Thursday, April 28, 2005

April is Poetry Month

April is Poetry Month. Last year I wrote a poem - a poem to my husband Gordon. I am not a poet. I've always struggled understanding poetry but this poem came easily for me. There is a verse in Song of Solomon the uses the expression My Lover, My Friend. Early in our marriage I adopted that expression for Gordon. He's my lover, my friend.

My Lover, My Friend

Can I trust you with my heart,
My feelings, dreams and fears?
Will you care for me gently?
Will your kindness dry my tears?

Will we grow old together,
Sharing life’s problems and play?
Will you love me when my skin is aged?
Will you love me when my locks turn gray?

My Lover, My Friend,
How you touch me through!
I did not know the grace in love.
I did not yet know you.

In your presence I am unafraid,
Trusting and secure.
Your tenderness tore down my walls.
With you, my life feels pure.

You have filled my life with laughter,
Embraced me with goodwill.
You saw beyond my hardened shell.
Forgave, and entered still.

My Lover, My Friend,
How you touch me through!
I did not know the grace in love.
I did not yet know you.

Will you be there when I am dying,
Our last and sacred date?
Will you weep when I am passing?
Will you walk me through the gate?

If you should leave before me,
I will whisper through my tears,
“My Lover, My Friend,
I am glad we had these years.”
Valerie Dykstra 2004

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Small Town Girl (aka Island Girl)

Many years ago when I was a young woman deeply concerned with keeping up my image, my husband and I took a little vacation to Florida. I was new to travel; - a farm girl from a small country community

Kent checked us into an extravagant hotel. Toward one direction was the Gulf of Mexico. In the direction we faced was a massive pool. It seemed big enough to be the Gulf of Mexico to this country girl. It was gigantic. The water was as blue as I’d ever seen. In the middle was a bar. Its palm trees and a thatched roof made it look like a perfect little island in the middle of a clear blue sea. I was mesmerized. In our room, I stood giddy-like at the window watching the people play. Lovers frolicked in the water and then pulled themselves up onto the edge of the “island bar.” It was romantic beyond anything I’d ever imagined.

After we had settled into our room Kent said he was going to the bar and for me to meet him there. When I got to the pool, I realized that island bar was waaaayyyy out there. I’ve always had a bit of a phobia of water being over my head. (When we were kids my older brother got great delight in working up my panic as we swam in Rock Creek. He would get a devilish grin on his face and swim toward me. As I screamed, “No, no, please no,” he’d push my head under water and hold it there. After a few moments, he’d let me up - my fear and panic now full-blown. He would laugh mercilessly, let me gasp in a gulp of air and push me under again.)

I could barely swim; the swimming I did was actually more like a dog paddling. Back home, I felt like I’d done a good job if I got across the little pools I was accustomed to. This was a whole new paradigm. I stood on the side of the pool hoping Kent would eventually see me. He never did. As I waded in, the water quickly got deeper and deeper, leaving me with seemingly no choice but to dog paddle. As I kicked and struggled, my stamina and strength were quickly exhausted. I put my feet down to find that I was in way over my head.

There was a middle-aged gentleman about 2 body lengths away. He was casually floating, basking in this Floridian experience. My panic was growing as the seconds passed. I knew I would drown without this man’s help. Not one to appear needy, (it was sadistically imprinted in my being by my well-intentioned mother that a person should never lose his or her dignity), I swung and kicked, keeping my eyes on my target. Finally I reached it. I grabbed his tan and orange swim trunks and pulled myself out of the water with all my panicking power, pulling his trunks down as I rose to the surface. Terror flashed across his face as I wrapped my legs around his waist. “Hell, hell, what are you doing?” he yelled.

I felt terribly silly, so again resorted to the vice that I was comfortable with. “O hi” I said with mock confidence. Again he swore at me.

Safe above the surface of the water, I realizing that the predicament I was in was undignified and certainly alarming my new acquaintance. I put my hands on his head and shoved him under the water (a trick I learned from my brother). Alas, my final touch was kicking him as hard as I could in hopes of propelling myself to the bar. The last I heard was some expletives that made me acutely aware that he wasn’t “pleased to meet me.”

This kick off did indeed get me much closer to the bar, but not close enough. A young couple was between the bar and me. Again I drew my near drowning face out of the water as I dog-paddled furiously, and so as not to appear foolish, asked politely, “can you help me?” They didn’t respond. I said, “Really, can you help me?” The man came closer and I grabbed him in panicked relief. (He didn’t know how lucky he was that I grabbed his shoulders). I kicked off his chest, and that thrust got me to the bar.

I wanted to hang onto the bar, catch my breath and regain composure, but feeling like I’d made a couple enemies on my little swim, I quickly hoisted my shaking body out of the water imagining these fellows right behind ready to verbally attack me.

I felt like an exhausted wet rat as I walked in the “island bar” which now resembled a torture hut. I stood there producing a puddle of water as I looked at each patron. There were 8 people inside the dim little hut and each of them seemed to be staring at me. I wanted nothing more than to fall into a stool beside my husband but my husband was not there. The tears were about to burst out of my eyes, so I walked through the bar to the other side, planning to collapse out of view of all these gawking eyes. As soon as I got out of the hut I saw the sidewalk that connected the island to the hotel. Though chagrined to see a sidewalk, I wasted no time using it. Still shaking and now unable to contain my tears, I hurried back to our room.

