Finding the Good

Have you ever had lice?

I hadn’t.  Not until last year.  Christian’s former workplace had given us a generous gift certificate for Christmas a few years back, so I took Hannah for a haircut from the participating vendor (an upscale salon, which will remain nameless).

Lo and behold, she scratched her golden curls almost immediately afterward, prompting me to advise her to shower and wash off all the hair fragments lingering on her neck and hairline.  Nothing more was mentioned.

Two days later as I shampooed Abby, I yelped when I noticed tiny squiggles squirming around on her scalp.  Christian rushed to the doorway and grimaced at the sight.

“This means war!”

Off to CVS he dashed, soon to return with lice kits, extra combs, and lots of shampoo.  All five of us soon became victims of these persistent, itchy little creatures.  Christian dug out his electric razor and rid himself of the beasts entirely.  He also shaved John’s head while we girls watched, coveting, wishing it were as easy to rid our long manes of the uninvited guests.  We scrubbed and combed, scrubbed and combed, combed and scrubbed until our scalps turned red and raw.

I bagged up nearly all of our blankets and throw pillows, sheets and stuffed animals, clothes and towels – thirty garbage bags full – and headed to the laundromat.  Of all times for my dryer to be broken!  The kids fell in love with the laundromat and asked me if we could sell our washer and dryer.

I found myself thankful I’d gone to the laundromat because, as I placed contaminated laundry items into the washer, lice literally hopped from the sheets onto my arm – ICK!  I squealed and shoved the entire mass into the machine, and then I ran to the sink to thoroughly scrub my arms in hot water.

I went home and scrubbed the floors and carpets, curtains and blinds, sofas and beds.  We sanitized the entire house from top to bottom, leaving no stone unturned.

We did NOT want to go through that again.  Ever.

Needless to say, the word lice now has a new meaning in our home, but amazingly, that meaning has morphed yet again.  Last night as Christian and I trained for our upcoming spring triathlons after the kids went to bed (a very fun date night – he runs on the treadmill while I bike – or vice versa), we watched a fascinating documentary titled Corrie ten Boom: A Faith Undefeated on Pure Flix (http://pureflix.com) about a courageous Holocaust survivor.

I love her story.  I’d read The Hiding Place many years ago, and as I briefly searched for the movie, I came across this documentary that showed her real home, the watchmaker’s shop, etc.

Fascinating.

One thing that I’d forgotten and am thankful to have been reminded of as we watched was how Corrie and her sister, Betsie, learned to be thankful for everything.  During their imprisonment, they lived in a barracks that was infested with lice and fleas, so much so that the guards refused to enter it.  They left the prisoners’ food at the door and let them pretty much fend for themselves.

Horrible tales surfaced about what guards had done to prisoners in the other barracks, but thanks to lice and fleas, the happenings in Barracks 28 at Ravensbruck proved vastly different.  Twice daily, Corrie read from a small Bible that the enemy had miraculously not confiscated, and all 700 women prayed together in this small room built to hold only 200.  Thrust together by their dire circumstances and crammed into a filthy hole of a home, these brave prisoners held on, surviving one minute at a time.

As I snuggle up in my soft pillow-topped queen, complete with clean sheets, thermal blankets, and patchwork quilt, I feel spoiled, unworthy, and humbled as the legacy of these incredible saints thunders through my mind.  I loathe my comforts and detest my comparatively complacent spirituality as these women risked their lives for years, hiding and helping those hunted and cruelly sought out, those if caught would be tortured and possibly killed by the hands of an unyielding, voracious enemy.

How my heart breaks for them, these precious sisters, enduring such terrible suffering and horror day after day after day.  And yet, the recordings taken from Corrie’s speeches after her miraculous release reveal a radiant, joy-filled voice so powerful that goosebumps erupt down my arms every time I hear it.  Devotion to God permeated her words and defined her life as she acted without hesitation, reservation, or thought of self-preservation.

Both Corrie and Betsie sacrificed all to save those who would likely be lost had God not used them to intervene on behalf of His people.

I scarce can take it in.

May their example serve as a searing reminder to me that no matter how bad things get, no matter what circumstances I face tomorrow, God will help me find something for which to thank Him.  In the darkest nights, when I’m infested with the lice and fleas of my life, may I fight to find something good, something for which to praise Him, even when I don’t understand the “why” of it all.

