Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Life is a Book

Here's a story I've been looking forward to telling you since the day I started this blog. It's the next chapter in my love story with Bill. (Did you even remember that we had a love story?)

In the last chapter, I told you what I endured in order to get a clean bill of health so that we could start trying to conceive. It was such a relief to have the waiting behind me at last, and so exciting to wonder if this could be the month. During this time, I was memorizing Psalm 139, and I was in awe of the timing. As I slowly worked through the chapter, verse by verse, it seemed that the verse I was currently memorizing almost always was the perfect one for what I was experiencing at that moment.

Here is an email that I sent to my Thursday group back in 2004 that captures my initial anticipation...

4/9/04
I was having my morning break today, meditating as usual on the SAME passage I've been studying for months, when I saw something new.

As you know, now that I have passed the colonoscopy, we are free to start trying for a baby, and we are, though Bill doesn't technically know yet. (He's ready, so that's not an issue.) I quietly stopped taking my pill this month, and the knowledge that we could be making a baby is a precious little secret in my heart.

Well, I was meditating on my verses and I stopped on Ps 139:13: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." I wish you could have seen the little smile on my face. I think it must have looked like Mona Lisa's smile, a private smile over a secret only she knew. It seemed so incredibly...INCREDIBLE and WONDERFUL that at this VERY moment, God could be knitting together a baby in my womb.

So I talked to God about that. I asked him for his perfect timing and his will, even if his will is no baby at all. At this moment, at least, I am feeling perfectly at peace with the waiting and the uncertainty because I know that God ordained all my days, and he knows what's best for me. I wish I could keep this moment forever.

Anyway, I thought I would share. Please be in prayer with me that I will continue to seek God's will in this and not become impatient like I usually do about everything else in my life.

Oh, how well I knew myself! Fast forward a year...

Here I Am on My 35th Birthday - April 2005



5/18/05
Hello everyone. I'm missing you a lot this week. I've been feeling sad, a deep sense of grief, really, as I've been trying to let go of the dream of having a baby. I just don't want to hope any more. It hurts too much when I start my period each month. This past month I didn't hope at all, and it still hurt when I started my period yesterday.

With each passing month (15 of them now), I feel more certain that Bill and I will never share that joy together. I have tried so hard to honestly give up that desire because I know that God's plan is best for me. Maybe we will have a baby, and if we do it will be at the perfect time, according to his plan. Sometimes I think I am at peace with just asking God for his will continually, and trying not to decide for myself what I want.

The problem with that is the not knowing. I keep thinking, "If I could just KNOW what God's plan is, it would be so much better." If I KNEW there would be no baby, I would grieve, and I would go on and be thankful for what I do have. And if I knew that in x months or years we would have a baby, I would spend the time preparing to be the best mother I could be, and just enjoying the anticipation. But I don't know what's going to happen, so I keep preparing for the worst. I keep telling myself how it wouldn't be so bad not to have a baby, how wonderful our life is already. I can almost believe that until I see a commercial or a TV program or a woman on the street who is pregnant or has a new baby, and then I just feel this deep sense of loss, thinking "I can't have that. That's for other people, not for me." Then I feel guilty for not being thankful and joyful about God's plan for my life.

All that to say... Today I was studying Psalm 139 for perhaps the 200th time (maybe more!), and I got something I hadn't seen before: Ps 139:15-16 "My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

What I saw today when I quoted that scripture was your book. When God ordained the days for my life, before I was even born, he wrote them in His book. It's a book about me and my days, but it's HIS BOOK. I'm not supposed to know what is in the book, only to know the Author of the book. Since he planned all my days, I know that it's going to be a wonderful, incredible, awesome book. But I can't skip to the end without reading the whole thing. I have to savor it page by page, enjoying the process of getting to the end of the book.

I want to approach my life the way I approach a really good book. I love to savor a good book. I'm always dying to know what will happen next, but I never "cheat." I enjoy seeing the plot unfold slowly. If it's an author I love, I know from the start that I'm going to enjoy myself.

Obviously God is the best author you could find. I want to feel that same way about my life. I guess if there is not a baby in his plan, then I don't need to grieve that loss. Because whatever He has planned is what is best for me. He KNOWS! So I need to have joy in knowing that he cares for me and has planned the best life there can possibly be for me. He is going to teach me incredible truths along the way, and he is going to let me experience joy and sadness and longing and everything else that makes this life so rich and amazing.

Girls, I GET IT!! At this moment, I really get it. Please pray that God will continue to teach me this lesson and that it can be mine to keep. Pray that he will remind me of this moment over and over, whenever I need to hear it. Thank you.

I can't wait to hug everyone.

Love,
Sarah Louise
Bill and I (Far Left) at His Brother Trevor's Wedding, Same Month as the Preceding Email Message

As so often happens in my life, once I finally learned the lesson, God soon gave me the desire of my heart. But that’s another story.

