Tuesday, December 30, 2008

School Books, School Books

Kayla's books arrived! Yeah! We had her family over for lasagna tonight and played games and laughed. Then I could show them the books, and talk over how we want to approach this. Basically, they gave me free reign to do whatever. (little happy dance) I would not have minded working on strategy together, and I will communicate well with them, but it is easier to work when I have the ability to make decisions. I'm looking through it tonight and getting familiar with how I want to teach this.

I'm excited!

Oh, and another bonus... her family, who also go to our church, are well off. (I wish there was a way to say that that sounds more polite...) Anyway, I did not ask, although the school suggested it. They are going to pay me, and well above what I would have asked if I asked! Wow! What a nice surprise! I would have taught her anyway. Really. But it is a nice gift.

So when school starts again, Kayla and I are going to celebrate. I think we will start off with burning or otherwise maliciously destroying her old math book which she hates. Then on to basic math. Keep her in your prayers when school starts. I want to do well. I want her to do well. I want this to work. It is a little scary at times. I went head to head with the principal and assistant principal and told them that what they were doing wasn't working and that I thought I could do better..... (the teacher is 100% behind me)..... sounds a little arrogant.... so it scares me some. I don't want to fail. But it would be hard to fail more than the current program is failing this child. So, I go into school on Monday both excited and nervous.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Undefined Prayer

I should be doing fine. Should be doing great. Things are going well. Good holiday, good friends...

I'm not. I have that undefined sadness, a longing, a nameless companion to my days. Don't know what it is. Perhaps the wrong time of month, but it has been lingering. Perhaps holiday blues, but it has been hanging around here for awhile... Perhaps the never silenced MK longing to migrate once again, who knows? Perhaps all the change - even good change is tough...

I don't know what it is, but it is bothering me recently. I can't shake it. Do you ever get that, too? And will you pray?

There is a lot of change. I am so proud of my husband and the changes he has made. He is really doing well. But... since he has been so withdrawn from this family for at least two years,.... it is an adjustment. I've developed my ways of coping, my ways of having my "inside circle", my ways of just being. All of that has been shaken up now. I have to navigate a new "us". Then the couple who have walked with me through all this mess of getting my own life straightened out for four years, - I'm struggling with them. They have always been my first line of defense, my first people to go to, who I talk over my life and my day... They are still there. They have not changed. But I am not so connected to them. I tend to talk over life with my husband; he is who I go to, talk with, beginning even to pray with... by the end of the day, I have no great need to connect anymore. (Have you noticed even that blogs have dropped off?) And that is a good thing. Even a great thing!

But.... I miss them. And I can't seem to navigate all this change well. I really feel like I have been through a move. It is the same emotional effects on me (to a lesser degree) as if we just moved. My whole internal world and support system has been or is being reorganized, and it is not without stress. I react to too much change by eventually wanting to shut down and just go back to "normal" - no matter how off that normal was. I noticed this effect, also, when I was healing from some of my past. At times, even the good was such a change that I longed for normal, even when normal was so abnormal. It was MY normal, and I was used to it.

Only During Service - Take Three

Today's sermon was about Thessalonians.

My daughter pays rapt attention to the sermon for the first five minutes. She then draws for about five minutes, and then begins to ask, "How much LONGER?!"

She listened to the verse talking about the people who had "fallen asleep". And, of course, the obvious question - "What does he mean, fallen asleep?"

I explained that it was a nice way of saying "dead". That sometimes people don't like to say "dead" so they use other words to explain it.

She accepted that answer and pondered it in her typical fashion for a few minutes before pulling on my arm again.

Leaning up to whisper in my ear, she asked, "Mommy, is Pastor afraid to say 'dead', too?"

No. No, he proved that later on.

On the side, I have gotten tired of people using all sorts of words to substitute for "dead" at funerals and other events. When I die, I am going to have my kids give the pastor a thee by five signed card to tape to his podium saying, "Face it. I'm dead. I realize that. So does everyone else. So admit it. And if you dare say I've passed on or passed (what? like gas?), I will sit up and roll my eyes at you!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Waiting for the Giggles

We hung pictures on our walls today!!!

