The Eventful Night

When the snow storm hit we realized that we would be in for a few days.  It was wonderful.  We were housebound – all together as a family.    Our last couple of days had been filled with hot breakfasts, board games, reading, movies and snow ball fights and snow fort building.  The snow plow had finally made it past our house sometime after three in the afternoon and while we watched it past we knew that our family time in a snowbound house was coming to an end.  Dad and Abbey would leave for work the next morning, mail would be delivered after they left for work and our normal would start again.  We said goodbye to the snow days by letting the kids stay up just a little later.

Zak finds out who is in charge when he throws a snowball down Dad's back!

We still were able to crawl into our king sized bed at a decent hour – 10:30.  We held hands and talked about how wonderful the past couple days had been.  How good *that* day had been.  Then, as is our routine – the one that sums up each day (snow day, sunshine day, sick day) – we prayed together.  We thanked God for the past couple of days, the memories we had made the fun we had had – and for our daughter overseas we prayed for her as she was getting ready to start her day.  We said ‘amen’ together as we finished praying and we laid there in the darkness holding hands and taking in how blessed we are.  I made the comment of how much I enjoy our children.  Rob agreed.  Then, we heard one at the door of our bedroom.

“Dad?”  His voice was hushed; but in no way was whispered.  (That would have been the first mistake of the evening… hind sight has a way of being able to notice those things.)

“Yes, Son”, Rob answered as we continue to hold hands.

“Just thought you would want to know that there is a mouse in our room.  It was sitting in the middle of the floor and looking at me and then it ran under Zak’s bed.”

Our hands separated and Rob went to the boys’ room to take a look.  The bed was pulled out – and the sleeping son aroused at the movement.  The mouse ran – fast.  They lost track of it –but in the process the girls’ room came to life.

In a shriek scream, only a girl can make, the oldest daughter in the house made a statement, “I cannot sleep in a room with a mouse!” I was still in our king sized bed surrounded by the warmth of my heating blanket .  I wondered if Rob’s eyes rolled when he heard the proclamation.  I smiled and prayed that they would get the mouse – because I know my daughter and she is right.  She cannot sleep in a room with a mouse – or a house with a mouse - and she will make sure that no one else can sleep in a house that she cannot sleep in because of a mouse.  I prayed silently that God would help them find the mouse – and then wondered if I was praying a prayer to consume it upon my own lusts – the lust to be able to go to sleep and sleep through the whole night. 

The rooms are connected by a door – that is unusable due to a dresser that keeps the door closed and the rooms private, however, there is a crack at the bottom of that door.  I am pretty sure at that moment the crack looked like a huge hole to my daughter in her bed and she made sure to point that out to her Dad.  “That thing can get in here under THERE!”  She pointed at the crack.

He assured her that he was sure the mouse was hidden in the boys’ closet and that it would not come into their room.  The fact that he chose to take Anna out of her playhouse and put her in her bed was not real reassuring to the oldest girl in the room.  “You’re putting Anna in her bed because you know that mouse can get in here!”

Now, it is important to note here that Anna normally does not sleep on the floor in her play house – it had been a snow day camp out accommodation.  She had loved it and had begged to be able to sleep on the make shift bed in her cardboard playhouse.  We had consented.  She had asked if she could stay in her tutu and ballerina tights for the night too.  (Our snow days had been filled with 30 minute programs of Angelina Ballerina movies and Fancy Nancy story books.  We had even watched Anna cut out strips and strips of paper glue them together and pretend it was ribbon wand that ballerinas use for flare during their performances.).  I had made the decision to let her sleep in the ballerina outfit.   Rob had made the decision to let her sleep in her play house. 

The sleeping ballerina princess awoke as Daddy put her into her big day bed.  “I want to sleep in my play house, Daddy,” she said in a sleepy voice. 

“No, you need to sleep in your bed tonight.”  Rob pulled the covers up around her and tucked her into bed.

