Sunday, September 30, 2007

Autumn Reflections

Brrrr! It's cold out there! I could actually see my breath when I went out to walk Tess this morning at quarter to 7. Until now it hasn't felt like fall. The leaves are gradually changing color, but it's stayed pretty much in the seventies and above so far.

This cool weather makes me want to pull on a comfy sweatshirt, light a pumpkin pie scented candle and get to makin' some homemade chicken soup. This time of year always reminds me of when I got engaged (September 28 was the actual date), and how much fun it was going to pick out the reception hall, flowers, photographer, etc. along with scanning items for our registry at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

It also reminds me of family. My step-dad sitting in his lounger cheering at the football games and my mom filling up the house with warm, inviting smells from whatever she was cooking. Playing in piles of freshly raked leaves with my sister, decorating pumpkins together, getting dressed up for Halloween and hounding the neighbors for candy. There's a reason they call it Awesome Autumn!

It's become almost my cure-all for when I miss Florida. I always thought it was so beautiful down there; the lush green grass year round, the clear blue-green ocean and how new everything was. But living here in the Cumberland Valley and seeing the landscape sometimes takes my breath away. The rolling hills and fields that stretch out for miles leading up to the mountain with the brilliant blue sky as its backdrop. It's almost like a painting.

I had a brief moment on Friday when I participated in my own pity party about having to leave FL but then I thought, "You know what? We're here for God's glory and He is already doing great things through us. It's not about me and what I had to give up". In all the places I've lived recently, there is good and bad. New Jersey was the state we grew up in, where we were no more than thirty minutes away from our parents and where I was a part of an amazing pro-life ministry, but it was too expensive to make a decent life. Florida was where we owned our first home and made many couplefriends, but there were no seasons and the church eventually took the form of something we could no longer be a part of. And PA has a thriving, vibrant ministry that we're excited about but it's been hard to put down roots and make friends. Sometimes I wish I could take all the good features and put them together so I'd have the perfect location.

Since that's obviously not going to happen, I have to accept that where we are at any given period is exactly where God wants us for reasons sometimes only He knows. He has allowed us to experience different places and we've gained invaluable memories and insight from each of them. I need to remember that this life is merely the dress rehearsal. Heaven is the only true perfect location.

I heard these lyrics by MercyMe on my way home from dropping Gregg off at King Street this morning: "Bring me joy, bring me peace, bring the chance to be free. Bring me anything that gives You glory. But I know there'll be times when this life brings me pain, but if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain". Is that my heart's response? Or do I just want a cushy, comfortable life where God has no say in where I go or what I do? It would have been easy and comfortable to stay in Florida, but it would have been wrong.

This world is not our home, as beautiful and wonderful as it is. We need to appreciate it, but not get so attached that we're not willing to leave someplace at any given moment if that's what God is calling us to do. Because He's moved us around so many times, I have a treasure chest full of memories, unique perspectives and people praying for me in three different states. Pretty cool. He never does anything for His glory at the expense of our good.

So for now I will relish being able to enjoy my favorite season again and take in all that Autumn has to offer. I'd forgotten how truly wonderful it is. Funny, now I'd take any day in the Northeast in fall over a hot sunny day in Florida!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Blessed Beyond Belief

I’m happy to say that my cold is finally over. I feel so much better than I did last weekend. I literally spent all Saturday afternoon on the couch, except to get up to take the dog for a walk and make myself something to eat. On Sunday I skipped church since I still felt lousy and stayed in my pajamas until 11. About 12:30, Gregg called to say that his parents had just pulled off the highway and were meeting him in the church parking lot. He said they’d be at the house within 20 minutes and asked me to walk Tess before they got there so she wouldn’t get excited and pee everywhere.

Gregg’s parents took us to Rosalie’s, which has awesome Italian food, and thankfully I could actually taste my lunch! On the way back, we passed by Shatzer’s Fruit Market where Gregg & I bought a gallon of yummy Apple Cider and his parents got some apples and peaches. We said our good-byes there before they got back onto the highway and we headed off to Walmart to do our grocery shopping.

Wednesday was my last day at The Mental Health Center. I expected to feel a huge sense of relief when I left around 4, knowing that I wouldn’t have to ever come back, but instead I felt like I had unfinished business there. Did I say everything I needed to? Did I tie up all the loose ends? Did I leave the new person with enough idea of what he’s going to be doing? Why can I never make a clean break?

