Sunday, March 31, 2013

When Things Look Bleak....

I am working my way through Exodus right now, and it is quite timely that I have hit the chapters where Moses is beginning to speak up, and urging Pharaoh to let his people go. Pharaoh is decidedly NOT INTO THAT, and in fact, tells Moses that whereas the Israelites had to only make bricks in the past, now they must continue to make bricks, but have to gather the straw to make the bricks as well! And they still have to produce the full quota of bricks.

Two things come to mind. First, who knew one needed straw to make bricks? And secondly, sometimes things get a whole lot worse before they get better. If Easter doesn't drive that point home, nothing will.

When I hit setbacks, I don't know about you, but my first thought is, "I am being punished for what a wretched mess of humanity I am." My second thought is, "I am under Satanic attack." My third thought, if I have the maturity to get there is, "Sometimes things get a whole lot worse before they get better. Remember Jesus on the cross. If that didn't smack of desperate times, I don't know what does."

But here it is- Resurrection Sunday! He is risen! Who would have imagined such a happy ending to such a terrible ordeal? If you are struggling against impossible circumstances, remember sometimes we are required to gather the straw AND make the bricks. But in the end, the Israelites were freed, and we will be too. Three of the happiest words on Earth remind us of that victory:
He Is Risen!!!

Happy Resurrection Sunday.

Exodus 5:10-11 (NIV)
[10] Then the slave drivers and the foremen went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. [11] Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’ ”

Mark 16:6-7 (NIV)
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. [7] But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”

-save a dog-

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Passover Blessing

A few days ago, Asherel bought Honeybun bunny ears. One is crooked, just like her real ear. She sighed as Asherel tried the ears on her, as always, ever patient and submissive. There seems to be no limit to what she will acquiesce to in order to continue to be fed in this warm home!

Her sweet nature made it all the more heart-breaking when yesterday, she stood up and then crumpled, her back leg seeming to give out. I called the vet instantly, fearing it was a repeat of her collapse a month ago, though not as severe. My dog friends had warned me that if she collapsed again, get her in for blood work with suspicion of Addison's disease. However, as soon as I made the appointment, she was perky, walking normally and seemed fine. I asked the vet if we could hold off on the appointment while I took her for a walk. If she collapsed again, I would rush her in. We went to the greenway, and walked for an hour. She was completely fine, eager, energetic, tail wagging. I guess her leg had just fallen asleep from her lying on it funny. Or perhaps God decided to grant us a miracle. Lord knows, we needed one.

And it is a good weekend for miracles. We celebrated our Passover Seder dinner last night. Arvo leads one for us every year, and I always feel joyful and renewed, and amazed at how perfectly the Old Testament pointed the way to Jesus, the Messiah. Just as the Jews in bondage in Egypt painted the doorposts of their homes with the blood of the lamb so that God would pass over them, and not harm them, the blood of Jesus covers our sin so that God passes over our unrighteousness, and we are saved.

I am always astounded by the presence of the "Afikomen" in the Seder. It is, inexplicably, the one Greek word in the entire ceremony, which is of course Hebrew. No one is quite sure how or why that Greek word slipped into the Jewish Seder, and there is some dissent on what exactly it means. One probable meaning is "He has Come." The Afikomen is the middle piece of matzoh that is placed in the center of the three pouch Afikomen bag. It is broken and then hidden at the end of the ceremony and the children are sent to search for it. Whoever finds it is rewarded. Asherel, being the only child still home, searched diligently (at first) for the Afikomen. When she didn't find it immediately, she lay down on the couch. We urged her to exert herself, and she finally returned successfully with the Afikomen. She snatched her $5 reward.

If the symbolism of the Afikomen doesn't slam you in the face, then you are giving up just as Asherel did when she plopped down in defeat on the couch.

He Has Come!!! Afikomen! Jesus has risen from the dead, and when we seek Him, we will find Him. Sometimes we grow weary, and the search is fraught with doubt and despair, but keep looking! When we find Him, we will be rewarded.

I have always felt dismay at the Easter Bunny. When there is such a remarkable, miraculous, wonderful story of Jesus bearing all our iniquity upon Himself, sacrificially bearing the consequence of our sin, and thereby freeing all of us from the penalty of death....who needs a giant bunny bearing chocolate?

Honeybun, nodding her giant bunny ears, heartily agrees with me.

Luke 22:7-8,14-16 (NIV)
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. [8] Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” [14] When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. [15] And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. [16] For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

-save a dog-

Friday, March 29, 2013

All is Not Lost

I asked my son if I could go to the Chicago Federal Courthouse in jeans to watch his National Appellate Advocacy Contest next week.
"You can wear jeans," he said, "But everyone else will be in a suit."


So, I ransacked my closet. Being a mother, an artist, a writer, a runner, a kayaker, a skier, I have many outfits. I have not one suit. Not one business type wear. I have dresses, but Chicago is almost in the Arctic circle. I cannot wear a dress, lest my knees freeze-dry.
I tried on an outfit for Arvo and asked him if it would qualify as business wear.


So, I headed off to the mall to see if I could find a cheap suit since I may need one some day anyway, like when I get buried, in case it is an open casket.

I spent three hours searching. I bought a suit that fit (sort of) and was too expensive. My feet ached, my head ached, and as I walked away from one store, I realized something was missing.
My purse! My purse was missing!
In horror, I ran back to the dressing room, barreling over several little old ladies.

I raced into the room where I had tried on the 4,000th suit that didn't fit and was too expensive anyway. No purse!!!!!
I raced out, careened around the corner to the cashier, and there was my purse!
"My purse!" I cried in relief.
"This woman returned it," said the cashier, pointing to a woman in line. I hugged the woman. I told her, "God bless you for your honesty!" I wanted to bow before her.

I had been feeling pretty low about all the mess going on in the world. The trouble with becoming increasingly aware and involved in politics and current events is that you realize the world is going to Hell in a hand basket. It is easy to become cynical, and lose hope for any kind of future for my as yet unconceived grandchildren. But that incident gave me hope. There are lovely, honest, upright, kind people left. All is not lost. Morality has not completely ditched our planet. Besides that, it is Good Friday today, and the message of this weekend more than any other reminds me that tremendous good can arise from tremendous bad.

God promises that we are never alone. He always leaves a Remnant- like minded friends who long for Him and His righteousness, and resist the pull to Evil. The world will end. The Bible tells us it will, and it will get mighty ugly for some time. But in the end, He wins. And those of us hanging on His coattails win. The Cross with the innocent Savior dying is a wrenching image, but all is not lost! He returns alive! And while we wait for Him to come again and reclaim His people, He has left us His Holy Spirit to guide, to comfort, and to remind us: Don't give up. All is not lost.

In desperation, I had bought the suit that was too expensive but it was all I could find. But right after the lady saved my purse, I found a suit that fit, was 50% off, and with my $10 off coupon, was less than a dinner out. I win, I laughed, as I returned the other, expensive suit!

Genesis 45:7 (NIV)
But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

-save a dog-

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Years of the Locusts

I could not believe my eyes as I walked into the Nursing Home room. Mom K was sitting up in the recliner, her hair nicely poofed. She smiled a huge smile of recognition, and spoke in full, coherent sentences. I handed her her knitting, and she instantly saw the dropped stitches from the day before.
"Can you fix them?" I asked.
"Of course," she said.
She slowly picked up the dropped stitches while I told her about my upcoming trip to Chicago. While I was there, an aide came in, and said,"Time for your hug!" She gave Mom K a huge hug and then turned to me, "Hugs are free!" she said, "Would you like one?"
She gave me no choice but embraced me in a massive hug.
Then she wandered away, while Mom K continued picking up her dropped stitches.

I know this is a respite, not likely a permanent improvement in the deadly onslaught of Alzheimers. There is only so much one can expect for an 89 year old woman. But as I watched her slowly reknitting the dropped stitches, I thought about regaining what we have lost. I thought of the verses in the Bible that tell us believers will reclaim the "years the locusts have eaten." So much of life is squandered, misused, abused, and destroyed, but we who walk in the hope and light of The Lord know that one day, those lost moments will be reclaimed. Those dropped stitches will be gathered up again.

