Sunday, September 17, 2006

pictures from the ROAD TRIP

More pictures later...

Scenes from Seminar Day 1
Kentucky farmhouse

Kelly at the Grand Ole Opry

God in the details

As a demonstrator and team leader for The Angel Company, I really enjoy the annual seminar and catalog release. I have made some good friends though this company and its fun to get together with people from all over the country. 2006 was an extraordinary year for Seminar, because GOD planned the whole trip as evidenced by this series of e-mails:

At the February retreat I told my angel sisters that Seminar was sadly out of the questions for me. Money was an issue, plus my dear friend (and team member) Kelly would be visiting from CA at the beginning of June anyway. Kelly is beyond stressed with two teaching jobs, working on her second Master's Degree, and a foster child to add to her family (she has two children of her own.) I figured Seminar was impossible and I was glad to have Kelly coming so I had something to look forward to in June.

Then Mischelle announced the date change. At first it didn't register, but then Kelly called to tell me she had purchased her tickets to fly out to GA from CA. June 11-23. EPIPHANY!!! Every now and then God smacks me upside the head with an idea that could ONLY be His. Why not sneak Kelly off for a Seminar road trip???

I checked the mileage--drivable. Okay...check with the husbands. I e-mailed her dh privately and let him know my idea...and he LOVED it...except their budget is tighter than ours. I told him that if it was God's idea, God would fund it. He knew that Kelly needed real decompression time with me where she had no control over the situation. So he committed to watch and pray.

In the meantime, I had planned to help Melissa Baldwin with her booth at a stamp show in Chattanooga. I also planned to teach a class. We had great fun that weekend--and then the stamp show operators paid me for my class--$120!!!! WOW!!! Then I had two huge workshops (bigger than any I had EVER had) and got a commission check. Then I got a check in the mail from Scott Publications for the card published in Just Cards back in January. And I sold a catalog. Suddenly---within TWO WEEKS of getting the idea, I had EXACTLY enough money for TWO registrations!!!! Is that God or what?!?!?!?

I let Kelly's husband know what was up and he just rejoiced and was even trying to figure out a spending budget for Kelly---for a trip she STILL doesn't know she is going to take. I am now watching God provide for the hotel and gas money. He's given me two craft shows--the first I profited about $100---the other is this weekend. I am persuaded that by Seminar I will have enough money for all our expenses--without dipping into either family budget----and God will get ALL the glory!!!!!!!!

Our registration materials came here (I sent a letter explaining it was a super secret road trip) and I have our kids in on the secret. The plan is to have the girls pack and load the car while we go for a walk. Then we'll go for a drive to Starbucks...but we'll go to one in Tennessee or somewhere down the road. I'll give her the registration stuff over lunch as we drive on Wed the 14th....

Isn't God AMAZING?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Okay-for those following my surreptitious plan--a new twist on my super secret surprise Seminar road trip----Caty Mae has swim team practice every morning at 8:45. It just happens that Kelly used to be a competitive swimmer. Soooooo, I think I'll suggest walking down to watch Caty Mae's swim team on Wednesday morning--and Corinne and
Megan can load the car so it's ready to go to "Starbucks" as soon as we get back. (For the record, we WILL go to Starbucks--in Tennessee.)
God has worked out EVERY little detail--I just have to keep my eyes open!

PS. for those of you interested in etymology, I used surreptitious for good reason:
Middle English, from Latin surreptcius, from surreptus, past participle of surripere, to take away secretly :

More of God’s hand… (written 6/03.06)

One final (for now, anyway...I don't know what else God has in store) note about God's hand on this trip for me and Kelly-----

On Wednesday, Brian went out to his car during the workday and saw that he had a flat tire. (It's the car Kelly and I will drive to KC) Costco is near where he works, so he was able to get it fixed---turned out there was a screw in there and a razor blade that had been there for awhile. Can you imagine if we had a flat somewhere in the middle of nowhere???? Now there are new tires on the car, gas prices are inching down a little, and God has provided it all!!!!!

The kidnapping was a tremendous success (we were confident of that, weren't we?) The girls packed the car while Kelly and I watched Caty Mae's swim team practice. I suggested one more shopping trip...Kelly balked, but went along (She didn't want to abandon the kids again...) She noticed that her suitcase wasn't where she left it, and told the girls that 1) she is not easily fooled and 2)her stuff had better be in place when we returned from shopping. It was all Megan, Corinne and I could do to keep straight faces. When we went out to the garage, the van was gone (Brian took it so we could have the hybrid honda) Kelly said, "What was he thinking leaving us here with a little car and six kids?!?!?!?!" I told her that he must have had a good reason for taking the van. (tee hee)

Knowing Kelly as well as I do, I waited until we crossed into Tennessee to let her know what was really up. About Dalton I could sense her start bristling about going so far to shop. She didn't say anything, but I knew...and was tempted to tell her. She'd have made turn around had I told her before crossing the psychological barrier of the state line. Anyway, as we crossed into Tennessee, I reached for the envelope that had her registration materials in it. The Angel Company had sent it to me, but with her name---a perfect ruse. I said, "For some reason this came to my house." HAHAHAHAHA Some reason!!

