Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Above the Clouds

We made it back to Baltimore safe and sound on a very uneventful flight which is the best kind to have!! I jumped back into life in some ways because tomorrow my brother and nephew are coming to visit for a few days and the apartment needed cleaning. We'll hang around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point some, go to DC for a day, and cap off the visit with an exciting game of baseball as the Red Sox come into town to play the Orioles. It will be a fun visit for them.

I also had two friends call me today and they've booked a flight to come visit in early September. I realize it seems like all we do is travel or have someone come see us, but I'm OK with that. :) I keep thinking that I need to settle into a routine here but I'm beginning to suspect that this is my routine now. I always said I wanted to travel more. Be careful what you wish for, right? It just seems like it's going to be unavoidable if I want to see my kids and my friends, so I'm becoming very adept at researching fares.

On our flight home, AirTran gave us a card for free internet to promote the fact that their flights all give you that option now. Hamp used his time wisely by checking e-mails from work and I occupied myself for a while by taking pictures out of the window. I've seen it done before by others and I wanted to try it. I've always been fascinated by life outside of an airplane window. Sometimes you go through bumps and jerks as you travel through the clouds, but when you get above them, the sky is blue and the clouds are just more of God's awesome creation. Having that picture in my mind helps me sometimes when life is bumpy or cold or stormy. Even though I can't see it, the sun is just on the other side of the clouds and it's bright and serene. In case you don't have a picture in your mind to help you with that visual, I'll share a few that I took.

These remind me of Colossians 3:1-4 so I'll close by sharing those with you. Have a good week and I'll be back with pictures from my brother's visit in a day or so.

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fun times!

Yes, that's me 35 years ago. Those were our nametags last night for the main reunion and we had a lot of fun. It was funny to watch the same thing happen to everyone as they arrived and began to circulate through the room. This was the process - Step one: walk up to former classmate and look at nametag. Step two: look at face and see if that person is still there somewhere. Step three: recognition comes, for some sooner than others. Step four: say "HI!!" and hug your old/new friend.

Our graduating class had a little over 200 people in it and most of us had met in one of three elementary schools and grew up together. Obviously, by the time we got to high school, differences in personalities, extracurricular activities, friend choices, etc. largely determined our circle of friends. It was a bit strange to realize that the room we were in was filled with those who have known us almost our whole lives.

I actually ended up not taking many pictures because one of our classmates was doing a great job with a great camera and he's going to be sending them to me on a CD in a couple of weeks. We'll all have to wait until then to get a photographic record of the evening. I did take a few that I can share with you now.

This is part of the reunion committee that did an incredible job planning everything and finding so many of our classmates. I didn't get to be much of a help because by the time the bulk of the work needed to be done, I was moving to Baltimore and not very available. If anybody needs any sleuthing done, this is the group to call!

What's fun about living basically where you grew up is that former lives intersect present life in ways you don't expect. My friend, Bart, has children who went through Harrison when I was working there so we've had fun seeing each other in the past several years on occasion. His wife and Hamp entertained themselves throughout the evening by watching all of us.

As you can imagine, there was a much greater variety of shapes and sizes present last night than 35 years ago. I was in drill team my junior and senior years and earlier in the day my mom had given me a picture she'd found from a pre-season picture session. On one of the tables that had been set up with memorabilia, there was a drill team uniform and while not the same one I was wearing in the picture, I had proof I am definitely not the same person I was then!

We had some missing classmates because they had passed away, some due to family conflicts, some because they couldn't be located, and some because they just didn't want to come. I understand that feeling because at times in my life I've not wanted to look back and either accept or embrace parts of who I was. As I've said before, I'm realizing more and more that we can't subdivide ourselves into parts and keep only the ones that were good or positive. To quote Steven Curtis Chapman, "We are who and where and what we are for now, and this is the only moment we can do anything about". As I prepare to head back to Baltimore to a still uncertain future with mostly unknowns, I'm taking with me newly accepted parts of myself that were enhanced by many of those I spent this weekend with and for that I am thankful.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Reunion Weekend!

Good Friday morning to you! I awakened in a recently redone room in my friend's house in Kennesaw to the sight of lots of trees outside the window. I miss being able to see trees that aren't just in front of a building or lining a sidewalk. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for those too, but there's just something refreshing about a nature-filled vista as one of your first sites of the day.

Well, this is the weekend so many have worked on for a long time to pull together. This evening I'll be getting together with a lot of former classmates from high school that either live nearby or will come into town today. Tomorrow night is actually the reunion. I will have lots of pictures from the weekend, I'm sure, but I also hope to find some of my pictures from high school that I can scan so you can appreciate the before and after look. At this point, I think most of us are just glad to have made it this far!!