"When I return," I said to Mom K, as I kissed her goodbye, "I hope to see my scarf will have made great progress."
"You and me both," laughed Mom K.

Joel 2:25-26,28-29,32 (NIV)
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten---the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm---my great army that I sent among you. [26] You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. [28] “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. [29] Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. [32] And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Perfect Love Drives out Fear

I will be going to Chicago to watch my son in the National Appellate Advocacy finals. I will stay with my sis outside of the city, but will have to ride into the city by myself. She will put me on a train that will take me to Union Station and then I have to walk 4 blocks to the Federal Courthouse ALL ALONE AGAIN in that big scary city. Big cities freak me out. I get very flustered by subways, wondering how people with lower intellect than I manage to navigate through them. I am not dumb, not markedly anyway, but subway maps look like brain circuitry and incomprehensible. I vaguely recall one subway that had you pay as you left, rather than when you got on. I wondered what happened if I didn't have the right token. Would I be found 500 years later with a sign lettered in my blood, held in my skeleton digits, that said,

"Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax, " said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave! " (Lyrics Hotel California by Eagles)

In a panic last night, when I learned I would have to go to Chicago alone on the train, I told Asherel I didn't know if I was up to this challenge. She had been really looking forward to visiting her Chicago cousins. She rolled her eyes. She wisely didn't argue (much). She has learned that if ideas percolate in my head a while, I usually get used to them, and often back off of my original stance.

It is a big city, completely unfamiliar, and filled with Northerners. I am a southerner, or have been for the past near twenty years. I have even been known to say , "Might could" now and then. I didn't start off as a country hick, but i think I am one now. So I am scared, but there is something more important than fear. My son, the one that still calls to tell me the good news in his life making me feel valued and loved, has qualified after a lot of really hard work to this prestigious event. I will drive those 15 hours straight, and then brave that scary train to watch him argue his case in that wonderful courtroom in his first national competition because love overcomes fear.

It is one of the best lessons of the Gospel. Time to put it to the test.

1 John 4:18 (NIV)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Whither thou Goest, I Will Go

Mom K was back to English, even when one aide walked in and spoke to her in German. She looked blankly at him. She seems to fade in and out of awareness. I sat at her bedside, and she gripped my hand, but only responded to about every fifth sentence of mine. So I kept up a monologue, read her a book in the Bible, and handed her her knitting. She looked a little perplexedly at it, but I positioned the needles in her hand and she began knitting.

"Are you enjoying your knitting?" I asked.
"Oh yes," she said. I am not sure she actually added a single stitch in the hour I was there, but she seemed intent on it, and so I chattered away while she "knitted".
At one point, she looked fixedly at me and said, "You look tired."
I remember that for the past thirty years, she would always tell me I looked tired, and it would irritate me. It didn't irritate me this time.
"I am tired," I said, "I wake up in the middle of the night, and I can't fall back asleep."
"Come here," she said.
I leaned in close to her, and she smoothed the hair off my forehead, and stroked my cheek with the back of her hand.
"There, there," she said.

I asked her which Bible portion I should read. She didn't answer, just gazed fixedly at her needles. I noticed that stitches were actually falling off. They would unravel, all that work she had done, I thought sadly.
"Well then, how about the book of Ruth," I said, "That's about a mother-in-law."(I will refer to mother-in-law as MIL henceforth. It robs my writing of some of its poetic impact but saves my carpal tunnel.)

I should probably have thought that one through. The book of Ruth is indeed about a mother,Naomi, and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, but it is a pretty sad story at first. Naomi's sons and husband all die in the first few paragraphs. Naomi urges her two daughter-in-laws to leave and find new husbands, and one does, but Ruth remains, crying out one of the most poignant and moving passages in the entire Scripture-
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. [17] Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

I read quickly over the sad parts and then read about how sweet Ruth helped support her MIL, gleaning grain in Naomi's native Israel. Mom K knitted, seemingly oblivious to my reading. And then I hit a verse in Ruth 2, "May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. ”
I paused.
"Isn't that a beautiful passage," I said, "You raised your children well and worked hard all your life. May you be richly rewarded!"
Her fingers stilled and she turned and looked at me. She didn't say anything but just looked at me. I smiled back at her. She returned to her knitting, and I continued reading the book of Ruth.

As I finished, I told her, "So ultimately, Ruth married Boaz, the man who owned the fields she had gleaned the grain in to help Naomi, and in the end became the great great great great Grandmother of Jesus."

You just never know where acts of kindness and love may lead. Always, always choose love.

I took away her knitting when I left. The nurse said she was concerned about the sharp ends poking her eye out if she fell asleep. So I propped the Bible open on her lap. Mom K held it open and began to turn the pages. She did not seem upset that I was leaving, perhaps not even aware that I was leaving. She was looking intently at the Bible as I left the room.

Ruth 2:12 (NIV)
May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. ”

-save a dog-

Monday, March 25, 2013

There Will be no More Crying, or Nipping

Mom K was perky yesterday, but speaking only in German, both to the Nursing Home staff and to Arvo. I guess I better do a crash course on some basic German....
The brain is quite an amazing organ. All those billions of firing neurons in the advent of Alzheimers, seem to revert to an earlier time of life, and oldest memories are the ones that survive.

We hadn't had an official Alzheimer diagnosis until the broken leg and hospital stay. Apparently they could see some of the telltale plaque on a CT scan....or something like that. It was no surprise to find it out, but they didn't tell us. We just stumbled on the knowledge while speaking with the nursing staff.

However, she is still quite conversant, be it in German, still remembers how to knit and the scarf she is making for me is slowly progressing. She still seems to know us as at least beloved figures if not exactly the people she thinks we are. The pain in her hip seems better, and she seems relatively happy. Alzheimers is cruel, but less cruel to the victims when they become less aware that their memory is deserting them. If she is reliving her childhood in Germany and I am her sister, so be it. I think it was a happy time in her life.

Our small group church class discussed the meaning of the phrase "Jesus is the first born from among the dead" from Colossians 1. I had never thought much of that phrase, but the teacher pointed out why would the word 'first' be used, unless there were others to follow? The verse refers to Jesus returning once and for all from death, eternally conquering that horrible conclusion, and here comes the good part! Guess who gets to follow Him?! Mom K, and me, and you...and all who believe that Jesus is who He says He is and by taking the punishment we deserved upon Himself, paid the penalty for our sin, rendering us clean in God's sight. We may enter the pearly gates, like Mom K perhaps speaking German or babbling like a toddler, but death will be conquered, and our recently deceased little parakeet may decide not to nip us anymore in Heaven.

Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [16] For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [18] And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. [19] For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, [20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

-save a dog-

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Little Bird

RIP Tallinn. Our little parakeet that Asherel got about 10 years ago when she was 5 died yesterday. I found him on the bottom of his cage. The poor little bird was just old. He has been with us so long, always in the back ground. Never very friendly, never learned to talk, nipped us when we tried to pet him. But he would sing to the birds outside the window, or mimic some of the noises in the house. It seems very quiet now. Strange, since he was always in the background, hardly noticed. It is a little surprising to feel his absence.

Arvo made a little memorial for him. Asherel was gone, at a church function when I found him. It seemed harsh for her to return to him dead on the floor of his cage. So Arvo put him in a tissue paper lined box, and lit candles which he arranged on the table around the box. Then I hung his little namesake flag over the box.

He was a little bird, with a little presence. But nonetheless, I wish we had noticed him more, now that he is no longer here to notice.

Psalm 50:11 (NIV)
I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.

