Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

What a wonderful time of year (even without snow)! I love the trimmings of Christmas with trees and lights and candy and special meals and time off ... but this year the need to simplify stands out. Often those special trimmings distract us from the true meaning of the season. Do the cards have to go out? Do the candies need to be made? What if I wasn't in the Christmas program? Why do we try to cram so much more into this season, when there is so much to think about.

Jesus Christ is celebrated at Christmas. He came as a baby, leaving the glories of heaven and a perfect environment, to be surrounded by sin and to take all that sin upon him on the cross. We celebrate his birth, because it was through the birth that he took a human form to take the punishment of sin for us. I am so thankful for salvation. I am thankful that God calls us from all different points in life. I am thankful that God saves young, old, "good", "wicked", students, workers, moms, dads, children ...

Sandra was saved as a little girl. A faithful Sunday School teacher told her about heaven and hell and the price that Jesus paid so that we could have an eternity in a beautiful place instead of an eternity of torment in hell. She repented of her sin and trusted in Christ's work to secure her future in Heaven.

Chris heard the gospel all of his life from missionary parents. He could not grasp how it could be faith alone. It was as a 21 year old sailor in Power School that he realized that he could not help the lost condition of his "ship mates" without giving himself to Christ first. He repented of his sins and lack of faith, trusting in Christ alone to save him.

We rejoice in this season because God had a plan to redeem his creation. The child that we celebrate this season is the Savior of the world. Let's focus on that. Are you saved? Are you thankful for that salvation? Are you telling others what Christ did for you and what he can in turn do for them?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Update on the trailer

The unloved trailer is almost home. All of the rooms have been painted except for the master bathroom and they are almost all decorated. The guest room and the storage room still need a little arranging, but things are well on their way. Things are feeling like home and we were able to entertain our friends from NY last week and plan to have some other neighbors over tomorrow and then some church attenders on Sunday. As Dorothy says, "there's no place like home."

Residents of NC

Well, after a busy day in town, we are now official NC residents. Yes, we received our driver's licenses and registered and inspected the car. It was quite an ordeal and we are still getting used to the laid back methods of the south.

We arrived early at DMV knowing that it is sometimes a place to be feared. When we arrived with our stacks of ID and paperwork, the lady sent us home because we did not have our birth certificates. Despite the fact that the paperwork asked for one form of ID with a birth date (we had WA licences and passports), we could not convince her to let us through. So we went home and got the birth certificates. The second time through everything went well and we left with new licenses.

The journey was not over. Next we went to register the car. As of 11/1 they changed their rules and now an inspection needed to be completed first before registration rather than in 10 days after registration! ARGH! SOOO, we went and had it inspected and then registered the car.

So the simple acts of the morning filled the morning and a little of the afternoon.

Since I had been home for about 2 weeks straight, we went to Hickory, NC for a little "city" life. We went for some weights, a cross stitch kit, and a meal at Olive Garden. It was a nice little getaway and the end of leaf peeping season here in NC.

So now I reckon I should be fixin' to get to my exercise before facing this purdy day before me. Y'all come back and read now, ya hear!

How about being a dairy farmer?

Well, on Wednesday night at midnight, Chris said good bye to military life. He has been so relaxed since finishing up. His life was always clouded by the fear and dread of what would await on the ship, or when they would fast cruise (stay on the ship, tied to the pier for days on end), or when the next deployment would be. It is so nice to have that freedom again.

So now was the time to turn anxious, right? No, there has been such a peace in this process, that we still rested on God. There is a lot of talk about the poor economy and lack of jobs (which is true), but God had a plan in bringing us here. Chris had applications into Chick-fil-A (the southern fast food), a hardware store, Sears, and a manufacturing plant, when our neighbor came over with another option ... the dairy farm where he works. Chris pursued it and was hired on the spot. So 3 days after leaving the Navy, he was employed again.

So what is the lactose intolerant, hay fever prone man doing on the farm? :) Well, he was primarily hired to fix the diesel machinery, repair stalls and fences, and drive truck as necessary ... but everyone does a little of everything, so he also chases cows and scrapes manure.

We are so excited about this job. Chris is an outdoorsman - and this definitely fits the bill. He is on the go all the time so the days do not seem long at all. He can work 40 - 60 hours until school starts as he wants. He can cut back to 20 hours when the school year begins. He is active which cuts down the time he needs to exercise after work and will balance the time that he sits in classes.

So ... 3 cheers for milk!

