Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving to you!

How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you get to spend time with family or friends?  Did you have your annual Turkey Bowl/civil war?  Did you stuff yourself so full that you barely had the willpower left to roll yourself to the couch where you lay in a semi-comatose state…..until the effects wore off and you were ready for seconds?

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  We actually debated going out to a buffet for our meal this year; my husband wanted to take the stress off of me and the girls, having to spend hours cooking the huge feast and setting the table and finding enough matching dishes to look good….and then cleaning up afterwards.  With the size family we have, it probably would have cost about the same to go out to eat as staying home, but we wouldn't have all those wonderful, exasperating, where-in-the-world-do-I-put-these leftovers that are now crammed in our fridge.  There's nothing quite like the satisfaction one feels when one has managed to perfectly balance two bowls, one cheesecake, and a plate of cranberry sauce in one beautiful, if precarious, tower!  I think most of us did, in fact, pass out on various couches after dinner, hoping to sleep off the effects of holiday overindulgence.  But, all in all, we had a lovely day.

I think one of the highlights of this holiday was the conversation that Dale and Ashley had in the evening.  Dale was extra shaky yesterday and having trouble with, what seemed to us, the simplest tasks.  Walking down the hall to the bathroom, remembering to flush the toilet, sitting down on the couch without falling down….that sort of thing.  Ashley was frustrated with him because he wasn't listening to advice given by her and the falling-down results were the same.  I chose to stay out of their conversation, not because I wanted them to bond or anything but rather because I was tired of dealing with him.  This lack of listening behavior has been going on for a while now, and I was more than willing to let someone else do the talking.  And I'm so glad I did.  Dale began telling Ashley things I've never heard him say before.  He told her how he felt about the falling down, he told her that Dad and Mom don't let him try to do things on his own anymore, and he told her that he didn't see the need to try harder when nothing made any difference.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  The realization struck me that Dale's and Ashley's relationship is different than Dale's and mine; after all, they are brother and sister whereas he and I are son and mother.  There are certain things he feels he can't say to me that he had no trouble expressing to Sash.  I let them talk for a bit, just listening in, before going into the other room and joining them.  I realized that, in my efforts to motivate Dale to see all he was giving up on by not working as hard as I thought he should at his exercises (mobility, control of limbs, possible college, future job, life….), I was actually stripping him of any hope for anything better than the present.  I was wiping away all joy and desire and ambition for life beyond high school.  My efforts to prod him to walk better, to think better, to listen better were having the opposite effect; I was pushing him farther and farther into the grip of depression and misery.

Was that ever an eye-opener!  I---the one who believes herself to be the only one who understands Dale, who has the ability to help him walk, who has the patience to help him as he struggles---am the one who is holding him down and not letting him try to succeed on his power.  I realized I wasn't just clipping his wings; I was strapping them to his body and blaming him for not being able to fly.  Ashley, Dale, and I talked for a long time, apologizing and loving and encouraging and bonding together.  We each expressed the desire to see Dale regain lost muscle tone and balance, to help him achieve more independence, to look for new ways he can grow and develop his future, to reaffirm our commitment to help each other any way we can.  Because that's what family does.  We're there for each other, we help each other, we support each other, and sometimes we carry each other.

So, I'm going to be looking into college-level computer courses for Dale to set his mind toward.  He's a junior in high school right now and is on track to graduate with his class.  He is taking Spanish this year through Rosetta Stone, and I was surprised to see how steady his hand in when moving the mouse!  Normally, even with a pencil and paper, he struggles with the jerking movements that sometimes occur; but he seems to excel with the mouse and headphone set he uses in Spanish.  So I'm going to see about other computer-related possibilities for Dale.  I'm kind of excited to see what might pop up!

We're entering one of the busiest times of the year, for parents or children or businesses or teachers or students or anybody.  The rush of holiday shopping, the chaos of Christmas decorating, the panic of last-minute presents.  For teachers, it's the efforts to capture and retain the students' attention, the push to cram in actual teaching around excitement and home games and parties.  It's easy to get so wrapped up (see what I did there?) in the whirl of Christmas activities that we forget to enjoy the simplicity of the holiday.  We need to decide now that, at least once a day, we'll stop and thank God for Christmas and for sending His Son to be born as a babe.  We need to appreciate our families, our jobs, our health, our houses, our cars, our pets, our friends, our neighbors.  We should rejoice in the ability to buy tons of awesome presents or just a simple gift for each loved one.  The lights, the sparkle, the music, the decor, the food, the tree, the gifts---these are all just reflections of our Father's love for us, displayed in the greatest gift of all, the gift of selfless love.  When God gave us Jesus, He gave us everything.  Let's choose to remember Him in the midst of celebrating His birth.

John 3: 16  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Judge not......

Oh my goodness!  Is your family as busy as ours is right now?  Those of you with children know the craziness of back-to-school time with shopping for clothes, gathering school supplies, finding buried backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes, and hoping desperately that you remembered to actually sign your child up for classes---not that that's ever happened to me, you understand…!

Our school year should be "easier" this year because we are down to just three kids in school, now that both Amanda and Katie have graduated.  This means a lower curriculum bill, one less lunch to make each day, and less money going out for school activities.  But I still have the same number of people in the van because Katie has been hired on staff!  She now has the dubious title of "Lunch Lady" as well as "Janitor."  She plans the weekly school lunch menu, cooks and serves the food, and orders the stock regularly; then, after school and on weekends, she cleans the gymnasium (where our classrooms are).  She searched for a job all summer, putting in applications and getting her resume out there.  Finally, in August, Round Table Pizza hired her for a few hours a week.  One week later she received the offer to do lunches and clean the gym!  Now she has so many hours at school that she has had to give notice at Round Table.  Praise the Lord!!

