Monday, July 30, 2012

Thoughts While Watching the Municipal Band Concert on my Anniversary

The Grandview Park Bandshell.  Lots of folks sitting
behind us and to either side of us.
- This is a PERFECT night for an outdoor concert!  It's the last concert of the year, and I bet it's the first concert they've had this summer where the temperature was under 90.  So glad hubby suggested this.

- A mother is sitting on a blanket right by us with the most adorable little baby.  Probably just under a year old.  Almost makes me miss the baby years . . . or look forward to the grandma years.

- I'm looking at the program -- I don't recognize a single song until the "Ultimate Patriotic Sing-along" at the end. Hmm.  Maybe I'll recognize them when I hear them.

- A couple just rode up in front of us on their bikes.  They lay their bikes down, got out their folding chairs, and the woman took off her shoes.  She's walking around in the grass in her socks.  I'm not sure why that seems odd to me.

- And speaking of that grass, it is so dead.  I'm grateful tonight for our sprinkler system, or we'd be trying to sell our house in the near future with a dead, brown lawn.

- I still don't know any of the music. It's all good music, but I don't know it.  And that baby is still dang adorable.

- I love this bandshell.  Everytime I'm here, I think about how awesome it would be to go to a Shakespeare in the Park production here.  Or to be in one.  A couple summers ago, I was in a Shakespeare in the Park evening in the Rose Garden, right behind this bandshell.  That was cool.  This would be cooler.

- Some poor lady behind us is having a coughing fit that won't quit.  I hope she's okay.  I wonder if I need to offer her a mint or something.

- My knees hurt.  I must be getting old if I can't sit through an hour long concert without my knees hurting.

The results of drought in Iowa.
- Aha -- a medley of movie music.  I know most of these.

- The host, Dave Madsen, told a Sven and Olie joke.  I think he tells at least one at every concert.  Until these concerts, I'd never heard a Sven and Olie joke outside of Lindsborg.

- The fountains spouting out of the front of the stage are very soothing.  A fen shui thing, I guess.  Maybe we need to invest in one of those little inside fountain things.  And oh my gosh, this baby is too adorable to stand!!!

- The Ultimate Patriotic Sing-Along ends with "God Bless the U.S.A.".  One image always pops into my head when I hear this song.  The gulf war started the last day of the first semester of my first year of teaching.  The next day was a teacher work day.  Everybody was listening to their radios, watching TVs, talking about the war while we finished our grades and got them in.  I vividly remember walking into a fellow teacher's quiet, empty room where she was sitting at her desk with the radio on beside her.  This song was playing.  And she was crying.  It's hard not to cry when I hear this song.

- And the concert's over.  This is a darn good group of musicians for a volunteer municipal band in a not-terribly-big city.  An enjoyable evening . . . a nice way to celebrate 23 years of marriage.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Endorphins -- Puh

What is this malarkey about exercise making you feel good?  How people get addicted to the endorphins and all.  Are you kidding me?
Do you know how I feel when I come home from a serious bout of exercising?  My muscles are tired . . . my heart is tired . . . my emotions are tired from the strain of forcing myself to keep exercising when I so desperately wanted to quit.  I’m sweaty and gross, which I hate.  I usually have just enough energy to drag my sorry butt into the house and sit it on the couch . . . then I don’t move for an hour or so because I’m miserable.
Endorphins.  Yeah, right.
It’s even worse when I am actually doing the exercise.  Not the pain, necessarily – I’m smart enough not to continue if anything seriously hurts.  It’s a mental thing.  Forcing myself to keep moving on that treadmill, headed to . . . where?  Accomplishing what?  Lift those weights over and over again . . . to what purpose?  Yes, yes, I know – I’m making my body stronger, more fit.  But in that moment, there is no point to the activity and it’s all I can do to force myself to continue.  The only way I can make myself keep going on the treadmill is if I’m completely mentally lost in something I’m reading.  TV doesn’t do it.  Writing probably would, but I haven’t figured out a way to walk and write at the same time. 
Dance class is different.  I wish I could take dance three times a week.  I still come home completely exhausted, but I at least enjoy it while I’m doing it.  Helping my friends load their moving truck the other day was better, too.  It worked my muscles and exhausted me, but I had no problem continuing because there was significant purpose to my activity.  Treadmill?  Bleh.
One of the primary principles I go by in education is to not require a student to use more than one difficult new skill at a time.  Working out at the gym defies this rule.  It tries to strengthen my body and my will simultaneously.  Maybe it’s efficient, but as with my students, it only serves to make me hate the stuff. 
Endorphins shmendorphins.  Give me chocolate.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


