Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Boring Life...NOT!

Hello Friends,
Its me again.  We are in crunch mode before the wedding, and yet, it has actually been a lot of fun.  Monday night we took Warren and Jonathan out to get their clothes for the wedding.  Jonathan is a groomsman so it wasn't like we could just find something nice and be happy.  He needed specifics.  And for someone who is 6'7" it was scary at some points to see how hard those things were to find.  But after hours and a few stores we made it to the second Men's Wearhouse mere minutes before they closed for our final purchases.  Whew!  We would have gotten there a lot earlier but it turns out that when the attention is on these guys in the store they actually like shopping....who knew?  It was adorable (sigh).

Last evening Warren and I kind of went on a date.  It was a business that I had a very large candle order that needed to get to Maryland.  It was a rush since the customer had suffered two bad experiences from other vendors and her shower is on Friday.  While preparing her labels for shipping I noticed that she was only an hour from us and since her boxes were super heavy and fragile I contacted her to see if she would rather meet me at a mall that was close to her and take some of the risk of breakage away.  She did! So Warren and I headed south, met her and enjoyed our first ever dinner at The Greene Turtle.  Yum!  We enjoyed it so much.  Then we visited Macy's and found the perfect skirt for me to wear to the wedding...and thus completed my wedding ensemble.  Yay.  Glad to have that done.  Then it struck me that there was a Dick's Sporting Goods in the area and knowing that Warren had a gift card for the store we headed there and purchased a new cooler.  Ours are ancient and one got broken last weekend in the shuffle to take food to Tommy's memorial service.  When all was said and done we have a new Coleman Cooler..on wheels...for $8.99 out of pocket.  YES!  What a blessing!!

Someone asked me recently if I have a lot of candles to make.  I just laughed a bit hysterically.  Yep!  I have a "few".  And to add insult to injury the jars that I use for the baby shower candles are out of stock....everywhere!!

My favorite jar.
The Substitute.

 I currently click nearly daily on two of my favorite suppliers to see if they are back in stock yet, but no.  So, I have substituted a new shaped jar.  It is cute but I have to hand cut every label to fit. That definitely adds to the process.  Imagine my joy yesterday when I went to pick up more of the substitute jars and my friends at Fillmore Container told me they had found 36 unclaimed jars of the original kind.  They could be mine.  Happy day.  I know 36 may not seem like much...but every one counts when I am trying to fulfill existing orders.  I love those Fillmore people.  They really work hard and take good care of me.  For my local friends who love to can this time of year.  This is a great place to get jars.  Great prices and Fillmore has every jar you need for canning.

The Memorial Service for Tommy was so special.  Of course I led up to it with the busyness and concern of planning the food.  Not knowing how many people might be there it was so hard to know how much to purchase.  However, I think we did pretty well.  There were an estimated 300+ people who came.  It is kind of hard to tell because Calvary Church where we held it is so big.  But all of the men agreed that this was the likely count and they are pretty good at these things, usually.  The service opened with a PowerPoint that I put together on the last day.  Not because I am a procrastinator but because we came up with the idea at the last moment....Susanna and I.  Mostly her because she had been thinking about Chris Rice's song...Come to Jesus (Untitled Hymn).  We put the lyrics over a photo of Tommy and the final slide said, "Tommy flew to Jesus on July 31, 2014".  If you can just imagine was powerful.  What a great way to open his Memorial Service.  Joe and Susanna had invited three friends with special needs children to speak during the service.  Two of the three held a child with severe medical conditions as they spoke.  Amazing.  The hearts of these fathers were precious to behold.  The first man who spoke had gone with Joe and Susanna to get Katie.  He is a nurse and was such a blessing to them when Katie refused to eat and they had to get medical care for her there.  Next up was a video made by a lady in Oregon who Susanna knew was good at such things.  We had an interesting evening attempting to get the video here, from there, electronically....but it finally worked.  It was 13 precious minutes that recaptured Tommy's time from the orphanage to his life (and it was LIFE) here.  Seeing the changes in him was so evident in that recap.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the sanctuary.  I had to miss Pastor Mike's sermon as we went to put the final touches on the food tables but I hear that it was fabulous!!  I can't talk about this service without thanking the folks at Calvary Church for their sweet generosity in allowing us to have the service and refreshments there.  They took such good care of us.  Especially Marge and Glen.  Marge is the coordinator of events and Glen is one of the "sound guys".  We had a lot of contact with both and were so touched by their giving spirits.

