Friday, July 30, 2010

FC3 Was the Place to Be!!

I'm barely awake pecking at my keyboard since, over the past six days, I may have slept an average of 6.5 hours per night.  That would be just fine if I had not also been playing soccer, floor hockey, softball, tennis, volleyball, climbing a rock wall, hiking, horseback riding, and scaring myself silly on a high ropes course (no matter which of the forty-eight contiguous states you reside in, I'm certain you heard me scream on my way down the zip line in the pitch blackness).

We were at Family Camp III at Camp Hebron for our sixth year.  While there are certainly a variety of fun activities from sun up to well past sun down, that isn't what keeps us coming back.  It's the people and the relationships that result after a week of basically living, playing, eating, learning and sharing together like family. 

This is also a place to do some reflecting.  To take a step back from the "busy-ness" of life and focus more on God and family. I usually experience some revelation about myself that I can easily mask (or, try to) when surrounded by the distractions of the normal day-to-day. Whether it be an ability, a gift or a character flaw, this is the place to discover it! There is something appealing to me and completely liberating about walking that high ropes course fighting the fear, yet determined to make it.  Then, there is the loss of control when I push myself off the platform and TRUST that the harness is going to keep me safe as I free fall into darkness. It reminds me every time I'm sitting up there...I can wait to drop off the edge for thirty seconds or thirty minutes, but in either case the outcome is the same. The ride is exhilarating and most importantly, safe.  Reminds me a little bit of following after God's heart...we can trust Him now or later.  Why wait?

I have some new goals and a few things I'm praying about. One major burden was lifted off of me this week. I'm not going to try to figure out everything for the future.  I am never really at rest...I'm usually trying to figure out what happens next.  God's timing is perfect and when I worry about tomorrow (or next week, month or year), it makes today difficult to enjoy.  It can really drain the joy right out of me if I don't trust that God has a plan for me and my family.

If you have never been to a Family Camp and you want to be refreshed, please check out Camp Hebron's website.  You won't be fact, it might just be life changing!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hangin' With My Home Girls

This past weekend I headed out to Seven Springs Resort to meet up with some gal pals that I go wayyyy back with...decades back, in fact!  We are all forty (or, will be soon) and we had been planning our "Girls Weekend" since January.  My friends, Cookie Mama (who I met in kindergarten and was my maid of honor), TP Queen, Vanilla J, and Crafty Lady rented a lovely 3-bedroom townhouse with a hot tub that we didn't use and no air conditioning (surprise!).  By the way, names have been changed to protect the innocent.  They all know who they are!

I wasn't sure if I would actually make it to the actual townhouse, since upon exiting the turnpike Friday evening, I drove into a parade taking place in honor of Somerset's 100th birthday (I think).  There is nothing that says adventure like being lost in a town you have never been to before, trying to find an alternate route.  With no GPS or cell phone coverage.  Ironically enough, it reminded of half of my road trips while back in high school.  In a strange twist of fate, TP Queen had been cruising the metropolis of Somerset earlier that day trying to get a tire to replace the flat she got on the way there the day before (and, because she has all- wheel drive, ended up buying four new tires! Happy Birthday to her!).  Since she has been to Seven Springs before to ski and around town tire shopping at Dumbauld's Tire Service (that name, however, was not changed to protect the innocent because we cracked up everytime we said it), she was able to give me some alternate directions in short 20-second segments until my cell phone dropped each call.  By the grace of God, I finally made it.

We had a blast.  I laughed so hard I cried and we stayed up to the wee hours eating cheese, fruit, bruscetta, and most importantly, Cookie Mama's world famous chocolate chip cookies that none of us have ever been able to replicate, even though she has given us the recipe.  She must add magic to them.  Or, opium, because once you start eating them, it is hard to stop.

On our last night we enjoyed a nice dinner out (despite poor Vanilla J not enjoying very much on the overpriced dinner buffet, little did she know that for 1/3 of the price she could have just had soup, salad and dessert so keep that in mind if you ever go there!) and tried to visit the gift shop on the way out.  I had promised #3 a souvenir to let her know I was thinking of her while I was gone and I figured I'd pick up a little cheapo something for all three girls.  The only problem was that the gift shop was closed.  I thought perhaps we could go back to the townhouse and with Crafty Lady's help, make some little trinkets with our recyclables and pinecones (and, maybe even sell the leftovers on to fund next year's Girls Weekend).  We started to look for some tape and then happened upon a large closet filled with ummm.....junk....lost and found items...and basic necessities like rope, rubber gloves and a badminton birdie.  Naturally, that led to a rousing game of Pot Lid, Pan, Baking Sheet Badminton (all the rage in Europe right now) between me and TP Queen while the others cheered us on.  It actually worked out well and brought us partially out of our food coma from dinner. 

In between deep discussions of how to properly store brown sugar and overpriced toliet paper from Sheetz, we talked about our families and the challenges and triumphs we have faced in recent years.  There were so many fun  memories of this weekend, but one thing in particular stands out to me.  We come from all different backgrounds, live in different places, and have very different political views.  None of it mattered.  Conversation flowed, laughter abounded and we could let loose around one another...part of what brought us all together so many decades....ah-hem....years ago! These friends are such a blessing!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Don't Know Where I'm Going, but I'm Going to Expect It's Breathtaking

Do you ever feel like you are on the verge of something amazing?

