Wednesday, December 28, 2011

O Little Town of Linesville--4 Wagner Move FAQs

Okay, I know this post title would have been a bit more apropos if I had written it on Christmas Day, but you still get the idea! I'm not sure if anyone reads my blog who isn't a friend of mine on Facebook, but just in case the news has somehow escaped you, the afore-mentioned angst had a happy ending for us Sunday: Jonathan was voted in as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Linesville, Pennsylvania, Christmas Day!

1.Where is Linesville?

Contrary to my joked-about mistaken Facebook post, Linesville is in Pennsylvania, not Ohio; however, it does border Ohio. It's also about 45 minutes south of Erie, Pennsylvania, which is on Lake Erie, so it's pretty much in the far Northwestern corner of the state, as you can see in the Google Maps view linked here. It's only 80 miles from Cleveland, Ohio, and slightly further from Pittsburgh. Its population is just over 1,000, similar to Gillett, the town where Jonathan formerly pastored.

Jonathan grew up in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, which is in Southern Lancaster County; that is where his parents and both brothers and their families still live. I can't get the map link to work right, but it's basically in the opposite corner of the state; it's about a 6-hour drive. (We'll be about 10 hours from Madison, which is where my parents live.)

2.Why are you excited to go there?

Well, you might like to visit us to see Pennsylvania's second-most-visited tourist attraction, but we're not moving to Linesville to find out if the ducks really do walk on the fish. Jonathan is excited to again fulfill his life's calling as a pastor, preaching and teaching God's Word and serving those within the church and the Linesville community.

When we set out for our second visit to the church, I have to admit that my focus was on getting out of this transition time and into a more permanent home and routine. However, during that visit, we truly began forming relationships with people and desiring to go in order to serve them, not just because we liked it there (which we actually do!). The church itself has about 100 people, including a balanced range of age groups and many children.

(Random fun fact: With our family's move, we'll help even out the gender imbalance among the children in two churches. Here at Calvary Bible Fellowship in Madison, there are far more boys than girls. At Calvary Baptist Church in Linesville, there are currently many more girls than boys--I think I counted 14 out of 20 in their Christmas program!)

3. Where will you be living?

We'll be living in the church's parsonage, which is located about a mile from the church. Both are outside of town, but they are not on adjacent property. The house is a 2-story home with an unfinished basement and a small, unattached garage. It sits on 5 acres, most of which are wooded. It has 4 spacious bedrooms, 2 full baths, and the pastor's study. One of the bedrooms is on the main floor, and we plan to use it as a play room/guest room. (So if you're in the area or feel like taking a road trip, please do come visit--we will certainly have room for you!)

I don't remember many details except that it does have a dishwasher (something I've been without since our August move) and a really nice-sized mud room (something I've always dreamed of having!). We didn't have much time to look around at it, and taking pictures or measurements seemed like it would come across as presumptuous, so we didn't. Now, I really wish we had! Oh, well. I (kind of) like surprises!

4. When are you actually moving?

The big move, our third/fourth in 19 months, is scheduled for January 15-16. At the time of this posting, we have a meager 2.5 weeks! Yikes! So what in the world am I doing blogging? Good question! Well, actually, I feel like I kept things pretty organized since we moved here in August, and many, many boxes remain unpacked. Besides that, we've practically become pros at this whole moving thing. Besides, you probably already know that I'm a little crazy about this whole writing thing--in some ways, it's my therapy. I do have some paid writing to do, so I should really end this now.

Here's an abbreviated timeline for our move, for any of you who want to pray for us or help us pack up here in Madison, Wisconsin, or unpack out in Linesville:
  • Mon., Jan. 9th – Pastor Wagner & friends in Madison, WI, to load 6’x12’ U-Haul trailer pulled behind Pastor’s truck.
  • Tues., Jan. 10th – Pastor Wagner to drive to Linesville and unload trailer at parsonage.
  • Wed., Jan. 11th – Pastor Wagner to leave from Erie airport and fly back to Madison.
  • Sat., Jan. 14th – Pastor Wagner and friends in Madison, WI, to load 20’ U-Haul truck.
  • Sun., Jan. 15th – After attending church in the morning in Madison, Pastor Wagner to drive U-Haul truck and Tammy to drive minivan about 5 hours toward Linesville.
  • Mon., Jan. 16th – Pastor Wagner and Tammy to drive the remainder of the way to Linesville and unload truck.
  • Wed., Jan. 18th—Pastor Wagner to attend first service in his role as pastor of CBC Linesville.
  • Sun., Jan. 22nd—Pastor Wagner’s first Sunday as pastor of CBC Linesville.

At least 2 of my boys are still travel-sized!

Josh's favorite part of moving is the extra boxes and bins to climb on!
As long as we can all remember this part, we'll be fine!
This picture was taken of our family the month of move #1 of 4.
(Yes, we're all 4 there--Josh is hiding in my tummy!)

Caleb has moved many times in his not-quite-three years of life.
Here's hoping (and praying!) that after this, we don't move again
for a long, long, long time!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ah, the Angst!

I have to admit it--this post is actually a copy of the Christmas letter I'm sending out to some friends and family who aren't (or aren't often) Online. It's a cross between a family newsletter and a ministry-search update. Sorry I didn't take time to find Christmas-y online paper for you. Hope you can pretend!

Dear treasured friends and family,

Last year, there was no newsy post to accompany our family picture, but our family has had a quite eventful 2 years! In June of last year, Jonathan resigned from his pastoral position at Gillett Baptist Church, his first senior pastorate. We moved in with Tammy’s parents, fully expecting to move to a new ministry within a few months, preferably before Tammy’s October due date. At the culmination of a second healthy pregnancy, we welcomed Joshua Seth into our family October 5, 2010. Caleb won our hearts anew as he seemed to be instinctively drawn to love on his little brother.

When Josh was only 5 weeks old, we traipsed down to Tucson, Arizona, where Jonathan candidated as pastor of a church. Thanksgiving week, we learned that the percentage of votes was not high enough. The first week of December 2010, we moved into an apartment here in Madison. When a raise that Jonathan was led to expect in October still hadn’t come through by January 2011, God used this seeming delay to rekindle Tammy’s long-time dream of getting paid to write!

