Thursday, December 14, 2006

So, I've got Wilson Pickett playing "Mustang Sally" on the radio, and shortbread cookies in the oven. My house smells like buttery cookies rolled in coconut - and I love it!
Derek's taken the kids to the 50 cent theater, and I have some space and time to get my Christmas gifts made. Sweeeeeet.

Our lives are about to be in a period of transition again... in only a matter of weeks. And, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Not sure I feel anything about it. Not sure if that's good or bad. Either I'm out of touch with reality, or I have greater faith than I thought...

The holidays are upon us, and I really wanted to be ready for it this time. Really wanted it to be special for my kids. And, I'm putting sentimental gifts together for the rest of the 25 people that will be there in the afternoon. (Not including some of my favourite people at church.)

So, I've made some fanastic photo gifts for my mom. Hinged framed gifts, a nightlight, and have a small memory book in the works. I hope she'll love it. We're just not made of dough, and we've lived apart from my family for soooo many years... Usually our Christmases are so small. But, not this year. I had to do something, but I had to something inexpensive. And, being me, it had to be meaningful.

So, shortbread thumbprint cookies rolled in coconut and topped with raspberry jelly are piling up in crinkly Christmas bags and topped with ribbon. Those are for the teen boys.

I'm making photo bracelets on ribbon for the girls.

Custom made and personalized photo memory books are in the works for the couples.

Candles have already been made and personalized. Those are for the older couples.

Anyway, I'm up to my eyeballs in paper, cookies and ideas.

Gotta get back at it.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Hm... must have been in a funk when I wrote my last post.

I started yesterday in a pretty good mood. It was hubby's day off. That's always a good start.
I turned on Christmas music after breakfast and danced with two of my three kids in the living room. Hopefully Derek hasn't installed some hidden cameras. My kids get their rhythm from their daddy... hehe.

I created gifts for my family for Christmas. I found some old pictures of mom and dad (back in the '50's) and made a hinge-framed picture set. Worked on some candles, beadwork and then spent the rest of the afternoon making Martha Washingtons and peanut butter balls. Yummy!

I was wiped by the end of the day. And, sooooo sugared out.

Derek brought home a load of already chopped wood and started a roaring fire for me. I finished decorating the mantle and settled down for a hot cup of chai.

It was a great day off.

I work today. Ugh. But, after work, I'm going to start where I left off.

Something about the previous post made me wonder... Do we (Christians) lead people to Christ or to church? Huge difference.

BTW, on the church's answering machine this morning was a message left for Jesus Christ, this fella wants Jesus to call him back. He left his name and number, I think my hubby will give him a call.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Can I get real for a minute?

(Sensitive viewers consider yourself warned. This post may be spiritually explicit. Not suitable for spiritually immature viewers.)

Why is it so hard to convince folks in the church of Christ that God wants a personal relationship with him? Hm? What's up with that?

The balking, the cringing, the whispering... the dead silence in my class was enough to shut down the most experienced of teachers.

I didn't teach apostasy, blasphemy... so what's the deal?

Or is this news to us? That God actually desires more from us than a punch in and punch out card that's perfectly filled...


What kind of church have I associated myself with that cringes at the thought of having an intimate, delight filled relationship with it's creator? What is so foreign about that? You gotta tell me that wasn't meat... puleeeze tell me that was milk and they just got it down the wrong pipe! They were choking on it! How on earth have they made it this far in their spiritual warfare without a personal relationship with their redeemer! What have they been doing for the PAST TEN YEARS?!!! Ugh. I'm so thoroughly frustrated.

Mind you... it wasn't the whole class. But teaching it was akin to swimming upstream in molasses.

Naturally, I have one heckler. A whisperer. She's above it all. This is all beneath her. She "doesn't need this" she tells me every class. And, yet she shows up every week. I suppose God has her there to keep me humble? I silently prayed for her right in the middle of class. We'll see what happens with that.

I can't even begin to explain to you how difficult it is to teach a class... a bible class... when you know you are right in the middle of a spiritual assault. NO... a loooong spiritual battle. I feel so incredibly weak... vulnerable... unqualified... I have come a long way from leaning on my own understanding and strength... but during these latest weeks my personal strength has run dry and I am strictly surviving on spiritual fumes. Certainly aware that I am not the best qualified for the job. And yet... no one else will step up. Hopefully when I am done, this will change.

I am baffled by this realization that wanting a closeness with God makes me a liberal nut to my obviously "conservative" sisters... Mm Mm. I never considered myself liberal or conservative... and I don't know what this make me now.... or makes them.

I'll forge on as long as God requires me to...

Signing out unapologetically...

You know, when you're 12 you think you're going to be like this forever. Just as you are. Your body will never wear out. You already know everything there is to know. All that's left to look forward to is marriage and babies.
Then you finish middle school and Jr. High, and move on to highschool. And, it's there that you just know you will never change. You know so much more than you did when you were 12, and now, you've got the marraige thing pretty much lined up with the boy-of-the-month.
Then you graduate. And, you're in limbo-land. Too old to be hanging out with highschoolers, and too young to be hanging out with the young adults. Most of which have started their degrees and talk in code: "I got my AA, only to switch majors and go for a BS. I'll start taking 300 classes early, but only if I can change my GPA..."
So, you jump into the college thing. And, that's when you KNOW that you will never change. You're living in a dorm, 3 meals a day, and you take the classes you want to take. At least, you HOPE you never change. The guys are hot here.
Then your college money runs out, and you're living in town, hoping to get back into college again.
So, you get your own place. You fanaggle over the rent with the landlord, and begin to decorate with other people's leftovers. And, though it's kinda weird, you never really thought much of working a full-time job and holding down your own fort. Paying rent and utilities is the most grown up thing you do all month. Every month. But, you still hit the movies and hang out at Subway with your boyfriend... and life is pretty much perfect. No plans to move forward, but wouldn't go back to highschool for nothin'!
Then you start talking marriage. A breeze, right? It'll be the same as now, except one of us will move in with the other... You'll never change. You'll have the endless energy you have now, only a few more responsibilities when the baby comes.... I mean, who doesn't love babies, right? You've been looking forward to this day since you were 12. You've had it planned out for nearly a decade!
Then the baby comes. No one told you they have a different clock than you. (Funny how I didn't mind being up at 3am with my fiancee, but it's different with an infant!) Suddenly, you realize everything has changed. YOU are no longer the center of the universe. And, you slowly realize... even at 3am... you're okay with that. You'd do anything to provide and protect this little crying creature. And, motherhood isn't anything like you had imagined when you were 12. It's so much harder and so much better!
Then you're infant turns 1 and is into everything. Turns 2 and says "no!", and gets it's first paddling. She's 3 and asks "whyyyy?". She's four and gets bossy. She's 6 and toothless. She's eight and has drama with her little friends. She's 10 and wants her ears peirced. She's 12 and she has it all figured out. She'll never change.
So, you try to tell her that she will... and she looks at you blankly and asks if she can start wearing make-up.
My daughter turns 12 next year... and she's got it all figured out.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A recent journal entry...

From the "Captivating Journal"...
"Healing is available. this is the offer of our Savior- to heal our broken hearts. To come to the young places within us and find us there, take us in his arms, bring us home. The time has come to let Jesus heal you. Pray.
Jesus, come to me and heal my heart. Come to the shattered places witin me. Come for the little girl that was wounded. Come and hold me in your arms and heal me. Do for me what you promised to do-heal my broken heart and set me free.
Sit quietly. Perhaps journal a little bit. And, rest assured that Jesus heard your cry, has come for you, and will continue to come. Listen for his voice. What is he saying to you?"

(I wrote as I listened:)
Oh, sweet wounded one. I've been here all along. Thank you for letting me in to heal you. I see where & how & by whom you've been hurt. Thank you for forgiving them. My relationship with you is sweeter when your heart is free of that bitterness. You are loved. You are lovely. You were worth creating & so worth restoring. Wait til you see what I have planned for you, Jen. I love you... Jesus.


Friday, November 17, 2006

It's "Man vs. Wild" - Derek King edition in my living room. We have a fireplace, but no fireplace tools (ya know, the long handled brush, poker and dustpan)... so , Derek was using his bare hands to re-arrange the wood in the fireplace... but just now switched to his handy-dandy hammer. He won't get hurt... he's too smart for that. But, he might let the house burn... hehe...
My tummy is hurting tonight. I'll have to be brief.
The "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is upon us. Mmmm... my season for chai and homemade shortbread. Baking and melting and decorating and creating. This is truly "Jennifer's Springtime!" I come alive this time of year!
Our christmas gifts this year will reflect the first "Christmas"... Jesus recieved three gifts - Gold - an extravagant gift, Mhyrr - a practical gift, and Frankensence - a Spiritual Gift. So... my children will be recieving the same sorts of things. No, not gold and spices. But, we have an extravagant gift planned for the kids... something that we would never afford on any other day of the year... something that will totally blow their minds. Gotta get it on video... note to self. The practical gift will come to me as I see things they need - on a personal basis, and the spiritual thing is something that Derek and I will pray about... and observe in my kids.
BUT... as for the REST of our family (I have 11 brothers and sisters, 45+ neices and nephews, oodles of married-into-the-family type folks and some cousins and such coming down from Canada...) I will be making home made gifts for them. Not cheesy stuff that you set aside when you see it... real, handcrafted works of art or delightful treats - nothing but the best. And, really... that's what excites me the most!
My kids are playing Christmas music in their rooms right now... chips off the old block, eh? (Transsiberian Orchestra no-less!)
Well, while my tummy mends tonight, I'll be pulling out jewlery making kits, card crafting kits, books on homemade gifts, acrylic paints and canvases, and making a list of who gets what and when to start and finish.
Creating and giving... wow... that's my favourite thing in the whole world!

