Archive for the ‘Social Commentary’ Category

My Daughter Thanked Me and her Father

One of my thirteen year old twin daughters was invited to a classmate’s birthday party.  (Only one twin was invited?  Well that happens when twins are in some separate classes at school and make new friends not  from the pool of  friends they both know…it actually makes my twin girls even on birthday party invites as the other twin was invited  to another classmate’s party in the Fall.)  As we were driving home, I asked my daughter the usual questions: How many guests were there and what are their names?  What snacks and/or type of cake did you eat?  Did you play any games and what were they? Did you have a good time?  After my first set of questions were answered and my daughter said she had had a nice time, I asked about the adults who had been in the living room and kitchen when I arrived at the home when the party was designated to be over.  My daughter told me who the various adults were and then said that the gentleman in the kitchen washing up the dishes was not the father, as I had assumed but a stepdad of the student.  After a pause, my daughter commented on the sad fact that a lot of her classmates have divorced parents;  one friend has parents who have separated recently due to a big fight.  She summed up her comment by thanking me and her dad for staying married to each other.

divorce with wedding cake

Her comments got me to thinking this past weekend.  Divorce statistics remain high, too high, in my opinion, in the Unites States.  I have known many people who suffered when their parents, for whatever the reasons, announced that the marriage was going to be over and a divorce was imminent.  One friend could still recall the pain, at the age of 5, watching her father trying to leave the house with a suitcase in his hand, her older sister sobbing and clinging to him, trying with all her might to make him stay and he having to pry his daughter’s hands  from his person.

Divorce  hurts the children the most.  The innocent, who didn’t ask to be born, who now have to watch the anger, the bitterness, of the two most important adults in their lives go their separate ways.  These children  having  to experience  the bewilderment and fear  of their world being  torn apart.  The consequences of a marriage ending don’t resolve  until one of the divorced parents passes away.  One friend, who’s parents had divorced when she was a college student, and miraculously she saw them re-marry one another when her own children were in their teens, recalled the hurt in having to make two phone calls when a new grandbaby was born, the hurt in having to host one parent at one holiday and the other at another holiday.    I read years ago in a study that children who lose a parent to death actually do better in coping with  life than children who lose a parent due to divorce.   The child who loses a parent to death has good memories to dwell on but   the child of divorce often has the bad memories  to deal with, and the continuing angst and sadness  of two parents who didn’t stay married to one another.

A statistic I read in researching for this post stated that 40% of children before reaching the age of 16,  could expect to see their parents’ marriages end in  divorce.   That number is unbelievably high and very sad.  My point in writing  this post is not  to heap guilt on divorced parents. What’s done is done, and there are myriads of reasons for a marriage to fail.  If that has happened, here’s a helpful article I came across in my readings for helping one’s children cope with the divorce and good ways to handle visitations and to keep communication open between the children and both parents.

My advice to young married couples with children would be to focus on your marriage over the needs of the children.  Children are a blessing, I firmly believe that.  They require lots of care, nurturing, and love.  They need guidance, discipline, and your wisdom.  However, you musn’t put them at the top of the marriage…the first relationship, the husband and wife relationship, must come before the children.  Don’t make idols of your children!   Years ago when I atttended La Leche League meetings with my firstborn and was getting a handle on breastfeeding him, I also met other moms in the same boat as me in that we were all first-time moms.  One mom in particular, was putting her baby at the top of her life’s agenda.  The be all and end all of her reason for living was her baby.  She shared with us how her husband was starting to complain a lot about how she’d drop everything at one whimper from her baby, to the point that her husband was starting to sleep in the guest room!  She was adamant that that was okay with her, her baby and his needs came first.  I didn’t say anything to her and if I had  I don’t know if she would have begun to change her ways,  but I foresaw a divorce down her life’s path if she didn’t ease up on her attitude that her baby had to be first  in all aspects of her daily living, and if she continued to treat her husband like a second-class citizen in her marriage.  That’s my example of making one’s child an “idol”.

To young, married couples, keep that line of communication open with one another.  Find a sitter from time to time and go out on dates.  Let each other know how much you appreciate what they bring to the marriage.  As a stay at home mom, I relished the compliments  my husband would give me when our children were small.  I, in turn, have told him many times how much I appreciated his hard work at his career in order for me to be at home with our children when they were small and later, when I homeschooled them.

Wedding cake

I was humbled, happy, and pleasantly surprised when my daughter thanked me and her father.  I had not really given it much thought that due to our marriage succeeding, that there is an inherent stability that our children could count on, an inherent safety in their world.  Strive, young married couples, with children, to stay together for your childrens’ sakes.  You will probably get a thank you too, years from now.

April 8th is Coming…Getting Ready to Vote!

I view my opportunity to vote with  great enthusiasm.  When I lived in Florissant, I volunteered to work two elections as an official, checking voters’ addresses off of large books, having them initial their names, answering their questions, even calmly dealing with some strange complaints a few  voters  would make.  I remember  being very glad for the presence of our wonderful  head judge  who gladly took on  the “strange complaints voters” aside to talk with them and soothe their ruffled feathers.

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April 8th is approaching and that day means I have an opportunity to vote in my new city of Rolla.  There are quite a few items to vote on: pick a new mayor, pick school board members, and whether or not to vote on a sales tax increase for the Parks Department.