Dale is actually in two classes this year!  He is completing PACES in Algebra I, Bible, and English, but he gets to be in science and consumer math class.  He is also taking Spanish this year using Rosetta Stone, so he's in the computer classroom but working at his own speed.  He seems to be doing well enough with his grades, passing his courses and studying hard. His walking though is getting harder, I think.  He exercises regularly, but it's just so hard for him to simply take steps.  On a recent outing, my husband bought Dale some new tennis shoes.  He's been wanting and needing some, and these are awesome.  They're bright and colorful---he's so tired of basic black!---and they fit well.  They don't necessarily improve his gait, but they don't hinder it either (something I was seriously concerned about).  And they have special shoelaces that just require pulling to tighten, rather than tying.  Those are nice!  I think, unless God chooses to again show His might and reconnect Dale's brain patterns fully, we might be seeing Dale's best walking ability right now.  Still, he's alive and well, and we are soooo thankful.

It has been borne in upon us since Dale's accident four years ago that we truly don't understand another's situation until we are actually in their shoes.  Before we raced frantically to the hospital, before we hovered over Dale's bedside, praying for life, before we spent literally weeks in different hospitals, before we considered a good day one in which Dale had managed to swallow properly---we honestly had no idea the struggles a family with a disabled child goes through.  I have always considered myself to be a compassionate person, one who is ever ready to listen sympathetically or give a hug or spend time in prayer for someone going through a rough time.  But for me to say that I "knew" what those families were going through would have been a gross understatement.  I had no idea how each minute could be an eternity, how normal activities could become insurmountable tasks, how daily life could be so overwhelming that sometimes you just want to stop.  Just stop.  Close the door, don't leave the house, turn off your phone, and pull your family close and never let go.

People were so understanding those first few weeks and months.  We had complete strangers come up to us in the store and tell us they were praying for us.  Our church family was absolutely wonderful with prayers, meals, tears, help, and love.  I took a year off teaching school to tutor Dale and take him to doctor and therapy appointments; Chad worked hard but spent every moment he could at home.  Life was hard, but it was also bathed in the very real knowledge that God was working daily in our lives.  We could feel His presence.  It took us a while to adjust our schedules to accommodate Dale's needs, which meant we had to step down from a lot of ministries we'd been involved in (nursery, choir, soul winning, etc.), simply because someone had to be with Dale at all times.  I remember being so appreciative of folks understanding that we didn't stop these ministries because we wanted to but because we had to cut things out of our schedule and rewrite a new daily plan.

But it's been four years now.  It's been four years since Dale's accident, three years since he had twice-weekly physical therapy sessions and weekly speech therapy.  He now sees a doctor only about every six months, and he's really doing very well.  We've been able to gradually add things back into our schedule so that now we are just about as busy as before, just not doing the same things.  We go visiting on our bus route each Saturday morning; I rejoined the choir and conduct Children's Choir each Sunday evening; I also conduct Buttons and Bows (a club for girls) twice a month; Chad drives the bus for teen soul winning on Wednesdays (when his job allows), and Ashley goes out too; Emily is involved with Children's Challenge every Saturday morning; Katie and Ashley work in the nurseries; Chad leads singing in Sunday school and baptizes new converts.  See what I mean?  All this is in addition to school each day during the week and all that entails.

I list these things to make a point.  To a casual observer, it looks like we are overwhelmingly busy with church activities---and they'd be right!  It requires continual effort on our part to make sure our activity is not for men's applause, but for God's.  We do these things because we should be involved in our local church, but our hearts' attitude is one of service.  We do these things because we love God and want to be of service to Him.  We want Him to use us daily.  This, I believe, is the attitude of most Christians.

But it's so easy to slip from this attitude of service to one of judgment.  "If I can do all this for God with a handicapped child, why aren't you doing more?" or "Why should I volunteer for that function when I have a disabled son to care for?"  We have to be so careful not to assign motives to people who don't volunteer when we simply do not know what they are dealing with in their personal lives.  Dale's disability is very visible; someone else's disability may be hidden but just as debilitating.  Oh, Father, please guard my tongue and my thoughts that I do not hurt one of Your children because of my selfish, sinful desire to compare myself with them.

As well, I would hope that no one judges me or my family.  "It's been four years.  How much longer are they going to use Dale's accident as an excuse not to _____?" or "I realize they have a lot to handle, but I still think they should be faithful to ______."  I've been upset for a while now about that last one.  My family feels the sting of thinly veiled suggestions that we are letting others down by not attending, say, bus meeting on Saturday mornings.  We do make it after the meeting ends and get our assignments for visitation that day, but we do not often make it to the meeting itself.  On the one hand, I understand that this is an announced meeting designed to challenge people to do their best out visiting that day.  I realize that sometimes prizes are given out for the route with the most workers in attendance.  I know that a bus captain's heart is set at ease when he sees his workers at the meeting, knowing he does not have to visit the entire route by himself!  On the other hand, five days a week I am punching a time-clock, waking my family up early, helping my son into the bathroom, trying to awaken my youngest who absolutely hates getting up in the morning, walking backwards down the stairs in front of Dale who usually gets shaky on the stairs and has to sit down every two or three steps, urging him to get up and keep going because we have to be at school on time, hating the fact that I know it's making it harder on him to have to try to hurry, knowing that he really would benefit physically by another hour or two of sleep---but we don't have that choice.  School starts at 8:25 a.m., Monday through Friday, regardless of Dale's physical condition.  So when given the chance to slow things down a bit, we do.  When given the option to slow down on the stairs and not push Dale to keep going, I let him sit down and relax for a minute.  Since I'm not docked for missing bus meeting and the kids aren't considered tardy, I choose not make an issue of it.  After all, we get there in time to send Emily out on Children's Challenge and get our visitation assignments, so I feel we're doing our part.

