Psalm 84

I want to tell you a story.

It happened about twenty years ago.  After two years of taking my temperature every day, I thought I might actually be pregnant.  Didn’t know for sure, but my temperature went up, and so did my hopes.

It turned out I was not.  I don’t think I even realized how high my hopes had gotten, but I was devastated.  I cried for hours.  I went to the doctor to see if maybe I had been pregnant, but miscarried – that wouldn’t have been better, but I could have at least said I had been pregnant.  Either way, I was not.

In my sorrow, I turned to the Psalms.  I flipped through my Bible and settled on Psalm 84:

(1) How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!
(2) My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
(3) Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young – a place near your altar,
O Lord almighty, my King and my God.
(4) Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you   Selah
(5) Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
(6) As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of spring;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
(7) They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.
(8) Hear my prayer, O Lord God Almighty;
Listen to me, O God of Jacob.       Selah
(9) Look upon our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
(10) Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
(11) For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
(12) O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

I found much comfort here.

My soul yearned for the presence of God.
If even sparrows have a place for their young… God knew of my desire for young of my own, in a place near his altar.
I was (am) blessed to dwell in His house, blessed to have my strength in Him – going from strength to strength till I appear before Him in Zion.
I was (am) so much better off in his courts, even as the lowliest servant in His house, than in the tents of the wicked.
He bestows favor and honor.
He doesn’t withhold any good thing from those whose walk is blameless – my walk is not blameless on my own effort, but in Christ, I am counted as blameless.
Trust – faith – in Him was (is) the key.

As I contemplated these words and thoughts, I considered how God might bless me with children, even if they were not of my own body.  At the time, I was teaching Bible class to the 0 – 12 month babies at our church. I considered this my ministry, even a mission.  And though they were not of my own body, those babies were mine. In my heart, I resolved to count this as God’s answer to my sadness that day.  It helped.

I threw out the thermometer.

Two months later I was pregnant.

Now I have two incredible, beautiful-inside-and-out daughters, from my own body and that of my wonderful husband. I have placed them before His altar, for His care (though sometimes, I snatch them back when my faith is weak…).

This is my story.  Yours may be different.  There are many who deeply desire children who are unable to conceive.  My heart breaks for you.  I do not presume to have all the wise words to make you feel better.  I only hope you can find comfort in God’s presence and in God’s word.

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Fathers Day 2016

First of all, Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there, especially my dad, my husband, and my father-in-law, all the Enoch dads, all the Mercer dads, and all the Daw dads!  (It would be impossible to list them all!)

I want to talk about something my father taught me from a very young age.  He had a list of problem-solving steps that I use to this day.  He used them when he was fixing the cars or the refrigerator or washing machine or whatever.  I use them for computer problems – hardware or software – or any other “fixing” necessity.  Here they are for your benefit.

Rule No. 1: There’s nothing wrong.

This rule has you examine your perspective and assumptions.  Whatever it is, it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to… you’re just looking at it wrong.

Rule No. 2: It’s the very simplest thing possible.

It’s not plugged in.  It’s not turned on.  Move your mouse, or replace the battery in your mouse.  The light bulb is burned out. It’s out of gas. Blow the dust off of it. You didn’t push it all the way in.

Rule No. 3: Try it backwards.

Turn it around.  Screw it the other direction.  Flip it over.  Then go back to Rules 1 and 2.

Rule No. 4: What was the last thing you did?

Undo it.  Then go back to Rules 1 through 3.

I think there is a Rule No. 5, but honestly, I don’t remember it.  I’ve never needed it.  I have found, in my 51 years, that most problems are figured out and fixed by the time you get to No. 3, and usually by the time you get to No. 2.

