The View from the Porch Swing

Sit a spell, kick your shoes off...we'll chat about life and love and God and all the things that matter most.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Off to a "Great" Start

Looks like the computer is going to let me play today, so thought I'd tell you about the first morning of school.

1. It rained.

2. I got to work early so I'd have plenty of time to get my stuff situated on the bus and do my pre-trip check.

3. My boss didn't get to work early.

4. My high school run has a lot more kids this year. They are sitting three to a seat in many cases. They are not happy.

5. We were 10 minutes late getting to the school....because the kids were being snots about letting other kids sit with them. It was intimidating for the 6th graders on their first day.

6. There are about 20 less kids on my elementary run this year. Nice, as the elementary kids are the hardest to control. They tend to be hyper and loud all the time. The high school kids just have "moments."

7. I lost air pressure for the air brakes on my bus half way through the elementary run.

8. It took 15 minutes for another bus to come pick up the kids and finish my run (I didn't get to see half my kids yet).

9. It took an hour for the mechanics to come.

10. I got back to the garage an hour and a half late.

And that's only half the day! I can hardly wait to see what this afternoon brings. :oP

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Still Here

Nothing much to say today, but I wanted to let you all know I'm still here....hanging on by a mouse cord (rather than a thread).

It's hot today. And humid. Hot and humid. The kind of day when doing nothing makes you break a sweat. It's too hot to do anything. So, what have we been doing? Yard work. It needed done and the kids and I head back to school tomorrow so the labor pool will be greatly reduced. I feel ready for the morning. The yard is spruced up, papers are filled out and lying in piles on the table for the kids, clothes have been chosen (and approved) and await, lunch money has been counted out, all my bus forms, charts and information sheets are organized and filed in my notebook. Before bed I'll set the table for breakfast since I leave just as the kids are waking up. Yeah, I'm ready.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

FYI

My computer is acting like it's grinding down to die (again). I just wanted to give you all a heads up in case I disappear. If it comes to that, I don't know how long I'll be gone. We need a new computer, but it isn't one of our highest priorities right now.....and I'm not sure that I'll come back to blogging even with a new computer. If I do, the time I spend at it will be greatly reduced. I've really been feeling like I need to get away from it. I've saved everyone's addresses, though, so I'll always be able to find ya!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Meltdown

Megan had another one of her "spells" yesterday where she becomes more and more manic/hyper/agitated. During these times she will do what she wants and any attempts to stop her result in a meltdown to rival Chernobyl. That is definitely what happened last evening.

I told the kids to warm up leftovers for dinner because the refrigerator was full of them. Megan got it into her head that she was not eating anything in the refrigerator. She wanted Ramen noodles instead. I explained to her that she was not going to cook something else, because the food in the frig needed to be eaten....besides, she'd had Ramen the day before and I ended up dumping most of it in the disposal.

KABOOM!!

Megan ranted and screamed and it went downhill fast from there. At one point I was guarding the backdoor and Matt was at the frontdoor to keep her from leaving. She wasn't running away, she said. She'd just packed her things and was going to a friend's for the night. Riiiight.

I said all the good mommy things about how much I love her (and had it thrown back in my face) and eventually she calmed down. It had nothing at all to do with my parenting skills. She simply ran out of steam. Through it all she blamed me for her behavior. If I'd just given in and let her have the stupid noodles, she said, she wouldn't have acted like that. She is always saying things about how I say or do things that I know are going to make her mad and how I should just not do them.

So is it me? Am I the problem? Is she really out of control? Or does she act like this on purpose to push me to the brink and get what she wants?

I read Psalm 127 & 128 this morning and they say that children are a gift from God (I agree). The author of the accompanying devotion said that means if we want to do our best with them we have to be in a close relationship with God. I'm working on that. I try to be faithful and make decisions based on the Bible, but it sure doesn't seem to make any difference. My beautiful daughter is so full of ugly stuff like hurt, anger, hate and rage. Where on earth is it coming from? Why can't I make it go away?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Getting back in the swing...

and I don't mean the porch swing. With only 4 days left until school starts, I'm trying to get back on the schedule of early to rise and early to bed. Made it to bed by 11:00 last night and was up at 7:30 this morning. Not bad, it's the best I've done in weeks, but I've got to do better. Starting Monday, I'll be getting up at 4:30 with Tim so I can be at work by 6:15.

Orientation for work was this week. I'm one of the lucky ones. I still have both my elementary and high school bus runs. There are just a few new kids and stops to add. Many of the runs changed a lot this year or drivers had to swap one of them with another driver because of the shrinking student body in the district. For the school to get all of its government reimbursement money all of the runs have to have roughly the same amount of kids. Even though it may mean some runs are incredibly short and others very long the government wants the same amount of kids (roughly) on each bus. That might work now at the beginning of the year, but hello.....during the school year kids transfer on and off the buses like crazy. The counts change from week to week sometimes.

