Tough Decision

0ES2We made a very tough decision to find a new home for our dog, Bear, several weeks ago. We asked around to see if anyone knew of a family who might be interested in having him. Having no luck, a friend recommended that we should contact Shooke Unleashed Animal Rescue facebook page to see if they could help. While they do not have an actual rescue shelter, the page owner goes to the local animal control shelter, which is a kill shelter, almost daily and takes photos of the dogs and cats that are there. She then posts the photos on her facebook page and tries to network and find homes for the animals. She often arranges transportation for the animals to other towns and she also makes an effort to help raise funds for military families who can’t afford to take their pets when they move overseas. The page owner posted Bear’s information and photo on the page and after a few days a family said they were interested in him! The problem was that they live in Albuquerque which is 3 three hours away from us. It turned out that the page owner had a friend who was going to ABQ and she was able to take Bear with her to meet the new family. After a couple of hours of him interacting with the family and their pets, they decided to keep Bear! We were in constant communication with them over the whole process and felt really good about Bear staying with them. From the photos I have seen, Bear seems to be very happy!

We rescued Bear when he was 7 weeks old from the Animal Control Shelter. We understood the work involved with owning a puppy. Shane has always been good at training dogs (ours and friends’). We made sure he was healthy and up to date on all vaccines and we had him fixed when he was 6 months old. At the end of July, Shane’s schedule started changing when he moved to a new squadron and he was away from home more frequently. In August and September, my schedule changed drastically because of all of the activities and events the girls and I participate in during the school year. Bear was always kenneled at night and now because of our schedules was kenneled most of the day as well. He was not getting much attention and when he was not kenneled he was being destructive (indoors and outdoors) as a way to let out his pent up energy. When we found out that Shane was going overseas, we made the decision to find Bear a new home.

Surprisingly, we were met with a lot of criticism for making this decision by people who don’t even know us (or the page owner). Comments on Bear’s photo included… “Sad this family is willing to just let him go after they rescued him. When will people quit treating their pets like disposable trash? If your child was hyper, would you rehome him or her??? Hope they never consider getting another dog!” I saw similar comments on other photos of dogs who needed to be re-homed for various reasons. Honestly, I was offended by the rude comments on Bear’s photo and other photos. I love animals and would never do anything to intentionally harm them. We felt that we were doing what was best for Bear and us. While taking him back to the shelter we rescued him from could have been an option, we did our best to find a good family who would love him and care for him so that wouldn’t happen. We didn’t ask for money and we gave everything we had that belonged to Bear to the new family. It is not unusual for people to just dump their unwanted pets on the side of the road or in a field. It is also not uncommon for someone to shoot an unwanted pet. We did neither of those things. We rescued him and gave him a good home for the many months that he was with us. I have a hard time with the fact that we were basically being called bad parents because we found a new home for our pet. Yes, we treat our pets as members of the family but they are not equal to our children. And sometimes finding a new home is what is best for the pet.

This was a decision we made over a period of time and after many tears the process of finding Bear a new home is over. We will miss Bear but we are still okay with the decision we made because it is what was best for everyone and Bear. We hope the new family and Bear will be happy together for a long time.

The new owner posted this photo on the rescue page with the following message:

“Nyla and Bear are bff’s now!

I really can’t thank you enough for helping us out and bringing him to us!”

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We are very happy that Bear has found a good home.

Thank you Shooke Unleashed and volunteers for helping us!

 

Pumpkin Patch

One thing I wanted to make sure that we did this season was go to the pumpkin patch. This is something that Noriko has never experienced. For our family, it has become a Fall favorite. We love to go do the mazes and activities and best of all choose our pumpkins for decoration outside our front door. It reminds me of my childhood, living in rural Delaware, surrounded by corn fields and barns with hay bales.

We went to Davis Farms here in Clovis, New Mexico with some friends on a crisp and windy autumn day. They had a hay bale maze for little kids. A hay bale mountain to climb on with a tunnel going through it. A large corn maze. A hay ride to the pumpkin patch where we picked our own pumpkins. There were not many people at the farm and it was nice to do everything at our own pace. We spent a few hours there and then went to IHOP for dinner and hot chocolate to warm us up! My friend Stephanie took most of the photos (I love the one with the kids in the tunnel)! And yes, this is counting as a field trip/school day for my girls! 🙂

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Trying New Things!

I am having a lot of fun making Noriko try new things!

