Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Letter to my Senator

I'm not sure that I can organize my thoughts this evening to the crystal clear point to which I came while sitting in church Sunday morning, but I'll give it a shot.

I still had an email from one of my U.S.Senators simmering on the back burner of my mind, and as my eyes wandered over the text of Scripture in my open Bible, I read ahead of where my Pastor was reading. (sorry Wendell)

As I scanned Isaiah 10, I was riveted by the following.

"Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations..." (Isaiah 10:5-7).
(Italics mine)

Right there on the page after God's glorious announcement that "...to us a son is born...", (Isaiah 9:6) is a declaration of the judgment that God is sending against Jacob and Israel because of their arrogance and oppression. His people have not been living as His people, and He will therefore utilize the destruction that lies in the heart of another to punish them and bring them low.

Now, I'm not intending to unravel all the complexities of God's Providence in the affairs of men right here and now. But I find it intriguing to find references of His divine hand almost everywhere I look in Scripture, once my eyes knew to see them as such. It's as if I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera at a large forest, focused down to bring clear the vines entwined in the tree branches, only to discover that they are laced across the entire canopy of the woods.

With a mere breath between promises God tells us that He is sending a child-

"...and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:6-7) (Wendell's text- I was listening!)

Take a breath. And then-

"...the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against (His people), and stirs up (their) enemies." (Isaiah 9:11)

So, to my point here. I had received an email message from Senator Arlen Specter, (D, PA). I am on his email list, ironically, because I've sent him messages voicing my lack of support for the passage of the Healthcare Bill that Congress is creating. (I'm not against reforming our system, it needs to change somehow, but this ain't it.) I'll quote from his Holiday message, because nobody says it like a zealot.

"Dear Friend, (?!?!)

From the cloture vote, it is now apparent that 60 Democratic Senators are in favor of comprehensive health care reform. This legislation is an important step in seeing to it that adequate health care becomes a right in America and not just a privilege.

It is not the bill that I would have preferred and there is an opportunity to improve it in conference. I would like to see a strong, robust public option. I would like to see more clear-cut language on a woman’s right to choose. But it has many important features. It covers 31 million more Americans. It has important insurance reforms. No longer can an insurance company reject a claim because of a pre-existing condition. No longer can there be a lifetime limit on insurance coverage.

I consider the legislation similar to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It was a very good law, but it took a preliminary legislative enactment in 1957 and another in 1964 - each an incremental step - to set the stage for what was satisfactory and adequate civil rights legislation.

It is regrettable that there is such divisive partisanship in the Senate today. When we took the cloture vote, every one of the 60 Democrats said ‘Aye,’ and every one of the 40 Republicans said ‘Nay.’ It is the same attitude that pervaded the Senate during the stimulus package which I think was indispensible to avoid a 1929 Depression. I believe that when you have thousands of people dying each year because they don’t have insurance or adequate medical care, this bill is a very significant step forward.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season. " (Text in bold print was his choice, not mine.)

I'm really pretty sure that it would be difficult to describe this legislation in as opposite a fashion from how I see it. I shot back a hot and quick, yet respectful and spit-free reply.

"Senator Specter,

I disagree with you on every point concerning the Health Care bill which you are about to vote through. I believe that it will be signing the death warrant for our Constitution and the beginning of Socialism in America, which will lead to our downfall as a Nation. The transparency and bipartisanship which Candidate Obama promised have certainly not come to fruition in President Obama's administration, and the Democratic Caucus appears to be gleefully skipping along behind him as he leads our country to the brink of economic collapse.

You sir have neither my support nor my confidence and I will join with the many others who agree with common sense and love our Constitution to vote you out of office.

My prayers are with you at this time in hopes that God will open your eyes to what is happening and open your ears to the pleas from your constituents.

Merry Christmas to you and may you come to your senses sooner than later."

As we have been following the debate on health care and how our Congress has been handling it, it has been very easy to become tangled neck-deep in the mire of politics and ugliness. As one dear friend puts it, "When I watch Glenn Beck it makes me breathe funny". Defeating the health care bill before Congress would be a marvelous victory and a step in the right direction toward preserving our free-market economy and system of Democracy. If the bill does pass however, it will not be the end of civilization as we know it. We won't have to take our family and live in caves, foraging for our survival and making fire from a pair of sticks. (We have a Boy Scout- he knows how to make fire...)

Actually getting to my point now; God is still in control. The election of Barrack Obama and a Democratic majority in Congress have reduced God's power not one whit. The Ancient of Days saw this coming; the Creator of the universe was not caught by surprise; and the Mighty One is not anthropomorphically chewing His fingernails in His anxiety over Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman deciding to vote for health care.

I looked up a whole pile of verses concerning God's dominion over the hearts and minds of earthly kings and His heavenly direction of the affairs of men. But I really want to focus on only one more.

"But as for you, O man of God, flee these things (sins). Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time- he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1Timothy 6:11-16)

The President of the United States of America is but a man. The Congress of the United States of America is made up of men and women.

Our God reigns, and Him will I serve come hell or high water, health care or higher taxes.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I woke this morning to find bodies strewn everywhere. In the front room there were two, in the family room there were six more. Silent and unresponsive,... but for the occasional snore. Kate had a slumber party last night. Turns out, Erin had a friend stay over as well- why not? I counted an extra girl in her room when I checked a moment ago. Kate has joined a group of girls, some from our church, some not, for a Bible study every Wednesday night at a local Starbucks. It's such a blessing for her to fellowship with these girls her age since most of her friends have gone away for college.

So last night she hosted a Fondue Feast and sleepover for them all. We looked up a chocolate and a cheese recipe and she prepared the fondues, assigning dippers to each girl who was coming. I'm pretty sure these recipes are keepers, but I couldn't get close enough for a taste!