A whirlwind trip to the Northeast

As if the trip across the country was not enough, we decided to take a whirlwind trip up to NY to see family and friends before work and school began. So after fixing up the major rooms in the trailer, we headed the nearly 600 miles to western NY to see the Hadley folks. It was the peak of leaf peeping as we headed through WV. Chris exclaimed on every turn, "Isn't that beautiful." We had a good visit with mom and dad. We celebrated dad's birthday, met their new pastor, visited a museum in Jamestown, and enjoyed roaming through the remainder of the fall colors on the property. I enjoyed playing a real piano and Chris enjoyed shooting his muzzleloader for the first time in about 8 months.

After the trip to Cherry Creek, we headed to Vestal to see my brother Jeff and his family. Their youngest referred to us as the people on the refrigerator so we needed to fix that. We had a nice visit with all of them. They too let us get out for some much needed walks - to see their new church and a nature walk at the local park. We did puzzles, played legos, and sampled the local Pat Mitchells ice cream (it was REALLY good).

Next we were on to Cobleskill for church with our friends from Albany - Matt and Kelly. Their little church was going to meet in their home because they lacked a furnace at the church, but they braved 55 degree temps in the sanctuary so that I could play for the service (they are pretty tough). That night we did meet in their home and Chris preached. We had a good time catching up with them and being encouraged at God's faithfulness despite our lack of faith. We also enjoyed meeting their children and their church family.

Our last stop was Elizabethtown, PA to visit our friends from WA. On our way, we stopped in Clarks Summit, PA for some Friendly's. I had a tremendous grilled chicken salad and amazingly left the Vienna mocha fudge in the freezer. We arrived to see our friend in PA and had an awesome visit. We met their newest member, Josiah and Chris was able to visit Hershey, PA for the first time. Our friends took us on a tour trolley that stuffed us full of all kinds of Hershey products - YUM! We also enjoyed meeting all their church family that we had heard so much about in WA and seeing their new home.

We enjoyed our visit, but it sure was nice to get home and back into things again. Time to finish the trailer!

Friday, October 10, 2008

One week in NC!

We have been in NC for one week. We arrived to a slightly "unloved" trailer and eagerly set to work unlocking the potential in our new home. We were without water for 3 days which made life a little interesting. We did tote water from the neighbors house so that we could clean the carpets and did a little scrubbing in the house.

The place needs a lot of cleaning, but most of that is done now. We still have some mini blinds to clean and the guest bath, but the rest of the cleaning is done. Two rooms are already painted with many more to go. The kitchen is unpacked and the master bedroom is almost settled. This at least allows us some place to unwind and of course a place to prepare meals. Chris is redoing a closet right now so that we can unpack our hanging clothes.

We visited 2 churches on Sunday. What a blessing to visit 2 churches in one week that were not offensive on the outside. We will probably visit 2 more on Sunday. What a change to be able to be a little "choosy."

With all the repair and unpacking, we have not done a lot of exploring, but that will come. It is nice to be together and working on the place as a team. The last time we moved, Chris left with things still in boxes and I settled the place on my own. I like the team effort!

Sorry for the lack of pictures so far. I will add some when we are a little more settled and I can find things.

Friday, October 3, 2008

4 ways you can tell you are not in the west anymore

1. Autumn has more than the two colors of yellow and green!

2. Sage brush can only be seen on old Western movies, not in your back yard.

3. You no longer have to take your own toilet paper, soap, and paper towels into the rest area facilities.

4. You can watch the news as it is reported, not 3 hours later.

One Morning Away!

Well, tonight we are in our new home state. I am really enjoying the accent! I told Chris that if I could learn the accent it might help me as a pastor's wife. It seems that a woman with a southern accent can say ANYTHING and it sounds sweet :)

We are in Asheville, NC tonight. We had a beautiful drive through the Smokey Mountains today. The leaves are just starting to turn. The mountains remind us much of the Adirondacks were we spent so much of our dating days.

Tomorrow we will make the last 70 miles of our journey and unload at our new trailer. We are excited to see what God has provided and to begin setting up a new home. We are prepared if necessary to paint and change / clean carpets before unpacking in a big way if necessary.

