Leo

I inherited a rabbit the new-fashioned way—my daughter moved out last July and left him with me.

“What am I supposed to do with a rabbit,” I asked her as she packed.

“I don’t know. I can’t take him with me; Emily has a dog,” my daughter told me without the slightest trace of remorse.

“Why don’t you make him your class pet?”  My daughter teaches young fives, and not only is her rabbit, Leo, calm and cuddly, he loves people. Seemed like a win-win to me.

“Mom,” she said in disgust, “do you know what my kids would do to him? They’d pull IMG_3952his ears and poke his eyes and make his life miserable.” She tugged her sock drawer open and started loading all eighty pairs into an apple box. “No way am I doing that to Leo after I rescued him.”

My daughter had found Leo four years ago, caged in the corner of a dark basement. Since she was commuting to college and promised to take care of him herself, my husband and I agreed he could become the newest addition to the Goodreau clan.

I watched her pull out another armful of socks. “How about leaving the socks and taking the rabbit?” I asked with a hopeful grin. My daughter loves socks, and because she has so many cute pairs, I was a regular borrower.

“Mom!”

“Well, what about making your mother miserable? I’ll be stuck feeding him and cleaning his cage and traipsing outside in the middle of January to change his water umpteen times a day when it freezes.”

“I tried to find a home for him, but no one wants a rabbit.”

“‘Well, I don’t want one, either.”

“Sorry, Mom.”

I let that little fib slide since this was her last day at home. She wasn’t sorry—not one little bit.

The next day, my daughter moved in with her best friend, and I became the reluctant owner of a rabbit.

After a few months of taking care of Leo, a funny thing happened. I started to really like the furry little guy.

As I mentioned before, Leo loves people. Instead of running away or cowering in a corner when I approached, he greeted me each time I came to his cage. When I got into the routine of taking him a carrot or apple every evening, I would find him waiting for me.

Who would have thought that I’d be flattered to have a rabbit bouncing around his cage in excitement when he sees me?

Leo’s friendly strain also includes dogs as well as people. My Boxer, Winnie,  is his best buddy. Leo hops around her legs and submits to a slobbery lick or two with perfect contentment.

Now that Leo had me under his spell, my poor husband got roped into helping me build a newer rabbit home, which included a fenced-in yard. By helping me, I mean he did all the work while I told him what a great guy he was.

A few weeks later, when my daughter stopped over for a visit, she laughed when I proudly showed her Leo’s new digs. “Mom,” she told me. “That rabbit definitely doesn’t belong to me anymore.”

I looked at Leo as he happily munched on a dandelion leaf. She was right. Somehow, in the last few month, Leo had become mine.

How did our big God bless me with a small bunny rabbit I didn’t want? I think God knew I’d need someone to take care of and cuddle after my daughter moved out inIMG_1715 July, my son left for college in August, and my husband and I joined the throng of empty nesters. He also knew that, since I work at home with my nose buried in a computer, I would be so lost in writing that I would let days pass without stepping foot outside. But, now that I need to take care of Leo everyday, I have the opportunity to gaze at our big God’s handiwork in my small back yard—the bumblebees on my blooming flowers, the brilliant fall leaves that crunch under my feet, the serenity of a lazy snowfall, the promises of the first robin.

Last August, when I began writing my first novel and developing my main character, D.J. Acker, Leo even became the inspiration for one of her pets.

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he writes:

He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all

Our big God uses all things in his creation to reveal his glory, compassion, creativity, and love.

Even small bunnies.

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Midnight Prayers and Morning Grace

cropped-img_3836.jpgSix years ago, my youngest sister asked me to take care of her two girls, ages four and six, while she delivered her third baby. Due to some pregnancy complications, she was scheduled for a c-section and would also need me to help her when she got home.

“Sure, I’ll come for a week,” I told her. “The girls and I will have a great time.”

I drove from Michigan to Pittsburgh and arrived on a Saturday afternoon. For the rest of the day, I scurried after my nesting, turbo-powered sister as we went over schedules, bedtime routines, emergency numbers, and homework instructions. After a crash course on how to use her new oven, washer, and dryer, she declared me ready to take over.

Early Sunday morning, I kissed my sister and husband good-bye. “Don’t worry about a thing,” I told her. “Everything here will be fine.”

Later that afternoon, my brother-in-law called with news that I was now the aunt of a baby girl. Both mother and daughter were doing well, which was more than I could say for myself. I was dragging, and my stomach felt funny. I kept telling myself that I just wasn’t used to running after two energetic girls. I couldn’t possibly be getting sick; I never got sick. But by the time I tucked my nieces into bed and crawled into mine, I had to face the daunting truth.