The other big change this year is security/privacy. Each year we're given a thick packet of papers that include a list of bus stops and times, the students who get on at the stops, all the personal info for each student (including medical/emotional info if it could affect the bus ride), discipline slips, boarding passes, and this year with the advent of all-day kindergarden it also includes list of people approved to pick up the kindergarden child. In the past, route sheets and student lists were kept out handy where we could get at them. This year they gave us a manilla envelope and told us everything of a personal nature must be kept inside and out of sight. Maybe it's just me, but I'd think it would be more effective camouflage if it didn't have a great big sticker on the front that says "Confidential Material Enclosed." If some pervert or parent (that happened last year) is out to abduct a child and is rifling through the papers on the bus, don't you think they might suspect what they're looking for is there? Anywhooo...that's our great security change. That and no more reading a student's phone number over the radio to the office when there is no one waiting for the child. The office will now have all that information on its end so no pervert can pick it up on a scanner. Never mind that it will make life much easier for the drivers, who used to have to pull their bus over and dig through papers to find the kid's number and read it to the office.

Grumping about changes aside, I'm ready to go back. Driving a school bus is a great part-time job. It gives me time home during the day and I'm here for my kids in the evening, on the weekends, holidays and vacations. Short of going back to school and getting a teaching degree, what else will give me that? Oh, ok, I forgot about lunch lady, but I've tried that. It is so not for me. I also like all the contact with the kids. Believe it or not, driving a school bus can be a great ministry. I'm with those kids every day, year after year. I have more chances to have some influence on them than anyone else in the school system. Don't let anyone kid you, that all a bus driver does is drive. That may be true in some places but in our district we are a major part of the program and have a lot of responsibility and freedom when it comes to handling problems. We have to be a disiplinarian, a teacher, a psychologist, an arbitrator, a friend, a detective, tough as nails, tender and understanding, part entertainer.....and we have to do it all while driving down the road in a 40ft. school bus with 50 or more kids behind our backs (and people wonder how a driver can not know when something awful is happening in the back)!

So, Monday morning say a prayer for everyone going back to school, including the bus drivers.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

'Tis an honor

I finished reading "A Wife After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George last week. It was so good and there was so much in it that I needed to learn that I just couldn't take my time. I tried to limit myself to one chapter a day. Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not. I'd just be like, oh wow, what she had to say about family was so amazing, I've just got to know what she says about finances...NOW!

I tried to apply what I was reading as I went along, but there is too much stuff to absorb it all at once or even to put something into practice at the speed I went through. So, now I am going back through it again, really thinking about the passages I highlighted the first time and at the end of each chapter George gives a list of very practical and doable exercises to help the reader begin applying what was just read about to marriage and life. I'm going to spend several days on each chapter this time through. I need at least that much time for the exercises to begin to be ingrained in my life.

The second chapter is about becoming and working as a team and is the chapter I'm currently digging into. This chapter clearly spells out the God-given roles of a husband and wife in marriage. It's nice to have guidelines spelled out and know what is expected. I'm the kind of person who needs that so I can refer back to it again and again. Back to the book, much of this chapter centers on the need for a wife to respect her husband. A lot of the other stuff will flow naturally out of this. Unfortunately, even though women are commanded to respect their husbands, it very often isn't something that comes naturally. And maybe in our casual society, it isn't even a skill that is taught in the family (just watch an episode of the Simpsons or even how the neighbor kids talk to their parents). Everyone craves it, demands it, even, but do we really know what it is? George's exercises at the end of chapter 2 offer a pretty good picture of the attitude behind respect.

TO DO:
1. Diligently thank and praise your husband for the things he does that fulfill his God-given role as head of the family-be specific.
2. Ask your husband two questions every day:
*What can I do for you today?
*How can I help you make better use of your time today?
3. Think of one fun thing to do with your husband this week...
AND DO IT! Let him know you value his company.

DO NOT:
1. Look away from him when he is talking. Look in his eyes. Focus on him and what he is saying.
2. Interrupt him.
3. Tell him to do things. ASK him.
4. Make negative comments about him when you are talking to others.

The motivation to apply these suggestions? They are all things that will build up a husband's confidence and encourage him to do better and anything that helps him be a better husband and leader of the family benefits and blesses the wife in the long run.

What constantly amazes me is how much depends on the wife fulfilling her role. She is the keystone, the glue, of the marriage and family, holding it all together. A man has many responsibilities, too, but not quite the pivitol role the woman has. That God trusts women with so much responsibility surely proves the great esteem in which He holds women. I don't know that I have ever before thanked God for making me a woman, but that is exactly how I am feeling this morning...grateful.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Jungle Rooms and Building Bridges

Megan's room is finally finished. Her furniture is back in her room...and out of the livingroom...and Matt's room...and the hall...and the bathroom.

It turned out very nice and Meg is thrilled with it. She went from having a room that was a mish-mash of whatever had collected over the span of her life to something that looks like a finished product from Trading Spaces or as she says, the prettiest room in the house. Hmmm...based on that assessment guess I need to do some more fixing up around here.

