Encounters with God ~ Part One: Dream Interpretation Please!

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I had an interesting dream in December, one full of symbols and a meaning I knew I needed to understand.  God was trying to talk to me, but what was He saying?

I was climbing up one of those attic staircases, the rickety kind that fold up into the ceiling when you are not using it.  I climbed up into the attic of my church.  It looked like a storage room for a museum, containing priceless treasures from all over the world.

                One of my pastors met me at the top of the stairs.  She had a smile on her face as she offered me a beautiful silver necklace.  It looked like it had belonged to royalty.  It had many large, silver bangles hanging from it, each one inlaid with a light blue rectangle with a dark blue circle in the center.  I hardly noticed the necklace, so it is a wonder that I can remember what it looked like at all. 

                I politely told my pastor, “No thank you.”  I really didn’t even consider accepting such a gift.  I was never one to wear large pieces of jewelry, and I just didn’t think it would suite me.  Plus I had my eye on something I thought was much more important and exciting.  Down the hall was an Egyptian Mummy.  As I child I had been fascinated with mummies, getting every book that the library had about the topic and pouring over the pages again and again.  I used to dream of becoming an archeologist and traveling to far-away places and uncovering untold treasures.

This mummy was encased in a very plain, clay sarcophagus.  It was apparent that I had already spent many painstaking hours chipping away at the clay to reveal the mummy underneath. I was excited about the significant discovery I was going to make, uncovering pieces of history that had not yet been revealed.  So far I had only uncovered the feet and the lower portion of the legs, dark and shriveled with age.  I was eager to return to my work.

Unfortunately I had left the sarcophagus in the walkway of the attic, and other people were coming and going.  I knew I had made a horrible mistake as some people brushed up against the mummy’s legs and feet.  I watched in horror as the fragile legs simply disintegrated into dust and blew away.  I felt devastated.

I pondered this dream for the next few days and here is what I think it means.  The mummy symbolizes human significance, the approval of men, the history books written here on earth.  Ever since childhood I have been intrigued by the work of men that can endure long enough for future generations to marvel and wonder.  Even now it is a deep need of mine to live a life that makes an impact and leaves a mark on the people of this earth.  However, if my focus is on achieving significance that is recognized by men, it will be like working carefully and diligently to reveal a mummy.  Anything can destroy that mummy.  It will not endure.

I immediately thought of my work to become a writer.  I long to be a writer.  I tell myself that my writing is mostly for myself, to document all the amazing things that God has done in my life.  Every time I type out a story, God’s goodness becomes more real to me.  Every time I read over something I had written years ago, I am overcome with the Goodness of God that I had forgotten but now remember again because I took the time to write it down!  I tell myself and others that my writing is mostly for my children, to give them a written history of what God has done in our family.  These things that I tell myself and others are very true.

Yet, my Big Dream (my Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that my writing will go all over the world, impacting lives.  I want to be like the writers whose words have become a part of me and who have shaped the person that I am.  Many of them have died, yet their words live on, still rippling through time, shaping the generations.

I also want to be a writer who makes money from my writing.  It seems to me that the only way a writer can really make money and influence lots of people is to become known by the masses, to write a best seller, to have her name mentioned in households everywhere, or to have a blog article go viral.  I can’t imagine how this would happen to me, but it is still a dream.  I feel like every time I sit down and write something, however small and insignificant it may seem, I am that much closer to achieving that goal.  But is my work like chipping away at a mummy?

I think God is trying to keep me on track.  When I connect my dreams with the image of that mummy, I shudder with a cold chill.  That is not what I want!  I do not want to spend my life working for something cold and lifeless that most certainly will be blown away by any small wind of criticism, changing times, or fickle public opinion.  If this is my focus, I will most certainly fail.  I can only write something of significance if it comes from my relationship with God and is written to please Him.

Next my thoughts turn back to the necklace that I had so flippantly passed by.  That must be the treasure that God has for me, the goal of my life.  What exactly is that necklace supposed to represent?  Silver with light blue and deep blue.  A necklace fit for a queen.

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I am certain that the necklace represents the presence of God.  How could I pass up such a beautiful gift in favor of a mummy?  I have begun to evaluate my days with this test – am I going after the necklace or the mummy today?

Many times I think that His presence is my goal, but I get so distracted by getting things done.  Many times I think that all I need is His approval but find myself straining to gain the approval of others.  Many times I feel so discouraged by how little progress I make on anything measurable during the course of my day.  But it is the immeasurable things that really matter in this life.  I am determined not to miss those things!  This takes exercising my faith and spiritual eyes, because those things are invisible and so easy to pass by.  But in the light of eternity, they will grace me with the identity that will last forever…the Bride of the King.

In the months following this dream, I have had several encounters with God.  He began to slowly and gently reveal more about His presence and the treasure of this necklace…more about that in my coming articles; Encounters with God Part 2 and 3.

 

 

 

Will I See My Papa Again?

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It was a warm summer night and the sun had not yet set.  My brother and I were hanging out with our friends at the close of our youth group meeting.  Our youth pastor, Bryan, came up to us and said, “Your mom is in the office and wants to see you.”

That was very unusual.  My mom didn’t attend our church and she never came on a Wednesday night.  When we entered Bryan’s office, Mom told us that we had to call our grandfather, “Papa” as we called him.  He lived in Wisconsin and we only saw him and our Grammy twice a year; at Christmas and during summer vacation.  We loved them dearly, yet I didn’t understand why mom had driven all the way into the city to make sure that we called him on the church telephone.

“Your Papa is going into surgery early tomorrow morning, and I wanted you to talk to him before that,” Mom explained.

With the excitement of the approaching summer vacation and my graduation from High School, I had completely forgotten that Papa was scheduled to get a hip replacement.  He was in his eighties but still seemed fairly young to me.  He and Grammy loved to go hiking, yet in recent years his hip pain had made even walking very difficult for him.  The past summer, Papa didn’t breathe a word about his pain, yet I saw him trembling and breathing with slow, shaky breaths whenever he sat down or got up again.  Grammy was anxious to get back to their active lifestyle and urged him to get the hip replaced.

I wasn’t worried about his surgery.  He had gotten his other hip done a few years back, and it seemed rather routine.  I took the phone and told him that I loved him and hoped his surgery went well.  I thought my mom had been silly to insist upon this call. After all, we would see him in person soon.

That was the last time I ever had the opportunity to talk to my Papa, and how thankful I am now for that phone conversation and my mom’s intuition.  Days later we learned that something had gone wrong after the surgery, a nasty infection.  Papa’s vital signs went haywire, and he was about to die.  The doctors were doing everything they could to stabilize him.  In the scary chaos, they asked Grammy if they should put Papa on life support.  She looked at the love of her life, the man she adored, her partner for more than 63 years.  She saw him dying and thought the doctors were asking her if they should save his life or let him die.  Of course she chose to save his life.

She told me later that she didn’t understand what life support really meant.  If she had known at the time that it meant hooking her beloved husband up to all sorts of tubes and equipment, keeping his body alive in a sort of artificial limbo state; she never would have agreed to it.

Yet there he was, in the hospital bed, being sustained by machines.  Grammy’s heart was broken and so were ours.  Everything had changed.  No more hiking trips.  No more happy summer vacations listening to Papa’s funny stories.  No more Christmases with my grandfather and his white hair all mussed up from getting out of bed so early in the morning.

There could be a miracle.  I believed in miracles and I prayed for a miracle for Papa.  I thought about what a precious man he was.  He had met Grammy when he was 21 and Grammy was only 16.  He walked her home from the ice skating rink and never had eyes for another girl.  They waited 10 years to get married so they could save money to build a house.

