Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Busy Day

My day began at 5 am. I've been having difficulty finding time to write without interruptions. It isn't working to stay up late because that is when Chuck and I would usually talk. During the day on a working farm there are interruptions. Sometimes I think I have planned for every possibility and now I can write. Nope. Doesn't work out that way.

I was complaining to a writer friend and she said that she has found early morning to be the answer for her. Thus, 5 am was the time to get up.

It was hard to roll out of bed and I wondered if I would be able to stay awake, but no problem. By the time the computer was warmed up, I was too, and 6:30 came all too quickly. I'm nearly done with this assignment, unless I panic and start over. That has happened before.

Then it was time to get everyone off to school/work and when the house was quiet I slept for and hour and a half. Interruptions are not as bad when I'm sleeping as they are when I am writing.

Then farm/family accounting and bill paying, and a meeting after that. And finally the best part of the day---grandma time.


Luke was very snuggly today. He smells so good! He and I got a few things done together, but mostly we just enjoyed each other. He was very cooperative about taking his nap at the exact time that I needed to run around town with him, so all was pleasant in the car seat.


This was taken after his mommy got back. He enjoys diaper changes and is playing with her afterwards.


What a sweetie.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Discerning God's Will - Women's conference

One of the workshops I went to at the Women's conference was about discerning God's direction in your life. The leader listed several ways that God leads and nearly all of them resounded with me.

She talked about hearing directly from God, and recounted an example of that in her life. I don't know a lot of people who have examples of that in their lives, but I remember one time when I believed God was speaking clearly to me. I still believe it.

She talked about being nudged by others and I have had that happen too. Other people have been significant in the directions my life has taken. They have made observations and held me accountable, and inspired me with their own journeys.

She mentioned how we are led by small steps, each step taking us closer to a bigger responsibility than we would have guessed we were capable of. That has most certainly happened to me in many areas of my life.

She said that it is important to learn to say no to the jobs that are taking us away from the direction God is leading us, which is very true.

Then she said the one thing I disagreed with. She said you can tell whether to say no to a job by whether the idea of the job energizes you or burdens you. I do agree that you have to look at this. I don't agree that it is a clear leading from God. Some of the jobs I have done were/are energizing. Teaching Sunday School is amazingly energizing for me. Writing can get me wide awake and full of things to think about.

Some of the jobs I am sure I am supposed to do are burdensome. There are jobs that keep me awake at night from the stress of feeling that I'm in over my head. But I look at the ways I was led to those jobs and I am convinced that God put me in those jobs for a reason.

After that session was over I had some time for quiet time so I went to the designated prayer room. My reading for the day was in Jeremiah. It was the chapter where Jeremiah spends the entire chapter wishing he had been stillborn rather than have to be the person who warns God's people of future judgment. Somehow I don't think he was finding prophesy very energizing.

I do not believe that anyone should choose to do burdensome jobs without some discernment from the other ways God leads us. God spoke out loud to Jeremiah. It would be pretty hard to deny that calling. And it would be pretty hard to continue doing such a difficult job without a strong sense of that calling.

It would be dangerous to see God as a killjoy that can't wait to put us in a job that will make us suffer. It is just as dangerous to see God as never wanting us do anything that is hard or uncomfortable.

The tough jobs I do have confirmation in other ways as well. I began one of my jobs because of the affirmation of several people I respect, and from my realization that doing this job is also affirmed by scripture as being important. Another job came through small steps, regular affirmations, and frequent confirmations that seemed to be from God over the years. And these jobs have not been only burdensome. They have in turn been energizing. They have also been humbling, and have required me to lean on God because I knew so clearly that I was not equal to the tasks before me.

Today was one of those days. Things that happened today careened out of control until by 4:30 I was sure there was no way to end the day well. But it ended well. I am sure it is the result of God and not anything else. There was too much that could go wrong. I was carrying the kind of anxiety that causes me to use words that make things worse. A lot of heightened emotions were floating around about at least three big issues, any of which could have been volatile.

All day, as things continued to come up, I was reminded of how easy it is for me to think that people should just trust God to work things out and should not get so upset. I was not finding it very easy to do that myself. I also was reminded that the urge to control things when I am worried is almost never a good idea.

