Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year of Blessings

We had a wonderful trip to Iowa and Minnesota for the holidays. We had good times with family and friends – we got together with our old card club group; had supper at the Pizza Ranch with many friends; the kids got to visit their classmates at Sioux Center Christian; and we had many laughs with family opening presents, playing games, and (of course), eating. It was so great to see everyone again…and we were blessed with great travel conditions.

This year has seen a lot of changes for our family. Most of which I’ve chronicled on this blog. Tonight, we had a big New Year’s Eve dinner and shared our best ‘things’ we remember about 2010. Here’s the rundown:

Alex – didn’t contribute much to the conversation, but I think he knows he has a lot to be thankful for!

Bethany – Seeing Alex covered in red frosting from the cupcake he ate at his one year birthday party. (Mom and Dad were both surprised and pleased with this memory.)

Zachary – Going to Craig’s Cruisers two times for birthday parties of friends.

Jessica – The many answers to prayer that God has granted us in the past year. He has been exceedingly faithful.

Michael – That we arrived safely here in Michigan this past July after many months of planning, praying, arranging, and scheduling. In addition, that he adjustment to life here has gone well, especially for the older two kids.

We also talked about the one thing that never changes – even though many things around us do – the loving faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Through all of our changes, he has been the one in whom we’ve placed our trust.

Finally, I cannot make this final post of 2010, without mentioning Jessica. She has been unrelentingly supportive and unconditionally loving to me and the kids during this year of changes. She has kept this ship that I call my family in proper working order. The grace of God is the water on which we sail, and if I am the rudder that steers us where we go, she is without a doubt the captain that keeps it all running smoothly. As I look back in 2010, I am so very thankful for her support, love, and patience.

I could say much more about 2010, but this will have to do. It’s been a great year filled with so many blessings from the Lord and we will continue to trust in him in 2011 as well.

Grace and peace to all of you in this New Year….

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Memories

When I was about Zachary’s age my brothers and I used to build snow tunnels in the wintertime.  One of us would start at each end and meet in the middle.  We would dig toward each other clawing and pushing through the densely packed snow with our hands and feet like moles in eager anticipation of ‘breaking through’ somewhere in the middle.   After awhile we could hear each other clawing from the other side and we would dig all the faster until finally a small hole would appear and we could see daylight from one end to the other – eureka!  We had done it…we finally met.  All our hard work had paid off!

I relived those memories this afternoon with Zachary.  He started at one end and I at the other and we would (hopefully) meet in the middle.  As we were digging further and further all of sudden, Zachary said, “Dad!  I can hear you digging…we’re almost there!”  I found myself digging faster and being as excited as he was that we were almost through!  A little while longer and he said, “We’re through, Dad!  I can see a hole!”   We had done it!  It was just as exciting as when I was 11.

It got me thinking about my faith.  The Christian faith is full of remembering.  There are countless occasions in the Old Testament when God encourages the Israelites to remember him.  They are told not to forget the Lord their God.

The command to remember is just as important for us today as it was for the Israelites of the Old Testament.  We remember Jesus birth, death, resurrection.  We do the Lord’s Supper in ‘remembrance of him’, we have baptism and remember his covenant with the Israelites and with us.  Remember, Remember, Remember -- Christians are always remembering…as we should. 

So this Christmas take some time to build memories with your loved ones.  Reminisce and remember together all while remembering the greatest memory -- the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Oh, and don’t forget to take a picture or two to help you remember…here’s  ours!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

First Semester Done

As of Friday at 4:00 pm, I’m officially finished with my first semester of studies in the Master of Divinity program at Calvin Theological Seminary.   I think I did well and will receive my final grades in a week or so I think.  It’s been a good experience and I really did enjoy it.  It was challenging and, at times, maddening – but most good things in life are.  I’ve got a two week break right now and my J-term classes will resume on January 5th.

It’s seems hard to believe that it was just a little more than five months ago that we first arrived here in Grand Rapids – there has been so much that has happened in that time.  As I’ve reflected on our time here I continue to be amazed at God’s goodness.  Here are just a few highlights from our first few months here:

1. Making it here safely with all of our worldly possessions

2.  Establishing a home in a neighborhood with playmates for the kids.

3.   Finding a new church home.

4.  Zachary and Bethany both flourishing in their new schools.

5.  Making new friends in the neighborhood, at the seminary, and in church.

6.  Various visits from family throughout the semester,

7. Flexible jobs for both Jessica and myself.

8.  Financial needs being met.

9.  Continual support from family and friends.

When we first started this journey, there we so many questions and as I look at this list, so many of our worries have been laid to rest and so many prayers have been answered.  We are feeling very blessed.

