Archive for March 2014

Fort Wayne for the Weekend

Fort Wayne Science Central

Our family has traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana, several times since the fall of 2007. It happens to be a half-way point between us and our dear friends who live in Ohio. Once we get through {or around} Chicago, it’s a pretty easy drive and we made it this past weekend in under 5 hours each way.

Our activities have changed as our children have grown, and we have been very pleased with what the Fort Wayne area has to offer. Enough so, that we plan to continue going back.

Here are some of our favorite spots, along with some pictures of us through the years:

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo

Fort Wayne Zoo

Fort Wayne Zoo--giraffe

Fort Wayne Zoo--kangaroos

Fort Wayne Zoo--peacock

Fort Wayne Zoo--lizard

Fort Wayne Zoo--pony ride

Fort Wayne Zoo--pony ride

Fort Wayne Zoo--water ride

Fort Wayne Zoo--carousel

Fort Wayne Zoo--petting zoo

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory

Botanical Conservatory in strollers

Botanical Conservatory--family pic

Science Central

Science Central--water works

Science Central--parachute

Science Central--discovering

Science Central--mirrors

Science Central--5 senses

Science Central--demonstration

Science Central--confusion illusion

Science Central--spinning

Crazy Pinz, Inc.

Crazy Pinz--spare!

We have also spent time at outdoor parks when the weather has cooperated, and at various shopping centers and the Glenbrook Square mall when it has not.

Cheek to cheek

This site is always helpful as we plan our trips: Visit Fort Wayne

You can find valuable coupons here and browse through the current issue of the Fort Wayne Visitor’s Guide here.

I look forward to getting to know Fort Wayne even better as our kids enter new stages and their interests change. There are other museums to explore and more sights to see!

 

Ebenezer Series: Life in the Country

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

Farm living did have its drawbacks. Namely, mice. Big ones, and initially, lots of them! But even that made me stronger.

This is the room I chose as my bedroom. Obviously it had been a kids' room prior, but I did not invest any money into making it more age-appropriate for me. Notice the mousetrap on the floor by the waste basket.

This is the room I chose as my bedroom. Obviously it had been a kids’ room prior, but I chose not to invest any time or money into making it more age-appropriate for me. Notice the mousetrap on the floor by the waste basket.

There were signs of mice everywhere and I invested in traps by the bagful. {Sorry, but I truly am a farmgirl at heart and I knew that catching and releasing them was futile. If I was going to have a rodent-free home, I needed to take drastic measures.}

At first I would let my dad know that I had caught one {or two} and he would stop by when he was in the area and empty the traps and reset them for me. But then I got braver, step by step.

I soon picked the occupied traps up with gloves and pliers and set them outside my porch door. Next thing I knew, I was emptying the traps and resetting them myself. Never fun, but better than lying awake at night listening to them scampering around me or finding traces of them in my clothes closet or kitchen. Eeesh! For the first several weeks, I was always on guard, sure that one would jump out at me from anywhere.

I will throw in more kudos to my family here. It was “my” responsibility to keep the BIG yard mowed, but I didn’t have a mower and was never a strong lawn mower, so my parents and brother also took care of that for me, hauling their mower over and taking care of things as they found the time. A big thank you to them for that! What a blessing to have a family who supports you and is always there for you. In writing this, I am realizing just how much they selflessly took care of me. {I have not been blatantly pointing out every situation that afforded an Ebenezer stone, but instead, listing the blessings as they came, but I will make it a point to say that a stone would be raised here.}

One of my friends from the university decided to move into the farmhouse with me after I had been there a couple of months. She was a total city girl, so it was quite a change for her, but she was a trooper. I remember the chirping crickets kept her up at night and, at first, she had no idea what they were. But she really loved this taste of country life and it was fun to have her company.

We laughed a lot. I smile now as I remember that I considered it a successful evening if I caused her to “fall” off of her chair after dinner and lie on the floor holding her aching stomach from laughing so hard. Aaah, those were fun times. It was a good thing I had the mouse situation under control a bit before she moved in though 😉

Since I had my little studio in the house, I began drawing, painting and creating things as I had time and decided to rent space at a local consignment shop so I could sell some of my items. Being creative truly was my heart’s desire and I wanted to make a go of it. I decided that after 4 and a half good years, I would leave my position at the university and just work part-time at the newspaper and spend the rest of my time creating things to sell at the shop.

I truly loved my university friends and co-workers and, on one hand, it was really hard to leave a place where I fit in and felt I belonged and was doing some good, but I agreed to stay in touch and looked forward to new and exciting opportunities ahead.

