Sunday, November 14, 2010

Benjamin and the Brotherhood

The first time I officially saw him kick a football was when he was in 8th grade. He scored a PAT at the end of a middle school football game (unheard of back then) and the bench and crowd erupted in cheers. Little did I know that kick would be the beginning of a journey of 100,000 miles.
This week marks the end of Ben’s college football career. Lord willing, he will play in his last game as a Chanticleer on Saturday. This milestone brings back a flood of memories over the past nine football seasons. As a freshman at West Rowan, he and I began road trips that would take us literally all over North and South Carolina. I can still recall the Saturday morning he told me, “Football is a brotherhood. These team members are my brothers and I would do anything for them.” It was one of those “morning after” Friday night lights when we were going to Dr. Comadoll’s office for “treatment.” I really think it was just another reason for the brotherhood to gather together.
I recall the road trips to Happy Appy for football camp and the same to NC State and then on to Laurinburg to meet up with Jay Wooten so they could work on Ben’s recruiting video. Many, many mornings we left before sun up and didn’t return for days. Ben and I had our “songs” …. “Skin” by Rascal Flatts, and “Better Together” by Jack Johnson. We talked about football, school, the future, God and, naturally, girls. We solved many of the world’s problems, only to be confronted by new ones.
Like moving to Georgia. In 2005, when Rich felt led to move to GA, Ben and I were very excited. Ben was anxious for new beginnings and new friends. But once he was there, he felt the tug to return to West Rowan football and leave us at 16. Oh how I remember the day we were driving northbound on I-85, crying together. I told him I felt like a terrible mom … he told me he felt like a terrible son. I recall going to the lawyer’s office to “give up my rights” to the Nelson family so that it would be legal and we could protect West Rowan from anything illegal. I remember the long, long, long trip back home. But I also remember the tender loving care of the Nelsons and the graciousness of my school administrator who also had a love for football sons. She was so very, very good to let me leave early on those crazy Friday afternoons of rushing to Mt. Ulla for the 7:30 kick-off. (She even went with me once, but don’t tell anyone) And oh, how Rich and I remember those traffic issues in Charlotte.
There were many things I missed during his last two years of high school, but I didn’t miss many of his games and I didn’t miss his Homecoming King ride around the track! I didn’t miss his senior night for football, nor did I miss his senior night in baseball. But, that was a fluke! I was only there because he had broken his nose the week before and I came up for the surgery!
I definitely remember the summer we went to Carol White Kicking Camp at Coastal Carolina University. Rich and I were there when Coach David Bennett got his first look at Ben Erdman. Coach Bennett was talking to someone when he noticed Ben get up and address the entire camp about sportsmanship and coming together. His senior year quickly came and also meant signing day for Coastal Carolina and that was a hallelujah moment. There was a lot of rejoicing in that room that day. And so began the hunt for teal and black. I recall the day Rich, Ben, and I stood in our Georgia driveway and Ben said, “Here it is. This is what we worked for.” And then he was gone.
College football took us in the opposite direction. No longer were we heading north, instead, I-20 became our friend. That first year when we were tailgating rookies and football rookies was really hilarious now that I look back on it. That dorm room was TERRIBLE and even more terrible was the accident that almost took Ben’s life. But God was gracious and healed him to bounce back and have the sophomore ride of his life. Sophomore season opened at Penn State. We traveled with friends and witnessed the game of Ben’s life. It was a glorious weekend, even though I am unsure if Rich will ever forgive me for forcing him to go. (It was at the worst possible time of his life.) Junior season had Ben hanging his head and saying, “I am the Job of punting,” but we all learned there was more to life than football. Senior season took us with the same friends to West Virginia University and then making a resounding statement to Liberty University this past weekend: don’t mess with us at our house.
I tried to compile a list of things I have learned in the past nine years and have come up with a short list, one that I am sure I will add to as the days go by.
1. All fast food tastes the same, it just comes in different packaging.
2. If you can’t find a rest area, Flying J has the best restrooms. (Even though my father-in-law swears by Cracker Barrel.)
3. The most scenic rest area is Lake Hartwell, SC.
4. It is humanly possible to change clothes in your car without anyone seeing you.
5. KOA Kamping Kabins are a great place to spend with your 18-year-old son during his orientation week at college and especially if you want to sing “Father, I Adore You” in a round.
6. Broadway at the Beach makes for a fabulous family weekend.
7. And speaking of rest areas, if you frequent the Georgia rest areas as often as I have the past five years, you can accumulate enough literature to teach your Georgia history classes.
8. You can knit 238 scarves and crochet 72 baby blankets/afghans if you are the passenger.
9. Eighth grade essays are much more enjoyable to read on the way home if we win the game.
10. There is more to life than football.
11. And speaking of rest areas, I found the best quote there just today: “The little moments? The little things? They are not little.”
12. Big boys not only smell bad after football games, they also cry.
13. Some of the best moments are spent in the sand at Disney World boardwalk while your son and his girlfriend pray for you and then you pray for them.
14. That athletic plaques are great, but the best ones say Academic Excellence Award.
15. That you brace yourself when your youngest son calls to ask you something and then breathe again when the question is: Mom, have you ever heard of Charles Spurgeon?
16. That a 1996 Toyota Corolla is, by far, the best ever car built.
17. That motorcycle riders carry guns and know how to use them.
18. That you really can go an entire football season and not use a credit card.
19. That when you hit a dead object in the road, it is best to hit it while doing 80 mph so that the impact is not so great. (and, there again, kudos to the Corolla)
20. That good administrators are a gift from God.
21. That wonderful husbands are a gift from God.
22. That safe travel is a gift from God.
23. That God has plans that dwarf yours.
24. That little boys grow up to be men right before your very eyes.

