Wednesday, July 30, 2008

still the one

4 floppies FULL of e-mails
7 months of weekly long-distance phone calls
11 years of friendship
and 9 WONDERFUL years of marriage!
Happy Anniversary, Babe!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the will to die

Growing up, I often heard people throw out comments like,
"Well, she just lost her will to live."
"He's quit fighting. It won't be long now."
and everyone solemnly nodded, as if we determine our time to go or stay.

There are the stories that make you pause and ponder the connection between our mind and our soul. For instance:
A lady from my hometown had two daughters. One was critically injured in a wreck and was spiritually not ready for death. The doctors gave her 24 hours. The Mom was a smoker and had emphysema. That night she stretched herself out on the daughter's hospital bed and prayed for God to take her instead of her daughter. The next morning the mother died sitting in the hospital chair - an aneurysm, the doctors said - and the daughter began to make steady improvements until she went home. A part of my mind argues that she was a very heavy smoker, often struggled with breathing, was under duress from her daughter's condition. Her death was brought about by stress and her unhealthy habits. But was it? Could her death have simply been an honest answer to her prayer, for God to allow the daughter one more chance to get serious about serving Him?
Two ladies in my home church grew up best friends. After marriage they lived near each other, their children were the same ages, two of their children married each other. When they both reached their last days, they were in the same hospital, one floor above each other. Dad was upstairs with one family. When she gave her last breath, he prayed with the family, then headed downstairs to be with the other family. He met them at the door to the elevator. The friend had just died, and they seemed aware their Mom's friend had died as well. They say she looked upward, reached out sideways, smiled, and was gone. Dad said it reminded him of how they always reached out to help steady each other in life.
I often made visits with Dad growing up. It wasn't uncommon for the elderly in our church to tell Dad they had a vision of a family member who had already died, to say they had seen the death angel, or God had given them a calmness that their time was up. They usually died soon afterward.
My Grandmother's doctor advised our family against a nursing home until it was an absolute necessity. He said independent people like my Granny usually lost the will to live and died within 2 years of going to a nursing home.
Scientifically I suppose one could argue that an elderly person's body is already shutting down, and they are around more illnesses in a nursing home and so succumb to death faster. But I wonder. Proverbs tells us that laughter or a merry heart is like a good medicine, and doctors of cancer patients have repetitively said that a good attitude in patients significantly increases their chances of recovery. So all this brings me back to my original pondering: If we lose the will to live, are we willing ourselves to die? Does God grant that desire, is it wishful thinking on our parts, or did He create us in such a way that our mental stability is seriously connected to our health? If so, could that be why people whose minds are gone seem to stay around forever...they don't have the mental capacity to determine their mind or will?
I know God has appointed a time for us to die, but sometimes I wonder if that appointment is a generic block of time (like this afternoon), or an exact minute kind of thing. Maybe one day I'll know.

Friday, July 25, 2008

my new job

I acquired a new job this summer, one I wasn't anticipating - that of a censor. We go to the dentist for one of T's many visits, and the boys start giggling, looking around, and holding a magazine very close. It's an underwear ad. I tell them to stop being silly and turn the page. They obey, but every boy after that wants that magazine. We go to the Hair Salon, and they get all excited when they see a cover, and I discover that there is a Maxim magazine in the waiting area. I start sorting through the many piles, pulling out all the Maxims and Cosmopolitans I can find. What are the owners thinking?
But then tonight we go to Cary Towne Center. Walking out of Macy's, we have to walk by not one, not two, but THREE huge photos (all the same picture) in the make-up aisle to get out. The lady's top is almost off with nothing else on. Thankfully Tonya spotted a picture half-way through of a woman pursing her lips at the lipstick rack and started making fun of it, so that distracted the boys some.
Maybe I'm a prude; maybe it's my Christian worldview, but even if the boys don't follow the teachings of Christ, I cannot find one rational reason for allowing them to absorb material that enforces the world's concept that women are nothing more than sex objects.
I've also had to censor music this year - a first. I have an eclectic taste of music, and apply the Phillipians 4:8 principle to what I hear. One of our boys is enthralled with rap, and was totally shocked to discover we don't approve. Tonight we stopped to get gas, and the girl next to us had her car blasting rap music, and it was repetitively blasting the B word. Has she no sense of self-esteem? Does it not bother her that her radio is repetitively belittling her gender to the status of a female dog in heat - in essence, a sex object?
I believe God created sex, like the rest of creation, to be a beautiful thing. Yet when we distort and abuse such a thing, it ceases to be pretty. It then becomes broken, which is revolting, painful and deprecating.
And sadly, we have once again this summer had to censor video games. Even though I carefully selected games before the kids came, another host family gave the boys a game. Five minutes into the game I had heard more than 4 curse words, and had had enough. We compromised by turning off the volume.
I hate being a censor, but I'm even more appalled at how often I've been called upon to work in that capacity this summer. It makes me sad for our country, for the young people-both boys and girls, and for others across the world who embrace our lascivious ways without realizing the "cool American stuff" is actually a poison that will corrupt their minds, relationships, and passions. My heart goes out to the young boys who are constantly exposed to such trash, and for the young girls who mistakenly think such actions are a show of freedom. I wonder where are their parents, and who zapped their brains?
"the renewing of our minds"...we need it today more than ever before.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the countdown

