She Lives

I know, I left all three of you hanging the other day with my dog vs. van story. Even as I type this, she sits at Sam’s knees while he rubs her ears. She is in doggy heaven. More than she deserves, to be sure. But isn’t that the story of all of us? One thought that keeps emerging for me is how the antics of this hapless dog, and the grace offered her, mimics my own experience with our Great Savior.

So the night of the discovery, Bella was allowed to sleep inside, but even she could sense that things were not the same. She only lay curled up on the floor, not straining at the leash, not barking. Just hiding out.

For the next few days I worked at finding someone who could help me list her on Craigslist (pets are buried in lawn & garden, very confusing), and keeping Bella from the underside of our van. Luke worked at the wires, seeing if he could possibly fix them himself. Everywhere we went, I would have to explain why we all weren’t there or why we weren’t in the van, and I think each time I would tell the story of Bella’s attack with more relish. I was upset; maybe I never got as angry as Luke, but I sure ran my mouth like I was.

A week later, the part came in that was the final piece to (hopefully) rewiring the van. It was a cute little sensor that looked like Darth Maul at the plug, but of course absolutely essential to our van running again. Luke spent an hour or so under the van, putting things together, and…nothing. He came back inside, looked something up on the phone, and thought to himself for a few minutes. Then he went back out, switched some wires, and Voila! The van started, and showed to be switching gears! So for about $15 he was able to fix it this time, himself! Himself and God, he was heard later to acknowledge, as at that last part when things still weren’t working, he knows God showed him what to change. My Hero and my hero.

Slightly more amazing than this cheap fix is the complete 180 Luke has made in recent days regarding Bella. He went from wanting to shoot her, to wrestling with the dog last night before bed. This has to be a God thing as well. Maybe Luke realizes that everything, no matter how it happens, is an act of God, or allowed by Him. It aggravated us so much that this would be at the paws of a dog, when we were perfectly fine with it being caused by hitting a deer, and we certainly wouldn’t have howled as much if it had been an accident. But because it was a dog, well. That’s different. It shouldn’t make a difference in our responses however. We should be able to take each day’s troubles with equal measures of grace, since that is exactly the way our Heavenly Father deals with us. And I guess Bella will be around for a while longer, showing us this in the flesh, or fur.

I’m still up for listing her as a free dog to a good home. Preferrably miles from your actual home, vehicles, and possessions, if possible. There’s grace and then there’s dogs.

Read the first post about this here.

Bella Gratia

What a wild two weeks it has been since ‘the incident’. I, for one, marvel that some of us are still here.

A couple of months ago, we load up the van one morning to go to the library, turn the ignition key, and…nothing. Luke looked at the damaged wires underneath, got enough of them spliced together to start it and travel in second gear, and slowly drove down the hill to the mechanic, with me following close behind in his truck. I had hit a deer the week before, and we wondered if that might have jogged things loose. Lots of money later, we have a working van.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. We load up the van, I turn the key…nothing. Sam finds some torn wires in the gravel under the van that have saliva on them. Hmmm. I decided to email Luke at work about it instead of waiting until he came home to tell him; maybe that was a bad thing to do, but I don’t like carrying around bad news all day. He was not happy, and was already making it quite clear across the internet how endangered the life of our dog, Bella, was. We knew she did get under the van, and we knew there were mice/ voles that were up under there, too, but we didn’t put it all together until she attacked our van a SECOND time, likely going after a rodent. Aargh!

The first evening was tense. I wasn’t sure if Luke was going to shoot her, strangle her, or stomp on her. At one point he ordered me to take her to the pound, so I went for her leash. Upon further thought, we knew we didn’t have enough time to make it up there and back, as we both had places to be that evening, and we would probably be charged a fee for dropping her off, a salty rub in an open wound right now.

As I went through my evening, the more I thought and prayed about Bella, the more I thought maybe Luke should shoot her. What would it mean to offer her to someone else? “Here, this dog has cost us hundreds of dollars in car repairs in the last few months, why don’t you take her?” What would that be saying about our respect for other people and their property? Maybe she was worth more dead than alive. Alive was getting really expensive.

To be continued

 

Ouch

I think I have used that title before. In fact, that would have to be one of the most common titles one could choose when they are looking for ways to introduce their life experiences, right? That, and Oh. This past week I had that kind of moment, where I first said, ouch, then I said, oh.

