Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dale is.........Dale!

Mothers of young ones know how hard it is when the little tykes are sick:  they feel miserable, they can't seem to make it to the trash can when they need to throw up, and if they happen to also have diarrhea---let's just say, things get messy!

Unfortunately, Dale kind of qualifies as a toddler when it comes to being sick.  He doesn't get sick very often, but when he does---watch out!  Have you ever heard of projectile vomiting?  It's as nasty as it sounds, and Dale has perfected it.  Forget about making it to the sink or trash can; everything comes out with such force that it winds up splashing back out and splattering whatever is nearby......feet, shirt, mother.  Yuck!  Dale felt really hungry just before bed on Friday night, so I got him a quick bowl of cereal.  When he was done, we headed upstairs for him to get ready for bed.  I'd taken just a few steps down the hall when Dale said, "Mom, I don't feel well."  I barely got the bathroom trash can in front of his face when he vomited.  He felt much better afterward and slept the night through.  Fast forward to Sunday night........Dale had an unfortunate bout with diarrhea before he went to bed as usual; everyone else was already in bed when I heard his voice from upstairs.  I quietly walked upstairs to find him sitting on the edge of his bed, grimacing.  He said, "Mom, I think I have diarrhea again," so I helped him to the bathroom.  He took care of business and had just finished washing his hands when I heard his stomach gurgling.  I teased, "That doesn't sound good!"  The words were barely out of my mouth when Dale threw up in the sink.  Again, everything went everywhere!  He actually woke up half the house with his vomiting:  Dad came out of the bedroom, Katie came stumbling down the hall, Ashley stood nearby in case I needed her to fetch anything.  Even our dog Peanut came and looked interested, although she may have been simply curious why everyone was up in the middle of the night.  Finally, Dale was done and able to go back to bed.

I decided to leave him home from school on Monday with his sister Katie who wasn't feeling all that great either.  I'd be tempted to think it was some kind of food poisoning except that we all ate the same things over the weekend.  Dale did have one episode of diarrhea while home Monday, but he seems to be okay today.  I had Katie give him applesauce and toast yesterday to try to help reset his digestive tract; hopefully, this did the trick.

Our church is winding down its theme for the month, Stewardship.  I'm not sure why churches tend to talk about stewardship only in January; maybe it has something to do with New Year's resolutions.  Our pastor has been preaching messages centered around giving, tithing, offerings, and general obedience to God.  I grew up in a solid, Bible-preaching, Baptist church and have heard preaching on tithing my whole life.  My parents taught me to be sure I gave God back His ten percent each time I received any money, so tithing is not a new concept to me.  I found myself a little bored during some sermons on giving, thinking, "I've got this nailed down already.  This is not something I still need to work on."  The Holy Spirit struck my heart and reminded me, "God loveth a cheerful giver---is that something you've got nailed down?"  And He is right; there are times that I kind of resent having to take money out of my paycheck that I frankly could use.  I always give my tithe, but I don't always give my tithe cheerfully.  I don't look for ways to give God more, and I certainly don't pray that He uses my small portion to further the gospel.  My actions may have been right, but my heart sure wasn't.  That is definitely something that I can work on.  I am so thankful that the Spirit can still talk to me and that I will still listen.  Can you believe my arrogance---acting as if I'd reached the top in any part of my Christian life?  I am so far removed from God's perfection that I should never sit in a service and act as if there is nothing new for me to hear.  If God were done with me, I'd be in Heaven!  Thanks be to the Father, His work in me is not yet finished.

Philippians 1: 6  "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How beautiful Heaven must be!

Late Tuesday afternoon, we received word that a dear friend of ours, the kids' adopted grandpa, had gone Home.  Juan "Papa" Hernandez had been ill for a long time, indeed had survived a heart operation many years ago that was experimental even then and had been in and out of the hospital for some time.  About six or seven years ago, doctors had given Papa less than a year to live, but he refused to kick the bucket!  This last year had seen his health decline rapidly; a few months back, doctors and surgeons met and agreed that no further surgery could be done.  So Papa and Oma (Helen, his wife) went home to continue doing what they had been doing all along........praising God for each day He gave them.

