I Didn’t Sign Up For This!

Charlene VandenBrink

Change is hard.  If you teared up after church online, you are not alone.  We all miss in-person gatherings.  One of the biggest challenges through ‘flattening the curve’ is having kids home from school!

Some families dove into uncharted territory with charts and printables; others took a wait and see approach when they heard classes were canceled.

‘School at home’ is very different from the homeschool lifestyle.  Add in a global health and economic crisis and even those of us who were already homeschooling are feeling the waves.
Many have side hustles or full-time jobs to keep spinning too!

So what are we supposed to do?

I'm no expert but TEN LIFELINES have kept me afloat over a decade of motherhood and homeschooling:

  1. Crush It

‘Swallow your frog’ (biggest challenge) first as Mark Twain put it!

With so many changes and unknowns a strong start to each day will help us move in a positive direction.  If I start the day with a workout and spend some time reading the Bible, it feels like the rest of the day should be a picnic…

  1. Carve It Out

With all this extra time at home, be intentional!

Penciling in regular dates with God, your spouse, kids, family and friends is as important as ever!  From sunset dates on our roof to playing board games, my husband and I often preferred home dates during busy/tiring seasons.  Home dates are our only option during social distancing, so I am glad we’ve had the practice.

  1. Cluster Chaos

After breakfast we bite off chores, followed by our most academic work, since everyone is fresh.
Following lunch I send the kids outside to burn off energy while I finish some chores.

Next, I take a little downtime to read or work on projects for our business, before diving into experimenting, crafting, cooking and reading aloud.  Afternoon nap times are great for activities that are more successful without the littlest hands.

A late afternoon walk/bike is a smart way to reboot while the youngest are safely contained in the stroller!  Screen time is usually saved for that hot mess of a time before supper when everyone is hungry and mom is (even more) done with the noise!

Keep the chaos down by following a daily rhythm that works well for your family.

  1. Consolidate

Where possible create a unit study approach to learning by engaging each child at their level while studying the same topic together.  We do this with nearly everything but Math and Language Arts.
This approach may only work for a few subjects since teachers are assigning individual online work, but it is a game-changer when homeschooling multiple children!

  1. Crave More

There is no better way to inspire lifelong learners than by our own commitment to reflect and grow.  Between courses, books, podcasts, and videos there is no shortage of opportunity for learning online -- especially when folding laundry!

As you invest in a lost hobby or new art you will be pouring out of a full cup.

  1. Crazy Days

When it gets overwhelming, take care of yourself!

What worked before COVID-19 for self-care may need to change.  I am drafting this post at our business office while my husband cares for our six children at home on a Saturday.  Coffee shops and libraries are closed but I needed a change of scenery before another week at home.  We got creative!

  1. Come again

Admit your mistakes, ask forgiveness and practice do-overs.  Character training is the most challenging and important part of raising children.
Cultivating a love of learning is good but cultivating a love for God is great!

  1. Commit

We are all part of the COVID-19 solution and this reality can motivate us when we are questioning our sanity.  Classes and many workplaces are closed.  There is no plan B for committed homeschool moms either.

Know your ‘why’ for this season.

  1. Cultivate Community

Many have learned the art of online meetups over the last few weeks.  Nothing beats face-to-face connections but we can make the most of this time and maybe even find new opportunities for heart-to-heart connections.

  1. Chocolate, Cuddles & Creativity

Substitute chocolate for coffee, cookies, cake, crackers or chips...
Add in a cozy blanket, board game, classic movie or family read-aloud and you are set to make a special memory!

While I like a tidy house in our main living areas, we have space in the basement where our kids build forts and create adventure after adventure if they aren’t outside.  They also have access to recycling/craft materials where they make invention after invention!

Finally, we know that if we aren’t anchored to Christ these lifelines will not be enough.
When I feel like I can’t keep my head above water, a walk/talk with God, a song of worship or chapter in Psalms not only rescues me from sinking but empowers me to do brave things.

Our kids will remember how we lived out our faith long after COVID-19.

From a mom who yelled too much last week and is working on creating more soul space -- you are not alone!

We didn’t sign up for all these changes but we will be stronger because of them!

What lifelines are keeping you afloat?

 

The Blessing of Peace

Charlene VandenBrink

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.  Numbers 6:24-26

Last Monday as our world was shutting down, one family faced a tragic home accident.  I sobbed on the couch and held my children closer after viewing the online graveside service.  Yellow flowers were laid on the too tiny casket and yellow balloons floated heavenward in memory of their two-year-old boy.  This brave family stood at the same spot their baby had been buried a handful of years before.  

