February 23, 2006

About last night...

It was last night, literally, but it was also our daughters’ last night at youth group here at this sweet church. I was invited too because I have been teaching youth Sunday school for years. It was a goodbye party. They ate snacks while I went around taking pictures of my kids and their friends. We listened to Christian music videos playing out on the PowerPoint screens while we visited. We played games. Well, make that THEY played games, I watched with some other smart adults. By the time they were done, they were all lying on the auditorium floor, chairs cleared to the sides, in sheer exhaustion! They like to play running games. It was fun…. to watch.

Then our youth pastor gathered us all to the front and asked the youth to share memories or wishes for my kids since they are leaving this group. By the end it was quite emotional….both tears and laughter. Then they all scooted in (all sitting on the floor) and laid hands on my girls and me, everyone reaching in, touching, all as one praying.

As I heard them praying out loud and heard in their voices the pain of final goodbyes, it hit me…the pain of leaving these relationships that are so strong. I had been avoiding thinking about it or feeling it with the adults because my tendency is to be stoic or make jokes to laugh when I feel a strong emotion welling up. Feeling it was hard. Brad, our youth pastor, talked about when he first came to our church, it was 1997. He’s watched our girls grow up from little kids who were 5, 7 and 9 to young ladies who are serving God and are a blessing to his children, who are 3, 2, and 1. Then I looked around and realized I’ve watched all these kids in the youth group grow up…some gracefully, some with struggle. I’ve taught them in Vacation Bible Schools, Sunday school, retreats and camps. I’ve had most of them in my home and they all talked about how I’ve fed them over the years and they enjoyed hanging out in our home. Several of them call me their second mom and since some of them are in college, now serving as leaders in the youth group, it was awesome to sit back and remember and see them now, appreciating all you’ve done for them over the years. And I appreciate them too…they have been great friends for my children and we are so blessed to have had such a good peer group for them here.

The hugs were very sweet afterwards, even though the running games had made them sweaty and gross. LOL And there were lots of promises from kids who want to come down and spend time with us in Phoenix soon and lots of thank you’s and we’ll miss you’s. They were all signing Emma’s t-shirt and taking time to make a last connection. Last things are important and feeling your influence and the good influence of others is important during this time.

I’m glad they made me take the time to feel it. I’m so glad to have known them and privileged to have been a part of their lives and Christian walks.

February 20, 2006

A Fine Collection

"It takes a long time to grow an old friend."
- by John Leonard

We are embarking on a new life adventure…..moving to Phoenix. Moving is one of the highest ranked stressful events in our lives. And while I can see why it is so stressful, I kind of like it. It is full of potential…just like my barren rose bushes, which are gradually sending out new leaves and shoots.

I like adventures and new things….new climates, new environment, new home, and what is most enticing is new friends. I am a collector of friends. My collection includes several wonderful specimens from each place we’ve lived….and a few from different temporary environments. Those include high school, college, church groups, home schooler groups, working environments, including a Christian conference center where I worked for 2 summers in college. My collection comes out and gets sorted through every year at Christmas. I get out my address book and start walking through the years, looking at each name, remembering the faces, the events, the good and hard times shared all while updating addresses from all the Christmas card letters that pour in.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be born, grow up, get married, live and die all in the same hometown. Makes me go ‘hmmmm’. But I will never know what that is like because I’m married to a pastor who God apparently likes to spread around a bit…share the wealth, if you will. =) I lived in the same city all my growing up years, high school and college years, so when I went off to attend seminary in Texas, it was an adventure! It has never stopped being an adventure since then. I met my husband the first week I lived in Texas and we were married less than a year later. It was like a perfectly orchestrated year of awakening to a new step in God’s plan…..we grew from friends who spent all their time together, to dating, then engaged by New Year’s, married June 1. And I don’t consider him to be part of my collection….he is more an extension, or a part of me…I’m thankful that he isn’t in my address book…he’s at MY address…for always!

We lived 2 years in Texas going to seminary and struggling to balance and keep up with school, working and being engaged and then newly married. There wasn’t a lot of time to nurture friendships outside of our little tiny world of early married life. Even so, we tried to keep up with a few of the friends we made there….friends from work, from a street ministry we helped out with, and from classes. Most of these people went in to ministry vocations too and moved a lot like we did and I don’t know if we have kept up to date on any of them! But I still remember fondly and feel a bond with them.

