Saturday, August 29, 2009

Large Church People

Once again, I remain in my pajamas at 2:30 pm, trying to get up the gumption to have enough gumption to get any gumption.


I've been working on a long post but got bogged down when my brain dug in its heels and refused to take even one more step. (If brains are, indeed, able to "dig in their heels.") So now I'm going to drop back and punt.

I don't actually know what "drop back and punt" means, but I've ALWAYS wanted to try and use a sports analogy in my writing. And now I have!

Does that mean I can go back to bed now?

For a very long time?

I actually did have a funny thing happen to me yesterday that gave me a good smile. Steve and I had been feverishly working on a letter (having to do with our transition) and a line that we had written was supposed to say, "Becky enjoys having large groups of church people over to our home."

However, when we went back later to proof read the letter we saw that what we had actually written was , "Becky enjoys having large church people over to our home."

With all these calories I've been eating lately, it won't be long until I AM a "large church people."

Anyway, I got a good chuckle out of that.

Steve's beeper just went off and so he is headed out the door to go to the hospital. He's on call this week as a volunteer chaplain and has to wear a beeper and be within a half hour of the hospital twenty-four hours a day.

Here he is in his official uniform.

So he's off to offer help and I'm staying at home to ponder the state of the universe.

And finish a blog post. (Which is actually very therapeutic for me.)

We had Sarah's 14th brithday party last night which will be covered on her site in the next day or two. She had a wonderful time (even though it was the simplest of parties) so that made my mamma heart very happy.

Alrighty then. I think that's the extent of my brain power/emotional reserves for the moment.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dad Woulda Love It

I honestly think that our family sort of alarmed the funeral home people at the church where Dad's funeral was held. I don't think they were quite used to a semi-rowdy visitation. I think they probably went back to the funeral home and compared bewildered notes saying, "That family! They were so . . . so . . . loud! And . . . and . . . so cheerful!"

Our family is large and our family is loud. And even at Dad's visitation, we were pretty much prone to conversation and laughter.

Dad woulda loved it.

At his funeral, the sanctuary was reserved for the casket and a quiet meditation area and the lobby was set aside for a "visiting with each other" area. During the time right before the funeral, the lobby was full of people who hadn't seen each other in a very long time. In fact, Sarah and Nathan were introduced to so many previously unmet relatives, their heads were no doubt spinning.

"Sarah, this is your Grandpa Campbell's sister's son-in-law's daughter." (Or something like that.)

She and Nathan gamely smiled and shook hands with oodles of Wonderful Relatives Who Were Hitherto Strangers. They hugged and chattered and chatted for ninety minutes straight and seemed to enjoy every moment of the cheery familial chaos.

Sarah actually happened to know these particular relatives--my brother Phil and his daughter, Jessica.

Phil, Sarah, and our "adopted brother," Ron.

Ron loves to act goofy and get other people to act goofy with him.

At one point during the morning, I went into the bathroom which was just off the lobby. I stood for a minute and listened to the hullabaloo going on beyond the bathroom door and I thought to myself, "That doesn't sound like a funeral visitation. It sounds like a party!"

Dad woulda loved it.

The funeral included two 15-minute sermons; one by Steve and the other by my brother-in-law, Rev. Randy Mantik.

The funeral also featured drums (with playing duties shared by Debbie and Nathan), electric bass guitar (Steve), electronic keyboard (me), great harmony, (Debbie and I, singing with Randy) a couple hymns and one really rockin' praise song.

Here's Debbie, in her natural habitat. (This was during rehearsal the night before the funeral.)

And here's Debbie's big sister, doin' her thing.

Randy, filling in on the bass during rehearsal until Steve could get there from the airport.

Steve and Debbie goofing off together after the rehearsal. After traveling seven years together, the two of them are as close as blood brother and sister.

It was so wonderful to make music with my family again. It was great to have a wonderful blend of traditional music (It Is Well With My Soul) mixed in with a kickin,' fast song. And it was especially heartening to see people on their feet, clapping, smiling and singing with the greatest gusto,

When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We'll sing and shout the victory.