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Harold and La Vera Gisselman on their wedding day

That adorable house was still their home and one of my favorite places in the world.  To read more about my memories, read my article, “The Term is Over” and “Happy 100th Birthday Grammy.”

He was called into the army during WWII, but never left the United States thanks to his excellent typing skills. That was a very good thing, because during that time, my mother was conceived!

Harold and Dana

After the war, he began working at a bank as a teller and worked his way to becoming the bank president.  He was known by many of the people in the small city of Wausau, and was affectionately called “Chick” even though his name was Harold.  He was always easy with conversation and jokes and was great fun to be around.

He was a very honorable man and attended a Methodist church.  He didn’t talk much about his faith.  In fact, when I had a life-altering salvation experience at the age of 14 and started attending a Charismatic church, he didn’t seem that interesting in talking about it.  I wondered if he really had a relationship with Jesus.  Had he ever asked Jesus to forgive his sins and take him to heaven?  I didn’t know.  The thought of never seeing my Papa again terrified me.

That week I graduated from High School.  The graduation ceremony was lovely.  I had some of my closest friends back to my house afterwards to celebrate.  We stayed up most of the night, talking.  There is so much to talk about when you are on the verge of the rest of your life; with missions trips, college, and careers all on the horizon.

Then we got into a circle, grabbed hands, and began to pray.  We prayed for each other, prayed for our futures.  Then I began to pray for my Papa.

“God, I ask that you would do a miracle and heal Papa.  If he doesn’t know you, Jesus, DON’T LET HIM DIE!  Heal him and speak to him and let him know your love.  If he does know you, if he is going to heaven, then let him die.  I don’t want him to have to suffer indefinitely, unable to talk or really live.  If he is saved, please take him to heaven,” I prayed.

I looked up at the clock and it said 2:30am.  It was time to wrap up this party.  My friends returned home and I fell asleep in my living room, curled up on the recliner.

In the morning my mom gently shook my shoulder.  “Last night your Papa died,” she said.

I was so sleepy, that I didn’t respond except to let out a sad, “Ohhhhhh.” Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I couldn’t explain the peace that I felt.  My mom expected me to be quite distraught, and she hated to give me the news on the day after I graduated.

Later, when I was fully awake, I asked my mom, “What time did Papa die?”

“It was 1:30am,” she answered.

My heart sank.  He died before I had prayed that prayer.  I didn’t have any assurance that I would see my Papa again.

Then I remembered.  Papa had passed away at 1:30am Wisconsin time.  That was 2:30am our time here in Pennsylvania, the exact time that I had asked Jesus to carry him to heaven!

 

The Wonder of a Little Girl

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My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

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She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

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The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?

A Bedroom Makeover that took 18 years (and a Mother’s thoughts on the graduation of her firstborn)

I have been dreaming about decorating a little girl’s room for some time now…18 years to be exact.  When I was pregnant with my first child, we didn’t know the gender of the baby.  We chose a neutral Noah’s Ark bedroom set to put on our baby registry.  Our baby girl seemed to be delighted with her bedroom.  This also worked for our next baby, a boy who was born 18 months later.  Areli and Cole shared a room and the animals in muted colors worked great for them.

However, when Areli turned three she became a big girl almost overnight.  She was totally potty-trained and moved into a big bed.  As I searched for the perfect comforter set, I began to dream of decorating a room for her.  Perhaps soon we would move to a bigger home and Areli could have her own room, a GIRL’S room!

I found a lovely comforter and sheet set called, “Mariposa.”  It had butterflies on a purple and yellow back ground.  For the next few years I played with decorating ideas.  I would paint imaginary walls in my mind, first bright yellow, then lavender.  I would experiment with different colors of curtains.  I decided that I would frame the adorable Anne Geddes baby butterflies in white frames and put them up all over the walls.   The most beautiful little girl’s room began to take shape, and I was so proud of myself.  Areli was going to be thrilled!

The years passed and we never did get a home big enough to give Areli her own room.  We never had the time or money to paint walls and decorate, and then we rented for several years.  Boring white walls became the norm for us.

Finally we moved into our own home and Areli got the largest bedroom…to share with two brothers.  Eventually the brothers moved out and a sister moved in.  There was even a baby in there a few times.  Yet we never seemed able to patch the cracking walls and paint over the dull and faded yellow.

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I still held on to my dream of a purple and yellow room for Areli.  However, Areli was now growing up and developing her own dreams.  I realized that purple, yellow, and butterflies had nothing to do with her dreams.  She preferred green, blue, horses, football, and photography.  She had developed tastes that were totally different from mine!  How did this happen?

This is all that is left of my dreams.

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A picture that is being stored in the attic and faded old sheets that used to be purple.

This year Areli turned 18.  She has grown into a beautiful and capable young woman.  She is so very like me, yet so totally different.

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She has different tastes in books, movies, clothes, and interior decorating.  She still loves green and blue and football and photography.  She helps so much around our home.  She loves and serves her family everyday with grace and endurance.

It was finally time for a bedroom makeover – ARELI STYLE!

Chris had a week off of work right around Areli’s 18th birthday.  He spent much of it fixing her walls, painting, and hanging window treatments and decorations.

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Areli picked the color “Electric Lime.”  When I saw it on the wall for the first time I thought, “Oh my!  Was that really what Areli wanted?”

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SHE LOVES IT!  Her dream had become a reality!  Now she has the perfect girl’s room in which to do her school work, hang out, and rest.  She still has to share it with a younger sister, but I think she feels like it is finally truly a room for HER, designed by her.

Areli graduates from High School in less than two weeks.  She has worked ahead and has already finished all of her classes with straight As.  She is going to work on her photography over the summer and get a job in the fall.  Her plan is to attend a Discipleship Training School with Youth With a Mission the following year.  I am excited for her!  The sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless.  With all the missions organizations all over the world, she could do anything and go anywhere.  Her future potential is boundless!

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However, all this is very sad for a mom.  When I think about my home without Areli in it, I just want to cry.  How will I make it without her?  She helps me so much with all the household duties and taking care of the younger children.  More importantly, she is a wonderful friend, an oasis of womanly wisdom in a sea of boys.  She is the person who always understands me.  She is my companion when Chris is working long hours.

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The other day I had a precious hour of free time before bed.  I decided to spend it connecting with God, sitting on the love-seat in my bedroom.  I was going to read and pray and write in my journal.  When I entered, I found Areli sitting on my love seat, reading a book that I had always loved, and taking notes in her journal.  I felt my heart swell with joy as I realized something.  Areli had fully absorbed all I have tried to teach her.  She has heeded my instruction, and she has also watched my life and followed my example.  She has taken ownership of her faith and she deliberately seeks out truth.  She has worked to learn and remember what is important.

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She is so much like me yet so different from me…and so much better.  My ceiling is her foundation.  She is strong and mature…and almost ready to fly.

I want to whoop and holler in excitement for Areli…the successful efforts of my mothering!  I want to curl up in a ball and sob for the same reason…for the beautiful “Electric Lime” room that will soon be half-way empty and for the vacant place in my heart.

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I am so glad that we finally gave Areli that bedroom makeover that I had always been planning…even if it did take 18 years.  Secretly I am hoping it might help her to stay a little longer, and beckon her to return to this safe haven again and again and again.

 

A Fresh Start for Mom

In November my mom started acting strangely.  We were all together for Thanksgiving, but she wasn’t herself.  The children haven’t seen their grandma since that day.

