Thursday, September 30, 2010

If the Smartest Man Said It...

“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” Albert Einstein

All I can say today is, "Amen, Einstein, amen".

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things That Make Me Happy

1. sunshine! Yay!

2. The house being slowly fixed so that there is not a river running through the lower half of my house every time it rains!

3. The thought of a quiet week ahead.

4. Teaching my first day and finding Kyla remembers some of what she was taught last year, and that she is beginning to see connections and patterns in numbers! Yay! Yay! Happy dances in order! I think this year, I can finally catch her up to grade level, it may be the applied math grade level, but she can do it, I think.

5. Laughing ourselves silly over a mistake in a math book that ended up having a bird flying 700m below the ground instead of 300 m up in the sky. So good to giggle through the first day and show her that others make stupid mistakes too!

6. Back to cooking for six. Being able to cook different foods than just my "group cooking" options.

7. Two friends with seeming miraculous recoveries to long, dragged-out diseases beginning. Totally dancing a happy dance at the thought of both of them being able to walk again one day!!!

Life is good. It has tough things in it, for sure, and some really painful things, but life is good. I'm thankful for good friends, for my large missionary family that is always full of people who are family - even though the constant coming and going out of each other's lives is difficult on the emotions. I think what keeps me going is the firm knowledge that one day all this moving around will end and we will be together again.

But life is good, and it is walking through the difficult and painful things that makes the joys so much more full.

When I have suffered a long and painful medical condition, I can rejoice that much more with my friends in their healing.

When I have struggled with math and been called dumb over it, my eyes can shine so much more over the small victories that Kyla makes.

When I have said goodbye too many times, I can rejoice that much more about the hellos coming.

When I have been passed over in favor of others, I can value even more those who stop to spend time with me.

When my house has been full for so long, I can so much more enjoy the peace of a quiet day.

I think some people think that in order to be happy, you have to just think about happy things or you have to ignore the bad. I think to be truly happy, there are times you have to be truly sad. Fully experience both - the shadows and the light, the pain and the joy. Both are part of life, and life is good - it is worth it despite the pain.

There are times I wonder who I would have been if I hadn't walked through pain... I am not sure I would like that person. Walking through pain has become a constant in my life, something I know is ahead.... when you work with the suffering, you can not expect not to suffer. But I find that the more pain I walk through, interestingly enough, the more joyful a person I become. It surprised me once because when someone was asked to use one word to describe me, several came up with "joyful", even saying that I was one of the more joyful people they met. I laughed and wondered if my wacky sense of humor was being confused with joy.

But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with them. When you walk through the valleys of cold shadows, you delight more in the warmth of the sun when you see it. (Of course, for those of us living in deserts where the sun is our enemy, that illustration does not work.... we might say the opposite, when you live in the burning sun, you rejoice more when you find a scrap of shadow or a breath of wind!)

I used to spend so much of my time trying to block out pain, trying to not feel it. It took a lot of time and a lot of energy. And I was fairly successful, but the casualty in that was that I also blocked out joy. I've learned to open up and feel it, to walk right through it with my eyes open, and to come out the other side, having felt the pain, but also able to feel the joy - sometimes even both simultaneously. Because often in the middle of pain, there is also something that brings joy. Such as:

1. My husband's defense and care of me on my birthday. His understanding and sympathy - what a delight after a few rough years!

2. Kyla's determination, and the chance to write on a kid's heart that she is of value and she is smart - even if she struggles pitifully with one subject. There is delight in writing over the space where it would be written "I AM STUPID" in big letters if no one had been able to step in.

And when I find that joy, my heart dances in total delight. Right there in the middle of pain, there is space to dance for joy. Even if it is just in the sun shining on one of the last warm days of the year!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back in One Piece - mostly

We are back. What a trip!

It rained. It really rained. The type where the water comes down in sheets for hours. We did not set up the tents in hopes that it would quit. It didn't.

Instead, we started off on a three to four hour hike. In the rain. We ended up wet - wetter than I think I have ever been when I wasn't swimming. Wet through all layers. Wet so that water was running down my jeans in rivulets. Soaked.

Amazingly, after you get to a certain point, you realize that you can't get any wetter, so nothing can get worse. We just kept plodding along in the pouring rain. Then, high up on some rocks after we had encouraged, pushed, and pulled the entire group of kids up a face of a rock, through a cave, and up through a little hole, we heard the thunder. High up, soaking wet, surrounded by kids, we heard the thunder. As tired and aching as we were, there was only one thing to do - boot it back to camp. It was another hour and a half hike, but it had to be done in quick time.

We made it. We arrived back to only a covered area like a large gazebo - no walls. Our stuff was piled there, and animals had dug through it. We retrieved what we could and attempted to find dry clothes. There was time for a quick cup of coffee, and then we had to set up tents - in the pouring rain and blowing wind and thunder. If there had been a way out, we would have gone home, but there was none. The drivers who were to get us had gone back and would not return until the next day.

After setting up the tents, we were again soaked. We stood to eat a hurried supper, and then changed one more time and crawled into our beds and prayed the tents would stay waterproof.

They didn't.

And the animals arrived back at 3 am. Time to chase them away again.

Morning came early. Time to pack up wet tents, put on anything dry we owned. Time for a hurried breakfast. It had stopped raining and was only sprinkling.

We decided to do a second hike. Beautiful scenery, amazing. But it began to rain again. Today's hike took us up over, under, and around rocks several stories high. My son, the one with no fear, went over everything up higher than he should have. He acted as the scout a few times directing the group through some tight spots.

