The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 22

31 07 2008

Words can not describe the relief our family felt because of Jim’s better job.  We had  prayed for Jim to find a better job for eleven years.  He had tried every avenue he knew.  Finally, our prayers were answered. It was a fun summer yet also a bitter sweet summer. I took Sandy shopping for new clothing for her job at the newspaper.  It wasn’t long before Sandy started dating Rob.  Rob worked at the newspaper and so did his step father.  Rob’s grandmother lived across the street from us.  Likewise, his real dad lived down the street from us.  Rob was six years older than Sandy.  We certainly had our concerns but because we knew the family–we didn’t make any waves about Sandy dating Rob. Now Rob had a red sport car.  And it wasn’t long until Sandy began driving that red sports car.  Rob would let her drive his car home for her lunch break. 

Our friend, Bill, from England came to stay a whole month.  Maria painted a room in the basement for herself so that Bill could have her room. Once again, Bill, gave me plenty of grocery money.  We had some really festive times in which my brother , Phillip, joined in. 

Phillip was way too quiet that summer.  I knew he was contemplating his grief over his estranged family.  Phillip had tried every way he knew how to reconcile with Teresa.  However, Teresa and the boys were caught in the mindset of the religious group they were involved with.  That group was basically run by one family.  And the wife of that family was a bully such as none I had ever encountered.  Our family had been involved with that group until l989.  I finally made the decision that I would have nothing more to do with that group.  It took Jim a few more months before he left.  However, Phillip cut me off.  He would not have anything more to do with our family.  Furthermore, my dad had written to me–cutting himself off from our family.  He told me that he didn’t like to hear about our sagas. 

In l991, Phillip left the group.  His wife and boys didn’t.  Phillip began talking to our family again.  We drew very close to him in his grieving.  So now in the summer of 1993, Teresa told Phillip that she had been accepted into graduate school in Boone, North Carolina.  This tore at Phillip.  Moreover, he wouldn’t talk about his grief.  

We needed Bill’s sense of humor to help us with our grief over Phillip.  Our last Friday evening with Bill–we all went to eat supper at Shoneys.  After that supper, we didn’t  hear from Phillip.  He didn’t answer his phone.  So after a couple of days, Jim and I went over to his apartment.  I had a key to his apartment and when he didn’t answer the door–we just unlocked the door and went in.  It appeared that he had stayed up reading religious material from this cultic group for there were books and magazines all over the floor.  Later we learned that he left in the middle of the night for North Carolina.  He never let his employer know that he was leaving.  He didn’t even let his brother-in-law who owned the apartment house know he was leaving.

Throughout the month of August, we had no clue to what was going in in Phillips life.  Thankfully, we had other distractions.  Jim’s siter and her family came for a visit from Iowa.  I remember having a long talk with them about Phillip.  They joined with us in prayer for Phillip.  Their visit came as our children were starting school.  Ben and Sandy were finally seniors in high school.  Maria was a sophmore and Vera was a freshman.  Sandy enjoyed the fact that she got to come home at noon for an hour before she left for her co-op job at the newspaper.

We had other griefs the month of August.  Julie, one of our cats was poisoned.  Sandy had seen her at midnight when she came home from her date with Rob.  We suspected one of our neighbors poisoned her as her body was laying next to a cat food can.  Then we found out that Julie’s mom, Tinker, had breast cancer.  I had never heard of breast cancer in a cat.  Tinker had surgery and recovered physically but we knew she missed her daughter, Julie.  They had an incredible bond.

Finally, around Labor day– we learned that Phillip had tried to renew his ties with the religious group.  They made it impossible for him.  He was subject to physical and mental abuse from this group.  I was able to find out Teresa’s phone number and called her.  She told me that Phillip had contemplated suicide by taking too many sleeping pills.  However, after he had taken them–he called 911.  His stomach was pumped and he was placed in a mental hospital for five weeks.  I was able to talk with him a few times while he was a patient.  He wouldn’t talk about his experience.  He only told us that he enjoyed playing cards with the other patients and that soon he would be placed in a half way home.

