Saturday, May 31, 2014

Country Blessings

Last weekend was all about slowing down in the country, relaxing with family, and saying thank you. I don’t often go upstate to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephew, so I savor these special moments. When I stepped out their door, all I saw was farmland and rolling hills. Nothing seemed to move in Lansing, NY. Peace and quiet. Rays of sunlight cast over God’s creation. The world relaxed.

But I did have one plan. I had the address of the church that a group of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers attend—the next town over from Lansing. Wouldn’t it be great to visit their church? They came all the way to our house to help rebuild a few months ago. I wouldn’t get this opportunity again for a long time. Of course Saturday night I had the worst stomach pains I can remember, couldn’t sleep, and woke up late on Sunday. My plan seemed hopeless. I didn’t even consider going, thinking I might throw up, but Dad said, “Why don’t we go to that church…even if we’re late you can thank the Pastor for sending the group.”

He was right. “Okay, let’s go.” I prayed for my stomach to be calm for at least the duration of the service.

The church was a refinished barn, so pretty and unusual, perfect with a mountain view. We got to hear the last ten minutes of the message…then, reminiscent of being five years old and painfully shy, Dad nudged me to raise my hand and stand up. I discovered how hard my heart could pound. The man in front of me turned around and asked if I wanted to say something. I nodded, not sure of what this something was that I wanted to say. No turning back now.

He spoke to the pastor as they waved me to come to the microphone. Oh,no. With a quick prayer for help, somehow I stood in front of these people, introduced myself and told a quick version of my story. I explained how our house was damaged from Hurricane Sandy and a group from this church came to help us rebuild. They were a part of our healing. I wanted to thank them and their church.

Even better, I got to hug some of the volunteers who were there and talk with them again. One family knew my sister’s family. They use the calves on their farm in a 4-H Club competition. This is not just a small world, it’s a world that God watches over and uses to bring people together for His purpose.

My stomach cooperated for the time I needed, and I slept a few needed hours after to recuperate.  It was a good day…an unexpected, blessed, joyous day.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happy Anniversary

Usually I think of couples having a second honeymoon to celebrate a milestone like ten, twenty, or fifty years, not one. But my husband’s idea was romantic—to celebrate our first anniversary at the same country inn that we went to for our honeymoon. It was a nice idea, but the reality…

We were a young couple in our early twenties—pre-kids/cellphone days. Working as live-in house managers for a group home, our only expenses were food and car insurance. Spontaneous spending was fun back then…like the shiny new acoustic guitar Gene had to buy on our trip that hogged the back seat. He didn’t know how to play the guitar and still doesn’t. So though it was a hot day in July, Gene decided he needed Timberland winter boots. I tried not to roll my eyes or point out the obvious—I mean, this was supposed to be romantic—but may have let a tiny grunt of disapproval squeak through my teeth.

I forget the order now…did he buy the boots, then realize he locked his keys inside the car, or did he realize he locked them in and decide to go buy boots anyway? Did the torrential downpour start after we asked the salesperson to help us call a locksmith, or as he spent five minutes twisting a wire through the cracked open window to unlock the door? Either way, it wasn’t fun. We were hot, wet and irritated at the weather and each other, but he had boots.

The problem with trying to reenact our honeymoon was the high expectations we placed on this vacation. Was it fair to compare this week to one of the best weeks of our lives? How could we reenact those fresh moments of discovering places for the first time: splashing in the bubbling brook behind the inn; racing barefoot downhill through the dandelions and soft grass; row boating on the glistening waters of Lake Winnipesauke. It would feel like we were acting out a favorite movie.

The next day was sunny, a great day to try horseback riding. Not that we knew how to ride horses, but we felt safe, led by a guide up a mountain trail. Mounting the horse was harder than I thought, and the view much higher than it seemed from the ground. The branches and crisp leaves crunched under the weight of the horses. A light breeze tickled my neck in the shade and coolness of the mountain path. All was quiet surrounded by the peace and beauty around us; birds singing and chattering, horses snorting…until Gene sneezed.

“God bless you,” I said.

He sneezed again, and another rider said, “Bless you.” The third time he sneezed, a different rider blessed him. The fourth time, well, he got a few looks.

“Are you alright?” I whispered, wishing the thunderous sneezing would stop and I could the listen to the birds again.

“No, it’s allergies. I must be allergic to horses too.”

Gene gets asthma around cats and some dogs, but they’re a fraction of the size of the horse he was sitting on. I couldn’t hear anything but Gene’s wheezing for the rest of the trail. I prayed he wouldn’t need a trip to the emergency room. Thankfully, his breathing improved the farther we got from the horses.

The allergies left him with a nose cold for the next two days. This wasn’t the honeymoon I remembered.

We decided to surprise my cousins on the way home and stop by their summer home on Cape Cod. We could spend the day at the beach and drive home in the evening.

They were surprised alright and so were we by the look on Cathy’s face as she met us at the door. “Hey, what are you doing here? Didn’t you hear the weather report?”

“No, we’ve been at a country inn in New Hampshire without a TV.”

She laughed. “A hurricane is on its way here in a few hours. Now you’re stuck here.”

“A hurricane? No way!”

Gene and I laughed so hard as Cathy said, “By the way, happy anniversary.”

For future trips, we vowed to check the weather reports and travel with anti-allergy medicine…just in case. As crazy as that trip was, it would be the last week long vacation we’d take since God blessed us with five kids to raise. Maybe for our thirtieth anniversary we’ll celebrate a third honeymoon, but I say we head in a different direction. Jamaica sounds nice.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Surprising Jordan


     Jordan’s room before
(after gutting from Hurricane Sandy damage)

Today was not just a good day—it was a day to feel blessed, thankful and loved, a day for tears of joy.

The Samaritan’s Purse volunteers wanted to surprise our daughter, Jordan, with her finished bedroom today before they drove back to their homes in other states as far as Michigan. I took her out of school early while they waited in her room with cameras ready to capture her surprised smile.

Among other projects this week, these wonderful volunteers painted her room the cheerful green she picked out and finished the floors, closet, door and ceiling fan. To celebrate, they set pink and white helium balloons to hang under the ceiling. They also placed a colorful bouquet of gerbera daisies in a ceramic ice cream cone vase on her desk next to a plate of pink and chocolate frosted donuts.

Seeing her face was the best Mother’s Day gift ever for me. She never complained that hers was the last bedroom fixed. She and her brothers have learned lessons in life that I could never have taught them. They have learned to be patient, to persevere through trials, and to trust God and believe He can do the impossible. They have seen God’s love in action through people willing to travel and give up their time to help us. Nothing can compare to receiving this gift of love.


And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28