I love the finches, chickadees and sparrows that visit daily. My cat, Casanova, loves them too, but in a sinister way. Several weeks ago, Jessica, my friend that lives in the suite downstairs, brought me a freshly injured sparrow, Casanova's latest victim. I felt a powerful compunction to pray for him. I probably held him for 15 minutes while praying. His leg was broken, he had a tooth puncture on his head, and one wing looked gnarly. My heart ached for him.
I was reminded that I could offer my aching heart to the Lord for the salvation of souls. And I did. I was comforted knowing Jesus cared for that sweet sparrow. As I held him and prayed, he seem to regain some strength. He couldn’t get aloft, so I put him in the forsythia, hoping and praying he would survive. I felt like power had gone out from me, a feeling I have little experience with. I was reminded of the bleeding woman who touched the hem of Jesus's garment and how he knew power had gone from him. (Mark 5:10)
For a couple days I thought about that helpless little bird and meditated on how it hurt my heart and wondered if that might be a similar to how God feels when we are hurting.
A few days later, that little bird joined me on the patio. His tail feathers were gone and and his leg was at a 90° angle. I named him Gimpy because, of course, his tiny gimp leg. I was elated that he had survived and every day I see him, my heart swells with joy and thanksgiving. It's like he is a special gift from God to me.
On the day I prayed for Gimpy, I united the pain in my heart with Jesus's suffering, based on Paul's words in Colossians 1:24, "Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." God answered the prayer that the sparrow survive. It encourages me to imagine that he might have saved souls through that small suffering of mine united to his sufferings. None of our suffering need be wasted, not even an aching heart over an injured sparrow.
Gimpy still visits the patio, giving me so much joy. My joy would be off the charts if he trusted me enough to let me hold him again. Might this be how Jesus feels when I don't totally trust him or totally surrender to him? What am I withholding? I would never hurt little Gimpy or betray his trust. God would never hurt me or betray my trust.
My experience with Gimpy was the second time I felt I "had" to pray a healing prayer. The other time was nearly 20 years ago when a lady came to church for prayer after a cancer diagnosis. Way out of my comfort zone, I felt very compelled to pray for her. Just like with Gimpy, I felt like power went out from me. (Please understand that this wasn't a huge feeling, but a small sense.) Wendy's cancer did indeed go into remission and she is still with us. I took/take no credit for that, I just knew I needed to pray right then and there, just like I did for Gimpy. When Gimpy survived, I recalled the similarities in the emotions I experienced with each situation. I wondered if God might be telling me, "Remember Gimpy and Wendy the next time this feeling occurs." I write this experience to remember it. I want to be ready if God places the feeling of "I must" pray for someone within my heart. He used me those two times. I want to be ready should I feel that again because maybe, just maybe, God will use me to bring a healing prayer to someone.
I got an interesting challenge from today: Go to your pictures, open the 5th folder and post the 5th picture in the folder. It's cool how for me that was a Christmas folder. This is 2005 when each girl got a hamster for Christmas.
Have I mentioned Hannah bought two guinea pigs a few months ago? When we moved to this house she decided to take them to the SPCA to give them to someone else. Turns out the SPCA wanted $60 to take Daisy and Flossy off Hannah's hands. Ugh, I don't think so. However we left the SPCA with a new hamster. We went to drop off two guinea pigs and left with two guinea pigs PLUS a hamster. We are suckers.
I'm about to randomly go to my picture files and continue the picture roulette game. The last photo in the 12th folder.
Remember my little Senor Frodo? He loved to sleep under the Christmas tree.
In a California zoo, a tiger gave premature birth to set of triplets. The poor things died shortly after birth. The mother tiger started to decline in health and the veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused her to fall into a depression. The doctors decided that if the tigress could surrogate another mother's cubs, perhaps she would improve.
Checking with many other zoos across the country, no tiger cubs of the right age were found to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only orphans that could be found quickly were a litter of pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger.
