It is a delight to be the spouse of a hard working, joy-filled, dedicated man.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Final Lesson In Faith

It's story time. Only this story is absolutely and completely true, no fake letters, no fictional characters.
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It is a story that is at once my final lesson in faith and a story about grafting on to a tree. I know, its weird 'cuz the pictures that go with this story are our haying pictures from this summer. We didn't have enough from our farm so we needed to get hay from the Schactlers this year, (extra horses, but a dad's gotta do, what a dad's gotta do).
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Haying is hot, dry, dusty, scratchy, heavy work. It is never ever done when it is rainy, and good hay that last until next April, or May in the case of this year, has to be accompanied by sure warm weather, not cool damp weather. There you have it in a nutshell what haying season is all about. So now you can look at the pictures for the other story they tell. Tree grafting. But the back story of tree grafting is my final exam in faith.
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Nearly eleven years ago, eleven year ago this October, I invited the youth group my husband and I were getting involved in out to the Farm for some cider pressing and fall fun. The only youth in site were my own kids. The interim leader, a nice hard working fellow, and a young married gal who worked with the girls had also come out to help with the youth, that didn't show up.
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I was disappointed but that was how it was supposed to be. We stood around for a while staring at the driveway, wondering what other activity had pulled the kids away that said they would be there, oh don't get me sidetracked, you know what I mean, we'll just leave it at that shall we.
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After we were certain that no more youth were coming, the fellow stood and talked a little longer to Dirt but then left because he had his own family to tend to if nothing was pressing him out here. But the young gal was easily swayed to stay and go for a horse back ride. I was all of a sudden extremely happy that not one youth had showed up. My girls were busy pressing apples with Dad and now I was going to get an afternoon to spend with this intriguing younger woman.
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She was the singer on the worship team at the church we attended. The Sundays that we pulled into the parking lot and heard the worship team practicing and warming up and I heard her voice, I knew it was going to be a good day. Her husband was a big guy and she was just a little thing. Her age was hard to pin down, I'm bad at remembering such things so even if she had told me a zillion times I would not have remembered. They kinda looked like they could be fresh out of college or darn near our age, just no kids.
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Well in actuality I was turning forty and she was fast approaching thirty. I get confused on ages. Addition and subtraction of years is like square footage in buildings, my mind draws a blank and then heads in the wrong direction. Convention would have put us in different friendship groups for several reasons. I'm ever so glad I also have a hard time with convention too. 'Cause I wanted to get to know her. I wanted her for a friend. I wanted to crawl inside her life and her in mine.
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We saddled up the horses and rode off for most of the day. We weren't to far into our ride when she began to tell me about her troubles with having children, her and her husband had already been pregnant many times but none of the pregnancies went very far. My heart broke. Funny the things you can assume when you just look at the outside of a situation.
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She began to tell why it was particularly hard for her right now. Her new sister in law was setting out to become pregnant or was already, I couldn't hold on to the story my head was already reeling at that point. All I was feeling was bizarre sense of joy because I knew we were going to be fast friends and extreme sadness for her all at once. I hardly remember where all we rode. There were parts of her telling and parts of the landscape that for me are inseparable but the whole of it is gone. I'm not so sure they registered at all that day.
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For a few days I stewed over my new friends plight. Then one night I began to pray and I couldn't stop. I began in my bed like I always do, thinking I would pray myself to sleep as normal. But I felt the Holy Spirit asking more of me. I was covering a lot of territory in my prayers, way more than I ever did before. I kept coming around to her and her husband. Praying several approaches.
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I wonder what the sleep cam pointed at my bed would have shown that night. On the bed flat. On my knees like the children in pictures, hands folded elbows on the bed. On the floor, face buried in discarded clothes and lint, not caring a wit. Praying hard. Praying for many things. Surely I must be done.
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Back up on the bed, lying flat, just a few more prayers to lull me to sleep. A couple of hours and a half dozen prayer positions later I have covered every topic imaginable, they bubble from my heart, flow out of my brain and drip from my lips to God's ear.
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Then I pray that God give me strength to allow my children to do what he needs them to do. Not what I want them to do. Oh that was hard. I had a lot to prove with my children. Mostly I had years of proving things to my family my mom and my siblings, but now my mom was gone, nothing to prove to her any longer, I got the feeling that nothing would prove that I was a grown up to my siblings, so what the heck. I knew that my children were ultimately God's not mine. I knew that, was I ready to pray that?
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Totally. No more me. Tell me God what you want and I will do my best to raise them so that they are the tool you will use. Over and over for each girl, all four. Lord what do you need them to be? I prayed in general and I prayed specifically. I prayed to know how to help my girls overcome some character hurdles, you know the ones, same sort of trait, a little this direction and it's a tool for destruction, a little this direction and it is a tool for righteous living.
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"Lord God take them and use them. They are yours not mine." I heard footsteps just then in the hallway. Heavy, uncertain from where, I don't remember, but familiar footsteps. Dirt was sleeping in bed next to me, I was staring out our door into the hall. The commanding hard heavy footsteps ended at my door.
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"He'll take them now you know. You know they'll die now don't you. They always do when you say stuff like that."
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"Absolutely not!" I yell. "I know who you are! You are a fraud! Go away from here!" The footsteps retreat but now they are weak and sad.
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I listen for a few minutes. I don't hear anything but I can't help myself. I throw back the afghan I had over my shoulders and dash up the stairs to the girls and begin touching them making sure that they are peaceful. I stay for a few hours to pray at their bedsides. As the light from the window begins to move from grey to a glow, I retreat down stairs.
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"Where you been," is the muffled question that comes from under the covers as I lift mine and crawl in. Exhausted but rested all at the same time.
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The next day I don't see any miraculous changes in my girls. In fact, are things actually worse? Walking through the beginning of that week, excited and looking, no answers. Now it is Wednesday and I am still excited. I get to see my new friend the one I prayed for a few days ago on that weird night. I wonder how she is.
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When I get to the hall where we hold our youth group she grabs me by the arm. She says she has to go back to her house to get some stuff she forgot for tonight. Okay. I leave Dirt and the girls to continue to set up. In the car she spills it faster than I can.
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She is pregnant!
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Everything is going to be okay. Everything I prayed for is what I was suppose to pray for. Everything is going to work out. She was already pregnant the night I prayed, obviously, but everything I prayed for is going to be okay.
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I'm so stinking excited I don't even remember what I told her or if I even did. Cloud nine. So when she starts getting sick, I'm smiling. Oh I can commiserate with her, I was sick from the moment I conceived to the moment their shoulders came out. I was no stranger to morning, afternoon and evening sickness. But I was happy.
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Then the bad news came, my friend miscarried. I'm really confused. I go to pray. I don't understand. I try not to be selfish but I hurt as if it were me. I can't stand it. Now I am just crying and I hear my Lord say to me, "pray for the pregnancy to go well."
What? What are you saying Lord? Didn't you hear? Don't you know? There is no more pregnancy.
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But the Lord's voice insists. "Pray for the pregnancy."
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Now I am confused. Am I not hearing well? Am I misunderstanding? Is it okay for a woman to get pregnant right away? My nurses training kicks in, I don't think so, the body needs a rest.
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"Pray for the pregnancy."
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I do, I find words that work. I pray for the pregnancy.
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I keep hearing the voice, "Pray for the pregnancy." Every day it hounds me. I am. I am praying. Poor Rebecca. She looks awful. She is still sick. Says that this has happened every time she miscarries until she goes and gets the remaining tissue cleaned out. Oh my poor friend, my heart aches, I cannot take it. I cannot think, I can hardly drive or take care of my own children. I feel so drained. Its the holidays and I don't care.
I keep hearing His voice. "Pray for the pregnancy."
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I come into my bedroom, The bed that betrayed me. I thought everything was going to be okay. How much longer, how many more times, this is killing me, what about her! I can't take it. I fall on my knees at the end of the bed. Back to the door. Not where I usually pray but I don't care. I am spent.
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"Pray for the pregnancy."
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I'm done I don't have anymore words. I'm tapped. I don't know what in the world to say. All that is coming out now are moans. Pathetic helpless moans. Deep from my gut. Wounded, dying animal sounds. My arms are limp but there all that holds me up, upper body sprawled on the bed, lower body crumpled on the floor. I can't do any better than this? I can't lift my head, put my hands together in a proper prayer position. I don't think I'll be able to move again. What if someone comes to the front door? They'll see me. I don't care.
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I don't care if anyone even my girls see me. I can't move. I can't talk I can't form a thought. Moans just keep spilling out. I am farther and farther from myself, my dignity. I have none anymore. I don't care. The pain is too great. It has me pinned to the bed and floor. Nothing matters but the pain. My heart is a wreck but from somewhere it just continues to cry out with these unlady like moans. No birth moans sound like these, no death sounded like this, no pain I every heard in the hospital ever sounded like this. Yet it is coming from me and I don't care, I just yield to it.
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It stops.
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I remain on the floor and the bed. Sleeping but awake. I feel a nudge and I rise. I am not tired or exhausted. Am I sure? Nope, I feel fine.
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I go about my days. I hear His voice ask for prayer for the pregnancy and I attend to it. No more questions, no more made up words that fit my world and sort of cover the request. I just open up my heart and let the non-words pour out. Where ever I may be. Grabbing something out of a cupboard. Tending to a child's needs. Vacuuming a floor. Ignoring the crumbs under the chair. It all becomes so much easier, no struggle.
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When I'm not praying I have a zillion questions, but no one to ask. I don't know her people. She is drained and so is her big husband. He looks so small lately. She looks so sick and pale. And tired. And he looks so small. But I continue to pray the words that don't make sense, the words that ask that the pregnancy goes well, I continue to not ask questions and just pray.
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I look around at church and I don't see her any where. He isn't there either. We church in a school, there are rooms everywhere that we use. I look everywhere. Dirt has gone home, we do stuff for the church and now we have two services, with the farm stuff we can't both be there the whole time, so we drive separate cars and he has already left, the sound equipment has all been put away. But there are still various children's church people putting away their things.
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I'm ripping open door after door trying to find a particular woman, she would know, sister of the pastor, kind of in charge of a lot, interum youth leader's wife, she'll be the one that knows. I find her. She is squating picking the days work up off the floor. I blurt out my question, "Where's Rebecca, is she okay?" before she even has a chance to turn around.
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When she turns around there is a smile there that I know only means great stuff. And sure enough what spills from her mouth is phenonminal news.
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She, Rebecca, my dear little friend, had gone in finally to have a DNC to clean out the remaining tissue. The doctor as always first took and ultrasound to check on what was still in there. And there was a baby.
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This hay bucking baby to be exact (this is where the pictures actually do sorta go with the story). She was in there, making her momma sick but she was growing, determined to put her mark on the world.
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The gal I had found that had the news for me continued to talk, something about a twin, that was what was miscarried, I sort of heard. But then I was in my car with my girls driving home. I think. I do remember passing the RV repair place right about the time I became aware of the pain in my chest. Like it was going to burst with joy.
I miraculously made it home. Dirt was there, sitting on the end of the bed facing the door. Like he had been waiting for me. Right in that spot.
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My excited words began to tumble out as I grabbed his shirt and pulled my face in close to his. I was saying I couldn't believe it and he wouldn't either. I told him all I knew but the most I knew was that she indeed was still pregnant.
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He looked up at me and said, "What did you expect, are you really surprised?" Oh he was Phil Dirt alright, that would come out of Dirt's mouth. But it wasn't just him in there telling me that. It wasn't mean. It wasn't a "I told you so." said in a critical spirit meant to put me down. It was a check. It was a, "people have told you you have a gift. You have a gift of faith, now buck up and use it."
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Okay, step off of cloud forty-six and back down to a normal cloud nine. No biggy just normal kingdom stuff. Things look bad from a world perspective and it really isn't and He proves it over and over and over through us.
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That is just the begining of the odyssy that has built this family, these two families, that keep making more families between them but in reality are just becoming one giant confusing family.
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This is Anna and Abbey, Anna is the designated driver for haying season. She loves to drive her daddy's truck. Abbey was the next little miracle baby to come to Mike and Rebecca, in much the same way Anne did. Anne did have a little more drama just before she was born. Rebecca ended up in the hospital on bed rest at twenty-three weeks with a tear in the amniotic sack. I of course stopped by the autoparts store and picked up a bottle of Stop-a-Leak for her. Just the thing a good friend does.
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Yeah, the doctors saved the day and helped Anne be born eventually on Father's day but we all knew the girl had an appointment. Rebecca and I continued to bond and continue our bonding still. Still learning how to carry someone so dear right in your hip pocket even though oft times you're quite poked in the behind with the friendship. Sometimes it is a gentle nudge and sometimes it is a rather unexpected stab, ones that could send most friends down the highway.
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"Ow. Oh it's you," we say. And then we rub our bruised hiney and listen closer to the words that we know are meant for our wellbeing.
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It isn't just Rebecca and I, it is Mike and Dirt It's even Pop and Patty MorMor, and Eric and Steph with Kai and Aksel, it is even Mike and Michelle when they can handle the confusion.
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I have other friends that I would die for, whose children are constantly on my prayer list, who I am pained for, whose trouble I grieve. But this is different. Anne and Abbey are as good as mine, as my very own.