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm sitting at my desk, wrapped in a sparkling red blanket and covered in my old York College sweatshirt. A too-weak cup of chai is cooling off next to me and I am struggling with what to write.
Today was my hubby's day off. I enjoyed the afternoon, reading excerpts from books to eachother, we hit the movies and watched Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest for 50 cents a ticket and then hit Barnes and Noble for some more book reading. We're peas in a pod. (I did however, sneak away to Hobby Lobby to pick up that embossing heat gun I had coveted for far too long.)
I have just come off of an incredibly busy week. Some time ago, in a ladies class, it was brought up that the ladies desperately wanted another Ladies Retreat. Most of the ladies who had hosted and put on the last one had since left the church (ugh, huge issue - can't be addressed here - perhaps another time), and there was a gap between wanting and having.
I stood in the gap. Why? Who knows?
By the way... I have opened this blog window and written in this space several times in the past months only to close it up unsaved. I think I'll post this one... see where it takes me. ("Girlfriend has commitment issues!")
I spoke at this retreat... twice. I was sort of the emcee, but was also one of the session leaders and the featured speaker last night.
Mmmm last night was nice. We had ladies church down at a local private park (owned by friends of mine). They built a huge bonfire and made hot apple cider for all of us. The ladies showed up in their warmest attire, and wrapped in blankets sat on the enormous logs as we worshipped together. Sadly, I only spent an hour preparing my lesson... but it was delivered with much passion... and I pray that the ladies were blessed by it.
I spoke on embracing God, doubt, faith and grace. I emphasized that we are not enough. We were created to be incomplete without him - and to feel like we are falling short is how it's supposed to be... until we take our first step of faith. Then, much like our first step on an escalator - God takes us from there. I hoped that every woman in the audience had experienced God's grace and that it wouldn't stop there - that women would share it with other women and shine forever like stars in the universe.
Anyway... between the smoke and the hot chocolate and s'mores and the shaky start to my lesson... I think it was all good. But I am tired.
You know... Yesterday - I went with a friend to pick up a table she bought at an antique store down the street from my house. While I was browsing, I found an old tiara. Simple, tarnished and beautiful. A large star was placed on top of two little "hills" - between them. And, that was it! I asked the clerk how much it was (the tag was blank) - she figured it to be $2. I took it. I bought it impulsive and placed it on my head on the way out the door. I didn't want to place it in my purse, lest it break - so the natural place to "hold" it seemed to be my head. And then I promptly forgot about it.
My friend and my sister and I went to Sam's Club to seek out the perfect wedding gift for the shower that afternoon. I shopped for an hour and folks seemed to look at me a little longer and smile. I smiled back. I thought "Jeez, I must look good!". Or... maybe people were just extra friendly at the beginning of the holiday season. In any event, we purchased our fantastic gifts and drove on to the church. I dropped my gifts off there and printed of the scriptures I would use at the campfire that night. My sweet hubby brought some tennis shoes and my old sweatshirt to me - and I snagged them in my rush out the door.
It wasn't until I hopped in the church van and pulled on my sweatshirt that I realized I was still wearing my new old tiara! No one, not my sister, friend, Sams' Club shoppers, church friends, not even my daughter made mention of my tiara! The ladies in the van were tickled... we drove on out to the bonfire together... but I kept the tiara on. I didn't want to lose it in the van.
When I arrived at the bonfire, it was roaring! Old leaves seemed to make the fire rage... if only for a moment. And, as I was speaking - and as some of the ladies were getting chilly - someone would throw a leafy branch on the fire. And, all of the ladies would bask in it's temporary rage of fire. But, the leaves would burn out and then the ash would float way up in the air and still glowing, land all around us.
As I was speaking someone shouted out..."Jen! You have fire on your head!" I brushed my hair out quickly, bumping my once again forgotten tiara. I didn't want to have a Michael Jackson moment right there in front of everyone! Then there was a murmur. Some of the women had imagined it to be fire, but it was my tiara sparkling - reflecting the fire on my head. They said it looked like a sort of anointing. We all laughed together.
After the session, singing, and prayer we all sang silly songs together around the campfire and the little girls took turns wearing my tiara. What joy that little $2 trinket brought to folks that day.
I have so much going on in my life, in my heart... and I really do want to share it all. But, I don't know where or with whom to start!
I do want to say this...
I have been getting closer to God. He has reassured me of his forgiveness and unconditional love. Though, he has also been reminding me that while his love is unconditional, his promises are not. Mmm... and that is where I need to grow.
I'm sorry for my absence... not only in writing or not writing... but my emotional absence as I write.
I want to get real again.
More later.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Okay... fuggetaboutit. I can't do it. I can't do the writer's idea thing on this blog. It makes me literary constipated. I don't know if it's performance anxiety or what. I'm just going to go back to where I was and just be me. Whew. Gosh!
I started the class I'd been threatening to start for some time. I hadn't started it because I just didn't know if I had it in me to be a leader in our church. I was new... but that wasn't why. I had just come through a traumatic thing with our last church, and I came out of there feeling about this big >=<. My heart had been trampled and I had become rather unsure of myself. Insecure. I'm not over it, by the way. I still feel insecure... insufficient. BUT... I also feel God's calling. So, I've answered. And, I trust that he's got my back.
The class is based on the John and Staci Eldrege book: Captivating. I had read it through once. And, I was completely overwhelmed with it - the truth of it. I had brought it up in our Ladies' Class as a possible next subject and they all jumped on it. Secretly, I had hoped someone else would lead the class - I just wanted to recommend the book. But, it turns out I am teaching it.
Anyway, I say all that just to say this: When God calls, listen and respond.
Tonight at a ministry leaders' meeting, one of our new christians - with tears in her eyes - expressed her appreciation for the class. (So far, I've only taught two.) Seems the class needed to be had.
My heart is weary. Being yanked out of one ministry, moving out of state away from your dearest friends and family and into a new state, culture and church and thrust into leadership was just a little more than I thought I could handle in a few months. I really didn't have the desire to teach. To be looked at. To be in charge. But... it's what God seems to have required from me. I pray that I am meeting his approval.
On a different note...
Zion's birthday party is Thursday. We're having a pirate party. Skull and crossbones and everything. I'm even having a shipwrecked ship planted in my front yard... (did I mention I used to do theater?) it'll have torn sails and a pirate's flag (which is sitting on my desk next to me thanks to Zachary our 6 foot 300 pound gothic new christian teen). I went out and bought a few things for ambiance, but I think the kids will have a hoot!
I"m making a pirate ship cake. Fruit Roll-Ups for sails, and so on ... Zion has the kewlest costume ever, eye patch, sashes and pirates' wig included. Jack Sparrow - watch out! Zion doesn't know this, but he's getting a kewl pirates' sword, dagger and gun on his birthday. Kid loves to play dress up. (He gets it from his mom's side.) For dinner, we're having fish n' chips. And, Derek's going to have a tonne of games for the kids to play. THAT will be the most fun.
Oh, and it's a costume party. Everyone is coming as a pirate. And, I'll have a mural out on the front lawn as a scene setter... for pictures. I'll post them later.
Creating is what I love to do. If I could be a Chief Creative Officer for some maginificent company... I'd do it in a heartbeat. After my kids are raised... and if we weren't doing some sort of mission work somewhere. In the meantime, the churches get my creative attention. (Poor things!)
This blog is all over the place. Prolly should wrap it up.

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Everyone wants a Saviour, no one wants a Lord."
The words echo in my mind this week. The free spirit has stopped to listen.
Is it true? Is that me? Have I thanklessly been freed and snatched my salvation then rejected His Lordship only to - in a fury of spirited living - entangle myself again?
I cannot be my own master. It's not for a lack of intelligence. I have some. It's not for a lack of will. I have plenty. It's for a lack of divine wisdom. I have none.
Have I surrendered myself to Him?
God has been so patient with me.
He watches and waits as I wrestle, frustrated, head down, eyes brimming with tears to untangle the messes I've made in my life. My own doing. He encourages, He comforts, He offers to help, but in my stubborn pride, I tell him I've got it. So, He waits patiently.
When will I stop and realize that He alone understands the tangle and has the wisdom, and the forethought to unravel the mess?
Why am I so stubborn? What purpose has it served? Have I mistaken it for strength? Such foolishness.
I still hesitate to call him to be Lord... because I know that means Lord of ALL. What am I holding back? What am I afraid I will lose? My freedom? My spirit?
My creator knows me. And, He is amused at his creation. A wild child. Barefoot, free, daring, unafraid... and... entangled. Again.
God, show me. I believe... but help my unbelief.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Schnitzel with noodles: Favourite things
Old movies, the smell of popcorn, finding change, new lipgloss, seeing my breath in the night air, puppy breath, crisp fall mornings, children laughing, caramel, caramel apples, harvest, friends gathered around a fire, reminiscing, things that work, being noticed - appreciated, the smell of babies, flying, the smell of the ocean before I actually see it, imagining the ocean is just over that hilltop, the crackle of the fire in my fireplace, the first snow, falling asleep in the hammock, telling a joke right, a hot shower, getting up early despite my body's resistance, crisp pancakes with hot syrup, snuggling up to a good book with a cup of chai and some biscotti, planning special events for people, checking my e-mail and finding a real letter in there for me, fresh home made salsa with toasted chips in front of an episode of LOST, inside jokes, the first lick on an icecream cone, making homemade waffles, walking in dewy grass barefoot, the smell of cut grass, the smell of gasoline, sunrises, Canada, fresh picked blueberries, walking on the lakeshore, a strong stick for hiking, camping, painting, learning or mastering a new skill, singing, acoustic guitar, smelling my husband's cologne behind his ear, falling asleep, Christmas smells, Christmas music, decorating for any holiday, these are a few of my favourite things.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I only have a minute before a hundred kids start coming through the door for the late Saturday morning pancake breakfast we are hosting here in our home. But, I wanted to share with you just a few things. Okay, one thing. (Remember, I'm out of time...) I've decided to take writing more seriously. I'd like to be a writer some day. Maybe even get published. (Try to stiffle the giggles.) I feel like I have a hundred ideas floating in my mind... and it's time they landed on paper. So... I have just had my computer fixed. Bought a book on writing "The Writer's Idea Book" by Heffron. Heffron... sounds like a spice. Anyway... I'll start writing here. I'll post my articles, stories and poems... my exercises here. Hope they amuse some, inspire others and make their way into a book. Uh... MY book. Hehe. Gotta get the sausage patties, um, patted. See ya!-Jennifer-