Since then, Mom has been in and out of 4 different hospitals.  Her mental and physical state has fluctuated wildly.  I have long since lost count of how many doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, and social workers I have talked to.  None of them could tell me why this was happening or how exactly they planned on fixing it.  The plans were not so much focused on bringing abundant health, but more on stabilizing her.  And the plans changed almost daily.

I would visit mom when I could.  None of the hospitals were places that I enjoyed spending several hours in, let alone weeks at a time.  Stark, barren, clinical.  Very little that was cheery or beautiful to look at.  Very little to do.  No fresh air or access to the outdoors.  Mom and I were both dreaming of a better environment in which she could convalesce.

When I was in my mom’s house one day, collecting some clothes to bring to her, I notice this pretty decoration.

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It was the stone that she had received at our church on Mother’s Day.  It carried a message that I hoped would be true for her life.  I prayed that she could have a fresh start.

It was finally decided that she was stable enough to be released to assisted living.  Mom and I were both so excited!  I had found a lovely, friendly place that would become her new home.  It had a large “apartment” for her.  It had a nice dining room and common area with a fire-place and piano.  It had a courtyard where she could do some gardening.

I prepared for her to be transferred.  I gathered necessary and homey items from her house.  When I was out shopping I found this little sign and thought it would give Mom a positive message to look at, day after day, in her new room.

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I was hoping that it would give her comfort when she felt the pain of what she had lost.  I prayed it would give her hope in the difficult days of transition.

It really could be possible that once Mom adjusts to her new home, meets new friends, and participates in new activities, she will be happier than before.  Perhaps with the burden of taking care of her home and herself is lifted, she will feel a sense of freedom.  Maybe her loneliness will fade away and she will enjoy life afresh!  Perhaps God will draw her to himself like never before and will make her Valley of Trouble into a Door of Hope (Hosea 2:15).

I was sure praying that all of that would be true, but I felt worried too.  Was it too much to ask for?  Too much to expect?

I found out on Friday that the Assisted Living Home couldn’t take her until Monday.  My heart dropped.  Another weekend in that boring hospital with the screaming lady right down the hall.

“Oh well, God, work all these things for Mom’s good,” I prayed.

I got busy putting together all the details.  I compiled stacks of paperwork.  I worked on checklist after checklist.  I wrote everything important on the calendar for Monday to be sure I wouldn’t forget.  As I was writing on the little square that represented March 20th, 2017, I realized that I was writing around the words that were preprinted there…

First Day of Spring!

                My heart leapt!  My eyes filled with tears of joy!  Even though the delay seemed like a trial, it was God’s plan all along.  His plan was good.  His plan was full of Hope.  His plan was for a Fresh Start!

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Will you all pray for my Mom?  For abundant health and life?  For a heart after God?  For an awareness of God’s goodness?  For a recognition of all His good gifts He gives her with each new day?  For a Fresh Start and a Spring Season?

Thank you!!!!!

Reasons Why I NEED a Master Bathroom

I found myself cold, wet, wrapped in a towel and crammed into the bathroom closet.

“I NEED a master bathroom!” I yelled out in desperation to God, the universe and anyone who would listen.

How did I end up here, sandwiched between the drawers full of toiletries and the rack of hanging clothes, wishing I could dry off and just GET DRESSED IN PEACE?!!  I made the fatal mistake that many moms make…I unlocked the door.

We live in a house built in 1924.  It is lovely and full of character.  We only have one full bathroom for the 11 of us as well as one half-bath.  The full bath is extremely large for an older home…but it is only ONE bathroom for the 11 of us.  The door only locks with a skeleton key just like all the other doors in the house.  When we moved into the house in 2007, we noticed an entire cabinet built just to hold all the skeleton keys, 55 hooks in all.  There were only a fraction of the keys left, maybe 15.  Now we only have 6, some of which are probably for doors that are no longer hanging.  That leaves 2 skeleton keys left to lock the bathroom, our bedroom, and the attic door.  Therefore the children no longer have access to said Keys.

That day I had taken the Key out of hiding and locked the door.

Ahhhhhh!  Peace!  I turned the worship music on high and enjoyed my alone time as I took a shower.  I was just drying off when my husband knocked on the door.

“Yes?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed at the intrusion.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

I usually open the door for my husband, so against my better judgement I turned that key in the lock.  The door opened a crack.

“Quick, get into the closet!” my husband said with urgency.  “Calvin really has to go and someone is in the downstairs bathroom.”

“WHAT!”

“Come on!  It will just take him a minute.  Get in the closet,” Chris told me.  Calvin is seven and bathroom needs can be fairly urgent at that age.

So there I was in the closet – cold, wet, and crammed…and wondering what was taking so long.

“Oh, you don’t just have to go pee Calvin?” I heard Chris say.  “Come on, Calvin! Hurry!”

I began to feel panic rising in my throat.  I was stuck in there while Calvin was…you know!

“I should have never unlocked that door!” I yelled out to Chris and to myself and to all the mothers of the world –

“ DON’T UNLOCK THAT DOOR!”

I began that moment to compile a list of reasons why I NEED a master bathroom.

1. My husband and I could use the privacy!

2.I don’t want my toddlers and young children to have access to my rather expensive toiletries.

This is the reason for numbers 2, 3, and 4. Courage was trying to use my Miracle Skin Salve (it is the only thing that will help heal Ashlyn’s outbreaks of psoriasis and costs $30 for a small jar).  He dropped the entire thing in the toilet.  I have resorted to storing that replacement jar among other precious items in the “feminine drawer” in the bathroom closet.  So far, so good.  It remains unmolested.

3.I would like to maintain the integrity of  my medications.

I have a natural throat spray that is a life saver during a bad sore throat. I used it several times before I realized that the taste was really off.  I finally deduced that Courage had poured out most of the throat pray and then had added tap water.  Cadin told me later that Courage had also spit in it.  Why he didn’t think that information was important to tell me immediately, I do not know.  The new throat spray is now stored in the box of nursing pads.  So far so good.

4. I don’t want to “share” my hair products with a three-year-old.

My almost full bottle of Shine Serum  went missing. Weeks later Courage told me that he had poured it all out into the trash.  The new bottle in now being stored in the “feminine drawer”, fingers crossed.

5. I no longer want to unsuccessfully scour the entire house to find important items that should be right where I left them, such as the tweezers, fingernail clippers, hair accessories, and even toilet paper.

6. I don’t want to wonder what has touched my towel during the course of the day.

7. I could offer my children more bathroom time.

I noticed a water bottle in my teenage son’s room. It contained a yellow liquid I found very suspect.  When I asked Cole about it, he replied, “What do you expect me to do when you girls are in the bathroom?”

“Wait!” came my indignant reply.

“Sometimes there is someone in the downstairs bathroom, and I just can’t wait.”

“Well, you can at least empty the bottle!”

“Why?  It is not full yet,” Cole said matter-of-factly.

I would wager to say that Cole could benefit from me having a master bathroom, and I could stop becoming slightly nauseated whenever I pass his room.

  1. I could avoid stepping in a pee puddle when using the toilet in the middle of the night.

  2. I could save my daughter from the horror.

    I already told my sweet teenage daughter that if we got a master bathroom, she could use it and escape the jungle that is our current bathroom –the inevitable misses from six boys who like to pee all over the place and also don’t feel the need to flush down ANYTHING!

