November 26, 2007

He Came From Harlem

He was fatherless boy from Harlem, New York. A high school student 17 years of age. I was a woman in my mid forties, living on a tree farm with my family in Oregon. He knew everything about surviving in the big city. I knew everything about canning green beans and butchering meat.

He was used to constant city noise, electronic games, phone calls. I liked quiet. He is black, I am white. He was social, everybody's friend. I was cautious with everyone I met.

He was used to a tug-of-war of arguing and negotiating and protesting to make things happen. I believed that as a parent I should quietly listen and consider the facts, then carefully make my decision and stick to it!

We weren't 100 percent opposed in every way. We knew how to respect each other. He understood that I was committed to him, to some degree. He was grateful to have the opportunity to stay in our home, so he attempted to work with us.

It was definitely CULTURE SHOCK when he came with his mother and sister to meet us for the first time. After a long flight into Portland with their church group, traveling another 2 hours on a bus, entering our church-school with scores of grinning strangers, and then being paired up with us, you can imagine what this New York lady thought of our long, winding country road into the hills!

She didn't use the word "lynch", but she was seriously uncomfortable. She kept looking out the windows of my van into the darkness. I didn't know she wasn't used to not seeing the lights of the city... I wonder how determined she was to see this through at that point. I believed her prayer had been to get Darnell out of the city for a time, to keep him from getting into trouble on the streets. Our desire was to share the strengths of our faith and our family with them while he attended our Christian School for a year.

Darnell's dream was to make it to the NBA, and working on his skills with lots of playing time/preparation with our small, private school basketball team.

How did we come to regard him as a son? It had been my hope that God could give me the wisdom and the strength to make a stranger into a friend. I had wanted to demonstrate this value to my children as well. I was committed to loving him as my own sons - and he became one of us.

My best memories, believe it or not, are of the hardest events during that year.

I wanted to know this kid. I wanted to understand how he thought. I wanted him to understand how I came to make the life-choices that I had made. Often he and I would sit up late at the kitchen table comparing our viewpoints on different things. We reasoned together. We challenged each other. I gladly gave up my sleep for these times, and I grew to love him. I miss those days...

Then when he got so much attention from lonely girls that it was bordering on becoming unhealthy - "I" had to be the Mom that stepped in. That was one of the hardest encounters of my life! I had remained prayerfully silent till that point, then I had to act! Thankfully, within a few weeks I learned that a heart had been changed - wow! THAT was an answer to my prayer!

The hardest time (by far!) was when the scandal of scandals was hitting our group of friends, and our response was to pull together as a family and get on our faces on the floor to pray. This wasn't customary for us; it was necessary for that time!

At one point while one of us was praying I reached my hand toward town (still on my face) and felt what I thought was somebody's fuzzy sock. When I opened my eyes to see what it was - it was Darnell's head!

How can things look so bad, and yet, I can be so proud that this is how my family responds?

Well, I'm full of words, I know. I'll get to the point of telling you all of this: I called Darnell's mother last night - after being out of touch for many years! She had abandoned her phone number earlier this year, and had just gained it back! If I had tried to reach her previously - it couldn't have happened!

It's been seven years since we have seen him. We may have spoken with him once or twice since, but then we went our separate ways.

She got Darnell on the line and we chatted till we ran out of energy to proceed. It was just awesome to reconnect! We agreed that we would stay in touch...


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November 24, 2007

We Worshipped Him

I've never been comfortable talking about myself, but I've learned lately that doing so can be a healthy thing. Jerry and I led worship with our team Sunday morning, and the dynamic was just awesome. We all in our weaknesses came together and made a strong statement of unity and worship to our God. All ages were intensely involved - in fact, my grandson Jackson wriggled away from his mother and did a little dance in the aisle before Aunt 'Nell snatched him up! Several of our youth "stepped up", along with many of our older ones (older than I).

I could make a long list of all the things that I am not, and do not have. Together we were powerful! I wasn't feeling well, but somehow my voice remained strong for a much longer time than has ever happened before. It seemed like all of us were being careful to keep the worship pure and not let our thoughts dwell too much on ourselves. I remember thinking that the pastor was just going to skip his sermon and we'd go on and on...

I'm attaching below the memo from our Big Daddy Worship Leader. I must say that he makes us sound awfully good. Much of what he says we did wasn't a carefully scripted plan. It wasn't all that, really; it was just that we used some well-known songs (familiarity) and loved God with all we had - together! Wow!

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Subject: Thank you!
Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2007

Thanks, all of you for a great worship time yesterday!
You guys set the tone for a wonderful expression of love to the Lord. It was tight and interesting musically including great layering and dynamic variety, the "just voices and percussion" segments were well placed and the voice work was excellent--a great combination. Your humility and desire to worship God yourselves was evident to me as well. God shows up (and He did) when we go in heads-low, dedicate ourselves to unity and engage Him (and the body did so on Sunday). You guys did that. To cap it all off the sound in the house was just right, nice work Rob! We couldn't do what we do without you, Andrew and the projectionists!
Thanks again for pulling me in! From the first note you set the compelling atmosphere of His presence.

