Friday, October 2, 2009

Dessert Dissolving Pine Straw Raking

Last night, Sarah and I were invited by the Main Man in our lives to go outside and help him rake pine straw. (For any of you pine straw newbies, pine straw consists of old pine needles fallen off old pine trees.)

May I just say that raking pine straw is not a job for semi-flabby, quasi-wobbly, out-of-shape housewives? May I also just say that the workout I got during my long (30 minute) stint of raking was better than a 2-hour workout at the gym? (Not that I've ever personally experienced a 2-hour workout. I'm just sayin'.)

I would just like to hereby give public thanks that my callings in life usually include indoor pursuits like cooking dinner, writing blogs and organizing home school materials. Indoor pursuits where I get to sit down occasionally. Indoor pursuits that do not cause me to be weak, worn and weary for weeks at a time. Indoor pursuits that in no way include the raking of pine straw.

Here are a few photos of the Slave Driver and the Slave Drivees.

Look at the way Steve is mercilessly chasing Sarah down while preparing to brandish his rake at her to tell her to move faster! Work harder! Don't let up the pace! Move! Move! Move!

Nothin' like a little quality father/daughter time.

We hooked Snowy to a tree outside so that he could be a part of the Hardworking Family Milieu. He immediately put himself into Watch Doggie Mode and diligently scanned the neighborhood in order to ascertain that the perimeter was indeed secure.

Because we all know that pine straw raking families in small Southern towns on golden Thursday evenings are often times the target of sinister criminal activity. Who knows what evil might have befallen us last night had it not been for Snowy's diligence?

And just so you know that Snowy has an unblemished record in security work, here he is in the front yard with Sarah several years ago.

Note the look of intense concentration on his little doggie face. He is quite serious about his task.

Here we have the Slave Driving, Pine Straw Raking Fella.

And here is the Slave Driving, Pine Straw Raking Fella's Slave Driven, Pine Straw Raking Wife.

May I ask you to
pause for just a moment and take note of my fabulous pine straw raking technique. For being such an amateur, I think I am actually good enough to consider trying out for the Pine Straw Raking Olympics. If they ever decide to add that category.

Just call us The Survivors! Sarah survived cancer. I survived raking pine straw.

Um. Her job was a little bit harder but I'm still proud of myself. And her. And our pine straw free lawn. And Snowy's diligence in being our security guard. And Steve for finishing up the front lawn with us and then raking most of the back lawn by himself!

We are one high achieving family, pine straw rakin' family!

(By the way, my hat says, "I'd give up chocolate, but I'm no quitter.")

Let me show you one last photo to illustrate just how long we have lived in this house. Can you believe how much Sarah has changed? Me either.

And may I just say one more thing about picture taking? When I went out with the camera to take pictures of Steve and Sarah, I took half a million pictures in the space of about five minutes. (And you think I'm exaggerating!)

When I was done, I handed the camera to Steve and asked him to take some.

He diligently walked around the yard with the camera and after a little while he announced, "Okay. I'm done."

I said, "Oh good. How many did you take?"

He said, "Two."

Two?? Two!?!?! He took only two pictures?

Obviously he has not yet mastered the Becky Smith Secret Technique of Photography which states that if you take at least a hundred pictures of any given subject, chances are that at least one or two of them will turn out.

Sigh. I can see he's going to need a lot more training in this important area. He may rock at raking pine straw but I am the undisputed Queen of A Zillion Pictures!


Thanks to those of you who have expressed concern for my mom. I talked with her on the phone last night and she sounded a bit weak and tired but in good spirits, all in all. My sister, Debbie, had driven over to spend the night with her.

And speaking of Debbie, she is certainly becoming a medical angel of mercy! In August, she spent the better part of several weeks with Dad in his last days, and then she camped out at the hospital after Caleb's accident two weeks ago. Now she is being a nurse to a lovely mother with a broken collarbone. (And newly removed skin cancer.) Thanks, Deb, for your giving, generous, and loving heart. We all appreciate you!


And now, a few miscellaneous notes before I close.

Some of you asked how Steve is doing and I'm happy to report that the meds he took and the rest he got seem to have done their job. He's still a bit "coughy" and husky, but is feeling 100% better than he was on Monday.