I tried to maneuver between boulders at one point and slipped. Wedged myself between two large rocks out of earshot of the group. It took a bit of effort to extract myself, but I got back on top with only a banged up elbow and a broken toe, so I continued on.

Then it rained on the way back, fine misty rain which made the rocks more treacherous.

We made it back to the the starting point all grimy, sweaty, cold, and exhausted. Most of us then plunged into the freezing water in order to wash off, and then struggled back into our damp clothes to head home.

It was quite the trip. Amazing scenery. But a little like boot camp to get through it.

We got back to the school, and they tell us that we are the only group in the history to finish the hike - all the other groups gave up part way through. Now they tell us!!! I think we were just so miserable and wet that we kept plodding, kept climbing and going on without thinking.

But it is an accomplishment. We made it to the end - the group that faced the most severe weather in the history of these trips was the only group to have ever made it to the end.

If someone forced me to do that every day for a week or two, I'd lose these pesky ten pounds I'd like to lose. Hey, I may have even lost a few of them already!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lost Something

I think I lost something.

Over the last few weeks, slowly we have been moving towards a better place. Even broken relationships have been restored to some degree. The writer on the chalkboard has returned. Unfortunately, this means that some of the readers of the chalkboard are offended that she has returned. We will have to deal with that.

Other relationships are improved. Some vastly improved, of which I still need to write, but I've been so busy cooking! Others are better - the product of sitting down to talk honestly.

But I've lost something. I've lost the confidence I had in one friendship. I know it is ok, well, mostly ok... but I've lost a confidence, and with that, a great deal of joy. Now instead of knowing that I will be welcomed with joy, I stand wondering if I knock or not. If it is a good time for me to come over. I am not sure of my welcome.

So while I am happy at the restored relationship, tears still fall over the change. I've lost something. I've lost the joy of knowing I am welcomed with delight. I weigh things now, hesitate, consider, evaluate.

I never used to.

And at times, that makes me sad. This hesitation. This waiting for my doorbell to ring rather than ringing one myself. This dialogue in my head that says, "Oh, I will tell that.... oh, wait... maybe not... I don't want to be a bother."

The joy seeps out with the loss of confidence.

And then I think of a verse, "Therefore brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith..."

confidence. full assurance.

I may have lost something in a relationship here that was precious to me, but I still have confidence.... I know that when I come to Him, I have full assurance that I am welcomed with delight.

It doesn't remove sadness, but it sings firmly in my heart in the middle of pain. That firm, confident song brings me joy. Even in this.

I may have to find my way through changes and new ways here, but I have full assurance that I have an eternal, constant, never-changing welcome in the house of God.

Nothing To Do

This is my first day in weeks and weeks that I have had nothing to do. Well, let me restate that - nothing urgent to do. I should be doing laundry, ironing, mopping, organizing, packing, cleaning.... I am, after all, a mom of four kids.

But today I have nothing to do - no meals to cook, no errands to run, no major duties.


So I am concentrating a few hours to doing nothing. I laid on my tummy in bed and read blogs. I stared at the ceiling. I listened to the rain. I rested.

I love quiet. I love the stillness in an empty house.

The day before yesterday, I made more apple butter. My one tree is over producing and I am canning different apple things. The apple butter is in a pot in my fridge because I need to round up enough jars to can it into.

I ate apple butter on bread for lunch all alone. No one talking. No dishes to wash. No serving platters to refill. No cleaning up to do. Only fresh bread, cold apple butter, an a warm cup of milk. (No guilt, either, since my apple butter has no sugar in it - just apples and spices.)

Today, I am taking time to do nothing. Tomorrow, I am going with my son's high school class on an overnight trip. Why? I have no idea. I am still asking myself why I said yes. But he begged me to come. "Mom, please!" Not because he is shy or clingy, but simply because he enjoys my company. His friends enjoy me too. So far, I've managed to strike a delicate balance between being fun and not an embarrassment. I figure I had better enjoy this status of being wanted by my teen and his teenage friends as long as I can. We will be hiking for two days. Keeps me in shape, I guess! I am also somewhat of a wanted commodity on any overnight field trips, especially those that take us outdoors, because of my background in nursing and rather extensive first aid kit. Hoping not to have to use it, but I had better get off my "doing nothing" mini-vacation in time to stock it well.

But for another hour, I am doing nothing. A chance to be alone - rare... valued. A chance to sit in a quiet house and rest, not loading myself down with the various "to-do's" that I could. First on my to-do list today is equally important - take some down time.

Back to staring at patterns in the ceiling, listening to raindrops, and reveling in the solitude.....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Laid to Rest

I got my mother's ring back all fixed.  I wear it now, but I also shake my head at the fact that the mistake was even made.  My daughter, so precious to me... who I long to see one day, not remembered.  But her stone is beautiful - an almost clear stone like a diamond, but with a hint of blue.  It looks misty, like the air on a sunny day, like a clear mountain stream, like the heavens.   Her stone.  Her month.  Her birth.  She existed - in time, at a given point.   And now I forever have her stone on my finger with my other children's birthstones.

Just now, I was sitting in a meeting, and someone mentioned a mother who they know and her grief of not knowing if her daughter was properly laid to rest since because of  a natural disaster, she is unable to go to the graveyard anymore and see.

Laid to rest....

