Saturday, April 30, 2011

There are no words . . .

This has been one heck of a week . . .yes, it has. Easter weekend was good (and I will post pictures later) and we enjoyed spending time with Glenn and Lauren and our nephew Ben. The day after Easter is one of my busiest days of the year so I arrived at work about 45 minutes early to get a head start. I had a check-up with my doctor. . .and worked like crazy. Tuesday was the memorial service for Jake. I knew that it would be sad . . .21 year old boys should not die. We got to the church (the same one where we attended Susan's funeral (his mom) two and a half years ago). They were running a continuous slide show of Jake. I wasn't expecting what happened to me when I saw the first picture of Susan. A sob welled up from deep inside of me. I felt like the scab had been ripped off of an almost healed sore (I know that is gross and graphic but that is exactly how I felt.) I was so thankful to have Laura and Mark with me . . .of course, they were both weeping also. After the funeral, I had to get to my car. I just didn't think I could talk to anyone. I was very thankful that I got to see Mark P. (Jake's daddy) before the service.

I came home and started the dinner for our young adult study. We had a great group (we ALWAYS have a great group - we love them!!) They were patient with me because it was not my best night of facilitating. I was just so sad but I must admit that spending time with them made me feel so much better. We cleaned up and went to bed . . .and were awakened at 5:18 on Wednesday morning by tornado sirens. I got up and turned on the tv and the tornado was headed toward us so Mark, Laura and I headed to the basement. We heard that there were 100 mile per hour winds going over tannehill which is not that far from us. We have heard that the winds were 80 mph when they came up over the side of the mountain. Our power went out so I took a shower and packed a bag and started the drive to work with wet hair. Little did I know that it would take me an hour and a half to drive to work. We knew that there were trees down on the road behind our house. There was a tree on the house at the end of the street. There was a giant tree down behind the house across the street but that was minor. The main road that is right behind our house that runs along the Crest was totally blocked. There is another road that runs parallel . . .it was impassable also. I just kept turning and trying to get to another main road. I actually had to stop at a Hardee's to go to the bathroom because I had been in the car so long! I finally made it to work and started to hear about damage in other areas. Two of the girls in the office has pretty major damage in their neighborhood and one of them couldn't even get out of her neighborhood. Then we started getting reports that the schools were closing early and many businesses were closing early. They made a decision to close the church office at 2:00 but since the storms usually come from the west, I decided to go on and head home about 1:15 . . .it took me an hour to get home. I only live about 9 miles from the office. I felt so relieved to be home in my own home. Outside the air was very hot and humid. Our power had come back on after about three hours so since I was home, I started cleaning out a closet. Laura was home and Mark got home early. The sirens started going off again so we went to the basement . . .I guess it was around 4:45. Since we had power, we turned on the tv in the basement so we could see where the storms were headed. I don't have a good idea of the timeline here. . .but at some point, the weatherman started going nuts. There was a huge tornado headed for Tuscaloosa which is about 45 minutes or an hour from our house. James Spann (local weather) was saying things like, "this is not our normal hook . ..this is something major. Get in your safe place now." There was a video camera pointed at the tornado and we all sat with our mouths hanging open as we watched it approach Tuscaloosa - this is the town where the University of Alabama is and many of our friends are students there. I actually prayed out loud, "O Father watch over Hilary and Meredith and . . .named our other friends - keep them safe." The tornado was a mile wide and plowed through our state. We watched as it approached Birmingham and then . . .our power went out. The sirens started going off and we weren't sure where it was located so we stayed in the basement. The tornado continued to plow through the state causing mass destruction. Over 200 people are dead . . .and there are many who are not accounted for. Entire neighborhoods are gone. It is sad about the structures and homes and businesses but it is heart wrenching about the lives lost.

I guess the one bright spot in this week has been watching the people of our state. We are good people. Men with chainsaws have been helping others get the trees off of their houses. Churches are working together. I received a phone call this morning asking me to send out a churchwide email requesting diapers, baby wipes, toilet paper and tarps. I asked Kirk if that was all . . .and he said, "the Baptists are feeding them and have lots of water." Some people have only the clothes that they were wearing when the tornado hit.

