I heard a snap today! If you think about it, hearing a snap is usually not a positive experience. When you hear the snap of a bone, that's definitely not a good thing. Pain, a trip to the hospital, and weeks of recovery follow pretty quickly after that. In old movies, hearing the snap of a twig outside does not mean that someone you love is on their way to visit. Even snapping one's fingers usually means you're trying to get someone's attention, but it's usually stemming from frustration or you are trying to get someone to stop and listen when they had failed to do so previously. The snapping of gum, if it is not your own, can put you on edge. A snap usually means something is broken, whether it's the silence, a bone, or something else of value.
What I heard today, though, was definitely a positive thing! Although it was in my head, it was as clear as if I had actually picked up a branch and snapped it in half. It was the sound of control being broken.
Something that most people agree on is that no one can have control over our lives unless we let them. That's the free will God has given us. I WANT to reliquish control to my Lord Jesus and no one else, but much of the time, I have it backwards. I think a lot of people can relate. I've been pondering why it is so hard to give control to the God of the universe with a perfect track record, but yet we easily give it to the negative chains in our lives, be it people or experiences.
Dave and I have recently had someone come into the jungle of our lives with a machete, swinging it wildly without care to the havoc, pain, and destruction he has caused. We wanted to grab the machete, make it stop, and bring order back to our family, but we usually only got wounded in the attempt. The source behind the machete remained in hiding and thus became even more in control, only letting himself out long enough to cut once again. His method was cruel and hateful, and he didn't seem to care that he could bring innocent family members and kids down in the process.
One of the most difficult parts to deal with was that it was someone from our beloved church. Not knowing who it was meant looking into faces we have known for years, some we have trusted with some significant baggage, and wondered, "Is it you? Could you have done this? and WHY?"
Now, why would I want to give control over to someone like that? The obvious answer is that I DON'T want to, but when he seems to have all the weapons, then what am I to do? The serenity prayer became a lifeline.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." A beautiful prayer that continues with much more truth, but it's this first part that resonates with me.
This is where I heard the snap...when my head as well as my heart finally completelly absorbed the truth of that prayer. As I said earlier, the sound of the snap was something being broken...control was broken! I never really had it, and I was no longer giving it to the wrong person. Freedom! I cannot control him, but I can control my own response. And in this case, the best response is to pray my way through it with family and friends and to put on the full armor of God. If God is for me, who can be against me?
One of these persons has a tendency to passively rub things in your face, and I can't figure out if she's doing it intentionally or not. I thought perhaps it was just me being too sensitive and jealous until, without provocation or knowing how I felt, my daughter pointed it out to me. Anyway, whether she does it on purpose or not, it hurts, and she usually doesn't know when to stop talking about it.
I was feeling this way recently when sitting next to my mom. I saw her (my mom) glance my way at just the right time and then I felt her touch on my knee. She knew what I felt, and she understood. Tears came to my eyes...no matter how old we get, there's is nothing compared to a mother's touch. Especially if you have a mom like mine.
I wish I could say I've begun resolving those jealous feelings, that I found a renewed strength and sense of gratitude for what I already have....but I can't. I can say that I will savor that touch. Someone knows me and understands me. She won't let me wallow in those ugly feelings, but neither will she turn away from them.
My heavenly Father is like that...and there is nothing like His touch either. I wish I felt that as strongly as I do with the physical touches here on earth. Faith is not based on feelings, I know that. (Boy, would we be in trouble if it were!) But sometimes I just want to FEEL His touch....that gentle rub on the knee...a bear hug...you know what I mean. That's why I feel His love so strongly when His people reach out and do just those things.
I am blessed...blessed with parents, TWO parents, who love Jesus and love me. I don't think there are any better examples of God's love than they have shown me from the minute I was born.
I am blessed with a husband who loves the Lord, too. And he and God have given me two beautiful kids who also love Jesus and continue to learn what it means to love Him with ALL their hearts.
I am counting my blessings...can you tell? Maybe if I keep at it long enough, I can send that green-eyed bogeyman on a long walk off a short pier.
