Get to work!

“Don’t ever let economics alone determine your career or how you spend the majority of your time.” -Denis Waitley

Michael’s role as a crane specialist in reliability maintenance was going well. I loved his normal workweek schedule and he enjoyed learning and working on projects that fit with his degree. We discussed renting in Crown Point so we’d be closer to church and friends. Then we decided, heck, maybe it’s time to buy a house. Michael can pursue his MBA or another Master’s degree on nights or weekends and the mill will reimburse him, provided he stays with the company at least 2 years after completing the degree. We were far from certain, but things seemed to be moving in a stable direction.

Then we got word that Michael is being temporarily moved back to his old job as a melter foreman. Back to 13 hour workdays, back to nights, weekends and holidays in the mill, back to incessant demoralization, and a dangerous work environment. Back to the questions: do we want to do this? Do we want to stay here? Is it worth the frustration and the risk? It’s only temporary, starting this week through at least September.

One night, Michael and I re-discussed the pros and cons of me working. We determined that we’re happy with the ways things are going. Occasional substitute teaching jobs bring in a nice little boost of extra pay. Most of my time is free for volunteer work, which keeps me pretty busy. There’s plenty to do. I am always able to prioritize my schedule around family and church. We’re living reasonably comfortably and saving a responsible amount of money. We’re successful by our standards: we’re content, we almost never fight, we have time for things that matter to us. Life is good as is.

The next day, a job offer fell into my lap. Lake County Right to Life needs a secretary. OK, God, what are  you trying to tell me? This is a job that suits me, with an organization I like and already volunteer for, serving a cause I’ve been passionate about since high school. But it’s in Highland, a 50-minute commute. It’s part-time, but every day, meaning it dramatically changes the schedule we’ve been enjoying as a single-career family. It involves being alone almost all day in an office where no one else works.

I don’t want to say no to a job just because it’s a job. I don’t want to yes for the same reason either. So what now? I’m currently working the job on an interim basis. The Lake County Right to Life board of directors has to meet to discuss what to do next. They have to decide if they want to hire me permanently and I have to decide if I want to be hired permanently. But for now, I’m filling in the gap to keep things running.

The timing of these two job developments is less than ideal. Michael went back on his melter foreman schedule the same day I began my secretary job. One of my reasons for not getting a job while he was melting was so that I could be flexible with his shift work. Now I am off for the 4th of July and he’s working. But he’ll be off Friday while I’m working. The first of many work conflicts.

I have long wanted to be a housewife and stay-at-home mom. Before marriage, I didn’t predict how difficult it would be for me to defend that decision. So often the question is raised: what do you do? Instantly, I’m in explanation mode. Well, I stay at home. Or, I’m a household manager. Oh. Do you have kids? No, not yet. Then the questions about my degree. Why did I choose it? Did I try to find jobs in journalism? Do I intend to? Am I planning on pursuing some other career? Most people are well-intentioned.  They’re just trying to learn more about me. But I always sense this underlying suggestion that I’m lazy and spoiled. And sometimes, especially from friends who are working women, a hint of resentment.

It’s not like I think I’m entitled to sit on my butt all day and then go on lavish spending sprees with hubby’s money. I believe that foregoing career is a true vocation for some people, one that is seriously undervalued by our culture and desperately needed for a healthy society. When I volunteer at church or at a non-profit organization, they are head-over-heels for me. Before long, I’m getting calls and emails asking me if I can help with this and that the other thing. I’m in high demand because there are so few volunteers. Once they know I’m available, they want me to do everything. This isn’t to brag, but to explain a situation in America. Because everyone is so committed to career, no one  is available for essential, unpaid, behind-the-scenes work. People try to work and volunteer, but there’s only so much one person can do. They end up stressed out, burned out and resentful. Family is too often the first area to suffer. As a culture, we are chronically too busy. Not everyone is blessed with the opportunity to not work. I am.

