Thursday, July 28, 2011

When It Hurts

Life is so painful sometimes. There are a handful of days in one's life that are truly horrific. The sky falls, life turns dark, the pit of one's stomach gnarls into a knot, and the pain doesn't end. The day is a crisis, a disaster.

Today was a day like that for me.

Yes, we lost the job opportunity in Mississippi. We're incredibly sad about that. The ministry there is a wonderful place, and we would have (I think) done wonderful work for them and for God's kingdom. We are crushed, disappointed, so sad.

But of course, that's not enough to put that knot in my stomach that keeps me from eating, that keeps me from sleeping, that makes me feel sick. It's the utter, evil meanness of some people out there, who think they are righteous to destroy other people's lives. Do any of you know that there really are people like that? I wish I were shocked to say there are, but I'm not.

There are those who hurt others, and those who are the repeated recipients of the hurt. If you are neither, please, please be thankful.

I do not understand why God decided, long ago, that our lives would be hard, but He did. Adam says God has given us so many trials so that others can see how we handle them, and glorify God. That is true. The pain is hard to bear. It's particularly horrible to watch it impact our children, and perhaps that's what's tearing at me this time.

I don't want to say more. But I know some of you have been following our hopes and disappointments, regarding employment. Right now, I just want to move to my parents' house, and crawl into a hole, and pull a rock over it. Later, when I've recovered, I'll crawl back out. Hopefully, it won't be long. But if I'm off-blog for a bit, you'll know I'm just recovering. Trying to help my kids back on their feet. Trying to be sure my husband is okay. I'll be back when it doesn't hurt quite so bad as it does today.

Gloria's House

While we were in Mississippi, we spent time with Adam's mom at her beautiful home. I tell you, her place gets more lovely by the year. Inside and out, Gloria's house is a pleasant place to be. (Except for the mosquitoes, but she can't help that!!)

Here's the front porch. Sitting on the swing, catching breezes and good conversation -- it's a delight.
Gloria has pretty things all over her yard. I only snapped a few quick pictures of a handful of items, because I was smacking at mosquitoes and being nibbled alive :) Don't you love this bucket of greenery?
Gloria makes concrete leaves. These things are huge. She used to sell them at a local outdoor market, and people snatched them up. So elegant! I love the colors.
Check out the colors in this one. Don't you love it? She makes some flat (like this one), and you can put it on legs, or an old table, and make a small table for inside.
Little piggies by the back door:
Luscious roses:
She recently redid her back porch, and it's looking great. I love the red plates.
Here's Scout, her c-a-t. He's downright regal. Does he know how handsome he is? I'm allergice, so of course he rubbed up against my legs, leapt into my lap, and took a nap on my clothes :) See her walls in the house? This structure has all heart pine floors, and all walls are solid heart pine also. Couldn't build that today!! I like it because you can nail a picture to the wall anywhere -- no hunting for studs!
Gloria has a new dog, Shelby. She's such a love!! She's all sweetness, shyness, and snuggles. She didn't want to have her picture taken, so Gloria had to lure her out with a nibble of bacon.
Adam noticed that Gloria had a plum tree with lots of dead wood in it. She said she was getting only a few plums from it each year. Our apple trees used to be spindly, with small, sour apples, until Adam started pruning/trimming them. Now we have mighty apples! So, he pruned the dead wood from her tree. Doesn't it look better? (Well, I forgot to take a pic of it before, but you get the idea.)
Lots of wood for the burn pile:
Peter works and shows off his muscles:
Gloria's burn pile.
I like the idea of the cement blocks around it.
A big portion of Gloria's front yard is dominated by massive, old pecan trees. They are like quiet giants, noble and nearly eternal, it seems. They're more impressive each year. Many limbs have hairy, green ivy covering them, which makes them look more mysterious and ... alive. Hard to describe.
They stretch their arms, arching over the lush grass, toward the house.
I just love them. And having a lawn that looks that good is not easy work! She does an amazing job.

