Friday, January 4, 2008

Thank God for Family

Christmas and the holidays can be a challenge, especially if family dynamics are difficult. For some of you, the fact that the holidays are over and the kids are going back to school in three days causes you to do a little dance of joy. Lots of noise, too much food, hanging around with family you don't see often, having to plan things for your kids to do, all that stuff can get pretty taxing.

For the last 10 days we have experienced all of the noise, food, family, kids situations possible, yet we thank God that it has gone better than we could have imagined and that we truly enjoyed being together as a family. As 11 kids and 8 adults packed together for 5 days God really gave us grace and patience for each other, and also a lot of fun! Our kids especially are sad that after tomorrow it will just be the Dueck 6 and Omi and Opi in Phoenix, as my sister Sonia and her family are flying back to Port Perry, Ontario (my brother Paul and his family flew back to Winnipeg on January 1). The laughter, the fun, the new experiences (like playing tennis with 4 boys age 8 and under at the same time, having cousins' chicken fights in the pool, playing our new favorite game Apples to Apples with three generations of Dueck's), all combined to make this a truly memorable Christmas for us.

Having not seen my family for 4 months, it was great to reconnect, share stories of God's faithfulness, and show pictures for over two hours (relax, if we do offer to show you are trip pictures, we will only show you the edited version!). We also did some unique things that you just can't do in Winnipeg. Things like

Wait in line outside to go on a miniature steam engine to look at Christmas lights.

Have all the grand kids eat Christmas dinner outside, while we eat inside (the kids' meal was the same as last year though - chicken fingers and fries!).

Take the boys go-karting and watch them attempt to pass and turn around the track without smashing into each other or get hung up on the tires (the attempt wasn't successful on the first round, but once they were offered a reward for a smash free round they all "discovered" their car came with a brake pedal!).

Go out for a walk and get frozen yogurt at 7:30 at night!

Truly, it has been a great holiday here in Phoenix, and there are still 3 more days for us to go. However, if I look back on all we have done here, one event stands out in my mind, and not necessarily for its "excitement" aspect, but for its God-glorifying significance. On December 31 eleven of us attended the Phoenix Coyotes/Colorado Avalanche hockey game. The game itself was huge treat: amazing new arena, seeing Wayne Gretzky behind the bench, a 4-3 victory that included a thrilling shootout victory (I know you purists out there hate it, but it sure is fun to watch!), and cousin bonding over our first "dipping dots" experience. But God actually amazed us all before the game even started.

In God's sovereign plans, my Dad made a "mistake" when purchasing our tickets, which resulted in there being a bit of tension over where we were going to sit for the game. The tickets purchased weren't as good as hoped for, so part of the family was going to end up buying new tickets, which would result in them sitting away from the rest of us, and the whole situation being a bit awkward for everyone. Right, and I mean right, before we entered the arena, the ticket conversation was had again, and it wasn't looking like the family would be having a fun family event. Caleb, Joseph and I entered first, and less than 10 steps into the building I was looking at my ticket, trying to figure out where to go. I turned and asked a guy in a suit where our tickets were, and he said that he could do something for us. I mentioned that there were 10 of us (a God ordained mental block on my part since there were 11 of us), and he proceeded to pull out a ticket book that contained exactly (you guessed it!) 10 tickets. He then said "These are for a luxury suite. There are two nice people in there already, so just go on up and say that Andrew sent you. Enjoy the game."

Just like that. The rest of my family hadn't even gotten into the arena yet and I had in my hands tickets for all of us to go into a luxury suite (which we had completely to ourselves after the first period since the other two people left)! Needless to say, everyone was just a little stunned by God's providence towards us, and the dramatic way he chose to glorify himself by resolving our little "issue". Having experienced a lot of these kinds of little miracles on our "Adventure with God" trip already I was probably the least shocked of us all, and had a great time smiling at them and asking them to follow me up the stairs to the best seats any of us have ever had for anything!

Why does God do stuff like that? Why does he plan an event to turn out better than any script writer ever could? While there were some jokes made about the benefits of hanging out with the pastor, I can assure you that God did not bless us to make me look good! Rather, he chose to demonstrate his love, his grace, his desire for families to be unified, and his amazing sense of humor and timing so that we could then, and we can now, glorify him for how amazing he is. The gifts that God give are not to be the focus, but they are there to point us to God and to call us to fall on our knees and worship the God of the universe who cares about our desires to get good seats to a hockey game, controls things down to the steps we take into a building and the number of tickets left in a book, and is lovingly forgiving of our sins. God is sovereign over ever little detail of what is going on in this world, is completely trustworthy, and he loves his children.

Feel free to pass this story on to those you know who doubt the greatness of God. While you did read it on the internet, it is 100% true.

Like all the rest of the world, my family and I are sinful, selfish people. Yet God demonstrates grace to us, both on the cross, and amazingly enough, at the hockey rink.

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