Lost Puppy Blog

We have lost our puppy. She went missing on Tuesday afternoon from our yard. She is actually my oldest son’s puppy and I watch her every day at our house while he is at work. Which means, I lost my son’s puppy. A case of too many people, each one thinking someone else was in charge of the puppy at that moment in time. 

I feel like I was standing there, battle-weary from all that life has been throwing at me, and then a giant warrior just ran up to me and kicked me in the stomach. And I’m still laying on the ground, gasping for breath. I wake up in the night, heart pounding, knowing something is wrong, and then I think, the puppy, we’ve got to find the puppy. And that has been the constant state of my nerves, just a frantic feeling of needing to do something to fix this and make it right.

My biggest struggle has been to keep my heart right. When bad things happen, it feels like punishment. It feels like a lack of love. It feels like maybe God isn’t good. The line from the song has been going through my head, “You’re a good, good Father, that’s who you are, that’s who you are, and I am loved by you, that’s who I am, that’s who I am…” And I admit there has been a battle in my mind. God you said in your parable, what father gives his son a snake when he asks for a fish? If human fathers know how to give good gifts, how much more so does God give good gifts?? And I sit here saying, please, we need our puppy back. And I think, surely a good Father would make this happen? 

And I am determined to not sin with my thoughts. God, you are sovereign. You know more than me. I will trust you. And I am clinging to that. I will trust God. And I am reminded that the presence or absence of this puppy does not equal “loved” or “not loved”. That question was already decided on the cross.  I believe this. But, Lord, I need this horrible feeling of desperation to go away. My heart is breaking for ourselves and for my son, and for this little puppy that we all love so much. 

We have checked with the shelter and will continue to do so. We have put her picture out on all kinds of community groups and Facebook groups. We’ve made flyers and walked around the area, leaving them in key places and talking to people who are out walking. The mailman is on the lookout. There is a homeless lady who owns a cat who I see often in the park. I gave her a flyer and she said she’d be looking. There’s a man I see every morning walking his dog all around the area. I stopped him and asked him to keep an eye out. Actually, I’ve asked several different dog walkers who I see regularly. I keep driving the area where she was last seen Tuesday night. Petco has a database for lost pets that I’ve been checking. I don’t know what else to do. 

I know several of my readers live in the same area as me, so I’m going to put a picture on here. Please keep us in your prayers. 

Paradise

I was about to start supper this evening and went to my stove and it was covered in some thick, clear, sticky stuff. I have no idea what it was or how it got there. I was kind of mumbling to myself as I got a rag and started scrubbing on it. And then, while I was scrubbing away, I suddenly thought about the moms in the Ukraine. And I thought, I bet they wish the only thing they had to do right now was clean their stove and make a meal. And I remembered again how, when we are in a stressful/dangerous/hopeless situation, all we want is normal. I just wish I could have a normal day. I wish I could just hang around with my family doing ordinary things. And once again I realize that this ordinary life that I often grumble about, is actually paradise. Living the dream. My family is around me. I have food to eat. A home to live in. A complacency that each day is going to unfold in a familiar fashion. 

I have to admit though, the last couple days my heart rate has been going up as Russia talks about raising their nuclear status. What does that even mean? When someone starts talking nuclear weapons we leave the arena of regional politics and it becomes something that affects our entire planet. And suddenly it feels like my ordinary is being threatened. 

Today my kids had Drill Day at school. They had fire drills and tornado drills and drills where they had to learn how to be silent so a shooter wouldn’t find them and kill them. And my 2nd grader calmly told me how they had to practice because they didn’t want to be shot. And in my head I was yelling NO!! Why are they telling my 2nd grader this??? THIS IS INSANE! But at the same time, I could imagine a frantic teacher trying to protect a room full of children and somehow having to convince these kids that they had to be silent. And I don’t want this to be part of our ordinary. But it is.

The last couple years our ordinary has turned upside down several times. Pandemics, riots, protests, crazy elections, more pandemic. Afghanistan. Now Ukraine. We are all feeling on edge as life just continually refuses to go back to normal. Yes, we have our daily routines that keep on going, but they keep getting shaken up. 

I’ve been reading through the Bible backwards this year (starting at the end of the Old Testament reading through the last book, then the next to last book etc, and the same for the New Testament). Cause I never seem to make it through the Bible when I start at the beginning. This means that I am smack in the middle of all the prophets in the Old Testament. I do not pretend to understand the books of the prophets. At all. But what I do understand from reading them is that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. World events do not surprise him. His faithfulness extends before, during, and after crisis. He is trustworthy in the ordinary, in the extraordinary, in the tragedies, in times of prosperity and times of great loss. 

