Category Archives: faith building

Recap: Do Hard Things

We went to the Do Hard Things conference over the weekend. Quick takes:

– inspiring and motivational
– disappointed that we had to leave early (previous commitment in conflict with the conference schedule)
– good books and resources available: We took some for “homework” and so our conference experience will continue as we read.

First impressions:

We arrived a bit late, but the conference organizers had things under control in the front lobby. Since we were preregistered, check-in went quickly. We were directed to create nametags and head in to the auditorium where we could hear praise music already blasting. On the way in, each of the youthful participants received an audience-participation gadget.

The main floor was full, and those who seemed to be ushers (I think they were ushers. They looked like ushers) didn’t seem to know what to do about it. They hovered in the back, by the doors, paying little heed to the conference attendees who were also hovering in the back, by the doors, trying to figure out the seating situation. (A large bank of seats near the back sort of fooled the casual observer, appearing empty as you entered, but proving to be “reserved” with personal possessions.)

I finally asked an usher if we could find seats upstairs, and she (seeming surprised) gave it a moment of thought and then said, “Sure!”

Since we weren’t familiar with the church, it took us a minute or two more to find the stairs, but intrepid, intelligent home educators that we are, we managed to solve the problem despite the fact that we were still on an adrenalin high from rushing there (belated), we were tired from a late night the night before, and the music was blasting our senses.

Why is it that teen music, even teen praise music, is so LOUD? Is the stereotype that all teens are deaf? Are teens deaf because they listen to music that’s so loud? Is the volume turned up to ear-tingling levels because teens are used to tuning things out? Do teens enjoy painfully loud music? (Mine don’t.) Is the volume kept high so that deaf participants can enjoy the music vibrating from the floor?

Wish we’d brought earplugs, at least for the musical portion. The lyrics were good, the tunes singable, but we sang along with our fingers in our ears to protect our hearing. Did you know that if a sound is loud enough to be uncomfortable, even painful, that you need ear protection, to keep the delicate mechanism inside your ears from damage?

(We had the same problem at the homeschool co-op, the last couple of years. We got in the habit of arriving late and skipping the praise-and-worship portion, because the music was painfully loud. When I say “painfully” I mean exactly that. Pity. The organizers try to set the tone for the co-0p day, but the praise portion is so loud that it’s damaging the hearing of those who come to hear, whether they realize it or not.)

Since I don’t want to leave this on a negative note, let me reiterate that the messages were good, encouraging teens to rise above modern society’s low expectations. I wish we’d been able to stay the whole day.

A friend loaned us the conference on video, so we can watch the session we missed.

Last word:

If you have a chance to get to one of the remaining conferences, GO. There are conferences coming up in Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Baton Rouge. If you live some distance away, be encouraged by the group that traveled from Dubai to get to the Portland conference. Besides that group, there were others who came from hundreds of miles away, including Arizona, southern California, and Alaska.

If you do plan to attend an upcoming conference, expect to be challenged and encouraged.

Oh, and bring ear protection.

(As the Lord allows, come back tomorrow for a more in-depth look at the message of the conference.)

A light that shines in the darkness

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound by sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off; my heart was free!
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Amazing love, how can it be,
That Thou, my God, should’st die for me?

(Charles Wesley, 1738)

(for tune and more verses, click here)

Dog update!!!!

I am so happy to be able to report that the lab tests came back negative.

No cancer.

May I repeat that?

No cancer.

It was a massive infection, and her toe was so messed up that they were sure it was cancer, but the biopsy results say not.

Memo to self (Giant Schnauzer owners take note): Keep the hair around toes trimmed. Giant mops may look cute, but they’re not good for seeing problems, possible foreign bodies, thorns, that sort of thing. Keep toenails trimmed (even if it makes the dog grumpy when you’re doing it) so they don’t break off and lead to infection.

Since the weather has warmed up, the dog is now shaved all over. I should have taken a pic of her with her “poodle” look (or maybe more like “sheep”): rear legs shaved halfway up, front legs shaved in a band around the middle of the legs — she really did look somewhat poodlish in front and sheepish from the back, like one of those Looney Tunes sheep, all fuzz on top and skinny legs sticking out below.

On the other hand, we’re just so relieved to put all the past weeks of anxiety and anticipated grief behind us…

Counting my blessings, day 2

Maybe it’s going to snow. Maybe it’s not going to snow. In our experience living here, too many Major Snow Events have fizzled for us to get really excited or anxious or whatever.