The girls had just finished volleyball practice yesterday afternoon when their coach came in with her phone.  She showed me the text she had received about Papa's home going, knowing we would want to know.  The girls saw the look on my face and knew instantly that he was gone.  There followed a torrent of tears from all of us---Amanda, Katie, Ashley, Emily, Dale, and myself---not because we wanted him back, necessarily, but because we don't know how long it will be before we see Papa again.  Amanda slipped out to call Oma, who promptly told us to come on over as there was already a gathering of family and friends taking place.

When we arrived, the small house was packed.  Many of the family members had been there already for some time while more folks were arriving.  There were hugs and tears and much praising of our Heavenly Father for easing Papa's pain and trouble.  All I could think was, "Thank You, Lord, for Heaven!  Thank You for giving us the certainty that we will see him again."  Papa no longer has trouble breathing; he has no pain in his shoulder or his heart; he can walk---no, RUN!---now.  He gets to see loved ones and friends who have gone on before.  And, even better, he gets to see Jesus face to face!!!

What a wonderful God we have Who has offered us the privilege of living forever with Him in His home.  Do you realize God didn't just provide us Heaven as an alternative to hell?  He didn't just provide Heaven so that we could live with Him for eternity.  He provided the surety of Heaven so that we would know we could see our loved ones again.  Heaven would be wonderful enough with just Jesus there, but God in His lovingkindness gave us the promise of Heaven so that we would not feel as if we had lost Papa forever.  Papa trusted Jesus as his Saviour, and, the moment he took his last breath on Earth, he stepped through the pearly gates onto streets of gold.  Anyone who chooses to accept Jesus' offer of salvation not only is given new life here on Earth but is also guaranteed eternal life in Heaven.  All we have to do is admit that we are sinners bound for an eternal death in hell because of our sin.  We couldn't possibly do enough good works to earn our way to Heaven.  God knew this and formulated a plan whereby we might be saved from our sin and spend forever in Heaven with Him.  He sent His Son Jesus to be born as a babe, live here on Earth for thirty-some years, and die a horrible death on the cross........just so that we could have to opportunity to be saved.  Oh, we still have the choice; we can choose to accept God's free gift of salvation or we can reject it.  Who in their right mind would spurn so great an offer?  If you have never accepted Jesus as your Saviour, please do not hesitate any longer.  The Bible describes our life here as "but a vapor", here one instant and gone the next.  Papa had been sick a long time, and we knew his death was imminent; but accidents happen all the time, and people do not necessarily have the chance at the last minute to say, "Now I accept your offer, Jesus."  Don't put off this important decision one moment more.  Pray---just talk to God and tell Him, "Lord, I know I'm a sinner, and I can't get to Heaven on my own.  I trust You, Jesus, and Your death for me on the cross to save me from my sins.  Thank You, Lord."  It's as simple as that.....nothing flowery or complicated, just asking and receiving.  Please don't let pride or family religion or the devil's doubts and questions keep you from settling this matter today.

Please pray for this dear family as they go through the next few days and weeks, adjusting to life without Papa.  Those of you who have experienced a loss of this nature know that grief hits at the most unexpected times.  A memory, a snippet of song, a picture will trigger tears and heartache afresh.  Our God is good; His Holy Spirit comforts us each time we need it, but human contact and prayer are essential as well.

God bless each of you today.  Hug your loved ones; don't let arguments or harsh words keep you apart.  Tell folks about Christ and what He's done for you.  Heaven is big enough for all of us; why should we be selfish and keep it to ourselves?  :-)

I Thessalonians 4: 13 - 18  But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.  For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.  For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:  and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:  and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dale is the epitome of that verse in Proverbs that says, "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again."  Except we would have to modify the verse to say, "Dale falleth innumerable times, and riseth up again"!

Dale's school grades have remained just where they have been for the past year---somewhere near the cellar!  It's really not his fault; the brain injury caused him to lose the ability to remember things easily.  You could say it's short-term memory loss.  While something is being taught, Dale understands completely; but, when it comes time to reproduce that on a test, he forgets what he has learned.  I think that the information is still in his brain so he can use it later, but his grades do not reflect that!  The doctor said Dale would struggle in this area; this is nothing we weren't prepared for.  If we need to make adjustments to Dale's schooling, we will---just not yet.