Questions taunt.  They walked this road of suffering before.  Why God?  Why again?  Why so much loss?  They spoke of how they have been to this place of grief and that God will heal their hearts and restore joy to their home.  Faith resilient and inspiring!  This courage flows into their home and to their four children who grieve and hope with them.

Sometimes we face immensely tragic seasons while other times we are tested by seemingly small moments of family life -- especially when we are cooped up more than ever right now!

When it is my turn for bedtime tuck-ins, at the end of a long day with our six children I pray this simple blessing from Numbers 6: the Lord bless you and keep you...

Our online church gathering echoed these words in a new song last Sunday, The Blessing, by Elevation Church.  This song’s message of peace resonates in our hearts as we sing our battle cry ‘amen’ through an unprecedented health and economic crisis.  

May His favor be upon you, and a thousand generations, and your family and your children, and their children, and their children!

Deuteronomy 11 reminds us to live with intentionality, walking out our faith as we go about our daily lives.  So through fears, questions, doubts and tears we can still sing: 

May His presence go before you, and behind you, and beside you, all around you, and within you, He is with you, He is with you, in the morning, in the evening, in your coming, and your going, in your weeping, and rejoicing, He is for you, He is for you!

Maybe you are shaking an angry fist at God right now and asking why...  It's ok.  He isn't offended by our questions.  He isn't hurt by our doubts.  He isn't disappointed by our fears.  Pastor Larry reminded us on Sunday that while fear is a normal response to COVID-19, we have a choice to tuck our fear into our faith.

In hard seasons we can shrink our souls, deepen our fears and tighten our fists or we can embolden our faith, widen our love and share the presence of Jesus with a desperate world.

Like the beautiful family standing bravely at the graveside of two children, we can commit to allow the Lord to heal and bring beauty to each broken space in our heart and world.

So my friends at Calvary Community Church as you cry out this song over your children and their children and your neighbors and our nation in this time of crisis I pray the Lord gives you a deep sense of His presence and peace!

Author

Charlene VandenBrink

 

Foreboding and unfamiliar, the virus claims to be king.

Nathan Zieber, Pastor of Young Adult Ministry

12 odd weeks ago, 2020 kicked off like any other year: hearty wishes, good cheer and well intentioned resolutions. From Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, to swelling gym membership lists, all proclaimed, “2020 is MY year”. I readily hopped on the bandwagon, assuring myself that this time, I really meant it. That this year, as I closed the chapter on my 20’s, and began to square off with my 30’s, things were really going to change.

Then, things did change.

       Unknown to all, or at least, to all this magnitude, a prowling menace lurked in behind us. Foreboding and unfamiliar, this entity brazenly proclaimed that change was here, and that 2020 was its year, crowning itself king.

Coronavirus, specifically, COVID-19.
Coronaviruses resemble a crown under a microscope. Corona means crown in Latin, which is how coronaviruses got their name.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in a cave somewhere, you’re by now all too acquainted with its name. Talked about on the news, social media, and in hushed tones, COVID-19 has sparked an intensity that is unprecedented in our modern history. Consuming cycle after cycle, day after day, we are inundated and submerged to the point where we’re gasping for air, symptomatic of trying to stay above the waves of anxiety, isolation and fear.

Stage right, the Church. The Church has not changed.

The Church is intimately familiar with these symptoms. Encompassing the last 2000 years, the Church is no stranger to plagues. From the Plague of Cyprian, bubonic, and roman plagues, masses huddled in a corner. Cowering to sickness, disease, and famine, the Church has boldly held this kind before, has responded to these times before. As bishop Dionysius described Christians, “Heedless of danger … took charge of the sick, attending to their every need.”

The Church must continue to live up to its history, and the call of God to bring healing, health, and hope to the lost. After years, I’ve been thrilled to see the Church, making its way to the internet, when the world has been there all along. Online ministry is not new, although it is certainly newer than other forms of ministry and even newer to the Church body as a whole.

Here at Calvary, the Saturday evening that preceded the mandated closures of schools and houses of worship, the team arrived at a burdensome decision. Deciding to move our public services to online services, we dashed to accommodate the demands of a streamed message and worship set; hoping that we would draw at least part of our congregation. We were bewildered at the engagement, with a culmination of over 1000 views, and over 900 interactions!

