It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The end of the year is a great time to reflect on the goodness of God. It’s hard to miss. All the kids are beyond excited. All of the colors change (I love the reds, greens and festive lights). We have our favorite holiday foods, drinks, movies and decorations. If we slow down, it can be magical. On top of all the Christmas festivities, Christmas timely falls before the the end of the year. This time of year is perfect for reflection and thanksgiving. As we all know, every year comes with its blessings and challenges, and we are meant to respond with praise towards God for all of it (Job 1:21). It’s fitting to take some time at the end of the year to give credit to God for what he has done. The benefit of publicly writing something like this is to usher in more worship as a we, together, “admonish one another… with thankfulness in our hearts” (Ephesians 3:16). So to all of you who are taking the time to read this (hi mom), let us all remember the reason for our collective breaths. Each exhale is “in his hands” (Daniel 5:23), and each one is a precious “gift from above” (James 1:17).
Six, Six and Under
The biggest highlight of the year is the birth of our sixth child, Judson Jonathan Van Sickle (named after Adoniram Judson and Jonathan Edwards). At the time of Judson’s birth, we had six kids six and under. Do we know that’s crazy (or at least not normal)? Yes. Do we know what we’re doing? No. Are we overwhelmed with thankfulness? Yes. Have we bitten off more than we can chew? Sorry, I shouldn’t talk with my mouth full.
Each member of the Van Sickle clan has something to report. Outside of being born, “Judd” (5 months) doesn’t have a lot of news, but he is on pace to be very spoiled. Knox (2) is fun, sharp and likes to “investigate” the home. No drink is safe with him in the room. Will (3) is kind, chill and likes to talk with his hands. He loves slaying orcs and goblins with his brother. He wants to be a hobbit when he grows up (mission accomplished). Jack (4) is currently going to a half-day preschool. He loves meeting new people and reporting about his new friends. We often say, “That kid is running for president.” Annabelle (5) is spunky, passionate and is basically a second mother to Judd. She is also learning to read so someday she can be embarrassed by my family updates. Grace (7) leads the pack with compassion and loyalty. She loves to draw and dance (A LOT). Both of the girls love to be a part of ballet and their home schooling Co-Op Classical Conversations.
Sasha and I are doing well. Sasha is tutoring for Classical Conversations, and she helped start a new CC location at Walnut Creek Windsor Heights this fall. Other than that, she is not very busy (wink, wink). Outside of the normal ministry (update below), I had the opportunity to finish my Masters of Theological Studies (online) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary this August. Two weeks after finishing my degree I started teaching New Testament at Grandview University here in Des Moines. How that teaching job came about is an awesome story (ask me sometime), and was the reason to hurry up and finish my schooling. Most of the students survived the semester.
This year we have also hosted Apple Lim in our home. She will be moving out this January and going back to Malaysia. She is also getting married in June. She technically isn’t a Van Sickle, but she has become a part of our family over this past year and a half. She will be missed (especially her extravagant Birthday cakes).
Bert & Ernie
In one of Hollywood’s greatest accomplishments, The Little Rascals, Stymie gives Alfalfa and Spanky a pep talk: “You’re a team like Bert and Ernie, Superman and Clark Kent!” That is the way I feel about Sasha (Never mind who is Alfalfa and who is Spanky in this analogy). We make a great team. We love doing ministry together. Outside the obvious tag-team effort of raising the six pack (nickname?), our main efforts focus on Campus Fellowship (CF). Every Monday night we host one of the Drake CF Bible Studies. Outside of being way too late (9PM!), we love it. We have also had the privilege of doing three couples premarital counseling this year. Kudos to Jake and Eileen Engen, Jordan and Lexi Anderson and Nick and Bailey Finney for their perseverance. Yes, they are all still married.
Campus Fellowship at Drake has had one of our best starts ever. Our young student leaders have stepped up to the plate, people are excited and inviting their friends, and we have a new crop of zealous freshman. Similar things can also be said about CF at Grandview and DMACC. Out staff team has been vibrant and encouraging (all Des Moines CFs work together as a part of one CF Des Moines team). Also, CF has expanded onto three other campuses this fall – Iowa State, University of Nebraska Lincoln and University of Nebraska Omaha. Currently I am serving as the CF College Ministry Coach, as we partner with local churches to start and relaunch college ministries on their local campuses.
The best book I read this year was Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. In Gilead Robinson writes: “Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see?” When we reflect on the year it is easy to highlight the big things (which I am guilty of doing), but we should not forget all the little graces that God has given us. Tickle fights, freshly mowed grass, taking off your shoes after a long day, coffee, and the thousands of little “transfigurations” that fill every waking hour. In 2020 let us have a willingness to see.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy (Romans 15:3).