Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's summertime!

The calendar has officially passed the summer solstice, and we are enjoying a rare glimpse of early summer for eastern Washington.  Normally, this time of year is like every other time of year---rain, rain, rain.  A few years back, a friend of mine planned an outdoor birthday party for her son and husband whose birthdays fall only days apart in July.  The sky poured buckets and we had to move the party indoors!  This year, however, we've been treated to sunshine with regularity interspersed with bouts of rain.  Many folks are spending extra time out-of-doors, working in their yards or gardens or playing with the kids.  I'm sure some people are wandering around dazedly wondering if all the dire global warming predictions have finally come to pass!  Our family chooses to take each day as it comes and enjoy whatever the weather is for that day.

Our oldest three girls are gone this week to Youth Conference in Santa Clara, CA.  Amanda, Katie, Ashley, and a whole lot of other teens boarded the bus after church Sunday night, happy and chattering and (for the new teens like Ashley) nervous.  This is Ashley's first big trip away from home; while excitement hummed through every vein, there was also a great deal of fear and uncertainty.  After all, she would be gone for nearly a week; she would be in a hotel room with three or four other girls whom she was sure would be mean to her (!); she had to budget her food money to make it last the whole time; and she had two older sisters breathing down her neck.  So far, none of her fears have come to fruition.  Katie has been nice enough to let Ashley borrow her phone to call home, and Ash's reports have been cheerful and excited.  The conference, according to all three girls, is going well; they got to visit a water park on Tuesday morning (part of the schedule); I'm sure each service is filled with lots of singing, preaching, skits, and good Godly counsel; and they still have two days to look forward to.  Today (Thursday) is the last day of the conference, I believe.  On Friday, our teens will take a tour of San Francisco before loading the bus for the 16-hour trip home.  Each year that our kids go, they come back fired up to serve God and keep their lives on track for Him.  It's definitely worth the time spent raising money, sorting clothes, packing and repacking, missing our children, and welcoming them back home, exhausted, hoarse, and probably sunburnt.........all so they draw closer to God. Yep, definitely worth it!

In our case, our girls also learn a valuable lesson in trusting God through this Youth Conference.  Amanda and Katie both approached me last week before they left, expressing their fear and concern for Ashley's safety on the trip.  As older sisters, they already feel responsible for her behavior and conduct.  Since Dale's accident, they also feel responsible for her very life.  Each of them actually asked me not to let her go because, to their thinking, if she never leaves home then she can never get hurt.  Understandable, yes?  We talked and cried together, reminding each other that God is in control at all times.  Dale's accident, while not desired or planned for, was completely under His supervision.  If anything should happen to Ashley (not so far!), then we deal with it as with every other part of life---trusting God to know what is best always, asking for His guidance, and always looking forward to Heaven where all earth's troubles will be forgotten.  I confess:  I did go to Mrs. Rau (lady counsellor) and Bro. Jon Minge (youth leader) both, letting them know my concerns and asking them to keep a special eye on Ashley so that Mandie and Katie would be able to enjoy themselves more.  But, just allowing Ashley or any of our children to leave home is an act of faith on our part.  Chad and I have had to face the very real fact that, though we are as careful as can be, we cannot shelter our children from everything in life.  Unless we decide to lock the front door and never leave our house again, our family will probably encounter other hardships and possibly dangers.  We trust God to keep us in His hand and, if He chooses to allow bad things to happen, we still trust Him.  The Lord giveth and He taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord.  Amen.

Meanwhile, back in the Hall of Ostrander, those of us left behind have been experiencing life with less chaos.  Fewer children = fewer messes, less laundry, fewer complaints, and less stress!  Chad and I took the remaining kids (Emily and Dale) camping on Tuesday which happened to be Emily's 7th birthday.  She considered this to be a good tradeoff for having the girls gone on her birthday.  We went to Ocean Shores for the night, intending it to be two nights but Chad's boss called and needed him to do a short run Thursday morning which meant we had to return Wednesday afternoon.  Chad and Emily wandered down the path to the beach a couple of times, and Emily had great fun dancing around on the wet sand with "no shoes, Mom!"  Dale and I tried walking the narrow path to the beach; he was doing okay for a short while, but the many distractions and difficulties proved to be too much for his brain to process and he had a seizure right there in the sand.  It was strange; he picked up his leg to take a step and his knee sort of locked.  I said, "Dale, just put your foot down," and he said, "Mom, I can't!" and then the seizure hit.  Of course, there was no one around---Chad and Emily were far ahead---so I held him until the seizure released and then comforted him as he regained feeling and movement.  This was no longer than any other (in fact, it may have been somewhat shorter) and Dale seemed to recover from it a bit faster than usual.  He voted to keep trying to make the beach, but I told him Dad would kill me if he had two seizures in a row (!), so we turned around and headed back to the camp.  When we were almost there, Chad and Emily overtook us, and we were able to explain what had happened.  Dale was fine the rest of the night, although a bit tired, of course.  We all voted for an early bedtime so as to better enjoy the next day.  On Wednesday morning, we walked around the shops and looked at silly souvenir things.  Our favorite was a shirt that pictured a shark with wide-open jaws and a caption that read "Send more tourists; the last ones were delicious!"  :-0  We drove down to the beach to let Dad and Emily walk around once more, and Emily picked up three sand dollars, much to her delight.  This led to all sorts of jokes about what kind of money do fish use.  I think we all had a great time but were glad to head home.

