Monday, March 31, 2008

It's Good To Be Me

Can I just tell you how excited I am? The tea party is coming together quite nicely. The invitations were mailed last Friday. The menu has been decided and the decorations are underway. I've also retrieved several hats from my storage unit.

We are keeping it rather intimate. Mom and I are hosting and it looks as if everyone will be able to attend. The guest list consists of my sister Mary, niece Caitie, sister-in-law Karen, and Caitie's two best friends Beka and Ashley. (Ashley, Beka, and Caitie are known as ABC.)

The menu is simple and fun. We will be serving flower shaped sandwiches, cucumber with pink cream cheese and toasted butter & sugar. The butter and sugar sandwiches will have pink sugar dusted over the butter. We will serve cupcakes frosted in spring colors and tiered on cake stands, chocolate covered fruit, and fruit tea.

Since our party is called "A Spring Tea" we won't be having hot tea. This allows me to use Mom's collection of tea pots as decoration. In addition to fresh Spring flowers I will be making several tissue paper peonies to put into tea pot "vases."

Each guest will have an Asian take-out box with goodies as a party favor. The boxes are a spring green color and will be tied with ribbons in pinks and oranges. Inside each box will be a wrapped piece of chocolate covered fruit, a Laura Ashley post-it pad, and a handmade bracelet (if I am able to make them in time).

So are you picking up on my excitement? And the coolest part is that this party will be my 3rd celebration in as many days. On Friday I have a lunch date with my mom and sis, then Saturday is a big, family tradition, birthday party we have at this time every year. (Caitie, her brother Topher, and cousin Matt all have birthdays the last week of March.) Then I round things out with the tea party on Sunday.

So I'm going home to a girls day out and TWO fun parties with people I love. How good is it to be me?!

A Beautiful Rainy Weekend

I do not claim to be a photographer but I do like to take pictures. One day I would love to play around in Photoshop but until then here are a few, untouched, snaps of my weekend. (Please forgive the spacing. Blogger is driving me crazy. The captions are below each picture.)

My friend Tammy and I went for a walk on a country
road in the Columbia, TN area.
A driveway on Hwy 431 in Maury county.
Another shot from our walk.

I love this sky.

I think trees are so beautiful and interesting.
This is on McGavock Pike in Nashville.

I like how the flash looks against the trunk.

A great barn on Hwy 431.

Another barn on Hwy 431.

A boarded up house on Pennington Bend Road in Nashville.

A street light at the Hermitage Train Station.

Dodson Chapel in Hermitage.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pondering Priority

"Don't make someone a priority if they only make you an option."

I ran across this quote while online and it stopped me in my tracks. Instantly I was torn between identifying with the emotion behind such a statement and my obligation as a Christ follower.

I'm sure you can relate. We all have people in our lives that are cordial in social gatherings but aren't interested in getting to know you beyond initial pleasantries. You know the ones, folks who are happy to receive an invitation from you, but you never seem to make their guest list.

This is where emotion comes in to play. I have learned to put some distance between myself and those appearing to post a sign saying, "acquaintance only.” And while I can usually spot the clues quickly, on occasion I can be a bit obtuse. This isn't to say I have drones of people in my life holding me at arm's length. This is an observation from several years. And if I'm being honest I have to admit there have been people from which I have distanced myself out of sheer annoyance or necessity.

While we all want to be liked it is impossible for everyone we encounter to recognize our value. For the most part I don't have an issue with the fact that not everyone will like me. Nonetheless sometimes it stings when we are faced with the reality we are not accepted. An emotional response like the quote above is natural.

So where does Christ fit into this scenario? Or should I ask where we allow Christ to fit into this scenario? And yes, I pose this query more to myself than to any other.

I was recently presented with a situation in which an acquaintance all but begged to become part of my circle. Now this person and I have precious little in common. For one thing I am more than a decade older - not that age matters much (see previous post) - but we are in totally different life stages. And our interests are vastly different from one another. When I am around this person it zaps my mental and emotional energy. All that is to say that I'm not quite sure why this individual has reached out to me, and more than once I might add.

Or am I? This young person doesn't know Jesus. Could it be they see something in my life that is obviously not of me? I can only hope. This "friend" shows NO interest in accepting the truth and there are other factors that make communication difficult but does that lessen my responsibility?
Honestly, I'm not sure just what my role is in that particular life. I pray for wisdom to know how to handle such encounters.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Refuse to be old!

