel so ill equipped to help them with all the change that is going to be happening soon.  At bed time, Jori started crying about having to leave behind her pillow and polka dot quilt. I hadn't said anything about these items, but something made her think about them and cling to them. I tried to turn it into a positive and talk about how much fun it would be to pick out new things in South Africa, but that just made her cry more. All I wanted to do was cry along with her. : (

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A way to help out

Recently, our church, and more specifically the small groups at our church, have become aware of some needs at our local high school. I don't know who initiated this relationship, but have already seen God at work in it. When we first heard about some of the issues that people in our local school community were facing, it was kind of a shock. I mean, we live in Hudsonville for crying out loud. Hudsonville, which by all appearances has it all together. There are churches on just about every corner, and lots of nice cars and nice homes in the area. We may be close to Grand Rapids, but certainly we do not have the kinds of problems that they have.

Yet over the course of  a few weeks, we found out that there are teens in our community that are considered homeless. Homeless. In Hudsonville. How is that possible? There is a food bank set up specifically for families of the high school to use because there has been such an increase in the need. One of the school counselors is keeping granola bars, easy mac and other "fast" foods on hand because there are so many kids coming through her doors that haven't had breakfast and may not have dinner available when they get home.

Now, I don't know the reasons for all of these difficulties. I know that I often struggle with becoming cynical and judgemental when I hear about situations like these. It's easy to start wondering why these things might be happening and get so caught up in finger pointing and blame casting that we forget what we have been commanded to do. Darin recently shared something he had read in the Today devotional. It was based Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Here is the devotion that went with the passage:

Before we look at this story Jesus told, let’s notice a few things it doesn’t say. The story says nothing about how the rich man got his wealth. We don’t know whether it was an inheritance, a good business, or dishonest tax collecting that brought in his money. All we know is that he was rich.

Nor does Jesus tell us why Lazarus was poor. Was he a drunk, a disabled person, or maybe a victim of extortion? All we know is that he was poor. (italics mine)

We also see that the rich man did no direct harm to Lazarus. Jesus said Lazarus lay at the man’s gate, but he does not say the rich man kicked him as he went by, or mocked him.

Why then was the rich man’s punishment so severe? He earned an eternity of suffering.

The rich man’s sin was neglect. Lazarus lay at his door day after day, and the rich man failed to do anything for him. His sin was a sin of omission. The rich man knew of Lazarus’s hardships but did nothing about them, although he was in a position to help.

In our world, the poor are constantly at our door as well. The media make us aware of their presence daily. According to Jesus’ story, it seems not to matter how we got our money, or how the poor became poor. But if we fail to use our resources to help the poor and needy, we condemn ourselves.

After getting permission from the high school counselor, I passed on some of the stories that we had heard to my friend Sarah, who writes a blog called "Give Me Neither". A couple days ago Sarah wrote a post about the needs of the high school and also provided links to coupons and deals in the area to help meet some of those needs. Even if you don't live in Michigan, please check out her post to look at some of the things that your own local high school might appreciate receiving. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mountain Moving

Jesus tells us that if we have faith as small as a mustard seed, then we can move mountains. Why, then, do people still die of cancer, even when there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of "faithful" people praying for their healing? There was faith, true belief that the cancer would be removed, the marriage would be restored, the job would be offered, the child would live, yet none of these things came to be. Instead we are often left with relapses, broken homes, foreclosures and heartbreaking funerals. Surely, the mountains were not moved.

But what if they were? Could it be that mountains are being moved all around us, but we fail to see them because they aren't the mountains that we were praying about?

On Sunday night we took our family to church and heard a sermon preached by a Calvin Seminary student. I will admit, when I saw that a student was going to be preaching, I was less than thrilled, because these sermons are often a little awkward to listen to. On this night, though, I heard something totally new. Maybe it had been preached before in a sermon that I sat through, but I never heard it. The student preached on Matthew 17:14-23, which occurs right after the transfiguration. There is a crowd and in the middle, a father who has brought his son to Jesus' disciples to be healed. However, the disciples were unable to heal him. When Jesus enters the picture, he calls them out for their lack of faith. He goes on to tell them that the power that is available to them is the same power that will be displayed at the resurrection.

The message went on from there a bit, and then the student started sharing the story of a young child with cancer and the community that rallied around her. Not only did they work to meet the physical needs of the family, but they prayed with great faith that this child would be healed. However that was not to be. Now, this is where I heard something new. The student said that in this story, a mountain was moved. The mountain was not the health of the child, but the community and their response to the situation.

I think that this really resonated with me because of our current situation. Right now we are kind of in a holding pattern. We are waiting for paperwork to wind its way through a lengthy governmental process, we are waiting for funds to come available to us, we are waiting for our house to sell. I see all of these things as mountains that need to be moved.

However, what if in the end, this whole thing falls through. What if our paperwork isn't approved? What if we can't come up with any more money and lose the opportunity to go? What if our house doesn't sell, or on the other hand, what if it does sell, but we end up not moving and are now home-less? What if I am praying about these things, and, by faith, I truly believe they are going to happen, but they don't? Does that mean that God is out of the business of mountain moving, or does it just mean that he was busy moving mountains that I didn't realize needed to be moved?