In April 2011, our sweet boy Caleb turned 2. In May, we decided to look for a residence that was closer to our church and either more spacious or more economical—and our God provided us with a place that amazingly met all three qualifications. In August, we moved for the third time in just over a year.

October 2011 was an exciting month for us. Not only did Josh celebrate his first birthday and have his grandparents visit from Pennsylvania, but Tammy met a fairly ambitious goal in her new writing career, and Jonathan finally received his raise—25% of his original salary! We also visited a church in Ohio.

In November 2011, we took a long-overdue trip to visit Jonathan’s family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as well as a church in northwest Pennsylvania. As I write this, we have less than a week before the two of us make our way back to that same church for him to candidate. The plan is for the church to vote on him the following Sunday—that’s right, Christmas Day!

As we hope and (seemingly insanely) plan for our fourth move in one-and-a-half years, our hearts are both heavy and full. The heaviness comes from our tiredness of moving and waiting and not being able to plan ahead, never mind fearing yet another disappointment. We trust that this angst can help us to better appreciate the faith and waiting of the Old Testament saints, who wandered in the wilderness and trusted in a promised a Messiah. Of course, their hope was far more sure than ours, and yet we still do have a certain hope: That same Promised and Expected One will someday return. With Him, the peace and joy and perfect life of which we can only dream will become real; the transitory nature of this life points to that eternal and secure hope.

Even if we do receive yet one more disappointment Christmas Day, our hearts will be full in knowing that God does reign and keep His promises and care about the details of our lives. Along with the author of Hebrews 11, I think these words from “Blessings” by Laura Story describe that tension well:

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win,

We know the pain reminds this heart that this is not our home.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life

Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life—the rain, the storms, the hardest nights—
are [God’s] mercies in disguise?

As last Christmas, we unpacked our holiday d├ęcor along with the rest of our belongings, this year we hope to be packing everything away along with our manger scene to move someplace where we can get settled in and live and serve and raise our family. Will you pray with us to that end?

With hope eternal,

Jonathan & Tammy Wagner

This is the version of our Christmas card that I'll be handing out this weekend at what we hope will be our new church home. I created it myself, with one of the family pictures from the photo shoot shown in this video. I created both the Christmas card and video with my digital scrapbooking software.

(As a side note, I'd like to launch a side business marketing these types of products. What do you think? What would you pay for these types of services? Just testing the waters--thanks for your input and your continued prayers!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So Much for That Idea . . .

In my last post, I mentioned trying to blog at least on a weekly basis . . . so much for that idea! I really miss blogging here regularly. Maybe someday I'll get back into the habit, or have time for this indulgence, or . . . whatever you want to call this whole blogging deal.

Most of my November, though, was spent trying to cram a month's worth of (paid) writing into 2 1/2 weeks (which I did, by the way!), and since our trip to my hubby's hometown in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, we've basically been recovering--from the trip and our colds--two of which turned into infections!

We've also been doing some Christmas-ing, of course, which for me mainly meant decorating our place in time to host a ladies' Christmas activity for our church--which is the kind of thing I really delight to do! With my two littles and our constantly up-in-the-air status (more on that later this week--and that's a promise!), I'm far less active in serving than I've typically been and than, in many ways, I'd like to be. So I wanted to spoil our faithful ladies just a bit and invite them to a bring-only-yourself event, for once.

My friend Christina made the main course, which was a delightful stromboli, as well as delicious cranberry-and-white chocolate cookies, and I basically made some other goodies--you know, the fun stuff I like to puts around and play with in all my "free time"! :) My faves are peanut butter balls, peppermint Oreo truffles, and cinnamon ornaments. (The full menu is posted below.) Maybe I'll post links to the recipe cards I plan to create for them this week--if anyone is interested . . .

Here are some long-in-coming samples (as promised in my October post!) of Josh's 1-year photo shoot--isn't he just a doll-baby?

Yes, he can now walk without holding our hands, but I just love that he couldn't for his pics, because it afforded us this sweet mommy-daddy-baby shot!

And my little Josh-a-boo is certainly built like a football player--so different from his tall, skinny big brother!

My grandma used to call this a "dickins" look--and, boy, does this kid have it down!

I'd thought I'd like these naked, more baby-ish pics more than I did. I guess the time has passed . . .

And here we are, all four of us, relishing the sweater weather back in October!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Finally, A Real Blog Post!

I know I haven't really blogged here in, like, forever. For a while, it was because I didn't want to share what was going on in life because it was hard and contained too many unknowns. Then, I was blogging on a site called Goodblogs, now practically defunct, which often paid me to blog. That was also the case with my most recent posts on here, even though the experiences and opinions I expressed were genuinely my own. While I'm not terribly fond of those sponsored posts, writing for which I do get paid is something that I need to prioritize right now, even if there are other topics and formats I prefer.

More recently, my excuses have been getting settled into our new place, becoming increasingly active in our church, and finally getting into an awesome rhythm and achieving major goals with my paid writing. (In the mean time, I did get some fun pics of the boys taken this summer. These are two of my faves.)

Lately, though, I've been remembering why I started blogging in the first place, just over a year ago: I wanted an outlet, a way to connect beyond my living room walls, and a way to remember what God has been teaching me in life and possibly help others through such times. From that, a love for the written word was re-awakened, and God used that rekindled passion, mixed with encouragement and leads from long-time friends, to get me started in the exciting and mommy-friendly world of freelance writing. But I digress.

I want to get back to writing here, at least once a week or every two weeks, in keeping with that original purpose: "I hope that learning about my current journey through my words on this blog, as I'm 'in the middle of things' that I don't like, will be the same kind of encouragement to you when you're there too."

While we're still somewhat in "temporary mode" (Jonathan is still actively searching for another pastoral position, after a year-and-a-half), we've moved to a larger (and even more affordable!) place that feels more like home, been relieved from financial "emergency mode" and have actually been the ones to end communication with potential churches ourselves, because they would not be good situations or good fits for our family and views. God has used those recent developments to help us at least feel more settled here and thankful for the church family we have.

Along with our move and subsequent signing of a full year's lease (one we can get out of, if we need to, though), we finally became members of our church. That step has enabled us to get involved in ways we weren't able to before, and I'm especially relishing the chance to teach again--something that I'd really missed. (This month, Jonathan and I are co-teaching the 5 to 7 kiddos who come to children's church.)

In the midst of all these changes (coupled with the constant transitions that come with having boys who are constantly changing and growing at mind-boggling rates!), I'm thankful for the fact that there is One who does not change. He deserves our praise, in the autumn rain, frozen darkness or smiling sunshine. This song has been a rebuke and inspiration to me, as have these verses.

We've seen the smiling hand of Providence direct in our lives by stopping short of giving us our hearts' desires, particularly in the timing we'd prefer. But I'll save the details of those graciously unanswered prayers for another post.

I hope to start posting on a weekly basis, once again. Josh is getting 1-year pics tomorrow, so you can look for a few of those to be posted, soon! I might even have to devote a full post to mommy-gushing, celebrating some of my little guys' most recent achievements and [mis]adventures!

Well, that's it for now. It feels good to be back. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Diabetes and DPN

Okay, at some point I'll stop blogging about these medical webinars . . . but not tonight! I actually found the latest one that I attended fairly fascinating. Seriously.

At the church where Jonathan used to be pastor, we joked among ourselves that there must be "something in the water": Out of a congregation of about 60 people, there were two who were missing limbs. One was a man who'd lost his arm in a farming accident (and he was an amazing woodworker, especially considering his injury!) and a "senior saint" who'd lost her leg due to complications of Diabetes. About a month after we left, we heard that she had realized one of her worst fears: She'd lost her other leg.

I have to admit that I had no idea exactly why the amputation of limbs has anything to do with Diabetes, which is pretty pathetic, considering the fact that it runs in my family, and my dad has had it for a few years, now.

In a nutshell, the following is what I learned about diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or DPN (they also called it "Silence of the Limbs"--bahaha!).
  • Peripheral nuropathy--relating to the limbs--is the most common complication of Diabetes, occurring in 50-90% of patients (depending o the criteria used for diagnosis)
  • Up to 70% of diabetics will lose sensation in their feet.
  • Approximately 25% develop foot ulcers, which often become infected, requiring hospitalization, with a 20% chance of amputation.
  • Of those who have major amputations, almost half will have the other limb amputated within 3 years, and a startling 50% of them will die within 5 years of having their first limb amputated.
Okay, suddenly the idea of tingling, numbness, or burning foot pain seemed pretty serious. I had no clue! Basically, the sensory loss and atrophy of nerve fibers is the problem, and it leads to infections simply because the patient can't feel pain from cuts or burns or whatever.

(As a side note, one huge way to decrease amputation rates is for Diabetes patients to undergo regular foot examinations at home as well as during doctor visits. I learned that the latter often takes insistence on the part of patients, which is so, so sad! In the mean time, the primary treatment option for Diabetes slows the disease's progression, the secondary option is simply pain management. Often toleration of side effects or maxing out the efficacy of pain meds leads to issues as attempts are made to mask pain, while the disease continues progressing.)

The good news is that peripheral nerve fibers have the ability to repair and regenerate with adequate blood flow. The bad news is that blood flow is often lessened in patients who have DPN. But there's more good news (or so it seems): Nutritional support in the form of a newly available medical food can aid in Nitric Oxide Synthesis, improving blood flow. Treatment over 6 months has seen to result in 97% increase in nerve fiber density, potentially decreasing amputation rates by 50%! (This "medical food" is considered "gras," or "generally recommended as safe," with risk factors similar to taking a placebo--i.e., not very high at all!)

Until there's a medical discipline that takes ownership for DPN, patients will need to be proactive in examining their feet, asking about various treatments, and insisting that their doctors examine their feet at regular visits.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Now, That's Depressing!

Okay, so I attended another medical webinar I heard about through one of my clients, this one about depression. Since again, I have a family history of clinical depression and similar "mental illness" issues, I found the topic interresting. I also have a friend who recently blogged about her battle with depression and anxiety and the increasing (decreasing?) failure of her Prozak and other meds to help her, anymore.

By the way, did I mention that my dad's a pharmacist? (When I student taught in a ghetto area of South Carolina, I told my students he was a "drug dealer in Chicago," which earned me their undying respect! lol) He and I have very different perspectives regarding the treatment of depression, and I was intersted in another--and less pointed--medical view.

The information presented was largely regarding the (eh-hem!) failure of antidepressants to actually work. Well, you probably already know the warning that
the FDA requires of virtually all "antidepressant" medications: a warning of "increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24 during initial treatment." Terribly ironic, huh? (Emphasis on the terribly.)

Add to that, the fact that success rates for initial, or level 1, antidepressant therapy are only 27.5%, and a remission rate is only at 1/3, and it's pretty clear that if you're on Prozac, Sarafem, Paxil, or any number of other such drugs, and it's not working for you . . . you are far from alone.

What's worse is that as low as successful treatment is at level 1, by the time a patient has been re-evaluated 3 times and had therapy altered accordingly, at level 4, success occurs only 7% of the time. And we won't even go into all the side effects that accompany these largely ineffective drugs!

Okay, so if you weren't depressed before you started reading this, you probably are now, right? Well, don't be.

Basically, depression is connected to an imbalance of three neurotransmitters associated with mood: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Most antidepressants address one or 2 of them. L-methylfolate (the only form of folate that can cross the blood-brain barrier) is needed within the patient's body in order to regulate theose neurotransmitters, but many people's bodies fail to metabolize the L-methylfolate they need.

Factors in lessening the amount of L-methylfolate available in a person's body can be caused by a wide range of factors, from lifestyle choices to genetics and age. In fact, 7 out of 10 depressed people's genetic makeup predisposes their bodies to an inability to use dietary folate to become L-methylfolate, which can be used by the brain in order to regulate their moods.

An illustration given was that SSRIs (or Antidepressants) basically "plug the drain," rather than making more of the monoamines, which would be like turning on the shower. Until 2000, manufacturing T-Methylfolate was not possible. Now, the makers of
Deplin are pretty excited that their drug has led to the ultimate in breakthrough technology--the coinage of a new word! The synthesis of monoamines is known as a trimonoamine modulator (TMM).

Deplin is currently recommended for use as a complement to other antidepressants and is in trials to be able to be prescribed on its own.

During the webinar, I asked if there were updated percentages available to counter those I mentioned earlier in this post, but the improved success rates have not yet been surveyed in a comparable manner.
If anything, this webinar has made the following facts clearer to me than ever:

  • Psychiatry and the pharmaceutical world do not have this issue down to a science.
  • The drugs often prescribed for depression have negligible
  • The so-called "chemical imbalances" are still difficult for the medical community to delineate, and that's at least in part because measuring them is something that simply cannot be done.
As far as my personal opinion on all of this, I tend to agree withthis blogger, who gives a lot of facts and figures before coming to this conclusion: "The pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry would have us believe that an antidepressant is a pill for all seasons. Conversely, critics of psychiatry contend we would be better off on a sugar pill (at least there's no side effects). But there is a time and a place, even for an antidepressant. The catch is we're tripping over furniture in the dark with no watch."

Even more so, I also agree with Jay Adams, a champion of the biblically based Nouthetic Counseling movement. I've read his book Competent to Counsel and just recently stumbled on his blog. One post seems especially apropos regarding the untrue allegations that those who subscribe to a nouthetic counseling model reject any use of medication. However, if "depression" clearly comes as a result of circumstancial--rather than physical--prompting, is it really a medical issue? Or is it an issue of the heart? Certainly, our beliefs are betrayed by our internal reactions (or, as Scripture puts it, "the meditations of our hearts") which, in turn, affect our moods. (Remember this post about bitterness? It's s definite mood-altering frame of mind!)

I think it's absolutely bizarre that people treat depression medically when they can point to the following issues as the genesis of their dives:
  • Relationship tension
  • Deaths of loved ones
  • Job loss or stress
  • Financial troubles
I am not trying to be unsympathetic, here. Those things can be immensely hard. For the Christian, though, that's when real hope and faith matter, when it really steps up to the plate.

I love
these words that describe my new favorite music album, or at least the one with my fave song, which you can listen to via this YouTube video: "Scripture assures us that God is sovereignly using our difficulties as tools to make us more like his Son . . . (Ro 5:3–5) . . . While we know these things are true, in the midst of our hardships we can lose perspective. Problems can loom large, and our hopes can grow dim."

I know the numbness that comes with some antidepressants; I was on one of them for a while, years ago. I didn't feel the "lows," but then, I barely felt anything at all. I wasn't in control, and I knew it. I also knew that the Holy Spirit could help me deal with the thoughts and feelings I was having. Yes, they did escalate during times of lost sleep, hormonal tides, and other physical prompts. However, it's the internal struggle where I start to lose control, and for that, I pray, with David in Psalm 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer."

Another related thought comes from 1 Peter 3:15, which encourages believers to be able to answer "everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence," and if we have no more hope than they do, will they even ask?
When hard times and negative thoughts come, I can choose not to listen to them and instead to counsel myself with Scripture, with Truth. Maybe there aren't documented "success rates" with that, either, but it's definitely better than a placebo!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Am I Losing My Mind?"

I've often wondered what kind of abilities I'd miss most and least, as if someday I might have to choose. Personally, I think losing my eyesight would be worse than my mobility. I had a friend who lost his abilities to smell or taste, though, and that would take a bit of joy out of one's life (even if it would help shed unwanted pounds).

However, I just can't imagine not being able to see my computer screen, for one thing, but what's more, I'd miss seeing the dimples on my little boys' faces as they smile, the variegated shades of green across a wooded hillside, or the ripples in the water as the raindrops hit the surface. Then, there's the fear that surely would come when you can hear something or feel it, but you don't know what it really is, because you cannot see it. I feel shakey even considering the horror. No, I can't imagine losing my ability to see. But one thing would be worse, still: I'd hate to lose my ability to think, reason, and contemplate.

"Am I losing my mind?" That question is one that haunts me, to this day. It was asked by my paternal grandma of my mom, who was pretty much her bestest friend. My grandma had dementia. It was in the early stages, and she vacillated between lucidity and what used to be called senility. She was, literally, losing her mind. My mom insightfully commented that she thinks the worst torture one could experience on this earth would be to have enough of your faculties to know that you are losing them. And I have to agree.

According to some studies, my mom and I are far from being alone in our estimation of that horror: the diagnosis of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is cited as being the #1 fear for older people, as well as their physicians. Why? Thinking abilities significantly impact a person's quality of life. What's more, Alzheimer's is the 7th leading cause of death among the elderly.

It was hard watching Grandma "lose her mind," hearing about her imagined son who had come back, or her mom--long-since deceased--who'd come to visit, or later yet, forgetting not only to put on her lipstick (she was always so prim!) but to cover herself properly and put in her teeth before friends entered her room.

The process of the fading of her memory was gradual, like that of an old picture as it becomes less crisp and clear and yet still clearly represents something (or someone) that once was. A person's outward beauty is like that too. But inward degeneration of a person is far more devastating.
My Classy Grammy, age 18, circa 1934
Gram, me and my younger sister Judy, circa 1981

Gram & me at my 8th grade graduation, 1992
Gram & me, the day of my high school graduation, 1996
The second and third pictures show the ways my grandma looks in my mind's eye. (My mom finally talked her into stopping with the hair dye! lol) She was active, happy, fun. She cleaned circles around anyone, despite having a bad back. She was also always "hefty" in my memory. The last picture is only a few years after the third, and yet it shows her vastly different. The regression had begun. She was living in a nursing home and losing weight. I couldn't bear to look at pictures of her past that point, even if I had them (which I don't). The funny thing is that in the third pic that I posted, I'm the age that she was in the first.

I encountered a variety of emotions looking through pictures of Gram today to post some. I smiled at happy memories and fought back tears of sadness, missing Gram. But I also grew afraid.

Even now that she's gone, my grandma's story haunts us all: Dementia, as many know, holds increased risks for those with family histories of it. The infamous Alzheimer's disease is a sub-set of dementia, and both affect not just a person's memory, but all cognitive (or mental) processes, as well. That's why Grandma didn't just forget she'd left the iron on, but she'd put it in her bed. (Yikes!)

Add to the difficulties inherent in knowing a loved one is losing cognitive abilities, the fact that Alzheimer's, like all forms of dementia, is irreversible, and the meds that can be prescribed come with heavy side-effects, and many of us notice people "slipping" but don't want to say anything. Even medical professionals sometimes fear bringing up the "A" word ("Alzheimer's") to their patients. (Of course, it's not the official "diagnosis" that really should be feared, but evidently, that's beside the point for many people.)

Another sub-set of dementia has recently been recognized, though, and it's called MCI. "MCI" stands for "Mild Cognitive Impairment," and I attended a free webinar about it last week. I learned that this intermediate condition can be treated by a new drug called Cerefolin NAC. As a medical food, this drug has proven to have no notable side effects, compared to placebos. Yet, it actually decreases brain atrophy by over 50%. The basic ingredients are active B12 and folate (the purist form of folic acid) that can cross the blood-brain barrier.

So if you have a loved one that you can see "slipping," don't be afraid to broach the subject; there may now be hope for reversing the process that can lead to full-blown dementia or Alzheimer's.

Another application of this knowledge is to eat your greens! We Americans typically don't get nearly enough folic acid in our diets; it's found in green leafy veggies, such as spinach and kale (I don't think I've ever eaten kale, have you?). Once we reach our 50s or 60s, we can't "cram" enough in to make up for a lifetime of starving our brain of needed food, but if we start early, maybe we can keep our minds sharp for a little longer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Heart-Mirror of a Book!

Well, you may have noticed that I haven't been posting on here much, at all, lately. I have been posting other places, like my mommy blog and GoodBlogs. I can hide behind the excuse that I've been busy (which I have) and that we've been having internet connectivity issues (3 techs out here, in as many weeks!) as well as that I write on those other sites for career purposes, networking, and the potential for pay (and that is true, too). But the fuller truth is that I've been purposely avoiding this blog.

Why? Well, I read this statement this week, and it reflected my heart all too well: "If you're resisting the call of God . . . your life will be set adrift on a sea of shifting emotions and unruly ways of thinking. You are inviting depression and anger. You are tempting bitterness and confusion. You are fueling a mind-set that will stay in constant disarray, with no referenc epoint to provide any kind of stability for your life." (That quote is from chapter 2 of "Voices of the True Woman Movement" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.)

In all the uncertainty and conflicted priorities and tough decisions that has been our lives, for this past year, I've lost my focus, and, like Peter, I've been sinking. And in this kind of water, I can't swim. Here's another excerpt from the same heart-mirror of a chapter: "Perhaps you've been there--perhaps you are there--down where life drags the floor of all human abilities, where everything feels hopeless and pointless and impossible to handle." Um, yeah. That's me. Was me. Will be me every time I take my eyes off where they should be.

The other day, I actually found myself asking Jonathan if he had a "contingency plan" regarding something we were hoping would work out and then adding, "If you don't, can you just pretend to?" He won't play my game, and he shouldn't. I shouldn't need a game. There is Someone who knows and has a plan. So why isn't that enough for me? I feel like I need to see how it makes sense, or at least the Person Who's in Charge. But I can't. Yet I must look to Him.

Yes, that craving for seeing what He doesn't let us see is mentioned in that chapter, too (in part, quoted from John Piper): "In every situation and circumstance of your life, God is always doing a thousand different things that you cannot see and you do not know. . . . the vast majority of His work is behind the scenes, providentially obscured from our view."

Those "providentially obscured" workings require faith to see. Faith, by nature, is about what can't be seen. Nancy continues to address them:

"God's ways for you--just as His ways for [Sarah, Ruth, Hannah, and Mary, in the Bible]--will not alwyas make sense to your human reasoning. . . . It may seem that His plan is not working; you can't imagine how the outcome could be anything but bleak. But you can be assured that God doesn't make mistakes.

"You don't have to know what He's doing. Or why.
"The fact is, He knows. And that's all that really matters.
"And if you trust Him, in time, you will thank Him for the treasures that have resulted from those trials."

Oh, I want the treasures, but not the trials. In the same way, I want a clean house, a fit body, and a stellar writing portfolio without the discipline and sweaty work required to achieve them.

The chapter was based on Romans 11:33-36, and I learned that the Greek word that's translated "depth" in verse 1 connects to the idea of a bath. You know how that warm, soothing water surrounds your body, making it buoyant and refreshed. Oh, the depth of the treasures of God's wisdom! If I bathe my heart and mind in His wisdom that He shares with us, I think I'll be more likely not to sink. 

Even when I can't see how His ways in my life are wise, I need to constantly bathe myself in the Truth so I'm reminded that they are. Will you help remind me of that, from time to time? I need that kind of friendship in my life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pregnant for 10+ Months

If you've been following my story of this in-between time, you may remember this post, one of my first, about "expecting" versus "waiting," that I wrote back in September. I just thought that I was antsy about moving on, back then! The best analogy to how I feel is something other moms may understand--you know how you feel that last month of your pregnancy, or even the last week? Words like tired, anxious, achy, come to mind.

In addition, though, you're unable to focus on anything else besides the strong physical and emotional need to have the pregnancy over! Of course, you would never want it over prematurely, risking your health and the baby's, so you remind yourself you should be thankful for carrying the child full-term, but there is still that incredible restlessness, unease, angst that overshadows every thought.

That's how I feel, lately. But unlike pregnancy, there is no due date, due week, due month--no promises that this "transition time" will end anytime soon. And as summer approaches, I find myself grieving, in a way.

