Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Tail of Two Dogs

Our family has had quite a few pets: dogs, cats, ducks, snakes, gerbils, a tarantula, a skink and lots of fish.  Currently, we just have two dogs. One is a big, beautiful, eight year old Siberian Husky. I don’t say he is beautiful to brag. I say it because people will stop their cars when we are out for a walk and say, “Wow! That is a beautiful dog!”
The thing about it is, I think he knows he is beautiful. I think he knows when people stop their cars, and talk to us, that they are talking about him. His name is Tacoma, and one of my friends described him in one word ‘regal’.  That really does sum it up. He is regal. He acts like he is the king of everything. He acts like everyone and everything is beneath him. He likes people and he likes to be petted, but he would never lower himself to beg or jump on you just to be petted. He will walk close to you and offer you his beautiful fur, for your opportunity to pet him. He, very seldom, will lower himself to bark. Again, I think he thinks barking is for little dogs, that are not large and in charge, like he is. When we go walking, he proudly holds his head up high, walks a straight line, knows where we are going, thinks he is leading, and does not even glance at the poor dogs yapping away at him from inside a fence. He is purpose driven, and knows his assignment is to get his pack completely around our walking path. He does not have time to stop and smell the roses or acknowledge any other dogs along the way.

We have another dog too. I hate for her to be called ‘the other dog’, but that is what she is. We got her from a rescue shelter, when she was a puppy. Her tag said she was Australian Shepherd mix. The truth is, she is mostly mix. As the vet said, “She looks like an ordinary ‘rez dog’, a little bit of everything.” Great. I was hoping she would be more Australian Shepherd looking, so she could hold her own with the regal dog. No such luck. She looks very ordinary, tan, short hair, medium sized, like so many other mutts walking around. We named her Darla, because she was  so darling when she was a puppy. The thing that makes her special though is that she loves everybody. She does think everyone around her wants to pet her and she wants to show doggie love to everyone who comes close to her.  She wags her tail and shakes her whole body, so excited to see new people. Even when she comes in the house for the tenth time in the morning, she acts like she hasn’t seen us in days. In many ways, she is the opposite of Tacoma. She knows she is not the boss of anyone. She obeys all the non-verbal, dog dominant communication that Tacoma shows her. If they are getting treats, Tacoma always gets the first one. If they are getting fed, she lets Tacoma choose the bowl he wants first. If he wants her pillow, chew toy, bone or treat, she will automatically acquiesce to his preference. Sometimes he wants his bone AND her bone, and will get both. She will sit a few feet away, wagging her tail, watching his every move and waiting to see if he will get up and leave one of the bones, so she can snatch it back. She is the happiest dog we have ever had, and really, the happiest one in our family. She will never make it on the cover of Dog Magazine, but she brings a lot of joy to our family.

They say that dog owners start to look like their dogs. I wonder how we look. Do I want to look beautiful, but act large and in charge, like everyone else owes me something, like Tacoma? Or would I rather look plain and ordinary, but show love to everyone I meet, like Darla? I always choose Darla, anytime there is an opportunity where I can (or should) only take one dog. Nobody is going to comment about how beautiful she is. But, she will make others feel loved just by her enthusiasm to see them and her sweetness while she is around them.
As much as our world admires and is impressed by beautiful looking people, and dogs, I would much rather be a person who shows love to others, who is enthusiastic to see anyone new, and who is sweet to those around me. Just like it says in 1 Samuel 16:7 “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
How about you? Do you have a beautiful dog or one with a sweet spirit?

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Israel

Some couples golf together, some ski together, and others bike together. Vince and I lead trips to Israel together. I know, it sounds kind of funny. The very first time we went to Israel, we sat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and said to each other, “We have got to come back and bring our kids and our friends!” So, that is what we have done the last few trips.
Our very first trip was the most unforgettable though. Not only was it amazingly wonderful and gave us a greater love for the Bible, our Lord and His people, but it started out as a comedy of errors.
***Disclaimer here: If you go to Israel, this will NOT happen to you. This story could happen on any international or national flight. ***
We joined a tour group, where we knew no one, except the leader. He held some meetings where a travel agent told us what to expect during international travel and answer any questions.
At this point, we were in our early 30’s, and had traveled a few times, mostly non-stop to Phoenix or Dallas. The verse “pride comes before the fall” was written on our foreheads as we sat and listened to the expert advice of a TRAVEL AGENT, who had flown internationally many, many times.
I took copious notes, and we listened intently to every word.  All I can say is our pride got the better of us. The travel agent strongly recommended, that, since the flight would be about 24 hours with the plane changes, we should pack a change of clothing in our carry on bags. Looking back, it was excellent advice. At the time though, Vince and I looked at each other like she was from Mars. We had never heard of such a thing. Why would we want to carry around, for 24 hours, an extra set of clothes, including underwear, extra toothbrush, and toiletries? Instead, we both packed a small backpack with vitally important necessities like: peanut M & Ms, corn nuts, trail mix, cheese crackers and gum. I also packed make up, which is vitally important.
We used frequent flyer miles for the trip. This meant we would not be flying with the group, but would be by ourselves until we met them in Israel. We had enough points for Business Class. We had never flown First Class, nor did we even know there was a Business Class. The morning we checked in, the lady at the airline desk asked,
“You do know that you will be changing airports in London, right?”
No, we didn’t know. She spoke like it was just a simple gate change.
“You land at Heathrow Airport and you will take a short bus ride to Gatwick Airport to catch the final leg of your flight to Tel Aviv.  Don’t worry about your luggage. It is checked all the way through to Tel Aviv.”
So, off we flew. The first stop was Dallas, because no matter where you are flying from, when you are on this particular airline, you must fly through Dallas. We then flew to Chicago, and then overnight to London. I started wondering how our luggage was going to get from one airport to the other. Was someone going to carry it on the bus over to the next airport? Shouldn’t we be carrying our luggage from one airport to the other? Did they have a finely tuned system, where the passengers took the bus, but their luggage mysteriously got to the other airport by train, helicopter or magic carpet ride?
When we landed in London, I asked the first British Airways attendant I saw,
 “Do we need to pick up our luggage and bring it to the next airport?”
She looked at our tickets. She was wearing a crisp, navy blue dress and an old fashioned, round top, keystone cop type of hat. She answered in a polite, British accent, “No, your luggage is checked all the way through.”
We walked through the airport and I found another keystone cop capped attendant and asked again. He replied, “No, you are checked all the way through.”
Finally, I went to a British Airways counter and asked again, “How does our luggage get from one airport to the other?”
Again, in a pleasant, yet firm, quaint accent, she said, “I’m not exactly sure, but if your ticket says the luggage is checked all the way to your final destination, it will get there.” Alrighty then.
It was about 3am, our time, when we got on the very tall, but not quite a double-decker bus. Feeling terribly sleep deprived, I was dizzy, light headed, feeling a little green and had a headache. We sat in the first row behind the bus driver, because I am also a terrible passenger and got carsick just walking up the steps onto the bus. As we took off, speeding very fast on narrow, winding roads, I remember feeling like the top of the bus was swaying from side to side as we raced through the countryside. I had no idea a bus could take a roundabout at 90 miles an hour and not tip over. I was sitting sideways, leaning my head against the back of the seat, with my eyes closed. I asked Vince, very weakly, if he would ask the bus driver how our luggage was going to get to the other airport.
Only because he loves me, and saw how green I was, did he ask the bus driver. The driver rambled something very fast, and not loud enough to be heard over the roaring engine. Vince turned to me and said, “I couldn’t understand a word he said. But I think he said our luggage is checked all the way through.”
Agitated at this, I remembered Vince was terrible at understanding any accent. He could never follow any of the Pride and Prejudice type movies. I think I said something to him like,
“This is England. The man is speaking English. You should be able to understand him.”
Fed up with me, and exhausted too, I think he finally said, “Robyn, you don’t have to understand how everything works. Trust them. They do this all the time.”