Thank you, Corrie and Betsie, for reminding me to find the good and that the Ultimate Good can always be found anywhere.

The Best Lover

Of all the people (not God – I’m talking human beings) in your world, who loves you best?

My answer is easy.

You may be shocked that it’s not my husband.  It’s neither my kids nor my parents.

It’s my older sister, Krissie.

Those of you who know her are smiling now, for you, too, have been blessed by the beauty that she is.  Before she was born, God graced her with a most amazing spirit, one she would need to conquer the many mental and physical challenges thrust upon her the minute she left our mother’s womb.

Never to marry, never to give birth, and never to manage a home of her own, Krissie faces each day hungry.  All day.  Every day.  All night long.  It never goes away.

When I stop and consider this, even as I type, my eyes well with tears.  The sister in me wants to take it from her, and if need be, for her.  I detest this thorn in her side, this tool God has used to make her into such a wonderful human being.  Prader-Wili Syndrome is such a bitter pill to swallow, on top of losing an arm in an accident, yet sweet Krissie presses on one day at a time, looking forward to the next time she gets to see people.

People.  She loves them.  Every single one.

She feeds off her relationships.  They motivate her like nothing else, even food.  Without prejudice or pretense, she greets everyone around her affectionately, whether they be family or friend, waitress or cashier, doctor or janitor.

And it’s not just hello with her – she wants names.

She may be mentally challenged and not understand how four quarters equal a dollar, but her ability to remember names, addresses, phone numbers, pets’ names, birthdays, etc. astounds me.  I’ve seen somber retailers and downcast shoppers break into smiles when she calls their name from across South Mall (where she walks with my parents daily) and asks how Rosebud and Rex are doing.

You would think she’s the Mayor.

Not to say that she is never hurt, but she gets over it quickly, eager to forgive and move on to the next hug, the next smile, the next friend she can love.

One of the things I missed most when she lost her arm was the way she would greet people.  Whenever someone she knew would enter her field of vision, she would gasp, loudly call their name, clasp her hands together, and wiggle her fingers all around.  Then, oblivious to most social norms, she would rush to their side, continuing to call their name with a wide smile, outstretched arms, and booming voice.

Today, the effect is the same, even without all ten fingers.  Through the genuine, innocent, and wholehearted way that she loves, Krissie makes people feel important, valued, and treasured.  Having grown up in the same house, I didn’t realize until I no longer lived with her how rare and precious her gift truly is.  She has mastered something remarkable, something that many successful and intelligent people find themselves lacking the ability to muster let alone reciprocate.

Everyone loves her.

She was my secretary for about 18 months prior to Hannah’s birth.  Twice a week, she would come to my home office and help me maintain my writing files for a couple of hours at a time.  It was great.  I loved having her, sharing that time together, enjoying our green pepper breaks and watching her use a pink highlighter to put big “X”s on the used side of my manuscripts.

Even though I now live roughly 90 minutes away, I miss being able to have her over for a banana pancake breakfast (yes, the kids would typically through a few chocolate chips into the mix) and a game of Dutch Blitz (she beats me).  I miss scooping her up for an afternoon  homeschool adventure or a spontaneous seafood suppertime.  I miss my secretary.

I miss attending church with her, sitting beside her, giggling with her.  I miss nudging her when she doses off in the middle of the sermon.  I miss watching her clap her hands.  Always offbeat, typically swaying a little from side-to-side, she would radiantly worship faithfully every Sunday, belting out the songs slightly off-key and clapping.

We’ve adjusted to a new norm, visiting back-and-forth when we can.  The kids love going to visit Aunt KiKi and having her come visit us.  As she ages, she faces more challenges, as do we all.  I continue to pray for her, as well as my parents as they care for her.  Many days are not easy, truth be told, but one thing remains.

Her unbridled, ardent, beautiful love.

I love you, my sweet Krissie.  I look up to you, Big Sister, more than you know.  You have set the bar high, far beyond anything I could ever achieve.  You bear your cross well, so well that I sometimes forget you have it.

I look forward to spending eternity with you, my amazing sister, the best lover of all.