She chose a jungle theme. I went with a slightly more sophisticated take, sort of a colonial India look, in the hope that she won't grow out of it right away. The walls are Lion's Mane gold with allspice glaze sponged over it (the rag rolling didn't work out). It looks kind of like distressed leather or parchment. She got new shelves and lamps that have animal prints and bead accents. I also put new framed prints of jungle animals up with metal sconces shaped like palm trees. New area rugs with palm trees are on the floor. A mosquito net hangs over the bed and a paper lantern hangs from the ceiling near the bookshelves. As a surprise I bought frames for Meg's prized Legolas (the elf from LOTR) posters and hung them today, along with an awesome drawing she did of a monkey this past year in school.

Tim and I went to the funeral home tonight. The mother of an elder from our old church's mother passed away. At one time we were good friends with the man and his family. Then the church politics got in the way and he and Tim came down on opposite sides of the issue. Tim hadn't seen him since right after Christmas and I hadn't seen him since February. It was kind of emotional going tonight. Tim never hesitated about going and he's been saying that he needed to talk with the man for a couple of months now, but it just never happened. Anyway, the long talk is still to come, but he and Tim shared a big hug (I got one, too) and a few laughs and at least now they both know the door is open and that any anger has passed.

The Steeler Game

Awesome! Club seats are definitely the way to go...

Except for the fact that I will probably never be able to afford to plunk down the $200 in change each ticket cost on my own, so I am doomed to depend on the charity of others, who, finding themselves unable to attend a game for which they hold tickets, must find some deserving soul to bestow them on...

The luxury! We had to go through three seperate security gates to reach Club East where both our tickets and our wrists were stamped. Showing of both stamps was required for re-entry. One simply wouldn't do. Then the doors were opened and we were waved in to football heaven. The lounge ran the entire side of the stadium and was air conditioned. There were leather sofas, tables and chairs, a pool table, a big screen television, only one gift shop, several fully stocked bars, the usual food counters and chef's stations serving catered food items. Seats were out through glass doors. We were above the field level seats so had a clear view of the whole field, but close enough to not need binoculars. We were on the 35 yard line.

The game was great. The Steelers won 38-3. Kind of makes up for the last time they played Houston at home and lost 24-3 (or something like that), which was extremely embarassing because Houston set an NFL record that game for least offensive yards ever gained in a victory...47!

The fans, or at least some of them, left a lot to be desired. Tailgate parties are the norm before Steeler games and fans arrive hours before a game. Beer and mixed drinks are a major part of the party scene (a person has to literally pick their way through the empties to reach the stadium) and once inside, the $6/cup cost doesn't seem to slow anyone down. Behavior is not exactly exemplary. Among the things we were privileged to see...two arrests for what, we don't know; a young man urinating over the side of a bridge directly onto a walkway below, and receiving high-fives from passing motorists; a drunk puking over the railing in the nosebleed section onto a woman at the end of the row in our section; and a young "lady" engaged in a rather nasty argument which she apparently believed could be won by flashing her breasts repeatedly. No, can't say it's a place I want to take my kids. Too bad. They'd enjoy the game. Maybe when they're adults.

Nearly Forgot to Mention: One very cool thing that happened. During halftime, PNC bank presented its annual Joe Greene Excellent Performance award to one of the previous season's rookies. The young man who received it graciously thanked the bank who gives the award first, then turned to face the cameras and said all thanks was due to Jesus, who gave the greatest gift of all...eternal life. Way cool.

Friday, August 20, 2004

You have got to be kidding me...

I can not believe the weird things I have to deal with sometimes and usually late at night or very early in the morning.

Scooby was scooting his dish around the kitchen just now. His not so subtle way of letting me know it's empty and he would like it filled, please. Now! So, out to the kitchen I trudge and just as I bend over and reach for the dish I notice...

Little black dots. Little black dots on the floor. Little black dots in the dogs' food dish. Little black dots in their water dish. Little black dots are everywhere!

What on earth are these little black dots?

The little black dots seem to be congregated around my Angel Trumpet plant. Hmmmm, a quick inspection of the plant reveals new chew holes in several leaves and two leaves completely gone but for the stem. Who, or more probably, what, could be eating my plant?

An inspection of the plant turned up nothing...until I lifted the very last leaf. Hanging there and happily munching away was the biggest, fuzziest, white caterpillar I've ever seen. The mystery was solved. The little black dots are....

caterpillar poop.

Fuzzy...I called him Fuzzy...got a spritzing with the first pesticide I came to under the kitchen sink and then was plucked from his leafy perch and tossed to a watery grave where he went out with a whoosh. And I...I swept up all telltale signs of Fuzzy and whooshed them off, too.

Only in my life does one have to deal with caterpillar poop at midnight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Painting the town red.

Or at least my daughter's bedroom Lion's Mane Gold. Actually, I'm not doing too well at that either.

