Monday, January 31, 2011

Muchos Gracias Monday: The Big 8

I just felt like being somewhat original instead of "Multitude Monday." (Since I borrow prompts all the time.)

My spirits have been lifted quite a bit since my last post. God brought many smiles my way in the form of people, places, and things. The big 8 highlights of the weekend:

1. Saturday: Steve's girlfriend's mom, Cheryl, told him that she wanted to come over for a visit on Sunday to meet me, and wanted to know what she could bring me or do for me? I was so excited to have a visitor, so honored that someone wanted to come meet me in my weak condition. Normally I want to be the "up and doing" hostess when I meet someone for the first time! But I have learned to let that desire go, for the greater good.

2. I wanted to go to church mostly to be at Jimmy's ordination, but I wasn't up to it physically yet. (Parking lots, steps, crowds bumping, standing, sitting.) But I sure did want to see or hear from someone from church, specifically a pastor or pastor's wife. What are the chances of that on a Sunday morning when you're at home? Well, with God all things are possible. Marilyn called at 9:15 a.m. to see how I was doing and to pray with me over the phone. Blessed my mismatched socks off!

3. Had the stamina to take a shower, do some reading, tidy up a bit (having to just let some things on the floor stay there cuz too much bending is counterproductive to healing). But I felt a tiny sense of accomplishment!

4. After church Cheryl called and introduced herself and said she wanted to do whatever I wanted to do special. What was it ? I said, "See the outside world and drive through Dunkins for coffee! Is that okay?" (Because I was sorely, emphasis on sorely, tempted to drive myself!) Just having someone ask, "What special thing can I do for you?" means so much to a "shut-in" whose got a lot of dream-time on her hands.

5. Stephen led me by the arm to the car. Despite my jeans, sweatshirt, and snow boots, I felt like I was in a wedding. Cheryl said, "Steve is always such a gentleman." I love hearing that. Ben's girlfriend's mom says the same about Ben, and it does my heart good.

Steve and Ambrey filed into the back of Cheryl's Toyota, and off we went. Trees down everywhere from the snowstorms. (Sarah had said, "They're down left and right," and Paul quipped, "No, just on the left." And he calls ME corny!)

6. Cheesecake! Cheryl not only brought the car, but she had been on Facebook, secretly stalking me (as Ambrey calls it) and brought over a Cheesecake Factory plain, NY style cheesecake to have with our coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

7 . A reacher. Have you see the reacher? Cheryl's forte is occupational therapy, and so it's no wonder she brought such a practical gift. I can now pick up that fallen bracelet, that piece of lettuce that dropped off the counter, the lightweight plastic cup from a high shelf, the candle lighter. That is, if I can wrench it away from Joel who saw it as a cool gun. It doesn't help to have a reacher in the basement when I'm on the first level, now does it?

8. Good conversation with plenty of laughs. We sat at the table, loving our cheesecake and hot drinks, chit-chatting away about skydiving, insurance, golden retrievers (Cheryl's family has one named Holly), scrapbooking, mission trip fundraiser ideas, allergies, and Chick Fil-A employee etiquette. (Employees are trained to say "My pleasure" instead of "You're welcome" or anything else like that.) Well, Steve told the story of how, when he was new there, he handed two gay guys their order. The guys said "thanks" and Steve replied, "You're--my pleasure."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Simple Woman's Daybook 1.29.11

Another slice of life through the prompting of The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Outside my window... snow, snow, and more snow. The landscape has been a white background with tall, grey tree lines for a week and a half now, with more predicted for middle of next week. I like it, but I'm pretty well over winter.

I am thinking...that thinking good thoughts is a constant battle for me on good days, but today I'm on the front lines. It's dark inside this hole of physical and emotional pain and loneliness. Certain important people in my life who I thought would have called or checked in on me have not.

I am creating...nothing.

I am wearing...pajamas that don't quite look like pajamas so that I can greet guests (few as they are) in them w/o embarrassment. The top is a fushia thermal undie type with Henley neckline and button-cuffs. Pants are charcoal grey thick sweats that sit high enough not to bother my incisions.

From the kitchen...My sister Jill (a perpetually perky fitness instructor) came by with a huge lot of fresh fruit (by my request--I'm not shy to share my desires!) and made a ginormous fruit salad of pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, melons, mandarins, bananas....looking forward to having some here in a bit. And at 5:00 my dear sweet, friend Melanie is bringing a dish of chicken stuffed with spinach and goat cheese! Food from others is a big pick-me-up, I gotta say!

From the learning room: ummm, getting about 4 subjects/day in lately. My mental stamina ain't up to much more. He has almost memorized the capitals of all five Scandinavian countries:) A geography lover after my own heart.

I am reading Voices of the Faithful, the Bible, and a ton of dog-rescue sites with various dogs' write-ups. (Not that the dogs did the write-ups...). I am hoping someone brings magazines to me at church via my family. (I'm not up to going just yet, physically, though I'm desperate for an outing!) I just want some fluff.

I am going to look into becoming a volunteer at a local nursing home when I'm back in action. The Lord has, once again, opened my eyes to the suffering of shut-in life. I'd like to do something to usher in a little hope and sunshine to old folks (without getting into the medical part; that's not my thing).

A few plans for the rest of the week: lay around. How's that for a plan?

I am hoping...that my nausea does not return. Imagining throwing up with multiple tiny incisions in my abdomen just makes me more nauseated.

I am hearing...the hum of the washing machine. Work is happening that I don't have to coordinate or supervise. Yay!

A picture thought I am sharing... These bushes form a natural fence between my and my neighbor's front yards. When I saw this grouping of tall evergreens, it made me smile. To me it looks like a huddle of neighborhood guys in green snowgear under the guise of strategizing the next football play. What they're really saying is, "L-l-l-et's ssstttttay-t'geththththther, gggguys. It's ffffrreeeezzzzing out here!"

