Posted in Daily Musings, My Interests, Travel

Ah Venice! Italy Part 4

After leaving my enchanted Cinque Terre we boarded another train bound for Venice – our last stop of Italy.  The train ride was enjoyable, and relaxing.  I found myself lost in a story from my downloaded Audible book and looked forward to our next place while pondering and reveling in the memory of the last place.  One thing that I hadn’t realized until that day was that Venice is really two places.  What I mean is that we went to the Venice train station and planned to put our bags in locker storage for the day until we caught the night train back to Germany.  This was at station Venezia Mestre; however, this train station was not the Venice that everyone knows, we needed to board another short train over the water to Venezia Santa Lucia.  This would come into play later in the day.

The 500 year old Ponte de Rialto!

As we got off at Santa Lucia and exited the train station, we were immediately swept into the romance of what we all know as Venice!  The sounds the sights, the color, the water, the bridges.  It was absolutely breathtaking. 

Most of the pictures I use on this blog were taken by 2nd Man – the love of my life, Lynn.  If it weren’t for him, we’d have no photos, videos or audio remembrances of our life.  He loves to film it for the future, whereas I love to live in the moment and soak it all in.  Letting each sight, smell and sound imprint into my brain.  I love to try to figure out with words how to describe it.  But, by this time, I’ll be honest, my eyes, my nose, ears, brain and heart could scarcely take in anymore!  It’s like I’m about to burst and need some iCloud storage for my memories.  How do you describe a place like Venice?  Well, mostly by photo.

Oh don’t let me sound too romantic.  It is a tourist trap, but can it really be a trap if you know what you’re getting into?  I mean, ok, yes, we did the American touristy thing and splurged for a gondola ride.  But why not?!  I mean my one time in Venice – uh yea, I’m gonna do it.  And guess what – it was so worth it.  Even when you know you’ve paid too much for something, its one of those things that you don’t regret, as you glide through the canals allowing yourself to be entranced by all of the colors and mystery of the architecture of this seemingly floating city.  Wondering if people really live here?  And what kind of mold problems must they have? But thinking, who cares its super cool and I want to be fooled by this romance.  However, we didn’t go all out and pay for the singing gondolier, but somebody else in the canals near us did and we were able to enjoy their splurge. It was magnificent as he sang and the sound was carried by the water throughout the area.

On our gondola ride with our gondolier – James Bond – do you think he made up that name?

As we made our way to the meeting place for this gondola ride, we felt a bit in a panic which made if almost feel movie like.  Venice is a labyrinth of canals and alleyways.  In this technological age of google maps we found ourselves lost as the towering concrete buildings blocked our signal.  We turned one way then another wondering if we’d ever find our way.  It was frustrating and awesome all at the same time.  Around each turn was another alleyway of little shops and restaurants, which made me wonder how they stay in business if you can never find the same place twice? 

We wove our way through the crowd (once we found them) and finally to the meeting place.  We had time to spare so we decided it would be good to enjoy some coffee and dessert.  My first try at a cannoli in Italy and I was not disappointed I might add.  It was fabulous!  We did a little bit of shopping in the leather goods shops and bought some bracelets in the venetian glass shops.  It really was an enchanted day for which I will let the pictures do most of the talking here.

When we were finished, we finally made our way back through the labyrinth to the train station and back to Venezia Mestre.  It was on this short train trip that the conductor came through checking tickets and gave me a stern Italian inquisition.  “Why did you not put the right train station on here!”  he asked.  To which I responded that I put Venice and I thought I was in Venice.  Apparently, it was a major no no that I didn’t list both train stations and he let me know that he could fine me right then and there for this infraction, but instead left me with a warning.  I was thankful for this as I had read that the Italian train conductors were pretty strict and known for fining people on the spot. 

When we made it to Venezia Mestre station, Lynn and I were looking at the departure list and couldn’t find Munich anywhere.  We were supposed to be catching the Night jet train to Munich!  When we asked at the customer service area the gentleman let me know in a very patronizing tone that it was on the board!  “We saw Monaco, but not Munich” I said, to which he replied, “Monaco is Munich!”  like duh!! This is where we just shook our head lost in the confusion that is European travel.  What we Americans call Munich, the Germans call München, and the Italians call Monaco.  (Oh and they also call Monaco – Monaco!)  I guess they all come from the root that means Monk.  It was founded by Benedictine Monks so who knew!?  Well apparently, the unamused rail station manager who thought I was an idiot (roll eyes).

So we finally made it onto the Night Jet.  We were all kind of excited at taking this type of train which we hadn’t tried yet.  Of course, I didn’t get pictures, but I’m not even sure I could have moved my elbows enough to capture a picture.  The five of us squeezed into a room that was about the size of a handicap bathroom stall with walls as thick as the stall dividers. This meant that we could hear everything our neighbors said or in our case every snore they snored.  Still, though, we were having fun with the adventure of it all.  There were six bunks stacked three to each side.  Jarod and I climbed up to the top, the girls took the two middle bunks and Lynn took one of the bottom bunks.  Once I wrangled my body up into the bunk there was no more moving for the night for me.  The attendant came through and asked if we would like to have breakfast in the morning and we decided that we should since we would have to quickly switch trains in Munich and couldn’t afford to miss our train to Mannheim.  Did I mention this was a Saturday night train?  Yes, leave it to me to reserve a trip when 2nd man had to preach the next day leaving no room for error.  It seemed like a good plan on paper, but after our trouble getting to Italy, we were left nervous that we might miss something.  He told us that they would serve breakfast around 5:30 am so we set our clocks and turned out the lights.   Unfortunately we didn’t actually get very much sleep.  The train stopped for long periods of time a couple of times in the night, and Lynn and I both were nervous that we were sleeping through our alarms or something.  Then we heard the noise of knocking and “Guten morgen!” coming down the hallway.   I checked my phone and it was only 4:30am!  We were puzzled that they were maybe serving breakfast so early!?  When the knock finally came to our door and 2nd Man opened it was the police!  They shone a flashlight in all of our faces and wished us a good day when they didn’t find whoever they were looking for.  With sleep alluding us we finally awoke fully and put all the bunks up turning our little bathroom stall back into a seating cabin.  When breakfast finally arrived, we had a good laugh as they served each of us two large rolls the size of my fists, butter, and cold coffee. So with the romance of the night jet train travel out the window we were ready to be back in Germany

Ha ha didn’t even notice the spray paint until I posted this. Europe! – what’s with the spray paint?!

