Merry Christmas from the Griffins!
*There is a Christmas surprise at the end if you don't fall asleep reading this post* ;)
Last July we arrived in SoCal with the help of Stephen's parents. Bruce drove cross-country with Stephen and Linda graciously flew with me, our 6 month old, and our 2.5 yr old! We got to stay with them at a resort across from the Pacific Ocean for 2 weeks. It was so nice getting to visit with them, Uncle Karl, Aunt Dee, and see my family. Time was running out and we were getting down to the wire on needing a place to live before we were homeless! God opened the doors for us to purchase a home that was far beyond anything we expected and super close to the location where Stephen would be working. We knew that he would be working at the Air Station and one of the Chapels on base. We had no idea that the house we bought would literally be 5 mins from that Chapel. If you are not familiar with Camp Pendleton, it's ginormous! So to be able to live close to your job...is actually a miracle. :) It hard to believe this was all happening 18 months ago.
Honestly, I didn't think I was going to like being at the Chapel. My assumption of base Chapels had been that they were not very diverse, tired, and didn't have much to offer. I knew that we were going to be here for 3 years whether I liked it or not...so I determined to like it. :) Thank God, Marine Memorial Chapel had a group of motivated and loving people already committed to accepting Stephen as the new Lead Chaplain! Our predecessors, Chaplain and Mrs Hayes, had worked hard during their term before us to boldly love and give all they had to build up this sweet body of believers. They laid the ground work for us so well that we could easily fall into our new roles. Praise God for them and their faithfulness!
Stephen took on his new roles like a champ. He has been able to counsel hundreds of people between the Air Station and Chapel, preach a few times a month, teach Bible Studies and lead life groups, walk with people through their happiest moments in life, hold others up as they walk through valleys which feel like death, officiate for joyous weddings, and officiate for heart wrenching funerals, pray and honor God at ceremonies, work to build morale in the military communities, and so many other details that I could write out. Oh ya, then he comes home at the end of a day full of meetings and reports to wrestle with our two children, help around the house, and listen to my stories...all before getting out of his uniform. Stephen epitomizes a godly, hard working, loving, compassionate, bold, fearless, husband and father. I love me some of that man! ;) Plus he's real cute.
We have had such wonderful experiences this first year and a half. Last fall God laid it on our hearts to open our home (really it's God's home) to couples and their children who wanted to grow in their marriages through Bible study. We went through two married couples studies and then opened the group up to single or married individuals who are looking to go deeper in their relationship with God and other believers.
God also laid it on my heart at the beginning of this year to provide a place for female active duty marines/sailors and the spouses of male marines/sailors to meet and get real with God and one another as Sisters in Christ. Through these groups, God has surrounded us with such an encouraging group of men, women, and children! Being in the military, you don't always get to be near your immediate family, so connecting with our family in Christ has been such a privilege and joy! I feel like they would give anything for us as we would for them. Here are a couple secrets, 1) I am an introvert and don't like talking in front of people unless I have to...I'm not even sure if I like people. ;) Kidding! And 2)I was terrified to lead a group of women who I felt are strong leaders themselves. I knew that there were far more qualified people out there who could facilitate these treasured women. But the burning fire within me would not let up and so began this journey of humility and watching God do "great and wonderful things" that I could never expect. He is so good! Just as we read in the Bible, God still does ALL the work, we just get to "fall in" (as Stephen describes the word, "submit") and be used as His hands and feet to do the good works He designed for us long ago. This way only God gets the praise-as it should be. We really love these folks!
Another opportunity that I got to take on when we arrived here was Children's ministry at the Chapel. Mrs Hayes and another faithful lady had taken turns for the past 3-5 yrs teaching the Children's Church class each week. So I was happy to help and give them a break. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but over time, awesome people started volunteering, and God directed us to lifechurch.tv where we have been able to use free/high quality Sunday school curriculum! A huge answer to prayer this year has been the Freese family coming to help and taken on this ministry. God has totally blessed us with them! They are passionate about teaching kids about God, have so many ideas and talents, and have humble hearts. They planned and helped us execute the coolest Vacation Bible School that I have ever been to (that was my 1st one, BUT it was awesome! ;) Tierzah still talks about being an agent for God as the theme was "International Spy Academy- Agents of the One True God." They asked us to pray for 40 kids to come and hear the Word and on our first night we had over 90 kids! God is awesome and I love to watch Him show off. :)
Please continue to pray for the Marine Memorial Chapel and the Air Station when you think of us! We look at our time left here as though we only have 2 years to give 110% of ourselves to this incredible opportunity. We have grown a lot personally and in our faith which has only helped us to see how much we need to learn! :) God doesn't "need" us and we know that he could choose anyone to do this job, but it has been our honor to serve Him and our country for the past 5 years as a family in the Chaplain Corps.
