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65 Things I’ll Teach My Daughter(s)

March 24, 2014

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A list of 101 Things someone will teach their daughters has been making its way around the world of social media.  Its a cute and clever piece of creative writing that some people are taking much too seriously, and I may be one of them.  However, rather than discussing which points I agree or disagree with, this post got me thinking about the real truths that I want to teach and model for my daughter(s).    Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

1. You are loved

2. You matter

3. Your voice is powerful.  Use it to make the world a better place.  Sing, encourage others, speak up for those who go unheard, scream about injustice, and shout a joyful noise to celebrate God’s goodness.

4. Your mind is powerful. Use it.

5. Love your body, and prove that you do by treating it that way.

6. Love your hair.

7. Vote informed, and always vote.

8. People will let you down.  Love them anyways.

9. You will let people down.  You are still worthy of love.

10. Your choices matter.

11. Keep learning.

12. Complete what you begin, and do it well.

13. Trust God.  What He says won’t always make sense.  Those are the most important times to trust Him.

14. Pray daily.

15. God is always working in your life.  Listen and watch to see what He’s doing.

16. God says that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” “more than a conqueror,” and can do “all things through Christ who gives [you] strength.”  Don’t ever let any human convince you of anything different.  If anyone says anything contrary, they are wrong.  WRONG!

17. Emotions are not for decision making.

18. Your emotions are important.  Never ignore them or suppress them.

19. Secrets are rarely helpful.

20. Other people will experience the world differently than you.  Take the time to find out why.

21.  Only you can define your ethnic identity.

22. Only 80% of your income is for you to live off of and spend.  Before you pay a single bill or make a purchase, give 10% to God, and put 10% in savings.

23.  Recycle.

24. Only you can define your gender identity.

25. Only you can define your sexual identity.

26. You can always do better.

27. Enjoy your success.

28. Find the value in criticism, and dismiss the rest.

29. Do not dismiss a message because of the delivery.

30. Read the Bible everyday, and discover something new about God each time.

31. Admit when you’re wrong.

32. Travel.

33. You do not get to define anyone else’s identity.

34. Find your identity in Christ.

35. Find a life-giving hobby, and don’t ignore it.

36. Crying does not make you weak.

37. Grieve your heartbreaks, then look forward and rejoice. Repeat as necessary.

38. Wear sunscreen.  Even though you’re brown.

39. Don’t smoke.  Just don’t.  Your lungs deserve better than that.

40. Dream.

41. Accept the limits God gives you, and none others.

42. Instead of “Happily Ever After,” strive for, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

43. Journal, or do whatever the equivalent is. (blog, vlog, use a pensieve, or cerebro, or whatever.)  Then, when you feel stuck, look back and see how you’ve grown.

44. You will influence others, and they will influence you.  Be careful.

45. In the words of Paris Geller, live your life so that you can “read an in-depth biography about yourself in later years and not puke.”

46. Ask questions.

47. Honor the Sabbath.

48. Apologize when applicable.

49. Don’t apologize when unnecessary.

50. Seek healthy community.

51. You ARE extraordinary.

52. There’s nothing wrong with going to therapy.  Go ahead and let me know how I messed up.  I’ll try to do better.

53. Without therapy, let me know how I’ve messed up.  I’ll try to do better.

54. Make-up is for YOU.

55. Don’t slouch.

56. Shop ethically.

57. Do not allow your bank account to reflect your character.

58. You are strong because your God is strong.

59.  Don’t wait to make doctors appointments.

60. Wear shoes that make you feel your best.

61. Barbie is not physically possible.

62. Disney is for entertainment, not dating or marriage advice.

63. Pamper yourself when you can afford it.

64. Question trends.

65. Use gift registries

V’s 3rd Birthday at Disneyland

January 31, 2014

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Venice is 3!  Venice is 3!  Venice is 3!

My sweet cuddly baby is growing up before my eyes into a beautiful young lady, and we celebrated big this year, as we do every year.  Venice decided that she wanted to have a Tiana birthday party this year, so we carried the theme throughout our celebrations.  For this trip and V’s 3 year photos, I made her a green and yellow tutu, and painted a fancy 3 on a cute shirt for her birthday outfit.  She loved twirling in her special long tutu, and smiled so big when the Disneyland cast members would wish her Happy Birthday.

