Month in Review - November 2014

Spurgeon Kids - Thanksgiving Morning 2014

 I have decided to keep a journal (of sorts) our family happenings at the end of each month.  I am hoping this will make the annual Christmas letter that we try to get sent out during the Christmas season – just a little easier to write and remember.  Well, that is what I am hoping for, anyway. So here is our month in review for November.  If a journal of our everyday happenings is not of interest to you  – that’s OK – feel free to skip this post.  It won’t hurt my feelings at all; and we can still be friends.   

I don’t think that there is any such thing as a boring month at our house.  November has been quite busy for us and seems like it has gone by very quickly! 

Within the month we have had two kids have eye exams.  We found out that Zak does fine seeing without glasses; we were very thankful!  Abbey however, will be getting some new glasses here soon.  She failed her vision test when she went in for her driving permit.  Seems she can’t see much of anything at all out of one of her eyes.  I felt a bit guilty about that; but it happened at the beginning of the month and I am over it now.

Susan Marie Spurgeon joined our family this month.  She is a blue beta fish that is extremely loved and celebrated her adoption into our family with a trip to Chick-fil-a.  She was quite popular – and I have never eaten lunch in the South with that many people coming up to my table to talk to me.  (That is something that happens here in the South much more than up North – and it is one thing I LOVE about living here in the South!)  Saturday’s has an added chore for Anna – as she cleans Susan’s bowl out each week and sings and talks to her fish all through the process.  I almost think the fish knows who Anna is  - as she seems to get very excited when Anna is in the room and talking.  Rob says that is not possible.  Who knows?

Abbey ran in the Color Run this past month.  She took it all in – and came back looking quite full of color. She also beat her time from the last 5K she ran.  The color did not completely come out of her hair – despite all of her showers – and she did go to church the next day with some color remaining.  No one seemed to care.

Rob was given a free lesson from his oldest on how to take selfies.  He is always telling the kids that he thinks they take too many pictures of themselves.  His oldest decided to give him a lesson on how it is done.  He had quite a lot of fun during his lesson; teasing her with his poses and asking her if he was doing them right.  Rachel is not sure if he will ever get the “art of selfies” class down enough for her to give him a passing grade. I don't think Rachel and I have laughed that hard for a long time!  What fun we had. 

Our family enjoyed a family day picnic with the Chick-fil-A coworkers.  We had a great time!  Rob was able to do 18 holes of disc golf and I was quite impressed with how he was able to keep going.  God has really done a healing work in his body and we are so thankful.  We are still waiting for his body to be ready for the radiation treatment; his iodine levels are still too high from the CT scans that were done when they found the tumor.  We will retest after the first of the year to see if his levels are low enough. 

Anna started Physical Therapy this month and is working on getting stronger.  She has a fantastic therapist and we are thankful for her work with Anna.  We have moved from having headaches daily to none at all.  Again, we are so thankful for God’s healing and protection. 


The weather here continues to be beautiful!  The colors are still vibrant outside and I enjoy fall lasting longer.  The nights have gotten much colder and I have dug my electric blanket out of storage and have been enjoying using it at night.  

We enjoyed Thanksgiving together as a family.  We defiantly did not do our holiday traditionally – we decided to break the mold and try some things that we have never done before.  First, Abbey, James and I participated in the annual 5k Thanksgiving race.  Abbey ran the whole thing and beat her time from her other races – she was quite happy about that!  This was James’ first 5k.  He walked / ran the race; and did well in his time.  I walked the entire thing (OK, I jogged a couple of time for just a few seconds).  I enjoyed it very much and was glad to check “Participate in a 5K” off my list.  I am thinking though, that I could beat my time if I tried again; so, who knows, I might just have to enter another one.  (I can see where this could get addicting). 

After the race we went out for Thanksgiving dinner.  This was hard for me to break tradition; but Rob thought if I was going to participate in the race I should not have to come home and cook a big meal too.  So, we went out.  It was nice not to have the cleanup.  We spent the afternoon playing games at a friend’s house and had a wonderful time!  

