Monday, June 30, 2008

A Little Romance

Every once in a while it's nice to have a romantic outing, isn't it? I love when my husband and I have a chance to go out together and do something special. This past Saturday our something special included a dinner cruise on the St. John's Waterway. Someone gave us a gift card for the Rivership Romance.
Now, we see the Romance sail by all the time. It's moored at the Sanford Marina, which is about three miles from our house. It cruises across Lake Monroe, which is directly across from our subdivision. We've been out on the lake before and watched the Romance sail by. I always wondered what it would be like to sail on that ship. At first, I just thought it was a sight-seeing cruise, and that didn't really appeal to me. I mean, we're on the lake often anyway. Why pay money to sightsee something we look at all the time for free? Then someone gave us the gift cards and when I logged onto their website, I saw that they have lunch and dinner cruises. How fun! They even have one that has a show--on Friday night. The show they were offering was a musical cabaret event entitled, Respect: A Musical Journey of Women. Yeah, right. There was no way my husband would want to endure four hours of that!
So I booked us for the Saturday night dinner cruise. I was really excited about this outing. I planned my clothes, hair and makeup in advance. (Haven't done that since the pre-kids days!) I even wore eyeshadow which just goes to show how special an event this was. When I made the reservation, they told me the dress was business casual so I didn't go too all out. I did wear my Cinderella shoes, though, (High heels, lots of sparkles)and dangling earrings. I had Terry wear a dress shirt and tie. When we pulled up to the dock, there were only a few people already checked in. Several of them were wearing shorts and t-shirts. Terry's tie came off in about two seconds. We did start to see some people a little more dressed up, but not one man had a tie on so I guess I had to cut him some slack.
The outside of the ship was beige, with red trim and it really did not look that impressive. When they told us to board, we had to go down a really steep ramp, and I was worried I would slide right out of my Cinderella sandals. But then we stepped through the doorway into an elegant dining room. The room was the width of the ship, with a wall of windows on each side. I was a little disappointed to find out we were in the center row of tables, instead of at a window. We could still see out easily, though, and the center aisle got to eat first so that was a nice trade off. A waiter came by for our drink order and seemed a little surprised when we ordered a Sprite and a Coke. I think we were the only ones on board that weren't drinking alcohol. You know what? I'm glad I don't need anything to dull my senses in order to have fun.
After we cast off, they served hors d'oeuvres consisting of a shrimp and artichoke dip with crackers, vegetables and dip and assorted cheeses. It was all good, and I was glad they were there because they announced that dinner would be served at 9:00. We staved off immediate hunger and then went up to the next level to stand on deck. We found a spot at the railing and watched the familiar shore drift by, including the entrance to our subdivision. Terry commented that it's like we were vacationing right at home, which is kind of true. Since we live on the north side of Orlando, there's a whole lot of vacationing possibilities every day. The upside of that is, we can have lots of fun without incurring a motel bill every night. The downside is, you have no anonymity so you can't do something such as ... kiss passionately on the deck of the Romance. It didn't really bother me though, as we're not the public display type of couple anyway. A little handholding, an arm around each other. That's plenty for me. We learned quickly which direction of the ship our eyes needed to avoid since there was one or two couples that weren't quite so discreet.
As daylight faded, we were called back to the dining room where we feasted on prime rib, garlic mashed potatoes and green beans, followed by raspberry cheesecake. It was a really good meal.
Our twenty-second anniversary was two weeks ago and this was a belated celebration of that. One of the things we both enjoy about our marriage is that we are now best friends as well as spouses. So it was kind of funny to us that, while we enjoyed the whole cruise, we were a little dismayed after we ate to find out that we still had another hour before we docked. A full meal that late at night, following several stressful weeks of planning VBS made us both long to go to sleep. The fire is still there, it just banks earlier than usual.
Back up on deck we went, this time sitting in deck chairs. I put my head on his shoulder (okay, we had a little PDA there, I guess) and we watched the lights on the shore go by. We also saw an occasional burst of fireworks in different directions. It was so nice and leisurely with just a hint of a cool breeze. (Don't get that often in Florida during the summer!) Then we moved back up to the bow and had a front row seat to watch as the ship was piloted back through the marina and into it's slip.
It was a great outing and a great way to celebrate our anniversary. Now if we'd only remembered to bring a camera!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Inside the Mind of a Child

Isn't it amazing what kind of imaginations our children have? Yesterday I was driving with my boys in the car when I heard one in the backseat say to the other, "Take the wheel." They had pulled down the armrest in the middle of the seat, and one of them had their hand stuck in the cup holder. That was their "wheel". Nicky had to adjust the toys around him, so Joel stuck his hand in the cup holder and Nicky removed his hand so he had two to work with. When he was done, Nicky stuck his hand back in the cup holder, Joel removed his, and they kept playing. I believe they said they were flying a plane. I love watching my boys play together. It's so funny to hear them map out what's going to happen in their play and then act it out.
Nicky, my eight-year-old, is especially good with imagination. We figured this out when he started playing with imaginary friends. That's right, friends as in more than one. He had Lar and Bo and Beth and the dog, Doofus or Rufus (I can't remember which). They showed up in a lot of his play for a while. (Parenting tip: even the imaginary friends had to obey our rules. When Lar started "wanting to do bad things", we told Nicky Lar wasn't welcome in our home anymore. Later Lar came back and apologized.) I guess it's small wonder our kids have imagination since my husband Terry and I have such great ones too.
But back to kids' imaginations in general. I believe they don't need to be entertained every minute of every day. Once parents start in the role of Entertainment Director, the kids come to expect you to entertain them all the time. If we step back and merely set ground rules, they entertain themselves so much better. Our ground rules include the fact that there's no TV or video games until after supper. This is especially important during the summer months when they could be glued to the electronic screens day in and day out. Instead they ride their bikes, go fishing out back in the pond, play at the park. They also get involved with their older brother in projects such as washing cars or cleaning out the garage. They spend more time working on guitars and on the piano.
What kind of imagination did you have when you were a kid? For us it was "Red Skull". He was the evil bad guy that appeared in almost everything we did. We had to be careful not look directly at this imaginary character because he was radioactive (like we even knew what that meant!), but we had some great adventures across the backyard, up on the porch and even in the basement. My sisters and I would also play with our Barbies, turning my mom's bookcases into split-level homes, apartments and office buildings as needed. Those were the days!
I don't play imaginary things anymore now that I'm all grown up. Or maybe I do. I write suspense fiction. My imaginary characters are very real to me, and I'm always dreaming up new scenarios for them. Danger lurks on every corner and if they don't manage to outsmart the rebels, then ... okay, so maybe I play more than I realized. Only now I call it plotting instead of playing, and I hope to make a living at it. See what can happen if you let your children use their imaginations?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sleeping Anytime

