May 29, 2010

Starting Over

I didn't sign up for this. I'm not a Navy wife. A fact I have repeatedly reminded God of these last few weeks.

First Catherine. Not surprising. She is a Navy wife. She is from Florida. She never really fell in love with Washington. Not enough sun. So when she told me her husband had receieved new orders and they'd be moving across the country soon, I didn't bat an eye. I would miss her and her adorable little girl; but I never thought they'd be sticking around permanently. And I had other friends, after all.

But then Helen . . . Helen announced rather unexpectedly that she and her husband had decided to move back home to Alaska. In less than a month. Helen is not a Navy wife. Their family moved here voluntarily last summer, just like us. But . . . it appeared God was leading them back home. After only a year. I was stunned.

Helen, who's husband worked at the very same place as mine. Helen, with her little boy who became Caleb's first friend here in WA. Helen, who "gets" my humor. Helen, who for the last five months has been my patient and consistent prayer partner. Helen, with whom I have laughed, talked, confided, trusted, cried, hiked, and baked. Helen, with her sweet and funny girls who always brought a smile to my face.

Helen was leaving?

I didn't cry nearly this much when we left California. Maybe because I was the one doing the leaving. Washington was our exciting destination, and like the pioneers of old, I always figured we'd settle into a new house, a new life, complete with new friends. I never imagined that a year later, most of my new friends would be gone and I'd be starting all over again.

I didn't sign up for this. I'm NOT a Navy wife.

~~~

I shook my head violently, bitterly. Alone in my livingroom, on my knees. Confused. Upset.

"No, God. I won't ask You. I don't want to risk getting hurt again. I don't want to risk another friend leaving. I'd rather be lonely."

He wanted me to ask Him for new friends. But I wasn't ready to. I didn't want to. No, no, no. New friends meant new risks.

My denial sounded absurd and I knew it. You can't argue with the Sovereign of all creation and expect to win. That doesn't always stop me from trying, though. Sometimes I just want to be petulant. And this was definitely one of those times. I was mad, and He was gonna hear about it.

"Why, God? Why? Why is it all my close friends live in other states? Why are You moving Helen away?"

He was going to provide. He had a plan. But that plan required me to trust. Blindly.

"No, no, no! I like the way things are. Why do You have to rock the boat?"

He had new ladies for me to meet. New frienships to develop, to pray for, to invest in. That's what He wanted from me: an open heart, ready to befriend, ready to bless, ready to love.

"And what guarentee do I have, Lord, that these new friends will stick around?"

None.

"That's asking an awful lot . . ."

But what alternatives did I have? Never make new friends? Live like a hermit here on the island? I thrive on conversation and fellowship; I crave them. My life would be empty without them. So really, what choice did I have except to trust and obey?

As I said, arguing with the Lord of Eternity is pointless; I get there eventually.

Deep breath.

"Help me start over, Lord. Bring new friends. Help me watch for them, and help me not to be afraid of opening up and getting close, no matter what happens."

~~~

I was able to spend a lot of time with Helen before she left. Much as I miss her, her friendship this last year has been a huge blessing. I'm thankful I got the chance to know her, regardless of how short a time she lived on Whidbey Is. We will keep in touch and who knows? Maybe one summer we'll vacation in the great land of Alaska.

And I have continued to pray. Through clenched teeth at times. Through tears. But you know what? He is already starting to answer those prayers.

May 25, 2010

Camping We Will Go

For those in the audience just tuning in, the Neuhausers Three went camping this weekend. We haven't camped with Caleb since he was nine months old (which, as I keep telling people, doesn't count because a) he was barely walking then and b) he doesn't remember it).

Thus, this being our first "official" camping trip with a three-year-old, we decided to go someplace close to home and to stay just one night. That way, if our tent burned down or Bigfoot stole our food, we weren't too far from home to order a retreat.

We kept calling this trip "our practice run." And actually, we did learn. A lot.

Ahem.


What We Learned in South Whidbey
about Camping in General


#1: Our car is too small. We barely managed to fit the equipment, food, and firewood
into our little four-door sedan. The Cavalier is definitely not a camping car. Next time, we'll borrow my in-laws van. :)

Jumping on the air mattress

Snuggling on the air mattress
(guess who really really really loved playing inside the tent?)


#2: Wet firewood makes life difficult. It also makes you cold. Jason spent several hours Saturday night trying to coax the flames into a blaze. Then it rained during the night, so no amount of coaxing Sunday morning would convince the wood to light. :( Next time, we shall have dry wood. And plenty of it.



Caleb still doesn't like my camera. After snapping a bunch of photos on Saturday, he actually looked at me and said "Stop it!" Lol!
#3: It's important to test your camping equipment before you are actually camping. Hopefully that way, you find out beforehand that your propane grill has a leak and spare your husband the fireball that almost took off his eyebrows.
(Jason's face is completely intact, thanks to his Jedi-like reflexes. But it was a close call.)



Out on one of Caleb's favorite trails. It includes two small bridges and a wee creek only an inch or two deep. Perfect for splashing in.
I love this picture. I just do. :)


#4: One night is just not long enough. Camping requires too much work and preparation (and is way too much fun) to do for only one night. So next time we go, we'll go for at least two nights.