On the other hand, there have been one or two Major Snow Events that weren’t predicted, and then happened anyhow. One of them lasted a week — that is, we parked our car when the snow started to accumulate, and left it parked for a week until the streets were drivable again. It was a pretty low-slung car (a Ford Taurus station wagon) and would have (what do you call it?) high-centered (I think that’s the term) on the snow between the ruts on the unplowed street. They only plow major thoroughfares here, not the side streets. Thankfully there’s a store or two within walking distance.

Our pantry is full (a few staples are missing, like potatoes, but we could get along with what we have for a week or more even without potatoes), and we have some wood for the wood stove if the power happens to go out (not a lot, but some). Filled the car’s gas tank yesterday.

Don’t have batteries for the portable radio, but if we really needed to hear the news we could go out to the car and run the engine briefly, if we had to, and listen to the news on the radio without draining the battery. (Don’t know how much juice it takes to listen to the radio, but I remember from Midwest winters that freezing weather is hard on a car battery, regardless.)

Cell phone is charged; we’ve got sweaters and extra blankets, and because we redid the plumbing last year the pipes aren’t as vulnerable to freezing. We even have oil in the oil lamps and batteries in the flashlights.

Guess we’re ready.

Now the Major Snow Event can fizzle, if it wants to do so. Or it can snow.

It’s time to take my coffee and tuck up with the girls and the Giant Schnoz on the couch for Bible reading time. That’s another blessing in itself.

What are you thankful for today?

Counting my blessings

I need to cultivate a more thankful spirit. Who’s with me?

Today, I am thankful for warm sunshine. Last week was cool and sometimes rainy, this week is supposed to be cold (maybe even setting a record low “high” temperature later in the week) and perhaps snowy.

But today when I was running errands, at one point I took off my jacket to bask in the warm sun. Then I got back in the car to go on to the next stop.

By the time I got to the gas station to fill up the tank, the sky was cloudy again, and it was chilly enough that I hurried to put on my jacket.

But the memory of that warm sunshine stays with me.

What are you thankful for today?


The Beauty Queen is back from the vet, minus a toe.

The cancer had spread further than they thought. Up the leg — they couldn’t get it all.

Awaiting test results to see if taking off the whole leg will buy her more time. How much more time? Perhaps a year.


Dogs. They live such short lives. And it appears hers will be much shorter than it might have been.

Yet they give so much, in that short span that they are allowed. Who else do I know who will seek me out, just to snuggle her head against me and make me feel like the most important person in the world? Who else insists on following me into the bathroom whenever I go in there, for any reason (“To protect you from the drain monster, of course” as Middlest says)? Well, when I had a two-year-old, I had someone who followed me everywhere.

But it’s been a long time since I’ve had a two-legged two-year-old.

Guess you could call the Beauty Queen a perpetual toddler. Without the tantrums. Vessel of unconditional love, always overjoyed to greet you, to snuggle, never too busy to spend some quality time together.

We humans could learn a thing or two from our dogs.

Worry, or, Doing what you can

Worry can be so debilitating. Take our family, for example.

The Beauty Queen has been diagnosed with toe cancer.  (Granted, in the picture she’s relaxing, not primping for a pageant, but believe me, she’s a Beauty Queen through and through.)

Toe cancer doesn’t seem to be all that unusual for Giant Schnauzers, especially if they come from puppy mills (which we suspect might be the origin of our sweetie-pie-rescue-dog).

Still, the news hit us with all the numbing, crushing impact of a cement truck, especially when we got the vet’s estimate for what it would cost to take off the toe.

We’re exploring options, but it’s not pretty. Gut the budget, put her down, surrender her to the Humane Society (with no option of re-adopting her ourselves, but at least the surgery happens). We’re still waiting on word from another vet as to how much it would cost at their clinic.

As a rescue dog, she’s already been abandoned by one family. I’m not sure we could bear to do that to her, ourselves.

The girls (self included, on and off) have been moping and weepy for three days now, and the dog has had lots of extra hugs and cuddles and treats and grooming. Sleep has been elusive.

This morning I’m in a fog, and feel like I’m slogging through molasses. I’m letting the girls sleep in a bit, as they haven’t been sleeping well either.

It’s time to pour a cup of coffee and settle down with the Schnoz and my Bible and remind myself of a few Truths.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 4:6-7