For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to my latest contribution to the Speculative Faith blog:

We’ll be leaving soon for Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with the Cleveland-area relatives. Wishing you all a blessed holiday!

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Thanks 365 Anyway

175Some faithful readers (for whom I am thankful!) who’ve been following this blog since last fall might be familiar with the Thanks 365 page, which I started last Thanksgiving.

Feeling as if I was drowning in the waves of negativity and complaint that continually dowsed me from various sources, I resolved to record one thing I was thankful for each day, from Thanksgiving and thereafter for the next year.

It was a nice idea, but it turned out to be a turkey. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been thankful every day since then, but I got out of the habit of updating the page daily. Then I got so far behind, I gave it up as a lost cause.

I considered shutting it down to hide my failure, but I’ve decided to leave it up as a tribute to good intentions never followed through. I’m not sure what the purpose of that is, unless it’s to help me from becoming too full of myself. (Take that, you whiners–I’m better than you because I’m more grateful!)

No, I’m not “better” than the complainers, but I do believe I’m happier. Not because I’m more blessed, but because I appreciate my blessings. There are still plenty of things I take for granted, though, and too many times I forget to be grateful. I think we’d all benefit from marveling at our blessings and overlooking the aspects of our lives we don’t like, rather than the other way around.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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In Which I Learn to Listen (Kind Of)

file000993773265 When preparing to move from Ohio to Maryland, finding a church home was very much on my mind.

But you can’t know what churches are like until you visit them, and we never did any of our house-hunting on a weekend. So I trusted the Lord would lead me to the church He wanted me to be a part of after we got here.

Just as He did when we moved from Bedford to Jefferson, Ohio, in 1978.

My husband had a lot of work to do on the house before we moved in, and he did it on Sundays because that was the only day he had off from work. On one occasion I went with him. I don’t know how I managed it, because our oldest, Emily, was only about four months old at the time. I must have left her with Grandma for the day, because I doubt I would have brought her along. All I remember for sure was that it was a beautiful spring day. I was sitting outside in the sun enjoying a good book while Craig worked on plumbing in the house, doing something that apparently didn’t require my help, when a car came down the driveway.

A man got out and introduced himself as Wayne Montgomery, pastor of the Lenox Federated Church. He wanted to welcome us to the community and invite us to visit. I took the bulletin he handed me and told him we hadn’t moved in yet, but when we did, I’d keep the church in mind.

But for some reason, I resented his invitation. I didn’t trust the name “Federated” (what did that mean, anyway? Sounded a little wacko to me) and I didn’t intend to go; I preferred to go to a “real” church with a more respectable name. At the same time, I had the feeling I’d probably end up there eventually anyway.

After we moved in, I tried every church in town, but didn’t feel comfortable with any of them. We hadn’t been there very long before a neighbor stopped in to introduce herself, and she also invited me to Lenox Federated. I told her the pastor had invited me too, and I just might go sometime. But for a long time, I didn’t. I didn’t go anywhere.

I knew I needed to go to church, and on one level, I even wanted to. But that old nasty file0001745452295flesh made me resist stubbornly. What finally tipped the balance was the knowledge that our daughter was growing up without ever having had the experience of Sunday School. True, she wasn’t a year old yet, but still, it bothered me. She was my motivation for buckling down and getting myself to the church where I knew I belonged.

But wouldn’t you know it, the very weekend I made that decision, the car broke down and I had no way to get there. By that time, though, I’d made up my mind, and I wasn’t about to let a little thing like that get in the way. I called the neighbor who’d invited me and asked if Emily and I could hitch a ride with her family to church.

One visit was all it took. You know how, when you’re really thirsty, a drink of cool water is the most wonderful, life-giving thing in the world? That’s a little bit like what I felt that first week at Lenox Federated. Or rather, it was as if I’d been undernourished, and the preaching and fellowship was food to my soul.