-save a dog-

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peeling away the darkness

I am being employed to write a marketing blurb on a very unusual product. I can't divulge any details, but the very thought of the product makes me giggle. My employer has given me free rein, "Have fun with it. Make it funny." I spoke with the CEO and his marketing director (his wife) for quite some time to understand their vision of the promotional blurb. They are very unique people and almost fell upon their product by accident. A friend saw a picture of it on Facebook, asked for an enormous quantity of it, and soon they were getting offers from major retailers who wanted to carry their product. I was so happy they had spotted my writing, and wanted me to do their blurb. This was American entrepreneurialism and creativity at its finest. This is a small business on the cusp of greatness. And they are doing it despite the shackles the current economy is hoisting on producers.

So I sat down with pen and paper, ok, really computer and keyboard, and began typing the blurb. I had two paragraphs to try to say everything they wanted me to say. I had a rough outline, which I read to my husband. He quickly suggested a storyline based on my thoughts that had me laughing so hard I could barely breathe. Soon, Asherel was giggling, and Arvo was laughing. It is amazing how infectious heart felt laughter is. This is going to be fun. I wonder how they will market test the blurb- will they have some sort of laugh meter to gauge its effectiveness?

Sometimes I think that is what is needed to chase away the gloom- a heartfelt belly aching laugh. So much of life is filled with angst. I think this company has just the right marketing idea: make 'em laugh!
"Just write something," said the marketing director, "That they will read while standing in line at the cashier that will make them smile. That's what we want."
I can envision it now- whole lines of weary people standing like cattle being led to the slaughter, flipping over the package and reading the blurb, and then dissolving one by one into a human mass of laughter.

I read an excellent Facebook post yesterday that said if we summarized the message of the Gospel into one word, it would be love. That is its essence, I thought, and I agreed. It is so hard to enter a world of darkness and gloom, and love the inhabitants in such a way that they feel the blackness recede. Sometimes our hate of the darkness slams away the lost inhabitants as well. Maybe a tool that is used too little is laughter, laughter in delight of the impossible, impenetrable, impressive array of abundant life so often right on the cusp of our awareness but for that shroud that separates darkness from light.

Psalm 126:2-3 (NIV)
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” [3] The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.

-save a dog-

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Next Step

I had a small sore throat when I started recording 5 hours of tapes, reading my latest manuscript aloud so that the very busy hero of my newest book could listen to it while traveling. I really need his approval before I can pedal the book by an agent, so I was determined, despite the growing gurgle in my voice, I would get the tapes mailed to him by today. By the end of the five hours of recording, I had lowered my voice three octaves since the upper register had vanished in croaks and squeaks three hours ago. I paused the recorder every sentence to down some water, trying to lubricate the dying vocal cords. I was struggling mightily to make it to the end of the book before my voice gave out entirely. As I reached the last word, I wanted to say, "The End", but couldn't. Oh well, it was obvious it was the end....

The struggles of the day were not over, however. I have a wonderful little pocket recorder, very fancy, which I use when I interview people. I never listen to the interviews, so it is a little silly but I always feel very professional saying, "May I have permission to record you?" and clicking it on. I process better by writing, so when I interview, I take copious (fast) notes, and rarely need to refer to my recording. The recorder, recommended by my son, can do all kinds of fancy things, but I really have never yet figured all those things out. However, to get the recording of my book onto a CD to mail to my book protagonist, I had to figure out a whole series of technical steps I had never done before. Computer literate people are laughing at me right now, but those of you who grew up in a more simple era when technology consisted of pushing one button for "on" and one for "off", share my misery. I struggled through the first step, made a few mistakes, then managed to find step number two. After a bit of near tears and dangerous moments of shattering CDs, I moved on to step three. Two hours later, the CDs were successfully produced, put in sturdy mailers, addressed, and I was done. An entire day was over, devoted to this endeavor.

I realized as I read the manuscript, which represented a full year of work, that I was very happy with it. I think it is good. Now I just have to convince some publisher that it is good. No wonder I could not manage to croak out the words, "The End." The journey is really just begun...

I look at the whole process of what I will need to do stretching in front of me, and suddenly feel very tired. It is as overwhelming as operating that fancy little recorder. The next steps are so difficult, and elusive, and fraught with danger of rejection, of self-doubt, of lack of faith in the whole project....

Just like life.

And just like a life well lived, this too requires only that I figure out the next step, bathe it in prayer, and inch forward. God rarely reveals two steps in advance, and indeed, the next step materializing out of the haze is often quite unexpected, and often the best part of living. And if it is not, there is always Step Three to look forward to. In the end, the manuscript will be complete, the story told, and then it is in the Agent's hands.

1 Kings 8:59 (NIV)
And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need,
-save a dog-

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Root of the Problem

"What are we drawing today?" I asked my talented little student, Connor.
"Cool! Is your mom excited you are drawing carrots?"
"No, she said, 'Really? Carrots?' But I like carrots," laughed Connor.
"I like carrots too," I told her, "And they will be perfect in pencil to show the use of shading and highlights."
We drew companionably for the hour, with me pointing out the erudite and critical points in making a piece of paper take on the shape and convincing illusion of a carrot. But my mind was not completely on the carrot.

I was thinking over many events of the past few months. The struggles in life are never far from my mind. I remember being as young as 5 and walking down the street crying as I considered all the weight of the world on my shoulders. Right before Connor arrived, I had interviewed one of the lawyers from HSLDA handling the homeschool persecution case of a German family seeking asylum in the USA. It is a very troubling case, particularly in the arguments of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The premise of the DOJ's case to send the family back to Germany is, in my mind, antithetical to everything we are as a country, as a people!

So much of our actions in life are based on faulty premises. The root cause of problems is quite often ignored, and people proceed on false assumptions and accusations. Often, looking at the root cause is too painful, and may require sacrifices and adjustments we are really not willing to make. Or there is an agenda, as in the German Home School case that tramples on the needs of an individual to make a political coup, or to set a precedent that advances a cause. It is very easy to grow despairing, disillusioned, and defeated.

"You know Connor," I said, as we admired both our pictures, "I usually see that God is showing me some sort of lesson in every class I teach, every picture I draw. What could He be telling me with a carrot?"
She looked at her carrot drawing and smiled, "That we are to be rooted in Jesus."
I burst out in delighted laughter and we high-fived our outstretched hands above our carrots.
"That's it!" I said happily, thinking no matter how horrible the root of all evil and despair may be, if we are rooted in Jesus, it really will be ok in the end.

Colossians 2:6-8,13-14 (NIV)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, [7] rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. [8] See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. [13] When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, [14] having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reaping Songs of Joy

It was a much brighter day yesterday than we expected. The doctor at the hospital called, said Mom K was medically stable, and discharged her. She was moved back to her Nursing Home where she settled happily into her own bed, and promptly fell asleep. Arvo oversaw the transfer, and said she was relatively perky, ate well, and then slept deeply from the exhaustion of the ordeal. She sure has one indomitable will to live. We really didn't think she would survive this latest fall and surgery.

And there was another less dramatic but equally miraculous event yesterday. I successfully filled out all the paperwork, and enrolled my homeschooled tenth grader in the Community College for dual enrollment in high school/college for her last two years of high school. I have great hopes that this will be a wonderful experience for her, though I did take note of the college warning sign as I entered the registrar's office:
"Beware! Aggressive Geese."

I chuckled as I glanced at the sign and looked around for the dangerous geese. None were in sight. The sign beside the Aggressive Geese Warning said, "This is a weapon free zone."

Well now, I thought, that second sign is only true if one doesn't count the aggressive geese as weapons, but I think in the wrong hands, aggressive geese could be more dangerous than many other assault implements. You would think in the intellectual atmosphere of a college, they would see the irony of the two signs, side by side. I also noted there was a sign that said this was a tobacco free campus, for EVERYONE. I wondered if that meant the teachers had to drive to the nearby strip tease joint to have a smoke. As I chuckled at the signs, I saw many tattooed and heavily pierced bodies pass me by. This is going to be a whole lot different world for my homeschooled 15 year old, I thought. The dangerous geese might be the least of her eye opening adjustments.

Fortunately, she has a friend enrolling with her who will try to be in both the classes we register for, who is a very nice young man with a black belt in karate. I am confident that he is an adequate match for any goose. And most importantly, she goes forth bathed in much prayer. After our week of so much sorrow, broken bones, failing hearts, pain, and tears, it was nice to chuckle, and to remember that laughter too was created by God.