I don’t want to take a job to satisfy the expectations of others. If I am employed, I want it to be because it is the best use of my time and talents in the service of God, my family and my community. Now I just have to determine whether or not that is the case. It’s a lot to think about.

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. -Bill Cosby

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Breaking my blog silence

Hello world. It’s high time I break what may have been the longest silence since I launched this blog in 2008.

There’s a great deal that I haven’t been writing about. I currently have unpublished post drafts about presidential debates, Komen and Planned Parenthood, Christianity and liberal welfare, and the St. Charles County (MO) caucus chaos. Besides all that, I’ve been drafting posts in my mind on countless other topics involving politics, faith, personal life, relationships…you name it.

I think I’m struggling with blog potential overload. I’ve been more active and informed in this election than ever before. (Granted, it’s only the second presidential election since I hit voting age.) I even applied to run as a delegate to the Republican State Convention in Indianapolis. They rejected me because I’ve never voted in the state of Indiana yet. I suspect it was because they somehow knew I wasn’t a Romney supporter, but that may be the conspiracy theorist in me.

My father-in-law subscribed us to the Wall Street Journal. I know he did it hoping that Michael would read the paper and become more savvy about business, finances and politics. What he doesn’t realize is that his son swore off reading for fun in sixth grade when the Accelerated Reader program made it a chore. He’ll have to settle for me reading the paper and giving Michael my unsolicited, highly editorialized cliff notes. Michael has been trying the ignorance is bliss approach to politics because he’s busy enough managing our own own day-to-day life. But the Wall Street Journal has drawn me in. I’ve never been a big newspaper fan (even when I worked for one) until now. The problem is it’s so long. I wish I could read every article, think and digest it, further research the stories that really interest me, and blog about them. But there’s so much. And there’s a new one every day. It’s really a problem.

Besides the election and the Wall Street Journal giving me a head full of political and economic thoughts, I’ve re-ignited my pro-life activism. For a while, I spent too much time simply writing about being pro-life and not enough time doing anything about it. This January, I was privileged to once again help chaperone my high school’s trip to the March for Life in D.C., and I’m considering leading my own group next year. I joined up with Lake County Right to Life for the local 40 Days for Life campaign during Lent and have been applying for jobs and volunteer opportunities with them and local women’s care centers. I’ve been brainstorming and meeting with my pastor about how to get our church more actively involved in local pro-life efforts. I’ve found myself busy with more doing and less writing. And when I could write, I’ve been reading and researching instead, gathering as many sources as possible and often deciding they’ve already said it just as well as I could.

Church involvement has kept me busy too. I teach high school Sunday School and help plan/lead/chaperone as many youth events as possible. Michael and I love our young adult Bible study that meets every Monday. Occasionally, I lead a session or two of the Bible study. I’m also participating in a servant leaders training and mentoring program with one of our DCEs. I’m helping however I can with the preparation for Awestruck Experience, an awesome week of community service culminating with a Christian music festival that we are hosting in Crown Point this July. Michael sometimes plays guitar or runs the soundboard for contemporary worship. I am the coordinator for Mediashout (the projector slides for the contemporary service), and sometimes am the one running it during the services. I’ve been trained for the altar guild (setting up and cleaning up the Communion materials), but they have yet to schedule me to do it. Whenever they call me, I substitute teach for Trinity’s elementary school.

Michael has transitioned from shift work at the mill to a regular weekday schedule. We dreamed this would give us more time, but we actually feel like we have less time now. Before, his time off usually fell on unusual days or at unusual times, so it was hard to plan things with other people. That meant his time off was almost exclusively spent with me. Now he has the blessing of being available when everyone else is: evenings and weekends. Accordingly, we’ve booked all our evenings and weekends hanging out with friends, going to activities, doing stuff for church, and looking for a new place to live. We want to rent a house or duplex closer to church and friends. Picking a church 45 minutes from our house has proved inconvenient, not to mention costly on gas. So we spend a lot of time on Craigslist and aimlessly driving around searching for For Rent signs.

