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Graduation, the Great Commission, and Gangster-wanna-be's

Wow.  What a month I’ve had.  I will be breathing so much better when I get past July 1.  That’s when all the work from my Senior Seminar class is due.  And this June has been so completely crazy so far.

We are into Camp season right now.  Last week was Water and Work Week.  The daughter of a friend of mine from Council Bluffs also wanted to try out for weeks so last Sunday her mom drove her to my house and then she rode up with our church youth.  Later that Monday morning I drove Ben up to Special Camp and then on Friday I went back and retrieved him and the daughter of another friend of mine.  That was a lot of driving!  And then Saturday, David and Hannah came back.  I got a phone call from David saying, “Uh, Mom?  Can you come rescue me?”  He had a flat tire on the way home from church.  He really did not need much rescuing but he didn’t want to leave Hannah in the heat while he put on a spare so I took her back to the house and then he got home shortly afterward.  The tire was beyond saving, but we were able to get him into the tire place at Walmart, so $68 later, he was good to go again.  Hannah spent the weekend here and then this morning, David left for camp.  He will be at camp every week this summer.  This week he is counseling Jr. Boys and he will be camping the week of Sr. High, but the other weeks he will be working.  Hannah is working several weeks, too, so we may be seeing quite a bit of her – which is fine.  She’s a nice girl.  David drove this morning all the way up to camp.  He also had to pick up another guy from Des Moines who needed a ride.  He had a full car!  Sam went and was over the moon with excitement.  Yesterday he oversaw every part of the packing process, which surprised me.  I don’t remember his brothers being quite so worried about that when they were this age.  Next week will be Lizzie’s turn.  We don’t have a counselor from our church for Jr. Girls this year but there are two other little girls going, too, which I am thankful for.  I didn’t want her to be all alone.  Oh, now I am told there IS a counselor from our church going - Arien's sister.  That's good.  Lizzie should have a good week.

And in the midst of all this the girls have started their tumbling classes which they love, but take time.  And this week and next, I have kids in Art Camp which is held at the local library and taught by the school’s art teacher.  Lizzie has minor surgery this Wed, Thurs, the girls have therapy.   I’m trying to put together an on-line portfolio showcasing what I’ve done in my time at BVU and I have a 15 page paper on literary theories due by the end of the month.  And last week and this weekend I decided it was an excellent time to shiplap and paint my bedroom wall – which looks terrific, but took quite a bit of time.  And today I started priming Lizzie’s new bedroom.

Why?  Because I’m crazy.  That’s really the only reason.

Oh, and it’s VBS this week so I’ll be making 2 1 hour round trips every night to take and retrieve the girls from church.  And this morning my poor neighbor called and asked if I could go to Knoxville (20 min away) and pick up her prescriptions for her.  The ambulance came yesterday for her husband who is having breathing problems and she is so weak with her own  health issues she couldn’t even go to the hospital with him.  I know she hated to ask me to help and  she insisted on paying me for gas.  I tried to give her back the money but I sensed it was important to her that I keep it so I did.  I really did not mind doing that at all for her.  I hope someday when it is my turn to be weak that I will have others willing to assist.  But, it does all take time and right now that is my most valuable commodity.  But it’s fine – everything will work out.  It always does. I always remember what Paul’s mom always said – “Well, if it didn’t get done, then I guess it just wasn’t supposed to!”  That’s probably flawed logic, but it makes me feel better, anyway!
 All right.  What else?  Oh – I graduated!  Well, kind of.  I walked across the stage, anyway.  It was a good day, overall.  It was broiling hot and our gowns were heavy and black.  Ick.  I was glad I ended up wearing something sleeveless under it and a cotton skirt with no hose.  I had a feeling I was graduating with honors but I wasn’t quite sure how that worked.  So when I got to BVU that morning they handed me this envelope and inside was this medal on a blue ribbon.  I assumed that was an honors ribbon but I didn’t know what it meant.  So, I asked the people who gave me the envelope.  The one lady said, “Well, that means you’re graduating summa cum laude – congratulations!”  Well – what do you know?  I sure am proud of that thing, though.  After I was finally able to shed the robe later that afternoon I kept the ribbon on – just because.  And then I kind of forgot about it.  Until around 9 pm when we got back to Des Moines and I went into Krispy Kreme to get doughnuts for David’s birthday the next day.  The clerk said, “Now that’s a real fancy medal you got there from Buena Vista University!  Did you graduate today?”  I felt kind of embarrassed because I wasn’t intending to show off. 

The ceremony took forever.  Because it was so hot they kept plying us with water bottles over in the chapel where we lined up.  They were probably afraid we’d faint, otherwise.  Well, that meant by the time we actually arrived at the 3 hour ceremony (after walking across the hot campus), we (well, I, anyway) really had to go potty!  And I was starving, too.  But despite that it was good.  It really felt good to finally, after 29 years, walk across that stage and hear my name and the words, “Summa cum Laude” announced.  Almost there!

And I even got some graduation cards, which I was not expecting at all.  My parents sent one and just this week, I got two from people in our church.  Yesterday I ordered new dishes for my kitchen as my second graduation present.  Really, had not intended to do that, but recently I decided that it might be nice to have matching dishes for everyday use for once.  When we got married we had two or three matching sets – but they didn’t match each other.  Over the years that slowly evolved into cupboards full of dishes that don’t match each other one bit.  I think we still have a few random plates from those wedding presents, but the rest are all ones that I’ve picked up here and there at garage sales and Walmart.  Anyway, I’m kind of excited!  Reminding myself that these new dishes will get chipped and broken in time, too.  But I will enjoy them while they are nice and they will be a reminder that sometimes things are worth finishing.

Well, I started painting Lizzie’s room yesterday – priming.  Years ago, Will and I painted it Hawkeye yellow and black, so it’s going to take a lot of primer to turn it into a fairyland of baby pink, hot pink, celery, and aqua.  But, after class last night I suddenly realized just how much work I have to get done in the next two weeks.  So, I think I’m going to have to put the painting on hold until I get that work done.

Our class discussion was kind of interesting last night.  It’s a small class and we were even missing one of the students, so it was just the professor and three of us – all women.  We were discussing the feminist literary theory and we got on the subject of feminism, in general.  I called Gloria Steinem a “whiner” and things just exploded from there – but in a good way.  The other two gals in class were in agreement with me and our professor, who is a very nice lady, just kind of sat back and watched us discuss how the second wave of feminism in the 60s/70s has been very detrimental to our society.  The first wave was good – that’s the one that occurred in the early 1900s.  That gave women voting rights and protection under the law.  But like a lot of good things, it morphed into something not so good.  One of the women said she actually used to be very feminist in her younger years but  since getting married and becoming a mother she has come to realize what a fallacy that mindset is.  This Thursday we will discuss the LGBQT theory – I wonder how that discussion will go?

Speaking of all things accepted and sinful in our society today: a couple of weeks ago the girls and I were in Target because I love Target.  And because I’m not convinced that boycotts work and so I still shop there.  And plus, I love Target!  But anyway, I spied, in the men’s department, this pale pink shorty jumpsuit – with rainbows on it.  I immediately snapped a picture of it and, as a joke,  sent it to David, asking him if he wanted me to buy it for him.  I can’t believe they make such a garment!  It wasn’t until after I sent it that I realized we were in a section of the men’s department that had a sign that read “Pride ______(I can’t remember)”  There were all kinds of feminine-type garments.  I don’t remember them all, but I did see a cropped (above the belly button) sweater with a rainbow across it.


And then we had to go into the bathroom as we were leaving the store because my girls have the smallest bladders ever put into human beings.  The family restroom was open so we went in there without thinking.  Lizzie was reading a chart on the door and apparently (I didn’t look at it) it was designed so that users of the bathroom could check off when they used it (who would even want to do that?).  They had a line for Female, then one for Male, and then Lizzie asks, “Mom – what’s an ‘other’?”  Ugh.  But this is the world we live in.  It is the last days and I should not be surprised when I am having to explain things to my little, little children that I didn’t even know about until I was in middle school.  The darkness is progressing.

A couple of days later Lizzie said something about a rainbow, referring to the first one that was sent after Noah’s flood.  Ellie asked puzzled, “Why would God send a rainbow when rainbows are for gay people?”  That was a good conversation opener.

I was ruminating on all this after the Target trip, wondering what my responsibility as a Christian is.  Should I boycott?  Is it wrong for me to spend my money at a place that obviously has bought into an ungodly agenda?  But even if I took my business elsewhere, I have no guarantee that another store does not funnel profits into equally ungodly agendas.  As I was thinking on this, I happened to catch an episode of “Wretched Radio” with Todd Friel.  I have a couple of podcasts that I like to listen to.  One is Dr. David Jeremiah (who just finished up a great series on Heaven) and the other is Todd Friel.  In fact, Wretched Radio is my laundry company.  Every time I’m doing anything with laundry, I’m listening to it!  He was asserting one day that  Christians mistakenly believe that their job is to change the culture.  That’s why they boycott and speak out against ungodly endeavors and so forth.  That’s why it’s not uncommon for churches to become politically involved and for Christians to rally behind certain candidates.  But Christians, he said, are not told to change the culture.  We are told only to evangelize and make disciples.  I suppose it could be argued that in doing so, culture can be changed.  But it seems like we are more interested in marching against homosexuality and abortion than we are in witnessing to our neighbor.  And that got me thinking more.  I recently saw a Facebook meme that said “As for me and my house we will stand for the flag, kneel for the cross, and something else (salute our veterans, maybe?).  That bothered me.  When I stopped to think why that was the case, this is what I came up with: The first part of that meme, “As for me and my house” is Scripture.  It’s found in Joshua and it’s followed by the words, “We will serve the Lord.”  This meme linked that very Christian thought to patriotism.  Patriotism is a great thing.  I taught my kids from an early age about being respectful during the national anthem and one of these days I want to get a flag on my front porch.  If I had a son march off to war I would so, so proud.  BUT – a love for the United States cannot be confused or paired with a love for God.  This is nationalism.  What happens when the government becomes corrupt?  Are the only good Christians Americans?  I’ve watched with interest Christians and Donald Trump.  Now, I like him.  I think he’s a fantastic president and I’m not ashamed to say I voted for him and fully intend to do that in 2020 again.  But I’ve seen numerous articles trying to assert that Trump had a salvation experience or even that his presidency was foretold in the Old Testament (???).  It’s like some Christians so desperately want to make Trump one of their own for things to make sense to them.  In their minds, a good Republican cannot be separated from Christianity.  So, therefore, they have to make Trump a Christian. 

