What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?

What Do You See Outside YOUR Open Window Today?
Remember: "When God closes a door, He always opens a window!" You never know what might be out there waiting for you!

Monday, March 31, 2014

My Bag Was Too Heavy to Fly

This morning we rushed through an hour of traveling in a sleet storm to get to the airport on time to catch our flight home from Maine to Florida.  For those of you who may not know, we were in Maine visiting our son who is in the final stages of cancer.  We really didn't want to leave him, but after much prayer and discussion we decided to head home to take care of some loose ends there and then plan to head back to be with him again soon.

Anyway, the first thing we had to do when we arrived at the airport was check in with our baggage and get our boarding passes.  When I put the suitcase that we were planning to check up on the scale, it was about one pound over the limit of 40 pounds.  The attendant said I would need to remove at least a pound from the bag before they could check it onto the plane.  So I opened it up and tried to determine what I could remove that would weigh about a pound that I could carry with me in my carry-on bag.

My first thought was that perhaps I should remove the package of frozen blueberries that my daughter-in-law had given me from their own blueberry bushes, but I wasn't sure if they would allow me to take them with me as a carry-on.  While my husband took the package of blueberries to ask the TSA officer for permission, my eyes were directed to my Bible in the suitcase and I took it out and placed it on the scale.  It was exactly the weight that needed to be removed from the bag to make it the legal limit.  When my husband came back I told him we'd just put the blueberries back in and I would carry my Bible with me instead.

Our flight was delayed for a little while, so we had time to sit and catch our breath before we had to board the plane.  While we were waiting, I decided to open my Bible that was now in my carry-on bag instead of on the plane and read the devotional readings for today.  The reading for today was entitled "Acknowledging the Miracle", and the selected scripture readings were from John 4:43-54 and Psalm 30.

As I started to read the scriptures I was overwhelmed with the message of hope and comfort that God had waiting for me there. Let me see if you can understand what I mean.

"So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine.  
And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, 
he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son,
for he was at the point of death.

Then Jesus said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders,
you will by no means believe."

The nobleman said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies!"

Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives."
So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him,
and he went his way."

(John 4:46-50)

I cannot begin to tell you what comfort and peace these words brought to me today as we prepared to head home not knowing for certain if our son would live until we could come back to be with him again.  I had tossed and turned and cried in my sleep for several days over the decision to stay or return home. Once we finally made the decision to go ahead and return home, God provided me with this wonderful assurance that our son would live, and that I could travel in peace.  

Now, I must confess to you that I do not know if this means that he is truly healed from this disease, or if this is merely God's way of bringing comfort and peace to us so that we can take care of our personal matters at home and trust that our son will still be alive and waiting for us when we are able to return. Of course, I would love to believe that he is completely healed and that he will not suffer from this devastating illness any longer and that he will be able to grow old with his wife and watch his fourteen year old son grow up to be a man and someday have grandchildren of his own to dandle on his knee. 

I find myself identifying with another parent in the book of Mark 9:23-24, when Jesus asks this father of a young son who had an unclean spirit, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." And the Bible says in verse 24 'Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 
"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"

Lord, I do believe.  I know You are able to do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think..." (Ephesians 3:20)
Whether You have chosen to heal our son completely to live a full and healthy life here on earth, or whether You have chosen to give him more time so that we can have the assurance we needed to make this trip home for now, I give You praise.  I will praise You along with the Psalmist in Psalm 30, (the other reading selected especially for today)...

"Oh Lord my God, I cried out to You,
and You healed me."

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever."

Psalm 30: 2, 11-12

Either way, I give thanks to You today, dear Lord.

Oh, and Lord, Thank You that my bag was too heavy to fly today.
I got Your message just in time.

Oh, and by the way,  the blueberries made it just fine! I can't wait to make some blueberry muffins or pancakes with them!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Matthew and Noah's Saga of the Moose Hunt

This story was originally posted back in November of 2011.  I thought it was worthy of reprinting today in light of our son Matthew's current situation.  The cancer that he has been fighting for the last four years has finally caught up with him, and he is living his last days here on earth unless God chooses to prolong his life.  This story was written in Matthew's own words, which makes it even more poignant today.  As you read this story please take a moment to say a prayer for Matthew, his son Noah, and wife Nicole.  Thank you.


November 11, 2011
In Matthew's own words...     Click on the link to the left to read our son Matthew's story of his Moose Hunt with his son Noah and their friend Gary.  Quite a long story, but well worth the read.  Here are a few pictures to go along with the story.  He has promised more pictures later.  Story written by Matthew E. Steiner.  (Story is reprinted below in case you cannot access this link above)

Poor Bullwinkle...

This story is about so much more than the killing of a moose.  It is a story of the bonding of a father and son, the perseverance and faith of a man facing much greater odds than a moose hunt, and the amazing ways that God brought about healing and answers to many prayers.  I hope you will catch the true meaning of this marvelous journey.  Enjoy!

2011 Moose Hunt

by Matthew Steiner on Friday, November 11, 2011 at 5:54pm
I’ve always liked the outdoors. As a kid, I loved camping and fishing and playing in the woods. I got my first BB/Pellet Rifle when I was about 12. Soon after that, but around the same time, I was allowed to buy a shotgun from a friend from the church my dad was pastoring. I hardly ever shot it. I never killed anything with it. I dreamed about one day being a hunter/survivalist type guy. From the time I was about 8 or 9 years old, I planned to join the army and one day becoming a Green Beret or Ranger. My dream was to be able to live in the woods on my own and know how to sustain life and be self sufficient. The military part of my dream continued up to about the latter part of my junior year of high school. As I wrote in my “Life Story” note, my mind changed towards a college career and Christian ministry type things. Still, I loved the outdoors and camping and fishing.