Somehow, without any sleep, and feeling more dizzy and nauseous, we boarded our last flight to Tel Aviv. There were 6 rows of First Class, which was nothing more than larger seats. The last row was labeled Business Class. Basically, they were all the same, except there was a sign posted that read:
“No Smoking in First Class. Smoking is allowed in Business Class only.”
 I thought this was some kind of joke!
Smoking had been banned on American flights for years. But, apparently, it was not overseas. Our section was filled with businessmen, returning from whatever business they had done. The only thing they wanted to do besides, talk really loudly and laugh, was, you guessed it . . . smoke! There were about 20 men and every one of them took turns getting up out of their rows, walking the few feet to our row, sitting down next to us and smoking. It was the weirdest thing ever!
I was beyond sick at this point. I was huddled in the corner against the window, legs up in the seat, with my arms around my knees, in a fetal position. I had the blue blanket covering my head, trying to filter out the smoke, and wondering if I could request that they drop the oxygen mask from the ceiling for me. I held the blanket in one hand and the airsickness bag in the other hand. Vince is as allergic to smoke as I am, but I had no idea how he was fending off the growing cloud of smoke.

The only thing I remember him saying to me during the entire five-hour flight, was, “Sweetie, they are serving fish for dinner. Do you want any?”
FISH! On an airplane!  Gagging was the only response I could muster up. I think I heard Vince laugh a little.
The best part about the entire flight was that it landed away from the terminal, so we had to walk outside to get to the terminal. This was the freshest, sweetest air I had ever breathed. I wanted to stay right there and let the wind blow all the fishy, smoky stench out of my hair and off my clothes. This may be a slight exaggeration, but I really felt a physical revival inside my lungs and nose. It was almost more than I could stand, to breath in the clean outside air. I felt like I was coming back to life with every breath.
When we got inside to the baggage claim area, there was laughter, noise, and people hugging each other and clamoring to pick up their luggage off the winding belt. A tremendous amount of luggage came out. Vince and I waited for everyone to clear out and stepped up to the baggage claim belt.
We waited
and waited
and waited
until there were no more suitcases going around. Our suitcases were nowhere to be found.

We went to a customer service counter and told them we couldn’t find our luggage. They had me fill out a lost luggage form. I told them of our unique situation.  I said our luggage had been checked all the way through, but we changed airports in London, so maybe our luggage got here before us, and was sitting in an office somewhere.
The man shook his head; “You changed airports, but left your luggage at the first airport?”
“Yes, because they said it was checked all the way through to Tel Aviv.” I said meekly.
“If you had to change airports, that changes everything. Why didn’t you ask someone if you should get your suitcases and bring them to the next airport? How did you think they were going to get from one airport to the next?” he asked incredulously.
Yes, how indeed.
He assured us, that the airline would find our luggage and drive it out to our hotel. It could take between a week and ten days!
The airport pick up area had cleared out by now. The multitude of taxi drivers and bus drivers that had been holding up cardboard signs with people’s last names, were mostly gone. I had scanned the names on the signs earlier, when we were waiting for our missing luggage, but did not see anything that resembled our last name. Finally, after an hour had passed there was only one taxi driver left holding a cardboard sign. We, minus our luggage, were the only tourists left looking for our ride.
Vince went over to the man whose sign was printed in big, black letters:
Vince told the man our last name, and asked if, perhaps, he was really waiting for us? The man shook his head and said he was waiting for a REUBEN party. 
Vince asked, “Do you think you could mean ‘Robyn’ - R-O-B-Y-N?
The driver, obviously irritated from having to wait so long, said,
“Yeah, yeah. That is what the sign says, Rueben.”
Not at all sure this was our driver, but not having any other options, we got in his taxi.
He was puzzled when we told him we would be staying twelve days and had no luggage. He laughed and jokingly said something about us having all our clothes in our small backpacks.
The trip got MUCH better after that. Amazingly, the airline found our luggage and delivered it to us the next day! We were shocked and so happy to be able to change out of our stinky clothes.
We have been back several times since then. We have never flown again without a complete change of clothes, including a toothbrush and toiletries. We have never seen anyone smoke on an airplane before or after that flight.