When Ben was a senior in high school, Rich and I were in a Chinese restaurant here in Georgia. On my refrigerator, I still have the fortune attached to Ben’s picture: “Ships are safe in harbor, but that is not why ships are built.” But, oh how I would love to hold on for some more time, for some more football, for some more teal and black.
Thanks for the memories, Ben, and thanks for running the race in a worthy manner. There were lonely nights and crazy classes, but you finished well. You did not disgrace your team, you took your responsibilities seriously, and you made your family proud.
We are very, very much looking forward to the next chapter.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Empty Gas Tanks and Divine Appointments

I am having a difficult time writing this. You cannot really put into words how God works in the lives of His people. On October 2, Rich and I sat down and cut up every single credit card we own. We are finding ourselves in a lot of debt and that is not honoring God. So, we decided that the first step would be to completely rid ourselves of the temptation to use the cards. That means we live strictly by faith that support for the ministry would come through God's people. This has been a tremendous faith walk for me.
Anyway, I have a job and I am getting paid but it just isn't enough to pay the debt and keep the household going so we pray our way through the month. This past week, on Monday morning, I found myself with an empty gas tank. Rich used the mower gas to put gas in my car to get me to work. That mower gas lasted through Wednesday. But on Thursday, there wasn't any more gas and there was $100 in the ministry checkbook. So, Rich took me to school in Blue Thunder (code for the Dodge Shadow) and he was going to get gas in my car and come back to get me. On Thursday afternoon, I was walking to the school office to meet Rich and checked my mail box at school. There was a card from a pastor friend of Rich's and in the card was a $100 bill, a $100 gift card to Kroger, and a $50 VISA gift card. Rich had spoken previously to this pastor and he wanted to bless us. Yay!
But that isn't all. While I was waiting on Rich, a co-worker was also in the office and he had been wanting to get together with Rich for some talking time about marriage, life, etc. At that same time, Rich walked into the office and they were able to speak briefly and set up a time to talk together on Friday. We left and went home. I went to tutor my Thursday tutor people and returned home around 6:30. I checked the mailbox and found an envelope from Carolina Farm Credit. This is a company we used to have our real estate with. I ripped it open and found a check for $241. Yay!
I also sell Pampered Chef and have nothing on the calendar for October. My neighbor saw me at the mailbox and asked for a catalog so that she could get some orders for a catalog show. Yay!
As I ran back in from delivering her catalog, Rich said, "Louanne, you did not open this envelope all the way." Behind the $241 check was another check for $451! Yay!
But that isn't all. On Friday, I came home from school and had an envelope in the mail for $200 for some quilts I had made for a friend. Yay!
So, if you can add, the total so far in this story has reached over $1,000 in less than 48 hours. Plus several checks came to the ministry. Yay!
But, that isn't all. The most important thing is that Rich was able to meet with my co-worker and give him the one thing necessary for a healthy marriage: the love of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit.
What does this have to do with an empty gas tank? If I had used a credit card to buy gas, then Rich would have not had been at school that day and not spoken to my co-worker. If I had not had an empty gas tank, Rich would not have had the opportunity to share Christ with that particular person at that particular moment.
We will be fine - some of you are worried because I didn't have gas money - God is definitely showing up and definitely caring for us. But sometimes He does it when you are in a most interesting predicament.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How do people make it in this world without HIM?