Going through a Revelation study has me turned upside down sometimes. There is the volume of verses I don’t understand, and there is the reality of Jesus’ return. And, there is the reality of God Himself, in total control at all times, even when the world is falling apart. This past year I have been trying to obey Him when I think He is telling me to do something, or not do something. Francis Chan helped me nail it down when he said, loosely quoted, to just do it if I think it is divinely inspired. If it turns out not to be, at least we are guilty of doing, and not guilty of disobedience. So I do.

This time it was a prompt to write to family members who I am pretty sure are unsaved. It took a day or two to get up the nerve and think of what I could write to each one that wouldn’t seem carbon copied to all of them, but I finally emailed the two in one place and one in another. For some reason I didn’t feel like emailing the other two in the latter place, but later thought better of that and just finished theirs this evening. But anyway, so far I have gotten one response.

What an email! I am certain this relative was just sharing what was new with their job/ life/ whatever since we had seen each other years ago, but reading it was like a blow to the gut. Here is a person who really strugggles, with chronic pain that makes it hard to work, taking college courses as can be afforded to get promoted to a less physically demanding position, with an aging parent to care for, and disappointment in those they see call themselves ‘Christian’ around them. I was convicted that I rarely even think of this relative, other than to pray for their salvation, or reach out to them at Christmastime. Am I any better than the ‘Christians’ they know?

A statement they made was the turning of the knife. They are fluent in other languages so they were giving me advice on learning Spanish. “You have the Bible memorized. Why not get a Spanish Bible to read?” Whew. I know this person was not being exactly sarcastic, this is just the basic impression they have of people like me. Is that what I want people to think of me? What do I want people to think of me? Maybe this is one reason we should want others to only see Jesus in us. Only He knows what they need, only He can get the job done right, without me in the way.

Some real soul searching has begun since I received this reply. I pray that God continues His good work in me to make me like Jesus, so that my next Christmas email to my lost relatives encourages them more to seek Him.

Todo Sobre Mi

One of my goals for 2016 is to become conversationally fluent in Spanish. A website I found gave some really good advice, one tip being to learn phrases and statements that are specific to me. That way, I not only am motivated to talk more in Spanish, but while I am getting better at conversation, I at least have a collection of things memorized that I say all the time in English.

Here are the statements I am learning, in no particular order:

Soy seguidora de JESUS, y disfruto estudiar mi Biblia.

Soy esposa y madre.

Tengo doce hijos.

Enseno a nuestros ninos en casa.

Estoy embarazada de nuestro duodicimo hijo.

Queremos mi suegra a vivir con nosotros antes del invierno.

Soy de un pueblo que esta a una hora al norte de Columbus, Ohio.

Me gusta dibujar, pintar, y leer.

Es divertido para mi cocinar y comer una buena comida.

Me encanta viajar, pero tambien disfruto de quedarme en casa.

Estudie matematicas en la universidad.

Soy ama de casa.

Me gusta escribir en el blog, y estoy en Facebook.

Wasn’t that fun? This was a great little exercise to come up with ways to tell people what my life is like, and also to reveal to me words I didn’t know. ‘Disfruto’ is one word I don’t think I have heard before. It means ‘I enjoy’. Good thing I have plenty of things I can tell others I enjoy.

Missing

Be careful asking God to reveal things about yourself that you need to change. This summer has been one revelation after another, for me.

Sarah and Abbie have been gone for a week, traveling with their grandma to see Luke’s brother and his family. There was a rumor that Abbie was getting homesick, and when we here at home heard about it, we wondered why that would be. Sure, we are a remarkable and missable bunch, but look at all she was getting to do there, that she doesn’t usually have the opportunity to do. A day later we could see that those fears were a little exaggerated; she was having a great time and told Daddy all about her roller coaster ride.

Yesterday I read a blog post that got me thinking. The lady was saying that every day her son was gone at camp she hurt inside knowing he was an hour away. As I pondered this today, the thought came to me- do I miss Sarah and Abbie like that? Yes, we can’t help noticing they are gone, with less places to set at the table and more seats available in the van, but am I in pain over the void they have left? No, I would have to say, I don’t miss them like that. When Luke leaves, I miss him like that, but I don’t feel that when my children go away.

