Monthly Archives: March 2012

Forgiven . . .

It’s been a long, hard day.

Probably tangling with a case manager last night set things off.  I still think I was/am right.  But that is neither here nor there.  She has power.  And what is best for Linda and Audrey is that I get along with my team.  (Even when a case manager forgets that she is to be their advocate no matter what.  Even when a case manager is being ridiculous.  Honestly!  Aren’t the “rules” in place so that our individuals get the best care possible?)  Anyhow.  It wasn’t pretty.

In the middle of things when I found myself near tears, I decided to try to settle things down a little and give her a chance to (maybe) back off a bit.

“I think I am especially irritable today,” I said.  “Linda and Audrey have both been sick, and then I was so sick over the weekend.  Things look extra big to me right now.  But I feel that this is so unreasonable.” 

(Some of you out there are wondering what could get me so wrought up — and it’s a very long story –but when Linda, who is autistic, blind and non-verbal gets a bill in the mail that the state won’t pay, she wanted me to agree that I would go and get the cash from Linda’s bank account and take that specific cash to the place of business or go out and get a money order and mail the money order instead of paying it with my personal check, and documenting that I had taken the funds out of the personal spending money.  “We would never expect you to make a special trip,” she said, so condescendingly,  “Just do it sometime when you are already out.”  If I refused to do that, then she wanted me to agree that I would fill out a special form and explain to Linda what I was doing (!) and then have Linda sign (!) that she agreed for it to be done my way.  “Document the steps you took to do it that way,”  she insisted.  “That way when someone is auditing it, they will understand what you have done.”  I could not believe her audacity. I sent a copy of the bill and the check and a receipt along with the itemization. That really sounds like documentation to me!   I felt like I was part of some weird spoof on government policies.  The thing is, SHE is usually the only one who audits the record.

This discussion was going nowhere fast when. all of the sudden, in her sweet saccharin voice, she came towards me with her arms all wide outstretched.”Oh, Mary Ann.  Give me a hug.  I can see.  You are a WORRIER.  You are just so worried that something is going to go wrong and–” the rest of her sentence was lost on me. 

I acknowledge that I CAN worry.  I know how to do it.  I come from a long line of accomplished worriers.  But worry isn’t my besetting sin as a rule, I don’t think.  It especially wasn’t at that moment.  I was angry.  I was livid, in fact.  And, cotton pickin’ it, now I was crying.  This combination only results in blubbering.  So I tried to stop crying, tried to think straight, tried to organize my head, tried to be the one who was rational.  And I decided that I would not back down.  I gave her the perfunctory hug, went back to the fray, and felt like I was finally heard.  I picked my words, decided what I could live with, and we parted with a fairly decent understanding. 

But I was prickly inside all day.  Although there were some special blessings today that truly helped me through, I still found myself on the verge of tears all afternoon.  Daniel took me this afternoon to pick up our van that had been in the shop, and on the way home, on impulse, I decided to stop in at the local coffee shop to see if there was any JamaicanMeCrazy coffee beans that they are famous for.  I came into the homey atmosphere and waited while Chuck took care of the customer ahead of me.  The smells and the warmth swirled around me and suddenly I felt tireder than I had in a long time.  Chuck finished up and then greeted me with his usual friendliness.

“Hi, Mary Ann.  How ARE you today?”  I could feel his kind eyes trying to look into mine.  I studied the menu over the counter intently.

“Oh.  I’m – – Fine, I guess.” What was going on here?  Why was I feeling prickles behind my eyelids?

“That doesn’t sound convincing,” he said quietly.  “The kids okay?  Rachel doing alright?  Everyone doing fine?

That distracted me a bit, and I told him that everyone was fine, I had just talked to Rachel, Deborah was in Israel, and the kids were coming home for Easter.  Did he have any JMC Coffee?

He said they didn’t– they would get it in next week, and trying mightily to be cheerful, I ordered a bag for next week and got a caramel steamer to go, paid my bill, dropped in a tip and stepped back to the back counter to fix it just the way I like it.  Chuck went on to the next customer, and I stood at the tall counter, stirring my steamer and wondering what in the world was wrong with me.  That’s when the tears started in earnest.  I kept my back to Chuck and the rest of the shop, gathered up my steamer and quietly exited.  Tears were dropping fast, on the front of my shirt, and I was having trouble seeing.  I found my car and started home.

