Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Salvation Army Saved My Life.

The Salvation Army saved my life.

I can't imagine my life without it.  God has given me great opportunity, and over the years, has increased my capacity to surrender and serve Him in our great Army.  Salvationists are among the world in a very real and substantial way.  We are willing to dirty up and fight against the dark forces in this world.  When I see fellow Salvationists, I am amazed at them! and so proud!   Because I also know what it costs.  I feel like we all share this little secret of how very good, gratifying, and humbling it is to see God dilligently redeeming people EVERY DAY.  Who am I that He takes my puny-ordinary-little self and works it into His grand plan.  I could never be grateful enough.

The Salvation Army has been a constant in my life since I was 5 years old.  A little neighborhood girl, Patricia, invited me to Sunbeams and my mom and dad let me come in the church van to the Napa Corps.  I loved it, because they loved me there.  I felt like I belonged.  I felt like everyone belonged. 

Before long my mom and brother started coming and we were all enrolled as Soldiers, Jr. and Sr. I still remember the promise I made  "Having asked God for forgiveness, I will be His loving and obedient child. Because Jesus is my Saviour from sin, I will trust Him to keep me good, and will try to help others to follow Him. I promise to pray, to read my Bible and, by His help, to lead a life that is clean in thought, word and deed."   I meant it.  I still do.  

I wanted to be an Officer since I was 9 years old.  I remember distinctly sitting in the downstairs of the Vallejo Corps on a Friday after school in Jr. Soldiers.  Mrs. Major Miller was teaching us.  I'm so glad that she gave it her all even though there were just 4 of us there, my Brother, and Tony and Gabbie.  She told us that women can serve too, and referenced the Marital Team such as William and Catherine Booth, and herself and her husband.   She said that Officers spend their whole life serving however and wherever the Army tells them to.  I told her I want to be an Officer.  She told me to pray for a calling.

So I did.

And He called that very summer at camp during Campfire Devotions at Camp Redwood Glenn.  I remember it all. I can even tell you what I was wearing and that it was right after I told an older girl to "Shut-Up!!" because she was making fun of my red hair and freckles.   I spent the rest of my night afraid that I would be kicked out of camp, because I found out that the girl I told to shut-up was a Counselor.  I was comforted though that I was so sure I heard the Call.  The man leading Devotions with a roaring fire behind him,  was talking about loving and serving others all the days of your life, and I knew he was talking right to me.  He asked who was willing, and my hand was up before he could finish. 

The years went by.  The older I got, the more responsibility I took on at the Corps. I loved helping my mom in Social Services.  I taught Sunday School.  Went to League of Mercy (visiting Nursing Homes).    Taught Sunbeams. Whatever really.  I would even wear my Sunbeam and Jr. Soldier uniform to elementary school.  And when the kids made fun that I got my uniforms from the Thrift Stores I would tell them... you guessed it... "shut-up" and "God loves you!"  I brought many friendemy's to church. My mom would fill the car up with them.

I had a couple of teenage years that I would love to DELETE here.  Let's just say, if you can imagine it, I did it.  Noone persuaded me or peer pressured me.  It all came from within.  Utter, total rebellion... but I still knew that I was headed towards Officership. I tried to want other things... a Fire-Woman, a Forest Ranger, a Language Translator for the US Army.   Once I told my Highschool Counselor, Ms. Debbie, that I just wanted to marry and have 10 children, and she laughed,  told me I was crazy and stopped seeing me.  By the way, I still want 10 children. 

Then one evening I was sitting in Adult Bible Study.  Lt. Solts and Walcott's were always pestering me to keep coming to church, so I obliged that night and caught a ride with my mom.   We were  studying Hosea (and Gomer).  I was wearing a mustard-yellow sweater and an acid washed jean skirt.  I was 17.   I tried all evening to keep from crying because my body felt so heavy and my heart was just going to burst.  During the closing prayer, in our little Bible Study, God just filled me so full and told me to obey and trust Him.    Right after the meeting I told Lt. Solts.  "I need to talk to you right now".

And so it began. I am so grateful now, with hind-sight,  that all of the Officers around me supported me in applying for Training College and pushed me in.  I was so young! Too young to know any better.  I did all the psycho evaluations, paperwork, interviews, and testing with all the honesty I could.  I thought it was just part of the process, nothing to sweat, because I knew I was going.  I remember sitting and getting interviewed by Divisional Staff.  I didn't even know who they were except that they were "old" and wanted to keep reminding me how young I was.  Of course you don't feel young when you're 19.   I remember telling them that "I know for sure I want to be an Officer and why waste time growing older. Would you like me to rendezvous somewhere else for a few years?"

I was Commissioned/Ordained at 21. Married 4 days later (that's a whole other grace story!) 

It's been 14 years.  4 Appointments.  13 Corps (Church/Social Service) years.  I really had a groove down in the Corps.  Maybe I was too comfortable. 
If I am only serving where and how I want to,  than I am really only serving myself.  