When Kent entered our room I tore in, “Where have you been?” I tiraded for 5 minutes before he interrupted and replied with a smirk, “I meant the bar in the hotel.”

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A Good Day

It's been a wonderful day. Our church service was uplifting. There was a spirit of unity, peace and anticipation. I have a really great church. As I sat there this morning, I looked at the faces of those around me. They seemed interested, involved, engaged. What a blessing. I read 1 Peter 2:9, "... you are a chosen people....This is so you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." I saw in my faith community a chosen people who show the goodness of God. From my pastor I received this snippet of truth: "What you believe will be reflected in the things you do."

Yesterday we went to a Seventh Day Adventist Church. My kids are in a Seventh Day Adventist school and yesterday they were performing for a local congregation. It was a good service too. They were very Christ centered and incredibly friendly -- by far the friendliest church I've been to in a long long time.

Yesterday there was a large fire in Edmonton that took out 3 businesses. I could tell it was pretty close by, so the kids, Lucy and I started walking to see it. Those kinds of things are what set a small town girl apart from a city girl. Not many city folk would have cared to walk that far to see it. But we walked 1 1/2 miles to see it firsthand. It was really a cool experience. When I got there it was extra fun, because Gordon was there for work and he was directing traffic. I heard him long before I saw him. I said, "Hey, Daddy is somewhere over there." Sure enough. The girls wanted so badly to talk to him, (they thought it was pretty special to see everyone obeying their daddy). I told them we couldn't bother him.

I'm not one to wait for permission to cross on a crosswalk. As he yelled, "Hey get back on the curb" to the people who were trying to jaywalk in congested areas, I was so glad I hadn't done it in front of him. I leaned over to the girls and said, "I'm sure glad he didn't see how we got here, he would have yelled at us and I would have been so embarrassed." After that our walk home was very law-abiding in style.

He wouldn't have known we were there if he'd not heard Lucy. Lucy started barking and he turned to see. He said he never dreamed it would be Lucy, he just wanted to see the dog that barked like Lucy.

Small town girl. That expression conjures up lots of thoughts. I think I will share a few of those soon.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Interesting News Quips

On CBC.Edmonton this week, I read about the tragic death of a young prostitute. The cause of her death hasn't yet been released, but her body was burned as was the patch of earth around her dead body. As terrible and ugly as this crime is, I do not in any way wish to make light of it. However, the last line of the news article was, "The police are calling her death suspicious." I was tempted to write a letter to the editor to say, "you reckon?"

I also read an ironic piece of news. The largest abortion clinic in the city is closing its doors. It will reopen under the same staff as a different medical practice. Guess what it will be! A fertility clinic specializing in in vitro fertilization. Isn't that an irony of ironies?

"...only by journeying all the way to the river, where it swirls and rumbles and still carves its way through some of the oldest rocks on earth, can you fully appreciate the work of the two great architects of the Grand Canyon, time and the flowing river."

That's a beautiful quote by Francois Leydet. I would argue that it is seriously flawed though. How about this: "only by journeying all the way to the river, where it swirls and rumbles and still carves its way through some of the oldest rocks on earth, can you fully appreciate the work of the two servants of the Great Architect of the Grand Canyon, time and the flowing river."

"What one finds...will be what one takes the trouble to look for." Joseph Wood Krutch

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Tuesday, April 19, 2005


"May the outward and inward man be at one." Socrates

"The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask." Anne Morrow Lindberg

"More of us in America (and I add Canada) than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication..... But if one accidentally finds it (simplicity), one finds also the serenity it brings." Anne Morrow Lindberg

"Ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say --is it necessary?--when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life." Anne Morrow Lindberg

I love each of these quotes. I desire to be a person who chooses simplicity, to think how little can I get away with, rather than how much can I accumulate. God help me counter my culture and my flesh.


Potty Mouth

I’m overweight. I’ve been like this for a few years. My kids use to think I was the norm. They’d innocently ask why their friend Brittany had such a little mom, or how come Mrs. Lobe never grew up. Alas, they have matured and it’s no longer a secret. Mom loves chocolate and Mom is fa, faaa, f, faaa; Mom is overweight.

Recently we watched Dr. Doolittle. Dr. Doolittle says “bad words.” My girls felt very grown up watching something with bad language. For days they told me all the dirty words they had heard. They’d quote Dr. Doolittle, “Get your little gray ass back in that cage”. They tried to look disapproving of Dr. Doolittle’s language, but clearly they were getting a charge from their potty mouth. Then they began arguing. “The guinea pig had a black ass.” “No it was a brown ass.” “Was not, it was a gray ass.” Yep, they were going to town using “swears.”

I remember well when I was little doing the same thing. Of course Dr. Doolittle’s movie wasn’t around so I’d get my swear ammunition elsewhere. I went straight to the Bible.

“Do you have a favorite Bible story, Valerie?” Mrs. Webster, my Sunday school teacher asked. I had never cursed before, but the urge was great. “Uh-hum,” I replied. “Tell us about it,” she urged, smiling.

“My favorite story is when Jesus rode the ass into the city. I like it because the pictures of the ass are cute. I wish my dad would get me an ass like that.” The class giggled and I felt powerful.