I, who never got sick, was indeed sick.

Chills. Fever. Upset stomach. Bone-deep exhaustion. And my throat was starting to hurt.

“Please, Lord,” I prayed. “I absolutely, positively, cannot come down with something now.”

As I thought about my germs spread all over the house, the dog, the girls, I felt even worse. My nieces would get sick, and then my sister’s husband, who planned to stop back home for showers and naps, would get sick.

Then my sister would come home from the hospital, sore and turbo-hormonal, and get sick too. Or worse, she would get sick in the hospital.

And if my brand new baby niece sick…moon at night

I lay in bed shivering, thinking about all the terrible things that could happen.

And I was afraid.

I have never prayed all night before, but that night, I did. I prayed that God would take my illness away, so I could take care of my family. I cried out to him, without ceasing or sleeping, asking him to shelter and protect my family, especially the baby.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.         Hebrews 4:16(NLT)

In the morning, I hauled myself out of bed to get the six year old get ready for school. After I put her on the bus and walked back to the house with my other niece, I noticed I was feeling better. And as the day progressed, my energy increased. The chills and funny stomach went away, the sore throat cleared up, and by dinnertime, I was eating at McDonalds and laughing as my nieces chased each other and giggled in the PlayPlace.

I sent up prayers over the next few day when everyone remained healthy, thanking my good Father for protecting my family and making me well so that I could care for them.

But later that week, I learned even more about what God had done for me.

On Wednesday morning, the day my sister and baby were coming home, I called my husband. “Are you okay?” I asked him after he answered. “You sound terrible.”

“I’m sick. I knew you’d worry, so I didn’t want to say anything before. I feel so awful I didn’t even make it to work today .”

man sleeping and sick“How long have you been sick?”

“It started on Sunday evening,” he said in a shaky voice.

The same time I had started feeling sick.

“I got horrible chills, sore throat, upset stomach, and just felt wiped out.

The same symptoms I had.

“I feel even worse today,” he said. “And my throat is killing me.”

I finally talked him into going to his doctor. The next day, he called with the diagnosis.

He had a severe case of strep throat.

We got sick on the same evening, with the same symptoms. And yet, while my husband had felt sicker and sicker, I was well in less than twenty-four hours.

Some people believe that God no longer heals. But I know better. In that little house in Pittsburgh, my big God heard my earnest prayers and took away my sickness, so no one else would get sick. And so I could take care of my nieces and then my sister when she came home.

So I would learn more about his boundless grace, unfathomable love, and unfailing compassion.

From his throne in heaven, he listened to my midnight prayers. And he answered me.

With morning grace.

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Chips for Sale

I wish I could blame all of my dizzy blonde moments on my inner ear disorder. Then, at least, I’d have an excuse…

Every fourth Monday of the month, we’re going to just take some time to laugh at, well, mostly me. And it’s okay, because I’ve learned to laugh at myself, too.

Let’s start with my daughter’s soccer meeting.

During high school, my daughter played soccer for the freshman, JV, and varsity teams. Each year, the coaches would call a meeting of all soccer players and their parents to go over the upcoming season. When she was a sophomore, I attended this soccer ballmeeting and listened to her coaches discuss the rules, expectations, schedule, and busing issues. Since most of this information was the same as last year, I also looked through paperwork and filled in emergency information as the coaches talked. But, when they announced an upcoming fundraising idea, I was instantly all ears.

Our high school has a “Pay to Participate” sports program. That means, if our children make a team, we parents must pay a fee in order for them to participate. Therefore, anything that would help defray the cost had my undivided attention.

Two girls from the varsity team presented the plan: selling chips at our local bowling alley. They explained that, if we could find enough volunteers to help out for a weekend, the soccer program could make thousands of dollars.

I imagined myself sitting behind a table, encouraging bowlers to purchase bags of Doritos, pretzels, and other assorted snacks. It didn’t seem like selling chips could potato-chips-448737_960_720raise so much money, but what did I know? The girls had given us examples of other organizations that had made a bundle, so the idea had to work. And maybe bowling made people hungrier than I thought.

So, after the meeting, I marched right over to the sign-up sheet and wrote down my name. Selling chips didn’t sound very hard, and it might actually be fun. And, of course, it was for a good cause—my daughter’s soccer team, and my bank account.

Later that week, I received an email from the woman who was organizing the soccer fundraiser. I began reading the information, and suddenly stopped and stared at the words. As it turned out, our team wasn’t selling potato chips.

They were selling poker chips.

“How did I miss that?” I asked my husband that night.

He bit his lip, trying not to laugh. “You really didn’t know our bowling alley has a poker room?”

“I never saw a poker room when we were bowling.”

Of course, I’m not the most observant person, as my husband will attest.

I folded my arms. “No way am I selling poker chips. I’m not sure I like the idea of our teenage girls making money from other people gambling.”

“Then call up the lady who’s running it and tell her you don’t want to help out anymore.”

“I can’t do that! I’ll die of embarrassment!” I told him.

The only thing worse than having a dizzy blonde moment is having to tell someone else about it.

“You don’t have to tell her why,” my husband assured me. “Just tell her you can’t do it anymore.”

But the woman who had sent the email was a soccer mom, like me. I’d seen her in church, and we’d bonded over the years watching our daughters battle and occasionally bleed during their travel soccer seasons. I knew, if I got on the phone with her, that I’d feel uncomfortable being evasive. So the next day, I swallowed my pride, dialed her number, and told her everything.

My friend either has remarkable self-control or a very handy mute button.

When I had finished, she cleared her throat. “That explains it. To be honest, I was kind of surprised when I saw your name on the sign-up sheet.”

That made me feel a little better. A little.

“Please, just cross me off the volunteer list. And, please, please don’t ever tell a living, breathing soul how ditzy I am.”

And, since the other soccer parents and coaches never started giggling in my presence, I don’t think she never did.

As it turned out, we never had the soccer fundraiser. Maybe the other parents were just too busy to volunteer. Or maybe the bowling alley backed out of the agreement. But I like to think that it fell through, because the other moms and dads thought they were selling potato chips too.

But probably not.

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Bathtub Dreams

cropped-img_3836.jpgIn 1996, my husband and I bought our home. It was a cute 920 square-foot house in the perfect location with a fireplace, almost two acres of property, and room for an addition. The only drawback—it had a single, tiny bathroom.

A year later, we added a family room and dining area, but we decided we could live without a second bath until we had saved up enough money to finish the basement. But while the second bath could wait, we needed to do something about our first and only bathroom. Pronto.

“These bathroom tiles are orange,” I told my husband. “And not even a nice, Brady Bunch orange. They’re yucky orange.”

“I can rip those out,” my husband said, “and put in a new sink and toilet. If I do most of the work myself, it won’t cost much.”

“Then we should get a new bathtub, too, while we’re at it. That’s definitely seen better days.”

tiles-1501782_960_720So while I took the kids to visit my family in Pittsburgh, my handy husband tore our bathroom down to the studs. I talked to him the morning before we planned to drive back home.

“I’m getting ready to put in the tub,” he told me. “Then I’ll put in the tub surround this afternoon, and the toilet and sink tomorrow, so we’ll have a functioning bathroom when you get home.”

“Great!” I said. But when I phoned him that evening, things were not so great.

“I can’t get the surround in the bathroom,” he said, sounding discouraged. “It’s one big piece, and the only way it fits is to rotate it, and it always ends up backwards. So I tried going through the back bedroom closet, where I put the tub in through a hole I made in the wall, and it won’t work that way, either. I’ve tried everything, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Honey, we’re coming home tomorrow. We need a bathtub.”

“Don’t forget, the toilet is out, too, and I can’t install that until I get the surround in.”

I might be able to deal with one bathroom. But no bathroom?

“So what are you going to do?” I asked.

“Keep trying, I guess. I may have to knock out more wall or rip out the tub and return both pieces tomorrow and start all over again.”

I could tell he was exhausted and frustrated. “If we have to, we can stay in Pittsburgh for a few extra days. Just call me tomorrow, and let me know what to do.”

The next morning, I waited to hear from my husband. By nine o’clock, when he still hadn’t phoned, I toyed with calling him. But, to be honest, if the bathtub surround was sitting in the living room, I knew I would have to stay longer in Pittsburgh. I missed my husband, and I wanted to go home.

A few hours later, he finally called.

“You sound pooped,” I said. “How late were you up last night?”

“Till midnight. I tried everything I could think of, and nothing worked. I was so upsetman sleeping I just went to bed.”

I squinted as I held the phone to my ear. For a guy who had just spent most of yesterday trying to stuff a tub surround into a dinky bathroom, he sounded remarkably peaceful. “So, should I stay here then?”

“It’s finished.”

Uh-oh. What was finished? His efforts to get the bathroom done? His sanity? The tub surround, which was now a flattened white mass in the middle of the road after a midnight car rampage?

I bit my lip, afraid to ask. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, the surround’s in the bathroom.”

“It is? How?”

“You’re not going to believe this, but God told me how to do it in a dream.”

“A dream.”

