Friday, November 30, 2007

Great night with friends

Just one more night here in Ruskin/Apollo Beach for our little honeymoon getaway. I can't really call it a "second honeymoon" because Larry and I have been on so many "second honeymoons"...we've just decided to live life as a honeymoon as much as possible. :-)

Tonight for our last night here, I surprised Larry by setting it up for our good friends, Gary & Tammy Rice (Senior Pastors, Evangel Assembly of God, Orlando) to come and meet us here for dinner. They met us at Inn @ Little Harbor for dinner. Larry was so pleasantly surprised! First of all, if you're looking for a great place to eat and watch the sunset, Little Harbor is IT! Great little private beach, just absolutely exquisite. We took the photos here at we were getting ready to eat.

I am very, very grateful for the friends in my husband's life. While I open up with many people, there are not many people that Larry shares with and really gets candid about the challenges in the pastorate. The two men he really talks to are Pastor Randy Visconti (our dear friend for 22+ years, along with his wife, Pastor Dawn) and Pastor Gary. I thank God for these two men because aside from them Larry shares mostly just with me. And although I'm so glad he does I also want him to have the perspective of another pastor friend, particularly a man who can understand. These two relationships are very important to him. I knew it would mean the world to him to go to dinner with them tonight as it's just so refreshing for him - and for me.

So tonight the Rice's met us for dinner and we had such a great time! After dinner we decided to go somewhere else for dessert. We found an absolute treasure, probably the greatest dining jewel we have found in five years of living here...a place called "By the Bay Cafe" that serves REAL Maryland seafood, right down to cream of crab soup, blue crabs with old bay, real Maryland crabcakes, and more. First we were disappointed that we only went there for dessert but we decided to go back tomorrow for lunch! :-) And being that it's only 45 min. away from our house, we plan to go there on a more regular basis, and take people there for special occasions, maybe even have them do some catering for the church. We met the family that owns it...they were so excited to meet know, all four of us are Marylanders... (Larry is an honorary Marylander being that he's been married to me for 20 years) and Gary and Tammy are well as me, so...we all just FELL IN LOVE with the place. They even have a big crab feast every year in September and they are going to e-mail us about it! We are psyched. So, By the Bay Care is our new place.

We had such a good time - staying there talking and eating our homemade ice cream...and then we brought them back to the place we're staying to show them around. They really loved it and agreed it's a great place to come and maybe even have a little retreat of sorts, or something for the church for a small group, party or a staff/leadership retreat.

Well, only one more night here with Teeby before we have to get back it's time to stop blogging and savor every last moment here...

This has been so fun. I love it when we get away like this...nothing else makes me this happy. Honeymooning is even better after 20 years of marriage. Practice makes perfect. :-)

Where we are

Here are some photos of this cozy place we have until tomorrow...

by the way, if you want to do some slow dancing with your spouse or significant other, (yes, I do that even though I'm A/G), just come right here to and turn up the volume on your's perfect if you haven't already realized that. :-)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Celebrating with the man

So, here we are on our getaway for Larry's 40th birthday.

We are in Ruskin/Apollo Beach. Spent all day in this great room we have, (we even have a little mini-kitchen so we really don't have to leave unless we really want to) and then went to Circles in Apollo Beach for dinner. We love the food at Circles in Tampa but in Apollo Beach the highlight is the view...GORGEOUS.

It is just good to be away, and have all the time in the world to do whatever we want. Today we watched half of the movie, Out of Africa, but decided to save the other half for later. I really wanted to see it because it's filmed in Kenya. Even thought the movie was from 1985, it holds more meaning for me now...

Not a lot of time to blog tonight...having so much fun with Teeby and want to get right back to it...


DVD Presentation from Larry's 40th B'day Party

Beforeyou click play, be sure to go to the bottom right corner of the blog and turn my "Unforgettable" music off... This is the DVD we showed last night at Larry's party after the "speeches"...everyone loved it and I think my blog readers will too. By the way, we're at a very quaint place in Ruskin, FL the next few days, and just loving it. I'll blog more about it later...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My darling is 40 today!

Well, today's the day! My babe turned 40. I have not blogged yet about what I have been planning because it's been a surprise til now.