Two years ago, I decided to expand my love of the outdoors and get my first hunting license. It was a “Hunter’s Apprentice” license which meant I could put off the Hunter’s Safety course for a year, but I would only be able to hunt with a licensed hunter. I met a man at the place that I worked who was a Hunter’s Safety instructor. I asked him if he ever took an inexperienced guy out hunting before. He told me that he loved to do that sort of thing. And so began my experiences hunting. I also have a good friend, Gary, who lives in Brownfield, Maine who enjoys hunting and fishing. He also was more than willing to take Noah, my son, and myself hunting.

 Last year, I was diagnosed with cancer and spent from April to the end of November getting clinical treatments of chemotherapy. With the hunting season being in the month of November, I didn’t know if I’d be able to hunt at all. I was so weak and so sick from the drugs. Noah and I also needed to get our official hunting licenses. So we had to take the hunter’s safety course. We took the course together and both passed. My chemo treatments were scheduled in such a way that I’d have a week of treatment then two weeks off to recover. The class fell in one of the off weeks. The idea of hiking while hunting was not possible. But in the spirit of kicking this disease and hoping for brighter horizons one day, my wife bought me a rifle. Noah got to use my shotgun. Our property has about 12 acres of wooded land and there are a lot of deer that walk through. So it was decided that the only place we’d get to hunt was out back behind the house on our property. I had to take a camp chair out with me and I walked about 100-150 yards away and just sat hoping that something would walk in front of me. After sitting for a while, I decided to come inside because I knew if I shot something and it didn’t immediately fall, I wouldn’t be able to search and find the animal. Nothing ever walked by but at least I could say that I tried. My clinical treatments ended and I was put on a “maintenance” form of chemotherapy which I’ll have to take for the rest of my life.

This year began. The maintenance chemo drug didn’t come with all the debilitating side effects of the six I V type drugs that I was on last year. Most of my energy returned. I grew a little bit of hair. The fullest spot happened to be on my chin! I was given back my immune system again. So this year I began to think about life differently. I wanted to make the very most of each day. I didn’t want to take one single second of life for granted. My time spent with family was already precious to me, but now it became even more precious. God had given me another second chance at life. I wanted to live! So I began think about what represented itself as life to me. The answer was the outdoors. And so this year began with a slightly different perspective concerning the outdoors and the activities there of. It wasn’t just something I enjoyed being out in and doing things in. It represented LIFE to me.

One day this past spring, my hunting friend Bob called me and talked me into purchasing some chances towards this fall’s moose hunt. Moose hunting licenses are picked lottery style. Only 3,015 permits are issued annually. So I purchased 5 chances to possibly hunt a moose. On the application, we were allowed to put in a name for a subpermittee and an alternate subpermittee. I put Noah down as my permittee and Bob and the subpermittee. The drawing wouldn’t be until the end of summer. My chances were about 5 in a million, but I thought it would be neat to hunt a moose.

In June of this year, I went up to Masardis, ME (way up “noth”) to Jack Mountain Bushcraft School. “Bushcraft” is a term that describes a way of life that uses primitive things found in the forest for living. The word “survival” is also used to describe it, but bushcraft, I found, wasn’t survival; it was living comfortably in nature with very little gear. Knowledge of plants, building tools with forest found materials, learning about building a good shelter, and learning about navigating through the forest were some of things we were taught. We cooked over a fire. Some of the things we made were: a bucksaw, a crooked knife, rope, and pack frames. One of the phrases that was repeated that week was, “we didn’t go into the woods to rough it; we went into the woods to smooth it”. It was a very good experience.

It was the latter part of July or around August that I received notification that Noah and I were picked for the Moose Hunt in the November week (7-12). The area of Maine that we were picked to hunt in was “Wildlife Management District 4” or also known as the Maine North Woods. It’s an area above “The Golden Road” (north of Moosehead Lake) and south of “American Realty Road”. It goes from the Maine/Quebec border to Allagash River. The whole area is private paper mill owned property. All the roads up there are dirt. There are gate houses there that one must pass through to enter. There is no cell phone coverage (I found out during the hunt. I’ll elaborate later). There are no power lines. There’s nothing but trees, wildlife, and the occasional group of paper mill guys harvesting a wooded lot. For the most part, it was an area untouched by modern, “sophisticated” society. I called Bob to tell him the good news and to confirm if he could go with us. Unfortunately, the timing conflicted with his schedule. I started to feel like this possibly once in a lifetime chance wouldn’t happen at all. I’ve only hunted for deer a few times. Those times were just day trips. I had never been to the area I was picked for. We didn’t have the financial means to hire a guide and stay at a lodge. So I called Gary. I could write a several page note just about Gary. He’s been a good friend for almost twenty years. He, being a professional carpenter, helped me build my shop, Mattopia. He and I were deacons in a church that we both took part in planting in Conway, NH. I could go on and on but for the sake of this story, I’ll stop with that much info about him.

