Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thursday evening 8/30

Our first week of the new school year is drawing to a close, and I'm glad to report that it has been a success.  Once again, God is showing that, if we give Him our fears and worries, He will make all things good.  (I know I mangled a couple of Bible verses there; forgive me!)

Our first day was Tuesday, and we always start with just a half day.  So, for Dale, not only did he have the adjustment of attending several different classes but also his class periods were much shorter to enable each teacher to at least meet their students and explain class policies.  Normally, a class hour runs for about 50 minutes; on Tuesday, they were more like 25 minutes long.  I'm sure Dale was thoroughly confused by the time school finally ended!  Plus, he took a fall about half-way through the day.  He was seated in his third-hour class when he leaned down to get his Bible out of his backpack.  As you know, Dale has no balance check to indicate he's leaning over too far; one minute he is sitting there just fine, and the next he's plunging headfirst toward the table leg.  He wound up with a new scrape on his forehead but really none the worse for wear.  In his words, "I've had worse!"  Poor Bro. Minge---he told me that, for the rest of the class period, every time Dale twitched at all, he would jump!  Yep, we know how that feels.  :-)

Dale has had a couple of guys helping ferry him from class to class.  One guy is responsible for keeping Dale upright, and the other carries Dale's backpack.  Yesterday Dale and I went through his backpack and locker, trying to set things up in a way that requires him to carry fewer things in his backpack.  If he only carries a couple of classes' worth of books at a time, he (Dale) should be able to hold his backpack in his one hand while allowing the helper to steer him with his other hand/arm.  I posted Dale's class schedule in his locker to assist with book choices, and I may color-code or sticker-code his classes' books to help him and his helper figure out which books to grab when.  I'm waiting to do that until I think it is necessary; I want to give Dale time to figure things out on his own first, if he can.  I've certainly given enough instructions to him over these first days of school to last him a lifetime!  He seems to be thriving lately.  I don't know if it's just being back in a regular school routine or having his friends around more or what, but I've noticed a difference just in these last few days.  Dale will walk around more on his own---just down the hall to the bathroom or into his bedroom after brushing his teeth---without waiting for me to stand near him.  My heart skips a beat whenever I look up from my couch to find Dale at my elbow, but I do my best to hide this reaction and instead act like seeing him walk around is absolutely normal.  Easier said than done!  It just seems like Dale is accepting that he doesn't need constant help now and is more willing to "take steps" to prove that to himself.  I don't want to jump the gun and assume he's never going to have a bad day again, but it is good to see him more relaxed and mobile.

We are slowly discovering that more procedures need to be put into place to make sure Dale writes down and completes all assignments.  He has a school planner and has been given repetitive instructions to be sure to record everything, but apparently that is not enough.  I checked this planner after school, only to find that Dale had only recorded one subject.......and that was written on a date at the beginning of August!  Sooooo, I talked to those of his teachers whom I could find, wrote down the homework they laid out, and had Dale start as soon as we got home---which wasn't until nearly six o'clock.  Dale worked on school work with a short break for dinner until his nine o'clock bedtime and still didn't finish, simply because it takes him longer to write things out than an average student.  We'll have to keep tweaking our system until we find what works for Dale, but lots of homework is a pretty decent trade-off just to have our son in school.  (Dale probably wouldn't agree with me!)

Praise the Lord for His goodness!  I don't have time or space to tell all the blessings and recurrent miracles we have experienced just in the last three days of school.  Dale is accepted by his schoolmates; he is taking notes in class; he is walking more than before; he even tried running today---while holding Katie's hand, of course!  Running........can you believe it?!  He had a fun moment with some of the guys because they wanted to carry him sack-of-potatoes style into the gym.  High school guys---need I say more?  God is so good to us, and we will ever praise His name.  God bless each of you as He has us...........without the drowning part!  :-D

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday afternoon 8/25

Oh boy, have I been going about things the wrong way.  After this many decades of living plus having been saved at an early age and reared in church, you'd think I would have figured out the basics of prayer, faith, and trust.  If you agree, you'd simply be joining me in being wrong!

I have been pushing Dale, myself, my family, and God Himself all summer to reach one goal:  Dale's return to normalcy.  I was so set on Dale continuing to improve physically, mentally, and emotionally so that, by summer's end and the start of school, Dale would be "normal" and ready to resume his "normal" life.  (Does any soon-to-be eighth grader have a normal life?)  It had become my daily routine to keep working and pushing and crying and praying/complaining until my goal was reached.  In the process, I had begun questioning God and doubting Him and His ability to know what is best for Dale and our family.  I so badly want Dale to fully recuperate, to be able to run again, to walk without any assistance, to speak at a normal cadence, that I forgot how to wait on the Lord and accept His timing and His will.  That inward rebellion against God's design was brought to a head this week.