On the personal front, I had some medical issues and family things to deal with. Also, in February, my uncle died at the early age of 55. He unknowingly supplied the title for his funeral message with a saying he shared often in the hospital: “I could laugh or I could cry. I choose to laugh.” Even though my family is strengthened by our Christian faith and the sure knowledge that we’ll see Mark again in heaven, it has been and is a difficult ordeal. Letting go and moving on is never easy for the ones left behind.

In happier news, Michael and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in March. I don’t feel old enough to move past the newlywed phase. But our marriage is so comfortable and normal, it’s strange to think that life was ever different than this. Someone told me, “They say the first year is the hardest. Congratulations on making it.” Ha ha. Well, I guess it was hard in the way that every new phase of life is hard. We build it up in our minds as some utopian fairytale. And then it turns out it’s real life, after all. There are days when you’re giddy with happiness and days when you’re ticked off and days when you’re just plain tired. But I seriously doubt the first year is the hardest.

And in some ways, the utopian fairytale is true. Michael and I are always marveling at how compatible and like-minded we are. Of course we disagree, but we almost never really fight. Being married to my best friend means that every day is like a slumber party — there are just several annoying interruptions like work and bills and dirty dishes. But it’s all part of the adventure. A grand adventure of living not only with, but for, someone else. I love serving him and being served by him. I love laughing at stupid things that other people don’t understand. I love working through the tough stuff together. Yep, marriage is pretty great.

In sum, life happened and is happening. And my blog has fallen by the wayside. Part of me is OK with that. Except that I do love to write. And some people seem to like reading it. I’m not hanging up my blogger hat just yet.

Posted in Life as we know it | 3 Comments

Do retarded children deserve to live?

Note: Throughout this post, including the title, I use the word “retarded” with the goal of showing the harsh reality of how our culture treats individuals who are wrongly viewed as somehow less valuable to society. It is in no way my intention to promote the term, which is used as a derogatory label. For more info, please visit this site to learn more about People First Language.

Do retarded children deserve to live?

Does that question bother you? Does it make you mad? It should. But tragically, that question reflects the reality in our society. Our country is waging war against the “unwanteds” of society. We use the term quality of life to set artificial boundaries around when someone deserves to live. It’s ironic that the quality of life argument is almost always used when one person (or entity) is deciding for another person (or group) if they may live or die. We claim we’re worried about whether the person in question can lead a happy, fulfilling life. We presume we’re being compassionate by deciding for them that their life won’t be good enough and sentencing them to death as a preferable alternative.

This website describes the true story of a three-year-old girl named Amelia. She has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, meaning she has been labeled mentally retarded and brain damaged. A hospital in Philadelphia decided she didn’t qualify for a kidney transplant “because of her quality of life; because of her mental delays,” according to the doctor. Not only was she ineligible for the waiting list for a random donor, the hospital would not perform the transplant even if her family provided its own donor.

The hospital has decided for Amelia and her family that her “quality of life” is no good. So bad, in fact, that she deserves to die.

This is Amelia. She looks like a happy little girl to me. And her story is not unique.

Statistics show that 90% of pregnant women who are given a Down syndrome diagnosis choose to abort. Is that not astonishing? Many think it would be wonderful to create a world in which no children are retarded or disabled. But instead of (or in addition to) efforts to prevent retardation, we seek to exterminate anyone who falls short of our standards. For children like Amelia who aren’t aborted, there is a movement in the medical community to simply “let” them die. We will find ways to get rid of our “unwanteds,” if not before birth, then after.

Our demand for perfection drives us to constantly expand our definition of those who we say have an unacceptable quality of life. Go back to my initial question. It is asked of so many in our society.

  • Do retarded children deserve to live?
  • Do physically handicapped children deserve to live?
  • Do unplanned preborn children deserve to live?
  • Do feeble elderly people deserve to live?
  • Do poor people deserve to live?
  • Do minority people deserve to live?

Wait,  you might say. Who is trying to kill poor and minority people? Some things are overt, others are covert. When we place different values on different people, it is not long before we begin justifying the elimination of those deemed less valuable. I assure you, it is already happening.

