The hard way to go

Our nemesis can take so many benign shapes: the ambivalent, even sensual, beauty of the glossy red trike; the prospect of a day at the lake with my husband and children, proffering relaxation with one hand while holding all my unfinished work just out of my reach.

I had two weeks off from school. Two weeks full of catching up on all the things that slid through health crises and school deadlines, writing assignments, and loving and living as if this might be the last summer on this green earth, with these beautiful beings to hug and hold. The laundry was in piles - and I do mean that, plural! - the dishes were stacked up every morning, the floor needed mopping and I was beginning to feel as though I had forgotten to do my spring cleaning - back in the spring, months ago! Somehow I dug out the energy to scrub the cabinets and appliances, get the daily chores caught up, clean bathrooms with my newfound homemade Scrubbing Bubbles solution. Don't get me wrong - there is still a lot of organization to be done! But by the start of fall semester on August 28 (AUGUST, people! Need I say more?), I was beginning to feel as though perhaps I did defeat my nemesis (housework).

All this went spinning through my head the other morning as I stood in the bathroom cleaning out that darn old dry socket of mine. Trikes, frustration, lakes, drowning in duties...I was staring at a faded piece of green construction paper, tattered at the edges. It has been taped to my bathroom wall since 2005, and it's titled "Mama's Rules". I had just made a little chart of sorts for 2-year-old Katrina and baby Rosalie. I was determined to reward good behavior as a means of decreasing the number of times each day that I felt like pulling my hair out. Each child, as any parent knows, presents unique difficulties and joys. It is that familiar dance: positive/negative; curse/blessing; struggle/triumph. Echoed a million times over in the daily walk of this life. Katrina: I slowly descended into the daily-ness of motherhood tending to her small needs in her infancy; I marvel still at her caring, sweet spirit. Rosalie: I was challenged by the impenetrability of her stubborn streak; and awed by her creative, spontaneous playfulness. Amelia: her will to be respected cannot be brooked; her passionate, intense loyalty and work ethic put me to shame. Caleb: his demand for attention rivals all the other voices of the household; his tender desire for touch and tenderness brings out the softness of my experienced motherhood.

Those "Mama's Rules" were wrought of a time that constituted my own personal watershed. It was the moment when I realized that to be blessed is not unmitigated joy. That no matter what prayers are answered, earth is not heaven. Life is not perfect. I was newly married, I had two beautiful daughters and a newly constructed home I could hardly believe was mine, situated in the country on acreage. A hard-working husband who worked overtime to keep me at home with the children. Yet those freedoms and joys became the bars that surrounded my personal prison. I longed for intellectual stimulation, the ability to alleviate some of our financial burdens, the opportunity to escape the daily, albeit minute, demands of childcare; spend a morning sleeping in, or get my shower before 11 a.m.; shed my pajamas for some scrubs. Trade the trivial chores of motherhood (feeding, clothing, teaching) for the seemingly more measurable chores of a nursing career (the feeding, clothing, teaching of the ill and their families). Be done with my work when a shift ended. Here was the iron truth of Scripture, in living flesh and blood: for I was being saved through childbearing (I Timothy 2) daily, hourly, in each minute and second as I allowed my selfishness to succumb to a newly awakening selflessness of motherhood. Using the bathroom with the door open...showering every other day...shouldering puke and touching poop...teaching the alphabet...kissing scrapes...soothing the ruffled feathers after a sisterly battle...finding new ways to teach something for the 100th time. They all constitute sacrifice of self for other: mother for child.