I applied primer to the walls first, just like I always do. It went on nicely and covered all the flaws. Nice.

Not so nice...for some reason we bought oil-based primer rather than latex. Oil-based paints don't clean up with water. Did you know that? I didn't. Or at least I didn't think about it until I tried to clean up the brushes, rollers and me. All water did was make the stuff "puff up" and smear all over. Thankfully, Tim was home and heard me squawking and came to the rescue with a can of lighter fluid (we own no turpentine) which I pretty much had to bathe in. Yuck!

The whole mess would have bummed me out if Tim hadn't come home with an absolutely amazing surprise. The client he's working with at the moment gave him two tickets to this Saturday's Pittsburgh Steeler game. Against Houston. Box seats. $200 a pop box seats (I'm still hyperventilating). Tim's dad's birthday party is Saturday, too, but it's a night game so it works out for us to do both. Woooohoooo!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Congratulations are in order.

"Hope," who used to be a part of the youth group at our old church called me tonight. To tell me she is engaged to be married. She is 18. Under normal circumstances I'd probably advise caution for someone of that age, but I am rejoicing without reservation for this one.

I was "Hope's" youth leader from the time she was old enough to participate in youth group right up until we left the church this past winter. Her family situation has been "difficult" and quite often she, herself was difficult. I have sat up many nights listening to her, counseling her, lending a shoulder to cry on, praying for her, crying over her. We have clashed bitterly and made-up joyfully. I have tried to counsel her family, too. Basically, I loved "Hope" and poured everything I had into her. Last year I thought I'd lost her. Then the stuff at the church happened and I knew I'd lost her for sure.

Then "Hope's" mother got sick. Deathly sick. Literally. For months, we did not think Mom would make it. It made "Hope" grow up. During the same time John entered her life. He is some little bit older than her and a solid Christian. He has given her a stability she was missing and guided her back to her upbringing. When I sent her a card and gift for graduation she replied with the kind of words we youth workers so seldom hear. She said "thank you" and told me just how much I'd meant to her over the years and gave me credit for inspiring her to want to be a teacher. She said she wanted to make a difference in kids' lives just like I did. It is so humbling to know God was able to use me to accomplish something in this girl's life. Anyway, I think she's got her head on straight and that this is a good thing for her, so....

Congratulations "Hope"!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

It's all down hill from here...

...or so they tell me. Today's my birthday. My (gulp) 40th birthday. Popular wisdom says I'm officially over the hill now. Hmmmph! The pedaling should get easier from here on out.

Actually, I'm looking forward to this second half of my life. It's a new phase as the children grow up, finances are more secure, Tim and I have more direction and hopefully with 40 years of experience under my belt, I'll be heading into the next 40 with a lot more wisdom and experience than I had the first 40.

I'm fine with being 40. Just hold on for a second while I take something for my aching joints, brush my gray hair, lace up my orthopedic shoes, clean my glasses (as soon as I find them), get my teeth out of the glass, turn up my hearing aid.......

Now what was it I was getting ready for?

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Two Things...

First, the ring.

A few years back I purchased a ring during a youth event. It wasn't much of a ring as rings go. Just a thin sterling silver band, part of which was formed by the cut out letters J-E-S-U-S. I wore the ring every day. It never came off my finger. It wasn't really a witnessing tool, though it did start a few conversations with other Christians. It definitely wasn't much of a fashion statement. What it was, and why I wore it, was a reminder. A reminder that Jesus was always with me. I have a habit of twisting any ring I wear so it was a good reminder. I noticed it several times a day.

Then came the implosion at our old church. As the situation progressed so did my level of personal pain. I felt very much alone, abandoned by God. In my head, I knew that wasn't so, but my heart was so bruised I couldn't feel the truth. I didn't stop believing in God or reject him, but I was mad at him. I took the ring off.

I don't want to rehash the last few months, suffice to say that I've been going through a healing process. Today when I opened my jewelery box to get a pair of earrings I saw the ring. I picked it up and held it, turning it over and over before sliding it on my finger. I'm wearing the ring again. It's time.

Second, stepping back into youth ministry.

I attended a meeting of youth leaders at our new church tonight. I haven't been there long enough to teach or lead (I have another month to go), but I can help out. It was exciting to sit and share ministry ideas again. I have missed it. I have missed being with the kids.

My concerns about getting sucked in too deeply are unfounded. I forget I attend a very large church now. Where I have been used to going it alone or with only a youth/associate pastor no matter how many kids were in the group, I am now going to be a part of a team. There were 10 of us tonight....and that was just the volunteers to work with the jr. high kids! I never gave up on the kids I worked with but I did give up on the ministry when I couldn't get one other person to lift a finger and help me. I burnt out. Big time. It feels so good to be excited about it again.

