Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions---love 'em or leave 'em?

Maybe it's just my personality type, but I hate making New Year's resolutions.  I feel like I'm not only reviewing an entire year's worth of failures but also setting myself up for even more failures in the next year when---not if---I fail to keep up my new New Year's resolutions.  So I'm faced with several options:  I can avoid making any resolutions thereby avoiding breaking any; I can skip the resolution-making and go straight to the self-recrimination; or I can decide to make small, doable changes so that I get to see progress without feeling like I'm overhauling my entire life (which may not be a bad idea.....).  Hmmm---I think I'll try the latter.  There's always time for options #1 and #2 later.....if I fail!  Lol!

As much as I HATE change, I realize that life is all about changing.  Can you imagine what we'd look like if we never changed hair styles or clothing styles?  (Some of us just need look in the mirror!)  What if we chose one boyfriend/girlfriend and never, ever changed that?  I can't see myself married to the first childhood crush I had.  That's just plain weird.  How about changing cars....or couches....or toothbrushes?  Change is inevitable.  Yes, I detest that statement too.  But, truly, change is necessary because change involves the most basic and blessed of God's gifts to mankind:  free will.  Change allows us to make mistakes (and I've made some doozies), learn from those mistakes (hopefully), and change our initial decision into something better.  Change is God's way of reminding us (1) we're not perfect, (2) we should keep striving to better ourselves, and (3) we need God's wisdom to make better choices.  This applies to every single aspect of our lives whether clothing, hair, devotions, child rearing, education, career, temper, worship, or even faith.  We should definitely always be searching the Scriptures to ensure our lives are in accordance with God's Word and, if they're not, then change.

You've heard the definition of insanity, right?  Insanity is continuing to do the same wrong thing over and over, yet expect different results.  If we want to become more like Christ, we have to read about Him and then follow His example---not just wish for it or "pray about it."  If we want to change our appearance, we need to shop for better clothes or shoes or change our hairstyle.  If we want to be healthier, we have to actually throw out the bad stuff and start buying/eating the good stuff.  We also have to stop making excuses for eating poorly, not exercising, and just sitting around.  If we want to be more patient or kind or less angry, we need to change our response to stressful situations.  This begins by deliberately biting back things that shouldn't be said and choosing not to take offense at things that are said to us.  Yeah, I know that's hard.  I "like" a lot of commentary on facebook that I would never actually say out loud to people!  If we want to be better, we must change.  I teach my children and my students:  We cannot change the way someone else is talking or acting; we can only change our response to them.  The first step is taking everything to God in prayer, but many people stop there.  The second step is to begin making those little changes to yourself and your behavior.  Once the initial changes are made, it's easier to build on that new, better foundation.

Enough preaching!  Ha!

2014 has been an interesting year for us.  I've shared many of our triumphs (and a few failures) with you in this blog, but, as I'm sure you can relate, some are too personal to share.  (That's a polite way of saying they're none of your business!)  However, we had a BIG blessing come our way just a month ago.  I had to wait to share this on the blog because we just told our kids about on Christmas Day.

About nine months or so after Dale's accident, his physical therapist told us about a foundation that might be interested in doing something for Dale and our family.  She had already called the Make-A-Wish Foundation but was told we wouldn't qualify for any wish-granting because Dale's condition wasn't terminal.  Praise the Lord!  But they referred her to the Sunshine Foundation, a non-profit organization that makes "dreams" come true for children who've been through a traumatic event, children who are living with a debilitating disease, or even abused children once they've been taken out of the abusive situation.  She asked me if I wanted her to submit Dale's name, and Chad and I agreed.  About four months later, we received a call from the Sunshine Foundation, stating that they would love to make Dale's "dream" come true!  We were so excited!!!  Dale had said he would love to go to Legoland and Disneyworld, and the very helpful people at the Sunshine Foundation gave us lots of information about how this would work and where we would stay, but they warned us it might take a year or so before the donations would be in place to make Dale's "dream" come true.  After all, there were a lot of children on the list before Dale!  (This was a little over a year after Dale's accident.)  So we waited......and waited......and waited.  Chad even called and was told that they were still getting donations together but that it was taking a bit longer than they had thought.  Basically, we gave up hope.  We had initially talked constantly about the trip and how fun it would be and how wonderful it was.  But, as time went by, we stopped thinking it could happen any day and began thinking it might happen some day.  And then we began thinking it might never happen, and that led to Dad and Mom helping the kids be thankful for what we already had---a brother who wasn't dead!---and be glad there were other families who got "dreams" because really they needed them more.  I mean, Dale was doing all right and we had so many blessings from God already.  You follow my thinking?

Two days before Thanksgiving, my cell phone rang in the middle of school.  It was on the charger, and I had to rush around my TA's desk to get to the plugged-in phone.  When I answered, Maryanne from the Sunshine Foundation was there, telling me that she had some dates to run by me from which to choose for Dale's dream!  I stood there, in the back of my classroom, students busy all around me, in shock!  I had stopped truly believing our turn would come and was now totally unprepared for the big event.  ***Side note:  isn't that how we view heaven and the rapture sometimes?  Like it's some "dream" that would be wonderful if it were true but not like we truly believe it could happen any moment!  Oh, may we not be caught unprepared for Jesus' return!***  I scribbled down the dates and data she was giving me---God bless her for her patience with me!---and thanked her over and over.  The look on my husband's face when I told him the news was glorious to see!  We put our heads together and chose the dates (April 16 - 22) and then decided to wait to tell the kids until Christmas.  We had to tell Chad's mom who lives in the Florida area because we'll get to see her when we go, and we told Amanda who is in California so she could get the time off and go with us.  It's been soooo hard not telling everybody until we got to tell our kids!  I had to tell my boss, the school principal, so I could get that time off; he walked out grinning at Katie like "I know something you don't know!"  Was that hard trying to pass that meeting off like we were just talking about school stuff!  We'll get more information in the next few weeks about our trip, but we are all so excited about finally getting to go.  Now to keep everyone's feet on the ground until April......

Dale has his next neurology appointment on January 5th.  This is not only the day we go back to school after Christmas break, but it is also the day before Dale's 16th birthday.  I remember sitting in the hospital room by his bedside and wondering if he would ever have another birthday.  Here he is 3 and 1/2 years later, God's living miracle!  We got Dale an 8-pound exercise ball as one of his Christmas presents; he's already been incorporating it into his supposed-to-be-daily exercise routine.  Sitting around for two weeks on break has not helped his stability!  Plus, he's excited about going on the trip and doesn't want to be limited by shakiness or weakness, so I think he'll be more willing to put some effort into exercising in the next few months.  Me too, for that matter!

God bless each of you in this brand new year.  Let's use this new time to reaffirm our trust in our Saviour, to put off the old man and put on the new, to show our love to God and each other, and to make better choices than we did this time last year.  Have a wonderful 2015!

II Corinthians 5: 17  "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Considering the length of time that stretches between posts here, I might better say "Happy Holidays" to cover them all, in case I forget to update the blog and miss one!  Seriously……

This school year has been especially busy for each of us.  I have more students in my class than I have ever taught at one time before; Katie is growing steadily more excited (and fearful) about completing high school and starting the next chapter in her life; Dale is working hard to get caught up in some subjects and successfully master others; Ashley is enjoying volleyball season---with a little school work thrown in; Emily is slowly coming to the realization that the same woman who is a loving mother at home is quite a strict taskmaster in the classroom; and Chad hardly sees any of us!

