Wednesday, March 31, 2010

When He Speaks Our Name

This is my latest FaithWriter's entry. It got "Highly Commended," which, honestly, was a surprise to me. I did not expect to do that well. I really struggled with the last paragraph and ended up not being completely happy with it. I turned it in about 11:30 at night on Mar. 17 and then with my birthday the next day and my unplanned trip the day after that - I forgot about it! Then I got home, checked my email on Sun, and discovered all these nice comments on it! So, evidently, it wasn't that awful!

This was a stretch for me. My "comfort zone" in writing, I am finding, is in the devotional arena. I wanted to step out of that a bit so I did some fictionalized Scripture in the beginning. That is not easy, because I found not only was I attempting to do some fiction writing, I couldn't let my imagination run away with me because I needed to stick with what the Bible said actually happened and was said!

So, I began to feel pretty good about this piece during the first half of last week after I'd read the nice comments I had gotten. Then I got one from my nemesis, c. clements. She is a highly negative critic on the list and never has anything nice to say to me about my writing. She demanded to know from me just where in the Scripture it says that Mary Magdalene was a former harlot and went on to inform me that she is a "stickler" for Biblical accuracy. What a charmer! So I immediately began to do some research and was chagrined to find out that c. clements was right. I'd heard that Mary M. was a former prostitute, but in reality, there is nothing in the Bible that supports that. I suspect that mis-information has come from Luke 7, where an unnamed woman washes Jesus' feet with her hair and the host of the house where this happens is upset and thinks, "If only Jesus knew what kind of woman this is!" Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Kirsti, and my mom who jumped right on this and started looking up passages for me. I really found it intriguing. So, while reading this, ignore the part of my story that refers to Mary M. as a former prostitute - she wasn't. Or if she was, we aren't told that, specifically.

You might especially enjoy this piece this week, since it is Holy Week and the subject of the Crucifixion and Resurrection are more on the minds of Christians this time of year. Our assigned topic was "wow!"

When He Speaks our Name
Mary wept. It wasn’t fair and it wasn’t right. First, the Roman officials had arrested her beloved friend, Jesus. Then, after a mock trial, they’d tortured him for hours, and then finally killed him.

Her hurt burned with the memory, the images seared into her mind. And now, as if all that weren’t horrible enough, someone had come along and stolen Jesus’ body! She peeked into the tomb once more to assure herself that Jesus was, indeed, gone. He was, but oddly, enough, there were two men dressed in white, just sitting there. Mary blinked in surprise. Could her grief have affected her mental processes? Was she imagining what she saw? And then one of the men spoke. “Woman,” he addressed her, “Why are you crying?” Without thinking, Mary exclaimed, “They’ve taken my Lord away!” And then, sadly, shaking her head, she added “I don’t know where they have put Him.” Covering her face with her hands, she began to weep again, silent sobs shaking her body.

Spent, Mary turned to go home. There was no point to staying here, at Jesus’ tomb. He was dead and now even His body was gone. She may as well as get used to life without Jesus in it. Beginning to walk away, Mary nearly stumbled into a man standing right behind her. To her surprise, the man spoke to her. “Woman,” He said, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Mary blinked in surprise at the man’s tender tone. Thinking he must be the gardener, and thus, perhaps responsible for Jesus’ disappearance, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, please tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.”

And then Jesus said just one word, “Mary.”

I have always loved this tender story of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ. Can you imagine the thoughts that must have tumbled through her mind in that instant that Jesus said her name and she knew it was Him, alive and risen from the dead? I don’t know if there is an Aramaic word for “wow” but I’m sure Mary was thinking it! I think, too, in that moment, Mary must have felt an all-consuming love from her Lord just wash over her entire being. Not only had Jesus miraculously come back to life, but He had shown himself to her, a lowly ex-prostitute saved out of that lifestyle by Jesus’ great love. All Jesus had to do was to simply say her name and suddenly Mary’s grief was gone, replaced by certainty that Jesus was here and - He loved her.

What about us? When Jesus speaks our name, are we listening? Do we feel the excitement - that “wow” factor? Does it cause us to remember just how much we are loved by Him? I think that it is very easy to miss hearing Jesus’ voice. We get so wrapped up in the daily concerns of life and so very, very busy - even in doing things that are supposedly the “Lord’s” work. But Jesus is calling to us, speaking gently and lovingly, saying our name. He’s asking us to put aside the things that distract us from Him - and just listen. And in those moments that we finally do, we’ll remember the love that drew us to Christ in the first place. We will desire to love him more, to do His bidding, and to seek His will. We will begin to crave those times of silence, waiting to hear our Savior speak to us…waiting to hear Him speak our name.

The account of Mary and Jesus is taken from John 20.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Corn Couture

I have to share my latest find and project with you all. This one really excites me!

It's (drumroll)...a feedsack!

I stumbled across this in one of the antique stores Paul and I were in while at the Amanas. I couldn't believe the pristine condition it was in - not faded, not stained - almost perfect. And it was on sale! So my mind immediately began whirling to figure out how to display such a cool remnant from the past.
I ended up buying a dowel rod, having Paul cut it down, and then stained it and glued some finials on either end, strung jute around the ends, and hung it on our back door. I just love it!

It's a nod to Paul's and my farming backgrounds. Although, to be honest, most legal citizens of Iowa don't have to comb through too far back into their family trees to find a farmer. This IS Iowa, after all - land of the tall corn! My Grandma and Grandpa Abben bought a farm in 1952 (Denver, Iowa) when my mom was 4 years old. She still remembers moving out there. That was Grandpa's love. He still had to work a full time job at a concrete company, but he lived to farm. When they eventually sold it in the late sixties/early seventies and moved to town Grandma said he'd come home every night from work and cry in the basement because he missed the farm. So the next year they bought the acreage in Waterloo that they lived on until they died in 2003. My Grandma Abben's father, John Busker, was a farmer after immigrating from Germany around the turn of the century. I think Grandpa's father farmed, too, after also immigrating here. In fact, that's how Grandma and Grandpa met. In his late teens and early twenties he would hire himself out to area farmers and I believe the story is that he was hired to either work for Grandma's father or one of her relatives.

There's a lot of farmers on Paul's side of the family, too. When he was a teenager, his parents bought several acres and they farmed that for awhile. That experience instilled in Paul a deep love for the land and if there was a way to do it now, he'd be a farmer himself. When I met him he wore a huge John Deere belt buckle and favored flannel shirts. He got rid of the buckle (thankfully) but still prefers flannel! I often refer to him as a "thwarted farmer." Those of you that have been to our house can attest to Paul's huge John Deere collection that has somehow made its way into almost every room of our house. That's not all of it. He has tubs more out in the garage and shed that we just don't have room in here for.

So while we don't farm ourselves (it's almost impossible to enter the field of farming - most, if not all, young farmers are in the profession because of inheriting land or working alongside their dads and grandfathers who purchased the land generations ago) our love and appreciation for the practice runs deep.

And I thought having a feed sack hanging on the back door would be a cute way of paying homage to that.

I could write an essay about feed sacks, alone. I showed my mom what I had purchased and she exclaimed, "Oh, my mom used to sew my clothes out of these things!" I didn't remember her ever mentioning that before but I've read plenty of similar accounts. When I was ironing the sack, I, in fact, noticed bleaching instructions printed at the top. According to what was printed there, just washing in hot water will do a lot to fade the print. The feedsack manufacturers deliberately used ink that could be washed out because they knew farmwives turned the sacks into clothing. Now, I have never seen one of these, but I have read accounts of sacks that came printed with designs, specifically for the purpose of re-manufacture into clothing.

You know, I love glitzy and glamorous stuff - sparkly jewelry, nice perfumes, hair dye, and racy undergarments, but deep down - deep down, I suspect I'm just a country girl!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Weekend Catch-Up

I need to get off my feet, so here I am! I've been wanting to finish catching up my blog anyway.

Paul and Ben are gone right now on their overnight "13" trip. They took the camper up to Altoona last night and were hanging out at the campsite today. I believe right now they are at Incredible Pizza and then they will be attending the Harlem Globetrotters show later this evening.

The boys wanted tv dinners last night so I picked up a bunch of those and then made some cheesy Texas toast and fried some mozzarella sticks - all yummy stuff. But, apparently my stomach isn't as strong as it used to be. I couldn't handle all that junk food and barely ate anything! That's probably a mode of self-preservation the human body goes into as it ages - otherwise, we might eat ourselves into the grave by age 50. I would, anyway!

I had stopped at Blockbuster earlier in the day with David, so I watched "Aliens in the Attic" with the boys - pretty silly, but sort of cute movie. It's nothing I'll watch again, though. I told them I'd watch "UHF" (Weird Al) with them tonight. I'll probably be thinking "Aliens" was a creative masterpiece after I get done suffering through the inanity that Mr. Yankovich dishes up! I've actually seen "UHF" before - back when my brothers were teenagers and thought it was the most hilarious piece of comedy to come out of Hollywood.

I'm splurging and taking the boys to the Checkerboard tonight. Actually, I did that with Ben and David when Will went on his "13" trip, so I thought it would be nice to make it a tradition.

The boys and I ran to town this morning, Will driving our rumbly old Caravan. I had to go to the library and Hy-Vee. While I was there, I got a phone call from one of the moms in my Christian Moms of Boys (Yahoo group) group. We're such a tight-knit bunch and it was neat to hear her voice. Pam is from Arkansas and her voice is so Southern and just dripped with sugar. I was enjoying that when Pam commented, "I love your accent, Sarah!" Now that was news to me - I have an accent? I've heard it said that we Midwesterners talk "flat" sounding. I don't know. I assume it's the ideal because when I watch movies or the national news everyone sounds "normal" to me. But maybe I do - maybe we Iowans have a unique sound! At any rate, it just made my day to have Pam call - for no real reason, just to chat for a bit.