Perhaps what we will remember most about this particular Disneyland trip is that Mommy came down with the flu two days before the drive down, and Daddy caught it just in time for the drive back up.  We planned this trip for right before she turned three so that she would still get into the park for free, and probably won’t return for a while since a third ticket or passport would break the bank.  I didn’t want to cancel her trip, and Robert was concerned about doing the drive with Venice on his own, so I loaded up on ibuprofen and snuggled up with a blanket for the drive down and hung out in the hotel the first night.  Thankfully I was feeling better by Sunday, our big day in the park, and was able to see my little princess have such a good time for her birthday. 

We’re experienced Disneyland-goers, so we made sure to arrive before opening, and won a special treat for doing so.  While waiting for the park to open, a cast member started doing some Disney trivia and let us know that there would be “prizes.”  I was certain that the prize would be some lame pin that they had a trillion extras of or something, but whatever, it seemed like a good way to pass the time.  First question, “Where does Aladdin live?”  With such an easy question, I thought the prize wouldn’t even be a pin, but a sticker or something.  Robert raised his hand, and answered “AGRABAH!” And won a FASTPASS!  A fastpass to a ride of our choice!  Even if it didn’t have a fastpass line!  OK, I was wrong. AWESOME!

WOO HOO!!!  Go Daddy-O!!!!!

WOO HOO!!! Go Daddy-O!!!!!

Once that the park opened, we made our mad dash to our first ride.  As requested by the birthday girl, we started off with Peter Pan, then went on to Alice in Wonderland.  She REALLY wanted to ride the caterpillar Alice ride, but always added on, “I don’t like the queen.”  I love that she doesn’t let her fear stop her from experiencing and enjoying the ride.  

Next, we made our way over to Pixie Hollow to see Tinkerbell and Silvermist.  Venice asks for Vidia and Periwinkle every time that we meet Tink, but that dream has yet to come true.   The cast member said that apparently Vidia’s fast flying makes a mess of Pixie Hollow, and Periwinkle can only visit when it snows.  She went on to add that they asked Elsa to let it go so Peri could visit, but the queen was busy.  Well done Pixie Hollow cast member.  Well done.

Jan 19, 2014_2

Next, over to the Fantasy Faire!  I had thought that Aurora could always be found at the Princess meet-and-greet, -since, ya know, it’s her castle – but this time it was only Cinderella and Ariel.  I have my issues with that princess selection, but Venice was excited to see them, and let them know all about her Tiana party and going to Hawaii.  :-)

Jan 19, 2014_3

Next, we got in a few more Fantasyland rides – Carousel, teacups, and Small World.  Last year, when we went for Venice’s birthday, we were super bummed to find out that Small World was closed.  This year, we were excited to not only have Small World open, but it was still Christmas-ified!  So fun!

Toontown was next, with Mickey’s house, Minnie’s house, and the Toontown cars that V loves so much.  I can’t wait for her to be tall enough for Autopia.  :-)  Has anyone ever wondered why Mickey and Minnie have separate houses?  They’re supposed to be married in “real” life, and Toontown’s supposed to be where they “really” live, so…

I digress.  Back to the birthday trip.

Jan 19, 2014_4

To finish off our morning in the park, we made sure to catch Princess Tiana in New Orleans Square.  Finding Tiana has been quite an ordeal in the past, but this time she happened to be out when we got there, and didn’t even have to wait very long in line to meet her.  I was hoping that she would have talked to my birthday girl a bit more, but we got our pic, and Venice was happy to see her.

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After lunch and nap at the hotel, we headed back to the park, and met up with the lovely Haley.  The park was much busier (as it usually is at night), so we finally made use of Robert’s fastpass win, and used it to ride Dumbo!  Skipping the 45 min wait for that one was quite nice, I must say.  Venice entertained us all by singing a medley of Disney favorites while we waited at the Dumbo exit.  Good times.  It was a lot of fun to see Haley and spend some Disney time with her.  Before saying good-bye for the night, we made our way back over to Small World for one more holiday cruise around the world.

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We finished off our night at California Adventure with dinner at Paradise Grill, and riding Ariel, Mater, and the Bugs Land lot.  Venice is now tall enough for the bumper cars at Bugs Land, so we had a Disney first for us.  Yay!