Actually, I did, and they were both rather yummy.

The arrival of her friends overlapped with the ending of a dinner we had here with some friends who have become very dear to us in the years we've lived here. We first met Fred and Heidi through Scouts, as their son is Isaac's age. We soon learned that they lived right around the corner, but Heidi and I share the same maiden name and have decided that we are cousins! Before long our girls became regular babysitters and Kate has formed a bond with their daughter after spending several days reading her favorite book to her in the wake of a tonsillectomy. Lives being full to the brim with kids' activities and husbands' busy travel schedules, we have been unable to find a time for a quiet meal together until yesterday.

By quiet I mean that we were all sitting together in the same house without a deadline or 50 Scouts running around or projects to finish or trails to navigate. We weren't actually very quiet at all. Our time was marked by talking and laughter and sharing and memories. what a treat to be able to finish a whole conversation! Those who have traveled anywhere outside of the country will understand what I mean when I say it is a joy to be able to share memories of Paris, Rome, and London with others who have also been there instead of being apologetic or self-conscious about mentioning it.

Heidi also totes her camera everywhere to capture memories and special moments, so we share that as well. When among a group of Scouts, their leaders and parents, who rarely slow down for anything, gathering for a group shot can be almost painful. Heidi can be counted on to make that particular endeavor fun, and I'll quietly shoot away once she has everyone in place! (Don't look at me- it's her idea!)

Though we had the space to relax, the evening was, of course, too short. We waved goodbye to them as Kate's friends started arriving and the dish-washing roulette began as we prepared for the next wave of food preparation and consumption. Kate had planned things out rather well for that transfer and there was little for me to do but grab my camera and shoot away.

Now the sun has risen on what looks to be a somewhat normal day. We should probably contemplate taking down the tree soon and putting away the decorations. But not just yet.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Happy Christmas Indeed

What a perfectly wonderful Christmas this has been. It may sound corny, but I am sitting here in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, warmed by a fire in the fireplace in front of which the cat is cozily napping, the dog is asleep at my feet, and sounds of busy-ness are emanating from the basement.

Our Christmas-ing began yesterday when Nathaniel called in for a skype video chat. For years, our tradition has been to open one gift together on Christmas Eve. He had received his packages of Christmas presents that morning and we directed him as to which would be good for opening first. Nathaniel's delight at finding not one, but two airsoft pistols with ammunition was equaled only by his roommate's surprise at the ambush awaiting his return five minutes later! As Kate had so wisely said when choosing the weapons for his gift, "After all, the Army doesn't let them play with their real guns".


Our evening last night consisted of our church's Christmas Eve worship service with special music and Scripture readings. Afterward we went to the home of our friends John and Annie for food and fellowship. Our church has become an extended family for us and it is such a blessing to share special times together. The evening passed quickly in the comfortable presence of these loved ones and before we knew it, it was time to leave. Once home there was still much left to do, and Rebekah set to work on homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast while Jim, Erin and Kate had a mysterious project in the basement to finish.

The morning arrived before some of us were ready, and I quietly made my way downstairs to take care of the animals and get coffee started. Rebekah also woke early and resumed her work on the rolls, preparing them for the oven. Nathaniel called in on skype and we decided that the time had come to wake everyone- it was eight o'clock already! So we rousted everyone and gathered at the Nativity scene in order to wish our Savior a Happy Birthday before beginning our day.

Opening presents in our family means taking turns, not an all-out melee. So with Nathaniel in Iraq, we took turns opening the gifts that were under the tree and in the packages sent to the Middle East. The gifts from my Mom we all opened at the same time, all seven of us. Snuggies! we are now warm wherever we are, the frozen tundra of Pennsylvania or the winter cold of Iraq.

Each of the kids enjoys choosing and buying gifts for each of their siblings, so there are plenty of windows into their hearts under the tree. Their insight into one another is touching to see as the excitement of the giver is as great as the excitement of the recipient. Erin found the perfect hooded sweatshirt for Isaac, Rebekah got a down vest for Erin, Isaac chose bracelets for each of his sisters, Kate painted an original watercolor for each of us.

Isaac's Eagles Snuggie!

Our chef, loving Julie & Julia.

Erin is so stylin' in her Snuggie and down vest.

Kate's plastic toy camera made in China... a Holga- Google it!

The mystery revealed- Erin designed and made a windchime/ mobile from antique silverware, a plate and a teapot. Much to the chagrin of the lady at the antique store. I adore it.

Kate's gift to Daddy is a painting of the little red boat he made for her years ago.

The last gift of the morning is normally chosen beforehand and is The Big Gift for the whole family. This year Jim brought home The Big Gift. Isaac opened the final gift; small, and involving lots of tissue paper, and out fell a ping pong ball! Yes, there was a ping pong table in the garage just waiting for space in the basement. The kids get a game table and I get a clean basement!

Once gifts were opened the cinnamon rolls were coming out of the oven so our attention turned to the wonderful culinary creation on which Rebekah had worked so hard last night and this morning. What wonderful, gooey, tasty-sweet confections our breakfast was! What an unparalleled blessing to have a chef in our family! The recipe turned out two 13 x 9 pans of rolls, which is far more than our family can reasonably consume in one day, so Erin ran a pan of them down to our neighbors to enrich their family morning feast.

Oh. Yum.

A quiet midday followed breakfast and a ham was slipped into the oven in anticipation of friends stopping for a late lunch. A few weeks ago we'd heard from our friends, the Kuypers, from Florida. They were going to be in the area Christmas day, driving from NYC toward North Carolina, and wondered if it would be too much trouble to stop by to say hello. We insisted that they stay for a meal, as the thought of anyone eating at a roadside dive on Christmas day is too barbaric to even consider. So we were delighted to welcome the Floridians into our home for a slice of our White Christmas!