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Funniest thing happened to me yesterday. Had it happened a month ago, I'd have been mortified. Had it happened during that very special time of the month I'd have been outraged. But, as it was, it was hilarious. At the time.
I was visiting a church member at the hospital... she had just had a baby... I waiting to be let inside the Labour and Delivery doors. I was dressed in my black with white striped workout pants, flipflops, and my long v-neck t-shirt. Casual. Hair dolled up... make up on. Thought I looked cute. My husband was there with me... looking away at the map of the floor.
A hospital worker walked up and stood beside me. She was waiting for the doors to open too. She mumbled apologetically about being in the way. I smiled, and said "No problem". She looked around me to the front of us, and a look of suprise came over her face... "Oh my goodness! Your'e in labour!"...
"Uh... no..." I stated. Then... deep down inside... I started grinning. It struck me as funny. She thought I was at full term and I was just fat! I was wearing what looked like a comfy outfit for labour... but I was just trying to look sporty. She had just made the biggest blunder a woman could make with another woman... and I was about to die laughing! I shoulda been hurt... but I was trying so hard not to just erupt into laughter!
She looked stunned... and couldn't speak another word. Couldn't even muster up some sort of explanation or apology. Poor thing. I'd rather be me than her in that situation.
I grinned and turned away... trying so hard not to giggle. Derek had found the right doors and we started down the hall way.
I asked him if he'd overheard our conversation. He said "no". I told him. He looked at me blankly. He was probably thinking... "Oh My Gosh... how's she gonna react? What kind of damage am I going to have to repair here? One careless comment is HOW many hours of reassurance?" I'm sure his mind was racing. How was he going to have to deal with me for the next few hours... days?
I told him how I almost hit the floor laughing.
"Really?!" he asked. A bit shocked.
"Really." I assured him.
I explained that I had already had it in my mind that these were the last days of me being careless with my body. I had allowed circumstances to shape me... literally. And, I told him that it just fueled the fire within me... a reminder of WHY things needed to change. A funny reminder.
I know that lady probably went home mortified. I should have let her off the hook and laughed in front of her. Woulda made her feel somewhat better. But... the incident... the wake up call... the "cringe moment"... was really for me.
I'm taking pains to change my lifestyle. This body is a tool, meant for good service to God... and at this point I take better care of my car than I do of my body. (Which reminds me... my car needs an oil change.)
In the meantime... it turns out that we really CAN choose our responses to things...
I still think it's funny...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Been a while since I blogged last. I know you missed me.

I’m stuffed into a U-Haul and headed out of Sacramento. But perhaps I should start at the beginning.

We’ve been job searching for three months. In the meantime, we had packed a few belongings into our mini-van and headed out to Little Rock, AR to work in the ministries with a congregation there. We had left the bulk of our belongings in a 10X25 storage unit in Folsom. We figured that whoever hired and moved us would have to move us from Sacramento rather than paying a few thousand to move ourselves only to have to turn around and move again.

We’ve been living with my older sister. She and her husband have an enormous house and eight kids. Two of which have since married and moved on. But, hey! What’s five more?

It’s been great there. We’ve managed to get to know the church in a way that you wouldn’t if you had just stopped in and visited from time to time. We’ve dug in and got to know the congregation… worked alongside and long enough to really get a glimpse of just what makes this family tick.

These guys have no elders, deacons or youth minister. Really, the Lord has worked through the preacher and the treasurer to keep the church rolling. It has been through quite a bit in the last few years. More on that later.

We worked hard for weeks writing and phoning churches looking for what it was God wanted us to do. We received a few return calls and Derek did a few phone interviews. Nothing really materialized from it all. However, our work with the church there did spark something within them. We accompanied them on their medical missions trip to Mexico. After we returned, we met with the church staff hiring committee. They decided to hire us on a temporary/probational basis.

Derek is working until January as the Associate Minister for our church with a focus on youth and young adults. After January, the congregation will decide if they want to keep Derek and whether or not they can afford to. And, we are both grateful for the work and for the opportunity to apply much of what we have learned in recent years.

The church does come with some issues. (As I’m sure, so do we.) They aren’t able to completely afford what Derek requires as far as a salary goes. And, as with many congregations who have trouble, people have spoken with their cheque books.

So, I am working as the church secretary to offset some of what Derek needs in the meantime. This, too is temporary as I’d prefer to allow Derek to do the breadwinning, and me to do the bread-baking if you know what I mean.

The congregation has paid for our move from CA to AR… and so we flew on Monday to retrieve our things. We rented a truck, loaded it and are heading back from CA.

I missed CA like you wouldn’t believe. Just stepping off the plane and breathing the fresh air… light, cool air… sigh. I was even chilled a bit! It was great seeing neighbourhoods I once knew intimately. Wondered with every passing road how “so and so” down there was doing.

We visited one of Derek’s mentors. Curt is an old, self-taught preacher who really has taken Derek under his wing. He met us in his overalls under his carport. So glad to see us… and we were so glad to see him! He invited us in for a coke, and we sat in his little living room and tried to solve all the world’s ills. Well, the church’s anyway. We visited much longer than what we had time for. And, he encouraged us in our work in AR, though he made it clear that he wanted us back here in CA. He reminded Derek to preach the truth unashamedly… boldly. We expressed what this congregation had been through… and he thought a good dose of truth spoken in love would be just the prescription for their ills. We prayed together and made our way out the door. The brother seems to be in better health than when we left, so I am confident that we will see him again before too long.

We’ve already gone through some culture shock in AR. Everyone goes through it I’ve heard. We’d lived there for a year and secretly vowed never to return. But… God has ways of making you eat your words. Hehe. I haven’t become accustomed to the accent. And, I’m used to being able to read people… but in AR EVERYONE is sweet.

We’re driving down Highway 99 passing eucalyptus trees, almond groves and palm trees. The weather here is soooo much nicer. Yes… it’s hot, but not oppressively so.

Yesterday, Derek decided to take the U-Haul to our former church to see the kids at the learning center where we both used to work. Everyone was puzzled to see the big, orange truck pull up. Once Derek hopped out, the field of playing children cleared and he was rushed by a team of sweaty 6-10 year olds. We hugged kids as fast as we could, calling each of them by name. It was Jimmy’s birthday, Brandon had a birthday too, CJ had lost his two front teeth and Danika had dyed her hair pink. She was in trouble. We really love these kids. Missed them tremendously.

I’ve napped a while and decided to start writing again. Just went through the most interesting landscape. There is a part of CA that just takes you by surprise. We turned off of Highway 99 and headed directly east to the mountain pass. As we approached, the plains turned golden, interrupted by the greenest of grape fields. Not too long afterward, we were in the most golden rolling hills. A few dark green oak trees dotted the landscape, looking almost too perfect to be real. We wandered our way up through the pass and found ourselves in a town nestled in a small valley – Tehachapi. The tops of the rocky hills here are peaked with hundreds of massive white wind turbines. Most of them not turning. After the pass, we settled out onto a very flat desert area. The Mojave. The cactus trees here are thick and awkward with what looks like thick grasses poking out the ends of each twisted branch. The dirt is covered with clumps of sagebrush and the road seems to go on forever. In the distance a few purple lumpy mountains have staked their claim. My rearview mirror is half filled with blue sky and half filled with dusty mountain peaks. My cold has gotten the best of me and my ears are painfully plugged. I’ve yawned until my jaws have turned sore. Dunno when I’ll be able to hear it all again.

Guess it’s time to wrap up this one.

You’ll hear from me again soon.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

I'll be draggin' in church tomorrow if I write this... but I'll be distracted if I don't. So here it goes!

There is so much more to tell you about the work in Mexico.

We spent the days in Rio Bravo and Progresso, worked hard and headed home to our clean rooms and cool showers. (Didn't take a hot shower all week!) We went out for fast food and woke up to a fantastic continental breakfast. Home made belgian waffles, or french toast, or muffins or cereal, or bagels, fruit, hardboiled eggs, yogurt... coffee, juice, milk. It was a feast! My morning plate was usually french toast, on which I sprinkled cinnamon and poured maple syrup and butter, yogurt, a glass of milk and a banana to go. It would be a hard days' work before lunch.

We loaded up the buses at 7:00am and headed for the border. It was already muggy... I just had to tell myself that this was the cool time of day. We'd generally sing on the way to the clinics, or laughed and shared antics and stories.

Once we arrived, the clinics were just setting up. I'd find work to do... tidy here, take a grandmother to the eye clinic there. Mostly just trying to find my spot. I usually found it with the children. Our group was in charge of the VBS... though I wasn't teaching. Two local women did their best to wrangle the kids into one spot, as we sat by cutting the papers for them and passing out crayons. We knew the teaching part of VBS was over when she packed up her box and left. That's usually about the time chaos would ensue. And... shortly before lunch. The preacher's wife would drag out a few boxes of things that would keep the kids amused. Bubbles, crayons, candy, and on the final day, hula hoops and jumpropes. Derek joined me on the last day to play with the kids. He managed to snag an interpreter and explained the rules to the games we would play when we worked at the daycare: "Bulldog" and "Mosquito Net". Chasing games. Kids anywhere love 'em! He was an instant hit! He'd count "Uno!"..."Dos!"..."Tres!" and the kids would start screaming and running. Parents started to come by just to watch. It really was amazing to see our little ones mixed in with the locals and realize that chase was a universal language!

I realized that we had loads of candy that no one wanted to take home. Little packages of Chiclets and Tootsie Rolls. I began to pass them out to anyone who wanted them. My interpreter taught me the word for "sweets", which I've long since forgotten. The kids were thrilled. I was a little concerned when the kids would put the candy in their mouths, wrapper and all... until I realized... they unwrap the candy IN their mouths. I was a little alarmed, but a sweet mexican lady politely laughed... and reassured me in Spanish that the kids here do it all the time.

