January 30, 2014

Decisions

“I want to move back.”

We were on the plane from Atlanta to Guatemala City after Christmas vacation. My heart was breaking as all I could think about was that our families would not see Jocelyn for another five months. Forever in baby time.

I knew it was still too early to make our decision. I was too emotional; to do so then would have been hasty. Collin kept saying he trusted God to speak through someone, or he would just get a feeling about what we should do. But I figured me bursting out on the plane probably wasn't the sign he was looking for.

We have been talking through the entire month of January about what to do. We have gone back and forth, weighing our options of staying one more year here or moving back to the US. 

Wow, there are so many emotions that go into a decision like this.

We realized that we would feel guilty if we left Guatemala. We would feel guilty about leaving jobs in a high turnover year, leaving friends we really love, leaving students we have built relationships with, leaving two year visas with one year left on them. Would it be fair to move back now after all Guatemala and IAS has given to us? Have we really given that much back?

No matter what we chose to do, we would probably feel guilty. Our friends here told us they were praying to the Guatemalan God, (“in Spanish so He could understand, of course.”) And I am pretty sure there were a few grandmas (both ours and Jocelyn’s) praying we would decide to move back to the US. (Those prayers were in English I think.)

I personally struggled with not letting circumstances make our decision. I will admit that this year has been different for me, being a stay-at-home-mom in a different culture. I feel a little more isolated, not being at work every day with our friends. Things about living here start to wear on me now more than before, (but my attitude is probably due to a lack of sleep, not something I can blame Guatemala for.) I didn't want to make our decision based on "easier" circumstances. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we should expect life to be easy.

I mentioned before that I believe God leads and speaks through the desires of our hearts. No, I do not believe we get every little thing we want in life. (I have always wanted to be three inches shorter and have cuter toes, but I know that’s never going to happen.) But if we are praying for our desires of “what” and “where” to be aligned with God’s will, I thinks it’s okay to follow where those desires lead.

And underneath all of the different emotions, reasoning, and pros and cons, we simply desire to move back.

How we told our families. Needless to say they were ecstatic.


And we are excited. New beginnings are exciting, and all the talk and planning and dreaming is really fun, a great bonding experience as a couple.

But we are also deeply saddened. I have no way to describe it except to say that my heart feels really heavy right now. Even as I write this I feel a deep pit of grief in my stomach. As we tell our friends here, my heart breaks just as much as when we had to say goodbye to family at Christmas. I am realizing now that it would never be easy to say goodbye, not even if we did stay one more year. (Chris Brown, "Never the Right Time to Say Goodbye" is currently playing in my head.) We are leaving the place we started our marriage and family, we are leaving friends, jobs, and an indescribably beautiful country. I know it’s just one ramification of our decision. Saying hello to something new also means we have to say goodbye to something else. And that “something else” has become very dear to our hearts. 

And again we are humbled. We would not be completely honest with you if we didn't mention the mini shot to our pride this is for us. When we first moved we didn't know how long we would be here. Would it be one year, five years, ten? Would we be “lifers?” And we aren't. Three years might seem like a long time to live in a different country for some, but believe me, it is not long at all.

And I would not be completely honest with you if I didn't tell you that before moving here I thought I could tough it out away from family. I thought Christmases and summers would be enough. But as much as I hate to admit it, having Jocelyn does change that for me. 

Finally, we are a tiny bit nervous, as this decision requires a leap of faith. For some reason, one that I am unable to explain, (nor will I try,) both Collin and I have Chicago on our brains. That is all I can really say, because that is all I really know right now. I am assuming the Lord will reveal more to us when necessary. But our leap of faith involves moving to this city not really knowing why (or how,) and beginning the process of job and home hunting, cell phone and insurance buying, blah, blah, blah, “first-world-problems.” :)


But we wanted to let you know our final decision. And we wanted to explain ourselves so that you can hopefully understand the complexity of this decision.

Thank you to those who have been praying for us through this month. Please keep praying. And thank you to our friends here who responded with the oh-so-sweet words "I understand." 