We're very thankful for this short break for many different reasons.  Of course, we all like time off, but this really gives us a chance to reconnect as a family.  The kids are all home---no sports, no sleepovers (that we know of yet!), no extra-curricular activities.  Chad and I actually got to go out last night for the first time in what seems like ages.  We had such a good time just talking without being interrupted or overheard by the children!  We laughed and loved and listened and loved some more.  It's good to re-fall in love with your spouse once in a while.  The girls were baby-sitting some younguns at our house while we were out; boy, were they exhausted once the little ones left!  It's been a while since we had toddlers in the home, and they require a lot of energy.  Plus, for some reason, the little girls were afraid of our dog……our little mop-rag of a dog.  The cutest thing was walking in the front door and seeing the three-year-old sitting on Dale's lap on the couch!!!  :-D

Many people at this time of year commit to challenges on Facebook or wherever, usually something titled "30 Days of Thankfulness."  I applaud the idea; we all need to diligently be more thankful for all God does for us and all we have.  I, however, did not take the challenge because I know me---I would forget to post on some day or another, and then I would feel frustrated about not fully finishing the challenge, and then I would get stressed trying to remember to not skip another day, plus I would have to keep rechecking my list to make sure I did not repeat some item for which I am thankful…….the whole thing would blow up!  I would go from being thankful to grumbling under my breath about having to be thankful!  Anybody else like that?  So I decided to just list some things here for which I am thankful.  (I feel like I should include one of those fancy lawyer clauses that states:  the items listed here are in no way excluding or limited to the above-mentioned items, blah, blah, blah.  You know---in case I leave out something obvious.  Just fill it in mentally!)

My God. His love for me regardless and in spite of me.  My husband.  His love for me regardless and in spite of me.  I hit the jackpot when I married him.  My children.  God must have thought I would be a good mother since He gave me so many, but I have often been tempted to doubt His all-pervailing wisdom in this matter!  My sweet oldest, Amanda.  I love you, baby, to the ends of the earth and back.  Your beauty comes from within and your warm heart draws everyone close.  My beautiful second, Katie.  You are so much like me, it's scary.  I love the way you are discovering yourself and how you find humor in most situations.  I love you so much, sweetheart.  My incredible son, Dale.  Who knows who you might have been if the accident had not happened.  (You probably would have been in a lot more trouble!!!)  I love seeing who you are becoming now, how you are learning to work with what you have, how you are steadily pursuing that once-thought-elusive academic goal of graduating high school, how your sense of humor has stayed intact.  I love you, son, more than I can say.  My darling fourth, Ashley.  You are so your own person!  I love your laughter, your craziness, your beauty, your love, your zest for life.  I love, simply, you.  My precious fifth, Emily Rose.  You grow each day and amaze us in new ways always.  You are bright, loving, goofy, half princess and half crazy girl, special, and wonderful.  I love you, dear heart.  My church.  I managed not to cry until I got to this line.  You are my heart, my home.  You have done so much for me and my family; you have stood with us when we needed support; you have wrapped us in prayers when we needed that blanket of love; you have helped us rear our children; you have taught us so very much.  I love each member, each service, each moment of time we spend together.  My godly upbringing.  My parents instilled in me Christian values and godly principles by their teachings, their service, and their lives.  These have stayed with me throughout my life, guiding my path and those of my children, showing me the way when life grew dark, helping me become who I am today.  I love you both very much.  My friends and family.  I've already listed some of you, but I mean to include all of you, near or far away.  Whether you are someone I see every day or someone I just reconnected with on Facebook, I value each friendship and look forward to interacting with you each time.  Your lives, your input, your busy schedules help me keep my life in perspective.  My country.  God bless America, now and always.  She has certainly gone off track from the direction her founding fathers laid out, but there is still hope.  We Christians need to pray for her daily, stand up for what is right, and speak out against the wrong.  I love my country and am so thankful to have been born an American.  My job.  I cannot tell you how much I enjoy being a teacher!  I look forward to each day, to teaching different subjects, to seeing my students, to watching for the "aha" look on their faces when they finally get a concept, to helping them grow as young people.  I love my students.  I love each class that comes through my door.  My salvation.  I know, this shouldn't be this far down the list.  I know God loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved, but the fact that He loves ME and sent His Son to die for ME is astounding.  If I were not saved, who knows where I would be today.  Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.

There are so many other things for which I am thankful that this blog would need to be a mile long to include everything!  One last thing:  I am thankful for you, the readers.  You have kept up with this blog; you have prayed endlessly for my family; you have commented on occasion, letting us know you are praying for us or leaving some bit of advice for us to try; you have sent us Christmas cards and letters at different times of the year just to say hello; you have even gone out of your way to be a blessing by giving us gifts or dinner gift cards or other things you knew we'd appreciate.  You have kept reminding us day after day, week after week, year after year, that we are not alone, that God has prayer warriors out there who bring Dale before His throne every day, that there are others who weep and pray and rejoice with us through ups and downs.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being part of our lives.  You mean so much to us.

God bless each of you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Job 2: 9  "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hooray for fall!

You can't look out the window and see these beautiful autumn colors and not know there is a God is Heaven Who cares about every detail of our lives.  If God put so much effort into painting each sunrise and sunset, coloring our world so brilliantly, allowing the leaves to show their true colors each fall---inanimate objects that can never return His love, His interest in and passion for us must be overwhelming.  I'm so glad I know that my God loves me, that He created me especially for His purpose, and that He chooses each day to pay close attention to my life.

Our school took their annual field trip to the Pumpkin Patch yesterday.  I absolutely dread these trips.  I'm not kidding!  I stress about them for two weeks ahead of time, freak out on the day of, and come home utterly drained of energy.  But I always come back with a deeper thankfulness for God's wondrous creation.  I am a homebody.  VERY much so.  Given the choice, I will sit at home all day and never go anywhere.  Going out to the store or church or school is expected and, considering the frequency with which I make those trips, tolerated.  But going 1 1/2 hours away and having to stay gone for six hours or more and being "forced" to be outdoors for nearly that entire stretch of time is akin to torture!  But, as usual, I enjoyed our Pumpkin Patch time.  I get a chance to see gorgeous colors of trees, leaves, and gardens; I get to breathe fresh air for more than just the time it takes me to walk from the car to the building; I get to enjoy time off from teaching while spending fun time with my class.

For the last few years, I've been able to divvy up my students among volunteer parent chaperones, thus leaving me free to take Dale around.  This year, because it was slated to really rain (here in Washington state, we're accustomed to regular rain but severe rainstorms get a label of their own!) and last year taught me better, we borrowed a wheel chair for Dale.  This made walking around so much easier!  We got to walk around just about everywhere and then spent some time in the coffee shop drinking hot cocoa.  Then, I discovered something that made me feel a lot more at home:  a country store!  We came to this same Pumpkin Patch last year, but I had no idea there was more to it.  Dale and I and some goofy teenage girls walked over to the farmers' market and enjoyed looking at all the home-canned salsa and fruits and jams.  There was a restaurant attached that sold wonderful mini pies, so I got my husband a strawberry-rhubarb pie which he loved.  Then there was a country gift store with homemade stuff for sale.  Boy, would I have loved to have had about a hundred dollars!!  This "shopping" made me feel less jittery about being out and away from home and helped to pass the time until we needed to load the buses and head back to school.