“Oh, Lord, you’re beautiful,” I began in the quiet car.  “Your face is all I see.  For when your eyes are on this child, your grace abounds to me.”  I sang while the tears streamed down, and gradually the peace began to settle in.  A sacrifice of praise helps me every time.  If only I wouldn’t forget so soon.

I got home, and it wasn’t long until Audrey came in from center and then Linda.  I got Linda settled into her chair and then my sweet Mama called.  She asked about my day and I told her how I had been irritable and weepy all day.  When I told her that I suspected that it had something to do with the exchange I had with my case manager the night before, I realized that she hadn’t heard the story.  So I proceeded to tell her.

That was a bad idea, probably.  Not because she couldn’t know it, but I love to tell a story, and the truth is, I get really caught up in what happened, who said what, she said, I said, etc. and it doesn’t take too much for the emotions to come right back with rather alarming intensity.  So, yes, I was kinda’ mad all over again.

When Linda comes home from center, she likes a certain routine.  You take off her coat, she sits in her chair, you take off her shoes, you put her feet up and tilt the recliner back and put some music on her Bose system.  I had done all this except the music part.  Somehow I forgot to do that.  And another thing we know is that Linda hates conflict. And she has acute hearing.  So I was going on and on to Mama about my conversation with the case manager, and Linda began to be a little agitated.  Soon there were some irritating noises from her corner, but my attention was on cleaning up my kitchen while I talked to Mama.

Suddenly, there was this huge noise from Linda’s corner, loud, harsh and drawn out.  The noise she makes when she is really, really upset about something and is trying to throw up.  Something inside of me snapped.  Without missing a beat in my conversation with Mama, I turned towards her corner and said, “LINDA!!!  YOU STOP THAT!!! RIGHT NOW!!!” 

I said it loud and I said it mean.  Linda was immediately quiet.  As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was sorry.  I honestly can say that I don’t think I have ever spoken quite that way to her before. I was so ashamed of myself (and I should have been).  I knew I was going to have to apologize to her.  She really didn’t deserve to be spoken to in such a manner.

I finished the call, talked a little bit to Audrey, then decided to get it over with.  I walked over to her chair and got my face down on level with her face.  “Linda –“

She immediately held up her hand.  She has a bad habit of doing that and then wrenching the hand given to her, sometimes gouging it with her fingernails, and has been known to draw blood.  I wondered what I was in for, but I gave her my hand.

My heart gave a lurch.  She caressed my hand, gently, held it in her own as quietly as I would a baby’s and lifted her sightless face towards me.

“Linda– I’m so sorry for yelling at you so unkindly.  That was very wrong of me.  I’m so sorry.  Can you forgive me?”

She shifted uncomfortably in her chair then but allowed me to put my arm around her shoulders for a little hug before she shrugged me off.

But that quiet hand!  I am still in a state of disbelief.  And when I put her to bed tonight with her customary song and bedtime rituals, I whispered once again in her ear how sorry I was, and she pushed her face up against my words and opened those sightless eyes without a trace of frown or displeasure.

I’ve been forgiven, and His Grace abounds to me.

 

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Certain Man and His Wife have been blessed with lots of little kids to love . . .

 

But this one is still our favorite!

 

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Two girlies, pleased as punch.
Loving hands sewed them each a dress.
No reason.  Just promises made and kept.
Thank you, gokum.

I pray that the blessing you were to them
(and to me)
Will come right back
In the most unexpected ways
But at the “most rightest” time.
to bless you even more!

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Somewhere in the stories of California and the counting of gifts, and just LIVING, some days have come and gone that are just so completely gone that they catch at my heart and make the tears prickle at the back of my eyelids.  I feel like they were somehow stolen from me.  Days with Youngest Daughter, busy days when our Grandbaby came and went without the kind of celebration I like to make when she is here, hours with my Sweet Mama that seem to be flitting through my helpless hands at a heart stopping rate.  She looks so frail to me these days.

Sometimes I think that, living with a Hospice nurse, we hear so much of the heartache in this old world.  And tell me again that the age of technology is so wonderful.  I guess it is.  It broadens our scope of friends, yes.  However, in that broadening, there are stories that are so poignant that I almost have to close my eyes against the feeling that wells up inside.  And then, given the magnitude of that scope, I cannot begin to keep up with all of them the way I would like to.  But oh!  How very much they have enriched my life.