Wrapped up in Mommy's poncho, staring at the fire.

We had a great weekend. Not without its Ooops's and Uh-oh moments,
but overall a lot of fun. Good family time. Nice to get away. Hoping to do more this summer. :)

Happy Tuesday, y'all!


May 21, 2010

What's a Girl to Do?

Dear Wal-Mart,

You've come to mean a great deal to me over the years. No matter where I've moved, you've followed me like a faithful dog, and I've come to think of you as a good friend. I always enjoy our Friday mornings together, me walking your aisles and you providing my family with food, clothes, and toilet paper. Your shelves are ever-full of colorful merchandise. I never know what I may find and every trip feels like an adventure. I thought I could count on you, whatever else life may throw at me.

But you failed me, Wal-Mart. You betrayed my trust. Yesterday I made an extra special trip to see you, and it wasn't even Friday! I needed one particular item, just one, but I was frustrated at every turn. I searched through racks of flip-flops, convos, tennis shoes, and cheap Made in China sandals. I looked at rubber rain boots and the new summer water shoes. I even went through the men's shoes. You stock plenty of hiking boots for men. Why not for women, Wal-Mart? Why do you only have a three-foot section of shelf dedicated to women's hiking boots size 10 and up? I wear size 7 1/2, or did you forget?

Do women in Oak Harbor just have big feet? Or have I offended you somehow?

Sadly Yours,

Nicole

~~~

Dear Payless Shoes,

I think there's been a mistake. You do still sell shoes, don't you? You haven't recently switched to marketing lawn mowers and rakes, with a one year plan to phase out shoes entirely? If not, someone at corporate might want to inform the clerk working at your Oak Harbor store.

Because when politely asked yesterday where the women's hiking boots where, your clerk replied "Oh. We don't carry those."

You don't carry those? What, women don't hike in the Pacific Northwest? Am I the only female eager for woodland smells, soft pine needles underfoot, and green, leafy branches overhead?

Clearly, someone in the ordering department didn't get the memo: Women hike, too. And believe it or not, we don't like wearing humongous men-sized boots with steel toes. Heck, we can barely lift them! So when you set things straight with your clerk, kindly inform her that referring female customers to the men's department may not be the best way to make a sale. Thank you!

Bootless,
Nicole

~~~

Dear K-Mart,

I cannot and will not blame you for the fact that I shopped at two previous stores before coming to you. You've rescued me many times in the past (curtains come to mind), but let's face it: your prices are higher than Wal-Mart. So when I walked through your doors yesterday, I did so as a last ditch effort (and because you happen to live across the parking lot from Payless Hikeless Shoes).

I found an adorable patriotic apron right off. Then some matching dish towels. I was tempted to go browse through your Home Furnishings department, but I stayed on target and headed for the shoes.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, I was foiled a third time: no hiking boots. No women's hiking boots, anyway. Apparently, Oak Harbor is having an epidemic. Or maybe there was a massive recall I haven't heard about. Either way, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know when you get more boots in stock, mmkay? Size 7 1/2? Pretty please? Thank you!

Barefoot,
Nicole

P.S. I think your store has a mold problem. The smell when I walked through the doors was horrendous. It lingered throughout the whole store and once I realized you didn't have my boots, I was running for the exit.


Ever had something you just couldn't find? No matter where you went? :)

Well, we're off camping tomorrow (weather permitting)! In lieu of real hiking boots, I'm settling for a new pair of tennies. From Wal-Mart. Go with what you know, ya know?

Happy Weekend, ya'll!

May 14, 2010

If the Lord Had Not . . .

I stayed up way too late last night. 1:30 am, or thereabouts. My eyes were pretty bleary when I finally turned off the light and curled up under the blankets. Today, my brain's complaining at the insufficient amount of sleep, but as I keep telling it, I just had to finish the book.

*sheepish grin*

A couple of months ago, my friend Elisabeth over at Hope Scribbles recommended The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen. She and I share a love for all things Jane Austen, and while this book has nothing to do with Austen's works (i.e., it's not fan fiction), she assured me I would not be disappointed. I wasn't.

It's a charming, delightful novel and once I started reading it yesterday, I couldn't put it down. Hence the 1:30am bedtime. :)

But my mind works in weird ways. As the romantic in me waited with baited breath to see how Lilly Haswell's story would unfold, another part of my mind was taking in and relating to a question running underneath the 19th century English drama: what might life be like if we (or the people around us) had made different choices in our past?

You learn early on in the story that Lilly's mother has left. Left her husband, left her children, left all friends and family and disappeared without warning or explanation. While this is not a major plot line in the book, you do see Lilly at various moments in her life grappling with the "Why?", wondering where her mother is, and wishing things might somehow have turned out differently. At one point, Lilly's faced with a choice between two very distinct lives and as the reader, you wonder what might have happened if she'd chosen differently.

All this brought to mind one of the psalms we just finished studying in our Beth Moore class. Psalm 124 begins with the words "If the Lord had not . . . " and asks the same question I found in The Apothecary's Daughter.

What if things had been different?