       The Church has another chance to be relevant, to be a voice of hope in the midst of the void. In the swirling, cesspool of toxic media, panic, and fear mongering, you and I can be the representation of Christ more than ever. People are looking for community and love more than ever, God is calling, and has been calling the Church to fulfill that need as sons and daughters who are filled with His spirit. The Church needs to adapt its mode of ministry to meet people where they are currently able to congregate: the internet.

There is no better time to demonstrate that the Church is not a physical structure or a corporate identity, but a family, a community of people who deeply love and care for each other, and those around them.

What does this look like for the Church as a community?
- Not just streaming services online for the sake of streaming services online, but for showcasing who we are at our core, and how we’d love to meet people where they’re at, no restrictions of obligations. Just like Jesus did.
- Making sure we’re presenting the gospel as simply and understandably as possible as to not create any barriers; no Christianese. The authors throughout the Bible would speak relevantly to their demographics, referencing the old testament when the audience was familiar with it, and referencing relevant cultural icons when they were not (Acts 17:23, Hudson Taylor, etc).
- Thinking of new and creative ways to minister and serve online. We don’t realize it yet, but we’re creating brand new modes of ministry that will be the new standard from here on out.

What does this look like for you, as an individual?
- Watch how you interact online: while everyone else is losing their cool, are people going to see your interactions and be dumbfounded? Wondering how you can keep calm, be optimistic and hopeful during this time?
- Wisely and lovingly serve your community. While adhering to all of the government's guidelines, and not putting others at risk, are there people around you who need a grocery drive? Encouragement? Consoling? You’re up to the plate.

Remember, COVID-19 may resemble a crown, but it does not wear it. Not. Its. Crown. There’s only one who wears the crown, and He does not share it.

12 odd weeks ago, 2020 kicked off like any other year, and even though everything has changed, God’s nature does not, the Church's mandate has not. Let’s remind the world that the Church has been here all along, and make those around us feel that they’re better off with the Church in their community.

Author

Nathan D. Zieber
Pastor of Young Adult Ministry

 

Youth isn’t cancelled, just different.

Josiah Olmos, Director of Ardent Youth Ministry

Youth isn’t cancelled, just different.

It’s crazy to think that over the course of a week, we as a church went from releasing a statement that we were planning on meeting as a congregation, to suspending our public service in favor of an online service, and from there, suspending our public ministries (such as youth and young adult ministries).

It is an outcome that surprised many and at first glance, seems really discouraging.

But really this is a huge opportunity for the Church to step up, not just individual congregations but rather as a whole body. In the coming weeks we have the privilege of serving like we have never before, bringing hope into our communities and the love of Christ to those who are in need of a little extra. It all starts with making a network.

So what are we doing here at CCC for the youth and young adult ministries now that we can’t meet? Well, now is the time for us to learn how to do so online, creatively using social media and the internet to meet and engage with people.

In our youth ministry we will be posting regularly on Instagram and Facebook, we even began a Discord (a chatting service intended for video gamers) and a Minecraft server for our youth to be able to engage with each other and with us.

In our young adult ministry we are tossing around the idea of doing things like online watch parties where multiple small groups get together online and watch a movie.

As a community we are learning new methods of creating fellowship with one another, so we can more effectively begin to bring the Gospel to those who so desperately need it more than ever.

So what can you do to encourage youth in this time of isolation and fear? If they aren’t able to hang out with friends or go anywhere, encourage them to play games with their friends online. While it might not completely make up for hanging out in person, it certainly beats staying at home unable to do anything with others. Encourage them to talk with their youth leaders, we are all here to uplift them and to help ease the unease surrounding the current situation.

There is no better opportunity than now to spend some quality time with your kids and teens, even with the outside world seeming to be so bleak.

In keeping up with our current series on the relevance of what scripture has to say, we could not have asked for a better time to apply those teachings and become a relevant Church. Mordecai encourages Esther with the following:

“If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, […] And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV).

Right now we as the Church can not remain silent and stop speaking God’s truth into the world around us, we are here for such a time as this and that means God has a plan to use us in a mighty way. Engaging your community on social media whether it’s Facebook, or Instagram is a great way to begin. If you are comfortable, praying in small groups and grocery store runs for those who are stuck at home is a huge blessing.

This will be known as the time where the Church went from a building to the people of God in the eyes of our city and nation.

Author

Josiah Olmos
Ardent Youth Director