i'm amused for a couple reasons. the first is because there's like a bazillion things on the list that i never needed when i was in grade school.
secondly, because the kids read the lists and get all in a tizzy if the parents can't get something on the list. as if they really needed a box of wipes, 4 DOZEN pencils, box of goldfish crackers, 6 - 1 inch 3 ring binders, and a big box of Kleenex for their education on the FIRST day of school.
sometimes the store has run out of an item (like big erasers, in our case), because there's a bazillion other parents all getting the same items on the list. or perhaps because the parents simply can't afford to get everything. including backpacks our family spent over $150 on school supplies this year. and that was for only 3 girls. i can only imagine how much we'll spend once all 6 are in school. or sometimes it's because the parents protest to buying everything on the list because they don't think it's needed for their child on the FIRST day.
and that leads me to my third reason for amusement. because the fact is those parents have good reason to protest. most schools are facing budget deficits and they put these things on "the list" and then put them all into one "pool" for the class to use.
so what amuses me about this is that our church is currently collecting school supplies to hand out to needy families. and so parents (and yes, i've heard more than one) who are complaining about having to buy all these items on "the list" for other people's kids - because their parents aren't responsible enough to get them - are at the same time feeling good about themselves for buying some school supplies for "other people's kids".
it's kinda funny. :)
my previous post concerning our recent trip to Little Rock described what happened, a sorta timeline of actual events. this post will instead concentrate on my (abe) mental, emotional, and spiritual journey leading up to and while there.
[in case you're wondering what FamilyLife's decision is about us joining staff: sorry, we can't tell you yet via this blog or anything else public on the inter-webs until July 1st. if you really wanna know call, text, or email me, or actually come over and visit in person, what a concept.]
our story with the Ministry of FamilyLife begins as far as I can remember in 1999. deb and I had only been married for a couple months when we were given a scholarship to attend a Weekend to Remember conference in Bellevue, WA. i was finishing up my senior year of college and deb still had another year till she finished up her AA. we were both working at a daycare not too far from the college and i wasn't really sure what i wanted to do with our lives after i graduated. i had gone to school and gotten a BA in Biblical Literature. i knew that i was called to do full time ministry, but what i wasn't sure of was where, how, or what?
at some point during the conference they mentioned an extra session they were going to have early sunday morning describing staff opportunities with FamilyLife. i didn't remember it till just now but i think deb slept in until the main session, but i decided to check it out. i was immediately drawn to and excited about the ministry FamilyLife was doing for marriages and families. and then they got to the part of the presentation or video that mentioned that staff members were required to raise their own support.
in my heart i knew that i should pursue the application process anyways; but in my flesh, i was immature, unsure, and maybe also slightly cowardice. mentally i knew that God was/is able to provide for all our needs. but i was newly married now and i had a wife to take care of and provide for.
i mean seriously, didn't God know what a big responsibility that was? was i really supposed to step out in such faith and raise support as a missionary? wouldn't it be wiser to get a "real" paying job (ministry or otherwise) to provide for this young family of two?
so that was the end of that. we did go to another Weekend to Remember conference a couple years later into our marriage. i didn't even bother going to the "staff opportunities" session that year.
and then we went again, last year; feb 2008 in Pasco, WA. at the time we had been a part of our church for 4.5 years. our families were close by, our kids had friends at school and church, and we had a nice little life in Grandview, WA.
but this time i again felt that draw, that tugging of my heart, that prompt in my spirit to attend that early morning session to get more information about staff opportunities with FamilyLife. (that is called the Holy Spirit leading, guiding, stirring for those of you playing along at home).
i remember sitting in that ballroom, watching the ministry of FamilyLife intro video and thinking, "this is something i want to be a part of. this is what we were made for."
and so we filled out the postcard, checked the box, asked some questions, and then waited. no, FamilyLife hadn't changed their policy about staff needing to raise their own support. yes, the thought of doing that sill scared me. not only did i now have a wife to provide for, but 4 little girls and twins on the way! but i knew, that i knew, that this time i couldn't turn my back.
and so we waited. and waited some more. we waited for an initial contact phone call. then we waited for the ministry application paperwork. then we waited after it was turned in for all of our references to turn in their forms. we waited for various interview phone calls. and then we waited for the phone call where they told us whether or not they decided to invite us to the Ministry Preview weekend.
and then we were told to wait some more. due to the amount of school loan debt we had, the fact that we were soon to be parents of twins (kids # 5&6), and also some other issues we needed to resolve/work out in our hearts we were told to wait till next year and then give them a call back if we were still interested pursing staff placement.
it's hard to wait.
we called back in january. and told to wait again until mid March till a full year had passed. we did, and so the phone interviews, references being called, and once again waiting for the phone call again that would tell us if we were invited to Ministry Preview.
i have to say that when that call finally came, it was a HUGE relief. all of our stress and worry about not getting our hopes up too high was over. we had been invited. we had been validated. they wanted us.