There is a bright spot in all this darkness. We are called to be light bearers, aren't we? I went to Walmart today and there were people all over the store buying for others. There were people buying clothes to donate. There were people buying toilet paper and diapers and wipes. As a matter of fact, almost all of the wipes were sold out. There were people loading their carts with cases of bottled water. I actually had tears in my eyes when I looked around and saw the goodness of people. So often we only hear about the bad stuff . . .this was people at their best.

This has been a hard week. Yes, it has.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

sorrow and joy

I have lots of pictures on my camera from the last few days . . .but the camera is sitting on the counter at my mother-in-law's house. I hate that I left it. I've wanted to post for several days but I just haven't been able to put my feelings into words. It has been such a sad week yet has ended in the joy of the resurrection - how does that happen? I guess that is what life is all about as a Christian.

On Thursday afternoon, our friend's ninth grade son found his 21 year old brother slumped over his desk. He had died of an overdose. Such a tragic loss. What makes this hurt even more is that the boy's mother . . .my very dear friend, Susan . . .died not even three years ago of cancer. How much can one family endure? But that brings me back to the joy of resurrection. God is with us in the sorrow. He promises to never leave us. Jake died on Thursday and Friday was such a "black" day for me. I was in a deep deep hole of sorrow. I needed to work on the Sunday School lesson because Glenn and Lauren were coming home and I wanted to be able to spend time with them on Saturday. Mark and Laura and I went to the Good Friday service at Trinity which is a service of darkness. The candles are extinguished one by one until darkness reigns. The cross is draped in black. At the end of the service, one of the minister's SLAMS the Bible closed and they take the last candle - the light of the world - our Savior - out of the sanctuary. I was already in such a dark place and then we went to that service and the strangest thing happened. I felt God's presence once again. I mourned through the service yet I knew that Sunday - today - Easter - HOPE was coming.

I was able to finish the Sunday school lesson when we got home. This is part of this morning's Sunday school lesson that I would like to share:
The story of the resurrection of Jesus is powerful and deeply meaningful. It establishes the foundation of the blessing of eternal life. Jesus’ resurrection is God’s victory over death. No sealed and guarded tomb can defeat God’s power to raise Jesus from death to new life. The bonds of death cannot hold Jesus. We share in that final victory over death. Because of Jesus, our natural fear of death can be overcome. At the base of the fear of death is the threat of non-existence. Death is feared because it represents a myserious and unknown ending. We ask, “Is death it?” “What happens to us when we die?” But because we share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we know that death is not the end of our lives. We need not fear death. Easter proclaims that death is not a final ending BUT a new beginning. I want you to know that at this point, the writing of the lesson was sheer agony. I cannot tell you how many times I typed something and erased and read more and started typing again and erased. Over and over. How could I stand in front of the class and proclaim with boldness that death is not the end, when I was missing my friend Susan so very much and agonizing over the death of her son. What did I really believe? I finally came to the conclusion that I DO BELIEVE!! I believe in life after death - life in eternity with Jesus Christ. I wanted to tell one story but I realized that I had already used it so I put it in and took it out and finally decided it was worth re-telling again because there might just be someone in the class who needs to hear it again.

(found on the internet) - There was an old country doctor who would take his dog along with him when visiting patients. The dog would remain outside while the doctor went in for the house call.

On one occasion, the physician went to the home of a man with a terminal disease who didn’t seem to have much time to live. The man confessed to the doctor his fears about death and said, “What’s it like when you die?”

The doctor thought for a moment, then got up and opened the front door. His loyal canine friend, who had been waiting patiently on the porch, gleefully bounded in to join his master.

The doctor turned to the dying man and said, “Do you see this dog? He didn’t have any idea what was on this side of that door. All he knew was that I, his master was on this side of the door, and he wanted to be with me.”

“That’s how I feel about death,” the physician continued. “I don’t really know all the whats and hows about dying. I’m not totally sure what’s on the other side of that door. But I know who is there, and that’s enough for me. I’m looking forward to being with my Master.”

Death can be a frightening thing. There is so much uncertainty. There are a lot of things I just don’t know. – that is why I kept typing and erasing.

I don’t know for sure what is going to happen when we do but there is one thing that I do know for sure.

I do know who is waiting for me
. I do know that I will leave this world to be with Jesus. That’s enough knowledge for me.

The apostle John wrote: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) We don’t know what we will be, but we will be like him. And we will be with him.