The send-off party my friends threw for me at the university.

The send-off party my friends threw for me at the university.

Little did I know that new and exciting things were closer than I imagined.

Ebenezer Series: A House in the Country

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

My first apartment--My roommate and I rented 1/3 of this house.

My first apartment–My roommate and I rented 1/3 of this house.

The lease on my apartment was drawing to a close and my landlord needed a definite answer on whether I would be renewing it or not. With no roommate in the picture, I finally conceded and prepared to pack up my things, with, at that point, no idea where I would be unpacking them.

My parents graciously offered my old room and let me know I was welcome to come back home, but that was so hard for me to swallow. Although no one was probably paying close enough attention to my life to even notice such a move, to me it screamed “FAILURE” and I fought against the thought of it tooth and nail.

As the days of my lease ticked away, I began to get depressed. One evening I attended a church event—a mother/daughter tea with my mother—putting on a smile while turmoil raged within me. I spent that night at my parents’ in my brother’s old room and lay awake in bed for hours contemplating my next step.

I had a wonderfully simple and blessed life, yet I was sinking lower and lower and thoughts of ending the frustration started to take over. There were so many unknowns in my future and I felt like things would never work out the way I hoped they would. I wanted to be on my own, heading toward marriage and a family, but none of that was in my immediate future as far as I could tell. What if it never came–and everyone saw me as a failure, and I was already almost 24! {laughable now, but an old maid in my mindset then}

I have had other dark nights, but I must admit, that was my darkest. Desperation was speaking loud to me and canceling out the Voice of Truth for which I have now learned to listen. Thankfully, God saw me through that night with no harm done, but I will never forget it, and to this day, thank Him for saving me from my foolish self. Oh, the things I would have missed had I called it quits then. The heartache I would have caused and the lack of faith in my God that I would have shown.

My dad had spoken to me about a viable option, but it had no immediate appeal. He was working for a local friend and farmer who owned a second house in which he usually allowed his hired help to live. Since my dad was his current hired help, and obviously didn’t need to live in that house, maybe I would be able to live there.

I had no desire to move back to the country and live in a big old farmhouse, but “sure,” I said, and gave my dad permission to inquire about it.

And he was given the green light. No problem.

Moving Day

Moving Day

I still fought it and hoped something else would turn up. It was already the 11th hour though, and moving day came. Once again, my family came through for me and loaded up everything from my apartment and delivered it to my new abode—the farmhouse in the country—and because I had no other choice, my heart began to soften toward my new lodging situation.

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse

No, it wasn’t in town and I once again had a commute to work {not a traffic-packed commute, just a country drive}, but my co-worker at the newspaper offered to swing by and pick me up on the days that I worked there. So that saved on gas money and made the ride more enjoyable.

The whole place was mine to fill up and decorate as I chose–and that was pretty exciting–although I didn’t own that much. No kitchen appliances were included, but within a few days we found used ones at a good price and my parents delivered them to my home. A friend needed someone to “store” her washing machine and I volunteered for that job. I think we picked up a dryer for free.

My little pup, Booker, who was included with the purchase of my refrigerator. He lived on my parents' farm.

An extra bonus: My little pup, Booker, who was included with the purchase of my refrigerator! He went to live on my parents’ farm, since I wasn’t around enough to give him the attention he needed.

The entire living area of my previous apartment probably would have fit into this house’s kitchen and dining area. It had a closed-in porch, a huge closet area, living room, 4 {yes, 4!} bedrooms upstairs, an attached garage {Are you kidding me? No one in my family lived with that kind of luxury!}  and my favorite room—a little hardwood-floored area off the living room that I turned into my studio. Looking out the windows of that room, I could watch horses running and grazing peacefully in the pasture, which was closed off with a white wooden fence.  I began to fall in love with the place.

My studio

My studio

 

My Studio 2Oh, and did I mention, it was rent-free? I just needed to pay the utility bills. Place humungous Ebenezer stone right here.

How could I have resisted such a gift?

Ebenezer Series–My Next Steps

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

Friends at MCS

Friends around my desk at the Multi-Cultural Services office

As I mentioned in my last post, my first job opened up so many doors for new experiences and for the most part, it was very good.

Unfortunately, after 23 months of employment, the owner of the company was making requests of me that made me uncomfortable. One morning, while he was in town, I was dreading going into work, knowing I would have to face him after an awkward conversation the previous day. I was annoyed and frustrated with him and felt very burdened over the entire situation.

