Suppers and Scarves

Last night, Daniel and I took our local family out to supper in honor of Christina‘s “Glad I Got’cha Day!”   We slipped it in after a day that was hectic and hard on many fronts, but I’m so glad we did.  I needed it desperately, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

Yesterday afternoon, in the hospital gift shop, I had bought a new scarf that had the color teal on it. This was to honor Youngest Daughter, Rachel Jane‘s request that we take note that the month of April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Yesterday was specifically designated as #everybodyknowssomebody day. People were asked to wear something with the color teal to indicate that they cared/knew/supported victims. I had forgotten until I was out of the house yesterday morning. Besides, I didn’t think I had a single thing that was teal, either in accessories or apparel. So I decided to check at the Milford Hospital Gift Shop where I have made some friends, and where I often find unusual things. The only thing I found was a scarf with butterfiles that had teal accents. It was pretty, and it would do.

So last night I wore my usual black skirt, a simple white top and with the assistance of Deborah dressed it up with the pretty scarf. The evening was pleasant, We ate on the patio at The Palace, and the six of us (Christina, Jesse, Charis, Deborah, Daniel and I) enjoyed our time together immensely.

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We got home, and I was getting ready to run into the hospital to see Linda. I was absentmindedly running the ends of my scarf through my fingers when I hit something crackly. Oh, dear! The price tag from the gift shop was dangling from the end of my scarf with one of those plastic string things that establishments use to keep garment price tags in place.

I hadn’t seen it! Deborah hadn’t seen it. I wonder who did!

Maybe as many who noticed the teal in the scarf and knew what it was for. And in River Town. Art Town. Home Town. We are Milford,” that just might have been nobody.  But they should have.  In researching my home town, I was saddened to discover that, for all we have going for us, this is also (allegedly) true:

Crime

The city of Milford has a crime rate higher than the national average in some categories, much higher in rape, assault, and theft, and lower in others.

Milford Nation
Murder 0.0 6.9
Forcible Rape 97.22 32.2
Robbery 166.7 195.4
Aggravated Assault 1333.3 340.1
Burglary 1027.8 814.5
Larceny Theft 5500.0 2734.7
Vehicle Theft 291.7 526.5

Formula used for chart: ((Crimes Reported) / (Population)) X 100,000)[12]

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Days of Uncertainty

I sat beside her bed last night, and sang to her.  A week ago this morning, she had surgery for a mass in her colon, and I knew that we had a rough road ahead.  Blind Linda either does a whole lot better than expected or she breaks all the rules for everything that are in place for a speedy and relatively healthy comeback.

There are so many limitations.  She will not blow into the incentive inhalation spirometer to prevent pneumonia following surgery.   She will not cough.  She has an ability to hold an incredible amount of urine and she will not go unless she decides to.  (1,000 cc on a straight cath?  Really???  Why don’t you just go???  And for those of you who don’t think in cc’s — that’s over a quart!)  She doesn’t like to walk.  Her veins are so incredibly inadequate for all the medications and tests that they need to do.  And she is non-verbal.  She cannot tell you anything she wants, needs,  or feels. And she is blind.  So she cannot see what’s happening or communicate with her eyes.

So we went into surgery last Tuesday morning, and things went so well that there was talk in recovery of discharge in two or three days.  It really did go extremely well.  But things have gone steadily downhill from there.

Pneumonia, a UTI, fever, IV after IV line blown and multiple attempts to restart. Foley Catheter removed, then replaced.  Then removed.  Success for a day.  Then a bowel obstruction.  A straight catheter in hopes of not having to replace the Foley.  Then a replacement of the Foley because of the misery of the bowel obstruction and difficulty with any kind of procedure that involves getting her up and down. Spiking fever, and through it all, pain, pain, pain.  I’ve watched this Linda girl through so many things, and she doesn’t acknowledge pain until it is unbearable.  Then she has this noise that she makes in her throat — (not the squeal that she reserves for needle sticks, and believe me, there has been PLENTY of THAT noise) but another, “hooking her breath” then a guttural, breathy moan noise that is  not what the nurses are looking for.  And since she is NPO (Nothing By Mouth) she has to have her pain medications by IV.  But the rules are, “No IV pain meds are allowed to be scheduled.”  She has to ask.  (REALLY???) Or the nurse has to deem her “uncomfortable.”  Most of the time they try to stay on top of it, but if no one is in there to observe her who knows her and knows the signs, it’s easy for her to get really uncomfortable before anyone gives her anything.