Dad woulda loved it.

Dad loved music. In fact, he and Mom spent the eight years before he died faithfully making the rounds of twenty-two nursing homes in the area, singing and playing their instruments. (Even when failing health should have kept them home.)

He was all about music. He was all about sharing his love of music and his love of the Lord.

We got to join them on a nursing home visit when we were visiting them at Christmas. What a treasured memory.

Immediately following Dad's funeral, my children happened upon this particular item in the youth hall at the church.

I found it especially appropriate that they would be playing Foosball on the day of their grandpa's funeral because for seven years (back when I was a teenager), Mom and Dad ran a youth center in Sparta, WI. It was a place for teens to hang out and listen to Christian music, read, talk, and play games like Foosball, pool and table tennis. (Dad loved Foosball but was especially good at pool. )

His Place attracted a wide variety of people--soldiers from nearby Fort McCoy, drug pushers, church kids, troublemakers, high school sports heroes, troubled kids, good kids--at one time or another, most of the kids in our small town made their way into His Place.

In fact, I got an email yesterday from a dear "lifetime friend" who grew up in Sparta and was often at His Place. She had these memories to share:

I remember your Dad fondly for all of the hours he put into His Place. His love and concern for the youth in Sparta was amazing. I couldn't fully appreciate it at the time, but I look back and see nothing but the unselfish giving of himself and his finances so that others would hear the Word of God, be saved, and walk in new life. His heart and his passion was to see people come to know the Lord.

God used your Dad to make a huge impact on the lives of so many young people, including me and my brothers. During those critical teen years when so many "opportunities" tug on your heart, His Place offered a refuge, a safe haven, and a fun place for kids like myself to hang out, be encouraged in my faith, and have that support from other Christian kids. Your Dad also served as an informal mentor and father figure to the kids who came and went from His Place.

I'll never forget one night I was down there showing you and a few other people my graduation pictures. One guy named Dan was there and looking at the pictures. His comment was something along the line of, "Those pictures are good enough for Playboy."

Your Dad was standing there and immediately corrected that young man, saying that women were to be respected and that comment was out of line.

That conversation continued as your Dad wrapped his arm around Dan's shoulders and walked him away from the where we were all standing, talking in a lowered voice for just the two of them to hear, as a Dad would with a son.

So many memories...God rest his soul.

And so, having said all that and given you all that history, I thought it would be safe for me to close out this post with highly incriminating pictures that will prove to the whole world that I was actually spotted playing Foosball mere moments after my own father's funeral.

Dad woulda loved it.


By the way, I'd like to thank those of you who sent cards (AKA envelopes full of joy) to my favorite Mom. I actually got to be there when she retrieved a few of them from the mailbox and it was so great to see her excitement. She said that cards are still continuing to arrive.

Tomorrow I'll close out the Trip to Wisconsin series with a story about our family's post-funeral jaunt through the Wisconsin countryside to a place where we experienced laughter, music, tears and memories. (Not to mention outhouses.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The First Call Home

I just talked with my mom on the phone for the first time since getting home from Wisconsin and also for the first time since Dad's death. (I hadn't called her earlier in the week because she had several family members staying with her.)

No one ever told me it would be so hard. No one ever told me that when she picked up the phone, it would be so hard knowing that I could never again ask to speak to Dad. That I would never again hear his voice in the background yelling, "Love you, Becky!"

When I hit the button on the cell phone tonight, the readout came up as, "Mom and Dad." I wondered how long it would take me to erase the "Dad" part of that.

Maybe never?

After I hung up the phone, I sat at the kitchen table and just sobbed. Steve came down, discovered me in my distress and comforted me with hugs and gentleness and Kleenex.

It's only been one week since my Dad's death and already tonight my mom was telling me that she's thinking of volunteering at a local youth center because, "Maybe some of those troubled young ladies could just use a loving grandma to listen to them."

Dad's heart for ministry will continue to live on through her, through his children, and through his grandchildren.

But while his ministry continues, his life doesn't. And that is so hard.

And it's especially hard when I hear the echo of his absence during the first moments of that first call home.


