Last Thursday

August 17, 2017

She showed up beside by my bed at three a.m.

“Mommy,” she said, “I am having great pain.”

That is an odd phrase, I thought. And I got up and asked questions and chose her some medicine, and scooted over to make space for her in the bed. She slept with me the rest of the night, but when she came downstairs in the morning it was worse. She lay on the couch for the next half hour, crying out, increasingly distressed, caught in the pain, chilled, screaming sometimes, vomiting.

“You can pinch my arm hard,” I said. “Ouch.”

We phoned and phoned. Our new doctor was out of the office for the day, and our old doctor’s office said “Since it’s within 24 hours of onset, just have her drink sips of water and wait for the virus to pass. I mean, if she really needs to come in, you can call back to schedule.” I wanted to yell at them.

That doctor called back within minutes to say, “I’m sorry. I was busy with another patient when the office girl spoke to me. What kind of pain is your daughter having? Okay, she needs to go for a scan. I’d recommend the emergency room.”

We had promised ourselves last December that if this happened again, we’d know the signs, and we’d drive her to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ourselves. We’d skip the extra hours of waiting, the ambulance, the double doctor and hospital bills. Our hospital does very little with peds, and transfer was near-guaranteed.

So we loaded my daughter into the van. I called around for a sitter for my baby. I grabbed hasty supplies – a toothbrush, a change of clothes for Kelly, a Bible, my breakfast. And my little girl and I set out for Pittsburgh, an hour and forty minutes away.

All the way down, as she dozed and retched in the backseat, I second guessed myself. What if it was a stomach bug? But when I could see her again, I knew we were in the right place, and may I say something else? That hospital is amazing. We were met by great staff, checked in immediately, and called back to an ER berth within ten minutes of arrival.

And so the long and the short of this story, several tests later, is that my daughter had a second ovarian torsion, exactly like the first one last December, with this difference: it was her left ovary instead of her right one. The chance of a torsion happening at all in a pre-pubescent child, without a cyst or other “cause,” is very small. For it to happen to the same child on opposite sides is just crazy. The managing doctor in the ER had never seen it, and even after the scans, the surgeon was not convinced it wasn’t the same ovary just pulling a number on us. Until he looked for himself.

Once again, I called and texted frenetically to keep her father informed. Once again, I signed release forms for laparoscopic surgery. Once again, I kissed her goodbye and watched them take her away. She was hardly awake enough to know what was happening, even before the anesthesia. That is what her body does in this kind of pain: vomits and sleeps.

But oh, bless Jesus. While they were in there, they stitched both ovaries in place to keep it from happening again. The release form said they might. “Please,” I said. “If you can do it, please do.” The surgeon looked at me. “Like a time bomb waiting to go off, huh?” he said. You got it, sir.

Her timing is awful. Last time, we were four days from her first Christmas program at school, and she healed up just in time to participate. This time, I was twenty-four hours from leaving for an overnight trip to a ladies’ retreat – one of the highlights of my year, and the only event to which I never take a child. And no, I didn’t make it. I kept watching the clock, thinking of what They All were doing without me, feeling wretched for being so selfish and minding so much. That is my confession.

As if she could choose, poor darling.

Worse, it is our third emergency room visit in nine months, and eats up the money I was hoping to spend to visit my sister in Israel when her baby comes. That is a loss I do not know how to fix.

Although there was worry and sorrow, there was far less stress in round two. There was no talk of a mass, a teratoma or a cancer or a rupture. We had a precedent.

I am so grateful for superior medical teams who knew what they were doing, grateful my daughter’s fertility is still intact, grateful to live in a generation when it is possible to look inside the human body, and to enter it to fix what is wrong, and to do the entering so unobtrusively that the patient can be up and walking (almost pain-free) within hours. I am grateful to my husband and my bestie and my mom, who kept things running smoothly in my absence and who were all around flexible and wonderful. I am grateful to Kelly for being such a trooper. Most of all, I am grateful this part of her story is, Lord willing, behind us.

The only good thing about hospital stays: ordering whatever you want to eat and chain-watching Richard Scarry movies.

“My life has so many miracles,” she says.

And I say, Amen. And please, honey, let’s have no more for a while.