If this doesn't mean much to you, maybe you are not an MK.... Every time we finally hang pictures, we move! I've developed an aversion to hanging anything. Also because it keeps me from feeling "settled". I'm not sure how I would react to the next move if I felt settled. It might be harder.

I had all the pictures out on my bed deciding which should go on the walls. My daughter carefully looked over one collage, and wondered why she was not there. She wasn't born yet. I told her, "You made us wait a long time for you!"

She thought. "No, God made me, so it was God who made you wait, not me."

I laughed. "I guess you are right. He must have been waiting until he got you so perfect."

"I think He was waiting until He got enough giggles in me!"

Maybe. It was a long wait, I'll tell you that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book #3 - Walking Taylor Home by Brian Schrauger


I know I said I am a "read and pass on" type with books. Comes from having to move so much. But every once in awhile, I run across a book I hang on to.

I'm hanging on to this one.

Taylor's story. I face life and death fairly often. I've seen death face to face both in patients, in parents who have just been told news that they can not possibly absorb, in war zones, and even closer, in the death of my first daughter before she was born. I've faced the fear with a medical situation which worsened quickly with no explanation. I've watched doctors struggle to find a treatment. I've crawled to the doorway to watch my three baby sons sleeping and wept the night before I went in for a treatment that hopefully would reverse the problems, but which could also seriously backfire. Thankfully, I'm healthy now. Where I work now, I still see death often... but usually in people over 80, and there is a difference.

But Taylor's story....

There is nothing I can really say to this. It is a story of a boy who faced cancer head on, and lives as he dies. It is a story of a father who is honest about his pain and his questions. And it is a story about love, the love of a father to his son, the love of a son to his father, and the love of a Father to His sons.

I'm keeping this book. But, I'm heading back to the bookstore on Monday, and there were lots of them their last time, so I'll pick up a few more of them. Angela, one is for you.

That might be all for book reviews for awhile. It is a book which you can not put down and reach for another. It stays with you after you turn the last page and stare off into nowhere.

Book #2 - Escape

The next one I read was called Escape by Lorena McCourtney. Another author I had not heard of before, but who has apparently written quite a few books. (Having four kids... I'm sort of out of the "read everything written" stage.)

This story is about a single women who inherits the guardianship of her nephew when her brother and his wife die. The powerful, but evil family of the deceased mother is also looking for the child. The book is the story of Beth's attempt to keep the child safe, and of course, the inevitable romance that most light fiction contains.

I thought it was a decent book. Interesting. One you can escape into for a few hours. Nothing spectacular or edge of your seat, but decent. As a mother, I can obviously relate to the desire to keep your children safe from "the bad guy".

Its a decent book. Fun to read. But that is about all. If you read this one expecting that, it is good. I think because of the cover photo design, I was expecting something more in depth form the book and was mildly disappointed, but over all, a good light read.

Now, the next one I started is a wow! But it is a true story.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sometimes You Can Just Wait

Remember the mess about the letter the "here" pastor wanted to send out? Well, I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing. I told him I'd wait until my husband was home, and by then the issue had slid into something not on the top of everyone's minds. I continued to just wait.

We did, however, need to get a prayer letter out. We were late a month or so ago. I wondered what I should do - would writing one without talking to him be seen as going behind his back? Yet, he is a pastor - of a small church.... how much does he really know about communicating with supporters?

Last weekend, I finally wrote our own prayer letter. Added in a little of what I would have written that letter to say. Added in good things that have also happened. A normal letter. I debated - do I send it to him, too? I decided to go ahead. Being open and transparent.

I got a letter from him yesterday. We met on Tuesday, and he said he hadn't read our letter yet, but would. The letter yesterday said he liked our letter, and in fact it was well written and made the one he was thinking about redundant and so we don't need to think about his version anymore.

(big, slow smile) I did it! What a feeling of relief and, yes, victory! But I didn't fight my way to this victory with logic or confrontation.... I just waited it out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Veils and Fire

Well, I spend two hours and about forty dollars, so have around twenty new books... and a fireplace to curl up by...

Tonight, I read Veil of Fire by Marlo Schalesky.

Good book. Not an author I had heard of before, but good book for a fiction read.