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait on the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

This is my verse for the week. I came across it as I was reading last night. It was our anniversary. We had gone out to dinner and received a call that a student had been seriously injured in an accident. So, Rich left after dinner to head to Scottish Rite hospital. Even though I missed him, this is what he does best: minister to others in time of extreme need. And this was extreme need ... someone's son was seriously injured and the parents needed all the help they could get. I am so proud of the ministry that Rich does for our school system and our community and I was more than glad to share him.
In a quiet moment before the dogs and I went to bed, I opened my Bible to Psalm 112 and then to Psalm 27. I realized then that I would have, indeed, despaired if I had not seen the Lord in this land of the living. This is a land of living that is hard and sometimes discouraging, but I will wait on the Lord and I will give Him thanks in the meantime for His blessing of everyday. I am so blessed to work with wonderful people, love a wonderful family and be loved, and I am blessed with fabulous friends. I really cannot wait to see what happens next. I am waiting.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Love the Word of God

I love the Word of God. It cuts to the very chase. It rightly divides the truth. It is relevant for me today. If I am in the Word, I am out of this world. If I am out of this world, then I am in the Word. Beth Moore says, “Our great challenge is to take our place in loving ministry to a lost world without getting lost in worldly loves.” If I am in the Word, then I am not getting lost in worldly loves. This has been proven in my life over and over and over.
What are worldly loves? We know about the lust of the flesh and the jealousies that consume. We know about the sins of slothfulness, of gluttony, but can worldly loves be beautiful things like family? Beautiful things like serving in church? Beautiful things like a job we love?
One of the most frustrating things is trying to put into words what God is revealing to me daily through His Word. I love I and II Peter and have been reading through that message. I have literally spent hours devouring these very short passages but I want to make sure I thoroughly glean every morsel and try to understand God’s message for me. First of all, you must understand that God’s message for me is not necessarily God’s message for you. That is another beautiful thing about Scripture: it speaks to the individual.
Can beautiful things be worldly loves that must find their place in God’s plan for your life? Most certainly. I love my family beyond measure. I love my husband. I love my boys and their wives and their children. I love my parents, my sisters, their families. I love my in-laws. But God’s Word tells me that if I love these more than Him, then I have no place of service for Him. I love serving in the church. But God’s Word tells me that if I do not love Him and love the church, then I am a clanging cymbal and useless. I love my job (some days!) but God’s Word tells me that my work is worship and that if I am not worshipping Him through my work, then I am a failure.
I would love nothing more than right now be preparing Sunday lunch for my boys, their wives, and their children. Sunday lunch with family is a delight. But it is not in God’s plan for me right now. I have wrestled with this for the last five years. I keep telling God that time is short and I need all the time I can get with my family. God’s Word says, “that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” His plan included sending Jesus to die in the place of my family so that our fellowship would last throughout eternity. It doesn’t make it easier, but it brings peace to my heart. God’s Word also has told me that His promises are true and that He is “not slow with His promise, but is patient toward me.” Through this, I have learned that His timing is perfect timing. Mine is not to question but to listen and obey.
I would love to be serving in a church right now. But, I have also been that route in useless service. I was serving self and not serving others. God has rebuked me and my prideful attitude. He has told me, through His Word, that I am “lukewarm and He will spit me out.” He has kept me from serving so that my attitude would be His and not mine. The temptation is great, however, I have learned that serving Him includes serving my family – particularly my husband – and that the quiet heart of service is an immensely challenging job and humbling. “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and in due time, He will lift you up.”
I use to love my job and I am struggling this year. But I am struggling because I love me more. Tomorrow I am going to challenge myself to think about how this work is worship to Him. I work with children who have no past that they can remember and give no consideration to their futures. They live for this moment and fail to see why work is necessary and they fail to see why effort is necessary for a future. It is a sad commentary on teen-agers today who live in lower middle class situations. But it is because they are lost and see no eternity. How can I give them glimpses of eternity in a public school setting where God is not invited? God’s Word tells me “Apply all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In my life, I have had the privilege of holding membership in two of the largest churches on the East Coast. I have read books by famous Christian authors. I have traveled on mission trips. I have moved so many times and met so many wonderful people. I have had the love of a man that adores me in spite of me and I have raised young men that love the Lord in spite of me. But, it is the Word of God that speaks to me. It is the Word of God that chastises me. It is the Word of God that holds me together through His Holy Spirit.
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the GLORY, both now and to the day of eternity. AMEN.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Friend, Sam