We'd planned to buy a porch swing for last summer, and we'd planted strawberries in the garden. We never got to buy our swing, though, and we at least hope someone else besides the squirrels enjoyed the berries we'd planted. Jonathan was going to build a swingset for the boys, too. Not only did he not get to do that last summer, but he won't get to do it this summer, either.

And we'll be moving again, because this apartment was a good choice for the short-term sublet, but not for the long-term. It's so hard to make wise choices while in "temporary mode." Just when the weather will be warmest, and I'll be wanting to take advantage of the pool that's in the complex, we'll be spending hours packing boxes once again, probably to a smaller place, instead.

I'm mailing out another intro. packet to a church tomorrow, and Jonathan's boss seems hopeful that he could get Jonathan in on a next-level-up position that would mean decent pay. A church with which he had a phone interview 4 weeks ago tomorrow still hasn't contacted him back, even though they said they would, either way--par for course.

The writing contest was a fun diversion, and I'm not ashamed of coming in 2nd out of 120 or so writers, even though it turned into more of a popularity contest than a writing contest. (I was encouraged, too, by how many friends helped me out, and I credit them with my placement, which doesn't make sense considering the winner had over 1,000 more FB friends than I!) Some other writing gigs seem to be coming through, though, so some extra funds are coming in. Just nothing regular like the Momsquawk position would be. But the issue isn't just financial.

In the mean time, we can't plan on any kind of vacation, even an inexpensive one, because Jonathan wants to save any vacation time he has in case a church asks him to visit. 

I just want something to look forward to, some timeframe that gives me hope that this tunnel will end.

The Resurrection gives me hope, and I'm glad this world isn't all there is, but I can't help wanting something to change for now, today, this month, this year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The ER on Good Friday

Our first trip to the ER for one of our boys just happened to occur today, Good Friday. Caleb, our firstborn, just turned 2 last week and checked out just fine at his well-baby (or well-child?) appointment. This week, though, he's been running a temp, on and off, since Sunday. Nothing major, though. Probably teething, I thought, despite the medical community's insistence that teething does not cause fevers.

Anyhow, yesterday, he was so sleepy all day and miserable by evening. And warmer. I finally took his temp, and it registered at 103.7. I called the after-hours doctors' office number, mainly because that was easier than looking up the magic temperature for this particular age; the nurse on call said that if it went over 105 to take him in, right away. Otherwise, she suggested trying to get him in to his primary care physician the next day (today). After his second night waking, I resigned to sleeping on the couch, holding my precious boy. I missed the comfort of my own bed, but I delighted in comforting him--don't all parents?

Around our normal waking time, I checked his temp again: 105.4. Yikes! I called to see if I should take him in to the doctor's office or urgent care, and the nurse said to head to the ER. "If he has no other symptoms of influenza, he likely has a urinary tract infection, and they'll need to use a catheter on him. They'll probably have to sedate him for that, so you should just go straight to the hospital." Not words I wanted to hear. The idea of a sedative on one so young scared me, but I did as I was told.

It's bad enough to have to hold your happy, healthy child's arms down while he gets his innoculations, but to hold a sick kid still and in position for a poke, an X-ray, and then a catheter insertion is just miserable! (We were relieved that they did not sedate him, though.) The only reason my husband and I could do those things was because we knew that it was for his good, and it could lead to less pain and discomfort for him, later. Would I do it to ease your discomfort, or anyone else's? Probably not. I love my son more.

Between the pokes and other tests, Caleb wanted a "boo"; of course, I had brought a few of his favorite books. We read about bacon, ham, and pork (Jonathan's pet names for "The Three Little Pigs") and then read something more significant: a story about another Dad who let His Son suffer. Here's an excerpt:

"Papa?" Jesus cried, franticaly searching the sky. "Papa?" Where are you? Don't leave me!"

And for the first time--and the last--when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn't answer. He turned away from his Boy.

Tears rolled down Jesus' face. The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye. . . .

The full force of the storm of God's fierce anger at sin was coming down. On his own Son. Instead of his people. It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.

The comparison is weak, but for me, as I read that story today in the ER, I seemed to understand and appreciate God's sacrifice for me a little more. As much as any dad hates seeing his boy suffer, God had to hate it, too. He just loved something even more than He hated that, and that "something" is me, and you.

Well, our story has a somewhat happy ending. By the time we left the ER, Caleb's fever was down, and we had been assured that it was nothing serious. Daddy even got him laughing at the trash can that mysteriously opened on its own--and talked! (The link is to a quite amateurish--and wrongly positioned--video, but I think it's sweet!)

On the 10-minute drive home, Caleb fell peacefully asleep. His dad and I smiled at each other when we noticed the long eyelashes of our sweet boy resting on his cooled cheeks. The pain was over. I imagined God's relief when Jesus said,"It's finished." Their story has a happy ending, too. Will yours?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Soon Spring Will Come

I've been so crazy with this contest that I haven't spent much time in reflection on this most holy of weeks. Or blogging. So I'm taking a little break here, to praise the One who gives us hope, even on icy days, both literal and not.

Here's a little piece I wrote as part of an application for another writing gig:

The first day nature hints that spring is on its way sends energizing sunlight through my veins! Deep down, I know I’ll have to clear snow off patio chairs and cover my brightly colored toe nails with socks and boots again, but I still celebrate spring’s first appearance each year. Why do I love spring so much? It’s the anticipation, the promise that soon summer will come; soon I’ll feel warmth smiling on my shoulders and taste fresh -picked berries. Spring’s first glimpse offers hope for life: It may be cold and dark right now, but soon the sun will shine.
And here's a few more eloquent lines from one of my favorite non-canonical writers:

If Holy Week is icy, and snows your flowers enfold,
Remember, His last night was brutal, bitter, cold.

That little piece of poetry is based on John 18:18: "Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter was also with them, standing and warming himself."

May His Resurrection hope give you warmth that shatters even the darkest, coldest memories and thoughts you hold, this Holy Week.

