October 30, 2010

Secret gifts

Cute, eh?

I love my sweet black and white Bible bag. But what they represent is even more sweet.

I have some secret friends that these bags represent. Their identities have been hidden to protect their secret-ness. ;)

Last spring I got a written invitation from a friend of mine who is a pastor's wife in our same area. She and another pw were starting a small group with other pastors' wives in our area of town. One of them made these cute bags to make us feel welcome and honored. I was intrigued and excited, and more than a little bit nervous. There is  an online group of pastors' wives that I've been a part of for support and friendship for years now and it has become an invaluable group of very close knit friends. I've met some of them, others I do not even know what they look like, just their name,  because they choose to be anonymous. We share our lives in a way that we can't do publicly. Our husbands' ministries are very public. And though I feel like I can be myself in any of the churches we've been in, a lot of pastors' wives feel under special scrutiny and judgment.  So we talk about our feelings, about our weaknesses, our children, our husbands,  we say things that we would never dare to say in public, but we can be ourselves there with each other and know that it will never go beyond that group. We also pray for each other with empathy and care that I have rarely felt in human friendship.

This is why the small group with real live, in person ladies was a little bit intimidating to me. Would it ever be the same as what I have with my semi-anonymous group of friends? I was willing to find out, so I went. At first it was like any group of women who are almost strangers. Awkward! It was 'on your best manners' and polite. We shared prayer requests that were not too personal, not too dangerous.....testing the waters I think. But God only let us be aloof for so long, He has been guiding us to a deeper level and I am finding some really dear friends, kindred spirits. Even with our differences and wide range of personalities, He is bringing us together.

It's a gift. I say that a lot on here, but I have to give credit where it is due! I want to chronicle in some way the good things only God brings into my life to show His love and care. His fingerprints are all over this group, because we've grown to need human comfort and understanding even more lately.

One of the ladies wanted to do some kind of get away, spend some more time together, so I asked my sister and we went up to her cabin together in late June for a retreat. You cannot get away from getting to know each other better than on a weekend trip to the mountains. Riding up with each other, sharing beds, cooking for each other, eating together, walking, hanging out on the porch in a peaceful setting started to form a bond, letting down our safe boundaries so that we could really share and pray together.

When we got back there was a greater trust level and openness among us. This was a good thing because heck started breaking through in some of our lives and we needed a place to be real, to cry and be totally accepted, not judged or scrutinized.....and prayed for. We have really started to bring each other to the Throne and have already seen God working, bringing peace in the middle of what seemed like chaos, at least inside our heads and hearts.

In August my daughter Beth was at a denominational conference. She was hanging around while helping at the conference and one of my pw friends came up to her, read her name tag and told her, "I know your mother! You are Bethany!" Then it dawned on Beth that this was one of my small group friends and out of her mouth came, "Oh! You are one of my mom's secret friends!" She said this because she didn't know the ladies I was going to meet with several times a month. But I would come home sometimes and if she asked me where I'd been, I would tell her I had been with my friends.

"You have friends? Who?"

"Oh, you don't know them."

So, they aren't really a secret,  just unknown to my kids.

When my friend heard her say secret friends, she thought that was delightful and we are known as secret friends now to each other.

I feel like I've been needing to take a deep breath of cool, fresh air and it finally happened. I've got some people who understand ministry life and how so much of it is confidential or makes you feel so vulnerable, how you can't share the pain you have sometimes or that you shoulder burdens for your husband alone.

I don't know why I was surprised. God gives good gifts..... and from the beginning, even though it was company manners at first, I knew it was something God brought into my life because I had longed for it. Each time we meet together, I see these cute Bible bags lined up together or stashed on a table or chair and am thankful for our group.

So....to my online sisters and my secret Bible bag sisters, thank you for being in my life, for sharing yours with me and for taking the risk to join together on this path.

You are a breath of fresh air, a gift from God, my bag ladies, my secret sister chicks, my own prayer warriors and friends.

October 18, 2010

Kettle corn

 A friend posted this on facebook and I tried it tonight. It is so easy and yummy!

Mix together 1/2 cup popcorn kernels and 3 Tablespoons of white sugar*.

Put 3 Tablespoons oil in a large saucepan, heat oil until it smokes (I used medium heat on my electric stove, my regular temperature for popping corn).

Add popcorn and stir until it is all coated with oil. Put the lid on the pan and pop, keep shaking the pot. I thought the sugar would scorch, but it didn't. Just keep the corns moving as it pops.

*Another recipe on the internet said that if you use brown sugar, it tastes like carmel corn. Bethany suggested we should add some cinnamon next time.

When it stops popping turn the popcorn into a bowl and salt as desired.

The sugar coats the popcorn and makes it super crunchy. It's really good! Great snack for a movie night.

Thank you Angie!

October 15, 2010

The van

I think I promised a story here. My apologies for being tardy about it.

This is a story about a van.