To any who are concerned about Dale's reaction to seeing the ocean for the first time since his accident, let me set your minds at ease.  He was absolutely fine.  He has no recollection of drowning that he knows of and no underlying fear of the water.  As we sat in the truck on the beach before we left, I asked Dale if he remembered going on that youth activity (where he drowned).  He said he remembers going on the activity but nothing else.  He was not scared of the ocean or the sounds of the waves or anything.  And, obviously, we would not have taken him if he was.  I try not to pry too deeply into his memories of that day, but once in a while I'll ask him about it.  Sometimes he thinks he remembers being in the water but not being in peril.  For the most part, my older girls carry the fear of the water.  Amanda handles it pretty well, even being willing to go on the beach if it's not the same one where Dale drowned.  None of us have been back to that particular area since his accident.  Katie, however, won't set foot on a beach and is not interested in overcoming her fear.  Last week, her Bible class had an activity to a beach in West Seattle; she refused to go, saying she didn't want to go near any water like that.  I see no reason to push her beyond that boundary, realizing that I truly have no idea what that horrible day was like for them when their brother died.  Katie does not have a fear of all water, however; she went in the pool at the water park (Youth Conference) and had a great time.  Our family chooses to overlook the obvious desire to stay away from all water at all costs or protect our children to the point that they feel smothered.  In fact, we tend to joke about Dale's accident and subsequent challenges as our way of letting stress bleed off.  And it's not just the girls and I---last week, when Chad was planning this camping trip to the ocean, he said, "We thought we'd let Dale see what the ocean looks like from the outside!"

So you see, as in all things, our God is good to us.  He gave us back our son; He gave us life eternal by sacrificing His Son; He gives us life each day; He gives us strength to handle each situation; He loves us.  And that's what it's all about:  He loves us.  If we had nothing else in this life to cling to, we would have this knowledge and be content:  God loves us.  What a wonderful Lord!

I John 4: 18-19  "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:  because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love.  We love Him, because He first loved us."

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Let go, and let God!"

Have you ever heard this phrase before?  "Let go, and let God."  It means to let go of our lives, our desires, our ambitions, our plans, and let God have His way in us.  My preacher spoke along these lines in last night's sermon.  He was preaching from the passage of Scripture where the angel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to give birth to the Saviour of the world.  Odd verses to use on Fathers' Day, right?  But, Pastor Minge drew our attention to the verse which states, "For with God nothing shall be impossible."  He emphasized the fact that the verse says "with God", not "to God."  The Bible isn't saying that God finds nothing impossible; it's saying that we will find nothing impossible if we work with God.  And, usually, that means readjusting our sights to focus on what God deems important, rather than our own petty, personal goals.  Pastor Minge challenged us to imagine what we could accomplish for Christ if we let go the tight grasp we have on our lives and let God use us as He desires.

There is another verse in the Bible that compares our lives to a vapor that is here for a short while and then vanishes away, a puff of smoke that lingers for a few seconds and then is gone.  We humans, because we are human, tend to live as if this is the only life we'll get.  In a way, that's true; we should live each day, each moment, as if it were our last because it very well could be.  But, as children of God, we are promised eternal life---a new life that lasts forever in Heaven with God Himself.  We should be so willing to let God have control of us here on earth, to let Him direct us in the paths that He chooses, to carry out His will and His mission.........knowing that a life everlasting awaits us once our time here on earth is spent.  And yet we clutch our dreams and desires to ourselves and refuse to give God full control.  We give God part of our heart, part of our week, part of our attention while chasing rainbows and following our dreams.  Oh, I  believe God wants us to work hard at whatever job we have; I believe He wants us to be diligent and hard-working and good stewards of our employer's time and money.  But we should not have making money or climbing the ladder of success as our goal.  We should not sacrifice time spent serving God for time spent serving self.  We should not take time away from gathering at the church house and hearing His Word preached in order to spend time at the lake or work a double shift because that will impress the boss.  We should not forego soul-winning time just to go fishing or catch the early opening of a new store.  God expects to make out our schedule, not take whatever time we have left each week.