I willingly gave up teaching last year, knowing my son needed me more than any other student did.  I knew that, this year, I would not be able to conduct a class full-time until Dale was established in his school routine and keeping up with assignments.  And yet, I still grasped for more.  I got depressed over the fact that another class took over "my" classroom.  I became antsy when I could not make any decisions on my own about decorating a classroom, where to store books, what the class schedule would be, etc.  On Friday, I even began to think, "Maybe I should begin storing up things for next year" and "I should decorate this extra room that we may be using for reading circles" when I needed to focus my attention on what the other teacher needed to have done.  Part of me was relieved that I didn't have to come up with a classroom theme and decorations or wrestle with lesson plans, and part of me chafed at this new bit in my mouth---assistant teaching---as if I was being cheated out of some authority I thought I deserved.  It took my good friend, Mrs. O'Connor, reining me in a bit along with a genuine talk with my oh-so-wise husband to help me regain my perspective for this year.  I get to be involved in the school again, at first through an assistant teacher position and, possibly later, through a more hands-on approach.  I get to be at school each day, making a difference, however small, in those students' lives.  I get to attend weekly staff meetings, help out in a class, and voice my opinion (when asked!).  I didn't get to do this last year.  And, in previous years, these aforementioned actions were sometimes considered a drudgery to me.  God is teaching me to be submissive, patient, thankful, and obedient this year........and always!  That which I used to long for a break from---teaching every day all day---I now desire.  That which I used to consider my right---voicing my opinion---I now consider a privilege.  Each day I will have to remind myself of these newly-remembered lessons from my Father so that I will continue to let His light shine through me and affect others.

My reminders to be thankful, submissive, and obedient apply not only to my ability to teach but also to Dale's healing.  In my desire for God to not be done with Dale yet, I became ungrateful for His work in Dale thus far.  Last August, we would have been thrilled to have Dale be able to walk with just hand-hold assistance!  We would have been ecstatic if Dale could have been able to speak at all!  Yet, I find myself impatient and unthankful because Dale can't walk completely on his own, because he stumbles and falls every day, because his speech is slowed.  Why?  Because these things don't fit into my plan, my life.  I have ever been one who loved steadiness, schedule, and definition in my life.  I don't like change; I am not one who loves to just "up and do" something.  I like to plan ahead as much as possible.  (I would have my lesson plans finished months in advance!)  Having so much uncertainty this past year has really taught me to wait on God.  Having to take each day one step at a time has helped me depend on Him for daily, hourly help and guidance.  Obviously, I still have a long way to go to trust Him fully, but I can say with feeling, "I am still trying!"  God's plans, though unknown, though different, are best.  God's timing, though unpredictable, is best.  God's ways are always best.  And God's rewards are out of this world!!!

So, we start school on Tuesday, August 28th.  Dale will be attending his regular eighth grade classes, joining his classmates for each period, eating lunch in the lunchroom with everyone.  I will be as hands-off as possible in order to allow him as much independence as he needs to continue to grow and mature.  These first two weeks will really show if Dale is ready to resume regular school life; personally, I think he's more than ready.  We'll have to wait six weeks or so to see how Dale will perform academically, and we'll make adjustments if necessary.  Since most of the kids in the upper classes (and even the elementary) know about Dale's accident and are willing to do whatever they can to help him, I think he'll wind up doing fine.  Dale's teachers all know that he will need some space to adjust to school life, but they won't need to give him any special consideration.  He'll be expected to follow the rules and do his work like everybody else, and there will be repercussions if he doesn't.  There will be falls; there will be scrapes; there will be tears.  I'm hoping there will not be any F's!  We will take things one day at a time and trust God to know and do what's best........always.

We have a big God.  He's big enough to handle our tears and our fears, our disappointments and our disappointing behavior, our ups and our downs, our failures and our successes, our questions and our doubts.  He's big enough to part the sea, fight the battles, heal the sick, and raise the dead.  Yet He's gentle enough to hold us when we cry and comfort us when we hurt.  He's just enough to discipline us when we err, yet merciful enough to pardon us when we ask.  God is above all and in all and through all and around all. He is God.

Romans 8: 18  "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday morning 8/23

I have been so busy getting ready for school to begin next week!  It seems like time has sped up this week with Teacher Orientation, finding last-minute school supplies, and getting back into some kind of routine after having the summer off.  Part of me is really excited to start the new school year, while part of me is lamenting having to say goodbye to sleeping in any more.  But God is good, as always!  Let me explain.........

When I walked into the meeting room Tuesday morning, I was informed that first grade would be changing classrooms; in fact, they would be taking mine!  Now, I know the room doesn't actually belong to me, and I really only taught there one year if you don't count tutoring Dale there last year.  But it felt mine; it had all my teacher supplies in it; and everyone referred to it as my classroom.  So, when Bro. Minge told me it was no longer mine, I had to make quite an effort to paste a smile on my face and agree to move my stuff out.  This left me with quite a forlorn feeling---suddenly, I had nowhere to go, nowhere to put my purse in the mornings, nowhere to call my own.  And I knew this was coming.  I knew that my ability to teach again was contingent on Dale's ability to attend regular classes.  And, of course, I knew that every piece of my life was in the hands of the Father to do with as He willed.  But, oh, how I wanted to have a pity party right there!  I wanted to cry and wail and declare how unfair life was.  Really---what good would that have done?  I sat through the first day of orientation and participated in each activity with a breaking heart. I have been praying steadily that God would show me what He wants me to do.  If teaching is out, then He has something else for me.  If Dale is never "normal," then He has something else in store for his life.  You see?  God has a definite purpose for each of us, and His plans are always good.  Whether we have ease and comfort here on earth or wait until Heaven to be at home, God has a specific plan for us.

Bro. Minge had also said that he wanted us to talk later that day about Dale and his progress and the coming school year.  We didn't get to meet until about 2:30 that afternoon.  I had prepared a short list to remind me of what I needed to discuss with him, mainly about Dale.  We hammered out a game plan for Dale's schooling:  we will put Dale in regular classes to begin with and see how well he adjusts to school life again.  I think (and hope and pray!) that Dale will be able to keep up in his classes for the most part.  There may be some need to have him finish a test later under my supervision if he doesn't finish in class, and I will definitely need to be on top of his homework assignments and quiz/test schedule to help him study the night before (or sooner!).  I think he will do fine in history, science, and English; math is the only subject Dale may fall behind in since he still tends to take longer to complete a lesson than the standard class hour.  He may surprise us, though, and blossom under his new teachers.  And that will be a big plus---getting away from "just Mom" and having real teachers, a real classroom, real classmates, and real responsibilities.  This school year will be great for Dale as he takes these important steps toward re-entering his interrupted life.

