We began sanding the wood floors at our house on Sunday, June 15th. Our goal was to get stain down by Thursday afternoon and allow it to dry over Saturday so we could put the first coat of finish on by Sunday morning, maybe even get a second coat on by that evening. The goal was to have the house airing out so we could get back in by the end of June. It was cutting things really close, but it seemed doable especially if the baby wasn't born until a week or so into July.
Then no one was able to work on the floor as anticipated, setting us back to staining on Friday - which would still work with our original schedule but we were a little concerned since we'd heard the stain sometimes didn't dry as quickly as it ought to. After running around looking for different (faster drying) stain, we eventually came to the conclusion that we should stick with our original color and type and accept the extra day. By Thursday we were doing the last sanding and moved next door to Mom and Dad Turner's house so that we wouldn't drop anything on the floor between the last sanding and the staining.
Friday morning we encountered a snag. One of the sanders being used on Sunday had apparently developed a problem with the drum and had been sort of bouncing during the sanding, which had caused a series of small trenches or divots in the floor. It wasn't very visible normally, but when we applied stain or finish it was going to be a big problem because both things would puddle in the divots and make them very obvious. After some debate, Aaron and Benjamin and Elizabeth spent a whole day resanding the floors. We were going to try to squeak in the coat of stain before sundown but eventually had to admit there was just not enough time. There was some talk about not doing the stain until Sunday or Monday, but I basically begged and pleaded for the staining to be done after dark on Saturday - which was no small request considering it was the longest day of the year and would mean we would be staining 900 square feet of wood floor starting around 10:00 at night.
It should be noted here that I was feeling very antsy about the time and concerned we weren't going to be done anywhere near in time for the baby to be born in the house. I was uneasy about the other options that we'd have to go with if we couldn't use our house. Ben began saying that perhaps it hadn't been a good idea to try to get the floors done, but at that point everything was moved out of our house and we were pretty committed; and there was still the issue of what we were going to do if we DIDN'T try to get the floors done. It could be another two months before we did anything and that would be two months of wear on an unfinished floor. I basically pushed the "what-ifs" out of mind and firmly decided the baby was going to be born on time or late. A person's mindset had a lot to do with what happened during labor or even when a person could go into labor, I told myself. And I was pretty determined not to have that baby if things weren't ready.
Thankfully, God had the timing of this all in hand. I was upset about an extra day of sanding. God was saying, "No really, let me handle this. You need to delay a day."
However, I wasn't really listening. I was pushing to get done. So on Saturday evening around sundown, I went next door and began doing the one part of the job I hadn't been banned from: using the swiffer to tack-cloth the floor one last time in preparation for staining. My family arrived around 9:45 and got to work, which included Benjamin running back to his house and cutting and preparing a lintel piece for the basement doorway since we'd forgotten it and it wasn't something that could be easily inserted after the staining and finishing was done everywhere else. Ben and I did a quick run to Meijer for snacks and more brushes since we didn't have enough for the number of people working. I was feeling very large and uncomfortable and tired, but that's par for the course at 9.5 months pregnant after having packed up and moved an entire household of stuff out of a house. I did not feel about to go into labor, though in retrospect I did have some clues that I ignored or chalked up to strain from doing a lot.
The stain was completed around midnight - and Ben was the last person out of the house in spite of the fact that it turns out he is unusually sensitive to the fumes from both the stain and the finish and he spent the night wheezing and coughing. We turned out lights and got everything set for the night and Ben said he hoped all the activity wasn't going to put me into labor. "I'm not going into labor," I said firmly. "I'm fine."
But I had a lot of trouble going to sleep since I was unusually uncomfortable. I tried getting up and taking some Tylenol and went back to bed, but by 3:30 knew that I was feeling a lot of achiness and cramping that had nothing to do with being tired and wasn't something benign like Braxton-Hicks contractions either. At that point I was so scared by the possibility of being in labor that I stubbornly closed my eyes and went to sleep telling myself that I was just tired and everything would be back to normal in the morning.
Abigail got up bright and early at 7:45 and climbed into bed to nurse, like she usually does. I was pleased and relieved to open my eyes and feel pretty good, even back to normal. "False alarm," I thought. "I really was just tired."
Then she started nursing and it triggered three very strong contractions back to back. Ouch. Not so normal after all.
I was still trying to ignore it, though. I finished nursing her and got up and got my bathrobe on and tried to get going on my usual morning routine. I didn't feel very good, though, and there was no denying I was having real contractions. Which, by the way, in my opinion are not the most painful thing I've ever felt but there's no denying they're uncomfortable. "I need to just take some more Tylenol and sit with my feet up," I thought. I'd had two episodes of false labor with Abigail and had tested it that way - and the contractions had stopped those times. So I tried it again this time. Ben realized something was up when he saw me taking Tylenol and got concerned when I had to admit what was going on. "Maybe it's just false labor," I said. "I'll just sit for a while and everything will probably just die down. I don't think I'm going to work on the yard today, though." (That'd been our plan for that day, since we couldn't do anything inside the house.)
"Do you think we should tell Mom and Dad?" Ben asked. I didn't want to. I really wanted the whole thing to just go away. But I reluctantly agreed that we ought to and I was relieved when Ben volunteered to take Abigail and make sure she got breakfast and was changed and dressed, etc. Ben brought me a pen and some paper and I began tracking the contractions. After about an hour, I finally had to break down and admit that with contractions every 7 - 10 minutes even after taking Tylenol and resting, this was no false labor.
At that point, plan B had to go into effect.
We'd prepared our room at home so that the birth supplies were organized and ready and the room itself was most ready except for the two large armchairs and the kitchen table, which could be easily moved. Ben and Dad went next door and began moving things around and putting paper down over the just-barely-dry floors. They opened all the windows and collected every fan they could get their hands on, including some from the neighbors, Dad went to the store and got an air purifier, and I called my mom and asked her to go to the store for the few things we still needed for our birth kit - including newborn diapers, which I'd planned on getting when we went grocery shopping that week but hadn't gotten yet. I had washed all the baby clothes and the covers for the swing and bouncy chair and so on, but we didn't have any diapers. Figures.
We also had to call our stand-by midwife, since our midwife still wasn't back from the short vacation she'd gone on. We'd thought there'd be plenty of time, but now it was clear there wasn't.