I sent a card to my dad this Fathers Day that said, “I remember what you taught me… [inside]… the crissy-crossy screwdriver goes with the crissy-crossy screws.”  I admit to being a very girly girl, but I DO know how to use a Phillips screwdriver.  I also know how to add brake fluid to the master cylinder in a 1972 Dodge Dart.  I can use the term “master cylinder” and sound really car-savvy.  I know how to check the air pressure in tires and fill them up with a compressor.  And, one other extremely useful skill:  watching and anticipating what someone needs when I am helping them; thinking ahead and being ready with the next tool.

All of these things I learned from my dad, and they have served me very well.  Thanks, Daddy, and Happy Fathers Day! I love you!

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It’s the eve of the eve of the most important surgery I’ve ever had.  It’s a surgery that will bring my risk of breast cancer from approximately 84% down to approximately 8%.

It started about a month ago.  Upon performing my monthly breast self-exam, I noticed a spot that had not been there before.  Checking my calendar, I saw that my next appointment with my breast specialist was in April.  I wavered back and forth about calling and going in earlier… what a nervous nellie I was becoming!  But finally I decided to go ahead and make an appointment.

To be completely thorough, my doctor and the radiologist said they were going to do a complete exam of both breasts, mammogram and sonogram.  Call it irony, call it providence (I choose providence), the spot I was worried about was nothing… but they found something else.  Something that had accumulated since my last mammogram 4 months ago.

The next step was a biopsy.  Let no one tell you biopsies are no big deal.  Yeah, they “deaden” it, but it still hurts, including the deadening shot.  I managed to keep from bawling until they were done, but then it was over-the-waterfall.

Here’s the good news (perhaps I should have led with this): I do NOT have cancer.  The cells they took in the biopsy were classified as “atypia.”  In the chart the doctor drew out for me, atypia is one precarious step away from cancer, but NOT yet cancer.

As I’ve said in other venues, I’ve been waiting for the “cancer shoe” to drop for over 20 years.  My family history of breast cancer is ridiculous – my sister died at age 36.  My mother, grandmother, and aunt all had breast cancer as well.  I’ve always known this day was probably coming.  Because of that, I have been obsessively vigilant about monitoring my breasts.  I started getting yearly mammograms at age 28.  About 15 years ago, I started seeing a breast specialist – it’s all he does.  About 6 or 7 years ago, becoming more and more nervous about my breast health, I started going every 6 months, with a full mammogram and sonogram each time.  I perform self-checks every month.

So I’ve always known that if and when breast cancer once again raises its ugly head in my family (me), I would be right on top of it.

….And here we are.  One step away from the cancer.  It took me and my husband approximately 15 seconds to decide the best plan of action.  It’s a no-brainer.  Everything has to go.  I will be getting a complete bilateral mastectomy, with reconstruction happening during the same surgery.

I am completely at peace with this decision.  It means I will not ever have to worry about chemo or radiation.  It means I will be here to continue raising my girls.  It means I will live to see my grandchildren.  It means I will grow old with my husband. It means my parents and brothers won’t have to bury another daughter or sister.  It’s GOOD NEWS.  We’ve caught it before it can begin.

Okay, now I have to confess… I’m terrified.  This is big, major surgery, with a difficult recovery period.  I won’t go into some stuff I have to do before the surgery, but I promise it would make you cringe, especially the women.

So, during church this morning, I couldn’t keep from worrying and stressing and obsessing and feeling REALLY sorry for myself.

Then, during the announcements at the end of the service, they told of a 4-year-old boy – the son of a friend of a church member’s – who had been diagnosed with leukemia.  And they told of a member who is having difficulties with walking who could not be there today.  Then, when service was over, I stood up and noticed a young woman who was recently widowed by a long-fought cancer – she still looks shell-shocked.

It’s all about perspective, people.  I would take my lot over theirs any day.  Yeah, it’s gonna be hard.  Boohoo.  I’m going to LIVE.

I can’t promise I won’t still have times of being afraid and feeling sorry for myself.  But overall, I’m so incredibly thankful.  I will come out of this strong and healthy and present.

Thanks to all of you who have been so kind and encouraging, and for your prayers.  Please keep them coming.