  3. Most importantly, I don’t ever want to be naked in the closet again while my son goes poop!

Chris has already come up with an ingenious plan to get us that master bathroom.  Our bedroom has a door that leads to an outside porch that already has a roof on it.  He just needs to enclose the porch and bring up the water from the laundry room below.  Of course there will be a million other details to consider and the expense of doing all of that.  So I have decided to start a Go Fund Me Account. If you would like to donate to our very worthy cause, just look up “Pooping in Peace for Every Brandenburg.”

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Found this lovely bathroom on Love of Family and Home , and look!  No pee puddles on the floor.  I am in love!

Just kidding! This article was written for the pure entertainment value….but if you should feel a burden for our family and want to give us a brand new master bathroom….we wouldn’t turn you down.

Fear Won’t Steal My Voice

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As a young child, I believed several lies about myself.  I felt that I was vastly inferior in certain areas such as physical appearance, social graces, coordination, athletic ability, and the ability to speak with people I didn’t know very well.  I was sure that I would be rejected, so the fear of rejection was my constant companion.  I didn’t know about “the fear of rejection”, this was just my reality.  It was just the way the world worked, and I lived and made decisions to protect myself from rejection.

In Elementary school I always got an “A ”in conduct, because I was well behaved and talked very little.  I didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to myself. I wanted to hide or at least blend in to avoid any negative reactions.  In new situations with new people, I felt almost paralyzed by the fear.  Faced with a social situation that required small talk, my mind became absolutely blank.  I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Fear would steal my voice.

This continued until junior high when something amazing happened.  God began to alter my path.  My first boyfriend, Jesse, invited me to his church (Word Fellowship which is now Life Center) for a youth event.  I agreed to go simply because I liked Jesse so much.  I found myself in the church gym, surrounded by the overpowering smell of fresh onions, helping to assemble hundreds of subs for the youth fundraiser.  [Here is a little fun fact: who do you think rode into the gym on a skateboard and was introduced to me as Jesse’s best friend?  None other than Chris Brandenburg!  Of course I was too shy to really talk to him at that point.]

This youth fundraiser was also an overnight event complete with food and fun games.  Jesse was very outgoing and knew everyone at the church.  He also loved the game of bombardment, which is similar to dodge ball.  The thought of participating in anything that would expose my physical awkwardness was terrifying to me.  I was hoping that Jesse would sacrifice his love for the game to stay with me.  But he didn’t.  He left me in the youth room while he returned to the gym.

I found a chair to sit in and felt completely alone.  The fear of rejection had me so paralyzed that I didn’t move from that spot for what seemed like hours.  Other students came and went, some sitting close to me to carry on a conversation.  But not a single person spoke to me.  I didn’t move or even look at them.  I tried to become invisible and wished I had never come.

Yet when Jesse invited me to come to a Wednesday night youth service, I found myself saying, “I’ll be there.”  I showed up that Wednesday night, but I still felt very uncomfortable.  A ray of sunshine by the name of Patty Leach (wife of the youth pastor) shone on me.  She said with a big smile on her lovely face, “So you are Anne?  You are a lot prettier than Jesse’s last guest.” [Disclaimer: Jesse’s last guest was a boy so this was not really an insult to say that he wasn’t pretty.]

Just the fact that someone had spoken to me and called me pretty was very encouraging!  I continued to come for a few months and felt confused by this charismatic church culture.  It was all new and strange.

One wintery Wednesday night changed everything for me – forever!  There was a guest speaker who I had never seen before.  At the end of his sermon, he asked us to come up to the front if we wanted prayer.  I found myself standing in the front with a whole crowd of other teenagers.  I don’t know how I got there, as usually fear would have me rooted to my seat.  He began to pray for the students and they seemed really impacted. A few of them started to cry.

“I wonder if he will know that I don’t believe in this stuff.”  I thought to myself.

Sure enough, he knew.  The youth pastor, John Leach, appeared seemingly out of nowhere and asked if I wanted to be saved.  The truth was, I didn’t know what “saved” meant and had never heard the “sinner’s prayer.”  But I said yes, and repeated the prayer after John.  I hadn’t been looking for God.  I didn’t believe in Him or felt that I needed Him.  Yet He burst into my heart anyway.  I felt Him and I felt His amazing love for me.  The scales fell off of my eyes and the world seemed entirely new to me.

This was the beginning of my freedom from fear!  It didn’t happen overnight.  I came each Wednesday night to youth group which was called Heirborne, but I still hadn’t made many friends.  It seemed that everyone else was a part of the group but me.  I was a silent observer most of the time.  One night I went home feeling the sting of rejection.  No one had been mean to me, but I felt like such an outsider.

“I can’t continue to do this to myself, this is torture.” I reasoned.  I would just have to tell Jesse that this church thing wasn’t really for me.  I was very serious about never returning to Heirborne again.

I never did have that conversation with Jesse. I was probably just too shy.  I found myself at youth group each Wednesday and gradually I made friends.  Slowly I learned that small talk wasn’t brain surgery.  Slowly I began to feel like I belonged there.

Sometime during my high school years, John’s brother Bryan took over as youth pastor.  He had a crazy idea; the youth should help to lead Heirborne.  He chose a group of us and called us the SALT team (Student Action Leadership Team).  Just the fact that Bryan had chosen me sent me an important message.  I had value.  I didn’t have to be like anyone else.  I could be myself, and I could be an important member of the team.  Bryan and his wife Marcey helped me to realize my worth.

We would meet once a week to pray and plan the next youth meeting.  We would take turns being responsible for different parts of the service – offering, announcements, and the teaching.  We would brainstorm wild ideas for skits or fun games that would illustrate the main point of the teaching.  I found myself up front speaking, teaching, or even dressed in crazy costumes doing ridiculous skits.  Talk about being out of my comfort zone!

Just the fact that I was able to get up in front of a group of people and talk was MIRACULOUS!

Once I was chosen to portray a “party girl” in a skit.  It was supposed to be a game show that had many different types of people answering the questions.  I would have never chosen this character for myself, being just the opposite of a “party girl.”  Yet I was determined to do the best job that I could.  I wore the closest thing to a mini skirt that I owned (which really was practically down to my knees).  A friend teased my hair until it was perfect 80s “big hair”.  I got out there with all the other crazy characters and acted as loud and obnoxious as I could, yelling out about wanting a case of “Red Bull.”

I felt absolutely ridiculous, yet there was no fear!  I wasn’t worried about being rejected by the other teens at youth that night.  I was just having fun and hoping that I could help the other teens have fun, feel a part of the group, and learn about God.  I stopped thinking about myself and began to want to be a blessing to others.  Fear became less and less a part of my life as I graduated High School and did missions with Youth With A Mission.  Preaching in front of others and meeting new people from all over the world became exhilarating.

I came back from YWAM and married that kid on the skateboard, Chris Brandenburg.  After a year of working and being youth leaders, we moved to Colorado Springs. We became part of a small church, but after 7 years I experienced the biggest rejection of my life.

I had always dealt with the FEAR of rejection but now what I had dreaded had come upon me.  The church (which was comprised of our leaders, closest friends, and spiritual family – almost our ENTIRE support network there in Colorado), kicked us out.  The main leader, Mary, told Chris that we could no longer be part of the church because of MY iniquities.  She said that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said I was holding Chris back from his destiny and that I was not the woman that God had wanted him to marry.  She said that I would one day leave him.  Once that happened, Chris could return to the church. Imagine hearing these words from someone you honored and respected as your leader.  I honored and respected Mary, but I also feared her. Mary had spoken harsh words to me before.  I had tried my best to follow God, yet she was always able to find something about me to criticize.  I remember thinking, “I will never be free until Mary dies.”  Isn’t that horrible?