We'll leave for Manteo after lunch and get settled into our weekend housing. I truly appreciate those of you who emailed recipes or posted "traveling food" ideas in the Comments section. I have gotten some great ideas from you all!

And to Buff, who asked if we'd eaten at the Lone Cedar Cafe, yes we have--about three times in the last month!

Actually, the chairman of the board at our church in Manteo owns the construction company that recently rebuilt that restaurant after it burned down. From what I understand, they did it in just ninety days!

The Manteo church has provided meals for us there a couple times and we have enjoyed every single, delicious bite. (Their desserts are especially amazing.)

I'm just hoping that some of the pine straw raking we did last night dissolved some of those desserts!

Dessert dissolving pine straw raking. Sounds like a plan!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good Marriages Are Like That

My sister, Debbie, just called and said that Mom had a seizure this morning when she was in the bathroom. She fell and hit something hard, breaking her collarbone in six places. My nephew was staying with her but he was at the other end of the house and didn't hear anything.

After she has a seizure, Mom isn't always able to think clearly; instead of calling for help, she went and lay back down on her bed. When Ben left for work, he didn't hear anything from her room and assumed she was taking a nap.

My brother and sister-in-law were already planning to pick her up at 10 am to take her to the hospital to have her stitches removed (she was diagnosed with skin cancer last week) and finally found her.

and Dad always took such good care of each other over their fifty-three years of marriage. This was her first health crisis ever when he wasn't there and I know that must have made it all the more traumatic for her.

I will never forget being in Walmart with them many years ago when she had a seizure and crashed down to the floor. Dad was instantly beside her, cradling her head, saying he loved her, smoothing her hair, comforting her, even though she couldn't hear him.

I think even now he is comforting her, even though she can't hear. Good marriages are like that.

(Excuse me while I go and cry.)

A Dearth of Coherence And A Dash of Tongue Twister

Since I popped awake at the lovely hour of 4 am, I decided to get up and get on with my day. Snowy woke up when he heard me rummaging around and is currently and contentedly ensconced in his spot in the chair next to me, snoozing in a rather happy fashion. (He is the most faithful of co-writers.)

I've got a few more Manteo Questions lined up to answer, so let me just jump right into those and see where they take us. Since I'm writing these answers with a 4 am-esque, sleep deprived brain, I'm not promising much in the way of coherence. Of course, a dearth of coherence might actually be sort of fun! And entertaining!

Q. Is Manteo further away from Sarah's friend, Victoria?

A. Yup. Victoria lives in Charlotte (where Steve's parent's live) and they will all be six-and-a- half hours away from us instead of three-and-a-half.

Also, the nearest major city is Norfolk, VA, which is about two hours away. That would also be where our nearest airport and large hospital are.

At first, we asked ourselves how we would do living that far away from civilization. But then we got to thinking that we've lived thirty minutes from Raleigh for five years and the only time we ever went in that direction was for doctor's appointments or to get to the airport. We're not huge fans of malls, big concerts, sporting events, or fancy restaurants so living in Manteo will suit us just fine! (Although I must say that the Manteo/Outer Banks area does offer some fabulous--and fancy--restaurants, as well as some cool musical venues.)

Q. If I come out to visit that area, do you mind if I pop in to the church to hear Steve preach and you all sing?

A. Popping in is definitely encouraged! Just be sure to introduce yourself to Steve and me so that we can have the privilege of knowing we had an Official Blog Reader Popper In Person in the service! Although you'll definitely hear Steve preach, you probably won't hear us sing any solos and duets, as we'll just be singing (and playing instruments) with the rest of the worship team.

Q. What did Steve preach for his "interview sermon?"

A. Actually, after making a few introductory comments about the whole process of being there as a pastoral candidate, he didn't really preach any differently than he would have in any other setting. He tried to really concentrate on just being himself (wackiness and all) so that the congregation would know exactly what kind of "pastor person" they would be getting.

The sermon itself was taken from the story in the New Testament where the disciples were out in a boat and a storm came up and almost overturned the boat. The disciples were all scared out of their wits, but Jesus slept peacefully through it all. When they finally woke him up, He stood up and rebuked the wind and the waves and they were instantly still.