I am beginning to feel that my life and my children’s lives might not ever have that wonderful thing called ordinary life. But what we can have is Jesus. In us, working through us, surrounding us with his peace and joy. And that is true Paradise. 

What Can We Do?

This week I rolled out of bed when my alarm went off, grabbed my phone, scrolled through email, Facebook and the news (my version of a shot of caffeine for jerking myself awake). And then read that Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. I woke my husband up to tell him the news. And then sat there feeling numb. 

Now what? What does this mean for all the people in Ukraine? What does this mean for Russia? What does this mean for our country and the whole world? 

War. The ugliest word in human language. 

I have been trying to keep up with the news. I’ve been praying a lot. I’m starting to see ads pop up asking for money donations to help the coming refugees who are fleeing the war. And my cynicism pokes through. How many of these sites are legitimate? Who do I trust? Yes, I can send a little bit of money, but who do I send it to? 

I’ve seen videos of protests, people singing the Ukrainian national anthem. Most of this is taking place in Europe. Understandably. And I’m starting to see a bit of the guilt-throwing starting to happen. All you happy people sitting by, doing nothing, while others are suffering. Shame on you. 

And I wonder, what can we do? I have lost all hope that my government is interested in hearing my opinion. And I feel like I am just helplessly sitting by, waiting for the people with power to figure out what to do. 

I wish there was a checklist. This is the human response required when war breaks out in the world. 

  1. Do x
  2. Do y
  3. Do z

And then we would all know what we are supposed to be doing and we could go about doing it. But it doesn’t exist. And so we each have to figure out what we are required to do. The people in Ukraine have a totally different set of tasks they have to do as compared to people in the nieghboring countries, as compared to people in Russia, as compared to people in authority, as compared to people far away with no authority. 

And so, as with all things, we each have to figure out for ourselves, what we can do to help. And pray for those who have more power or opportunities to help. 

If I had the power to stop this war, I would. If I was close at hand and had any opportunity to help those in need, I would. As it is, I have a little money I can send to help refugees. I can pray. And I can continue to keep my eyes and ears open to see if there is anything else I can do. 

Sweet Peace, where dost thou dwell? I humbly crave,

Let me once know.

I sought thee in a secret cave,

And ask’d, if Peace were there,

A hollow wind did seem to answer, No:

Go seek elsewhere …

George Herbert “Peace”

The Power of Not Pretending

This morning I found myself thinking about how there is a weird tension between who I want to be and who I actually am. I want to be a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. Someone who fights her battles single-handedly and shows no sign of weakness. Someone who is respected for her strength. 

When I sit back and analyse a bit, I’m not sure that’s really who I am. 

I love to read adventure stories and romances, and usually, the female lead is strong, sassy, bold. She soars through the story with gracefulness and wit. And sometimes I think about the story and think, what would I do if I was in that situation? If this was my story? And half the time, I have to admit that I would never be in this story because a lot of these stories have to do with poor decisions, hasty or angry actions that didn’t have a lot of forethought. I am a think-first person. I am slow to speak and I like all my decisions to be well-thought out. Not very sexy, but it has saved me a lot of heartache and headache. 

These heroines always stand up for themselves. I usually freeze up in the moment. And it isn’t till I walk away from a situation that my brain sorts out, Hey, they did not do what they promised they were going to do, or what I needed them to do. Now I’m going to have to go back and insist on things being done differently. Case in point: I have been trying to retrieve medical records for my foster child and after four different phone calls, finally spoke to a doctor who said, No, you need to do this and this and this first or we’re not going to give that to you. And later, I told my husband about the conversation and he said, It’s your right to have the medical records. They can’t do that to you, just demand that they give you the medical records. And it was a light bulb moment, of Well Duh, why didn’t I just stand my ground?? But I didn’t because there was a doctor talking to me and saying No and I felt obligated to jump through the hoops they were setting up for me. Understandable, but not heroic. 

I am not who I wish I was. 

But maybe that’s not a bad thing. 

I think about that verse from 1 Corinthians 13:11:

 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 

Maybe part of growing up, maturing, is realizing that these role models, tropes, caricatures of womanhood that our culture feeds us are not all that they’re cracked up to be. 

Perfection. Any movie, magazine, or heroic book, tells us that women have to be perfect. And that translates to looking beautiful at all times, never bending under pressure, never settling for less, never being mediocre in anything. Social media tells us that our houses should always be clean, our children well-dressed, and the food we prepare should be organic and represent all the food groups. We should gently parent our children with grace and humor. We should keep our bodies in perfect shape and make sure we are still trying to be attractive for our spouses. And while we are at it, we should also be civic minded, fight for the underdog, and volunteer in the community whenever possible. 