And with that, I will leave you as we put this Italy trip to rest and move onward with the adventure…

Posted in Daily Musings, Parenting, Travel, Uncategorized

Italy Here We Come: Germany week 6

Week 6 was one of the longest weeks of my life and it will most likely take multiple posts to cover it. Often when people refer to something as the longest of their life it is in a negative aspect, but this one was a whole mix of adventure that just makes me smile when I look back on it. 

Our German church family at our Valentine’s Day Dinner.

We started off the week with church, of course.  We went early so that I could drop off thefamily and drive over to the children’s hospital to see my friend Marina and Baby Ben whose finger had been crushed. Visitors were not allowed up to this point and I wanted to try and be an encouragement to her.  This, I might add,was the first time I had driven in downtown Mannheim.  Often Mannheim is described as an easy city to get around because of how it is sectioned off into blocks.  However, this isn’t the case with the entire city, only the very central part.  Of course the hospital was on the outskirts of this area where the roads literally go in all directions and diagonals.

Rhein River Baptist Church

 A little background on me, I’m not one of those useful minister’s wives who can sing or play piano.  However, I have always been an asset to my husband’s ministry in that I’m pretty good with directions and navigating.  We’ve been to numerous large cities, NewYork, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles etc. The only one, up to this point where I have gotten totally turned around is Houston, which is awful!  Now I can add another – Mannheim. I am so thankful for GPS systems in newer cars!  Seriously, I couldn’t have done Europe 20 years ago people!

So, here I was trying to listen to this GPS tell me where to go when I noticed a car to my right and a motorcycle who are both motioning to me like I’m crazy.  Then it dawned on me, I was totally in the wrong lane where oncoming traffic would be approaching any second.  Funny thing was, neither the car nor the motorcyclist would move to let me over – go figure!  When I finally got myself settled in the right lane, I made it to the hospital parking lot. As I pulled in the guard in the booth, who spoke impeccable English, asked what business I had there.  I let him know I was there to visit a friend and their child.  He frankly told me that I was in the wrong parking lot and that it was only for people bringing their own children into the hospital.  I promptly apologized and asked for directions to the proper lot.  Instead. he found it easier to let me know that he would let me in, but that I’d better read the signs well or else I would be charged 200 euro!  He informed me that not knowing German would not help me in the matter and just not to be stupid in my parking (his actual words!)  So, with some trepidations I drove on down into the parking lot and found a spot that didn’t seem to have any ominous signs around it and went in for a visit. 

Baby Ben was in very good spirits and getting along so well even though his little hand was all bound up! Truly, he is such a happy contagious little fella.  Marina seemed to be doing well too, as much as a momma can who has been stuck in the hospital with her little one for days.  We had a great visit and I returned to the church only 20 minutes late – a success under thecircumstances.

That night after service we had our monthly pizza fellowship where my friend Asha, who is a British young woman working as a nanny in Germany, made me some actual British scones!  I make scones for Lynn’s Sunday School class back home in the states, so it was fun to try an authentic recipe, which was outstanding and yes – I gotthe recipe!  She was so pleased that I put the jam on first and then the cream as I guess this order of toppings is debated throughout the UK from village to village. Thank you, Asha!

Our big plan for the week started on Tuesday.  We really wanted to fit in a trip to Italy while we were in Europe.  This was a little bit complicated as we had a Bible Study every Tuesday night which kind of breaks up the week and the time for travel. However, we were undaunted by this challenge and came up with a masterplan to work around our limitations.

  One thing Americans think of when they think of Europe is rail travel.  In theory it sounds like an easy and obvious way to travel.  However, it is a littlebit puzzle-like to fit the plans together. For instance we hear of night trains that will whisk you off to your destination while you sleep!  Sounds great in theory, but the problem is getting to the night train.  Our closest one that went to Italy was in Munich.  The problem was that we couldn’t get to Munich in time to catch that train. So, instead we had to piece together an overnight trip that turned into a grand adventure.  Another, weird thing about rail travel is that they sell you on rail passes, but that doesn’t necessarily get you everywhere you want to go. More than likely any large trip you take will entail purchasing reservations on the trains you want to catch. So after piecing together your route, you then have to add together all the reservation costs.  It takes hours in the planning for a family our size, and I never did find where anyone would help.  This would be a great job – being a train travel puzzle solver. 

Midnight at the train station – Before the adventure began.

Our original grand plan was to get home from Bible study about 8:45-9:00, sleep for a couple of hours then head to the train station to catch our first train at midnight.  This first train really only took us right back up to the Mannheim train station, but we wanted to park the car for free and where someone could watch it for us.  Lynn is discipling a man every week who can’t get out because of health conditions. His apartment looks right over the parking area where we left the car, so that worked out nicely.  Anyway, our train from Mannheim didn’t actually leave until 3:30 in the morning (I know!Crazy right!?)  So we planned to just hang out in the terminal area until then. Here’s where the adventure started to unhinge.  When we arrived in Mannheim, we were greeted with the realization that they actually close the inside of the building from midnight until 4:30am!  We were faced with having to wait for 3 hours outside in the freezing cold!  We tried to huddle up against the doorway out of the wind where an elderly couple were doing the same thing.  It didn’t help – at all.  After a few minutes of this we got on our phones looking for an all-night coffee shop or something that might beopen.  No coffee shops were open unfortunately.  I told Lynn that maybe we could just go to a hotel and sit in their lobby for a little while.  He eventually went up and around to the street view and the elderly man followed. A few extremely long minutes later he reappeared and said that there was a doner (shawarma type place) open across the street from the train station and maybe we could go over there and buy some food and sit a bit.  This seemed like a good plan so off we went wheeling our luggage behind us.

Mannheim Train Station – in the day when it’s open!