Now, I will say that it was definitely revealed through this process how Collin and I make decisions differently from each other. I am an “I see it, I like it, I choose it” kind of person. (Kind of like how after three months I knew I wanted to marry Collin.) Collin is more of an “I research, I weigh the options, I take my time” kind of person. (Don’t worry, he was right there with me at the altar two years later.) But I am thankful again for a teammate to balance me out and to work together with in this process.

The night we got back to our apartment after Christmas vacation, I finally asked Collin what he was thinking about moving back or staying. I was extra curious after bursting out my wishes to him on the plane to Guatemala.

He looked at me with a straight face and said, “If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through you too.”


Grace and Peace,
Kendra

ps. I was too shocked into laughter to have time to be offended by the above comment.
pss. See Numbers 22:21-39

January 24, 2014

The Team, The Team, The Team

“The Team. The Team. The Team.”

That is what my dad said over and over when we were growing up. Him and my mom were “The Team.”

“The Team” could not be infiltrated, not even by our naughty children conniving. They worked together on everything. They never made decisions without the other, or at least never overruled a decision that the other had already made. (Although I do remember my mom at supper telling my younger sister “If you don’t eat, you don’t get treats!”, and my dad sneaking quite a few bites to help her finish.)

But I also remember my sister in high school asking permission for weekend plans. My mom would always say she had to discuss it with dad first. (And if my sister didn’t like that my mom would simply reply, “If you need to know now, then the answer is no.”)

“The Team.” It made us roll our eyes at times. It’s much easier to get your way as a kid when there is a “good cop” and a “bad cop” parent.

As we got older, I saw my parents working as a team in new ways. Every Thursday became date night. (A sacred event not to be touched by any other plans.) My dad started coming home a little earlier from work, (although is 4:30 in the afternoon really that early if you arrive to work at 5 in the morning?), as well as helping with chores around the house: doing dishes, vacuuming, making everyone chocolate malts for dessert before bed.

For my parents, it wasn't about “let's split the work 50/50.” It was about working together. It was about teamwork in accomplishing their goals, keeping up their home, and living their lives. And I love the example they set for us in marriage growing up.

Because I have a teammate now too.

And sometimes, I struggle to work as a team. Sometimes I am not a team player. Sometimes I resist my teammate’s help.

Before we got married I secretly wanted (and still want) to be that super wife from the 1950’s. You know, the one who makes elaborate meals, juggles the baby, and vacuums the carpet in heels and pearls?  These days it’s my goal to be showered and out of my sweatpants by noon, or at least before Collin gets home. (Although, I know I married the right guy when he tells me I look good in sweatpants and a hoodie.)


But sometimes I try to do too much on my own, to be too independent for this team sport called “marriage.” I wonder why I can’t seem to get the house clean, get my work done, and take care of a 5 month old. (And I get slightly jealous of the other moms out there with 2+ kids who seem to get everything done!)

Or worse, sometimes when I do ask for help I have a list of regulations of how things ought to be done.


But here I have this teammate who is willing to help, who constantly offers to help. A husband who even after long days at work comes through the door and picks Jocelyn up right away, gives her baths, rocks her to sleep at night, even offers to get her in the middle of the night. That’s quality.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.


So for me, sometimes I need to have a slice of humble pie and accept the fact that I could use the help I have been offered. I need to realize that maybe there is an easy solution for me feeling stressed and exhausted at the end of many days. Because admitting that I need help is not weakness, but a sign of strength, a sign of simple self-awareness. (And most teams don’t function well with only one player doing all the work anyways.)

And other times I need to be that teammate who accepts help and doesn't try to regulate every step of the task being completed. I need to show a little faith and trust.

I want to be a good teammate. I want to be a helper. And I want to be humble enough to be helped. I hope and pray our marriage will be a model of teamwork to our children, just as my parent’s marriage was (and still is) to me. As my sister taught her kids to say, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”


Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

January 21, 2014

How to Do Parenting the "Right" Way

We have tried everything.