The basic idea of his sermon was that no matter what kind of storm you're facing in your life right now, don't ever forget that Jesus is in the boat with you. In the middle of the sermon he quoted a song by Scott Krippayne that says,

Sometimes He calms the storm, with a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea, but it doesn't mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close, and the lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm, and other times He calms His child

That's one of those songs I really wish I had written.

Q. What happened to the house you had found on an earlier trip?

A. That house is still in the running, although we're keeping our eyes and ears open for other options as well, including the possibility of renting for a while and then building something.


And now I have a little assignment for you that has nothing to do with this post and nothing to do with Manteo and nothing to do with anything!

I would like for you to say "Irish wristwatch" three times.

A lot harder than you thought, right?

My sister-in-law, Carol, told us about that tongue twister when we were up in Wisconsin and I have yet to find a person who can say it without having some trouble. Of course, getting up at 4 am and trying to function on a dearth of coherence doesn't help matters either!


This is now a few hours later; I ran out of steam earlier this morning. I am finishing this post to the sound of Steve and Sarah down in the kitchen loudly singing the theme song from "Winnie the Pooh" while they eat breakfast. Nothing like writing to an inspirational soundtrack!

I'll close with some Manteo pictures. I think I posted a couple of them before in a picture collage but I thought it would be lovely for you to get to see them full size.

These are all near the downtown and harbor front area.

I'll spend the rest of the day gearing up for our weekend jaunt to Manteo. We'll be staying at a rental house so I need to take food supplies. Does anyone have any good ideas for casseroles or recipes that travel well in a cooler and can just be re-heated? These next few weeks/months will be a challenge as I figure out how to cook in places other than my own kitchen and transport food (and belongings) hither and yon. Not to mention yon and hither.

Thanks for stopping by . . . enjoy your Thursday!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Windshield Wiper Gang

In case you've been losing sleep worrying about whether our family has been safe during our recent travels, I wanted to post a few pictures from our trip to Charlotte in the hopes that they would set your mind at ease.

Recent news reports have indicated that there has been an outbreak of increased unlawful activity among the violent group of criminals known to law enforcement officials as The Windshield Wiper Gang. However, I am happy to report that our family has just recently been placed under Code Red High Alert Fully Protected Status in regard to this terrorist gang. I know that not every family in America is fortunate enough to have been placed under a similar highly touted status and for that I must apologize.

However, our family is ever so grateful that the CIA, FBI, CSI and Homeland Security have deemed us as worthy of being protected in this manner. I must say that we do rest better at night with that comforting knowledge of that protection serving as our pillow.

And now, without any further ado. let me introduce you to our own Agent Double O Seventeen Thirty-Two Fifty-Seven. (Hut!)

Here he is, getting into official "striking at the evil windshield wipers" position.

And here he is in mid-strike, as fast as a rattle snake, as sneaky as a woman hiding Godiva in her purse.

And here is our Agent finishing up the lethal strike before retreating back into Watchful Highly Alert Agent Mode.

And finally, in this photo you will witness our Agent taking a brief break from his duties and attempting to disguise himself as part of Sarah's leg so that the Windshield Wiper Gang will not suspect that he is lurking anywhere in the vicinity.

Even though I realize that everyone who reads this post is now going to want their very own highly trained and lethal personal agent of protection, I'm sorry to inform you that you're just going to have to take up your case with Homeland Security!

Tomorrow I'll answer a few more Manteo questions but for today I"m going to close out with a few pictures of the outside of the church. (I was so distracted by all the services and voting, I forgot about taking pictures while I was inside the building.)

And finally, here is a photo I took Saturday morning when I walked out into the living room area of the hotel room. The sun was peeking through the drapes just enough to illuminate the small tree that was there and I just thought it was so pretty! Of course, I had to take pictures.

Photos of a fake tree, a dog, and windshield wipers. And yesterday, a photo of a pastor sitting under a plastic basketball goal.

There's nothing quite like stopping by a blog and seein' such fancy, high falutin' photos!

You can thank me later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Out of the Hallway

I'm currently functioning in half brain, full exhaustion, semi-lucid, major wiped-out mode, but I'm still going to give the writing of this post a whirl and see what comes of it.

Maybe you're tempted to ask, "Well, what in the world could be so tiring about spending the weekend in a luxury hotel in a village by the sea?"

