Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday morning, 12/31/12

2012 is drawing to a close; time to look back and see what God has done for us, what we have done for God, and how we can improve in the new year..........

You know that Christmas song that starts with "And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?"  I've never listened to the rest of the song, just that first line, but I don't like it at all.  It makes me feel worthless just thinking about it---what have I done since this time last year?  Have I really done anything worthwhile?  My preacher spoke last night about making the new year count for Christ by doing more things in line with what the Bible says is important:  faithfulness to church, staying in God's Word, winning souls to Christ, etc.  I know he's right; after all, he's only preaching what God Himself tells us in the Scripture is right to do.  But I really wish that some of the other things I've surrounded myself with were listed more specifically as "God's plan for a successful new year."  Things like pouring myself into the students in my class, trying so very hard to stay within my husband's carefully outlined budget, training my children up to live their lives for God (daily, hourly, same things over and over!), making sure my kids do their chores, making time to listen to friends when they need to talk, reminding Dale how to walk with good posture, even writing this blog.  Oh, I know that most of these things are, in a roundabout way, linked to God's desires and Biblical commands.  I just found myself last night wishing I could hear each piece of my busy life mentioned from the pulpit as a step on the ladder of success in God's eyes.  Our preacher says, "If you're too busy to serve God, you're too busy."  He's right, but what do I change to do better?  Do I cut out going grocery shopping?  Do I stop talking to my friends?  These things aren't wrong to do, but are they right?

And then I realized:  I'm looking at things backwards.  The idea is not to tell God to be pleased with what I choose to do but to make sure I do things that I know are pleasing to God.  If I want God to grant me success in my life, I must do the things He's already said will bring that success.  I shouldn't expect Him to change His ideas of right or important behavior; I should change mine.  Teaching my students, training my children, assisting Dale, doing housework (on occasion!), shopping for groceries---these are all necessary parts of daily life here on Earth. God never intended for us to do nothing all day but go soul winning, read our Bibles, and pray.  To borrow a phrase, we'd be so heavenly-minded that we'd be no earthly good!  Besides, someone has to buy food for the family; someone has to teach school; someone has to walk with Dale up and down the stairs.  It's silly (and detrimental) to think that, by going through daily life with all that it brings, I am in some way failing God.  He gave me this life, after all.

The key, however, is to make sure I keep God at the very center of my busy life.  God should not be simply one of the many things I "do" each week or even each day.  I should not consider going to church as something I have to do in order to check that off my list. I need to change my attitude there; I can decide to develop and maintain an attitude of "I get to go to church today" instead of "Come on, kids; we have to go to church."  I can be sure I read my Bible every day and not just for three minutes.  Really---can I reasonably expect that God will be satisfied with me if I give Him three minutes out of each 24 hour period?  I can pray every day, multiple times, keeping God at the forefront of my thoughts and actions.  I can resolve to not only teach my students and my children the whats of God's desires but the whys as well.  I can take each part of what I already do and make sure I remember it is God Who gives me life; it is God Who is my strength; it is God Who is most important, not me or Chad or my "me time."  It is God.  Only then will I be a success in His eyes.  Only then will I please Him with my life.  Then I will be able to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

Dale continues to surprise us!  He hasn't had as much opportunity for exercise while we've been on Christmas break, spending most of his time either on the couch playing video games or at the table doing puzzles.  He has been very unsteady while walking, requiring someone to be nearby constantly and usually holding his hand.  But there have been times he's gotten up and walked on his own just fine, too.  Like last night:  when he was thirsty, instead of asking someone to get him a drink, he stood up, walked to the table, discovered his cup was empty, walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, took out the juice, and prepared to pour it.  Katie took pity on him because his hand was shaking---and because she would have to clean up any mess he made if his hand shook too badly!---and poured his drink for him.  Dale then took it, walked back to the table, set his cup down after drinking, and walked back to the couch.  Katie came and told us with a little smile of pleasure at Dale's decision to get up on his own.  Of course, all that was thrown out the window two minutes later when Dale, instead of walking around the couch to sit down, simply sat on the back of the couch and allowed himself to fall backwards onto the couch, trusting his ability (!) to right himself once he was on the couch completely.  While this sounds great, it wasn't---he landed in Emily's pizza!  So, any goodwill felt by the sisters toward their brother quickly dissipated.  To my knowledge, the pizza survived intact though a bit squashed, and everyone simmered down after a bit.  Ahhhh, life in the Ostrander household!!!

School resumes this week on Wednesday, January 2nd.  I had one parent who expressed dismay that we weren't taking at least one more day off.  She said they usually stay up all night (literally) on New Year's Eve and then spend New Year's Day recovering.  She wasn't looking forward to having to wake up early on the day following to get her child to school!  I understand completely; I'm dreading trying to get my five up Wednesday morning early after spending all Christmas break sleeping in.  But really, if we had waited to start school until Thursday, then we'd have parents saying, "Why are we only having two days of school this week?"  Either way, we have to go back to school sometime, so we may as well get it over with!

God bless you richly this year.  May you find His peace in your hearts and joy in your lives.  God loves you more than you realize; hold to that when you feel depressed or when times are tough.  He created you for a purpose, and it wasn't just to be miserable.  He has a very specific plan for your life; only by giving that life to Him will you discover the indescribable joy of living in the center of God's will.  Happy New Year!

Philippians 4: 7  "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday evening 12/23/12

Here we are tonight.......very thankful the world didn't end on Friday!  I've been fending off questions and discussions for a few weeks now from family and students alike, wondering why people thought the world would end and if I agreed.  Of course, only God knows the future; He alone knows when He will send His Son back to collect His bride.  Since the world cannot end without Revelation's prophecies being fulfilled---the rapture, marriage supper of the Lamb, etc.---I felt fairly secure in my belief that life would continue as usual after December 21, 2012.

However, I did take pause at the thought that we seem to be living just like the people in Noah's days.......eating, drinking, and making merry without any thought of God or truth and with many completely turning away from what God has established as right (homosexual "marriage", abortion, premarital sex, and so on).  I don't mean to preach---my kids might disagree!---but God is very clear in His Word about certain issues that some even in Christian circles simply ignore.  I don't think Noah was a perfect man, and the Bible never says anything about his wife or sons or their wives living righteous lives; but, obviously, Noah himself found grace in the eyes of the Lord by his actions and his walk.  It cannot be argued that, if we as Christians take a firm stand for God and right, there will be a difference in this country and around the world.  If we stop focusing on what we desire, on what we want to do with our lives, and on what we think is right, and instead focus on our Saviour and His wishes, the world would see a change in our behavior.  I'm guilty of the same thinking---"I don't see what's wrong with _______" or "If Jesus were alive today, He'd change His mind about _________."  It's not what we think that matters; it's what God has said.  And that goes both ways:  some need to stop trying to justify their actions and simply follow God's commands while others need to stop judging fellow Christians based on what they themselves believe.  God is the Judge; He will convict hearts. When we all get to Heaven, we'll probably find that each of us was wrong on some issue.  After all, none of us is perfect as we are, and that's the reason why God sent His Son.  That's the reason we celebrate Christmas.

Christmas is a promise kept.  God fulfilled His promise to us to send a Saviour to save us from our sins.  I'm so thankful God the Father sent His Son Jesus to be born as a babe in Bethlehem that night so long ago, but I'm even more thankful that I don't have to depend on a baby for my salvation.  Jesus grew to be a man and willingly went to the cross to suffer and die so that we might be saved.  He did all the saving work; all we have to do is accept His offer of salvation.  Oh, we can walk away.  We can choose to deny His royal birth, snub His righteous life, spurn His death for us.  But all that does is guarantee an eternity in hell, separated from the very One Who died for us.  Jesus wants so badly for us to be saved, He's even willing to have us turn our backs on Him once we accept His gift.  We don't have to sign up for a lifelong commitment or pledge hundreds of thousands of dollars after our salvation.  We can accept and leave it at that.  But why would we do such a heartless thing to God?  Why would we live the rest of our lives for ourselves instead of for the God of Heaven?  This Christmas, let's choose to give ourselves to God, to renew our commitment to our Saviour.  What a wonderful birthday gift that would be!

Dale has had such a shaky week!  Chad and I are trying to figure out why he's so unsteady, and the only thing we can blame is Dale's interrupted sleep schedule.  He's been getting to bed later than his usual bedtime of 9:00 p.m. for a couple of weeks now, due to Christmas excitement, last-minute stuff, and general laziness (on my part!).  Plus, for several days now, since we're out of school for Christmas break, Dale has been staying up even later and sleeping in each morning.  This also throws off his medication schedule.  So, Chad and I decided to make sure Dale gets to bed each night on time from now on (a decision met with groans by Dale) and his pills on time as well.  Hopefully these measures will help steady Dale's balance and walking.