Homemaking for Dummies

This morning I read the chapter in "A Wife After God's Own Heart" on keeping a home. I needed this chapter. I used to be a lot better at it, but then along came my ever growing involvement in youth ministry (and ministry in general) and then a real job (as in one that actually pays). I've gotten pretty lax about the whole thing over the years. The basics always manage to get taken care of, but the extras that make a house a home have grown more and more neglected.

I don't think I ever realized just how much God expects of a woman when it comes to taking care of her home. Sure I've read about the Proverbs 31 woman. Lots of times. And like many women, I've found her example rather daunting. How on earth can one woman do all that? Yet, that is what God expects. A woman is supposed to build her home, watch over her home, manage her home and keep her home....and she's supposed to throw herself into it whole-heartedly! Of course God provides the answer. We can read in the Bible that the godly woman "does not eat the bread of idleness." She isn't lazy. There isn't room in her life for shallow, unproductive activities. She's on assignment from God and gives her all-her every minute-to building her home.

It still seems kinda tough to me, but Elizabeth George offers some very simple and practical advice that shouldn't be too hard to apply:

1. Be content to stay at home. The more a woman is out of the home, the more she is likely to be drawn away from her God-given role.

2. Don't waste time on frivolous things. I'd ad, watch how much time you spend on anything that doesn't directly play a part in fulfilling your mission.

3. Learn how to manage your time. Make to-do lists, use planners and calendars, read books on the subject, ask more mature Christian women, make weekly meal plans.

4. Keep a daily log of how much time you spend on homemaking. It will reveal where you stand.

5. Work on your attitude. God has given you this work. Bring him glory.

6. Learn to do what you don't know how to do.

It doesn't seem so hard when you look at it in smaller chunks like that. George gave one other piece of advice that I think will end up being my mantra:

MOVE. DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING. WHETHER YOU FEEL LIKE IT OR NOT. SOMETHING DONE IS BETTER THAN NOTHING, NO MATTER HOW SMALL.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It's a great morning to be alive. The weather is perfect...sunny, gentle breeze and a temperature hovering somewhere midway between cool and sweltering. It feels much like an early June morning when summer is just beginning to take hold rather than the last sweltering dog days of the season.

I got up and pulled the plug on the air conditioning and opened the windows. The house could use a good airing out and it's nice to be able to hear the sounds of summer...the songs of birds, the crowing of my rooster, the lawnmower across the street, the shouts and laughter of kids racing past, bike wheels whirring and the rustle of leaves being tickled by the breeze. Or it would be nice to hear all that if Matt wasn't playing his drums. He just got them back home after having them at our old church for about two months. I think he missed them. He's been playing for hours on end the last couple of days. Good thing I like drums. Ok, I admit that after a while it gets very annoying but I'm trying to be patient. He thinks he's rusty and he's trying to get in a lot of practicing before the youth pastor plugs him into the youth worship band. He's not bad and he's completely self-taught. He can't read a lick of music.

Anywhoo....I've done my First Place bible study and read another chapter in "A Wife After God's Own Heart." Much to process on the subjects of gentleness and (ugh) finances. More to come on those later. I love starting my day with God and have to watch because I can be a little bit unflexible about it, but it just seems to set the tone for the rest of the day and I like having all that good stuff to ponder. As soon as I'm done here I'm going to finish making a list of my youth ministry library to give to the youth pastor. I told him he was welcome to use anything I have so I guess it'd be nice if knew what I have. Then it's up to my mom's garage. We set up all the tables and loaded them up with junk, I mean treasure, for the garage sale we're having Friday and Saturday. I have to start putting prices on all of it today. I'm hoping for good weather and lots of customers. I'll haggle on anything. I don't want to bring this stuff back into the house or have to deal with hauling it away to the thrift store.

Good thing I'm keeping busy or I'd be missing Tim something awful and probably getting pretty crabby about it. He is building a car wash this week and only has this week to get it done! He got home at 9:00 Monday and at 10:00 last night. He is tired but enjoying the challenge. He's like that about work. Matt and I are trying to talk him into applying to be on Discovery Channel's Monster House show. We think he'd be great at it. He is getting along well with the owner and his wife, too. Sounds like they are becoming friends and they want us to join them in September for a tailgate party at Heinz Field and a Steeler game. That would be so cool! I love football and I haven't been to Heinz Field yet.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Mom's in a sappy mood.

I like my son. Really. I love him, but I really like him. As a person. We've been spending a lot of time together lately and I've enjoyed it. We like a lot of the same things. We have the same sense of humor. We can talk. About the serious stuff. It just hit me today as I was thinking about how much we've done in the last week, just the two of us, that I am truly blessed to have the kind of relationship I have with my 17-year-old son. It's rare and precious. We've hung out at Barnes & Noble reading and talking over frappucinos. We've hung out at the park, me reading while he fished. We've gone shopping. We've cooked meals together, watched movies, and worked side by side. Today we ran errands and went out to lunch. I am really going to miss him next year when he goes off to school.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Ch-ch-changes

It's been such a nice day. Sunny with a slight breeze and cool. It feels so much like Fall lately. We spent the day doing stuff around the house. Unfortunately, putting the liner in the pool still wasn't one of them. The weather is right and Tim has the time, but there's about 3 inches of water in the bottom from the last time it rained and the sand is all wet. Instead, we worked back and forth with my mom and stepfather getting things done at both homes. It reminded me so much of how it used to be when my dad was alive. I really enjoyed it and invited them to join us for supper. We all pulled together for that, too, and sat around the table talking for a good while.