Venice had such a great time on her special birthday trip.  She really loved getting to choose all the rides and meet and greets, and was such a joy to be with all day.  Its fun that Venice is now old enough and experienced enough with Disneyland that she knows exactly what she wants to do there.  The best part was having the time together to just have fun as a family. OK, so I was nauseous by the end of the night, and Robert woke up with a fever, but look at this face!  (And click on the face to see some vids from the trip.)

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Frozen Kite Flying

December 2, 2013

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Black Friday shopping is just not for us.  It looks like the Garcia Black Friday tradition is turning out to be movie going.

This year, we teamed up with Abby & crew and took Venice to see Frozen, the latest animated feature from our pals at Walt Disney Pictures.  Earlier this year, we took Venice to see Monsters University and Planes, and both times she lasted about 30 minutes in her seat before wandering up and down the staircase of the theater.  Sitting still is hard enough for adults, but is dang near impossible when you’re two.  That being said, our expectation was to have a good time seeing Abby, enjoying a few good songs, and spending a good amount of our time preventing venice from disturbing other movie goers.

We were pleasantly surprised to watch an excellent movie that captures much of the Disney magic we grew up with, has the awesomeness that is Idina Menzel, beautiful animation, and a story captivating enough to keep Venice AND Abby engaged and seated for the entirety of the film.   It was amazing!  Well…the movie was pretty good, but the fact that both silly little girls sat in their seats until the end was just short of miraculous.  One of the sweetest moments was when a scary snow monster started chasing some of the characters, and Venice screamed out, “ABBY HOLD ME!!!!”  and reached over to grab her hand.  The girls held hands to support each other through that difficult time.  :-)  I love seeing their friendship grow as they grow.  

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These girls just sat through an entire movie at the theater for the very first time! I promise it wasn’t forced. :-)

My thoughts on Frozen:

No, it wasn’t The Little Mermaid, but it was till a legit Disney movie that can sit next to the classics proudly.  I loved that the story centered around two sisters and their love for one another.  I was a little nervous at the beginning with the introduction of Prince Hans though.  Disney’s done some good work getting away from Happily Ever After being found in marrying a handsome prince, and I’m glad that they’ve continued in that same manner.  Frozen’s act of true love was wonderfully contrary to what we find in the old school films.  Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” was my favorite moment, although there were definitely times where I had to remind myself that I was watching Elsa and not the Wicked Witch.  Venice was singing along and dancing when the song played again during the credits, and I may or may not have been listening it on repeat via YouTube for these past few days.  The other songs weren’t as catchy as the Menken favorites, but still make up a soundtrack I look forward to owning.  

There are some bigger picture things I didn’t love though, like the fact that Anna and Elsa look more like Barbie dolls than real women, and the fact that female characters of color are still painfully lacking.   Don’t get me wrong, I love that we’re getting female characters who solve their own problems, are strong and independent, and show compassion for others.  What I don’t love is that these characters add to the image portrayed in so much of our media that good, beautiful women always have a size 0 waist.  After the whole Merida “makeover” you’d think that Mickey and his team would have figured a few things out, but I guess we need to just be grateful that other progress is being made.  And do we seriously need 2 more white princesses???  Seriously?  #Latinaprincessplease.  Who do I write a letter to about this?  I just might write a letter.  

After the movie, we headed over to Ocean Beach for some kite flying fun.  Abby has a super cool triple boxy-thingy kite, and they had a great time sharing the role of kite-flyer.  Although, I think the daddys may have had a bit more fun than the girls.  There wasn’t much wind to begin with, but Matt was determined to get that thing into the air.  He and Robert took turns doing laps with the pink princess kite in basically no wind.  Then, of course, as soon as they stopped running, an itty bitty breeze came along and was enough to pick up the flying triad of princess fun.  

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Once that the daddys got the kite into the air, the girls thought it was the coolest thing for about five minutes, then were off to walk in the water.  Splashing around was the perfect ending to super fun morning.  

 

 

The Thankful Chain

December 1, 2013

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November is the thankful month.  The history of the holiday has had me feeling less than excited about celebrating it this year, but I do like the idea of being intentional to give thanks for the blessings in our lives.  Now that Venice is almost three, I wanted to find a way to have her participate and communicate her gratitude.  She’s always been very good about saying “Thank you” as soon as she recieves something, but I wanted to encourage her to think about things she’s thankful for that aren’t right in front of her.