I am the mother of a baby who was never laid to rest.  My baby was thrown in the garbage and incinerated.  So these very words "laid to rest" pull on my heart.  I never got to lay my baby anywhere - not so much as to gently wrap her in a cloth.  No place to remember her.  No knowing where she was sent.  Nothing.
So these words "laid to rest" tug on my heart.  And I think, despite the culture in my family, I think I am going to bury any of us who die.  Even if we cremate us first - I want us laid to rest.  Not this vague not knowing.

That is all.  I am not morbid today, only vaguely sad that I never had the chance to say good bye or to lay my child to rest, that even her memorial stone had to be returned to be fixed.

Yet, I firmly believe that even in all this, God knows and in the middle of men's mistakes, He stepped in to comfort my heart.  The gift of a brief glimpse - the picture of my daughter toddling to Him.  The brief glimpse again during the difficult time we went through this spring.... of my daughter running to meet her daddy...  these are gifts, comfort for my heart.  They may have thrown her body in the trash, but God has kept her in His arms, and I believe when I meet Him, He will have her there, ready to finally meet us, knowing who we are, ready for a reunion.  Even in this, God has comforted my heart.

Yet still, when I hear a phrase, my eyes fill briefly with tears.  "Laid to rest"  She never was....

Yet she lives.  I will see her one day.  Only then will my heart be completely whole.

Someone who I thought should have known better once asked me a question that blew me away.  Totally took me by surprise and I sat blinking that it had even be asked.  I was asked, "After all this time, do you still really miss her?"

umm......   um......

After I swallowed the shock, I answered simply, "yes.  every day".  Now, granted, the pain is different today thirteen years later, than it was that first year, but it is still there.  My mind went back to my patient who at 93 would often tell me the story of her third son who died at eleven months old.  She would end the story sighing and saying, "I miss him.... but I guess I will get to see him soon." She is still here, getting closer to that "soon", but still waiting.  I think when she finally does die, I will smile as I stand by her bed and say, "Sweetie, enjoy your reunion."

Why do people think we will forget?  Does not God even use the memory of a mother as an example of how He will not forget us?  "Can a mother forget her nursing child, even more, I will not forget you." 

No, my heart will never be complete until I hold my daughter in my arms.  If it takes 95 years, I will wait.  And then one day, I will hold her.  Then my heart will be laid to rest.

Nearing the End and Looking Forward

We are getting to the end.  The last few days of the last weeks of being gathered together.  My job is changing as our team grows and changes.  At any given time during these last years, my role could be so many different things.  When we are gathered together, my role is that of a servant.  Whatever needs doing, I do.  Mostly this is because being a "foreigner" (we are all foreign here, but I am not of the group that we work with/for) I am useless at some things.  The other reason is that I am fairly good at doing anything - capable of lots, not highly skilled in much.  This week, I've been doing a lot of cooking, taxi driving, and errand running.  A few loads of laundry and ironing, too.

But we are getting to the end.  Life will be going back to normal again..... not that our normal is very normal on the best of days.  I'm tired.

As I've listened to the meetings this year, I have the feeling that our lives our going to be changing.  Perhaps not in location, but in focus.  Our job may be changing, our focus may be changing, the call the same, but leaving what we are doing now to others and moving on to begin something new.  Still what we were doing, still the same, but new.... walking into new ground.  The idea is exciting.  It better fits what my husband is good at.  I see his eyes light up at the thought.  I also smile because it fits with what a few years ago, I believe God showed me as to where this work was going to go.

We've been through testing and trials, and now I believe God is leading us to expand our tents. 

I'm also very excited at the thought of some of the new people we are getting.  We are going to grow - perhaps even double in size....  we will have to.  I'm excited at the timing of this... that our relationship is good, that the load is going to be taken off my husband so he can take on the new work, that our children are older so the commitment is not so difficult right now..... God's timing is good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cooking Around the World

I actually do have some serious things going through my mind recently, and I hope I get to blogging them, soon.  It is just that right now I am serving as cook to a decently large group for two weeks.  Making it even more difficult is that there are no cooking facilities where the people are.  I have to run home, cook, run the food over, run back, clean up, and run back over.  It's keeping me busy!

Tomorrow is a celebration day.  I'm actually laughing at that.  You see, we usually plan our celebration day at the end.  The idea is that we celebrate the task that brought us together.  But we have one man among us who is a workaholic.  He would invariably book his travel out of the area an hour or so before the celebration meal.  It just that it never registered on his radar as important.

This year, we beat him at his own game.  We booked it in the middle of our weeks.  So we are celebrating being half-way through, I guess.

We were going to have half the meals cooked by others, but there was a glitch.  Glitches are part of life, aren't they?  So I picked up the slack.  Going to add that to my official job description "slack picker upper".  I've been cooking for anywhere between 25 to 45 people every day.

Tomorrow for celebration, we are going BBQ.  I did not want the typical hamburgers and chicken legs, so I researched the internet for different ideas.  What we are ending up with are recipes from all over the world.  Greek, Malaysian, Indian, Moroccan, Mexican, Arab, and Thai.  I am not claiming proficiency at any of them, but I'm willing to give them a try.  It's been fun mixing different spices, trying different things, and testing them out.  Tomorrow will be the day we find out if people like it. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Random Facts

 - A coffee maker is much more likely to break when you have thirty people lined up for coffee than it is any other time during the year when only five people line up for coffee.

 - When you need to buy a new coffee maker, the stores probably won't carry them that day.