We spent 2 1/2 years in a small town in southeastern Oklahoma as my husband had his first ministry position right out of seminary. He was a youth pastor. Our first anniversary was spent at a youth lock-in, to get to know the youth. It was a strange time, as most of the people there got married soon after high school and by the time they were in their mid twenties, they had several children! So as a newly married 23 year old, I didn’t have much in common with my peers there. We made good friends in unexpected places though. One of my husband’s favorite duties there was to visit the widows from the church. He was a full time youth pastor, but the kids were in school all day, so he did some associate pastoral duties as well. These sweet, spunky ladies became good friends to us. I also had 2 women who provided me the feminine friendship I needed! One was a woman my own age who was single and a hoot to hang out with….the other was a little older than me with one grade school aged boy, but was a kindred spirit to me.

Next we lived close to 10 years on the New Jersey side of Philadelphia. If you think that sounds interesting, you have no idea! The eastern U.S. is a different world….but when we got over our culture shock, we settled down to enjoy the ride. Our oldest daughter was a brand spankin’ new 10 weeks old when we moved, and I was confined to home for a year or so while Charles was out doing church planting work with our only car. Those were hard years, but I made some dear friends, some other new mothers from our sponsoring church, who helped me feel more a part of it all and get through the new mommy scene. As time passed there, Charles worked in 3 different churches, as well as taught at a Christian school for five years. So we racked up the friends and they now fill a good part of the address book that represents my collection.

"I count myself in nothing else so happy_
As in a soul rememb'ring my good friends."_
- William Shakespeare

Currently, we have just finished up (two months shy of) 9 years here in the mountains of northern Arizona. It was like heaven to move here….we had to keep pinching ourselves when we went outside each day. Instead of living in the crowded, busy suburbs of Philly, we looked out to see mountains, forests, wildlife and a much more laid back way of life in a small town, perfect for our growing family. The friendships here were just as laid back and easy going as the peaceful scenery. There have been very few high maintenance people and a lot of kindred spirits here. I may need to invest in a larger address book….maybe a filing cabinet….

I am going to have to update my address book this year in a major way. The friends we have added to our collection here in northern Arizona are precious and plentiful! Maybe is the small town environment…maybe it’s the cold winters and cozy gatherings in warm homes. Maybe it’s just a very special place stuffed full of really special people….yes, I think it is….I can’t explain it any other way. As the years have gone by here, we’ve seen other people have to pack up and move away. And they always miss the fellowship they had here in the mountains…..there is no place like it. I’m sure we will be missing it too….but I can’t help being excited for the adventure that awaits us on this new move.

We tend to bounce back and forth between small town and large city. But no matter where we go, east or west, small town or urban setting, God prepares the way with kindred spirits just waiting to blossom into lifelong friendships much like my roses that are sending up their new shoots, soon to house many beautiful flowers.

Wow, I’m going to have to save up for all those postage stamps we’ll need next Christmas!

"Most people come into our lives and quickly leave.
It is the special few that come in and leave a footprint in our hearts.
and we are forever changed." Unknown

February 19, 2006

Really bad timing...

Getting home after the ladies' retreat, I sat down to blog yesterday's entry and by the time it was finished, I was starting to realize something was not right. My stomach was feeling crampy and as if it would soon be losing the battle of keeping it's contents. So I went to bed, where it got worse and worse, until.....well, you don't want to hear details. Every half hour until 11:40pm my stomach was trying to wrench the life out of me. There is something to that saying "Sick as a dog." I finally got some gingerale, began sipping it and thankfully my stomach didn't reject it. Emma had the same trouble during the night, so we both hunkered down at home today, easing into eating toast, gingerale and finally some scrambled eggs.

Stomach viruses come and go, it's not really unusual. But today was the worst possible timing for it. Today was my husband's last Sunday preaching at our church here....and I missed it. The church gave him a going away dinner with kind, encouraging words and love offerings and cards....and I missed it. I don't just feel bad for myself though, I really wanted to be there for Charles. Emotional times like this call for spousal support and encouragement. Grrr! Kind of ironic since I had been joking around about having the flu the Sunday we had to tell the church we were leaving. A friend of mine said, "Our bodies betray us sometimes, and especially in emotional times." I think she is right....I just wish it hadn't betrayed me so totally!

On to better news: my sister Julie and her husband Steve had a baby boy today around noon! He is Gabriel August and was 6.14 pounds and 19 inches long. Congratulations to them and to Eleanor, his big sister!