It is HELLISHLY hot in the Midwest these days.  And no rain where we are.  Farmers are losing their crops.  Gardeners are losing their gardens.  And families expecting to have to sell their houses in the next few months are working desperately to keep their lawns alive.  The heat and drought are killing everything.

UGH . . . the yard weed I hate the most
Except the weeds.
Fascinating phenomenon, isn’t it?  Weeds just grow the heck out of themselves no matter what.  Profitable plants – plants that give us food, plants that beautify our landscape – they require care.   They require water and sunshine and sometimes extra nourishment on our part.  We have to work to make those plants grow and prosper.  We have to fight to keep them alive.
But not weeds.  They will thrive no matter what the weather and despite our efforts to, literally, root them out.  Phil from church is a bean farmer.  Because they are now farming without herbicides (the New Age of farming), they are having to pull the weeds in his bean field by hand.  Daily.  In 100-degree heat.  Wow.
My friend Jana waxed philosophical on the weed issue the other day on Facebook.  “The ‘weeds’ in my life don’t require anything to grow, thrive and do just fine.”  Ain’t it the truth.  If I wanted to, I could sit back, relax, and let my sins and bad habits swarm over me – and swarm they would.  They require NO coaxing, NO nurturing, NO feeding.  They feed on me and will overcome me completely if I don’t do them daily battle.
The Christ-like qualities, however, require nurture and tending.  They don’t grow of their own accord; they must be cultivated.  Actively.  Daily.  None of this Carl Rogers baloney that we're all basically good inside and are just messed up by our environment.  No parent who really paid attention to their children could believe that nonsense.  We are born selfish, little snits.  We must be trained to be good -- cultivated to do right.  And the change only becomes a genuine change of nature when Christ gets involved.
Just another reminder I needed today. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sometimes, It's So That . . .

Sometimes we need reminders . . .

The sermon yesterday was about Lazarus being raised from the dead.  When Jesus first hears that Lazarus is sick, he says, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory, so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11)
A drama we are working on for the first Sunday in August is based on the blind man Jesus heals in John 9.  When his disciples asked him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Jesus replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Sometimes, when bad things happen to me, it’s because I brought it on myself.  But sometimes not. 
Sometimes, we lose jobs so that the works of God might be displayed in us.
Sometimes, we go through serious health crises so that God’s Son may be glorified through us.
Sometimes, we experience failure and discouragement so that others see God’s glory in how we respond.
Sometimes, evil is allowed to show its ugly face (like, in a movie theater) so that God's face shines more brightly by contrast.
Sometimes, it’s about us.  And sometimes, it’s about so much more.
Sometimes, I just need a reminder.

Friday, July 20, 2012

CINOs Without a Shepherd

“You could say that many, many Christians are atheists unawares.” – Os Guinness

This is the great fear of many a believer.  We read Jesus’ words that narrow is the gate that leads to life and few there are who find it . . . and we fear that we aren’t one of the few.  Many books have been written to reassure people of their salvation.  And that’s all well and good, I suppose.  But I suspect there is more need these days to shake up those who should not be assured, because I fear there are a lot of us.
A huge number of people reject Christianity not because of its tenets but because of the lives of those who claim to hold to its tenets.  Folks look at “Christians” and don’t want to be one of those.  I wish those folks would understand this Guinness quote – that those “Christians” turning them off to the faith are actually atheists unawares.  They may claim Christ with their lips, but they walk atheism with their feet.
That may sound harsh, but understand that I direct the harshness to myself as well. My heart is increasingly heavy about CINOs – Christians In Name Only.  Christianity seems to be the default to check in the Religion box around here.  A lot of Americans think of themselves as Christians just because they grew up in America, and their parents went to church, and they go at Christmas and Easter, and they have a Bible . . . somewhere . . .
Of the masses of people who will be sitting in Christian worship services this coming Sunday morning, I fear that the vast majority are not on that road to the narrow gate.  They are happy to have Jesus as their Savior, but have no real intention of making him their Lord.  They love the god that they have created in their mind -- who gives them good things, smiles and forgives all their foibles, rushes in to save the day when life gets hard . . .  but they don’t want much to do with the real God – who actually has expectations of them and their time here on earth.
Even those of us who are very sincere in our desire to worship and serve Christ, if we really looked at our lives closely, don’t act on what we say we believe.  We live essentially like the rest of the world – we just vote Republican and stick a fish on our car.  On a day to day basis, we don’t act on our faith.  We don’t believe this stuff strongly enough to really risk much by it.  We are atheists unawares.
This is about more than our eternal destiny . . . this is about all we’re missing here on earth.  I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly, Jesus says in John 10.  But read the rest of that chapter carefully -- the promise only applies if Jesus is your Shepherd.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Cost of a Blood-Letting