Psalm 126:2-3,5 (NIV)
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” [3] The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. [5] Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I loved watching my daughter play the role of a nurse following Armageddon in her recent Destination Imagination State contest. She was the "healer" in the skit. Her hands morphed the despair of the victim into delight, as she literally worked the gears that morphed the mask the young lady was wearing. What a wonderful symbol. Her clothes were tattered and shredded by the holocaust that had destroyed the land, but she came out of the background, like an angel, swooping down to breathe life again into the fallen.

I don't know about most people, but I know that I need continual reaffirmation that redemption is real, that hope is possible even in horrific situations, and that the "Healer" will come. So often, it seems that sadness threatens to draw a shroud of impenetrable darkness around us, and it is so easy to forget that angels exist, God sees all, and that wrongful accusations will one day be righted; grief and despair washed away.

Mom K is holding her own in the hospital. It seems she is slowly growing better, eating well, and increasingly aware. I am very sad, nonetheless. It has been very hard, watching so much pain and suffering. Any one who has gone through this knows nothing prepares you for it. It stinks. I did the laundry this morning and started pounding the washing machine, who really was not at all at fault. "I hate death," I yelled at the poor washing machine. If any appliance would agree with me, I suspect it would be the washing machine, who likes things fresh and new, cleansed from all the filth of living.

But then, I sat down and began drawing the picture of my daughter playing the role of the "healer". And I felt a little better. The washing machine didn't hold the beating I had given it against me. Death will be conquered one day. My sin was forgiven. If it could have talked it would have told me its favorite verse was "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow."

Psalm 51:7-12 (NIV)
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. [8] Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. [9] Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. [10] Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. [11] Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. [12] Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

-save a dog-

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Portion Forever

First bike ride of the year! 70 degrees, I pedaled to the Greenway. Almost always I come across some adventure, some strange creature, some memorable moment. But there was nothing. Just pleasure as I pedaled. For the first time in months, there were no pressing deadlines or upcoming contests to prepare for. There was just a bike path to roll over, happily uneventful.

When I got home, Arvo said the hospital had called. Mom K's heart rate dropped to 30. They did not sound confident she would pull out of this one. Arvo dropped Asherel at her church group and went on to the hospital. We had been there right before my bike ride, and the nurse said she had eaten half her lunch, but then fallen asleep. She was asleep while we were there. We stayed and watched her sleep for half an hour and then left.

If Jesus indeed is calling her home, I am glad that in the last week she learned that all her grandchildren were accomplishing amazing things. That gave her great joy. And the scarf she started knitting for me...even if it never gets finished, it gave her purpose the past few weeks. And she has always been a faith-filled woman, praying for us constantly. Maybe it is time for her to meet The Lord she so faithfully sought for such a long time. Earth has become a terrible burden for her, I think. All of us are fading for her and He is calling. Perhaps it is time to settle peacefully in His arms.

The meds stabilized her heart rate, and Arvo left her sleeping and seemingly stable. We are in a "wait and see" mode, now. It is hard to know what to pray for. I guess this calls for the prayer that never fails, "Thy will be done."

Psalm 73:25-26 (NIV)
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. [26] My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

-save a dog-

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Imagining Excellence

My Destination Imagination (DI) team are NC State Champs. They were actually the only team in their division. However, they also scored through the roof, and in my opinion, would have beat a hundred teams with that score! They got the highest score of all the teams there on the portion of the competition called "Instant Challenge" which was an identical task for all the divisions competing. In fact, they got a near perfect score on that section. I am bragging and I believe that is the second time this after working 9 months, two days a week, and giving up every Saturday for the past three months (or so)for these kids, and half my house to their DI clutter, I figure I can indulge.

It was not always easy. They were a brand new team with only my daughter even vaguely familiar with what it took to complete the task successfully. Midway through the season, I told my husband to shoot me dead if I EVER said I wanted to coach a team again. However, the past few weeks, the team suddenly began to understand how to use the meeting times effectively, and we all began to see the hard work coalesce into something that looked a little like manna from heaven.

When they performed, I was as spellbound as anyone. Some of the judges were crying. The whole production had to be done without words, and every aspect of the entire thing was produced by the kids with no adult help or suggestions. They mixed incredibly appropriate and moving music, choreographed an amazing fight scene, built a beautiful set, costumes, and props from scratch, and met the technological challenge that was required. Even the team sign, which is not a judged element, was exquisite. It was made with such love and skill and attention to detail that it alone made me want to cry.

As we set up in the morning, I prayed with my team, the team that has hated me at times for my insistence on practice time being used wisely without background music, or texting, or goofing off. They have learned many lessons about respecting each others' ideas, submitting the needs of the one to the needs of the many, learning to listen to even the quietest member, time management, abiding by rules, respecting the home they are working in, working hard at abstract, long term goals, thinking in ways they were not used to thinking, integrating creativity, technology, and story telling, and reaching a deadline with a project that was not just "good enough", but "excellent."

We knew before we ever went to States that we were the only team in our division. We knew that unless we disqualified, we would be the State Champs. A few times, I heard a team member say, "It doesn't matter. We are going to win anyway."
"That's true," I told him, "Do you want to be 'ok', or do your best?"

And so, as I prayed with them, I asked God that He would help them to do their best, not as for men, but as for The Lord. Because in my opinion, that is what we should do with every breath we take.

And when their music started, I could hardly breathe for the beauty of what they had created. When they took their final bow, they had not been handed the NC State Champion title...they had earned it, abundantly and overflowing. They may end the year hating me, but I LOVE them.

Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, [24] since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Luke 12:35 (NIV)
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning,

*If interested in learning how to form a team in NC, go to
Other states can go to the national site,

-save a dog-

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Widow's Mite

Let the show begin! We are here for the State DI contest. I took a wild pack of excited teens to the site last night to set up. Then exhausted from the hospital ordeal of Mom K and from having been up since 4 a.m. yesterday, handed them off to the other parents to supervise as the excited kids played poker in the hotel lobby. I dragged myself off to try to sleep. I never sleep well in hotels, but I did for at least a few hours last night. Total exhaustion has a way of doing that.

Mom K, after her fall yesterday, was X-rayed in ER. I gasped when I saw the total snap of the bone. Good golly, that must have hurt! They took her into surgery and the follow-up x-ray showed a long metal strip down the femur with a brace across the hip. She will never break that hip again. Of course, the other side is still waiting for the next fall....

"Smile!" said Arvo snapping her picture as she came out of recovery, "Hospital visit # 11!"

She opened her eyes and looked at us, "Oh my. Oh my," she said.
Yes. Oh my!

Arvo and I had prayed before he dashed off at 4 a.m. to meet the ambulance in the ER. We are both growing weary of the sleepless nights, and the many worries and emergencies. But God reminds us, "Do not grow weary in doing good." Caring for those who once cared so tenderly for us is one of those things I am certain He would have us not grow weary doing.

She survived the surgery well, no small feat for an 88 year old woman in tenuous health. I saw for myself that she was safely through the surgery, and stroked her forehead when she opened her eyes. Then, Arvo stayed behind to minister to her while I headed off to Asheville for the NC DI State contest.

I woke early, but felt better than I had yesterday. As I was dressing, I found a bracelet in my toiletry kit I had gotten years ago from Sonlight, the homeschool curriculum I use. It had a "widow's mite" charm on it. I think it is a replica of the "mite" or smallest unit of money from Jesus' time. Remember the widow offered all she had to the service of God, putting in her meager savings as a temple offering, two tiny mites. Jesus praised the offering, knowing it was the whole of what she had, small as it was. We may have little to give, I thought, thinking back on the year of managing the DI team, but if we give it our all, it is sanctified. I put the bracelet on.

I hope they do well, but no one is allowed to say, "Break a Leg."

Mark 12:41-44 (NIV)
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. [42] But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. [43] Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. [44] They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything---all she had to live on.”