I was supposed to start my new job at Family Care Services on Thursday, but they need me to have a physical first and I couldn’t get in to see the doctor until Tuesday morning. So I’ve had a much needed few days off which has been really nice. I got laundry done (even folded!), cleaned the house and had time to make a decent supper for my husband before he came home from work. As a result of getting dinner on the table before six, we were able to go out afterwards on Thursday night and take a walk around downtown. We stopped at the Big Oak CafĂ© and I ordered that Chai Latte I’d been craving. It was truly “autumn in a cup”.

It was nice enough to sit out on their patio so we did and got around to talking about Covenant. My friend Monica from Florida wrote me an email the other day and said that CPC would be undergoing a 10-day revival with Life Action Ministries. It’s something the church can certainly benefit from after all the upheaval they went through at the end of ‘06/beginning of ’07. I imagine it’s still pretty unstable.

Talking about Covenant and us leaving made me wistful for our home back in Palm Bay. I still miss our house down there and the people we became close with. Sometimes I wish I could sail through life and not become so attached to people and places when I go from one phase to the next. See what I mean about never being able to make a clean break? I feel like I’ve left pieces of myself all over the East Coast!

I know that some people are meant to be in your life for either a reason, a season or a lifetime and that God doesn’t see it as little individual chapters or snippets but the whole story with each piece weaving the tapestry of your life. But it’s hard when all you see are the snippets and feel the pain of losing things when you move on. When we moved here to Pennsylvania, I felt like I had undergone so much change in a short period of time and left so much behind that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I still feel like that occasionally, but significantly less since we’ve been here for five months now and have settled into our own place. Things are a lot more stable, for which I am very grateful.

It’s helped too, that we’ve gotten to know people here that we want to become closer with. Gregg started attending a men’s Bible study every week with two guys from church to get deeper into God’s word, and we joined a small group that starts on October 2. Gregg and I are going to start a devotional of our own too. I’ve been feeling this desire to have deeper intimacy spiritually with my husband so I’m really glad we’ll be doing this. We'll be reading a book called Searching for God Knows What.

I was also invited to a ministry staff wives’ get together which was held last night at the senior pastor's home. It was great to get to know these amazing, godly women “behind the men” a little bit better. Women who know what it's like to experience a lot of change because their husbands answered the call to ministry. We're all in various stages of life, the oldest having just celebrated her 55th wedding anniversary with grown grandchildren and the youngest (me) looking forward to her fifth and starting a family.

We shared with each other pictures of our families, how we met our spouses and what we like to do in our spare time. I introduced the ladies to the wonderful world of blogging, since that's my favorite thing to do when I actually have spare time during the week. It was the natural progression of my extensive journaling throughout the years since I attended middle school. I still have all those old notebooks I wrote in from back then! Other women shared their scrapbooks and quilting and pottery as expressions of their creativity when they get alone time, and we enjoyed a delicious pumpkin-y pecan dish & coffee for dessert.

Angela, the wife of the junior high pastor, shared her vision for the get-together saying that she intended it to be a regular occurance where we could support each other and pray. She expressed that sometimes being the wife of a minister could be a lonely one and she would love for our group to be a safe place to share our feelings and concerns with women who are in a similiar boat. I felt like God right there and then had answered my prayer for female connection and friendship. This is what I wanted! Not just another thing to go to where you share a little piece of yourself and then everyone goes their separate ways, and hardly ever speaks to one another again. I left yesterday evening feeling incredibly blessed.

It is wonderful to know that God is meeting my needs for friendship here. He knows how hard it was to move from one place to another, but that we did it out of obedience to Him and He will take care of us.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Winds of Change

A hint of fall is in the air… Cooler days, trees bursting with brilliant colors, pumpkins set out on front stoops, scarecrows and cornucopia decorations hung on doors. The other night, the temperature dipped into the forties and the next morning I heard a spiced Chai Latte from Starbucks calling my name on my way to work. Yes, it won’t be long now before my favorite season arrives.

It's the season during which we got engaged and planned most of our wedding- I can't believe that was five years ago now! The season of big comfy sweaters, the premiere of new tv programs, Sunday afternoon football, freshly baked apple pies, Thanksgiving and… sickness! It never fails. Every year during that transition from summer to fall, I get struck down with that nasty little bug known as the common cold. I started feeling it coming on Thursday night with the sore throat and then all day Friday I felt like absolute crapola. The only thing I wanted to do was go home, put on my pajamas and crawl into bed.