Also congratulations to our friends from our small group, Sam and Billi, who were married tonight by Charles in a quiet ceremony just before small group. I missed that too....the wedding and the last small group meeting. I am feeling very sorry for myself and pouty....

February 18, 2006

Feminine Fellowship

Our annual ladies retreat was this past two days. It was wonderful to spend the past 24 hours with the love and easy friendship of the ladies here. More than the mountains, the cozy small town or the cool weather in summer here, I will miss my friends who are here and their acceptance and love of not only me, but all the new ladies who come to our church. It is a special place and is contagious to all who join in the fellowship!

This weekend, we talked and talked. My jaws actually started aching from all the flappin’. We missed some of our own who weren’t able to come to the retreat this year due to sickness or busyness. We sang, prayed, listened, and opened the Scriptures. We talked about being a light to the world and heard testimonies of several ladies. We had a pajama fashion show (which was wild!), and raided each others’ rooms….teehee…..There was a get to know you deeper game we played, telling two true things and one false thing about our life. My three things were 1) I played Mary Magdalene in a college play 2) I saved my husband (their pastor) from choking once and 3) I write a national, weekly column. Well, they all guessed three, except those who read this blog. And when they found out I wrote it on the internet, they all were a buzz, wanting to know how to find it. I chastised them though, for thinking this was more important information than saving their pastor from choking to death! It was a fun game and we really did find out a lot more about each other’s talents and past! We ended the retreat taking communion together with lots of hugs and a few tears.

Here is an email I just received today from a friend who used to be part of our group here. Well, she still is a part of us, she just doesn’t live here anymore. Anyway, it reminded of the retreat….the graphic is great and the words are so true!

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness..
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone..

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.

February 14, 2006

Funny Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day!

My funny valentine, sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart.
~Rodgers and Hart~

It's been crazy around here lately with all the moving plans and packing and emotional goodbyes. I thought Valentine's Day would just float by with barely a notice, but it turned out to be a good, yet irregular, funny kind of day. It started yesterday. Charles brought home flowers and a beautiful red velvet greeting card....did I mention this was yesterday? He always beats me to it lately on slipping in cards or gifts on special days. I had to run to the store today to pick out a card for him from the disarray of Valentine's cards that were left to choose from. I always know when I have just the right card for him and there it was after a little searching. Cupcakes and teddy bear valentines for the girls. I had just enough time to get home and write on all the cards before being rushed off to our busy day.

We stopped by Sears to look at their scratch and dent section for a refrigerator for our new home. We found a very nice dishwasher earlier this year that way. And there it was, meekly standing there with a big bash on on corner of the door, but it was the one for us.....brand new, but they knocked over $400 off the price because it has a bash. It has a Pur water filtration system for the ice maker and for the water dispenser on the front of the fridge door. We paid for it, set a pick up date and ran out the door again.

Today was the pastors' lunch for our association here...the last one that Charles will get to go to. It's once a month and they are a very close knit group of pastors from a wide variety of small towns around northern Arizona. They gave him a nice send off. I hate goodbyes, but I know we'll see these guys again around the state. We had to leave before it was over to zip down to Phoenix (2 hour zip) to sign loan papers on a home we're trying to get. We'll find out within the week if we'll get this one or not....waiting on the appraisal.

Then we went to a memorial service for the son of some dear friends here in town. It was on the other side of Phoenix. (a very wide city) Though we had only met this man once, it was a moving memorial to his life and a celebration of his release from pain and entrance into eternity....very cool.

We jumped back into the car and headed back 'up the hill'....stopping to eat a very unromantic, yet pleasant dinner, at a combination A&W Root Beer and KFC restaurant on the way home. That is so weird....why do they combine these icons of fast food and make it so confusing to order. There is a combo restaurant in Flagstaff of a Taco Bell and Long John Silvers....it is horrendous the smells in there. I can't enjoy tacos while smelling fish and I can't even enjoy the fish and crunchy bits while smelling tacos. Eeew! My appologies to anyone who owns a weird combo franchise, but it's just wrong....

So we are home now, kids in bed, dishwasher running and I am looking at my Valentine's flowers. Well...not really flowers....but there's potential for flowers at some time in the future. My husband knows me well and although cut roses are so beautiful and I absolutley love them, there is something even more wonderful in receiving skinny packages of flowerless rose bushes from Sam's Club. They look like sticks now, but I see the sprouts of new growth on them and have envisioned where I will plant them at our new home in Phoenix. (Where roses grow like mad in January and February.)