Cry it out. Pick her up and put her back down again. Nurse her to sleep. Rock her to sleep. But she is a fighter, a stubborn child, that one.

At different points in the past five months of Jocelyn’s life, Dr. Ferber, Tracy Hogg, and Dr. Sears would have moments of pure pride and joy in our tactics for taking care of her, especially in the “go-to-sleep department.” (And I'm sure they would equally have moments of shaking their heads at us.)

Trying the rice cereal thing. Surely that will help her sleep through the night.


While I was pregnant I read way too many books on parenting styles, sleep training, and baby development. Since my time (and interest) for parenting books has greatly diminished, I have jumped on the faster track of searching Google, mommy forums, and my fellow sister/friend moms to answer my growing number of questions about how to do parenting “right.”

And what I have found is this: Every parent has different opinions, (some obnoxiously strong opinions,) about the best way to raise children, about how to do parenting the “right” way.

These opinions cover a very wide range of topics, starting with pregnancy, slipping through childbirth, and weaving through parenting. All natural or epidural? Bottle or breast? Parent or baby-led schedule? No schedule at all? Self-soothing or baby wearing? Vaccines or not? Spanking or spanking-equals-abuse-and-I-will-call-CPS?

And I have reached the point of information overload. (So please, do not take this as an opportunity to offer any unsolicited parenting advice.)

Look what Jocelyn can do! (Sit up on her own!)

But in all of my research, and in all of our experimenting with Jocelyn (poor guinea pig child), there are a few things about parenting I have come to learn and wonder about. (Like why she couldn't have just come with a step-by-step manual.)

1.) I am selfish. So much for marriage highlighting my “I am number one” attitude. Parenting puts marriage to shame in the “let-us-learn-to-put-others-first” class of life. Before I thought I was being selfless if I took time to make a good dinner for Collin or let him choose the movie. Now it’s all “I’m going to change your diaper for the forty-third time today,” and “if I don’t get up at 3 am every morning to feed you, you will surely starve,” and “of course I will pick that toy up off the floor for you AGAIN, even though I KNOW you thoroughly enjoy throwing it on the ground while you look me in the eye.”

2.) I need to give up some horribly preconceived notions of parenting. Newsflash to me: not all babies are the “angel” kind that you can just lay in the crib and fall asleep on their own for twelve hours straight by the time they turn one month. There are a lot of different baby personalities out there. I would describe ours as slightly “spirited.” You know, the kind who likes to scream when she is upset, likes to be held, and likes to be bounced or rocked to sleep.

3.) Seriously, I am REALLY selfish. Sometimes I wonder if all of my research, all my trial-and-error methods, all of our troubleshooting parenting is simply me not being accepting of this new phase of life we are in. Most of the time I am just trying to make something easier on myself. But just because something is “easier” for me, does that make it best for Jocelyn? (Wise words from Collin.) Every couple of weeks, Collin would come home to me saying “let’s try this to get her to go to sleep!” Or “let’s do this so she will sleep through the night!”

Or maybe let’s just start to accept that it might be a few more months before we sleep through the night, and it might be awhile before Jocelyn can fall asleep without us rocking her, and it might be a couple twenty years before we can do everything we want whenever we want. And let’s just agree that the baby might have a meltdown if she doesn’t get at least one solid nap during the day, and there might be a few afternoons where she just needs a good cry. (Which I can totally relate to.)

4.) Every parent LOVES to share how they do things the “right” way. And I am completely guilty of this too. I could just kick myself when I start sharing all of my pregnancy, delivery, and rookie parenting experiences and advice with my pregnant and mommy friends. Because of course, all of their experiences will be JUST like my own. And all of their children will be JUST like mine. So naturally they are going to want to know exactly how I do parenting the “right” way.

(I know, there are times when fellow mommies and daddies do ask for advice or opinions, and that is a perfectly acceptable time to share what works best for you and your family. Just make sure to add an asterisk after your educated statement explaining that not all pregnancies, deliveries, and babies are the same.)