I forgot to thank those of you who added on as followers to my blog. I know it might seem silly, but it helps to know that people are reading and staying caught up which makes me feel connected now that we live so far away.

Today is mostly just going to be for running errands since I know where everything is around here. Tomorrow is mostly filled with reunion activities, so it may take a day or two to pass along some pictures. I have a feeling it will be worth the wait!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

To Be Continued

Greetings from the friendly skies somewhere over the eastern United States! As I type this, Hamp and I are winging our way toward Atlanta for my 35th high school reunion weekend. (For the record, AirTran does have wi-fi on board flights now, but I’m typing this in Word and will copy it into my blog later. I figure since we upgraded to business class to eliminate luggage fees, we should save on the connection fee. Dave Ramsey would be proud!)

Combined with the events of the last few days in Baltimore with City Uprising, heading home to reconnect with part of my past life is resulting in lots of pondering for me. I’m obviously not the same person that graduated from Campbell High School in 1974 anymore. In fact, I’ve been many different people since then with each phase adding to the tapestry that makes me who I am today. There have been times in my life that I didn’t want anything to do with my past, choosing instead to pretend it didn’t matter anymore. But as time has gone by, I've realized that my whole being is made up of many parts and until I can embrace my story and love who I am because of it, I don’t think moving forward is really possible. And really, my story isn’t the point anyway. God has been writing His story before time ever began and the good news is that He’s invited us to be part of it. I lose that perspective often, but when I take time to remember that truth, I can let the people, experiences, and events that are no longer part of my life wander throughout my heart knowing that they did matter to me. Yes, sometimes it hurts and sometimes I smile, but slowly I’m beginning to have a clue that it’s what makes me who I am and that it’s OK.

Today is a day like that and I am thankful for the grace in my yesterdays, the peace for today, and for the joy in anticipating what God has ahead. And that’s what makes my story one that is to be continued.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just Kidding....

So sorry it's been several days since I've written anything. Sometimes there are just no words. A week ago, I felt like things were settling down a bit and today nothing feels that way. I'll try to explain.

As you know, a new job for Hamp is what brought us to Baltimore last fall. We knew that Ellis and Ginger were here and had started a church and honestly, we might not have agreed to come had that not been the case. We know the importance of the body of Christ and the community that is necessary for healthy living. But nothing could have prepared us for the drastic change that living in the middle of a city brings. When a missionary friend of mine likened it to culture shock experienced by those who go to foreign countries, I knew she had expressed it perfectly.

Because we didn't come as part of the church plant, we didn't have the benefit of City Living 101 and have had to learn as we live out each day. Seeing such stark needs in areas of education, social stigmas, and living conditions has been an eye-opening experience for this middle-aged, middle class, white southern girl. I've been humbled, embarrassed, and convicted most days of my ignorance and prejudices. This is not a bad thing, but it's been hard for me to find joy in the midst of being overwhelmed a lot of the time.

All of this brings us to the last couple of days for Gallery Church in Baltimore. The goal was to put faces, hands, and hearts into the community with the main focus being an HIV testing day. As I've been reminded, the church has ignored this epidemic badly, but the good news is that some are beginning to get involved. Early diagnosis can result in treatment that could save lives, thus the need for testing.

Our main meeting place has been in a church that's around 160 years old. The first day we were there, this image captured my attention and I realized it was the perfect illustration of what I've been living.

At first glance, it appears to be a regular stained glass window that you would see in any church in any location. Only as you get closer do you see the contrast between the hope represented in God's beauty and the sobering reality of life in the city.

That's not the reflection of a fence in the background of the window; it's the bars attached on the outside for safety purposes.

And that is my life - outside my door there's a boat-filled harbor beckoning me for a walk around the edge, gelato to be eaten, and more restaurants than I can count. A few blocks away there's poverty, homelessness, dirt, and despair. God is in both places and loves all who dwell there. I just wonder how I fit.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Settling In

I don't really have anything specific to share today, so this is going to be a random smattering of things. One thing I would like to know is why does my cat lick plastic bags?? She has done this for as long as I can remember and when I'm at the computer (which is on a desk because our apartment is allergic to wireless connectivity) there's a small trash can underneath it. No matter how many times Kit has been fussed at and shooed away, she always comes back to lay at my feet and try to get away with licking the plastic trash bag. I would just like to know why.