“Yeah. I gave up trying at midnight, and I was so tired and mad I just went to bed. But before I fell asleep, I said my prayers and asked God to help me figure out how to get the surround into the bathroom.

“At three o’clock, I sat up, wide awake. I’d just had the most vivid dream, and I now knew the secret to getting that crazy thing into the bathroom. So I got up, and fifteen minutes later, it was done. I was so relieved I went right back to sleep and just got out of bed now.”

I have to admit, I was a little skeptical.

“Honey,” I said. “Are you sure that was God? I mean, maybe it’s like, when you can’t remember something, and then when you quit thinking about it, all of a sudden it just pops into your head.”

“I prayed about it, and I’ve never had a dream like that before. It was God, all right.”

Even now, twenty years later, my husband is certain that dream came from God. But I’m still scratching my head—not because I don’t believe God speaks to us today through dreams, but because, after all the difficult and urgent situations we’ve both faced, the one and only time God chose to speak to either of us through a dream was to instruct my husband about how to solve his bathroom remodeling dilemma!

But our big God has his reasons. And I trust him.

Perhaps the tub surround was a small issue, but it was important to my husband.  He knew that his wife and children were counting on him to provide a finished bathroom for our family when we returned home.

We now have a second bathroom. But when I’m showering or cleaning the tub my husband installed, I often think about how our big God worked in my first, small bathroom.

Maybe the tub surround had trouble fitting.

But, as always, our big God didn’t.

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Pass the Celery, Please

I can’t eat chocolate.

I know, I know. Perhaps admitting this sad truth isn’t the brightest way to begin the first post of my new blog. After all, I may have just lost most of you ladies, who have fallen senseless to the floor from the shock that this could actually be someone’s lot in life!

It’s not that I’m allergic to chocolate. Like any living, breathing woman, I scarfed down chocolate by the bucketful until early 2008. That’s when I came face to face with the abrupt realization that, along with sodium,  my caffeine consumption was intensifying the symptoms of my recently diagnosed inner ear disorder.

Nine months later, God provided a wonderful doctor and the right combination of medications to return my hearing and balance back to normal. But I knew, if I didn’t want to revert back to being a literal dizzy blonde, that meant not only staying on a perpetual low-sodium diet but giving up caffeinated coffee, tea, pop…

And chocolate.

As a woman who loves chocolate, that’s not easy. After all, chocolate is everywhere. In the check-out lines. On the Bible study snack table. In church on Mother’s Day. Smeared on my kid’s faces. On Valentine’s Day, I have to settle for a heart-shaped box of white chocolates—which I’m here to tell you isn’t chocolate at all.

At weddings, banquets, and fundraisers, often the dessert choices all contain chocolate. chocolate buffetBut when I find myself yielding to the temptation to grab a triple-chocolate torte, I pray for strength, march back to my table, and content myself with a piece of celery.

Although these chocolate moments can be the perfect opportunity to wallow in self-pity, I consider them precious reminders of God’s grace, providence, and attentive ear. You see, after God answered my prayers and I no longer suffered from dizziness, vertigo attacks, and hearing loss, I found myself still in the habit of talking to him about everything. And it confirmed something about our amazing heavenly Father.

No prayer is too small to lift up to him.

Like most people, I usually face pretty commonplace issues—I can’t find my phone, I’m running late, I picked up a virus, my computer picked up a virus. But I also know people who have cancer, fathers who have lost their jobs, children with challenges, couples facing divorce, families ravaged by alcohol abuse. And at times I wondered—am I bothering God when I pray about my everyday problems when there are so many more important prayer requests for him to handle?  Does he even care about my everyday problems?

I’ve heard that a lot, and that’s why I’m writing this blog.

How Does He Fit? Our Big God in Small Places showcases our everlasting, immeasurable Father who listens to every prayer—the prayers we consider God-sized, and the prayers we hesitate to lift up to him, because we think they might be toowoman praying on beach insignificant. It’s about being confident that our mighty God wants to be part of our everyday lives and our everyday struggles. If something is important to us, it’s important to him. No matter how small.

We’ll find out how God has revealed himself and his ways, through both urgent and ordinary requests.

And, because God has a sense of humor, I’ll post The Dizzy Blonde Chronicles every fourth Monday of the month so we can spend some time laughing.

I like the New Living Translation’s wording of Philippians 4:6—”Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.”

Everything. Because, no matter how trivial, no matter how silly, no matter what other people think—if we care about it, God cares about it.

Yes, God is infinite, mighty, and powerful. He is, indeed, a big God. But we can be certain that, in all those small areas of our lives that are important to us, if we ask, he’ll be there.

In those small places, our big God will fit.

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