Monday, March 31, 2008

Is your refrigerator running?

You'd better go catch it! hee hee

And can I borrow it?

'Cause mine's not running. I've just transferred the frozen foods that were beginning to thaw into the chest freezer, but now I don't know what to do with the milk and eggs and cheese.

Two weeks ago, the drier broke. Rob's dad pronounced it DOA. But when I stopped at the bank to get rolls of quarters for the Wash Shed Coin Laundry, my dear friend who works at the bank said that she had a drier in her garage that we could have. We put it in this week, and now the family has clean socks and underwear!

Two weeks ago, the dishwasher stopped working. It wouldn't fill with water. For no reason at all. And for no reason at all, it started working again that same day.

Last week, the hot water heater kept tripping the circuit breaker...on the Saturday before Easter, when we were expecting multitudes of company and needed to fill a HUGE tank for the baptisms. Great, I thought. After we baptize these kids, they're going to get pneumonia and send them off to heaven much sooner than we would like. Then as mysteriously as it stopped working, it started working again. We're holding our breath a little, waiting for it to go out again. We turn on the hot water knob, and it's a sweet surprise when the water begins to warm.

And today, the refrigerator. Not panicking. God has provided for the rest of our appliance degenerations. (Really, which one is next? I'm almost afraid to ask!) But God has sweetly provided each time. I'm seriously curious with what I'm going to do with the milk and eggs. I'm about to make the children some scrambled eggs now for a late dinner.

I'll let you know what happens next.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Catching up...Easter, Baptisms, Pathway

I LOVE Easter. Love it.

Some of what I love about it:

::Heartfelt reflections the weeks preceding Easter on the price Jesus paid, simply because he could not bear to be separated from the likes of me.

::The joy, joy, joy Jesus' resurrection brings, taking Christianity far from a set of beliefs and values to a relationship with a LIVING, powerful, loving God whose good and perfect plans for us are more wonderful than we can possibly imagine, not just in heaven but here on earth as well.

::Can you really keep from smiling when you sing, "I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today; I know that He is living whatever men may say! I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer; and just the time I need Him, He's always near! He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way! He lives! He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart!" (I'm smiling now, just typing the lyrics!)

::A full church, knowing in my heart that God's Word never comes back empty.

::Family dinner. (If you have never tried Rob's mom's ham, you have never really had ham. There is nothing like it. It's amazing.)

::Finding lost eggs two days after the egg hunt.

::Sweet-faced children dressed up in clothes that reflect the hope of Easter and the promise of spring.

::Okay, I have to say it: chocolate candies wrapped in pastels! (A good mother would never let her children consume the amount of candy that found it's way into my house on Easter...I'll make the sacrifice and help them out!)

This Easter was extra special and poignant for our family. We held a baptism service at Pathway, and Caleb and Gabriel were both baptized! It was so thrilling to watch, and even more so for Rob to be the one baptizing his precious sons, as well as five other precious children.

We hosted lots and lots of family: all three sets of parents and three siblings and their families were here to celebrate the boys' baptisms and Easter with us. We had a wonderful time with everyone. They made it so special for us. (And the ladies were such a HUGE help to me as I ran about like a loony.)

Also, it was our last Sunday at Pathway. How difficult it was to know that Rob was preaching his last sermon as their pastor, that I was leading corporate worship, possibly for the last time ever, that we were worshiping together with these people whom we love the last time. We still are struggling to wrap our hearts and minds around the changes that God is bringing.

We're not sure where we're going this Sunday morning. It'll be a surprise...

We're not sure what we're going to do this summer. It'll be a surprise....

We're not sure how God is going to provide until Rob's new job with the Navy starts. It'll be a surprise...

We're not sure when Rob is going to leave...June (probably not)...July (I hope, I hope, I hope)...or September (likely). it'll be a surprise, too.

I'm learning that I need to like surprises...or live in constant worry. I don't like the alternative, and I truly trust the Giver of the surprises, the Great Surpriser Himself. What an exciting place to be!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Big Plans and Big Feet

For Lily's third birthday, my brother Josh and his wife Lana bought her a cute Barbie doll, all decked out for the beach in her fairly conservative bathing suit, wrap and big, beach feet. Honestly, her feet look HUGE compared to her unshapely stick legs. She can't even wear tiny Barbie sandals, but must resign herself to slipping undaintily into Ken's footwear. Poor dear. Despite her perfectly manicured toenails, she'll never make it as a foot model. I'm sure behind her pasted-on smile she's devastated and buries her big flippers in the sand the moment she hits the beach.

Okay, enough about Barbie's surprisingly big feet. I think it's great that little miss perfect has a body flaw...and this is coming from a gal who grew up HATING my big, Fred Flinstone feet. I loved going barefooted--I still do!--but as a teen I would keep my feet crammed into hot shoes in mixed company out of embarrassment. Now...I don't care who sees my big bare feet. (I'm a little less self-conscious now.)