By the time all the candy was passed out (I think it took three rounds), I realized that the line over by the clothing station was still going strong...and there were kids there who were not allowed by their parents to come over to where the games were being played. I went back to the room of goodies and brought out balloons. I asked the interpreter for the word for "Balloon" and was suprised to hear it sounded very similar to ours. A word which, too... has long since been forgotten. The children loved them too. Many would come back and ask for one more ... for their "Armana?". I smiled and told them to bring their sister here and I would give her one. Only two or three sisters showed up. The kids were clever... but they saw I was ... um... cleverER!

Friday was a typical hot, busy day. Our lunches were difficult times. Families had been there since dawn to be first in line, and many of them didn't bring water or a lunch. So, when we were served ours, we were told we could share or not share... it was up to us. Usually a lady came by asking how many lunches would be in your group. I always doubled the number and passed out sandwiches... which were usually turned down two or three times before they were taken. Dunno what that was about. We all brought our own waters, and were much to thirsty to even think about drinking a soda. The chips were from Mexico... and each Dorito had enough seasonings on it for the whole bag! Most chips were left behind. It was enough to pickle the American tummy! After a hurried lunch, we'd head outside to see what was left of work.

Lunches were late, so work usually ended right after lunch. I was always anxious to get back on the bus and get home, and then at the same time reluctant to leave. I was worried there was just one more little one out there who didn't get a bubbles of her own, or a hungry little one who'd like my banana.

The last day I was there, I held what must have been a six month old baby most of the morning. One of the teens had him, and I watched for a while, wondering where the mama was. There was a stroller, but no diaper bag or bottle. He held a cracker which he promptly dropped and a toddler must have picked up. After a while he began to fuss, so I took him over. We cuddled and played and when I realized he was hungry I went to the lunch room.

The lunch room. It was the weirdest thing. We were in a school... the door had a sign posted "Do not come to us, your lunch will come to you." "Workers only, please."

I opened the door hesitantly... I wasn't a lunch worker, but I had a little fella who was hungry and no mama in sight.

The room was blasted with cold air and there must have been 20 white haired people in there making PBJ sandwiches! They all looked up at me at the same time. One lady came up to shoo me out. I couldn't believe that 20 people came all the way to Mexico to make sandwiches. It boggled my mind. Once I saw that I was being pushed out, I explained that I needed something for the baby to eat. They were quite helpful. Someone found a banana, someone else a peanutbutter lid, and a spoon, and a cup of very cold water.

I thanked them kindly and went back to the hot play yard where I sat the baby and me in a desk. I mashed the banana and fed it to the little guy whispering a prayer that he wasn't allergic to bananas or peanutbutter. He loved it. He took sips of the cold water like a pro... but seemed suprised at how cold it was.

He was satisfied with his lunch and refused anymore. I cuddled with him a bit longer... it must have already been two hours, but his mama hadn't returned. He was tired, so I started to rock him to sleep... I started to get real hot... baby heat, so I went into the beans and rice room (air conditioned) and that's when he started to cry. I realized the cold bothered him, so I went back outside and his little body went limp... he was in hot heaven! MY babies would have loved the air conditioned room... this little fella found it uncomfortable. So... we sat and we sweated together.

After another hour or so, the same young teen found me and asked if she could hold him. I let her. I went off for just a minute, but when I returned... the mama had picked him up. I never met her.

One afternoon, we all loaded up and were headed to a community where we were building a house and it was ready to be painted. Two vanloads of kids were there... must have been a total of 20 kids and 5 construction workers. As soon as I hopped out of the van I knew we were in trouble. It was HOT... not typically hot, but devistatingly HOT. The crew we were joining were already sitting in what little shade they could find and wiping themselves down... drinking, guzzling water. I walked up warily... beyond the rickety fence was a brand new house... probably 15 feet by 30 feet. Two rooms. Not two bedrooms.. two rooms. In the whole house. We were painting it an unimpressive brown. I asked where the outhouse was... and I was pointed to a skinny shack that was being propped by a few old 2X4's. I decided not to disturb it. A van rolled down the dusty road and stopped right next to me. Only the fourth grader in the car spoke english. They wanted to know if this was the only house we'd be working on, because their house needed help too. I asked our leader, and returned the message that we'd only be working on this one. I told them about the free clinic and VBS too. I turned back to the house knowing that these next few hours would be the hardest.

I looked and looked for a paintbrush, but found none... every one was in use. And, I was useless. I looked around to see what I could clean up... An old candle stick, the 1/4 full mayo jar in the hot sun, the dried out lime, the melting wax candle... these were all on the top of a beaten hutch just outside the door of the new home. I peered into the shack next to it, and realized I was looking right into their old home. The hutch I was leaning on was their kitchen. I decided to leave everything put. What might have been junk to me, might be a treasure to them. Besides.... there was no trash service out there. I moved my way to the front of the building and found the clever concoction they had built... a pump... a well... and a large tub with dirty water in it. I turned the corner and saw more painters... there would be no way I could help today. As I stood on the corner, the hot wind picked up and whipped around the corner cooling my drenched body off. I had found relief. I stood there for just a second realizing that I had found comfort in sweat and hot wind... when I was asked to move over for a painter. I was in the way. I went inside to see if there was any help I could offer there. But there was none. I returned to the back "yard" and found a dog snooping around. I turned the candle stick over to make a bowl and poured some cool water in it for him. He didn't want it. I felt completely useless. And... suddenly I felt the need for a bathroom. I spied the outhouse one more time and promptly decided against it. Who knows what creatures were in there? Could I hover? There was just no way. I decided to take the first van home. The kids were finishing up the house and looking like they weren't going to give up their brushes. I felt bad for about 2 minutes. Just long enough for the van's air conditioning to kick in.

The trip really taught me so much about my priviliges as an American, as a christian. I always went home to a cool room with the Disney channel playing in the background, as I wrestled with where to eat. Where to eat... not WHAT to eat. My mind often went back the kitchen on the hutch. It was still hot in Rio Bravo... and the floor is still hard.

I am blessed. Fat and happy. Are you?


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

We crossed the border for the first time on Saturday morning, prepared to pass out flyers in the Rio Bravo and Progresso neighborhoods. I videoed our crossing. The road above the Rio Grand was terribly bumpy and there was no easy transition between road and bridge. It was just a huge BUMP on and off the bridge. The river was lined with colourful shanty houses and the American side of the river had a high fence around it as far as you could see. The Mexican Border Crossing area was under construction. Actually... it was difficult to tell if they were building or tearing down. There were concrete chunks every where. After a few minutes of bumpy driving, we approached the actual crossing. A gentleman was in the booth and nothing more than a gate crossing guard appeared to hold the Americans back. (The other side of the highway headed into the US was crowded, however.) We made it through almost without stopping. I was surprised to see that we only paid a fee to go across, but weren’t asked for ID or what our business there was.
First we drove a highway that didn’t seem to have any speed limit. It was well maintained and well marked. The election had just happened and so several political candidates’ pictures were still up. They all looked the same to me... with different faces. One man stood out to me as he had a defiant fist held high. We got off the road and made our way to the Ranch church in Rio Bravo. The building was a grey concrete block building labeled "Iglasia De Christo" behind it were two outhouses. One with pink trim and one with blue. Behind that was a ditch partially filled with water and floating debris. And a shanty house flanked it on the left. Roosters and dogs were already up and busy. Some of the church members met us in the tent-like structure next to the building. We had plans to greet people in their own neighborhoods.
We drove back to Rio Bravo after a short while... and though it was only 9:30 in the morning, it was already quite hot. We drove through the colourful city, making our way through the huge speed bumps and morning traffic. Eventually we crossed the railroad and turned onto a dirt road. The buses unloaded under the shade and we split up into several groups headed in several directions.
The houses were very close together and sometimes it would have been impossible to tell if it was one structure or two if they hadn’t been painted different colours. It was Saturday morning, so we were greeted by people who were tending gardens or families who were meeting out in the cooler morning air. The houses were usually well gated and friendly dogs followed us up and down the street. Each yard was filled to the fullest with all sorts of random items... wash basins and car hoods, pallets and plumbing parts. We noticed that most of the houses still had huge rods sticking up out of the brick and mortar roofing. It was peculiar to us... so we asked about it and learned that the families were not well off, and would build on the houses as they had the cash to do so. The rods were left up in case they had plans to build a second story. We never saw a house with a second story. The gates were ornate and were often topped with broken bottles secured in mortar to keep folks from jumping the walls. People were skeptical and no one spoke English. I looked down at my paper and deciphered what was written on it. I told folks the best that I could about a free clinic at the church of Christ in Rio Bravo. Medical, Dental and vision... and that the children would have a bible school. Then, I would place the green flyer in their hands and hope for the best... wishing them a Buenos Dias...
As we finished up in the streets of Rio Bravo, I noticed that it was our newest Christians who were pounding the pavement harder than any of the rest of us. I think the poverty level of the Mexican families really touched them.
Next we loaded up and did the same sort of thing in Progresso. The streets were wider and I’m not sure they were much safer. It was nearly noon and the sun was beating down on us. Most folks had returned into their darkened houses, so it was more difficult to find families who were willing to speak with us. I walked one street to find a small group of children playing in the water that was running off of what ever their grandmother was cleaning. A little boy was naked and ran back to grandmother, but the older boy who must have been three was talking very loudly to me and had his arms crossed. I couldn’t understand a word he said, but noticed that he kept pointing to his older sister... who was quite shy. She had her little chubby hand held out and presented me with a bright pink flower. I was deeply moved and thanked them for the gift. I nodded at the grandmother and grinned all the way back to my group. It was truly the sweetest gift I received on that trip.
As we loaded up, we realized that a group was missing. It was terribly hot and though we all had our personal containers of water, there just didn’t seem to be enough water to go around. The vans couldn’t run in hot sun without driving because they would overheat... though we desperately wanted the air conditioning. We waited for a while, but when half of that group showed up nearly in tears we started up the van. The group had been accidentally split up and both halves were lost and dehydrating fast. We took one van into the village and began retracing the steps of the first half of the group. Immediately our pre-pharmacy kids took to dunking whole towels in the ice water that was in the cooler and placed them on the red-faced kids. We passed them our own waters and even diet cokes and told them to just sip them slowly. The van was quiet and serious. We were very aware of the graveness of the situation. We drove the bumpy roads and took turn after turn... and eventually we found the other half of the group. We scooted over and began tending to them as well. The younger kids in the group did everything they could to hold it together, but when they thought no one was looking, I saw tears. Being a mama, I snuggled up and cooled them off... I really felt for them. It was the most terrifying thing they’d ever been through. Being lost in a foreign country. They had a great leader who had really gone all out to keep the kids calm and used the cellphone to guide our driver to where he was. His translator had accidentally split the group.
We met the rest of our huge group at a small restaurant in Progresso where nearly 200 ice-cream cones were waiting for us. We took the restaurant over. After we were done cooling ourselves off, we were off to have cokes and do some shopping. Strangely, much of our group didn’t care to shop. They just couldn’t seem to stomach it after what they’d seen.
We all headed home tired and dirty and sweaty. We approached the US border and my anxiety about the validity of my US citizenship set in. I had never used my Indian Status ID card to claim citizenship before... and I was worried. I whispered a short prayer (one of many) as we unloaded to walk through. The building was clean and cool and I was so glad to be on the US side again. The border patrol agent asked everyone their citizenship... including me. I stated that I was a US citizen and then handed him my Canadian ID. Without missing a beat, he asked my for my date of birth and waved me through. I was so relieved.
We washed up in the hotel and went out to eat. Something cheap. I couldn’t get the kids out of my head. The heat. The dirty roads. Supper was swallowed hard. We had a devotional later that night and we could see that all of us had been really moved by what we saw. The medical supplies had been held up at the border for the entire week and we weren’t sure they’d make it through. We prayed about it... it was after all the main reason we were there. Mike had us pray and encouraged us to remember the greatness of God. We prayed some more.
I crumpled into bed that night wondering what worship would be like tomorrow. Do we dress up? Or would that just be rude? Or... do we not dress up and show up in our grubs? Would THAT be rude? I had my kids prepare their regular clothes. And, exhausted we all hit the sack. Zion prayed for the Mexicans to be rich. I thanked God for the little girl’s flower... a symbol of God’s beauty in both of them. We slept hard.
More tomorrow.