The second biggest item Bro. Minge and I discussed was what I would be doing during the school day.  The first few weeks will be spent making sure Dale fits back into classes well, but the responsibility of that will lie on his teachers' shoulders.  Bro. Minge said he would task a couple of older students (guys) to be responsible to get Dale to/from his classes with ease; this way I don't have to interrupt my schedule to wait outside his classroom each time and shuttle him to the next class.  It will take some doing, but the result will be worth it!  What I will be doing is one step closer to teaching than I had hoped for:  assistant teacher.  I get to be in the combined third/fourth grade class under my good friend, Mrs. Tina O'Connor, and assist her in any way she needs.  We are already planning for me to teach the Bible lesson each morning and supervise break times each day.  Bro. Minge also stated that he wants the classes split as much as possible with me taking the third grade students to a separate room to conduct lessons (reading, history, maybe science, health) with the goal of splitting the classes for good next year.  So, I have the fun of teaching each day without the drudge of entering grades or making lesson plans!  :-)  Whoo-hoo!  I also get to observe another teacher (a good one!) in action and learn valuable tips from her.  This will be good for my patience and submissiveness........that is, if I have any!  I'm looking forward to this year as a year of personal growth and refining to be "fit for the Master's hand."

Praise the Lord for everything He does and all that He allows us to do.  Praise God for His miraculous healing of Dale and the wonderful plan He has for my son---and for all of us.  I love You, Father.  You are faithful and true.

Psalm 107: 8, 15, 21, 31  "Oh that men would praise the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Saturday afternoon 8/18

Just a short post this time........

We are nearing the conclusion of our yard sale, and I have mixed feelings about that.  Things haven't been too bad today; when we awakened this morning, the sky was........dreary and overcast.  Can you believe it?  After a week of blistering hot weather (that may be an exaggeration), to have today be gray and cool was downright exasperating.  Oh, well---at least no one collapsed from heat stroke.  Chad set up an open-air tent in our driveway in case the sun decided to make an appearance.  This also lent an air of organization to our yard sale which, hopefully, encouraged buyers to participate.

My husband worked hard this morning getting everything set up and presentable.  Unfortunately, this had the downside of causing him to be especially zealous in finding items to display on the tables under the tent.  We watched in some dismay as favorite video games, kitchen potholders, and even last year's Christmas presents were carried out the door to the front yard.  My girls rescued a few; I protested a couple; but, for the most part, I instructed the children to just let things go.  If they sold, they sold.  If they were still there when the yard sale was over, we would reclaim them.  The girls had a few "Oh, no!" moments when something they were hoping would remain unseen got snatched up and carried off.  Their reactions were mostly on my behalf, since I allowed a couple of Christmas decorations and a new bookshelf to be sold.  I reminded them, "If I really did not want to sell them, I would have taken them back in the house."  I tend to be a pack-rat, holding onto things that I do not have need for right now but am convinced that I will find use for at some future time.  So, today's yard sale was good for me, if only to get me motivated to clean out some junk!

The younger girls, who contributed a lot of stuffed animals and toys, had a good time riding their bikes and running around the front yard for a change.  The older girls were very helpful in carrying stuff downstairs, setting items out, and watching the yard sale by turns.  I did my time took my turn watching over the sale items so that no one could accuse me of not helping out.........and that's the exact reason I did so!  :-P  Amanda and Katie played several games of foosball; I think Mandie won each time.  Chad challenged them to a game or two, beating them soundly.  He boasted, "They'll never win!"  Dale even came outside a couple of times to sit with us and enjoy the overcast sky(!).  And that's the part I will miss---the whole family spending time together, enjoying God's world.  The kids and I laughed our heads off at nonsense things, and Chad was relaxed and happy.  These are the moments I treasure; these are the memories I cherish.  God created a wonderful thing when He put this family together.  So often I forget that, getting bogged down by familial bickering and mundane chores.  Thank You, Lord, for Your insight and wisdom in selecting just who we need to be a part of our family.  And, of course, thank You, Lord, for being the center of this unit.  We love You, most gracious Heavenly Father.

I think we made about $45.00 today, which is a start on paying for the kids' curriculum.  But, more importantly, we made memories that will last a lifetime..........or, in Dale's case, maybe a week!  :-D  He still struggles with his memory sometimes!

Matthew 7: 7  "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thursday evening 8/16

Whew!  We have had scorching hot weather for the past week.  Today was predicted to reach 93 degrees (I don't seem to have a degree symbol on my keyboard!); my van thermometer read 94---talk about a "hot box."  We do have air conditioning in the van, but using it tends to drain the gas tank, so we usually just roll the windows down.  Our house is air-conditioned as well, but with temperatures this high consistently, the upstairs gets stifling.  And guess where the computer is........  Anyway, extreme heat like this is fairly unusual for this part of the country.  Indigenous Washingtonians are nearly gasping for relief from the heat, while those of us who are transplants (like me---NC) are complaining because we moved here to get away from weather like this!  Actually, I moved here because my husband moved here, and I thought I should be with him; it seemed the thing to do.  ;-D  I try not to bewail the heat too much because (1) we know it won't last forever and (2) the rainy season---AKA fall, winter, and spring---will be back soon enough.  Soooooo, praise the Lord for heat!  Amanda keeps saying, "Isn't it beautiful today?!" because she has spent all of a week and a half from two Youth Conferences combined in California where (apparently) "the weather is always like this" and is (apparently) much preferable to Washington weather.  To which I say, in the teenage vernacular, "Whatever!"