This morning as we were getting ready for church, we heard a small thump from Dale's room.  Chad looked at me and said, "Is he all right?"  Just then we heard a mournful "OUCH!!!" emanate from Dale's bedroom, which sent us rushing down the hall.  Lo and behold, Dale had fallen off his bed and scraped his nose on the carpet.  He said he wasn't doing any particular thing; his body just gave a tremendous jerk, and he couldn't prevent the resulting fall to the floor.  He tried to break his fall with his hands, but they wouldn't cooperate either.  So his nose wound up taking the brunt of the impact, leaving a painful scrape on the bridge and a smaller scrape towards the tip.  Poor guy just sat there whimpering in pain, fending off well-meaning questions about what had happened and wishing he could rewind the clock and stay in bed!  Then, it dawned on him that he would have to face everyone at church and explain why he was competing with Rudolph for the shiniest nose! Chad told him to tell folks that he cut himself shaving.  Then, when people laughed about his lack of aim, Dale could say, "I don't have much experience!"

I got Dale good this morning.  We were walking down the stairs (him - facing forward, me - facing backward) when Dale said, "I'm sorry you have to look at this ugly face." I responded, "It was ugly before the scraped nose!"  :-D  He laughed, which helped to raise his spirits again.

May your holidays be filled with friends, family, love, and laughter, and may all your wishes come true.  (That sounds so wonderful and hopeful but you know it'll never happen!  LOL!)  I do hope you will let the love of Christ shine richly through your lives this holiday so that those around you will be drawn closer to His light.  God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Matthew 1: 23  "Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday morning 12/16/12

Our hearts go out to the families of those who died Friday in Connecticut.  I learned about the tragedy mid-morning while at school, teaching.  I stopped my class in the middle of their math test, and we prayed for those who are left hurting after the violence.  I cannot imagine the pain a mother or father must feel, losing their little child so close to Christmas, or of the families left behind when their teacher, mother, or father dies, especially under such terrible circumstances.  May God continue to comfort their hearts now and throughout the holidays and, indeed, the rest of their lives.

This comes on the heels of the mall shooting in Portland, OR, much closer to home.  One of my close teacher friends has a friend who was in the mall that day, wrapping presents just outside of Macy's for a church fundraiser.  This lady and the people with her had to hide under the table skirting with the shooter walking around within 12 feet of them.  They could hear the shells pinging off the floor as he fired each bullet.  God kept the shooter from discovering where they were hiding, and, once he left the area, they were able to race to safety.

This country needs God.  Period.  Sin has so corrupted this world and the inhabitants therein that tragedy and violence happens every day somewhere.  People need the Lord; they need Him to cleanse their lives of sin, not just so they can go to Heaven someday but so that they stop hurting people here on Earth.  The only cure for sin in Jesus.  It's obviously not church or money or welfare or gun control. It's not politics or environmental protection or national days of prayer or even Christmas.  It's Jesus.  Please don't be shy in telling folks about Him.  Don't assume that they "know" you're a Christian and will want to be saved because of that.  Tell them about a Saviour Who came as a baby, yes, but then grew to be a man and lived a holy life and died to save us from our sins.  And then didn't stay dead!  He arose from the grave to ensure life everlasting for all who wish it.  Tell everyone about a loving God Who made a way that we might be saved.  That is the only way to ease the chokehold Satan and sin has on the human race.

And now, about Dale.........

Dale has had a very shaky week.  It seems like he's fallen every morning during his get-ready time, and I think he's fallen at school just about every day as well.  So he now sports new scrapes and bruises in various locations about his body.  Poor guy!  He just sits there shaking until his limbs settle down, and then he gets up and tries again.  The fear of falling doesn't keep him from trying to walk like it used to, but it does make him more cautious!!!  He tends to jut his head forward like a turtle and bend his knees slightly as if preparing to fall at any moment.  While I understand the thought behind these actions, his stance does not help his confidence or his balance!  We've spent the last week arguing pros and cons of posture, and, to be honest, I don't think I won.  :-)  But Dale is still Dale, still making jokes and being goofy and annoying his sisters.  Thank God for that........I think!

Our God definitely answers prayers.  He loves to answer big ones, and He loves to answer small prayers that nobody even knows you're praying about.  On Wednesday, I began feeling strange.  On Thursday, the feeling intensified; by Thursday night, it was apparent that I had developed a UTI.  For those of you who have experienced this, all the ordinary symptoms were present, making me very uncomfortable.  I began drinking cranberry juice straight (which I happen to like) and praying and praying and PRAYING!  All day Friday, no change.  I kept telling God, "You know we have no insurance until mid-February, and we can't afford any doctor bills.  You know this.  Please take this away; just heal it outright.  But (like the three Hebrew children) if You don't, I trust Your judgment and Your decision."  Friday night when I went to bed, no change.  Saturday morning when I woke up.........there was nothing wrong!!!  The burning, the pressure, the uncomfortable feeling---all gone!!!  God answered my prayer with a definite "YES!"  Thank You, Lord, for Your healing and for listening to my prayers.  You are WONDERFUL!

School gets out this week for us.  Two weeks off for Christmas holidays---yea!!!  I still have some stocking stuffer shopping to do, and I need to get one present for Chad---other than that, I think we're done!  I hope none of you waited until the last minute to get gifts because it's a madhouse out there.  If you did, well, you have my sympathy!  Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

John 3:16  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thursday afternoon 12/6/12

Praise the Lord for good days as well as bad !  It'd be nice if I could plan which days come when, but that doesn't seem likely!

We received a letter on Saturday stating that our insurance would be terminated effective Saturday, December 1st.  This was a surprise as we had just been told earlier that week that we would be covered through mid-December.  However, God's way is always best, and we are thankful for the coverage even through the end of November.  I had already picked up Dale's three-month supply of medication and gotten all immunizations possible, so we are as prepared as possible for the no-insurance phase we are now going through.

I called today to cancel Dale's EEG that we had rescheduled for Monday, December 10th.  I still need to cancel the time off I asked for in order to get him to that appointment.  I also had to cancel our dentist appointments slated for the third week of December for the kids and I; too bad---we really like our dentist.  Hopefully, none of us will need major medical care in the next two-and-a-half months, or we will be paying through the nose for it!  <:-{

It's taken Dale some time to get back to the casual rhythm of walking he had developed before Thanksgiving.  While we were home for Thanksgiving break, Dale didn't do a lot of walking.  This inactivity sapped his confidence and caused him to start taking two steps and stopping again.  Just Tuesday did Dale start going out of my classroom and walking around while the girls were practicing volleyball.  He was doing really well......until he tried to come back in my room and lost his balance.  He toppled over and knocked his head on the floor, leaving a small abrasion.  Dale took this to mean he had done enough walking for one day and sat down to recuperate!

Then, this morning, he was getting a shirt from his closet when his legs gave out.  This time when he fell, his back scraped down the edge of closet sliding door.  He has an eight-inch-long scraped section with some skin pulled up in the middle.  Dont' feel sorry for him---he felt sorry enough for himself.  He was boo-hooing and upset to the point of being angry at everyone and everything around him, as if blame should be assigned somewhere for his fall.  He was so busy yelling at the dog that he didn't notice how badly his arms were still shaking.  When he tried to brace himself to push up onto his knees, his arms gave way and he fell onto his face, adding to the abrasion already present.  I scolded him roundly for allowing his sin of anger to override his thankfulness to God for giving him life again.  Dale has been spewing a lot of anger and bad attitude toward everyone---Dad, Mom, sisters, God---at his shaky condition.  He doesn't like shaking and jerking; he doesn't like falling; he doesn't like not being able to run outside and play like he used to.  I reminded him that God didn't make a mistake when he saved Dale's life.  God didn't heal Dale half-way and expect him to make the best of it.  God is still using Dale today and will continue to do so in the future if Dale will align his attitude and desires with God's plan.  I told Dale he needs to talk to God about his anger, his fear, and his desires and be willing to listen to God's answers in return.  Dale listened to me and calmed down enough to admit I was right and his anger was wrong.  Please pray for him as he daily adjusts to God's new plan for his life.

Again, praise the Lord for good days and bad.  We have a wonderful, almighty God Who loves each of us infinitely.  We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; we have a Heavenly Father Who cares deeply about us and only wants the absolute best for us.  He designs our lives explicitly to give Himself the optimum glory.  We experience happiness and true joy when we accept His plans and work with Him toward making them real in our lives.