As I sat alone eating breakfast that morning, a thought came to me: “I’m going to quit today.” Until that moment, the thought had not entered my mind, but when it did, I felt peace and a sense of excitement, and I completely recall a smile coming over my face.  I had a plan {short-sighted though it was}, and I felt empowered, and that changed everything.

I headed off to work and asked my immediate boss if he had a couple of minutes. I then became nervous and stumbled over my words, but without a lot of explanation I gave my two-weeks’ notice. It was not his fault and I felt bad dropping this on him, but I knew he would understand that it was time for me to move on to other things.

A fellow co-worker encouraged me to apply for a job at Lands’ End, where he was picking up some part-time hours. I applied and got a job there, but don’t even recall the interview process, so it must have gone off a lot easier than I expected it to.

I also took the state test to qualify for a program assistant position at the local university. There were no such state positions open at the time, but I did get called in for an interview for a part-time position in the Multi-Cultural Services (MCS) Department. I do recall that interview and was nervous and sure that I blew it, but was offered the job the following day and accepted it with some fear and trepidation.

I worked for the Assistant to the Chancellor for Minority Affairs and helped him write reports and worked in general with the campus’s minority and international student population. Many of the students were my peers and I developed great relationships with them—yet there I was getting paid as an employee while they were working hard to make it through the next semester. I finally got a taste of college, but from a completely different perspective than I ever thought I would.

Once again, my horizons were expanded as I interacted with people from various backgrounds and cultures. We were there as a resource to the students, but we also hosted wonderful events like International Night and various ethnic dinners and celebrations. It was there that I dared to try new foods and discovered that it was very fun and exciting to improve my palate.

International Night dinner and celebration

International Night dinner and celebration

I picked up part-time hours in other departments across campus as the opportunity arose, so that I was often putting in a 40-hour week. I worked for Counseling Services, Tutoring Services, the Teaching Department and the History Department. Everywhere I went on campus, people greeted me by name–students, staff, administration and faculty. My world had expanded greatly, and I loved it.

At some point, I ended my employment at Lands’ End because I was only getting a few hours here and there and it was a bit of a commute. I discovered quickly that customer service, i.e., sitting on the phone all day, was not something I enjoyed. At all.

When I was back to part-time hours at the university, I picked up a job at the local newspaper as a typesetter/proofreader. My interaction with others was very limited there, but it was another good learning experience for me.

I began to hang out more and more on campus, spending occasional nights with a friend who, as best as I can recall, was living in a dorm by herself, and soon she and I found an apartment to rent together and I was finally “out on my own.”

Dorm life and big hair

Dorm life and big hair

It was a very fun year of living in town, but at the end of that year, my roommate was headed to grad school in another state. I couldn’t afford to rent the apartment by myself and I was not having any success finding a new roommate.

And my faith was stretched farther than I thought I could bear.

Ebenezer Series–My First Job

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

Pencil drawing I did for art class which was used as the program cover for our Baccalaureate service.

Pencil drawing I did for art class which was used as the program cover for our Baccalaureate service.

I did very well in school, but I always longed for the day I would be done with it. I liked to learn, but I didn’t like busywork and college always seemed like a strange unknown–a foggy distant land that I would never enter. I was not mature or confident enough to venture out. How could I possibly step onto an unfamiliar campus and take classes with people I didn’t know on subjects I wasn’t interested in so that I could get a degree in heaven knows what? It was all so vague and I did not seek out anyone to help me navigate my options {don’t forget my dysfunctional shyness}.

The thought of making some money—now that interested me!

But still, I had no idea what I would do. As my graduation day approached, I began to get more fearful of what might lie ahead of me. Or worse yet, what might NOT lie ahead of me. The thought of being done with high school was so exciting, but by this time I really did love my classmates and got a little bit emotional when I thought of walking out of good ‘ol Belmont High for the final time. The end of an era and my life’s routine, up to this point.

I began to ask God to show me His will years earlier. I had studied how to discern God’s will for some time and I remember that being such a confusing topic for me back then–always trying to figure out the puzzle so that pieces would fit together the way I thought they should.

Honestly, I wanted to get married and have a family. I even thought it would be great to be a legitimately pregnant teenager—married at 18 or 19, first baby by the time I was 20, just like my parents. Wow! That sure didn’t happen.

Graduation Day was Sunday, May 18th. My excitement had been overshadowed by the sudden and devastating loss of my uncle the week prior. My family was still in mourning as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma. We had a nice gathering at my parents’ house in my honor, but it was a bittersweet day. And then it was gone.

Laury HS Grad

What now God?