On the one hand, this is a good thing. The child who is away is most likely coming back, and while they are gone they will have a wonderful time. On the other hand, maybe this reveals a part of me that resists getting close to people, even my own children. I could excuse myself by pointing out how many children I have and how many daylight hours there are…but I think this is a time for introspection. Do I intentionally try to spend one on one time with each of my children, getting to know them as people? If not, this should change. Steps to this end will be small while we are still in a season where the littles exist and are so demanding of my time and attention. But I must start somewhere.

Another good thing to remember is how overjoyed I feel when the child returns. I might not have been devoting much brain time to them during their absence, but my heart immediately knows when they are home again.

Summer Begins

I have about an hour to kill- something that doesn’t happen very often. This summer so far has been no exception to busy-ness, as we are running, running, running to each activity at a rapid pace. But rain and an empty house can bring on some free time.

Luke got to go away and camp last night. He said he needed some time alone to think, to focus, to pray. I hope he returns with a renewed enthusiasm in dealing with the many different issues we have had lately. The most pressing issue is getting his mom moved over to live with us. In order for this to happen, we’ve planned on Luke finishing the basement, with two bedrooms and a bath, for the older six children to move downstairs. So far, Luke has purchased the wood and started measuring. It is interesting when he gets absorbed in a project; I think I may have heard him mumbling about ‘drop ceilings’ in his sleep! I am humbled to have him begin this project. Even though I have not been vocal in my harping, I haven’t completely been silent on where I think we should go next on our house project and plans. Our whole marriage has been one of me learning to back off and not try to change my spouse, and I expect the rest of our marriage will be spent in that same manner. I may never get it right.

Something else I’m getting wrong hit me like a brick the other day- I worry too much about Luke. I already knew I had trouble with anxiety. There’s the seemingly noble kind, like worrying about your kids and wanting them to be safe and make right decisions. Then there’s the irrational kind about my kids that I think I am getting a handle on. I mean, I only have crazy thoughts about their grisly, horrible deaths every so often, and when the thoughts come, I know to combat them with God’s word and prayer. But there are also the fears about Luke that have always been there, under the surface, controlling my actions in such subtle ways that I didn’t see them for what they were.

For at least the first half of our marriage, I think I did a lot of things out of a fear that he would leave me. We have not been without our struggles to get along and make this life together work, and the ups and downs really wore me out. I was so thankful during the down times, especially, to know God was saying to me, “Trust Me.” I didn’t do things that were hasty or impulsive during those tough times because I would think to myself, even though I may not be able to trust Luke, I can trust God. But I didn’t let the truth get further into my heart to make me reach out to Luke in love. If I could fully trust God, I could fully offer myself and my love to Luke without fear of his rejection.

Later on in our life, my worries have morphed into ones where I fear that he will leave God. I try (with the miniscule ability I have) to keep the waters of life as still as possible, to try to protect him from (what I think is) too much pressure. I fear that if he is hit with something he can’t handle, that he’ll snap and turn his back on God. The other night I was getting all bent out of shape about his growing 80’s and 90’s rock collection. I told him I feel like I’m not allowed to listen to music like that, that when I do, it makes me sad. Luke asked me simply, “Why?” and I couldn’t think of a good reason. I like certain movies that have a cuss word in them or some other detractor, yet I still watch them and collect them. If I really believed what I was saying about his choices of music, I should feel the same way about these movies. Then it hit me- I am afraid that if he listens to rock music, it will turn his heart away from God.

Now, this may be true, and we all can think of examples of the world creeping in and people losing it. But the real issue here and now wasn’t my husband’s choices, but my own heart. That same night I had another amazing and hilarious thought- I don’t think Luke has spent a single second worrying about my relationship with God! So who’s the one with the problem? It was such a freeing experience, to realize that my job as his wife is not to keep him with me, or even keep him with God, but to simply love him and trust God, as He so plainly asked me to do years ago. It will be difficult to change my thinking after years of habitual worrying, but I have a Friend in the heavens praying for me, and Who has promised to transform me by the renewing of my mind by changing the way I think. Thank You, LORD, my Redeemer, for not leaving me the way I am.

Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let those who love Your salvation say continually,
“The LORD be magnified!”
Since I am afflicted and needy,
Let the LORD be mindful of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.