So, together with three little boys that I’ve been taking care of, we made our first thankful chain.  She and the other children took turns telling me what they were thankful for, I wrote them down on little slips of paper, linked the slips of paper together to make a long chain of thankfulness, and hung it over the kitchen doorway.  

Some of the things they said were what we’d expect from toddlers and preschoolers.  K and his Iron Man theme were expected.   S is still a baby, so he was thankful for whatever was in his hand at the time.  But they also said some things that were surprising and kind of profound!  I love that Venice said she was grateful for so many people in her life, and the 3 year old J  got me really thinking with his “Things we’re made into.”  (Yes!  Thank you Lord for transformation!)

So, here it is!  The fun, sweet, deep, silly contents of the Thankful Chain.  :-)

Venice                  J   (3 years old)                      K  (2.5 years old)           S (1.5 years old)

Daddy                   Caison goes to school               Iron Man                              Veggie Hot Dogs

Abby                      Mommy                                         Iron Man’s Lasers             “This” (Veggie Sticks)

Mama                   “Things we’re made into”         Hulk                                      The house

J                              Jesus died for us                         D addy                                   Toys

Apples                   Mornings                                      Mommy                                 “This” (Elmo Car)

Daddy                   The Bridge                                     My Parris

Trains                   Coming here                                 Woody

Mickey Mouse                                                              Go go credit card power rangers

Cats                                                                                 Apples

Spoons                                                                            Iron Man Placemat

Birthday cake                                                               Iron Man armor

grapes                                                                             Susan

Rockets

flowers

Letters

K

Mama again

Markers

A Disney Anniversary

November 30, 2013

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Yes, our 5th anniversary was spent at our happiest place on earth.

We wouldn’t be Parris and Robert if we didn’t.

:-)

The fun began last Thursday when we successfully left early in the morning for the drive down to SoCal.  Venice enjoyed the drive as she watched her two Tinkerbell movies on repeat.  Robert piloted Buddy (without a speeding ticket this time!)  and I got my knit on to complete a hat and mitten for Abby.  (The other mitten soon followed.)  We made good time to GG’s work, and she was ready with coloring pages and highlighters for Venice.   After transferring what seemed to be everything the child owned into GG’s car and meeting a few of GG’s co-workers, we kissed Venice good-bye and our date night began.

The view from our studio.  Beautiful!

The view from our studio. Beautiful!

We checked into our studio at the Grand Californian (Hallelujah!) and freshened up for our romantic night together.  We were excited to have a studio on the 6th floor, and enjoyed the beautiful view of California Adventure.  We were even able to watch part of the first showing of World of Color.  We had time to go into the park to catch the firework show, complete with snow, and take some pictures at the tree on Main Street and Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  I absolutely love Disneyland during the holidays.  It is by far my favorite time to be in the park.  With the decorations, the lights, the music, and the cool temps that encourage snuggling close to my wonderful husband, the magic of Disneyland just seems to be turned up a notch and even more joyful than ever.

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Next it was off to finally check off something that has been on our Disney bucket list for a loooong time: Napa Rose.  We’ve heard so many good things about this restaurant, but for this Disney-on-a-budget family, the price tag has always been beyond our wallet.  But since that it was a special occasion, we decided it was time to make it happen.  The restaurant was beautiful, and it was so nice to see this fine-dining side of Disney.  Robert is still talking about his Smiling Tiger Salad, and was put into a food coma by the Short Ribs.  This vegetarian ordered an Alfredo pasta with seasonal veggies, and immediately regretted it.  If we ever go back, I’ll make sure to try the Chef’s Choice Veggie Tower.  There are basically no vegetarian options on the menu, so I had to choose something that our server said the chef could whip together for me.  The pasta was ok, but ya know, I could have probably made it at home.  Now I know better for next time.  We finished off our meal by sharing a yummy apple and pecan dessert.   Now THAT was delicious!

Nov 23, 2013

Friday was our actual anniversary, and we started off our day by trying out another restaurant that we had never eaten at before: Steakhouse 55 at Disneyland Hotel.  I generally steer clear of steakhouses, even if they’re run by Mickey Mouse, but we had heard good things about their breakfast menu, so this was the perfect opportunity to check it out.

