Advent 11-29-15: Hope

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”
Jeremiah 33:14-16

This past Sunday I wasn’t necessarily in the mood to go to church. The last couple of months have been sort of crazy – I was traveling a lot in October and into November – and frankly, I just kind of got out of the habit.

While I don’t believe church should be a chore (if it is then there are some weighty issues to be considered), for me it needs to be a Sunday priority and when it drops on the importance scale I feel it in my soul. So I bucked up and got ready and off Todd and I went.

And I was blessed. I spent the majority of the service with tears streaming down my face. Not sad tears, mind you, but tears that flow from a Spirit-shattered heart. It all started with child dedication and when I, as part of the congregation, verbally vowed to help raise these children in the faith, I choked up.

What always moves me, no exceptions, is when we sing. When we pour out our hearts and souls in worshipful song. Some days are more powerful than others, and this Sunday was close to epic. Todd reached over and offered me his sleeve because, let me tell you, I was a hot mess.

“How Great Thou Art” is one of those hymns that thaw out my numbed and frozen spirit and it certainly did that on Sunday. But even more provoking was “Scandal of Grace”. Those lyrics always speak to me. Always.


Just as Jesus was the hope Jeremiah spoke of, he’s still and forever our hope.


NoThanks – Day Four

Today I am thankful that I can worship any way I want to without fear of persecution.

I am not a fan of “religion”. Never have been. Religion has been responsible for way too much destruction and hatred throughout history. Soooo not what Jesus was about.

What I am a fan of, however, is faith. Make that a huge fan. And my faith means I’m on a first name basis with that same Jesus who hated religion. His deal is love. Love God with everything you are and love your neighbor as yourself. To borrow a term from HisGirl, “Pow!”.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that’s all there is to my faith. I am simply saying that hunting witches, killing pagans, bombing buildings, stealing gold, etcetera, etcetera, and so forth, in the name of whatever god prompted these misbegotten beliefs is not part of my faith. I don’t believe it’s part of anybody else’s faith. Only the extremists and they’re the ones who get all the attention.

There are parts of the world where being a Christian/Jew/Muslim/fill-in-the-blank is a crime punishable by death. That makes me so sad. My beliefs are a part of every fiber of my being. My faith is not a part of me, it is me. I could no more deny my Christ than I could deny my children. And I don’t have to. Neither does anybody else in America, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.

Without giving it a thought I went to church this morning. I sang praises with my eyes closed so that it was just me and God. I thought about the sacrifice that was made for me as I took communion. I listened to and contemplated the message and the bible passages it was taken from. I hugged friends, I laughed with my daughter, I smiled at a stranger, I bubbled with joy.

And I never once, for even a fleeting second, worried about getting caught.

For that I am ever thankful.


Let The Games Begin…

It’s July. The time of year when drinks are cold and asphalt is hot. When clothing appears to be optional and old men wear black socks with their sandals and bermudas. When sweaty people gravitate toward pools, beaches, water parks and the like. And every four years in July we have the Olympics.

It’s also the time of year when Christ’s Church of the Valley puts on THE most fabulous event for kids in the area, possibly the state, maybe even the nation.


 And this year’s theme is, of course, The Olympics.

For three days beginning next Wednesday our campus will be overrun with 1,000 kids from the age of four on up to those who will be starting 6th grade in August. As of this moment we have 980 kids already registered.

As you can imagine, this is a huge event for us. An event that wouldn’t be possible without people giving up their own hours. We have over 300 volunteers which is truly amazing. We have actors and props people and registration people and snack people and tech people and games people and crafts people and team leaders and assistants and logistics/security people and, and, and… the list goes on.

My responsibilities at work fall mainly to the preschool, however, in the summer I switch my hat and do the database side of registration and volunteer sign ups. Yesterday I forgot which hat I was wearing when I picked up a phone call and I said, “Providence Chris, I mean Christ’s Church of, I mean, um, hello?” Thankfully it was a preschool parent who was calling about next week’s Kids’ Camp and she just laughed with at me.

Now for some people the thought of 1,000 kids from age 4 to 12 in one place seems daunting. But this is the smoothest run operation I have ever seen, thanks to two women (volunteers, not staffers) who have done the registration for the past several years. For anonymity reasons we’ll just call them Mary and Karyn. Which is quite a coincidence because their names happen to be Mary and Karyn. But they are so organized that by the time camp rolls around everything is like a piece of cake (chocolate with a fluffy butter cream frosting), seemingly effortless. Being on the inside and seeing what it is they do I can tell you it’s not effortless. But it’s soooo worth it!