“But Daddy, you had said I could sleep in my play house as a ballerina!”

“I know, but I want you to sleep in your big bed…”

He was interrupted as the oldest sister informed her little sister of the peril they were facing, “You can’t sleep in your house, Anna.  James saw a mouse in his room and we think it might run in here!  You don’t want to be sleeping on the floor with a mouse running around in our room!”

I started laughing as I was snuggled in our warm bed.  It was going to be a long night and I was sure that Rob must have rolled his eyes at Abbey as she informed her little sister about the mouse.  I laughed some more.  Rob gave assurance that the mouse was hidden and would stay hidden the rest of the night.  Reaching for the light he heard the little voice of the ballerina.  “Daddy, I’m afraid of mice!”

Rob has a quick thinking brain (and it *was* late so he was desperately grabbing at anything he could to get the little girl back to bed and back to sleep).  Fievel Mousekewitz is a mouse. You aren’t afraid of him are you?”  She indeed is NOT afraid of Fievel!  She loves American Tale and watches it half as much as Angelina Ballerina. 

“That’s right he *is* a mouse!”

“See, you have nothing to be afraid of!  It’s just like a little Fievel running around and he would not hurt you and neither will this mouse.  Just think of it as Fievel.”    I was applauding his ingenuity in thinking of this; but looking back I realize that was the second big mistake of the evening.  (Hind sight – you know.)

While Anna was taking in the new found personification of the visiting mouse Abbey again voiced her concern to Dad that she was afraid of mice and could not sleep with the mouse in the house.  Rob told her to try and reached turned the light switch off.  As he was leaving the room a little voice was heard, “And Angelina Ballerina is a mouse too, Daddy!  I love Angelina!”

I was laughing when Rob climbed into bed.  He started laughing too.  We laid there for a few minutes and then Rob jumped up.  “I am going to do something that will insure that we have a goodnight’s sleep!”  With that he darted out of the room and I heard him opening the linen drawer. 

A towel was placed in front of the door that separates the two room and Rob assured them that the mouse would NOT come into their room.  Anna said, “Thanks Daddy; but I am not afraid of Angelina or Fievel.”  Abbey’s comment was not as positive.  “Dad, mice can chew through towels…”

Rob assured her that the mouse would not chew through the towel and that she needed to get to sleep.

He climbed back into bed and told me good night. Rolled over and we were dozing off.  Just as my thoughts were starting to turn from reality to fiction a shrill cry was heard, “Daaaadddd!  The mouse is in our room!  It is IN OUR ROOM!  I saw it…” 

Rob leapt from the bed and bolted from the room.  As he was darting out I heard him call, “I’m coming, Abbey!”

I stayed in bed and listened as dressers were moved, closet was cleared out, beds were moved and toy boxes under the bed were shoved to the center of the room.  I was laughing.  Then I heard Rob’s voice turn from frustration to a calm command, “Girls you need to leave the room and go get in my bed.” 

As soon as that was said, the door to the boy’s room bolted open and an over energetic boy ran into the girls’ room.  (The teen boy who started this whole thing slept on…)  “Did you find the mouse Dad?”  There was excitement in every syllable of the question he had just asked.

“Yes, Zak, “Go get the broom.  You think you can smash the mouse if it comes out?”  Zak was running through the laundry room and into the kitchen yelling back at Dad.  “Yep Dad!  I can smash it.  No problem.  I am NOT afraid of a mouse.”

Mice are quick.  Zak is quick. Mice are faster than Zak. 

They missed the mouse.

Anna and Abbey and I were snuggled comfortably in the kind sized bed.  Dad came into the room.  “Alright everyone in their beds.  The mouse is long gone.  We did not get it; but we scared it. He will stay hidden until morning and then we will get traps and get the mouse tomorrow.”  He ALMOST sounded convincing; but not so much.

Anna told Daddy he could sleep in her bed.  Abbey volunteered her bed.   Then the begging and pleading sounds that children make so eloquently came from their mouths.  “Please Daddy, can we sleep with Mommy in your bed?  Pleeeeease?”