I'm going to go a bit farther.  Sometimes, on a Sunday morning, if Dale is struggling with the stairs extra or just plain old struggling, I have no problem skipping Sunday school.  I know, I know---the horror!!!  Again, I'm thankful not to have to punch a time-clock for Sunday school, so if I have a few extra minutes I can take without the world coming to a screeching halt, I'll take them.  It's not that I consider my job more important than God's work; after all, my job is part of my service to God.  It's not that I think earning a dollar more important than earning God's favor; I think He honestly understands that sometimes it's nice not to be forced to rush.  I would rather miss bus meeting or be late for Sunday school than cause my son to have a seizure because I'm pushing him harder than he can handle.  Especially if I'm pushing him to get out the door just so someone doesn't criticize me for not being on time.

It all goes back to "Judge not, lest ye be judged."  I don't want people to be judgmental towards me and my family, as if we're using Dale's accident and subsequent handicap to get out of doing stuff.  So I'd better be sure I'm not judging others based on my ideas of what they should be able to do.  We all have our own trials and difficulties to overcome.  I certainly wouldn't want someone thinking, "If I were in her shoes, I would still be able to ______," so I'd better be careful not to assume that of others either.  We each need to be more aware of our own faults and shortcomings than we are someone else's.  God doesn't expect us to change others; He expects us to change ourselves.

I love you people; you have been our cheerleaders and prayer warriors for quite some time now, and we appreciate every word spoken.  Let's lift each other up with our thoughts and prayers and glances, so that God might be so very pleased with our service.

Galatians 6:2  "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

From this time forth and forevermore.....thank you.

Our choir sang a song Sunday morning in church titled "My Tribute."  Have you ever heard of it?  The first few lines are:  "How can I give thanks for the things You have done for me---things so undeserved yet You give to prove Your love for me?  The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude!"  This perfectly sums up my feeble attempts to thank our wonderful Heavenly Father for His blessings my whole life but especially in these last years.

You see, four years ago this morning, I waved goodbye to my three oldest children as they boarded the church bus for an outing at the beach.  I hugged them quickly and we threw "I love you"s at each other before they slammed the car doors shut and raced to join their friends.  My son Dale stopped outside my window long enough to form his hands into the shape of a heart and wait for me to return our secret signal of love.  My two oldest girls were excited to be spending some time outdoors and hoping to get a tan while Dale was just thrilled to be part of the youth group, having just exited sixth grade two months before.  I pulled out of the church parking lot and headed for a friend's house to drop off my two younger girls, already contemplating how I would spend this unexpected free time with no kids around.

I think back to my activities of that day in bemusement, thinking how foolish and self-centered I really was.  I spent some time in the hot tub, took a leisurely shower (all moms know how rare that is!), and then cleaned my glass back door before applying summery gel window clings.  If I had only known what was transpiring three hours away......

The teens had all been warned before they got off the bus not to go out deep into the water.  This was not a swimming activity; they were just supposed to be wading and splashing around.  Amanda, my oldest, had been charged before she left with the task of keeping an eye on her young brother.  Dale was 12 and crazy, and I felt like he could benefit from all the looking after he could stand!  She and Katie had been with the girls just down the beach, playing and having a good time, but Amanda was careful to regularly glance over at the guys' group, pinpoint Dale's location, and make sure he was all right.  The day was beautifully sunny, the water was refreshing, and the kids were in high spirits.  It was a perfect day for a teen activity.

It was about halfway through the afternoon when one of the guys came racing over to the girls' group, screaming at them to get out of the water.  They brushed him off, saying they weren't out too far.  When he persisted, they said, "What's the big deal?"  His response silenced their laughter.  He said, "There's somebody in trouble out in the water, and it's your brother!", pointing at Amanda and Katie.  Immediately, fear and nausea welling up inside them, they turned to frantically scan the water, desperate for a sight of their brother.  Anything to cancel out the horrible news, anything to dispel the growing terror.  Mandie felt guilt wash over her as she realized it had been a while since she had checked on Dale.  Their scouring gaze revealed only that the guys were already out of the water and on the beach, huddled in groups, while Bro. Jon, their youth pastor, had waded out as far as he could to search for signs of Dale.  The same fear and disbelief was etched on each face.  This wasn't supposed to happen to somebody they knew.  It wasn't supposed to happen to a church kid.  It wasn't supposed to happen to them.

How do I say thanks for the godly teachers, principals, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, nursery workers, parents, and grandparents who had spent countless hours instilling in our young people the fact that there is a God in heaven, that He hears us when we pray, that He is able to move heaven and earth to do His will, and that He cares about each and every one of us.  Those teenagers dropped to their knees, some their faces, on the sand and began to beg God to save Dale.  He was lost out in the ocean somewhere, fighting for his very life, and our youth group, through fear and tears and despair, called out to the One Who holds us in His hands.  They were the first responders that day, beseeching God with weeping and wordless cries to spare Dale's life, to at least let his body be found.

How do I say thanks to our incredible church leaders who were there on the worst day in our family's lives?  How do I express my gratitude for the love and prayers and money and tears and hugs and smiles and visits and encouragement and support they gave us then and have continued to give us?  They stood with us in the hospital waiting room, asking our forgiveness for letting this tragedy happen to our son while under their care.  I don't think they truly understood then what Chad and I tried to tell them---that we don't blame them for the accident, never have.  That we believe that God set in motion the events of that day and the days following so that we might bring honor and glory to Him.  We admire those leaders for their strength and courage that day, helping that busload of teenagers to cry and grieve and pray and heal that oh-so-long bus ride home that afternoon, then turning around to drive right back so that they could be with us in Doernbecher, standing around Dale's bedside, pacing the halls, praying, praying, praying.  Roy and K'arin Hanson, you wrapped my heart in your words and cried with me.  Jon Minge, you took your life in your hands when you went back in the water to look for my son.  I still have that picture of you waist-deep in the ocean, searching for my boy.  I will never forget that as long as I live.  Whitney, you stood beside me without speaking, just let your prescence comfort me.  Preacher and Mrs. Minge, you reacted to the dreadful news as if Dale was your own son, as I know you feel.  You took our two girls in your truck, wet and sandy and disheveled, bought them clothes, drove them to Doernbecher, then stayed with us while Chad and I broke the news that the doctor was not giving us any hope.  You cancelled VBS that next week because you didn't think anyone would be able to work it; there were so many people day after day, busloads and shuttleloads of church family who came to visit.  Preacher, you let us see how hard Dale's drowning hit you when you talked about having to get up and preach on Sunday with that heaviness in your heart.  Accounts given tell how you stopped the service early Sunday night so that people could pray.......and nearly the entire congregation left their seats and poured down the aisles to ask God to wake Dale up.  Mrs. Minge, I hope you know how special you are to me.  I cannot possibly tell you how much each word, each glance, each smile has strengthened my heart.