Going on walks with Dale or even just taking him outside to exercise on the trampoline has taken a great deal of character for us lately.  It's simply paralyzingly hot!  But, Dale benefits from daily exercise---other than exercising his thumbs playing video games---so walk we will.  Today, Dale asked to go on the trampoline, and I agreed.  He just walk outside on his own or maybe holding someone's hand, remember how to climb on the trampoline and get himself up there, follow instructions concerning types of exercises, and then maneuver himself off the trampoline before he walks back inside.  This is quite a lot of work for his body and brain, but I've discovered that the more I help him the more help he needs.  (Mandie is always scolding me about this with Dale's school work!)  I stay close enough to grab him when (not if) necessary, but I let him do all the work.  Today, being close enough to catch him cost me an injury.  *Are you ready to feel sorry for me?*  Dale was about to climb up on the trampoline when his leg buckled.  He started to fall backward, so I jerked forward to grab him and steady him.  My hand, on the way up, connected solidly with the point of his elbow.  Do you know how many nerves you have in the back of your hand?  I am now excruciatingly aware of each one of them.  In all honesty, I have a painful though small swelling on my left hand between but slightly below the thumb and first finger.  I'm sure the minimal swelling will be gone by tomorrow; the tenderness might take a day longer.  Obviously, since I am writing this, I am still able to move my hand and fingers just fine; otherwise, I would be milking this for all it's worth!  Just one more sacrifice for the good of my child (sniff).  LOL!!!

We are gearing up for our second neighborhood yard sale this weekend.  Chad thought it would be a good idea to participate this time and try to get rid of some junk while making a few dollars.  I'm still not convinced the bother will be worth the result, but I'm willing to give it a try.  The kids have been going through their toy boxes, shelves, and drawers to find items that are no longer useful (which accounts for about half their possessions!) to put in the yard sale.  Katie, Ashely, and Emily have enlisted Chad's help to offer bottled water, soda, and perhaps lemonade for a small sum.  Everyone seems to be excited about Saturday except me.  I dread it.  I have been cursed with a pessimistic attitude; if you want to know what may go wrong with any given event, I can list it for you in detail.  Truly, I am not normally a pessimistic person; I am usually quite cheerful, laughing and joking and trying to put a smile on people's faces.  But when it comes to road trips, family outings, major parties, or yard sales, all I can think is "No good will come of this."  Isn't that awful?  So, in order to not be so down-in-the-mouth about Saturday, I have chosen to distance myself from the preparations---and hopefully the proceedings.  In short, I am washing my hands of all responsibility in the matter.  (You know, someone in the Bible used that excuse, didn't they?  Didn't work out too well for him, either.  Maybe I should rethink my position.......)  The weather should be very nice, so we won't get rained out like June's yard sale.  The heat is the reason why Chad and the girls want to sell cold drinks.  Chad said the kids could keep whatever money they make for selling their stuff; he's also hoping we (he and I) will be able to get some cash to put toward our children's curriculum this year.  I think we'll make enough to buy a couple packs of gum.  Oops!  There goes my pessimism again.  :-)  Please pray for our yard sale this Saturday, that everything simply goes well.

Dale is finishing summer school tomorrow.......or maybe Saturday. He has to take an English final tomorrow as well as a math final.  He also has half a science PACE to finish.  He might be able to get most of it done tomorrow but only if he really applies himself.  All in all, this summer has been good for Dale academically, physically, and mentally.  Dale's focus is stronger now; he can keep working on a lesson even though distractions abound.  He will still let his attention wander but responds better when called on it.  His mental processes are a bit faster now, too.  I believe he is ready academically to enter eighth grade; I just don't know if he will be able to keep up with the work load his new classes will require.  Physically, Dale is just about where he was at the beginning of the summer.  I wish he could walk on his own now, but he is still too unsteady and jerky.  Even sitting down, his body will spasm or his leg will jerk up suddenly.  When this happens while walking, down he goes.  So, Dale still needs stand-by assistance to help avoid injury.  But his endurance level is increasing slowly, and you should see him blaze along when he's having a good day!  Mentally, Dale is still working on making connections and processing well, but he's obviously still Dale.  He might talk more slowly now, but his jokes are still just as corny and his silliness just as evident.  Praise the Lord for His goodness!  We prayed for God's will to be done, letting God know our desires:  to have Dale's life spared and to have our son back.  And God has answered those prayers abundantly.  Isn't He wonderful?

Take time today to thank God for His blessing, both small and great, that He showers you with every day.  He desires to hear your praise and will "open the windows of heaven" in response.  God bless you!

Psalm 145: 1 - 2  "I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever.  Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday afternoon 8/13

Do you ever have days where it seems like the devil is fighting you constantly?  Does it feel as if you literally take two steps forward and one step back......or vice versa?  Does it seem like there is a constant barrage of negativity coming your way from media, relatives, the world, your friends, and even inanimate objects surrounding you?