By the time I went back to our house - around noon - the stain smell in the house was barely noticeable and it was an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon. Part of me was actually a little regretful to be missing out on such a beautiful day since I was way too busy to be paying attention to it. Mom Turner didn't really believe me at first that I was having strong contractions, I think, because I was behaving relatively normally; but by noon things were starting to get serious and it looked like we were on track to have this baby much, much sooner than we'd had Abigail. As a matter of fact, by 5:00 we were just at the point of birth when we encountered the same problem we had with Abigail: the baby was stuck behind a bubble of the amniotic sac that refused to budge or break. At 9:30, after going through four hours of very strong contractions that weren't noticeably doing anything, I finally had to summon the gumption to work on forcing the birth to happen even though things weren't really cooperating. Someone took a picture about the time I was sitting in the birthing pool having to make that decision - I don't really remember sitting there with my head against the back and my eyes closed, but I do remember being so very tired and just wanting to lie down and take a good nap and knowing I had to have that baby first. I could hear my sisters talking to one of the midwives in the other room and had been fuzzily aware of most of the family sitting on the patio next door having pizza a few hours earlier. I thought, "Okay, this has gone on long enough. Time to be done now." It had been about 18 hours since I first started thinking I might be in labor.
Once I decided to work on having her - I had to break the water myself since it just wouldn't rupture and then had to really push her even though I wasn't having any urge to, which takes a lot more energy than normal - Susannah Mary Turner was born about half an hour later at 10:06 pm. My mom and sister Leah ended up being there when she was born, which we hadn't really planned but was pretty special; and then Elizabeth and Anna brought Abigail over right away. I somehow had asked Leah to get them without specifically including Mom Turner in the invitation so she was a few minutes later when we realized she wasn't there, but she was still present before Susannah's cord was even cut yet. By the time Susannah and I were all cleaned up and resting in bed, the room gradually filled up with a good percentage of our family - another unplanned but special event. Mom Turner weighed Susannah for the first time and she and my mom and Anna got Susannah dressed for the first time while Abigail sat on my lap and shared my oatmeal. Abigail had no idea what to make of this tiny baby who had just appeared but finally began pointing to her eyes and mouth and hair and saying, "Eye. Mouth. Hair." Generally acknowledging that Susannah was a person just like her, I think.
We still had the odd situation of having a completely bare house that was full of the smell of stain if the windows were closed and fans turned off. We came to the conclusion it was probably best for Susannah's newly-tested lungs to take her back next door to Mom and Dad Turner's house for the night. So once everyone went home and Susannah had nursed for a little while, we packed up our two little girls and walked very slowly next door at about 1:00 in the morning and went to bed. It was very early in the morning of the two-week anniversary of Grandma Lila's death.
And in a wonderful, special touch, Susannah's first few weeks were spent at Nana and Grandpa Turner's house, where we were spoiled and cared for and visited before we went to my family's house for another few weeks and were again spoiled and cared for and visited. What a welcome for our little peanut!
We're just able to think about getting back into our house now. Turns out Ben is extremely sensitive to the fumes from the finish. So if we were able to follow our original plan, there would've been a brand new coat of finish on the floor and Susannah would've had to be born on the patio next door or something. God made sure that silly sander didn't work properly; and he made sure Susannah was born right in the best time for us to be out of the house: while she's still in a newborn coma and I can rest and not be waiting for the moment when I could start thinking about packing up the house...in the middle of nursing all the time and still not being able to handle my normal workload. It was not what we had planned at all, none of it. Not Grandma getting sick, not Susannah being born two weeks early, not the house progress taking place as it did. But in the end, it all has worked together for good.
I've been continually reminded of a children's song I played often as a kid: "He gave us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness: that we might be trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
God had all the timing perfectly worked out. He knew how we were going to handle having Grandma Lila and a new baby at the same time. He knew how it was going to work so we could finish our floors and have a new baby at the same time. He knew what we were going to need when and he made sure it all worked. All the things we couldn't quite figure out how to cram into the same period of time he already had planned, and in the end Susannah's birth was full of little things that made it very special and very wonderful, just as he took care of Grandma Lila and her gentle death. Thank you, Lord. You made things perfect, just as you always do.
Welcome to the family, Susannah! Yours is one birth we are certainly never going to forget.
Beauty Through Ashes, Part 1
I was going to post about our last few weeks all at once, but it got to be very long and I thought it might be better to break it into three parts and give myself a few days between parts.
Grandma Lila died June 9, 2014.
Even though we all knew it was coming, it was kind of a shock that it actually happened. For one thing, when we brought Grandma home from the hospital, it looked for all the world like she only had a few days left with us. She was nearly unresponsive, wasn't eating or drinking anything, and was doing steadily worse by the day.
Then she bounced back. She was more herself than she'd ever been, clear-headed and rational and wanting to eat. We could still tell she wasn't really on the road to recovery, but for a week or so there we were honestly doubting the doctor's opinion and even began making plans how to help her get better for a time.Things did go downhill from there. First there was a kind of happy delirium in which Grandma acted like a happily intoxicated person most of the time but was pretty clearly not rational. This continued for about two months until suddenly a week before she died she became very, very sad. I think some part of her knew she wasn't going to get better and that she didn't feel well but she wasn't really able to express those things anymore because her mind had become very much like that of a little child. She compared herself to Abigail all the time, spoke "baby talk" and had a list of needs that was pretty simple: "Squatch my back!", "I'm hungry", "I want to get up" and "take me to the bathroom" became her nearly constant litany. What became difficult about this the last week was that she became desperate about those things and didn't recognize when they were being given to her. She would say, "I want water! I want water!" and would continue asking like that even with the water in her hand or even on a sponge in her mouth. She didn't seem to be able to understand that she had been given what she required because I think she knew she needed something else but couldn't really identify what.
I have always had difficulty with what I saw especially in Hospice situations as the tendency to tranquilize a dying person right into death. I have a different perspective now that might help any other "me" kind of people reading: when we finally made a decision to begin giving Grandma stronger tranquilizers, we did it because of her desperation and how badly she was feeling. It was like watching someone in great pain only she wasn't really in pain. Her mind wasn't able to tell her what was going on. Causing her to become sleepy gave her relief much like giving pain killer would and while it felt a little wrong to do in some ways since we knew we weren't going to have many more days with her, her last few days were much more peaceful than the week that had gone before. Her last drowsy conversation with Ben went something like this:
Ben: "Hi Grandma. How are you feeling? Would you like the windows open?"
Grandma: "Yes...I'd like that."
Ben, after opening the windows and then stroking Grandma's head a little: "There, Lila. We're taking good care of you."
Grandma: "You sure are..."
Ben: "I love you, Grandma Lila."
Grandma: "I love you too, Ben..."