When I sat down to write this it was with a feeling of never being enough. But as I think through all this I think that I have discovered one Superhero quality in myself that is worth being happy about. It’s the power of Not Pretending. 

I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect. I can accept that I’m not as bold and strong as I wish I was. I acknowledge that my parenting is flawed. I can admit that sometimes I’m a great wife, and sometimes I’m really not. I know that I’ve got some good points, and I’ve got some bad ones and I have to fight daily to keep myself from just dwelling on my bad points. But there is a lot of freedom in just being who you are. And realizing that God has made you this way, for a purpose. And maybe just relaxing into that. Releasing the tension that says, I should be more, I should be better, and instead saying this is who I am, God loves me, and it is good. 

High School

My last two years of high school I attended Bethel Regional High School in Bethel, Alaska. It’s a bush town out on the tundra. The only way to get there is by plane, boat, or in winter, via snowmachine or the ice road. When I was living there the population was somewhere around six thousand. I moved from tropical Haiti to frozen Alaska and it was quite a shock to the system. I walked around in a heavy coat the first summer, but eventually I got used to it. It was the first time in my life that I did not have any tan lines. I’m sure my skin appreciated the break. 

I remember my senior year a girl I knew called me and asked me if I would be willing to tutor her in geometry. I was surprised and a little confused. Umm. I’ve never tutored before, I’m not sure how helpful I would be. Then the girl assured me that our math teacher, Mr. Guffin, had been the one who told her to call me. Oh. Ok. (Mr. Guffin thinks I can tutor someone??) Well, sure, I guess I could tutor you. 

The tutoring went well, she was able to get her grade where it needed to be, and the next semester another girl called and asked me to tutor her for Alegebra 2, also saying Mr Guffin had suggested she call me. I tutored her as well and she was able to pass her class too. 

I would have never thought that I could tutor someone in math. I would never have volunteered to do it. I would have never thought myself qualified to do it. But my teacher saw that I could, pushed me in that direction, and my confidence grew and I learned how to tutor math. 

I ended up writing for the school newspaper. Another thing I had no previous interest in and didn’t really think of it as something I would be capable of doing. A teacher pushed me in that direction and I ended up learning how to conduct interviews, and do layout on a computer. 

My gym teacher declared that everyone in his class would do calisthenics and running and become competent in a long list of sports. I did not think these were things I could do. But, it was required so I did it. And learned that I was actually capable of these things and could even semi-enjoy them. (Ok, maybe I didn’t quite become competent in all the sports, but I definitely made improvements!) 

I was not signed up for band class because I did not play any band instruments. But the band teacher learned very early on that I could play piano. He volunteered (voluntold) me to be the band accompanist. I accompanied several ensembles for their competitions and performances and I ended up accompanying every single student who performed a solo for band competition. And one time, when they were short somebody, I played the timpani. All things I did not think I could do. But the teacher said yes, you can do this, here’s the music, get busy. 

My best friend pushed me to be a class officer. Did I want to do this? No. Did I do it anyway? Yes. Did I learn a lot in the process? Yes. 

When I look back, I think of these last two years of high school as the golden years. I was learning who I was and what I was capable of doing. I made some great friends. My teachers were supportive and involved. My classmates were friendly enough. I was good friends with some, acquaintances with others, slightly nodding recognition with a handful. But no bullies. No kids that I felt the need to avoid at all costs. 

This is what I want for my own children. I want school to be a place where they are pushed to try new things, pushed to excel. Pushed to be more, do more. A safe environment with at least a handful of friends. 

We are looking at making some changes for next school year when we have a junior and freshman in high school. While our local high school was a great experience for our oldest daughter, a reasonable experience for our son and a decent experience for our other daughter, we’ve reached a place where it is not meeting the needs of our fourth daughter and we have concerns for our upcoming freshman. And while I struggle because I want to support our neighborhood school and I believe in their vision and I applaud the efforts of many of their staff, I can’t help wanting my kids to have the same thing I did. And right now it looks like we will have to branch out to find it. 

I’ll write more about this later. 

