Sunday, January 31, 2010

Frozen Manna

I can barely walk today. That is because yesterday we got that promised blizzard, the winter storm to beat all winter storms, the harbinger of the dreaded melting of the glaciers and annihilation of all polar bears. We got a full one and one quarter inches of fresh powder. Charlotte ground to a standstill. Every event was canceled including church. For the Bible Belt to cancel church, you know the storm is of epic proportions. I arose in the morning and pulled aside the blinds- SNOW!!! Real honest to goodness frozen manna from heaven waiting for me to go frolic and taste the goodness and beauty of God's icing on the streets.
I quickly downed breakfast, and gathered the cross country ski equipment, that is thirty years old and only gets called into service once a year here in Charlotte. In places that are used to snow, like NY where I hail from, the twenty inches that drop every hour are immediately dispatched, but here in Charlotte, the one snow plow that serves the entire southeast was busy in Concord which got a death defying 5 inches, so we were sure to have snow covered streets til at least April or the first thaw....tomorrow. So I opened the door, slapped on my skis, and the world was my groomed trail! I skied joyously down the white street. The downhills became Olympic mountains, the speed bumps my moguls. I passed many children who stopped building snowmen to point at me, and say, "Look Mama! An alien!"
Many adults called out, "You're not from around here, are you?"
It was clear that no one in Charlotte had ever seen a cross country skier.
I headed to the open wilderness, the sidewalks along the busy thoroughfare. Few cars were out as one inch of snow is not to be trifled with, unless it is for an emergency situation like a Starbucks Latte. Now while much of my writing is intended to be humorous and somewhat exaggerated, I am telling the truth when I say that this was the singular best day of ski conditions I had ever encountered. God had sent a cystal layer of pellets as a base, and then soft powder, but just one inch. So my skis could not ever hit the damaging pavement, but slid across the icy pellets and were cushioned by the soft powder. It was the finest groomed ski trail and I raced along the sidewalks. I made for the golf course, the one where only the people who have cheated on their taxes can possibly afford. Normally, the guard at the iron gate there takes one look at me and slams the door shut as it is clear people of my station in life are not allowed. But the guard house was unmanned, as no one but the snow bunnies were out that morn, so I whisked onto the forbidden grounds. I skied last winter in the Washington mountains, and I can tell you, that golf course was just as gorgeous with the added benefit of no pumas stalking me. I sailed up and down huge hills and deftly negotiated sand traps with ease. The whole country was blanketed in untrammeled white, and I was alone, lost in the wilderness of an elite golf course.

I knew I had skied too far and would pay dearly for it by the next morning, but it didn't matter. If I must be crippled by excess, let it be an excess of joy. I skied 18 holes, and sadly turned homeward.

And today, I can barely walk. Did you know that there are muscles in your ear lobes? There must be, because even there, I ache. But it is a pain from feasting on the pure goodness of God's world, a satiating moment of beauty and pure whiteness in the often grey stumbles of life.

Psalm 51:7
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finishing the race

I was wondering about the term "rat race". Do rats race? I have never seen a rat race, but I have seen them play basketball at our local science center. If they can master that sport, I am sure they could race if they were so inclined.

In researching the etymology of "rat race", I discovered that it was the name of a dance at the same time period as "fox trot" but then came to mean a meaningless, exhausting pursuit such as laboratory rats in an endless maze. Well now THAT is interesting- to morph from joyful dance to futile, endless wandering.... I think many people could relate to the transition from joyful, hopeful embracing life, to mechanical duty and drudgery as hopes and dreams become stale and bump into dead-end reality.

In the movie, Chariots of Fire, Olympian runner Eric Lidell tells his disapproving Christian sister, "When God made me, He made me FAST, and when I run, I feel His pleasure." I too am a runner, and when God made me, He did not make me fast. In most of the many talents God doled out to me, none are quite amazing enough to make pedestrians pause in the cross-walk. However, I love to run, and cajoled my fifty year old mother into running many years ago, shortly after she quit smoking. I remember on that first "run" with her, she huffed and puffed one block and then had to walk. So it was nothing short of miraculous when she entered a marathon just two years later.

Now inspired by my mom, I too was training for the marathon, but I had my own training regimen, which was in sharp contrast to the suggested training schedule. I basically cut it in half. I mean, really, who wants to run 20 miles as a warm up to the real thing? So when it was time to take Mom to the starting line, I was not registered, nor should with any semblance of sanity even think of running that marathon yet.... but of course decided at the starting line, I should.

And as you so correctly anticipated, at mile marker 23, I lay down to die. The end was in sight, but it didn't matter. I was done.
"Go on!" I told my mom,"Leave me here for the vultures to peck my eyeballs out. You go on!"
No, my mother insisted, I could, and should, and would finish the race.
"You may not be able to run, but you can walk," she told me.
And despite my protests, she dragged me to my feet and tugged me along. She was right, I could walk, and after a little while, I could run again, and we crossed the finish line together, holding hands, victorious.

I learned many things from that race. I learned I am missing a bone in my right foot, diagnosed after two weeks of being unable to walk after that race. I learned that mothers are always right. Obey them. Most importantly, I learned that there is something more precious than having wings of eagles that can soar effortlessly to the mountaintops. It is to have wings of a turkey, born aloft by the love of others and maybe even one's own determination to reach the heights of whatever perch God intended I land upon without giving up.
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Waiting for Home

Yesterday, on the eve of the great snowstorm due to arrive any moment, it was 60 degrees and a perfect day to head off to Hollow Creek Farm to volunteer. Asherel and I lead hectic lives, between a full school schedule, art contests, art classes, dog classes, and her Destination Imagination Team and it is always a struggle to find time to fit in the hour drive each way and then a few hours' work time at HCF. But every single time we do, as we drive home, we both sigh deep sighs of contentment, feeling as though we have done something that is truly worthwhile. There is always something different that captures our hearts on those trips to help out at HCF. There is of course always the math problems we concoct as we pick up the dog poop in the back yard. If each of thirty dogs poops twice a day, how many piles will be there in a week.... a month.... a year.....
I am quite certain that were we to turn that poop into gold, it would exceed our national debt, and smell much nicer too.

Then of course there is always the pack of happy dogs galloping around us, dumping our shovels of excrement in their delight to be petted, thrown balls to, and screamed at as they bark at the horses lining the fence. There are always new dogs at HCF, and even if there were not, my memory of names is so horrendous that they always seem new. But this time, there was a dog that no one would forget, even me. He took one look at the two strangers entering his yard, and his big goofy face registered FRIENDS COMING!!!!!!! With a galoomph, he was rocketing toward us, but he was the strangest rocketing dog I had ever seen. His legs seemed to go every which way, with his tail gyrating wildly to try to keep him on course. Despite his best efforts, when he reached us, eagerly begging to be pet, his legs splayed in all directions and he crashed into me. Not the least bit upset by his ungainly greeting, he bounced up like a rubber ball and wriggled spasmodically, his whole body bursting with delight that humans had arrived. Other dogs crowded around us, and Walter, the rubber limbed dog licked them all and it was clear he was saying, "Hey fellas, look at this! Come share with me the joy of humans! I love you buddies and I love them! Oh isn't it a beautiful day!"

Walter has cerebellar hypoplasia. This non-progressive ailment which is a disorder of an incompletely developed cerebellum causes the animal to have uncoordinated, jerky gait....or, as we had observed crash into things and fall down occassionally. One would think that a dog with this disability would rant and rave at his creator, be angry and frustrated, wonder why of all the dumb creatures on earth that could have been afflicted with this, it had to be him? However, it was clear that Walter was just happy to be alive, happy to be in the presence of new friends, and every dog that he unwittingly smashed into. As Asherel and I scooped poop, Walter would exuberantly smash into my knees, sending poop flying, and then with his goofy grin, cuddle against me. Then he would see a dog on the other side of the yard, and untangle his rubber legs and sprint across the yard, in an endearing wobbly way.

