Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not Half Dead

Shadow, the hamster, at a younger time.

Shadow at over 2 years old.

Two years ago, a friend of ours told me a hamster she had just bought surprisingly gave birth a few days after she brought it home. She had several small gray babies that needed a home and being the softy that I am, I agreed to take one. The kids have had hamsters in the past and after the initial excitement faded, I was left with the care of the new pet. This was the case once again with our new addition. "Shadow" made her home in a wire cage in Hannah's room but after several months of loud chewing and wheel turnings in the night, she had to be relocated to the laundry room pantry. Since then, Shadow has had a home on top of the pantry. Not a great place for a family pet, but she doesn't seem to mind. The highlight of her day was when I came to "visit". She would immediately come over to the door and wait for whatever "treat" (usually a fresh veggie or a small slice of fruit) I came to offer her. She would take it as fast as she could from me and scurry off to enjoy her new treasure.

The last few weeks, Shadow has really begun to show her age. Her eyes are clearly not picking up images right in front of her, her back is humped and her now faded hair is falling out in clumps, exposing the wrinkled flaky skin underneath. She is not a pretty sight at all. When I bring her treats now, she does not see them well and I have scared her more than once when I placed them beside her. Last night, I blew on her gently to get her attention and she squealed and jumped up in the air! Although I look forward to the day when I can get rid of the falling apart cage and stop changing the bedding inside, I can not get myself to end the poor thing's life. My brother in law and father in law had very "creative" ideas on how to "end" things (I won't mention them to spare those of you who are small animal lovers), but the only avenue I have considered is taking her to the vet and asking them to put her to "sleep". Even that option makes me feel bad. We have never had to make decisions like this, our pets have always peacefully passed away. Now, some unknown compassion for this little creature has caused me to hesitate to make the decision.

Maybe its because when I look at Shadow, I am reminded a bit of Todd and I's life right now. We have never had a lot of money or a big house. We drive a modest leased vehicle and an old used Honda. We don't have all of the latest technology or been able to go on big vacations, but we have never really cared. Not that we wouldn't appreciate some of those things, but its never been something that we felt driven to achieve. We have been happy to simply exist up on the "pantry" and live life together as a family. Our "treats" were the special times we went out to eat at a restaurant or went to the movies. Now, with Todd unemployed, our home value decreased by almost $60,000 and the desire to get back in ministry still weighing heavily on Todd, we are starting to feel a bit drained of life.

When I look at our hamster, Shadow, I feel her pain as she adjusts to not being able to see quite where she is going. I look at her exposed skin and think how uncomfortable it must be without the warmth of the fur she used to know. And then I reflect on the dark and uncomfortable journey we have been on as well.

Last night, I took out our camera, determined to capture the last images of our Shadow. I wanted to be able to show a few people how pathetic she looked now. When I looked back at the pictures I took, I was actually surprised that they didn't quite capture the ugliness of what I saw. She may be losing hair, but her small black eyes seemed to somehow distract you from what she was missing. It made me think that perhaps she wasn't quite the sight I thought she had become. Certainly, there are much worse ways to die as a hamster. She doesn't have a huge tumor on her back or have her teeth grow so long she is unable to eat. She is simply living in a body that has slowly been used to capacity.

I realize that at times, I look at our situation and feel like our dreams are "half dead". I get so caught up in the ugliness of what I feel and see around me and see only what has been taken away. Maybe, I need to look at what we still have. We still have our beautiful kids, transportation, a roof over our head and most of all our faith in a Father who will never fail us. He cares about us soooo much more than I could ever care about a dying pet. He knows our desires and needs and I believe that He has our very best future planned out for us. As much as I lose the desire to keep plugging on and endure this dark, uncomfortable state of living, I know that, unlike our little Shadow, there is something so much better in store.

We just have to keep moving forward.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"No" Once again

Its funny, I feel like I could copy and paste a few previous blogs in order to write what I am feeling right now. After we returned from our trip last week, I was really excited, but the past few days, I have had so much anxiety over whether or not Todd would be chosen. I felt so much dread and I just put the feelings up to the previous times Todd has been turned down. I thought that I was just being negative and so I was constantly praying and asking God to help me relax and anticipate a "yes". Todd told me after the phone call from TX that he had been feeling the same way. Not surprisingly then, when our dread turned to reality. The wonderful church we hoped to go down and join had chosen the other candidate over Todd. The main reason being that he was already Methodist, unlike Todd. It is heart breaking. I am so overcome with grief.

I have never known the feeling of loosing a baby through miscarriage and I know the pain we are going through is nowhere as intense as the loss of a child, but the process reminds me of what we have experienced over the last 3 years. When a man and woman are anticipating a new baby, they are excited, they plan, announce their joy with those they love and pray for the baby's safe arrival. They have their whole lives rearranged as they prepare for a child that will change everything they ever knew. Then the dream dies. They feel the pain and shame of losing something so dear. All the plans and arrangements are in vain, and they are left feeling empty and broken.

We now feel very empty and broken. The dream we have prayed so hard for just doesn't ever seem to grow full-term. Time after time, its "miscarried" and we are left to start over. In the past, Todd had a job to go back to, but this time, he does not. That makes it all more frightening. My instincts want to shout out "I quit!". I want to run away from all of this and start over somewhere far away and forget that God ever called Todd into ministry. Its just too painful. Too full of rejection. But my heart says that God still has a plan. As much as I want to throw my hands up and say "I surrender", I just can't. I don't want to go through another interview with a committee. I don't want to fly out to visit a church and fall in love with it, just to be heart broken again. I don't want to plan our future around a dream that just never seems to be fulfilled. But I know we have to. I have to mourn for today but tomorrow get back up and brush my knees off and get ready to face whatever comes next.

Its not going to be easy, but we will do it like each time before this one.

Monday, February 09, 2009


My title pretty much sums up what I am feeling at this moment. What a ride we have been on lately! My last blog was about how God was providing for us in amazing ways. Well, He didn't end there! That same week, Todd sent a resume to a church in Texas and the next day, he was called by the pastor for an over the phone interview. The conversation went really well and Todd was very hopeful that they might fly him out there for a face to face meeting. Saturday night, the pastor sent Todd an email asking when we could come out. We were shocked! We quickly made childcare arrangements and instead of celebrating my birthday the following weekend, we flew out to College Station, Texas to visit the church. After a great weekend (see Todd's blog for more details), we came back home excited and in high hopes that Todd would be chosen for the director of student and college age position.

This past weekend, another candidate came to the church and had his opportunity to make an impression. I have fought the desire to hope the worst for him :) and instead have been praying that he might discover that the church is not a place he wants to minister at. I thought that was a safe prayer. Most of all, I am praying that Todd stand out as the best candidate when it comes to his heart for teens and college students and his desire for them to know God. I admit that the idea of going so far is scary and overwhelming, but if this is what God has planned, I will embrace it wholeheartedly. We have been asking God to guide us down the path He wants us on and though until now it has been a dark road, we are expecting great things when we finally arrive at our destination.