When our oldest son was a baby, he was difficult to say the least. He wanted to eat every other hour during the night. Often I'd doze off nursing him. When I woke up, I'd put him back to bed and crawl back in my bed, only to wake up half an hour later when he was crying and wanted to eat again. I was twenty-two and had no idea what I was doing, but that's a subject for another post. Part of my problem at that time was that after I got him settled down, I couldn't go back to sleep. I'd lay there wide awake, wishing for sleep to come. I got so little sleep anyway that I was almost desperate when I finally got the chance. I remember watching the sun come up for the twenty-first day in a row. I was convinced that my life was over. I would never again sleep at night when other people slept. I would never have a normal life. Somehow I couldn't see to the fact that eventually this tiny baby would grow and learn to sleep on his own. I read in one of those numerous parenting books that when a baby sleeps, the mother needs to sleep no matter what else needs to be done. I took the advice literally. I ignored the dirty bottles on the counter, the dirty clothes piled up outside the washing machine and the general baby clutter and mess strewn from one end of our apartment to the other. When he slept, I slept.
I got so good at sleeping that I could fall asleep anywhere. The only problem was, sometimes I wasn't supposed to be asleep. And I no longer have little babies in the house!
I have fallen asleep once in a while at church. Not because the sermon wasn't good (I love you, honey!) but because I didn't get the sleep I needed the night before. In most cases, I take notes or chew on mints and stay awake and alert through the sermon. But once in a while I've blinked and my eyes stayed shut. That's embarrassing when you're the pastor's wife and you sit on the second row where everyone can see you.
I've also done the blink-thing when driving. I know. It's incredibly dangerous. If I have to drive, I usually try to drink something with caffeine so that I stay awake. It's never a good idea to nod off behind the wheel!
I've even managed to fall asleep during a Rook game. My partner had to wake me up when it was my turn, then I'd go back to sleep again. Those weren't usually my best games!
I think my youngest has picked up on this sleep anytime habit. When we lived in Uganda, we would occasionally find him lying in the yard, sound asleep, with his bottle nearby. He would literally play and run until he dropped to sleep. Here in the States, he's even gone to sleep during a basketball game. While he was in the bleachers. Lying on the steps to the bleachers, with his upper body on one stair, and his lower body propped up on the stair above him. People walked around and over him to get to their seats, and he slept through it all.
My oldest son fell asleep in the living room floor. He'd only been asleep a few minutes, so I woke him up and told him to go to bed. His response was that he had to take a shower so he'd just sleep here. I said skip the shower and go to bed. It took some time to convince him that, while he was comfortable at the moment, he would regret sleeping fully clothed, with his shoes on, in the living room floor all night.
At this point I'm beginning to wonder why we bothered putting beds in their rooms. As for me, I like my bed. And I'll head there just as soon as I finish this nap on the couch!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm not Seeing You!