Speaking of school, we just finished our first quarter.  (Today is actually an in-service day for us teachers, but I've already update grades and attendance and computed honor roll averages; so I have some time to update the blog!)  I am so excited to be able to say all eighteen of my students made A or B honor roll this quarter!!!  I may not be able to say that the rest of the year, so I made sure to say it now!  Plus, each of my own children is doing well in school.  Ashley has a subject or two in which she could improve, but that is due to lack of studying.....which can easily be remedied.  Emily is doing well; Katie is working hard but getting good grades.  The best report is Dale:  He's been improving in his PACEs to the point that he doesn't need as much help finding answers and taking tests.  He is averaging (I think) a steady C in his classes!  Praise the Lord!!!  He doesn't require quite so much teacher hovering as last year, which means he's either matured a bit more and decided to do better himself or he's just getting the material better.  He's taking Algebra I this year and consistently doing well; his English and science PACEs show improvement too.  What a blessing!

I can't help but smile when I think of God's continued miracle in my son.  We were told that the biggest leaps of healing would come in the first six months after the accident.  The next six months would then show big improvements as well, and even the following six months (up to 18 months out) would show good progress.  But, after that, Dale was supposed to be pretty much done with the healing/progress/improvements; 18 months after his accident, we would have to start taking a hard look at what he could no longer do and what we would need to help him make adjustments for.  Yet, here we are at three years after his drowning, and God is continuing to show that He as the Creator can do what medical science deems impossible.  Dale is thriving in his school work, beyond what we believed he could ever again.  His attentiveness, his learning, his comprehension, and mostly his memory have all improved versus last school year.  Even physically Dale surprises us.  During the last hour of the school day Wednesday, Dale was sitting in the borrowed wheel chair (long story.....short version: the alarm kept going off and it was easier to keep Dale in the wheel chair that keep getting him in and out of it to exit the building!) and---get this---shooting hoops.  Real basketball hoops!  According to his sisters (who were almost in tears), Dale was making about 1 in 6 shots.  Not bad, huh?  I had no idea he could make shots from a seated position.  This is something we will have to explore in more depth.

All this to say, our God is simply awesome.  Just when we think we've reached the limit of His love/forgiveness/power/ability, He shows us something new.  Never give up on God because He's far greater than we could ever imagine.  He has depths we don't even know we should try to plumb.

Psalm 73: 24 - 48  "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but Thee?  and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.  My flesh and my heart faileth:  but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.  For, lo, they that are far from Thee shall perish:  Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from Thee.  But it is good for me to draw near to God:  I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Crazy start to our school year!

There's no other way to describe it but crazy.  Then again, most everything related to our family could be described as crazy!

We took a few mini vacations this summer, the latest being the week before school started.  This also happened to be the week of Teacher Orientation, which meant that I missed a couple of much-needed prep days.  I had gone in for a couple of half days to find out how many students were on my roster and see if I needed more desks/chairs.  Turns out, I had 17 students signed up!  Seventeen!!!  The most I'd ever had in one class before was 11 students!  Katie and I spent some time getting extra desks and chairs out of the storage container, then snagging desks and chairs from other classrooms too.  Finally, I had 17 desks and chairs to fit.

Then, of course, I had another student sign up.  Now I had to find another desk and chair!  And I was getting uptight because I didn't have any decorations on the walls.  And I hadn't put together any lesson plans for the first few weeks of school.  And I still needed to put nameplates on the students' desks.  And then I had a student withdraw but then got a new student added.  And, and, and!  I was getting more stressed as the time ticked down to the start of school.  Thank God for my Katie and Ashley who helped me decorate the classroom, pull out quizzes and tests for the first few subjects, track down last-minute desks and chairs, and generally did anything I asked of them!  What a blessing those two have been!

Of course, getting ready to start school and actually conducting a class with a million students are two different things.  I found myself in the first two weeks getting farther and farther behind in my lesson plans.  We didn't have science for nearly a week!  Even with Katie as my teacher's assistant, there was a mountain of grading to do each day, and it seemed like we finished each day with a line of students at my desk so I could check their homework slips while parents lined up outside the door to collect their children.  At least five times each day I found myself repeating the mantra, "I can't keep doing this.  I've got to find a better way."

Thank God for procedures and routines!  It took a lot of discipline on my part and tons of prayer, but by the middle of the third week of school, things finally jelled.  By now, the students knew what to do as soon as they entered the classrom; they knew how to set up their papers; they knew what classwork they could start on without waiting for me to teach that subject.  We finished reviewing the cursive alphabet which meant I could assign each day's work for the students to do on their own.  We even had a forty-minute block after art on Thursday in which to catch up on science!  I had to shift the first science test (scheduled originally for last Friday) to tomorrow, but, other than that, we are all caught up.  Praise the Lord!

Our children seem to be having a good start to the school year as well.  Amanda is taking a break from classes right now.  She moved out of the dorms and into the house of a friend and her family; the mom instantly began treating her like one of her own kids!  Mandie might be able to take some classes in the spring, but until then she'll work and get caught up on bills.  Katie, being a senior this year, is excited to only have a few classes, giving her extra time to work with me and help other teachers as well.  Ashley is enjoying no longer being a lowly seventh grader; she's gotten pretty good grades so far.  Emily has the best teacher in the whole world this!  I am excited to have my youngest in my class.  She's done a great job, too, of being a student in my class, not my daughter; she even remembers to call me "Mrs. Ostrander" instead of "Mom."  And Dale is doing really well.  He's gotten good grades on quizzes and tests so far and seems to be thriving at his PACE work.  Again, praise the Lord!

The end of July, we were able to get in to see Dale's neurologist.  Chad got to go this time too.  As always, the doctor was amazed at Dale's condition.  We always ask, "What comes next?  What can we expect?"  And he always answers, "I really couldn't tell you.....we just don't get many cases like Dale's!"  Dale continues to be a miracle case, but we know it's all God.  The doctor ordered another EEG since the last one on record was from December 2011.  That was scheduled for the second week of August, and it went well.  When the doctor got the results, he told us the EEG was clean---no sign of seizure activity.  So the doctor told us to start backing Dale off his anti-seizure meds.  We did this for about four weeks with no sign of difficulty and then BAM!  Out of the blue, Dale had a seizure.  Right at the end of school Wednesday.  His poor teacher was scared half to death!  I'm so thankful she was with him and that there were no other students in the room at the time.  She stayed with Dale until the seizure ended and then got help.  From her report, it seems like the seizure was of normal length and with normal occurrences (arms drawn up---posturing; abnormal breathing---he sounds like he's pulling in short, sharp gasps; inability to talk).  Dale did bite his tongue in two places during the seizure, but he's fine now.  Our preacher came and got me; by the time I got there, Dale had begun the loud crying that signifies he realizes he's coming out of a seizure and hates that it happened again.  He told me later he was hoping the seizure was just a dream.  It took a bit longer for him to regain the ability to hold his head up and such; but only a bit, and it had been a while since his body had dealt with a seizure, so I imagine he was extra drained from the experience.  By the time we got home, Dale had regained the ability to walk, so he was able to get into the house just fine.  I made sure he rested for a good while before resuming normal activities.  He even went to church that night!  He's shown no sign of adverse side effects since the seizure, and we're back to a regular dosage of pills.  Life continues......

