Recent Experiences


My previous post in March used a quote by a character in a book who said REAL bloggers ALWAYS blog. And I laughed when I wrote that in March.  WHAT?  It’s November?  WHEN did THAT happen?!  Oh!  I am NOT a real blogger AT ALL.  I use way to many capital letters and I post way too frequently, though I am always, always, always, thinking of things to write. It’s the doing, it’s the doing…

I have always loved the days/weeks/months when life flows smoothly and everything fits into everything else and life is good.  Oh! Wait!  Have I EVER lived like that?  Hmmmm…Nope!  But I’ve read BOOKS in which life flows so I at least have an idea of what that would be like!  My life is SO fragmented.  I live here in a lovely home then I live in a van. I have a newsletter with my yahoogroups BooksBloom group, a facebook page (jan goldsmith bloom) as well as booksbloom, I email friends and family but sometimes I don’t have email access,  we have a cell phone but Gary always has it, we don’t have a text plan and I have never even SEEN a twitter, and I feel like I ought to somehow get used to the 21st century.

Back in my last posting in March, Gary had just finished installing a new engine in Mighty Whitey.  We had to rent a truck for 4 conferences while he was working on it, so it was with great relief we set out shortly after my post. We were heading for the Cincinnati conference but we left a few days early in order to  rendezvous with Jenni, our daughter, and her three children, who were in Bloomington, Indiana for Charlie’s one-year post-radiation check up.  Not more than twenty miles up the road from Rolla we heard a very bad sound (yes! Sounds CAN be good or they can be bad!) Gary called Clark, our mechanic, and we turned around to head back home. Clark listened, drew out the oil dip-stick, and announced the engine had blown a rod.  WHAT??!!!  This cannot be! OH NO!!!

Clark suggested buying another vehicle.  RIGHT.  We had just spent any extra money we had on the new engine and renting those silly trucks.  We did not have MONEY to buy another vehicle.  But it was evident Mighty Whitey could not go any further.  418,000 miles was a miracle in itself – we really could not hope for more, could we?  Clark was adamant – we could NOT!  We found a newer van and were able to buy it and set out that evening, thinking all was well.  Sadly, we have spent almost as much on repairs on the NEW Mighty Whitey as we paid for it, which was quite a bit.  OUCH!! Life is sometimes a puzzle, isn’t it?

We’ve been back home in Missouri since mid-September.  Gary tried to find a temporary position but that didn’t happen, so he has been blessed by having friends and acquaintances willing to pay him to do repair and remodeling work.

Two weeks ago I ended up having emergency surgery to remove a nineteen pound cyst attached to my ovary, so THAT has certainly put a crimp in my ideas and plans I was going to implement this Fall! I’m doing well.  I lost 24 pounds in one week but it is not a weight reduction program I can recommend! My daughter, Jenni, created a Caring Bridge site (jan bloom) and I’ve had to add THAT to my list of things to do, too.

Books…I was able to finish Vince Flynn’s new book, AMERICAN ASSASSIN, before my surgery so JJ was able to take it back to Norfolk to read after he visited us the weekend after my surgery. Yesterday I finished a very interesting book by Mark Andrew Olsen, ULTERIOR MOTIVES.  This is the third book I’ve read by Olsen and I must say he is highly original and causes all kinds of questions and responses.  In Olsen’s book a former Army Special Forces guy is sent to convert a top Al-Qaeda Muslim.  Sounds unrealistic, but it is an incredible story of a broken man who has found redemption in Jesus reaching beyond the barriers of religion to find common ground and the image of God in an enemy.  It was both a tear-jerker and a stunning look at the differences between Christianity (TRUE Christianity) and forgiveness vs Islam and revenge.

I truly want to get my blog back going with ideas, thoughts, recommendations, and links. It’s scary to even write that, knowing I need to DO what I have planned and stated. YIKES!  Whoever came up with this accountability stuff?  Do I think a homemaker of 100 years ago worried about blogs, posts, newsletters, emails, cell phones, as well as cooking, baking, mending, cleaning, and being a good wife?  Uh – what does THAT have to do with anything?