So I tried not to control things. I tried to trust that no matter what happened, my job was to be calm and respectful. That was a stretch for me, but it was a good stretch. We managed to talk through each of the three big items calmly, respectfully, and with everyone's self respect still intact.

It isn't over yet. I still have plenty of angst to go around. Hopefully tomorrow I will find it easier since today worked out so well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Outdoors

I finally dug my bike out of the back of the garage, checked the tires, and rode it to town to hang out with my daughter-in-law and to do errands. My bike behaved quite well. My leg muscles didn't. When I got home, I went downstairs to get something and nearly fell, because my legs felt like noodles.

In spite of that, I feel great. I enjoyed every minute of the ride even though I was slow and my muscles felt overwhelmed a lot of the time. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and I was riding so slowly that I could actually see the birds that sang as I passed them. The weather was beautiful for riding. There was a brisk north breeze that pushed me into town, and slowed me down on the way home. I spent quite a bit of time in gears so low that I'd hardly ever used them before...but I used to be in shape and now I'm only beginning to move in that direction.

This afternoon I got a few seeds into the garden: spinach, romaine lettuce, and beets so far. So I guess I did my thing for a better world today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Job Follows Jesus

Daniel's sermon yesterday added to things I have already been thinking about over the years. I love the concept that as followers of Jesus, we are the ones who exalt the humble and bring down the powerful. We are the body of Christ. We bring about Christ's kingdom. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..."

There are other teachings that back up this idea of it being our responsibility to humble the rich and exalt the humble. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The instructions accomplish both objectives.

Storing up treasures in heaven forces us to more humble circumstances. Caring for widows and orphans exalts those who have difficult circumstances.

In my Bible reading I came upon Job's final defense last week. It has been a long time since I've read Job and this particular passage took me by surprise. Job has been telling his friends that the misfortunes that have come to him are not a result of sin. His friends continue to insist that these terrible events are a direct consequence for Job's sin. They encourage him and scold him and even try to shame him into admitting the secret sin that has brought disaster on himself.

In Job's final defense he states why he knows he is blameless:
  • He avoided lust
  • He was honest
  • He has consistently followed God's law
  • He has been faithful to his wife
  • He has given justice to those who work for him whenever they had a grievance against him.
  • He has granted the desires of the poor
  • He has helped the widow
  • He has fed the fatherless and reared them as a father would
  • He has clothed those who needed it, using the fleece from his own sheep
  • He has not trusted in wealth or taken pride in fortune
  • He has not worshiped false gods
  • He has not rejoiced at his enemies' misfortunes
  • He has not cursed his enemies
  • He has fed anyone who wanted to eat
  • He has not allowed strangers to sleep in the streets
  • His door was always open to the traveler
  • He has cared for his land
  • He has been good to his tenants
Job has lived his life following God, and caring for the unfortunate. Job is an example of someone who follows Jesus' instructions. Some say that the book of Job is the oldest book of the Bible. I don't know how they figure that out, but this book, written long before Christ, still grasps the nature of the kingdom of God. Job knows what Jesus requires. Job knows how to store up treasures in heaven. The only part that Job doesn't get is the rewards phase. Doing the right thing does not guarantee happiness or success or good fortune. Jesus was crucified.

Job did understand that no matter what happened, his response would still be to follow God. Job 13:15 says "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him." It reminds me of the post from a couple of days ago that included the letter written by Bart Campolo. Bart writes about continuing his commitment to 'exalt the humble' even when it seems not to make any difference. He calls it keeping the faith. That is what I need to do.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Humility

It has been a long weekend full of many things to think about. I was at a conference for Mennonite women. The theme was 'Daring to Let Our Spirits Soar'. We heard and talked a lot about women's spirituality, what holds women back, what heals them, what allows them to become the fullest expression of God's grace. It was good and healing discussion. The ideas swirl in my mind and I want to mull them over some more before writing about them.

A serendipitous timing was that the final session this morning ended early enough that I could get back to church in time for second worship. Five of my kids and their spouses were involved in planning and leading the worship and my nephew preached the sermon. It was a good sermon. It was based on the passage that begins with Jesus' teaching that when you go to a banquet you should sit in the lowest seats rather than seeking a high place for yourself. Then if you have to move, it will be a positive move rather than an embarrassing move. He goes on to say that the humble will be exalted and the powerful will be brought low. The next section takes things a step farther, requiring his followers to invite those who cannot return the favor. No more inviting only the same social class, but inviting those who no one will invite.

