Thursday, January 19, 2012

Call Us Crazy...

  SO I think naturally that as you get to be about a year out from your DEROS (Date Eligible to Return from Over Seas), you tend to want to know what is next!  You want to be able to begin to somewhat mentally prepare yourself for what is next.  You want to know where you are going?  When to start planning to move, arrive, say goodbye?  Things to be excited for or look forward to at your next assignment.  Ect, ect, ect.
  However, when we were about a year out from our DEROS (although I wanted to know what was next... ) I really felt like God was calling us to stay in Okinawa.  So we tried just about everything to stay here through the military, but time after time that door was shut.  At the time it seemed like a bad thing, but now I can see that it just made us question God more and to look at what was it that He desired for our future.
  So back in November John and I began to discuss and pray about what God's will was for our future and we kept coming back to that we are to stay on Okinawa.  So then we began to ask, what if that means we are supposed to stay, even if it is not through the military?  (Ummm...that question right there is a scary question.)  People complain about the military, but truth be told we LOVE it.  We always saw ourselves traveling the world, putting in at least 20+ years, retiring with benefits, and then going into ministry full time.  We told ourself "putting in 20+ years will help us not to be a burden on a ministry by having a retirement check and insurance", but now we see that for US this was us living in disobedience to what he was calling us to do NOW.  We are not saying that by staying in the military that you are living in disobedience.  We know the need for men and women to continue to serve and be Godly leaders within the military community, but we are being called to do something different.   So here we are putting it out there in the open, John dropped his paperwork Tuesday (January 17th).  We are not re-enlisting, but instead taking a step of faith.  We will officially be out in May.  As for our future, well...let's just say there are options and we are praying about His direction.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Christmas in the Philippines

 Back in September John and I began reading a book that would challenge us more than we have been challenged in a long time! And boy was it needed.  We had no idea how far we had become sucked into the world.  One of my favorite verses is Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will."  Now, I try very hard to live by that verse, but without knowing it, we began to believe things that we as Christians say are "okay" and "justified", but in all reality it is removing us farther from God and His will.
  In Matthew 16 Jesus talks about denying ourselves and taking up the cross and follow him.  (See Matt 16:24-28) The more and more that we began to study this and take a look at what His disciples went through as they spread the gospel, the more we began to see that our lives were not as focused and centered on Christ as we thought they had been.  So we began to evaluate what were some things that we were being worldly about (not that we have dealt with all of them, but this was definitely the first hurdle that we had to get over), and we began to see that we that we had bought into the commercialism of our culture.  Hayden's birthday was coming up and here we were about to drop some serious $$$ on a party and presents, why? Because that is the norm.  It is almost expected of kids.  It is what many of his friends do, and we felt the pressure to keep up with the Jones'.  So we decided then and there that we would not do birthday's and holiday's the same again.
  We were being blessed continually and we were misusing what God had given us.  From everyday things to splurges.  How were we using what God had given us to help those that needed it?  We weren't.  Yes, we tithed to our local church, but what about beyond that?  Intentionally giving and being obedient to what we are called to do.  There are 6 million children that die from starvation each year, how many of those children were we helping to feed? What about orphans?  There are approximately 163,000,000 orphans in the world, what were we actively doing to help the fatherless?  We began to see a picture that was bigger than us.
  Now why did I give you this whole diatribe?  Because this is how we ended up going on a mission trip for Christmas this year.  We had already considered going to the Philippines over Christmas and had decided against it.  Even though our minds had made a decision our hearts were changed and we knew we had to do something different.  At that time our small group began to talk about doing a mission trip together and we jumped on board.  We decided to head back to the Philippines as families over Christmas.  Eight adults and twelve kids.  What were we thinking?  Nevertheless the tickets were bought and there was no backing out.  Each family made their own decision about how to do Christmas, but for John and I we decided to do Christmas pajamas and stockings.  No presents.  Now we just had to sell it to the kids.
  We told the kids about the trip and they were genuinely excited, and then we told them about the "No presents" and I think they began to second guess the whole idea.  At first you could tell that they sort of felt sorry for themselves for not getting any presents from Mom and Dad.  By the time that it was time to leave God really answered our prayers and helped their hearts to change and see the bigger picture.
  We left on the 18th of December headed for Manila.  Here are a few pictures of our journey to get there.
Hayden and I about to land in Taipei for our layover.

John rocking the front carrier!