As I watched him, I found myself praying that God would send this special dog a very special home. This dog needed- like all dogs do, but this one especially- a family that he could proudly crash into, and as he went sprawling to the ground, bark out, "I am home!"
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Prospect of Snow

The anticipation in the air is so thick we could cut it with a snowball, and fully intend to as soon as the long awaited first snowfall of the season materializes. All week, we have been racing to get the newspaper and smacking open to the weather page, running our finger along the line of pictures depicting the weather for the week. Our finger jabs at Friday where little white snowflakes cover the looking glass square. Snow! Each day we gaze excitedly at each other. We are still on for snow on Friday!

I am fairly certain the folks in North Dakota, or Chicago, or Minnesota are not drunk with delight with goofy grins pasted on their faces over the prospect of snow. But here, in relatively balmy Charlotte, we are gleeful. We have already raced up to the attic and pulled down the snow tubes. The duct tape boots Asherel so lovingly constructed stand by the door ready to be leapt into. I have lined up the cross country skis and carefully placed the proper poles and boots next to each pair. We already have on our heavy wool mittens, parkas, and ski caps, and sit by the door ..... waiting..... sweltering...... sweat dripping down our nose. The house is fully stocked with toilet paper and milk. We have chestnuts ready to roast on an open fire. All we need now is the snow to commence falling.

I hear a muffled sound from the swathed -in- down figure next to me.
"Speak louder," I say,"Or move the sled away from your mouth."
"Just how much snow is expected?" she carefully ennunciates.
"At least half an inch," I say, "Now don't speak anymore, we may miss a flake."
We both turn our full attention again to the window, which is currently filled not with frost, but warm sunshine.
"I thought the snow wasn't coming til tomorrow," murmurs the child beside me through layers of woolen scarf wrapped several times around her neck to keep the snow from chilling her vital cervical spine.
"Do you want to miss it?" I snap, "You know all good things come to those who wait."
We turn our attention again to the window, and look hopefully for grey skies, shivering birds, and the glorious dandruff of the clouds.

I have discovered that much of the joy of life is in anticipating what lies ahead. So often, what transpires in reality falls short of what we hope and dream for, but I am an eternal optimist, and just know that the next day will bring that elusive perfection. And really, it probably won't, but there is something worth longing forth, worth waiting for, that will not disappoint. The future glory of standing before God in Heaven shimmering with perfection is in the corner of my eye.
I sit before the window of heaven, gazing in with eager expectation.

Romans 8:18
18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

As a Dog Returns to Its Vomit.....

For months, we had worked with our then starving rescue dog, Honeybun, so that she would not want to disembowel our patient first dog, Lucky when any food was in sight. In those first few awful months, Honeybun would suddenly become a whirling dervish, and lunge at Lucky's throat or belly if there was a nugget of food within reach. Since she had probably been in the wild a very long time scrapping for every morsel of sustenance she could snag, it was understandable, but it did not lead to the peaceful and harmonious home that I envisioned. You may well ask why we kept Honeybun, but that is the subject of my book, soon (I hope) to be published and so I won't spoil the story here.

In those early days, we had to crate or tie the dogs whenever we fed them, and no food could ever be carelessly dropped to the ground. It was Hollow Creek Rescue Farm (HCF) that helped us develop strategies and training that ultimately led to our incredible success story such that the dogs can now eat side by side without blood letting or even a snarl. I have become increasingly cavalier about food and my defenses are almost totally gone.

Last night, I put down particularly delectable gravy bowls for each of them to lick. Honeybun finished first, as she always does. She still gulps her food quickly, and I suspect the memory of those starvation days will never leave her. Lucky was still languishing over his gravy, peacefully scraping every molecule from the bowl. Honeybun looked at him but moved away to let him finish, which is good dog etiquette and I was very proud of her. Finally Lucky decided he was done and as soon as he moved away, Honeybun rushed over to see if he had left any atoms for her. She began the repeat cycle of the wash phase when Lucky began to walk past her to go to his water bowl. She suddenly lunged at him snapping and growling. It was not a full attack, but it was a bitter reminder of those horrid early days with her. I instantly "rolled" her, a technique taught to me by HCF which doesn't hurt the dog, but is the technique a pack alpha dog would use to tell another dog, "If you do this ever again, I will snap your canines off."

I have to admit it was discouraging, after nearly 2 years of this rescue dog being with us, with full bowls of food, many yummy snacks, and a closet full of silky dog outfits that Asherel has made for her, that she would still feel the need to attack over a molecule of gravy.

However, I am honestly not a whole lot different. The same stupid issues that bedraggled my character when I was twenty are the same stupid issues that haunt me now that I am over 21, but less than 60. (much MUCH less than 60). The only real difference is that I am more aware of them, and I fight them and bemoan them more vociferously, but they keep popping back up like those little moles in the whack-a-mole game. (A violent game that none of you should ever indulge in that involves smacking furry cartoon creatures on the head as they pop randomly out of little holes)

So Honeybun and I will curl in front of the scripture today, that reminds and convicts us:
Genesis 4:7
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Public Service Message- No spiritual lesson or art

I hope this message may help some kid, and even save lives. If you have a child with sleep problems, allergies, or chronic congestion, please read this. For 21 years, no doctor, including Matt's allergist, ever thought to check for nasal abnormality, including narrow passage or deviated septum. No one ever thought to examine chronic complaints of being unable to sleep with sleep apnea, related to poor oxygen intake due to deviated septum and narrow nasal passageway. No doctor should EVER prescribe any kind of sleep medication without first ruling out deviated septum, physical abnormality of the nasal cavity, and sleep apnea. The sleep meds Matt's doctor prescribed could have killed him. It was a perceptive doctor at UVa who instantly diagnosed the deviated septum and sent him to an ENT. The ENT here tells me that many if not most of his allergy, immune system, sleeping, and congestion problems will be relieved with proper treatment of the septum and nasal cavity.
Blood work results which showed the need for more blood work never reached us. The policy of every doctor office should be that abnormal blood work should always be reported to a patient not only through mail but follow-up phone calls. If your doctor doesn't have such a policy in place, you should advocate for one. In lieu of that, always follow up yourself for blood work results.
If what doctors are telling you don't "feel" right- keep pushing. Research symptoms, diagnoses, and treatments yourself. It will at least help you to knowledgeably talk with doctors. And I would also strongly fight for repeal of HIPA laws for dependent children- which I believe extends to age 25 when they are students. Contacting your congress people is always a good start. I hope others can learn from our problems.

An Artist's Home

I think it is safe to say that no one has ever left my house, and turned longingly to her friend saying, "Wow, her taste in decorating and design is impeccable."

I think it is likely that visitors leave shaking their heads and wondering how an artist, a lover of beauty and creativity could have a home so.... well, not that. I had one friend who for years would drag me to the Open Designer Home shows, and point out all the lovely details that someone talented, like an ARTIST, could do if she wanted. It is not that I didn't get the hint. I agreed with her. An artist probably could do that if they were so inclined.

It is not that I don't want a beautiful aesthetically pleasing space.... it is that it is so expensive and time consuming to create one. There are so many other more admirable ways to spend time and money. Our friend and missionary, Brian Duggan spends his this week in Haiti, bringing diapers and water to orphaned babies lined up by crumbling walls. Our animal heroes Nicole and Gene subsist on peanut butter so they have money for the horses and dogs they have rescued (though she manages to have a beautiful home that is somehow always clean despite being filled with the dogs she works with.) But it is not even just the money issue. I just don't seem to have a knack at home decorating.

And as if my natural inability were not glaring enough, I now have given in to the ever growing set for our Destination Imagination Team Challenge, and decided for the next 4 months, my living room will be decorated by monstrous creations 7 feet high made of PVC, cardboard, cloth, and foam. Giant rather frightening puppets stare at me with their beady eyes as I creep out of the bedroom. I have removed all the furniture from the great room so the kids have room to stage their set, and then slide it into place. (Not that the furniture is highly prized, most are items I snagged from a garage sale or better yet, dumped at roadside....) During the days when they are not here practicing, the mammoth set is moved into the vacant college boys' room. During those days, the great room is a towering, silent cavern, echoing every toe click. Huge empty floor stretches under the formal chandelier, crying out to visitors, "Can you believe what a decorating schmuck must live here to think this is attractive?"