Let me prove my point by blabbering on for a minute about my parenting opinions and how I am an in All-Natural Delivery, Breast is Best (even though there are days I hate it), Flexible Routine (not a time schedule), Baby-Wearing, Only Get Required Vaccines, Eating Dirt is Healthier in the Long Run than Washing it Off, Spanking-is-totally-Biblical kind of mom.

But that does not mean that the Epidural, Full-Throttle-Bottle, Strict Time Schedule, Stroller Only, Ya-Drug-‘Em-Ya-Love-‘Em, Antibacterial Soap Addict, Don’t-You-Dare-Touch-My-Child kind of mom isn’t raising great kids too.

5.) No matter what we do, they’ll probably turn out just fine. (More wise words from Collin. Where would I be without that guy? Always the voice of reason.) Now, we realize that there is a little “nature vs. nurture” involved here. Some kids are horribly nurtured and naturally turn out great. Others are nurtured well and are naturally plain awful. Sometimes the best-intentioned parents who consistently discipline and raise their children in the faith still end up with a child who decides to depart from the way he should go.

But for many, the parents who do their best, who mean well, who are consistent in their methods and discipline, and keep Christ as their guide have a good shot at raising great kids.

Oh my, that sweet face.

6.) It’s time to trust my instincts. While I do think Dr. Ferber, Tracy Hogg, and Dr. Sears all have great ideas that make sense in different situations, there are also times when they need to be thrown out of the nursery (or the family bed if you’re into that sort of thing.) I'm a mom, so I know I have at least a little bit of motherly intuition.

7.) Yikes, this parenting thing is difficult and complicated.

8.) We’ll make sure to do it right when the second kid comes around. Haha. :)

So, I lied. I don't have all the answers in how to do parenting the "right" way. And neither do you, which makes us both equally fantastic parents as we do our best and say a couple hundred prayers each day that they'll turn out just fine. 

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

January 13, 2014

I’m Not Old, But I’m Not Young Either

I turned 25 today.


I remember when 25 seemed old. I remember when a lot of ages seemed old actually.


This means that probably some people (approximately ages 0-18), look at me and think that I am old. It was never hard to convince first graders that I was 103. In their eyes I have a husband, a baby, a job, an apartment, and probably no fun at all. That makes me old, right?


And probably others (approximately ages anything-older-than-25) think that I am still young. I am just a spring chicken, full of life and years to come. In their heads they’re yelling at me “enjoy every second!” and “it goes by way too fast!”


Before, all I wanted to do was be old enough to drive a car, then go to college, then have a cocktail, then get married, then have a baby, and then...what?


What am I supposed to do now that I'm 25? 

Am I supposed to look forward to something else? My insurance going down on the car I don’t own? Renting a car? Having more kids? Those kids all graduating so I can finally sleep? My first mammogram? Going through menopause? Adult diapers?!


Instead of looking forward, should I start trying to reverse time? Chase my youth? Put Botox, plastic surgery, and tanning minutes on my Christmas list every year?


No. No, no, no.

Because I am not old. And I am not young either.

I am not young, because being "young" implies that I have a lot of years left to live, plenty of time on my hands. But actually, I have no idea how much time I have left on this earth. A few hours? A couple of months? 50 years? Even for those that do have fifty plus years left, is that really a long time? Scripture uses words like “breath,” “dust,” “shadow,” “mist,” and “vapor” to describe the brevity of our lives.

For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.

The overused cliches are true: Life is short. Time does fly. And we never actually know how much time is left on the clock.


But I know I’m not old either.

Sometimes I think people associate "old" with "I'm done." Or "it's time to retire." Or "this ridiculously good looking body can't do what it used to." But if I’m alive, no matter how old I am, that means I am still being used by God in some way, still taking part in God's will being done on this earth. That means I am being sanctified each and every day through the Holy Spirit. It’s not time to give up or throw in the towel. It’s not time to retire or tell myself I have worked long enough, that I have done a “good enough” job so I can relax now.