How can I say thanks to my wonderful church family who showered us with help, blessings, money, food, clothes, and love during those weeks in the hospital?  To effectively list all those who should be mentioned, I refer you to our church roster.  Every single person prayed or gave money or brought a meal or paid for school supplies or bought stuffed animals and blankets or just loved us.  Jessica and Sarah Waugh, especially, stayed with us at Doernbecher and never left, paying for meals, taking our younger girls to the playroom and for walks, sitting with Dale so that I could get some sleep.  My mom and dad came to visit, and Becky Welch and Becky Shattuck picked them up from the airport for us and drove them all the way down to Oregon.  Tina O'Connor not only closed up our house for us so that we could leave right away for the hospital, but also took care of our dog, the library, and lots of little errands.  Numerous calls and visits and cards and love flooded our way.

How can I say thanks for the continued love and support our family receives?  Church family who stop by to ask Dale how he's doing, who continue to pray for God's perfect healing of our son, who tease Dale as he struggles to walk properly, who accomodate him in school and act like it's no big deal when really it's huge.  Those who occasionally still stop to give me a hug or shake Chad's hand and slip some money into it.  Who get behind us in the hallway and patiently wait the extra minutes it takes for Dale to navigate around the corners.  Who would drop everything if we needed someone to help us......and have.  Those of you who don't live nearby but pray with us daily.  Those who have sent cards and letters and money and gift cards.  Those who we may never get to thank in person until we meet at the Throne.

How.  Can.  I.  Give. the One Who holds our world together?  If we did not have our God in heaven to cry out to when all seems black and death is imminent, how could we survive?  If we did not have the promise of seeing our loved ones again, how could we continue to live?  If we did not have eternal life through Jesus, how could we hope for anything?  If we did not know beyond any question that God holds our future and does not tremble, how could we exist?  If not for His tender mercy and comforting presence, how could we bear it?  I know my God loves me.  I know my God cares what happens to me and mine.  I know my God cries when I cry and grieves when I grieve and stands strong when I am weak and holds me close when I cannot face tomorrow.  I know my God's plan was for my son to die that day in the ocean, far away from me.  I know my God changed His mind when He heard the prayers of people begging Him to show His mighty hand.  I know my God loves my son and has a plan for his future, even though I cannot see it.  I know my God is there.  I know.

These are rhetorical questions.  The answer is obvious:  I can't.  I can't say thank you enough.  I can't express my gratitude enough.  I can't show my thankfulness enough.  I certainly can't repay everyone's love and kindness.  And there is no way I can properly express my thanks to my God for Who He is, for being there when I needed Him most.....which is always, for loving my family, for giving me back my son.  But I can try.

Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, with tears running down my face, with joy overflowing, both now and forever, thank you.  Thank you for each prayer; thank you for each gift; thank you for each question; thank you for each card; thank you for each smile.  You mean the world to our family.

And thank You, Lord.  Just.....thank You, Lord.  I love You.

Philippians 2: 13-16  "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.  Do all things without murmurings and disputings:  That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;  Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain."

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Summertime, summertime!

Now is the time for relaxing, getting some sun, tossing the school books in the back of the closet, and sleeping in until noon.  Right?  Unless you're my husband, who believes sleeping past six o'clock to be unnecessary and "summer" to be synonymous with "extra chores."

Fortunately for my kids, I'm more on their side than his on this issue!  I don't want to get up at the crack of dawn during the summer, and I don't want to spend my every waking hour cleaning.  So, Chad and I have come to an understanding.  I make sure the house is picked up regularly and dishes and laundry are done, plus one or two other chores that have been put off until a convenient time (like summer!), and he doesn't complain if the kids watch extra TV or sleep downstairs on the pull-out couch.  I've made it a point to assign certain chores to my children as well as myself, and I follow up to be sure they've gotten done.  He accepts the fact that we have the summer off but he doesn't.  Poor guy has been putting in some serious overtime at work because of coworkers' injuries and vacations!  His normal days off are Tuesday afternoon - Thursday night, but lately he's been working Wednesday mornings and even overnight a time or two.  This does result in some extra money coming in…..which nicely balances out the fact that we're short my teaching income during the summer.  We haven't even had a chance to take the camper out yet, and it's already heading into the second week of July!  Hopefully we'll get away for a couple days before too long.

Dale has had the summer off from schoolwork so far.  He was supposed to be getting his English 10 PACES finished (which we had thought were done but then discovered were only halfway completed!) as well as beginning tutoring in Algebra I PACES, but, upon further investigation, we found we needed to order the remaining English 10 PACES---and we're still waiting on the math as well.  So Dale's gotten more of a summer break than we anticipated, but it's been nice for him not to have to be bent over the books all the time.  I've had two meetings with our principal about Dale's schooling, and we've mapped out his academic schedule for the next two years, including summer school.  This next year will really make the difference for Dale.  If he can really push himself and pass some necessary classes, he can take it a little easier his senior year.  We've sat down and talked this whole thing through with him, and he understands how important it will be for him to stay on top of his studies in order to graduate on time with his class.  Hopefully he'll get the tough classes out of the way this year (math, science, history) and be able to breathe a bit easier next year.

