Saturday, June 7, 2008

Up All Night Reading

Here is an email that I sent to Terri Blackstock, author of the Restoration series (and lots of other great books):
I have only ever written to one other author--my other favorite, Bodie Thoene. I have enjoyed all your books, but I just finished reading Dawn's Light and I had to write you. I started the book after dinner last night, and while I did get a good (short) night's sleep, I finished it this morning. I could hardly put it down. 3 years ago, my oldest son suffered traumatic brain injury having been hit from behind by a truck while riding his bicycle to work 6 weeks after his wedding (which I missed due to a ruptured appendix!). If he had not been wearing a helmet, he would be dead. His brain literally slammed against his own skull. As it was he spent 3 weeks in ICU--much the same as Beth did, but with medications to prevent seizures and the compression stockings to prevent clotting. He was in a coma most of that time; we literally thanked God for every breath he took on his own. In fact, through that time, God taught me more about thanksgiving than I ever could have expected under the circumstances. He also demonstrated the value of prayer as we heard from people we didn't know all across the country who were praying for our son (people passed it on prayer chains in ever-widening circles). We didn't know whether David would be healed in this life or taken home to be with His Savior, but through the experience, our faith was strained, exercised, and strengthened, and God was glorified. God chose to heal my son, and after a few weeks in a regular hospital room, he went home. The doctors expected him to need months or years in a special facility, but Medicaid was slow in approving the paperwork to pay for it. In the meantime, being around his own things brought David's memory back; his recovery was nothing short of a miracle. (He will never be exactly the same as he was before the accident, but we praise the Lord for the progress that he has made. If someone didn't know about David's brain surgery, he might not be able to tell.) While I wept over Beth's death, when you chose that outcome, I think it was very fitting in demonstrating that when God chooses to answer NO to our prayers, we can still trust Him. Every life is of value, whether 100 years or 25 years or 13 years. Your Restoration series really captures the significance of being grateful for even the smallest things. Your characters seem like real people, who struggle and question--but praise God, they find answers in the end! Keep writing! God is using your gift in a mighty way.
Love in Christ,
Ann Dunkerton
PS. My son and his wife are living in Columbus, OH, but they are on their way to visit us in PA this weekend. Before the accident, they were planning to be missionaries (David's heart was in Siberia, but his bride was hoping for something stateside). For the past 2 years, David has worked as an "intermittent" in OH, but that job ended in April. Since then he has not been able to find work. He is hoping to attend Clarion University to get a Masters in Library Science if the insurance company ever settles. I don't know if they will end up on the foreign field after all, but they both see America as a mission field, and they are trusting the Lord to guide their steps.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Empty Nest Syndrome

I am in a play called This Day and Age, by Nagle Jackson, which is scheduled for March 14-16. I play Marjorie, a 60-year-old widow, who plans to sell her home in Connecticut and move to New Zealand. Her 2 married children show up with plans to move in with Mom. The whole reason I tried out for this play is that I am also going through the Empty Nest Syndrome--2 of my 5 children are married, 2 are in college, and one is serving an internship in WV. Except for the 60-year-old widow part, and the selling out and moving to New Zealand part, and the fact that Marjorie is nouveau riche and I am "vieux poor," the main character and I have a lot in common. For 60 years, she feels that her life has been defined by what she did--daughter, wife, mother. (Which doesn't bother me in the least.) Marjorie really wants to find out who she is--and have people recognize her as an individual. She does not want her children to move back and force her to become yet another function, "grandmother." She loves her grandchildren and enjoys them as long as they go home at the end of the day. But she doesn't want to lose her identity in her grandchildren as she did in her husband, dogs, and children. Okay, here is another BIG difference. I wouldn't mind having any of my children move back home, but especially my grandchildren. It is hard having little Paul an ocean away in Africa, even though I am so proud of my daughter and son-in-law for their sacrificial service as career missionaries. But I think one trait I share with Marjorie is that she doesn't want her children to need to move back home. I would be glad to open my home to any and all of my children (although they won't all fit at once). But I am happier knowing that they have their own lives. Marjorie can see that if Ann and Tony move back home on their terms (with her as resident dowager), then they will be taking the easy way out. "Who says life was supposed to be easy?" Marjorie asks. She wants them to grow up and learn to stand on their own feet. To avoid mixed metaphors, she wants the fledglings to leave the nest and fly! She offers them the house if they really want to live there, but she has no plans to remain in it. She launches out on a brave new adventure--and here is where our paths really diverge. She wants to live in Manhattan!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Out of Africa: First Impressions