Her Mom and one of her sisters have been there parts of every day except one.  It’s a long ride from Wilmington for her 87 year old mother.  Linda’s two sisters alternate in bringing her, but it’s hard for them, too.  They worry about their mother.  Her health isn’t the best.  And Linda’s Mom worries, too.  About Linda, of course.  Wants to make the right decisions for Linda, but doesn’t want her to suffer unduly.  Wants to KNOW about everything that is done and why it has to be done.  Wants to make sure that Linda is given the attentions she needs and isn’t left without being checked on.  Whew!  It’s a hard thing to manage from so far away.  This whole thing has her in such a torque, not only for the present, anxious and heart wrenching situation, but also as she looks to the future and treatment for what brought Linda into the hospital in the first place.

Sunday night, after coming home from the hospital around ten o’clock, and feeling like Linda’s room had become a place of anxiety and tension and sadness and even chaotic hurrying because of the busy nurses and the completely full floor, I thought long and hard about what we could do to make the room a place of tranquility and calm.  A place where doctors and nurses and family come and feel peace.  Where professionals and commoners alike could find affirmation and co-operation and would know that, no matter what the outcome of this whole thing would be — whether Linda lives, or (Oh, Lord Jesus, please!) whether she doesn’t, that Jesus is in This Place!  That people would know Linda is loved, and that she matters, but that she ultimately belongs to the Father, and that we trust HIM to hold her tenderly and to give them wisdom for the decisions that need to be made, and the procedures that need to be done.  I know that they cannot always find the vein, know the pain, understand the needs or even feel compassionate towards this patient who cannot respond to them in hardly any way.  But if Jesus is there, and His presence is felt, we will all be far better off and much more able to do the right thing, free of guilt, pride, fear, or even that anxious sorrow that can sometimes drive our thoughts, actions, reactions, and decisions.

To that end, will you please pray for us?  Pray that it will be a good day in room 235 in Bayhealth Milford?  Pray that Linda would be calm, and that the tests that are needed today could be done with a minimal amount of pain for her.  Pray for peace for us all, and that the decisions made today would be under the careful direction of the Heavenly Father.

For the very presence of Jesus, a Heavenly Father who knows our Linda-girl and each of us, and for friends who pray —

My heart gives grateful praise.

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Birthdays with BL & OGA

Yesterday was BL’s 68th birthday.  She was a St. Patrick’s Day baby, back in 1947, and one of the things that she seems partial to is her birthday.  Usually when I go to get her up in the morning, I sing the old, “Get up, get out of bed, c’mon you sleepy head” song (my version) but on her birthday, for pretty much the last 17 years, I sing a loud and happy rendition of “Happy Birthday to YOU!  Happy Birthday to You!  Happy Birthday, dear Linda!  Happy Birthday to you!”

Yesterday morning she rolled out of bed with a happy, happy smile and she stayed happy until she realized that we had yet another doctor appointment in the early afternoon.  Then she was grumpy.  I decided to get her a haircut before bringing her home since it was about time.  Also, with her surgery coming up, I wanted to get it done ahead of time.  So I called the hair salon and they said they did have space for her.

Usually (as in “always”) when I get BL a haircut, I take OGA, too.  For some reason, getting a haircut is not something that OGA can just say she wants and does it.  There is always this sort of conversation.

“Hey, Audrey.  I’m taking Linda for a haircut.”  You would think I had just told her that bananas were not being grown any more.

“Oh, no!”  Crestfallen look, great sighs.  (This is all part of a very predictable exchange.)

“Yep, I’m going to take her. Do you want to come, too?

“I ‘on’ know.”  Shrug.

“Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but do you or don’t you?”

“I on’ care.”  Owlish eyes looking at me, more shrugs.

“You really don’t care?”

“No.  I ‘on’ care.”

So I will turn to just go back to what I was doing until she says, “Wha’ you fink I shoul’ do?”

“Audrey, it’s whatever you want to do.  I need to take Linda and if you want to go, I will take you, too, but it’s entirely up to you.”

The burden of decision is so hard for her, but eventually she usually says that she will go if I want her to.

“Audrey,” I will say, “it’s not whether I want you to or not, it’s whether YOU want to or not, and if you don’t want to, that is fine.  But I need you to say that you want to go or that you don’t want to go.”

“Alright ‘en,” she will say with the air of a great martyr,” “I’ll go!”  She almost never gets herself around to saying that she wants to, but she is greatly aggrieved it she thinks I’m not going to take her.

Yesterday, after finding out that there was a spot for her with her favorite hairdresser, I called First State Senior Center  and let them ask her if she wanted to go.  They may have been smoothing things over for me, but they said that she said “That would be okay,” when they told her and so I picked her up from Center and took both her and BL for haircuts.  When we were done there, I stopped at Walmart and bought a chocolate birthday cake for Linda to have with our supper.  It was deliciously chocolate, exactly what I had gotten for OGA on her birthday two months ago.  She had told me precisely what she wanted, and it had been good, so I decided to get exactly the same one and OGA could enjoy it, too.

