In Memory

In Memory

He was just four weeks old when he came to us, one of a large litter of extra-large puppies that an exhausted mama pup simply stopped nursing. My daughter-in-law called me in tears to ask if we could take our designated puppy two weeks early. Of course I said yes. And so Charley came home to us. He never quite got over that first glitch — always needing to be near us and frequently “nursing” on his dog bed all throughout his life.

But he was all heart, our Charley. All heart.

He watched over the grandchildren as they played. He went so far as to kill our rooster when it ran after an unsuspecting child in our yard one Mother’s Day. He didn’t mean to kill it, but he wasn’t going to have it attack a child either.

One early morning Charley came to get me out of bed, and he wouldn’t stop fussing until I got up and followed him to the TV room, where my husband lay on the couch so deathly ill that I immediately drove him to the ER. Charley knew, and he knew just what to do.

He loved to play fetch, only slowing down this past winter when, unbeknownst to us, he started his final battle with the kidney disease — or perhaps it was cancer — that finally took him today. We will never know because we didn’t want a post-mortem done. That he became seriously ill was enough to know. That there was no hope was evident in the blood test.

Charley had large, expressive brown eyes. He loved to “boop” us with his big black nose. He tattled to me when Daddy didn’t provide him any of the delicious leftover steak that was being put away in the refrigerator. He vocalized whenever Tim and I embraced. He barked at every delivery driver that ever came to our door. He loved his friends, and everybody was his friend.

Two weeks ago he developed a mysterious abscess on his back paw. Out of nowhere his paw swelled up to twice its size within the space of about four hours. I was so freaked that we called the after hours vet on a Saturday night to have it seen to immediately. It took a few days of antibiotics and a surgical lancing and draining, but it healed. The cause was unknown, and after it healed, Charley seemed to be back to his old self. But then he became listless. Finally he wouldn’t eat. 48 hours of strong antibiotics yielded a brief rally, but then he sank down even further. The vet did a blood panel and found kidney failure.

During that one miracle day that he rallied, he ate scrambled eggs with gusto and got himself up on the couch for a while. As I was reading before bed, he came over to greet me with a ‘boop’ before settling down in his usual sleeping space on the floor immediately next to my side of the bed. I hoped we were on an upward trajectory.

But it was not to be. He was much, much worse the next day, and our options went down to just one. Euthanasia.

So tonight I’ve wandered around our little farm, seeing Charley in every vista and around every corner, hearing the jingle of his collar as if he were really walking with me. Of all the dogs I’ve had in my life, Charley will stay deep within me. I was his Mama, and that was that.

Goodbye, Charley.

Good boy.

Such a good boy.

anything

Been reading an excellent book by Jennie Allen, titled Anything. Read this book. Really. It will change your life and your faith. It will give you perspective. Just read it.

It’s a radical thing, to surrender every aspect of your life to God’s will and purposes. As Allen points out, we want to live a normal, comfortable, average American life and still live (and exhibit) a real faith in God.

But truly, if we follow Jesus, life on this earth is very frequently anything BUT normal, comfortable, average. It is messy. It is chaotic. It is harder than anything we can imagine at times. Yet it is perfectly planned by the God who loves us and calls us for His purpose. And it is the only way to live a life that is truly satisfied and fulfilled while here on earth.

Nowadays we allow our perspective to be wholly shaped by our culture, by what the mass media says it should be, by what even our fellow Christians say it should be. And thus we easily fall prey to doubts and fears that have nothing to do with what God really wants for us or the relationship He desires with each of us. Those doubts and fears keep us from even seeing His purpose, let alone walking it out.

My life in the last year has certainly been messy. Beyond messy, actually. Abrupt job change. Serious business and financial uncertainties. Serious relationship upheavals. I have sought God, but I have frequently not believed or trusted Him. I have let my circumstances dictate my perspective of His love and goodness, instead of interpreting my circumstances in the light of what I know to be true of His love.

I recently prayed :  “Our God and Father, You desire to do good to and for us. You desire our fellowship and surrender. But I have lived in unbelief and denial and shame in many places, essentially throwing Your gift back in Your face.”

God’s response to me rose as smoothly and clearly as anything I’ve ever heard from Him: “My child, your sins are forgiven as soon as asked. My call on your life is so you may be as close to Me as possible at all times. Together we will tell the Good News that will set everyone free if only they will accept it. I love you. I made you. I have a plan for you. I accept you because of your faith and not because of your works (although I do love your works too). I planned your jobs, both the beginnings and the endings. I planned your businesses for you. It’s all a journey, and you are never alone. I will always be with you, no matter where you go. I know your doubts and your fears, and I grieve that you suffer with them when you don’t need to. Your doubts and fears accomplish nothing – cast them off and trust Me for the journey!”