We do not die into a dark and lifeless void. We die into God’s loving arms. Death is not the final word about our existence – new life is. We have been on a Lenten journey together – over the weeks we have discovered blessings in some unlikely locations. The best blessing of all is this – “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God. God is with us. He is risen!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What is in our backyard?

Last year, we found a large snake skin in our backyard. Last night, Snugs was on the backporch on his throne surveying his kingdom. All of the sudden he shot off the deck and Mark looked outside.

For once, I remembered to grab the camera. (this was right before all of the young adults arrived at our house for the Mere Christianity study.) We went out in the backyard and look what we found this year!

Now I am not a snake fan, but my hubby knows about all sorts of outside critters. He has convinced me that this snake is indeed our friend. He will eat moles and chipmunks (which would help snugs out tremendously as we have a LOT of both). He will also hurt bad snakes.

I just want to know exactly where he is living in my backyard . . .

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our family has changed . . .

This week, a friend mentioned to me that I needed to change my blog picture because the picture was just of Mark, Laura, Glenn and me (yes, it is supposed to be "me" not "I" - that is one of my pet peeves). Our family now includes Lauren!! So I have changed the picture to one of all FIVE of us made by our wonderful wedding photographer, Mandy Busby. She did a great job at the wedding. When I was changing the picture, I realized that I also needed to change my profile info. I'm not only the mother of twins but a mother-in-law now . . .that means I have "three" young adult children and as I was changing that info, I realized the profile info said that Mark and I had been married for 25 years . . we are now coming up on our 27th anniversary. Several things there - one - wow - I can't believe we've been married almost 27 years. I can't believe we haven't killed each other. Also, I cannot believe that I have been blogging for two years. I am also amazed that people actually read my blog. So . . . I have procrastinated this morning by checking my work email (and by doing an excel spreadsheet that I forgot to do yesterday!!), checking facebook and now writing a short blog update . . .I'm still sitting at the kitchen table in my nightgown drinking a diet pepsi. I've got lots to do today from buying groceries (and it is going to be a huge grocery day - lots going on) to buying some birthday presents. I also need to clean my house and I have the honor and privilege of taking prom pictures for a friend's granddaughter this afternoon (I'll post some soon!). Sunday is Palm Sunday and then Sunday School on Sunday. I love fun weekends!! So . ..what are you doing this weekend? ok - I cannot procrastinate any longer - gotta get my rear in gear!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CD Release Party

Wow - that sounds impressive . . .I went to a CD Release Party!! I don't know if you remember reading this last year . . . (there is a little link button and I think I'm supposed to be able to link to a previous post but I CANNOT figure that out!!). It has taken a full year but the CD has finally been released. Ruth Ann - on the right side of the picture facing the camera - was part of the driving force behind this project. Dean was so gracious to open his home for a party! Everyone brought food to share (all Emmaus gatherings have food, don't they?). I had to go by myself because Mark was on his fishing trip with Hayden but that was ok because there were plenty of folks for conversation. (though I did miss him!) I don't think I could write tonight without parenthesis. Now that the days are longer and it was still daylight outside made the drive much easier.
Here is a picture of Fred, Julie, Steve and Charlotte.

My view of the party from a perch on the staircase.
Ruth Ann was telling us all about the process as we were getting ready to listen to the CD. I don't know what Julie and Christy are up to . . .but they look like they are about to burst into laughter. That is one of the things that I love about this group - the laughter. I love to laugh. So often, Christians have the reputation of not having a good time - whoever thinks that about Christians should come and hang out with us.

Here are our great musicians - Mark W. on the left and Charlie B. in the middle and Lynn L. on the right. We were missing Steve D. and Mark P. I could sit and listen to these guys play and sing ALL night!! We all got at least one copy of the CD and I've been listening to my copy all week in my office. We certainly aren't professionals but what we lack in musical ability is certainly made alright by the Holy Spirit. I wish I could put one of the songs on here for y'all to here . . .that might be "possible" but I have no idea how to do it!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Tuesday night group