-save a dog-

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Flicker of Light in the Darkness

I wanted to share with you something that happened to me yesterday. Quite surprisingly, I had a private message from someone who read my political blog two days ago - the one titled "I have met the enemy and it is me..." The reader said she loved my sense of humor and agreed with my philosophy and asked if I would write a blurb for their product, a paid gig! Of course, I agreed. She urged me to go to her husband's FaceBook page to get a sense of who he was. He is the CEO of the company. I read through several of his posts and then stopped short to see one of his posts with a quote I was

He said he is not a Christian, and not at all religious, but he quoted the section where I talked about Jesus and the adultress, and how those without sin should cast the first stone. He said it floored him. I honestly wanted to cry with joy. My single most highest purpose in writing anything is to glorify God and draw others to Him. Lord knows I fail too often to enumerate, but this time, it appears, my writing had reached a target. I just want to encourage all of you, when you speak from the heart, with love, and truth, and bathe it in prayer, miracles can be wrought. So much seems dire in our nation today, in our world. It often feels like there is no hope and the decay is so advanced that all that is left is a spiral into the abyss. Yet God has always preserved a remnant, friends who share the vision of what we hope and trust to be holy and true. You just never know when your words might be the tiniest flicker of light in the darkness.

It was good I had that joy stored up, because early this morning, Mom K fell, completely broke her hip, and is in the hospital now with Arvo, awaiting verdict on surgery. Unfortunately, Asherel and I leave today for her State Destination Imagination contest. It is good to trust that the darkness is never absolute.

Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

-save a dog-

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Glory of Carmel

Any second the Bradford Pear that line our neighborhood streets will burst into a profusion of white flowers. When that happens, the main drag in our neighborhood will become a cathedral of white blossoms twining into an arch over the street. It only lasts for about a day or two, and then the trees turn green. It is what first drew us to our neighborhood, and still makes me shudder with joy when they bloom all together as if on cue. One blossoming Bradford Pear is lovely. A hundred of them in a row, all waving the same glorious pure white petals to a deep blue heaven is a foretaste of eternity and the Creation in communal praise to the Creator.

One by one, over the 18 years we have been here, the Bradford Pear have been chopped down, or broken apart in a storm and died. They are a top-heavy tree and the limbs are prone to breaking away. Their life span is only about 20-25 years, and they have all reached it. I cannot bear the thought that one day I will walk down the main drag in our neighborhood, and the trees will no longer be waving those banners of delight above me. I want to do a door-to-door crusade and beg the homeowners to replant a Bradford Pear, but of course, that is not my place. The owners are sick of breaking branches with every storm.

So as soon as the Bradford Pear bloom, I will walk several times a day in the cathedral of blossoms, swirling in the petals fluttering on the wind, knowing that all this will pass away too soon.

Isaiah 35:1-2 (NIV)
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, [2] it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.

-save a dog-

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sorrow and Sighing Flee

The giraffe is back on!

The Parks and Rec department emailed again and told me they would purchase all supplies, send me helpers, set up ladders, and be sure the methane pipes I transform into giraffes are in safe locations if only I would please, pretty please agree to create this meaningful and moving public art. So, I talked with Asherel and her friend and asked if they would consider helping me. They were very keen on the idea, especially when I discussed the dangers of methane gas and welding. Of course, I haven't gotten the parents' permission yet, but I need to get through the next major events- Destination Imagination State Finals, and then the trip to Chicago to see my son compete in the Appellate Advocacy Nationals. After that, I will see if I can convince the parents of my teen helpers to let their children climb a tall ladder to help paint a pipe that spews methane.

I did ask the Parks and Rec manager if I was in any danger from the methane. Here is his comforting reply:
"I wouldn't stick my face in front of the pipe, but otherwise, you SHOULD be ok."


Normally, I don't embrace danger, but how many people on earth have the opportunity to transform a sewer pipe into one of God's creatures? How could I NOT do it?

I went to visit Mom K at the nursing home, and when I arrived, she was upset with whatever imaginary character I had become in her not always lucid mind.
"I am not happy with you," she said.
Before she had a chance to get rolling on her wild imaginings, I wheeled her out to the sunshine garden and said, "I have the BEST news."
"What?" she asked suspiciously.
"Matt...your grandson...just WON a major law contest. First place! He goes to Nationals!"

She raised her hands in the air and looked up to heaven, her eyes filling with tears, "Thank you Jesus!" she said, "I never thought my grandchildren would be so accomplished. Thank you Jesus that I lived to see this day."
We had a lovely visit after that. She knitted while I played with a ladybug that had landed on my arm. The tree we sat beneath was almost ready to burst forth in flower. The little pink buds dotted every twig. What beauty, what potential quivered on the moment.

When it was time to leave, she knew I was her daughter-in-law, and reminded me to tell my parents she said ,"Hello." What a blessed day, I thought. Whimsy, sunshine, and bringing joy to someone who felt gladness for what another day of life had brought.

"Tomorrow," I said, as we headed back into the Home, "I bet this tree will be covered in flowers."

Isaiah 35:2-6,10 (NIV)
it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. [3] Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; [4] say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” [5] Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. [6] Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. [10] and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


One of the elderly art students in the class Asherel teaches at the Nursing Home, said, "I didn't come here to draw! Who wants to draw anyway?"
She crossed her arms and looked menacingly at me.
"Some people pay me to help them draw," I said, smiling at her.
"Well goodie for you!" she snapped.
"What *did* you come here for?" asked the Activities Director, in her gentle kind manner. It was the elderly woman's first day in the Home, and it didn't seem she was taking it well.
"Waiting for some good food!" she barked.
Meanwhile, the lady next to her said, "I am not an artist. My sister never even let me decorate the Christmas tree!"
"Well that wasn't nice of her," said sweet Josie.
The new lady grumbled some more about wanting nothing to do with this drawing business. However, the rest of the class seemed quite enamored with the daffodil Asherel was teaching them to draw.
"I'm not taking any part in this drawing stuff," said the new lady, slamming down her pencil.
"Mine looks like a sunflower. I'm not an artist. My sister never even let me decorate the Christmas tree!"

"Now," said Asherel, "This petal is sort of like a pointy oval."
I circulated among the class and the conversation circled as well, with the new lady grumbling, the insecure artist remembering her sister not even letting her decorate the Christmas tree, and the others complimenting her drawing and telling her her sister had not been very kind. The two gentlemen in the group were very careful with their drawing, choosing their colors thoughtfully, drawing and correcting their lines as precisely as they could. I helped show each person what to do when they struggled, and Asherel demonstrated step by step at the easel in front of the class. Soon, the new lady was quiet, watching the others, and a peaceful contentment settled over the room as the pencils scritched across the drawings, giving yellow life to the flowers.

"I vote we draw a panda next time!" said one resident.
"And I'd like to put in a vote for a camel," said another.
Asherel wrote the requests down.
"Any other requests?" she asked.
The elderly artists were quiet, looking at the daffodils they'd drawn.
"Did you ever draw before?" I asked.
"When I was a little girl!" answered a few, "But not as an adult."
"I guess we're like Grandma Moses," said one lady with a chuckle, smiling at her picture.

I thought of Mom K, who having rediscovered knitting, is inch by inch creating a scarf for me. Here, in the Home where she had lived until a month ago, her friends were rediscovering drawing and the peaceful joy of creating, that all children know instinctively but often lose as responsibilities crowd in. I found it hopeful that these people with diminishing strength, and eyesight, were enjoying the act of creation again. What a fitting picture of what one day will be, when we will all be released from the bondage of sin and death, and all creation will blossom with the Creator's original intent.