Dennis and Pam were up North in order to give their children the chance to see snow, and they arrived in Washington D.C. the day after the blizzard of 2009! The winterland Capitol was followed by a snowy NYC, and then the drive to our house. We enjoyed visiting over dinner, and then Jim suggested another winter activity for the sunshine-state kids- sledding! Erin and Isaac helped Holly and Jacob bundle up with real winter gear and they all piled into the vehicles to go to Shillington Park for a very non-Floridian experience. What a treat to give them such a memory for Christmas- God is so good to send such an early and generous snowfall for them to enjoy.
Real snow, a real hill, hooray!

Ready, set, go...

Holly and Isaac were classmates in Sunday School, I watched Jacob in the
nursery at FPC in Florida... How the years have flown.

Now the evening has wandered in and I am writing on the laptop as Julie & Julia plays on the TV. The fire is burning, the lights on the tree are glowing, and the basement is sounding like a ping-pong tournament. I'm going to raid the fridge for leftovers. (And in case you didn't catch it, I'm watching a movie about a lady who blogs as I write this blog post...)

I should've had a bottle of wine ready for this movie.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Back to the Blog

I have been rather negligent and haven't blogged in some time. I harbor no illusions that anyone out there is pining away for my next post. I do, however, like to keep things current simply for my own record, since my memory fails me concerning events large and small that happen in our lives.

So where was I?

Oh yes; trusting that the Lord has a plan for us, though our situation was becoming rather dire. Our prayers have been answered in a couple of ways, for which we truly are grateful. Jim has been working for two weeks now with a company in Reading as a contractor. I've often said that if Jim were a plumber it would be easy to describe his job. His area being "business" and "project management", I really have no idea what he does, and it changes from one project to the next. Let's just say that whatever it is he's doing, they are paying him, which is all that I need to know as I pay the bills.

I said our prayers were answered in a couple of ways. Our church also reached out to us with some financial help which came in the nick of time. We have learned in many ways that while God is never late, He is also never early- but right on time. The bills are almost all current and we are so relieved to be able to fulfill those responsibilities again.

As this has all been developing, other aspects of our lives have been marching along as well. Kate and I have discovered that there is a Camera Club in our area, the Berks Photographic Society, that meets on Monday evenings, has monthly photo contests, discussions on improving one's knowledge of photography, outings to shoot photos as a group, and a building which houses a studio and darkroom for the members' use! We visited for several Monday evenings and have decided to join. Being in a room full of photographers who carry their cameras around looking for potential photos and taking pictures of the people around them for no other reason than to capture what their artist's eye sees is so refreshing and delightful. I'm not alone! Kate and I are thrilled with this group- from professionals to amateurs, they speak photography and we are glad to learn the lingo ourselves.

Rebekah practicing for competition at home.

Rebekah is in her third and final year at the Berks Career and Technical Center in the Culinary Arts program. She has flourished in the kitchen and knows for certain that she wants to pursue a career in the Culinary field. Part of being in a Vocational Tech program is competing locally and further for recognition and scholarships. A couple of weeks ago Bekah competed in the "in house" competition at her school, winning first place and a spot on the team which will go to the State competition in March! Winnig at State will mean advancement to national, where a win would mean scholarships to the school of her choice, the Culinary Institute of America. We are so very proud of her and praying that she does well at State.

Our family with the NYC skyline in the background!

On December 12th our family joined the Boy Scouts to go to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We live a mere two hour drive from the park in New Jersey from which the ferry can be caught for the ride to the islands. Everyone drove separately, freeing us up to take our time and leave when we were ready. What a glorious day we enjoyed! The weather was absolutely perfect- not a cloud in the sky. Clear and sunny, though cold, we started at Ellis Island with a guided tour. Neither Jim nor I have ancestors who came to America through Ellis Island, but the story of the process was still fascinating. As can be expected, I took quite a few photos, which can be seen in my Facebook album, here.

Last Sunday Isaac joined our church as a Communicant member. He had taken a class over the Summer after which he was interviewed by a couple of our church's elders. His understanding of the basic doctrines of our faith, as expressed in the Westminster Confession, and his personal profession of faith led to their agreeing that he is ready to join our body of believers. The class was scheduled to join the church December 13th, but the morning dawned to an ice storm which prevented us and half of the congregation from making it to church! The ceremony was moved to December 20, and everyone was able to make it- albeit an hour later than normal since we had a snowstorm the day before and church was delayed, giving us time to shovel out from under a foot of snow!
The shovelers

We are now preparing for Christmas. The snow is still on the ground outside, which is so beautiful for the season. Christmas Eve has arrived, the kids are finishing some light cleaning, cooking will happen later today. We expect Nathaniel to skype in around 1 pm so we can open a gift together- a Christmas Eve tradition. Tonight we will join our church for special music and celebration of our Savior's birth. Kate and Erin are singing, Jim, Rebekah and Erin are reading Scripture. After the service we will gather with others from the congregation at the Sallade's home for fellowship before heading home for a long Winter's nap.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eyes Up

Oh what a mistake to think that certain tolerated guests can behave in a civilized and controlled manner. What folly to ascribe discipline to inherently undisciplined wantons.

I thought that allowing a little lone dismay to cozy up with my heart for an afternoon might be harmless, but dismay rarely travels alone. Before I knew it, dismay had opened wide the door to fear and despair, who tramped all over my heart and mind with their muddy boots, gobbling up my soul in great slobbery bites and leaving me gasping at their insatiable appetites.

"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped." (Ps. 73:2)

To focus on the wind and the waves of circumstances whistling about my head and blowing up a storm is sheer foolishness when the Lord of Creation has called me to travel in his lifeboat. He has saved me from an eternity of torment, invited me into His family and called me His own. How can I not gaze upon Him with the trusting eyes of a child when I know that He has come to my rescue time and again in the past, and will continue to be my refuge in the future?

