Thursday, December 29, 2011

one good thing leads to another

-A phone call from my good friend Karen in Texas.

-Coffee with Joanna that turned into sermon writing together that turned into a quick Goodwill run.

-Folks going out of their way to be helpful and thoughtful.  It's said that the world is getting more selfish and individualistic.  This may be, but there sure is a lot of good to be found.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

even the rain is lovely

-Reading a journal I kept in Honduras when I was there over a decade ago as a bit of research for a sermon.  I can see how God was moving in my life then and leading me to where I am now.  It brought back vivid memories of rain-soaked mountains and jubilant children.

 -A nice little glass of wine at the end of a blissfully full day.

-The sun shining through raindrops on the window, making them glisten like diamonds.

-Several thoughtful gifts, including a first edition of the Church of Ireland and England Book of Common Prayer, a coffee mug with a picture of my nieces and me and Hayden on it and a picture from my Grandmother.  I have a rather big birthday coming up pretty soon, and was contemplating splurging on some really nice fleur de sel (French sea salt) to cook with.  But then my car decided that 2012 was not a year it wanted to see and went off to that salvage yard in the sky.  So, rather than the sea salt, I ended up purchasing myself something a bit more exciting:

Adorable, huh?  She's a dream to drive and just fits my personality.  I'm still deciding on names (suggestions welcome!).

(Hayden seems to enjoy it.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

There Will I Go

Merry Christmas!

Light looked down and beheld darkness.
There will I go, said Light.
Peace looked down and beheld war.
There will I go, said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld hate.
There will I go said Love.
So Light came, and shone.
So Peace came, and gave rest.
So Love came and gave light.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
-Laurence Housman

Thursday, December 22, 2011

presents and presence

-Watching a child stand on her tip toes, with a giddy smile on her face, to pass a Christmas present to a friend.

-Being brought chocolate Blue Bell ice cream, and with it an invitation to Christmas dinner.

-Going to the movies with Jane and Jennifer from church and laughing together at the hilarious antics of Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

pigs, plays and pals

-Going to the Pik N' Pig with Cat (the clerk of session and now a good friend).  We had a wonderful time!  And I got to sample some North Carolina barbecue.  It was delicious, and thankfully they had a barbecue sauce that was pretty close to what I was used to.

-Those cornbread muffins with jalapeno butter made me feel right at home!  There's a little airport right next to the Pik N Pig and so military folks often fly in for lunch and then fly off again.  It was a great time with Cat (as always) and I will definitely be returning to that perfect piggy place.

-Going with Cameron folks to see A Christmas Carol at the Temple Theater in Sanford.  It was a creative and uplifting rendition of the traditional tale, made even better by the wonderful company, tasty food and energetic conversation.

-Waking up in the morning to perfect golden light to warm me as I sipped my coffee.

-My dear friends from Atlanta, Joe and Bonnie, coming to visit for my first service at Cameron.  They go to Eastminster, the wonderful church where I worked during seminary.  It was so kind of them to come all this way to wish me well.  We enjoyed dinner at a great local Italian place and talked world travel (they've been everywhere).  It was wonderful to see old friends and especially cheering to see their smiling faces when I stood up to the pulpit at Cameron the first time.

-Tonya from church giving me these hilarious (and true, I might add) earrings.  Those Cameron folks have welcomed me with open arms.

-Speaking of hospitality, Jane and Billy from church called to let me know that when they were out buying their Christmas tree, they also "picked one up" for me, like it's the most ordinary thing in the world to do.  What a kindness!  I have a gorgeous, wintery-smelling tree in my living room and now it really feels like Christmas.

-Enjoying my first service at Cameron and feeling overwhelmed with joy at being here.  What a gift this place is to me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God gives us ourselves

-A nurse who's humor and joy revealed her love for her job.

-Being in a store and hearing someone call out "Whitney!".  It was my friend Chip, who's an Associate Pastor at a nearby church.  I was doing a bit of shopping with Jane from church and later, when getting dog foot at Petsmart, we saw Juanita buying food for her cats.  Nothing makes a person feel at home like running into people who know you.