God is so good to us. We had a good visit with the family in IN. It will be nice to not be aunt and uncle from quite such a long distance. 500 miles is a lot closer than 3000 miles. We had not really met the youngest, so that was fun and we can now be more than just a voice on the phone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's An Awfully Big Country

Well, we have managed to spend the night in each state that we have passed through (except OR). The states in the west are quite large when driving from side to side. Tonight we are in Urbana, IL and are done with I-80. We are nearly through with the long trip. We spent Sunday night in Sidney, NE the home of Cabela's. For those not trained in "outdoors" - that is a hunting, fishing, camping, outdoors-y type store that is a lot of fun to roam through. It is full of "Stuffed" animals and often has an aquarium in it. We did spend a little time roaming before hitting the road for the day. We also mananged to pass the mother store of JC Penney in Kemmerer WY while looking for lodging one night. Last night we stopped right on the NE - Iowa border in Council Bluffs. I wanted to make it to a new state for the night and we were still able to stop early enough for a workout and a nice meal and still got to bed in order to get a good jump on the day and make it to IL tonight.

We crossed the Mississippi today and both looked at each other and said "We're home!" We both have such a love of the east coast. We stopped at a rest area with a play ground which I just had to play on and as we returned to the truck Chris asked if we could just lay in the grass for a minute. Yes, the west has grass - but it is just not the same.

Tonight I am doing laundry and we can have a little later start in the morning because we are only going into IN tomorrow to stop and see Donald and his family for church and then for the day on Thursday.

We are eager to get to our new home. We will probably stop just shy of "home" on Friday and then get into Shelby before noon on Saturday and be able to unload the truck.

The trip is going well. We have managed to make fairly wise choices for eating and have taken a walk each night along with some workouts in the hotels. We are trying to avoid the weight gain that we had when going from east to west four years ago. Tomorrow morning we can use the hotels fitness center. The truck rides well (better than a compact car) and is doing fairly well towing the car. The high winds of the plain states have made things interesting sometimes but we have had no incidents.

We are reading the autobiography of John Bunyan as we travel "Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners" It is a profitable reminder of our weaknesses and God's amazing grace on our behalf.

We are almost there and ready to start new things. I am ready to be settled again.

Until IN, KY, TN, or NC ... TTFN (Ta Ta For Now)

Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Our Way!

Well, today I blog from Rock Springs, WY along the I-80 corridor. We have many miles on 80 to go. We got an earlier start than we planned - we were just too excited. We picked up the truck on the morning of September 24. The loading started around 9:30 and by 2:30 the truck was loaded. I still had a lot of cleaning, but by about 6 pm we were on the road. We got to Ellensberg, WA on the first night cutting about 100 miles off the 3000 mile trip.

On the 25th, we started to the Boise, ID area. We arrived at 5:30 to stay with Chris' sister and brother-in-law for a few days. We were also able to visit with his oldest brother on our last afternoon and morning there.

Yesterday was a long day with about 530 miles. We planned to stop earlier, but there just were not real great accomodations along the way and the exits are few and far between.

Now on through WY and Nebraska the next few days. We are planning to be "home" in Shelby, NC on Friday night or Saturday morning. We do have a trailer waiting for us in a park owned and managed by Ambassador staff. It is nice to know we can unload when we get there.

Got to get ready to get on the road again. Just wanted to update those following us and praying.

Psalm 126:3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.

Columbia River Gorge and a Shy Volcano

Our last trip from the Seattle area was a trip that I had planned each year for four years - a trip to the Columbia River Gorge. I finally got to use those plans.

We headed out for Mt St Helens first which is in the Southern portion of Washington state. It is a little drive from the highway, but both Chris and I had longed to see it. We drove to the lookout point, but the fog at the top of the mountain was so thick, we could not even see each other when we got out of the car. So we left sad, but promised to hit the mountain again on the way home.

Next stop - Columbia River Gorge - the border of Washington and Oregon and home of many, many waterfalls. We followed the Historic Columbia River Highway which is a quaint two lane road through a rain forest and the road is lined with white picket fences and stone work. It was a gorgeous drive. Then we hiked to 5 or 6 waterfalls. Chris was enjoying the opportunity to use our "fancy" camera including "stitching" pictures together to make panoramic shots of the falls. I had planned the trip for the fall hoping for a little "leaf peeping," but it was still a little too early. It was beautiful weather though. Even though it was raining, we hiked without getting soaked because the forest was so thick. There really is nothing like an "old growth" forest. Absolutely breathtaking.

After 2 days in the gorge it was time to head back to Mukilteo. We planned to arrive at St Helens around 3:30 hoping all of the fog would be burned off. Alas, the mountain proved shy again. Our drive was clear, but a cloud sat just on the top of the volcano. We did see the base of the mountain and the powerful destruction that is still evident almost 30 years later. The power of 1000's of atomic bombs displayed by our awesome God. It is amazing to me that anyway living through that could deny a powerful God.