Are you comfortable with the standards we have set for quality of life? The standards keep changing. Fewer and fewer people fit the bill. Maybe you think people who are severely handicapped are better off dead. How do you decide what is severe? What about my mother-in-law who has MS? She would be helpless without a wheelchair. Would you kill her? Maybe you think people who require life support or a feeding tube are better off dead. How do you decide how much medical intervention is too much? What about my stepdad who has diabetes? If you took away the medical intervention of insulin shots, he would die. Would you kill him?

If we continue to accept the notion that we can define another person’s quality of life and kill or “let” them die if they don’t meet our standard, it may come to the point some day where we kill people with MS or diabetes. Do  you think I’m being extreme? It’s ridiculous to think that we would allow such a thing. But isn’t it ridiculous to let three-year-old Amelia die because she has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome? The culture of death is already ridiculous. We are there. What are we going to do about it?

I’ve been criticized in the past for comparing abortion to Hitler’s Holocaust. Alongside the Jews, Hitler killed the elderly, the feeble, the handicapped and the retarded. Those who refuse to learn from history are forced to repeat it. These tragedies are never obvious from the start, or we would be better at preventing them. They start with beautiful sounding lies. No more disabilities. No retardation. Every child a wanted child. A pure race… You see? It’s all connected. A culture of death will not self-regulate or hold itself to any moral standard. We must step up to stop it. How much bloodshed will it take before the world cannot stand this Holocaust any more?

Yesterday we celebrated Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King was a wise man, an activist, a minister, and a true hero. I have no doubt that if he were alive today, he would be on the front lines of the movement against this culture of death.

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We may sit comfortably at home and ignore these issues while they do not affect us directly. But the tide of death will swell and overtake us. The day these things affect us directly may well be the day it is too late for us to raise our voices in the defense of life and liberty.

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Managing the commodity called life

Please read The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy, a New York Times article by Ruth Padawer, before reading my commentary below. It is an excellent, thought-provoking article and my post is incomplete without it. All quotations below are from the above mentioned article.

The Situation

In vitro fertilization and fertility drugs greatly increase the chances of a multiple pregnancy. Carrying multiples (especially more than three), increases the health risks for both mother and babies. The accepted solution is “reduction,” eliminating some of the fetuses to increase the likelihood of health for the mother and surviving child(ren).

“The procedure, which is usually performed around Week 12 of a pregnancy, involves a fatal injection of potassium chloride into the fetal chest. The dead fetus shrivels over time and remains in the womb until delivery.”

Reductions used to only be done in pregnancies of triplets or higher, reducing the number remaining to twins. But recently, more women are pushing to have their twin pregnancies reduced to a “singleton.” Most doctors agree there is little to no medical justification for such reductions; they are done simply for the preference of the mother. While some doctors are willing to do these two-to-one reductions, many refuse.

The article examines the issue in depth. It offers the perspective of several mothers who chose to reduce, one mother who didn’t want twins but kept them both, a father, doctors both for and against the procedure including some who have changed views, and experts in fertility treatment, social and clinical psychology, bioethics, and philosophy. (If you haven’t yet, please read the article.)

The Problem

Some doctors will only reduce twins if there is a significant medical complication. Many won’t do it at all. Even many supporters of abortion rights are uncomfortable with two-to-one reductions. Why?

It would seem to revolve around the reason for the choice. One might assume that most seeking elective abortions never intended to get pregnant in the first place. It’s assumed these women had no choice in the matter, or that pregnancy was an unintended, unforeseen consequence of their actions.

Women seeking pregnancy reductions are a different matter entirely. These women wanted to get pregnant. Fertility treatments cost thousands of dollars, often involve years of trying and can be physically and emotionally strenuous. Women invest a lot to get pregnant with fertility treatments. The likelihood of multiples is high and is well known. Women make the choice to undergo the treatments, knowing that a pregnancy of twins or more is a very real possibility. They choose this and then want to eliminate some of the children they worked so hard to produce. To many, this course is blatantly irresponsible and therefore, morally wrong.