So that is the good news, right? :) I would be lying if I didn't admit that a lot of times it has...sucked (can't think of a better word). Here is some of the ugly:
I absolutely LOVE being so close to my Mum now. She such an encouraging woman and I continue to learn from her. But I think she would agree that it is very difficult to live over 2,000 miles away from family. :( Thank God I have such ridiculously awesome friends here in CA, because they are my "home away from home" when I am really missing my dad, 7 sisters, 7 brothers, mother and father-in-love, and all our extended family closer to the east and abroad! I love you ALL and hate that you are so amazing because it makes living further away so much harder! ;) ...so I guess that means you suck too. Haha! Just kidding.
A moment that I would like to forget is when I nearly ran over not 1 but 2 Chaplains in my drive way! Lol It was definitely not on purpose, but there I was, sitting in my garage getting ready to go to the commissary on yet another busy weekend (we don't actually "rest" much on those). I was crying my eyes out to Stephen who was already late for a meeting. I usually share pictures of us smiling and having a good time but this is reality too:
I felt like I was the lowest I had been in years. This particular week we had been receiving a lot of opposition, negativity, and rejection in a situation that we were pouring our hearts and energy into. To make matters worse, I had also just found out I was having our 3rd miscarriage. Talk about feeling kicked while you are already down! I wanted to "quit"...I don't know what that even means, but I was so exhausted emotionally and physically. In April I had found out that I was pregnant:
Yay! So excited. I started progesterone and we didn't tell many people because I have miscarried twice before while in the first trimester. Even still, we were stoked and looking forward to another little blessing that would have been due on Dec 26th 2014. But God who is Sovereign had a different design for that baby and I'm sure he or she is dancing around heaven with brothers or sisters (and cousins)! That thought brings me joy...even though on the day that this picture of me was taken, joy seemed so far away from any emotion I could have. It hurt. Deeply. We were both in pain and too busy to even process it. Thank God again for sweet friends and family who held us up in prayer, brought a meal, watched our kids, and helped us in many other ways. Thank you guys! I just remember crying out to God in anger, in fury, in pain, in brokenness, in humility, and finally in a whisper just melting into His strength because I had none left. I prayed the Psalms because I couldn't have said it better myself. God is so just and good and spoke so personally to me through His Word. The Word brings comfort I cant even describe. It was the perfect ointment to heal my wounds. Also, Look at these adorable people God gave me to love every second of the day! Can I be more blessed?
Don't we always want to blame God when the world is ugly and bad things happen to "good" people. But who is really good? None of us, right? And this is not the world God designed in Genesis 1. His world was peaceful, pure, beautiful, whole, without corruption and death. The devil is the one who came to tempt Eve and Adam, it is because of man's disobedience to God that we are all sinners. The devil hates God's creation (Me and You!) and seeks to kill, steal, and destroy it. But Jesus Christ, the sweet baby we are singing about this Christmas, came as our redeemer and ransom (a ransom is money paid to release one from bondage!) He came to free us from that curse of being bound to sin so that we can be alive in Him. Think of The Gladiator and Braveheart, don't you get goose bumps during their last battles seeing how they were courageous, fearless, and willing to die for what they loved?! That's what Jesus did for the souls of ALL MANKIND. Jesus is not a fictional story, He lived a sinless life on earth to be the only Contender who could fight the greatest spiritual battle there ever was. He was crucified and God raised him from the dead. He now sits at the right hand of God pleading for US! He is "for us" and always has been. What an amazing love. I don't know how I got to writing about the Gospel but it is probably the only thing worth writing about anyway! :)
With that said, if you don't know Him or don't believe in Him but want to. Just try talking to God about it like you would to a friend. He says to come boldly before his throne where we can find grace. He already knows you, ask him for more faith to move closer to Him so that you can know Him more. You probably already know this verse, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him, will not perish but have everlasting life" -John 3:16 But find rest in this one too, "So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:31-39 MSG)
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas today and a sweet New Year! ...Oh Ya! ;) We are happy to announce to the world that we are officially 17 weeks pregnant with baby #3 (#6 counting the little lambs waiting for us in Heaven). Thanks, God! :) I felt like a vomiting, exhausted, zombie for the first 4 months lol but thankfully the 2nd trimester has arrived. God is so gracious and we are thankful for His blessings.
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