Sunday, July 31, 2011

Discerning God's Will for our Lives

From Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed, on the occasion of Dr. John Stott's death earlier this week:  John Stott Remembrances:

It was the summer of 1975. Kris and I were in Belgium at a huge Christian event called EuroFest. I was sitting at a panel discussion and someone I admired, a British pastor and minister to college students all over the world, John Stott, was one of the panelists. A long-haired young man to my right asked John Stott a question we were all facing and that we all face: How can I discern the Lord’s will for my life?
John Stott made an observation that clarified my dream for me, and I’ve pondered his answer over and over in my life. I’ve used his answer in countless talks and conversations. Here are his words as I recall them: “Here’s how to determine God’s will for your life: Go wherever your gifts will be exploited the most.”   


My oldest three children attended a Bible study for some time.  They settled in, began to make connections.  As they did so, the leadership did something that seemed curious and counter-intuitive to me.

Rather than observing and allowing the young people to serve as they were gifted,  the leadership placed certain individuals in roles for which they neither felt particularly called nor enjoyed.  One son was kept from serving and worshiping according to his passion (music) - he was not allowed to serve at all, actually.   One girl was placed into a role in which she felt uncomfortable.  The leader felt that he knew better than the kids (and their parents) as to the gifts they carried within. It was a symphony all out of tune, because the kids were not operating according to the things which made their hearts sing.  They were defeated and discouraged, not equipped to serve the Lord.

Now, I share this to say that I agree with Dr. Stott's assessment of determining God's will for ones' life.  (I take his meaning on the word "exploited" to be "used to the fullest."  )   This is how I've home educated over these years.  I'm not raising a herd, I'm raising individuals.  This is why I would never insist that all of my children play the same musical instrument nor follow the same educational course.  As individuals, each one is unique, and each one has been given particular gifts and talents from the Lord.  These gifts and talents are to be used for the furtherance and development of the kingdom of God.

Part of our role as parents is to help our children discover their "bent," their passions.  We are to help them develop their areas of giftedness.  Loving leadership (whether the parent or pastor or Bible study leader) never ties up or restricts a young person from using their gifts in God's service.

  • If the talent lies in computer programming - then program for the glory of God! 
  • If the giftedness shows up in songwriting and strumming, then help that kid find a guitar and let 'em sing!
  • If the passion is revealed thru photography and the written word, let the pictures and the words tell a thousand stories  about the Lord of love.  (That's Emily's photograph above...)
  • If the gifting is a more subtle trait such as compassion or mercy or organization - these may take a bit more insight to discover, but they too are valuable gifts that can be directed into serving God.  We need much more compassion and mercy in this world, and I am not above praying for a child to be organizationally gifted.  :) 
  • Every person, even those who face severe challenges, has a purpose and a gift for his/her family and in the Body of Christ..  

My oldest three stopped attending the Bible study.  They intuitively knew that something was not right.  They knew that there was more, and really, why waste time on something that does not help you become who you are meant to be in Christ?  Youth is the time to grow and develop and use your talents!

Love always empowers, it never belittles nor subsumes.  Love sets people free, it never binds them.  Love builds up.  Love encourages.  Love seeks out the specialty and says, "I see your gift.  How may I help you grow and how may I help equip you for service according to your gifting?"

As parents, there is no greater joy than to see our children walking in God's truth; but there is also deep satisfaction received by watching as they grow and discover the gifted threads God has woven into the very fabric of who they are.  There is great fulfillment in helping them develop their talents, and in coming along side them as they discern where God can use them best.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The mission field is all around us...

The kids and I have spent this week the same way as many other Midwestern small-town families:  we processed corn for freezing.  Yes, I have a corn-cutter, but I don't like to use it.  I'm tired of emergency rooms - the knife seems safer to me, and I'm quite familiar with it.

We are so blessed, and we know this.  A 90-something year old cousin of my mother's just can't stop growin' corn.  He also can't stop giving it away.  Every year I simply guess at his age, but I'm never sure I'm right, so I have given up trying.  I know he's over ninety, and he's generous with his corn.