This morning when he woke up I greeted him with my standard morning greeting (rolling over and snuggling with him for a few minutes before I get up) and then I said, "Happy Birthday Teeby!"

Things are very rushed in the morning as we are getting out the door so I waited until work to give him a gift. This morning I gave him a Callaway (golf) hat, a golfing book, and a new really sharp red tie (wanted him to have a new one for Christmas.) For lunch the staff went to the Acropolis for his birthday, and basically ate food that had me moaning the whole time. We had bread that was AMAZING, calamari, spanakopita, and a lot more... I seriously needed the elliptical machine today but had no time for it.

At the office today I had to finish up a TON of work because the rest of this week I won't have time to (more about that in a minute!)

Then tonight we had Larry's "surprise" party after church. We had things decorated in Steeler colors, and Stryper music plus a few other 80's hits playing. We had lots of his favorites planned like my chicken salad, fruit and veggie dips, meatballs, of course ICE CREAM - his all time fav - and birthday cake.

Tom, Bernie and Pastor T gave some short "speeches" of sorts. Tom spoke about how he wouldn't be here if it weren't for Larry...and how he's changed his life so much. Pastor Trinity talked about how much fun he has with Larry and how great it is to work with him and for him. Bernie talked about Larry's great example as a pastor, a friend and also as a husband and father. (I seconded that and talked about Larry being the best thing that's ever happened to me, aside from salvation...and how I am hoping to have AT LEAST 40 more years with him! I spoke a little of how I'm so glad God knew what I needed...and gave me him.)

After the speeches, we showed a DVD that Russ Brown created for the occasion. It was to the song, "40 something". It was so funny, and nostalgic. I'll try to put it on here in a day or two if I can get it on YouTube.

Then I announced to Larry that we were going home to pack because...we're leaving in the morning!!! Oh yes! Yippee! That's right, I have a getaway planned for him to celebrate his 40th, mainly taking him away to a place by ourselves and making him feel like he's 20 again instead of 40. You know, "40 is the new 20", ha ha! I said that at the party tonight and Joel said, "Um, will he be in the hospital on Sunday?!" Everyone really laughed when he said that. Well, no he won't be...but he will either be very tired, or extremely relaxed. (GRIN)

So we will be away until Saturday afternoon, get back right in time for the Sunday School teachers Christmas dinner, and I'm so excited! We'll have internet where we are, so I'll blog and tell you what a great time we're having. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I'm going to have time alone with my man...there's nothing more, nothing, nothing, nothing more that I love. And I do have some more surprises up my sleeve for him...

I've lined up everything for the kids...Dustin and Jordan will hold down the fort here at home, and Savanna will be with the know, she really is "Savanna Hart Shrodes" when it gets right down to it. (SMILE)

Ta-ta for to pack and do a last minute clean sweep of the house...

Thank you Jesus, for sending Teeby to earth 40 years ago...if for no one else but me.

Great loss today!

"Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."

- Roberta Brenick, Weight Watcher leader, Williamsburg, VA

Today was my first day back at Weight Watchers since I came back from Africa. I lost almost 5 lbs! I'm not eating habits (how much I ate, and what kind of food) was so different while I was away. But I'm pleasantly surprised that I have been able to keep it off and I've been home 11 days now. So, I'm only 5 lbs. away from Lifetime Membership now.

The leader and class were astonished today and said, "how did you do it?" I said, "just went to an impoverished country and ate like they did..." Everyone laughed and said, "oh, so that's what we all need to do?" I said, "Actually I would highly recommend it..."

Well, only 5 lbs. more to go by their standards, and by mine personally, 11. I want to be about 6 lbs. under goal and not have to worry at my weigh in every time because if you are 2 lb or more over, you start paying again and have to re-gain your status. Two pounds can fluctuate just by eating some salty potato chips. I don't want to have that little wiggle room. To me, at least 5 lbs under will help me quite a bit to not be so nervous to step on that scale each time.

Today our leader talked to us about the following:


1) Choose a winning outcome.

2) Commit to strategies for success.

