Monday, December 22, 2014


The kind that milk cows morning and evening and come in from the barn needing a shower.  That was my definition of a farmer.  I was pretty sure I would never marry one.  I mean really?!  We do have a choice whom we marry, right?  I didn’t have to sign up for a lifetime of pouring feed and pushing cows around.
I remember one time when an old family friend stopped by for the evening.  This man could earn money in many different ways and one of his occupations was shearing sheep.  Up to that point I had never actually met a sheep before.  I knew they weren’t white and fluffy like pictures made them look but I had never actually touched or come close to a sheep.  Much to my mother’s chagrin, long after the man had cleaned up and left, days later, there was still an odor about the house that smelled of bad wool and lanolin.  It was then that we found his old shoes in the laundry room, left behind because their odor was so offensive they could never have been fit for anything other than the garbage.
I don’t remember when Ian first learned I had a keen sense of smell.  Probably shortly after we started courting because I told him that I knew he was in the room because I could smell his cologne.  Ian was a bit afraid I might not like him because he had chosen sheep and animals as a way of life and I might not approve of the smell.  I will admit, I wasn’t crazy about how sheep smelled at first.  But somehow with lots of love for the Shepherd I decided I could deal with it.  Because, after all, it was Ian’s love and dream to work with sheep.  I watched him shear, and on occasion would hold my breath and scoop up the shorn fleece and haul it off to the bag.  Only to come away with a lingering smell, and lanolin on my hands.  The more I came to know Ian, the more I learned the value he placed on farming.  His love for sheep came right after his love for God and his love for me.  I was married to a farmer!
Ian always tried to be careful about not dragging in too much odor when he came in from chores, but I could smell it, even in his beard.  As time went by I came to not just tolerate the smell but even to enjoy it.  It meant my husband was doing what he loved, and that made my heart full and content.
And then, it started getting harder to do chores, to move fences, to scoop feed and fork hay.  Slowly Ian had to give up caring for sheep.  Only a few now and then, and not the large flocks he wanted.  The equipment he had accumulated for his work has been sitting.  Unused.  Waiting.  And we’ve been waiting too.  Waiting for life to change.  For energy to come back.  It’s been almost two years.  And the reality is that life has not returned to what it was.  The letting go has become more than a conversation.  It has become life.
Ian started posting his equipment on Craigslist.  Trailers drove away with new owners.  And just this week a few more pieces of equipment rolled off the property.  And with each piece it feels like Ian is losing a part of his dream.  A part of his identity.  A part of himself.
I tell myself it would be easier.  Easier if there was something to replace the dream.  Some direction for moving forward.  I tell myself it would be easier if it had all disappeared in some horrible disaster.  Then at least we’d know.  And we’d know we have to move on.  But instead it’s a slow death.  One day at a time.  Letting go, with nothing for stability but our relationship with Christ.
Last evening I found myself in the kitchen wondering what to do?  I knew that Ian was having a difficult evening, which meant I was in tears.  I’ve found that one of the best ways to bring cheer to Ian’s heart is when one of his sisters or friends calls to say hello.  I wanted to call someone, anyone and ask them to call Ian and encourage him.  I tried but they were busy.  This sibling was doing this and another was too far away and another was having family time.  In my heart of hearts I knew that God could send the balm for my husbands pain.  But as a wife, what do you do when your husband is hurting?  Hurting deeply.  Feeling the loss of the future.
When Christmas rolls around each year it often gives us pause to think and remember and miss the absent and think about the important.  Beauty seems more real, trials more difficult, separation more keenly felt.  We all long for a miracle to somehow come and mend our broken lives.  To rewind or fast forward to another day, another time.  I find my heart longing for something big to happen and heal the pain in my life.
Oh my heart- how do I reach out to the man I love most on all this earth?  How do I encourage him through the pain of this night?  This night of losing?  God, where is my heart’s miracle?
And then it happened.  Through nothing I did, Ian’s sister, Mary Heather, called him all the way from Paraguay.  And when I saw Ian next, his face was bright with a smile!  My miracle had happened and all that was left was for my soul to recognize it and revel in it.
Two thousand years ago, God sent a miracle for my heart.  His only Son came to this earth and daily I experience His hope and His grace if I choose.  The miracle of birth.  The miracle of a baby.  A God-baby that came and dwelt among us to show us mercy in our sin.  This was the big miracle that my heart longs to know and understand more every year.  And through this miracle, I can daily receive the gifts of life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Man of Sorrows

It's been quite a while since I posted last.  Ian has been doing a bit better this spring and summer and with his rise in energy, my heart has not needed the emotional release valve as often.  Which means I haven't written as much lately.  While life has still been difficult, and at times, very trying, we've had many moments of joy.