Last night my husband and I went to the mall. We don't get to do that often, but someone had given me some Border's gift cards and they were burning a hole in my pocket. So off we went and I left the store with four new books to read. My husband will be gone all next week, so I'm thinking of taking that week to just dive into the fiction world with relish. (But no ketchup or mustard.) But then again, I may read just one now ... who am I kidding? I'll probably devour all four books in the next couple of days as if they were Russell Stover chocolates that I bought for myself on Valentine's Day. It's binge time, baby!
But that's not actually what today's blog is about. That's just a rather disturbing glimpse into the inner me. LOL As my husband and I walked through the mall we passed a small food court. I was busy talking about my own work of fiction and daydreaming aloud of the day I had a book signing at this same Borders (hey, it could happen!) when we heard someone call out to us. There, sitting at a table were some friends from church. Apparently they had been waving frantically at us for some time, but we were completely oblivious to them. We joked some about pretending not to see them, and that got me to thinking about how often people do just that. Hasn't there been people you ran into in a public venue that for some reason you really didn't want to speak to them? Whether you just didn't have time to stop, you didn't want to hear what they had to say or you really, truly didn't like them? (Theresa, Angela and Savannah, I PROMISE you that's not what happened last night!)
So how do we avoid these people? Well, there's the oblivious walk-by which is what I was (unknowingly, of course!) doing last night. You pretend to be involved in such a fascinating conversation with the person you're walking with that you have no idea what's going on around you. If you happen to be by yourself, you pretend to be looking intently for a store on the other side of the mall. That one can backfire, though, if the store on the other side happens to be a Victoria's Secret or one of those awful Goth-type places.
There's also the about-face, but that's a little harder to do in a subtle manner. Suddenly turning and heading in the opposite direction is pretty obvious unless you can say something loudly to your companion such as, "Oh, wait! I think it's back this way!"
Then you have your more purposeful avoidance. You send a clear message that you're too busy to notice anyone or be stopped by someone. You look repeatedly at your watch and hurry through the mall as though late for an appointment. You open your cell phone and pretend to be involved in an intense conversation. (Hint! It's a dead giveaway if your phone actually rings during your pretend conversation!)
There's also the dodge. It's handy if an escalator is nearby, but that's still a risky venture because they move so slowly. You can step into the nearest store, but again you need to watch what they sell. I don't care who you're trying to avoid, if you walk into an maternity shop people WILL start talking.
I love it when I'm with someone who suddenly spots a person they'd rather not see. They plaster a fake smile on their face and start talking through their clenched teeth. "Oh my goodness! You will not believe who just walked in! I so don't want to see them! No, no don't look. It'll be too obvious. They're just over your left shoulder. No, your left shoulder ... don't look! They're standing by the Starbucks counter ... yeah, like they need another mocha latte. Okay, they're walking away ... what on earth are they doing going into that store? There's nothing in there for someone like them. You don't suppose they're avoiding us, do you? Well of all the nerve!"
All in all, if you really don't like running into people you know, you need to stay out of public places or shop in stores so expensive your friends aren't likely to go there. In the meantime, I'll see you at the mall! (You ARE coming to my book signing, aren't you?)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Party's Over

So our guests left Saturday morning. I gotta admit I'm sorry to see them go. After all, they've been dear friends for many years and it was great to spend the week with them. That week was our exhausting Vacation Bible School week, an absolutely fantastic week. This was our first one ever, and we couldn't believe how much work went into producing a week like this successfully. But it was so worth it. On our high day we had forty-four kids come. We gave out popcorn, snowcones and cotton candy and tons of prizes. Everyone dressed up like Indiana Jones and we had skits and songs and a lot of laughter. There's nothing quite like seeing Indiana and Snidely Whiplash duke it out in slow motion wearing Incredible Hulk boxing gloves while Chariots of Fire plays in the background. Then again, there's nothing like seeing them chase each other around the room, only to suddenly stop and do the Chicken Dance. That's one for the books. (or the camcorder! Those guys will never be running for public office, that's for sure!) The best part of the week was that five kids accepted Jesus as their Saviour on Friday. That's the reason we put this week together, and we're excited about what God has done.
On the homefront, I teased the youth pastor because every once in a while he would come up with one of those "fifty cent" words and casually throw it into conversation. He's a Redneck and it was pretty humorous to hear that southern twang throw out a big word every so often. We also had an impromptu concert with my son and another guy singing Cathedral songs while a brother and sister pulled out guitars and played along. There were numerous games of Rook, Balderdash and MadGab. There were also numerous showers. It's a good thing we have four bathrooms! There was red ink on the carpet, toboganing down the stairs and painting guys' toenails while they were sleeping.
But all that finally ended on Saturday morning. Our fifteen houseguests packed up and left, and since it was early morning, we headed back to bed. Later that day we went to turn the church back into a church instead of a jungle. Some of the decorations ripped the paint on the walls, so we need to repaint. Garbage accumulated everywhere and had to be hauled out. The kitchen needed cleaning from all the leftovers and the nursery toys had to be scrubbed because of the dust from the air conditioning installation guys earlier that week. (Don't ask.)We headed back home late that afternoon. The dishes had been done, but there was still junk scattered from one end of the house to the other. Towels overflowed the hampers and furniture was out of place. I told my boys to unpack and put their things away while I attempted to clean up the downstairs. My son wasn't moving fast enough to suit me and his stuff was in my way, so I hauled it all into the family room and dumped it in a pile on the floor in front of the stairs. That got him moving. Then I vacuumed the whole downstairs, stripped beds and washed sheets, collected towels and put away boxes of food. Finally about eight o'clock that night we were back to some semblance of order. Now we're just trying to catch up on sleep and get ready for camp, next week. Thank goodness we have a week to breathe!
In spite of all the work--or maybe because of it--VBS was a fantastic week. As soon as I get things back in order, we'll start planning for next year! But for now, I have to go ship back to Alabama everything our guests left behind.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Insult Battles