The interim health insurance we have until hubby gets another job has a very high deductible.  This means that in the case of regular doctor visits and minor situations, we essentially have no insurance at all.  This means that I am getting a small taste of what it is like for folks who have no health insurance. 

My Pravachol prescription ran out a little while ago (that’s a cholesterol med, if you didn’t know).  My doctor wouldn’t call in a renewal for the prescription because he said I’m due for more bloodwork to check my cholesterol.  Well, maybe so.  But I explained to his office folk our situation and asked if he could extend that prescription a little bit longer, just until we’re covered by someone again.  He graciously called in a 90-day extension.
However, those 90 days are now up, and I’m guessing he’s not going to do that trick for me another time.  So, I called the office again, asking if they could tell me what it would cost to get that bloodwork done.  About $55 for the bloodwork – plus a $9 “letting fee”?  (That may not be what they called it, but that’s the image I got in my head . . . a medieval blood-letting.)  Oh, and then the regular $129 office visit.
I really do like my doctor.  He’s kind, gracious, and attentive.  I genuinely enjoy my visits with him.  But 10 minutes to hear him say, “Yep, the stuff still works,” and have him hand me a signed half-sheet of paper to take to the Target pharmacy – I doubt that’s worth $129.  And frankly, knowing my doctor, I bet he would agree with me. 
If you were following our Panama trip adventures, you read that we each got our teeth cleaned in Boquete for $40.  $120 total.  That $120 would have paid for one cleaning by our dentist (whom we love) here in Sioux City without the insurance coverage.
Yes, folks we need health care reform.  But before my liberal friends start their victory dance, I’ll clarify that I still don’t believe Obamacare is the change we all need.  Obamacare strikes me as trying to kill a fly with a Hummer: it may get the job done, but not without causing a lot of other damage that would be a lot worse.  I just heard a statistic that some 70% of American physicians are considering leaving the profession once Obamacare goes into full force.  Now, granted, that number may be skewed high for political purposes, and most of that 70% wouldn't actually end up leaving anyway.  But if even 20% of them leave, we're screwed.
I give the man credit for forcing the country to deal with the issue – Congress had kept it on the back burner for too long – but this was not the way to do it.  How should we do it?  Sorry, I don’t have that answer.  But I pray we will have the sense to recognize a cure that’s worse than the disease.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll be finding out what my cholesterol is like these days without Pravachol.  I've been wanting to know anyway.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Three Lies

Three lies we tell kids about education (or at least let them believe):

1) Education is about your future.  It is not.  Well, yes, it is, but not entirely. It affects your future, but it’s more than that. Education is about your NOW. 
Those communication skills you’re learning in English class are what help you convince your parents that you’re ready for the responsibility of a car.  That science you study may keep you from killing yourself or someone else on the 4th of July.  The history you now know will explain why this year’s Presidential election matters so much.  The literature you’re reading is opening your mind to how people work so you can make decisions about the relationships you involve yourself in today.  What you learn prepares you for the future, but the future starts now, if you’re paying attention.