 Georgia and Ruth put the final touches on the tables.

 On Friday evening a group of ladies..and Warren...met at the church to 
prepare the food.  Cutting, cubing and slicing. 
There was so much to be done and yet this team worked so hard that 
in was done in just over two hours.
I am so thankful!!

Tommy's favorite color was green.
So we included as much green as we could.
My friend, Deanna, did the general decor with toys and balloons.
I did the centerpieces with simple fruit bowls.

 It was a good day.  One that really meant a lot to the Mussers.  I know that Susanna dreaded it in the worst kind of a way but I also know that in the end she was so touched by the love and concern she felt from her friends and family.  Funny but true story.  As we prepared to leave I got in line with the other ladies who had served the food and we took our turns saying goodbye.  As each one approached her, most having not seen her since Tommy had passed away they cried together.  Good, cleansing tears.  However, when Susanna looked up and saw me as it was finally my turn she just burst out laughing. precious friend.  How I love you.  And if I bring you the gift of laughter I am so pleased.  I checked my face and hair and think all was well there.  It was just one of those things...and it brings a smile to my face every time I think about it.  What a precious sister in the Lord.  Please keep her in your prayers.  These next weeks will get "we" go back to our daily lives and she is more and more on her own with her thoughts.  May the truths she has heard come through louder than the lies of the enemy.

I must get moving.  I have candle orders to work on before I begin making the four cakes that are needed for the wedding.  THE WEDDING!  My son is getting MARRIED on Sunday.  Yikes.   We couldn't be more pleased.  We have seen amazing growth and maturity in him over this past nearly a year.  It was October of last year that he broke his collar bone and their friendship was renewed.  A whirlwind....but a good one.

Have a wonderful day.  I'll at least be back with wedding photos...if not before.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ups and Downs - It Doesn't Get More Extreme Than This

You might have read my blog yesterday about waking up at 3-something am.
Well, there was no more sleep to be had until sometime after 11pm.
In between was non-stop action and emotion.

First up for the day was meeting with our little Burma refugee friends.
I took another young lady who wants to help with me.
We had a delightfully crazy time with our four girls.
Funny, because we have only ever had three before but the little
three year old sister was there and very involved.

After dropping our friend back at her car
Chelsea and I headed to Isaac's for lunch before shopping for everything 
we needed for Michael and Emily's Rehearsal dinner.
On the way I got a phone call about plans for Tommy Musser's 
memorial service so when we arrived at Isaac's parking lot
I was still on the phone and stayed there to talk.
As I talked I heard another call beep in....but with the
serious nature of the call I simply decided to get back 
to whoever it was when I was done.
A few minutes later I pushed send to see who it was who
had called and it was the Pastor in charge of the Burma Ministry.
We had discussed having lunch to go over things but I hadn't heard back 
from her to finalize so thought it wasn't going to happen.
Well, the pastor and two others were at Panera Bread waiting for us.
Thankfully we hadn't made it into Isaac's and just headed across town to 
meet up with these lovely people.
Once they found out that we were dealing with a wedding and a funeral 
all in one day they kept our part of the meeting "rather brief"
 and sent us on our way.

So then we were on to Costco to grab many items for the 
rehearsal dinner.
I am so thankful that Emily and Michael are so casual.
They love the out of doors and wanted a picnic for their
special night.