We've also implemented a more rigid exercise routine for him.  It does Dale no good to sit around all day, even during summer break, causing him to be extremely unsteady and fall more frequently.  During the school year, he gets up and moves around at the end of each class hour; we've been reminding him to get up and walk around the house more.  He's been going through a series of exercises (strength, squats, etc.) each morning since about March, and we noticed a difference when he exercises regularly.  Now, we've added some afternoon exercises, ones that work his leg  muscles and add strength and stability.  This not only improves his balance and confidence but also goes toward his needed Health/Fitness credits for his diploma (since he cannot be part of the regular P.E. classes).  Please pray that these exercises will help Dale gain back some of the muscle tone and steadiness he lost since last summer.

Many of you know of Dale's struggles with anger and bitterness in the past year or so.  This is an ongoing battle for him, one he faces every time he tries to stand and every time he hears of a youth activity or school function that he cannot participate in.  There are times it seems he's handling his emotions well, and then there are times it is obvious that he's still withdrawing from our Heavenly Father out of hurt and anger.  He hears stories of others who have struggled and knows they had to choose to trust God no matter what, but he is unwilling to make that choice himself.  He feels that God was unfair to take away his future and leave him like this.  None of us can truly know what Dale feels like or how hard it is for him to daily, hourly realize that life is moving on without him. He doesn't get to make plans to go out with his friends or mow someone's lawn to raise money for Youth Conference or get his driver's license.  He's facing the reality that everyone is growing up and buckling down to graduate in two years' time and then heading off to college or the military, and he's just trying to get a piece of paper.  There are no college plans for him, no saving up to get his first car, no liking a girl and wondering if this high school romance will last.  Dale is fighting every day just to still believe God loves him.  He knows what the Bible says, that God is love, but he is so angry about his situation that he does not want to accept that.  I feel that, if Dale accepts that God loves him and still allowed this awful thing to happen, then Dale has to accept that everything else is true---that we are here for God's purpose and that that purpose might have nothing to do with our plans for our future.  Dale was more than willing to go to church and tithe and read his Bible and pray AND become an inventor (his desire), but he's not interested in going to church and tithing and reading his Bible and praying and being a living example of God's answer to prayer.  He honestly may not see God's plan for what it is until he reaches Heaven, but I hope and pray Dale gives in and gives up to God before then so that he might still lay up treasures in Heaven.  Please continue to pray for Dale as he learns this terribly hard lesson, to trust God.

Our Katie graduated from high school one month ago and is now on the hunt for a job!  She's put in applications seemingly everywhere and has had a couple of interviews; now she just has to wait and see what God has for her.  This is really hard for her (and her dad!), but she made the decision to wait on college and save up money first while still serving Him faithfully, and God will honor that.  It's just so hard to be waiting around, hoping some employer will call!!!  Please pray with us that she'll get a job soon.

Our daughter Ashley got to go to Youth Conference the end of June with our youth group.  She came back exhausted but full of stories of the fun they'd had and the sermons they'd heard.  Praise the Lord for a church and a youth pastor who believe in leading our young people toward God and not just having silly, fun activities.  I know how important my youth leaders were when I was growing up, and I'm so thankful that my children have had godly leaders to help us guide them as they grow.  Ashley also got to spend some time with our oldest, Amanda, who is now living in the Santa Clara area!  They got to have dinner together and hang out for a bit and catch up on sister stuff.  Ashley was so excited about that!  She's going to be a freshman this year…..where did the time go?  She's already freaking out about volleyball and classes and all!

My Emily is no longer in my class.  (Sniff!)  She is entering fourth grade in the fall and will not be in my classroom any more---at least, not until after school!  What a blessing to be able to teach my own younguns.  Emily is excited about growing up but not as thrilled about moving on.  She's so accustomed to being the baby that it's sometimes hard for her to accept the fact that she's actually getting older.  However, I think she's going to be just fine!

I feel like I don't thank you folks enough for all you have done for our family and meant to us over the past few years.  Your prayers, your kind words and thoughts, your gifts and loving cards have all made such an impact on our lives.  Many of you we will never get to personally thank this side of Heaven, but please know you are much appreciated and loved.  God bless you all!  Enjoy your summer!

Psalm 61:2  "From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."

Friday, May 29, 2015

God's blessings abound, as always!

Whew!  What a whirlwind of activity we've been caught up in since my last post!  What with vacationing and Ashley's birthday and field trips and school wrapping up and Katie's birthday and Katie's graduation and the girls all switching rooms and EVERYTHING, it's a wonder any of us are still of sound mind!!!

First, let me say, our vacation was absolutely spectacular!  Nothing major went wrong (a couple of minor things, that's all); we were able to spend time with Chad's mother and stepfather on two different occasions; we got to see everything we really wanted to; and, the girls and Chad saw an alligator on their walk one day!  :-)  We arrived Thursday evening after a short delay in our connecting flight.  Praise the Lord, the flights went well with little turbulence.  The girls were disappointed to see rain spattering our plane windows and expected to feel a slight chill in the air to accompany the raindrops.  Boy, were they surprised to feel the humidity that hit us when we walked outside the airport!!!  The looks on their faces!  It only rained that night and some on Monday afternoon, so even the weather was nice to us.

We spent Friday at LEGOLAND, and enjoyed every minute of it.  All the thousands, probably millions, of Legos that went into building that theme park!  There were Lego statues and frameworks everywhere and lots of fun activities to enjoy.  I think my favorite memory of that place was when we got to meet Wild Style (Lucy) from The Lego Movie.  The younger girls took pictures with her, and then we turned away to find my husband who had walked into another area.  Next thing we know, Wild Style is tapping Dale on the shoulder and inviting him to take a picture with her.  When he declined, she pretended to be sad and held out her arms for a hug!  He really couldn't say no!!!  Yes, we caught it on camera.  A sixteen-year-old boy hugging Wild Style!  Gotta love it!

After we left LEGOLAND, we drove another thirty minutes to my in-laws' house, and they took us out to dinner.  I so much enjoyed spending time with them and watching the kids get to know them better.