When we moved from Jefferson to New Philadelphia, I once again knew right away where God wanted me to go to church, but again, I made up my mind I didn’t want to go there. That time, it took a swift kick to get me headed in the right direction. And again, it involved my oldest, Emily.

She wanted to go to First Baptist because she was in kindergarten at the Christian school there, and a lot of her friends went to FBC. I visited once and knew that’s where I belonged, but I hoped Craig would go to church with me, and concerning FBC, his words were: “It’s too big. I hate crowds. If I wanted to go out in a crowd, I’d go to a ball game, and you don’t see me going to ball games, either, do you?”

So I took myself and the kids (we had to girls by that time) to a different church. I liked it pretty much, and it wasn’t so huge that Craig found it intimidating. But he didn’t go with me anyway. So why was that a consideration?

One Sunday morning, I loaded up the kids into the car for church. (For the purposes of this story, you should know that the services started earlier there than they did at FBC.) Emily said she had a tummy ache. She was the sort of kid who frequently got tummy aches, but they usually passed quickly without amounting to anything, so I said, “We’ll see how you feel by the time we get to church.” The whole way there, she kept saying she didn’t feel good, and just as I pulled into the parking lot, she threw up. Yuck! I didn’t park, but left the lot and went home.

Back at the house, I saw she’d thrown up on a blanket I had in the back seat, and nothing but the blanket; there was not a drop on her or on her sister, nor on the car seat itself. Moreover, she said she was okay now and wanted to go back. Well, I hauled both kids into the house and examined them for damages, but they were both as clean as when we’d left the house. All the while, Emily kept insisting that she wanted to go to church.

FBCI looked at the clock and saw we had just enough time to go to First Baptist, so that’s what we did. Four-year-old Shelley, however, was a bit unsupportive of that decision. In fact, she screamed bloody murder. “I don’t want to go there! I hate it there!” But too bad. I’m a cruel mother.

Or, more accurately, I knew what I had to do.

After those two experiences, I never had any doubt about God having a church in mind for me in this area too. And I don’t want to be stubborn again – better to be responsive to the Spirit’s leading right away instead of being difficult, like that screaming 4-year-old.

But… here’s the thing: Cumberland has some really old, awesome church buildings, and for the past decade, ever since we’ve been traveling from Ohio to Virginia to visit Shelley & Scott, I’ve admired those churches from a distance. So, now that I’m living in the area, I should visit them, right? Even though I know none of them are the right church for me?

Last week I was so discombobulated after the late-Saturday move-in that I didn’t have the energy.  So this was, for all practical purposes, my first opportunity to look for a church.

I’d already made up my mind (without consulting God) that the first one I’d visit would be the oldest, niftiest building in town. Emmanuel Episcopal, built in the mid-1800s upon the remains of the old Fort Cumberland (at which George Washington stopped in his ramblings through the wilderness in 1754). It’s an amazing old building with a lot of history, and I’d never visited an Episcopal church before. How could I not avail myself of this opportunity?

So that’s where I went yesterday morning. The experience was, um, educational, though distressingly un-inspirational. As I drove home afterward, I realized it had been a shameful waste of time. God brought me to this area for a reason, and that reason was surely not so I could be a mere spectator. I should be looking for the place where He wants me to serve.

As it happens, a few days ago I saw something in the newspaper about a Baptist church in nearby Frostburg that was hosting a group of students from Appalachian Bible College for Eckharta special event. The blurb caught my eye because I’m passingly familiar with that school. In fact, I think the youth group at First Baptist used to go to church camp there some years back. I’d never heard of Eckhart Baptist Church before, but Frostburg isn’t far, so I checked out their website. Looks promising! In fact, their Mission Statement is very much like the Mission Statement of FBC. And the church is only about five miles from our house.

I’m not saying I’ll end up joining Eckhart Baptist, but I do plan to visit there next week. In fact, I’m so excited about it I can hardly wait until Sunday!

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Honey, I’m Home!

frontOur move is finally accomplished!