It has started. My next 9 days ("tomorrows" as the kids call them) are measured in small segments of time that have more than enough things to totally fill them. And of course, in the midst of it all, there are the time-out moments when everything must stop for certain things to be handled. You know, the bruises or cuts from crashing your bike into the shed on purpose, etc. And then there's the times we you have to carry out the threat you made, even though you don't want to but you know it's necessary.
One of our 3 visitors has had a consistent problem with "talking" as the kids call it (calling others bad names). There have been times in years past when the translators would refuse to tell me what was said, saying it was very bad and too bad to translate. Since I don't speak Russian, in normal circumstances I don't know whether it's a real argument, or simply kids being kids. But the subject came up in the mountains, and I finally gave the ultimatum: this happens again, and your mouth gets washed out with soap.
It happened. I even called the translator to double check the seriousness of the crime, and it was bad. So I gave a choice: 1) mouth washed out with soap or 2) no more video games. There was crying and indecision, then the child finally chose number one. I wanted to cry. But we did it, the child survived, and then even had the audacity to tell me thirty minutes later that the soap was good. For the second night in a row, I chose a Bible bedtime story and followed up with a reading. (Two nights ago we read the good Samaritan and discussed the difference between a practical joke and meanness; last night was the lost sheep and James 3, which we had a hard time finding...their New Testament books come in a different order than ours!).
I'm hoping the rest of our time ticks like clockwork without any more crazy interruptions. My heart breaks that we have this language barrier that interrupts communication and understanding. Meanwhile, I cling to the unchanging Seed and am claiming the verse that God's word will not return void, all the while pleading, "Let it be."

Friday, July 18, 2008

political tripe


YES! That was my husband on tv last night! And for the first time ever, thanks to some of the obscene, vulgar, hateful, and crazy e-mails the Rules Review received, they had to have a security officer at their monthly meeting! The worst e-mail turned out to be from a woman in Arkansas, and the nicest thing she said was that Bobby was an animal hater.
The Bryan family got a kick out of that one. The man who should have been named Noah and will eat a McDonald's hamburger and drink water to save money (or take his lunch) but will spend money on feed and medicine for animals is an animal hater?!
I agree that animals should be treated, as should all of God's creation, in a correct manner, but it aggravates me somewhat that people are ranting and raving over an issue where they neither have all the facts nor care whether or not things are done legally and correctly. And that's all I can say on the issue.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

important topics that it's hard to care about

Eating Healthy
I like bananas when they're a nice yellow and firm. When they're mushy they're only good for banana bread, which somewhat knocks it out of the healthy category.
I actually like peaches, watermelon and apples, but I think they're messy so I seldom eat them. I do like a good apple pie, which also bumps the fruit into a different category.
I like pears in a salad - you know - the kind with mayonnaise and cheese and lettuce, which again, bumps the fruit into another category.
I like cantaloupe, but I can't eat a whole one by myself and Bobby doesn't particularly care for it.
I LOVE vegetables, especially fresh fried squash and okra, peas, and tomatoes.

Eating healthy in and of itself is not a problem. It's the habit that's the problem. I'm finding that it's audaciously hard to break several years (and I do mean several) years of a bad habit. Baby steps...that's what I keep telling myself.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Sunday conversations:
Mikalai: Mom, tonight church one hour?
Bobby: One hour thirty minutes.
Mikalai: Mom, tonight church two hours?
Me: One hour thirty minutes.
Aleh: Mom, tonight church one hour?
Me: Yes.
Tonya: Mom, tonight church one hour?
Bobby: Yes, one hour thirty minutes.
Mikalai: Mom, tonight church one hour...
and repeat the above every twenty minutes, and then replace with Narnia? read Bibles?