Every Tuesday night, the young adult group gathers at our house for food, fellowship and study. When we first started about a year ago, our studies ran about 6 weeks and then we would take off a couple of weeks. Well, this year we started on the first Tuesday of the new year and we've been going strong ever since. We are studying Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis and it is taking us a long time. We have found a method that works for us after much trial and error. We actually read a chapter out loud (taking turns) and then we discuss. Then we read another chapter. Most weeks, we cover two chapters. The good thing about meeting for 6 weeks and then taking a break was that I could repeat our menus!! I'm having to come up with more new menus this time. If you have any great recipes that serve 25 people, send them my way!! We've had chicken fingers and homemade mac & cheese and we've had breakfast casseroles and biscuits and bacon. One of their favorite meals is Poppyseed Chicken and sweet and sour green beans and rice. We've had chicken spaghetti and pizza spaghetti and husband's delight. This last week, we grilled 6 pork tenderloins and we had corn pudding and green bean casserole and oriental slaw. We almost always have a salad of some sort every week, too. You can tell by the size of the bowl that we are feeding a lot of folks. I think we fed 23 last Tuesday. On Fat Tuesday, we even made miniature pancakes for dessert with lots of toppings. It has been a little bit harder during Lent because we have two folks who gave up grains, at least one who gave up carbs and several who gave up sweets. We have one person who has Crohn's and one who hates nuts and one who hates cheese. We've learned these things about them as we've gotten to know them better. I try to have at least one thing they can all eat. I know this is a silly picture but the colors were so pretty that I just snapped it. Can you guess what we were having for dessert? There are about 6 friends who have made our desserts each week. They have made trifles and chocolate chip pound cakes and all sorts of cookies. I can never thank them enough for their help!! Since we are in the season of Lent, we have been having fruit every week also for those who gave up desserts. I had failed to line up someone for this last week so I just bought a huge thing of Neapolitan ice cream and some toppings and sliced up a couple of packages of fresh strawberries. Here is the group. Aren't they great looking? It is amazing how much Mark and I have grown to love all of them. It is really funny because we feel like they are "ours" . . .like we feel about some of our own kid's friends. They are all such great young adults. They are smart and funny. When we first started about a year ago, we only had two guys (I think that is right). You can see that we now have a great mix of folks.
This is one of the bonuses of being a middle-aged momma - the resources to host this in our home each week. Goodness, we are blessed!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Staff Workday at the Habitat House

I feel so blessed to be able to work on the Habitat House . . . not once . . .but twice. Our staff, along with a few friends, had a full workday on Tuesday. They brought in a "servant" from the congregation who answered the phones and the rest of use (except Kristi who is too pregnant) showed up at 8:30 for a workday. We started by sanding the walls and then we began to paint the ceilings. Here is a cute picture of Amy (her friend said those looked like cute giraffe nubs on her head), Linda and Phella.
I just had to throw this picture in. We had terrible rainstorms the night before our workday. These are all those boards that you saw me painting in the last post. I'm so glad that brought them inside.
Here is Haley taping around the door so that she and Karen could paint the trim black.

Here is Donna up on a ladder trimming out around the edges. Phil, the site superintendent, asked for those who were perfectionists and persnickety and exacting, to do this job. Linda and I looked at each other and died laughing and said, "Give us another job." I said that I wanted all of my jobs and projects to be "good enough" or "better than someone else's". . just not usually perfect :-) I was standing at the back door looking into the kitchen and on through to the front of the house. We have been having gorgeous weather, but like I said, it had rained the night before and it was actually cold when we arrived at the house.

I showed you a picture of Donna (who is very short) on a ladder . . .here is Dave (who is very tall) painting a bedroom ceiling. All of the rest of us had to use rollers on a stick . . .but not Dave.Once again, a gorgeous day - look at the sky!! Here is the group taking our lunch break - box lunches from Jason's deli - yummy! We were all commenting on how delicious the food tasted. I think it is because most of us are usually sitting at a desk all day . . .and on this day, we were actually doing manual labor so we were truly hungry!! Amazing how when you are hungry, the food tastes so good! Dave is on the left sitting on a bucket and in front of Dave is Amy (leaning over) and then Julie has her back turned and then Mary and Karen and Haley. Looking at the "back" row, Phella is on the left in front of the closed door and then Jeanne (who is pregnant! Yay!) and then Linda and then Donna. Ann was sitting inside and Kristi was somewhere because she brought our lunches to us. The guy sitting on the right on the bucket is Phil - he works for Habitat and that is George, a Trinity member standing in front of him. Andy had been with us all morning but he had to leave for a meeting. Scott was at a funeral and David T. had been to the Butler basketball game and got there in time to paint for about an hour. We had a great time. I love doing projects together. I think it makes a better team in the office!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Young Adult Workday at the Habitat House