We had a special dinner.  I had planned it with BL in mind because she likes food to be separated out — meat, veggie and potato.  If it were up to her, nothing would ever be served in a soup or a casserole.  I noticed that OGA was rather quiet during supper, and she looked at BL’S birthday cake when we were getting ready to serve it and pointed at the white flower that was on it.

“Wha’s ‘at???” She demanded querulously.

“That’s a flower,” I said.  “Remember?  There was one on your cake just like it.”  She looked at me dumbfounded, and shook her head.  “You remember,” I said, “you had a cake just like this for your birthday.”

“I don’ ‘memmer,” she said.

“Sure you do,” I said, convinced that she had to remember.  “I bought you a cake just like this for your birthday, and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’and you blew out the candles.”

“I don’ ‘memmer.” she said again.

“Audrey!  You have to remember!  You asked for a chocolate cake, and I bought you one and brought it home!  We sang ‘Happy birthday for you –”  He face was closed, and she had that empty look.  “– Wait a minute!” I said, “I took a picture!”  I fished in my pocket for my phone and pulled it out.   “I even took a video!”

I brought up the picture first because I couldn’t find the video.  She looked at it without much interest, but then I found the video and she actually could see the cake and she could see that it was in fact, her very own self and she saw herself blowing out the candles.

“Huh!” she said in disbelief.  “I don’ ‘memmer nuffin’ ’bout it.!”

 

This morning has been a tough morning.  There have been so many things chasing themselves around in my heart that all I want to do is find a quiet place to cry and to really cry hard.  It was bed changing morning, and I needed to take BL for pre-op lab work, EKG and Chest X-ray.  My pharmacy didn’t deliver OGA’s and BL’s meds that I had ordered twice, left messages about twice and even asked that if they weren’t going to be delivered last night, would someone let me know so I could come and get the ones that I so desperately needed this morning.  Certain Man was busy in his chicken house with a situation that was less than encouraging.  OGA was upset that I was going to go out with BL, even though it was for needles and such.  She was planning to clean her room and told me close to five times that she needed a new can of furniture polish (when she really didn’t) but  time is hard for her to internalize, and she didn’t know that I would be back before evening.  And of course, she didn’t want to run out.

It’s just more of the same behaviors with her that have been going on with OGA ever since BL was diagnosed.  She is so jealous of the attention that she feels she is missing out on, so determined to have something seriously wrong with her, and so demanding that it gets more than a little wearing at times.  I am reminded that it is OGA’s “pain speaking” every bit as much as BL’s behaviors are her pain speaking – it’s just that OGA’s pain is springing from a heart that has never felt like anyone really loved her or thought she could do better.

This morning, though, I finally sat down to write my lament to my Father, and I spilled the words onto the page of my prayer journal as the tears spilled down and down and would not stop.  I put numbers to the things that were troubling me, and then –

4. “. . . I wish that BL didn’t have cancer.  I wish she wouldn’t need surgery . . . “

5. “I wish OGA would remember the good things that people do for her.  I wish she wasn’t so paranoid.  I wish she wasn’t so demanding.  I wish she wasn’t so jealous.  I wish she wasn’t so selfish.  I wish that I could make her love me.”

And then I was struck by this “Holy Ton of Bricks” as I suddenly thought about The One to whom I was complaining.  I looked at that last paragraph and I wondered if God ever said that about me.  Oh, I know, He wouldn’t complain, and He wouldn’t say it like that if He did think it, but would He have reason to say it about me?

Yes.  Yes, He would!  

And while I don’t believe that Our Father caters to our wily ways, I wonder if it hurts His Father Heart when we don’t love Him when He has shown us His love in so many ways?

And someday, when the story of my life is played before my disbelieving eyes, There won’t be any excuse for me to say, “Huh!  I don’t remember anything about it!”

Oh, Lord Jesus!  Do serious work in this self centered heart, and may I love you, not for what you do for me, but because you love me, you chose me, and you have my good at the very center of your plan for me.  Let the sadness of this day, the things that make me cry, the things that weigh me down — let these be the very things that turn my thoughts and heart towards You with Grateful Praise.

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February Mix: Winter’s Chill and Spring’s Warm Hope

The wind whipped cold around the corner of the bedroom where Certain Man and I sleep. It howled and complained and I could feel the cold that wanted inside around the window by our bed.  Out from our window, I caught the sound of our chimes, (named “Mozart” because of the chords that are able to be distinctly heard in the composer’s scores and had been recreated in these chimes) as they bravely withstood the onslaught.  The silvery notes hung in the darkness on the cold, cold wind and comforted me.

I thought about cold.  I thought about fear.  I thought about darkness and hope and silvery notes on the night air.  I thought about the things that hold us steady and give us joy when it feels as if we are buffeted by unexpected, icy blasts.  I thought about how beautiful the weather had been just a day before, and the daffodils that were nearly six inches high in my yard, and the tulips peaking through the cold ground on the sunny side of the barbecue pit.  Just yesterday I had noticed the crocuses poking through the mulch on the peony row by the front door and thought that they are late this year.  I thought about the incoming Spring.