Our life lessen?    Proverbs 13:10
 “ Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Confessions of a Baseball Mom: Wear it

It was the coldest, windiest day of the season. Brrrrr. The wind felt like it was whipping right through me. Every part of my body that was not covered with several layers, and wrapped in a huge blanket, felt like an ice cube. Not surprisingly, most of the other parents chose to stay at home for this game. Our team had to travel two hours to a small town to play another varsity team looking to improve their standings with a win.  But, my son was a senior and since this was his last season to play baseball, I was determined to make it to all of the games, freezing wind or not.
I had never been much of a yeller in the stands. One, it hurts my throat to yell, and two, my son told me when he was eight that he was never able to hear anything I yelled from the stands anyway. Plus, this year I was the backup scorekeeper, keeping track of every pitch, hit and defensive play, on an official looking scorebook. So, there wasn’t a lot of time to yell if I had wanted to.
It was a tense, close game, made more tense by having to fight to keep sitting upright against the wind. Honestly, it was brutal for the few fans wearing parkas watching the game. There was no talking in the stands. With the wind howling so loudly we could not have heard each other anyway. Everyone was just wrapped up in their own little cocoon, peering out under hats to watch the game.
Toward the end of the tied ballgame, my son was up to bat. He, along with most of the others had not had a hit this game. In fact, during his last two at bats he had been hit with the ball in the back and the left arm. Ok, it happens, and there was the wind factor. But, having watched and recorded every single pitch, I noticed that nobody else from either team had been hit with a pitch. With the ball flying 85 miles an hour, it was able to cut a straight line to the plate even in the wind.
I was anxious for him. I knew he wanted a hit, and the team needed him to hit a run or two in, so we could get ahead. A homerun would win the game. The pitcher got ready and threw what looked to be a rocket blasting out of his hand. Pop! Right on my son’s left ribs.
I lost it!  Standing to my feet, defying the freezing wind, I yelled at the top of my lungs.
Nobody gets hit by a pitch three times in the same ballgame without it being intentional! My son had been on a home run streak the past few games, and that pitcher and opposing team had my son’s number. Literally. Either their coach had decided, or the pitcher took it upon himself to bean my son with the ball every time he got up to bat, rendering him unable to hit a homerun or anything else. I had had enough! I focused all my outrage at the umpire.
Later, I was glad that I hadn’t grown up with cussing in my home, so it wasn’t something I had to worry about flying out of my mouth in uncontrolled moments like that. Still, that was not my proudest moment. As the howling wind drowned out my voice, I doubt the umpire or the other team was able to hear me at all. The two men in the stands wearing parkas looked at me and nodded their encouragement for me to keep yelling at the injustice.

In the end, the pitcher got a warning. A warning! My son would come home with three huge welts that took a week to go down. I don’t think he cared. In fact, like so many other idiosyncrasies in baseball, it was actually a badge of honor to get hit by the ball. As he slowly jogged to first base, past his teammates in the dugout, they, as only teenage boys can, were smiling and laughing and calling to my son.
“Wear it! Wear it! Wear it!”
My son smiled at them. The team was chanting almost in unison.
“Wear it! Wear it!”
That game is long since over. I think we lost. Nobody thinks about my son wearing those three welts anymore.
Later, it came to me. Isn’t that like us? Sometimes people wear the injustices and the bad pitches that life has thrown at them. It becomes who they are. They can think of, or talk about, nothing else. It seems to go in to their fiber and changes them.
Someone is unable to get pregnant and they feel like their body has failed them. Everyone around them is glowing pregnant and their body feels inadequate. A huge welt.
A parent driving to the principal’s office, or worse, to jail to bail out their child. On the way, every car in front of them has the ‘My kid is an honor student’ bumper sticker. Welt.
A spouse decides to leave a marriage. A business downsizes and has to let someone go. A person fails at staying sober. Or, someone has a dad who was never there for them. Failed out of school.
Rejected. Betrayed. Wounded.
Welt. Welt. Welt.
And we wear it.
Life has thrown us a terrible pitch and now it becomes who we are. We define ourselves by the injustice or the terrible choice we made. We think about it. We talk about it. We worry about it. We pray about it. It consumes us. It is not a badge of honor, but a badge of shame.
We no longer view ourselves as a child of God. We no longer feel free from condemnation. We no longer feel worthy of joy, peace and confidence.  The enemy is laughing and chanting from the sidelines, “Wear it! Wear it!” He wants us to be stuck the rest of our life with the label:
Bad parent
Inadequate employee
But that is not what God says. The Bible says we have been forgiven, redeemed, free from condemnation, a citizen of heaven, worthy, bought with a price and adopted into the family of God. God doesn’t define us by our bad choices or the injustices done to us. In fact, He sent His Son to die for us so that we don’t have to wear it. We are a new person, washed clean and able to have confidence that God sees us as beautiful, no matter what we have been through. He has a wonderful plan and purpose for our lives and He is able to work all our bad circumstances together for good, if we will let Him.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wear the welts the world throws at me. I want to have joy and know that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me as a child of the King, forgiven, healed, whole and ready to do the good work He has prepared for me.
What about you? Are you still wearing the welts that life has pitched at you?

You might enjoy listening to this song:
"I am New" by Jason Gray

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Amazing Donut Ruckus!