After I had written about our recent trip to the coast, I got several comments saying that we shouldn't discount living out there without doing further research and also that we might not want to turn down the opportunity of moving there just because there are a lot of tourists.

I've spent the last couple days mulling over those comments and trying to figure out what they meant. I knew that I had gone on and and on about how much we had actually LIKED the Manteo area and we weren't at all discounting the idea of living out there.

And then it finally HIT me! (Hence, the "Duh" in the title.)

I finally realized, much to my chagrin, that when I had painted Manteo with such a flattering brush, I had inadvertently NOT painted Outer Banks and its towns in an equally positive way.

So to those readers who live on the Outer Banks, please accept my apologies. (Even though all of you were exceedingly gracious in your comments.)

I must say that when we were on the Outer Banks, we did see many lovely places. In fact, we stayed overnight with some church members and absolutely loved their neighborhood and the sea grass and other flora that surrounded their home. I have also visited different areas of the Outer Banks in the past and have enjoyed the quaint towns, picturesque lighthouses, and great natural beauty. It's truly a lovely area.

So having said all of that, let me change gears for a moment and explain a little bit about the decision making process for finding a new church.

First of all, we would never choose (or not choose) a church based solely on its location, just like we would never choose a ministry opportunity based only on the salary package offered.

Just to illustrate that point: When we went on the road full time back in 1989--I was four months pregnant at the time--we took a seventy percent pay cut AND we moved from a custom built house to a 270 square foot travel trailer. (That was our full time residence.) We made our decision based solely on what we perceived God's will to be for our family and we ended up successfully living that lifestyle for fifteen years!

In the same way, when it came to not pursuing the church on the Outer Banks, we made that decision for many reasons, none of them having to do with location.

If you've ever made a big decision like this, you know very well how complicated it can be. Even today, Steve has been on frequent phone calls with a variety of pastors, leaders, and advisers as we try to start putting some pieces together.

It's a scary, exciting, stressful, wonderful time!

In fact, with that many emotional combinations, I think the only thing left to do is to bring out the Little Debbies!

School Question

Sue G. asked in the guest book why I had enrolled Sarah in a school when I had said earlier that I would be home schooling.

Yes, I AM home schooling Sarah, but I'm doing it through an online school called Bridgeway Academy which oversees the process, by offering placement testing, record keeping, academic back up and other helpful stuff.

I'm a bit overwhelmed at the whole prospect right at the moment (it's yet another thing to slam into my already overloaded brain) but once we get it all figured out, I know Sarah and I will have a grand ol' time!

And, Sue, your other rhetorical questions are officially going unanswered because if I answered them, they would no longer be rhetorical.

A Redneck Limo and Hot Rod Lincoln

Today I'm going to take you along with me on yet another leg of the The Wisconsin Journey. And lest you think that all Wisconsin Journey stories are sad, I am hereby going to tell you a funny Wisconsin Journey story.

Well, at least it was funny to me.

Last Thursday night, I was at Mom's house and I needed to borrow a car from someone to run an errand. I was going to use Debbie's car until I realized that it didn't have an automatic transmission. I have driven a manual transmission once or twice in my life, and it was not pretty.

The only other vehicle remaining at the house at that particular moment was my nephew Ben's car, which looks like THIS.

Do you see the spotlight near the driver's door side mirror? Do you see the black painted hubcaps? Do you see the bar "thingie" over the grill? Do you see that the front of the car says, "Interceptor?" Did you notice that it's a Crown Vic? Do you think that the vehicle looks like a former police car?

Well, it IS a former police car.

It is a car that just SCREAMS, "This vehicle is only to be driven by a person who is young, cool and male." It does NOT in any way, shape or form scream, "This car should be driven by a 47-year old, semi-stodgy, carb-inhaling, pastor's wife from North Carolina."

I went outside and stared at the car. It stared back at me from behind its menacing, police car headlights. My brother, Mark (Ben's dad), came out to observe the staring contest.

After a few minutes he said, "I bet you're too dignified to drive that car."

