The first two days of our vacation was spent in Atlanta, Georgia visiting Jerome's sister. We enjoyed seeing our family so much. We didn't get to spend much time, but we did go to a local water park and that was a blast!
After that we drove to Nashville to get ready for our conference. We had one afternoon to do some walking and maybe shopping downtown. The kids were itching to spend some money. What they found on this "touristy" street of Nashville was a great spiritual analogy. Everything looked good and fun -- Even, I daresay, a bit foreign. Guitar players on the street -- bars with twinkly lights -- glitzy stores. As we walked their faces all got a bit longer. The guitar players on the street looked pretty tired and worn. The bars with the twinkly lights as we walked by were full of sad people and were not so twinkly as much as garish and dingy. The glitzy stores? Anything we might be interested in was way overpriced and many things were just flat out wrong. Wokelle stood in one store pointing at Yo-Yo's. "Mom, that's bad!" He said as he pointed at ying-yang symbols and more. The sales clerk stopped in mid-approach and decided we were probably not going to be a good commission. However, there was a haven. A really great ice-cream shop. As the kids faces were smiling again, we gently reminded them that this world has nothing for them and now they know it for sure!
Soon we were off to our much anticipated conference. All the children had classes to attend while Mom and Dad attended general sessions. Riane is older now and attended our session about half the time and student sessions part of the time. She also participated in choir. Mary attended Commit and choir Adela was a Pre-Excel student. Wokelle attended Children's Institute. Ricky and Braydon attended the Alert Cadet Challenge. I would encourage you to click the links for these programs if you have never heard of them. They are Godly ministries that often have much larger programs, but are presented in a shorter format at the regional conferences.
Our conference was a real spiritual mountaintop. We were in the fellowship of like-minded believers striving forward for the cause of Christ. There were many resources (books, DVDs, etc) for sale. This was a great opportunity for us as we would not have to pay for shipping. It has been 3 years since we have been able to attend a conference and Jerome and I were like starving men at the banquet table; we could not get enough. Every so often we would say, "We have bought enough, we will get more next time. It will take us all year to get through what we have." Only to walk by those tables again and find one more thing! What a blessing, we have so much to learn this year. We met many wonderful people and it was a joy to share with them. The end of the conference was a huge choir of young people singing "It Will Be Worth It All When We See Christ." So moving, when Dr. Gothard stood and said, "Now, that is worth giving my life for." Sowing seeds and equipping our young people for their lives -- indeed.
We drove right off that Spiritual Mountaintop into the Valley of Circumstances. We decided to join the National Bible Bee this year and the materials were arriving while we were gone. I spent so much time on Saturday preparing for church and unpacking that I didn't even open the boxes until Sunday Night at the family meeting. Right then, I could see that to do this right we needed a lot of organization . Even though it was late, I headed to Walmart for binders and 3x5 boxes. The first Walmart (a 20 minute drive), was power washing outside. I barely made it in the front door. The store looked fine, until I got to the office supplies section, which was corded off and they were running machines to strip the floors. I had to go to another Walmart (30 minute drive). By the time, I got home and put all 8 binders together it was 2:00am! I have never found the cord to our digital camera (that's why there's no pictures). Every one has some touch of cold -- runny nose, cough and Wokelle spiked a 102 fever. Today, one car has ended up in the shop and we still don't know the problem (it had to be towed there).
We are trying to remember all those glorious things that we were learning in our conference, about Anger (frustration and irritation are anger too), blessing our children, giving thanks in all things and being creative. God is faithful and has brought us many small miracles to smooth the way. We left a container on our porch so that the UPS man could put our Bible Bee materials in the container in case of rain. When we left Ohio it had rained nearly every day. We could see on our drive home that it had been dry while we were gone. However, a major storm was brewing. It was starting to let loose when we pulled in the driveway. Our Bible Bee boxes were too large for the container and had been left on our porch. Jerome pulled the boxes in the front door and the storm dumped. The entire front porch was wet in minutes. Amazing the timing! In that box were six beautiful new Bibles and all of our study materials and God held off just long enough ...
Many things like these keep reminding us that mountain or valley, we are not to focus on our circumstances but our God.
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.