Sunday, June 26, 2016

Movie time!

Summer time = movie time! We went with my parents to see "Finding Dory" this week.  It was a great way to wrap up our year of science -- Apologia's Exploring Creation Through Zoology 2 Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Maiden voyage in the camper

And so begins our family’s adventure of a lifetime…or at least the summer.  With our household goods well on their way to Colorado and our house keys the only thing left to turn in to housing, we’ve taken a Father’s Day weekend camping trip for our maiden voyage with “the Pioneer wagon”.  We chose Land Between The Lakes (think southwestern Kentucky meets southeastern Missouri meets northwestern Tennessee) for our camping site since we’ve been here before.  We’re trying a new campsite this time, Piney Campground.  Our site is right on Kentucky Lake and we were able to put the kayaks in close by.  Our day of travel to LBL was fraught with delays and dilemmas, but after hours of persevering, a closed interstate, and a few issues with the camper we all finally plopped into bed around midnight.  In our tired stupor the next morning we awoke to an incredible view as we realized that we were right on the lake - couldn’t see that the night before!  The kids are enjoying the great outdoors.  D is “carving” things with his pocket knife and 
J is pretending she is her favorite character from an adventure book series.  After lunch and a nap, we all hit a local bike trail.  The view was beautiful, until I saw a black snake!  We are enjoying life in the camper with its different rhythms and requirements.  It definitely requires an extra dose of grace and patience to be living so closely communal!  For now, gotta run.  The sun is setting and I don’t want to miss it!

Yes, we burned the biscuits!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Moving and musing

There’s just something about being forced to sort through and lay hands on ALL of one’s worldly goods.  Kinda grabs you around the throat and causes you think one of two things.  “Man, are we blessed to be part of the 1%.”  Or,  “Man, why do I have so much stuff?!?!?!”  Me?  I tend to vacillate back and forth between those polar opposites when we have to move.  The Lord, by way of the Army, is sending us on.  Sending us out west.  (We’re traveling with a camper with the word “Pioneer” emblazoned on it!  Ironic?!)  We’ve moved 5 times in the past 7 years since my husband followed God’s calling into the Army (3 moves before that!).  2 of those 5 times we moved ourselves, also known as a DITY move (do-it-yourself).  Some people say that building a new construction home with your spouse can bring you to the brink of divorce.  I say moving all your earthly possessions yourself with your spouse can do the same (and costs less! :-)  I’m kidding (sorta), but it is stressful and back-breaking for sure.  

Through observation, I’ve learned a few things in the midst of these different types of moves.  First, LET THE MOVERS MOVE YOU any time you can.  Second, when one has to move oneself, one tends to NOT go through one’s belongings meticulously the way one would if someone else was coming to pack them up.  I do not know why.  I have just observed this in myself.  This time, moving so many hundreds of miles and knowing that someone else was going to pack up my stuff made me WANT to go through each thing we owned and hold it up to this light: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” (William Morris)  Now, my husband and I are not on the same page about this (after all, he’s a guy — and that’s what I like about him!) but when it came to things that are specifically mine or under my responsibility (and wouldn’t affect him), I used this quote in my decision making process.  I am happy to say that we are lighter than we’ve ever been.  We (as a family and a society) accumulate “stuff” at SUCH a fast rate! (We’ve only been in our current home 15 months.)  Even thought we’ve moved 5 times in 7 years, I still ended up making 5 trips to the donation center and throwing away 3 times as much trash as we normally would in one week.  I’m amazed.  And quite frankly appalled.  

Being a chaplain family, we function as a special type of missionary.  The Army sends us where they want when they want, but we firmly believe with all of our hearts that God is sovereign over that process (even when the Army sends us to one of our top picks, we believe that God made us passionate about that “pick” from the start - quickening our hearts to that location as we prayed and sought His will).  I never feel more “missionary-like” than move week.  I’m a global thinker, so this process makes me question EV-ER-Y-THING.  Are we still called to do this?  Is this still what we/God want for our family?  Are we still walking in His will?  Do we really want to do this for the next 10-15 years???  This is a good thing, though, because as long as my heart’s answer is still “yes” to all those questions (okay, not sure about that last question because I’m taking life one year at a time!) then my life is built on a firm foundation and I’m not just going through the motions in a lukewarm manner.  I’m doing this because He’s called me and because I want to!  Passionate obedience.  