Jeremiah 42: 6  "Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday afternoon, 11/29/12

You know how rapidly life can change?  Just when it seems I have a handle on all of my responsiblilities, something comes along to mess up my well-laid plans.  As a teacher, I'm accustomed to having to be flexible.  The principal has the option to call an assembly on any given day, and I have to adjust my lesson plans to suit.  Or I get behind in my teaching, having spent much longer on a subject than I expected, and now I have to play "catch up" in order to stay on track.  This I can handle fairly well.

Life's challenges, on the other hand, require more flexibility and much more patience from me than I am usually ready to give.  I am the type of person who loves order and schedule.  I do not thrive on change; I do not eagerly accept monkey wrenches thrown into my routines.  I prefer to plan out my days months in advance!  This applies to Christmas gift shopping (I like to think ahead and find the perfect gift, and Chad prefers to walk into the store and get what speaks to him), family events (I want to know each detail so that I can be prepared for anything, while Chad is able to handle any situation thrown at him with ease and confidence), and---in recent days---health insurance.

Chad found it necessary to look for another job, as it has become obvious that his current job is not paying enough to meet our needs.  Randle's has been very good to us, letting Chad take time off when Dale had his accident last summer and giving him overtime as much as possible; but Chad looked at his options (no more overtime, possible layoff in the winter, rising prices) and decided to seek another job.  He applied to and was accepted at MBM, a trucking company who delivers products to Jack in the Box restaurants, among others.  This is exactly the same job Chad had before he switched to Randle's, except that the trucking company before was J. B. Hunt.  Now, MBM has the contract, and Chad looked into all the details before applying.  A lot of former coworkers now work for MBM, so Chad feels right at home.  He spent a couple of weeks in limbo, driving for Randle's (very gracious of them to let him keep working as long as possible) while filling out all the paperwork MBM needed.  Finally, after two days of no work, Chad got called in to work at MBM and has been working steadily since Wednesday, November 21.

The only downside to all this is.........we will not be covered under MBM's insurance until nearly the end of February!  We went through this no-insurance phase last summer when Chad began working for Randle's in June---and then Dale's accident occurred in August.  Chad threatened to keep all the kids at home for three months in the hopes that no incidents would occur!  I began to panic as I realized all the services we would be without, especially now that Dale has daily medical needs.  Since Chad was still working for Randle's through November 16th, I was able to get the kids their flu shots, the girls their updated immunizations, and Dale his first of three needed shots.  I thought our insurance coverage ran out on the 16th and that we would be unable to purchase more medicine for Dale.  I only had about a week's worth of pills left for him!  Plus, Dale needed the second shot in the series within the next few weeks, and he was scheduled for an EEG the end of December.  I called Marilyn, our Group Health case manager who always is a fountain of help, and asked for her advice.  She gave me some suggestions to try and then proceeded to connect me via a three-way call to the Customer Service department to find out the exact date of termination of our coverage through Randle's.  Turns out, we are still covered until mid-December.  So, I got busy on the phone!  I called the doctor's office/injection room and scheduled Dale's second shot; I called the pharmacy and was happy to realize I could order a three-month supply of Dale's medication, which I picked up the next day when Dale got his shot.  We then drove to downtown Tacoma to the Specialty Center to get Dale's blood drawn for the trough draw ordered by his neurologist; this being drawn roughly one hour before his next scheduled dose (bedtime!) enables the doctor to see if there is the right amount of medicine in Dale's bloodstream at all times.  Whew!

Today I was able to reschedule Dale's EEG for December 10th instead of the 31st.  Now it will be done while we are still under Group Health insurance---praise the Lord!  And, it's close enough to the date of Dale's last EEG (end of December 2011) that the doctor will be able to get a good idea of how Dale's brain is working........or not working, as the case may be!  :-)  So, I think we are all set for the gap in insurance policies.  Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men...........well, you know.  I'll plan as much as possible and prepare as much as I am able, but I'll do a lot of praying that nothing major happens to our family in the mean time!!!

Trusting God takes work, you know?  I confess:  I go through times where I feel I need to pray nearly constantly, asking God for help and guidance and praying He will work things out for His glory regardless of my personal wishes.  Then I go through times when life settles down somewhat and I feel I don't need to pray constantly, so I don't.  And then, when life throws me a curveball and things don't go according to plan---my plan---I don't have the close relationship with my Father that I need in order to be calm through life's storms.  You see?  Staying close to God through prayer and reading His Word benefits me tremendously; it allows me to trust God with every part of my being, while passing on His peace to those around me---unlike recent days where I've been short-tempered and anxious about things over which I had no control.  Trusting God enough to stay close by His side at all times good and bad enables Him to prove His wondrous ability to make all things work together for good.  And, when I let Him work all things, I can sit back stress-free and appreciate God's hand in my life.  It's a win/win situation!

I Peter 5: 7  "Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday evening 11/21/12

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I pray each of your homes will be filled with laughter, family, friends, and food.  I don't know what annual traditions your family holds, other than the usual stuffing the turkey and then stuffing yourself!  We tend to attempt the Norman Rockwell spread minus the creepy eyes staring at you from the corner of the scene.  :-D  No insult intended---I love Norman Rockwell pictures.  Each year we prepare a feast-laden table, situate ourselves around it somehow (did you know it can be difficult to seat seven people around a six-person table?), and eat to our heart's content.  Then, for the next few days, we munch on leftovers creatively disguised as casseroles.  Although, to be honest, with each added member of our family, the amount of leftovers has dwindled proportionately!

Do you have just turkey or do you serve ham as well?  We try to save the ham for Christmas dinner, but I think one year we may have had both.  My husband loves lots of marshmallows on the candied yams, which makes the kiddies happy---except Emily Rose, who can't stand sweet potatoes.  Something wrong with that one, I'm afraid!  We have green bean casserole (no leftovers there), cranberry sauce (the family's split on this one), rolls, corn, and the oh-so-necessary pumpkin pie with whipped cream (a must-have).  I fix gravy for everyone else, but I really don't care for it myself.  Sometimes we have mashed potatoes; sometimes not.  Regardless of the food, our family gets to gather once more and praise our Father for His goodness.

No matter what we do or don't have on our table tomorrow, we have much to be thankful for.  God has blessed us bountifully this year through friends, family, and our church.  His hand is evident in our lives, from the smallest detail of seeming little consequence to the biggest, most pressing need.  He has shown us again and again just how big He really is and how far-reaching His arm is to help.  Over and over we've had some problem---sometimes small, like missing car keys, and sometimes big, like this-bill-must-be-paid-NOW!  We will deliberately stop and pray, asking God to help us and solve our problem, and He has.  He'll reveal the location of the missing item even after we've looked there ten times, or He'll have a check show up in the mail, one we were not expecting but definitely needed.  Our God loves us and wants to meet our needs.  He said so in Philippians 4:19:  "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."  Now, to be honest, sometimes what we define as a need is actually just a want.  We don't need satellite TV or a new van, even though we desire those things.  We have to want what God wants us to have and be thankful for what He chooses to give us.  Not always easy but definitely worthwhile!

On a more personal note.........we have had to increase Dale's medication dosage because he had a seizure Sunday morning.  He was making his way into his Sunday school classroom when, just inside the doorway, his legs buckled.  I was on one side of him and his teacher was on the other to catch him; we both thought that supporting Dale until he got his legs under him was a good idea.  Dale didn't agree. He said, "Mom!" in an urgent voice which let me know he needed to sit down all the way and relax.  (He's said before that he has felt a seizure coming on.  It starts in his feet, making them feel like jello, and, if he stops trying to stand up, his feet will be fine and cooperate.)  The teacher and I lowered Dale to the floor, but there was not enough room for Dale to stretch his legs out.  As a result, his knees were up under his chin, and Dale just couldn't stop the seizure from taking over this time.  He said, "Mom.....Mom!" and then began seizing, thrusting his arms out in a stiffened position and blinking rapidly.  This seizure was no different from any other he has had in length of time or evident posturing.  I held him as best I could until he began relaxing, then laid him back on the floor and straightened his legs out.  There were a few junior high kids already in the classroom when Dale arrived; they sat quietly during the episode, not terribly scared since there were adults present but still concerned for Dale.  Once Dale relaxed, I asked his teacher to find Chad.  Ashley, Dale's next younger sister, was present the whole time, having seen what was happening and come to help if she could.