3) Enjoy the results

I started out excellent today but honestly didn't totally stay on track because it was Larry's birthday. I had an incredibly nutritious breakfast but for lunch he wanted to do Greek and we ate so many yummy favorites...and I didn't worry about points. And then after church we had his party with lots of favorites including my chicken salad sandwiches, grape punch, ice cream, of course birthday cake, and lots more. But I didn't overindulge in fact all I ate was one small chicken salad sandwich and a few bites of spinach dip.

I'm only 5 lb. away and I have a feeling with a little more elliptical work this week, I can knock off at least another pound this week...I just need to find the time amid this Christmas crunch and having our women's meeting and our holiday open house coming up -- both of them are this week. I'll do it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The way things COULD have gone but for the grace of God

So yesterday I wrote a post on the fact that I'm so glad I didn't marry somebody stupid.

Today I want to share with you what COULD have happened...without the grace of God - and the discernment of the Holy Spirit.

When I was in college, I was dating someone who seemed like a wonderful guy. My friends really liked him a whole lot especially because he seemed so wonderful compared to a guy who had asked me to marry him (who I really did love), and then dumped me in a rather cruel way. Well, compared to him (a guy my friends nicknamed "the viper in a pretty box"...) this guy seemed like the next best thing to Jesus Christ himself. I would come back to the dorm and a dozen roses would often be waiting for me. When I went to get in the car, if I tried to open my door he would shout, "DON'T TOUCH THAT DOOR!" and race to open it. He would be late to his own classes to walk me to mine. He was attractive...he smelled delicious (always important to me). He hung on every word I said. He was so gentle and kind. He was called to pastor. My friends said, (and I quote), "Deanna, if you let this one go, you're crazy."

Well, we had been dating a few months and I could tell he really was falling for me but I wasn't quite yet there - in fact, I didn't really feel in love with him, just very interested to keep dating him and see if any deep feelings developed. Quite honestly I was still getting over my previous flame that had been so cruelly extinguished.

One night I was ministering in Allentown, PA on behalf of the school and it was an overnight thing. I stayed at the pastor's home and ministered there on Sunday. Saturday night as I was getting ready to go to bed, the Holy Spirit said to me, "Break up with Sam (not his real name) and don't pursue a relationship with him anymore." That really made no sense to me. I said, "why, God? He's so nice. Especially after dealing with this horrible pain of someone I love breaking up with me. He seems like everything I'm longing for. What harm could this be? We're just getting to know each other. I'm not even at the serious stage yet..." But the Holy Spirit would not take no for an answer. I was up tossing and turning half the night wondering how I was going to break this news to Sam that I was just cutting our relationship off, just like that. Worse yet, a lot of people do this kind of stuff in Bible College and they blame it on God. (And a lot of it is really not God, it's their own stupidity.) However, this was not stupidity, this was genuinely God speaking to me.

I came back to school just dreading the conversation I would have with Sam. When I got back, he met me at the dorm and literally ran to me and scooped me up and swung me around. "I missed you so much!" he said. Then before he could go on I said, "Um, wait a minute...I need to talk to you." I didn't tell him it was God, I just blamed it on me and said, "I can't really explain it, I just can't date you anymore." He was so upset. He said, "please, just give this some more time..." and I said I couldn't and he said, "you'll never guess what I did today..." and he pulled out a paper and showed me that he had just gone that afternoon to the mall and put a downpayment on an engagement ring for me. I told him I was so incredibly flattered, however if he had proposed to me that day or even a month or two from then I didn't think I would be ready as I didn't feel the intense feelings he did yet, and I was still in the "getting to know you" phase.

It was a horrible break-up for him. He didn't get over it for a long time. When I started dating Larry later on, he hated Larry. I felt bad for him because quite honestly he was a nice guy and I prayed, "Lord, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, send him a wonderful girl." Well, about six months later he got one. She was an attractive, very talented girl, also at our school. (For the sake of anonymity, I'll call her Susie.) She looked absolutely nothing like me, but she possessed pretty much all the same giftings/talents that I had. It was amazing how much we were alike except that she had strawberry blonde hair (mine was dark brown at the time), and she had different facial features and stuff...but she sang, played piano, preached, loved teaching, etc. etc. So Sam and Susie dated and some time later got married. I was relieved, and very happy for the both of them. When they graduated I heard something about them going up to Northern New England where they were staff pastors at a church.