The second week of February was a tough week for the family unit at Shady Acres.  Monday of that week was spent doing “prep” for a scheduled colonoscopy with our one handicapped individual, BL.  In a delightful surprise, it was way easier than I had anticipated.   Over the years, BL has honed her control issues to a very tight ship, and one of the things that she has controlled in almost unbelievable ways has been her bathroom habits. (As in holding everything until it is a most inopportune time or for someone that she doesn’t like.)  This habit that has been one of the hardest for me to be gracious about (particularly when she is giggling out loud over an “accident” that has me scrambling) actually worked in my favor in this particular situation.  Since she is non-verbal, I trucked her to the bathroom at timely intervals, and she never once made a mess for me to clean up. This gal really does have control!

Another thing that made this prep easier than it would have been with another individual is her ability to down large quantities of liquid with scarcely drawing a breath.  (She will actually chug 12 ounces of Pepsi without stopping for a breath if someone doesn’t intervene.) So getting her to drink her “Go Lightly” mixed into 16 ounces of water?  Piece of cake.  16 more ounces of water?  She was holding her hand out for it.  And 16 more?  Bring it on, she was ready!  Of course, I didn’t allow her to drink it all at once, but it was no problem at all getting her to drink all 48 ounces in an hour.  The second round of prep was likewise finished just as successfully, and we were finally ready for the visit to Milford Hospital’s Day Surgery department.

That day was long and hard.  BL’s veins are difficult and beyond the abilities of even the best phlebotomist.  Precious time was spent (and lost) as tech after tech tried technique after technique with no results, or minimal results at best.  We started at the Day Surgery Department at 7:30 a.m.  The clock on my dash read almost 4 p.m. when we headed home.  Dr. K had come in after completing the colonoscopy with the words, “We’ve got to talk.”  My heart sank as the import of the words settled into my brain.  “Mass, cecum, surgery, cancer and ASAP” swirled around in my brain as he gently tried to impress upon me the importance of his find.  The staff was terrific.   They made an appointment for the surgeon already the next morning, and scheduled two CT scans for yet that day, with and without contrast.  They poked and prodded poor BL until I was past being able to bear it.  Each department was sure that their vein finding prodigy could surely get a viable vein and until they were convinced otherwise, BL had another infiltration, another poke, another cry like a wounded animal.

Along about 3 p.m., I stood by her stretcher over in the Cancer Center, where they had sent us, hoping for a quicker and more efficient finish.  The techs had gone off, looking for supplies and assistance.  It was just her and me in that big, cold room, and she was huddled under a warm blanket that they had brought in for her.  I stroked her wounded arms and rubbed her purple blotches and in the quiet of the room, I started to quietly sing to her.  “Jesus Loves Me,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Be not dismayed.”   She seemed to relax a bit and her face wasn’t as contorted. How I wished that they could just get this over with!

The techs came bustling in, then,  to try on their own one more time.  Linda’s anguished squeal started my tears, even as they exalted that they had gotten it this time!  When the vein blew just as they started to push the contrast for the scan, I was done.  I had stayed with BL for almost the whole day, but now, through my tears, I asked, “When am I allowed to say that it is enough and that you have to call Vascular Medicine down to start the I.V.?”

They looked at me surprised, and said, “Oh, we’ve already called them and someone is on the way down.  Should be here any minute.”

I took a deep breath.  “Okay,” I said, “I’m sorry, but I cannot bear to watch any more.  I will do what I can to help to get her situated, but when it goes to another stick, I am going to excuse myself to the waiting room across the hall.”  They were understanding.  They were kind.  And after a while, they came and got me saying that, after two tries, Vascular Medicine was able to start a suitable thread, they had completed the scan, and that I could take BL home.

I got her bundled up and tucked her into the wheelchair.  I pushed her through the halls of Milford Memorial Hospital, and I wondered what she was thinking.  I had tried to explain as much as I could all day long, as well as when I was doing the prep, but she sat in the huge hospital wheel chair as I pushed her along and she had drawn herself into a small lump, looking miserable and confused.  I spoke quietly to her as I pushed her along the almost deserted halls, cheery words of comfort and hope.  And then I thought about one of her favorite songs, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” as sung by Elizabeth Mitchell on one of BL’s CDs at home.

“Woke up this morning,” I started to sing quietly, “Smiled at the rising sun.  Three little birds sat by my doorstep . . . ”  I could hear the notes sort of echo off the walls, but no one was in sight, so I kept on.  ” . . .singin’ a sweet song.  A melody pure and true.  Singin’ this is my message for you -ou – ou !”

