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."