Friday, December 28, 2007

Today Resolutions


This is the time of year when many people make "New Year's Resolutions" which they plan on putting into effect on January 1st, saying "2008 is the year that I will finally..lose weight, do my devotions daily, not lose my temper at my kids, send everyone I know a birthday card (on time,) spend more time with family, keep the house sparklingly clean, make sure my car has all needed maintenance on schedule, tithe regularly, go on a monthly date with my spouse"...you get the idea. Then they go out and do whatever they want for the next few days with the idea that they'd better get in all their fun before they have to shape up and start living up to their resolutions. I'm not saying that it's wrong to make some decision to change for the better, or to make long-range life goals. In fact, I need to make some of those resolutions myself..or maybe all of them. But why wait until January 1st to start? Why not start today? One resolution I have made is to stop procrastinating. I read Mick Huckabee's book Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork: A 12-Stop Program to End Bad Habits and Begin a Healthy Lifestyle recently, and one of his main points is that people need to stop putting off change for lame reasons that don't really matter. So my problem with New Year's Resolutions is two-fold. First, if you break them it's too easy to say, "Well, I didn't make it this year, I'll try again next year" or to just give up, thinking that you have no will-power. Second, we try to make these changes on our own, as though somehow if we just wish for it enough or think about it enough, we'll change. A better approach would be to look back over the past year, confessing to the Lord the ways in which our lives have not pleased Him, and asking for His help to change. Change may be painful, but it can happen slowly and steadily in our lives.

So I propose making Today Resolutions, which would sound something like this: "Today, with God's help and under His guidance, I will strive to (insert resolution here). If we fail at it, we ask God's forgiveness and make the same resolution the next day. We lean on His strength and not our own to change. We enlist accountability partners to check on us and our progress. We scrutinize our lives for what small things need to change in order to effect change on a grander scale. And speaking of scales, that's my first Today Resolution: never get on a scale again Instead of worrying about the scale, I need to exercise daily, eat healthy balanced meals, and avoid refined sugar and fried foods. But I can only do this with the Lord's help. I'm not waiting for January 1st to make some resolutions in my life. I'm starting today.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Traditions and Fun

I'm just going to post a few pictures of what we've been doing around here...It's been a wonderful Christmas, and even sweeter this year knowing that our son is alive and cancer-free. We have treasured this time with our children more than ever.
First, we made cookies with Grandma and Aunt Esther:Then, we drove around Savannah one night looking at Christmas lights:Then, we took the kids ice skating at the Civic Center:After that we went to the Westin Hotel lobby, where they have an impressive display of gingerbread houses, including a four-foot tall replica of the hotel itself: Finally, yesterday we had a blessed Christmas day:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Homeschool Family...

Here is a great video one of my friends sent us recently. (Thanks, Jenny!) Enjoy.

And in the same vein, here are some Christmas lyrics I really like; feel free to sing along as you read them:

To the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas:"


On the first day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can you homeschool legally?"

On the second day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the third day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fourth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fifth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "YOU ARE SO STRANGE! What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the sixth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How long will you homeschool, YOU ARE S0 STRANGE, what about P.E. , do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the seventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the eighth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the ninth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "They'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the tenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the eleventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the twelfth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can they go to college, I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the thirteenth day of homeschool I thoughtfully replied: "They Can go to college, yes you can do this, they can have graduation, we don't like the prom, we do it cuz we like it, they are missing nothing, we'll homeschool forever, WE ARE NOT STRANGE!, We give them P.E., and we give them tests, they are socialized, AND WE HOMESCHOOL LEGALLY!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What about really fat guys?

A FOX NEWS story today shares that some scientists think women "evolved" differences in their backs in order to compensate for the extra weight they must carry when pregnant, thus keeping them from toppling over forward. The differences include an extra vertebra, specialized joints in the spine, and a larger hip joint. "This elegant evolutionary engineering is seen only in female humans and our immediate ancestors who walked on two feet, but not in chimps and apes, according to a study published in Thursday's journal Nature" states this delightful piece. The scientists in question, Katherine Whitcome and Daniel Lieberman from Harvard University in Cambridge, and their colleague Liza Shapiro of the University of Texas at Austin, don't offer any proof that these differences have evolved, merely evidence that they exist, and have existed (according to them) for at least 2 million years. Because these differences are not existent in chimps and apes, they assume that humans adapted and evolved once they began walking upright. Since no fossils have ever been found that show evolution of such primates into humans, this is a faulty assumption to make. Now, if they were to find human female skeletons where these differences did NOT exist, and then some where they seemed to be developing, and then some where they suddenly existed, I would have to rethink my entire worldview. But as evidence stands, it seems much more logical to believe that women were DESIGNED this way ("male and female He created them...") and have been like this since, oh, Eve was created. Saying that "evolution has tinkered..." to produce these differences just seems silly.

But if it's true, then we should be expecting American males of the human species to evolve similar changes in their spines and hips within the next few thousand years, since many of them have similar weight distribution issues:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

O Tannenbaum...

Last Saturday night we put up a Christmas tree. Now, I understand that some Christians refuse to put up a tree due to its pagan origins, (see here for an excellent explanation by a lady I respect of why they don't celebrate Christmas the way most people do,) and I appreciate the sentiment of not wanting to Christmas to be commercialized, losing its real meaning. But this year putting up the tree was even more meaningful for us than ever. We were blessed with a free tree from a local Home Depot--(long story short: they were donated to our brother-in-law's school, the principal didn't want them, she told him to take them, we got one of them.) We went to Esther and Nate's attic and got our lights and ornaments that we had left there. It was like a mini-Christmas going through the ornaments and remembering where we got them, whose they were, and what special significance they have. We put on Christmas music and spent a happy time together as a family, even indulging in molasses cookies and hot chocolate.
Last year at this time we had a tiny artificial tree with a few of our favorite ornaments, which are now stuck in India....But this year, we have a large, beautiful tree to remind us to thank God for the gift of His son, and we thank God for healing our son.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Our Hairs are Numbered

So, I haven't posted in almost three months, and several of my relatives--my Dad and Mom, brother Peter, and sister Mary--have all nicely nagged me to get back to writing. I sure haven't stopped thinking....I guess my problem is that I'm always thinking that I need to have something earth-shattering to write about before I can post, or that my posts must be finely-crafted, witty, worthy-of-publication pieces. Well, enough of that. I'm going to start writing several times a week, even if it's utter nonsense.

Lately I've been thinking about Luke 12:7 "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

Our family read the verse last week during family devotions, in its context of Luke chapter 12. But that verse just keeps playing over and over in my head. It has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I've always thought of it this way: God knows us each intimately in every way, even our bodies. But I never really thought of its literal meaning--He actual knows EACH OF OUR HAIRS. This year that means much more to me. I watched my son lose all his hair in April and May, then remain bald for three months. He was devastated, and refused to let most people see him without a hat on his head. His hair re-grew during July and August, first coming back in dark brown and very fine, like baby hair. Today it is back to his normal thick, wavy, beautiful coppery-red. Just the thought that God knows each of Bobby's hairs, and has caused them all to re-grow, is a beautiful thing. It shows us just how detailed our Creator is. It also tells me that God knows every cell of Bobby's body, and is in control of his recovery from cancer. What an amazing God!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Few Vignettes From Recent Days...

Ummm...we homeschool...
As I mentioned in my previous post, I met a lady last week while caring for my nephew at a local hospital's Meditation Garden. This other mom and I began talking, sharing about our kids and asking each other questions. At one point I turned to her and asked, "So where are your kids in school?" She got a wary look in her eyes, and answered "Well...umm...we home school..." Now I know what I look like when people ask me that question. I always feel like I need to prepare to be grilled with the inquiries that inevitably follow: What about socialization? How do you teach all your kids at once? Isn't it hard to make your kids obey and do their work? How do you know everything to teach them? Is it legal? And so on...So it was with great joy that I said to her, "Hey, I understand--we home school, too!" She breathed a sigh of relief and we began discussing the ins and outs of home schooling a high-schooler, what curriculum we use, and what a blessing it is to be able to spend so much time with our children. We had a nice time of encouraging one another.