During the more difficult times I've been thinking a lot about who Jesus was to the people around Him when He lived here on earth.  He was called:

“A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…”  This all – man – all – God knew what it was like.  He was acquainted with grief.  He did not run.  He did not hide from it.  He wore it like a robe.  A man of sorrows.  It was a part of the very essence of who He was.
These words have become ever more real to me.  As Ian and I have walked through the last few weeks and months and now a year, I have told God often that I want this experience to change me.  I want a softness to the grief’s and suffering’s of others because of our experience.  When I hear of the earth groaning in grief.  The ravages of war.  Refugees, thirsty, hungry with nowhere to turn.  Illness, and death creeping into my life from all angles.  My heart cries out to God for mercy!  How does God, who knows all things, continue to allow this sinful world to destroy itself?  It makes my heart daily more grateful for the redemption we can have through Jesus Christ.

Ian was one of the first people who truly taught me how to cry.
As a child I was either all sunshine or all rain.  I had no emotional even keel.  As a teen I became embarrassed by my inability to control my tears.  Experiences marred, formed and shaped me into a young woman who rarely cried and if I did, it was alone.  I learned to bottle my tears behind my eyes even in the most difficult of times and would show them only to God in the darkest or quietest of moments.  My friends called me, “Iron maiden.”

“I don’t understand tears,” I told Ian.  “Tears make me feel vulnerable and manipulative.  When I cry it makes my head hurt and there is nothing soothing about them.”

To me, tears were another language that I fought against using.  So when they did come, it was with bitterness not relief that they flowed.

I watched almost fascinated when Ian would break down mid sentence when telling me about some difficulty someone was going through.  He told me many times that tears are a gift.  That it’s ok to cry even when we don’t know why we are crying.  That crying with someone creates a beautiful bond.

Slowly, with much encouragement I began to learn to cry.  As I write, I realize I’ve come a long way, and have a long way yet to go.  I’ve cried for many reasons in the past but only just a few weeks ago did I really cry, just because I could and because the pain felt so deep and because for the first time it felt as if tears brought relief.  I want to continue to learn how to cry, how to really feel with those around me.  How to be touched like Christ was touched.  How to let tears fall unabashed and unabated until Jesus returns.

I doubt that Jesus’s acquaintance with grief had much at all to do with people dying a physical death around Him.  Instead I think He walked as a Man of Sorrows, a Godman who knew and fully understood the ravages of sin and Satan.  Families falling apart, one angry, careless word at a time.  Fathers, mothers, crying, “Why me?!  Why us?”  Sudden accidents tearing hearts and lives to shreds.  The slow ravages of lust and greed.  The destruction of sickness.  He knows and truly understands the awfulness of sin and the devastation it has brought to our world.

I’ve told myself countless times to be strong in the midst of pain.  I’m learning that there are different types of strength.  One type of strength I want nothing to do with.  It’s the strength that says, “When everyone else has fallen apart I have to be strong because who else will pick up the pieces?”  It’s the strength that is it’s own form of ugly.  Jesus, as Savior of the world, when everyone else around Him was grieving the loss of Lazarus was so acquainted with grief that He joined them in weeping.  He didn’t ask, “Who will be there to pick up the pieces?”  Because He knew that despite everything, only God can truly pick up the pieces of our lives and help to put us back together.  Any strength that I have that makes me think I could, is false and full of self.

I do want to be strong in truth and righteousness.  When the battle of my heart to die to self and what I want rages, I want to be founded on Christ Jesus who says that He is the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life.  I want to allow God to change my heart because of the things we are experiencing.  Father make me pliable!