We drove the hubby to Urgent Care with stomach pain. Dr Robyn had already correctly diagnosed gallstones, thanks to Google and WebMD. He was in a lot of pain, and since Urgent Care was closed, someone recommended we drive 30 miles west to a new hospital, because, apparently, they don’t have emergencies on the west side of town. They thought he would be able to get right in without having to wait forever at the emergency room downtown.
They were right. We walked in, and my very yellow, bent over husband attempted to answer all the standard pain level questions. No sitting and waiting for us. They triaged him and guessed gallstones as well. Within 10 minutes of entering the hospital, he was floating on morphine and hooked up to an IV. They were quick at this hospital! They took him back for an ultrasound, confirmed stones blocking a duct and a gallbladder they described, I’m not making this up, as looking like a gumball machine.
That was the good news. The bad news was that this beautiful, amazing, and speedy hospital was not fully equipped with all the needed medical staff. Specifically, there was nobody there who could operate on him. This meant I would need to drive him to the big downtown hospital. He was not in too much pain now, having been sufficiently drugged.
It was 1:00a.m and unfortunately the downtown hospital did not have any open beds. We would have to wait at hospital number one, until a bed opened up at hospital number two.
I don’t think a room actually ever opened up at hospital two. I think they crammed us in to some sort of storage or cleaning closet. The room they gave us was at the far end of the hospital, the very last room. Having been in a lot of hospitals, I knew this was not a normal room. For one, it was unusually small. There was already an occupant in the first bed, and the curtain between the two beds, literally, was ripped on one side and was only half the size it should have been. This meant that the other occupant, who I mistakenly thought was homeless, was totally exposed. And by exposed, I really mean exposed. The actual temperature in the room read 85 degrees. The other occupant, who was from England, told his doctor that he had come here to mine gold. Seriously, he was a gold miner! Mr. Yellow and I have lived here since high school and have never, ever heard anyone talk about mining gold here. The gold miner complained about the heat. Yellow complained about the heat. I complained about the heat. Two nurses said, “Wow, it is really hot in here!”
Mr. Goldmine felt justified then, in completely throwing off all his covers, revealing more than anyone would want to see. I made a mental note to make sure my boys always wore clean socks, as well as clean underwear, in case they ever had to go to the hospital, because looking at the bottom of his socks was just gross.
Mr. Yellow got poked, prodded, x-rayed, and scanned. It was confirmed that he would need two separate surgical procedures, on two separate days. I was hoping they would wheel him back right then and get the first one over with. It was an emergency after all. But, I guess surgeons don’t prefer to do surgery at 3am, if they can pump the patient with pain meds and have him wait until 8:00am or some other reasonable hour. Little did we know at the time, that no surgeons prefer to operate at all on Father’s Day, which was the next day.
We ended up staying half a night and all the next day in the sauna storage room. This floor was so busy and had a lot of crazy people on it. Kids were running up and down the hallway. We could hear the lady across the hall yelling that she had come in as an emergency and now nobody cared about her, so she was leaving. Late in the afternoon, Mr. Goldmine had either sobered up or had sweated enough and was ready to leave. When his ride came to get him, he pulled the IV right out of his arm. An alarm sounded and a nurse came running. Through the half curtain, we could see blood flying all over the bed and the floor. Then, Mr. Yellow’s IV bag was empty and his alarm starting going off too. Two more nurses came in. The room was so small the many nurses could barely fit in. As Mr. Goldmine was getting dressed, they explained to him that he should not leave the hospital since he hadn’t seen a doctor yet. My heart sank. We had been there 13 hours and had not seen a doctor yet, either. I knew Mr. Yellow would never yank his own IV out, but I also knew patience was not one of his spiritual gifts.
As a nurse and a doctor tried to talk to Goldmine, a physician’s assistant came in to talk to us. It was really loud and chaotic at this point. After she told us we would have to stay for at least another four days, I asked, “Since we are going to be here that long, is there any way he can get a private room?” I shot a quick arrow pray up, ”Please Lord.” She looked over at Goldmine and said, “I will try to get you moved up to my floor.”
I am not exaggerating when I say that moving to the surgery floor, and leaving the chaotic floor, was like landing in the wonderful world of OZ, after being in the hurricane of Kansas.  This floor was amazing. Everyone was calm, or possibly sedated. There were no kids running in the hallways. Everyone had their own private room. If we had to stay in a hospital for four more days, we  hit the jackpot of floors.
 That night I left the hospital leaving Yellow to the nurse’s care. We had seen a doctor. Yellow was the first one on the surgery docket in the morning, and we were finally seeing some progress, and a release plan in sight.
The next morning, Yellow called me. He was not a happy camper. He needed more pain meds. He had not had anything to eat or drink in two days. Worst of all, a doctor told him they had a lot of emergency surgeries and now he was LAST on the surgery docket. The doctor told him not to count on having surgery today. It would probably be tomorrow before surgery was done. All hope of leaving the hospital anytime soon was dashed and extreme frustration was about to set in.
Then, Yellow said something, and I quote, “I need you to come down here and raise a ruckus.”
Yes, he actually used the word ruckus. I tried not to die laughing as I was genuinely sorry for this disappointing turn of events. However, I also knew that I was having a conversation with a heavily drugged, exhausted, starving man, who was not thinking clearly. You see, he knows I am not really a ruckus girl. In our 20 year marriage, if a ruckus needed to be raised, our whole family knew Yellow was the guy for the job.
He had a moment of clarity when I think he vaguely remembered this, and he said, “Or, do you want me to do something?”
“No. No, I will come down and take care of it,” I said, pretending to have that super calm, everything-is-going-to-be-alright voice.  
I had no clue what I was going to do. Even if I could muster up a good ruckus, I knew that would not change anything with the surgery schedule or win any points with the hospital staff.
I did the only thing I knew to do. I prayed. Then, I sent Yellow a text telling him he was in God’s hands and He had a plan for him.
I think he got new pain meds about that time, because I never received another text. I stood in my kitchen trying to think up a nice, loving way to ruckus, when I remembered the verse from 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I kept thinking, “Love covers. Love covers.”
Then, I did something I had never done before. I found some pink and red construction paper and some sharpies. I drew and cut out two large, fancy hearts. On the first one, I wrote the names of the two nurses from the crazy floor. I thanked them for the amazing work they did, in the midst of all that chaos. I told them how much I admired them and how grateful I was they had taken such great care of my hubby.
Even though I had not met any nurses or staff on the new floor, I imagined they would be equally as hard working and caring as the previous floor. So, I wrote them a pre-thank you card. I thanked them in advance for their dedication and care they provided to their patients and to my hubby. I knew if I was a nurse at a busy downtown hospital, and had to be at work at 6:30 in the morning, I would love it if someone brought in Krispy Kreme donuts.
I headed to Krispy Kreme, with my pink and red homemade hearts, hoping this might be a blessing to them, and also to ‘cover’ any rukuses that Yellow may have caused. I went to the crazy floor first, found the two nurses and told them I brought the donuts to thank them for how amazing they had been. You would have thought I had given them a million dollars! The first nurse started crying and threw her arms around me giving me a big hug. I walked away smiling. It had not been that big of a deal. I guess people don’t regularly cause donut ruckuses at this hospital.