The next night Ben was up most of the night with her since she kept crying and calling for help. We couldn't tell what was wrong, but we did notice she was having a much harder time breathing since her skin was getting bluer and we were giving her oxygen for the first time. By morning, she didn't seem able to talk anymore and we gave her some medicine hoping to help her breathe easier. She eventually fell asleep to me reading Abigail stories while I sat next to her and never woke again. She slept all day and we could tell her time was very short since her breathing became very rapid and shallow and her color kept getting duskier even though we had the oxygen up as high as it could go. She was still much more peaceful than she had been all week, no longer trying to climb out of bed or making frantic requests we couldn't grant.
Later in the afternoon, I called the Hospice nurse and told her that I didn't think Grandma had much time and asked if they wanted to come by or if there was anything they needed done for their benefit, since they arrange calling people and taking care of things after someone dies. The nurse on call was a lady we'd seen once before and really liked and she came out to the house around 5:00 to see Grandma and assess what was going on. She told us that Grandma's heart was still pretty strong considering the condition she was in and that her breathing was at what was considered a normal rate with no pauses, so we were probably looking at being up that night with her but she agreed Grandma did not have much time with us. Mom called Jenny and told her what was going on and Jenny decided to stop here on the way home from work and I started the barbecue since it was time for dinner and it looked like we'd better feed everyone since it was going to be a long night.
It was a beautiful warm summery evening and we had all the windows open in the house since we don't have air conditioning yet. Jenny arrived and came in and rubbed Grandma's head and said hello to her even though Grandma was sleeping. Mom and the nurse and I were going to clean Grandma a little since she was having some issues with her insides and we wanted her to be as comfortable as possible, so Jenny took Abigail for a walk on the path in the backyard we call "Lila Boulevard" since we built it to easily get Grandma back and forth from our house to Mom and Dad's. As the weather had gotten warmer and the dandelions bloomed, Ben taught Abigail to pick them and bring them to Grandma, since in her delirious state she would make a big deal about the "pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty flowers" that "the little girl with the curly hair" brought her - she would even make up little songs about it. When Jenny and Abigail came back, Abigail ran to me with a dandelion held out proudly. I thought she had brought it for me, but Abigail pointed to Grandma's bed and said, "Wa-wa?"
"You want me to give this to Grandma Lila?" I asked her.
"I do," she said - lately if you ask her a question she wants to answer "yes" to, she says "I do".
"Grandma's sleeping right now, but I'll put it right here on her lap so she'll see it when she opens her eyes," I told Abigail.
Then I went and got Abigail some raisins. Our family was all sitting in Grandma's new bright room with the windows open, since we had kind of gathered together to hear what the nurse would have to say. We were chatting about how Grandma's last year has been, since earlier in the day Mom had been keeping her company and putting pictures in an album from the past year and it had been amazing all the things Grandma had gotten to do and participate in. Suddenly Jenny said, "You know, Grandma's head has been moving with every breath but it's not moving now. Is she breathing?"
I looked at Grandma, who didn't really look any differently than she had all day and said, "Um...I think so. Maybe her breathing has just gotten more shallow?"
But after a few more seconds, I realized I really couldn't see any sign of Grandma breathing. I got up off the floor where I'd been sitting and feeding Abigail raisins and went over to Grandma and put my hand on her chest. I couldn't feel her breathing, but I thought I could feel her heart beating. The nurse came back in the room from having made a phone call and I looked up at her and said, "I can't tell if Grandma is breathing but I think I feel her heart."
The nurse came and put her stethoscope on Grandma's chest and listened for a little while, then looked at me and shook her head a little. "I can't hear anything," she said quietly. "She's gone."
So Grandma left us on a warm summer evening with her whole family sitting around her visiting and talking about her life of the past year while her great-granddaughter who had never lived in a house without her laid on the floor by her bed humming and peacefully eating raisins after having brought a dandelion in especially for her. It was the kind of way a lot of people might ask to die if we were given the chance to make that request.
People have asked me over the past few weeks what I thought of Grandma's view on death and if she believed she would be with God someday when she died. I was never really able to tell exactly what Grandma thought, partly because she wasn't necessarily clear-headed enough to discuss it due to medications and forgetfulness issues and partly because I just wasn't able to really tell what she thought. I know she was very afraid to die, mostly because I think she was afraid it was going to hurt. Honestly, in the end I don't think it did. Most days Ben would ask her how she was doing and she would cheerfully say, "Oh, pretty good!" which is better than she usually said when she was actually in better health.
Whatever Lila thought, however, I do know God loved Lila very much and gave her some pretty incredible blessings in her life, especially in the part of her life I was present for. As we realized months ago when we realized Grandma was "dying", a person actually lives right up to the second they die. The question always is...what kind of life are they living right up until that second?
Grandma lived a special and comfortable life full of things and people she loved right until the second she left us. That was evidence of how much God loves her. Not only was her life very blessed with good things, but there were also bad things she was always afraid of that never came to pass. She always thought she was going to get cancer or that she would have another heart attack - she was terrified of those things. She was also afraid of being put in an institution somewhere until she died. One of the reasons she came to live with us in the first place was because our family decided together that we would do whatever we could to fulfill one of her most firmly-held wishes: to never, ever end up in a nursing home. That became one of our goals, that whatever we had to do to care for her, we would strive to do from home. In the moment that Grandma died, for me there was an incredible sense of peace because together our family had accomplished something good we had set out to do and we had not failed. It was like finishing a race for everyone and that meant we could all rest when Grandma rested. We were privileged to be given to each other and we were given the strength not to abandon each other.
So in a few seconds on the evening of June 9th as we sat together peacefully talking around Lila's bed, the number of days God had given her - a little over 91 years - came to a very gentle and quiet end.
Dad had visited the farmer's market a few days earlier and brought back some rhubarb with the request for a pie and I had made it the day before forgetting Dad was leaving overnight for a fishing trip. I hadn't had enough rhubarb for a straight-up rhubarb pie, so I used strawberries from the freezer and made a strawberry-rhubarb pie instead, then saved the whole pie when I realized Dad wasn't going to be there to eat it. Over the course of the day Grandma died, Mom happened to hear on the radio that June 9th was National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day and we had gotten a chuckle out of the fact we just happened to have one to share. After we had gone through all the formal things that had to be done after Grandma's death, like disposing of her medication and signing paperwork and making various other arrangements, we took the pie next door and sat on the patio together sharing pie and ice cream and talking about Grandma and Grandpa. Sort of like people would do after a funeral when there's a meal and people are no longer crying. Mom says this is probably going to be a new tradition, where we have strawberry-rhubarb pie on National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day and remember Grandma Lila dying so quietly and peacefully that beautiful June evening in 2014.