Friday, February 14, 2014


  You prayed, despite your throat hurting so much you could hardly talk, “God give her the emotional support she needs to live through today.” 
And you and I, we cried. 
Only culture thinks it knows what our Valentine’s Day should look like, feel like, be like. 
You saw past the chocolates, the cards, the teddy bears and the roses, you saw my real soul-need.

  In our vows, when we married, before God and four hundred silent witnesses, we said we’d be there for each other,
“…in joy or sorrow, sickness or health, wealth or want, till death do us part…”
And on that balmy evening I knew I could not prove faithful those words, spoken by a fallen tongue. 
“…With God’s Divine assistance, I hereby pledge thee my troth.”
  It’s only in the knowing God that I can be faithful.  It’s only in the commitment of my heart to Him, daily, over and over again that I can be faithful to this greatest of earthly gifts.
  This gift of you. 
My Ian.
My Love.

  When I’m sick you’re there for me.  You massage my feet, hold me while I cough and cry and check on me every few minutes to see if you can get me anything else.  You’ve been faithful as best you know how.  You daily die to self, for me.
I shrink sometimes from doing the same for you. 
And I know you must feel it.

Thank you for committing to love me through it all.
  The dirty house, the coughing, the forgetfulness, the burnt lima beans, the late meals, the attitude and spirit that does not always choose to put you first.

  Thank you for committing to love me despite myself, and despite the woman I’ve become since first you vowed to love me.

  And while the world celebrates Valentine’s Day around us, you and I, we’ll eat noodle soup and peaches ‘cause it’ll slide down your sore throat easier. 

And you and I, we’ll choose to live a picture of real love.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A New Year

Today I was reveling in the thought that even though the journey seems difficult right now, God continues to shower us with blessings above and beyond our needs.  He is faithful.

January 2014.  It is today.  It is here and now.  It is this moment.  Last May it seemed that the end of the year would be so hard to reach.
Today we look at what feels like a year of unknown, struggle, and challenge ahead of us.  The only thing that can quiet my heart from beating into a frenzy is the sure tones of my Heavenly Father saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee…”

After our trip to Mayo, the second week in December, we came home and waited for the results to come back.  One by one they came.  And in the end, all was well.  The tests were all normal including the second muscle biopsy.  The doctors tell us that while something is wrong with Ian’s muscles, they don’t know what it is.  Unless his symptoms change, or his illness becomes more severe, they do not have any other tests to suggest.  Without understanding what is wrong, they haven’t been able to give us a diagnosis or a prognosis.

If I knew what to say after that… I’d say it…

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
     I will joy in the God of my salvation. -Hab 3:18

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come!

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I’ll never forget hearing these words sung by a room full of grandparents.  A few years ago when I was teaching at Sonlight school we had a ‘Grandparents’ day and invited all the grandparents of the students to come and spend the day with us at school.  After lunch, and a few stories from the grandparents, we asked them to sing a song for us and they chose this hymn.  I distinctly remember the goose bumps running up my arm as I realized the lives that must have walked behind the boldness of their voices as they sang this hymn.  “Great is Thy faithfulness…Thou changest not… as Thou hast been, Thou forever will be… Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…” 


After writing my last post I told Ian a day later that I was ready to post something else for people to read.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to accept the reality of everyone knowing how I really feel at times.  So why not post something more cheerful?
The reality is, I still feel that way.  I still feel lost.
People ask Ian, “How are you doing?”  And he replies, “I’m doing ok.  I’m glad to be here.” 
And I want to shout to the heavens, “My Ian’s not ok!” 
I want to howl at the moon, “He’s not doing well!  We don’t know what is going on!  We do have problems!”
Instead I mostly just say, “He’s not well, but he’s doing ok.” 
I wish I could say other things.  I wish I could smile when I talk about our lives instead of turning my head and biting my lip to keep from crying.  I wish my nose didn’t run so much when I cried.  At least then I’d look more dignified. I realize I don’t know what it means to be faithful.  I don’t know what it means to go on.  I don’t know what it means to find hope in God.  I don’t know what it means to live in grace.  But I long to know.  I long for my heart to be changed.  Like one of my friends put it so beautifully, “My heart aches, and my tears flow… and I long for heaven.”
Together, Ian and I are facing daily challenges, and we are learning.  Someday in heaven we’ll know what it truly means to receive and live in grace.  We’ll know what it truly means to believe and trust.  In the mean time we’ll try, we’ll struggle and we’ll choose God.

