Rainy-day beach combing

28 10 2007

      We got up this morning and went to the beach.  The cloud cover was low- a gray sea, a gray sky, and the gray sand.  The wind lifted the spray off the waves and blew bits of foam across the sand.  There must have been heavy weather off the coast, because there were mounds of reddish-green seaweed heaped on the shore.  It was kind of squeaky and soft under our feet, the little bladders breaking and rolling away like tiny hollow rubber balls.
       Donal found two mermaid’s purses and delivered a lecture on the different shapes of egg cases laid by different sharks.  Neal leaned over and asked me how he knew, and I had no idea.  Sometimes my son suprises me.  Brenna dug her toes in the sand and spun in circles like an ice dancer, her hair whipping and flying like a banner in the wind. 
       There were surfers out, their boards peeping above the waves like large triangular shark fins.  The pelicans were out with the surfers, and two men with shrimp nets walked by us headed for the inlet.  One of the nets was lavender with purple weights.  All the colors were vivid against the gray world.  I found myself transfixed by the color of a tiny peach clam shell lying on the sand.  I found two beautiful scallops, one the burgandy color of the seaweed, and Brenna found another egg case. 
        Michael was wearing a yellow plastic rain coat and jeans with the cuffs turned up almost to his knees.  He ran in and out of the waves, which chased him hissing and washing across each other.  I couldn’t figure which way the waves were running up the shore.  They kept crossing, probably driven one way by the current and another by the wind.  The patterns in the sand were the strangest I had ever seen, like abstract wall-paper, a symphony of dark and light gray scallops.  Neal saw me studying the pattern and commented, “God must have wanted to do some painting this morning.”
       One of the fishermen pulled in a hook full of seaweed and commented ruefully, “They’re really running out there this morning.”   A woman crossed my path and greeted me with the words, “My pockets are so full of shells I think they’re going to burst.”  I wasn’t sure how to respond to this, so I smiled.  Another fisherman walked barefoot up to his tackle with a silver fish flipping and twisting on his hook.  Pat wanted to help him pull it off, but I distracted him.
       On the way back past the Shell Island Resort Patrick chased the little sand pipers.  They run so fast you can hardly see their legs, and I laughed at how much Patrick looked like them.  His short little chubby legs were moving almost as fast as the birds’.  When he tired, he ran up to Neal and plopped down in the sand laughing.  The soles of his feet were very pink from running in the cool water, and the white sand crusted them like sugar.  I could have eaten him up.
      Michael walked after his daddy trying to stomp out all of his footprints.  He looked so small and frail in his yellow raincoat.  Was Donal every that small and fragile-looking?  I don’t think so.  Everything was so beautiful- the sky and the green, green sea grass on the dunes and the little birds swinging into the wind- that I couldn’t help singing.  I wandered down the beach singing, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is shifting sand…”
       Donal and Brenna walked fifty feet before us, their heads together comparing shells and wandering over the tideline debris trash picking.  When we reached the barrel in front of the resort, everyone had to empty their pockets.  Neal even found a half-buried bath mat!  He laid it on the edge of the barrel, saying, “This might belong to the resort, so I’ll lay it here where they might see it and come for it,” which is a very Nealish thing to say.  He could never believe that someone might throw out a “perfectly good” bathmat that has only been washing up and down the beach for about a month!  Some of the trash we found had been out longer than that.  We picked up several plastic bottles full of ocean water and covered with small shellfish.  Barnacles?  Or perhaps some kind of mussel, with brownish shells that closed like praying hands and little red tongue-like things that were sticking out in their death posture.  I wonder how many of them are going to show up in my washing machine from pocket treasure troves?  I am amazed by all the things my family thinks are “too good to throw away.”
     The best find of the day were two mysterious spheres, perfectly round and somewhere between the size of a ping-pong ball and a tennis ball.  They seemed like wood, only not wood, and they had the little mussels clinging to them at one end, as if there were an opening there that we couldn’t find with our fingers.  Donal plans to saw one open.  We’re wondering if they might be seeds from some island palm washed up the Gulf Stream current to our beach.  What would grow from such things?  Almost anything.


Run Ragged

25 10 2007

      Neal’s flying to Tennessee as I type.  He fretted so much over what to wear I got jealous.  What- we go out and he puts on any old thing, but OLIN deserves thirty minutes of fretting over what tie goes with what shirt?  And since when does Neal care about matching?  He tried on two outfits wanting to know what looked good to wear on the PLANE, for pity’s sake.   His final choice looked pretty chic and up-to-date for us.  I had a strong urge to try and make him late for his flight, resisted, and took the kids to Power of Play instead.