It is about a fire which burns a town quickly. I have a patient at my work that this reminds me of, and perhaps that is why the book speaks to me. There is a photo hanging on her wall - a woman with nine kids lined up on the boardwalk beside her. One baby on her hip, perched on top of her belly swollen with another new life. My patient is the little two year old hiding her face in her mother's skirt.

I don't know the whole story; she is too far gone into Alzheimers to be able to speak. But from what I have heard, there was also a sudden, intense fire which swept the town. The family tried to outrun it, but only the father and the little two year old he carried reached a cow puddle and survived the fiery storm. The rest were burned beyond recognition.

This woman has not talked, nor even woke, for four years; but last year, one night when I went in to check on her in the middle of the night and shone my light on her, her eyes opened. She looked at me steadily with eye contact and spoke. "Tell me it didn't happen." Her eyes probed mine for a brief second and caught me unaware. What should I say? What nightmares plague her mind in the shadows? I only reached over quietly, and said, "no, it didn't. You're ok now. Go back to sleep." The veil slid back over her eyes as I spoke, and I have never again seen eye contact or consciousness to voice with her again.

I would have thought I was dreaming except that another worker was with me and saw this also.

It is her story which haunts me as I read this book today. This books melts elements of her story and mine in a misshapen lump of metal fused by heat.

So, it is yours for the asking - just send me an address or way to get it to you (on e-mail, not blog). I know, more than one will ask, so the decision is just up to me, no complaints. I have twenty other books, too....

Books, books, books!

A Christian bookstore in our town is going out of business. (Ok, I guess it is not good to celebrate their bad news...)

But books are on sale!! Yeah! All books - $2. I'm going shopping! I list what I got here later. I am a "read once and pass on"type, so if there is a book you really, really want to read.... ask.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Only During Service - Take Two

It was communion service. In our church, we have the very quiet time when the bread and juice is being passed around, and we all have a few moments of silent prayer to contemplate what Jesus has done for us....

I must confess that as a mother of four wiggly kids sitting in service, I actually do very little of contemplating what Jesus has done for us and spend most of my time frantically begging God to please, please let them be quiet for communion and please, please not let my tired thirsty little ones start whining as to why they can't have grape juice too, since "I'm thirsty too, and I KNOW Jesus died, so I CAN remember it!"

So we all sat there in quiet prayer, and it seemed as if God was answering my desperate pleas. Four silent children sat near me. So silent, in fact, that number three got tired. He stretched a little in his seat, yawned some, and turned to lean up against me and rest. He sighed as he snuggled in against my side, and rested his head on my breast - for a brief second. Then his little head popped up in surprise and discovery. He leaned over and poked my breast with one finger, jumped back a little, and said, "hmmphf, that feels just like jello!

And yes - loud enough for a few rows to hear... we were, after all, having silent prayer!

All I could think as I turned red and tried to bury my giggles in reverent prayer was that I was at least glad that the man seated behind me had four young children of his own. He looked reverent, too, as silent tears ran down his face during the prayer time. In fact, a few people sitting near me must have all been simultaneously convicted of sins as tears ran down many cheeks and heads bowed deeper and shoulders shook in quiet sobs... or was that giggles?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tooth Fairies

We are back home, and last night, we gathered the kids together and told them that Daddy is home to stay. The relief in their faces was visible. They crowded around Daddy to hug him and smother him.

We are tired. Still. Sleep seems to do nothing for it. I think it is the exhaustion of the last few weeks piled up.

My daughter lost another tooth last night. When she lost her first tooth, the tooth fairy "forgot". What happened was that the tooth fairy fell asleep. She completely forgot. This time, I hinted that the reason the tooth fairy forgot was that the tooth fairy is actually daddy, not mommy.

I think the brothers felt bad that the tooth fairy fell down on the job last time. When she woke up this morning, there was the fifty cents that daddy had put there, a large chocolate bar one brother had got for a gift at a Christmas party, a giant candy cane another brother had gotten, and some coins from another brother. Tooth fairy on overdrive.

Christmas. I'm exhausted. Still healing from the pain and stress of the last few months. I have to get it together for the kids, but I just do not feel like it right now.