We were privileged to spend a few days in LA and MS with the Bennett side of the family over Thanksgiving.  I had a terrible head cold that had me in bed the Saturday before we left.  I don’t know when the last time was that I felt that sick.  Dear Emily, a church friend, came over and washed up my counter full of dishes and did our laundry and even ironed Ian’s everyday shirts.  He’s still looking sharp in them!  And then, she went back to her parent’s home where the Pifer family was having their Thanksgiving/Christmas get together and the ladies made up a freezer full to meals for us and delivered them!  Remind me again how to respond to such generosity?

It was a blessing to be able to sort of leave our troubles and worries behind while we travelled south.  I was rather surprised to realize after only a few days that I felt like I was truly able to live in the present and not worry about the future.  It was a good reminder to me that often I take God’s faithfulness as only something to be sung about and not lived in a commitment to trust.

And now we’re home.  We plan to go again to Mayo next week on Tuesday, to see if we can schedule an appointment for a muscle biopsy.  And God continues to shower us with blessings.  Our local church community has pulled together, for us, in so many little ways.  I know I’d have fallen apart a long time ago if it weren’t for their continued support, prayers, meals, love, blessing and encouragement.  Just this morning after church they surprised us with 26 packages, one for every letter of the alphabet for Ian to open over the next 26 days.  The other week when Ian was feeling especially low physically, and also in spirit, I came home from work to a rather large looking package in the mail from NC.  We opened it and together we cried and thanked God for what was inside.  Some of our dear friends from a church in NC that have been praying for us, put together a puzzle with encouraging scripture verses on each piece.  They also included a note with words of encouragement and what they’ve been praying for us.  Some of the people who sent notes we didn't even know.  Our hearts were blessed and I continue to look at it and am reminded to “Hope in God, for my expectation is from Him.”  Yet another church blessed us with a very large financial gift to help with general living expenses.  And did I mention all the gifts and packages that have come in the mail to us over the last months from family and friends and even those we don’t know?  We daily stand in awe of a God who knows how to give, “Every good and perfect gift.”

Though we are facing a difficult life journey, we are learning together what it means to find joy and to rejoice with a very deep, soul-joy during the especially low times.  So, while I may look like I have it all together at times, there are also moments where I do feel much like I’m falling apart, like I, or we, can’t go on into the future unless something changes.  
We’re learning to live in the presence of One Who

“Restores our soul, Who leads us in the path of righteousness, Who anoints our head with oil and Who truly causes our cup to run over with blessings.”
 (Psalm 23 paraphrased)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Confessions of a distraught wife…

I don’t do a good job of taking care of myself.

Ian is having a not-so-good day.

Sometimes I’m a work-a-holic.

My pile of mending is about to cascade off the sewing table onto the floor.

I didn’t clean our bathroom for over a month.

Baskets of clean, unfolded laundry sit around.  Most of the time.

I’m funny sometimes.  But normally I’m not.

I drink coffee every morning.  I didn’t used to.

Tonight I thought about running away.
Only thing… I would have to leave my heart behind.  It would hurt too much to take it with me.  Since being heartless isn’t an option.  I guess I’ll stay.

Shadrach bit me because he wasn’t excited about having Meshach and Abednego as friends.

Since I’ve moved to IA I’ve become a terrible driver.

Ian is often hungry and I usually don’t know what to feed him.

I bought another plant yesterday.

My refrigerator makes our food smell and taste funny.

I cry most days.  Every day.  Mostly.

I hurt when I see strength.  I cry when I see goodness.  I’m so mixed up and confused inside sometimes, mostly.