Oh, boy, where do I start?  (Dale falls so frequently that I've lost track of the days!)  I think it was Sunday morning, Dale's birthday, when we heard his bedroom floor shake, followed by a moan of pain.  Chad and I ran in to find Dale on the floor, his body having jerked so hard he literally fell off the bed.  His nose got scraped some and he acquired some new bruises; other than that, he was fine!  ;-)  We gave him some good-natured teasing about it not being Christmas any more so why was he still competing with Rudolph for the reddest nose?

Then.........Tuesday night, Dale was getting ready for bed.  I heard a loud thump.  I called to Dale, "Are you all right?"  He responded, "Yes," so I didn't go check on him.  Little did I know that his dresser drawer had fallen out and Dale was going to try to put it back in by himself.  (See what I mean about his not letting anything stop him?)  About five minutes later, Chad and I went racing into Dale's bedroom after we heard a second thump and Dale crying out.  He had tried to put the drawer back in place, dropped it, and then fallen on top of it.  In the process, Dale had scraped his arm, bruised his face, and bitten through the flesh below his lower lip!  At first we thought he had just bitten his lip but later realized the lower teeth must have gone all the way through because he has teeth marks on the outside and inside of his lower lip.  He bled and bled and cried and cried.  Eventually the bleeding stopped and Dale was able to calm down.  This injury is healing well, although the inside of his lip still causes him discomfort every time it scrapes across his teeth.

Yesterday at school, Dale was walking from the gym across a short strip of parking lot to the portable where his next class was.  Last night, the temperature dropped and some snow fell; so this morning, the ground was just a bit slick.  I hadn't thought to remind Dale to have someone keep a hand on him as he walked to class, and the young man with Dale was just staying close by.  Unfortunately, when Dale found the one icy patch to be found, he pitched forward and the young man couldn't catch him in time.  Dale wound up face-planting on the hard, cold pavement.  One student went running for the nearest teacher while another student came running for me.  This was right at the beginning of school; I was going through pledges with my students before we went to chapel when the student came running to my classroom and motioned for me to come quickly.  I left my class in the middle of the pledge and speed-walked to find Dale.  Mrs. Moyer was bringing him in, literally with her arms wrapped around him to keep him upright.  Dale was shaking badly, crying hard, and bleeding profusely.  (You know how head wounds are!)  He had managed to impact the pavement with mainly his nose which was scraped and bruised and swelling fast.  By the time I got there, his nose already had quite a knot right in the middle.  Both Dale and Mrs. Moyer said, "I think it's broken!" and it certainly looked like it.  We got him into the school office (a nearby teacher said she would take care of my class) and seated in a chair to assess the damage.  My first thought was to call Chad, so I asked someone to get my cell phone from my classroom.  Mrs. Darlene Minge went to get a bag of ice from the kitchen.  I told Chad what had happened, only then remembering that WE HAVE NO INSURANCE until the end of February.  Chad was pretty upset that Dale hadn't been taken better care of, but I quickly let him know that the ground hadn't been that icy to begin with, so no one realized the need for extra care.  Even while I was on the phone with Chad, the ice was doing its work and the swelling was coming down.  This relieved Chad's mind and mine.  We found some ibuprofen for Dale (thank you, Mrs. Ochletree!), and the ice continued to help relieve the swelling.  After some time, I checked Dale's nose, and it looked much better.  We could see that it was not out of alignment after all, just scraped and sore.  I took him back to my classroom for a short while and then walked him to class myself to be sure he was okay.  When I got him for lunch, I asked Dale if he could breathe through his nose, and he said he could just fine.  Even today, his nose is still slightly swollen and turning lovely shades of purple and red.......but he'll be all right!

Even with the falls this week and the resulting injuries, Dale still has that "gotta try" spirit.  I took the girls to soul winning this morning and came home to find Dale sitting on the couch.  When I asked him how he got downstairs, I expected him to say he had just scooted down on his bottom like before.  Dale surprised me by saying he had tried to walk down on his own!  He made it down one step before he got shaky and had to sit down on the step above.  At that point, it just made sense to keep scooting down until he reached the bottom.