I'm not an outdoor-work kind of gal, generally, except for flower beds by the house, or a vegetable garden. But this must be where Adam gets his tendencies from!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I'm Back!

Well, that's not entirely true -- I'm still in Mississippi. But, I'm back at the blog :) We've been visiting Adam's mom. She made us steak and cheese wraps on Sunday - yummers!
We drove by our old house. I always want to drive by the old house. I think I often take a picture. It needs a bit of work, I think. Still a neat old place, circa 1870s, I believe.
This is where we stayed when we drove up the Natchez Trace. Neat old cabin. The two kids slept in a loft.
Back in Jackson, we celebrated Julia's birthday at Keifer's restaurant, our family's all-time favorite eatery. If you're in Jackson, Mississippi, it's a MUST. It's Greek, been open 31 years. Adam was there on their second day! We mentioned this to our waiter, and he told us he was there that day too -- been working there for 31 years. They're building a new building across the street; the old one will be torn down to make way for a green space/park. But it'll be the same great food! Get a gyro and cottage fries.  They brought Julia a piece of baklava free, for her birthday!
Grandma got Julia a beautiful (and delicious) ice cream cake:
Julia was very excited. She had two pieces.  Isn't it pretty?
Happy Birthday, sweet girl! We love you!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dashing Here and There

I have only a few days left in my home. We have been here only 4 1/2 years, so I am not inordinately attached to the house. But it's been a pleasant home, and holds many happy memories for our family. But we all know that memories aren't really held in a house; they are held in our hearts. It's time to move on.

When I removed the curtains from the T.V. room, I found a huge spider's web, outside the window, on the sill. The clever spider chose the opening in the sprinkler as her home, where she receded and caught her meals. See how the web leads all things to the hole?
This is as close as I could get. I took the photo through the window, of course. You can see some dead spider legs lying in the chute, but the resident's legs are also there, sticking out.
So we humans will leave, but the spider? She will stay. How long until cold weather, or a new owner, will end her residency here?
Already the hints of autumn begin. The heat persists, but a few trees are dropping yellow leaves, in spite of adequate rain. I love autumn. I love the falling leaves.
I drove from home to my parents' house. As we enjoyed dessert made with luscious South Carolina peaches, I noticed the sun on the toille fabric. What an elegant chair! It's wide enough to curl up in.

We picked up Julia and Peter early at camp. Julia made some great friends this year :)

Both of them were absolutely exhausted. They slept for two and a half hours in the car, and Peter slept on for most of the day.
We're in Mississippi now. Driving, driving. Lots to do.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Overflowing Blogasbord!

So much to read online these days! And honestly, very little here is politics (phew!!):

The New Cru:  Yes, that's right. Campus Crusade for Christ is dropping its name. Contrary to those who say they're only dropping the "Christ" part, they're actually dropping it all. They'll now be called "Cru." Personally? Ick. As the article says: "We believe wholeheartedly that God has given us this new name... "(Really? A name that doesn't mean anything, isn't a word, and replaced the most beautiful name in the universe?) " Ultimately, it's not about our name, but how we live out our mission everyday." (If that's really true, then you could have just kept the old one. All this effort indicates that the name is very important to you indeed.

Wrongful Convictions: Many states are working to exonerate inmates who've been wrongfully imprisoned. Hundreds have been found innocent, and even the states (i.e., the ones who prosecuted them and then imprisoned them) are making an effort.

Planned Parenthood Fights Back: A half-dozen states have stood up against Planned Parenthood, and the abortion mill is retaliating with threats of the states' losing Medicaid funding. Y'know, that federal money is the biggest manipulative tool in the universe!

Pesticides and Lower I.Q.: New studies indicate that organophosphates used on food crops may be damaging children's brains.

And here's a slew of great reads from World Magazine:

"Taking the Wheels" by Mindy Belz -- this article is both sad, bold, and ridiculous. I mean, wouldn't you feel silly, giving your taxi driver a cup of your own breast milk, so he could drive you around town?