This year it was only my youngest five at home to help shuck the four large garbage bags full of ears of corn.  My oldest three have jobs in the community.  When our seven year old neighbor girl stopped by to play, we talked her into helping too.  Just  five young ones and me out in the yard, peeling husks from the corn.  (Gabe just isn't any help at all at 9 months of age....)  It's hot, and the silks cling everywhere - but it was nice too.  We talked about a lot of things like school, and how her daddy lost another job, how they don't have enough food to feed their cats (that's okay....we already feed them...), and, well, all of the heavy things on a seven year old heart.

God brings the mission field to us, doesn't he?  Isn't there always someone who needs to see Jesus in us, someone who needs his love - through us?   Is this how you find it, as well?

It seems to me that I can't plan it - it's as natural as can be.  We simply live, and walk, and go about our daily lives, and we look up, and there someone is, needing to see Him, through us.  Physical, financial, emotional, spiritual - there are so many ways that we may help.  If we pray for wisdom, he will let us know what is needed most.  God pours himself into our lives, and we turn right around and pour the overflow right back into the life of another.  There is nothing misappropriated in God's economy.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The babies at my house - Manx kittens

There are six new babies at our house.  The mama was a stray who had two kittens when she first came to my house.  A friend (Jill) and I gave her a big job at the time.  We asked her to nurse and help us raise five kittens (along with the two she was already nursing) which had been abandoned by the massive spring flooding in our area.  Jill and her family literally plucked the babies from the flood waters swirling around their house.  Jill's family had to evacuate their home, so we took the babies to give them a chance.  Jill's husband Brian brought them to me in a box via canoe.  The Humane Society was simply overwhelmed with all of the flooding, so we could not take them there.

Well, with this mama cat's help and a few weeks of intermittent bottle feeding, all of the babies grew strong and homes were found for them.

(Dare I tell you what my inventive children named the mama?  Phoopie.  Yes.  Phoopie Cat.  I think they named her that because they want to hear me open the door and call "Here Phoopie.  Come here, Phoopie Cat.  Privately, I call her Thia.)

We called that first batch our "limited edition flood kittens."  Kind people took them in.  (Another one of my good friends, Julie, took two.  I could have kissed her.  :)  )

Jill very generously offered to pay to have the mama spayed, but since the mama is a manx, with no tail, I asked if we could allow her to have one batch of kittens first..  I was dying of curiosity to see if she would have tail-less babies.  The community tom cats were happy to oblige.

Phoopie had her babies a week ago.  Six babies.  And four of them are tail less!  They are so cute, some with long hair and an almost grey/white tabby siamese look about them.  There is one orange baby (already named Quackers) and he has a tail.   These babies are so unique I wanted you to get a glimpse of them too.  So, without further ado, here they are.  Are you ready for the cuteness?  Manx kittens:

Wow.  Nothing so fierce as a one week old kitten, eh?

Same kitten as above.  He looks almost like a little lamb.

Phoopie has taken up residence on my backporch, way back underneath a shoe rack.  Today was the first day I let the children hold the babies.  We wanted to be sure that she had established a nursing relationship with all of them.  She's a pretty good mama to her babies.  It's going to be fun watching these unique little ones grow.  Have you ever seen a manx cat?  What can you tell me about them?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monkey business in the garden

I have had another couple of "down days" with a milk duct infection - so a garden update will be about all that I have time for today.  :)  Nothing big to say, just a few pictures.  I think that I spend more time in my parents' garden than in my own - and that's okay.  They do a better job than me, anyway.  :)  Boy, has it been hot out there.   The corn and beans just love the heat, though.

The picture above is from last year.  That's "business monkey."  (I have no idea why he is named that.  He just is.  And he likes to lie around in my tomatoes.  Oh wait!  It just came to me.  Maybe they were doing a play on words...."monkey business," to "business monkey."  Ha Ha!)