I was anxious to tell her more. “Jesus was riding on an ass. He was riding an ass into the city. I don’t remember where he got the ass, but just before Jesus and the ass came to the people, all the people threw palm branches in front of the ass so the ass didn’t have to step on the hard ground.” I smiled. I was satisfied. I had said bad words right in church and no one even rebuked me.

(Several years later I got to go to church camp. We were learning the 10 Commandments. I pulled another swearing stunt. This time about coveting your neighbor’s ass. That was long before I was overweight. It didn’t have much meaning for me then – just an excuse to talk badly. Now I really understand the meaning of not coveting someone else’s ass, and I’m not talking donkeys.)

25 years later I hear my kids’ potty mouth and I’m reminded of another Sunday school lesson. “You reap what you sow.”

Yesterday, I bent over to pick up a towel. My 7 year old suddenly remembered another scene from Dr. Doolittle. Hannah said, “Hey Rachael, remember when that lady bent over in the vet’s office and her dog said, “Have you ever seen such a big ass?”

Gleefully Rachael said, “Oh yeah, I remember that. Her bum wasn’t even that big. Mom’s is lots bigger.”

“Are you swearing again?” I asked with an edge in my voice. “I don’t ever want to hear this bad talk from you again. Do you understand me?”

“Yes Mom,” they said in unison. As they walked off I heard Hannah whisper, “I think you hurt her feelings.”

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Last night my 8 year old Hannah had a bad dream. When I got to her she was crying. I took her in my arms, soothed her fears, and let her tell me about her dream. Then I brought her to my bedroom and she slept soundly between Gordon and me. Drifting off to sleep, she was still cradled in my arms.

As I lay there with my daughter in my arms, I was reminded that the love and concern I have for my children pale in comparison to my heavenly Father's love for His children. I meditated on how my response to Hannah's fear was greatly inferior to God's response to my fears.

Like I wanted Hannah to tell me her dream, God wants me to tell him my fears, concerns and anxieties. I needed to be reminded of that.

"Cast all your cares on Him for He cares for you." 1Peter 5:7

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

104 years old

I have a friend who works in a residence for seniors. Today she told me a very cute story. She said there is a lady who is 104 years old there. When she found out the pope had died, she said, "and he was so young."

I hope that makes you smile like it did me.


Family and Movies

I just got off the phone with my sister Stacie. She's been way too busy and I've missed our regular talks. We have a delightfully fun relationship. There's so much to be said for sharing a family of origin. Families share a common style of communication, body language, insecurities, and even humor. My siblings and I do and say stuff regularly that would require an explanation to an outsider. I know other families are the same. Gordon's family has a style of relating that I personally can't grasp. They talk "truth," facts, philosophy, politics, and emotions that are "heavy". They enjoy their family visits; I consider them dry and boring. They would undoubtedly consider my family silly and shallow.

Stacie and I share an idiosyncratic bond in that we often quote movies, and occasionally a book, to drive a point home. When we don't really get along with a person, "there's a wall." (The Emperor's New Groove).

When someone gets what they deserve, "there's a price you pay for the life you choose." (The Godfather).

When we are in circumstances that put us way out of our comfort zone, "I just came here to worship, but this is the wrooong denomination." (The Out of Towners).

When things are going poorly, "We have no food, we have no money, our bird's heads keep falling off." (Dumb and Dumber).

When we've had the opportunity to express our heartfelt opinion, we may end it with, "and that's all I've got to say about the Vietnam War." (Forest Gump).

When one of us has a secret, "I am the soul of discretion." (Enchanted April).

When things leave us at the end of our rope, "Damn that octopus." (Portofino).

My kids are picking up on this silly way of communicating. We picked up some "I Love Lucy" videos at the library recently. A few days later Rachael wasn't feeling too great. She said, "I feel dowdy. You know, kind of blah." I knew exactly where her expression came from.

Last night we added to our movie quotes. We took the kids to see "Winnie the Pooh and the Hefflelump." As Rabbit was extolling the dangers of the Hefflelump, Tigger responded with, "You just can't argue with a word like 'fraught'."

From now on when someone presents a good argument, we'll say, "You just can't argue with a word like 'fraught'." The quirky tradition continues to another generation.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005


On the nights when Gordon works, sometimes I let one of the girls sleep with me. Last night was Rachael's night. We were lying there reading; I was reading Gifts from the Sea, she was reading The Book of Virtues. Lacy was between us and Lucy was at our feet. (That menagerie only happens when good ole Dad's not around).

As I read I came across something that made me want to jot in the margin of my book. Because I had heard Rachael writing something a bit earlier, I asked if she had a pencil. What she had was a marker. She offered to get me a pencil, "I have lots," she said. I asked her where and she said they were under her mattress. I asked why she had pencils under her mattress and she said, "so I'll always know where they are."

Rachael is a hoarder. She has hoarded many a treasure in her 9 years. Have you ever heard it said that if you play the piano when you're pregnant, your baby will be a pianist? Well I've often smiled and said since I had a hamster (hoarder) when I was pregnant with her, she's a hoarder.