Yes, bodies can put on many years. They can get tired and frail, and sickness can overcome them. Yes, people go through different stages in life and carry different responsibilities. But that doesn't change the fact that there is work to be done, and God would like us to take part in it. Whether it is a beloved family member lying on their death bed, or a little three year old making a snowman out in the yard, we all have a purpose as long as we are alive on this earth.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.


No, we don't have forever; we don't have all the time in the world. And no, it's never time to retire. There will always be work to do, and we are the ones God has asked to complete it. 

The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

So Happy Birthday to me. And Happy Birthday to my birthday twin brother Kyle, whose life I forever ruined on his third birthday because he didn't get to go to Chuck E. Cheese that day, and to my family friend Kelly, whom I vividly remember sharing a hospital room with.

And may we all stop hyperventilating as more birthdays come around and simply keep at it.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

January 10, 2014

Becoming a Loser

I like to win.

It might be a sporting competition, a card game, or a new recipe in the kitchen. But I like to win. Elementary teacher or not, I believe there are times when the phrase “everybody’s a winner” does not apply to life. Forget the red participation ribbon. I want the blue first place ribbon.

Sometimes it feels great to be good at something, like scoring the most points or making a wickedly good chip dip. And sometimes it feels great to work really hard and get a trophy after the game, or at least a “You’re Awesome!” sticker for your shirt.

(Jocelyn likes to win too, which is why her daddy is teaching her to be a little Duke fan. Thank you, Nikki for the adorable hat and mittens!)
  
But the fact that I like to win is not the point of this discussion. The point is this: Jesus asks me to be more than a winner.

Jesus asks me to be a loser.

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?


“Lose my life.” Such a loaded phrase.

Whether you like to win or not, I have a feeling that at times you might have difficulty losing what you consider your “life” too.

My "life" means my free time, my money, my plans for the future, my need for approval, my desire to be in control, my ideas and philosophies, my pride, my fears, my comforts – both foreign and domestic, my family, my social life, my job, my retirement, my hobbies, my Type A and OCD behaviors, my desire to win, my…my…my…my…

But if I hang onto these things, what am I really winning?

The things I try to hang onto are so temporary, things that “moth and rust” will surely destroy; silly treasures on earth.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish; that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.

Loss. Rubbish.


And what’s more, Christ became a loser for me.

That’s right, Jesus Christ, the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator of the universe; the one who knows all the hairs on my head and the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore; the God who needs no government or army for His will to be done; the King of kings and Lord of lords; the God who is never tired nor weak nor busy; the Alpha and the Omega…gave it all up, so that he could come and rescue the losers, to save those humble enough to admit that they need him. He came to earth to save you and me.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and become obedient to death – even death on a cross!

Besides, what I’m losing is nothing compared to what I’m winning.

Therefore, I learn to become a “loser.”

I stop pretending that I have it all together just because I work hard and plan ahead. I stop pretending that I am “a winner.”

I learn the humility, sometimes painfully, of being a minority in a foreign country, because that is where God led us to at this time in our lives. I reconsider buying that Big Mac I crave, because somewhere out there in Asia, a missionary reaching the unreached might actually need the money a little more. I do my imperfect best to change dirty diapers, read baby board books, wipe drool, and slowly teach and pray she will choose Jesus too, because that is my daily cross. I wonder, dream, and think about my future, all while being reminded that I am not in control of it. I learn to pray “Thy will be done,” no matter what the cost.


And in all of this, I learn a different kind of winning: the kind where my loss is also my gain; the kind where my life focus isn’t on my own self-fulfillment, but on my orders from Matthew 28. Where my life is a love lived out not in just words, but with actions and in truth.

Because Jesus didn’t come to earth to save the winners.

The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

January 6, 2014

New Year's Resolution: Trust in Christ

It’s a new day, a new semester, and a new year.

We are all home from vacations (check out a few candid shots below), our houses are cleaned of Christmas decorations, and it is officially day six of whatever New Year’s resolutions we will probably fail to keep past March.

(Jocelyn wondering why she can't just sit on mommy's lap like in Guatemala.)