This was an extra-long post, but it's been extra-long since the last one so there was more to tell.  Thank you so much for each of your prayers.  To anyone but the most hardhearted athiest, it is obvious that God not only cares about each of us but also knows what it best for us.  Thank You, Lord, for Your blessings on our lives, even when we sin, even when we fail You, even when we're too busy doing our daily thing to even see Your marvelous hand at work.  Thank You.

Isaiah 60: 19 - 20  "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee:  but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.  Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself:  for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me; bless His holy name.

On August 5th, it will have been three years since that fateful day at the ocean that changed our lives forever.  Three years since our youth department decided to change the date and location of what should have been a fun-filled day trip with the teenagers.  Three years since many of our young people lost their naive belief in their immunity to harm.  Three years since our family, our youth group, our church, our nation, our world saw the power of prayer.  Three years since our God showed His mighty power over death.

It's been three years of pain, prayer, patience, and persistence.  Those first days of wondering whether Dale would ever wake up or what condition he would be in if he did.  The endless, continual, fervent shaking of Heaven's gates by those closest to us and people whom we'll never meet this side of eternity, begging God to spare Dale's life while remaining firm in the belief that His way is always best.  The incredible joy when Dale opened his eyes long after the doctors had given up hope.  The subsequent weeks of hospital care and in-patient speech, occupational, and physical therapy, trying to help Dale remember how to do what should come naturally to a twelve-year-old boy.  Those first months home from the hospital, juggling therapy and school and caring for our son, thinking he may never talk on his own again, may never not need help in the bathroom again, may never smile again.

There have been a multitude of times when we've wanted to quit.  Times when Dale seems to take one step forward, two steps back.  Times when our constant efforts are nowhere near enough.  Times when Dale himself just won't try any more; he's so tired of hearing the same reminders to keep his head up, to pull his shoulders back, to not lunge forward with his right leg and make his left play keep up.  Times, especially lately, when it seems all he wants to do is watch TV or play video games.  Times when we grow frustrated or get angry or just plain cry, knowing full well that anger or words or tears are not going to solve anything.  Times when we wonder why God answered our prayers to save our son's life, only to leave us with a physically handicapped, slow-speaking, memory-challenged lump of flesh who thinks we are supposed to do all the work to help him walk and think and learn and grow.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it?  Yes, it does.  Those of you who have had to face similar challenges know exactly how we feel.  We love our son and wouldn't trade him for the world---but sometimes we wish we could get a day off.  Sometimes his sisters wish they could just be normal teenagers again without having to constantly look out for their brother or help their brother or do their brother's chores or be embarrassed when their brother falls down in the parking lot for the millionth time because he won't listen when they tell him to stand up straight and walk the way he's been taught.  Sometimes I wish I didn't have to worry about rearranging his subjects at school to give him a chance to pass his classes so he can at least graduate from high school.  Or assist him into and out of the bathtub.  Or wash his hair for him.  Or chide him about brushing his teeth better. Or any of the hundreds of things that come up each day that Dale can no longer do because of the accident, like washing the dishes or carrying laundry upstairs or clearing off the table or helping with the chores or walking around a store on his own.  I imagine Chad sometimes wishes his only son could actually carry on the family name or work on the car with him or challenge him to a game of horse or help out in the yard.  It's tough having a handicapped child, and there is no nice way to say that.

It's been three years since our family's sense of well-being was traumatically altered, but it's also been three years since we near-physically felt the hand of God on us.  It's been three years since we learned we are not impervious to danger just because we are Christians, but it's also been three years since God proved He listens and He cares.  It's been three years since we looked death in the face, but it's also been three years since God granted our son new life.  It's been three years since our world was shattered, but it's also been three years since we learned anew that this world is not our home.  You see, each day is a gift from God.  What we do with that gift is up to us.  Our patience is daily tried; our limits are constantly tested; our strength sometimes fails; our endurance will occasionally falter; our attitude will at times be poor……..but our God is everlasting, never-changing, always loving, ever-giving, perfectly right.  When our patience runs out, He is there.  When we  have reached our limits, He is there.  When our strength fails, He is there.  When our endurance flags, He is there.  When our attitude is not Christ-like, He is there.  God is our constant; He is our strength; He is our very present help in trouble.  You may see us get upset or angry with our son sometimes, but you will never see us angry with God or blaming Him as if His miracle isn't good enough for us.  God knows what is best, and He knows His children.  He only gives us what we can handle; and when we can't handle it, He's there to hold us close and rock us gently until we feel better.  The only way we get through each day---and the yawning stretch of endless days ahead like this one---is by remembering what awaits us in Heaven.  There will come a day when I will see my son run down the golden street.  For this moment, today, I can trust God and His miracle and thank Him for all He's done for us.

Psalm 86: 9-10  "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O LORD; and shall glorify Thy name.  For Thou are great, and doest wondrous things:  Thou art God alone."

Monday, June 30, 2014

Where did June go?

Is it really the last day of June already?  It feels like school just got out, and now we're facing the fact that tomorrow we'll be able to say, "School starts again next month!"  That's just plain wrong.  June should be extended for at least another two weeks to give those of us who've spent at least half of each morning in bed a chance to experience a full June day before we move on to July.  Not that I'm admitting to being lazy, mind you.  I'm just.....sympathizing......with those who may be.  Yeah.

Anyway, we've had a relaxing first month off school.  I keep telling myself ---and Chad--- that we'll get up earlier each day so as not to set ourselves up for trouble come the last week of August when we have to get up around 6:45 a.m. for school.  Eventually I will fulfill that promise and be an early riser.  Eventually.  Like, when I'm in Heaven.  Maybe.  Please tell me they don't have alarm clocks in Heaven.

For those who have been praying with us about Dale's necessary meds and neurology appointments, the news is not good.  Apparently everyone is "really sorry" about having us over a barrel, but there is no way around paying through the nose for a once-a-year doctor appointment.  The insurance company said that's just the way the provider chooses to bill it, and the provider said that's what the insurance company's contract states.  Either way, we have to meet our $600 deductible along with the $60 specialist fee in order for Dale to be seen by the neurologist.  Dale usually sees this doctor in May, but we couldn't get an appointment until November.  They put us on the wait list for cancellations, though.  This visit will be especially important because the doctor will be able to see Dale's regression since the last visit.  It just seems like Dale has given up trying to walk correctly and instead chooses to shuffle along, posture all out of whack, taking no more than four steps, and depending way too much on his right leg to do all the work.  Chad and I and Katie and Ashley have tried and tried to get him to walk correctly, but Dale just ignores us for the most part.  Once in a while, he walks correctly---good posture, right foot then left, shoulders back; these moments are few and far between, and, when we point out his errors, Dale makes excuses.  Nothing is ever his fault, so there is nothing he can do to change it, see?  Please pray that Dale will take more responsibility for his own actions and be desirous of achieving the goal of being more independent and walking better.