Thank You, Lord, for letting Dale keep trying even though he has to know many attempts will end in failure.  This teaches me a good lesson in not quitting.  I tend to whine and complain when I don't feel well or have too much to do, and I even think I should give up this ministry or that project because I just can't keep going.  Then I see Dale suffer physical pain because he just WON'T QUIT!!!  God, bless my son for his persistence, and please give me some of his perseverance!  :-D

Philippians 4:13  "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Life is full of surprises!

To each of you who have continued praying for Dale and our family, thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers.  You really have no idea how heartwarming it is to know that folks we've never met and may not meet until Heaven are mentioning us before the throne of God.  I know you have your own lives with your own worries and concerns, yet you take time daily or weekly or occasionally to pray specifically for us.  Thank you so very much for that.  Please know that I pray for you as well; I ask God to bless you in return for the blessing you've been to us.

Dale is........Dale!  He has good days and bad days and sometimes he has great days.  Before Thanksgiving, Dale was walking really, really well.  Since then, he has gone back to his three-step-pause approach to getting around.  Of course, if he's more comfortable in a location like home or my classroom, he does better.  My husband, Chad, got to be at our home game last night (we won!).  He, Dale, and I were sitting on some chairs lining the court on the other side of the gym from my classroom, eating dinner.  When Dale finished, he stood up to walk back to my room.  Chad wouldn't let him go at first, thinking that Dale couldn't make it and might fall and hurt himself.  I said, "He can do it.  Let him." Chad looked at me as if to say, "Are you sure?"  I simply nodded, and Chad gave Dale permission.  Dale did his usual hunch forward and try to walk thing but soon realized that walking upright is really the best way!  I was so proud of Chad for staying in his seat and just letting Dale walk away.  Then, when Dale was just halfway across the gym, Bro. Hanson began half mocking/half encouraging him to take more steps.  He was counting, "One, two, three---oh, don't stop now!"  Mind you, Bro. and Mrs. Hanson were with the youth group at the ocean the day Dale drowned; he stood in the hallway outside the PICU that Friday night and apologized with tears in his eyes for not keeping Dale safe.  This couple has been so wonderful in their concern for Dale and willingness to do anything they could to help us since his accident---so we knew Bro. Hanson was not being mean!  :-)  Dale began laughing so hard, it was difficult for him to keep walking.  Bro. Hanson was mimicking Dale's walking (hunched forward, legs wide, elbows cocked), and Dale was just laughing.  Even Mrs. Minge, our preacher's wife, said, "If I were you, I'd go punch him (Bro. Hanson) for that!"  We didn't mind; it's nothing more than we've been trying to show Dale ourselves, that he needs to stop walking weirdly and try walking normally!  Sometimes he listens; sometimes he doesn't.  Eventually he reached the classroom where he stayed for some time before making his way back to my seat again.  I love the fact that Dale still tries, even knowing he may fall.  I don't think God is done with him yet!

To folks who don't know Dale's story or to new students in our school, Dale looks like he's mentally retarded, like he was born this way.  We've had to (gently) correct some misconceptions about his condition and let people know that God's hand is on our son.  God's plan is at work here.  How many people actually get to see God's hand in motion?  What a privilege we have, and you as well who keep following Dale's progress, to see our God working in our daily lives!  Dale's physical abilities may never get any better and he struggles sometimes with remembering lessons taught or where he was in a sentence, but there are times his mind is as sharp as a tack.  The other day, we were in Wal-Mart getting some quick groceries.  I let the girls choose soup cups for their lunches the next day.  Dale didn't want one, so I told him he could just have a sandwich.  He said, "Can I at least have some of the turkey on it?"  I looked at him like he was crazy and said, "Dale, we don't have any turkey at home."  He responded with expressive hand motions, "Mom, isn't that the point of going shopping?!"

Dale turns 14 tomorrow!  I reminded him of this today, and Dale just sat there like, "Wow, I didn't know I had another birthday coming."  What was that I was just saying about Dale's mental capacities........never mind!  Praise the Lord for Dale's still being alive and (sometimes) alert.  We have a wonderful God!