If you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:8)

BE KIND to children, husband, dogs & friends...
Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

NO FUSSING OR POUTING when kids fuss & pout!
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)

CLEAN BODY & MIND self-control & patience!
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly kindness; to brotherly kindness, love. (II Peter 1:6)

NO COMPLAINING when there are chores to do...
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family, and portions for her servant girls. (Proverbs 31:15)

SCHOOLTIME once per weekday.
The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left unto himself disgraces his mother. (Proverbs 25:15)

So I set out my boundaries with a piece of borrowed construction paper and a Sharpie. Setting fenceposts in my mind, and, consequently, my life, with a few words of God and reminders from the shackles that threatened my brain. Bullet points that I hoped would bleed into habits and, from them, effectiveness where idleness and snarling selfishness used to lurk. The showpiece of redemption: for I am set apart for good works through Christ's holy Work on the cross that day thousands of years ago. (Ephesians 2)

Behold! He is making all things new...whatever you're going through, whatever you've been through, trust that the God who loves you is in control and is redeeming your life in and through your circumstances. "It matters to me that this is true, not merely interesting, not merely comforting. The chaos of this life, the flood waters, have closed over my head. Yet I choose against despair. I believe that death will one day die, that the love of God will prevail. In the meantime, even if the rest of my path lies in shadow, I will follow the Lamb in trust and in hope. It may be that faith is no more and no less a choice between the words 'it may be so' and 'I will live as if it is so'." (Jared C. Wilson quotes Thomas Schmidt in his book, Your Jesus is Too Safe)

I heard whispers of God at a broken-down honky tonk concert on the crowded fairgrounds, surrounded by the din of humanity and the cacophany of a million confused mixed metaphors as a blues guitar sang in mournful treble and melodic bass pulsed in time to the beat of some heathen drums:

There was a long time
no matter how I tried
the years they just rolled by
like a broken down dance

Make me an angel
that flies from Montgomery
Make me a poster
of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing
that I can hold on to
to believe in this livin'
is just a hard way to go

~ Make Me an Angel, Bonnie Raitt

Fathers & sons

What time I am afraid,
I will trust in Thee.
In God I will praise his word,
in God I have put my trust;
I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Psalm 56:3-4

Since 1979, this father-son team have compiled some amazing totals: 229 Triathlons, 6 Ironman distances, 20 Duathlons, 66 Marathons, 84 Half Marathons, 212 10K races, 149 5 Milers, and 108 5K races, among others. Their total events thus far are 984. Dick is now 65, and still going strong: Rick, his son, is 37, still non-verbal and immobilized by spastic cerebral palsy. The Hoyt's staunch refusal - back in 1962! - to institutionalize or marginalize their son is awe-inspiring. After realizing that Rick understood their jokes around the age of 4 years old, they began working to educate him and develop a means of communication for him. He has since graduated from college without assistance other than physical aid, and works in scientific research at Boston College. The computer that was developed with funding from his parents and their church family is the same one many trapped in a non-verbal body use: the computer uses a variety of tap and head motion sensors to painstakingly type letters out onto a screen and speak them in an automated "voice". This short film from Youtube reminds me of my husband, and his determination to love and provide for children with disabilities. Whatever obstacles still lie ahead, I just know deep in my heart that he is going to make just as wonderful a dad as Dick Hoyt has been to his "differently-abled" son. What an inspiring story this is!

How to respond?

Getting to know someone through their writing is undoubtedly difficult. Even the most eloquent writer fails to capture the entirety of life within the limitations of their character alphabet, those finite combinations of letters and sounds that meld together as in imperfect portrait in text. Just like the rest of the art forms, what comes through is a collection of impressions, viewpoints, ideas. But not the whole. I realize I may have been remiss in filling in the blanks in my attempt to be succinct and more contemplative in style, to the exclusion of reporting hard facts and boring details. So here, in a few bullet points, I aim to make more clear my vision for this, my life, in the next five years, adoption included.

1) School is one of my great joys. I love being a student and look forward to being a university educator someday. I commenced my education at this busy juncture of my life based on the availability of federal student aid repayment programs addressing the nursing faculty shortage. I will work for four years post-graduation, full-time, completely online. This will be a similar workload to my current studies. I don't expect a drastic increase. Around the time my oldest is 12, and life is getting busier with children's commitments and activities, my career will be something that can slow down or pick up, if need be. I am committed to my life as a stay-at-home mother, and feel blessed by God and my dear, supportive husband and family that I have the opportunity to advance my education to allow me to make money - and stimulate my brain and help shape the brains of thousands of young nurses - all from my front room desk. I don't believe there is anything wrong with finding ways to augment your family income, as long as you keep God, husband, and children a priority high above career goals or material possessions. Two thousand years ago, I might have been a seller of purple (Acts 16:14) or the businesswoman of Proverbs 31. Thirty years ago, I might have done day care from home, sold Watkins door-to-door with my children accompanying me, or taken in sewing or editing work. In today's world, I'm a grad student preparing for a life as an online educator. I don't believe that goal is incompatible with parenting...otherwise I wouldn't be doing it!