Fast forward a few years...Larry and I were married and staff pastoring together and one day I ran into a few minister friends who also went to school with us at Valley Forge. After initial greetings, we began catching up on old friends, where they were, what they were doing, who got married, who had kids, where people were pastoring, yada yada yada. Then someone piped up and said, "Oh, Deanna...surely you've heard about Sam and Susie..." and I said, "Noooooo....what's going on?" And they said, "they're divorced!" WHAT??!! I was shocked. They went on to tell me that it was due to Sam having an affair. I couldn't believe it. Surely it couldn't be true. To say this is the LEAST person I ever expected this out of is an understatement. I really believed surely somebody had the story mixed up. But I did a little investigating to find out if it was really true. I didn't want to believe it. I thought, "I'll find out and set the record straight."

Well, it was true. I found out that Susie came home one day to find Sam in bed with another woman. When confronted he basically poured out all this stuff about being "jealous of her ministry." He told her that she was intimidating...that he was uncomfortable with all her many giftings as compared to how he perceived himself. He said, "I'll never compare to you when it comes to ministry..." All these feelings were festering within him and he was secretly harboring a lot of resentment because of her success. I am not a psychologist but I often wonder if he didn't start with another woman to try to prove himself in some way more desirable or something, I dunno. Who knows? All I do know is this...he divorced Susie and from what I hear, he now doesn't even ATTEND church, nor profess Christ as his Savior.

I experienced all kinds of feelings like, "should I have ever prayed that he would find a great girl?" I felt very sorry for Susie. I wondered many times, did the Holy Spirit try to speak to her about it too? Maybe so, and maybe not. I'll never know.

But I do know this...if it were not for the prompting of the Holy Spirit and His relentless call to me, I could very well be married to Sam today...or divorced from him! I could have been the woman coming home to find the other woman!

I thank God everyday for His grace.

I thank Him that He helped me to make right choices when I wasn't mature enough to make them on my own.

I thank Him for protecting me.

I thank Him for sending me somebody who celebrates my talents and doesn't just tolerate them.

I thank Him for keeping me up half the night until I agreed to break up with Sam.

I thank Him for giving me what He knew I would need, and placing me with somebody who would need me too.

So glad I didn't marry somebody stupid

The other day I was having lunch with Lisa. And over a cuban sandwich at Weck's Deli, she remarked that Larry really is the perfect man for me.

When Larry announced in church two Sundays ago that I was back from Africa and the congregation clapped, he said, "believe me, that wasn't the reaction I had..." what he meant by that was the fact that their reaction was only a fraction of the reaction he had when I got off the plane. He was never so excited to see me. As I've said before in my was a hard week for him without me, actually an excruciating week. Nobody really knows the extent of what he went through without me in dealing with some things and nobody ever will know. This is because Larry is a very private individual and the type of pastor where a bomb could go off and he'd remain calm and just pray about it, clean up the shrapnel and mess, and bear the burden upon himself for the sake of others. That man goes through hell and back sometimes and keeps it between him and God...and me. I'm the only one he tells things to, aside from two pastor friends outside the church and even with them, he tells them about 1/3 of what he tells me or asks advice on. Even though I lined up everything for him at home and the office, there was nothing like having me here to confer with, 24/7 on everything big and small. I am the perfect woman for Larry in that I'm his absolute partner. At the same time...

I really don't know where I would be without Larry, except... quite possibly (well, actually probably) in a very confining marriage. Lisa remarked, the majority of men aren't secure enough to handle a woman like me. Many men are threatened by the calling, achievements, or opportunities their wife has. I know of a well known preacher who most would consider very secure - in fact he has held major denominational posts, and appears to be a confident leader. But he says he only lets his wife preach on Mother's Day and that one time alone is very difficult on him. This is because his wife is very gifted and in fact she has a secular job, speaking outside the church. She'd make a great staff member in the church but he has never allowed that. He hears the comments for months afterwards when she speaks about how great she is, and how the people wish they could hear her more, and in his words, it makes him feel "terribly insecure" and he wonders, "do the people like her more?" Larry has been asked by other men how he handles it when something good happens for me, but not for him. He always tells them, he's proud of me.