Immediately when we walked in, I knew this was not going to be a good experience.  The place was crowded with people, smoke, and a whole sketchy atmosphere. A couple of things to note here:  1. It was the week of Fasching,which is like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s a carnival time of partying the week before Ash Wednesday for the Catholics.  Most of the country celebrates this time with raucous parties and dressing up in costumes, similar to what people do at Halloween time in America.  2. Germany doesn’t have the same kind of anti-smoking-in-public-places laws that the U.S. has.  So there we sat in the smoke-filled room with people in costumes coming and going.  It was quite the education for our family in social anthropology as we watched people like Pirate man with his two devil ladies on his arms coming in to get a late night/morning snack.   Lynn ordered a couple of doners, but we weren’t exactly hungry, and the atmosphere was killing the appetite as well.  I noticed the elderly couple did the same as us, but only stayed about a half an hour before leaving.  I’m not sure where they went or maybe they had an earlier train than us.  I saw a single young woman come in wheeling her luggage behind and my first thought was “wow, that seems kind of dangerous for her to be out in the middle of the night with luggage by herself.  She must be a student and/or avid traveler.”I couldn’t help but overhear her talking on her phone in English – she was American.  After finishing her middle of the night meal she retreated into the bathroom which was only inches from my chair where it sounded like she was sick. On my left were a couple of men who were playing on the slot machines.  They were there for the entirety of the night/morning while we were there.  We didn’t see any of them win anything, but the coins kept going in as the cigarettes kept getting lit.  Then walked in a blond girl with a funky haircut and leather jacket.  She reminded me of some kind of 80s punk star or something and she was twitching like crazy as she ate her doner.  I’m pretty sure it was a tweaking kind of twitch from drugs. It definitely wasn’t normal and as she finished, I noticed her reach into her purse and grab a pill from a folded-up piece of foil and pop it in.  Pretty soon one of the slot machine men noticed her and bought her a drink and well, let’s say they left for awhile.  Meanwhile, the young woman in the bathroom was concerning me as she had been in there for over 30 minutes.  I was thinking all kinds of mom thoughts,like was she ill?  Was she doing drugs? Did I hear crying?  Did someone follow her in there? Is she even alive?  I was about to go investigate like Angela Lansbury from “Murder She Wrote”, when I finally saw her come out of the bathroom and I whispered a prayer of thanks and relief to God that she was ok.  Or at least seemed ok.  Throughout our loitering we noticed cars pull up and deals (probably illegal) go down.  I was stuck between feeling awful that my kids were getting this kind of exposure to just not even caring because at least it was warm.  I was so happy to see 3:00 show up on my clock. 

When we got over to the station, we hardly even cared that we were in the cold again, we were all a little bit traumatized and glad to be out of the doner place.  It’s funny what perspective can do for an attitude. We heard an announcement over the speakers, but it was all German, so we didn’t understand a word.  When we saw 3:30 come and go without a train, we asked a man who was there in the cold with us what the announcement was saying.  He informed us that our train was going to be an hour late! I looked at Lynn and said, “I can’t go back over to that doner place!  Please don’t take us back over there.”  Which was a silly thing to plead as he wasn’t about to take us back over there. However, that left us on the freezing cold platform in the dark cold night to wait. 

We all tried to find our own way to cope.  Jarod curled up on a bench and tried to just get into a tight ball like an armadillo. The girls sort of did the same on the other side of the bench.  Lynn and I literally closed ourselves into a phone booth (yes, they still have some of the old time looking Superman-changing telephone booths over here). The gentleman who had let us know about the delay took a double look at us and just smiled and shook his head. We were desperate and didn’t care. Yes, it is beginning to sound redundant, but it literally was one of the longest hours of my life.

When the train finally arrived, we were delighted to be in the warmth.  Then I realized that my seat next to the window had some sort of air vent that was blowing cold air that I couldn’t control.  I was swept back in time when we would go on youth activities with the teens at church on our big MCI touring bus and it would blow cold air at your face all night.  However, it wasn’t quite as bad as being out on that train platform, so I curled up and just tried to sleep. 

Our traveling adventure wasn’t over yet though.  We had two more train changes before we would make it to Rome, so I had to set a timer on my phone so as not to sleep through our stops.  Because of the first train’s delay, it had a domino affect on all the other trains for the day and we had to keep getting in lines to get our reservations exchanged.  I will say that throughout Switzerland, the train station personnel are very helpful when travelers find themselves in these situations.  Thankfully the rest of the day’s travels went relatively smoothly thanks to them.  We rested and took in the picturesque landscapes like going around Lake Lucerne Switzerland and pleasant people that we got to meet like the American widow who had moved to Europe for a change of scenery after losing her husband.  She was encouraging and helpful with tips and warnings for our time in Rome.

Speaking of Rome – well, I’ll write about that adventure inmy next post…

Posted in Associate/Youth Pastor's Wife, Daily Musings, Life Lessons

Time-Out: Germany Intro.

Ready or not here we go!!

 Time – it’s always such a fleeting commodity in this life, especially when it isn’t managed well.  Now, that mine is slowing down for a short time, I can look back and see that more clearly.  Excuses are always abounding, I started working as the Pastoral Secretary at our church, it just kind of happened one day while I was filling in while our staff went through some changes.  Then, after a while it became a permanent thing.  It’s a blessing, and the timing was right, but being the part time secretary is a bit of an oxymoron at a bustling church like ours.  We have one of the busiest calendars in the land.  With that comes the people work, which usually is the heap of the time spent.  Paired with continuing to home school my kids and those same kids getting older and busier themselves, can lead to a full-on anxiety attack on any given day.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the work, I mean, love it!  I get to sit in an office across from my husband’s office every day.  We have five ministers on staff, and I love every one of them!  I love their wives and the other part time staffers as well.  I mean, we have THE best staff in the land.  I would vacation with them all!  We work well together and even get frustrated well with each other.  The humor is never lacking in our office.  Even when I have a bad day, these guys know how to make me smile.  However, I still fall prey to mismanaging my time – often.  It’s a gift, or maybe a curse that I have.  My personality is bent towards spontaneity, which can be good when fun is to be had or I get a creative spurt that needs to be followed.  But day to day, it can get out of hand and that’s exactly where I’ve been this past year.  Anxiety city.  And then God….