Some people refer to me as a witty person. That's probably a nice way of saying I'm a smart mouth, but whatever. I can usually hold my own in a battle of wits. Did you ever see two people going at it with insults or smart comments? Each one is funnier than the last and you almost have to admire the way the comments keep rolling off the tongue. My older sister and I used to get into these insult battles all the time. It didn't matter who started it; sometimes neither of us meant to start one. We'd just all of a sudden be in one. It was kind of funny because neither one of us could stand to be the one to finish it. We were both very stubborn about having the last word. We would crack each other up while insulting each other right and left. We even had card battles, meaning the birthday cards we sent each other would either insult the receiver, or set her up for a compliment about the giver.
We had a third sister who came between us age-wise. She usually stayed out of these battles. Not that she was innocent or sweet; she just wasn't as quick as we were. Although occasionally she could come up with some good ones. For instance, when my mom got sick of hearing the two of us ragging on each other, she'd put a stop to it. Then my other sister would pipe up. "Mom, aren't you glad you have one perfect daughter?" Yeah, right. Since Mom had just told us to stop, there was nothing we could say, and sister #3 would end up with the final word, even though she was never in the fight! That frosted my cookies more than once.
Which leads me to the picture in my blog today. I don't like losing these insult battles. There are times when I just don't have a wire connecting between my brain and my mouth, and it's dangerous to go into a battle of wits if you're unarmed. Unfortunately this happened to me last night. After church several of us were sitting around talking when one of the men starting teasing me. The problem was, after a week of Vacation Bible School and all the people we had staying at our house (and staying up until all hours) I have had very little sleep. I simply could not think of a single thing to say in return. I tossed a few verbal grenades his way, but they were so weak it was really pathetic. Which just ticked me off more. I mean, he was digging deep! He even brought up the time I burned the lasagna I was supposed to be serving them for dinner. (He's never going to let me live that down!) And I ended up there with a few squeaks in protest, but it wasn't even a close match. And of course, every time I couldn't think of anything to say, I'd get more irritated with myself, which made it harder to think of things to say.
Our battle ended because some of us decided to go get a bite to eat and his family wasn't going with us. I tossed a sad final comment, something about them not coming because he was afraid I would get him back. Yeah right. That was like the bully beating you to a pulp and then, when his mom calls him home for supper, you throw a rock after him and say, "That'll teach you to mess with me!" Your eye is swelling and your nose is bleeding. You're not fooling anyone, but you still have to say something.
So I'm catching up on my sleep and I'm honing my verbal skills. Next time, Garrett! There will be a next time ...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

VBS Update Number Two

Can't write much tonight, but our VBS has grown in number every day this week. Today we had seventy-nine. We've got big plans for the graduation tomorrow night in order to reach the parents of some of these children. I'll write more this weekend on what a tremendous week we've had, but know right now that God is blessing, and we thank Him for it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm a Killjoy

The wet blanket. The spoilsport. The pain in the neck. I've heard all the names. I've used the names. It's just tonight that I've come to realize, I am the names. I'm the wet blanket. The killjoy. But then again, let's look at this logically.
First, I have fifteen house guests. That's right. Fifteen people staying with us in our house this week. Ten of them are teenagers. Add two teenagers of my own to that mix. They are polite people. They are (relatively) well-behaved. So should I grant them a little leeway when they want to slide down my stairs? After all, don't they have a right to blow off some steam? What about the fact that they are using the brand new totes that I bought? They're sliding down my stairs, laughing and screaming, sitting on the lids to these new totes. Then they decide to go down in the totes themselves. Now am I still a killjoy? What about when my husband joins their rowdy adventure. What about if it's almost 11:30 at night? What if I already have one child in bed, and I want to go to sleep myself? Am I a killjoy if I put an end to the entertainment.
Apparently the answer is yes. Oh sure, they stopped. But they weren't happy about it. Forgive me, but it is my house, isn't it? And if I'm exhausted, I ought to be able to go to sleep, shouldn't I? We live in a big house. Why can't we dedicate one floor to quiet and peacefulness so that those that want to sleep can do so? I don't think that's too much to ask. But I guess if I don't fall in with what they're doing, I'm the one ruining all the fun. I guess I can live with that role if I have to. Now if you excuse me, I have a banister to slide down.

Vacation Bible School - Day One

Today was our first ever Vacation Bible School. We've been planning for weeks, and I've even blogged about some of the efforts we made in decorating and setting up for this big event. Today we had thirty-two kids. That was exciting for our first day ever. Our start was a little rocky, but people settled into their duties as we went along, and the last hour, Rally Time, everyone was getting into the spirit of the week. The best part was, we got to share the Gospel with kids that never heard it before.
I love VBS. It's been a highlight of the year for our family all the years we participated at our former church in Alabama. My youngest son has been playing VBS for the past three weeks. One of my other sons memorized twenty-four verses today. It's a great time for the kids--and the adults too. Who doesn't love cheering and singing and playing games and winning prizes. Watching a little girl win big in Let's Make a Deal and then seeing her eyes widen at the amount of toys she won. And of course, there's cookies. Vacation Bible School wouldn't be the same without them!
So this week I'm going to be posting an update each day on how we're doing. We're giving out free popcorn to all the kids tomorrow, and we're hoping to have even more than we had today. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Other Uses for Food

I never realized before how important a role that food plays in our lives. I mean, obviously we need to eat to live. Plus, food shows up at all our special moments and events. But I don't just mean the food we eat. I mean the food we talk about. Think about it. References to food pop up in our conversation all the time. For instance, I told someone earlier this evening that my head was full of mashed potatoes. My brain was just so fried (there I go again), that I didn't know if I could think or communicate clearly any longer tonight. Mashed potatoes described my brain perfectly. There are other instances. Like when we say someone is sweet as pie. Or we refer to peanut butter to describe how sticky something might be in our mouth. Or how about the poem that says, "he shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly"? I've commented before that if my legs are feeling weak and wobbly, my legs were jello. And then when we want to paint something in a good light, we sugar coat it. And who hasn't heard of buttering someone up. Or when we know we're going to beat someone, we say they're toast. And who hasn't been please as punch with something. So what kind of food references pop in your conversation?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Driving Skills