After work I took some cold medicine, wrapped myself up in a blanket on the couch and flipped on the tv. My awesome husband ran to the store to get me some soup and half an hour later, brought me a piping hot bowl of chicken noodle, a piece of bread and a glass of soda. Then he brought me a pillow so I could lie down because I was starting to feel dizzy. I fell asleep shortly after 8, then woke up around 11 and dragged myself on upstairs. This morning I stayed in bed until almost 10! And my sweet husband again took care of me by making me breakfast and lunch. I really do appreciate all the pampering, don't get me wrong, but I'm one of those people that doesn't like to just sit on my behind and have someone wait on me when I'm sick. I feel like a lazy bum and guilty that someone else is doing all this work for me. I actually kept apologizing to Gregg for being sick!

He had to leave around 2:30 today to take care of sound & stuff for a mass choir event at church and he'll be gone until 9 or so. I hate that he has to work tonight, but I'm pretty much useless today anyway sitting here all stuffed up with Kleenex strewn all about me. Yes, I am so attractive right now. Ha, ha. Well, I'm resigned to watching bad tv for the next several hours and eating food I can't taste.

This past week at work, I spent training the new guy who's replacing me and transferring my cases over to him. It is weird having someone "shadow" me. I know he needs to learn the program, but it's like somebody's always reading over my shoulder. Oh well, just three more days before I start my new job and then I become the one who's reading over somebody's shoulder.

No real news to report on the car front. The insurance companies are still dead locked over the claim. Gregg's taking the X-Terra in for an inspection at a Geico-approved collision site to see how much the damages will cost on the 27th, which will be exactly one month since the accident happened. I couldn't bring it sooner because it would have necessitated taking the entire morning off from work, but now that I'll be working right here in Chambersburg Gregg can drop me off at my job and take the car. Geico said that they'd pay for the repairs minus our deductible and try to recoup the payment later from the other insurance company, but I don't want to take that chance especially when the accident was clearly not my fault. Thankfully, the X-Terra is driveable without the running board and while the car doesn't look very pretty it's not like stuff is hanging off of it or the bumper's missing.

Gregg's poison sumac cleared up completely last week and he looks like himself again! He was almost unrecognizable. He's still itchy in some spots, but it's a huge improvement from what it was. We've been avoiding the field behind our house since the incident.

Tomorrow Gregg's parents are stopping by on their way back from a wedding in Virginia and taking us out to dinner. It's always nice when they drop in for a visit. They'll probably have a ton of photos of our niece, Katelyn, to share. I'm really lucky that I got great in-laws and I actually enjoy spending time with them! Hopefully I'll be feeling better by then. I hate being sick. :(

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"The Time Has Come..."

Well, I must say that if I could have bottled up last weekend in a jar, I would have. Only I can't so encapuslating it here on my blog will have to do. I love weekends to begin with because it means I don't have to work, but this past one was an extra bonus since we had Monday off for Labor Day.

On Saturday, we went to the mall and looked around & had lunch there. Seriously the Chambersburg Mall leaves a lot to be desired, but it was still fun. The rest of the day we just spent relaxing at home, and I perused some websites to find styles of dresses I liked for my sister's wedding. She finally set the date- July 19, 2008 (a week before my 29th birthday)- and selected the church & reception site. She is letting the girls in her bridal party choose their own dress, as long as it's the same color and relatively the same length.

Sunday we were at church all morning, of course. In the afternoon after lunch, we took a drive to do some exploring of the area and ended up in the mountains. At one point we got out of the car to take in the view. I'd forgotten how much I missed the wooded outdoors living in Florida, where the highest point is the causeway that goes over the river! We must have spent nearly two hours driving through the mountain and came out on the other side nearly 20 miles away from Chambersburg. We made our way back to town and stopped for ice cream at C.R. Bucks, which in addition to being a short order restaurant and creamery, is also a mini-golf course, playground and white-tailed deer attraction. After we finished our ice cream, we took a walk around the back of the building to look at the deer who were enclosed in their natural habitat by a tall wire fence.

