Friday, July 31, 2009

It's not really good-bye...

This morning I stood by the kitchen door and said good-bye to one of my teens as she left for school (summer school). We had just hugged and I was watching her walk away, knowing that by the time she got home this afternoon I would be gone from Sandal House. I began to cry as she walked on further and her son turned towards me and waved good-bye.

I know this isn't the last time I'm going to be seeing them, or some of the other teens I've known over the last year, so I didn't think leaving would be so emotional. Yet, today as I finish my packing, cleaning and other odds and ends I find myself breaking into tears.

Cleaning the kitchen I remembered the meals I fixed there with different girls. Picking up toys from the living room floor I remembered romping around with different children, and their delightful giggles. Upstairs I packed clothes that had belonged to a teen who left suddenly (not even taking all her belongings) and I remembered different challenges I faced with some pretty lost teens. This whole house is filled with memories, the good and the bad.

As I prepare to leave Sandal House I lift up praise to God for bringing me here in this last year. I can't say it's always been easy, but I do thank Him for how the teens and their children have helped to shape my life. I thank Him for the opportunity to be His instrument in helping these same teens and their children in a time of need.

I pray that Sandal House continues to be a home of peace and sanctuary for young girls facing one of life's most important challenges, parenthood.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

That's Awkward

Merriam-Webster dictionary in part defines the word Awkward as:

a: lacking social grace and assurance b: causing embarrassment : not easy to handle or deal with : requiring great skill, ingenuity, or care

I'm able to define the word awkward in the following story:

Last evening I took one of the Sandal House teens and her toddler son out to the farm where I grew up. The two men that live there now allow me to come out there whenever I like, and the children at Sandal House love the animals. I usually plan my visits for the evening milking, so that the teens and children are able to see the cows in one place and being milked. They also are able to visit with the two men that live there.

These two guys are in their mid-twenties and are Old-Order Mennonite (I've most likely referred to them in earlier posts). Being that they are about my age I enjoy relating with them, and they make great neighbors and friends. Over time our friendship has grown and we often share jokes and laughter. It's a good thing we're comfortable with each other now, it makes the events of last evening just a tad less awkward.

It all started in the milking parlor where Gerald was finishing milking the last cows for the evening. I had introduced him to the teen with me and her son, and we were leaving the parlor to go visit the baby calves next. As the outer door shut on the milking parlor with the teen, her son, and me on the outside, and Gerald on the inside, the teen speaks to me over the noise of the milking.

"Wow, he's CUTE! You all would make a great couple."

She said this loud enough to be heard over the noise of the milking, what she didn't observe was that even though the milking parlor has doors, it's also a building with large open spaces on the side walls that are kept opened in the summer time heat. As soon as the words were out of her mouth I knew that if I turned around I would find Gerald behind me smiling, having heard everyone of her comments.

For a long two seconds I stood there wondering what approach I should take. I could walk on, pretending that I didn't think he had heard her comments. I could turn around myself and acknowledge him and the comments. And lastly, I could turn around myself and the teen, and all of us could acknowledge what was said, and who heard it.

Feeling bold for the moment I took the teen by the arm and turned her around with me to wave at Gerald standing there with a silly smile on his face. My teen turned instantly embarrassed, and Gerald and I saved the move and the joke by smiling at one another, which she caught onto. If she hadn't noticed that we found it funny too by the smiles we were wearing, she was definitely reassured by Gerald's, "Thank You."

That's just another awkward moment that was diverted by "great skill, ingenuity, and care" (as Merriam-Webster would say).

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Long Weekend

It all began last Friday when I spent my day in preparations for a weekend spent at the beach. Out of all the errands that I ran that day two in particular stand out to me. First, I had to make sure I had a full tank of gas, without much thought I stopped at the nearest gas station. I purchased gas for $2.15 a gallon, my only thought, "gas prices just keep going down...awesome."

After the purchase of a full tank of gas I went further down the road and saw another store that had gas priced at $2.35 a gallon. That's unusual considering these two places usually compete pretty closely with one another on price. For the rest of the day I noticed other gas station's prices and nothing came close to $2.15. It wasn't until I was driving home that I passed the station where I had bought my gas earlier in the day and noticed the price had gone up to $2.35 a gallon. Found out later that they had made a mistake earlier in the day, and for about a 1/2 hour their customers got gas at a reduced price on $2.15. Lucky Me!