Life is beginning to settle into a bit of a routine and will move more that direction soon. I'm going to start helping out at the Gallery Church office which will serve a two-fold purpose. One, they need the help and two, I need something to do. It is very odd to live in a place and know without a doubt that wherever you go and whatever you do there is no way you're going to run into somebody you know. Being in a work environment will broaden my life a bit and that's never a bad thing.

Speaking of broadening my life, we discovered a gelato shop only a couple of blocks from our apartment this week. The people we've known through the years that have been to Italy and raved about this amazing concoction have all been right - it's awesome and addicting!! My favorite flavors so far are the strawberry and chocolate.

One of the things that Hamp and I are enjoying is getting to know Ellis and Ginger better and their two children. Lauren is 10 and Caleb is 6 and they bring much laughter and joy to our hearts when we get to spend time with them. Earlier this week, they came for dinner and spent the night and we had fun being "grandparents". Lauren made brownies for us and Hamp taught Caleb how to tie a fly so he and his dad could go fly-fishing sometime.

Things are going well for Hamp at work. There was a bit of a question for a while as to whether the company would keep the Baltimore plant open, but it appears they've made a commitment for now. Of course, in this economy that's good news, but sometimes I still long to go "home". Yet, I know God has us here for this season and while I don't know how long it will last, I know that we need to "be here now". If I'm being honest, it's much easier to type the words than to live them sometimes.

Before I end this, I have a request. If you read my blog on a regular basis and haven't signed up to be a follower, would you consider doing so? It helps me know who's keeping up with us and that's all it does. I know it can be intimidating to comment and while I mostly do this for myself, it is encouraging to know that we're not forgotten. The world has changed so much in recent years with all the new technology and while we're more connected on surface levels, I fear we're ultimately losing touch with those we truly care about. If you're just not comfortable doing that, then keep checking in with us and give me a call instead!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm Losing My Marbles

Good Sunday afternoon! It's quiet here today as we've sent Mark back to GA and Hamp is doing some carpentry work at the church office. It's nice not to have something pressing to do and I'm trying not to nap so I can go to bed earlier and get back on some kind of schedule.

If you pay much attention to my blog layout, you'll notice that I changed the picture of me and Hamp on the side. Yes, we're in orange Orioles shirts. (Have you ever noticed that most people look terrible in orange?) We haven't defected as Braves fans, but since we're living in Baltimore and they play in Atlanta, we've had to make some concessions if we want to see a baseball game. I have to say it's more fun to go to a game in Baltimore because we take the water taxi to the Inner Harbor and only have to walk a few blocks and we're there. We either reverse the route after the game or just walk the almost 2 miles back home. Whichever way we choose, it's much faster than trying to get out of Turner Field and battling interstate traffic for many miles. We took Mark to the game on Friday and got a few pictures of our adventure.

It was the first time we had ridden the water taxi at night and that was a lot of fun. I just try not to think about how disgusting it would be if we ever ended up in the harbor water for any reason. I'm not sure there's much actual water in it and I don't want to know what's there instead.

So about my lost marbles...yesterday evening at church, the guest pastor was talking about living intentionally, which is something God keeps bringing before me on a regular basis. He explained how we can give ourselves a more realistic view of life and our choices by putting marbles in a jar for whatever you want it to represent. He used the example of counting up how many Saturdays a dad would have left before his child graduates from high school. You would do the math, put that many marbles in the jar, and each Saturday take one out and place in another jar. After a while, there would be visible proof of the passing time and that father would know if he was investing it wisely and deliberately in his child's life.

As he moved on, I found myself wondering just how many weeks I would have left if I lived to be 75 years old. For math's sake, I rounded up to my birthday which is in October and came up with 1,144 weeks. While that sounds like a lot of time, consider that at my present age, I've already lived 2,756 weeks. And that's when it was no longer just an illustration. What am I doing, really, with the time God has given me? Am I truly living to glorify Him no matter what circumstances come my way or is it mostly just about me? My pain, my loss, my misfortune...my, me, mine. My walk this morning consisted of mostly confession and repentance as I surrendered my will once again and asked God for His for my life. And I'll be looking for a place to put my jar of marbles that we'll be adding to the apartment very soon.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Capital Day!

I'm sure most of you know that Baltimore is only about an hour away from Washington, DC. Until we moved here, Tiffany and I were the only members of our family who had been there to visit. Recently, Michael got to go and now Hamp and Matthew are the lone holdouts. I'm hoping that will change soon and until then, I'm trying to learn the best way to show someone DC in a day. As you can imagine, that's a very daunting task and one I haven't come close to mastering.

