Saturday, July 31, 2010

What we have

I've been staring at this painting for the last 7 hours (3 more to go).  It's hanging on the wall across from where I'm sitting at the Maple and Moose. The quote on it has been running through my mind all day and it's really got me thinking about how true it is.  How often I forget to count the blessings I have, the joys that are here, in favor of pining over what I no longer have.
It reminds me of something a wise friend told me once.  I was in the library working (shelving reference actually) and he was there working on a paper.  It was a beautiful day and he told me he would rather be out playing ultimate frisbee with the others, but he had to get his paper done.  I told him I admired his dedication. He told me he did it by trying to remain fully in the present, to be fully present in whatever he did and wherever he was at the time and to no dwell on what he doesn't have right then or isn't doing right then.  Of course, he said it a lot more eloquently than that.  It's stuck with me since that day, which is impressive considering how good I am at forgetting things.   I've thought about that concept a lot this summer, about being fully present and focused on where and when I am.  Often I'll start longing to be back at Central, or to already be at Western, or to be doing anything other than what I am doing and when I get in that place I start missing out on the joys of the present.  When I focus on what I don't currently have, whether something in the past, or something yet to come, I can't enjoy the present.  I can't enjoy pushing an adorable 4 year old on the swing if I'm wishing I was walking in the park with a friend from Central.  I can't enjoy reading a Dr. Seuss book to a highly distractable 2 year old if I'm wishing I was having Tea and Tales at ten on Tuesday in 239.   I can't fully enjoy a sermon or learn from it, if  I'm wishing I was at the Calm listening to Joe B preach.
I think we often miss a lot of the beauty and joy of the present because we are so focused on either the past or the future.  I know I do.
I seldom think of the joys I have now, but always think of those that I miss...something is wrong with that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

2 years

I thought long and hard before posting this.  Some of you know this part of my story, for others of you, it will be new.  I wasn't sure if I was ready to share this in such a public forum, but then I realized that if any one of you asked me privately about this, I would share, so why not share it publicly?  I also realized that some of you have indicated that I should someday write a book that tells my story...if and when I write this book, this would be part of my story that I would definitely include.  So I decided to share it.  I don't know if any of you will look at me differently after reading this...honestly that was one of the reasons I didn't want to publish this, but then I realized it doesn't matter how you see me, because I'm not who I was and how you see me doesn't affect in any way how G-d sees me. G-d has done a work in me and I've been changed. If you want to judge me for my past, do so, but it's my past and I bear it no more. The old is gone away, the new has come! And maybe, just maybe, it will give some one hope.
With that prelude, here is the story:
I don't remember when I first figured it out.  It was sometime in high school I think.  If I ate certain foods I felt really good, really, really good.  I'd be really happy, nothing could hurt me.  I was invincible. Then I'd crash and feel miserable for a time, but I could fix that miserable by eating the right foods again.  These foods didn't seem to affect anyone else I knew in this way.  It was weird, but I didn't really care.  I couldn't quite describe what it did to me, but I knew I liked it.  It felt good.  Surely it couldn't be a bad thing.
In college, people would ask my friends if I was drunk.  They would ask me if I was drunk.  The answer was always the same: No way.  I never drank.  I was just really happy.
Sometimes it was dangerous.  I would believe firmly that I was invincible. I would climb everything and anything. I'd try to fly. I would have no concept that something was dangerous.  Nothing could harm me and I loved it.
Then I started to get sick.  I was tired all the time.  I was in pain.  I went to doctor after doctor and none of them could find anything.  One accused me of drinking too much.  Told me my liver was failing and that if I didn't get help for my drinking problem, I was going to die.  I told him I didn't drink and he told me I was lying and needed help.   I told my friends about him and they said he was crazy.  The tests didn't lie though.  My liver was failing.
In the days before Christmas of my sophomore year of college I was given a diagnosis. I had a bizarre and relatively rare medical condition in which my body turned certain foods into alcohol.  The wonderful feeling I'd been enjoying since high school, the feelings of invincibility, the erratic behavior, it had a name - drunkenness.
The doctor who had told me that I needed help for my drinking problem had been right.  I did need help.  I was an alcoholic.  Knowing it didn't really change anything, except that I had to be sneakier about it. I was torn...part of me wanted to get better, but part of me didn't want to lose what I had.  I liked being able to feel good.  I had been drunk for so long that it was part of who I was, it was how I dealt with life.  I didn't know how to deal with life sober. Looking back the doctors figured it had been 5-7 years since I had been sober for any length of time.
The journey to sobriety was hard.  Because I could get drunk in non-conventional ways, it was easy to get drunk.  I could do it even on a dry campus.  I could (and often did) get drunk in the dining hall.  I remember my friends begging me not to do it, reminding me that I was slowly killing myself every time I got drunk.  I didn't care. I didn't want to deal with life and if I was drunk, I didn't have to.
At some point, something clicked inside me. I think it was a work of G-d, answering the prayer of those who loved me. I wanted to get better.  I didn't want to die of alcohol poisoning or as the result of reckless drunken behavior before I graduated college.  I started trying to get sober.  Sometimes I'd make it a day or two, other times a week or two.  Alcohol withdrawal sucked.  There is no other way to describe it.  I've been through some pretty horrid stuff and the withdrawal from alcohol pretty much tops the list.  There was one night when I was convinced that bugs were eating my brain and I had to make a hole in my skull to let them out.  Somehow a friend found out what I was trying to do and stopped me before I did too much damage.
The road was hard and long, but I had great friends supporting me along the way.  There have been many times, some as recent as a week ago, when I've longed to go back to that happy place, to be able to drown my troubles.  To be drunk.  I remember what it was like to not have to deal with life, and sometimes I want to go back to that.  But I also know what it is to be sober, to be fully in control of myself, and that is truly the better choice.
Tomorrow, July 27, 2010, I will have been sober for two years. It hasn't been an easy journey and I didn't make it alone, but it has been well worth it.  I wouldn't have made it if it hadn't been for amazing friends and the grace of Jesus Christ. There will be many many many more sober years to come.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (Phil. 4:13)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Love is...

Love.  We all want it.  We all have different ideas about what it is and what it looks like, but most everyone agrees that it is a good thing. Love has been a topic that has come up a number of times the last few conversations with friends and family, in reading, in the sermon at church... When something comes up like that again and again I start to think about it, and when I start to think about it, I start to write about it, and then you get to read about it. 
As humans, we kind of fail at love.  I fail at love. We say that we love someone, and then we don't show it.  We tell ourselves that we love someone, but we never tell them.   I have had a number of relationships in the past with people who have said that they loved me, but that love was always contingent upon what I could do for them.  Once I was no longer useful to them, they dropped me like a hot potato and I was left to try and put the pieces of my heart back together.
I learned that love was something I had to earn and I could "un-earn" it much easier than I earned it. I craved love and spent lots of time trying to earn it.  My head knew that there were people who loved me, but either my heart didn't believe it or I couldn't accept it because of my past experiences with people who said they loved me.
This causes/caused problems when it comes to understanding G-d's love.  G-d's love is something that you can't earn and you can't "un-earn" it either. Joe B, the chaplain at Central, often told us "There is nothing you can do to make G-d love you more and nothing you can do to make G-d love you less".  It's easy to say, but harder to believe, especially when you try to understand G-d's love by superimposing our concept of human love on it. It just doesn't work that way.  G-d's love is so much greater, so much beyond our understanding.  He loves us so much that he sent his only son, Jesus, to take our place on the cross, while we were yet sinners...His love is so amazing that we can't even begin to love without Him first loving us. We might try, but we'll never really get it. We can't.  We have to be filled up with love before we can give it away.
One of my favorite songs has a line "Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy". I think the real name of the song is "How He loves", but my friends and I call it the Hurricane song, because of this line.   I've never experienced a hurricane in real life (we don't get many in these parts), but I've seen pictures.  I've seen the pictures of trees bent over to the point where their tops are touching the ground. Trees are usually pretty solid entities. I couldn't bend a tree, no matter how hard I tried.  But the hurricane is stronger.  It bends the tree as if it were nothing.  The tree is subject to the will of the hurricane, whether it wants to be or not.  Likewise, whether we want to be loved by G-d or not, he is going to love us. His love is so much more powerful than anything else we can even imagine.
As I sat with this image, of a hurricane bending a tree, earlier this week, I became bothered by something.  Sometimes, the hurricane breaks the trees.  It took me awhile to wrap my head around this.  It could be that the hurricane breaks the trees because they refuse to bend, they refuse to acknowledge the power of the hurricane.  Maybe, G-d lets us be broken because we refuse to acknowledge the power of his love.   I love my brothers and sisters.  I love my friends.  My love is powerful (but nothing like G-d's love...that is like super super super powerful), and because I love them, I have to let them make their own choices.  Sometimes that means they get hurt.  Sometimes it means they get angry with me.  I think G-d does the same thing.  Because he loves us so much, he lets us make our own choices.  Sometimes that means we get hurt.  Sometimes it means we get angry with Him.  But, because of his great and powerful love, he is always there, waiting for us to come back to him, waiting for us to let him pick up the pieces and put us back together.  Sometimes we bend, sometimes we break, but G-d never changes and his love will always be there, no matter what.
I could talk about G-d's love for a long time because there is a lot more I could say about it, but that would make this post even longer than it already is, so I'll stop now and leave you with this image:
"Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree"