As a tradition remembering the end of someone's life goes, I think Grandma Lila would've liked that one. She surely did enjoy her ice cream, especially the last few months of her life.
Sleep well, Grandma Lila. We love you.
One Year Photos
I got a little sidetracked getting Abigail's one year photo and putting it online since I was also working on getting her first-year album put together and It made my mind think the project on the computer was already underway. Funny how that works, eh?
However, Abigail's 12 month photos are now online here - I had to be careful to only put in her 12 month photos and not include the 13 month ones that show how she's really begun to walk over the past week or so! My baby is becoming a little girl...
But she's not there yet. Case in point, today I gave her a plate with her breakfast on it and she dumped it onto her tray, stuffed some if it down next to her into the chair, and proceeded to try to feed Ben and I the rest of it. Guess she must not've been quite as hungry as she claimed. And that streak of mischievousness visible in this photo is definitely active now that she's getting older and more communicative. Yesterday morning she began tickling Ben to wake him up and giggling hysterically when he said, "WHOA! HEY!"
Good Fruit II
I've been trying for a week to think of how to write this blog post.
A week ago yesterday, we buried one of the most wonderful men I've ever known.
I've struggled to try to explain what his life has meant to mine since the moment I realized he was gone, early in the morning on the day Abigail was coming into the world just a year ago. The impact he had was so enormous that in trying to play the "what if we had never met" scenario I'm not sure I can even comprehend what my life would be if he had never come into it. It's almost like trying to imagine what would've happened if one of your parents had never been born. You simply wouldn't exist, that's what. In a way, without this man, I wouldn't exist.
I know. It sounds melodramatic and ridiculous and might even sound like hero-worship. It's not. God used this man in a way men very rarely allow themselves to be used and the results have been - and will continue to be - tremendous.
Joe was not a very imposing man. In many ways, he would seem at first glance very average. But he wasn't because he believed a very simple concept about himself and about God: he believed - still DOES, since God is not a God of the dead but the living - that God created him in God's image. It wasn't that he thought he himself was so great, but he believed in a great God. He believed more that God was greater than anyone else I've ever met. He believed God was so great that God created all things to be good and therefore all things had the potential to be good. They were made to be good, redeemed to be brought back to good, and therefore could be good.
Stop and think about that a moment.
A lot of people will say that God created everything.
Fewer but still quite a few will say that God is good.
Even fewer will say that God made things - including us - to BE good.
And out of all those, very few at all actually believe any of it.
You can tell by the fruit their life bears. If a tree says it's an apple tree and bears oranges, you can't believe a word the tree said about it's identity. With humans, their beliefs dictate what kind of tree they are and what kind of fruit they bear. You can say all day long that you're a hippie and a free spirit, but if you voluntarily wear a suit and tie to work every day, cut your hair short, believe in keeping all the laws you encounter, and love authority and structure...no one can or should believe that you really believe what you're saying you believe. If you say you believe in a God who created all things good and say you serve him but have all the same troubles and problems as people who don't, then you don't either.
When Joe said he didn't believe in Terrible Twos because his beloved children were created by God to be good and Terrible Twos sounded like nothing God would look at and say "it is very good"...his children were delightful two-year-olds and just kept on getting better with age. Not only that, but his grandchildren were (and are) wonderful two-year-olds too. This was often the first thing that attracted other people to him: his children. His wonderful, happy, blunt, imaginative, humorous, creative, industrious, obedient children. Then teens. Then young adults. Then married with their own children. He understood and valued love and marriage and fatherhood like no other (he was asked to leave a very conservative church because they said he "valued fatherhood too much") because he believed whole-heartedly that God made all those things good and God himself was the original after whom husbands and fathers were modeled. He held himself to those standards not as a rigid authoritarian but as an enthusiastic, gentle and joy-filled leader; and it was impossible to talk to him without getting at least a sense of this.
To him, God is a person, a father, a leader, a Creator who - even though he is so much greater and more than we can even imagine - still wants to live in our homes with us and interact with us as a father does with his children. God is wonderful and he was interested in a wonderful God. And he made the same wonderful God attractive to other people when they kept coming to him over and over and saying, "Tell us how you're doing what you're doing!"
Peter advises his readers in 1 Peter 3:
"Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."
Joe was the best evangelist I've ever met, not so much because of what he said as how he lived. His life brought God glory because when other people looked at him and wanted to know how to have what he had, the answer was he had what God is always ready to give. He really possessed the peace that passes understanding and the joy that only God can give; and it was very, very, very attractive to anyone who really had a chance to see it. People would think, "Boy, if this is what the God you serve can do...tell me about your God!"
My parents were like that. They first began really talking with him when they were 24 and I was about 6 weeks old. He was only a little older than Ben is now, but there was something about him and the God he loved that was so attractive that they were drawn to what he had. And when he began describing the things he'd learned about God that had brought him to where he was, they listened. They were already afraid to put me in school because of things they were hearing from the teenagers they were teaching at church. They looked at Joe and realized he'd done the unthinkable: he'd been afraid too, so he'd simply removed his children from school. Who does that?
Well, he had and it was clearly working. Because he believed God gave children to their parents and they were therefore fully equipped to raise those children to be the kind of men and women God was looking for. If school got in the way, then school had to go and it would be a good thing that it was gone.
I'm not sure my parents would've ever had the courage to take me and my siblings out of school without being able to see positive proof that it could be done and it could work really well. So without Joe, I would probably have gone to school.
That would already make me a totally different me.
When my sister was born and died around the time I was four, much of my parents' ability to weather that kind of storm - one that tears apart a sickening majority of marriages - came from reliance on the God they'd come to know so much better through Joe. It also came from his encouragement, advice and example. Without him, there is every possibility my parents would not have had the faith and fortitude to bring their marriage through Elaina's life and death. This would have made for a drastically different me. I would have been one of three children from a broken family, educated in the public school system and bounced between my parents' households.
And it only goes on from there. My peaceful growing-up years that left me with a profound trust of my parents and love for my siblings. My understanding of how to see a good man that meant I found Ben so wonderful. My view of marriage and children and family which means Abigail exists and Grandma Lila doesn't live in assisted living. My belief in a God so wonderful that I can be at peace with my baby dying because I believe God is good and does not do anything evil. That same belief which leads Ben and I to do things even other Christians think odd simply because we believe God has always worked for the good of his people. All this came because God sent my family a very good teacher. And that teacher was Joe.