Within about fifteen seconds, Dale began crying, showing that he was aware of what had happened and was coming out of it.  He actually began getting movement back quickly, lifting his head when his dad arrived on the scene, sitting up on his own (although he was still weak and as limp as a noodle!), and pushing himself off the floor when his teacher assisted him into a chair.  Chad opted to take Dale home and let him rest.  His teacher found an office chair (with rollers) and scooted him out to the van that Chad pulled up to the building.  Dale was able to climb in on his own and buckle himself and all.  When I called between services to check on him, Chad said he had fed Dale breakfast, after which Dale adjourned to the living room to play video games.  Yep, he's back to normal!  :-)

Dale has been fine since.  While still lying on the floor right after the seizure, Dale said, "Oh, great!  Now everyone saw me fall."  I replied, "Yes, but do they look upset about it?" and was glad to hear several giggles from the kids in the classroom.  One of the girls came up to me during the morning service to ask how Dale was doing, and I was able to assure her that he was fine.  Dale has decided not to let this bother him.  He is walking around even more than ever, not staying in one place for more than a couple of minutes.  Those who have not seen him so mobile cannot stop expressing their shock over how well he's doing.  I checked with Dale to be sure his constant motion was not a medical issue; it's not---he's just so glad to not be stuck sitting somewhere anymore until someone comes and gets him.  He gets up and walks all over creation!  He did take a tumble a few days ago.  Apparently the combination of the pounding rain and gusty winds we've been experiencing caused his legs to wiggle underneath him, and down he went.  A kind school mom helped him up and walked with him to my classroom.  Dale has accepted that weak legs and occasional falls are a part of life now, and he refuses to let that keep him down.

I told Dale that, since he's so much more independent now, he should not need as much "watching" at home.  In other words, I can walk with him up the stairs, give him a hug and kiss goodnight, and let him put himself to bed.  When he wants something to drink, he can get it himself.  (Monday, he actually poured himself a glass of milk for the first time since the accident!)  He can probably even begin to unload the dishwasher, being careful to only take a few dishes at a time to the counter to be put away.  All these things will go even farther toward helping Dale feel normal and independent again.  Praise the Lord!

As you can see, we do have much to be thankful for.  Our Heavenly Father is truly wonderful and, in His wisdom, has allowed us to be a visible part of His great master plan.  May we ever thank Him for His goodness to us and keep our hearts and lives open to His leading.

Psalm 119: 165  "Great peace have they which love Thy law, and nothing shall offend them."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday, 11/15/12

We have been so blessed this week to have revival services at our church.  Evangelist Paul Schwanke comes each year to preach God's Word, and we invite our neighboring churches to come hear him .  This man of God has been preaching straight from the Bible for almost 30 years now and even has had opportunities to spread the gospel in foreign countries as well.  Each time he visits, we find ourselves stirred to serve God whole-heartedly, love God unreservedly, and win souls unashamedly.  Thanks be to God and our pastor for inviting this preacher to spend time with our church each year.

Bro. Schwanke usually teaches the main Sunday school lesson, preaches Sunday morning and Sunday night, then continues on through Monday night and Tuesday night, finishing up on Wednesday night.  What a lot of solid Bible instruction and reproof and exhortation all packed into four days!  Our school had a day off this year (Monday---Veterans Day), and we always start school one hour late on Tuesday and Wednesday while Bro. Schwanke is here (just to give us a break!), so we didn't feel quite so busy this year compared to most.  By Thursday night, however, we are always ready to just STAY HOME!  :-)  Tonight will be a different story, though.

Our sports season is upon us!  We have JV and V volleyball and JV and V basketball teams.  Our first home game is tomorrow, but tonight we are letting two other teams borrow our gym to play each other.  This means we get to sell concessions to the hungry crowds!  And, since Amanda is a senior this year (and the concessions money goes toward the senior trip), we get to be involved.  Tonight's food items will be simple:  hot dogs, nachos, pizza, drinks, baked goods.  Each senior who helps out (works the stand) will receive a portion of the profit.  Tomorrow night, however, it will be Amanda and her friend Jocelyn's turn to provide the featured meal and all extra yummies.  Jocelyn's mom is making tamales and churros; we're bringing the refried beans and hot dogs; and someone is donating Spanish rice.  Other folks are helping us with more food donations, serving time, and morale support.  Amanda and Jocelyn are hoping to earn lots of money toward their senior trip; we moms are just hoping to make it out with our sanity intact!  Please pray for the success of this important event.........oh, and pray for our teams to win!!!

Dale is doing absolutely great!!!  Physically, I mean---I have no idea how his grades look........and I mean that!  I've been so busy with Christian Ladies' Seminar and home game concessions and revival meetings, I haven't paid much attention to Dale's study habits.  The good news is that all the teachers have been busy too and so tend to take it easy on their students.  ;-)  Dale's confidence in his walking ability seems to grow with each passing day.  He walks for longer lengths of time without pausing to rest; he doesn't fall as often, usually because he catches himself first; he doesn't doubt his ability to walk somewhere on his own.  He walks outside and down the ramp at school without waiting for someone to be with him.  He walked Monday night right out of the auditorium after the service and was nearly at the back door of the church before anyone caught up with him.  (He was ready to go home!)  Praise the Lord for this continued sign of His miracle in Dale.  Even just two months ago, Dale still expected someone to hold his hand everywhere, and now he is walking GREAT!  We give God all the praise and all the glory for His marvelous hand on our son.

Thank you, Mort and Jessie Kemplin, for your Thanksgiving card.  We appreciate your prayers and thoughts toward us.

Thank you, Ron and Judy Bishop, for the "care package" you recently sent us.  Our kids especially loved opening the box and finding all the treasures you sent us.  Our prayers are with you both as you each grieve the loss of a parent.  God bless you.

Please tell God you love Him today.  We as parents treasure each "I love you" from our children; so much more so does our Heavenly Father.  He is a great and wondrous God Who deserves our love, praise, and adoration.

II Corinthians 1:  21 - 22  "Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;  Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Saturday morning 11/10

How's the weather been in your part of the world?  I know in the Northeast, they are still reeling from Superstorm Sandy's devastation.  I led my students in prayer daily for those who were fighting the storm's wrath early last week.  Frankly, I didn't realize the hurricane season lasted until November.  I have always assumed hurricanes kind of petered out around September or so.  I grew up in North Carolina (so you'd think I would know!), but we were inland---Fayetteville/Ft. Bragg---so all we ever dealt with were hurricane drills and fire drills.  We never even got much snow during the winter; the mercury would drop below freezing and things would ice over badly, making for scary driving sometimes.  If we ever did get snow, we would joke and say, "Time to shut down the state!"  Literally, folks would be paralyzed, not knowing how to drive in the few inches we would get.  Schools and government offices would close for the day, and kids would get some fun play time in the white stuff.

Then, the summer before my senior year of high school, my family moved to Northwest Indiana, right outside Chicago, IL.  Talk about a culture shock!  All that winter, it snowed constantly---and we never got one day off school for it!  I learned really quickly how to drive in the snow because I had continued as normal, even with drifts piled high.  One night, I was coming home from the mid-week service; apparently the snow had been falling steadily all throughout the service time.  Before the closing prayer, our preacher cautioned everyone to be extra careful driving home. We lived about 25 minutes away from church (normal driving time).  My dad had purchased an old car for me to drive myself and my siblings to/from school and to teen activities and such.  He, in his wisdom, did not choose a sporty model with a shiny paint job; he bought an old, heavy, dependable car that would get me where I needed to go with a minimum of fuss and not give me delusions of pride or racing ability!  I didn't mind, really; I was glad to be able to drive a vehicle, and I was glad my parents trusted me with that responsibility.  (My mom wouldn't touch that car with a ten-foot pole!  She abhorred the design, the age, the color, everything.)  I was never so thankful for my car as I was that Wednesday night when I had to drive home by myself from church (Dad had to work and Mom was home with a sick sibling) in the still-heavily falling snow.  My old car idled at around 15 miles per hour, and that was as fast as I dared drive anyway that night!  I hardly ever touched the gas pedal but kept my foot hovering over the brake all the way home.  I had to take the freeway home, to make matters worse---I can't stand driving on the freeway; there are too many speedsters and crazy drivers out there!  I remember taking the on-ramp, merging carefully with traffic in the farthest right line, and not budging from that lane until I reached the off-ramp for home!  It took me twice as long, at least, to get home, but I made it, safe and sound.

The funny thing is, here in Washington State where we now live, the weather is very similar to where I grew up in NC.  There is a lot more rain, of course, but very little snow in the winter.  We get below freezing temperatures and lots of ice, and when it does snow, it tends to shut everything down!  I (note the pride) know how to drive in the snow, but a lot of folks around here don't, so we are all extra careful.  The biggest mistake people make when driving in snow is---they slow waaaayyyy down to be careful.  Slowing some is right, but driving too slowly can cause you to get stuck sometimes; and you definitely need some extra speed to make it up a hill, such as the one on top of which our church is situated.  Too many times, I've seen drivers start slowly up that hill, only to find themselves sliding back down because they don't have enough impetus to make it to the top.  I'm thankful for my parents' patient instruction and the Lord's guiding hand in giving me the snow-driving experience I have.