Do they think the answer is going to change? Tonight in exasperation I responded with ,"No, 5 hours!" much to Jen and Nicole's amusement. No sooner is church over and we're in the van and the Narnia question started! When Aleh asked me for the third time before Bobby could even back out of the parking lot, I finally turned around and said, "Yes! And Aleh is reading 10 pages!" Then Tonya asked, so I said the same thing to her. When the time to read did come around, Aleh started whining, so I told him he had to read 20 pages! (They normally read 1 to 2 pages each.) When Aleh's turn came, I showed him his paragraphs, but he kept going...and going...and going. When he hit the top of page three, I tried to take the book away from him but he pulled it closer and kept reading! The other two started whispering, "It's okay, Mom...okay!" Evidently Mikalai understood when I told Bobby the other night if they read 6 pages a night, we can finish in 9 nights. They read 8 tonight and would have kept going but I made them stop. They wanted to mark where the end of Prince Caspian is (their book as all seven books in one). I think they're on a mission.

The other thing that totally exasperates them is when I don't have the answer to a question (or haven't had time to think!) and answer with "I don't know; we'll see" or "maybe." The other night Tonya especially was frustrated and responded, 'No we'll see. Yes. No. Okay, Momma?" I just laughed and said "Maybe." That night when I told her to go take a bath she looked at me and said, "I don't know. We'll see." When she finished her bath, I told her to brush her teeth, to which she responded, "We'll see." Bobby told her to go brush her teeth and she responded with "Mmm, maybe." We were in a mixture of shock and amusement.

And that's our crazy Sundays.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

eating habits

When I was a young child (before third grade, that is), my family traveled through some curves in life's road. My Dad was struggling with whether or not God was calling him to preach, Mom had cancer, and then in the midst of it all, the company of the store Dad managed sold out. It may just be my child's warped sense of time, but it seemed to me that it was during this time frame that Dad initiated the "three bite" rule.
We were not allowed to make a face or say yuck to anything on the table, and regardless of whether or not we liked it, we had to eat three bites of everything served. Since Mom fixed our plates, that meant we basically had to clean our plate. And yes, countless battles ensued - Me vs. the Macaroni & cheese, Andy vs. the broccoli, Me vs. saur kraut and wiennies, Merinda vs. any breakfast food. I don't seem to remember Naomi whining about foods.
Today my three ABRO kids were joined by three others. At lunch I noticed my three watching me to see how I would react to the other's eating habits. One pulled the meat and cheese out of her hamburger. She ate her lettuce and bread and french fries, so I let it go. #2 pulled all her lettuce out of her hamburger, but ate everything else. #3 ate her french fries and wasn't going to eat anything else about the same time Aleh decided half his french fries was enough, so I pulled rank. I told her she had to eat three bites of her hamburger and she could be finished. She look astonished, and my three started laughing. She did it, though. And Aleh in turn ate half of his, despite his sighing and rolling of eyes.
I don't think I'm mean. I try to find foods they like and serve them a healthy balance. But the fact remains that if I only let them eat what they wanted, they would only eat ice cream, pizza, spaghetti, chips, bananas, and drink sodas. I try to make sure they get somewhat close to the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, but they don't like it in the least. And I now understand my parent's frustration. There's nothing more infuriating than to work all day, come home, stand over a hot stove, and then to hear someone exclaim, "Yuck!"
And while I never thought I'd say this as a child, I think I benefited greatly from learning to eat foods that I didn't like. China comes to mind, but also settings in homes where you never know what will be served. Manners matter, and those things must be taught in childhood.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

stress week

Week 4 started today, and while the whining started, tempers flared a few times, and some of the excitement is gone, overall things are still going well (by ABRO definitions, that is). I think it's a bit funny that I've had a child/teenager in tears twice the last two days, and yet I'm pleased that in 4 weeks that's all. PROGRESS!! Whoohoo! (Last year he cried at least once a week, and sometimes for hours at a time, and over the craziest things.) And I'm not too bothered by the fact that he's crying because I made him share. Build a bridge and get over it. Too bad I don't know how to say that phrase in Russian.