Tonight I read over at @GrannyHummingbird . . . Jeff is between third base, and home plate, on his “way home”.  My heart ached for her, for her family and for those who are keeping watch.  That one statement gripped my heart, and I walked out into the kitchen and repeated it our Hospice nurse girlie, Deborah, on her way to the home of a patient who is dying.  When she got in around 11pm, She told me that she used the analogy with the family tonight.  “It is so appropriate, Mama,” she said.  “I am grateful that you told me.  I love it.”

Home.  Heaven.  It has been so much on my mind.  People I love already there.  People I love almost there.  People I love on their way to somewhere, and I. am. not. sure. where.  Yes, I do believe that not every person is on their way to Heaven.

“Our Kids” were here tonight.  The three older ones as well as a little brother, just turned two, who has decided that going to Mr. Daniel’s and Ms. Mary Ann’s house is just about the greatest thing there is in his little life.  I had hesitated letting him come, fearing that the older ones would explode into more showing off and unmanageable behaviors, and the LORD KNOWS we have enough of that.  But I finally decided that we could try it, and nothing could have prepared me for how things have gone.  This little brother is the light of their lives.  They tenderly watch over him, tell him the rules and interpret for his (as yet) unintelligible language. 

Daniel and I were trying to organize last minute things tonight before supper when I heard,  “No, Little Seneca, you CAN’T eat yet.  We have to pray.  You’ve gotta’ hold hands to pray.  NO!  You gotta’ hold hands.  That’s how we do it!”  That personal pronoun grabbed my heart!  YES!  Lord Jesus!  YES!

After Mya’s homework was finished, and L.J. and Muffie had read their books to me, I looked at the kitchen in all its disarray, hauled Little Seneca out of the cupboards one more time, saw that it was nine o’clock, and decided that it was time to take them home.  They had ridden bikes, had a golf cart ride, peeked in at the ailing calf and seemingly hadn’t wasted a minute.  But they had been manageable, responsive and cheerful.  There had been almost no whining.  Mya sat in the front seat, homework, reading book, and a fresh loaf of bread tucked up on the dash of the car.   Little Seneca was in his car seat, almost too sleepy to be civil, and Muffie and L.J., both balancing paper plates of three cupcakes, sat in the remaining spaces.  I usually try to tell them stories on the way home about my own life — either when I was a little girl, or from Daniel’s and my days of having children.  Tonight the stories got them to talking about Heaven and what it was like.

Telling children about Heaven when there are so many preconceived ideas can be a bit interesting — but the thing is, they BELIEVE!  They have this innate sense that there is a Heaven and that it will be wonderful, but so little actual, factual knowledge.  What a blessing to have words from God’s Word to share with their open ears and hearts.

“You know, kids,” I said to them, “there are a lot of ideas about what Heaven will be like.  Lots of people say lots of things.  The truth is, we don’t actually know what it will look like, but if you would take your life here, and get rid of all the things you hate most, that is a little bit of what Heaven will be like.  No more death, no more tears, no more pain, no more night, no more parting, no more hunger, no more thirst.  The Bible says that all those things will pass away.  I think Heaven will be the best of the good things here but so much more.”

“Ms. Mary Ann, will we have to take baths?”

“Well, there’s going to be water there, because the Bible talks about the River of Life.  You won’t get dirty in any bad sort of way, but I’m sure you can get into the water if you want to.”

“Won’t we be walking around in some sort of white dresses?

“The Bible says that we will be clothed in garments of light, and yes, it does say something about white robes.  There are people who say, ‘I don’t want to go to to heaven.  It sounds boring.  Walking around playing harps and wearing robes.’ The one thing I know is that it won’t be boring.  And also, whatever we will have to wear, it will not be something that gets in our way.  It will be wonderful!”

“H-m-m-m-m-m-m.”

And that led to more talk about how we get there, with the opportunity again to share the story of Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Light.  How “No one comes to the Father except through Jesus” and how there will always be people who want to make it “easier” or will preach a different Gospel.

And that gave me cause to tell them once again, “Kids, nothing matters more to me than this:  That you come safely home to Heaven.  Someday, when I walk on those streets, if you are there, it will be make me so incredibly happy.  That is my reason for all of this, so that you kids will know the way to Heaven.”

