Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Pause, 2013

          It’s been an unusual year, but then what is usual? In March we mourned the loss of a dear friend from high school, one whose acquaintance we had renewed just last summer. In a short time, we shared laughs, fond memories, and deep conversations enough to make up for the lost years. His death was one of those unexpected kicks in the stomach that made us weep not just for our own pain, but even more for that of his wife (also our classmate and life-long friend) and their family.

          Soon thereafter began the wettest spring and summer on record for North Carolina. Heavy rains poured down without a respite for days on end; gardens refused even to sprout due to lack of sun and heat. Slowly, slowly the earth turned green, and then grew more lush than anyone could remember. Bill counted days and watched the grass grow, searching for a break in the monsoons long enough to mow. And what a task: pushing the mower through tall, thick wet grass attached like velcro to the sodden earth, which seemed to suck at the mower’s wheels like quicksand.  We lived inside and looked sadly out to our dogs who seemed to go into a morose hibernation.

          May brought a brief respite from the rain and an unexpected joy with a visit from Lisa and Sam and the wonderful new man in their life, John! In spite of Sam’s difficult time with our North Carolina spring pollen, which was super-abundant due to the unusual rains, we managed to enjoy visiting the fabulous North Carolina Zoo and the nearby Aviation Museum; feeding the llamas and pygmy zebus at the always-fun Lazy 5 Ranch; and fishing and lying in the hammock at the lake. We can hardly believe our Sam will be 7 on December 19! 

Throughout the year Daddy continued to battle “the evil c.diff”– in and out of hospitals and rehab facilities, his body’s struggle to function normally as seemingly bogged down as the lawnmower in our soggy yard. But in August, a breakthrough! As the weather slowly returned to a more normal pattern, so through a miraculous encounter with a God-sent healer a cure was found! Though it’s been around for decades, its unorthodoxy has perhaps delayed its acceptance, which makes little sense, since its cure-rate is an extraordinary 92%! In any case, ever since his fecal transplant (Yes, it’s just what it sounds like!), he has been 100% normal and back to his routine of teaching Sunday School, “radioing” and gallivanting all around Greensboro and even to the lake. We are confident he’ll be around to celebrate the stunning century mark come June 8 of next year!

About the same time as Daddy’s turnaround, we received the news that will change our lives FOREVER. We were all at the lake, including Daddy with his newly healthy gut, when Christian asked me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. As soon as I obeyed, he placed in them a card holding an ultrasound image of his and Andrea’s first child!!! That’s right– in early March we will welcome into the world Carter Rathvon Herring! Mother and child are doing extremely well, and proud Papa is about to bust his buttons! Christian and Andrea recently moved into the parsonage of the church he pastors, Kendall’s Baptist, which is just about 2 miles from our house, so Grandma is rather excited herself!

And now about the Christmas paws– did I spell that right? YES! One sunny day in mid-September Bill looked out across the field in front of the house to see movement. That’s nothing unusual, since we frequently see deer, an assortment of large birds, even coyotes around the pond. But this movement was swifter and caught his eye with its stark black and white coloring. As it came closer its blaze orange collar showed, and Bill realized he was seeing someone’s hunting dog, since it was early in the dove season. He tried shooing the swift, sleek creature away, telling it, “Go back home!” and “Go find your owner!” but to no avail. By this time she was heading for our backyard to check out our two rescue dogs, Tut and Cassie. Bill came in and called my attention to the newcomer, and I joined him in trying to send the dog away, still to no avail. After a few hours our hearts went out to this obviously lost creature and we gave her a bit of food and water. At the end of the day she was still with us, and the next morning we found her curled up on our back porch. We took her picture and posted it around the community and on Facebook, knowing someone was missing their beloved hunting dog. After a week, our hope was waning, but sooner than that Bill’s heart was lost to her. He began calling her “Poppy” after about 3 days; in a week we had purchased her a house and taken down the postings. When we took her to the vet to begin her shots we learned she had heartworms. Neither of us had been through treating a dog with this life-threatening condition, so we had no idea what was in store. In brief, the treatment is also life-threatening and requires constant monitoring, which resulted in Bill breaking his own iron-clad rule of “No Dogs in the House!” Poppy has now been taken to the beauty parlor by her Dad, and sleeps wherever she wants in the house, including our bed! (Does anyone need a very slightly-used igloo dog house???!!!)  

And so we’ve decided on a pause this Christmas – choosing more deliberately than usual which activities will bring the most peace and reflection on the season’s true meaning. Our gift to each other has four paws – an unexpected but joyous interruption in our routine and a delightful excuse for spending time together with a common focus. We intend to revel more in the time we spend with loved ones rather than scurrying around to find the perfect gift at the mall, bake the perfect confection or put up the perfect decoration. Most of all, we are bending our hearts more frequently in gratitude to our Best Friend, Whose birth we celebrate this holy season.

“A friend loveth at all times...” (Proverbs 17:17a)

“Friends are friends forever, if the Lord is the Lord of them

And a friend will not say never, cause the welcome will not end ....

... a lifetime's not too long... to live as friends."  (Michael W. Smith)

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for His friends.”  (John 15:13)