What perfect timing to spend a weekend at a conference on Reformed Theology where my Savior is continually exalted and honored with the glory due only to Him. What a glorious blessing indeed to hear message after message preached on the supremacy of my Lord, who left His throne in Heaven in order that I might be rescued from not only an eternity apart from him, but a lifetime of selfish dependence on the idols of this world. Only in Christ can I find life, and that in abundance.

Not an abundance of worldly possessions and pleasures, but,

..."the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!" (Rom. 11:33)

The preaching this weekend by Philip Ryken and Steve Lawson focused on the excellencies of Christ and how belonging to Him should draw our hearts and minds upward out of the mire in which we live. Knowing that He died that we might live ought to inspire us to such gratitude that we in turn die to our own sinful desires that we may live wholly for Him as living sacrifices. One of the messages focused on Romans 12:1-2 in which we are exhorted not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, which is only possible as the Holy Spirit works in us through the Word of God.

In a breakout session led by Steve Lawson in which he taught on the life of Jonathan Edwards I was personally convicted of my own slothful wastefulness of the time and blessings which God has granted me. I focus overly much on my own selfish desires and comforts when I know that God's plans for me are superior to any that I have for myself. While His way to perfecting me may be painful at times, it is nevertheless for my good and more importantly, for His glory.

I have long been an enthusiastic fan of good preaching and excellent exposition of the Word, but walking away from a weekend of sermons such as these without an inner conviction of needed change would prove that a mere heart of stone resides within my chest. I have been cut to the quick and shown from God's Word that I am not as transformed as I thought. Yet, far from being discouraged by this vision of my plight, I am greatly encouraged in knowing that it is God who is at work in me, and what God begins, He finishes.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

House Call on Congress

Thursday, Jim and I were able to go to Washington D.C. with a busload of local Patriots that we found by a frantically quick search of the internet at the last minute on Monday night. This had come about after an announcement of the idea by Congresswoman Michelle Bachman on the Hannity show Friday night. We heard about it as we watched Glenn Beck Monday evening.

Now, to be clear, I do believe that our Health Care System is in need of reform- very much so. What we are protesting is this monstrous overhaul pending in Congress which will bankrupt our Nation and remove freedoms that we cherish. Why must this reform be done in one giant, sweeping measure? Why can't the complexities of the problem be addressed individually, in incremental steps, beginning with tort reform? And why must those in Congress who feel that this must be passed at all costs- oops, no pun intended- treat those of us who disagree with such patronizing disregard? Why?

So, early Thursday morning, Kate drove us to the meeting point for the bus. I wore a t-shirt representing the "Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots", (asamom.org) over a turtleneck and was thrilled that the weather was mild enough that no coat was needed. Our arrival at Capitol Hill was right on time as the rally was beginning. Already there were ten thousand or more gathered in front of the building, with buses lined up depositing their passengers as far as the eye could see. Jim and I went with our busload until the group found a place on the sidewalk as close to the front as they could get. We then broke away on our own, hopping over a wall to get onto the lawn and more toward the center of the crowd.

We were able to move through a lot of the crowd, stopping to listen, and taking LOTS of great photos. The variety of people who all agree on this issue impressed me greatly. Young and old, families, many races and professions, every walk of life, were represented. People from as far away as California and Oregon. We actually ran into old friends from Florida in line to get into the Cannon Office building!

After the rally ended we, and approximately 30,000 others, (depending on who is reporting) headed to the office buildings. I saw and greeted many others from the Sisterhood network who were wearing the t-shirt. "Hi Mommy"! was always received with a great big smile. Others asked me where I got my awesome shirt, so I was able to direct a few to the network and hope that after all of the excitement they remember to check it out!

Our Representative, Jim Gerlach, is on our side on this issue, and had refreshments waiting in his office. It was standing room only as he answered questions and engaged the discussion with his constituents. Even his aides and interns were ready with smiles and discussions. Our Senators, however, were nowhere to be found. The aides and interns in Senator Casey's office were rather annoyed that we interrupted their day. I heard that Spector's office was even worse.

While in the Cannon Office Building we tried to get to Nancy Pelosi's district office, but the hallway was closed off by the police after a crowd of protesters tore up pages of the bill and threw them on the hallway floor. A bit unruly for my taste- but I wish I had been there with my camera. As it is, I got photos of the police and the paper being swept up...

Overall it was an invigorating day, being surrounded by so many like-minded Patriots in our Capitol. My husband and I are a team, he talks, I shoot- the camera. I hope that my photos tell the story. (Please follow the link below to enjoy the photos, but do not publish or distribute them without my express permission. Thank you.)

House Call on Congress, 11/5/09

I realize that what we did on Thursday was momentous and should be headline news. What happened at Ft. Hood however, has taken, rightly so in so many respects, the forefront. While we focus on Congress today let's not forget to pray for those people and families whose lives have been tragically shattered in the wake of the massacre. Moms well know how to multitask, juggling big issues as they come flying at us from every direction. Our Nation is hurting in many places, being attacked in others. So let's cradle those in need while not taking our eyes off of those who threaten our freedom and our children's future.

God Bless America.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Time Has Come

Well, here we stand at the end of October. Autumn is falling all around us and the weather is growing wetter and colder. It's time to finish the yard clean-up, clean out the garage, and put away the yard furniture. This week began sunny but has been rainy and wet since Tuesday, yet, the stuff needs to be taken care of, so out we go.