They ride silently, save for a few more pertinent questions, and once again, my heart beats HOPE. They aren’t perfect.  There is so much I would like to see different.  But they are still children.  Children with soft hearts and a God awareness that urges me to pray.  

“God forbid that I should sin in ceasing to pray (for them) . . .” I Samuel 12:23

 

Come, Lord Jesus

sr. Miriam Therese Winter, SCMM

Christ come quickly, there’s danger at the door.
Poverty a plenty, hearts gone wild with war.
There’s hunger in the city and famine on the plain.
Come, Lord Jesus, the light is dying,
the night keeps crying: come, Lord Jesus

Want demands a funeral in far too many lands,
The sick go unattended, death deals a heavy hand.
The dreams of men are empty, their cup of sorrow full.
Come, Lord Jesus, the light is dying,
the night keeps crying: come, Lord Jesus

The world awaits in darkness a mighty burst of light,
To set the lame man leaping, to give the blind man sight.
We have the prophet’s promise, we await the Prince of Peace.
Come, Lord Jesus, the light is dying,
the night keeps crying: come, Lord Jesus

The clouds shall send a Savior like soft falling rain,
Yet mighty in his power, to free us from our chains.
His shield will be compassion, his weapon liberty.
Come, Lord Jesus, the light is dying,
the night keeps crying: come, Lord Jesus


Even so, Lord Jesus, COME!

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African Safari — California, this is our Story.

Chapter six

On Saturday Morning, we set out.  Daniel, Lena and I.  We were so excited about this African Safari, and we were NOT disappointed.

 

      

The African Safari in San Diego is a broad expanse of land that is an attempt to be as close to the natural habitat as possible.  I have trouble envisioning the hills of southern California to be like the plains of Africa — but Hey!  What do I know?  Maybe this is exactly what Africa looks like!  

 

   

 

 

         

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

   

 

         

 

   

 

 

         

So many things to see — even these ugly birds!  But on our tram ride through the park, there was the most beautiful of God’s creations right in front of us.  This precious little guy, full of life and so entertaining to watch.  No one in his family objected to me taking his picture, and I still like people better than I do all of the animals.  🙂

 

There was a bird show, and then lots of birds and water fowl that we could follow:

    

 

 

 

 

     

 

The park was also decorated with beautiful plant life.  This doesn’t do justice, but it shows a little bit of what we encountered all through the park.

 

We had chosen to eat a late breakfast.  Lena planned to take us to her favorite restaurant of all that evening, and had reserved a table on the pier.  We decided to again forgo any meal in the park — and it was probably sound financial planning to avoid that racketeering industry.  We did each get a drink, and sat and watched the families come through the snack bar.  One family of four had chips, a drink and a hotdog or some other measly lunch each, and I think Daniel told me that it was $39.00   We decided that we would just wait for supper.

Before we left, we watched the Cheetah Run.  I would have pictures of that, but it was impossible to get ringside observation posts without paying ten dollars apiece, and when they said the entire run would take about six seconds, we decided that none of us needed to see it close up that badly!  And from where we could see, things went just fast enough that I didn’t get any decent pictures.  It was still great fun, and we would do it again!

I feel like I’ve “complained” pretty much about how much things cost in California.  Daniel and I have been blessed, and we didn’t want to miss out on things on our trip by being “tight-wads” but we also were completely unprepared for how much everything cost there.  The tickets to the Safari were expensive — $42.00 each, but then almost everything you wanted to do inside the park that was any fun at all was “extra.”  We had decided that we were not going for the extras. ($42.00 each for these Delawareans was steep enough) but we kept seeing signs for this and that, and did a little private figuring.  We got out “unscathed” but realized that if a couple came in there, wanting to do all the extras, it would be very easy for someone to spend a $1,000.00 in one day at the African Safari.  I wish things like this could be provided at a reduced rate especially to families who struggle to make ends meet and who would enjoy times like this together.   I suppose they have things like scholarships, and I know they give reduced yearly passes, but even then, it is steep.  

                                                            
After the Safari:

Outside on the beach . . 
It had been a really nice day, weather wise, but by evening, things were changing and a weather system was moving it.
It felt like it was freezing and it kept raining off and on
But it was gorgeous!  The waves were spectacular, crashing white heads
that looked magnificent and sounded phenomenal.

