Second Catch-Up Post: The Day Before the Wedding

Saturday morning we slept in and then decided to go exploring since we weren’t due to rendezvous with everyone else until 1:00. The groom, Joel, has just graduated from Liberty University, and we were staying very close by, so we thought we’d go check it out. We had also heard a lot about it from our host, Dave, who used to be a professor there.

If you’re not sure what money smells like, a drive around the Liberty campus should rectify that for you. We were blown away by it in so many ways. It makes our own university campus look downright cute and quaint by comparison. For example, our campus is 162 acres. Theirs is 7000 acres. We have less than 1000 students on campus. They have over 14,000. We have 4 tennis courts. They have 12 (that we counted). Some of their dorms house more than our entire on-campus student body. And we were told that they hope to have 20,000 on-campus students within the next few years. I’m pretty sure there are enough Baptists to make that happen.

We felt like country bumpkins seeing the big city for the first time! The only place we stopped and got out was at the bookstore, which is both a Barnes & Noble and a Starbucks. Wow. It was huge.

We were still kind of in shock when we drove back over to Joel’s apartment, only to find that no one else had arrived yet, so we had some time to just relax while we waited. The wedding actually took place in Harrisonburg, Virginia, so we all had to drive up there and stay in a hotel on Saturday night. It was a good two-hour drive. Anita and her daughter Jemimah came with use (Jemimah is Janet’s sister) and we all convoyed up there.

That was such a blessing, to have two more hours to visit with Anita during the drive. Then we arrived at the hotel, where more friends awaited. Don and Gwen and their two sons had driven down from New York the day before. There was also another family from Texas, the McCorkles, who like us had been involved in older son Tim’s life when he was a college student at A&M (their son Jared was Tim’s roommate).

Most everyone else was staying at the same hotel, but they were fully booked, so Joel took us to a nearby hotel and checked us in (at his expense). It was so close to the other hotel it really wasn’t much of an inconvenience at all.

There was no rehearsal, and in lieu of a rehearsal dinner we all assembled at a pizza place downtown. We four “old” couples were seated first at Joel’s insistence so we could visit with each other. I was worried that I’d be stuck eating salad yet again (I eat SO much salad!) but to my delight I saw they had gluten-free pizza and it actually tasted like pizza and had a crispy crust!

After that enjoyable outing, we all went back to the hotel and we old folks hung out in the lobby while the young men went swimming instead of the traditional bachelor party. Another couple with Zambia ties arrived and joined the fun. Anita and Gwen and I went up to Gwen’s room for a while so they could practice the song they would be singing at the reception. Once I heard it, I knew I would have to be sure and get video of it!

I had expected that we’d all be madly trying to help with the last-minute wedding preparations, but it was all handled by Natalya and Joel. We were free to just enjoy hours of fellowship with our dear friends. It was a wonderful day.

 

First Catch-Up Post

Please don’t feel obligated to read this recap of the first few days of our trip. I am posting it primarily for my own benefit.

Wednesday morning we left under cloudy skies and a few stray raindrops and only an hour late, which is pretty good for us. I am embarrassed to say that Jasper I and slept virtually the entire day. Every time I woke up, I’d think I was really awake, but then I would just doze off again. I have to assume I needed the sleep!

It was evening by the time we drove through a ferocious rainstorm on the outskirts of Atlanta. Then, when we arrived at our friends’ house, it was dry. We were greeted warmly and even though we were tired, it was wonderful to see our friends again.

After a good night’s sleep, we had a special visit to look forward to. Our hosts’ daughter Ruth, whose wedding I attended two years ago, has since had a baby, and she and her husband and their adorable daughter Olivia came for a visit. Two-month-old Olivia was even more enchanting in person than in the photos I’ve seen. It was hard to tear ourselves away!

Still, we had to get Jasper over to his friend Josiah’s house before we could head north to Virginia. Jasper is spending the weekend with Josiah’s family and I can guarantee he will have the time of his life. I am so glad that worked out for him.