I LOVE the Olympics! I loved playing sports in high school and college, so I appreciate good athleticism, but I am also an "artsy" person. And there is art to each and every sport in the Olympics. Cross country skiing combines strength, grace, and speed. Downhill skiing is just plain frightening...the control they have at speeds that I wouldn't even drive my car. If I were to start down that hill (and trust me, you'd have to PUSH me down), it wouldn't be long before I would be throwing my arms over my head, scrunching my eyes closed, and hoping that whatever I crashed into would be soft! Add the huge ramp and jump and you might as well sign my death certificate. Bobsledding and the luge have got to be like riding the ultimate roller coaster. You know that feeling, when your stomach flies up into your throat. I usually spend the rest of the ride trying to swallow my stomach back down...that and screaming. Those athletes continue hurdling downward trying to become one with the track...art in motion. Snowboarding combines speeds and twists and soaring through the air for a few seconds of magic. And figure skating combines almost all of the above. And, of course, I have to point out that the Norwegian curling team's pants have added an element of art that's never been seen before!
The Olympics are a little bit of history in the making. But history becomes a list of dates and events that bring a cloudy glaze over one's eyes if it's not made real. The Olympics become a list of stats and unknown bodies racing for the finish line if they're not made real. So how do you make a bunch of numbers come alive? For most, it's got to be the stories. Each athlete has his own story, and learning about them makes you root for them a little harder. And it makes those from other countries competitors, not enemies. The individual stories bring out the best of the games. The determination, the sacrifices, triumphs, and even heartbreaks.
Shaun White (US gold medalist snowboarder) had a snowboarding accident at age 11 with some pretty serious injuries. The natural thing to do would be to choose a different path. A not-so-gentle nudge out of his comfort zone from his mother, of all people, got him back on track. Now it's like a glimpse of pure magic to watch him fly. My favorite is when he flies off the pipe and straight up without any twists, turns, or tricks. For a second, there is this unnatural silence as we all hold our breath, followed by a gasp of incredulity, and then the cheering! He allows us to join him in a moment of unadulterated thrill.
Apollo Ohno (US short track speed skater) bucked his dad so hard during his teenage years that they were ready to give up on each other. Turns out that a few days alone in an isolated cabin can induce some pretty deep soul searching and bring a boy to the crossroads of becoming a man. He is now on his way to becoming the most decorated US winter Olympian. Hannah and I have had some fun watching him as she loves to point out how weird (in her opinion) his beard is. So when she sees him on TV, she says, "Look! There's Weird Beard!" And then we both shout, "Oh No!" Totally corny, we know...but it always makes us laugh. In a bad mood? Look for Apollo Ohno, point to him and shout, "Oh NO!" I guarantee it will work!
Lindsey Jacobelli (US snowboard cross racer) was leading the pack and headed for gold in Torino (2006) when she fell just before crossing the finish line. She did get the silver, but I'm sure it felt like little more than a consolation prize. This year, after racing almost flawlessly all day, her fall came in the semi-finals. She didn't even make the podium. She had to be crushed. But when interviewed, while it was obvious that she was disappointed, she also dug deep and tried to be gracious and look for the positive. I'm sure once the cameras were off, she found somewhere to be alone and cried her eyes out. I almost wanted to go with her.
Noelle Pikus-Pace (US skeleton athlete) was in a freak accident during the Olympic trials in 2006 that left her with a compound fracture in her shin. An injury so severe that doctors said it would be months before she could even walk again, let alone race. She was racing just six weeks later. However, because of bad timing, she still had to sit out the Olympics as an alternate, an incredibly disappointing outcome for her. Planning to retire for good after those Olympics, she gave birth to her little girl...a day that she still calls "the best day of my life." Obviously that retirement turned out to be not-so-permanent, and she's having a blast in Vancouver. Motherhood seems to agree with her...it's clear that her daughter still puts the biggest smile on her face. She said it so well when she said, "Being a mom, and being at the Olympics...it just doesn't get any better!"
As each event closes, medal or not, true champions begin to emerge in the aftermath. And by "true champion," I don't necessarily mean medal winners. A true champ is the fourth place winner who, when asked how she feels with a microphone in her face, makes the cameraman laugh when she says with a big grin, "Aw, MAN!" and goes on to congratulate the winners. It's the true champ who realizes that family and personal goals make the years of hard work and sacrifice worth it much more than a medal around their neck. It's a true champ who admits that it's hard to walk away from all of that without a single reward but also admits that those on the podium deserve to be there. And it's a true champ who, gold in hand (or on the neck), handles controversy and criticism with grace and class, looks his critic/role model/competitor in the eye and says, "That's okay...you did great! Congratulations!" and means it.
My kids are old enough now to begin taking all of this in, and we are having a great time together watching, learning and cheering on our favorites. I hope you are too. It's an opportunity that only comes along every four years. Well, okay, every two years now that they've staggered the summer and winter games.