My walls are covered with my artwork, so the now empty room, when the giant puppets aren't smiling their spooky smile at me, does have the feel of an art gallery. That is not normally the look homeowners are going for, but maybe I should consider charging admission. So, I sit here in my empty cave, and avoid glancing at the open door of the boys' room where one puppet is leering at me. I see the little banana car Anders painted with painstaking care for the AWANA Grand Prix sitting on a nearby shelf. I see hundreds of little clay animals that Asherel has created over the years. I see the suspension bridge made of popsicle sticks the boys made years ago in our first fumbling homeschool years on top of the tall bookcase, beside the pink candles Matt made by pouring wax over icecubes in a tin can. I look around my home and I don't see Martha Stewart applauding, but I hear the echoes of children's laughter.

Numbers 24: 4-6

4 the oracle of one who hears the words of God,
who sees a vision from the Almighty, a]">[a]
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

5 "How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwelling places, O Israel!

6 "Like valleys they spread out,
like gardens beside a river,
like aloes planted by the LORD,
like cedars beside the waters.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Physical or Mental- Which is Worse?

My sister, having recently birthed 5 babies all within nanoseconds of each other, at least in the perspective of eternity, has the gall to tell me I am an old woman who forgets what having young babies is like if I think the angst of college kids even BEGINS to compare. This is actually an interesting metaphysical question- which is worst, physical or mental exhaustion? Whenever faced with mind boggling dilemmas like this, I seek answers from my two favorite sources- the Bible and a caffeine high. In the morning, I often have the benefit of both sources at hand, thus you reap the reward of both enhanced cognition through chemical means (caffeine is the most potent and only drug I use), and the Holy Book.
It is interesting that in John 16, the beloved disciple seems to agree with sister Holly. He says in verses 21-22, "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world."
At this point, if I know Holly, she is dancing around the living room with a smug, self satisfied look on her face singing "I was right, I was right, ding dong I was right...." while her five little children look on and glance sideways at each other, making circular movements behind their hands and then pointing surreptitiously to their whirling progenitor. However, note John says that this physical anguish is forgotten.... and maybe the joy of the newborn babe as well in direct proportion to the height of the dirty diaper pile.......
But contrast that anguish which is fickle and ends as soon as that squirming little bundle flops out, with the mental anguish of Paul in Romans 9:1-3:
"1I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.."

His anguish is UNCEASING.....and what causes it? His despair that his own people do not recognize Jesus for the Messiah that Paul knows Him to be.
Physical exhaustion stinks, there is no doubt about it, and given my choice between birthing a baby or taking a nap, were a baby to emerge from both, I would choose the nap. But all physical anguish eventually ceases.... now the ultimate earthly ceasing may be frightening, but earth is just the introduction to eternity. However, mental anguish when it involves unsolvable problems like squishing the college boy back into the baby size package that used to crawl onto my lap and beg for me to dispense my love and wisdom upon him.... that anguish never ends, and thus is the worse type.
This would not be an inspirational blog however if I leave you with that morose ending, so I will finish that verse about the anguish of birthing babies, and leave you with the glorious and hopeful conclusion:
"Now with you, now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." John 16:22. Jesus died and there was no hope, but then 3 days later as He stepped out of the grave, joy that will not fade entered our hearts.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Privacy or Lunacy

First, I would like to apologize beforehand for the entire post being underlined. I have no idea why it is, nor have I any idea how to remove it. I think the symbol God is giving today is either a.) what I have to say is extremely important, so listen up, or b.) someone who cannot figure out this simple technological issue should perhaps be trying a simpler task than blog writing.

Changing diapers and jiggling fussy babies is exhausting, especially for large families of fussy little overblown diapered ones. However, having dealt with babies now of the tiny through college size variety, I am ready to state unequivocally that the college variety is more frustrating. And I am not even going to discuss the obvious difficulties such as being unable to send a college boy to his room, if indeed he could find his way into his room through the carefully placed research project which is simulating the layers of detritus that supposedly accumulated over millions of years in his attempts to show how fossil underwear can develop over a mere summer of lying at the bottom of the sediments of clothes and trash.

However, I am expounding today upon an even greater maddening situation- the government policy of protecting our children from those evil parents that might want to know what surgical procedure they will be paying for..... the privacy laws or HIPA. I believe that stands for Helping Insure Parents Agony. These laws in the health field are supposed to insure patient privacy and are only rivaled in short-sightedness with the privacy laws that prevent the parent paying for college or at least co-signing the loans from seeing the student's grades, or being allowed to even discuss the financial records of that student. All you parents who do not have a kid who has reached age 18, get ready. You are still responsible for paying all the bills, but no doctor is allowed to tell you what happened to little Johnny that requires you to fork over $10,000. Nor is financial aid in the college allowed to tell you what Johnny owes, why a hold was placed on the account, nor whether Johnny even attends that school or not. But they will gladly take your VISA number.

So let me give you poor parents a taste of what is in store for you. (Please note- this is a simulated situation. It did not happen, but it is not far from the mark. I consider exaggeration a useful literary tool and despite what you may have been taught, when used by an author it is not lying. Check out any article on global warming and you will see what I mean)
You take Johnny to the doctor and stand beside him to check him in. The receptionist smiles at Johnny and signs him in, looking suspiciously at the adult next to him who seems interested in the proceedings.
"Who are you?" she snaps.
"I, I , I am his m-m-mother," I stammer apologetically.
"The doctor is here to see HIM, not YOU!" she barks.
"B-b-but I am the one that will be paying the bills," I explain, feebly, understanding that mothers are scum of the earth according to HIPA.
"You may only come in if he signs a release allowing you to."
The adult child, seeing that only yesterday it seems he had to write, "I will respect my mother"one hundred times in his best cursive, sees pay-back time. He marches into the examining room without a backward glance, chin in the air, and says, "Woman, I never knew you." Note, there is a striking parallel to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemene when accused of being a disciple of the newly arrested Jesus, cries out,

"Woman, I don't know him!" (Luke 22:57)

In some cases, I have to really stretch for the spiritual message of the stories God brings to mind. This is one such anecdote, but I love the challenge. Honestly, I do understand the need for adults to have privacy, but to deny parents, particularly parents footing the bills, access to their progeny's records while they are still dependents seems to me as ridiculous as crying out that we don't know God, our own Creator.

Ezekiel 20:44
You will know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for my name's sake and not according to your evil ways and your corrupt practices, O house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.' "

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tread Softly

It was Matt who reintroduced me to the poem by W. B. Yeats, "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven". Some poetry I just don't get, and some I don't get but I think I do, and some I get but I don't think I do. This is one of those poems that make me cry, and I am never quite sure why, but I think I get it. It falls into all three of the poetry comprehension categories I outlined above.

My Matt has wanted to be a lawyer since he was eleven. He studied law books since the middle school years, and his entire life since then has been aiming towards that goal. After a series of poor class choices and struggles his first semester as a first year student at UVa, he clawed his way out improving each year to a perfect semester which ended at Christmas. This was despite being sick the entire semester, which now we discover was not only swine flu, but Mono as well. And now, he faces an even harder set of classes, while trying to apply to law schools, and not only does he have mono, but has just also been diagnosed with a deviated septum that may explain his intense and chronic congestion and sleep problems. Surgery is a likely option, to be explored over his spring break when he has time to address it. He has a hard road ahead of him. More heartbreaking yet, had this been diagnosed anytime in the past 21 years, he might not have had to suffer through four fruitless years of allergy shots, untold illnesses, chronic congestion, and lifetime sleep disruption.