Why am I talking about snow and ice?  We started out the week with unseasonably warm weather:  in the sixties almost, sunny, STRANGE!  Then, on Thursday, something happened.  The earth rotated or something, and somebody else got our nice weather!  We walked out of church Wednesday night thinking, "It feels a bit chilly out here."  When we walked out of our house Thursday morning, we thought, "Who turned down the thermostat?!"  Overnight, the temperature dropped, everything frosted over, and we were left shivering madly.  Friday morning was even worse; our house thermostat somehow was set on Saturday, which meant the heater wouldn't kick on until 7:30 instead of 6:30 (school mornings).  We were freezing!!!  I quickly got things corrected, but it was very difficult to get the kids up and going with the internal temperature only 62 degrees!

Last night, the temperature plummeted even further.  When I left to pick up Dale from the teen activity at 8:00 p.m., the mercury was already at 33 degrees.  WOW!  By the time we reached home again, it had dropped to 29 degrees.  Everything is white with frost this morning, making us think it snowed last night.  And this is just November 10th!  We were told that, because of our extended summer weather, we were going to get hit with a nasty winter; it looks like perhaps "they" were right!

NOW---about Dale.  He has been walking all over God's creation on his own the last few days!  Tuesday after school, I got held up in my classroom, trying to get a few last-minute things done.  I had told my younger kids to head for the car so we could run some errands, then retracted that statement because something snagged my attention.  (My classroom is situated on an outside wall; a few feet from my class door is a door leading outside to the parking lot where I park the van each day.  There is a set of concrete steps to walk down to reach the parking lot, or one can choose to walk out the door, turn left, head down the sidewalk along the side of the building, walk down the ramp at the end, turn right, and go to our van.)  Dale decided he had waited long enough for me and simply walked out the classroom door!  He's done this a few times before; usually he waits just inside the door or outside on the sidewalk for me.  It was a full ten minutes later when I was finally able to gather up my purse and stuff and prepare to leave.  When I reached the hallway outside my classroom, I realized Dale was nowhere in sight.  Naturally, I panicked!  I pictured Dale in a heap somewhere, having fallen and been unable to get his feet back under him.  I rushed outside onto the sidewalk and looked around wildly; Dale was nowhere in sight.  I noticed the back lift door and one sliding door on our van was open.  James, the seventh grade boy of the family who parks next to us, was putting his things in the back of his car, so I called to him and asked, "Is Dale in our van?"  James seemed a bit surprised at this odd question but simply answered, "Yes, and so is Emily."  Unbelievable!  Dale had walked all the way outside, down the sidewalk, down the ramp, to our van, and climbed inside with no assistance whatsoever!!!  WOW!  Oh, thank You, God, for giving Dale a second chance to be independent.  He needs this boost of confidence to counter all the dependency he knows he must endure still.

Since that day, Dale has been walking more and more by himself all around our school.  The guys who help him from class to class are allowing Dale to walk on his own more without holding his hand, letting Dale show off going up and down the ramp by himself.  Dale is walking around the house just beautifully now, rarely needing help.  Someone still follows him up the stairs each night, but we can give him more room now (letting him go up half a flight without following close one step behind).  I have to remind myself at night not to stand outside the bathroom door until he is situated---because no one ever has to do that in the mornings!  Dale, after he gets dressed each morning, walks on his own to the bathroom to brush his teeth and such.  He sometimes needs help in the mornings walking out to the car, but I think that's a combination of early-morning shakiness and habit.  The more independence we give him, the more he believes he can handle.  We're still working on the bathtub thing, but that is not such a big issue any more.  Dale is really doing well, thanks to prayer and our God.

Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for our son's continued recovery.  When they told us back in the hospital over a year ago that "this is not a sprint; it's a marathon", I had no idea what they really meant.  Dale has recovered some things very quickly---his speech, his memory, his sense of humor.  Some things are still being recovered bit by bit---walking, balancing, etc.  Yesterday in my classroom, Dale was drawing on my board when he dropped the eraser.  He said, "Oh, no!" and leaned down, picked it up, and put it back on the tray.  When he saw my smile, he questioned me, so I explained, "Dale, you used to panic at even the thought of having to bend over and pick something up off the ground.  You would shake and jerk and fall over......literally!  Now, you just bend down---even bending your knees slightly---and pick things up with no trouble whatsoever."  Praise the Lord!  Dale will do this at home as well, picking up and moving something that may be in his path.  He will even take larger steps than normal if he needs to step over something.  This used to be out of the question for him!  Some morning this week, Dale dropped the cap off the toothpaste tube.......nothing new there.  I, frankly, was tired of picking it up for him, so I said, "Can you get it?"  He replied, "No---oh, wait; maybe I can."  A few seconds (and some interesting sounds) later, he said, "I got it!"  It takes quite a lot of strength for me to stand still and let him possibly fall over in order to prove to himself that there is yet one more thing he can do again.

Our whole family, our whole church, and lots of you around the nation (and world) are all involved in God's ongoing miracle in our son's life.  When we all get to Heaven and finally get to meet each other, expect a big hug from me and a teary "thank you" for each prayer and loving thought you've sent our way.  God bless each of you, and have a great week!

Psalm 23: 1  "The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thursday evening 11/1

Praise be to our wonderful God!!!  Fresh again in my mind is just how big a miracle our Heavenly Father performed with Dale.  I frequently talk in my class about how Dale drowned, how he was carried lifeless to the shore, how the doctors gave us no hope for his recovery, and how much God has given us back.  But I have to admit, in these last few months with Dale's struggles in school and lack of outside therapy and all, my awareness of God's blessings has waned and all I tend to focus on is how hard things are now.  I know I should be always thankful for all God has done, but a lot lately I have been wishing Dale would improve more and "get over" the physical handicaps and mental blocks he still struggles with each day.  I have even begun thinking, "If we can just get Dale through high school, then we can relax.  After all, what else is there for him?"  What a waste of God's miracle this foolish thinking is!  Why should I give up on Dale's future when God obviously gave him a second life in order to have a future?  Forgive me, Lord, for forgetting You are all-powerful; You are able to do anything and everything; You know Dale's past, his present, and his future, and You have great plans for him.

Today we visited the neurologist again.  He hasn't seen Dale for six months and was, quite frankly, impressed with Dale's progress.  The first time we saw Dr. Al-Mateen was in Good Samaritan Rehab after Dale had a seizure.  We had an appointment with him in January of this year and again in May.  Each time, the doctor was pleased with how well Dale was doing.  Last time we were in his office, Dr. Al-Mateen was surprised that Dale could talk and form regular sentences, could walk all right and follow commands, and pay attention to what was going on around him.  Today, God's almighty power showed through Dale again as he amazed and pleased the doctor.  The doctor put Dale through a short series of neurological tests like tapping with one hand on the other before flipping his hand over and over, switching hands to do the same activity on the other hand, closing his eyes and then touching his nose with both index hands, balancing on one foot at a time, etc.  He had Dale attempt to walk on his tiptoes, but Dale couldn't quite balance well enough to do that!  He also had Dale try to walk heel/toe, but this as well caused Dale too much difficulty (he was catching his toe on the heel before bringing it forward).  Altogether though, the doctor was quite pleased with Dale's efforts and reiterated the opinion that he just doesn't get many cases like Dale's.  I had mentioned that Chad was really asking for some kind of prognosis for Dale; Dr. Al-Mateen kind of grinned and said, "Dale's case is unique.  We see a lot of near-drownings, but we"---and he shook his head---"we don't get many cases like Dale's."  Dale continued to surprise the doctor with his choice of words, how well he could express himself, and his ability to follow the conversation.  The doctor told me that, just sitting there for the allotted appointment time and listening to Dale ask questions and talk back and forth with me, it was obvious to him that Dale's thinking is intact and he is able to speak clearly.  He said that he could see Dale's humor (runs in the family!) and could tell that Dale is very intelligent.  I think Dr. Al-Mateen enjoyed the banter that our whole family shares.......a kind of sarcastic, funny, teasing give-and-take which is a hallmark of our clan.  Anyway, Dale got a good report from the neurologist, has a six-month appointment already booked, and is referred by the doctor for another EEG at the end of December.  Praise the Lord!!!

A quick funny from Dale before I sign off:  We were in the van on our way to the neurologist's office when we passed a Shari's restaurant.  Dale pointed it out and asked, "Can we eat there?"  I said, "No, it's a sit-down restaurant and we're busy."  Dale gave his "Awwww, man!" groan, to which I responded, "Honestly, Dale, we have neither the time nor the money."  Dale looked over at me, grinned impishly, and replied, "Time? What do you mean, we don't have time?  You've got about forty years still in you!"  I cracked up instantly which had Dale laughing along with me.  When I told this story to Dr. Al-Mateen, he began laughing heartily too!  Like I've said, Dale's humor is definitely still intact!