Now there were a few people moving along the corridors, some of them glancing furtively at this singing spectacle, pushing a blind, handicapped scrap of a woman in a huge wheelchair.

“Singin’ don’t worry,” I warbled on, “about a thing.  ‘Cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.  Singin’ don’t worry, about a thing, ’cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.”  I got some sympathetic looks, and I thought about how embarrassed my kids would be if they were along, but I sang until I got her down to the entrance, where valet parking went to bring my mini van and I loaded her into her seat, buckled her seat belt and took her home to her chair.  She was hungry, and she bore almost a dozen bruises from her ordeal, but she was restive and quiet.

There would be time in the days ahead for me to sing other songs to her, (“God Will Take Care of You,” and “Why Worry When You Can Pray,” and “Whisper a Prayer in the Morning,” and “My Lord Knows the Way Through The Wilderness” and others) but for that moment it seemed like the right thing to be singing at the end of a terrible day, full of bad news, and needles and hard stretchers and cold rooms and great indignities.

Is “every little thing gonna be alright?”  I don’t know.  These days are filled with many unknowns, and I’m not at all sure how things will actually work out.  We are scheduling surgery, checking some other suspicious areas, signing papers, getting clearance, trying to cooperate in every way we can with recommendations and making a concerted effort to make things as normal and as cheerful as possible for both OGA and BL.  And the support and the words of comfort and encouragement have been freely given to and gratefully received by this Delaware Grammy who has been caring for handicapped individuals for over thirty years.

I am sometimes surprised at the people who imply that it’s time for me to quit.  I appreciate the concern, but I’m listening up to my Heavenly Father, talking to my family and doing a lot of praying, and this is not the time to bail.  Nor do I even want to.  We are BL’s “family.”  She has lived with us for over 17 years, and as I checked into her record, I realized that we passed, a LONG time ago, her longest placement before she came home to stay.  And just so no one worries unduly, I would like to say that the Delaware Department of Disabilities has been concerned, supportive, and more than generous in their offers of help.  I am not alone.  We are not alone.  God has a plan.  He loves BL, and He will do what is best.  By His Grace, we want to do our part, but health and healing are, ultimately, up to Him.

And in that, I not only rest, but offer here a sacrifice of grateful praise.

For those of you who would like to listen to Elizabeth Mitchell’s version of “Three Little Birds” you can find it here:

(And if you like Bob Marley’s version better, you can probably access it from that link.)

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Holy Fire and Human Flailings

Lord Jesus, please hear the heart of Your Handmaiden.

I read this morning in Leviticus 10 of the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu.  As is the case every. single. time. I. read. it, my heart aches for Aaron and his wife and his family.  Here is Aaron, in his mid eighties at least, and his sons — were they reckless youths?  We know they had no children according to the scriptures.

It seems so harsh, Lord Jesus, so final, so – well, so without warning.  I always struggle when I plow my way through this passage and read of a father who “said nothing,” when it happened.  A father who wasn’t allowed the “comfort of mourning,” wasn’t given any time off from his job, all under the thread of death.  “And Aaron . . . obeyed.” (Lev.10:7)

What must he have felt, though, and how could he have dealt with it?  There was no arguing about who had passed the severe judgement, no arguing with this God who had, always had, the final say, the trump card, the final word, supreme power , ultimate authority . . . This morning I feel like this fuzzy, rebel brain is at the very edge of an answer that can help this aching heart.

First of all, Lord Jesus, I do not know the whole of the circumstances that let up to this.  From what it says, the boys, (young men) were duly warned, thoroughly instructed and well aware of what the protocol was.  And because you are GOD (who has the final say, ultimate authority, etc.) what you did was right – and (though I choke when I say this) GOOD.

Father-God, in this whole nitter-natter about “Why?” and seeking to come to acceptance and peace, I feel like I am missing something important.  Something to do with your Holiness.  Something about the God-Fire Purity that is the essence of this “I AM” God, whom I’ve chosen as my God, but whose very essence I do not begin to comprehend. I cannot capture the depth, the intensity, the incomprehensible HOLINESS that is God.  Awesome, Powerful, and Eternal — and yet, You love me like a protective Father; care (infinitely more than I can imagine !) what is going on in my heart and call me to reflect that Holiness with purity.  And it occurs to me that when I offer anything else back to you except “Holy Fire,” it spells DEATH.

But why?  Lord Jesus, Why?

Is it because that what is at the root of the “strange fire” is an attempt to appear right before you, and before those watching?  That is not only prideful and deceitful, but an affront and a contradiction of WHO you are, and WHAT you are.  And this strange fire cannot help but be swallowed up, consumed by the intensity of your Holiness and Purity.  It’s not as much a  judgement call by a Holy God as it is a very natural consequence.  It’s almost like a tiny flame, inching up a glowing wick to a stick of dynamite, assuming he is the victor because he burned the wick all the way to the end. None of us would say it was the dynamite’s fault for totally encompassing and extinguishing the flame.  We would think it ridiculously ostentatious for other flames, looking on to accuse the dynamite of wrong doing, or hasty judgement or of unfeelingly, arbitrarily “making rules” that explode with deafening brilliance and force and destruction and death.