Someday when Lily's older, I'll share with her about the ancient Chinese custom of foot binding. Shortly after bringing Lily home, I read a novel by Lisa See, Snow Flower and Secret Fan, that details the process of foot-binding. In ancient times, Chinese mothers forced their very young daughters to undergo the horrific reshaping of their feet lest they never find a good marriage match. Apparently, a good family--meaning wealthy or politically important--would never consider allowing their son to marry a woman unless she had bound feet. Foot-binding was actually outlawed in China in 1911, though it continued until 1949 when under communist rule China became "The People's Republic of China." Some one million women still have the deformed "lotus flower" feet. Here's a picture of an 86-year-old woman with her foot, deformed for the sake of beauty. Notice her other foot in a shoe that is probably no more than four or five inches long. (Photo courtesy of Yahoo news.)

So, hurray for big feet, I say! Spread your toes wide and wiggle them proudly!

A funny story about the Barbie doll...

Caleb found it in my hide-away place about six months ago, and he BEGGED me to let Lily open it. Oh, I forgot to tell you: even though Lily received the doll as a gift almost a year and a half ago, I just recently let her open it. I really wasn't ready for all the Barbie accessories and getting her undressed and redressed and, "Mom, I need help!" every time Barbie decided to change her outfit. I'm not exactly one of those anti-Barbie moms. (Maybe you are? Maybe I should be? Any dialog on this?) Even though I scoff at her unrealistic proportions, I don't think she ever had a negative effect on my self-image, and I don't think she will for Lily either. She's not real. I'm more concerned about magazine covers and teen pop stars making Lily feel like she's not __________ enough or that she's too _______________. You can fill in the blanks with all the self-image flaws that young girls concoct.

So Caleb found the Barbie doll. "When can Lily open this?" he asked a million and one times.

"I don't know," I responded a million times, and then "Stop asking me!" one time.

I never thought to ask him why it was so important to him, but when I finally allowed Lily to open her Barbie, Caleb let out a cheerful whoop and cried, "Finally John can get married!!!!!" (He never liked the name G.I. Joe, and so he named his big army action figure John.) He ran into his room, dug out poor, lovesick John, who was forced to wait a year and a half (how many years is that in Barbie-years?) to marry his true love. And Caleb doesn't like the name "Barbie" either and convinced Lily to rename her doll Selena. "It's such a beautiful name," he said.

So John and Selena got married that lovely winter day. Caleb and Lily played wedding all day long.

When Caleb was very small, he loved to play "family." He wanted three spoons so he could have a mommy, a daddy, and a little boy. He wanted to have three teddy bears, three blocks, three....everything. Even now, his sense of family and his own role in it stretches beyond that of most eight-year-olds. Just this week he told me that he can't wait to be a father someday, and he told me of a certain song he heard on the radio that he wants to share with his first baby. I don't know any other boys his age who look so far ahead into their own futures as husbands and parents, especially with such longing the way Caleb does. I know that God is preparing him to be an amazing family man. Somewhere out there, some little girl is going to be one very blessed wife and mother...even if she does have big feet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Stranger at the Door

Last week, on a Sunday afternoon, our neighbor called. This wonderful neighbor and his wife are a tremendous blessing to us, and one of our biggest sorrows about having to move is leaving them. Neighbors like these come but once in a lifetime. On that afternoon, a repairman was working on our neighbor's furnace. For some reason, God laid it on our friend's heart to share with him that the family next door--that's us--had a heat pump that had not worked for two years and we were using a wood stove to heat our home. And God then moved in this repairman's heart to say, "Well, since I'm already out here, maybe I could go over and take a look at it."

So we got a phone call from our neighbor asking us if it would be okay for his repairman to stop by and take a look. I was kind of confused, because 1.) If we could afford to have it fixed ($7000), we would have done that a long time ago, and 2.) We had already had it diagnosed, by the company that installed it, no less, and we were told that it was beyond repair. We wondered if our neighbor, who has been so very generous to us in the past, offered secretly to the repairman to pay for a service call to us. We agreed to have him swing by, hoping it wasn't a waste.

He was a young guy, about our age, and he was here for about an hour, looking at not only our geothermal system in the basement, but our forced air furnace in the scuttle. I was doing the calculations in my head, just in case our neighbor had made no payment arrangement with him. From top to bottom, he said that our system was not installed properly at all. In fact he said that we had a secondary electric heat source that was not even hooked up. He left, promising to come back in a few days.

Thursday night, the night of our ladies Bible study and the very same day we listed our house with Cressy & Everett, he showed up at our door unexpectedly. He apologized for simply popping up, but he was in the neighborhood and he wanted to keep his promise. (How uncommon, sadly.) I was busy with the children and feeding them dinner and getting ready for Bible study and trying to get them all packed up for AWANA club. During the Bible study prayer, we prayed for our furnace, regarding which, believe me, we have offered many prayers to the Lord, especially in that first winter without heat. But now we are facing a different dilemma: trying to quickly sell a house without a functioning heat system. Well, that very day, that stranger at the door spent three hours connecting our furnace to an electric heat source that was present but improperly installed, and which the very same company that installed it failed to fix for us so that we would at least have some heat.