Why do men always think they are better drivers than women? Is it something they think they inherit, like knowledge of tools and engines? They just grow up knowing how to do it? Is it because cars are generally their territory? Maybe under the hood and around the tires, but that doesn't mean they know how to drive well. After all, the kitchen is my territory, but just because I know how to use my blender doesn't necessarily mean I'm a great cook.
Recently I went on an extended trip with my husband and college-aged son. We'd been driving for several days and after stopping for supper one night, my husband asked if I would drive for a while. I settled in behind the wheel and the men settled in by a portable DVD player. I drove for about three hours and most of that time I was hemmed in by semi trucks, and we were going through some winding roads between Nashville and Chattanooga. It was a struggle to stay directly in our lane with trucks passing us and us passing trucks. At one point my son commented that we could reach out and touch one of them. My husband said, "Yeah, mom got a little close that time." Who needs commentary when they're driving? That certainly wasn't helping! Several times as we went around curves, the outside tires of our truck didn't go off the road, but they hit the painted line that marks the beginning of the shoulder. That happened three times. Each time my husband looked up and asked if I was okay. I wasn't falling asleep. I was struggling with the trucks, and the night ... and the commentary, actually. Then we drove over a seam in the in the road. Both of the men looked up from their movie to ask what I hit. I didn't hit anything! It was a seam in the surface of the road! The third time my husband asked if I was okay, I snapped sarcastically, "I'm not sleepy! I'm just a lousy driver!" My son, who still hasn't learned to keep his mouth shut, piped up and said, "I vote that dad or I drive tomorrow." Nice kid.
We finally pulled off and found a motel (a hole in the wall, by the way. Haven't stayed in a dump like that in years.) The next morning my husband woke up sick. He was dizzy, the world was spinning and he was having trouble just standing. So I did most of the packing, then I took the first load of luggage down and moved the truck closer to our room. My husband said he couldn't drive, so I planned on taking the first shift behind the wheel, trading off with our son later. The motel was on a very busy street and we were leaving during morning rush hour. I pulled to the parking lot exit and waited to make a left turn. We were actually at a stoplight, although there was no light in our direction. The cross traffic had a light, and across the street was a side street with a stoplight. So eventually I would have been able to turn left. We waited for a while and then my husband (why are men also such backseat drivers?) Told me to turn right or we'd be here forever. I dutifully obeyed, and just after we turned right I saw in the rearview mirror that the light finally changed. We could have turned left. I made a u-turn and headed back toward the interstate. As we came to the top of a hill, I saw that at the bottom was another stoplight, red, with several cars waiting there. Coming over the hill and seeing all those brakelights startled me, even though we weren't right on them yet. I tapped the brakes to slow down. I didn't slam on the brakes or come to a complete stop. But in the instant that I saw the brakelights and tapped my own, the light turned green. So I hit the brakes, and when the men looked up, all they saw was a green light and cars pulling away from us. My husband got irritated enough to say forget it, he would drive because he couldn't take my driving for the whole day. I tried to argue back, but he insisted I was not getting on the interstate. So we stopped, filled up with gas and bought breakfast and then he climbed behind the wheel.
I admit, I was steaming. My driving wasn't that bad! But if he thought he was so much better, then fine. Let him drive, sick as he is. He's a little directionally challenged, so as we got to the interstate, he asked if this was his exit. I answered, "Mmmhmmm." I pulled his breakfast sandwich out of the bag and set it next to him and then started in on my own. Usually if we're eating and he's driving, I'll unwrap his food or make sure he has a straw in his cup. This time I wasn't doing a thing. If he was so good, let him do it all at once. After a few more "mmmhmmm's" from me, he gave me an amused look and said, "You can talk to me." So I did. I said something unkind. He went into again how lousy a driver I was. That I couldn't stay on the road and that I even ran over things. I pointed out again that the only thing I ran over was a seam in the road. Conversation died after that. Traffic was heavy, but moving along at a good clip until we suddenly ran over a re-tread. You know those pieces of tire you always see on an expressway? My husband ran over one. A big one. The silence inside the cab of the truck was so heavy you could reach out and touch it.
An hour and a half later, my husband pulled over to "fill up". He chose a gas station that wasn't open yet. Then he said we didn't need gas yet anyway and did I want to drive. I said sure, and we switched places. He settled back to go to sleep and I drove through the entire state of Georgia. I stayed on the road, and I didn't hit any foreign objects. Interestingly enough, this happened a month ago and we've never discussed it again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Joy of the Lord

Circumstances in my life have been weighing on me this week. I blogged last week about the personal crisis we were going through. While disaster is not imminent, still there are so many things about this situation that I wish were different. This week it has weighed on me especially. I haven't worried about it so much as I've just been dragged down about it. It just seems that all conversational roads lead here. All prayers end up here. There's no getting away from the burden. Two weeks ago I was confident that God was in control and He was working His will in all this. After examining things closely last night, I realized I still believe that for the most part. The miraculous way He's worked so far has proven that. So why am I still uneasy? Why is there no peace? I thought maybe the Holy Spirit was prompting me to pray harder. But I just didn't sense that there was a looming crisis in all this. There was just no peace. I hadn't really taken it out of the Lord's hands and worried about it myself either. So what was the problem?
The Gospel of Mark, chapter 9 tells of a father who comes to Jesus, asking for healing for his son. Jesus tells him in verse 23, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." In verse 24, the father cries out with tears, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." It's almost as if the father is saying, I'm trying, but I can't do this by myself. I found myself asking God last night to help my unbelief. Even then, I knew that wasn't the whole problem.
Psalm 20 and Psalm 37 have been a tremendous source of encouragement to both me and my husband during this time. Last night when I went to bed, I read through Psalm 20 again, focusing on the words and trying to claim God's promises. I prayed again for God to help my faith and was starting to close my Bible when the first verse of Psalm 21 caught my eye. The first line says, "The king shall joy in thy strength". That phrase made me think of that old chorus, "The joy of the Lord is my strength." So I looked that phrase up. It's found in Nehemiah 8:10. I started turning the phrase over in my mind. I had not been strong this week. I struggled a great deal. Then I realized something. Although we have turned this burden over to the Lord, I was still letting the circumstances rob me of my joy. That described how I was feeling perfectly! No joy! And because I didn't have joy in the Lord, I wasn't strong either.
Does this mean I should be happy with things the way they are? I don't think so. But even when circumstances are overwhelming, you can still have joy in the Lord. He's still in control. And I know that He is also the One that gives me strength to do what needs to be done. So last night I asked Him to help me have joy in Him. Joy in serving Him. We have a great week coming up at our church with Vacation Bible School. There's much joy to be had, and I can't let circumstances steal that joy away. Especially since it also steals my strength to endure. The joy of the Lord is my strength. Once again God gives me something encouraging just when I need it. Isn't God great?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Leaf of Another Color