When Christopher was 3 or 4 he found a 3 legged turtle. He named him Lucky because "he's lucky to have me." He loved his little turtle. Once we came home and Lucky was gone. Christopher cried and cried saying someone stole Lucky. I told him that perhaps Lucky crawled away. "Lucky would never leave me, he loved me," Christopher wailed. It was a sad day.

2 years later when Christopher and Stephanie went back to Arkansas after spending the summer with us, I was very depressed. Gordon went and bought me a cute little tan Teddy Bear hamster. I named her Lucky because she was "lucky to have me." (Lucky had indeed been lucky in the recent past because 9 days after we got her she gave us 11 more little hamsters.)

We had Lucky until she died peacefully in her sleep 3 years later. Gordon buried her in the flower bed in front of our townhouse.

Meanwhile Rachael was born. As soon as she was mobile, it became obvious that she was a hoarder. Gordon and I made jokes about her being our little hamster child.

When she was about 18 months old, things began to disappear. They were always Gordon's things. I probably rolled my eyes and thought "you'd lose your head if it weren't attached." One day I was in the kitchen and out of the corner of my eye I saw chunky little Rachael lift the floor vent and put something in it. I knelt down, pulled the vent up and ran my arm down into the elbow of the heat duct. I found a cache of treasures: Gordon's watch, 2 sets of Gordon's keys, Gordon's toothbrush, half a moldy hot dog, a sippy cup, coloring book, and various little Fisher Price animals.

To this day Rachael collects and hoards things. Last night I learned of a pencil stash. 2 summers ago I found a number of beetles in her underwear drawer.

Unfortunately I didn't play the piano when I was pregnant with her. But I did love my hamster Lucky and Rachael is living proof.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My Wedding Day

My daughter Stephanie has a blog now. Check it out if you want to see why I am so proud of her.

People don’t understand why I get so stressed over weddings. Perhaps after sharing about the day I married Gordon people will understand why I am emotionally challenged in the area of weddings.

When Gordon and I got engaged, I was struck once again with the thought, “Can’t we just elope?” I had felt the same way for my first wedding, but because my best friend kept saying, “You’ll regret it for the rest of your life,” Kent and I had a regular wedding, albeit small. I very seriously doubt if I would have regretted eloping. But that is another story.

When I begged Gordon to elope, he countered that to elope would be nearly immoral. So I complied, but not without a great deal of stress. I chose a nice dress – champagne colored and tea length. I thought it was very suitable for a simple second wedding. Gordon, who has an opinion on everything, said, “I want my bride to wear a white wedding dress.” He won that round and every other round pertaining to our wedding.

It only compounded the problem that our wedding created the worse time of my life; a custody case over Stephanie and Christopher, immigration to Canada, expense, expense, expense.

There are many cultural differences between a Polk County Arkansas wedding and one in Canada. Unfortunately that detail was lost to me. I was expecting things to happen as any wedding may in my hometown.

Gordon, my pastor fiancé’, actually performed a wedding on our wedding day. He took my car to said wedding. This detail will be important later in this tale.

Our wedding was at 6:00. I dressed little 4-year-old Christopher in his tuxedo. He looked like a perfect little gentleman. Stephanie put on her silky turquoise dress and I fixed her hair just so. She looked like an angel. I was fairly relaxed and quite impressed with myself for not being too worked up by the impending wedding.

As 6:00 neared I hung my wedding dress and all the accompanying paraphernalia beside the front door. I waited. I waited some more. No phone calls, nothing.

I was getting more stressed with every passing moment. I walked back and forth to the window looking down to the apartment parking lot, waiting for Gordon to come. I was new to Canada and hardly knew anyone. Gordon and I weren’t adhering to the “don’t see the bride on the wedding day” rule. He and I had gone shopping in the morning, before he left for the other wedding.

When 5:55 rolled around I was REALLY stressed. I thought Gordon had forgotten me, that he wasn’t coming to pick me up. I stuffed my wedding dress and other things under my arm and Stephanie, Christopher and I walked down to apartment 7 where the apartment manager lived. I had met her twice, and since I was knew to Canada, that made her my best friend in this new life.

With trepidation I knocked on her door, very near tears. “Hi Johanna,” I began. “This is really embarrassing for me, but I think Gordon forgot about us. Could you take us to First Baptist?” She screamed, “Oh my God, where are my keys?” Then she started yelling at her husband in Dutch. They both jumped up and started rummaging through the apartment looking for keys, yelling in Dutch the whole time. She phoned Audrey, her friend that I’d spoken to in the hall a couple of times.

As Johanna ran frantically through her house yelling in a language I couldn’t understand, my own insecurities about being a “bother” surfaced. “It’s really ok. Don’t worry about it. I can…” My voice trailed off. As much as I hated to impose, the only alternative to being a bother was walking to the church.

Audrey came running down the hall. “Oh my God, we’ve got to get you to your wedding.” The 5 of us lumbered into her economy car, everyone holding something white – white shoes, white bra, white wedding dress, white hoop.

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Eric and May, Gordon’s parents, pulled in. They looked like they were out for a Sunday afternoon drive. They looked so calm. I thought bad thoughts. First of all, why were they coming to pick me up, why hadn’t Gordon told me about it, and why the hell were they driving so slowly?

