Surprise! Finale

Okay, so he has me close my eyes just as we are exiting the highway, and I figure we will soon be at the dock, or at least in a parking lot (we still have to drop off the rental car before we board, something Luke seems to think will take 2.3 seconds, seeing as that is all the time we have left to make the boat). Thing is, he never slows down to parking lot speed. And he makes quite a few turns. Eventually I hear him saying, “Alright…” which I take to mean I can open my eyes, and I peek out and see we are on a residential street. I quickly close them again, knowing he didn’t mean for me to see that yet. Then a minute later we are parking, and he comes around to open the door for me.
This whole close-your-eyes thing is nothing new with us. I remember a lovely day in May where Luke was taking me for a drive, and when I got into the car he told me to close my eyes. He circled the block round and round until he was sure I had no idea we were only across the street. There he proposed on a bench built into two trees.
It was hard to trust his guidance up the steep driveway, so I peeked again. I later told him I didn’t want to ruin his surprise at my surprise, so I pretended I didn’t just open my eyes and totally know where we were. When we got to the door, Luke told me to open my eyes.
“I know there are two things you love very much in this world- the ocean, and your friend Angela. I wanted you to enjoy both on your birthday.”
Angela opened the door to a very smiley Luke and a very speechless me. I had had to use the restroom pretty much since we left Richmond, so in very un-Lifetime movielike fashion, I headed straight for it after a big hug from my friend.
It took the next hour for me to get my mind around the fact that there was no boat. There never was a boat, and some of those times I ‘caught’ Luke doing something online I wasn’t allowed to see was him emailing Angela, making plans for our getaway to Virginia Beach.
As we settled down to a wonderful, albeit late dinner with Angela and her dear family, Aaron gave thanks for the food and as he did, I was overcome with emotion. Luke had prepared something for me, completely with me in mind. A cruise would have been interesting, sure. But we both agreed later that wasn’t really something either of us would like. It made for a good ruse, though, to keep me off the trail of the simpler truth. And, boy do I love when things are kept simple: my lover and me and a trip to the sea.
Pictures to come shortly!

Surprise! Part Two

So, we get on a plane and settle into our first class seats. Did I mention how giddy Luke was about this? There wasn’t all that much special about it that I could see, apart from a real glass for orange juice and a real mug for coffee. But our flight wasn’t long enough to enjoy all the benefits, I suppose.
I had packed my carry on bag with the expectation that my other suitcase would be lost in transit. As long as I had Luke and my carry on, no matter where we went we would have a good time. This trip was a second honeymoon for us, and I am embarrassed to admit that when preparing for the first time, I might not have realized the simplicity of our needs as much as I do now. Of course, I was excited to travel with my brand new husband, but the destination was such a big part of it then, too.
We changed planes in Atlanta, and after boarding we heard behind us a lady talking to her seatmate. “My husband has Alzheimer’s,” she said, “and he sat up there in the wrong seat. I have to go get him, and then I’ll be back.” As we (me tearfully) watched her gently leading her beloved back to his assigned seat, Luke leaned over and whispered, “I hope that is the way I can love you someday.” I suppose that particular illness runs in my family, but when I imagine what life is like for us two when we are older, I don’t usually think of either of us as needing the other to take care of them. But if that is what God has for us, it will be beautiful.
Once in Richmond, I camped out at baggage claim while Luke went to pick up the rental car. I’m not sure when this trip started to feel like The Amazing Race, maybe now- I kept watching the overhead digital clock tick the minutes away toward five o’clock, and it seemed like the luggage took forever to arrive. It finally did, both checked pieces (yay!), and we were off. I was told that the boat was leaving at 7:00, and it would take about an hour and a half to get to Norfolk. The drive would be straightforward, taking 64 East pretty much the whole way, so we put on a Cheri Keaggy cd that had one of the songs on it from our wedding ceremony, and sat back (Luke) and tried to relax (me). I noted the Virginia countryside, the lush greenery, and the relative speed we were knocking out the miles to Norfolk. That is, until all traffic stopped about forty-five miles into our drive. I appreciate how there would be digital signs every so often to warn us of slow traffic ahead, but it was almost torture in this case, knowing at which mile the accident was, and knowing how many miles away from the scene we were. Aargh! 40 minutes and seven miles later, after not seeing any trace of an accident, we got moving again. I was really hyperventilating at this point, and Luke was visibly uncomfortable with this turn of events, but still much calmer than I would expect from him. He told me about how he had called the boat, and they knew we were coming, and something about how the 7:00 departure time had a little flex in it. I was still completely nervous about this, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew to trust Luke more than any other feeling I had at the moment. Visions of a couple nights spent in a Norfolk motel danced in my head. Hey, it would work out okay.
Finally, we enter the Norfolk area, and I see signs mentioning Virginia Beach. I had been here before, visiting my friend Angela, and one exit in particular up ahead sounded familiar. I told Luke about this, and a few minutes later he says, “Okay. I have something arranged at the dock that I don’t want you to see until we’re there. So, I need you to close your eyes from here.” I oblige him, thinking that maybe he has told Angela about our trip and they are going to be there to see us off. Then I think, how cruel is that, call your friends to come to the dock- “Hey, we’re going on a cruise; do you want to watch our boat leave?” As much as I would have loved to see Angela, I hoped Luke didn’t do that. Maybe it was balloons, or a plane flying over with the message WILL YOU MARRY ME AGAIN? streaming behind it. He had been planning this trip for months, preparing this for me, and I couldn’t assume any extravagance had missed his consideration.
to be continued