The menu was:

Turkey wraps
Croissant Sandwiches
Stuffed potato salad
Fruit Salad
Six Layer Dip
Cookie Tray

So...after shopping we took all of the refrigerated items 
to our church fridge to wait for us to be ready for them.
They wouldn't fit in coolers.

Then Chelsea and I headed home where she made the 
most adorable fruit salad.
I wish I had gotten photos of it.
But everyone loved it both to look at and eat.
As Warren said, it had all the good fruit in it...not fillers.

While she did that I nailed down the final details
on a location and time for Tommy's service and 
drafted a blog post for Susanna's blog to pass on information 
they wanted to share.
I can tell you that the rehearsal dinner would have looked much 
different if Chelsea had not been available to help me 
so much yesterday.
She is such a darling daughter and sister.
And she loves her brother and soon to be sister 
very, very much!

Warren came home and we ran to the church to 
gather our food and some serving bowls that coordinated 
with our theme.

We froze as we drove the 45 minutes to the 
location because we ran the air conditioner at full blast to 
keep the cold stuff cold.
Warren and I were frozen so I can't imagine
how Chelsea felt. 
She always gets cold while we are still  sweating.

We arrived at the park, found an open pavilion and set up.
Pretty white tablecovers, flowers and food.
That was what we had to offer.

It all worked out pretty well.
I freaked in the beginning because it didn't look like
much food on the tables and I worried that I had not gotten enough.
However, we have leftovers...galore...and so 
I am glad I didn't get more.

We wanted some special touches of color so 
I went with the wedding colors of red and yellow.

Everyone seemed to have a good time and enjoyed each other's company.
The wedding party is sweet. 

Jonathan had to we were bummed about that.
He and Michael are on different shifts.
Michael had more to learn about this day than

As the wedding party gathered

The Eicher Arts Center....where the reception will be held.
The wedding ceremony will be in the yard behind this building.

 My friend, Belinda, the beautiful mother of the bride.
I am so grateful that she will be the other mom in my son's life.
I couldn't ask for a better family for him to marry into.
We have loved these people for years!

Oh - I had to share the photo because of the man beside her.
He is the caretaker and manager of this property.
I think many couples would get married here because of him...
even if they hated the 
He becomes an integral part of the process and you love him for it!!
By the way....he once taught Tom Cruise.
So then you become famous by association.
Just another perk. 

Rehearsal begins.
The ball roughly marks the center aisle.

I love the three very different personalities displayed in these bridesmaids.
They are so fun!

The guys had that discussion about where they should put their hands.
Behind the back was the final decision after "some" silliness.

The large and beautiful deck where the swing dancing will take place
during the reception.
Mikey will probably bust some crazy moves of his own.
He is quite the dancer...but not so much when it comes to 
formal dances.

We are looking forward to the wedding in just 19 days.
But first we have a funeral.
The cycle of life....
It is real.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Awake in the Night

I woke up from thinking.  Thinking in my sleep.  Processing thoughts of conversations had and heard. Conversations with our dear friends, The Mussers.  Words I said.  Words they said.  Events as they happened.  And pain.  Physical and real pain for the loss and grief.

We can have all of the faith and hope in the world that our little friend, Tommy, is with Jesus and that he is happy and whole and yet we suffer intense sadness.  My sadness is for his family.  Tommy remains an integral part of who they are.  And because this part is no longer living in their home and participating in their daily activities there is a huge hole. Even the lack of need for care is a source of pain to the one who devoted her days to him.  How devastating.

I am somewhat surprised at my response to all of this.   I'm not surprised that I would grieve.  Not at all....but at the depth and intensity of it.  Tommy was not my son.  I had not had a lot of physical interaction with him over the past few months, simply because I had not seen him as frequently.  However, he already had my heart.  You cannot pray for someone as we prayed for him over the past one and a half...probably two years (as the adoption process takes a while) and not have them come to be very important to you. Tommy was so bright and shining.  Tommy radiated joy.  His eyes danced at all of the wonders around him. Can you imagine what it must have been like for him?  From a crib....his home for 16 Lancaster County and all that he found here?  Parents, siblings, friends, a home, swings, green grass, creeks, and so much more..........a literal whole new world.