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Yesterday was the first swim meet of our season.  Swim team has always held a special place in my heart.  For many years, I knew where I would be every Saturday morning.  I can still locate the pool in every town that has a pool in the area. I swam for the Palmerston Piranhas (now the Minto Minnows due to redrawing of municipal lines) until I aged out at 18.  I helped coach  the 8 and under swimmers, especially in entries and turns.  Many of those 8 and under swimmers have now aged out, many of those still left are swimming in the oldest age group (one is still swimming 11/12, but he was about 3 when I coached him).  Between my own races I would help with marshalling.  Marshalling is the process of sorting all the swimmers into heats and lanes and making sure they get to the right lane at the right time for their race.  For 25m events it also means getting the cards to the timer at the end of the pool.  The older kids are very good and putting themselves in order (they can read and understand their own cards), but for the wee ones it involves leading them from one marshalling bench to the next to the end of the pool and checking and re-checking their cards.  I loved it.
Then I got old and aged out.  I started working camp jobs during the summers and was never home for meets.  I figured I was done with swim team.  Then, this spring the decision was made to start a transition to a software program called "Meet Manager".  The only problem with this transition - no one knew how to run the software. Mom was unofficially put in charge of it since she has been grand marshaller for years. But Mom is a busy lady and not always the greatest with computers, especially learning new things (she is getting better, for reals).  I, on the other hand, am not as busy as Mommy and I love computers.  It was only natural that I learn the software and then come to the meets to help with the transition.
As I learned the software, I came to realize that some pretty important decisions were going to need to be made.  Decisions that would affect all the coaches and swimmers, and the running of the meets. At first I was going to Mom or Mr. Lucas (an important parent volunteer who pulls a lot of weight in the league) with every question.  This got old pretty fast. It made progress slow.  I started making decisions on my own.  Every time I made a decision I was backed by Mr. Lucas.  If I e-mailed coaches and said that I needed their entries by a certain time, Mr. Lucas supported that.  After yesterday's meet, when I decided that we would not be able to accept Saturday morning entries next week and e-mailed coaches indicating this (under the old system we always accepted Saturday morning entries...all entries were done Saturday morning), Mr. Lucas sent out a follow-up e-mailing informing coaches that what I said went.  We will not accept Saturday morning entries and the deadline I had set for entries was going to stick.
I'm a nobody.  I never was anybody important in the racing world. I was never particularly "good", never earned my team lots of points, don't have finances to support the purchases on new and better equipment, I don't have a coaching certificate.  I have nothing that should give me authority, yet I have it.  I have it because Mr. Lucas is backing me every step of the way and he has authority (he's a grown-up who contributes a lot to the league in a lot of ways) and he has given authority to me. If I had started trying to change things on my own, it would not have worked, but because I have the authority he has given me, I can make decisions and changes.
This made me think about something we talked about a lot at school this last year and something I've done a little reading on at home this summer. I still have a ton to learn, so this might not be completely sound, but it's my thoughts. As believers we have authority.  Jesus says to his disciples that he has been given authority (Matt. 28) and he says to his disciples that he gives them authority (Luke 10).  As his disciples, that means we have authority too.  Just as Mr. Lucas could give me authority because he had it, Jesus can give us authority because he has it.  Once I had authority from Mr. Lucas I could take care of some things on my own, without going through him, likewise (the way I understand what I've been reading), there are certain things on earth that we can take care of without having to go through Jesus.  That doesn't mean we don't need no means. Without the backing of Mr. Lucas, I'd be a nobody with no authority. Without Jesus, I'd be even more of a nobody.  With the backing of Mr. Lucas, I can say to a coach "until this point you can make changes, but then it is final".  With the backing of Jesus I can say to an evil spirit "you have to leave this alone", and it's not in my own authority (cuz I have none), but in the authority that Jesus has given me.  I think that's pretty nifty.
If you want to read more about this, I recommend "The Believer's Authority" by Kenneth E. Hagin.  I don't understand all that he writes, but he is clearer than I.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