Surprise! Part One

Luke and I just got back from a vacation together. It was a combination of celebrations: our tenth anniversary, my birthday, and just being grateful that we have each other after some difficult months. He thought it would be great to surprise me with the destination, so for two months I was preparing (getting a tan, weaning A Flat) for this trip with few clues: we would need passport cards where we were going, and it may involve a boat.
We left Sunday morning for the airport, and upon arriving discovered that our flight had been canceled. I now learned that the trip did involve a boat, for the reroute they had set up for us didn’t have us arriving in Norfolk, VA, in time to make it. Luke had to figure out another way. It ended up involving one flight in first class to Atlanta, changing planes and heading to Richmond, then renting a car and driving from there. A couple of flags I now notice about Luke’s behavior during the exchange with the ticket counter ladies and during the subsequent flights- he was pretty calm about all this, for him, in the midst of these rearranged plans, and really excited about being ‘bumped’ to first class. I mean, we’re about to leave the country somewhere on a boat, it would seem to me first class is only icing on the cake. And he prefers middle pieces to corners anyhow.
So, instead of a leisurely trip to destination unknown, I spend the day with knots in my stomach about making the boat, because the new arrangements left little time for the unpredictable (lost luggage, traffic, etc.) There was a time we were hastily driving to Massachusetts to catch a ferry to Nantucket, and I felt the same way then as I did now. I kept thinking to myself, if we miss that boat, what will Luke do?! Will I have only pieces of a husband to bring home in my carry on after that?! It wouldn’t have disappointed me to miss the boat, not that I wasn’t looking forward to a cruise. But I was on this trip to be with Luke, and the destination really didn’t matter. But I still knew Luke, the administrator he was, might not survive a blow like this. So I prayed. That morning at the airport, while Luke lined up a rental car down the hall, I sat reading in Job about two kinds of wisdom. There is man’s wisdom, the stuff we can know and see from our perspective, and there is God’s wisdom, the way He knows and sees all and is the only One who can work all things together for our good. I kept reminding myself of this through the day, thinking how He in His divine wisdom will probably only answer my prayers one of two ways- either we miss the boat or we make the boat. And like Habakkuk, I prayed, then sat back in my uncomfortable upright position and waited to see how He would answer.
to be continued

For Glory And For Beauty

Hey, I have a new motto! I was reading this morning in Exodus, where God was describing the clothing the priests were to wear while ministering in the Tabernacle. He said their robes were “for glory and for beauty”. The work the priest would do, bringing the names of the sons of Israel before the Lord, and offering sacrifices for sin, would glorify God as it would show His compassion and mercy. But I never noticed that word beauty before. There was the beauty of the priestly job to do, but it all was supposed to be beautiful to look at, as well. Scarlet, purple, blue. Pomegranates, bells, gold and precious stones. Wow. I can’t wait to see it.
There is a lady in my church whose house I visited recently. She was one of the first people to welcome me to our church and I noticed her gentle and quiet spirit right away. Her house is a treasure trove of beautiful works of art (many by her) and some of the loveliest quilts I have ever seen. I think now how fitting this all is- a worker who displays beauty inside and out. This needs to be one of my goals in life.