It's these days when reality sets in that are the hardest. They are only here for 6 weeks and come from a totally different background with a totally different set of values. I think we make an impact in their lives, but as a former ABRO child has said, "You're not going to change them in 6 weeks." And she's right. No matter how badly I want to share with them our reasoning for certain rules, the language barrier isn't going to allow it, plus the fact remains that they are children. No matter that a rule is simple, common sense, to them it will always be an irritant command. And to some degree, even after four summers, trust is and probably always will be an issue. I can reprimand them for something and after supper when I offer dessert they look surprised when they get some. And if we punish them by witholding video games or a bicycle for one day (for fighting or calling each other really bad names), on day two they'll come up with fear in their eyes and ask, "Mom, today me video?" as if they've been banished for life. And they'll ask that everyday the rest of the summer.

These are the days I struggle inside all over again, the days I remind myself that we live in a broken world, and that broken things hurt. These are the days when I have to stop and reflect on God's direction in my life, and admit once again that He is my Great Physician and knows what is best. This is not how I would run the world. If it were up to me, every parent who seriously neglected their child or abused them would drop dead. Or better yet, God would simply not allow them to have children. And everyone who wants children could not only have them, but have the resources and physical abilities to care for them. If it were up to me, every Mom to be who considers aborting her child would miscarry, and God would then in turn give a barren woman that child. It angers me that some women spurn the gift within them while others just simply long for a gift.

I'm thankful it's not up to me. For by my justice system, God might then turn the tables and say, "You Glutton, you will now live in a land of famine." After all, wouldn't that serve me right for eating too much while there are people who are hungry or starving?

And on that note, I have to go finish supper for my hungry summer kids.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

very random thoughts

This past week we had the wonderful privilege of having my family up from the wonderful land of Alabama. My 8 year-old-nephew, with his Dad's help, caught a catfish that we think weighed 10 lbs. To call the event exciting would be an understatement. I lost track of how many catfish my brother-in-law and I cleaned, but the boys are now convinced there are no more catfish to be caught in the pond. I keep telling them they are there, but since they haven't seen them during feeding time they think they're all gone. Explaining to them that the fish don't always come up and the five ones we always see (they have certain scars and markings) weren't the ones caught somehow doesn't translate into our/their limited vocabulary. Oh, and the tiny turtle Aleh caught, placed in the bathtub (which put them in a frenzy when Dad took a shower, only to discover Dad had placed their prize possession in a water-filled bucket) disappeared the next morning. The bucket of water was still in the laundry room, upright, on the dryer, but there was not a turtle to be found. He showed up tonight, almost four days later, in my bedroom. I was not happy. And of course, the boys laughed at me. (Of course, they seem to have forgotten that Tonya took their turtle outside during the night last year because she was afraid he would starve. Needless to say, it disappeared.)
And here's part of my crazy crew posing during good-byes with Naomi's family. I love my husband, I love my house, I like this area, but I absolutely hate being far away from my family. Every minute they were here was precious and prized. The kids have talked about Jamie and Mason quite a bit today, so I think they miss them, too.

On a somewhat different note, Bobby's wheelchair has developed a bizarre reaction to KidsRKids. Wed night he went to church by himself (I was waiting on my parents to arrive). He came home almost 40 minutes later. (It takes us about 25 minutes to get there). One of the power chords on his chair had disconnected and he was unable to get out of the van when he arrived at church. The same thing happened again tonight. I guess I'll duct tape it together before bed tonight.

After three years of staying with us for 6 weeks, it finally registered in Tonya's brain tonight that Bobby was paralyzed. She noticed his halo scars and wanted to know what they were. We showed her the pictures from his time in the hospital. I think she was shocked. The boys figured it out their very first week that Bobby was unable to use his fingers (they tried to convince us that first year they didn't need to brush their teeth because Poppa couldn't - I think they were both intrigued and disappointed when we showed them his special toothbrush holder), but for some reason Tonya has been oblivious to it.

They've also finally figured out that we're the only "mean" host families: we make them eat their vegetables, read from the Bible, and from Narnia. That's been their latest excuse for why they shouldn't have to read. And they also tried to pretend read for the first time this week. Yet I know both the Bible stories and I've read Prince Caspian, so I know what names I should be hearing them say. They seemed shocked that I could figure their scheme out.

So far it's been a great summer. I'll post about the double-edged sword emotions another day. It's bed time, and there's still a few more things to do before the AM...sigh....