He knows what we need, and he knows what we want, and he cares about them both!  Oh I’m not saying that we always get those things that we want, nor should we, but like any good parent (even better!) he allows for those wants when it works within his will.  That is exactly what he’s done for this family. 

Our time-out started back in July 2018.  Pastor walked in one day and stopped by at my desk.  “What do you think your husband would say if I asked your family to go to Germany for several months to fill in for our missionaries who need a furlough?” he asked.  “Yes! We’re there!” was my immediate response.  Of course I thought he was only joking at the time until he assured me, he was serious.  He went on to explain that the Clark family needed to come back to the states for several months.  They have one daughter graduating from Bible College over here, another who is ready to graduate her home school and is preparing to start college next year and he also needs to visit some supporting churches and new churches too while he’s here. However, he doesn’t have anyone who can take over the work he is in while he is gone.  Being the wanderlust side of this family I kind of figured that my spontaneous response would be met with a more practical view by my husband and there would probably be some reason why this would not be a good idea.  Not that he is a downer, it just seemed like a possibility that was far too awesome to actually happen.  Imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when his initial reaction was an excited “Yes!” as well!  Of course, we still took time to pray about it, and there were plenty of excuses that would prevent this from happening, but here are the awesome reasons why both Lynn and I were on board so quickly:

  1.  Friends in Need:    We came to Central 21 years ago when the Clark family was just starting their internship.  We were both young couples excited about new ministry.  This led to a friendship that would span continents and time.  Dalene and I became fast friends.  They already had two girls, but we were pregnant at the same time with my now oldest, Katie and their third, Kyndall, (who are both going off to college this next year! Sniff sniff).  I still remember us with our babies at the airport seeing them off when they initially left for Germany.  We’ve always picked up where we left off, whenever they’ve been able to come back on furloughs.  Now, there was a legitimate need at this work they are in and we would be able, as friends and colleagues to be a help to them.  How awesome is that?!
  2. Answer to prayer for our son:  Just last summer, while our girls were away at camp and we had only our son at home, we had an emotional discussion with him about his sisters.  He was feeling a pressure and desire to be closer to our oldest but felt like he just didn’t connect with her due to the age difference among other things.  He was in tears just thinking about her going off to college in only one year and not getting that chance.  Just as we, as parents, were absorbing the idea that our family was on the brink of change with our kids growing up and leaving, Jarod, too, was rolling around these thoughts.  We encouraged him to pray about opportunity over this next year to grow closer as a family while we had the time.   Then, along comes an offer of just the 5 of us in Germany for three months!  What better way to grow closer as a family than through stepping out of all of our comfort zones together with no peers along for the ride or crazy work, school, youth group schedules to contend with?
  3. Opportunity for life decisions:  Our middle daughter, Megan, has wanted to be a missionary since she was a little girl.  Her hero as a child was Amy Carmichael, she even dressed like her one year for our fall festival.  However, last year, she read a book.  It was a good book, that was challenging teens to consider their futures.  Sounds good doesn’t it?  However, she seemed burdened by a statement by the author who challenged readers to reconsider their own desires and make sure it was God’s will – also, a good thing to do.  She seemed to be confused and burdened by this, though, wondering if she was just in love with the romantic idea of going to far off places as a missionary or if it was really God’s will for her.  Again, what better way to get a taste than to actually go on a mission trip, not for a week but for three months.  Getting to feel what it is like to be away from home, comfort zones, and all things familiar.  Yet, she gets a chance to do this with, at least, the comfort of her family with her and the knowledge that this is just a short-term commitment.  We’re praying that God will show her His desire for her during this time.
  4. Time with our oldest:  Just as our son was wrestling with the fact that our family dynamic is about to change, we have been wrestling too.  I absolutely love where we are right now with the ages of our kiddos.  We embarked on this parenting adventure knowing that we were raising them to send them out.  However, the fact of that time coming soon, weighs heavy on this momma’s heart.  I’m a bundle of conflicted emotions.  Excited to see where God will lead her and how He will use her and also heartbroken at the thought of missing her.  Not seeing her face daily, hearing her laughter, seeing what cool pictures she has drawn recently sitting on her bed listening to music, or even just enjoying a movie together or dinner time conversations.  It’s natural, it’s good…it’s heart achingly coming too soon!  I treasure the thought of 12 weeks to just huddle in close with my babies and absolutely absorbing each moment with them.
  5. My desires:  I have long wanted to be able to take my kids to see things in this world!  We’ve done the Disneyworld fun trips, but I have expressed multiple times how I’ve wanted to take them on a mission trip so that their eyes may affect their hearts.  We just haven’t had the opportunity.  The trips that Second Man and I have been blessed to go on were when it just wouldn’t be feasible to take our little ones along.   Not only missions work, but also, seeing some of the wonderful things in this great big world that God has created, has been my desire for my kids.  Well, here it is just plopped in our laps.  It isn’t the sole reason for accepting the call, but it sure was a fabulous extra!  What a blessing the leadership of our church has been as well.  When Pastor first posed this to the deacons of our church, one of the first questions was, “Will they get to do some traveling?”  This is so important.  Second Man is an extraordinarily hard worker and even hard on himself to be busy about God’s work.  He’s not a workaholic, but he is exceptionally careful with the stewardship of the ministry in which God has put him.  The assurance of our deacons and Pastor being behind the idea of us getting to use some time to travel while in Europe freed up his conscience to be able to do so.
  6. Reward:   This is a personal matter and small on the whole scale, but special to us, nonetheless.  We truly are hoping that we can consider it a reward for something personal to us, that I don’t even want to give detail about here.  However, we, as a family gave something up recently that was both enjoyable and a desire of ours.  We felt led out of conviction to give it up and it hasn’t been easy, both socially and personally.  I don’t give details, because it truly isn’t something that I would want others to think I am imposing on them or judging them about.  But I do believe in a God of rewards and can’t help but consider that maybe that would play a part in this.  I won’t truly know that until I reach Heaven and get to ask Him about it, but for now, I know that this is a blessing in our lives!
  7. Time:  The mere logistics of this trip lend a look at time.  Though Second Man will be preaching each week, leading a Bible study and discipling an individual who is a shut in, his schedule and mine are both extremely lightened while we are in Germany.  We need this.  We both need it physically, as stress due to schedules, extended family issues, and other life pressures has taken a small toll on the both of us.  I was diagnosed this past year with Rheumatoid Arthritis and am still trying to navigate my way in this new journey.  He has suffered from heart palpitations among other physical ailments that all tend to come from stress and…well…getting older.  We can’t deny that little tidbit, now can we?  We both plan to use this time to work on our physical, spiritual and mental health.  This is such a luxury that everyday normal life doesn’t always give us.  How blessed we are! 
  8. Opportunity to be used:  How honoring the thought that God can use us to help a missionary and to get minister to people in a foreign land.  How honoring the thought to do that even at home!  I never want to miss the opportunity to be used by God!  There is no great feeling in this world!