Momma Tiger is the proud mother of these little piglets.
We had two hamsters, Chimpy and Reepicheep. Chimpy belonged to Hannah, Reepicheep to Rachael. When we were ready for baby hamsters, we put them in the same cage and watched the science lesson unfold.
A couple weeks later, I picked the girls up at school and we rushed home to discreetly watch the delivery. Again, very fascinating and beautiful. The girls were wowed.
We watched as eight little hamster babies grew and became independent. Hannah tried to sell them to her friends and relatives to now avail. Finally, it was time to part with them as I was afraid they were getting old enough to start reproducing. With love, gentleness, and quite a lot of sadness, the girls put the babies in an ice cream bucket.
We went to the pet store, and since Hannah was the rightful owner, I stood quietly beside her as she tried to sell the manager her hamsters. (I had phoned ahead and knew they'd take them).
Hannah was six years old. She stood with her shoulders back looking thoughtful and confident as she spoke to the lady. "Would you like to have my hamsters?," she asked as they looked at the energetic rodents in her ice cream pail.
The manager responded with, "How much do you want for them?" She addressed me, but I quickly redirected the question to Hannah. Truthfully, I didn't expect money, I just needed to get rid of the cute babies before they reproduced exponentially.
With no guidance from me Hannah said, "Would $2 be too much?" When the manager asked me a question, I'd say, "Their not my hamsters, their her's." (Yes, I know the manager probably had bigger and better things to do, but I was molding a young heart and I viewed that with awesome seriousness and beauty.)
It was agreed upon. $2!
When the manager went to the till to get the money, Hannah looked at me with those big blue eyes and shrugged her shoulder as if to say, "Can you believe it?"
The manager returned with not $2, rather $16. $2 per hamster! Hannah looked at me with eyes like saucers, but remained cool as if she were expecting $16 all along. After the lady counted the money into Hannah's chubby little hand, she turned to me and asked me to sign the receipt. Again, I redirected the transaction to Hannah. The lady, perhaps annoyed with me, handed Hannah the pen. Hannah was puzzled so I coached her, "She wants you to sign your name. Write you name right here." With grave seriousness, Hannah gripped the pen firmly. She sucked in her bottom lip and bit it as if the harder she bit, the better her printing would be. With deliberate precision she wrote across the bottom of the receipt, H A N N A H
We started to leave and Hannah said, "Mom, can you believe I got $2 for each of them? I thought I was getting $2 for all of them."
Suddenly she gasped and ran back to the manager, clearly remembering something. I arrived just in time to hear her say, "I forgot. Do you want to know their names?"
It's a precious memory.
Recently we had guests who were telling about their neighbor's intentions of getting a Vietnamese Potbelly Pig. I personally think that anyone who wants to have a pet pig in the house is a bit demented, but that's just my take on the subject. If someone wants a pet pig in the house, more power to them. I'll stick to dogs.
As my friend talked about this potbelly pig that might soon become her neighbor, I was reminded of my brief, but interesting, exposure to potbelly pigs. The girls, Gordon, and I were at a petting zoo and there were a couple potbelly pigs.
My city husband and kids didn't know I was familiar with pigs, so I was quite pleased when I had opportunity to show them a few of my piggy tricks.
I told them I knew how to make the pig go to sleep standing up and make him have a sleep-induced fall over. I always love to impress my kids and this was my moment to shine.
I knelt down beside the pig and he and I got acquainted while I stroked him. Soon I was scratching the underside of his belly and telling them to watch closely. In no time, Mr Potbelly Pig was swaying back and forth with his eyes closed. Then, just as I predicted, he fell over. My family was awed by my hypnotic prowess.
I continued to rub his belly as my family stood mesmerized. Soon something began to emerge from Mr Potbelly's lower belly. We were all mildly horrified, as it looked like nothing we'd ever seen. I don't know quite how to say this, but Mr Potbelly's private part was out and it was shaped just like a cork screw. It looked like a black uncooked spiral noodle. Very gross and nasty looking, to say the least.