Unity of heart...
Last night we had the privilege of going to Ephesus Baptist Church, where Eric preached the Word and we shared in a spaghetti dinner with the church members afterwards. What a nice time we had! I'm always thrilled at the bond that we have instantly with other believers. What was especially nice at Ephesus is that they have been praying for us for a year now, first while we were overseas and then since we have been back for Bobby's cancer treatment. Ephesus people came to visit us in the hospital, e-mailed us encouragement, and supported us financially with a love offering. Although we are just getting to know the people there, they know us very well already! And in a sense, we know them, too. Our hearts are united in love for the Lord and in seeking that He be glorified. It was wonderful to talk to many different people there and put faces to names from our e-mail list. I'm looking forward to going there again. Every time we have this sort of experience it makes me long even more for heaven, where we will be together with ALL believers, praising God and worshiping Him forever.

Unsure until November...
Today we took Bobby to the clinic, and the upshot of our visit is that we will not be sure whether or not he is relapsing until November, when they repeat the PET/CT scan. This is VERY hard for me. The waiting really gets to me, and even thought I'm trying to see things from an eternal perspective, and trying to trust the Lord, and trying to be patient, I am feeling weak in these areas right now. I know that God is teaching me patience and total reliance on Him. I'm just not thrilled with the lesson right now. Is that okay to say? Oh, yeah, the author of Hebrews talked about it, didn't he? Chapter 12:1-11 lays it out pretty clearly, especially verses 7-11. I am looking forward to the day when my life displays the "peaceable fruit of righteousness" on a consistent basis. In the meantime, I'm practicing fixing my eyes on Christ.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Pennies in the Fountain, Raisins in the Bushes

Yesterday I accompanied my sister-in-law Esther into Savannah in order to care for her 18-month-old, Teddy, while she went to a doctor appointment. Teddy is a wonderful little boy, evidence of God's healing power since he was born extremely clubfooted and today is walking and running around like any other kid his age. But that is not what this post is about today. Today I'm thinking about the incredible influence adults have on children, as we set examples for them with our lives.

While Teddy and I were waiting for his mommy to have her appointment, we spent two hours together playing and interacting. One of the first things I did was to take him into a garden that the hospital maintains as a "Meditation Garden." This means that there are benches, flowers, and a beautiful fountain. I like it in there because there are lots of things to entertain a one-and-a-half-year-old, and it's quiet and breezy. While in there, we were looking at the fountain when another lady came up to us with a little two-year-old girl. (Who, by the way was her niece, not her daughter, whom she was caring for while the girl's mom was at an appointment, and it turns out this lady has two daughters, 12 and 14, and they home school...but I'll leave that conversation for another post.) She started giving the little girl, Megan, pennies to throw in the fountain. Now, Teddy likes to throw things (usually rubber balls,) and when he saw this interesting activity he immediately began to ask me for coins by holding his little hand up and rubbing his fingers together. Within just a few minutes he had learned a new behavior--how to toss a coin into a fountain. Later, after having gone elsewhere and played for a while, we returned to the Meditation Garden, and he immediately began asking for pennies. But wait, before I get to that, let me tell you about another thing I taught him.

After being in the garden for a while, I decided to take Teddy out into a larger outdoor eating area where we could throw the ball and give him a snack. We played for a while, and then I gave him a little container with raisins in it. He ate a lot of them and then started throwing them on the ground. Now, I knew that at home he gets disciplined for throwing food on the floor, so I said, "No, no, Teddy, we don't throw food on the floor." He scowled at me a little, but then obeyed and set his little container down. (He's really a VERY good little kid.) When his back was turned, or so I thought, I scooped up the six or seven raisins he had thrown on the ground so that he wouldn't eat them. But, what to do with them? The nearest trash container was, oh, about 15 feet away. It was hot out, and I was tired. Should I get up and walk the 15 feet? Teddy still wasn't looking (I thought) so I chucked them into some bushes that were handy, right next to our bench. My laziness had a profound consequence. About two minutes later, when Teddy got tired of throwing his little ball around, he walked over to the bench and picked up the container of raisins. "Oh, he's still hungry," I thought. Wrong. He sauntered over to the bushes next to the bench, reached his chubby little hand in the container, and began throwing raisins into the bushes! There was nothing I could do about it. He had obeyed me when I told him to stop throwing the raisins on the ground, but then I had set the example for him by throwing them in the bushes. How could I then tell him to stop? I used the "distract and divert" approach to draw his attention elsewhere, and stowed the snack container in his bag.

After that we returned to the Meditation Garden, and he began asking for coins again. Of course, I had set the example for him by throwing some in earlier, and allowing him to, also. It was at that point that I began to ponder this: what kind of example am I setting for my own children? Teddy learned these new behaviors so quickly, and there would be no sense in telling him "no" when he saw a trusted adult doing them. So I started thinking--which of my children's behaviors that drive me nuts am I directly responsible for?

When my son's room is a mess--have I set a good example with my mess on the kitchen counter?

When my daughter reacts with heightened emotion and impatience to something--have I set a good example with my sudden anger and impatience?

When my kids put off doing something they've been asked to do--have I set a good example with my "just a minute" or "I'll be right there" that doesn't come true?

The list is quite long, and it's too painful to continue in this venue. I'm sure my family could enumerate many areas where my own example falls dismally short of the demands I place on others.

In John 13:15, Jesus, having just washed his disciple's feet, said, "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you." Jesus, our ultimate example. Throughout His life He set us the perfect example, which we are to follow. I always meditate on Philippians 2:1-11 although I know how short I am of the mark. I feel very humbled by these thoughts today, as I ponder the ways I need to change and grow in order to be a better wife and mother--be more like Christ. Thankfully, I know that the Holy Spirit is working in me to produce His fruit in my life, since I cannot effect these changes on my own power.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Homeschool Curriculum

Our family is starting our sixth year with home schooling, and I thought I'd just comment briefly on curriculum for anyone who is interested. There are so many curriculum choices out there that it can be overwhelming making decisions about what to use and what not use. The spectrum of choices runs from ordering a complete, packaged curriculum for your child's grade level to creating all your own materials. I've never had the desire to create all my own materials (why re-invent the wheel?) and we tried one year using all materials from one publisher. What we've discovered works best is to pick and choose the materials that fit our family's learning style, and the materials that I've found to be tried-and-true for us, while making sure that the curriculum is content-comprehensive for each grade level. We don't want our kids to have huge gaps in their learning. So here are the materials we chose for this year:

Caroline--9th grade:

Teaching Textbooks Geometry
Alpha Omega LifePac Spanish I
Vocabulary from Classical Roots Book B
Analogies Book 2
Bob Jones University Publishers (BJUP) English 9
Sonlight Core 200--History of Christianity, Bible, Literature, Creative Writing
Apologia Physical Science
She's also working on piano lessons, computer keyboarding skills and will be learning to sew.

Mary--5th grade:

Horizons Math 5
Megawords Vocabulary Book A
BJUP Writing & Grammar 5
Piano lessons and learning to sew
(see below for shared curriculum)

Bobby 3rd grade:

Horizons Math 3
BJUP Writing & Grammar 3
Dangerous Book for Boys (going through with Daddy)
(shared curriculum below)

Mary and Bobby both use these:

Apologia Elementary Science: Astronomy, and Swimming Creatures
Spelling Power (each at their own level)
A Reason for Handwriting (at grade appropriate level)
Sonlight Core 3 American History, Reading, Bible memorization, Creative Writing
Powerglide Spanish Elementary Level

So we have our work cut out for us this year, but I think we are up to the challenge. It has already been fun seeing them learn new things in the week and a half that we have been back at school. I'm praying we'll have a really successful school year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No, I haven't lost the ability to think...

