...or "What I Did On My Christmas Vacation" by Brian, age 34 (but still younger'n summa you!)
While we were driving to Beaumont, Georgia and I discussed that we were likely to be invited to visit the "Church of What's Happening Now" (as we had come to refer to it -- long story and not intended to be derogatory) when we had dinner with Scott and Carrie.For several reasons, we had reservations about this, and were equally sure we would decline the invite. After 6 1/2 hours of driving, we got to my parents' house at 2 am on December 18th.
Monday, we spent recovering from the drive. We went to Carmela's for lunch, despite their obvious support of the so-called "Day Without Immigrants" last May (let me be clear: I derive from immigrants, and some of my favorite people are first-generation Americans; but they, like my ancestors, came here legally) and my subsequent boycotting of them. We have no decent Tex-Mex places within 60 miles, so I gave in to Georgia on this one. Greg and Shanon brought the girls over for a big family get-together. Macie (my Granny's name) Jeanette (my Grandma's name) is so much bigger than the first and only time I saw her before we moved, and cute! Despite the fact that she's the spittting image of my big bro'.
Tuesday, Georgia got to spend the morning with her friends from our old church's women's bible study group, and I got to spend time with my beautiful daughters (much-needed: I had just gotten back from two weeks on the road before we left for Beaumont). Later, we had SUSHI :) with Aaron and Amanda, who we had missed so very much. I couldn't believe how much bigger Sammy was (or the fact that he slept through the entire meal) and then regrouped at Rao's. Let me explain: we do not live within 400 miles of open sea; and of the only two decent coffee shops in the area, one is only open until 6 pm on the days it's open, so I've never even been there, and the other is two towns away. So I don't get sushi, and I don't get good coffee served to me. I love sushi and good coffee... though not together. There is a Starbuck's here, but let's be serious. And I'm not sure but I think if you asked for Gellato around here, you might get shot.
Note: Every time I think of Aaron, I have to chuckle 'cuz I remember the book he said he wants to write about his walk with the Lord. He wants to call it "Half-Assed Christian" but doesn't think Lifeway, etc., would carry it if he did. I don't know about you, but I'd buy it. (Of course, if you know Aaron, you know it'd at least be interesting)
Wednesday was my oldest neice's THIRTEENTH birthday. I remember Greg holding her with her head in his palm and her bottom against the crook of his elbow like it was yesterday! How can she be a teenager??? We did get to visit with the "cast of thousands", excluding my baby brother and his girlfriend, who, by the way, is now our closest relative (geographically speaking) and the only close family we didn't see on this trip. Georgia's not used to big gatherings like that, because her family (who we visited that morning for the first time since the Suzie fiasco) never really got together with extended family. But I remember uncles, aunts and cousins coming to Granny and Grampa's (mostly just Granny's -- Grampa died when I was 5, and I have only a few fuzzy memories of him) house in RV's and packing tents so there would be enough room for everyone at their VERY SMALL 4-room (that's room, not bedroom) house.
Thursday, we went shopping for Darcy some new shoes, because now she's walking. Go figure... I leave, no walking. Two weeks later I come home, walking like a champ! We also had the aforementioned visit with Scott and Carrie, which we had both been looking forward to. We both had really missed them, too. And the kids seemed very excited to see each other. Scott and I talked about a great many things; I think Georgia and Carrie did, too (but I don't kow what... frankly, I'm doing good to remember what little I'm writing here) We talked about concrete construction, because I'd just returned from two weeks of training on the subject, and Scott had done some reading and/or research into concrete housing.
Just an aside: if you have a something to build, and you're going for durability and utility... or anything else, frankly, go concrete. This is an amazing and versatile material that is just phenomenal in virtually any application. Wow! They even used to build reactor vessels from concrete! ...of course they stopped, presumably due to structural decline under high neutron flux, but that's only a guess. And not too many houses fall under a high neutron flux.
But I digress...
Scott and I did talk a good while about the basis of the family integrated movement, often misnamed "home churches," which is not the same thing. they do meet in one of the members' homes, but that's not by design. I told him some of my reservations about it, which didn't really cover the main reservation, but I'll get to that later. In case you're wondering, this is not like that nut in Ohio who shot the family in his barn. A great resource, if you're interested, is http://www.visionforum.org , or any of a number of Google results. Anyway, they did invite us, and we didn't give a final answer. I did ask them to pray for guidance for us.
Friday, we went out with an old friend of Georgia's and her husband. We had a blast, but stayed out waaaay too late. We gave them a copy of Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and tried to talk to them about it.. We have such a heart for Jenifer and Keny. Please pray for them.
Saturday, we hung out with my parents most of the day, I think -- no, that was the day we got to visit the ER at ST. E; Lily decided to take a header into my parents' coffee table and needed three stitches (you don't need an exercise regimen -- just watch how your heart rate soars when you see your two-year-old stand up screaming with so much blood running down her face that you can't tell if she still has both eyes) but that was one of the shortest ER visits in recorded history, under two hours. We went to Larry's French Market for dinner with the Welch Clan (minus one). I'm not really a fan of this place -- Votreau's is better and closer... and cheaper, too -- but Georgia loves it.
