Monday, February 11, 2019

Of Food and Fundraisers

  Our church has had multiple missions trips in the history of its existence and I believe that their most preferred way to raise the money that they need is to provide a fundraiser meal. I have attended several of these meals already and truly thought nothing much about them. They were well planned out and quite organized events and there was absolutely no reason why I would have had to think about them overly much, the missions trip maybe, but not the meal.

  That all changed this past week. Our church is preparing for a trip to Thailand and obviously money was needed to be raised so they decided on a fundraiser meal. Since Valentine's Day is just around the corner they thought that it would  be fun to do a themed event. I heard a lot of different ideas but eventually someone decided on doing a salad bar and naming it "Lettuce love one another." Thus began all the puns.

  It's a missions trip for the youth of the church and even though Diane and I won't be going along we still chose to help with the bringing about of the big meal.

  Decorations needed to made, food needed to be supplied, willing hearts and hands needed to be offered in service and Diane and I were simply happy to be of any help. On Saturday Eldon drove us over to the church and dropped us off. Diane and I hustled indoors (it was really cold outside) and we spent the entire evening chopping vegetables, making bread, and washing dishes. It was some of the most fun I've had in a very long time. All of my friends gathered around several truly long tables and chopped away at vegetables for hours. It was such a bizarre thing that I couldn't help but enjoy myself thoroughly. The conversations had between the adults overseeing all of us and the youth were highly entertaining. It was nice to realize that the elders of the church were every bit as lighthearted and human as the rest of us.

  The pastor's wife, Diane, and I all cried together as we chopped onions.

  Nevertheless, all of that work was just a taste of what would follow on the very next day.

  On Sunday morning I had to get up early so I could bake cupcakes. Once we were all ready for church we left and Sharon and I nervously anticipated the event. We were to work in the kitchen and tend the food tables and serve anyone and everyone who needed any help of any sort.

  Once at church we munched on doughnut holes as one of my favorite people taught us all how to greet and thank people in Thai. I can honestly say that our accents held a lot of room for improvement, nevertheless it was so much fun greeting people in Thai that no one was overly concerned with the little flaws in our performances.

  As the church congregation filed into their seats we rushed to work. My first job was to set up the dessert table and so one of my friends and I set out on a mission (pun fully intended) to cover the surface of the pretty table with cookies and cupcakes until it overflowed.

  Some members of the church stood around sipping coffees and watching all of us bustle around the place as we set up and I didn't mind it since I didn't really notice them until I ran into a bit of a difficulty.

  We had large trays of cupcakes to carry out to the dessert table. Our job was to remove the lids from the trays and place the cupcakes onto lovely plates and arrange them in a pretty way. It was easy peasy until I had to remove the lid from a particularly old fashioned pan.

  I tugged at the lid, I yanked on the lid, I pulled, pried, and poked, all to no avail. I glared down at the stubborn obstacle and then looked at my friend who was having a jolly time of arranging her desserts out of her well-behaved pan.

  "You know, if I were in a movie some fine gentleman would come to my rescue." I told her mournfully.  She laughed a little and nodded, but I was still stuck with my problem, or so I thought. Remember those church goers I mentioned that were just standing around, chatting, and watching us work? Well one of those members in particular, a blue eyed, bearded, middle-aged man had been watching my struggles and after my distressed statement he stepped up with a smile and offered to help.

  He effortlessly removed the lid and I thanked him profusely. He walked away with quite a heroic air and I decided that fine gentlemen help damsels in distress every bit as much in real life as they do in movies.

  The rest of the morning and several hours into the afternoon we worked, but never once did it feel like work. I had the best time ever and left the church having grown much closer to all of my friends and a bunch of other people I had never really talked to before. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at any fundraiser meal the same again. It's not just a nice array of food provided for donations, it's a whole team of people giving selflessly of their time and energy for a cause that they believe is greater than them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Getting My Driver's License

  The process of becoming a legally licensed driver was one of the most difficult and stressful things I've ever gone through in my life and I'm blessed because of that. I had so many little adventures during the eight to nine months it took me to become licensed and I thought it would be fun to do a blog post about my experience.

  My very first driving lesson happened a little less than an hour after I got my permit. My Mum pulled into the parking lot of a nearby biking trail and she handed me the keys after showing me the gas and brake. I was absolutely horrified as I stared at those keys in my hand. I thought that it was a truly idiotic thing to give me, an overly dramatic teenager, the keys to the family's primary vehicle. As I looked around the parking lot and saw all of the potential ways I could destroy the vehicle I started sweating and couldn't breathe properly for quite a while afterwards.

  I stomped on the gas a little bit harder than needed and so began the season of my life where I learned to drive. That first day, and for weeks afterwards I had a terrible time knowing how close I was to the edge of the road and taking curves was one of the hardest things ever. Instead of slowing down I'd stomp on the gas and send us hurtling around the bumpy bends on numerous little country roads hitting every pothole while I was at it.