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More Things I’m Thankful For

I did a list like this several years ago, and decided it was time to do a new one.  I’m still thankful for the stuff on the old list. But here are some more things.

  1. My house.  It is exactly what David and I were both looking for.  I mean EXACTLY. Everything he wanted, everything I wanted.  Everything.  Took us 3 years to find it.  It makes me happy.
  2. Hot water.  There is nothing like a hot shower.  Nothing.
  3. Family.  This was on my last list, but it bears repeating.  I have the most amazing family, from my kids and husband to my parents and siblings, to my wonderful in-laws, and extended family.  As a subset, I want to mention the Daws. I recently told a friend, I don’t know where the Mercers end and the Daws begin. They are, seamlessly, my family.
  4. This nice little heater that is currently keeping me warm while I’m writing this.
  5. Enough money to pay our bills.
  6. Books.  Again, this was on my last list, and again, it bears repeating.  It’s that important.
  7. That my baby girl Mary is getting better.  She still has a long way to go, but she can do more now than she could a year ago.  I’m thankful that we finally figured out what was wrong with her (thanks to the diligence of one Dr. Janke), and that it isn’t cancer or anything similarly scary. And for the validation that it is NOT psychological! (Take THAT, everyone who said, cautiously, as to a mad woman, “Have you tried… counseling?”)
  8. Friends I’ve been able to stay in touch with through the magic of Facebook.
  9. The turkey I got in the oven this morning with a minimum of fuss, and the husband who helped me get it in there.
  10. The way my family pitched in to get the house cleaned up for the 13 people we will be feeding later today!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.  Love you all!



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Go Set a Watchman


Another quick warning: This post is very stream-of-consciousness.  Don’t look for a thesis, three points, and a conclusion.

Go Set a Watchman is Harper Lee’s… well, is it a sequel or a prequel? The setting is after To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was written first. It’s important to remember that this was Harper Lee’s first attempt at a novel, and she was advised to write a different one, about the childhood of Scout, instead.  This was wise counsel, as TKAM is a much better book.  GSAW is pretty clearly a first attempt.  Better than anything I could write, for sure, but not as good as TKAM.

First, some random thoughts:

  • Was Hank mentioned in TKAM?  I don’t remember him, yet GSAW paints him as a significant part of Jem’s life.
  • Jean Louise refers to obtaining a bachelor’s degree, but we are never told what her profession is.  She has lived in New York for years, but we don’t know what she does.  Writer, maybe? Are we not told for a reason?
  • Aunt Alexandra is staunchly Proper, with a capital “P,” but she is not a completely unsympathetic character.  She has an innocence that comes from never having really faced any real controversy. I think she truly loves/loved Atticus, Jack, Jem, and Scout.
  • The scenes with Jack are full of obscure references that I had trouble following.  Maybe that was the point.  But I was fed up with the conversations with him long before Scout eventually was.
  • Boo Radley was not mentioned.  I’m curious about this because he was mentioned in the preview notes of the book.  Was this a deleted scene or something?

I believe the point of the story was to push Atticus off of the pedestal Scout had him on.  And her Uncle Jack, too.  And perhaps Calpurnia.  I will freely admit that the picture painted of Atticus in this book had me crying – no, sobbing – with the same disappointment and sense of betrayal that Jean Louise felt.  (I’m really curious as to what Gregory Peck would have thought of this book.)

The TKAM fan in me was totally geeking out at the flashback scenes, with Jem and Dill and Calpurnia.  They served as a bridge between Scout’s childhood and adulthood.  There were some differences in the stories – for instance, she describes Tom Robinson’s trial differently, that Atticus actually obtained an acquittal for him, and that he was missing an arm, rather than it just being ruined.

Was Atticus really a racist?  I think toward the end of the book it is shown that he more considers himself a realist.  But I had the same problems with the whole scenario that Scout had, and I felt personally betrayed by Atticus.  She more or less forgives him at the end… I’m not sure I do.  Uncle Jack strikes her, twice, and I have a problem with that, too.  I think in the end, Atticus is neither as saintly as he is painted in TKAM, nor as horrible as Scout sees him in GSAW.