Day One:
Thursday, July 13th, 2006
We did all the laundry in the world yesterday. Didn’t think we’d ever see the bottom of the hamper! BUT... when it was all said and done... it was a beautiful sight to behold! We counted outfits, underwear and socks... We went out and bought hats, sunscreen and water bottles for our mission trip to Mexico... okay... and a few more incidentals. It’s amazing what you think you need for a trip.
BUT... here it is... day one.
We woke up around 6am. Kids knocked on the door ready for a shower. Our bags were packed, and all that was needed were some showers and clothes changing. It wasn’t too long before we were faced with breakfast. We had cereal, no milk. Peanut butter, no jelly. Departure time was in 30 minutes... I spied a 15 pound surloin roast on the counter. I thought "mmmm... steak for breakfast... wouldn’t that be something?" then I thought "You’re nuts... there’s no way! There’s no time!" Then I passed Mike on the way out to the car... he had just lit the grill. Oh me of little faith... Steak and eggs for breakfast it was! AND... we made it on time. God must have stood time still for us.
We met up with our bunch at the Conoco gas station where we filled up for the first time. I hopped out and began to paint flames on the sides of the Steinermobile (a 15 passenger bus). Kids thought it was cool...I was just hoping the paint would come eventually. Hehe.
So... we have already been through the rest of Arkansas, ate in Shreveport, LA, and we are currently on the road to Houston... It’s hot here. HOT. And, humid. But from what I hear the humidity will be soon over. Just in time for some hard work.
I brought face paint for the kids in Mexico... and plan to learn some children’s songs in Spanish... I just hope that my time spent will be useful, and productive. I pray that my children’s hearts be changed forever because they were offered this opportunity so early in life.
Right now, our van is singing all the devo songs they know. Derek is leading them. We have new friends everywhere... and what a blessing that is. The ache for old friends is somewhat eased by the making of new ones. But, that’s just a part of God’s plan, isn’t it?
I’ll be calling old friends today. I know they have been praying for this trip, and they need to know that we are all able to go.
More later.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The house smells fantastic. Home made marinara sauce made with all fresh ingredients (most picked this morning from the garden) is simmering on the stove. We’ll have spaghetti tonight. I have really enjoyed cooking the past few days. Was thinking I’d make spiced orange scones for the early risers tomorrow.
My whole family is going on a medical missions trip to Mexico in two weeks. We are so stoked. Can hardly contain it! DeVon, my oldest son, leaned over to me during Sunday evening worship and whispered "I can’t believe I’m going to be a missionary at age 12! That’s gotta be a record!" I smiled and squeezed him a bit. He thought for a second... "Wait! Chante’s 10... THAT’S the record!" I leaned over and reminded him that his little brother was going too. "Whoah! Zion’s 6! Cool! New Record!". His eyes were wide and excited. I couldn’t resist... "Trinity may go too. She’ll be five." "Holy Cow!" he responded. He was just so excited to know that kids can do missions too! He wanted our family to hold the record for this trip. And, we may. But, I may break it to him that several of his cousins shattered those records by being born while overseas on missions. Don’t want to burst his bubble just yet.
I’m not sure if I will do the bible studies, or entertain the small children during the studies. I have determined to learn some songs in spanish and bring bubbles and face paint and make home made playdough for the kids. I will start my spanish lessons today. Ya know, learn something other than what is on the Taco Bell Menu...
My gorgeous niece, Savannah will be heading off to Cambodia for a medical missions trip. She will be on a medical boat going up and down rivers offering free medical care and bible studies. She’ll be gone for a year. She has waited an entire year to find a mission that suited her. And, since she will be going into pharmacology when she goes to Harding, she thought this might be the thing.
My family has done mission work with Native Americans in Canada and the U.S. , they’ve smuggled bibles behind the Iron Curtain, been back since, started churches in the Ukraine, Papua New Guinea, done medical missions in Jamaica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, studied in Greece, Italy, and prolly a whole lot more places that I’ve forgotten.
Derek and I on the other hand, had only been comfortable doing work here in the states. We dedicated six years to the work with the Navajos (loved it and miss it!), one year to a children’s home, and six years to the churches in Northern California. Which, by the way...was very much a mission... just didn’t have the core hardships of overseas work in underdeveloped countries. Rather, we dealt with the core hardships of a rich, spoiled culture.
More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's been two months since Derek was let go from our church. Twenty days or so since I last wrote in my blog. I'd hand out a list of excuses, but none of them are as interesting as I'd like to think they are.

I used to wake up mid-morning and immediately wake up the kids. We'd do all of our morning routine quietly and then settle in for breakfast. After breakfast, we'd homeschool at the kitchen table while I tended to e-mail, lunch plans and dinner plans. Usually preparation for ministry events would be in the mix. My life was planned, orderly, quiet, effective, purposed and predictable. Very much predictable. I loved it...

Now I am in my sister's home. So grateful. They are a lively bunch... active, running in a hundred different directions, persistent visitors, weird meal times, a lot of ministry being done... a lot! I wake up at the oddest hours... usually determined by the hour that I went to bed. I have caught up on all the movies I have been wanting to see for a while. Saw "Signs" last night. Tee Hee... it was great to see it again.

I miss my old friends badly. Miss predictability. This coming from the girl who would fly by the seat of her pants! I miss the trail near my old home. I miss the clubhouse. I miss the phone calls, the online chats, the drop-ins. I miss my kids' friends. Hehe... would have thought?

My life is good though, make no mistake. I have a renewed and sharper sense of mission. Purpose. I am having more spiritual discussions than I had with the preacher at home. I'm needed here. Sucker for appreciation. But, I won't let it go to my head. I've learned a harsh lesson in humility recently.

I'll tell you about George the useless door defender. David, my Canadian cousin. Eddie the blue-eyed Puerto Rican from Long Island. Trevis the young investor from Barbados. Blake the laugher. Cici's flushing pizza. Taco Bueno... which isn't More Good, by the way. I'll tell you about Lyndal the comedienne... Savannah the 19 year old boat faring missionary. Trinity the straight shooting four year old with a love for the Phantom of the Opera. She's singing it now.

I have so much in my life. My cup overflows. And, I know it. I can't wallow in self-pity a minute longer... I have much to do.

My husband is searching for a ministry job. I write. He sends.

We're heading out on a medical missions trip to Mexico. So much to prepare for.

Girls and boys here are already turning to Derek and me as though they know we'll be their next leader. I'm not completely prepared for that.

I feel completely spazzed out at times. Unable to concentrate. Uncertain. Insecure. Craving home. But I'll pray through that.

This blog is all over the place. I'm being bombarded with questions. Gotta run.