But we really were too cold.  So we asked our long suffering waiter if we could be moved inside to an enclosed patio.  There were tall heaters, and the windows were all around.  We watched the waves and had a wonderful meal together.  Lena just plain knows where to go and what to do.  It was another of those super fabulous adventures.

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1,000 Gifts
~Ann Voskamp
(and counting . . . )

 

 

1131.  Ruby Donophan  ♥
1132.  A clean house
1133.  A mason jar of Daffodils
Spring is coming!
1134.  A long conversation with my Sister-in-law, Frieda

. . . and the gifts just keep on coming from the ONE who keeps on giving!

 

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California, This is our Story . . .

Chapter Five:

On Friday morning, we got up and slowly got ourselves around.  We decided that we were going to get something for “brunch” at a place that could give us internet access, catch up on what was happening back at Shady Acres, then get on with our day.  The plan was to go up to Pasadena, pick up Mary Beth and Joanna (Sharp) and take them out for supper at a nice restaurant and then return them to their boarding place, and then come back to San Diego. 

Before we left Delaware, we had called Mary Beth and Joanna’s mother and asked if there was anything we could take for the girls from home.  Kathy said that there was a sweater that Mary Beth had left behind, and she also wanted to get some things together for them to eat.  She had brought the items to our house the day before we left, and Daniel had tucked them into the cracks and crannies of our suitcase that was going to be checked at the airport.  Friday morning, when we went to find all the things that we had brought, I couldn’t find the sweater.

“Did you pack a sweater?” I asked Daniel as I scrambled through the suitcase.

“I don’t remember a sweater in the things Kathy brought,” he said thoughtfully.  “I packed everything she brought, though, so if there was one with the things, I packed it.”

“I’m sure you did,” I said, a little amused, “because you even brought the one extra plastic bag that had nothing in it.”  I rustled around in the suitcase, and packed all the other stuff into a bag — popcorn, cake mixes, etc. and we were finally ready to go.  I didn’t bother to take that extra, flat, crumpled plastic Wal-mart bag that was obviously just there for packing.

We went into a nearby Starbucks and I got a great caramel steamer, and then we sat outside at a little round table on the patio.  I uploaded some pictures, and wrote an update on my Xanga site, but the wi-fi was slow and I finally gave up with a short update and pictures of the area that Lena lives in.  (This would be my February 11th update.)

There was a Mexican restaurant that shared the patio with Starbucks, and after a little discussion, we decided that we would grab an early lunch there.  Lena wanted a milkshake from McDonalds that was just across the way, so between her milkshake and our “little” lunch, we were soon finished and on our way north.

California is a land of so much diversity and interesting plants and landscape and PEOPLE.  We saw so many things to hold our attention on our way to Pasadena.  Passing through the one town, I looked out the window, just as the light turned green and saw this:

This is a Photography studio that appears to be doing really well.
And it has our Grandbaby’s unusual name!  How sweet is that?

 

Lena, with her small stature, has a modified car — and it was just a whole lot easier to let her drive than to alter the seat, the extensions and mirrors, etc.  It is an understatement to say that she has somewhat of a reputation as a daring driver.  (I kid you not, our children tell stories of escapades in that little Honda Civic that cause her family to KNOW the guardian angels fly along with her as she maneuvers the streets and freeways of Southern California.)  Daniel and I were passengers on almost all the miles driven in San Diego, and we truly had NO narrow escapes.  She has an ability to get places in a hurry, and in one piece.  It was Friday, though, and the traffic was heavy, so it took us longer than we had anticipated.  We did get just a little lost, too, right at the end, but that was exceedingly minor.  Between our late start, though, and the traffic, we got to Pasadena without any time for exploring, so we decided to go straight to their school and see about heading out for supper.

We pulled onto the campus of U.S. Center for World Missions and parked our car on a side street. 


 

It was an unpretentious building on a quiet street, but once inside the doors, there was a bustle as well as a sense of calm.  The USCWM is housed on the campus of the old Pasadena Nazarene College, and, in addition to their own ministry, offers space to many different organizations.  Founded in 1976 by Ralph and Roberta Winters, the U.S. Center for World Missions is “a place where mission organizations work together to strategize, research and promote ideas that will help to complete the unfinished task of reaching every people group with the Gospel.  It has been described as a missions think tank or a “Missions’ Pentagon.” (Wikipedia –If you are interested, look it up!  It’s a great article, well written, unbiased, and very informative.)