I wasn't so lucky when I went to get my haircut. For awhile now I've been getting my haircut by, Nancy, who is a terrific hairdresser. It was at my 10 year highschool reunion recently when I learned one of my old classmates is working as a hairdresser in Bridgewater, and I thought I'd go to her in support of her work (I'm really not that picky - it's just hair it grows back). When I dropped by where she works, I learned that she had to suddenly leave early for the day and wouldn't be back to Monday, they asked if I'd like to rechedule. I was really set on getting my hair cut before I left for the beach, so I took an opening to get my hair cut by another woman at the salon. The hair cut was going well and I was quite pleased until she tackled my bangs lastly. I told her exactly how I liked them cut, and exactly how I DID NOT want them cut. Let's just say in the end I'm now sporting the perfect example of how I DON'T like having my bangs cut.

When I got back out to my car and looked at my bangs the phrase that kept coming to mind was "Bowl Cut". I look like one of those little amish boys and their bowl cut bangs. I knew it was bad when one of my teens at Sandal House also used the phrase bowl cut.

As for damage control on my hairstyle that won't be possible for another week maybe two. I need to give my bangs some time to grow, and then I'm off to see Nancy for the fix. I think I've learned my lesson here, from now on only Nancy gets to cut my hair. Sorry to my old classmate, but I'm just not ready to make the jump to a new hairdresser at this time.

And all that was just Friday, I still had a very busy Saturday and Sunday to survive. We awoke early on Saturday morning to start the drive down to Virginia Beach. By early I mean to say, I took a page out of my Dad's book and left at 4 a.m. The traffic was non-existent and we arrived at the beach by 8 a.m.

We spent an exhausting morning by the ocean. In the past I could enjoy the beach because it meant playing or laying out in God's beautiful creation. On this particular morning I spent time chasing around a 16 month old little boy, who only wanted to chase seagulls, run into the ocean, and eat sand. After 3 and 1/2 hours of keeping up with those activities we were ready to call it quits and head to the Virginia Beach Strip for some lunch. Of course that meant we must first lug all our beach equipment back to the car. You know how much stuff you need at the beach when you have kids? Too MUCH!!

After a couple of hours of eating lunch and shopping it was time to get back in the car and retrace our steps to Williamsburg, where I had booked us a hotel for the night. Once in Williamsburg we headed to the pool for some more swimming and then went to the room for naps. Unfortunately for the adults present the little 16 month old had slept in the car and wasn't desiring a nap at the time. I had just commented on how he seemed to be in everything in our room, when he tripped over his own two little feet and fell. He smacked his head on the table between the two double beds and began to cry. His Mom picked him up as if nothing had happened and I ran to get a towel because I had seen the blood. Sure enough this little boy had a bloody, gapping wound on his forehead, which lucky for us didn't bleed too much. As soon as I saw the cut I knew it would need stitches.

Since God knows our needs before we even do ourselves, He had prepared a way for us to get to the hospital in the form of my Aunt who lives in Williamsburg. I called her for directions to the hospital and she responded with I'll be right over. Aunt Jan was wonderful, giving time out of her evening to spend with us at the hospital (which was a maze to find from our hotel and would have made me crazy trying to find on my own).

The toddler's mom wasn't to keen on the idea of bloody wound being stitched up, fearing she would faint I stepped in as the assistant to restrain the child. The Mom stepped into the hallway and I held down a papposed screaming hysterical child as he received four stitches. Lucky for me the doctor had to position me so that I looked directly into the wound, yeah for my strong stomach.

I know that the stitches didn't hurt this little boy, because as soon as it was over and he was unrestrained and in his mother's arms he was smiling and laughing in a matter of moments. It's amazing to me the difference a mother's arms can make for a child.

From that point it was back to the hotel, ordering some dinner and eating in bed. As soon as my meal was finished I was asleep, for it had been a long day.

The plan for Sunday morning was to sleep in and have brunch with my Aunt before checking out Colonial Williamsburg. Sleeping in with a toddler in the room meant we were awake by 8 a.m. Brunch was a hurried affair as we tried to keep a toddler pacified, and Colonial Williamsburg ended up being a shortened version because of the excessive heat. It was almost a relief to call the vacation to an end and head back home. Ahhhh HOME and my own bed!! That's where I spent Sunday night and what a pleasant night sleep it was :) That was the end of my long weekend.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Seriously Committed...or in need of committing

As I write this blog it's approaching the midnight hour, and I'm standing in the musty smelling basement of Sandal House. There's two perfectly good reasons for each of those behaviors. First, I just can't seem to fall asleep this evening, even though I know I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow and I need plenty of rest. Secondly, the Sandal House computer is on the fritz and isn't picking up the wireless connection, so I'm bound to my old laptop and the internet cable connected to the router in the basement.
Normally I would have forgone my need for internet access and awaited a chance to fix the problem on the computer upstairs; but for some reason, not being able to sleep only fueled my addiction to the internet and my desire to check my email and blog. As I mentioned in my post heading I'm either seriously committed to this blog, or in need of committing for my addiction :) I'll let you all decide.