On Monday after stopping at Sheetz for bagels and coffee, we picked up charcoal for our picnic we were having later that day at Walmart. At home I packed up hamburgers, chicken, salad, rolls, drinks and utensils in our insulated Thermos backpack and Gregg put grilling tools and other stuff in another bag. We put Tess in the back of the SUV, along with jackets and our collapseable chairs, and headed off to Bear Valley State Park. It took a while to get a nice hot fire going in the BBQ pit, so in the meantime I spread out a blanket on our table and set it with plates, condiments and stuff . Gregg let Tess run around off the leash, which she loved, until she spotted a Boxer with its owner a hundred feet away and went tearing after it. The weather was just perfect and after eating, we sat in our comfy chairs by the fire with Doggie by our feet. We were reluctant to go, but it was getting late so we packed up all our stuff and headed home.

We had to give Tess a bath when we got back because she had been playing in the brook and in the dirt. Afterwards we took showers ourselves and snuggled on the couch together watching tv. The whole weekend I tried to put work out of my mind because I didn't want it to interfere with being able to relax and enjoy myself. I had been really struggling at my job, to the point where I didn't want to get up in the mornings and go. I was becoming sick and tired of driving 40 minutes to get there, being so far away from home and filling up my gas tank again nearly every other day, not to mention the clients and administration that were sucking the life out of me. I couldn't stand the constant cussing both from the clients and my employees either. Many nights I came home from work in tears, so stressed that I couldn't even make dinner. It was not a good situation, but I wanted to hold out and see if things got any better when the center hired a new clinical services director.

They, in fact, got worse. The first week he was there, he called me into his office to say that the rate they were paying me was too high for my position in a program that was losing money quickly since the state found itself in a financial crisis and placed a temprpoary freeze on our funding. They weren't going to lower my pay, but he suggested I consider moving into another position within the agency that they hadn't been able to fill. It required me to have my social work license, so I would need to study for the exam and shell out $275 to take it. It sounded up front like a much better job than the one I'm currently doing, but I soon found out that the girl who was in it before only lasted a month and I wasn't guaranteed a pay increase if I did happen to get my license.

A week ago Steve, the director, met me in the parking lot on my way back from a meeting and told me that the program was tanking big time and he had made the decision to move one of my staff to another position in the next three days, leaving me with all of her clients. I nearly sank into a puddle right then and there. I was having trouble with the ones I already had because a large amount of them are just are irresponsible and manipulative. And I was trying to run the program at the same time, too. That was the last straw. I turned in my resignation on Friday after accepting a position at another agency the previous day.

I'll be starting at Family Care Services on the 20th, which is a foster care and adoption agency literally three minutes from our house. To make things even better, my direct supervisor attends King Street Church and there are four other employees who go there as well. Within a month or so, I can even begin working from home because I get paid by the caseload I have and not by how many hours I'm at the office. I'll also be making more than I am right now at The Mental Health Center and we'll save about $3,000 a year in gas since I won't be traveling 20 miles back and forth to work 5 days a week. Gregg was very happy I got this other job because he sees how much the job I'm at now wears me down. It was definitely time to leave!

So I'll be spending the next week and a half transferring my cases and getting all my charts in order for the next person. I'm looking forward to working around the corner from my house and having more time to spend with my husband since I won't have to get up at the butt crack of dawn anymore and come home so late in the evening. Ironically, last week's sermon was on how to respond to difficult work situations. One of the points was that you can get out but only as God leads and in His timing. I sent in my cover letter and resume to Family Care on August 29 not even knowing if they had an opening. I had prayed "God, I don't think I have the experience that would qualify me for a job here", and I heard Him say back to me "You just send in your information, and I'll take care of the rest". And He did! God is awesome. :)

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Okay ew, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post. You’ll have to forgive me because even though since we moved we don’t have snail-slow dialup anymore, we don’t have high-speed installed at our townhouse yet. We’ve been connecting to the internet using Gregg’s Verizon blackberry thing (yes, I am SO technologically hip!) And August was… well here’s a recap:

On the 1st, we moved from the Stouffer mansion into our townhouse. Actually, Gregg moved with the help of two men from church while I was at work all day. I left that morning from one house and arrived home to another. There was still a good amount of stuff left at the Stouffer's though, so we spent the next few nights bringing the rest over and took that Saturday to clean the part of the house we had stayed in. We unpacked here and there for the next two weeks I think, before all of the essentials were in their place.

Gregg also installed a new video projection system at King Street somewhere in there, both in the sanctuary and in the Baker Center (which is a multi-purpose facility used for the contemporary service on Sunday mornings). Several nights after work I would go to the church and hang out for a while, then go out with him and Brian, the head of maintenance who was helping him, for dinner. Gregg spent many late nights on the project, but we made the best of it and benefited Cracker Barrel, Pizza Hut and China Buffet in the process.

