Rethink

One great thing about living in a small town is that you actually know your doctors. You see them at church, at school activities, and at ballgames. Wonderful.

One not-so-great thing about living in a small town is that you actually know your doctors. You see them at church, at school activities, and at ballgames. Not so wonderful.

Oh, sure, you tell yourself that they’ve seen it all, and that your particular physical malady doesn’t even cross their mind when you see them in public…and you might even convince yourself of that until the Sunday you wake up and one of your breasts is five times bigger than the other one, and it’s swollen and painful and red. And you haven’t nursed a baby for nigh on eight years, so the word “mastitis” doesn’t even cross your mind, and instead you’re convinced that you’ve fallen victim to a very, very fast moving breast cancer that’s probably going to put you in the ground by Monday morning. But you make it to Monday morning, and your doctor tells you it’s a mastitis, and he drains it in the office, and you’re a big girl and don’t cry or pee your pants, but it hurts and it’s embarrassing. And you scrape your dignity off the floor (where it was laying next to your bra) and you tell yourself the little lie that this man will never remember this, and you go about your merry way. But, three months later, when you go in to the office for your annual case of bronchitis, he walks in the door and says, “Hey, how did that breast thing ever work out?” and your fantasy bubble pops, and you overthink it every single time you have to call the office about an embarrassing health issue.

But, wait, that was several, several years ago. You’d think I’d be mature enough to just deal with the embarrassment of things, wouldn’t you? You would be wrong.

So. I’ve been fighting a pesky below-the-equator issue for about a year now. I’ve sucked it up and gone in about it a couple of times, but I’ve never gotten any real resolution, so I’ve just been toughing it out. Until this last week, when things got so ugly that I told one of my girlfriends about it, and she got very pushy and…I called the doctor. When the receptionist asked who I wanted to see, I said that I really didn’t care, but I’d rather not see D****** since I know her outside of the office. Fine. They scheduled me with the newest P.A. (or N.P. or whatever she is). And I went in today. And she examined me and took a little something-something to look at under the microscope. I waited, feeling like the worst was over and I was close to getting an answer. Then the door opened, and she came back in and said that the slide was a little unclear, so she had consulted someone else in the office, and could that person just come in and take a quick look. I said that was fine. And…of course…it was D******. Of course.

I was relaying all of this at the supper table tonight…that I was happy because I felt like D****** had a handle on the issue and that I was finally going to get some relief…but that it had been a little embarrassing. Hayden agreed with me, but Jason shook his head. “Why would it be embarrassing?” he asked. “D****** is very professional.” I said that I know that she’s very professional…and very good at what she does…but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a little weird to have someone that you actually know in real life look at all your various parts. He wasn’t buying it, though.

Until I mentioned that at least a couple of the questions I had discussed at the doctor’s office had at least a little something to do with him. Hayden and I watched as this little tidbit worked through the synapses of his brain. His face fell. Hayden and I collapsed in laughter. “But I’ll see her at church this weekend!” he protested.

Point made.

These Two

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…are the current workhorses of the family. They help with the little kids, the laundry, the cooking, and the cleaning. They play the piano at church and the guitar for praise team. Because of recent upheavals at Panda Express, Josiah’s putting in almost forty hours a week there…besides a full load of school (including two AP classes)… mowing a couple neighborhood lawns…and mowing the church property.  Hayden plays the trumpet, volunteers with disabled adults, juggles for community functions, and babysits. They are just great, easy, friendly, funny kids.

But, alas, sometimes in our busy household…we get so busy oiling the squeaky wheels…that these great, easy, friendly, funny kids don’t get the attention they deserve and need.

Enter a new Rensner tradition…Wednesdays. And, yes, I realize Wednesdays have always been with us:) But for right now, Wednesdays are Josiah’s day off (along with Sundays), the Fs are in school, and Dillon has wood-working and time with Jason and confirmation. That leaves me home with these two. I let them sleep in (Josiah’s pretty sleep-deprived right now), we fix a big lunch for Jason and Dillon to come home to, and then we just see where the day leads us. Yesterday, it led us on a shopping trip to replace Josiah’s worn and torn jean collection, relaxed conversations about everything under the sun, plans for Christmas gifts for the Fs, a soda run, and a few senior pictures.