Sometimes, bad things happen to business monkey.  What can I say?  This is how I found him.

Here's a funny vine that is growing from my compost pile.  I have no idea what it is.  It's either a butternut OR a strange gourd.  Time will tell.

It's taking over my clothesline.

And Jeff's ladder, too.  :)

Here's a sample picture of my "urban gardening."  (I must note that my town is not big enough to call a city.  But still, I garden in small spaces.)  In this small plot I have broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, butternut squash, moon flowers, and four o'clocks.  The vining items are in the back, and I have rigged strings from the top of the fence downward.  The strings are held in the ground with stick pegs.  My vines are soooo happy to have something to help them climb up the fence.  The fence is also useful, because I can provide direct support to the tomato plants.  When one tomato branch gets "wild," or loaded with tomatoes, I gently tie it up to the fence.  It cuts down on the amount of tomato cages I need.

Yes, my veggies are crowded....I like to call my method "close companion gardening," but it works.  Maybe if I get them close enough, they'll go ahead and make themselves into salsa.  :)

Here's the other side of the fence.  First, there were peas planted here.  Now, there are tomatoes, Christmas pole beans, broccoli, and celery.  The poles are from my Dad.  He has a nice patch of bamboo at his farm.  He keeps me in sturdy garden poles.  This side of the garden only has about 12 inches of soil (width) for growing, so it is a skinny little patch.

So there you have it.  Gardening.  Not a scintillating nor controversial topic.  But you know, some of my favorite blogs to read are those that leave me with a sense of peacefulness. Wishing you God's peace....

This post is connected to Smockity Frock's weekly gardening post.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Humility in the Garden

I was feeling pretty good about my ability to grow things in my "kitchen garden," but after picking green beans from my mother's vines this morning I was reminded of the need for a bit of humility in gardening.

With gardening, as with everything else in life,
there is always, always, always
more to learn.

My mother's bean plants put mine to shame.  Mom was gone for the day and as we were coming over to trim the lawn, she asked me to pick two rows of beans for her.  She was planning to give them to me so that I could can them - which is what I am doing tonight.  The canner is steaming along and I'm checking it every few minutes.

I thought my beans were fine until I inspected hers and was swiftly knocked down several notches on the green thumb scale.  Nothing will take a whipper-snapper gardener down like a comparison stroll thru the okra.  I came home with a five gallon bucket full of beans from two small rows.  Her beans must be on steroids.

It takes time and practice to accumulate knowledge about growing your own food.  I am so blessed to have older people in my life who not only teach me, but who patiently remind me of what I am doing wrong.  Every time my mother gives me a start of this or a slip of that, she reminds me of how to care for it.  She tells me what kind of sun, what kind of soil, when to pinch it back or tie it up, to dig it in the fall or leave it in the ground.  My father brought me some tomato cages last week, and he took the time to show me how to spread the wires and angle it properly in the ground.  I could get offended at that, I suppose:  "Do they think I don't remember?  I know that already...."  I realize that someday I will wish they were here to tell me again.  And maybe, if they do repeat it enough, it will slowly sink in and become systemic for me, and I won't even have to think through the gardening cycle.  Someday, if I work at it hard enough, I may be a natural.

I listen to my parents, I listen to the guy at the market stand, I listen to my gardening friends who do a much better job than I do, and I love to talk to Joe at the Flower Shop (which also sells garden seeds/ supplies.)  I never want to leave without finding out what secret they have for me today.

My papa keeps his garden weed-free.  There's no greater gardening sin to my parents than a garden that is left untended, weeds run amuck.  A weedy garden says something about the gardener, to them.  "Not sure I can trust a man with a weedy garden."   I always grab a hoe when they are headed to my house.  I get the biggest chunks and hope that they don't look too closely.  