She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes. (Proverbs 31:16-19)

2) Adoption lights me up. It is my opinion that I am much too comfortable with my standard of living, my easy schedule, and my level of commitment and service to others. Adoption is something both I and my husband feel called to do. We feel it would be remiss not to continue to knock on that door (which takes at least 2 years to open, at the least) despite what we see as insurmountable difficulties standing in the way. We have the approval of my physicians to go ahead with this plan, envisioning better health just around the corner. As it stands, my health in no way incapacitates me as a mother to my current four children, who are vibrant, healthy, clean, intelligent, curious, and in other ways well cared for. Those who know me "off paper" would assure you this is true. That being said, we won't add another child to our family until the current health storm is sufficiently resolved. It takes exorbitant energy and time to connect with a child who has lived a life of deprivation, loneliness, solitude, and destitution. I will only take that on when I can do so with a good reserve of both time and energy. That isn't today...but it might be two years from now, or four, or six!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important then clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-27, 34

3) I believe in hard work. I believe working hard develops character and allows me to fully live my days here on earth, instead of wasting them in lazy repose. I don't think I need much beyond food in my belly and clothes on my back to live for Christ. I am willing to give up or use up the rest of my material possessions in serving others. I think it is silly postmodern mentality to believe that one woman can only care for four children. I admire the beautiful community I see develop in larger families, where older children undoubtedly take on some minor care duties of younger children, and younger children learn from siblings as well as parents. Counter to our current consumer culture, I believe children should be taught an attitude of service from an early age. In some ways, a large family is a natural counterbalance for selfishness, idleness, and loneliness.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it. (Genesis 9:7)

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

I think sixteen children is more than I, personally, can handle. But five, six, seven or eight doesn't scare me a bit. My biggest concern about mothering a large family is what type of vehicle will be required to convey us from point A to point B. I think everyone's limit is different. After all, we all have different talents, resources, and missions in life. I am certain I have been placed on this mission of mothering, and I don't want to limit my perception of my capacity for hard work based on culturally-defined "norms" for family size. After all, it's only been a few generations since families routinely had seven or eight children.

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her... (from Proverbs 31)

Some readers might be confused why I go into detail about these thoughts at this point. Part of my purpose is transparency: I write from the perspective of my life circumstances, my faith, and my vision for the future. It seems only fair to divulge those details when constructive to do so, as a source of encouragement and explanation. Also inherent in the blogging process are the anonymous comments of critique. I've gotten a few lately, and because these readers asked for a response, I decided to do so. In the future, I don't plan to respond to anonymous comments. If you wish to engage me in constructive dialogue, I would be more than happy to do so. Please leave your name at the bottom of your comment if you do not have a blogger account. Otherwise, I have no way to identify where the comment originated from.

Making do

Homemade Laundry Soap
1 bar Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castille Soap
4 gallons warm water
1/2 c borax flakes
2 Tb vanilla extract

Bring four cups of water to a rolling boil. Grate soap bar using a box grater and add to water with vanilla extract. Stir until dissolved. Pour into 5 gallon bucket with rest of warm water. Add borax flakes. Let stand for 24 hours, then place in buckets or laundry soap containers you have saved. Safe for septic systems and low-sudsing, so works wonderfully as a high-efficiency washer detergent.

In the glint of the suds, I see the miracle of clean water and pure soap all mixed together in a fragrant slurry that will bring me a thousand small pleasures in the weeks to come. It is a savings of about $24, this one batch of soap. $24 more towards bringing a child home, or buying supplies for an orphanage, or sending something to someone hungry. I recently read the story of a missionary that reminded me very much of my early 20's. It is hard, sometimes, to not feel sidetracked by what has happened in the intervening years. Even that phrase - intervening years - reflects my heart, this feeling of what if I missed my calling, what if it was a clinic and orphanage in Honduras, what if I'm not supposed to be resting today in a pleasant farmhouse full of healthy, well-fed children in the country?