Romans 8:20-21 (NIV)
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

-save a dog-

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pay Attention

It was a glorious day yesterday- mid 60s, sunny, and Sunday. Daffodils were blooming, and the sky was blue. What could be better!? I had slept almost not at all the night before, so full of joy for Matt and his victory at the ABA Appellate contest. To top it off, we had to "spring forward" an hour. I crawled a little miserably out of bed. I went to church with a headache and not feeling very well. The regular pastor wasn't there, so the pastor who leads the Spanish service was speaking instead. He has a very thick accent. I am a little hard of hearing in the best of circumstances, and never have been great at deciphering thick accents. Between my headache, lack of sleep, and the accent, I understood about every third word. I am sorry to say that the only phrase that fully registered with me was that in his native country of Brazil, soccer is called football. I normally can stay right in tune with the Godly message our wonderful pastors preach. But my tired brain spent quite a bit of time rolling off on the tangent of how really, soccer SHOULD be called football, since the entire game involves kicking the ball with one's feet. In our version of football, however, most of the game involves running with the ball in one's arms, and very little time is spent actually using the feet in American football. By the time I had thought over this conundrum to the extent that I felt it really was silly of America to call soccer soccer, and not football like the rest of the world, it was time for communion and the service was over.

If heaven were based on our attentive worship, I was going to hell.

When I wasn't focused on football, I was watching the interpreter, who signs the sermon for the hearing impaired. I always watch her carefully to try to pick up at least one new sign a week. This week, I figured out the sign for "walk" and "life".

I am a heathen, I thought, when we said our final prayer. I realized I could not have given a single sentence about what the message had taught me. This is not like me. I am usually very attentive and dutiful, and usually very convicted of how I need to modify my life to be better in tune with God's desires for me. Not this Sunday. This Sunday, all I learned was that football is not very well named and the sign for 'walk' makes a lot of sense.

Fortunately, heaven is not based on my attentive worship. It is based on my belief that Jesus paid the penalty for my sin, including my sin of thinking about football instead of Him during church, and if I accept that gift and believe that He is Lord, heaven awaits!

2 Peter 1:19 (NIV)
We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

-save a dog-

Sunday, March 10, 2013

This Time He Did It

Two major victories yesterday: my DI team had an awesome dress rehearsal as we enter our final week before the State contest. And in the midst of that, I got a text from my son Matt- he had just won the ABA Appellate Advocacy semifinal match for the regional competition in DC. He had one match to go. If he won in the finals, he and his partner would be representing Washington and Lee Law School and the entire region in the National competition. I was so proud of him, remembering when he was a little boy and wanted so badly to reach Nationals in his Forensic Debate Club. He had come so close, but never did get to go. In the flurry of my DI team practice, I thanked God for the victories that had brought him to the Finals, and for the wonder of the DI team pulling it all together just in time for States.

These two victories did not come easily. My DI team has been working for 9 months, twice a week, many hours a week. They have learned so many things, not the least of which is that doing anything well is not easy, and requires sacrifice and commitment.

And then there is my boy, Matt. When he was 11 years old, he entered his first debate. He knew from that moment that one day, he wanted to be a lawyer. Even at that young age, he would spend hours each day researching the cases he would debate. He debated for the next seven years in our homeschool regional debate competitions. He always had good partners, though they never loved Debate as much as he did, nor longed for a career in law as he did. The one year he and his partner were invited to Nationals, the partner chose not to go, and Matt could not go without his partner. Debate was Matt's love, and he was sorely disappointed. He swallowed his disappointment and continued working towards his dream to become a lawyer. He finished high school, went to college, and still followed his dream. He was accepted at a wonderful law school, and continued to enter contests, study his beloved law, and dream big.

I prayed all weekend, knowing he was in this big law school debate contest. I kept picturing my little 11 year old, dressed in a suit we got him from Goodwill that was a little too big, carrying his briefcase nearly half as big as he, as he went to his first debate. I remember the opposing team laughing at him when he began his opening arguments about "aliens". I wanted to kill those other rude team members. When that first debate ended, Matt didn't win, but the judges told me that he had a big future in front of him.

As I prayed all weekend, I asked that this time, he would not be disappointed. This time, let him live his dream, let him have everything he wants. This time, let him do his best, and savor the reward. This time. Please Lord. Let my wonderful, brave, devoted, and hard working little boy who has worked so diligently for so many years grab the brass ring this time.

And this time...he did. He and his partner won the finals, and my boy is finally going to Nationals.

For all of you who have loved a passionate child who has wanted so much and been so often disappointed, I know you will forgive me these words of joy.

This time, he did it.

Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

-save a dog-

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Morning Sun

The nurses found Mom K's lost knitting! We brought her a bag to keep it in that attaches to her wheelchair so it won't be misplaced again. She was very pleased, and not only with her knitting. She showed off her new lovely pink nails. One aide had sat with her for an hour and polished Mom K's nails. We are blessed by caring and loving aides and nurses at the Home. How tender and kind to sit with an elderly woman and know that doing her nails might be a very special treat!

I read a passage in Exodus that I had never thought much about. However, this time, I paused as I read it. Why was it written with that particular detail?

Exodus 20:26 (NIV)
And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.

What a strange verse alongside the incomparable Ten Commandments. Why is it there? Perhaps it really should be taken at face value, literally God just doesn't want us exposing ourselves. However, I think there may be more to it. If we go up steps, we elevate ourselves, and we open ourselves to scrutiny. Can any one of us withstand others seeing "our private parts", and by that I mean all our thoughts and actions we usually keep hidden? None of us are pure, none of us without fault. None of us could stand before the world fully exposed and be guiltless. And our hypocrisy hurts our witness before others, particularly those who don't understand, and think Christians feel they are better than anyone else. We are not. We are all fallen. But those who trust in Jesus believe they are forgiven, and have a hope they desperately yearn to share with others. Better then to approach God in humility. Let Him lift you up.

Yesterday, after my rant about how upset I was that the nurses or aides had lost Mom K's knitting, a friend posted a blurb on Facebook about nurses. The post was about how thankless a job it often was, how hard they work to care for our loved ones through very difficult times, how overburdened they are with the needs that are often overwhelming. The post snapped me back to looking at the world through a different lens, though others' eyes. And I was strongly convicted that not only should I not be angry with the aides, I should buy them a gift!

Writing regularly for the public is akin to going up the altar on steps. I am continually exposing myself. Some of what is revealed is not very complimentary. The miracle of God is that He convicts our hearts, but does not condemn. His mercy and grace is new every morning. As surely as the sun washes over a new world each day, His cleansing Spirit washes over regenerated hearts. What a blessing.

Psalm 25:6-7 (NIV)
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. [7] Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.

-save a dog-

Friday, March 8, 2013

Knitting and Driving Ministry

I went to the nursing home to see how Mom K's knitting was proceeding and to take her for a drive. I thought perhaps she would like to see the sun and the blue sky, and something other than the locked memory care hallways. She has not been medically stable or strong enough to leave the facility for quite some time. But I felt now she would be able to at least go for a drive with me, and see the daffodils blooming, and the sun shining. At first she said no, she didn't wish to go for a drive, but the aides talked her into it. She had gotten a good 4 inch swath of the knitted scarf done, but no one could find her project when I arrived. I was very upset by this, and told the nurses that it was very important they find the yarn and the needles. As of last night, they still had not. I am not sure they understood it was not just about the cost of the materials and the trouble I had taken to get them, nor even that her private property was not safe there. It was that the project gave her purpose and joy. I don't know how long she has left on this earth, and if it can be filled meaningfully, then it should be.

But Mom K enjoyed the drive. I took her down some of the older streets with some of the grand old houses set among giant oaks. I kept a running monologue of the history and sights of the area, as much as I knew anyway. She nodded and looked about. It reminded me of the drives I used to take with my recently deceased friends, Comer and Evelyn.

A few days ago, I received a letter from a nephew of Comer's. I had not known about the nephew. Apparently, he read my book about Comer's war time experiences. Comer's twin brother Bill was mentioned throughout the book. The nephew, Bill's son, said Comer and his dad had rarely talked about their war days, and he was so happy to learn of what that time had been like. He wondered if I would share other stories I had learned? I had many stories, I thought, gleaned from all those drives we took through Charlotte and the surrounding countryside.

