Fathers’ Day Gifts

It’s been a really long time since I last wrote a blog—an interval much longer than I usually go between posting. It hasn’t been for want of raw material.

When I last wrote John2 was coming home as our “guest”. He wasn’t thrilled with the concept, but was relieved to be home and accepted our conditions. One of those conditions was participation in an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) 9:00-3:00 Monday through Friday. We chose a program in Hinsdale which required early wake up times, almost an hour commute in rush hour traffic. He and I figured out how to make all this happen: a wake-up smoothie.

Overall, the program gave some structure to his days and helped him look forward to the next treatment phase, which is a DBT program involving individual and group counseling, as well as continuing work with his life coach. It also will include our participation in his counseling on a regular basis. (Previously he avoided groups and didn’t want us involved.)

I have had a couple of good conversations with his therapist. In one session, he recommended that I read two books: Anatomy of an Epidemic and Saving Normal. Both deal with the way we have over-diagnosed and over-medicated mental illness in America over the last few decades. They were scary books to read—and yet, hopeful too. Emotional Management, LLC, has worked with many people, helping them learn to manage their emotions successfully and in some cases, decreasing or getting off medications (a long, slow process.) I wonder if this is the “abundantly more” than I have been able to ask or think (Ephesians 3:20?)

The last six weeks have been difficult and tiring. John has been fairly cooperative, but his moods still went up and down based on circumstances, relationships and car troubles. I stayed up late and got up early, monitoring moods and medications. I also worked a bit more than usual as our staffing is really short at the moment.

I was also preparing for another trip to New Zealand. Knitting, sewing, shopping, and planning to be gone from home for a month. I finished quilts for Charlee and the new baby, diaper inserts, and a baby carrier for Charlee’s doll. I collected items on Anne’s wish list: Annie’s Fruit Roll-ups, Swiss Miss, REI socks, etc.

I am on my way—finishing up the first leg of my journey as I write; preparing for the long flight to Auckland. I’m traveling alone this time (which makes meeting weight limits on luggage harder!) and also traveling to winter (warmer clothes weigh more.) I dread the cold nights, but can’t wait to be there to help with Charlee and welcome a new grand baby. Anne had two due dates—ten days apart. I am arriving on the first one, hoping that the baby is born sometime in the middle.

I also left on Fathers’ Day leaving John with the “gift” of Johnny, whose name actually means “God’s gracious gift.” I’m sorry-not-sorry to be leaving home at this time. I really do want to support and help John2 in this transition, but respite is appealing as well. Please pray for John these next four weeks as he steps into a somewhat different role in the home.

Of course, I also want to help Anne and James. I’m not indispensable in either place and my heart is very much in both places. I’m so glad that my heavenly Father is present in both locations, caring for my family across continents and time zones.

As we were singing worship this morning in church, I was reminded of my Dad who in his later years would sit (not stand) in the pew and raise both arms to the Lord in praise. That was not his style until much later in life but I loved to see these glimpses into his heart and relationship with the Lord. Such memories are a wonderful gift. Happy Fathers Day, Dad. I’m so glad I got to watch you grow sweeter and kinder as you aged.

 

Be Our Guest

We have a new guest room in our home. This weekend we welcomed our first “guest”–Johnny.

He spent the last ten days in the hospital, following a particularly bad manic episode. We will spare you the details, but we still want to share our news so that you can join us in prayer for the days ahead. This week there will be several appointments and then he will start an outpatient program the following week.

We have renewed hope for Johnny’s future. Our hope is not in the programs, doctors, counselors or anything that John and I plan for Johnny. We’ve pretty much come to the end of our ability to trust John, ourselves or others for the change needed. Our hope is in the Lord.

May I tell you my story?

The first sermon of 2018 at the Edge Church challenged us to “Make Room” for God, miracles, relationships, and ministry in our lives and in the life of the church. Afterwards, I prayed with the ministry team, asking God for a miracle in Johnny’s life this year.

Later, as Lent was underway, they launched a series of sermons on the biblical practice of fasting. I began fasting and praying, specifically for John. In April, I decided to try a 21-day partial fast, called the Daniel Fast (no meat, no dairy, to grains, no sugar=basically a vegan diet. It wasn’t particularly difficult to eat less or skip meals, but coming up with a diet of vegetables, fruit and legumes was a bit challenging. I bought a spiralizer and two cookbooks, but most of the recipes still included meat or cheese so there weren’t a lot of options–and very little variety. I’m pretty sure I could never be vegan.)