Many men wouldn't be proud and if I were married to them, would simply wonder why I haven't given up everything to follow them, instead of giving up everything to follow Jesus. Truth be told, many men are jealous of Jesus and the commitment their wives have to Him though they would never be so unspiritual as to admit it out loud.

I'm glad I married a man who has released me to love and follow Jesus. He looks forward to having me away again as much as having someone bash him in the head, however because of his love for the Lord and for me, he is not only releasing me to follow the call of God, but he's sending a bunch of Northsiders with me next time to Africa! His first reaction when I came home was, "ugh! don't leave me again" but then after getting his equilibrium back again after a few days he realized of course I'd go again, though not right away...if Jesus wanted me to go somewhere, of course I would and Larry would weather whatever to see that happen, for the glory of God.

God really looked out for me. When I was 19, I thought I was making the right choice about Larry but the truth is, I was too young to really know what I'd need. How would I have known at 19, that many women called of God are limited by the insecurities of their husbands? How would I have known that this would be the most constricting, or freeing decision I could possibly make - dependent upon what way I chose? I couldn't have. But God's grace covered me. Grace, grace, God's grace...greater than all our sin, our mistakes, our misjudgments, our cluelessness...powerful, infinite matchless grace.

I marvel that God knew He would want to use me in certain ways, and made sure He had it covered that I'd be married to a man who wouldn't be so insecure as to hold me back. I'm not a male basher by any stretch. All I'm saying by this post is that I know a whole lot of women who are held back by male egos and insecurity of the particular men they are married to. Of course plenty of stupid wives are holding their men back too and this is why we have men dropping out of the ministry like flies because their needy, whiney, materialistic, unsacrificial wives talk them into it. That's a whole 'nother post. But right now we're on this topic. And I just thank God everyday that my husband is different. Because if he wasn't, I honestly would feel that I might as well not live.

"That's dumb," you say. Is it really worth dying over if your husband won't release you to freely minister? Well, yes. For somebody who is called to ministry, that would make you want to die. "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel..." Paul said. Here's the thing. Some women are content to live for a man. I'm not content at all unless I'm living for one specific man - and that's Jesus. And after that if I'm blessed to be living with the gift of an earthly man who also lives for Jesus - FANTASTIC. But if not, I'd rather do without the earthly man and just live and breathe for Jesus. Because I don't think anything in life is worth it or enjoyable without being able to abandon yourself fully to Jesus.

How great it is to be married to someone who realizes that first and foremost, you are Jesus's -- and He has entrusted you to your husband to love, protect, and fulfill. He can't do that fully without releasing you to fulfill the call on your life. (Which a Godly man will realize - is more than just a call to him, but is a call to Jesus.)

Now that I'm 41, and a few years away from 19, and I do know what's important in a marriage relationship, I realize that men like Larry are not a dime a dozen, in fact they are like needles in a haystack. Finding somebody like Larry comes along only once in a lifetime, so fortunately for me, he is my once in a lifetime.

Otherwise I'd be reading my Bible, having the Holy Ghost show me things, and lamenting that I can only share it with my kids and my dog and maybe with the church on Mother's Day once a year, being ever so careful not to out-shine my husband. Dear Lord, what a pathetic thought for someone who is called to preach the Gospel. The thought of it is a nightmare. Thank you Jesus, for your protection on my life when I didn't even know I needed protecting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Watch DVD of my Africa Trip!

Here is a 5 minute video presentation of my trip to Africa. Pastor Trinity put this together for me to show at the end of my message this past Sunday. I hope you enjoy it... it's to the song, "Here I Am" by Michael W. Smith...a song that has meant so much to me over the past year as I've prepared to go.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Church signs

At every church we have pastored, at some point we dealt with individuals who would leave signs around the church in abundance and they were not always of a positive nature although the people always thought they were doing something needful. There are times I've constructed a sign myself and then had to check myself and ask..."is this positive?" and "how is this looked upon by others who read it -- especially first time guests or newcomers?"

My husband often says that many churches are churches of "signs and wonders"...with all the SIGNS, it's a WONDER anyone gets saved!

I found this cartoon above and just had to chuckle...

