Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blessings, Tests, Visits & Laughter

This has been an amazing weekend. God showed up so many times. Well, God is actually there all the's us who have a hard time seeing Him in our midst.  When we really look, it's easy to see Him "show up", as we say.

On Friday, my daughter and I had to run to the grocery store for some "lunch" items for Saturday's annual yard sale day in our town. We stopped off for lunch at Burger King before hitting the grocery store. I placed our food order, the cashier rang up our total and said, "No Charge". I was dumbfounded. He went on to say, "Someone was in earlier and left a donation, saying to pay for the next two or three orders until the money ran it's been paid for." Now I've heard about these 'blessings' happening to other people but I've never had it happen to me. It was beyond cool! So, with extremely thankful hearts, we thanked God for the blessing He gave us and asked a special blessing be placed on the person who obeyed God's prompting to do this deed.

No blessing comes without a test and often you're tested before you get your blessing.  This time, however, it happened in reverse order. We were blessed and then we were tested.

After lunch, my daughter and I made a quick stop in the local dollar store to pick up a couple of cards and a tube of toothpaste. The cashier rang up my order, gave me my total. Puzzled, I asked her if she was sure she'd rang up all of my items. She looked over my order and said, "Yes". I was sure that the cards I picked out were from their 'new collection' of cards that were $1 each, instead of the normal 2/$1 price, but then the cashier double checked my order, she assured me it was correct. So I paid the amount she gave me, wished her a "good day" and walked out to our car. I don't normally check my receipts, but I was sure that something was wrong...and sure enough when I checked the receipt, the cards were indeed $1 each and the cashier only rang up one card. I walked back to the store to make it 'right'. I mean we'd already been blessed with a free lunch from someone else's good deed, and I wasn't going to make God ashamed by not making things right with this cashier. When I entered the store and walked back up to the register, the cashier looked at me and said, "What did I screw up this time?". I held out my bag and receipt and told her that she only rang up one card, but that I bought two. Her eyes got HUGE! She said, "And you came back because you want to pay for it?" I said, "Yes, that's only right." She said, "Wow! This is something. I have customers come back when we overcharge, but never because we missed something. They just keep the stuff because we screwed up." I thought about the blessing I'd just gotten at Burger King and I wasn't about to dishonor Jesus' blessings by being dishonest. I paid for the second card and walked out of the store. As I opened the door, she told another cashier about the incident...still astonished.

My daughter, of course, was with me during this whole thing. When we got back in the car, I realized I'd passed the test.  My daughter began relaying the story one of our elderly members (retired pastor) had told the children one week that was very similar to what had just happened. I'm sure that the cashier was correct when she said, people come back if they're overcharged, but rarely, if ever, when they are under-charged (or even given back too much change).  We are tested in many ways every day.  God is watching to see if we'll do the 'right thing'.  As a "pastoral candidate", I'm feeling, and seeing, more of these daily tests, so I keep myself and my integrity on guard.  (There's an update about my 'pastoral candidate' status in the section where I talk about what happened at church read on.)

Saturday was filled with the annual yard sale day for our town. We hauled out our goods and began setting up very early...of course, before we could even unpack our boxes people started coming! It was a long, crazy day, but it was good! We sold a lot and happily at the end of the day, we put back a lot less than we took out! We had steady shoppers all day - although we had significantly smaller crowds than in past years. But then again, when you're out of work with a bad economy, you can't spend money you don't have...even if it's extremely cheap at a yard sale!  The best part of the day was when two friends stopped by, just to spend time visiting. They both spent the majority of the day with us. It was great to just sit outside, under our Red Maple tree, with a gentle breeze blowing and talk. It was so relaxing! We had a great time chatting with old friends, Amish families (one Amish lady in particular stands out - she was looking through the books I had for sale and came across a Beverly Lewis book titled, "The Preacher's Daughter" - she asked me if the book was fiction or non-fiction; I told her it was fiction, but that Beverly Lewis bases her stories on her ancestors who were Amish from the Lancaster area; the Amish woman said that her husband told her it was a waste of time to read fiction, but she admitted that by the title, the book sounded good;  she also made a statement that blew me away - she said "Beverly Lewis is the hottest topic of conversation in the Amish community because she writes about our kind"; then she said "we probably live her stories every day" and with that, she laughed and wished me a good day filled with God's blessing), neighbors, a Viet Nam Veteran (who told us that if this budget crisis in Washington isn't resolved by the deadline that veterans of all kinds were going to march on Washington) and hundreds of others - it's always so much fun just talking to other people!  Thankfully the weather cooperated - no rain, not too hot (although the humidity monster began raising it's ugly head later in the afternoon). All in all it was a successful sale day. After we packed up our remaining items and stored them away for another year, we went out for (a later than normal) dinner. Needless to say, when I got back home, I was walking around like an 80+ year old woman! My back, shoulders, hips and legs were sooooo sore! Arthritis is no fun at's a feud all the time between Arthur and Ben!! You know those two don't you? Arthur Itis and Ben Gay? HAHAHA. So after taking a couple of pain relievers, I kicked back in the recliner ( my recliner!) and read, while managing to listen to Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" on ABC Family, with my daughter stretched out on the living room floor!