This journey. This life.

Anything, Lord. Anything.

cherries

cherries

Those of you who know me also know that for many summers I would be out of town for work for five weeks. I am now semi-retired and no longer hold that job, and this is the first summer in 19(!) years that I am at home.

Amazing what you can find out when your life changes that drastically.

I found out that our little farm is a total joy now that I have regained the strength and stamina to work outside.

I found out that I like running errands with my husband instead of the ‘divide and conquer’ approach that our busy lives used to require.

I found out that chickens love strawberries.

I found out that we have two pie cherry trees in our yard.

Now, how did we live in this house for five years and NOT know that we have two (two!) cherry trees? Because we were away during cherry season every year — we would leave town before there was any fruit on the trees and return long after it was gone. We thought those two trees were some kind of ornamental shade trees that bloomed for a few days in the Spring.

Imagine our delight in finding fruit this year and then further discovering that these are pie cherries.

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Yesterday my husband and I spent about an hour together harvesting the ripe cherries, and there are still many more to go! Canning commences soon, and I’m planning this winter’s cherry cobblers already!

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To me, these cherries, these newly uncovered treasures, are a symbol of a life that has become more intentional. I’m no longer working full time, chasing a ‘career.’ I’m not out of town on a business trip every month or so. I don’t accumulate frequent flyer points anymore.

I’m home.

Home to enjoy slow evenings in our bucolic backyard, meals on the patio, Bible Study in the shade. Home to harvest strawberries and make strawberry jam. Home to gather the herbs before they bolt, drying them for freshest flavor through the winter months. Home to laugh at the antics of our chickens and dogs and horses, to enjoy the births of two foals and to get to know them as they grow. Home to watch the rest of the garden growing at a prodigious rate, anticipating the harvest of potatoes, corn, beans, squashes, and tomatoes that is to come.

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Charley cooling off in the underbrush. Because fur coat.

I didn’t know how terribly stressed and rushed I was until it all came to an abrupt end. And when the dust cleared, I realized that I now have the privilege of living my dream. For me, home is the place that I belong (and I don’t say that to imply that every woman belongs at home – I’m saying that for me, and me only). It turns out that canning and freezing, providing good and nourishing food grown in our own garden, are passions of mine. Good health and helping people recover theirs is a passion. Learning as much as I can about our amazing bodies and how they respond to nutrition and environment is a passion.

It turns out that my former job was not a passion.  Even though there were many aspects of it that I  enjoyed and many people involved whom I really liked, in the end it was a j.o.b.

God is faithful. Romans 8:28 tells us that all things (ALL) work together for good in the lives of His followers. I was forced to make a very drastic change, but God turned a seemingly negative situation into what is arguably one of the most positive changes of my entire life.

That was brought home to me in vivid and glorious color yesterday when we discovered the cherries.

Where’s your place? What’s your dream? Discovered any cherry trees lately?

 

 

 

spring

Blubbering.

That’s what I’m doing on this beautiful Spring day. I’m blubbering.

My car stereo is playing “The Butterfly Waltz” as performed by Brian Crain. Such pretty, springlike music — I just love it!

And today it made me cry.

Or rather, the combination of a warm, sunny day and the lilting violin strains made me think about how much my mother loved this time of year.

And that’s when I started blubbering.

I know we don’t “get over” loved ones — we just learn to live without them. I’d say I’ve learned to do a good job of living without my mother. And it still surprises me when grief comes out for another bite.

My mother adored Spring. Lilacs and daffodils were her absolute favorites. Watching the mountains and fields green up was lifeblood to her after the long winters of central Pennsylvania.

During my single years I frequently took a long weekend in April to head out to Mom’s place and share the Spring weather with her. I’d arrive, work-weary, and she’d ask me what I want to do. Inevitably I’d say “nothing at all.” And she’d answer, “Then nothing is what we’ll do.” Her house was so quiet you could hear the clock ticking. Together we sat on her porch, talking or just staying quiet, just being.  Together we’d cook dinner and do the dishes.

It’s a respite I cherished and still miss when Spring comes out to play.

Happy Spring, Mom. The daffodils are out. Miss you always.

celebrate

I just read something this morning that reminded me — or rather, made me realize for the first time, truth to tell — that we instinctively celebrate.

When was the last time you punched the air, high-fived someone, jumped up and down, applauded? Did you even think about it before you did it?

No. You didn’t.

Because it’s an instinct. Merriam Webster defines instincts as “a way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is not learned: a natural desire or tendency that makes you want to act in a particular way.”

