This morning, Father Neal Goldsborough of Christ Church Pensacola gave a sermon that held us all totally spellbound. It had to do with the fundamentalist preacher who – once again – forecast the coming rapture, which he says was scheduled for yesterday. (I wonder what he has to say today? He was wrong once before, in 1994. Or maybe people were raptured yesterday, but all the folk I know are, like me, sinners who didn’t make the cut.)
Father Neal talked about his service in the chaplain corp overseas, and faiths which exclude based on narrow rules, specific rules, churches and religions who say ‘this is the only way and all the rest of you are damned to everlasting fire” whether they use those words or paraphrases. He pointed to Jesus, who broke the rules of his time and flagrantly spent time with sinners, and the unclean, and showed them by his love and by his actions what the infinite love and mercy and forgiveness of Almighty God looks like.
It couldn’t have come at a better time for me.
Soon, I will be meeting up with three women who are particularly dear to me, friends for many years in Qatar, friends who worshipped at the Church of the Epiphany in Doha, Qatar. The new Anglican Church of the Epiphany is being built on land dedicated to church use by His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and will be used by many denominations.
My friends and I all returned to the USA within months of one another, and have been sending e-mails with “reply to all” as we struggle with our re-entry into our old church communities. We struggle with the hatreds and prejudices and ignorance about our Moslem brothers and sisters, and we struggle with the narrow strictures imposed by our churches and study groups. I thank God to have these wonderful women among whom we can share our dismay and our hurting hearts, and re-inforce the lessons we learned living in a very exotic, and sometimes alien culture, but which had so many wonderful and mighty lessons to teach us. I often joke that in my life, God kept sending me back to the Middle East (Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait) until he saw that I finally got it. My sisters-in-faith were quicker studies than I was.
It was a breath of the Holy Spirit I felt this morning, as Father Neal spoke about God’s mercy, his plan to redeem ALL of his creation, God’s desire for our love and our service. I couldn’t help it, it made me weep with relief to know my church is a church that serves God by including, rather than excluding, and which mercifully welcomes sinners like me.
Here is the really cool part. Christ Church Pensacola has recently begun putting the sermons online. If there is one thing Christ Church has, it is great sermons – and if you want to hear Father Neal’s sermon, you can click HERE, in a few days and you can hear his sermon for yourself. Look for the May 22 sermon by Father Neal Goldsborough.
I see them everywhere. Small groups of women, usually three or four, sitting in church together, heads together over lunch, power walking down the boulevard, at coffee after their tennis matches. You can see the intimacy, the trust – these are women who have grown together over time. They share their secrets. They prop each other up in the bad times. They laugh over their faux-pas.
No, I don’t envy them, nor do I want to become a part of their group. I know my own YaYas will build, and I will have women I love sharing my life here. Meanwhile, I miss my old YaYa’s.
I’ve been here a year now. The one year point, for me, is usually when things start happening. The real friends come along. I start committing and getting involved in my new community. When I think of all the details we have overcome in one year, all the anxieties I had, all the details over which I agonized, I thank God for his mercy and for the peace of mind we have now. Truly, he answered every prayer, and brought us to a good and spacious place.
The landscape designer and I met last year as she toured our garden and helped us identify the plants we have in our garden. She had great ideas, and gave us a lot of help caring for a mature garden. She suggested we live with our yard for a year, and then decide how we want to move forward.
It was the best advice. What looked like a wreck of a garden after last year’s very cold winter came back back with a vengeance. We had fabulous plants, plants the birds and bees and butterflies and hummingbirds all loved to visit. We had a chance to visit other gardens and to see what we like. This year, we have more of a plan, and this lovely lady who has been gardening in Pensacola all her life, helps us fine tune our plans.
We’ve been going around the yard, figuring out where to put a pomegranate tree, a lime tree, a couple hydrangea bushes.
“You seem happy here,” she starts, “Are you?”
“You sound surprised!” I laughed, thinking how many moves I’ve made, and how I really like living near our son, his wife and son. We’ve been here a year now. I make friends slowly, but I actually have a few now.
“I wasn’t sure you would be able to handle the heat,” she confided.
I laughed. “I can’t. There is this wonderful thing called air conditioning. When it gets too hot, I don’t spent much time outside. I’m doing fine.”
It’s been almost a year since we bought the house here. It seems like so much longer, so much has happened. Last night, AdventureMan made a fabulous Bermuda Fish Chowder. Our son’s wife and little Baby Q came by for dinner while our son waited in line at Best Buy for a new iPad2, wooo hooo. He came by as soon as finished the purchase. Life is sweet, and yes, I think I am happy.
We have had our most recent mortgage with PHH, thanks to AdventureMan’s hard work, and this morning, my husband is on the phone with their bureaucratic, less-than-helpful customer service agent.
I hate them. I know it is a sin. I hate these practices.
AdventureMan sent them a check with more than enough to pay off the mortgage. When we checked the status online, we still owed a small amount. Then we saw that although the check was clearly marked “principal only,” PHH had applied part of it to another monthly payment, and then the rest to the principal. (Sleaze bag practice to prolong payment periods.)
“You cannot pay off the loan with a personal check,” the customer service representative says.
“You sent the check to the wrong address; that address is for principal only,” she says, and you can tell she is reading off a script.
AdventureMan asks to speak to her supervisor. She says that is not possible.
This is just an outrage. Every day they can postpone the final payment, they get interest from us. When we have sent more than enough money to cover the principal and all the escrow payments, we get this brick wall.
Personal check? They’ve already cashed the personal check! They have the money! This is outrageous!
We had to deal with the company once before, with another mortgage. Their practices are disgusting. God willing, we will never have to deal with them again.