The last day of my partial fast happened to coincide with John’s manic episode. John and I were up all night with him and finally called for help as the sun rose the next morning. I was more than a little stunned, but still sure that this was more than a coincidence. It is not how I imagined God would answer my prayer, but I was able to trust that somehow this would “work together for good” in spite of how things looked at the moment.

I woke up at 4 am the next morning and immediately thought of Johnny, now a resident of a chronic psych unit. I got up to pray for him and started reading my Bible. I’d been reading a lot of the lament literature–Psalms, Jeremiah and Lamentations. I was looking for verses about a “new heart” which had been my specific prayer for John–tho I often told God I wasn’t sure how to define a new heart. I noticed Ezekial 36, reading verses 22-38 and then read chapter 37, the Valley of Dry Bones.

I didn’t take it as a promise from God for John but as a beautiful picture of what God could do in his life. It was extremely encouraging in light of all that had transpired that day. You can read it yourself and imagine my encouragement, my hope.

John was, of course, miserable in the hospital. He begged to come home and for the first time we weren’t sure that we could let him return home. His counselor told us to clear out his room and make it into a guest room, so we spent a couple days doing that. Although we visited John when we were able, our best conversations took place over the phone. Gradually, we walked him through the events of that night (he doesn’t remember much) and then, through his goals and ours, long and short term. He had one short term goal and that was to come home, but we were slowly able to work through a negotiation process together. We talked with his counselors, doctor and life coach and the case worker at the hospital and feel confident that we’ve got a good plan in place. Even so, we know that unless God gives him a “heart of flesh” and his Spirit within, all the plans in the world will likely fail.

Will you pray with us? Choose some phrases from Ezekial 36 or 37 to ask God to fulfill in John’s life. Pray for us. Pray for a miracle!

 

P.S. One of my good friends told me this joke: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Three, but only if the lightbulb wants to be changed :-).

 

Not for sissies!

“Old age is not for sissies.” I hear this line frequently at work as I commiserate with my patients about the challenges of aging. Nor is selling/buying a house.

You will have figured out that we did not win our bid on the house, a disappointing but not devastating outcome. We are guessing that our bid was higher but that the other family didn’t have any contingencies. Even though things are going well on our sale, we still have a contingency on the closing and they chose not to take that risk.

My reading for today was (appropriately) Psalm 73, where Asaph indulges in self-pity and envy of others around him. I was encouraged by the reminder that:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.
My flesh and my heart may (do!) fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

It is good for me to be near my God; I have made the Lord God my refuge.

I love the Psalms for how real they are–and how they are able to bring us back to our senses, back to the truth. But I could still use your prayers as we continue to look at houses. I don’t have much heart for it at this point. I’m still a sissie.

Wisdom

The Final Four didn’t work out the way we thought it would. Although we thought we could live in any of the four houses, we walked away from our tour more confused than ever. We decided to take a couple days off and not rush things.

This morning we talked about our options and started looking a bit further afield. Our realtor sent us a automatic list of properties and I scanned through it. The very last one was interesting. It had just come on the market and looked perfect, inside and out. We cajoled our realtor to take us today because it looked like it might go fast. (She arrived home from vacation after midnight and was trying to prepare for tomorrow, but agreed to meet us at five.)

We loved the house: the colors, the style, the size, the kitchen, the rooms upstairs and the finished basement. We also loved the deck, the yard (backs onto a large park and walking path) and the exterior of the house. We also loved the price.  Before I even got to the second floor, I was telling her to put in a bid for us.

As we left, another couple came in to see the house. It was so hard not to tell them to go away! We met with our realtor at a nearby library and filled out all the forms and signed all the papers.

We thought we wouldn’t hear anything until the morning, but the realtor called to say they had a dual offer–two offers that came in about the same time. We have until noon to give them our “best” offer, without any idea of what the other bidder offered or will offer. Crazy.

We’ll let you know how this turns out, but in the meantime we are asking you to pray. Pray that we will be wise, that we will sleep peacefully, and that we will trust God no matter the outcome.

Last month Laura made a reading plan of Proverbs, Praise (Psalms) and a Promise to be read each morning. I enjoyed it so much that I sketched out a similar plan for April using different Psalms and different promises, all rather randomly chosen. The last few days I’ve read this:

“Fear not, stand firm and see the Salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. The Lord will fight for you. You have only to be silent (Exodus 14:14.)

 

“For the Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2)

 

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously and without reproach” (James 1:5.)

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight (Proverbs 3.)

 

“Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46.)