Friday, June 09, 2006

The Arkansas Experience.
I defiantly straightened my hair today. So far, so good. A little poofy, but it still resembles it's original glory. That's cool.
It's oppressively hot and humid here.
Yesterday I went to an auction with my sister. We rolled up on a gravel parking lot... a lot of people were leaving and that was our clue that there really wasn't much to bid on. But, we decided to park and stay. An Arkansas Auction. I wondered how a southerner could keep an auctioneer's pace...ya know... with the drawl and everything. I was amused when the auctioneer called a toilet seat a "mother-in-law picture frame".
Based on what I saw at the auction... furniture stores sell off their broken items and other folks dump unsellable garage sale items in one massive, rocky parking lot. If you plan on bidding, you go up to the front and ask for a number. My sister's was #168.
There were a lot of "good ol' boys" hanging around. Many of them pulled up their horse trailers in the hopes of landing a good deal on the linoleum or bathroom cabinets or roof tar. Carolyn was right in there with them. Nodding and waiting and nodding some more. I was very careful not to raise my hand to pull back my hair when the auctioneer was doing his thing. "Come on, folks, we got uh pallet of ruf tar rat here! Whool give me two-fav... fav...fav-six... we got six... whool give me sevun... six... sevun..." I started to space out. We were only on the first row of junk and the stuff I was remotely interested was going to be auctioned last. I started to look around at the folks. I was dressed in my work-out capris, white t-shirt, oversized shades, curled hair and a white hairband. Apparently white ISN'T what you wear to an auction. On the other hand, if I'd been dressed in a pair of overalls and a John-Deere cap, I'd have fit right in. Prolly needed some Skoal in my back pocket too... ya know ... as an accessory.
I got sunburned and lost interest pretty quickly. Though, when I started to look at the junk as potential art it got interesting.
Eventually I made my way to the car, turned on the air and pulled a cold one out of the cooler. I was so refreshed. Carolyn joined me after a few minutes. She had purchased a bathroom cabinet, three boxes of contractor trashbags, a huge box of grill cleaner and three sets of japanese lanterns. I bought myself a sunburn. Actually... it was free. Nearly got run-over by a horse trailer. That was free too. Guess they don't take well to spaced out California girls on the parking lot.
After the auction, I got home in time to make dinner... the first crew of 12 was fed and the other crew of 10-15 (not exactly sure how many folks make their way through here...) nibbled on dinner later. Steak, potatoes, steamed squash from the garden, southern-style green beans (yes, Canadians know how to make those too!), salad and fruit for dessert. All I was missing was bread... but I was too tired to make any. The crews of folks enjoyed their dinner and then went to play basketball until nearly midnight.
The Wal-Marts here have everything in them. I bought icecream, milk AND shampoo in the same store. Okay... so that's not that impressive... but I'm easily impressed. Now, if only Target would do that! What? They do?!
On the way home from Wal-Mart, my neice and I had a hankerin' (Arkansan for "craving") for the ice-cream so we stopped by the Wendy's and ordered a drink and two spoons. They were puzzled. We broke out the low-carb and the family sized icecream and ate right out of the carton. Yes we did! Nothing better than forbidden icecream, tell you what! What nearly killed me though, was watching my sweet little sixteen year old neice slurp ice-cream soup out of a gallon pail... If only I'd had a camera! Just struck me funny, I guess.
So, my kids are at the water park. Derek's outside trimming bushes so the kids can play basketball. I'm blogging and taking a loooong look at the watermelon I just brought home. I hope tonight's a quiet one. Just a couple of friends, some ice cream, popcorn and a good movie or two... ya know?
So, other than the heat and humidity combo... life in Arkansas has been good to me. I'll keep watch on the horse trailers and see if I can get my hands on a John Deere cap. Maybe THEN I'll fit in!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I have curly hair. Not normal curly hair... not the "Oh, that's so cute, you're so lucky!" curly hair. No. I have a fro all over my head weighed down with frizzy wanna-be curls that can't decide which direction to curl. It's sad, really. Every once in a while I'll do something ingenious with my hair, but generally I just try to keep it this side of a mass of tangled frizzballs.
Have a few new friends here in AR. Been interesting. These young men are from Brooklyn, NY. One fella is 26 and originally from Barbados. Soft spoken, but a killer basketball player. He loves the Lord and is in this for the long haul. I wished he'd marry one of my neices... but sadly, these things aren't up to me. Sigh.
The other fella is 33 and only a few days younger than me. I couldn't place his accent at first, and I still have a hard time understanding him. But, I might get the hang of it sooner than later. He too loves the Lord. Both the fellas are passionate about what they do... which is convert people. I really would love a study with one of 'em just to see what it is a new convert goes through in the We Care Campaign... mostly morbid curiousity, mixed with a little genuine thirst for a good bible study.
We nearly drove through fog to get to a ball game tonight and all I could think was "There goes the hair!". Fortunately no one was there to check me out. Good thing too... I spilled chili nacho sauce on my new shirt. And, when I borrowed my sisters pull-over, I spilled diet coke on it. Felt like a real lady, I'll tell ya!
So... why am I obsessed with my hair? Is it a dominance thing? Control? Vanity? Acheiving the impossible? Probably a little bit of each. One thing for sure... I'm in denial. No one would know I had naturally curly hair cuz I curl it or straighten it every day. Unless of course they catch me at a baseball park in early June in Little Rock, AR. Then they'd see the real me. Messy. Unkempt. Vain. Sigh.
This blog is all over the place. (Kinda like my hair.) I'd best let you go... In the meantime I'll be working on just the solution to my humid-reactant hair. A formula.
Hittin' the sack.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I'm sitting in a dark hallway atop a stack of living room pillows. The carpet is a burnt orange and has undoubtedly seen better days. I'm on my neice's laptop and hooked up to the phone with the computer on a piano bench. It's my workstation. It'll do.
Our trip from CA to AR was painfully long. I couldn't drive more than four or five hours at a time. I wore open sandals, and by the time I had arrived, my feet were a horrible black colour, with a thick layer between my toes. But, the dirt took the eyes off of my swollen grandma ankles. There's always an upside, right?
The van was stuffed to gills. What do you bring with you when you don't know where you're going, how long you're staying, if you'll be camping, interviewing or just going right back to where you came from? What do you bring? As much as you can.
I even brought my stoopid guitar and a book hoping to learn on the trip. Turns out, while Derek was driving, I was supposed to be sleeping so that I could make myself remotely useful for a few hours as he rested. The guitar just got in the way. Perhaps I'll still find time while I'm here. I'm determined to learn how to play it, dang it!
We arrived in Little Rock just after midnight and found our family putting up wedding decorations in the church building. We hugged and said hello to everyone. Cousins came out from everywhere which thrilled our kids... Shortly after, we headed home to a pink, very pink room and crashed under the pink canopy. I think we slept till 10 the next morning.
The next few days would be filled with wedding plans, decorations, shopping, cooking, and lots of visiting! Eventually, we'd eat dinner together and shout "OOOooPaaaa!" as folks came through the door during dinner. It was an inside Williams' joke. Pretty funny if you ask me. Though the New Yorker had a puzzled look on his face.
The wedding was beautiful. The princess Di of our family got married... and with style! She married a Harding University Professor's kid... it had to have panache... ya know?! The reception was fantastic. A great difference from the rehearsal dinner... though both formal, the rehearsal dinner was accompanied by a young pianist who is training to be an orchestra conductor. Ours was emceed by Uncle Mike and we were entertained by family members with silly songs... true Williams' style. Loved it. The Neller family and the Williams' family clearly had different wedding cultures. Hehe... I was glad I'd seen My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding. I knew how it all ended!
We're still in the pink room. Kids roaming about. Aunties insisting that we "eat! eat!". Card games, RISK, and chatting late into the night... and cooling off at the local water park. A few Starbucks trips have taken me momentarily back to CA... refreshing.
I don't know what the Lord has in store for us. I'm unaccustomed to not being informed, in control or even consulted with my life's plans... so this is a matter of faith and patience. Much patience... sigh.
I'm going to put the Hummus and Pita chips away. Will join the kids in playing Nertz after finishing my laundry...

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tadpoles and fireflies. Stars peeking through the fog. What a change of scenery in my living. Daily. Not just in my living... In my life. The issues that were issues only a few months ago aren't even realities in my life anymore! Now... my life's scenery is completely changed. I like the tadpoles and fireflies... but it comes with humidity and bad hair. I think I can deal with that. Could you?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Faith. Believing in the things unseen. Mom said to me a few weeks ago "Live with the expectation of God's blessing!" Every step in sync with that. Every thought. Every doubt removed. Every fear cast aside. Living with the expectation. Living as though you are in it, as though you see it. Knowing what you don't know. Faith.

I've been living rather faithless this past week. I was in denial about it until the night before last. I was showing all the physical signs though I spoke as though I was faithful. (Speaking about faith comes much more easily than living by it.) My stomach was tight. Eventually, needed Pepto-Bismol. I lay awake at night after a long night of T.V. Wondering. Worrying. Entertaining surges of anger. In the daytime, I would begin a packing project and once overwhelmed by my thoughts, I'd lay on the bed under the fan and just think. Eventually, I'd give in to sleep. I hadn't talked to my husband about it. I hadn't resumed my prayers with God. I internalized it all. And, late one night, I began to weep. I was overwhelmed. Derek listened and reassured me that things were going to be alright. But for the first time in my life, I actually dreaded the future rather than pressing for it.

He asked me to join him on the floor next to our bed to pray.I poured out my heart to God. First, I confessed all my sin. Sins of doubt, fear, faithlessness, betrayal, stubbornness. I asked for forgiveness knowing that He'd already done it. Thanking him for that never ending flow of grace. Then I prayed for my doubting self. I asked for wisdom, strength, clarity of thought, boldness of Spirit. Not just for me, but for my husband as well. I prayed for our elders, leaders in the congregation. For those that I loved. Those that I never took the time to get to know. I prayed for the weak. I prayed for those that had done me harm. I prayed for their children. I prayed for my closest friends whose faith is also being tested. And, when I was done praying... after Derek had finished praying... I was calm. Finally.

All the food, rest, relaxation in the world couldn't bring me the kind of peace that God brought to me through prayer. Let that be a lesson...

So, though we still have no real leads on a new ministry. I believe there is one out there that will come just in time. In God's time.

Though we are moving out of our place in to a storage unit, I believe God has a home lined up for me... a quaint little place that will tickle me pink.

Though my kids are out of the loop with their friends, I believe that God is preparing life-long friendships in the road ahead.

Though our bank account is quickly fading, I believe that every dollar we've ever spent was a blessing directly from God, and He will replenish in His good time. It's a matter of faith.

Faith. We all live by it. Christian or not. We all live with the expectation that "it" will be there.

I hadn't written in days. I was in a state of ... oh, lets just say... ugliness. I'm glad that I wrote it here so that I can look back on it and marvel at God's faithfulness...


Monday, May 08, 2006

I've started this blog over four times.
Not for a lack of wanting to write.
Just a problem with WHAT to write.
I know you've been there.

So, it's Monday.

Just had a dream that I went shopping for an outfit to wear to my nephew's prom. Weird. He's twenty-something. Married now and he was homeschooled, and they didn't have a prom. And, even if they did - I wouldn't be asked to it.

