Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Good News for Gary

Today Gary called to tell me he had good news. He is getting a new company car! He's one of the newest people in the office, and he gets the newest car because he was given the oldest car in the office. When he got his oldest car, a pretty old white station wagon (don't expect me to know the brand or year--I'm doing pretty well to know it has 4 wheels) with coca-cola written on the sides and back, it was dirty and smelly and filled with dog hair everywhere. He got it cleaned out and has been using it with as good an attitude as he could muster. After all, it is a company car, and he has a gas card so he doesn't have to pay for gas, and he gets to drive it home. So all in all, even the old one was definitely a huge blessing. But he hasn't seen fit to give me a ride in it. I'm just as happy about that.
The funny thing in all of this is that while he was looking askance at it, the very fact that it was the oldest, ugliest, and furriest of all the cars made him eligible to be the envy of the office in getting a new one.
He told me what kind the new one is. I don't remember. I assume it's a 2007. And I'm pretty sure it has 4 wheels. (Give me a break, I haven't even seen it yet.) Is God not great!? Of course He is, we knew that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Here we go again....seven the second.

Okay. I guess the 7 things are supposed to be embarrassing or odd, per Katie. (Sigh.) So here we go:

1. Once we went to walk at the Everett Marina. It's a nice place for a walk, and we often went either midday or quite late at night. Either time, there were usually very few other people. That appeared to be true this particular time. Katie and I had to go to the ladies' room, and as we do often-times at home, we started singing some silly song (not taking ourselves seriously in the slightest). The longer we washed our hands the sillier and louder our voices got. When we finally walked out, there was a man just outside the door who we hadn't seen when we went in. He had an amused look on his face and complimented us on our fine singing.

2. When Gary and I were engaged to be married, a friend came over to my mom's house and gave me a wedding gift. My mom started talking about how the one thing I didn't need was an electric can opener, how they were a waste of counter space and how all a person needs to do is use a little elbow grease. She went on quite a while on that topic. You got it. I opened the gift and of course, it was one thing I didn't have. An electric can opener.

3. In our previous church, it was Pastor Appreciation Month (October). S&W had been playing their advertisements where a person would win a prize or earn a bonus, to find that the prize or bonus was a can of S&W peaches or other fruit. They were always incredibly pleased. So for Pastor Appreciation Month I packed up a couple of cans of S&W Peaches in gift wrap and gave them to someone to give anonymously to the pastors during church. They did so, and when the pastors opened them with great anticipation, a look of great bewilderment spread across their faces. When the congregation and the choir saw it, everyone broke out in laughter--except the pastors. Turned out they hadn't seen the ads.

4. When I was a patient in the hospital, I had dozed off, and Gary and Katie were in the room. I suddenly woke up to the sound of my own snoring, but I didn't open my eyes. The nurse said as she walked in, "Does she always snore like that?" I said, "Sometimes," and opened my eyes to see the nurse give a startled jump.

5. When we were in Everett, a little girl about 12 years old lived across the street, and she'd acquired a bit of a love-interest of sorts. To get away with his phone calls, she tried having him call her while she was at our house. When she got her first such call and then got called home for dinner shortly afterward, the phone rang again and I answered it. I thought I'd scare the kid off, so I snapped a cranky "Hello!" when I answered it. Only thing was, it wasn't the kid. It was the sweetest, meekest elder of the church we were attending at the time (same church as in #2). Boy, I had a hard time explaining my way out of that one. I'm still not sure I convinced him.

6. When I was about 3 or 4, there was a teenage boy across the street. I don't remember having a crush on him, but I liked him and considered him my friend. I think he taught me this little ditty, or else I made it up. It was a little song that went, "I am the queen of super duper Dean." I used to sing it all the time, and barely remember that it had that significance. But in recent years I mentioned it separately to my mom and my brother. They both got looks on their faces like a long-lost puzzle piece had been put into place, one they didn't even know was missing. I don't think either of them had really listened to the song and realized it had to do with the boy across the street, but they'd remembered it; both recognized my little song immediately. By the way, I don't still go around singing it. Not even on my silly song days (See number 1).

7. Okay, I even thought of the seventh thing. You know how I said we sing silly things at home sometimes? (See number 1.) Well, one day we were having our share of singing silly things. It was hot weather, and so I opened the windows, not remembering that maybe we should keep our silly singing down to a minimum. I also had one or two incidents where I had to get on Tim's case about something or another. Well, the next time we went out, we realized our pastor's son had quietly left an item that his mother had borrowed from Katie on the chair outside our door. We hadn't heard the doorbell ring. We had to wonder. Did he hear our singing? Did he hear my grousing at Tim? Or was it just because he didn't want to be seen handing Katie a razor? I hope the world will never know.