In Memory of Peter

When I was four or five years old my family was living in Northern Haiti on the OMS missionary compound. Our maid, who lived in the neighboring village, told my mom about a newborn baby in her village whose mother had just died of AIDS. The grandmother was caring for the baby now, but it was not doing well. My mom went into the village and found the baby: tiny, severely dehydrated and dying, the grandmother trying to keep him alive with sugared tea water. My mom brought the baby home. We had a nurse who lived on the compound. She tried to start an IV but the baby was too dehydrated. She instructed my mom to give the baby a dropperful of rehydration fluid every five minutes. My mom worked around the clock with the help of a volunteer missionary who was staying at our house. On the third day, exhausted, my mom asked the nurse if she could take a night shift with the baby. That night, under the nurse’s care, the baby opened his eyes, smiled, lifted his arms and then died. They had a funeral, people from the village came and this death ended up being the birth of my parents’ relationships and ministry in this village. 

I don’t really remember all of that. I had to ask my mom to get those details. 

What I remember is a blue blanket. A little dark head peeking through. I remember my mom made a baby bed in the living room out of a dresser drawer. I remember having to be quiet. And I remember the delight of having a baby in the house. The hope. Could this be my new baby brother? Do we get to keep him?

And then I remember the solemn conversation. Standing next to my big brother as the adults shared some important news. No images of the adults, no memory of their words, just information that was imparted. The baby had died. 

Peter had died. 

No one had bothered to name him, so our family named him Peter. 

It’s a wispy memory. A memory of What If. What if he had lived? What if my parents had decided to adopt him? What if I could have had a baby brother? 

I remember as a bit older child, moving to a different place, telling the new kids I met that I used to have a baby brother, but he died. 

As I was sitting here thinking about all this, it brought to mind another Peter who died. I had an early miscarriage in between my 9th and 10th child. I have no idea if the baby was a boy or a girl, but my heart said, this was a boy, and his name was Peter Elisha. Another wispy memory. What If? What if he had lived? A thought I shy away from. If he had lived, we would not have our last little boy who has brought so much joy to our lives. What ifs are too convoluted, confusing. A rabbit trail not worth pursuing. 

But, it is good to remember for a moment. Peter. Both Peters. You were loved for the few moments we knew you. 

Daily Battles

“Are we holding on to, or are we held? Are we approaching or are we inside? Is it finished or in process?

I am talking about our position in Christ, because what we believe makes all the difference right now.” 

Sarah Howe

I read these words the other day on a friend’s Facebook. And I found myself almost arguing out loud. Yes. My brain knows that I am held, I am on the inside, the work is finished. I know this with my brain. But, my heart, it still struggles. My emotions still struggle. My sense of security still struggles. 

This morning I was dropping my son off at school. I got a text right as we pulled into the parking lot. I was concerned about answering it, so when I pulled to a stop I quickly grabbed my phone, sent a rushed response, hit send, then looked up. My son had already exited the car and was walking away, it was time to pull out of the parking lot. I forgot to say “Goodbye, I love you, Have a good day!” And I drove away feeling like a failure. Not a good enough mom. 

It also didn’t help that I started off the day with an unpleasant surprise which then made me snap at my husband and start his day off on the wrong foot. Failure. Not a good enough wife. Can’t start the day cheerfully and help everyone else start the day cheerfully. 

And then it just avalanched. Everything I did was put under the filter of Not-Good-Enough and I ended up just sitting here, feeling like a complete failure. There’s no way that God loves me. Or anyone else for that matter. Unworthy. 

It occurs to me again that life is a battle. And I am my own worst enemy. My flesh. The part of me that says, I’d rather just sit here and eat snacks than get up and exercise. The part of me that says, I’m in a bad mood so I have a right to be harsh and snappy with people. The part of me that feels affronted when I have to deal with any kind of hardship or inconvenience, and then I take that out on everyone else with complaining and acting like everyone owes me something. And then, the part of me that feels less-than, unwanted, unworthy. 

As I sit here, wallowing, I remember Paul’s exhortation, 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11

The rest of of that chapter talks about the different parts of the armor of God. I think about the belt of truth buckled around my waist. God is on his throne. Jesus came to save us. I have been chosen by God. I am loved. I think about the breastplate of righteousness. It’s not my goodness that saves me, it’s Jesus’ work on the cross. His righteousness, his goodness, covers me. I think about the helmet of salvation. I am saved! Nothing can separate me from God’s love. I pick up the sword of the spirit, read God’s word. I pick up the shield of faith, I believe what I have read. I strap on the Gospel of peace to my feet, ready to tell the world again, that my God is good, my God saves, he is Love. 

And once again, the day’s battle is won. My brain reminds my heart, my emotions: You are held. You are inside. The work is finished. Go in peace. 

I hit the refresh button on the day. And I start again. 