I know, I'm delinquent in my blogging...But I have been thinking a lot about many things. Just not writing about them.

Actually, we went on a 3 1/2 week trip during which we had limited internet access, and then came home to messed up internet access. Any internet time usually went to my husband, who has to post on TBNN. Well, he doesn't HAVE to...

Our trip was awesome. I saw all of my siblings all together in one place, which hasn't happened since July 5th, 1991, when Eric and I got married. I saw my wonderful parents re-affirm their vows after 50 years of marriage. We spent two weeks at my parents' house, some of that time with my brother Peter and his family, and then we spent a week at Seneca Lake, my favorite place on this earth. On the way home we stopped at Gettysburg and learned more about the battlefield and the battle itself.

Back at home, things with us have sort-of normalized in that we no longer spend half our time in the hospital. Bobby's central line was removed before we went on our trip, which made things much easier. I didn't have to take boxes of syringes filled with saline and heparin, tons of alcohol prep pads, and dressing change kits in order to care for his line. We just didn't have to worry about it at all! But things are not normal in that we still don't really know what we're doing, future-wise. I find this very unsettling and strange. My whole life I've always had a plan. I've always known what was coming next. Now, I'm just waiting...It's not a terrible place to be, just weird.

I'm currently reading The Roots of Endurance by John Piper, a set of biographical sketches of Charles Simeon, John Newton, and William Wilberforce. It's good so far--I'll write about it when I'm done.

We were really happy last week to find out about an Indian grocery store here in Savannah. It's called Shivam, and, in true Indian fashion, can only be found by word-of-mouth directions, since the storefront doesn't face the street but rather is perpendicular to the street, and nobody would ever know it's there. One of Bobby's doctors who is Indian told me about it. We were pleased to see that they sell most of the products that we had come to use/know/love over in India: besan (garbanzo flour,) naan, Indian-made "biscuits" (i.e. cookies,) vegetable seasoning, Limca (a soft drink,) dosa mix, and some cheater-type seasoning packets for butter chicken, tandoori chicken, etc. So now I can cook Indian food to my heart's content. I do miss some things about India, and the amazing food is one of them. I will never forget sitting with my friend Pintu, eating samosas that were so spicy they could make your hair stand on end. They were wonderful.

Another thing that has made life more normal is that we have started our school year. Caroline is doing 9th grade this year, Mary 5th, and Bobby 3rd. We are excited to get going on the year, and the kids are being really good about it. Bobby is having a little bit of difficulty getting into "school" mindset after the last few months, but he's getting there. Notice that instead of a school book he's holding up a Spiderman folder. That should tell you where his mind is.

I'm going to try to keep blogging regularly now that we have our internet up and running again, thanks to Devin Bell, the pastor at Rothwell Baptist Church. THANKS, DEVIN!!!

More soon....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Several Small Posts Within....

CIVIL WAR HISTORICAL FICTION

What is it with me and war history? When I was in high school I read everything I could get my hands on about World War II. Then in college I read World War I poetry, diaries, and other primary sources. Now it's America's great war. I just recently read Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure. Last year I read his father Michael's The Killer Angels, from which the movie "Gettysburg" was derived. If you have any interest at all in American history I would highly recommend all three books. The Shaara men have done their research, reading countless pages of primary sources in order to put together books that are readable, fascinating, and gripping. The stories span the time period from right before the Civil War until right after it, and offer a balanced, fair view of both sides as well as very clear descriptions of each battle. Told from the perspective of various officers, the books draw you in to the action, making you feel as though you are present for it, and leaving you exhausted from the experience. After reading these books I have a much better understanding of the issues surrounding the Civil War (or, The War Between the States, or, The War of Northern Aggression) and a good grasp of the chronology of the battles and progression of the war, as well as a new appreciation of the horrors of war.

ELISABETH ELLIOT

Now I'm reading A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot. I am only a few chapters in, and won't write a full review of it until I'm done, but let me offer you a sample from Chapter Four:
A pastor's wife asked,"When one witnesses a work he has poured his life into 'go up in flames' (especially if he is not culpable) is it the work of Satan or the hand of God?"...When a man or a woman belongs to God (when the branch dwells in the Vine) it is the hand of God at work when the pruning comes, regardless of the second causes. A life's work--what to us is a perfectly good branch, perhaps the only "important" branch--may be cut off. The loss seems a terrible thing, a useless waste. But whose work was it? This is a question I have had to ask a number of times about work which I had thought of as my vocation, my life's work, apparently thrown on the brushpile. Was it not work given by God in the first place, then given back to Him day by day? Jesus said God is the Gardener, the One who takes care of the vines. The hand of the Gardener holds the knife. It is His glory that is at stake when the best grapes are produced, so we need not think He has something personal against us, or has left us wholly to the mercy of His enemy Satan. He is always and forever for us.
She goes on to talk of the pain of the pruning process. There is so much Godly wisdom in this book that I can't even begin to cite all the examples. I really need to read this right now, when I have so many unanswered questions about what our family is going through.

BIZARRE BOOKS

On a totally different topic, when Caroline and I were in the public library here last week, I saw a book in the children's section with a title I could not believe. I'm embarassed to even put it on my blog. Let's just say that the author has other books entitled The Day my Butt Went Psycho and Butt Wars:The Final Conflict, whose review on Amazon.com states "Zack Freeman (and his butt) have twice saved the world from total reek-dom. But now the young butt-fighter faces his nastiest challenge yet: Hundreds of thousands of Great White Butts attacking the earth with giant brown blobs are about to cause Buttageddon. In order to stop them, Zack will have to hitch a ride in a time-traveling buttmobile, back to the reign of the prehistoric buttosaurs. Can Zack battle the Tyrannosore-arses, juggle a giant arseteroid, and put the butts-gone-bad back in their place? Or will the entire world be abutterated?"
I don't want to print the other two reviews here. Okay--most of you who know me well know that I'm not the prissiest woman around, and have been known to laugh at jokes about behinds or other mildly crude things. But c'mon people, do 9-12-year-olds (the stated reading audience for these books) really need help getting gross? For one of the books the Amazon site declares that it has the word "butt" on literally every page. Is this necessary? Do we need books that encourage kids to be obsessed with their rears? It might be funny for a page or two, but it isn't what I want my kids reading. There are plenty of other books out there that are funny without being horribly crude. YUCK!

GLUTTONY AS A SPORT

Just a short note expressing my disgust for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest during which a man named Joey Chestnut ate 66 hot dogs AND BUNS in twelve minutes. Yes, you read that right. 66. With buns. The runner-up ate 63. And the sports channels are treating this "competitive eating" as a true sport. The announcers talk about the "training regimen" the contestants have undergone, and the rivalries between the "top eaters," even discussing the "jaw injury" one of the eaters experienced during "training." Hmmm...I wonder why he has a brain jaw injury. Could it be from stuffing his face like a pig competitive eating? If you Google this topic you will find that there are contests for "Major league eating" of almost any food imaginable. At a time when over half the US population is overweight, and nearly a third falls into the category of obese, this is just ridiculous. Have people lost their minds?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"I'm Not Dead Yet!"