We are working on our conference schedule for 2011 and it’s on our website, booksbloom.com.  Oh, yeah!  One MORE thing I have to do.  I am NOT suited for all this technology!  I like BOOKS. Grrrrrrrrr…

Off I go to DO what needs to be done.  Where are my Powdered Milk Biscuits when I need them??!!

Jan Bloom

 

 

 

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Not many people drive a vehicle past the 300,000 mile mark.  Mighty Whitey is at 387,000.  She is quite ill.  She has something that needs to be fixed that MOST vehicle owners will never know about – her SPIDER.  What, you ask, is a spider?  It is a complicated electronic part that hides under the intake manifold.  YIKES!  We would appreciate prayers on the behalf of Mighty Whitey so we can continue our journey.  God brought us to an amazing mechanic, Jim, who is a car doctor.  He saved our lives and schedule four summers ago when MW broke down here in Portland.  He remembered us!  Do you suppose it’s because we’re the ONLY people who stayed in our van in his parking lot at night???!!!

Last week we were vendors at the Denver Homeschool Convention.  I was able to sit in on the opening address by Voddie Bacham.  He says “I am not a SPEAKER, I am a PREACHER!!!” and preach he did!  It was very insightful and challenging.  His main point (taken from Paul’s second letter to Timothy) was that mentors teach their students how to DIE for the sake of the Gospel.  Riches, Fame, Power – it will ALL disappear.  We have to raise children who choose to give it all for Jesus.

Also at the conference was an amazing man we’ve met at other conferences.  He asked that I share his ministry with my readers, and I am happy to do so.  Here is his information:

Brent Nelson
Family Legacies
615-415-1432 (cell)

Our web site is www.familylegacies.us
Our primary purpose is to provide interest free adoption loans for Christian families. Here is a quick list of bullets about Family Legacies…

*      501 c3 non-profit.

*      All of our board members have adopted.

*      100% of all donations go toward adoptions (our overhead expenses are covered by a private company).

*      We target Christian families for our interest free adoption loans, particularly godly homeschool families.

*      We provide interest free loans usually between $5,000 to $10,000.

*      We are working with local churches to set up adoption fund ministries.

*      Our interest free loans are paid back very quickly because of the US adoption tax credit. We then take 100% of the repaid loan and use it over and over to help other adoptions. For example, a $5,000 loan, using the same money, becomes $40,000 in 10 years, helping 8 orphans become adopted.

*      We offer additional financial help with matching grants.

I was blessed to have my dear friend, Lynn Vanwingerden, help in the booth.  She had a hilarious conversation with Brent, who had never met someone who had adopted ELEVEN children without this kind of assistance.  Lynn and her hubby, Arie, also have 12 biological children.  23 children!!! And she is BEAUTIFUL!!!

We are looking forward to our trip down the coast to Santa Rosa next weekend.  The Pacific Northwest is beautiful but gas prices are REALLY HIGH!!!!

Gary and I both speak this weekend at the Oregon Homeschool Conference.  We are praying that hearts will be touched and families restored/ made stronger through our words.

Gary and I and JJ’s honorary aunt, Judy Starr, were priviledged to join our son, JJ, on his ship, The USS Enterprise, for a 3 day cruise from Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida to Norfolk, Virginia.  What an experience!  The Enterprise (CVN 65) is the largest aircraft carrier in the world.  The flight deck is 4.5 acres.  It is 20 stories from the top of the conning tower to the bowels of the ship.  There are more than 5,000 sailors on the ship for a regular deployment.  img_0253.jpg  The ship is a floating city.  Indeed, OUR city, Cokato, has less than 3,000 residents. 