Changing the subject, since I find myself on my old computer I thought I'd take the time to post some photos I have stored here. These will be oldies but goodies, and fair warning these are photos I picked at random.
I'll start us off with a cake I made about a year ago. It combines two of my favorite desserts, chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies (note the emphasis on chocolate).

This photo is of my dear sweet cousin Maddie, it was taken about three years ago. She was all tuckered out from her visit to the farm and was taking a nap in my bed. I couldn't help myself and took a picture of her and she lied there peaceful and calm.

This next picture brings back fond memories. I was given this rose several years ago on Valentines Day by my friend Danielle. It was her birthday and she gifted me with this sweet gesture. On a day that is often devoted to couples it was nice to remembered as a single.

These crazy guys are friends of mine from Utah. If you're wondering what they're up to I'll just say, "Hear no, Do no, See no, Speak no Evil." I wonder who put them up to that for the camera?

My friend and old roommate, Olivia and I, hanging out with the church group. I was thinking of Olivia this evening because she's planning a trip to Virginia to come visit me this Fall.

Another photo from my time in Utah. This was taken at the Utah State Fair about two years ago. The guy on the far left is now in Mali, Africa and the guy on the far right was baptized today. I'm so happy for both of them, and this picture just reminds me of what great friends they are to me.
This last picture is very special to me. It's the last photo I ever took of my cousin Tiffany before she was killed in a car accident over two years ago. The photo was taken several months before as our family gathered to celebrate Christmas and I was in town from Utah. That was the last evening we had together and I really cherish that memory. She was such a beautiful young woman in her outward and inner self.

Now that I've traveled down memory lane it's probably time to try and find some rest. Remember I've got a busy day ahead of me tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

More Camping Photos...

As I mentioned in an earlier post this week; last weekend I spent time out in Highland County camping with two of my good friends. After spending a wet night out in the woods Saturday we awoke Sunday morning and prepared for church. We found that breaking down camping and dressing up for church didn't take us that long. With some extra time on our hands we stopped by the farmstead that belonged to my Great Uncle Lohr Vance (and now belongs to my Uncle Robin and Aunt Nancy) and took some photos.

My friends Kyle and Brendan clean up nice :)

This log structure sits at the end of the lane facing the main road. It use to be the Vance Country Store many years ago. I have memories there as a small child sitting by the fireplace eating candy from the store.

After church we headed home by way of a detour. Here's some of the scenery we stopped to look at on the way.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's All About The Blog

Yesterday afternoon I was innocently taking out my trash (standing on my front porch) when a frightening occurrence happened, I felt something touch my ankle!!

I looked down thinking it was just the trash bag I was tying only to encounter a opossum standing between my feet. In the moment of recognition I nearly jumped three feet high and let out a piercing scream. After scrambling away from the opossum as fast as I could my brain began function again in this order:

1. That opossum is a baby! Where's it's Momma? Is the Momma standing behind me yet, or anywhere else that's too close to me?

2. Frantically searched the rest of the porch for Momma Opossum on the chance that they're protective of their young and she was about to attack me.

3. I just screamed quite loudly with all of my neighbors on route 42 to hear, good thing nobody seemed to be around to witness that embarrassing moment.

4. I just screamed quite loudly with all of my neighbors on route 42 to hear and nobody seemed to have heard me, that's not comforting if something really bad ever happens.

5. I left the front door open a crack I hope no other opossums have gone into the house.
6. This whole incident is like that video on YouTube my friend posted today.

7. I need to get my camera and get a picture of this opossum for my blog!!

All these thoughts crowded my in mind in a matter of moments. So, after securing the scene (making sure only one opossum was present) I went back in the house for my camera and proceeded to get these photos.

What sticks out to me the most about this whole experience is that no matter how hard my heart might be jumping in fright my mind is never far from thinking about my blog. Still haven't decided if this is a good thing :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Dad

Last year, shortly after selling the farm, my Dad joined the Bridgewater Rescue Squad as a driver. This was something he had been wanting to do for quite a while. These days most of Dad's stories come from the other volunteers he works with, or other random tidbits from his time at the squad.

Shortly before my Dad's birthday I concocted an excuse to come visit him at the squad while he was on duty. I wanted pictures of him to make an edible cake for his birthday. Here are a few of the shots I got.