I hope you and your family enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We truly have so much to be thankful for!  We are excited about December and all that we have planned for the next month.  We are so thankful for all the God has blessed us with.  God has been so good to us; and we have so much to be thankful for.

Thanks so much for stopping by - I am so glad you did.


Happy - Here

Anna enjoying the snow last winter - a rare treat in NC

 Our entire married life has been lived up North.  Way up North. 

In the north the snow falls in the winter and your time is spent shoveling, playing and driving through the white stuff.  Until three years ago, my mudroom walls were lined with coats, gloves and hats from October till April.  The mudroom floor was decorated with boots.    

That’s life up north in the winter.

I have always loved a good snow storm.  I don’t like the cold that brings the snow; but I love the feeling of being snuggled safely in my house while the storm blows wild outside.  I love the sound of wind whistling through the trees and vibrating the windows as I sit on the couch reading a book – tucked beneath a heavy quilt – with wool socks wrapping my feet in warmth.  I love making soup when the snowstorm is starting and letting it simmer on the stove top.  I love when the days get shorter and darkness settles in early and needing to turn on the lamps and light a candle to make the house feel cozy and a haven from the elements outside.  I love the feeling that comes over me when I see my husband’s headlights reflect on the window as he pulls into the driveway and runs through the snow pounding his shoes against the side of the house before he comes in the door.  I love the sound of the door closing and watching as he hangs up his coat up on the hook that has his name above it; and knowing the whole family all safe and warm inside our little house and were all together to weather out the storm. 

That is how I spent every winter for over twenty years. 

Perhaps the thing I loved most about winter (and it *is* hard to pick just one – because there are so many things to love about winter up North) is looking out the window of our mudroom door at the light of a full moon shining brightly on the snow that blankets the ground.  I have stood many a night and looked at that view.  Complete Beauty!

Last week I was missing all of that.  My Facebook wall was covered with pictures from my friends still living up North as they welcomed their first snow storm of the season.  I would scroll through and see the snow – picture after picture; and I missed it.  It moved quickly from missing the snow – to longing for the snow and wishing I was there in the North and not here in the South! 

How easy that journey is to make in your mind – you know the one, the journey from here to there. 

I forget sometimes the lesson I’m supposed to know by heart:    When I spend my time looking back on what I had in the past I will miss the present.”

Last week it was weather and geography related – and we smile and chuckle.  Funny really, when you think that most of the people in the snow storm were wishing that they were in the sun and warmth with me.   Sometimes, though, it has nothing to do with the elements outside and has everything to do with life itself. 
I wonder if this looking back and longing for something different is an acquired habit. 
Do we train ourselves from a young age to want something different than what we have?

…to be taller
…to be thinner
…to be richer
… more popular

When do we start making these journeys in our minds?  (I know it happens long before we are old enough to drive or get a passport on our own.)

How much of the present have we missed wishing for the past – or what we don’t have?

It’s a human thing – this wishing for more – for different. 

We shake our heads and click our tongues in condemnation at the behavior of the Children of Israel.  God had redeemed them out of slavery.  A task they could have never done in their own power.  They watched as their slave masters drown in the waters they had just walked through– their freedom completely granted by God Almighty!  Then we read the account that just days later they were wishing they could be slaves again. 

They were wishing for slavery?
For bondage?! 

They wanted oppression rather than to be in a place of sovereign redemption.

I left my computer screen last week – longing for snow and wishing for the north.  I walked out on my porch.  The mountain view in front of me was breathtaking.  Fall leaves changing colors made my front yard look like a picture on a post card.  The sun warmed my arms as it shone down on me and I breathed in deeply the fresh warm mountain air.  The thermometer read 75 degrees. 
I was behaving more like the criticized Israelites than I care to admit!

When I am focused on the past – I will fail to see God’s provision in the present.

Rob and I enjoying the ocean last Nov in FL

I had missed the view God had for me, the beauty of here - looking at the place where I used to be! 
I started laughing as I remembered how giddy I had been when we found out that God was moving us to the South.  It had been in February.  The mudroom was still full of coats and hats and gloves; and I was sick and tired of my feet being cold!  Wrapped up in a blanket on the couch with wool socks on my feet (that never seemed to get that quite warm enough),  I had decided to Google the weather map just to see just how much warmer the South was at the moment  I was freezing in the North.  I had let out a “yippee” when I saw the temperature reading on the computer screen.  I had informed my husband of my findings and stated quite emphatically:    “It’s 75 degrees in North Carolina!  I could live with that!”   