I thought to myself, "Yeah. I really don't have any strong yearning to drive a souped up Interceptor with black hub cabs around town."

But then I thought, "What could be better in life than to prove a big brother wrong?"

So I said to him, "Of COURSE I want to drive this car. Throw me the keys!"

Once he got over his shock, he passed the keys over to me. I managed to get behind the wheel without too much drama and get the car started. I could see out of the corner of my eye that Mark was still smirking happily at the thought of his introverted, dignified little sister even sitting in that macho car, let alone driving it.

And then I had a thought.

The thought flashed through my mind in an instant and I knew it was the absolute perfect thing to do. Because how often does one get to step briefly outside ones' persona and do something unexpected?

I knew that Mark was expecting me to slowly creep out into the street and drive away with a dainty dollop of delicate decorum.

So what did I do instead?

Well, first of all, I shifted into neutral and revved the engine a few times. Loudly.

I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw Mark grinning in delighted disbelief.

And then? Well then, I slammed the car into drive and squeaked the tires as I pulled out!

I was so proud of myself. What other pastor's wife do you know who was out last Thursday night, squeaking the tires on a Crown Vic Interceptor with black hub cabs?

After my impressive "squealing away departure," I drove (a little more sedately) for a couple miles to a nearby convenience store. As soon as I pulled in to the parking lot, it was clear that a couple guys had noticed my arrival.

They stared at the car. Then they stared at me. Then they stared at the car again.

I could hear their thoughts as easily as if they had shouted them out loud.

"WHAT in the world is THAT woman doing driving THAT car?"

You know what?
I was asking myself the same question.

But it was still a really fun thing to do.

Here I am, trying to put on my serious, tough, cool expression. Are you intimidated yet?

And just so you know that Ben comes by his love of "interesting" cars naturally, here's a look at the back of Mark's car.

Yessiree. My big bro drives a Redneck Limo and Hot Rod Lincoln.

And guess what? I am now an honorary member of "Mark and Ben Club," since I, yes even I, have morphed from a mini van mama into a redneck woman!

Well, at last I was a redneck woman for a few minutes.

Today, however, I'm back to my mini van.

And I'm okay with that.

Really, I am.


Alright, let me put aside my redneckedness for a moment and talk about some other things . . .
This morning I sat and read and re-read all the comments that you all have left in recent days. I've been comforted, challenged and inspired by hearing your stories and experiences. Thanks to each one of you who has shared a piece of your heart on this site. I LOVE hearing from you!

I think that today I may actually get out of my pajamas and attempt to get on with my life. I'm a little behind the eight ball in getting Sarah started with school since the last couple weeks of life have been a bit challenging.

So today is crunch time. Whether I feel like it or not, I will do the mound of paperwork that has to be done and get Sarah going on her placement tests. The school she's enrolled in officially starts on September 3rd, but they said we could start a little later than that, due to our unexpected travel and the funeral.

So since I really do need to get a lot of stuff in the mail today, there will be no more lolling about. (Well, at least until tomorrow.)

Hmm. I think I could write a song about that, in "Annie" style.

Tomorrow, I'm lolling
Tomorrow I'm lolling
You're only a day away

Groan. Yes, I know that was bad.

I'm going now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

No Carb Is Safe

Today has not been a real happy day for me.

It's 2:05 pm and I'm still in my pajamas. Steve and Sarah have gone to the store to get the groceries I can find no energy to buy.

All day, I have felt this immense and intense need to stuff as many carbs into my mouth as I can possibly manage. In order to preserve any small shred of self respect that I may still currently possess, I will not list for you here the names or quantities of the carbs of which I have partaken.

Just trust me when I say that on days like today, proteins are anathema and carbs are divine. There's just something about carbs that whisper as they disappear down the gullet, "Everything is okay. You're going to make it. Life will go on."

For instance, if I compare a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie right now with a chicken breast, the chicken breast doesn't stand a chance. My dear husband, on the other hand, has come home from the funeral craving fresh, crunchy vegetables.

How is that even possible?

I am craving Fritos. And Reeses Pieces. And Little Debbie products of all varieties. And potatoes. And ice cream. And lemon pie. And all manner of mushy morsels.