This goes for our daily activities as well.  Sermons on giving God your all tend to address only the "big" things:  church, soul winning, tithing.  But God wants each minute of each day.  He wants us to want to get up early in order to spend time with Him in the morning before we start our day.  He wants us to let Him control our tongues, not our own minds or---in a lot of cases---feelings.  He wants us to talk with Him throughout the day, making sure we stay aligned with His wishes and His will at all times, from the time we awaken to the time we fall asleep.  I believe it was Dr. John R. Rice who was approached by some young men once, telling him they had heard about his ability to pray and wanted to follow him around one day and witness this prayer in action.  Dr. Rice agreed and allowed them to shadow him throughout the day.  He chose a day that he was on the road, traveling somewhere to preach.  The young men were excited; they were getting the chance to see how Dr. Rice prayed!  They observed him as he got up and prepared for the day, shaving and dressing.  They watched him bow his head for a simple prayer before eating each meal.  They viewed him as he dealt with his appointments.  They waited rather impatiently for the time that he would push everything aside, drop to his knees, lift his hands toward Heaven, and address the Father.  As the sun crossed the sky, the young men began to fidget and ask themselves, "When is Dr. Rice, this great man of prayer, going to actually pray?"  The day began to wane and these young men began to feel ill-used.  They had expected some dramatic, life-changing ritual of prayer that they could copy.  They felt that they had wasted their time pursuing an overblown idea.  Finally, as it was apparent that Dr. Rice was preparing for bed, the young men thought, "Here it is.  Before he goes to bed, he will pray.  Now we get to see it."  But Dr. Rice merely reached out to turn off the bedside lamp.  The young men could keep their disillusioned thoughts to themselves no longer.  They burst out, "Dr. Rice, what are you doing?  We wanted to see you pray, but you haven't stopped to pray once all day!  Now you're just going to go to bed?"  Dr. Rice, that great man of God now in Heaven, looked at the young men in some astonishment.  He replied, "I have done nothing but pray all day long.  I prayed as I brushed my teeth this morning; I prayed as I studied my Bible; I prayed as I counseled people; I prayed as I was driven to the church; I prayed as I preached; I prayed as I was eating my meals.  I PRAYED ALL DAY LONG!"  Dr. Rice was trying to teach these young men that it's not important just to have a prayer time.........we all need a prayer life.  We need to give God every minute of every day, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.  God help us to give Him everything, holding nothing back.  Only then will we find perfect peace and know true joy.

On a more personal note, we're fine.  :-0

Seriously, we're having a good summer.  The girls (except Emily) are getting excited about Youth Conference next week.  They leave after church Sunday night and will return some time Saturday---early, early Saturday.  They will come back sun-soaked, possibly water-soaked, and hopefully Bible-soaked!  This week will be spent packing, unpacking, repacking, and then cramming things in at the last minute.  (Am I right or what?)  Emily's 7th birthday falls next Tuesday, and the girls won't be here to celebrate, so we are having cake and ice cream on Saturday instead.  That is also the day of our annual community yard sales; it's always fun to spend some time walking around in the afternoon and looking at stuff.  It's even more fun to buy stuff, but we'll have to wait and see about that.  So, as you can see, our week is full!  Packing to get rid of three children and yard-saleing on the weekend........what more could you ask for?  ;-)

At the end of the school year, Dale took an English diagnostic test to determine whether he should be in 8th or 9th grade English next year.  I haven't fully graded the test yet, but it seems as if he'll need 8th grade English PACES to reinforce this last year's teaching.  I thought the next book order day was in July, so I waited to talk to our school secretary until last night at church.  Turns out, there was a book order day in June, and she just sent the order in on Thursday! So, Dale will have to wait to start those PACES---oh, well.  No complaints from him, to be sure!  We're looking forward to next year already but not focusing on it too much in order to allow the kids to enjoy their summer break.  Plus, we're really working on getting Amanda ready for college, and that's taking up a lot of our money, time, and daily stress levels.  (LOL)

We have so much to be thankful for at our house.  And we waste so much time complaining about little things.  Silly, isn't it?  Thank You, Lord, for all the wonderful things You do and provide for our family.  We are blessed to be in Your family and privileged to call You Father.