It was now 5 or 10 minutes after 6:00. I was as mad as I’d ever been. I could not believe I’d been treated like this on my wedding day. Audrey pulled into the crowded parking lot. I saw a basement door and asked her to get as close to it as possible. I jumped out of the car, tripped over the hoop I was carrying just as Christopher stepped on my wedding dress. I yelled.

The basement door was locked. What was I to do? I didn’t know, so I banged on it. My anger was almost rage now. A quiet, gentle woman opened the door and greeted me with, “Oh my, you’re not ready.” I resisted the urge to say, “No shit, Sherlock” and instead snapped, “I’m gonna kill Gordon Dykstra. Where do I go to change?”

She took my wedding dress and laid it on a table. We were in the fellowship hall. The gentle music was wafting downstairs. I started undressing right there and this kind, virtual stranger helped. I tried to be modest, but it was hopeless. As I was bent over struggling with the hoop, she was trying to coerce my breasts into the strapless bra. I was grateful for the help.

She zipped my wedding dress and told me I looked lovely. I slipped on a shoe and started kicking my clothes on the floor around. “Where is that other damn shoe?” (This seems like a good place to remind you that I was marrying this woman’s pastor.) She and I looked under everything searching for the other shoe. I ran to the door to peek out. Sure enough, there was my white shoe. I ran over the dirt and rocks, holding my dress up as best I could, clip clopping, one shoe on and one shoe off.

“You’d better get upstairs,” she said.

“Do I look ok? What’s my hair look like? Is my makeup streaked?” She smiled and told me I was beautiful.

I walked upstairs, livid at my future husband. Here I was about to walk down the aisle and hadn’t so much as seen myself in the mirror.

At the top of the stairs, I calmed as the pianist played, “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place.” I walked to the entrance of the sanctuary and the Wedding March began. As I walked down the aisle, Gordon smiled at me and I knew he was proud. My anger dissipated.

At our reception, I asked Gordon why he hadn’t picked my up, why his parents came, why did they make me late?.... I learned that in Canada a bride looks anxious to tie the knot if she’s on time. It is proper and fitting for her to be 10-20 minutes late. I learned that the bride dresses at home not at the church. I learned that if you are the groom and you perform another wedding on the day you get married, you won’t have time to pick up your bride.

My wedding day was a perilous day. I look back with embarrassment and amazement at my own stupidity and ignorance. I made more mistakes than I can shake a stick at. But those mistakes I still can’t talk about.

On our 10th Anniversary I told myself, “I love this man very much. I embrace this relationship and it’s time I embrace our wedding.” I took out the video and put it in the VCR for the first time. I couldn’t watch it. I faced the wall opposite the TV. I listened. It sounded like a sweet wedding. I decided that on our 15th anniversary I’d watch it, actually face the TV and watch my wedding on video.

In our 10th year of marriage I framed a wedding picture for our bedroom. It too was part of the act of embracing one of the most awful days of my life. An awful day it was but it’s a day I’m thankful for.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Herbie’s Cows

Years ago my sister and her husband decided to expand their horizons and go into farming. They had several acres (3 or 4) and thought this sufficient for the new venture. Yes, they set out to make some easy money.

Somewhere they found a number of orphan calves. They were cheap, real cheap, because they didn’t have mothers. Herbie, Diane, and the kids were going to bottle feed all these babies. Herbie was convinced they were sitting on a goldmine. “You should buy some calves too. By the spring [after you take them through a winter] they’ll be worth 3 or $400 apiece,” he encouraged. Huge profits were to be made.

They didn’t have much land to work with, so they turned their backyard into pasture. Things went well for a while. The calves grew rapidly. The family took on a farming persona; buying grain, hay, water tanks – hauling it all in the white Oldsmobile sedan. Herbie even got a cowboy hat.

It was kind of cute sitting on the sofa in their living room watching the cows on the patio. You could sit at the dining table and look the cows in the eyes. When they were hungry, they’d come to the back door and moo until they were fed. Their set up may have been unconventional, but you couldn’t call it inconvenient. They didn’t even need to put on shoes to feed the cows. Just step out the back door onto the patio and pour the grain. The garage became the barn, storing feed, hay, medicine, and anything else a cow might need.

Winter came. The new had worn off and it wasn’t quite as fun as the early stages of “farming”. Haying the cows on a crisp fall morning is invigorating. Haying the cows on cold winter mornings was far below ideal.

One day I phoned and Diane mentioned the vet was there to check on some cows. “Some of them are acting kind of sick,” she told me. A few days past and she told me a couple cows had died. What a time for the cows to get sick--the family was sick too. She sounded kind of stressed.

That evening I phoned and she said a few more cows had died. I asked what they were doing with them and she told me that Herbie was still sick, so the cows were still in the backyard. It was winter so there wasn’t any concern about a stench, so it seemed logical enough that the dead cows would have to wait till Herbie and the boys were well before being moved. Diane and I were on the phone lots with each other that week. I was getting daily updates on the cows and the family. Diane was the only well one in the family. Herbie and the kids were home from work and school, staying very close to the bathroom

Diane’s stress was escalating. “The cows keep dying,” she cried in desperation. I asked if they knew why and she said, “they got bad diarrhea”. Once Diane cried, I knew I had to go see her.