Any other pastors/pw's deal with this? I'm sure you've all got your own stories to tell!

This is the day the Lord has made

I am rejoicing...I am glad in it! Very good day in the house at Northside today. It's all about expectancy and I for one was believing for a great day.

I thought we had a good number of people for Thanksgiving weekend. So many are away and with all the folks telling me, "we won't be there this weekend...we'll be in ________________" I wondered if anybody but the faithful few would be there!

It was so good to get back to teaching Sunday School. I've been two weeks without teaching my class and I really missed it. I live for SS. This is my 25th year of teaching, can you believe it? I always crack up at people who say, "I've been teaching SS for quite a while and dealing with some burnout...I think I need a break..." and I just shake my head. After 25 years you couldn't pull me away from this if you tried. And if somebody made me quit, oh well, I guess I'd just go down to McDonalds and gather a few unsaved people and form a new class or something, which doesn't sound like a bad idea for somebody to do anyway! (But not me for now, I'll keep the sanctuary class, thank you...)

It was good to see a number of people who I just haven't connected with since coming back from Kenya. I saw Kerry Todd in the hallway!!! Wonder of all wonders. (Kerry and I never cross paths at church although we are both there! We connect on the blog and happen to be in the same church and never see each other...but today I caught her in the hallway after she was done teaching.)

I preached today - the last message in our "Life Swap" series. My message was, "Life Swap: A Consecrated Life." My message was from Romans 12: 1 & 2 and it was interwoven with testimony from my Africa trip. We ended with a DVD of photos of my trip to the song, "Here I Am" by Michael W. Smith. (Pastor T put it together for me...thank you, are always so faithful to help me!) Then I gave an altar call and we sang, "The Potter's Hand". We had about 4 re-dedications this morning and I think one new salvation. And lots more people coming forward for prayer to set themselves apart for God in a greater way. Good stuff!

I met some first time guests in the hospitality room afterwards and then Larry and I headed to lunch with John Torres. Always a delight to spend time with him. (For those who don't know him - he is the head of our media at Northside ~ got saved in the last few years and is just a wonderful man who loves Jesus so much...we are blessed to have him as part of our family.) We go to a Peruvian place with him - Terra's an incredible place he introduced us to. They have steak that is like NONE OTHER YOU HAVE EVER HAD. Everything there just melts in your mouth.

After that I came home, and have been laying across the bed with Teeby ever since, checking mail, updating some things, watching a little TV here and there. So good to just relax a few moments before the day takes off like a rocket tomorrow...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Decking the halls...

Well, we're all ready to get into the full swing of the Christmas season. Today we put up our two trees and all our other holiday decor. Usually we do it the day after Thanksgiving but yesterday we had David & Cathy's wedding so we didn't. Dustin worked today at the church and then went to Casey's so it was up to the other four of us to do it. Larry and I arranged things the past week so that we were able to have most of today to ourselves at home to do things versus church work. I would say I only did about an hour and a half of church work today and for a Saturday that is par excellance!

We got the tree in the living room up with relatively little problem which is incredible since the paper was lost somewhere between last year and this year. (Yes, I put up artificial trees now...stopped with the real ones once we moved to Tampa.) I figure, department stores do it, and so will I. Our living room tree is all of our ornaments that the kids have made and our special ones we've been given over the years. I haven't purchased any ornaments for that tree, it's basically a "memory tree" of things given to us or made by the children.

Then last year I added another smaller tree in the family room that is my "sugared fruit" tree. I wanted to do a tree in that theme sort of after the "fruit of the spirit". I have enjoyed it last year and even more this year, as I added some things to it and probably will again next year. Except next year I want to add a third tree in the kitchen, which is really flipping Larry out...he says, "is that really necessary?" Um no, I guess not but when did we start doing things that were just "necessary"? (Grin) I don't think we're doing lights outside this year due to the fact that it's just too difficult with Larry's shoulder still healing from surgery.

So the house is decked out as much as it's going to be for message is finalized for in the morning...powerpoint ready...roast for tomorrow is in the crockpot...and it's time for me to sleep. G'night all.

p.s. you know, I notice on my blog stats that about 1/3 of my readers only read on the weekdays. So that leaves me to wonder if they catch up when Monday morning comes...? Do they read the weekend posts, or just start where we're at? Not that I really care...I blog for myself more than anybody. So whether people catch up or not doesn't make a difference, I'm just curious!