Thankfully Mary didn’t have to die for me to be free from fear.  She just had to reject me, and God began to set me free!

I sought God like never before and do you know what I realized?

All of His words to me were good!

He loved me, more that I could take in or comprehend!

He delighted in me and actually liked me!

He gave me so much joy, more than I had ever had before!

He began to show me that the church that had rejected me did not have His heart.  Rather, they were working for the Accuser of the Brethren.  I am sure that the enemy of my soul, that dirty rotten liar of an accuser had a plan that he thought was fool proof.  He would link my heart and my identity to this little church and then turn them against me.  I would finally suffer the dreaded REJECTION and receive a mortal wound that would fester until the bitterness had consumed me.

BUT GOD…

GOD came down and saved me and filled me with His acceptance.  He loved me no matter what I had done right or wrong.  He loved me whether I had accomplished anything important or not.  Because of Him, I had a value that nothing could ever take away.

I had come face to face with my greatest fear.

I had met REJECTION and stared into its ugly, contorted face and you know what…it wasn’t so bad.

In fact, I actually felt honored that a church that had fallen so far from the Amazing Grace of God had rejected me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the type of person that they would have accepted – one that feared men more than God.  It was a compliment that The Accuser had felt that I was enough of a threat to come after me like that.

Now I look back at that rejection and feel that it was one of the biggest blessings in my life!  I learned so much about God and about myself, and I was set free from that cult.  Of course I had a lot of healing to do, a lot of wrong teachings to unlearn.

Again, Life Center played a big role in my freedom from fear.  A year after that big rejection, Life Center offered Chris a job and helped to move us back to PA.  The atmosphere of love and acceptance at that wonderful church was just what we needed to heal.

I would love to say that now I never feel fear, that I boldly go speaking the Words of God wherever I go.  That is not the case.  Fear, specifically fear of rejection, is still my biggest hurdle to overcome before doing anything out of my normal routine.  Something as simple as making a phone call, walking across the street to talk to a neighbor, initiating a conversation with a stranger, or speaking in front of a group can bring on a flurry of anxious thoughts.  I would rather stay in my safe zone and never have to risk rejection again.  But now, it is usually very easy to silence those thoughts.  I simply stop thinking about myself and ask God to make me a blessing to whoever I am going to encounter.

Speaking at the Propel meeting was just an example of this.  I have enjoyed attending the monthly Propel meetings over the last year.  I have sat in the audience and looked up on stage at the many beautiful women and have been touched by their amazing stories.  Yet, I would think to myself, “I would never want to sit up there with them where everyone could see me and realize that I am not as pretty as the others.”

When Patty called me last week to ask if I would share at the February meeting, immediately that fearful thought flashed through my mind.  I heard myself saying, “Yes, I can be there,” because there was a much more dominating thought.  That thought was, “I know that God has put something inside of me that could be a blessing to the other women…

 and I don’t want fear to steal my voice again!”

Fear tried to silence my voice.  But in God I have found my voice.  Many times when I talk to a group or one on one – I can feel God speaking through me.  I feel lies being broken.  I feel atmospheres shifting.  I feel hope rising.  I feel peace coming down and settling.  When I am in tune with Christ, THERE IS POWER in my voice!  Yet many times I must chose to overcome fear before I am able to open my mouth.

Fear feels to me like Paul’s thorn in the flesh.  In 2 Cor 12:8-10 he says, “Three times I pleaded with the LORD to take it away from me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

There is also power in my written words.  Power to crack open strongholds.  Power to impart wisdom.  Power to lead others to God.  I have loved exploring the power of my written words with this blog.  There is a certain amount of fear involved with telling your inner most thoughts to the world.  But I am not trying to make myself look perfect to avoid rejection.  In fact, most of my articles are about my weaknesses, my insecurities, my mistakes, and my failures. That is where I find His Grace.  That is where my real power lies – in my imperfection.  For when I am weak…

Then God shows Himself Strong!

One Woman’s Stand : March for Life 2017 by Patricia Leach

I am so excited to introduce my second guest blogger, Patricia Leach.  She was one of the first to show love to a scared and shy teenager when I first visited Life Center (Word Fellowship at that time) back in 1989.  She became my pastor and my role model as I watched her live a life of integrity and compassion.  Now I am honored to call her my dear, dear friend!  She participated in the March for Life on January 27th and here is her story. 

Many years ago I walked with my eldest son, then only four years old, in a local pro-life parade sponsored by one of our community’s pregnancy centers. David’s tiny hands clenched the cardboard sign that together we had crayoned in shades of blue and pink. He was focused on our course and held his Walk for Life placard with bold resolve. Beside us, my husband with baby #2 in tow added the exclamation point that we are a family who stand for life.

In preparation for the event and in the simplest of terms, I had explained to David what it meant for a woman to choose to have an abortion. His cherubic face tightened in disbelief that such a procedure could be performed upon a baby living inside its mommy’s ‘tummy’. Far too young to grasp the issue’s many ramifications, his incredulous expression still captured the dreadfulness of this senseless practice.

What began as an impulse born from such a conviction became a reality when I decided to attend the 44th March for Life in Washington, D.C. My involvement in the pro-life movement has included stints of red-taped-LIFE silent protests on the state capitol stairs, an annual Mother’s Day fundraiser – the Baby Bottle Blast – and for many years, our own personal monthly contribution to the same local pregnancy center. But to join the national gathering? I often watched the previous marches from the comfort of my home, admiring those braving the elements while adding my amen to impassioned speeches and faith-filled prayers. Somehow this year was different. I had to go.

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Maybe, too, it was the recent footage of an earlier march that week that motivated me. Other women had descended on Washington for what appeared to be a variety of causes. And though I support their cry for equal and respectful treatment, much of the rhetoric fell flat to me against the backdrop of anger and vulgarity. Their assembling also included an unwillingness to embrace women with my pro-life viewpoint. What was deemed ‘The Women’s March’ lacked the very openness and acceptance they purported. In many ways, they did not stand for me. So early the day of the March for Life, I headed south with a friend to join what turned out to be hundreds of thousands and show my support. In going, I didn’t need anyone to stand for me;

I wanted to make a stand.

Upon arriving at the National Mall, we caught our first glimpses of the day. The crispness in the air hinted to the clarity of vision we would share with fellow marchers. Unfurled in the distance surrounding the Washington Monument, a circle of Stars and Stripes silently witnessed a cause rallying with pride.

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Our feet fell in step upon well-manicured grounds, as slowly we made our way through the security checkpoint and secured a spot to hear the presentations. Chants of ‘We are the pro-life generation’ earmarked this vocal vigil which earlier began with songs of worship, The National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. Lawmakers who have challenged the status quo of Roe v. Wade rallied the crowd with hopes of legislative strides. Each succeeding speaker’s message, though all passionate, was distinctly set within parameters of compassion and civility, as if the movement itself had matured and wrapped its arms around the many casualties – yes, the babies, but mothers and fathers, too – that such a history of atrocities had produced. In the press of humanity we stood, fully aware that we were partaking in a moment.

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And then the trek began – about a mile and a half journey up Constitution Avenue to the Supreme Court and Capitol Building. A sea of people – some reports 600,000 strong – formed a wave of movement deep and wide.

Donning colored caps, individual groups could be identified more easily, and it soon became evident we owed a debt of gratitude to our Catholic brothers and sisters for their belief in the sanctity of life. Priests, nuns and parochial students comprised a large constituency, their prayers petitions in the walk to the legislature.