We got rid of our bricks today. Paul has unearthed hundreds as he's digging out the basement. There's many more than will be coming out too. The house was built on a brick foundation. He suggested I put them on Craig's List. So I posted them in the "Free" section. To my amazement, we got tons of phone calls! I had no idea bricks were such a hot commodity! One guy showed up today and I sent Will and David out to help him load them. And he paid them - he didn't have to do that. And about an hour later, another lady showed up and I had to tell her they were gone. But she exacted a promise from me to call her when the next load gets brought up, so I will. Maybe we should have tried to get some money out of them! They're old, though - like 160 years old! But I guess they have some use still.

I probably should snag a few, myself. I think I am actually going to grow some flowers this year. Now, I do still have the Black Thumb of Death attached to my hand, but I discovered something that may allow me to triumph in a gardening attempt this year. They now make roll-out flowers. You buy this mat and roll it out, water it, and presto - flowers start to grow! I saw it advertised in a magazine, but then I found some this week at Menards. I need shade flowers, though, so I'm going to stop in at Earl May's and see what they offer. I'm guessing this mat will eliminate or at least greatly reduce weeds amongst the flowers. I just know so little about gardening and my few attempts have been pitiful, at best. Nothing grows. Of course, I don't like to weed and I tend to forget about things like watering, which might have a direct impact on my lack of success. I'd like to put a row of flowers in front of the porch and then another alongside the side of the house. If these mats work like I am hoping, then next year I'll buy enough to put in front of my fence.

I saw something rueful the other day..."rueful" - I like that word! Anyway, we were on our way to Cedar Rapids and we saw this huge billboard: "Up Ahead - Lion's Den Adult Book Store." Now, is that truthful or what?! "Ironic" would be another good word for the name of that porn shop.

I made a video-viewing schedule for the boys this past week, assigning each boy two days a week where he gets to watch a YouTube or other video for 15 minutes - with prior parental approval. Ben wanted to know what Sundays were for, since I didn't have anyone assigned to that day. I informed him that Sundays were to be a "video-free" day. His face lit up and he said, "Sundays are 'free' video days?!" Uh, not quite, Ben!

Ok, I really do not mean to belabor the point about my body growing older. Twenty years from now I'll laugh at my 39 year old self and think, "You had it so good then!" But, it does seem like an awful lot of changes have come all at once for me. More than likely, some of that has been expedited by Sam's birth when I lost so much blood and then the stroke so soon afterwards. It takes a long time to recover from things like that. But anyway - here's another one: zits. I never had a problem with acne as a teenager - occasional zits, but never clusters or anything remotely disfiguring. By the time I was in my mid twenties, zits were a thing of the past. Very, very rarely did I ever get anything popping up on my skin. But for the past 6 months or so, it seems like I always have at least one painful pimple going on. It isn't cycle related - they can come any week of the month they want to. Of course, I can't let it sit there, so I mess with it, and then with my light skin, I have a dark or red spot for weeks as the skin heals. I know this is age related, but it's annoying! What's up with this?

Oh, and finally, something really sad: In addition to my Moms group, I belong to a Christian uterine rupture group. We don't have a whole lot of conversations, but we exist in order to provide healing to mothers who have had ruptures and also, to answer questions for expectant mothers who may be entertaining the idea of a VBAC (don't do it!). We do talk about things not rupture-related, though. We were so shocked last May when one of our moms informed us that her 9 year old son had been diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain tumor. We've been praying for Jacob since then and following his ups and downs on their Caring Bridge site. Jacob lost his battle last Sunday morning and walked into the arms of Jesus', leaving his parents' arms empty. Oh, I just ache for them. I've had 3 nine year old boys now myself and they are one of the most delightful creatures around - all laughter, bug, ball, and video-game crazy, and have some of the tenderest hearts imaginable! To think of having one of those taken away makes my heart ache. So pray for the Taylor family if you think of it. They're hurting and I hurt for them, as well.

Well, I think I've rested my feet long enough. I need to throw together a salad for tomorrow's lunch and then I think I'll take off with the boys. Have a wonderful Sunday and week ahead!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Double Vision

Since becoming an adult, my practice has been to go to the eye dr. and then order new glasses every 3 years. Except for the years that I was pregnant or the times I smashed my glasses in car wrecks ( a couple of times) that's what I've done. I've been in glasses since Jr. High and I wore contacts from the age of 16 until David was a newborn and I decided that they weren't worth the hassle they took, particularly with all the demands on my life at that time (the boys were 4, 2, and 0 - I didn't have time to brush my teeth, let alone mess with contact lenses).

But I went this year and I wasn't supposed to go again until another year from now. For the last 6 months or so, I have really begun to struggle with reading fine print. I've held papers further and further away from my nose and alternated with bringing them up to the front of my eyeballs, all in an attempt to be able to see what was printed. I gave up on using church hymnals months ago (I knew we should have joined a more progressive church - one with the songs printed on a 9 foot screen up front!). My fear has been that it is time for me to join the ranks of the elderly and infirm - those that wear bi-focal glasses.

So, Monday of this week I had an appointment with Dr. S . I like his office because he bills his business as "Family Christian Eyeware." He also has quite a few "Voices of the Martyers" magazines in his waiting area. That particular magazine actually makes me sick to my stomach to read it, but I like seeing it out in the open like that. It's actually something I need to read more often.

I particularly enjoyed this visit because I discovered that Dr. S is a homeschooling dad. I saw he had pictures of some very young children in his exam room and I assumed they were grandchildren. But they're not. Evidentally, the good doctor just had his children late in life. We had a great conversation about homeschooling and the state of the country in general. He is Egyptian by birth and I finally just bluntly asked him, "Why aren't you Muslim?" He explained that a good part of Egypt is actually Christian - was Christianized by the Apostle Mark, actually. But there is more and more persecution of the Christians today there because of the Muslim influence. But his entire family is born again. Now he's an American, though. So that was really interesting. In fact, while I was picking out glasses later, Dr. S came out to me, and pointed out another patient who had walked in as another homeschooling mom and suggested I talk with her. I didn't take the time, but I thought it was a nice gesture on his part.

By the way, the above paragraph is why I'm abbreviating the doctor's name. I know it's a long shot, but I don't know who all reads my blog and I'd hate for any trouble at all to come to him or his extended family because of my careless words. In the day and age we live in and with the intense hatred that followers of Islam have for America and Christians especially - it's better not to take any chances.

So, he examined my eyes and said, "You need bi-focals." I wasn't surprised, but it did make me feel pretty old to hear that. I felt like I ought to stop by Hammer Medical Supply on my way home and pick up some compression hose and maybe a walker to go along with my new glasses!

Then, I went to pick out new glasses and discovered that none of the glasses I actually liked (small, non-obvious) can be made into bi-focals! Because of the extra lense, they have to be a certain diameter. So I spent $300 on a pair of glasses I don't even like and don't want to wear.

I picked those up today and - whoa! Bi-focals are not anything at all like what I am used to with single vision lenses. I had a headache within a minute of putting them on and I am still staggering around the house, just trying to see things.

The good thing - and my only reason for hope these days - is that I did order contacts. I think I could probably handle them better now at this stage of life. Dr. S said we could try them, although there were no guarantees I'd actually be able to tolerate them. They're soft, which will be interesting. I've only ever worn the hard, gas permeable kind. They, too, will have bi-focal lenses. They should be in in about a week. I think it will be fun to be able to wear any kind of sunglasses I want, and to be able to just push them up on top of my head when I go in out of the sunlight. I'm always taking forever to switch from my prescription sunglasses to my regular pair and vice versa when I go in and out of places. But that's assuming they work out for me. If not, then I'll have to order another pair of bi-focals in sunglasses.

I see this as just another "Welcome" to the latter half of my life. I guess bi-focals match my gray hair, crow's feet, retirement worries, and poochy middle. The downward slide has begun...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Better Afternoon

Here is a picture of my birthday cake - oh, it is SO good! I just wish my family didn't like it quite as much as I do! I guess I should be thankful I only have 4 children and not 14, though - fewer people to share with.

My stress levels have gone down somewhat. It helped that today Paul got his annual performance bonus from Lozier. It's just shy of what it was last year and the timing is so good for us, financially. It will help pay our bills this next pay period, since his regular pay will be quite decreased with the minimal hours he's been getting lately. They are hoping to start AC checks soon which will give all the service guys work.

And I got more good news. A piece I wrote last week for FaithWriters got "Highly Commended" again. I wasn't expecting that. I had some difficulty writing it because I was deliberately stretching myself. My "comfort" zone is writing devotionals. This time I did more of a fictionalized - but not really - story from the Bible and then went into the devotional part. Well, you'll have to read it to see what I'm talking about. It was hard because I didn't want to deviate from the Scriptures, but yet there is always room to play around with Bible stories, adding emotions and conversations and such that don't necessarily come through just reading the text. So I finally sent it in and honestly forgot all about it - until we got home from our weekend trip and I found all these reviews praising my piece! Wow! So - another 4th place win - not too bad, I guess!

Oh, I found out something last week that I didn't know. In addition to my partial basement, I am also getting an add-on room to the back of my house! I did not realize this was part of Paul's master plan. He is extending the house another 4 feet off the back. Eventually, he wants to bump the kitchen out into that 4 foot addition, which would, obviously, give us a bigger kitchen. In the meantime, though, I will have a sizable place for storage. The steps leading to the new basement will be out there, which will be accessible through our mudroom. So, I am really excited about that! The only "down" thing is that I am losing my only kitchen window. It will be there, but the view will be gone since there will now be a wall on the other side of it. My walls are navy so I'm thinking the kitchen will come off as an even darker room. When we re-do the kitchen, then I will get my window back (it's going to be at the corner of the house) but that will be years from now.