Psalm 40:16-17, emphasis mine

 

A Letter, Continued

So I arrived at your house that Saturday afternoon with Abbie, Anna, Micah, and Elijah, not entirely aware of what I would find. I was told you were in a lot of pain, that you would need help in the coming days doing odd jobs like watering your plants or changing laundry. You were in a lot of pain, it was true, but it went beyond that. You were sick from the many medications you were on, and you needed a nurse. But since I was the only one there at the time, I took on those duties, murmuring to myself what was I getting into and where were your family members at a time like this? We sang some songs together, we sat and talked. I helped you back into bed and prepared some of your medicine. Although what was needed from me was more than expected, I came away from my visit happy that I could help you and eager to come help you again.

The next day I was told you were taken to the hospital, to be moved into a nursing home when the paperwork was ready. You couldn’t handle the pain at home any longer, having to be alone and do things for yourself. I was so relieved to hear this, because I had seen firsthand how difficult a time you were having at home. In fact, it was the inadequacy of your home that started all this: you tripped over a crack in your front walk, and fell. I thought about how I could rant about that, too, saying where was your family in this, taking care to fix your walk? But life is not so black and white; laying blame doesn’t do any good.

The first day I visited you at the nursing home you were sitting up in a recliner, looking very discouraged. The pain continued to overshadow everything, and you found it very hard to trust the LORD in this trial, let alone remain positive about your recovery. I read some verses to you and you mentioned that you didn’t have a Bible. I came home and found a large print Bible I had, and our Bible on cd set, since you said you had a cd player. Either way, I thought, this would be a great way for you to be encouraged as you waited on God.

The next day I visited you at the nursing home, you lay in your bed. You reached up your arms as I walked in, saying you needed a hug. I went to you right away and gave it, wishing to pass some strength to you through my arms. You were particularly down this day, feeling like your physical therapy didn’t go well. It sounded, too, like the aide that walked you down to therapy either couldn’t or didn’t want to understand your limitations and treated you harshly. I had heard some horror stories of the way patients could be treated in nursing homes, and my hackles went up at the thought of something like that happening here, at the end of my own road (!) and I felt sad for you and the other residents.

I left that day, planning on visiting you again in a few days, thinking of what else I could bring you that would lift your spirits.

The day before I was to visit you, Luke met me on the road during my run and told me you had passed away. You had been on your way back from a physical therapy session and had had a type of seizure. It was a shock to me. Even though you were old, I really thought you would recover from this and be okay. I have only had a handful of people I know die, and you I had only ‘known’ for two weeks!

I went to your calling hours. The funeral followed, but I didn’t think I should bring all the children to it, so I missed that. It sounded really nice. It is bizarre to see someone dead whom you’ve just seen alive days before. Undertakers are very good at making people look natural, almost alive, and you looked very nice.

So it has been a few weeks since your death, and I have been thinking over all that happened. What a strange turn of events. After all, I simply volunteered to go help a lady water her plants. In the end, I now know a couple of other ladies a little better, I now have a desire to connect with the residents of the nursing home at the end of my road, I now have a little better knowledge of how fleeting life is, and to make the most of opportunities right in front of me. Thank you, Maxine. I was the last friend you made, and that last part of your life made a difference in mine.

A Letter

Dear Maxine,

We only struck up a friendship last month, and already it is time to say goodbye.

A friend recommended Francis and Lisa Chan’s book, You And Me Forever, and Luke and I had started reading it. I was convicted and challenged by a phrase in there, quite simple really, that said, “Err on the side of action.” This means we shouldn’t wait for God to tell us to do some things. Some things are right there in front of our faces to do, and we wait around listening for God’s voice before we step out, then after a while of silence we figure we weren’t meant to do that, anyway, someone else was. But Francis was candid: What is the worst that can happen when you decide to act out in love? So it stayed with me, this feeling, this knowledge- why not look at the opportunities all around me to love like what they were?

Pastor Mike emailed our prayer chain with the news that you had fallen and broken a vertebrae in your back. You would be down for a while, and needed some ladies to come over and sit with you, do odd jobs for you like water your plants or change your laundry. He ended the email asking us all to pray that ladies would volunteer. As I began to pray for this, it hit me- why would I pray for ladies to volunteer to encourage you, when I was a lady who could volunteer? I texted Pastor Mike and told him I could come over the next day.

Preparing

Last Saturday there was a snafu with Luke’s phone- someone ‘updated’ it so now it cannot act as a wifi hotspot. It has been a little dicey as far as not getting information in time via email, but other than that, I have not really missed Mister Internet. Last month I started feeling like I was getting hooked on blogs again, so I then abandoned Della and Lindsay and a couple others I had been reading faithfully, and I guess that got me ready for our internet fast.