We had to be up early this morning because I was on duty this week, as a greeter at church. During our Connect Hour - the hour between morning services (usually we have classes, but are on hiatus for the summer) our pastor came up to me and wondered what my schedule was like this week.  I told him it was all clear - but I didn't say it too loud because when I do this, them it seems my schedule gets jammed packed!  He said he'd get in touch with me later today or tomorrow about setting up my interview for the final step in getting License to Minister!!  He's looking at sometime between Wednesday and Friday.  Once the interview is complete and the paperwork is emailed to back Elim Fellowship, the board will determine if I'm a worthy candidate.  If I am, they will issue my License to Minister and I will be under a 2 year probationary period for them to follow my work in the ministry.  If I maintain my integrity through this probationary period, I will be officially ordained!  This is so exciting.  It's been a long, hard journey to get to this point, but it's all been God's will.  I've learned a lot on this journey - not all of it pleasant and a lot of it hard - but as my dear friend, Joanne says - it's definitely a call from God because if I had been pursuing this on my own, with all the difficulties I've endured, I'd have given up a long time ago.  She's right.  I will never forget the dark night the call came on my life.  God spoke to me...literally....verbally...a voice I will never forget.  He told me the plans I had for my life, were not the plans He had for me....that what He had planned was so much better.  It's quite a detailed story, better suited for another time.  Needless to say, God is always right!  He often nudges me and tells me, "See what you would've missed?" I will keep you updated on all of this....

Our church's good friends, Bishop John Okinda and his wife, Pamela, were our guests at church this morning. Bishop Okinda's message was terrific! He is such godly man, so on fire for Jesus!

After church, we headed our for lunch (as we do every Sunday), then stopped by the store to pick up a few items before heading home to relax. We got home about 3 p.m. Not more than 15 minutes later, while I was waking up the computer to check messages, the door bell rang. From where I was seated, I could see the form of a man at the door. Of course, I was thinking it was a door-to-door solicitor of some sort, I mean when you live as far out of town as we do, people don't just 'drop by' all the time. I opened the front door and was greeted with the cheeriest, "Heeeelllloooo!" and my jaw hit the floor! Standing at the door was a man who was the spitting image of my dad!!!  I couldn't believe it when I heard my own voice say, "Oh My God!", I mean I try never to say this...I usually manage either 'OhMyGoodness' or 'OhMyGosh', because I don't want to improperly use the Lord's name. But I was so totally stunned to look and see "my dad" (gone home to Jesus 9 years ago) standing at the front door. Then he said, "Bet you didn't expect me! I'm glad you all were home. Let me go get mom out of the car." It's my dad's cousins from Arizona. We knew they were coming back to the 'home town' area, but we never expected them to just drop by this afternoon. We were going to call tomorrow to set up a visit...but instead they dropped by to surprise us...and did they ever! It was so great to see them! We had THE BEST afternoon talking and laughing. And I do mean laughing, my sides were hurting from laughing so hard! It was great.

The stories that we shared were incredible - I've left out the names to protect the innocent.  The guilty?  The famous?  The infamous?  The comical...yeah, that sounds more like it!  So many of the stories were hilarious! It was one of those times when 'true life was definitely more entertaining than fiction'. I mean I don't think someone could've made up this stuff! Of course, there were old family stories as well...and yes, they included those who were of the 'guilty', 'scandalous', but not quite of the 'infamous' least not yet! I can only imagine one day turning on the t.v. to find some of these characters on 'America's Most Wanted' - bet you think I'm kidding, right?  In the famous words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I got to say 'bout that."

