Monday, June 22, 2015

VBS: Very Busy Schedule

I grew up in a non-denominational church. This church was like a second family to me. Everybody knew everybody. We weren't a small church, per say, we just started out small. For most of my young, formative years, my church hosted Vacation Bible School every summer. It seemed like the entire church took part. From my experience with volunteering at my current church's VBS this year, I'm starting to suspect that volunteering was mandatory for the congregation and all who abstained from assisting in some way was excommunicated or something, because everyone played some part in making it happen. All that to say; the VBS that my old church put on was the bomb.
  I can remember very little from my childhood, due to a crummy memory that I've mentioned before (I think...), but I can clearly recall, with fond memories, many aspects and details of this week-long summer "school" that were crazy-awesome, especially for small children. The theme for many, many years was something along the lines of the 12 tribes of Isreal and life in Jerusalem at the time of Christ. I'm not sure if this theme was concocted entirely by the elders/deacons/pastoral staff, or if, like all Vacation Bible Schools offered nowadays, the theme was selected from some catalog that many other churches ordered from, but I again suspect that it was the former, because I haven't seen another church do anything similar to it.
  The effort, detail, and time put in to making this week-long event happen must have been phenomenal! I remember so clearly feeling like I had traveled back in time when I entered my room at VBS, because each individual room was decorated to look like a Middle Eastern nomad's tent or Jewish home. Each class a tribe, and each group leader went all-out when decorating! Sheets covered the walls, rugs covered the floors, cushions were set around for sitting on, and there was a menorah and mezuzah put in the proper place in each room and used in the proper way to teach children how the Jewish people lived when Jesus was alive. Not only that, but everyone dressed to part, too. Women and men wore long tunics and robes with appropriate head coverings, and little tunics were handed out to each kids attending. We were all given our own little leather money pouches with a set number of pennies in them for us to "spend" or give to the poor at our discretion. Once we were out of pennies, we were out.
   Where did we spend our pennies, you ask? In the marketplace. Our sanctuary would be turned into a noisy, busy bazaar. Stalls lined the walls with crafts to make and wares to buy. And when I say "crafts", I don't mean making a sun out of paper plates, glitter and glue. I mean leather working, candle making, even paper making! I could spend a penny to make a belt, then go next door and watch a potter at his wheel make urns and pitchers and bowls, then I could drop a penny or two to make a couple of functional candles. You had to be careful not to trip over the crippled beggar that would beg for any pennies you could spare. Good, kind children would give the beggar some pennies. You also had to watch out for the wicked tax collector. He would make rounds in the marketplace, dressed in the fanciest robes, demanding your taxes and snatching pennies from careless kids. Once or twice, I even saw the tax collector steal the poor, crippled beggar's stash of pennies! I felt real outrage! Especially that time me dad was the beggar. Oooo, that tax collector had sinned the greatest sin by stealing my poor, crippled daddy's meager begging wages! Yeah, that marketplace was awesome.
  I recall these fun memories now because I have just completed my first night working at my church's VBS. The theme is Climbing Mt. Everest. My church is all decked-out to look like a snow-covered base camp at the foot of Mt. Everest. The classroom that my friend and I are teaching in has a tent and some trees and sleeping bags and lanterns and snowflakes in it. The curriculum we're following is fun, simple, and full of Biblical truths. Many members of the congregation have dedicated a lot of time, effort, and energy in making this VBS a reality, including myself. Here I am, after one evening of co-leading the pre-school class, and I am exhausted!
    I don't want to compare the nostalgic memories of my childhood with the responsibility of this present VBS week, but just thinking about the work that must have been put into setting up, running, tearing down, and cleaning up Jesus' Jerusalem must have been ridiculous! I can only hope and pray that the kids who are attending Sylvania's Mt. Everest VBS will hang onto the memory of the fun they had and the truths they learned with us for years to come. Also, thanks, Bethel Bible Church, for hosting some pretty crazy-awesome Vacation Bible Schools back in the day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Well, there goes half a year...