When we arrived, there was only one other guest in the restaurant, so we almost had the whole place to ourselves.  We spotted Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Nat King Cole, and Marilyn Monroe on the walls, then surrendered to the fact that we couldn’t recognize anyone else.  Ah well.  Can I just take a moment to say that I love the fact that Disneyland has embraced the egg white omelet?  Hooray for healthier food options!  Before heading into the park, we took some pics with Walt and at the Christmas tree.  :-)

Nov 23, 20131

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Cheeese!

Next, we headed into the parks!  Since that we stayed at the Grand, we were able to get into California Adventure for the Extra Magic Hour.  We had a lot of fun riding a bunch of the big kid rides that we normally skip when we’re with our little lady.  The Racers was closed (sadness…) but we were able to ride Screamin’,  Tower of Terror, and Soarin.  We also finally rode on Luigi’s Flying Tires, and decided that we probably will go back to skipping it when we come back.  It looked kinda lame when we watched it, and now that we’ve experienced it we can confirm the lameness.  Lame.  Before heading over to Disneyland, we challenged each other to some Toy Story Mania.  I was determined to beat Robert this time, but alas, he was victorious.  A rematch will happen.  Mark my words that I will be the new champion in one month’s time.

Disneyland 2013

Time for Disneyland!  We had three special anniversary items on our Disneyland must-do list: 1) Ride the Lilly Belle,   2) Go up to the wheelhouse of the Mark Twain, and  3) Sit in the Family Booth at the Golden Horseshoe.  Unfortunately the first two items were nixed by the rain.  Sadface.  The desire to not get the carpets muddy meant that the Lilly Belle didn’t come out that day, and the desire to not have people slip and kill themselves meant that guests were not allowed to go up to the wheelhouse.  We still did ride the Mark Twain though, and we were joined by a special guest.

OMG!  VENICE ISN'T HERE!!!!

OMG! VENICE ISN’T HERE!!!!

OK, this experience caused a very strange emotion for both of us.  One hand, we were uber excited to see Tiana walk on to the Mark Twain that we knew we were just about to load because we NEVER see her.  She’s rarely at the Princess Fantasy Faire (we’ve never seen her there, but instagram suggest that it happens), and we hadn’t seen her in New Orleans Square since Princess and the Frog first came out.  But while were thinking “Oow, ooow, ooow!!!  It’s TIANA!”  We were also thinking, “I MIIIIISSSSS MYYYYYY BAAAAAABBBYYYYYY”   We were sad that Venice wasn’t there to meet her and ride around the Rivers of America with her.  We almost didn’t take a picture with her because we felt bad about meeting her with our daughter, but we got over that real quick and gave my phone to a cast member for a couple pics.  Afterward, I asked her to make a little video message for Venice, and felt better about the situation.  This parenting thing is complicated sometimes.  :-)

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Walt and Lilly’s booth.

Since that we were rained out of the Lilly Bell and wheelhouse, we wanted to make sure that we were able to sit in the Family Booth at the Golden Horseshoe.  Some confusion about the Laughing Stock and Billy Hill & The Hillbillies worked out in our favor, and we were able to sit and enjoy a root beer float in the same spot that Walt and Lillian Disney sat in once upon a time.  Success!

As our day continued, more fun was had as we walked hand in hand around the parks, took our time to enjoy the decorations, and held each other tight on more fun rides.  We were surprised when we discovered that Innoventions had two Marvel attractions!  There was an Iron Man exhibit thingy, where there were a bunch of the Iron Man suits presented by Stark Industries, and a Thor area with “artifacts” from Asgard, and a portal to enter Agard and meet Thor.  Robert was all about this thing from the first Marvel sighting, so off to Asgard we headed.

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Disneyland is pretty at night.  California Adventure too.  :-)

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Robert and I rarely are able to get time for just the two of us, so it was such a blessing for us to be able to spend a whole day in at our favorite place together.  We were definitely ready to see Venice again by the end of the night, but it was so wonderful for us to be able to just have fun together and enjoy one another’s company.  It was a great anniversary.

:-)

Hosanna

February 3, 2013

God brought us to our new church in a pretty cool way.