You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. Exodus 28:2

Family Update

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I don’t just have plant babies, you might recall. I thought I would write a bit about my real (not green- only sometimes green, after cupcakes or painting) babies, since I haven’t done that in a long time.
A Major is eight, going on nine. She’s already excitedly planning her birthday party, since it is the year she can have a bigger than normal one (ages 1, 5, 9, 13). She likes to read, write, and play with her friends. I love her budding evangelistic spirit- ever since she accepted Jesus as her Savior, she has had a real heart for lost people. She and I are doing ‘The Friend Dare’ you see on the tab across the top of this blog page. My hope is that she has a more balanced and stable approach to relationships than I did. I see a lot of myself in her, both physically and emotionally.
Big S is seven. I could not have asked for a more helpful, thorough child. It is fun to work in the kitchen with her, preparing meals. Her reading is coming along really well right now, and I see her individuality showing in her recent book choices. She likes the Sarah, Plain and Tall series (Hmmm. Wonder why.) and the Boxcar Children.
Little S is not so little. Now six, he enjoys playing outside, building with LEGO’s, practicing his reading, holding baby A Flat, and doing anything that Daddy is doing. We are celebrating the 6th anniversary of his spinal surgery tomorrow, and praising God for his completely normal development. Recently, he asked Jesus to be his Savior, and we are so happy to see him take this most important step in his spiritual development. “And Samuel grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.” This was said of Samuel in the Bible, then our Lord Jesus, and we hope it speaks of our boy, too.
N is four. He likes to play with “the older three” as he calls them, outside with cousins, inside with LEGO’s. I haven’t started to formally teach him to read, but his own love for books and time spent reading with Grandma Carol have him more than ready to start kindergarten at a fast pace this fall. His big birthday party is coming up, too, and he has mentioned wanting a Spiderman party. I can see cute spider cupcakes in our future.
A Minor is three. She is happily adjusting to big-girl-ness in many areas except one- her ‘binky’. When asked when she’ll ever give it up, she answers “When I’m sixteen.” She loves to change her clothes. It was getting really out of hand so I put her stuff up high in the closet. Things are better now, except that she finds things out of the laundry pile and under beds to put on. I came into the room this afternoon to find her in her swimsuit, over all her other clothing. At least she didn’t take anything off this time.
C is one. He’s the one I talk about the most lately, because he is the one I spend the most time with. His running off, I am sure, has whittled months, if not years off my life. When he is not trying to escape, he is smart as a whip, rattling off names of animals, body parts, and many other words, thanks to Grandma Carol’s patient coaching. He likes trains, lions, and shoes. Why shoes? It could be hereditary (I love shoes), but it probably is because shoes mean GO!
A Flat has never really been flat. She has nice, chubby features that go with a 9 month old baby, and has been on the move for months now. She likes to screech like an owl, loves playing with her siblings, and is an all around sweet, patient, happy child. I’ve been weaning her over the past month and have been more emotional about this experience than with any of the others. In the past I was always pregnant and so the decision to wean was made by the baby I was carrying. This time the break was more intense and difficult physically, as I am not pregnant. She is happily transitioned, however, and I am on the mend… I think. Every other day I think that, then I lapse back into pain, but here’s hoping I am really over the worst of it from today onward.
That’s a smidgen of what is going on with my little ones. Tell me something about yours.

Seasonal Scene: Asparagus

Our dear aunt Barb moved to Indiana, and said I could have her asparagus plant. The old me wouldn’t get half as excited about this as the new, green stuff lovin’ me, and I couldn’t wait until I could go dig it up and transplant it to our land. You would have thought it was Christmas- Luke was willing to help, so all nine of us got in the van and went to Barb’s to get Gus. Luke dug it out perfectly, leaving no cut root behind. Then, we drove home to put it in, just up the treeline from Barbie and Ruby, my rhubarb plants from Diana. I’m accumulating such wonderful living things, and I love that many of the veggies we have on our table will have a benefactor.
Someday I’ll remember to get a picture of Gus, but seeing as how we will probably not even harvest asparagus (or rhubarb) until the year after next, I figure I have plenty of time to come up with good asparagus recipes and finish this post.

Seasonal Scene: Strawberries

On the way home from Mt. Gilead the other day, I stopped at a farm market to see what they had, and came away with our first quart of local strawberries. I don’t know how local, though, since I have it on good authority that Crum’s (our berry patch in this county) won’t be having enough for U-pick until next week. But, it was heartening to finally be in (somebody’s) strawberry season. A couple days later, I went over to Waterford to check out Owl Creek Produce Auction, after reading an article about it in a magazine. What a fun place! It was storming pretty bad, so I didn’t linger to watch the actual auction, only scooped up their last quart of strawberries and headed home.
There are many things I like to do with strawberries- served on shortcake, over ice cream, and cooked into freezer jam. Then there is strawberry-rhubarb crisp and strawberry pie, with or without rhubarb. Strawberry muffins, too.
What did we do with our first berries of this growing season? Ate every blessed one whole.