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Other faces, too, formed this underpinning of a movement more energized than ever before. The trio of grandmother-daughter-granddaughter marching together and the countless smiles of so many, many young people, all spoke to the generational value now placed on the pro-life message.

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The faces of black, white, Hispanic and others – women AND men – holding signs, walking arm-in-arm, united for the unborn, for those individuals from a variety of backgrounds too young to stand for themselves.

The exception-to-the-rule faces, courageous mothers and children holding pink placards stating ‘My mom was conceived in rape – I love our lives’ caught my breath and filled my eyes with tears.

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The ‘quitters’, professed former medical personnel who once assisted with abortions – their lives now redeemed by a message of forgiveness – boldly proclaimed the Gospel of peace.

And mostly, the victims, the 58 million sacrificed in our national holocaust, whose voices will never be heard and whose lives will always be missed. Their absence was the most prominent, yet their unseen faces the most cherished.

My son David is now a father. As daddy to our first grand baby, he understands fully what words failed to explain those many years ago. His very hands were the first to greet her as a thriving unborn, she crossed the threshold into this side of living. Someday I will tell her of my impulse escapade and the day I marched for life.

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But that is not what is noteworthy. If my influence has merit, then may I be a role model to how a strong woman stands – for the unborn yes, but also in the many arenas where life is not deemed as precious. She stands for her convictions, and she stands with character. She may stand with others, yet she may stand alone. Ultimately, it is to God she must answer and from Him, she is graced to stand.

 

Something Very Personal By Edna Specht Beyer

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I am pleased to introduce my first guest blogger, Edna Specht Beyer, my paternal grandmother.  She actually passed away when I was in elementary school, and I never knew her very well.  Recently my mother uncovered some of Edna’s writings, and I have gotten to know her much better.  It turns out that she was a writer like me.  Or maybe I am a writer like her.

                I had heard that Edna had met her husband Lenard through a personal ad in the newspaper.  The story was so vague that it never seemed real to me.  Well, now I have the true story, told by Edna herself.

“Something Very Personal”

By Mrs. Lenard K. Beyer

GREETINGS from corn belt!  Isolated young woman, book-worm, wishes interesting correspondence.  Favorite novel, “Old Wives’ Tale”; favorite Waltz, Blue Danube; favorite sport, hiking; favorite dog, Irish Setter. Pet aversion, bridge.  Yours?  Corn Belt Miss.

 Sitting in a corner of my quiet little room one November afternoon a good many years ago, I scribbled the above lines in lead pencil.  This originated one of the small human interest ads that filled a back page of “The Saturday Review of Literature” each week.  Having gotten around to launching into this journalistic adventure I had had no idea what I was going to write when I tentatively jotted down my friendly opening line.   After a puzzled five or ten minutes another sentence formed rather limpingly.  Then an idea popped into my head, and the mention of a book I loved gave me enthusiasm.  Now I really got under way!  Dashingly I wrote other favorites, and recklessly topped them with something I really hated, “per aversion, bridge.”  Signing off with “Yours? Corn Belt Miss”, I felt flushed and excited.  Filled with a sense of wonder at what I was doing, I went to my desk and clicked off a copy on my portable typewriter.  Rereading my paragraph neatly typed, I thought it looked pretty good.

Rereading the same paragraph today in a yellowed copy of a 1933 magazine I am surprised at how gay and casual it seems in the company of the “Cultured, widely traveled” woman and the young man “with no degrading habits”.  I know not whether these more dignified neighboring ads brought any results.  I do feel sure that none of the other “personals” on the page could have had more important consequences to their writers than my own lively little paragraph.

But as I sat in my room rereading my neatly typed copy I expected nothing in particular, although I felt excited and filled with a vague sense of adventure.  What fun it would be to look in the mail hoping to find letters from persons with similar interests — anyone, anywhere.  How thrilling the possibilities of bursting the boundaries of one’s familiar environment!  What interesting friendships might come to me!  And perhaps even —- romance, whispered a sly little inner voice.  But no, I silenced the silly suggestion with my school teacher’s sensibleness and authority.

Then an incident occurred which might have kept me from mailing my “personal”.  There was an imperative knock at my door and my mother called to me announcing a long distance call from another part of the state.  It proved to be an offer of a teaching position which had to be accepted or refused immediately.  It was accepted.  But in the midst of packing shopping and getting ready to leave for school the “personal” was not quite forgotten.

“You are not going to send that now?” was my mother’s dubious question in regard to my silly little experiment.

But it seemed that I did want to send it.  So I counted the words, wrote a check to the editor and addressed an envelope to the magazine.  And in my haste I did not forget to include the stamps that were to bring me the letters from the interested readers of my “personal”.  However, I had all but lost interest in my experiment.  As I dropped the letter at the post office on a trip down town to shop for dresses and shoes for the schoolroom I was too preoccupied to feel any continued sense of adventure.  I had entirely gotten over my thrill at bursting out of my little prison of conventionality.  So I rushed on to my shopping and packing.  I was starting to teach once more, and it seemed like any other Fall except that it was six weeks late and I must hurry.

One sunshiny morning in October almost a year later I was waiting in a state of high excitement for a Ford V8 to turn into our driveway.  I have never experienced at any other time such a strange mixture of thrills, curiosity, hopes, fears and excitement as the morning that I waited for Lenard to arrive after his long trip.  Lenard and I had corresponded for most of the preceding year, our letters steadily increasing in number and intimacy as the time went on.  I had spent hours and hours writing to him and he to me.  Early in the correspondence he had told me of the pitiful tragedy of the loss of his wife and new-born child.005  I felt all too strongly how much the letters from the girl in the west had come to mean to him.  As I started at the approach of each passing car I was almost overwhelmed by my sense of responsibility at letting him drive a thousand miles to meet me.  As I peered at the girl in the mirror in my room I wondered again and again if I would look like the person that he had built up in his mind out of the many snap shots that I had sent him.

And he — would he really be like his pictures and letters?

Early in the morning I had put on my nicest house dress and arranged my unruly black curls as smoothly as possible.  Since then I had wandered restlessly and nervously about the house waiting for a car with an eastern license plate to drive in. Should I have let him drive that thousand miles to see the girl of the letters?  Would I come up to his ideal?  Would I like him?  Could we take off where our letters had left off?  When we met face to face would we be the same persons that each had thought he was writing to?  Or would we be really strangers?  I knew what music he liked, what books he read, what views he held on many subjects, what his hobbies were, what he liked for breakfast.  But I didn’t know the sound of his voice, how he walked, what mannerisms he had.  How would we react to each other?  How would our personalities “mix” when we were together in the flesh?  The hours dragged on and I began to think that perhaps he wouldn’t arrive that day after all.  I went about doing some housework absent-mindedly.  It was nearly lunch time now.  By this time I had begun to just glance at the cars going by.  Then suddenly my Mother’s, “There’s a car ——-“.

“It isn’t ——–?”

“Yes it is ———-a Ford V8 and he is driving in.”

Now that my “big moment” had arrived I became suddenly fussy about going out to meet “him”.  My hair needed smoothing and so forth.  Finally with my heart seeming to stand still I hurried to the door.

“Edna,” asked the young man at our front door.

“Yes.”

“How are you?”