Three people are  running for Mayor and I know nothing about any of them.  I need to roll up my shirt sleeves and try to find out who they are and what they believe in politically and why should I vote for any one of them to be the new Mayor?  What are their plans for Rolla? There will be a Mayoral Candidate Forum on March 20th and I plan on attending that so I can listen to each candidate speak and answer questions presented by the voters.

The school board had planned a question and answer session with the 4 candidates  running for the board on March 3rd but that was postponed to yesterday, March 10th, due to bad weather on the 3rd.  The local cable channe Channel 16,  aired this session yesterday afternoon so I tuned in.  Of the 4 candidates for the school board, 3 are incumbents, and the 4th candidate is running to be elected for the first time;  only 3 seats are open for filling this election cycle.   As I watched, I felt that  one of the  incumbent’s  answered questions fairly and calmly.  One of the incumbent’s is a former teacher and I think having someone who actually worked in a classroom would be a good skill set to have on any school board.  One of the other incumbents kept criticizing the “newby” candidate’s points…it gave off an aura of “I have been on this school board and since you haven’t been, you really need not apply for a seat” and that struck me in a very negative way.

The most controversial issue  facing Rolla voters is whether or not to approve a sales  tax boost that will  benefit the Parks Department.   The sales tax proposal is very small,  1/4th of 1 percent tax.  Why is this proposal, called Prop A, so controversial?  It is due to the city’s Recreational Center, known as The Centre.  It was built 8 years ago and at the time it was built, I believe from what research I’ve been able to do, that taxes were raised to fund the building of this Centre.  Voters were told 8 years ago that by 2013,  The Centre would be financially self-supportive.  That hasn’t happened.  The Centre has never ran in the black budget-wise.   Some people in the community cannot afford to pay for the exercise classes offered,  cannot pay for a membership at The Centre, so is it fair to once again tax  the consumers who shop in Rolla to continue to pay for this building?  Some have asked why not separate The Centre from the Parks Department as the parks do need upkeep and improvements and that a sales tax increase  just for the parks would probably pass.   The anti-Prop A forces have had signs popping up all around the city with The Centre featured prominently on their signs.    The Centre is sort of like a YMCA for Rolla.  There is a nice indoor  pool with a section for lap swimmers, a regular swimming area  for kids, and  a low-entry area for little kids.  Swimming lessons are offered throughout the year.  There is an indoor track for runners and walkers.  Weight-lifting , treadmills, stationary bikes, etc.  Gyms for basketball and volleyball.  Fitness classes are offered and one can even sign up for personal trainers.  On Tuesday afternoons during the school year, PE classes are offered to the home schooled children in the area.  Afterschool activities are offered for school kids too old for daycare yet not old enough to stay at home alone until parents are home from work.   I do appreciate The Centre and what it is trying to provide for the community, and our family has participated in some of these offered classes.  On Prop A, our house is a divided one.  I will probably vote for the Parks Department, but husband is anti-taxes no matter how small the proposed increase, so our votes will probably cancel each other’s out on this issue.

This post was just a glimpse into voting, and issues my community will be deciding upon in April.  I encourage my fellow citizens in Rolla, to be sure you are registered and to vote.  It is a right of all Americans, 18 and older, to make their voices heard.  Don’t ignore your civic duty!

Our turtle saga continues…

Our youngest, a son, age 1o and soon to turn 11, loves turtles.  He is often reading all the materials he can find on them via the internet and in a book we bought him 2 years ago, The Turtle,  by Lenny Flank Jr.  When we moved to the Rolla area, almost 3 years ago now, we decided to rent a house until our Florissant house sold.  Providentially, we found a rental house, large enough for our family of 8  just outside the city limits, on the west side of Rolla.  Living in the country for most of the 2011-2012 school year let us have many encounters with nearby cattle and wildlife.  With a small stream cutting across the 5 acres at the rental house, turtles were inevitably found and this added to our youngest’s  turtle love, or mania, if you ask his older siblings about it.

Red-Eared Slider 1

Springtime in Phelps County revealed to us that lots of turtles are in the area as they are trying to cross the roads, both rural and city streets.  We joked for a bit amongst our family that Rolla should’ve been named Turtle Town.  We quickly decided, even husband did too, to slow down, if a turtle was seen trying to cross one of the County Roads, and if no other cars were coming, we’d pull over and help the turtle get across before it could become a traffic fatality.

RESlider 2

In early May of 2012 we made the move to a “new to us” home inside the city limits.  The next Spring, 2013, our older kids were in the backyard to collect the dog and bring him inside the house when they  found a turtle, a box turtle, slowly making its long trek across our yard.   They were able to corral it and called the baby of the family to come out and see it.  With mine and husband’s permission, this Box turtle was added to our family.  Our youngest, from all of his readings, was able to determine that the turtle was a female and he named her Amber, due to the colors on her shell.    Amber quickly became the boarder in our sunroom.  A good sized rock was hauled into the room for her to climb onto, a large crockery dish of water was also put out for her to use.  She quickly adapted to her new environment, eating her meals that were placed on the rock(lettuces, strawberries, apples, worms, crickets, mushrooms, and mulberries were some of her daily fare), and  sitting in the water dish.  I even observed her dipping her head into the water from time to time, and yawning!  Who knew turtles yawned?  As the summer was nearing it’s end, I unfortunately took the turtle outside with me one evening as I did some weeding in a flowerbed.  Amber saw my distracted state and made her escape.  Our son was distraught, I felt horrible, and after some tears and a few days had gone by, we talked with our son and he agreed that Amber was probably better off in the wild.