I can see the potential and the future in those bare branches and it's exciting! I'll plant them within days of making our move and enjoy watering and nurturing them until next year when I'll have way more than a dozen roses. I'll have dozens of flowers to sink my nose into and smell the wonderful aroma of homegrown roses....and I'll have pretty dried petals to make into pot pourri for Christmas. They have a lot of potential....just like our new church in which to serve and live has that same exciting potential to become to us a place to sink down into and enjoy the aroma of Christ filling the lives of the church and community there.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

That was NIV, but I like how it is said in the Message too:

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation--an aroma redolent with life.

February 9, 2006

Jars of Clay/Sara Groves/Derek Webb concert review

When we lived in the Philadelphia area, one of our youth girls bounced up to me one day and handed me a home recorded (ummmm, pirated?) cassette tape with the words “Jars of Clay” written on it. She continued bouncing while telling me this was a brand new Christian music group and they were sooooooooooooooo good. She told me that you couldn’t buy their album yet, it was still yet to come out, but she had gotten a hold of a copy of a copy of a first run type of CD. It turns out that there was only a limited number of that CD made, a preliminary recording of their popular Jars of Clay CD.

I brought it home, popped it in my kitchen tape player while fixing dinner the next night and listened intently as I could, while chopping and stirring, to the beginning of a new wave of Christian music…..really good music. We listened to that tattered little tape wherever we went for a while before I found it (finally) in a Christian bookstore and got the real tape (didn’t have a CD player yet). I soon passed on the copied copy to my niece, who listened to it all the way home from vacation that year. The Jars soon hit the top of the charts of Christian and secular music.

I think the last live concert I went to was before moving back to Arizona! It must have been Rich Mullins when Brother’s Keeper came out. I like concerts, but they don’t like my ears, so I don’t go often. So when I was driving around with my daughter and we heard the advertisement for Jars of Clay in concert on our Christian radio station, we squealed and made a vow to go.

Hannah bought our tickets, as a student she got a discount…..and when we got there, we looked at our tickets and realized we were in the 4th row….wheeeee! ……..right in front of a huge speaker. LOL It was a great concert! Opening for them was Derek Webb, who was one of the lead singers for Caedmon’s Call for 10 years. He was funny and played well, having arrived shortly before the concert began due to travel troubles….hope he has a good solo career. I knew who he was when he first came out and kept poking Hannah and saying, “Caedmon’s Call…I’m telling ya….” She insisted he was a new artist…I can’t help rubbing it in when I’m right. Then he mentioned it and the crowd applauded loudly, making a connection with him. His music was acoustic guitar and folk sounding…storytelling and word picturish…which I so relate to.

Then Sara Groves. Her two preschool aged blonde headed sons introduced her and her husband Troy. They are so cute!! Sara Groves is like a female Michael Card….LOTS of deep meaning in heart felt music and words. And she is so little! She sang very well for a live concert, wonderful, strong voice. I would describe her style as folk music. Steve Mason from Jars came out and sang a song with her…very nice. She had a lot to say between songs also. She told stories and jokes and was very easy to listen to. We ran to the bathrooms after she sang and found the ‘ladies in waiting’ politely smiling as they inched their way toward the goal.

We walked back into the sold out auditorium to see a light fog had descended upon all the jarheads. (not the military type) I hoped my hair would stay straight and not curl up in the humidity. (It’s not a good curl, it shrinks up into random swoops and waves. In humid conditions, I want to start talking like Rosanne Rosanna Danna.) The fog looked cool though and when the lights on stage came on, it was real dramatic and ethereal….the green and purple lights were my favorite. (in case you wonder) The lights blinked a few times, signaling lollygagging concert-goers to find a seat. Then, while people were still milling about, a tall guy in a flannel shirt and jeans came out to the middle of the stage and started fiddling with a little electronic thingie. I think it was one of those hand held mini tape recorders that straight-A students use in college classes. He finally turned it on and held it up to the microphone. It was playing staticky, highly white noise-ish music and he was keeping time with a bob of his shaggy head. (It was supposed to be shaggy, I’m not dissin’ the guy.) Gradually you heard people whispering, oh, that’s Dan! I knew it was him when he first came out and was laughing at the silly opening bit. Then in a low, loud voice he started singing to the recorded music, “We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord, We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord and I pray that our unity may one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love…..our love….our love.” Then all the Jars came out, along with their drummer. (I didn’t catch his name)