Many more lessons and observations to come throughout this move, I’m sure.  But this was what was on my heart today.  And just to keep it real for you…this is a picture of what our “do-not-move-because-we-are-taking-this-stuff-with-us” room looks like.  You’re welcome.  Makes you want to watch an episode of hoarders, huh?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Social Media Sabbatical - 7 days so far

In an effort to rest, relax, and reframe my thinking, I'm taking an out from social media for the time being.  I'm on day 7 (made it a whole week!), so here's a catch-up log on the first 7 days.  Personally, I really like the direction this is going!

*Note:  Several of these entries were recorded in the car with my kids and husband present.  My hubby, not wanting to miss an opportunity to joke with me, decided to shout out random hashtags.  Soon after, our kids followed suit.  I wish you could hear these recordings.  They're much funnier in audio format!

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 1
So far I'm enjoying the silence in this black out. It's like detox for your brain. At my first sign-off from FB, I experienced a moment of panic realizing that I no longer had access to that outlet and venue. But I reminded myself that most of what is experienced on those sites is, as my husband calls it, "Fakebook" -- not authentic, not genuine, not real.  So, I'm in it for the long haul.  I'm also inspired to experiment with cutting out and cutting back in other areas of my life. I hope to stop speaking in hashtags by day 5 :-) Captain's log, over and out!

{Wish you could hear my husband in the background saying, "Hashtag life detox!" It was hilarious!  All hashtags noted from here out were randomly shouted out by chaplain.}

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 2
Things are still going well, although I did awaken this morning and while coming down the stairs had an early morning impulse to check FB, not necessarily for the purpose of wanting to know what was going on with others but to see if anyone had commented or posted on anything from myself from the day before.  Which I think is indicative of the majority reason that most people use it, very self-focused, me-focused.  So just realizing I was seeing it in myself was eye-opening.  Just had a few impulses to go check on it today and then just reminded myself, "Hey, you don't have that."  It was  almost like a liberating, freeing thing, followed by the realization that I can go do something else that's real life, not virtual, but real.  Honestly the first place it has opened up the ability to give more attention to is my kids. So, that's a good thing! And I'm not talking in hashtags. :-) Social Media Sabbatical day 2, over and out.

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 3
Still surviving, and thriving!  I did not think about getting on social media at all this morning, even left my phone upstairs while I was downstairs having coffee {#freedom} and reading through my quiet time material.  I'm no longer turning on my phone and instinctively looking for that app  {#whereisit?} It's been very freeing.  I have somewhat isolated from what others may be doing. {#wheredideverybodygo}.  My husband is still here!  As a result of that I've been more intentional about direct communication, for more personal contact. {#canyouhearmenow} I think it's working well since we are on the tail end of our time here at this duty station and we are sort of backing out and packing up {#peaceout}.  But I can imagine that it would be hard not to be able to be connected going into a new place, so we'll  have to see what that part of the experiment is like.  I'm doing well, finding other creative outlets like resurrecting my blog, and that's a good thing! Social Media Sabbatical day 3, over and out.

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 4
I'm really not thinking about Facebook or know what's on it, or get on it at all, or see what others are doing.  It has resulted in me being able to be more focused and get more done during my day.  I feel less distracted and more focused. {#ultimateproductivity}.  Still working on my husband's hashtagging!!! {#annoying}. And so I continue on.  Social Media Sabbatical day 4, over and out.