“Why – a — I’m so excited I don’t know what to do.”  It was the last thing I had meant to say.  We looked at each other uncertainly for a moment and then a little blankly.  After all our months of writing, waiting for each other’s letters, and counting on each other, we seemed practically strangers at that moment.  He seemed a very nice young man, even finer than I had imagined.  And he was better looking.  But he seemed to be another person.  With bewilderment I felt that the person I thought I had been writing to for the past eleven months had never existed and someone slightly resembling him stood in his place.  His voice was the greatest surprise.  He had a quicker, almost hasty way of speaking.  And I was overwhelmed by the unlikeness of the real person from his pictured likenesses.  And in my confusion I realized that without a doubt he was feeling the same way about me.  A few minutes later I was helping him carry in things from his car and showing him his room in our home.  Somewhat gropingly we were trying to make conversations based on our letters.

The next two or three days I like to pass over even in my own thoughts.  I still feel strained and embarrassed when I think of that stage of our experiment.  Then one dull October afternoon when we were walking in the deserted natural park near my home, we sat down on a park bench and faced the situation together.  We did not really know each other very well, it seemed, and there was great doubt of our achieving the deep feeling and companionship that we both wanted so much. Strange as it may seem, that painful admission brought a new sense of understanding between us.

Then a few days later, on Halloween Eve, we experienced a sense of revelation.  I will never forget that evening — the tang of the Fall outside, the mantel decorated with pumpkins and autumn leaves, the cheerful open fire and the magic of our feeling for each other.  And being entirely feminine I will always keep the dress that I wore that night, the one of midnight-blue with the frilled collar and cuffs and the full swirling skirt that Lenard liked so much.  After that enchanted All Hallows Eve the days and evenings passed all too fast.

Early one crisp frosty morning we stood together in front of my home saying reluctant good-byes.  Lenard was about to retrace the thousand mile trip that he had made alone to see a young woman he had discovered in a magazine  I said that we must put the third of a continent between us once more before deciding that we were sure.  I myself felt entirely sure, but wanted to give him every chance to know his own heart in regard to the girl that might fill the empty place in his life.  As he drove off I stood watching as long as I could see him.  Then I stood alone once more shivering in my wooly white sweater and wondering whether, if I pinched myself, the past two weeks would turn out to be a dream. But many letters and telegrams the next few weeks reassured me that my happiness was all very real.

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002At noon two days before the following New Years, Lenard and I stood before the holly and evergreen decorated fireplace of my home and exchanged marriage vows before a local minister.  A few days later his friends were surprised by the news that he had married a bride in the west.  And my friends were equally puzzled by the announcements that I had married an easterner and gone east to live.  Only one of his friends and one of mine have ever learned how it happened.  Even yet we are sometimes startled by the innocent question, “And how did you meet?” A staid college professor and his faculty wife can hardly answer that it was through the “personal” column of a magazine.

To the natural question of the reader as to how it has turned out I can answer more frankly and say that we seem happier than most of our friends.

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Edna, Lenard, and George

And not long ago Lenard and I told each other that if we had it to do over we would repeat our unconventional romance.  Other results of that little “personal” of years ago are occasional nature articles that we write and publish together, a home that we think is lovely and a son who is a leader in the religious and social work of his city.

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Edna and Lenard’s son, George, my father

Lenard and I and more especially our son often marvel at the part that chance in the form of a small item in a magazine can play in life.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading my Grandmother Beyer’s true story as much as I have!  I think she and I have a similar style of writing.  I am so happy to know her better and to realize that I share in her heritage.  Now I think I will go curl up with Edna’s favorite novel as stated in her personal ad, Old Wives’ Tale, and see it we share the same taste in books.

Why Did I Think We Needed a Puppy?

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I have always been anti-dog.  My house is already full of loud, messy, needy creatures.  What do I need a dog for?

“It would be so good for the children,” my husband would argue the pro-dog position.

“They are so cute!  And it would be fun,” the children would chime in.

“Don’t worry, we will get one…someday…when we have a lot of land and the dog can be an outside dog,” I would always answer.

I had no intention of sharing my home with a stinky, hairy animal that may or may not destroy the furniture and pee on the rug.  God, however, had different ideas.

I drive to a farm once a week to purchase raw milk and pastured eggs.  A few years ago, beagles began showing up on the farm until there were three beagles in three separate pens.  Soon there was a litter of the cutest little balls of fur in one of the pens.  The children would “ooohhhh” and “ahhhhh” over them and try to pet them through the chain link fence.  The puppies would trample over each other to get to the children, wild with excitement.

The children would come home with tales of the adorable puppies.

“Just call and find out how much they are,” Chris urged me.

“We don’t need a puppy right now.  I don’t WANT a puppy right now,” was my reply.

“Just call,” he said.

After I called and found out that each puppy would require a sum of $450, the talk of getting a puppy ceased.  The puppies grew up and were all adopted.  Then six months later another batch of puppies would appear wobbling out of their little dog house and into the penned-in yard.  I let the children have fun talking to them and petting them, but my heart was unmoved.  I never thought that beagles were that cute anyway.

This September, there was a new litter of seven puppies.  The farmer invited me and my children to peek into the dog house.  We saw the tiniest black bundles snuggled up to their mother. They seemed different somehow.  They were black and white.  Had any of the other beagle puppies been black and white?  I couldn’t exactly remember.

Soon they grew enough to venture into their yard.  I felt strangely drawn to these tiny creatures.  They were so adorable.  Areli took a pictures of them with her phone.  Cute, right?

The farmer let the children hold one, and they were in love.

“So how many of them are you going to take home?” the farmer asked.

I just laughed!

The next week there was a new sign at the farm that read, “Border Collie Beagle Puppies $100.”  I started thinking, “Hey, we could afford $100!  If all the children would pitch in, they could cover all the costs and help to take care of a puppy.”

Yet my thoughts scared me!  What was I thinking, even considering this?  We didn’t need a puppy!

I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind.  The children would be overjoyed to have a puppy, and I would love to fulfill their heart’s desire.  I told Chris my thoughts and he said, “If YOU want to get a puppy that is all the confirmation I need!  Call them and ask if we can pick one out.  You better hurry before they sell them all!”

I called the owner, who was the wife of the farmer’s brother.  She told me the funny story about these $100 puppies.  She and the farmer’s brother were planning their wedding and decided not to breed the beagles this season since the puppies would arrive right around the wedding date, early September.  Well nature, the dogs, or God himself had different plans.  When the female beagle was in heat, the Border Collie who lives on the farm chewed into her cage.

I laughed about the unplanned pregnancy that had produced such adorable pups.  I set up a time to bring the entire family to the farm that Friday evening.

On Friday morning I was feeling very nervous about this rather impulsive, impractical, and life changing decision…to go PICK OUT A PUPPY!  What was I thinking?!  I asked God to give me a scripture to confirm that this was a good decision for our family.

He gave me Psalm 34.  I read the beloved verses such as:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Look to him and be radiant so your faces shall never be ashamed.

The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Peace began to flood my soul and I thought, “A puppy must be a good thing that God wants to give to us.”

Later that day, all 11 of us crowded into a room in the barn.  The floor was wet since all the puppies had just been given a bath. They were so little and cute and active!  They would run around wagging their tails rapidly; licking, chewing, and jumping the entire time.  I had prayed that the Holy Spirit would highlight the perfect puppy for our family, yet I couldn’t even tell them apart!  I finally settled on one puppy that seemed to like Ashlyn. I always had thought that a dog would be good for Ashlyn since she loves animals. Cooper and Cadin picked another puppy with distinctive brown eye brows who was identified by the owner as the most active puppy of the bunch.  Areli and Cole had bonded with a shy little girl who had been so scared by the bath, she spent the first half of the visit in her owner’s arms.  Once she was let down to the floor, Cole scooped her up and she fell asleep. photo-10Areli took a turn cradling the sleeping pup.  Cole and Areli were in love.