2) Education is something someone else does to you.  Oh, no.  Education is something you do to yourself.  Teachers, books, classes, internet, universities . . . these are merely tools for your use. 
Don’t accept an education – demand an education.  Join the Great Conversation. Find those classic books out there that have changed the world and make them divulge their wisdom to you.  Look at your teachers and say, “I need this skill.  You can teach it.  Do it.”  Don’t allow society’s low expectations of teenagers to keep you content with the commonplace – imprisoned in the mundaneness of fashion, celebrity, trends, entertainment.  Grab the world by the nape of the neck and say, “You have more for me than this!  Hand it over!”

3) Your education is complete when you graduate.  Absolutely not.  Your education has just begun.  You will be learning until the day you die.  The amount that you learn . . . the quality of what you learn . . . the way you use what you learn . . . that’s up to you.  Learning stuff is a given.  A quality education is not.  It is a battle -- a victory over lethargy and mediocrity.  Fight for it.  You deserve it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

# 500

This, my friends, is my 500th blog post.  That amazes me.  When I started blogging almost four years ago -- just to keep my Jersey friends up-to-date on our move to Iowa -- I never imagined it would last this long or become this valuable to me. 

I realize many of you are relatively new readers, so in honor of this milestone, I thought I'd give you a quick introduction to some of the highlights of my last four years on the web.

"The Hawkeye State" -- post number four, about my first impressions of my new home state.

The "Comments to Ona" series -- where I had a discussion with my friend about why I believe what I believe.  Start with this link and check the archives to the right for the rest (a total of eight, between March and April of '09). 

"Thoughts While Driving the Garden State Parkway to the Tappan Zee" -- from a visit back to Jersey in the spring of '09.  One of my personal favorites.

"Praying at the Rodeo", "Pigs, Pies and Cow Chip Bingo", and "Are You Ready to Watch Some Cars Get Smashed Up?" -- adventures in Iowa.

"Now Listen, You Rich People" -- the first in another series, this one about what the Bible has to say to the rich.  This started a lot of interesting conversations . . . again, it's a series of five or six posts, all following this one. 

"Being a Conservative" -- my most read post, far and away.  Three times as many pageviews as the next most read and about ten times as many as I average per post.  I have no idea where all those readers came from, but that's pretty cool. 

"How to Cuss" -- another one of my personal favorites.  :) 

"Let's Caucus" -- my account of the Iowa State Caucuses this year.

So, these are some of my favorites . . . or most widely-read . . . or the ones that seemed to generate a lot of interest.  (I haven't included my Panama posts because they're pretty recent.)  But I would be very curious to hear if you have another favorite.  It's always helpful to know what people appreciate most that I write about -- numbers of pageviews or comments don't always tell the whole story.

And thank you again to those of you who read my silly musings.  I do appreciate you more than you know.  :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Break Me; Mold Me

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.  James 1:2

Many years ago, I was taught a little formula for prayer which I tend to fall back on in my daily quiet time, just to get started.  “PART” = Praise, Admit, Requests, Thanksgiving.  Lately, the Thanksgivings have been a struggle.  That sounds like our life has been hard, or like I’m feeling ungrateful, but that’s not it.  Life has been good, and I’m full of gratitude.  But my new perspective on how God works in our lives has also changed my perspective on my blessings. 
I’m not sure that the things I’ve always thanked God for have been the blessings I thought they were.  Comfort, ease, security . . . oh, I know – I have friends that will be throwing anti-jinx spells at me for talking like this.  And I’m a bit fearful to tread this direction, also.  But comfort, ease, and security are not the goal anymore.
If the goal is to become more like Jesus . . . to grow in my relationship to God . . . to put off the old self . . . to “break the outer man”, as Watchman Nee puts it . . . to become a person that God can work through to accomplish his work – well, comfort, ease, and security don’t get me there.  Just like sitting comfortably on my sofa doesn’t melt the fat away.  Fat-melting requires hard work and sweat.
My youngest is spending this week on a “local mission trip”, sleeping overnight at the church and going out to various service projects each day.  She was very nervous; it’s the longest she’s been away from home by herself, and she didn’t really know anybody else going.  It was hard to drop her off, because I keenly felt her fears and so wanted the pain to go away.  I started praying for God to bring her a friend, for this to be lots of fun, for her to enjoy her week . . . and I still want those things.  But something in my spirit stopped me and refocused my prayers.  Lord, use this week to mold her.  The discoveries, the excitement, the fun, the fulfillment -- AND the fears, the tiredness, the loneliness, the embarrassments, if they come.  Use it all to make her the person you need her to be.  And please, be close to her through it all.
Thank you, Lord, for the storms and the trials.  I genuinely want to be molded. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

And the Answer Is . . .