A few months ago, the littles and I were going about our day with Pandora on in the background, and Hillsong’s “Hosanna” came on and hit me a little harder than usual.  I never super loved that song, but the bridge always spoke to me when they sang:

“Heal my heart and make it clean

Open up my eyes to the things unseen

Show me how to love like You have loved me

Break my heart for what breaks Yours

Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause

As I walk from earth into eternity”

Well, for some reason, on this day, I was suddenly raising my hands and shouting out in worship in my kitchen with a couple of toddlers and their waffles.  I didn’t think God was trying to tell me anything yet, but then the next song to randomly come on was one of my favorites from Kirk Franklin…”Hosanna!”  I was already in a Jesusy place, so I was singing, dancing and clapping while serving the girls their breakfast.

It was interesting to me that these two very different “Hosanna” songs came on one after another, and the word just stuck in my head.  I called Robert to tell him about it and ask him what he knew about the word.  I was kind of obsessed with the word for the morning, and dug into bible dictionaries and commentaries as soon as the girls were down for their naps.

That same day, Robert was invited to lead worship at a church that was of the same denomination as the church we had been visiting currently.  All that he was told was that it was a Four Square church in the Castro, and that they needed someone to lead worship.  He agreed and called to let me know.

For both of us, our spiritual antenna perked up at the thought of potentially being a part of a church in the Castro.  We’ve both wanted to do ministry there for a long time, but didn’t have the opportunities to really do so.  I was curious about the ethnic and generational makeup of the church, so I hit google with my inquiries.  Robert didn’t get the name of the church, so I just searched for all the Four Square churches in the city.  There was one in the Castro, and it’s name was…

HOSANNA CELEBRATION CENTER

I was like, “WHAT!”  It seems silly now, but at the time, I was not taking this as a sign as this our new church, but rather, “God really wants me to pay attention to this word.”    Silly Parris.

Well, we went, lead, and it went well.  The congregation received us well, and the current worship leader was excited to invite us back the following week, and well, forever on.  We returned, but didn’t feel like it was quite right at the time, so we then went back to the other church that we had been visiting.

Back at church 1, we walked in late the following Sunday to be there right on time for the beginning of the worship team’s rendition of Hillsong’s “Hosanna.”

The following week, we were running even more late, and decided spontaneously to visit our friend Alex’s church in Daly City.  Worship was fabulous!  I cried, danced, clapped, shouted, you name it.  And then it was time to greet those around us.  Also visiting that day was a group of young adult ministers from Oakland, including a young lady who sat behind us who reached out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Hosanna.”

WHAT!!!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?

To top it off, we learned later that this young woman doesn’t usually go by Hosanna, but rather Sanna.  For some reason, that day, and only that day, she decided to introduce herself as Hosanna.

It was at this point that Robert saw all of this Hosanna craziness as God’s way of answering our prayers.  We had been asking for clear direction about what church we were supposed to commit to, and all this time he had been telling us, “Hosanna you dorks!”

Despite all of this, I was hesitant.  While looking for a church, we had devised a list of elements of our perfect church.  Many of these things were present at Hosanna:

Multi-ethnic

Multi-generational

Passion for worship through creative and performing arts

A place for us to serve and grow

Heart for social justice

Yet, there were many areas where we desired more from Hosanna, such as:

Creation Care

Evangelism

Discipleship

Strong nursery and children’s ministry

In the end, we realized that it was pretty obvious that God was telling us to go to this church.  He was even pointing it out to us by name!  We never really expected to find a perfect church, cuz, well, that’d just be too easy and not allow us to grow.  We also realized that the areas that we feel could use some growth at Hosanna are areas that we have experience and passion for and may one day have a hand in developing, which may very well be part of why God has sent us there.

So…after all of that, we now have found our new church home, Hosanna.  A place where we can express joy, adoration and praise for  a Father who will never leave us.

Church

February 2, 2013

Two years ago, I was 39 weeks pregnant, excited for motherhood, and preparing for a life-change that I’ve wanted my entire life.  I had no idea that this life-change was going to have an ugly intruder.

Much of my and Roberts’  life together has always revolved around ministry.  We met through ministry, fell in love through ministry, and today dedicate our lives to ministry.  Two years ago, I was on staff as Ministry Coordinator at our church, Robert was the worship and evangelism director, I sang and played piano on the worship team with him, we acted as liaisons between the church and the college fellowship that we grew up out of, and well, we were ALWAYS there and loved it.  We worked closely with the pastor, who also married us and did our pre-marital counseling.   His marriage and life were evidence to me that good Christian people, good marriages, and good families, really do exist.  The church was our family and support, and we were excited to see how God was going to grow us.