Oh, Holy God, our God!  Passionate and pure and intense and full of fire.  Not because you decide to be, but rather it is because You ARE.  Somehow you decided to use poor, wretched humans to reflect your perfect Holiness — elevating us to sons and daughters (Family!) and we accuse you of being unfeeling or unfair when we fall victims of our own foolish, selfish, and prideful plans that cannot begin to stand before you- Glorious, Awesome, Righteous, Burning Holiness and Purity.

And it is just that, Heavenly Father.  I cannot stand before you, pretending to have any fire that matters to you at all.  I feel exposed, weak and useless in my wretched reasoning and the offerings I bring.  I want to cower in the darkness, away from your throne, wondering what to do next.  But I hear words of hope, ringing in this head that I want to cover.

“For we have not an high priest that cannot be touched by the feelings of our infirmities . . .  in all points, tempted like as we are . . . ”

Ah, Lord Jesus!  My Brother, My Redeemer!  The one whose fire is the only fire I can offer back to the Father – I eagerly and frantically and deliberately and with nothing to repay you, choose you!

The fear melts away, the bitterness running off my heart in rivulets as You become Righteousness in me; rekindling the Only Fire that is acceptable to God The Father.

And my heart gives grateful, humble praise.

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Another Sunday with the Littles

I got to spend time with The Littles at our country church in Slower Lower Delaware this morning.  The class has the same four children, but this morning I looked into their faces and saw how much they have grown up in the four short months that they’ve had another teacher.  Katie and Judah have a new baby brother, which got discussed thoroughly and delightedly.  Jamison, far more verbal than he was four months ago, joined in the conversation with feeling and much expression.  Charis, the oldest, was thoughtful and participant, but the only one without a brother (or even a sibling for that matter) was quieter than usual.

We sang the song that we had used to open class time last year, and they all remembered and helped along.  My heart warmed to hear each of their four voices soar in the familiar words and tune.  The story we were covering today was the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist for baptism, and I laid the background of what John’s mission was, and desert lifestyle and diet and his message to the people of his time, and there were appropriate expressions of disgust at the garment of camel’s hair, and talk of “throwing up” over the locusts and wild honey.  (Especially the “grasshoppers” business.)  And then we got to the part about Jesus being baptized by John.

The teacher’s manual provided a cutout that made a dove “spinner” to emphasize the dove that descended upon the head of Jesus, and each of them had their own spinner and a chance to try it out.  Also suggested was using ribbons for blessing and praise.  I had made each of them a “Blessing Stick” by attaching ribbons to a 12″ dowel stick, and after speaking a blessing over each one of them, I told them that we were going to use the sticks with singing a song.  They gathered, excited and gloriously distracted and yet eager to sing.  We sang an old children’s song that I learned many years ago, using the sticks in different motions for the two different phrases.

Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!  (Shake sticks in front of you)
Praise ye the LORD! (Wave in a wide arc over head)
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
PRAISE YE THE LORD!

About the third or fourth time through it they really got into it, and there was much waving about of the ribbons and the words were intelligible and they even got the standing up and sitting down motions that we were using.  But time was getting a little short to finish everything up, so we went back to the table to get the coloring pictures and take home papers and one last activity from the home papers.

“Pra-a-a-a-i-i-i-i-s-e-e-e   y-e-e-e-e-e–e–e–e—e the L-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-d” warbled Charis in a vibrato mode as she pulled her chair back up to the table. “Ha-a-a-l-l-l-e-e-e-e-el-u-u-ujah!”  She was really putting her soul into the music as she sang with pronounced showmanship.

After a time or two of this, Katie looked at her with puzzled disdain.  “Charis,” she said with a hint of annoyance, “why are you singing that song like a goat?”

Charis looked at her pityingly.  “That’s opera!” she said and resumed her song.  It went on and on.

“Charis,” I interrupted.  “Do you like opera?”

“Oh, yes!  I love it!” And she resumed her song again.  I listened as she sang and could hear the “opera” in her rendition.

“I think you could be an opera singer some day,” I told her.  “You seem to have the voice for it.”

“Really?” She asked excitedly.  “I would really love that!”

“I think you could,” I told her, “but you would have to study hard and get a trainer and all of that.  But I think for now, maybe we’ve had enough opera.”

“Okay,” she said agreeably, bent her head to her papers, and started to sing again.  Then stopped.  “Oh, dear!” She said impatiently.  “Now I got that song in my head!”

I think we all did.