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gratitude while Suffering

The past several weeks have opened my eyes anew to how much I took for granted prior to my own need for major surgery. Among the things I've taken for granted are:

-good health
-24/7 access to medicine and medical care
-level ground
-the ability to pick things up off the floor w/o pain
-being able roll over in bed without pain
-the stamina to cook anything that requires more than cutting the top off a bag, boiling something, or sauteeing for more than 10 minutes.
-the ability to reach up over my head to get things out of cabinets without straining my abs
-the ability to haul laundry up and down flights of stairs
-the ability to haul my own self up and down a flight of stairs
-my husband's strength and fortitude
-so much more

And in this season of suffering, I have been grateful for many things. For one, the snow we have gotten here in Maryland over the past several weeks has provided both beauty and challenges. I am grateful that:

-I didn't have to drive in snow.
-All my family have gotten to and from home safely.
-Our power has not gone out.
-My sisters in Christ have brought a few meals to us, and more are coming. I so appreciate that, knowing that their lives are full and busy, too. I know it's a sacrifice of love to shop for, make, and take a meal to someone.
-Molly died 12 days before my hospitalization. That gave us time to grieve and start moving on.
(Still grieving, but not sobbing.) *These pictures were taken just a few hours before we had to put her down.

God did not allow us to suffer those two major whammies simultaneously. Molly always chose to lay beside whomever was sick or in pain rather instinctively. I think my level of pain would've made her suffering worse, so God was kind to His critter in that regard.

-flowers. Sarah brought me one bouquet of purple and white daisies, lime crazies (don't know what they're called), and white alstroemeria. Steve's girlfriend, Ambrey, brought me some magenta daisies a couple days later, and she arranged them all beautifully on the kitchen table.
I can't express what flowers do to my heart. I just can't. Some women want chocolate all the time. Me? I want flowers.

So much more I'm grateful for, but I'll close here. I have discovered something in my heart about ready to bloom in the near future. Seed thoughts for now, but I will post as it germinates. The thing I've been learning most is this :gratitude is a choice. If you look, you can always find reasons to be thankful.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shoe Leather is an Acquired Taste

Shoe leather is an acquired taste. I think I started acquiring it long before my brain had developed, and frankly, there is ample evidence to prove my brain has not fully developed even now at the tender age of "middle."

I realized I was tasting shoe leather again today at my post-op visit to the GYN. I love him dearly, I do. Best doctor I've ever had, and I've had my share. And one thing I dearly love is that he is the teaching type, which means that he doesn't mind answering questions. Lots of them. Borderline stupid ones. But it also means he always has a team of students there, too. In tight quarters. Wearing tight faces.

Well, when some folks are nervous, they wear no expression. Or they turn red. Others get the shakes. Some giggle, pass gas, or pass out.

Me? I put my foot in my mouth. I deal with nerves with comedy, and some things you just have to laugh at when life gets uncomfortable. Stand-up comedy is impossible at certain venues, like the ones where you're asked to please lie back. So the exam table was my stage for a few minutes of fame. Or infamy.

Unfortunately, I was absent during comedy class the day they taught "Consider Your Audience." I don't always consider every member in the "crowd" when I'm "on stage" like I was today as I scoochied on down for the doc. In a room the size of my minivan were: the good doctor himself, his RN/assistant, a resident (woman with the last name of Jacobs...I say this because it's part of the shoe-leather thing I'm about to tell you), and an Indian fellow whose last name unfortunately rhymes with a GYN instrument. (I knew I had to stop that image STAT before I made a complete fool of myself.)

So as I got into position I kept running my mouth. "This is kind of awkward," I said musically, looking my doctor squarely in the face, blocking out the others and speaking of them in third person. "I mean, I am so not used to having an audience for this type of thing. But...I guess if they hadn't wanted to see the show, they wouldn't have bought a ticket!"

They all laughed, too--Instrument Name Dude, assistant, and the gal named Jacobs whose name didn't register anywhere in my underdeveloped brain as possibly being Jewish-- because she was a tall bottle blonde. (I was, after all, at a Jewish hospital, but my doctor is Asian, the RN black, the med student Indian, and the patient--me!-- Protestant by choice.) So I kept on blabbing as a means of distracting myself from what was really the point of being there.

"I've got to thank you, Doctor, for the mean sedative you gave me before the real anesthesia. It was powerful good! I don't remember the O.R. at all. No bright lights, nothing. The last thing I remember is being wheeled down the hall on the gurney and seeing this Jewish man in a black jogging outfit, smiling down at me. I think he said "you'll be fine" or "you're mine" or something reassuring like that. Do you remember seeing him?"

The doctor chuckled and said, "No, I missed him."

"Well, you probably weren't the only one. I mean, I thought at the time he must be the Messiah-- and was I the only one in this Jewish hospital to recognize Him? Or maybe he was just my personal guardian angel."

The room busted up.

"Maybe so, maybe so," said the doctor, eyebrows raised, chuckling nervously. Then he answered my serious question related to my altered anatomy, told me he'd see me in a month, and they all left the room.

Then it hit me as I put my boots on. Oh. my. word, Zo. Did you just claim to have seen the Messiah at this hospital? In front of the medical student named Jacobs? Hello?? Well, maybe her name just sounds Jewish, and like my friend, Beth, she's really not Jewish and won't be offended. But why? Why couldn't you have just kept your mouth shut except to say something intelligent?

Dayenu for Today: Of Humor, Hospitals, and Habitats

Some time ago I wrote my own version of Dayenu (a Hebrew term meaning "it would have been enough.") Thought it high time to recount 15 more blessings today.