Saturday was the day for the 25th Anniversary of the Dream Village.  The festivities lasted a couple of hours and included food, fun, fellowship, and friends.  We got to meet Bill Sample's wife, Kate, along with several other recipients of the Sunshine Foundation's generosity, as well as the CEO of LEGOLAND and the two wonderful people who keep the Dream Village running, Rich and Wanda.  The honorees who have donated so much time, money, and love to the Dream Village were called forth to receive special recognition, plaques, and engraved bricks.  They asked some of the dreamers to help cut ribbons to dedicate certain areas of the Dream Village; Dale got to cut the ribbon at the mini golf course.  The climax was the unveiling of a special mural in the Bill Sample Memorial Garden; the miracle makers at LEGOLAND had created a Lego replica of a touching photo of Bill Sample (creator of the Sunshine Foundation) and one of the first children he helped.  It now stands as a constant reminder of the man who had a heart big enough for all children.  What a tear-filled, happy day for all of us there!  If you get a chance, please visit the Sunshine Foundation webpage and read all about this wonderful organization and the people who make dreams come true.  This is a truly worthy charity which blesses the lives of children and their families with vacation trips or home therapy swimming pools or whatever they need.  You will be glad you learned more about them!

We finished up Saturday with a trip to the Atlantic coastline and a stop in a HUGE mall.  Emily got an early birthday present (which she knows about but hasn't actually received yet---her birthday's in June) when we went into the American Girl store.  Yea!!!

On Sunday, we drove about an hour or so to attend the same church where my husband Chad attended right after he got saved.  This was a huge blessing to him and a great experience for us.  There were still some of the same people there whom he remembered from nearly 30 years ago; I think Chad enjoyed his walk down memory lane.  The service was wonderful, too.  You know how sometimes going to church on vacation can be a bit really don't know exactly what kind of church it will turn out to be!  We felt right at home in the service; the only difference (besides the accent) was the big screens up front for displaying announcements and song lyrics.  We left feeling thankful to our God for allowing us to enjoy a homey, Bible-filled preaching service, even though we were many miles from our home.  After church we went over to my in-laws' house again, but this time we had an awesome barbecue.  I stuffed myself with pulled pork because nobody makes pulled pork like they do down South!  We relaxed and visited with them for a long while, long enough for Chad to take the girls on a walk down to the lake and spot an alligator.  We finished up the day with a quick swim in the Dream Village Olympic-sized swimming pool, since we had the village grounds to ourselves.  Even Dale got to go in the water because Bill Sample had the foresight to design and build a pool-accessible wheelchair.

On Monday we went to Universal Studios and had a blast!  We rode the E.T. Experience, the Simpsons Ride (twice!), Terminator: 3D, Transformers, Men in Black, the Mummy, Disaster: the Motion Picture, and lots of others.  Sooooo much fun!  The only disappointment was when Chad, Katie, and Ashley waited in line for over 45 minutes to ride Twister (roller coaster), and then it started raining so they had to shut the ride down!  Dale got a Thing 2 t-shirt and I got a mug that reads Teacher of All Things.  Our last activity there was to see the Horror Movie Makeup Show; Katie was thrilled, and the rest of us were exhausted but happy.

Tuesday was the day we finally got to go to Disney World!!!  I think we walked all over the Magic Kingdom twice.  We got to enjoy a street parade and visit Tomorrowland and take in the Country Bears jamboree.  The Monsters' Inc. Laugh Floor comedy show was priceless!  We rode Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, and lots of stuff.  Emily was floating on cloud nine because we got to see and take pictures with Elsa and Anna and Cinderella and Rapunzel!!!  She was almost crying with all the excitement and emotion!  On the way out, I finally talked my family into going into the Hall of Presidents.  The show centers on great moments in American history and how our nation's leaders affected our country's growth.  At the end, the curtain lifted to display all 43 American presidents---wax figures and fully animated.  What an awesome presentation!  We left before the final fireworks display, but we were fully satisfied with our Disney experience!  :-) 

Katie, our second oldest, graduates in a week's time.  I can't believe Chad and I are going to have only three still in school.  She is more than ready to be done with school for a while!  She's looking for a steady job so that she can put money aside while deciding exactly which course of study to pursue.  Katie's really interested in (and good at) makeup and style, so she'd like to take courses in that field and maybe even get a job at a makeup or beauty supply store.  Please pray for her as she makes these big choices about her future.

Dale continues to put effort into his exercises each day.  I think, now that he's seen a difference in his ability to get around with daily exercise versus no exercise, he's more willing to exert himself.  He's been working hard at finishing up each subject's PACES so that he can officially take the summer off.  Praise the Lord, he's managed, with the help of a wonderful supervisor, to do two years of English in one year and complete a biology course and social studies course.  This, along with Bible class and math, has made Dale's school year quite busy.  There were times a couple of months ago that I think he just wanted to quit.  That's another reason I was so thankful for our vacation time.  Dale worked hard during Spring Break so that he could actually relax and have fun on our vacation.  I'm so proud of his hard work and don't-quit attitude!  Next year he'll be a junior and (hopefully) have a little bit lighter class schedule.

Those of you who have taught school know how much teachers look forward to having the summer off.  I realize parents are left to entertain their youngsters instead of shipping them off to school each day---and that's not always easy!  But, as much as I love teaching and love my students, I definitely need some time off to breathe and gather my patience again, ready for the next group of students.  I'm so glad we finish up next week!!!

I hope each of you have a wonderful summer.  Whether you have big plans to get away for a while or just stay home and tackle all those "some day" jobs, use this time to draw closer to our Lord.  Remember to talk to Him each day and read His Word.  Stay faithful to church, even on vacation.  Find ways to help others whenever someone in need crosses your path.  Make our Heavenly Father smile every time He thinks of you.....which is always.  God bless you a whole bunch!

I Thessalonians 5: 15-18  "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.  Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks:  for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's finally here!

We are so excited!!!  Tomorrow we leave, bright and early, for our big family vacation!  We have been looking forward to this for months, planning for it for weeks, and stressing about it for days now. :-)  The kids have worked ahead in their school books; Chad has taken off work; I've arranged for a substitute; and Amanda has flown in from California.  We've found someone to watch our dog; we've checked in for our flight; and we've already put out our garbage and recycling bins.  We are so ready to go to Florida!