No Victory

I feel like I have just come out on the other side of a large battle. And I’m exhausted and frazzled, relieved. But not quite rejoicing. 

We went to court today concerning our foster daughter. After three and a half hours of waiting, the actual court appearance was short and to the point. As guardians do you support this petition or will you contest? We contest. Ok. We will set a date for a trial. Here’s the information you need to know to move forward. 

The only words I spoke were, We contest. But, man, the inner battles I had to have in order to say that. 

I had to willingly cause someone else pain by saying those words. I had to say, no, I’m not going to go along in the name of peace, I’m going to fight this. I had to go against someone else’s wishes and opinions and say, No, even though you are telling me I am wrong, I still believe my perspective is right and I will fight for that perspective. I had to willingly take an action that guarantees that I am now hated by a group of people whom I’ve always gotten along with. I had to step out in faith and say, I am not crazy, the reasons I disagree are valid and are worth fighting for. 

About six weeks of mental agony all wrapped up into a little phrase. We contest. 

And while saying those words was an inner victory for me, there is also grief. In juvenile court there are no winners. My victory means someone else’s pain. And I am helpless to alleviate that pain in any way. Families torn apart by their own dysfunction, passed on to them by the previous generation’s dysfunction…there are no victors. Just a lot of hurt people trying to figure out the best way to move forward. 

I hate it. 

And so I am in that weird place where I feel certain I did the right thing. But the right thing hurt someone else and so there is no victory. Just peace, mixed with sadness. 

Fat Fridays: NonDepressed Me Doesn’t Understand Depressed Me

Happy Fat Friday everyone. I’ve been gone a bit. Almost didn’t write today, but it’s stll Friday, I’ve still got a chance at this! 

This past month my exercise has diminished down to a brisk walk when it’s not too cold outside. I finally canceled my membership with the KICKOFF app that monitors your diet, gives you daily workouts and checks in with you every day. I canceled because I was no longer using the services and it’s too much money to just let it keep going when I’m not using it. I actually felt better when I canceled though. I know what I want to focus on with exercise and I feel like I can do it just using free resources. I also know that I need a different eating plan than what I was doing, so I’m still trying to figure out that one. 

What I wanted to write about today was the fact that Non-depressed Me has no understanding of Depressed Me. This past year as I was exercising and eating healthy, and the weight was coming off, and I was feeling great, I had these niggling memories. Memories of times in the past when I would lose weight, do well, and then somehow, it all came creeping back on. And I was always a little disappointed with that Old Esther who failed her diet and exercise plans so often. What was wrong with me? Why would I exchange this wonderful feeling of health and accomplishment for one of gluttany and sloth? I really had no idea why I had failed so often in the past. But I knew that, THIS TIME, I would accomplish my goals and stay on the path. 

And then Depressed Me showed up. And it was like someone took a big plank of wood and smacked me upside the head. And when I came to, Non-Depressed Me was gone, Depressed Me had taken up residence and I had the “AH HA!” moment when I remembered, very clearly, why I had failed so many times in the past. Depression. 

It sucks the life out of you. My emotions feel flat. My ambition is gone. Nothing is enjoyable. 

I am a bookworm, I have probably read close to a book a day since I was eight years old. This past month I have read one book. And it was one I’d read a million times before and I picked it because it had a happy ending with low-levels of crisis. I find myself zoning out with solitaire and flipping through Facebook and wishing I could find a book I actually wanted to read. I am still taking walks, but only when the weather gets at least into the 40s (F). We are having a cold winter (for us) and it’s no fun. 

These past couple days I have felt marginally better. I started writing my blog again. I’ve been sitting down at the piano, playing Bach. Angry Bach. Agitated Bach. But at least it’s been a good outlet for whatever is going on inside me. I’ve still managed to stay focused on getting the family to eat healthier. I have been baking our bread, about every two or three days, and that has been satisfying. Every week this month I have sat down and found new recipes for the week, made a menu, made a grocery list and tried to stick to it. It’s been cost effective and I’ve been making the kids eat new things which has made meal times more interesting for me, perhaps a little more stressful for them, but they’ve been doing pretty good with it. 

I also gave up paper plates. I’ve been using paper plates for my kids for several years. It meant that I only had to wash dishes once a day. Now I have to wash dishes two or three times a day, so I don’t know if I am actually saving anything, but it has been nice to have everyone eating off of pretty plates and my home has felt more homey. So, it’s not all negative. And I’m starting to try to have patience and compassion for Depressed-Me. Get to know this person again. See what diet and weight loss are going to look like while this alterego is hanging around. I’ll let you know how this goes.