I called Gary. I told him about me and Noah getting picked for the Moose Lottery. I asked him if he could go. Without much hesitation, he said, “sure, I’ll go”. He then told me that he had a friend with a camp up that direction in Shirley and that we could probably stay for free. That was a huge relief. Now, we needed to plan. Being the outdoors enthusiast I already was and because I had just gone to a week long camping trip (Jack Mountain Bushcraft). I already had a lot of gear. I had to plan for Noah too. I went to a local sand pit with my buddy Bob one day to get my rifle sighted in. We picked a spot at the pit and paced off a distance of about 200 yards. Our target was an old masonry saw blade. The center of the blade has a hole in it about half an inch in diameter. Once my rifle was sighted in, that half inch diameter hole looked more like a one inch diameter hole. My rifle was dead on accurate. So now we had our lodging taken care of, we had our camping gear, and had my 30-06 rifle sighted. My only other gun was my single shot 20 gauge shotgun. We felt that that wouldn’t be adequate for our moose hunt. Gary offered to loan Noah a 30-30 rifle. That became Noah’s rifle for the hunt.

We left our home in Lyman, ME for the trip up to Shirley on Sunday, November 6 at about 4 am. We met up with Gary and his friend Steve in Gray, ME. Steve was the owner of the property we would be staying at. We followed them up to the camp. I was told that the camp had electricity but no running water. We arrived at the camp around noon. Let me just pause here and reiterate that I was thankful for a free place to stay that was relatively close - about an hour from the hunting area we’d be in. With that being said, I’ll backup a bit and fill the reader in on my side effects of the “maintenance” chemotherapy drug that I’m taking, Nexavar.

Nexavar is a chemotherapy drug that is in pill form. The pills are 200mg each. My usual dosage is two pills in the morning and two in the evening. The clinical chemo treatments of last year converted dozens of large tumors, some as big as baseballs, down to a small number of tumors with the largest couple being about the size of walnuts. The Nexavar’s job is to keep what’s remaining at a small, non-threatening, maintainable size. It is not powerful enough to further eradicate the disease. The side effects of the drug are similar to the intravenous drugs, but not at the intense severity. However, I still am troubled with chronic diarrhea, very thin hair, and very sensitive and sore hands and feet. The drug targets cells that rapidly reproduce like cancer cells do. Unfortunately skin and hair cells are in a continual state of repair and reproducing constantly, so they become “friendly fire” casualties of the drug. The digestive system problems are the worst for me. On a daily basis it is not out of the ordinary to visit the powder room 3 to 5 times. When I went to Jack Mountain, I was allowed to stop taking the drug the week prior to and the week of the trip. At Jack Mountain, our “powder room” was a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it. Being off of the medicine kept the dreaded diarrhea away. I “was functioning within normal parameters”. In preparation for the moose hunt, I cut my Nexavar dosage down to half a dose – one pill in the morning and one in the evening. But still, I was worried about the condition of the outhouse at the camp for now what should be for obvious reasons.

The camp. Remember, I was thankful that the lodging was free and relatively close to the hunting area. The camp was comprised of two different dwellings. On the left, was an old camper with a steel roof built over it. The camper had the name of “Woodpecker” on it. I was told that it was only fit for storing extra gear, but not for sleeping in. I wasn’t sure if that was because of its smaller size or what. I didn’t ask any questions. It did smell musty and there was plenty of evidence that it was overrun with mice. So Woodpecker was opened up first and we were able to put our extra gear in it as long as it was in a sealed container to keep the varmits out of it. The dwelling to the right was a 1960’s model mobile home with the title, “Silver Palace” on it. I’m sure that in the ‘60’s when this rolled of the assembly line, it really was a top of the line mobile home. But, over the course of the last 50 years, the Silver Palace had lost some of that charm. As Steve was unlocking the door, he turned to me and said, “I hope you guys aren’t afraid of mice because this thing’s got ‘em”. He continued, “But it’s dry, and it has heat and lights”. As I walked in, I noticed that the two couches had plastic covers on them that were littered with mice droppings. Also, a very musty odor was in the air. It had a refrigerator and a gas stove. It had space heaters for heat.

Now the big question in my mind was, “what does the outhouse look like?” We walked outside to the outhouse. The outside of the out house looked like it was built with fallen down trees and scrap steel roofing. It had a door on it that was held shut by a piece of lumber. When Steve opened the door, I looked in and just about got back into my truck to go home. There was a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it similar to the Jack Mountain setup. The difference here was Jack Mountain’s powder room was primitive, but it was a pristine, shiny clean seat that sat on a wooden box that covered a bucket. This toilet seat looked like it was covered in tar because of the mice and other animals that had been in there. I was feeling a little panicky. I think Steve sensed that I was about to hyperventilate so he then told me that there was a RV camper toilet in the bathroom of the Silver Palace. He said, “You can use it, but you have to clean it”. I suddenly felt the urge to kiss the guy but I contained myself. When we got into town, I bought RV toilet liners and used the toilet in the Silver Palace that way. Thankfully, I did not have an episode of diarrhea during my stay there. Enough writing about my poop, right? Right!

So we moved our stuff into the Silver Palace. Steve showed us the town of Shirley and then showed us Greenville then he drove back to his house near Brownfield, ME leaving Gary, Noah, and myself to go and explore the hunting grounds.