After dropping Jasper off, we headed north to Lynchburg, Virginia. The weather remained overcast and rainy at times, but other than that, it was an uneventful trip. When we were about an hour out of Lynchburg, I finally got a text from Joel (the groom) with the address of his apartment so we’d know where to go. We found the apartment complex, but not the right building, so he ended up talking us through it on the phone, and when we pulled up the whole family was outside waiting for us.

Oh, what a joy to see my dear friend Anita again! I have not seen her and her husband Emmanuel since I stayed with them in Zambia sixteen years ago. It was a happy but brief reunion as Joel wanted to take us to the home where we’d be staying. We followed him to his assistant pastor’s home, where we were warmly greeted by Dave and Sue, surely two of the kindest and most gracious hosts in Virginia. We spent the rest of the evening chatting with them and getting to know them a little bit.

Friday morning, Sue got up and made a nice breakfast casserole for breakfast, and when she found out I was gluten free, she made a separate breakfast for me with bacon and eggs and strawberries and tomatoes! Then we got word that Anita and Emmanuel were back at Joel’s apartment (wedding central) so we headed over there.

I don’t even know how to describe the rest of the day. I don’t know how to tell you what a blessing it was for me to get to spend a day with Anita after so many years. I was on the brink of tears all day, as if the joy inside me just had to spill out somehow. Anita still managed to make a fabulous chicken curry for lunch and beef curry for supper (she had help from daughters Janet and Jemima). In fact, I realized later that she gave me her own portion of curry at lunchtime and went without because she wanted to make sure I had enough of that spicy goodness. She also gave me some of her custom curry blend, some Sri Lankan tea, Marmite, and two lovely lengths of African cloth. The men ran various errands and Walter went for a walk with Emmanuel. Later they all went out to watch the Blue Angels practice for today’s air show. We women stayed in the apartment, but the jets were so loud flying overhead that we eventually went out on the balcony to watch them. The precision flying is amazing to watch.

After supper, we all drove over to an ice cream stand that is apparently the premium hangout spot in Lynchburg. There is no indoor seating, just a parking lot with outside tables and benches and a long line of people waiting to order ice cream. Walter got a cone to share with me and even though the weather was cool and there were a few raindrops, I enjoyed this experience tremendously. Not only was I with dear friends, but it reminded me so much of my childhood in Michigan and walking to get ice cream with my parents on Sunday nights after church. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day!

Down to the Wire

So, three of us are leaving tomorrow morning. My husband has worked it out to come with us after all. I am very happy and relieved about that. Jasper will come with us as far as Atlanta, and spend time with his good buddy Josiah while we are in Virginia at the wedding. Afterwards, Janet will be returning home with us.

Today was all about getting ready for the trip. It’s going to be a long, long two days. I’d be tempted to chicken out if I wasn’t getting to see so many people I love. I also submitted a query to an agent who requested one and got some revising done. I didn’t want to have that hanging over my head! To be honest, I’m surprised I haven’t received the rejection yet.

Parting Shot:

5-14-16 colorful hair

Here’s a photo I took of my colorful hair kids before Mary and Jordan and Mercy left on Saturday.

Uh-oh! A-Comin’!

This morning I went to Aldi to buy some groceries. The minute I walked into the store with my cart, an adorable little toddler got worried. Her mom was in the aisle ahead of me, pushing a cart, and the little girl of course was sitting in the cart and facing toward me. She was very worried that I was going to run into them.

“Uh-oh!” she said repeatedly. “A-comin’!” The mother was not worried. “She can see us,” she said, referring to me. “We’re not in her way.” The little girl was not to be reassured. Every time I took a step forward, she sounded the alarm. “A-comin’! A-comin’!” Then several people walked into the store and she really freaked out! She clearly expected all of us to stampede right over her and her mother. I had to go past them so she could calm down!

My plans for this week are still somewhat in the air. Jasper and I still plan to leave on Wednesday, but it’s possible that Walter might be able to come with us after all. I’ll keep you posted! He began training someone this evening so we will see how it goes.

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

Frederick W. Faber

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

’Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
It is something more than all;
Greater good because of evil,
Larger mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us
Come and gather at His feet?