we were SOOO EXCITED. we had to wait again until the actual dates of our trip. but this time we waited knowing that we were going to Arkansas. we honestly had such a peace and calmness about what would happen once we got their. we had no worries or questions about what the outcome of the weekend would be. we had been waiting for over a year to hear those words, "i'd like to officially invite you to Ministry Preview" that it didn't matter what happened after that. and after a year, what was another 84 days of waiting?
we were confident, at peace, and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were walking in the center of God's Will for our lives.
we got to Little Rock and had more interviews, meeting people, learning about the ministry, and hearing how lives were being changed through the ministry. we cried a lot. what can i say, i'm in touch with my emotional side and i'm not ashamed to show it. :) i was even more certain now than the day that we filled out that post card that God was calling us to this place. this is what we were made for. this was where our passions, talents, abilities, and life experiences intersected to point us to work with FamilyLife.
then at one point during the week we were challenged find out what God was calling us to, and then would we to be obedient to his calling whether it was to minister with FamilyLife or elsewhere. would we be obedient to the calling; instead of our desires, preferences, or wants.
[PS. i love ascending and descending through clouds. "The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship." Psalm 19:1 - i'm writing this in the middle of flying to MN to help my bro-in-law move.]
i woke up saturday morning (decision day) really wrestling with the challenge presented the day before. you see, in my mind, i had come to Little Rock with such peace and rest. i felt like i knew God's Will. and that it was for us to be a part of the ministry of FamilyLife. but through the little exercise i realized that instead the call that God had for deborah and i was to minister to families, to marriages. so would i be faithful to that calling even if FamilyLife said they didn't feel like it was a right fit for us to work there, at their ministry?
and if so, what would that look like? would it mean my role at our current church would change? would it mean we pursue ministry opportunities elsewhere that more directly impacted marriages and families? or something else entirely?
all of a sudden i was standing in the shower and now there was uncertainty. there were doubts about whether or not FamilyLife would invite us to come on staff. there was the unknown of what the future holds.
yet, at the moment that i submitted in my heart to God that i would be obedient to his will regardless of what FamilyLife's answer to us that afternoon was; once again there was peace. there was still the uncertainty, doubt, and unknown; but there was peace in the midst of it.
are you living in that peace?
stay tuned on wednesday, to find out what we were told and what we said in response.
anyone who's married knows that it takes a lot of work to make it a successful, happy, thriving relationship. our natural tendency is towards selfishness, not towards serving.
there's been excellent books written on the "love languages"; words, touch, service, gifts, & time. and regardless of whether 'service' makes it into your top one or two love languages, there's no denying that it will be a part of your relationship at some time or another.
no matter what your top language is or what your partner's top language is; you must intentionally "serve" that other person by speaking their language to them instead of your top language.
so to that end i've developed a method for me to combat my selfishness.
do you remember in The Princess Bride how Westley wouldn't say the words "i love you" to Buttercup. instead whenever she asked him to do anything he would say, "as you wish". and finally she realized that in his heart whenever he said those words he was actually meaning, "i love you."
in like manner, when deb asks me to do something i think in my head, "yes, i'll (fill in the blank) , did you know that means 'i love you' in russian?"
"abe, can you empty the kitty litter?"
"yesill changeit" - (translated means "i love you" in russian)
"abe, go get the baby" (at 3am)
"okhere igo" - (translated means "i love you" in russian)
"abe, i'm going to the store, can you finish loading the dishwasher"
"oksure" - (translated means "i love you" in russian)
so that's how i combat my selfishness. oh and in case you're wondering, you can find out how to actually say "I love you" in russian at Say I love you in Russian!
i’ve got several topics that i’ve thought about writing a blog post about such as: “I love you in Russian”, life journaling, my recent fast of twitter/facebook, and conversing with the comments from my recent post about giving-debt-income.
but i don’t feel like writing about any of those right now. sorry if you were expecting more.
i remember being in school or church seminars and being given a certain amount of time - say 15-60 min. - to just write. i was instructed to not think about grammar, or spelling, or sentence structure (no easy thing when you hate typos), but to just write. keep your pencil moving (or fingers typing) and just write.
i was told it doesn’t even matter what you write about. and if you can’t think about any thing, it doesn’t matter. just write about the fact that you can’t think of anything to write about.