And he’s not.  He has never claimed to be and a lot of his actions back that up. 

People say that they trust in God, but more and more, I am getting the idea that what they actually trust in is the Republican party.  And you can’t do it.  Both parties are money grubbers.  Both are corrupt.  Neither can be trusted.  Both will betray the American people.

Anyway, all this to say that I am re-thinking now the concept that we Christians have a calling to change our culture.  Maybe if we understood that we do not we would be less outraged at sinful things and more mindful and compassionate toward the lost.
 Ellie has been awful lately – a lot of what I would call “2 year old” behaviors.  Lizzie bought her snacks for camp last week and they’ve been setting on the dining room table ever since. Today she discovered that nearly every package has been opened and sampled – stuff like that.  Ellie got into the paint in Lizzie’s room today.  In the last couple of days she has lied to me twice – which is why she is not going to Flip Squad tonight.  It’s hard and I don’t know if it will ever get better.

I had a couple of rough days with Lizzie right after school got out.  In the end, though, she was able to verbalize that she was sad about missing her teacher.  Apparently, this teacher heaped a lot of praise on her and I know Lizzie just soaks that up.  She said he gave her the “kindness” award at school and one day they had this reading/acting thing about Harriet Tubman.  He chose Lizzie to play the role of Harriet but assured her and the class that Lizzie’s skin color had nothing to do with that choice.  He said that Harriet was a good, moral, and compassionate person – and he sees that in Lizzie.  So, even though Lizzie was absolutely horrible for those first couple of days after school let out, we were able to talk about appropriate ways to express our sadness. 

I have thought about talking to our pastor about Ellie, but I don’t really know what he could tell me that I don’t already know.  She needs to get saved.  Until that happens, her carnal nature will continue to control her.  Lately on Wretched Radio, Todd Friel has been addressing Reactive Attachment Disorder, which has pleased me immensely.  I am SO thankful that parents are beginning to speak out about this disorder and that it’s even getting some attention in the media.  More needs to be said.  Todd is being very adamant that if a couple plans to adopt, that’s great, but they have GOT to have the support of their church, who are committed to on-going involvement in this family’s personal life.  Otherwise, he says – don’t do it.  RAD has the capability to destroy children themselves, their new siblings, their homes, and their parents’ marriages.  I would agree.

But there is always encouragement, here and there.  Last week it came in the form of our checker at Kohls.  It was an older black lady and she was immediately enraptured with the girls who were chatting up a storm with her.  She leaned forward to me and in a quiet voice said, “You have done a good thing here.”  And she gave me some hair tips and after awhile, we were on our way.  But it just made my day.  There was no anti-white-people-adopting-our-babies vibe – simply an encouragement to me that this adoption is a good thing for the girls.
 Last Wed. was the 5 year anniversary of Paul’s death.  That felt significant – probably just because of the way I view dates and years.  It was just the Littles and me.  Ben and David were at camp and Will – well, he’s never really been into commemorating the day.  He once commented that his way of dealing with his dad’s death was to just get on with life.  I have a feeling Paul would have been the same way.  So that morning Sam and Lizzie had dental appointments.  After we were done we ran up to Hy Vee and got some flowers.  Then we went to the cemetery and I cleaned the headstone.  It had been awhile since I had done that.  I turned around and there was Ellie with her face buried in her hands.  Her shoulders were shaking and tears were just streaming down her face.  The other two were off examining other graves and oohing and ahhing over the flower arrangements left on the recent Memorial Day.  I held her close and reminded her that someday we’ll see Dad again.  But it’s a reminder that underneath her naughtiness and immaturity lies a broken heart.  I took some pictures and went home and posted on Facebook.  Maybe I’m a narcissist at my core, but that did make me feel better.