The concert was really good….it wasn’t so loud that you felt a rumbling in your chest and the words were clear and discernable. They were fun to watch and were very skillful in their playing and singing, while still having fun with each other, dancing around and inviting the audience to sing along on most of the songs, which was fun! Matt and Steve were fun to watch, dancing with their guitars or banjoe. Matt kind of bounces and sways with his strings, while Steve does a sort of ballet, modern dance with his, it was great fun to watch! Dan sang great and danced around while singing, often playing the tambourine. During one of the last songs, he took out this very strange looking instrument which seemed to be a hybrid of smoking pipe and electric keyboard…..I dubbed it a piano-bong, which caused Hannah to give me a disapproving look. Charlie seemed to be very sheepishly hiding behind the keyboard and also played the accordian. (from behind the keyboard) Late in the program, Dan talked about the Blood Water Mission they founded as a group, which raises money to dig clean water wells in Africa, where villages stricken by the AIDS virus have been plagued further still by diseased water. It’s a good thing…and we should be all about doing good to one another. One US dollar will provide one African with clean water for a year! One way to touch the world with an act of extreme kindness. Go to their sight to donate or learn more about it.

I took a few pictures during the concert (I forgot to take any during Derek Webb or Sara Groves…sorry) but my camera decided to use a slow exposure due to the dark auditorium. So all of them came out in a kind of time exposed blur. I could just say they are artsy, but I have to admit I am ignorant of this new digital camera stuff…give me back my old manual SLR 35 mm any day! We didn’t stick around for the official ‘shake hands with the band and take a picture with an icon’ time. We actually were going to stay, but the crowd around the Icons of Clay was pressing in and claustrophobia took precedence over pose and smile time. =) 

February 8, 2006

Glance at a week

Sunday: Sad day…we told our church family we were leaving and were hugged and cried upon til we were all soggy and headachy with sore eyes. There are two services on Sunday mornings, so by the end of the second one, we were spent.

I went home to prepare for our small group’s Superbowl party. I made twice baked potatoes….very popular item at the table that night. I sat and talked with some good friends most the evening. Even now I don’t know who won the game and I only got to see a couple of the commercials. (my favorite part of Superbowl) We all made fun of the Rolling Stones….heh. (ssshhhh)

Monday AM: I sorted things all day for our yard sale this Saturday…mostly in Maggie’s room. She has grown so much this last few months that she only had a few clothes left in her drawer that actually fit her. =( I got my hair cut by Kay, my friend who does damage control after I try to cut my own hair. It is quite nice now, all blended in and even. *sigh of relief*

Monday PM: My daughter Hannah and I went to see Jars of Clay in concert! They are by far my favorite group right now and I’ve been following their career since before they came out. I typed out an explanation ,but it was 3 pages long, so I will post it next as a separate entry…complete with pictures!

Tuesday: Emma’s 14th birthday!! We spent all day, beginning at 9am, in Flagstaff. Charles went to a ministers’ tax seminar and we girls took down Hannah’s IKEA loft bed to take to Phoenix with us, since Beth and Emma are sharing a room there. Then we bought a new single bed for Hannah (non-lofty type), set it up, exchanged couches with her since we don’t need 2 couches anymore, then it was off to buy Emma’s gift.

It is our tradition to buy a special gift for our daughters’ 14th birthdays. On each of them turned 5, I bought them a china tea set, when they turned 10 (and became a double digit) they had their first sleep over, and when they turn 14, we buy them a special ring. We’ve really appreciated the emphasis in modern Christian culture on purity and especially the True Love Waits organization. So, to make it a special, we get them a ring to symbolize their commitment to remaining sexually pure until the day they are married. They wear the ring on the ring finger of their left hand until the day they are married, then move it to the right hand. It not only makes it something to look forward to and is a tangible reminder of their commitment, but it gives us a great opportunity to have a lot of talking time about purity….which goes way beyond a mere physical act to the heart and mind. They get to pick out their own ring. Hannah chose a simple, yet pretty silver band with a carving of a heart and decorative scrolling in it. Charles let Bethany choose either the band kind or a ring with a stone….guess which she chose? She has a nice, small Tanzanite stone in her ring in a silver setting. Emma is our athletic, skater shoe and sweatshirt wearing girl, so we wondered what she would choose. We walked the mall and she was very shy about trying anything on, but as the afternoon sped by, she got more and more comfortable trying on rings and finding her taste in jewelry. =) She finally chose a white gold band with a very small setting of diamond chips which she was enjoying with awe as she held up her hand to the light and watched it sparkle, as only a diamond will.