Hannah and I being goofy while we wait for our ride :)
  After our long day of traveling we called it a night, ordered pizza, and rested before we headed to the orphanage the next day.  Being that this was John and I's second trip this year, I wasn't quite sure what to expect this time around.  I had a million questions running through my head.  Would the kids remember me?  Would I still have growth and a profound change take place like there was this summer?  How will the our kids handle being a servant instead of being served?  As fast as those questions came into my head...they quickly went out.  I was reassured that God's hand was in every part of this trip.
  Day 1 came and we were off to start this adventure as a family and as a small group.  I was scared for nothing.  The kids remembered me and touched my heart with how genuinely happy they were to have us back.  I was blessed the first day to watch toddler C and Henry get along so well.  I say that because they are so much alike! Both are about the same age and it was rather refreshing to see someone else's child throw a temper tantrum and be reminded that it is only a stage that we have been going through and that before I know will be over.  
These two are double trouble :)  Actually they are quiet cute together.

  The first big difference about this trip for me was having our kids there.  I didn't have the freedom to just go off and hang out with the toddlers, or go play basketball with the monsters.  I had to do the hand off to John if I wanted to be somewhere that wasn't Henry friendly.  This wasn't a bad thing, it was just different. John was great about hanging out with Henry in Ate's apartment or taking him down with him to the toddlers if I wanted/needed to do something.  Hannah and Hayden were like any other kid there.  They kind of did their own thing.  Their job was to play and they did that well.  They made friends fast and they stayed pretty busy with the kids.
  The other big difference was that this Christmas the children were involved in Christmas parties.  As great as that was, it was also a bit too much.  So Ate picked out 5 groups to come and do Christmas parties.  Each one had food (which is very filipino...when it comes to celebrations or is all about the food), some had games, some had presents or gifts, and one even had a clown.  
This group brought in Jollibee.  Also the guy on the right with the yellow cart is serving up ice cream cones!

Fresh fries and fried hot dogs :)

This game had toys on this rack with a rope attached at the top.    Then someone would lower and raise the rack while children would try to grab the toys.  

This clown led the kid in some games.  They really seemed to enjoy this!

Another day a group make these gift bags for each of the kids. 

Another group brought a gift for each specific kid...they also took a picture of the kids.  As you can see Hayden stands out a bit compared to the other kids..but that didn't matter to him or them.  They had a blast together!

John made some friends :)  They sure loved him!

Another game.

 One particular day was their own Christmas Party.  Everyone...and I mean everyone is involved in it.  Each of the different areas had to preform an act, song, or something to share with everyone else.  Some were serious, some were not so serious, but all were entertaining and it was a blessing to be a part of it.  One thing they did this year, is the older kids and staff who wanted to be involved did a Secret Gift Exchange.  It was neat to see how each person really put a lot of thought into the gift they were giving.  But one particular gift brought me to tears.  

Our kids preformed for the Christmas Party.  This was them singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

The older girls dancing :)  

The staff singing a song in tagalog.

This one of the most humble men I have ever met.  He is in his late 30s and was on the verge of death due to TB a few years back.  God healed him and he is still working hard.  One thing he has learned to do is to make some of the most beautiful bracelets.  These bracelets always seem to be a favorite to those of us who come to visit because it is more than a bracelet.  It is a story, it is this man, another man God has healed and is using for His glory.  Something tangible that can be worn to help remind us of God's faithfulness and power.
So this is what brought me to tears.  He makes beautiful bracelets. As a part of the gift exchange the person who had him, took some of his bracelets and had a beautiful picture taken of his art, and then had it framed.  When he saw this picture he was overwhelmed with joy and humble pride.  This picture was beautiful to him, but to me it was he that was beautiful.  

Sorry for the glare...but the other picture that I took did not do it justice.  It is even more beautiful in person.

 Another fun thing that happened on this trip was John along with the other men got to take the monsters to a theme park.  It was quite the action packed day.  Since there was such a large group going they took the Kia and rented a Jeepney.  Personally I love Jeepneys...I think they are pretty cool.  Anyway on this particular day John, two of the other men, and about 13 boys were in a Jeepney headed for Enchanted Kingdom.  However, while driving down the highway and after coming over the top of the hill and coming down their brakes went out and the driver had to purposely crash the Jeepney in order to avoid hurting anyone else or potentially going over the guardrail, which would have surely killed everyone on board.  It was actually quite a miraculous event.  Afterward everyone shoved into the Kia and continued on to the amusement park.  They had a great time and it was definitely a memorable day!

This is a Jeepney :)

This was the damage done to the Jeepney after the crash. 
This gives you an idea of the hill they came down and how the high up their were.  The driver intentionally kept running into the guardrail in order to slow them down and did a great job keeping everyone safe!

Everyone is excited and ready to have fun!

If only you could see some of the Monster's expressions on this ride. It is rather hilarious!

They hadn't left the ground yet :) Shawn is just funny!

18 people calls for 36 burgers, 18 fries, and 18 soft drinks!
I can only imagine the ride home was much quieter than the ride up :) 
So in the Philippines they celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve.  We had our own Christmas celebration with the story of the birth of Jesus, some carols, and FOOD!  It was a nice time together reflecting on Jesus being the reason that we celebrate!  At the end of the night we headed back to the Guest House and prepared for Christmas ourselves :)

Our candlelight ceremony.