Every mother out there knows the desire to spread heaven itself beneath the feet of their beloved children, a carpet of grace and mercy and miracles that will carry them softly to their heart's desires without a cloud to bump the path. And every mother knows that she cannot. The best we can do is pray and know that smooth paths rarely strengthen us for the rocky roads that inevitably appear.

He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread upon my dreams.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Dog's Life

In the thirty six seconds between her last bout of cold and flu and this new bout of cold and flu, Asherel went to her Advanced Handling Dog Agility class. Since it was a bit of a stretch for her to be in the class and due to illness she had not worked with her dog Honeybun for a month, and her health was tottering on awful Wednesday night, I was not expecting great things.

Honeybun did surprisingly well since food was involved. This once starving dog will do almost anything for food. But the dog that really caught my eye, and ear, was the class leader Polly's border collie. This little dynamo watched the other dogs as they sprinted and leapt over the course, straining eagerly forward on his leash. His tail never stopped wagging and he barked the entire time, begging, beseeching, demanding his turn. Polly's husband Doug was much more sedate and relaxed, and would amble to the course, the eager collie cavorting with joy when his turn finally arrived. Doug would jog along, waving his hand and giving commands, but the collie would blaze ahead of him, guessing which way to jump. The dog's tail was flapping back and forth as he sailed delightedly over the jumps. And then he had to sit and wait his turn again, and he would once more watch the other dogs rapturously, barking and reminding us his turn must be soon!

Felled by illness, overwhelmed by work we need to catch up on, and worried over the myriad health issues right now of my college boy, if I were a dog, I would be under the bed, one paw over my eye hoping the world would turn for a few times without noticing me. I keep picturing the joie de vivre of that border collie, begging to do what he was made to do. Inspiration can come from so many places, and this morning, my inspiration to leap into the day with joy in my heart comes from a dog who could not wait to tackle life.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

All Uphill

After 3 weeks of the flu, Asherel recovered long enough to go to the wedding, but is now back in bed with a horrendous cough. We have tried the Vick's vaporub on the feet treatment, which works if you do it while standing upside down on your head in the middle of a snowstorm in July EVERY time, but is not effective this time.
And the blood work on Matt just came back, revealing his 6 months of illness was mono, but he is now recovering. I am glad we were notified of this after he passed the contagion stage, at which point he is back in school. During the contagion stage, of course he was home with us. We have lost all of our winter break to illness, and now our new semester of school is being spent studying how many times you can blow your nose without the tissue disintegrating. That lesson will be sure to be followed by the practical study of why you should empty pockets of tissues before throwing wooly black things in the washer with the tissue-full pants. But I am not complaining. There is still much to be thankful for.
No matter how difficult the uphill battle, there is always someone struggling more. There is almost always a week of health, a place to rest on the exhausting journey. Things can always be worse, and even when they really are worse, they could be worser.

When I was a young adult which I am quite certain was just yesterday and someone snuck into my face and removed all my elastic skin and replaced it with leather imitation..... I used to work at a nursing home as a nurse's aid. This job can be rewarding, but often ranks in desirable jobs with sewer pipe cleaners (and often involves similar tools and conditions). I remember one resident was a very old, very shriveled, very contorted woman, whose gnarled twisted limbs would not allow her to move at all. One of my jobs was to flip her over every so often to help prevent bedsores. She could not speak, hear, see, or move. That removes a lot of options in life. Every Christmas, the nurses would pick a resident's name and be responsible for buying that person a gift The nurse who picked the gnarled lady, Sarah's name, looked woefully at the slip of paper. What on earth do you buy for someone like Sarah?

That year I worked Christmas eve, so I got to see the gift exchange. I was bursting with curiosity when the nurse brought the gift to Sarah. It was a large box. The nurse opened it, talking all the while to Sarah, who of course could not hear a word. Then the nurse pulled out an exquisite, expensive set of pure silk sheets. She rubbed them against Sarah's cheek telling her Merry Christmas. Sarah, who never showed any sign of life, smiled, and nestled her head against the silk sheet.

My life may sometimes seem like it is a long, tortuous uphill walk, but at least my feet are still moving. And when they are not, God wraps Himself around me, a silk sheet of comfort.

"You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy"

Psalm 30:11

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Memory Care

The Southwestern mountains are completely different from the eastern mountains. They are more rugged, pointier, with desert colors of reds, and ochres, and beiges rather than the lush greens of the Eastern ranges. They stretch into the horizon with distant snow capped peaks, and vast valley plains between that settle into empty silence. I hate the return from vacation, with its piles of duties and calendar screaming with events. I grab hold of the eroding visions of those peaceful mountains, but it is clutching at a vapor that slowly but irretrievably vanishes.

As we were driving through one of the quiet, small towns, Asherel noticed a tiny facility with the sign, "Memory Care". She pointed excitedly calling out, "Oh Mom!" and gestured significantly at the sign and at me. I have many fine qualities (I hope anyway....) but memory is not one of them. The morning of the wedding, mother-of-the-bride Amy had given me a list of things to bring her. I wrote them on a sticky note which I pasted to my hand. Ten minutes later, I glanced at my hand and cried, "Oh! That is what I am supposed to be here for!"

Thus with great sadness, I know that those visions that are like lotion to my chapped soul will soon dissipate. The infinite sparkling stars against a black sky, the absolute stillness of the mountain forest, the rocky boulders at my feet on the cliff edge framing a valley dipping and then leaping again into distant rows of dancing peaks..... all will fade away from my mind.

This morning, my Bible verse was from Jeremiah 31:33-
But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after
those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will
write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my

God knows the fragile state of my bursting cranium. He has written Himself on my very heart, like a computer back up CD, His own brand of "memory care" that I might not lose Him in the engulfing today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

All Creation Is Shouting

We have been gone six days. I never saw a newspaper or watched TV, but I think awful things have happened in Haiti, and probably elsewhere, but until I get over living on West coast time, I don't know if I can bear to read about it. Braving mountain lions on deserted wilderness roads is nothing compared to what the world is suffering.

If you have been keeping up with my posts, you know that we attended my lovely neice, Renee's wedding in the gorgeous mountains of Arizona, not far from the Grand Canyon. Asherel, my dear daughter who would rather eat live rattlesnakes than be trussed in pantyhose and silky dresses was lovely in the clothes that I am sure she will never wear again. Despite my week of intensive training under strict instructions meticulously gleaned from the internet and followed precisely.... my feet still hurt in my high heels and I had to ditch them during the dancing. Much that could go wrong, did, but the wedding was still a celebration of sanctification of two lovely people vowing to endure the slings and arrows of life together before God.

We were staying in cabins on the edge of a national forest, high atop a deserted mountain where celestial stars go to vacation too, so there were billions of them. At 7500 feet above sea level, I quickly discovered there is no oxygen. There is enough to walk if you are ambling, but if you want to run
5 miles, you will require an oyxgen tank and some sort of modern motorized running shoes. I struggled up a very steep hill, with even the red whites of my eyes turning blue, and gasped finally upon the level deserted path of the wilderness. The literature in our cabin had promised fox, wild horses, elk, bears, mountain lions, and ATVs. I was out just as the sun rose, so it was utterly deserted. This is not smart, and you youngsters reading this blog remember do as I say, not as I do. You should never run alone on a deserted wilderness trail. However, the rising sun with its pink tendrils stroking the tops of sugar pine beckoned me, and I could not stop myself. I promised I would not run beyond the next hill... and then the next hill, and soon, the civilized world was a distant memory and I was surrounded by silence... and predators. I had grabbed a large stick to run with as everyone knows that 100 pound half century old shriveled ladies can defend themselves against animals twenty times their size with a stick.