So, as you know, we took a trip to Boquete, Panama, with the purpose of considering a move there.  And Boquete was absolutely beautiful.  Lovely and fascinating people there.  It was an exciting week!  And as we discussed the idea of move a couple days ago, we found that we felt absolutely, positively . . . neutral.
Yep.  Just kinda neutral.  It would be fine to live there – some ups, some downs.  But we didn’t feel any genuine pu-u-ull. 
Hubby loved the terrain, but didn’t necessarily yet see a place for himself there yet.
I liked the climate and the ministry opportunities, but I still worry about the girls having much of a social network.
The youngest LOVED the adventure of Panama while we were there, but she realized when we came home that the adventure aspect would end and life might not be quite as exciting then.
The oldest . . . well, she told us on the first day she didn’t want to live in Panama.  She’s had to deal with a lot of changes the last few years – and college is coming in a couple years – she just wants to limit dramatic adjustments in her life as much as possible.  Understandable.
But overall, we decided that a collective feeling of neutrality probably isn’t strong enough to carry us through such a major decision.  Not that neutrality is a bad thing.  Personally, I find it very encouraging that I was spiritually brought to a point of submission that I was willing to do this thing – this thing so very out of my character – if it was God’s will for my life.  Willing and cheerful, even.  With little major anxiety.  If the whole venture was just about bringing me to that kind of submission and trust and peace, it was worth it.
Or if it was just about making hubby consider his retirement years more seriously . . . what exactly God has called him to when life isn’t about financially supporting the family anymore.  Or if it was just about the oldest thinking seriously about her next few years of life and what she wants to do and doesn’t want to do with them.  Or if it was just about awakening in the youngest a passion for adventure.  Yep, it was worth it.
Not that the idea of moving to Panama – or anywhere out of the country – is off the table entirely.  We’ll continue to explore possibilities for a few years down the road.  Or maybe retirement, when the girls are gone.  But unless a job for hubby simply doesn’t pan out in the next couple months (and we came home to more possibilities open there), now doesn’t seem to be the time for this particular step.
It just seems that if God was beckoning us to this faraway place right now, he would have put in our hearts something more significant than a resounding “maybe”.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Profitable Service

See this picture to the left?  This is my china pattern.  Sweet Leilani, by Noritake.  It’s lovely, and I love it.  We registered for it when we were getting married, and our friends and family blessed us greatly.  12 dinner plates, 12 salad plates, 12 bread plates, 12 coffee cups and saucers, an oval serving bowl, a round serving bowl, a gravy bowl, salt and pepper shakers, sugar bowl, creamer, and a large platter.  Oh – and a handful of fruit bowls.
Any guesses where this collection of lovely china is at this moment?  Displayed in a glass cabinet in the hall.  And the cabinet is high enough that we don’t even notice it when we walk by.  I’ve got a couple silver platters in there, too, that my grandmother gave me when we got married.  And some beautiful crystal glasses and bowls. I think the last time we used any of this was when my family was here for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. 
I’ve made a significant decision.  Wherever we end up moving, I’m taking the china and crystal, and we’re using it every day.  Why not?  When we have a beautiful set of dishes available, why shouldn’t we eat our dinner on that rather than on the mismatched other dishes that simply suffice?  I’ll still keep some of the mismatched stuff for microwaving on (I don’t think the china can go in the microwave).  But mealtimes, every one of them, will now be considered important enough to deserve the good stuff.  Because they ARE that important.
Yep – I’m sure we’ll break something.  Oh, well.  At least it will have given us genuine pleasure while we had it.  We all die someday.  God willing, I’ll go in the profitable service of my Lord, and I can wish no less for my china and crystal.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


So, I've been thinking the past couple days, planning to write today a post about "What I Like Most About America Now That I've Been to Panama".  Problem is, I couldn't think of much.  Don't get me wrong -- I love my country.  But most of the things I came up with were either just weak or they were things that had more to do with the fact that we were staying in a small town than with the fact that it was Panama (dirt roads, no fast food, etc.).