After much discussion and debate, we finally settled on the sleeping pup.  A sweet and docile dog would be a good complement to our overactive boys.  She was the only puppy that the owner had already named because she was the favorite.  Her name was “Happy” due to her constantly wagging tail.

It was a good thing we went to the farm that night because the very next day, all six of Happy’s brothers and sisters were adopted!  We decided to keep her name “Happy” because we couldn’t all agree on a name.

Chris wanted to name her “Dog.”

Cadin wanted, “Gigi.”

Cooper thought something like, “Skullcrusher” would be more appropriate.

Areli and I preferred a sweet name like, “Ellie”.

Cole suggested, “Gonorrhea,” for the entertaining shock value.

Mercifully, the named had already been chosen!!  Now we just had to wait until Oct 8th when we could take Happy home.

After the exciting trip to the farm, I sat down to read through Psalm 34 again.  When I got to verse 8, it was like a revelation from God.

“O taste and see that the Lord is good;

HAPPY are those who take refuge in him.”

God knew that Happy was the puppy for us.  I felt that He knew it all along, and that He had planned all of us to bless us.

When October 8th came, we were all very excited!  The children held a rather apprehensive Happy on the van ride home.  She had already gotten bigger!photo-4  She seemed uncertain about her new home and finally found her happy place, snuggled in Ashlyn’s lap.

Neither Chris nor I had ever had a dog.  We knew very little about being dog owners.  I had gotten all kinds of books and DVDs from the library which the children and I had been studying.  I was preparing myself for a lot of work initially.  Areli said she would take Happy out during the night.  Cole said he would train her.  The other boys said they would take her out for walks and play time.

I had a vision in my head inspired by the many books and movies I had seen about dogs.  The children and the dog would be best friends, almost inseparable.  She would look up at them with adoration in her eyes, longing to please.  She would join them on their adventures in the woods.  They would become responsible pet owners and grow in maturity.

Three days after we brought her home we noticed something in her fur.  Fleas!!!  Just two of them, but I had never had fleas in my house before.  The internet said that one flea could turn into hundreds, maybe thousands in just a week.  My skin started to crawl and I was officially freaking out.  How do I naturally deal with fleas?  We gave her bathes in flea shampoo and vacuumed every day.

After a few weeks, we were all worn out and it seemed as though Happy hadn’t learned anything.  She hadn’t learned to sleep through the night and Areli was walking through her day like a zombie.  Cole hadn’t trained her to do anything.  Someone was assigned to watch her at every moment and take her outside every half an hour.  Still, dog pee and poop on the carpet was the new normal.

I thanked God that our carpet was so old that it really should be replaced anyway, but the smell and the extra cleaning was frustrating.  Just to make it interesting, Happy barfed and had diarrhea a few times as well.

I began to realize that I really knew nothing about dogs.  Is this all normal?  Is she ok, or is she sick?  What would I do if she got sick?  I know all about taking care of children and babies.  I know exactly how to treat all of the childhood maladies, but a dog I had no clue about.  How could we afford vet bills?  What vaccines does she need and which ones are unnecessary?  Should we get her spayed and how?

I reminded myself that Happy was a BLESSING from God and He would work all this out.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I would remind myself over and over again.  My happiness was not in the circumstances but in His unchanging love and goodness.

More weeks passed and Happy continued to chew on EVERYTHING!  We had to keep the floor cleaner than if we had a baby crawling around.  When she got something that could be dangerous, it became a game of, “who can catch the puppy and pry this thing out of her mouth.”

The most distressing reality to me was the fact that she like to chew on PEOPLE!  My people!  My little defenseless people!  Annalise was afraid of Happy because Happy could knock her down.  I would have to hold Annalise or put her in her highchair when Happy was around, and this was incredibly inconvenient.  Courage wasn’t much better, but at least he could run away and climb up on the furniture to escape her reach.

Courage took to hitting and kicking the puppy.  I thought he was just being naughty, until I realized that he was really angry at this new “baby” for hurting him and scaring him.  The truth was, I was angry too and couldn’t blame Courage for his emotions.  I tried to teach him how to play with her nicely, but it ended up more like refereeing a mixed martial arts fight.  Happy just thought they were her brother and sister and wanted to play.

Ashlyn, who loved to play with Happy, would mess with the puppy endlessly.  This resulted in many bites and scratches.  The saddest moments for me would be when one of the middle boys would be playing with the puppy.  Happy would get over excited and bite hard.  The boys would end up bleeding and crying.  My idyllic vision of pet ownership was crushed.

I became very upset over the entire situation.  My day was much more difficult and messy and sad and frustrating.  Why did I think we needed a puppy?  I began to wish that I never had this stupid idea!

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I tried to remind myself.

dsc_0093The children began to fight with me about taking Happy outside and cleaning up after her.  When I talked to Chris about all of these things at supper time, his response was very simple.

“This is just a dog.  All of you promised to help with her.  If you don’t help, or if you give Mama a hard time about it, I will get rid of the dog.  I have no problem posting on Facebook, ‘Free Puppy.’”

Chris was very serious.  I actually wanted to take him up on his offer!  What a load would be lifted!  Yet, I felt that God had brought us this specific puppy, and it wouldn’t be right to give her up.  I felt that eventually she would be a great blessing to our family, although in the moment I couldn’t quite imagine how.

Dealing with the inconveniences of a new puppy is a rather small trial.  Yet God was using this to teach me lessons I needed to navigate through the real trial in my life; the heartrending trial that is just too deep and personal to write about yet.  I was dealing with a situation that I had always hoped and earnestly prayed that I would NEVER HAVE TO DEAL WITH.  And now that I was in the middle of it, I just wanted to retreat.  To be done, to give up, to admit defeat.

Happy are those who take refuge in Him, I remind myself every time I look at our puppy. Just like this puppy, I know that God will use this horrible situation for my good and bring a blessing out of it.   I can’t imagine what the blessing will be, but I am trying to believe that there is ALWAYS a blessing to everything that God allows to enter our lives.

J.R. Miller expressed it perfectly when he wrote:

“Every difficult task that comes across your path – every one that you would rather not do, that will take the most effort, cause the most pain, and be the greatest struggle – brings a blessing with it.  And refusing to do it regardless of the personal cost is to miss the blessing…

“Every battle field you encounter, where you are required to draw your sword and fight the enemy, has the possibility of victory that will prove to be a rich blessing to your life.  And every heavy burden you are called upon to lift hides within itself a miraculous secret of strength.”

Now the puppy has become less of a trial.  The children had a real attitude adjustment and began helping more willingly.  They began to have fun playing outside with her and taking her to the park.  She began to sleep through the night!  She started to calm down with the chewing and biting.  She actually became very gentle with Annalise and better with the other children as well.  She started to obey some commands!

We take pleasure in petting her silky fur and scratching her belly as her tail thumps on the floor.  We love to snuggle with her on the sofa when she curls up to take a nap.

photo-12 She has stopped using our house as a toilet (most of the time) and her schedule has become more predictable.  The flea infestation that I had worried about never manifested.  Whenever I look at her I can’t help but think that she is the prettiest puppy in the entire world, and I am glad that she is ours!

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Happy is a constant reminder that Happy are those to take refuge in Him and every trial holds the promise of a blessing whether we can see it or not.