We began our scouting journey of the area we’d be hunting. We drove up north of Greenville on the eastern side of Moosehead Lake. Soon, the pavement stopped and we were on dirt roads. We reached the checkpoint gate and paid our fee to enter the North Maine Woods. We got our Maine atlas out and started coming up with a game plan. We picked an area way off the beaten path and got out and hiked a bit. Instantly, we saw evidence of Moose and lots of it. We scouted a couple of other spots. They all looked like there was plenty of Moose in the area. We felt like we had found the spots we wanted to hunt. We drove the hour plus drive back to the Silver Palace. We ate dinner and prepared for bed. The alarm clock was set for 3:00. I took my prescribed sleeping medication and laid down for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, my excitement and nervousness mixed and overruled my sleeping medication. I could not fall asleep. I just laid there waiting for a mouse to run across my head. Then, around 12:00am, Gary got up. I thought he was going outside to pee, but he went into kitchen and turned the light on. He fired up the stove and started cooking eggs. I got out of bed and went into the kitchen and said to Gary, “You’re kind of getting an early start aren’t you?” He said, “It’s three o’clock. My watch alarm just went off so I’m getting ready. Get up Noah, start getting dressed.” I brought him my watch and directed his attention to Noah’s alarm clock. They both agreed that it was midnight and not three o’clock. He just put his hand on my shoulder and laughed. He said, “Janice found my old watch that I had stopped wearing a couple of years ago and gave it to me because it had an alarm. Maybe I stopped wearing it because it doesn’t keep time!” He laughed at his watch’s mistake. Noah and laughed too but with a little growl under our laugh. He turned off the stove and said, “Well I think we should get another couple hours of sleep what about you guys?” He shut everything off and went back to bed. I went back to my bed but not to sleep. Three o’clock came. The lights came back on. We got our gear on. Gary finished the breakfast he started three hours ago (which by now I thought mice had probably been rolling in!). We piled into the truck and took off for the hunting ground.

We got to the first spot just before sun up. We got out of truck and had a quick word of prayer for a safe and hopefully successful hunt. We tip-toed through the woods only whispering when we needed to communicate. We quickly came into very obvious, fresh moose sign. The trail led us into a bog. We hiked and hiked but did see the elusive moose. We slowly and quietly worked our way out of the bog and back to the truck. Man! How can there be so many fresh hoof prints and still steaming, glistening piles of moose poo and no actual, visible moose? We tried the next spot. Same thing! We got to one spot and we planned that Noah and I would work this one area and that Gary would work this other adjacent area. As we started hiking into the area, we found ourselves neck deep in thorny raspberry bushes. Noah and I totally wimped out of that. The thorns were everywhere and they were so high that we couldn’t see anything. So we went back to the truck. I had my cell phone on my hip. I took it out to try to call Gary to tell him that we were back at the truck. I flipped my phone open and it read NO SERVICE. So without having the ability to communicate with Gary, I decided to wait in the truck. While waiting, I put my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes. Right then, Noah said, “Dad, there’s a moose right behind us”. I turned my head around to see a bull moose standing no more than 20 feet from the truck! My license was for an antlerless moose only. I could only shoot a cow moose or a baby boy moose whose antlers could not be longer than his ears. Mister bull moose was exciting to look at but that was all. As we were looking at this moose, I saw a man in the distance dressed in hunting clothes and carrying a gun. He was walking up the same road that the moose was on. He raised his rifle. The moose was still almost directly behind us! I said, “Get down Noah! This idiot is going to shoot this moose with us right next to it!” Luckily, it was just Gary. He raised his rifle only to look at it through the scope. As we found out, Gary had left the raspberries too and had decided to hunt across the road we were on. His hiking through the woods spooked the bull out. We ate our lunch and drove down the road to the next spot. This spot was really exciting. It was a patch of land that had been cleared in recent years. It was about 200 feet wide and a half mile long going downhill at about a 10 to 20 degree angle. This patch of land looked like a moose caravan had been traveling on it every day. We hunted it for a couple of hours but again didn’t see any living, breathing moose, just sign. Somewhere walking down that spot I managed to loose my cell phone. I think it happened when I took my rifle off my shoulder. My cell phone was clipped to my belt. That was the first day, Monday, of our hunt. We saw a lot of exciting evidence that we were in the right spot just no physical female moose critter. We traveled back to the Silver Palace to play with some mice and get some sleep. This night, I slept.

Tuesday was much like Monday. We stayed in the same general area. We still had lots of very obvious moose sign but no moose. Gary had a .22 cal pistol on his belt. And since we weren’t seeing any moose, he asked us if we’d mind if he would shoot a partridge or two. So we went on hunting. Gary walked a little distance off to our right. I heard a bang bang! It was Gary shooting his .22 pistol at a partridge. He was searching for the bird. He knew he hit it. Unfortunately, the bird blended in too well with the ground cover and couldn’t be recovered. We finished up day two and made our journey back to the Silver Palace for mouse stir fry and then we went to bed.

Wednesday came. I was really hoping that something would happen on Wednesday because Thursday’s weather forecast called for rain. Noah and I didn’t have any rain gear. We got up at 3:00 as usual and Gary made our breakfast sandwiches. It was our usual bacon, egg, and mouse on toast. We got in the truck and started the journey to the woods. We were up, dressed and gone within a half hour. The weather was warm, and very calm. We made it back to the spot of the clearing where I lost my phone and Gary lost his partridge. We got out of the truck and got the guns loaded up. We made our plan. Noah and I were going to walk stealthfully down the hill. Gary was going to hike through the adjacent woods in hopes to spook something our way. I said to Noah, “Noah, today there is no wind. That can be good and bad. It’s good because our scent (which by now after staying three nights in Silver Mouse Palace with no water and lots of musty-ness is staggering) is not being blown around as much. The trade off though is that the wind that was here yesterday muffled some of our noises. So today we need to be extra careful to be quiet.” So we SLOWLY walked down that hill. We were careful of every placement of our feet not to crack a stick. We took an hour to walk an estimated half mile. We saw nothing. We heard nothing. I was expecting Gary to come out of the woods and meet up with us and come up with a plan B. So we waited. After a half hour of waiting, I leaned over to Noah and said, “Noah, I don’t know where Gary went but I don't want to go away from where we told him we would be. I think we should try walking back up the hill and keep looking.” So we started our hike back up the hill. Noah got in front of me. He was about 20 feet in front of me when he froze. His eyes connected with mine. I whispered, “What?” He whispered back at me, “moose!”