Daniel (my nephew) suggested that this instruction to invite those without status or wealth is the way that the humble are exalted while the rich are brought low. He implied that this is the job of the church. We exalt the humble by including them and we bring low the rich by humbling ourselves. I'm sure that if we did this inviting and serving, we would be humbled far more than we anticipate. We would begin to learn about our assumptions that are based on our privilege. We would learn about the things we do that we don't even realize we are doing.

That is part of what raising my kids has done for me many times. It has revealed the shallowness of my character and forced me to humility. It continues to sharpen me, to refine, to make obvious the things I need to change, the attitudes that set me back. I would not give this up, even though it is hard. It has made me into more than I would have been. It has revealed God's grace to me.

This weekend several women affirmed me, affirmed the way I related to them and the things I have done with my life. I feel undeserving of that. I'm pretty aware of the things I have not done with my life and the ways I have not related well to people. I think that I have the gift of being a good friend, of listening well, of encouragement. I think that gift has been strengthened through the ways I have been humbled by the events of my life. I think I still have more to learn.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Making a Difference

There are times when my choices about what to do are tempered by whether those things will make a difference or not. Do I invest time and energy in a relationship if that time and energy will make no difference for me or for the other person? Do I need to keep trying when it seems there is no hope

Today I looked through an old email from Sojourners and found this letter written by Bart Campolo. It speaks to those questions honestly and without making things seem easier or better than they are. But I will let his words tell his own story at this point. His bio is at the end of the article.

Keeping the Faith (by Bart Campolo)

For as long as I can remember, I've ended my letters and e-mails with the encouragement "Keep the faith." I must have picked that up from my father, since he's the only person I know who signs off the same way. It might have been more lucrative for me to have picked up "It's Friday, but Sunday's coming!" instead, but I've always preferred the flexibility of the simpler phrase. Not everyone who hopes for God's grace is a Christian, after all, and we who are surely hope for more than that. We hope to be happy and successful, for example, however we measure those things. We hope that our parents love us and that our marriages work out and, more than anything, that our kids will always be safe and sound. We hope for such things, at least, unless we have learned to know better.

On the Monday morning after my last letter, a mother and daughter from our fellowship showed up at our side door. Terry is mentally handicapped and deeply damaged. Her daughter has her own set of issues. For months we'd been planning a summer move from their dangerous, filthy, heatless apartment building into a cute little duplex we've been fixing up around the corner, but all of a sudden we were too late. "Tanya got raped in the hall last night," her mother said, and from then until now we've been walking on the dark side of love.

The sequence of what followed doesn't matter, and I couldn't remember it even if it did. The hospital, the detectives, the rape crisis center. Getting that evil building condemned, relocating them in our duplex, finding bedbug-free furniture for Terry and Tanya, finding helpers for the move itself. The girl's bad behavior as our houseguest, her mother's worse behavior as a parent. The questions, the doubts -- the guilt for questioning and doubting. And then, as if piling on, the quick meltdown of a promising young man we've lavished with attention and opportunity for the past seven months, and the crude suicide attempt of a troubled young woman whose phone call for help I failed to return the day before.

What does matter, I think, is the way all those things have been eating away at expectations of goodness and order I didn't even know I had. It's been awhile since I believed everything happens for a reason, according to some grand plan, but evidently I've hung onto the notion that love always makes some kind of difference, even in the midst of chaos. Even that somewhat less-ambitious worldview, however, seems to be no match for just this one little neighborhood, let alone the world itself.

It isn't the suffering here that's getting to me, but rather my neighbors' dull, matter-of-fact attitude about it. Tanya hasn't been fazed much by her rape, her counselor tells me, because she always expected to be hurt that way sooner or later. After all, her mom was raped three times as a girl, receiving no follow-up care or counsel, which may explain why she can offer so little now in terms of emotional support. The meltdown guy? He walked away because we called him on a lie and it never occurred to him that we might just forgive him. The girl who tried to kill herself? She lives in Terry's condemned building and has nowhere to go with five children under the age of 10. One missed call was all it took to convince her nobody cares enough to help.