In the next 20 minutes children were rearranged into the front room.  Thor lost his place on the couch – his blanket was moved to the floor – by the front door.  Zak slept on the couch, Anna in the chair and Abbey on the other couch.  Covers were tucked in around them, assurances given that the mouse was gone and the lights were turned out.  (The kitchen light was left on as a night light – a request made by the children.)  The teen boy slept on in his bed.

Rob climbed into bed and pulled the covers up around him.  I was laughing when he climbed into bed.  The night was late and we rolled over to go to sleep.  Just as we were starting to doze off Rob opened his eyes sensing that something or someone was staring at him.  He was met by the gaze of two eyes.  They were not the eyes of children; but rather a dog.  Thor was protesting that his sleeping spot had been taken over by a child…  He stood by our bed and cried and cried.

The door was opened for him to go outside.  Rob thought perhaps he needed to go out to go to the bathroom.  The dog looked at him as if he was the dumbest human on the face of the earth.  Rob stood there with the door opened and Thor walked over to the couch where Zak was laying and started crying. 
Rob told him to lie down and informed the dog that he had to sleep on the floor that night.  Finally the dog agreed to the arrangement and lay down.  As he slumped to the ground I heard a sigh escape his lips and I wondered if dogs, like children, can huff and puff their protests. 

We covered back up and were falling asleep when we heard the scream again.  “Dad, I saw the mouse!  I saw it Dad.  Come quick!”

Rob ran into the front room and Abbey pointed out where the mouse had been and where it had ran – under the piano.  I heard rustling from in the laundry room and decided to get out of bed and see how I could help.  I walked into Rob on his knees, prostrate on the ground looking under the piano.  Directly to the side of Rob was Anna doing the most graceful and beautiful pirouettes I had ever seen – ribbon wand in hand and paper ribbons gracefully blowing in the wind.  Rob turned around and looked at her.  With no expression in his face or his voice he asked, “What are you doing”

Anna responded matter of factly, “I’m dancing.”

“I can see that!  Why are you dancing?”

“Because the mouse will say, ‘What is that little princess doing?’  And he will come out to see me dancing and you will be able to catch him.”  With that, she pointed her toes to the ground and lifted one leg up behind her – ribbon wand held up over head.  She stood in perfect position while Rob looked on in disbelief. 

“Anna, go get in your bed.  The mouse is not going to come out to watch you dance.”

“But Daddy,” her extended leg lowered to the ground and her ribbon wand fell to her side, “you said I could sleep in your chair tonight?”

“Then go and get in my chair,” Rob was still peering under the piano.

Rob slowly eased himself up from his kneeling position in front of the piano.  Zak got up to see how he could help and as soon as he left the couch Thor ran up and jumped on the couch claiming his rightful bed.    The mouse had somehow ran away from under the couch and Rob had not seen where he had gone.  He decided to call it a night.  

Walking into the front room, Rob pulled Thor off the couch – and tucked the kids back into bed. 

Rob and I climbed back into bed and started going to sleep.  The dog came in and stared us both down and stood by our bed crying.  We told him to go lay down and finally the house was quiet.  It was 2:30 in the morning. 

Sleep started to come when the scream of Abbey ignited us awake and we both sprung up from the bed.  I saw him again!!  He is under the file cabinet!  Dad, come quick!  I saw him!”

Zak was up, Rob was up and the heavy file cabinet, the one that took three guys to move it into the house,  was almost effortlessly pulled away from the wall by Rob. 

There sitting looking at him was the mouse!

 Zak saw him too and started yelling at the top of his lungs, “We’re going to get you!  I am going to catch you with my bare hands.  You better come out from there.  I am going to get you!”  The decibel of sound increased with each of his sentences and by the last, “I’m going to get you”, he was yelling at the top of his lungs  -waking the sleeping teenager in his bed. 