Every week we have people ask us, "How's Dale doing?" or "Is he getting better?" or "Have you considered _________?"  Neither we nor the doctor think a cane or walker would help Dale right now; it would just give him one more thing to have to think about.  He does not go to physical therapy because (a) Dale is only allotted six therapy appts. per year (and what good would that do?) and (b) these each cost $60 because they're specialty visits.  We honestly have no idea if Dale will get better or worse or stay the same for the rest of his life.  We appreciate everyone's prayers for him and our family and are by no means giving up; we just realize the need to think practically.  My husband has a good job which pays our bills; our family is strong yet vulnerable; we all have "good" days and "bad" days.  Just because you see Dale struggling to walk doesn't mean prayer doesn't work.  Just because you see me or my family frustrated with Dale for not listening/trying doesn't mean we're mad at God over our situation.  And......please don't take offense.......just because something has worked for you or your family member or your friend doesn't mean we're going to jump right up and buy it.  Trust me---we've looked into numerous different products and therapies and supplements for Dale; there is simply not enough data/studies/time/money/patience for us to try everything that has been brought to our attention as the next medical or natural wonder.  We are sincerely doing all we can to help Dale improve, and only God knows God's plan for Dale.  It's easy (and more hopeful) to think that God has some grand and complex plan for Dale's life that will naturally require him to be fully healed to fulfill, but the truth is THIS may be God's plan for Dale.  Sparing his life may have been the ultimate plan God had for Dale, and now it's time for someone else to be God's next miracle.  Maybe God's plan is for us to trust Him day by day to give us the courage, strength, wisdom, and patience to live with His ultimate plan.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God's plan is best, and so I trust His choice in this matter just as I trust His choice in all other matters.  I'm not giving up on God.  I'm learning new ways to trust Him.

Have a safe and wonderful Independence Day!  Remember to thank God for our country and our freedom.  God bless each of you.

Psalm 150: 2, 6  "Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His excellent greatness.  Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.  Praise ye the LORD."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hooray for summer!

I know only kids are supposed to get excited about school ending, but we teachers are pretty pumped too!  I mean, we've had a great year and my students are wonderful---but I can't wait to not set the alarm.  Oh, the bliss of waking up at 6:00 a.m. and realizing, "I don't have to get up soon!"  Yes, this is what motivates me to smile and love and overlook my class' boisterous activities these last few days/weeks.  We only have three days left!

Having said that, I am so thankful to be a teacher.  I taught K4 for several years and loved it.  A lot more stress, a lot more goofiness, a lot more potty breaks, but so good.  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to move up to 3rd Grade.  The teacher at that time was leaving to have a baby, and our principal was looking to fill her spot.  My husband, wise man that he is, urged me to tell my boss that I could teach third grade if he wanted me to.  I was terrified!  I had become comfortable in K4; I had a great routine in place; I had little grading or testing to do.  I had it made!  But, I followed Chad's advice and threw my hat into the ring.......and I've never been so glad I did.  These students are at the perfect age:  they are moldable, teachable still; they listen still when I talk; and they love unconditionally.  I have learned so much from them about helping others, about seeing the Bible through a child's eyes, and about how kids grow up---what shapes their thinking.

Let me just stop and say, "Thank God for godly teachers for my children!"  We take our teachers for granted, expecting them to train and instruct our kids in academic values, forgetting that they teach much more than just 2+2=4.  My children are who they are because of their godly teachers.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

But, even with a school year full of excitement and a computer full of grades reflecting how well I taught and they listened, there comes a time when we all need a serious break.  We call this summer.  Summer is the time when even adults try to sleep until noon, when life takes on a more relaxed pace, and when we pretend to get lots of chores done that had to wait until we had time.  This is also the time that drives my husband nuts.  He can't stand the fact that we don't have to get up at O-dark-thirty or the fact that we tend to laze around for at least the first week!  To pacify him, I will create a "chore list" of things that truly should be done around the house, and then each week we will look at the list.  We probably won't actually do any of the work, but we at least looked at the list!  This also drives Chad nuts.  I may have to change my strategy.

I think I need to make some actual changes to Dale's schedule.  He seems to have regressed physically this year.  He is not at all steady on his feet; he falls frequently; and his balance is way off.  I want to implement a workout program for him to strengthen his muscles and help him feel better in control of himself.  I think, with the growth Dale has experienced over the past couple of years (height), he's not as sure of himself as he used to be.  Chad thinks we also should make another appointment with the neurologist to see if Dale's medication needs to be adjusted.  Please pray that the insurance will approve a referral from our regular doctor to the neurologist so that we will only need to pay the office visit fee.  Right now, the contract that the neurologist has with the insurance company states that any visit must be covered as an outpatient hospital visit which means we must pay our $500 deductible as well as the specialist fee.  That's quite a chunk of change!  We need to make the appointment in the next week, so your prayers are coveted.

With the close of the school year, everybody moves up a grade.  Emily will be in third grade---yep, my class.  (The year I moved up to third grade from K4, Emily was supposed to enter K4.  She was soooo upset that I wouldn't be her teacher.  She has been threatening me all year with dire punishment if I move to another grade this next year!)  Ashley will be in eighth grade.  She acted recently in our school plays; she was an accountant to the king in one and part of a group of protesters in the other.  As the accountant, she was dressed in a much older style and had her hair up and makeup on---she was almost unrecognizable!  She's already pretty, but in a few years when she can start actually wearing makeup---watch out!  Dale will be in tenth grade, although he is still catching up in a few subjects.  And Katie will be a Senior!!!  She is excited and scared to death.  But those feelings are swamped by the overwhelming relief that she passed geometry this year!  Amanda is finished with her first year of college and is coming home in a few weeks for a two-week visit.  We are so excited, not having seen her since saying goodbye in September.  Each member of our family has had to deal with not having her with us each day, but the ache in our hearts never eases.  I thank God for kind, loving people who are helping work out the plans to get her home.  Sooooon!  :-)

God has been good to us.  There's no doubt about it.  Have you every heard the song, "God's been good in my life"?  Each word is so accurate an accounting of our family that I cry each time I hear it.  He is so loving, just giving us breath; to bless us with health and home and work and children and mercy and kindness and love is beyond expression.  He is wonderful.  He is good.  He is!

John 11: 40  "Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

A very happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful women out there who have made us what we are today!  Remember:  if there's anything wrong with us, it's your fault.  :-)

Don't all moms thinks this way?  We work and pray and cry and beg and teach and plead and care and nurture and scream and try and love with all our hearts 24/7, but if our children choose to act on their own sinful nature, we blame ourselves.  The Bible says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."  This verse is supposed to be an instruction to parents about rearing their children, but it is, unfortuately, used mainly as a guilt-inducing mantra to point fingers whenever our offspring, whether child, teenager, or full-grown adult, chooses to do wrong or chooses to go a different path than the one his parents' critics would have chosen.  The fact is we are all our own people; we all know what is right, and we all at some point choose to ignore the right and go for the bad.  Moms, don't blame yourselves for your children's choices.  None of us are perfect parents, so why should we expect to have perfect children?  Our children must choose what to do with their lives for themselves; they must make their own decisions.  Children, don't blame Mom or Dad for your choices or failures.  You must stand on your own two feet and be the person God wants you to be.  Perhaps you didn't have a wonderful childhood; you have the option to have a better adulthood.  God knows we are all imperfect vessels, yet He uses us anyway.  He has a plan for your life no matter how secure or normal or messed-up we are to start with.