So it's been over a week since I last sat down to write here.  There's really no reason for being gone that long, other than I've been doing other stuff...don't even know what all.   Last time I wrote I was getting ready to travel to Iowa for a family reunion with mom's side of the family.  There were 16 cousins in mom's generation, so this reunion was the 16 cousins and any of their offspring and any of their offspring (I think that's all the farther offspring goes).  There were 50 some people there ranging from 18 months to 80 years, including three sets of twins:
Three sets of twins: ages 80, 18 and 4.
One of the twins, Kalvin, really loved playing with my crutches:
One of the most impressive features of the reunion is that I ate out 3 times and didn't get sick.  This quite the accomplishment given my restrictions.  Granted, I was very limited in what I ate, but I still ate. And one place was even a buffet...I called it a death trap, since it was a Chinese place with lots of shell fish everywhere.
The best part of the reunion (aside from quality family time) was that one of my Central friends was in the area and came and spent a few hours with me.  It was good to talk with her and "freedom fight" Wal-Mart (we prefer that to "terrorizing") together.  We also may have sent an e-mail to a couple of our professors from last year...They don't have to put up with us in person together anymore, but they will never be safe from us causing havok.

When we got home from the reunion, there was an alpaca baby waiting for us:

He doesn't actually have a name yet...we call him Stupid 1 since he likes to lay out in the rain.
The next day, Stupid 2 was born:

He has since been named Eaton, and we'd really like him to be doing a better job of eatin' right now.  He hasn't been gaining much weight, so he's on a bottle a couple times a day to help out. He took the first bottle really well, but since then it's been more of a fight. 
So aside from dealing with babies and recovering from the Iowa trip (travel wears me out) I also had a small bake day and canned 2 pails of pie cherries (28 quarts and 12 pints of juice).  So nothing has really been happening here :)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

If snow were like teddy bear hair...

If you are looking for something profound, you are in the wrong place today...just saying.  I've got a bunch of pain killers in me to deal with a migraine, so I don't even know how coherent I am. It's been a week since I've posted and my what a week it has been! I've spent most of it on crutches after Mauschen so nicely partially dislocated my knee for me.  As of today I've been walking without crutches, though I'm not sure how good an idea that was yet.  The pain killers kinda mean I don't feel the knee...I should know more tomorrow.
On Friday my cousin Daniel arrived and was helping with haying when he took a hay bale to his knee and completely dislocated it.  So the two of us have been crutch buddies.  Great times, great times....
Friday also brought two new babies to the farm, both boys, born before 8am and less than an hour apart.  Aardappel came first, followed by Nuggets.  Nuggets was born right into Aardy's placenta which caused a bit of problems as far as scent and attachment go.  The placenta is a stronger smell than the new baby, so when Nibbs turned around to sniff her baby, she smelled the placenta, which matched Aardy's smell, not Nuggets.  So she though Aardy was hers...Aardy had two moms, Nuggets didn't have any.  I almost called him Nobody's Nuggets for a time.   We ended up putting Nuggets and Nibbs in the ICU room until Nibbs decided that he was really hers.  Now everyone is happy and hot.
Here's their baby pictures: (It's too hot for me to go out and get new ones today)
Annie and Aardappel

Nibbs and Nuggets
I made a teddy bear today (no pictures until it's delivered to the person it's going to...sorry).  Part of making a teddy bear is trimming the fur in the seam allowance before sewing.  So basically giving teddy a hair cut. It makes a delightful mess because teddy fur is light weight and fluffy and soft...kinda like snow.  I've often said that snow would be better if it was warmer...I love snow, not a huge fan of Iowa cold though...We'll see if Michigan does better next year.  I thought teddy hair would make nice snow.  It might even be slippery enough to sled on if you get enough on it.  And I know you can roll it into balls for throwing too ( I may or may not have tried...) The only real problem would be what to do with it once snow season was over....cuz it wouldn't melt like real snow.  I suppose birds could use it for nesting...
I'm going to Iowa tomorrow.  We have a family reunion.  I won't actually get to Iowa until Friday, but we leave tomorrow.
G-d is really good at knowing what I need and when I need it.  One thing I've really missed since coming home from school is praying with people, one on one.  I started most days spring semester praying with someone.  It was cool. Anyhow, I made a computer phone (Skype to mobile) call to a dear friend on Sunday so I could talk to her before she left for Ethiopia.  We prayed together and sang together.  It was pretty sweet. Then on Monday I was talking with another dear friend, and her internet was being silly, so I computer phone called her as well.  We prayed together and decided on a time once a week where we can call and just pray together.  It's good and I'm glad for it.
I had more thoughts, but I forgot them.  Sorry.