There is opportunity knocking.  You get to be a part of something that has God's handprint all over it.  After a season of laying low, you suddenly feel pretty fearless. 

You have been climbing for awhile and it gets a little tiring, seemingly endless sometimes, especially if you lose your focus.  This is the place where perseverance is born.  Romans 5:3-5 starts to make some sense.  Hope is a beautiful thing.

I haven't put my finger on it just yet.  There is no specific set of circumstances, just the feeling in my gut that a new chapter is about to be written.  This new season is going to be filled with a greater intimacy with God, void of fear and striving.  Just enjoying where He leads with the understanding that everything I have experienced up to this point served an important purpose in the fulfillment of His promises.  All the details will fall into place, I'm sure of it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Been Awhile Since These Legs Took a Leap of Faith

I realized something about myself in the last few days.  I am afraid to take a risk.  I miss my carefree self, who didn't question God a hundred times a day, "Are You sure? Really, God?  Are You sure? But, what if this happens and this doesn't happen...I don't know".  Life has a way of trying to define you with circumstances, both good and bad.  It is a daily battle I fight (thankfully, I have some good weapons, as in the Word of God) and you can imagine my angst right now as I have put off applying to college since I prayed about it for the last six months!  Time is running out to enroll for the fall.  I kept reasoning that I just didn't have the time and I could never afford to finish my bachelor degree (I have an associates degree).  Then, I felt like God was leading me in this direction, and I needed to believe that everything would fall into place.  That doesn't mean it will be easy, it will definitely require quite a bit of sacrifice and a financial miracle.  I have to believe that when I get on the other side of this, all the hard work will be worth it.  I have to hope that it will open doors and opportunities, not just as an end result, but also in the process!  I have to expect that as God works out every step of the way, my faith will increase, too!

So, yesterday, after rescheduling three times, I met with an admissions coordinator for Elizabethtown College. I prayed. I applied.  I requested transcripts.  I filled out paperwork for financial aid.  I prayed.  I doubted.  I prayed.  I chose my classes, in the event I get accepted, since the first semester begins August 16 (there are actually three 5-week sessions per semester in their adult continuing education program).  Now, I wait.  And, pray.

So, the writing I have been doing may have to go on the back burner for awhile since I will be required to write a variety of sixteen-page research papers for the next few years!  But, if I can keep my eyes on the prize and most of all, on Christ, then this just may be one of the best journeys ever.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Feeling a Little Emotionally Drained

When we signed up to host two female exchange students from China I was nervous.  But, I figured it was the nice thing to do and maybe we would learn a little bit about their culture.  I told my kids that instead of going on a mission trip, it was like the mission trip was coming to us!  What I didn't realize was that when it was time for them to leave, they would take a piece of my heart with them.

We tearfully said our good-byes this morning after two weeks of being a family.  In those moments I came to the conclusion, I would never be able to be a foster parent and give kids back.  One of the girls sobbed on The Husband's shoulder, telling us she didn't want to go back, that she wanted to stay.  My concern that now they knew another way of life was confirmed...they live at school on weekdays in China and only go home on weekends and breaks.  They didn't know life to be any different until they came here.  Now, after time together as a family sharing meals, playing games, swimming and going out for ice cream, they return back to China to resume a somewhat family-free life surrounded by their peers and teachers for the majority of their time.  That just about breaks my heart.

With promises to keep in touch and someday meet again in the U.S. or China, we put them on their charter bus.  A few weeks ago I would've thought that I would be filled with relief that I had two less kids to care for, but I didn't feel relief.  There was a sense of loss, but overshadowing that was a comforting, peaceful feeling.  This was good for all of us and we had some wonderful conversations about how much God loves them and that they are never alone.  They returned with Bibles written in their native language and we covered them in prayer before they left.

Our lives were changed and I believe theirs were, also! I really hope we can see them again one day.  They were very sweet and if it was actually legal to keep them, we would have!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Getting the Hang of It With Our Party of Five

Now, don't get me has been a balancing act having five kids!  Having two extra teenagers to drive around and care for is no simple task, especially when they must be driven through nearly three different counties every weekday at rush hour.  In the snow.  Uphill both ways.  Just kidding about the snow. However, I am blessed beyond words at how our week has been going!  There is a peace in times like this of knowing we are walking in God's perfect will.  He will provide all that we need and the wonderful thing is that He gives us joy in the process (it's like the cherry on top). 

Last night, we took everyone to get some Chinese take-out, which we ate on the deck by the pool (it was a beautiful evening).  The girls got to speak in their native language to the owner of the Chinese restaurant and then we all used chop sticks (some of us better then others!). Our exchange students are starting to feel more comfortable talking and playing with us.  We discovered that in China, this group of students doesn't go home during the week, they stay at school and go home only on weekends.  No wonder it was taking them some time to adjust to our crazy family life!  They spend most of their time with their peers and doing homework when they are not in class. Our kids had a hard time imagining that (however, now I can threaten them with that prospect on the days they make me feel like ripping out my hair!).

This weekend is already filled with plans for tie-dying, fireworks, a picnic and Hersheypark!  This is turning out to be a memorable summer!