I wanted to explain to the person the specific reason I still had the email...that I wasn't just holding onto a grudge and my bitterness. But like the queen in Shakespeare's Hamlet, he probably would've thought, "The lady doth protest too much." And I thought to myself, I AM usually afraid to let go of the past. I could learn something here. Hmmm...Delete it and move on.
There is a fine line between holding grudges and setting boundaries, and I have crossed over it many times, I know. If you knew my entire marriage history, you might say I'm entitled. Trust that's been broken over and over, then rebuilt with cracks and even chunks missing. How does one continue to forgive? How do I take care of myself, set some boundaries, and keep my heart safe without holding a grudge? I can't! The rest of the world tells me it's okay, I certainly have the right to be angry, hateful, and even bitter. But you know what? The only thing I'm entitled to is an eternity in the pits of hell, forever alone. Because of Jesus, I don't have to face that. He died in my place, took my sin, and made it disappear. How can my gratitude not be overflowing into the rest of my life?
Honestly, it's all too easy. I can't remember where my keys are, but I can tell you in the fall of 1991 who did me wrong, how, and exactly how I felt at the time. I leave important papers behind, but I take my bad attitude with me wherever I go. I'm good at pointing fingers, forgetting there are three pointing back at me. And the most shameful is my forgetting my Lord and all He's done for me...and forgetting that Jesus died for that person, too. Delete it and move on.
Unconditional love. Healthy boundaries. Forgiveness. Trust. Vulnerability. Safety. My head spins with all the possibilities...with trying to find balance and peace. Will I ever find it? O Lord, I hope so. It would probably help to spend a lot more time focused on Him than on other people.
I think I also have a hard time with the "Delete it and move on" idea because it can sometimes lead to a lonely season. It means realizing that sometimes people come into our lives only for a season. It's time to say goodbye, but saying goodbye to old friends doesn't necessarily mean saying hello to new ones. At least not right away. And that can make one cling to the old with unhealthy tenacity.
It's time. I am so sad as I type this, but I need to take the mental step of moving on and praying for God to bring some new and amazing things into my life. I'm also going to start by going to my inbox to the email I mentioned earlier. Time to delete it and move on!
Three snow days in a row. You'd think I'd take advantage of the time and do some writing. But I'm not feeling inspired. I'm not sure why. Twenty-some inches of snow is beautiful...and a great depth for building snowmen, snow forts, tunnels, and whatever else you can think of. But put a shovel in your hand or try to get to work without having an accident, and the fun and beauty start to fade. Even those with snow blowers are finding the work tiring, hard, and tedious.
Just today, my daughter came in from shoveling with cheeks that resembled big red tomatoes, and my hubby was a few steps behind with icicles in his beard. My kids who usually love snow days are finding themselves a bit stir crazy and actually WANTING to go back to school as soon as possible. (Could they go to night school TONIGHT?) My kids love to play in the snow. They are often my inspiration as they will come in and out several times during a heavy snowfall. But this week has gotten to even them, and they are now tapping their toes, counting down until they can go back to school! In the meantime, I'll post some fun pictures of when they WERE having fun.
Lately I haven't felt that special close relationship with my God. I've had to make some tough decisions. Decisions that aren't too popular, even with my family. It has made me second guess myself and wonder if I am completely crazy. I have a toxic relationship in my life, but it is also an unavoidable one. I'm tired of being accused of being selfish, unChristian, and even jealous because I am trying to avoid and get rid of as much of the poison as possible. Under normal circumstances, it would be absolutely right to cut all ties completely, but nothing about my life is ever normal. I wish I could say I welcome the challenge, but that is just not true. BUT I don't hate them or regret them. I just have to work on that whole "being content no matter what" concept that Paul and James were so good at writing about.
Recent events have brought me into a season where I don't have too many people (friends) to bounce my thoughts off of. It's a lonely place to be.
If you read our Christmas letter, you know that the past year has been tough. It seemed like one thing after another kept knocking us to our knees. We were so busy dealing with each occurrence, one at a time, that I don't think I had time to process it all completely. Lately, through no real choice of my own, my mind has been trying to process it, and all I feel is overwhelmed. I cry myself to sleep a lot. I toss and turn. I think about the few people I do have left to talk to, but I don't even know what I want to say.
A couple days ago for the first time, I have actually felt some progress. I have been doing some soul searching about accepting whatever my responsibility would be. I was actually able to think about certain events and people without the usual anger followed by crushing disappointment. I can look myself in the eye and know that I am either doing or going to do the right thing.