I carefully, and as quietly and quickly as I could, got up to him and looked to the left. There was a cow moose just standing there no more than 30 feet away from us! Split second thinking here is, “How can a mature female moose weighing at least 600 pounds maneuver through the woods without making a sound?” Before I got too attached to the critter, I reminded myself of why we were here. I didn’t come to pet a moose; I came for the purpose of feeding my family. This animal was not a trophy. This animal was hundreds of pounds of meat that I wouldn’t have to buy at the store for the next couple of years. I raised my rifle and put the cross hairs right between the shoulders and fired. I had definitely hit my target, but it did not go down immediately. The moose began to retreat but very wobbly. I put another round into her. Now my mind is thinking, “I hope my first bullet hit its mark. The gun was in the back seat of my truck and had been jostled around. Maybe my scope got knocked around and lost its accuracy.” I started walking toward the moose. Noah is following. He say’s, “I’ve found a blood trail!” Then he says, “Look I found Gary’s partridge!” I shot the moose again and again. Finally, it dropped and died. Now I have a 5 to 600 pound animal lying dead in the woods and we’re at least a quarter of a mile away from the truck and down hill. It was about 9:00am.

Noah and Matthew, exhausted after the hunt
Noah and Gary carrying out the moose one section at a time
Noah and Gary carrying out the moose.
Gary heard the shots and was thankful that he did because somehow he got turned around out there. It took him almost a half hour to get back to us. Then the real fun started. The moose was gutted, and quartered. The head, lower parts of the legs, ribcage, and guts were left in the woods for nature’s clean up crew. In all, we harvested about 400+ pounds of meat. It took the three of us wearing pack frame backpacks 4 trips each to get the moose out of the woods and into my truck. On the second trip up the hill, Gary, who was carrying one of the moose’s back leg quarters, says to me, “there’s your phone”. It was laying on the path that we had walked probably 4 to 5 times before. Gary ended up carrying all four of the moose’s leg and shoulders quarters. Noah and I carried all the rib, neck, and every other piece of meat that we could get. We left the woods around 2:00pm. We got the meat tagged. Then we went to the store and bought 10 or 12 bags of ice. We got back to the Silver Palace and Gary and Noah began the process of removing the meat from the bones. Gary wanted me to start cleaning out our stuff out of the Palace. I also had to figure out how to get mine and Noah’s gear plus now Gary’s gear and plus 4 large igloo coolers all in my truck somehow. Eventually it all fit in. We left Shirley, ME around 8 or 9 o’clock pm and started our journey home. Noah almost immediately fell asleep. That was after we found a nice store with a really beautiful bathroom. We got down to Brownfield at around 1:00a and dropped Gary and our moose off. Then Noah and I drove back to Lyman. We got home around 2:30am. We took long, hot showers then we went to bed. What a week it was. Gary, who among other titles, happens to be a decent butcher. Now we need to find a freezer. Overall, it was a wonderful experience. The landscape was beautiful. The weather was perfect. I got my phone back. Gary got his partridge and added that meat to the bounty. We had a warm, free place to stay that wasn’t a beautiful lodge, but it met our needs. On the way home, we sang silly songs and laughed at our goofiness. I look forward to my next outdoor experience. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Testing, Trials, and Miracles

Another episode in the life of our family, and especially in the life of our precious son Matthew.

This story takes place way back in time...when my husband had decided to begin his preparation for the ministry and attend a graduate program in Bible and Missions.  We had moved out of state far away from family and familiar surroundings, and we were hoping that John would not have to work full time so that he could devote as much time as possible to his studies.  We were also hoping that I would not have to leave the children (two little boys at the time ages 3 and 18 months) to go to work.  A seemingly tall order, “but with God, all things are possible!” (Matthew 19:26)

Somewhere along the line I responded to an ad seeking a couple to be house-parents at a home for boys.  The ad said that this home was located on a farm about fifty miles from the city in which we were living.  Although the distance from the college might present a problem for John, the other details appeared to be a workable solution to our dilemma.  The directors of the home contacted us and came to our home for an interview.  The job itself looked simple enough; we would be house-parents to approximately ten boys, each about ten years old. We would live in a “cottage” with them, and would have our own personal bedrooms and bath.  I would be responsible for the laundry of our group and the general upkeep of the cottage.  This was a “Christian” home for boys, and we were to have devotions with them at bedtime and attend church together on Sundays.  It certainly looked like an answer to our prayers.  I would not have to leave our own children while working, and our room and board would be provided along with a small salary.  John learned that there was a family in that town whose son was also attending the same college, and they would be able to car-pool!  The main concern was the fact that we would be giving up a certain amount of family privacy and freedom, but it was a ministry to young boys who needed a strong father and loving mother image.  We felt God was giving us the “go-ahead” to embark on this new adventure, and we moved to the “farm” the first of September.

