Hallelujah Highway

Celebrating the Journey

Better than “Good” Friday ~Rae

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“Good” doesn’t really seem to cover it does it?

We say “Good Morning” every day. The word good is used too commonly to accurately express what today really represents.

The day that changed the universe is not merely “good”.

Think about what God did 2000 years ago: Would you? Could you?

I know I would die for my child. I would hope all parents would. As an educator I am even willing to die for your child. In a heartbeat I would be willing to sacrifice myself for others.

But could I sacrifice my child for someone else? Gulp. Would I let my child die if I knew that her death would save many others? Double Gulp.

Nope, I couldn’t. You couldn’t. We are not wired that way. My child is, well, MINE. A huge part of my purpose on this planet is to make sure both my daughters are safe.

That is what makes this more than just a “Good” Friday. That doesn’t even come close to covering the magnitude of this day. It is better than good; it is better than best (all the English teachers of the world just shuddered at my improper use of comparative adjectives – sorry my brethren).

This really should be called “Perfect Friday”, because God made the ultimate sacrifice: His adored son for me, His only child for you. God allowed His child to pay the ransom for all: Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, or Jews; straight, gay, or celibate; the believer, the atheist, the young, the old, the persecuted and the persecutor. “For God so loved the world”- the WHOLE world- the perfect sacrifice was given freely because of His perfect love.

Happy Perfect Friday!

 

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You are such a Pain in the Neck ~ Rae

pain in neck

I wish I had a good story to tell. Maybe something like- I was bunging jumping or how about-I leapt out of a burning building’s second story window with a kitten in my arms. But no, there is no interesting anecdote; about 4 months ago my neck just started hurting.

I have tried not to be a wimp about the pain, but what really started bothering me was my shoulder blade. I had my husband repeatedly massage there but the ache would never go away. I kept thinking it’s simply a pulled muscle and it would take some time to heal. My neck and shoulder were tight all the time and sleep at night was nearly impossible. I was constantly shaky and snappy (my poor family!). Then my bicep began throbbing like it was on fire.  Yet it wasn’t until the nerve from my neck to my right thumb felt like millions of ants constantly marching down my arm that I finally went to urgent care.

 The first doctor spent a whole 5 minutes with me and merely prescribed pain pills and muscle relaxers.  When those offered no relief after a few weeks I went back to urgent care where a second doctor, who spent 10 minutes with me, added physical therapy, because he believed I had a pinched nerve. The physical therapist actually spent a fair amount of time measuring my range of motion and noticed the locked up muscle on the right side of my neck. This was causing me to look like the Hunch Back of Norte Dame (OK- OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration but it was visibly obvious that one side of my neck was swollen). The Physical Therapist gave me a medieval torture device (furthermore confirming in my mind that I was in danger of becoming the hunch back) to hang over the door at home to put me in traction for 15 minutes a day.

Did it work? Let’s just say that while my family quite enjoyed the show I still didn’t receive any reprieve.

So it was after months and various trips to urgent care that I finally made an appointment with my primary care physician. My doctor berated me for waiting so long, claiming it was usually men who were that stubborn. I retorted that I hadn’t wanted to be a baby that ran to the hospital every time I pulled muscle.

He ordered an MRI.

Father you were there for me when my back was against the wall

You held me up above my troubles when all I did was call

You answered every prayer

No matter what request it was

And when I asked you why you did it

You replied- because of love

The day the doctor called me to give me the results of my MRI was the 25th anniversary of my Aunt Donna’s death from a brain tumor.  I was 14 years old when she died. To be totally accurate, according to the family tree she was my second cousin, but in life she was always my Aunt. I practically lived at her house every summer and she would arrange a week long beach trip for her daughters and me
every spring break. Many of my fondest childhood memories include her in them. Her fight with cancer was my first real exposure and experience with death. I remember walking around her house after she died in a daze fully expecting her to come around the corner with her wide and ever present smile. But she was gone. I wrote the poem above while sitting in her bedroom after her funeral.