1. If God had only give me the dream of having children, it would have been enough.
2. If God had given me only one song to sing, it would have been enough.
3. If His Word was the only reading material I had, it would have been enough.
4. If chicken alfredo were the only meal we'd had to eat for the past week, it would have been enough.
5. If there was only one laugh in the whole world, it would have been enough.
6. If only one sweet girl had given me a bouquet of flowers, it would have been enough.
7. If my children had no friends except the Lord, it would have been enough.
8. If no one came to visit me in my time of need except my Heavenly Father, it would have been enough.
9. If the house had but one lamp and one source of heat, it would have been enough.
10. If my husband had just a passing interest in coins as a shared hobby with our youngest son, rather than an obsession that leaves him hunched over a magnifying glass for 7 hours, it would have been enough.
11. If I had only a bullet to bite instead of modern anesthesia when my belly was cut don't know if that would've been enough...actually I would rewrite this one . Tee hee.
12. If only I could limit my corniness to things that would be appropriate to crack up about, it would have been enough. But I thought today of a euphemism for my latest surgery: "The Destruction of Habitat for New Humanity."
13, If I had just shampoo and no conditioner, it would have been enough.
14. If I had seen just one stinkbug this week, it would have been enough/too much.
15. If Garrison Keillor had told just one hilarious joke on Prairie Home Companion, it would have been enough. But he gave us almost two hours of eye-rollers, side-splitters, and in-betweeners last night.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Wear Your Blessings Well"

Since I'm still recovering from surgery, I am home watching some Christian TV instead of being with my church family. I'm not usually a fan of TV preachers, but I do want to hear preaching. So I tuned into Joel Osteen and was encouraged by his message. Not that I buy into the entire prosperity gospel, but I do appreciate when pastors declare that the glory of God sometimes manifests itself in material blessings on His people. Having grown up, like Osteen, with the "poverty is next to godliness" mentality that grew out of the Depression Era of my forebears, I can relate to what he's talking about. Here are some notes I took as I listened. Not verbatim, but paraphrased.

Some people will be your friend at the lunch table as long as you are making the same amount. But as soon as you get an increase, they will be jealous and reject you. Are they true friends?

Do you go around feeling poor, dejected, and defeated and think it's an act of humility? It's not. When people see you going around poor, dejected, and defeated, they don't want any part of it. You can project that without God. Walk around in your abundant life from Christ!

Favor is not always fair. You don't have to feel guilty if God gives you a promotion because promotions come from God, not man. If you don't want to accept it, He'll choose someone who will. Celebrate His blessings.

Some people come in at the end of the movie. They haven't seen what your grandfather, grandmother, father, and mother sacrificed to get their children to a better life than they had.
They didn't see the cardboard your grandfather put in his shoes when the bottoms wore out. They didn't see when your grandmother was making ten cents an hour washing other people's clothes.
They didn't see your father trying to raise five kids on $115 a week as a pastor.
They weren't there when your mom died of terminal cancer and wanted you to have the house. They weren't the ones sweeping the church floor when everyone else had gone home to Sunday supper.
They just come in right now when you are prospering, when God has decided to give you material blessing and they judge you.
They wish they had a nicer house, a bigger piece of property, and they think you are the one who has blessed you.
Life is too short to worry about what people think. Owning two acres of land on earth is not going to bankrupt heaven where the streets are paved with gold! Wear your blessings well.

If you have prayed about buying a nicer house and can afford it and have peace, don't worry about who judges you. God is not going to judge you for the very thing He has given you--prosperity. Like any good Father, He smiles when He gives you things and smiles when you happily receive them. As for true friends, they rejoice when you are blessed. They celebrate your prosperity. As long as you're not being selfish, going into debt, or making objects your idols, it's perfectly fine. Wear your blessing well!

Thoughts on this message?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday (not Really)...Hodgepodge

1. Do you like your name? Were you named after someone? If you have children how did you settle on their names? Yes, I like my name. It's unique, and I especially like my double-Z initials. My mom named me after her best friend in college, Zoanna Becker. It's a name that people often ask about, and I like to tell them that ""zoe is Greek for life in the context of abundant life that Jesus gives us, and that anna is Hebrew for grace. Because of God, I am blessed with abundant life and grace.

As for my chidren, it was hard to settle on boys' names because I'd known (and dated) many jerks whose names I'd just as soon forget. Paul wanted names that could be shortened and not overly common and easy to say with a Z last name. (Had to rule out Seth and Chris because they're hard to say with Zubrowski. Neither of us minded family names, but not a "Paul, Jr" or a "little Paul." (Good thing, because our first son is 6'7" tall!) One of my favorite pastors of all time was Ben Price; thus our firstborn is Benjamin Paul.

For our daughter,Paul had always wanted to name his first girl Sarah Grace. He chose it long before the name was popular and long before he met me. I loved that he was so fatherly-minded that he had picked out a name he loved for a future child). I like that Sarah means "princess" and more specifically has the connotation of "mother of nations" since Abraham was the father of nations. Our Sarah is very motherly, and I have no doubt that her loving influence will reach hundreds of children in the world.

I thought our third-born was for sure a girl (though we'd never gotten a sonogram to tell us either way). He was going to be Hope Kathryn (Kathryn for my grandma and Hope because I like "virtue' names. But when he emerged into the world with a weeney, we scrambled for a boy's name--for two whole days. I felt his name should have something to do with his head, because it seemed more than just beautiful, but anointed. I also felt his personality would have a healing effect, that he would be godly, so the prefix "Jo-" was important. When Stephen (of the Bible) died, Jesus stood at the right hand of the Father to welcome him Home. Every other mention of Jesus, He is seated. Thus reading that Jesus gave a standing ovation for Stephen's life and death gives me chills every time! Stephen ("crowned one") Josiah (Jehoval saves) is his name.

Our 4th child's name is Joel Lyle. After two miscarriages, secondary infertility, and literally a signature away from starting our adoption dossier, I found out I was pregnant with him. Paul said, "I just don't understand God." I replied, "That's because God is God. So Joel's name was sealed: The Lord is God. Lyle is my dad's name, and since Valentine's Day has always been special because of Daddy, and because he never would get a namesake with four daughters and no sons, I gave Daddy a living Valentine with his name on the birth certificate. Joel Lyle was born on February 14th!