LODGED by Robert Frost

The rain to the wind said,
'You push and I'll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged--though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

Have you ever felt "lodged?" Have your circumstances in life ever made you feel as though you just can't take any more stress? Do you know how those flowers felt? I do. I have just been through the most stressful year, so far, of my life. During it we have sold almost all our possessions, moved from North Carolina, traveled and visited family for a month and a half, attended an intense seven-week training, said goodbye to family (thinking it was for three years,) moved overseas, began learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture, lived in a very difficult place, discovered a tumor on my son's neck, packed everything and moved back to the U.S., and endured nearly three months of chemo with an eight-year-old. Now we are in the follow-up stage, with no certainty of our future plans. Then over the last two days my father has had a couple of heart attacks, and had to have a blockage fixed in a coronary artery.

I took three different "stress analysis" tests online, and scored in the "HIGH STRESS" category on all three. Of course, two of those tests turned out to be very slickly designed ads--one for anti-depression medication, the other for time-management tools--but the third was at a health/medical website that didn't seem to have any agenda. I already know I'm stressed. But here's the thing: what do I do about it? Should I sit around worrying and fretting? I like Frost's poem because the flowers are lying there lodged, but NOT DEAD. They have not given up. It reminds me of the scene in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" where they are loading all the dead bodies (of plague vicitms) on a cart so they can haul them away and burn them, and one old man says "I'm not dead yet!...in fact, I think I'd like to go for a walk!" In the movie one of the body-haulers beans him over the head with a board, and they carry him away. Pardon my morbid sense of humor, but I always think that's funny. Likewise, in "The Princess Bride" Westley spends a whole day "mostly dead" and is brought back to life by the power of his true love for Buttercup. He never gives up! Even when he is mostly paralyzed, he perseveres.

Now, I know movie illustrations are only good if you've seen the movie, so I'll desist from using any more of them. What, then, is the true love that brings us all back from the dead, or "mostly dead?" What keeps us going when life is pushing and pelting us? Are we wallowing in self-pity or learning from our suffering? Are we giving up or persevering? A passage of Scripture that has taken on deeper meaning for me is 2 Corinthians 4:1-12:
4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.
This encourages me because what it tells me is this: we have been called to share the gospel with others. Somehow all of our trials and stress will show that all the glory, honor, and power are God's and not ours. And along the way, we are sharing in Christ's sufferings, learning to walk more closely with Him, feeling just a tiny bit of what He went through here on earth, so that we can later share in His eternal life. How amazing is our great God!
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, ifwe do not give up. Galatians 6:9
So, I'm not dead yet. In fact, I think I'd like to go for a walk...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Rudeness, Anyone?

I have gotten used to seeing all the cutesy words on t-shirts that teenage girls wear these days: "angel," "hottie," "princess," "look but don't touch," and so on, ad nauseam. I've even gotten used to certain "attitudinal" t-shirts that seem to be worn most frequently by 12-14-year-old boys: "will trade sister for video game," "runs with scissors," etc. And I know that there are plenty of t-shirts that have all sorts of foul things printed on them. But today I saw one that really bothered me. I'm not sure why--it didn't affect me directly. It just bugged me. It said:

It was being worn by a mom who was shopping in Wal*Mart with her three kids. I didn't stalk her through the store to see if her choice of t-shirt had anything to do with her actual personality or modus operandi. I just read her t-shirt and kept walking. And then I realized how much the message on the shirt bothered me. It is so dismissive and rude, and instantly squelches any attempts anyone might make at befriending the wearer. Who knows, maybe that was her point. I don't know her or her circumstances, so I won't make any snap judgements. What really bothers me is the attitude behind what was printed on that shirt--and the fact that so many people walk around with that attitude, even if they are not wearing a shirt proclaiming it. Rudeness has become tacitly approved in our society, and even applauded in some arenas. I tried to do some on-line research on rude t-shirts, and pretty much every site I tried to look at I had to immediately close down because of the obscene nature of the material on them. As a society we have lost our sense of decency, and it seems that almost anything goes. The shirt I saw today was not the most obscene I've ever seen in Wal*Mart, but it was one of the rudest. When wit crosses the line from humor to mean sarcasm, I've had enough of it.

I pray that my attitude will never display to those around me as "please don't interrupt me...." but rather that I will be known by my love and concern for others and openness to talking to them and getting to know them. I seem to recall the Bible saying something about Christians being known by their love. AMEN!

Monday, June 11, 2007


Last Saturday the girls and I attended a cancer survivors celebration at Bobby's hospital. Bobby was worn out from our family outing on Friday (movie, mall, and dinner) so he and Eric stayed home. I had been asked to speak at the celebration along with one of Bobby's doctors, a cancer dietician, and two cancer survivors. It turns out that Dr. Frankel is also a cancer survivor--kidney cancer 10 years ago! It was a nice time--many breast cancer survivors as well as lymphoma, leukemia, and other types. Here is the full text of what I spoke on--now, I used an outline on notecards, so this is not word-for-word, exactly what I said. But I came pretty close :)

"Eric and I had often discussed cancer before this year, but always in terms of ourselves, not our children. My husband has quite a family history of prostate cancer--both grandfathers, his dad, and three uncles, and my mom has had breast cancer. So we have often talked about cancer as it relates to us. But it hadn't touched our immediate family. February 13th was a day that changed my family’s life forever. We were living overseas, and I was in the middle of a language lesson when my eight-year-old son Bobby walked into the room and sat down at the table next to me. I turned to look at him, and noticed that his neck seemed bulged out strangely on the left hand side. I didn’t know it then, but that little lump would change everything.

The story sounds familiar, I’m sure. A routine diagnostic test that shows something suspicious; a lump where there shouldn’t be one; a strange patch of discoloration on the skin; pain that remains unexplained until….Until you get that diagnosis…CANCER! For Bobby, that meant diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, and it was aggressively growing in his body as two tumors, one on the side of his neck and one in his throat. We couldn’t believe it. Our jolly, funny, smart little boy had CANCER!!! All of you who have gotten that diagnosis know that sick feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach, and the sense of unreality that envelops your life for a few days, until the reality sinks in and you have to go into pro-active "survival" mode.

We returned to the US within two weeks, and sought treatment here at Backus Children’s Hospital under the care of Drs. Frankel and Gonzalez and the outstanding staff at the Outpatient Clinic and on the Hematology/Oncology Unit in the hospital itself. After five week-long inpatient rounds of chemo in just two and a half months, Bobby had a clear PET scan on May 30th. He is currently cancer-free and we are in the follow-up phase.

Now, you all know that that was the very short version of what has been a long, life-changing experience which will continue to affect our lives for years, particularly my son’s life. But what I really want to speak to you about today in terms of Celebrating Survival and Mind, Body, and Spirit, is what is getting us through this experience: our hope and trust in a loving God who is in control of our lives, and does all things according to His purpose. My husband and I are Bible-believing Christians, by which I mean that we believe that people can be saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, and live a full, abundant life through a restored relationship with the God of the Universe. Throughout the course of our lives we have had to learn to trust God, with the knowledge that He is good and loving, and that He is in control. This faith has proven to be the mainstay that has given us peace during each difficult phase of Bobby’s cancer so far.

One of the first things we realized when Bobby started his chemo treatments is that we had very little control over what was happening to his body. We could not control the cancer, we could not control the chemo treatments—the “roadmap” was laid out for us, and we had little control over the side effects. Although let me say that I’m amazed at the advances that have been made in side-effect control, and thank God for Zofran! Loss of appetite, mouth sores, fatigue—these are all hard for an eight-year-old boy, and he had to learn quickly that they were beyond Dad and Mom’s control. So what could we do? We could trust. We simply had to trust the doctors to be using the best treatments they know for our son. We had to trust the nurses and techs to give him the best possible care day-to-day. We entrusted Bobby to them, and these professionals did not disappoint us. We trusted God to be in control of every aspect of Bobby’s care, and He did not disappoint us.