It has been six months since my last post.
How on earth does that happen?
A friend of mine shared a quote with me that may be entirely too accurate in describing this strange phenomenon: when parenting, the days last forever, but the years fly by. I believe that is true for life in general.
   In high school, I wished the time away, because it was high school. I lamented the time-suck that was organized education, and the laughably light load of responsibility my part time job(s) put on me. Yet, at the same time, I was having the time of my life. My friends were a tight-knit group of awesome, surprisingly well-behaved (comparatively speaking), kind and supportive kids, and we had lots of care-free fun. I loved being the star and soul of the softball team (my old teammates may disagree as to whether that was my actual role, but deep in their hearts, they know it was true...) I loved singing in the choir, I loved working on the newspaper staff, and I loved the lazy summer days spent at the lake. We got some impressive sunburns there.
  Now, as I look back, those are some sweet "good old days". I thought they would never end, at the time, and yet they went by so fast.
    Stephan proposed to me 6 months into our relationship. We set the date for 6 months later. Those were the longest 6 months of my young life. The planning, the preparations, the tantalizing waiting! I had a countdown going until the big day. My future husband had a countdown going for the start of Cowboys' football. I still married him. In that time of excitement and anxiety and an impressive show of self control, it felt like that special May 12th was years and years away.
  Boy, that day flew by so fast. That was 8 years ago.   
 When I was enduring my stunted stay in the frustrating quagmire that was my college experience, I would sit in a class, staring at the wall, daydreaming of my handsome boyfriend-who-quickly-turned-fiancee-and-then-husband, and think to myself, "Woah, I found the place were time stands still." Everything about collage was annoying to me. I didn't want to be there. I was doing what I had to do because that's what everyone said everyone has to do. The instant I got pregnant and uncomfortable enough to convince Stephan that college was unnecessary for my chosen vocation of home management, I tossed up the deuces to the University of Texas in Tyler and settled in to the life of a stay at home wife and mother.
   I thought my time there would never end. It passed by so quickly. Good riddance, college.
  As I sat on the couch in my quaint, quiet house, my very  new baby nestled on my propped up thighs, I counted his toes and waved his arms and tried my best to get any reaction out of him as he tried his best to go back to sleep. (Baby Wise says it's wake-time right now, kid. Sorry.) I was barely three weeks into my first go as a mother. My newborn son was everything I had dreamed about and prayed for for a long time. I loved him so much! He was perfect! He was healthy and adorable and looked like his daddy. I was living the life that I had always wanted! And I was beating myself up with guilt because I was bored. Noah's days were unending cycles of eat, stare at lights, poo-poo-tee-tee, sleep, repeat. And I was only really needed for the eat/poo-poo-tee-tee part. I tried my best to enjoy every moment, because everybody and their mom (especially their mom) tells you to, but often I found myself willing my baby boy to hurry and reach that next big milestone! I thought those days were going to last forever. Now, I have a five year-old who is going to start Kindergarten this fall.
  Foolish, stupid me, did you really try your hardest to enjoy every moment? Because I can hardly remember that first year, and that makes me far sadder than I like to think about.  
   A few weeks back, Stephan and I were wrapping up a Netflix binge-session with The Office, and something that was said in the finale by the character Andy Bernard really struck me. It was said with the intention of being poignant, yet humorous, a feat few sitcoms on tv can successfully achieve. The Nard-Dog said, after summing up his time at Dunder Mifflin Paper Co., "I wish we could know we were in the 'good old times' before they became the 'good old times'."
  Amen and amen, Nard-Dog.
 After the flash in the pan that was Naoh's infancy, I pledged to do a better job of soaking in every moment with my future children. I can clearly recall the feeling of self-satisfaction I had once when Witten was a small baby. I thought that I was doing it! I was stamping those moments so permanently in my brain that even my goldfish-level memory wouldn't forget what it was like when I was loving on my little baby. Of course, that's the only clear memory of Witten's baby-hood that I can recall.
  So what can I do?
Praise God for the invention of the photograph. Thank goodness I was bored enough to try my hand at blogging that one night 6 years ago. And please, Lord, help me, now and always, to truly, truly relish and live in these fleeting moment. These boys often drive me nuts, and I experience far more parenting fails than I'd like to admit, but I don't want my life to be hurried living, ended by wistful remembering. Be with me in every one of these moments, Lord, so that I can live a life that brings you glory.
   And, as always, please save my children.     
Aren't they precious?