Our new openness to living in other parts of the world has changed my perspective on my country, and now I'm wondering, what is it that is unique about the United States that I like?  And this is a particularly good time to consider this when I'm so very concerned about the direction the country is taking.

And here's my answer:  the best thing about the United States is . . . that elusive quality that everyone refers to as "The American Spirit".  That term is difficult to define as it probably means subtly different things to different people, yet its essence is palpable here. 

As I sense it (and I have friends who will hate this) the American Spirit is inextricably connected to liberty and Christianity.  The settlers of this country learned to live in liberty.  They were under the rule of the King of England but to a great extent they were also under his radar for a good amount of time.  They learned to be independent -- to support themselves and to govern themselves. 

And . . . (and here's what some friends will hate), what made that liberty successful here was that it was anchored in Christian values and beliefs.  No, not every early American was a Christian -- and not everyone who claimed to be a Christian was a good Christian -- but the society as a whole was informed by Christian ethics.  There was an underlying sense that, above all, we are accountable to God, and this understanding tempered and guided and enabled our liberty.

That American Spirit that I love is actually akin to the much-quoted scripture, Philippians 4:13.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  That idea that anything is possible . . . that a poor man can become rich . . . that the son of an immigrant can become President . . . that a public school failure can become a future Einstein . . . that we are truly free to do whatever God has called us to do.  If the Son has set you free, then you will be free indeedJohn 8

We may end up living in another country someday.  But I will always love America.  The spirit of America.  God grant that we never give up that spirit to the lure of comfort and ease.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Maybe A Bit Too Common?

I’ve recently signed up with a website called BookCrash which sends me free books in exchange for honest reviews on my blog.  I chose to read The Book of Common Sense for a Successful Life by D.L. Dennis because I’m always game to hear a new angle on “success” and how to get there.  However, this book had few new angles to offer me, I’m afraid.
 Mr. Dennis seems like a nice fellow.  His life story is one of those feel-good tales of the kid who starts in the pits, messes things up, figures things out, and makes it to the top.  Now, he wants to help others in the same boat have the same success.
The first part of the book tells his story and gives an overview of his three-legged stool analogy – that successful living requires attention be paid to the financial, social, and spiritual aspects of life.  He devotes three chapters to finances and only one to each of the others -- and the chapter devoted to spiritual life seems rather sparse for a book promoted as Christian literature.
The second part of the book lists “ten steps to success”, practical tips for accomplishing what he suggests.  This tips range from the somewhat enlightening (“determine the value of your time”) to the rather obvious (“stay focused and be persistent”).  This section being only a third of the 150-page book, it really couldn’t do much more than scratch the surface.
Nobody can argue with the advice Mr. Dennis gives.  Common sense is an appropriate label for what the author is offering us. 
Unfortunately, while Mr. Dennis seems like a nice man with a nice story and nice advice to share, he also doesn’t seem to be a writer.  The book drags.  I found myself distracted by identifying passages I can use with my homeschooled children for re-writing activities; the book is chock-full of lessons on redundancy, wordiness, cliché, vague pronouns with no antecedent.  But most of all, the book has no distinctive voice.  While reading, I alternated between longing to meet this guy to see what his personality is really like to fearing that this is what his personality is really like.
Again, I admire Mr. Dennis for his story and his desire to share this wisdom with others in his situation.  Unfortunately, I suspect few of those others are likely to buy a book to find this wisdom.  However, they may gladly receive it as a gift.  Check out the book at Truth Book Publishers online if you know someone who really needs some common sense in their life.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Calming the Child

I'm sure everyone's looking for a post here regarding our decision to move or not move to Panama.  Sorry.  We decided to give everyone a few days to recover and digest everything before we discuss it.  But whether or not we go, the trip was definitely worth it.  Church yesterday confirmed this to me.

Our church started a new sermon series yesterday about miracles, and my friend Jeff kicked it off with a sermon about Jesus calming the storm.  He talked about how, as the old saying goes, "Sometimes God calms the storm, and sometimes He calms the child" . . . and both calmings are a miracle.  As my frequent readers may know, I've been taken lately with the idea (not a new one, but one which has been given new life in my spirit recently) that God is not interested in changing the world around us to make our lives easier, but in changing us to make us fit to deal with the world.  Looking back on the last several months, I see evidence of this phenomenon.