 

“If you ask anything in my name, this I will do. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14.)

 

“God works ALL things together for good” (Romans 8:28.)

None of this means that our bid will be accepted, but it does mean that we can ask for wisdom and let God do his work. He knows all the factors that we do not know. We need to be quiet before him and see how he works all things together for good.

However, if you read this on the morning of April 5, please do pray with us. We are asking that our bid be accepted, but also that we will be at peace during the process and with the final outcome.  We are asking for wisdom.

Final Four

“March Madness” seems like an apt description of the past month, even though the craziness had nothing to do with basketball.

Our house went up for sale on March 1st and nine days later, we had a buyer. This was followed by the inspection and a flurry of emails from our lawyer. We hired contractors to install a radon mitigation system, seal cracks in the foundation, and sweep our chimney. When all that was done, John had to replace the panels he had removed and patch the drywall (yet, again.)

In the midst of this, our washing machine broke down and we had to have our lawyer ask their lawyer to ask them if it was okay for us to buy a new machine.

Our last hoop to jump through was an appraisal/FHA inspection. We haven’t received the official report yet, but our realtor told us that the appraisal was good, so it looks like the deal will go through.

We also started house hunting. We looked at rentals for a week or so. There wasn’t much available, so we decided that we needed to look at purchasing after all.  We have been spending our time pouring over Zillow and visiting houses with a realtor.

It’s actually been kind of funny: We’ll walk in a house and the realtor will start pointing out the “dated” features, all of which look quite modern to me. My 90-year old bungalow (which I do love) has prepared me to be very accepting of flaws in another house. I’m ready to be done with old-old and finding these 30-year old houses just fine.

We are planning to go see the Final Four tomorrow–and possibly make a decision. Any of them would be fine so I’ve drawn up an Excel Spreadsheet to list their different features, costs, etc. so we can compare them somewhat rationally. We have a lot of variables to consider and this seems the best way to do it.

Two are in Laura and Taylor’s neighborhood and two are in an older area less than two miles away.   One of them backs up to the park where the kids play and another is near the high school. (The realtor told us that we might not be interested in it because it was near the baseball field–too loud. I wanted to send her a picture of our back yard and the baseball field just beyond our fence.) They all have fireplaces, family rooms, basements, 3-4 bedrooms and a good spot for my hot tub 🙂

March Madness.

Sold!!!! (????)

WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!! We sold our house. Ah, yeah, we sold our house…um…well, maybe.

We got an offer on day 9 of the showing process. John counter-offered and then they countered and he accepted it. Whew! The inspection was scheduled two days later.

All we heard the night of the inspection was that there was a concern about the possibility of past water in the basement. John went to bed worrying, even though in 28 years we have NOT had any flooding, even in the worst rainstorms.

The 30-page report came on Monday, followed by an attorney letter requesting a few repairs: radon abatement, basement sealing, and the chimney swept and examined. The other requests were all small, easily fixed problems. We sent our responses back to our lawyer and she drafted a letter to the buyers’ lawyer.

All of this is a pretty normal–and actually fortunate–home-selling process but we are NOT enjoying this at all. We are trying to trust the Lord and not worry (read: obsess) about the details, but it ain’t easy.

What a contrast to our past home buying (and selling) experience: We bought our first home in 1982 (for a lot less money) with something like a handshake among friends. We sold it five years later to another set of friends. We may have had a closing at that time, but I don’t have any memory of it. Even when we bought our current home in 1988, it seemed much simpler and much more friendly. (Um, I don’t remember the agents and lawyers being so intensely involved. Just saying.)

We’ve also started our hunt for our next home, hopefully a house for rent in the vicinity of Aurora or Warrenville. We saw two houses the first weekend, but have just been looking online (working with a realtor) since then. We still have a bit of time so we’re not frantic yet, but it certainly is a concern. Closing date is May 12.

And now, we wait. The hard part is knowing that it still could all fall through and we’d be back at Square One.

       “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.                     Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.                                      The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”                                                        — Proverbs 16: 1, 3, and 9. 

I keep thinking of two of my dad’s favorite phrases: “Relax, God is in control” and his frequent prayer that God would lead “every step of the way.” I’ve faced a lot of tough things in my life, but this one is particularly stressful. Relax….step-by-step….Relax….

Finishing

I finished my towels–and finished getting the house ready for market!

The final step in weaving is finishing–usually by washing–which changes the threads into whole cloth. One writer calls it “wet finishing”, stating that may involve more than simple washing. She lists scouring, agitation and compression as key finishing factors.