He whispers: Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions (Ecclesiastes 7:10). There's no going back, except perhaps in the future, with a slew of my own children in tow. As I stir my soap, the questions rise up like foam. Questions upon questions, mostly without answers. I don't know why I'm here, in this culture, in this house, with these children. Except that I am sure God put me here for a purpose. Is that purpose a wonderful group of needy orphans to care for and love within my own borders? A mission field far off that needs my money? A mission field that needs my skills? A nursing school to build in a third-world country?

My own "needs" seem overwhelming: the federal budget cutbacks have meant less funding for school this year - to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. I'm not sure at the moment how I'll make up the difference. This little bit of information put it in perspective: based on annual salary, I am in the top 0.87% of the worlds wealthy.

Here's hoping that means I can afford school for the last 2 semesters!

Business of living

It is 10 a.m. and I am still blissfully dressed in my pajamas. However, it is not as lazy as it might sound: I was up from 1 a.m.-5 a.m. with a fussy baby, who proceeded to throw up all over the floor at 7:30 a.m. Which at least helped me understand the sleepless night, I guess. My writing has been so sporadic over vacation, partially because of "vacationing" in an intellectual sense, at least - if not physically, partly because the consequent demands of housewifing and child rearing build up through the semester and reach critical mass when more of my time becomes suddenly available.

The laundry hasn't been caught up since we returned home from South Carolina. Ants are threatening to walk away with all our food (if you have a natural ant repellent suggestion that is non-toxic to pets and children, send it my way). I quite suddenly had to grind 30 pounds of venison scrap this week because we went and picked up the annual side of beef from a local farmer. Extra childcare duties, school review with Katrina, organization for school's start in early September, and curriculum development duties for the newly christened Thul Home School have all demanded time. All that adds up to very little time to write. And a chaotic, shambled household in those awkward teenage stages of the organization project.

In the midst of all these details of normal living, I am busy preparing for a 3-day hospital stay at Mayo-St. Mary's starting September 3rd. I will be worked up for a more specific diagnosis of my dysautonomic syncope (fainting). Hopefully I will emerge with a clear treatment plan. My current medication regimen is working (somewhat) and I am becoming more aware of my triggers and pre-syncope symptoms, so life has improved since mid-July in the fainting department. I am also busy researching adoption and helping to get an Adoption Ministry on it's feet at Cedarcreek, using resources from Steven Curtis & Mary Beth Chapman's Shaohannah's Hope Foundation.

Add to all that chaos weddings, day trips, helping a sibling move, meetings, and park playdates, and it has been a busy month. My anniversary is fast approaching. I hope that in 50 years I still look at my husband and he looks at me like this.

My brother Ben & his wife Megan dance in late July.

One night as I was lying beside my baby girl
Singing her a lullaby to help close out the world
she opened up her eyes and began to stare at mine
then she spoke a word that will never leave my mind

She said, Hey mama, I can see myself in your eyes,
then she drifted off to sleep cuz she didn't realize
that she had touched my heart so deep
that I will forever keep lovin'
not be too busy livin'

I watch her as she plays, stylin' in my dress shoes
Talking on her princess phone saying all the things I do
And I know she is listening and watching me so close
Lord, help me be the mom she needs as I watch my baby grow

For sometimes when we just let life get in the way
The time for makin' memories get lost in the day
Precious are the moments between preschool and prom
And before you know it, the day for leaving comes along

~ Too Busy Livin', Amy Douglas

Summer is sweet

The diversions of the dog days of August have been filling every nook and cranny of life. Yesterday, it was canning at a neighbors house.

Today, I had a cardiologist appointment to adjust medications, as I am still fainting (ick). I am also running to the dentist (with the company of my faithful family chauffeurs) every 3 days to get my dry socket packed with an antibacterial gauze. I developed a systemic infection once the tooth was removed (double ick!). Praying for quick healing as it is sapping my energy.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity... For there the Lord commanded the blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133)

Happiness is...