We were having some camera issues, so I’m afraid we might have to have another photo shoot…but isn’t he a handsome young man?!

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Hooray for Wednesdays!

Preaching to Myself

I got a facebook message from a young friend of mine the other day. It said (in part), “I don’t feel like God is at the center of my life right now. I feel like work and life in general have muddied the waters. I love my job but to be honest it is sometimes very difficult to find Christ at work. I do find a lot of negativity and anger which I think is Satan pulling me away from God.”

Amen, sister! I hear you! I feel the exact same way right now, and I work at home.

Dillon’s behavior/attitude is. killing. us. He is simply relentless. At thirteen, he reminds me of a colicky infant…there are long days of general fussiness interrupted by a few hours every evening when he loses his ever-loving mind. And this is happening every. single. day. This morning, Jason and I were trying to pinpoint when it started, and the best we can come up with is last spring. That’s a long time to try to show love to a child while simultaneously wanting to string him up by his toenails.

Every day is painfully the same…he hates it here, he wishes we had never adopted him, he hates the foster kids and doesn’t want them to stay, he hates me and doesn’t want me to stay, he wants to move away and live with wolves somewhere. This is his constant refrain…both spoken and unspoken. He asked me the other day what it would take to send him away to boarding school until he turns 18. I told him that we would have to sell the house, put Hayden in school (where she doesn’t want to be), move the foster kids out, and I would need to work full-time and give up on what I feel is my life’s work. His reply? “So…what’s the problem?”

Every day is uniquely challenging. Every day, he comes up with something else to complain about. The other day he was obsessed with getting an air soft gun. The next day, it was a four-wheeler. Yesterday, he had latched onto the idea of “suffering” and told me repeatedly that…out of everyone in the house…he has suffered the most. When I pointed out that everyone suffers, he snorted. When I pointed out that, if we’re supposed to have compassion on him because of his past “suffering,” maybe he could extend the same grace to the foster kids. He snorted again (so attractive) and told me he has had it much worse than they ever have. They have no excuse for their behavior, while he has every reason to act the way he does.

On and on and on and on and on. We have tried to change some things in his environment, but it’s done no good. We have tried to send him to his room when he’s dragging everyone else down, but isolation only makes him more turned-in than he already is. We have tried to just bring him along for the ride no matter what he’s doing/saying, but that is exhausting for everyone. It is to the point that he needs to be with either Jason or I at all times (which is doing nothing for our dating life) or his bullying of his siblings becomes unbearable.

So. He goes to counseling. I’m exploring the idea that he’s truly depressed and seeing what our options are there. We are trying to be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable and stick to our guns. We are trying to not grow bitter toward him. And we are all trying to attend to our own and one another’s mental and spiritual health. His anger and negativity are putting us all in danger there. We are praying, singing God’s praises, going for long walks, encouraging one another to find the good in the little things, keeping gratitude journals, and trying to stay the course. We’re failing more than we’re succeeding, but we repent and are forgiven and move on again. What else can we do?

I have no doubt that God is bringing good out of this. Our perseverance is growing slowly but surely. And we’re going to need it…not only for the rest of Dillon’s growing-up time but for any kids that come after him. If Dillon makes Zach look like a Boy Scout (and he does), I’m afraid Fiffer is going to outdo them both by the time she’s grown (if we get to be around for all of that). We are getting ever better at discerning the stuff from the stuff. We are more aware of the spiritual battle than ever before. God is working. We know He is.

But. We’re tired. And, some days, I really wish God had given us words like, “In this world you will have a cake walk. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Or maybe, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face sunshine and rainbow ponies all the time, because you know that taking it easy develops perseverance.”