What an awesome experience I had this month! I was able to spend nearly 3 weeks in Togo, West Africa, with my daughter Julie, her husband Bill, and my new grandson Paul! It took 20 hours to travel 8000 miles from Buffalo, NY to Lome, Togo. It was 40 degrees when I left Buffalo and about the same in Paris, where I changed planes. In Togo, it was seldom below 80 degrees, and this is the cool season, with breezes from the north. It rained one day for a couple of hours. I'm not a big fan of hot weather, but I didn't find it oppressively hot and humid; we didn't spend a lot of time outdoors anyway.
Lome is a port city of 1 million people on the coast of Africa. There are beautiful beaches, with soft reddish sand, but there are not many places where one can swim. Mostly the Atlantic Ocean is too rough, with dangerous riptides. There are warnings about crime on the beaches, where tourists are targeted by pickpockets and muggers. Plus, I saw sewer pipes running right down the beach leading to the water! The sand and scenery are really nice--but not the smell!
After leaving the airport, the first thing I noticed in Lome was the traffic. Most of the roads are not paved, but even the ones that are paved have big potholes. There are stop lights and stop signs here and there, but no one seems to pay any attention to them! There are people everywhere, day and night. Some are riding in cars and taxis. These seem to have the right of way, zipping in and out of both sides of the street, tooting their horns as if to say, "Coming through!" Next are motos, or motorscooters. If you are brave, you can hire them like taxis. But taxis will cut them off; we witnessed a moto collision, but luckily the riders were able to get up before another vehicle ran them over. No one wears helmets or seatbelts. If you are riding a moto and have a load, just carry it on your head! I saw 2 men on a moto carrying a wheelbarrow upside down on their heads! There are also bicycles and pedestrians (some selling items to anyone driving slow enough to shop) mingling with the heavy traffic. The pedestrians really have to watch out because they are last on the "right-of-way totem pole". And don't forget the garbage wagon or the Fan Milk (yogurt) cart. These trudge along or zip in and out, oblivious to the other vehicles around them.
Between the language barriers (Togo is a French speaking nation, but most of the people we met knew little French and even less English) and the crazy traffic, I was quite intimidated at first. I didn't want to leave Julie's house at all the first day. Of course, I also wanted to spend the day getting to know my grandson! But I could tell that Julie and Bill were adjusting well to the culture--and within a few days, I felt quite comfortable there. If I had the opportunity, I would go back to Togo in a minute (and happily avoid the single digit temperatures of northern PA in January!)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

In Everything Gives Thanks--Let it snow!

Today's forecast calls for snow. Immediately my heart sinks, as I think about driving over the hills to my afterschool clubs. It would be so easy to succumb to fear, disobeying the command to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (Phil. 4:6) Instead of complaining, I am determined to give thanks--even for the snow. I know that my children are eagerly anticipating snow, with thoughts of hot chocolate and watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They look forward to sledding, snowboarding, and snowmen. When did I become such a grown-up that I lost that joyful anticipation of the first snowfall? When did "snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes" stop being "a few of my favorite things"? When was the last time I stood outside with my mouth open wide catching snowflakes on my tongue?
"God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend. For He says to the snow, 'Be on the earth'; likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength...By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen. Also with moisture He saturates the thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds. And they swirl about, being turned by His guidance, that they may do whatever He commands them on the face of the earth. He causes it to come, whether for correction, or for His land, or for mercy." (Job 37:5-6, 10-13) Snow is a picture of correction--"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:7) It is a gift for the land--"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11) And it is a reminder of God's mercy--"'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'" (Isaiah 1:18)
When and if it snows, I have decided to give thanks. Whether or not I have "no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Book Review: The Yada Yada Prayer Group

A librarian friend recommended this compelling series of books by Neta Jackson ( The main character, Jodi Baxter, is a white, middle class, 3rd grade teacher, mother of 2 teenagers, living in Chicago. She and her husband moved from the suburbs to work with an inner city church plant. The series begins when Jodi attends a Women's Conference and is assigned to Prayer Group 26, 12 very racially and culturally diverse women. When the son of one of the members is shot while they are at the conference, the group decides to continue to meet to pray. They jokingly call themselves "the yada yada prayer group," with the sense that the name is unimportant. But one of the members discovers that yada is Hebrew, meaning "to know, be known, and to make known." Throughout the series, the group of women, their spouses, and their children learn a lot about each other and God as they grow together in prayer. I am currently reading Book 4, The Yada Yada Prayer Group Gets Tough. It is a gripping story of spiritual warfare as the black husband of one of the members is beaten nearly to death in a conflict with a white supremacist group. Mark Smith lies in a coma after brain surgery while the Yada Yada Prayer Group and their husbands stand behind and around him in prayer. The imagery of him lying in ICU, swathed in bandages and tubes, brings back memories of my son David, who suffered traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a car 6 weeks after his wedding (no doubt that will be the subject of a future post). Family and friends grieve and rage and finally come to the point of praise that God is in control. The Yada Yada Prayer Group learns to praise God for every breath Mark takes. Will he recover? I haven't gotten that far yet, but you wouldn't want me to give away the ending, would you?

Something to Write About

Hi Kids,
(I am assuming that the only people who would read my posts are my children. For any others who might find their way to this space--welcome!) My two sons, Michael and David, have blogspots, and I love reading their thoughts and opinions. Now it is time for me to put in my two cents. You know that I always talk about writing a book "someday". A writer writes, so hopefully the exercise of blogging will help me to organize my thoughts and decide if I really do have "something to write about." We'll see if blogging, which is the next step up from email, will be the link to that famous book. Meanwhile, this space is dedicated to you!