  There are two quite large stones positioned at the entrance of that little bike trail parking lot and the entrance just happens to be positioned right around a curve in the road, therefore the first few times that I entered the area I would stomp on the gas and go hurtling straight towards the big rocks. Somehow I always got the steering wheel turned just in time to avoid destroying our lovely little vehicle. I can imagine that my guardian angel was very busy while I was learning to drive.

  Driving on big roads and interstates where the speed limit seemed ridiculously high was the thing that gave me nightmares. I remember very clearly praying one morning that God would give me as many situations as possible for me to practice my driving skills before I take my test and somehow I didn't expect Him to answer quite like He did.

  That very same day I had to drive on a big interstate that was rather busy. It was foggy and it was raining lightly and I had many times where I had to slow down because of different people pulling out right in front of me. To make it more interesting I drove past our destination twice so not only did I get to practice turning around, the whole dreadful day was topped off with me backing down the driveway to my Dad's shop. While I appreciated how well the Lord provided me with scenarios of practice for me I didn't exactly ask for such things again.

  I'm a little bit of a perfectionist and I had a lot of anxiety to deal with during those eight to nine months so while most teenagers view the road test as exciting and they just want their licenses already, I was a very timid person busily dreading my upcoming test with such anxiety that I was almost ceaselessly in prayer. I take things too seriously, I always have, and I took my upcoming test very seriously. Nevertheless, on the day when my driver's test was first scheduled I was woefully unprepared. I had tried parallel parking with mixed success and felt anything but confident going in on the big day.

  I tried to be calm, I really did, but I was still  quaking in my shoes. The driving examiner, bless his heart, was a very kind man, I can't really remember many details about him other than I recall him being extremely tall and talking rather loudly.

  The first things I had to do were operating various vehicle controls. I succeeded rather miraculously because he told me to do something I'd never done before. When it came time to parallel park my stomach was in one gigantic knot, a gigantic throbbing knot.

  I backed out of my spot and I recall being pleased that I remembered to look over my shoulders and all of that jazz, but when I pulled up to parallel park I knew that I wouldn't pass. I tried valiantly to park our vehicle and the dear examiner didn't say a thing as I tried and tried again.

  Long story short, I failed and did a magnificent job of it.  I didn't cry on the way home or any time afterwards because I was too busy thinking about the fact that I'd have to experience the whole wretched thing again.

  After failing that once I devoted my life to doing as much as I could to preparing myself. I prayed almost ceaselessly, listened tirelessly to songs I found comforting, and practiced parallel parking again and again using the system that my dear Dad taught me how to set up using four buckets and various stick-y things.  Day after day I spent hours practicing until it felt strange to not have a steering wheel in my hands.

  After fourteen hours of parking practice the big day rolled around again and back I went to the driving center. The second time around I remember how much clearer everything felt, and how alert I was to everything. Things looked brighter, sounded clearer, and registered better in my mind. The test day was blessedly sunny and I smiled as much as possible and spent all of my time in the waiting room praying. Some people say that taking your driver's test isn't a big deal, to me it was huge.

  When I saw who my driving examiner would be I was disappointed (in retrospect I see just what a blessing it really was) the man was middle-aged, a bit overweight, and grumpy, most likely because it was a warm day and he had a boring job. To his credit he spoke kindly in introduction and when Mum handed me the keys for the second time in that exact same spot I took them the first time, whispered a prayer under my breath, forced a smile with my lips and marched out the door little knowing that I was about to have one of the best days of my life.

  The man began by telling me all of the usual things that all examiners do. I assume it was the Holy Spirit that made this introverted girl open her mouth and we weren't halfway across the parking lot when for whatever reason I asked the driving examiner if he liked his job. The robotic expression he had been using slid right off of his face and he laughed in shock. That unexpected question changed everything and he talked to me cheerfully from then on as if we had been friends for years.

  All too soon I was told I have to parallel park, and I think that the Lord must have custom-made the examiner for me because he spoke the exact words I needed to hear throughout the whole process to calm me.

  I pulled up to the parking spot with my turn signals clicking away steadily. I took a deep breath, turned my steering wheel sharply and the next thing I remember is the driving instructor telling me I did it. I sat there in jubilant surprise and I'm convinced that it wasn't me who did the parking. All I did was turn the wheel and I don't remember anything else from then on till the examiner told I did it. Maybe the Lord took over, who knows, what I do know is that I was told the parking was done perfectly and that I had parked in just one maneuver out of the legal three.

  Everything else was just peachy. That seemingly abrupt question before we ever got into the vehicle had broken any crankiness that the man had had and the rest of the test was spent with us chatting merrily.

  I felt such joy after parking. The man told me I had passed without a single mistake and I felt like I was flying as I told my Mum and then the exuberance I felt when leaving with my license in hand was one of the happiest moments in my entire life, probably the happiest aside from being born again.

  I left the driving center that day having just gained a license, but now I see that the process of procuring a license didn't only provide me with a license, but also a much closer relationship with my heavenly Father. There are many things I can praise Him for in my life, and today's blog post talked about just some of the ways He's blessed me. Yes, God could have prepared me to pass the first time around, but I'm much closer to Him because of my initial failure.