Tomorrow, after our morning worship service, we are leaving for Minnesota and Iowa to spend a week with family and friends for the holidays.  It will be the first time we’ll be back as a family when it isn’t our home.  It will be strange and familiar all at the same time.

I suppose it’s kind of like the Christmas story – it’s familiar – we hear it every year which can cause us to miss the fact that it’s also strange –  God sends his Son, fully human and fully divine, born of a virgin and placed in a manger.   It sounds so impossible;  but so did going to seminary once upon a time.  But, as I’ve learned over these last five months, nothing is impossible with God.  His grace abounds.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Almost Done

It’s been a while since my last post and lot has happened in that time – hence the lack of blog entries, I guess.

Let’s see…in the last week and half we’ve:

celebrated Jessica’s birthday on December 9th.

Had her parents here for a weekend visit.

Been invited to join a small group church.

Survived our first snowstorm in Michigan.

Attended Zachary’s first orchestra and choir performance (he did great).

Hired a babysitter for the first time since we’ve been here so we could go Christmas shopping.

So we’ve had a lot going on and on top of all that I started exams this week, so I’ve been studying hard for those.  I have four classes this semester all of which had the potential for a final exam. 

I learned early in the week that I ended up doing well enough on the Hebrew quizzes throughout the semester to not have to take the final exam so I got exempted from that one.  That left three, Bible Survey (which I had this afternoon), Formation for Ministry (Thursday afternoon), and Church History (Friday afternoon).  So I’ve got two left.

It’s hard to believe that I’m almost done with my first semester already.  So far, this experience has been great.  I really feel like this is where I need to be right now.  I hope that my experience continues to be positive.  So far, I feel like my hard work is paying off and God has been really blessing us here.  I continue to pray that our time here will be positive and affirming.

So that’s a bit of an update from here.  Zachary and Bethany are finished with school on Friday as well, so we’ve decided to make the trip to the Midwest for the holidays early.  We are leaving Sunday afternoon after church and will plan to be there for about a week.  It will be nice to have a relaxing time with family and friends on our ‘home turf’. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Traditions

Even though our life circumstances have changed over the last several months, we are trying to maintain some of the traditions that we’ve done as a family.  For us, several of those traditions revolve around Christmas.

Usually, we’ve gotten out the Christmas decorations for the house the Friday after Thanksgiving.  This year, we had to do that early since we went to Canada for Thanksgiving.  However, we were still able to decorate the house for the holidays as a family, which we all enjoyed.

A second family tradition revolves around the great annual tradition of many churches in the United States – the children’s Christmas program.  There is just something so innocent and simple about the Christmas story being told by and with children is refreshing.

Anyway, tonight was the children’s Christmas program at Seymour CRC where we are currently attending.  Zachary and Bethany were members of the choir, and neither of them had an individual speaking part.  They both did a superb job.

One of the traditions that we have is to come home after the program and let the kids each open up one stocking gift.  It’s our way of congratulating them for a job well done at the program.  This is a tradition that my family did when I was younger and we’ve enjoyed passing it on to our kids. 

N0rmally my parents have been involved in this annual tradition as well, helping us pass it on, either by providing a gift for them and/or attending the program and then joining us for supper after the big event.  This year, of course, they weren’t here, but I’m sure they’ll be proud to know that we continued the tradition by having them each open a gift tonight.  Bethany rightly noted that is was different not having grandparents or great-grandparents coming over afterwards, but they were excited about their gifts.

Traditions stir up remembrances, histories, and times past and help us carry them forward. They made change or look different in new contexts, but they are always rooted in the past.  The Christian faith is full traditions, some better than others, but always with a view to the past helping us remember who we are and using them to shape us into what we will be – more like Jesus.

Oh, and even though Alex wasn’t in the program, he got to open a gift tonight too.  After all, this was the first time (since he could walk anyway) that he’s sat in church – and he didn’t do half bad!