It’s been a lot of work, but looking back on it, we had no serious problems, just the usual aggravation.

The truck came to load up our things on Thursday rather than Wednesday as we’d arranged, and delivered the furniture on Saturday (again, delayed). But the important thing is, it got here safe and sound. Moreover, the weather was perfect (unlike our last move, which coincided with a major snowstorm).

The photo above was taken by the listing agent last November when the house first went on the market. It still looks the same, so I didn’t bother to take a new pic. As you can see, we have some work to do in the yard in the way of clearing out overgrown trees and shrubs. But Craig likes having things to do, and this place offers plenty of projects, indoors and out.

As I said, our stuff was delivered on Saturday — and it didn’t arrive until 3:45 pm. And not until after the driver called to tell us he was lost because his GPS quit on him all of a sudden. We had to go looking for him, which was a little weird, but fortunately, though we weren’t sure where he was from his description because we don’t know the area very well yet, we found him quickly. Once he got the truck turned around, he followed us. But when we turned onto our road, he didn’t follow. Argh! So we had to go chasing after him.

Once they finally got here, the movers began unloading about 4 pm and were finished in time for us to get some supper at a nearby Mexican restaurant at about 9:15. (“Us” meaning just Craig and me — we didn’t invite the movers).

Then on Sunday, we went to Reston to deliver our bunk beds to our daughter’s family. It was the shortest trip we’ve ever taken there — but of course, our proximity to their house was the reason we moved here to begin with. We drove there, ate lunch, unloaded the beds and set them up, played with the kids for a while, then went home to get back to our unpacking.

By this evening, we’ve made an encouraging dent in the mess. The bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchen are in pretty good shape. But the office, living room and dining room are still utter chaos, as you can see from the following pics.

The office
The office

However, we got our TV and internet service hooked up today, so this evening, Craig and I can sit in the mess and veg out in front of our respective screens. (In Craig’s case, conk out. As I sit here in the kitchen, I hear him snoring in the living room.)

As you can see from the picture of the office, I wasn’t kidding about it being utter chaos. Are you wondering what that little door is at the top of the wall? We’re wondering too. We opened it to take a look, and there’s nothing in it. I’m not sure what the purpose is, but since you need a ladder to use it, I doubt we’ll ever put anything in it.

living room
living room

The living room and dining room are more or less the same room, so you can see furniture from both in this shot. About all we’ve done there yet is set up the TV and clear a little spot on the sofa so Craig can watch it.

We’re going to do a complete kitchen remodel in a couple weeks. In the meantime, though, I’ve gotten the basic stuff unpacked and stowed in the cabinets so I can use the kitchen. Because I’m keeping a lot of kitchen things in their boxes and stashing them in the basement until I get my new cabinets, it was relatively easy to get the kitchen organized.

kitchenI don’t think I told you about the kitchen table. That is to say, I told some of you about it individually, but I don’t believe I blogged about it. So here’s the story: about 75 years ago, my grandmother sawed the lower part of the legs off her drop-leaf dining table in order to use it as an occasional table. (As I understand it, this was a sudden whim, and something that did not please her husband.) The table eventually went from my grandparents’ home to my parents’, and now to ours. The finish was all messed up but it was still good and sturdy.

Because our new house is a little ranch-style place with a small kitchen, there’s not much kitchen tableroom for a table. So we thought it might be fun to replace the legs on that old table, paint it, and use it for our kitchen. We did just that, and here’s the result. With one leaf extended and one dropped, it’s a perfect fit.

As you can see from the MacBook on the table, until the desk in my office is reassembled, I’m using the table as a computer desk. [Deb Gardner: are you out there? Do you see your gift hanging on the wall?]

See that floor? It’s carpet. And I think the carpet’s been there since 1970. Looking at these pictures, you don’t need to wonder why we’re redoing the kitchen right away.

I’m not wild about the kitchen, but I do like the table, and the house, and the neighborhood, and the town. I’m tempted to call our new home state Merryland.

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