25 years later I still remember this poem word for word in my head. In my time of sorrow I wrote a poem of praise. I wish I could be like that now. Apparently 14 year old me was better balanced than 39 year old me. I think 14 year old Rae might be a little disappointed at how I have been handling life recently. She would tell me that my current sour disposition was a waste of the wonderful life God has given me even if I am in pain. She would wonder why I had stopped dancing and she would be heartbroken to know I haven’t yet written that book I always dreamed about. She might even tell me that the cause of the pain in my neck was ME and how I am handling stress.

And she might be right.

As the doctor told me the results of my MRI I found myself reflecting on Donna. If she could smile and love through a brain tumor I can surely handle the 3 deteriorating cervical discs that the MRI revealed.

So as I look forward to (probably wrong choice of words) a visit with a neurosurgeon next week, I try to keep 14 year old positive me and brave beautiful Donna in the forefront of my mind. Even if I do have surgery, I am still living a seriously blessed life. I have a fantastic family, wonderful friends, I work for the best school district and I am confident of my Savior’s love for me.

So this Thanksgiving I am going to attempt to be thankful for the pain in my neck, 14 year old me, my Aunt Donna and all the lessons that I can learn from them.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Friends

Sincerely,

The Hunch Back of Riverside

 

 

 

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“Mommy, am I fat?” ~ Rae

mommy am I fat

“Mommy, am I fat?”
My 9-year old daughter, Little K, asked me this question and it broke my heart. I don’t know how to respond. How I handle this concern could result in a healthy or horrible body image.
In reality, she is not FAT, but she does have a belly. Recently, family members have taken it upon themselves to make comments about her weight or to tell her what she can and cannot eat. She is young, but not dumb. She has started to take these comments very, very personally.

There are several complexities to address:

First, my oldest daughter is 14 and has never had to think about her weight. She was a preemie and has always been on the petite side. Now at 14, Miss Rose is tall, blonde, blue-eyed, leggy, and thin. She gets comments from family members about how pretty she is, including calling her “Barbie.” She can eat whatever she wants without issue—a disastrous recipe for sibling jealousy.
Secondly, Little K has always been in the higher size range for her age group. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Little K and she was born a healthy 8 pounds. She has always been bigger than Miss Rose. So when she looks at pictures of her sister at the same age, she can see there is a difference. I try to counter by pointing out to her that there are kids both bigger and smaller than her in her classes and that people come in all shapes and sizes.

Furthermore, weight has always been one of my own issues. I struggled with bulimia in high school and have fluctuated from super thin to 180-pounds in adulthood. Currently, I am at a healthy weight, but I know Little K hears me complain about my body and sees me weigh myself every day. Also, I have convinced my parents and brother to start counting calories as I do. They have all lost a significant amount of weight and have become hyper focused on food and calories. Both my daughters spend time at their grandparents’ house every day. So Little K hears all the adults around her obsessing about food, calories, and weight.

Little K is very active. She attends Tae Kwon Do twice a week (she is a black belt!) and takes a dance class. At school, she participates in every recess sport offered. Although at home, she loves to play on the computer and we have had to limit her time.

Likewise, she LOVES sweets (she is my child after all). If not reined in, she would eat sweets all day long. Her father and I have told her no more than one sweet a day. Her sister has no such rule, which probably seems unfair. But, Miss Rose doesn’t eat many sweets. So, we haven’t needed to make that rule for her. Little K sees this as an injustice because her sister can indulge in whenever she wants.

Considering all these factors, I am worried we are on the verge of creating a lifelong issue for her. With all this pressure put on her, in addition to the normal anxiety of puberty, she could be on the path to teenage weight issues like anorexia and/or bulimia. However, I do not want to be one of those oblivious parents with a 300-pound child. I know obesity is an issue in our country. I know healthy habits need to be instilled during childhood. I know it is my parental responsibility to ensure she has these habits.

When my little girl asks me “Am I fat?” I want to strangle the world that bombards women with images of super skinny models and actors. Every magazine page and every TV show glorifies the thin woman. Her own family members seem to adore her thin sister, yet pick at her flaws.

