Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On The Road--Doc Goes to Church

Doc hits the road and claims a cushy spot in the RV

                When we last left you, we were in the midst of the annual Jenkins Family Reunion. If you missed the last two blog posts, then you need to get caught up . . . Now! I mean stop reading this one and go find the others. It’s okay, take your time. We’ll wait. Here's the first one if you missed it:
Meet "Doc" Gnome And here's the second in the series: Doc goes to the Family Reunion . 
                All done? You know the backstory of our resident traveling gnome, right? Great, let’s move on. It is Sunday at Lake Leon in Ranger, Texas and sadly, it is the last day of the family reunion. However, it is one of my favorites because it is time for our annual reunion church service. In the past, various families have taken turns organizing and delivering the praise service and this year was our turn.
                 My dynamic sister-in-law, Diana welcomed the sleepy crowd and gave a moving testimony at how much the reunion and family meant to her. She opened with a heart-felt prayer that moved several to tears. Praise singing came next and although I hate to brag on the Jenkins family ( insert a sarcastic tone to that last phrase) . . .  But I’ll do it anyway, because I’m giving the glory to God. He has blessed this family with some amazing musical talent that these young twenty-somethings are using to His glory.    
                My great-nephew, 4-year old Jackson, led off the service with a sweet solo, “I am Something Special.” His Nana (grandmother) needed a few tissues after that one. Next up was my bass-singing nephew, Duane and his lovely wife Stefanie. Duane’s proud mother also kept that tissue box busy during their song. Notice in the picture below, that these young “whipper-snappers” don’t need sheet music these days, they just sing from their phones. . . or to their phones it's hard to say which, sometimes.

Stefanie and Duane Stark
                Next up was my daughter, Natalie and her talented husband David. Together they sang “The Desert Song” while David accompanied on his guitar. Doc nudged me and said he’d vote for them to move to the final round, but I had to break it to him, that he was a plastic gnome—not a judge on “American Idol.” Now, folks, we have to be patient with Doc. Bless his little heart, we have to remember Doc didn’t exactly grow up going to church at his previous home in the yard-decoration section at Garden Ridge.

David and Natalie Shurley

                Our volunteer-preacher for the morning was none other than my beloved brother-in-law, Russell. He had prepared a wonderful message about the power of prayer and using it as a connective tool to keep our lives in touch with our Maker. Doc loved the sermon because it was short and sweet. He said his backside never even got a chance to get numb. Honestly, I didn’t know this was a problem for the little guy, since I’ve never seen him sit down or even knew that he could. Oh well.
"Brother" Russell- our preacher for the day

Writer’s Reflection:
      So as our reunion draws to a close and all the goodbyes and hugs are delivered, Doc reminds me that I have to take a few moments to put this weekend in a writer’s perspective.
1.      1. Treasure the family that you have. Ties can deepen with a little effort and planning, but even neglect can cause irrevocable damage.

2.     2.  Lack of family can leave a hole in our hearts, even those of our imaginary characters. Having your character attend a friend’s family reunion might stir a longing for family that he/she had not experienced before.
3    3. Perhaps, a family reunion could be a catalyst for conflict among a weaker couple, making them aware of their vast differences in upbringing.
       4.Old conflicts and rivalries can and do resurface at reunions and can be a colorful setting for a fist fights, boat races, fishing competitions or 42-domino tournaments, all of which my family does at the reunion. Except the fist fight part. 
       5. Old wounds, hurts and past regrets can also find a healing place at a family reunion. People grow up and change, at least most of us do.And we'd like to think it is for the better. It's never too late to say "I'm sorry."

 The possibilities are endless, so get busy and use that family reunion in a fresh new way in your story or manuscript.

Coming up: Doc Goes to the Desert—kind of. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

On The Road: Doc Goes to the Jenkins Family Reunion

                I’ve been blessed to be born into a fantastic family. My parents have been married 51 years  and constantly taught us about the love of God. But I was doubly blessed to marry into another extraordinary God-revering family. My husband, Darell Jenkins comes from a large family and each year we have a 3-day reunion with all of his aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family friends and loved ones.

               I know what you’re thinking . . . 3 days of being with family? It’s true, though, we like being together and this family knows how to have fun. So much fun, in fact, that the little plastic gnome we have named, "Doc" insisted on coming with us to the reunion. He doesn't eat much so we agreed, and packed him between the underwear and socks and hit the road.

                For the reunion, the family rents several cabins on the shores of Lake Leon, just outside of Ranger, Texas. We kick off the festivities with a family bingo event on Friday night. This year, all of my sister-in-laws' families were winners, but my immediate family walked away with their usual bingo winnings—Nothing!!! My husband thinks the bingo caller, his cousin Rusty, has it in for him and can somehow see the one number he needs, but refuses to call it. Oh, by the way, Doc didn’t win anything either, but that’s because I didn’t want to spend five dollars on a bingo card for a plastic guy with such a short attention span. Besides, if he had won I don’t think I could have handled that smug, gloating smile of his. Oh wait . . . that's his usual painted-on look that he wears all the time.

                Saturday starts off with biscuits-and-chocolate for breakfast, a famous Jenkins family specialty once served at Grandma Oma’s cafĂ©. Some of us go cabin to cabin and visit with family members, while some take to the water for boating and fishing. When we caught Doc casting a wistful look out on the water,( see above) we offered to take him for a ride, but he reminded us he had to get to his photo shoot on the chuck wagon. And I do mean an official chuck wagon. See for yourself. Doc likes the shot below because he says the shadow in the background makes him look taller.  Whatever . . .