You of course know this had to happen, what happened next. I heard a roar. A deafening roar. The kind of roar that makes hamsters spin wildly in their wheels. I screeched to a halt, with stick in "ready position" (tennis players know what I mean- knees bent, stick poised in front for either forehand or backhand, depending on which angle the animal attacks from.) I scanned the treetops all around me as I know mountain lions stalk their prey often from above where you would least expect death to come from. As the roar intensified, I knew I was a goner, but the strange thing was that I thought maybe it was worth it. For the half hour that I had been drawn deeper into the forest, I had gazed upon the warm colors of a rising sun settling over frosty pine branches reaching to a silent sky. Vistas of distant endless mountains opened before me, and the peaceful quiet of nature had been whispering God was near. Would it be worth it to live a life in fearful safety, or would it be better to stretch out where danger may lurk, but God's presence was so powerful?
Maybe not, I thought as I swirled to the crashing underbrush. At that moment it was upon me, and then raced by, the huge ATV with a smiling, waving driver. As he vanished down the mountain trail, I turned back towards home, listening to the echoing shouts of all creation.
Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Wings of the Dawn

Posted by PicasaPsalm 139:9
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea are there."
3:30 a.m. is early. But I have discovered that a once starving dog still thinks she is starving even when she is pudgy and it is 3 hours before breakfast. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, like God, the hungry dog is there. If I settle on the far side of the living room, she is there, looking plaintively at the food closet.

As I fly through the clouds, with my contacts glued to the inside of my eyeballs, I will look out over the clouds and maybe catch a glimpse of the Grand Canyon. I get to gather with my newest nephew, and my first niece to get married. Everywhere I turn, God is there and when I wake up, I intend to sing praise.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Night Mares

When I was growing up, I had two recurring nightmares that were unusual. I had several that were more common- going to college finals having missed every class, showing up to class in my pajamas, and going to class but completely forgetting my schedule so I would wander through the school lost and alone. I am sure a psychologist would have a heyday with these dreams, but they are nothing compared to the recurring nightmares, both of which I had for decades (and on rare occasion still have.)

The first one is that an unknown and evil thing is chasing me. I cannot bear to turn and even see what the enemy is but I know I have to run away from it at all costs. For years, I would awaken screaming just before this horrible thing caught me. Determined to fight this unseen enemy, my subconscious finally got the courage to turn and face the enemy one terrifying night. It was a giant bag of M&M's. I kid you not.

The second enemy was not as simple to dispel. In that nightmare, I would wander through a giant deserted palace, knowing that hidden in one of the rooms was a starving horse. I knew that if I did not get to the horse and feed it, it would die. The dream had several variations, like any good show, knowing I would tune in to another dream channel if my interest lagged. One variation was that I could not find the path to the horse. Another variation was I would find the horse, dying and on his last few breaths, but I could not find the food. Another variation was I would find the horse, and the food, but be unable to get him to eat it. My memory is a butterfly, flitting in and out of sight, but I think the reason I finally stopped having the dream is that I did one day manage to feed the horse, a little. I kept hoping I would be able to feed the horse a feast but if I ever did, I don't remember it. I know it was with my faith in Jesus that the Night Mare was able to be fed.... and then slowly vanished from my nighttime adventures.

My sister Holly reminded me yesterday how strange it was that my lifetime recurring nightmare had become my reality in my involvement with HCF. There are other fears that have become reality. Like the stranger that greets me in the mirror each morning, with deep dark circles under her eyes, wrinkles, and drooping neck. When did that ogre replace the spry young face I used to greet? There is the strange desire to cover my children with hugs and kisses, which they recoil from just as I used to when my syrupy Grandmother would do that to me. There is the drumbeat of time growing louder and louder and faster and faster, just when I finally begin to understand how precious it is, something that eluded me when it was quiet and distant and slow.

In Numbers 12:6, the Bible says ,"When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams." I certainly don't think I am a prophet but I do believe God speaks to me in dreams, and in symbols, and in the commonplace events of life. I can't make the ogre in the mirror go away, but I can help, at least a little, the starving horse. In one respect, I can help the horses like Waylin by giving money and time to HCF. I think God is directing me to do that, but that is not what my dream was about, I don't think. I think the starving horse was my soul, and it could only find sustenance from one source. I fed the horse when I found the bread of life, and realized that "they will neither hunger nor thirst....he who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10.
PS- I leave tomorrow at "way too early o'clock" for Phoenix for the wedding. My blog will probably not have new posts in that time, but when I return I hope to be funny again."
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Run and not Grow Weary

Waylin, a.k.a. Slim, the horse didn't make it. Months of starvation took its toll, and he was just too weak. He died in relative comfort, covered with warm blankets, and a blanket under his head. HCF felt the enormous expense trying to save him was worth it, for the death he would have suffered in his previous home would probably have entailed the owner's dogs eating Waylin's freezing body while alive and the chickens pecking his eyes out. Since I know there are horses in heaven, I like to think of him racing the surf in a sleek and restored body. (I am not sure about "surf" in heaven but I sure hope there is because I love the ocean. However, I pray sharks have their own heaven.)

Meanwhile, HCF struggles on to try to feed, train, and shelter the hundred other animals they have on little money in the frigid, global warming arctic air that has settled over the southeast. Cowboy, their dog that is entered in the Bissell contest only needs about 450 votes to overtake the leader. If everyone reading this blog has their kid tell their class and all their friends to vote for Cowboy today, I bet he could at least beat out the hedgehog that is ahead of him.

Our dog, that HCF helped us rehabilitate, vicious when we found her, is snoozing in her lime green shirt that Asherel made for her. Soft and feminine ruffles replace the frost that likely lined her ruff in the year she was alone and starving, dumped in the country to fend for herself. Without HCF, she would have been euthanized or died alone in the wild, like Waylin- a bag of bones. We had no idea how to help her overcome her strong and understandable fear aggression. Within minutes, HCF taught us what to do, and Honeybun went on to win first place in her first agility contest, loose in a ring surrounded by dogs and people, joyfully following Asherel's commands. Honeybun's transformation is why I became a board member at HCF.

I am an animal lover. I know not everyone is, and that is more incomprehensible to me than people who think communism is a great ideal, just imperfect in its execution. So I wanted to write something light-hearted and funny today, but I just could not. I may lose followers since there is already enough grief in everyone's life. They don't need mine. But there is a happy message, a spiritual message even. There are people like Nicole and Gene in the world; people who will hold the head of a dying horse on their lap, spending money they can ill afford to spend, to ease his last hours on earth. That is the heart and soul I value.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Passing Through the Waters

Having finished the cheery tome Exodus, about the repeated attempts to annihilate the Jews, I moved on to another sunny and gladsome novel. This one, We the Living, by Ayn Rand, was about crushing poverty and despair during the Communist reign in the USSR. I do not share Rand's spiritual outlook, but she is one who can speak with authority about the horrors of a communist country. It is frightening to read what happened as the Communists took over and how they did so, and then read our own newspapers. I am not happy to be reading these depressing books, but I am too lazy to go out to the library and these were on my shelves. It is like pounding myself over the head with a hammer because it will feel so good when I stop. However, I do think that they are serving a very important purpose right now. First of all, We the Living was Rand's first book, and frankly, I don't think it is all that good. This gives me some hope that my first book will also become a best seller. Admittedly, Rand is amazingly perceptive and intelligent, but she uses the words "smirk" and "sardonic" and even "dog's yowling in the distance" far too often. Her description of Leo falling madly in love with Kira after seeing her twice and saying all of about three sentences to her stretches credulity. If nothing else turns you off to communism, this book will and it does do that masterfully. I just don't think Rand really understood relationships.

At any rate, reading about long lines of starving frozen people waiting for a loaf of bread, forced to call each other "comrade", eating mildewed millet cooked over portable "primus" kerosene stoves, which also warm their one room hovel, and being forced to share their homes with other "citizens" so they each have their one allotted room makes me very thankful for what I have. No matter how dismal it gets here, it cannot equal what Rand described. Not in America....not yet. As I read my Bible study today, the verse from Isaiah 43:2 leaped out at me: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, And through the rivers, they will not overflow you."