I have a friend named Sam that is 15 years old. She and I have been meeting together since she was in 8th grade on Thursday nights to sew together. We are quilt nerds and Joann shopping specialists. I love Sam's tender heart. She is definitely not high maintenance and, believe it or not, is not attached to her cell phone like most teens. (To be honest, half the time she cannot find it.)

Sam has had a hard past few weeks. In May, her uncle found out he had cancer and died 40 days later. This past week, she lost a classmate in a car accident. They had been friends since first grade AND her two sisters and one brother all returned to college ~ it is quiet around her house. I just want to pray for her and tell her that it is going to be okay.

Happy Birthday, Skip!

The past 30 years have been a blast ... except for the middle school years when your band teacher wanted to lock you in a closet. Other than that, it has been a fun ride !!! haha! I love you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What do you do for fun during the day?

I have rebelled big time this school year. It must have been something about starting school soooooo early that my mind just couldn't wrap around it. It didn't help having the crazy things happening around here. So I decided to write about some of the crazy things that go on in my day.

Yesterday, I was teaching about the prehistoric cultures of Georgia using a power point presentation. All of a sudden, a yardstick comes sailing through my room, over the LCD projector and hit my white board. I turned to find the other social studies teacher declaring that he was practicing his spear throwing since I was teaching the atlatl weapon. And he just could not resist when he walked by my classroom. He's weird.

Why don't cannibals eat clowns? Cause they taste funny. That was yesterday's joke of the day.

Every day I try to come up with a creative way to dismiss the class for lunch. Usually I just alternate between letting the girls go first and then the boys the next day. Well, it is just the second week of school and already I have forgotten who goes first cause I can't keep up. And they argue over it. Yesterday I dismissed them by birthday month. Everything was going great until I discovered that one of my most rebellious boys was born on my birthday. But evidently it was life-changing for him as well because he was great today and we have a totally new relationship. Today while I was trying to think up a new dismissal strategy for lunch, one of my students suggested that I let the mixed hair people go to lunch. So, naturally, I said, "Ok, all you mixed-hair people go to lunch." And then I said, "Joseph Garcia, you are not a mix hair!" He said, "Yes I am, Ms. Erdman. I am Cuban and Puerto Rican!" So I had no choice but to let him go.