The Testing Begins

James 1:2  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, know that the testing of your faith produces patience…”

The experiences we had over the following several months are too numerous, and some too depressing to describe.  The ministry with the boys was very special to us; we learned a lot about giving and receiving love with those who were craving such attention and demonstrations of affection.  However, our relationship with the Director of the “home” was less than idyllic.  Although he claimed to be a Christian, the examples of Christ-likeness were, in our opinion, few and far between.  There was such a spirit of fear, dogmatism, and overpowering authority that we sometimes cringed beneath the load.  Our spirits were quenched in the fire of this man’s wrath that was often displayed.  Our hearts would break as discipline was often unmercifully doled out and we would fight back tears of anger and frustration at being totally unable to do anything about the situation.  My days left alone there at the farm were often filled with fear, anguish, and bitter remorse.  John would come home after school to find me thoroughly defeated, and yet quite often fighting mad.

One day, however, something happened that changed our lives completely.  It was my responsibility each afternoon to greet our “boys” at the school bus, and supervise them in getting out of their school clothes and into “work clothes”.  “Play clothes” were unheard of as playing was considered a waste of time.  I would then escort them to the dining hall where they were to do homework until supper.  While the boys from our cottage were changing their clothes on this particular day, my own two little sons were out in the yard riding their “big-wheels” around on the sidewalks. 
Matthew on his big wheel
I kept looking out the door to check on them, and they were fine. Besides, one of the other house-parents was standing nearby in the yard talking to the Director.  I had no sooner gone back inside the cottage to hurry the boys along when one of the older boys from the farm came running into the cottage yelling, “Come quick! Your son has just been hit by a car!”  There was no time for questions, and in a panic I ran to the dining hall where I was told he had been taken.  To my horror and shock, there sat my ashen-hued eighteen-month-old baby, bleeding profusely from the scalp, barely crying, with a towel wrapped around his head.   “Let’s get him to the hospital!” I screamed in anguish.  The Director hesitated, and then responded, “Well, I suppose he should go…”

I grabbed baby Matthew in my arms and immediately ran to the car of the other house-parent.  This woman was the lady who had actually run over Matthew as she had started to back out of the driveway, but her car was the only one available and we had to move quickly!  She jumped in the car and away we drove.  Sorrowfully, I had to leave my three-year-old son, Benton, standing there with an elderly lady who had “just happened” to come spend some time at the farm that week. She assured me that she would take care of him.  I wanted to reach out and comfort him, as he was so obviously distressed.  After all, it was his screams that had alerted the driver of the car that something was wrong in the first place! But we had no time to lose, and we rushed away to the local hospital.  All I could do was pray that God would give him the comfort that only He could give at such a time. 

We literally flew through town to the small hospital, honking the horn and driving down the middle of the road as fast as we could go.  As I held Matthew tightly in my arms I cried, “Please don’t let my baby die!” and “Please, Lord, let there be a good doctor at the hospital when we get there!”  This was a small rural hospital, and good doctors were scarce in that community.

We safely arrived at the hospital, and as the Lord would have it, the BEST surgeon in town “just happened” to be in the hospital!  Matthew was taken to an examining room, and I was allowed to stay with him and hold him while they took the x-rays and examined his head.  He was then whisked away into surgery, where they cleaned all the dirt and gravel from out of his terribly torn scalp, and pieced the skin back together.  Meanwhile John arrived at the hospital.  When he got home from the college he was given the startling news and rushed right over immediately.  Soon the doctor came out of surgery and assured us that Matthew was stable, but he wanted to send him to the large county hospital fifty miles away by ambulance so that he could be observed by a neurosurgeon.  He told us that Matthew had a large fracture on one side of the skull, extending from the crown of his head down to his ear.  On the other side of the skull was another hairline fracture, but there was no indication at that time that either of the fractures was depressed.  That was encouraging news to hear, for a depressed fracture would have heightened the risk of brain damage.

Later that night I had a terrible time trying to sleep in my little cot next to Matthew’s crib in the hospital room.  Every time I’d close my eyes, I’d see the whole incident over and over again, and I’d wake up trembling and crying.  Finally the emergency room doctor gave me a sedative, and I was able to rest.  The next morning I was awakened early by a phone call from a young lady at the college where John was attending.  She told me that the whole college had been praying all night long in shifts for Matthew, and they just wanted us to know that they cared.  I rejoiced to tell her that Matthew had slept peacefully through the night, and his vital signs were excellent, and that it appeared their prayers had certainly been answered! As a matter of fact, he was standing up in his crib at that moment talking to me! We spent a week in the hospital, and Matthew was released with no sign of brain damage or other complication!  What a miracle!

At the end of the week we returned to “the farm”.  Benton had been wonderfully cared for by that same dear lady who had arrived at the time of the accident.  However, she had departed for her home that morning before I arrived.  I did not even have a chance to thank her.  It was as if God had placed her there just for that purpose for that period of time, and when her task was over, she was sent back home.  I have thanked the Lord many times since for sending “Big Mama” to care for our son that week.

As you can see God carried us through some difficult tests and trials on our road to learning to trust in Him.  I wish I could say that from then on everything was rosy cozy...but real life isn't like that,  especially when one steps into the arena of standing up for the truth. But I can honestly say that even though times were rough, God was always there with us, and He has never let us down. No matter what the outcome of the tests and trials.
Baby Matthew, after his accident. Back to his happy normal self, praise God!

I'll have to finish this story later.  It gets better...but just so you aren't left wondering, no, we did not stay at that place very long after this accident...and yes, God did provide another place for us to live and the means to survive until John finished his course of study that year...but that's another story for another day.

As of this writing, March 20, 2014, our son Matthew, now age 41 years, is battling for his life again, this time from a much deadlier foe, cancer. For more on Matthew's life story, see this: "God's Perfect Timing", and this: "Trust His Heart".

Post Script: On May 25, 2014, God called Matthew home to heaven. His battle  with cancer was over, and he was perfectly healed at the moment he stepped foot into heaven's gates.  For more on this please read: "How Could I Not Want This Day to Come?".  Thank you for your continued prayers for Matthew's wife and son Noah.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"Trust His Heart"

Lately I've been having a lot of "conversations with God" about the health situation of our son Matthew.
Click Here for "Conversations With God"  In looking back over the past four years, I realized that this has been a recurring theme throughout my blog writing.  Click Here for "A Prayer for Our Son" from October, 2012.  There are several more such postings, but I won't list them all for you here. I think you get the message.

We are praying for the healing of our son, even though the doctors have now given up hope for any further treatment plan that could be of any help to him.  They have actually said the words out loud that, at best, he only has three or four more months to live.*   Even though we've known in our minds that things were not looking very hopeful, hearing it spoken out loud has a way of slapping you in the face and punching you right in the gut, knocking all the wind out of your spirit.
(*A few days after this writing the Doctor changed that to prognosis to weeks instead of months...)

Many of our friends and loved ones have offered prayers and words of comfort and encouragement, for which we are extremely grateful. Knowing that others are standing in the gap for us is a great comfort. Many have also thoughtfully and lovingly offered suggestions of getting a second opinion, trying a different cancer treatment center, seeking other forms of healing through eating certain foods, vitamins, reading books written by people who claim to know the secret to healing cancer that is found in the Bible. (If there was a cure for cancer in the Bible, I don't think God would keep it a secret, nor would He make us pay some man who thinks he discovered it to tell us about it...but that's just my opinion).  

Although we appreciate everyone's concern and thoughts and attempts to find an answer, I have to say that it would appear that most of man's attempts to cure our son have already been tried and have failed.  For four years our son has sought wisdom from the very best experts in the field of treatment for this particular type of rare and aggressive cancer. He has followed through with every option that seemed reasonable for him.  We are extremely thankful that what treatment he has received has allowed him to survive these four years so that he could be a loving son, husband and father, and enjoy watching his son grow and mature into his teenage years.  Many others with this same type of cancer have not had lasting positive results even though they desperately sought further treatments, surgeries, and other opinions. (Click here for info on DSRCT)

We are not giving up hope.  But we are at a point where we realize that man's wisdom and authority is very limited indeed.  Although it has always been up to God to determine the course of our son's life, it is even more so now.  Man has had his opportunity and has had to withdraw from the fight. It is completely and clearly up to God now.

This reminds me of some verses we read this morning in our devotions from Psalm 33:16-22 ~

"No king is saved by the 
multitude of an army;
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.

A horse is a vain hope for safety;
Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,

To deliver their soul from death,
and to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You."

In a message we recently received from an old friend who was a former parishioner in one of the churches my husband pastored, she reminded us of a song that my husband and I sang as a duet one Sunday.  This was a song that was shared with us by a woman whose husband was dying from a brain tumor.  It was also at the same time as our son, Matthew (yes, the same one we are praying for now), who was only 18 at the time, was having surgery to remove a brain tumor. (Click Here for this story: God's Perfect Timing)   She gave us a tape of some music that was very meaningful for her during that difficult time, and thought it would bring hope and encouragement to us.  It did.   And still does.  Here are the words to that song. You might find it helpful in whatever current trial you may be experiencing in your life.  It is entitled, "Trust His Heart".

"All things work for our good, though sometimes we can't see how they could.
Struggles that break our hearts in two sometimes blind us to the truth.
Our Father knows what's best for us, His ways are not our own.
So when your pathway grows dim, and you just can't see Him,
Remember you're never alone.

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind.
So when you don't understand,
When you don't see His plan,
When you can't trace His hand

He sees the master plan, 
He holds our future in His hands
So don't live as those who have no hope
All our hope is found in Him.

We see the present clearly
But He sees the first and the last
And like a tapestry
He's weaving you and me
To someday be just like Him.


He alone is faithful and true.  He alone knows what is best for you.
So when you don't understand,
When you don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand

(Words and music by Babbie Mason and Eddie Carswell, 1989)

Please keep praying for this precious family.
Thank you.

"And when you don't understand,
When you don't see His plan,
When you can't trace His hand,
That's what I am trying to do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Merry Heart IS Good Medicine!

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones."
Proverbs 17:22 KJV

After the distressing and disturbing news of yesterday, I needed something pleasant to think about.  Being a "tea-totaller", tea being my drink of choice, whether hot or iced, green or black, spiced or herbal, it was very fitting that today I would be totally immersed with tea...or tea cups, that is.

Actually, it wasn't my original idea, but God  knew what would be good medicine for me.  He put it in the heart of a dear friend to bless me with, no, not a tea party, but to delight me with a gift of tea cups!  And not just any tea cups, but exquisite, delicate, elegant, dainty antique china tea cups that belonged to her mother! Since my dear friend is in her mid-eighties, that makes these beautiful cups even more precious.

As you can see, each cup is unique and lovely. Several are fine bone china from England, and two were made in Occupied Japan, and one was made in Germany in the U.S. Zone, which I had never heard of until today. It was apparently made in post World War II, from 1945-1950.