I was talking to Ben about this last week. He looked at me soberly and said, "Joe saved your life."
He did. And my life is what it is because God decided to save it; and he used Joe to suggest and model the things first my parents and then I needed to know about God and God's ways so that my life could be saved. Not saved just in the sense that I can hopefully go to Heaven instead of Hell when I die someday: saved right now so that Ben and I and our children can live in God's Kingdom during our lives too.
In a way, this post has been about Joe, but ultimately it's really about God. I've had occasion to reflect on these things, on what my life is and what it would've been without God's intervention, because Joe was able for the first time to stand face-to-face with God sometime in the morning of Ben and Abigail's birthday, January 28th, 2014. It wasn't the easiest funeral to go to because we were feeling the hole left behind when a good man isn't around to see and talk to anymore. But it was the best funeral I've ever gone to because I have never been as certain with anyone else as I was with him that he is delighted to be finally in the presence of the God he spent his whole life loving so faithfully and completely. It was a good day. And his children and those who loved him were singing while the dirt was put into the grave.
God is good. He is very good. Joe's life was a good gift to us. And I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the life I have because of his.
This has been a truly amazing week.
There are some times in life you absolutely should look back on for months and years to come. Miracles leave an impression if they're examined and acknowledged. Unless you deliberately keep those memories alive they disappear; but if you keep them alive, they go into a folder in your brain that sticks around for a long, long time.
I have a friend who calls certain events “God's fingerprints” because they're something you can point to and say, “I saw God here today”. Many times when people ask a Christian person to talk about God, we're tempted to pull out the Bible and point to all the reasons why God is and why we should respect and worship him; but God himself urges us to look at the things we ourselves have seen God do and to pass those memories on to our children. It makes a huge difference to say, “This is what I saw God do” compared to, “This is what God did for some people a few thousand years ago.”
Please don’t get me wrong: I don't want to sound in any way like I'm devaluing anything God has done, whether it was two minutes ago or two thousand years ago. But an eyewitness is nowhere near the same as something from history.
The friend who looks for God's fingerprints suffered full cardiac arrest while out shoveling snow this week.
He is only 69 years old and was obviously feeling healthy enough to grab a shovel and start clearing the front walk in sub-zero weather; but while he was out there working his heart suddenly stopped and he collapsed on the ground practically in mid-sentence of a conversation with his daughter-in-law.
Before this story goes any further, there are two important things to point out: the first is that people who have a cardiac “incident” of this kind outside a hospital or without EMS already on the scene have a bad, bad, bad chance of ever recovering. I think the statistics were something very dreary along the lines of 2% - 9% discharge from hospital. This is because a person's brain begins to die the second it's deprived of oxygen: by 7 – 10 minutes, there is so much damage the person may never even regain consciousness.
However, the second important thing is what changed this particular man's chances drastically. It's his philosophy of life, the basic understanding that drives his outlook and therefore the decisions that have shaped him and his family.
One facet of this philosophy is the absolute belief that God looked at man and said, “It's not good for man to be alone.”
It sounds simple enough. I doubt you’re going to find very many God-fearing folks who'd disagree God said this. It's right there in the first chapter of Genesis, right at the founding of the Human race. It was the understanding that prompted God to create a woman for the man he'd just made. However, most of the same folks would look at that passage and conclude it was good for a man to be married.
It is good for a man to have a wife; but sometimes he had a wife and lost her, and sometimes he’s not old enough to have a wife, and sometimes it’s been difficult to find one, and sometimes he has a duty in life where it would be better for him not to be married. All these situations exist: but God did not say, “Usually it’s not good for man to be alone, but in some cases…”
Nope: God said, “It's not good.” Period. And when he made a woman, he actually ensured that no man ever has to be alone. Because the woman meant children. Children meant a family. A family is made up of grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins and second-cousins and eventually a huge network of men and women all capable of preventing any member of the gigantic Human family ever being alone. It's not good for us to be alone, whatever our marital status may be.
Because this man believes God and thinks about God probably more than anyone I've ever met, the outcome of his life has been different than anyone else I've ever met. Because he has this firm foundational belief, here is what we understand was his situation the day he collapsed out on the front walk: his daughter-in-law and another woman who's become a daughter to him were standing out with him having a conversation, which is the usual way he does any activity including weeding the garden. I'm not sure I've ever seen him do anything where he was just working on something. He is always with someone talking about something while he's doing the most basic tasks.
Not only were his daughters with him, but two of his three adult sons were working on constructing a house probably less than a hundred feet away, with their families spending the day in an RV parked on site so the children could take naps and live normal daily life close to their fathers. When he collapsed, one of his daughters ran to find the sons, who immediately ran back and began doing CPR on their father.
As near as they can tell, CPR began within two minutes of his collapse. Perhaps within one minute. He began breathing again almost immediately, which doesn't usually happen in cardiac arrest outside of hospital because there often isn't anyone around to respond, let alone this quickly. It’s not good for man to be alone.
Meanwhile, an EMS crew was only one mile away and was able to reach him within four minutes. They were able to shock his heart into a normal rhythm when it arrested again and he reached the hospital – one of the best heart hospitals in the state that “happened” to be only a few blocks away – with his heart already returning to a normal rate.
It's been a long week as we waited for news. He's been unconscious for most of it, since one way to allow the body to heal from such a shock to the system is to be sedated and kept very cold for a time until healing can take place. We still don't know how long he'll take to recover or what his full condition will be when he does, but right now the signs are extremely hopeful. It looks as if God did a miracle and is preserving this life -- and this mind -- for us (though I think that was a kindness to the rest of us more than to him or God, who would be delighted to be together). There have been many “small” miracles over the course of the week, like the first time he opened his eyes and smiled in recognition at his son.
There were other beliefs and truths that played into the situation and created their own miracles, such as that a complete reliance on God really does impart a peace that passes understanding. While our friend was still unconscious and no one knew for sure if he could even wake up, his wife – who loves him very dearly – peacefully took a turn being home and was met bringing the laundry upstairs for folding with a smile on her face. If that isn't peace that passes understanding, I'm not sure what is.
However, a huge part of the miracle of this life being preserved happened long ago and in tiny steps leading to that moment in the snow. The real miracle was the revelation that God really meant it wasn't good for any of us to be alone. It was the tenacity of belief, the conviction of this truth, that created a situation where the nearly-unsurvivable became survivable. And it's a big reason why this has been a very amazing week. Because we got to see the fruit of this belief one more time: and it's good and beautiful and very desirable for eating. It was a fingerprint of God, the mark of his hand on someone's whole life.