Please tell me that I will eventually have energy. And I won't always want to take endless naps. And that I will someday crawl out of my pajamas. And that I won't want to cry so much. And that my carb cravings will back off to their normal pre-funeral levels.

In the meantime, I think you know what I'll be doing.

In this house, in this present emotional climate--no carb is safe.

Singing Him Home

When we knew that Dad's death was imminent, Steve and I tried to think through the ramifications of getting all four of us to the Midwest for the funeral. Looking at last minute plane fares was enough to cause us to break out in hives and clutch our chests in horror. And yet the thought of driving 2500 miles there and back made me so tired and depressed I couldn't even contemplate it.

I knew it would be more financially feasible for just Steve and me to go and leave the kids at home but I couldn't stand to even think about that option. Both Nathan and Sarah loved their Grandpa Campbell very much and wanted to be there to say good bye. Also, they don't get to be with their extended family very much and I didn't want them to miss out on that experience.

So all during the long week before Dad's death I repeatedly prayed, "O Lord, make a way for us all to fly to Wisconsin. Please, make a way for us to fly to Wisconsin."

Well, lo and behold, the Monday before he died, I found a voice message on my cell phone from a longtime website friend who said, "I'd like to purchase two tickets for your trip to Wisconsin!"

I was so excited I just about dropped the phone and did a happy dance.

The next day, I got an e-mail from another website friend who said, "I would like to cover a plane ticket for one of you."

Again, the happy dancin' feeling came over me!

And then the following day, we received a phone call from a friend who was sending a check which would cover half of the fourth ticket. Once we got to Wisconsin, a few of my family members pitched in so we ended up with all four tickets being taken care of.

Since Steve and I have been without jobs for nine months and had absolutely no extra money for travel, this miracle of provision was especially amazing. Thanks to those of you who contributed; we appreciate you more than we could ever say.

When I left for the airport last Wednesday morning, Dad was very close to the end. I so very much wanted to make it there before he died and felt hyped up and tense all day, wishing the plane would go faster, wishing there wasn't a layover between flights, wishing I could just miraculously be transported to his bedside.

When I landed in Atlanta for a one-hour layover, I discovered that my next flight had been delayed an extra hour. Of course, that just made me feel extra, extra tense. I was also nervous because I was afraid that a family member would call me at the airport to tell me Dad had died and the last thing I wanted was to hear that kind news standing in an airport amidst a thousand strangers. And yet I just couldn't bring myself to take off again without touching base to see how things were.

With some trepidation, I dialed Debbie's cell phone and said, "How's he doing?"

She tried to talk, but immediately broke down and handed the phone to Randy.

My heart dropped. I thought, "Oh, it's happened. He's gone and I'm alone in this big airport and I don't know what I'm going to do."

However, all Randy said was, "Beck, it's getting very close. He's getting clammy, and his breathing is changing and it doesn't look like it will be long. I think he's hanging on though, waiting for you to arrive."

I said, "Well, please tell him not wait. If he needs to go, it's alright."

Randy said, "I'll hold the phone up to his ear and you can tell him."

Now you have to picture this. I'm standing in one of the busiest airports in the world, completely alone. And I am saying on the phone, "Dad, it's okay to go. Don't wait for me to arrive. I love you."

ell, who can speak those words without tears? Not me.

I stood in the middle of that hallway and just cried. Surrounded by strangers, I sobbed. Life ebbed and flowed around me as I stood on my small island of sorrow, clutching my phone, choking out my final goodbye.

I eventually made my way through the chaotic corridor to the women's bathroom where I holed up in a stall so that I could sob (as silently as possible) in relative privacy. As I left the bathroom a few minutes later, I decided to powder my nose. However, when I took a quick glance in the mirror, I realized that all the face powder in the world was not going to even make a dent in improving my appearance. Bloodshot, swollen eyes, makeup cried off--it was not a pretty picture.

I was hoping I might be seated on the plane next to a compassionate, grandmotherly type of person but instead I was plopped down next to a sophisticated businessman who ignored my ravaged face altogether and spent his time complaining about the flight delay.