...spinning your big sister in circles for a first try at Pin-the-Nose-on-the-Sheep...

...playing charades for the first time ever...

...sitting in your sleeping bag, wearing your pajamas, and "swapping whoppers" with your friends...

...unlimited access to bowls of candy at 10 in the morning...

...surviving to see your baby turn six.

...According to a USA TODAY/Kaiser Foundation/Harvard study, 63 percent of cancer survivors say the disease changed their lives in some positive way. Some of the positive changes listed were such things as a renewed sense of confidence, a greater appreciation for their own endurance, a questioning of their priorities and an increase in their coping abilities. (The Upside of Cancer)


You look at the colors,
vibrant and rich, the color of life,
and you understand how painters
and poets go mad, trying

to paint something so perfect
that to begin,
is to fail.

~ Tom Atkins writes at Quarry House ~

The garden is full of bulbous kohlrabi, scarlet tomatoes, the crimped edges of lettuce leaves calling to the rabbits. It is the busy days of blanching, freezing, canning, pickling. In between it all, I am still fainting. And living crazily, trying to fit everyone and everything in. Sucking the marrow out of the long hot days of summers end.

Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
(Proverbs 15:17)

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer's ending, a sad, momentous song. "Summer is over and gone," they sang. "Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying." The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summer cannot last forever. Even in the most beautiful days of the whole year - the days when summer is changing into fall - the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change. "How many nights till frost?" sang the crickets. "Goodbye summer, goodbye, goodbye!"
~ E.B.White, Charlotte's Web ~

What could possibly go wrong?

Fainting at the dentist's office doesn't seem like it should be that unusual. But perhaps that is my illogical fear of dentists showing through. Anyway, that was my day. Arrive at the dentist. Sit in chair. Talk with assistant about possible complications. Receive injection of lidocaine & epinephrine into gums and cheek from friendly and rather rushed oral surgeon. Promptly faint. Come to with your head down and legs in the air. Hear your blood pressure: 60/40. Hear your pulse: 200. Hear assistant on the phone with the operator, trying to dial 911. Everyone realizes you've come to. Questions: do you have a heart condition? Have you ever fainted before? (Try to answer but realize your tongue has gone entirely numb from the local anesthetic) Hear oral surgeon on the phone with your cardiologist's nurse. Get scolded for not wearing a giant red sign that says, "I might faint for no good reason." Resume extraction of rotten tooth.

That's how I discovered I should always tell a doctor or oral surgeon I might not tolerate epinephrine - even if it's just injected into the inside of my cheek. I find it rather hilarious that this is how my body is made. That a needle of anesthetic at the dentist could trigger such a cascade of events. That I am asked to shoulder this burden without complaining - and without bursting out laughing when I come to in a dentist's office with a dentist pawing my oral cavity and a hygienist dialing an ambulance. What a sense of humor the Big Guy Upstairs must have!

Sorry. I believe I may have just waxed laconic to a rather large audience. I should probably have take my friend Amy's advice and avoid writing while under the influence of pain medication. All I have to say is, minus one rotten molar, I am doing alright, fainting at the dentist's notwithstanding. I am still here, anxiously awaiting that appointment September 2nd with the eminent physician at Mayo who may, just may, be able to decipher this entire mess. Until then, on I go, forward through whatever the road ahead may hold.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (from I Corinthians 12)

My baby is six!

Six years ago, she finally came out to meet us at 10:17 a.m.! All 23 1/2 inches, 8 pounds, 1o ounces of her! And she was such a beauty then...

And still is today! I am blessed to have mothered her for six years, and pray today that I will be here mothering her for decades to come. She is becoming a beautiful young woman with a sweet, helpful spirit and willing and capable hands. What a treasure!