The kids let out horrified screams and ran away. Gordon and I stared, perplexed and speechless. Gordon got his wits back before me. Thoughtfully and slowly he articulated, "That gives a whole new meaning to 'screwing around.'"
Last week the ferret society called to interview me. That is what they do before allowing one of their ferrets to be adopted. Hannah is in the market for a ferret and evidently has been harassing the society. Finally they called me to conduct the interview and plan for an in-home assessment. Kind of intense, don't you agree? Throughout the lengthy interview I was thinking, "It's a ferret for goodness sake, not a child."
As our interview progressed, I learned things about ferrets that the books from the library had neglected to tell us.
Tip off question #1: "Are you prepared to spend $60 a month for ferret food?" Hello? That's more than my dogs, cat, fish, and hamsters eat collectively. She preceded to inform me that ferrets need SPECIAL food and nothing but SPECIAL food will do. I knew I'd throw the carnivorous ferret an occasional hunk of meat, so with no intention at all of spending $60 a month for ferret food, but assuming the gist of the question was really if I planned to feed him, I answered yes.
Tip off question #2, and about 25 minutes into the interview: "Are you prepared to spend a minimum of $2500 in vet bills over the course of the next 7 years for your ferret? Hummm, let me think about this: Are you trying to pawn a really sick ferret off on me? I didn't ask that, but I thought it. Turns out ferrets are susceptible to cancers and many other sad maladies. Whereupon learning this, I politely told her to kiss off. Not really, I politely told her that there was no way I could make that kind of commitment. She was gracious and understood my position.
Ferret-Society-Interview Lady and I said our goodbyes. Hannah had been right beside me throughout the whole interview. I told her what the lady had said about ferrets being such expensive animals to own. After my explaining what I'd learned I said, "So Hannah, I think when you're older, one night when you're not teaching art, you and the hubby need to hop in the PT Cruiser and go and buy yourselves a ferret, because I just can't afford one."
She cried. I held her. I again told her, "Maybe when you're grown..." I was impressed with her astute money sense. Through her tears she said, "What a foolish way to spend money."
Gordon, being the good Daddy he is, concocted a secure little home for Chirp in the spruce tree Hannah found him under.
Hannah checked on him this morning. She could hear two birds in the tree, but Chirp wasn't in his "nest." Hopefully he was enjoying a wren-style family reunion.
I went to bed much later than the girls last night. I tucked them all into their own beds, but when I went to bed, this is what I found, all of them asleep in my bed. Yesterday some dingbat at school told them about demons and how they sometimes attack you and choke you to death while you sleep. I guess Mom and Dad's bed felt much safer and secure.
2nd Place Winner
Well, well, well, I don't mean to brag, but (picture me snorting like Barney on Andy Griffith), my Hannah won second place in the interest fair at school. It was such a cute display and she put her heart and soul in it. It was soooo Hannah and she deserved her win.
Rachael's looked nice too. Deborah's display board kept falling over, but Harry the hamster was a big hit. Kids are so smart these days. There were displays that boggled my mind. Smart, creative, artistic, and elaborate.
Attendees voted on the best displays. First, Second, and Honorable Mention were the voting options. As Gordon and I made our way around the gym, we were impressed with the many displays. I voted for all my girls, I admit. Gordon, on the other hand, was more methodical. He stood thoughtfully in front of each display. I was like a dripping faucet behind him: "You can't vote for him, he tripped Deborah on purpose last year." "You can't vote for her, she laughed when Rachael auditioned for the solo." "He is really a mean kid, don't vote for him." "She's a brat, don't vote for her." "Oh looky there, her Mom did a fine job on that one." Finally Gordon turned around and told me to leave him alone.