And then we learned that our pastor was getting a divorce.  He then resigned as our pastor on the same beautiful day that our daughter was born.  We left the hospital with Venice a day early so that Robert could attend church and be available to lead and help as needed.  Seven months later, the church closed.

It felt a bit like a nightmare at the time.  We had planned on raising our children at this church, under the leadership of a pastor we knew, trusted, and loved.  Robert had started on a path towards becoming an associate pastor, with hopes of his dream of being a full time worship director coming true one day soon.  God brought us to this church, and directed us to commit ourselves to its vision and mission.  All of those plans, expectations, and hopes, were suddenly gone.

I felt betrayed.  I was angry.  Our pastor talked a big talk about being transparent with one another and the importance of true fellowship.  He taught us that we need to let our church family into our business if we want to truly be supported by them.  We need to hold one another accountable, but that requires being vulnerable with each other and inviting accountability.  He also taught us to take the word “divorce” out of our mouths.

I knew that our plans and hopes had been given to us by God.  I also knew that He Knew this would happen.

Yeah, I was angry.  I was angry that our pastor made the choices that he did.  I was angry that he didn’t let us know what was going on before it slapped us in the face.  I was angry that I had to make new plans to have my daughter dedicated to the Lord (which was supposed to happen when she was two weeks old, and was also supposed to be the first time that our families would come up to meet her).  I was angry that God gave us so much hope for a church that He knew would not survive to deliver on those hopes.  I was angry that I need to find a new church home and family.  I was angry that I had spent so much time the previous year designing a retreat that would never happen.  I was angry that so much of my maternity leave was spent thinking about how the family I knew was falling apart, and that my daughter would never know the life that Robert and I loved so much at the church on the corner.  I was angry that so many dreams would never come true.

But really, I was hurt.  I was grieving.  I was angry too!  But I was heartbroken.  The enemy attacked with all kinds of vicious thoughts and lies.  I had to put myself in check real quick because I started thinking to myself, “If his marriage doesn’t last, what does that mean for mine?  Did he ever believe the things he taught us?  Was it all a fraud? Did he ever care about us, or was it all just a show?  Did he really hear from God?”  Oooohhh…..there were some dark roads of questions and accusations going on in my head.  All of this was magnified when this same man who we loved and trusted and looked to for counsel decided to stop talking to us.  This was not how I expected 2011 to begin.

But now, the rain has finally stopped, and the water is even receding a bit to show some of the fruit of these trials.  I was reminded of the anointing that was over our pastor as a teacher/preacher, and of the fact that his words were always, always, ALWAYS biblically based and biblically accurate.  I regained the confidence of knowing that his teachings were in fact God’s teachings, and despite his imperfections and life choices, he was indeed obedient from the pulpit.  His choosing to follow or not follow his own teaching is not reflective of the source of the teaching.  Church members have now dispersed to several different churches, bringing the knowledge and experiences they’ve gained to new communities throughout the bay area.  We may not be as close as we once were, but we are still family, we still love each other, and we still support one another.  We finally found a new church, and though it isn’t perfect, God definitely brought us here, and we trust that He brought us somewhere good.  With the new church, we now have new people in our lives who are becoming family, not to replace our previous church family, but rather to grow it.  Being without a pastor required us to step up in the final months before the church closed, and Robert discovered that he has a gift for preaching.  He spoke at our previous church several times, at our college fellowship’s weekly meetings, at his mother’s church in southern California, and will begin to preach at our new church in just a few weeks.  Our new church home is in the Castro district of San Francisco, which places us perfectly for ministering to the GLBTQ community-a calling we’ve always had, but not had the resources necessary to act upon yet.  There are more children at our new church, which means lots of friends for Venice, who loves the nursery btw.  Perhaps the biggest blessing was that even through this crazy storm that I felt we didn’t deserve, I never felt that God had left.  His presence was always present and known.  Even when I wanted direction and didn’t see any coming, I knew He was near and that i could trust that He was still caring for me.

This journey is not yet over.   Forgiveness is a challenge, and there’s still some healing to be done, but I know those things are close and that this chapter in our lives is nearly over.  And best of all, I know that God was with us through it all, and always will be as long as we’re looking for Him.

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