He finished while I was out in the church, and when I came back home, I asked, "Was he able get heat?" Rob motioned for me to stand under a register. Warm air was pouring out of that register for the first time in two years!

I asked Rob, "Did he give us a bill?" (As the family budgeter, I was adding in my head: two visits, plus diagnostic fees, plus any parts he had to use, plus over four hours of labor...gulp.)

"No," Rob said. As he was leaving, Rob told him to send us the bill, but he said that when he heard about our situation, he felt bad about it. He was happy to have helped us, and he was glad to have learned a little bit more about geothermal heating systems. Plus he was able to use some parts from the non-functioning component to properly hook up the electric component, so he didn't use any new parts. Have a good day.

Can you believe how good God is???? Who has ever heard of a furnace repair person who is a total stranger feeling bad for a family who has a broken furnace? Everybody he sees needs some help with their furnace; that's why he has a job! For him to give us four hours of his personal time, time away from his wife and three kids on a Thursday evening, knowing that he wasn't going to be financially compensated for his time completely astounds me. God simply put us on his heart, and I don't think he knows why he felt the need to help us--but we know.

We learned from our neighbor that he was going to be working on his furnace again that following Sunday, so I made a batch of our favorite cookies and took them over, along with a note telling him how grateful we were for his generous gift. You know what? We are almost out of wood. We do not have enough to get through the rest of these cold Michigan winter days and very cool Michigan spring nights. We will be able to keep the kids warm...simply with the turn of a dial!

We feel so loved by God!

God is shining an oil lamp at our feet and illuminating just the next step for us. We don't need to see the entire path to take each lighted step with confidence, because we know Who it is that leads us. He can be trusted. (Thanks, Jeny, for your thoughts on this on your blog!)

Monday, March 3, 2008

"Gabriel is transforming...

"...into a seven-year-old!"

That's what the Transformers birthday party invitations Gabe and I made said, putting Gabe into a full-faced grin with each card he worked on. Together we designed them and printed them out, and he decorated them with Transformers stickers.

On Friday, I baked a scrumptious cake, chocolate-chocolate chip and blew up some balloons and ordered some pizza. Only three of his little buddies were able to show up, but he didn't care. He had a blast just the same, as did all the rest of our crew. I'm really not that great at organizing and hosting a blow-out kids party. And even though I'm going to post a couple of pictures of the party, please don't look too closely at the cake. I wish I had my dear friend Jeny's talent of crafting magical birthday cakes that really are too pretty to eat! I just slapped on some icing and arranged a Transformers toy on top, and that was all Gabe wanted...and about all I could really handle this week in the cake-decorating department. And party games? Well, the kids and I "transformed" long skinny balloons into swords and hats. And we "transformed" some styrofoam parts into flying airplanes and launched them about the house. (The planes came disassembled...3/$1!) And then after present time, we pulled out the boys' bucket of Transformers and they played and transformed machines into robots and back again while watching an episode of "Transformers, Roll Out!" as they waited for the parents to pick them up. I'd say it was a successful party, even with the pitiful...but delicious, if I must say so myself...birthday cake. (It went perfect with a cup of hot coffee the next morning!)

Some of you may not remember, but when Gabriel was born seven years ago, he made his entrance in the world three weeks early and as fast as a race car. His lungs were filled with fluid, and he spent the first week of his life in the NICU. That first day, the doctor told me that Gabe's recovery expectancy was about 50/50. I was so much in shock and I totally didn't believe him. Rob called our pastor, Pastor Jeff Hossler...we miss them!!!...and he immediately started the church's prayer chain. A few hours later a neonatal specialist burst into my recovery room and was so excited she was out of breath. "It's like he's a completely different baby! His lungs are clearing and he's out of the woods!" God had worked a miracle in my sweet little baby boy's life. Gabe still had to work a little more fluid out of his lungs, and then he had to learn to eat and breath at the same time. He was born on a Saturday, and he was not allowed to eat until the following Wednesday! We weren't able to hold him for the first four days of his life. Then he fought off a raging case of jaundice that nearly required a complete transfusion of his body's entire blood volume. But exactly one week after his birth, to the very hour actually, we were rolling out of the hospital to our home with a healthy, albeit goldenrod yellow, baby boy. What a gift from God is our little boy!

Gabe, hours old, fighting for his life.

Caleb LOVES his new baby brother, who is only 9 days old here.

I'm totally in love...again! (No, I'm not choking him; I'm burping him! His cheeks were just so chubby they sprawled out everywhere. Oh, how I loved to kiss those sweet jowls. Maybe I kissed him too much, which explains why I have to chase him down for kisses now!)

Seven years later...

Happy Birthday, buddy!