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?!