We do not understand why some people get cancer and others don’t. We, like you, have many unanswered questions about the whys and wherefores of human suffering. Interestingly enough, my husband and I had begun to study the concept of suffering while we were overseas, seeing a lot of human suffering first-hand. My husband even preached on the topic back in January. Then Bobby was given a preliminary diagnosis of lymphoma. It’s a little different when you are the one doing the suffering. While we were still overseas, one of our friends there read us this verse from the Old Testament, found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 41, verse 10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” We also looked to the words of Christ in the gospel of John chapter 14, verse 27: “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” These verses gave us hope and faith so that no matter what the outcome, we would trust God

So how do we handle this on a practical level? I’ve already discussed Bobby’s body and what little control we had over what happened to it. But I also believe that physical well-being is intrinsically linked to mental and spiritual well-being. What about his Mind? With the help of the Child Life specialists we were able to keep him occupied and entertained—reading aloud to him for hours, playing video games, and watching the History Channel. That part was easy. Keeping his spirits up was a little harder. Our family has always liked to laugh and joke, and during cancer treatment keeping your sense of humor is paramount. But there were times when our attempts at humor fell flat, and all that would sustain Bobby’s spirits was comfort and love, and a lot of patience. One huge factor in keeping our spirits up has been the love and support of our friends and family. We have been continually blessed: phone calls, cards, meals, e-mails, gifts for Bobby and the girls, and lots of prayer. Our support network is phenomenal, and I don’t know how anyone goes through something like this without such support.

With a lot of laughter, some dogged perseverance, support of family and friends, and faith in God, we have come through this trial and out the other side. Bobby is regaining physical strength that he lost, and slowly returning to his previous cheerful self after several months of high stress and, quite frankly, some major spoiling by many friends and family. Our family is enjoying our time together, treasuring it like never before.

I celebrate survival today with all of you, whether you have reached a point where doctors are using the word “cure” or whether you are still in chemo treatments. Cancer does not have to rule us, cancer does not have to define us, but we should not waste this experience; we should learn from it and be stronger because of it. We should be determined to help others who are going through the same thing, and we should all be willing to help raise funds for cancer research! One of the most important outcomes for our family is that it has strengthened our faith in our loving God, and brought us closer to Him, and I praise Him for that. I pray God’s blessings on each of you as we celebrate survival."

My talk seemed to be pretty well-received, except by one couple who rolled their eyes at my first mention of God, and pretty much tuned me out after that. How do I know? Well, the fact that they talked to each other out loud across their table kind of clued me in...

Several people there who are Christians came up and thanked me for being so vocal about it. Several others came up and thanked me for my "spiritual" discussion and said they were glad my "faith" had seen me through. I told them that it was faith in God that saw me through, not just faith. It was a great opportunity to witness and share with others. If even just one person is brought a step closer to the Lord through all of this it will be worth it. I'm praying that we'll have many more such opportunities in the next few months.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mad Mom and Mad Science

Yesterday morning I sort-of blew up at my children. Not really. I didn't yell or holler, I just really lectured them about certain bad behaviors. I was interrupted for the umpteenth time, and I had just had it. Caroline bore the major brunt of my (righteous) wrath, but Mary and Bobby each got a dose of talking-to also. They were remorseful and asked forgiveness, which I freely gave. We all agreed that there are several things we need to work on in our family: interrupting, complaining, arguing, and general unpleasantness to name a few. (I'm sure there are other families dealing with these issues, too.) Eric and I try to keep the bar high as far as behavioral expectations go, and we both have felt with the stress of the past few months that the standards have slipped some.

After our "fun" disciplinary moments, the kids and I were off to a "Mad Science" demonstration at a local public library (we love the "summer reading program" stuff!)
It was there that I realized what great kids I actually have. Watching many of the other children stand when told to sit, talk when told to be quiet, poke and annoy those around them, call out smarty answers, sigh with "boredom" and roll their eyes, and generally be total brats made me realize that my children are really pretty well-behaved kids. It was encouraging to me to see them sitting politely, being interested (and it really was a COOL presentation by the "Mad Science" ladies,) and treating others with respect. My friend Chandra was there with me, with three of her children, and they behaved wonderfully, too.

As we drove away from the library I thanked my children for behaving so well, and told them that they not only pleased me with their behavior but also honored the Lord. I was so thankful for their witness through their behavior. I guess what I can learn from this is the value of keeping the bar high, and the necessity of consistent discipline. It also has great bearing on my own life as the Lord molds and shapes me, disciplining me consistently, too. Sometimes it's painful, but I know He is working to make me more like Him.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Son's Cancer is Gone!!!

Today we found out that Bobby's cancer is gone. Praise the Lord! I cannot describe the feeling of relief that swept over me when I heard Dr. Frankel say that the PET scan showed no signs of cancer at all. We are so grateful to God for His healing of Bobby, and thankful to the doctors and nurses and technicians who treated him so carefully. Now we enter the "follow-up" stage, where we kind of wait-and-see if the cancer relapses. We trust the Lord completely, however, so whatever happens we will give Him the glory.

Monday, May 28, 2007

An Excellent Resource for Anyone Who is Suffering


Good theology is esential if we are going to suffer well. It will help us persevere during our trials, and it will give us hope. We believe that "Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning" (Ps. 30:5). It is faith in our good and sovereign God that enables us to wait until the morning. But we must never forget that often the night is long and the weeping uncontrollable.(175)

So begins Dustin Shramek's essay "Waiting for the Morning during the Long Night of Weeping" in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God,an excellent book edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. The book is actually a collection of chapters written by several different authors: John Piper, Mark R. Talbot, Stephen F. Saint, Carl F. Ellis, Jr., David Powlison, Dustin Shramek, and Joni Eareckson Tada. These writings are organized under three main headings: The Sovereignty of God in Suffering, The Purposes of God in Suffering, and The Grace of God in Suffering.

The chapters cover the spectrum of Christian writing styles, from the deep and complex theological treatment "All the Good That is Ours in Christ":Seeing God's Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us (by Mark Talbot)to the more conversational yet Biblically-rooted easier-to-read Sovereignty, Suffering, and the Work of Missions (by Stephen Saint.) The former has enough footnotes to make even the most stalwart scholar go pale, but in all fairness to Talbot, he does warn us that we should read it through first without the footnotes, and then re-read it with them. Once I did that, his meaning was clear and I truly enjoyed his writing style. I liked the fact that there were several different authors with varied styles and different perspectives on suffering. It also helped to know what intense suffering some of them have gone through in their own lives, which gives them credibility and lends weight to their statements.

What did I learn from this book? There are too many things to list them all here, so I'll just hit the highlights:

John Piper gives an excellent explanation for God's sovereignty over suffering, and how God's ordaining of something we consider "evil" happening does not mean that He is the cause of the evil Himself. Piper gives us ten areas in which God is sovereign over Satan, explaining each one thoroughly. In later chapters, Piper deals with the sufferings of Christ and the question of WHY? that so many of us ask ourselves about our own sufferings. (The short answer to the WHY? question is "Because it brings God glory." The long answer is given by Piper in describing six different things that suffering does or produces in our lives, which in turn bring God glory.)
The ultimate purpose of the universe is to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. The highest, clearest, surest display of that glory is in the suffering of the best Person in the universe for millions of undeserving sinners. Therefore, the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering and bring about the praise of the glory of the grace of God. (89)

Mark Talbot explains the theology of the sovereignty of God over evil VERY thoroughly, working into his chapter an explanation of Open Theism and then refuting it.