No doubt Kids’ Camp is a lot of work. There are so many cogs in the workings, but they all turn smoothly thanks to the tireless efforts of our fearless leader, Stephanie. She starts working on this in January and by the time the third Wednesday of July rolls around it’s a well oiled machine. I hesitate to even contemplate how many hours she puts in right before but I do know this. She deserves a looooong and luxurious vacation when it’s over.

As for me, I’m planning on taking a couple of days off after camp to paint my family room. Exciting, right? But really, painting is a good stress reliever and after 1,000 kids for three days straight, who couldn’t use a little decompressing? Until then, however, I shall be planted by my computer – either at work or at home – doing my part.


Bragging Rights

I love our church and Sunday mornings are nearly always a joy for me. But there’s one Sunday each year that is my absolute favorite. Student Worship Sunday. This year it happened last Sunday, July 1st.

Yes, I’m a bit partial to one of the singers, seeing as how I birthed her and all. But there is something so moving about watching these kids – all of them – use their incredible talents to lead the congregation in worship.

This first video is of the worship set. The members of the band are: Eric, Student Arts Pastor, guitar and vocals (the dude leading the band); Brad (no relation, though he calls me Mom and I call him son), lead guitar; JC (not actually a student, but all the drummers were out of town so he helped out), drums; Joelle, bass; Erin, keyboards; Katie and Ashley, vocals.

Worship (07-01-12) from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

This next is the communion set with Eric and Katie.

07-01-12 Communion from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

Last (and most definitely least) is a promotional video that Eric and Adam, our High School Pastor, put together for Stretch. Stretch is our very awesome middle school event. And as an added note, Eric wrote this song the night before they filmed this. It’s too bad they don’t have any fun at work.

2012 Stretch Full Throttle Music Video from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

More Than You Wanted To Know

I have this problem. It’s a very serious problem and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I tell things that I shouldn’t. Not about other people. I’m really good at keeping those kinds of things to myself. No, I tell things about myself that I shouldn’t. A good example would be when I was complimented on a new dress at work several years ago I said, “Thanks! I got it for $5.00 at the Goodwill!” Those of you who have been reading my blog for the last three years or so are probably thinking about the posts I wrote about my breast reconstruction and nipple tattoos. That may have been TMI as well, but I don’t know how to stop and this post is just going to be more of the same.

This morning as I was fixing my coif I thought to myself, “Self, you really need to call Darlene about those roots.” Or if I was His Girl I would say that I’m in desperate need of some hairapy. Before I left for work I told Todd I was going to spend some time grooming tonight. You know: plucking the eye brows; waxing the lip; maybe masking to get rid of the zit that popped up last night. That sort of thing.

As for my wardrobe, well, I just wore one of my usual comfy v-neck tees, jeans and my Crocs because they’re about the only shoes that don’t bother my blisters (another post for another day).

So I get to work and the Children’s Ministry team is having their weekly meeting and they’re all looking sharp. Of course, they’re all young and pretty and always look good even when they’re wearing something like, oh, I don’t know. A t-shirt, jeans and Crocs. But today it was nice make up, great hair, cute outfits. Sharp. Then I remember they’re shooting The Feed, a video announcement for Sunday mornings.

I’m standing at the copier making — can you guess? — copies, while the girls are talking to Dave, the videographer, about the video details. Then I hear my name and see all these slightly sinister smiles directed toward me. Turns out there were seven announcements and only six ministry leaders.

I tried to ignore them and kept copying, hoping and praying they would forget about me and go about their business. But no such luck. Now I’m going to have to witness all my flaws on the big screen Sunday morning. *cough* I feel a cold coming on. I’m afraid of hearing something like, “Man, that chick needs a shave,” or some such.

And the worst part? I’ve just given a ton of people something to look for on Sunday morning. Why? Because I can’t keep my yapper shut! Or my fingers still.

Oh well. I much prefer to be behind the scenes, writing a script or something like that. But it’s all good. I’m just working for Jesus, keeping it real. Know what I mean?


How is everybody? It seems like it’s been forever since I chatted with any of you. Apparently I can’t be a wife, mom, friend, employee and blogger all at the same time. Something’s gonna hafta give.

I vote it’s the mom part. My sole intention of having kids was so that they could keep my house clean and do my bidding and they’re not doing a very good job of that. Although they did go to the store last night for Double Stuffed Oreos. There is that. But is that really enough??? I dunno.