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 5
I found myself wondering how I had time for Facebook, trolling status updates and pictures. {#timedrain}. I'm busy doing a lot of other real life stuff.  I can see where that really used to be a time-sucker for me. {#reallife} My family is still stuck talking in hashtags! {#geterdone} I did miss out on seeing some pictures of an important even that our family was a part of and was honored for.  I realized that that's going to happen from time to time.  I wasn't really sure how to handle that, if I should expect others on FB to download and send me the pics or show me at a later time.  For now, I'm just rolling on.  {#needy} {#dontknow -- that was my son!} {#dontevencare -- now my daughter!}  Next up, getting my family to speak in English! {#ESL} {#USA -- my baby girl AGAIN!} #socialmediasabbatical

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 6
I'm still enjoying the rest and great pause that this break is giving me.  I really have not thought about FB today at all, except for wanting to sell a few items in preparation for our move.  I don't have the outlet of FB to sell them.  But I do have craigslist and that has worked really well.  I don't find myself missing really anything on FB.  It's interesting how it leads you to scale back and instead of having 200+ "friends", there are about 15-20 that I'm really thinking about, really interested in connecting with personally, either phone, text, or in person. Instead of working with that wider net of 200+ "friends".  It's kind of refreshing, not feeling obligated to keep up with everything.  This was something that I noticed during this last season was the expectation people have that you know what they post and to see all their pictures. This is all great, there's nothing wrong with that, but when your sphere of influence has grown to over 200, 300 people it's really hard to do without causing a complete priority shift in all the other things that you're supposed to do during a day.  The more "friends" the more to keep track of, the more info to manage, the more info you're expected to know = MORE TIME! I began listening to a Bible study on DVD called "Becoming A Woman of Simplicity" by Cynthia Heald. It's fitting right in line with scaling back, slowing down, being intentional and being a single-hearted woman for God.  Stay tuned. Social Media Sabbatical day 6, over and out.

Social Media Sabbatical, Day 7
I've made it an entire week!  It's going well.  I'm feeling good on the inside, refreshed - like the detox is working.  I have today begun to wonder what other friends are doing.  Not necessarily in a comparative way but wondering, "How is this family doing? How's their kid?"  I'm also realizing that their hasn't really been any communication from them to me either.  Something things are definitely lost when you step outside that social media circle. There's a lot of information lost, a sense of community that's lost when you step outside that circle.  But there's also a lot of chaos and clutter that's lost.  And so I'm just sort of evaluating, "Is it worth the chaos and clutter to have the other?"  Stay tuned for my heart's answer on that one.  For now, I'm continuing on with week 2 of this sabbatical.  Social Media Sabbatical day 7, over and out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Layers and leaving

It's only been two weeks, so I still feel like I'm in recovery.  A week since I stepped down from the busiest season of ministry we've ever known.  In His gentle and loving way, the Lord layered these ministries on us as a way of easing us into them without breaking us.  Backstory: in late 2008, my husband was commissioned into the United States Army as a chaplain (for more on that click here).  We began serving God by serving our country through the military. Ministry for my chaplain included counseling, ethics guidance, conducting Bible studies, deploying, leading and serving at chapel, as well as conducting monthly weekend retreats for married couples and single soldiers.  That last part was my first open door to serving alongside him and serving the families in our unit.  Also, we both plugged in hard and heavy at our chapel and began serving wherever the need was that fit our talents and giftings.

From summer 2010 to summer 2011, we continued serving the Lord though our posts were on different sides of the globe - his from Afghanistan and mine from North Carolina.  Enter PWOC - protestant women of the chapel.  Not only did I find fellowship and community with this amazing global-wide group of Jesus-loving, Bible-hungry women but I also found my niché serving on the board in several ways.  This kept me connected and accountable, and also in constant communication with my Savior.

In 2012 we moved to a new duty station and also felt led to homeschool our then 1st grader (also had a 2 year old in tow).  I remember a lot about that year, but mostly that it was an uphill climb filled with a lot of dark moments, tears, and guilt!  God was faithful to sustain us, though, and has led us to continue homeschooling ever since.  Also that year the Lord opened the door for my husband and I to serve our new chapel through worship ministry.  He began preaching and working with the media ministry and I joined the praise team as a keyboardist and vocalist.  Unit ministry for my husband continued on much as it had previously, but with nuances and a different flavor in a different unit.