I walked into their living room and found Herbie looking pale and expressionless stretched out on the sofa. All the kids were under blankets on the floor. None of them acknowledged I had walked in. After sizing up this dreadful sight in the living room, my eyes were drawn to the windows. Through the pulled back tan curtains, I saw what clearly was the source of Diane’s stress; dead cows, lots of dead cows in the backyard.

Across the street from Diane and Herbie lived a woman whom they had had a number of run-ins with. Through all of this, this neighbor had plenty of ammunition. She phoned the humane society and reported the goings on across the road. The humane society called and asked Diane about the cows in the backyard and why they weren’t disposing of them. Diane told the lady, “We’ll dispose of them as soon as my husband gets well. He has the same thing the cows had.”

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This computer screen is dreadfully harsh at 5am. Gordon left for work about 30 minutes ago and since the kids are still in bed, this seemed like the perfect time for quiet and aloneness.

Yesterday Pastor Shaun spoke on maturing in Christ. He said a disciple "is under the discipline of Jesus our Lord". Jesus is using the circumstances in my life to shape me, to discipline me. Not the spank kind of discipline, but the molding kind of discipline. I thought that was a pertinent message to me.

I'm in a new circumstance, an uncomfortable circumstance, so I needed the reminder that this too is part of "the plan". Through this circumstance, God is going to shape me. When I think of God shaping me, I think of me being chiseled into a new shape. "Chiseled" doesn't sound all that pleasant. I must remember when I feel the Chiseller's knife, that this is part of the discipline to shape and mould me.

I'm working on memorizing Philippians 3:7-14. Verse 12 of that passage says, "I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be." I look forward to the day when the molding is over and I'm a paragon of perfection, but I know that's a long way off. Until that time, I have to submit again and let God do what is best for me, to discipline me into a better person, one that can better bring glory to Him.

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

Here Comes the Bride

It's Saturday evening around 11:00. I just got off the phone with my daughter Stephanie. She got engaged today. She went to work as usual and when she got home, she entered her back door and found a pathway of candles and roses. (Her roommates had let John Mark in). She followed the path to her living room and there was John Mark. He got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. She said yes, and they kissed for the first time. Yesterday he asked Kent for permission to marry Stephanie. I spoke briefly with John Mark tonight. He seems to know the wonderful catch he's getting in Stephanie.

The wedding date is already set. December 10, 2005 in Mena. Wowsers. Myself, I get kind of stressed over these things -- that's a lie, I get REALLY stressed over these kinds of things. Oh I will need God to keep me even through this.

She already has a dress. I was hurt. I told her years ago that I wanted to buy her dress. But this isn't about me. This is about Stephanie. My skin must be tough. I'm sure I have lots of skin rashes ahead of me in 2005.

Stephanie was so excited. Her dreams are all coming true. I am happy for her. Rachael, Hannah and Deborah, they just want to be aunts. This makes it altogether possible for it to happen. They are excited about that.

May God keep my little Stephanie safe in His great big loving hand.

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Church Bloopers

Today I was reminded of a church blooper that I witnessed and was told of one I never heard about.

My Uncle Paul played the role of Sunday School Superintendent for a number of years. He always gave a small devotional at the beginning of his Superintendent ritual. One particular morning he said something that he has yet to live down. His family continues to pass the story on.

As he spoke briefly of the Apostle Paul, he asked the congregation, "Does anyone here know the meaning of the name Paul?" He waited patiently for a congregant to reply, but no one did. With a kind smile that defines him, he said, "Well I didn't either, but my wife told me." Slowly, precisely, and with his hallmark kind face, he continued, "Paul means 'small'. My wife says I'm small." My aunt gasped in shock at his faux pas and quickly looked around to see if others heard what she'd just heard. She saw a sea of teeth. Yes, everyone had just heard him say, "My wife says I'm small." He tried to recover, but the smiles did not fade.

Years later, I sit at my computer blogging a story that my uncle Paul would just assume die.

A couple years ago, a woman was giving announcements at my church when someone asked for donations of egg shells for a craft the children were doing in children's church. Without realizing where she was headed, the announcer asked, "Do they need to be cleaned?" The second lady said that she did prefer them clean. The announcer turned to her microphone and said clearly, "Don't bring eggs to church unless your cracks are clean".

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Friday, April 08, 2005

Electric Shock

Last night my aunt and I had a hilarious visit talking about many funny family stories. My aunt is a delightful, funny, intelligent woman who is nearly completely computer illiterate. It's a really sad day when I'm the one giving computer advise. However that's the position I'm in often with my aunt. I told her repeatedly over several weeks how to perform a relatively simple function on the computer. To no avail. She kept doing it her way, unsuccessfully. Finally I began to express my frustration that she wasn't listening to me. She said, "I can't help it. I was shocked real bad when I was 8 years old and I've been slow ever since."

Her comment about being shocked instantly reminded me of a family story involving an electric wire. When I was growing up on the farm, we had a number of electric fences. I do no know why; perhaps they were cheaper than fencing and cross fencing. For whatever reason, we had several. Often these fences would quit working and require my dad's attention.

The "electric fence box" was on the carport wall. Daddy cautiously gave Mama instructions. "Stand here and when I tell you to, turn it on. Don't turn it on until I tell you to." Mama stood there with her hands perched on her hips as if she was thinking of all the other things she could be doing.