The beauty of Africa

Although I consider it's people most beautiful, you can't deny the awesomeness of the African landscape.
What a wonder to behold.

I found myself transfixed by the beauty of each morning ~ the colors of the foliage, the sound of birds that wake you up every day, and more. The photo below is my view out my window at the missionary's home, in the A/G compound there. I loved to get up when the rain woke me in the middle of the night and just look out the window for a while and listen to the sounds.
I really love the Jacoranda and Acacia trees...

and the giraffes...

I came home with about 50 giraffe photos, reason being they are my favorite. I think they are so tall and graceful, and until going to Africa I had never seen one run. I had only experienced them at the zoo, where they are just standing there, or maybe walking a few steps. It was so incredible to see several of them together, running. They are still graceful, in my opinion, when they are running. I think they are such beautiful creatures.

Barb had never seen one with it's legs bent, leaning down in the water for a drink. She said, "I would love to see that and have a photo of it. In all the years I've been in Africa (30) I've never seen that or gotten a photo of it." Less than an hour later, we saw a giraffe doing just that! She had the top down in the land rover and I got up on the seat, went through the roof and snapped a few photos. What a day!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Scenes from today's wedding...

Today was David & Cathy's wedding...what a beautiful day! It was just perfect...the weather, the ceremony, the bride, the groom, the preacher... (smile)...EVERYTHING!

The wedding was held at the Davis Island Garden Club. How absolutely exquisite the place was...and the bride and groom were just beaming...such a delight...

I really love weddings...not only because I'm happy for the bride and groom but because it reminds me of my own commitment to my marriage, and why it's something to be so cherished. I think at every wedding, the married couples there can't help but reflect back to their own day, and squeeze hands a little tighter during the ceremony...

I thank God every day for the blessing of my husband. Everyday I realize more and more how fortunate I am to have a relationship that has stood the test of time for 20 years and is headed for 20 more. It's amazing to think I've now been with Larry longer in my life than I've been without him. We have weathered so many things together, there is so much about the past 20 years, only we understand about each other because we've been the one constant in each other's lives.

The boys enjoyed the wedding a lot. Here they are texting and doing their thing before the ceremony. They all had a lot of fun at the wedding but I know as well they are all beginning to understand a bit more the seriousness of such a commitment. I know my boys greatly desire marriage - it isn't something they are iffy about...or are afraid of commitment. My prayer is that daily Larry and I can be an example to them in the way marriage is supposed to play out in real life, at least Godly real life...

Speaking of every day real life, here's one last parting shot for tonight, of Larry and I at tonight's wedding...

So glad to be home with my Teeby...

With some special people in Kenya

Today we are headed to David and Cathy's wedding and I hope to post some photos later. However for now I'm going to post more Kenya photos as promised. Today I thought we'd do some of me with "special people" here we go...

with some of the "big boys" and a "big girl" from Mathare Valley A/G

Barb Kuert and me with some of the Kenya Kids. My favorite is Samantha, the girl right next to me.

with Barb Kuert...a great woman of God and an extraordinary hostess!

with Dr. Bill Kuert ~ one of the smartest men in the world not to mention a very Godly man & his wonderful wife, Barbara ~ my missionary hosts. I have them to thank for so many things, the first of which is extending the invitation for me to come to Kenya. I am forever grateful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Thanksgiving list

Well, it's officially Thanksgiving day! Oh how much we have to be thankful for. We had 15 at our table today for Thanksgiving and I'm posting some photos of our day here with this post.

Okey dokey...things I'm thankful for. Here's my short list.

Last night I went to sleep sans clothing and in the middle of the night woke up to my husband laying beside me, massaging my bare shoulders, saying, "you're so beautiful..."