Mark is here visiting for a few days and has never seen DC, so today we gave it the ole college try. I think the cab driver that took us to Union Station at the end of the day so we could catch the train back to Baltimore had the best idea - a tour bus! After walking at least 4 miles and only being able to see the monuments on the Washington Mall, we agreed that a bus where you could get on and off at various stops at your own pace would allow you to see other things like Arlington National Cemetery and Mount Vernon as well as have a bigger overview. You still need you walking shoes, but I think future visitors will thank our cabbie for his suggestion today.

Tomorrow afternoon we'll head to Camden Yards via the water taxi to see the Orioles play. I am now the proud owner of an orange Baltimore shirt that I will wear except when the Braves come in town. I'll leave you with some pictures from our trip to DC today. What you won't see is Mark riding his first train, first subway, and first taxi. Welcome to the city!

The Lincoln Memorial

From the top of the steps on the Lincoln Memorial looking toward the Washington Monument. If you look to the left, you'll see the Capitol Building in the distance.

The Jefferson Memorial

Timely words from the Roosevelt Memorial

The state of Florida represented in the World War II Memorial

Scenes from the Vietnam Memorial

Different views of the Washington Monument throughout the day

Here it is in the background of the national Christmas tree which for obvious reasons just looks like a tree right now.

It's hard to get a good picture in front of the White House anymore, but we tried.

We finally ended up near the Capitol Building but didn't have much time to see it well so we could catch the train we wanted.

If you haven't been to our nation's capital yet, we'd love to have you come visit and we'll go with you. It's very sobering to walk through the history we've read about in school knowing that as we walk, history is continually being made. Our country doesn't do everything well and we've made lots of mistakes. But for today, we still have freedom for the most part to live as we choose and worship the God under which our nation was founded. And for that I am thankful.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fireworks and Fatigue

Well, another holiday is over and a new week with the regular routine has begun. Only I'm thinking that with summer here, there's not much routine for most of us these days. Between vacations, travel, modified work hours, and projects to be done, there's not much that's normal in most of our worlds right now.

We did get to see some great fireworks with the Webb's on Saturday night and the best part was that afterward, we picked up our chairs and walked 5 minutes back to our apartment. No cars, no traffic, no late night - it was great!! We actually stayed in the Fells Point area where we live and while we couldn't hear the music, we were perfectly content to just see the fireworks and avoid the bigger crowd in the Inner Harbor.

They left Sunday morning to head to New York to meet their new granddaughter and we pretty much spent the day doing nothing. I realized that it was the first Sunday in a month that I hadn't been on the road driving for many hours. This picture of Kit pretty much sums up what the day looked like for us.

I'm still having a lot of trouble with my back and have actually spent the morning trying to find a chiropractor. Oh, the joys of living in a new place and knowing absolutely nothing about anything....

We have another friend coming in town tomorrow for a few days and then toward the end of the month, we head back to GA for my 35th high school reunion. And yes, we're flying!! It would have to be something pretty drastic to get me back in the car for a long drive anytime soon. Further calculations revealed that since I moved to Baltimore with Kit in early March, I've driven over 7100 miles up and down the eastern United States. Moves of our various family members took up about half of that, but there were 3 weddings, pipes to be replaced, and a house to pack up and leave that made up the rest. I actually enjoy driving and being alone with my thoughts, but this last trip from Atlanta to Baltimore was more than even I could handle. I'm sure being in pain made it much harder, but I lost all creativity in what to do with my time. I did become aware of a few things that I'll pass along, but I'm not sure how interesting they'll be to you.

Interstate 81 is by far the best way to travel north instead of 85/95. It's much more scenic which is helpful when you're tired of driving.

Most of the music from the 60's was sung very badly and out of key.

Pain from shattered dreams has no expiration date.

Chick-Fil-A has replaced McDonalds for interstate stops if you want a guaranteed clean bathroom.

Looking for the next rest stop where you can get out and stretch is a productive way to pass the miles.

Books on tape make me sleepy.

I don't like having my family spread out over 4 states.

XM radio is a great invention and hometown announcers of your favorite team are the best.

God has blessed us with reliable vehicles that I have taken for granted too often.

I'm ready for Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Charlie Hall, and Steven Curtis Chapman to come out with new CD's.

Chronic pain is no fun and I have taken my mostly good health for granted.

I miss having a place our family can call home.

And there you have it - a glimpse into my bouncy thoughts that encompass all extremes of the spectrum of life. As I begin to get resettled back into life here in Baltimore, I'm actually having to start thinking about holiday plans. When flying is how family members must travel and most of them have no extra money, we have to plan ahead for the best savings. It makes it a little harder to live in the moment, but it's a balancing act that is necessary.