We came into the front doors to the sight of tables being set up for a community potluck information meeting, and were greeted warmly.  Mary Beth and Joanna were still in class, so we occupied ourselves looking at the various displays and reading some of the information pamphlets that were in abundance.  Then Joanna bounced in and announced that they still needed to attend a mandatory Bible Study before they would be allowed to leave, so Daniel and I opted to join the class for the study.  Lena fielded a few phone calls from friends and also work (for some reason, they just cannot make it without calling her!) and watched people and even caught a few winks, I think.  When the (very shortened!) Bible study was over, we asked the gals where they would like to eat.  They both said they didn’t much care as long as it was something “substantial” for a change.

 

  They live and usually eat off campus, and their little basement hovel has a microwave and they pretty much exist on what they can make in the microwave.  Frozen pizzas, popcorn, and similar foods.  Both girls look like they’ve lost considerable weight since leaving Delaware last fall, but of course, that probably is a good thing in their eyes.  (They look healthy enough, they just look so skinny to me!)  Daniel and I discussed it, and we decided that we would try to find a steak house.  Their affable professor made a few recommendations, and we decided to hunt down the one that was closest one that looked promising.

We squished the five of us into Lena’s little car, and off we went.  We searched high and low for this elusive place, and finally!  We found it.  We should have known we were in over heads when there was valet parking.  Two fellows stood by the door of this dimly lit establishment, and were taking keys from patrons as they drove into the driveway.

“They better not try to take my keys, “ muttered Lena.  “It just isn’t worth it!  Once they change my seat it is so difficult to get things back to where I have them.  Unless they insist, I’m going to park myself, and if they insist otherwise, I might just leave.”  That was what we should have done at that juncture.  If only we had known.

When we pulled up to the entrance, the eager valet parking fellows were all over us.  They probably saw Lena’s handicapped permit hanging from her mirror and felt really needed, but she stopped them before they could utter a word.   “I’d like to park myself,” she said with conviction.  “Is there a spot that isn‘t too far out where I could park?” 

They peered in at the five of us, looked at her, and quickly determined that this little lady wasn’t about to relinquish her position.   “Oh, sure, sure,” they said hurriedly, “You’re welcome to park right over there!” and they pointed to a spot that was close to the side of the restaurant.  “Just pull right in there, and you should be fine.”  We did just that, and unfolded ourselves out of the car and entered the restaurant.

Oh. Dear.

It smelled wonderful.  The atmosphere was definitely fine dining.  There were crisp linen tablecloths on the small square tables, with crystal wine glasses at each place.  Fancy folded linen napkins at every place setting. Dim lights.  People in expensive dinner dress and expensive jewelry sat in intimate little groupings of two.  While the girls and I stood back, Daniel and Lena approached to the host and said, “Could we have a table for five?”

“Well,” he said, looking us up and down, “I don’t have anything like that unless you are willing to be on the patio.  We could set something up there.”  I looked at the room full of empty tables and began to get a sick feeling in my stomach.  They really didn’t want us.

“The patio is fine,” said Lena and Daniel.  “We would be comfortable there.”  And so, it was decided.  The host sent a waiter to set up the table while we waited.  And waited.  A line had formed behind us, and they began seating those people, but not before I felt like they all sort of looked at our group with disdain.  I began to feel like a Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, like I was asking for a McDonald’s Happy Meal in the White House State Dining Room, like — well, you get the picture.  Lena had come back to stand beside me while we waited.

“I’m just a little worried about this,” I said to her quietly.  “I think we are just a little bit out of our league.”

“I’m wondering, too,” she murmured.  “I wonder how expensive things are here.”

“I am sure they are pretty high,” I said, “and while I want to get the girls a good meal, we can’t afford just anything.”

“I know,” said Lena, again, “It seems a little bit pricey.”

“I think I am going to ask to see a menu,” I said, feeling brave all of a sudden.

“That’s a good idea,” encouraged Lena.  “That way we can know before we are actually seated.”

I went up to the host and said, “I’m sorry.  But could we please see a menu?  We are a little concerned that we aren’t going to be able to afford this with five of us to feed.”