-Sermonating on Gabriel's visit to Mary at the same moment when my Irish Catholic friend Padraig posted about Mary on facebook.  I asked him for a few thoughts on that often-overlooked Mother of God.  His words wowed me (as Padraig's words often do).  Drawing upon Rahner, he said, "Mary’s life, in the midst of the complications, poverty and sorrow it contained, gives us the courage to recognise that holiness is not so heavenly and ethereal, but is ordinary, and this helps us to see that everything is not so recalcitrant, but rather the seat of grace.  In Mary’s gracing, we see the holiness of God, not coming with wrath, but rather in the gentleness of spirit with life, light, mercy and beauty. In the transformative light of God’s grace, we become who we are meant to be - God gives us ourselves."

Monday, December 12, 2011

a pastor's pounding, y'all

Cameron had an old fashioned "pounding" for me on Sunday!  I know this sounds scary but it's actually wonderful — it's a Southern tradition to welcome a new pastor to town by helping them set up house, like giving them a pound of flour, sugar etc.  They welcomed me so well with a delightful lunch...
...and just a few household essentials!  What a generous bunch.

Hayden even got several treats, including this snowman dog toy he immediately chased around the room.  Thanks for all the love (and paper towels), Cameron!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

the whole enchilada

-Opening a box (my primary activity these days) and discovering that it was full of Christmas presents!  I am trying to be strong and wait until a Skype Christmas gathering with my parents to open them.  But that little zebra one's just begging to be peeked at.  Self-control is not easy, folks.  I remember when I was little and my sister and I would scout out the house for presents.  There was a big chest in my parents' bedroom and we meticulously looked at how everything was arrayed on top of it (including a perfectly parted tassel) and then delved into it, discovering all of our presents.  We then carefully put everything back, even parting that tassel in the exact same place, and my parents never knew until I told them years later.  I will be strong, I will be strong...

-The kind woman at JC Penney who, when I asked where she found her coupon for $20 off, said they came in the mail and then just handed it to me, saying she was only going to use the $10 off one (you had to spend a certain amount per coupon).  I was buying a down comforter for my bed, and that $20 off, plus the half off sale in the store, made it an amazing deal.  People are so kind.
(And I do love my Nana's quilt I mentioned yesterday, but was just looking for all-white bedding in my room.  That wonderful quilt will go in the guest room.)
-Making enchiladas and rice and beans for dinner.  There's something about us Texans that, when the weather gets a little chilly, we crave Mexican food to warm us up.  My enchiladas were a bit too light on the sauce but tasted amazing and did the job.  I'll post the recipe on Wild Honey soon.

Friday, December 09, 2011

home again, home again, hoppity hop

-That glorious Mayflower van arriving with my things!  I'm surrounded by boxes and have plenty to do in deciding where I want everything, but I slept in my own bed last night, with my Nana's quilt on it.  Perfect.

-Driving up to my house and seeing a little bunny scurry off into the trees.

-Going to visit someone from the church and having him immediately offer his hand for me to hold as he told me wonderful stories.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

you've come a long way, baby

My oh my, y'all, there's been lots going on!  I haven't blogged in forever, but I'm back.  I've been blissfully busy with some big life changes of late, but first let me share a bit of the Thanksgiving fun.

 Of course there was amazing food.  This chicken tortilla soup was especially yummy.  (How cute are those chips?)  When my family wasn't eating...

 we were lounging outside enjoying the sunshine and conversation.  Which, of course, made us hungry, so...

 we had homemade pecan pie and coffee.  All the time.  My mom and I made this pie and I have to say that whole "easy as pie" saying is like saying "easy as rocket science."  Easy for me, it wasn't.  Absolutely caramel-y, pecan-y delicious, it definitely was.

 There were precious nieces in sparkly shoes and (you guessed it)...

more food!  This was the main event: Thanksgiving lunch, which we had on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  It was as yummy as ever.  (Gigi gets her food excitement from Aunt Weeza.)

And then, before I knew it, Santa's Mayflower's truck was there ready to take all of my things to charming Cameron.  It was the largest moving truck I've seen.

The fellas doing the loading were really friendly and did a fantastic job.  I've already heard from the driver Ramiro (on the right) and he says he'll be in Cameron this Thursday after having to make a trip to Florida earlier this week.  It was hard work getting everything packed up, which, you know, makes a gal hungry.

This, my friends, is a Jim's Big Burger.  Best burger place in my hometown, made even better because my dear friend Ashley works there.