Shortly after we learned about what had happened to Phillip–I received a letter from my dad.  We had not communicated in any way for four years.  Now he was full of apologies for having cut me off.  I knew that Dad must have hit some bad times of his own.  I learned that his health was bad and that the IRS was dogging his every step.  No one wants to be alone in such times.  My child hood Bible lessons about forgiveness kicked in.  I accepted dad back into my life.  I realized that I would not have him around for may more years.

So life was sweet and bitter the summer of l993.  Financial troubles no longer overwhelmed us but the deeper more thorny issues of interpersonal relationships sure did.  Money could never solve the grief my brother was living with.  Although I wasn’t active in a church–I continued to sit on my basement stairs and pray for all of the needs of our family.  One day, Phillip would return to us……I just knew it.


My Dad, Part 4

28 07 2008

The most exciting part of our train ride was stopping in Chicago.  Mom treated us to a nice lunch and let us buy all kinds of comic books.  Those comic books kept us very entertained.  We would swap our comic books with each other the rest of the trip.  We arrived in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on July 4, l961 at around 8:00 a.m. in the morning.  My mother’s brother and sister meant us at the train station in downtown Hopkinsville.   Grandmother was waiting for us and had cooked hotcakes for us.  She had her table all set with her finest dishes.  It was wonderful getting such a welcome greeting.  Grandmother showed us the sleeping arrangement for our family.  Since she ladysat each evening–mother and I would sleep in her double bed.  My youngest brother would sleep in the twin bed in the same room.  My other two brothers would sleep on cots in her hallway. 

Grandmother allowed us to have a few days of fun and then she presented us with a schedule of chores.  She made us wash and dry all of the dishes.  I had to learn to iron.  My brothers did all of the yard work and took out the garbage.  I had to help my grandmother clean the formal living room each Saturday morning.  I had never had to do anything but wash dishes my entire life.  We also had to learn how to say “yes, m’am” and “no m’am” and “yes, sir” and “no sir”.  Grandmother would shake our little shoulders when we slipped up.

For the last two months of summer vacation I ironed all of the clothes in the family.  There were no permanent press clothes in those days.  Grandmother had me sprinkle the clothes with water then I would begin ironing.  I didn’t sass my grandmother because I knew she meant business with each of us.  (Later, as a teenager I sassed my dear grandmother a great deal.  I deeply regret that.)

When school started– grandmother and mother hired a woman to help with cleaning and ironing.  Never again did I have to iron any of the family clothes.  However, I will always be grateful that my grandmother started right in with teaching us that it takes every member of the family to do their share. 

We moved upstairs in September to our own apartment.  Grandmother was a heart patient.  In those days with heart patients– the medical thought was that climbing stairs was too stressful for the heart.  Thus, grandmother wasn’t always watching everything we did.  Mother assigned our dish washing schedule for our new apartment.  However, grandmother still made me help clean her formal living room each Saturday and the boys had to continue to do the yard work.

Gramdmother was a Southern Baptist and she insisted that we attend church.  She made us go to church not only on Sunday morning but any time the church building was opened.  I had to go to “training union” each Sunday evening and “G.A” activities each Wednesday evening.  We lived right in the heart of town.  Our church was just a few blocks from our home.  So we walked to church.  We also learned to walk everywhere because Mother didn’t have a car.

Dad had written to mother shortly after we arrived in Hopkinsville.  He wanted a divorce.  We all knew that was coming or else my mother would never have moved us to Kentucky.  Nevertheless, we all wept when mother read the letter to us.  Thus, began a long series of my mother meeting with her divorce lawyer.  There were no quick divorces in those days.  I think it took nearly a year for the divorce to be granted.

Now Dad did write short notes to each of us the first year he was gone.  He claims that he wrote letters to us throughout our growing up years but that mother just didn’t give them to us.  To be fair–Dad might have tried to write us those first couple of years we were in Kentucky.  But by the time I was in Junior high school–I checked the mail a great deal.  There were never any letters from Dad.  Mother claims that she never knew where dad was.  At any rate–there was never any money coming to our household from Dad. I don’t think my mother had the emotional strength to fight for child support.  It was all she could do just to keep our household running smoothly.