It was a wonderful end to our stay in the west. We were both sad to miss the volcano, but glad that it did not "make any noise" while we were there either.

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

Glacier National Park

Well, with all of the miracles surrounding us, we were given extra time together in the west and an opprotunity to share some of the magnificent sites around us. We needed to get together with the western family before the move east. Originally they were going to come to the Seattle area, but since Chris was granted all of his terminal leave, we did the majority of driving. We met up in Hungry Horse, MT and decided to see Glacier National Park. Chris' folks stayed in their motor home and we rented a "rustic" cabin. Rustic means rustic. Just a bed and four walls. No electricity. Yes, it did get quite cool at night. We did enjoy some beautiful days and some wonderful evenings around a campfire. It was nice to have the motor home to cook in and just to warm up in in the morning. I am still getting used to the whole camping thing, but am improving each time.

The most hilarious part of the whole trip was when Chris and I got up at 6:30 one morning to shower before hitting the park. We heard the alarm, got up and headed to the shower house. When we got back to the cabin, Chris looked at his watch and asked me what time it was. We checked all the watches and cell phones to discover that it was 4:30. The last time Chris had used his alarm clock was in Norfolk, VA on the way home and now we were in Mountain time ... not eastern time! We returned to our sleeping bags for the next 2 hours!!!

We were able to drive the "Going to the Sun Road." It is a twisty, turny, cliff like drive ... but very beautiful. We saw half one day and the other half the next. Yes, we saw the glacier, but I must admit that it was smaller than I expected. Chris and his family had driven around the park many, many times in their trips to and from the Arctic, but had never actually driven through ... so it was new for all of us.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Be Still, My Soul

Just another 4 days until we begin terminal leave (it was moved from Wednesday 9/10to Friday 9/12). The excitement mounts and I think that my sailor is finally relaxing. He said that in the beginning of his time home his body would just tense up because he "knew" there was SOMETHING that needed to be stressed about. Then when he realized that the pressures of the ship were truly in the past he would relax.

So - change is on the horizon. Change is good, right? In the process, I realize that I - a person who loves planning and mapping things out - am struggling with uncertainty. Imagine that? Am I ready for the new life? Yes, I am excited, don't doubt that - but the change? All I have known in the last 6 years is the life of a military wife and the predictable unpredictability of the life. Imagine taking comfort in that?

So my dear hubby gets home and senses the commotion within me and recommends that I memorize the song "Be Still, My Soul." I break out the hymn book (yes, there was one still unpacked) and read the words. I asked him if he knew what the second verse said. "No" he did not. So I will share these words that have reminded me about where my trust lies.

Be still, My Soul! Thy God doth undertake
To guide thy future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my Soul! the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
-Katharina von Schlegel

So I don't know where you are today or if the sin of worry and anxiety ever claim your time needlessly, but this song and the verse the song is based on have been a rebuke and comfort to us in these days.

Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God:...
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An error in our favor

Sounds a little bit like playing Monopoly, doesn't it? Well, Chris headed back to Naval Station Everett this week prepared to teach students through the month of September. When he reported to duty, he found out that his orders had been written incorrectly - he had been sent to TPU, which is the department that processes people out of the military - usually in ten days or less. He did not mind that! The personnel in that department are allowing him to use all of his unused leave days as "terminal leave" which means that instead of leaving the military on September 29, he will be finished here on September 10. The ship was only going to allow him to use 30 days of leave for terminal leave and he would have had to "sell back" the extra 20 days that he had saved up. So we are still flying high and thanking God for His gracious provisions in our lives.

We will still be in WA for most of September but will be able to visit some western family members before we leave this side of the country for at least 4 years and also take a trip to see the Red Woods in California, the Oregon coast, and Mount St Helens in southern WA before we load up and head across the country. I had thought that I might have to leave before seeing some of these spectacular sites due to time constraints.

So this week, life is imitating a game. The error was in our favor. Of course, we don't see it as an error at all - our God is in control of everything.

Psalm 40:5 Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

Back to Work

Yes, my dear husband is home and back to work, but I really refer to myself. I have the best job in the whole world and I am glad to be back to it full-time after a nearly 6 month "vacation." I love being a "keeper at home." Titus 2 speaks of the young women learning to be "keepers at home ... that the word of God be not blasphemed." That keeper is a guard, protecting the home from worldly influences.