A banana leaf is a pretty simple shape and design, don't you think? So if someone were to freehand it, it shouldn't be too hard to come out with a realistic looking banana leaf. Actually, I did have a realistic looking banana leaf. I just didn't use the right medium, I guess. If you've read my posts from this week, you know we're deep into decorating for Vacation Bible School. I spent all afternoon Monday tracing and drawing leaves from this big roll of green paper. I cut the leaves out and then pressed them down under chairs to keep them from curling. Yesterday I started trying to attach the leaves to our cardboard palm trees. The leaves are made of paper. They don't stand out stiffly. They droop as if the tree had been standing in the rain. They looked very sad, hanging from our cardboard trees. As I pondered what to do, I wandered into the next room where one of the ladies was decorating her classroom. She had a palm tree. It looked more more realistic than mine did! And she had palm tree leaves! They were cut out of cardboard and they looked so realistic! I just made mine look sadder. Just then one of the teens came up and asked me what I needed him to do. I pointed to the good palm tree and said, "Make me leaves like that." A couple of them got busy on it and next thing you know, we've got great looking trees. It always helps if one person has ideas and at least one other person knows how to put those ideas together. In my case, I wasn't either person. I copied the ideas and then I copied the means of making it work. Hey, we can't all be creative geniuses, can we? Important thing is, our trees are done and I spent the rest of the day tracing safari animals on cardboard. They look pretty good except that my parrot is twice as big as my elephant. I've always had a little problem with perspective.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Embarrassing Moments

Yesterday I blogged about an embarrassing situation. With perfect irony, life just happened to hand me another set of circumstances today that made me want to crawl in a hole and die. Or at least eat ice cream until I kill myself from brain freeze. We spent most of our day at the church, working on the decorations for VBS. There were several ladies there, each with three or four children in tow. Quite a crowd. And not much to show for the effort, I might add. But that's another story. Anyway, the fellowship hall was centrally located to all the rooms we were decorating, so that kind of became the hub of activity. Lunch was eaten there, cups were everywhere and toys were scattered all over from the kids playing. That was all in addition to large piles of cardboard, various baskets of craft items and even a load of firewood. (Don't ask!)
I spent my day tracing and cutting out leaves to put on our fake palm trees. That's right. We live in Florida, where there's a palm tree on every corner, and we're cutting fake ones out of cardboard. That's so not right. Anyway, I was getting a headache and I had kid overkill so I decided to run a few errands and regain my sanity. I picked up a few things we needed and headed back to the church, relieved to see that almost everyone had left. I went into the fellowship hall and saw that, in my absence, someone had been working with styrofoam. You know how that stuff pills when you break or cut it. Well, that stuff was all over the floor. Plus, cardboard and cut out pieces of cardboard were everywhere. Did I mention that my leaves kept curling? So I had them spread all over the floor with folding chairs laying on top of them to press them out. What a mess!
It was after 6:00, and I was ready to call it quits for the day. I was hot, sweaty and grubby and my children were filthy. I decided not to clean up that much of the room because we were just going to be back working tomorrow. Then the door opened and three or four strangers walked in.
"May I help you?"
"We're supposed to have a meeting in here tonight."
They said this as they stared at the messy floor. I stared at them and wanted to sink through the floor. I knew that a homeowners' association occasionally held meetings there, but I had no idea they were supposed to meet tonight.
"We called and confirmed with the pastor on Friday."
The pastor is my husband and I smiled grimly, all the while mentally planning his murder.
"I'm the pastor's wife, and he forgot to mention this to me. If I can move all this to one side, would you be able to use half the room?"
They were very nice about it, so I started scrambling to pick up my paper leaves and cardboard trees. I felt like an idiot. More people filed in as I rushed my boys to shove the mess to one side. Side note: my paper leaves are still going to be rolled up tomorrow because the people needed the chairs to sit in! There was nothing to do but skulk away. I'll finish with VBS and then I'm going to get even. (Imagine an evil cackle here.) It's bad enough to embarrass myself. I don't need my husband's help!