“Society judges reproductive choices based on the motives behind them…Think about the common reaction to a woman who aborts because contraception failed versus a woman (and her partner) who took no precaution at all…Likewise, people may judge two-to-one reductions more harshly because the fertility treatment that yielded the pregnancy significantly increased the chance of multiples. “People may think, You brought this about yourself, so you should be willing to take some of the risk,” Steinbock says.

The Endless Gray Area

Though Berkowitz insists that there is no clear medical benefit to reducing below twins, he will do it at a patient’s request. “In a society where women can terminate a single pregnancy for any reason — financial, social, emotional — if we have a way to reduce a twin pregnancy with very little risk, isn’t it legitimate to offer that service to women with twins who want to reduce to a singleton?”

“What is it about terminating half a twin pregnancy that seems more controversial than reducing triplets to twins or aborting a single fetus? After all, the math’s the same either way: one fewer fetus.”

Indeed, what is the difference between a reduction and an elective abortion? According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, abortion is defined as the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus. So? Reduction is abortion. There is no difference, technically speaking.

What about morally speaking? Legally, a woman can abort in the U.S. for any reason. Polls show that many who identify as pro-choice prefer abortion only be an option under certain circumstances. It seems that many feel the same way about reductions. This is OK if (fill in the blank) but it’s really not OK if… We get bogged down in what-if scenarios, complex nuances and endless gray areas. Trying to make specific hard and fast rules becomes a nightmare. Frustrated, people conclude that we can never legislate morality and despite personal beliefs, we must be pro-choice.

“As science allows us to intervene more than ever at the beginning and the end of life, it outruns our ability to reach a new moral equilibrium. We still have to work out just how far we’re willing to go to construct the lives we want.”

The Real Question

If we want any answers, we must step back and look at the fundamental question. What is at stake here? When life begins is the only relevant question. If the embryo or fetus is not alive, then the debate is silly. Who cares what reasons the mother has for her decision? It’s her body, it’s her life, it’s rightfully her choice.  If the embryo or fetus is alive, the debate is absurd and terrifying. What reason is good enough to justify the killing of an innocent, helpless person?

I contend that life begins at fertilization. This is a reasonable statement that is supported by science. For a very thorough explanation of life’s beginning, read this page on medical testimony and this one on prenatal development.

If science is correct that life begins at fertilization, then every abortion at any stage for any reason takes a human life. The same is true of reduction, whether two-to-one or any other reduction of a pregnancy. Can this ever be justified?

The only argument worth considering is the argument for health. If the life of the baby will end the life of the mother, it is quite a quandary. In the case of higher numbered reductions (reducing quintuplets or quadruplets, for example), the act may increase the likelihood of life or health for both the mother and the surviving children. Is this then justified? Most would agree it’s a tragic situation to begin with, if we find ourselves having to choose one life over another. The best possible solution would be to avoid the situation in the first place.

Since it’s known that fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization significantly increase the chance of multiples, and it’s known that having multiples increases medical risks, isn’t it logical to conclude that such drastic measures are morally irresponsible? Even if a fertility specialist only fertilizes one egg in vitro and only inserts that one resulting embryo into the woman’s uterus, there is a high risk that the embryo will fail to implant. In other words, it’s quite likely that the baby will die. That’s why in vitro fertilization so often leads to multiples: they insert several embryos,  hoping that at least one of them will “take.” All those who don’t implant are lost without a thought and considered collateral damage. If unwanted “extras” implant, they may be killed by reduction. Often, “extras” are produced in vitro but never inserted into the woman if they aren’t needed. These extra embryos are discarded or used for embryonic stem cell research. In other words, all the unneeded living humans are killed.

How did we get to the point where any of this became acceptable?

Defining Persons and Non-Persons

When faced with the evidence, honest people usually concede that “some sort” of life does begin developing at fertilization. The next argument is that while a zygote, embryo or fetus is alive, it is not yet a person and therefore does not deserve human rights.