 This weekend has been like that for our family and our church.  Friday night, Amanda and Katie were invited to a birthday party.  They've been friends with these girls for years and were excited to go.  When I dropped them off at the birthday girl's house, however, I noticed that there were a couple of teenage guys there.  (See where this is going?)  Chad and I had assumed that this would be an all-girls party, and I was dismayed to find the boys present.  I tried to brush aside my concerns, thinking that these are the same guys in their youth department and in school---no harm, right?  When I got home and talked with my husband, I found that he agreed with me:  we just didn't like the idea of having guys and girls at a party together.  There were adults present (her mom and dad, at the least), and I'm sure everyone just had a good time, but I couldn't shake the feeling of unease.  Chad concurred and decided to go get the girls early.  He said Mandie and Katie both agreed readily to leave early, saying their goodbyes and getting in the car without complaint.  In the car, Chad explained why he had picked them up before the party was over, and at home we discussed our reasons as well.  Our girls, bless their hearts, were somewhat confused but obedient.  Dad tried to make it clear that, on a well-chaperoned activity sponsored by our church or school, we have no problem with guys and girls having fun together.  But no guys at parties!  I think they understood our concerns---not wanting to leave any room for couples to misbehave---although they may have chafed under this new rule.  As I told them, we are setting boundaries based on what we believe is best and safest......especially considering we have, not just one, but four daughters to rear properly!  They know we love them and desire God's best for their lives, and that helps them adhere to our sometimes strict guidelines.

We have had quite a few "discussions" lately within our family on a variety of subjects, ranging from pants on women to multiple piercings to tattoos to boyfriends in high school to following God's instructions whole-heartedly.  Chad and I have explained from the Bible why we believe what we believe so that our children will understand why we live the way we do.  It may seem peculiar to others; it may seem excessive; but we are simply following God's Word to the best of our abilities.  And the girls know that, when they become adults and are on their own, they are free to make their own decisions.  In fact, I encouraged them during this latest family meeting to search the Scriptures to find what God wants them to do in every area.  If, when they are grown, they read the Bible and do not agree with us that women should not wear pants, that is their decision.  We will respect that, just as we expect them to respect our beliefs as long as they are in our home.  Their decisions will not change our love for them, and they know this.  But, they need to stand on their own convictions, and to do this, they need to know what they believe.  Too often, people make decisions based on what they want to do rather than what God says.  And, there is a difference between convictions and preferences.  I told Katie, "If someone were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to get a tattoo or die, I would get a tattoo.  If they were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to renounce the Bible or die, I would die."  Some things are worth dying for; others are not.  It seems, as the girls get older, that we have these discussions more often; but that's not a bad thing.  It's simply part of growing up and moving toward independence.  Yet it is one major way the devil attacks families, seeking to pull them apart.  And we know Satan is always on the attack.

Our church suffered some trouble this Sunday as well---bus trouble.  We had four buses break down!  This was nearly catastrophic.  One route didn't get picked up at all; the route my girls are on only got to bring three people---and that was by car.  They spent part of the morning broken down by the side of the road and then spent a lot more time on the phone to bus parents, stating that there was no way their child could be picked up for Sunday school.  One bus that broke down couldn't even make it up the hill in front of our church; it couldn't go past an idle.  They had to let it coast back down into the parking lot and simply shut it off.  With another of the broken-down buses, they thought to replace it with a bus that was in the shop.  However, once they had that bus on the road, its brakes seized up.  Kind of hard to drive like that!  All in all, bus attendance was way down Sunday, and there were several noticeable absences in the church as various bus captains and workers simply couldn't get back to church for the services.

Then, during the evening service, we lost power to our public address system.  The pulpit microphone worked as did the platform monitors, but no one past the middle of the auditorium could hear very well and those in the back and in the balcony couldn't hear at all.  The problem is thought to be in an amplifier somewhere (I know less about this stuff than I do about our van's engine!); the PA guys tried turning everything off and back on again quickly to see if this would fix the problem......but it didn't work.  The platform monitors were turned around to project toward the congregation, but even that didn't help much.  Since we sit on the front row, we didn't have a problem hearing the sermon; but it must have been a looooong service for those who couldn't hear anything.  And it was a good sermon, too!  Pastor Minge taught about the young man who fell asleep during Paul's lengthy sermon and fell out of the window.  Paul performed a miracle, restoring the young man's life---and then went right back to preaching!  Pastor warned us not to be "asleep" like that young man but to be awake and aware of God's work in our lives and to be vigilant against becoming satisfied with our Christian walk.  Like I said, it was a good sermon; too bad only half the auditorium could hear it!

And so we come to today........  We are going about our normal activities, meaning Dale and I are doing schoolwork and the girls are lazing about.  That's not entirely true; they have been getting ready for school, packing their backpacks with the supplies we just got on Saturday.  They know the clock is ticking down---only two more weeks before school starts.  Still, I think they are ready to get back to work.  Dale gets next week off for "vacation" so he gets a chance to vegetate some before officially starting eighth grade.

Chad has had an interesting day.  He called this morning to say he was on the side of the road with a blown-out tire.  This is an inconvenience that must be endured, but it seems to happen more frequently with these gravel trucks.  I think their tires are just subjected to more:  rough tracks, lots of rocks, heavy loads, etc.  Unfortunately, Chad called again this afternoon, saying the newly-replaced tire had just blown out!  The mechanic had put on what seemed to Chad to be an old tire; he said it looked beat-up already!  Sure enough, it couldn't handle the pressure and blew out, so Chad's on the side of the road again awaiting the mechanic.  Wonder what he'll do this time.........

