July 29, 2010

Pine Valley, Part Two

So, Lindon and I have been moved to try to help Pine Valley Bible Camp in a tangible way. Below is an email we sent to nearly everyone we know in the St. Louis area who is in our address book. If you're interested in helping us in this endeavor, please let me know!

Dear Friends,
We come to you with an opportunity to show Christ’s love in a tangible way to an organization in serious need. Lindon and I have friends in the Pittsburgh area, Matt and Susan Reichart, who run a Christian summer camp for children from Pittsburgh’s inner city neighborhoods.  Pine Valley Bible Camp’s mission is “Rebuilding Broken Lives Through Christ,” and Matt, Susan, and their children have poured their lives into this vision.

On July 16, Pine Valley’s administrative building burned to the ground. The camp lost all of its database records, administrative resources, maintenance equipment, camp files and records, accreditation files, and books. No one was hurt in the blaze, but the Reicharts and the camp must begin the process of trying to replace all that has been lost.

This is where you come in, we hope. We have a burden for helping to replenish the camp’s supply of Bibles for campers and books for Matt’s library. Please consider helping us in this endeavor by looking through your bookshelves and finding any Christian literature or Bibles that you would be willing to donate to Pine Valley Bible Camp. Bible study books, books on leadership and Christian living, and commentaries are some examples of what we are trying to collect. We hope to avoid anything overly academic or narrow in scope. Any Bible translation that would be easy for children and teens to read is perfect.

We will be happy to come pick up your books, or you can drop them off at our house. Also, feel free to pass this email on to others in the area who might have the resources to assist. We will figure out how to get all the supplies to Pine Valley, whether shipping them or delivering them when we are in the area next month. If you have any questions, please feel free to email us.

And above all, please lift up Pine Valley and the Reichart family in prayer. Pray that this devastating loss would strengthen faith and serve as the impetus for increasing Pine Valley’s effectiveness. The truth of who God is and the hope offered in the Gospel do not change in the face of tragedy, and we pray that God would use our meager contributions to further His Kingdom.  

In Christ,

Lindon & Megan Fowler

July 28, 2010

For the Grammarians of the World

For my last birthday, my sister gave me Lynne Truss's book Eats, Shoots and Leaves. It's a good book, especially if you're a grammar stickler like me. Her mantra of "Sticklers, Unite!" made me smile. But while I share many of Truss's sentiments, I cannot maintain her level of indignation at all times. It is too tiring at this point in my life. Still, in certain settings I am relentless. Pity the document that tries to leave my desk with a misplaced comma. The red pen and I will have our way with it every time.

Being a copy editor might be my dream job. Seriously. It's not just that I have a compulsion about correcting poor word usage and sloppy phrasing (which I do); it's not simply because I like to tell other people they are wrong (confession: this can be fun - especially when the dictionary is on your side; it's a bad habit, I know!); really, I love words.*  

But, as Eats, Shoots and Leaves illustrates, there are drawbacks to noticing errors everywhere. This article by a former New York Magazine copy editor demonstrates the pitfalls of being a copy editor. One can never stop copy editing. And I must confess that my blood pressure goes up every time I hit the "Publish Post" button on this blog, fearing that I somehow missed a stray comma or other mistake. It's a lonely road, that of being the person to say "You can't use that word in that way" or "There is a space between those two words." But someone's gotta do it.

Yes, I know that "gotta" is not a real word; I chose it for style.

For an interesting take on being on the receiving end of a copy editor's red pen, see this article in one of my new favorite word/grammar blogs.

*Realization! This love of words, proper usage, excellent grammar, and correct spelling (for crying out loud!!!) probably explains my adamant opposition to texting.

July 19, 2010

Crazy Things I am Learning...Like, the Doctor is Your Friend

My family of origin does not frequent the doctor on a regular basis. The family attitude toward illness has always been, "If you don't feel well, it's probably nothing, and you will likely feel better tomorrow." This maxim turned out to be the truth most of the time. The Smith family collective medical history consists of little more than a few broken bones, one bungee-cord-in-the-eye accident, and one horrific tumble down the stairs. That's about it for six people. We were generally a healthy lot.

