Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19 Journaling Day 2

Today we had a little bit of normalcy.  Thank goodness our favorite appliance store is still open and delivering because our dishwasher's "Start" button stopped working very well a couple weeks ago.  We shopped for a replacement dishwasher online and placed our order over the phone two days ago (not normal for us).  This morning our new, fully functional dishwasher arrived and was installed.  It was a nice little bit of normal life for a few moments.

Also, Ryann spent part of the day today doing a little room-decorating that I thought turned out pretty cute!

The verse of the day today was: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." - Ecclesiastes 12:13

Sheri's response:
Bible verses like these are not super popular in our culture today.  It seems too bossy and heavy handed and prescriptive.  But what I see when I read this is a reminder that to "fear" God is to respect Him with utmost reverence and admiration and awe.  Not to fear Him like we'd fear a mean person.

God provided us with His commandments so that we could live our best lives.  If we would fulfill our duties and follow them, we really would be better off.  We all fail because we live in a fallen world and none of us is perfect but we should all be trying.  Just like all of us should be making an enormous effort to be socially distancing ourselves so that this coronavirus does not spread quickly and the healthcare system has time to help those who need it.  Many people feel like it's an unnecessary ask and an imposition on their personal rights to live their lives how they want to but the people who know better than we do wouldn't ask us to live this way temporarily if they didn't think it was in our best interests in the long run.

Question of the Day: What color is a mirror?
Sheri's response:
If I was forced to pick one actual color to describe a mirror as being, I would say silver-y; however, I think a mirror is truly whatever color it is currently reflecting.  And if you think about it, that is pretty beautiful.  You can point a small mirror towards a beautiful patch of daisies and your mirror is suddenly yellow and white and green and maybe a little brown and black.  Or look in the mirror and it's you-colored ;)

Adam's response:
After all is over trust in God and he will have a greater relationship now.

I think to color of a mirror is a very see through silver that perfectly reflects you.

Stu's response:
A mirror's color is silver.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

COVID-19 Journaling Day 1

What an absolutely unprecedented time we are living in.  Boston Scientific has asked anyone who can work from home full time to do so.  The schools in MN have all been cancelled for two weeks so Stu and the kids are home together.  Yesterday was technically their last day of spring break so today was technically the first day of no school due to THE CORONAVIRUS.  One of the things we've instituted to a. try to keep the kids busy and b. try to have some normalcy and c. try to be educational and d. try to deal with some of the emotions they must have swirling around in their developing brains is to journal each day.  I told Stu he and I should journal, too.  I think it will be a fascinating way to remember this crazy time in our lives.

Today's journaling prompts:

1. The verse from the YouVersion Bible app today was "You will search for me, and when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me." Jeremiah 29:13

What does this scripture mean for you today and in your life?

There are many, many people with suddenly a lot more time on their hands than usual since so many businesses and activities are shutting down.  People probably have varying feelings about this and some of them may either choose to spend time with God or they may be crying out to God during this time.  I am choosing to embrace this time to try to be still and read more and pray more and lean in more.  In a way I am searching for God all the time but even more right now.  I love that God promises that when we search for Him with all our heart, we will find him.

2. What animal would you be and why?

Normally I would choose to be a dog because their life seems so fun and easy.  They are always happy and get to lay around and rest a lot of the day.  But right now, I would choose to be a bird.  I would love to be out in the fresh air, to be able to fly around and perch in whatever tree I chose.  I would make fluffy nests for if it was chilly and I would spend as much time in the sun as I could.

Adam's journal entry:

This scripture means that if I try with half my strength to find something  I won't find it, but if I use all my strength, all my mind, all my soul, all my heart, Etc. I will find what I am looking for, so if I put all my mind, strength and soul into finding a extraordinary relationship with God I will find one.

I would be an eagle because eagles can fly where they choose when they choose, but also because eagles are way cooler than all other birds.

Stu's journal entry:

Animal only - Eagle, flying seems cool and they are protected from hunters.