It’s the moments when hope is wiped away.  When I can’t see anything in the future.  It’s simply a void pulling me along.  Some days I hate time.  I hate the feeling of needing to do the never-ending list of, ‘have tos’, ‘should dos’ and ‘must dos’.  I hate the feeling of time slipping away.  And when I realize that Ian might get worse instead of better, I’m annoyed at myself for wasting these moments we do have together.  I’m annoyed at myself for crying.  I’m annoyed at myself for not treasuring life.

Sometimes I don’t know how I will go on.  Sometimes I don’t know how I will face the next few moments let alone tomorrow or in five years.  Sometimes I want to scream even though it would make my throat hurt and even though I don’t like screaming at all.

We talk those serious talks about the future.  We try to take into consideration all the options.  Even death.  And it all hurts too much.

I tell myself not to worry.  I tell Ian not to worry.  I say, “Stop worrying!”  I realize I am worrying.  What do I do?  What do I say?  What is worry?  How do I learn to quiet myself before God without a heart of worry?

I’ve fallen into a holding pattern that swings between, living as if Ian will someday change for the better, and the reality that not much has changed at all.

We spent a week a Mayo and then returned the following Tuesday for an MRI for Ian.  The doctor reported to us that the MRI showed nothing.  So far every single test Ian has gone through has come back normal except for the EMG.

EMG stands for Electromyography, a test that uses shocks and needles in the muscle to detect a problem with the nervous system or the muscles themselves.  Ian’s EMG did not find anything wrong with the nervous system but found some abnormalities in the muscles.  The EMG is not a diagnostic test but can only show that there is a problem.

We will go to Mayo for another appointment sometime within the next month for a muscle biopsy.  The doctor looked at us and said that there is, “Very, very little chance that we will find anything wrong, even with the muscle biopsy.”  We are going to go ahead with the biopsy.  Not as a last resort but as the next step.  We know that God is always the first and last resort and that is where we started and where we will end.  While we walked the halls of Mayo like hundreds and thousands before us with hopes of healing we also understood that there is only one true Physician and He can not only heal our illness and disease but He can heal our sin wracked lives with His precious blood.  And so while we are coming to the end of modern science’s understanding in this area, we know a God that created man and breathed life into him.  We are learning His faithfulness.

Thank you for your continued prayers, love and support for us.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Why do rabbits die?

It’s the Mayo Clinic haze.  It’s the first thing that hit me when I realized we were going and it remains hanging over our time as if I didn’t drink enough caffeine and I’m still trying to wake up.  Or maybe I hit my head on one of those marble pillars that support the elevator system between the Mayo and the Gonda building.  Sometimes my head throbs like I did.

Our first visit with Doctor Milone didn’t reveal much.  She sent Ian through the paces and gathered all the info from the previous tests that he has undergone.  She ordered more tests and a return visit on Friday.  The following days were a series of tests, not too intense, aside from the EMG on Thursday morning and a physical strength test on Friday that will have Ian wiped out for several days.

Ian’s sisters, Mary Heather and Rebecca came and spent almost the entire four days with us.  It was special to have them there.  They helped to cheer us on and cheer us up during the waiting times.

At one point I sat in the waiting room and looked over and saw another young couple sitting together.  He was the one there for an appointment and she sat next to him silently crying.  We didn’t get a chance to talk to them as we were called away to our appointment but it struck a cord in my heart.  So many, many, many ill people come and go through the halls of Mayo.  Each one is there seeking answers to some of life’s biggest questions.  Just like Ian’s little brother Clyde asked Ian last night.  “Ian, why do rabbits die?”  There is much in that simple question.  Hopes and dreams of today and tomorrow tied up and left to the inconsistencies of life.  And what is God saying in all of this?  I find the only place to rest is at the feet of the One who says, “I change not.”

Doctor Milone asked us if we wanted to go ahead and pursue a MRI and yet another muscle biopsy.  Why not?  Because it might reveal an incurable muscle disease.  So we ask, we wonder.  We hold tight to each other through the haze, and through the tears.  And like I read on the back of a pink sweatshirt that walked by, “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”

We’re home from Mayo for the weekend and we’ll head back up again on Tuesday.  Most likely for the rest of the week.