I don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to slap anyone who makes comments about her size. More productively, I have tried to help her understand that she is smart, kind, talented, and beautiful inside and out. I have shown her pictures of various family members and discussed how their bodies have all changed over time. Some who were super thin in childhood are now big; some who were chunky as children are now drop dead gorgeous; and others have gone up and down in size continuously. I tell her to worry about being healthy, not thin. I remind her that God made her and loves her. I know I should be the role model and be more active and healthy at home. I know that her father and I have a responsibility to give her the tools to deal with life. I know I have work to do to help both of my daughters love themselves and each other.

My solution for now: I will tell Miss Rose and Little K they are both perfect and hug them to me.

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When I die…

cemetary

You have probably heard the joke that there are only 2 things every person MUST do in life: Pay Taxes and Die.   All jesting aside death is a guarantee. No matter who you are, where you live, or how much you have Death will one day come for you.

Maybe you have also enjoyed the country song by Tim McGraw, “Live Like you were Dying”. I quite enjoy it. It has a catchy tune and makes one think about living life to its fullest. Yet I think the song writer might have the notion just a tad wrong.  The song is very focused on making sure “you” don’t die before “you” get to do everything “you” always dreamed of doing. It does mention a little about trying to be a better person, but still is very much centered in the individual.

According to the “CIA Factbook,” there are approximately 6,744 deaths in the US per day. Even though death is expected and promised to all, death in our society is seen as a cutting short and a time of sorrow. We grieve when someone we know dies and we say things like, “he had so much left to live for”. We fear our own death and we fear losing love ones to it.

Last Thursday, October 3, 2013 one of those 6744 deaths belonged to a man named Chuck Smith. Chuck Smith was the pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. Since 1965 he taught that the Bible was literal and he preached line by line, verse by verse. Yet at the same time he was more accepting of people in all shapes, sizes, incomes, stages of life and morality than most of the other churches of the 60s. He welcomed hippies, drug addicts and all those who were lost. One story I love about this man is that when he was being questioned by some of the older parishioners of his church about allowing hippies to come in barefooted and dirty, he retorted, “If because of dirty jeans we have to say to one young person, ‘I am sorry, you can’t come into church tonight, your jeans are too dirty,’ then I am in favor of getting rid of the upholstered pews. Let’s get benches or steel chairs or something we can wash off. But let’s not ever, ever, close the door to anyone because of dress or the way he looks.” (http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/smith2.htm )

He was a man who lived with a purpose of serving God and others.  And while his family will of course miss him, everyone who has been touched by his life is viewing this death a little differently than usual. We might grieve for our own loss, but we do not grieve for Chuck. I believe firmly that the minute he took his last breath on earth, he took his first breath in Heaven. I believe that when God looks at Chuck’s life he says wholeheartedly, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23). In Chuck’s obituary there should be a sense of joy. This death was not a cutting too short. This death was at the right time and instead of an ending it is rather a conclusion well crafted.   Chuck’s life while not perfect had purpose.

So now I wonder: When I die what will the world say about me? Will people say it was too soon and that I had so much left to do? That worries me.  I will die,  tomorrow is promised to no one,  but whether I die tomorrow, next year or in 40 years I ponder what my children will think of me.  I want to live a life of purpose and while my purpose may not be to preach to a congregation of thousands, I know there is a reason why I was born.

People are always searching for the meaning of life. Maybe we have the question wrong and we should be asking instead how do I make my life meaningful?

How do I make it where when I die my family and friends rejoice in having known me? How do I make sure that I will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” to me?

I have some work to do.

 

Chuck Smith said frequently, “Someday you’re going to read in the paper, ‘Chuck Smith died’, that’s bad reporting. What it should say is, ‘Chuck Smith moved.’”

 

 

 

 

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A Letter to my Daughter upon Starting High School ~ Rae

highschoolaudrey

Dear darling daughter,

                First of all,  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I am so not ready for you to start this next chapter of your life. Secondly, I am super excited for you to see what life has to offer. The next four years will be challenging, life changing, fun, and emotional for us both. Before you start, I want to give you some of my thoughts on the adventures coming your way.