We are so thankful to the Sunshine Foundation and their wonderful donors for providing this amazing vacation opportunity for our family.  I realize this all came about because of Dale's accident nearly four years ago, and, given the choice, I would never choose to have my son drown just to get a chance to go to Disney World.  But the Sunshine Foundation is the kind of organization that steps in when life doesn't go as planned and does what they can to help alleviate the everyday stress of dealing with the aftereffects.  They pledged a long time ago to help the chronically ill, the tragically injured, and even the abused to get a glimmer of hope and light by giving them a chance to get away from their everyday lives and make some fun memories to carry them through the days and years ahead.  They put together fundraisers and websites to encourage donors to give generously so that people like us can benefit with a much-needed vacation.  There is no way we can properly express the depth of our gratitude to the people of the Sunshine Foundation for their generosity and compassion.  Without them, this would not be possible.

We have tried to plan our days to get the optimum fun out of our vacation, but it is inevitable that we will leave something undone or not have time for some activity.  If, after our vacation, you hear us talking about the super fun things we did, PLEASE do not say anything like, "Oh, you  should have done ____________.  You really missed out!"  Lol!  We'll be lucky to get out of Florida alive!  Chad's mom and stepdad live about thirty minutes from where we'll be staying, so we'll get to spend some time with family while we're there.  Plus, we get to be a part of the Sunshine Foundation's Dream Village 25th Anniversary celebration.  What a blessing!

But, the real reason we're so excited is that it is obvious that you all have been praying for our son, Dale.  In my last post, I talked about his anger at God and his lack of desire to exercise or improve his outlook.  People have prayed and encouraged; they have talked to us and to Dale.  Chad and I have spent more time praying for and talking to our son, and he's been very open and honest with us.  And he's begun putting effort into his exercise program each day!!!  Katie put together a good routine for Dale, and he's been doing his exercises regularly without (much) complaint.  These are exercises designed to improve his muscle tone and balance, which in turn improves his confidence and attitude.  He even asked if he could go out on teen soulwinning again!  We're still working out the details for that one, but I'm excited that he's wanting to go.  I'm still praying for Dale's spiritual health, that he will be willing to let go of his anger and trust that God still has a plan for his life.  But, for now, I'm just thankful that Dale is taking an interest in his own life and welfare and not just sitting around playing video games and stagnating.  We all feel relieved and pleased and less angry at Dale, and, what's more, we are more inclined to be encouraging and helpful with him when he's having a shaky day.  Thank you to everyone who has prayed along with us for this wonderful step forward.  We see the results of the prayers of God's people and cannot thank you enough!

Gotta go---we need to finish packing for our trip!  God bless you!

Psalm 146: 1-2  "Praise ye the LORD.  Praise the LORD, O my soul.  While I live will I praise the LORD:  I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Have you ever been mad at God?

Wellll, my husband and I found something out this week.  We've been encouraging/prodding/chivvying Dale for months to do his daily exercises, work harder, try harder to walk properly.  All that seems to do is make us hoarse and upset.  Dale hasn't responded like we want him to; it seems like he's just given up.  Tuesday night we found out why.

Dale told us he's mad at God.  Downright angry, in fact.  He said he's mad that God would let him drown, that God chose to let him live but not have a life.  He feels cheated by God out of even a chance to grow up and have a normal life.  He's grateful that God chose to spare his life and he's not upset that God chose to perform such a great miracle, but he wishes someone else could be the recipient because, to his mind, he got shortchanged.  He didn't recover fully---although he's gone much farther than the doctors have said they've ever seen anyone with Dale's medical history go.  He isn't able to plan for the future, like college or dating or becoming what he once dreamed of becoming.  He can't do so much like go on some of our teen activities or go out with teen soulwinning or learn to drive a car or get a job because he isn't strong enough or steady enough to keep from falling or shaking---or seizing.  He can't even walk to the bathroom any more by himself because he stopped trying to exercise his muscles and so lost a lot of strength that helped keep him steady.  He doesn't understand why God allowed this to happen to him, and he doesn't want to even try to live the life God has set before him now until he gets some answers.

And I understand exactly what he's feeling.  Because I agree.

WHY did God allow our son to drown?  WHY didn't someone see him before it was too late?  WHY did the other boy in distress that day get rescued but not Dale?  WHY did it take so long to find his body?  WHY couldn't the rescue workers get his heart going again quickly?  WHY wouldn't his lungs work properly?  WHY wasn't the youth group at a beach closer to home?  WHY did God wait until we had lost all hope before He performed His miracle?  WHY couldn't God just let Dale wake up......and sit up and stand up and walk around and be all normal again?  WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE OUR SON???

I really hate that three-letter word.  WHY rarely gets a real answer.  A full explanation of events.  Especially when we are addressing the question to God Almighty.  So much of faith rests in that troubling, pain-filled, swirling gray pea-soup-thick fog of doubt and uncertainty that chokes our throat with the utterance of the word WHY.  I have read the Bible over and over in futile efforts to determine WHY.  I have prayed endlessly in vain attempts to glean more information as to the reason behind the tragedy.  I've asked pointless, anguished questions like "Weren't we obeying enough?" and "Why would You do this when we were serving You?" and "Don't You love us, God?"  I've listened to sermons and read prayer letters and perused magazine articles and done devotions and spent hours deep in conversation with my husband and family, all dedicated to this all-encompassing, emotion-filled, heart-wrenching agony of soul wrapped up in one single syllable---WHY?