“Oh, sure, sure,” said the host soothingly.  But he made no move to hand me the menu that was lying right there in front of me.  I hesitated, then just reached out and took one from the top of the stack and opened it.  Oh, boy!  It wasn’t the menu.  It was the drink list.  I was feeling more and more out of place by the minute.  I felt like I was embarrassing our group, and all I wanted to do was just disappear from there and magically appear out in the car, ready to get out of there.  At that moment, a waiter appeared out of nowhere and put the leather bound menu in my hands and retrieved his precious drink menu.  I scurried back to our group and we opened the elegant missive and began to read.

Appetizers pretty much started at twenty dollars.  Steak was forty-two at the least.  Hamburgers were eighteen.  My eyes pretty much glassed over at that point.  I know that there are plenty of people reading this that don’t find those prices so unusual, but for this slower, lower Delaware gang whose idea of really eating out is considerably different, it was too much.  We looked at each other, and mutually agreed that we were not going to stay.  It was at that moment that the waiter appeared to tell us that our table was ready. He stood there expectantly,  looking at this crew of motley dressed people that had descended upon this fine establishment. I handed the menu back across the counter to the host.

“I’m sorry,” I said again.  “I really am.  But honestly, we cannot afford this.  We have these two college kids that we wanted to treat to a nice meal, but this is a lot more expensive than we expected, so we need to look  elsewhere.  Really, we are so sorry!”

“That’s just fine,” the host said graciously.  “I understand.  I truly do.  No problem!”

And we escaped.  We discussed at random where we could go, that would still give the girls a variety to choose from and would be good — and, of course, affordable.  We were all pretty hungry by this time, and so Lena steered her trusty little car in the direction of a small Italian restaurant that served steak and veggies and mashed potatoes along with pizza and lasagna and subs and Panini’s.  We had a little bit of a wait there, but it was worth the wait.  The five of us crowded into a four person booth and we talked and laughed and ate until we were stuffed.  We called for boxes so that we could take the leftovers and finally paid the bill and headed out.

We took Mary Beth and Joanna to their boarding place.  It was dark by now, so I didn’t take pictures.  We saw the rooms that the girls shared in a house that was close to campus, gave them the things their mother had sent, and prepared to leave.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be a sweater of some sort? I asked Mary Beth.

“Um, yeah.  I had left it at home, so when Mom asked if I wanted anything, I said she could send it.”

“We don’t remember seeing it, Mary Beth.  I thought she had said something about it, but we haven’t seen it.”

“Well, maybe she forgot to put it in, what with all the hubbub.  It really isn’t important, though.  I can get it later.”

It was hard for Daniel and I to tell the girls “good-bye.“  They are brave and resourceful girlies, and they are determined to make the most of their schooling and to stretch their dollars as far as possible.  You can endure a lot of hardship when you have a dream, and these girlies certainly have dreams.  It was just that their basement room seemed so incredibly dark and devoid of creature comforts.  They both were so ecstatic over the fact that they could live there so cheaply, and that is important, I know.  But both Daniel and I felt a great tugging when we left them there.  So far away from home, but so brave and enthusiastic and committed to serving this old world for Jesus sake.

Goodbyes are no easier when you drag them out, so we hugged the girls, and headed back to San Diego.  I crawled into the back seat and fell asleep.  Almost before I knew it, we were home.  Lena had made it home almost an hour quicker than it had taken us to get to Pasadena. And we were so tired, but so satisfied with our day.  Lena always enjoys meeting new people, especially young people and she really enjoyed the girls.  We made a few plans for Saturday before going to bed, but it didn‘t take long for us to get settled.  We wanted to do the African Safari the next day, and it closed at 5pm.  That made us want to get a decent start.

But the trip to Pasadena wasn’t truly finished when we pulled into Lena’s parking lot and made our way to her lair on the second floor.  When I was packing our suitcase to come home, I came across that flat, rumpled plastic bag.  I opened it up before throwing it away and saw that there was something in the bottom of almost no weight or substance.  I pulled it out.  Mary Beth’s sweater.  Oh, dear.

“Not to worry,” said Lena cheerfully.  “It is little enough that it will fit in a manilla envelope.  You get a mailing address and I will take it to the office and send it out with the office mail first thing in the morning.  It will take hardly any postage because it is so light, and I will be glad to take care of it.”

So, that’s exactly what happened.  Daniel got the address, and Lena mailed it and Mary Beth got it, all safe and sound a few days later.  With that, our mission to Pasadena was truly finished.


Next time:  The African Safari . . .

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