It seems to me that these are the poorest of the poor in spirit, the ones who hope for next to nothing. To survive in a place like this, some people learn to live almost completely in the moment. They know better than to expect any ongoing goodness or order. They keep no faith. We have come to love them, but the longer we're at it the more I am haunted by the fear that nothing – not even love – may be strong enough. I can celebrate the ways our intentional generosity touches some of our neighbors, but I can't ignore the fact that both their natural hopelessness and the dysfunctions that inspire it are quite capable of breaking us. Or at least of breaking me.

If that happens, however, it won't mean I was wrong about Grace, but only that I overreached my limits. And if it doesn't happen, it won't mean that love always makes a difference, even in the midst of chaos, but only that I managed to keep the faith.

That's all I'm hoping for now, for starters at least.

Bart Campolo is a veteran urban minister and activist who speaks, writes, and blogs (www.bartcampolo.com) about grace, faith, loving relationships, and social justice. Bart is the leader of The Walnut Hills Fellowship (www.thewalnuthillsfellowship.org) in inner-city Cincinnati. He is also founder of Mission Year (www.missionyear.org), which recruits committed young adults to live and work among the poor in inner-city neighborhoods across the USA, and executive director of EAPE, which develops and supports innovative, cost-effective mission projects around the world.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Thanks

This morning I was thinking about things I am thankful for.
  • 30 plus years in a strong committed relationship based on respect, love, and mutual faith.
  • A God who embodies both justice and mercy, whose faithfulness and love endures throughout generations.
  • Long term friendships that have helped me grow and challenged me.
  • Family relationships that are strong and fun.
  • Enough---enough to eat, enough to do, enough to take care of our needs.
  • A sense of purpose and mission that is part of daily life in our home, that stretches us, forces us to grow daily, keeps us humble.
  • Music
  • Laughter
  • Spring
  • The trip we took in January to Florida
  • Time to do the things that are most important to me

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cleaning up, messing up

Cleaning. My bedroom is the room that gets my attention last. Lately I have been wishing to sleep in a sanctuary instead of a pit. I did not take 'before' pictures. The 'after' pictures show the three places most likely to accumulate stuff. It has been a long time since I got to my desk.

Truth? I found a big envelope full of extra invitations to my son and his wife's wedding almost 2 years ago. I found a sweater I knit from leftover yarn to donate to a program that gives sweaters to needy kids from farther back than that. I found things I no longer recognize. All of that was on this desk.


This is my dresser. We bought it soon after we got married, thinking it would serve us well until we could find something better. Thirty years later it is still our dresser. It usually holds everything that needs to be dumped quickly. Ticket stubs, receipts, bandanas, gloves, etc. The blue truck was my husband's when he was a child. The round piece of wood next to the mirror says "Best Mom on Earth" and will still be on my dresser for a long time yet. There is still too much stuff here, but I can see the wood and the alarm clock and my wedding picture.


My night stand once belonged to Chuck's great aunt and I think of her nearly every day. It usually holds all the things I've read or looked at before falling asleep at night. Magazines, books, and the mail are the most likely inhabitants, but they are banished for today.


Messing. Chuck wanted to start a project today. He suggested the garage. I suggested the dining room. He chose the dining room. He took down some trim and pulled off wallpaper on two of the walls.


There are some pretty major cracks and in some places the plaster moves back and forth when you push on it. Now we need to decide how to proceed with it from here. Can we fix the plaster or should we remove it or cover it with dry wall? Home improvement is always more of a job than you hope it will be. The fuzzy wallpaper must be 40 years old and even this cracked, rough wall looks better to me than the discolored flocking that was there before. Still, that crack below looks pretty formidable. We've got some work to do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Time In

Everyone knows about time out. Time out can be a short break or it can be a consequence (read: punishment) for misbehavior. It usually involves someone spending a period of time away from the company of other people. We used it quite a bit in our day. We used it more as punishment, at least for the first half of our child rearing years. Now we use it more as a break. If people are getting too intense to speak rationally or respectfully to each other, it is time for time out. The conflict gets set aside for a period of time, with the hope that it will be easier to discuss when heads are cooler.