"Is Early Marriage Doomed" by Amy Henry -- I'm still ruminating on my feelings about this article. I'm not in this mom's shoes, but I don't know that I could be as enthusiastic about my daughter marrying at 17 years old. How many years will she need to be on birth control, until they feel they are ready for babies? Has this family checked into the negative aspects of the modern "pill"? Why, exactly, can't they wait? And her non-list of requirements, which smacks very much of being a list indeed, is odd. It seems she has a very narrowly-defined young man, in mind for her daughter. Dangerous.

"Suffering Is a Privilege" by Andree Seu -- Excellent! I've thought, and expressed, some of these ideas before, but it's always encouraging to hear them again. Of her friend, she says, "He is experiencing so much suffering on so many fronts that I was drained after the hour conversation." She notes this hard truth: "If this is the way God treats a godly man—one of his noblest specimens—then I am shaken. It means that God may reserve His greatest tests for His greatest saints." (Yes, dear friend. You know who you are. This means He loves you very, very much.)

 "Smashed Violins" by Joel Belz -- What a compelling story Joel dredges up for us! And he introduces a puzzling question: wherein is the beauty? In the creator, or in his instrument? I'll tell you a little story about a pianist I knew. He's dead now, but he was a master. Ira Halvorsen was my piano professor in college. He was a genius. He had a rare, natural affinity for the underlying theory -- the grammar -- of music. He composed. His musical memory was massive. And he could sit down at any piano, even the tinniest, ugliest one, with non-functioning keys, and make elegant, gorgeous music. The beauty was in his touch, his mastery of the instrument. His gift was in taking what was there (both in himself and in that box of wood and strings) and making the most of it -- the most.

That's one thing I dislike about much modern music. A human who is untrained and unskilled in music, with the assistance of technology, expensive instruments, auto-tuning, and an ignorant audience with insipid taste, becomes famous as a musician. He is no musician. He is no master. He is a tinkerer with many crutches, acting like he can run.

So I agree with Joel. A true maestro can make fools of his audience with a poor replica, because most of them, in their arrogance, cannot identify the real thing. Who can appreciate the glory of the Stradivarius? The maestro can. The audience is left to nibble the crumbs left, after he has feasted on its wonder, joined to his skill.

Open Hands

Last night, Adam and I had to dash to the grocery. Philip and Anna decided they'd come along.
Anna is the huggy type; Philip pretends he doesn't care :)
Isn't it lovely to have a 19 and a 20 year old, who want to come to the grocery with the old folks? Oh, how precious they are to me! In a few weeks, they'll both be off to college. Sniff!

It's hard to let them go. A parent must have open hands, to release these young adults into their own lives. As I've said before, I think we've done a good job ensuring that they're ready; I just failed to make sure I was ready for it too! And it was one thing to send off that big, strapping boy. How in the world can I let go of that adorable little girl? When I look at her, I still see the two year old with a mass of thick, dark hair, who was only barely walking yet, and still wanted to be carried. She was tiny. She smiled and giggled, a happy child. Her first word was to her grandpa. She leaned toward him, grinned, and said, "Boo!" I can still see the expression on her face of wonder and fun.

I feel I am entering a new phase of life, and it will take some adjustment. If I'd had only two children, I'd need to adjust faster -- my empty nest would be now! I'm thankful that I had more. The remaining two will be a comfort, as these two are gone. Wouldn't it be nice if, by the time Julia heads off to college, I had a grandbaby to turn my mind toward? I won't look that far down the road. For today, I'm enjoying these two God-given wonders.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Visit with Friends

While I was at my parents' house, Mother and I visited some very dear friends, Lynn and Clem. When I lived in Brevard for two years, Clem was the choir director at our church. Lynn is his daughter.
Clem has not been in good health lately, but he's got as good an excuse as any -- he must be up in his 80s! He's still as dear, as cordial, as gentlemanly and kind as ever. And there's just one word for Lynn:  she is sweet, through and through. What a privilege to know them. And what an immense privilege to sing under Clem's directorship.