Stephen Saint offers a very well-thought-out argument for the idea that God not only "allowed" his father's death, but actually "planned" it and then says:
You know what my conclusion is? I don't think God merely tolerated my dad's death. I don't think he turned away when it was happening. I think he planned it. Otherwise I don't think it would have happened. This was a hard realization for me to come to. I once said that while speaking at a church, and a man came up afterwards and said, "Don't you ever say that again about my God." Afterward I found these verses in Acts 2: "Men of Israel, listen to these words. Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know, you know he was God. You nailed him to a cross, you godless people. But he was delivered up to you by the predetermined plan of God." vv. 22-23. Then I thought: Don't anybody tell me that this can't be. If God could plan the death of his own righteous Son, why couldn't he plan the death of my dad? (117)

Joni Eareckson Tada gives invaluable insight from her many years of suffering as a quadriplegic, and the other authors' chapters are good, also.

Several things in this book convicted me about my own attitudes and actions. I felt struck in the face by Ellis' idea that "In essence, we reenact the fall every time we give in to temptation." (123) OUCH!!! What a concept! I realized that I need to stop and take stock of my own life, my sins, my giving in to temptation, before I complain about any suffering I may be enduring. I need to place God's glory above my pain. I need to stop asking "WHY?" and start looking for how God is being glorified through this experience.

To put it all in perspective, here is my favorite paragraph from the book, in Ellis' chapter:
In many ways suffering is a mystery. I take comfort in what Francis Schaeffer told me many times: "We only see the debit side of the ledger now. We don't see the credit side yet. When we see the whole ledger we will say, 'Oh, why didn't I see it that way before?'" This is why the Bible tells us to see now by faith. Though suffering is a mystery to us, it is not a mystery to God. Mysteries may be painful, but they should not perplex us. To God, there is no mystery. He is satisfied because He sees the whole ledger. We will also be satisfied when we see things from God's perspective. Till then, we must learn to be satisfied with God's satisfaction. If we do, we will have peace.(125-126)

If you are currently suffering in some way, or if you work with or are just friends with someone who is, I urge you to read this book.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Can You Hold, Please? Part II

Since Thursday I've been thinking a lot about this idea of life being on hold, and I realized that there are two major areas in my life where being on hold is difficult.

First is the fact that because of Bobby's immunity (or lack thereof) we have not been able to attend church regularly. We are having regular family Bible study, but haven't been able to gather with other believers and sing, praise, pray, study God's Word, and otherwise edify and be edified. This is really hard for me, as I think it would be for anyone. Even when we were overseas we met regularly with other believers--on Sunday mornings with a larger group for what would be considered a more traditional "worship service," and on Wednesday evenings with a small group for a meal and Bible study. For four short months we shared our lives with this small group, and our fellowship was suddenly interrupted. In fact, we had just begun to discuss organizing/creating more structure in order to form a house church which could then be a model for new believers. Now, we aren't a part of any local body, and this makes me feel very disconnected.

The other area of difficulty is this: because we are in a very stressful time of life, we are being ministered to BY others, but have not been able to minister TO others. Although I deeply appreciate all of the support and encouragement, and in fact believe that it is what has gotten us through this time so far, I miss being in a position to reach out and minister to others. Sure, I've prayed for and with many people since the start of this, listened to problems that some of the nurses and staff are having, and continued to pray for all of our friends and family here in the U.S. and overseas. But I miss being able to minister in more concrete ways. Then again, this lack of opportunity comes from not being connected to a church body.

Perhaps once we find out the results of Bobby's upcoming scan we will be able to plan our future a little more, and be able to join up with some sort of local church body, which will then give us people with which to share life and to whom we can minister.

In the meantime I'll just keep listening to the music while I'm on hold...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Can You Hold, Please?

Yesterday I spent almost half an hour on "hold" with our medical insurance company. I was checking on the injectable drug we need for Bobby (and still do not have a definitive answer as to when it's coming.) Now, you have to understand: I usually hate being on hold. It seems like such a waste of time. Usually my blood pressure rises and I can feel my annoyance level soar. But yesterday, as the woman I was dealing with kept coming back on the line and saying "Can you continue to hold?" I made up my mind not to be impatient. I popped myself some kettle corn, wrote some thank you notes, and made a to-do list. I figured it was better to use the time wisely than to just sit there fuming. The insurance lady seemed pretty surprised that I was still cheerful after twenty-five minutes. I apologized for crunching popcorn in her ear, and she reassured me that it was okay. Hmmmm...

Even though I still got no answers, I have been thinking about this experience a lot since then. I think that I was able to handle it better than I have in the past because of everything we have been going through lately. In a sense, our lives are on hold right now. We are constantly waiting--for blood counts to come back, to see how Bobby reacts to a particular drug, for an IV infusion to end, and now for the PET scan which isn't until May 30th. Living life on hold is very stressful. We are waiting to see what God is going to do next in our lives, and because Eric and I are both planners, this is difficult. I prefer to know things ahead of time, make a list, and get things done. Right now it's easy to get anxious, living on hold. Sometimes I feel my pressure start to rise, my stress increase; it is at these times that I have to purpose in my heart and mind to be patient. The Psalms help a lot: check out Ps. 27:12; 33:20; 37:7; and 40:1. I have to remind myself each day to be still and know that He is God. I also have been looking for worthwhile things to do to occupy the time as we live "on hold." I realize that I do have lots of time to spend with my husband and children, caring for them. I have been able to read some good books. I don't have to put everything on hold just because some of our major life decisions are in limbo. The other thing I remind myself of is that God is the one in control here, and He knows what's going to happen when life clicks back on the line. I don't need to worry about it! And unlike our insurance people, He has all the answers, and will give us what we need to know when we need it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Extreme Makeover?

Most of us have seen a magazine article or a television show in which women or men receive a "makeover," usually with dramatic results. "Wow!" we think, they really did a lot for that person; they look so much better. Often these makeovers are used as advertising for a particular cosmetic line or to showcase the skills of a makeup artist or hairdresser. We are led to believe that these changes can only be effected by professionals. (Don't try this at home, kids!) My cynical brain has noticed a few things about these makeovers, specifically about the "before and after" photos. In the "before" shots, the person usually: is not smiling, is dressed in drab or blah colors, has uncombed hair, is generally looking depressed and not doing ANYTHING to look decent. Then in the "after" picture, lo and behold! They are wearing a bright color, their hair is beautifully coiffed, and suddenly they are smiling--all is right with the world. Couldn't we achieve this same effect without professional help? This morning Bobby's nurses helped me do my own before and after pics, with results every bit as dramatic (I THINK):


What a difference a shower, some makeup, a bright colored shirt, a flat-iron for my hair, and a happy smile can make! Okay, I know I'm still not winning any beauty contests, but come on! Those pictures in the magazines are just not that incredible. Anyone can improve their appearance with just a little effort and discipline, a good brush, and a cheerful attitude.

Now, lest you think I'm staying shallow with this one, let me say that just doing this fun little experiment has me thinking about another transformation in my life: my salvation. According to the Bible I am a new creature and should be transformed by the renewing of my mind, into a reflection of God. Proverbs 31:30 says that "charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." So although physical makeovers are pleasant, a much more important transformation in our lives is our spiritual makeover. Sometimes this spiritual makeover can be painful, and not as simple as a physical transformation. As God peels away my layers it can really hurt, but I try to keep in mind that the end result will be wonderful. This train of thought also carries me to these questions: Do I display a radical transformation, an extreme makover, in my life as a result of being saved? Am I vastly different than I was before I was saved? What effort and discipline do I put into my spiritual appearance? What tools should I be using daily to renew my mind and refresh my spirit? I am deeply convicted by these questions. They make me think of an old gospel song:
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me;
All His wonderful passion and purity.
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine,
'Til the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.

That is the prayer of my heart.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Just for fun this morning...

I'd like to direct you to an interesting story I came across by way of a comment left on "Tom in the Box," and a follow-up article that is more recent. I'm astounded. Let's just look at two statements from the first article, and deal with one in a serious manner, and the other...well, you'll see...
Sommer, an evolutionary anthropologist, said: 'It's untenable to talk of dividing humans and humanoid apes because there are no clear-cut criteria - neither biological, nor mental, nor social.'