Early in the Summer we cleaned out the basement and identified a garage-full of stuff to throw into a yard sale. But then, the yard sale never happened. Each weekend was busy with one thing or another, and organizing such a sale was bigger than a one-person job. Now it's time to be parking in the garage before the Winter really hits us. It looks like Goodwill will be benefiting from most of the items we intended for the sale. We'll store a few things, but the point was to clear space, not re-arrange the storage needs.

Though the weather is too wet for me to take the camera out into the woods, the colors are still dazzling. The wet leaves with their vibrant colors show up beautifully next to the darkened tree trunks. Overcast skies provide a moody backdrop to a mix of foliage and bare trees, as well as evergreen trees and shrubs, to decorate our yard. I've taken a stroll around our moist yard and captures a few shots of the leaves before they're gone. One of the problems with the rain this week is that it's knocking the leaves off the trees at an alarming rate, before we've really had a chance to enjoy them.

Autumn island

Japanese Maple

Dogwood- beauty in Spring and Fall

The view of the side yard from our bay window....

A tree that sprang up on its own, which we'll be leaving here.
(Not sure what kind it is though.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

While in Grove City...

So we spent the weekend in Grove City. The reason we went this particular weekend was the reception mentioned in the previous post. Yet, while we are going for one reason, we have a whole weekend to use, so who else can we see?! Though there are multitudes of friends that we have missed, we tried to keep our visits limited to only a few, so that we can actually spend time with those we see, instead of running ourselves ragged and only getting brief glimpses of these dear ones.

This time around we were invited by Jeff and Rebecca to stay at their home, which provided a chance to get to know their four precious children who have all been born since we moved away. We've known these folks for over 16 years now and it was such a privilege to have a chance to catch up with them in their new (to us) lives as parents of a busy bunch of kids. Our arrival Friday evening was delayed by a late departure on our end, and then downpouring rain on the turnpike as we drove through the dark. Yuck. The warm welcome we received once we finally arrived was a blessing. Driving in those conditions is awfully tense.

The next morning we went for breakfast with other friends so that Jeff and Becca could sleep in and start their day normally. Janet and Terry had been able to visit us in Florida and here, so it hasn't been so long since we've seen them, and it seems less yet whenever we do see them. There are just some friends with whom you can pick right up after each absence, no matter how long, and it is just as comfortable as before. We enjoyed our visit over a scrumptious breakfast in their comfy home. Peanut the dog provided entertainment and we were able to look through their daughter Jill's wedding album. Daughter Jackie is doing well and Jeremy is as busy as ever with a good job and a "new" Jeep.

Jackie and Erin share a long-awaited hug.

Jeremy and Jeep- zoom, zoom, zoom!

Terry and Janet, old friends in every good way!

By the time we returned to our hosts the family was up and around and tackling the day. Jeff and some of the kids were outdoors, and he promptly engaged Isaac's interest by bringing out a dirtbike... Oh yeah! Isaac and Erin each had turns riding around the property as Jim and I prepared for the reception. While we were away, Isaac went fishing with Jeff and Nate in their pond and Erin helped in the kitchen making cupcakes, preparing salsa, and playing with the girls. By the time we returned everyone was comfortably hanging out in the basement watching football and playing games.

Tinkertoy time

A dinner of wings- with Jeff's special sauce- and homemade fries capped the evening as we shared wine and visited. What fun to watch our friends with their children. We prayed with and for them for years, asking the Lord to grant them children, and now they have 9 year-old Christin, 5 year-old Erin, and the 3 year-old twins! Life is full and God is good!

Jeff has his hands full!

The exhausted- and blessed- parents.

Sunday morning we shared (more) breakfast (than I ever make on Sundays) before heading off to join Randy Welker at church. The Welker's church, Christ Presbyterian, is pastored by a friend of our former Pastor in Florida, so it's a blessing to worship with them. Iain Duguid, (pronounced do-good) teaches at Grove City College besides shepherding this congregation. His sermon this week was, providentially,exactly what we needed to hear as we are going through this trial of unemployment. If you've got the time I highly recommend it, and you can listen to it here.

An additional blessing was the surprise of seeing another couple of friends who "happened" to be visiting Christ Presbyterian that morning as well. Gary and Gaye walked up to us before service began and I got the hug of the week from my old homeschooling buddy. Randy was playing piano during the worship service, so we caught up with him afterward and made a plan to meet him at home.

We took a little drive around town- oh, the memories- before getting to Randy and Lisa's to join them for pizza and a too-brief visit. Our upcoming five hour drive necessarily limited our time, but again, there was not much "catching up" to do with these friends. We can just jump straight into a comfortable and fun discussion. Praise the Lord for such blessed, enduring relationships. I'd guess that facebook connections actually do help with some of the keeping in touch, but nothing beats a hug and a chance to look these loved ones in the eyes as we share what is happening in our lives.

Good times

Randy and Gabby

Randy, Lisa, Me and Jim

The drive from Grove City to Reading was beautiful with the Autumn leaves putting on a colorful show all across the state. We made it home after our own church's youth group had gotten here, (Kate and Bekah were home all weekend, so they were here to greet the gang). Parking was interesting. As we walked through our door we were greeted by some of our new friends here who had brought their kids to youth group and opted to stay for the evening. As the youth group broke into small groups the adults did also and we joined them in an encouraging discussion of the Scripture at hand.

When it comes time to balance the books and record the wealth which the Lord has granted us, I'd have to say that, following close behind our Savior, our family and our health, the multitude of blessed friendships with which we are surrounded are our dearest possessions.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quick Visit Across the State

All it takes to see of how fast time flies is a visit to see folks not seen in 10 to 14 years. We did just that this weekend as we returned to Grove City to celebrate the wedding of a family friend. If it weren't for the clear evidence of aging we would have thought we'd gone back in time. Yet the gray hair and failing memories- both mine- testified to the fact that much has changed since we were last in the same room with many of the dear people with whom we spent Saturday afternoon.