Does that help? Now you know...the rest of the story. And the same thing goes--having read this, you are IT! Again.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Seven True Things about...me...

Well, I've never had this happen to me before in the blogosphere--I've been "tagged" by our friend JenM. I must now tell you seven true things about me. So here goes!

1. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I found this out when I was 29. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Cor. 9:15

2. I've been a wife to Gary for 24 years, a mother to Katie for 19 years, and a mother to Tim for 9 years. I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and I wouldn't prefer to be doing anything else anywhere else on earth except with them, until God should call me to do so.

3. My first memory is of falling off a horse when I was two. I wasn't herding cattle or anything like that; the horse was standing in one place, my cousin had put me up there, and my dad caught me. I thought it was an imaginary memory until I asked my mom, but strangely enough she remembered it too. I've never been crazy about horses since then.

4. I love to garden; this is the most exciting source of self-inflicted pain and work and agony that I have been able to do with any particular success and happiness, except of course raising children (I mean that in the best sense, you know). In fact right now all my muscles and many of my joints hurt from it. We've been planting and establishing a vegetable garden in our back yard where there used to be a play area, about 20 x 30 feet. We have planted the seeds or home-started plants of tomatoes, peas, squash and pumpkins, romaine lettuce, bibb lettuce, corn, basil, parsley, mustard greens, beets, red chard, nasturtiums, broccoli, cabbage, cilantro, turnip greens, and green beans. So exciting! This time of year finds me carrying pots, seedling trays, seed pouches, watering cans, fertilizer and hoses up and down between the deck and the garden; hoeing, digging, amending the soil with homemade compost and "compost tea", weeding (about one full yard waste container full), planting, staking, and then stretching across various furrows and supporting myself mostly on the fingers of one hand so I don't trample plants while weeding. I almost turned myself on my head by doing so today. There are many rewards in gardening: It brings to mind a little poem that may be theologically incorrect but it might have an element of truth: "The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth; one is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth." Can't help but ponder it at least. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, and little shoots were sprouting up everywhere! Including weeds...sigh.

I don't know if it's as exciting to those to whom I show it off as it is to me. I know the hours invested in getting all these barely visible 2-3" plants to be there, and how clever I felt when I anchored a teepee shaped bean support into the ground for Tim's enjoyment.
I also believe that gardeners can get away with muttering to themselves, dressing funny, and wearing floppy hats, and that having muddy shoes on their welcome mat, and leaving pots, hoses and tools strewn about is a charming aspect of it all, so it fits me perfectly. And I have read that it is actually a good form of exercise. I believe it.

5. I love babies. And little kids. They're fun and funny and soft and transparent and messy and I wish I had their energy and more of their wonder, and in some ways that I could go back to knowing about as little as they know about the world around them. I also wish that my pudgy legs and shocking comments were as charming as theirs. But I'm glad I'm not growing up in their generation. (Funny, I used to hear old people say that to me, when I was little...)

6. I am in shape. (Round is a shape.) If you've seen me you already know this is true. God loves me anyway. Isn't He kind!?

7. I like words, I like to spell and I love spelling games such as Scrabble and Take One; misspellings and bad grammar make me twitch (but I'm getting better about it), I love to read if and when I have time, and I'm falling in love with the Book of Romans. If you haven't read it, you should...over and over and over again!

So there are seven things. Make me stop! There are lots of more fascinating topics. So what about you? What seven things are true about you that you can tell everyone? Your turn. Tag! You're IT!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Neighborhood Struggles