2. How do you define success? Obeying God regardless of the consequences or the feelings that accompany obedience.

3. Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy? Wheel of Fortune because I don't care for Alex Trebeck. He's kind of a snotty know-it-all. And I like words. So Wheel is my deal.

4. If you could own any single object that you don't have now, what would that object be?
An Audi A6.

5. What is something that inspires you? Birds. The way they do the same thing day after day (search for food, eat, sing, fly) without complaining, with joy. They point me to God.

6. Meatloaf-yea or nay? If it's a yay how do you make yours? Yea. I make it when my hubby asks, and I smother it in a ketchup/mustard/brown sugar glaze. Sometimes, if I remember, I put a layer of glaze between two layers of meat. I think I wouldn't like it much w/o glaze!

7. Which is more admirable-the ability to organize and be methodical or the ability to adapt and make do? I go through fits and spurts of organization. For the most part I'm organized, but if I had to choose the more admirable quality, I'd say it's the ability to make do and adapt. To me that speaks of doing the best with what you have, and being creative under less-than-ideal circumstances.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

You will never know how much you use the muscles around your belly button until you have them cut through by a robot.

Thanks Joyce for another week of great questions. It's such a great way to get to know each other a little better. If you want more good Hodgepodge reading, click on the button above and enjoy yourself.

Remember.......all things that are worth doing usually have be done again and again and again.

Recovering, Recounting, and Renewing

I had surgery on Wednesday for two things. The deeds have been done.
1) I can no longer have children.
2) I hope I can go longer between potty stops.

That's as detailed as I'm gonna get online.

What I found in the hospital were many reasons to force myself to be thankful when I felt like complaining or caving into my emotions. Most of the time I succeeded, but sometimes I realized I'd already messed up and then had to refocus.

I had complete peace going into the hospital, but during the pre-op stuff when a less-than-gentle tech was having trouble finding not just one vein but two, I got queasy (went "vago" from sudden drop in blood pressure) I had "a moment." I asked aloud, "Do I have to go through with this?" I was asking myself, really. Do I really want to keep suffering for more years with my problems, knowing well we have no desire for more children? Or do I want to subject myself to a temporary trial so that my future is almost certainly one with increased iron, energy, and fervor? I prayed for peace, gave thanks that I was surrounded by a team of great doctors and nurses, and that was about the last thing I remember before "going under."

When I was in a lot of pain, morphine helped immediately. But I had to give thanks for it, because it also made me immediately nauseated, and when the puking was over, the morphine still touched my belly pain. It made me wonder how people going through chemo treatments get the will to continue. I felt my temporary suffering could not compare, but it heightened my awareness, for in that very same hospital, a teenage friend of mine is undergoing chemo each week.

Another complaint I had to turn to thanks was about the sleeping conditions. I am very sensitive to light and noise. The hospital was fairly quiet, but occasionally nurses would laugh out loud (and the nurses' station was just outside my door) at the very moment I was about to drift off to Slumberland. On my bed were LED lights illuminating my up/down arrows. I had to be thankful for the ability to reposition my head and feet. I could have been lying on a cot in a third world country. But I wasn't. Even though the bed wasn't super comfy, it nevertheless provided me what I mostly needed.

I also realized a big difference between the level of care I got when I came out of the OR versus the way I felt essentially a DIY gal the next day. Even though I called for help, the nurse would take too long. (I know they had 10 patients each.) So I pushed myself to the limits of pain to get out of bed, unplug the IV machine, drag it with me to the bathroom, take care of myself, get the machine replugged, get myself back in bed. (This was all before Paul showed up because I didn't want him sitting around bored.) But I gave thanks for the stamina and the mental ability to process what needed to be done--and also thankful that being a mom taught me to push beyond the limits of what I knew to do--especially one-handed!

So recovering is an ongoing exercise for me, in recounting God's faithfulness, and renewing my mind. In my flesh I want to be selfish and picky and painfree. But what I want more is to somehow glorify God in this trial, to minimize the demands on other people who didn't ask to
be part of my surgery or recovery, and to continue giving thanks. I fail miserably at times. I whine and complain and cry, but I don't think I'm as miserable a patient as I could be!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Redneck Angel Dream

You know how it is when you have a lot on your mind. Pressing things like...oh...female surgery? Getting there on time. Knowing it's for your good, but not wanting to go through it. Blood. The commute. People you're not used to seeing every day. Dealing with the darkness of soul and yet confident that God is light (if you're a believer). Not getting to eat what you want beforehand, and nothing after midnight, and when the pre-op instructions have you on a liquid diet the day before, you feel that TWO days before you should get to pick whatever you want as your "last meal"--something akin to the major decision a prisoner on death row requests. Wondering if men can at all relate to losing the internal part that holds a baby and you know darn well they can't.

Well, all of that has been stirring both in my consciousness and my subconsciousness. Enter last night's crazy dream:

I'm startled awake and see that the clock says 5:31 a.m. I'm so upset! I'm supposed to be AT the hospital at 5:30 to check in for my 7:30 surgery. I throw on a winter coat, hop in the convertible (which is red, not taupe like Sarah's real one) and drive through town. Except instead of it being Baltimore City, it's Sterling, Kansas, a little one-horse town where I grew up.
And instead of the sun coming up, it's going down--fast. So fast that by the time I get to the first stop sign, it's pitch black. I'm lost. I stop to ask directions to the hospital, but the locals only point west; they are gawking at the scene on Sterling Lake: two beautiful homes sitting on the island, lit up and welcoming, but distant. I'd rather stay and be drawn to the light, but I rev the engine and keep driving.

