Summer: Up’s and down’s and everything else

This past summer was one of the hardest summers I have had in a long time. There were definitely some great times. I had the chance to go to one of my favourite places in Manitoba, I got to see two of my favourite people on this earth grow closer to God and each other, and I got to celebrate my older brother getting married! Along with those happy memories I have also struggled with myself, I have been excessively lazy, ignored what God was willing to teach me, and persistently unhappy with where I am in life. Instead of turning to God in these instances I turned to material things, finding my value in the stuff I buy and the stuff I have.

Matheson Island is one of the most amazing places in Manitoba, each year for the past 4 years I have had the opportunity to spend a week in August ministering to the children of the Island. I have loved every minute that I have spent there and this year was no different. We went as a team of people that had all been there before (except for our amazing cook Shirley) so we had already established team relationships. This made working together a lot smoother, we were able to spend time building relationships instead of starting them, we were able to connect with the children right away, and we were willing to be vulnerable. God blessed our team and I believe He blessed the people of Matheson Island through us.

Sam and Mikaela are two amazing people and I love every minute I get to spend third wheeling. Sam is my younger brother and in some ways I am more mature than him, but I have been learning a lot from him this summer. He might not know this but he has been showing me how a truly God centered relationship should work. He has also been showing me that I must depend on God when times are tough and that I need to listen to and trust God’s guidance. Mikaela has been showing me a lot too. Just today she spoke at her church in Morden and she reaffirmed for me what I have been struggling with. That God answers prayers. These past few years as a junior youth leader I have been trying to make prayer an important part of my interaction with my junior youth. This past summer though my prayer life has slipped, only recently (these past few weeks) have I been back to actively praying. Mikaela spoke this morning about her summer at camp and how she prayed that God would put her through trials this year at camp, and God answered! You can read more about it at her website: the heart of an adventurer. These two are such a blessing in my life, and I am so thankful for them.

God also blessed our family this summer with the addition of a new sister-in-law! Derek and Kendel got married on September 19, 2015 and it was a great day. Me and my older brother Derek have never gotten along like me and Sam do, but he has taught me many things over the years we lived under the same roof, not all of them good, but he taught me none the less! I am so thankful to have my family and so excited when we get new additions!

Along with the excitement of this summer there was also some hard stuff. This summer I took a break from my courses that I have been takingĀ and did the bare minimum in my relationship with Jesus (read the Bible seldomĀ and prayed very little). It created this laziness in me that I have never experienced before. Each time I took on a new task I would put it off until the last minute. This is not the way I want my life to be! I want more, and that is exactly what I have been praying for, and I know that God will answer it, because He is bigger than my laziness and He is in control.

God has put many situations in front of me this summer, from letting go of control to listening to my parents advise. I would love to say that I took these trials and applied “WWJD”, but in most cases I didn’t. I didn’t trust that God would have my back and that He would put the right people in charge when I needed to let go of control, or that my parents had wisdom enough to be teaching me things. Each time though I learned that I was wrong and that God did have my back and that my parents did know what they were talking about.

These two things: laziness and not listening to God have brought me to a place where I do not want to be. I want to live for God I want to pursue him and use the love He has for me to bless others. So for this past week I have been asking God to lead me where He wants me, in life, in my relationship with Him, in my job, relationship with co-workers, relationship with friends, and every other part of my life. I know that God will answer my prayer and I know that it is not going to be easy, but I am putting my trust in Him.

Isaiah 40:31 says “but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.

My prayer today is that God will take control and lead me where I need to be, I want to play the role He has planned for me. I am scared for what this will hold in the future, but I know that I can trust God and that He will have my back.

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Mel, Walter, Jolee, and Kenna: Their story

My Earliest memory of the Friesen family is from the couple of times I went to Winkler Bible Camp. I only met Walter (according to my memory) and all I remember was that he was hilarious! Since that time they have added family members (Jolee and Kenna) and have continued to encourage and inspire me in my walk with God.

Over the past 4 years I have had the amazing opportunity to get to know their family, and they have become like family to me. We joined the Jr. Youth program at Grace Mennonite Church in the same year, and have been working together to inspire youth ever since. Some of my favourite things about this family is that they are honest, loving, crafty, handy and all around awesome people.

Earlier this month I asked Mel and Walter if I could do a blog post about them and they agreed! I created some questions to ask them, and my goal with these questions were to challenge them to think, but also to use the answers to help teach, encourage and inspire the people who read them. See the “interview” below:

Me: What is one word that describes your family?
Family: Crazy, Artistic, Creative, Loving, Special. We couldn’t narrow it down to one.

Me: What is something crazy/funny that has happened to your family?
Family: Trying to have a sleepover in a snow fort in the coldest part of winter, with a windchill between -45 and -50. Mel didn’t try, she just prayed hard. The girls and Walter lasted an hour or two.

The next set of questions are directed towards Mel and Walter.

Me: What was the best and the hardest part of being newlyweds?
Mel: That was 14 years ago so it’s so hard to remember what being a newlywed felt like… I think the best part of being newlyweds was starting our own unit, our own home, meshing our similarities and differences into our home. The hardest part of being a newlywed is we each brought our own baggage/background to the home and had different thoughts on what marriage was, or completely different expectations and selfish motives on what we would “get” out of it.
Walter: The adventure and excitement of a new life together!