Things around here have been more peaceful. I chalk that up to the changes I'm trying to make because of what I'm learning in my First Place study and from "A Wife After God's Own Heart." Both revolve around developing an on-going and growing relationship with the Lord and developing the fruit of the Spirit. I've been throwing a lot of energy into being more deliberate, more intentional, in my attempts to act more Christlike. God, knowing that I still need a lot of work in the areas of patience and faithfulness has brought about enough change for me to see and take hope in. I have been amazed by how much my own attitude and behavior influences others. Life with Megan has been so much more peaceful. She hasn't had a major blow up in 4 days! And when she does seem to be working up to one, I've been able to defuse it. My relationship with my mom is usually strained at best, but today we were able to, if not have a great mother/daughter relationship, then at least it was easy going and comfortable. Then there is Tim. I started out really biting my tongue and having to force myself to be positive and cheerful. Over the last few days, I've found that it seems to be coming more naturally and neither of us has been as grumpy.

Chapter 2 of "A Wife After God's Own Heart" clearly lays out the roles of a husband and wife in a marriage.

A husband is to: lead in his marriage and family, work and provide for his wife, and love his wife.

A wife is to: help her husband, submit to her husband, respect her husband and love her husband.

A wife has to be careful in how she follows God's plan. Some, who George calls "husband-watchers" neglect their own faithfulness to their assignment as wives and take on the self-appointed role of playing "Holy Spirit" in their husband's lives, pointing out faults and shortcomings under the guise of helping them change/improve. I have to admit, this is me. I don't mean Tim any harm or ill-will. When I tell him things, it's because I honestly care and want him to be the best he can be. God's helped me to see that Tim doesn't see it that way at all and I'be been keeping my mouth shut, really biting my tongue at times, and giving it over to God. It may still bug me, but the peace with Tim is worth it and as the days go by, things aren't bothering me as much.

Daily commitments from this chapter:

1. Thank your husband for living out his roles. Even if he isn't, keep watching for how he does show his love and thank him for it.

2. Ask your husband how you can help. Every day ask two questions: "What can I do for you today?" and "What can I do to help you make better use of your time today?"

3. Show greater respect for your husband.

4. Think of a way the two of you can have fun this week.

5. Pray to follow God's plan for a wife.

6. Seek out another woman as a mentor.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

A Wife After God's Own Heart

Tim and I have been going through one of the valleys in our marriage for a while now. Actually, this one seems more like the Grand Canyon. In my own hurt and frustration I want to blame him and all his shortcomings. It can't be me! Look at how he's acting. Of course, I know that isn't true no matter how much I wish it were so. It's a lot more comfortable to blame someone else than to examine your own faults.

Fortunately, God isn't concerned with my comfort. He's concerned with my spiritual health and growth as a member of his family. He wants the very best he has to offer to be mine and he is willing to work with me and get tough with me when I need it. Lately, he and I have been working on this whole wife thing. I didn't have any examples of Godly wives in my life growing up. Coming into marriage I really didn't have any idea of how a healthy marriage should work or what my part in it should be. Still, things went along fine for quite a while. About year 10 we began to experience rough patches that went beyond minor little tiffs. At some point along the way, I realized neither Tim or I knew how to work things out so that they didn't come back to haunt us over and over. Disney has its Haunted Mansion, ours is the Haunted Marriage where old hurts and arguments return over and over never to rest in peace.

At various times I have cried, ranted, begged, suggested counseling, raged and nagged among other things. Nothing worked. Nothing I do will ever work. This is a truth I'm coming to terms with. The only things I can do that will make any difference are 1)pray and 2)change myself. Since I can't change Tim (that's up to him and God) what I can do is change how I act, and more importantly, react to his behavior.

In chapter one of "A Wife After God's Own Heart," Elizabeth George reminds that we wives must begin anything by putting first things first. We shouldn't worry over daily concerns, but rather "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt 6:33). What a simple Christian truth and the one our lives should be based on, but how easily we forget it.

God expects us to seek him first and foremost and he expects us to continue to seek him daily...to grow in the Lord. This we do by reading his Word and learning more about him and his standards for living our lives, by studying the Bible and praying to understand what God is saying to us, and by doing through obedience what we have read and learned. We can never be satisfied with our spiritual condition for when we are, we will stop growing. It is the heart that desires to know God more intimately that is soft, responsive to God and will grow in the Lord.