We have lots of instincts, most of them related to survival. The instinct to celebrate is a particularly nice one, when you consider it.

And you could make the case that it does help us survive: It expresses and releases positive emotion, it encourages others, it draws us together, it makes you smile when you’re doing it.

Celebrate!

For we are fearfully and wonderfully made! (Psalm 139:14)

 

 

dissolution

I was listening to Amy Grant’s “Better Not to Know” on the way home from church this morning, and it struck me how much more that song means right now than when I first heard it a few years ago. Right now I’m watching Satan have a field day in the lives of people I love, and I’m hating every moment of it. And as Amy sings, it was better not to know that any of this was coming. 

Marriage is hard. Being married every day is hard. I know. We’re married to flawed human beings — and we ourselves are flawed human beings. It’s a messy combination, this flawed+flawed. The sum can’t be anything other than….. flawed.

But God ordained marriage for the human race. He meant for each marriage to represent His perfect relationship with His Church. He intended earthly marriage to be more than the combination of two flawed human beings, and only He can make it so through grace, mercy, and forgiveness: three things that we receive in abundance from God and thus should be extending to our spouses over and over again.

 

At our peril do we forget that God is first and foremost at the head of the marriage. Because if we forget it, we’re stuck depending on just our flawed selves and our flawed spouses. And that’s not enough to get through. Life is too painful, and pain comes from all sides, not just from our spouses. Friends cause pain, co-workers cause pain, parents cause pain, children cause pain, complete strangers cause pain. Worst of all, we cause ourselves pain. Because we’re flawed.

 

Only by keeping God first are we enabled to look past our flawed spouses and past our flawed selves, because we’re looking at our perfect Lord and Savior instead. The flaws recede into the distance when Christ is the Head. The pain that strikes at us over and over again is mitigated and relegated to a proper perspective when we’re focused on what God would have of us in each and every painful circumstance.

 

Am I saying that you have to stay married? I’m saying only this: that the only Person on whose advice you should rely is Jesus Himself. Don’t rely on your hurt feelings. Don’t rely on your well-meaning friends. Don’t even rely on your pastor or your counselor. Don’t rely on the technicalities of the legal system. Don’t rely on just a cursory review of Scripture, either. Seek God and His purpose for your life, delving deep into His Word and making prayer the first consideration all day long. He has a purpose for your life and the only way to find joy in the midst of everything else that’s going on is to seek that purpose and His grace. Because then you will also have found the answer.

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“These tiny stems became these trees,

With dirt and storms and sun and air to breathe…..

Like you and me.

And some fell down and some grew tall,

And those surviving twenty winter thaws

Have the sweetest fruit of all.”  (c) Amy Grant

justice

justice

This morning saw the sad end of a promising colt’s life.

Little JoePablo was born on our farm two years ago, very early one June morning.

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My granddaughter and I were the first to clap eyes on him, around 4:00 in the morning. What a treat and a great memory for the two of us.

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As he grew, Joe proved to be strong willed and intelligent. Recently my nephew had begun lightly training him to be a rodeo horse, and the promise of his conformation and strength was obvious.

A couple of months ago three of the horses got out of our pasture in the middle of the night when part of the electric fence was accidentally left off. The police woke my husband, who called my nephew, and together, with the willing help of our local police (many of whom own horses), they began rounding up the horses to get them off the road. Three* police cars sat in the roadway, lights flashing. All up and down the road, drivers had patiently pulled over as the roundup operation was being completed.

Except for the idiot college student who blew through the entire thing, inattentive to the three* (three!) police cars with lights fully flashing and the other cars lining the shoulder of the road. The driver never even tried to stop, and crashed squarely into the three horses, with Little JoePablo going through the windshield. You can imagine the scene so I’ll spare you the details.

For two months Joe was faithfully tended by our equine vet and by my nephew and his family. But the suffering was never going to end and the injured leg was never going to be sound. The decision had to be made, and at 9:00 this morning we bid him goodbye and Godspeed. The vet sent him off peacefully, and Joe is no longer in pain.

Today we are wondering if there will be justice. The student who hit him was one of many from the Middle East who are paid handsomely to attend our Idaho State University. He drove a high end Mustang (the irony of that is not lost) into the midst of our horses. He got out of the drivers seat with a broken arm and aloud wondered who would be responsible for fixing his car.

While our horse lay bleeding on his hood.

I know that there are many Middle Eastern students who behave like the guests they are when they come to the United States to pursue an education, i.e. following the traffic laws, obtaining appropriate car insurance and a drivers license, treating people decently. This one did not. Sadly, his arrogance is not atypical among our local population of these male students. The statistics show that local court cases have increased due to many of these students.