Rand's book scares me to death. I wrote to my senator yesterday, begging them to note that I do not approve of this health care bill, not only due to the exorbitant cost but also the trampling on our rights and the constitution. I know that she will likely throw my email out, and I will get a form letter thanking me for my valuable opinion. My other senator actually had an aide call me and discussed my concerns. Of course, he is opposed to the bill. Meanwhile, I cling to that verse in Isaiah. God will be with me as I pass through the waters... I will not drown.... but I think we are all going to get wet.
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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Duck Tape Boots

here are the lovely boots.
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Even Pink Can be Transformed

First congratulations to Elisabeth Davis, our high donor in save the horse art contest. And thank you to all of you who donated. A larger nation wide contest for another painting starts today, with details (we hope) on the site.

Now that our commercial break is over, I will return to my regularly programmed erudition of the mundane and often ignored common events that make up a life. Also, for the record, I just learned that erudition is a word.
Last year, I spent a lot of money to get Asherel really good and supportive, warm boots since we get so much snow in North Carolina. I was determined that should it snow we would be ready. We also have 3 snow tubes in the attic awaiting this big event and a full snowsuit and waterproof face covering. I got her these magnificent boots in her all time favorite color- pink. It snowed once last winter, a half inch dusting. The boots still had the factory smell on them when we put them away after that blizzard.

So now in a week, along with needing to be fully prepared to dress to the nines for the wedding, we must be prepared for snow. I did not worry nearly so much about that as the wedding finery since I had the wonderful almost unused pink boots.

I pulled them out to begin packing eight weeks ago. My philosophy of life has always been that if something is worth doing it is worth doing early. If it would not despair my loved ones, I would already have my grave dug with my best clothes laid out neat and ready. At any rate, Asherel took one look at the pink boots and ran from the room. I am sure you think I am exaggerating, but that is exactly what she did. and she went into hiding. I opened the closet door where she was shuddering in a corner.
"NOT pink," she told me.
"Pink was your favorite color last year!" I cried.
"Well it is my least favorite this year."
"Asherel, these boots were worn ONCE. I am not buying new boots for one week of snow."
I of course in my kindest unkind voice told her to get out of the closet and stop this nonsense. She would wear the pink boots and that was that. It wasn't a fashion show. She bit back tears and glanced sideways at the pink boots as she returned to her school work.
Each time she saw the boots over the next few weeks, she would ask in a new and creative way if she had to wear the pink boots. If she had this much tenacity over her math, I am sure she would be out of college by now.
"Can we spray paint them?" she asked. Hmmm, maybe.....
"I know!" she said,"Can we duck tape them?!"
Now I am quite sure that many of you are snickering behind your hands wondering how someone who could so confidently toss out the word "erudition" would in the same story use the term "duck tape". I know all you smarty pants think it is "duct tape". Well, for your information, duct tape was first called duck tape as it was invented as a waterproof material made of cotton duck to protect soldiers' weapons from water. I am a font of knowledge in things that don't matter.
"It would just come off," I countered.
"Not if we shellac it," she said, her troubled eyes reflecting the pink boots.
"Will you wear them happily?" I asked.
Her head bobbed up and down like a cork and she raced off for her supply of many colors of duck tape. Since the wedding dress crisis of past blog posts is now averted, I can tell you that she was making a dress of duck tape for it, but in the end, we felt the bride would not appreciate being thus upstaged.
A day later the pink boots were totally transformed- shiny bright royal and baby blue, and fully sealed with tough shellac.
She gives new meaning to the verse "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2. In a sense, we are all pink boots with the potential of being transformed in glory.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

When the Burden is Too Heavy

This is not a painting. This is a photo of Slim, the starving horse, renamed Waylin by Hollow Creek Rescue Farm. I promise tomorrow I will return to my regularly scheduled humor, but today, I am indulging in a weep-fest for the animals placed in human care.

Yesterday, I read Numbers 11:12-35. Again, in case you don't have a Bible handy, I will paraphrase. The Israelites after eating Manna from heaven day after day are sick of it. They are longing for filet mignon and scalloped potatoes like what they used to eat as slaves in Egypt in the good old days when all they had to contend with were their children being thrown into the river by Pharoah. They complain to Moses, who looks out over all these people with their impossible demands and his lack of resources (other than the creator of the Universe helping him....) and cries out,"I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me!" Sometimes in situations like that, God teaches about attitude adjustment by having a giant fish swallow us whole, but in this case, He immediately recognizes that poor Moses is not in a playful mood for pranks like that. So He immediately sends Moses seventy wise men to help him, and God annoints them specifically to help Moses and "carry the that you will not have to carry it alone."

I think this is one of the most magnificent aspects of the Christian faith. We are admonished time and time again to share each other's burdens. And when we just cannot go another step, Jesus Himself carries our burdens for us. Nicole of HCF asked that I would put Waylin's picture out to all my contacts, and see if anyone might want to share the burden of helping Waylin. As with all nonprofits, donations are way down, and work is hard to find for the owners of HCF as well. It is "just an animal", but I believe that one of the most significant places to find God is in the insignificant. Thanks for indulging me, friends.

Oh and if you vote for the HCF dog cowboy at the following link, he might win the farm $10,000 and then lots of animals like Waylin can find refuge!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Slim the horse

Nicole of Hollow Creek Farm wrote to me. They had just walked two starving horses to their farm from a neighboring farm. The more decrepit horse, Slim, was as she described it, "one banana peel from a hole in the ground". The horse was dripping the effects of illness and malnutrition from its nose, and it was a collection of mostly bones wrapped in thin, shivering skin. As HCF staff walked the horse away, after encouraging the owner to relinquish it without the use of force or profanity (til out of ear shot), they noticed a yard with a new beautiful truck, and swimming pool. As they walked the starving horse from the people who claimed they couldn't feed it, they noticed a brand new John Deere riding lawn mower, and 4x4 Polaris. A few recreational 4 wheelers dotted the poor, financially strapped homestead.

HCF put the horse in a stall, covered it with a warm blanket, and fed it a restorative diet of beet pulp. The vet arrives this morning with a slew of medicine and antibiotics. The horse is being fed small meals six times a day. This poor horse's troubles of neglect are over, though it will have a hard fight over the consequences of neglect. However, Nicole would go without food herself before she would let this horse know another moment of hunger.

Saving this horse will be expensive. It is just one horse, and there are many starving horses in today's economy. This is one horse that has come to my attention though, and Nicole asked if I could see if anyone might be tempted to donate to their nonprofit farm via to help save Slim.

And for the first time in recorded history, this blog is offering a contest! The person with the top donation in the next 24 hours to HCF for Slim's recovery, (mention you are on the Vicky Blog Giant Giveaway) will be sent the lovely pastel featured on this post. Be sure you include contact information with your donation.

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Matthew 25:45
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No More Than We Can Bear

In the midst of starting back to our school routine, Asherel still sick but slowly on the mend, and the wedding trip out West looming in less than a week, I noticed a fire in the back of the computer.

I noticed the fire when the mouse on the computer stopped working and the computer crossed its ethernet arms and refused to talk to me.
This in and of itself would not be enough to put me over the edge, except that as I peered a little worriedly at the fire, I was teetering in my new high heels and my toes were a little sore. I know that women conquer the fine art of walking in heels every day and I was determined not to be bested by a pair of shoes. So I had gone online to research "how to walk without falling over or requiring any emergency podiatric intervention when wearing heels over one inch high". There is a surprisingly large number of educational videos on this subject, unlike the dearth of educational videos on "What to do if computer mouse stops working and back of computer appears to be on fire." One of the excellent pieces of advice (on shoes, not fire) was to practice walking in the high heels before the event so that one would develop the leg muscles necessary to walk in high heels. Who knew it was an athletic event? That site, which had step by step photos also suggested the athlete wear the heels for a week indoors first, and then graduate to a walk down the driveway to get the mail. If sufficiently able to navigate that task without mishap, the next step would be a trip to the grocery store.