When I found out she had never eaten Pumpkin Pie, I had to make it for her. This is an American dessert that is a staple during autumn! She loved it! And of course my girls did too 🙂

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I also made her try Black Licorice… She did NOT like that!

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Other things I have made her try include: pumpkin cake, homemade tapioca pudding, potato soup, homemade jam (of different flavors), sour patch kids, Big Mac, and much more. She likes most things that I have given her (or at least she says she does 🙂 ). She loves to eat!

 

My Valley

Several years ago, I shared part of my personal testimony as a Mother’s Day post (you can see original post here). A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to share a devotional with my women’s Bible study group. A few days before I had to share,  I had a pretty personal conversation with Noriko that lead to me sharing my testimony with the women (most of which had not heard it before). I did make some changes from my original post but most of it is unchanged or just rearranged. I did not share all of this with Noriko [my exchange student from Japan who was with us during the 2013/2014 school year] just the parts below that I specifically mention her. So here is what I shared with my friends:

I was saved as a young child and grew up in a Christian but very dysfunctional home. As the oldest of 4 kids I had to grow up way too quickly while we dealt with severe illnesses, divorce, remarriages, constant moves, financial insecurity, and a whole lot more. When I was young; all I wanted in life was to get married and have kids. I dated several guys throughout high school and had serious relationship my senior year and after high school another serious relationship that lead to engagement. Shane and I started dating a few months after my previous engagement ended. We got married in 2002. I jumped into a marriage expecting it to cure all of life’s problems but I carried a lot of my childhood baggage with me. I quickly found out that life’s problems didn’t go away just because I switched households and who I was accountable to. We had a great first year of marriage. After that our careers (Shane-Military & Me-Nursing) and different shifts carried us in different directions and from there our marriage went downhill on so many different levels. We also experienced several difficulties which included me being in a major car accident which God totally and graciously spared my life. In February 2005; I found out that I was pregnant. I had always wanted children and was very excited. I called and told a lot of my family and friends as soon as I found out. My excitement was soon crushed with pain and bleeding. At first the doctor didn’t say for sure that I was miscarrying. But as a nurse who had worked in the OB-GYN field, I knew what was going on. In my pain and while I was still hoping for the best; I wrote the following poem:

My Valley

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death;

You give me strength to sing.

Only you know why I am going through this trial.

I can rest in your comforting arms.

Not knowing what the future holds for this life inside of me;

I give this child to you.

Like Hannah gave you Samuel before he was born,

Like Abraham gave you Isaac before the sacrifice,

I trust your will.

When I rest upon wings as eagles;

You will give me strength.

I shall run through this valley and not be weary.

I shall walk and not be faint.

When I found out that I was pregnant again in November of 2005; I was cautious and did not let everyone know. So when I miscarried again; I did not have to explain to a lot of people who offered their congratulations like the first time. During that time and for several months after; our marriage was in turmoil because of sin that Shane and I each individually had let into our lives. We almost got divorced but during the time we were trying to reconcile we got pregnant for a third time in May of 2006. I believe that God used that pregnancy to keep us together.

We moved to Okinawa, Japan where Kendal and later Audrey was born. For seven months after Audrey was born; I dealt with medical issues including a couple of surgeries. On top of that; our family experienced another major marriage crisis and I started to fall into depression. In 2009, we left Okinawa for about a month and went home to deal with our family situation. During that experience I started to learn what it meant to fully rely on God for comfort and strength.

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In the years since then I have been allowing God to work on me in a way that I never have before that year. The biggest continuing struggle for me has been the anger and bitterness in my life. Each time I experienced a crisis it just added to the problem. I have been able to truly forgive those who have hurt me just like Jesus forgave me on the cross. And I have been able to make time to focus on my relationship with God and my family. I journey with God regularly by praying, writing, singing, and accountability and He continues to heal me on a daily basis. I have not made it to where I need to be yet; but I am daily running the race and pressing towards the goal of being more Christlike. Through everything; God has continued to bless me, my marriage, and my family as a whole.

