Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My mother-in-law is probably the only one still checking my blog. You're a woman of great patience, Gaye. :) I've been up to my eyes in growing kids! I know you know what I'm talking about. I've also been facebook-ing, but not really, because I never update my status. A few days after my last post, Izak fell off his bike and had a nasty concussion, went to the hospital in an ambulance and everything. Great fun was had by all - and he was amazingly calm and cheerful. Such is the joy of being Izak. We spent the summer learning to swim, all except Levi, who was firmly stuck to my side, but next summer he's gonna "float, baby, float!!" I'm trying to hit some other highlights... oh, I've been working out in my basement with Leslie Sansone for 6 days/week and I'm skinnier than I've even been, even high school, and I feel great! Levi potty trained in a day in September, so I sold his cloth diapers and bought clothes that fit me and look nice, too. Matt is doing great at the Chapel. You can check out their new website at chapel.org. Under "Meet the Staff" you can find his bio. And from time to time you can listen to his sermons online. Tomorrow is our 14 year anniversary. 14 years. Amazing.

Thought I would post this excerpt from a letter I was writing earlier today. It would save me having to repeat my thoughts.

"I was very struck by your question on Saturday, "When does the joy come in ministry?" I've thought and thought about it. I think I can more clearly say now that I believe joy comes when you're walking in obedience and you really, truly sense God's pleasure in you. It's when you're in the right place, doing the thing He's asked you to do. I don't think that it's a unique experience to those in the ministry. God visits joy on all his children, marketplace and ministry, when He is pleased with them. I'd say my joy has come on the heels of very hard, challenging times that seemed to be dark with no hope of relief. Pregnancy, losing our church plant in New England, moving to Illinois and losing everything good and stable, moving to Buffalo - things that were a real struggle, things which I did not welcome, but participated in nonetheless. It was through them that joy came. Maybe as a by-product of the sorrow and struggle - only God could have an equation like that. The sacrifice was different in each circumstance. Some financial, some dealing with dreams and plans, most all relational... bu somehow, whether He replaced what I thought I lost or not, He always supplied the joy, and when there wasn't joy, He at least held out my hope when I couldn't. It was always about finding the end of myself and the place where He began."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stuck on the camera

I have all of these lovely pictures for you - but they're stuck on my camera. I need a card reader. And I'm working on it, but life just blows by so, so fast!

In May Matt and I went to our favorite inn in Rutland, VT for 4 days. It was amazing. The same as 6 years ago. but in many ways different. I felt like I saw things with new eyes. That last time we were there we didn't have kids (didn't have kids!!!). I can remember my lazy, fantastic thinking about how great it would be to live there, the quietness of life, the quaintness... but now I've somehow morphed into this high-octane suburban mom of three. And I see quite clearly that if the Furrs moved to Rutland we would simply blow it up. Though I did get a little trauma while there. As we were leaving the restaurant, Matt shouted, "Man down!" An older gentleman had taken a hard fall, face first on the cobblestone entrance. Matt worked the perimeter, got 911 called, managed the little crowd, and stayed with the wife. Lots of blood, loss of consciousness. I happened to have my handy-dandy CPR mask and gloves right in my purse. Still got bloody, but it was great to be apart of getting him settled and on his way the the hospital. Nurse sentiment, I'm sure.

The beginning of June I took a "Buffalo Sister" weekend with my two best friends from Buffalo. We had a chance to worship together at the Wesleyan Church of Hamburg Sunday morning, which was amazing. Then Carrie, Audrey and I got away to a lovely little town (Ellicottville, NY), stayed in a hotel and spent a lot of time talking and listening. It was what I've needed for so, so long. And having people who have shared history with you makes all the difference in self-examination. It illuminated some things to me that I didn't even realize were still there - little lies that creep in and camp out. Good friendship explores all the cracks and crevasses. The closed rooms and the open rooms of the soul. Real transformational friendship walks along the "landscape of the heart" (dear Lo). There are just friends that God gives us that, if allowed, will not let us be the same. And that's what I desire. And when I don't have it, I really miss it. But another thing that I realized is that I'm starting to form those core friendships here in Chicago as well. Finally. People who challenge me, not because they just like to challenge, but because they've taken the time to really learn about me. And I feel like I can reciprocate as well. Good friends make us better friends for others as well. It was a great weekend!