And I smiled to myself as I thought about this class of LITTLES.  They are growing so big and it’s happening so fast.  Life is moving right along and the happenings of our world are impressing themselves on their minds and hearts.  They live in a world that is divided by hate and bigotry and mixed messages and uncertainties and so much division in the Family of God.

And I’m trying to sing a song to this old world.  It’s the Story of Jesus and His Love.  I would like it to be vibrant and full of harmony and joy and hope and love.  I would like it to catch on with the people around me.  I would like it to stick in their minds and I would like them to wave banners of light and beauty and blessing.  I would like them to “jump out of their chairs” at the right moments and I’d like them to do it with unity and peace and courage — but mostly to bring His Love to the rest of the world.

I’m singing it the best I can.  I’m singing it with all my heart.  I’m singing it when I’m thinking about it, and I’m singing it when I’m not.  Because it’s stuck!  Not only in my head but also in my heart.

And it’s my fervent prayer that no one wonders why I’m trying to sing like an old goat. I do make mistakes in the music.  I sometimes jumble the words.  I sometimes even forget them.

But the basic melody of JESUS, friend of sinners, hope of the world, SAVIOUR — This, I pray will be heard.  And whether the listener likes opera or classical or modern or country, may it fill their ears, stick in their heads and find its way to their hearts, inviting them, drawing them into The Family.

“Oh, LORD JESUS!  May it be so!”

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Laws Mennonite Church, music, The LITTLES Sunday School Class

Nocturnal decimations

Delaware Grammy has always enjoyed the hours when she could sleep, undisturbed and quiet in her comfy bed.  Even though she is not one to claim (or even need) quantity of hours, the quality is mandatory so as to see her through the days that wrap themselves around the old farmhouse at Shady Acres. It has been a great blessing that Delaware Grandpa, though troubled by Restless Leg Syndrome and a family gene that causes insomnia, makes it his business to sneak stealthily from the room when he cannot sleep so as not to disturb his wife with his wanderings about in the still, quiet nights.

In recent weeks, things have gone awry in such a way as to make Delaware Grammy think there must be a conspiracy going on amongst the gremlins that disturb sleep.  And they are using almost every method available and opportunity afforded them.

The changeable weather caused one restless night.  Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy sleep in a bedroom that tends to be on the cool side, and several weeks ago, when the weather turned cool, Grammy brought forth the electric blanket, threaded the controls under the bed to the respective sides and plugged everything in.  That very night, things warmed up and so it wasn’t needed for some time.  However, when the nights became cooler again, Grammy began to ask Grandpa if he was going to turn on his side of the blanket.  He always said that he didn’t need it “yet” but didn’t care if Grammy turned hers on.  So there were some nights when Grammy would turn hers on for a brief period, but most of the time it wasn’t necessary at all.  And then one night she came to bed feeling very tired and quite warm from a long day cooking and getting ready for company.  It was a cool night, but she kicked the covers off her feet, and didn’t think she needed the electric blanket at all, so she didn’t even look at the control.  She was restless all night, just feeling so warm, and finally kicking back the electric blanket and sleeping with just the sheet.  But then she was too cold, so she pulled it back up again.  Whew!  Then she was too warm.  Along about 4am, Grandpa took himself downstairs to his La-Z-boy and Grammy happened to fluff her pillow up over the side of his and take over part of his side of their bed.

H-m-m-m-m-m-m.  His side was cool.  Considerably cooler than hers.  Wait a minute!  She was suddenly very much awake.  She turned back over to her side of the bed, and grabbed the electric blanket control that was languishing on its side on her bedside table.

Oh, dear!  No wonder she was warm.  In the darkness, a bright green 10 shone out merrily.  TEN!  Oh, for crying out loud!  No wonder she was warm!  But how in the world???  She hadn’t touched that control for a number of days.  However, it didn’t take too much sleuthing to realize what had happened.  Last year, if Grandpa went up to bed early, and thought it was cold, he would turn on her side of the blanket so that it would be warm for her when she climbed in.  He never bothered to change the settings, but would just turn it on.  On this particular night, he was feeling chilly.  And even though he didn’t feel the need to start his side of the blanket, he was looking out for the comfort of his wife.  Somehow the setting was at TEN on this particular night, and so all night long Grammy roasted away while she tossed and turned and barely slumbered.

Around the same time, there seemed to be an upper respiratory bug going around the household of Delaware Grandpa and Delaware Grammy.  Grandpa was coughing and snorting around and Grammy was trying really hard not to catch it.  All she needed was a stopped up nose and a cough to complicate her life.  And so one night, getting awake in the middle of night, she found her mouth exceedingly dry and her throat feeling scratchy.  She padded over to the bathroom and got a drink and then climbed back into bed.  Lying there, thinking about the probability that she might be getting sick, she decided to spray her throat with some Chloraseptic spray that is always on her bedside stand.  She felt around in the dark and found the spray bottle.  Undoing the plastic top, she aimed it for the back of her throat where her tonsils once were and gave a hefty push on the spray top.

