Taking it all For Granted

The morning after the rare snowstorm, bringing 22 degree temperatures and no power!

We are experiencing a rare polar temperature plunge. In fact, it is colder here in VA BCH than in Northern Michigan right now. Last night’s snowstorm (another rarity) dropped about 4 “of icy snow and we woke up to clear blue skies, sunshine, and NO POWER.
We were better prepared for power outages when we lived on a country road in Michigan. Frequent blizzards and ice storms necessitated the use of our trusty generator and wood stove almost every winter. We simply cooked in the downstairs kitchen on the gas stove instead of using the electric stove in our regular kitchen or cooked something in a pot on the wood-burner as we heated the house. The generator ran the pump and kept the refrigerator cold, and was equipped with a convenient switch that routed the power to house when the power went down. And, if the well failed, our backyard pond could supply ample water till things straightened out again.
But, a few years ago, we traded the country life for a neighborhood in a major city. Shopping is better; there are at least 6 different grocery stores within a 3 mile circle from our home, and multiple malls and big box stores within 10 miles. We have numerous hospitals close by, and are not limited to medical care. Entertainment opportunities abound in the big city. And, instead of our closest neighbors being a half mile down the dirt road, we have community.
This morning, however, I missed the country life. While we have a gas furnace, the ignition and fan are electric. We have a gas stove, but had to find matches to light the burners. And, as we watched the interior temperatures drop, we reminisced over the ease of flipping a generator switch in the country house as we debated about which appliances were the most important to access the generator first. Thankfully water is not a problem, because the city feeds provide pressure for flushing toilets, but how to keep the pipes from freezing?
We dug out our long underwear, dressed in layers and boiled a kettle of water to make to coffee. I was amused to find myself automatically reaching for light switches in rooms, only to remember, “Oh, no power.” We take having electricity at our fingertips for granted.
This is the first power outage we have experienced here; the lines are buried so even during the past three hurricanes, our lights have not flickered. Nearly 4,000 customers were without power this morning and I am grateful for the crews who worked in the 22 degree cold to quickly restore our electricity.
This minor blip, this short term power outage, makes me think of all the other things we casually take for granted in our lives. Having available food, a home, clothing, friends, instant technology, freedom to worship, living in relative safety, and health are all treasures. And most of all, a loving creator God who wants to have a personal relationship with us.
In a recent Sunday school class, we talked with the elementary children about living without electricity. They were horrified by the thought of not having their tablets and cell phones. One ten year old said he could live without electricity as long as he could still play his video games any time he wanted. An eleven year old girl said she couldn’t live without her cell phone. We teachers struggled to help them understand that there are places on earth where people live without such modern conveniences, but I’m sure they thought we were exaggerating. Not only do we, as a population, take our luxuries for granted, but we claim them as a necessity.
Yet the only REAL necessity we have in this life is a personal relationship with our loving creator God. He supplies all of our needs, from the air in our lungs, to the food we eat and the clothing we wear. Everything we are and have come from His hand.
In Exodus 33, the Bible records a conversation between God and Moses. The people have rebelled and God is angry. He tells Moses that He will send an angel to bring them to the Promised Land but He will not go with them because of their sin. The people repent and God relents. Moses declares, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
We need to cultivate the heart of Moses. It isn’t our creature comforts that matter the most, but our relationship with God. We need God’s presence in our lives far more than electricity and other modern conveniences. And, like electricity, He is always near, but we just take Him for granted.

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Back on my Feet

Frankenstein shoe

The saga of my broken foot continues.  The month off my feet has passed, aided by a bout of the flu that left me too ill to get out of bed for the final two weeks.  I did not accomplish all of the great things I had planned to tackle during my sojourn, but am thrilled that my doctor has given me permission to lose the crutches and knee scooter, at least for now.

I wheeled in on the knee scooter for my one-month-off-the-foot check up and x-ray, and was told the discouraging news that nothing had changed.  He then said that he really wants to do surgery to remove the chip but had decided to listen to the other doctors whose council he had sought and would give me some time to try healing without drastic measures.  Instead of the walking boot I asked for, he recommended a new pair of special shoes. They are basically leather casts that I can take off when I go to bed, similar to those old fashioned white leather baby shoes so many of us forced our toddlers to wear back in the day.  Thankfully, they don’t look like those old fashioned baby shoes!

The specialty store that my doctor recommended only carries the shoes in a medium width. Having a very narrow foot, I once made the mistake of buying a regular width shoe and allowing the shoe store to “pad” the inside to snug it up.  Not only was it miserably uncomfortable, my toes bruised from sliding down to the end of the shoes.  I have found that  most shoe stores do not stock narrow widths.  Regular and wide, yes, but not narrow.