Time in has a different purpose. It is time purposely spent together. It isn't about doing special things, although that can be involved. It is about being in the same room and being accessible to each other.

Sometimes when kids act out, they are pushing their parents away. Kids with reactive attachment disorder do this a lot. They don't trust their parents to care about them, to do what is best for them. So they push their parents away.

Sometimes they do this by isolating themselves. Sometimes they do this by doing things that are guaranteed to create distance---lying, stealing, manipulating, disrespect... One way to work with this is to not give the distance. Instead, when they are at their worst, require them to hang out with you.

This sounds very warm and loving doesn't it? The earth mother who can see through her wayward child's behavior to the lonely heart inside and can embrace that loneliness, saves the poor child in spite of himself.

It's not so easy. You have to do this when the child is at their most unlovable. Your child will not think this is a good idea, because, of course, he is pushing you away. Why would he want to hang out with you in the kitchen or garden or laundry? So your child pushes you away more---more disrespectful, more demanding, more in your face.

I decided that I would try this method, but that I would give myself a ''time out" if it got to be too much for me. I nearly had to have my time out. Then it got better for the rest of the evening. I have no idea if it was because of time in, or because of some other obtuse reason. I won't complain. Getting better was much needed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Great Need In Zimbabwe

I got an email from Mennonite Central Committee this morning with news about the needs and the danger in Zimbabwe. I will copy excerpts of that here, because it seems important. The email was written by Joy Kauffman and was sent out through a menno.org.peace news service.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Friends,

I wanted to let you all know that messages are being
sent back and forth between the Mennonite Church in
the US and the Brethren in Christ church in Zimbabwe
through Forgotten Voices. As we learn of their
courage and suffering and join with them in prayer,
they are encouraged by our prayers.

I received an e-mail a few days ago from the folks at
Forgotten Voices. They wrote saying, "Thanks so much
for your e-mail! It's nice to see a picture and great
to read the prayers being read and prayed by so many
for Zimbabwe. We're doing our best to pass these
prayers and words of encouragement on to our friends
in Zimbabwe, without using any "hot button" words like
the names of candidates, political parties etc. We try
to protect our partners from any potential dangers.
But they know we are praying and many have written to
say how encouraged they are, and to ask for our
continued prayers."

Not everyone is encouraged though. I got this note
from a Zimbabwean friend here in the states. He said,
"the bottom line is Mugabe is bent on mischief! Mugabe
wants to keep the Zim-population in limbo. He wants to
continue tormenting the poorest of the poor! He is not
satisfied with the horrendous damage he's done in the
past 28 yrs & is not even repentant. I'm depressed
about the developments in my country some have even
emailed me expressing utter dismay & anguish!"

n the last few days, things in Zimbabwe have taken,
what seem to be, a turn for the worse. The election
results still have not been released and there have
been reports that the small armies of police, former
war veterans and youth militias have been out
terrorizing people. Reports of raids on opposition
offices, opposition areas of the country, and
remaining white farmers are rampant. Other reports
indicate more people are giving up and just trying to
leave the country. I've been reading that the only
thing keeping people alive there at all is the money
that is sent back from family members who are in
exile. Almost 1/3 of the country is in exile already,
approximately 4 million people.

So the question is remains, if that is what families
do for each other, does this "family of faith" idea
mean anything to us? Do we have a financial
obligation to support our family in this time of total
crisis (the crisis being not only the elections but
the last disastrous 5-28 years)?

One gentleman who attended the Illinois Mennonite
Conference here in Tiskilwa this weekend, and came to
the Zimbabwe Table Talk I lead, put it this way in a
report he is preparing for his church:

"When we had World Conference [in Zimabwe] in 2003
they bent over backwards to be good hosts for us. Now
with all the political unrest, hunger, violence and
death are running rampant. The Anabaptist related
Brethren in Christ people there number around 70,000
including families of members. They need our prayers
and our financial assistance just as our Russian
sisters and brothers did in the 1920s when MCC was
created."