So, what do you do for fun during the day?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The End of a Very Long Day

For the past three years, I have just had a peaceful existence on New Hope Drive. I knew neighbor Kathy and neighbor Suzanne. I was fine with that. Until Kathy decided to move out. Today was perhaps one of the most unusual days I have lived through. Kathy's family was next door cleaning her houseand there was a knock at the door. It was a man asking if our dog was out in the middle of the street. It wasn't our dog, so he took it next door to Kathy's house and they said it wasn't their dog but that the girl across the street (meaning Suzanne) was a "dog rescuer". Ten minutes later, Suzanne is knocking at my door saying, "Louanne I have a DOG in my garage. A golden retriever! I have cats! I can't have a dog!" So, I told Suzanne we could put the dog in our fence in the back yard until we find the owners. Rich and I trotted across the street with a leash to rescue the dog ... or, rather, rescue Suzanne. She said the man that found the dog gave her $20 in case she had to feed the dog. She was going to give us the $20. Sooooo, we begin our trek across the street and an SUV rides by, stops, and backs up and says, "Uh, that's our dog!" One of our neighbors didn't realize their dog had gotten out and they were very grateful that we had taken such good care of the dog. (that we had in our possession for 15 minutes.) So, Suzanne, being the kind-hearted person she is, is standing with the $20 bill and doesn't know what to do with it. Wouldn't you know it? The man who originally found the dog in the middle of the road pulls into the neighborhood 5 minutes later and she returns the $20 to him. And THEN, Tonya pulls up and we all have a long discussion about Kathy and her recent passing. I had never met Tonya and I really enjoyed talking to her and her girls. As everyone was departing, I told Suzanne that it was interesting that Kathy was bringing all these strangers together and that we probably would have never met had she not passed.

I went back into the house and cooked something for dinner. I went downstairs to settle into some quilting and t.v. and Rich said something. I muted the t.v. and asked what was going on. He said there was a terrible accident somewhere. It was so loud Rich heard it in the kitchen. We left the house to find that a terrible accident had occurred between two teen-aged drivers and one had lost his life. He was 16 and a high school sophomore. The horrible scene included many kids and adults sobbing, but nothing was worse than the gutteral grieving outburst from the mom and the dad. It is every parent's worst nightmare. As Rich and I served the families with water and tissues, I stood in my other neighbors' yard - Gene and Marlene - I talked with them for several hours. I would not have known them if it weren't for Kathy's passing because I had to deliver the news to them. Little by little, our neighbors walked up to the scene of the accident and I met people on my street that I had never spoken to before. I really enjoyed talking to them.

As I was totally surrounded by grief, I realized that these incidences are so surreal. You watching everything take place but not believing what you are really seeing. And you are meeting people you have lived near for three years but never noticed. Why does it take loss to recieve the blessing of friendship. Suzanne summed it up this way: "things like this bring us out of our houses and into the lives of others. that's the way it really should be." Long day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Neighbor Kathy

My neighbor died. She died alone in her house and all the while I was calling her to invite her to dinner and dessert. She didn't answer the phone, but that wasn't unusual. She always called me back after checking caller ID. I was concerned but didn't walk across the yard. It wasn't unusual for her to not answer the door either.
I have been physically ill since she left. I water our tomatoes and squash daily ~ the ones she helped me plant in my garden. I keep waiting for her to call me back with "Well hello little girl." That hasn't happened. I cry a little every day. We shared pizza and pasta, cake and cookies, and the most delicious food ever when she just felt like cooking and sharing.
I miss her terribly. One day I will open a drawer and I will find the little things she was always bringing me for my craft/quilt closet. I will cry again.
This has hit me harder than I ever expected. I expected this day to come, but I thought it would be after a longer life than her 71 years. I never expected it to come to this. And I never expected to react like this. My heart feels as if a heavy burden is on my chest and won't move.
There is no memorial service for her that I am aware of. There is no marker for a grave.
But I have the promise that I will see her again. And while I am grieving, I am grateful for what I had in her friendship. She was the one that encouraged Rich and me on his darkest days. She always told me that I needed to be lazy :) and that a day off was good for me. She told me that I worry about her more than she worries about herself. She told me I was good to her and that she had never had anyone to care so much about her. What she did not realize is how good she was for me. I miss her terribly.