I come to a gas station. By this time it's high noon and I ditch the winter coat onto the highway.
My tank is full, but I am still lost and have to pee, so I pull over to gas station. I'm thinking "good luck finding help way out here in No Man's Land". But suddenly, before I've cut off the engine, half a dozen friendly male rednecks appear beside, in front of , and behind the red convertible.

"Hi, sweetie, what can we do fer ya?" the one says, in an accent like Larry the Cable Guy's. He has a wad of chew in his left cheek.

"Um, I need a hospital," I say to the smiling six-pack.
"What fer?" says another. "You got prollems?"
"Yeh, I got problems," I say. "Need surgery."
"Surgery!" exclaims the third, whose fly is afraid of heights. "What on earth does a pretty little lady like you need surgery for?"

Before I can answer (in vague terms), they all six say, as if a choir, "We'll gladly have the surgery instead of you." Grammar is not their strong suit, obviously. It's not like you can have an operation or a person, but I let it go.

"Aww, thanks, fellas," I say, "I'm truly touched. That's so nice of you. But I'm pretty sure you couldn't have this kind of surgery even if you wanted to."

They look at me and then at each other. I wonder if they think I'm getting a boob job. Suddenly I'm so self-conscious I don't have to pee anymore, and I rev the turbo engine again and zoom off into the distance.

I get to the hospital at 6:48, hungry. I realize that in my hand I'm holding a log of lard. I ask at the nurse's station if they have scissors to cut the wrapper off my lard. The nurse says, "NPO, honey. NPO." I think she doesn't know how to spell "NOPE" and I am seriously getting nervous about entrusting my entire body into their care. Then she says to me, like I'm the dummy, "It means Nothing
By Mouth. AFter midnight, honey, and it's almost seven o'clock!"

"Oh," I say, clutching my log of lard to my bosom. "You're right. I was going to go on a date with my husband last night and we were going to eat whatever we wanted. He was going to get country fried steak and I was gonna have crab bisque and cheesecake. But we didn't have a babysitter so we had oatmeal and a can of green beans instead."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yet Another Radical and Respectful Response

If you read the post below, it was my personal response to both three-quarters of David Platt's book, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, and JD Greear's tempered response to the book.

Here is yet another gracious response to some of the more challenging (and possibly guilt-inducing) assertions made by Platt. The exchange is between author/preacher Kevin DeYoung and Radical's author David Platt. The two men know and like each other personally, and in most every way, agree theologically. I appreciate their articulation of the finer points that I stumbled over in my heart, points that seem fine as grains of sand, but when that sand gets in your bathing suit at the beach and stays there all day till you walk away chafed, it can be easy to forget what a lovely day at the beach you had overall.

If I could say one thing to Kevin DeYoung, though, it's "Why in the world did you throw the word antinomianism into your review?" Man, I was cruising along, nodding with understanding, appreciating the prose as if on a tour of Italy, when all of a sudden--POW! Antinomianism rose up out of the concrete like a speed bump on steroids. I'm all about learning new vocabulary words, but I don't like to click out of the screen to check

Okay, back to the review. I must say it's worth every bit of your time to read Radical, and then to read the balanced responses to it from Greear and DeYoung.

Oh, and just so that you can sail over that babble-icious, uber impressive theological term with a modicum of understanding before you read DeYoung's otherwise-comprehensible essay, you might want to get acquainted with antinomianism via the Berean Wife's blog. (I happened upon the blog in a cursory search for a quick explanation, but know absolutely nothing about the blogger or her blog, so this is not an endorsement. Just one wordsmith trying to show other wordsmiths where to find a satisfactory definition.)

The Generosity Matrix

One of these days I'm going to finish Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.And one day after that I plan to write a review of it. Why has it taken so long for me to get through it? Not lack of time. Not busyness to excess. Not poor writing.

The main reason? Guilt. The feelings of guilt that seize my heart are much greater than the compulsion to love those within my very circle of immediate influence. Going to a third-world country with Bibles, food, and medicine seems more glorifying to God than homeschooling my child, fixing meals for my family, folding the umpteen thousandth load of laundry. Responding to the massive and critical needs of the world seems to trump my family's need for food, clean clothes, and education. Especially when I see how we eat, how many outfits we have, and the quality of education our children are getting.

As I'm reading Radical, I am convicted on one page and compelled by love to give more to the hurting poor of the world, to abandon all my worldly possessions and life in America as I know it, and take the next flight into the depths of the Amazon jungle to find lost people who've never heard the name of Jesus. I fantasize that my husband will suddenly morph into Jim Elliot and I will be his Elisabeth. (But the end won't be tragic for us.) Thinking thoughts like this make me imagine that I'm doing more pleasing work for God than sitting here "a spoiled rich American" taking care of her home and family. Is it not good enough to cheer on my husband to whom God has given the ability to make money and manage it wisely? Why do I think God would be more pleased if we liquidated our assets and gave everything to the poor? Would we not then leave our own children poor, and have no inheritance to give them or their children ( and thereby disregard another scriptural principle)?

There was no lasting peace in my heart while reading the book. Conviction would be sweet, but that's not what's happening. I keep thinking, "I can never do enough. I can't give enough, pray enough, go often enough overseas or into inner city ghettos to measure up to the call of the Great Commission" as David Platt keeps talking about. To me, the balance is missing. It's as if he says, "It's wrong to have wealth and it's wrong for you to be part of a church that has nice buildings." (Granted, I am more at peace in a modest house and a simple church building and would squirm in ones I thought too lavish. Nor do I espouse renting a home or a school gym forever and a day as wise stewardship.)

I am quickly "tripped up" by the swinging pendulum on the issue of giving. How much is enough? Can I buy another pair of shoes when I know there are poor kids with not even one pair? Why do I own more than one Bible when 20 Christians underground in Asia are sharing three pages from a torn New Testament? When is enough enough in our savings account? When we know someone is unemployed in the household of faith, do we give to them, and if so, how much and how often? The needs are overwhelming. Where do you start and where do you end in the helping?