On the 13th, Gregg also turned his truck back in. The lease matured on the 10th so he drove it one last time to the Nissan dealership close to our house and had me come pick him up. We've been sharing the X-Terra since then, which means that we ride to work together in the mornings and I swing by the church on my way home to get him. We don't have the car payment anymore and our gas & insurance have gone down which is a huge cost savings every month. But, let's just say it's a good thing that King Street is right on my way to work.

In the middle of the month, we also got our furbaby back! Gregg's parents brought us Tess and she was estatic to see me and Gregg. I was afraid that she wouldn't remember us. She's adjusted pretty well to her new environment and routine, and she has also calmed down a lot from when my in-laws took her to New Jersey in April. We needed to get in the habit of walking her a few times a day, since we don't have a fenced-in backyard that we can just let her run around in like we did in Florida. We have a very nice neighborhood, though, to do that in and have met other people walking their dogs.

We finished out the month with two scenarios that were rather unpleasant. In one week, I got into a car accident on my way to work and Gregg contracted poison sumac. Last Monday morning, right after I had dropped Gregg off at the church, I made a left turn from King Street onto Main and was hit from the passenger side by a teenager on his way to his first day of school. He was making a right and swung wide into my lane. The good thing is that no one was injured and it happened right in front of the church office. Gregg came out and told me not to move my car, which later helped in proving to the police that the accident was not my fault. The car was driveable away from the scene, but I was shaken up pretty bad afterwards so I just took the day off from work. I spent the next several days talking to our insurance company and the other guy's, giving my statement of what happened.

Even though the officer who arrived after the accident deemed that it was the other person's fault, his insurance company is not accepting liability. They didn't even have an adjustor come out and look at my car to inspect the damage. They wanted to have this kid's father go out and take pictures to send them. He showed up at the church office one day to ask if he could do this, figuring that the car was in Chambersburg, and my husband informed him that it was parked at my workplace forty minutes away in Hagerstown, MD. While he was there, he said how his son is now claiming that I was somehow in the right hand lane which I never was and that I pushed his car!? So now our insurance co. is going to bat for us (thank you, Geico!) and we'll see what happens. I am beyond frustrated with the situation, but I'm praying some good will come of it.

On top of this, Gregg started developing a blotchy rash on his face and other parts of his body over Sunday night which became a little worse on Monday. The next day his face was pretty swollen and when I went to pick him from work on Tuesday, he could barely open his left eye. He figured he was having an allergic reaction to the new Vanilla scented trash bags we had gotten from Walmart the previous week since he is allergic to many dyes and fragrances (yes, my husband is allergic to clean!) I threw them out that night. In the morning, he woke up, went into the bathroom and came back saying "I need to go to the doctor". That's when I knew it was really bad because he never goes to the doctor. Even when he had the worst case of food poisoning two years ago, he wouldn't let me take him to the emergency room.

This time, his face had swelled so bad he couldn't open either one of his eyes. I took one look at him and said "That's no reaction from Vanilla!" We practically said at the same time "This has to be Poison Oak" because that's exactly what it looked like. I ended up taking another day off work. I called the church administrator to let him know that Gregg would not be in that day and to ask for a recommendation for a doctor. He ended up suggesting someone that actually goes to King Street, who, he said he would go to if he didn't already have a family physician. So we called as soon as their office opened and made an apppintment for 9:10. The doctor was great and diagnosed the problem right away- dermatitus from a poisonous plant. Whether that be oak or sumac we're not sure, but we are certain how he got it: on Sunday afternoon Gregg was out in the field some yards away from our unit throwing sticks for the dog to play with. There was a big pile of them laying there, and as soon as he touched his face after throwing one he was infected.

After leaving the doctor's, we went straight to the pharmacy to pick up the medication that was prescribed and I spent the rest of the day taking care of my husband. Fun week, I tell ya. I'm so glad it's a three day weekend, and we get tomorrow off for Labor Day! Gregg and I are planning on going to the lake on the PA/MD border with Tess and enjoying the afternoon. We need a day of R&R after this crazy week.

So that was August in review. I'm looking forward to the beginning of fall. Seeing the leaves change colors and feeling the cool, crisp Autumn air again- things I used to take for granted but missed so much while we were living in Florida. Suddenly I'm inspired to bake an apple or pumpkin pie, mmm.

Happy Labor Day!