Many moons ago we attended church in New Wilmington, PA and were blessed to know, among many others, the Martin family. Their son, Chris, was friends with our Nathaniel. We spent many memorable days with the Martins at their home, swimming in the pond, enjoying the water slide, sharing Thanksgiving. We moved away, yet never entirely lost contact. Chris is now, recently, married, and he and his bride graciously invited us to their reception this weekend. (The wedding took place in Washington state last month.)

What a treat to walk into the church and see our former Pastor, Frank and his now 17 year-old son! Jordan was such a little guy when we last saw him- yet his face wears the same smile as when he was 6 years old. The next person we saw was a friend who has been globe trotting as a Missionary since we moved to Florida. The easy familiarity and enduring relationship with Jay enabled us to pick right up with him as if we'd seen him only last week.

The joy of reunion with dear friends was soon followed by dismay at my own failing memory as apparently complete strangers greeted me by name with exclamations of excitement! Who were these people?! Faint glimmers of recognition weren't enough to help me as I struggled to remember, the recollection dancing always just beyond my grasp. Here is a dear woman, standing before me having known me and recounted her memory of when we last saw one another, now waiting in that precarious moment when it was to be my turn to pronounce her name and declare how I have so longed to see her again...

"I'm sorry, what is your name?"

Oh dear.

But then, we saw Chris and his lovely bride, and the reason for our visit returned to view. Chris is just as dear as we remember, and absolutely walking on air in the joy of introducing his sweet Jasmine to the folks who have known him for his entire life. What fun to be able to sit on the sidelines and watch the interactions between all of these folks, united by a common love for Chris and therefore his wife.

So much more happened over the weekend, but I'll leave that for another post.

Once I can more clearly remember exactly what happened...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not How I Planned to Greet the Morning

Snooze the alarm twice. Toss the covers back and swing feet to the floor. Take care of first things first, then brush teeth. Slide feet into cozy fuzzy slippers, pull on the warm robe, and walk out of the bedroom. Knock on the doors of children who should be waking up as well. Shuffle downstairs.

Turn on the coffee pot as I gratefully see that Rebekah pre-set it last night. Head for the family room to look for the TV remote so I can watch Fox and Friends as I wait for the coffee.

Step in dog barf.

Not a good sign.

Evidently our sweet, but stupidly greedy, Vali, has eaten something that disagreed with her tummy. Really disagreed with her tummy. Really.

Everywhere I looked in the family room, our green carpet was, um, "marred" by the evidences of Vali's intestinal distress. Now, I've been wanting to replace this carpet for a long time- green just doesn't work for me. But now is not the best time.

Fortunately we own a carpet shampooer.

Years ago, while we lived in Florida, I was talking to a friend on the phone and asked her what was the loud, continuous noise in the background. She told me that her daughter was shampooing their carpets with the machine that they owned- several children, it only made sense to own one. I agreed with the wisdom of having such a magical device and our conversation ended soon thereafter. Moments later- moments- four-year old Isaac stepped almost out of my bathroom clutching his tummy. With his heels on the tile floor of the bathroom and his toes on my bedroom carpet he said, "my tummy hurts". He then promptly threw up all over the carpet. I called my friend back, borrowed her shampooer, and went out the next week to purchase my own.

Best investment ever.

So now our family room is empty of all furniture and drying after a thorough shampooing. A very thorough shampooing. Very.

Isaac mentioned finding the wrapper to a habanero praline in the family room Sunday afternoon, (Kate had brought some home from San Antonio), in a manner that suggested that Vali had eaten it while we were in church. She does this on occasion. Being her own worst enemy, she evidently snatched something that seemed yummy at first, swallowed it too quickly to realize that it was dynamite, and let the contents simmer for a few days in her belly. Yup, that would explain a lot.

I never did find the remote...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Rock of My Salvation

It's already mid-October. Really? How have we gotten here so fast? We have lovely leaves still on the trees, some falling. We've had a brush with the threat of early snow, which didn't happen. There have been days of glorious sunshine and fabulously clear, crisp air. Several days in a row of miserably cold rain had us stoking the fire in the fireplace four nights in a row.

Big outdoor projects have come to an end and it now remains for us to put away the hammock, swing, and outdoor furniture, coil up the hoses and bring the potted plants into the garage. We are still hoping for enough remaining warmth to inspire a bit more growth in the newly planted grass, thus securing its stability through he Winter to come. We have had a couple of well attended campfires in the backyard and anticipate at least one more marshmallow-roasting evening around the flames.

Meanwhile, Jim is still looking for a job. Now, he has had the time to do a lot around the house in improvements and maintenance, (I haven't had to run the weed whacker since he's returned from Dubai- yay!) and spent much quality time with the kids from Scouting stuff with Isaac to College searching with Bekah. Working on his Master's Degree as also been on his list of "Things to Do While There's Time".

Yet, that Time is not indefinite, nor is it free, and as we watch on the News each day varying levels of hysteria regarding the National Economy, our own personal economy here at home is in a similar plunge. Instead of joining the Nation in the rush to hysteria however, we are turning our eyes and trust to the God Who has brought us through storms before this, and has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

There are so many promises in Scripture regarding God's care for His people which at first glance, don't seem to hold up in the face of reality. How could there be so much pain and suffering in the world if God is really watching over us? If He is true to His Word, why aren't all diseases healed, all people happy and prosperous?

My purpose here isn't to tackle the great issues of the existence of evil in the world. But simply for us, here and now, I''m thinking that my definition of "happiness" isn't always reliable to line up with what the Eternal Creator of the universe deems to be best for me. Maybe the One Who formed me in my mother's womb has a higher call for me. What if it is actually more miraculous to change my heart, my will, and my desires than to leave a bag of money on my doorstep? What if, when I am going through personal pain and anguish of soul, my turning to Christ and looking to Him in trust for His Will in the situation is actually bringing about more of a lasting transformation than an alteration of the circumstances around me. If in the midst of the storm, God is transforming me on the inside, so that no amount of external wind and waves can wash it away, then that is the miracle. That is the promise.