He loved his family...and they loved him.  Completely.

I read the more than 300 loving comments on Susanna's blog and know that many people have the same reaction to this situation as I.  They are feeling the loss.  Can you really believe it?  This boy who someone found unworthy of proper care so long ago in another place has proven them so wrong.  He has shown all the simple power of a brilliant smile and how far gratitude goes in touching the heart.  The very fact that we grieve is testimony to a loss.  You cannot mourn the loss of something without value.  Oh.....this one had much value.  He was priceless.  In many ways he was "our Tommy".   Joe and Susanna were generous to share him with all of us.

And rambling will stop here....and my prayers will continue.  For my dear sister in the Lord who battles arrows from the enemy.  Arrows bearing lies and guilty thoughts.  I pray that she will become very proficient at using the shield of faith to cause those arrows to be diverted and fall harmlessly.  She is most heavy on my heart at this hour.  May Jesus wrap His loving arms around Susanna and bring her peace in the midst of this horrible storm.  Praying that Our Father is more real to her now than ever before.  Only He can be her total and complete comfort. Only He knows why He chose to bring Tommy to Himself at this time.

As for the rest of us.....we pray on.  We make food.  We send cards.  But most importantly....we pray on.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saying Good-bye to a Very Special Boy

My dear friends,

When I started this day I had no idea, not even a hint of what was to come.  But shortly before lunch our friend Joe called to tell me that their son had drowned and that his wife, Susanna needed a friend.
In spite of my shock I made a couple of calls, quickly curled my hair just enough to get it out of my eyes...but definitely not enough to look good.  Somehow I decided that it didn't matter.  My friend was in pain.....agony really.  Off I went.

I will not go into the details of the day.  They were excruciating.  However, I will say that God was in it. You probably know Joe and Susanna from my occasional references to them and Susanna's blog.  The son who was lost today was Tommy.  Precious Tommy.  The boy who had not known love until God brought Susanna to his orphanage.  She loved him on sight and was so blessed when God chose them to adopt him.

They brought him home.  It didn't go smoothly. Tommy was sick much of the time.  And yet Joe and Susanna loved him more.  And more.  They did everything in their power to find solutions for his intestinal difficulties.  At last solutions were working.  He was growing again.  Tommy was happy.

He was so close to his little brother, Stephen.  You can see some photos here on the guest post I wrote today to let Susanna's blog readers know of this horrible accident.

If you don't mind, we would love your prayers.  Prayers that those who are tempted to blame themselves would find peace in the love and forgiveness of Jesus.  Prayers for the siblings who will grieve this loss deeply.  Prayers that God would use this for His glory.  Give thanks with us that this life will now be celebrated and missed rather than slipping away quietly with no one to care in an adult house in his birth country.

In my mind Tommy will always be this smiling happy boy who knew no enemies.  He is a reminder to all of us that life is matter how you come to it.  No matter how much people expect you to be able to give to society.  Oh yes...Tommy made a difference in this world.  Just ask anyone who met him or has read about him.  Just ask the families who are now a child or two bigger because they were impacted by his story.
Just ask Jesus....who loved him so much that He sent a quiet family from Lancaster County to Eastern Europe to bring him home and love him.  Tommy's life counted!!  Big time.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Beautiful Summer Day

 It is the kind of day that inspires the pets to want to be outside.
And it is even the kind of day that makes me willing to stay 
outside with them longer than usual.
When we first got out here Oliver was in the hammock
 with Georgia.  
It was so cute. 
when he saw me coming he jumped down
before I could snap any pictures.

 Just look at the sun and shade dappled yard.
We are so blessed.

 Back in the wild part of the yard
Tidbit was enjoying the cool grass.

I got closer to take some photos.

Then next thing I knew 
Oliver was up in my face.
He seemed a bit jealous.