As many of you who know me may know, I am mildly obsessive-compulsive. I like things to be in their designated space. I like a clean house, down to the baseboards and the hidden places. I suppose it gives me some mystical illusion of control in a world where there is little (I believe) that can be controlled.
I believe my faith is pragmatic; I have learned – at least in my life – that God is in control, and that his plans are far better than my plans, although when I am in the midst of chaos, I have problems clinging to that belief, LOL.
But he sends me messages. As I have ended the old year and started the new year in a frenzy of cleaning out and organizing, I have come across lists from nightmare times in my life, mostly getting ready to move or settling in to a new location. Lists and lists of things to be done, things to be checked on . . . and I am comforted to know that what – at the time – was overwhelming, the details sorted themselves out. Things got done. Little by little, we ate the elephant.
As I came across notes and lists this morning, for buying this house and getting settled in Pensacola, I was able to take a deep breath. We survived. We got it all done. Lists and lists of details, and we got it all done. All of a sudden, things assume their proper perspective, and I thank God for this view of what my life looked like a year ago compared to what it looks like today.
We are settled.
I have friends.
We can pay our bills.
We have a house to live in and cars to drive.
We are in good health, and we have a good doctor.
We have a place where the Qattari Cat can stay when we go out of town.
We are registered voters, and have driver’s licenses and pay our taxes on time (insh’allah.)
We have a strong and rewarding family life, and activities we enjoy.
Life is sweet.
We’ve only been back a week, but we’ve spent this time unpacking, cleaning things up, sorting out things we don’t need, finding places for things and putting things up. AdventureMan is having a lot of fun, he bought this beautiful tent hanging which just exactly fits around three of the walls in his office and the entry:
He spent a day putting tiny nails into the wall while I sewed a cord for hanging onto the back of the band. He has it up now, and he loves it. He also put up some pictures on the wall and instituted a recycle basket and a shred basket. He is so organized:
We are people who need order in our lives; we live chaotic lives in an ordered environment.
“Hey! AdventureMan said, “how about barbeque?”
“Sounds good to me,” I responded. After years of doing without, we are still vulnerable to the siren sound of barbecue.
On entering the parking lot, we got a clearer view of the sign.
Hmmm. Nope. Not quite what we had in mind.
Not sure where we were going, we drove further into the strip mall and there we found it:
Quirky. Individual. Not your franchise . . . just what we like, something new. It doesn’t always work out, but this one was pretty good. I had the Moussaka, and AdventureMan had the Gyros:
After dinner we hit the Spokane Fred Meyer where I found just exactly the right pants I was looking for – long pants for the Happy Baby, who is now crawling, and very very fast, so fast he gets rug burns on his knees. I always love shopping at Fred Meyers, especially when what I want is on sale, and then they take money off the sale price. Wooo HOOO, it brings out the cave woman in me, bringing home the bargain!
Leaving Spokane, the scenery changes again, back to warm and toasty, with lakes and windmill farms:
As we near Seattle, we see the Cascades, and Mt. Rainier:
The rest of the day wouldn’t interest you. It was hard work. When we opened up our storage locker, I looked at it in dismay . . . how had I let so much stuff accumulate over the last few years? I had survival stuff – laundry detergent, hair shampoo, a back up hair dryer, fingernail polish remover, envelopes, wrapping papers and ribbons, and all kinds of treasures I have brought back with each trip from overseas, to store until we live once again in Seattle. Now, we must get rid of what we can, and take the rest to Pensacola. Oh aargh. It was hard work.
We were rewarded with a beautiful Seattle sunset:
After breakfast, we hit the road early, stopping after a couple hours for a leg stretch and coffee. The weather is in the 50′s as we hit the road, and we are both ready for a warm-up. I was all set to order my normal ‘short non-fat Mocha, no whip cream,’ when I saw that they already have the fall specials on the menu, and oh, I love Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte . . .
While the roads are nearly empty, just us and an occasional truck, or pickup, the weather has turned ugly, rain coming down in drizzle, or torrents, or sheets, changing by the minute. By the time we stopped for lunch, I was ready to give up the driver’s seat.
Lunch was at the Fat Belly Deli, in Alberton, Montana, where we had Turkey Pastrami and Swiss sandwiches, oh, and ummm. . . . fries. They were having a little trouble getting the fryer hot enough to fry the fries, so I had time to take a couple photos:
On our way in, AdventureMan spotted a huge used book store – like catnip for cats, we could not resist. I found a copy of Elizabeth Warnock Fernea’s book “A View of the Nile.” If you have never read Elizabeth Warnock Fernea (Guests of the Sheikh, A Street in Marrakesh) read her biography in the link above. She was an amazing woman, who shared her insights in a very readable way. A View of the Nile is hard to find. I want it for my lending library. AdventureMan and I both found books. . . Too many books. We had to drag ourselves away.
(Update: AdventureMan reminds me that HE found the Fernea book and asked me if I wanted it. I promised to correct this entry and give him proper credit. )
Soon we left soggy Montana to enter an equally soggy Idaho, although the weather cleared by the time we got to Coeur d’Alene:
By the time we hit Spokane, the sun is out and we are starting to feel warm once again. We could go on; we have gained an hour, but we see another Mariott Residence Inn along the road and decide to hit the pool and kick back for the rest of the day, with another short day on the road tomorrow to get us to Seattle, where the hard work will begin. We have accounts to close, a storage locker to clear, rugs to gather and plastic carrier boxes to pack. We are hoping we can get everything into AdventureMan’s Barcelona Red (the name of his Rav4) for the long haul back to Pensacola.
Our reward for good behavior will be a few meals with friends and family before we depart. We are looking forward to that part.