At the same time, I am overwhelmed by the bigness of Christmas here. Everything is saturated with it, glitter, decorations, gifts, parties, and all. I miss the simplicity of Christmas on the field with a team that makes do with what we have and enjoys the time. Here, I think we are to enjoy things, and people often get lost in the mix.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I'm off on a three day break WITH my husband.... he is in the shower.... relaxing and spending time with each other... oh, yeah, and being spoiled at a really nice hotel, going on walks and eating out.

It is going well. We are reading, praying, walking, and talking. And leaving the TV off (well, mostly... we did watch one show last night, but that was all...)

So keep praying, but it is going well, and I will be bringing him home with me on Thursday evening. Then comes the adjustment days at home with routines, schedules, kids, etc.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Only During Service

This is the first of a series - things kids do or say during church. Feel free to submit your own story, too.

Actually, this week, my kids were good in church. So an incident from about a year ago.

The pastor was preaching about something to do with people who were different, handicapped in some way. I don't remember more. (hmmm... what am I doing in church?) Anyway, he kept repeating this phrase, "the people who are born different".

My daughter was sitting very quietly and studiously drawing in her notebook. I was so proud! At the end of church, I looked down and saw this:

(ok, this is a recreation of her drawing. She honestly draws better zebras than I do.)

Her explanation? "Zebras, mommy. See, this one was born different!"

Friday, December 5, 2008

New News

It is hard for me to write what is going on right now. It isn't that I don't know, I just don't know how to explain it well.

My husband is doing well. He is over often, and is helping out around the house finishing up projects and doing housework. So far things are ok with us, and I am thankful.

My father is causing tension. Let's just say this: He used to have the job that my husband currently has. My husband is on sabbatical. My dad just moved here and is trying to "fix" everything in the office.... need I say more? This is really a matter for serious prayer. If he continues to step outside his responsibilities, he makes a mess of things that were not his to mess with, and it is very hard to tell him no politely.

I really like our pastor. Really. I like him as a pastor. Nice guy. He preaches well. He keeps the kids attention as well as any pastor can. He is friendly, helpful, concerned. But I don't think he is good at counseling. So far, he has given us homework.... two lists of over one hundred verses to look up and categorize and about twenty different lists we are to make of our sins and failures.... I'm actually a fairly studious person. I was that kid in school who liked to research and who loved tests... ok, used to be a nerd..... But this is even daunting for me! When I told him as gently as I could that perhaps if he gives this homework to people, it might be a bit overwhelming.... he said, "well, there are also people who might look at this and say, 'this isn't enough'"! Perhaps. Maybe. I would be concerned if they said that.... So we are slogging through it, but there is nothing in it worth talking about.

Besides the lists of verses, he is going through Ephesians with us. Slowly. Verse by verse. Did I mention that he just preached on Ephesians for two years? Verse by verse. Good preaching. But I heard it the first time... I find myself sitting in sessions with him remembering what was going on that Sunday when he preached that....

Nothing more than that....

Difficult to know how we are doing. We talk when we are alone, and I think we are doing well, but it is basically a "do-it-yourself" approach to counseling. The weeks away in this course were very good for him. It laid a groundwork that we can build on. But there is no building on that foundation. Even the couple who have been working with me for four years have gone away for a few weeks, so no communication there. I feel a little lost. Things are going well, but still lost.

I see changes in him though. I hope and pray they last. I hope they are not just to get back in the home, to get what he wants again. I don't think they are, but the thought still exists. I think they are real changes. I just would be happier with seeing someone spreading cement on the carefully built changes so they stick to each other and begin to build a new normal.

Yet, we've decided to go away for a few days. We were supposed to wait until the weekend, but the week works out better with the kids in school. So Monday, we go for three days just the two of us. After that, he will come home. I see no point in him being out of the house now. He is controlling his anger and has seen that it is wrong and not my fault, but an issue that needs to be dealt with in front of God. He is willing to work on issues in the marriage and on getting help and being transparent. So he will come home. We will continue to work, and possibly look for a counselor.... this will be a touchy thing to be able to do without offending our pastor.

Pray especially for this next week as we will be transitioning to home again. Pray that our mini- holiday goes well. Pray for time to heal and work on issues in the middle of the Christmas busyness.