I'm not sure what God has in store for us in this transition. I am asking in prayer that He would be gracious to allow us to stay here in our home, in this community which we have grown to love, in this area which we are still learning to know, with the church where we are family. But I am also confident that whatsoever comes to pass, His Will will be done. We aren't going to slip through any "cosmic cracks" in His plan. His plans for us are for our good, but even more importantly, they are for His glory.

I do still struggle in prayer sometimes, whether I am being presumptuous to ask for what I want, am I being self-centered in my requests, asking out of wrong motives. (After all, I love myself very much and I have a wonderful plan for my life!) I do sincerely believe that God hears prayer, God answers prayer, and that I am His child. I know full well that I misunderstand much and cannot see into His eternal decree for our family. I trust Him entirely. My own desires and requests may be suspect, but my Lord never is.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Popcorn King

Isaac is the Popcorn Selling King! Girl Scouts sell cookies in the Spring, Boy Scouts sell popcorn in the Fall. Isaac patiently went door-to-door throughout our neighborhood, one street after another, over a couple of weeks. Who can resist a Boy in uniform, really? Evidently, not many folks around here can. By the time he was finished Isaac had sold $1100 worth of popcorn!

This morning we picked all that popcorn up for delivery to the wonderful folks who bought from Isaac, and learned that his were the highest sales in the Troop! His Scout Camp for next year is now paid for, and there are several prizes for him as well. He and Jim sorted all of the orders this morning and are now out delivering a car-full of goodies.

We're so proud of Isaac for sticking to his task and accomplishing such a feat. Persistence, determination, hard work. Way to go Isaac!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots

Tonight Jim will be taking Isaac to a Barnes and Noble about an hour from here for a book signing with Glenn Beck, to whom we have listened for years on the radio and now watch daily on Fox News. Years ago the most offensive thing he did was "Moron Trivia" on Fridays during football season (you had to be there). Now he seems to be one of the few voices of common sense in looking at the bigger picture of where our country is headed. It has been easy for the "mainstream media" to label him an hysterical hatemonger, and those who don't listen to what he is actually saying or understand where he's coming from simply won't get it. But what he has to say resonates with our family and his sincerity is genuine. Perhaps his delivery is off at times, but his message is right on target with our own concerns.

Now, I am one to shrink back and let others speak for me when it comes to matters beyond my ken. But it seems that allowing the few to speak when Washington can ignore them by labeling them as "merely the fringe" is increasingly irresponsible. I missed the Tea Parties, not wanting to get involved in what I didn't yet understand. I'm slow that way. Yet it is time that I educate myself on the matters at hand. I want to get involved and join with the voices that are speaking up so that Washington must hear. God gave us a free country and a system "of the people, by the people, and for the people". With my children's future at stake I cannot afford to sit back and stay silent.

With this in view, I have joined an online group inspired by, but not associated with, Glenn Beck. A Sisterhood of Mommy Patriots appears to be a network of like-minded Moms who are concerned for the future of our nation and seeking a way to get involved. This is just dipping my toe into the edge of the pool, but maybe, just maybe, it's a start. My calling is first to be a wife, then a mother. I will never be a Sarah Palin. But perhaps it is time for the care of my children to include efforts to secure their future...

(Please don't label me a hatemonger or a racist, I would rather learn about and discuss the actual issues. Again, I'm slow, but teachable.)

Much to Do

This week began slowly, but that was the calm before the storm. Actually, "storm" is probably putting a negative spin on all of the good things that are lined up for us in the coming days. "Whirlwind" may better fit.

Anyway, Jim picked Kate up at the airport on Monday, bringing to a close an amazing two weeks in Texas. She spent 5 days with my Mom helping her at home after her recent surgery, then spent the rest of her time with my Aunt LaRue getting to know a branch of the family who were essentially strangers to her. Kate was, after all, named for Aunt LaRue, and now they are knit together truly as family. What a blessing it was to get the facebook updates of their adventures as Kate was given the red carpet tour of San Antonio. Cousins Meredith and Cristi and their adorable son Adrian were part of the bargain. I predict more opportunities for family sharing in our future (and tacos, and pralines, and giant mugs of sweetea...).

Our recent backyard excavations were only mostly done when the rented machines had to be returned a few weeks back. Our neighbor however, has a brother-in-law who owns just the sort of big toy that Jim needed to finish said projects, and had promised to lend it to us when he got it for his own use (what great neighbors we have). So the new toy was delivered the other night and Jim was able to complete the project as well as a couple of other ideas that came up which machinery made possible. We now have a tad more parking space next to the driveway, hopefully unclogging the bottleneck that our circular drive can become. We have also graded one of the banks next to the road to allow for easier mowing and use for overflow parking when needed. Today I need to get out there and toss aside the rocks and rake the dirt smooth for grass seed (yup, more grass seed...).

Last night Jim took Bekah to her school for a College information night. I am easily confused by the admissions and financial aid process, so she took the parent who can best help her navigate those waters. I just look at the cost and need smelling salts. We are aiming for an in-state school that offers Hospitality Management, not merely Culinary Arts. The clock is ticking...

Tonight Jim and Isaac will be going off in one direction for an adventure, the girls and I going in another. (More on that later)

Tomorrow is where the real spin-up begins for our whirlwind. I'll work in the morning, then in the evening we are hosting our Small Group Bible Study here. There is already a selection of meats marinating in the fridge for grilling since we share a meal each time we meet. This year we are going through the book of Romans together, a chapter each meeting, which is no small task. This week is Romans chapter 2, which, (coincidentally/ providentially) was covered in large part in my reading of Calvin's Institutes this past week. Whoo-hoo! I love a good theological discussion!

