On Thursday, I finished my fall semester at UDTS. Yesterday, I cleaned, ran errands, got a haircut, celebrated my mother in-law’s birthday, and made a late night run to Michael’s with Jason.
Today, I slept all the way until 7am, something I haven’t done for weeks. And then when I got up, I poured the coffee and started making my pretzel, chocolate, M&M buttons to give away to neighbors, delivery people, co-workers, and some of Jason’s clients. And–here’s the confession–I turned on the cheesiest, happiest, most implausible Christmas movies I could find. And I’m currently on my third Christmas movie. And I expect to watch at least three more today as I finish writing cards, crocheting gifts, and wrapping things.
Tomorrow is church-a-palooza with all things 4th Sunday of Advent. And Monday, my J-Term professor gives us our pre-load for the class that starts January 2. So today? I’m doing whatever I want.
Simon and Jonas…sometimes a hastily taken photo turns out all right.
Somehow, I ended up in Habakkuk tonight. Habakkuk is the book of the Bible I am least able to spell, and the book I am least likely to read, I’d figure.
But tonight, there’s this:
I will stand at my watch-post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. 2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. 3 For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:1-3
Jason missed the major snow event, but he’s enjoying the winter weather now that he’s home. You have to look close to see the look of joy on his face as he stands in pajamas and bare feet on the edge of our front stoop and studies the ice covered tree in our front yard, but it’s there. Look beyond him and you can see our yard full of snow and our slush covered road.
Jason is home from backpacking in Florida and he brought this photo of an (annoyed?) alligator back with him. It appears that our reptile friend is not very excited to be examined as he (she?) catches some rays on a trail at Myakka State Park.
He’ll mostly write about his adventures on the trails he hikes and bikes, but it will also be filled with life lessons one can learn on such trails…or the people one can meet in some pretty amazing places…or the pictures one can take in the great outdoors (sometimes while trekking off the trail to pee, he likes to remind me)…or the funny things that happen when you venture out where most people won’t.
Six weeks ago today, we said goodbye to our sweet Sam. It’s still sad when I think about that day. Or when I still reach down to pet the top of his head when I’m sitting at the table. Or when I think about getting home to let him out. Or when I’m left with a piece of sandwich I can’t finish. We do still miss him, but like grief usually does, it gets better every day. In the place where we buried him, Jason has created a beautiful garden with flowers and a bird bath.
The week we lost Sam, we took time slowly. We worked few hours and spent lots of time at home. Jonas was with us (and his friend, Chris, who is part of our family).
But since then, time has gone very quickly and there have been a lot of things going on. Vacation Bible School, a family camping trip with Jeff and Stefanie to the Turkey Run Area (Indiana), the High School Mission Trip to New Jersey, the Middle School Mission Trip to Paducah, KY, various adventure weekends for Jason, a trip to backpack in Medicine Bow, Wyoming for Jason, a trip to Biloxi with his mother for Jonas, time spent with much loved friends and family, and several evenings spent in our kayaks on local bodies of water.
It’s been a bit of a blur! A really fun blur. A blur filled with knowledge of God’s goodness in our lives. But a blur, for sure! When this summer is over, Jason and I will have spent more nights apart than together in the June-August window. I still have my 2 week school intensive and he still has a trip to the Boundary Waters. We will spend our 12th anniversary 400 miles away from each other as it will happen during my time at UDTS.
During the high school mission trip, my first University of Dubuque Theological Seminary “class” started. It was an online orientation (no credit, of course) to help us get used to using the online system and give us a chance to meet our classmates, I’m enjoying it very much. Also, this summer, I’ve been dealing with financial aid, buying books and preparing to do my first August intensive. I’ll take three classes in August: Theological Research (1 credit), Foundations of Christian Worship (3 credits) and I’ll meet daily with a Spiritual Formation Group (1 credit). Yesterday, I got my first pre-load assignments for both my Worship and Spiritual Formation classes. Because I’ll only have two weeks on campus, the August and January sessions will require a two week pre-load and a two week post-load, meaning that class actually starts before I leave and continues even after I get back. The assignments this very first time include a lot of reading, a 5-7 page paper, some journaling and some memorization.
I’m anxious, excited, and terrified. But ready or not, it’s time to get busy. I realize that for the next four years, life will always include homework, papers, books, memorization, critical thinking, bibliographies, lectures, exams, discussion and everything else that goes along with a Masters degree. I also hope it will be full of deep conversation, deep understanding and interaction with Scripture and theologians, ancient and modern, and deep relationships with my classmates near and far.
A lot will happen in the next four years, just as a lot has happened in the previous four years.
But for now, I’m sipping a second cup of coffee, looking out at a beautiful day, and getting ready to crack open a brand new book!
Twelve years ago, on this very date (June 2), an almost-family of three (still two Durhams and a Berdine, as the wedding was still two months away) drove way out into the countryside and brought home two six-week old golden retriever puppies. One of those puppies would not live past her second birthday. Lila’s death marked one of the first very sad moments in the life of our new family.
The other puppy would grow into a funny, handsome, loyal, very good dog who would give us and our guests lots of fodder for dinner table conversation, lots of reasons to giggle and lots of reasons to love life a little more.
Of all the things Sam is, however, faithful describes him best of all. When I am home, even in these last days, he is by my side. When I get up in the morning, he gets up too. When I go to bed at night, he follows behind me and lays down by my bedside. When I go from room to room, cleaning or getting ready to go, he follows me around until he finally gets tired of my constant room switching and lays down in the hallway at the center of the house where he can monitor my activity no matter which way I go. When I watch TV or read a book, he lies down at my feet. When I eat, he stands by hopefully (unless Jason’s eating too–he knows his odds of getting a treat are much greater if he stands by Jason in that case). When I take a shower, he takes a guard position outside the bathroom door. Often, to get him to go outside, I have to go outside too just so he’ll be convinced to stay there long enough to do what he needs to do.
I wish I could say I’ve been as faithful to him. I keep insisting on leaving him behind as I go to work. to Zumba, to the store, out with friends, on mission trips and vacations…I always make sure he’ll be cared for while we’re gone–his list of family and friends is long and wonderful, but I always have another place to go.
Unfazed, however, no matter how long I’m gone–one week, one afternoon, one minute–when I return there is he is, waiting for me so he can greet me, tail wagging, and be by my side again.
He’s a dog, but he’s not just a dog.
He’s been in our family for twelve years today. This Thursday (June 5), we will take him to his vet for the last time and I will stay by his side and say goodbye.
When you get a dog, you don’t hope he’ll outlive you. There’s always the realization that one day, hopefully many years down the road, the time will come to say goodbye. It’s been almost four weeks since we first took Sam to the vet to have his mouth checked out. So many of you have expressed your sorrow and care to us countless times. Sometimes, it seems a little embarrassing for this to be such a drawn-out experience or to be sharing it and updating about it and “making” you express sympathy and concern.
Yet, I know that your care comes not only from our friendship, for which I am grateful, but also because many of you have loved dogs and cats and goldfish and turtles and parakeets and even snakes that you’ve lost and missed or that you dread losing and missing one day. Thank you for both your friendship and your empathy. And thank you for indulging a final blog entry about our very good, faithful dog.
We received some bad news about our dear, sweet retriever Samson on Friday. A rapidly increasing growth in his mouth is most likely (the vet is very certain, but there’s not been a biopsy yet) jaw cancer (osteosarcoma). We are heartbroken, but will work with our vet to give Sam the most pain-free, comfortable, joy-filled end of life possible. The treatment available is jaw removal, which is very painful and would extend his life 6-12 months. We’ve decided to forgo treatment. We’re not so sure about a time frame, although we’ve heard 1-6 months. For now, twelve year-old Sam is energetic and active, not skipping any meals and still hopefully trailing Jason to the kitchen in case some food might fall his way. He raced to the fence this morning to bark at the neighbor dogs and rolled around in the wet grass before he came inside. So, although this post may invite your sympathy, it’s not quite time yet. Know we appreciate it if you choose to pray or think good thoughts for Sam and for us, but also know that we’re still scratching ears and rubbing his belly and feeling grateful for his still wagging tail.
The Tuesday Ten today is a re-post from October of 2010. There are things I could add or change, but I’ll just leave it as it is.
At Jason’s request, ten things about our dear dog, Sam (who by the way is feeling under the weather today).
1. “Sam” is short for “Samson.”
2. Sam is the only suriviving dog from his litter (we had his sister, Lilah, for two years before she got a nasty infection and died). He was the runt of his litter.
3. We got Sam after we bought our house and before we got married (June 2002).
4. Sam loves bread. He loves it so much, we have to keep the bread in a plastic, lidded container on the kitchen counter. He’s eaten whole loaves. He’s also eaten refrigerated biscuit dough.
5. Sam walks backwards in order to keep us in his sights. Like, he’ll walk backwards down the hall just so he doesn’t have to turn his tail to us. Trust issues, maybe?
6. Sam will be perfectly well-behaved and quiet…until I get home. Then he barks when he can’t see me and follows me from room to room, needing to be in on whatever I’m doing.
7. When Jonas was smaller, he and Jason (and probably Sam) looked forward to good snowfalls. Jason would put Jonas in a sled and Jonas would hold Sam’s leash and Sam would slide Jonas all around the neighborhood. We have hours of video of this.
8. Sam is terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms and vacuum cleaners and tile floors and when people wave their hands in his face and about a million other things.
9. Sam can catch and kill mice. He can catch bugs in his mouth as they fly by (like a frog).
10. Sam is not entirely obedient, does not know a bunch of tricks, and in general is kind of on the less smart side of things. He is loyal and friendly and snuggly and gentle and pretty/handsome (which is all better than obedient and smart, I think).
Today is the day! Spring is here, and despite the threat of snow (again) midweek, we’re getting the kayaks out to paddle them around Audubon Lake this afternoon. Here’s hoping for sunshine and mild temperatures!
Other things happening:
I filled out my enrollment paperwork for UDTS. First day on campus: August 2!
I’m two months wheat free (or mostly wheat free…there was Fat Tuesday when I hate pizza and last weekend when I ate some breaded shrimp on Friday and some dutch oven corn bread on Saturday)!
I get to see Jenny, Zach and baby Samuel this week while they are in Jenny’s hometown visiting her family.
We scheduled our dog, Samson, for surgery in less than two weeks. He has a tumor that needs to be removed. We struggled with whether to put him through surgery at his advanced age, but we’re going to hope it improves his quality of life for the years (God willing) he has left.
I filled out a bracket for March Madness. After yesterday’s games, I’m at 37.3%. Ohio State lost and Harvard won and for some reason I thought Virginia would lose their first game. Basically everyone else in my bracket challenge group picked Virginia to be national champions, so apparently they know something I do not. And I know nothing, actually. It may as well have been a monkey pointing at team logos for all the knowledge and sportiness that went into my bracket.
Wearing the same 7 items of clothing all week has not really bothered me. I am tired of wearing the same pajamas every night. Go figure. Also, my zumba shirt smells like a campfire this morning because I wore it when I sat at the fire pit last night. It is ridiculous that I have over 300 items of clothing in my closet, considering that I sincerely do not spend a lot of time worrying about my clothing. I’ve been working to pull items to donate and box up items to save.
I’m floundering in the EmptyShelf Challenge. I’m mid-way through so many books. I need to finish some and move on!
In addition to kayaking this afternoon, tonight we are grilling out for the first time this season.
I sat on the back of the borrowed four-wheeler, leaning into my husband as we pulled to a stop.
“Cut the engine,” Jerry, the driver of the second ATV advised. Four of us (Ashley was the fourth) sat in silence for a moment.
It was twilight in Pike State Forest and the landscape was beautiful. The day had been full of sunshine and the afternoon had not required a jacket. We could see the sun setting and the moon rising. The land also rose and fell all around us. We were at a high point and we could see a good distance.
It was a beautiful. More beautiful than I would have expected when we went off road just half a mile back.
Jerry broke the silence. “They call this place [explicit name for a specific sexual act] Hill,” He explained. “And if you want to know why…”
The quick reply from the rest of us was, “We don’t!”
The ride was bumpy, too fast in some places, too slow in others, muddy and fun. We ended up at the banks of the Patoka River. We stood together, shooting the breeze, talking about what it was like there in summer (overrun with mosquitoes, apparently) and telling stories about toboggans and weird dreams the full moon brought, of all things.
At some point, we decided to head back. Both vehicles required headlights for the return trip. Over tree limbs and through mud puddles, in and out ruts forged before us, up and down hills to the main road, where we sped through the darkness faster than I was comfortable riding, but not fast enough to keep up with the vehicle in front of us. Taking the wrong turn at a fork in the road, we found our way to an old fire tower. Realizing our mistake, we turned around and headed back the other direction and found our way to our friend James’ house.
Several times during the hour or so we were gone, I thought, I wish I had a camera. I had left my phone behind because I didn’t want to break or lose it on the bumpy ride. It’s not every day…or any day except this one, really, that I get splattered with mud riding on the back of a four-wheeler. Or that I have such a beautiful vantage point at sunset. Or that I get to spend an hour holding tight to Jason while we ride around river bottoms.
What is a picture worth, anyway? I think about how important our cameras have become. Yes, they capture memories, but they also get instagrammed and facebooked so we can let our friends (the world) know what we’re doing. I love sharing pictures of fun moments and interesting things and I love seeing the pictures and interesting things that are shared by others.
Every time I thought about my left-behind camera, I stopped myself and soaked up the memory and thought about what I might miss by looking at the evening through a camera lens or fooling with photo apps on my phone. I love photographs and the memories they secure…but sometimes I think about the things pictures can’t capture. Those are things I don’t want to miss.
Breathe deeply. Enjoy where you are now completely. Live life in all its muddy grandeur fully.