The summer has been chocked full - whose isn't? We've been tie-dying t-shirts and making personalized plates. We've visited sprinkler parks and pools, beaches and children's museums. We've had a lot of busy days, but then quiet days of hanging around the house. We joined the reading club at the library. Izak blew through it before June was over, and that included the "Super Challenge." He's legitimately reading and understanding this year! Liberty wasn't far behind on completing her assignment. Levi still needs to listen to about 18 more books and he, too, will get another fantastic prize. I love that the kids are loving to read, and be read to as much as I do! There's a particular obsession with weather this summer. Early in June we had tornadoes in the area, and the kids were painfully curious about them. Now that's pretty much all we discuss. Emergency preparedness, the facts about tornadoes and hurricanes, looking at pictures and watching videos. It is endless. Thank you, library! I think the kids are also thrilled to have limitless information at their disposal because they bleed me dry with questions all.day.long.. From the rising of the son (sp!) to his bedtime, it is one long stream of questioning and interrogation. Now I just say, "Well, we should find a book about that at the library!" Add it to the list!

A little funny: Liberty is such a beautiful, sweet girl. We were going through the makeshift bakery area of the grocery store. She noticed the bags of "homemade" French bread in the display. "Mom, we should get one." I explained that we didn't need one, and walked on. I heard in this soft little whisper, "Oh... just a little nibble..." and turned around to see her begin to chew on the exposed loaf. "Liberty!" She was immediately surprised to have been caught sampling, apologized, and we ended up with French bread for dinner.

I can't possible keep up with all the little funny things, but this was a conversation from the back of the van between the older two sibs:

(I) Liberty, it's my turn to have that.

(L) calmly No. It's mine.

(I) Liberty!! You've had it, now it's MY turn!

(L) calmly No, I'm not done with it.

(I) God wants us to share. He does. He says we should share!

(L) No.

(I) condescending Well, you're being selfish! That's just selfish!

(L) bursting into tears and yelling I'm not a FISH! I'm a girl!

(I) I didn't say you were a fish. I said you were s-e-l-f-i-s-h. (Stretching out the pronounciation word for better understanding)

(L) sobbing IZAAKK! I am NOT a fish, I'm a girl!

Matt laughs and leans over, "Tell me you'll blog that."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stashing and stuffing

Liberty LOVES to stash things. She usually walks around the house with her "Libby" backpack on, filled to the brim with various items. Books, a battery-free flashlight, flip-flops, Matt's pay stub, a spoon... you know, the things you may need, just in case. Every night, after she's gone to sleep, I straighten her bed, which is stuffed full of books. I always check the little boxes in her room to see what she's hiding. A favorite library book, one of my bracelets. But Monday hit a new level of stash.

We were in Home Depot as a family. Libby was riding in the over-sized car cart, when she took off her baseball hat and pulled out a slice of cheese! "Here, Mom. Can you unwrap this for me?" Matt and I burst into laughter as he said, "Did she just pull that out of her hat?!?!"


Levi was playing in the garage with his new Cars car, Ramone. We had just bought it that morning. I was taking groceries in when I heard him say quietly, "Can't reach it." "What can't you reach?" "Ramone." "Where is he?" And Levi poked his little pointer finger up my minivan exhaust pipe! I immediately laid on the ground and looked, and at the very top of the tailpipe, before it bends into the muffler, I could see Ramone's tail lights. I began to fume, spouting of a mini-lecture to Levi about not stuffing cars in the tails pipe as I went in to find something that I might be able to gently hook over the top and pull it out. I broke off a curly straw, but only managed to tip the car over the bend into the pipe. It was now out of sight, and all I was seeing was the $$$ that it might cost to fix my car. You know the math, $3 car costs $300 in a new exhaust system. I went in a googled "matchbox car in muffler", thinking that surely another little boy in the universe had had the same idea as Levi. No matches. Called the mechanic and explained the situation, while he began laughing aloud, "In all my years as a mechanic I've never heard of that!" He assured me it would do no harm, but may rattle around, maybe we could get it with a long magnet and flashlight... Now I'm really hot. I called Liz, one of my most resourceful and dear friends. She also has a great sense of humor, so she began to laugh. Within a few minutes she was at my house with a handful of long magnets, none of which worked. She said, "What if you backed the van down the driveway and slammed on your brakes?" Worth a try! So I attempted a few jolting stops, which produced nothing. But Liz wasn't out of ideas. "Okay, go forward and then really gun it down your driveway, hit that bump at the end as fast as you can and SLAM ON THE BRAKES!" Oh, my exhaust and my suspension system. But I obeyed, and as I slammed the brakes I heard the fantastic sound of a small metal dye-cast car shooting into the street. Liz began laughing and doing the happy dance. Successful extraction! I called the mechanic back, who laughed and laughed and thanked me for a" real bright spot in a dark week."