The first pastorate that Charles had was doing church planting in New Jersey. One of the churches in that area was Bridgeview Baptist Church, which sat in the middle of an old neighborhood in a tiny borough called Delair in the township of Pennsauken. This church had a parsonage right beside it and since their bi-vocational pastor owned his own home, they wanted the new church planters to live there for as long as they needed it. We did....for ten wonderful years. When our church planting time was over, the church next door to us was just losing their pastor because of a job transfer in his company, so they called  Charles to be pastor at Bridgeview.  I could go on and on about life in New Jersey, it was a place that was different in all ways from the places we had grown up and lived. Some day (not tomorrow) I'll do that little thing.

When I saw this picture below on my friend Sara's blog, I jumped up and down in my heart. (I was sitting or I may have jumped in my legs too) I showed it to all of my kids and to Charles. I posted it on Facebook wondering which of my friends would remember it.  The picture was not of our van. It was taken by Sara just a few days before she posted it....in Oregon. I guess someone could have bought the van in NJ and brought it back to life and driven it to Oregon, but that is doubtful.

The other thing that struck me like a lightning bolt was that it looked like the front of our dear home in New Jersey! We had a sidewalk like the one in the picture, we had huge maple trees in the yard, and we had no driveway, so our van was always parked in front, just like in this picture. Wow, it brought back memories.

Our first child, Hannah, was only 2 months old when we moved to that house. And I was pregnant with our last child, Maggie, when we left. We lived there 10 years and raised our first three daughters there through their preschool years and beyond.

We found the van at a used car lot one day. It was roomie. You could stand up, hunched over, and walk around in it, handy with preschoolers, car seats and camping trips. It had a huge wagon area behind the back seat where we could stow everything we needed for camping trips.  And it was cool.

I grew up in the 60's and 70's and had always wanted to own a VW van.  I used to day dream about taking one cross country and seeing places and doing things. I just never pictured it with 3 little kids and a dog, which in reality is a lot different than my vision, but it was still fun. We did this several times in that van. Once to Colorado to meet up with family for a camping trip and once to Tennessee to meet up with family for another vacation. That trip was murder to come home from. There was a heat wave on the east coast and our air conditioning did not work much of the time in that van. So I bought a spray bottle and would spray our little kids til they dripped, and the dog too, and we drove with the windows down, like we were basting little roasts in a convection oven. We also took that van to Vermont many times on camping trips. We had a campground there that we loved, at Quechee Gorge. That was where we made a lot of memories and built strong bonds with our children.

We also drove that van across Pennsylvania each summer to a children's camp by Erie, PA. Every year Charles would be invited to do the music and teach classes at this camp for northwest Pennsylvania and the whole family would come along.  We had our own little cabin to stay in and it was a great experience. I was the camp nurse once but I didn't do it again because I can't stand cleaning up wounds and blood.

It was a traveling sort of van. It evoked a spirit of adventure and exploration. We loved living in New Jersey partly because it was full of things to see. We took the van to Cape May, NJ many times, to Lancaster County, PA, to Baltimore, to Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, the shore (as they say in NJ), even New York City once to see another church planter friend in Queens.

Something that is kind of a secret we found out is that when you drive a VW van, you are automatically in a club. I started noticing right off the bat when we got the van, that people who drove other VW vans wave at you....and give you the peace sign with their fingers or nod their heads at you as you pass by. I told a teenaged friend about this and she thought I was exaggerating until she rode with me in it a few times. Sometimes when we traveled, another VW in the opposite traffic lanes would shout out the window and honk their horns at us. I loved it!  Super cool. What days those were.

The secret club is also the reason I killed our van one day. I was on the way home from picking up Bethany at kindergarten, when someone pointed at me while passing and yelling something out the window. Strange, they were not in a VW at all....maybe they usually drive one and had forgotten they were not in their club van for identification. Then someone behind me began honking.....NOT a VW van either. Wondering if they were impatient, I pulled over to let them pass. I am just slightly not intuitive sometimes.  Then a police car pulled up beside me and asked me if I knew there was smoke coming out of my van.


I drove into a parking lot and parked. There was gray smoke pouring out of the back of the van. Hours later Charles had to have it towed to a shop where it was discovered that I had been driving without oil and the head gasket (I still don't know what that is) had cracked (which is a very bad thing for any gasket).

Sad day.

I mourned for my van, but there was no fixing it. The one part cost as much as the van had cost in the first place. ($2500) So we had to say goodbye to our lovely van. We were booted from the club, which was also a hard blow. We bought a used Honda Civic, 2 door....no offense but there was no love for that car at ALL. A 2 door, low to the ground car, as pretty as it was, was really hard on a family of five with one child still in a car seat.

So seeing that picture, Sara, was like seeing a very old friend, like a box of memories in front of those cool fall maple trees....

....like a gift from God, a sweet connection to those wonderful days.

Thanks Sara for posting that picture!