Anyway, customer service was horrible, and I ended up eating a "Fatboy" icecream sandwich (talk about truth in advertising!) on the way out of the store. My husband was at the door, and asked about the confectionary... I explained that I'd been here all day, and this was all they had to eat.

He took me to a mechanic's shop before taking me home. Inside I saw a couple of rappers... Half-Dollar and other thugs. We decided not to stay long... peeled out in our white pimped-out mini-van and went home.

Was wakened when a friend who is in Hawaii called to say hello... that was cool. I ended up raining on her parade when she asked how things were going. Ugh. I hate it when I do that. Just call me Debbie Downer.

I've eaten more mexican food in this last weekend than I think I've eaten all year! Was it just because it was Cinco de Mayo or did I really have that much of a hankerin' for good nachos? Prolly the latter. Didn't even know what Cinco de Mayo was until I asked my black sister-in-law. She explained that it was the Mexican's Martin Luther King Day. Ooooohhhh... Now I got it. Any excuse for good nachos... I'll take it!

So, I ramble.

Can I get serious for a moment?

Just one.

My heart is here with the people. My head is in the future... what might be coming around the corner. How do I reconcile these things? Church two Sundays ago was torture for me. I was so incredibly hurt. I was near sobbing point with a couple of the songs. I don't cry. I make ugly face and tears and snot run down my face... then I sob. It's horrible. I had to leave, only to have a deacon grab me at the back of the church and hug me... I made ugly face all over his nice sunday shirt.

Derek was still leading the final song before the sermon, and he joined me outside. He was tore up too. We hugged... he went back in to find kleenex... and then another couple of friends came outside. Gosh! I sooooo didn't want to be seen crying! But there I was in all my splotchy glory!

This Sunday was much easier. My walls had been rebuilt. My switch had been turned off. I sang all the songs (Derek has been replaced) with no real emotion (sorry God!) and I was in control! BUT... I guess it hit all my friends this week! I was hugging and comforting and reassuring that everything was gonna be alright. I realized during those moments that my friends make ugly face too.

My head is in the future. Things are moving much slower than they need to be. But, I know that they are moving on God's time, for God's glory.

I hope that in all I do and say, that I will prove God's faithfulness.

I'm struggling with frustration, anger and my short temper. I don't know if now is the time to let my "Jennifer-style" frankness be heard... or if I should continue in the meek manner that I've been trying out. (So far, it's been driving me nuts.)

Gotta run.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

I've been enrolled in Life University, and I had a test this week. Here are the results of my test. Jennifer's answer key. Hope I did okay...
Ministry requires sacrifice. Religion without sacrifice is not religion at all.
There will be those who work against you. Sometimes it's God's will. And, believe it or not, sometimes it benefits the church. Sometimes it destroys it.
Plant yourself deeper in the Lord than you do in your congregation. This way, when things go awry, you will have been loved by the Lord, and can afford to continue loving the church.
Remember that the church is made of sheople. They are willful, easily led astry, and turf-oriented. So are you.
Remember that you are a vessel used by God. In any way he pleases. Don't get too comfortable - if you are doing good work, he will continue using you! What a blessing to be used by the Lord for his good work!
Never become prideful of what you have accomplished. Never complacent. God has a plan that is so much bigger than what you can do. To humble yourself and commit your service to God is to do greater things than humanly possible!
Love the weak. Even when they are the leaders. Christ loved us even when we were more than just weak... when we were unrepentant sinners.
Take off your churchianity glasses and see people as God sees them. Never size people up and think you have it all figured out. God was always throwing people off when he'd choose the "least likely of these" to be his workmen. (Gideon, Moses, Paul...)
Don't ever give up. Not for one day, not for one minute. Someone's spirit is crying out for what they don't realize is GOD! Keep watch. Be faithful. You may work for salary, but you serve the Lord.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I've run the full gambit of possible human emotions this week. Shocked, horrified, stunned, incredulous, weepy, strong, faithful, suspicious, angry, hopeful, certain, secure, raged, humbled. And, pretty much in that order.
Derek was "let go" from his ministry job on Sunday. Just all of a sudden... "poof". Done.
He's been working for the preacher in the after-school program to make the salary that the church couldn't afford to pay him. But, suddenly the program itsself can't pay him, and the church was offered to take up the difference. And, the church can't afford to either. We've been here three years.
So... we have two months. A generous offer.
We were just rearing up to make another wave of changes and beginnings. Starting a new phase of our program with the youth. (Summer was coming... it would have been a good time to do it!)
But, the rug has been yanked out from under us.
So... I'm human. I have emotions about it. I loved these kids, their families, this church, this work, the evangelistic effort... and I think it's fair that I should react. I'm not a heartless evangelistic machine. I hurt. I hurt for them and for us. I weep for my own children who are forming their ideas of ministry.
BUT... I praise God. Praise Him because He is faithful. He is true. We are HIS workers, HIS seravants. And, we have committed ourselves to HIM. And, He has decided to take us elsewhere. His timing is not my timing... but it's always on time.
We're looking for God's next mission for us. We can't forget the kids we've worked with. The families we've grown to love. But, we're seeking God's will.
So, we wait.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Zion lost his first tooth last night. It was overdue. He was beginning to look like a shark ... with two rows of teeth. He had four teeth where there should have only been two. One was loose the other was thinking about it. But, the adult teeth were already out in their full glory!
I decided today was the day. Prepared with kleenex and a good light, I began prepping the tooth. I had tried before and failed. I couldn't get my fingers around his little slippery, slobbery tooth, so I asked Derek to grab the needlenosed pliers and give it a try. Expecting a lot of blood, Derek also brought a teatowel. After the first two tries, I tapped in! Zion was fine, but I was freaking out! I couldn't bear the sound of metal clinking on baby bone!
So, it was my turn again. Determined, I grabbed some kleenex and began to pull and pull and pull. Zion was intrigued by the tearing sound, but was still unhurt.
What kind of barbaric practice is this? I wondered. The two front baby teeth had been wedged in by the already grown in adult teeth. Hence Zion's new nickname "Sharktooth". I had explained to Zion that though he wanted to go to the dentist to have them pulled, it would cost mama $1oo per tooth. (Past experience with other tooth-stingy child.)
More pulling and a little prayer later - the small, defiant jaw finally gave up the tooth! Zion began drooling uncontrollably. He ran around the house shrieking! He was so excited! The tooth fairy was coming just for HIM!
After the excitement wore off, he went to bed. I reminded him to place the small tooth under his pillow. And, he went to sleep.
This morning I was up early. Chit chatting with Derek, cleaning out the fridge. (Organic food goes bad fast!)
Zion's loud, nervous call pulled me out of the fridge.
"MOM! DAD!" He sounded terrified. I thought he'd had a nightmare. "There's a REAL lizard in my bed!"
Definitely a nightmare.
I ran to his room and he was sat up in it... holding his little tooth. (DOH!) His eyes were fixed on the very tiny brown lizard that sat square under where his pillow had been.
"Uh, DEREK! Would you get this for me?" I stayed with Zion. The lizard sat perfectly still. The three of us looked at eachother nervously.
Derek sauntered in John Wayne style. Cool as a cat. He fixed his eyes on the lizard, casually picked up DeVon's shoe and took aim.
"WAIT!" "Don't hit the lizard with the shoe!" I stepped between the little creature and the over-armed man. Derek looked at me puzzled... then annoyed.
I had imagined lizard guts splattering the wall and my very impressionable son.
I picked up a dirty t-shirt off of the floor and threw it over the lizard. Scooped it all up at once and promptly walked out back. Did I feel the lizard moving? Ew. Stop it!
I let the lizard out on the terrace out back. Gently, quietly... then I stepped away. I hoped the neighbors hadn't heard any of the commotion!
I headed back to the apartment. There were three others on our level.
My head was still in the drama when I turned the knob and pushed the door open. A bearded man stood in the dark grinning. It was my neighbor! He was dressed and ready for work.
What is HE doing here? I wondered - then snapped out of it.
I had walked into my neighbor's apartment! I could have died!
I apologized profusely and began to explain something about letting the lizard out... I'm sure it all made sense!
I moved down one door and opened it. The familiar smell of coffee welcomed me.
I sat on the couch laughing and explained to the kids what was so funny.
My life is funny. Burned socks in the microwave and lizards under the pillow and early morning rendez-vous with the neighbors... I thought I wanted a normal life... but this one's cool!

Monday, April 17, 2006

What's your list of "must do before I die"? I read an article today by the guy who hosts "The Amazing Race".
In it, he suggests that we write down those things that we would love to do - yet might never do if we don't absolutely insist on it. Those things that tap into our "Wild Gene". Not crazy, might lose our life or family over it kinda stuff... but things that you want to do, places you want to go, memories you want to rekindle, kindnesses you want to share. Those kinds of things.
So... I'll write my list here:
(The aforementioned list may change at any time for any reason.)
1. I want to backpack in Europe, Tuscany and the Outback.
2. I want to be the Chief Creative Officer of a T.V. show or magazine.
3. I want my kids to graduate with exceptional skills and experience under their belts.
4. I want to build a cabin in Canada and use it to host missionaries on furlough.
5. I want to buy my childhood home and make it into a bed and breakfast.
6. I want to become a skilled artist in various mediums including watercolour, photography and acrylics.
7. I want to teach at my old highschool.
8. I want to finish my degree.
9. I want to be the "sane, nice, ACTUAL" christian on a reality TV show.
10. I want to write a children's book about my experiences growing up.

That concludes my list for today.
What's on your list?