Ryann and Max journaled but did not want it made publicly available ;)

Monday, July 30, 2018

The big shake up

About five years ago, I posted this musing on God, Jesus, Christianity, Heaven, and hell.  I am able to look at the stats for each of my posts to see how many people looked at them. That post was one of the most clicked-on I've ever written.  Some time after I wrote that post, God started nudging me.  In that blog, I admitted that I had a Bible next to me but that I didn't open it, instead I just spoke from my own human emotion.  God nudged me to start reading the Bible, start talking to those who'd had more years to read it than I have, and to question what had started to feel so nice and right to me.  I've never publicly discussed the huge, frightening change God nudged me to make for my family in 2014.  But I'm going to now.

Let me back up a little.  So, part of my personality is the incredible need to please people.  As a child, I loathed when anyone was upset with me - parents especially.  As a teenager, I started to push the boundaries and was kind of a nasty daughter and friend at times, to prove to myself that I didn't have to always please everyone (I lost some friends in the process).  As an adult, I've learned more constructive ways to respect myself and not be so disheartened if I upset someone (no one goes through life never upsetting others, right?).  But four years ago, "peace at all costs" was still a pretty deeply held belief for me.  I believe our relationship with Christ is a continuous journey and looking back four years ago, I realize now I was at a point in my journey where my lil human-brain imagined God as a super-human (rather than as GOD which is who He truly is) because His Godly unknowableness was just too much for my lil human-brain to wrap around.

Also, I was at a point where attending a church that felt super easy and welcoming and loving and giving and fun and friendly seemed like the right place to be.  It was easy because Stu had grown up there so he was known and knew people in the congregation; it was welcoming because the parishioners there are all kind and loving people; it was giving because that was the main focus of that church - being generous to others near and far; it was fun because there was a focus on planning entertaining church activities on a regular basis; it was friendly because the church was small and many of us (especially parents of similar-aged kids) got to know each other well and saw each other at church and in the community and even hung out together outside of church sometimes.  Because I love to please people and help where I can, I taught Sunday School and accepted the invitation to serve on the board of that church.

As I said, God was nudging me.  I still wasn't reading the Bible as much as I should have but God was whispering to me to question things that didn't seem to jive and to listen to the little discomfort I felt after attending church some Sundays.  There were sermons given at that church that intimated the Bible was not always true for us in this time, so many years after it was authored, and that some parts should be taken with a grain of salt.  That just didn't feel right to me.  But, I thought, "Maybe I'm misinterpreting this?  I am terrified to question a man of God but I think I need to talk to our pastor to understand what is truly intended here."  Somehow I gathered enough courage to request a meeting with our pastor.  Actually, I gathered the courage by praying to God and asking for strength.  I never could have done it on my own.  And before the scheduled meeting, I prayed for discernment (from Discernment is defined as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; an act of perceiving something; a power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” The definition also stresses accuracy, as in “the ability to see the truth.” Spiritual discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error. It is basic to having wisdom.)  The pastor invited a newly ordained assistant-pastor to attend the meeting as well.  Unfortunately, the more questions I asked and the more answers I was given, I realized my misgivings were valid.  I was not then, am not now, and never probably will be a Biblical scholar but I knew enough to realize that something was deeply amiss.  Plus, if you are willing to believe that God will lead you the right way and listen to the internal nudging, you will know what is right from wrong.  These pastors were telling me they wholeheartedly believed that what Jesus said in John 14:6..."I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" was invalid.  Instead, they essentially believed that God equaled BIG LOVE and that God's BIG LOVE meant that there is no hell and that all of humankind is welcome in Heaven, no matter what.  I literally asked them, "Are you telling me that if someone worships the sun, moon, and stars their whole life and rejects the Christian God of the world, that they will go to Heaven?!" and their answer was unequivocally "Yes".  I burst into tears because I knew this was going to change my family's entire spiritual life.  The pastor offered to send me books that gave credence to their belief and I said no thank you.  I left the meeting and drove home, shaking in my car.  

As terrifying as it was, a day or so later I e-mailed the pastor and head of the church board, resigned my position, and explained my family was leaving the church.  The books I didn't want arrived in the mail soon after and I kept the unopened envelope for a while but eventually threw them in the trash.  I started researching and attending different churches each weekend, searching for a new place that felt like home.  I prayed that God would lead me in the right direction and we would find the church that was right for our family.  During this time, I was idly browsing Facebook and ran across a post a friend had shared where a church I'd never heard of had created a cute music video of some of the kids at church singing a fun song.  I'd never seen anything like it.  It was clear this church had a large budget.  I noticed the church was called Eagle Brook and thought to myself, "Isn't that the church Brittany (my cousin) just told me her husband's family goes to?  What a coincidence!"  I decided to go check out a sermon that Sunday and as I got close to the church location another interesting realization hit me - "Oh!!  This is the enormous church I used to drive past while taking Ryann to horseback riding lessons a few years ago!  I always wondered what church that was."  I walked in and thought, "Holy cow, this is nothing like any church I've ever been in before!" I walked into the enormous auditorium and found a seat.  There was a countdown on the bigger-than-life screens and suddenly the music blared out.  "Welp, I thought, THIS is not going to be Stu's cup of tea..."

But the message...the message just seemed so spot on.  I prayed about my morning there and asked my mom to go check out Eagle Brook too.  She said what I thought she would - she didn't love the music, but the message was really good.  The messages have continued to teach that the Bible is the unerring Word of God and it guides us in the Truth God intends for us.  The most important of all is that Jesus died for our sins, He is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to Heaven (the road is narrow) is through Him.  

To make a long story short (and maybe I'll write about this again in more depth someday), I convinced Stu to come check Eagle Brook out with me.  The music was not his favorite (at first) but that week's message was right on, too.  We had found our new church home.  It was a scary and life-changing time but, blessedly, it's continued to be life-changing.  About six months after we began attending, Ryann made the decision to be publicly baptized.

More and more of our family started to attend.  And just a week or so ago, Stu, Adam, and I were publicly baptized.

The big shake up of 2014 was worth it.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Crazy love

Five or so years ago, I learned about this opportunity that exists out there called "animal fostering".  I'd heard of foster homes for children, of course, but I had no idea there were people who took in animals who needed temporary homes.  Being a crazy animal lover, I was immediately drawn to the idea.  I don't remember Stu being vehemently against it but....he may have been.  He likes our pets just fine but he'd also like living in a pet-free house just as well.  If you've known me for very long or very well at all, you know that once I get an idea in my head, it doesn't shake loose easily.  I doubt it was very many days before we had our first foster dog in our house.

A lot of people think it's crazy to take animals into your house when you don't know their history. I will admit, it's a risk.  I am exceedingly careful introducing new animals to my children and to my own animals.  And it's still probably crazy.  But our house is full of crazy love.  And we've found it works really well for us.  I have a crazy love for animals and my husband has a crazy love for me.  In a span of about 4 years, we fostered approximately 40 dogs, puppies, and kittens.

Then, in God's perfect timing, I suddenly and immediately felt overwhelmed with the dog rescue world and with fostering and decided to take a break.  Shortly thereafter, I learned the Lord had nudged me in this direction because instead of tenderly caring for helpless animals for a while, I tenderly cared for my dying mother for about 4 months while she she succumbed to cancer.  My mom died on August 20, 2015 and I learned a valuable lesson about God's timing.  We may not understand why a door closes at the time but looking back after time has passed gives a whole new perspective.  I'm so grateful for how things played out now but at time I was hurt and sad.

Fast forward about 13 months.  It's been 13 months since my best friend went to Heaven.  I know I'll see her again but I don't know how long I'll have to wait until then.  When we stopped fostering animals in the Spring of 2015, we had one dog.  We still share our home with Zoe but since then, we adopted a puppy from the Animal Humane Society and named her Petunia, took in a retired breeding female named Sierra, and took in my mom's cat, Savvy.  