Dale has been doing pretty well walking this week.  We took a "field trip" on Thursday to the mall for some fun.  We had to drop off a paper at the doctor's office on the way and then stop at the vision center to order new lenses for Katie's glasses.  (Did I tell you about that?  We thought we could go to Wal-Mart to get new glasses for Katie.  I had called our insurance who had assured us that our plan would cover that.  As it turns out, the optometrist at Wal-Mart took our insurance to cover the actual exam, but Wal-Mart itself wouldn't take it for the frames and lenses.  What a ridiculous setup!  Katie had her heart set on certain frames, only to be told that we'd have to pay out of pocket for them.  So, on Thursday, we stopped at the Group Health Vision Center to try to get new glasses.  The only frames plus lenses that our insurance would completely cover were not appealing to Katie, so we opted to just put new lenses into her old frames.)  Anyway, Dale walked around the mall very well and had fun, even though he fell three times!  The girls got to look through Claire's again (favorite store!), and Amanda bought everyone a snack lunch at the food court's McDonald's.  Then, on Saturday, we went to Wal-Mart to get school supplies and groceries.  Again, Dale did really well even in such a crowded, noisy environment.  Praise the Lord!

We are excited to see what this coming school year will hold for each of us.  Amanda will be a senior, Katie in 10th, Dale in 8th, Ashley in 6th, and Emily in 1st.  (She is so excited about not taking any more naps at school!  Wouldn't we love to be able to just kick back and rest for an hour or so in the middle of the day?)  For now, I will just be used on an as-needed basis---relieving teachers for break duty, grading papers, maybe stepping into a class to sub while the teacher runs an errand.  My ability to teach/help out depends quite a bit still on what Dale is able to do.  The first few weeks will be quite an adjustment for him as he gets used to being back in an actual classroom with different teachers.  Please pray with us that he will do well and continue to improve.

By the way, thank you, Susan, for your recent donation.  We greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness toward us.  Every little bit definitely helps!  ;-)

God bless each of you wonderful people who are continuing this journey with us.  May you receive the same benefits of prayer and support as you have shown us.

Psalm 25: 1 - 4  "Unto Thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul.  O my God, I trust in Thee:  let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.  Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed:  let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.  Shew me Thy ways, O LORD; teach me Thy paths."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wednesday morning 8/8

I predicted that August would be filled with activities right up until school starts, didn't I?  And I was RIGHT!  :-)  That happens on rare occasions!  Today is the last day of Vacation Bible School.......which also means today is the last day Ashley gets to go to VBS as a kid.  Next year she will be entering the seventh grade, so she'll be working in VBS instead of attending.  This, naturally, is adding a note of sadness to an otherwise fun time for her.  This year's VBS format is somewhat different from previous years; at first, Ashley wasn't sure she liked it.  You know how it is: you expect one thing, and, when presented with something different, you have a hard time letting go of your expectations and enjoying this new thing.  But, after letting her talk out her disappointments (and frustration at some of the other kids who wouldn't be quiet and thus were ruining VBS for those around them who couldn't hear properly!), she was ready for the next night of fun.  I reminded Ashley that having fun is up to her; it's all in the attitude.  She came home the next night all happy and looking forward to tonight's carnival, the final blow-out excitement of this year's VBS.  I hope she has a great time on her final night of VBS.

Amanda and Katie are both working in VBS, Amanda as a bus worker/class helper and Katie as a nursery worker, watching the children of the VBS workers.  Monday night, there were only two of them in the nursery with several children, a few of whom cried continually.  Talk about a night to remember!  Katie climbed in the van that night absolutely exhausted and so glad none of those nursery kids were coming home with her.  Last night was better---they had an extra worker who offered not only another pair of hands but experienced ones at that.  So she came home still tired but not ready to fall over.  Maybe Dale will be able to help in next year's VBS.  Wouldn't that be great?

Our church chose to cancel last year's VBS because of Dale's accident.  He drowned on Friday, August 5; VBS was due to start on Monday, August 8.  Preacher announced the decision Sunday night during the service, stating, "No one really feels like conducting VBS right now."  Think about what was going on:  their hearts just weren't in it.  Of course, this was before Dale woke up and began to show God's wonderful miracle.  Still, it was such a blessing to have church family there nearly 24/7 that first weekend and throughout the next week as well.  God knew what we needed, but He was also very aware of what our church needed, too.  His miracle in Dale was not just for our benefit but for our teens and church family........and the whole world, it seems!  Praise the Lord!!!

Dale and I are wrapping up his summer schooling.  He will take his last spelling/vocabulary quiz on Thursday, so that will be one less subject to deal with.  We are in the adverb section of his grammar book with only one more vital section left---prepositions/conjunctions/interjections.  I'm deliberately ignoring a couple of sections (keys to a better writing style, book reports, etc.) as less necessary to his seventh grade education.......especially as he will be continuing the same line of thought in eighth grade in just three weeks.  In math, we have finally begun actual algebra; Dale is struggling a bit with this, forgetting that "what you do to one side you must do to the other."  Once he gets the basics down, I think he'll do better.  Science is moving along.......slowly, but still moving.  At least, due to our hard work, Dale is more ready for eighth grade now than he was at the beginning of the summer.  I'm half excited and half scared to see how he'll do in school this year. I don't want the teachers to make any concessions for him, yet I know that they will have to to a certain extent.  Some adjustments will be necessary to allow Dale to reenter the classroom successfully, but I believe (and hope) that, as the days and weeks continue, Dale will realize he has to step up and perform according to those teachers' expectations and not fall back on any excuses such as he uses with me---a lot.  We still have to work out the logistics of getting him from classroom to classroom, his carrying his books, etc.  Since we are not at present attending any therapy, there should be no need for him to miss any classes except for general illness.  That should help him as well, the continuity and "regularness" of school.  We'll see!