When asked why he didn’t even try to stop, the driver replied that he couldn’t understand what was going on in front of him and so he just kept going —  at a speed that was over the posted speed limit.

What?

I want to be Christ-like in this situation. Everyone is valued by God (John 3:16), whether they know it or not, whether they behave that way or not, whether they choose to accept it or not. I am trying to remember that as I measure my words.

But today I’m angry, and rightly so, at the arrogant foreign nationals who look down on us and our culture but choose to live in our midst anyway — and continue to live according to their own culture’s behavior and values, not ours. Why do they choose to live among us, despite their contempt? Because they’re free when they’re here; they have no religious or familial supervision; their bank accounts are fat and happy, and they get to have a high old time at the expense of their government and ours.

Little JoePablo paid for this student’s arrogance, and that price was too high.

*updated June 7, 2015: My husband tells me I was off by one police car. The correct number is three, (my original blog post stated four). That’s still a LOT of flashing lights, whether three cars or four.

week

It’s over. The week is over. I am still alive.

And truly, that’s all I have to say.

Except, also, Jesus is Lord.

And I’m going out with a friend for a drink and some appys in a little while.

And it didn’t rain today.

But it also didn’t sun today — or at least, not for very long.

And I just found a drop of yogurt on my computer keyboard.

And now, it’s time to get this weekend started!

Enjoy!

rain

It started raining on Saturday.

Today is Wednesday.

With but a few brief breaks (notably the four hours on Saturday that we needed in order to host a wedding for our friends — thank you, God!), it’s been raining the whole time. The whole time. Five days.

I feel positively mildewed.

The dog has cabin fever. The cat has cabin fever. Both want to go out and then both want to come back inside — wet — three minutes later. The cat has developed an attitude. The dog is sad. I need a long walk and some serious Vitamin D.

And still it rains.

I thought I’d left the non-stop spring rain behind when I moved out of NJ in 2002. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this rainy for this long in Idaho. But there is a first time for everything.

I hope this is the last time for this.

Even Jack Norman, our robust roo, has been quiet. Depression amongst the poultry is not pretty. Egg production is down (seriously!). The girls need some sun. Hoping Mother Nature delivers soon ….

Theology

“Jesus, draw us close.
Closer, Lord, to you.
Let the world around us fade away….”

A much loved chorus from many, many years ago. We sang it yesterday in worship and it never fails to comfort me.

Been thinking over some things theological lately. I’m no theologian, when all is said and done, but I do enjoy the process. Going deeper with God secures my faith, providing a strong foundation on which to stand even when the dark things of life are pressing in. The world — including the Christian culture — is difficult on so many levels. Focusing on God is the best reminder to move graciously and gracefully through this life. Reading the Word of the One who loves me best is a peerless way to start every day, setting the tone for remembering that I am His, pushing the hours of my daily life to reflect just that.

I’ve been considering love and grace a lot lately. It is dismaying to see how divided the Church can be; so divided that at times it is unrecognizable in its absence of love and grace for each other. Each side of this disagreement always devolves into assertions that the other side’s interpretation of love and grace is cheap and shallow, even un-Scriptural. Fundamentally, if we cannot agree on the definitions of love and grace, as demonstrated in Jesus life and throughout the entire Word, then we cannot come to an understanding. More importantly, if we keep digging in our heels that our own interpretation is the only one that could possibly be correct — i.e. that I am Right and you are Wrong, and that’s that — we will never have peace within the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ, but she is wracked with turmoil and even, at times, vitriol. What must Jesus think as He views our continuing selfishness and narcissism toward each other?

If the Church’s main purpose … here … is to further God’s kingdom … here …, then we’re setting an incredibly poor example for those souls we are trying to reach … here.

There are no easy answers. My personal defense against the unlovely underbelly of Christianity is to seek God’s will on a daily, even hourly basis. To focus on His provision to me and on how much I owe Him for all He does and has done so that He and I can be reconciled forever. To aim at surrendering every minute of my day to what He would have me do. I believe that He desires peace among His people, and that I am responsible to Him for my conduct. It’s the only sanity I get as I watch the struggle among the believers to prove who is right and who is wrong, petty squabbles within a Body that is already so perfectly beloved by God and has attained, through His mercy, the highest pinnacle humans could reach.

And still there are souls in this world who desperately need to be told about Christ, to be saved from absolute separation from God, to be loved as Christ loves everyone; all the while the Church remains distracted within itself, fighting (not arguing, not debating — but actually fighting) over who is Right and who is Wrong.

I’m not saying my interpretations are always correct. But I am saying that even in our disagreements, we must remain Christ-like in our conduct, because that is what God has commanded of His people and that is our best witness to a wounded world.