This last photo is the position you'll most likely see my Dad in during the Bridgewater Lawn Party Parade this Friday evening. I'm excited to see my Dad driving an ambulance during the parade. Ya'll better come on out and see him too!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Highland County

This past weekend I was in Highland County spending time with my Mom's family. Normally I would have slept over at my Granddad's house, but he was feeling poorly, so I camped outdoors. Two of my good friends came with me, and we tested our tents against the rain that came this weekend. It was a fun weekend!

Over the course of the weekend my friend Brendan took over my camera from time to time. The end result was these two videos, plus some great photos. Thought I'd share the videos, and the inspiration behind them.

The first video is of the crick crossing we had to take to reach our camp site. I was told after the video was taken that it would have been much more dramatic to see some water spraying. In guy language that means you were going to slow, better speed it up.

You might wonder what's up with the second video, he's just recording a drive down a road. I was told when I saw this video that the significance isn't what's being shown, but my accent as I'm talking. I guess I was sounding a little "country".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Graduation Cake

Recently I made an image cake for a young ladies' graduation. I was excited at how adorable the edible image turned out. It always helps to have such a beautiful baby in the picture!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


My favorite stories are those in which it is evident that God is working out "the solution" to a problem before we even know our "need". Recently one of those events played out in my own life.

A couple weeks ago I began hearing in earnest about the upcoming Mennonite Convention that was to be held in Ohio. I heard particularly about our youth and their involvement with the convention trip. Hearing their excitement reminded me of the youth convention I attended at their age, but also it reminded me of Highland Retreat.

Highland Retreat is a christian youth camp I attended grewing up, and then in my late teens I worked there as a counselor. I remembered how it was at camp the years they had conventions, and many of the teen counselors would ask off for convention week. This always left the camp short of staff, and often they would need replacement staff for just the one week.

In the last several weeks, during my quiet time with God, I kept coming back to the idea of asking the camp director if they needed more help for the week. It seemed like a ridiculous idea. For starters, I'm at Sandal House, how was I going to get away for a week and leave my teen girls. I had also heard that camp attendance was down this year, it was very likely they didn't even need me there.

I kept telling myself how impossible the idea really was, and that I shouldn't worry about it.

The last weekend in June was the Highland Retreat Annual Steak BBQ Dinner that is a fundraiser for the camp. My dear friend Stephanie asked me earlier in the week if I was going to attend and could we go together. Once we arrived at the camp we went to find Ben and his wife Rebecca who both work there as summer staff and are old friends of ours. They immediately told us how attendance had increased for the next week very suddenly and that several girls had been put on a wait list because there wasn't enough female staff to have them come to camp.

I knew then I shouldn't hesitate. I immediately told Rebecca that I felt God was leading me to come that week and fill in, and I would find someone to cover for me at Sandal House, but I could come if they needed me. No sooner did those words come out of my mouth, then Stephanie said she would be happy to fill in for me at Sandal House for the time I would be away. The pieces fell into place so easily, within moments.

I spoke with the director of the camp that afternoon and we arranged for my time with them. The director was able to call the families with the wait listed campers and tell them they could come to camp the next week.

It was a wonderful week at camp!! I was placed in a cabin with six little 8-10 year old girls, and a co-counselor who was also an old friend of mine (she had come back to volunteer too).

During our time with these little girls they would often ask us to share stories with them. We would tell them of our old camp experiences (even some of the old pranks we pulled). The best stories were those of how God had worked in our lives, especially the times we experienced with Him at camp.

On Thursday morning we took our cabin on a hike. The hike turned out to be probably one of the best I was ever on as a counselor. Funny story, my co-counselor and I had been together once before as co-counselors, and at that time we had attempted a hike with a cabin, but were never able to find the trail head. We laughed at ourselves on this hike, because as simple as the hike was, we weren't able to find the trail head. We quickly came up with a plan B and hiked a different route.

This new route lead us directly up a ridge to the Wilderness Shelters found on the camp property. When I had been much younger I attended wilderness camp for many years and these shelters were like a second home to me. I took our campers on a tour of the wilderness camp grounds and showed them to my old shelter and my old bunk.

At the shelter a very special moment happened. We took the time to sit down together and share some Bible Stories, and from those stories I transitioned into sharing with the girls my own faith story that had happened right there in that very shelter. It was in that very shelter one evening when I was 12 years old that I asked my counselor to pray with me as I asked for forgiveness for my sins and invited Christ into my heart.

As I shared my story I looked around at those precious faces and prayed silently that one day they too would each have a similiar story to share. That they would know the joy of sharing with others the work that Christ has done in their lives. Who knows, maybe one day they'll be out in the middle of the woods with a group of little girls sitting around them listening as they share about the Love of Christ.