Apparently I have taken to just writing quarterly posts. Certainly it is to the chagrin of the grandmothers among us, but perhaps it is more efficient....?...maybe?
This past quarter has certainly been one full of change for the Zumwalt Ohana. We welcomed Zak home from Officer Development School and Chaplain School on August 8. We welcomed Miss Arwen to the family on August 23. Zak started back to classes on August 30. On September 1 Zak was fired from his job/internship at Agape. A couple of weeks later we found out that Tri-Care (our insurance) would pay nothing for my pregnancy and Arwen's birth (they had earlier agreed to cover over half of the bill for the entire pre-natal, birth and post partum care), and then we had a rather sizable snafu with our car and had to have it repaired. To say the least, we had an eventful couple of weeks. We have spent the next few months healing, recovering and learning from all of that. While we wouldn't wish it on anybody, we are grateful for the growth that has come out of it.
First and foremost, we have been so grateful for the peace that surpasses all understanding. One of the phrases that Zak and I have used a lot since we moved here (most often in relation to finances) is "God did not bring us here to abandon us". The impossible series of events that lead to us being here in the first place have given us much peace in knowing that we are not the ones orchestrating this crazy plan!
I will give more details to the aforementioned big events starting with the separation from our church family at Agape. Ron was unhappy specifically with the state of the Recovery Ministry while Zak was away for the summer at ODS and Chaplain School, and more generally, the poor communication between us and them leading up to the summer. While we are disappointed with how he chose to handle the situation, we agree that we made some mistakes and could have done things better.
We thank God for everything we learned at Agape, all the experiences He has given us there, and all the people He brought into our lives who shaped us into who we are now. We also thank God for how He’s been working in our lives these past months since this happened. We are definitely better people and better prepared to serve in the military because of Ron and Lori, the Recovery Ministry, the Agape family, and now this trying experience. While we were initially very sad to leave, and the process was very painful, we now recognize in hindsight that the separation was good for us, though we likely would not have been able or willing to initiate that separation ourselves. We are very glad that God is now providing us with a chance to go learn and experience something else.
We were also grateful for God's encouragement in the midst of it all. Zak was almost immediately offered a few different ministry opportunities--very enticing ones. We were also well supported by people all around us. One such person was another church planter who was totally un-related to the situation. He provided some very wise counsel because he recognized right away that we had way too much going on as a family and that Zak really had too much on his plate. Among other things he recommended was that we take some time off and prioritize things before we started again. So, we did. We took the entire semester to catch our breath. We shed some excess responsibilities. We visited different churches (13 different ones!). Arwen and I got to take a seminary class. We got to spend a lot of time hanging out as a family. Zak was able to really help around the house as I was recovering from the delivery and we were all getting used to having another little mess-maker. It was actually pretty telling to have something so significant as a job removed from our lives and see how busy we still were! We are thankful for the opportunity to have seen that.
Almost immediately after Arwen was born we started receiving meals from the parenting community/food buying club that we have been a part of for the past two years. Caspian and I have very strong food sensitivities - we really have to avoid wheat and processed food. Since a lot of the people in this group are careful about what they eat for different reasons they were able to provide really great food that we could eat without being concerned. That was such an amazing blessing while I was recovering from the birth!
One of the obvious examples of God's plan for us continuing to unfold during this time concerns a Christian counseling organization called Portland Fellowship. Our neighbor works for this non-profit group which helps people who struggle with unwanted same sex attraction (SSA). They were just getting ready to start their annual leadership training when Zak was fired and, knowing our background with recovery, he invited Zak to come along. So, for four weeks Zak did that...and then they invited him to be one of their group leaders! And even though he hasn't struggled with SSA, he has found his group to be a great place of personal healing and learning. We don't think it is any coincidence that just last month "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed and that military chaplains will be on the front lines in dealing with service-members struggling with SSA. See how God let us learn about addiction and abuse for a while, and now He's letting us learn about homosexuality--all in preparation for chaplaincy? What an amazing opportunity God has given us to learn how to empathize with, comfort, and counsel those men and women!
In December Zak also had the opportunity to perform his first wedding ceremony! Our neighbors who live across the street from us (and whom we became friends with at our last neighborhood block party) asked him to officiate their beautiful ceremony out at the McMenamins Edgefield. Everyone sat is a big circle with the groom's family on one side and the bride's family on the other. Zak, Josh, and Katherine stood in the middle, and Zak walked around and faced both sides as he spoke. It was very unique and we felt very blessed to be a part of it.
Finally, in December we visited the Sherwood Community Church of Christ for the first time. And after about four weeks we all started talking about the possibility of us working on their staff. There will be more to come about that later...