When we returned, Mom K seemed peaceful and content. The yarn project had still not been found.
"I'll look for it myself," she said, patting my hand.
"Had you gotten very far on the scarf?" I asked.
"Oh no," she said, "I made many mistakes so I had to stop and fix those first."
I recalled her crying one evening when she was not herself, and distraught. She was bemoaning all the mistakes she had made in life. Arvo had been with her at the time, and calmed her down, reminding her we all make mistakes, but we do the best we can, ask God's forgiveness when we fail, and move on.
Move on to the next stitch, and make it better than the last. If you drop a stitch, try to pick it up, and one day, it might become a beautiful scarf adorning the neck of someone you love...

Psalm 139:13-18 (NIV)
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. [14] I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. [15] My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. [16] Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. [17] How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! [18] Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand---when I awake, I am still with you.

-save a dog-

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I love this new word I learned! Polylemma:
noun: A choice involving multiple undesirable options.

That perfectly describes what we often face in life. 'Dilemma' just doesn't cut it sometimes. The 'dilemma' of only two lousy options doesn't always describe the predicament we are in. Sometimes you need a word like polylemma. Since I started writing for the political blog, Conservative Fifty, I have been reading the paper and online news much more thoroughly. I have thought much more deeply about the issues facing our country and our world. And one word sums up the state we are in: polylemma. No wonder I had a dream a couple of nights ago of jumping off a cliff.

I am now reading through Moses' toils and troubles as he leads the Israelites through the desert. They are bickering the whole way. He gives them too little water, then too much water. Too little meat, then too much meat. They come to him with problem after problem asking him to solve it. The desert is too hot, the sun is too yellow, the feet are too sore, the people are too weary, enemies behind them and enemies before them...and Moses must make it all better single-handedly.

Moses probably said, "When it rains, it pours!" I suspect the word Polylemma hadn't been invented yet. But if it had, I bet he said, "Lord, this is too much. It is a polylemma."

Here is the good news! God excels in polylemmas. And somehow, out of the most intractable polylemmas, God finds a way to bring about Good. Just when you think there is no way out of the morass, the wilderness is too immense, the paths too narrow, the thorns too tangled...He sends a ray of Hope.

To Moses, he sends helpers to ease the burden. Moses didn't even ask for helpers. It was his father-in-law who noticed that poor Moses was crumpling under the weight of all he had to carry. Sometimes we need to trust when others warn us that we need to find a new way out of the mess we are in. Sometimes we are so deeply entrenched in the mess, we don't even know we need help. There is a very big clue that can alert you when you have reached this point. If you find yourself enamored with words like polylemma, it might be time to pray for God's assistance.

I read a post by a Facebook friend yesterday. He said he had been in prayer for so long that he lost all feeling in his legs! When he tried to stand back up, they were numb. That is the answer to polylemma, I thought - for the polylemma our country faces and the polylemma we face individually. Grow numb in prayer rather than despair.

Exodus 18:18,23 (NIV)
You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. [23] If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

Nehemiah 1:5-6 (NIV)
Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, [6] let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants...

-save a dog-

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Expecting Miracles

I raced to the craft store and asked the clerk there what kind of needles I needed for knitting. I explained they were for an elderly woman, and I wasn't certain she would remember how to use them. What would be best? She gave me size 10 bamboo needles. I picked out a lovely multicolored skein of soft yarn and hurried to the nursing home.

Mom K was sitting at a table by herself. She didn't seem to be doing anything, just gazing at nothing. I walked up to her and she broke into a wide smile.
"I have a surprise for you," I said, hugging her.
I wheeled her over to a little alcove with a window overlooking a garden, and a rocking chair for me to sit in. Then I put the bag in her lap and told her to open her surprise.
"Oh my," she said.
"Can you remember how to use these?" I asked.
"I think so," she said, pulling out the yarn and needles.
So I opened the needles package and handed them to her. I pulled the loose end of the yarn from the skein and lay the skein in her lap.
She instantly picked up the end and began to loop it expertly around the needle. Her face was very focused on her hands as they remembered.
"Who taught you to knit?" I asked.
"My grandmother, and my mother," she said, "Many people."
"You seem to know exactly what you're doing," I said, with delight.
"It has been a long time, but I am remembering."
"I will have a scarf in no time!" I said clapping my hands.
"Now don't expect miracles!" she warned, glancing up at me.
"But I do," I said earnestly, "I do expect miracles!"
She knitted quietly.
"Oh Mom," I said, "I found your diamond ring!"
She paused in her knitting, her eyes wide.
"Arvo has it! He told me it flew off your finger in the hospital and a nurse picked it up. Do you want me to get a necklace for it and you can wear it around your neck?"
She burst into a radiant smile, and her eyes welled up, "That is wonderful! No, for now you just keep it for me." She continued smiling as she resumed knitting.
We chatted as she knit. She dropped some stitches but patiently kept at it, slowly, carefully, intently. Then a volunteer came to tell me it was time for lunch.
"Already?" said Mom K.
"Mom, I will take this and put it on your dresser. We can tell the nurse to help you get it again after lunch and you can work on it this afternoon."
I tucked the needles in the skein and wheeled her to lunch, stopping off at her room to run in and put the yarn on her dresser.
"Where did you put it?" she asked when I came back out. She sounded interested, alert, and possessive of this new project. I could have cried with joy.
"Right on your dresser where you can find it," I assured her.

I kissed her goodbye after wheeling her to her place at the lunch table. The nurse promised me that after lunch, they would help get her situated with her knitting.
"I can't wait to see what you will accomplish!" I said as I headed out the door.
"Don't expect miracles!" she said again, laughing.
"I have already seen one!" I replied.

Job 5:9 (NIV)
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.

-save a dog-

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Asherel had a chemistry competition at the college here near our home. When my first born was young, he attended math classes there. He was quite young when he started college math, my little math genius. I used to drop him at class, and then wander the campus with my baby and my other young son. I got to know the campus intimately. I walked many miles on that campus, waiting for my first born to come out of his classes over the years.

So yesterday, while waiting for Asherel, I wandered over the campus. UNCC has done a lot of building in the past fifteen years. The little lake I used to circle, on an uneven dirt path, now has fancy brick sidewalks and a three tiered brick viewing platform. I remembered walking the dirt path long ago, and pointing out the frogs near the water edge to my children. I passed the giant sculpture that my baby Asherel used to play on. I grew quite nostalgic, and melancholy reliving those memories. I miss my oldest son. I miss waiting outside his class, watching him emerge, a little ten year old with the big college kids all around him. I miss my middle boy climbing the campus trees while Asherel looked up at him from her stroller. I miss the stories I would weave for the two of them, as we wandered along the lake shore waiting for the oldest to be done with class. Sometimes we would walk through the gardens, or play on the sculptures, amidst the college kids and sunbeams.

After I brought Asherel home from the contest, I went on to visit Mom K at the Nursing Home. She was meandering in and out of lucidity. She knew me, but she also thought that she was still living in her home in Florida. She wanted us to go "to her living room" where we could relax.
"Mom," I said, as she trailed off with a somewhat incomprehensible sentence, "Do you remember how to knit?"
She nodded, and instantly her fingers started going through the motions. I don't knit, but I could tell her fingers were moving correctly.
"If I brought you needles and yarn, do you think you could still knit?"
"Sure," she said, "What do you want me to make for you?"
"How about a scarf," I said.
Her fingers continued to knit with the imaginary needles, her muscles remembering.

As I had wandered over the campus yesterday, I felt sad. All that was left of those distant days was my memory of them. One never really thinks those days will end. It is always a bit surprising to realize even the memories are fading.

It is important, I thought, to savor the day, and don't wish away a moment. In the blink of an eye, dirt paths that held footprints of tiny tots will be covered in brick and no one will know that once they had been there.