There’s little information I can find even on the internet about ovarian torsions, either because they are rare and unstudied or because they are usually accompanied by another condition, such as a cyst, which receives the greater attention and official diagnosis. They’re easily missed as mimicking something else; and uncorrected, they’re both excruciating and dangerous. The speedy intervention of surgery was a godsend both times. Thank you, Jesus!

Choose life

How many of us do you think will have the chance to speak timely words to a mother dithering on the edge of her pro-life / pro-choice decision? One in a hundred? Less than that?

I cannot tell. But I know this: Every day, my words and actions to everyone around me vote for life — or they do not. I can talk until the day dawns about the evils of abortion, but what am I doing?

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Sometimes I assume that being pro-life means I have to volunteer at my local crisis pregnancy center, march in Washington D.C, or become a foster parent. The Lord in his infinite wisdom and great sense of humor has led me on a couple of those paths—but it’s not really what I’m talking about. I am asking myself not if I am pro- the pro-life movement, but if I am pro-life. All life.

When was the last time I held a child to give his mom a break?

How do I respond to the screaming child (and her frazzled mother) in the next aisle of the grocery store?

On Sundays, do I watch the circus on the bench in front of me* with a frown? a smirk? or active compassion?

*Theoretically speaking. Usually I am the circus. Sometimes I’m the frazzled mother in the next aisle too: Come bring me coffee.

Am I warming my own children with love?

Am I willing to love a child who is not mine? my Sunday school student? my nephew? my runny-nosed neighbor kid?

What comes out of my mouth when I hear that Mrs. Seven Babies In About As Many Years is expecting her eighth?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
How have I enabled? What have I done?


Every time I celebrate a child, I am helping his mother to love him.

Every time I give her what she needs from me most—my T.I.M.E—I am helping her to keep him.


I may not meet the frightened expectant mother contemplating abortion, but every expectant mother, every overwhelmed mother, carries fears I cannot see. She needs to hear these words:

You’ve got this. I am so happy for you. I will be here to help.

That’s all I have to say.

How has your load been lightened by the people around you? How have you lightened the load for others?

More tomorrow

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21


Here’s the rest of what I have to say. It’s short.

I once said that what government does cannot heal your world. (You didn’t take much notice of it because that was the day I also said what you eat cannot heal your world.) I said, “Please consider the gospel you preach. There is no cure for human suffering except the one found in the person of Jesus and his final redemption.”

Don’t even think I’m saying that a government shouldn’t do all the good it can… that’s what it’s there for. It should protect the innocent and defend the poor and strike terror to the evil. But why would the people of God look to it for ultimate restoration? Human ideas aren’t that good.

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I’ve seen Christians put their hope in godly politicians, only to see those shining leaders stumble and severely disappoint; and I’ve seen Christians attack ungodly politicians, who were selected by the Lord for such a time as this.

Our times are in his hands.

The utopias and dystopias, whatever their faults, were important books for the warnings they offered. They are important again this season, as America lunges and churns and gouges its way toward a Presidential election unlike any other—and yet so very like. Sometimes the American political scene looks to me like a golden chamber pot—expensive, sure; fascinating, you bet; but who would like to claim it? Anyone? Anyone?

Please remember. The biggest question is not “Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton?”

The biggest question is “Who heals the nations?

If what the government does cannot completely heal the world (and by that I mean solve every human problem, rescue every lost child, and change the hearts of people to make us truly good and truly happy), then what the government does cannot completely destroy the world either—however damaging/ dangerous/ selfish/ alarming/ horrible the fallout of its policies may be. It just can’t. It can’t turn good into evil, stop the sweet work of the Holy Spirit, or make the earth forget its Redeemer.

If you are in Christ, you belong to a kingdom that transcends political and temporal lines, and places your hope in a person, not in a place or a policy. There is always hope, because JESUS.

Because there is one perfect person in the world, one scaldingly good man who laid down his life for his enemies and walked through suffering and rose radiant with eternal life, we can live here too, and he will keep transforming us into his kind of people.

Our hope is in him, world without end. Amen.

Take note

While we are in the promotional mode—

It’s been a while since I talked about my advertisers! I’m grateful to these businesses and want to give them a little shout-out, a more personal introduction than I’ve done so far.

Kauffman’s Fruit Farm

I was introduced to this 100-year-old family business through my friends Sheldon & Joann Kauffman. Their apple cider is the best! They also sell and ship fruit trees, bulk food products, fruit baskets, and their signature apple butters. I appreciate the Kauffman’s straightforward honesty and quality work. They know fruit, and have perfected what they do!

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Byler’s Relish House

I’ve been blessed to do some product work for BRH. I’ve shot some photos for them, and taste-tested a few products to write descriptions and suggest uses. Their preserves are wonderful—from classics like peach and black raspberry to an entire no-sugar-added line. They also have a wide range of pickles, barbecue sauces, relishes and salsas, good enough to eat straight out of the jar. {I have had experience with this.}

(Shown here is pulled pork with Bylers’ Honey Barbecue Sauce.)

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Yoder Financial Services

Dennis Yoder is a numbers man. He’s good at math and taxes, two areas in which some of us need a little assistance. He’ll help you navigate red tape and the intricacies of the Obamacare requirements, with inexpensive options for initial consultation with him. He offers financial advice, bookkeeping solutions and payroll services.

Plus his sister teaches my son in second grade—so you KNOW the Yoders among the few, the proud, the brave. In the best sense.

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Christian Learning Resource

CLR is the local bookstore of which we are proud! But they’ll also ship across the country. They offer an excellent choice of school/ homeschool curriculum, plus great books and quality music. I love their books by authors I know: Anita Yoder on living well, Sharon Yoder on singlehood, Steven Russell on nonresistance, Beatrice King on cooking, and Desiree Kuhns on math class openers. It’s a fun website to browse, especially if you’re a book lover like me.

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Several of these ads are nearing the end of their six-month run, and I’ll have an opening coming up. I think it’s a niche location for Mennonite businesses to advertise, particularly those who can ship their products across the country. If you have a business you’d like to advertise for, contact me (sharizook@gmail.com) and we’ll talk about options and details.

It’s been fun to connect my readers with great products and services. Thanks for being interested!

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Have you interacted with these businesses? Any words to offer in their praise?
What other online vendors do you enjoy?

The string cheese incident

Once upon a time in the aisles of Aldi, I came up against a stranger at the cheese cooler.

She was tall and trim, with lush curly hair. She flashed a megawatt smile at my daughter and flitted through her purchases, energy oozing out of her. We chatted a little.

“String cheese, string cheese,” she said to herself. “Don’t tell me they’re out. I need some for children’s church tonight!”

I was looking for string cheese too, and helped her look. We scanned the shelves together. “I don’t think there’s any here,” I said. Suddenly her hand shot out and snatched (I do not think “snatched” is too strong a word) a pack of string cheese from the cooler right in front of me. A single pack had been sitting out of place on top of another cheese box.

She practically hugged it. “Oh my goodness!” she said, her face alight. “Jesus put this here just for me! Isn’t He so good?! He knew just what I needed!”

By now I was thinking two things.

  1. You are a beautiful lady of courage and charisma.
  2. Did He also give you permission to snatch it from in front of me?

I said something kind, since I don’t fight with strangers [only sisters and husbands], and stood there scanning the shelves one last time. On the highest shelf, out of its usual place, sat an entire box of string cheese packages.

“Look,” I said. “Here’s more.” And I took down a package for myself. “Do you need more packs?”

No, she only needed one. She bubbled on her way, a radiant lady.

I admire her still, and I do not tell this story to paint me as the good guy: I would have liked to snatch up that cheese myself. I tell the story because I began to feel, after a time—not at first—that what she did with cheese, I might be doing with quarters in Aldi carts.

I began to wonder if The Miraculous Provision of Jesus Just For Me is sometimes code for Being a Better Snatcher? We Christians have an easy handle on this brand of selfishness.

“Pass it on,” those liberal strangers at the carts always told me. And I did. But I wonder how often I found a cart outside the store without an owner, just sitting there waiting, as I said in my last post, and mentally added …for me!

I want to be a NonSnatcher. That’s why I started taking a quarter of my own. And if I want to walk forward another step and become a Giver, my little envelope could probably hold two…?