We decided our little zoo was full and it made sense, even after my mom was gone, to not go back to fostering.  In addition, I was absolutely wracked by grief and had no room in my heart to care for anyone or anything but what was essential. As time passed, the grief has eased somewhat and though I still miss my mom more than I thought I ever would, I've started opening back up to being able to do some things that I just didn't have the capacity for in the last year.  I didn't know that I was open to considering fostering again until I offered to kitten-sit for a friend while she was out of town for a week.

My friend adopted Bella and Sam shortly before leaving on a planned family camping trip.  Bella had been having seizures and my friend was not comfortable leaving the kittens at home with the neighbor periodically checking on them.  Thankfully, Bella never had a seizure while staying with us and blessedly, she's never had a seizure again.  Caring for these two little souls who were in need and  providing peace of mind for my friend reminded me of the joy of fostering animals.  Not only do I get satisfaction from helping the animals in need, I absolutely love the difference I make for people and families who get to adopt a new furry family member.  I actually didn't voice my rekindled interest in fostering out loud.  Not to Stu and not really even to myself.  Yet, Stu and I share a crazy love and he knew before I did.  A few weeks after we sent Bella and Sam home, he looked at me seemingly out of the blue and said, "I know how much you love to foster animals.  I know our house is full.  But if fostering makes you happy, you should start doing it again."  I slept on it for a few nights, prayed about it, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to try it again.

I researched rescue organizations, trying to decide which one would be the best to foster for.  Ultimately, I chose the Animal Humane Society for a couple reasons.  The first reason is that the animals that need foster care through this organization are the most in need - they are sick, recovering from surgery, too young and/or tiny to be adopted yet, or are pregnant.  These are my favorite animals to help.  I've had experience over the years nursing animals back to health after major surgeries and even whelping a litter of puppies.  I taught myself how to do this and now this organization could use the skills I have!  It felt like a perfect fit.  The other reason I think AHS is the right fit for us is that these animals need care for very specific, often short-ish time periods.  When fostering for a non-shelter rescue organization, you are committing to house and care for an animal for an open-ended period of time: until they get adopted.  This could be a couple weeks or could be a couple months or even years.  Our family is busy and just keeps getting busier as the kids get older.  In order to effectively incorporate fostering into our lives, it is best for us to know how long an animal will be with us so we can plan around that.  After impatiently moving through the somewhat slow but very thorough process of becoming a foster for AHS, I picked up our first AHS foster dog, Terrence, yesterday.

I received an e-mail earlier this week, letting all potential AHS fosters know that a 16 pound terrier mix named Terrence needed foster care for two weeks.  He was being treated for heart worm infestation and was noted to be easygoing and affectionate by AHS staff.  He needed to be given an antibiotic every day for the next week or so and would need to be returned to AHS near the end of September to receive his final heart worm treatment injection and then go up for adoption.  That was all I knew.  After sleeping on it for a couple days, I decided we were the right family for Terrence.  I sent a message letting the foster coordinator know I'd be picking him up.  When I got there, I learned Terrence also has kennel cough and all of his man parts since he's been too sick to undergo his neuter surgery.  Crazy as it is to bring a small, un-neutered male into a house where three spayed females live (male dogs don't care whether a female is spayed, they're still interested), home he came with me.  And he's been a perfect house guest in every way.  No potty accidents in the house, quiet in his kennel, no humping of the female residents, friendly and affectionate towards everyone, and no desire to kill the cat.  He coughs a little and needs to be kept very restful at all times because too much activity could dislodge chunks of heart worm and result in death.  But his presence fills all our hearts.  My crazy love for animals and Stu's crazy love for me equals a loving, caring, temporary home for Terrence while he recuperates and readies himself for his new forever family.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Safe Families for Children in Minnesota

I am so excited to share information about a movement I just learned of tonight!  It's called "Safe Families for Children" of Minnesota.  This movement is spreading across the country and the globe.  My new(ish) church, Eagle Brook, is partnering with Safe Families and God is tugging at my heart to somehow be a part of this.  Since I just started praying about this a couple days ago when I learned about the partnership, I don't know what exactly it looks like yet but this blog post is a first step.

I truly believe that God has called me to care for those who need caring for.  He's created a desire in me to be hospitable and to love on babies and children and other (sometimes furry) beings who need to be cared for.  If you know me personally, you know we've opened our home many times for helpless animals in need :) 

Stu and I both love kids and pray daily for God to help us be a great dad and mom. And, by the grace of God, I believe we are pretty darn good parents!  I'd love to jump right in and be a host family for kids in need but I'm not sure how realistic that is yet....but we're praying about it.  In the interim, I want to at least spread the word about Safe Families because until last week, when Eagle Brook promo'ed their new partnership, I'd never heard of them.  Their mission and philosophy just makes good sense. They step in and provide a safe, temporary, Christian home for kids in need while the kids' parent(s) get things squared away in their life.  This aid is offered before and hopefully to prevent the need for foster care for these kids.  In order for this to work, all kinds of help is needed!  Donations of things like car seats and diapers can help, time and talent to organize and facilitate are needed, space to house donated items would help; the sky is the limit!  

Our country is in absolute tumult right now.  What better way to bring our communities together than to go back to our Christian roots of caring for the "widows and children"?  Through Safe Families, we can answer the call for help and give parents a break to get their lives in order, and a shoulder to lean on to get to a better place!

I urge you to click on the link above and read more about Safe Families.  Search your heart and see if there is a way you can help.  I don't know much about this yet but went to the informational meeting tonight so if you want to reach out to me, I can get in touch with Eagle Brook/Safe Families and we can learn more together!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Losing your mom in your 30s: 10 things a motherless daughter will learn

1. You are stronger and more amazingly resilient than you ever could have imagined. And no matter how crappy or wonderful of a mom you had, she helped make you that way. You are her incredible legacy. 

2. You can no longer tolerate watching movies in the drama genre (at least for a while). Someone is either dying or losing something vitally important. No matter what it is, it reminds you of losing your mom and you become seriously depressed for hours to days. 

3. Losing someone suddenly vs. to an illness or disease where you have a chance to say goodbye - neither is "better". Both are tortuous in their own terrible ways. 

4. Just when you move past any mother-daughter angst you've been holding onto or dealing with, your mom is gone. This is horrifying. 

5. Life is no damn fair. Just in case you hadn't learned that yet. 

6. Just as difficult as losing your own mom, is losing your kids' (or future kids') grammie. Every cute, fun, memorable, amazing thing your kids do makes your heart ache that your mom is missing it. 

7. The only woman who had known you your entire life, knew all your strengths and flaws, and ALWAYS championed you no matter what, is gone. 

8. You will sometimes feel a guilty sense of relief that your mom is no longer there to disapprove of certain choices you make. 

9. For a while, you feel unmoored, adrift, and so very alone since no one expects you to check in with them daily any longer. 

10. If it applies, you will be so grateful your mom was a wonderful Christian example for you and that she encouraged you to be faithful. Because you know this means you will be together again eventually and eternally (and sometimes this just doesn't feel like enough comfort). 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On an important soapbox

By now, everyone has seen horrific images of puppy mill mamas and papas in their nasty, little cages with their fur all matted and their mouths and feet horribly infected.

But did you know there are also breeders out there who don't run full blown disgusting mills but instead are referred to as "backyard breeders"?  These breeders just have a few, maybe even one or two, females and either one or a few males or they pay stud fees to breed their female(s).  These breeders are not held to any standards because their "operation" is not big enough to meet the criteria for any kind of review (not that there are any real rigorous reviews for larger operations).  These breeders may very well be responsible and concerned about their dogs and the breed in general OR they may be uninformed and only producing puppies for monetary gain.  Frankly, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.  This fall, I learned of a 4 year old female British Labrador Retriever, Sierra, who had been used for breeding twice in her life and could no longer have puppies (during the delivery of her last litter in the Spring of 2015, she had difficulty delivering the pups, had to undergo an emergency C-section, and was spayed during the procedure).  Because the breeder wanted to keep producing puppies and professed to want to further the breed, they were bringing in some new local females and a new male puppy from Europe.  As such, they put Sierra in an outdoor kennel and stopped feeding her the expensive dog food they fed their breeding females and fed her food "from the co-op" instead.  They said that up until then, Sierra had lived in the house as a family dog.  They admitted Sierra had a limp and that their vet told them she'd torn one of her rear ACLs long ago but it didn't bother her.  They wanted Sierra to find a new home since they'd have a full house with their new breeding females.  Most of me was disgusted that this poor dog was literally put out to pasture when she was no longer able to produce puppies but the "benefit of the doubt" part of me thought it sounded pretty good that these breeders kept their mamas indoors and treated them as part of the family, had bred Sierra only a few times, and does the proper screening for this breed.  I was given Sierra's AKC papers, paperwork saying she'd been screened for common physical issues British Labs may be born with, and a vet record that said she was given a Rabies vaccination in September of 2014.  The papers said she needed a Rabies vaccine in September of 2015.  We adopted Sierra shortly after the due date (can't remember the exact date).  The breeder assured me that the vet had given Sierra a 2 year Rabies shot and the paperwork just didn't reflect that date.  Because we are planning on taking Sierra to classes to work towards becoming a therapy dog, I called the vet up north to ask for paperwork indicating her Rabies vaccination was current.  They informed me she really did need a vaccination this past September and they could not provide me with paperwork stating her Rabies vaccination was good until September of 2016.

I made a vet appointment immediately and took Sierra to see my vet at Dr. Pomeroy's office today.  Her physical evaluation showed that Sierra had torn both of her ACLs in her rear knees long ago.  She also has chronic ear infections.  She showed no signs of the ear infections because the vet surmised they've been that way for so long, she's learned to tolerate them.  Sierra is likely in discomfort daily.  I got antibiotics for Sierra's ears and she will start taking Glucosamine and Fish Oil immediately.  Because her ACLs were torn so long ago, there is nothing surgical that can be done at this point.

Many of you know that I am a big proponent of dog rescue.  I volunteered for and/or ran my own rescue for several years.  But I'd like to believe there are still good breeders out there.  Sierra did not come from one.  Please, please, if you would like to add a dog to your family, FIRST consider adopting from a reputable rescue or humane society.  If your heart is set on a purebred dog and you just can't find one in rescue (there truly are lots of purebred dogs in rescue but they are popular so hard to come by), do some serious, intense research on the breeder your puppy is coming from.

Sierra had no good medical records showing that she'd been kept up to date on vaccinations, heart worm and tick preventatives.

She'd shown signs of limping and the breeder chose not to get her help for a very painful injury.

She had terribly infected ears that were clearly never treated.

Since there were only a few females who lived indoors at this breeder and prospective puppy buyers were welcome to visit, I'm betting the house looked nice and clean and Sierra is clearly beautiful and appears healthy.

If you are going to buy from a breeder, you need to ask to be shown their medical records for their females, males, and all their puppies.  Puppies need to have been vaccinated and dewormed and need to stay with their moms until they are at least 8 weeks old (NO exceptions, the excuse that the puppies are weaned is not valid; the pups need to be socialized with their mom and siblings even if they are done nursing).  Ideally, the puppies are whelped (born) indoors where they become accustomed to living in a household and experiencing household hustle-bustle and noise.  Research what the common medical issues for your favorite breed are and ask the breeder to show you the screening they do on their breeding males and females to make sure those issues are not passed on to the puppies.  You should be welcome to visit and see where the dogs are living.  If there are outbuildings, I'd ask to see inside those too.  If anything seems dirty, sloppy, or amiss please, please don't give that breeder your precious money.  If they aren't making money breeding puppies in a haphazard way, they will stop.  And don't feel like you're "saving" the puppies from a terrible environment.  Every time a breeder brings in money from selling puppies, it perpetuates the problem.

On a happier note, the veterinarian who examined Sierra today proclaimed she is a wonderful, sweet, beautiful dog and she thinks she will make an excellent Therapy Dog!
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