My, it has been so long since I've last written here! I have had quite a hectic summer, and unfortunately, time for blogging has been relegated to the bottom of my list of priorities. So, what have I been doing with my time?
First of all, I have started working again--but once again, I am forfeiting a paycheck and am giving my time away for free. Yes, I know this makes me a bit crazy in the eyes of most Capitalism-loving Americans (and no, I'm not a Sociaist, the word du jour being thrown about on every cable news network), but I love what I am doing, yet again. I have taken on the position of Children's Ministry Director at our church, Grace Bible Fellowship. The church, located in the heart of the Amry's 1st Cavalry Division, had lost its CM director to a military move and had suspended most of its programming for kids. I found myself perpetually frustrated, having to sit through church services with a squirming, distracting Aiden next to me, and knew that if I felt this way about it, so did the other parents in the room. I caught myself complaining about it one day, and then felt this convicting little voice inside me say, Well, rather than complain, maybe you should DO something about it.... So, the following Sunday, I found myself stopping our head Pastor, Dave, and volunteering my time to be involved in the ministry.
I interviewed with Dave and the associate pastor, Stephen, and after they heard of my experience with our last church, they tapped me to LEAD the ministry as Director. I was a little hesitant, yet I had faith God would equip me with what I needed to be involved, and I said yes. The surprising part was that most of my "interview" had been spent discussing how I felt that the kids ministry at Grace was their weakest attribute--I was tactful and kind, but I spent a good portion of the time discussing how much the ministry needed to improve--and I guess they were opne to it, because they have signed me on and given me a pretty free hand to make changes.
And boy, the changes I've made! I've taken a blank metal building with hand-me-down furniture and temporary walls and made it look like a kid-friendly space. We won't win any design awards any time soon (my budget was pretty small) but the kids love the new space and it actually feels like a place where children can feel comfortable. I've recruited an entire new team of volunteers and teachers--90% of the previous staff had moved away or deployed. I've redesigned the program to be more age-appropriate and energetic, incorporating skits and music and characters and fun into the morning. I've tied our children's ministry in with our global outreach missions, pairing the different grades with specific outreach families that are living and working around the world, so that the kids have a better sense of the world around them, what it is to be a missionary, etc. And the kids have really responded well to these changes--the existing kids are having a blast, and our numbers continue to rise, which is fantastic.
God has definitely had His hand on this ministry--every time I've had a need and I've wondered how I was going to make things work, He put someone in my path that filled the need. He's provided volunteers, inspired hearts to become involved, and filled the hallways of our ministry with joy. It is such a priviledge to get to walk the halls on Sunday mornings, listening to kids tuck God's word in their hearts. It fills me with pride to talk to them after Sunday school, as they leave with their parents, and ask them about their morning, what their lesson was, what their craft meant, and to hear them tell Bible stories and lessons from memory--and to see their parents beaming, realizing that they've actually learned something. I have the most amazing team of volunteers, dedicated, loving, godly people who have invested so much in these kids, it is such fun to work with them and help them fill their purpose within God's kingdom. I love, love, love what I'm doing--can you tell from how I'm gushing??
As much as I love it, it has been a pretty chaotic and brutal summer. I was brought on with less than 2 months to re-staff, re-design, and launch the new Sunday School program before school started. I introduced a new theme to our ministry, re-decorated an entire building, recruited and trained volunteers, built new policies and procedures for screening our volunteers (the kids' safety is my #1 priority), designed new logos, graphics, and even all the videos for our music (since I don't have the budget to buy umpteen pre-made DVD's so I can get one song here that I like, one there, I made my own DVD's with lyrics, which took FOREVER!). Although I have a slew of volunteers on Sunday morning, almost all of the actual painting/cleaning/designing/prep was done by me, solo, in one week. And did I mention--school is out, which means I had my kids with me at the church many days. My poor children have lived at the church lately--I can't tell you how many evenings they spent playing with toys, watching DVDs, and eating pizza on the rug on the floor while I worked.
But we launched the new program on Sunday August 21st, and it was a smashing success. The kids were sent off on an adventure, wearing safari hats and dancing and singing to new music. The morning was a grand success--despite the fact that our guest speaker that morning let the adults out 20 minutes early and I had to make parents wait for their kids, lol. And since then, things have been going smoothly and successfully.
On Sunday 8/21 we luanched the new program, and on 8/22, Aiden started school and I started packing and preparing for my next adventure--a 10-day trip to France. Brad called me in July to tell me he had been assigned temporary duty in France, and he asked if I would like to meet him there. I immediately jumped at the opportunity to spend 10 days with my husband, and in FRANCE, no less. But within minutes I began feeling conflicted and worry--I couldn't take the kids (it was after school had started, plus we couldn't afford it, plus Brad would be working most of the time, which they wouldn't really understand). So, like any mother, I began feeling guilty that I was going to get time away, with their daddy, without them. I agonized for a few days about it, wondering what to do--don't go without them, go but not tell them about Brad, go and tell them the truth and try to figure out a way to explain it so they wouldn't hate me....
After a few days, I finally decided that I would go on the trip. I have told them I am going to France for a vacation--now that their summer vacation is over and they've returned to school, it was Mommy's turn to get a vacation. But I elected NOT to tell them I would see Brad. I don't think there is any good way to tell them, especially Aiden, without hurting feelings or causing resentment. And not going just wasn't an option. I needed a vacation. Seriously NEEDED some time away--I had spent last August to November as a single parent going to school part time while Brad was in Kansas, and now I had spent April to August as a single parent, while working a new job and juggling Boy Scouts and every thing else, and I was just spent. Period. And I still have 8 months left to go before Brad comes home. I also felt like I couldn't turn away the opportunity to renew my marraige and my relationship with my husband. Even though Brad would be working, I'd get the opportunity to sleep in his arms, wake up to his smile, and just have dinner together and talk about our days and connect. So, I booked a ticket in July (courtesy of my dad, who immediately offered to buy me a plane ticket), found someone to watch the kids--Aunt Cathy happily volunteered, God bless her, applied for my passport...but then put my trip on the back burner while I tackled the mountain of projects for the church.
So on that Monday following our Sunday school launch, I jumped into trip planning. Researching food and restaurants and hotels and places to see. Trying to cram a few French phrases into my vocabulary. Dragging out winter clothes, buying new clothes (did I mention I've lost 12 pounds already during this deployment--it's called the too busy to eat diet), and packing suitcases. On August 29th, I left for Paris, arriving early in the morning on the 30th to a voicemail from Brad saying he'd been delayed. Go figure...a change in plans from the Army, like I wasn't expecting THAT! So, I rented my car and drove out to Vitry-le-Francois, the tiny village in the French countryside where Brad and I had a hotel reserved. Brad joined me here on Wednesday after a lovely reunion at a Paris airport. We've had a slew of adventures, which I will detail in subsequent posts, and now, I am gearing up to leave EARLY tomorrow morning. I'm spending my last day here packing (ugh) and now sitting on a patio at a cafe, enjoying coffee and the beautiful weather, living the French lifestyle one final day before I have to go back to the hustle and bustle of my American life. It isn't all gloom, though--I can't wait to see my children and hear all about their adventures and just hold them close and smell their sweet, soft skin. As much fun as I've had, I've missed them terribly.
Stay tuned for more about my French adventure.