Daddy walked along the path of the wire studying each section. Finally he bent down and studied the wire more closely. He hollered at my mom, "Don't turn it on" and then picked up the wire. My mother, who had a legitimate hearing problem, thought my dad said "turn it on" so she reached up and flipped the switch.

My dad's hands were firmly holding the wire. Unable to let go of the wire because of the shock factor, he was left holding the hot wire and yelling at my mom something nearly indiscernible. "Biiiiiii, Hu-biiiiiiiiiiiii, Hu-biiiiiiiiiiiiii." He looked rather silly out there holding the wire yelling, "Biiiiiii". My mother lost her mind with laughter and bent double laughing. She couldn't hardly stand up to turn the box switch off, but just as she flipped the switch, what Daddy was saying became clear. "Biiiiiitch, Biiiiiitch," he was yelling. Mama went double again with laughter as Daddy came across the pasture yelling at her incompetence.

My parents gave me a very good gift when they gave me a love for humor. That particular day my dad wasn't giving any laugh lessons, but there were certainly plenty days when he did. Daddy's humor was very different than my mom's. Mama went double laughing often, just like I do now. My kids imitate me just like I use to imitate my mom. She often lost her breath laughing and couldn't talk to save her life when she got going in a belly laugh. I am "blessed" with the same penchant.

Daddy's humor was a lot dryer and certainly more controlled. But a good sense of humor he had and still has.

Aside from my mom instilling Christian ideals, humor is the greatest gift they gave me.

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Last night we had a rain shower, our first for the season. What a refreshing thing when precipitation falls in the form of drops rather than flakes. Another sure sign of spring. My crocuses are in bloom. They are the earliest flowers to bloom. There's 3 small clusters of yellow, white, pink, and purple. They are such a short flower that one could easily overlook them. But not in this family. The girls and I watch them in anticipation for the first colorful display.

Yesterday I read a joke in the newspaper: "My thighs are flabby. Good thing my stomach hides them." Cute, eh?

Today is a day off for all of us. Gordon went to clean the church. The girls and I are tidying the house. Hopefully later in the day, we'll get to have some family fun.

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Last night Christopher, my 16-year-old son, told me about his blossoming romance with Casey. He went to meet her parents and ask her dad if he could date her. What a young man of character and integrity he is! He is totally a son to be proud of.

When Christopher asked her father if he could date Casey, the dad replied with a thick drawl, “Well you’re going about this in a mighty fine way”. That kind of language has become foreign to me therefore struck me as really cute.

The dad invited Chris to join him watching car races, which Christopher knows very little about. He was fine with it until Mr. E said, “Casey you go in there and help your mom bake some cookies”. Christopher said, “Mom I thought I’d pee my pants.” Again I laughed.

He said, “Mom he’s a real redneck. I mean a REAL redneck. Get this, they have a squirrel in their ceiling and he gave Casey’s little brother permission to shoot it. All he said about it was, ‘Son, be sure and use the 410’.”

I guess a 410 is a mighty fine gun for gittin' rid of squirrels in the house.

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On Sunday I learned that Maggie a special needs young woman at church had passed away from a heart attack. She was 28. I don’t know what Maggie’s handicap was although it looked like severe cerebral palsy. I was reading Philippians 3 last night and verse 21 reminded me of Maggie. “He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere.”

Today Maggie is more whole and more alive than anything I’ve ever known. Her weak body that I was familiar with has been exchanged for a glorious one. What a wonderful thought.

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Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'm Sorry

Several days ago I wrote a blog entry that my family found very offensive and hurtful. I did not think through the consequesnces my blog would have on their feelings. Some things cannot be undone, and that blog is one of them. It has been deleted, but not before hurting several family members. For that I am very sorry and regretful. I was wrong to air my feelings publicly rather than privately to those whom my issue was with. I love my family dearly and wish my folly could be undone. May God give his grace where it's needed in this situation.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Snow White

Last night Gordon was reading Snow White to the girls. As he read about the wicked stepmother trying to kill Snow White, Hannah interrupted. "Why didn't Snow White's daddy do something about the wicked stepmother?" (I've always wondered that myself.) Before Gordon had a chance to answer, Rachael our oldest child of 9, who has a very strong genetic bent toward knowing all things, confidently replied, "Because when a man loves a woman, he does whatever she wants him to do."

Well said. (Just joking).

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

In Remembrance of Me

I've never really understood "The Lord's Supper". I grew up with it being such a sober experience that I would always get the nervous giggles. The silence was deafening. I was amused by the production of folding the tablecloth that was atop the elements. The deacons removed the cloth and together folded it in the most sacred way - sort of like it was the burial shroud itself. It seemed a contest of quietness; who could look the most pious; who could work up the greatest feeling of "Poor Jesus". Everything about it tickled me to the point of giggling (and snorting, no less) at the most inopportune time.

I recall how quiet the sanctuary would be as the pastor told us to eat the bread (Saltine crackers). Crunch, crunch, crunch. It was too much. Inevitably, I'd start to snort and giggle. I couldn't understand how everyone kept such a straight and serious face when something so funny was happening. I would pull myself together in time to hear the pastor drone on about the blood of Jesus, and then once again the silence would fall. I would look down in an effort to look truly effected by the seriousness of the moment. But it didn't work. Since I found such amusement in the deathly serious faces all around me, I always snuck a peek and got tickled again. Then we partook, "ulk, ulp, ulk, ulp....." Oh my goodness, I would just about lose it every time.