I have such a long way to go...this is such a small baby step...that it's hard to stay focused on it without getting defeated once again. You know, that overwhelming feeling again. One day at a time. Just for today, I will focus on that baby step.
Last year, we had to put one of our beloved pooches down. She was 15. I had lost pets as a kid, but I was never directly part of the decision. Sandy was the first pet as an adult that I was responsible for and present for during her passing. Shortly after her death, I wrote the following piece. I never posted it or published anywhere and had almost forgotten it until I read of a friend's pet recently passing away. Those of you who have pets know how they become part of your family, and some are extra special. Sandy was one of those special ones to me.
Picking her out is still a bit vague in my memory, but I remember wanting a dog so badly I could almost feel the fur in my arms. My husband Dave and I had only been married a few months when we felt we were ready for our first pet. Although we both grew up with small pedigreed dogs, we both wanted a bigger dog, and we wanted to rescue one. I was on my way to my hometown to visit my parents when the local humane society came into view. A force greater than my own self control drew me off the rode and down the driveway to be welcomed by a hundred barking dogs. After walking through the kennels, I was drawn to two dogs...a laid-back older hound mix, a gentleman through and through, and a young female lab-shepherd pup with a pink nose and ears that looked more like Gizmo from the movie, Gremlins. I left them both behind for the moment, knowing I'd be back for one of them. Which one, I just wasn't sure. I called Dave that evening and told him about my visit. Irritated that I would attempt such an important decision without him, he grumpily told me that if I insisted on getting one of the dogs, get the female. I headed down the road, a two-hour trip, with what became the first addition to our family. She curled up in the front seat and only sat up or lifted her head a few times as if to check things out and make sure everything was okay. I later learned how fortunate I was as it's not unusual for dogs to become quite carsick.
A little uncertain of the situation, she lagged a little behind me when we first arrived home, but Dave was there waiting for her. Although irritated with how it all came about, he was still anxious to meet his pup. And she was his pup from the very first...it was love at first site. Since I had picked her out, I figured the least I could do was let him choose the name, and he picked Sandy, although she was more the color of sand you'd see in the Caribbean rather than anywhere here in the States, a beautiful vanilla cream. Even well into her senior years, we got compliments on her color.
I have often speculated aloud, “Why do we always seem to get the weird or the dumb animals?” I always say it with a smile, though, because it's a personality or set of fun quirks that make me ask. Sandy was the beginning of that trend, but it wasn't funny at first. Since she was only about six months old and not quite housebroken, we began crating her right away. Her determination for freedom was unlike anything I'd ever seen before or since. Her first crate was like an airport carrier made of hard plastic and mostly enclosed on the sides. Over a period of about a week or two, she chewed her way out. Okay then, bring in the metal crate. Using her nose and jaw, she pried apart the bars until she got her head out and then got herself stuck. Okay, no more crates. Although she was housebroken by this point, no crate meant coming home every day to something new being chewed apart including the carpet at the top of the stairs and an entire dining room chair. The dining room chair was almost the last straw. She almost lost her happy home, and I think she knew it, because other than her rawhide bones and the garbage when left out, she never chewed anything else after that.
Although I had fallen in love with her, too, she was always Dave's pride and joy. He was youth pastor to the church next door, and his office was in the attached Christian school. He would take Sandy into work with him several times a week. No leash was necessary as they headed across the parking lot. Sandy knew where they were going. Once inside, she would curl up on the couch and hang out with Dave and the kids until it was time to go home.
She had an uncanny knack for knowing boundaries wherever we went. Although we usually kept her tied up when we let her out, we learned quickly that we didn't need to fear if she got loose. She didn't go far, and she always came back. When we moved back to our hometown, we moved in with friends for a few weeks until we could find our own home. They had a pup of their own in a similar breed and about the same size. Sandy and this dog became best buddies like something you see in the movies. They would take off in the morning to romp in the woods and return hours later, exhausted but happy. We could take her to Dave's family hunting camp with all kinds of people around and did not have to have her leashed. She wandered calmly among people and knew not to stray too far.
Probably the quirk I loved about her the most was her sudden, out-of-the-blue, no-reason-behind-it energy bursts. She would begin racing through the house, using the back of the couch as a kind of like a springboard -- similar to how a race car rounds a curve high on the track. It happened at least once a day, and it was an hysterical site that I never tired of laughing over.