Also tomorrow, Isaac leaves for another weekend outing with the Boy Scouts- hiking the PA Grand Canyon. When we drop him off for that he will be turning in his Popcorn fundraiser orders... He has sold, (are you sitting down?) $1100 worth of popcorn! This will earn him his entire Summer Camp cost as well as other prizes and awards. He is beside himself with excitement over his accomplishment and cannot wait to hand over that fat envelope of popcorn cash. I am not a salesperson or a fundraiser, but when this boy puts on his uniform and rings a doorbell he never misses a sale. Way to go Isaac!

Saturday morning will be an event for the ladies of our church which has fallen entirely on my watch as head of Women's ministries at Covenant, and I am sort of nervous. I am not a planner or organizer, and yet we are having a Ladies' Brunch, with a speaker, on Saturday morning. This instead of an actual Fall Retreat, the coordinators of which needed a year off. I'm not sure what possessed me to agree to take over the Women's ministry since I can barely organize my home. My particular focus has been Bible Study for women, which stretches me personally. I have a couple of women on the committee with me who are more experienced and know what they are doing, but in order to delegate, one must have an plan to begin with, right? I hope more women show up than signed up, but I am confident that the Lord will bless those who are there with the fellowship among one another and the wisdom from our speaker.

I'd better get moving, the house won't clean itself, and that dirk is calling for a good raking- where's my clone?!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn is Here,... ?

According to the calendar, Autumn is here. It arrived yesterday, with overcast skies and hot, humid temperatures. Threatening rain that never materialized, today's thunderstorms also haven't happened. Today Jim helped me get another small portion of the yard re-landscaping finished, getting weed and ivy roots pulled up and the ground tilled, raked and seeded for grass. The humidity and gnats insured that the small task was tortuous anyway, and we couldn't finish fast enough.

I suppose that the Summer being wetter than any we have experienced accounts for all of these gnats. There are so many that breathing and even blinking become hazardous activities. Once we have a frost they should be done- I hope. Sitting around the fire at night they aren't a problem, so that outdoor activity is still available to us. But the clouds of gnats are making anything else so unpleasant that we'll just stay inside as much as possible.

What a wimp I am. Chased inside by clouds of aggressive gnats. Yuck.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I normally don't mind too much when I come down with a cold- after all, when else do I get a break from the hectic routine than when my body enforces it with fever, chills, and aches? But this week I simply don't have the time. This illness is inconveniencing not only me, but the family that we invited to dinner for tomorrow and now need to cancel, for the second time in two weeks; the yard work for which the weather is finally perfect; and the bake sale to which I was supposed to deliver muffins- which would be a biohazard if I made them now. I will miss a second consecutive week of church and Sunday School, to which I was really looking forward this week.

The house is quiet, for now, and I have some time alone with my feverishly swimming thoughts. Catching up on my reading might be a possibility, if I could hold a consistent train of thought long enough to insert new information in the messy filing system of my brain. Fortunately there is already homemade chicken soup in the fridge.

I'd better make a phone call now, before I slip away into a Milo-induced nap. Let's hope next week will work for this dinner... (put roast into freezer....)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Spontaneous Turn of Events

Last Tuesday my Mom, who lives near San Antonio, had her second knee replacement surgery. Having waited until she could bear it no longer, she finally has a working pair of knees. When she returned home from the hospital, however, she discovered that her husband, who is quite older than she, could not care for her as she needed. She called on Friday not long after arriving home and asked if I could possibly come down to help. I had a discussion with Jim and Kate, and called Mom back to let her know that both Kate and I were coming, and while I could only stay for the weekend, Kate would continue on with them for another couple of weeks. We booked a flight and arrived within 24 hours of her first call. Indeed, a miracle of modern times.

Mom's utter delight as we walked through the door was enough to justify the trip. Her little home is full to overflowing and she could hardly get around, especially with a walker. Kate got right to work in the kitchen while I worked on clearing mom's room and hallway. I am amazed with Kate. I didn't have to say a word, she pitched right in and worked until almost midnight that first night. Waking up at 6 am is normally out of the question for my sweet Kate, but she hopped right up in the morning to continue on her project while I visited with Mom and continued the cleaning in her room. I was so proud of my daughter as she embodied what I had read only that day on the flight down to Texas:

"…of Christians something even more is required than to show a cheerful countenance and to render their duties pleasing with friendly words. First, they must put themselves in the place of him whom they see in need of their assistance, and pity his ill fortune as if they themselves experienced and bore it, so that they may be impelled by a feeling of mercy and humaneness to go to his aid just as to their own." (Calvin, in Book II, chapter 7:7 of his Institutes of Christian the Religion)

I am now flying home to be Mommy and Wife, and the several other titles I sometimes wear. Kate had a moment of "overwhelm" as I was leaving, but had recovered by the time I called her from the airport. She will have the use of Mom and Fred's car in order to make trips to the store, which will also allow her to stop in at Starbucks and hop online occasionally. Aunt LaRue has graciously agreed to give Kate an afternoon of respite- no small task, since the drive is almost an hour for her. I will return at the end of the two weeks to spend a few days again as Kate finishes up. Meanwhile I am praying that she will be given wisdom, grace and peace from God as she labors in His name to serve her Grandmommy, that she would not grow weary in her task, (Gal. 6:9). We have never really lived close enough to my Mom for my children to get to know her personally, beyond phone calls and occasional visits. I pray that this is a blessed time for them learn more about one another and seal their family bond. (I'm sure Kate will hear lots of stories about my childhood which she has not had occasion to hear as well… oh boy.)