How much of this is Harper Lee’s autobiography?  I know that the character of Dill was based on Harper Lee’s friend Truman Capote.  Was this a more realistic portrait of Atticus, seen through her adult eyes?

The ruin of the relationship between Scout and Calpurnia is also a source of grief, for Scout and for me.  In their scenes, I was reminded a little bit of the book The Help.  Calpurnia raised Scout, as surely as Constantine raised Skeeter.  But in the end, Calpurnia was black and Scout was white, and there was no reconciling that, at least in Calpurnia’s mind.

Jem’s death also hit me hard, right off the bat.

These characters are so real to me that I’ve kind of been wandering the house, trying to figure them out.  I think I must remember that TKAM was written from a child’s point of view, and GSAW from a young adult’s. Perhaps neither is completely realistic.

I think I will keep TKAM as my favorite book of all time.  GSAW brings up some interesting controversies to consider, but I’d rather keep Atticus on the pedestal. He raised Scout to be color blind. That’s the way it should be.

I’m interested in other folks’ opinions, so feel free to comment, but let’s keep it civil, please.

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Tomorrow’s the day.

Tomorrow my older daughter graduates from high school.

All schoolwork is done and turned in. All tests taken. All hurdles jumped.

We’ve worked so hard for this day.  I can say “we” because it was my work, too.  It’s a good thing.  I’m glad for it, and glad the work is completed.

My younger daughter finished her freshman year today, and she is gleefully throwing papers in the recycling bin.  “Mary, come see!” she says.  Now they are both in Leah’s bedroom, talking and giggling. The sound is so beautiful it hurts – it spears into my heart and radiates all the way down to my feet.

Love hurts, but not like the Nazareth song describes.  It’s just so strong! Waves and waves of it, beautiful and strong and overwhelming.

When my Mary was born, I discovered a whole new appreciation for Mary the mother of Jesus.  The last couple of years have been hard, watching my baby suffer.  How in the world did Jesus’s mother bear it when he was suffering under the weight of the past, current, and future sin of the whole world?

I also discovered a new appreciation for how much God loves us – that He loves me even more than I love my babies.  That is too much, too wonderful, for me to fathom.

I’ll be doing lots of crying tomorrow.  Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to make me cry. But this is special.

It’s a good accomplishment, this graduation.  It’s a good sound, my girls laughing together.  It’s a good thing, this love.

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Mothers Day 2015

Lots of people, including my daughters, tell me what a great mom I am.  While I appreciate the praise, it always makes me squirm a little… because I feel like a fraud.  My heart secretly dreads that my kids will be 35 and in therapy because of stuff I did or said (or didn’t do or didn’t say) when they were little.  I question myself constantly, and pray without ceasing, “Please give me the right words, please help me make the right decision, please don’t let me screw them up too badly.”

It is my number 1 mission in life to be a good mom.  My girls are so wonderful, and I know my husband and I have done a good job raising them (I am incredibly blessed with a husband who is an amazing father to our girls).  But I also know the proof will be in the future, as they get old enough to take care of themselves – will they be okay?  Will they make good decisions?  Will they look back on that time I forgot to say, “I’m sorry,” and be disappointed and angry at me?  Will that scar them for life? Have we properly prepared them to face life?

Objectively, I think I can say yes, we’ve prepared them.  They are smart, sensible, generous, kind, and as wise as two teenage girls can possibly be.  I know intellectually that we have done well by them.  But deep down inside, I will probably always worry that I’ve let them down somehow.

So, here is where I usually include some word of wisdom in my blog posts.  Guess what? I don’t have one today.  I guess I’ll just ask you all to pray for me, and I’ll pray for you, that we will always do right by our kids, and that God will protect them from our screw-ups.

Mothers and mother-figures out there – hang tough.  I love you guys.

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