II Corinthians 2: 14  "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

She did it!

After years of hard work, fun activities, and quite a few tears, Amanda has finally graduated high school!  Yes, our oldest marched across the platform Monday evening to accept her diploma stating that she did indeed successfully complete the required course of study and is now officially a high school graduate.  Chad and I and the family sat in the section reserved for graduates' families and shed a few tears/cheered along with them over our children's success.  This was definitely a night of mixed emotions:  excitement flowed from the graduates in an almost tangible river; parents were proud and relieved---for some this was their first child to graduate while for others this was their last; the audience was pleased and proud of those graduating for their hard work and perseverance against difficulties; the used-to-be-11th graders-now-turned-official-seniors were strutting around, already plotting their reign of terror next school year (just kidding---they're good kids); and the younger kids were just wanting to get over to the gym where there was a feast spread!

The ceremony began at 7:00 p.m. and lasted about 45 minutes to 1 hour, followed by the reception which lasted until almost 10:00 p.m.  You know how Baptists like their food and fellowship!!  Each graduate had a special table set up that their family had decorated with special mementos and pictures to honor them; we had spent time earlier in the day getting it all set up.  My husband had made a small canopy to cover the table and arranged rather pretty valances over it.  We brought in small balloons and pictures and stuff while Mandie put together a slideshow of pictures on her laptop which played during the reception.  Each graduate stood by his/her table which allowed everyone to move around the room, congratulating each one and admiring their table.  There was also a small basket on each table for cards and gifts; Mandie didn't open her cards until the next day, but, when she did, she discovered she had received a couple hundred dollars in various cards!  Praise the Lord!!  This she plans to use to open a bank account to draw funds from for college.  She is planning to go to Golden State Baptist College in Santa Clara, CA, and will probably major in Elementary Education.  She and Dad are already planning their trip down to drop her off at college and get her started on the rest of her life!

The rest of us have been enjoying our first week of summer vacation.  In fact, we've been enjoying it so much that Chad has already begun to scold us for sleeping in and not getting any housework done.  (And, I must admit, the scolding is most definitely deserved!)  However, we will not spend the entire summer break in bed; I will make up short lists of necessary household chores for us to work on, and we'll check them off as we go.  At least, that's the remains to be seen how much we actually accomplish!

We have each been to see the doctor, not because we were ill but to establish care at a new clinic.  The care provider we have chosen is actually an ARNP---Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner who works at the clinic with a doctor, and she is very nice.  We are all well pleased to be under her care (should we need it) and have already benefited from her advice.  She confirmed our belief that Katie suffers from tree/pollen allergies and then diagnosed Emily and possibly Ashley with that same allergy.  For now, we are dosing Katie with generic-label Zyrtec and Emily with generic-label Claritin; Katie seems to be responding to the medication---WHEN SHE ACTUALLY TAKES IT---sorry, family discussion spilling over, but we need to take a few more days before seeing if Emily will respond to her meds.  They inherited these allergies from dear old Dad who suffers the same problems each year.  I had kind of hoped his allergies would not be handed down, but there's not a whole lot to be done about that.  So far, Amanda seems somewhat allergy-free (she only has troubles if she rolls around in a field of dandelions) and Dale shows no symptoms whatsoever.  He's always been the healthy one in the family........go figure.  I don't think I have any allergies, just children!!

God is so good to us, and it's so obvious to anyone who cares to look.  Those who say that life is just full of coincidences or that God doesn't involve Himself in our daily lives are really just looking for an excuse to live their lives to please themselves.  God's hand is evident in the smallest the bouquet of flowers Amanda received from someone for graduation, beautiful orange flowers bursting out of a clear vase.  Orange is not my favorite color at all, but it is Amanda's.  The family who gave her the flowers didn't know that, but God did.  God loves us just as earthly fathers love their children and expresses that love to us just as earthly fathers do.  The only difference is God's love will never diminish or change.  Nothing we can do will cause God to stop loving us.  We may anger our earthly parents to the point that they say, "Enough!  You are no longer my child!  Don't ever speak to me again!"  But that will never happen with God.  No matter what we do, good or bad, God is always there.  If we obey His voice and follow His will, He blesses us with manifold blessings.  If we turn away from Him and do our own thing, God lovingly draws us back.  We may even get so bad that God feels like He must take us on Home early to stop our wrongdoing, but He never turns His back on us.  He is always there, whether we want Him there or not.  God loves us so much, doesn't He?

Romans 5: 8  "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."