 

They’re Gone

Today got off to a surprisingly slow start. Walter got up to take Mary out to breakfast, and I got up also, but no one else got up for quite a long time. I had a leisurely breakfast by myself before Jasper and Jordan got up. I sent them to get donuts for the rest of the gang while I made a quick run to WalMart to get some insulin.

Eventually everyone got up and the car got loaded and the cats were the last thing to go in before we said our goodbyes. Mercy will be spending this next week with Mary and Jordan before heading to South Dakota for the rest of the summer.

After they left, Walter and the boys took off for their yard jobs and the house was eerily quiet. After a late lunch, Lucy and I took off to run some errands. She had been given a gift card to Hobby Lobby, so we went there to see what they had that might interest her (almost everything in the store, to be honest). She ended up getting a soap-making kit and making soap this afternoon. It turned out very nice.

I worked on music for tomorrow and did some paperwork and took a nap. After all the activity of the last ten days, a slower pace was welcome!

Maybe I Could Top Off this Day by Getting a Rejection

The day didn’t start badly. Of course, I’m kind of sad that three of my kids are leaving tomorrow and I won’t see them again for several months. Sure, Mercy has left before, and we haven’t seen much of her this past school year, but this time is different. From now on, our home is most likely not going to be her home base. After her summer job in South Dakota she will move on to something else, most likely in another state.

Mary and I had made plans to go to lunch today, so we went to Genghis Grill, where we know we can always get gluten-free food. I enjoyed getting to spend a little time with her. We made one stop on the way home, and then she had to go back to work and I had to take a little nap.

Later in the afternoon, we met on campus for a brief photo shoot that is the first step in a secret project of mine.

We did not see Mercy all day until late this evening. She was still packing and moving stuff, but she took a break to go get a drink at Sonic with her siblings.

In the midst of all this, some of us were feeling a little weepy all day because it is the fifth anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing from this life and into the next.

I, meanwhile, was more than a little weepy when my husband told me that he won’t be able to accompany me next week. We had made plans to drive to Virginia together to attend the wedding of Janet’s brother Joel. However, Walter has not been able to find anyone to do his part of the work at his evening cleaning job every night. He had hired someone, but she quit after two weeks, and Spencer can’t do it alone.

So, he will stay here and I will drive the 1100 miles to Virginia by myself. I may have Jasper with me for at least part of the trip. I would rather do almost anything than spend two days on the road both ways. I don’t mind driving for a few hours, but all-day-long driving I really, really hate. Still, it’s my only chance to see my dear friend Anita whom I haven’t seen for 16 years and whom I may never have the chance to see again. So, I’m going. I’m gonna need a lot of prayer.  I’m still coming to terms with it.

I will end with a little piece of more positive news. My e-book is live on Amazon, and from Saturday, May 14 until Wednesday, May 18 it is free! After that it will return to the regular price of $2.99. The title is: Are We There Yet? Road Trip Tips for Families with Young Children. If you know any families with young children who may have a road trip in their future, please recommend this short e-book to them. Here is the link:

https://www.amazon.com/Are-We-There-Yet-Families-ebook/dp/B01FLLMOLK?ie=UTF8&keywords=Are%20We%20There%20Yet&qid=1463174089&ref_=sr_1_5&s=digital-text&sr=1-5

If you read it, and find even one helpful hint, please take a moment to write a one-sentence review on Amazon. The more reviews, the more visible this book will be.

The Days Dwindle Down . . .

The time is speeding by ever faster and now we have only one day together before Mary, Jordan and Mercy depart. This morning I took some time out from my busy social schedule to pay bills and do paperwork. Then Mercy came over and I took her out to lunch.

We went up to a shopping center where I needed to stop anyway, and picked the least objectionable eating establishment from a diabetic’s point of view. I was very careful parking the car this time! We had a nice visit over lunch and then made a couple of stops on the way home.