Each big step we take with Dale is a SCARY one.  Moving him from the PICU to a pediatric ward was scary; what if he got worse?  And he did, and it was dealt with.  Transferring him from Doernbecher to Good Sam was scary; was he really ready for this next step?  He was; all the doctors were right, and Dale did very well.  Helping him transition from no liquids to thin liquids to thick liquids to regular food was scary; what if he swallowed something wrong and choked or got an infection?  He did swallow wrong, though no infection set in, and he relearned how to avoid having anything go down his air pipe.  (I never thought I'd be so glad to hear someone coughing after swallowing!  When Dale finally remembered how to cough to clear his airways, the doctors knew he was ready to go back to solid foods.)  Bringing him home from the hospital was very scary; what if he relapsed?  He did some, and then we were able to start therapy with Rehab Without Walls and then Group Health, and Dale improved.  Letting him take steps on his own was scary; what if he fell?  He has, dozens of times, and we've learned how to avoid some falls and how to recover from others.  Here we are:  putting him in eighth grade classes is scary; what if he fails?  He might........but he might not!  Dale may surprise us all by adjusting just fine, becoming more "normal" because of hanging around his friends more, feeling like a "normal" teenager.  Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is going forward in spite of that fear.  "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."  God doesn't expect us to be without fear; He wants us to trust Him in spite of our fear.  (There's that whole trust thing again!)  Each day I tell God---and myself!---that I trust Him no matter what and that I specifically trust Him to do what's best in Dale's life and body.  If being shaky and needing assistance walking and falling frequently is what He has in store for the rest of Dale's life, then I thank Him for what He's given us back and go from there.  If He has more in store for Dale and is just waiting for His perfect time to show us, then I thank Him and go from there.  Now, I tell God this several times a day, sometimes non-stop dawn to dusk.  My fears get the better of me sometimes, and I get frustrated and discouraged.  That's when I begin to take out my emotions on those around me, yelling, crying, chivvying Dale to try to do better.  Eventually I calm down again, pray for forgiveness, and make peace with my family, reminding them that God is control even when I'm not.  I have a loving God Who, I'm sure, covers His ears sometimes at my whining.  But I know He loves me just as I am, temper tantrums, failings, and all.  (He doesn't have a choice---He is love!  Read I John.)  God loves us all even with our fears and failings, and He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.  Sometimes He doesn't even wait for us to ask for His help; He just helps.  Those are the times I thank Him for the most, relieved to find He always knows what I need and is willing to give aid even when I'm too stubborn to admit I need anything or too fearful to face the future.  I love Him so much.

Thank You, Lord, for everything You are and everything You do.  You are wonderful, mighty, loving, just, true, and always faithful.  I love You, Lord.

Philippians 4:19  "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday afternoon 8/4

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!  I realize this verse is probably talking about salvation, but I think it applies to our situation as well.  God gave us our son back after drowning last August, but He also gave us front-row seats to one of His greatest miracles in modern times.  (I say that without bias, of course!)

One year ago tomorrow, on August 5, 2011, our youth group went on an activity.  Their goal:  to have some fun in the water on a hot summer day.  Their attendees:  teenagers from our church and several adult chaperones.  Their destination:  Long Beach, Washington.  Their future:  unknown.  Their lives:  changed forever.

Sounds like a Twilight Zone episode, doesn't it?  And some people would like to explain the events of that fateful day and the miracles that followed as due simply to medical triumph or natural, scientific causes or just a streak of bad---and then---good luck.  We know the truth.  We were there.  We lived through it.  We know what happened, how it happened, why it happened, and BY WHOM it happened.  It was God.

You see, when we sent our three oldest kids off that day for an outing with the youth group, we had no idea what would occur.  We gave them hugs and kisses and warned them to be careful, never once expecting anything bad to actually happen.  We have always tried our best to rear our children according to God's Word, knowing that they are only ours on loan from the Father.  He gave us five beautiful children to rear for Him; He trusts us with that responsibility.  Chad and I are not the best parents in the world, but our kids know right from wrong.........and they know they'd better choose right or Mom and Dad will have their heads!  :-)  When I said goodbye and drove away from the church parking lot, I never expected to have our assistant pastor, Bro. Tim Minge, at our house some hours later telling us that there had been an accident.  Part of rearing children for God is trusting Him to know what's best for them and to do what's best for them.  We trust God with our children, always have, always will.

One year ago, Amanda, Katie, and Dale happily climbed aboard the church bus for a teen activity to the beach.  Our church (and our family) holds strict standards, so there would be no bathing suits, no mixed swimming, no boy/girl hanky-panky---just good, clean fun in the sun.  I don't even know for sure what activities the youth pastor had planned for that day; they probably went in the water a bit, played football on the beach some, got more sun than they should have (girls!), looked for shells, etc.  Our assistant youth pastor's wife has a great picture of Dale before the accident, holding up a large piece of driftwood he had found.  He's grinning from ear to ear, pleased as punch.  At some point after lunch, the teens were back in the water, playing.  They had been instructed by the adults not to go out too deep but to stay in shallow water.  Basically, knee wading only.  I realize some will still say that's too dangerous---and, at this point, I agree!  Amanda, being our oldest, has always felt responsible for her younger siblings and took it upon herself to watch out for Dale at the beach.  She would look over every few minutes to make sure he was behaving well and not goofing off too much.  She told me that she had just begun to relax her vigil when the unthinkable happened.  She looked away for a few minutes, splashing and playing with her friends, when her friend's brother came running toward them, screaming to get out of the water.  They looked at him in some amazement, thinking he had lost his mind.  In fact, Mandie said, "Michael, what's the big deal?  You act like somebody drowned."  His eyes wide, he replied, "It's your brother!"  Amanda and Katie both began frantically scanning the ocean, trying desperately to get a glimpse of their brother.  They, along with the rest of the youth group, came stumbling out of the water, fear making their hearts sink lower and lower as the facts became clear:  Dale and another boy were missing.