Now I’m not going to write every detail about our growing up years.  We all did well in school.  My oldest brother was the family scholar.  He earned a naval scholarship to the University of North Carolina. In his early 50’s he earned his master’s degree in English Literature and currantly teaches at Hopkinsville Community College.  I ended up going to our local community college then transferring to Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, Alabama.  I met my dear husband of 34 years at Southeastern Bible College. I have gone back to college at various times in my life but have never earned another degree.  I have taught as a subsitute teacher off and on for almost 20 years. All of our children were born in Birmingham.  My brother who goes by “David Web” on this blog had years of  doing various things.  He did earn a two year business degree.  He has lived in Denver, Co. for 23 years now and has a great job working for the state.  My youngest brother earned in undergraduate degree in Art and his master’s degree in  English Literature.  In his thirties’s he earned a law degree.  Today he works for the state of Tennessee as a lawyer. 

In l979, we found out where our father lived.  Thus, we all began corresponding with him.  Dad came to visit my family in Birmingham in l985 for a week.  I have written the details of that in my Vera stories. ( I have an entire category devoted to these stories.) Dad worked for years in the space program at Hunstville and was part of the engineering team that made Apollo 11.  I have documentation of his work on Apollo 11 that was given to me after my dad died.  Dad fathered two other children.  They live in the Detroit area.  I have been in contact with my half sister but my half brother is not open to getting to know my family.  My dad divorced their mother ( the secretary) and married another woman.  That marriage lasted to the end of his life.

Dad lost everything he had in l994.  He hadn’t filed taxes for many years.  The government seized all of his assets.  His health declined from that point and he died of a stroke in l996.  It has been a difficult journey for me learning to forgive my dad.  At times we were very close and then he would brush me off.  I know my brothers have had their own struggles.  My oldest brother feels strongly that Dad had a death bed conversion while he was in a coma those last days of his life.  Dad was baptized in his youth and was a very devout young man of faith during his growing up years.  I like to  believe that my brother’s “knowing” is true.  At any rate, I do forgive my dad.  As an Orthodox Christian–I’ve come to understand that we are all sick and in need of help.  Christ is our great physician.  The Orthodox Church is viewed as a hospital.  We are continually getting well by obeying our church.  We get our nourishment through taking the Holy  Eucharist and by having regular confession with our priest.  We also get our nourishment by obeying the fasts that our church has.  We strongly rely on the Gospels of Christ for lessons about daily life.  The most important lesson Christ taught us was to forgive each other.  If we can’t forgive others then Christ will not forgive us.  So today I pray for my reposed father each day.  He made many mistakes.  But then so have I.   I hope my story will help each of you to let loose of resentment and bitterness.  May the Holy Gospels work in each of your lives!

God bless each of You!

My Dad, Part 3

28 07 2008

My dad lost all interest in keeping up traditions in our family.  Our last Christmas with us he just frankly told each of us that there was no Santa Claus.  I was 7 years old and I still loved Santa.  What a heartbrake that was for me.  I know now that he was brutally honest with us because there was no money to buy Christmas gifts. 

We did have one lovely occasion our last summer with Dad.  He was working for an insurance company in downtown Detroit.  The Queen of England was to be on her ship on the Detroit River.  He took our family downtown to his office building so that we could see the queen on her ship.  We did see the ship but of course could not see the queen.  However, we knew she was on that ship.  That memory is something special that I have always carried in my heart.

Mom started talking about how she was going back to college for refresher courses so that she could teach school again.  I enjoyed my mom being a homemaker.  I loved her presence in my life at all times.  She was a very elegant lady in all ways.  Mother always dressed up each day unless she was doing housework.  After her chores, she always dressed up again.  She spoke softly to us in her reprimands.  Thus, I felt very bewildered when she started talking about going to college.

Dad kept his mysterious plans going strong.  We had already met his secretary.  She went out to eat with us on my 7th birthday.  I remember Dad making me sit in her lap.  I had a creepy feeling about that lady.  Dad knew he was going to leave us.  That is why he pushed mother to take college courses. One of my brothers told me that at least dad had some integrity left by pushing mother closer to the field of teaching. I wasn’t sure I agreed with my brother at first but now I realize that he was right.

Dad had a little conference with each of us children.  He told us that he got an engineering job with Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington.  Likewise, he told us that he would be leaving in June.  Dad assurred us that he would be writing to each of us and that within a year that he would have us join him.  I thought it a little strange that we couldn’t be with him from the beginning of his journey.  Don’t ever under estimate the discernment of a child.  Children are very perceptive.  I knew in my heart that Dad was gone.  I knew that we would never join him anywhere.

That June day came when Dad kissed us all goodbye and drove away.  Later we found out that Dad picked up his secretary who was pregnant and took her with him.  Mother had already arranged for a sitter to take care of us while she took courses at Wayne State University in Detroit.  We had no car so mother took a bus each day to and from college.  Our sitter only lasted a couple of months before she got burned out with taking care of four children.  By the time school started mother found another sitter.  She lasted the entire school year.  My youngest brother was still at home all day. 

Now that I’m grown and have raised four children with the help of my husband–I feel such admiration for the courage that my mother had.  She didn’t have money to go back to college.  One family loaned my mother the money.  Later, after mother died –the man of that house told me that mother repaid every dollar that she borrowed.  Thus, Mother took a cab to her school each morning.  She was an elementary school teacher once again. 

I grieved so much.  Dad had been overly strick the last couple of years he was with us but I still missed him.  I cried myself to sleep each night.  Many times I would wake up with terrible stomach cramps and would beg my mother to let me stay home from school.  Mother relented many times with me.  I know I missed at least a month’s worth of school during the third grade.

Mother made a real effort to make our Christmas special that year.  She made all kinds of homemade treats .  I especially remember the peanut brittle she made and put in candy dishes in the living room.  After Christmas, she began talking to us about moving to Kentucky.  Mother was raised in Western Kentucky and wanted to go back to be with her family.  By spring she had already landed a job with the school system in her hometown of Kentucky.  We all began to get excited about taking a long train trip to Kentucky.  The plan was that we would live with my grandmother.  Grandmother had a house that was made into three apartments.  For the summer we would live in Grandmother’s apartment but in September we would move to the upstairs apartment–after the young couple who was renting it moved out.

There had been so much confusion and grief our first year without our dad.  Mom did the best she could do to keep up with housework and laundry while teaching fulltime.  She didn’t push us to do chores and we didn’t volunteer.  I looked forward to grandmother taking care of us and that life would be neat and orderly once again.  What I didn’t know was that grandmother was about to be the character shaper of our lives.  She was 69 years old and a breast cancer survivor.  She was not soft spoken like my mother.  Grandmother was all about discipline and hard work.  It is a good thing–I didn’t know that while I was dreaming of my perfect world.  That train ride wouldn’t have been as much fun.  

So we left Detroit , Michigan around noon on July 3, l961.  All of us were excited about the long train ride to Kentucky.  New adventures were just around the corner.

Vera Is Safe In Romania And A Summary Of What This Blog Is About

19 07 2008

I received an email this morning from the man who will be directing the camps that Vera and her team will be working in.  Vera and her team have arrived safely in Romania.  I have really missed Vera a great deal.  She lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee for two years and worked in a private institution that teaches English as a second language.  In December she learned that there was not enough money to renew her contract.  At the same time–I learned that I had breast cancer.  Vera decided on her own to come and help us.  I’m so grateful that she made that choice.  We have had a great deal of fun together.  Although I’ve been blessed to be very functional–I’ve struggled with fatigue.  It has only been in the last month that I haven’t felt the need for a nap each afternoon.  I don’t know how I would have made it without her help.  Together we shared the responsibility of taking care of my grandsons after school.  We would take turns going to pick John up and then getting Alex from his sitter.  This summer she has also helped me as much as she could because the boys have been with me two days a week.  She worked as a part time teacher but pitched in to help after she got home from work each day.  Vera has learned about a full time position of teaching ESL in Bulgaria.  When she arrives home from this short term mission trip–she will most likely investigate this next opportunity.  Thus, I’m going to have to get used to letting Vera travel the world.  For teaching overseas is her lifetime goal. 