Although I simply washed and folded my towels, the words “scouring, agitation, and compression” are a much better fit for the metaphor of getting the house ready. I’ve never been so tired in my life!

First of all, shortly after posting my last blog “Loose Ends” I realised I was using a sugar-coated euphemism, like none other. “Tying up loose ends” doesn’t begin to describe the work that we did these last two weeks. For example, here is John tying up a loose end:

Besides this, he spent a cold day under our back porch bringing the electric connection for the hot tub and pool up to code by burying the cables and connecting pipe to the box. He also had to remove the blocks from the hot tub. The realtor was impressed with his design, but didn’t want buyers to think that “the whole place has been jerry-rigged.” (Haha–it has!)

I cleaned and cleaned, and cleaned more. (And the more I cleaned the more I found that needed more cleaning. To be on the safe side, I left $$ to pay a cleaning lady to come in and make it shine.)

On Monday morning, I locked the door and left it all behind, driving eight hours to Stormy Lake (with a few stops at quilt and fiber stores) to join John, John2 and Lizi. Even Luna is on vacation, staying with our friends the Homiaks. We are planning to rest–and pray–while Tim Schiller does his part back in Elmhurst. We can’t even think about what’s next.

We’re finished!

Loose Ends

Earlier this week I took six yards of towels off of my loom. I spent the rest of the week with a needle, weaving what felt like a million loose ends into the weft.

Yesterday I used my serger (yeah!) to cut the towels apart and finish the edges. Today, I will hem them with my regular sewing machine.

 

We have also been tying up a lot of loose ends at home, in the final stages of getting the house ready for market. Picture day is Tuesday. Next Sunday, we leave town for 8-10 days while our realtor puts it on the market. Open House is planned for March 5th.

This. Is. Really. Happening.

We bought our last house from friends and sold it to friends, so we’ve never been through this process. We’re a little nervous.

We hope it sells quickly so we don’t have to live on edge for very long. Maintaining a show-ready house seems like a daunting task to us.

We also are anxious to figure out the next step in our life. We know we want to rent and we want to be closer to our grandkids in Aurora. We’d also like more freedom to spend time with our Kiwi granddaughter. We have a lot of variables to fit into the equation, so for now we are simply taking the next step, which is to get the house on the market.

Lots of loose ends.

Sisters

scan-11I love this picture of four sisters: Jennie, Maggie, Martha and Lizzie. They were born to James and Agnes (Gray) Bitcon during a ten-year span of years from 1881 to 1891 in Dumbarton, Scotland. By 1897, they were fatherless, with limited resources and no social security. They worked together to make ends meet. All but one would eventually emigrate to America to seek a better life.

I’m fascinated by the way these sisters’ lives intersected in spite of time and distance, helping one another in times of crisis.

  • Jennie was the first to emigrate (1906.) She made two voyages back to the Old Country to visit her mother and sisters, one in 1911 before her marriage, and another in 1922 with three children.
  • Martha emigrated to Canada in 1911 and then to California in 1923. Two years later she traveled to Chicago—and stayed for six months—to help Jennie after the sudden death of her husband and the subsequent birth of her son.
  • Lizze’s husband accompanied Jennie and her children on their return trip to Chicago in 1922. He found a job and saved money to bring Lizzie and their four children over the following year.
  • Maggie and her husband, Peter, remained in Scotland, caring for her aging mother. In 1937, Maggie took a six week trip to America, visiting both Chicago and California.
  • Jennie, in 1946, after the sudden death of her second husband, went and stayed with John and Martha Greenlaw for six-and-a-half years, helping to care for them in illness and in death.

This picture, taken in 1937, fascinates me. I’ve long wanted to write a story about these four sisters, so this month—November, National Novel Writer’s Month—I focused on them during my annual project to write 50,000 words. I spent a great deal of my time and writing doing genealogical research, trying to find out anything I could about the real women portrayed here.

Jennie, of course, is my grandmother. Maggie was the first-born; Martha was second-born; and Lizzie was the baby of the family.

Last week I started asking relatives about their memories of one of the sisters. I learned that the story is more complicated, messier, than I imagined. That shouldn’t have surprised me. I had vague memories and impressions that at least two of the sisters did not get along. Jennie had a sharp tongue and could “kill you with kindness and cut you to the bone if so inclined.” Lizzie was “difficult.”

This could actually make my story much more interesting, adding tension to the plot. The challenge is to do that without disparaging any one sister and/or offending living relatives. If I ever write my story it will be a fictionalized, imagined story, loosely based on these four women. It will be honest about their lives and personalities, but full of grace without (I hope) being sappy.