I hate to ask the question because I know it might
offend but, do we have the will to mobilize again, or
are the African members of our Family of Faith less
important to us? Are we numb to pain and suffering
because rather than getting deeply involved in one
place, we are fed a mission project every month and
therefore care about the whole world but don't deeply care about any one
place?

If you are compelled for remember Zimbabwe in your
prayers, even if it is only during this crisis, there
is one more thing that is important for us to know.
One of the primary reasons that Mugabe was predicted
to NEVER leave power peacefully is because he is
afraid of prosecution for crimes against humanity that
should have him wind up at the International Criminal
Court in the Hague. The largest scale crimes against
humanity that would warrant conviction were committed
in the early 80s and were in the exact region and to
the exact people group that make up the majority of
the Brethren in Christ members. This is when
approximately 20,000 people, of the ethnic group
Ndebele and in the area Matebeleland were killed. For more information see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gukurahundi

This is something that the folks at MWC couldn't speak
of because I have no doubt that some people attending
MWC were secret police. They have valid fear of
retribution. Even a week or so prior to the
elections, Mugabe threatened that if their area,
Matebeleland, went for the opposition, that "fire"
would rain on their houses!

We have good reason therefore to believe that our
brothers and sisters there will be specifically
targeted with political violence during this time.

Please pray. The thing that has had the biggest
influence on me to really pray has been reading the
Zimbabwe related Mennonite World Conference press
releases at: http://www.mwc-cmm.org/News/index.htm I
really think that if anyone would take just one hour
to read them from over the last few years they would
be absolutely compelled to action.

If you are moved to give, please visit
www.forgottenvoices.net or check out MCC's Global
Family Program for Zimbabwe
http://www.mcc.org/globalfamily/projects/africa/zimbabwe/


God bless,
Joy

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Working Out

My workout today was working out...side. I'm choring with Chuck in the mornings a couple of times a week, partly to be supportive and partly for safety. The sows are having their babies right now. Since we choose to have the sows farrow outside in small A-houses, instead of an indoor farrowing house, Chuck needs to go into each A-house when pigs are born to check them and work them. We try to choose mothers from breeds that are gentle as well as have good conformity and large litters. However, nearly any breed will show some protectiveness with a new litter of pigs.

I come out for chores so that if a sow gets upset I can distract her so that Chuck can move out of the pen safely. An angry sow can be pretty formidable.

While I'm out there I water all those sows at the same time that Chuck is feeding them and checking them. I carried 2 1/2 gallons of water to each of 36 sows this morning.

Then, since I was already outside anyway, I decided to tackle the compost pile. Organic matter will compost by itself over time without help. If you want it to happen faster there are things you can do. Mixing green material with brown material and adding dirt or manure helps a lot. Turning the pile occasionally also makes a big difference. Today I turned this entire pile.

I used a pitchfork and lifted every bit of that pile from another area and moved it to this spot so that it would mix and compost more quickly. It was an excellent workout. Hopefully, by next fall it will be great for the garden and our soil will be a lot better because of it.

I wish I had turned it already last fall. I like working outside but I have this disconnect. I don't like going outside. Once I am out, I find I usually like the work. Getting myself out of the house is the hurdle. I'm too content to be where I am. There is plenty to do inside the house. Why should I change clothes and go out?

Today, since I was already out and I was not uncomfortable with the weather, I decided to go ahead and do the compost instead of walking for exercise later. It feels better somehow to get 'real' exercise rather than walking nowhere and walking back. I feel a little sorry for the dogs, but there are plenty of days they can walk with me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The funeral

Chris's funeral was today. It was in a high school gym and it was full.

It will be a long haul for them.

This morning during my devotions I was thinking about them. The prayer book I was using quoted from Zechariah's song in Luke 1.
"In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."

I'm sure their world has seemed dark since the day Chris died, and right now their lives are shadowed by death. The promise of a dawn from on high that comes from God's compassion and leads to the way of peace is what I would ask for them.

The funeral ended with a rousing hymn of praise. When someone young dies like this it is natural to ask why God allowed it to happen. You want to know, why didn't God prevent it. I know that doesn't make sense. People are dying all over the world from unnecesary illness, and from starvation, and from violence. We somehow expect God to protect us differently than everyone else. But anyway, issues of faith come up more strongly when a young person dies. So singing a hymn that blatantly praises God is an affirmation of faith in the midst of that. It moves me.