Then the girls all went out shopping and I went to take a long luxurious nap. It was wonderful. By the time I got up, I needed to start on the pizza crust for supper. Normally, I make the crust and sauce and Lucy assembles and bakes the pizza while I figure out something else to eat. Today, though, since Mary is here, I made a cauliflower crust so that Mary and I could have some gluten-free, low carb pizza of our own.

What a treat! It has been many months since I had pizza. Later on we addressed a shameful gap in Jordan’s education by introducing him to Jeeves and Wooster. And I worked on the final touches of an e-book which I’ll be releasing in the next few days, a collection of tips for taking road trips with young children. I’ll let you know when it’s ready!

The Greek Birthday Dinner

I know that some of you who are reading this probably have lives that are as busy all the time as mine is this week, and I salute you. I don’t know how you do it.

After our lake excursion yesterday, today’s main event, for me at least, was making Mary’s birthday dinner. Mary, Mercy and Lucy went out this morning to meet friends for coffee, and I went shopping for the rest of the food I’d need for today. Mary had requested a Greek-themed dinner again.

As soon as I got back from Aldi, I started the gluten-free cheesecake, which she had requested in lieu of birthday cake. Then I made falafel dough and put it in the fridge so the flavors could blend. Later I made tzadziki sauce and started marinating the chicken. We had a problem with the falafel that I’ve never had before. When we put them in oil to fry them, they lost their structural integrity. The first couple I tried to fry turned into fried falafel crumbs. It seems gluten-free flour just doesn’t bind things together quite as well as the real thing. I ended up rolling each ball in GF flour before frying and that seemed to help at least some of the time. Still, we ended up with fewer falafel than planned!

Mary’s friend Joy came up to have dinner with us and add to the celebration. The menu was: Greek marinated chicken and new potatoes, Greek salad, and falafel with hummus and tzadziki sauce. The cheesecake, of course, was the dessert. The crust was a challenge because I couldn’t find GF graham crackers. I ended up blending a combination of GF chocolate granola and soft chocolate GF cookies. Mary said it was crunchy, but not in a bad way.

Between dinner and dessert, the kids all went out for coffee since we were waiting for Walter to get home from work. Then we had a few gifts for Mary and then we pulled out some old photo albums and had a blast looking through photos of the kids when they were little. They were some cute kids!

A Watery Celebration

Today was the day that seemed to be our best option for a family celebration of Lucy’s high school graduation. We had to settle for considerably less than we had originally planned. For one thing, Walter couldn’t come at all because of his evening jobs. For another thing, our usual spot at the lake was closed due to flooding. Also, the alternate location I picked after talking on the phone to the lake authorities did not have a day-use area, though I’d been assured it did. At least it was a stunningly beautiful drive!

Finally, our third try we hit a recreation area that was still open and that had a day-use area. However, the kids noticed a sign saying that fireworks were forbidden. So there went another aspect of our plan!

This outing consisted of our family (me, Mary, Jordan, Mercy, Spencer, Lucy, Jasper) and Bri. We found a picnic table that is normally I think quite a distance from the water, but not at the moment! Many of the picnic tables and grills were underwater. I was not adventurous enough to swim under those conditions, but the kids loved it. It was a novel experience for them to swim among picnic tables and charcoal grills!

5-10-16 lake

I enjoyed the experience from my chair near the picnic table. We had an early supper because Spencer had to leave to come back and work with Walter. It was an enjoyable meal, nothing fancy but fun because we were together outdoors at the lake. After Spencer left, the kids went back to the water and I got coals going for roasting marshmallows.

As the sun sank lower and dusk began creeping up on us, the kids came out to dry and then roast some marshmallows. This is something at which Jordan is an acknowledged expert, so he took orders and roasted marshmallows for the others.

Despite the fireworks ban, we decided that sparklers would be okay, so the kids had fun with sparklers. Mary took a series of photos that I assume I will be able to show you at some point. By then it was quite dark, so I got in the car and turned on the headlights so the kids could see to finish packing up and getting stuff in the back of the car.

There were seven of us squished into the Suburban on the way back. I don’t enjoy driving in the dark, but we reached home safely so that is what matters!

Parting Shot:

5-10-16

There was a beautiful tree shading our picnic table.