But most likely he was just curious.
I don't think he really was jealous.
He's pretty secure in his ability to get attention.

Tidbit...looking pretty good for fourteen,
don't you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Catching up.....Life Just Doesn't Stop

If this blog reflects life at our home it kind of did a poor
job of it over the past couple of weeks.
Information was scarce around here.

It has been crazy busy and more than a little bit sad
as we said our goodbyes to Johnny.... for now.

He and Chelsea have changed their status back to friends.
And great friends they are.
But we surely miss having him around here.
No one else could have fit so seamlessly into this craziness.
And I mean that as a compliment!!
He is loved.
And definitely not forgotten.
Gotta love that internet and how it allows us to keep in 
touch with loved ones on the other side of the ocean!

Jonathan finally got his car back after months of a very dead engine.
It took time and research on Warren's part but we were able to 
find a good engine with low mileage and a three year warranty to have installed.
This is a blessing to all of us.
We loved spending time with Jonathan as we drove him to work
but it was also a bit hard on him to have to rely on us.
He had grown very used to that freedom.

Good Neighbors Candle Co. is going strong.
Record breaking summer months....
that so surprises me.
But is pretty awesome too!!

We joined the YMCA yesterday.
Guess that means I need to go there and do something
very soon.
Chelsea did a trial week and really enjoys it
but we decided to get a family membership to help all of us
get in better shape!
I look forward to meeting Warren there after work some days.
Then we can have a bigger dinner, right?
We are even discussing a Ballroom Dance class.
Fun, right?
We'll see in the Fall when it is a real possibility.

Our Moms were gone on a bus trip to Maine when we got news of a bus 
crash in Canada involving a bus from their same company.
We were so sad to learn of the death of one of those travelers.
We were thankful that other than bad weather, 
which cancelled a whale watch and fogged in a lighthouse
Mom and Georgia enjoyed a trip which was uneventful.
So sweet that our moms are such dear friends.

I'm back off of white bread.
I do love the stuff.
But the physical toll it takes on me is obvious.

Our most recent adventures involve spending time with some children
whose families are refugees from Burma.
Chelsea instigated this as she misses the Thai people 
after her YWAM trip.
We found that the Karen People from Burma have 
spent many, many years in refugee camps in Thailand and some 
are being moved into the U.S.  
We are helping with English retention for the children 
as they go through the summer months without school.
Chelsea has two little girls
whom she adores.
I have three girls who are smart and sweet.
I was warned that they are a bit of a handful but 
so far they must not know me well enough to 
challenge anything I have asked them to do. 
Instead, they have been enthusiastic and a joy to work with.
What a blessing to our hearts (Mom was able to go along)  yesterday
as we pulled away and their sweet faces were in the window
and their hands waving goodbye.
They had asked if we were coming back today.
Awww...not until next week girls.

So all in all, I would say that life is good.
It has its hard times.
But it is still good.

A very good thing?
Michael and Emily's wedding is now just over 
one month away!!
Oh yes. 
This is good.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Living Life In Overdrive

Our long and special weekend began with the Fourth of July.
My dear friend, Shelley, was here from State College.
Allan and Bev were also with us for the weekend.
It was great!!

Surprisingly the weather was cooler and windy on the fourth
so we ate on Georgia's porch.  
Warren grilled for us and we had Mom's traditional and delicious
potato salad.
It was delightful!

I don't even know if I have photos from those days.
They are a blur.

But on Sunday we were guests at a wedding shower 
for Michael and Emily.
It was so strange...and kind of cool....
to be "invited" to this event.
Usually if my kids are involved in something 
I am, as well, up to my elbows.
But in this case I knew nothing about it other than 
that Warren would be grilling and I was bringing water.

The wedding party took care of all of it with Emily's sister
Liza doing all of the organizing, planning and most of the 
work of it.
The Best Man, Chris, did assist her I am quite sure.

These were the table decorations
which perfectly reflected the artwork on the invitations.
So cool.