So I say again, "Happy Mother's Day" to all the moms out there.  This is not a day to mourn perceived failures; this is a day to celebrate not killing your kids!  Enjoy your day.  You deserve it!

Last week our whole family was busy with our church's first Youth Explosion.  (No, we did not explode any youth.)  Bro. Reno Likens started these Youth Explosions about twenty years ago, so he came out to help us with our very first one.  On Friday, May 2nd, our teens went out to the public schools and handed out flyers announcing the upcoming event.  Then on each day of the event, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, they got out of school early to hand out flyers, came back for a quick meal, got on buses to go pick up teens who wanted to come, came back to church for the Youth Explosion from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and then rode the buses again after the service to drop the teens off.  Chad was working Monday night but drove a bus Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  Katie and Ashley worked each day's event, Katie pushing through a headache that lasted from Sunday night through Thursday.  Dale got to attend each service; Emily and I worked in the nursery Monday and Tuesday nights and attended service Wednesday night.  We had well over 300 brand-new teenagers attend the Youth Explosion over the three nights and 117 people accepted Christ as their Saviour!  What a privilege to be a part of these newly born Christians' lives!  Our teens got to be involved in something special that will impact their personal walks with God.  We were all exhausted but happy.  Praise the Lord for souls saved and teens introduced to church and lives affected.

Only a few short weeks of school left before we're done!  Seniors are getting sooo excited to be going on their Senior Trip and then graduating soon.  Juniors (like Katie) are beginning to freak out, knowing they will soon be Seniors and must account for their academic life thus far.  Everyone else is glad to move up a grade.  Elementary students are just looking forward to summer break.  Teachers are trying to cram in the last bit of curriculum they can before final exams must be taken......and graded.......and averaged......and computed.  There are always some students and parents who are biting their nails, waiting for grades to be announced so they can either slump in depression or sigh with relief.  Some teachers are already looking ahead to next year, planning classroom layouts and papers and preparing their lesson plans.  Others will be glad just to close the books on this year's class!  All in all, we've had a good year and are looking forward to some genuine time off.

For those who are wondering, I'm not skipping church.  No, this Mother's Day I am home sick with a nasty cold.  Someone (either husband or student or friend or choir partner) gave it to me, and I'm not complimenting them on their sharing ability.  Emily is home sick with the same cold; she was running a low-grade fever last night along with the coughing and sneezing and runny nose.  Dale is home with us because I didn't wake up in time to wake him up to get ready to go with his Dad!  We may make it to service tonight......and then again, we may not.  Depends on if my head has exploded by then.

Again, Happy Mother's Day to all!

II Timothy 1: 5  "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How big is your God?

Have you ever heard someone say, when asked how they're doing, "I'm okay under the circumstances"?  As children of the most High God, we should never allow the circumstances to determine how we successful our walk with God is.  Don't we have a big enough God to handle the circumstances?  God has proven over and over throughout the Bible that He is bigger than anything that may be bothering us or holding us back from a joyful Christian life.  God can control the rising and setting of the sun; He made water come out of a rock; He made an entire valley full of dead bones come alive again; Jesus controlled the weather; He made the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame walk; He even raised the dead!  We sometimes act like our God has somehow lost power or ability or strength in modern times.  We live as if "Sure, God could do all that WAY BACK THEN, but nowadays He's just not the same."  Not true!!!  Our God is all-powerful, all-seeing, fully able to do anything we need.  Why do we then mope around, wishing we had a magic lamp to rub so some mythical genie could grant us what we want?  Just ask God!  He expects us to go to Him with our needs and desires.  He wants us to ask Him for His divine help whenever life gets too big for us.

"When life hands you lemons, make pizza.  Then stand back and smirk while everyone tries to figure out how you did it!"

Isn't this a great life motto?  I mean, who wants boring old lemonade anyway?  It's always too tart, and adding enough sugar to keep your mouth from puckering makes your blood sugar skyrocket.  Am I right?  Why not do something amazing instead?

If you can't tell, I'm deliberately looking for the crazy in life to celebrate.  If I were to list all the events of the Ostrander household from the past few weeks, by the time you were finished reading it you'd be curled up in a corner somewhere rocking slowly back and forth, waiting for the men with the straight jackets to come.  We have not had a "normal" day for weeks!  Our days off are like mini circuses, and our "regular" days have turned into nothing short of torture devices cleverly packaged in 24 hour increments.  Not to say we've had nothing but bad stuff going on, but even good days or fun times can be chaotic when you start with a husband/father who works himself to the bone to provide for a family of seven, then attempts to find some free time to take care of the house and yard, go to the gym, and maybe relax some!  Next comes the wife/mother who, at her best, is slightly neurotic and, at her worst, resembles the Wicked Witch of the West.  Somehow, despite her looks, figure, and abilities, she views herself as Wonder Woman and is constantly volunteering herself (and her kids) for all sorts of extra activities.  Add to this a daughter who is a freshman in college, away from home, and homesick; another daughter who is fast approaching her senior year and maybe college after that and then what do I do with my life???!!!!!; a son who somehow can't seem to keep from falling.....while walking, standing, or even sitting (!) and keeps us all literally on our toes, waiting for the other shoe to drop---with him in it; another daughter who is almost 13 going on almost 39 and is proving to be the proverbial challenging mix of teenage angst, sweet help, and crazy woman-girl; and the youngest daughter who, precious though she is, is driving us all nuts with her goofy antics, unwillingness to do more than two pages of schoolwork on any given day, and desire to be the center of each and every conversation anyone within five miles is having. 

 In other words, we're just a normal family living normal lives and facing normal struggles like everybody else.  We have frequently had people tell us with all sincerity, "Your family is amazing.  There's no way I would have been able to handle what happened to your son and still serve God or stay faithful."  Truth be told, what I said earlier is absolutely true:  we're just a normal family.........with an incredible God!  You're right; there's no way we would have been able to handle Dale's drowning were it not for the fact that we trust God.  Period.  We trust Him to always know what's best, to always do what's best, and to always be what's best.  We don't trust God unless.........and wait to fill in the blank whenever something happens we don't like or understand.  If God is trustworthy, then trust Him.  Why does He constantly have to keep proving Himself to us?  Wasn't Calvary enough?

As crazy/hard/unbearable/overwhelming as life gets sometimes, we can lean on God at all times to be Himself---trustworthy, loving, true, right, good.  If you have not already made the decision to trust God no matter what, try it.  You'll see.  He won't fail you.

Psalm 104: 1  "Bless the LORD, O my soul.  O LORD my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

We've come this far by faith.