Proverbs 17:22  "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:  but a broken spirit drieth the bones."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday morning 10/29

I am so glad yesterday was church day!  King David said it best in one of the psalms when he wrote, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord!"  After all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's good for us as God's people to deliberately set aside time each week as "just worship God" time.  I know me---I need that specific time and place when I have to push away all other duties and worries and concentrate solely on my Heavenly Father, or else it wouldn't happen.  I'd get so caught up in daily stresses and assignments and deadlines that I'd totally forget about talking to God........and I mean more than just at mealtimes.  I'd probably go weeks without pausing to actually worship the Creator of the universe---and the Creator of me.  I'm so thankful to belong to a church that holds services three times a week but whose doors are always open.  We joke about changing our home address to the church's because we are always there!  But what a wonderful, blessed way to live, wrapped up in the house of God and the people of God and the being of God.

How time flies nowadays!  Remember when we were young and the summers seemed to last forever?  Remember when Christmas seemed years away?  Here we are, just a few days away from November already, and it seems like the year just started a month ago!  I feel kind of like the person who went to bed so late each night he began meeting himself getting up in the morning........if the years speed up any more, I'll start meeting myself halfway through!

We had quite a busy week last week.  Wednesday was the final day of the first quarter, so we teachers were busy giving tests and averaging grades.  There was no school Thursday so as to give teachers some training time plus grade-input time.  The kids welcomed this day to sleep in some, except for Dale and Amanda. Dale had a dentist appointment for 9:00 a.m., and I had to be at school by 10:00 a.m.; so I asked Mandie to stay with Dale at the dentist's office in my stead.  I planned to go back and pick them up whenever he was through, thinking this would be about an hour to an hour and a half later.  Forty minutes later, Amanda called me to say all was done!  I had not even gotten to school yet---I had stopped in K-Mart for a few quick things and was in the checkout line when I got the phone call.  I wound up missing the first half hour of our training meeting, running Dale home again.  Amanda stayed with me at school to help get stuff done.  She gets to be my Teacher's Assistant this year, which usually means she's my "gopher."  It is, indeed, a blessing to be able to say, "Here---I need ten copies" and then continue on with teaching.  Plus, the students love her and enjoy having her in our class.  Where else would I get to spend half the day with my now eighteen year old daughter?  :-)

On Friday, our whole school went to the Pumpkin Patch!  The younger classes have always planned a field trip to the Pumpkin Patch, but about five years ago our principal suggested we all go and have some fun.  So, each year we take one day and load everyone on buses and head for a local farm that sets up a Pumpkin Patch fun area.  This year we went to Maris Farms; they have a corn maze (in which I get lost each year), a hayride that takes us down past the corn and around a huge field where they grow the pumpkins, a small area where each child gets to choose a small to medium size pumpkin, some really cool play equipment (which was shut down due to inclement weather), a barn with a petting zoo, a goat enclosure where you can feed the goats (if they're not hiding inside from the pounding rain), and a corn room where the dairy farm down the road stores 12 tons of dry corn kernels---this is the cows' winter feed, but Maris Farms keeps it standing about one foot deep in a big room where the kids take off their coats and shoes and dive in!  The corn room is a favorite with everyone, including the high schoolers, and nearly everyone comes home with dried corn kernels hiding in various pockets and pant cuffs.

This year, it absolutely poured!  We had just arrived when it began to sprinkle.  Our class went to the hayride first; by the time we got off, the sprinkle had changed to a steady but light rain.  When we finished the (short version) corn maze, the rain was coming down more heavily.  We walked up the hill to the play equipment and let the kids slide down the giant tubes a few times before gathering them together to head for the big covered enclosure where the picnic tables were located.  By then, the rain was so heavy and cold that the kids were glad to get out of it for a while!  We ate our lunch with the promise that the students could go to the corn room right afterwards (just around the corner).  It took every ounce of honesty I had to leave the relative safety of the enclosure and head for the corn room.  There, at least, we had a roof over us again, but the weather was turning colder and all I wanted was to go home!  Which, of course, was not up to me as we had ridden a school bus there and had to wait until everyone was ready to leave before we could go.  As it was, everyone was just as wet and cold and ready to leave; just as we were leaving the corn room, our driver called out to let us know we were loading the bus.  The ride home seemed a lot shorter than the ride there, maybe because we were headed home.  We got back to school with two hours left before the final bell would ring; this simply gave everyone a chance to play and have fun time.  I had promised our class some hot chocolate when we got back, so we enjoyed that.  One of the other teachers gave us a couple bags of microwave popcorn, so that was an added treat.  We had some fun activities like Hidden Pictures and such to do as well; we had already glued together a craft before we left so it could dry while we were gone.  All in all, it was a good day!

Dale got to come with me at the Pumpkin Patch.  He didn't get to go last year; he was still pretty unsteady at that point, and we had therapy that day, so we opted not to go.  This year was challenging still for him.  The ground was already muddy, and the rainfall made concentrating on walking near impossible.  Dale's legs were like jello, giving way at the slightest provocation!  I am so thankful for one of my student's mothers, Mrs. Rzyhichenko, who came along as a chaperone.  With me on one side of Dale and her on the other, we managed to keep Dale upright all the way around the Pumpkin Patch.  He got to go on the hayride and walk through the small field, picking his own pumpkin, but the corn maze was out of the question.  We were slipping and sliding badly enough; there is no way Dale could have managed it.  He did okay getting up the hill from the pumpkin field, although he was very glad to be able to sit down at the top.  We walked around the farm area to the enclosure to eat lunch, and then Dale stayed there while I took the students to the corn room.  I'm sure Dale would have had fun in the corn room, but I'm not sure he could have gotten in and out of the boxed-in area!  When they called to us to get ready to go, Dale was happy to slip and slide his way to the bus to go back to school.  He got some hot chocolate along with my class and spent the last of the school day walking around my classroom, drawing on the board, and playing games with my students.  He was sooooo tired by the end of the day that I'm surprised he didn't fall asleep on the way home, like Emily.  She fell asleep in the car on the way home from school and didn't wake up until nearly 9:00 p.m.!

As you can tell, life is full and happy here in the Ostrander world.  Our God has blessed us far beyond what we could ever have imagined, and we thank Him every day for that.  What a wonderful Saviour we serve!

I Thessalonians 5:18  "In every thing give thanks:  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday morning 10/20

We recently had a guest speaker at our church who challenged us in Sunday school to talk to God about everything.......and I mean, everything.  He reminded us we are supposed to keep in continual conversation with our Heavenly Father Who already knows all, not to inform Him of anything He may have overlooked but rather to help us ask for His help at all times and with all things.  This is really hard to do!  I get so used to living my own life according to my own schedule and needs that I forget to include God; actually, I should be centering my life around His Will and His desires.  But once in a while, I get it right.  :-)

Do you ever feel a nudge from the Holy Spirit?  Do you ever have a random thought pop into your head that you realize, in hindsight, came from our constant Guide?  This week, on Thursday, that happened to me.  I had begun class and gone through the morning routine to the point that pledges were over and we were halfway through the Bible lesson.  Suddenly, I realized I had totally forgotten to take prayer requests and lead in prayer!  Some great teacher I am, huh?  As soon as the Bible lesson was over, I sought to rectify that error.  I was already in the middle of the prayer when a thought jumped to the front of my brain:  What if our class were to change, either by adding or subtracting a student?  I'm sure I've had this thought before and simply let it drift away, but this time was different.  I included that idea in our prayer by saying, "Lord, we enjoy being together in this class, but it is possible that someone might move away or someone else might move here and want to come to our school.  Please help us make them feel welcome and a glad part of our class."  I ended the prayer and moved on to the next subject, thinking no more about it.  Not fifteen minutes later, our principal walked in and announced that we would be getting a new student the very next day!  One of our second-grade girls' cousins were going to be attending, starting on Friday.  Boy, did our mouths drop open!!!  The boys who were in the classroom with me at the time were astounded as well, exclaiming about how we had just prayed that very thing and now it was to happen.  Was I ever glad I had listened to the Spirit's quiet words and voiced the thought He gave me, so that my class was now prepared for a new student.  She's fitting in just fine, although Friday was a little chaotic for her, having to get everything unpacked and stowed away and trying to learn our routines and schedule.  We are excited to have another student in our class, and the girls are especially thrilled to have another join their ranks!