Anna ran into the laundry room and stood behind Rob who was again on his knees peering behind furniture. 

“What color is his nose, Daddy?”
“ What color is his nose, Daddy?”
“ Dad, what color is his nose?”

 Rob was too busy trying to figure out how to catch this mouse to hear the repeated question over and over again.  However, Zak heard her question and after he stopped yelling said, “Hold on, I will check for you!”  He peered behind the file cabinet to take a look at the mouse’s nose. 

“It is gray, Anna.”

“It can’t be gray, Zak!  Mouse’s noses are not gray!  It has to be either red or pink.  It cannot be gray.  Check again.” 

The roused teenager was now in the front room trying to get Thor to come in and get the mouse.   The black lab would have none of it.  The couch was cleared – he had reclaimed his spot on the couch and would NOT be moved from his rightful position. 

Long story short, we did NOT get the mouse.  We will be purchasing traps today; and even though it was a long night – and one we will not forget for a long time – it was not as traumatic as it could have been. 

Anna is convinced that the mouse is a relative of her beloved Angelina Ballerina.  When we do set traps and when we do catch it – Anna will be sent to go and see if the mail has come.  That is my plan. 

Despite the long night – we laughed so hard when we got up this morning.  One thing is for sure, we are so blessed that God has given us the children He has.  We will have memories and laughs for years to come because of the blessing they are to us!  Someday, when the house is quiet and the children are all in their homes with their children making their own memories, we will go to bed at a decent hour, hold hands and pray for each of them (as will be our normal routine); and as we lay there in the darkness we will laugh again at all the wonderful memories we had had through the years.

Choosing Grace

Photo Credit:  All Posters

On the day we moved into the house I noticed him.  He was sitting in his collapsible lawn chair, reading the paper and keeping tabs on what we were doing – and, he had quite the show to watch.  You don’t move a family of five and two cats ten hours from where they had lived and not cause a stir in the neighborhood.    It also was no secret who we were either.  Word travels in a little town.  When your husband is on staff at the Baptist church across town people seem to know who you are even before your whole family makes it into town.

He read some more.  I could feel his eyes beating down on the back of my neck when I was hauling in boxes.  I tried smiling at him when I came out the next time for yet another box.  The smile was not returned – rather the paper quickly was pushed up to hide his eyes. 

It made me feel a little weird.  He seemed odd.  I was pretty sure I did not like him.

We started making our new house a home.  With three little ones, the yard was full of giggles and loud talking as the kids ran through the yard and played.  Every day, the neighbor would come out, sit in his chair and ‘read’ his paper.    I would watch from behind closed blinds as he eyed the children playing.  Was he perturbed with them?  Did he hate children?  It almost seemed that way. 

It made me feel even odder the longer it went on.  I would smile and wave; but there would be no response on his part.  He would just lift the paper up past his eyes and avoid eye contact as soon as I made an attempt to make contact with him.

I took to watching him.  I would watch him while he was out.  While he was hanging his laundry on the line.  While he was taking out his trash.  While he was washing his car.  If I was outside I would wave and smile.  There was never a smile returned and never a wave given in my direction.  I was sure he hated me; and I was growing increasingly aware of the fact that I did not like that neighbor from across the street.

One morning there was a knock on the door.  I went and opened the door to a police officer dressed to the hilt in his uniform - (gun at his side, badge on his chest and a complaint form in his hand).  A complaint form from a neighbor, (the officer did not give names; but did politely pointed to the neighbor who just  ‘happened’ to be sitting in his chair (much earlier than normal)  ‘reading’ his paper.  Seems the neighbor had called the police to let them know that our cat had trespassed on his yard and he wanted it to stop.

I was aghast at the complaint that had been filed and wondered almost aloud why he had not come over and talked to me himself; but I bit my tongue and kept my thoughts to myself.  I thanked the officer for letting me know of the complaint and promised that I would make sure that our cat did not leave the house.  I told him he could let the neighbor know that it would not be a problem again and to send our apology to the neighbor.  I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

I closed the door and was completely and totally sure that I did not like that man. 