RE slider 3

Now it is almost our son’s 11th birthday and once again, we’ve given the okay for him to have a turtle for a pet.  The local pet shop won’t sell them, and it’s not time to collect one from a road as they’re still hibernating, so the internet came to our rescue.  After much research, a Red-Eared Slider is due to arrive anytime now for our son’s latest turtle adventure to begin.   So here is hoping that the turtle has a long, happy life in our home, that our son will continue to develop his interest in these reptiles, and that the responsibilities that come with owning and caring for a pet will blossom in him.

Baby #3 will be leaving the nest…

Our third child, son #2, will be leaving the nest this summer.  He will graduate from high school at the end of May and turns 18  a couple weeks from now.  I reminded him this morning that he’ll  be old enough to vote and he replied, “Really?”,  and then followed that up with the comment that he didn’t know if he’d really want to bother with voting.  I find that to be a common theme for 18-20 year olds that I know.  In fact, he seems to fit in with a trend I saw this morning in the news about the youngest voters.   The news story for that is here, the 4th point in the article.   college caps

Our son has done well in school.  He has always gotten math concepts quickly and took two years of Chemistry, earning A’s in those classes.  That amazes me because I managed to get out of high school with no chemistry under my belt.  I do know what H2O and NaCl are and who Marie Curie was, but that’s about it for my chemistry knowledge.   With his strong understanding of higher math and science, I just assumed that he was going to announce that he wanted to be an engineer like his dad, but no, he has surprised us all with his announced plans of studying Culinary Arts.  He has told me several times, “People gotta eat!”, and he’s right about that!  He has been accepted to attend a Culinary Arts program at an area community college and is waiting to hear if he’s been accepted into a 4 year Culinary Arts program at another  college his older sister attends.  The 4 year program also focuses on the business aspects of restaurants and I have teased him a bit that if he graduates from that school then he can come back to Rolla and open up a Penn Station, a restaurant we miss eating at and one that a college town with a majority of male students needs!!!!  download

Our third son is unique, in that he has red hair…none of our other 6 children have red hair, so he often gets teased about being the “ginger” in the family.  I’m just glad it’s a darker red, not a bright, orangey color.  Our older daughter studied genetics in a science class her senior year and informed us that if we had had an 8th child, that that child would probably have had red hair too!  This third child was born on George Washington’s actual birthday, which I have liked to remind him of from time-to-time.   He’s a lefty, a trait he shares with one of his younger sisters and my dad and when at age 3 he showed an eagerness to learn how to move the mouse on the mouse pad to play preschool games on the home computer he was quickly able to master that with his right hand.  It was  the same for guitar when he took lessons and I didn’t realize left-handed guitars existed, and had bought him a guitar for right-handed people.  He cheerily went on his way and learned how to play that guitar, never complaining to me.  acoustic guitar

A main reason he might seem unique is that he was born with a birth defect in his left eye.  The pediatrician caught it the day our son was born, during those early tests that are conducted on newborns.  The pediatrician explained that when a light is flashed in a newborn’s eye, a “red reflex” is looked for.   The red reflex was there in our son’s right eye, but not present in his left eye.  This meant that our son would need to be examined by a pediatric opthamologist immediately and a retinologist.  There were two possible causes of our son’s eye defect, one serious but not deadly and the other deadly: PHPV or cancer.  Cancer??!! In a newborn baby???  I was in a state of shock on hearing this news, but the pediatrician and later the pediatric opthamologist reassured my husband and I over and over that our son had a healthy heart, lungs, kidneys, reflexes and that he would grow up to do most activities that boys do: run, climb trees, swim, ride a bike, etc.  Our late minister happened to be present for a visit when the doctor came in to discuss the possibilities of the diagnoses, and after the doctor left, our minister stepped up and prayed with us and for our son.   God’s timing was perfect in that  our minister just happened to choose that time of day  to be at the hospital to make visits, to hear the doctor’s words, and knew what to pray for , to give us peace and comfort at that bewildering time.

The Retinologist was from Scotland and was a very kind man.  He did the initial tests looking for white spots that would mean cancer.  After we left his office, having been told that it would be several days before the results would be known, our pediatrician called us that afternoon with the results: no cancer, it was definitely the PHPV.  Persistant Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous, a rare eye defect that hits 1 out of a million babies, according to the doctors.  There is no known cause for it, and it usually effects only one eye, which was what our son had.  He underwent 5 surgeries before the age of 7, a lensectomy to remove the lens of his left eye which was a large cataract, several eye muscle surgeries to correct strabismus that had developed, and a surgery to open up the drainage channels in his left eye-his left eye being somewhat smaller than his right eye, and an eye’s drainage channels need to be able to drain out fluid build-ups in eyes, a naturally occurring event.  If the fluid can’t drain out properly, it will build up and put pressure on the retina, causing  glaucoma, which is something our son has his eye pressures checked each year to keep on the alert for.

We have gone through eye patching, to try and force his left eye to strengthen visually.  That went well while he was a baby but when he was a toddler, he discovered that he could rub off the patch and suddenly see much better and the eye patches became a daily battle.  He also wore glasses,( really just safety glasses as his right eye has always had perfect vision), when he was younger to help keep his right eye safe.  If he ever lost his right eye’s ability to see, than for all intent and purposes, our son would be blind..he can see light and dark and colors with his left eye, but everything is very blurry.  3-D is also not there for him, which I find annoying  when we want to see a movie and only the 3-D( and more expensive) version is at the theatre.  I wish theatre owners would realize that offering the 2-D version is a benefit for movie-goers who can’t see the 3-D effects!