SCHOOL: The grades COUNT. The classes you take are important. Your future is decided by what you do in high school. I know that might seem like a lot of pressure, but I think many parents don’t tell their kids how important high school really is. I am not worried about your ability to master the world of secondary education. I am, however, a high school teacher myself and have seen many bright, capable students sucked down the path of apathy. In other words, “Don’t Stop Believing!” (Have I ever mentioned how proud I am of you for knowing all the 80s classic music? That right there tells me you are going to succeed in life.) You already amaze me with your abilities and your dedication to your work. You just need to keep your eye on the prize- your future.

YOUR TEACHERS: Welcome to my world! Teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities— just like everyone else. I hope you have teachers who inspire you and teachers who push you beyond what you thought you were capable of. (You know teachers like me— stop laughing!).   Unfortunately, you may also have incompetent, worthless teachers as well. Basically, school is a game. PLAY IT. Learn the teacher. Each one has particular ways, quirks, and methods. Figure them out and win. Remember- they get paid whether you pass or not. Do not let a horrible teacher get paid while you don’t learn. If you need help ask me or another adult you trust. It’s okay to struggle in your classes because of the teacher or material. If you already knew everything, school would be pointless. But, it is not okay to not try and not okay to give up. There is always a way to win the “game”. 

FRIENDS: The people you choose to hang around matter. If you surround yourself with scholars, you are more likely to be a scholar. If you hang around mostly slackers, you are more likely to slack off. Set high standards for friends. Do not compromise. There are over 3,000 students at your new school. You can be picky. Make a list of things you won’t compromise on; things like: study habits, drug use, ethics, and morals. You do not have to be best friends with everyone you meet. You should be nice and polite, but you do not have to hang out with kids who have a different code of behavior and beliefs than you do. Bullies, gossips, cyperbullying, and mean girls are definitely a THING in high school.  Stay above it, and if you can, away from it. I have always admired how you stand up against bullies. Keep it up. Be a champion of kindness.  Surround yourself with people of character and honor.

TEMPTATIONS: I know we have talked about drugs, alcohol and smoking before. But we will discuss it now and talk about it in the future because it is a reality in high school more than any time before. You and your peers are on the brink of adulthood and often think you are ready for adult situations. (Don’t roll your eyes at me young lady! ) You know drugs and alcohol kill brain cells. You had friends DIE in a drunk-driving accident. Do not let down your guard. Do not let yourself be talked into behaviors you know are dangerous. Do not go anywhere with anyone who is under the influence. If you do find yourself in that type of situation, call your father or me at ANY time day or night.  We will come and get you and any of your friends. I know that peer pressure if a strong beast, so if you ever do make a poor decision, know that we will love you and help you no matter what.

BOYS: Did you know there are going to be boys at the high school? YIKES! You are about to begin one of the scariest times in your life- DATING. Oh, I know you are not scared, but I am!!! (Boys have cooties remember?) Just like when choosing friends, choose your potential boyfriends wisely. Make a list of non-negotiable standards for dating. A mistake many grown women make is they think they can change men into the person they want to be with. That is NEVER going to happen. Think of dating like buying a car with no warranty- the deal is AS IS. What you see is what you get. Likewise, do not try to change to fit a boy’s ideal of a girlfriend. Be who you are and find someone who likes you that way. Isn’t there a One Direction song about that? Please, please know this without a doubt- any heterosexual teenage boy given half a chance will try to get in your pants. It is the way they are hormonally wired.  Do not take your purity and body lightly. Do not throw it away. Try not to allow situations where you and/or the boy will be tempted. Treat your body like the temple of God it is. Yet, heaven forbid, if ever a boy does not take no for an answer, use your second-degree Tae Kwon Do black belt to make him hear you.

I hope you realize just how much your father and I love you, how proud we are of you, and how excited we are to see the wonderful young woman you will become. It is a very scary time for us because you now control most of your future. When you were little we could guide you more directly, but now you have the power to choose what you do. We are confident that you will make sound decisions, but we are not naïve to think you will not face temptation and trials the next few years. This will be a time in your life you will never forget. You can be anything you want if you are willing to put the work in to make it happen.

Become the woman you are meant to be. Fulfill the purpose that God has for you.  Make us proud- but more importantly make yourself proud.