(German, "pure")
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. Psalm 19:9a

(French, "renowned warrior") spoke in a vision, to your faithful people you said: "I have bestowed strength on a warrior; I have exalted a young man from among the people." Psalm 89:19

In the blink of an eye

I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life
~ By Your Side, Tenth Avenue North ~

I tried to go to sleep without writing this post. I pushed it out of my mind all day, and it came back in shivering, convulsing detail as soon as my mind was wandering before sleep. Every mother's nightmare. Today I almost watched my baby son die.

He's mechanical, that child. Can take anything apart if he watches you do it once. And I'm not exaggerating. I can't wait to watch how God uses that gift in his life. For now, he is happiest taking lids off jars and putting them back on, opening and closing doors endlessly, taking the screws out of my pan lids, and off the outlet covers. Inquisitive. It can be a wonderful trait - or a deadly one. Today, the door he opened was the front door. I was in the bathroom - just for a moment - with both the bedroom and bathroom door hanging wide open, as usual. I haven't gone to the bathroom alone during the day for years! I didn't hear the door open, or close. I just noticed the house was quiet, and hurried about my business, washed my hands (I'm a nurse, it's a compulsion by this point), and came out to see what the kids had gotten into.

No kids in the house. I figured they were out playing on the porch. But as I passed the windows on my way to the front door, I saw him standing there, a million miles away. Down the road, walking along in the middle of the driving lane. Every molecule in me exploded into action and I flew out the door, nearly knocking my niece over as I raced past her, still standing safely at the top of the driveway. Amelia was at the bottom, standing on the very last grain of sand, knowing she wasn't allowed off the gravel driveway and onto the road. Calling out to her baby brother, warning him it was dangerous to be walking on the road. The rocks cut my feet until they bled, and I never noticed. What I did notice was the ominous sound of a large truck flying down the road toward us at about 55 miles per hour. Deadly speed. The driver didn't see him in time to stop. The thirty pound speck of human flesh that is beloved, every inch of him beloved to me - standing stock still in the road as the truck rushed toward him. Waving his hands in glee. The driver must have seen him just about 25 yards before he hit him. The thud and boom of his brakes skidding in a hot last attempt to slow down, the passing bleat of a hundred decibels piercing forth from his horn. He swerved around my baby, the whole grain truck heaving over on it's axles. I screamed and probably swore, I suppose. (Knowing me.) Then dragged every last centimeter of breath into my lungs and screamed, "Come here, Caleb Aaron!" in my most commanding and sinister motherly tone. The truck was past, danger averted for the moment. I reached the end of the driveway and was out on the road before he could even turn to obey. Squeezing the air out of him, crying, praying, gritting my teeth at the awfulness - and mercy - of the whole event.

In the blink of an eye, everything could have changed. But it didn't. Those awesome truths of life and death, those same truths that came crashing in on me last summer when cancer came knocking, blew past in a split second today on the six wheels of a grain truck on a lonely country road. It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (Acts 1:7) Just before all this happened, I sat talking to a friend about guardian angels. I went searching for the Biblical evidence on this tonight, when I couldn't sleep. And there it was, in my favorite Book, laid out in black and white.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. (Psalm 91:11)

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:10)

And to which of the angels has he ever said,"Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet"? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14)

I knew from watching my own mother for years past that this day would come. The day I would really understand what she meant when she called it a great accomplishment to get all my brothers and I -alive - to our 18th birthday. I know more, now than ever, that prayer is a mother's greatest ally in the protection of her children. It is impossible to anticipate every twist and turn of this life, to thwart death for yourself and four other little souls in your care. There is only one being in heaven and earth who can do that, and it is not me. There was absolutely nothing I could do today to physically stop my son from being crushed by the bumper of that oncoming truck. Nothing but enlist the help of an almighty God and His host of angels.

That, and install some deadbolts that lock with a key from the inside. Which I'll be doing tomorrow.

And everything You hold in Your hand
Still You make time for me
I can't understand
Praise You God of Earth and sky
How beautiful is Your unfailing love
Unfailing love
~ Unfailing Love, Chris Tomlin

Remember finals week?