Time to get the day moving a little faster than it has thus far. It's OK to leave a comment here and there to let me know that while out of sight, we're not out of mind. Well, maybe we are out of ours, but hopefully not yours!! Have a great week!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

This is just a quick post for now to let you know I actually made it all the way home on Thursday. I'm still recovering from a very complaining back and severe sleep deprivation. Both are improving daily, which is a good thing. We have friends that stopped by for a couple of days as they head to New York to meet their new granddaughter and niece. (Welcome Debbie, Johnny, and David!) I'm glad it worked out that way because I think today would have been hard for me to not have had any friends or family around after having been with family so much in the last 3 weeks. We used to have a huge cookout on the 4th and I'm finding holidays are the hardest time to be in a new place.

I'll catch you up in the next day or two with updates on our family and some of the ponderings I had on the VERY long drive back to Baltimore. I added it up last night and in the last 3 weeks, I drove 3,464 miles - give or take a few. No wonder my back hates me! Well, that along with lifting things too heavy for me.

Anyway, have a very happy 4th of July and take a minute to thank God for the freedom we still have in our country. I'm not sure that will always be the case.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Almost Home

I realized as I was typing the title to this post that home could actually be one of many places now. I am very ready to be back in Baltimore with Hamp and Kit, yet each of the places I've been in the last 3 weeks has a part of my heart in it. Boston, where Michael has one year left of seminary before he graduates; Atlanta, where Matthew will begin his 5th year of teaching at Harrison; and Orlando, where I've just left Tiffany to begin a new life yet again. And of course our extended family and friends are mostly in GA, so that will always be truly home for me.

In the traveling and moving that has been our family's life for the past two years, I've learned that I really don't care anymore where I actually live. I have preferences, but these experiences have taught me that God is everywhere and His people are everywhere and this world is not the end of the story. Getting too comfortable here is probably the worst thing that could happen to us and while difficult a lot of the time, I'm glad we've had the chance to learn that somewhat...even though we got a very late start!

I must get some sleep, but wanted to share a few pictures from the last week or so that I haven't been able to do before now.

I think I last left you with me and Tiffany arriving in GA. She put a post on her blog that has pictures from the few days we were here, so I'm being lazy and letting you check that out if you want to.

We loaded the UHaul on Saturday in the very hot weather. Actually, that's using the term "we" very loosely. We had amazing help and as I told them, I think I've used my friend favor quota for the rest of my life. Thanks so much to Bob, Richard, Johnny, David, Jack, and everyone else who pitched in to help make it possible. We couldn't have done it without you! This was before we really got started so there was a little mischief still going on.

It warmed up quickly and by the end of the day, we were more than a little tired.

I've learned a few things about moving since we've had so much practice and one of them is when it's time to go, you just need to go. So even though we were tired, Tiffany was getting sick, and we did not smell like delicate flowers, we pulled away around 5:00 Saturday afternoon. Nikki was our fearless leader driving the UHaul, I followed in Hamp's truck, and Tiffany brought up the caravan along with Ellie, the very unhappy wondercat.

Driving with a cat is much harder in the summertime because you can't really turn the car with the AC running off. So we sacrificed some conveniences along the way such as eating inside.

After stopping in Tifton for the night, we got up Sunday morning and continued south toward their final destination.

Upon arriving, more of God's crazy children weathered the heat to help get everything unloaded. Thanks, Jenn, Will, and friends for all your help and excitement in making everybody feel welcome.

Nikki had gone to Orlando a couple of weeks ago and found the apartment and it's in a great area, close to any kind of store you could need, and they would agree that the most important part is they're only 10 minutes from Disney World. You can see part of the fireworks from their balcony and that was an exciting discovery last night.

It rained most of the last couple of days, but I was able to get a couple of pictures of the view from their balcony and parking lot. This is what they see when they look out their living room.

And this is the western sky overlooking their parking lot. Yes, there's a power line running through the area, but you can't really see it until you go to your car.

As an added bonus, I got to visit my Aunt Jeanne and two of my cousins, Mike and Jack, who live in Titusville which is only an hour away. She's my mom's sister and I'm hoping to get to see them more as I go visit Tiffany.

That pretty much catches you up. As you can imagine, there's lots of adjusting for the girls as they finish getting settled and figure out where to find a job. But even in the chaos, they're excited to be living together for this next year and can't wait to see what God has planned for them. And poor Ellie...she's just not as young as she used to be and is taking a little longer to bounce back, but she'll be fine. Sometimes there's just nothing to do but collapse in a heap and take a nap.

And me? I'm back in GA for the night to hopefully get rested enough to make it the rest of the way to Baltimore tomorrow. "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home"!