That night I took the Littles to Spaghetti Works in downtown Des Moines.  Paul and I went to this same restaurant in 1990 when we had just begun to date.  We moved back to the area in ’04, but for some reason, we never visited this restaurant again.  I wonder why.  Maybe we just didn’t think about it.  There were a couple of interesting things as we went in.  The first was that a dreadlocked, tattooed girl sat on the street corner with her dogs.  You see this kind of thing in any large downtown.  Fringe-type people will sit and sometimes play guitars in hopes of garnering donations.  Well, as we sat there getting ready to leave the van, this well-dressed man walked by the girl – and handed her a $100 bill!  We were in the right spot and close enough to see it all.  The girl was so stunned.  The guy grinned at her and kept walking and she just held that bill up in front of her face as though she could hardly believe it was real.  It was so cool to watch!

As we got out of the van the tornado sirens were going off.  But I honestly didn’t think much about it.  The skies were blue and besides, they blare those things for all kinds of weather, it seems like – the threat of hail or straight line winds or nuclear attacks (I don’t think they’ve blown for those yet).  So we went into the restaurant and just had a really nice time.  I didn’t even get all antsy about things that normally bother me, like Sam spilling chocolate pudding all down the side of the salad bar (and then he decides the best way to clean his hands is by licking them and when that didn’t work he pumped hand sanitizer all over them.  Yeah – a mess.  I finally pointed him in the direction of a nearby men’s room and summoned a worker to clean up the pudding).  And then Ellie dumped her drink all over the table.  But I was cool about it all.  The kids just had a really good time, it seemed and kept commenting about how neat the restaurant was. 

I happened to glance out the window around 6:45 and realized it was dark out.  I mentioned that to the kids and one replied, “Well, of course – it’s nighttime!”  It doesn’t get dark that early this time of year!  We were done so we soon left and discovered that it was raining quite hard out and the wind was really gusting.  We got into the van and I turned on my wipers and the radio and immediately began to hear all these dire weather warnings.  Hmmm…guess those sirens meant something after all!  And then I realized there was a parking ticket on my windshield and it was trapped underneath my moving wipers!  So I had to step out into the pouring rain and grab the drenched paper!  I didn’t think you had to plug the meters after 5pm.  A $15 fine tells me otherwise now.  It was a harrowing ride home – so much wind and rain.  But we made it.  We never even lost power.  I watched a movie with the kids and it was really a very nice evening all around.

David called me toward the end of the movie and I felt so bad because it was a strange number (he borrowed a phone since the workers can’t have theirs) and I didn’t recognize his voice – it was so deep!  Oh, I felt terrible.  But we had a nice talk.  He always remembers June 6 and struggles with it.  He told me how that very evening was the talent show at Special Camp.  He said that Ben’s cabin got up on stage and Ben leaned into the microphone and informed everyone that “This is my first time doing this!”  His group sang “Amazing Grace” and David said you could hear Ben’s voice above all the others.  It was neat that a friend of mine who lives in Clear Lake messaged me later that night, telling me the exact same story.  She had gone over to the camp to watch the talent show.  I kind of doubt Ben even realized the day’s date or its significance, but the timing of it and the song selection were still kind of a neat thing, I think. 

God has been good.  We have survived.

Oh, and speaking of Ben – it looks like he’s moving.  I’ll explain it in great detail later, but a group home situation in Knoxville has arisen and it appears he’s going.  This will probably be happening by the end of summer, I’m thinking.  I’m struggling with mixed emotions – happy for him, worried for him, sad for me that half my children don’t need me like they used to…But right now it seems like this is the way God is moving.
 Well, there’s a lot here in this post.  I need to leave soon to pick up Ellie from VBS (and if anyone needs Bible school, it’s that girl!  Kidding…kind of), but I have one last funny to end on.

A few weeks ago I was in a Walmart parking lot when I heard an approaching vehicle with rap music just screaming from the inside.  The bass was so low and pounding that it literally made my ears hurt.  Honestly, if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought I was on the south side, but I wasn’t.  This was out at Jordan Creek.  I had my back turned, busy with unloading my groceries into my van.  But I assumed the noise I was hearing was emanating from a low slung, sleek vehicle – maybe a Cadillac, I don’t know.  And the occupants of said vehicle were, more than likely, young black men.  To my surprise, the noise got closer and soon, the vehicle pulled right beside my van.  The noise continued until the engine was shut off.  It wasn’t any sports car with tinted windows.  It wasn’t a Cadillac.  It was a dirty Ford pick-up truck with a topper.  And the driver?  Well, I got good look at him when he hopped out of the truck.  He was a short, skinny, half-bald,  middle-aged white guy with glasses.  He was wearing a white t-shirt, tan cargo khaki shorts, and old tennis shoes with white socks. 

I may have snorted.


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