- If you finally manage to track down a coffee maker and bring it back, it will require a different filter than the last one.

 - It will also not say anywhere on the box about what type of filter it required.

 - People without coffee are not always pleasant people.

 - I could be included as an unpleasant without coffee person.

 - It is impossible to completely please thirty people with meal and snack choices.

 - Thin, health conscious people may be concerned about larger people's health and diets, but they should not ask me to force them onto a diet by serving less food.

 - If people are miserable without coffee, they likely would be even more miserable on a forced diet.

 - Slowcookers whose cords got wiggled will not keep the food hot for dinner.

 - Life consists of more than food and drink.  Not everyone firmly believes that, but nevertheless, it is true.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Random Facts

 - It only takes one hour and fifteen minutes to make six gallons of chili if you have everything laid out in advance.

- Shopping for two weeks for 20-30 people really doesn't take longer than shopping for two weeks for 6 people.  You just quadruple your amounts.

 - Wiggly kids who hate hair cuts can give you the practice needed to know how to shave wiggling older women who hate anything done to them.

 - It takes two people to cut nails when someone does not want them done.

 - Nails should be cut whether someone wants them or not.

 - People are much more likely to throw up twenty minutes after a shower than any time in the four hours before a shower.

 - After showering six patients, showering yourself seems a little odd, as if you were just one more body.

 - It really is not needed to tell yourself, "Lift your arm so I can wash under it" when you are showering yourself.

 - It is not even necessary to think it.

 - You will think it, though, because you are on autopilot.

- No one, despite what they think, will die of a cold from showering.

 - If you are tired, keep moving fast.  That way the exhaustion has a hard time keeping up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What is That Again?

I worked this evening, and one of my favorites who I thought a month ago was dying has made a comeback.  Another is dying, but that is another story.  My Scottish gentleman is still very much alive....  and still going on...

Today, I was rolling him in bed to change him.  He often pats the aides who help him - not in a bad way, but simply pats whatever part of them is handy or that he is holding onto.  Pat, pat, pat, he will say.  Well, today, he rolled for me and carefully patted me on the lower back.  Then he said, "You are a very nice and kind person and you have a large ____  (I will not write the word he uses to describe rear ends, but you can well imagine!)" 

What do you say to that?  Is it a compliment or.... ?!  And he says it in such a nice conversational tone as if he was only remarking on the color of roses in the garden!!

I shook my head and finished getting him settled and tucked in.  Then he looked at me again and said, "You're a lovely girl, and quite useful, even if you are a half-breed."

I snorted!  Can't imagine this guy when he was trying to date!  I wonder how many times he got slapped? 

A half breed.... ha!  Hadn't heard that description for a long time!

But he's still cute.  I think it is because he sounds a little like a little lost kid and a little like Eyore when he talks.

Besides, I am sort of proud of being a half-breed.  His kids are half breeds (well, half one nationality and half another), too, so I doubt he means to be insulting about it..... anymore than he means to be insulting about the size of my..... well.... you know....

Only During Service - Offering Time

My daughter likes to have a coin or two to put in the offering plate when it comes around.  We don't always have one, but we do dig around in our pockets and purses to see if one is hiding right when they begin offering.  This morning, we didn't have any coins at all.  She shrugged, then looked up at me with an impish grin, waved her little notebook at me and asked, "Can I just write a check?"

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Questions about Dealing with Stress in Kids

I think I need some help on this one.  My daughter is almost eight.  She is usually a happy, well-adjusted, obedient, cheerful girl with lots of giggles and a bright sharp mind that loves to think deeply.  She's intelligent and well adjusted socially with one best friend and several good friends.  She's loved school, but hated math - which she can actually do fairly well.  She's a good reader and doesn't really struggle academically at all.

She is used the her parents traveling at different times, and while she will miss whoever is gone, she had been fine with it.  We would enjoy a few special things we could do while daddy was away like snuggling her into my bed a few nights or eating macaroni and cheese which daddy despises.  She was usually fine.

This last spring, when things went wrong and we thought we had lost her daddy was tough on us all.  We are all changed some because of it, but we are slowly adjusting and managing.  She, however, is not improving on some of her stress symptoms.  Along with all that went on, she had a minor medical emergency in the middle of all the stress and I ended up doing a procedure on her at home which was extremely painful - but there was no way in the situation to take the time to take her for help, and it would have hurt at the hospital, too.  After I flew out to meet her daddy on his way home, my mom flew in and the poor girl had to go for some more uncomfortable tests and visits with new doctors.  She did fine, but all this added to her stress.

Since spring, she has become very clingy at the thought of either of us going anywhere.  Even if I go to work on an evening and am not home at bedtime, she cries.  If her daddy is late, her tummy hurts.

I haven't told her yet that her daddy has a trip coming up.  He'll be gone for a few weeks in October - somewhere safe, not back to where he was!

Right now, we are having problems at school.  Our little school here is small, so the kids only switch classes every two years; they have split grades.  Unfortunately, this year is a change classroom year for her.  Change is not really what she needed right now.  She grew increasingly quieter and sad as school grew close to starting.  I assumed she was just a little nervous about the bigger grade with more work and tried to reassure her.  The teacher in that class is not really known for being so personable.  I think she thinks she is friendly, but she is a little... well.... hard to warm up to.  But some kids do love her, and I didn't think my daughter would have any problems in there. 

But she sobbed her eyes out before the first day.  She came home with a huge tummy ache and sobbed all evening again.  I've spoken to the teacher and had people watching to see why.  It doesn't seem to be anything about the class itself or the new teacher - it happened even before she went.  She just tells me it is horrible because it isn't the same.

It seems that she's lost her ability to cope with any change or unknown.  It gets her horribly stressed out, and she can't handle her feelings then.  Her tummy cramps up and she wants to throw up.  She can't think rationally and melts into tears.  She had never been much of a crying kid before.

It's hard to see my baby sad.  I don't know how to help her.  Don't know what I should be doing.

And I'm beginning to worry... what will she do when she finds out daddy is leaving on a plane again?

Anyone got any ideas on how to help kids who have gone through stress?

Interestingly, my kids are just now beginning to talk about that time.  "When Daddy was missing, ......."
But she seems to have gaps in the facts - things she does not remember, or she remembers wrong.  She told me all about her medical testing and meeting new doctors and getting her blood drawn and insisted that I was there with her - she remembered!  I reminded her that I had left by then and Grandma had taken her, but no, she was sure she remembered me there with her holding her arm.  I wonder.... we shared a few times in our church group here and once elsewhere the whole story, but we put her in the nursery.  She's too old, but we told her she could "help" out.  There were just some details of the story we thought it was better that she didn't hear.  Now I am wondering if we did the right thing or not.  Should she have known it all?  But then again, knowing everything could push her farther into stress.

Today, I feel guilty for scooping her up while she was still sobbing and depositing her on another mom's lap so I could make some urgent phone calls to try to find safety for our friend, another kid's daddy.  I know I needed to do it.... but my own daughter needed me then, too.  I pried her arms off my neck and dumped her in my friend's lap... 

Anyone have any experience in helping this little of a kid through stress?  What do I need to be doing here?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Worth Reading..... Again

I have read a lot of books.  That is a little bit of an understatement.  I made it my goal in the two years of high school I had "back home" to read through the entire school library. (I left out all the Sweet Valley High garbage!)  I did that.  I had also read everyone's library when we were "over there" growing up.  I even read my dad's thesis on engineering stuff.  (There was nothing else to do!!)  In Bible school, I read through all the fiction and all the biographies section.  I even read the complete five volume biography series on Hudson Taylor.

Did I mention that I like to read? 

Now, I am not up to date.  I sort of gave up reading a few years ago.  Not gave it all up, but I found that I get hooked in a book, especially some of the Christian fiction that is out there.  I wasn't a good mom when I was hooked on books, so I got away from reading.  I still read, but I ration myself, and I stay away from some books even though I think they are great reading.

So when I sit down and tell you that one book or two are my favorite or have made a bigger impact on my spiritual life than anything else I've read, it carries some weight behind it.  But there is one book - really two.  The first book drew my attention to the second book.  The second book is the one that really formed the bedrock of how I want to live...  I wish I could say it forms the bedrock of who I am, but I am too honest for that.  It forms the bedrock of who I want to be.

The first book is a book by Isobel Khun, Green Leaf in Drought Time.  It tells the story of a missionary family caught behind in China when everyone else had been evacuated.  They were basically on house arrest for four years.  Not allowed to do anything.  It is the story of what they learned in that time.  Great book.  Really good things in there.

So when I found a book by this man, I was immediately interested and picked it up.  Born for Battle by Arthur Matthews.  My room mate and I sat down over the next month and read these 31 short chapters.  Easy reading.  Easy to understand.  Amazing truth.  Having read Green Leaf in Drought Time, I knew that these were not just words, but truths that had been lived out.

(Have I ever mentioned that I struggle at times with trust, and really want to see things lived out before I will believe?)

What I read in this book became the template for how I think as a Christian.  It is what I fall back to when I fall.  I have read it at least three times now.

I lent it to someone, and it took a long time to get it back.  When I cleaned my office last week, I found it.  Right now, I am at a place where I need to take a few steps back and find my footing again.  So I pulled out this book.  It is time to read it again.

I read it now as an adult, a little older, having lived through a little more.  I'm impressed with how true it is.  Some of the things we've lived through over these last few years, especially this year, have been tough.  But written in this book are the basics that I have tried to live by... when the storms hit, when life itself was unsure, it was these things I had been taught that held me.

It is time for me to read it again.

And because no one out there seems to have ever heard of this book, I'm going to share with you some of what I read and learn.  Life would be so much simpler and so much better if I could just copy it here and let you read it, but I seem to remember something about copyright laws....  but I want you to read it.  It is good.  Not much more I can say about that.  (It is available on Amazon and well as OMF books.... )

I think I need to read this book again.  I think we need to read this book.  I think too often there is a tendency to ignore the "old" books and focus on the new, exciting, up and coming...  But this is a man who lived through what we are being asked to live through.  He learned by his life, by the daily suffering and serving in a difficult field.  We are being called into missions - it is going to be difficult.  Might be good to listen to those who have walked the road ahead of us.

Mine doesn't look like this because it is older, but this one has the same words inside.  My top pick out of thousands of books I've read.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

If I Had to Do It All Over Again

If I had to do it all over again....

I would chose to love... even if I knew I would be hurt...

                                                                                       because love is worth it.

I would chose to hope.... even if I knew I would be disappointed...

                                                                             because hope is beautiful.

I would chose to care deeply... even if I knew it would bring pain...

                                                                        because I have been cared for.

I would chose to give.... even if I knew I would not be given to...

                                  because giving is more wonderful than receiving.