I love how The Message translates the opening verses:


"If God hadn't been for us - all together now, Israel, sing out! -
If God hadn't been for us when everyone went
against us, we would
have been swallowed alive by
their violent anger."
Ps. 124:1-3
(as printed in our Beth Moore workbook)

If God had not been for us . . .

. . . now there's a sobering thought.


In our workbook, Beth wrote

"One distinguishing element of Psalm 124 is its invitation to the reader to consider some what-if scenarios. It is 'a narrative about what might have occurred without YHWH's aid.' 'Throughout the psalm the praise is for deliverance from an unrealized condition that might have been' (my emphasis)."
She invited us to remember the many times we've been rescued, Satan hot on our trail, throwing curve balls and temptation our way. She asked us to imagine what could have happened "if the Lord had not been for us." Then she asked us to write down one or two such situations from our own lives.

While I have certainly experienced God's rescuing hand in my life, I wonder how many other times I've been my own worst enemy and needed rescuing from myself. Or how many times I've reached a crossroads, and the Lord has graciously intervened to put my feet on the right path. Make no mistake, though: Satan works hard to twist all circumstances and situations to his advantage (and our ruin).

May I share with you what I wrote? What I personally praise God for when I look back over my life?
  • For the Lord humbling my stupid pride with two separate friends whom I had hurt. If He had not, I would have missed out on two precious and dear friendships. Thank you, Lord.
  • For the Lord directing my steps to the Nazarene church in Yucca Valley when I was seventeen. If He had not, I would never have met Helen Neuhauser, fallen in love with her family and ultimately, her big brother. :) Thank you, Lord.
  • For the Lord keeping my parents' marriage intact until I left for college. If He had not, if my parents had divorced when I was younger, I know I would not be the person I am today. And I shudder to think of the person I might have become. Thank you, Lord!


There are others. Some too private and personal to share here. But these three stand out the brightest in my memory. And you know what? I celebrate that in each of these situations, the Lord was on my side.

I will end this post with one more Beth Moore quote, one that effectively sums up the whole point of Psalm 124:

"A vicious battle is being fought over your life . . . You are not imagining that something's going on, and yes, it's more than meets the eye. From heaven's vantage point, your story if exceedingly more exciting than you can conceive - replete with dangers, near misses, and great escapes. As many bruises, scars, and successful hits as the enemy may have given us, as we study this psalm, I want you to celebrate that Satan didn't get all he wanted."

How about you? Feel like celebrating? What circumstances can you look back on and say thankfully (if not joyfully!) with the psalmist "If the Lord had not . . ." ?

Well, praise God, He did!

May 11, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Indeed

We've had no fewer than five sunny days in a row. No wind. No rain.

We joked that Mom brought the sun up with her from California. Privately, though, we agreed that God had heard, and answered, our prayers for beautiful weather while she was here.

You know what's wonderful about having my mom come visit? My dirty dishes magically disappeared every night. Piles of clean laundry somehow ended up on top of the washer, neatly folded. Even the stairs got vacuumed when I wasn't looking.

I really ought to ask my mom where she gets those cleaning fairies from. Have to get me some. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that they left when she did.

But what was more wonderful than even cleaning fairies was the time we got to spend together: laughing, talking, shopping, hiking, watching movies, and playing with Caleb.

Caleb calls her "Grammie" (which sometimes sounds more like "Gammie"), and for the five days she was here, she was his favorite person. Whatever she ate, he wanted to eat too. Wherever she went, he had to go, too. If she happened to disappear around the corner at Target, he immediately raised a ruckus: "Grammie? Grammie? Where go?" Then tears. Until we caught up with her, then it was all smiles and "Grammie! Grammie! I found!"

Priceless. I'm tellin' ya.

I have a pretty amazing mom. I didn't always know this, but the realization has slowly been dawning on me as I get older. She was the first one to teach me about Jesus. She was the one who prayed the sinner's prayer with me when I was five. My earliest desire to read the bible came from watching her get on her knees every morning in her bathroom to pray and read.

She used to sing to me most nights before bed, and I still find myself humming those songs as I wash dishes or drive around town.

She has helped plan and throw numerous parties, even playing the maid (in full costume) for an evening at a Colonial New Year's celebration I threw when I was twelve. She not only helped me cook several authentic old English dishes for the occasion, but also cleaned up the whole mess afterwards when I got sick off the whipped syllabub.

What can I say? She's a mom. She's my mom.
She paid for my honeymoon and a good portion of my wedding. She was in the hospital with me when I gave birth to Caleb.
I've watched her show tremendous courage in the face of fear; I've seen her cling to Jesus faithfully through all the ups and downs of her life. I've taken her for granted way too many times. I love her dearly. I've missed her oodles since our move to Washington.
(and not just because she brings cleaning fairies with her when she visits ;)

So Mom, even though you are back home in California now, know that you are loved and missed and cherished.
And as for all you other ladies out there, call your mom some time this week and tell her you love her. She put up with a lot to raise you. ;)





And to end this post on a slightly less-mushy note, I give you my very first-ever Bloggie Video (here's hoping it works!)

Catching Frogs at the Lake Last Saturday

video