WHAT?!?!?! Even if our DNA is 96-98.4 per cent similar, as scientists claim, can anyone truly say there are no mental or social differences between humans and chimps? Are you kidding me? The biggest difference is this: human beings are created in God's image, and given dominion over other living creatures. Of course, I believe this because I believe the Bible to be God's inspired, inerrant Word. Once people throw out the Bible, they throw out any sense that we as humans are any different from animals. This is a big push in evolutionary education. It reminds me of the Disney song "You (Are a Human Animal)." I can't remember all the lyrics, but they say something like: "You are a human animal, you are a very special breed, for you are the only animal, who can think, who can reason, who can read." Interesting, eh? Even though the song equates humans with animals, it also (and perhaps unintentionally) points out the HUGE differences between us. Can animals think well enough to form an argument or philosophize? Can they reason (and here I'm referring to higher reasoning, not "see--banana--eat")? Can they read? NO. In the second article, one of the chimp's friends says that "Being with him is like playing with someone who can't talk." Okay--is it really? Can he understand every word you say? Is he thinking coherent thoughts, wishing he could reply? C'mon, people! This is not a human being who is merely unable to communicate freely. He is a chimp. And because I believe the Bible, I believe that human beings are made in the image of God, and chimps are not.
The other quote:
If Hiasl is granted human status, Martin Balluch, of the Association against Animal Factories, who has worked to bring the case, wants him to sue the vivisection laboratory. He said: 'We argue that he's a person and he's capable of owning something himself, as opposed to being owned, and that he can manage his money. This means he can start a court case against Baxter, which at the very least should mean his old age pension is secure.'
Wait a second--did I read that correctly? He (the chimp, not Balluch) "can manage his money"? and needs pension security? Have these people truly lost touch with reality? How can a chimp manage its money? Will he line his bed with it, eat it, or poop on it? Does this man really think that a chimp has a concept of the value of currency? Then Balluch stretches the absurdity even further by saying that the chimp should be able to initiate his own lawsuit. How? Does Balluch somehow have telepathy with the chimp? Will the chimp be able to type his request up? (That could go WAY off into how long it would take a room full of monkeys....ok, I'll stop.) Is Balluch serious about this? Why doesn't he truthfully say that he and his organization want to be able to control the money that has been donated to the chimp? Balluch's "Association Against Animal Factories" has such notable acheivements under its belt as rescuing hens and liberating lab rats. So now we come to another, related issue: These people are elevating animals to human status while ignoring the plight of humans in this world. Since 1973 there have been over 46 million abortions worldwide (40 million in the U.S. alone.) Millions of children worldwide die from starvation or easily curable diseases like malaria each year, or lead lives of illness, with scarce food and no safe water. And yet these people are pouring their time, energy, and money into saving the life of one chimp.

I have no more words.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why Can't I Think Straight?

Yesterday I called the way I feel inside my head lately "mind-fog." I can't think of a better way to describe this. I feel as though my brain has dropped down to about a two-thirds capacity working level--thinking, writing, concentrating, and being productive mentally are all much harder than they should be. So the big question is WHY?

Obviously, what we are going through does play a major part in this. I have been living at an elevated level of stress for almost a year now, and the last three months that stress level was kicked up a few notches. It's hard to get good sleep in the hospital when Bobby is in-patient, and even when he's out I tend to wake up a lot at night and have trouble going back to sleep. I wouldn't say that I'm am worried a lot, but stressed is definitely a good descriptor. But I think there is more going on here than the stress over Bobby. I have two other ideas for how I feel: first, it may be that my hormones are out of whack, and my thyroid is not doing so well. I'm already on thyroid medication, but perhaps it would benefit me to go to an endocrinologist and have a full check-up. Of course, the hormone thing could be triggered by the stress....Second, it may be that I'm dealing with an allergic reaction to the fairly new paint in this house. I have had trouble with these same symptoms before, and the only thing we could relate them to was new paint. The solution to this would be to make sure I spend a decent amount of time outdoors each day breathing fresh air. And perhaps I should see an allergy specialist.

There is a spiritual side to this as well. Through all of this the Lord has been teaching me that throughout my life, and especially the last several months, I have tried to rely on myself too much and not on Him. He is showing me that the only way I can get through this difficult time is to lean completely on Him, casting all my cares (stress/anxiety/worry)on Him. I confess that I often fail at this, instead believing that I can handle things on my own (after all, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and people like me!*) I have been way too self-reliant all my life, and I think the Lord is teaching me that self-reliance is the quickest way to failure. This morning I re-read Proverbs 3:1-8.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away form evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Today I plan on spending some time confessing sin, praying about how I can be more faithful and steadfast, and asking God to help me keep leaning on Him and not on my own understanding. I could sure use some "healing to my flesh and refreshment to my bones."

*this is a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit from the '90s, for those who don't know

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How I'm Doing These Days....Really...

So, I've been nagged second-hand by a certain person, who shall remain nameless here, that I need to post on my blog after my last few weeks of silence. I believe the smarty comment had something to do with wanting to know whether my advanced age (40) has anything to do with my seeming inability to blog. Now, this particular person should know that this is not the case, as he seems as prolific as ever on his blog! No, the problem is that I've been thinking so many deep thoughts that I just don't have the time to write them down.

But seriously...I haven't been writing for several reasons, which I'll try to describe cogently but succinctly here.

First, when I've had time to be on the computer I have spent it updating Bobby's Caringbridge site or reading other people's blogs and commenting on them. Second, other free time has been spent reading "Desiring God" by John Piper, and "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini. How is that for juxtaposition? Both books are pretty good...I'll give my opinions in a minute. Finally, I haven't been writing because my brain seems scrambled and scattered these days, and it's hard to put thoughts together coherently. I am very tired and stressed, and honestly not doing as well as a few weeks ago when I wrote this.
I'll post tomorrow about why I think I've been feeling this way (some of you are thinking "Duh! Her little boy has cancer.") I don't think that's all there is to it, but today I want to write about the two books I just finished.

"Desiring God" should be required reading for all Christians. In it, Piper explains his thoughts on "Christian hedonism," the idea that we are to ENJOY God, not just fear and obey Him, and how this brings Him glory. He discusses the concept of duty vs. enjoyment and how it relates to loving others, stewardship, worship, marriage, missions, suffering, and other aspects of our lives. It took me a while to read through because it seemed that nearly every page convicted me of something in my life or made me stop and ruminate. I have begun to ask myself--Do I truly enjoy and delight in the Lord? Do I do things in my life out of a mere sense of duty or obligation or do I strive to honor the Lord by serving Him GLADLY? I finished the book feeling challenged, with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment. If you haven't yet read it, I would encourage you to get your hands on a copy.

"Eragon" was a much easier read, and I actually read it because my 13-year-old, who writes book reviews of her own, had finished it and enjoyed it. I did enjoy the book, but couldn't help noticing the plot's similarities to "Star Wars." Apparently I'm not the only person who thought this. Let's see: a young man living in an Empire, being raised by his uncle, finds something unusual, sees his uncle killed and the family farm burned, meets an old man who begins to tutor him in the ways of the Force, er, I mean magic, goes on a journey with the old man and is given a sword, meets a sidekick/friend, saves a beautiful princess from jail...you get the picture. The parallels are not perfect but are strong enough to seem annoying. The descriptions seem overblown and the dialogue somewhat forced. The fact that it was written by a 15-year-old mitigates the book's problems somewhat, and I do think that Paolini will be a name in the realm of fantasy lit for a long time if he continues to churn out books at his current rate. I haven't seen the movie yet, but since my sweet daughter has it on hold at our library I'm sure that will happen soon.

