After our second son moved with his family to southwest Missouri, we decided it was time for a change for us. I was tired of the road rage in St. Louis, and we both felt like we would enjoy living in a smaller town. We went to check out Highland, Illinois, on the other side of the Mississippi River. Out to corn country...lots of farming and a small down town square. I think the population when we moved there was about 8,000, but I know it has been growing. They had gotten a Walmart not too long before we moved out there. Here's what google has to say:
We had the opportunity to buy a two acre lot on a small pond adjacent to the Highland Country Club, and found a local builder with whose work we were impressed. While we were waiting to build, we rented a house near Walmart and near one of the local cemeteries. I decided to learn more about the history of this little town, and checked out some books at the library. I would often walk up through the cemetery and read the tombstones, for so many that originally came to the area from Europe came to rest there. I was so enamored with the history that we ended up naming a new little puppy after the founder of the town, but we spelled the name differently...Kefli.
We had gotten Tuxedo, our Pekingese, after our second son went out to college. He was our "empty nest" cure all. He loved chasing squirrels in our back yard, though he never wanted to catch one. We had floor to ceiling windows, and he would sit and look out most of the day. When we got to the rental house in Highland, there were no floor length windows for him to look out, and the house was dark. Tuxedo seemed depressed, so we thought he needed a new pal. We brought Kefli, a shih tzu, home for Tux to play with, but he was far too jealous, and would have nothing to do with her. They were both black, and after Kefli was the same size as Tux, most people thought they were twins. Kefli loved on Tuxedo all the time, but he mostly ignored her. They both brought delight to us for several years. We ended up having Tuxedo for 15 years and Kefli for 13 years. They were our kids, for sure!! It was so hard to let them go.
While living in Highland, we drove back to Collinsville, IL for church....Nazarene church. We became good friends with the pastor and his wife...Tim and Sue. Today they pastor in Missouri, but we still keep in touch.
Paul had about an hour's drive to work in St. Louis every day, but he didn't mind it as it was his time to unwind as he drove home each evening. We contracted out the house to be built, but we did do all of our own landscaping...including putting in our own grass. We used straw rolls with seeds in them, and it turned out very nicely. We planted several trees and bushes, and put a fence around part of the back yard so the dogs could run free.
One of the ways I chose to get to know Highland better was to go to weekly garage sales. Not only did I learn my way around the little town, I also got to know the people. I attended a monthly community Bible study, and hosted a weekly Bible study in our home. Another outlet for me was working in the local food pantry, which was a lot of fun for me. I was content not working.
About a year after we moved out to Highland and was living in our new home, our son and his family moved to Greenville, about 15 miles from us. I had volunteered to work in the college post office there, and knew they were looking for computer tech support. I told them our son had graduated with a degree in computer technology, and was currently working in southwest Missouri, but might be interested in moving closer to us.
Now, let me back up and explain how God was working behind the scenes. Even though I didn't want to work full time, I did want to keep busy. I saw that the college was advertising for help in their mail room. I decided to email them and ask if I could help them out until they hired someone, just as a volunteer. Well, it turns out that my email arrived in the middle of a staff meeting where they were discussing what to do about help in the mail room, as they had not had time to interview anyone yet. When they got my email, they felt like it was a God send, so they called me immediately and asked when I could start.
I enjoyed the job, and they offered to hire me full time, but I was not wanting a full time job. When I heard they were looking for computer tech support I did tell them about our son. They called him and interviewed him on the phone, and hired him, sight unseen! So I believe God used my willingness to "help out" to open doors for him to get the college job.
They moved in with us until they could find a place of their own. They ended up buying their first home in Greenville. Meanwhile, we had our granddaughter back with us again!!! While Mom and Dad worked, she stayed with us and attended preschool in Highland. Every day I would pick her up and we would go to the playground for a picnic lunch and play time. What a wonderful time of bonding with her during those early years!! She spent many nights at our house. On Fridays they had "Peanut Butter and Jam" festival down on the square for little ones to come and play games and get their faces painted and do various little crafts. Then at night there would be a concert on the square and we would take our lawn chairs and enjoy the concert. Our little granddaughter entertained several as she danced to the music.
Our first Christmas in our new house both sons and spouses were there, as well as our granddaughter, and that year I planned for everyone to have a room of the house they were in charge of. They each had to plan an activity for that particular room, and plan the portion of the menu for which they were responsible. For instance, my husband's room was the basement, and he had to choose an appetizer. He chose BBQ sausages. The entertainment was playing a card game. The gift for that room was a tool for everyone...even if it was a "tool" to use in the kitchen.
One of our daughter-in-law's had the dining room (being used as an office) and her course was the salad. For her activity she chose to have each of us (there were 7 of us) take turns cutting her husband's hair. He had been growing it out for quite a while, and was ready for a buzz cut, but we did it in stages. She had the hair clippers, and we each made our own "dent" in his hair. It was so funny. He had some bald spots and some hair sticking out in various places. He kept it that way until the festivities were over and shaved his head in the end, before bed time.
That son had the living room, being used as a library, as his room, and the activity there was playing The Ungame, which created conversation for us. The gifts for that room was a book for everyone. I think the food course was punch.