Well, nothing, if you put it like that! (smile)

However, when you look at the big picture that stretches beyond the aforementioned idyllic seashore tableau, you'll probably find a few good reasons behind the fact that we are so wiped out. (And Steve is still in bed sick today, after a trip to the doctor.)

First of all, the entire weekend was bookended with the inescapable reality that those few hours spent in Manteo would have an indelible impact on our ministry, our jobs, our home town, our friends, our childrens' friends, Sarah's schooling, our ministerial colleagues, our finances, our neighborhood, and our long term life as a family.

On Friday night at 6 pm, when it was time for the three of us to walk into the church fellowship hall to meet the forty leaders and spouses waiting for us, I was so nervous I was seriously almost sick to my stomach. There's no feeling quite like stepping through a door and in a split second, being the instant object of curious examination by a whole group of people who could very possibly become your parishioners and friends.

Nervous energy, adrenalin and anxiety are definitely forces to be reckoned with and if you've ever dealt with any (or all) of those, you know that when they finally dissipate, they can leave you exhausted. The fact that we were "under the influence" of high doses of those three substances all weekend is a pretty good explanation for the way we're feeling today.

But the good news is that when we did walk into that fellowship room on Friday, we were welcomed with genuinely warm, fun, affirming, gracious Manteo folks. They greeted us like we were long lost relatives and made us feel like we belonged.

Although there had been some plans for the youth group to go bowling, the plans had to be changed so Sarah was with us for that evening meal. She enjoyed meeting everyone as well and I was very proud of her for so charmingly holding her own with forty adults she didn't know. That girl is a trouper!

Saturday morning, Steve and I were at the church at 9 am to meet with the drummer and sound man and were joined by the singers a couple hours later.

Now I must say that this appointment was another source of anxiety for Steve and me. After having done music together for 28 years in all sorts of settings, we have learned the unfortunate truth that sometimes gifted musicians can be hard to work with, and can also struggle with various levels of cockiness. We were walking into this rehearsal cold, not knowing what the musicians' attitudes would be like and not even knowing if the singers could sing or if the drummer could truly "drum."

But happy, happy day! When everyone had gathered, we were presented with a group of folks who were fun , teachable, happy and gifted!

It was almost 1 pm by the time we finished rehearsal; we took lunch back to the hotel (Sarah had stayed there all morning to catch up on school work) and then got down to the "business" of resting up for the church picnic at 4 pm. We had the chance to meet some of the rest of the church people that night and learn a few more names. There was actually shrimp served at this picnic and also plenty of chocolate on the dessert table, so we were happy campers!

Sunday morning, we were back at the church at 8:30 to rehearse a little more with the team and then do the 10:30 service. I have played keyboard and sung on many hundreds of platforms in my life, but only twice have I ever stood on a stage in the role of potential pastor's wife. It's a very different (and scary) sort of feeling!

Here's Sarah being introduced.

The music with the team went great and Steve did an excellent job preaching. We met a few more folks, grabbed lunch and then headed back to the hotel to rest up and gear up for the evening service and The Vote.

That evening, after we had sung and Steve had preached, the three of us took ourselves off to the fellowship hall in the opposite end of the building to sit and commence waiting. And that is where the picture was taken that I posted last night!

Here it is again in a closer view.

I got three great guesses about the picture but one of them (by Susan B) hit the nail on the head. Steve's middle name is Kever and that's the name in the picture.

His middle name is a combination of his mom's name (Vernie) and his dad's name (Ken) and we had never seen it any other place in our whole lives. And then, sitting there waiting for the voting to be done Sarah said, "Hey, look! That basketball goal has 'Kever' written on it!"

I must say that it was a great stress reducer to laugh about that and take the inevitable photo of Steve posing with his "namesake."

And then it was just a few minutes after that when we heard the door to the fellowship room open and the Chairman of the Board say something like, "Come on, Pastor Steve. Time to say hello to your congregation!"

We walked down the hall and stepped into the lobby where the whole congregation was smiling and applauding. After many sweet hugs and enthusiastic congratulations from our new family, we headed out to the van to contact our "old" family.

The first phone call was to Nathan, who we had texted while we were sitting and waiting for the vote results. He was so sweet and affirming and happy for us. I really missed having him there with us.