So folks, if you're at my house and you can't find what you're looking for, be sure to check the boxes, hats, and backpacks, and occasionally... the muffler.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


It's here - I think - but then snow may fall from the sky and I'll have to recind. I think we're on our way into spring and summer of 2008. We're loving it here, and already the baby has grass stains on his feet that won't scrub off.

March was a blast. Early in the month we took Levi to Children's Hospital to rule out cystic fibrosis (yes, it was negative). A few blocks from the hospital is a big, free zoo - Lincoln Park Zoo. I highly recommend going in the late winter - there may have been 20 people there total. It was mid 30's, no snow, and relatively warm as compared to the rest of the winter. We saw SO many amazing things that we'd never enjoy in the summer - a face-to-face stare down with the King of the Jungle, the male lion, who topped it off with a few hearty ROARS. Hearing a lion's roar while you're about 20 inches away is amazing, even if it wasn't as vicious as it would be in the wild. We had up-close experiences with Silverback gorillas, orangutans, Bengal tigers (and every big cat you can think of). The kids got to pet a reptile and see bats and alligators. Pink flamingos. Camels (very cold camels). A sleep brown bear. Probably the BEST part was the polar bear, who was swimming in loops under the water towards a huge glass observation wall. We would stand against the glass with our arms extended and the polar bear would swim up to us, squeaking his nose against the glass in front of our faces and bang on our hands with his enormous paws. He appeared the love the game, though in his mind I'm sure he was thinking, If I could just get through this tough piece of ice, I'd eat you up!!!! We could've stayed there all day, the kids shrieking every time he came around. But the temp dropped a few degrees and the sleet began... so we headed home. A beautiful family day at the zoo in March!

Holy week came and went in a flash. I participated with worship leading on Good Friday - the day that we received 14" of SNOW in a matter of hours. But the services were beautiful and profound. And the Easter Bunny did manage to sneak in and distribute a few goodies of chocolate and Levi-friendly sugar on the second floor as Izak and I watched a wonderful orchestral piece on PBS. Levi came down with a rapid 6-hour flu that knocked his socks off, but the kids did well-health wise until a few weeks ago when they got some sort of bug with high fevers and cold symptoms. It wasn't a big deal until I got it and I felt like I was going to die. But here I am...

Friday Izak learned how to ride his big bike without his training wheels! He picked it up in about 30-seconds. An absolute natural. His line of questioning has taken on a spiritual tone - a few times a week he asks me if we're going to be going to the New Earth. "Oh, I can't wait to go!" (We've established that the New Earth is Heaven for now.) He names people who have passed on as residents of New Earth. The other days he asks, "Where do people's dead bodies go to wait until they rise from the dead?" (Yes, I said the cemetery.) He wondered if "God made a mistake" when He created a little girl in our church who died at the age of 10 with a sick heart. "Absolutely not. God never, ever makes a mistake, even if something sad happens or people get sick." You need to eat your Wheaties and study your theology before you engage this kid in the morning! Whew! Liberty is braving a larger frame bike with Izak's old training wheels. She's become my little computer geek, with an intuitive ability to understand and navigate all the little kid websites. Her latest round of art involves super heros, SuperLiberty, who flies in the air with her cape with an "S." She's also setting things in front of her and attempting to sketch what she sees - there's an impressive penguin hung in my kitchen! Levi is my pretend-play boy, with many conversations and re-enactments centered around Larry-Boy, Nemo, and Kipper the dog. His talking is non-stop from sun-up to sun-down. And the faces... by far the most funny one of all!

There have been moments lately when I think, Okay... stop. I could stay in these moments for a good long while. Stop growing. Stop changing. This is great just like this. I feel like I've done the baby phase pretty thoroughly. I celebrated when I took the baby seat out and looked at the gallery of booster seats. I hope to kiss the last batch of diapers good-bye this summer. Baby, done. Toddler, mostly done. Welcome, Preschool and Kindergarten. And the best part is that I was here for it, I had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. What a privilege.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

He can't breathe

My little Levi. He really struggles with his lungs. It's been series after series of steroids since November. We're now the proud owners of an allergist and a pediatric pulmonologist. We've spent thousands on testing and meds.