I rode the elevator up to the beautiful Oz floor. This would be a little more awkward, since I did not know who our nurses were, nor had I met anyone on this floor. I walked to the closest nurses station and said, “It looks like my husband will be staying here for a while. So, I wanted to give you all these to thank you in advance for all you do for the patients.”  The girl looked at me bewildered. She didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t even sure she was a nurse. I didn’t know if Yellow’s nurse would know I  brought donuts, or even get a donut. That was ok. I prayed the Lord would calm the stormy waters before I stepped in.
When I got to Yellow’s room, a friend was visiting him. Yellow was not looking well. I was there less than five minutes, when Yellow’s low-talking male nurse walked in. No smile. Expressionless. I thought he was bringing more bad news. Before talking to Yellow, he turned to me and said,
“Thank you for the donuts.” I smiled.
Then he turned to Yellow. “They are ready for you in surgery now. They are on their way up to get you.”
I was shocked! The donut ruckus had worked! No, I knew it wasn’t the donuts. It was the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, working out His schedule for my hubby. Yellow was happy. We found out later, someone grew tired of waiting for their surgery and left the hospital early. Who does that? I thought it was probably another gold miner.
I learned a lot during our five days at the hospital. The main thing was God is always in control. Also, it is better to show love than to raise a ruckus any day.
What about you? Have you ever trusted God during a difficult situation, and seen that His ways are better than our ways?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Confessions of a Baseball Mom: Don't Miss the Signs

           It was not until my son was playing high school baseball and my husband was one of the coaches, that I realized the importance of the signs.  Looking back, the coaches had used signs in Little League to tell the catcher, who would signal to the pitcher, which pitch to throw.  Back then there were not a lot of different pitches and the signaling system always seemed to go fairly smoothly. There would only be a problem if the pitcher was not quite able to throw, say an accurate curve ball.  This was always due to lack of skill or execution, not because of a lack of willingness by the player.  Pitchers were trying their best to throw the ball the way the coach wanted.
            This changed, for the first time that I noticed, at the high school level.  We knew of a team in our city that was very good.  They had several returning seniors and one of their pitchers was exceptionally good.  He could throw his fastball faster than most.  The previous season, our team was only able to manage one hit when we faced him.
            During a game, this pitcher was shaking his head at the catcher, when the catcher relayed the coaches’ signs.  This is routinely done in the major leagues, but to my small baseball mind, this was unheard of in high school baseball.  The coach grew increasing upset at this pitcher after he did this several times.  Finally, to put an end to it, the coach walked out onto the field, pointed at the pitcher and yelled, “If you aren’t going to throw the pitches I call, you won’t be pitching for me anymore!”  It was a huge wake up call for the pitcher, as well as his teammates.
            Thankfully, our Heavenly Coach does not yell at us like that.  Although, I have needed plenty of wake up calls in my life in order to pay attention to my Coach.  How often do we shake off the signals from our Heavenly Coach?  Certainly our team has a history of doing this.  Look at Jonah.  The Coach was going to send him in to deliver a pitch to Nineveh, and Jonah shakes off the sign.  He does not get very far, because God wanted Jonah for that particular play.
            How many times have we said, “If God would only send me an obvious sign, like a burning bush,” or as my friend says, “even a sticky note on the door,” I would know what to do and I would do it.
Our Heavenly Coach is a creative communicator.  He has only sent the sign of a burning bush once.  In baseball, the coaches change up the signs so the other team does not steal them.  God uses plenty of different signs as well.
            Make no mistake about it, He is sending signs.  For one, He has given us His playbook, the Bible.  We would do well to read it, since most of our plays and signs are found there.  “Love your neighbor. Always be willing to give an answer for the hope that is within us. Give to the poor. Baptize and make disciples.”  The plays go on and on.
            Then, there is the Holy Spirit living within us.  We know when the Holy Spirit is nudging us to do something.  “Invite that person to church.   Call that person and pray with them.  Ask someone how they are doing, instead of talking about yourself.”  Let’s be honest, we know when we get a sign and we know who it is from.
            How many times have I, like that high school pitcher, shaken off my sign from God?  I know I have many times and am convicted not to miss the my sign the next time.
            I remember once when I shook off a burning bush type sign.  It was not a literal burning bush, but our modern day equivalent.  A friend, I had not heard from in a long time, called me out of the blue.  She said she had been praying for several months because she was in charge of selecting the speaker for their church’s women’s retreat.  She said the Lord kept giving her my name, so she was calling to ask if I would do it.
            Immediately my heart began to race.  I had never spoken at a women’s retreat before, although I had spoken in other venues and God had equipped me.  I told her I would pray about it and get back to her, because I knew that was what I was supposed to say.
            As soon as I hung up, my heart nearly pounded out of my chest.  My whole body began to heat up.  (If that was not a sign, I don’t know what was.)  I began to walk around my kitchen talking to the Lord.  I starting giving Him a long list of the reasons I was the wrong person for this play.  My list was very thorough.  I told Him of all my flaws, insecurities, inadequacies, my lack of anything meaningful to say, and my inexperience.
            My husband, the baseball coach, who usually does not miss his signs from the Lord, told me I should go for it.  I spent the next two days rehearsing to him all the reasons why I was the wrong person for this job. Finally, he grew weary of listening and told me to do what I thought was best.
            As quickly as I could, I called my friend and told her that she was mistaken in her sign from God.  The reason, I told her, that God had given her my name, was because I have a great friend who would be perfect for this assignment.  My friend on the phone was a little baffled, but since she had followed through on her part and called me, I would have to do whatever it was God wanted me to do.  I called my other very experienced retreat-speaking friend and she agreed to do it.  I was off the hook.
            It was not until a year later, during an intense time with the Lord, that I heard clearly, “That was for you.”  I cried for about three days.  I confessed my sin to Him and begged for His forgiveness.  But most of all, I was so sorry I had disappointed Him on a play He had called for me.  Also, I missed an opportunity for Him to use me in spite of all my inadequacies.
            I have heard that God will give us a make up play when we have blown it.  I am still shaking in my cleats thinking about that.  But, I know I do not ever want to shake off a sign from the Lord again.  I want to throw the pitches He calls for me.  I know I can do nothing without Him, and I can do everything He calls me to do because He will give me the strength to do it. Let me encourage you. We all miss the signs sometimes, but let’s stay in the game. The assignments He gives to us are uniquely created for us.What He calls us to, He will see us through.
            What about you? Have you ever missed a sign or gone against an assignment the Lord chose for you?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Confessions of a Baseball Mom -- Home Run Hitters