Thank-you. It has meant quite a lot to me to be prayed for so much. I mean that, too!

When It Doesn't All Add Up

YAY! More good news - I got permission to take one kid and teach her math. Pray for "Kayla". She is so sweet and so kind, but she struggles in math. Our school has a math curriculum which I do not agree with at all, but they (administration) love it. Most parents and teachers find it confusing and unusual. Kayla is in sixth grade, and really, she does have some serious problems in math - but this curriculum doesn't help her. The curriculum is all about understanding the concept. So they teach many different ways to do a problem so you "see" the concept. Well, Kayla doesn't see anything! She hasn't since second grade, and all this "do the problem this way... oh, and now change to that way.... oh, and now another way..." has gotten her totally confused and demoralized. In sixth grade, she still can not consistently figure out how to multiply two digit numbers!

I have tutored Kayla in fourth grade and was asked to again now.... I tried.... I really tried. Then I went to the principal and said I would be willing to take her for the first hour every day and tutor her, but ONLY if I can take her OFF this curriculum, put her into a normal curriculum, and put her back in third grade math. She will likely never understand all of the "why" of the concepts, but given a consistent way to do a problem, she can do it right. Hopefullly, if we continue to be consistent and she can actually see a page that she CAN complete and understand, her attitude towards math will improve from "there is no hope for me" to "hey, I get this", and we can make progress. I don't think I can catch her up to her grade level, but I am fairly confident that we can make significant progress.

But you would not believe the opposition I had from administration to the suggestion of taking her off the curriculum! It took me a few weeks of talking to get to that point.... you'd think the very fact of Kayla not being really up to third grade math despite being tutored for several years and getting help at home would be enough to make them willing to try anything! The problem with the tutoring is that is has all been aimed at getting her to keep up with her present class. Umm.... that was fine when the difference was a year or two in skills, but now we are approaching a four year gap, and she CAN'T keep up, no matter how hard we push. How can she? All her math book tells her, day after day, is that she is stupid.

Time for a change. So, today, I am thrilled to have permission to teach "Kayla" math. She is excited, too. Can I ask you to really pray for her? We have so little time to be able to make a significant difference in this. I believe she can do it. Pray for confidence, a willingness to work, and for her to be able to grasp concepts. Pray that we can quickly progress through third grade this year and begin on fourth grade math soon.

I enjoy teaching. I enjoy watching the results. Two years ago, I spent an hour a day with a struggling ESL reader and took her from C-A-T is what?? in second grade to a decent reader. Now, when I am in that class helping and I hear her read, I smile.

I just like things that show fruit. I think one of the hardest things working in the people group we work in is that fruit grows so slowly... so it is fun to do something that does show results.

December Busyness Strikes Early

I think December is a month we all need a holiday after! It seems every year I try to say I will try not to get too busy, but it is impossible. We have family events, friend events, school events, and ministry events. By the time January rolls around, we are ready to sit in the corner staring at the walls for a few nights!

Tonight was a craft fair. I am only fair at crafts - not great - but I have found one thing that sells well. Chocolate covered pretzels. One half milk chocolate, one half white chocolate, and then on top drizzled on red, green, and dark chocolate drizzles. They look much more complicated that they are, and taste good. Two hours tonight making, boxing, and beautifying pretzels for tomorrow's sale at a church.

I also took a page out of picture praise's book, and made photos to sell. A nice photo (one of the perks of traveling around the world), add a verse, put it in a mat.... I think they will sell. We'll see. If they do, it might be a way to raise some money. If they don't, they'll make great thank-you gifts!

Tomorrow, I go to work at the nursing home. Totally out of what I usually do, but I enjoy my few days a month that I do work. I'm so excited! My daughter's class (and K-2) are coming to sing and pass out cards at my nursing home on Monday!!! Yeah! Old people are so neglected.

Pray if you think about it - my kid's school is struggling. Finances.... what else these days? Pray for more kids to come. Today was Bring a Friend to School day, and we had 28 visitors. Amazing number since we only have about twice that many students! Pray that some decide to send their kids here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Good to Know Some Things Are Still Free

Then, of course, if that is just not enough for you, another store had another free offer: