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Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

There Were Good Times

We had many good experiences in Slovenia in spite of the shadow hanging over me.  We went to the open air markets in downtown Ljubljana; wonderful places swirling with activity.  People of all ages were buying and selling their wares.  Fruits and vegetables, dresses and slippers, flowers, souvenirs, spices; so many things to entice ones senses leading you to want to linger here for hours just to absorb every bit of it.  Cappuccino slowly savored in an outdoor cafe' overlooking the river which runs through town, surrounded by conversations loud enough for all to hear, yet not meant to be a part of.  Vroca cokolada, or hot chocolate, sipped and spooned from tiny cups with tiny spoons under a patio umbrella in winter, warmth provided by giant propane fueled heaters.  Eating freshly roasted chestnuts from a paper cone while walking through the streets observing the multitude of Christmas lights adorning the buildings, especially the castle and the hill it sat on.  Amazing.  And picnics!  Picnics are wonderful in Slovenia.  People turn out in masses, and the food is fantastic.  Grills cook up sausages and pork and chicken, while rustic bread is paired with fresh slices of tomato and onion.  So delicious!

Then there was the celebration of Pust.  To this day I still do not have a full understanding of what the celebration is all about.  It's a pre-Lenten carnival of sorts where people dress up in costumes and run around villages collecting candy, money, and favors from the townspeople. Having no knowledge of this holiday beforehand, you can imagine how surprised I was when one day I looked out my kitchen window and saw 10-15 men roaming around the area fully dressed as Roman soldiers. I yelled for Rob and Mike to come and see, and we all wondered what it was about.  With a shrug of his shoulders, Rob went to take his shower, and Mike continued his activities.  About 10 minutes later, there was a knock at our door.  As soon as I opened it, I wished I hadn't.  There, standing before me, were these "Roman soldiers", along with a half dozen or more people.  One of the men pushed his way past me into our house, while I stood there wondering what in the world was going on.  He came back out quickly, showing me that he had plugged their music maker in, and soon the party began.  Polka music was now blasting from my front porch, and the lead "soldier" was insisting I dance with him!  I kept looking back into the house and calling for Rob and Mike to come- maybe they could rescue me from these crazy people- but neither one of them responded, both missing the entire encounter.  Remaining insistent regarding the dance, I soon found myself being twirled round and round to the notes of an unfamiliar song.  Everyone was laughing and having fun; I felt silly and awkward, after all, I didn't know how to dance. Soon the dancing ended, they unplugged their gear, and prepared to leave.  One of the women approached me and explained that the celebration was like our Halloween, and she stood there as if expecting something.  Not understanding, and still in shock from the whole encounter, I simply smiled.  As they walked away and began to load themselves into the back of a large truck preparing to go to their next stop, I suddenly remembered a bag of candy I had in the house.  I grabbed it, tore it open, and ran out to their truck; showering them with handful after handful of candy.  They all started cheering and clapping!  I still do not understand the whole Pust event, but I do know after that day, even the villagers who had simply stared at us when we drove by, now waved and smiled at us.  We had become the hit of the town!

One of the best memories I have of Slovenia involved Michael.  He was so amazing to me in his interactions with the local young people.  As young teenagers, the boys were already heavily steeped in pornography on their home computers, and the teen "hangout" was the local bar.  Watered-down alcohol was acceptable to serve kids as young as 14 since there was no legal drinking age.  If Mike wanted friends in the neighborhood, these would be the kids he'd hang out with.  Obviously, we were a bit leery of these associations, but we had come here to make a difference.  When Mike went to these kids' homes, if they put something objectionable on the computer, he would influence them to change it, which they did.  One night, the neighbor boy wanted Mike to go to the bar with him to hang out with the local kids.  In spite of wanting to say no, we let him go.  We gave firm instructions and a curfew for him to follow.  When he arrived home late that evening, he reeked of cigarette smoke so strongly, I made him strip his clothes off at the door.  Apparently everyone there smoked, including the kids. They offered it to Mike, but when he refused, the kids all told him it was good he didn’t and was smart not to start.  They pushed no harder.
Apparently there had been a young lady at the bar who was "passed around" and treated poorly by the others.  She approached Mike in the same manner she would have the other boys, but Mike refused to treat her poorly.  He treated her respectfully, as a gentleman would treat a lady.  The other kids watched this behavior.  They said nothing, but they watched.
A few weeks later, one of the neighbor boys stopped by our house- a first.  He asked to speak to Mike, and since we had guests at the time, I asked if he could come back later.  He silently stood there, shuffling his feet, not wanting to leave.  Recognizing that he really wanted Mike, I said he could stay for a short while.  I got Mike, and the two of them went outside to talk.  Over an hour went by, but I could see they were still engrossed in conversation.  I was curious, but did not interrupt.  When Mike finally came in, I asked him what it was about.  He said the boy had come over to talk to him because he wanted to know about God.  He said he knew we were different from other people; in fact, the whole village saw we were different.  So for an hour, Mike shared with him about God.  I don't know if the boy made any life changes or not, but God was working on his heart.  I was so proud of Mike.  He was growing up in ways he never would have if we hadn't moved to this place. If God did nothing else while we were here, He was working in and through our son, and that alone would be enough for me.

But God wasn't working on just a couple of hearts; He was working on mine as well.  God loves us enough that He won't leave us the way we are.  He was beginning to break through the walls I had built, but it would not be easy.  This battle was far from over.

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