I finished my cake decorator's training and now live from mild panic attack to the next mild panic attack. I fear customers pointing to pictures in the cake book and saying, "I want that one in one hour." I can do some things, but please don't ask me for the Christening cake, or the Barbie, or the Bob the Builder, or the Dora the Explorer, or Harry Potter,.... or anything else out of the book. I don't know how. Please don't even look at me while I'm working. All my writing on cakes is crooked and silly looking. My pansies look like cacti and my roses look like butt holes. Oooooohhhhh, why did I ever do this???????
I can decorate a cake as a homemaker and be happy with it. Even today I made cupcakes for Rachael's teacher's birthday and they were precious. But I don't think I've got the ability to ever be a professional. I wish I'd never gone down this stupid professional decorator path. I feel like a retard. I must have heard 10 times today, "Why are you doing it that way? I showed you how to do this already." Even my adoring husband looked at my red velvet cakes and asked what the red blob on the top was. It was a rose bud, but no one could possibly know.
I've been dreading tomorrow for months. I was subpoenaed as a witness to a hit-and-run by a drunk driver. Although I have dreaded it, now that it will pull me away from buttercream icing, I am happy to testify and only wish I could serve society in this way more often.
Today the girls found a pathetic cat and brought it home. We have spared many a pet from a lonely death. This poor cat couldn't stand up. Its nose was partially missing and its ears too. It was so pitiful. We wrapped him up and took him to the pound. The lady who admitted him about scared us silly. "You need to go home right away, bathe and put your clothes in the wash on the hot cycle." And that is precisely what we did. An hour later we phoned to find out what happened to the poor cat and they had euthanized it.
That little experience made me thankful to be in a civilized and humane society that deals with those things compassionately. I am proud that my girls are caring and that we played a roll in ending its awful life in a loving manner.
That reminds me of a magpie (scavenger bird) that the girls rescued. They promptly named her Maggie. She had a broken wing and a broken leg. We made a make-shift home for her in the backyard. The girls fed her and tried to nurse her back to health. On day two of this operation, on the way to a church picnic, it started to downpour and Hannah and Deborah began to wail, "WHAT ABOUT MAGGIE?" I turned the van around and drove home. The girls got some towels to wrap Maggie in and away we went with Maggie with us. Because I kept going to the van and checking on the bird, everyone knew about her.
A friend mentioned that she and her kids found an orphaned rabbit and had thought about calling us. I was puzzled that she thought about calling me about this orphaned rabbit and asked her why. A friend across the table answered the obvious that I had missed. She said, "Valerie, you have a magpie in your van." Turns out, we have a reputation of rescuing the oppressed. I can think of plenty of worse reputations.
Maggie lasted a couple more days and then died. The girls buried her, built a cross out of sticks, and wrote an epitaph on the rocks on top of her grave. Hannah wrote and recited a poem about Maggie at the burial. It was moving, even if it was all about a Magpie.
Sweet, sweet kids I have!
We didn't have real bath toys, but made our fun with cans, shampoo bottles, and occasionally a bowl or cup. On the day boy parts registered, Michael and I were playing when I noticed he had something that would go up and down in the bathtub waves. I was mesmerized by his "floaty." Michael noticed I was staring and he gingerly placed the brown Hershey's cocoa can it over his floating part. That was the last bath we had together.
I have a young cousin who recently saw her grandpa at the toilet. She ran telling, "Grandpa has a tail!" Now when she observes him walking to the bathroom, she follows him and wails dramatically on the other side of the closed door, "I want to see your tail."
We mothers have come a long way in how we tell our kids the facts of life. I for one am happy we've made this progress. When I was a youngster I was given two books. They really screwed me up. After reading those books, I was ashamed to be among the human race.
The pictures of sperm resembled watermelon seeds, so I swore off the melon family for a few years. I watched in horror as others ate watermelon wondering if they would become pregnant by the seeds. Far as I know, no one did, but I wasn't taking any chances.