Friday, February 17, 2012

No Favoritism

For the last four weeks, I've been doing a new Beth Moore study called Mercy Triumphs, on the book of James. I've been dying to tell you about it. Each lesson seems to be specially written just for me: persevering through trials, believing and not doubting, being slow to listen and quick to speak, not only listening to the Word but putting my faith into action, looking after the poor and the widows. Two weeks ago, I finally came across a lesson I didn't think applied to me. I couldn't have been more wrong...
Excerpt from a letter I wrote to a loved one tonight:

...Allyson is vital part of what I consider my biggest ministry: visiting the nursing home. At first that was a chore, but it's turned into an enjoyable time that I actually look forward to. I was patting myself on the back about that, but recently I was humbled.

I'm doing a Bible study on the book of James. It's all about putting your faith into action by doing what God does: showing mercy. A couple of Sundays ago, I was reading about how we shouldn't show favoritism:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”  have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
James 2:1-4
When I read that I thought I'd finally found a passage in James that didn't apply to me. "I don't give special treatment to the rich," I thought. But then I read on in my lesson and saw that we can show favoritism based on anything we value: intelligence, beauty, spiritual depth, influence, etc.

"Hmm," I thought. "What is it that I value?" I decided I like people who are most like me, people I feel comfortable talking to--because I am such a talker.

I thought of Jackee at the nursing home. "She's not like me. She can hardly even speak." I congratulated myself for pushing past the discomfort and building a friendship. Nope, favoritism was not a problem for me.

And then I clearly heard a quiet but authoritative voice in my head. "But what about those other patients that you walk past and pretend you don't see? The ones who can't speak, can't understand, can't keep from drooling?"

"Oh, yes," I thought. No argument there. "Please forgive me," I whispered.

I read on. One question had me list words describing how people feel when they are overlooked and neglected. "Unloved," I wrote. "Invisible. Alone. Worthless. Forgotten." As the list grew, my heart was pierced at the thought of those old folks lining the walls in their wheelchairs. Surely they could feel the loneliness and rejection even if they couldn't put it into words. And surely they needed a smile and a kind word more than anyone.

"Forgive me for not loving them," I said aloud, tears spilling down. "Help me see them as you do. Love them through me."

That day after church, Allyson and I drove to the nursing home. I told her what God had laid on my heart, and then we prayed that God would help us love everyone he put in our path. We agreed that we would be kind to all of them even if they couldn't talk back to us.

It was the most amazing experience! For that one hour, I felt God's love flowing out of me, and it gave me such joy. I could see the joy on Allyson's face too as she told everyone about her new hamster and gave out hugs all around.

We had the best conversations, including one with a woman who thought she was a little girl who needed to hurry home. The last man we saw was sitting in the hall in a wheelchair. I stooped over a bit and said hello. "What's your name?" I asked.

He smiled blankly.

"I'm Sarah," I said, "and this is Allyson. What's your name?"

He smiled and nodded. I smiled back and took his hand, which was soft and warm. "It's good to see you today," I said. I looked over at Allyson, and she stepped forward and wrapped him in a hug. His face was radiant, like the sun had come out in all its glory.

Tears sprang to my eyes. "We'll come visit you again," I promised.

On the way home, I told Allyson how proud I was of her. "We made that man happy, didn't we?" she asked. "And it was so easy."

Yes, it was easy. And to think we'd been missing out on that blessing all this time, just because I was afraid to talk to people who were different from me--people who reminded me of my mortality.

I'd like to say I've continued to pour out God's love on everyone I meet, but the truth is that it's sporadic at best. But my eyes have been opened. I am learning to yield my will to God's.

I ended my letter with a prayer request that I will pass on to you: Please pray for God to show me areas of my life where I haven't yielded. Pray that I will be saturated in his Holy Spirit. Pray that I will recognize the opportunities he gives me to share his love, and that I will love with actions, not just words.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Meet Fluffy, Crazy Little Thing

Allyson's dream of owning a hamster started a few months before Christmas, when she checked out a book on hamster care from the school library. She pored over that book, and for weeks she told us all about how the new hamster needs a week to adjust to its new surroundings, and it can have extra treats like bananas and oatmeal twice a week. No matter how many times we told her we weren't buying a hamster, her determination quietly grew.

It wasn't until after Christmas that she figured out how to make it happen. She'd received some money from our Canada relatives, along with a few gifts we could pack in our suitcases. "What will you buy?" I asked. "How about that Easy Bake Oven you've been wanting?"

"No-o, I don't think so." She furrowed her brows in concentration. "I don't know what I want yet."

About a week after we got home, it came to her. "I'm going to buy a hamster!"

I explained that Daddy would have to approve that decision.

"Oh, I've got lots of money," she said.

"Yes, but Daddy is the one who would have to take care of your hamster."

"I already talked to Daddy, and he said maybe."

"Well, don't get your hopes up," I warned.

I had to eat my words about two weeks later, when she and Daddy came home with a hamster cage complete with an exercise wheel, a tiny igloo hut, and a ramp up to the food bowl. Dancing with excitement, she hovered over Bill while he set it all up. "I bought it with my own money!" she exulted.

"Where's the hamster?" I asked.