I've struggled with depression since I was a teenager.  My natural response to stress, major or minor, is to fall into a pit of despair.  Yet, my husband has been out of work for eight months now, and I've never once found myself in that pit during this time.  We haven't even fought much, which I would have expected with the extra time in each other's faces all day.

By nature, I'm a homebody, a boring middle-aged woman who generally wants comfort, security, and predictability more than anything else.  Adventure has never had much allure for me.  Yet, when my husband brought up this idea of a move out of the country, it stirred my spirit -- aroused visions of a future with him that is nothing like I would ever have desired before, although it's probably a lot like he's always wanted.

As much as I've given lip service to the idea that we were open to homeschooling our daughters through high school if God called us to do so, deep down, I didn't want to.  I felt inadequate to the task and I was ready to give someone else the responsibility.  Yet, with this possible move comes the necessity of homeschooling our eldest again, at least for a time . . . and I've suddenly, inexplicably, gotten very excited about it.  Even to the point of hoping that we can still homeschool her if we stay in the States.

I'm also something of a control freak.  As I said, I like security and predictability, and a lack thereof has always been likely to send me over the edge -- grasping for anything I can put under my thumb, thundering at anything that refuses to submit to my thumb, crying hopelessly over the impotence of my thumb to cover it all.  Yet, I just spent a week in another country, another culture, where I couldn't find things I wanted, couldn't communicate to people what I wanted, couldn't call somebody to get help finding or communicating -- a situation that would have at one time stressed me out completely -- and I had only the occasional brief moment of distress.  I'm not sure I've ever felt so relaxed in the hand of God knowing He was carrying me through.

Many a storm around me these days.  And this child is calm.  A miracle.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ho-o-o-ome . . .

A parting shot with the
neighbor's dog
The trip home.  Wow. 

Not only did we spend about nine hours driving across Panama through two thunderstorms (which made it all the more difficult for hubby to see where he was going)....

Not only does the Panama City airport have the craziest rental car return system we've ever seen (just pull up to the curb somewhere near the arrivals area, where everyone and their dog is trying to leave, go in and get someone from the rental car company -- our guy didn't speak English -- and have him check the car over, right there in the midst of the madness . . . it was just nuts).

Not only did our first flight get delayed by an hour and a half -- leaving at 3:30am instead of 2am....

Not only did we wait in ridiculously long, slow-moving lines to get through customs at Ft. Lauderdale . . . with one scary-looking idiot leaving his bag unattended at the beginning of each loop of the line maze, even after the airport official specifically told another woman nearby, loudly and clearly, not to do that and reminded her of all the reasons why that was dangerous to herself (someone could put something in there that you would take the rap for) and everyone else (he'd have to clear the room for a bomb threat check) -- and making the rest of us sleep-deprived travelers around him very annoyed and a bit nervous about his behavior....

Not only did we miss our second flight and get moved to another airline in another terminal at Ft. Lauderdale (although I must say, we were grateful for that -- Spirit Airlines' next flight to Chicago wasn't until 4pm)....

Not only did THAT flight get delayed for two and a half hours....

Not only did we have to go through security three different times .....

Not only did we spend hours and hours hanging out in two different airports, trying unsuccessfully to get at least a little sleep....

Not only did we arrive in Chicago right in the middle of rush hour....

Not only did hubby then drive another eight or nine hours straight -- through two more thunderstorms....

But WOULD YOU BELIEVE -- at 1:30 in the morning, at a Shell station just outside of Omaha, we just happened to run into . . . the Ferneaus!!  Our Sioux City friends who just moved a few weeks ago to Burlington, Iowa.  They were rushing back to Sioux City because their oldest daughter is about to have their first grandchild.  But can you believe that??  The Ferneaus -- at a gas station in Omaha -- at 1:30am.  It was positively surreal.

In any case, we arrived home at about 3am after about 42 hours of straight travel with very little sleep, and we spent yesterday recovering.  I expect today will be a recovery day as well. 

And yet, not a single Kandt head was bitten off during the entire 42-hour ordeal.  Wow.  That's the real story.