As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, our behavior will change. We will become more Christlike as God's Word and our obedience work together to change us. As our behavior changes, our relationships with our husbands will change (this actually will apply to all relationships). As we put more and more godly practices into place we'll become better wives. We'll manifest more of God's love, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness. We'll be meeker, more gentle and have more self-control. Of course these changes are going to make a difference in your relationships (especially the most intimate one) and bless us and others. Our husbands will be more appreciative of us.

George gives these daily assignments:

1. Read your Bible every day...at least one chapter.

2. Pray for your husband 3 times every day....first thing in the morning, at lunch and right before he comes home.

3. Plan to go to church every week....it sets your personal church wheels in motion. If your husband won't go, it's okay. Just be friendly and relaxed and go yourself. God will work on his heart. You just keep praying.

4. Join a Bible class or study....to take care of your own spiritual growth.

5. Purchase or borrow a Christian book....by spending just 15 minutes a day, you can read 25 books a year.

6. Write a letter of commitment to God....on paper pour out our desire to grow spiritually. Save it. Refer to it often.

Like Barnes & Noble.....Only Better

This morning I went to the mall while Megan was at VBS. I was just going to sit at the food court and read or maybe wander about looking at all of the things I'd buy if I actually had money to spend. Then I remembered Matt telling me the Christian book store had moved and that I needed to check out all the improvements they'd made. Woo-hoo! It's awesome! It has all the perks of Barnes & Noble (cafe, couches, atmosphere, music, etc) and it's Christian. I'm sure I'll be spending a lot more time there when I go to the mall.

Today I went in looking for a book on healing from church inflicted wounds either for Tim to read or for me to read and try to gleen something from to help him with the healing process. I didn't find anything. Instead, God in his wisdom lead me to purchase "A Wife After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George. I read the first chapter sitting in the store and what a co-inky-dink...it blends right into what I'm doing in the First Place study and what God is working on in me. Imagine that! I think I'm really going to enjoy this book and get a lot from it so if you don't mind, I think I'll be sharing it with you as I go along.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Just an Ordinary Day

It was crazy hair day at VBS. I wish I had a digital camera so you could have seen Megan's style. She pulled her hair back in a ponytail except for a section on each side of her face that she braided. On top, she wore the neon blue hairband with matching blue ponytails sprouting from the top and decorated with tinsel of the same color mixed with silver. Too funny. Any-hoo, rather than spend my third morning in a row at Barnes & Noble I took Matt to Twin Lakes. I sat nearby and read while he fished.

The youth pastor caught up with me when we picked Megan up. We haven't crossed paths in over a month due to either him or us being away. He let me know there is a jr. high youth leader's meeting next week and asked me to come. By his calculations I still have a month and a half to go before I can actually lead or teach, but he still wants me to start getting involved by coming to meetings and events so I can get to know the other leaders and the kids and get a feel for the program. I'm excited about getting back into the game, nervous, too. I need to go slow, evaluate and set some basic limits early on.

Just been hanging out the rest of the day. Did some laundry, read, played Parchesi with the kids (it rained a lot this afternoon) and cooked a big supper. Ordinary.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

100 Years of the Banana Split

In 1904, David Strickler was working in Tassell's Pharmacy right here in Latrobe when he was experimenting at the soda fountain and created a treat featuring a banana cut length-wise, ice cream, chocolate syrup, marshmallow, nuts, whipped cream and a cherry and called it a "Banana Split." It sold for 10 cents and a boy wanting to impress and treat his best girl right would always include a stop at the soda fountain for a banana split...with two spoons, of course. To hold the splits, Strickler commissioned Westmoreland Glass, in nearby Grapeville, to create the banana split boat. In 1905, the boats sold for $1.50 a dozen. The company produced them up until 1984.

Strickler told his story to the producers of the television show "I've Got a Secret" in 1958. He never appeared on the show, but later, his name was used as an answer on "Jeopardy" as well as in Trivial Pursuit.

Authentic Banana Split
1. One banana, split length-wise
2. Strawberry ice cream, one scoop
3. Chocolate ice cream, one scoop
4. Vanilla ice cream, one scoop
5. Whipped cream
6. Cherry
7. Sauces (chocolate, strawberry and pineapple)

*In bowling, when the 1,2,3,4 and 7 pins are left standing it's called a "banana split."

*Lucille Ball was once fired from a job as a soda jerk because she forgot to put the banana in a banana split.

*The world's largest banana split was built in 1992 in Brisbane, Australia, measuring 4.7 miles in length.

Banana Split Hot Cocoa
Mix 2 1/2 cups milk, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup sugar, one-quarter of a sliced banana and one tablespoon of strawberry jam in a blender until smooth. Pour into saucepan, stir over medium heat. Pour into mug, top with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, chopped nuts and a cherry.

Thus ends today's history lesson.

Monday, August 02, 2004

It's been a great day.