 After three days of living on the ship I decided that ship life is an amazing analogy of the body of Christ.   Sure, an orchestra needs all the different instruments playing, and the body needs all the parts working, but sometimes a NEW analogy makes things SO clear!  All the different people in all the different departments on the ship need to be working well in order for the whole ship to function.  JJ, our son, is in IT.  He fixes computers.  Computers are vital nowadays – nothing runs without them.  However, JJ cannot do HIS job if the electricians don’t do THEIR job and provide electricity. The electricians cannot do their job if the service crews don’t bring the equipment on board.  The maintenance workers have to keep “on board” in good condition.  The cooks have to prepare and feed these thousands of sailors with LIMITED storage space, and limited groceries.  (All the sailors were delighted to be getting salad, ice cream, and vegetables after weeks of chicken nugguts, canned stew, and pancakes.)  Everyone on the ship is important.  There are different ranks on the ship, yet they are all working together to achieve something great.  I honestly don’t know how they do it. 

Living conditions are a challenge.  My bed (berth) was in one of the women’s berthing sections. img_1197.jpg  There are three beds in a stack, called “racks.”  I was on the bottom.  I had to roll into it from the floor!   I could not sit up and could hardly turn over to change positions.  The bed in the photo is open – “the coffin” is the storage space under the bed, one of two spaces to put stuff.  The other was a small locker.  I packed for 3 days and could hardly fit all I thought necessary into these two spaces.  How DO these gals fit in 6 months worth of clothing and stuff??  The bathroom in my unit had 4 toilets, 4 showers, and 3 sinks.  There were maybe 100 women in this unit. 

The food was also a challenge.  The lines were LONG.  The cooks do a good job but the food is calories/fuel, not something to be enjoyed.  The tables are like those in elementary school, with skinny benches.  OUCH!  You have to eat and get out so others can eat.  No long lunches here!img_1154.jpg  This is a photo of me and Judy eating in the First Class Mess.  

Judy’s presence on the Tiger Cruise was special.  Judy and her husband, Stottler, serve with Campus Crusade for Christ.  Stottler has been with them for 35 years, Judy for 20.  Judy is Gary’s sister Cindy’s husband’s sister.  (Whew!)  She is writing a series of children’s books and was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview a number of people on the ship for background to one of the books.  JJ introduced her to SEALS, Search and Rescue guys, officers, and others who were always so willing to talk about what a young girl rescued in a foreign country would experience aboard the Enterprise.  When the book is out, I’ll let you know!

THE PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE.  There is little or no privacy on board ship.  No cushy chairs or comfy couches.  No quiet cubicles in which to read.  Being from a small town I had to look each person I passed in the eye and give a greeting.  TIRING!!! However, each sailor I greeted always responded cheerfully.  Even when I asked directions, which I did every time I tried to find someplace.  (I asked JJ if he knew how many ladder stairs were on the ship – he didn’t know – I would guess thousands…) The sailors invariably would stop and show me how to get somewhere – maybe they liked doing something different but it certainly was impressive to have such helpful people everywhere! 

img_1149.jpg  It was a delight to meet JJ’s fan club.  So many stopped him to be introduced to us.  We heard over and over again how helpful, cheerful, and intelligent he was.  Makes a parent blush!  We are SO proud of him.  He recently was promoted to First Class Petty Officer, an unusual feat for someone in the Navy less than 5 years.  Officers and enlisted alike love that boy!  Even the ADMIRAL stopped to chat with him and be introduced to us.  Whooeeee! 

All the sailors were so excited to be going home.  Many of them (like JJ) had been home only 6 months after the last deployment before they went out again for another 6 months.  Though they were tired, they were still working hard these last few days.  The feeling in the hanger deck was electric as we watched the shore slip past on the way to the pier where we would be docking in Norfolk.  img_1214.jpgThe Navy works really hard to welcome ships home – the new dads get off first in order to see their children that were born during this deployment.  They get a tent of their own for a homecoming – the rest of the sailors have to find their loved ones in the mass of thousands that are pier side to greet the returning heroes.  Bands, balloons, signs, food, helicopters – WHAT an amazing time homecoming is!  We’ve seen it from both sides now – we’ve been pierside at two homecomings and now we’ve been shipside.  I think the sailors win for being the MOST excited – even tho’ their families and loved ones act mighty excited too!

JJ was able to see his 4 year old son, Blaizen, already – Blaizen’s step-aunt brought him to the homecoming.   JJ’s pastor, Angus, is also in the photo – he and a few church members also came to the homecoming.img_1218.jpg  There just isn’t anything to compare to the joy of a homecoming. 