As Chris gets out of the military and away from the schedule that it has provided, I am often asked if I will go back to teaching so that he can be a full time student. I can gladly answer "no" because I feel that God has set my place in the home. I am so thankful that Chris appreciates the home that can be created when I am there full-time. There is great joy in taking care of my husband, my home, and hopefully one day our children. I am glad that I can provide a peaceful sanctuary for my husband when the world swirls violently around us. I love being free to minister to fellow believers and the community by teaching children, teens, and other women any skill that can be a service to them now and in the future. I love being available to provide a meal with little notice to those in needs.

Without children in the home, I do look outside the home to fill my days. I primarily look for ministry opportunities so that I can "teach the younger." I may continue to give music lessons in NC, may teach sewing lessons, or may make modest dresses for families searching for that option. I was thrilled the other day when one of my students asked me about her dress standards and I could share with her what I saw in her life and also support her parents' views. This opportunity came because of the time I had spent with her over the past 4 years - she knew that I cared about her. Chris and I have found that strong relationships with people forged with quality and quantity of time provide the best opportunities to meet their needs and open doors to ministry. My flexible schedule allows us the opportunities to reach out that we have not found when I am teaching a lot of lessons, substitute teaching, "running" all over the place, or juggling 2 work schedules.

The Proverbs 31 woman was VERY busy and was praised for the steps that she took to care for her home. She researched; she considered; she saved; she created goods to sell; she met the needs of her home and husband. I am challenged by this mighty woman and strive to model my life after her example. I have much to learn to become this woman who receives the praise of her family and of God. How I pray that I can learn to be so virtuous and be an example to those young women around me!

Proverbs 31:30 "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Blessings Pile Up

So all of the excitement of this week also led to a lot of uncertainty. The biggest problem was that we had terminated our lease and needed a place for the month of September. I headed to the leasing office this morning and was told that our place was already rented and due to be occupied on September 6. So I left and headed back to the apartment to research other options. Before I reached my apartment, my cell phone rang and it was the leasing agent asking why I had asked the question. When I explained the situation, she said that current residents had preference and we could stay. So my thought ran to "What will the month to month rent be?" Last year our lease agreement had listed rent at about $1300 for a month to month arrangement, so I expected higher this year. When I talked to the property manager this afternoon, she said we were good for September for just an additional $100 per month. I just stared at her and clarified it every way that I could and she held to it. Praise the Lord! I am relieved not to have to "move" an extra time, no need for storage ...

Another blessing of the temporary duty is that we will actually get to leave on September 30. The ship was not going to let Chris leave until September 30 and then he would have had 10 days of "work" here in WA to "process out." No he can process out before September 30 and we can be on our way!

Chris also confirmed today that had he not removed himself from the chief induction this month, he never would have had this opportunity either. WOW!

Psalm 93:4 The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

That's A Lot of Soda!

So what keeps the wife of a deployed sailor busy? Good question. Usually I learn a new skill during a long deployment ... sewing was a big one last deployment. This year, another sailor wife filled my long evenings with a homecoming project. This wife wanted to greet the 3,000 sailors returning with the USS Abraham Lincoln with Pop Tab Leis. So as of this writing, I have made about 130 leis and will have about 150 done by the time we move. No, I have not collected the tabs due to the fact that the carbonation and sugar would kill me. But process this ... 110 tabs per lei and 3000 leis. That's a Lot of Soda! I am not sure that the director of the project will meet the goal, but may be close. I did have some uncompleted kits here at home, so I will meet Chris at the airport with his own lei (he will probably turn it in so it can be "reused" at the official homecoming).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Belated Anniversary Present from the Navy?

So Sunday, August 17 was our sixth Anniversary. Chris and I celebrated it as we have about 1/2 of our other anniversaries - in different locations. We did connect with a phone call which is always special. Then last night, I receive an e-mail from Chris that says he is coming home ... this week!!!! It seems that he was pretty much a lame duck on the ship since he was turning over his responsibilities, so they decided to send him home to teach students on the base in Everett (similar to his job in NY when we were married). So he will fly off the ship sometime tomorrow and arrive in Seattle sometime this week - we have no confirmation of flight times from the middle east or layovers between here and there.

Have you ever been on cloud 9? From up above it, it looks like a nice place :)

So it looks like I will have help to move. Now we just need a place to live for a month since our lease has expired here and we already gave our notice ... We know that God will provide and are thankful for this special blessing.