God’s just so good!  I can’t wait to see what He’s gonna do!

Posted in Daily Musings, Life Lessons, Parenting

No Sarcasm Saturday

I’ve found it!    What, you ask? The secret to building up your savings account? The cure for cancer?  The gumption to train and complete a marathon? Oh no my dear friends that’s all cupcakes and fluff.  I’m talking about THE most difficult self-imposed discipline outside of diet and exercise…No Sarcasm Saturday.   I know, I know this raises many more questions like “what on earth would motivate you to do such a thing?” or “Why?” or even “How long did you make it?”  All in good time my dear friends.  First let me give you a little background.   It all started way backlast week sometime.  I was trying to watch one of my favorite HGTV shows called “ Love it or List it”.  However, during the show one of my children (who shall remain nameless for her, his, ahem it’s protection) was just deriding these poor people on the show.  I found myself getting more irritated by the moment.  This child sounded so mean, so hateful, so judgmental and uh…so much like me!  Sarcasm is one of our main sources of humor in this family.  2nd man and I love watching Food Network, HGTV or even ESPN shows and totally deriding the logic behind which most of the decisions are made.  Truly, this is just a coping strategy for our own lusty jealousy.  Hmmm do I want the brand new house with five bathrooms and all new appliances that is $100,000 over budget or do I want to stay in my mid-century “bungalow” with it’s outdated electrical system, bowing floors and cracked foundation without a dishwasher?  Ah the decisions people must face.  It’s sad really.  We watch and shoot out scathing remarks about how materialistic our society is and how there are people starving in other countries living on floating shacks along rivers (funny though, they still have smartphones and reception –true story I saw it on TV too).  Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, the degradation of our American society.  Like I said, I’m basically just jealous and get a kick out of the whole process. However, listening to my own kid doing the same thing sounded so harsh and critical.  I went from being irritated to being strongly convicted.  She/he sounded like a bully on a playground.  If I had caught him/her doing this to someone face-to-face I would be mortified and then I’d lay into him or her about apologizing and how we don’t treat others this way.  I’d probably go into how that person is one of God’s creations and therefore we have no right to be so critical.  All of this is true.  However, somehow people don’t seem as real to us if they’re on TV so a freedom of expression gets exercised regularly. We’re sarcastic with each other as well.  I’d say 95% of it is truly meant in good fun and humor.  However, there are those days when someone gets their feelings hurt.  But, mostly it’s how we relate to each other in a humor filled way.  2nd man and I often find ourselves even having the same sarcastic thoughts about different situations.  But, as a friend of mine explained to me, it can all be taken and given in different spirits depending on the people involved, so sarcasm must be handled delicately.  For instance she is a choleric personality and tends to go from humorous to critical in a quickly falling landslide; whereas her husband, who is very sanguine, keeps it on the light and humorous quite easily.   This made a lot of sense to me.  I know there’s a lot of debate about the validity of the whole personality thing, but I’m a believer in how it plays out in people’s lives.  My choleric child sounded scathing and harsh, but my own sanguine/melancholy personality keeps it on the humorous or sometimes overly-sensitive side.   So, with all of that said, I approached 2nd Man and told him I thought we should have a “no sarcasm day.”  He thought it was a good idea, but didn’t do anything about it immediately.  Then, Friday evening at the dinner table I made some kind of sarcastic remark and he pounced.  “Your mother and I have been talking about something lately, kids.”  He said.  To which thy replied, “are we in trouble?”  “No,” he said, “but we’re going to try to have a No Sarcasm Saturday tomorrow.”  Our oldest was instantly worried. “But it’s outreach day at church and, well, we teens speak in sarcasm.”  “I understand that.”  Replied 2nd Man, “but we’ll have to make do the best we can.”  We determined that everyone would start out with 100 points and the person with the most points left will get a dessert treat of their choice at a special place on our vacation in a month. I have to be honest here.  It was hard.  I woke up with much trepidation, scared to enter public with my family, wondering how ashamed I might be.  But, overall it was a good experience.  I caught myself having sarcastic thoughts all day long.  The hardest part of the day was going to Wal-Mart (did I mention we did this on a Saturday?)  I was never so thankful to go to the grocery store ALONE.  Even in the parking lot where Honey Boo boo’s mother’s look-alike about rammed my car to get a space she thought I was going to get to first. (You must understand how hard it was to even write that last sentence.  I had to wait a day so as not to get docked points.)  We had one daughter who tried hard, but was honest when caught.  Daughter number two kept docking herself and was about out of points when we confirmed that you had to be caught by someone else, and then our youngest son didn’t quite ever get the concept of what sarcasm even is.   However, it was a good exercise in discipline and learning to be kind.  We really didn’t have a winner at the end of the day.   We’ve actually decided to do it again perhaps next week.  I’ll confess I’m not willing to give up this form of humor for a lifetime – I don’t think that’s possible.  However, temperance is never a bad thing, so I’ll take it one challenging Saturday at a time for now.  

Posted in Daily Musings

June Check In

So here’s what has happened in the past week:

·       2nd man had a birthday – Yea!

·       2nd man had to do an unexpected funeral – boo

·       The wedding I’ve been planning for 6 months for our Pastor’s son and fiancée took place this weekend – Yea!

·       2nd mans family arrived the night of rehearsal dinner (12 people!) – yea they are here, boo, I was a distracted hostess due to wedding.