The doctors predictions for our son’s future proved true and he did run and swim, climb trees and ride bikes.  He tried t-ball and that proved trickier for him due to depth perception when trying to hit a ball with a bat.  He also played soccer for a couple of years, which didn’t seem to have as much depth perception difficulties for him.  Learning to drive was also accomplished and the ladies at the dmv office in Rolla were kind and explained that he’d have a mark on his license that alerts officers to a visually impaired driver, but becoming a licensed driver was not a problem.   He’s been able to hold down a part-time job, be in the school musical this past Fall  and this year’s  Spring play, all while maintaining good grades.   climbing trees

As I sit here and look over our son’s life so far, he is unique to me for the medical problems he had to deal with as a newborn and preschooler, he is unique to me for his tenacity in wanting to figure out how a machine works, for accidentally getting in a commercial television shoot at The Arch in St. Louis when he was 4 years old and due to that he was included in the commercial and has a nice little nest egg that accrued monies for him whenever that commercial was shown!  He has been an excellent big brother to his younger 4 siblings and a friend to his older 2 siblings.  I have to  smile  when I contemplate his turn to walk across the stage to receive his diploma in May.   I am glad that it is  his turn to fly from the nest, ready to take on the world with his talents, his faith, and to know that he realizes the blessings that are very apparent  in his life.

Blizzard of ’78

No, this isn’t a title of a disaster movie.  With the weather forecasters for Springfield, MO and St. Louis, MO regaling us tv viewers about the latest snow storm that is expected  to hit the state today and Wednesday, I began recalling the blizzard that I lived through and can remember almost as if it happened yesterday.  It’s also a natural weather event that none of my 7 kids have ever experienced.  Snow storms and cancelled school, yes they’ve experienced that but not a true blizzard.

High piles of snow after the blizzard roared away!

High piles of snow after the blizzard roared away!

I was in 7th grade, and as my alarm clock was about to ring I was coming out of a dream where I was on a beach and the wind was blowing so loudly,  and palm trees were swaying to and fro.  As I awoke from my slumber, I realized that the wind was really blowing, very loudly, howling in fact.  I stumbled out into the dining room, as my bedroom was just off of that room, in our ranch type house on S. Clinton St. and as I looked out the large picture window in the living room, the world was a thick whirl of white.  If a person had been walking outside in our front yard  at that moment, I wouldn’t have been able to see them!  My parents were in the kitchen and I remember my mom asking my dad if I should even attempt to go out to the bus stop.  My dad told her absolutely not, that school would be cancelled and that this was a blizzard!

A blizzard!  I had only read about a blizzard  in The Little House on the Prairie book series up to that point in my life.  I am not sure how many days the snow fell and the winds blew but our small city of 19,000 was pretty much shut down for a week.  My mom was a nurse and folks with trucks and 4 wheel drive vehicles were asked to bring in those hospital employees who couldn’t drive in if their vehicles weren’t equipped for driving in such bad weather.  We, the children and teens of Defiance, OH were in heaven!!  No school for a week!!  I remember when the winds had stopped and the snow had finally quit, that we were allowed to bundle up and go out into the winter wonderland.  Oh what fun we had!  Running around, climbing on top of , and jumping off of the huge snow drifts that the howling winds had left behind.  My future husband, who also grew up in a ranch style house on Maumee Drive has regaled our children with the story of he and his brother, sister, and neighbor kids being able to climb onto the roof of their house and sledding off of it into the tall drifts that were as high as the windows on their house!

Clinton Street, a major road in our town, wasn’t plowed for quite a few days, and as it ran in front of our house, we got to see the ingenuity of Defiance’s citizenry as they figured out ways to get to the Chief Supermarket.  Cross-Country snow skis started making appearances, so did people pulling their kids snow sleds, or toy wagons as conveyances in carrying  the groceries home.  My favorite was one family who had hitched up their Saint Bernard dog to a wagon and he accompanied them to the supermarket!  My dad, two neighbor men, Mr. McKinney and Mr. Koppenhoffer, managed to walk to the Chief and using wagons, brought home necessities such as bread, milk, eggs, and beer!  I remember my mom chastising the men on buying beer, of all things!  Dad did manage to snag an apple pie and he said the shelves were getting pretty empty in the store from  items selling out and the supply trucks not being able to make deliveries yet.

A Toledo, OH grocery store unable to get deliveries in after the blizzard.

A Toledo, OH grocery store unable to get deliveries in after the blizzard.

For a scientific read, I did discover that someone put The Blizzard of 1978 on Wikipedia, and you can read about it at this link.

While I can’t tell my children that I walked 10 miles to school in horrid weather, and I can’t tell them about surviving a chicken pox epidemic(I had the chicken pox, but only a few spots!), I can tell them proudly that I did survive the Blizzard of ’78!    OH 1978

Blizzard of 1978

Blizzard of 1978

OH weather stats for blizzard

The Elderly Gent

I was at Rolla Federal Credit Union last week to do a bit of banking.  As I walked into the lobby and got into line to wait for the teller, I noticed  an elderly gentleman  with white hair peeking out from under his cowboy hat.  The elderly gent was sitting in a chair perched outside of an office doorway and I  noticed that the man was not heavy, he  had on glasses with dark rims, and  he carried a cane.  Shortly after I had gotten into line, a family came into the credit union: a husband and his wife and their son, who looked to be about 12 years of age.  Immediately the elderly gent rose  and greeted them as they came into the lobby.

I thought to myself, “Oh, he knows them.”   Lots of folks in Rolla know one another, such is the way in a smaller community, and I settled back to accidentally overhear their conversation due to the elderly gent talking loudly.   He launched into a loud, fast soliloquy.  The husband who had greeted him with a hello and had politely shook his hand managed to get a few comments and questions in, but I got the impression it was very important for the elderly gentl to say his piece and get it uttered for all to hear.  He related how he was originally from Texas,that  he had been  a country music singer and songwriter-then he gave his name, and of course, none of us had ever heard of him.  He said he sounded a lot like Tex Ritter when he sang.  I did know who Tex Ritter was and so did the husband;pretty sure his 12 year old son didn’t.  Then the elderly gent gave his salvation story, and then launched into a song  he had  written about Jesus.

I had to give the elderly gent credit-for looking to be in his late 70s or early 80s, he did have a strong singing voice.  No tremulous quaverings in his tone at all.  The husband, wife and 12 year old son politely stood at attention as the elderly gent serenaded them.  I grinned at the tellers who were trying not to giggle and not one of the credit union employees told him to stop singing or to go away.  By then it was my turn at the teller’s window and when I was done, the elderly gent had sat back down in the chair and was continuing to talk about his country music writing career and his faith in Jesus to the family of 3 whom  he had greeted when they had walked in.

Fast forward to last Friday afternoon, at Aldi, and as I was placing my purchases on the conveyer belt, I heard a familiar voice strongly singing a song he had written about Jesus.   Yes!  The elderly gent was serenading the Aldi shoppers as they were bagging their groceries!  This time his audience was also fellow senior citizens and they nicely applauded him when he was done.  Most of the cashiers were politely smiling but one did challenge the elderly gent a bit and asked him if he knew any songs by Willie Nelson.  To his credit, he ignored  the question and kept on singing and talking about his faith in Jesus.

I came away with several thoughts from my 2 encounters with this elderly gent.  He was not ashamed of his Lord, Jesus Christ.  He was .proud of his singing voice and past career.  He appeared to be in good health.  He was cheerful and wanting to talk to the public  in places where most people just focus on what they need to get done and want to be on their way.  How many times do I just focus on me, myself, and I when I am out and about shopping or running errands and don’t take time to aknowledge the people about me with a smile or a kind word?

Despite the giggles from the bank teller and the grocery employees, the elderly gent was not afraid of scorn or ridicule or rejection as he boldly praised his Lord and sang in these public establishments.  While I don’t plan on launching into song on my next forrays into the public places of Rolla, MO, I do want to take with me a spirit of friendliness and kindness towards my fellow citizens as we are out and about, shopping and running our errands.  Thanks for that lesson, Elderly Gent.

It’s Going to be Okay

Today I have  a guest blogger:  Titus Benton.  Titus grew up around the Rolla area in neaby Salem, MO and  graduated from Salem High School.  He  then enrolled at St. Louis Christian College, graduated, and  has been serving in Ministry for these past 15 years.   He was one of two youth ministers at First Christian Church, our church when we lived  in Florissant and Titus was  our oldest’s small group bible study leader.   Titus did his best in  reassuring  the teens in our family that moving to Rolla wouldn’t be such a bad thing, that Rolla was a nice town, full of nice people, and he even knew of a church for us to visit, Greentree Christian.   Titus is now serving as  a youth minister with Current Christian Church in Katy, TX.

About a year ago, he and his wife decided to downsize, to sell their newer, larger home for a smaller one in order  to free up money in their budget and be able to give more funds to missions and missionary efforts that are happening around the world; missionary efforts that focus on the list from Matthew 25: 35-36: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”   I was honored when he asked to be a guest blogger on my blog in order to help get the  word out about The 25 Group, the not for profit missions supporting effort that he and his wife have begun in this new year.  If you are interested, you can follow this link to learn more about The 25 Group.   Now, on to Titus’s guest post!

Your list is probably different. Mine goes like this:

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, 1998…maybe 1997. Funny how you forget what year it was but never lose the sight of the family’s face when your group handed over the keys to their new house. Previously they lived in a pallet/cardboard shack. Their bathroom was a hole in the ground with some curtains for privacy. It was the first time I ever saw extreme poverty. I layered stucco until “stucco” was an expletive in my vocabulary. It was hard work, but I didn’t walk away from that construction site the same person. What I’d experienced was not okay.

Homes of the poor in Mexico City

Homes of the poor in Mexico City

Adelaide Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 1999. It was the first time I ever worked in the inner city. The kids were dirty. When gunfire rang out down the block, I cowered in fear while they kept playing. Old news to them. Their homes were larger than the kids in Mexico but their lives were no more hopeful. I pushed them on the swings and gave them piggy back rides until my muscles ached. Then I got in my car and drove back to the suburbs. What I’d experienced was not okay.

Inner City, Washington D.C., 2002. More piggy back rides. More dirty kids. VBS. DeWayne and DeJean. Government-funded housing. Welfare culture. Would the kids I was carrying on my back make it out alive? Would they land in jail like many of their fathers? Would they pedal dope or the Gospel? I got in a van and drove back to the midwest and didn’t have answers to any of my questions. Still don’t. Not okay.