My visit with our teacher went well. She never asks to see the boys' schoolwork, ever. We just sit and talk about all kinds of things. Then I write her a check for $25 and don't see her again for months. It works for me! She has the attitude (which I appreciate) that "you know what you're doing, I'm here if you need me, but I'm not going to bug you." She always says my chaotic household makes her feel right at home. I hope so. Today Sam came to me while I visited with her, complaining that he was wet. He had on cloth training pants with plastic pants over the top. So I told him to get a pull-up and bring it to me, which he did. When I removed his pants, urine went flying all over and splashed onto the teacher's shoes. She just laughed. I feel so gross today - paint covered and now urine splashed. Guess I should mop my kitchen floor, too...

I do have some more to cover, but right now I need to get supper going and put another coat of paint on. I'd love to have that wall finished before the boys have to go to bed. Oh, and to David's relief, the paint is drying darker than it went on, so it is closer to Cowboy Blue!

Looking Up from Rock Bottom

Oh, what a chaotic morning! The boys are all in fine form this morning - whining, teasing eachother, and being a general nuisance. I've been on the phone multiple times, trying to figure out this insurance stuff. Yesterday I spoke with our insurance carrier that we used prior to getting on through Paul's work and found out that they won't touch me now because I've had a stroke. So I had pretty much concluded that I'm just going to have to take my chances and go without insurance until I can find someone that would be willing to take me. Well, then Paul said this morning that he just didn't think that was such a hot idea and I agree - it's taking a terrible risk. But at the same time it's an awfully big jump in premium prices - I have a fuzzy feeling that we're going to owe Loziers at the next payperiod. Paul has barely worked at all the past 3 weeks and they're still taking out the deductions - so, I don't know. We could go ahead and keep our insurance the way it is now and then if, by chance, I DID find someone willing to cover me more cheaply than BC/BS we can drop it. And then the other thing we have to decide is if we just want to switch plans - plan B has a higher deductible, but I guess I'd be willing to do that. And then I'm dealing with the boys' insurance, two of whom's is tied up with ours - argh - I hate, hate, hate this! But hey - it won't be long now and the government will be taking care of me, right? No more worries! In case you didn't catch it, that was heavily laced with sarcasm. We have dealth with government agencies now since Ben's birth (special needs benefits are tied up with government agencies) and I know, personally, how screwed up they are. Nobody knows what the person in the next cubicle is doing.

On to other news: it rained all day long yesterday. It wasn't supposed to. The weathermen missed that one. Well, Paul had called his dad and asked him to bring out some digging machine - back hoe? skid loader? - and they were going to work on the basement. But they couldn't because of the rain. So now that is sitting in the yard, along with the pick-up and the other mini-van. He also brought out some cement blocks that have been setting on Paul's brother's property in Council Bluffs for a decade and a half. Paul is collecting blocks right now, trying to buy as many used ones as he can get his hands on. So, we got 40 more, which is helpful. What wasn't helpful was that George (Paul's brother) saw a quick way to make some money off us and refused to just give the blocks to us, insisting that we buy them. It's cheaper than buying new, but it really chafed at Paul to do that. But there's a lot of bad history with George, anyway. I think Paul would have just as soon gone and purchased new blocks, but his dad had already hauled George's here, so we were stuck paying for them. George is probably my least favorite person on the planet, by the way - hard to believe the same set of parents that spawned him, spawned my beloved husband, too.

Dorothy came out, too, and so I got my laundry all folded as I talked with her. She brought me my birthday cake - danish layer! Oh, it is the best cake I have ever had in my life - 12 layers of yellow cake, vanilla pudding, and strawberry jam, covered in the most delicious frosting. She always decorates it up so pretty, too. Then we ended up going to Pizza Hut for supper and, as a result, missed church.

Well, I had more to write, but I'll have to do it later. Will is angling for usage of the computer. I'm actually in the middle of painting the boys' bedroom today. David is upset because the blue paint that HE picked out is not the blue he had envisioned (Cowboys blue). And our supervising teacher, whom I have not heard from since August, just called and asked if she could come visit us today! Argh! I'm in paint clothes, I don't have anything baked to feed her, I have no make-up or bra on...the day can't go anywhere but up, right?!

More later, when I'm hopefully a bit less stressed...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Surprised Birthday Girl

Lest you think I stuck my head in my new oven after my last depressing post, I've been anxious to update. I ended up having a really, really good birthday, after all!

But it did get worse before it got better. I said something to Paul about getting ready to go out to eat late that afternoon and he said well, he'd already taken care of that. Huh? He said he'd picked up some Papa Murphy's pizzas earlier that day when he'd been in town. Well, whoopty-doo! I like anything I don't have to cook myself, but I like to have something a little more extravagant for my birthday! We had this discussion as I was leaving to take Will to the school for weight lifting. I fumed all the way there and back. So when I got home, I let Paul know of my displeasure. I don't want to be a diva, but, it WAS my birthday! He protested that he had heard me comment that perhaps we should try to go cheaper for supper that night, so he was doing that. Well, I had said that, but what I meant was that maybe we should find a more middle-of-the-road type of restaurant, rather than going to one of my favorites, which would be more high-dollar (like Fuddruckers or the Machine Shed). Finally, Paul looked at me and said, "I need you to trust me on this, ok?" That gave hope that he wasn't being a total Scrooge, so I said all right.

And I ended up having a nice supper, Mr. Scrooge being present and all. Paul set the table and gave me the "red" plate. He then instructed each of the boys to say something they appreciate about me. Ben said, "I like that it's your birthday." Paul looked at him, frowned, and said, "Deeper, Ben!" So then Ben lowered his voice and repeated, "I like that it's your birthday." Ha, ha, ha - you have to love the literal, autistic mind!

Earlier that day Paul had baked a bunch of cupcakes and after supper he arranged them on the table in the shape of "39." I got two cards, and each one had bunches of $1 bills in it - there were supposed to be 39, but Paul had miscounted so there were actually 40! He then told me, "I couldn't get your main gift until tomorrow." I demanded, "When tomorrow?" He looked a little flustered and said, "Antsy, aren't we? I don't know for sure!" At that point I decided in my head that he must have gone ahead and purchased my coveted refrigerator and I even dreamed about that fridge that night! As it turned out, I'm going to be waiting for my refrigerator for awhile longer, unless I can get my old white Whirlpool to break down one of these days...

One cute thing that did happen on Thursday night was that Sam spontaneously broke out singing, "Happy Day to you!" The boys taught him and I love it when he does that!

So, the next morning, Paul walks into our bedroom at 7:30 and tells me to pack my bags. What?! I told him I couldn't go anywhere because Sara and the girls were coming down. He said he'd already "taken care" of that. I had thought it was kind of odd that Sara had not emailed me on Thurs. to let me know when she planned to roll into town... Paul said to pack my money from the night before, too. I didn't know what he had in mind. But I got up, packed a bag, and got ready for my unknown day, while Paul packed up the boys and himself. That alone is a first. Never, ever has Paul had to pack for even himself in all the years we've been married. He conceded to me later that was quite a chore. No kidding!

I had no idea where we were going until we got to Cedar Rapids (2 hrs. east of us). They have an outlet mall near there and Paul turned into there. He told me we could spend as much time at the mall as I wanted and we could even go to the Amana Colonies, if I so desired. We've always talked about going there, but never have. And then he told me that we had reservations that night at the Aquabahn Water Park - news to which the boys began cheering! We even had separate rooms, which was quite the splurge. Actually, that happened because Paul was honest when making the reservation about how many kids we have. I'm the one who always makes our reservations and I've learned to keep mum about our lastborn because, othewise, they make you buy two rooms. Five people is the limit per room, no matter if one ot he people is only 3 feet tall.

So we shopped for a little bit and then drove over to the Amanas. The Amana Colonies are a group of 7 villages that were founded by some Germans in the 1800s as religious communal living groups. Now they are a tourist attraction - lots of little shops, restaurants, antique stores - that kind of thing. Now everything was open yet this early in the year, but quite a bit was.

We were hungry by then so we looked for a restaurant called the "Ox Yoke Inn." I grew up hearing my mother talk about this restaurant. She had been there a number of times with her parents and had special memories of the place. We found it and had a very, very nice lunch - with an $84 bill at the end of it! I about fainted when I saw that, but Paul just smiled and said, "Once in a lifetime!"

We then spent rest of the afternoon exploring the shops in the villages. Paul was excited by the number of antique stores and we had fun poking around in those. I'll have to share my favorite find in my next post. Then, we went to the hotel/waterpark. The boys had a blast there, although Ben wanted to leave once it got to be 6:30 and he knew "Wheel of Fortune" was on. We didn't let him. It took Sam quite awhile to warm up to the whole idea. He got freaked out by this big bucket of water that dumps into one part of the park and it ook a long time for him to get over that. We ordered food from the snackbar for supper and took it back to our rooms to eat because Paul had thriftily brought along a cooler full of pop. I got to watch "What Not to Wear," which was a real treat for me. I love that show! We don't have cable tv, but if I could just buy TNT, I would in a heartbeat. I got addicted to that channel during Sam's and my 4 hospitalizations back in the fall of '07.