I joined a softball team and our first game is tonight. Correction - our first games are tonight. We are playing a double header and I'm a little excited. I want to have fun.

Now whether or not I actually play will be determined on how many returning players show up for the game. Having said that, I can hear my friend Stacy saying, "Oh stop it." Stacy played on the team last season and let me tag along to the first practice this year. She is such fun. I love making fun of myself to her and teasing her about her own miscues. Seriously though, Stacy is the most encouraging person on the field and she helps with the fun factor. I'm also relearning pointers. (Hint: Don't close your glove before the ball lands in the pocket or you'll just slap the ball.)

I explained to a few people on the team that I hadn't played in 10 years. Well, that isn't exactly true. I started thinking and realized the last time I played softball was in the church league when I lived in Conway, AR in 1990! Like now, I was clumsy back then too. My friend Jef may remember the time I tripped on my way to first base and slid face first in the mud. When I raised my head I couldn't see because mud was caked between my eyelids and sunglasses. There was a large ridge of mud sitting atop my glasses on my forehead forming a Groucho-like unibrow. The worst thing is that I slid into the base a split second after the ball. Since I haven't played in 18 years I feel better about my rusty technique.

I've enjoyed meeting new people and exercising muscle groups that have long been in a coma. We've only had two practices so I'm not sure I'm ready to play a game or two. After the first practice I was sore for three days. Now I expected my arm to be sore but not under my arm. Good gravy. I must have really given my lats a workout because they were tender to the touch for an entire day. Unfortunately all of this was one sided. So while my right side received valuable punishment the left side of my body is just as atrophied as ever.

Despite being reminded of how out of shape I am, it felt good to be on the field. I was enjoying myself right up until I overheard two ladies chatting. One of the women asked if anyone had seen a player from last year's team. She was told the that player is now in the Senior League for 4o and up.

40 AND UP? Since when is 40 considered senior? I almost took a ball to the head because I dropped my glove and stared in an effort to make sense of what I had just heard. Granted, we have a few seniors (real seniors) in their 70s playing on our team. And I don't give them credit for just playing because they are good. I'm truly impressed by these women. I'm more impressed because they are playing in 2 leagues, regular and senior.

Being honest I have to say I was in shock and a teeny bit wounded to hear that someone would consider my age as senior. But I came to and realized that I am not in the wrong league. Rather, categorizing 40 as a senior is ludicrous.

I have never had an issue with my age. I'm not going to lie about my age. I accept my age but do not let it define me. I am 40 but I don't feel 40 (except after practice). Of course I'm not quite sure how 40 is supposed to feel. But from what I've seen in society a lot of people my age are on the cusp of becoming rutted in routine and docile. Fortunately, I have several friends who also have decide to buck that trend.

When I reach senior status I will embrace my role. But until then I refuse to be called senior and I refuse to grow old.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tea Party Anyone?

So I have this craving. It isn't for a particular food but rather for an experience. It has been ages since I've been to a tea party. I'm actually aching for this little feminine fest.

Most likely I won't be attending a tea party until I go home to see my family. You see, the ladies in my family like tea parties. We don't always dress up. In fact we rarely don hats, gloves, and boas but we aren't opposed to adding this delightful touch to our affairs. We do like to gather in the kitchen preparing treats, picking out linens, and choosing service pieces.

One of my favorite gatherings was a few years ago at Mom's. We decided on a change of venue from the kitchen to the living room. Mom has an oversized coffee table that was perfect for our spread. We covered the table with a beautiful quilt and topped it with doilies and plates of sweet breads, biscotti, and chocolate straws. Mismatched china cups were on order for the day to go with the patchwork quilt.

The guest list included the lovely hostesses (Mama and me), my beautiful sister Mary, my charming niece Caitie, and my best college friend Kristi. Kristi made the 2 hour trip to spend the night with me at Mom & Dad's. We met at Ouachita and formed an instant friendship. She is still at OBU working as a librarian. Kristi was delighted to receive an invitation to our soiree. And my, oh my, did we have fun that afternoon.

Fellowship with those I love is important to me. What sweet encouragement we glean from one another. I am a firm believer in the power of laughter. Our laughs, giggles, and snorkels must delight God. Have you ever wondered where He got the idea for laughter?