Dale is doing simply great.  He is walking around more and more by himself, even at school and up/down the ramp to the portable as needed.  He is gaining confidence in his ability to steady himself when he gets shaky and is losing the fear of falling.  Not that he falls any less often!  Thursday, approximately one hour before we were to leave for Dale's checkup at the doctor's office, Dale jerked and fell out of his chair in math class.  He knocked his head pretty hard and has acquired a new red rash on his face where his cheek broke his fall, but he'll be okay.  His teacher came and got me right away and that hasn't been necessary for a while, so I knew he had fallen pretty hard.  When I entered the room, Dale's classmates were sitting so quietly, almost as if they were hurting along with Dale.  His friend, Josiah, had moved to a seat near Dale just until the teacher came back, which seemed to me to be a nice gesture; the young lady who had been occupying that seat gladly relinquished it until Dale was able to be helped up and into his seat again.  I joked with Dale about needing a seat belt just to stay in his chair, and the rest of the class grinned along with me.  It must be hard on them to see their formerly energetic and crazy classmate have such difficulty with everyday life.  All of the students in the junior high and high school have been so willing to help whenever Dale needs it; what a blessing that has been.  It relieves me to know Dale has help when he needs it, and it takes the pressure off his older sisters so that they do not always need to be the ones to assist Dale.

The doctor visit went well; Dr. Heistand was pleased to see Dale (last visit was one year ago---imagine the change in Dale since then!) and encouraged by how well Dale is doing.  He asked about Dale's education plan and was satisfied to hear that our wonderful teachers and principal are doing all they can to help Dale be at school and thrive in school.  He said he'd wait to read the neurologist's report on Dale's mental progress when we go see him in a few weeks before recommending any lab work.  This was good to hear, since we had already been there getting our shots (Amanda---2, Dale---2, me---1).  We were more than ready to just go home and nurse our wounds!

Amanda seriously fought Chad and I over having to get the flu shot; she insists that the only time she ever got the flu was right after getting a flu shot.  We won, but she didn't have to get the shot; they used the FluMist on her instead.  So far, she has shown no symptoms, and for this we praise the Lord with utmost gratitude!  :-\  Her birthday is today, and I really didn't want her to be ill on her 18th birthday.  So far, so good!

Back to Dale---it really seems like Dale does better when he works at his own pace without the pressures of classroom life.  He gets more one-on-one time when he has a question, and he absorbs the information much better.  We're unwilling to pull him out of his classes just yet for two reasons:  1) We just tweaked his ed. plan to allow for less homework and more studying.  We need to see how that works before making any changes.  2) Dale is thriving socially in his classes.  This is not to say that he is mature socially (is any thirteen-year-old boy?), but his attitude has brightened and his go-get-'em outlook has returned since being in regular classes with his classmates and friends.  Please continue to pray for Dale to improve academically and socially as well as physically and mentally.  Our God is not done with Dale yet, and we've seen how our prayers affect the heart of God.  Please pray with us for God's complete healing of Dale.

These next few weeks are going to be hectic.  Next week is a short week because of the end of the quarter on Wednesday which results in a Teacher InService Day (no school) on Thursday, followed by the school wide Pumpkin Patch trip on Friday.  The following week gives us only three and one-half days of school; we get out early on Thursday to help set up for Christian Ladies' Seminar (CLS) which will be held on Friday (no school) and Saturday.  Then, we have an evangelist coming the next week or so; plus, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving break.  I think I'll just scream now and get it over with.

I hope you have a good day today and a great week coming up.  Remember:  your God loves you because of Whose you are, not because of who you are.  Take care!  Love, Kirsten

I John 3:1  "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:  therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday morning 10/15

Boy, oh boy, have we had a rough weekend!  Katie's been suffering from one of her migraines since Thursday.  She stayed home from school that day, but I made her go on Friday.  I was trying to be a good mom and help her realize that the world does not stop for a headache, but I think the only thing she felt was the Mom was not very sympathetic to her plight.  Since she toughed it out on Friday, I let her have some time off from her other responsibilities (bus visitation on Saturday, etc.) to try to recuperate.  It didn't work, as the migraine stayed with her all weekend.

This is the first weekend since school started that my Emily Rose did not come home with a streaming cold.  Praise the Lord!  Her habit has been to fight a cold all week, get worse (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, red eyes) on Friday, be sick all Saturday, and begin to make a comeback on Sunday---only to start over with a new batch of germs on Monday!  This Friday, however, she came home just fine and has not been sick all weekend.  In fact, her skin is clearing up (she has really bad eczema) thanks to a new cream the doctor recommended called CeraVe, and her asthma (inherited and from the cold germs) has been calming down since we got a new inhaler.  So, Emily is enjoying good health.........for now!

Ashley, Amanda, and Dale have been well and enjoying lazing around the house.  No chance of going outside, though, since it finally decided to RAIN!!!  Here in Western Washington, we are known as a rainforest, and it does, indeed, rain for a goodly part of the year.  Usually the rain starts by the second week of September and continues until, oh, about June.  (No joke!)  This year, since summer began, we hadn't had any measurable rain until last week.  At first there was a fine mist which thickened into fog; then, at last, the actual rain drops began falling.  We were in the midst of a real drought for these parts!  Now, the rain has pounded steadily for days, washing everything clean and giving the vegetation new life.  Plus, with fall having arrived, the mornings are quite chilly; this helps kill off nasty germs that tend to make folks ill.  You'd think we would all be well now, huh?

Not so!  I developed a migraine of my own Saturday night, causes unknown.  I figured I'd just sleep it off, so I didn't take any medication.  Stupid idea!  By now I should know that sleeping it off never works for me.  I woke up Sunday morning in real agony, desperately wishing to chop off my head and get a new one that didn't hurt so much.  I don't experience any aura or warning signs that a migraine is coming, so each time I'm surprised.  I began taking migraine medicine (over-the-counter), but it didn't work.  I was down with that thing all Sunday and couldn't even go to church!  To make matters worse, my equilibrium was upset, so my balance was way off.  I was dizzy and likely to fall over just by turning around.  Since I was home sick and Chad was not available, even the kids couldn't go to church.  Amanda got to go on buses in the morning (I was able to drop her off and pick her up with no incidents!), but we all stayed home last night.  My headache finally began to ease about 7:00 but didn't fully go away until this morning.  Katie is still fighting hers but is staging a valiant effort.

Dale has been fine!  He has enjoyed his extra time off this weekend, getting to sleep in and watch TV.  I spoke with his teachers this week after meeting with our principal, and the decision was made to reduce the amount of Dale's homework to just enough work to allow him to demonstrate his grasp of the concept taught.  He has had soooo much homework each night that he's been spending about four hours each night working on it.  This leaves him no down time, no relax time, no study time.  We decided that, with the reduced homework, Dale will have more time to actually study for tests and quizzes, thus improving his grades.  So, Dale spent some time Friday night on homework, but he took Saturday morning off.  He played on the computer and got in the tub, then went downstairs to eat and watch TV.  He spent some time Saturday afternoon correcting a math test and doing some extra credit work in science before plopping down in front of the fold laundry!  This has been a sore spot for his sisters, that Dale doesn't have to fold as much laundry as they do.  For a while he couldn't and then, he was so busy with school work, he still couldn't.  Now, however, Dale is fully able to keep up with his share of the loads.  (This, of course, does not please him greatly.)

Chad's been off work for a few days, getting in some hunting.  Or, at least, some looking!  He only gets this one vacation in the year, so he enjoys the break fully.  Since he's been away, we mice have been playing---hide-and-go-seek in the dark, that is!  We've had a game each night and have had a blast scaring each other witless!  Each night, I'll take Dale's hand and help him through the darkened house and into a good hiding spot.  I'll also help steady him when it's his turn to find the others.  Last night, Dale said, "Mom, I want to walk on my own in the game."  And he did!  He's been walking around the house really, really well lately, and he did that again during the game last night, walking on his own and leaning down to check dark corners.  Praise the Lord for this improvement!  It's good to see Dale feeling more confident and comfortable in his own skin.  He's been trying this at school, too, walking around my classroom without any help.  Eventually, he'll be walking around the gym on his own---I just know it!  :-)

God is always good to us, and He is our reason for living.  He truly "doeth all things well."

Hebrews 7: 25  "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday evening 10/6

It's Saturday night again, and you know what that means.  We've all survived another week!  Yes!!!  Be honest........Monday morning when your alarm went off and you realized the weekend was over, you had to go back to work, and the "me time" you had planned never happened---did you think you'd make it?