Memories of Skin-Enemies

There are notes written to my sister...

1. It's been years since we dealt with fleas! I'd forgotten what that was like... waiting for one to appear because I knew they were lurking invisibly in the carpet, then pinching him from my ankle and stuffing him into a piece of toilet paper to flush him! Or, I'd squeeze one between my fingers under the surface of soapy water and watch them sink to the bottom of the glass. (I never had strong enough fingernails to cut them in two like my mother-in-law could!) There was just no other way to deal with them! They could jump three feet in any direction, a little black spot you can hardly see, and then jump right back onto your vulnerable skin and get all they wanted out of you! You see that they still cause a rise of emotion from me (insanity?). I think my record was 30 in one day!

2. Remember when Dad got upset with us on a camping trip when we were little, and they'd put us to bed in the back of the station wagon? We were horrified that mosquitoes were there with us! We WAY over-reacted, sure, but weren't they basically bloodsuckers?

I learned to pull my blanket all the way up to my nose to expose the least amount of skin. Listening for that special whine that tells me a mosquito is about to land, and sure enough, I feel him tickle my cheek, and then smash him with my waiting hand! (that really makes my sleeping husband jump!) I've killed WAY more animals than HE has! Kathy-Hunter-Woman!

And did I ever tell you the story about my first backpacking trip with Jerry up to Lake Yoran? I had to find a place to potty, but anywhere I went I was soon swarmed. It's hard to squat and swat at the same time! It was so maddening; I ended up zipping myself into the tent and only coming out to wash our dishes in the lake!

3. I haven't suffered with hives for a full year, so I'm comforted. The entire year before last fall I suffered every time sunlight hit my skin. I wore long sleeves and hats and took antihistamines, but still felt my skin "bristle". I hated being a big wimp about it, but I don't like itching and pain even more! I had many times of solitude in the shade...

By last fall (2006) I had resigned myself that being in the African sun during our mission trip was going to be unavoidable; I'd go prepared to be very uncomfortable - while asking for God's grace. Amazingly, I never saw a bit of hive action! And I haven't had them back until this past week. I consider this miraculous, because I had been unable to be in the sun without reacting to it for a full year!

Thank You for healthy-feeling skin, Lord! Oh, thank You!


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November 19, 2007

Relax, My Skin!

Just now I was finishing up my homework and realized that I was running my finger down my cheek. It was soft, and smoothe, and pleasantly relaxed.

I can't think of another word for it. It was relaxed. Not agitated. Not hyper-sensitive. Not anxious to get "worked up" and hot. The hives are practically gone!

Every morning this week I woke up with a swollen face. The first three days I puttered around at home. I didn't work out because I needed to keep my skin cool. I had to pull my hair back tight, because one little hair laying against my cheek would actually "hurt". And I was too conscious of my misshapen face to go out in public.

Even my clothing was an irritation to me.

And I scratched. And where I scratched my skin would erupt with displeasure and welts - and make scratch marks that wouldn't soon go away. Then they would itch!

Then there were the questions: was it something I ate? is it stress? maybe the new vitamin pills?

The research told me that 90% of us will get hives at some time or other, and that a substantial percentage never know for sure what brought it on.

Hives is just weird.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for bringing me groceries and Chinese dinner! I never stop appreciating your loving concern for me. I'm your over 50-year old little girl!

I got well enough to go to work after three days, and by Sunday I was back in church on the worship team. It took a full week, and tonight I touched my skin...

and it was soft,

and relaxed!

November 12, 2007

Poison Oak & Hives

My husband had a wonderful day Saturday. It was a beautiful fall day, with golden leaves and wispy clouds coloring the landscape. He drove up the hill with his hunting buddy, Chris, to hang their tree-stands for their hunting trip next week. I didn’t go because I thought my slow pace would take some of the fun out of the adventure for them.

He found a perfect tree with a great view of an area that was sure to attract his desired prey. As he approached it he realized that our dreaded enemy, a mature poison oak bush, was standing guard. Being a calculating man, he decided that the risk was worth it, and tore into the bush to get it out of his way.

In the past when we have suspected we might have encountered poison oak (it grows all over our wooded property), we would shower as soon as possible and carefully lather up twice. Though it’s hard to prove, we believed it might be a good defense against the onset of the itchy rash. We would undress by the washing machine, so as not to spread the irritating oil to anyone else. We often broke out with it any way, but what else can you do? We hoped our efforts were making the problem a little more tolerable.

One year I had such a bad reaction to poison oak, that I developed a secondary reaction – hives. On top of that I applied an ointment that only added to the damage, and suffered an exacerbated secondary reaction!!! We’re talkin’ about blisters on my arms and legs. I’ve never had a boil, but I think I know what that must be like! I described the landscape of my skin as a having the appearance of a “toxic dump”. My face swelled up so much at one point that I had to pry my eyes open with my fingers.