The other son had the family room, and he had us listen to select music, and I believe the gifts were all something to do with music. Seems like the food course was bread.
Our other daughter-in-law and granddaughter had the kitchen as their room, and the activity was making Christmas cookies together as a family. The course served there was the main course, and everyone received some food gift, I assume. Memory is bad about the gifts. I just enjoyed all the activities we were sharing.
I had the last course...the dessert course. We met in the sun room, but our activity took place down near the square in Highland. I had a friend who ran a chocolate shop and a bed and breakfast. In fact our daughter-in-law living in Greenville worked there. I had it set up where we would come to Joyce's door and "carol" her, and then she would have us come in for her chocolate crock pot cake with hot fudge drizzled over it and served with hot chocolate. She had as much fun preparing for it as we did enjoying it. She got the biggest kick out of our son's "hair-style" we had created for him. She said she couldn't even look at him as she thought he had just had brain surgery!! Funny!!! I still giggle thinking about that.
After our caroling and dessert we went back to the sun room and had devotions together, and then I had one final "big" gift for each of them...something that fit them individually. But, you know, it wasn't the gifts that impressed or mattered. It truly was all about the fun we had together over several hours of having a 6 room/course Christmas.
The next year we had a new little one with us...our second granddaughter. What a sweetheart!!! She was only a month old when we all went to Hilton Head for a timeshare week for our Christmas celebration. We had a villa at a resort ocean side, and just had a wonderful time together that week. It was more about making memories together, in lieu of lots of gifts. In fact, the gang all started to let me know they didn't want the gifts, except for the granddaughters...just time together. Over the years, I've been trying to get there. I didn't usually give gifts much through the year, but at Christmas I would get carried away. As of this writing (June 2015) I think I am almost cured. I like to plan fun things, and not worry so much about shopping!!
After we got back from our family time share vacation, Paul went back to work, and I went back to my Greek class at Greenville College, Monday morning. I was just auditing the class to refresh my Greek skills. When I got home mid-morning, there was my husband. I asked him what he was doing home...he should have been at work. Well....turns out his company decided to make some changes. They were about making the money, and he cared more about the safety of the employees and integrity of the products. Since the company didn't agree with his viewpoint, they said it was time to part ways. He came home. This had come as a total surprise to him...they must have made that decision while he was on vacation.
When we went back to clean out his office, someone from HR asked me how everything was going for us, and I simply responded that God was in charge, and God closed the doors at that company for He had another door for us to walk through. We were going onward and upward, trusting in God's sovereignty.
Paul was well known in other companies in St. Louis, and he received other job offers immediately. However, we decided to take a sabbatical and allow God time to show us His plan, instead of jumping into the next job. At that time our oldest son and his wife were living in Baltimore, MD, so we decided to go visit them. While there, Paul talked with a pastor who had once had a lucrative career with the US Government, but had felt God call him into ministry. He left his good paying career, and became pastor of a small struggling church. There was something in his story that resonated with Paul. Somehow Paul knew God had something different in mind than the corporate world, but he didn't believe it was the preaching ministry.
We had inherited my parents' summer cottage on the Indian Lake Nazarene Campground in Michigan, so we decided to spend some time there rehabbing it, in the middle of winter no less!! And it was not winterized. It was 350 square feet...a main room, a bedroom, and a bath. Then it also had a 370 square feet screen porch, which was not used in the winter at all, except for storage. We had a couple of space heaters and two little doggies to keep us warm. And we had a lot of rehabbing to do! Paul used the screen porch as his board cutting area...in his winter coat and stocking cap, with snow blowing in the screens. It was a very cozy time for us...we were living an adventure...waiting on God.
We had heard that ILNC (Indian Lake Nazarene Camp) was looking for an executive director, so Paul inquired about the position and was told to submit his resume. He hadn't heard anything back, but while we were rehabbing the cottage, he decided to check with the District Superintendent of the Michigan District, to see if he could at least talk with him about where God might be leading him. The DS looked up Paul's resume, and took us out to lunch, in March of 2004.
Paul told him that we were going to be in Michigan on the campground rehabbing the cottage over the next few months, and would be willing to volunteer his time in helping the camp out with some of the major projects looming before them....such as putting in a new mile long road into the camp and building a new beach front and boat "marina". Since Paul had worked on multi-million dollar projects in the corporate world, using his engineering expertise, he was pretty sure the camp projects would be a piece of cake for him. Turns out the camp needed a hands on person to oversee the day to day operation of those projects, and since Paul was willing to volunteer, it seemed like a good fit for them, as they had limited funds.
While Paul was in the midst of volunteering his time, the camp board was watching him to see if he would be a good fit for the camp. Paul was also checking out the camp to see if it was a good fit for him. He ended up overseeing the camp operations for the summer of 2004 as a volunteer, and the camp board hired him full time as Executive Director in September of 2004. But...that's the next chapter of my blog. At this point we still had the house in Highland, Illinois, and the cottage in Vicksburg, Michigan. We lived in a 350 sf cottage (700 sf during the seasons we could use the screen porch), while we had a 2800 sf house in Highland, with a 2800 sf walkout basement. A little difference in living accommodations!! God has such a sense of humor!!