I talked to a salesman on the phone and he did his best to encourage me to let him pad the shoes, because “most people who say their feet are narrow, really aren’t THAT narrow and can wear a regular width.” The shoes I needed were $165 a pair, and although he could order me a pair in a narrow width, it would be a full two weeks before they arrived.  I needed a pair of narrow shoes now.

After thanking  him I pulled out my computer.  Amazon happened to have one of the two recommended styles in narrow and my less favorite  style was on sale for $83 a pair.  Economy won over fashion.  I ordered them and they arrived in two days.  As much as I like supporting small businesses, I couldn’t justify the two week delay and the huge price difference.  Score one for big business.  Sorry, little guy.

These special shoes do not flex.  I call them my Frankenstein shoes and feel like Herman Munster clomping around in them.  But, I am able to walk around my house, stand, and go up and down stairs the traditional way!  I am able to cook, clean, and live my life again.  My feet get very tired after I have been up and around for most of the day;  I suspect it is from adjusting to the new properties of the shoe and  to being back on my feet.

My doctor made it clear  that I am not released to walk for exercise, and  I have noticed the ankle of my broken foot feeling much weaker.  Driving around the block burned  like fire.  When I first put on the new shoes, I felt like I was walking with a small stone in my shoe about where the chip has broken off.  Now, after a week of wearing them, I no longer notice the “stone.”

Per the doctor’s orders, I am not to go barefoot.  I do not need a brace for sleeping or showering, but need to get my shoes on as quickly as possible and wear them all day long.

After another month, I am to report in to the doctor and he will assess whether or not he gets to do surgery.  Based on recommendations I have heard, I am in no hurry to rush down that road.  I am mobile and I am confident that it IS in the process of healing.

I am also a firm believer in the power of prayer and different prayer warriors have prayed specifically for a healing touch on my foot.  God has supernaturally healed my body before, as well as the bodies of other family members, and I am confident that He will do it again.  The Bible says “Blessed are the feet of those who bring the Good News.”  This little setback is just an occasion for my God to dazzle the doctors when He shows His stuff.

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Farewell to “The Farm”

We always called my Grandparent’s house “The Farm.” Purchased in the early 1940’s, it was home to their six children and their home until they died. It was a beacon of love for the growing extended family and housed not only holiday celebrations, but an every Sunday family tradition during the school year when everyone gathered  for Sunday afternoon football, games of euchre, and heaping helpings of Grandma’s goulash, green beans, corn and homemade bread.

The house was already old when my Grandparent’s bought it. The stone basement walls, the tree-timber beams and hand made nails presumably were produced from the land itself. When my mother lived there as a child it was heated by a wood stove in the kitchen.  Water was hand pumped from a well in the backyard. There were no indoor toilet facilities and baths were taken in a galvanized laundry tub with water heated on the stove.  Modern plumbing didn’t happen until around 1948.  Heat was provided by a coal burning furnace during most of my childhood, only replaced with a modern furnace under Grandma’s extreme protest some 40 years later.

The 10 acre  plot of land ran all the way down to the river, and hosted a pine forest, planted by my Grandmother in hopes to sell Christmas trees. They quickly grew to a tall dense forest, but supplied fresh trees for most of the family every year.  All that remained of the original apple orchard was one surviving tree in the cow pasture when I was a kid; the rest destroyed by frequent lightening strikes. Several black walnut trees grew in the backyard, producing smelly green balls that turned your hands black. Grandpa used to gather them and strew them in the driveway, collecting the treasured nuts once the hulls broke down. Winter nights were spent digging the meat from the shells as he listened to the radio or watched television.

My earliest memories of “The Farm” included an old wooden barn, which blew down in one of Michigan’s violent windstorms. It was replaced by a neat cement cow barn, with one large box stall for Grandma’s pet cow, Josie. There was a pen for Petunia, the pig, next to the run where my Uncle’s hunting dog Judy lived. Freddy, the shaggy farm dog, lived in a doghouse under one of the walnut trees.  I grew up drinking fresh raw milk, straight from the cow, and strained through a cheesecloth and enjoying the best home-made dill pickles on the planet.

Grandma grew a huge vegetable garden and filled the land around the house with giant, brightly colored flower beds.  She cursed the weeds and worked the loamy black soil early every morning. Afternoons were usually spent canning,  using her produce to host  Sunday family meals.

“The Farm” and the people who lived there formed me.  Although they are long gone, their memories live on.  I still make Grandpa’s favorite cake, a yellow sheet cake frosted with vanilla icing and topped with shredded coconut.  One bite takes me back to visits in Grandma’s sunny kitchen, listening to the grown ups talk and playing with Grandma’s ever present kittens.  Gingerbread  Windmill cookies have the same effect.