             Baseball is such a great sport!  I love everything about it, the pitching, the hitting, the teamwork of the defense, and the strategy of the game.  It has taken me 13 seasons of watching more games than I can count, and playing church softball, to really begin to understand all the intricacies of the game.   I have the added advantage of being married to a coach who loves to discuss every detail of every play for hours after a game.
            After all these years, I am finally starting to get it.  The most important lessons in life I have learned from my heavenly Coach.  Here is one of them.
              Not everyone is a home run hitter.  This has been a huge lesson for me.  Every player from tee ball to the big leagues wants to be a home run hitter.  They get the most cheers.  They bring in the most runs.  Their hits are the most impressive.  They seem to be the most important players on the team. Home runs are fun. They are exciting to watch.  They get the player, the team and the fans all fired up and sometimes give the team the momentum to win the game.
            Even though players are told from early on that Babe Ruth, the all time home run hitter, also had a huge amount of strike outs, that does not seem to matter.  They all still want to be like Babe Ruth and swing for the fence.
            It was not until my son’s last season in Little League that I finally understood that being a home run hitter was not everything.  There had been a game where my son hit a home run over a 40-foot fence and the crowd and his team went wild.  It helped propel our team to a big win.  There was another game when our team was losing by a significant amount and all hope of winning was already gone.  A player hit another home run over the fence in the last inning and it did not mean anything.  None of his teammates were on base.  It was not enough.  It did not excite the team or the crowd because we were already so far behind.  Everyone knew we could not win even with the home run.
            That is how it is in life too.  There are certainly home run hitters on the Lord’s team as well; Billy Graham, Kay Arthur, Max Lucado, and Beth Moore, to name just a few.  God has called them and equipped them to be home run hitters and they play their positions extremely well.  We all cheer them on when they hit a home run for eternity.  We, as teammates, can get excited after a home run, more energized to go out and do our part for the team.
            Most of us, however, are not home run hitters.  Sure, we occasionally hit a home run.  God equips us with the words and the opportunity and enables us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead someone to the Lord.  The Bible says the angels cheer in their stands when that happens.  Our team gets excited and we all rejoice in the win.
            The words that I hear coaches call out for almost every batter is, “WE NEED A HIT!  JUST PUT THE BALL IN PLAY!”  “LINE DRIVE!  BASE HIT!”   Thankfully, our Heavenly Coach is not yelling at us, but it seems like that is what He wants from us also, a base hit.  Most of the time He wants me to simply put the ball in play.  Hit a line drive.  He calls out for me to invite people to church or to a Bible study.  That is the opening they need to find Jesus.  Most of the time we simply need to serve where God has called us.  We need to be a greeter, work in the youth department, volunteer at VBS, pray with someone, or start a home Bible study group.
            Our baseball game is different than a Little League game.  In our game, the score is already confirmed.  We know our team has already won.  Our Heavenly Coach’s son, made a tremendous sacrifice with his life, so that everyone on His team wins.
            Even though in the end, our team wins, our Heavenly Coach still has plays He wants us to run. It is the last inning. He still has pitches for us to throw and He wants us to hit a single to move someone closer to home.  He still calls out for us to make the play and do our part.  How is He calling out to you?  How are you hitting the ball for a base hit?  Don’t give up.  Our team needs each player to do their part.  If each player hits a single, we move each other around the bases, until in the end, all of our players are home.  The angels are cheering.  Our team is victorious.  You and I may not be home run hitters, but we can still swing for the fence when our name is called.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lessons from the Stands: Confessions of a Baseball Mom

Like most moms, I have spent a large part of my ‘mom life’ watching my kids play sports.  With four kids, three boys, a sporty girl, and a coach for a husband, I have spent a huge chunk of time sitting in the stands with other parents.  I cannot calculate how many hours total, but I watched close to 100 baseball games a year for 13 years.  That does not include the soccer games, basketball games, volleyball games, swim team, gymnastics, tae kwon do and karate.
            By the very definition of the word ‘Mom’, we watch our kids.  So, most of us have watched our kids, or our nieces and nephews, or a friend’s kid play some type of sport.  It is what most kids do these days.  If not a sport, certainly kids are in some type of activity which requires, and most parents enjoy, watching them perform in some capacity.
            With the emphasis today on marketplace evangelism, the sports stands are a great place to talk about the Lord.  There is a captive audience for an extended period of time, depending on the sporting event.  There are other adults sitting in the stands, bleachers, or soccer chairs beside you.  For the most part, the other parents are usually friendly because you all have something in common, your child’s team.  Everyone has a positive goal of wishing that the kids on their team play well, and yes, that the team wins.  More often than not, these other parents are open to talking to you.
            Now, I am not talking about presenting the Four Spiritual Laws as soon as you meet someone.  I am saying that opportunities abound in the sports stands for meaningful conversations with non-believers, hurting people, believers who need encouragement and people who could use the wisdom you have because you are a follower of Christ.
            The very first t-ball team we were on, one of the moms had just had a double mastectomy.  Her mother and sister had both had breast cancer and she was scared to death when she found out she was at high risk for it as well.  We talked about her fears and concerns sitting together on the bleachers watching the t-ball games.  I had an aunt who had died of breast cancer when she was 36 years old and had left behind two middle school daughters.  I prayed for this mom and took her a meal when she had additional surgery.  She said she looked forward to our talks in the stands because she did not have very much support around her.
            Another season, there was a mom and dad who coached together.  They were our team’s rival for several seasons in a row.  We knew their two boys and our families were united in our love for the game and our commitment to our kids and our families.  We were, however, competitive on the field against each other.
            When the wife was struck with liver cancer, I made a meal for their family.  My husband and son brought it to their house.  We sent a card with a Bible verse on it and said we were praying for them.  The husband and wife, who was very frail and sick, were so surprised that this rival coach was there for them.  My husband was able to say, “Baseball is just a game, but what you are going through is real life.”  He was able to share with the husband about the Lord.  During the woman’s battle the couple received Christ as their Savior.  The wife went on to be with the Lord, and at her funeral the husband said he could not have made it without the Lord and his Christian friends.
            Another couple we met on an All-Star team.  This was a more competitive team, where the best players from the regular season teams were voted on by the coaches to represent the league in a statewide tournament.  This couple had been through the ringer at their church.  They were so discouraged that they had decided it was not worth it to go to church anymore.  We met them and invited them to our Bible study class and they became some of our dearest friends.  Years later, our two families took a tour to Israel together.  Sometimes a little encouragement from the stands can motivate God’s players to get back into the game.
            Whatever sport or activity your child participates in, do not miss those opportunities in the stands with the other parents.  There was a time when my husband and I were praying about going into the mission field.  We were willing, but did not feel God’s leading.  He showed us that the harvest was ripe right where we were, and one of those places was in the baseball stands.
            Where has God placed you?  What team are you cheering on?  Look around at the people God has placed you with.  They need the Lord.  They need the light that Jesus has given you.  They need the Word that is in you to encourage them to seek the Lord.  God has given us the answer to the troubles of life, and He has called us to share the answers with the people in our stands.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It’s Over