I just can't believe Paul pulled this whole thing off. He kept saying, "Turn-about is fair play!," referring to last year when I "kidnapped" him on his 38th birthday and drove him to Moline, Illinois. He has often commented on that weekend and how special it was - and wanted to do the same for me. I would have guessed he would have done something like this next year, when my birthday is on a Friday and it's the big 4-0. How is he going to top this? (not that he has to) Will was in on it, helping Paul to navigate the computer, so that he could explore options. He helped Paul find Sara's phone number in my phone so he could cancel with her. Sara was the one who suggested to Paul that he tell me my main present couldn't get here until the 19th. Paul said he even went through my purse calendar to make sure I didn't have anything planned for that day - if I had, he was going to cancel it for me.

We had planned all along to spend Sat. in Waterloo, which is less than hour from Cedar Rapids. That factored into Paul's planning, too. We got up there around lunchtime Sat., just prior to my brother's arrival. I'll post more about that later.

So, I ended up having a fabulous birthday, after all. I was stunned, again, at the number of birthday greetings - some really heartfelt - that I got on Facebook. Paul lined up all my birthday cards on Sun. night across the buffet and had me stand by them so he could take a picture. Then, yesterday, Monday, I got 3 more in the mail. He exclaimed, "How many people do you know?! Now I have to take another picture!"

It's nice to be reminded - at least once a year - of how much I'm loved. Somehow that has a way of making the trials more bearable and the days less long. I am one blessed woman.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thirty-Nine and (barely) Holding

It's my birthday today - and I'm feeling incredibly depressed. I shouldn't be. It's definitely NOT related to my birthday - I always look forward to those. But I've been in a blue haze for the last week or so. I need to snap out of it, I think. Paul made breakfast for me, which was nice. And he made cupcakes - using a mix I had intended for something else. So, now I have to make a run to the store. But the thought was nice.

Paul hasn't had hardly any hours at all for last week and this week. Although, he did just leave a few minutes ago to do a call in nearby Carlisle. I'm sure that will be it for today. It's that time of year, but oh, how tight it gets! I have a feeling that is the root of my depression.

Well, and then we got news this week that our insurance rates are almost doubling. We've been paying about $300 a month for the two of us - it's going over $500 and that's even with Paul's employers chipping in more towards that cost. So, we're looking around now for something else. We got info from our life insurance carrier yesterday and their health policies are also through Blue Cross - the only plan with affordable premiums in the neighborhood of what we've been paying have $7000 deductibles! My fear, though, is that if we do find another insurance company, they won't take me because of my stroke history. We tried to buy life insurance for me and couldn't find anyone willing to cover me because of that. As it is, we're paying a higher premium for Paul's because of his epilepsy. So, the bottom line is that if one of us is going to die young, it needs to be him!

Plus, it appears as though Nancy Pelosi and her hoard of Demons are going to be successful in ramming through the health care bill. I am VERY concerned about that. But I can't do anything about it. I am ready and willing to go to Heaven, but I very much object to the idea of going there early because of new health care laws. Maybe that's what is making me feel blue, too. I have to remember that God is in control. I know He can take care of us. But I know that He doesn't necessarily alleviate all suffering, either. Just yesterday I caught the tail end of a message on Christian radio and it was about the suffering of the early Christians. They had it bad. But God didn't fix things for them. He let them suffer. And then they died (usually tortured to death) and it was all over. So, it looks like what I'm immaturely saying here is that I don't mind dying - I just don't want to suffer first!

I got my Mirena put in yesterday morning. That was not exactly a pain-free procedure. But it wasn't as bad as the biopsy I had done last fall. I hope we did the right thing. I had time to read the brochure that came with the IUD before Dr. Morgan came in. I was a little concerned when I read "We don't know exactly how the Mirena works..." They invented it, but they don't know how it works? They were talking about pregnancy prevention there, which I don't really care about at this point. And then I did get a little more bothered when I read that a small percentage of women will come down with a life-threatening infection within the first few days after insertion. So far, so good, here. I asked about that and Dr. Morgan said that only has happened to her twice in all the years she's been using the Mirena on patients. And one of those was a woman with a previously undiagnosed STD. You're not supposed to use this thing if you have one of those. So, we'll see.

Ben informed me the other day that "God gives second chances" and he thought it was terribly unfair that I did not, as well. Nice try, Buddy... I remember David trying to pull that one on me a few years back.

I had cause again this week to be thankful for Paul. A gal I know told me about her husband's porn addiction and how it's slowly destroying their marriage. That breaks my heart, even though I don't know this lady very well. That particular addiction places such a stranglehold on men's (usually, although I do know of some women that struggle with it, too) minds. It's very hard to escape that trap. I fear that for my boys. Being realistic, I can assume that with 4 sons, I will encounter pornography at some point - one of them will fall into that trap. I hate the thought of that and I don't want it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I'm not sure how we'll handle that. I guess God will give us wisdom when the time comes. But, anyway, I'm just thankful that's not a battle in our own marriage. Paul had a brief fling with it at age 15 when he discovered it under a brother's bed. But at that young age, he recognized the danger, and made himself accountable to an Awana leader (who later was revealed to be gay). And he's gone to a number of lengths in the decades since to guard his eyes. It's a secure feeling for me to know that.

I had a friend Sunday who made the offhand comment to me that I seem to "thrive" on being busy. That caught me up short and so I've been reflecting all week if that, indeed, is true. Do I? Normally, I complain about it because I really do hate running around all over. But is there a secret part of me that needs to be that super-busy? I'm still thinking...

We had a city council meeting the other night, an extra one, to approve the city budget. We haven't figured out why, but somehow, property taxes were not filed last year. That means our general budget is really, really low. So, all the city council members and members are voluntarily (not really, but what are you going to do?) slashing their pay to $5 a meeting. And we can't vote ourselves a raise until just prior to the next election - in late 2011! So basically, we're all donating our time now. Sigh...

Something caught me by surprise a couple of weeks ago. My friend Julie that died has a Facebook page. Obviously, she's not doing anything with it, but it's still out there. Somebody else I knew wrote a short little message to her. My first thought was, "That is SO weird!" But the longer I thought about it, the more I decided it wasn't weird after all. It's actually kind of sweet. I suppose it's like leaving flowers at or visiting someone's grave. The action does nothing at all for the deceased, but it's comforting for the one that does it. This morning her husband posted a new album of just pictures of Julie - it made me tear up. It's all, still, just so sad. I remember during all our school years together, we always had birthdays one right after the other. But this year, Julie won't have one.

Well, that thought is really good for shaking me out of this funk! Onto happy things...

Sara is coming down tomorrow with the girls. I think she's bringing a cake, too. She usually does. And Saturday we're going to Waterloo to see Andy one last time before he moves (ok, that's sad). And it's finally spring! (although we're supposed to get snow this weekend - again, sad). And my friend Melissa and I have a shopping day planned in two weeks so she can find a good outfit for the Prom Alternative that she's chaperoning. And then if all works out, we're going to go to our other friend, Jennifer's, and watch New Moon, which comes out on video this weekend. That's happy! And Eclipse comes out in just 3 months!! That's very happy news! Um, what else... Paul and Will began digging out the new basement yesterday. I can't wait for that to be finished! Now that we're so close (sort of close) to having that project done, my house just seems even more cramped and crowded. He got the trim work up in the boys' room this week, which is nice. Now I just need to find time to paint up there.

I don't have to cook tonight - which is awesome news!

I took a handful of St. John's Wort this morning and I am going to try really hard to focus on the positives of life. There are many, even if they do seem shadowed by the negatives. Nobody enjoys having a sour faced Sally around, so I'm going to to do what I can to "turn that frown upside down" - what a corny, irritating phrase. But you know what I mean. I do have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is that I'm around to celebrate turning 39.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Of Toddlers and Teens

Remember how I mentioned that Sam has mastered the scissors? There's the evidence right there! I about had a heart attack when I stepped out of my bedroom and saw that. He's sitting on my one year old couch! He could have cut my couch! David thought I was concerned because Sam could have cut himself. Honestly? No. I assume that he would have stopped once the blade would start to cut his skin. Besides, toes heal. Couches, however, do not! Argh!

Well, what's going on in my corner of the world? Let's see...our snow is all gone. And now it's flooding. Not here, thankfully. But last night when I was driving up to my support group in downtown Des Moines, Gray's Lake was lapping at the side of the road - just a few feet away. Within an hour they had closed Fleur Drive. I need to go there again this afternoon, so I'm going to have to find an alternate route. Some of the people that lost their homes in the floods of '08 are in danger of the same thing happening to their now re-built homes. They built a new levee, but last night they discovered that it is leaking.

Things are not getting any easier with Ben these days. My stress levels keep rising. He just won't stop the arguing and continual badgering. Saturday Paul and I met with Pastor and I ended up breaking down in his office over this. I was mortified because I hate crying in front of people. Pastor was asking if there is anything the church can do to help. Well, I was a bit stumped. I've always considered this to be MY burden and it is, really. Finally, we came up with the idea of asking some of the high school and college young men to be "buddies" for Ben. We're thinking that if there would be some that would volunteer to come to our house and then take him places it would be a good thing. The more I think about that idea, I like it. Although, to be honest, I can't imagine anyone wanting to spend time with him. He's quite a pill right now.

Sunday I'd just had it with him. Paul goes to choir practice an hour and fifteen minutes before evening church. We go with him to save the gas of driving a second vehicle. Every other week I take Ben with me and we head to Walmart and I get a jumpstart on our grocery shopping for the week. But the "off" weeks are just awful. He won't obey me by staying where his brothers or I can keep an eye on him. He wanders all over the church and gets into things he has no business messing with. I told Paul that either I'm going to skip church on those Sunday nights or I'm going to drive a different van, coming in later, just before church starts. I don't want to deal with this anymore.