How do we define whether a living human being is a human person worthy of rights? We’ve tried to do it many times before, with horrific consequences.

America defined Blacks as non-persons to justify slavery. In the Three-Fifths Compromise, a slave was defined as three-fifths of a person, obviously not for any rational reasons, but for political reasons of power and money. Even after abolition, Jim Crow laws ensured Blacks could not have the same rights as other people. We defined Native Americans as non-persons to force them off their land. Women were thought of as non-persons to keep them from voting and to keep them out of the workforce. A woman was considered her parents’ property until she married and became her husband’s property. If we say a human isn’t a person, we can justify horrible treatment and even killing them for our own personal gain.

Unborn babies are treated as people when society considers them “wanted.” Every alcoholic beverage and cigarette pack is required to carry a Surgeon General’s warning about the risk of use during pregnancy – this is risk to the unborn baby and not to the mother. Women can be prosecuted for child abuse if caught using illegal drugs while pregnant. A person who kills a pregnant woman can be charged with double homicide in some states.

If we’re honest, these issues aren’t about when life begins. They aren’t about when personhood begins. They are about the fact that we are more powerful than another group of people, and that group of people is in the way of what we want: absolute control over life.

America’s selfish demand for limitless choice has driven us to treat our fellow humans, even our own children, as yet another product to be bought, sold, or thrown away as we please.

“If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.” -Woman identified as “Jenny” in the article

We must recognize that human life has intrinsic value, regardless of perceived usefulness or inconvenience to others. We must recognize that all humans are persons equally deserving rights. We must recognize that if people are weaker, vulnerable, or unable to speak for themselves, it is our moral obligation to defend their rights. These are universal values of human decency that we should all hold, regardless of our religion, philosophy or political leaning.

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WordPress 2011 Blogging Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Christmas Giving

There are only 12 days until Christmas.

How are you getting ready? Putting up decorations? Listening to Christmas music? Planning get-togethers with family and friends? Buying and wrapping presents?

Oh, the presents.  I keep re-writing this. Trying not to sound preachy or self-righteous or like a cheesy Hallmark Original Movie reminding us all of the true meaning of Christmas. I’ll try to keep it simple.

We are so rich. There is so much need in the world. Statistics prove there are enough resources, money and food in existence to provide for every human alive today. Most of us will never understand what it is to physically need something and have no way of getting it. But for so many others, unfulfilled need is a daily reality. A reality that could be changed by we who have more than we need.

What should we do?

There are huge sacrifices and small contributions. If all of us made just a small contribution, it would add up to a make a difference. If we all made huge sacrifices, we would begin to approach what God has called us to.

It’s OK to start small. This Christmas, consider a gift that could be the difference between life or death, hope or despair. Here are a few of my current favorite charities. There are so many more. Give where your heart is led.

World Vision World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
World Vision provides hope and assistance to approximately 100 million people in nearly 100 countries. In communities around the world, we join with local people to find lasting ways to improve the lives of poor children and families. Give year-round by sponsoring a child or make a one-time gift to meet a specific need through World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

The Sparrow’s Nest Maternity Home The mission of The Sparrow’s Nest Maternity Home is to provide a Christ-centered shelter and to educate homeless, pregnant and parenting young women by providing a wide range of services that empower them to make positive and healthy life decisions for themselves and their babies. The Sparrow’s Nest Maternity Home hopes to open its doors in 2012 in St. Charles County, Missouri. Through the grace of God, powerful prayer and a strong volunteer base we hope to make a impact on our community that will last generations. This is our legacy. Learn more on the Sparrow’s Nest blog and donate here.

Voice of the Martyrs The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. Our ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3 “Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.” VOM helps, loves and encourages persecuted Christians through our five main purposes. Donate here.

In honor of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 Bible passages regarding giving. There are many others. Continue reading

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Reading more than words

Recently I’ve been too full of thoughts to blog. Each day I have at least five directions I want to go. I can’t decide; nothing at all is written.