Do you ever feel like "you can't see the forest for the trees"?  Sometimes we get so close to a situation that we get bogged down in minutia and forget the bigger events being played out.  This applies to parenting, marriage, ministries, housework, etc.  For us, this applies to Dale.

Don't get me wrong---we love Dale and can't imagine our family without him.  We are so thankful each day that we didn't have to find out how that would feel.  But sometimes we as a family have to take a giant step backwards and look at the bigger picture God is mapping out.  We get frustrated by daily struggles with Dale's unsteadiness, his constant memory problems (he acts like he has Alzheimer's!), the continual need for someone to be near him/hold his hand when walking somewhere or going up/down the stairs, the incessant jerking and falling, listening to his slower speech as he tells us some joke or story.  I, especially, start feeling sorry for myself, as I feel I bear the brunt of Dale's care.  Can't you just hear the whine in my feel-sorry-for-me voice?  "I'm the only one who ever helps Dale.  I'm the only one who walks around the store with him.  I'm the only one who walks up the stairs behind him.  I'm the only one who cares if he falls.  I'm the one who has to be the mediator between the girls and Dale when he's being stubborn and they're fed up."  Of course, this is merely my perception of events, but each of us feels that way.  We each begin to focus on how much extra work Dale is causing us to the point that we forget:  we're living every day with a miracle straight from God's hands!

Two and a half years ago, God reached down and changed the future I had all planned out for my family.  God proved His might and His power, He returned life to Dale's body after all hope was lost, and He showed that He can and does still answer prayer "now in this time."  Oh, the rejoicing and praise and extolling of God's power that was heard then!  Our family, our church, our friends, and new friends across the globe joined as one in praise and worship of our God.  We felt the Holy Spirit's presence as never before because we could actually see God working in our lives.

And then we had to go home.  We left the hospital, returned to our house, and began the (sometimes) drudge of everyday life:  therapies, school, church, home, repeat.  We began to realize that, while God had answered our prayers to make Dale wake up, he would never be the same again---and neither would we.  Every day we see just how different this Dale is from the one we used to have.  Every day we are faced with the increasing knowledge that Dale's brain just can't hold on to information the way it used to.  Studies are ever so much harder for him now.  Every day we see Dale struggle with stuff that should be so easy, like walking, standing upright, writing.  Every day we think about the fact that our girls are growing up and will head off to college before we know it, but Dale probably won't.  He probably won't be able to hold a job.  He probably won't ever get married.  He'll probably stay with us the rest of our lives.  One day we'll have to worry about who will care for him after we're gone.  (His sisters will step up!)

You see?  Like Peter, we take our eyes off Jesus and train our sights on what's around us.  We become fearful or angry or judgmental or sour because of "what we have to deal with each day."  Isn't that what we say?  "You have no idea what I have to deal with."  Instead, we need to refocus our thoughts, energy, and sight on the One Who will never leave us nor forsake us.  God is bigger than all our problems.  This does not just mean He can overcome them; this also means He is more important than them.  At this point, only God knows the future.  We make plans, but only God knows what will actually happen.  When we take that step back and see again the miracle God has given us in our son, then we become thankful again for His goodness.  We stop fighting and bickering and lashing out in anger and start praising God again.  We remember that this life is temporal, but eternity lasts forever.  I can't wait to get to Heaven and see Jesus, but the next thing I want to see is my son walking with no problem again.  I want to see him running!

Our lives are a testimony to those around us about God.  We can be a testimony of God's failure to do what we want or His lack of care for us or just how phony our "walk with God" really is.  Or we can be a testimony of God's amazing grace, His love that covers all sins, His mercy and forgiveness, and His incredible miraculous power to save, heal, and keep.  We get to choose.

Galatians 2: 20  "I am crucified with Christ:  nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thank God for mini-vacations!

A couple of years ago, our school began splitting our Spring Break up into two separate weeks, one in February and one in April.  What a stroke of brilliance!  We get to enjoy a week off school on two occasions, get caught up on housework (yeah, right!), spend some family time (going shopping), and recuperate from the various viruses that are always circulating amongst the student body.

So far, we've managed two out of three items from the list above.  We spent yesterday going from thrift store to thrift store, searching for bargains, and came home with some nice purchases.  Each of the kids got something, and I was able to buy my class a chess set. They've been asking for one, and they assure me they know how to play.  I've never gotten the hang of it!  Anyway, we had a really great time out shopping in the pouring rain.  We stopped at Sonic on the way home and indulged in their $1 hot dog/chili cheese dog special for Presidents' Day and then went home where the kids spent a blissful half hour trying on (again) all their clothes.  The kids and I haven't had the chance to go thrift store shopping in a long time, so we really enjoyed our day out.

We are also enjoying the down time away from all the sniffling and sneezing of everyone at school.  Katie especially is needing this week off to get over (hopefully for good) this cold she's been nursing.  It seems she's been getting sick every other week this school year.  She's already missed a lot of school, to the point that she really can't afford to miss any more.  I've been very glad for her sake that we get a week off so she can catch up on her sleep and stop being so sick.  She already seems better, only coughing a bit and blowing her nose.  It's so good to see her smile again in decent health!  The rest of us have had sniffles and coughs but nothing like hers.

Our varsity teams are on their last sports trip for the year.  The Presidents' Day Tournament is always an exciting climax to the season, one which everyone looks forward to.  Since Katie isn't playing volleyball this year, no one in our family is gone, but it's still fun to send the team off with a bang.  Last Friday, our school had a pep assembly with lots of cheering, posters, and fun competitions.  The senior varsity members led us in a couple of cheers before announcing the winners of the poster contest:  6th grade!  Then, those elementary classes who chose to could compete in a cheer competition, and my class won!!!  So both 6th grade and 3rd grade will get a pizza party!  There was a guys-against-girls varsity seniors obstacle course; the guys won……but barely!  Bro. Minge then announced each team member's name and had them line up, at which point the elementary classes handed them goodie bags we had put together for them.  We had a lot of fun getting our teams razzed up for the trip.  They left after Sunday morning church because the games started Monday morning.  It's a good thing they left when they did; there're some nasty snowstorms moving through the passes, and this tournament is held over the mountains.  The main pass was closed soon after they crossed!  Please pray for their safe return Wednesday late afternoon.

God is so good to us, daily, weekly, hourly.  Our world is so busy, so frantic, so minute-by-minute, that it takes conscious effort to stop and purposefully thank God for what He does and is.  Don't forget to display an attitude of thankfulness---not just say the words but feel them.  You'll find this thankfulness will spill over into your children's lives and your spouse's and your coworkers'.  God bless you this day especially!

Colossians 3: 16  "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Our God is simply good.

To begin with, GO SEAHAWKS!!!  We are so excited to watch the Superbowl tomorrow and see the conclusion of our team's exciting season.  If you hear wild screaming and loud cheering coming from Washington State, it's all of us 12ers making our opinion known.  Now on to the rest of the blog!