I told my husband just *how* much I did not like him.  He listened and told me I should send over a plate of cookies and introduce myself to him. 

Cookies were baked the next day and placed on a plate.  Under the plate I put an invitation to our church and had the children draw a card for the neighbor and set it under the cookies also.  I then sent our oldest daughter over to deliver the peace offering.

I watched as she crossed the street; but I was watching more to see what he would do when she knocked on the door.  I watched the interaction between the two to see if the man who never smiled – well, smiled.   

He did – but only a little.  I took that as a good sign.

Rachel came home and told me she had delivered the cookies and all was well.  I figured that would be the 
end of it and hopefully we would be able to build a relationship with this odd little man from across the street.  I prayed that at least God would have him stop watching us.  Always watching.

About ten minutes later the doorbell rang.  I went to the door to find *the* neighbor standing on the doorstep.  Plate in hand.  I smiled as I opened the door and figured I would get a nice big thank you and I would be able to meet this man and have things not feel so odd.

I was not greeted by a smile.  He held the plate out and said, “I came to return the plate; and this…”
It was the invitation to our church.  It was also a gospel tract.

He held it out and shook it a little, as if to tell me to take it out of his hand as quickly as I could.

I tried to keep my composure and figure out what to say next.  He beat me to the punch, “We don’t want you to sending over that kind of stuff to our house.  Do you hear?”  I told him sorry and took the plate.   
Thanked him for returning it and muttered something about having a good day. 

I closed the door and knew I did not like him at all.  Not one little bit.  I was going through all the reasons that I had for not liking him.  I had compiled a big list and we had not even lived in the house a month.

As I tried to take a deep breath and will my hands to stop shaking a still small voice could be heard, “He needs a friend.  He needs to see Jesus…”

I wanted to hang on to my hatred for him.  Our cats had to find a new home because of that man.  My children were always watched because of that man; and I always felt so odd when I went out.  “He doesn’t need a friend,” I argued, “He needs a life!”

The urging inside of me would not stop.   “Show him kindness.  Show him Christ.”

I had a choice to make.  Right there I could choose to hold on to my ‘right’ to dislike him.  He *had* been quite a thorn in my side for the past four weeks; or I could choose grace.  Forgiveness.

Is that choice ever easy?   No; but it is always simple.  Choose to treat him the way that God has treated me.  With grace.

I wish every time I am given that choice I would choose grace.  So many times I have chosen to hang onto the list – everything that person has done to hurt me.  So many times I have made my life miserable in making that choice.

However, with God’s enablement I choose right then to allow Christ to flow through me and to love him despite his disposition - and his eagle eyes - and his complaints to the police.  “God show me how to get through to him!”  I looked at one of the kids who were standing close by – watching and waiting to see what Mom would say about the man.

It was not my words that came out; but gracious words from the Holy Spirit.  “Kids, we are going to make this man our project.  We are going to be the best neighbors he has ever had.  It is our mission to do everything we can to make him like us.”

A plan was devised.  Goodies would be sent over every week.  If the children were out playing they were to wave and smile at him no matter what.  If he was in need they were to go over and help him. 

In about two month’s time, the kids had befriended the neighbor across the street.  James had gone over and helped him carry in some groceries.  Rachel had gone over and asked if she could help him hang his clothes on the line.  I had taken over baked goods and even was invited in to see his wife (I did not even know he had a wife) who was an invalid and unable to leave the house. 

Rachel went over and played her violin for them.  We went over and a family and sang to them.  We took over Christmas presents, birthday presents; and I was consistently baking things and sending them over with the kids.

In time, the invalid wife became sicker and sicker.  When she fell and could not get up off the floor, it was our house that was called and Rob who went over to help the man help his wife.  When she was sent to the hospital because her health was failing, we went up and sat with them, prayed with them and cried with them.