Our church is participating in a Habitat House Lenten build. Our Tuesday night group decided to sign up for this last Saturday. The work day is from 7:30 until 3:30. We were talking while we were eating lunch and this is Trinity UMC's third year in a row to build at least one house - some years we have participated on two builds. This is the house that Trinity is building. I think it is so cute. The habitat houses are all 1100 square feet and this one is a three bedroom two bath house.We dusted the walls and ceilings and applied primer. Here is Kelly with her swiffer. You would not believe how much sheetrock dust there was in this place!!
This is such a cute picture of Cel!! The morning started off cold but warmed up quickly. Cel and Kelly are standing in the kitchen.
The sheetrock dust was about to kill me so I moved outside. Alana (from one of the Trinity Sunday School classes), Carol and I were painting. These are the supports that will go under shelves in the closets and in the pantry. You can see the next door neighbor's house - it is also a Habitat House. I asked our job superintendent about it because that house has such a nice front door. He said that the house was built in a "builder blitz" so there are some extra touches like the fancy front door. We shared our workers with the job superintendent for the house that is being built across the street because they haven't had enough workers. Elisabeth was painting at that house.

This is a horrible picture of me. My hair is pulled back with a hair clasp and I have my glasses perched up on top of my head. It was nice being outside. I got a little sun on my winter white face!! Look at that blue sky behind me. It was truly a gorgeous day.
Kelly joined us outside to help us paint.
One of the Sunday School classes provided lunch. You know that I couldn't write a post without a food description!! They provided turkey or ham sandwiches and lettuce and tomato and pickle. There was a banana in the box and a bag of chips and a homemade dessert. See that white pick-up truck in the background? Our young adult group piled into the back of the truck to eat our lunch.

I think it is so cool that we get the opportunity to participate in providing a HOME for someone!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Around the "house" shower

Laura lived with three of her sorority sisters during her last two years of college (and they all lived on the sorority hall the year before that). The last roommate is getting married (except for Laura) and Laura and another sorority sister hosted an "around the house" shower for Ellen this weekend. Laura had the great idea to use bird "houses" as the centerpiece. Since I'm off on Friday, that was my job (along with making the chicken salad and buying the fruit and making the brown sugar brownies - which was my pleasure, I might add!). I bought the tall birdhouse (on a stick) at Hobby Lobby and it was on sale - 40% off. I love those sales at Hobby Lobby. The birdhouse with the red roof usually sits on top of one of my kitchen cabinets and it was so dusty that I couldn't get the roof clean no matter what I tried . . .so I re-painted it. It was textured so I figured that a little dust would just add more texture :-) The white church usually sits in my office window and I borrowed the other birdhouse (with the wreath on the front door) from Mark's mom. I bought 14 yards (yes - that is not a typo - 14 yards is correct) of white tulle at Joann's . . .and I had a 40 or 50% off coupon - yay me!! I think it turned out quite nice. I don't have a picture with all of the platters and food on the table. They had all sorts of yummy goodies. Here is another view showing the pretty wood of our table. I love our dining room. It is one of my favorite rooms in the house. I love the window and all of the natural light. I love the paint color. I love our furniture. I love that it is big enough that I can cram 14 people around the table.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It was lost and now it is FOUND!!

oh my goodness - I am so excited (but remember it doesn't take a whole lot to excite me!!). Laura is having a bridal shower here tomorrow and I was working on the table decorations and the serving pieces for her. Several years ago, I took a pumpkin roll to some function or another on this tray . . .and it hasn't been seen since then. . . until today. We have shelves in the basement for me to store things like large crockpots and gumbo pots (wrapped in plastic of course!) and large serving pieces. I went downstairs to find a tray for the brown sugar brownies and there on the shelf was an Arthur Court box . .. a large Arthur Court box . . .and I slid it off the shelf and looked inside and said, "Yippee" even though there was no one here except the cat to hear me.
You have to understand that I emailed all of our relatives and all of my work friends and everyone in our Bible study and everyone in our supper club (FOUR YEARS AGO) and said, "I'm missing a large Arthur Court tray. Did I leave it at your house?" I actually had finally decided that someone had probably just accidentally packed it away with their own things thinking it was their piece of Arthur Court. I was a little sad about it because this pattern has been discontinued and this is my largest tray and it was a gift and it was expensive. But YAY! it has been found. I'm so excited. Yes, I am!!