It’s over. Done. Finished. Kaput.  We waited nine long months and then it is over in a blink of an eye. I’m so sad. I can hardly contain myself. Where did it go? I planned. I made lists. I tried my best to drag it out and make it last as long as possible. But it came to an end anyway, much too soon.  Tomorrow is the first day of school. So, this is the last, the very last, and saddest day of the summer. I grieved all day. I tried to fake enthusiasm, at least in front of my boys, about their first day of school tomorrow. I am sure they saw through me. With all the new school supplies, new clothes, a new school for one of them, and looking forward to seeing old friends for the other, they didn’t seem that sad about summer ending.
I’m not sure why I love summer so much. Maybe it was because we spent the largest part of my growing up years living in Hawaii. For the entire four years we lived there it seems like it was permanently summer, well, besides the schoolwork. But, we knew that when the weekend came, we could still go to the beach just like we did all summer. So, it seemed like summer just continued forever.
I remember sending my daughter off to school those first few years, actually I believe I did it every year, begging her to stay home. She loved school, at first anyway, so I knew she wouldn’t give in. Even though the first day of school signaled the end to summer.
“Sis, don’t leave me. I will miss you so much.” I would groan, half joking, half serious.
She was always so grown up. “No, Mom, I have to go. All the kids will be there. I will see you when I get home,” she said when she was 5, 6, and 7 years old. She, being the grown up and I, was being the big baby.
My older son was the same way. He had been home schooled for five years, and he couldn’t wait to get to a “real” school.
“Don’t go son, I will miss you so much.”
“Mom, you will be fine, “ he would say without really any concern.
One of the twins was home schooled last year and although it was hard, we had a great time. Now, for eighth grade he will be going to the same school as his brother for the first time since second grade.  I couldn’t say to either of them ‘please don’t go’. They would actually take me up on it.
So, I grieved the end of summer by myself. I can’t tell if others are not sad to see summer go, or they can just keep it together better than me. I had tried my best to make it last longer. We planned our vacation at the beginning of the summer, so we would have as many weeks as possible, of summer left when we got home. We bought new patio furniture and I vowed to grill out and eat dinner outside every night of summer. After a couple of chilly and windy nights, with everyone gulping down their dinner so they could get inside out of the wind, they bailed on me. I ate one dinner by myself, outside, with my hoodie on, in the wind, and decided I was being silly. I should be inside eating with the family.
I did not accomplish everything on my summer bucket list. Actually, I lost the list. I think it blew away one night at dinner. I didn’t want to be bogged down with a schedule. I wanted to enjoy the summer. Even though it flew by, we did do a lot of summer things.
This summer we:
Spent a week on the beach in Hawaii.
Spent a long weekend at a cabin in Colorado.
Sent the boys to Boy Scout camp.
Sent the boys to church camp.
Went hiking.
Went swimming.
Took long walks around the neighborhood.
Read books.
Had friends over.
Went to the zoo.
Went to an amusement park.
Painted a good part of the house.
Rode bikes.
Skateboarded (not me, just the boys).
Had friends over.
Had sleepovers with friends (again, not me).
Made an extremely weak attempt at a garden. I have one tomato plant in a pot on the patio.
Held a carnival for low-income families at our church.
Spent four days in the hospital. (You can read about that here  )
That wasn’t really a ‘summer thing’, nor was it fun, but it happened.

And yes, still, after all these things, I could keep going. There were so many things we didn’t get to, and now it is over.  I tried to boycott school starting two weeks before Labor Day. It just doesn’t seem right. In addition to summer flying by so fast, it always feels like we get ripped off of the last two weeks of summer. We don’t get a three-month summer. We only get a two month and two weeks summer. I could not see how I could legitimately keep my boys home from school and then bring them the Tuesday after Labor Day. Better yet, I could bring them the first day it turns cold, or maybe when Starbucks rolls out their Pumpkin Lattes. Yes, Pumpkin Lattes on the first day of school. I think I might not be as sad to say goodbye to summer if I had a Venti Pumpkin Latte, and maybe a blueberry scone.
So, until that time, I have decided to mentally stay in a summer frame of mind. Tomorrow, I am going to look for some summer-scented candles. (They have every scent imaginable. They MUST have summer, maybe a beachy scent.) I’m going to play Beach Boys music every day as I drive the boys to school. They will love it. I’m going to grill hamburgers, serve watermelon and make the family eat dinner outside until the first frost. Only 285 more days until next summer, but who is counting?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Do You Say to Someone Who Gives You Their Child?