Trust is not the absence of the possibility of pain, but the firm knowledge that God is with you in pain and will not leave you alone in it.

This is the conclusion I came to Sunday after spending some time quietly with God.  When He asked me, "What would you have done if you could chose to do it all over again?  Would you have chosen to be open even knowing you would get hurt?  Was the good worth the risk?"

And it was.  Even though pain hurts.

Because the pain of living behind walls hurts, too.

So, if I had to do it all over again, I would chose to love.  Even in the face of certain hurt.

I do have to do it all over again... each time I meet a friend, I have that choice.  Will I be open and love fully and risk hurt, or will I protect myself?

I hope I would chose to love.  Again.  Even knowing that love will mean hurt.  I hurt people I love.  They hurt me.  The real questions are "Is it worth it?" and "Are we safe enough in God to risk hurt?"

I hope I am moving in that direction.  Doubt I am there yet, but I keep heading that way.

Chewing Cud

I figured out what I am, but while it is an accurate description, it is not that complimentary.  I am a cow.  Or, if I don't like that, I could be a goat or a sheep.  Perhaps an alpaca?  Maybe an antelope sounds better?

But I am much like an animal that chews its cud.  It is important that I know that about me because it helps me understand how I work.  I tend to take in situations at the time, but then process the emotions and all of them later.  Chewing the cud - um, later on.

Right now that is sort of where I find myself.  Been through something that on the outside, you would say it is over, and I would tend to agree with you.  But I haven't processed it yet.  I will take time to do that - to bring up what happened and carefully process the emotions and feelings.  Only then will I be willing to go on and be done.

It is just who I am... a... well, I like the sound of antelope best... except for the pictures of antelope being caught by lions that we always see on National Geographic.  Perhaps I better just be a sheep after all.

So, right now, I am chewing my cud.  Thinking over and processing the emotions of an event that happened awhile ago.  But there is some peace to sitting and quietly processing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Things They Say! - False (teeth) Worries

Ok, my daughter has this habit of worrying about all sorts of things when she is worried about one thing.  (Could be she gets it from her mother, but I would never admit that.)  Tonight she was all worried about starting school again.  Her helpful older brother informed her that this grade has "tons of homework" and a not so nice teacher.

So she worried.

She worried as she brushed her teeth, and worried what would happen if she lost all her teeth when she got old.  I told her she could get false teeth.

She worried that false teeth would hurt.
I told her that they don't hurt, and they are easy to clean because you take them out at night and leave them soaking in a cup.

So, she worried some more, "But what if a squirrel comes in the night and steals your false teeth?"
I just didn't have a good answer for that one.

I put her to bed next to the helpful brother who started the worrying and heard him trying to invent different ideas of how to get false teeth away from a squirrel.

I turned off the light and told them to hush, if a squirrel ever steals her false teeth, we will attempt to figure out a good rescue plan when the time comes.  For now, go to sleep.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It Comes Back to What We Believe

There comes a time in every situation where you realize that you have been in one place long enough and need to keep moving.  One can only sit in shock so long.  One can only be bewildered for so long.  One can only be sad so long.  It is a little like the old wives tale says, "Don't make a face like that because if the wind changes, you'll be stuck with it.  If you stay stuck in one place, chances are it will stick on you.

So when I come to a place where I know I 've camped in one place too long and I need to move on, but struggle to do so because I don't see a path, I go back to what I do know.  What I know is not always easy, but it is firm ground.  Back on firm ground, there is always a path to be found - perhaps not the one we wanted, but always a path.

How do I go back to what I know?  I usually start by talking to God and telling Him what I do know.  What I do believe.  I've usually spent enough time struggling around with God about I don't know and things I don't see.  It's time to begin with what I do know.

Some of the books that have most molded me as a believer are the books of people who walked this road ahead of me.  My parents had a rule when I was in early elementary school that on Sundays we were not allowed to read anything unless is was a missionary biography.  Well, we loved to read, so we reluctantly devoured the only thing we were allowed to read on Sundays.  I grew up with the stories of the great cloud of witnesses.  These books have greatly influenced my life and I find myself falling back to truths I learned in them in difficult times.

One quote that stuck with me for the sheer simplicity of it and the weight of truth behind it is this:  "In time of trouble say...
         I am here ...
                                     by God's appointment
                                        in His keeping
                                            under His training
                                              for His time.

I think it is from Andrew Murray from what I can read, but it was simple enough to stick with me.  The longer version is this:

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place; in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again - how and when He knows.

So I am here by God's appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.

Today, it was time to move on.  To go back to what I do know, to get firm ground beneath my feet and move on.  The world may be different than it was before these events happened to knock me off balance and I may not understand it all, but it is time to go on.  I've learned that when I'm stuck and can't go on that I don't need to try to figure it all out myself.  I need to start asking for help.  So I begin to pray - starting with what I do believe and moving on to asking for help.  Sometimes, and more often a few years ago, I would write out my prayers - both as a discipline and as a memorial.  Today I did that:

Oh Lord, I believe You are sovereign in all things.  You order my life and my days without waste for Your purposes.  I believe this.  So in today's struggle, I still believe this.  I hurt.  I'm confused.  I feel betrayed and abandoned, counted as worth little, aching from the hurt that does not quickly heal.  I am suddenly alone in a strange place and must figure out a new way.  That which I am so used to functioning in has changed so suddenly, and I need to learn a new normal, and that learning must happen right in the core of the pain.  But I believe You are sovereign, yes, even in this.  So it is time to move on with You in the face of pain.