There are times when I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, recharged and facing the new day with energy and ambition.  And then there are the other 364 days of the year!  I love my family; I love my teaching job; I love my church and each service we get to attend; but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with my duties, my responsibilities, my obligations, and my workload that I just want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my head.  And, frankly, I don't have as much to do as a lot of people.  My husband works his tail off, driving a gravel truck for miles upon miles each day, having his bones constantly jarred from the rough roads and inevitable vibrations emanating from his truck that would probably register at least a 5.5 on the Richter scale.  This is overtime season for his line of work, so he's working long hours, six days a week.  When he finally gets home, he's met with a houseful of less-than-docile children who each have their own demands and a wife holding a two-mile-long list of items to be looked at around the house.  ( wonder he goes to be early!  LOL)  I know there are many people whose jobs are more demanding than mine and who work longer hours than I do.  I'm just saying:  if I get tired and worn thin (I wish!) from what I have to do each day, you folks must be exhausted!!!  God bless each of you in your daily lives, going to work to keep this great country running and bringing up your families to be good, honest, hard-working, God-fearing citizens.  My hat's off to you!  (I just have to decide which of the many hats I wear I will doff in your honor!)

We had a good week, filled with schoolwork and homework and shopping trips to restock our ever-emptying larder and church functions and all.  Really, on the whole, our lives resemble nothing so much as a human hamster wheel---constantly running round and round, doing the same thing over and over again!  The occasional stubbed toe or low/high grade on a test livens things up,  but we really are boring people.

Our oldest three went to a youth activity Friday night.  The whole teen group played games, had dinner around a campfire, and listened to testimonies and such by the leaders.  Bro. Jon, our youth pastor, wanted the kids to have some fun but some revival, too.  He showed them a video of what life would be like in thirty years if Christians didn't stand up for what we believe and allowed ourselves to be suppressed (no Bibles allowed anywhere, the words "under God" taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance, pastors and church members thrown in jail for witnessing, etc).  The video then wound backwards and showed how each of the "future" events could be prevented by simply speaking out for Christ and living for God.  I'm hoping this is a wake-up call for those teens who still think only adults need to live for Christ.  I know Katie made a decision to be sure to read her Bible each day again; she had been doing this, but we all know how easy it is to miss a couple of days and then just stop.  I'm glad she decided to make that promise to God again.

***Good News Alert***After the activity, Dale got bored sitting on the bleachers waiting for his sisters to finish taking down the volleyball net.  When Ashley went in to tell them we were ready to pick them up, Dale stood up and began walking toward the door.  He actually walked all the way from the bleachers to the door, outside onto the front sidewalk, across the parking lot, and around the back of the van to the side where he sits.  He even opened the van door himself (this has been causing him fits lately) and climbed in---all without falling or faltering once!  Someone was teasing him as he walked out (Bro. Jon or one of the guys); Dale just kept walking, waving his hand at them and saying, "I heard you the first time; I'm just ignoring you!"  When they laughed and bid him good night, Dale responded, "Good night!"  Usually, Dale cannot walk and talk at the same time......literally.  Friday night, he did great, walking and talking and gesturing and opening the door. Praise the Lord for this wonderful display!

Please continue to pray for Dale' full healing.  Personally, the thought is never far from my mind, but I don't necessarily put the prayer into words each day.  There is still so much room for improvement, and I don't want God to be done yet!  Also, pray for my husband as he works to provide for us.  Despite assurances coming from Washington, D.C., the recession is far from over, and we are continuing to feel the effects.  We are seeking God's will in the matter, asking Him to show us exactly what His plan is.  I know we can trust Him to provide all things for us, but faith is generally easier to say than to practice.

Take some time to tell God you love Him, and have a great week!  :-)

Proverbs 15: 32-33  "He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul:  but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.  The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday evening 10/2

So many blessings to tell about---I don't know where to start!

Back at the beginning of the summer, we all visited the dentist's office.  After Dale's checkup and cleaning, the dentist informed me that Dale had a small cavity between two of his back molars, but that we could wait until the one molar fell out before fixing the cavity.  The dentist also said that the adult tooth waiting to grow in had turned sideways and would probably need oral surgery to right it.  Sure enough, about a month ago, Dale lost that loose molar, and we could see immediately that the dentist was correct---the adult tooth was already visible and turned completely on its side so that the points of the crown were pointing toward his cheek instead of straight up.  Since Chad and I do not happen to have several hundred dollars (or maybe thousands!) lying around for dental surgery, I began praying that God would correct the position of Dale's tooth so that there would be no need to worry about possible dental problems later in life.  To be honest, I prayed, giving God the burden and meaning my words sincerely........and then promptly forgot about it!  Not because I'm some great prayer warrior whose faith in God is so strong, but because there were so many other things to think about with school starting and all.

Fast forward about four weeks:  Dale told me last week at the table that he had lost a tooth at school that day.  When I checked his teeth, the gaping hole was obviously visible.  The tooth had come cleanly out, and there was a nice gap for the adult tooth to come through.  I was somewhat confused, feeling a sense of deja vu, because Dale had a row of perfectly formed teeth down his left jaw and a gap in the row of teeth down his right jaw.  I thought, "Didn't he just lose a tooth recently?  If so, where is the hole?  Surely the new tooth didn't grow in so quickly---AND WASN'T THAT TOOTH COMING IN SIDEWAYS?!!!"  Dale laughed and confirmed that the tooth he just lost was exactly opposite of the one he had lost a month earlier.  I looked again, thinking my eyes were deceiving me.  Can you believe that the adult tooth, now fully grown in, had turned right side up and come in perfectly straight?!  Ain't God good?  I was concerned about a problem; I prayed for God to take care of it; and then I was surprised when He did!  (Now there's real faith for you!  :-/)  I was so excited!!!  I told each of the kids and showed them Dale's mouth (he was willing to show off his missing tooth; I wanted them to see the tooth grown in properly!); I ran and told Chad so he could (1) rejoice in the answered prayer and (2) know that he would not have to stress over possible dental surgery.  Chad told people at church; his spirits were uplifted by God's hand visibly at work in our family.  And now I get to share this blessing with you!  Praise be to God.

A second blessing:  I am FINALLY getting my classroom put to rights since our move a few weeks ago.  Mrs. O'Connor had put such work into getting everything arranged just so and fitting everything for two classes into one room, only to have third grade uproot and move all the way down the gym.  I spent the first week in our new classroom trying to find things, including the top of my desk.  I spent the second week attempting to establish some kind of schedule and routine for us to follow so the students (and I) wouldn't go crazy.  Now, I am actually organizing my files---I have files!; I have the walls decorated, including the class calendar and bulletin board; the back of the door has student job assignments (this makes them happy, feeling important); and I found my desk!  Turns out, it's brown, just like the rest of it.  LOL  Thank God I haven't lost my sanity yet..........I think!

Chad has been holding church services at a local nursing home for a couple of months now.  There are between two and five people who come each week.  Usually one or another of our family gets to go with him.  Two weeks ago, I had to stay home with Emily, so I missed my opportunity to go, and Chad wound up going by himself.  This turned out to be good because there were ten people who came!  What a turnout!  Chad's father, who comes when he can, had to stand and give up his seat to someone else.  Chad told us when he got home that it was a good thing no one else of our family had gone because there wouldn't have been any more seats anyway!  I'm so glad the old folks there get to hear good Bible preaching once a week now.  They are such dear people, sharing stories of their lives and singing along with the hymns.  It is our privilege to serve God and them each week.

God is so good each and every day.  He showers blessings on us, whether we acknowledge them or not, whether we are grateful for His blessings or not.  Please don't misunderstand---I try in this blog to point out the goodness of God and His wonderful works.  That's not to say that nothing bad ever happens to us.  I mean, if that were true, there would be no need for a blog in the first place, right?  And who wants to read a blog where the blogger just whines and complains all the time?  We are a normal family with abnormal kids---just kidding!  We have our problems and struggle with sin and wrestle with doubt like everyone else.  But something that Chad and I have always tried to do and especially tried to teach our children is to look for God's blessings and His guiding hand.  Sometimes He's easy to see; the way is smooth, the grass green, and the air sweet.  Sometimes it seems we wander through fog, wondering where in the world God is hiding.......and why.  But the song holds true:  "Bow the knee/Trust the heart of your Father when the answer lies beyond what you can see/Bow the knee/Turn your eyes toward Heaven and believe the One Who holds eternity."  If I can't see God's hand, I can still trust His heart.  I know God knows what is best for me and my family.  If the way ahead seems dark and unknown, I can trust that God chose this way for me because it is best.  I honestly don't know how I'll handle the days and years ahead if Dale never gets to the point where he can live independently, if there is never a time when he can walk on his own, if he always needs help getting in/out of the tub, if he needs special help just to finish high school. I don't know how to handle years ahead; I can barely handle hours ahead sometimes.  But I can choose to trust God.  I can give God my fears and my faith, my tears and my trust, my anger and my acceptance, my lament and my love.  He is able to handle all this for me, if only I let Him.  And who better to take care of my life and my cares than the very God Who cradles me in the palm of His hand?  I rest, secure.

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