We love you forever,

Mom and Dad

(P.S. Did you know there were going to be boys in high school? Yuck…  Right?  Right?)

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39 and Feeling Fine ~ Rae

middleages

I turn 39 this month. It’s incredible to be facing the last year of my 30’s. At the same time I can’t help but wonder where the heck has the time gone. In my head I still think I am 25, but my body begs to differ.

As I fully enter and strive to embrace the dreaded “middle ages”,  I find myself reflecting on all the things I have learned, earned, and yearned for:

  • Getting old sucks – Even just getting out of bed in the morning causes aches and pains. Can someone please tell me why my ankles hurt first thing in the morning???
  • Having children makes time RACE by- One minute my baby was learning to walk and now she is learning to drive. I am afraid of blinking.
  • Friendships change – I previously thought I needed a huge group of friends. Now I find I only require those who really give and receive friendship equally.
  • Love evolves – When I was younger I craved passionate chaos. Now I rejoice in loving comfort, stability, and support.
  • Needs differ – Before my 30’s boredom drove me nuts. Now I wish I had more moments of quiet and tranquility.
  • My definition of beauty has altered – Where before I concentrated on the external and surface of beauty, I now realize that true beauty is revealed in actions not appearance.
  • Faith develops – As I age I learn more and more about the wonderful God who created me and I endeavor to fulfill His plan for my life.
  • Mortality is a reality – As a child I felt invincible and that death was inconceivable. Sadly, now that some of my peers have passed on and even some acquaintances younger than I have died tragically, I face the certainty that I am not promised forever on this earth.

I have been blessed in my 38 years even through my trials. I just pray that as I reach torward 40 and (God willing) beyond, I try to make my life matter and that my actions leave a positive mark on this world.

Also, I pray I do not turn into one of those bitter old women who hate life. Instead I would like to be the crazy old lady who wears ridiculous outfits and mutters outlandish remarks that make everyone around me chuckle.

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Keep Your Own List ~ Rae

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July 27th marks my 17th wedding anniversary. Amazing right? Let me tell you the secret to our marriage success:

…… um ya….. there is no magic secret.

In fact, when I think about it, it’s frankly incredible that we have stayed married this long. I have done just about everything all the marriage advice books say one should not.

I have:

lied, cried, held grudges, yelled, ignored, fought in front of the children, played games, went to bed angry, walked out, threw things, been whiney, been grumpy, been mean, put myself first, been inflexible, been lazy, been crazy ect…

I know – I know – I suck, but before you start filling out the divorce papers for my husband know that he has his own list of mistakes and flaws as well.

In other words we have both been HUMAN, imperfect, and full of issues.

It’s kind of ironic. We will accept faults from our parents, our siblings, and our children without hesitation and forgive them almost anything. On the other hand, many people will not do the same for their spouses. I remember a time when I was a teenager that my dad was dealing with a horrible boss. He came home from work irritable, angry, and mad. He yelled a lot during that period of time. However, I never once considered “leaving” my dad. I accepted him, prayed for him and waited out the storm. People do not pick their parents. People do not pick their siblings. People do not pick their children. And for the most part we accept them as they are – shortcomings, idiosyncrasies and all. Conversely, the trend in our world lately is to be hypercritical of the one person we do pick! In today’s American society no one is forced to marry. YOU picked your spouse!!! YOU alone.

I wonder what happens after people get married. Do they think it’s going to be all roses and sunshine forever? The story books lied to us. There is no “Happily Ever After”. There is real life with its good times and bad. PLUS the one thing that most people do not realize is that much of adult life is going to be routine- neither extremely bad nor extremely good. Just day in and day out: get up, take care of business, and go to bed. BORING!!!!

This is when I think many of us start to judge our spouses harshly. We make a list of all their imperfections and deficiencies. We internally mutter, “what about my needs”; “I love him/her, but I’m not IN love with him/her”; “we are like roommates”. This is when we start to think the grass will be greener somewhere else. BUT guess what, if you choose a new relationship, realize that person too is imperfect and life will eventually turn routine.