Enter this article, The Generosity Matrix, by JD Greear, directed to me on Facebook by my pastor, Joel Rishel. Greear has enumerated six principles that should be held in tension on the matter of money. The bottom line? Live sufficiently and give extravagantly.
It's a liberating article that I needed to read today--and to revisit whenever I feel the guilt pangs of not giving enough. I particularly needed to read this:

So, have you given
enough? The simple truth is this: the Gospel eschews the word “enough” in any context, except in describing Christ’s work on our behalf. “Enough” will most always become a form of compulsion, which Paul says is not to be an operative motive in our giving. “Have I given enough?” is a question that pounds us with guilt and “compels” us to give more to feel good about ourselves. Paul, by contrast, says that God loves free, cheerful givers who give because they absolutely love to, not because they are compelled to (2 Corinthians 9:5).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Starting Over with a New Doggie

Rachel Anne's encouraging blog, Home Sanctuary, keeps me going back and back for more, while going forward or to get me back on track after
a swerve.

All positive directions. Today she has us starting over, in a matter of speaking. The idea is that starting over can be a positive thing as well, and the open-endedness of her question led me to post this. What am I starting over with?

The search for a new dog. Today marks one week since we lost Molly, our 10-year-old Golden Retriever. Part of me thinks there will never, ever be a dog so good in all the world. But even if there's not, there are thousands needing someone to love them, and boy-oh-boy, do I feel the need to love one back. Dog people understand.

But I don't need anyone to understand. I need a dog.

And I've been online hunting for another good dog, praying as I go.

We know we want a medium-sized, gentle, intelligent breed. Not a yapper. Not a climber. Not a chewer. Not a puppy. Probably female. Most likely a rescue dog who's been fostered so we get someone else's close-up observations of behavior and temperament. But then there's a possibility we might get a mutt handed to us, or a purebred Golden.

At any rate, we're starting over. And we're eager to meet our new arrival as soon as God wills. But first, I'll be starting over with a new (or at least altered body) and give myself time to heal up before chasing a wiggly, waggly pooch around the house.

It's exciting, and yet a walk of faith. And sometimes while walking in faith, you step in a pile of doo-doo. Such as this I am prepared for.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Word for the Year: Peace

Back in late September, I sensed the Lord spoke something to me very clearly: "Suffering is coming, but I'll be with you."

I stiff-armed the "suffering" half of the message because I was trying hard to be upbeat. The summer had been difficult enough, what with accepting our school closing and being without half my children for eight weeks.

But then came pain like I hadn't known in eight years. Pain that doubled me over and nearly sent me to the ER. Pain that forced me to have an MRI to determine the severity of the cause. Pain that convinced me to have the source surgically removed. (The surgery is next week.)

Back in the fall, things weren't going well in several relationships either, so I felt alone in many ways. Some relationships have improved, others worsened. Sometimes you just have to distance yourself from people who continually cause pain. And you have to let go of the expectation that people who claim to love you will call and ask how you're doing.

The last thing I needed to combat physical pain was the fear of forthcoming suffering. I have a lot of fears, and am at war with anxiety much of the time. It's strange; I sort of "grew into" this sin, because as a child I was carefree and happy. As a teenager my biggest fear was getting a pimple or forgetting my cheerleading socks on game day. As a college student, I feared getting less than an A in any class of my major, or less than a B in any non-major class. As a newlywed, I became a little more tenuous; was my cooking good enough? Did my husband regret getting married to someone so flawed? When the baby came along, forget it. My self-confidence went kaput. I felt guilty practically from the day I found out I was pregnant. Mother Guilt looms larger than a 9-month preggo belly and sticks around till...I least till after college graduation (because none of my four has reached that milestone yet).

In the middle of all this, I had the gall to say I wasn't a worrier. I poo-pooed others for worry, thinking things like, "Are you crazy? You worry about something THAT small in the whole scheme of things?" or "Just get over it. It's only money." Or, of shy people I'd think, "That's stupid to be anxiety-ridden over meeting new people. Don't be so self-conscious that you're not others-conscious. Shyness is selfishness."

Fast forward to about the year 2001. Suddenly I began to experience anxiety, not just depression. Little things I would've counted as trivial concerns suddenly became larger than life, like those dumb inflatable chimpanzees at a new car dealer's lot. Claustrophobia kept me from sharing an elevator with more than four people. Lying flat on my back put me into panic mode. Driving made me nervous (not altogether irrational since I'd been in two accidents, not my fault, in the year 2000). Feeling like I was always forgetting something made me fear early-onset Alzheimer's. Choosing the wrong word in a conversation made my face turn red. Stupid, huh?

Fears mounted to large scale. Fear of paralysis. Losing a child. Losing Paul. Infidelity. A house fire. Drowning (which really did nearly happen in 2000 at Rehoboth Beach, with two of my kids when we were pulled out by undertow).

A decade is too long to contend with anxiety and fear. What am I truly believing about God when I quake inside, when I try to avoid situations in which I have no control? Am I deceived into thinking I even HAVE control? Do I believe He loves me like a good father? My own father gave me every proof by example that God is a good Father, so why have I doubted so many times?

It's probably that I want to share control--to let God give me the "feel good" stuff while I stay on guard against anything uncomfortable. At the core, I believe I don't deserve to suffer. That's my #1 problem.

------------More later---------------------

Monday, January 10, 2011

Reading Reviews 2010, Part 2

To continue my post from yesterday, here are two more books I read this past year. Both receive my personal five-star rating.

Because He Loves Me
(Fitzpatrick) --I knew I had to read this book after taking copious notes while attending a 2-day conference at our sister church a year ago. Elyse Fitzpatrick is not what I'd call your "typical" women's conference speaker (she's hard hitting but not condemning, uses personal anecdotes with self-deprecating humor, and skips the triteness that sometimes gets sloshy coming from women afraid to "tell it like it is." )

This book is not just for women. Being a person who struggles with feeling unloved and as if I have to "do more and try harder" to measure up to God and certain humans, this book helped put me on a path to liberty. I'm not there yet, but God used this book and conference to reinforce scriptural truth to me. He loves me because He does. He loved me first. He loves me regardless what I do. He loved me before He created me.