·       Father’s day came –yea! 2nd man preached an amazing sermon – boo, I didn’t get a chance to call my own daddy due to company (I did make up for this though)

·       And today is our 2nd child’s birthday…our Megan Grace is 10 years old –yea, no wait boo hoo! 

Still having fun with the family.  Will post individual stories soon…especially wedding details!
Posted in Daily Musings, Decorating

Pantry Remodel

 So, in the midst of a busy time of year for me, I decided to take on a project this past weekend.  I tend to do this to myself.  I think it’s some kind of coping strategy or something; my own little pause button.  Anyway, I was pleased with the results and feel refreshed and ready to take on the summer now.  Here’s a look at my little weekend mania:

It all started with cleaning windows.  I don’t do this very often.  Here in Oklahoma, it proves to be futile with the wind rushing down the plain and all of the dust it brings.  However, once in a while when I can no longer see across the street out my front window I get an urge and decide to clean them.  It’s either that or I’m angry and need to wash something, but that’s another story.  So, it took all day, but these babies were sparkling. Then the “one thing leads to another” law kicked in and as the sparkling morning sun shone through my newly cleaned kitchen windows the next morning, I noticed how dirty my pantry shelves were looking.  “Hmm” I thought, “maybe I should change that shelf liner and just straighten things up a bit…” 

 I had the kids clear everything out of the pantry.

No, I am not a hoarder…. or maybe I am?!
While it was all out I decided to call 2nd man and ask if he minded my painting the pantry since everything was out anyway.  He hesitated (something he’s learned to do through the years with me) then gave me the go ahead telling me to pace myself.  Then he brought up a conversation my mother had with him before we were married warning him that I overdid it sometimes.  Wah!??  Yea, go ahead and throw my mother in my face like that.  I thought it was a low blow.  Of course, in his defense he tends to remember the infamous time I asked him if I could take ugly wall paneling out of the bathroom of our first house.  It turned into a four-month project – for him.  Hey, he learned how to patch tape and mud wallboard, how to texture, how to cut and put up crown molding and a plethora of other useful handyman information.  Really, I think he should have thanked me, but I digress. 


 I decided on gray and yellow as the color scheme as it’s been piquing my interest for a couple of years now.  I chose Granite Dust from Val spar paints at my local Lowes store with a trim that was a beautiful shade of yellow, (but the sticker wasn’t put on the can so I forget the name) also from Val spar.

After a lot of taping and painting I was pleased, but not satisfied.  It still needed an extra kick.  So, off I went to Hobby Lobby for a stencil.

I’m not the greatest stencil artist, but I figured the pantry wouldn’t be too scrutinized, except maybe by 2nd man, who seemed to be laughing at me as I reached the point of exhaustion and frustration.  Time was running out, my kitchen was a mess and I had  paint all in my hair.  I do this every time I paint.  I could wear a swim cap and I’d still get it in my hair!

Thankfully, my kids were awed by my masterpiece and the girls wanted to help put things back together.  Especially my oldest, who loves things to be organized.  With their help, it wasn’t so bad.  Even our little man, Jarod said, “Wow Mom!  That looks beautiful!”

 However, the true sense of satisfaction came around 10:00 pm Saturday night, when 2nd man looked into the pantry and said the words I had been longing to hear, “Honey, I think it was worth it.  It really does look nice.”   Ahhhh sweet success.

Posted in Daily Musings

Will Somebody Hit the Pause Button?

      Ok, somebody please hit the pause button!  As spring progresses, it seems the time keeps speeding up.  Or am I the only one this is happening to?  I’m so excited for the changes coming as well as a plethora of other events that are happening in May and June, but whoa, it feels like it’s all coming fast! 

    We wrapped up the last “point night” of our Wednesday All-Stars program last night.  So today I’ve been updating all of the kids’ points to see whom the top 7 winners are.  We are planning on taking the top seven to L.A. this summer in July.  However, the top ten were so close in points I decided to go through the books and re-add the sheets from this past year to make sure there were no errors. After an hour of tallying I did find a few errors and the points have been tallied, but my lips are sealed on who the winners are until next Wednesday night and the big reveal. 

     So, with that done, I now need to finish up counting this endless bucket of dollar bills and coins for the candy bar fundraiser for camp, and get the teen account all in order to hand over to the new Youth Pastor.  Have I ever mentioned how I’m looking forward to handing that one over?  Oh, I have?  Well, here it is again. Yip, yip, yippee!

     The big wedding meeting of my helpers is coming up this Sunday, so I can show them the board of inspiration for Jonno and Esther’s wedding.  I’m so excited to see this all come together, and also nervous about it at the same time.  I truly want this day perfect for them. 

     Add on to that I have family coming in the same weekend of the wedding…Lots of family.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m so excited for them to come I can hardly contain myself, but I also know it’s going to take some planning on my part to be ready.  Does that get me a free end school early card?  I wish.  My kids are doing fine, It is I who desperately want this school year done already. 

     In the midst of all of this, I’m going to take the kids and stow-away on the church bus to camp.  From there my folks are going to come get us for a week.  Crazy, I know.  But somehow in the center of all of this swirling chaos of scheduling, I really need a break away and I think this is just the thing to do it.  When the going gets tough, the tough run to their mommy right?  Well, it should at least gets me out of the office for a few days, (the office being my house). 

      To top it all off, I must share this very weird moment I had recently.  I felt sheepish yet hopeful after watching Hoarders the other night on television.  Every now and then I put it on so I can get motivated to clean. (I’m not sure how I feel about this show since it seems a little circus sideshowish, in a pitiful kind of way)  However, on this episode, I noticed the psychologist talking this man through a panic attack as everyone was toting his stuff out to the dumpster.  As she talked him through it, his anxiety lessened and she was able to share that a panic attack only lasts an average of 25 minutes. “ Great googly moogly!” I thought to myself. “ I think that’s what I’ve been doing for like a month now.”  Not in regards to hoarding.  If anything I’m the opposite of a hoarder as I tend throw things out willy-nilly. However, I have these little episodes of looking at everything that needs done and going overboard with panic and negativism.  I am able to come out of it with prayer and scripture and a little 2nd man intervention, but um yea.  Did I just totally get help from a Hoarders show?  Sigh. 