 And then that night, I had a Texan send off of steak and potatoes.  De-licious.  I promise this post won't be entirely about food, y'all.  I went to bed that night, barely able to sleep with excitement for my journey to Cameron to begin the next morning.

Bright and early, Hayden and I headed out and after making a quick trip to see my fabulous Sista, we were off on a 14-hour voyage to Birmingham.

It was a bit early for Hayden.  Fueled by coffee and anticipation of seeing my dear friend Pierce in Birmingham, we drove and drove.

 We went through Louisiana and saw beautiful bridges, Cameron's Creole twin and the swamplands.

Hayden perked up a bit and enjoyed some sunshine and air conditioning.  He loves to stick his face right up to the a/c vent and let the wind blow in his cotton fluff hair.

 We also drove through (quickly it would seem from this picture) Mississippi.

And through Alabama, finally making it to Pierce's house that night.

 Pierce is one of my all-time favorite people.  (And yes, she is holding her homemade biscuits!)  We were on the Presbyterian Committee for Northern Ireland together and have been great friends since then.  She welcomed me with wine and delicious food.

We visited for hours and reveled in the chance to catch up.  She even had a lovely little Chrismassy cup by my bed (that of course had some Irish personality).  I drifted off collapsed into heavy slumber and awoke early the next morning.

 She had not only divine Nicaraguan coffee waiting for me,

 but also a massive Southern breakfast of sausage casserole, eggs, homemade biscuits and cheese grits.  What a hospitable gal!  I'm so delighted to be a few states closer to Pierce.

Slightly awkward early-morning self-portrait.  Haven't trained Hayden to take pictures yet.  Really wish I'd trained him to drive, too!
 Caffeinated and full of Southern hospitality, I headed off for the rest of the journey to Cameron.
 I drove from Alabama through Georgia and saw that familiar golden dome.

 I even saw Santa's number one reindeer hard at work.  After heading through South Carolina (yep, that makes the 6th state to go through including Texas)...

 I finally saw the sign that I was entering North Carolina!  Angels sang.  The heavens rejoiced.  And Hayden kept on sleeping.

 It was a glorious sunset that night, much like the fiery sunrise my journey began with.  When I arrived at my house (which I'm renting from a delightful couple in the church), I was greeted by Cat and Jane with wine and pizza.  As soon as Hayden got in the house that frisky eleven-year-old started running around it like a puppy, thoroughly enjoying himself.  Cat had a spare bed in her basement which she set up in the guest room of my house, so after laughter and excited conversation and yummy food and drink, I slept in a comforting bed.  I was home.  A new home, but most definitely home.

Hayden loves it.  I went to church on Sunday (the day after arriving) and also to the Christmas dinner at church that night and was so glad I ignored my tiredness to come.  I just fell in love with the folks at Cameron.  From the nice-to-meet-you bear hugs to the heartfelt way they pray to their compassion for their community to the delicious food they share together to the incredible love they've already shown me, I am overwhelmed by God's goodness in bringing me here.

 My first night home for dinner, I planned on making something special and something even more special arrived right when I was thinking about what I'd fix: homemade sausage spinach soup from a member of my church who also happens to be my neighbor.  And y'all, that soup was sooo good.  The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of typical relocation activities (setting up tv, internet, phone etc.) but this morning, I took Hayden outside and this is what I saw in my backyard:

Heaven is glimpsing early morning fog through sleek pine trees.  The old saying goes that you miss the forest for the trees but with the flurry of excitement the last few days, I missed both the forest and the trees until this morning when I paused, looked up and said, "Wow."  I love this place.  I love the charming post office, the lit-up Christmas wreath adorning the telephone pole outside of my house, the way people wave at you as they drive by, the astounding kindness of folks in making me feel welcome.  Joe from church stopped by and we got to talking about old books and small towns and he explained the gift of Cameron really well, saying that as you drove from larger towns (which are very close by) into Cameron, you just felt yourself physically relax, breathe deeper and all the tension leave your body.  People have a different way of living in small towns (it's a village here, really) and it's just delightful.  I can be at Starbucks in fifteen minutes sipping gingerbread lattes, but I can also hear a cricket lullaby at night and a songbird wake-up call in the morning.  Life is good.  There's so much more grace to be discovered here, but for now, I'm going to sleep in a new state, new house, new call, feeling very much like this is exactly where I'm meant to be.  And with that, I can sleep easy, listening to the crickets as I drift off.