Sisters from different mothers.

Okay, so it isn't the rhyming phase the "brother" one is, but these ain't no boys. These are two of Dirt's and my six girls.

10 comments:

Lisa said...

Beautiful story. More people should listen to God's voice instead of their own. I'm guilty of listening to my own too often.

Lisa

LindaSueBuhl said...

~Trust and obey for there is no other way - to be happy in Jesus ~-but you know that lesson - good example of living it out.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Thanks Lanny..wonderful sharing today! You are a source of strength for me:)

Mike Bowerman said...

Lanny, I have to say I have to quit reading your blog, it makes me cry. Wow, what a story, I am glad that you keep sharing the story that keeps unfolding. I hope that everyone involved remembers that it is their job daily to die to self and be an empty vessel for the Lord to use.

Sparky ♥ ∞ said...

Good story.

Tipper said...

Lanny-I enjoyed this lesson in faith.

Hope you and Dirt had a good trip.

Mildred said...

Thank you for sharing such a heart-warming story.

A. Joy said...

Even though I've heard the story many times before - it is still such a joy to read and we praise God for little Anne ( with the big hay bucking muscles! ) and Abbigail too.

Carol............. said...

Thanks for you story told from your heart.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Lanny: What a great story and it had to be hard to write and remeber all the details. You certainly are a good friend.