       So today with a renewed spirit and mind, I’m tackling one little thing at a time.  This is our life.  We don’t plan things logically or spread out over time.  We like to jam it all into one month, maybe two.  It’s always been this way and we always have a good time.  So to that I say, BRING IT! But, to my friends and family I say hold on; a “little hoarder episode” may be coming on.  But never fear it will pass in 25 minutes or less…
Posted in Daily Musings, My Interests

Groupie Stalking…again

My girls and me with Ree Drummond.  She doesn’t look too scared does she?

     So my girls and I went groupie stalking the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, again.  Really, she was asking for it.  After all she puts out this great new cookbook and comes right into town to have a book signing.  I was one of the first at the bookstore that morning waiting to get my ticket.  Only problem was, there was no “official” line formed until about a dozen or so people started milling around.  Then, when the manager comes out and says “form a line!”  I got pushed around like I was in a pinball machine.  Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, it really wasn’t that bad.  I was actually surrounded by other crazy people like myself and we were all enjoying it.  I ended up with line ticket number 9, not too bad I think.  I like to do this so I can get up to her while she’s still fresh and not sick of all the people and giving out the obligatory answers to all of our silly questions. 

 Actually I had a purpose in going this time, it was also to drop a couple of names and ideas by her.  Is that tacky?  Duh, you don’t really have to answer…I already know.  Anyway, I reminded her of how we church ladies were gawking at her husband at the fireworks stand last summer and forgot to put their sparklers in the bag.  (By gawking I simply mean we were awestruck at his famousness, nothing lusty I promise)  I think I even stated that last line to her.  So I proposed that she come on back and bring the Food Network with her this time and we’ll set her up well if she’d give us a second chance.  I even offered to deliver.  She responded graciously and took my husbands card.  Which makes me wonder where that card will end up?   Probably at the bottom of her purse and she’ll find it and read the crazy note on the back and call the police and give them my husbands name or something telling them to keep us away from her.


 My second motive was to get my sis-in-laws recipe in her thoughts.  You see, Jessica is making up this fantastic recipe to enter into PW’s grilling contest.  The winner gets to take a friend and spend a day at the ranch and get on the show.  Jess and I don’t get to see each other very often and we’re both Food Network junkies so this is perfect! She is definitely the better cook and more creative of the two of us so I turned it over to her to do all of the work; I’d just tag along and gawk.   Now  if only I could get PW to see the beauty in all of this.  I explained this whole plan in 30 seconds or less feeling the pressure of the eyes of 200 other waiting fans behind me.  I’m not sure what she thought…probably back to the whole calling the police idea.
    At the end of our two minute or less conversation she was sweet to include hellos to my girls and have a quick home school- lots of things in common- kind of talk.  Maybe they won her over for me.  I guess I’ll find out come May 17th when the contest is over and winners announced! 

     Hey, before you click away thinking I’m too brash or goofy you don’t even know what I didn’t say.  Like how I was going to sneak in a contract for use of her lodge when family comes in this summer.  Do you think that would’ve been too pushy. ..?

Posted in Daily Musings, Life Lessons

Blessings in Disguise

Yesterday 2nd man was at the helm while Pastor was speaking in Tulsa.   So, today, I decided to give a synopsis of the message that he preached.  For those who were there, well, here’s “the rest of the story” as Andy Rooney used to say.  For starters I’ll go ahead and let you know he could have entitled the message “My Wife Needed This.”   However, being the sensitive man that he is, he entitled it instead, “Blessings in Disguise.”  You can hear the entire sermon from our church website  

The gist of the sermon was to take notice that the blessings in our lives don’t always come in material, family, financial, or even enjoyable form (i.e. in obvious ways).  Sometimes it is the working through the tough times that can bring the greatest blessings in our Christian lives.  It is during those times that we grow the most and are tested and tried by the fire of the world to prove that wonderful Lord that reigns within us. 

 2nd man used Psalm 66, which is a Psalm of praise for the great works of God.  It starts like many Psalms and praises in the Old Testament with listing the great and mighty demonstrations of the power of God.  Yet, in verse 10 it takes an unexpected turn.  Praising God for trying them (the Israelites) as silver and laying affliction upon them.  2nd man also used Hebrews 11 as an example of this same kind of working of God.  Most of us are familiar with Hebrews 11 as the “Hall of Faith” listing some very popular and famous people from the Old Testament and how God worked mightily through them.  However, in verses 33-40 there are some pretty horrible things that happened to some who are unnamed to us, but blessed and honored by God nevertheless.

He even used some examples of famous people from American history as a great illustration (I think).  For instance, why do we know George Washington or Abraham Lincoln?  Well, of course, because they were presidents of our United States.  However, there are many presidents that I know nothing about except for maybe their name.  Yet, these two men were propelled to greatness because of the challenges they had to overcome during their presidencies. 

With this concept I am in total agreement theoretically, theologically, and philosophically.   I mean we’ve had hard times before.  Looking back over our nearly fifteen years of marriage, I can see how God has used some pretty hard times to strengthen both 2nd man and I in our Christianity and in our marriage.  The loss of three babies all at different stages and ages was pretty tough.  I remember crying out to God knowing full well that he had the power to save those babies, but he didn’t.  I remember walking down some dark paths after some of those experiences only to learn so much about how our God works.  I still don’t have a corner on Him, but I know He’s been so merciful to me.  I saw how God could use my husband as a source of encouragement and grow him by leaps and bounds as well, as he dealt with a difficult wife and sorrowful loss.  I also grew in compassion for those who are hurting around me in similar ways.  So much good came out of those losses that now, years later, I can say I wouldn’t trade them at all. 

2nd man mentioned at one point that we had experienced a bit of an overwhelming 2011.  I’ve listed a few of the items in previous blog posts but here are our unexpected financial woes of 2011 in list form (so you don’t really have to pay attention…just look at the length of the list)

  • Feb.- Medical test for 2nd man – $1200.00
  •  March – dental work for myself $1,600.00

                   Dental work for daughter #1 $350.00

Broken finger for daughter #2 $200.00+ (required a specialist because of the          growth plate)

  • April – Dishwasher broken –no fix = no $, but No fix = dishwashing by hand L

  • May –family in town J replacement of broken borrowed boat motor – $250.00 L
  • June – broken water pump or something like that on the “good car”  $120.00

                Car broken again L fixed by friend $28.00 J

  • July – orthodontics started for daughter #2  $1200.00

Gauges are out on “good car”

My car –well the fact that it still exists is really a miracle, no left turn signal, crack in windshield, leaky radiator, homeless man broke seat when he slept in it.  Funky smell emanating from the carpet (I think)…Cost = 0 we just live with it.