Santiago, Dominican Republic, 2005. “The Hole” is not the name of a neighborhood I’d want to live in. Hundreds of families do–in the midst of garbage and sewage and animals that they compete with for food. “The Fly” was not a hole of garbage but a mountain of it–constantly smoldering. I thought of the Greek word used for “hell” in the New Testament. These people were living in hell. The daily dumped contents of nearby cities was their livelihood. I flew back to the states and bought a bacon cheeseburger at the Miami Airport. It mixed with the taste of smoke and dirt in my mouth and I couldn’t finish it. I pondered the things I’d seen and on a Sunday morning after days of resistance I sat on my couch and I cried. It was a loud cry. I don’t know if I was crying for the people I had met or for myself. My spoiled rotten self. Things were not okay.

Children in the Dominican Republic

Children in the Dominican Republic

Mexico City, Mexico, 2010. More poverty. More hopelessness. Kids dumped in garbage cans, rescued by missionaries and given a home. Plenty of kids not rescued–living on the streets begging for money. Human beings owned by other human beings, pimped out for profit. More dirt, more smoke, more stupid systems and obstacles and red tape and frustration. More not okay.

India, 2013. The one-legged boy tapping on our window, begging for change. The persecuted pastors being beaten for preaching. The girl found in a plastic bag on the side of the road. The children dancing and singing as a welcome to the white people. The stench of the train, the glassiness of the eyes, the stories of children being rescued from red light districts. I got on a jet and flew twenty-something hours back to America. I realized the hook that was constant in all my experiences was the same: Things Are Not Okay.

Children in India

Children in India

Your list may be different in specifics, but the conclusion our lists lead us to is universally the same. There are things in this world that are not okay. There are people bought and sold as commodities. There are children starving to death. There are women widowed because their husbands dared to preach the Gospel. There are places where water is laced with sewage but the people drink it anyway because its wet and they have nothing else. There are cardboard shacks and diseases and glassy eyes and gunshots and hopelessness.

There are also a growing number of people who think that is not okay.

 

I am one of them, and I suspect you are too. After returning from India and my wife from the Dominican Republic my wife and I started a nonprofit organization that will buy food and drill wells and provide shelter and help sick people and welcome strangers and do all the other stuff Jesus says to do in Matthew 25. It’s called The 25 Group.

Because what we do for the least of these we do for Him.

Because there’s plenty in this world that is not okay.

Because Jesus doesn’t think that stuff is okay, either. That’s why He told us to take care of those people–with food and water and the truth about who He is.

Join us as we seek to leverage the wealth of the American church–the bacon cheeseburgers and the jets and the cars and the houses and the coffees and the mobile devices and the concert tickets and the designer labels and the whatevers–to fund global Kingdom work. There’s a village in India with no school, church building, clean water well, or community gather spot. We’re funding a space that will serve all those needs. There’s a community in the Dominican Republic with an unfunded feeding center and there are in fact ten feeding centers in the country that are supplied vitamins year round–one meal a day, six days a week–by a ministry there. We’re going to fund the feeding center and the vitamins for all. The total cost is a little over $53,000 for both projects. We plan to visit each location someday, money in hand, look them in the eyes and say:

“It’s going to be okay.”

And it will be.

Titus also writes an excellent blog, located at TitusLive.com and one can also follow him in Twitter and Instagram  @ TitusLive

My Medical Puzzle

Medical symbolI woke up on the morning of November 11th and I could tell something wasn’t right with my left eye.  It hurt to move my eye, colors weren’t as bright, they were dimmer compared to looking at them with my right eye, and the vision in my left eye was quite blurry.  After gulping down a cup of coffee and waiting for the clock to strike 8:00 am, I called an Opthamologist.  I had to let my fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages of the phone book; having moved to Rolla 3 years ago, our family hadn’t needed to make an Opthamological appointment.  The doctor’s office that I called said they’d see me that afternoon.  Thus,  my medical odyssey had begun!

I am a  healthy 48 year old woman.  No major health issues as a kid, appendicitis at the age of 10.  7 babies(2 twins), and a cold once in a while, hayfever in the summertime.  So this issue with my left eye was a real puzzle to me.  Was this a sign that I finally needed to face the fact that I do need to wear glasses?  The Opthamologist was kind, thorough, and ran me through a battery of vision tests.  No sign of a problem that he could detect, but he did say that if by the first week of December my left eye was still having those symptoms, to immediately come back for another round of tests.

Thanksgiving came, and we had a wonderful time in Ohio visiting  my parents, brother and his family, mother-in-law, husband’s brother and sister and their families.  Even our son in the Marines was allowed a 96 hour leave and could travel as far north into OH as we were so it was an extra special time to get to see him, too!  However, my left eye was still having the 3 symptoms: pain, dim colors, blurry vision.  On December 3rd  I was back at the Opthamologist’s office and facing the same battery of tests as before.  Finally, a diagnosis came through: Optic Neuritis, a swelling of the Optic Nerve in my left eye,  with  an added, ominous  note.  Optic Neuritis can have several causes but it is a main symptom of Multiple Sclerosis.    The Opthamologist told me as kindly as he could and made an appointment for me to see a Neurologist the next day.

Multiple Sclerosis?!  I vaguely knew what the disease was and what it would mean for my health down the road.  With my laptop, I began reading all I could on MS via the internet.   I discovered that Jack Osborne, son of Brititsh Rocker Ozzy Osbourne,  was diagnosed with MS in his mid-20s and that he has made a series of videos about MS for the MS Foundation, entitled “You Don’t Know Jack About MS”.   An autoimmune disorder, scientists and doctors don’t know why MS occurs, but they do know what it does.  The patient’s immune system  begins to attack it’s own nervous system, mainly the brain and the spinal cord.  The body’s natural antibodies begin to attack the myelin sheath which protects nerves in the body.  The sheath, sort of  like the plastic cover on an electrical cord, gets broken down by the antibodies to where nerves are exposed when they shouldn’t be.  This leads to a myriad of symptoms: extreme fatigue, some pain, weakness in muscles, tingling in hands and/or feet, Optic Neuritis, balance issues.   Other than my eye acting weirdly, I didn’t  have any of the other symptoms associated with MS.  Upon meeting with the Neurologist the next day, I also learned that at my age I was on the “old” end to be getting a diagnosis of MS.  Most people with MS get diagnosed in their 20s and 30s.  The Neurologist ordered me to report on Wednesday, 12/5th to the Infusion Center at Phelps County Regional Medical Center to begin a 5 day regimen of a steroid iv, a dose requiring me to remain hooked up to the iv for  4 hours at a time.

Off I went to the Infusion Center.  Up on the 4th floor, I walked into a small room, brightly lit.  A nurse sat in one corner at her desk, and along the walls were 6 reclining chairs with blinking, lighted machines and iv poles to the right of each chair.   I checked in with the nurse, sat down in a chair, and waited for the pharmacy to bring up the steroid for my iv.  The other patients in the other chairs all looked at me curiously, some smiled shyly at me.  I was definitely the baby in the room, as the other patients were in their 60s on up.  I learned that some were receiving chemotherapy drugs and others were receiving blood transfusions.  I am sure they were all wondering what I was doing there, as I looked to be much healthier than the rest of them.   After a bit, the medicine arrived, and I was hooked up the the iv, with the blinking, brightly lighted  machine measuring in the dose, monitoring  how much time I had to sit in the chair, and periodically taking my blood pressure and heart rate.  I marveled at the machines and the work that they do and wondered how infusion therapy was done for patients 30 or even 50 years ago?

To pass the time, I brought along a book I had been reading off and on this past year, Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage, a historic account of Meriweather Lewis and William Clark’s amazing trek across a wide swath of America in 1804, as they explored the newly purchased Lousiana Territory for President Jefferson.  To find a path from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean.  On the next to the last day of receiving an infusion, I wrote our family’s annual Christmas letter that we include in our Christmas cards, and I also got the envelopes all addressed.

Being forced to sit for 3-4 hours a day for 5 days, hooked up to an iv machine forced me to stop and dwell a lot on the what ifs of this Optic Neuritis and MS.  I didn’t really ask why me?  I spent more time thinking about What if?  Our house is a large, 2 story Colonial.  It’s great for our large family, but it won’t work if I am eventually in a wheelchair.  Raize it and rebuild a modern ranch style?  That was one weird idea that ran through my mind.  Medical bills mounting, that idea was much more scarier to me than the expectation of ending up in a wheelchair!  Interferon is used to treat MS patients and I imagine it costs a lot more than the prednisone the doctor put me on after the iv transfusions were done.  What if my left eye doesn’t regain it’s normal vision level?  In some cases, that is true.  What if Optic Neuritis strikes again, in the right eye?  I told my husband and the doctors that if it weren’t for my right eye’s normal vision at this time, I wouldn’t be able to drive at all.  If this was the start of MS, what about my kids?  Would they be genetically at a higher risk to develop MS themselves?  While not a death sentence, MS is a disease that has no cure and it’s effects grow harsher on the body as the years go by.  How would I handle that?  How would my husband and kids handle that?  For Better or Worse, in Sickness and in Health…our wedding vows kept coming to my mind, too.

I am a christian and my faith in God gave me strength throughout this medical puzzle.  I knew, and still know, that no matter what the outcome of an upcoming MRI scan, that if I was dealing with MS or just Optic Neuritis, that God would be with me and my family.  He would carry us through this next chapter in our lives and He would never let us go.    brain scan

The MRI scan happened on December 12th and the results came to the Neurologist on the 13th.  The scan showed that my brain is normal and no white lesions were in evidence anywhere, white lesions meaning MS is present.  Some future blood tests are set for early January to try and get to the bottom of the Optic Neuritis, and while MS could still show up in those tests, the doctor says it is now probably  not as much as a factor due to the normal brain scan.  Needless to say, I felt a load lift off of my shoulders as the doctor went over my brain scan with us.   My left eye has regained colors and there is no eye pain but vision is still blurry.  Another visit with the Opthamologist is forthcoming too, and eye glasses will be a new fashion accent!

When life throws a curve at you, whether it be in the form of a medical puzzle such as mine, or an unasked for and unwanted event, how do you get through it?  Not on my own, but firmly entrenched in my mind, my faith in God helped me through all of this.  According to the doctor, the prednisone would give me insomnia yet I was able to get a full night’s sleep through all of this.  My husband and I felt calm and peaceful through this tumultous week.  Even the morning of the 13th, my husband was quick to reassure me that whatever the MRI would show, that all was going to be fine because our God loves us and would be with us no matter what.

So now I sit here writing about my medical puzzle and feeling very thankful.  Thankful that my left eye has improved due to the modern miracle of steroids and prednisone.   Thankful for the prayers of our families and good friends and for a God who hears and answers those prayers.  Thankful for the peace that passes all understanding which our family experienced that week in December.  Thankful for good doctors and nurses and medical machines.  Thankful, even, for being forced to sit for 3-4 hours a day for 5 days in order to receive my medicine.

The Christkindl Markt is Coming and Where is Sondershausen??