Performing Clown

I am not a coordinated person. Gracefulness is not my strong point, and most people would go so far as to classify me as clumsy. I'm aware of this trait and so I try to compensate for it. I think through movements and such before I do them, hoping against hope that I don't embarrass myself. I watch my step when moving in public. I go carefully up and down stairs. But sometimes I still end up awkwardly in spite of my best efforts. Sometimes I end up in embarrassing situations because of my best efforts. That's really painful.
For instance, I play both the piano and the organ at church. (Not at the same time, obviously.) The platform is small and rather crowded with both those instruments up there. Plus there's the pulpit and the choir loft. And the chairs for the pastor and song leader. It's crowded even when no one is up there. But during a service it really gets full when you have both the pastor and the song leader plus all the choir members. I fill in on the organ when our regular organist can't be there. I also am occasionally scheduled to play an offertory on the piano or play or sing a special. Somehow, those scheduled things always end up happening the same day that I'm playing the organ. So somewhere in the middle of the song service, I end up having to go from the organ on one side of the platform to the piano on the other. We usually have the offering right after a congregational song, so I use the prayer time before the offering to move from the organ to the piano. I can either turn completely away from the platform, go down the steps and then hurry across the front of the auditorium, climb the other steps and settle at the piano, or I can go straight across the platform. And now we're back to the crowded conditions. The piano player and I try to warn the pastor (my husband) and the song leader (her husband) if there has to be an instrument switch so they can kind of get out of the way. Plus, my husband usually says a short prayer before the offering. If I'm switching instruments then he needs to pray longer to give us time to get moved around. He doesn't always remember that.
Added into the mix of this shifting is the fact that I have to take my shoes off to play the organ. So I've got to put them back on before moving across the platform. I usually wear some kind of a sandal that I can just step into, so that shouldn't be a problem. Except that it is. On more than one occasion, I've had to simply grab my shoes and hurry barefoot across the platform to be at the piano by the time my husband finishes praying. The congregation never notices this, but the choir gets a big kick out of it. Well, one Sunday I planned things out in advance. I warned my husband to pray longer. I wore sandals that were low heeled (no falling) and I could step into easily. I even looked at the song right before the offering and timed out how quickly I could end that last note and slide off the bench. But there were a couple of glitches in my plan. I knew I had to hurry, but I felt I had all the details taken care of so that I wasn't running around wildly. The song ended and I slid off the organ bench and started to step into my sandals. Only they wouldn't go on! I tugged and pulled, but the band wouldn't slide across the top of my foot. Just those few seconds used up my cushion of time that I had built in. I could tell my husband's prayer was winding down. So I dropped everything and ran for the piano. That's right. I left my sandals by the organ. Before I'd always at least grabbed them, but I panicked. I hurried across the platform, but realized at the last minute that the song leader was standing by the wall, blocking the path to the piano. In a split second I veered to the edge of the platform and jumped off, then hurried around to the back of the piano. The entire scene was very surreal, like a nightmare where you realize you're in your nightgown in a public place. I couldn't believe this was happening to me! I was climbing the steps when my husband said his "Amen." Quickly I grabbed my book, slid onto the bench and began the offertory.
Everyone on the platform had seen my gymnastic move and they were all laughing so hard it was a little distracting. When my husband sat back down, he noticed my shoes still on the floor by the organ. Than he began laughing too. I sat at the piano barefoot and played for the offertory, the last congregational song and then the special. Then I got up from the piano, went down the stairs and walked to the back of the auditorium, still barefoot. I sat quietly in my pew through the entire sermon and ignored my boys who kept asking me where my shoes were.
I no longer play offertories when I'm on the organ. The piano player juggles the offertory schedule for me because I threatened to throw in a cartwheel or two the next time I have to dash from one instrument to the other.
I've got other embarrassing moments to share, but that's for another post. In the meantime, care to share one of yours?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Timing is Everything

I keep hearing this in the world of publishing. This is not a world I inhabit, by the way, I just wish I did. Anyway, they keep telling me that timing is everything. It's not enough just to have a great story. It's all in the timing of meeting a publisher and them being in the market for what you're selling and the market being in the mood for your genre, etc. The other day something happened that illustrated this concept perfectly.
We took our five boys out to a family restaurant for dinner. We don't do this often because we simply can't afford it. But on this occasion we did. They fitted us into an extra long booth, designed for six. In case you can't do the math, we actually had seven people at the table. The restaurant wasn't that busy, but the waitress seemed a little overwhelmed at serving so many at one table. She got our drinks, brought out an appetizer and took our order. I think the appetizer was where she got confused, or at least nervous. Those boys dived into that plate of nachos as if they hadn't eaten in at least forty-five minutes! She probably worried that she wouldn't be able to get her hand away from the plate in time. Anyway, when she brought our food, our oldest son's order was missing. She hurried back to get it, only to realize that somehow she had never put his order in with the rest of ours. She apologized profusely and put the order in. Then she disappeared. For quite a while. We saw our son's plate come up in the serving window. Another waitress took it, but the cook stopped her and explained that it was for the other waitress. After a moment, the waitress took it anyway and served it to her customer at the next table. When our waitress reappeared a few minutes later, it took her a couple of moments to figure out what had happened. Then she apologized again, put another order in and said she'd ask the manager about removing his order from our ticket. The manager came over immediately and apologized, took his order and all our beverages off our ticket, and then offered us free desserts. She made and served them herself. That was almost $40 off the price of our meal! Then my oldest son asked if they had any openings. She printed up an application and said obviously they could use help on the swing shift. We never saw our waitress again before we left. I think my son may be getting her job! Just make sure you get all the orders in at the same time, Matt!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Vacation Bible School