Which, of course, brings me to another analogy – HEAVEN!  If a homecoming of 6 months’ absence can be THIS thrilling, what WILL our homecoming in heaven be like?  WOW!!!  Just like we had to be the sponsor of a sailor to be on the Tiger Cruise, we need to have Jesus as our sponsor as we journey to heaven.  Simplistic ? yes!  Easy? no!   We had to do quite a few things in order to be on the ship – clearance, both security and medical, money (our tax dollars do NOT cover Tiger Cruises!), and time.  I had to be at the right place at the right time to board the ship.  I had to obey the rules OF the ship.  I had to be ready to disembark.  Again, ALL of life tells us so much about truth! 

We’re spending Christmas with JJ in Norfolk.  He doesn’t have leave so we’re hanging out here.  We are the grateful recipients of the gracious hospitality of JJ’s pastor and church members who were SO supportive and loving to JJ during his time in Norfolk before this last deployment.  We are constantly being challenged by the life lessons God puts before us: the importance of loving the stranger and orphan becomes real when you give your child to the military or the ministry and trust that God will bring people into his life to encourage and pray for him.  

What is it about major decisions that get made unexpectedly? 

Suddenly we decided to do new windows, insulation, and new siding.  And then Gary decided to do some other things, like rip off the back porch.  So while I’ve been up in my garrett in the garage, typing merrily away with my space heater on “high”, Gary has been braving single-digit temperatures working outside.  This is NOT the best time to do all this work on the house, but for us, because of our travel schedule, it is the ONLY time. 

Our houseThe main part of our house was built in 1897.  Two bumps (a new living room and a new kitchen) were added in the 1930’s, at which time the owner also resided the house.   When we bought the house it was painted a very dull orangey-taupe with rust trim.  U-G-L-Y!!!  Seven years ago I power sprayed the wood siding, primed it, and painted it with 30 year paint.  Our house looked great for a short time.  However ,we had absolutely NO insulation in the walls.  I’m not sure WHY the extreme temperature changes in Minnesota  make such a difference but since it can go from 30 below zero to above 100 degrees, it is hard on roads, people, and houses.   Within 5 years the paint was blistered and peeling and the house once again looked very ugly and I’m sure created the impression that we were careless homeowners.  Actually we were absentee homeowners who didn’t have to look at the house very often!  Luckily we live on a street that is only two blocks long so not many people pass our house.

When Gary ripped off the wood siding, he exposed all kinds of odd boards that showed other changes that had occurred over the years which had been hidden by the siding.   

 rollie and wall

 We’ve had insulation blown in the walls and it is SO obvious that things have changed inside.  Today I looked at the thermostat, thinking my daughter had turned it up.  Nope, it was still at 64, but the 64 felt warmer than before when the wind was whistling through the house.  Gary boarded up two windows, which look really ugly inside but those spaces will be covered up outside and only a memory.  

At this point in time BOTH the outside and the inside look quite, quite ugly!  But soon, hopefully by early next week, the outside will look great!  The inside will FEEL great but will still have a few places that will need finishing.  new trim

Inside/outside-outside/inside – scars on the outside revealed when the outer layer is removed, ugliness on the inside that will one day be covered up…there are some powerful spiritual images here!  All of life tells us about God – even remodeling!  I’ve thought about so many analogies – how God patches us up from our mistakes and wounds and then covers us with His grace; or how vulnerability uncovers those patches and people see the “real me”; or how remodeling is a process and anytime during the process you wonder, “is this worth it?” which is similar to times we decide to change or God is taking us through some trial and life looks REALLY ugly yet if we wait it out and let the process continue, beauty comes forth!

We have relied on the help of others for this process.  Gary could not get this done himself.  He needs the physical help, the experience of others, and the tools and equipment of professionals.  Again – like life!  We need each other because we each have learned things that can benefit one another or we may have just the tool someone else needs.  

Francis Schaeffer once said that Christianity is true because it is the only belief system that lines up with reality.  But also the converse is true: reality lines up with Christian truth, as my insightful examples clearly illustrate!