Monday, December 27, 2004

Just a Cat??...

I suppose you might say he was 'just a cat'. But my family would argue and say, no, he was much, much more.

For starters, how many cats are given multiple monikers?
Clyde Arthur Beldin Stripey-Pants Bristle-Whiskers Rumble-Purr Ring-Tailed-Rabble-Rouser Vaughn
He earned every single one.

Clyde was a reformed barn cat. He was rescued by a friend, tested and doctored, and came to live with us in September 2002. Though he was scarred with a flattened ear from injury and a broken tooth, he was a gentle, affectionate rascal. He delighted in chasing the 'girlie cats' around the house, in giving 'in-your-face' greetings complete with full chin rubs, and in sleeping with his humans, softly purring beside his chosen bed partner. He had a rasp of a tongue and would frequently 'groom' the hand or cheek of the human next to him.

What happened? The short answer is: we don't know.

He developed a paralysis, which, over a course of 8 hours, left him without either a yowl or a purr in the end. I held him in the vet's office, as he was unresponsive to painful stimuli, noting the occasional frantic spasming of his legs. He died in my arms, his fur dampened by my tears.

Our other 2 cats show no signs of illness. (yet) He had been sneezing for a few days, with some vigor. But in all other respects he was normal: affectionate, romping, playing, snoozing in his favorite spots. By Tuesday morning however, he was not interested in the daily 'cat snack' we hand out each morning and hid to sleep in an unusual place (a sure sign in our cat language of a sick cat).

A first trip to the vet showed him to have a fever. He was rehydrated, given antibiotics, showed normal lab results, and by late afternoon, had enough 'tude back to complain when we went home. But by midnight, he was having trouble walking.

A second trip to the Vet ER at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning left us more puzzled: normal x-rays. Maybe it was a med reaction? They gave him some valium to calm him down and told us to stop the meds from the first vet, and that he would probably be better by morning. He steadily worsened in the night and only calmed down when I let him burrow under my arms. I dozed on the floor beside him as he frantically scrabbled around and cried. Surely the drug would wear off? And he would be better?

By 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, it was obvious he was worse: his hind legs were paralyzed. My husband and I made a decision: an early a.m. visit to the vet, who opened at 7 am. It looked like he was dying. The girls were awakened to cuddle and care for him while I showered and tried to be awake enough to drive with no sleep. They petted him and cried. He purred softly and sporadically. We wrapped our arms around each other, cuddled him and cried some more as we prayed... for healing if it were meant to be, for no pain and a gentle end if it was not. No anger at God, just sadness.

By 8 a.m. that morning, he had no control of front or back legs. He was occasionally clawing my shoulder, but mostly wanted to be held upright against my chest. The vet tech started an IV just to give him comfort measures since he was panting and unable to drink. By 9:00 he had no response to painful stimuli. He was in a coma. It was time to let the suffering cease. Less than 24 hours after his first vet visit, on December 22, 2004 our beloved Clyde-Boy went to Cat Heaven. Everyone cried at the news: my husband, mother-in-law, kids, friends... and our vets were stunned.

Late that morning, my daughters and I were looking up at the bright, blue, cold December sky after I had brought his still form home from the vet. We watched the clouds and comtrails. Several comtrails had puffs at the end of them. One of the girls looked up and said, "HEY! Clyde is chasing a string in heaven!" The other one said, "yeah, and there's his mousie tied to the end of it." We laughed, we cried, and we each thanked God for the wonderful gift of His Creation. More tears, gentle in their cleansing...

Our whole family has cried in the days since he died. We have missed his talkativeness, his purrs, the softness of his fur and the gentle way he would love on us...

And please, DON'T email me and say, "oh good grief, it's just a cat." Because if Jesus cared about sparrows falling and knows the number of hairs on your head, He certainly made way in heaven for a reformed barn cat named Clyde that morning... He is not in pain now. He has a limitless supply of catnip, and in time, we will smile instead of cry when we think about him...

From our home to yours,

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Clyde Arthur Beldin Stripey-Pants Bristle-Whiskers Rumble-Purr Ring-Tailed-Rabble-Rouser Vaughn

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Soup Kitchen or the Buckeyes?

It was tempting. VERY tempting!

Now that we have cable, I could have gotten a pay-per-view showing of the Ohio State vs. Michigan game. THE game of the season. It's hard not to get to watch the OSU games each week. Instead it's Maryland with BoDiddley Tech on the local stations. Ugh.

BUT - today is the day our church works at a local soup kitchen, The Lord's Table. We usually take the girls and go make bread, set tables, serve the guests, and help with clean up. It's a hard afternoon's work. And right in the middle of it is an important college football game! Oh my.

So yes, I could have stayed home and sent my family. Or, we could have gone earlier in the afternoon and then left in time to watch the game in our cozy family room. But, what message would that send? I tried to imagine saying to Jesus, "sorry, have to watch the Buckeyes. Someone else will have to serve today."

I chose to be a good example and go work at the soup kitchen. I chose to put my comforts aside, and my preferences. I don't feel holy about my choice. I just know that Jesus was pleased. I totally forgot about the game because of the pleasure of being His Servant. And win or lose, I knew that the game would go on without me. (But they won?!!! YAHOO!!)

Sometimes, the little steps of obedience are the ones that make the biggest impression on my heart. Forget anyone else's. It was a pleasure to obey. How often do I say that (HINT: not very.)

From our home to yours...


Monday, November 15, 2004


I am still mulling over a recent trip to West Virginia. The object lesson I received concerning encouragement keeps coming back to mind...

We hiked trails every day during our stay in the Dolly Sods area. Some were well-marked. Some were deer trails in the grass and rocks. Others were completely unmarked and you could only guesstimate where you were going. Some were rocky and flat, others were quite steep. But all of them had something in common: the occasional hikers we met on the trail gave us some kind of feedback as to how far along we were and whether or not it was worth the trip!

Of course, we met some jokers. "You are MILES away from the look out point." That from a smirking young man, who was promptly whacked on the head by a buddy. "Give up and go back. Boring." said another, followed by a fast "NOT!" "You look pretty worn out, there." (Yes, red-faced, wheezing and sweating is quite a fashion statement!)

There were families, couples, some with small kids, who would greet us with a smile and a hello, quite cheery and relaxed, as they hiked DOWN the mountain, and we toiled upwards. They were breathing easily. We were puffing and panting. One family told us "only two more switchbacks and you are there!" Another told us "it's so warm and sunny at the top!" (This was encouraging because we were hiking through drizzle.)

SO upward and onward we climbed, stopping to rest, consult the map, and then go on again. We kept looking back down the mountain and across the valley to see how far up we had come. Surely it wouldn't be much farther!!

Then it was our turn! We made it to the top, enjoyed the view, chatted with fellow hikers, and headed back down the mountain to our car.

ON the way, we met puffing hikers. And, we encouraged them. "It's beautiful!" "Worth the hike!" "Not too much more!" This time WE were relaxed and smiling, THEY were huffing and puffing. It felt good to encourage them.

The object lesson God brought home to me was that we so much need encouragement. REAL encouragment, based on truth, not platitudes. For instance, "you're almost there" would mean nothing if we were just getting out of our car. "Worth the hike" helped us keep going, persevering. "Only 2 switchbacks more" was for someone with recent experience that remembered how close we were to finishing, and how tired we were.

SO it is with our lives... remember that last lap around life's track? Was it childbirth? or teenagers? cancer? test anxiety? potty training? Isn't it more helpful to say, "it's worth it" than exclaim over how tired and exhausted they look???

I remembered the first part of Philippians 2:
1) If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
2) then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The lesson really hit home about three days AFTER we were home. I did some "errand chauffering". It required most of my morning, with multiple stops, retracing my steps to get forgotten items, and then found my car parked in by a garbage truck when I was finally ready to leave for home. Because I couldn't go anywhere, I ended up chatting with a neighbor. This neighbor, not a Christian, was dealing with the exact same family issues that I was.