We're doing it for the kids. Don't you just love Vacation Bible School? It's for the kids, but I've never seen so many adults have so much fun either. Who doesn't like dressing up? Playacting? Turning your surroundings into some sort of jungle or cave? And right here we have a legitimate excuse for all of the above! We've got two weeks until VBS starts at our church. I've been involved with VBS for years
as a teacher. I've planned my costume and my room decorations around whatever theme we had that year. I poured my heart and soul into it. Well this year, I'm not teaching. So it should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong! Our old church had VBS down to an art form. They are so big (700+ in attendance last year) that other churches in the area plan their VBS weeks so that they don't conflict with Madison's. Last year right before VBS we moved from Alabama to Florida where my husband took the pastorate of a small church. So now we've been here a year and we're ready to start up our own VBS. I don't know about other churches in the area, but our church hasn't had a VBS in years. Although we're much smaller than the church at Madison, we still want to pattern our own VBS after their success. The problem is, I'm just finding out what all went into the behind-the-scenes action in order to make their week click into place like clockwork. The forms, the paperwork, the details. Who's renting the cotton candy machine. Who's running the machine? Who will decorate the auditorium for the rally time? Who's handling the refreshment time and all the dozens of cookies needed? Who's going to organize the games and skits? What about parking lot duty? My head is spinning.
On the plus side, we have over a dozen teens and adults coming down from Madison to help us with our first VBS. These experienced hands will be great with all the details. On the down side, they won't get here until the night before. And this brings up a whole new set of details. Where are they all sleeping? How will we feed them? What about transportation? I'm so glad that God helps us even with all the details. The myriad of things needing attention can easily overwhelm to the point where we lose sight of why we're doing this in the first place. So every once in a while, God reminds me that I need to lean on Him. There's still much to do, but if I'm depending on Him to guide and direct my path, we'll get the details worked out. And our Vacation Bible School will be the first of many successful outreaches in the years to come.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to order 60 dozen cookies and turn some cardboard and green paper into a jungle.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Home for the Summer

So my son's home from college for the summer. I'm glad to have him home because being surrounded by four boys and my husband was not enough. I needed one more male presence in the house. And this male is special. I thought about actually using his picture for this post, but he's so drop dread gorgeous that I was afraid I'd be inundated with females looking to contact him, and I am not a dating service. Don't believe me? During spring break from his school he visited me at the school where I taught. He walked into a classroom full of 7-9 graders and there was instant buzz from the females in the room. I introduced him and then he said he'd wait outside until I was done. He left but the damage had already been inflicted. No females heard anything I said for the rest of the day. Matt was only there to pick up his sister, but the rest of the female student body scoured the campus for the afternoon, hoping to catch another glimpse of him. At the end of the school day I began working on changing the bulletin board in my classroom. I had two girls wander in and ask if they could help. These girls have never shown an interest in helping me redecorate my room before. It was rather funny--I was his mom and that was as close as they could come to him, so they were willing to work for me just to be theoretically nearer to him. Since there was nothing else to do, I took full advantage of the situation. LOL They worked their little tails off.
But anyway, back to my college son. He finished his freshman year a few weeks ago and now he's home. He has just a touch of what a friend of mine calls "freshmanitis". That's where they have one year of school under their belt and now they know everything. My son had it much worse at Christmas break. He's almost completely over it now. And he's a big help. He took several days to supervise the homeschooling of his brothers while I had other duties that needed tending. He cheerfully (most of the time) joins in with chores or things that need to be done around the house. He's already spent time cleaning out and reorganizing the garage. He's also thrown himself into the planning for our church's first ever Vacation Bible School. (See tomorrow's post for more on that.)
But lest you think he's absolutely perfect, he does have a few flaws. His luggage is still scattered all over the room he shares with his brother. I can't complain too much about that, although his brother might. I remember never actually completely unpacking on summer visits. There was just too many other things to do. (I feel differently about it now, though.) He also has a tendency to scatter his belongings through the living room and family room. It was really bad when he first got home, but he's better about it now. I've also had to start marking food items that are for specific meals. If we have pepperoni in the fridge, it doesn't last long unless he knows it is planned as part of dinner one night that week. Coke and lemonade disappear a lot faster too. And ice cream--well it never has a chance to melt, that's for sure!
In spite of some pretty average flaws, Matt's a great guy and a great son and I am so glad to have him home. Maybe tomorrow I will post a picture of him. After all, I think he gets his looks from me! LOL

Monday, June 2, 2008

I'm Back!

It has been a long and eventful three months since I last blogged. I'm sure the hundreds (okay, two or three) people that follow my blog thought I was probably going the way of many bloggers--starting with great aspirations and then falling behind or forgetting to update with regular posts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In all actuality, the last three months have been some of the hardest of my life. Our family has been going through a serious personal crisis that literally consumed every waking moment and a good deal of minutes we were supposed to be using for sleep. Every time we thought we were fighting back to some semblance of normalcy, something would happen to make us realize we were sucked right back into the mire. We've been though crises before: everything from job losses to miscarriages, estrangement from family members, serious illnesses, even being chased out of Uganda by terrorists. Somehow they all pale in comparison to what we've been going through right now.
I have learned a few things from this crisis, and as a start back to my blog, I thought I'd share them with you.

1. If you sense that something is wrong, it probably is.

2. Just because things don't seem to be as bad as some other situations doesn't mean you can ignore them.

3. Advice comes from everywhere, but in the end you're the only one that can make the decision.

4. You've got to be able to live with the decision that you make.

5. God knows all about your problems and He really does care about them.

6. I have a new understanding of Romans 8:26. Sometimes you really have no idea what to pray for or your pain and
anguish are so deep there's no describing it. The Holy Spirit still intercedes for us in a very real way.

7. God will bring the right verse, or the right person or the right encouragement or guidance along just at the right time.

8. No matter how hard diet and exercise are, they're easier tools for losing weight than stress is.

9. God is still in control.

That's what I've learned so far. Our problem is ongoing, but at least the stress has lifted somewhat so that my spirit can once again laugh and joke. I'll be back to blogging five days a week and I hope to hear back from some of you (or either of you) once in awhile. In the meantime, I'd appreciate your prayers.
Related Posts with Thumbnails