I didn't find out the answer.  God didn't magically reveal His will to me in a dream as in Bible times.  He didn't have someone give me a word of knowledge.  I didn't listen to a sermon and realize, "Oh, now I know!"  I didn't spend hours in prayer and fasting and walk out of my prayer closet with the divine knowledge of God's purpose having been revealed to me.  I'm still just as much in the dark as to God's ultimate plan for Dale and our family as I was, apparently, before Dale's accident.  I still don't know WHY God allowed him to drown or WHY God didn't heal him fully right away or WHY God deliberately placed this burden on our family or WHY we can't make spur-of-the-moment plans but always have to accommodate Dale or WHY God thinks we have some kind of super strength to bear up under this hardship or WHY we have to wait until we get to Heaven to understand His plan.


I do know I trust God implicitly.  I do know He embodies good, right, and truth.  I do know He is the personification of love.  I do know that, though I cannot see the future, He does.  I do know that, though I may not have the strength to face the daily struggles, He does.  I do know that, though I may not have the courage to face the vast unknown, He knows already.  I do know that the One Who was willing to sacrifice His Son for my eternal soul would never maliciously harm me or my loved ones.  I do know that the One Who cares about each common sparrow that may fall cares even more about my son when he falls.  I do know that the One Who loves me so much He sent His Son to Calvary so that my eternal future would be secure would not willfully and cruelly withhold a possible future from my son without purpose.  I do know that I TRUST GOD, no matter what.

Now to help Dale see that.  I don't think he'll remain mad at God forever.  But he's going to need a lot of prayer and guidance to find peace about this.  Dale did lose a lot in the ocean that day:  confidence, physical ability, brain capacity, a future brimming with possibilities.  I don't want him to lose his God too.  He's stated that he loves the God before the accident; now he just has to realize that the God after the accident is the same God.  Please pray with us that Dale will understand---or, better yet, trust.  Our God can do anything.....which means He can reach a teenage boy's heart and help him through a terrible conflict of soul.  Our God can do it, and our son is worth it.

Ephesians 3:16 - 19  "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."

Saturday, January 31, 2015

God's mercies are new every morning.

Has it really been a whole month since the new year started?  How's this year been for you so far?  Did you stick to your New Year's resolutions as planned, or have those fallen by the wayside already?  Have you already messed up in your big plans like reading the Bible through in a year or spending more time with family or keeping to a budget?

Life is full of backward stumbles and re-dos.  Just as sure as the sun comes up each morning (and for those of us in Washington state, we just have to believe that it really does!), we are going to make some mistake(s) every day.  Every single day.  Some of these mistakes will have life-altering results and some will just make us temporarily miserable.  But here's the good news:  ALL of our mistakes are covered by Jesus' blood.  All of our misakes and failures and sins and regrets have already been paid for and forgiven through the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary.  When we accept the fact that we are sinners, that sin has a penalty and the penalty is death, and that Jesus paid our penalty with His death on the cross, we have just opened ourselves up not only to Heaven for all eternity but also for daily strength, love, mercy, and forgiveness.  This doesn't give us a license to sin, but it does free us from the crushing guilt and depression that sinful behavior brings.  Even just simple mistakes like not eating right or speeding while driving don't have to control us; these things can be dealt with and overcome because we have God on our side!  What a wonderful thought!   Praise the Lord!!!

Well, Dale's neurology appointment had to be rescheduled for the middle of February.  This works better for our schedule since we'll have that week off school.  He's been a little better about doing his exercises---but not nearly good enough!  Please pray for our son that he will see the need to exercise regularly.  Dale feels like, "Why should I put forth all the effort to walk when sitting in a wheelchair is so much easier?"  He doesn't realize that, once he stops trying to walk, his brain will lose control of his body, setting off a chain reaction of falls, jerking limbs, and seizures.  Chad and I have tried to explain this to him, but so far Dale thinks we're overstating facts.  Dale has gotten used to having people do things for him, and he has to get out of the habit of thinking that that is his right.  It's a daily battle, I'm afraid;  some days he wins, and some days I win!  We'll see whose will is stronger.....

Katie and I started a new health plan this year.  We joined the 8 Week FIT Challenge, and already we have seen results!  Our "rules" are simply basic good-health guidelines:  no eating after 9 p. m., drink 64 ounces of water daily, eat 3 cups of veggies daily, eat half a cup of fresh or frozen fruit daily, exercise 45 minutes daily (whatever kind of exercise you wish), log food and water intake plus exercise into My Fitness Pal, and eat no sugar (just maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, or stevia).  Tomorrow marks the end of the fourth week, and Katie and I are feeling great!  We've lost weight; we've gained muscle tone; we've slowly but steadily weaned ourselved off sugar and replaced our cravings with healthy options.  I am so thankful for this group!  The support of ladies who are struggling with the same health issues (weight loss, exercise loathings, junk food cravings) is invaluable, and working together toward a common goal has helped us feel that we're not alone in our health journey.  Plus, my husband has been ultra supportive, I'm already getting compliments on my weight loss, and I feel better than I have in years.  The challenge only goes for eight weeks (with prizes for incentive value), but Katie and I are already talking about making alot of these changes permanent.  I thank God daily for Denise Minge, who encouraged me to join the group, and other ladies at Bethel (LaDawn Rau, Darlene Minge, Rath Sears) who supported me in my decision to gain better health.  What a blessing and encouragement we have all been to each other!

We're making plans for April!  That's when we get to go on our dream vacation. I already have a substitute lined up for the week we'll be gone, and Amanda has purchased her plane tickets so she'll be able to go with us too.  My kids are doing all right keeping their minds on schoolwork for now, but as the date approaches, I'm sure they'll be completely unteachable!  We've had so many people tell us how excited they are for us to be able to go.  Lots of folks have been praying with us and following Dale's story of recovery, and they know how much this vacation means to our family.  Those of you with special needs children realize just how wonderful getting away from the routine and sometimes drudgery of everyday life will be.  We are all looking forward to April!

Valentine's Day is coming, so be sure to say "I love you" to the important people in your lives.  We need to see each day as the special gift from God that it is and appreciate our loved ones daily, not just once a year.  We should love the way God loves.  And, remember, God said "I love you" in the most incredible way possible:

John 3: 16  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."