However, as the second verse started, Chris's young wife along with her parents and her in-laws, stood. It was clear that they were not just praising God because that was the 'right' thing to do. They were honoring God in their pain. "Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him..." Job 13:15. The picture of that, of those five people standing up with determination, and then the multitude in the gym following their example---that will stay with me for a long time.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sorting hogs

Today I worked for Chuck for 3 1/2 hours and got paid at Taco Tico. Well, my dinner only cost $4.00, but it was my decision to go out. Still, I think I might still have a little bit coming to me besides Taco Tico.

We were sorting hogs for hauling tomorrow. I've sorted hogs with Chuck many times before, but never this big of a sort. Usually Ben has helped with these larger numbers, so when I went outside to work I thought I'd be back in within an hour.

Still, it was fun.

Chuck's finish set up has 8 pens (I think) and we needed pigs from every one of those pens. Chuck had them marked with green and orange marks. The pigs with green marks were going to end up together and the pigs with orange marks were going to end up together. All the pigs with green marks came from 4 of the pens. The pigs with no marks from those four pens also had to end up together. The pigs with orange marks came from the other four pens, which also had unmarked pigs. None of the unmarked pigs from the first four pens could end up with any of the unmarked pigs from the second four pens. There were no empty pens to put pigs into during the sorting process. If the wrong pigs would happen to end up together, they would fight. Pigs have a social structure and they can live peacefully with pigs they are used to, but fight with newcomers. The pigs in the first four pens have always been separate from the pigs in the second four pens, and have to stay separate.

I hope I have adequately described the difficulty of the task we undertook. Chuck has to plan out each step so that the wrong pigs don't get mixed together, and so that there is always a logical place for the pigs to go. In some pens we removed the unmarked pigs, leaving the marked ones behind. In others we let out marked pigs leaving unmarked ones behind.

Even though I'm not out there helping that often, we have developed a good sense for working together. We don't have to do much talking, which is helpful because talking at the wrong moment can turn a hog away from the direction you want him to go.

There is an art to working with pigs. You have to know when to push a little harder, when to back off, how to watch their eyes to know what they are thinking. Pigs like to explore so they like to go through an open gate, unless they think you want them to go through that open gate. You want the pigs who are leaving the pen to notice the open gate and think it is their own idea to go through---while simultaneously keeping the pigs who are staying away from the gate. If you are too energetic in convincing one pig to stay behind, the pig next to him will get upset and be unwilling to leave. So you watch their eyes. You try to block the pig who is staying when the leaving pig isn't looking.

I think nearly every pig was moved at least twice from one pen to another by the time we were done, in order to get the green ones in the two closest pens to the loading ramp, the orange ones in the next two pens, and the unmarked ones in their pens farther down. None of it was unnecessary, but it did take a while.

Tomorrow the semi will come and we will load them on the truck. This afternoon all the green ones had access to the ramp so that they won't be afraid tomorrow when it is time to load.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

limits on screen time?

The dilemma of the day is computer/game/screen time and how much we will control that. The first question would be whether it is bad for the teenagers to have control of how much time they spend on the computer. The second question is whether it is bad for the family to not have limits on computer/game/screen time. The third question is whether it is bad for my mental health to have the sounds of TV and games going a lot of the time that the teenagers are home.

With foods and health issues it is easier to set limits. It is harder with entertainment. Research seems to show that for young children less screen time is best. I don't know of any similar research with teens, other than that active recreation helps maintain a healthy body. If the teens are physically active, do I need to limit their screen time?

Issues:
  • How much helping around the house do they need to do to make life workable for the whole family?
  • If I would limit screen time would that make it more likely for them to play music or read or draw or write or talk to me? Is it important to do that? Is it imperative?
  • If I set a limit, what is reasonable? Is there a way to set a limit that isn't arbitrary?
  • How do I get away from watching the clock and nagging when the time is up? Is there a way to limit without my having to also be the enforcer?
Anyway, my time is now up so I'll ponder this more some other time.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Sadness and Gladness

It has been a long day in many ways. Chuck's cousin's son, Chris, was killed yesterday in a tractor accident. He is young, married, and a dad to an 8 month old. It takes my breath away, how quickly life can end.