...where all genuine worship starts, and where it often returns for a dark season, is the barrenness of soul that scarcely feels any longing, and yet is still granted the grace of repentant sorrow for having so little love: "When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you" (Psalm 73:21-22)...He is also glorified by the spark of anticipated gladness that gives rise to the sorrow we feel when our hearts are lukewarm. Even in the miserable guilt we feel over our beastlike insensitivity, the glory of God shines. If God were not gloriously desirable, why would we feel sorrowful for not feasting fully on His beauty? Even though this falls short of the ideal of vigorous, heartfelt adoration and hope, yet it is a great honor to God. We honor the water from a mountain spring not only by the satisfied "ahhh" after drinking our fill, but also by the unquenched longing to be satisfied while still climbing to it.

~ Worship, Desiring God, John Piper

My eyes burn, my thoughts spark sluggishly from one topic to the next. Ahhhh, finals week. All my synapses are consumed with the intellectual tasks at hand, with nary a spare moment to think of anything else. Even writing these few paragraphs feels like trying to squeeze water from a rock! I have been blessed this week with help with childcare (thanks, Mom & Heather!). And I've gotten a lot done. Today a paper is just about ready for submission to an international journal, imagine that! Would be wonderful to see some success in the publication department.

Consequently, I feel my spiritual life is a bit limp this week. I appreciated this quote for Piper, which reassures me that longing is worship as much as feasting. This is a week of fatigued dragging myself into God's presence with little energy for joy or service. So I lay that at God's feet, too. Along with simple praise for strength and brain-power for a busy week of schoolwork.

Oh, say can you see?

I will walk about in freedom,
for I have sought out your precepts.
I will speak of your statutes before kings
and will not be put to shame...
Psalm 119:45-46

I really considered posting something political. It's not that I lack the guts - although there is a time and place for political rants, and that's outside the purpose of my writing here - it's that I don't really know how to frame my thoughts in coherent, readable words. I have a rather amorphous desire to pass on a fierce patriotism, an elemental belief in certain inalienable rights, the drive to pursue a culture and a government that embraces independence, personal fortitude and excellence, and joy in living...the hallmarks of this nation from it's inception in a time when nations were looking for something to hope in. Being nannied by my government does not fit well with those ideologies.

Instead of a laundry list of my concerns for my nation, I am compelled to think about the substance of the legacy I want to leave for my children in this area, as in others. Love. Yes, love. I think that encapsulates my current cognitive meanderings on the state of affairs we find ourselves in today. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you: say, for instance, it was your team that won the election - would you want to hear a bunch of sour grapes from the other side? Love one another: in hard times especially, it is our love for others, our service of others, that will show our true inner colors. In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God: when the political climate favors Christians, and when it persecutes them, give thanks. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God: freedom is relatively illusory here on earth. While we pray for our leaders and pray for the situations that concern our daily lives, we must remember always that worry accomplishes nothing. It won't change the eventual outcome, nor will the outcome change eternity. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself: political pundits decrying incrementalism and relativism would do well to heed this basic truth. For, as Christ said, who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

I pray for this country every day, my children with me. I wonder where the next fifty years will find us. I still think it's incredible that we've come this far past the 200 year mark that has heralded the downfall of many great civilizations of history. Most of all, I believe that the truth this nation was founded upon is never changing. And that is what has me looking up and singing while so many others hang their heads and cry.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
~ 4th stanza, our national anthem, penned hopefully by Francis Scott Key in 1814

When dreams creep in

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
~ I Chronicles 29:11 ~

Alaska was the long-awaited dream, a travel nursing assignment in Seattle but a brief career bridge to the vast unknown. Aaron grew his hair out for a year before going. Put on the mountain man exterior, brown curls, overgrown beard, purchase after purchase of wool clothing. I remember snowboarding with him the very first time we did something together outside of work: he wore thick green wool army pants, hunting boots, red suspenders, a blue plaid wool shirt, and a dark wool watch cap with rolled brim. He looked for all the world as though he had descended on Hennepin County from the backwoods somewhere...well, very much north of Minneapolis!

I presented what was supposed to be a short detour in the plans to move - probably forever - to the wilds of our furthest state. We laid grand plans to move together shortly after our wedding. Eight weeks later, we were faced with an unexpected blip: baby on the way, and the consequent decision that we should stay closer to home until we got a handle on this parenthood thing.