I was thinking the other day that this was definitely the longest we had ever been apart and feeling bad that I had not jumped on my one opportunity to join Chris in Dubai for a port call. God has always given us relief during the long stretches. During the first deployment, we met up in Hawaii to shorten the time apart. During the second deployment, he came home early for school in Virginia. What a blessing that we only had to endure 5 1/2 months of separation on this our LAST DEPLOYMENT! God is good.

Rejoice with us as we finish this final stretch in WA together and look forward to a new saga in NC.

Proverbs 21:1 The King's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chief Bickish?

No, it won't be happening, but it could have. Last week Chris found out that he had been selected to be promoted from Petty Officer First Class to Chief. That is a big honor in the Navy. It is such a big promotion that they have an induction season that lasts a little over a month for the chief selectees. So why won't Chris be a chief? Well there are two reasons. The first is the logistics of time. The new chiefs will be "frocked" on September 14 or 15 - just 2 weeks before it is time for Chris to come home. The induction requires quite an outlay of money for new uniforms and all of the induction activities. We were not sure that it would be worth the expense for only 2 weeks as "Chief Bickish". The second and more significant reason is that the induction season involves a month of praising the Navy life excessively and equally "bashing" your family. If you know the man of this house, you know that there is no way he could participate in that. So, he turned it down.

In any case ... Congratulations, Honey! It is awesome that you were chosen and that you accomplished all this in your 8 years of service.

Last Leg of the Race

So the count is now under 50 days! Hooray!

So that puts Sandra in the middle of piles of boxes recovered from dumpster diving around the apartment complex and piles of junk mail ads collected in the last few months. Hubby wisely said "no" to the packing materials that IBM (doesn't it mean I've Been Moved) moves had made me accustomed to (new boxes, bubble wrap, and white newspaper). Yes, it is moving time. All the belongings go in boxes and the apartment gets scrubbed from top to bottom. So my question is ... why don't I clean like this while I live in the place? Yes, I have been behind the refrigerator and the stove and even found a Mr. Potato Head arm that had been lost :) I am also spackling like crazy because an apartment is not home until the walls are covered with personal affects. And what do you want to know about Washington? Our two big problems, which are more obvious when "white gloving" to leave are these - mold and spiders! There is your fun fact of the day.

What does all this packing inspire? We are incredibly blessed people. I can not believe how much STUFF, how many clothes, how much food we have. God has been so good to us. Even in tough economic times, how can we complain when we have so much?

Psalm 68:19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Law of Supply and Demand

Anyone who drives understands this law right now. Gas prices have soared and hit budgets in a big way. We studied it in government and economics class. The truth of this can be proven over and over again. The more we have, the lower the price ... the less we have, the higher the price. I have seen this law at work over the past few months and have heard from Chris that it is a frequent topic in the office and plants at work. What are the simple pleasures of life worth?

I have realized the value of a simple hug, a kiss at the end of a day, a hand to hold in a stressful situation. I was shopping for tickets to visit Dubai, UAE for a port call. The tickets were ridiculously priced (say $2000) ... and I actually considered it! Yes, a moment with my hubby was worth $2000 and 48 hours of travel.

So what does it teach me? Am I valuing the life that I have in the here and now? Do I appreciate what God gives each day, or only when it is removed for awhile?

Psalm 13:5-6 "But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD because he hath dealt bountifully with me."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sailor!

Alright, no introspection and thinking out loud this time. Just a glimpse into a USS Lincoln birthday party and the art of care packages.

Yes, care packages are both a fun and a challenging part of separations. The US Post Office has become a great friend. They now have flat rate boxes and I have gotten up to 15 lbs in the flat rate box saving myself $10-15. Sometimes the packages can travel in a quick 5 days, others have taken up to 4 weeks. Both length of time and the heat of the Gulf add to the challenge. Many prepackaged foods fill each box, but there is nothing like a little bit of home. I have learned to bake sweet breads and cakes in jars which can then be "canned" by putting the lids on while still hot. (The Internet has mixed views on the safety of this - but we have not had trouble, yet) This unique method allows goodies to make it to the ship without mold and still in edible form rather than a stale brick. For those looking for other tips, cookies made with molasses and/or Karo syrup have a better "shelf" life. So off to the ship goes chocolate cake, icing, sprinkles, noise makers, candy, and BUBBLES! (Party in a box). I guess all the boys enjoyed the party and I was glad that my sweetie could have a little celebration.