So here in the darkness, show me what is is You've brought me here for.  In the loneliness, bring me closer to You.  In the shake up of what I counted as firm, set my feet on the rock.  I know You are about my good.  I know that.  It is just that I am lazy and prefer comfort and stability to growth.

Oh Lord, in this be near.  Help me to my feet.  I know You are in this, even if it is unjust; You are in it for my good.  Help me to my feet, take me by the hand and walk me on - even if this never changes, even if I've lost forever something I counted precious.  Even then.  Because You are to me more precious than anything.  You are in this.  You brought me into it for my good.  Let me rest in that.

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
         You have taken hold of my right hand. 
With Your counsel You will guide me,
         And afterward receive me to glory.....
But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
         I have made the Lord GOD my refuge.
Ps 73:23, 24, 28
After that came a quiet peace, the quietness of tears shed deep inside where no one sees, a sudden exhaustion, a solid nap, and then the readiness to go on.  I have found my way home to safety.

Oh, and I also cleaned my office!  Slowly and steadily working on it with the new ability to focus that comes with a quiet surrender to God.  It feels nice to be back in my space again.  It is a place I have to find peace in the middle of the business of my house - I think I will be needing it in the coming weeks!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Broken Relationships, Apples, and Cinnamon

What have I been up to recently?  Canning apples.  I am not sure why, except that our house has a nice apple tree in the back yard.  The first years we lived here, it produced warped tiny things, so I just thought that was that.

We were gone last year, and when we got back, our back yard was covered with rotting apples.  They looked bigger than the year before, but they were rotten.  We had just not been home.

This year, the apples are bigger and edible.  I don't know what type they are - sort of a mutt of apples, mostly red, but part yellow.  Nice and sweet, but with a tangy flavor.  Well, there they lay on my yard and I am not one to let free food go to waste.  So I've been canning apples.

I've done big jars of apple pie filling and applesauce.  I've done little jars of lovely apple jam.  Today, I'm working on applebutter.  I also picked most of my garden and did some jars of tomatoes and salsa.  Right now my table is covered with various sizes and shapes of jars full with different food from the gardens.  It smells nice.

But even the smell of cinnamon and cloves simmering on the stove is not lifting my mood.  I'm sort of in a settled sadness.  The year has come to the beginning of a new school and work year, and we should be raring to start up again.  I'm not.  I'm tired.  This year has been a tough one.  And what I did not expect in the middle of all the stress was broken relationships.  I think that is what is taking the biggest toll on me personally this year. 

This week we walked in to the office to see a compliant written out and the notice that one person was quitting due to a disagreement she could not get past.  It wasn't even something that should have been a big deal - not a personal offense or something.  It was a opinion of belief, but she could not see past it, and the relationship is broken.

Broken relationships cause pain.  Even more so when they hit by surprise, when there was nothing you did to cause them nor any reason really for the break.  And this one hurts.  I guess I could shrug and say, "so what?  We can manage without that person anyway now." and we could, but it is not their function that I miss, it is the person, the relationship.  Now I find myself sad.  Things that were special to this person now bring sadness and not smiles... because all they do is remind me that the relationship is broken.

So, I am canning.  It keeps me busy.  And apples and cinnamon usually make me feel better.  Right now they aren't, but I am still canning.  Maybe the taste of homemade apple pie in the cold winter will make me feel warm and cozy again.  Today it seems like a remote possibility, but still there is some comfort in seeing the jars of homemade canning line up on my table.  Homemade stuff spells love and comfort, and this year has been starkly short of either.

But our busy season is right around the corner - a month of meetings and trainings in which we play host to people from all over.  I really need to get some energy and cheerfulness to go through this.  What I am thankful for this year is that a friend is coming, one with whom I can share my heart and cry.  And perhaps that is what I need more than the smell of apples and cinnamon.

Things That Bring Me Hope

I have three boys who I love dearly.  I was so delighted to see the first two who are less than two years apart bond so well.  They are very different in their likes and dislikes, but they are unquestionably a team and have been ever since the older discovered that the next one could do more than drool and eat.

The problem came in with the third.  He adores his older brothers and at times they tolerate him, but they never bonded with him with that same tight bond that the first two bonded with.  Perhaps it was also due to the fact that he is a little younger - the gap is just slightly over two years there - and perhaps because the long awaited, long prayed for sister came only two years after him, and she was the delight of all the boy's lives.  They vied for her attention and approval, and that sort of left Number Three all on his own.

Number three responded by being more whiny and fussy than I would like him to be.  Over the last few years, as the older ones grew, and the third continued to whine, he became more and more of an unwanted playmate.  As he became more unwanted, he whined more - creating a vicious circle.

This year is a big year for us.  My oldest starts high school.  Whew - so hard for me to believe, but he is growing.  He's a great kid - I love him and am proud of him.  He's just at that bridge between boy and growing towards man.  Still hasn't hit a huge growth spurt yet, so he's still little, but he acts big at times.  And he is one good looking kid - nothing fancy, but good looking.  He's great at sports, which I never was just because we were never given a chance where we lived.  He's got a great attitude and is a good team player.  I like my boy.  I'm sending him off to highschool proud of him and at peace with his ability to face what is ahead.  He's been well-taught, he makes good choices, he cares little about what others think, but thinks deeply about what God wants, and he talks to his parents openly and honestly.  We've done the best we could in the situations he was raised in and he is a good kid.