The problem with being generally healthy is that it's not always abundantly clear what to do when one does not feel healthy. Seriously! Those of you lining up to hand me my "MORON" badge, kindly refrain. When one is not accustomed to feeling badly, it's hard to really understand that the doctor can make one feel better. When one does not take prescription medicine on a regular basis, it can be hard to understand that medicine can make things better.

Actual Story:
The long preface serves to make the fact that I have suffered with bad allergies for the past six years without seeking treatment sound less idiotic. Since leaving PA, my allergies have been terrible. On average, my nose operated at about 50-60% capacity. My eyes were always bloodshot, and periodically my throat felt like it was swelling shut. These are not happy feelings. The lack of oxygen made me feel perpetually tired and kept me awake at night. The stuffy nose and red eyes often led observers to ask why I had been crying.

Finally, finally, finally, after years of dealing with this by taking ineffective generic allergy meds, I went to a doctor over the weekend. Scratch that; I actually went to a clinic and saw a very nice nurse practitioner. And only after Lindon all but demanded that I go. Apparently my allergies were bothering him, too. But it's kind of the same. Anyway, the dear NP put me on some allergy medicine that actually works. Friends, I need to tell you how much better I feel now. My nose is functioning. My chest is no longer tight. My throat is not swollen. The eyes are still bloodshot, but this is now due to me needing to change my contacts, not the irritating pollen.

So, I say all this in hopes that someone will learn from my mistakes. If you feel bad, go to the doctor. The doctor can make you feel better. You don't need to suffer through three or four allergy seasons each year for several years before getting help. Do it now.

You can thank me later.  

July 16, 2010

Pine Valley

It's hard to know where to begin with this post, but it seems impossible to NOT write it.

One of the most memorable moments from my wedding reception in December 2004 was when Matthew Reichart - one of our groomsmen - hoisted a giant sword onto the head table to symbolize Lindon's induction into the order of husbands. This was a dramatic illustration, but it made perfect sense coming from a man who is enthusiastic about marriage to the point of seeming ridiculous. Despite the drama, he gave Lindon a solemn exhortation to love me well and to courageously lead our family. His speech was all the more memorable because he gave us a written copy, which we have framed in our living room.

Matthew Reichart is nothing if not passionate. Most notably he is passionate about the Lord and serving Him. He is deeply passionate about marriage, his amazing wife Susan, his children, and his grandchildren. Few people communicate the sense of wonder and joy at being a parent that Matt conveys when he talks about his family. I still remember him encouraging Lindon to have kids earlier in life so that he could be a young dad and a young grandfather. Matt just loves being with his family.

And the passion Matt has for marriage and for families flows over into his deep and abiding heart for children from the inner city. He and his family run Pine Valley Bible Camp outside Pittsburgh, where children from the inner city can experience love and acceptance and hear about the unconditional love offered to them through Christ. This is a haven for children, a place to escape the squalor of poverty and begin to heal while having an absolute blast. The camp's motto is "Rebuilding Broken Lives Through Christ." Matt, Susan, and their children have poured their lives into this vision.

Along the way, other lives have been changed as well. Matt spends time in the off-season recruiting staff members. He speaks at local colleges and churches, impressing on people the importance of investing in youth who so desperately need the Gospel. While I was in college, I watched my classmates change after a summer of working at the camp. While I never worked there myself, it served as the host site for several retreats and service projects I participated in during high school. And Matthew discipled Lindon for years, hence his place in our wedding party. 

Like any camp, Pine Valley relies on donations and support to keep it going. Since campers coming from low-income families, many cannot afford to pay for a week at camp. Not wanting to turn away campers for financial reasons, Pine Valley depends on local churches and other organizations for funds and resources not covered by camp tuition. So when the camp needs something big like a new building, the funds must be raised. It can be a long process, but one that allows the camp staff to see God provide in ways they could not imagine.

When I was in college, I worked with a service group that went to spend a Saturday serving a Pine Valley. We cleaned the kitchen and worked around the site of what would become the Creekside Lodge. We moved bunk beds (in pieces, mind you) up to the second floor of the building. Since the lodge was still being built, there was no easy way to get to the second floor, so we maneuvered over wooden planks that had been set up like a bridge from the road to the second floor. It was precarious, but oh so fun.