I have never been a big resolutions maker. I figure if I set the bar low, or not at all, I won’t be disappointed with my failure to keep those promises. But my favorite author David Platt wrote a message on making resolutions, and I like his twist on them:

“To all of us who are in Christ, let us live our lives this year in the overflow of our faith in God. This is so key when we think about resolutions on New Year’s Day. If we are not careful in the way we approach them, resolutions, even the best resolutions, can only drive us into deeper dependence on ourselves. They become what we are going to try to do harder this year, or how we are going to change ourselves.

But remember that the essence of following Christ, what was initially displayed in your baptism was a renouncing of yourself, a death to yourself. It was a death to your every effort to improve yourself, to obey God in your own strength, in your own power, in your own resolve. Don’t do that.

(Four generations of Groenendyks.)

Instead, trust in Christ. Trust in Christ more this year, and ask him to do these things in you. Whether it is in your marriage, or in your relationship with others, or in your time in the Word, ask Him to produce faith in you, ask Him to bring that kind of fruit about in your life. Only He can do it.

We want this year not to be about things that we can do; things that we can manufacture in our own faith or in our own strength. Instead, we want lives that are clearly compelled, and impelled, by the very Spirit of God in us, doing immeasurably more than all we can even begin to ask or imagine. We want him to do things in and through us that we could never do on our own.

New Years is not about self-improvement or self-help. That would miss the entire point of Christianity. We have died to ourselves, and Christ lives in us. We want His life to flow through us.”

(Four generations of Broekhuis'.)

The first time I heard this message was exactly one year ago, when we were announcing to everyone that I was pregnant. It was a timely message for us, as we were both terrified about what our future of parenthood would bring. We both needed to take a deep breath and trust what God had in store for us, which was our precious daughter Jocelyn.

(Finally meeting Uncle James and Aunt Kristin.)

(And meeting Aunt Kayla for the first time too.)

And now, one year later, we have new challenges to face, new opportunities to learn to trust. Our contract with IAS is going to end in May, and we need to decide if we are going to stay one more school year or move back to the US in June. Right now we have no idea, with a less-than-two-months deadline to make our decision.

(Having a good time with Great Grandma Broekhuis' wig.)

(And knocking down pins at the bowling alley. A Broekhuis tradition.)

But all we have to do is trust. Trust not in ourselves or what we can do, but trust what God is already doing. He has always provided for us and guided us before, why wouldn't He do the same now?

(The whole Broekhuis clan.)

(Great Grandma and Grandpa Broekhuis.)

(The Dan and Karen Broekhuis clan.)

So maybe like us, you need to trust God in making decisions, big or small. In a conversation at church last week a woman said to us, “I believe God works through the desires of our hearts. He shows us exactly what he wants us to do through his Spirit inside of us, and gives us desires for where he would like us to go and what he would like us to do.” And if we are constantly praying for wisdom, I believe it’s right to follow those God-given desires. I had a desire to go to Dordt College, a desire to teach, a desire to marry Collin, a desire to move to Guatemala. In each of those decisions I prayed for wisdom and God answered with a desire.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

(The Potgeter Family.)

(Cousin...and friend...Jude.)

Or maybe like me, you need to trust God to be content, maybe with what you have or where you are in life right now. When I come back to Guatemala after a long vacation of staying in other people’s houses of plush carpet, where I don’t have to cook or clean, and I get to use fantastically crafted showers, I get really spoiled really fast. But instead of having a “woe is me” attitude, I can rest assured that we are in Guatemala, in our cute apartment, at this very time for a reason.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 

(Jocelyn cheering for daddy.)

Or maybe like everyone you need to trust God through the things in life that just don’t make sense, but will someday be made perfectly clear to you. We all need to have faith during seasons of life where we want to know “why,” but don’t yet know; we need to have faith through all of life’s trials and growing pains.

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

(Jocelyn's Baptism.)

("This promise is for you and your children.")

Whatever it is, I hope you will give yourself a break this year, and simply trust in Christ. Trust that He will lead you and provide for you just as He always has.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra