Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 565

Dec. 18, 2014

Thursday - Day 563

I won't finish this tonight.  I have children that need to be read to and tucked in soon.  I have folded laundry all over my bed that has to be put away before I get to get in, unless I fancy sleeping on the floor.  Actually, that might not be such a bad idea. So, I'll just get a good start.  That's ok.  I'll be home for most of tomorrow until evening when Ben and I have to go man the concession stand at the school to earn money for his (our) Florida trip.  It's one of those things where I got a phone call from the Fine Arts Dept. director and felt kind of on-the-spot.  I managed to worm out of the night he wanted us two weeks ago but offered to do the 19th instead.  I didn't realize when I offered that we would still be in hunting season at that point and that the night of the 19th I would be hosting 3 overnight hunters at my  home. 

It's ok.  I'll manage.

Tomorrow, Will, David, and Jonathan (David's bestie - do guys have "besties?") will be hunting all day long with some other guys from church.  Then, two more friends arrive later tomorrow to join the hunters on Saturday.  I sure hope they get something.  The guys hunted last weekend and came up empty-handed, except for Nathanael, who got himself a nice, thick 9 pointer.  But if they do get something, then that means butchering might be happening on my dining room table next week in the midst of the Christmas bustle.

Like last year.  I had beheaded, skinned, dead deer on my dining room table on Christmas Eve.  My parents arrived to start the Christmas celebrations and I still had a house full of guys waving knives and bowls of blood setting on the table.

It was so warm last weekend that Will and Nathanael strung up the one Nathanael got to the swing set and skinned him right there and then.  I've been fighting off the neighborhood dogs all week long, all who want deer legs, the skin, and rib cage.  I finally got the boys to dump the carcass in the garbage can but I'm sure the dogs can smell it.

Why am I blathering on about deer?  I don't know.  My brain has been kind of foggy all week.  Anyway, I guess I was saying that I'd be home most of tomorrow so I can work on blogging in between all the time I'll be spending in the kitchen cooking for the hungry hunters.  I think that was the point I was getting to.


I had to drive to Ottumwa this week (more on that later).  I ended up getting a series of text messages from one of our pastors so I kept having to pull off so I could text back.  I like to say texting makes my life easier, but sometimes it really doesn't!  Anyway, I pulled off at the Knoxville/Chariton exit.  I couldn't find a good place to park, but I eventually found a little access road.  I saw some sort of business up ahead so I wound around on the gravel road until I could pull in.  I was so surprised when I read the sign on the building - Bertrand Monuments.  A year ago July I drove up and down and up and down the several mile stretch of highway that runs through Knoxville looking for this place. Armed with Mapquest, I knew about where it was supposed to be, but   I never could find it.  I finally gave up and went with McCall Monument, also in Knoxville.  I could find them.  It's all right.  They did a great job and really served with compassion.  But now a year and a half later, I finally find the joint!


Yesterday I had a unique experience.  It's no secret that the religion of Islam is growing, and along with that, its influence.  For some reason, the Muslims seem to prefer the west side of Des Moines.  There are quite a few fully scarved Walmart employees at the Jordan Creek store.  That has made for some interesting conversations with the Littles!  And actually, there is one at Ben's school, which is surprising.  His school is one of the smallest districts in the entire state.  It's something like 99% white, if not more.  In fact, Lizzie commented to me that if she does attend there next year she'll probably be the only black girl in the school and, more than likely, she's right about that.  So, I was really surprised this year at Ben's first vocal concert when one of the students stood up there, her head fully covered by a white scarf.  Maybe she's a foreign exchange student.  I just thought of that.  That could be.  Or, she could have recently transferred into the district or maybe even converted.  I don't know.  At the Christmas program last week, Ellie saw her, squealed loudly, and exclaimed (also loudly),

"Look, Mommy - a Muswim!"  Yeah, we've had a lot of conversations.