This morning the Creekside Lodge burned to the ground. No one was hurt. The camp was closed for the week, and the Reicharts were on vacation. But the building that had taken years to construct with the help of countless volunteers is gone. And since it was the main administrative hub for the camp and the storehouse for the bulk of the camp's maintenance equipment, that is all gone, too. This news keeps bringing me to tears.

In the past five or six years Pine Valley has endured several tremendously disheartening situations. This is just the latest. It breaks my heart to think of the devastation this loss will inflict on this camp and the Reichart family. No trite, overly-simplistic answer will do in times like these. That being said, the truths Pine Valley exists to proclaim remain true, even in the face of incredible sadness and loss. God cares about the children who camp at Pine Valley, and He cares about the Reichart family. He has not abandoned them. He cannot abandon them because He cannot fail.

But this is still sad news. If you're one who prays, pray for Pine Valley and the Reichart family.

July 9, 2010

That Song in my Head

This line keeps floating through my head:

"God's compassion is my story, is my boasting all the day."

I love it.

From the hymn "Father Long Before Creation." Read the rest of the words here

July 7, 2010

Adventures in Waiting and other Fun Things

Seems like time for another one of those "here's everything that's going on in our lives" post. Hold on, kids, because here we go!

Last week Lindon attended the PCA General Assembly in Nashville. This was a good chance for him to reconnect with old acquaintances, meet new friends, and spend time with the other Fowlers. Oh, and also a good chance for networking and job searching, which is kind of his life goal at the moment. That and glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, and learning the rest of the answers to those nagging questions. While it was good for Lindon to go and he had a good time, we sure missed him.

Don't we look normal!

While Lindon was gone, I tried my hand at being a single working mom. That's not a role I want to reprise in the near or distant future. We had fabulous help watching Levi while I worked, and I am thankful to all the friends (like these ones) who took care of Levi so well and patiently let me invade their houses at lunch to hang out with my monkey. Even a few days without the spouse was long and a bit stressful and utterly exhausting. While I was proud of myself for keeping busy and not having a breakdown while Lindon was gone, it sure was nice to get him back. And the best part is that his return came at the beginning of a nice, long weekend!

We spent our nice, long weekend doing little of consequence, which was fabulous. We cleaned, went to the pool, made a grocery list, and enjoyed spending Independence Day with good friends. In fact, the weekend was so nondescript that by Wednesday I have all but forgotten what we did. The worst part of the weekend was the terrible realization our friends had at the end of our July 4 celebration that their dog Winston had run away, having been spooked by the fireworks. However, after searching tirelessly, they found little Winston the Prodigal on Tuesday. There's no telling what the poor dog endured in his nearly 48 hours in the big, cruel world, but he seemed chastened by the experience, in addition to being very tired and very dirty.

We did get a chance to see some cousins on Monday, and that was great. It always feels surreal to see friends or relatives from PA in St. Louis, but it's always a welcome feeling.

One of our new favorite weekend activities is going to the local pool. Levi loves the pool so much that he might be part fish (he gets that from me). As long as the water isn't too cold, he loves it. It's a great chance to not only be outside and enjoy the summer, but Levi can't get enough of the people watching, especially in the kiddie pool. He finds other small people like him to be endlessly entertaining. Levi seems to similarly attract attention from other small people (probably due in part to his joyful squawking), and the mannerisms of children under three years have become one of my new fascinations. They have not yet developed a sense of physical boundaries or personal space. While these things are important for a grown up, their absence in kids is refreshing and hilarious.

That's about all that's going on in our lives these days. We're definitely in a holding pattern, trying to wait patiently for God to show us the next step while being faithful on this step. It's not the most fun I have ever had, but this is where we are right now. Except for Levi, who is crawling here, there, and everywhere. Clumps of dog hair, beware: Levi will find you and try to put you in his mouth.

What would life be like without such a fun and entertaining kid?  It doesn't really matter because it would not be nearly as fun as this craziness.

Levi attempting to put the camera in his mouth.