They became some of our dearest friends.  The kids received birthday presents from them, Christmas cards and candy, and odd and ends of yard toys that he would find when out and about around town. 

One night we got a call.  His wife had taken a turn for the worst.  He asked if Rob could come to the hospital and pray with them.  (This was the man who handed back the tract from our church….)  We headed up there despite the lateness of the hour.  We watched with the family as she was taking some of her last breaths.  Rob prayed.  He presented Christ and salvation to them; and as I sat there and watched the interaction I marveled at how all of that would not have been had I held a grudge and not shown grace.
People wrong me all the time – I wrong others ALL the time  (ask my kids).  Every time I am hurt by someone else I am given a choice.  Grace or Grudge.  Never, in all the times I have had a choice, have I been disappointed when I chose Grace.     Not. One. Time.

I thought a lot today about grace.  God’s grace to me.  How freeing it is to know that there is nothing I can do or say that is not covered by grace.  God delights in redeeming me and showing me grace.  I desperately need His grace and what liberation it brings to me when I know there is an abundant supply – more than I will ever need.  He will always extend to me grace. 

Oh, to have His heart; and to delight in showing grace to others!  I fail so many times; but when I look back on the times I have chosen to extend grace rather than a grudge – I have never regretted it. 

Happy New Year

I can not believe we are already seven days into the New Year.  What a wonderful holiday season we had!  Christmas was delightful and filled with really enjoying and spending time together as a family. 

Christmas morning we slept in a bit and woke to the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the stove.  Abbey and I had made them the night before and they turned out so yummy! 

We took our time opening gifts and handled the gift exchange a bit different.  Everyone took from under the tree the presents they had purchased for others.  Then each person got a turn handing out their presents and watching the family member open the gift.  It took a lot longer; but I loved it that way.  It seemed to put a greater emphasis on the giving aspect. 

Abbey giving Anna one of the gifts she purchased for her

I received an electric blanket from my in-laws.  I have been asking for one for years.  It is funny that now that we live down south I finally get one; but none too soon.  The temps are terribly cold today as I write this post.  I have enjoyed the warm bed to climb into since Christmas night. 

I think he was genuinely surprised by the gift!

Watching the two little ones with smiles and energy on Christmas morning just made my heart so happy.  I can not imagine our lives without these two.  Such a blessing God has given us when He led us to adopt and brought us Zak and Anna.  Every Christmas I am brought back to the reality again of how much more complete God has made our family through adoption.

We had our first Christmas with one of our family members living away from us and unable to be home for the holiday.  It was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  You know, it is one of those things that you know is coming and will happen but I just can not believe how quickly it got here!  We were able to Skype with Rachel on Christmas Day and all the kids enjoyed seeing her and talking to her.  What a blessing technology can be to families who are apart for long periods of time.  We are counting the days till she returns home.  She will be coming home a little earlier than we had originally planned; and so I am very excited to see her and to talk to her in person.  

Anna celebrated her birthday just a little while after Christmas.  It was complete with a birthday party with family on her actual birthday and then a birthday party with friends a couple days later.  Her eyes almost danced with joy the entire week.  The house was nearly busting with giggles and laughter the entire afternoon.

Zak has had a few health issue come up here in the last week or so.  It looks like we have a handle on them and he goes in for blood work towards the end of this week.  I know puberty is going to be very interesting with him.  Seems there is a fine line with medication doses and growth spurts.  I am just thankful that we live in America where medical help is there and available when we need it.  God is so good to us.

We are very excited about the upcoming year.  Homeschooling is going very well and I am seeing constant progress with Zak in his school work.  Anna is just learning to read and I love watching her eyes as she sounds out a word and then finally realizes what she is saying.  Teaching a child to read is such a blessing.

I trust you and your family enjoyed your holidays together.  God is so good to give us the gift of families and I feel we forget just how precious that gift truly is.  Thanks for stopping by.  I am so glad you did!