But, alas, He didn’t. Which makes me think (when my head isn’t spinning) that we’re right in the middle of the work that God wants us to be doing. He did give us this child. I know He did. And He doesn’t seem to be opening any door for us to outsource the parenting right now…so I’m pretty sure He wants us to do it.

So, my young friend, I wonder if that isn’t the answer you don’t want to hear? Maybe the fact that your workplace is so full of darkness is the very reason that God has put YOU there. I’ve heard your stories…and you are doing important, valuable work. Yes, being a light sucks sometimes. I get that. But God puts us where He wants us…and He refines us through trials…and He works everything for good for those who trust in Him. Hang in there, sister in Christ, and let’s see what God will do in/through you.

Besides…compared to Dillon…we haven’t suffered at all. :)

The Excitingest Day

The Fs were baptized yesterday!

Fiffer had been asking about it for a few weeks, but since that falls outside our authority as foster parents, I hadn’t really encouraged her. She persisted, though, so I told her we could ask her mom (since she’s the one who needs to give permission). We asked last week, and Mom was surprisingly agreeable (although I’m not sure she understood the significance). The kids were all gung-ho to do it right away (although Feffer pointed out to me that “Jesus got baptized in fishy water” so he couldn’t understand why he would just have water sprinkled on his head), but since this decision was made late last week, and last Sunday’s service was already pretty packed, we pushed it off a week. Yesterday was the day.

To say they were excited would be an understatement. Fiffer’s sermon-time drawing pretty much sums it up…

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Her caption says that Feff “ceped going craze”…which, when translated, means that he kept going crazy. That is completely accurate, but not in a bad way. The kid was crazy with excitement and, best of all, crazy with joy. When Jason motioned us up to the front (he, Josiah, Hayden, and I…along with an absent Quincy…were the sponsors), Feff rushed from the pew, jumped onto the stool, clasped the baptismal font with both hands and thrust his little head down. He. Was. Ready. Of course there were Scriptures to be read and prayers to be prayed before the deed was performed, so he had time to communicate his excitement to the congregation. Holding onto the font and practically quivering with excitement, he beamed out at them, exclaiming, “There’s water in this trash can (evidently the font resembled a trash can to him)!” and “Hey, look, Jason is going to baptize me!” whenever he caught a familiar eye. His hands (along with Feffer’s) couldn’t resist playing in the water. Congregation members (who have seen plenty of baptisms) craned their necks to watch this joyous little sinner. Finally, finally, it was time. As previously decided, Jason went from oldest to youngest. As he cupped the water in his hand and poured it over Fiffer’s head, Feff started a quiet but persistent little chant, “Me. Me. It’s my turn. Jason, do me. Do me. Me. Me.” He kept it up through his siblings’ rites and beamed when it was his turn. After wiping away the dripping water, Jason picked him up and led the other two kids to the altar for prayer. Then he presented them to the congregation. A.Ma.Zing. Later, Josiah summed it up beautifully on his facebook post: “Four year old Feff was the most spastically excited new child of God ever.”

Yes, indeed. His excitement to receive the free gift of God was a mental image I won’t soon forget. No wonder God tells us to come to him like little children. It’s not that little children are so innocent (we all know that isn’t true). It’s that little children are so eager and willing to receive. Feff wasn’t pondering any sort of decision in all of this; he wasn’t thinking of his own worthiness or unworthiness at all. God was offering him something, and he couldn’t wait to get it. “Me, me, do me, do me” is a pretty good attitude when it comes to receiving God’s gifts, isn’t it?

You’ll speak to me through Your Word, Lord? Me, me. Do me!

You’ll grant me forgiveness of sins? Me, me. Do me!

You offer me Your very body and blood? Me, me. Do me!

You hear my prayer? Me, me. Do me!

You declare Your glory through creation? Me, me. Do me!

I’m ready. I’m eager. Give me more and more of You every single day, Lord. Me, me. Do me! Amen and amen and amen.