Last night at the support group there were only two of us moms there. The other mom is brand new to the whole autism thing, her son only being 4. So I was kind of giving her some pointers as she starts down this road. She's where we used to be - trying all different kinds of therapies and programs in a desperate attempt to cure her son, or at least make him more "normal." She was expressing how wonderful it was to be able to talk to another mom who's "been there." I agreed with her and commented how, while I am so incredibly grateful to all my friends who listen to me vent about Ben, nobody truly, truly understands what we're dealing with except other Autism moms. I said, "They (my friends) say things like, 'I don't know how you do it' and I just shrug it off because I don't have a choice." At that point, Tony, who moderates our meetings (he's a staff person there at Advanced Therapy) jumped in and said, "Oh, but Sarah - you don't have to do what you're doing." He went on to tell me that many, many mentally retarded and especially behaviorally challenged children end up in residential care when they turn 10 years old. Apparently, the facility where Ben does respite care also takes these kids in to live there. Wow - I had no idea. I exclaimed to Tony, "I couldn't! He's my boy!" I mean, if Ben were a danger to the family - plotting our murders or regularly assaulting us, that would be one thing, but to just dump him because he's difficult? How could any parent do that? But I guess they do. I want to hope that's a minority, though, and that the majority of these parents are slogging through the trenches like I am now, attempting to deal with ,while desperately loving, their mentally affected child.

It's now quite a few hours since I typed all that. I had to quit mid-thought in order to run Ben to his social skills class. As I drove, it occurred to me that I am doing an awful lot of complaining these days about Ben. It's not that I don't have a reason to. Our circumstances are extraordinary, with his mental problems. But yet, they aren't as bad as they could be. I do know families that have been forced to give their children up because their behavior was so completely unmanageable - and it broke their hearts. We're nowhere near that nor do I really anticipate that ever happening.

It is a hard time right now. But as my pastor mentioned to me Saturday, it is possible that we would have had a difficult time with Ben even if he were perfectly sound, mentally and physically. I remember a NICU nurse commenting on his "strong will" and wondering how she could tell something like that on a brand new baby who was sedated and hooked up to every wire and monitor imaginable. But she apparently saw something that stood out to her. I like to think that strong will is what has carried Ben as far as he's come. But it's also part of what is driving me crazy. The teen years can be difficult with normal children. Just because we sailed through them (thus far) with Will doesn't mean that we were destined to have it that easy with all the boys. And let's face it - junior high aged boys are probably the squirrliest of characters out there. I have vivid memories of my own junior high school years and they aren't all that pleasant!

And then I think of Sam. Why am I not freaking out when he does things like taking a scissors to a perfectly good pair of socks? Or refusing to tell me until after he wets his pants that he needed to go? Or dumping out an entire tub of legos on the floor? I've been here before. And I know it will pass. Plus, it helps that he's so adorable when he's being so bad! And while I haven't "been here" before with Ben, chances are that things will calm down at some point. Like having a two year old, it's a storm I have to ride out - until the waters are calm again.

Are the waters guaranteed to be calm again? Well, I can't really say for sure. I do know some normal children that "went bad" in their early teens and never really came back. And I suppose that's my root fear - that this is the start of a lifetime of agony for me where he is concerned. But, more than likely, that's not going to happen. He will mature. He will stop arguing with me. He will accept that I have his best interests at heart and that I'm just a tad smarter than he is! And that even now, during the fiercest battles, when I'm so worn down and discouraged, God is working. Perhaps Ben will end up being my greatest joy in life, coming from my greatest struggle.

I pray that's what will happen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sticky Diamonds

Here is my latest FaithWriter's Entry. Our subject was "Eek!" So, I wrote this devotional using the true story of how Paul and I got engaged. I hope it doesn't come off as sounding too "poor me", especially towards the end where I mention some of the rough things that have come into my life through the years. That's the last thing I want to sound like. Anyway, it did pretty well - it received a "Highly Commended" rating at the Intermediate level. I keep hoping to break through to the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place, but it hasn't happened yet! They just changed the rules this week, too, for level advancement. Now, you have to place 1st or be an Editor's Pick (neither of which I've ever accomplished) before advancing to the next level. So, I have a feeling I'm going to be an Intermediate for a long, long, long time...

My friend, Kristi, (who won 1st this last week for her re-telling of the story of the plague of the death of the firstborn (Moses) suggested I send this to the Chicken Soup people. I might do that. One of these days.

Sticky Diamonds

It was a humid August night. I had been walking all over downtown Omaha with my boyfriend and I was tired. My hair was now in frizzy ringlets, my shirt stuck to my back, my feet hurt, and my make-up had melted off hours ago.

I had high hopes at the beginning of the night. I was hopeful that tonight might be THE night. I was anticipating the receipt of something shiny for my left hand, but I wasn’t sure if my boyfriend was thinking along the same lines or not. Occasionally, he would say something that would make me think he might be, but then he’d also say things that made me think an engagement was a long ways off yet.

At that point of the evening, I didn’t even care anymore. I just wanted to go home, take a cool shower, and go to bed. It had been a long day; I was tired and sticky - it was time to end it.

Apparently, my boyfriend thought so, too, because he started to head in the direction of where we had parked. As we walked along, he casually reached into his pocket and pulled out…a piece of candy. He unwrapped it and popped in his mouth. When I saw that he had taffy, my favorite, I made a gesture with my hand that said, “You’d better have one in your pocket for me, too, Buddy!” Smiling while rolling his eyeballs, he reached into his pocket and gave me a square of candy, too. I unwrapped it and as I did so, something flashed in my hand as we passed underneath a streetlight. Peering closely at the candy I had just unwrapped, I suddenly realized that embedded into the back of the square of taffy was a diamond engagement ring! “Eek!” I gasped. I had my hopes, of course, but I was completely surprised at the timing and certainly the manner of proposal I ended up receiving that August night - eighteen years ago this summer.

Remembering that night brings to mind other times in my life when I have squealed “Eek!” Having four sons now, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to be taken aback by their pranks. They still think it’s hilarious to try to scare Mom with rubber snakes, bugs, and frogs. Living out in the country, I’ve encountered my share of mice, and that, too, has usually elicited a hearty “Eek!” out of me.

But there have been other times when I’ve been perhaps silent outwardly, but my soul has gasped with a hearty, “eek!” We’ve all had times like this. Life’s circumstances arise and the first thing we do is to gasp. How could God allow __________? You fill in the blank. For me, it’s been when I almost died in childbirth with my second child. It’s been when I discovered we had been given a handicapped child. It was when I fell asleep while driving and rolled over an embankment. It was when my husband was diagnosed with epilepsy. It was when we were evicted out of our little rental house, just weeks before our third baby was due. It was when I miscarried a baby. And there was a definite “eek” when I discovered that I was pregnant in my late thirties, years after we had given up the hope of ever having more children! There have been dozens of other times, too, as I know there have been for everyone else.

But there is one thing I’ve found to be true throughout the course of the years, as I’ve progressed through life, and navigated one troubling circumstance after another: there’s always a diamond in the taffy! Just as my young husband-to-be hid my diamond ring in a layer of sticky taffy candy, God often hides His greatest gifts in sticky, uncomfortable, and sometimes, downright, painful circumstances. I have never met a Christian yet who couldn’t testify that the greatest blessings in their life came out of the most troublesome times - those moments when their soul uttered an surprised and often anguished, “eek!”

Take heart, peel off the candy wrapper, and look for the diamond. It’s there - I promise!

Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Teeth, Talking, and Squcking

Maybe I can get this finished up today. I've got notes criss-crossing eachother all over my little 3X5 card that I use to jot down things I want to mention in my blogs. So, I need to get this done so I can get a fresh card!

I should be outside picking up the yard. Maybe I'll do that in a bit. The snow began melting last week and I was astonished at the mess it left in our yard. There were all kinds of things hiding under that snow! It was too cold to do much outside all winter so whenever anything didn't get put where it belonged, it just got buried. Now it's no longer a secret and I've got a mess to take care of. And it's so muddy on top of everything else - yuck! I was out there this morning in boots, trying to pick up - made a small dent, but not much of one, I'm afraid.

Well, my skirt arrived. Let's just say their measuring chart - didn't match my body! Oh, it's not bad, but the skirt is a little roomy. I think I could have done better with an 8. But, as Paul said, it may shrink a bit. I can sew some tucks in the side, if it really bothers me, too. It just wouldn't be very cost effective to exchange it, though. They charge an $8 restocking fee and the customer has to pay shipping both ways. But other than that, it's great, and I'm looking forward to getting a lot of use out of it.

I went to the dentist this morning and got the "you need to floss better" lecture. I had a new hygienist today and in talking with her, discovered that she is a Christian and her oldest son is in the same class in the same Christian school as our pastor's son - small world! I have one cavity .

Sam's vocabulary has really exploded over the past couple weeks. It's not just the volume of words, but it's the clarity of them that has improved, too. He used to say "Dooby" for Scooby Doo and now he very clearly says the "sc" sound. The other day he was talking about a spider and he very clearly made the "sp" sound. I don't remember all the other boys, but I know the "s" can be a difficult sound to master. I remember that my youngest brother called me "Harah" for the longest time! But Sam has that down - maybe because his own name starts with that sound. He can't pronounce a "c" yet, so he calls his sippy, his "tup." I remember it took Will a long time to get that one. I remember getting irritated by another woman at church who attempted to correct him, too! I was probably immature, but I enjoy hearing baby talk because it doesn't always last that long. Sam's stringing numerous words together and is just becoming extremely proficient in getting his thoughts out.

Sam has also mastered the scissors, which isn't such a great thing. Now, a lot of my important papers have "fringe" on them! He likes to sit underneath my desk with a scissors and just snip away. He calls them by the right name, but I chuckle as I remember David. To him, scissors were called "his-hews" for the longest time!

Sam is also evidencing his distaste for bugs, which cracks us all up. With it being a bit warmer, the Japanese beetles are coming out of hibernation and Sam gets quite worried when he sees one. "Buck, Buck!" he cries and then he stands there and makes a "brrr" motion, shaking his entire body. He insists that whoever is around must kill the bug. Once he knows it is dead, then he delights on stomping on it, but he won't do it until the bug has already expired.

It sounds funny to report this, but Sam got a "baby" present two weeks ago. Ever since I had Sam, Janet, our post-mistress and neighbor, has been telling me she had a gift for him. She never got around to giving it to us. Then, she told me that she gave the outfit to someone else because she knew Sam was too big for it now. But almost every time I'd see her, she'd say, "Oh, I need to get Sam's baby present to you!" Finally, she did a couple of weeks ago. Knowing I'd be stopping at the post office (because of the picky postman - refer to an earlier post of mine) she brought it. She got him this cute little size 3T basketball outfit. It fit, Sam liked it, and now Janet doesn't have to fret about getting his baby gift to me anymore!

All right - that's it for my weekly report on Sam. Now, onto - Ben! It's been a better week with him, thankfully. We're going into the school a couple of times weekly for his testing. He's doing fine, but he does want to hop up frequently and take breaks from the work. At home I guess I never noticed it all that much since I only have the time to teach in small increments of time. I hope they can work with Ben on that when he's in school.

Last night Ben told me he wanted to watch a video on You-Tube because he hadn't watched one all day. Ever since we got high speed, the boys are wanting to watch a lot of videos, and I've had to clamp down on that because 1) I don't have time to supervise everything that they might watch and 2) loading videos takes up quite a few megabytes, which could potentially, get us closer to going to over our 5G monthly limit, which would be costly for yours truly. So I only let them watch one every other day. Now what Ben wants to watch is Wheel of Fortune videos (no surprise there) so I am letting him watch 15 minutes worth twice a week. His days are Tuesdays and Fridays. I had to tell him he couldn't do it until I was awake because he started getting up before 7, creeping into my bedroom, informing me he was going to watch WOF and then it would go a lot longer than his 15 min. of allotted time since I wasn't up yet to pull him away from the computer! So, anyway, last evening he told me he was going to watch a video, since he hadn't seen one all day. I said, "Ben, you did too! You watched Wheel of Fortune this morning!" Looking abashed, Ben said, "Oh - you remembered that?"

That brat! He was lying for one thing, but he was hoping that I had forgotten - which is not beyond the realm of possibility for me. My brain can only juggle so much. It was one of those times where I didn't know whether to laugh at his obvious disappointment or to punish him for attempting to pull one over on me. There is NO way this kid is retarded!

I bought tickets this week for the Harlem Globetrotters for Paul and Ben. They are finally going to take Ben's overnight "13" trip. That's where Ben will get the "facts of life" talk (abbreviated, in his case) and it's just a good opportunity for Paul to kind of help start to lead the boys into their teen years. They're going to take the camper and spend all Friday evening and all day Saturday together, and then go to Wells Fargo to see the Globetrotters. I'll try to think of some fun stuff to do with the other boys. David already has his 13 trip planned out and it's more than 2 years away yet!

Well, there's no more putting off of the yard work. Time to pull on my boots and go "squck, squck" out into my mudhole of a yard. They're predicting quite a bit of flooding for the latter half of this week. Our house sits up high, so we're safe, but it's quite a concern for other low-landers. During the floods of '08, the water got within 2 blocks of our house, completely submerging the Swan city park. I seriously doubt it will be that bad this time. I did read in the paper today that '10 is supposed to be a banner year for tornadoes - let's hope not! My grandparents went through that in 1975 and I have vivid memories of the destruction of their house. I sure don't want to have to face that!

Off I go - squck, squck, squck...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Out of the Mouth of David

I couldn't sleep the other night, so I stayed up until 1am. You can see that I fiddled around with my blog - the jury is still out on the changes I made. My first thought upon opening it up today, was - that's bright! So, I don't know if I'll keep it. I'll have to see how well my eyes adjust.

I will have to write this in bits in pieces, I think. I have to take off again in about 10 minutes. My whole day has been like that - almost back to back appointments. A thick fog has rolled in now so that will make driving even more fun. It's wierd to have a fog like this in mid-afternoon. As I heard on the radio today, you almost expect Sherlock Holmes to step out of it at any moment!

David had an eye appt. this morning. His reading tutor that he had from Faith last fall suggested we get his eyes looked at because he seemed to have trouble refocusing while reading, once he got clear over to the right side and needed to start again at the left. I made the appt. then and it took us this long to get in. They dilated David's eyes, which did not make him happy. They (a different eye place) did that 4 years ago when Will injured David's eye with his toenail and David still talks about the injustice of that. They warned me today that David would have large pupils for a couple of days. So, while we were out in the waiting room again, David asked, "So when I am going to grow the big pimples, Mom?" Hah!

Oh, that kid is something else! I have a couple of paragraphs to write here that are going to seem unrelated, but you'll see how they tie together at the end:

Sunday the new Camp Coins sheets were out and ready for the kids. I know I wrote about this last year. Camp Coins is a program whereby our church pays half the cost of camp in exchange for the kids fulfilling a list of requirements (Bible reading, memorization, service projects, etc.) David was excited to get his and start working on it. He's already very much looking forward to and talking about Jr. Boys camp (3 months from now). I'm very much looking forward to it, too, but that's only because there is a possibility that Paul, Will, and Ben will also be up there with David and it'll just be Sam and me at home all week long!

Sunday afternoon Paul and I had a little "tiff." He used a tone of voice I didn't appreciate and it escalated. It wasn't a knock down, drag out fight, but we were closeted in the bedroom for quite awhile while I attempted to show Paul the error of his ways. All is fine now, but David, in particular, cannot stand it when there is tension in the home. He's very sensitive to stuff like that.

Sunday evening David comes to me and says in disgust, "Mom, they just said on the news that there's a state called 'Connecticut.' That's so dumb! There's no state called that!" I just had to shake my head. What's really, really sad is that we have been studying U.S. Geography for the past 2 school years...

So, yesterday (Monday) we're driving to town. David is in the back, reading Colossians - fulfilling one of his Camp Coins requirements. The next thing I know, he pipes up, "Hey Mom - you need to read this. Then maybe you wouldn't fight with Dad!" And he starts reading from Col. 3, "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord..."

How can a kid who doesn't even know that there is a state called Connecticut be possessed with such a keen spiritual understanding? I was speechless, not knowing whether to be amazed or to start laughing my head off! If he doesn't end up in the ministry someday, I will be completely shocked! And since when do 10 year olds give Biblical marital advice to their mothers?! I'm a little flabbergasted, still!

As my mother-in-law frequently comments, "That David! What are we going to do with him?!" What, indeed?!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stuck Between Marriage and Menopause

Ok, this is for those of you that need a laugh on this gray, dreary, and rainy Saturday afternoon (at least it is where I live - it's March - 'nuff said!). This is my piece that I submitted last week for FaithWriters. I deliberately wrote it with an eye towards humor. Evidently, I was convincing because one critiquer suggested that I "quit complaining" and then spouted some drivel about how "40 is the new 30" and other such nonsense. Do you ever notice who says things like that? It's certainly not the under 40 crowd! The truth is, I honestly do not mind growing older. I have yet to reach a point where I am not willing to share my real age with people. In fact, you couldn't pay me to go re-live my twenties! But growing older, I am finding, and will continue to find, as the decades roll on, brings with it new challenges. One way to gracefully navigate our way through these changes is to laugh and just enjoy the days. That's what I'm attempting to do here. Enjoy!

Stuck Between Marriage and Menopause

I looked at my calendar the other day and, in disbelief, realized that I’m going to be 39 next month. Shh…don’t tell anyone! Oh, who am I kidding? All anyone has to do is take one look at me to know that I have reached that dreaded portal of life. I’m no longer young, but I’m not a grandma yet. High heels kill my feet, but I’m not quite ready for orthopedic loafers. Age spots are popping up on my face and hands, but the wrinkles are still in their infancy stage. I haven’t lived long enough to have laugh lines, so I just look grouchy . My wash and go hair has turned into a monthly appointment with Miss Clairol. You could put groceries in the bags under my eyes.

I’m middle aged. I’m what my parents were while I was growing up - and I what I swore I never would be. I’m not sure exactly how, other than dying early, I intended to avoid it, though. Somehow, I slipped through early adulthood and danced myself squarely into my middle years. I used to be fun, I think. I can remember late nights with college friends, drinking Coca-cola at Midnight (which is something I would never do now, since I’d pay for it with sleeplessness and early morning bathroom trips), ordering in pizza at 1am, and giggling hysterically over nothing. It was not unusual at all to stay up into the early morning hours, studying, or, what was usually the case, just talking. What did we have to talk about? None of us had lived yet! But I had more conversations in those years than I’ve had in the last decade - including the times I talk to myself.

And then all my friends and I started getting married. We had found our “soul mates” and it was time to settle down. Of course, it may have been visions of our five bridesmaids in peach organdy, our honeymoon trip, and the tractor- trailer load of cool wedding gifts we were sure to get clouding our vision. For whatever reason, the next few years were a blur of lingerie showers and rose petals.

My descent into Middle Age occurred within the following decade. I had babies. At first, I decided I would be one of those cool moms - the ones you see in commercials for diapers and peanut butter. They never sport baby formula on their shirts and they usually do their shopping in pressed khaki pants. Their babies are cute and happy and never have explosive bowel movements in the dairy aisle at Shop n Save. That resolve disappeared about the time I discovered Baby #2 was on the way. From then on, the goal was survival.

I’ve been like one of Sherman’s troops plowing through Georgia as I’ve waded my way through potty training, ER trips, ketchup on the ceiling (don’t ask), dead pets, the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and Legos. Along the way I also picked up 2 mortgages, a houseful of dying appliances, reproducing laundry, camping trips (“Let’s go relax, Honey!”), plantar warts, and three root canals.

I’ve finally come up for air, only to discover that Youth has fled and I’m firmly entrenched into Middle Age. My oldest son is starting to mention colleges, my husband says we need to talk about something called an IRA, and I’m quite sure I’m going to walk away from my next trip to the ophthalmologist with a prescription for bifocals. Let the good times roll!

I try to console myself with the knowledge that at least I’m not as old as the generation before me. I still have most of my teeth and I don’t read the obituaries yet with a sense of victory when I don’t see my name. However, at my last doctor’s visit, my doctor sat there reviewing some test results and then turned, and earnestly said to me, “Have you ever heard of the term ‘peri-menopause’?”

And that’s where I find myself as I stare disconsolately at the calendar - stuck firmly between marriage and menopause!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Thoughts

I just figured up Paul's paycheck - what needs to come out, how much is left, etc. Eek! This is not a good time of year for finances...I just hate to tap savings if we don't absolutely have to. Not that there is ever a whole lot to tap in there! But, he was on call this week and he did end up getting quite a few overtime calls, so the next check should be better, if they work him next week. But we just remembered the other day that this is the time of year Lozier hands out their bonuses. So, I think we'll be covered. You know, I don't dream about being rich. I'd just like to know what it's like to not have to worry about the state of our checkbook all the time! But, at the same time, I have to remember that God has always provided and there's no reason to think He's going to stop anytime soon.

We had our city council meeting last night. Apparently, I've been spoiled. I've been on the council for 3 or 4 years now and we never dealt with anything too serious. It wasn't uncommon for us to be out of there in less than a half hour. With our new mayor, that has all changed. I think Steve is doing a fabulous job. He really wants to do the job right. As a result, he's digging up stuff and finding out things that, as a city, we haven't been doing right. And he wants to correct that. Our meeting last night lasted for over 2 1/2 hours! And at several points, there was yelling, pounding on the table, and a whole lot of swearing. It wasn't me! I just sat there in kind of stunned silence. THESE are my neighbors? Wow! So much for the quiet little town of Swan!

And that brings up a rabbit trail. On what planet does having a filthy mouth make a woman more attractive? I remember years ago in my first "adult" job working with this woman that swore like a sailor - and being totally disgusted by it. Most of my time since then has been spent with people who don't swear, so I find myself a little more shocked now when I do hear it. But there is just nothing attractive about it. In fact, it coarsens women and I really do think less of them when I hear such horrid language coming out of their mouths. Nasty! There was a lot of that last night, too. Again - not from me!

The FaithWriters postings came out yesterday morning. This was my second week to enter at the Intermediate level. I got another "Highly Commended" rating! At first, I was kind of disappointed that I had not done better. But as the day went on, I felt better about it. I mean, it took me how long to even place at the Beginner level? So this is nothing to sneeze at. It's nothing to get totally puffed up about, either. But I'm pleased. It was for a little article I wrote entitled "Stuck Between Marriage and Menopause." I'll post it here soon.

All week long we get notices when somebody has read and critiqued our piece. When I first entered "Stuck" I just knew it was a winner and I totally hovered over my email, just WAITING to hear that I had a comment on my piece! I got some nice comments and then about Monday or Tuesday I got kind of a nasty one. This woman totally ripped me for what I wrote, told me how it wasn't Biblical, how I needed to "stop complaining", blah, blah, blah. It didn't crush me, but it did kind of take the wind out of my sails. By the time Thursday rolled around I wasn't even sure if "Stuck" would place. It did and then I got a private message from one of the writers who had written something nice about "Stuck." She told me that she had read all my comments and her "heart hurt" when she read that one. She said this particular woman is crabby with everyone's writing and to try not to take it too much to heart. I thought that was so nice and it just made my day - even more than getting the "Highly Commended" rating. I love getting the nice comments on my pieces because it helps me feel more confident. But I think it's necessary to learn how to take the not-so-nice ones, too. Writing is a little different than other things because the things we write are literally like our own children - we birthed them. And to hear someone tear that down is a bit painful!

I submitted this week's piece and I went with a more serious tone - mainly because of that mean comment I got. That piece was written all in fun and I thought "Well, maybe that's not such a good 'voice' for me. I'd better be serious this time!" To my surprise, I'm getting lots of comments on it - so far, all favorable, even though I didn't catch a spacing error I made. Maybe it's going to do better than I thought!

This last week I was listening to a cd and Sam asked me, "What dat?" I told him, "It's a song called I'd Rather Have Jesus." Sam then shook his head and said, "No - Jee-sa in Bible!" Where did he get that?! He's been climbing up on my bed in the mornings, grabbing my Bible (because that's where I do my reading) and telling me, "Sam read - Jee-sa in Bible." It just warms my heart! I think often that Paul and I don't do a very good job of applying the verse in Deuteronomy 6 where we're told to be talking about the things of God all day long to our children -when we "rise up" and when we "sit down." Life, as well as our selfish sin natures, get in the way, and we just don't recognize or take those opportunities. But Sam is "catching" it from somewhere!

I am working on a project now that involves finding about 30-40 verses of encouragement and printing them out on sticky labels. Our SS class is collecting a tub full of food for one of the couples in our class. They have 3 young children of their own and they took in 3 needy relatives last fall - a month before the mom gave birth! So now they have 6 children, ages 7 and under, living in their home. Technically, they are not foster children, although they do have legal custody of them. So they aren't getting all the state money that they would if the children were actual foster kids. As a church, we have just fallen in love with those kids and it's going to be so hard to say good-bye if that's what ends up happening! But anyway, we're collecting this food to help them out. The gal that is heading it up asked me to print off labels that we could affix one to each item of collected food and then when she pulls it out of the cupboard, she'll have a verse of encouragement. Cool idea!

So, I began working on that yesterday and David wanted to know what I was doing. I explained. And then he went and got his Bible and started marking down HIS favorite verses for me to use. I thought that was so neat - that a 10 year old kid has special verses of his own, already. That also warms my heart! I think that maybe God is working within some of my children despite my own failings as a spiritual leader for them.

Well, a closing note on vanity and my pursuit of it: I have been hunting for a denim skirt now since about the time Sam was born. I wanted a long, straight, jean-thickness skirt. It's kind of must for church. On Sunday mornings I alternate casual tops/skirts with my dressier outfits, every other week. Sunday nights I only wear tops and skirts. If it were up to me, I'd wear slacks, but that has caused too many fights with Paul and I'm tired of it, so I'm just going to submit until he dies and THEN I'll wear slacks!

My friend Gina teased me when she found out about the skirt I'm going to tell you about. She's in my homeschool group and we're both die-hard jeans lovers. A number of women in our group are the stereotypical homeschool moms and they wear their denim skirts everywhere - to garden, to Adventureland, to the grocery store, etc. All I can think is "Brrr!" So sometimes Gina and I poke fun at them, which is probably really naughty of us... But anyway, she was teasing me about getting "converted" and how the next thing I'd be doing is grinding wheat to make my own 40 grain whole wheat bread. I don't think I'll tell her we started ordering from a co-op in January...

Anyway, I haven't been able to find the skirt I wanted. And I've looked absolutely everywhere, all over Des Moines. I have two right now - one that's knee length and way too tight around my waist, and another that's long, but a little fuller than I'd like, so it visually adds width to my waist and just doesn't look quite right with all tops. I don't know why I never hunted on the internet before, but I finally sat down the other day and just looked. To my delight, they're out there! Unfortunately, they're not cheap. But that really was secondary, after all the unsuccessful trotting around I've done, hoping to find one. So, I ordered one and it should be here soon. They had a sizing chart so I was able to measure myself and figure out just which size to order, since there is no such thing as a universal sizing chart! Depending on the store, I can wear anything from a 6 to a 10, which is really frustrating. Whenever I do any shopping, I have to take back all kinds of sizes to the dressing room, which then takes up more time and adds to my dislike of the whole process. So anyway, that's my little victory for the week!

I'm painting one wall in the boys' room today - Cowboy silver, as in the Dallas Cowboys. The boys could not agree on a theme for their room, so I made it easy. There are four walls, so they will be silver, navy, hunter, and yellow, for the Dallas Cowboys and Greenbay Packers, David and Ben's favorite teams, respectively. For several weeks now Paul has had window trim laid on top of my backroom buffet. He stained it and it's just laying there. I asked him when he was going to put it up and he said "not until you get it painted." He's worried that I'm going to drip paint on his newly stained trimboards. If I had known he was waiting on me, I'd have done it weeks ago! Grrr...Oh, and so then I got together all my painting supplies this morning and I couldn't find my edgers (for edges and corners - I can't paint without them). I asked Will if he had seen them since it was his room that we painted last. He said, "I threw them away - you told me to." What? I did no such thing! I recall telling him to throw away the disposable pads that go on top of the edgers, but not the unit itself! Double grrr!...