I sat in the recliner with my toes separated and fingers spread, so that nothing would touch my outraged skin. I ate there and slept there, and labored to resist scratching. I almost shaved my head, because a single hair would trigger an intense urge to scrape skin away from my body. I seriously entertained the idea of tearing off some skin because it just HAD to grow back better than this!

The blistering only increased, until I realized that the ointment might be the cause and discontinued using it. Since that day I’ve been susceptible to breaking out in hives whenever my skin is compromised.

You can tell where I’m going with this, can’t you? Yes, my dear husband brought home poison oak and shared it with me. He’s scratching his arms and torso, and I’m scratching my face and neck - where I contacted him in my joy to have him home! And sure enough, my face is puffy with hives, too.

I guess the moral of the story has to be that we both knew the risk before we chose to engage in it. We have no reason to complain. We’d both probably do it again; and then again, maybe not!

November 5, 2007

"The Child is Worth It!"

Have you ever heard this line:

"I just can't imagine bringing children into this world, as bad as things are now?"

When I was newly married, and my ear was tuned to what was being said about having babies, I heard this more than a few times. How many generations before us heard the same thing?

My marriage began shortly after the Viet Nam War and Watergate.

I know it was said after World War II. I'll bet there were similar thoughts when the Black Plague was creeping across Europe with sickness and death, and when no army could withstand the advance of the Roman Empire.

What did the first believers think when they saw Jesus hanging on the cross? Something like, "all is lost" and, "what's going to happen to us now?" And his own mother, who had to be more convinced than anyone that he was the Son of God... Imagine watching not only your son cursed, tortured and struggling to breathe his last breaths, but also seeing the "Hope of Israel", the gift of God for the salvation of the world, murdered? The priest had told her that her heart would be pierced because of her Son one day.

All was definitely lost.

But look around you. There are still children running around. God didn't take our inheritance, our reward away from us!* He didn't abandon us, or revoke His blessing from us! Jesus rose from the dead and lives to redeem us from sin today!

And God continues to give people children.

When my husband and I were nearly done with our foster parent training for the State of Oregon, we sat with a panel of foster parents. We had been drilled and trained and warned and counselled. We knew what we might be up against in caring for hurting and damaged children. There would be nothing easy about it. We'd take into our home a stranger; an abused, neglected child who had been yanked out of all that was familiar and loved and unwillingly deposited into our family...

I don't remember his name, but there was a veteran foster father on the panel - one of those people who could count up into the twenties (or more) the number of children he had welcomed. He was a man of few words, but what he said became my calling: "the child is worth it!"

Jesus gave his life for us. He demonstrated that we were "worth it". Loving others like that can come at great personal cost, but people are worth it.

We had fostered a total of ten children before we retired last spring. Each child was worth all the challenges and inconveniences we endured.

The child is worth it, because God showed me I am worth it!

*"Sons are a heritage from the Lord; children a reward from him." Psalm 127:3 NIV

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November 2, 2007

The Best Promise

In my bed Saturday night I was feeling regret that I had let another day go by without having spent my "quality" time being alone and quiet with God. As I meditated on it I tried to decide if I was just being hard on myself, or if I'd really blown it!

I can be too hard on myself.

I decided that I had sought to follow Him through the last few days, and that it wasn't wrong to be busy, necessarily. I just missed being with the One who gives me each breath and each heartbeat, and maybe He "felt" the same way!

Crawling out of my warm bed, I snuggled next to the heater with my Bible. I opened to the book of Job for the third time that week. It's not my favorite spot in the Bible, but I read with an open mind and jotted some notes down in my journal.

As I quieted my thoughts and started to get sleepy, I believe that I heard Him say that I would receive a promise. Now, I tell you, if I'd heard that ten years ago, I would have instantly hoped He was going to give us another child! Well, my desires have sure changed!

My anticipation started to take off as my mind began making a list of what I'd like that promise to be: finances, healing, or perhaps, success in my work? I went to sleep wondering...

I wasn't thinking about the promise when we were in church the next day, till we were in the middle of singing the Nicole C. Mullen song, "I Know My Redeemer Lives". I about choked - and tears came to my eyes! That was the very scripture that I'd written in my journal the night before! It was definitely confirmation to me that I was hearing the promised promise!

Think about it! What is a better promise than my Redeemer living and standing on the last day? What is more awesome than seeing God? And here all I thought would be great would be to have a bucket of rocks! That's all that finances are anyway, right?

As I quoted the scripture to myself, three little words hit home for me: "in my flesh". That's even MORE amazing! In my flesh I will see God!

He made my flesh. He's my Redeemer. He's my Defender. In my flesh I will see Him! Seeing Him will take care of everything else that concerns me.

It's just too much!


"I know that my Redeemer (also translated as Defender) lives
and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh
I WILL SEE GOD; I myself will see Him with my own eyes-I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!" Job 19:25-27 NIV


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