I am from the Midwest.  I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Missouri for 20 years.  Quite a few of us midwesterners have surnames that originated in Germany.   According the the 2000 U.S. Census, almost 48 million people, or 17% of the population in the United States could trace their major ancestral country of origin as Germany.  I do know that on my mom’s side of my family tree, that two families moved from Germany in the 1850s and both families, the Hoffman’s and the Seither’s, ended up in Northwest Ohio.  My husband’s family tree, has Koch’s and of course our surname, Giesey, is German.  With all of this Germanic heritage  flowing in our family’s veins, one  would think I would know what a Christkindl Markt is.

I had never really heard of one until I happened to take my visiting parents to Hermann, Missouri last Autumn.   Hermann was settled by  intrepid German immigrants who happened to love wine and having vinyards in their front yards.   As we toured the quaint town that is quite proud of their heritage, we heard about their upcoming Christkindl Markt.  I thought about traveling back to Hermann this year to see their Christkindl Markt  but then I found out that Rolla is going to have, for the very first time,  their very own Christkindl Markt!  Rolla’s is this Saturday, December 7th.  The fun starts at 11:00 am, right after the Christmas Parade and will last until 7:00 pm.  The location will be at Public House Brewing Co.’s parking lot.  Click on the following link to read more about Rolla’s Christkindl Markt.   http://www.visitrolla.com/event-calendar/events.php

So just what is a Christkindl Markt?  What does it have to do with Germany and anyone’s German heritage?  From the bit of research that I did, Christkindl Markts began in the Middle Ages in Germany, Austria, and the Alsace region of France(even though my dad’s ancestors came from France, they came from this German-influenced region!)  Christkindl Markts were, and still are, held at the beginning of Advent, the four week time period leading up to the celebration of Christmas.  At these markets, one can purchase delicious foods to eat, buy special decorations, ornaments, nutcrackers, myriads of  items to help one celebrate the Christmas season.

Rolla has its own German Club and it has  a sister city, Sonderhausen, Germany.  This year’s Christkindl Markt is dedicated to Sonderhausen, and one activity at the Markt is that children can make ornaments that will be sent to Sonderhausen  to help in decorating their city’s Christmas Tree, or should I say, Tannenbaum?

For a fun family outing, bundle up and venture out on Saturday to watch the annual Christmas parade and then mosey on over to the Public House Brewing Co.  and visit the Christkindl Markt!

Operation Christmas Child: A Wonderful Way to Welcome in the Christmas Season!

This past Saturday, my three youngest kids and I got to participate in Operation Christmas Child.    We arrived at our church at 10 in the morning, grabbed a shoebox that had been wrapped in colorful Christmas  wrapping  paper, and went from station to station, choosing gifts to put in our shoeboxes.  There were bags of hard candy, school supplies, warm hats, socks, slippers, toothbrushes and toothpastes, combs, brushes, washclothes, bars of soap, stuffed animals and small toys.  We chose our gifts based upon who  our intended recipients were going to be; a boy, or a girl, and their ages; 2-4, 5-9, 10-14.  We carefully put our gift choices into the shoeboxes, added a note about who we were, where we were from, and then  had the shoeboxes sealed.  We also prayed over the shoeboxes and for the items to benefit the child who would receive them.   Then we  took the filled boxes downstairs to our church’s sanctuary where tables had been set up to hold the packed  shoeboxes.  Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, how did it get started?   It began in 1993, as a  part of the larger international missions outreach, Samaritan’s Purse.  You can click on this link to read more about the specifics of the program.  Nationally, Operation Christmas Child runs November 18th-25th.   In Rolla, as I heard the program discussed  on KTTR radio station, Rolla’s  First Baptist Church has extra boxes individuals can pick up and fill.  There is a pamphlet to review what one can include in the boxes for gifts, and there is a minor fee to cover the postage of shipping the boxes overseas.  The church that I attend in Rolla, Greentree Christian, also had extra boxes on Saturday so one could call the church office to inquire about picking up an extra box there.  If one does stop by either church to get a box for filling with gifts, please be sure to bring your boxes back to either church by November 18th so that they can be shipped out on time in order to make it to  their next pick up stop.  Operation Christmas Child 2

Other towns in South Central Missouri that are participating in Operation Christmas Child that were mentioned this am on KTTR  are: Belle, Camdenton, Cuba, Eldon,Licking, Richland, Salem,  Summersville, Rolla, and Waynesville.  Operation Christmas Child 3

Saturday, spending that time with my kids filling shoeboxes, I also had the opportunity to go through thank you  letters from  children who had  received shoeboxes  from our church kids last year.   I got teary eyed as I read those letters, filled with heartfelt thank yous and God Bless Yous, thanking the givers for the boxes of gifts.  One of the ladies on KTTR shared that she had the opportunity to help deliver boxes last year in an African village and that one of the girls was so happy to find in her shoebox socks.   This girl  had been scolded for not wearing  socks to school, an item she didn’t have.   She shared with the group of Americans that had delivered the shoeboxes to her village  that she was so happy to finally have socks that she could now wear them to school and wouldn’t be scolded anymore!

To truly embrace the Christmas spirit, of giving gifts because of the great gift of love our Saviour gave to us, to let your children and your family participate in a program that provides true help to needy children in another part of the world, Contact Operation Christmas Child soon!

Even Duck Dynasty is getting into Operation Christmas Child this year!

Even Duck Dynasty is getting into Operation Christmas Child this year!

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