We have a few holidays and celebrations to commemorate when we are together again. The plan is one nice dinner at The Melting Pot - a fondue restaurant where the meal becomes an event. We will celebrate 2 birthdays, an anniversary, a homecoming, a separation from the Navy, and the start of a new phase of life!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thankful for the Navy?

So often it is the storms of life that teach us the greatest lessons. The Navy has provided us with some of our greatest trials in the past years, but God has used this institution to give us some of our greatest blessings. (Please realize that throughout the post I recognize the US Navy as the path that God chose to use to work in our lives)

Without the Navy - there would be no Chris and Sandra. It was the Navy that led Chris to South Carolina where he saw the plight of lost men headed to Hell without Christ. Through this realization, he surrendered his own life to God's will and accepted Him as Savior. When he arrived in NY with his new faith, his search for a church brought him to Latham where I was teaching. Not coincidence, but the hand of God.

The Navy has taught us to rely on God in a new way. While many get complacent because of the steady paycheck and the "perks" of military life, the separations have shown us how often we seek man for help before turning to God. When our closest human companion is not just a phone call away or in the next room, we run to the One we should have called out to first.

The Navy has taught us to appreciate our marital relationship. It is sad to hear men and women around us speak ill of their spouse. It is said that "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" and perhaps it is true. I am so thankful for the hundreds of letters that have been written that force us to put a voice to our feelings. There is not a day when I don't read a reason why my husband loves me. Not every married couple remembers to state what may seem obvious.

The Navy has provided the means to head to college in the spring. Many people finish college with extreme debt (not a good thing when heading into the ministry). God has provided for 4 years of school bills within the 5 years since we felt the calling to head to Bible school.

The Navy has brought us to the Seattle area and shown us the need for church planting and strong churches even in large cities. We never would have imagined how hard it would be to find a fundamental church in such a heavily populated area.

The Navy has provided Chris with a unique mission field. There are very few places where you are confined with the people you desire to reach for 6-7 months on end. So many times the stress of deployments and the unique difficulties of military life provide the sailors with questions that are a perfect spring board into the salvation message. It has also provided a testing zone - Can you imagine your testimony being under 24 hour surveilance by those you are witnessing to?

The Navy has shown me how to "Be still." Without the busy-ness of teaching, the immediate call of housework, and the closeness of family and friends, there is plenty of time to be still. It is through these times that I can hear Him speak the loudest.

The Navy has "shown us the world." Through the different port calls that Chris has experienced, we realize what a blessing it is to live in America. Through all its faults it is still the greatest nation in the world. Though our liberties are threatened each day, we still have freedoms that few other countries enjoy. I don't think that I will ever again view the "Patriotic Holidays" without realizing that someone is sacrificing their life, their time, their family for my freedoms.

The Navy has shown us the need to reach out. Without family or a large church family and with many deployments over the holidays, we have spent many holidays alone. I imagine that I realized this in college as well, but there are many "family" holidays when individuals need families to be with. It is so easy to include 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 more in our celebrations when we have so much to share - we just have to remember to do it.

The Navy has provided a growing time. The Navy contract is binding and has held us for the past 5 years when we would have wished to head right to Bible school. These days of waiting have provided much time to learn and grow and hopefully to be more ready to absorb what is waiting for us at school. We will have many more practical questions than we might have without these years and experiences.

The Navy has prepared us for college. So often I listen to couples who talk about the difficult days of married life during school. They most disliked the long times apart because of classes and work. I think that in this area even one hour together each day will seem like a treasure compared to DEPLOYMENT!

So I guess I write this to remind myself to look through the clouds, to look at the right side of the cross stitch, to view what God is doing for me and not to me.

Friday, July 11, 2008

True Faith - It's Hard

One of Chris' favorite verses is II Chronicle 16:9, "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." This verse hangs in our home and I love that it is ever before me. The thoughts have grown deeper this month. Why is it so hard to give over everything to the God who has promised and proven His power in our lives each day?

It has been about 2 weeks of extreme introspection and examination (Is that redundant?) I hope that the pain of these days has been that of one who is growing. My thoughts were primarily about things in my life that could hinder someone else's worship and why I hold on to those things. I determined that it is a lack of faith in God to meet my needs. Why do I choose the clothes I do? Why am I slow to ask someone to change their music or turn off a program or movie? Because I value man's opinion more than God's opinion. I don't see how God will meet my needs dispite a possibly negative opinion of someone else. Why do I want that new car? Why do I want a bigger house? Because I want what others have without trusting that God's plan for ME is His best. His plan for me is not the same as the plan for my neighbor.