We are very privileged to have witnessed it; and we do not want to forget.
I keep having ideas of blog posts I want to write, but these days it seems like the time I have in which to write usually falls somewhere around midnight and I'm not sure it's the wisest use of my time. For all I know, however, this may be normal for many years to come and I should probably just take advantage of the fact that I actually have time.
I think it might be finally sinking in to Ben and I that we have our own family and we only get one shot at forming a good marriage that produces good children. Sometimes I'm not sure my mind can even properly grasp what a huge undertaking this is and as solemnly as we took it on, it doesn't seem like we could've possibly been solemn enough for how gigantic a thing it is. I can say it's a matter of life and death without being melodramatic at all. Both physically and spiritually, we are in the process of making decisions that will either bring us life or kill us. And it only takes very small errors of thought to end up with a complete family catastrophe.
As someone I know once said, this is not the time for sloppy Godliness.
And it has been sloppy of us to think that we could pick and choose which of God's commands we should keep.
As Abigail has begun testing us to find out if she should really listen when we tell her not to touch something or come when we call, a passage I've heard in Deuteronomy since I was only a little older than she is keeps coming to mind: Moses, addressing his people on the day of his death, said, "I set before you today blessings and curses. Choose life, so you may live!"
When I see Abigail making a beeline to stick her little fingers in an electrical socket, I find myself saying to her, "Choose life so you may live, Abby!"
And then I find myself wondering if that's exactly what God thinks. When he set out all his "commands, judgements and precepts" before his beloved children, he wasn't doing it to cause them grief or harm. He was laying out for them how he intended for them to live, warning them of dangers and placing his understanding and view of the universe before them so they could keep their fingers out of electrical sockets and live. That's why failure to obey brought curses, just as Abigail runs a serious risk of bringing serious consequences on her head if she doesn't listen even if those consequences are not things I'm actively bringing upon her.
It's such a simple, enigmatic statement. At first glance, it's like a facepalm-simple phrase. Who doesn't want to choose life? Well, aside from the troubled individual here or there...but for the most part it seems like we all fight pretty hard to live. Babies are blessed right from the beginning with loud obnoxious voices and the tenacity to make sure their parents can't sleep or ignore their cries to be fed so they can get the food they need to live.
But I don't think God was just talking about the physical. He included it, of course - God's very practical commandments are not set on some weird mystic spiritual plane in which our bodies are something to be ignored as worthless - but when he was saying to "choose life", he was talking about REAL life, something Jesus called "life abundant", life that was more than just eating and breathing. In God's eyes, I think most of us are overall like people in a vegetative state: alive, but not vitally. Existing in a coma while machines breathe for you is not really much like the life we're used to living. Life outside of God's ways is pretty much the same.
God's version of "Life" does not include sickness, hunger, miscarriage, defeat, famine or anxiety.
For some reason, I had always thought that a lack of those things could only exist in Heaven. I was overlooking the fact that God's promised blessings on his people included freedom from these curses. Those people were all still living! God's version of Real Life - the life he said his people could choose - takes us out of a vegetative state and gives us an existence in Paradise right now. This is not for after we die because after we die we're dead, not alive. God's commands - the ones he gave to people who were still living and promised the above blessings if his people strove to follow them with all their hearts and minds and souls and strengths (Jesus quoted Moses in that famous verse).
God's version of Life, the life he wanted his people to choose, was to love him so much that they would keep his commandments. When Jesus described to his disciples what it meant to love him, he said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."
Life is in God's commandments because his commandments are so much of him that we draw closer to him by obeying him. If we want to love God with all our hearts and souls and minds and strength and if God is unchanging and if Jesus is God's Word and was with God in the beginning...then choosing life means choosing to live the way God laid out for us to live.
I want Abigail to choose life by obeying our commandments. God wants the same for us. I don't tell Abigail anything that's too hard for her. It isn't hard for her not to stick her fingers in the electrical socket or to come to me when I call her. It isn't hard for us either.
What's strange is that even after keeping the Sabbath and coming to the conclusion to not eat things God said not to eat, I still somehow in the back of my mind held to the understanding that God's commands were not really for me and I was somehow being particularly careful by picking of few of them to pay attention to. I had forgotten so many things that I've heard all my life, things that were completely clear. When Jesus said he didn't come to abolish the Law, he said he didn't come to abolish the Law. When he chastised the Pharisees, he told them that if they had only listened to what Moses had written they would've known him because Moses was writing about him. That means God's true commands - not ones with extra additions, but God's actual commands - give us the gift of recognizing God himself. God said the reward for calling his Sabbath a delight was to find our joy in him. When John called Jesus a light shining in the darkness, he was calling God's Word a light in the darkness.
Lately we have become aware of darkness around us to a degree we never even imagined possible. It's as if the more we look, the darker the darkness becomes. So if anyone really wants to know why we'll be sleeping out in a shelter next week instead of our house...it's because we want to love God with all our hearts and minds and souls and strength and he said if we love him, we'll listen to what he told us to do. And next week, he said he wanted us staying in shelters instead of our houses so that's what we're going to do.
Because we want to choose life so we and our children may live.
In The Beginning
For those who don't already know, we are thrilled to announce that we officially broke ground on our new house this week! (I've uploaded a new slideshow under "House Progress")
Yes, it really is an addition rather than a completely new building, but to us it's going to mean a very different house than we have right now. We'll go from about 960 square feet to around 1,830 square feet and we are being given the spectacular gift of a complete basement underneath the new part of the house. To double our space again, all we have to do is finish the basement. Our new house will be HUGE compared to the old one!
Originally, we were going to build on a crawlspace since a basement didn't fit in the budget; but we have wonderful friends who decided we ought to have a basement and therefore they're building one and doing some amazing things to make it work, such as advertising free fill dirt on Craigslist and then patiently hauling truckloads of dirt out to different locations to dump it. One of the bigger expenses in building a basement is hauling away all the dirt that came out of the hole. Everyone is also spending time searching Craigslist for other material supplies that we would normally just purchase new, but every little bit we purchase as odds and ends from other jobs is money we save off the total cost, giving us the ability to do a lot more than we would've otherwise. Ben is thrilled and intrigued with this - he's always really enjoyed bargain-hunting, but this is going to a whole new level we hadn't ever thought of.
He's also thrilled because he's gotten to use the mini excavator. When we did all the work on our house the first time, things were going so fast and we were trying to prepare for our wedding at the same time, so he didn't get a chance to help with a lot of the projects. He also felt like he would get in the way since he was always having to learn how to do whatever was being done. He's said for a year he wants things to be different with the addition: he really wants to be able to learn more and be able to help with the building - and one side benefit of having friends willing to build our house is that they're also ready to teach how to build our house.