Within a short time, the other young man, Aaron, had been rescued from his distress by Shannon Kissel and brought back to shore.  Mr. Kissel and his daughter, Nicole, were near our youth group, getting in some last-minute boogie boarding before she had to return to California.  They heard the boys' cries for help and immediately responded.  Mr. Kissel struck out after Aaron, telling Nicole to stay put.  She didn't listen, deciding to go help the other boy in distress---our son Dale.  When Shannon Kissel returned to the beach with Aaron, he was told Nicole was out there trying to save Dale.  Exhausted, he allowed our youth pastor, Bro. Jon Minge, to take his boogie board and go look.  We know from Nicole's account that she reached Dale, helped him onto her board, secured herself on top of him (we'll worry about cooties later!), and told him to start kicking for shore.  The waves were against them, however, and one giant one slammed into them, knocking them off and into the water again.  Nicole said she reached around, felt Dale, and shoved him toward the surface.  When they broke the surface and spotted the boogie board much closer to shore, she said, "We have to swim for it."  She and Dale began swimming, trying to make it to the beach.  Nicole told us she looked back once and Dale was swimming strongly with her; she reached the board and looked back, and he was gone.

In that instant, our world changed.  Gone was any idea we had that we could somehow shelter our children from bad; gone was the "I'm sure they'll be fine" attitude whenever the kids wanted to do something or go somewhere.  We could no longer pretend that we were in charge.  Suddenly, it became very clear that God was the only One Who mattered.  Our lives---the life of our son---was so obviously in His hands, as it had been all along.  We live our lives as if we are the ones at the controls when, in truth, God is the Master Organizer.  God is the One Who makes the decisions.  Our only decisions involve how to respond to His choices.  Will we follow Him as we should or will we rebel?  All at once, the only thing that mattered was what God wanted.  Don't get me wrong---Chad and I cried and prayed and talked that whole way down to Doernbecher, telling each other and God over and over that we trust Him no matter what.  We asked God to spare our son's life but only if that was what He knew to be best.  Repeatedly, like a broken record (does anyone still know what that is?), all throughout those initial traumatic days and continuing throughout the months that followed, we prayed, telling God we trust Him and waiting for His results.

And didn't God perform one incredible, unbelievable, life-changing, undeniable miracle?  God raised our son from the dead.  Dale was dead when they carried him out of the water.  All of the rescuers said so.  They looked at one another and said, "This is a fatality."  And they shook their heads because they hated to see that happen, hated to have to break the news to the frantic adults, hated to have to smash the hopes of those teenagers on their knees in the sand.  The paramedics at the beach did what they could to restore life to Dale's body, but nothing they tried availed.  When he left the beach in that ambulance, he was still not breathing nor was there any pulse.  Not until they reached Ocean Beach Hospital were they able to establish a heartbeat.  At any time after pulling him out of the water, they could have determined that he was too far gone to warrant continued efforts.  I believe those praying teenagers affected their hearts, causing the paramedics to continue their efforts.  God used those front-line Christians to help work His miracle in Dale.

Once a heartbeat was established and Dale had been intubated and stabilized, he was flown via LifeFlight to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Oregon.  Again, God put the people in place who could best help Dale.  The treatments used and care given Dale in those first few days were vital to his well-being.  Everything, and I mean everything, was being done to insure his comfort and ours, to try to keep him alive.  NOBODY expected Dale to survive, except God's prayer warriors.  Why were the disciples so surprised to hear that Jesus had risen from the grave?  Why were we so surprised when Dale opened his eyes?  Why were we astounded when they pulled the tube out and Dale spoke?  Our God is a God of miracles, people!  He can do ANYTHING!  And the proof is in our son.  Just one look at him, and people know there is a God in Heaven Who cares about His children.  They know that God can do anything if we pray.  Mountain-moving faith!

My father had a plaque made and sent it to us this week.  It commemorates Dale's drowning and miraculous coming back to life with these words:  Dale/August 5, 2011/The LORD killeth, and maketh alive/I Samuel 2:6.  Isn't that wonderful?  Hannah is praying to the Lord at the dedication of Samuel, the child she prayed so long for.  She makes the statement, "The LORD killeth, and maketh alive:  He bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up."  The Lord does, indeed, work in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.  Had anyone asked me a year ago if I wanted our family to be used of God, I would have said, "Yes!"  If they had said that we would have to endure hardship but that our family would be closer because of it, I would have still said, "Yes."  If they had said that God would use our family to touch the world, but that we would have to endure tragedy for that to happen, I would have been doubtful.  If they had said that God wanted to perform a wondrous miracle in our lives but that one of us would have to die first, I would have backed away.  It's a good thing we weren't given the choice first, right?  :-)  It's very true that God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but it's also true that God knows us inside and out and believes we can handle a great deal more than we are usually willing to take on.  We have a big God with big shoulders, and He wants to take our burdens for us, leaving us with the small but difficult task of simply trusting.  I choose to trust.  Will you?

Thank You, Lord, for another year with my son!  Thank You for granting us the privilege of rearing him for You.  May he someday be a shining light, pointing souls to Calvary.  You are great and wonderful, God.  You are the light of our existence.  We love You, Father.  Thank You for Your goodness to us.

Luke 15: 24  "For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.  And they began to be merry."