Living in Nashville the last few years has posed a predicament for me. You see, I desperately want to throw a good, old fashioned tea party for my friends but I don't have a location in which to use. I don't have the space or privacy to host a party of any sort in my present situation. However, I'm sure I could come up with something. I may just have to engage my creativity. Surely God didn't give me this fun gift for naught.

Stay tuned ladies. You may yet receive an invitation this Spring.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A little more Haiti

Cara Bergthold took this picture as we drove through Port au Prince. And yes, those are houses made from available scraps. We also saw cinder block homes that seemed to be more "middle class."

This is a small portion of the Port au Prince "Wal-Mart" we passed on our way to the mission on Saturday (3/1/08).

Haitian security fence. The broken bottles are dried into the concrete. We saw several of these fences as we traveled both in the city and country.

Mike Wilson took this photo at the Leogane Christian church we attended Sunday (3/2/08). The church was almost 50% children and several of them came to sit on the benches with the visiting Americans.
Notice the tin roof and concrete window openings. I think I lost 3 inches during that service from sweating. However, the 45 minute ride to and from the church was cool and enjoyable. I rode in the back of a pick-up that had a bench on either side of the bed. What FUN!
We took part in the Lord's Supper at the church. Brent told us to participate and I understand the implications if we had rejected. Still, I was a little upset because the wine was real (and had a kick). I haven't had any alcohol in almost 19 years and didn't want to break that streak. The abstention from alcohol was a commitment I made to God when I was 22. However, I realized on this trip that I, unintentionally, had been holding on to my "alcohol free streak" more than the commitment itself.
Pride is so crafty. It sneaks its way into areas when we aren't paying attention. I haven't missed having alcohol in my life and am happy to use this as a opening to share part of my relationship with Christ. However, I can look back and see that in the last few years I began to feel proud of the fact that I had given something so completely to God.
Funny what God does with our pride. Thank you Lord for putting me in a situation that ruined my streak and put my focus back on You. And how fitting it was in a place that, while is now a church, was a rum factory in its former life.

Wednesday (3/5/08) we went to the New Mission High School. We held a chapel service for the the 7th - 9th grades. We sang a couple of songs in Creole and the students sang a song in English with us. It was quite enjoyable.
The students get one uniform a year. During our trip we cut enough fabric to distribute to about 1,400 students to take to a village seamstress. As each student left with their fabric we prayed over them in pockets on the porch of the school.

Another Cara Bergthold photo. This is of the children after receiving their bags of rice. They are trekking back up Mount Tibukon to their homes.

After the rice feeding Thursday (3/6/08) we had sponsored child day. I was able to eat lunch with Melissa Leaver's sponsored daughter Nadia. Nadia is beautiful and quite shy. Nadia's brother visited the mission with her but they weren't able to stay long. I hope Mel is able to meet Nadia in person someday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Missions - Haiti

Here is the second installment of Haiti photos and captions. The shots today are of the New Mission campus and surrounding sights.

The last standing plantation in Haiti. As our group was leaving I ran back to snap one last photo. This view is through one of the front doors up to a second floor doorway. I was intrigued by the still-intact banister.

Haitian plantations were destroyed during the 1871 slave revolt. The slaves turned on their white (French) masters and burned the plantations. No one is sure why this structure was spared. This house is a 5 minute bus ride from the mission.

Brent walked the grounds and showed us the entry to the wine cellar, the courtyard boundaries, and the limestone steps that led to the house. Limestone isn't found in Haiti. The steps were made from the ballast stones from the slave ships.

This is the morning view from the mission pavilion. Such serenity. It was also common to see cows walking down the beach, with and without a human. Unfortunately the beach is quite polluted and not suitable for swimming. That fact doesn't diminish the beauty of this view.

My attempt at diagramming the mission campus. Our buses entered from the bottom left corner and parked next to the screened-in dining hall.

Cara Bergthold took this picture of the campus. She is standing with the pavilion and ocean to her back.

There isn't any hot water in the cabins but I was so hot most of the time I didn't mind. I took a minimum of 2 showers a day - lunchtime and dinnertime. However, no one in my cabin took a shower in the morning when the temperatures were in the low 70s, brrr.

Sunset at the mission, facing west from the pavilion. The beauty of God is everywhere, even a 5th world country... especially a 5th world country because there isn't as much chaos to pollute our vision of him.