I’ve had some new friends visiting my blog.  I just wanted to write a little about my goals as a blogger.  In October of 2007, I started my blog writing about my journey to the Christian Orthodox faith.  At the time I started my blog, I had no idea that I had cancer.  For 19 years I had screening for breast cancer because my mother died of breast cancer when I was just 33 years old.  All of my mammograms had always given me a clean bill of health until last fall.  I was shocked to the core to learn that I had cancer.  Thus, my blog became a source of fueling my shock.  I wrote of my journey starting in November all the way through January.  I rarely wrote about anything else.  I had great concerns about my future as I’m a 4th generation breast cancer patient.  I struggled throughout the winter trying to decide if I should have a mastectomy on my other breast.  It still haunts me but I’ve finally made up my mind to just trust my cancer doctor.  I get a check up and blood work every 3 months.  I also try to eat healthier and I take many vitamins and herbs. 

On my blog, I’ve also shared my intimate journey of raising my family.  Vera pushed me to write about our family before she left for Ukraine in 2001.  I wrote a book by hand and gave it to her to take to Ukraine. I also made a copy of it for our family.  I thought that by working through this book and editing it more carefully that it would be a good blog feature.  My desire is to help other families stay together through hard times.  Jim and I had tremendous pressures in raising our four children.  There were many dark times.  Thanks be to God –our marriage has survived.  We enjoy our marriage a great deal.Today, there are many fun and precious moments in our marriage. 

Sometimes I just like to write about herbs or more about eating correctly.  I’m not a real rigid person about anything that I believe.  I have the view that moderation always wins out.  Therefore, I still enjoy eating junk food in moderation.  I have treats to serve guests that are not always on my healthy list.  I know that I can’t expect all of my friends and family to eat the way I think is healthy.  So most of the time–I eat healthy but sometimes I don’t.  And that is okay.  I like studying about herbs and I take a great variety of them for my health. The study of herbs is not a subject that many of my friends and family are interested in–so again–I practice moderation.

I also write about music, baking breads and my enjoyment of family pets.  I have two dogs and two cats.  They can be a great deal of trouble but they also bring  much joy to our home. 

Sometimes I’m very open about my Orthodox faith.  At other times it is in the background.  However, my faith is not something I practice only on Sundays.  My faith is the backbone of every moment of my life.  When I bake bread–I bake it to the Glory of God.  When I clean my home –I clean to the Glory of God and so forth and so on.  I could not function without my faith.  Yes, I would like everyone to become an Orthodox Christian but I try not to be obnoxious in my sharing.  Christ commands us to love everyone and love does not bully.  I am not a priest or  an expert in theology.  I will leave the meaty topics to those who are.  There are some really great Orthodox Christian blogs by priests.  I will leave the deep and theological mysteries of God to them. 

Thus, I’m just an every day sort of person who most likely will try to work a little joy from ordinary living.  One day I will write about saving money.  Another day I will write about cooking or playing the piano.  My most popular series so far is the five part blog I wrote about working among the Mennonites.  Sometimes I write about my grandsons.  I have about 120 blogs now so there is plenty to choose from.  Soon I will continue my “Vera” stories.  I think I left off at chapter 22.  I also have a series about my Dad that I will finish.  Dad left our family in 1960.  My mother was left to raise four children. I didn’t have any contact with my dad until I was 27 years old. So I have a great deal more to write in that series. So thanks for visiting my blog and I hope each of you will enjoy my archives.

God bless each of you!

A Mission Trip, Our New Mission Church And Shadrack And Kibbles are Stars

16 07 2008

We drove Vera to the Nashville International Airport this morning for her flight to the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in Jacksonville, Florida.  She is training this evening and tomorrow for her overseas trip to Romania.  Friday morning , her team will be flying to Romania.  They will be spending three weeks working with older youth in camps.  Vera has been working hard for several months raising support for this trip.  She has put a great deal of her salary as a part time teacher towards her trip. Her parish, St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Orthodox Christian Church of Murfreesboro, Tennessee gave her about half of her support.  We have all sacrificed to make this mission trip a reality.  Vera is no stranger to missionary work.  After her sophmore year in college –she spent 8 weeks in Ukraine.  Then after she graduated from college she taught school in Ukraine for 10 months.  Vera married a a young man from Ukraine. The marriage became a bitter pill and her sorrow led her to learn about the Orthodox faith.  We were so impressed with the way her life changed during her search about the Orthodox faith–that we took the journey with her.  We were all chrismated in 2006 at St. Elizabeth Orthodox Church.  We will hold a prayer vigil for Vera and her team and for all the Romanian young people at the youth camps.  May God’s protection and peace be with each of them.