A few days ago, Noriko (my exchange student) and I had a conversation that inspired me to share all of this with you. Keep in mind that often when we have to explain things to her we have to continuously use her translator for words or concepts she is unfamiliar with. So it is not always a quick explanation. She was asking why Americans have middle names. This led into me explaining that we often choose names based on meaning or family connection. Audrey means Noble Woman and her middle name, Lynae, pays tribute to both my mom whose middle name is Lynn and Shane’s mom who’s first name is Lynn. I told Noriko that Kendal’s name was even more meaningful and explained to her that I had lost 2 babies through miscarriage before she was born. We chose the name Kendal back during our first miscarriage based on the poem which I wrote “as I walk through the valley of death”. In one name book; the meaning for Kendal is: “Ruler of the valley.” We thought that it would be a fitting name for a baby who overcame the valley of death and lived. Noriko seemed to be in awe over all of this.

At the end of my poem I referenced my favorite Bible verses Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

While I was Okinawa, I found a plaque that has the passage in both English and Japanese which is now hanging in our hallway. I showed it to Noriko and after she read it, I explained that when we are tired and broken and are going through things that bring us down, we put our trust in Jesus and he carries us back up so that we can fly again. In response, Noriko said that she likes Christian thinking 🙂

So in conclusion, I would like to emphasize that I give God all of the glory for continuing to work in my life through my trials. My message to all of you is God never promised that we would always be happy when we have Jesus as our Savior; instead he uses Paul’s testimony to tell us that Christians can have hardships far beyond our ability to endure.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 Paul says “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him. And he can always use our testimonies to impact other people and draw them into His kingdom.

(Eagle Photo found here)

Busy! Busy! Busy!!!

Busy really doesn’t even describe my life in the past two months! Which is why my blogging time has been non-existent. Noriko arrived and Fall came and all extra commitments started within the same few weeks.

August for the most part went pretty smoothly. The beginning of the month we were preparing for Noriko. When she arrived we eased her into our routine, registered her for school. She started school and quickly started to make friends. She changed a couple of her classes during the first couple of weeks and I met most of her teachers during the open house during the second week of school. (I was frustrated that one of her teachers didn’t even know she was an exchange student but that is off topic). We found out that there is a Japanese teacher at the school. She was excited when we met her and I know that she has been instrumental in helping Noriko adjusting to American High School!

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In September, I was struggling to manage our schedule to point that I could not figure out when I had time to homeschool. We were in and out of the house multiple times a day. We would come home from one thing but since we are leaving the house in an hour or two that there was no point in trying to do schooling. So my days were flying by without accomplishing my homeschooling goals.

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Even though I had two calendars and a day planner, I had to come up with a better way of keeping track of my schedule. During the course of a week, I wrote my schedule several times in several places in the hopes of finding what would work the best. Completely frustrated I went to an office store in town and spent an hour looking at calendars and day planners. I found a day planner that puts each week on a two page spread with spaces for times between 7 am and 8 pm.

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I finally was able to visualize my schedule! I started out using post-it tabs and color coded my schedule. My idea was that I could fill in my schedule for 2-3 weeks then transfer the tabs over to the following blank weeks. I realized that this would not work during the first week. With as much as I was using the planner, the tabs were bending and falling off. So, for following weeks I decided to color my planner! (Yes, I think I have OCD) I even scheduled lunch and dinner for most days! Even though most of the white space is full, I still have been able to be somewhat flexible. I generally know that all white space is free and all homeschooling space we should try to be home. But things do still come up like the lunch invite or the come over for coffee invite. Dinner time needs to be flexible and often is not when I have it blocked off but if I have it on the schedule I can still visualize the time I have (or don’t have) available when scheduling appointments and other things that come up.

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October is now here. Getting into routine has been challenging and stressful but I think we are starting to find our groove! Consistently we have the following out of the house schedule:

Sunday-Church and Awana, Monday-Soccer (K), Tuesday-Community Bible Study (Leadership) and Soccer (K & A), Wednesday- Community Bible Study and Church, Thursday-Library and Soccer (A), Friday-Homeschool co-ops (3 class periods), Saturday-2-3 Soccer games (K & A)

And between all of those times I can schedule meals, homeschooling, house cleaning, rest time, etc. Did I mention my husband is deployed? All the more reason to have a well planned schedule!

Noriko seems to be adjusting well. She is continuing to make friends and finding activities that interest her. Since she has been here, her school assignments and church involvement have lead to several good conversations about relationships, religion, history, etc. (I will share more specific conversations as I find the time to blog…I really should block out blogging time on my schedule). The girls love Noriko and she loves them. Even though we have had some miscommunications and frustrations, I have enjoyed having her here. So far this has been a good experience and I hope and pray that we continue to be smooth for our whole family.