The giggles were always a part of the Lord's Supper for me. One particular night, my mom and sister got the giggles too. My mom often smiled during the Lord's Supper because she too saw the funny side of it too. But this night she was more than smiling, she was laughing. And then, of all things, the pastor called on her to pray. We tried our darndest to be reverent, but without success. As Mama prayed, Stacie stood beside her whispering, "Say Amen," "Just say Amen".

All that to say, I've never really "got" communion. I never doubted that we were supposed to do it, but I never really understood the significance. But this morning, I think I started to get a clearer understanding. I'm not through developing it in my mind, but I know something clicked as the pastor spoke. I wish I could recall exactly what he said, but try as I may, I cannot.

During whatever he was saying, I realized that by taking communion, we are welcoming Jesus once again into our lives. Instead of thinking "Poor Jesus, look what he went through because of how bad I am," my thoughts should be more like an active reacquaintance with Jesus. "Remember Me," he said. "Remember how I loved, remember my humility, remember what I said, remember how I loved the children, remember what I taught,...."

By taking the elements that represent the body and blood of Jesus, I am saying that I need his very being to be my sustenance. When I receive him as my sustenance, I will be equipped to love like him, be meek like him, see what is important just like he saw the important. The better "I remember him," the better I understand what my life is about. My life is about being like him.

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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Spring is Here

Spring is in the air. Flower shoots are sprouting up and nature’s early risers (I’m not talking about my kids) are singing in the tree outside my bedroom window when I wake up in the morning. I love everything about spring: warmer temperatures, longer days, green grass, even spring-cleaning.

I especially love flowers! The ones that can be bought from a florist are beautiful, but the ones that grow in my own yard, I have a particular fondness for.

In early spring, I watch those flowerbeds with anticipation, just waiting for those first shoots that are like promises that say, “Yes, spring is coming.” They are little treasures to this girl who didn’t grow up in a land of such long winters.

This year as I’ve looked for specks of green shooting from the cold, brown dirt, I’ve experienced just a tiny bit of conviction. “Are you looking for treasures in My Word as diligently as you’re searching for those flower shoots? Do you get as excited about a new found truth in My Word as you do about a new found shoot?”

I am thankful for God’s reminder to me to “look longer and harder” in the Word of God to find a treasure, a shoot that could possibly become a lovely flower in my cold, dark heart.

God gave us flowers to give us delight and to delight Himself. Springtime is a time to delight in the newness we have in the world around us and the newness we have as Christians. Let’s rejoice! It’s spring!

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Friday, April 01, 2005


It's been another fun "spring break" day. We started at IKEA, a huge store that makes WalMart look puny. We had lunch, the kids painted some clay pots, and then we enjoyed browsing through all the stuff we don't need. We left with a plastic dilly to hold shopping bags and a new blue bag for recycling. Do we sound like bonafide nerds? I'm afraid in a number of ways, we are nerds. Sometimes that hurts and other times I take pride in being a bit on the "off" side of life. I've grown up and become one of those earthy type women; tanned (from the garden, not the tanning bed) skinny, calico-dress-wearing, Berkinstock sandals type woman. Only difference is, I'm not skinny, I don't wear calico dresses and I don't own any real Berkinstocks. But I'm in for the earthy, back to nature, simple living approach to life.

After IKEA we ended up in Edmonton's River Valley. It was kind of soggy from the spring melt, yet fresh and outdoors, therefore a good place to be. We watched a fat gopher and had we had treats for him, I do believe he would have eaten out of Hannah's hand. He was so close and oh so cute and curious looking.

Spring has arrived again in Edmonton. The snow, for the most part, has melted. Yesterday morning my tulips were up about 2 inches and still red, as tulip shoots are. Yesterday evening, the shoots were green and 3 inches tall. You may think I'm lying, but I'm not. Growth happens fast once the snow is gone. It's exciting to see all the shoots breaking forth; lilies, tulips, daffodils, hyaciths.

I hung my linens on the line for the first time this week too. I LOVE seeing the clothes on the line, blowing in the wind. When I brought them in they were stiff and smelled so fresh. I know soft towels are the rage, but I love the stiffness of a line dried towel. Even using a clothes line is one of those simple things in life that I get a kick out of.

Deborah was cleaning her room last night, and making quite a production about it. (Deborah hates to clean her room). I told her to put a certain piece of plastic in a certain spot and she stopped dead in her tracks and her tears and said, "but we have to save the planet". My girls think it's up to us to single-handedly save the planet. They are totally on board the recycling and frugal lifestyle. It's cute and satisfying to see them getting imprinted with an appreciation for our world and protecting it from needless harm. Please don't think we are tree-huggers, we are not. But we do our little bit and take satisfaction from doing so.

Tonight I received a the answered "silly questionnaire" from my dear brother. He has such a unique and fun wit. The questionnaire asked, "what's the first thing you notice about someone?" and he answered "The eyes on a curvaceous big breasted woman." Yep, that is the kind of humor I grew up with and still appreciate. I was so happy to hear from him.

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