"You are going to the grocery store in those?" asked Asherel, her face registering a mix of horror and bemusement.
"I have to. It is part of the training program."

Meantime, I shut down the computer and after hyperventilating, calmly called my husband, as well as the Geek Squad at Best Buy. The Geek who answered the phone listened politely as I said, "Do you all deal with computers that are on fire?"
"Is it under warranty?" he asked.
"I don't know. How about if I read you the serial number before they melt in the flames?"
Now in actuality, once I shut down the computer, the orange glow in the back did stop, lending some comfort, if not to my tottering toes, at least to my peace of mind that we would not burn down the house.
The Geek felt that while he could not diagnose over the phone, a computer on fire probably was not a good
sign, and recommended I bring it in. Shortly thereafter, one of my favorite computer experts and kind friend told me the orange glow was normal and shows that the internet was properly connected and sending signals.
And then in the nick of time, Matt came home and quickly fixed the computer. Not once did he notice or mention the fact that I was wearing sweat pants and high heels.

Our life seems to surge from one little crisis to another, and it would be so easy to just sit down and cry. Some struggles are certainly more life altering than learning to balance on high heels, or crashing computers, or even lingering illnesses on the eve of nonrefundable flights out west. So it was with great interest I read my verse today, "God is faithful and He will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing, He will also provide you the way out so that you may be able to endure it." 1 Corinthians 10:13. A dear friend going through a very difficult struggle once told me that verse is so often misused to construe that God will let us escape from struggles, or bear things that truly are unbearable, like the death of a child. Yet while God sometimes does not remove the struggle, He gives us the only eternal source of comfort and peace, Himself, through the struggles. In fact, the root of the word "way" used in this verse, in the original Greek, "ekbasis", connotes a way of escape- to go out, by foot- but with the added meaning of "completion". Jesus is of course described many times in the Bible as "the way", though the Greek root of that is slightly different, "hodos", and means literally a road or path. The struggle leads to competion. It is not my favorite method of arriving anywhere, through pain and blisters, but sometimes it is the only way, leaning on the arm of Jesus in our metaphorical tottering high heels.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More Lessons from Father Abraham

The photo in this blog is of an artwork series I did on the Abraham sacrificing Isaac story. I explored all the varying ways I thought each character might respond to his respective role in that most disturbing Biblical drama, but that is NOT what I am going to pontificate about today. However, I do find the strategy of tying children up when you must do an unpleasant task like sacrifice them or take them dress shopping to be a useful one.
You may have all noticed that yesterday, in my blog post, I did not mention God, or the Bible, or faith. Not even once. Those of you who know me well understand that this usually only happens when I swallow a bottle of Crazy Glue by accident.

So I will make up for it today. As soon as I finished my God-devoid post yesterday, I sat down with Asherel to do our Bible study. As I am always well-prepared, I was as surprised as she was to discover what was on tap for our walk with God through the rosy path of conviction and guilt. (I want you to know that I never make things up. I record faithfully what really happens though sometimes I stretch things with the well-known and approved tactic of "literary license". However this honestly was the study that we were to do unbeknownst to me that day.)

Our passage was 2Corinthians 5:1-11. Since eleven verses may stretch the attention span of many, I will paraphrase. Listen y'all (I am paraphrasing with a southern accent since I have been a southerner for 15 years now) we are groaning and moaning because our earthly bodies are gross, face it. I mean compared with what we will look like in heaven, we are a bunch of smelly goats! No wonder we are always worrying about things like clothes (also known as wedding apparel) or fancy houses- they are nothing like what we know we really want and need which is our heavenly attire. But the real goal is not what we are wearing, it is how we are pleasing God, and when we stand before him, we will all give an account, summarized by "Were you naughty or nice?"

It is the little things in life that make up a life. It is rarely the big things that mold a character. I remember someone, probably my mom, telling me that when you get old and wrinkly, you will get the face you deserve. If you spent a lifetime smiling, you will have laugh lines. If you spent a lifetime frowning, you will have furrows between your brows. Short of surgical correction, you will look like a sour old witch or a happy prune. So Asherel and I talked about how one of the little things she was being called upon to do with a happy face was choose a dress and shoes that would make cousin Renee and Aunt Amy understand that she loved them so much that she was willing to sacrifice her aversion to dressing up and do what would please them. Even in this little thing in life, God could be glorified or self could be glorified. It is always a choice.
And lo and behold, Asherel liked a dress I brought home (she is still too sick to shop) and agreed happily to the shoes and sweater Matt and Karissa found. And in exchange for a cookie, she smiled for the photo I sent Aunt Amy. She has even agreed to brush her hair for the wedding.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

The Hardest Job on Earth

I decided I am running for president. It cannot be any harder than getting a 12 year old who hates to dress up outfitted for a wedding. We have been to twelve hundred stores and looked at more dresses than there are stars in the sky.
Here is a compilation of the astute fashion reviews by the 12 year old:
NO! Too old persony. Too pink. Too purple. Too fancy. Too frilly. NO Hannah Montana. Too low. Too high. Too loose. Too tight.
Or my personal favorite.... "I don't know, I just don't like it."

It is not like I waited til the last minute. We started shopping for the shoes 2 months ago. On most of those items I did not get the in depth perspicacious analysis I enjoyed with the dresses. On the shoes, most of the time all I received was an incredulous sneer, and then a stomping flight from the source of such maternal malevolence. We finally settled on shoes that give me shudders to mention, but it was the first shoe other than sneakers she would agree to wear to the wedding- dress Crocs. Yes, all you fashion afficionados, eat your heart out and prepare for the next wave of haute couture to sweep the nation. Plastic shoes that mimic patent leather dress up shoes.

With cunning detente, I was able to persuade her to accede to the necessity of a dress "in theory". This is a huge step from a dress in reality, I discovered. Finally, wrestling her to the ground since she was weakened by the flu, I was able to get two possible outfits on her, and quickly snapped the pictures to send to my assorted consultants- the mother of the bride, my savvy sister, and Matt with his girlfriend who has a chance of remembering what it was like to be twelve. An ominous silence from the mother of the bride for a day, was countered by the rapid fire response of my other consultants. Karissa was gentle in her admonition, Matt said, "EWWWWWWW", and Holly rebuked me firmly and promised a set of guidelines more complex than the Monroe Doctrine. Meanwhile, the twelve year old was constructing a gown out of string art.

I cannot even bear to print the 12 year old's response to the need for stockings. And now we are down to 11 days til D-Day. The emergency forces called in have sent me pictures with no concept of the enemy I face. It is not that I have NO fashion sense.... though I admit that when I was twelve I sewed orange curtain fringe pompoms to the bottom of my jeans as an attractive accent.....It is that I am forced to accept restrictions on the rules of engagement that no General has ever had to face. No bows, no lace, no florals, no pink, no purple, no frills.... and this is just a partial list. Then there is the intangible nonsense that she has to "like" it. If we go to the Children's dept., we are deluged with Hannah Montana which she hates. If we go to the Juniors dept., we are faced with prostitution clothing. If we go to the Misses dept., we are faced with "old persony". What is a mother to do? Well I am giving it one more day, and then I am submitting my resignation papers and settling for a more restful job. Look out President Obama.
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Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Rule of Thumb

Asherel is involved in a top secret sewing project, one which I have been forbidden to discuss in any detail. However, she did ask me how she could discern what 5/8ths inch was, since that is the size of the seams she needs to sew.
Being an exact and careful person, I answered ,"About the size of your thumbnail."
Asherel measured her thumbnail and informed me that no, in fact her thumbnail was only about 3/8ths of an inch.
"How about your thumb, to the first joint?"
"Actually," Asherel informed me, "As a rule of thumb that is usually about an inch."
That gave me a great "ah ha!" moment.
"That must be how the idiom 'rule of thumb' came about!" I cried.
"No," assured Asherel, the twelve year old with intense authority, "Actually that is derived from the days when a man was only allowed to beat his wife with an object no wider than his thumb." Some rule!
Asherel is correct in the prevalent notion that the "rule of thumb" referred to English Law in the 1600s relating to how men could chastise wives... however, in actuality, it never was a law, and the rule of thumb idiom likely did derive from some form of measurement using the thumb.