I wanted to say to him, "Sir, I don't know what your interrupted plans for the evening were, but my plans were to make it to my dad's bedside before he died. Sometimes 'stuff' just doesn't seem so important when eternity is knocking at the door."

But I didn't say a word. I just turned my face to the window (so as not to unduly alarm anyone else with my swollen blotchiness) and silently endured the ninety minute flight to Milwaukee.

Thankfully, by the time I landed, I was feeling a bit more calm. My original plan had been to rent a car but as it turned out, my brother and his family (who live in a Milwaukee suburb) had decided to head over to the hospital that evening as well.

As I waited for them to arrive, I figured I'd better get some caffeine on board since it was going to be a long night. I found an airport employee and asked him, "Where would I find a drink machine?"

He stared at me with a total lack of comprehension, as though I were speaking a rare dialect of Swahili.

nd then it suddenly occurred to me where I was. Or actually, where I wasn't. I was not in the South where drink machines are called, well, drink machines. I was in Wisconsin!

I immediately changed my dialect to Wisconsin-ese and said, "I'm sorry. I meant to ask where the nearest soda machine is."

His face lit up with cheery comprehension as I switched from the foreign language I had been speaking to the native language that he spoke.

As I walked away from him, I just had to laugh. I grew up in Wisconsin where a soft drink was referred to as "soda" or "pop;" however, it's amazing how quickly we forget the dialects of our childhood when we move away.

I purchased my "soda" and sat down to wait--happy to be back in the land of my birth (born in Iowa, raised in Wisconsin), thankful to be getting together with my extended family, and yet heartbroken over the pending loss of my dad.

After getting loaded into the car with my brother, Phil, and his family, we started on the 3 1/2 hour trip, through heavy rain, construction, slow traffic and every other thing that could possibly be thrown in our way to make the trip take even longer.

But amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully--when we arrived in the hospital room at 11 pm, Dad was still there. Not "there" in the sense that his eyes were open and he was talking, but still "there," none the less.

The final night of my dad's life on earth, he was surrounded by people who loved him. Phil was in a chair on one side of his bed, my mom slept on a cot at the foot of his bed, and I was in a recliner on the other side of his bed. Other family members were scattered throughout the hospital, resting, waiting, weeping, hoping, each one so grateful for his life, each one so thankful that they knew where he would go after he left us.

I spent most of the night fitfully tossing, watching the clock, watching the nurses as they came in and out, listening to Dad breathe, counting the seconds between the breaths, wiping silent tears, looking at my mom as she slept for the very last time near the man she loved so deeply.

It was the longest night.

It was the longest night that, in turn, gave way to the Longest Day--at least for my dad. When he stepped into eternity at 9:40 am, he stepped into a realm that does not allow nighttime, darkness, sorrow, sickness or tears. And amazingly, the song that was playing on the CD player as he died just happened to be one I had written many years ago and recorded with Steve, Randy and Debbie. One line of the song says, " It's time to rise, step through the skies . . ."

As Dad left the hospital room and started his journey, our voices were singing him home.

Gathering around him to pray a couple hours before he died.

Waiting . . .

At the front desk area of hospice, they lit this candle when dad died.

The cemetery where he was buried and the nearby church. It is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen--Wisconsin scenery at its finest.

My brother, Phil, with our mom. Ron (our unofficially adopted brother from Florida) is on the step.

It's time to rise, step through the skies . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Untitled Hymn

It was requested that I post the lyrics to the song Nathan sang at my Dad's funeral. (Video of his singing can be found below.) This is one of those songs I wish I had written; it is absolutely gorgeous. Chris Rice is one of our family's favorite writers and singers.

The Untitled Hymn
(Lyrics/Music by Chris Rice)

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus, Sing to Jesus, Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus, Fall on Jesus, Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus, Cry to Jesus, Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus, Dance for Jesus, Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus and live!

Could Life Be Any More Interesting?

I was awakened at 5:20 AM by a certain white fluffy dog who was yipping from his kennel with the greatest of white fluffy dog enthusiasm. Sigh.