We were told about a cruise that made the World News. Back in November a Carnival cruise ship bound for Mexico had electrical problems and a small fire, the passengers were stranded on board for several days before the ship could be towed back to port. The Coast Guard air lifted food to the stranded passengers including Pop Tarts and canned SPAM.  The Air Craft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan was called in to help with the rescue. It was funny as we were being told this story, we remembered hearing about this particular ship on the World News...and we never knew our cousins were on board! We also heard about some of the dining companions our cousin and his wife met. The man was a Russian transplant (he moved to San Francisco 17 years prior to take care of aging parents) and the woman was from the Ukraine. The first night, this couple was put out to think they had to sit with 3 other couples - they wanted a table for 2 - something that is non-existent on a cruise ship. The first night this couple wouldn't talk to anyone else at the table. When dinner ended, the waiter said, "See you tomorrow night - same time, same table".  The Ukrainian woman spoke up, saying, "Same time, yes; but not same table." Great, huh?  Anyway, the next night, as this couple was shown to the same table, they decided to sit next to my cousin....he's such a personable guy, very engaging, makes everyone comfortable with his "gift of gab".  Apparently the couple had been drinking quite heavily and were pretty "tanked" - the conversation really "flowed" out of them.  My cousin's wife asked the couple how long they'd been married, trying to make small talk.  Turns out, they weren't married, in fact, they'd met 5 weeks prior to the cruise on the Internet and this was their "first date"!!!  After the electrical problem and fire on board, everyone was moved to the upper decks of the ship and this couple, not only talked more with my cousin and his wife, but every where they went, the couple was there - the ship was HUGE (14 stories)!  It was really comical the way my cousin told it.  It ended up that they even exchanged emails!!  I told you my cousin is really personable and can make people comfortable with his gift of gab!!!

He then told us about another incident that had happened to him several years prior to meeting his current wife.  He was living back in this general area.  A friend/co-worker of his, knew a Greek business man in the town - he owned a Greek coffee house/eatery and had some other business dealings of some sort.  He got to talking to my cousin's co-worker about his niece, who he wanted to be his bookkeeper.  She was living in Toronto at the time.  This Greek fellow tells the co-worker that he'd pay my cousin (who he knew was single at the time) $10,000 to marry his niece. He said they only needed to stay married for 3 years in order for her to get her green card!  He told my cousin's co-worker if the marriage lasted longer great...if not, they could divorce, no problem.  This co-worker calls up my cousin and says he's got a girl he'd like him to meet and a date was set up.  The woman was very pretty, not too talkative and the date seemed to go fairly well.  After this first date, the co-worker tells my cousin about the 'deal', only he tells my cousin, he'll get $5,000 to marry the girl.  Yeah!  Some time passes and the Greek fellow calls up my cousin himself to invite him to a Fourth Of July picnic at his my cousin accepts.  When he arrives, it was like a scene out of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" - the men were seated at a long table on one side of the room, the women at a long table on the other side of the room (ALL of the Greek family was there) and a table set for TWO in the center where my cousin and this woman were expected to sit!  By now, we are roaring in fits of laughter and I said, "hopefully you didn't 'walk around the table' with her"....he laughed and said, "I didn't move from my way, no how!"  He said, not long after the meal, all the women got up and went into another room and the men sat staring at him....uncomfortable!  Eventually, my cousin excused himself, said goodbye to the host....and needless to say in a matter of a few days, he packed up everything he owned and moved back west! HAHAHAHA

Oh, the laughter and the stories kept rolling for several hours!  It was fantastic to spend the afternoon with them. We set up dinner plans with them for Wednesday evening...I can't wait! It's going to be great! I'm sure there will be even more stories and more laughter!

The only 'down side' this weekend was that we were notified that NavPress is stopping it's blogger review program effective immediately.  The notification said it was due to many factors.  I'm sure the biggest is the economy.  Every one and every business is hurting.  It was great being a part of their blogger review program, even for the short time I was involved.  If you're looking for wonderful Christian Books (fiction and non-fiction) NavPress has check them out!

I seen God so many times this weekend.  I know He was sitting right there in our midst, laughing at the stories and having a great time.  God enjoys fellowship with His children.  He's all about relationship.  He can live just fine without us; but we can't live without Him.  He chose to create us to spend time with us.  We often forget that He's with us always.  If God seems far away, then it's because we moved back.  If you feel like God is far away, take a step toward Him...He'll meet you anytime, any place, any where.  He's waiting!

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