I think a saving grace in my marriage is that I am fully aware of my own lists of failings. For everything thing that drives me nuts about my husband, there is something about me that equally drives him insane. We have both, I am sure, thought briefly about “what if we ended this”. I can readily make a list of his faults and throw them in his face. It would be easy. It would likewise be easy for him to call me out on my list, but it would also be very counterproductive. There have been times when my husband has asked me what I would like him to work on, but truthfully I cannot change him. Only he can change himself; only I can change myself and ONLY if we both take responsibility for our own lists. That is where the “magic” of marriage happens. I accept RESPONSIBILITY for myself. I realize I bring as much baggage to the relationship as he does. I accept that we are both human and will never be perfect. I keep my own list and I work on it. Instead of keeping score, I keep my own list. Most of all I try remember that Love is a VERB not an abstract concept.

And I know- my veil was EPIC!

DISCLAIMER: Of course none of this applies to an abusive relationship. If your spouse is abusive- LEAVE!!!!

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The Chickens and the 4th of July ~ Rae

4th-of-july-flag-Fireworks
What the heck do chickens and the 4th of July have in common?

For 4th of July this year my family went “camping”. I used the quotation marks to signify the hilarity of our trip. We spent 3 days at a campground 20 minutes from our house. Ah the adventure. We have a few reasons we camp there. This particular campground is on the side of the mountain that gives the best firework show in our town.  So by camping there we do not have to fight any crowds or traffic. Instead we enjoy 3 days of fishing, bicycling, game playing, water splashing, smore eating and good ole 4th of July fun.  We have done this twice now and this year we even had some of our family members come just for the fireworks. It was a blast. (Ha- pun intended)

Well, perhaps I should claim “Blast-ISH” since recently my husband was hurt at work and is still recuperating from surgery on his leg. Usually, camping is one of the occasions when my husband spoils me. He packs, shops, and organizes everything. During the trip he cooks all the meals and basically allows me to pretend to be the queen I keep telling everyone I am (seriously- I used to ask my students to call me Queen D -YEP- I have issues). Yet this year with his injury there was NO WAY he could do everything like he usually does. We almost canceled completely, but we have looked forward to this holiday all year. Plus my husband is going a little stir crazy staying at home during his recovery. So it was on me to handle the details.

I would like to say I handled it all with grace, composure and very few curse words. I would like to say that, but I can’t. I am human after all and used to being the camping Queen.  I did try my best though and I have bruises everywhere to testify to my hard work. I packed, planned, loaded and organized everything. I did a pretty good job though and only forgot the syrup for pancakes. 

There is one other silly reason we like to camp so close to home: our animals. I have admitted before that my family has an obsession with animals. My husband seems to want a small farm which cracks me up, but our agreement has been I only have to take care of the indoor pets and he, with our daughters’ help, takes care of the outdoor pets. For this trip we took two of the dogs with us, but left the other 2 dogs, 2 goats, pot belly pig, turtle, cat, rabbit, turkey and umpteen CHICKENS at home. With the weather being in the mild 100’s I needed to go home each day to feed, water and clean up after all the animals. This is another task I have joyfully (please hear the sarcasm) taken on since my spouse’s injury. I was SOOO very excited when I left the camp ground on the 4th to go take care of the animals. I was thrilled to leave all the fun and festivities to tend animals I usually overlook. While I love our 4 dogs, and cat Pumpkin with the extra toe; the farm animals have never interested me much.  I might giggle at the goats and pig, but I pretty much ignore all the chickens. My husband is bummed that I haven’t been too interested in the 3 different kinds of chickens we have. Who even knew there were different types??? Apparently, we have Jersey Giants, some fuzzy thing that looks nothing like a chicken, and the normal regular egg laying chickens (I think. I could be wrong. For all I know we have 4 types of chickens). To make matters more complicated, my husband was recently traumatized when his Jersey Giant eggs hatched but all the babies were decimated by ants. He has since then been very worried about all his beloved pets. So I promised to take very good care of all his ridiculous lovely animals and rush back to the fun.

I begrudgingly did my duty. I threw the alfalfa into the goat pen getting only some of it stuck in my hair. I cleaned the dog pens and fed them. I gave Rosie, the pig, her favorite treat- dog food. I filled the food and water bowls of the cat, the rabbit, and the turtle. I sprayed all the animals off with water since it was so hot and then I started to leave.