I think about this a lot, as I cry out to God "I believe. Help my unbelief". If things fall through, I don't believe that it will be because of a lack of faith on our part, although I know the devil has been busy trying to get me to go down this path! I have found myself thinking about areas in my own life where God might want to do some rearranging. I think of my marriage, my mothering, the way I use our resources, the kind of friend I am, the way I spend my time. These are all areas where change is needed and would be beneficial to me and to those around me. Is it possible that, instead of moving us to Africa to bring about some of these changes, God might see fit to bring about these changes by having our plans fall through? Yes, I believe it is. Would this totally stink? Yup. I'm not gonna lie, but I have thought it through and it would be a tough pill to swallow. BUT if God knew that there was something in my life that needed to change and this was the only way He'd be able to move me, it would be worth it. Painful, but still worth it.

Even now, in this time of waiting, I know He is busy moving mountains. I want to have eyes to see all He is doing. I want to be more grateful for the things that I often see as setbacks and have a greater awareness of how He is working all around us every day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.

I am about 4 weeks into Beth Moore's revised "Breaking Free" Bible study and, while I do like it, I have already fallen behind on my "homework" and had a few occasions where I have not wanted to get up on Wednesday morning and head off to my Bible study group. It has nothing to do with the people, I truly enjoy all the women who are currently taking this study. There is good food, good fellowship and lots of laughter and tears-we re women after all! The thing that makes me want to stay home and put off doing my homework is that this study is much harder than I thought it would be.

In week 2 we talked about 5 benefits that God intends for His children:
1. To know God and Believe Him
2.To glorify God
3. To find satisfaction in God
4. To experience God's peace
5. To enjoy God's presence

These are 5 God given rights that we often miss out on because we are being held bondage by some area of sin in our lives. Now, going into this study, I wasn't so naive as to think that I didn't have any areas of bondage in my life or that I wasn't being held captive by some area of sin, but when we got to week 3, I was about ready to be DONE with this study. In week 3 we uncovered 5 obstacles that keep us from enjoying the benefits God has given us, the benefits that lead to abundant life!

1. The obstacle of unbelief
2. The obstacle of pride
3. The obstacle of idolatry
4. The obstacle of prayerlessness
5. The obstacle of legalism

Well, by day 2 I was over this study. I was already 2 for 2 and having looked ahead to the next few days, I realized that I would soon be checking off all 5 of these obstacles as belonging to ME. Me, the pastor's kid, was being held captive by unbelief. Me, a Calvin grad, was being held captive by pride. Me, the weekly church attender, was being bound by idolatry, prayerlessness and legalism! ME!!! It was too much. I mean, have you ever really taken the time to examine your life, to dig down a little and get past all the stuff you "know" and have been told and really just looked at your faith as something belonging only to you-not to your parents, your school, your church, but just to you? At 32 years old, I don't know that I had ever done this.

I think I was really hit on day 1 to realize that I was being held captive by unbelief. I mean, I believe in God. I have known so much about Him and His Son and the whole Christian shebang for as long as I can remember! As I did the study, I realized that while I know that I believe IN Him, I often have trouble when it comes to just believing what He says, especially as it pertains to me. When I am looking at someone elses situation, I can fully take God at His Word for that person, but when I try to apply God's truths to my own life I often struggle with doubt. This whole South Africa thing has really made that evident to me.

This summer, we were making plans to move in January. We listed the house, sold many of our possessions, started telling people we were moving. Now, here we are over a week into November and we are just waiting. I am not even sure what we are waiting for, but I am pretty sure it is going to be a long wait! I really do not do well with waiting. I like to know something so that I can pretend like I have some sort of control over the situation. Instead we are thousands of miles away from where paperwork is (hopefully) winding its way through some government office or another and we really have no control over any of it! For a few months, I've been reading the Bible and verses like "all things work together for the good of those who love God" and even as I read the words and know that they are true, there has been a little voice in my head saying "but they may not all work out for you" or "you know this is all going to end up as a huge failure" and "you don't spend enough time with God to know what He wants you to do and for all you know, you are WAY out of His plan and He is going to bring you down!". I know now that this was the voice of fear, but I had kind of given fear and anxiety free reign in my mind. Why, I'm not sure, but I was just finding it hard to take God at His word and just go forward in peace, which was most likely being cause by the obstacle of prayerlessness, something else that I realized had a heavy presence in my life!

So, now I am trying to listen to the voice of truth. The voice that said in Mark 9 "Everything is possible for him who believes." God I believe. I believe that you are in control over all the paperwork that has been passing from our hands to a place across the ocean. I believe that you have determined the right time for these papers to be seen and approved, or disapproved. Father help my unbelief. God, I don't know how long we will be in Hudsonville, but You have a plan for Darin, Tyson, Jori and me right here, right now. God, I believe, please help my unbelief.