Tonight I finished an essay anthology I bought when Borders was going under. I was sorry to complete it. At the end of each essay, I tried to make myself pause. I sat and thought. I paged back through to notice and re-notice things. Many of them made me want to write.

An essay, like a song, is magic. The words are more than words. They are image, memory, emotion. They are power. Something strange happens. The essay is personal, exposing an intimate slice of the author. Yet when I read it, I press the words into my own mold. They become unique to me. The essay is like an inkblot test. I peer into it and start to unlock my own emotions and memories.

The anthology, which was edited by a professor at my alma mater, included questions after each essay. They’re meant to help students analyze the style and techniques of each writer. But I can’t critique an essay that way after the first reading. My initial impressions are far more abstract. I finish with a “wow” or a “huh.” With an argument or a kinship or a sadness.

Writing is a source of free therapy for me. But sometimes it takes reading someone else’s therapy to discover that in me which I didn’t know was there.


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The art of giving thanks

November has been a difficult month for my husband and me.

Michael’s co-worker, the one I blogged about who was injured at the mill, died. He had been doing better than expected, but he contracted a blood infection that led to heart failure. We’re also facing a personal sorrow in our own family. Besides that, Michael has yet to be moved to the long-promised day job. He is spending this Thanksgiving working his regular 12-hour shift. I’m spending it alone at our apartment. As winter comes, the days are so short. Some days it seems the sun never comes out at all. Between sickness, cold, and rain, I can rarely muster the will to get out of the house.

Despite the struggles – perhaps because of the struggles – we see clearly how much we have to be thankful for.

God is giving me peace where peace is needed. He is constantly teaching me to be still and know that He is God. I have never been more aware of how blessed I am to have Michael. There is no one I would rather go through life with. He understands how to be what I need when I need it.

Being apart from family is just a reminder of what a wonderful family we have. Others are not so blessed. And they aren’t so far away. Our friends new and old keep life bearable. It’s amazing to me to support base of people and church that we already have here in Indiana and all those back in Missouri and across the country who are somehow with us when we need them most.

Although Michael’s job can be challenging and is dangerous, we are blessed that he has a stable career and income. We are blessed that God has kept him safe so far and is laying a foundation for the future, whatever that may bring. We are blessed that I am able to stay home. It has given me time to get more involved in church work, which I feel very called to. It has enabled me to be flexible so Michael and I can take advantage of all the time we have together, even when that means staying up all night and sleeping half the day and having “weekends” any day of the week. It means that I have unlimited personal days and sick days when I need them.

We have so much to be thankful for. I haven’t begun to scratch the surface. God asks that we give thanks and praise in all circumstances. And He provides enough blessings, even during turbulent times, that it’s not hard to find the reasons for thanksgiving. It is good for the soul to be thankful. Let’s not forget to do it every day.

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My husband is awesome

Wednesday evening I got back to Indiana after a week away.

My trip started last Wednesday when I headed to St. Charles to visit my mom and drop off my rabbit. Thursday, I drove to Columbia to celebrate the 100th anniversary of homecoming, which we invented way back in the day. I spent a great weekend in Columbia catching up with friends, going to Cru’s Thursday evening gathering, and cheering on my Tigers as they defeated the Iowa Cyclones. Michael stayed in Indiana. When we bought tickets, he didn’t know if he would be working or not. He’s not a football fan either. He was hoping to go on a mountain biking trip while I was gone, but it didn’t work out. He spent the time working and fixing his car.

From Columbia, I reconvened with my dad in St. Charles and we headed out on a 3-day backpacking trip along the Buffalo National River in Arkansas. It was his first pack trip. We had a great time despite drastically changing temperatures, a night of very heavy rainfall, and my excessive overpacking of food.

As soon as I was back in civilization, I charged my phone and found a sweet message from my husband about how much he missed me. We talked that night, but I had to get some sleep before I could make the six hour drive back to him.