Dinner was western style...not typical, but the kids were tired of spaghetti and fried chicken.  I will point out that I don't think there were ANY leftovers :) 

The kids throughly enjoyed this evening and meal together!

The little man on the right brings me joy every time I see him, and I was blessed to meet the young lady on the left on this trip!  It was a blessing to be used on this trip for His glory! 
Christmas morning was not typical for us, and to be quite honest...if I could I would do it every year!  Maybe we will.  It was so not about us this year...and I am amazed at how much it has turned into that through the years past.  This year it was so simple and it helped us to see the things bigger than us.  I can only hope to be serving next year and to never go back to the typical Christmas.  I desire to be Radical!
The kids got Christmas pajamas and stockings from us this year and it was plenty.  
This was Christmas...and it was beautiful. So simple :)

Christmas Day I spent somewhere between 1-2 hours braiding and doing hair for the girls :)  Its a new hobby for me and it was nice to do something special for them.

It is amazing how many children you can fit in your arms, lap, or within reach...I am pretty sure they touch my heart more than I touch theirs.

The last few days in the Philippines seemed to go by pretty quick and we weren't ready for our time there to end.  Anytime you go somewhere like this...I think we have the mindset that we are doing something great for them, but the truth is that most of time God is doing something in us.  My heart was hardening in some ways that I hadn't seen and God took this opportunity to show me that.  His grace, patience, and mercy were shown time and time again this trip, and I was reminded that I needed to be showing that to others, just as Christ shows it to me no matter how many times I mess up.  So simple and yet, something that I forget so quick.   
John helping Ate with a puzzle :)
Ate and John working hard on the puzzle, who says this stuff is fun? J/k.  It was a nice challenge. 
The TV isn't on much, but is sure catches the attention of the kids during this special treat :)
A night out as a family :)  The lights here are so beautiful for Christmas!

This trip was such a blessing and although this Christmas was unconventional, I would do it again in a heartbeat and God willing we will do it again in the future.  Thank you Ate and the Philippines for having us for Christmas.  We love you all and look forward to our next trip! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 In Review

WOW! What a year it has been!! I have to look back through pictures to reflect on all that happened last year.  Here is a photo review of 2011.  


                       We continued to grow together as a family and bond with our newest addition!

Hannah's girly side came out and continues.  She prefers to wear dresses and skirts, but has no problem getting dirty with the rest of the kids

Hayden continues to grow up.  As sad as that can be, I am blessed to see the young man he is growing into.  2011 has been a great year for him!


February brought adventure as John and Hayden got to see Okinawa from a close overhead view!   
I took a job running the Student Ministry at our church.  I get paid to hang out with pretty much rocks! This particular day was a paintball day.  It's one of the boys favorite events and it is fun to listen to their stories and see the bruises.

My littlest man "hamming" it up! Such a classic photo!


 The beauty of homeschooling is being able to take early days and enjoy this beautiful island.  On this day we took a ride on a Ferris Wheel in American Village.  The kids loved it and I was able to capture this sweet moment on camera.

Hannah's birthday card she received from Grandpa Darrel! The card turned into a paper bouquet of flowers.  

The kids and I were involved in a homeschool co-op during the 2010-2011 school year.  One of Hayden's weekly classes was Japanese, which occasionally had an opportunity to do something hands on.  This particular week we were able to participate in a Tea Ceremony.  It was a sweet and wonderful experience!


I would love to tell you of all the wonderful things that went on in April of 2011, but I was a bit overwhelmed by planning our Student Spring Break Retreat.  All things considered it went pretty well, but between preparing, carrying out, and recovering there wasn't much else to do.  Enjoy these photos!

 Beach bonfire on the last night!
 Stuffing my face....what else do you do at camp?
 Food coloring water war!

Love these girls! 
Our group shoot!

Whew! May is always an exciting month!  
In the beginning of May is Golden Week here in Japan.  It is a week full of holidays and celebrations.  One of our favorite things to see are the dragon boat races.  We went at night this year, so we missed the races, but we were still able to enjoy all of the other festivities.  Like cotton candy!
 Eating fair food!
Fried rice for Henry.
Both of the kids got to jump on those giant trampoline things.  They had a blast and still talk about it to this day!
 We ended the night with fireworks!!
Hayden was a part of a kids choir this year and he did a great job learning the songs, singing them, and remembering all of the movements.
 Henry's 1st birthday!!! What a special day!
 Hayden completed two sparks books in one year!! He worked really hard and earned his ribbons!
 We had one family birthday party and one with a few friends for Henry's first birthday.  Well the day that was with friends we rented a bouncer and Hannah jumped to high/hard and flew off of it and hit her head on the corner of a brick.  She ended up with two staples and a 6 hour ER visit :)  That is one birthday we will never forget.