      Pat just woke up so I have to be quick- After two hours of “look at my baby,” “I wanna potty” and “He hit me!!!” I drug all seven kids home, fed them, washed them, found their stuff, and got three of them out the door and two down for a nap.  I was looking forward to half an hour’s snooze and a nice hot shower.  (Overslept this morning due to dark & rainy weather).  I didn’t more than lay down and get my eyes closed than Kaye called with a showing.  For tonight!  So while Neal is dining out with his hopefully future team at some swank restaurant, I’m going to be cleaning the house BY MYSELF (or, rather I WISH I was cleaning it by myself….) and taking the kids to McDonald’s.  I had hoped to make a grocery list today & get some food- all we have left in the fridge is condiments- but I guess I’m going to clean instead.

But first I’m getting a shower.  I DESERVE a shower, I WANT a shower, I NEED a shower (really badly to tell the truth) and NO ONE (however whiney) is going to stop me from getting one.  They can sit in the hallway and cry and pound on the door, but if I don’t wash my hair soon I will lose my mind.

    Thank you all for your prayers and your comments.  If this job falls through, I will probably get depressed again, but right now I’m really hopefull!

job updates

24 10 2007

     I despaired today.  Sat on the couch and sobbed and prayed and accused God of wanting us to lose our house.  Neal had three phone interviews.  All technical, which is like taking a test on everything he knows about SAP.  After three and a half hours, he was pacing the room and laying on the bed and racking his brain.  He was exhausted and discouraged.  I was exhausted and discouraged.  We had one hour to get the house ready to show and everyone in the house was worn out.
       How long can we keep this up?  I should have more faith.  I should have more faith that God is working this all out according to his good plan.  Why am I still so afraid he will forget me?  Or that he doesn’t consider things like foreclosures serious enough to bother with?  My chief fear in all this is losing the down payment & equity money we have in our house.

     Anyhow, about the time I felt like I couldn’t stand another minute of this, well enough another month, one of the companies called back.  They had been pretty discouraging with Neal on the phone, saying they had a lot of process to go through.  Six more people to interview, etc…  Then they called twenty minutes before the showing wanting Neal to come interview on Friday!!!  Which will teach me a lesson- I almost wouldn’t let the recruiter talk to Neal.  The poor man was begging, “Well, can I PLEASE call him on his cell phone?”  I said, “He’s not on his cell phone, he’s vacuuming my living room!  We have a showing in 20 minutes!”
       It’s a chemical company in Cleveland Tenessee, near Gatlinburg.  They’re flying him up Thursday & interviewing on Friday.  The tech team wants to have dinner with him Thursday night!  Isn’t that sweet?  I’ve never heard of a company that wanted to do that before.
      We would still prefer Lynchburg, but they’re making really slow noises, saying they wouldn’t even be ready to make an offer for another month.  We can’t wait to see if they’ll make their minds up.  (Well, unless we can’t help waiting.  I mean, if we don’t have a job, what can we do but wait?) 
      Cleveland would be a second best, but if Neal likes the job, it would be a good second.  We like the area.  We just don’t like the idea of being so far from family.  Of course, if we don’t get a job soon, we might be a little TOO close to family- like living in their garage.  My loving sis, who has a tiny 2-BR condo in Richmond has invited us to live with her. 
“We’ll manage somehow!” she proclaimed optomistically.  After all, someone can always sleep in the bathtub, right?
      It would have to be better than living out of our van.

      Those of you who pray, please pray for us.  My faith is feeling kind of ragged, like a worn out sneaker.  Lisa told me a verse yesterday that I have been repeating over and over today (sometimes at the top of my lungs):  “Let the PEACE of Christ RULE in your heart…” Col3:15
       Oh Christ, rule in me!  Rule in me!  Forgive my unbelief, and keep me in perfect peace as I keep my mind fixed on you.  Help me not to be afraid, help me not to worry, help me not to give in to imaginations, but to look at the fact that TODAY my needs are provided for, TODAY I have nothing that I lack.  If I can just keep my eyes on TODAY, I won’t be afraid.  It’s all the tomorrows ganging up on me that’s upsetting my balance.
       “Sufficient to the day are the troubles thereof…” and today I have everything I want.  I have a house that is clean, healthy children, my beloved husband, money in the bank, loving friends and family, and best of all- a new bag of library books!  My cup runneth over!
        I need to do that more often- write my blessings list.  And YOU are on it- it’s a blessing to me every time someone tells me that they read my blog!

A lovely fall bonfire!

23 10 2007

     We found out tonight that (despite all the recent rain) the burn ban is back on.  The cop who arrived first said even HE didn’t know.

     The kids loved the firetrucks!  Neal says he will now HAVE to leave town as too many of the scout leaders are firemen.  He is writhing in the humiliation of having to hose down every piece of wood & dig up & hose the ashes while three firemen held flashlights on him.  Poor Neal!