Suddenly I felt ungrateful and selfish.

I had believed in my heart after looking at picture after picture that way up there in the snow storm was the place of real happiness.  I had myself believing that right here in the South could not be nearly as nice – and as wonderful as it was where snow had fallen, schools had been canceled and fireplaces were aglow with the warmth of a fire. 

Last week it was a snowstorm that lured me back to the past – and caused my heart to feel discontent.  Other times it has been bigger things; deeper longings that have made me think that I could not be happy where I was right then – that the source of my true happiness was in the way life had been in the past – the way life used to be.    

If only the bank account balance was bigger…
I would be happier if I was healthier…
Life would be easier if the vehicle was newer…

When I am thinking to myself that I need something more – something different than what I have right now;  am I really telling myself that God has made a mistake at that moment in my life? 
The children of Israel were eating bread from Heaven – and their hearts believed the lie that onions were better than the provision God had supplied to meet their needs. 

They looked back on what they had known as familiar; and they missed the miracle that was happening right before their very eyes!   

I purposed right there on the porch, with the sun warming my arms and the thermometer reading 75, that I would be content where God had placed me.  For twenty plus years that had been enjoying snow storms, warm houses and moonlit snowscapes;  now it is here in the South were the fall leaves stay on the trees longer and offer breathtaking views for weeks that last months rather than weeks.  

Wherever God has me – I can be content.  He has placed me right where He will have me to be – and no matter where that is I will still find that every single day He gives me more blessings than I can count.  But I can try to count them – and last week I started counting again – starting with the sunshine and the warm temperature – and in November no less!  I can live with that!

The Label

The tics are more pronounced than normal.  Perhaps it is the stressful week we have had.  Perhaps it is the special meetings that have caused the bedtimes to be put back an couple hours.  Perhaps… then I remember the doctor told me:  “They will come and go; and you will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out the cycle.”

I have tried to heed the doctor’s advice given to me years ago when she wrote the words - Tourette Syndrome -  on the line following the word ‘diagnosis’.  

Another label.  
The list gets longer.  

Some days it is easy to forget the words on the diagnosis line; but most days it is not.  This day – it’s impossible.   By the end of the day, I am sure it will becoming a day that is marked by the diagnosis.  Like a big fat red X marked on a calendar date.  TOURETTES DAY.

I repeat the next spelling word for the test.   

His eyes blink - four times.   
His jaw opens wide and clicks - three times.   
His head twists to touch his shoulder – two times.   
Then, and only then, he writes the word. 

They call them tics – those repetitions that *just* happen (like tremors that afflict the elderly man battling Parkinson’s). 

I try to ignore them.  It’s hard.   They say it is harder on those watching than on those with the debilitating diagnosis.    I’m not sure I agree with that statement.

I get ready to say the next spelling word; but before I start, he looks up at me and with tears filling his eyes; but not yet spilling over, “Why did God give me Tourrettes?”    His big green eyes look deep into my soul and emotionally he is screaming for an answer. 

I start to talk – to try again to answer his question.  He has asked it before.   Sometimes he finishes the question with the word ‘Autism’ or ‘Celiac’; but today the last word is ‘Tourettes’.    

Regardless of the word change – it’s still the same question. 

 I open my mouth to answer and he quickly changes his question.  (He’s heard my answer before)

“Why did God, allow me to have Tourettes?”   He struggles to get the word 'allow' out of his mouth.  (Like it is a word that is hard for his tongue to master it’s articulation).  He finishes his question with a statement I am not sure his whole heart has embraced, “I know God didn’t GIVE me Tourettes…” 

I’m sitting there spell bound.  (I always am when this question comes up).  Amazed that one so young is asking the question that took me years to formulate in my mind.  The one I was afraid to ask.  I got stuck on that question – even as a ‘grown up’ Christian. I’ve talked to a lot of grownups that are still asking that question.   