Life is simple in Haiti. Love is simple in Haiti. The Haitian Christians love Jezi with unashamed abandon. I pray I learned well from their beautiful example.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Haiti, March 2008

I cannot possibly post all my pictures, but I will choose several to share with you. This will be an abbreviated pictorial journal and will be continued in the days to come.

Monday (3/3/08) we climbed the mountain at Tibukon. The New Mission elementary school sits at the peak of the mountain. We took the foot trail and there were times when the path was only a step wide.
When we reached the top we presented briefcases to all the teachers, and the pastor (director of the school). Each case contained teaching supplies and a new watch.
We didn't tell the school we were going to visit. The children were so surprised and excited to see us. As they sang songs for us this little girl danced. The joy we saw on the faces of these children overwhelmed me.
I began to cry at the beauty that surround me in this impoverished village. I walked away from the pack of children that surrounded me because I didn't want them to see me sobbing. I made my way to a clump of my friends to shield my tears. When I looked up Aaron Loy nodded and told me he had the same reaction.

On Tuesday (3/4/08) we returned to Tibukon to distribute over 200 backpacks filled with school supplies to the school children. Thank goodness they met us at the bottom of the mountain. I'm not sure we would have made the 45 minute hike two days in a row. This beautiful child was waiting in line to receive her backpack.

Cara Bergthold was one of two nurses in our group. Tuesday evening (3/4/08) we went to a neighboring village to distribute shoes. I assisted Cara as she conducted a "backpack clinic" for anyone needing attention while the shoes were being distributed.

The village sounded the alert that we had shoes, and people came from other areas in a matter of minutes. As soon as the last shoe was given away we calmly but hurriedly left the area per our interpreters instructions.

(Thanks to Melissa Leaver for collecting shoes through TRBC.)

Thursday (3/6/08) we went to Tibukon again to conduct a rice feeding. I scooped rice with a large, somewhat rusty, can. Each child from the elementary school received 3 scoops of rice in a bag. It was enough rice to feed an average family for three weeks. The leftover rice was given to the pastor (and school director) of the Christian church to feed his congregation.

This is my new friend Yaguel who was one of our interpreters. The BGM (Brent Gambrell Ministries) girls call him Muscles because he is ripped. I decided to call Yaguel by his name because he took such care to practice my name until he could say it correctly.

I love Yageul's smile. He told me it would please his heart if I, and others in our group, would return to Haiti.

(Notice how much I am sweating and Yaguel is completely dry. This is winter for Haiti and at night when the temperature drops into the 70s the Haitians are cold!)

Sunday (3/2/08) we walked down the beach from the mission to the neighboring village of Bord Mer La'Salle. Brent told us it is the poorest village he has ever seen.

As we walked along the beach we picked up several "hitchhikers" that wanted to follow along. We had such fun walking, holding hands, and swinging the children around.

Beth Tucker is a college student on her first trip to Haiti. She had such fun with the children at Bord Mer La'Salle. The house behind Beth was one of the larger homes I saw.

Many of the children were naked and had distended bellies from malnutrition. We sent groups back to the village 4 times to help the people in Bord Mer La'Salle in several ways.

Wednesday (3/5/08) nurse Jenny asked if I would like to return to Bord Mer La'Salle to assist her as she cared for children. Jenny had the names of nine children that required medical attention. It was quite late when we left for the village and the tide was coming in so we had little time with which to work.
We tried to keep to our list of nine children but of course that was a goal at which we didn't mind failing. In the end Jenny treated about 15 people before we had to leave.

This little girl was standing, watching us at the pavilion (built by BGM) as we treated children.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A little taste of Haiti

Here is a snippet from my trip. I will share more later this week. Thank you for all the prayers. We could feel the prayer blanket covering us.

We saw this precious little girl as we did door to door evangelism in Tibukon. She was full of smiles until we started to leave. As my group began to walk past her I bent down in front of her and blew a kiss. She began to cry, and I felt bad. Later I was told that in all likelihood she had never seen a blan (white person) and now she was surrounded by seven of us walking past as she sat in her tiny chair.

Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles. It was amazing to see people that had nothing were able to find joy and smile. For the most part, villagers were happy to see us because they knew we were there to provide help in the form of supplies, food, and medicine. However, the most important help we offered was God's word and the story of Jezi.
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