And even when your earthly hopes are dashed, may the saints of old remind you to take heart, because if you know God, you will enjoy a warm spring day, eternally, someday. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dancing Like No One Is Watching

I love teaching my son Caleb new words and activities! I never knew that watching a child climb up stairs or make an animal sound could bring me so much joy! He loves books, and favorites are "Three Little Pigs" and "Alice in Wonderland." (Here's a picture of his famous "Cheshire Cat grin"! I love it!)
Helping develop his character (yes, already!) is quite rewarding, too. I love it when he obeys at times when he does not want to do so. And not just because it trips my ego, but because he's learning something valuable. Maybe you already saw this video I posted to my Facebook wall a couple months ago, but I just love opportunities like this one! However, I never thought about all that he'd teach me.
You know the phrase "dance like no one is watching"? Well, he's teaching me to do just that. I love the lack of self-consciousness he has! When he's excited, he makes all kinds of loud, happy sounds and flails his arms and runs all around. He doesn't care if people see him or what they think. He just expresses himself.
He also dances. Now, I know that may not be a winsome quality for a conservative Baptist preacher's son, but he just does it naturally, when he hears music. (Trust me, this kind of dance isn't likely to elicit any kind of lust!) I can be in the most uptight, frustrated mood, and he'll gesture toward my iPod dock to let me know he wants to hear some music. Wether it's VeggieTales, Patch the Pirate, Sara Groves, the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team, the Cosby Show intro., or Dean Martin, that kid just smiles and moves to the music and has a blast! 

(The Pettit Team, you ask? Seriously, one of my favorite times of seeing him dance was at Northland's Freedom Celebration last summer. If you've been there, you know how they keep the driveway to campus clear. Well, we had our seats right behind that, as you face the stage, and it seemed to him that he was on stage, as he danced in the driveway to the bluegrass rhythms. Priceless!)

Anyhow, my son is teaching me to take time to enjoy life and, yes, even to dance. Maybe we look silly, but we have a lot of fun and even get some exercise. I just make sure to close the blinds.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Standing Up (When You Should Just Sit Down)

We hear it all the time, don't we--"Stand up for yourself," "Stand up for what you believe in," and "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." We see "standing up" as a show of strength and character but "sitting down" as giving up, resigning to a lesser fate. And that message of our society resonates with our sinful, selfish hearts, doesn't it? It sure does, mine. I HATE to give in! What about you?

And yet God calls us to submit--to His Word, the government, employers, church leaders, husbands, parents, and even one another. This kind of submission sometimes requires us to simply sit down. If someone's opinion crosses yours, you don't have to let them know. Really. (I'm trying to convince myself of this--I know it's hard!)

In my reflections of growing up in the church, family, school, etc., in which I did, I sometimes feel like the emphasis was much more on the externals than truly having the right heart attitude inside. However, at times I'm more inclined to think maybe they tried, and I just didn't get it. One example is the illustration I heard dozens of times from the pastor of my church; to fully appreciate it, you must imagine a hard-faced preacher with a deep southern drawl:

"The boy's father kept telling him to sit down, and finally, the boy folded his arms, set his jaw, and plunked down onto the chair. He looked up at his dad and said, 'I may be sittin' down on the outside, but I'm standin' up on the inside!'"

Is that you? So many times, that truly is me. And the saddest part is, that most times, I feel like I'm good! After all, I am sitting down on the outside, aren't I?

Tuesday night was such an example. For the past couple weeks, I've been privileged to have some freelance writing gigs to bring in some extra money. (And if you've been following my posts at all, you know that finances have been a struggle for our family, particularly this past year.) The pay isn't great, to be honest, although I hope it will improve as I prove myself and get offered higher paying jobs and as I get faster at this kind of writing. Anyhow, it's taken up a lot of my time, and my family has suffered. House work has been lacking, since I've used nap time and after bedtime hours to do my writing instead of laundry and other tasks. But with my first deadline looming over me this week, I started working in the mornings, too, holing myself in our bedroom/baby nursery/office until lunch.

Jonathan and I had decided that pushing myself for these first projects was a wise idea, but it was clearly wearing on us both. I knew he liked the living area and kitchen tidy when he got home each night, but that just wasn't happening. And my new-found coupon habit was overtaking our kitchen table, which is an area he specifically likes kept neat.

Well, Tuesday, after lunch, I put the boys down for their naps and chose that brief, just-us time of day to mention that I had another longer gig come up, if I wanted it. But I needed his help a little more, with some housework, to make it all make sense. I thought this was reasonable, and it would be unwise to say no to extra work. But he said no! I sat down on the outside, meaning that I didn't argue with him or go against his wishes, but boy, was I standing up on the inside!

I didn't talk to him again before he left, and I'm sure he knew that I was fuming! The thoughts that ran through my head, the arguments for why his choice was foolish, just begged to be let out. I didn't let them, though, and I felt proud of myself for that. I tried repenting, but God and I both knew I wasn't sorry. How could I be--I was right! I finally got calmed down enough to straighten up before Jonathan came home. Still standing up on the inside, though, and hoping for a chance to state my case.

Before I had a chance, he said,"I've been thinking more about you taking on that work, and it's fine." He looked at me, the rims around his eyes growing red. "It's just that you have to spread it out more. I miss my best friend."

My heart just melted! What love!

He went on to explain,"I love our boys, and I don't mind doing more to help out, but I want to do it with you, not to have you gone the whole time that I'm home."

Okay, I was wanting him to be reasonable, but he was reasoning with his heart. To him, this issue was about our relationship, and he missed it. Why would I resist that kind of love?

How like our Heavenly Father! When we "sit down" to his will on the outside, but insist on our own way, we are so foolish! He doesn't just want outward submission; that isn't part of a close relationship. We have to truly sit down.

(Now I have to stand up and clear off this table, though, before my hubby gets home!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He Meets Our Needs

Did any of you grow up hearing heart-warming stories about people in financial distress who had mysterious bags of groceries arrive just as they bowed their heads to "say grace" over a meal they didn't have? Or countless tales of anonymous donors putting "just enough money" on someone's school bill to let them come back another semester?

Growing up in an upper middle class home, as I heard those stories, a part of me ached to be in such desparate straits simply so I could see God's hand provide for me that way. Well, financial difficulties aren't as exciting as I once imagined, even when God does provide. But He is faithful.