When one gets a dog before having kids, there is always concern as to how the dog will respond to or accept the kids. Sandy took to both of my kids like they were part of her plan all along. In fact, she was always a bit protective. Given a choice, she would spend her time with them during the day. And when they were asleep, and an adult would check on them, she would walk back with the adult as if to make sure we wouldn't do anything to disturb them.
Although in the category of bigger dogs, she thought she was a lap dog. Her spot was on the couch right beside whoever was there, usually stretched out to take up the rest of it. At night, she thought her place was in bed between me and my husband. I begged to differ, but with patience and persistence, she often won that battle. She would place her head on the bed, giving you the best sad puppy eyes you could imagine. After a couple minutes, she would place one then the other of her front paws up and scootch forward a bit. And after a couple more minutes, she would try to subtly get the hind paws up with her. This last step always made me laugh as you can imagine a big dog hoping no one would notice as she climbed onto the bed and how (not so) subtle she really was. I kicked her out most every night only to wake up in the middle of the night hot and claustrophobic due to her heavy sleeping body tucked snugly between me and Dave.
Circumstances too difficult to talk much about forced us to give her away at age seven, but we were fortunate that a family from our church took her, so we could keep tabs on her, and we were always welcome to visit. They called her their Angel Dog, and she was. She was good for their whole family, especially their teenage son, and they were good to her. The family went through some difficult times in the following years, and Sandy became their comfort in the midst of it all. She became bonded with them as she had with us, and although we always felt heartbroken at our loss, we rejoiced at their gain. At eleven years old, she grew a tumor on her hips that, although benign, grew out of control and required surgery to remove. This family decided to take the risk, opted for the surgery, and Sandy came through with flying colors.
Less than a year later, I got a phone call asking if we would like Sandy back. Stunned speechless at first, I could barely get out the question, “Why?” I knew they loved her as much as we had; what could possibly make them give her up? A combination of lifestyle changes and prayer led them to this decision, so I answered with a resounding, “Yes!” The timing was such that she became my husband's Christmas gift that year. So Sandy came home to spend her senior years with us.
Taking Sandy in during this time was probably a lot like taking care of a precious family member during the winter season of their life. Age often changes one so much that we wonder if they are the same person, but the essence is still there...deep down, perhaps, but it's there, somewhere. Sandy had slowed way down, and in many ways wasn't the same dog that we once knew, but she was family, so we adapted and grew to know and love this older version of our favorite pooch. In her absence we had gotten another dog, a black and white retriever mix named Lady, and Sandy decided early on she didn't like Lady. Lady graciously decided to give Sandy back her queen status, and unless absolutely necessary gave Sandy a wide berth. This often made me smile, because if push came to shove, it wouldn't take much for Lady to win a scuffle, hands down, but for some reason, she did what she could to live and let live. Not only with Lady, but with life in general, Sandy became somewhat grumpy, a trait I'm told is rather common with animals as they get old. She was almost deaf, and she rarely heard us come home, so she was often sound asleep when we arrived...so still that I would usually stop to watch her breathing to make sure she was okay.
Eventually, the tumor on her hip came back, small at first, but it grew, and it grew rapidly. As it grew, so did Sandy's attitude, as I'm sure did her discomfort. She wouldn't even tolerate Lady within her line of vision (which was one of the few things still in good shape), and it became clear that her quality of life was on the decline. Although not miserable or in severe pain, she wasn't happy either. She was simply living out her days, tired and growly. When the tumor started bleeding out, and she struggled to stand up under the tumor's weight, it was clear that a visit to the vet was inevitable. We did have options, but given her age (15 years at this point), none of them made much sense, except to end the misery. We got together as a family and discussed it all, deciding that we would make the appointment for the next week. We talked about how the Sandy we once knew would be up in heaven playing and running like she used to...there would be a couch for her to run and jump on, and she'd greet whichever of us got there first with a wagging tail and lots of kisses.
Putting her down was a lot harder than I thought it would be. And it was a lot quicker, too. She wouldn't lie down, so one minute I was looking into her eyes, and then next, her head dropped, and she was gone.
At first, it was hard not to second guess our decision, but so many things have confirmed that we did the right thing. I think the best thing is that now when I look at pictures of her and see pictures that remind me of her, I smile. We didn't watch her suffer endlessly. I remember her during her happy years, and I think that it's one more reason I can't wait to get to heaven because I just know she'll be there to greet me. Her kisses were something special, and she always gave them willingly. All I had to do was lean into her face and she'd lap you with soft wet kisses that I can almost feel as I type this. I can't wait to be the recipient of them once again.