Supper

Friday night, since Jason and the big boys were gone, Hayden and I decided to let the little people help us fix a Halloween-y supper. We had sausage mummies…

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(and fries and fruit) and ghosts for dessert…

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They were impressed.

Tonight, though, I served vegetable soup for the first time this season. They were markedly unimpressed. Feffer (five years old) had been saying he was hungry until he saw his bowl. Then he took a big drink of his milk and said, “I meant that I was hungry for something to drink.” Fiffer (seven years old…who eats about anything) finished up her tiny portion (the normal serving for something new) and said, “Hey, Kris, can I have some more? It’s not as nasty as I thought it would be.”

Oh, well. More for me:)

A Vandal of Epic Proportions

Two pieces of background information for this story…

#1. Fiffer is still vandalizing our home. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to (alleluia!), but it’s still happening more than enough. Wednesday, for example, I went upstairs to change her sheets (she’s a peeing machine right now) and found a stash of permanent markers (where does she even get these things?) and some fresh drawings on the wall right by her bed. Drives. Me. Crazy. Although I’m more concerned with my own feelings (irritated and frustrated), the powers that be suggest asking her how she feels as she destroys things (she doesn’t seem to know). And although I’m leaning toward beating her with a big stick (just kidding), the powers that be suggest providing her with plenty of opportunities to “express herself.” Oy. A set of window markers (that we already owned) seem to be helping temporarily. As Hayden put it, “She gets to feel like a vandal, without actually destroying anything.” A win-win. At least for now.

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#2. Feff is absolutely delightful right now. Oh, not every minute. He is four years old, after all, so we have the fits…and the nightmares…and the defiance…and…did I mention the fits? But in between all of that (and about 80% of the time), he’s a hoot. He’s kind-hearted and observant and perceptive and happy. The littlest things delight him…how his breath looks first thing in the morning these days, the way the Christmas lights look hanging in his room, the noise a balloon makes when you blow it up and let it go (over and over and over again)…it all tickles him. One of my favorite times of the day is sitting in this chair with him, early in the morning, cuddled under a blanket, waiting for his school bus. Such fun conversations.

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Yesterday, we were enjoying this time together. We talked about the colorful leaves…and the noisy squirrels…and the birds flying overhead…and whether there was going to be thunder tonight…and the pretty blue sky. He lifted his head from my chest and craned his neck to see more of the pretty blue sky…and saw this streak.

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He studied it for a minute, shook his head solemnly at me, and said, “Fiffer (of course, he actually said her real name) must have done that.”

Be Safe

I drove Hayden and her friend Hannah to Indianapolis today, because they’re volunteering at a Sonrise retreat this weekend. We took a couple little detours…one to grab some Chick Fil A (Hayden’s third time there this week…sweet!) and one to see Grandpa Erich, Grandma Jeanette, Uncle Stephen, and Aunt Cheryl for a few minutes. We drove through some pretty decent traffic on the way there, and I crawled along bumper-to-bumper for an hour on the way home. So when Jason and I talked several times throughout the day, and he ended each conversation with the words “Be safe,” I thought it was sweet.

When I turned the comment back, though, and replied, “You be safe,” he scoffed a little bit. “I’m here with the kids,” he said. “What could happen?”

He shouldn’t have asked. First he tried to copy the children by climbing a tree they found at the park. Apparently the vine he was pulling on (he tells me it was more than a vine, but I’m not so sure)…the vine that so easily held the seven, five, and four-year-old children, wasn’t quite sturdy enough to hold him. He came down with a crash, flat on his back, where he rested long enough for Fiffer to lean over him and ask, “Should I call someone?”

Then…when he was chasing them around in the dark with flashlights (part of the bedtime routine), he decided to hide behind the couch and scare them. It would have worked better if he hadn’t almost knocked himself unconscious on the coffee table.

Bless his heart. He just took a big dose of ibuprofen. Should we lay bets on if he’s able to get out of bed in the morning?