January Shorts

As usual on the fourth Monday of the month, it’s time to lighten things up and enjoy one of my many dizzy blonde moments. Here’s another winner…

My family has always told me that I spend half my time living in my own little world. This has never been more true than during the last year while I’ve been writing my novel. I’ve spent five days a week, eight to ten hours a day living in the fictional village of Jubilee, Michigan, with characters from my imagination. And when I’m not writing about them, I’m thinking about them. Sometimes, I almost forget which world is real and which is all in my head.

And sometimes, I completely forget.

When I’m suffering from writer’s block, I often close my computer and get out of the house, hoping a change of scenery will jump-start my creativity. On one of those boutique-646295_960_720days, I decided to drive to Kohls Department Store to see if shopping for new clothes might help. Armed with a thirty-percent-off coupon, I strode through the automatic doors and scanned the store, wondering where to start my discount adventure. That’s when I noticed a couple from church, Norina and John, standing at the check-out counter.

I walked up to the counter and gave them both a hug.

John held up a bag. “I just picked up some things for vacation.”

“We’re going to Florida,” Norina said, “and John needed a few more pairs of shorts.”

“Wow,” I said. “I bet it’ll be nice wearing shorts again.”

They both gave me odd looks. Finally John spoke. “Well, I guess, although we’ve prettysnowy-street-554957_960_720 much been wearing shorts until last week.”

Now it was my turn to give them an odd look. What were they talking about? The temperatures had been well below freezing for weeks, with snow piled high and people bundled to the hilt to ward off the icy wind.

As we stared at each other, it finally hit me.

I wasn’t in Jubilee, Michigan, where my fictional character was currently enduring autumn leaves-1363766_960_720another sub-zero January day while she slipped on ice and watched her dog’s slobber freeze. No, I was just down the road from my non-fictional home in Romeo, Michigan, on a pleasant October afternoon.

“Ah, well, yes, of course,” I said, trying to cover my stupidity (though, obviously, not very well). “I just meant, like, still wear shorts, again, you know?”

“Oh, sure,” Norina said after a pause. “That’s true.”

One of the many things I love about Christian people is their remarkable ability to respond with grace when someone has clearly lost their mind.

I wished them a safe trip and scurried to the misses section, thinking about what a ding-dong I was. And worse, I was thinking about Norina and John thinking about what a ding-dong I was. The next time we met, would they act like they were uncomfortable around me? Speak to me in simple, one-syllable words?

When I saw them a few weeks later, Norina and John greeted me with their customary hug and warmth, and told me all about their wonderful trip to Florida. Never, ever, did they bring up my bumbling comment or make me feel foolish.

It’s almost a year later, and sometimes I still think about my encounter with Norina and John at Kohls, especially when people say things to me that would be perfect for their own version of “Dizzy Blonde Chronicles.” And, if I don’t know these people well enough to engage in some friendly teasing and instead find myself tempted to roll my eyes or look at them as if they grew two heads, I remember the grace that Norina and John extended to me. And I try to do the same.

Come to think of it, I’ve never thanked Norina and John for their unconditional love or told them how much I value their example of how to act like Jesus.

Until now.



The Dentist Dilemma

cropped-img_3836.jpgI’m kind of a fanatic about having my teeth cleaned every six months. It probably has something to do with my husband’s graduate school years, when we couldn’t afford a visit to the dentist, and the hard chunk I found in my pizza after he finally received his Ph. D. and got his first job. As it turned out, the chunk was a piece of tooth.

My tooth.

I ended up with a crown not only over that molar but two others as well. Since then, I’m a regular visitor to the dentist.

As most of you already know, I have an inner ear disorder. Fortunately, due to lots of prayer, avoiding sodium and caffeine, and my current medication, I’ve been dizzy-free for over four years. Before that time, however, I never knew when my world would start spinning or I’d have a vertigo attack.

Since I usually had two or three days a week with no balance issues, I decided to take a chance and schedule a time to have my teeth cleaned. When I woke up the day of my appointment, I was dentist appointment on calendarpleased to note that I felt fine. But two hours later, the dizziness began. I tried taking a nap and  even exercising, which sometimes helped, but the whirling continued. Although the spinning was mild while I remained upright, which means I could drive safely, when I reclined in a chair, like I would be at the dentist, the dizziness intensified to the point where I scrambled to get back upright again.

By this time, I only had a half hour left before I needed to leave for my appointment. Therefore, I did two things:

First, I started praying.

Second, I started bawling.

I’m not a big crier, but the thought of telling the receptionist about my inner ear disorder made me feel embarrassed, humiliated, and, in a way, almost ashamed. Having Meniere’s was mortifying enough, resulting in sudden vertigo attacks which left me stumbling around like a drunkard and vomiting into the nearest trashcan. Now I’d have to tell her about it, and I don’t like feeling weak or dependent upon people. In addition, I really, really don’t like crying in front of people. Now, not only would I  have to admit my vulnerability and lay my plight at the mercy of the receptionist, I’d have to do it while blubbering into the phone.

I picked up the phone two, three, four times to make the call. But each time, I started sobbing before I had even finished dialing. And the entire time I was bawling and dialing, I was praying–for God to take away my dizziness or at least help me to control myself long enough to speak to the receptionist.

But neither happened. I now had ten minutes before I had to leave.

Of course, I could just not show up for my appointment, which would make things a lot easier for me. But that would be wrong, and the last thing I wanted to deal with was guilt and sin on top of humiliation.

So I kept praying, picking up the phone, weeping, and hanging up again, knowing I would have to get the call made soon.

home phoneFive minutes left.

I no longer had a choice. I’d have to call the receptionist and try to make myself understood between racking sobs. I swallowed my pride, blew my nose, and reached for the phone.

And it rang.

I cleared my throat and took a deep breath. “Hello?”

“Hi, Sue. This is the dentist office calling,” said the woman on the other end. “I’m so sorry, but we have a patient here that is taking much longer than we anticipated, so we don’t have anyone available to clean your teeth. I know it’s last minute, and again I apologize, but can you come in another time?”

After I finally shut my gaping mouth and was able to form words, I rescheduled, hung up the phone, and started blubbering again—this time because of God’s grace and compassion. He knew I was already having a hard time dealing with my inner ear disorder. He knew I didn’t like crying in public or feeling humiliated and weak. And he knew I was trying to do the right thing.

Never, before or since, has a dentist ever called to cancel a last-minute appointment for me or anyone in my family. And I don’t know anyone else this has happened to, either.

During one of the most difficult years of my life, God showed me more of his tender heart and steadfast love by reaching down and taking care of a small dilemma that was hard for me.

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14 (ESV)



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.


“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.



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.