 We also experienced the worst typhoons in a long time! We have been through about 6 since we have been here and this one was by far the worst.  Almost everyone who had a storage unit on the base lost them and everything in it.  It did some pretty good damage and called for quiet a bit of clean up.
This is a boat that was blown over during the typhoon.

Brought us family to Okinawa and near us for the first time in 7 years! John's sister Jenn and her husband Matt and their two kids Parker and Jillian were stationed here in June.  They actually got a house across the street from us and it has been such a nice change to our island life.

A dear sweet friend of mine took us out and shot some family pictures of us! Here are some of my favorites!

June also brought a trip home to the states for Henry and I.  John sent us home for the Eliel Family Reunion and so that everyone could meet our newest family member.  I had a wonderful trip and realized just how much I missed everyone.  I am so blessed to have such a wonderful and supportive family!  Here are some pictures from our trip!
 Henry eating at one of John and I's favorite restaurant!
 Home sweet home!
Henry meeting Grandpa Darrel for the first time!
Playing with Great Grandpa Miller!
 Henry's first Cardinals game!!!
First Ted Drews with Grandad!
 Henry with a fro.
Henry with Uncle Erik!
Henry playing in the water...who needs toys?
 What my family does best!
 Cowboy Henry
 I love Montana.  It is such a special place to me.

After being home for 2 days from the states I hopped on a jet plane again and headed to the Philippines where John and I led a youth mission team. 
 Some of the girls playing with the toddlers...
 Dressed and ready to go to Malabon.
 Hand games are universal! 
 Helping clear away the rubble to help make progression on the remodeling of the old building.
 We planked things...this one is of John planking a Jeepney!
One of the boys planking the basketball hoop!

The whole time I was in the states and went to the Philippines my step-mom came and stayed with the kids, which was such a blessing to us! The kids had a great time with Nana here!  After our busy few weeks we took a short vacation with her to Okuma before she headed home.  Oh! We can't forget Sushi-Go-Round too! 

We clean up well!!

August led to some changes in our ministry.  God revealed to us His plans in how we did ministry.  It was a bit scary by stepping into the unknown, but looking back He was faithful and laid out exactly what we needed to get everything started.  At the beginning of the school year we started a youth group during our Wednesday night church service.  It has led us to be able to reach out to students that we were not previously reaching.  It has also allowed us to cover things that we are not always able to get through in Sunday School.  Wednesday nights have allowed us to have small groups for our students which was a big need that we had tried to fit in other places, but just wasn't working out.  All in all it was a healthy change and I am thankful that God can see the bigger picture when I only have one piece of the puzzle.  

August also led to to some adventures for us as a family.  We found a great river to go river trekking in.  The kids love it and it is a nice change of something to do during the warm summer months!  

This month led to some big spiritual challenges and changes.  John and I began to read a book called Radical. by David Platt.  It helped us to see just how blessed we are and because of our blessings we began to change the way that we operated as a family.  But somehow this month passed us by and I have nothing to show of it in photos...oh well the rest of the year was busy enough.  I'll make up for it there!


 Fun fall traditions....caramel apples.  And this year it was even better because the kids got to do this activity with their cousins.
I made the kids costumes this year.  They didn't like them, but I had them at least take a picture in them and then they changed into dress up clothes to Trick or Treat in.
My handsome little man and his first haircut! He looks so grown up!
Hayden's 7th Birthday Cake! It looked much better in person.
Hayden our little Luke Skywalker enjoying his birthday presents.
He also got to go to Round 1 a fun indoor play place with sporting games and video games.  Here he is shooting balls at kids :) lol

We had our Student DNow at the beginning of November and that began the busy holiday season for us.  DNow was a blast and we were so blessed by our students, our team, and the families.
Senior High boys having their Bible study around the fire.
 Rocking out to Kutless!
 Yea...he's my big kid!
Trust games...this is harder than it looks!
 Hannah going ice skating for the first time.
My "big" kids waiting for the green light to skate.
 My little girl having a blast.
Hayden taking a turn around the ice for the first time.
 Henry wasn't feeling so well this day, but this was a fun little ride on the ice.  He enjoyed it while it was moving, but fussed any time it stopped.
 The Senior High student went zip-lining.  This guy's got tricks!
Yea...they pretty much rocked this course!
The whole group! What a great weekend! We were so blessed to be a part of it!

It always gets busy around this time of year.  We had a student Christmas party at the beginning of the month.  Then we got to have a teenage son for a week while his mom ran the Hawaii marathon.  We had a week full of Christmas parties and dinners and then packed up and got ready to go to the Philippines.  Our trip will need its own blog, so I will go into more detail later, but overall December was a crazy wonderful amazing month.