One of those insightful books said to make a baby, a husband and wife lay close to each other (a little understated, don't you think?) and gaze into each others' eyes. The sperm enters the female and joins her egg and a baby begins. After learning that, I developed darting eyes. I didn't want to inadvertently gaze into someone's eyes and get his sperm in me.
Years passed and the grossness wore off some and was replaced by curiosity. Lawana, my trusted sister-in-law, became my personal supplier of information. Once she and I were at our local country corner store where we saw they had recently added Playgirl to their magazine selection. I was curious and I think Lawana was too, but she was more curious about my reaction than the contents of the magazine.
We stood around waiting casually for the few customers to leave and for Mrs. Weatherbe to busy herself with something out of sight of the magazines. When the coast was clear, I picked up a Playgirl thinking I knew what to expect. (Was I expecting to see men and women gazing into each others' eyes?)
"It was huge! Did you see it? It wasn't normal," I declared indignantly, as if I knew what normal was.
She was an early bloomer in the awareness department. She started asking questions at three and I gave enough information to satisfy her questions. When I was pregnant with Christopher, her curiosity grew right along with my belly. I put on a brave front, using words that still make me blush. I was proud of my maturity and wisdom
The day arrived when she marched up and asked, "What do you do with your legs?" I don't know where my motherly wisdom and maturity were in those moments, but they clearly weren't giving me any inspiration. I toyed with telling her "a husband and wife lay close and gaze into each others' eyes....," but decided it wasn't good to lie.
I've given the same little sex education speeches to four other children since then, and never have I been asked, "What do you do with your legs?"
"Well," I began to answer slowly, still quite unsure what was to follow. "When you are old enough to have sex," I stammered, "you can take your legs off." She was satisfied, although awed, and I was relieved when she walked away.
Stephanie continued to be totally fascinated with the subject. (I'm sure that fascination is serving her well these days as a newlywed.) She told me a couple years ago (prior to getting married) as we laughed about the above conversation, "I'm still trying to figure it out what you do with your legs."
When she was 8, Gordon bought me a series called Wildlife Fact Files. I was intrigued and fascinated learning about the different creatures God created. I was thrilled when Stephanie appeared to be following in my interest and began spending hours reading it too. Later I figured out she was only reading the mating and breeding habits of all the animals.
Since that little exercise -- that yielded eight more hamsters that the girls also watched be born -- the girls have been satisfied with their knowledge and haven't asked many questions.
The other night though, Hannah asked if so many sperm are released at the same time, "What happens if two sperm reach the egg at exactly the same time?" I pondered for a second or two and then said, "I really don't know, but it's a really good question."
She bounced off the sofa and did a gig like a football player after scoring a touchdown. With her arms raised, she yelled energetically for the sperm, "Tie game, tie game!"
By evening I could smell them in my bedroom. I shouted, "I can smell those rats from here and they've gotta go." No one argued. The smell was pretty convincing.
The next morning Gordon took the girls and their mice back to Petsmart. He told the clerks that the mice stank and the clerk matter-of-factly said, "Oh yeah, mice stink, especially males." (Ours, of course, were males).
An hour later my family arrived home with two new hamsters. Dusty and Smudge bring our rodent population up to a bustling three. I'm fine with hamsters, I even like them. We've had several and they've all been loved.
I took Fabian everywhere with me. We lived on a farm so I explored with Fabian either in my arms or beside me. When Fabian was still very small, a young kitten, I put her down while I played in a stream. I lost track of time and couldn’t find Fabian when I got ready to proceed to the next adventure. I looked for her the remainder of the day.
Because she was so tiny and lost so far from the house, my mom and dad said I probably wouldn't be able to find her. They warned me that a wild animal might have gotten her. I went to bed crying. As I cried, I asked God to help me find Fabian.
I spent a good part of the next day looking for her, but to no avail. On the third day, as I walked across a pasture I stumbled onto Fabian, lying lifeless in the tall grass. I picked her limp body up and she cracked her eyes. She was alive, but barely.