This book helped me think more of God's thoughts and what it means to be hidden in Christ. I can still picture Elyse's hand motions when explaining the phrase " hidden in Christ." She put her left hand in front of her, palm facing her, and then tucked her right hand behind that (so audience couldn't see right hand). The left hand was Christ, the right was every follower of His. When God looks at Christ, I am "clothed in His righteousness" and hidden in Him. He treats me just like He treats His Son. I could say more, but this book was pivotal in my spiritual growth. It catapulted me into seriously believing God loves me for His sake, and I benefit exponentially! Why couldn't I "get" that before? *****

Organizing for Life: Declutter Your Mind to Declutter Your World (Felton). I have read countless books on home management, time management, organizing, decorating, and topics of that ilk. Many have spurred me on temporarily through systems and suggestions, but this book revolutionized my thinking because it dealt with heart issues. Make no mistake, dealing with these issues got ugly. Coming to terms with why I "struggle" with housekeeping. The main one? Rebellion. I won't get into it, but basically it comes down to one primary truth: we all want control in our life. Some people (not just women) find control in cleaning and organizing everything in sight. Others find control by not doing that if they feel the other partner has the upper hand by being a "neat freak". It's like anorexia; not eating is a form of control.

The secondary truth I came away with from this book was that good housekeepers prefer beauty over practicality. They want their home to be first and foremost nice to look at. That feeling doesn't necessarily come from simply having everything in its place. You can have an organized home that's dull and lifeless, but if you strive for beauty, order will be part of that. I was also reminded that God is a God of beauty. I grew up hearing He is a God of order (and, the unspoken corrolary, rooted in my Mennonite and Baptist heritage, "beauty is frivolous.") He indeed is a God of order, but one look at nature reveals beauty first! He loves to change the colors of the sky every day and night, He loves to put blue feathers on some birds, and accessorizes some animals with spots, and installs showy "lightbulbs" in certain bugs. He made the human body a thing of beautiful shape and line, not just marvelous DNA and symmetry. He didn't just design nature to function practically and in orderly fashion, although how perfectly He created beauty as well, and saw that it was good. If He says so, who am I to squabble?

How freeing to confess my rebellion, and then to sense God's approval in our spending some money to make a pretty family room (my decade-old dream) in 2010 so that I'd feel "at home" in my own space. I plan to reread this book rather soon as a refresher course since I've not arrived yet as a domestic diva. But I'm loving the beauty as well as more order in my home, thanks to Felton's quintessential book on the subject.*****

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Reviews of my Reading Choices, 2010; Part 1

Let's see if I can remember. I knew I should've reviewed each book as soon as I finished it. But in hindsight, if a book is truly memorable, that's a great review in itself, right?

I'll do a star-rating, too, like others have.

***** Superb. Worth owning. Would give as gift to a like-minded person.
**** Very good. Memorable. Would highly recommend to others to get from library.
*** Good reading, but not excellent writing. Will recommend for certain merits, not the "whole package."
** Fair. Waded through.
* Why did I bother to finish it? or I didn't finish because it was too boring or too poorly written. I can't be editing everything in my mind and still enjoy the thing.

Many were read, reviewed, and recommended by fellow bloggers. My apologies for not looking up the authors unless I remember them. I'm lazy.

3000 Degrees-- (non-fiction) Story of six firefighters who (shall I spoil the ending?) lose their lives fighting an inferno caused by squatters in a New England warehouse. The writing is not superb (a lot of cliches, if I remember correctly) but the real life drama captivated me. I read it in two days, something I can't say of 98% of the books I read. Made me grateful for firefighters and that none of my loved ones has chosen that profession. I couldn't live with the fear. ***

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce --(biography) John Piper wrote this excellent little book about the man responsible for abolishing slave trade between Europe and America. On his deathbed he received the answer to a lifetime of prayers and hard work. His singleminded drive and relentless prayers to God on his behalf changed history for thousands upon thousands of people. Piper's handling of the English language in prose or preaching never dulls me, and always rivets me. A few parts (politics) slowed it down for me, but overall it's one I'd highly recommend to a Christian history buff. ****

Amy Carmichael, Rescuer of Precious Gems (biography)-- This book is from my favorite missionary bio series by Geoff and Janet Benge. Written on a 5th/6th grade level, the plot and dialogue are perfect for me either alone or aloud with my students. Carmichael remained single all her life, but became "Amma" ("Mother") to hundreds of orphans in India by the power and will of God. I laughed and cried, and my faith was increased by reading this true account. ****

The Holiness of God (Sproul) -- I resisted reading this for years, thinking it'd be too heady or academic to be practical, even though I love RC Sproul's preaching. To the contrary, nothing increased my thinking of how to live my life practically in light in God's holiness. It's not like there is an academic God and a practical God. He is One. Sproul has a keen gift for weaving Greek and Hebrew teaching with personal anecdotes in a way no one parallels. I could quote endlessly from this book if it were in front of me, but what I walked away with was a greater appreciation of God's holiness. He is holy loving, holy gracious, holy just, holy forgiving. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty! *****

Okay, this will get too long. I'll review more at another time. I know how it goes: you see a really long post and decide to skim it or skip it. Vain me, I'd rather hold your attention! (Maybe I should reread that last book I mentioned.)

Friday, January 07, 2011

She's Gone

If ever a dog were loved, surely thee.

You loved us all, including me.

I will miss you. I already do. Hugs, kisses, and all the roast beef, ham, and cheese you can eat, Molly-girl.

God blessed us with 8 delightful years.