It's my opinion that Dale is either made of sterner stuff than the rest of us or that drowning accident changed his DNA on a molecular level.  He falls frequently---more than anyone else I know!---and still he has yet to give up and stop walking.  Oh, he gets scared a lot; he shows hesitancy when encouraged to walk on his own sometimes, especially in a busy place or unfamiliar territory.  But to see him walk around my classroom or at home or even out of the auditorium and down the hall to the parking lot after church---that's an awesome sight!  To watch the young man whom doctors said would probably never survive the 20 minutes spent in the ocean until those brave men pulled him out actually walk on his own is to witness a miracle straight from the halls of Heaven all over again.  To observe the teenager whom we were warned might never leave the hospital or respond to our voices or feed himself or talk continually prove those statistics wrong is to see the hand of God clearly visible in our daily lives.

Dale has every reason to give up, to quit trying, to make excuses as to why he can't……and sometimes he does!  We find ourselves frequently scolding him for his lack of initiative and his frustratingly accepting attitude toward his "disabilities."  And, it's true, he needs to keep walking every day, keep working on his balance (which seriously needs some help!), keep striving to think clearly and memorize his school work.  He is not quite the same Dale we said goodbye to that sunny morning two and a half years ago.  He struggles with his studies now; he needs assistance walking to and from his classes; he gets shaky when there are too many distracting issues when he's trying to walk.  He doesn't like walking past the basketball team as they practice because he's always afraid a ball or a person might come his way, and he simply lacks the ability to quickly adjust and move out of the way.  This is why his face frequently bears the scars of yet another fall; he can't stop himself once he starts falling.  Chad and I are absolutely astounded that he hasn't injured himself worse than just scrapes and bruises so far.  No broken bones, no concussions, no head trauma.  Just another sign that God takes care of Dale!  Dale is in His hands, and there's no safer place to be.

We wonder what Dale's future might hold.  Will he be able to graduate from high school?  Is there any chance he'll go to college?  Will I be able to let him go to that extent?  Will Dale ever get married, have children, hold a job?  The plain, frustrating, undeniable truth is---we just don't know.  We. Don't. Know.  But we know Someone Who does.  And this brings a smile to my face every time I re-arrive at this conclusion:  God knows.  He has a specific plan for Dale, and His plans are always good.  Since I can't know the future and I won't know until we get there, I have no choice but to trust that unknown future to a known Father.  I can trust unwillingly, fighting against the unfairness of it all, crying and screaming at God, worrying myself into a dozen ulcers; or I can trust willingly, daily letting God keep control of my life and my family's lives, obeying His Word and accepting His comfort, secure in the knowledge that I don't have to be in control for things to work out.  In fact, if I were in control, if I were God, we'd have a lot bigger problems to worry about!  Every time I try to take the reins and run my own life, I wind up careening out of control, crashing, and burning.  Seriously.  God reminds me so many times in so many ways that I am not qualified or capable of managing my present, much less my future---just look at my past!  He is my Captain, my vessel, my charted course, my going……..and He is more than able to provide my son and my daughters and my husband and myself with all that we need both now and in the future.  He will perfect His work in our lives, and His work in Dale isn't finished yet!

We have a big God, big enough to create the entire universe yet small enough to live inside our hearts.  We have a powerful God, powerful enough to hold back the Red Sea yet gentle enough to cradle each sparrow that falls.  We have a loving God, loving enough to die on an old rugged cross for our sins yet compassionate enough to only give us what we can handle.  He's worth trusting.

I'll close with some verses that I know I've used before, but they are so true:

Proverbs 3: 5 - 6  "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2014---Here we go!!!

Oh, my goodness!  It has been so long since I've posted an update---you probably thought we all packed up and left!  Not so, we're just busy, busy, busy as usual.

The kids and I really relaxed during Christmas break, staying up late and sleeping in each morning.  We all needed the break from school and lessons and homework and (in Katie's case) geometry.  We were all ready to head back to school, but getting up that early in the morning nearly killed us!  UGH!!!  That whole first week back was torture.  Thankfully, my students were pretty good about settling back into their routines.  Since the end of the second semester is upon us (as of today), we had no choice but to dive back into the curriculum and learn the needed material so we would be ready for tests and quizzes.

We changed Dale's schedule slightly.  Instead of constantly walking back and forth between the Learning Center and his other classes, Dale now walks from homeroom to the classroom next door.  He sits in the back and works on PACES for first hour; then he's already in the right classroom for second hour math.  Next, he walks outside to the Learning Center for study hall (third hour) with fourth hour Bible class right next door.  He'll come to the lunchroom for lunch before heading back to the Learning Center for fifth hour study hall, sixth hour history/geography, and seventh hour study hall.  During these study hall periods, Dale works on his English and science PACES.  He will probably set aside the science PACES for now since they aren't necessary until next year and work on his new Northwest History PACE.  Chad is now able to volunteer each week for a short time in the Learning Center to help Dale out (or any other student who needs assistance) or grade papers for the supervising teacher.  What a blessing this will be!  Katie seems to be getting a slight foothold in geometry, which greatly relieves her.  Whenever the teams are gone on away trips, the teacher is able to backtrack and explain again any parts Katie still struggles with; this has helped her tremendously.  She has been assisting me in my classroom during fifth hour, but this next semester she wants to just do study hall since she'll have her geometry teacher as her supervisor there and can ask any questions she may have.  Ashley is doing great and keeping up her grades since she needs them to qualify for sports.  Emily is just a doll!  She reminds me of that commercial for some kind of candy (sour patch kids?) with the slogan "First they're sour; then they're sweet."  Sometimes she's sweet and adorable and sometimes she's a menace!  But we love her dearly all the same.  Amanda is super busy at college, dividing her time between classes and work.  She's learning the hard way that paying your own way means a lot of hard work and not much spending money!  But her attitude seems good and she has a great job.  I believe God will continue to bless her as she seeks His will in all matters.

I have, unfortunately, caught a massive cold.  I felt it coming on last week and stupidly did nothing to help ward it off.  By Friday night, I could tell I was going to get really sick.  I tried taking extra vitamin C then, but the cold caught fast.  I was sick Saturday although I still did buses in the morning; I was out sick all Sunday; I only went to school Monday because I had no sub to call.  (My students were so kind and considerate of me, as well as my fellow teachers!)  Finally, last night, I started to feel as though I'd turned a corner.  Today, I still am sick but feeling better than yesterday.  Hopefully, I will continue to get better each day until I feel well again.  I've done my best not to share this cold with any of my family or students; time will tell just how successful I've been!

Last but not least, Dale turned 15 on January 6th!  He received a new Bible and cover which he got to pick out himself at the Bible bookstore.  Chad and I had decided he needed a second Bible with cover so that he didn't have to keep switching his Bible in and out of his backpack for each service.  (Having a handle on the cover makes the Bible easier for Dale to carry.)  Dale picked out a nice Bible and a camouflage cover.  While we were there, we saw the coolest Bible!  It was called a spill-proof, waterproof Bible.  It had a special material for its cover and even its pages were waterproof.  You could feel how slick they felt.  It was made of some kind of vinyl-type material that wouldn't soak up water.  One of the testimonials stated that the water had slid right off as well as some mud!  Neat, huh?  What a great idea!

Praise the Lord for His continual goodness!  Day in, day out, God's goodness is constant, His grace freely given, and His mercies renewed every morning.  What a powerful and wonderful Lord we serve!

Isaiah 53: 5  "But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."