I know He wants us right where He has us.  He keeps making it possible.  And in spite of myself, (aka God's GRACE!) He keeps allowing me to be part of His grand plan as a Wife, a Mother of 5, and Salvation Army Officer.
"Oh the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!"
-Dr. Seuss

Our new appointment is a matter of days away!  The house is mostly packed, mostly cleaned.  The familiarity of moving will last until Sunday when we arrive into the unknown.  I still get breathless at the enormity of our new ministry in the ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center). I take it serious. I don't want to mess anyone up.  I am praying that God protects people from the things I may say and do wrong.  I pray I give my husband sound and wise advice in his dealings and not foolish chatter. 

I am trusting that God wants my children in our new appointment too. I am praying that they will side with justice, real love and comPASSION for others through their experiences growing up as Officer children.  I am praying for Officers from them too :)   I hope they follow God even harder than I do wherever He may set them.

"By the pathway of duty
flows the river of God's grace."
-SA Songbook

Sunday, June 19, 2011


"We only see what we know"
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1749-1832].

Here are some of the good books I've read these last few months.  If you CLICK on the Title, it will take you to the front cover and more information.   I've picked up a few others here and there, but I quit reading if I don't like the begining and ending.  I hate wasting my time ;)

Little Bee by Chris Cleave  There are 2 shocking scenes in here but I think they were necessary to tell the story.  I really liked this book after I read it and found myself thinking about the relationships and such.

Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May   So good. Enlightening. Applies to everyone, we all struggle with addictions in some form or another.  A view of our human nature to idolize and be over-attached to so many things in our lives. I'm reading this for the second time.

The Secret Holocaust Diaries  by Nonna Bannister  I don't know why I read stuff like this. It upsets me so much, makes me so MAD.  It's unnerving to see what evil we are capable of but it is also so encouraging to see, by the grace of God, how victorious we can be too.

To Have And To Hold by Mary Johnston  I keep coming back and forth from this. I'm enjoying reading it after David did.  It's good, but long.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen  Entertaining and fun to read about something I am so unfamiliar with.. Circus life.  I saw some depth here too with the characters and the good, bad and grey. I also really liked reading about the animals and the culture.

Just For Today: Daily Meditations for Recovering Addicts  Paul and I are reading this together and plan to use it in the ministry

Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping: Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice" by Miriam Lukken  Such a wonderful reference book!  I will be adding this one to my home library.  I just LOVE homemaking books.  It helps me  in the ministry too because I'm learning how to do things right, efficiently and gracefully. 
The children do lots of reading too.  I try to read to someone atleast once a day.  David and Elijah will read to the littles too.  I always think that is so sweet.  Sometimes, I find myself getting out of the habit of reading to the kids, but I really try to discipline myself to do it everyday.  It really only takes 15 minutes or so, and if I don't really "feel" like reading I tell the kids it's my turn to pick a book and then I can look forward to reading a children's book that I like.  Such as "Where The Wild Things Are"  or my "Wee Ones Bible Stories"  and I still love Shel Silverstein, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Dr. Seuss as much as I did as a child.   We are all excited to explore the Library when we move!  Watch out!

Right now, I'm in the middle of   "Same Kind Of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together" by Ron Hall.  I am really enjoying this book.  It's got a grace-ministry-obeying God message in an excellent story form.  I'm about half-way through.  I'm so tired at night, I only get about 15 minutes of reading in!

I've also been reading the book of Psalms often.  I've been into poetry lately and especially the glorious descriptions of God's Creation and how very much there is to learn from it.

What are you reading?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crunch Time

Got my game face on.
Is it ever going to get any easier to move?!?  I have to be quite frank... I'm sick of boxes, cleaning, messes, disorder, and my home being a general state of upside down.  Then, I will move and it will be another couple months or so of settling in, only to move again in who knows how long.   I feel homeless.  Rebellious. Fleshly. Grrrrrr....

Paul handles it better than me.  Task oriented, hard working, hopeful and optimistic.
BTW... He is a Major today! 

The boys pack up their room, but need lots of my reminding them to stay on task.  Get the job done!
I swear I'm getting a whip for next time we move. 

The girls try to "pack" but when they're not looking I dump it all out and do it right.  I tried to teach Ann this time, but she just wants to pack everyone else's stuff and not hers.

I had two nights in a row of sleepovers for the kids' friends.  At one point I had 12 children.  Is that legal?Made home-made chocolate covered pretzels. I sprinkle sea salt on top while they're cooling.  So good.  The kids all loved them.

Always time to eat some baby belly.

Always time for FUN!... and to give my 80 pound son a ride.  I've been playing "Laugh Your Way to A Better Marriage" while we pack.  Mostly so Paul can over hear it too. Tee!Hee!

Cuddling in the wee mornings.

The girls and I went to a fantabulous wedding for a friend that, 
of course, we have to say good-bye too.

Today the kids and I will go to the Center for a couple of hours.  Elijah needs to practice  his drumming before Music Camp and can you believe I still have things to do.  Then I will take David and Elijah to their friends' house for the last time.  Good-byes, again, and again, and again.

Paul and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary on Monday.  We couldn't get a babysitter, but are going to try and do something Friday night.  We'll see.  I did cook up a great big steak dinner and stuffed mushrooms. 