But what makes me smile this week as I watch him getting ready for school and spending more time with his friends (also good kids whose families are friends with us), is what is happening with the remaining two brothers.  I took them all out yesterday with a friend of my daughter's, and we played at a park.  This park has two cool swings that look like flying saucers on ropes.  There were my #2 and #3 boys together making it swing as high as they could.  When they tired, they spread their towels from swimming out on the swing, curled up in it together and just sat swinging.  Today, my oldest is out and my other two boys are curled up on the couch together playing a computer game without any fussing.

So I smile.  These next two years before #2 goes off to highschool may be very good years.  Years in which the other two can bond, too.  Oh, they will all be home at night, but #2 and #3 will be at one school together.  It is a time for figuring out new ways of relating to each other.

And that brings me hope.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Behind That Door

I love the internet.  I just was able to watch a show called Hoarders on the internet.  I had heard about it before and then reading a news article that a woman died and no one found her in her house where her husband lived with her for four months until her husband finally saw her feet sticking out of a pile of garbage... ugh!

Ok, I am not a hoarder.  Nope.  Nowhere close.  But I keep more than I should occasionally.  When I was a kid, I was handed a shoe box on more than one occasion with the instructions to put in it anything I wanted to keep.  Obviously, we did not get to keep much.  Now I am an adult and have a house full of space.  I can hold on to things.  At first it was wonderful to have things.  Now, well now, I am much more likely to throw things out.  Over the years, as I sort through my mental clutter, I've also been sorting through my household clutter.  Ah, no, never as bad as the hoarders show.  All my stuff can fit in closets and dressers, but why are they so full?  I just cleaned out my linen closet and realized I have ten pairs of single sheets.  Why?  Even if all the members of my household end up with explosive vomiting all in one night, I will still likely be able to keep up with washing and drying fast enough.  Even if guests arrive, we can manage without so many sheets.  So I began to declutter even more this summer.

I like decluttering.  I decluttered my kid's rooms and loved it. I hung special things on the walls and decorated the rooms.  I ban them from saving things and make them chant "we don't keep junk" over and over again when they want to keep something "just because".  I love my house being clean and organized.

But there are two areas I have not been able to touch.  I just can't go there.  They've been the way they are since March, and I need to do them this week - at least one of them, but I just can't.  The thought of entering those spaces still makes me nervous, tears fall, and I get short of breath.  I was never like this before - this is new.  The reason, I think, has little to do with the clutter, which while bad is not that bad - an hour or two of hard work in both places would have them straightened and cleaned.  It has to do with the memories, and I am just not ready to tackle them yet.

In March, right before I got the call that my husband was going in and things weren't right or normal, the night before the kids and I had emptied the entire game, puzzle, and video cupboard onto the living room floor.  The plan was the next day to get all the pieces in the right boxes, eliminate things we didn't need, and straighten up the cupboard.  We were excited about it and envisioned the clean space.  We had just done two boys bedrooms and were happy with what we had done.

But then that call came that morning.  My husband was missing.  My friend came over, the kids went out to play in the park quickly before we told them the news, and we sat staring at each other in total shock and pain.  My friend asked me what we should do...  I said, "well, the team will be headed over this way soon, so let's clean up all those games and stuff".  Together, we quietly and quickly threw all the stuff back in the cupboard.  It went in messier than it came out, hurriedly with tears.  At that point, the pain of the events was so terrible and the fear so overwhelming that I was struggling not to throw up as I jammed things back in the cupboard.  Then we shut the door and made tea.  Of course, no one did come, and eventually the kids came  back so my friend took them to her house, and I was alone in my very clean house.  Alone the whole day.  I curled up on the kitchen floor in a ball shaking and sat alone in silence waiting for a phone call and unsure if I would ever see my husband again.  Of what use was a clean organized beautiful home that we had built together?  All I wanted was him.

Then later, after we had told the kids and one of the nights when I was on the phone desperately trying to help the efforts to get him back as well as efforts to keep others safe, I needed some information that was stored in my office.  I ran down there at three in the morning and began to frantically flip through boxes and files.  I pulled things out, dropped them where they lay, and kept going.  In one of those boxes, what fell out was his will and behind it, the life insurance policy that we had got specifically for this sort of situation.  I heaved, struggled to regain control, and kept searching.  Finally, I found what was needed and walked out of the office.

I have never been back in - well, not more than to throw some more papers in there.  I have never opened the game cupboard either.

But I need to.  I need my office back.  I need to sort papers for the beginning of school.  The messy cupboard in my otherwise clean house is bothering me.  I need to open those spaces back up and clean them out.  But the thought terrifies me.  The memory of those very alone, very difficult times scare me.  I want a friend to come do it with me, but I feel guilty.  It is my mess, my responsibility.  I don't need a friend to hold my hand.  My friends have enough to do, I don't need to dump my burdens on them.  But I am just not sure if I can face those rooms alone.  Yet I have to.  I have guests coming in nine days, and I need at least my office cleaned out by then.

I don't think it is a hoarding problem.  It is a facing those raw fears again.  But perhaps if I do, they will go away; they will recede.  I hope so.  But I know there will be tears shed to walk back in to those times.  Flashbacks that I am not sure I am strong enough to handle.

This is where I wanted the help of a friend, but the person I would have asked to help talk me through it is gone and I don't know if they will ever be back.

Do I ask a new friend to walk with me into that fear or do I go it alone?  Either way, I need to go in there and begin tomorrow.  Pray for me, please.