I expected to come home to an empty, dark, messy apartment. Michael was supposed to be working the night to cover for a co-worker. Instead, I walked into a bright, clean apartment. The table was draped with my Mizzou throw blanket and topped with a bouquet of Fall flowers.

If that wasn’t surprise enough, my husband popped out of the computer room, trying to scare me. His co-worker had called back on, but he thought it would be more fun not to tell me he’d be home. It was.

He helped me carry everything in from the car in the rain and put a pizza in the oven. He had searched for Woodchuck’s Fall Cider that I love, but it’s limited release and seems to be sold out already. So instead, he bought me a bottle of Framboise raspberry Lambic from Belgium. It’s supposedly beer, only delicious (and not cheap). On top of that, he presented me with a gift he found at Goodwill: a new charger for my laptop. My current charger works, but it’s mended in several places where my rabbit has chewed on it.

If you’re not sufficiently impressed, allow me to point out a few things. In addition to Michael’s regular 12-hour shifts at the steel mill, he had to work a 16-hour day to cover for the co-worker who called off. He then got home at almost 11 pm and had to try to stay up all night so he could sleep during the day in case he had to cover the next midnight shift. Instead of going on a mountain biking trip, he slaved away replacing the wheel bearings on his car. Then he cleaned the whole apartment so it would look nice for me. He wanted to figure out a way to display the Mizzou blanket in honor of our homecoming victory (even though he doesn’t care about Mizzou). Not only did he buy me the flowers, the Lambic and the charger, he went grocery shopping (and got me baby bell cheese, mmm). So I came home from vacation to a home vacation, and he came home from extra work and worked more to make it happen.

Oh, and after I went to bed, he parked my car in the garage to protect it from storm damage. My garage is three buildings away, so this involved trudging through the cold night during a heavy rainstorm.

But of all he did, the best part was just spending time together. The day marked our seventh month of marriage. What can I say? I’m so blessed to have him.

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Seasons of life

The seasons are confused. Autumn rushed in, then took a step back. It began Memorial Day weekend, when an afternoon storm swept away the 90+ degree weather and ushered in a month of chill. But as October came, Summer wanted a final rebuttal. Temperatures have climbed back into the 80s, as if Fall never started. Yet the signs of Fall are unmistakeable. The trees are gilded. Crunchy leaves rustle along the ground. Pumpkins and mums adorn porches.

I am also confused. Time passage is baffling. Days are long, but months are fast. They sneak by unnoticed and I’m left wondering where the time has gone. I’m left wondering what I have been doing.

I have been much busier the past couple months. I chose to let go of the thought that we won’t be in Indiana long. It’s still there, but it’s no longer an excuse to live in limbo. Even if I had a clear plan for my future, I wouldn’t truly know what God will bring tomorrow. He has blessed me with this moment, this hour, this day. It’s wrong to waste it wondering. So I’ve started to grow roots here. And if it means I will be uprooted, so be it. I’m opening my heart to friendships that go deeper than surface level. If that means I will eventually miss these people, I will count that among my blessings. I may start things I will never finish. That will be far better than doing nothing.

Today I read the latest online journal update of a family friend. He’s fighting through his eleventh round of chemo because of a rare and aggressive cancer. Although he faces discouragement, he has a heightened awareness of God’s daily blessings in his life. He finds strength in the love of people and in the awesomeness of nature and in an intimate walk with his Maker.

There are two responses to suffering. One is anger and hopelessness. We can cite suffering as proof that life is cruel and futile. We can throw up our arms and curse our fate and declare that everything is meaningless. The second response is opposite. We can look at suffering and draw encouragement. There is purpose behind everything. Despite the pain and darkness of this world, there is joy and love. Humanity goes on through it all. As things get worse and worse, we can let go of our feeble attempts at control and rely wholly on the God who promises to take care of us. If we didn’t feel pain, would we ever recognize beauty?

Time is fleeting. Life is a gift intended to be used til it is worn out and breaks.

Posted in Life as we know it, Nature, Uncategorized | Leave a comment