“i don’t know what to write, i don’t know what to write, i don’t know what to write. ahh, man it’s only been 1 min. this is going to be a long 15 minutes. i don’t know what to write …”
so even though it’s nice to feel like a writer when you’re staring at a blank page with writer’s block, the fact is - writers write.
i hereby propose the inception of the "120-club". what is it? i'm glad you asked. :)
to become a member of the 120-club your sole requirement is to write a minimum of 120 posts to your blog a year. that's it. this works out to 10 posts a month, which i don't think is unattainable or unrealistic. for some of you reading this that add to your blog on a daily basis, 10 posts a month seems kinda low. for the rest of us who would like to write more often but have really been slacking off since we joined twitter (or some other excuse like having more kids, etc) then 10 posts a month will be an effort. but it's an effort i think we'll feel good about doing when the year's over.
there's no requirement on how long the posts need to be, or if they include or exclude video or photographic posts. simply that you add content to your blog on a consistent basis.
it's not a contest of who can write the most. it doesn't matter if you write 10 per month to get to 120, or if you just wait till next december and cram all 120 posts during your Christmas vacation. as long as you achieve 120 by the end of the year, you're in the 120-club. of course you can write more if you'd like, but you can start your own "club" for any number higher than 120.
as an added incentive for myself (not a requirement of the 120-club), i'll be setting aside $10 a month for this cause. for every month that i write at least 10 posts, i'll set aside those $10 for a charity of my choice. for every month that i don't write at least 10 posts then those $10 will be equally divided amongst all who accept the challenge of the 120-club in the comments of this post AND who are also successful in receiving membership.*
perhaps, i'll also design a special "120-club" award/button for members to add to their own blogs next january. maybe i'll make this a consistent resolution/challenge every year. then bloggers can show with pride how many years they've been members of the 120-club. (ok, so maybe that's kinda hokey, but perhaps some people like that sort of recognition.)
if you don't currently have a blog but are thinking about starting one (solely because you want to be part of the über-cool 120-club), i'd suggest using wordpress.com as a free-easy-beautiful way to start.
so let me know in the comments if you'd like to accept the challenge of the 120-club this year as well and we can all keep each other accountable.
// today i'm thankful for:
1. warmer weather, should be in the mid 40s to low 50s today
2. my wife, who plans out our meals for the month.
3. anna, who finally got to make a snowman before the snow melted
4. julia, who makes me laugh because she gets annoyed when her talking is interrupted by her hiccups and then she has to start her sentence over again.
5. my job at an apple reseller, Apple, Inc seems to be trending in the opposite direction of the rest of the economy.
* so if 10 people state that they want to try for membership in the 120-club, but at the end of the year only 3 of those actually achieve it AND i don't write my 10 posts per month, then i'll divide the $120 i've set aside at the end of the year between those three individuals. if for some reason there are more than 120 people who accept and accomplish the 120-club challenge (and i don't) then instead of giving each person $1 or less i'll have a vote amongst those who are members as to which charity to donate the money to.
so last week I wrote about the idea of purposefully NOT voting. i got a couple of comments mentioning that if i didn't vote that it'd be "ok" as long as i didn't complain.
i have a couple of responses to that.
1) not voting is a choice
the way i described it, my decision to “not vote” in the presidential election wasn’t about being apathetic to the voting process. it was instead me being active and choosing a third option - __ Democrat, __ Republican, _X_NONE. i was intending to cast my vote not only against the two majority parties, but also for the idea that there should be more alternatives.
2) not voting doesn’t take away my right to free speech
regardless of whether i vote or not, as an american i am given the right of free speech. so just because i choose not to cast a ballot doesn’t negate that right to voice my dissatisfaction with the ruling administration, party, or how mcdonald’s messed up my order. do those that vote have more rights to free speech than those that don’t?
in addition, complaining is an issue of the heart and mind. just because someone doesn’t vote in this election or previous elections doesn’t turn off the “complaining” switch in the heart and mind. someone may put duct tape over my mouth, but you can’t do that to my heart and mind. and aren’t i/you still complaining even if we don’t voice it?
3) does voting = complaining?
for those who mentioned that i shouldn’t complain if i don’t vote, may i turn the question around? is the only reason you do vote is so that you can complain? and what if the person you voted for is elected and then does something you disapprove of, can you still complain? or can you not because you’re the one the helped put them there? do you only get to complain if you vote and your “guy” loses?
i guess my viewpoint is why should we complain either way. does complaining ever accomplish anything? wouldn’t be better to take your dissatisfaction/disapproval and instead enact change? to actually do something about it?
and maybe that’s the whole point of voting. that it allows us to do something besides just complain. we’ve been given the privilege and the right to give our opinion on how the current leaders are doing. this was one of the things i remember my high school civics teacher saying, “there’s no need for laws requiring term limits, we as the people already have the ability to impose them, simply vote some one else in.”
in conclusion i’d like to leave you with this video, that helped convince me to not refrain from voting, even though i still think that “not voting” is a choice. :)
iPhone link (YouTube - 5 More Friends)
is choosing not to vote the same thing as exercising your right to vote? I don't mean forgetting or being too busy or simply being apathetic. no, I mean to be so unconvinced of either candidate or choice that you don't feel either one represents your values, beliefs, or convictions accurately.
that's how I currently feel. perhaps I can stay awake for more of trip home tomorrow to develop the idea further.
till then, have you ever chosen NOT to vote?