There is something else that sparkles like nothing else in the world. That is a young girl, choosing the unpopular, but ever rewarding path of sexual purity. Emma has actually been doing Bible studies and reading books on sexual purity with her sister Bethany. Our youth group girls had an overnight purity party recently and ever since then, they have been discussing it and reading up on Josh Harris and Elizabeth Eliot books, as well as a few others I can’t recall. The books have so much more to say than just speaking to remaining virgins until marriage. Purity begins in your heart and mind, it is an attitude, it makes a plan of conduct and thinks about consequences before ever finding itself in a situation in which it has to make a choice. I am so thankful that my four daughters are growing up in a generation of youth leaders who offer such practical, mature, and fun, inspiring resources for purity of mind, heart and spirit, as well as body.

We ended the day by browsing at Good Will while waiting for Hannah to get off work and join us for dinner at the Galaxy Diner. The children's clothing was a dollar per piece and I found Maggie a cute summer wardrobe of play clothes for under $15.

Corned beef on rye and onion rings while listening to the Beattles and 50's songs on the juke box. Happy birthday Emma!

Wednesday: I woke up, relishing the thought of a nice day at home, packing a bit, schooling a bit, and trying to de-stress a bit. That turned out to be a distant dream that I never firmly grasped today. I decided I would go to our ladies Bible study, since we’ll only be here a couple more weeks. It turned out to be a nice fellowship time, but stressful because everyone has a sense of mourning around us since the news of our moving broke. I know it is out of love and it is a time of mourning, but I don’t think I can take this for more than a couple more weeks. I may just descend into a hole until the day approaches…it’s too hard! The leader asked me to say something and I did, only I bawled as I spoke and I hate to cry in front of people. I wanted to say some things, but it was sure hard to choke them out….even though it was a relief to speak them. We sure do love these people. Our hostess served lunch, but I can’t remember how it tasted or how I swallowed with all the chatting we did.

I finally tore myself away from the ladies and came home, only to find Charles standing in the kitchen with a handful of loan papers that we signed last night, in a most stressful time of reading the conditions and details of the house loan. Yipes…money…. we really need to go back to trading sea shells or something. Well, the papers needed to be sent over night to Phoenix, so I jumped in the car and drove the half hour to Flagstaff to Fed Ex the dreadful things, did some errands and came home in time for dinner….a store roasted chicken, salad, rice a roni made by Bethany and corn muffins made by my very own husband! He never makes food….and I love corn muffins! =)

After dinner I cleaned out our music cabinet in order to sell it in the yard sale. It was a nostalgic time, thinking about the music we’ve accumulated over almost 22 years of marriage and a few from college and high school years, now warped LP’s and garbled sounding cassettes. I threw away a lot of old tapes, copies of tapes, old warped cassette covers and sorted the rest into a huge ‘keep’ pile and a small ‘yard sale’ box.

Then I sat myself down to type….where I have been for the past 3 hours, finally able to feel a slight de-stressing coming about…..

February 7, 2006

Seeking contentment

For several months now, I have not been able to write about what was really on my mind, due to confidentiality. When you’re in a ministry position and you know God is urging you to move on, you can’t just discuss it with people, sometimes even your closest friends. They are the people who you are there for and who you work for…..you can’t just discuss leaving or it causes all kinds of feelings of abandonment and uncertainty. (especially when you don’t know how long it will be until you do move on) So ministers have to hide the thing that is most on their mind when God is moving you….you are not sure when or where He’ll do it, but you know He is making you restless. Things are coming to a close where you are….at least for you, not for the other people there.

For my pastor husband, the restlessness began two years ago. He knew God was moving, but you never know in the beginning exactly what God is telling you….rather, the details unfold in time. Usually in our lives, the attitude of restlessness comes first, then a gradual letting go….that is the hard part. In ministry, you come to deeply love the people you’re involved with. Often they are closer than your own family, people you have worked alongside of in the most important work there is…..serving Christ and building His church. I think this is why God has to cause that restlessness in you first, to prepare your heart….and He does it well. But as you go through that time, it is very hard to start letting go of the people you love and the ministry He’s given you with them. Being the only person in my husband’s life who he could share all this restlessness with, it began to weigh heavy on my own heart. I wanted to share his burden and hear the call too, but I wasn’t feeling restless and I didn’t want to leave. And I’m very good at avoiding things I don’t want to think about or deal with.