So, I'm off to paint some more - very, very carefully now, since I have no edgers. Sigh...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back to the Books

I just got home from dropping off Will at weight-lifting and I realized I'm going to have to turn around in 15 minutes and go get him again! Sigh...

This week we had our meeting at the school with several school officials concerning Ben's entry into school. They admitted to me that this was a first for them - having a long-time homeschooled special needs student desiring re-entrance into the public school system. Suppose that says something about homeschooling? I know a whole lot of special needs homeschoolers who started out in the public schools... We brought along a friend from church, Terry, to serve as our "advocate." Up until a year and a half ago, Terry was the principal of SE Warren high school. He's spent his entire career in education, I believe. He was the first one I spoke to about putting Ben in school - last fall when he spent a Saturday helping Paul reshingle the garage roof. He's made phone calls for us and just walked us through the process. When this is all over we want to do something for special for him, because we are SO grateful!

When the principal of Pleasantville walked into the meeting, his eyes about bugged out of his head when he saw Terry at the table! They know eachother from Terry's days as principal at SEW. I don't think it occurred to Pleasantville that we would come "armed" with an advocate. And you know, it may not be strictly necessary. We never had one in the years that we dealt with the Missouri Valley school system in Western Iowa. Of course, we didn't really know what we were doing back then, either! Pleasantville seems like a really nice school and I'm doubtful that they would try to get away with anything. But then again, when it comes to money (Ben's entrance into school comes with a substantial amount of state money, not all of which has to be used for his education), it's hard to say what some people will do.

So, this first meeting was basically just a "get to know you" type of deal. They asked me to tell them Ben's history, both medical and educational, and I soon realized that they were asking me, not as Ben's mother, but as his teacher. That felt a little odd because I've always seen myself as his mother, foremost! Then, we met the lady who will be Ben's one on one aide. Anywhere Ben goes in school, she'll be there. She's about 60, shorter than Ben, and very spry and enthusiastic. I immediately liked her! She gave Paul, Ben, and me a tour of the building, at Ben's request. At the end of it, she said she needed "rollerskates" to keep up with Ben. You don't know the half of it, Lady!

While we were on this tour, something happened that really made me feel good and enforced to me that we made a good decision in going with Pville. We passed by the coach's office door which was open. Coach Koerselman called out a greeting to us, which shocked me to death. He was Will's football coach last year. I had no clue that he remembered us. The only times he would have seen us would have been at Will's game and of course, Coach would have been so busy with a thousand other things at that time. But he did! I told him that we were enrolling Ben and he said that he had heard we were doing that. He did? From where? Does everyone in the school know? Is it that newsworthy? And then he wanted to know how Will was doing. He told me that weightlifting for track was starting this week and would Will like to lift with the team? He knew Will didn't have a real interest in running track (the kid hates to run, which makes me laugh - isn't running an integral part of playing football?!) I was just so touched by this.

Now I am bringing Ben in for testing the entire month of March- 1 to 2 times weekly. This is so the AEA can get an idea of where he is academically and we can design his school program. Then, our big IEP meeting - where we actually present what we want for Ben's education, and the school counters with what they are willing to offer - is April 22.

So I took Ben in yesterday for his first "probe" (test). They told me to plan on an hour - we were there 15 minutes! But I'm not complaining! The AEA lady handed Ben a sheet of 2nd grade math problems and set the timer and told him to "go!" Ben just looked at the paper blankly. He's never in his life taken a timed test and he doesn't just do his schoolwork. Any schoolwork he has ever done has happened because I sat down and did it with him! But with a little coaxing, we got Ben to do the paper. I thought it was awfully easy work. We've been working on two and three digit multiplication and these were basic math problems. He did two of those and then the lady had Ben read a paragraph, which he was able to do. I'm curious as to how he will test, but it's not my first priority. My main goal for Ben is for him to develop some independence and learn some basic life skills - how to interact with people, how to cook, how to behave when Mom isn't there to sit on him, etc.

Gotta keep moving. I think my pizzas are burning now. I went to pick up Will and he got in the van, sweat-drenched and gasping. He said, "They made me run 2 miles and I'm not even on the track team!" Somehow, my motherly sympathy just won't kick into gear on this...

Starting out Wrong and Underground Plans

It's 2:45 in the afternoon and I have not gotten a single thing done today. Sigh... Thursdays tend to be like this and I think it's because my day starts out wrong. Paul has to go in really early to work, so I sleep in. Then, when I get up everything's wrong because I got such a late start. That is one thing that I am looking forward to about Ben going to school. I'll have to get up earlier in order to get him there. If self-discipline won't do it, then school obligations will!

Well, then, it's also Thursday and that's the day that the rankings for FaithWriters comes out. So, I was hovering around the computer, waiting to see how my "shhh" piece did. Once that was out (more on that later) I had a number of emails to write and respond to.

Ben was his cheery old self this morning - starting three arguments before the sleep had even cleared from my eyes. If I allow him to survive adolescence, I will totally, totally deserve an award of some kind!

My friend, Jennifer, is in the hospital. I wrote about her struggles with Wegeners Disease in a recent post. She's been up there since Tuesday and I really wanted to go see her. But that's a good 40 min drive from my house. I went anyway and she had a full room of visitors when I was there! So, my visit wasn't strictly necessary. But I'm still glad I went. She may be there for a few more days yet (they were getting ready to do a plasma something or other when I was there - they're taking her blood plasma out, cleaning it, and returning it to her body). She had a painful looking port stuck in the side of her neck for that purpose. So I'll go see her again if that's the case. I always appreciated having visitors when I was hospitalized. The days can get pretty long without them.

So now I'm home, briefly. I have to run Will into the school this afternoon for weightlifting (more on that later, too), go get him, run him up to a different school for his last night of Driver's Ed, go to a City Council meeting, and then go get Will again. Paul just got home from work, so maybe he'll be able to help with some of that. I hope so! I feel like I ought to paint my van yellow and have a running meter on the dash!

We got our taxes done last night. We got back $2500 more than we did last year. I figured we would do ok, since Paul earned less money last year, but I didn't expect to do THAT well! Plus, his side business actually earned a profit in 2009, so I figured that would lessen the amount of money we got back. I asked the tax preparer about this and she drawled, "Well, it's because of all those kids you've got!" She said it like we're running an orphanage! I hardly think 4 qualifies as "all those kids!" It sounds like we'd better enjoy it while we can. Evidently, this Earned Income Credit is a program of President Bush's and Obama has already axed it. Plus, only children under the age of 16 qualify for it. So, even if the program were still in place next year, we'd lose credit for Will since he'll turn 16 this year.

Our tax preparer is applying for a tax identity number for our business. This means that we'll buy business supplies tax free and then we'll need to submit the sales tax we collect to the state once a year (or quarterly if it reaches a certain amount). There's so much to do and learn about running your own business, even a little "side" one like we've got!

At any rate, we now have plenty of money to start on the basement. And then today, Paul was able to secure some more concrete blocks to use - for free. Several years ago, while driving around DM, he saw these blocks setting out and the homeowner told Paul he was welcome to them. Well, Paul never got them because he didn't know if and when he'd ever need them for the basement. Today, he checked. They're still there and we're welcome to them still!

It's finally started to thaw out a bit this week, so we're hopeful that it won't be too long before Paul can start digging. I'm dreading the mess, but the thought of having at least a partial basement and being able to free some space up here makes me willing to put up with it. I hope it's not a long, drawn-out process like most home improvement jobs seem to be!

I've got loads more to share, but I also have a messy house. So, I'll have to get at this in little chunks. More in a bit!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Embracing the Bullet

Here is my FaithWriter's entry on the subject of "phew." This was my first entry at the Intermediate level - the one that received a "Highly Commended" rating. I'm not entirely happy with the title, but it's the best I could come up with at the time.

Embracing the Bullet

The phone rang and I nervously answered, “Hello?”

“This is your doctor’s office” chirped the voice on the other end. “Your test results are back and I’m happy to report that they all came back normal - no cancer!”

“Phew!” I thought to myself. I sure “dodged the bullet” on that one! Things hadn’t looked quite normal at a recent visit to the doctor and they felt it necessary to rule out the possibility of cancer. Being the pessimist that I am, I was already mentally preparing myself for a negative diagnoses. What a relief it was to then get good news! “God is good!” I breathed to myself.

But what about those times that we don’t dodge that bullet? What about those times that it hits us right smack in the chest - is God still good? We will all face those moments. It may be a devastating diagnosis from our doctor. It may be our spouse deciding that they no longer to wish to be married. We might be placed into a situation where we will have to bury our own child. Financial ruin could be lurking in our future. Natural disasters occur all the time - perhaps one day our own home might be swallowed up by a roaring tornado or consumed by a fire. We don’t know what’s in store.

It’s so easy to praise God when the news is good. But can we lift our hands in praise when it’s not? That‘s not usually our first response, that‘s for sure! As humans, we seek answers when things don’t go our way. We also like to be able to assign blame. But when we have an understanding of just who God is and how great He is, then it will be easier to still praise Him, even in the midst of trials.

I like to look at Job when I am tempted to question why God is allowing a certain tribulation in my life. This entire book addresses the age- old question of how can a good God allow His children to hurt. I especially like chapter 38. Verses 4-7 tell us,

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?”*

I definitely feel “put in my place” after reading this, as well as awed at the immense greatness and power of God.

When times of testing occur, I also appreciate the promise found in Romans 8:28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…”

It’s assurance to me that God is using this hard time for something good! I may not be able to say, “Phew-missed that one!” But I can say with certainty that God is good - no matter what happens and no matter what my circumstances are. That’s a relief far greater than even my doctor’s office can offer!

* Scripture quotations from New International Version of Bible