I didn’t feel terribly pressured to get a “real” job immediately and I had a few things mulling around in my head that I thought I could do. I picked up a couple of odd jobs helping people I knew, and I felt like things would eventually come together and be ok. However, my hands did begin to sweat every time I thought of going on an actual job interview, so I tried not to think about it too much.

I had been done with school for just a couple of weeks when my brother told me that his boss mentioned that he would like to hire a secretary {seems funny to say that word now} and to ask me if I would be interested. I was a bit fearful, but I said that yes, that might be a good idea. I knew who the two guys were who ran the business and it was local, about a five minute drive from my parents’ home, even though we pretty much lived out in the middle of nowhere. Plus, with my brother working there, I felt more at ease knowing he would be around, off and on, to help me out if I had questions.

And just like that, I had the job. Full-time work with benefits, minutes away from home, and no job interview required. Amazing. Didn’t see that coming. Place Ebenezer stone here.

I was employed by this company for just under two years. The local managers were Christian men with great senses of humor who liked to tell stories and there was rarely a dull moment in my day.

The owner was an entrepreneur who hailed from Columbia and dabbled in just about everything, including the latest in technology. {I think we were one of the first people in the county to get a facsimile machine. The local bank actually used to come out and fax things from our office!}

The owner spent most of his time at his office in New York City and I communicated with the staff there daily, as well as folks from a site in Las Cruces, New Mexico. We had clients and suppliers in Panama and Israel, with whom I was also in direct contact.   On top of that, we served our local customers and were very involved in the surrounding community. It was a great opportunity for me to experience the world around me, both near and far.

During that time, I saved enough money to buy my first car and I was also given a free trip for two to Las Vegas, which the company had earned. My best friend and I, 19 and 18 respectively, had a great time in Vegas. We were good girls though and ate, shopped and checked out the town without getting into any trouble—all for free. And my adventurous spirit started to grow within me.

My sister and me in front of my new car--a Plymouth Horizon TC3

My sister and me in front of my new car–a Plymouth Horizon TC3

I gained a wealth of knowledge, confidence and experience—which all looked pretty good on my resume.

Ebenezer Series — The Early Years

Ebenezer Series:

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life

LauryWithKitty on PicMonkey

I was kind of a sickly kid. Born with bronchitis, jaundice and a milk allergy, I kept my parents busy with doctor visits and at 6 months, an extended stay in the ICU. My sources tell me {thanks Mom} that my mere conception was a miracle in itself and that I could not tolerate oral antibiotics and was always on the small side. I know I was often sick for holidays, family vacations and class trips. I remember the ninth time I had pneumonia–I missed two weeks of school in fifth grade–and thankfully, I haven’t had it since.

Shy Laury--preschool age

I was also extremely shy.  I now call it “dysfunctionally shy.” I am not proud to admit this, but I didn’t utter a word directly to one set of my grandparents until I was 8 years old. In kindergarten and the first couple years of grade school, I would find my favorite place to stand at recess and do just that. Stand there, and watch the other kids play with each other. I was not sad and didn’t feel left out. I just had no desire to interact with them. Strange, I know. Needless to say, I got the lowest marks possible on my report cards for “plays well with others.”

I was the youngest of three kids and there were six and seven years between my siblings and me. I was used to playing by myself and my best friends were the cats on our farm and our dog. I loved being outdoors, wandering around and getting lost in imaginative play with the dog by my side and a cat in my arms {or apparently around my neck}.

Laury with cat on shoulders

I had a couple of cousins whom I adored and I would be so filled with joyful anticipation of playing with them that I could hardly sleep the night before a family get-together. But otherwise, multiple kids playing together was foreign to me and school definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Fortunately, I did become less socially awkward and began to form good friendships with my classmates, but I was still labeled “quiet” and “shy” quite often, and for good reason.

Because I had older siblings, I knew there would come a day in my freshman year of high school when I would be required to participate in a forensics competition. Every time I thought of it, my stomach felt sick, but for so long, it was still years away.

Then one day, there I was, a freshman needing to declare what written work I would choose for my oral presentation. I don’t recall why, but I chose to deliver a prose piece—my edited version of a short story entitled “The Scarlet Ibis.”  It was an emotional story and I worked and worked to whittle away excess content so that it fit into the allotted timeframe, but still held its dramatic appeal.

Freshman year in high school.

Freshman year in high school.

I rehearsed in my head and in front of the mirror and dreadfully, in front of Mrs. Nodolf’s jr. high English class—one of the requirements. I wanted to do my best and to my surprise, she gave me an “A.” She said I had grown tremendously in the last year and that she wouldn’t be surprised if I went on to regionals.