I finally realized sometime this spring that he was probably waiting until we could afford for both of us to go there. He had turned down a few offers of a short trip from his dad, who frequently works there, Aaron's hallowed ground. Once I told him he should go without me this first time, plans were in motion quickly. Four days, a lodge on the Kenai peninsula, and some halibut fishing on the open sea rounded out the docket.

How do I speak love into the life of a man made for wilderness, who lives in a busy home filled with busy, noisy, and inquisitive offspring? How do I maximize this time we have together, instead of succumbing to the longing and dreaming for a different time or season that may or may not ever come? I struggle with this frequently, more so tonight as I look over the photos of this man I love beaming as he bounces along on the sunny ocean hundreds of miles from the nearest metropolis. I need to figure out how to reach him here, in this time and place. I long to see that same smile light up semi-rural Wisconsin. I don't want to wait for the day when we can finally get to the wilderness together again. I trust God is watering his soul here, too. And pray for ingenuity in serving the lumberjack man God gave me while deep in the trenches of living a busier existence.

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. ~ Isaiah 32:17

I think I'll go up to Alaska, I think I'll be on that train tonight
Heard that there's work there, heard that there's six months of daylight
Heard that the train stops in Seattle, where you can get your feet back on the ground
I think I'll go up to Alaska where the heat of the summer's comin' down

Woke up this mornin' with some heavy troubles on my brain
Gotta hold your head up when every one in town knows your name
But I've got some money in my back pocket from some steady job that I been holdin' down
I think I'll go up to Alaska where the heat of the summer's comin' down

I've got a suitcase made of alligator skin
Hope that it makes it through whatever situation I get in
Boots made of leather, my coat's for the weather, and you won't find me hangin' 'round
I think I'll go up to Alaska where the heat of the summer's comin' down
I think I'll go up to Alaska where the heat of the summer's comin' down
~ Alaska, Kate McLeod

Who is steering?

...take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. ~ James 3:4-5

Cancer reared it's ugly head at the dentist, of all places. I had an appointment with an endodontist about a tooth that has been bothering me. Turns out it was damaged irreparably by bacteria that were able to take over when my salivary glands dried up after my radioactive iodine treatment in November. I have quite a few teeth suffering the effects of cancer treatment, and received the very unwelcome news that implants or dentures are almost certainly in my future, at a relatively young age. My bone has also been damaged by the radiation and loss of calcium after my parathyroid glands were removed, so implants may not be an option for me at all.

Call me vain, but I'm not exactly a fan of dentures. In fact, dentures have been a phobia of mine since I was a small child. Now it looks as though that might be my reality. Not something I faced with aplomb on Thursday, let me tell you! It is difficult to face these incremental losses. Teeth are such a little thing, but so big! Without them, for instance, what would my smile look like? How will I chew well to avoid choking due to my persistent vocal cord paresis? Will I have to give up a host of foods I enjoy?

I am reminded that I have choices to make. I can be undone by a waterfall of little things: news about my teeth, pain in my jaw, children sick, husband gone, animals misbehaving, inability to drive out to get groceries, milk, or take my sick kid to the doctor. Or I can bring glory to God by enduring these little things - either by succeeding in surviving and thriving through these small difficulties, or by repenting and allowing myself to be changed when I fail in them.

These pictures may seem totally unrelated to my words, at first glance. Looking carefully, note the frustration on Amelia's face as she tries to push Caleb in the first photo. An inexperienced driver at the helm, the task is almost impossible. Yet, when Amelia takes the handles and steers, and Caleb puts his head down and does the unskilled labor - pushing the trike - everyone is all smiles. So is life, and difficulty, with God: put Him at the wheel, let Him make the decisions and steer the rudder, and yours cares will be few and your joy great. Pray only for strength, using your own three pound brain to guide your course, and you will find a hard row to hoe in front of you. It is the symbiosis of both supernatural strength and guidance that will best lighten the load of the little things that are threatening to undo me today.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. ~ Psalm 25:4-6, 8-10