 WHOOPS, I almost forgot about the darn precious chickens. I trudged to the back of our property and filled the chickens’ bowls with the perfect blend of crumble and scratch (Don’t ask- I really don’t know what that means. I just followed my husband’s directions). As I bent over to pour some in the last of the three pens I saw——- BABY CHICKENS!! Bunches.  Now these were produced by our regular, plain, boring chickens and not the exciting oversized Jersey Giants. However, these were the first successful hatching of chicks we have ever had and with the recent loss of the Jersey Giant chicks this seemed all the more exciting.

 My fowl mood (Ha-Ha again pun intended) lifted, because of course who can resist baby animals? Baby “anythings” are adorable. The chicks crowded under their mother as she pecked them clean. The hatchlings were fluffy little balls of feathers. I admired them all: most were completely black; one had a yellow head and one….. Gulp. I noticed off to the side there was one little chick just barely out of its shell, slimy and covered with ants. It was a horrible sight because the chick was still alive but weak and crying. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to touch the yucky messy thing but I couldn’t stand watching it suffer. I took a deep breath, reached in my royal hands that have never before touched a live chicken, and scooped up the little fighter, ants and all. I took him out and gently poured water over him to try to get the ants off. I picked off by hand any ants that remained. I rubbed him with a soft towel. He sat in my hands chirping weakly and pitifully.sick chicken

I called my husband to tell him he was finally a proud papa. He laughed and asked me to put all the baby chicks in a box with food and water. All of a sudden, I think I am the chicken whisperer and take charge of them all. I gather all the chicks into a large box. I pet them, feed them, talk to them, and count them. We had nine total including the injured chick. He was noticeably less fluffy and still barely moving. I asked my husband over the phone what I should do – leave him with the others or not? He told me to leave him with the rest and we would just have to wait and see how he would be.

As I bent over to say goodbye, I whispered to him, “I am naming you ‘America’ since you were born on the 4th of July” (ya, ya super corny).

sick chicken with others 

The Chicken Whisperer Queen henceforth returned to her campground. The rest of the evening was perfect. The fireworks seemed better than years past and we all celebrated our country proudly.

Epilogue: America is just fine. He is now exactly like his siblings in size and energy. He is one of two chicks who have a yellow head with a black body. He also likes me much more than he likes my husband.  Just saying.

healthy chicken

The moral of the story is I NEEDED this event to happen. With all the STUFF that has happened over the last year: dealing with depression, mourning with the rest of the country over the Newtown tragedy, helping my daughter deal with a friend’s suicide, my husband being injured, etc.;  God knew I needed a lesson on the beauty of life. I needed to see what an amazing gift life is through both a simple tiny animal’s survival and the enormity of living in a country that is free and prosperous. I needed to remember that for every dark moment there is a moment of light. I needed to celebrate America’s birthday and the beauty of my life.

Happy Birthday America.

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Perspective ~ Rae

perspective

Whining, so many whining
Don’t even know what we are whining about

Challenges, so many challenges
Don’t even know what we are fighting for

Worries, so many worries
Don’t even know what we are worrying about

Crying, so many crying
Don’t even know what we are crying for

Lying, so many lying
Don’t even know what the truth is about

Dying, so many dying
Don’t even know what we are dying for

or

Singing, so many singing
The songs fill the air

Supporting, so many supporting
Arms go around all those who are in need

Listening, so many listening
Shared troubles seem less

Laughing, so many laughing
So much joy to laugh about

Standing, so many standing
Standing for our beliefs and our fellow man

Living, so many living
So much to live for
So much to do

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HE had taken HIS own life ~ Rae

Depression_by_jxdxIn my 17-years in education I have never had to deal with a suicide. I have lost students in accidents, gang violence, from illness, and other tragedies, but never suicide.

Until now.

And now I deal with it not as an educator but as a parent.

Last Thursday night I heard my 14 year old daughter breathe differently from down the hall. That’s how I knew something was wrong. My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I jumped up and shouted, “What’s wrong?”  She stumbled into the room and sobbed, “HE is dead! HE died tonight!!!”