In 2013 my husband was called and selected to be a part of an elite special operations unit, which also entailed many job and ministry changes for him.  The Lord granted me the privilege of serving as praise and worship leader within PWOC that year as well, which began to stretch and grow me as a musician in ways I couldn't imagine.  The Holy Spirit was SO faithful to lead and guide me during this time and beyond as I sought to lead other women to worship at His throne.  Chapel ministry was as vibrant as ever and chaplain and I enjoyed being a part of teaching several Bible studies together.  And on the homefront our oldest made a profession of faith to follow Jesus Christ!

In 2014 our front door turned into a revolving door.  Entry into the special ops unit meant frequent deployments, traveling, and training.  I continued to press in (hard!) to the Lord and He was faithful to protect and provide for me in my husband's absence.  Serving the Lord was a constant for me, something I felt compelled to be a part of.  Something I desired deeply in my soul.   I was led by the Lord to continue serving on the worship front for both our chapel and PWOC.  And I LOVED being a part of VBS on post, loving and serving military kids!

In 2015 the Lord turned up the dedication and commitment knob to full tilt for us!  Hubby continued to travel and deploy as before, but was also tasked with completing a 6 month schooling (which normally requires a move to a "schoolhouse" and total dedication to the school and classes) while still maintaining all his unit and chapel duties and ministries (preaching, pastoring, and media ministry), not to mention leading and loving his sweet family!  For me, the Lord opened up doors to allow me to take a co-lead role for our chapel worship team (a volunteer position, as are ALL my places of service).  That spring I took on the role of volunteer coordinator for our on post VBS (200+ kids!).  And in a joyous surprise, He overwhelmingly but undeniably called me to serve a one year term as president of our local PWOC.  I had been sensing His call to serve in a greater way than before - but not THAT great!  But, as usual, this calling was about Him, not me.  And He was faithful to lead, guide, and sustain me each step of the way.  He led us from strength to strength and we experienced a beautiful year of discipleship, community, spiritual growth, and increased Biblical literacy.  The term of service wrapped up in spring 2016.  And on our li'l homefront, our youngest also recently prayed to receive Christ as her Savior!

Do you see all the layers?  All of them stacked on slowly and in a timely manner.  None of them removed, but instead each one making a path of preparation for the next layer.  Frequently during the past year I would "step back" from my life and look at all that we were a part of.  It looked downright crazy!  And I felt that others were thinking the same.  Like our crazy was showing!  And those middle-of-the-night or early-morning awakenings fraught with anxiety were enough to give me great pause.  But in those moments the Holy Spirit would firmly yet calmly affirm that we were RIGHT where God wanted us to be.  We had not taken these things on for our own sakes, for the approval of man, to earn righteousness or even rank.  But instead they were paths of service that the Lord Himself had hand-held us to walk down.  And I believe had He not held our hands and led the way we would've burnt out or burnt up.  In the words of William Borden, "No reserve. No retreat. No regrets."

Now we stand at a new juncture on our journey -- at the corner of leaving one duty station and moving to another.  So some of the layers have needfully had to come off as we prepare for transition.  We will still be a family totally committed to loving and serving the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths.  We will continue to serve God by serving our country.  And we believe the Lord is still leading us to homeschool (our classroom has grown to 2!) at this time.  In obedience to my husband's leadership (and with the Holy Spirit's confirmation) I am taking a season to rest, relax, and reframe my thinking.  We are about to start on a month long journey of being "homeless" (not really, we bought a camper!) and journey out west.  We are excited but also unsure of what is on the other side.  Except for one thing.  We know He goes before! ~Jenn

P.S.  In an effort to "rest, relax, and reframe my thinking" I'm taking a "Social Media Sabbatical" (or SMS for short).  Although my hubby says that my blog is a form of social media!  Soon I'll be periodically posting some thoughts and updates from my experiment experience :-)