Michael and Emily found these country style drink dispensers 
a few weeks ago and were quite pleased.
They were perfect.

Front and center in the photo below is Emily's brother Caleb.
He is such a wonderful young man who now works with Chelsea.
We enjoyed Caleb and the rest of this family all of the way 
through our home educating years. 
They were a very important part of our co-op.

 Behind Caleb is Jonathan (in plaid) and my brother Allan (in blue).
I don't get to see Allan often enough.

 Mikey was pretty pleased that he was able to pull of the surprise
matching t-shirts.
I think he tries to not tell me things...and this was one of them.

 A party game that thankfully only involved the guys.
Normally this is done at Bridal Showers but in this case....

 I thought these guys made really horrific brides.
Thank goodness they are not meant to wear these anywhere.

I think Johnny could see this was not working out so well.

 The seriousness on both of these guys faces just cracks me up.
Love it!

 Jonathan enjoys a bit of the girls silliness.
Later he would join the guys in a very hot and active 
game of ultimate frisbee.

 Johnny wanted to take a walk down by the river and so I suggested he take my camera 
and get some photos.
He did a great job.

 Apparently Chelsea and Grandma Georgia joined him because they showed up in 
the photos. 
Chelsea doesn't love wearing yellow but it is the bridesmaid color 
and so she was asked to wear it that day.
I happen to like it on her.
What a delightful event this was.
And I am so thankful for all of the work that went into 
making it so special for the bride and groom to be.
The wedding day will be here before we know it!

Also ongoing all weekend long was planning for Chelsea's 19th
birthday party.
She is a great party planner and so had every detail in place.
Each day had its assigned duties up until shopping on Monday morning
for the food that we weren't making.

Monday afternoon we cooked and baked.
BBQ, Pasta Salad, she iced the cupcakes, Grandma Georgia made 
the cake, Grandma Ruth made two huge bowls of her amazing 
potato salad.
So, if you are counting that makes THREE bowls of potato 
salad from Mom this weekend. 
Its that good!
Mikey helped her get tables and Emily came early to 
help her set up.
I had to take a little rest while they put the final details together.
I'm not the energizer bunny I once was.
But they are young and strong with lots of great ideas 
and the ability to pull it all off.

And then the guests began to arrive.

 One large group of co-workers had car trouble and then got lost 
and so they arrived quite late....
but we were SO happy they kept trying and finally found us.
They livened things up a lot.
I don't have any photos of them, though, because by then 
I was in full mama/hostess mode.

Activities included eating...of course...
volleyball, tree climbing, Dutch Blitz, 
Singing around the fire and a lot of visiting.
Johnny was so happy to find a co-worker of Chelsea's who grew 
up in Germany.
They chatted a while.
He loved it and felt so much at home with someone who
understands his culture.

Chelsea had made labels for just about everything.
They were so cute!

Chips and pretzels got their own table
but the real food was behind this fence.

 I love seeing friends enjoying time together.
These two have been buds since Kindergarten.

 Newlyweds, Joseph and Lindsay enjoying our Chloe.
I suspect that Lindsay was plotting a diet for our sadly obese pooch.
Last night didn't help that situation at all.
She found much on the ground and reminded me of 
Templeton the Rat in Charlotte's Web.
By the end of the evening she looked uncomfortable.

 Two special guests.
Melissa and Grandma Georgia.
Melissa has been friends with my kids and myself for a good long while.
I'm glad she could make it after a migraine that morning.
Grandma Georgia made Chelsea's birthday cake.  
It is tradition!

 These three have such busy lives that they struggle to find times when all three
can be together.
However, when they do it is a natural and very fun time.
It makes the effort worthwhile.
 And then it was time for Cake and Ice Cream.
Emily lit the candles!
 19 candles lit it UP!
 Michael "helped".
And then supervised.
What a blessed evening.
Thanks to all who helped to make it so special.
You are so important to us.

Happy Birthday, Chelsea!!