                Dinner is a family affair and this year two family members, Carol and Odie roped in some of their competition level cook-off friends and made a fantastic dinner of chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, pinto beans, homemade honey rolls and peach cobbler with whiskey sauce. Can you tell we’re all from Texas? Yes!! And we're proud of it!

                The family auction is next and is the highlight of the reunion. Family members make or buy nearly 130 items each year to be auctioned off. The auction money goes toward the rental fees for next year. Two very hardworking, gorgeous women have served our family tirelessly over the past several years. Tina (on the left) and Tammie (right) are the accountants, record keepers, and business managers of the family auction, not to mention overall cheerleaders.

                 Don’t we have beautiful women in our family? (Doc told me to write that part, but I totally agree!)  We wanted Doc to pose for the picture, but he refused. We think he was a bit afraid of Romo, the huge, ferocious, teeth-baring dog you see in the picture. Guess it all looks very different from a little gnomes' point of view.

Coming up: Doc goes to church at the reunion.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Change of Pace and Place: Meet "Doc" Gnome

        Greetings! I will have to return to Part 2 of “Are You Where You’re Supposed To Be” at a later date because I’m NOT where I’m supposed to be this week—I am actually on the road. Today is my husband and my 30th anniversary!!! In honor of the event my family is taking a vacation together, the first one in nearly two years, and we’ve decided to blog about it. Lucky you!!!

        I say this because we are known far and wide for having bad vacations—notoriously bad! Our family members and our extended church family pray faithfully for us when they hear we are embarking on a new “adventure”, because that is what we tend to have instead of a restful vacation. We have often been told we should write a book about our disastrous attempts but I doubt anyone would believe the stories hadn’t been exaggerated.

        This year we’ve decided to take a road trip through west Texas, New Mexico and into Mesa, Arizona to visit my brother-in-law and his family.  We’re planning to throw in a side trip to the Grand Canyon and maybe a quick run through Las Vegas, none of which we have seen before. Just to mix things up a bit, we have taken on a miniature, plastic hitchhiker that will hopefully inspire us at every stop along the way.  Meet Doc Gnome!!!

      “Doc” is short for Dutch Oven Cooking gnome and is the traveling prize my daughter, Lauryn, won two weeks ago at our church campout. Her “Very Berry Blueberry” cobbler was voted to be this year’s winner in the Dutch oven cooking competition. The sad part is that just as Lauryn received Doc as a prize, she dropped the poor guy and both legs were instantly amputated. He’s a tough gnome because we never heard a peep from him as we carefully reattached his limbs with super glue. He made a full recovery—for a while, but is insisting on the peg-leg look. I see a Wal-Mart trip in our near future as we hunt for “super-duper glue” to reattach his leg again.

     Since Doc is a traveling gnome, we thought he should get out and see more of the world before he is passed on to the next winner. Doc has discussed this trip with his manager, Lauryn, and agreed to be the star of several photo shoots along our road trip. His contract is very reasonable and only has three requests:

1) I am to list/surmise or state how he or the setting can inspire writing or writers.
2) We are not to ever mention his more famous cousin—The Travelocity Gnome. (There appears to be some family jealousy there)
3) We are to only shoot Doc’s good side, so the glue lines won’t show.

Coming up—First Destination: Family Reunion on Lake Leon. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Are You Where You're Supposed To Be?--Part I

    It's a question I've been asking myself lately--Am I where I'm supposed to be? And that question is quickly followed by another--Am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?

    At a recent dinner with some friends from church, I explained that my daughter and her husband were saving every penny they could for a mission trip to Haiti. From the first time they heard about their church's efforts in that country, they were moved to participate. A garage sale, selling cookies and halting all drives through the fast food lanes have netted some of the necessary funds. But it was the generous donations from friends and church members that have boosted their Haiti funds to the halfway point. It has been an amazing journey and I'm excited for them.

   But I don't understand them.

   Or rather, I don't understand their deep desire to travel to other countries to spread God's Word. But they are not the only family members who have been called to this work. For the last three summers, my youngest sister has traveled to dangerous parts of Panama to minister to villages that have never seen someone with blond hair like hers. My college-aged niece has made several trips to Africa over the last several summers. Her joy in serving has spread to her father and he has joined her the last two years. This summer my middle sister is joining them along with the rest of their family. Again, I'm very excited for them all, but . . .

   Is there something wrong with me that I have absolutely no desire to do this? Why don't I feel moved to participate and join in these ministries? After all, isn't this at the very heart of the Great Commission delivered by Christ?

  This past week I turned to a passage in Sarah Young's book, " Jesus Calling". The words must have been written with me in mind:

        You are on the path of My choosing. There is no randomness about your life. Here and Now  comprise the coordinates of your daily life.

   It occurred to me that I am doing what God has called me to do--writing. This is not a desire that He has placed in my daughter's heart, my niece's heart or my sisters' hearts. If He has chosen to place it within me, then it is no less noble a cause than missionary work.

 My job is to spread God's Word in a different way.  And this journey has given me more joy than anything I have ever done. Somehow I think that inner peace is a sign that I am on the right path--the one of His choosing.

"I ask--ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory--to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do." Ephesians 1:17-18 MSG

Are you where you are supposed to be?

Next week: Max Lucado helps me out!