She opened the envelope and had to process before she figured out we were going shopping, but in Kansas City where Seminar was held. Before she could protest too much I gave her the card from her husband that explained he was in on it and he wanted her to go and have fun. He sent money along as well. That did it, and she burst into tears. We stopped at the Chattanooga Choo Choo for pictures. She called her husband and then called the girls. She may not be easy to fool, but we did it!!! It was great fun.

Once Kelly relaxed, we really enjoyed the drive. We stopped at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville and arrived in St. Louis that evening. The second day we drove into Kansas City and the fun began all over again. I had told several of my Angel Company Yahoo groups about the surprise so there had been many prayers going up. Everywhere we went Kelly was hugged and told that everyone knew but her. The Angel Company staff welcomed her with big smiles. She had to tell the story at least 30 times. I figured there were probably close to 100 people who knew about the kidnapping (including a few of her students) and NO ONE leaked even a hint.

We stopped in St. Louis on the way home to take pictures of the Arch and then drove the rest of the way home...about 17 hours including stops. It was a grand adventure--God is soooooo good!!!

Mom Pride

I am so pleased with how my firstborn is using the trials of her life to reach out to others. Her compassion is greater than her fear. God is faithful.

Friday, September 08, 2006

working it out

adding pictures....

God's Hand--our move to Georgia

The story begins with a 2004 family sabbatical. Brian took six weeks from his job with Schwab to spend time with the family. We traveled to Pennsylvania and took a Caribbean cruise with the girls. We spent time hiking around Windsor and doing some long needed home maintenance. It was so nice to spend long days together instead of working around Brian’s work schedule and long (5 hours round trip) daily commute. Sabbatical with the family cemented Brian's desire to put work and home closer together. Schwab was planning more layoffs, and so Brian told them not to fight to save his job. By the end of September, Brian was offered a severance package.

In the meantime, I had gone to Augusta to teach at a stamp camp. Jokingly I said something about moving to Georgia to have more stamping time. About the same time, Brian was researching places in the country where IT project manager work was abundant. This area is overloaded with Agilent and HP layoff victims and under loaded with employment opportunities. The one job he saw here required a 40% pay cut. As it happens, Atlanta is THE happening place for high tech right now.

So, Brian sends off a couple dozen resumes and we plan a trip to visit Atlanta---after all, neither of us had been there. In the meantime, we start prepping our house for a possible sale. All the improvements were things we'd wanted to do anyway, so it made sense. If we moved, they added value to the house. If we stayed, we could enjoy them. Laminate floors, fresh paint on the banisters, get the heater serviced...stuff like that.

Along the way, we thought we'd replace the old kitchen table. We wanted a round table---not fancy, but not Amish. Right--not under $1000-- without chairs. There is a store near us that I kept meaning to check out, but never had the time. Once Brian was home full time, he enjoyed taking Carrie to school. One morning I went with him, just for fun. On the way home we thought we'd dash into the shop and see. Not a round table in sight. The owner asked what we were looking for and as we talked, the warehouse manager came around the corner and offered to take us to the warehouse. The owner was surprised; customers don't get to visit the warehouse very often. So off we went. We walked into the warehouse and immediately spotted the perfect table. Rosewood, round, simple, but not plain. Add five chairs and we were off---and all for under the $1000 tables alone were going for everywhere else.

As we left the store, we debated what to do with the farm table. Knowing we wanted a basement in any Southern home we may purchase, we opted to keep the old table. But where? There is a storage unit facility near us, so we stopped in on the way home. One unit left. Just for us.

The school auction was Oct 16. Among other things, there were three cork oak trees that were valued at $60 each. I wrote down my bid of $60 for all three fully expected to be out-bid...but no. Three lovely trees fill a big home in the backyard landscape--at a bargain price. There was also a stunning armoire---solid cherry, 8 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and all dovetailed construction...heirloom quality furniture. Well, that was a live auction item--worth well over $3000, but the bidding was rather slow. I loved the piece, so I bid on it--and won it for $1400. Unreal--the steal of the night. It looks lovely in the living room here, but.......

Oct 20 we headed to Atlanta for a five day exploration, sans kids. No job offers, but no matter: if God wanted us in Atlanta, He would provide the job when the timing was right. So we met with a realtor who showed us the area in East Cobb County. We knew the schools in Marietta were good, so we thought that would be a place to start. Since neither of us had been there, it was all new. It was beautiful and felt "right." We looked at a dozen houses on Friday before leaving to visit my friend Melissa Baldwin and her family in Lincolnton (near Augusta.) It was Brian's birthday, and Melissa and Byron cooked for us--even made a cake. Back to the houses---we looked at a beautiful house that backed up to a lake...and loved it. It needed some work...and a fence to keep the dog safe, but the lake was appealing. We looked at another house that had a great layout, but it backed up to a noisy street. Too bad, it was a nice place. The lake house was the favorite for sure.