Grandma carried most of her recipes in her head and shared her knowledge as special gifts.  I treasure her baked beans, mushroom and cabbage, and potato salad recipes.  One bite is all it takes to erase the years.  Like her, I am an avid home canner and love to cook from scratch, just as Grandma did.  And, I love having a cat.

Grandpa died in 1972,  and Grandma in 1995.  After Grandma’s death, the farm was sold to people who built a large new home back toward the river and the original farm house was abandoned by the new owners.G. Small homestead 2 Continue reading

Myself—On the Shelf

Sometimes circumstances force us to the sidelines.  We don’t understand why.  We hate being out of commission.  But, sometimes, the only response is compliance, as difficult as that may be.

Are there any other shelf-sitters out there?

The saga of my foot injury continues.  It was rapidly improving  after the “Snap, Crackle, Pop” incident.  No longer swollen or bruised, and no longer constantly aching.  Sure, it would get tired after a long walk and ice baths felt amazing, but there was lots of improvement over the mess it had been in July.  A nurse friend suggested I get an x-ray, just be sure, but I was pretty sure that would be money needlessly spent.

And then, it happened; a collision with 60 pounds of furry force bent my toes backwards and bathed me in white hot pain.  Barefoot, in the recliner, my foot collided with boundless puppy energy.  This time, the constant throbbing didn’t go away after a couple of weeks.  Because there was no additional bruising and no noticeable swelling, I self-diagnosed that I probably had something out of joint from the latest collision and called my chiropractor.

After hearing my litany of injuries to my foot, she wisely refused to see me without a foot x-ray and sent me to an urgent care center.  Still loudly insisting it was only a sprain, I submitted to an x-ray.

20992884_10212770999046247_36019243525522514_n brokenfoot

You don’t have to be a radiologist to see what is wrong with this picture.  I broke the knobby end of the toe bone at the joint.  The Urgent Care Dr. suggested I call a Podiatrist.

The Podiatrist looked at the x-ray and listened to the long, complicated history of the foot injury and thanked me for bringing him such an unusual and interesting case.  This is not a normal injury.  He sold me a “Magic Boot” to stabilize my foot, told me to come back in a week after he had consulted with other specialists, and told me to “cut back on my normal activity.”

I am very active.  I hit the ground running in the morning and usually do not sit down till around 8 pm for a couple hours of television before heading to bed.  But, in obedience to the Dr.’s orders I  swapped out my running shoe for the magic boot, stopped mowing the lawn with the push mower and taking the dog on 3/4 mile walks.

He was not happy with me when I returned.  I was still feeling my pulse in my foot when I went back to his office and he asked me why I hadn’t cut back on my activity.  I said I had, but apparently not enough.  Clarifying, he told me “I want you to stay OFF YOUR FOOT.  Sit when you could stand, crutches or knee scooter when you could walk, and no stairs for the next TWO MONTHS.”  This means no shopping, no driving, no walking.

If I rest my foot completely, there is a chance that I can avoid surgery.  The body may form a fibrous scar around the broken chip, which will look funky in future x-rays, but should be functional.  If I don’t rest it enough to form the scar, I will need a complicated surgery to not only remove the chip but to attach ligaments back to the parent bone with screws and pins, bringing an even longer and more difficult recovery period.

Did I mention that my bedroom and my office are on the second floor?

I am reminded of the joke about the old lady who broke her leg and couldn’t climb stairs for 3 months.  When her doctor finally removed her cast and granted her permission to climb stairs again, she said, “Hallelujah!  It has been so hard to shinny up that drainpipe every night to go to bed.”

I’m not shinnying up drainpipes, but I go up and down the stairs on my bum, lifting myself with my arms, chair dip style.  I have crutches for the upstairs of my house, and a borrowed knee scooter for the downstairs.

What can you do with no hands and only one leg? It is surprisingly tiring to get around with these aides. and very limiting.  Cooking, for example, requires many trips around the kitchen just to gather ingredients and utensils, and because I cannot get as close to the stove as I need to, there is lots of leaning.  I haven’t figured out how to maneuver loading  the dishwasher or oven because of the weird angles from the scooter, and the fact that I need one hand to steer it.

Fortunately my daughter and husband have graciously jumped in to assume my share of the house-hold tasks.  I am grateful to family and  friends who have given me rides to and from events, and have brought me meals and drinks. I think these devices should come with drink holders, or I should buy one of those hiking bladder backpacks.

So I am spending time “on the shelf.”  This is a rare opportunity for study, reading, painting, and prayer.  Prior shelf times have always been followed by headlong plunges into busy seasons of ministry and I don’t suspect this is any different.  It is a time of healing, for my foot, and a time of preparation for the what ever is waiting around the bend.

 

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