So, anyway, yesterday I was out at Jordan Creek Mall.  I had just the Littles and we ate in the food court.  I won't go into all the details of that experience, but suffice it to say, I didn't have the stroller, the kids were in bulky winter coats and it was...harrowing.  They were all actually really well-behaved, but it was still not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon.   We got done eating, and of course, all their bladders instantly filled to capacity.  Sam had no desire to go into the ladies' restroom, but I wasn't about to let him go into the men's alone.  What did I do before they came up with Family bathrooms?  I know they didn't have them when my big boys were little.  Inside the food court at Jordan Creek is the restroom area.  They have the mens' room and ladies' room, a changing room or two, a nursing room, and two family restrooms.  Both were occupied so the kids and I sat down in a little waiting area they have with couches and rocking toys.  I think they're rocking toys.  Maybe they're supposed to be decorations, now that I think about it.  My kids have always played on them, though!  Both family rooms were occupied so I herded the kids over to the waiting area.  Later, when a room opened up, I was a bit miffed when a single lady walked out.  Hello, people - these rooms are for families!  You know, harried, tired mothers like me who have more small children than they have arms?

The first thing I noticed was this Muslim lady wearing a dress, a winter coat, and colorful head scarf.  She was sitting on one of the benches.  A man, around her age, was on the floor, which I thought was a little odd.  What I mostly noticed was how irritated he looked when the kids and I came back there.  Tough banana, Guy - if we have the chance to sit while we wait, we're going to do it.  Then, I saw that he had his glasses on a bench and it looked like he was peering under the couch.  As mentioned, my brain has been a bit foggy this week, but even with that I began to wonder - if he was looking for something wouldn't he want his glasses ON so he could see what it was he was hoping to find?  The guy kept kneeling with his nose to the floor.  The light began to finally penetrate my murky mind as I saw him then stand and pick up a 12" X 12" square of gold and brown woven tapestry piece off the floor and place it into a bag on the bench.

He was practicing salat!  I've heard of the practice, seen pictures of men in mosques doing it, but never witnessed it first-hand before.  And no, I didn't know that word.  I had to google it.  I just knew that Muslims are required to pray five times daily, facing Mecca, which would be, what, East?  It was really interesting to me.

And incredibly sad.  As I watched him, a real sorrow just enveloped me.  This young man will spend his entire life reciting his prayers and will make at least one pilgrimage to Saudia Arabia (where Mecca is located - also had to google that).  But when he dies he will be cast into Hell because he rejected Jesus.  All that self-sacrifice and prostrating for nothing!  He will have spent his entire life believing a lie.  I immediately began praying for him. 

After he and his wife (I assume - are Muslim men allowed to have girlfriends?) left the area I gathered the Littles around and explained what had just occurred. 


My kitchen floor is buckling.  Ugh.  I have never heard of this happening, except in flood situations.  I don't know if the dishwasher leaked or what.  It's a section of wood right in front of it.  Will said there was a wet spot on the basement floor below, but it wasn't too bad.  We've been watching it all day and haven't seen any more water.  But there are, apparently, drawbacks to wood floors.  This is one of them.  It's a section about two strips wide by maybe 18-22 inches.  The wood is going to have to be either screwed back down, or somehow replaced.  We do have some left-over pieces but  Will was saying they won't look quite as good when replaced.  It's got to look better than it does now, all puffed up.


Friday - Day 564

The girls are still asleep and it 's nearly 9am...not going to wake them.  My hunters were up and moving at 4am.  I know this because I heard them.  Then, Lizzie appeared, breathing heavily, at my bedside at 6am.

"I had a bad dream!"

A good mom would have invited her to crawl in the bed and chase away the scaries by cuddling.  I'm not that good of a mom.

What I am is a distracted mom.  Yesterday I put Lizzie down for her nap and then came downstairs and helped Sam with some schoolwork and then plunged back into my to-do list.  About an hour later, a disheveled Ellie appeared in the kitchen, rubbing her eyes.  I had totally forgotten about this child!  I asked her where she had been and she told me she had been sleeping underneath her bed!  I didn't miss her and I completely forgot about putting her down for her nap!  I am reminded of the harsh thoughts I have had at times towards the girls' birth mom because of her lack of interest and care for her children.  Am I any better?  Not yesterday, at least!

The other day Ellie asked me to get down the "owie game" out of the closet for her.  I didn't know what she was talking about.  I eventually figured out she meant "Operation."  Makes sense, I guess.

The kids' Christmas program is at church Sunday night.  Ellie has been going around the house all week singing, "In elshellshees Da-a-ayo!"  That must be all she remembers.  It makes me smile.


Frustrated this morning...Sam has lost his glasses AGAIN.  He took them off to wrestle with his brothers last night and this today they are missing.  Argh!  This is like what, the 50th time he's misplaced them?  Would I get in trouble if I stapled them to his head, once he finds them again?  Of course, my fear is that he won't find them and then I'll be forced to buy him another pair.  On the plus side, Sam did find the missing basement dvd remote while he was searching.


When I was out with the Littles the other day, they were very eager to put money in the red Salvation Army kettles.  Well, they were very eager to put MY money in the kettles.  They asked again what they were for and I explained it was to help poor people.  Sam nodded and said, "Yes, they buy Christmas trees for all the poor people.  That's important!"  I was thinking more along the lines of food and energy assistance, but I guess when you're 7, having a Christmas tree is a pretty big priority, too!


As I mentioned earlier I had to drive to Ottumwa earlier this week.  It's a good hour and fifteen minutes away, but the Social Security office for my region is located there.  I went in Sept, hoping to get the girls new Social Security cards.  Well, I didn't have their new birth certificates with me, so I couldn't get it done that day - grr.  I decided to go this week.  I cannot get my taxes done next year without new cards for the girls so I'm kind of running out of time.  I wanted to make sure this would not be another wasted trip so I called down to the office and verified with them what documents I would need.  I had them all, so I left.

I got there and the guy behind the window told me, "You have to have an ID for the girls."  What?  They're children - how on earth would I have an ID for them? Surely adoption decrees and birth certificates are some sort of identification!  The man was insistent that I  must have this ID before we could start the paperwork for new cards.  I explained repeatedly that I had just called not two hours earlier and nothing was said to me about IDs.  He went and talked to his manager but came back telling me the same thing.  At this point I was nearly in tears.  I was fighting them hard.  I burst out, "I have SIX children and live over an hour away.  I do not have TIME to come back!"

There was nothing I could do.  This is the United States government at work.

The only way for me to get an ID for the girls is to take them to the doctor and have the doctor type up a document on piece of paper stating the girls' names, birth dates, and sign it. What does THAT prove?  So I called their doctor.  Well, the girls haven't been seen in almost two years.  So they can't do anything for me until the girls have a full physical.  And since that time, the girls have had a name change.  Lizzie's file was misnamed and the office tried to tell me repeatedly they had never seen her.  I told them otherwise.  Eventually they found it. 

All this was further complicated by the fact that I need the same doctor to type up a letter about Ben for his guardianship hearing.  Ben hasn't been seen in a year and half, so the doctor wanted to see him, too.  And, this doctor no longer takes new Medicaid patients, which means he would see Ben, but not the girls.  But, his nurse took pity on me and scheduled the girls with him, anyway.    So, right before rush hour on the 30th, I get to take the kids to downtown Des Moines and do all this.

There are times I want to leave civilization altogether and go live on a mountaintop, just me and the kids.  Sometimes, I'd happily leave the kids behind and go live by myself. I get so tired of dealing with agencies and the government.

On the way home Tuesday, I found myself really questioning God.  I couldn't (and still can't) understand why He let my entire morning be wasted like that.  Sometimes when my plans get derailed and I am late or don't get to go somewhere I had planned, I often assume that I might have been involved in some sort of accident and it was God's way of protecting me.  But this?  I just don't see it.


Saturday - Day 565

The other night a widow friend at church (older - they're all older there) gave me a hug and whispered, "I don't need to ask how you're doing because I already know."  It's probably written all over my face these days.

Earlier this week I found myself thinking about suicide.  Before I begin to get phone calls from concerned friends questioning my mental health, I will be quick to assure everyone that I am not thinking of ending my life.  If I die young, it will be because I did something dumb, like turned in front of semi or dropped my hair dryer in the tub.  I have zero intentions of killing myself.  Ever.

But my thoughts were going there in a detached manner.  I understand the appeal.  I used to think that suicide was the ultimate act of selfishness.  I no longer believe that.  Suicide happens when a person is in so much pain that they can no longer think rationally.  It's still a choice and it's still a sinful decision.  But I understand it better now.

I have been hurting so much lately that the thought did creep into my mind - "You know, you could just end all this pain."  Looking back, I'm pretty sure that thought came straight from the pit of hell.  I pondered the idea for about a split second and then rejected it.  My death would hurt too many people.  Plus, I firmly believe that God is the author of life.  Paul's ended because his work was done.  I'm still here, which means there is purpose yet for my life.

Even if I'm not crazy about fulfilling that purpose yet.

Even if that purpose involves pain for the rest of my days.

But what if it doesn't?  What if, down the road, happiness sneaks up on me again?  I love my children so much it makes me teary-eyed at times.  I want to be here for all those moments as their lives unfold and blossom.  Yeah, those moments are always going to be a double-edged type of thing, probably equal parts pleasure and disappointment that Paul is missing these milestones.  But there will still be joy despite that and I want to see those moments.  As much as I long to go to Heaven, now, there are some things I think I'd like to see happen in my own life while I'm still tethered to earth.  These are things that I think will give me pleasure.  I don't want to miss them

So, I stay and slog through the hurt that, these days, feels like sticky, mucky, swampland. 

But even then, now, through this, hope remains. A lot of the times its flame is barely discernible, but it's there.  I'm going through a devotional book right now by Juanita Purcell on the Psalms - one for each day of the year.  It was given to me a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait until Jan. 1 to start using it.  Yesterday, I grabbed onto a few lines she wrote and held them close all day long:

We must ever doubt in the dark what we know in the light.  God is good; God loves me; I will again lift my head and sing.  Anyone can sing when the sun is shining brightly, but only confidence in God can give us a song in the night.  Don't lose hope!  Hope is admitting that troubles do exist, but believing they won't last forever.  Hope believes that God will lead us through the darkness to the sunshine of His love.  Don't give up; don't lose hope!  You will lift your head and sing again.

I needed to hear that.

I have found another song to hold onto, as well.  It's by Kari Jobe, entitled I am not Alone.  Here's the link if you want to hear it song


When I walk through deep waters
I know that you will be with me
When I'm standing in the fire
I will not be overcome

Through the valley of the shadow
Oh I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see your light is breaking through
The dark night will not over take me
I am pressing into you
Lord you fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as your own

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm

Through these trials
You have always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul




This week has been better than last.  I've received a slew of encouragements from friends all week long.  I don't know if it's because it's Christmastime or if it's because my friends have been talking and decided that something must really be done about poor Sarah.  Or maybe it's just God prodding hearts into action, one by one.  Whatever the case, I'm grateful.  I received a Christmas card from a friend and when I opened it, out fell a wad of cash with a note telling me to take the kids out to eat.  I will.  I received a Facebook note with the most encouraging note from a friend's husband.  I have read it over and over this week.  My trials have value.  My suffering is not for nothing (according to his words).   I found a loaf of homemade bread sitting on my seat when I got back in my van after church Wed. night.  Another friend sent home a gift basket full of goodies for all of us.  Another friend told me she's taking my Littles Monday and when she found out I'm feeding hunters again this weekend she baked an entire supper and brought it out to me to help feed them.  It's warming in my oven right now.  When I got home from program practice today a box of food staples was on my front porch.  This was from the American Legion in Pleasantville.  They blessed us this way a year ago, I remember.

The person I am being changed into - for surely, I AM being changed - would not be happening were it not for Paul's death, for this hurt, this soul-splitting agony.  But equally a factor in my change is the love of God, caring for me, protecting me, ministering to me through the goodness of others.    It's like those ancient masks depicting both comedy and tragedy.

 Never have things been both so horrible and so good at the same time.















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