Sunday (Christmas Eve), the day I know you've all been waiting for. The previous day and night, we had spent long hours discussing what we were going to do with Scott's invitation. We talked about what we expected to find at our old church, which we would be expected to go to because my whole family still goes there. What we expected was the same thing that had caused us to seriously consider leaving the church before we moved out of town. We discussed what we might run into (heavily seasoned with what we had learned talking to Scott and Carrie) at the Family Bible Fellowship (not as colorful as "Church of What's Happening Now", but what can you do?) We discussed all the things we could come up with -- reasons both for and against -- and all the "cons" came down to one thing, really. So we went to the family integrated church. Something tells me that's what we would have done anyway, like we had to go. I gotta admit, the curiosity was pretty much driving me crazy, had been for months.
So we went, as I said. Georgia was so nervous about our main reservation that she nearly got sick outside the hosting family's house. Inside, there were three families we knew -- Scott and Carrie, Jeff and Shannon, Aaron and Cathy -- two we didn't. First there was a round of hymns accompanied by Jon, Mark and Kathy's oldest, on the piano. Then Mark, the homeowner, gave the message.. not too bad, either, even for a mechanical engineer. Key was the fact that here, there ain't no nursery. Now, Lily and Darcy aren't used to sitting still for an hour plus, so that was a problem. I'm sorry Georgia missed most of the message due to Darcy's ill behavior. I missed the question-and-answer session, or whatever you want to call it, due to Lily's second spanking. Then there was a family prayer session, led by the fathers, in private. One of our friends explained this to me, saying this would be followed by communion. I told him I could not take communion until and unless I talked to him first.
And so now, for me, we arrive at the true crux of the matter. I already knew the mechanics of the family integrated thing. I had read about it and discussed it with Jeff extensively a year or more ago. For me, this was just seeing the theory put into practice, in this particular location. I think Georgia wanted to see what it was all about, but I was fairly certain I was there for a different reason.
After praying together, asking for God's hand in it, we sought reconciliation with our very dear friends. Suffice it to say, we had a very close relationship which was pretty much broken a while back, through miscommunication and lack of communication, and with God's grace and infinite love, it was healed that day. This was worth the whole trip. Of course, if it had been unsalvageable, I woud have had to leave at that point without communion. (Georgia was very surprised when I told her this)
Communion. I have heard it said of the writers of the Gospels that Matthew saw Christ as a king, Mark as a servant, Luke as a man, and John as very God. I think they're all four right. The only King I have ever sworn loyalty to lowered himself on his last day to not only serve a meal to his disciples, but also to wash their feet. This is the model the family integrated church follows. If Christ is our High Priest, and the head of man, then the husband/father is the high priest and head of the family. If Christ is a servant, how could a husband be otherwise? It was a very moving experience to serve my wife the elements of communion. I wish Lily had been a little older, because I had to sort of let a very ripe, teachable moment slip by when she asked very sweetly if she could have a "cracker" and some "juice". Conviction precedes repentance, and we haven't quite grasped "sin" yet. And she's two. (Later, at our old church, during the Christmas Eve candlelight service they had communion. I insisted that I serve Georgia there, too) This brought the servant-leader role I'm supposed to play into very sharp focus for me, in a way that no long discussion of the Biblical family ever has.
Then there was a meal -- three kinds of lasagna! -- followed by a few hours of conversation, men with the men, women with the women, as the kids all chased each other around the house (It was a cold, wet day). Most of us sat and got to know each other better, talked about what each of us do for a living, and more important stuff, like challenges with raising kids, being a father, homeschooling, etc. Jeff, of course, gave Mark's and Kathy's oldest sons a rundown on how to refine ethylene. (That's the word on the street, anyway) I really don't know why we've gotten so far from fellowship of this kind these days. Oh, wait, yes I do... because our Enemy is very crafty ("the serpent was subtil" -- two bucks to anyone who gets that reference)
In case you're wondering, there were no snakes, and no animal sacrifices.
The point is this: Family... Integration. Letting your kids see you come before God and worship Him. The point is this: nearly every night since then, my two-year-old has been asking to "read stories" before she goes to bed (i.e., the Bible) and asking pretty astute questions for her age, understanding and mastery of English.
But that was the longer-term bennie from this visit. I regained a brother. Praise God, I got to feel just a little of what the host of heaven and all the saints rejoice when a sinner is saved, what the father of the prodigal felt to have his son back. Jeff, I love you and I missed you.
Christmas Eve night, the fam came over to Mom and Dad's and chaos reigned as usual when you have three toddlers (or post-toddlers) in the same house. Plus, our two didn't really get naps.
Next morning, we woke up late, took too long getting ready to go to Georgia's family's house, and of course got into a big fight 'cuz we weren't packed and ready to go -- I mean GO; we were leaving to come home from their house -- on time. Both visits to this place this week were surreal. Georgia's mother was like a pod person. Nothing had ever happened. Nothing was wrong. Everybody was friends. After about three years of the most fun you can have with your boots on, we finally left her parents' house at 4 pm, about an hour ahead of schedule. Got home around 11. Lily fell asleep (finally) about half an hour from home.
And that's all I've got to say about that.