Several posts ago, I wrote about a new mission starting in Clarksville, Tennessee.  We have gone back and forth these past two years between the Orthodox Community at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and St. Elizabeth in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  In May we made our final decision to be a part of the new mission.  We have been praying for Western Kentucky and the Clarksville area ever since our journey to the Orthodox Faith began three years ago.  Jim took St. Herman of Alaska as his saint. ( You can read about St. Herman in my archives listed under the Orthodox faith. ) Many years ago while we were students at a Bible college–Jim desired to do mission work.  He is now 61 years old and that prayer is finally realized.

Fr. Peter  must have been working hard on the mission while he was in Iraq because when he came back to our community at Ft. Campbell, he had some very organized plans.  He already had a barebones budget ready.  There was already a community center in mind for the mission.  We had an official business business meeting.  Then someone told him about a chapel that might be available.  He checked into that and we had another business meeting.  This week the church that owns the chapel voted to let us rent their chapel.  So we will have a place to worship that is already a little church.  We are so excited.  The name of our mission church will be called: The Protection Of The Virgin Mary Orthodox Mission. We will be under the Orthodox Church In America. As far as I know now–there are only 4 Orthodox Christians in our Western Kentucky  town.  Now as we share about our faith, we can direct them to a mission within 30 miles of our town.  This is a wonderful answer to prayer.  And I almost forgot to add that Fr. Peter, who is being transferred to Ft. Knox, Kentucky will have no military obligations on the weekend.  His family is not moving from the Clarksville area.  So he will drive home each weekend and be our priest until a full time priest is assigned to our mission.

In the past three years we have seen people from all walks of life become Orthodox.  We have seen people who have had no church background at all seek out the Orthodox faith.  Likewise, we have witnessed  older people from different Christian backgrounds– learning about the Orthodox faith.  At St. Elizabeth several older couples were chrismated.  Their ages averaged between 60 to one man who was about 83.  Through newspaper ads–people found the Orthodox faith in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Now we are looking for the same kind of response in Western Kentucky and the greater Clarksville, Tennessee area. 

Jim is learning how to work behind the altar with Fr. Peter.  He has finished two Sundays so far. Fr. Peter gave him a three page single spaced list of instructions.  I had never realized how much responsibility goes into helping a priest.  Last Sunday after church, we went to get a snack and just enjoyed talking for a couple of hours.  We laughed as we remembered what a hard time Jim had with me when I was Lutheran.  We had a period in our marriage when we went our separate ways with our faith.  Jim went to a Baptist church and I went to the Lutheran church.  Jim did not like liturgical services at all.  He would give me lectures occasionally that I needed to be by his side.  I learned much about liturgical worship during my years as a Lutheran.  Now we are a team.  I never dreamed I’d see the day my husband would be working behind the altar to assist a priest.  God has been so faithful to draw us together these past three years to worship as a married couple in the same faith. So thanks be to God for our little mission church!

And now a little side note to a recent blog about Shadrack and Kibbles.  Shadrack, the dog, was found after being gone for 10 days.  Kibbles, her friend, was very sad.  Tomorrow they both become stars as the newspaper will be taking pictures of the two dog friends and will write a nice article about them.  I’m looking forward to reading that article! What a happy ending to what could have been a very sad story.

God bless each of you!

Shadrack, The Dog, A Heartwarming Story

14 07 2008

Maria, my daughter, loves her dog, Shadrack, a great deal. There is nothing Shadrack likes better than to run in the fields behind Maria’s home chasing horses or cows.    However, she has never been away for very long.  Just how did Maria find her little Shadrack?   Four years ago, after losing her dear dog, Osa–Maria found a home in the country that kept stray dogs.  There were three little puppies that she brought home.  She kept them for a couple of weeks until her husband told her that she had to choose just one.  Shadrack was the puppy who had a bundle of personality.  Thus, she returned the other two pups and kept Shadrack.  Now Shadrack is a mutt.  There is no definable way to even know much about what kind of mix she is.  However, she is full of bounce and personality.

Maria’s next door neighbor has an older dog named Kibbles.  These two dogs became fast friends.  They are so close to each other that Maria and her neighbors actually work together each day in planning food and snacks for the two friends. 

A couple of years ago, another neighbor complained about Shadrack coming on her property and scaring her cats.  She threatened Maria with the animal control people.  That began Shadrack’s life on a running rope when Maria had to be away from home.  However, the neighbor quit complaining as much, so Maria gave Shadrack a little more freedom.  She began putting Shadrack on her runner only at bedtime.  Shadrack has a beautiful dog house that she can sleep in despite the fact she is on her runner.

Shadrack has been known to follow Maria to church. She waits patiently until Maria comes out of the church door. Then she hops in Maria’s truck and gets a ride home.  She has also been known to follow Maria on her bike rides.  Shadrack is savvy! Her navigating skills are in good shape.  I guess that is why Maria and KIrk didn’t think anything about Shadrack being gone when they returned late the night of July the 4th.

Jim and I had hosted a birthday party for one of our other daughters, Vera.  They stayed at our home until about 7:30 p.m. and then went over to my son’s house to shoot fireworks.  They didn’t get back to their home until 10:30 p.m.  Maria didn’t want to put Shadrack on her runner all day and into the night, because there were no previous bad experiences to cause Maria to feel cautious that anything bad would happen.

The next morning Shadrack was nowhere to be seen.  She didn’t respond to being called.  Her neighbors told her that Shadrack seemed extremely frightened by the fireworks.  Apparently, a family not to far away was putting on quite a display of fireworks.  Maria’s neighbors told her that Shadrack came and gave Kibbles plenty of kisses–then took off in a streak.  They had no idea that Shadrack wouldn’t return.  Kibbles and Shadrack are such a team.  Kibbles is quite old and has arthritis.  Shadrack is always hovering over him.  She is constantly licking and kissing Kibbles.  So this family was beginning to feel some grief, too.

A couple of months ago, I gave Maria a small icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov.  St. Seraphim loved the wild animals in the forests of Russia.  He is known to have the ability to feed wild bears from his hands.  Since I’ve become an Orthodox Christian–I have always asked St. Seraphim to pray for our family pets.  Likewise, I ask him to pray for pets in general.  Often on my walks, I have noticed dogs on their chains who never get any exercise.  I ask this dear Saint to pray for those hurting animals.   I gave Maria the icon because at the time–Shadrack was seriously injured by another dog who was on their property.  It took many weeks for Shadrack to heal.  Now, I encouraged Maria  again to ask St. Seraphim to pray for the return of her dog.

Likewise, our family kept a prayer vigil for Shadrack.  In my heart, I knew that Shadrack had the skills to get home.  The only reason she wouldn’t be able to make it home would be if she had a serious accident or was attacked by another animal.  She had all of her identification on her collar.  Maria and Kirk spent hours looking for her.  The visited all of the Mennonite farms.   All the Mennonites know Shadrack.  However, none of the families had seen Shadrack on their farms.

Kirk had to get back on the road as he is a truck driver.  Maria was left with the lonliness of seeing that empty doghouse.  Maria didn’t neglect any of her responsibilities in her grief.  However, we could see the pain written all over her face.  She told me that last Friday night, she cried herself to sleep.  It had been one week since she had seen her dog.  She was about to give up hope.

I talked with her last night.  She was telling me how sad Kibbles has been.  Her neighbors have been very sad, too.  Shadrack liked to follow them around when they were out in their yard.  This morning Vera and I prayed once again that Shadrack would find her way home. We also prayed that if Shadrack had died–that at some point Maria would know how her dog died.  Thus, she could have a closure.

I missed the 8:00 a.m. call from Maria that Shadrack had been found.  I was across the street visiting with a neighbor.  She called again around 10:00a.m. telling me that Shadrack had made her way to the vet clinic 10 miles from home.  Shadrack is used to going to that clinic for checkups, emergency medical care and for her grooming.  The vet found her asleep on the stairs of the clinic this morning. 

Another strange thing happened before Maria got the call.  Kibbles would not leave Maria’s back porch.  She hovered near Shadrack’s dog house.   I personally believe that Kibbles knew that Shadrack had been found.  Maria went to get Shadrack.  She told me their reunion was so sweet.  Shadrack was so happy to see Maria.  The reunion back at the house was even more wonderful.  Kibbles and her owners were so happy to see Shadrack.  Maria took many pictures of the homecoming. 