One day, in my desperation to solve his wheezing problems, I attacked the closet in his bedroom. There were stacks of boxes from the move, a dusty old suitcase big enough to hold at least two of the kids, and other unused items. I pulled everything out and vacuumed like a crazy woman. ( The kids are aware that Levi doesn't have the easiest time health-wise, and often make their own assessments about why things are different for Levi. "That cookie will make him sick?" "Levi can't go there because they have a dog and that will make him sick?" "Does milk have milk in it so Levi can't have it 'cuz it will make him sick?") Well, I cleaned for a good hour and hauled the over-sized, dusty luggage into my bedroom. Izak came in, immediately interested in the huge black box. "Mom, why is that in your room now?" "Because it might be making Levi sick (running my finger through the dust)." "So... now Levi's allergic to suitcases too?"

Good friends

I am beginning to enjoy my children's love of one another more and more. They really are becoming very good friends, navigating conflict, understanding and accommodating differences, and enjoying the levels of silliness that each one brings. I don't know how much is nature and how much is nurture, but part of being home as much as I am enables me to be in their relational business every time they turn around. Libby was in the front hall the other day, having a conversation aloud with herself. She said, "Izak is my good friend. (pause) Levi... (long silence) Levi is my good friend." And I unconsciously exhaled a prayer a thanks.


If you've survived the toddler years, if you're in the toddler years... then you need one. A backbone. A certain amount of "you are absolutely too short and have too poor of a vocabulary to control me" kind of attitude. I joke that when I'm older and the kids have gone to college, I should think about becoming a hostage negotiator because some days it feels like I negotiate with short terrorists every day! I don't have the alpha attitude every morning, but mostly... you absolutely have to for your very survival.

Most people who know me understand that I really dislike confrontation. I'd rather disappear than deal with explosive, negative, volotile situations. I've always been (honestly) passive-aggressive with hostile people, usually by never letting them know how outrageous and immature I think they are. I cut out people that I perceive to be a threat. I'm not quick with words and refuse to enter into shouting matches. It's not that I want everybody to just love each other and get along, but I want a fair playing field, one without cutting words, power plays, manipulation, intimidation, etc... and then I had kids. I love my kids alot. And thankfully, God is giving me the backbone to push back and shape their hearts... even when there are demands and screaming and tantrums. I love them too much to let them be uncontrolled, and God loves me too much to not strengthen my backbone.

Funny how life plays out occassionally. I was working in recovery room the other day. We had a particular patient that was really making life hard for the staff. He was fully recovered, very demanding and rude. Downright mean. Fortunately, he wasn't my patient. Unfortunately for him, I was in an anti-terrorism mood. I was bending down beside the bed of my patient to measure some urine from the catheter when I hear BANG BANG BANG BANG. I looked up to see a 30-ish year old guy two feet from me with his cup in hand, banging it on his tray table. Worse yet, he was looking right at me. I studied his face. Was he nauseous? Perhaps confused? Non-verbal? And then I saw his eyes narrow, and he glared at me and BANGBANGBANGed the cup again. And my toddler-mom brain said, "Oh, no you don't! I DID NOT come all the way to work to deal with THIS!" I suddenly felt filled with power of a mom that's survived 5 long years of pecking, nagging, and demands, and I fully engaged this hostile man. I imagine that he, too, saw my eyes narrow as I leaned towards him. Without as much as a smile I said, "Do you need something?" BANGBANGBANG went the cup. "You need to use your words. I asked you a question. (more slowly and with a slight growl) Do you need something?" And slowly he dropped his gaze. "Water." I put my hand on the cup and decided to negotiate my final demand... "Water what?"

"Water, please."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My Hero

There are some verbal non-negotiable points that a marriage brings with it - young couples, deeply in love, begin to make promises for a lifetime before the day of marriage. "I will always let you read the morning paper in quiet." "I will never interrupt your phone calls." "I will have supper waiting for you when you get home from work." And then marriage happens, and kids happen, and things don't necessarily go as planned. But something that my husband does to consistently serve me is taking care of the driveway in the winter and the lawn in the summer. Shoveling may not seem like a big deal to some of you - but it is a gift to me. It's not because I can't - I spent 20 years helping my mom and sisters dig out our Michigan driveway. It's not because I won't, because there have been a few times that I pick up a shovel and find a measure of satisfaction with a task that shows immediate results. It is because I just don't want to. When I see snow I generally start reviewing all the things I have that will allow me to hole-up for as long as possible. Soy milk. Milk. Juice. Ramen. Pasta. Ground beef. Popcorn. Shoot, we can live for a week before we need anything! But Matt diligently serves us by clearing and clearing and shoveling and clearing for as long as necessary. Yesterday we received over 14" of snow from sun up until sun down. It was beautiful! (Now, this looks a little like Buffalo!) And Matt shoveled and shoveled. What a great looking driveway! Honey, thank you for working so hard to keep our home looking great in the summer and accessible in the winter.

The kids are well, except for a few runny noses and hacking coughs. This morning Levi has developed an ominous faint, tight squeak at the end of his cough, which may mean a fifth round of oral steroids on top of his twice a day inhaled steroids and Singulair. For a little guy, he's got bad lungs. We'll be headed to the pulmonologist next week to begin a long and beautiful relationship, I'm sure.

Tonight I'll be starting a working relationship with Centegra NIMC about 20 miles from my house. I still plan to work primarily at Loyola in the city (100 miles round trip), but a back-up hospital that's only a few towns over is a good idea.

Next week my mom is going to Liberia for about two weeks. This will be her first BIG trip ever. She's going with a medical missions group... we're so excited for her! My dad and sister, Stef, will be home, maintaining homeostasis, with Kat and I in the wings if necessary.

Here's to a great Thursday!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breaking the Surface

Boy, when I disappear, I disappear! This week I'm beginning to feel like I'm coming up for air after the Christmas season. It was wild and crazy, wonderful and work-filled all at once. And every mom out there says, True, true. By my silence assume I'm busy and there's too much going on, sometimes things that I can't even blog about! But I'll give you a little run-down.

There were many Holiday parties. Many. And they were each wonderful. Some we attended, some we hosted, and some we assisted with. It was a great time with our new friends at the Chapel. In so many ways, God affirms our newest job transition. Many Sundays I have the strangest sense of de ja vu. I see this campus as my family, and rejoice in being able to love and care for them.

Matt preached many times. Three of our weekends from the last time I blogged until now were filled with preaching schedule, and he's up again the next two weekends. There were many services, with Christmas Eve being one of the most worshipful experiences I've ever had.

There were many decorations - I really got into doing the house up this year - thanks to Command strips! Garland and lights and ornaments. The kids and I made many projects and home-made treats (rock candy, ricechex "treats" to name a few).

There were many visits and visitors! We ran to West Michigan for a 24-hour tour the day after Christmas, and my folks, sisters and brother-in-law came for five days a day after we got home.

There were many gifts! The kids celebrated and were celebrated fully! I received the only thing I wanted this year - the movie White Christmas. I'm getting a bit nostalgic in my old age. Izak now thinks punch is a permanent part of the Christmas season. He's really understanding the meaning of the season, and is chocked full of Christmas information. Many folks asked us if we do the Santa thing. Yes, we do, for reasons that I'd discuss with you if I knew you. It was fun this year because Izak noted that there were many Santas . I said yes, but there's only one real Santa (someday to be revealed as St. Nick's story!) and the others are his helpers. He spent the holiday deliberating whether that one was the real one, or that one, no, not him, maybe that one... yeah, he's the real one! Well, maybe not... . The older kids have the Christmas story down pat, and enjoy being questioned in game-show form about the information. Although the Hebrew is a little tricky; Izak thinks the angel that announced Christ's birth was named Ariel... close, but no point.

There were many rounds of the movie Cars (Levi), Handel's Messiah (Izak), and M&M's (Liberty).

There were many sleepless nights and doctor's visits. Libby struggled with the croup for a few weeks. Then Levi was sick, sick, sick. Between ears draining and developing pneumonia, I feel like I spent 30 days doing around the clock nebulizers. He's started on Singulair and is much better. Looks like the boy got my lungs. We also discovered he's very, VERY allergic to dogs. Hmmm ... not sure how we're going to work around that. We always thought cats were the culprit. He's five times more allergic to dogs than cats. I'm so thankful that we donated Sailor (out New York Newfoundland) to my sister in law. God worked things out in advance for Levi to join our family.

There were many prayers. For strength, wisdom, mercy, grace, thankfulness, self-control. Prayers for our friend, Rick, in Buffalo, who's come back again with another clean bill of health! Prayers of intercession and sustenance . It's been a season where I've willingly thought, even in the hard times, God is with me. He hasn't left me here to fix this. He's with me. Emmanuel.

Friends, there are so many other things. His goodness and provision. His faithful call to pursue Him and throw off all that hinders. My hurts, the hurts of others, my own pride and ignorance. His undeniable love and power. May 2008 find you increasingly aware of the many, many, many ways that He appears to you, and how that reality will transform your life.