We began digging the basement on Wednesday afternoon, though the work really got going in earnest on Thursday. One of the things about working with friends this way is that there can be a long period of waiting followed by a fantastic amount of activity in a short period of time. To anyone watching it probably looks like nothing is ever going to happen; but a good thing to remember is that we pretty much took the house apart and put it back together as a wheelchair-friendly place in two weeks - from the 14th of November to the 28th, the kitchen floor was stripped and raised, the wall between kitchen and living room was removed, a new bathroom was totally installed (including the new drain lines and the construction of a shower), extensive drywall repair was finished, the whole house was cleaned and painted, the stairway and doorways were raised in the kitchen where the floor had been raised, the electrical system was revamped and a bunch of new fixtures were added, all new interior doors were installed, and we moved Ben and I in. That is a LOT of work in two weeks. I tend to think the addition will be the same way. Kim asked us in April if we thought we'd be almost done when she came back in August and I honestly think there's an excellent likelihood of it.
In other news, Abigail learned how to roll over both ways this week. She also did something I've never seen done before: she's learned how to flip over while in her bouncy chair. She rolls herself around so her face is in the chair and her little bottom is stuck up in the air...and then she cries because she can't figure out what to do next. Actually, in order to roll over she yells the whole time. It's not crying exactly, just like she's yelling. And then she gets over onto her stomach and lifts her head up to look around in a sort of bewildered way - "Okay, I did it. Now what?"
She finds all the activity surrounding the addition pretty fascinating and will sit quietly for an amazingly long time watching the big machines out the doorwall as the excavation continues. Grandma is convinced all the loud machines scare her, but she doesn't look scared at all to me, just intrigued. She was even laughing hysterically (for her) when Benjamin was pounding up the concrete from the old sunroom. She's laughed more this week than I've ever heard. Her aunts have all been around a lot this week too, so she's been getting used to them hauling her around. When it's just me and I get tired, I put her down; but with all the girls around, when one person gets tired, they pass her on to the next set of hands. Now she thinks she really ought to be carried everywhere so she can see what's going on rather than being stuck in one place. She thought that anyway, but now it's even more pronounced.
Due to popular request
Due to popular request, we are updating the website with some new Abigail photos.
It has been a very long and eventful couple of weeks.
To start with, in a weird deja vu development, Grandma Lila again has a fractured hip. Last year at this time we were just bringing her home from assisted living to deal with recovery from another fracture to a different part of the same exact joint. That was a very rough couple of weeks for a variety of reasons and the actual physical caring for Grandma is much easier this time around. For one thing, it appears the pain medicine she already takes for her neuropathy is covering whatever pain there might be from the fracture - one of our hardest tasks has actually been convincing her that she can't stand or walk on the leg because to her mind, it's fine.
The very sobering part of this news, however, is that Grandma apparently fractured her hip by doing...nothing at all that should've broken anything. Apparently the bone around the old spacer in her right hip is growing so fragile that it broke just from the strain of walking on it. This could very well mean that Grandma will no longer be walking any distance at all, walker or no walker. We knew when we brought Grandma home that this was an almost inevitable development, but it's a little shocking to have it happen so soon. We are still hopeful that this isn't the case, of course, but it's hard not to draw that conclusion given the circumstances surrounding this latest fracture. We have an appointment with the orthopedic doctor who gave us such good advice last year and we'll know more after that. In the meantime, we're being well-prepared for our imminently arriving newborn by getting up several times a night for a half-hour to help Grandma to the bathroom and back. I told Ben last night that I'm very hopeful the bell Grandma rings to tell us she needs help will wake the baby up too so we can get them on the same schedule - otherwise we are going to be even more sleep-deprived than the average new parent!
I'm also down to five weeks left before the estimated due date and the midwife tells us that the baby is already engaged and it's her opinion he/she "is either going to come early or you're going to need a bigger body" as the baby is pretty well taking up all available room. I'm beginning to be pretty uncomfortable most of the time and am starting to look forward to having the baby outside rather than inside, lack of sleep or no. I'm disgusted to note I didn't inherit my mom's genes as much as I'd hoped and my feet and ankles are definitely swelling if I spend longer than a half-hour standing on them.
All of that being a prelude to what I feel is a very important and difficult-to-phrase blog post.
Last year, with all the hustle and bustle of our wedding closely followed by moving Grandma, it somehow was not apparent that Ben and I had decided to not celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense. This year things have been much more settled (fracture notwithstanding) and it came to Mom Turner's attention we were not decorating for Christmas. When she began asking why and discovered we were actually avoiding Christmas, it caused a lot of hurt feelings (including from Grandma Lila, who gave me a pretty sharp scolding about it the other day). Because it was hard on Mom, she began discussing the situation with others close and the result is a lot of people don't quite know how to approach Christmas with us this year. A dear neighbor brought us the beautiful wreath she'd purchased as a Christmas gift for us and asked humbly if we would be offended by it, for instance, and another close relative was very concerned about bothering us by sending us a Christmas card.
We are very touched by and appreciative of the concern, but we're a little distressed that we've caused so much upset, so here is our best explanation of what we think of Christmas and how we're approaching it for the time being.
We've been spending a lot of time considering what it means to have good things get mixed with bad and what that ultimately does to the good thing. In the case of Christmas, Christians a long time ago essentially took a very pagan holiday and rather than cancelling it altogether, decided to attempt redeeming it by turning the focus from having a big wild party to celebrating the birth of Jesus our Savior.
Good thing: celebrating Jesus' birth instead of having wild drunken revelries in honor of Saturn.
Bad thing: bringing methods of worshiping other gods into the worship of the One True God.
Now, as Grandma Lila has repeatedly pointed out to us, "we don't worship those things!" She's correct. We no longer bring pine trees in from the woods as symbols of fertility and put sacrifices under them to the wood-gods. We just don't. A Christmas tree in today's family living room is not being worshiped as a god.
The problem is, the whole reason for bringing it in comes from the worship of a pagan god.
One of the biggest questions Ben and I have asked ourselves when it comes to deciding how our family is going to work is pretty simple: "Do we know if this makes God happy or not?"
Sometimes we have to guess based on things God has said and done even if he never specifically addressed the situation we're looking at (homeschooling is an example of this). Other times, God is pretty clear about what he thinks (as in the case of the Sabbath). When it comes to Christmas, the thing God said that sticks in our mind is pretty straightforward: he said to his special people, "Don't you worship me in the same way the heathens worship their gods - that's completely disgusting to me!"