I find myself thinking about how wrong this is, that things like this don't happen. But they do. I know of many young people who have died, either suddenly or slowly, leaving family and friends behind to grieve. Gaping holes are left behind. In many ways it is not only their lives that have ended. The lives of those who loved them have ended as well, at least the lives they knew and were comfortable in. Now they live different and, at least initially, extremely painful lives that center around the loss.

So Chris's family, his young wife, his parents, his brothers and his sister, his grandparents, and his friends have been on my heart a lot today. I wish there was more that could be done to ease their pain.

* * * * * * * * * * *
I am celebrating a small thing tonight as well. I was getting pretty discouraged about finding Sunday School teachers, which is my job right now at church. I had a couple of positions open and had made a lot of calls. I keep forgetting that I'm just making the calls but God is in charge of finding the teachers. (Sometimes I would like for God to write up my call list for me so I could skip the 'no' answers.)

I really don't mind getting those 'no' answers that much, until I think I have already called everyone who might possibly be good at this job. I truly do not want people to teach if they find no joy in it. God knows how many teachers we need and I trust that God will give enough people the desire and the gift and the curiosity they need for it. So when I call people, I try to remind myself that I don't have much idea of what their lives or like or what their current calling is. If I am asking them to do something that would take them away from the things God wants them to do, they had better be saying no to me.

The thing I don't like is getting scared that I will never find someone that will enjoy this class or who will see how much fun it is to explore faith with these particular kids. And then I make a call to someone who says, "Thanks for asking me! I'd like to think about it but that really sounds like something I would enjoy!" Maybe I will still get another negative response in the end, but I have a better sense of hope at the moment.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Support

I know this is blatant grandmother pride, but this picture proves I'm not biased. They really are gorgeous. I did not take this picture. Credit goes to the baby's father for being able to capture mother-infant bonding on a digital camera. This baby looks more like his dad every day.

* * * * * * * * *

Tonight we are getting some much needed time with good friends who have also raised kids adopted through the foster care system. No one understands like someone who has been there.

I'm really not complaining. We have amazing friends and family who have not been there and are incredibly supportive. When we compare notes with other adoptive families, we find we have much more support with raising difficult kids than the average family enjoys.

The main difference between this family and our other support is not having to explain things. We've been in all the same predicaments, shared the same frustrations. I'm looking forward to tonight. It will be good.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Newsweek and life at home

The Newsweek arrives on Wednesday and there were a couple of editorials worth reading aloud at lunch. The first was about the culture of poverty and the similarities to the culture of the very rich. The article is by Daniel Gross and gives plenty of reason for outrage.

The second, by Jonathan Alter, is about why politicians (including Hillary) lie so largely. It is a fun expose' of whoppers from the past as well as a look into what goes into the thought process before a lie. There is a bit of biting humor there as well, but not so funny for a Hillary fan, probably.

There are probably some links between the two articles, seeing that Hillary is plenty rich and may share in those foibles. Something to think about...

* * * * * *

Today I planned to be home all day. My bedroom needs to go from being a pit to being a sanctuary. I want to work some good stuff into the soil in my flower beds. Maybe I could throw a few spinach seeds into the garden. I have some work for church, and I need to write.

Then I was reminded that I'd agreed to do some work for Chuck. And then we both remembered that meat was ready for pick up at the butcher. Then there were phone calls and discussions about phone calls. The morning was gone, as well as half the afternoon.

I get pretty peeved when this stuff happens. I don't mind nearly as much when I've already got a full day planned that is away from home. I can roll with the punches and shift gears. It is when I have planned a day at home that alterations throw me off kilter. I want to do those things I was looking forward to doing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

No more solitaire, or at least not as much

We now have high speed internet---sort of high speed---but much faster than the dial up we began the day with yesterday. It always surprises me how much time goes into changing things on the computer. With a different internet provider we have to change email. That means notifying all kinds of places we do business with online and otherwise. I needed a new home page. I needed to make sure my old email address would funnel into the new email address. Well, now it is done. I can listen to Pandora radio on line. I can do business on the internet without needing to have a game of solitaire going for those long waits on pages.