There is always more on my heart than words can say, but I find journaling my thoughts or prayers a great exercise & makes a record to view of memories & our history - I invite you to join me if you can relate to authentic life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Haley is sick, but should be o.k.! A blog about her & info on pesticide poisoning

Too sleepy to feel guilty about being on the couch

My puppy, who happens to be 10 yrs. old, has been the best of friends to me. I don't mean that I elevate her above my human friends, but she is part of our family & the most loyal & loving she could possibly be. She's even polite! She answers with a shake of her head everytime we ask her if she wants to go away or for a walk. That means she does want to go, she just has shaking confused with nodding. :)   She shakes hands with everyone she meets & gives high fives when asked. I never have to do anything alone, because she is right there beside me. Always. Even when I beg her to stay put, she pretends she doesn't hear me & goes where I go. The only time I go to the bathroom alone is when I can get in without her knowing it. :/  

She can be a little naughty too, though, sometimes. When Mark leaves for work or is gone at night, she automatically thinks his spot on the bed is open for her. Even if I make her get down, she finds her way back up when I am asleep & most often does not stay on the open side.  She also will plant her feet on the ground when we walk past Bentley's house (her boyfriend, she thinks) in hopes to see him, whether we want to stop or not. Almost every night he will come out  to see us so that we will pet him (he just loves US),  & he will tolerate Haley's enthusiasm for a minute, but then that's enough & he goes back to laying down in his driveway. Poor Haley. The feelings aren't mutual between them.  That doesn't stop her though, & when she waits outside his house for him & he doesn't show up, she literally hangs her head low & plods the rest of the way home!

Some day I will have to say good-bye to her, but I am not looking forward to it & I'm glad it's not today.  She is sick, but should return to normal health in a few days or so. I am very grateful for God's gift of animals to us.  I think it's awesome how God uses them as another means of companionship, beauty, joy & even example to us. (Ok, so, I may never find a snake beautiful, or want the companionship of an alligator, but I am sure there is something that could be learned from them, at least!)  Haley has been all those things for our family. She's been a source for learning responsibility for the kids, given unconditional love to us & makes going to the river fun. Not to mention, she's a protector from any tree limb that may blow against the window or any cat in the yard!  We are on our own for thunderstorms, though, so she can hide under the table. :)

Note:   The vet determined Haley was being poisoned from flea products. I had given her a bath with Hartz flea shampoo, and then put a flea collar on her afterward. She was so miserable from fleas, & I didn't want fleas in the house, so I was trying to ensure I got rid of them not realizing it could make her so sick. We noticed that she had become very lethargic, was panting heavily, had quit eating & was holding her tail tightly between her legs. She was moving slow & shaky when she would get up or walk, also. Since the only thing that was different was the addition of the flea collar, I looked up possible reactions to flea & tick products & found a surprisingly large amount of information on animals who had been poisoned from them. Some were left with brain damage, blindness or died. Maybe this isn't new information to anyone else, but I didn't realize these over the counter products were that lethal, especially when neither of them were ingested. Of course, the chemicals were in her skin & even though I bathed her well with liquid detergent before going to the vet, the veterinarian could still smell the poisons on her. I just want anyone else who is unaware of how easily this can happen to know about it. We have used flea collars before & that same shampoo a lot without any trouble, so beware of this possibility. If anyone wants information on the names of the poisons, how they can harm people as well as their pets, etc., let me know & I will pass on the links I've found (which coincided with what the vet told us today.)  Again, I knew to be careful with these things, but I am surprised how dangerous they can be. From what I've read, many others don't expect this level of toxicity, either.

The vet said to expect Haley to be sick for a few days up to 2 weeks and to make sure she drinks a lot of water.  If she won't drink, I have to bring her in for IV's, but so far she is staying hydrated (barely) - she just won't go to her water on her own. The vet said to let Haley sleep & stay quiet & in the dark as much as she wanted. Haley should not have any long term issues. Haley was not as bad as others the veterinarian has seen, so she was confident in her recovery.  Thank you, to all who prayed - we were pretty scared this morning.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

God's Timing

This spring Alan & Nate signed up for a 10 day Colorado trip with our church youth group. This trip was going to provide intense hiking, sleeping one night alone in the mountains, time with God, etc. They worked very hard to earn the money for the trip with opportunities some friends at church provided & a lot of time was put into this endeavor. 

As Alan was preparing for this trip, he had to face some things he wasn't expecting & he had a choice to make about trusting God with these things.
The biggest change that concerned him was who was going on the trip, or rather, not going. He found out that his good friend was not going after all, & then that Nathan could no longer go. Considering there was only a handful of other guys going that he barely knew, coupled with the anxiety he feels about leaving home for an extended period of time, this was not good news. In fact, for Alan, this was incredibly hard news. He tried to get some other friends to go, but none of them could for various reasons. He was sincerely worried & anxious about the trip feeling very long without companionship & was wishing he didn't have to go. He could have backed out (if we would have let him), but he didn't consider it. He made a commitment to go & was going to follow it through. I was a proud mom, but felt so badly for him knowing this kind of situation is especially challenging for him.

So, his commitment was set, but that didn't stop the worry of being gone that long from home (he is a homebody for sure) without any family or close friends. Alan doesn't even like to be gone long when the whole family is together. This situation may not bother a lot of people, but to Alan, it was large. It seemed like going on the trip was going to be time lost with friends during a summer that already seemed so short. He hasn't gone on a trip like this before, so it was easy to imagine what he would be missing at home, but not what he would miss if he didn't go on the trip.

We had several long talks in which I  reminded him that God had worked out everything up to this point so that he could go on this trip, & the leadership skills he would learn & relationships he would build with others in the youth group were wonderful experiences God was providing him through this.
Then, I asked him, "Are you ready to give your worries to God & trust that whatever He works out will be what ultimately makes you happiest?"    He honestly answered that he was afraid God's best for him would not be what he wants.  Oh, how I understand that.

God certainly allows things we do not want because it is what we need or it is best for us somehow. It's usually hard to be happy about those things until well after the fact.
We talked about the fact that God had time to still work it out for a friend he was comfortable with to go, even though it seemed impossible with all the things that would have to be done before hand (a physical was needed, as well as supplies, etc.). We talked about how it would certainly stretch him to go without that kind of support & how beneficial that could actually be & how he could choose to be happy with that if that is what it came down to. We talked about how God may have a friend in mind for him on this trip that he just hasn't had a chance to connect with before or maybe even met yet.

Alan & I prayed many times & each time he gave up his will for God's will & asked for the strength to do & learn what God wanted him to through this. He told God he would trust Him to work all things out to what was the best for him. He chose to trust that God cares about his desires, so He would provide for his desires, although it may be in a totally unexpected way.  He chose to trust that God may provide for his anxieties and desires in ways we do not recognize immediately as something we want. He chose to trust God for the grace & positive attitude he would need to get through the 10 day trip of hard work & no family or friends. He chose to trust that God would provide new friends through the others that were going. Since he couldn't really see or feel how anything was going to turn to good, it was a true act of discipline & obedience to trust.

However, Alan's natural inclinations to want to stay at home were threatening the peace he had concerning this trip. I felt certain that God still had great things in mind for Alan & all the other kids going on this unique trip, & that satan was doing what he could to keep Alan from it. We prayed, & prayed some more. The morning of the trip, we knew there was no time for anyone to change their mind to go.  I could see disappointment in Alan that God had not stepped in to help with this, but his mind was made up to face his anxieties & uncomfortableness & take whatever good he could from the trip. It is so hard to see one of my children struggling with situations that are difficult. It's so very hard to not be able to fix everything for my kids when there is a problem. I had to remind myself & Alan that God loves him even more than I do, & if I want to give good gifts to him, how much more so does God? 
Matthew 7:11 ESV: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Trust & a surrender of desires still had to play a part, though, & I couldn't be more proud of Alan's heart choices.

As we arrived at our church for the take-off, Alan's good friend who was no longer going to Colorado was there to practice his guitar with the worship pastor. He & our worship pastor stuck around for the prayer with the travelers before take-off & good-byes.  At the very last minute, our youth pastor asked this friend, "Are sure you don't want to go along?  It's going to be great!"  And the friend hesitated for a second & then said, "Oh, okay, I guess I'll go "   WHAT?!!    It turns out his bag was already in the trailer & he was all set to go. Evidently, this friend decided to go just a couple of weeks earlier, but he kept it a secret from Alan.  I don't know how he did so with all the persistent, persuasion arguments Alan had been giving him about going, but he & everyone else that knew kept quiet!

The few weeks ahead of the trip were stressful because of this secret, but I am so glad it worked the way it did. As hard as it was to see Alan working through his anxieties, he had a wonderful exercise in trusting the Lord, having the right attitude & frame of mind concerning this challenge, & a wonderful blessing when God showed him answered prayer in the very last second.  This will be such a wonderful reminder to him that God is definitely in control, & is not limited. God was answering his prayers all along, Alan just didn't know it or know how. Alan knows by personal experience that we should never doubt God listens to us, & that nothing is impossible for Him, no matter what it looks like to us. God's timing is perfect.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Modern Day Job Story?

I have been told many times that my family was living a Job story. I don't know about that, but I do know why they think that. You see, the Prairie family has suffered more than our fair share. Actually, that statement itself is not fair, is it? We can't say, "God, use me. You are in  control of my life. I want to be who You want me to be. You lead the way & I will follow. I will stay faithful to You",  & expect Him to not use us or put us to the test.

I just didn't expect how He was going to use us, how He was going to work in us or what all He was going to ask of us. So, I am sad to say I have felt doubt at giving God free reign in my life at times. As sincere as I was at those times of surrender, would I do it again if I knew what lay ahead in life?  Now, I am not saying that my prayers caused the death of my siblings,  but, if my parents & siblings weren't so passionate to be used by God, & hadn't exampled that to me encouraging my own passion, would God still have allowed the extent of trials & grief in our lives that He did? Would He have stepped in & only allowed the more gentle trials if we hadn't given ourselves over to His will & surrendered all?  When I miss my brothers a lot, I do have some of these thoughts seep in, but one sobering question also comes: "Would I choose NOT to fully give my life to Christ to do with as He chooses if I knew then what I know now?".

No, I don't think I would, at least, I hope I wouldn't. After all, I believe He gave His son to die for me. How could I take that gift, believe He is God, & refuse to allow Him control?  God's ways are not my ways, but His ways are perfect & I've even been able to see how perfectly He works sometimes, so even in the things I don't understand, He is worthy of trust. He gave me life, & I want to give it back to Him. 

I truly don't understand why I have had to lose 4 brothers, though - or why my parents had to lose 4 children. But, if God wants that to be part of my story, I have a responsibility to be who He wants me to be & do what He wants me to do through it. I don't know if I am where He wants me, but I am going to continue to be open to His molding & willing to serve where He wants. Not only do I desperately want to hear God say 'Well done', but my children are watching me. I have a huge responsibility to example grace & trust (& more) because I do not want to taint or harm their relationship with God. I do not want them to live in a household with bitterness, either.  They are a great motivation, but selfishness or anxiety threaten to crumble my resolve at times.

I miss my brothers more than I can say. I miss Mark calling me every day, whether I had time to talk or not :). I miss Steve doing sports, shopping & projects with me. I miss how Philip thought I was worthy to hang out with when I was little & how he was a hero to many. I miss what could have been with Jonathon. I don't understand why there has had to be death, suffering, diseases, job losses, medical bills, certain challenges/hurts unique to a Pastor & his family, best friends who had to move across the country, unfair circumstances, betrayal, abuse or rape within our family.  I hurt for my parents who have had to watch their children go through tragedies. Not that they didn't protect us from many of the things they had to live through, because they loved us fiercely & gave us a storybook family life. But, as much as they have undergone personally,  I know the worst thing for them is when their kids suffer - especially when they are powerless to fix whatever it is they are suffering from.  But, their unwavering faith encourages me to stay with what I know is right, & that is that we are here to fulfill God's purpose & life isn't about me & my wants. That brings me back to remembering that I can choose only this  - "I'm yours, God".

In more recent years I have sung Mercy Me's words with trepidatious sincerity, "...I know there'll be days when this life brings me pain, but if that's what it takes to praise You, Jesus bring the rain."    I want to mean this & to want what God wants more than what I want, but the fact that I have to continue to say that I choose the ways God has for me is proof that I am weak. I am scared to say this more, because I am ready to be pain free.  I am ready for my brothers, parents, husband, sisters-n-law, children, nieces & nephews to be pain free.  I do not want any more losses or hurts added to my experiences. And to be brutally vulnerable, I am terrified of the loss of more special people in my life. I am terrified I will be alone without any loved ones. Without the friendship, the relationships, the support, the laughs, the fun....everything. It's a daunting thought to me. It's an insecure feeling to have had your circle of family & friends change so drastically.

But, here's the thing: while some people call us a modern day Job family, I know there is much more suffering in the world than I have had to endure. Even more than my parents have had to endure, I suppose. Maybe even more than Steve who had to struggle for breath for months & face the fact that he was going to be leaving his kids & wife, & saying good-bye to his siblings & parents. Maybe more than my nieces & nephews who had to finish growing up without a father. So, what really has God asked of me?

He has only asked me to be part of a large, incredible family for many years that I loved dearly, & then to have to say good-bye to some of them temporarily. I would never, ever give up what I had, even though it's so hard when I miss it - it was a beautiful gift from God & who am I to say He can't take His gifts when He wants to?  And, yes, there have been some pretty hard other trials to face or stand by why my loved ones faced them, but some people have been tortured & martyred for loving God. I don't have that fear as an American. Some people have had abuse by their family or friends - I just have to live without mine for awhile & there's never even been a fear of abuse from them.

There is too much suffering others have had to go through in their lives to even comprehend, but, suffice it to say, "Hasn't God actually been pretty gentle with me?".  The faith & trust of other Christians who have suffered for Christ or endured horrendous happenings amazes me & helps dissipate fear & anxieties of future storms in my own life. It also helps to accept the storms that have already come.  I thank God for their example & I need to focus on praying more for the tragedies they are going through. Even if I don't know of specific situations, I can be aware of the kinds of things a lot of people are facing around the world.  Of course, there are tragedies right next door, as well, & Christians who keep their eyes on Christ through it all.
So, I have no excuse to be selfish with my life. I have God, I have examples other Christians have set before me & therefore no reason to contemplate what my life could be like if I tried to maintain control or reason to think I've suffered too much. For one thing, my control is limited. For another, my circumstances could be exactly the same whether I surrendered to God or not. I would much rather go through the trials with a life that is being molded by God or used by God, than fight against God's will for my life.

Quite a cycle of hurt, trust, fear, selfishness, awareness, trust again, anxiety, surrender, etc., etc.... The anxieties & then the resolve to trust God may repeat itself for awhile yet. One of the two brothers I have left is battling cancer right now. My dad is acting as if he has Alzheimer's or Dementia & he is already different from the dad I could always rely on for answers or to fix things. I honestly don't know what our family structure will look like, even in the near future, but I can remember God's ways are perfect. I can remember my life is His to do with as He wants. I can remember to rejoice in suffering because He is refining me. I can remember with gratefulness all the protection He has provided us & sorrow He has saved me & my family from. I can keep choosing to be used by Him the way He wants me to. I can remember that if we do live a Job story, I should count it all joy & a privilege to serve God.  I can remember the trials many people have to go through in this life will soon be replaced with the perfectness of heaven. And, I will remember there is suffering far greater than my own. If I fail to remember these things, please remind me.