This is the post about which I feel the absolute worst. I feel that I mishandled the occasion, got caught off guard and boy, it's one of those events that you always look back at and just--cringe. Today I found that the person who read the most of my blogs ever clicked out at this one. I guess I lost any credibility by its being here. But I also feel at this point that it would be kind of dishonest to remove it. What a mess. I still don't know exactly what I should have done unless it was to offer to pay to have the thing repaired--maybe just what they were hoping we'd do--at least, I do wish that we'd have grouped together and prayed before I went out there half-cocked and shot my response from the hip.
Boy, the struggles of being a neighbor. I vaguely remember a poem I can't currently find, that tells how the writer would love to serve Christ on a faraway shore, but his struggle is in loving the neighbor next door. It does sober me, and hits home far too often!
Last night in the midst of a Bible study at my neighbor Stacia's house, Gary and Katie knocked on the door. Gary was perplexed to say the least and wanted my help. I think things would have gone better without me there; at least I would have been happier to miss the whole thing, and I'm not at all sure I did the best that Jesus would have had me do.
It turned out that our Hindu neighbors were saying that Tim had pushed a hole in their garage door. Tim denied it, and I believe him. All the kids who were visiting the neighbors, however, claimed it was all Tim's fault. They had been inside the garage, and he was outside. The door was down; I had noticed it over the past few months buckling and sagging as I drove by into the cul-de-sac, and so I think it was already in trouble when Tim came upon it. He had a rubber snake in his hand (this is where I think he could have used better judgment; this family from India hates and fears snakes even though we've reassured them that the only snakes around here are garter snakes which are non-poisonous, and one of which Tim removed from their garage in times past, much to their amazement and awe at the time--still, Tim should have left his rubber snake at home last night). He pushed it through an already-existing opening in the garage door, presumably to tease the girls inside. The garage panel was pushed outward when we came to discuss it with the parents.
The father challenged that Tim had broken their garage door (which was not so much broken as misadjusted and out of place), and said that all the kids had said that Tim was at fault. Well, I know when Tim is lying, because he can't hide a smirk, and he can't look me in the face. This time, though, he looked up at me, exceptionally sad and dismayed. He said he didn't do it and I believed him. I also know that the previous Sunday, when I was home from church and not feeling well, I'd seen their daughter ringing doorbells and running off, and she denied it. In fact, she and her friends tried accusing Tim of it; only he was at church, so that didn't work.
So anyway, the father was appalled that I believed Tim over his girls and their friends. Never mind that the door was pushed outward, and not inward, and that there was an opening to begin with that should not have been there if the door had been maintained.
The frustrating thing is that Tim has been a friend to their girls and their little toddler boy when no one else was, when they first moved in. The girls would have birthday parties and Tim would be the only one to respond to the invitation. He invited them to his birthdays as well. When the little boy was bored because the older kids ignored him and no one was watching over him either, Tim would play with him on the sidewalk. The family seems to have forgotten these things. Now the kids gang up with other kids in the cul-de-sac against him, and make one accusation after another against him. Tim is the only one who doesn't have any siblings out there playing, and the only other homeschoolers are a couple of tough boys who are older than these other kids. Tim is also the youngest other than the two toddler boys on the street. It all makes him an easy target. Tim often comes in distressed by their behavior; still, a half hour goes by and he goes out to try to play with them again. He's more persistent and more forgiving than I am.
So last night, these neighbors made their accusations and then would ask Tim a question. He would get two words out and they would interrupt him. Finally they said that they weren't accusing him (what?) and that all kids make mistakes and do things wrong. They said he could come back again, only be more careful next time.
I told them that I guessed we were at an impasse. It looked to me like it was safer to just not have him be on their property at all. They looked surprised and said it was okay, he could come back. To be accused again? No, I think it's better that he stay away. And I don't think he should play with these kids. The accusations are going to get more sophisticated and more damaging.
I went back to my Bible study with Stacia, only since the study focused on judgment and hypocrisy (Romans 3), I felt that I had ironically gone out and been a hypocrite. Why not be maligned? Why not be insulted? We had defended Tim, who had been unjustly treated; only I felt that I should have instead done something to make Christ known to them in the process. Still, I can't picture them being receptive. Stacia looked at me and asked if I was alright. I told her some of what was whirling around in my head. She asked, "What would you have wanted to do? What result would make you happy?" I wasn't sure, really; it was hard to say, because I was so unsure exactly what would have been the best possible result, and how possible it was to help them understand, but above all, how to handle it in such a way as to please God.
This morning Tim went out to work off some energy so he could focus on his homeschooling. Their little boy was out there alone, and asked Tim to play with him. Tim said he'd better not, and went home. The boy followed him, and asked him why he wasn't being nice. Tim just said he'd better go home, and the little boy left.
I have sighed many times today over it. My mind still works overtime on the subject. I have prayed for them many times before that and today, prayed for the ability to love them anyway if only from a distance, and for the right attitude and the right things to say if and when I should encounter the opportunity. Still, it seems I won't be able to get much across, because they talk faster and interrupt if they don't want to hear something.
There seems to be a disconnect between Tim's willingness to be a friend to them and their response. The little boy very clearly doesn't make the connection between their striking out at Tim and Tim retreating from them. I doubt that the others in their family do, either.
So it is. Ideally, missions work sounds glorious. I'm sure it's more gritty in actuality. When strangers become neighbors, the rough edges can cut like one of those lawn-edging machines; personally, I doubt that I'm cut out for missions work. I don't know how to even work with the neighbor in my American cul-de-sac. I am gaining a higher regard for those who have accomplished so much with their unbelieving neighbors, and for missionaries living in other lands with strangers, whose foreign ways predominate and where the missionaries are already outnumbered and at such a disadvantage.