So I was very surprised….okay, I was shocked….when, last Easter, my sister Julie told me her pastor was resigning. I didn’t pause to think about it or pray about it, but instantly, in the same moment she told me, the thought of moving to Phoenix and Charles becoming their pastor passed through my mind and I was okay with it. Almost a year later, the first Sunday of March will be his first Sunday preaching as the pastor of that church. It is hard to convey how deeply I dreaded God moving us and leaving our wonderful church, community and the mountains. (I had always wanted to live in the mountains.) I thought He would have to drag me kicking and screaming away from our home there. But as instantly as I had the thought of moving to that church, I also had peace from that moment on about moving. Contentment that comes from knowing God’s will became a resident in me. I didn’t know if it would be that particular church or if it would be somewhere in southern Timbuktu, but I felt it was time to move on and that peace never left me. To clarify that a little more, just because you have peace in your heart and mind about making a decision, it doesn’t mean there will be no pain, no ripping of the heart over leaving, because they definitely cohabitated in my heart and mind. Peace and pain have been my heart’s companions this past year and will be for a while I think.

Finally being able to share this decision with our church this past Sunday was at the same time heart-wrenching over leaving and exciting to let them know how much God was working, not only in our lives, but for their church as well. I know that somewhere a man of God is starting to feel a restlessness and wondering where God will move him. He is preparing himself for a new phase of ministry in his family’s life as God is preparing them to be a good match for this church in the mountains, where he has no idea the blessings and love he’ll find there.

True contentment is far more than a simple feeling of temporary happiness and feeling settled inside. Sometimes it is what carries you through the ultra-stressful, heart wrenching, and totally unsettling decisions you have to make in life. To be content in all circumstances means that even though the stress is there, you know you are in God’s will and following His leading.

There is great contentment because we trust our loving Father. We take His hand and walk along where He leads, knowing that He is with us every step and that He would never lead us anywhere that would be wrong for us.

The following verses of Scripture have been my ‘life verses’, including the ones I skipped over for this entry. There will always be anxiety and stress in our lives, especially when God is changing you or stretching you…or moving you, but His peace is readily available. These verses have been proven true many, many times in my life. We can be content in any circumstance when are seeking and following Him.

Philippians 4:6-7, 11-13* Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus……I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.


February 1, 2006

Spontaneous day...

Today my new sixteen year old got her driver’s license. Ummm, well I didn’t suddenly adopt a sixteen year old….it’s just that my daughter turned sixteen last week….so it’s new to us. (Semantics can really get on my nerves, so I had to clear that up for my own benefit…..perhaps you enjoyed it as well….)

Well, maybe I should start at the beginning to give you the full effect…

This day began a loooooooooong time ago, assembling the weary troops in the living room for devotions, then starting Maggie on her schoolwork while trying to do some laundry from our 5 day weekend in Phoenix. (more on that later) Shower, hacked my hair off because it’s started getting very droopy. Practically the minute I got dressed, newly layered hair dried and make up on, my husband came home to tell me he was going to town to see a friend in the hospital and to the bank. Remembering how low I was on laundry detergent and not wanting a separate trip into town, I slipped on my shoes and went with him, leaving instructions with the girls on my way out the door, yes, even as the door was closing, I was leaving instructions…as is my habit. =)

On the half hour drive to ‘town’, (we do live in a town, but the next town down the road is where we shop, so it is called ‘town’….and everyone here knows where you’re going if you say you are going to town) my efficient husband enjoyed a nice, mostly one-sided conversation, discussed many things we need to do to organize our home, which left me feeling very stressed out and over stimulated in my poor spontaneous brain.