I started this blog entry last night, not knowing what God would do today, but I'll leave you in suspense on that one--for now. :)

I don't want to get awkwardly personal here, so I won't mention amounts, just portions of my husband's pre-tax weekly income, so you at least understand the significance of the amounts. But to give you somewhat of an idea, we thought money was tight when Jonathan was a pastor, but he actually made the same amount (or close to it) that he does now, while also having a home and utilities provided. Amazing!

I've mentioned previously how God provided a job for me last spring that helped us buy our minivan for cash, so I won't go into details about that, here. Those blessings are still fresh in my mind, but since we left Gillet last June, here are some of the main ups and downs we've experienced, financially:
  • Jonathan found a job here in Madison within a week of looking in July.
  • He was led to believe he'd get a raise, about the time Joshua was due in October, meaning about an extra week's pay, each month.
  • With most apartments in Madison requiring a year's lease, we were glad to find a great sublet situation in which we got our first month's rent for free and only had to commit to a 5-month lease, starting in December. (We think God may have detoured us to Tucson just so we would wait for this apartment to come available!)
  • When Jonathan's raise still hadn't gone through, we neared the end of January wondering how we could possibly make our budget (yes, we really have one and keep track of receipts!) work. We decided it was impossible and increased our energy going toward applying for jobs for him around Madison, in addition to the church search.
  • We found a part-time nanny job listed on Craigslist, but that didn't turn out. We were asked to do some odd jobs for the family, though, which included clearing out a basement and removing many sallable goods. We were paid to do this and then sell the items and keep that money, too. (This amounted to an extra weeks' pay.)
  • To end January, we received a surprise check from a family member for about a half week's pay.
  • In February, Jonathan was able to put in some overtime, which was like getting another half week's pay.
  • After many attempts at finding legitimate freelance writing jobs, I received two inquiries within two days, last week. In another week, with commitments already in place, I will have made an extra half-week's pay.
  • The day after I received those jobs, we had to sign a 3-month lease extension, which would mean higher rent, starting in May (about 1/10 of a week's pay). That was discouraging, but less so with the writing jobs starting to come.
  • This past Sunday, it seemed like my writing money would be used for something not-so-savory: someone smashed the window of our van, requiring about 75% of a week's pay to fix it.
  • Monday we received notification in the mail that we would be receiving help for our utilities that would basically make up for the amount we paid to replace the window.
  • Today (drum roll, please!) we found out that we'll be getting money back from taxes, to the tune of about 10x's a week's pay!

It doesn't make sense that we're not in debt, we're nearly making budget, and we're about to have more in the bank than we did when we left Gillett. I'm not saying that to brag on us, but to praise my God who truly does provide!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are We Crazy, or What?

I am totally sleep-deprived, but I just have to get this out of my head! I'd love to know your thoughts, as well, so please feel free to comment on here or FB or send me a message, kay?

Those of you who know me can pretty much hear my tone of voice as I utter the term "Hickville" with apparent disdain. After all, this is the "city girl" who relished her opportunity to work downtown Chicago, travel Europe, and leap at the chance of any other such adventure. But that was in another life. Or so it seems.

Jonathan and I have pictured our lives in various parts of the country and different types of areas, throughout the year in the all-too-familiar roller coaster of hoping, fearing, thinking this church will be the one and then ending up disappointed . . . again. Well, as we've gone through all of that, we seem to have arrived at some interesting (to me, anyway) conclusions about the kind of place we'd like to live and raise our sons. Now, of course, geography isn't the #1 consideration, and we really have no offers, as yet, but that is incredibly beside the point.

Here are some of our findings:

We'd prefer a church that does not have a Christian school (You see, if he's the pastor, and the church has a school attached to it, for better or for worse, we've lost our privilege of making decisions regarding our children's education.)

We'd strongly prefer someplace in the Midwest or Northeast part of the country, particularly where there are lots of trees and a significant amount of fluctuation in temperature throughout the year. And yes, snow. (I love that pink little nose!)

We'd like to find a somewhat quiet ministry and area, not one that would have us running the rat race. I strongly believe that many public servants and, yes, people in Christian ministry, often become workaholics to the detriment of their own families. And many ministries almost require that a person do so.

That last one has been startling to me. I mean, I want my kids to have opportunities and culture and all of that. I don't want them to be "hicks." But at the same time, I don't want to miss their growing up years or our chance to truly enjoy and influence them. I've been hearing so many people say (and even write, in Christmas letters and such) things like "well, like everyone else, we're busier than we'd like to be." I even know of one mom of teenagers who said she and her husband had always wanted to take a trip to the Grand Canyon, but their kids preferred to spend that money on fine arts and sports camps. Now they're all grown, and I wonder if she regrets not doing that kind of thing.

So many of my students' families, when I taught at a Christian school I still think is one of the very best, really had little to no family life. I don't want that. The rat race will be fine if we leave it. It's been fine for a while now, while we spend most of our hours trying to live "quiet, peaceful lives" (1 Timothy 2:2).

With our current financial situation, I'm also really learning to re-evaluate my definition of "need" and what is really important. I'm learning how materialistic I am and how unimportant most of what money can buy truly is. My boys don't care about "stuff" nearly as much as they desire my attention.

Now, my undivided attention would be easier to give them, if I wasn't constantly applying for jobs--mostly for Jonathan--and finding ways to earn and save a few bucks here and there on-line, but still! (On that note, a recipe I love will be featured on "Raining Hot Coupons" tomorrow, er, uh, later today--yikes! I need to go to bed! Anyhow, "Like" them on Facebook for great deals and to see yours truly--and vote for me at the end of the month, please! If I win, I'll get a rare $20 fun money!) Some money definitely makes life easier, but I digress.

Currently, I'm surprised at my "okayness" with a prospective church in Michigan's UP. It's literally 2 hours from a town of 20,000 people--the closest Super Wal-Mart, mall, etc. Really, I am. I guess I've changed. But if they don't have high-speed internet capabilities, that might be a little too far . . .