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The sock thing...
Per my friend's advice, I filled an athletic sock with salt, tied it off and nuked it in the microwave for a minute (she recommended as many as two minutes). This sock when placed under my ear at night would relieve my earache and draw moisture from my liquid filled ear.
Well... I asked Derek for a sock. Only one, please. He was puzzled. I explained.
A friend arrived to watch a movie with me and after making chai and popcorn, I filled the sock. Had to explain what it was for again. I thought I'd watch the movie with the sock strapped to my head.
I set the timer on the microwave for a minute.
We chatted and filled our cups with hot refreshment waiting for the sock to warm. The appliance beeped.
I opened the microwave to find smoke pouring out! The sock was burning!
We began to laugh incredulously!
I grabbed a paper towel thinking I'd grab the scorched sock and take it out to the grill. But... the sock scorched the paper towel!
So, I hurriedly snatched an oven mitt and took the smoldering sock outside to the grill where it lay and smoldered for a while longer.
By this time the kids were up and wondering what all the ruckus was about.
I explained that I filled a sock with salt and placed it in the microwave for my earache, but it caught fire. Their puzzled looks told me that they weren't getting it.
My dining room filled with smoke and I turned on the ceiling fan and opened the front door. Would have opened the sliding glass door, but the darn sock was still smoldering!
My friend, Le Anna suggested I pour water on the hot, smoking sock. Duh!
I grabbed a blue glass and filled it with water.
The sock had fallen apart and the knot was putting out serious fumes. I choked on the smoke.
The hissing sound suprised me as I poured the water on the sock. I wondered out loud how I was going to explain to Derek why the house was smoky and why I'd need the other half of that pair of socks.
We were rolling!
The sock and paper towel sit soggy on my grill.
My ear still hurts. But... I'll be looking for that other sock tonight!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's 1:39am. Much too late to be up. Wasn't gonna blog... but I'm here, so I'll write.

I think I may have an ear infection. After battling an intense cold for the past few days, my sinuses have cleared up, but I have serious pain in my left ear. My good ear. The one I use for the phone and the one that I lift off of the pillow to hear anything my husband has to say. Hm. This could pose a problem.

Not that I'm complaining. I've been sicker. I've seen sicker.

Okay... you know it's late when the ORECK vacuum informercial comes on. Ugh. Hit the sack already!

Did the coolest thing with my camera today. I took an artsy picture of my daughter and "photo-shopped" it onto the Mona Lisa. She loved it! This picture isn't it... I'll have to figure out how to get it on there... but this one was similar.

My oldest son asked me to put him on Mt. Rushmore. Still figuring that one out.

We are headed to San Jose sometime this weekend. Puppet shows, bible bowls, art competitions, hotel schedules, rainy beaches and more. Sorta looking foward to it. Sorta not. I'm just tired. (Could it be that it's a quarter to one in the morning?!)

The following weekend I will be coordinating a Ladies' Day event. My first time, the church's fourth. So far, so good. I'm looking forward to having this one out of the way.

Gonna hit the sack. I appear to be rambling.

Re-visited the idea of listening to country music. I'll keep you posted.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Okay, I'm sitting to a lunch made by my 10 year old daughter. Oh no... not pbj's... she made grilled marinated porkchops and salad. (Low-carb lunch!) And, if I could smell past my stuffed nasal passages, I'd know that this was a delicious meal! Meat was grilled to perfection - juicy - and from what I can tell - flavourful! The kid's a whiz in the kitchen! BTW, I was standing there the whole time. I was making a fruit tray for coffee shoppe tonight. Strawberries with cream cheese icing and grapes and Baklava.
So... I've noticed that my kids lack basic manners. Don't get me wrong.. they're polite in front of others... quite polite, in fact. But, at home, they have succomed to the older brother's potty humour. There's not nearly a day that goes by when "passing gas", butts" or "poop" isn't brought up in fashion or another. And, I've had enough! So... I've been hard on the kids. Guess it's my fault in the first place. I giggled the first time - out of shock. And it was all downhill from there. It doesn't take long for my kids to take a mile....
So... I've been working on manners from another angle. First, I started with table manners. Setting the table, proper table attire, table conversation and such. And after a few lessons we were ready to apply. We set the table nicely. Placed hot grilled tri-tip, and all the fixings on the table and prayed. After the prayer, the littlest one scrunched his nose...

"Something smells like ladybug poo!"

All the manners were out the window. I began to giggle.

"Oh yeah? What does ladybug poo smell like?" Hoping he wasn't referring to my tri-tip!

"Grass.... duh!"

The whole table erupted into laughter. It was everything we could do to hold it together and re-gain our composure. The lesson was lost for the night. We'd have to start again at breakfast.

Ladybug poo. Who's ever heard of such a thing?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Returning from Vacation brought us two things: clarity and panic.

Derek and I (like most couples) found a lot of time to talk and pow-wow about our life's direction, purpose and meaning. We chatted about our families' strengths and weaknesses - things we needed to continue, drop or improve.

To continue: Family Night, personal evangelism, women's ministry, SIBI classes.
To drop: ineffective programs, classes, bad relationships.
To improve: keeping family time sacred, homeschool schedule and priority, diet and activity level.

Dunno why we needed a vacation to come to that kind of clarity. Perhaps life grabs our attention and tends to distract us from the things that matter to us most. We need to go on vacation more than once or twice a decade - ya think?!

So, all in all, our vacation really served a purpose. Rest and clarity. I have a clearer understanding of why God intitiated the Sabaath by resting on the seventh day, of why he created winter and sleep... rest and refreshing.

Now, about the panic. Well... life didn't pause just because I had taken a break.

I have an LTC convention in a week and a half. A classroom of kids are depending on me to create their puppet stage and props and to coach them to do their best during the various competitions (Bible Bowl, art, worship banner, etc.).

The week following we will be hosting our annual Ladies' Day - of which I am the coordinator. This year is going to be so different than years past and I need to prepare our ladies for the changes.

The week after that, Derek is hosting his first youth suprise event. Have a feeling I might be needed to prepare for it. No worries, though. By then, I will no longer have LTC convention or Ladies' Day looming over me.

So, I gotta get busy. Vacation was fantastic, hope the picture reflects that!


Monday, April 03, 2006

Yo Semite!
Woo Hoo! What a wonder-filled trip that was!
We so got soaked!
As we arrived in the park, we noticed what the kids thought was a wolf. I think it was a coyote. I'll post a pic when I get my camera back. But, the creature was sniffing out the campsites near us. The kids' eyes were as big as saucers, but they didn't freak out. The animal was only a carlength away from us to begin with and stayed within 50 yards for about 45 minutes before heading off into the woods.
The boys set up the tent and I began preparing dinner. Campfires couldn't be lit until 5pm, so I made dinner on the campstove. Three-grain pancakes and homemade fruit compote was our hearty dinner that night. Was really good!
Derek got the fire going just in time to see the sun set. We sat around it, as the rain began to drizzle. We all threw on ponchos and sang devo songs for a while. Soon, we invited our neighbor Richard to join us. He was a dentist from L.A. A Korean-American.
We enjoyed mint hot chocolate from Trader Joe's and s'mores roasted on green sticks. Man, it was good! The kids cuddled with us before we headed off to the tent.
Derek had set up the tent and it looked good. But, in a matter of an hour it began to gather water and leak from a seam... right above me! I got Derek up and asked him to throw the water off... and told him we'd either have to fix the tent, or do that every half hour. He was pooped. He opted for every half hour.
I checked on the kids, they were dry and toasty. I was relieved. But, an hour later, I was freezing despite my best efforts to stay dry. The rain pattering the tent grew faint and then stopped. Derek thought it stopped raining, but judging by my steamy breath I knew it had started snowing. Derek thought "nawwwww...." and peeked outside. Sure enough. The rain had frozen over and it was snowing. If it had snowed to start out with, I wouldn't have been wet... but it was too late. I began shivering uncontrollably, and promptly changed clothes. Derek and I looked at ways to join the kids on the dry side of the tent, but it was full. We thought about just leaving them in their toastiness, but I was worried that they'd wake and find us missing and freak out. So, the poor darlings were wakened in the middle of the night to gather their blankets, pillows and haul it all back to the van. We had abandoned ship.
So, in the dark of the night, we passed our still glowing firepit and quickly made our way to the car. Derek had started the van, warming it for us. We were so relieved to see those seats that had numbed our bottoms hours before. I got the kids all set up with dry blankets, removed wet clothing and put on dry socks. Kids had to go potty - which was easier for the boys than the girl.
After an hour or so of fidgeting we all crashed in our van. Periodically Derek would turn on the van and heat us up because he hadn't quite warmed to the core yet. I was out. Later I woke to find the city-slicker under TWO sleeping bags. He'd finally found the heat he needed. I, on the other hand needed only to rely on my Eskimo fat layer to keep me toasty!
About 6:40 AM, Derek woke me up to look up the side of the mountain. The sun was up and shining on the peak of the nearest cliff. The snow had rested in it's cracks and crevasses and the sun shone brilliantly off of it. The sky was blue and the ground all around was white. It was BEAUTIFUL! I said "Wow, babe - that's gorgeous", and promptly returned to my exhausted slumber. A few hours later, I hear the kids whisper with excitement. The van was covered in snow.
The sun had finally reached us in the valley. And, we were ready to come out of our van-turned-tent. I made my way through the snow back to the tent to find it covered in ice. The fire was out. The picnic tables were covered in ice and snow. I set up the campstove and began preparing breakfast.
As the sun started warming the morning air, the trees began their assault on me. We had set up camp under large trees thinking it would keep us sheltered from the elements. Uh... no. As the warm sun melted the ice on the trees, the trees dropped their slushballs right on top of me! (I guess I'm a precipitation magnet!) I kept cooking depsite the air assault. The kids were wise enough to figure this one out and played in the clearing. So, as I was frying breakfast potatoes, I'd be pelted with miniature snowballs. Every once in a while one would land in the frying pan and sizzle. I was passive about it. Whatever. Snow is water, right?
We ate our hearty breakfast of potatoes, onions and spam. And, wouldn't you know it, but lunch would soon need to be on it's way. So, I started that. Derek broke camp rules and started a campfire at 9:30am. He did it for the kids' sake. They were freezing. Especially Zion who couldn't keep his little hands warm for soaked gloves. I warmed water for him and had him do up the dishes. (Clever,eh?!)
The day was gorgeous. The peaks we had seen and been impressed with the day before were now covered in snow. Beautiful! I took the same pictures all over again!
We only stayed for a day, but vowed to return! This time, in the clearing.