I have sung under many very excellent choral directors in my time: Bill Wymond, John Hamm, Steve Lawton, William Harper, Dan Pardue and others. But if I had to choose the one director who seemed to me to have the broadest knowledge of the vocal instrument, and who was able to do the most with my voice, it was Clem.  I'm not quite sure how he did it. But his faith in me, to sing higher and stronger and more beautifully, led me on to more vocal conquests. I've never had the strength, tone or range since then, that I had during those two years. Someday in heaven, I'll have a tough time deciding which of these fine directors I want to sing next to! Won't singing in heaven be grand?

Lynn has a lovely screened-in porch, with this luxurious chaise lounge in one corner. As soon as I saw it, I had to have its picture! A perfect spot to rest, nap, read, gaze, and otherwise ponder one's world. It looks out over their verdant garden. Lynn has decorated her blueberry bush with all manner of gaudy beads, trinkets, and sparkling delights, to scare the birds away. She even put an inflatable snake under the bush. I could "lounge" here and just watch that bush, all morning!
What a picture of peace!

A Spot of Beauty

A few days ago, when Adam and Julia went out to get more packing boxes, he returned with these, for me:
Isn't that sweet? Yes, I admit, he's one of "those" husbands -- the kind who brings you beautiful things at an unexpected moment. The house is a total wreck. Boxes, boxes, boxes. The corners and furniture tops are dusty. Miscellaneous objects sit in odd places, waiting for a spot in a box to open up. I have no idea what we'll eat. But there on the dining room table are flowers. A spot of beauty in a (temporarily) chaotic life.

Thank you, dear.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ridgehaven Camp

Well! I'm finally back home, and here are some pictures. These may mostly interest family members, but you other friends are welcome to gawk at our offspring as well :)

As soon as I arrived, many of us traipsed down to Hunter's house for some invigorating tea. The girls went along. Aren't they getting old and beautiful? This is (l-r) Patience, Hannah, Katie, Anna. Cousins all. They range from 13 to 19 years old.
Cousin love. Is there anything better?
Ah, tea. Hunter is the best :)
Peter and Ben dropped by at our tea party. They stayed, but did not partake of the nectar. Boys this age are rarely still, unless they're asleep or in front of a screen. Thus, the fuzziness.
Peter is so shy, you know, so I thought I'd better not make him show his face in this shot.  His knees, however, are very bold. Very cool.
More cousin love, but don't tell them that. These are, l-r, Clark, Justice, Nathan, Julia. All born in 1999 (Well, almost. Clark went over into the new year a bit.) Note Nathan's face. This was actually a photo to prove which cousin is tallest. Nathan was trying hard to overcome Justice, to no avail. Justice's daddy is taller than Nathan's, so I don't think Nathan will ever catch him up! I must add that these four spent hours at the creek, doing very muddy things. Mother said they hardly needed to go to camp at Ridgehaven; they had their own personal camp fun at the creek :)
They played various card games in the evening.
Registration:  they enjoyed meeting up with old friends from previous years. Here, Justice and Julia stand by two girls we've known since they were babies.
And Hannah and Katie found their dear friend, Sarah (right), who brought her friend April along to camp for the first time.
The senior highs have a GAW camp week, which means they sleep on hard floors, eat bad food over a fire, and get more bug bites and poison ivy than ordinary campers. These privileges cost more, of course.
I have the funny feeling that this bunch will be inseparable for the week.
And the little boys. Ah, I feel so for their counselor. We met him. His name is Levy. Nice fellow. I hope he survives.
Julia and her counselor, whose name I forgot to ask.
Julia and Patience are in the same cabin.
These girls have beds, dining hall food, and bathrooms. Sounds good to me! Their counselors had done a little decorating:
I left the girls doing some craft work on the floor. I think they were making their own name cards, coloring them.
Flamingo twinkle lights. Who knew?
We had to go back to the GAW camp site to take Katie her pillow and sleeping pad. These are their tents.  I must say, when I was 13, and camped for four days during camp, we pitched tents on the forest floor and did not have bath houses. This isn't quite as "roughing it" as we did, back in the day :)