I have often looked over the qualification to the promise as I read this verse. My lack of faith and my concern with other's opinions can negate the promise. My heart has to be perfect toward HIM! Is that why I lack faith? It may be because I know that my heart is not perfect. He often keeps his promise despite my evil heart, but He is not bound to the promise because I have not kept up my end of the bargain. Isn't God good to teach the tough messages any time?

Do I ramble? Perchance. But I appreciate the teaching that the Lord has given to a wife with much time to "Be Still" over the past 4 years of deployments.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Learning about Solar Power

Yes, I guess I have lived in the Puget Sound (read Seattle area) too long. I am not green - just learning the lingo. I have learned much in my four years here. Most prominent is the fact that I am solar powered. My life is much easier and I have much more energy when the sun is out. I have also learned new weather terms like "sun breaks" and "the mountains will be out today." This is definitely a unique place. I don't think we are the rainiest area, but we must have rain, or drizzle, or grey, or fog about 75% of the year. Today the sun came out and it gave me some thoughts on rain and sunshine.

The first thought was, "Am I shining the light?" The world is covered in the cloud cover and rain of sin. Do I give small, taunting SON breaks when I am in the world or am I giving the full SON that gives warmth, and life, and hope? I recently heard a message about Joseph in the house of Potiphar. Potiphar recognized the hand of Jehovah in Joseph's life. As a polytheist, Potiphar probably had not even heard of Jehovah. Joseph not only showed his faith in honest, hard work - but he verbalized it. Enough of just a silent testimony (ie a sun break), how about the direct witness (full sun)?

My second thought was that it is in the 8-9 grey months each year that I learn to appreciate the sun. I have lived places like Pensacola, FL where the sun is normal and expected. But here in WA, when the sun comes out, I know to go out and enjoy it while it is there. I have often called WA our "wilderness." We have struggled with deployments and the separations they bring, we have wandered looking for strong churches with strong preaching, and we have learned and possibly experience a disorder called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) caused by the lack of sunlight. It is through these times that we begin to appreciate the times we are together more than we are apart, the times when we are in a church that is preaching about our sin, and the times when our location is a little more sunny :)

I guess above all, I am thankful that in sunshine OR rain, in the Promised Land OR the wilderness, I have a God who is in control.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What are we up to?

Some people say that journaling is a good discipline and also a way to relieve stress. I don't know about that, but it is at least a method of letting people look into our lives and know what is going on that week.

I guess the first entry will be easy. What's going on with Chris and Sandra? Well, we are currently 2 1/2 months into our FINAL 7 month deployment. So that puts Sandra in Mukilteo, WA and Chris in the Persian Gulf on the USS Abraham Lincoln. We are still not aging this year and remaining newlyweds (no spouse=no birthday, no anniversary) - that is my spin on the situation in order to maintain a positive attitude.

Chris will be busy keeping the ship running so that they can use the catapults to launch planes. Usually he is helping to propel the ship, but they are parked for awhile (we think). He is of course keeping up on his workouts and is trying to start a Bible Study again. He has had two different sailors show up on Sunday. His work is starting to wind down as they slowly give other sailor's his responsiblities.

Sandra is currently itching to get going on packing. It is still a little too early for that, but there are always cupboards and drawers to go through and mental planning to be done. It is my job to empty fridge and freezer and do the logistics of our coming move.

So where are we going? We were accepted to Ambassador Baptist College beginning in January 2009. We are more than a little excited about this new adventure. The real packing will begin in August and I will move out of our cute little apartment here in Washington at the end of August. Chris is due home mid-September or end of September (that is Navy time for you). He will do official separation paperwork and then we will pack up the Storage Unit and head across the country again. Hooray!

Until then, I must check my enthusiasm. There are still a few months ahead of us. Of course, I am reading, teaching piano and flute lessons, teaching Sunday School, and accompanying congregational singing. During the week, I am crocheting blankets for a program called Project Linus. It fills my time, uses up yarn, and aids families facing severe illnesses. I am also sewing dresses for some of my students and attempting to teach myself to play the violin. Again, discipline will be the key. And the exercise endeavor, which my husband has instilled in me - with gas prices rising and an unpredictable fitness center at the apartment complex, I am trying "real" running in place of my treadmill. I am currently doing 5.5 miles in just over an hour. I am in training so that I can run with Chris without slowing him down. I have a little way to go. I guess I can make some progress in my remaining 4 months of training.