Here I am at the library today, using their internet connection. We can also usually check email and such at church; these places along with the occasional stop at Panera or McDonald’s can provide just enough access.

The summer reading program has started up again. I considered doing a read through the Bible challenge for myself this summer like last, but decided not to. I am, however, sticking to missionary stories and books I know will not be too dramatic or violent. Right before Kenan was born I had started Christy by Catherine Marshall, and I believe that contributed to the darkness surrounding my labor and delivery of him. I just finished reading Evidence Not Seen again, by Darlene Deibler Rose, and some could argue that this book was more violent than Christy, as it takes place in a Japanese POW camp. It was a different kind of violence and sorrow and pain…Darlene wrote it in such a way that hope pervaded every evil. So good a book. She is such an inspiration. After finishing it this time, I was struck with the thought of how I avoid suffering. Headache? Pop some pills. Dishes need done? Find someone else to do it. I often go through my day working toward having some time to myself at the end, and often will be pretty put out if there doesn’t end up being much left. This dovetails with what I was saying about my lack of humility- I am not willing to suffer any loss so that someone else, or God, can gain. But that isn’t God’s way. “He must increase, I must decrease,”  John said. And to accomplish that decreasing requires a lot of suffering, in various forms. It is all over the Bible how suffering is a part of growing in faith. So, I must be willing to suffer if I am to be on the path to spiritual maturity. The next big exposure to suffering will be my labor with Elijah, and I am committed to being more prepared for it than I was with Kenan. Bible verses at the ready, maybe a song or two. Things that will remind me that this part of life is just as important spiritually speaking as sitting in church listening to a sermon- every aspect of my life needs to reflect my dependence on God, as He gives pain and sorrow just as much as He gives joy.

The Good I Should Have Done?

I had an interesting morning at Aldi.

Luke stayed home with the kids so I could get out by myself and do the grocery shopping. It is so nice to drive along in the car, no radio, no sounds at all, and just think. As I made my way up to Ontario, I noticed a couple garage sales and a tag sale at a church. If I had any cash left after groceries, I decided, I would stop at them on the way home.

I was just rounding the corner after the first aisle, looking for cinnamon, when a lady came up really close to me and stared at me, hard. Thoughts of what I would do if she went crazy right there flashed through my mind in those long seconds; this had never happened to me before! Then she spoke:

“NEVER turn your back on your purse. [dramatic pause] My son is a manager at Walmart, and last week he had reports of five purses stolen in one day! Be careful, and either wear it or,” fingering the child’s seat belt in my cart and finally smiling a bit,”buckle it in like a baby!” Then she walked away. Feeling spanked, I repeatedly told her retreating figure how grateful I was for her warning. Yikes! I did buckle in my ‘baby’ after that, wondering if she was real, or maybe an angel sent from God to make sure I would have my wallet for the challenge to come.

As I was loading the belt to check out, I overheard the cashier tell the lady in front of me that Aldi didn’t take credit cards. She apparently came up with a little cash, and said something to the cashier about only getting the mayonnaise. When I got to the cashier, the thought popped into my head of paying for the items she had to put back. It was only a head of lettuce, some brown sugar, and a couple of cans of fruit. But, I argued within, by the time I paid and went out to the parking lot, she’d be gone, since she didn’t have a cart to put back or groceries to load into her car. I was really close to asking the cashier to put those items on my tab, but I honestly didn’t know if that is what I should have done. So I did nothing.

This lady wasn’t juggling a crying baby on her hip, and she didn’t look in any way impoverished; if she had, I would have had no trouble deciding what to do. But on the other hand, maybe she was needy in a spiritual sense, and by paying for her groceries I would have been giving her just the right encouragement to move forward. I’ll never know. But I do hope next time God will make it more clear if I am to step up and be part of the solution.

Through the rest of the day today I fought serious irritation, like skin-climbing, PMS, about-to-lose-it kind of feelings. Um, I’m 8 months pregnant, so what was my problem? It could have been that my brief time away by myself started me feeling entitled to things I really am not. It could have been just one of those days. It could have been subtle dehydration or hunger. But as I look back, maybe it was God answering that above prayer and letting me be part of the solution in my irritating daily life problems, deciding over and over whether I would give a boost to myself, or give grace to my husband and children. I can’t say I made the right decision each chance I had, but at least I knew for sure that at these times, the opportunities were for me and me alone.