The hospital was our first stop. Our dear 80something friend had to have her leg amputated last week due to a severe infection in her new knee replacement….she is diabetic. =( We found her in very good spirits and feeling pretty spunky actually. She is so glad it’s over with and the infection is gone. We only had a few seconds to say hi and hug her before she was invaded by rehab aids, who helped her get out of bed and into her chair, using a walker…amazing how quickly people heal and adapt! She was finally settled and ready to visit, when another couple from church came and the nurse was fussing at us to not crowd the ICU hallway, so we made a speedy departure and went to the bank. On to Sam’s club, where we bought really large, yet frugally priced containers of ‘stuff’ we needed. We ordered a polish dog combo and a pizza slice combo and headed out to the car, balancing large styrofoam drink cups, a large hot dog and a large slice of pizza on the large, bumpy cart and went home…another half hour drive, but little conversation due to trying to eat lunch while driving on the interstate.

Back at home, I realized I had one hour before time to pick up Bethany from band, so I put away the large quantities of ‘stuff’, then started to cook the stew meat for dinner while answering questions about Maggie’s handwriting and math work. As I threw in the spices to simmer with the meat, I was thinking of how badly my back was aching and ran out the door to pick up Bethany. Here is where our main story picks back up….

Bouncing out to the car, Bethany landed at the passenger door with a thud, cheek against the window….she takes after me….but don’t worry, she did it on purpose because she is silly. We drove straight to the chiropractor’s office (just around the block), got all worked over, straightened out and back on our feets, and I told her we could stop by the DVM…MVD…DMV?…something like that …to pick up her driver’s license. It was on the way and she had her permit and her certificate that said she passed Driver’s Education, so I thought it would be a simple, quick trip. What was I thinking?? Upon entering our tiny DM…uh, driver license place, we took a number, because that is what you have to do to get any attention around there. We were number 53. They were currently serving number 47….I knew that was not a good thing.

The mood in the waiting area was dismal. For some reason, the waiting room chairs were all arranged facing away from the window where they ‘serve’ you. All the chairs were lined up in rows of 4, because that is all they can fit in a row in that tiny room and they were all facing backwards….towards a wall where the lucky number who was receiving service was lit up in big bright numbers. No one was talking, everyone was staring at us…suddenly I knew why the one woman working the service window that day had arranged the chairs to face away from her! I wouldn’t like people who were impatiently waiting for me to hurry looking at me either…..smart lady.

We began filling out the licensing form and realized we didn’t know Bethany’s social security number. So I jumped in the car, leaving her behind to keep our number current and ran home to get the ss number. Dashed through the house, noticing a strong smell of boiling meat and spices…oh yeah! I was only going to pick her up from band, so I had forgotten the stew! I grabbed the filing box of important stuff, found the card, dashed back out to the car, turning down the simmer to the lowest of lows and trying to answer Maggie’s questions which were flying around my head and got back to the D…er, license place in time to see they were only on number 50.

I sat down for long enough to notice several more people waiting in the little room, including a friend of mine and a group of 3 teenagers we knew, one of which was strumming a little stringed instrument….maybe a mandolin? That was when my eyes caught sight of the sign by the service window (oh, I turned my chair around defiantly to face my friend, so I was facing the window…*smirk*) that read, “cash or checks only”. Talk about adreneline! Realizing how close we were to getting served and that I only had my debit card, I had to dash out once more and run home to grab the check book….we live less than a mile away, but through a school zone…very annoying when you’re in a hurry. I looked everywhere and no checkbook. I called my husband, who was a the church practicing with the worship team and he said, yes, he had the checkbook in his pocket….arggg. I turned up the stew meat again since it wasn’t simmering well and sped off.

Back through the school zone, to the church, ran inside, grabbed the checkbook, hugged 2 ladies standing there, dashed back out to see that my friend Tracy had pulled up behind my car, blocking me in. She thought she had caught me and was going to visit for a while, but I had to explain this all in a whirlwind fashion and drive off, feeling quite cruddy for having to do that….I love to talk to Tracy! Upon arriving at the ….license place, the teen with the stringed instrument had been kicked out and was climbing the large tree in the yard of the office. I made a quick comment mourning the loss of live music while waiting in the dreadful, boring waiting room and dashed in the door. They were still on number 50!! What luck. It wasn’t long til she called 51…no response…..52….nuthin…..”OK, 53 and if you don’t answer, you lose your turn.” We jumped up and did the little thing, which took all of 5 minutes. Thanks to a driver’s education certificate, she didn’t have to take a written or driving test. We drove home and I felt particularly spent upon entering, to find my stew meat boiling again…which reminded me to add the onions, carrots and potatoes, thankfully (I think I would have forgotten all about it). I then went back to my room to sit against my nice heating pad for my aching back until the stew was ready.

I am happy to say that the rest of the evening was uneventful.