Deuteronomy 12:29-31 (ESV)
29“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land,30take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. [emphasis mine]
There are more and harsher verses, but this all by itself is pretty strong evidence of what God thinks: don't add the worship of a not-god to the worship of the real God. And bringing in a Christmas tree as part of the celebration or worship of God - commemorating his Son's birth - sounds like something God would not be too thrilled about. So after considering this, our conscience begins deeply troubling us when we look at combining the pagan traditions with the celebration of Jesus' birth. Which we came to find out didn't even occur in December, let alone on the 25th, so in a weird sort of way it would almost be easier for us to consider Christmas if Jesus were left out of it altogether since he doesn't seem to belong there in the first place. This, however, is a whole sticky matter in and of itself. There are many, many opinions on this subject and all sides get pretty touchy.
Now, the tricky thing about Christmas is that there are two parts to it. There is the religious/philosophical aspect (which is the basis for why we're not decorating); and there is the simple family get-together aspect. The time we spend with our family is very precious to us and we believe it is precious to God as well. The Christmas cards that come in the mail with letters and photos of our friends and family are special and we look forward to them. It is true, as one friend we know puts it, that if we really love our family we should show it other times than just at Christmas; but it's also true that it's very hurtful to our family to absent ourselves at a time they are used to the family being together.
We also have Grandma Lila living with us in our home and she is both very offended and hurt by the suggestion we are not doing Christmas. She has absolutely made it clear that we can do whatever weird thing we're doing but she is NOT going to give up her Christmas tree or the other elements of the Christmas celebration that we were troubled about. Because she is our grandmother and is our authority, it isn't our place to determine this for her and we have done our best to honor her wishes in this respect, including putting her small tree up in her room and putting her Christmas CDs on while she's sitting in the living room and other such things.
The truth is, we don't think anyone celebrating Christmas is evil for doing so, just as we don't believe those who do not rest on the Sabbath are evil. The only reason doing or not doing those things means anything at all has to do with how we want to relate to God. A person has to be convicted of what God wants them to do or they will be acting out of empty tradition, from a sense of obligation to rules rather than out of a love for God. Doing anything without a conviction of the truth can be much more harmful than not.
We believe that there are things we can do to please or displease God and we are doing our best to understand those things for ourselves and for our children out of gratefulness for the life God has given us and the chance we have to be in the relationship with him that kids have with their daddy. Most of us actually will take some pretty extraordinary steps to get a pleased smile of approval and the comfort of knowing our parents here on Earth are happy with us. We want to have that same closeness with the Father who made us, so if there is a suggestion that something makes him happy or sad we want to be alert for it just like we would be for our dads here on Earth. This is why it wasn't difficult for us to give up a Christmas tree once we reached the conclusion that it was something God didn't want us to do.
So to please the Father who made us, we are attempting to remove the mixed-in pagan elements from worship of him; and to please our parents on Earth, we want to be available to spend the special time with them and enjoy their company and take pleasure in being together. There will be many more Christmas days for Mom to take photos of the babies growing up and us standing around the table before dinner and all the small things families do when they have deliberately set aside the time to spend together. We are not going to be sitting around the whole day thinking about how bad it is we have to be there. We do not have to have a Christmas tree or have the kids sit on Santa's lap or have exactly the same beliefs and traditions to share that specific time. And we are not going to be offended by those we love who do.
I remember the first violin lesson I had after George W. won his first term of presidency. My teacher was so despondent about the results of the election that she said she didn't see how any of us were going to survive with such an idiot in office for four years. I remember the comment because I'd become politically aware during the Clinton years and had very much hoped for Bush Jr. to win; I did, however, remember how it felt to have Clinton win his second term in office. Disappointing - but I hadn't been despairing about it, either. So I sort of understood how she felt but not quite. I pointed it out to her and she said something else I haven't forgotten: "Well, you don't understand because you're just more passive than I am: I believe in actually doing something about problems I see!"
With every election, that comment comes back to me. Not because I was stung into action by her words, but because no matter how firm my opinion about current political events, there's always something lurking in the back of my mind that makes both wins and losses more matter-of-fact to me than other people I know who are fascinated by politics. I believe God is always in charge. Always. And he is good.
And he is the God who uses talking donkeys to make a point and calls an invading pagan king, "My servant."
‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.' (Jeremiah 27:4-7 ESV)
It probably seemed incomprehensible in those days to any of the Jewish people worshiping God that he should call the arrogant marauding barbarian Nebuchadnezzar "my servant" and should show him favor. But God is always the one who allows or ordains leaders to gain power. Not necessarily because they are holy or because he sanctions their wickedness or beliefs, but because he has a Plan: and the Plan calls for specific people to be in control at specific times.
I believed that when Bill Clinton and George W. were in charge. I believed it when Barak Obama won his first term. I believe it now.
Does that mean I don't stick to my philosophy of life or that I'll vote for an incumbent president no matter what because, "Well, God put him there..."? No. I always vote for, as my brother Aaron puts it, "the person who most closely believes what I believe to be right." That might mean out of two guys running, one of them is only a fraction closer to my beliefs of right and wrong: but it does make it a lot easier to vote. I never vote for "the perfect candidate" but make the best choice I can between the options presented. And then I say, "Well, Lord, I answered the question as best I could and I'm glad you're deciding the end result."
Which means I feel no bitterness when the candidate I didn't vote for wins. I might say, "Uh oh. We're in for it now." But I don't despair. After all, King Herod was no joy of a leader and God chose him to be in charge when his own son was born; not to mention Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire. A little reading on the history of that time makes our complaints about higher taxes look pretty piddly, to be honest.
Of course, I'm not sure what I would've done back during the Revolutionary War days. I hope I would've said, "Yes, God places Kings in charge; but he also removes them and it looks like we're going to be a tool to do that."
But those days are not now. I firmly contributed my opinion about who should be in charge of this country and I do have to admit I'm disappointed that's not what God had in mind. But I'm sure glad he's the one ultimately deciding and I do believe whatever things come up in the next four years, it's part of the Plan. Yes, higher taxes and giving Israel the cold shoulder and being ever-more-consistently being labeled a "religious right wacko" and all. If that makes me passive, than I suppose I am. Still, I'm glad I'm continuing to have joy in life regardless of what leader happens to be in charge. Because the leader of the Kingdom I belong to doesn't change and I have every confidence he's got this, no matter what comes next.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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