21 10 2007

    We had a terrific time visiting The Vinyard church this morning.  It was like a vacation- going to a new place, seeing old friends, meeting new people- I had a chance to give a word to a woman that really seemed to move her.  Cool. 
           I also made the mistake of walking by Debbie Davis while she was praying.  She reached out to TOUCH me, and I fell out with a cry right at the pastor’s feet!  They were praying about healing broken and hurting hearts.  Pastor Tom at the Vinyard is such a gentle man.  He and his wife (who I had never met before) sat over me praying for a good five minutes.  They were wonderful, and I really loved what they had to say.  I am no longer suprised when God opens the deepest secrets of my heart to a total stranger, but it is still a wonderfully overwhelming experience. 
        The kids had a great time, too.  They begged to go back again next week.  And, as pleasant an experience as I had, I’ll admit it’s tempting.  Who doesn’t wish vacation would last forever?   It was good to go somewhere new and remember that my brothers and sisters in Christ are not just in my church, but all over the city worshipping, all over the state, all over the nation… even in Pakistan.  The man who gave the sermon was a pastor from Pakistan, and I loved hearing what he had to say.  All except for the part about churches full of people being machine-gunned because they left Islaam.
       When I hear stories of the sacrifices people have made to cling to Christ, it makes me feel like a wimp for asking God to bless me, to give Neal a good job, to make this transition easy, to bring us to a good place…   Lately I have been praying for God to make ME a blessing wherever I go, in whatever circumstances I find myself.  I have always thought that the true secret of life would be the same whether we’re on top of a mountaintop, in prison, or in the middle of the mall.  The one thing I can do sitting, standing, working, or sick in bed is live for God.  I want to live for God.   I want to live for God even if it means being shot by Islaamic terrorists.  Because even if he asks my life of me, it will only be because he gave me my life in the first place, and because he has a greater need than perhaps I can understand.  I want to live to do what he needs from me, to bless the people he brings to me, to love everyone who needs loving, and to give what he asks me to give.
     In giving myself, I am found.  I can’t comprehend the idea of an afterlife.  I know God promises that by dying I will live, but I just can’t imagine it.  I do know, however, that when I live for him here, live the way he wants me to, my happiness overflows and I bring joy wherever I go.
       It’s only when I slip up that I make myself and everyone around me miserable.

       Here’s one of my favorite bits of the bible: “But thanks be to God, who made us his captives and leads us along in Christ’s triumphal procession.  Now wherever we go he uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Good News like a sweet perfume.  Our lives are a fragrance presented by Christ to God.  But this fragrance is perceived differently by those being saved and by those perishing.  To those who are perishing we are a fearful smell of death and doom.  But to those who are being saved we are a life-giving perfume.”  2Corinthians:14-16

There was a lot of perfume at the Vinyard this morning!!!

New Look

18 10 2007

Yeah, we have a new look.  I was getting cross-eyed trying to read the old page.  This one still has lots of RED, but it also has larger type!

Book Review: The Yada Yada Prayer Group

18 10 2007

The Yada Yada Prayer Group
by Neta Jackson

      I’m not really into “women’s” novels, especially “Circle of Friends” novels.  Usually they’re a little cheesy, a little ditzy, and they imply that female friendships will be your salvation from all of life’s disasters.


       Despite my dislike of the genre, I enjoyed this book.  Largely, I think, because the women in it were more real than the general run of “friends” characters.  They spoke like real people, in a variety of dialects, and they reacted like real people.  They were accidentally rude.  They spoke without thinking.  They complained about the food, dressed up, dressed down, talked about their kids, pets, husbands, etc. like women I have met.  My favorite character was Adele who was painfully blunt and didn’t have a lot of patience with nonsense. 
       More than anything else, they were having real life problems.  Not dorky problems. 
       Ok, on the bad side, the book implied that everything was easily resolved by believing prayer.  It has been my experience that, although God answers prayer, he isn’t in a big hurry about it.  He tends to work us through a lot of painful self-knowledge lessons before he grants the prayer, and he frequently responds to my prayers with that hollow silence that means, “I am ignoring this particular prayer, my dear daughter, for your own good.”
        I also didn’t like some of the implications that black spirituality was better than white spirituality.  In our God-starved nation, I think any spirituality is a valuable thing!  Like water found in a desert, perhaps we shouldn’t be too critical about its pedigree.  Although I do agree with the author that in my limited experience black churches (and black women in particular) seem to be louder and less self-concious about their worship. 
        I liked the way issues of race between the women were handled.  It seemed like a realistic portrayal of some of the tensions that have to be dealt with in interracial and, um, interfinancial (?) churches.  I recognized several kinds of people I’ve met in our church in the women of this book.  Including the Messianic Jew!
        It left me with some questions: would it really be that simple to forge friendships among such dissimilar people?  Would it really be that easy to get out of a manslaughter charge?  Is Joni ever going to talk to her husband about her history with drink?  Or is she just going to dither and yell for the rest of her life?  And why don’t we have a Jewish pastry shop in our town?  It sounded wonderful.
       Overall impression: I’m up for the next book.