Rest in peace, precious friend.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Living in this Tension

Our dog is confusing the heck outta me!

Last night she was too weak to get up and greet Sarah's friends who came back here at 11 pm after a trip to New York. I had changed Molly's bandage and it was really bloody. The boys carried her outside on a blanket and she just stayed on her tummy--didn't get up to pee, didn't mess the blanket, didn't rally at the sight of anything moving in the night air. They brought her back in.

I buried my face in her neck and sobbed. For the 443rd time this week I told her what a good dog she is, how much I love her, how she's been a handpicked gift from God.

I went to bed with a shattered heart, dreading the morning. Woke up dreading what I'd find downstairs. Scared to go to the kitchen alone.

But she was on her tummy and wagged her tail to greet me. Still too weak to rise, and needing a change of bandage, she stayed put. Steve woke soon and helped me do the nurse work. Before Paul left for work, he spoke tenderly and rubbed her head. That's not typical for Paul, so I really thought, "This is it. Even he knows her time is really short."

I cooked six egg whites and she devoured them. On her side. She drank water. On her side. She couldn't stand without help.

But at noon, Ben and Sarah carried her outside and she walked around a little and peed. Then she headed for the van. She loves her car rides. So we decided to take her for a ride. Went through the drive thru where Steve works. Gave her a bite of chicken sandwich and some fries.
Came home and parked the van. But every time Ben tried to lift her from the back seat, she pulled away. She wanted to stay there. Maybe another car ride? Maybe her way of saying she'd rather die outside than in? Maybe to die alone while looking out windows?

At any rate, I thought her eyes were saying, "It's my time. Please..."

Bonnie, Evie, and Emmy came over and took turns crawling into the van to pet her and to share our grief. Friends who care about your pets are the best. I told Bonnie I appreciated their company but hoped they'd understand we wanted to be alone with Molly when we went to the park. She completely understood. No apologies needed.

I called the vet and asked if it was okay to give her a whole chicken sandwich. He said, lovingly and yet with expert knowledge, "Is she still bleeding?" Yes, I said. "Then we can say it's not an autoimmune disease. It's a vascular bed problem. With her anemia, she probably doesn't have much absorption. Her intestines lack the lining to break down a lot of food--but by golly, at this stage, if my dog wanted a whole McDonald's cheeseburger, I'd give it to her. But maybe an eighth of it every few hours."

So, through tears, I thanked him for his compassion and advice. Then I called Steve home from work. I figured he'd want to be his siblings for the goodbye ride to the park.

We drove and drove to find a really private spot away from traffic, under trees, a soft place for her to walk. Ben lifted her out, and straightaway she peed on the ground. Then she pooped. (Sorry for TMI, but she hadn't defacated since at least Sunday and I was worried she'd go septic.) There was no blood in any "specimen." What a relief!

Then she proceeded to walk around like a young dog. You'd never know she had an ace bandage.
Her face was bright and happy. She wagged her tail and explored the land. Sniffed leaves. Sniffed rocks. Steve videotaped her youthful romping. It reminded me of what heaven might be like.

Then, when we felt she shouldn't put any more pressure on that bad leg, or tire her any further,
we guided her back to the van. I was a distance from the van so couldn't see what was happening. I figured Ben was lifting her back into her comfy seat.

But no, Molly had hopped up into the van all by herself!
Where did she get the strength? The motivation? The energy? All I could do was say, "Amazing! Thank you, God! I am so confused, but I'll take it!"

And when she got home, she laid down again in the kitchen. Then she got up and went to the family room where Sarah was sleeping. Steve put a blanket under her bad leg, but it has not bled. I don't understand. I don't have to change the bandage. What is going on? Are the meds working and this IS indeed NOT cancer? Does she have an autoimmune disease that's controllable and will meds be able to prolong her life well? Or is it a glimpse of heaven carved out to give us hope, to comfort us? I don't know. The tension is hard to live with, but I will gladly release my dog to a park-like heaven full of trees and leaves and squirrels and birds and whatever else I picture God creating for those He loves--those with two legs or four, or with wings. It's a beautiful thought to dwell on while living in this tension.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My Dog is Dying

The vet cut her bloody bandage off the back of Molly's leg and found big oozing clots and a tumor on her leg. The site of the needle poke from yesterday on the front of her leg was also bleeding.
Immediately he said, "Oh, no. We're going to have to talk about bad stuff today."

A blood specimen pretty well confirms either cancer or an autoimmune disease. The red blood cells are clumping. To do any more labwork would mean more needle pokes, more blood. Transfusions, therefore, would mean "blood in, blood out" because she's not clotting.

She probably has two days to live.

We are all a mess. Molly is such a good, good dog. I'm staying by her side. I know she'd be by mine if I were dying .

She is home and resting. She's on steroids to see if that helps the clotting factor. Also drinking Gatorade per vet's orders, and ate Ben's leftover egg whites with gusto. We have to confine her to the kitchen floor because of the bleeding, and we're taking turns lying next to her, comforting herself and our own souls with every stroke. That soft reddish gold hair and ears like mini throw rugs are irresistible. Always have been.

I am shaking like a leaf, feeling nauseous with grief, listening to her breathe too fast, but reaching that bandaged paw toward me. I love, love, love my dog. I hate, hate , hate to watch her suffer.

I'm Back

I had a really good visit in Texas with family. Much to tell, but what I came home to is sad.

Our dog had a leg wound that bled onto the kitchen floor while the kids were having a NYE party in the basement. Thru a series of emergency calls and a visit to the vet yesterday, the suspicious cause is rat poisoning (which keeps blood from clotting). Don't know what or how she got into anything--we have mole poison in the shed, but the door was shut. Would a heartless neighbor do this? I can't and won't let my mind go there.

Molly's lower front leg is wrapped but this morning I see that she bled through it. I have a new appointment in 1/2 hour. So I'm off to treat my little darling.