Last week I found two more pictures of the sisters. The one on the left was taken in Scotland, circa 1911. The second has Jennie “photoshopped” into the picture. Both pictures, likely manipulated with whatever limited technology was available back then, are good metaphors for the lifetime of relationship shared by these women, across miles, oceans and separation.

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I never had a sister. In the past, that hasn’t bothered me, but at this stage in life, I’m starting to wish I’d had a sister or two—or three!

I do have daughters though, and in three short weeks, these sisters will be together for a short time, also crossing miles and oceans and separation, to be together. So grateful that we get to do these long-distant relationships in a time when travel and technology make connection much easier, much more frequent.

A Day in the Life

A day in the life of the Hurni family lasts about 41 hours on average. With our family spread between New Zealand and America, and messages flying back and forth between, some days can get pretty full. We had a day like that on Sunday.

IMG_1616Starting in New Zealand, Laura and Anne had a wonderful “last day” together on Sunday. We had exchanged a few texts on Saturday night, asking about their plans for the day. They visited “the Mount”, one of our favorite towns/beaches, and had walked with the girls while chatting about the trip that was ending and future trips.

Meanwhile, John, Lizi and I were having last conversations with long-lost cousins and siblings as the Hurne reunion (Pennsylvania) wound down. At breakfast Sunday morning I told everyone about Laura’s travel itinerary.

 

IMG_1605Taylor, Kellen and Oaks packed up the car and started home from Stormy Lake where they spent three days in the Northwoods, fishing, flying airplanes, and having fun.

Just as they started out, Laura called Taylor to tell him that she’d been doubled over in pain for the past few hours. His seven hour trip was punctuated with updates: an urgent care visit, a trip to the Emergency Room, a diagnosis of appendicitis, and eventual surgery.

A small group of Hurnes met at a campground for a praise service and it was there that the text came through letting us know what Laura was experiencing. I left the circle to get my own phone and found earlier texts that I missed. I caught up with the ongoing saga and the Hurnes prayed for Laura and Anne. We went on to visit Aunt Helen and Gramma Timmie, but it was hard to focus on another reunion while our hearts were miles away with our daughters.

Eventually we heard the news that Laura had been taken into surgery and had to wait more hours to hear first that she was “out” (of surgery) and then, late our Sunday night, more details. Sleepy/sedated Laura was able to talk to Taylor in Chicago and send a couple of texts to me. Anne and James juggled two kids through supper and bedtime. James was also juggling busy camp responsibilities. (He is currently running a two week “Journey” camp for high schoolers, a mini adventure Bible school.) IMG_1617

I was also texting with my friend Marilyn updating her on both Laura and Taylor’s saga. (Taylor had been at her cottage at Stormy and Marilyn had also visited New Zealand with me last fall.) She said it was hard to believe this was really happening. I replied: “Hurnis don’t do normal.”

Eventually, Laura went home to Anne’s house where she is recuperating. Taylor arrived back in Chicago to be Mr. Mom for a week, his work having freed him of other responsibilities. We traveled back to western New York and then made a beeline home to Chicago.

We keep reminding ourselves that God knew all the details before these trips were even planned, and while it has taken us by surprise, it hasn’t surprised Him. We are grateful that the abdominal pains didn’t start later–in the air or while traveling–and that we’ve been able, as a family, to travel thousands of miles safely. We’re pleased with the longer visit for Anne and Laura, though we know Laura is ready to be home with her boys. We are also grateful for our smart phones that kept us all in contact throughout the drama.

Just a long day in our life.

* Did you notice the alternative spelling of our surname? John started out life as a Hurne, even though the original Swiss name ended with an “i.” Tired of correcting pronunciation and interested in our roots, we changed out surname back to the original in 1981. Although the rest of our extended family continues to spell the name with an “e”, they are split between calling themselves Hurne and Hurn(silent e). Quite a few of them gave up on correcting others and just went with the one syllable name. Approximately 80 Hurne/Hurnis gathered to celebrate the approximate 100th consecutive reunion of this family, descendants of Samuel and Rosina Hurni who left Switzerland in 1880. As they crossed into America, they either anglicized the spelling of their Swiss-German name or a customs officer wrote it down incorrectly.

P.S. It looks like Laura and Olive will be flying home on Saturday, leaving on our Friday. She will get wheelchair assistance at both airports and is hoping for a bassinet row with some empty seats.