While I was with Mom K, she had looked down at her left hand.
"My diamond is gone," she said, "And I don't know where it is."
I glanced at her hand. Her ring was indeed gone!
"Do you remember when you last had it?"
"No," she told me. Later I would find out that one of the nurses had found it on the floor of her room, and given it to Arvo. He didn't think his mom had even noticed it was gone. Her fingers had shrunk and it no longer fit. But while I was with her, she was sure it had been stolen.
"That is very sad," I told her.
"Yes," she said looking down, "Something like this...something so important."
"I don't know how people without God make it," I said, "At least we know that you won't need it in Heaven. All we will need in Heaven is God, and He will be there. We can't lose or forget Him there."
"Yes," she said smiling, remembering that clearly.

Deuteronomy 32:7 (NIV)
Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.

2 Peter 1:12-15,19(NIV)
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. [13] I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, [14] because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. [15] And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. [19] We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

-save a dog-

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Message in the Forsythia

I noticed our forsythia were blooming. Not many of the little yellow buds have opened, but some have. There were a few flakes of snow yesterday morning, as frail and sparse as the forsythia. Will the last hurrah of Winter or the first huzzah of Spring win the battle?

I am rooting for Spring. I love the snow. I love to ski. But the symbolism of Winter is much more distressing than the symbolism of Spring, and I am entranced by God's messages written in the symbols of life. I read that we are to set our clocks ahead next weekend. This is much more in keeping with my natural circadian rhythm, and heralds the promise of Spring. I am usually up at 6 a.m. anyway, so I don't mind setting clocks ahead. I have noticed lately that the sky is already lightening when I crawl out of bed in the wee hours of the morning. Spring is coming! Hope will be realized! The forsythia will bloom and the snow will melt. All that seemed to be lost will be found, and the flowers will open, the buds unfurl, the empty twigs made green. All one has to do to witness the message of resurrection, new life, new hope, is watch the eruption of Spring.

Isaiah 45:8 (NIV)
“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it; I, the Lord, have created it.

-save a dog-

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Remembering Love

Just two weeks left till our Destination Imagination State competition. The kids finished painting their backdrop today, after our four hour practice. One entire room of my house has been converted to a DI paint studio for the past 7 months. It has had a huge tarp over the floor, covered paint cans, dozens of cups with mixed colors with Saran Wrap rubberbanded tops, and brushes on two tables in the room.The huge backdrop adorns the back wall. In the Sunroom, my once peaceful place, there are piles of cardboard, PVC, material, and two large crates of miscellaneous supplies. My art shelf is cleared of any art materials, and covered with props.

But when the practice ended, the props were done (almost) and the backdrop painted. After they left, I spent two hours cleaning the room, throwing away the paint, rolling up the tarp, scrubbing the paint streaks here and there, vacuuming the accumulation of dirt and dust. We are in the homestretch. One day soon, all this year of work will be but a memory, and my room will be restored as though they had never been there.

While we ate dinner, we watched an old Star Trek movie. One of the characters was the father of a baby I had treated as a brand new Occupational Therapist thirty years ago. His son was an adorable little boy who seizured about 90% of his young life. I watched the movie, and was transported back to the time when the movie star was young, when I knew him. And I remembered that little boy, and how desperately his famous dad loved him. After the movie, I googled the actor's name. The little boy I had worked with all those many years ago had died, not long after I had known him. I wasn't surprised. I did not think he would have lived very long. But it made me sad, thirty years later, remembering how much his parents loved him and hoped he would overcome his devastating medical issues.

I had known the dad was a movie star, an actor. But it hadn't mattered to me. What mattered to me was the depth of his devotion to his wife, and to the little boy who didn't have much of a chance at life. The actor was drop dead handsome, and many of the girls in the Development Center where I worked swooned over him. I didn't really notice his looks, but I did notice his pain. He knew his son would not live long.

Funny...the movie was about Spock, who had died at the end of the Star Trek TV Series, being brought back to life. I wonder if that actor I once knew ever watched that movie while wishing the celluloid miracle could have really happened. The actor did a few other TV spots, and then faded into obscurity. The tarp under his career was rolled up, the tools of his trade put away, and the years laid dust over his achievements.

But as I watched the movie...I remembered. I remembered how the little boy used to break into a wide mouthed smile when his handsome dad kissed his cheek, in between seizures. It was a short life, but it was filled with love, and the appreciation of that still touched me thirty years later.

Psalm 23:6 (NIV)
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

-save a dog-

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Giraffe's Purpose

For those of you who have been following my blog for months, perhaps you remember when I entered the prestigious Public Art Sewer Pipe Contest? With bated breath, I awaited the judge's decision on whether my creative rendering of a sewer pipe transformed into a giraffe would win me fame and fortune. After holding my breath for a month, awaiting the outcome of this highly sought after accolade, I was indeed awarded the winning entry. My Sewer Pipe Giraffe was chosen, and would beautify the frankly ugly methane pipes that dot the Charlotte Greenways. After being notified that my proposal was selected from the countless other entries submitted (countless, as in I strongly suspect my entry was the *only* entry), I waited to hear the details of how my project would come to fruition. I waited for months, and then hearing nothing further, decided the sewer pipe beautification project had been scuttled in the wake of trillion dollar debts and other various crises.

Finally, six months later, the Sewer Pipe Committee contacted me yesterday. Who would have thought that in the midst of the historic Sequester, the Parks and Rec department was ready to move forward on my Public Art Submission? While Federal Employees were being tossed under bridges with brown paper bags and bottles of vodka, I was to go forward with the publicly funded project of turning ugly methane pipes into whimsical giraffes.

With just one caveat. I was not to be paid. Well, this was ok with me, I decided, as I read over the first line of the congratulatory email. While payment for work is always desirable, the public acclaim of this unique art form would be worth the volunteer effort. Then I read the second line....
*I*was to provide the funding for all materials as well. They WOULD provide the ladders, however, so I could reach the tippy top of the Methane pipe.

So tempting! I wrote back that I did have a few misgivings. I would love to donate my time and resources to beautify their sewer pipes under most circumstances. However, I wondered if the methane gas pouring out of the pipe in such a concentrated dose might kill me? I was also not quite clear on the perks of this venture. Could they be more specific in what I was to get out of this? So far, they have not written back. They are probably still trying to revive the guy who went out to check and see for himself if the concentrated dose of methane would be lethal or not. If he doesn't regain consciousness soon, I may pass on the project.

My cousin once noted that giraffes are proof that God has a sense of humor. I would agree, particularly in the light of this particular giraffe story. I have labored all my life to "make it" as an artist. I think God is reminding me that my goals are not His goals, my ways are not His ways, and sometimes, we are just supposed to laugh.

Genesis 21:6 (NIV)
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

-save a dog-

Friday, March 1, 2013

Darkness Into Light

I have read the Bible cover to cover dozens of times. I know what you are thinking...yes, you would think I would be a more perfect disciple by now. It is a conundrum to me as well. Be that as it may, working my way through the Bible this time, I am again on the story of Joseph, who is sold by his brothers into slavery. All seems lost, and hopeless, but in the end turns out to be just what God wanted to happen in His plan to save His people. After a bout as a slave, and then imprisoned, Joseph ends up being Pharaoh's right hand man, controls the grain storage during famine, and in the end, saves the nation as well as the family that had so long ago treated him so shabbily. It is a wonderful story of forgiveness, mercy, and hope in the midst of despair.

I have read the passage so many times that if I had a decent memory, I would know it by heart, word by word. Every time Joseph reveals himself to his brothers who have no idea he is still alive, I want to cry. He tells them not to worry, not to feel guilty over what they had done to him. He forgives them, telling them what they meant for harm, God meant for good. I crumple in a heap of tears and wonder over the transformation, the mercy, the forgiveness, the love... And especially over the intricate, inscrutable plan of God that brings the Phoenix from the ashes over and over and over again.

We all feel like Joseph at one time or another- betrayed by those we love, wrongly accused, in hopeless circumstances, certain there is no way out. What an encouragement it is to know that out of such impossible situations, Joseph was raised up by God to ultimately save his people. Look at all he overcame, with God at his side, through such unspeakable misery! What a glorious reminder that when things look their bleakest, the light breaking through is all the more magnificent, comforting and powerful, as it pierces through the blackest night.

2 Samuel 22:29 (NIV)
You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

-save a dog-