And that is what I feared most. If I did well at our local school competition and got an “A,” I would automatically be qualified to move to the next level and present my piece to a larger audience at a different school. To me, it was an unbearable thought. But I had a good piece and if Mrs. Nodolf gave me an “A,” there was no reason I shouldn’t move on to regionals. What to do…what to do.

I had prayed for wisdom and confidence and that God’s will would be done. I wanted to do a great job, but I didn’t ever want to have to do it again. I wanted to put in my 4 minutes {or whatever it was}, sit down, take a deep relaxing breath and be done and move on with life, having conquered my most dreaded task to date.

The night of the competition came and I was struggling with a cold that I had developed. In my nervousness, I didn’t think to have a tissue with me as I approached the front of the room. I began my speech, and my nose began to run. I began to sniff. I would speak and sniff. Sniff and speak. My mind was racing, as I spoke emotionally on behalf of the characters in the story, all the while thinking of how embarrassing it would be if the judges saw my nose running down my face. My words flew out of my mouth. Sniff. Faster and faster my words came. Sniff.  And I was done. I found my seat, along with a tissue in my bag, and was pretty sure the worst was over.

In another hour or so, the grades were posted. I got a “B,” along with judges’ comments of “good piece but needs to slow down.” There was my answer. I smiled. I was done. I had never been more thankful for a cold.

One of my good friends moved on in the competition and at some point needed to switch to a new piece. She inquired about mine. I don’t know if it was against the rules or not, but I let her borrow my edited piece and she went all the way to State with it. Better her than me {I thought at the time} and it all ended well.

Chillin' with my beautiful cat, Silver, on one of the rare occasions that she was in the house.

Chillin’ with my beautiful cat, Silver, on one of the rare occasions that she was in the house.

My Ebenezer Series

Ebenezer Series:

Acknowledging God’s magnificent hand in my

otherwise ordinary life.

Ebenezer StonesI have contemplated writing a series of testimonies to God’s faithful provision in my life for some time and am finally putting pen to paper {or literally, fingers to keyboard}. Today I have begun recording some of the amazing ways that God has provided for me throughout my life. Some stories may seem more significant than others, but each is an important thread woven into the fabric that is my life. And I want it all to point straight to my heavenly Father.

In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, it is written in chapter 7 of how the Israelite judge, Samuel, after just witnessing the Lord’s power in defeating their Philistine enemies, took a stone and set it up in the place that he was, and called it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the Lord helped us.”  In Hebrew, Ebenezer means “stone of help.” The stone that Samuel put in place was something for the Israelites to look at and remember how God had helped them–had crushed their enemies, lest they forget.

A similar thing happened back in the book of Joshua. God stopped the rushing flood waters of the Jordan River so that the Israelites, who had finally been set free from their captivity in Egypt, could safely cross. While they were still in the midst of the river, the Lord told Joshua to have 12 men each pick up a large stone from the dry ground in the center of the Jordan and carry it to where they would camp that night. Joshua then set up the stones as a memorial to the people.  In chapter 4, verses 21-24, Joshua said to the Israelites,

“In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Stones in waterThe Israelites were repeatedly reminded not to forget what God had delivered them from and how He provided for them time and time and time again. Yet what did they often do? Forgot. And whined and complained and tried to solve things themselves, making feeble attempts to supply their needs and wants in the ways and in the timing that they thought seemed best.

And how did that turn out for them? Disastrously. Every time.

When our hearts forget whose ways are best and whose timing is perfect, we whine and fret and often take things into our own hands.  And how does that usually turn out? In failure, frustration or regret. If not now, then later.

I have lived through many situations and circumstances in my life which, upon reflection, give me cause to want to set up Ebenezer stones of my own. But with the busy blur that this life can become, I often forget to look back at them. And sometimes I get discouraged and feel desperate and wonder if God is going to meet me in my time of need. Sometimes, He gently brings to mind my previous Ebenezer stone experiences and I find comfort in remembering that He helped me before and He will help me again, albeit in His way and timing, not mine.

And when He does, my heart sings out “Jehovah Jireh! My Provider! His grace is sufficient for Me!” {Genesis 22:14}

crossing the waterI am excited to share these stories with you and have them recorded here so that I can also share them with my children. I accept as my responsibility, the passing on to the next generation the stories of the faithfulness of our God–so that these supernatural events–God’s direct interaction with our lives–are not forgotten. I consider it an incredible honor and privilege to do so.  To quote from the second verse of the old hymn “Come Thou Fount:” “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come.” …and I look forward to what stones of remembrance are still to be raised.

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to posses, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live. …These commandments that I give you are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. –From Deuteronomy 6