Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I Have a Friend! And He's funny!

I have my first virtual friend on Flickr. Kinda cool. I'm assuming of course that he likes my photos . . . I've pretty much confirmed he's not some weirdo stalker. OK, please don't ask me to explain how, I just know these things.

Anyway, he evidently has a funny sense of humor. Check out his collection of funny signs . Stephen and I laughed so hard we woke Josh up.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gracie the Grinch

Can you see me?

Here I am!!! Don't come too close! I'm waiting for you.

Move over Grinch! Our silly cat is determined to ruin Christmas. When we set up our Christmas tree, she claimed it. She climbed up in it until we broke that habit with a spray bottle! Still she's determined. In the last few days she has:
  • knocked a small tree in our entryway off the shelf . . . multiple times!
  • removing ornaments from the tree to play with
  • "helping" wrap presents by laying down in the open end of the paper while I work on the other end.
  • slashed into presents with her present-opening-claws
  • taken again to climbing up the inside of the tree . . . all the way . . . to the top! Then she plays with the ornaments!
  • ripping down the garland hanging in the stairwell

On top of that, we're dog-sitting, so we have THREE dogs right now, and I'm constantly heading off dogfights.

All we need is the toddler. Uh . . . no thanks.

Friday, December 21, 2007

When you're done with the job, don't forget to hide the shovels!

Yesterday I had an eighteen-inch deep hole in my yard. Today I have a two and a half foot hole, and I almost had a five-foot trench!
The two younger boys spent most of the day digging in the back yard. They had planned a moat, until I stopped them and asked that they not tear up all my grass digging! So now we just have a really deep hole and a lot of dirt! Maybe some day they really will reach China!

An Obituary

We are sad to report that our beloved guinea pig, Nibs, died yesterday. I actually began to suspect a week ago that something was wrong--he was just acting a little off--but then we changed the cage litter and he seemed OK. Josh found him yesterday morning when he went to feed the little guy. Everybody was upset about it. I tried to think of a way out of being the one to bury the piggy, but finally I realized it was just one of those things a mom has to do. The younger boys dug a two-foot hole, we had a grave-side service, and put the box with the piggy in the hole and buried him. So far, no dogs have tried to dig him up. There's a little cross that Andrew made out by the grave.

Nibs leaves behind most of a bale of litter (just bought the stinkin' stuff!), a pound of food, a brand new bowl, a really cool little guinea pig house, a well-used cage, and a kitty who had just discovered his "company." Oh yeah, and three boys who did really love him, even if they had kind of forgotten it lately.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Once Again Tasting the Goodness of God

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!
Psalms 34:8 (NLT)

I'm not sure why I still struggle so with doubts about God's goodness and willingness to take care of me. More than five years ago I really laid it on the line with Him and told Him if He wanted me to homeschool He would have to provide for me to do it. In that time, we have experienced times when things seemed very tight, and times when we have had abundance. Now we are facing a time when things are very tight financially, and I have found myself having to work hard not to worry and be afraid. It has been so tempting to "do what makes sense" and to begin applying for jobs.

It is a good place to be, this place of doubt. It forces me to my knees in prayer more, a discipline I am not to faithful at practicing when I have enough. It forces me to recognize that I can't really do anything without God. But it is still a scary place . . . and I'm not sure why. I began really praying last month that God would show me what to do. Do I look for work? Do I give up homeschooling? Again and again He seemed to say so clearly from His Word, "Wait on Me. Let Me provide. Do the word I've already given you to do." But as the bills come in the mail and I see all the things around the house that need fixing or replacement, as the boys need more and more dental work, and as the teen years begin to make demands on the bank account . . . surely waiting is not what He is really saying. Is it?

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Mal 3:10 (NIV)

Again I hear God say,"Give! Then trust me." What do I have to give? This month I have been allowed to give childcare to a friend who was sick, a gift to a needy child (Stephen and I did this together), work to a friend who had a short-term need in her business, a listening ear here, counsel there . . . and so much more. Maybe I don't have an abundance of money or stuff to give from (although in studying geography with the boys, we have a lot of that too), but I am determined that whatever God asks of me, I will give it.

Admittedly some of my worry and anxiety has been caused by my own foolish sin. I have spent a little foolishly this month, but some of my expenses have also been sacrifices for others. So like the widow that Elijah bid help from, I give of what I have left, trusting that the God who provided an unending supply of flour and oil for her can provide for me also, maybe even in ways I don't expect . . . so that I'll be reminded that He is behind it, not me.

I am working a wedding for a friend this weekend. I gave her a great deal for the job. She's a very dear friend and I would have done it for free. Tonight she told me that she is paying me even more than I asked. And once again, on the way home from her rehearsal, I found myself asking God, "Why do I doubt You?"

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart. He will
gently lead the mother sheep with their young.
Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)

This is the kind of God I worship and serve. He has not changed in all of eternity, and although I don't deserve His compassion, I know that I will get it anyway. Isn't it exciting to think of the story I will have to tell about Him in the coming months and years?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Eternity in Literature

I am awed and amazed at scripture--how God can weave the themes of redemption and promise, of hope and truth through them. I am astonished as I see again and again the rich complexity of the Bible, how the same story of the Gospel is revealed again and again in story after story, right from the beginning.

I am also astonished when I see this happen in literature apart from the Bible. I have very dear friends who have a wonderful family tradition. Each holiday, they have a favorite series of movies that they watch over that holiday. They only watch them at this time of year, so that their favorites, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Star Wars saga, and so on, are guaranteed to be watched annually, but are never "worn out" by overviewing. Their kids, ranging from ages two to twelve, wait for these movies each year like some kids wait for Santa Claus.

Over Thanksgiving week I watched part of The Lord of the Rings with them. I have to admit, we've watched itnumerous times in my house, but usually I'm beat and I doze through it. This time, I have watched most of it--the extended addition with all the scenes deleted in the theaters, and I've been amazed again at the biblical themes in it. There are so many quotes and concepts that mirror those in scripture, that it also amazes me that Tolkein and Peter Jackson (who directed and helped write the movie version) didn't necessarily intend to present.

I am reading a book by Peter Leithart called A House for My Name, which is a survey of the Old Testament to be read aloud with your family, but it's not just kid's stuff. In it he has shown how the concept of east and west were symbolic of God's will. When men in scripture moved east, they were generally moving away from God's will. When they moved west they were moving into it. In Tolkein's story, Mordor was in the east, and was they heart of all that was evil and desired to conquer and destroy the world. Those fighting him were from the west, fighting for all that was good and decent and right. Coincidence? I think not, since I believe that God is sovreign, alive and active and influencing even literature.

Many of my favorite quotes from LOTR also capture the Gospel story:

Frodo: I cannot do this alone.
Galadriel: You are a Ring-bearer, Frodo. To bear a Ring of Power is to be alone. [pulls out her hand]
Galadriel: This is Nenya, the Ring of Adament. And I am it's keeper. This task was appointed to you, and if you do not find a way, no one will.
Frodo: I know what I must do, it's just that... I'm afraid to do it.
Galadriel: Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Sam: I made a promise, Mr Frodo— promise. "Don't you leave him Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to. I don't mean to.

Galadriel: The power of the enemy is growing. Sauron will use his puppet Saruman to destroy the people of Rohan. Isengard has been unleashed. The Eye of Sauron now turns to Gondor, the last free kingdom of men. His war on this country will come swiftly. He senses the Ring is close. The strength of the Ringbearer is failing. In his heart, Frodo begins to understand. The quest will claim his life. You know this. You have foreseen it. It is the risk we all took. In the gathering dark, the will of the Ring grows strong. It works hard now to find its way back into the hands of men—men, who are so easily seduced by its power. The young captain of Gondor has butto extend his hand, take the Ring for his own and the world will fall. It is close now, so close to achieving its goal. For Sauron will have dominion over all life on this Earth, even unto the ending of the world. The time of the elves is over. Do we leave Middle-Earth to its fate? Do we let them stand alone?

Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

Sam: [about the ring on the slopes of Mount Doom] Then let us be rid of it... once and for all... Come on, Mr. Frodo. I can't carry it for you... but I can carry you! Come on!

Eowyn: The city has fallen silent. There is no warmth left in the sun.
Faramir: [approaching her] It is only the damp of the first spring rain. [Eowyn looks up at him]
Faramir: I do not believe this darkness will endure.

Aragorn: Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you *stand, Men of the West!*

Aragorn: [to the four small hobbits as they bow to the newly crowned king] My friends, you bow to no one. [The whole kingdom, including the king, bow to the hobbits that saved Middle Earth.]

Frodo: [voiceover] And thus it was. A fourth age of middle-earth began. And the fellowship of the ring... though eternally bound by friendship and love... was ended. Thirteen months to the day since Gandalf sent us on our long journey... we found ourselves looking upon a familiar sight. We were home. How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on... when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back? There are somethings that time cannot mend... some hurts that go too deep... that have taken hold. Bilbo once told me his part in this tale would end... that each of us must come and go in the telling. Bilbo's story was now over. There would be no more journeys for him... save one. My dear Sam, you cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be and to do. Your part in the story will go on.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Mite We Be Stuck With These Forever?

Mites. Ear mites. I hate them. They are like sins, they make me feel like a failure. Natey has earmites . . . again. He had them when we brought him home from the shelter. Unknown to us, he also had terrible allergies. Lately the allergies have flared up, and yesterday we noticed that his ears were cruddy. So I talked to my best friend who knows everything (and is VERY modest about it), and surfed the Internet. I determined that one of his ears was so bad it was very swollen, the other was having some problems, but not too bad. I didn't think he could wait until even Monday for the vet, and I can't afford emergency vet care, so after some research, I put together my own concoctions.

They worked!!! Today the ear is no longer red and swollen, and the junk from the mites is finally coming out. He's still itching them, but not shaking his head as bad, and he started acting more like himself. Here's what I used:

First an earwash of green tea. I used the kind with some chamomile in it. I brewed it a little strong, and just squirted it in the ear with a syringe and then cleaned the ear out with cotton balls and q-tips (but very carefully with the q-tips so I didn't push anything further in or stick them in far enough to damage inner ear parts).
I followed that by rubbing fresh aloe in the ear, with a cotton swab as far down as I dared go, and all around the outer ear with my fingers. After this, I left him alone a while so he could shake all the wash out.

Later I mixed Purell hand sanitizer with aloe and Vitamin E oil (squeezed from capsules) at about a 2:8 ratio. I mixed it then squirted it in the ear with a syringe and rubbed some all around the outer ear.

Yesterday I completed one full treatment, and I have done two today. I read about other ways to treat it, but some of them were a little too "chemical" for me, and some I just didn't completely trust. I had planned on using garlic oil, but read that garlic oil is too strong for dogs' ears, and I also was careful because I read that dogs' ear cannals go much deeper than humans' or cats', so you must be careful.

My biggest concern with him is that he's acting like a shelter dog again--all skittish and nervous and doesn't want to come even when I offer him food. I don't know how to assure him that I'm not trying to torture him, I just need to make him better. Poor guy. I feel badly that I let it get this far. Needless to say, he's still going to the vet this week, and I'll be getting him some medicine for the rest of his itchies.

I've realized that I have an AKC registerd Shepherd who cost us all of $200 (yes, we got a deal), but even if she had cost more, she's been in perfect health and that's all she'd have cost. The "free" cat, and the "cheap" shelter dog have already needed a fortune in medical care and time. Fortunately they're worth it, and I hope the kids will learn that when living things cost you a lot, you don't just abandon them.