He's so glad I'm home from Africa, for more reasons than just helping him lead the church. :-)

This morning I woke up to begin my day at about 8 am and wanted to sit up in bed and read while having my tea before cleaning again and getting ready for our guests. Larry got up, warmed up a piece of pumpkin bread for me and put my special low-fat butter on it, and brought me a cup of hot tea with one of my tea bags I brought home from Kenya. I'm also glad he rolls with my mistakes and helps me fix them. I woke up this morning, opened my eyes and the realization hit me..."Oh no!!! I forgot the sweet potatoes!" Not to worry, Larry said he'd run out to Sweetbay and quickly get some. In all my busyness of getting my house back in shape and planning the menu and inviting people for dinner and doling out food assignments, I completely left out my favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table! He was back in short order and I quickly peeled a bunch and we got them on so that I could make my casserole.

I'm so thankful for a thoughtful husband who values me... and tells me I'm beautiful...and comes to the rescue to fix my gaffes.

Last night I caught up on watching Kid Nation with my family. They taped it while I was away. They were all gathered in the room when I came in and Jordan said, "sit with me, Momma!" I went over and sat with him and we snuggled on the couch the whole time we watched the show. Not all 16 year old boys would do that with their Mom, but both my boys are very affectionate and don't hesitate to show their love. I'm thankful for three healthy children who all love me and are glad I'm home. I'm glad I'm home too. By the way, side note: Larry tells us last night mid-way through watching the show that he actually LIKES Taylor from Kid Nation. WHAT?! He is the only one of the Shrodes that feel this way and we cannot for the life of us understand his view on it. I tell him, all the rest of us can clearly see that girls like Taylor who are not whipped in to shape as young girls end up like some lazy young women we've encountered in the church (ahem, ahem) who won't lift a finger to do much of anything, and think they are there just to make the place look better. But I won't go there right now, after all we're on "things we're thankful for" and not "things we want to strangle." :-) It does make something for Misty, Cathy and I to laugh over, however! (Being that we are all so "un-Taylor like" - but that's another blog post.)

Today Pastor T & Misty and their children and Cathy and her family came over for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm so thankful for a staff that we can count on not just as "employees" but those we consider family and cherish so much. It's one thing to work together but another to want to be together outside of work. I'm I thankful I have this with them. We had a good time of talking and sharing today as usual. And our kids play well together. They have had fun doing everything from video games to board games, to dancing, to running too close to Larry's big screen TV and being reprimanded about it.

Bill Letaw joined us for Thanksgiving too. I'm so thankful for wonderful church members and friends like him in our life. We are so blessed. I've said it over and over again that the percentage of our church that is with us has always been overwhelming. We really do not have mean spirited people at Northside. The dissenters are so few they are really miniscule when you think about it. (Which is why Larry and I try to not ever think about them!!! We try to keep our focus on the 98% who are totally with the program. God told me years ago, "Deanna you do have to love everybody but you do not have to focus on everybody!") We are blessed to pastor a church of God-honoring and pastor-honoring people who love the Lord and love us.

Other things that quickly come to mind that I'm thankful for...

I live in such a peaceful neighborhood.

The sunrises and sunsets are so beautiful. (I don't see as many sunrises, but they are still beautiful!)

Right now some of my windows are open and the breeze is wonderful. I'm glad I'm in a place where I can occasionally open my windows, and it's safe.

We have an abundance of food on our table and didn't have to worry about how we would get it or pay for it.

I have many friends I love dearly and that I believe love me too. (if you don't, please don't burst my balloon and tell me...ha ha! Just let me be clueless and think most of the world adores me.)

I'm thankful Dustin finally got his car. Actually, a truck. While I was in Africa he got a Mazda pick up truck. He's so happy. And when he's happy, I'm happy!

I'm thankful for a wonderful bed to sleep in tonight, the most comfortable in the world.

I'm thankful for the movies Larry rented me from Blockbuster. (He picked up Out of Africa for me!)

I'm thankful that God sees the big picture of my life and has already figured out how things are going to work out before I get there. As Larry always says, "he's already in the future, waiting to show us around..."

I'm thankful for coffee and warm pie out of the oven.

I'm thankful our kids are happily playing a board game right now.

I'm thankful that Larry did the Thanksgiving dinner dishes today! Don't men become suddenly more sexy when the do the dishes?!

I am thankful more than anything for Jesus' love for me. While I was yet a sinner...He died for me. And would have done it if it were just me. Oh, the thought.