As gently as I could I carried her home. Mama and Daddy said she was dead, but when I told them she’d opened her eyes when I picked her up, they examined her more closely. Her body was ravaged. She was terribly skinny and she was missing some of her fur. Daddy imagined that the dogs had had a game of tug-of-war with her. We could feel torn and broken things inside her. I don’t know whet we were feeling, but it wasn’t normal.
Mama and Daddy told me she was going to die. I took a saucer of milk and cat food to my room and began my vigil on my bed. She was non-responsive. I dipped my finger in the milk and rubbed it on her nose and lips. I stayed by her side and prayed. “God please help Fabian get better. Please help her get well.”
Mama and Daddy came to my bedroom throughout the day. They tried to prepare me for her impending death. At night I drifted off to sleep stroking her mangled body and praying for her.
The next morning there was no noticeable improvement, but by the afternoon, she licked her nose and lips when I put milk on them. She didn’t raise her head or even open her eyes. I held her like a baby and kept praying, “God please help Fabian get better.”
Finally Fabian tried to stand. She fell down several times, but eventually was able to drink a saucer of milk. Later she ate several kernels of cat food.
Within a few days she was chasing a ball and doing regular kitten things like climbing the living room curtains, much to my mom’s chagrin.
I was young but I knew a miracle when I saw one. God had answered my prayer and I experienced personally the love of God for the first time in my life. I was the only one who prayed for Fabian so I felt exhilarated knowing it was MY prayer that God had answered.
That childhood experience was one of those pivotal moments in my life. That experience was the beginning place of what would become a life of prayer.
“Oh God, you have taught me from my earliest childhood.” Psalm 71:17
As I read I came across something that made me want to jot in the margin of my book. Because I had heard Rachael writing something a bit earlier, I asked if she had a pencil. What she had was a marker. She offered to get me a pencil, "I have lots," she said. I asked her where and she said they were under her mattress. I asked why she had pencils under her mattress and she said, "So I'll always know where they are."
Rachael is a hoarder. She has hoarded many a treasure in her nine years. Have you ever heard it said that if you play the piano when you're pregnant, your baby will be a pianist? Well I've often smiled and said since I had a hamster (a hoarder) when I was pregnant with her, she's a hoarder.
When Christopher was three or four he found a 3-legged turtle. He named him Lucky because, "He's lucky to have me." He loved his little turtle. Once we came home and Lucky was gone. Christopher cried and cried saying someone stole Lucky. I told him that perhaps Lucky crawled away. "Lucky would never leave me, he loved me," Christopher wailed. It was a sad day.
Two years later when Christopher and Stephanie went back to Arkansas after spending the summer with us, I was very depressed. Gordon bought me a cute little tan Teddy Bear hamster. I named her Lucky because she was "lucky to have me." (Lucky had indeed been lucky in the recent past because nine days after we got her she gave us 11 more little hamsters.)
We had Lucky until she died peacefully in her sleep three years later. Gordon buried her in the flower bed in front of our townhouse.
Meanwhile Rachael was born. As soon as she was mobile, it became obvious that she was a hoarder. Gordon and I made jokes about her being our little hamster child.
When she was about 18 months old, things began to disappear. One day I was in the kitchen and out of the corner of my eye I saw chunky little Rachael lift the floor vent and put something in it. I knelt down, pulled the vent up and ran my arm down into the elbow of the heat duct. I found a cache of treasures: Gordon's watch, two sets of keys, Gordon's toothbrush, half a moldy hot dog, a sippy cup, coloring book, and various little Fisher Price animals.
To this day Rachael collects and hoards things. Last night I learned of a pencil stash. Two summers ago I found a number of beetles in her underwear drawer.
Unfortunately I didn't play the piano when I was pregnant with her. But I did love my hamster Lucky and Rachael is living proof.