HE is a classmate of my daughter’s from grades K-6. My daughter went to a small private elementary with only about 60 students per grade level. So they all know each other well and keep in contact. With today’s technology everyone is able to stay in touch and is aware of what is going on in each other’s lives.

My first reaction was: NO WAY. Not this kid. Not this family!!! Haven’t they been through enough? It just didn’t seem possible. My daughter and I cried together as we wondered what in the world could have possibly happened to HIM. The next day we found out the painful truth. HE had taken HIS own life.

A sad fact is no one is asking why. We all know why. This kid has been through some STUFF. I could tell you about HIS stuff and it would break your heart, but that is HIS family’s story to tell, not mine. One can look at pictures from before the STUFF and after the STUFF and see the difference clearly in HIS eyes and HIS smile. HE has definitely suffered and struggled. Yet knowing “why” sure doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

I have this sweet memory of HIM from kindergarten. On the day of the annual school Golf and Walk Picnic my daughter and I sat on the same blanket with HIM and HIS father while eating lunch. I can clearly remember looking at HIM and my daughter and rejoicing in the beauty of children. HIS father so clearly loved him as he helped HIM with HIS Capri Sun.

That of course was long before the STUFF happened.

There is no way I can comprehend the pain and torment HIS family must currently be going through. I am barely a peripheral member of this event and am struggling to keep it all together. I am trying as a parent to give my daughter the support she needs, as she tries to make sense and deal with this life altering and perception changing event in her life. From now on there will always be this memory of the lost friend and the worry that maybe she or someone could have done something to prevent it.

My duaghter actually saw HIM the day before HE died at the local Rite Aid eating ice cream with HIS sister and friend. She was in a car and driving by, so she didn’t get a chance to say hi.  I told her to hold onto that image of HIM laughing and surrounded by people who love HIM. That’s how she should always remember HIM.

One of the students at my daughter’s school made the obscene comment that HE is now in Hell because HE committed suicide. I know there might be some who according to their religion might believe this, but I do not. The God I have faith in is loving, all knowing and all powerful. God discerns the heart of every single being on this planet and there is no way He would allow that suffering child to be put away from Him for eternity.  I told my daughter that people are human and finite so we only understand things in black and white. God is supernatural, infinite, and can see everything. He alone can judge and He loves HIM. I believe God took HIM immediately into his arms and wiped away all the tears. The STUFF is now over for HIM.  Of course God does not want us all to give up when pain comes our way, but God also know us to the very number of hair on our heads and understands what we have been through.  God KNOWS.

I however do not know. As I struggle to look for meaning or purpose in this tragedy, I have had some gracefull input from people in my life:

  • A good friend from work sent me a link to the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. My daughters and I listened to it, wept together and had a conversation about life, love, God, and heartbreak.  We have prayed together a lot this past week.
  • My 9 year old daughter took the quote HE had as the tag line on HIS Instagram account and wrote it on her bathroom mirror, “You never know what you have until it’s gone… figure it out what you have and be grateful” Pretty deep for my 9 year old.
  • My 14 year old daughter texted me a verse that spoke to her with this analysis, “God has a reason for letting things to happen. We may never understand His wisdom, but we simply have to trust His will.
    • Psalms 37:5 “Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.”
  • At church this past Sunday there was a preview of an upcoming movie the church made,  Hope for Hurting Hearts. This is a film adaptation of a book Pastor Greg Laurie wrote after his son died. In the movie there is also the powerful testimony of Jeremy Camp who has no arms and no legs.  The full movie will premiere June 30 and I know my family will watch it.

As always, I am amazed how God seems to give me exactly what I need right when I need it most.  Nevertheless, I am still looking for meaning in this tragedy; still looking for the words to tell my daughters about how important it is to ask for help when they are hurting.  I am still looking for understanding of why STUFF happens. I am still human after all.

Lord, I pray for HIS family; give them strength and peace. I pray for HIS friends and classmates; give them compassion and comfort. I pray for my daughters; let them learn and become wise Christian women.  I pray for myself; give me the courage to fulfill your purpose for my life.

Lord, I pray for HIM and us all.

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