Once in awhile my dad lets words slip out.  He told me the other day that now, at 86, he has gotten to the point of pulling his weeds on his hands and knees - by crawling thru the garden.  "I'm sure the neighbors wonder what I'm doing out there...."  to which I replied, "It's possible.  But whatever you are doing, it sure is working."  He'll garden until he dies, and that's the kind of person who has a million things to teach me.  It makes us a perfect fit, because I will always have a million things to learn.

Humility in the garden and elsewhere reminds me that there is always, always, always more to learn.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Gabriel Joseph.
Nine months, now.
Eight teeth.
Twenty pounds.
So over being the baby, already.
Just one of the guys.
Bring on the steak and potatoes.
Trying to pull to stand,
it won't be long.
He's mama's boy,
daddy's boy,
Everybody's boy.


Nineteen years ago today, we became parents.  In so many ways that seems forever ago; but it also feels like yesterday. Our boy has become a man, and as it seems that a mother gradually loses the moment to speak of her grown son in terms of his babyhood, I'll do this one more time while I am still allowed.

I am usually the lens through which my children see the world, but for today, I'll be the lens through which the world sees my child.

When we found out that we were first expecting a baby, we were scared silly.  We were 23 and 24, and knew absolutely nothing about having a baby around.  We buckled him up and brought him home from the hospital, surprised that this was a legal thing to do.  Why would anyone send a baby home with such inexperienced people like us?

We managed to keep him thriving despite our misgivings, although I remember many tears in the early days.  I was not necessarily a natural at being a mother, but he, fortunately, was a natural at being a baby.  Jeff and I both had to grow into parenthood.

Jake was a wonderful baby and then little boy, so inquisitive, so smart.  He was the perfect "guinea pig" for "starter parents."  He was one of those kids who actually did what he was told, stayed where he was put, learned what he was supposed to learn (before it was introduced to him,) and even ate what he was told to eat.  He wouldn't even get off of his bed unless we told him it was okay.  (For the record, he is our only child who has felt that these are necessary things....)

When I look back at Jake's baby album, I realize how very little we had at that time.   Hmm.  We didn't know it.  He didn't know it.  We were a family and that was all that mattered.  We had a lot of love, and it was so exciting experiencing the growth of a child for the very first time, ever.  I didn't grow up around babies, so it was all new to me. 

I could get lost here and wander around forever in Jake's baby years, so let me tell you a bit about who he is today:

He is a good son.  Although he's grown, with his own work and school and responsibilities, he still makes every effort to honor his mama and his daddy.  He's never disrespectful (well, okay, only once.)  If Jeff puts a job on his list, it may take awhile, but consider it done.  And lately, he has stepped up the level of his projects.  Today he ran a new electrical wire from our top story to our basement in order to better balance the electrical load.  He is working along with Nick to gut and restore a little house we purchased in a Sheriff's sale before Jeff fell ill last year.  The guys lost quite a bit of time then, but are now back at it whenever they get a few hours of time.  He replaced the starter in his car.  Jake's got a bit of inventor about him.  I asked him to put in a little intercom system for me so that I could call kids to come down for supper at the press of a button.  He set to work - creating, drilling, wiring - and when he was finished he had wired our entire house from top to cellar with a speaker system.  It even has toggle switches so that I can choose which room I want to speak to.  I expected a small project, a box...and he gave me an entire system.  Vintage Jake.

Jake is also a Synesthete.  This means that he sees letters, words, names and numbers in color.  He sees music in color and time in spatial relationships rather than flat, like a tabletop.  Numbers have personalities.  It's a cool little quirk that has actually proven to be a great benefit to him.  It helps him remember things that he has read with almost photographic memory.

Jake has his foibles.  We all do.  He'd be the first to say so, in the interest of full disclosure.  :)  He's logical, to a fault.  Sisters, and their tears...well, he doesn't quite understand them.  He's had to work hard to develop empathy.  Computer textbooks?  Easy peasy.  Emotions?  A little more difficult.  But he is learning, and he is going to be a wonderful husband and daddy someday.  He, too, loves to give good gifts.  Provision and service - that's how he shows his love.  He is generous,  Just like his dad.