Ugh!  Oh, awful!  There was a horrible burning sensation, a terrible taste in her mouth and the smell of liniment.  Yepper!  You guessed it!  She had gotten her “pain spray” alright, but it was the one for aching muscles and creaky joints, not the Chloraseptic Sore Throat Spray that she was expecting.  It wasn’t just Grandpa who was coughing and snorting that night.  But her mouth certainly wasn’t dry for the rest of the night.  Ah, yes.  There was lots of watering going on.  But she hadn’t gotten terribly much, and she didn’t seem any the worse for it, so she waited for the light of day and then made sure that she had what she wanted and that it was where she wanted it for the next time it was needed.

And then there was the week between Christmas and New Years.  Delaware Grandpa and Grammy’s family came home for a few days, and Grammy had come upon the bright idea of giving Eldest Son and his family their side of the upstairs for the few nights they and their four children would be home.  The two bedrooms and the bathroom was a good fit, and Grandpa and Grammy could easily sleep on their recliners those nights and all would be well.

All would have been well except for a stomach virus that laid the family low during their stay, and there was much vomiting and bed changing and such going on.  On Wednesday, Eldest Son took his family back to Sugar Creek, and Delaware Grammy reclaimed her bed for a few hours until the same stomach virus laid its savage hand upon her, and she was back in her recliner for thirty hours or so.  Quickly recovered, she had pleasant sleep for all of Thursday and Friday nights, and quietly prayed that God would spare the rest of her family.  Especially Our Girl Audrey and Blind Linda.

It was not to be.  Saturday morning she came down to a very miserable BL.  She had projectile vomited over her bedroom floor, clear to OGA’s bed, and then vomited profusely while in the bathroom.  All day long, there were ministrations of gingerale and peach juice and Phenergan.  By evening, she wasn’t vomiting, and she seemed to be better, but Grammy decided that it would be best for her to sleep in a recliner, where she could be helped quickly if she needed assistance.  (She also was remembering the three hours she had spent cleaning the bathroom, spraying Lysol over all the surfaces, and scrubbing the rug between the beds in the bedroom.  Linoleum floor and a Schwan’s ice cream bucket seemed a far better choice than a bed with clean sheets and a still wet carpeted floor.)  So, with Linda in her chair, and late night things to finish up, Grammy finally got settled very late, indeed, into her own recliner and drifted off to sleep.

It was a restless sleep, however, and scarcely was she asleep an hour when she was suddenly awake.  She heard voices.  People were talking somewhere, faintly.  Then she heard the driveway monitor.  This did not produce confidence.  As quietly as she could, she put the foot rest down on her recliner.  Stealthily she sneaked out to the kitchen and looked out the window.  Yikes!  The motion sensor light had been activated on the back deck towards the chicken house lane.  She stood stock still in the middle of her kitchen, straining her ears to hear, but the voices had fallen silent.  Had they detected movement through the kitchen window?  She stood contemplating what she should do.

Then it didn’t matter any more.  It was time to move to safety of her own bed and to the protection that the presence of Delaware Grandpa always affords.  She thought about the fact that it had been about eight hours since BL had vomited, and decided to take her to the bathroom and put her into her own bed.  With clandestine movements, intended to keep her out of the direct view of any windows and hushed, whispered instructions to BL, she got her from her chair, into the bathroom, and tucked into her bed.  She quietly sang her a bedtime prayer, and crept out of the room.  As she stepped out of the room, she heard voices again, and this time, she could make out words.  It felt like a cold hand had grabbed her stomach —

. . . until she realized that it was coming from the computer room..Her computer had not been shut down for the night and was picking up window after window of commercial drivel and playing it loudly to a dark, empty room.  She opened the door, shut the eight or so offending windows, and then shut the computer down.  And then she gathered her nightie tight against her and climbed the steps to the comfy bed where Delaware Grandpa lay snoring softly.  Slipping in beside him she gave a contented sigh and was almost instantly asleep.  There was a space of a mere two hours until she needed to be up again, but the quality of those two hours was unblemished by any interruption or disturbance.  Just pure blissful sleep.

She never did find out what set off the driveway monitor, (probably a cat on an nocturnal stroll) or activated the sensor light (probably a breeze in the branches that have grown into the line of perception).  But whatever it is that disturbs the slumber of Delaware Grammy, the truth is that she will always sleep better when Grandpa is there to defend and protect.  And so she continues to pursue quality hours of sleep that will refresh.  And if she can remember to check her blanket controls and keep watch over the contents of her bedside table, it stands to reason that peaceful slumber will be the norm and not the exception.

For this, her heart truly does give most grateful praise!

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Filed under Family living, home living, My Life, Stories from the Household of CM & CMW