My experiences were there to give her hope and ENCOURAGEMENT! What I had gone through was to help me understand her worries and affirm her efforts were worth it. I was humbled, and joyous. How funny, that the very things I had been "sweating over" (literally and figuratively) were exactly the preparation I needed to minister to this friend.

And WHO do you think had walked me through all of these situations?? Yes. God. What is more, He had given me the experiences I had to be His Hands and Feet to this friend.

Wow. Wow. Wow. He is faithful.

I'm ready for the next lap. How about you?

From our home to yours-

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Begin rant...

Two articles in the newspapers gave me pause this morning. Both bothered me because of the picture they paint about our culture's influence on very young children.

The first article in the Wall Street Journal was about the TV show Fear Factor. Since I'm not much into eating bugs, (even though I did a joke page about eating cicadas), I was going to skip the whole article but decided to scan it. To my disgust, I read that it was ranked #3 in most-watched shows by children ages 2-11! What I wouldn't give to be a Nielsen household and skew those ratings.

The second article in a local paper told of a new "service" in our area that mixed yoga with storytelling. Setting aside personal religious convictions regarding "yoga" itself, the article disturbed me because apparently the parents who use this business can not themselves find other ways to help their children relax and have fun. Parents were quoted as saying that the class helped their children "calm down" and that they "enjoy hearing the stories." They commented that their children had "forgotten how to play" and were just "too stressed and busy from homework and all their activities." HELLO??!! How about STAYING HOME and reading to them yourself?

OK, so my husband and I are old-fashioned. We still read to our kids (now ages 8 and 12). We don't have an after-school activity scheduled for them every day after school. We don't insist they play a sport every season. We let them (gasp!) hang out and read on the couch or play outside, or do LegosTM, or even create a messy art project. We go to church, twice a week even, and they even have fun there. (And for that, I must thank an excellent youth pastor, some Silly Sunday School Teachers, and many other caring adults!)

I am not just criticizing other parents' choices for their kids. I am concerned at the effects of their choices on their children, my kids' peers. I see these children becoming de-sensitized to things which are disgusting. They see it as normal behavior. I observe the kinds of clothes that their pre-cleavage, pre-teen children want to wear, emulating the cleavage-driven pictures on the torpor tube. I listen to an increasing number of families who have no tolerance for a Christian worldview, even though I must tolerate their agnostic one.

What's wrong with this picture? More than anything, it is that my Christian peers often don't see any problems at all. Maybe it's my age. (Hey, that's a good excuse!) Or maybe it's because I haven't found a way to communicate my concerns with God's love at the heart of my words...

...I'm trying!

OK, rant over...

From our home to yours...


Monday, April 12, 2004

Bird Song

The cacophony started about 4:30 a.m. outside my window. At first I was annoyed, and then became sleepily amused. It was Easter Sunday, and it seemed fitting that every bird within a ten-mile radius of our home were singing their hearts out. Cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, Carolina wrens, grackles, mourning doves chirped, twittered and sang. The occasionally woodpecker rapped out a percussive beat, while a mockingbird took all of their songs and rolled them into a medley. It was quite a concert!

I did not make it out of bed to attend a sunrise service at church, but in a way, as I lay wrapped in the covers, listening to a symphony of avian praise, I "did church" just fine! All I could think of was the whole earth's reaction at the sight of the Risen Savior. When my Lord came out of the tomb that first Easter, the birds must have offered their Creator their best songs of joy. The trees and flowers must have offered their blooms of praise.

Later in the day, as we prepared for Easter dinner with friends and their families, it struck me that the Lord was gracious. Long before I began my vocal warm-ups that morning, long before I practiced my flute, God brought a special concert of bird "ALLELUIAS" to my ears. When I was distracted between rehearsal, teaching and performing, I remembered the private concert. In the busy-ness of setting the tables and preparing food after church, I had birdsong in my head. While I straightened my daughter's hair bows or found the missing serving spoons, I remembered the twittering fugue outside! On one of the most joyous of Christian celebrations, God provided the perfect prelude for my Easter.

I didn't have to do a thing - I just had to listen! And, I suspect, that was the whole point…

From my home to yours...