Jake's my theology buddy.  He loved being a pastor's kid, and had a really rough transition when Jeff left the pastorate.  We recommend and discuss books and blogs we're reading, or talk about the latest theological issues in the blogosphere.  I enjoy his perspective on history, theology, and current tech and science trends.   
Jake has worked for two years at the same job.  He also sponsors a little girl named Kija in Tanzania .  He's given us a gift, in Kija.  She's added so much to our lives through letters and prayers shared over the past two years.

He's also been attending a local college and working toward a computer science degree. He holds an internship with our local PBS station, working on their website.  He's really enjoying that.

He's made Dean's List all year, but that's kind of funny for me with home-schooling and all.  All of these years (14) and I finally have a kid on the Dean's List.  It tickles me, makes me want to say, "I knew he was smart!"  Ha Ha.  It's hard to describe and maybe you won't "get" that, but I'm proud of him and although it feels about 10 years too late I will tuck it in his scrapbook, anyway.

There is one particular thing that I have deeply appreciated about Jake this year.

All throughout his life, he's been given and has taken on a lot of natural responsibility.  As the oldest of nine, he's always had to think of others and look out for younger children.  He's always willingly helped out with his grandma and grandpa, too.

Jake graduated from high school last year.  He could have gone away to college - he had the freedom to make that decision.  He thought about it; he also thought about the Marines.  He even took the entry test and scored a 98%.

But when it came down to it, he made the decision to stay at home.  He chose to stay with us as a crazy and busy family for another year at least, and to go to college locally.  Emotionally, financially, mentally - he could have gone and he would have done well and he would have made it work.  At some point, the time will be right and he will know it and he will step out and away from our family.  (I can always hope that it's not too far, right?)    But for this year, he wanted to be here to watch the baby (Gabriel) grow.  He mentioned that he realized how much babies change in six months of time, and he didn't want to miss that.  He wanted to know his brother, and he wanted for his brother to know him.  I think about that sometimes, when I watch Jake with Gabriel and with the other children.  He has given them a gift - the gift of memories with him during their childhood.  What an incredible thing, that no one else could have given.  He cares for the little ones.  People decry large families, and we've learned to laugh along with those who think we are looney (for, we are!) but...a solid base, a huge support group?  Oh, goodness - that's a priceless gift, a real blessing and advantage in this world! 

Jeff and I are intensively aware of the little bubble of time that we are living in, with our parents still alive and here, our eldest and our youngest and all of our children in between still at home.  What a blessed thing this is, not to be taken lightly and not to be assumed for granted.  Things will change, of course, but this has been the start of something very, very good.

Thank you, Jake.  Thank you for the cuddles when you were little, and the hugs while you are big.  Thank you for all of the stories read and the "I love yous" before bed.   Thanks for breaking us in as parents for the other kids.  Thanks for putting up with every single one of our stages over the years.  Thank you for forgiving us when we have failed you. Thank you for growing with us, for working with us, for being such a huge part of us.  Thank you for challenging us to grow and for loving us all along the way. 

With all of our love for a lifetime and more,

Mom and Dad.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Nicholas Joel Johnson
He was born at 4:02 a.m, one day before his brother's birthday.  He stormed into the world, taking me by surprise.  He would not wait for the doctor, not wait to be born, not wait one more day.  The nurse tried to make him slow down, told me not to push, but there is no reasoning with a baby who has already decided that his time has come.  It was terrifying, and Nick suffered a bruise between the hemispheres of his brain.  I was young and tearful and worried, but after several days in the hospital his rapid breathing subsided, we took him home, and all seemed well.  He grew so fast and was a happy, chubby fellow.

Our first two sons were the perfectly planned, perfectly spaced set of brothers.  We patted each other on the back, applauding our ability to make life orbit properly, and sat back to revel in our organizational life skills.  Nicholas Joel, the youngest, beat his brother Jacob Robert's second year birthday by one day and one day only.  It was a coup de tat, as the ability to celebrate a birthday *first* was forever  captured.  Nick was second born, but would never truly settle for second place.  The competition was on, and with the addition of a surprising little sister 17 months later, Jeff and I felt our false sense of timing and capability trickle away.  We had never really been in control, to begin with, not in the grand scheme of things.

So, they became brothers by blood, by bath, by bubbles.... books.

Although they are only two years apart (minus one day, we mustn't forget...) two boys couldn't be more different as they grew.  One is a computer-head who clutters the room with old hard-drives and keyboards; the other is a music fiend with books and legos strewn everywhere.   They have shared upstairs rooms in old houses with no air, cold rooms in ugly basements, favorite jeans and socks with holes in the bottom.  They've fought at times to carve out their own identity, struggled at times to get away from each other - and yet, they can still be lost when the other one is not around.  They know each other so well.  Their days of sharing a room will come to an end too soon, and I will be sad.

Nicholas was always the daring type, the dangerous man; but always a tender and compassionate heart.  He wanted to marry a friend of mine who had been widowed, and he was serious about it, even at the age of 4.  Even then, he could sense deep pain, and he wanted to be a help to her and to be a Dad for her girls.  She wisely let him down easily, ha ha.

But he is also the type of boy who, as he has grown, has tried to ride his bike down slides, has attempted to play with power tools, who is the most passionate... both good and bad.  He is most responsible for his mother's grey hair and high stress levels. (And it doesn't bother him in the slightest.  Grin.)

I'll tell you all about Jake tomorrow, for it is his birthday then.  Today, Nick turned 17.

Nick has made Jeff and I live a deeper life, filled with high emotions and some days that have stretched us to our limits too.  As his mother, there are days where I am sure the world is ending and that he is the one who caused it.  And by the next day, I've learned something new about my son that convinces me that he surely hung the moon.  He gives me hope for his generation.  He's taken me places I've never wanted to go, but thru this son, God has taught me so much about love, and hope, redemption, and a future.

A passionate child pulls the rest of his family to a deeper level of reality.  The child who stormed his way into his world allows for no coasting, no pretending, no sweeping feelings or emotions under the rug.  He's wanted to know since forever how much he means to you and how much he is worth and just how far you would go for him.  The answer is, of course, to the ends of the earth and back.  And beyond that, if necessary. And the answer is the same for each individual child.  And each child would do it for the other.  That's just family.

But let me tell you about the other side of our son, Nick.  He'll not like me saying this, but you know, today I read the obituary for another local seventeen year old boy, and I just don't think we should wait to tell the good things we know about the ones we love.  Our children should never seriously doubt that we love them.  We should tell them and show them more often than we do.

Last summer Nick mowed the yard of a drug addicted, alcoholic neighbor woman. For free, all summer long.  He knew she didn't have it within her means to ever get it done on her own.  He never bragged, nor complained.  He didn't even tell me for a whole year.  His sensitive spirit has never gone underground, even during the teen years.  God has given him a compassion for the down and out.

He mows yards for many older people around town.  He charges them next to nothing.  "Mom.  I feel bad asking her to pay anything."  He never lets them down, not even with a cut hand. 

He writes songs.  Good ones.  I expect you'll hear them someday.

Everyone thinks he's tough and overly confident.  He's not.  He's carried a lot of woundedness and he's faced up to it without allowing himself to become bitter.  He's sought to grow thru the things that could have destroyed him.  God has been gracious to Him. 

He's working off a car - hopes to own it this fall, just in time to drive himself to take some dual credit college classes.

He pays little kids good wages to help him do small jobs.  He covers their eyes during scary movie scenes.  He buys them things, "just because."

He loves to give good gifts:  Bleeding heart plants or roses for Mom.  Gift certificates to send us out to eat.  Gifts for the unwed neighbors.

He tithes, to places like Amazima and Real Hope for Haiti.  His heart is broken for a local soup kitchen that might have to close.

He's no saint, I've already made that clear and we wouldn't have any idea how to raise one of those, anyway.    He gets grumpy when he doesn't have enough sleep and when the little kids are too loud and he bosses his sisters around too much.  But he's also the first to keep an eye on their safety and to buy them birthday presents months in advance, too.

Happy birthday, Nick.  It's been some ride being your mama and your daddy.  More snakes and bugs and panic attacks than we can count.  You are still seeking and still growing and still becoming who you are going to be in this life, and in Christ.

This isn't bragging.  There isn't any bragging to be done, as your story is not yet written.  This is just saying that we love you and see Jesus growing in your heart.

May it ever be so.

Though the days with you still at home are fleeing, we love you to the ends of the earth and back, for always.  Thanks for the fun.  :)
Mom and Dad

Silly brothers.
Pretending to not get along...still.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Misery loves company, but we are doing better.

I am feeling better, at least the flu/whatever it turned into is better.  I am sure the Hashimotos is still around - it does not usually go away that quickly.  :)

(Emily captured the above cloud formation tonight - I wanted you to see it.  So interesting, isn't it, the way the light is shining from behind.  I have finally purchased a little point and shoot camera for myself.  I have relied on the kids to take pictures for me for several years now - they have their own cameras and I have not had one.  They do a fabulous job, but every once in awhile I want to take a picture from my own perspective - to capture a moment, to take a picture of them, the picture takers themselves (!)  Also, I realized just how many pictures I had of deer, and butterflies...and mostly I'd prefer to take pictures of the things taking place around this house.  The boys went on a big caving expedition a couple of weeks ago, and came home with pictures of deer, buildings, and tennis shoes roasting over a camp fire.  That's it.   Nothing else.  I'm like, "Seriously?  No pictures of you, getting ready to go caving?  None of you in your gear?  Nothing at the cave entrance?  Not even a sign to the cave?"  They're like, "Nope.  Just tennis shoes."    So...from here on out, the beautiful pictures will be from Emily, the buildings, legos, and deer will be from the boys, and my pictures will be the ones featuring real-life adventures.  I have even hid the camera cord so that no one can find it.  Likely, not even I will remember where I put it by tomorrow.  Ha.)

I want you to know how much I appreciate everyone who left me a comment or a note or dropped me a letter.  I've got  some of the best friends in the world - both in real life and on line.  Friends, such as you are, are a real gift from the Lord and a genuine mercy in my life.  Thank you!  (And yes....I still intend to get letters back to each of you.  Thank you for thinking of me!)

Just a quick note about the events of yesterday, and then some pictures:

Wednesday night was horrid.  Yes, even after mothering for 19 years, and so many different children in different situations, I can say that it was truly awful.  I was sick, sick, sick - and the baby was too.  We were both feverish and this thing that seemed to start out as the flu sneakily migrated around until it seemed to be lodging in my sinuses, so that equaled pain.  Gabriel decided to picket the "open all-night, all-you-can-eat" milk diner (otherwise known as a serious nursing strike.)  I've never had a child pull such a complete, out and out nursing strike.  He went without nursing for almost a day.  I was fairly sure he had an ear infection, and that contributed to the refusal to nurse.

So, between midnight baths and pacing and rocking and crying (both of us....) and ear pain and sinus pain and not-nursing pain, we managed to sleep not a wink that night.  (How great would it be to get mastitis to go along with sinus pain and Hashimoto's?  Not!)  I tried tylenol for Gabe and he just spat it up.

Jeff is working such long hours that I could not ask him to get up with the baby.  He always has in the past, but I just can't ask him to do that now.  He drives heavy equipment now and is responsible for the safety of other people - I want him to be fully equipped the best he can be to do his job.  And the big kids were supposed to start working for a corn research facility...I couldn't get them up, either.  It was just me and the babe.  :)  I prayed all night - thanked the Lord that I knew He was with us, prayed for others who are suffering who do not have access to medical care for their babies; for mamas who rock their hot babies in huts and no air conditioning, no memory foam mattress to sink into for reprieve.  I took a big step and thanked him for the strengthening that comes thru trials, for how we learn that He is with us when we suffer.  That's not an easy thing for me to do.

I showered before everyone else the next morning, with Gabe crying outside the tub. Sometimes, you've just got to do what you've got to do.  He cried the whole time I got myself and him all ready, the diaperbag put together, documents, etc. packed and ready to go.  I generally keep things packed, but I'd been sick all week so was out of kilter.

Mothers just aren't supposed to get sick, you know?  I'm reminded of that.  There's something so wrong with the universe when a mom is sick.

We made it out the door, buckled up, drove to the convenient care.  It was hot, already 84 degrees at 7:30 in the a.m.  The front air in the van was still not working.  Feverish baby, feverish air...misery.

(I'm telling you all of this so that the next time something like this happens to you, you will remember you are not alone.)

I pulled into the convenient care parking lot, and....ta da!......

they were not open for another hour.

What to do?  Sit in a hot van?  Carry a sick kid around the 24 hour Walmart?  I was so weak and my head was about to crack way!  I decided to drive across town to the other convenient care.  I was pretty sure that it opened at 8.

Twenty minutes later - only to learn that I was wrong.  Again.  It too, opened at nine.

Back to the first clinic

As I was pulling in, my cell phone rang.

It was my eldest son, Jake.  (Who, by the way, put in a new starter on one of our old cars this week.  Successfully!  Jake stepped out of his computer geek role for a few days to learn a new skill - aided by directions online, of course - but it worked and I'm so proud of my grease monkey kid.  He also made Dean's List at college last semester, but I digress....)

Back to the story:

Jake said, "Hey mama."
Me:  "Hey."
Jake:  "Um...Just wanted to let you know that Nick cut his hand cutting a bagel."
Me, foggy headed: "What?  How? With what? Why was he cutting a bagel?  I didn't leave bagels out..."
Jake:  "Yeah, uh, well....he cut it with a bread knife."
Me, picturing a knife like you use to spread butter on bread, thinking, Hm, how bad could this be?:  "A butter knife?  How bad?"
Jake:  "A BREAD KNIFE.  It's pretty bad."
Me:  "Like you spread butter with?  Like I keep in the kitchen drawer with the spoons?  How do you cut yourself with THAT?"
Him:  A BREAD KNIFE.  Like you CUT a loaf of bread with.  A really sharp one with jagged teeth."
Me:  "Sigh.  This is not happening.  Meet me at the West Side St. Mary's Convenient Care."

So, yes.  Three of us were in the doctor's office at the same time.  I had a sinus infection, Gabe, an ear infection, and Nick....a pretty deep cut.  It all seemed too wacky to be true.  Once again, I find myself grateful for some place to turn when we really need medical help.  Sick babies make me so sad, and I wouldn't want to sew my son's hand up all by myself.  That, and, I learned that the muscular anatomy of a hand looks actually quite cool, in a sympathetic "I know this hurts you son, but look at those muscles!" sort of way.

We made it.  We all survived.  Nick got up and went to his first day of work in the cornfield, and then on to mow three yards later in the afternoon - one handed, of course.  It was kinda pitiful to watch....but I had to admire his gumption.  Good thing he's right-handed.  (Nick turns 17 on Sunday.  Jake turns 19 on Monday.)

The kids at home were fine, thanks to big sis Emily, who held down the fort while we were all off making merry at the health care center.  I know that Josiah doesn't look happy here, but he's okay and really just  into gelling his hair into some pretty interesting styles. Julia also lost a tooth while we were gone.  The drama just does NOT stop.

We're all on the mend, doing much better tonight, all thanks and praise going to God.  That's Daddy (pretty exhausted at the end of the day, but enjoying loving on his kids....) and Gabe, who is now nine months old and happily over his nursing strike.  Thank you - for your love and concern and kind words.