You'd think by now, having reached the ripe old age of _______ years (you didn't really think I'd fill in the blank, did you?), I would realize and accept the fact that you can't plan life.  Oh, we certainly try---we grow up thinking, "I want to be a _______ when I grow up"; we may dream of achieving corporate success or owning our own business someday; we put together a profile of the perfect spouse and proceed to ignore all those who do not fit our specifications.....completely oblivious to the fact that they will not be getting a perfect spouse in return; we even try to plan when we will have children, what gender they will be, and what they will be when they grow up.  Good heavens!  We're trying to be God, aren't we?!

I went to bed Tuesday night trying to work out in my head just how I would fit a new student into my class.  I'd been informed the day before we began Christmas break that I'd be getting another girl---yea!!!  We needed more girls to even things up a bit.  Since we'd been on break, I had yet to get a desk and chair for the newcomer; I'd not added her name to my grade book for any subject; I hadn't even received official paperwork from the office stating that she would be coming.  So I was fretting a bit Wednesday morning over where to have her sit and what she could be working on since her curriculum hadn't yet arrived.  Plus, this was the first day back after Christmas, and I was already feeling jittery about getting up on time after sleeping in so much, getting the kids out the door on time, and making sure I was mentally ready for the day---yeah, right!  I walked into class, greeted the students who had arrived a bit early, and got them started on putting the desks and chairs in order.  My new student arrived, and I told her to just sit at the TA's desk for now.  She complied and things were going well until........

Five minutes after the school bell rang, Bro. Minge knocked on my door, opened it, and ushered in a young girl and an older woman.  I smiled and walked toward them, completely unsuspecting of what was about to happen.  He said, "Good morning.  This is Min-Yoo.  Remember I told you about her?"  I stupidly said, "NO."  (Well, he hadn't!  We had been discussing in staff meeting some foreign students who would be visiting our school for a month or so, but none of them had been in my grade level.  Min is actually in fourth grade, but our fourth grade teacher's husband just accepted a job in Germany, and their departure is imminent.  Bro. Minge has two new teachers now for fourth grade---one teaches Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday; the other teaches Thursday and Friday.  He didn't want the new teachers to come to school on their first day and be handed a foreign student as well, so he gave her to me!)  Bro. Minge just kept talking, "She'll be in your class for about a month, and....." looking around the room, ".....it looks like I need to get a couple of desks for you."  I nodded my head, still in shock, trying to look welcoming and like I knew what I was doing!  One of my regular students hadn't shown up yet, so I gave her his desk.  Another lady came in with a camera to document Min's first day at this new school; of course, they wanted a picture with the teacher, so I got my picture taken.  I was told she only spoke a little English but understood more; as it turns out, she speaks more English than I thought but stumbles over words sometimes.  She can read and write English and actually has fit in to our class quite well.  Amanda (my TA) and I wound up copying off a couple of week's worth of curriculum for her and my other new student.  Needless to say, Wednesday was absolutely exhausting!!!  About noon I started to get tired; I had gotten little sleep the night before, and it was starting to take effect.  Around two o'clock, I switched to survival mode.......just finish the lessons, keep smiling, and wait for the bell to ring.  I'm not kidding!  I was completely drained, mentally, emotionally, physically.  I said goodbye to my students, listed the next day's assignments on the board, turned off the light, drove home, and went to bed.  I didn't even get to church Wednesday night; I was sooooo tired.  Thursday went much better with the students listening and participating well, lessons finished in a timely fashion, and some extra time for me since the kids had art in the afternoon.  Friday was really good; we had chapel which is always great, multiple tests which the kids did really well on, and the home game after school.  Here it is Saturday, and I haven't done a thing except rest!

God is so good to us, isn't He?  He never gives us more than we can handle while still presenting us with enough challenges that push us to our limits so that we have to admit we can't do life without Him.  That's the key, yes?  God never gives us more than we can do, but, since we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us, our abilities are endless---but only if we do all things through Him.  It just all keeps coming back to God........and that's precisely how it should be.  It's when we take our focus off God and start thinking we can do things just fine ourselves that we become overwhelmed and frustrated.  "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

Have a wonderful week, and keep your eyes on Christ!

Psalm 119: 18  "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law."