Maria decided that she better keep Shadrack on her runner while she is in town today.  After she gets done with all of her business in town this afternoon–she will celebrate by eating supper with us.  Junk food always seems wonderful for celebrations.  So we will have pizza, salad and ice cream for supper tonight.  What a happy day it has been knowing that Shadrack is safe and back home again. 

All of God’s creation is good.  Animals are special to our Lord, too.  We are thankful  prayers were answered for Shadrack.  Now that Maria  knows how afraid Shadrack is of fireworks–I think it is a given that she will be on her runner next July the 4th.  Our celebration will continue for a long time to come!

God bless each of you!

Life Is Fragile

8 07 2008

In a split second, one’s life can change forever.  I’ve learned this on three major occasions of my adult life.  The first was when our daughter, Vera, had her terrible accident of falling 40 ft. off a mountain.  Thankfully, she landed in a ravine and didn’t fall the entire 200 ft.   The second major occasion was when my husband was sitting at our computer and just fell over in awful pain.  He was flown to Vanderbilt Medical Center and endured a 11 hour operation.  His aorta had split and not many people survive from such an ordeal.

We were already very fragile financially.  Jim landed a better job in l993.  However, we didn’t use a great deal of wisdom once he got the new job.  We began taking out loans for various things.  Thankfully, a hunk of that money was used to help improve our home.  Likewise, I don’t regret borrowing money to help put our children through college.  Thus, in 2005 we were in a repayment program which took half of Jim’s pay check each week.  I think we had around $100.00 dollars in our bank account the day that Jim flew to Vanderbilt.

God is merciful and $1.000 from various people was given to us in that first week.  It was a long tough road the four months that Jim was home.  I eventually went back to work as a substitute teacher.  Things got better when we returned to living as frugally as we did when our children were young.  The summer of 2006, we took a 13 week course by Dave Ramsey.  That course changed our lives forever.  I realized how even into my early 50’s–I still hadn’t learned that life is fragile.  It took the incident with Jim to really be serious about being careful with our money.  When our children were growing up –we had no extra money.  But we had no debt either.  I always thought that when Jim found a good job–we’d be as frugal as ever.  I must confess that I was the main culprit in landing us into so much debt.  I had felt so deprived the first 15 years of our marriage that I thought I was entitled to a better way of life.

When Jim almost died–I heard the wake up call of a lifetime.  We had given up all of our credit cards in 2001 and were in one of those repayment programs.  Somehow, even though I was no longer spending money on credit–I wasn’t saving either.  It took Dave Ramsey’s program to really get us to thinking seriously about saving.  We had never been serious about giving a tithe to God.  We gave to various causes through the years but we never made a real commitment to God with our money.

In the summer of 2006, we began our commitment to tithe 10 percent of our income.  We also began a money market to save each month.  By the the summer of 2007, we extended our commitment to save 10  percent of our income. 

The third major incident that convinced me to stay on  the road of frugality was my diagnosis of breast cancer of November of 2007.  That made two major medical events in two years.  We were fortunate to have cancer insurance which gave us a  sum of money just because of my diagnosis.  We tried very hard to be careful with that money.  We saved a great deal of it in our money market account as well as using some of it for the bills that our primary insurance didn’t cover. 

We were also blessed when Jim turned 59 and a half –so that we could get money from our retirement if necessary.  We did use a portion of that money to pay off our second mortgage last fall.  Now, we almost own our home outright.  We drive an old car.  We don’t want to have a car payment.  Soon, we will have to start looking for another used car.  Our car has served us well for the past five years.  However, we will maintain our stance to avoid car payments. We will shop around and find another good used car that we can pay for in cash.

None of us are invincible.  Bad things can happen in the flash of a moment.  It is good to live life simply and frugally.  It is good to learn to plan for major expenses.  It is good to find peace and contentment with what one already has.  I’m hear to tell each of you that my major three life changing events have sealed it for me.  I don’t want to live in fear.  However, I want to continue to give to God and save as much money as I can.  It has been a hard road to learn and accept this reality.  I hope this blog will challenge each of you to plan a little better.

May God bless each of you!