Yesterday, I got my Food Handler's Card.  And now I am frantically studying for my Class B License.  I feel disappointed that I only got 75% of my Trainee Checklist done for this year.  It is so discouraging to be asked and expected to do SO many things that would really only be possible if I didn't have a husband and children to care for.   It's like being told to split the atom, I could try real hard, but I just couldn't do it, without blowing up myself and those around me.   Frustrating!! to say the least.     I am trusting that my life, spiritual witness, and character are better because of my commitment to my family and I hope that influences my ministry far more than a set of tasks.   I just want to be competent too! 

I am so excited for our new appointment.  I honestly didn't think I was going to make it.  But during tough times that we have experienced over the years, I just tell God, "I'll give it my all today, but tomorrow, I'm quiting".  And do you know what?  Tomorrow never happens.  Each day holds new mercy for me.  New compassion stirred in my heart.    God is beyond faithful and so very loving to me.  I am so undeserving.

A wise man once said
"you can have anything in life
if you will sacrifice everything else for it."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Family Vacation... Part 3 of 3

The Chouinard children went surfing.

Three amigas.

Four amigos.


Hannah holding a starfish.

Hannah and Mary.

Petting Leopard Sharks!

 Lily and Mary petting sharks too!


The shark was hungry and ate us up.

 We had an up close seal and sea lion show.  It was awesome!  I bet Stacie got better pictures of it.


                               The looooong drive home.
Mr. Pilot and Mrs. Co-Pilot.

"No one needs a vacation more
than the person who just had one."

It is hard to try to settle back into a routine, when the only routine right now is packing and cleaning.  Oh my, so much to do! But I am proudly not freaking out, just taking one day at a time.  I'm taking breaks and taking the kids to the beach and such. Today, after more chores and packing,  we're going on a 3 mile venture around town on foot, bikes, strollers and ripstick, down through the forest park we LOVE.  Then we have dinner and Chapel. 

Also a lot of co-ordinating to do for the boys to have some last hurrahs with their friends. I'm doing 2 sleepovers this week, all the boys will just have to sleep among the boxes. I'm sure they'll make some kind of fort or something.  Of course.. I'll be making Cinnamon Rolls.  Happy tummies make happy boys. (Plus I have a ton of butter and cream cheese I need to use up before we move) 

May God bless you richly this day! 
He is so very good and faithful.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Family Vacation... Part 2 of 3

We did the trails at Trees of Mystery.

Paul Bunyan and Baby the Blue Ox.  Paul Bunyan talks and moves his hand and head now!  He answers questions and calls after children.  He asked us  if we were a field trip.  We said no, family.  Then he asked us how many families.  We said 2.  He said he liked our big families.  Then he called after little Jacob.  The kids had a blast asking him all kinds of questions. 

Paul giving Elijah a pep talk about the tram that goes up 500 ft.

Up at the top.   We made it!

Driving thru the tree wasn't nearly as exciting as watching Stacie drive thru the tree!

She did great!  And I never laughed so hard in my life listening to Steve and Stacie go back and  forth. 
They got the job done!  Great teamwork!!

The kids did LOTS of swimming. 
In 3 1/2 days we...
went to the beach (2x)
went to a Lighthouse
went out to Pizza, Chinese, Thai
drove to see wild Elk
played hard in the hotel backyard
played in the hotel fountain
visited and talked.
Gave thanks to God for our wonderful time together, for great weather, safe traveling
and marveled in His Creation!

Milk and cookies to finish the day.

Click HERE to see my friend, Stacie's, blog on our vacation. 
She got some really great pictures.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Family Vacation.... Part 1 of 3

I've been around... but always this is my favorite spot in the world! 
I LOVE the Redwood Forest and combine that with our favorite family friends... what could be better???

We stayed the first night of our 8 hour journey in the cottage at the most beautiful ARC ever.  Ann and I always go on and on of how this cottage is our dream house.  It really is! 

We saw wild Elk on our drive up.

Our good friends have 6 children.  We only have 5.  That's 11 children between us, aged twelve and under.  Like I say, there is someone for everyone when we're with the Browns.  It was SO very good to see them again.  My heart feels refreshed (thank you Stacie!)  and I'm so glad to keep the kids connected with a like-minded family.  We've really missed them since moving from The Dalles.   You can visit her blog to see their vacation too.

The eldest boys, David and Joshua.  

Our mini caravan.

Throwing rocks in the river.

The big kids.

The offspring.

These two, Hannah and Jacob,  are a month apart in age. 
They were not happy I made them take a picture together.

Mary loves her apples, even in the Redwood Forest.

How many Chouinard can you fit in a Redwood Tree?
Of course, there's always room for more!

This picture cracks me up!  Stacie and I climbed up the tree in the previous photos.  Then I'm telling (yelling at) Paul how to take the picture and Stacie's cracking up at me, because what's the point anyway!  Paul's going to take it how HE wants! LOL!!

The children look like little ants compared the gigantic Redwood Trees.

Hannah taking a little break, Mary trying to figure out how to get up there too.

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