So . . . since Snowy and I are both up, we figured we'd just settle into our Writing Recliner and get started on a post.

As you can probably imagine, I have many stories and pictures to share from our trip to Wisconsin but there are things going on in terms of our future plans that I need to mention, as well. So for the next week or so, I'll just switch back and forth between the two subjects and try to get everything covered.

I had written in an earlier post that someone came to look at our house last week. We heard back from her yesterday (via the realtor) and she said that although she loved the house, she has decided to buy another one instead because 1) it is closer to her church 2) it is all on one floor 3) it has granite counter tops.

Points one and three, I can certainly understand. However, point two is leaving me feeling a bit befuddled. The description of our house states very plainly that it has two stories. If someone is looking for a house on one floor, why would they look at a two story house?

If nothing else, this whole housing journey will certainly teach us a good bit of patience!

And speaking of patience, I'm sure a few of you have been waiting to hear about what's been going on with our church situation. As you know, we were on the coast of North Carolina August 15-17. On Sunday morning, we preached and sang at a church on the
Outer Banks. Although it was a church without a pastor, we were not really there in an official tryout capacity; instead, we were just asked to go and look over the situation and see if it might be something we'd be interested in.

The church had a lot going for it in terms of creative outreach; they hold tent church services on the beach all summer for vacationers and they also have an incredible ministry to the many international students who come to the coast for the summer to work.

We had lunch with one of the students who was from the Ukraine. Being the curious family we are, we asked him to write out his Cyrillic alphabet for us which was so fascinating to learn about. He kept on apologizing for his English and we kept on saying, "Look. You speak English a lot better than any of us speak Ukraine!"

Here he is with Sarah at the restaurant.

As we left the restaurant, I saw these birdhouses and just fell in love with them.

Another sight I glimpsed was this fella who was studiously ignoring the birdhouses in order to devote himself more fully to examining this car.

Steve is one of the world's most enthusiastic "car lookers;" if there is an interesting car within fifty miles, he will make the time to stop and examine it. And comment on it. And wish he could drive it.

At any rate, we enjoyed our weekend stay at the Outer Banks but have chosen not to return to that church for an "official tryout."

On Sunday afternoon, we drove across the bridge from the Outer Banks to Roanoke Island, an 8-mile long island famous for The Lost Colony. Roanoke Island has two small towns--Wanchese on one end and Manteo on the other.

Our destination was Manteo, an absolutely charming village.

We were put up in a gorgeous hotel.

Steve is re-doing the "fancy folded point" on the toilet paper roll so that Sarah and I can enjoy the experience for ourselves.

Showing off the deluxe coconut lime verbena soap. (We don't get out much.)

The resident writer

We thoroughly enjoyed touring the town and discovering its many charms and impressive features, including a High School that is in the top seven percent of all schools in the nation.

As I wrote earlier, our interview with the Pulpit Search Committee in Manteo went very well and we are now working on a possible date to return to the town for Steve to preach in a service.

Although I can't say I have ever pictured myself living so far from "civilization," the beauty and charm of Manteo go a long way toward convincing me that I would enjoy living there. It is such a different place than the towns across the bridge on the Outer Banks. (Manteo is located between the Outer Banks and the mainland of North Carolina.) As soon as you get to the Outer Banks, it begins to look a lot more touristy with chain restaurants and t-shirt shops but the Manteo leaders have worked very hard to keep the small town charm of Manteo intact. That dedication shows up around every corner.

After reading all of this, you're probably thinking that things appear to be coming together quite well. And they are. But we suddenly have a Plan B to consider.

Just as he was leaving for Wisconsin, Steve got a call from a church in the central part of the state that he had sent a resume to about two months ago. We hadn't heard anything back from them (apart from the acknowledgement that they received the resume) and so we had crossed them off our list of possibilities.

As it turns out, however, after their pulpit search committee went through the piles of resumes they received, Steve landed among their top choices. They are now requesting that he send them a sample of his preaching which means that we could be going there for a tryout, as well.

Could life be any more interesting?