We spent Saturday with Byron and Melissa. Byron took Brian out on the pontoon boat and out hiking in the pastures. Byron is also a computer guy, so they got along great. Melissa and I made card samples of her new line of stamps--drawn by one of my students ( look at the SOS stamps). The end of the day took us to Byron's parents’ house, where we were served a wonderful meal with delightful conversation. Then we headed back to Atlanta.

On Sunday we went to church at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. We were really impressed with the philosophy and the music and the preaching. Even better was the church's focus on discipleship--especially in the youth. We left thinking that it felt comfortable--much like the church I grew up in.

Then we went to look at more houses. We looked at several that did not appeal at all. The last house of the day was a stunner--.74 acres of wooded property, newly remodeled kitchen, and full finished basement....lots of light and windows. The only thing we didn't love about it was the wallpaper in all four bathrooms. We headed back to the hotel with lots to consider.

Monday was a travel day, but we went to re-visit the lake house and the wooded property houses. That sealed it---the wooded property house (1951 River Forest Dr) was our dream house. So, no job, but a church and a house we liked a lot.

We came home and decided that God would close doors and open them as He desired. We went praying for confirmation of direction, and the doors appeared open to the move. We put an offer in on the house, and after some back and forth, agreed on a price. Another step of faith.....

Back home we continued the work on the house and tried to figure out when to sell the Windsor house. It's waaaaaay too stressful for me to think about working and keeping the place in show-worthy status. So we prayed for direction--sell now? rent? sell in the spring? Finally Brian decided that we would just sell it...we'd list it in the spring to reach the market at its peak. What a relief!

God, however, had another plan. In November, my boss (Tor Benestad) started asking about the house. He and his wife had been looking to move from their condo to a house. Our home was more than their budget really allowed, but our realtor was also theirs. She's from our church, and she's been watching out whole story unfold. She offered to reduce her commission to 1% if Tor and Erin wanted the house. Then we could reduce the price by what her commission would have been. Of course, they first had to see the house and like it! Tor was like a little boy all week--he was so excited about the idea. He and Erin had been looking at houses and hadn't found anything they liked. Friday night they came over--the house is still in process and so is not exactly in show condition, but they really liked it---the swing set was a hit with their two-year old, and Tor liked the hot tub, DSL, DISH, et al. Erin liked the kitchen and the layout. So by Saturday, they were planning to list the condo and sign an offer. Condos in their complex have been selling in less than 14 days at $350K, so it shouldn't be long. God is in it!!! (and to prove it: Tor and Erin’s condo sold at full asking price SIX HOURS after they listed it!!!)

Along with all that, I’ve been teaching and writing curriculum, and I am stage managing a play with the community theatre--and I got Assistant Director credit, too. Carrie sang the National Anthem at Windsor HS's last home football game and did a magnificent job. A new restaurant is opening in Santa Rosa, and two of my photographs will be on display there--and for sale at $200-$300.

Life continued to roll along busily with school and church and packing and signing papers every week. Escrow closed on the Marietta house Dec 16 and on the Windsor house Dec 19. On the 22nd the movers came and loaded up the truck and headed east. We stayed in town to sing at the Christmas Even services at church---our tradition for 12 years.

Blessings followed us all along the way. The usual Tule fog in the San Joaquin Valley was out of sight as we drove through visiting family on Christmas Day. We trudged through Pasadena (LA traffic is never a blessing---but it made us thankful to NOT be moving there!) just before the huge storms hit that area. We missed every bad weather situation as we traveled east along Interstate 10 and Interstate 20. Our longest travel day was 624 miles from El Paso to Dallas. We had fun caravanning and trading cars and communicating via walkie talkie.

We arrived in Marietta on December 30. The girls loved their new rooms and Velvet raced around her new HUGE backyard. We camped out the first night and made plans for how we wanted to arrange the furniture when it arrived. My asthma forced us to alter some of our plans---we had planned to leave all the carpets alone (including the worn carpet in the basement), but the previous owners had a cat that lived in the basement. That carpet must be completely replaced. The rest of the carpets will be professionally cleaned, and Lord willing, that will be enough.

Church was another blessing. Carrie was giddy with enthusiasm at the youth groups and the missions opportunities and the 120 voice youth choir. Corinne made a friend right away, and Caty liked her teacher very much. There were friendly people at every corner who made us feel very welcome.