Then Steve called his parents (who were thrilled) and I called my mom. She said, "Well, I'm so glad you called. I was just sitting here, literally, this very moment, and praying for you." She was so thankful for the news.

The call to her was bittersweet for me, because my dad has always been our biggest cheerleader through all of our years of ministry. To not be able to say, "Dad, Steve was just voted in as pastor in Manteo," just hit me so hard in the heart. As soon as I hung up with Mom, I was in tears, wishing for the chance to hear my dad's voice as well.

I somehow have to believe, though, that he knows that "his kids" are back in full time ministry and that somewhere in heaven he's joining my mom as she rejoices for us.

There are more questions to answer and more stories to tell, but I'll sign off for now by saying thanks again for your support and prayers during these ten months that we've waited in the hallway, waiting for the next place God had for us to be.

It's wonderful to be finally stepping out of the hallway and into the rest of our lives.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Brief Briefing . . .

I am not going to try to be coherent or attempt to tell lovely and/or inspiring stories tonight. My weary, overly stretched brain would not even to begin to allow such feats of derring do. Instead, I'll just let tonight's post be in a question and answer format and I'll write more tomorrow after a good night's sleep.

Let me just first say that our family would like to thank everyone who has stopped by and "whooped and woo-hooed" with us. How wonderful it is to have friends who rejoice when we rejoice. Thank you so much for your kind, exuberant, and encouraging sentiments!

Here are a few questions I remember reading recently in the Comments section. I can't remember who asked what and I may forget a few (if I do, please re-ask) but I'll go ahead with what I have.

Q How did your voice hold out over the weekend?

A. It actually did very well. By evening, it was pretty husky but I was able to sing without too much vocal stress. I felt like it was amazingly strong considering the stress and fatigue we dealt with all weekend. (Poor Steve got so worn out he's in bed sick and has an appointment to see the doctor first thing in the morning.)

Q. Does the fact that you know folks from the Manteo church will eventually read this blog affect the way you write?

A. Yes, it does, in the same way that my writing was affected when we pastored in Smithfield and our wonderful church family there read the blog. (As a matter of fact, many of them still read so let me say "Hi" to our First Assembly, Smithfield friends!)

One of the first things a pastor and his family (hopefully) learns is the art of discretion. Some aspects of ministry and transition are written about and some aren't. Just like if I worked at a bank or a restaurant, I would be selective in choosing the stories I wrote about there. It's the same way writing about church.

Q. Is Manteo further from or closer to where Nathan is?

A. Unfortunately, Manteo is three hours further from Nathan and three hours further from Steve's parents in Charlotte.

Q. When is your start date?

A. We will start this coming Sunday. For awhile, until we get housing worked out, we will just travel to Manteo every Friday-Sunday and stay at whatever kind of housing we can cobble together.

We met with our realtor again today before leaving Manteo and once again got the "interesting news" that there's just not much available in our price range.

And finding an apartment to rent by the month (instead of weekly or yearly) is a pretty big challenge, too. So our next few months may be pretty chaotic when it comes to living quarters.

But even having a lot of those important details unsettled can't take away from the excitement we feel about this new chapter of life! We are so grateful for the opportunity to become a part of the wonderful church and community in Manteo.

Three things in closing:

1. Pam D. said that if the good people at Manteo hadn't voted us in, she would have had hit them over the heads with hymnals. I know the Manteo folks are relieved that Pam will not be making any trips to see them anytime soon!

2. I saw a sign at the beach that said, "We don't go skinny dipping. We go chunky dunking." That really made me smile.

3. And finally, although I usually take pictures that showcase the beautiful, inspiring parts of Manteo, this Manteo picture is a bit different. You'll have to check back tomorrow to see what great and mysterious significance this picture has.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Over

We are tired. Happy. Exhausted. Drained. Thrilled. Excited.

Oh yes. And did I also mention "ELECTED?"

Yes, indeedy. By a strong majority vote, Steve was elected as pastor of First Assembly in Manteo, NC. We've been sitting around in a daze for the last hour or two trying to process the weekend.

I'm not sure when we've ever been this tired but deep in our hearts, we know are at peace and we know we are where we're supposed to be.

Thanks to everyone who has checked in with us this weekend; I'll have lots more to write about later.

Now it's time for a group hug and group woo-hoo!