For me the words to the question ended a little differently; but it was the same question:  

“Why did God let my baby die?”

Others have asked that question to me about God. 

“Why did God let my husband leave me?”  
 “Why did God let my family disown me?”  
 “Why did God let that Pastor fall and betray my trust?”  
 “Why did God make me have cancer?”

 Same question.    

I’m spellbound; not because I do not know the answer to the question – but at the awesomeness that one so young is asking a question so deeply profound.  Could it be that Tourrettes or Autism or Celiac will be avenues that will BUILD his faith in God?  I can’t help but think how strong his faith will be when he reaches the age that I was when I finally was able to articulate my question about God.   It is at that moment when I start to see the words on the line as more than a diagnosis.  Could they actually be words of blessing  Words marking opportunities?   

Within a label there is always weakness. 

We all have labels. 

Could it be the labels that we have are really blessings in disguise?  

For Zak it is:  Autism, FAS, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Celiac Disease, Hearing Impaired.   
For me it was 'Bereaved' and 'Depressed'.  
For others it is ‘Widowed’ or ‘Cancer Patient’ or ‘Disowned’.   

All the words label us with weakness.

Could these diagnoses – these labels -actually be words of HOPE?

When we view them as avenues where God can show Himself strong the limits of the labels cease and are replaced with HOPE.  Isn’t that what the Bible tells us?  That when we are weak – HE is stronger than our weakness?   

God is stronger than autism or bereavement or of abandonment.    

In the very clutches of what weakens us; we are given the opportunity to see just HOW much stronger God is than that label that limits us. 

I try to formulate the words in my mind before I speak them to Zak.  I don’t want to build up false hope – or to take away from the strength of the lesson that can be learned from the answer to the question being asked.  The lesson is simple:  Everything can point us to God.  Everything!  When I focus on myself, my weakness, my hurt, my loneliness  - I despair; but when I allow those things to guide my eyes to how much bigger my God is than the things that afflict me, my afflictions then become magnifying glasses to how great God is!

I want Tourettes to point him to how great God is. 

I want autism to point him to how powerful God is.
I found through my bereavement how strong His embrace was to me when I ran to Him in need of comfort  
    and healing. 

The abandoned and hurt can see through the tears the God who NEVER leaves, NEVER hurts,  and 
    NEVER is selfish. 

Everything can point us to God.  Everything.

I find a voice amid my barrage of theological thoughts.   “God did not GIVE you tourettes, Zak. He allowed it.  He could have stopped it and made sure you did not have autism or tourettes; but He chose not to; because He wants you to depend upon Him and because He is going to use this in your life for some purpose.”  I  then quote Romans 8:28; and he nods his head as he listens to verse (I have quoted it to him many times before). 

 I have found that I don’t need God to rescue me out of my problems and take them away as much as I need to allow my labels to  point me to the greatness of God.   

 In so doing, He rescues me from MYSELF. 

I finish quoting the verse and Zak sniffles, and wipes the tears away from his cheeks.  His long eyelashes are still wet from the tears; but he speaks, 

“Maybe someday I will be able to help a boy with Tourettes.”

“Maybe,"  I say. 

“Or maybe someday I will be able to tell people about Jesus because I have autism.”

 I nod and try to keep the tears from coming into my eyes.  “Should we pray and ask God to help you with your tics today?”   

He nods and we pray.  I don’t pray that God will take the tics away.  I thank God for giving Zak to me and allowing me to be his Mom.  (How much I have learned from this little boy!) I thank God for allowing Zak to have tics so he can have opportunities to trust in God to help him.   I ask God to use Zak to point people to Jesus.

I hand him a tissue and then we continue the test. 

I say the next spelling word .  

His eyes blink - four times.  
His jaw opens wide and clicks - three times. 
His head twists to touch his shoulder  - two times.  
Then he writes the spelling word on his paper.  

When he finishes writing, he looks up me and smiles.  I smile back; and we continue with school.

He passed the test with a 100%.  

He also got a 100% on the Spelling test!