By the first Monday of January we had unpacked as much as we could before the carpets were dealt with, so we made it a day on the town. Again, God’s grace abounded toward us. Carrie’s meeting with the counselor at Walton High School eased a good deal of her concerns. (Mostly because she learned she could take honors English and Geography and avoid honors Science!) One of her new friends from church met her at the school and gave her a tour. Corinne’s meeting was equally reassuring. Corinne was relieved to know she would spend the first day shadowing another student to learn the routine.

School meetings done for the day; Brian and I went shopping for furniture. We stopped at AAA for a map (after getting lost twice on our way Walton and Dickerson) and made our way to a group of furniture stores in north Marietta. We found a style we liked in sofa, loveseat, and recliner at the first store, but decided to look around. We found a similar look at a second store that was less expensive, but didn’t feel at sturdy. We returned to the first store and decided that the quality was worth the extra money. Brian struggled with that—it’s hard to spend money when you aren’t sure when you’ll be employed again. Still, he knew that God was providing for all our needs. As we checked out, the salesman looked perplexed and then determined that a sale that was supposed to start the next day was already in effect. The sale price made the higher quality furniture the same price as the inferior alternative. God just keeps blessing us in every way.

As January progressed, we began to settle in. Carrie managed to spend the night with friends multiple times and Corinne made two good friends. Caty made friends everywhere she went. Brian went on multiple job interviews and worked on painting and repair work around the house. The basement carpet came and my allergies cleared up. I joined two neighborhood book clubs and a Bible Study. Even Velvet (our Greyhound) blossomed in her huge backyard.

By February, Brian was interviewing almost daily and receiving multiple query calls every day. On February 9, he accepted a 6th month contract working for Nasco Inc. He’ll have some options at the end of that time, but in the meantime, he’s excited about being back to work! Every step along the way has been prepared by the Lord.

Over the next weeks, Caty (who now calls herself Caty MAE) adapted to school so well that her teacher kept forgetting she was a mid-year transfer. Corinne quickly became a favorite of teachers and peers and earned all A’s---in spite of changing from a 6th grade classroom to a middle school. Carrie’s eating disorder continued to plague her, however, and by late March, she began having anxiety attacks. The eating and body image issues had been reality for several years, although it was difficult to find counsel in Santa Rosa. When the anxiety attacks began here, I made a single telephone call to a Bible study leader. Within days, Carrie was set up with counseling, and by May 1, she was a client of the Atlanta Center for Eating Disorders. Our new doctor and Carrie’s school counselors and teachers and the church youth choir leaders ALL stood behind Carrie with support and love and prayer. One of the youth choir leaders struggled with anorexia herself, and became one of Carrie’s greatest partners in recovery and prayer.

After months of therapy, Carrie is doing better, although she is a long way from fully healed. How could we have known in October of 04 that Carrie would find the help she needed 2600 miles away from home? God knew...and He provided.

It's exciting and overwhelming all at once---and it's a whirlwind of activity. In it all, we see God's sovereignty and blessing over it all.

One last note to complete the story: Brian’s contract job turned permanent on Oct 10, 2005. What a year!!! What a great and awesome GOD!!!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

God at work

Seems every year God gives me another opportunity to watch His hand and discover his plan. Moving from California to Georgia was one of the most obvious times I knew God was orchestrating events. (I'll post that later.) Kidnapping my dear friend for a road trip to Kansas City was another (and another post for later.) Now I am beginning to sense God moving events and times yet again.

Since moving to Georgia, I have been perfectly content to immerse myself in art, church, and neighborhood events. (I've even learned to play tennis reasonably well---whodathunkit?) This year, however, it was time to bring in a little income, so I turned to the substitute teacher list. Upon further investigation, I discovered that my CA credential may be more valuable than I had originally thought. For over a year I was sure that I would have to spend time and money taking classes to get a Georgia certification---and I'd just a soon spend that working toward a Master's Degree. In the course of filling out the substitute teacher paperwork (government---why so much paperwork?), I ran into a small blurb (no one was hurt) called "reciprocity." As it happens, California doesn't accept much from other states, but other states, Georgia included, LOVE California teachers. Once school was underway, I filled out MORE paperwork to check into reciprocity---just to see.

In the meantime, a local drama/lit teacher, is apparently exceedingly UNHAPPY with her lot in life---and the students take the brunt of her dissatisfaction. Third hand information being what it is, I hate to speculate, but I do know from a first-hand account that the principal would be delighted to free her from her contract, but qualified teachers capapble of teaching both Literature and Theater are diffiult to locate.

As that story unfolds, I receive a response back from the Georgia school system (technically the "Georgia Professional Standards Commission") saying that I will have a Georgia certification once they recieved official college transripts (why they need 24 year old documents, I'll never understand, but whatever...), a money order for $20, and a passing "subject assessment test score." So, I'll take that test in November....and see what God does in the meantime.......

Watch and pray, right?