My whole family has been through some head cold thing in the last couple of weeks. Taylor started us off a week before he and Katie were going to Michigan for Christ in Youth. By the time they left he was feeling much better, but Todd was sick. Then Monday morning I get a call from Katie in Michigan and SHE was sick. (Don’t tell anyone because I don’t want to mess up my reputation as a soulless mom, but it made me so sad that my baby was so far away, all alone in a dorm room and sick! I wanted to drive right over there and get her!) She’s a toughie, though, and ended up having a great time there. I thought I had escaped…

…until Sunday night. My throat hurt, my ears were plugged, I was snotty. Shoot!! Monday and Tuesday were miserable with a low grade fever and sheer exhaustion. All I could think of was how did Katie ever manage. By Wednesday I was back to work and felt pretty good, but the fatigue from this fairly mild cold is insane! I’ve been trying to weed today and I don’t get very far before I’m so tired I’m shaking. Or maybe it’s just my aversion to weeding. Maybe a combination… Whatever.

In a little less than two weeks our church will be putting on Kids’ Camp Galaxy – a free community event and we’re expecting over 1,000 kids. Talk about a lot of work! I’m fairly heavily involved because of my position as the administrative assistant to Valley Kids, the children’s ministry department. But folks, let me tell you something. I am in awe of these people who put this on every year. The creativity, the organization, the drama, the games, the lessons – these people put their everything into making this an outstanding event every.single.summer. And what’s even more incredible to me is that they do it because of how much they care about children. I mean seriously care and want to make a difference in their lives! (I know what you’re thinking. Why the heck do these people let Jen work with them?? Some mysteries will never be solved.) All kidding aside, it’s very exciting to watch all this come together from the inside.

Well friends. I really have to go to the grocery store. Can I just take this opportunity to tell you how much I despise grocery shopping? I remember when the kids were young and the first time in what seemed like an eternity I got to go to the store by myself it was the coolest thing ever! Now I practically beg them to come with me so they can take half the list, but they always have plans. How convenient for them. I think their plans should include cleaning up the kitchen!!

So after all this griping about weeds and kids is it wrong of me to shamelessly plug the next post on Trippin’ Through The Bible?? Whether it is or not, I’m going to anyway.


How Do I Love Thee, Church? Let Me Count The Ways…

Now that school is out we’re gearing up for Kids’ Camp and Stretch at CCV. Kids’ Camp is for kids 4-years-old through 6th grade and Stretch is for 6th through 8th graders.

There’s a lot I could say about these events; how much fun the kids have, what great lessons they learn, all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make them excellent, the awesome volunteers, the incredible creativity — but instead I’ll just show you. These are videos from last summer’s Kids’ Camp and Stretch. Enjoy!

Hello, My Friends…

I have been very absent lately. For you, my fan, I am very sorry. Life just keeps getting in the way. But I’m here for a minute or two to give you a quick update of the last week or so.


About this whole depression thing – I have been on a very mild antidepressant for a little over a week now. I don’t know if it’s a placebo effect or if it started working quickly, but I can definitely tell a difference. Thank you again for your kind words and prayers. I don’t think I can ever express to you just how much they all have meant to me.


Last Sunday we celebrated a whole year with Sookie. Can you believe it’s been that long?? I can’t. Do you remember how cute and fluffy she was? If not, just check out THIS post. What a little cutie!! She’s not quite so little or fluffy anymore, but we still think she’s pretty cute.


Todd’s parents came in from SoCal Wednesday night to hang out with us for a couple of weeks. The kids are out of school part of next week and the day after Easter and now that the grandparents are here we have some good excuses to do fun, touristy things we maybe wouldn’t do otherwise.


Katie was in the Spring play last night. It was set in the 50’s and the kids looked so cute in their poodle skirts and such. I threw a pink felt poodle skirt sans the poodle together Sunday night. It took me about 10 minutes. And while I could have done much better if I’d taken the time, it still looked pretty cute. I mean, nobody could see that it didn’t have a waistband and was held up by safety pins.

At the end of the play some of the kids came out and did the cutest dance. Katie’s partner was a little – and I mean “little” – 7th grade boy and at the very end he jumped up and she held him. She’s not so big herself, but she was definitely the heftier of the two.

Afterwards we went to a diner with THE most fabulous desserts with our friends whose daughter was also in the play. It was a fun Friday night and sure beat sitting at home watching nothing on the TV!


Today was Easter Eggstravaganza 2009 at the church. Oh.My.Gosh. At this writing I have no idea how many kids were there, but I do know they had to park people on the street. The wind was gusting and it was cold, but it didn’t seem to keep anyone away.