As for my current reading, I have moved on to "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God" edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor. I'll post a review of it in a few days.

Tomorrow I'll write about my general mind-fog...

Friday, April 20, 2007

FORTY? WHO?


Today is my 40th birthday. I find this hard to believe. As of today, all five of my siblings and I are in our 40s. I have lived in parts of five decades and witnessed some monumental moments in our country's history:

1969 the landing on the moon (I actually have very dim memories of this)
A big blur of early 70s.....
1976 bicentennial celebration, Carter elected
1979-81 fall of the Shah of Iran, ensuing hostage crisis, etc.
1980s-early 90s Reagan, Bush I, fall of the Soviet Union, Desert Storm
1990s-Clinton yada, yada, yada
April 19, 1993 Burning of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX
April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing
April 20, 1999 Columbine shootings
2001-9/11--I'll never forget that day
2007-Alan Knox turning 40 before me! :)

As you may have noticed, my birthday seems to be a magnet for horrible occurrences (it's also Hitler's birthday) and is apparently a holy day for potheads everywhere
Every year I find myself holding my breath on my birthday, waiting to see what might happen. Now, this year we've already had our sometime-around-the 20th tragedy, I hope. I pray no other insane, evil people will do anything today. It's kind of hard to celebrate a birthday when everyone is glued to their TVs watching the latest disaster coverage. (What this all says about my birth, I don't know. Feel free to comment...)

Now, this post is not only a cheap ploy to get people to wish me a happy birthday--and to remind my sister Ruth that next year she'll be the first of the Putney kids to hit 50--but also a way of reflecting on my age and my life. I feel pretty good for forty, and I thank God for my husband, children, and friends. But as I reflect on middle age today, mostly I am ashamed that I have not done more for God's kingdom. I pray today for boldness in witnessing, for humility in serving, for strength in enduring life's struggles. I pray that I can spend the next forty years living all-out for the Lord, and not have any regrets, as I do now about my first forty years.

May God bless you on my birthday and every day.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sudoku Re-visited

As I suspected when I ranted about Sudoku, many people have strong opinions about that pasttime. Eric's Uncle Mel, a retired math professor, wrote me such a good letter that I thought I'd post it as kind-of a guest blog:

"Do you like to climb mountains? Why do people climb mountains? I have heard that it’s just because they (the mountains) are there. Is there any physical satisfaction in climbing a mountain? I am sure there is. Is there mental satisfaction in doing so? I am sure that some would say yes. If you ever spent several days climbing a mountain would there be any satisfaction at all.

Some people enjoy life by doing complicated tasks. Others do simple tasks and there are many examples of both simple and complicated tasks, too many to even go in to.

Now some say that doing Sudoku is too simple to waste one's time on. One person told me it’s too much like Math 101. Others take great pride in being able to solve even the simple or easy ones. It so happens that my brothers, my sister and I like to do Sudoku. Learning the techniques that one must use to solve each one is very fascinating.

Some say it’s too mathematical but let me assure that there is very little mathematics involved. Change the 1’s to A, the 2’s to B, the 3’s to C and so forth and where is the Mathematics? The only mathematics is really the “Pigeon Hole Principle” The Pigeon Hole Principle is easy to understand. If you have N items to put in N Pigeon Holes then it is possible to put exactly one item in every Pigeon Hole and it will exactly fill up every hole with exactly one item. Pretty Basic, right?

So here we have nine items, the numerals one through nine. You could say they are numbers but they are really the numerals representing the numbers 1-9.

Now we must put each of the numbers in the Pigeon Holes so that :

a. Each numeral appears in each row exactly once

b. Each numeral appears in each column exactly once

c. Each numeral appears in each 3 by 3 square exactly once.

Supposedly, the composers of the puzzle include enough numerals to start so that the solution can be made in only one way.

These puzzles can be done while watching a sporting event on TV. One can watch the TV, do the puzzle and not miss one play. A person who is unable to read on a plane or in a moving car because of the motion can do Soduku. Of course, one will miss the beauty of God’s earth, while traveling, but that does not matter if driving across parts of Texas. I suppose some might even attempt to do one while listening to a sermon in Church but I would not even suggest that.

Now some of these puzzles are harder than others but I have not been stumped one a 9 by 9 one yet. They are supposed to be able to be solved with logic and not trial and error. There are two that I have had to use trial and error and this bothers me. I must be missing one of the clues but I will keep looking. I also have a friend who will use a pencil only to put the final numeral in the box. He will use no possible list of numbers in each box as my sister and I do. You should not do these if they frustrate you because I will just go on entertaining myself."

Of course--he's a math genius, so the annoying little puzzles are easy for him! But he's also a sweet, loving man, so I know he's sincere, and if I get stuck on one I could always call on him for help. Also, I've actually done quite a few more Sudoku since Bobby has been in the hospital so much, and I've come to enjoy them. But only if they are labeled "Very Easy" or "Easy."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mourning Modesty

One interesting aspect of American culture is the idea most Americans have about how much skin it is acceptable for women to show in public, compared to other countries. In India, women are expected to cover their legs and wear a scarf that will cover up their bosom. Although some belly is allowed when women wear a sari, the voluminous skirt and wrapped upper scarf create a general effect of modesty and femininity.

Since our return to this country I have noticed that American women are now not only showing a lot of leg and belly, but also displaying large amounts of cleavage. What used to be acceptable clothing only in strip bars, fashion shows, and nightclubs is now every-day-wear across the country in malls, dentist offices, and even churches. Shorts are shorter than ever and shirts are tighter, with deep v-necks being the order of the day. As many of us know, most American women are overweight (I include myself in this--I need to drop about 25 pounds.) Yet even extremely overweight individuals are wearing tight, revealing clothing. Have all of the floor-length mirrors in the nation suddenly shattered? What ever happened to looking in a mirror before leaving home, and if anything was hanging out, exposed, too tight, or too see-through, CHANGING?! I really don't want to see that much of other people's bodies, and I don't think it's good for the men of the world to have all of that cleavage around, either. As for swimsuits...don't get me started!

I really am disturbed by the trend over the last five years or so of women showing more and more of their bodies. It used to be that undergarments were hidden--it was a big deal if a girl's bra strap was showing, for example. Now, bras and underpants both can hang out of clothing and nobody is supposed to even notice. This trend has spread into churches, where women show up in short, short skirts and deep-cut blouses and then wonder why some guys stare at them.

In 1 Tim. 2:9-10 Paul wrote, "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

1 Peter 3:3 says "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes."

Apparently in those days women were drawing attention to themselves through their adornments rather than by exposing themselves, nevertheless immodesty was a problem even that long ago. It is a huge problem today. I have taught my daughters that modesty is not just about clothing but about our general attitude and behavior. It is possible to be dressed modestly and yet behave immodestly. So we must ask ourselves the question: Do we behave modestly or are we constantly drawing attention to ourselves? Does the way we dress make us a spectacle, or just reflect a humble, modest attitude?

When I went shopping a few days ago it was hard to find anything that was modest and yet remotely "stylish." For me this isn't that big of a problem since I don't really care that much about fashion; I prefer to wear things that are comfortable but look decent (or at least "semi-decent" as Eric will attest to.) But for my 13-year-old this is a MAJOR problem. I don't want her to have a "hoochie-mama" look, but I also don't want to make her dress as though she's forty. Thank God, she already prefers longer skirts to jeans or shorts, and she tries to dress modestly. Tomorrow we are going shopping for clothing for her, and I am sincerely praying that we can find some clothing that will not look old and fuddy-duddy, yet will still be modest.

I mourn the general loss of modesty in our nation. I pray that Christian ladies everywhere will promote modesty of dress, attitude, and behavior, following God's Word in Titus 2:

3Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,

4so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,

5to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.