Fourteen years ago, today, we adopted twin baby boys from a beautiful teenage young woman. Every year, on their birthday, I write a letter updating her about the boys and sending her pictures of them. I remember, before they were born, when we knew the adoption was really going to happen, I wrestled with the question: What do you say to someone who gives you their child?

This would be a woman who would go through 40 weeks of growing a baby inside her own body, or in our case two babies, and then endure the painful procedure of giving birth, and at the end would give me her precious, beautiful boys.

I understood my part of the adoption process, loving a child. I already had two bio kids. I knew how to love, cuddle, kiss, care for, rock, feed, change, play with, smile at, tickle, read to, and raise a child. I also knew how painful, emotional, spiritual, miraculous and amazing it was to give birth.

Having loved two children, I could not under any circumstances, imagine giving my child to someone else. I knew some women who did not want their child, for whatever reason, were free to have an abortion at any time. So, why go through the nine months of growing a baby in your own body, just to give them to someone else to enjoy, forever?  I had a hard time dropping my daughter off on her first day of preschool. I drove home bawling in the car, counting the two hundred and ten minutes until I could pick her up again.

This time I would be on the receiving end. Someone had chosen me (and the hubby) to give their babies to forever. First, I knew she must really love those boys to endure the nine months, knowing she would end up with nothing but stretch marks at the end. Then, to go through meeting potential adoptive parents, get counseling from the adoption agency, to make sure she was of sound mind and knew exactly what she was doing, and go to court to make the whole thing legal and permanent. She had to put the good of her children ahead of her emotions. She had to want the very best for those babies growing inside her.

So, back to my question: What do you say to someone who gives you their child?

The words ‘thank you’ seemed so inadequate. You say ‘thank you’ when someone passes you the potatoes. You say ‘thank you’ when someone holds the door open for you. Should we bring flowers? We did. Should we buy her a gift, like jewelry? We did. Should we buy her a gift card for food or other necessities? We did. But, we gave those things to other women who had a baby, and they weren’t giving us their child to keep.

It is just impossible to comprehend. Because the truth is: there are no words to say to someone who gives you their child. There just aren’t.  It is an act that is too huge, too amazing, too selfless, too generous and too loving for a response. It is right up there with the words Jesus spoke “No one has a greater love than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”  This birth mother denied herself and gave up part of her life, the life she nurtured inside herself, and laid that life in my arms. It is still such an amazing thing.

I stumbled through the words 14 years ago. I said ‘thank you.’ I hugged her. I promised to love her twin boys with all of my heart, for all of my life. What did she want in return? She wanted me to tell them how much she loved them. She wanted me to tell them  she loved them more than they would ever know.

It is such a huge, self-sacrificing concept. I am not sure I will ever be able to fully relay to them the depth of her love.
They did ask me once when they were little, “Mom, remember your friend?”

“Which friend is that?” I asked.

“Your friend that you adopted us out of her belly?”

“Yes, I remember her,” I smiled; glad they knew she was my friend.

“She was really nice, wasn’t she?” he asked simply.

“Yes, son, she was really nice.”

One day, they will know and possibly understand. But today, I sit down to write a letter to the woman, who 14 years ago today, gave me, gave our family, the best gift ever. She gave me the most beautiful twin baby boys, that had grown in her belly. My boys, and her boys too. To her I will say ‘thank you’, again and again and again.

Twin's birthday
  How about you. What would you have said? Any other adoptive parents struggle with this question?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Who Nose the Way?

After a week long vacation at the beach, we decided to try more family togetherness back home in the desert. We took the twins to go hiking at a place called Tent Rocks, named for the giant rock formations, that yes, really do look like tents.  Not knowing exactly where it was, we plugged in our destination to Google maps.  Of course, Miss Google is only right about fifty percent of the time. So, while we were pulled over on the side of the dirt road, trying to silence her, and figure out what the actual directions were, Twin B, in the back seat, starts screaming. Well, half screaming and half laughing.
“I was breathing and chewing my gum. I went to take a breathe of fresh air, and I choked, and my gum went up my sinuses! Help! Help!” We don’t know if he is telling the truth or telling a story. Either way, he is breathing and doesn’t seem like he is in pain. Twin A, sitting next to him, is a little distressed. “Mom, aren’t you going to do something, like help him?”
“What do you think I should do?” I ask, curious to hear his solution to this problem.
“Go to the hospital, of course! He has his gum stuck up his sinuses!”
We are out in the middle of nowhere. No  . . .where.  No houses, no stores, no cell service, nothing, nada, just dirt and some juniper bushes. It’s not that the hubby and I are unconcerned. We have just been to the hospital a lot, (broken bones, stitches, kidney stones, gallbladder, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseam) and gum up the sinuses, when he is still breathing, does not warrant a trip to the hospital. Not on the first day, anyway. To lighten the mood, the hubs starts telling the story of the last time someone in the family had something stuck up their nose.
“When Sis was little she had a favorite doll. She loved to hold everything close to her face, and sniff things. So, I guess this doll’s eyeball was not attached very well, and when Sis went to sniff her, the eyeball went right up Sis’s nose.”    This started the laughing. Twin A laughed. I was laughing. The hubby was laughing.  Then, gum sinus boy started laughing. Then complaining, “It’s still stuck! I can feel it up there.”
Finally, I give him a tissue. “Here, blow it out.” He takes the tissue and blows hard, and sure enough, like a spit wad shooting through a straw, out flies the gum, into the tissue. He is so proud of himself, he shows us the projectile in the tissue. More laughing.
“Hey, now my nose smells all minty.” Twin B proclaims.  We cannot hold it in! Now, the whole car is laughing. Laughing so hard, someone snorts! Oh no! Now, I’m crying, I’m laughing so hard.  We all repeat together, “Hey, my nose smells all minty!”

We finally made it to Tent Rocks and they were amazing and we had a great hike. But, we will all remember the trip for the gum in the sinuses and his minty nose.  

                            Hope you enjoy your family!  Lord nose we enjoy ours!

link to Tent Rocks: