Thursday, March 5, 2015

Have you ever been mad at God?

Wellll, my husband and I found something out this week.  We've been encouraging/prodding/chivvying Dale for months to do his daily exercises, work harder, try harder to walk properly.  All that seems to do is make us hoarse and upset.  Dale hasn't responded like we want him to; it seems like he's just given up.  Tuesday night we found out why.

Dale told us he's mad at God.  Downright angry, in fact.  He said he's mad that God would let him drown, that God chose to let him live but not have a life.  He feels cheated by God out of even a chance to grow up and have a normal life.  He's grateful that God chose to spare his life and he's not upset that God chose to perform such a great miracle, but he wishes someone else could be the recipient because, to his mind, he got shortchanged.  He didn't recover fully---although he's gone much farther than the doctors have said they've ever seen anyone with Dale's medical history go.  He isn't able to plan for the future, like college or dating or becoming what he once dreamed of becoming.  He can't do so much like go on some of our teen activities or go out with teen soulwinning or learn to drive a car or get a job because he isn't strong enough or steady enough to keep from falling or shaking---or seizing.  He can't even walk to the bathroom any more by himself because he stopped trying to exercise his muscles and so lost a lot of strength that helped keep him steady.  He doesn't understand why God allowed this to happen to him, and he doesn't want to even try to live the life God has set before him now until he gets some answers.

And I understand exactly what he's feeling.  Because I agree.

WHY did God allow our son to drown?  WHY didn't someone see him before it was too late?  WHY did the other boy in distress that day get rescued but not Dale?  WHY did it take so long to find his body?  WHY couldn't the rescue workers get his heart going again quickly?  WHY wouldn't his lungs work properly?  WHY wasn't the youth group at a beach closer to home?  WHY did God wait until we had lost all hope before He performed His miracle?  WHY couldn't God just let Dale wake up......and sit up and stand up and walk around and be all normal again?  WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE OUR SON???

I really hate that three-letter word.  WHY rarely gets a real answer.  A full explanation of events.  Especially when we are addressing the question to God Almighty.  So much of faith rests in that troubling, pain-filled, swirling gray pea-soup-thick fog of doubt and uncertainty that chokes our throat with the utterance of the word WHY.  I have read the Bible over and over in futile efforts to determine WHY.  I have prayed endlessly in vain attempts to glean more information as to the reason behind the tragedy.  I've asked pointless, anguished questions like "Weren't we obeying enough?" and "Why would You do this when we were serving You?" and "Don't You love us, God?"  I've listened to sermons and read prayer letters and perused magazine articles and done devotions and spent hours deep in conversation with my husband and family, all dedicated to this all-encompassing, emotion-filled, heart-wrenching agony of soul wrapped up in one single syllable---WHY?

I didn't find out the answer.  God didn't magically reveal His will to me in a dream as in Bible times.  He didn't have someone give me a word of knowledge.  I didn't listen to a sermon and realize, "Oh, now I know!"  I didn't spend hours in prayer and fasting and walk out of my prayer closet with the divine knowledge of God's purpose having been revealed to me.  I'm still just as much in the dark as to God's ultimate plan for Dale and our family as I was, apparently, before Dale's accident.  I still don't know WHY God allowed him to drown or WHY God didn't heal him fully right away or WHY God deliberately placed this burden on our family or WHY we can't make spur-of-the-moment plans but always have to accommodate Dale or WHY God thinks we have some kind of super strength to bear up under this hardship or WHY we have to wait until we get to Heaven to understand His plan.


I do know I trust God implicitly.  I do know He embodies good, right, and truth.  I do know He is the personification of love.  I do know that, though I cannot see the future, He does.  I do know that, though I may not have the strength to face the daily struggles, He does.  I do know that, though I may not have the courage to face the vast unknown, He knows already.  I do know that the One Who was willing to sacrifice His Son for my eternal soul would never maliciously harm me or my loved ones.  I do know that the One Who cares about each common sparrow that may fall cares even more about my son when he falls.  I do know that the One Who loves me so much He sent His Son to Calvary so that my eternal future would be secure would not willfully and cruelly withhold a possible future from my son without purpose.  I do know that I TRUST GOD, no matter what.

Now to help Dale see that.  I don't think he'll remain mad at God forever.  But he's going to need a lot of prayer and guidance to find peace about this.  Dale did lose a lot in the ocean that day:  confidence, physical ability, brain capacity, a future brimming with possibilities.  I don't want him to lose his God too.  He's stated that he loves the God before the accident; now he just has to realize that the God after the accident is the same God.  Please pray with us that Dale will understand---or, better yet, trust.  Our God can do anything.....which means He can reach a teenage boy's heart and help him through a terrible conflict of soul.  Our God can do it, and our son is worth it.

Ephesians 3:16 - 19  "That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."

Saturday, January 31, 2015

God's mercies are new every morning.

Has it really been a whole month since the new year started?  How's this year been for you so far?  Did you stick to your New Year's resolutions as planned, or have those fallen by the wayside already?  Have you already messed up in your big plans like reading the Bible through in a year or spending more time with family or keeping to a budget?

Life is full of backward stumbles and re-dos.  Just as sure as the sun comes up each morning (and for those of us in Washington state, we just have to believe that it really does!), we are going to make some mistake(s) every day.  Every single day.  Some of these mistakes will have life-altering results and some will just make us temporarily miserable.  But here's the good news:  ALL of our mistakes are covered by Jesus' blood.  All of our misakes and failures and sins and regrets have already been paid for and forgiven through the sacrifice Jesus made on Calvary.  When we accept the fact that we are sinners, that sin has a penalty and the penalty is death, and that Jesus paid our penalty with His death on the cross, we have just opened ourselves up not only to Heaven for all eternity but also for daily strength, love, mercy, and forgiveness.  This doesn't give us a license to sin, but it does free us from the crushing guilt and depression that sinful behavior brings.  Even just simple mistakes like not eating right or speeding while driving don't have to control us; these things can be dealt with and overcome because we have God on our side!  What a wonderful thought!   Praise the Lord!!!

Well, Dale's neurology appointment had to be rescheduled for the middle of February.  This works better for our schedule since we'll have that week off school.  He's been a little better about doing his exercises---but not nearly good enough!  Please pray for our son that he will see the need to exercise regularly.  Dale feels like, "Why should I put forth all the effort to walk when sitting in a wheelchair is so much easier?"  He doesn't realize that, once he stops trying to walk, his brain will lose control of his body, setting off a chain reaction of falls, jerking limbs, and seizures.  Chad and I have tried to explain this to him, but so far Dale thinks we're overstating facts.  Dale has gotten used to having people do things for him, and he has to get out of the habit of thinking that that is his right.  It's a daily battle, I'm afraid;  some days he wins, and some days I win!  We'll see whose will is stronger.....

Katie and I started a new health plan this year.  We joined the 8 Week FIT Challenge, and already we have seen results!  Our "rules" are simply basic good-health guidelines:  no eating after 9 p. m., drink 64 ounces of water daily, eat 3 cups of veggies daily, eat half a cup of fresh or frozen fruit daily, exercise 45 minutes daily (whatever kind of exercise you wish), log food and water intake plus exercise into My Fitness Pal, and eat no sugar (just maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, or stevia).  Tomorrow marks the end of the fourth week, and Katie and I are feeling great!  We've lost weight; we've gained muscle tone; we've slowly but steadily weaned ourselved off sugar and replaced our cravings with healthy options.  I am so thankful for this group!  The support of ladies who are struggling with the same health issues (weight loss, exercise loathings, junk food cravings) is invaluable, and working together toward a common goal has helped us feel that we're not alone in our health journey.  Plus, my husband has been ultra supportive, I'm already getting compliments on my weight loss, and I feel better than I have in years.  The challenge only goes for eight weeks (with prizes for incentive value), but Katie and I are already talking about making alot of these changes permanent.  I thank God daily for Denise Minge, who encouraged me to join the group, and other ladies at Bethel (LaDawn Rau, Darlene Minge, Rath Sears) who supported me in my decision to gain better health.  What a blessing and encouragement we have all been to each other!

We're making plans for April!  That's when we get to go on our dream vacation. I already have a substitute lined up for the week we'll be gone, and Amanda has purchased her plane tickets so she'll be able to go with us too.  My kids are doing all right keeping their minds on schoolwork for now, but as the date approaches, I'm sure they'll be completely unteachable!  We've had so many people tell us how excited they are for us to be able to go.  Lots of folks have been praying with us and following Dale's story of recovery, and they know how much this vacation means to our family.  Those of you with special needs children realize just how wonderful getting away from the routine and sometimes drudgery of everyday life will be.  We are all looking forward to April!

Valentine's Day is coming, so be sure to say "I love you" to the important people in your lives.  We need to see each day as the special gift from God that it is and appreciate our loved ones daily, not just once a year.  We should love the way God loves.  And, remember, God said "I love you" in the most incredible way possible:

John 3: 16  "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions---love 'em or leave 'em?

Maybe it's just my personality type, but I hate making New Year's resolutions.  I feel like I'm not only reviewing an entire year's worth of failures but also setting myself up for even more failures in the next year when---not if---I fail to keep up my new New Year's resolutions.  So I'm faced with several options:  I can avoid making any resolutions thereby avoiding breaking any; I can skip the resolution-making and go straight to the self-recrimination; or I can decide to make small, doable changes so that I get to see progress without feeling like I'm overhauling my entire life (which may not be a bad idea.....).  Hmmm---I think I'll try the latter.  There's always time for options #1 and #2 later.....if I fail!  Lol!

As much as I HATE change, I realize that life is all about changing.  Can you imagine what we'd look like if we never changed hair styles or clothing styles?  (Some of us just need look in the mirror!)  What if we chose one boyfriend/girlfriend and never, ever changed that?  I can't see myself married to the first childhood crush I had.  That's just plain weird.  How about changing cars....or couches....or toothbrushes?  Change is inevitable.  Yes, I detest that statement too.  But, truly, change is necessary because change involves the most basic and blessed of God's gifts to mankind:  free will.  Change allows us to make mistakes (and I've made some doozies), learn from those mistakes (hopefully), and change our initial decision into something better.  Change is God's way of reminding us (1) we're not perfect, (2) we should keep striving to better ourselves, and (3) we need God's wisdom to make better choices.  This applies to every single aspect of our lives whether clothing, hair, devotions, child rearing, education, career, temper, worship, or even faith.  We should definitely always be searching the Scriptures to ensure our lives are in accordance with God's Word and, if they're not, then change.

You've heard the definition of insanity, right?  Insanity is continuing to do the same wrong thing over and over, yet expect different results.  If we want to become more like Christ, we have to read about Him and then follow His example---not just wish for it or "pray about it."  If we want to change our appearance, we need to shop for better clothes or shoes or change our hairstyle.  If we want to be healthier, we have to actually throw out the bad stuff and start buying/eating the good stuff.  We also have to stop making excuses for eating poorly, not exercising, and just sitting around.  If we want to be more patient or kind or less angry, we need to change our response to stressful situations.  This begins by deliberately biting back things that shouldn't be said and choosing not to take offense at things that are said to us.  Yeah, I know that's hard.  I "like" a lot of commentary on facebook that I would never actually say out loud to people!  If we want to be better, we must change.  I teach my children and my students:  We cannot change the way someone else is talking or acting; we can only change our response to them.  The first step is taking everything to God in prayer, but many people stop there.  The second step is to begin making those little changes to yourself and your behavior.  Once the initial changes are made, it's easier to build on that new, better foundation.

Enough preaching!  Ha!

2014 has been an interesting year for us.  I've shared many of our triumphs (and a few failures) with you in this blog, but, as I'm sure you can relate, some are too personal to share.  (That's a polite way of saying they're none of your business!)  However, we had a BIG blessing come our way just a month ago.  I had to wait to share this on the blog because we just told our kids about on Christmas Day.

About nine months or so after Dale's accident, his physical therapist told us about a foundation that might be interested in doing something for Dale and our family.  She had already called the Make-A-Wish Foundation but was told we wouldn't qualify for any wish-granting because Dale's condition wasn't terminal.  Praise the Lord!  But they referred her to the Sunshine Foundation, a non-profit organization that makes "dreams" come true for children who've been through a traumatic event, children who are living with a debilitating disease, or even abused children once they've been taken out of the abusive situation.  She asked me if I wanted her to submit Dale's name, and Chad and I agreed.  About four months later, we received a call from the Sunshine Foundation, stating that they would love to make Dale's "dream" come true!  We were so excited!!!  Dale had said he would love to go to Legoland and Disneyworld, and the very helpful people at the Sunshine Foundation gave us lots of information about how this would work and where we would stay, but they warned us it might take a year or so before the donations would be in place to make Dale's "dream" come true.  After all, there were a lot of children on the list before Dale!  (This was a little over a year after Dale's accident.)  So we waited......and waited......and waited.  Chad even called and was told that they were still getting donations together but that it was taking a bit longer than they had thought.  Basically, we gave up hope.  We had initially talked constantly about the trip and how fun it would be and how wonderful it was.  But, as time went by, we stopped thinking it could happen any day and began thinking it might happen some day.  And then we began thinking it might never happen, and that led to Dad and Mom helping the kids be thankful for what we already had---a brother who wasn't dead!---and be glad there were other families who got "dreams" because really they needed them more.  I mean, Dale was doing all right and we had so many blessings from God already.  You follow my thinking?

Two days before Thanksgiving, my cell phone rang in the middle of school.  It was on the charger, and I had to rush around my TA's desk to get to the plugged-in phone.  When I answered, Maryanne from the Sunshine Foundation was there, telling me that she had some dates to run by me from which to choose for Dale's dream!  I stood there, in the back of my classroom, students busy all around me, in shock!  I had stopped truly believing our turn would come and was now totally unprepared for the big event.  ***Side note:  isn't that how we view heaven and the rapture sometimes?  Like it's some "dream" that would be wonderful if it were true but not like we truly believe it could happen any moment!  Oh, may we not be caught unprepared for Jesus' return!***  I scribbled down the dates and data she was giving me---God bless her for her patience with me!---and thanked her over and over.  The look on my husband's face when I told him the news was glorious to see!  We put our heads together and chose the dates (April 16 - 22) and then decided to wait to tell the kids until Christmas.  We had to tell Chad's mom who lives in the Florida area because we'll get to see her when we go, and we told Amanda who is in California so she could get the time off and go with us.  It's been soooo hard not telling everybody until we got to tell our kids!  I had to tell my boss, the school principal, so I could get that time off; he walked out grinning at Katie like "I know something you don't know!"  Was that hard trying to pass that meeting off like we were just talking about school stuff!  We'll get more information in the next few weeks about our trip, but we are all so excited about finally getting to go.  Now to keep everyone's feet on the ground until April......

Dale has his next neurology appointment on January 5th.  This is not only the day we go back to school after Christmas break, but it is also the day before Dale's 16th birthday.  I remember sitting in the hospital room by his bedside and wondering if he would ever have another birthday.  Here he is 3 and 1/2 years later, God's living miracle!  We got Dale an 8-pound exercise ball as one of his Christmas presents; he's already been incorporating it into his supposed-to-be-daily exercise routine.  Sitting around for two weeks on break has not helped his stability!  Plus, he's excited about going on the trip and doesn't want to be limited by shakiness or weakness, so I think he'll be more willing to put some effort into exercising in the next few months.  Me too, for that matter!

God bless each of you in this brand new year.  Let's use this new time to reaffirm our trust in our Saviour, to put off the old man and put on the new, to show our love to God and each other, and to make better choices than we did this time last year.  Have a wonderful 2015!

II Corinthians 5: 17  "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:  old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Considering the length of time that stretches between posts here, I might better say "Happy Holidays" to cover them all, in case I forget to update the blog and miss one!  Seriously……

This school year has been especially busy for each of us.  I have more students in my class than I have ever taught at one time before; Katie is growing steadily more excited (and fearful) about completing high school and starting the next chapter in her life; Dale is working hard to get caught up in some subjects and successfully master others; Ashley is enjoying volleyball season---with a little school work thrown in; Emily is slowly coming to the realization that the same woman who is a loving mother at home is quite a strict taskmaster in the classroom; and Chad hardly sees any of us!

We're very thankful for this short break for many different reasons.  Of course, we all like time off, but this really gives us a chance to reconnect as a family.  The kids are all home---no sports, no sleepovers (that we know of yet!), no extra-curricular activities.  Chad and I actually got to go out last night for the first time in what seems like ages.  We had such a good time just talking without being interrupted or overheard by the children!  We laughed and loved and listened and loved some more.  It's good to re-fall in love with your spouse once in a while.  The girls were baby-sitting some younguns at our house while we were out; boy, were they exhausted once the little ones left!  It's been a while since we had toddlers in the home, and they require a lot of energy.  Plus, for some reason, the little girls were afraid of our dog……our little mop-rag of a dog.  The cutest thing was walking in the front door and seeing the three-year-old sitting on Dale's lap on the couch!!!  :-D

Many people at this time of year commit to challenges on Facebook or wherever, usually something titled "30 Days of Thankfulness."  I applaud the idea; we all need to diligently be more thankful for all God does for us and all we have.  I, however, did not take the challenge because I know me---I would forget to post on some day or another, and then I would feel frustrated about not fully finishing the challenge, and then I would get stressed trying to remember to not skip another day, plus I would have to keep rechecking my list to make sure I did not repeat some item for which I am thankful…….the whole thing would blow up!  I would go from being thankful to grumbling under my breath about having to be thankful!  Anybody else like that?  So I decided to just list some things here for which I am thankful.  (I feel like I should include one of those fancy lawyer clauses that states:  the items listed here are in no way excluding or limited to the above-mentioned items, blah, blah, blah.  You know---in case I leave out something obvious.  Just fill it in mentally!)

My God. His love for me regardless and in spite of me.  My husband.  His love for me regardless and in spite of me.  I hit the jackpot when I married him.  My children.  God must have thought I would be a good mother since He gave me so many, but I have often been tempted to doubt His all-pervailing wisdom in this matter!  My sweet oldest, Amanda.  I love you, baby, to the ends of the earth and back.  Your beauty comes from within and your warm heart draws everyone close.  My beautiful second, Katie.  You are so much like me, it's scary.  I love the way you are discovering yourself and how you find humor in most situations.  I love you so much, sweetheart.  My incredible son, Dale.  Who knows who you might have been if the accident had not happened.  (You probably would have been in a lot more trouble!!!)  I love seeing who you are becoming now, how you are learning to work with what you have, how you are steadily pursuing that once-thought-elusive academic goal of graduating high school, how your sense of humor has stayed intact.  I love you, son, more than I can say.  My darling fourth, Ashley.  You are so your own person!  I love your laughter, your craziness, your beauty, your love, your zest for life.  I love, simply, you.  My precious fifth, Emily Rose.  You grow each day and amaze us in new ways always.  You are bright, loving, goofy, half princess and half crazy girl, special, and wonderful.  I love you, dear heart.  My church.  I managed not to cry until I got to this line.  You are my heart, my home.  You have done so much for me and my family; you have stood with us when we needed support; you have wrapped us in prayers when we needed that blanket of love; you have helped us rear our children; you have taught us so very much.  I love each member, each service, each moment of time we spend together.  My godly upbringing.  My parents instilled in me Christian values and godly principles by their teachings, their service, and their lives.  These have stayed with me throughout my life, guiding my path and those of my children, showing me the way when life grew dark, helping me become who I am today.  I love you both very much.  My friends and family.  I've already listed some of you, but I mean to include all of you, near or far away.  Whether you are someone I see every day or someone I just reconnected with on Facebook, I value each friendship and look forward to interacting with you each time.  Your lives, your input, your busy schedules help me keep my life in perspective.  My country.  God bless America, now and always.  She has certainly gone off track from the direction her founding fathers laid out, but there is still hope.  We Christians need to pray for her daily, stand up for what is right, and speak out against the wrong.  I love my country and am so thankful to have been born an American.  My job.  I cannot tell you how much I enjoy being a teacher!  I look forward to each day, to teaching different subjects, to seeing my students, to watching for the "aha" look on their faces when they finally get a concept, to helping them grow as young people.  I love my students.  I love each class that comes through my door.  My salvation.  I know, this shouldn't be this far down the list.  I know God loves everyone and wants everyone to be saved, but the fact that He loves ME and sent His Son to die for ME is astounding.  If I were not saved, who knows where I would be today.  Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.

There are so many other things for which I am thankful that this blog would need to be a mile long to include everything!  One last thing:  I am thankful for you, the readers.  You have kept up with this blog; you have prayed endlessly for my family; you have commented on occasion, letting us know you are praying for us or leaving some bit of advice for us to try; you have sent us Christmas cards and letters at different times of the year just to say hello; you have even gone out of your way to be a blessing by giving us gifts or dinner gift cards or other things you knew we'd appreciate.  You have kept reminding us day after day, week after week, year after year, that we are not alone, that God has prayer warriors out there who bring Dale before His throne every day, that there are others who weep and pray and rejoice with us through ups and downs.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being part of our lives.  You mean so much to us.

God bless each of you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Job 2: 9  "Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hooray for fall!

You can't look out the window and see these beautiful autumn colors and not know there is a God is Heaven Who cares about every detail of our lives.  If God put so much effort into painting each sunrise and sunset, coloring our world so brilliantly, allowing the leaves to show their true colors each fall---inanimate objects that can never return His love, His interest in and passion for us must be overwhelming.  I'm so glad I know that my God loves me, that He created me especially for His purpose, and that He chooses each day to pay close attention to my life.

Our school took their annual field trip to the Pumpkin Patch yesterday.  I absolutely dread these trips.  I'm not kidding!  I stress about them for two weeks ahead of time, freak out on the day of, and come home utterly drained of energy.  But I always come back with a deeper thankfulness for God's wondrous creation.  I am a homebody.  VERY much so.  Given the choice, I will sit at home all day and never go anywhere.  Going out to the store or church or school is expected and, considering the frequency with which I make those trips, tolerated.  But going 1 1/2 hours away and having to stay gone for six hours or more and being "forced" to be outdoors for nearly that entire stretch of time is akin to torture!  But, as usual, I enjoyed our Pumpkin Patch time.  I get a chance to see gorgeous colors of trees, leaves, and gardens; I get to breathe fresh air for more than just the time it takes me to walk from the car to the building; I get to enjoy time off from teaching while spending fun time with my class.

For the last few years, I've been able to divvy up my students among volunteer parent chaperones, thus leaving me free to take Dale around.  This year, because it was slated to really rain (here in Washington state, we're accustomed to regular rain but severe rainstorms get a label of their own!) and last year taught me better, we borrowed a wheel chair for Dale.  This made walking around so much easier!  We got to walk around just about everywhere and then spent some time in the coffee shop drinking hot cocoa.  Then, I discovered something that made me feel a lot more at home:  a country store!  We came to this same Pumpkin Patch last year, but I had no idea there was more to it.  Dale and I and some goofy teenage girls walked over to the farmers' market and enjoyed looking at all the home-canned salsa and fruits and jams.  There was a restaurant attached that sold wonderful mini pies, so I got my husband a strawberry-rhubarb pie which he loved.  Then there was a country gift store with homemade stuff for sale.  Boy, would I have loved to have had about a hundred dollars!!  This "shopping" made me feel less jittery about being out and away from home and helped to pass the time until we needed to load the buses and head back to school.

Speaking of school, we just finished our first quarter.  (Today is actually an in-service day for us teachers, but I've already update grades and attendance and computed honor roll averages; so I have some time to update the blog!)  I am so excited to be able to say all eighteen of my students made A or B honor roll this quarter!!!  I may not be able to say that the rest of the year, so I made sure to say it now!  Plus, each of my own children is doing well in school.  Ashley has a subject or two in which she could improve, but that is due to lack of studying.....which can easily be remedied.  Emily is doing well; Katie is working hard but getting good grades.  The best report is Dale:  He's been improving in his PACEs to the point that he doesn't need as much help finding answers and taking tests.  He is averaging (I think) a steady C in his classes!  Praise the Lord!!!  He doesn't require quite so much teacher hovering as last year, which means he's either matured a bit more and decided to do better himself or he's just getting the material better.  He's taking Algebra I this year and consistently doing well; his English and science PACEs show improvement too.  What a blessing!

I can't help but smile when I think of God's continued miracle in my son.  We were told that the biggest leaps of healing would come in the first six months after the accident.  The next six months would then show big improvements as well, and even the following six months (up to 18 months out) would show good progress.  But, after that, Dale was supposed to be pretty much done with the healing/progress/improvements; 18 months after his accident, we would have to start taking a hard look at what he could no longer do and what we would need to help him make adjustments for.  Yet, here we are at three years after his drowning, and God is continuing to show that He as the Creator can do what medical science deems impossible.  Dale is thriving in his school work, beyond what we believed he could ever again.  His attentiveness, his learning, his comprehension, and mostly his memory have all improved versus last school year.  Even physically Dale surprises us.  During the last hour of the school day Wednesday, Dale was sitting in the borrowed wheel chair (long story.....short version: the alarm kept going off and it was easier to keep Dale in the wheel chair that keep getting him in and out of it to exit the building!) and---get this---shooting hoops.  Real basketball hoops!  According to his sisters (who were almost in tears), Dale was making about 1 in 6 shots.  Not bad, huh?  I had no idea he could make shots from a seated position.  This is something we will have to explore in more depth.

All this to say, our God is simply awesome.  Just when we think we've reached the limit of His love/forgiveness/power/ability, He shows us something new.  Never give up on God because He's far greater than we could ever imagine.  He has depths we don't even know we should try to plumb.

Psalm 73: 24 - 48  "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but Thee?  and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.  My flesh and my heart faileth:  but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.  For, lo, they that are far from Thee shall perish:  Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from Thee.  But it is good for me to draw near to God:  I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Crazy start to our school year!

There's no other way to describe it but crazy.  Then again, most everything related to our family could be described as crazy!

We took a few mini vacations this summer, the latest being the week before school started.  This also happened to be the week of Teacher Orientation, which meant that I missed a couple of much-needed prep days.  I had gone in for a couple of half days to find out how many students were on my roster and see if I needed more desks/chairs.  Turns out, I had 17 students signed up!  Seventeen!!!  The most I'd ever had in one class before was 11 students!  Katie and I spent some time getting extra desks and chairs out of the storage container, then snagging desks and chairs from other classrooms too.  Finally, I had 17 desks and chairs to fit.

Then, of course, I had another student sign up.  Now I had to find another desk and chair!  And I was getting uptight because I didn't have any decorations on the walls.  And I hadn't put together any lesson plans for the first few weeks of school.  And I still needed to put nameplates on the students' desks.  And then I had a student withdraw but then got a new student added.  And, and, and!  I was getting more stressed as the time ticked down to the start of school.  Thank God for my Katie and Ashley who helped me decorate the classroom, pull out quizzes and tests for the first few subjects, track down last-minute desks and chairs, and generally did anything I asked of them!  What a blessing those two have been!

Of course, getting ready to start school and actually conducting a class with a million students are two different things.  I found myself in the first two weeks getting farther and farther behind in my lesson plans.  We didn't have science for nearly a week!  Even with Katie as my teacher's assistant, there was a mountain of grading to do each day, and it seemed like we finished each day with a line of students at my desk so I could check their homework slips while parents lined up outside the door to collect their children.  At least five times each day I found myself repeating the mantra, "I can't keep doing this.  I've got to find a better way."

Thank God for procedures and routines!  It took a lot of discipline on my part and tons of prayer, but by the middle of the third week of school, things finally jelled.  By now, the students knew what to do as soon as they entered the classrom; they knew how to set up their papers; they knew what classwork they could start on without waiting for me to teach that subject.  We finished reviewing the cursive alphabet which meant I could assign each day's work for the students to do on their own.  We even had a forty-minute block after art on Thursday in which to catch up on science!  I had to shift the first science test (scheduled originally for last Friday) to tomorrow, but, other than that, we are all caught up.  Praise the Lord!

Our children seem to be having a good start to the school year as well.  Amanda is taking a break from classes right now.  She moved out of the dorms and into the house of a friend and her family; the mom instantly began treating her like one of her own kids!  Mandie might be able to take some classes in the spring, but until then she'll work and get caught up on bills.  Katie, being a senior this year, is excited to only have a few classes, giving her extra time to work with me and help other teachers as well.  Ashley is enjoying no longer being a lowly seventh grader; she's gotten pretty good grades so far.  Emily has the best teacher in the whole world this!  I am excited to have my youngest in my class.  She's done a great job, too, of being a student in my class, not my daughter; she even remembers to call me "Mrs. Ostrander" instead of "Mom."  And Dale is doing really well.  He's gotten good grades on quizzes and tests so far and seems to be thriving at his PACE work.  Again, praise the Lord!

The end of July, we were able to get in to see Dale's neurologist.  Chad got to go this time too.  As always, the doctor was amazed at Dale's condition.  We always ask, "What comes next?  What can we expect?"  And he always answers, "I really couldn't tell you.....we just don't get many cases like Dale's!"  Dale continues to be a miracle case, but we know it's all God.  The doctor ordered another EEG since the last one on record was from December 2011.  That was scheduled for the second week of August, and it went well.  When the doctor got the results, he told us the EEG was clean---no sign of seizure activity.  So the doctor told us to start backing Dale off his anti-seizure meds.  We did this for about four weeks with no sign of difficulty and then BAM!  Out of the blue, Dale had a seizure.  Right at the end of school Wednesday.  His poor teacher was scared half to death!  I'm so thankful she was with him and that there were no other students in the room at the time.  She stayed with Dale until the seizure ended and then got help.  From her report, it seems like the seizure was of normal length and with normal occurrences (arms drawn up---posturing; abnormal breathing---he sounds like he's pulling in short, sharp gasps; inability to talk).  Dale did bite his tongue in two places during the seizure, but he's fine now.  Our preacher came and got me; by the time I got there, Dale had begun the loud crying that signifies he realizes he's coming out of a seizure and hates that it happened again.  He told me later he was hoping the seizure was just a dream.  It took a bit longer for him to regain the ability to hold his head up and such; but only a bit, and it had been a while since his body had dealt with a seizure, so I imagine he was extra drained from the experience.  By the time we got home, Dale had regained the ability to walk, so he was able to get into the house just fine.  I made sure he rested for a good while before resuming normal activities.  He even went to church that night!  He's shown no sign of adverse side effects since the seizure, and we're back to a regular dosage of pills.  Life continues......

This was an extra-long post, but it's been extra-long since the last one so there was more to tell.  Thank you so much for each of your prayers.  To anyone but the most hardhearted athiest, it is obvious that God not only cares about each of us but also knows what it best for us.  Thank You, Lord, for Your blessings on our lives, even when we sin, even when we fail You, even when we're too busy doing our daily thing to even see Your marvelous hand at work.  Thank You.

Isaiah 60: 19 - 20  "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee:  but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.  Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself:  for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me; bless His holy name.

On August 5th, it will have been three years since that fateful day at the ocean that changed our lives forever.  Three years since our youth department decided to change the date and location of what should have been a fun-filled day trip with the teenagers.  Three years since many of our young people lost their naive belief in their immunity to harm.  Three years since our family, our youth group, our church, our nation, our world saw the power of prayer.  Three years since our God showed His mighty power over death.

It's been three years of pain, prayer, patience, and persistence.  Those first days of wondering whether Dale would ever wake up or what condition he would be in if he did.  The endless, continual, fervent shaking of Heaven's gates by those closest to us and people whom we'll never meet this side of eternity, begging God to spare Dale's life while remaining firm in the belief that His way is always best.  The incredible joy when Dale opened his eyes long after the doctors had given up hope.  The subsequent weeks of hospital care and in-patient speech, occupational, and physical therapy, trying to help Dale remember how to do what should come naturally to a twelve-year-old boy.  Those first months home from the hospital, juggling therapy and school and caring for our son, thinking he may never talk on his own again, may never not need help in the bathroom again, may never smile again.

There have been a multitude of times when we've wanted to quit.  Times when Dale seems to take one step forward, two steps back.  Times when our constant efforts are nowhere near enough.  Times when Dale himself just won't try any more; he's so tired of hearing the same reminders to keep his head up, to pull his shoulders back, to not lunge forward with his right leg and make his left play keep up.  Times, especially lately, when it seems all he wants to do is watch TV or play video games.  Times when we grow frustrated or get angry or just plain cry, knowing full well that anger or words or tears are not going to solve anything.  Times when we wonder why God answered our prayers to save our son's life, only to leave us with a physically handicapped, slow-speaking, memory-challenged lump of flesh who thinks we are supposed to do all the work to help him walk and think and learn and grow.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it?  Yes, it does.  Those of you who have had to face similar challenges know exactly how we feel.  We love our son and wouldn't trade him for the world---but sometimes we wish we could get a day off.  Sometimes his sisters wish they could just be normal teenagers again without having to constantly look out for their brother or help their brother or do their brother's chores or be embarrassed when their brother falls down in the parking lot for the millionth time because he won't listen when they tell him to stand up straight and walk the way he's been taught.  Sometimes I wish I didn't have to worry about rearranging his subjects at school to give him a chance to pass his classes so he can at least graduate from high school.  Or assist him into and out of the bathtub.  Or wash his hair for him.  Or chide him about brushing his teeth better. Or any of the hundreds of things that come up each day that Dale can no longer do because of the accident, like washing the dishes or carrying laundry upstairs or clearing off the table or helping with the chores or walking around a store on his own.  I imagine Chad sometimes wishes his only son could actually carry on the family name or work on the car with him or challenge him to a game of horse or help out in the yard.  It's tough having a handicapped child, and there is no nice way to say that.

It's been three years since our family's sense of well-being was traumatically altered, but it's also been three years since we near-physically felt the hand of God on us.  It's been three years since we learned we are not impervious to danger just because we are Christians, but it's also been three years since God proved He listens and He cares.  It's been three years since we looked death in the face, but it's also been three years since God granted our son new life.  It's been three years since our world was shattered, but it's also been three years since we learned anew that this world is not our home.  You see, each day is a gift from God.  What we do with that gift is up to us.  Our patience is daily tried; our limits are constantly tested; our strength sometimes fails; our endurance will occasionally falter; our attitude will at times be poor……..but our God is everlasting, never-changing, always loving, ever-giving, perfectly right.  When our patience runs out, He is there.  When we  have reached our limits, He is there.  When our strength fails, He is there.  When our endurance flags, He is there.  When our attitude is not Christ-like, He is there.  God is our constant; He is our strength; He is our very present help in trouble.  You may see us get upset or angry with our son sometimes, but you will never see us angry with God or blaming Him as if His miracle isn't good enough for us.  God knows what is best, and He knows His children.  He only gives us what we can handle; and when we can't handle it, He's there to hold us close and rock us gently until we feel better.  The only way we get through each day---and the yawning stretch of endless days ahead like this one---is by remembering what awaits us in Heaven.  There will come a day when I will see my son run down the golden street.  For this moment, today, I can trust God and His miracle and thank Him for all He's done for us.

Psalm 86: 9-10  "All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O LORD; and shall glorify Thy name.  For Thou are great, and doest wondrous things:  Thou art God alone."