  • August – glasses needed for daughter #1 $200.00+
  • Nov. Quakenado damage!  Front tree had to be chopped (huge tree) – $400.00
  • Nov. washing machine broken

      Replacement of washing machine and dishwasher $780.00

  • Then the Piece de resistance (said with French accent), a bizarre, unexpected charge of $35,000.00!  I’m not able to give details on this one right now as we’re trying to appeal it.


So when the year of the worm (aka 2011) was upon us, I wasn’t scared.  I mean, we were just dealing with money right? This wasn’t moral ruin or a tragedy of some sort.   After a while it even became comical.  My post from June 2, 2011 entitled  “Best of Times Worst of Times” kind of shows you where I was in my mindset.  Of course, keep in mind that the year wasn’t quite over yet when that was written.  However, with each financial blow, 2nd man and I tried to respond with our heads bowed down and our confidence pointed up.  It meant we couldn’t have a vacation to Ohio that year.  A heartbreak for me, as I miss my family and enjoy those trips to see them.  I had to miss the adoption day of my new nephew and the funeral of my grandmother. We even had to cancel a family trip to Disney World for which we had been saving for two years and planning on taking in 2012.   That money had to be broken into to pay for the ever – multiplying crises that kept popping up. 

We’ve spent most of this past year encouraging each other in the Lord and trying to praise Him in these storms.  I can honestly say we’ve had confidence in his ever- present care and sovereign power.  But, (you knew this was coming didn’t you?) I finally had a little bit of a meltdown last week.  Yes, I know I’m not required to post these confessions, but I want to log it for myself to look back on when things have calmed.  Last week 2nd man and I went on a little date.  After dinner, with no money to spend, I suggested we just take a dream trip to Lowe’s.  I may be weird here, but my family knows that Lowe’s is my favorite store in town.  I enjoy just looking and dreaming. Usually 2nd man is good at entering into this with me.  That night he wasn’t.  It all came to a sudden end while looking at the countertops.  You see, the wonderful new dishwasher he bought me in November can’t be installed because the countertops in my house are ¾ inch shorter than normal.  That means we need to raise the countertops, which means we have to do something with the backsplash as well.  Mind you I wasn’t thinking granite…just the prefabricated granite looking laminate ones.  (We don’t live in a granite neighborhoodJ).    I’m not sure what spurred it but at some point 2nd man gave me a reality check of the fact that these dreams aren’t even on our radar right now.  To which I responded in full Proverbs 31 graciousness…NOT!  No, I regretfully bristled.  We got in the car and I let it all out.  The tears and fears that I had been letting creep into my thoughts came to full blows.  Oh, I wasn’t questioning God.  But I sure was on a slippery slope of wavering in my trust.  I lamented over all things money related down to why I ever even went to college since I’m now staying home but still paying for it.  When I was all done there was some silence.  I’m pretty sure 2nd man was considering which path to take; talk her off the ledge or just go hock the farm and buy those countertops.  As usual he was loving, responsive, and encouraging helping me rebuild my trust in the Lord and realize that we’re not through this storm yet.  We don’t know how it’s going to end, but whatever God asks of us we’re willing to do it for him.  He is right.  I mean there are some people who live their life on this earth with no countertop at all.  I’m stressing over the little junk that I usually don’t stress over. 

So as he left us in the sermon yesterday with a challenging question, I leave my blog today.  Am I willing for God to skip these blessings and forfeit any growth he has for me?  Or am I willing to go through it with Him and For His glory.  Honestly, the question did cause me some pause at first.  But truly, I don’t want to forfeit the growth and blessing He has in store for my family or for me…how about you?

Posted in Daily Musings, Parenting

Daddy’s Magic

We try to have “family night” at our house periodically.  Our schedule is so very busy (just like most people these days).  Evenings where we have nothing planned come few and far between, so we try to make these evening memorable for our kiddos.  Some are more memorable than others by either watching a movie together, to playing putt putt golf or going fishing.  However, last night Daddy (a.k.a. 2nd Man) made it really memorable for the kids by making it a magic night.

            Years ago, before we even had kids, 2nd man had included some magic tricks into his repertoire for teens and Bible schools.  For those who are sensitive to the topic you can also use the term “illusions”  (disclaimer: no dark magic or satanic technique was used in performing any of these tricks.)     He hasn’t used them in quite some time as you don’t want to overdue the tricks or perform them more than once for an audience, especially an audience of kids trying to figure out the trick. 

            So, last night I suggested that 2nd man do some of his old tricks for our kids. He decided to do three of his favorites.  For Mr. Jarod man he started with a table trick.  He began by telling Jarod that he was going to actually use the saltshaker to pound some money through the table.   Our daughter, Megan provided the coins in question, which was a concern for Jarod.  Before anything was done he had to express to dad, “Dad, will you promise to pay Megan back for the money she provided?” 

Then he began to ask for “magic words” to make the trick work.

None of them seemed to work.

Then he “remembered” that it was the saltshaker that was supposed to go through the table.  He pounded on the napkin covered saltshaker and it went through the table!

Jarod was impressed…

…And intrigued.

Next, Daddy poured some salt into his fist

And it disappeared….

…No wait…it reappeared!

Then came the piece de resistance…the floating money

2nd man started by working up the static on Megan’s hair

Then he worked it…

…and worked it…

and wala!  Floating money!


The kids were duly impressed.  As were we when we first learned this trick. 2nd man actually learned it off of an old college friend whose spirituality we questioned when he performed this one for us.  Thankfully he appeased our fears and now it has worked wonders with our children.   Perhaps we’ll keep them wondering about Daddy for a while and use this power for good in obedience enforcement tactics. 

Or maybe we’ll just enjoy their expressions of awe for a while.