Monday, August 31, 2015

A Tribute to Courage

As an outsider looking in, it's hard to bring justice to the enormity of a young man's courage that has now spanned more than 30 years. My son's friend and my friend's son, Robbie, has battled Tourette's Syndrome that long. It's a battle that hasn't been a fair fight. Tourette's is a disease that causes profound tics - sudden uncontrollable movements and sound bursts. The onset came at the worst possible time period - junior high; a time when the human psyche is the most tender. When embarrassment hurts worse than any physical pain could.

It took time to diagnose and multiple lengthy attempts at different doses of medication that spanned years with little or no improvement. A life totally dominated by unpredictable, uncontrollable jerking and shouts of noises and profanity. Constant disruption became the norm. Critical looks from shocked people who didn't understand. In the classroom, in the waiting room, in church, in a restaurant, in a movie theatre, on the job; everywhere the tics followed. The more stress in a situation, the worse the tics. There is no escape.

Still this gentle giant endures this life through trial and error, finding no way to escape his cross. But now, at last, there is hope in a new treatment. Somewhat experimental, the first ever tried in the United States, his treatment offers hope for a better life. It's the answer to years of prayers by committed family and friends. There is still a long road ahead but finally there is hope to replace the seemingly endless pathway of despair.

The courage Robbie continues to show is remarkable. It's been a difficult life, yet he has endured through all the trials and heartache and he pushes ahead toward hope. He is an inspiration; a hero, a man of courage. I'm proud to call him my friend.

"I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:5-6 NIV).

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Summer Cold

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22 NIV).

"A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14 NIV).

The headache, the stuffed up head, the runny nose, the sore throat and itchy eyes, what's not to like about a summer cold? When the weather is great outside it is a double whammy to suffer from the dreaded summer cold. There is no time to lay back and wait it out. There are things to do, places to go, people to see. Yet the nuisance of a summer cold takes control and affects everything.

Scriptures indicate that the attitude will change everything. So I'm trying my best to remain positive. Armed with a good supply of tissues and Vitamin C, I'm braving the illness with all I've got. Who wants to blow their nose or cough away the hours. It's summer!

What's wrong with walking around with your mouth open to breathe, watery eyes, and speaking with a raspy voice? It's the sneezing and coughing that tend to deter friendships. So I'll bolster my immunities and walk boldly through the days ahead, hoping not to share this curse with anyone else. While I hope for some cheerful looks and good news to get me through.

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones" (Proverbs15:30 NIV).

Monday, August 24, 2015

School Days

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom" (James 3:13 NIV).

Many school children will head back to school this week and I can't help but reflect on my own school days or those of my children. I remember walking down our long lane in the cool of the morning. The grass was wet with dew and the air was crisp and fresh. I'd shiver while I waited for the big yellow bus to come rumbling down the gravel road surrounded by a cloud of dust. The first day was always a little scary with the unknowns of where to sit, who to sit with, who else would be on the bus. In all my school days my bus driver was always pleasant and friendly, welcoming me on board with a smile.

The rides were sometimes very long and became noisy as more children boarded. The first day of school was probably one of the quietest rides as children were absorbed in their thoughts and a little tentative. I would look forward to stops where friends lived, waiting anxiously to see them again after a summer's absence. There was so much to catch up on and share though I never had stories of a vacation to share as many other kids did. It was fun hearing about their travels yet I couldn't truly understand since our big summer trip was a day at the State Fair.

At last, the bus would arrive at the school and the folding door would open, ready for us to disembark. The sidewalk seemed oversized and the walk was long on that first day but there were teachers and children all around creating an atmosphere of excitement and joy. Those days were long ago, yet my heart beats quickly as I think of those first days of so many years in my life. How wonderful that there were caring teachers to welcome us into a classroom where the world was revealed to us! So much new to learn and embrace. How amazing is the knowledge that was learned, one year added to another and another until a child becomes confident, scholarly, and sensible.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fair Reflections

I'm not sure I've ever been to the Iowa State Fair four times in one year and I'm definitely going to have to think long and hard before I do it again, at least the way we did it this year. Four days of showing sheep meant six days of work at the Fair for John, Brent and Paige and Calvin. I settled for the four days only because I'm wimpy. Most mornings meant a 4:30 a.m. wake up and some days lasted till the dinner hour. It's amazing how many people are out and about early, especially at the Fair.

FFA and 4-Hers were dressed in their boots and yielding brooms and shovels as they worked to clean up the aisle and around their sheep pens. The sheep roused quickly when someone was in their area, with hopes of breakfast being served. The baaing began and soon the sheep barn was noisy with a sheep chorus of, "I'm hungry." The lambs jumped their front legs up on the gates, making sure they were noticed and hoping to get closer to the feed troughs. It gradually got quieter again as feeding was complete but the activity continued to build. Lambs were being walked, washed, and groomed for the competition of the day.

The aisles were busy all day long as exhibitors made trip after trip to the show ring. Classes were divided by purebred, white face, speckled face, black face; ewes and wethers; and by weight and breeding and market lamb classes. From two to 30 head in each class. Competition was fierce and the judges had plenty of work ahead. The stands and all areas around the ring were shoulder to shoulder spectators, many with cameras or brushes and the program in hand.

The youth of Iowa can be proud of their hard work and the excellence they showed in the ring. I was especially proud of Paige and Calvin and the efforts they put in to preparing the lambs for show and making the lambs look their best in the ring. They both did well with their lambs and were recognized for their quality showmanship. They took time to answer questions and let their lambs be petted by visitors who were thrilled at the sight of 'real' sheep!

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16 NIV).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Through the Eyes of a Child

It's been awhile since I got to spend some extended time with my youngest granddaughter so this past weekend was a true delight. No sisters or brother around to share the attention with, just one-on-one with Grandma and a little time with Grandpa, too.

Piper is two years old and smart as can be. She is much more grown up than I had realized. It was an eye opening experience that I'm so thankful for. She loved to sit on my lap facing me, eye-to-eye so we shared some great cuddle moments, some fun peek-a-boo games with her 'blankie", and she picked up a new phrase, "be careful of my glasses."

What is more precious than a sleeping child? So relaxed and comfortable, looking so big. The sight melts your heart. I was amazed that Piper didn't cry when it was nap time or night time. She stayed in her bed like a big girl. She talked about Mommy several times so we discussed that she was in Minnesota (another new word to learn) and that she would be home on Sunday. She trusted that her Mommy and Daddy would be back. And only needed reassurance once or twice.

She liked playing with her baby doll and was very kind and gentle with her. She always took baby to bed with her and covered her up with blankets. Another favorite activity was running; she's so cute with her bent arms rushing back and forth at her sides. Grandpa would tease her and she would laugh with every inch of her being.

There were moments that just can't be explained but are treasured in my heart forever. What a blessing grandchildren are! And what a special way to see how great their parents are at the same time. Time is so valuable when spent with a child.

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Proverbs 17:6 NIV).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Anticipation - The Iowa State Fair

It's the first day of the Iowa State Fair and I'm excited. The anticipation is based on a lifetime of memories. I remember going to the Fair as a child with my parents so I have the family traditions that started early, mixed with the most recent memories that are centered around the sheep shows my grandchildren are a part of. It's fun to reflect on the many aspects of what makes the Iowa State Fair such a memorable occasion.

As a child I remember walking hand-in-hand with my Daddy through the livestock barns and the machinery displays. His highlight of the Fair was the horse shows. He could sit for hours, while I grew tired after awhile so there were breaks for popcorn and frozen malts to help pass the time. Mama loved the food judging located in one of the first cooled buildings at the Fair. She would spend time enjoying the Bill Riley talent shows as long as there was a shade tree. We often took a packed lunch and would return to our car to eat and rest.

One early stop was in the Varied Industries building to get a free bag to carry all your Fair stuff. My mouth watered at the smell of fresh corn dogs, the sight of a cotton candy being swirled around the cardboard, and the salt water taffy stands. There was always a thirst for a root beer or a lemonade shake-up. My favorite treat of the day was taking a ride in the Ole Mill boats. It was cool and dark inside and made my visit to the Fair complete.

There was always a long walk up the hill to grandfather's barn when there was an assortment of baby animals on display. A quick tour of the antiques that never seemed to change. The gleeful excitement of catching a team of horses clip-clopping down the concrete street. Touring the mobile homes for a quick breath of air conditioned air. There were years of pushing a stroller over the endless cords and hoses in the midway and the frustration of attempting to move through the throngs of people who weren't paying attention. Even one year of nursing my two-month old son under the shade of a large tree.

The Agriculture building still holds a special spot in my heart, filled with its amazing surprises including the Butter Cow, the honey bees, the best of Iowa vegetables and floral arrangements, along with the waterless cookware demonstrations or the latest, greatest knife or fancy slicer /dicer.

Now my attention is captured by the fragrance of wood chips in the sheep barn, searching for the grandchildren's bricks out front, and finding a seat for the sheep shows where there is a good view for pictures. The Iowa State Fair never grows old, but I am growing older so I'll cherish the memories from past and present combined.

"Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart...Remember the former things, those of long ago;" (Isaiah 46:8-9).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Awesome August

This month seems to fly by the fastest, or I'm just noticing getting older. August is kind of a transitional month. Although it is summer all month long it seems to show signs of the seasons changing as well as activities. It's the season of hay making and bountiful garden production. With all the rain we've had this summer the pastures are overgrown with tall grasses. The sheep aren't keeping up. Everything is lush and green and the corn is tall and tasseling.

There are usually lots of hot, humid days, setting the scene for 10 days of the Iowa State Fair. Families fit in last chance get aways and vacations before athletics and school demands are the priority. Summer break is winding down and there is only a little time left to schedule all those things you planned to do before school starts. Shopping for school supplies and clothes gets wedged in between busy days and you wonder where the time has gone.

There are butterflies and dragonflies all around and bees buzzing over the summer blooms. The sound of locusts fills the night air along with the chirping of crickets and the croaking of frogs.

"Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account" (Ecclesiastes 3:15 NIV).

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ice Cream Cravings

I've been on a new health plan for over three months now and it is going pretty well. But I still crave ice cream, my weakness food. Because ice cream is a processed food and contains carbohydrates that aren't healthful, it isn't on my list of foods to eat. So sad.

My daddy raised me to eat ice cream. It was a special treat to go somewhere with him and stop for an ice cream cone on the way home. The event was coated in love. He loved to enjoy a bowl of ice cream after supper and so did I. For me the smooth and creamy treat became a feel good bonus for whenever I was feeling down. And I felt down a lot.

I'd place a spoon in a bowl of perfectly white ice cream, yes, plain old vanilla, and the celebration would begin. Each scoop melted slowly in my mouth, requiring effortless chewing and followed by an easy slide down my throat. The coolness was refreshing and soothing and led to yet another bite and another until all that was left in my bowl was a thin coating of ice cream marred by spoon scrapings. Sinful indulgence.

This week my health coach told me to have a little taste of ice cream since I was feeling so deprived. But, I'm afraid to release my cravings, for fear they will take over. Maybe it will be a total disappointment, not nearly as good as I dreamed it to be. I could only hope.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes" (Luke 12:22-23 NIV).

Monday, August 3, 2015

Early Morning Chore Duty

"Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." (John 21:15b-17 NIV).

It is a beautiful summer morning over Iowa today. Perfectly calm and slightly cool with a few clouds in the distance. The mourning doves were cooing and another unknown cheerful tweet echoed from the branches of the nearby pine tree. The bright red sun was peeking over the horizon spreading its light over the earth while the moon hung high in the south sky.

The sheep were happy to see me and began their hungry dance as I carefully measured out each portion. The rambunctious group of eight banged around in their pen, waiting quite impatiently for their turn. While one by one the others quieted as they began eating. Soon the barn was quiet as happiness spilled over the lambs quickly devouring their feed.

Even Bella was excited to see me, hoping for a special treat that I did not have, settling for a fresh pan of food. As I left the barn a bright pair of cardinals greeted me on their morning outing. As I walked up the hill to the house the blazing yellow sprayer plane passed above headed for a field somewhere in Marshall County, I'd guess. The house wrens were awake and joyous as I went inside. What a beautiful morning God has given us to feed His sheep.