Me: What was the best and the hardest part of being new parents:
Mel: The best part of being new parents happened for us 11 years ago. Jolee brought a whole new dynamic to our lives – a family instead of a couple. We were completely scared and excited that we were parents – in charge of this tiny human!! The responsibility made us mature and think beyond ourselves, so that was awesome. The hardest part was feeling so inadequate and finding that others around us place so much pressure in parenting to their expectations and standards. We need to find our own path in the chaos of being new at the whole parenting thing.
Walter: The best part was having a beautiful little baby that you could snuggle with and the excitement of being a family, not just a couple. The hardest part was the scariness of the small life you hold in your hands and the weight of responsibility of bringing up a child.

Me: What was the best and hardest part of the girls starting school?
Mel: Each girl was different. So here goes: THe best part of sending Jolee off to school in Kindergarten was seeing her socialize with other kids her age. We had lived a somewhat sheltered life before that as we were at camp and didn’t join in on the usual parent/child things like soccer/baseball/dance/gymnastics. So seeing her interact with kids was great. The hardest part? Letting go. Walking away from the school, we were both feeling pretty close to tears. Our little girl was growing up! It was hard to trust people other than us to take care of her needs. With Kenna, it was completely different. She is a social bug. She loves doing interactive stuff, she craves it. So the best part of sending her off to school was seeing her become a leader in her class, someone who thrived in the environment and excelled. The hardest part of sending her was it was our last child, the house was empty. No crazy Kenna schemes for a few hours each day.
Walter: The best part would be the girls’ excitement for learning, and the prospect of Mel having a little less stress in her life. The hardest part was trusting others with our precious children, where there’s lots of opportunity to make life difficult for our kids (from teachers/students). teachers may be influencing our kids in areas we don’t want them to be influenced.

Extra note from Mel: When Walter mentioned the stress in my life, I had completely forgotten how stressed out I was with two young and ver different daughters in the house at the same time. They fought a lot back then. I was definitely pulling hairs out, and found myself angry a lot in their earlier years. I’m So glad that God has chiseled some of that away.

Me: What would be one piece of advice you would give a couple about to be married?
Mel: Marriage right now for you is a destination. It’s what you want, crave, and think will be so much easier than dating, but it’s not a destination – it’s a journey. It isn’t temporary, it’s not always awesome (hate to break it to you). Some days you will feel like throwing in the towel, but don’t ever let yourself think it’s even possible. The days that are rough – when they come – will make you a stronger couple if you stand together in the thick of it. When the days of joy come, it will be even sweeter. Love each other through it all.
Walter: Jesus first. When you are first married, it’s easy to be less selfish, but it won’t take long before selfishness wants to creep in. Give selfishness the boot.

Me: What would be one piece of advice you would give a couple soon to be parents?
Mel: Parenting can seem scary. The responsibility towards a little baby to keep them healthy… it can rock your world when you finally hold him/her. First off, enjoy the moments you have now as you wait for your baby to arrive. Sweet moments together as a couple, planning, dreaming, and waiting. When baby arrives, know that things will change and you may be tired in all of the transition, but it’s worth it. Take time for each other as well in the chaos of parenting. Your child will crave seeing his/her parents love each other.
Walter: Don’t be afraid. It’s not as scary as it seems. Pray lots.

Me: Are there a couple of verses that have pulled you through hard times?
Mel: It’s weird to think back on what verses have impacted us in hard times. I can’t remember some of them, but in the moment when we need clarity for a decision or just encouragement to keep going, God has a way of bringing the right verse to mind. Right now with all that has transpired over the last few months (Jolee’s lyme disease and subsequent medical issues), James 1:2-6 has been playing in my head. Pure joy never made sense to me until we went through this trial. Also, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 has been a favourite of mine for several years, reminding me to keep on, know that all that is happening is temporary.
Walter: Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Corinthians 9:24, and Ephesians 4:29.

Me: What is one way you can currently see God moving in your family?
Mel: Right now? I see God changing us, making us more joyful and present in the moment. More compassionate towards those hurting or needing help.
Walter: He’s building our trust in Him, and teaching us to dig deeper in a relationship with Him. Giving us the opportunity for hospitality towards others, and being faithful where He has put us.

The next set of questions are for Jolee and Kenna.

Me: What is one thing you appreciate about each of your family members?
Kenna: I like that Daddy is good at biking, I like that Mommy is good at washing dishes, I like that Jolee draws good.Jolee: I like that Daddy fixes computers, I like that Mommy is crafty, I like that Kenna is funny.

Me: What is one of your favourite things to do with your parents?
Kenna: Go on tripsJolee: I like to walk or ride bike to school with Mommy.

Me: What is your favourite Bible verse?
Kenna: John 3:16
Jolee: 1 Corinthians 13:13

Me: What would you tell someone who is nervous about starting school?
Kenna: You’ll get better at it when you practice it more.Jolee: I’d tell them that they will get used to it and they will have lots of fun.

I love this family and their story. They are always willing to be open with me and have so much more wisdom than can be shared in a blog post. Please take a little time to pray encouraging things for them.

I hope and pray that these answers help someone who is going through a difficult or a new journey in life. As an added bonus, Alyson and Tim Neufeld will be next months focus family!

Jordan Lee Froese