But it is not the country of their origin or the age or quality of the china that makes them special to me. What makes them a gift to be treasured is that it came from dear friends who are in the process of downsizing from their home to an "independent living" apartment.  As I opened the box and unwrapped each piece, I erupted into "oohs" and "aahs" and squeals of delight.  I couldn't wait to call her and thank her and that is when she told me that they had belonged to her mother and because she would not have a place to keep them in her new home, she knew that I would enjoy and appreciate them...and she hoped they would lift my spirits today.

Today I have a "merry heart", which is truly "good medicine".

Thank you, Lord, for knowing what I needed today.  And thank you sweet friend, for being the vessel of love through whom God chose to bring some merriment into my heart today. You are a blessing! And yes, I will definitely enjoy and appreciate this wonderful gift.

Thoughts to ponder:
What special gifts have you received that lifted your spirits during a difficult time?
Have you ever been the one to give a gift to someone to cheer them up?
How did it feel to receive such a gift?
How did it feel to give such a gift?
How has God ministered to you when you needed it most?
Is there someone you know who might need a gift of encouragement today? It doesn't have to be an expensive or precious family heirloom.  Perhaps a gift of your time.  A note to let them know you are thinking of them. A phone call. A gift from your garden or kitchen. A special book that helped you during a difficult time.
No gift is too small or insignificant when it is given with love.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Conversations With God

Today has been a day that I hoped would never come. This morning our son, who has been battling cancer for four years, received the news from his doctor that we prayed he would never have to hear.  After several days in the hospital, and four years of fighting with every treatment plan available for this particular rare disease, (DSRCT) the oncologist told my son that they have done everything possible for him.  There is no other reasonable treatment option left that they could recommend.  And with that being said, he told him that under the present circumstances he could only expect to live another three or four months at the most.

So I've been having some "conversations with God" today.  Not just prayers, although there have been plenty of them going up.  No, these are conversations, only perhaps more like monologues, since I haven't heard God's response audibly.  That doesn't mean He isn't listening or responding.  I know He is doing both. His response is in subtle ways within my heart and soul. I know He hears me, and I know He cares.  But I'm still asking the questions and telling God what's on my heart.

I've been reminding God all day about all the ways He has already rescued our son from serious illnesses and accidents. Click Here for those stories.

I've even had the audacity to ask Him just what does He expect to accomplish by allowing our son to die at the age of 41, when he has a wife and a 14 year old son to raise?
 I want to know how God will be glorified through the death of our son.  With all due respect to God, I am the mother of this wonderful son, and I think I deserve an answer.

Even David the King had feelings like this:

I cried out to You, O Lord;
and to the Lord I made supplication:
"What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!"
(Psalm 30:8-10)

I'm not complaining or demanding...just asking.  I'm not angry with God...but I want to understand His plan. I feel a little bit like Mary, the mother of Jesus...pondering all these things in my heart. (Luke 2:19)  Not that I am comparing my son to Jesus, but I'm comparing myself to Mary, a mother, who loved her Son, and didn't fully comprehend all the things that happened to Him.

Click here for previous post from last fall on this topic

Is it wrong to question God? I don't believe so.  I think He understands.  I KNOW He understands.

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry."
Psalm 34:15

"The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who
have a broken heart,
and saves such as have a 
contrite spirit."
Psalm 34:17-18

"Sing praise to the Lord,
you saints of His,
and give thanks at the
remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But Joy comes in the morning."
Psalm 30:4-5

I know we have some difficult days ahead of us.  There will be weeping...but I also know that the day will come when we will have joy again.

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God,
I will give thanks to You forever."
Psalm 30:11-12

"But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God."
My times are in Your hand..."
Psalm 31:14-15a

"Be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord."
Psalm 31:24

"Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
Psalm 61:1-2

The conversations are not over, I am certain.  But I have comfort and peace within my heart tonight. 

"God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this;
That power belongs to God.
Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy..."
Psalm 62:11-12

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Thirsting for God"

"O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You 
in a dry and thirsty land
where there is no water.
So I have looked for You 
in the sanctuary.
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness 
is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your Name.
My soul shall be satisfied as 
with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise 
You with joyful lips.

When I remember You 
on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings
I will rejoice.
Photo by my sister Doris Mursch Hutchinson

My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me."

Psalm 63:1-8 NKJV

This morning I awakened with a heaviness in my heart and soul.  I did not sleep very well last night...anxiously awaiting news about our son, who is in the hospital far away from us, with complications due to the cancer that has been ravaging his body for the past four years.
But when I sat down with my Bible and my morning devotions one of the passages I read was from Psalm 63...above....and this is what I read from the book, Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young:

"Let me help you through this day.
The challenges you face are far too great for you to handle alone.
You are keenly aware of your helplessness in the scheme of events you face.
This awareness opens up a choice:
to doggedly go it alone or to walk with Me in 
humble steps of dependence.  
Actually, this choice is continually before you, 
but difficulties highlight the decision making process.
So consider it all joy whenever you are enveloped in various trials.
These are gifts from Me, reminding you to rely on ME alone."
(Jesus Calling,   page 70, March 7)

This day definitely has had its challenges...and there are no easy, ready answers. But, I have found that Jesus has helped me through this day...He brought people near to pray, to encourage, to love and give me the words of encouragement I needed to hear. The situation itself has not changed...but I believe God is strengthening me to face whatever lies ahead with grace and hope. 

"Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You."
Psalm 63:3