I love language, and another idiom that I have often wondered about is "happy as a clam". How would anyone know if a clam were happy? It is not as though they have highly developed brains. If fact, clams do not really even have a brain. They have cerebral "ganglion" which basically means a bunch of wires that fill the space that a clam brain would fill if a clam had a brain. So can something that is brainless be happy? Perhaps it is even the state of being brainless that allows happiness! I discovered that actually the full idiom is "happy as a clam at high tide" which is when clams have the fewest predators about and are least likely to die. How they know that without a brain is almost more mind boggling than how they are happy without a brain.

Of course, my Bible study this morning was about the power of the Word. Not just any words, naturally, but the spoken word of revelation, of God Himself. The study reminded me that the Word is simple and clear to those whose heart is open to receive it. I can relate to that. Before becoming a believer, I had read the Bible multiple times, and it was just a collection of stories that stretched any sane person's credulity. It was not until I told God to let me understand, that even in my great depth of doubt, I would believe, that the Word made sense. It seems oxymoronic that in surrender there would be victory, understanding only with the faith to understand. But that is not any stranger than a clam without a brain knowing it is happy and safe.
PS- I have willingly ended here so those of you with cynical and sarcastic natures can make a parallel about a brainless clam and my faith.... but that is not the point, and if you will use your cerebral ganglion you will know it.....
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cockroaches and Contentment

I awoke feeling almost normal for the first time in many moons. Just in time to return to the frenzy of homeschool and a new math book (the last one almost did me in... can't wait to see what is in store for us this semester....). Since I was sick for almost the entire Christmas break, I don't feel very rejuvenated. But, as the great philosopher said, "It is what it is." (This is a variation on "whatever", and "You are God and I am not.")

Stoically determined not to be depressed by the fact that in a blink of a flu-drooping eye, both boys had come and gone and presents had been opened and put away, and ornaments had flashed and vanished, but somehow there are still nasty leftovers lurking in the refrigerator...... I walked out this morning to the quiet sunny great room. Sunshine was gleefully pointing out that my newly cleaned windows were already covered again with dog snot and finger smudges. "Is there no balm in Gilead?" I said to myself, another variation of "It is what it is" with a touch of desperation implied.

And there to greet me wriggling in death throes upside down was a cockroach, frantically waggling its legs. It was a large one. It was clear it had escaped my meticulous housekeeping (lie detection device beeping) and had lived a good long life. Nothing grows that big unless it has been feasting for thousands of years on the debris of shoddy housekeeping. I watched it for a while, and strangely, felt compassion. Here it was, obviously dying and defenseless, utterly unable to flip its disgusting carapace over to scuttle away. I did not have the heart to squash it. I got a cup and scooped it up, then tossed it outside. It landed on its feet, like a large beetle eyed cat and scurried away into the bushes.

Cousin Carol had sent me a verse this morning, saying God had bugged her to send it. It is a favorite verse of mine, and the title of one of my paintings.
"The fruit of righteousness will be peace. The effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32:17. This is a little different than "it is what it is." This could be restated as "It doesn't matter what it is. It matters who I am." Isaiah's life, as is true of most of God's prophets, was no picnic. Though educated and privileged, when he accepted the call of God to warn Israel of how they were falling away from God, he lived the typical unhappy and increasingly difficult life of someone who brings news no one wants to hear. It is a strong tradition that he was martyred by being put in a hollow tree which was then sawed in half. Isaiah, whose name means, "The Lord is Salvation", prophesied doom and gloom, but always added his message of ultimate salvation and hope. It is in Isaiah that the clear picture of a suffering Messiah is most clearly portrayed, a Messiah who would be sacrificed for our sins, and "By his wounds we are healed."Isaiah 53:5.
The Israelites have to have been scratching their head over that one.

Oddly, thinking about Isaiah and his life, mingled with the image of the struggling cockroach, I did feel some peace. Life was certainly not as pretty as I had hoped, not the past two weeks anyway, and the freshly cleaned windows needed cleaning again.... but God had urged a sweet soul to send a verse of comfort, and I had rescued a creature that I normally cannot bear to look at, instead of stomping on it til its disgusting green guts came shooting out in all directions. There is balm in Gilead.
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Friday, January 1, 2010

A Polka Dot Rainbow

I missed midnight last night. I tried, but the lingering nausea of my flu did me in, and I had to crawl to bed long before the Waterford Crystal ball was doing its dance in Times Square. But in the morning, while the rest of the sleep deprived world snored, I crept out and peeked in my daughter's room. She sleeps in a bunkbed, which impedes the ease of my seeing her cherubic face. However, I wanted one of the first beautiful things I gazed upon on this morning of a new year to be her. As I peered in her quiet room at the peaceful tangle of sheets, I saw her giant multicolored polka dotted bean bag chair on the bed, obscuring her face from my vision.

It occured to me, as I sat down to my Bible study and coffee that that was a little strange. Why had she lugged her giant bean bag chair up onto her bunk bed? She only had about 6 inches clearance to the ceiling so it was certainly not there to sit on. I was sure that when midnight struck, Arvo would have sent her right to bed. We were not even sure that in her sickness she should be staying up til midnight, but she was so anxious to do so that we acquiesced. So why, at midnight, had she dragged that polka dotted monstrosity up to sleep with her?

Seeking God is like a treasure hunt. Each day, He puts clues before me, and my goal is to find the most sacred message I can from the most mundane symbol. I saw in the polka dotted bean bag chair, hoisted to its perch, the perfect opportunity to wring a drop of holiness from a dry and weary rag.

Oftentimes, the Bible itself will grant me elucidation. However, that simple path was denied. "Polka dot" is not in the Bible. Neither is bean bag chair, though of course, beans are mentioned. None of the references to beans seemed to have the right joyful connotation to ring in a New Year, however. While searching for the Hebrew or Greek root of polka-dot, a song kept going through my head. I had awoken with that song in my head, and it had sprung out of nowhere. It is an old song, written the year after I was born, and I remember singing it growing up, always sobbing as I reached the last few selfless lines.
"I wish you bluebirds in the spring, to give your heart, a song to sing.....and then a kiss, but more than this, I wish you love.......
My aching heart and I agree, that you and I could never be, so with my best, my very best, I set you free.
I wish you shelter from the storm, a cozy fire to keep you warm, but most of all when snowflakes fall,
I wish you love."

Why God are you sending me a vision of a polka dot chair in the sky, and a song about setting someone free in love? I knew there was a connection...connecting the dots.... connecting the polka dots.........
When I had awoken that morning, the line about setting free played over and over in my head. I had thought it was that I was to stop worrying about my adult children, that I was to set them free to a life that would entail suffering, that I could not keep trying to protect them. But the beauty of the polka dot bean bag chair kept bumping up against that message. It was a rainbow of color in the sky.....and my child nestled by it, peacefully sleeping. And then I knew what God was telling me. I was set free. We are all set free.
"Whenever the rainbow appears in the sky, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures...." Genesis 9:16
"For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance- now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. " Hebrews 9:15
There it was! The link! New Year's Day, the leap from the old to the new. The old Covenant, symbolized by a rainbow of color( a polka dot bean bag chair in the sky), the system of obedience and sacrifice which we could never do perfectly yet with a promise that we would not be destroyed, to the New Covenant sealed with the final sacrifice of Jesus, which was perfect and set us free forever from the penalty of sin. The old Covenant was the promise, and the New Covenant was the fulfillment.

I am not certain Asherel was thinking about all of that as she hoisted the polka dot bean bag chair up into her bed. I am sure she will tell us some logical reason for doing so when she awakes, but I am going to keep picturing a polka dot rainbow in the sky and being set free by the love of a God with a wonderful sense of humor.
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