Sunday, April 11, 2004

What DIDN'T Get Done

I'm trying not to stress about it, but a lot didn't get done today. The laundry didn't get finished. (Wait - - does the laundry EVER get finished?) The dishwasher is still full and there's a shelf-full of dishes to go in the next load. I forgot to make bread, so we improvised peanut butter and tortilla sandwiches. And please don't tell Flylady, but my sink isn't shining either.

So what took all morning? I cleaned out two closets! Now, there are some of you who always have organized closets. I'm not one of those folks. I have the Black Hole (the hall closet) and The Pit of Despair (my bedroom closet). Neither one of them stays neat for long. They are in constant use, and I'm not the only one who gets into them to find things. But when I could not find a matching shoe for church Sunday morning, or locate a set of school supplies for one of our kids that I knew I had already purchased, it was time to take steps.

At first, it was just a dot on my To-Do List. Get it done, move on. Then it became a chance to carefully and thoughtfully look through belongings and decide if perhaps it was time to give them to someone else. Or (dare I say it?) throw them away! Some things I remembered from the last time I had cleaned out the closet about a year ago. I remember thinking, "Oh, maybe we still need this. I'll keep it a little longer." Not this time. It is in a bag ready to go to a new home...

Sometimes, my spiritual life is like that, too. I have "stuff" that I've saved up or clung to from times past. I'm not willing to part with the feeling of melancholy, or the self-righteous anger. Or I get lazy in how I spend my free time. I don't get around to reading my Bible or praying, just like I don't put things back where I can find them in my closet. Sure, it's obvious. But the discipline can fade over time unless I remember to self-nag.

Most of the time, though, I think I don't tackle the "big" jobs because they seem too big. Procrastination becomes the key rationale: "I'll do that tomorrow." or "Oh, it's not THAT bad!" (I don't, and it is!) The task seems overwhelming. I need help or just encouragment to try. Or perhaps I just need to allow God to work in me, in my weakness, and "clean out my dirty closet."

From our home to yours...


Friday, March 05, 2004



We Americans often think of sacrifice in terms of working later hours, driving old clunkers of cars, buying off-brand clothing, or eating cheaper cuts of meat. Sometimes we "sacrifice" our free time to serve in worthwhile charities. We put our good intentions into some kind of "bank" that should outweigh all the bad things we've done. But if we use some sort of internal measuring rod, it just never seems to be enough. There's not enough time, or enough money, or enough things. The internal drive to be good enough is never satisfied. Even our tears of remorse, when we realize we have disappointed some we love, or have fallen short of God's perfection, are not enough.

Jesus understood what sacrifice was all about. It's all about His blood.

"Yuck!" you say. "Blood??!"

I'm with you! I can hardly watch reality TV hospital shows with little bits of blood here and there. To actually handle watching the scourging, the beating and the driven nails of Jesus' crucifixion - - and the blood! I can hardly stomach it. But it was Jesus' blood sacrifice that satisfied God's requirement that we be holy. 100% pure holiness, not 99.44%! The blood that fell from the Body of Jesus as He hung on the cross covered the ground below. And it covered my sins, and the whole world's.

So why was Jesus considered the acceptable sacrifice? What did He do that we can't do? Why was it enough? Because Jesus, being fully God and fully human, could live and not sin.

"Ugh," you say. "I hate the word sin. It's so judgmental."

Sin may sound judgmental, but let's call it what it is: falling short, blowing it, being stubborn and doing things the wrong way. We may call moral standards "judgmental", but yet are constantly judging ourselves. What we do is never good enough. Who we are is never perfect. Jesus is. It's not just what He did (dying on the cross for us) but Who He is: the perfect, holy Son of God.

His sacrifice shows that we are worth everything to Him...

From our home to yours...


Thursday, January 01, 2004

It begins!

I'm joining the blogging revolution... with some trepidation, I guess. The intent is to convert some old pages from our family homepage to this format. Give me time - - like an extra 8 hours a day - - and maybe I'll get there!

In the mean time, Verizon (when they don't lock you out) is still hosting the old family homepage...

Back to cleaning up dishes and checking on homework!

From our home to yours -