Megan had to be at the church by 9:30 this morning for the VBS kick-off. The theme is Treasures of the Nile II and you should see the decorations. I don't know who made them, but it is sure someone with a lot of talent. The sanctuary looks like an Egyptian palace! It's amazing. Megan had a good time and got to know a couple of girls better. The session was nearly 3 hours long but with living 30-40 minutes away from the church I didn't want to drive all the way home so Matt and I went to Barnes & Noble after Megan was settled. We had a wonderful time browsing and then sitting and reading over frappucinos.

Tim was already home when we got back. Delays are keeping him from starting his next project so he had something to build for work and just decided to do it at home. He also finally got around to putting up the big flag pole my mom bought him for his birthday back in December.

Tonight the pastor came to visit us. He is such a nice man and so different from what we've been used to the last few years. It meant so much to have a pastor sit and really listen to what we had to say and actually care about us. In talking about the situation that made us leave our old church, Tim broke down and Pastor Dail did a wonderful job of counseling him. Tim is beginning to heal, but he still has a way to go and though he likes the church we're at now and plans to stay there, he's still a bit wary and it's going to take some time yet for him. Still, as soon as a membership class is offered that we can fit into our schedule, we're going to take it to really learn about the church, its beliefs and how it works. Tim isn't ready to join, but I am. That old familiar tug to serve is back and it's time for me to become a functioning part of God's family again. Kind of neat, that Pastor Dail shared with us a very long list of pastors and lay leaders who are currently attending the church having been deeply wounded in another church. He said we've all said the same thing....that there is just something about the church that makes us feel safe, that it is a place where we can rest and recover and be ministered to. He told us that he has a real burden for pastors and leaders who are wounded in the church (having been there himself). Apparently that comes through loud and clear even if those of us who need it don't recognize it at first.

I guess there really wasn't a point. I'm just marveling out loud over Pastor Dail. It's been far too long since we've had a pastor we trusted enough to talk honestly with or one that actually cared and took the time to minister to us.

Yep, it's been a great day.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

On the soapbox....just this once.

I don't usually comment on politics. It isn't that I'm not interested or that I don't have opinions, I just feel it's an area better left to the pundits. However, I couldn't pass on it today. I'm in the position of one, living in the state John Kerry so desperately wants to identify himself with and both candidates need to win, and two, my local paper just happens to be the Tribune-Review. You know it, it's the "left-wing rag" that employs Colin McNickle as its editorial page editor. You know him, too. He's the guy Teresa Heinz Kerry told to "shove it."

McNickle's final article from Boston was featured on the editorial page today. In it he told what he has been going through since the incident. Heinz Kerry has said that he tried to "trap" her and has publically maligned his personal and professional integrity. Kerry, himself, called his wife's actions appropriate. Patti Labelle said Heinz Kerry should have "pimp-slapped" him. Michael Moore called him "rude." He's been accused of having a long-running fued with Heinz Kerry and even of grabbing Heinz Kerry. McNickle's been verbally assaulted on the street, on national television and in the national press. His e-mails and phone messages are filled with expletive filled curses from Kerry supporters and a good number of death threats....which will be forwarded to the senders' hometown police departments. A daughter, back home in Pittsburgh, was reduced to tears when a woman called the family's home pretending to be a reporter seeking an interview then launched into a filthy tirade. This was made possible by a Kerry supporter who posted McNickle's home address and phone number on the response part of his convention blog.

Shame on you, Mrs. Heinz Kerry for your own behavior following your call for a return to civility. Shame on you, too, for not calling for your supporters to behave themselves, but if you can't even control yourself.... I'm afraid I must agree with McNickle's brother's assement of the situation; "The liberal definition of a 'strong woman' is one who abuses anyone who asks a question she doesn't want to answer."

Colin McNickle's question still remains unanswered, but my view of Mrs. Heinz Kerry as a self-serving manipulator has solidified. Can you tell me what a billionaire heiress knows about life in the real world?

Of Mr. Kerry? He passed through southwestern Pennsylvania yesterday, stopping in Greensburg. A reported 10,000 people waited in the pouring rain to hear him speak. Among them was the mother of a Navy physician who fought the crowds to make her way to Kerry's side and tearfully beg him to "bring our troops home." She told the Trib, "He didn't say anything."

It's telling, don't you think that two days ago Kerry stopped at a Wendy's here in PA and spoke with some Marines that were having lunch. The Marines were less than thrilled and reportedly got rather curt with Mr. Kerry and barely paid him any attention until he slunk back to his bus. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney visited with Marines at Camp Pendleton and received a resounding "hoo-yah" from the troops for his comments on the war. I don't know about you, but I'd rather our military men have a commander-in-chief that they can respect and will feel good about following.

John and Teresa, maybe you had better look to those nasty Republicans, George W. Bush in particular, for an example of honesty and integrity in action. If you don't mean it and aren't going to live it, don't say it!

Are you ready for some football?

The Pittsburgh Steelers arrived at St. Vincent College yesterday. Training camp opened this afternoon. The craziness and traffic jams begin.

We may not wear cheese on our heads, but this is serious football country.