Bill said we'd get it the next week, after everything was ready. It all looked pretty ready to me, but I didn't argue.

When Ethan got home that evening, Allyson showed him all the features of the tiny habitat. "Where's the hamster?" he asked.

"It's hiding," Bill said.

Allyson giggled, and I snickered.

"Is it really hiding? Can I see it?"

"You have to leave a hamster alone for a few days while it gets used to its new home," Bill said, his mouth twitching ever so slightly.

He turned to me. "Is there really a hamster in there?"

I shrugged and gave him the same answer I usually give to inquiries about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. "What do you think?"

Ethan looked pretty suspicious, but a little part of him wanted to believe.

Bill carried on the charade all week. "Shh, you'll scare the hamster.... Ethan, why don't you go clean the hamster cage?"

"Come on, Bill. There's no hamster in there... is there?"

The Big, Not So Big Day
I guess he'd figured it out by the next Sunday, when we all headed to PetSmart after church. Allyson looked at every rodent in the place before settling on a Russian dwarf hamster. The young man who helped us patiently waited for her to point out which of the identical thumb-sized females was the perfect one. When she finally chose one, he gingerly maneuvered it into a cardboard tube and then gently dropped it into a little box that seemed ridiculously large for the tiny hamster.
Can You See Why Allyson Named it Fluffy?

When we got home, Bill eased Fluffy back into the cardboard tube and lowered her into her new home. She made a quick tour of the facilities and retired to her igloo house, burrowing into the nesting material for a nice long nap.



All through the rest of the day, we kept an eye on the cage, which appeared just as empty as it had the day before.

"Remember," Allyson explained, "hamsters are noct-TURN-al. That means they like to sleep in the daytime." It seemed that Fluffy had not read the hamster book, though, because she slept in the evening, too.

"Do you think she's alive?" I whispered after we'd tucked our sorely disappointed daughter in for the night.

"Hopefully," Bill said.

Look at Her Go!
We were halfway through our Netflix movie when we noticed a very unusual noise, a sort of squeaky, rattly thumping that was somewhat rhythmic but also intermittent. At first we thought it was part of the video, but when Bill paused it to tell Allyson yet again to settle down, the strange sound continued.

Bill leaned over the banister and peered into the darkened living room. "It's the hamster!" he whispered. "Ethan, Allyson, come look at the hamster," he called quietly. "I think it's running on the wheel."

We all crept down the stairs and held our breath as we stared into the semi darkness. Sure enough, Fluffy was running madly.

"Wow, she's fast!" Ethan breathed.

"Look at her go!" Allyson exclaimed.

"Shhh, Allyson," the rest of us whispered.

Fluffy stopped running and stood stock still, her tiny nose twitching. She took two steps toward the safety of her house, but the lure of the wheel proved too strong. She did an about-face and climbed back on, running faster than before.

"It's such a strange sound," I said, wondering how I would describe it on my blog. "It sounds like something I've heard before, but what?"

"It sounds like coffee percolating," Bill said.

"Yes, that's exactly what it sounds like," I said, a little let-down that it was Bill who had found the perfect simile. (Coming up with similes and metaphors is not my strong point as a writer.)

We could still hear that coffee percolator when we climbed in bed a couple of hours later, and we've heard it every night since then, well into the wee hours of the morning.

"Crazy little thing," Bill muttered one evening as he turned up the volume on the TV.

Despite our occasional annoyance, we all love to gather around the cage and watch her. It's astonishing how fast she goes, legs all a blur. Sometimes she gets going too fast and goes upside down, landing in her paper nest with a muffled thud. Other times, she manages to go all the way around and just keep running.

I think the funniest thing is the way she periodically walks the few paces back to her house, goes inside, and immediately runs back out to the wheel. She seems to be thinking, "Oh, I'm tired.... Nope, not quite ready to sleep. Think I'll go back outside. Oh, look, is that a running wheel?"

Around 7:00 in the morning, when we all come down for breakfast, she usually has a bite or two from her tiny bowl, slides down the ramp, and retires to her house for the day.

In the evenings, Bill and Allyson lift up her house, making gentle clucking sounds to wake her. They gradually coax her into her pink exercise ball, where Allyson can pet her. She then runs all around the hardwood and tile floors, bumping into every obstacle in her path.


Fluffy's Claws Scratched Allyson Through the Cracks
Getting Tamer
Yesterday we tried something new: letting Fluffy run around in the bathtub on a towel. Allyson crawled in with her and tried to convince her to crawl onto her hands, but Fluffy was having none of that--until today, when she crawled all over Allyson's lap. When she ran over her bare feet, Allyson shrieked with terror and delight. (Her reaction was much milder than mine, years ago, when a mouse ran over my foot in the pre-dawn blackness. That was a different house, thank goodness.)


During her bathtub explorations, Fluffy climbed onto my hand a couple of times, but she's way too fast for me to pet her. I haven't had the nerve to crawl in the tub with her yet.

I never dreamed we'd own a hamster, let alone have so much fun with it. What's next? A rat, if Ethan has his way. He's saving up his money now. Oh boy!
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