The theme was Candy Land and all the classrooms were decorated as such. There were crafts and games in the different lands and really, it was phenomenal. We had a petting zoo outside and three different fields for egg hunts according to the kids’ ages. From what I understand, we used all of the 30,000 filled eggs in the hunts. We also had food vendors and cotton candy and popcorn — it was extraordinary. Oh! And guess what my job was. Coffee. Doesn’t that seem appropriate?

We have outgrown the building we’re currently in and it was originally built to eventually be the Valley Kids (our children’s ministry) building. So we are in the process – and oh, so close to finishing – our new building which is much larger and will eventually be the student building when our campus is completed in however many years. All that is to say it would have been awesome if we could have used the new building today – our food vendors were outside and the wind caused a few problems. But still, I was amazed at how smoothly everything ran today and how many people showed up. Awesome stuff, that.


I guess that’s about it for right now. My Mother-In-Law is cooking dinner tonight and I smell something really yummy downstairs. I think I must go investigate!!

The Week in Review

It doesn’t seem like much has been going on and yet I have lots to share. And I know how much you all are dying to know the happenings of my life. *snort*


Hearken back to Monday’s post where I mentioned Todd’s virtual forehead tattoo which says If It Can Go Wrong It Will. And as I said in Tuesday’s post, the surgery may not have gone the best way, but it still went very well. Now let me fill you in on the rest of the week.

On Wednesday the oral surgeon called just to check on Todd and said he was probably at the peak of swelling so most likely it was pretty painful but he should have considerable relief by the next day. Not so. We went back in to the office on Thursday because the pain actually seemed to be getting worse. Or if not worse, at least different and as intense. Turns out he has a hematoma which is painful enough in itself. But it’s also pressing on the nerve that runs in the jaw, causing excruciating pain and strange numbness. So they upped his pain medication and told him to come back on Friday. There was no change on Friday so they also prescribed Naprosin to help with the swelling and Valium to help with the muscle spasms caused by the nerve disturbance.

Did I not tell you If It Can Happen It Will? This is really par for the course for poor Todd. And sadly for him I am way low on the compassion scale. I’m the one that tells the kid with the gaping wound, “It’s just a scratch! Rub some dirt in it, you pansy!” Not really. I’ve never said that or even thought it. But still, I was probably off chatting with someone and didn’t hear my name called when God was passing out the gift of compassion.

Thankfully he’s starting to get a little relief. It’s still pretty painful, but nothing like it was. And Katie has stopped calling him John McCain because the swelling has gone down so there is that. We go back to the surgeon for his regular follow up tomorrow and hopefully things will be as they should be.


Apparently there weren’t enough people who came to the new 8:00 service to make it worth it so they’ve gone back to only three services. Today I went to the 11:30 service like I used to and it was awesome! It’s the service that most of the youth goes to so there’s a ton of energy. Of course, it helps that I’m actually awake and have been sufficiently caffeinated. We also sang You Lifted Me Out by Chris Tomlin. Awesome, awesome song!


I’ve been thinking about going back to work after more than 13 years of being at home. This is an entire post in itself so I won’t go into detail here, but I am starting to explore some job possibilities. I’m thankful I have the luxury to be a little picky and I know I won’t work full time. Tomorrow I’ll be chatting with someone about a potential position and we’ll see. She may decide I’m not the right person or I might decide it’s not the right job. I just pray I follow God’s will in this and not my own.


This weekend was the Philadelphia Revolve Tour and our girls attended for the third year in a row. It was the first year, however, that I did not go. I was a little sad because it’s such an incredible experience – not just for the teen girls, but for the women that take them as well. However, as I lay on the couch half asleep Friday night I decided it was a good thing I didn’t go.

When I picked up Katie yesterday evening I felt loved by several of the girls who had hugs for me and told me they missed me. Whether or not they meant it or were just being nice, I don’t care. It was very sweet.

If you have a preteen or teenage girl I highly recommend Revolve. It’s an experience they’re not likely to forget for a long time.

Taylor went with me to pick up Katie because he desired a little one on one with me on the way to the church and he missed his little sister tremendously. Oh, and because he would get to see Kristen for a couple of minutes. That may have had something to do with it. On our way home Katie was talking a mile a minute and finally Taylor said, “If talking was an Olympic sport you would bring home the gold in every.single.category! You can sprint and run the distance, all at the same time!” Truer words were never said.

She was sound asleep on the couch by 8:00.