I’m Goin’ In

[Note: Reblogged from the “Life Without Dad” series on ForbidThemNot’s Blog]

I’ve always had this amazing dread of the underneath side of the house. Not a fear, just a dread of the mud and the spiders and the dark—and the spiders hiding in the dark, waiting to take up residence in my hair. But, this week I found myself tweeting this:

“Goin’ in…Here’s hoping I come out alive.”

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Last Sunday night, Mom and I sat in the living room practically melting. By morning, the bagels on the counter had molded. Granted, they were probably well on their way to start with, but the heat in the house didn’t help matters. I had already planned to mow, so why not add the swamp cooler to the list?

Those of you not familiar with semi-arid/arid climates are probably wondering,

“Swamp cooler? Is that a thing?”

The answer is yes. A swamp cooler, otherwise known as an evaporative cooler, lowers the house temperature by means of fans and evaporated water. In a place where the humidity is often under 10% an air conditioner just doesn’t always cut it—especially in a mobile home.

Each spring, the cooler has to be un-winterized and cleaned out. The pads generally need to be replaced. The bearings must be oiled. Some coolers are mounted on the roof, while others fit into a window. Ours is the latter kind, and of course, setting it up in the spring and shutting it down in the winter were always Dad’s job…

I knew I needed a ladder, so Sunday night I brought it home from where we store it at the church. (Thinking ahead!) Monday morning, I put my plan into action. But, I hadn’t been out there long, when I realized I had a problem.

Two summers ago, Dad and I re-sided the house. It took us 7 weeks and 2 days. Yes, I was counting. Now, I am incredibly grateful for those 51 hotter-than-a-firecracker days. (We put a thermometer out in the sun where we working, and it went up to 115!)  Here’s the problem: the new window trim on the deck is set in such a manner that it prevents removing the pad on the left side of the cooler. We took the cooler down for part of the re-siding process. We had to; it was in the way. It took all three of us to get it back up in place, so there’s no way I was going to do that again. From the looks of it, last year, Dad just let it go…one more sign that he wasn’t feeling well long before this happened.

If you’ve ever seen the inside of a swamp cooler, you know the pads are fit in metal frames with metal grates over top of them to hold them in place. After about a half hour of trying in vain to get the frame out of the cooler, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I decided my only option would be to somehow remove the metal grate, set it down in the cooler and then to wiggle the old pad out and a new pad in.

My hopes of getting everything done on Monday were growing dim.

I measured the pads to know what replacement sizes to get, and then tackled my next problem: Oiling the bearings. How is it, that I live in a state where MANY people use swamp coolers, but none of the people I know who use them know how to set them up? Perhaps it’s because…my dad always did it for them.

I knew something needed to be oiled, but I didn’t know what or where. An information sheet I found on the internet said to put the oil in the “oil receptacle.” Yeah, I didn’t see anything that looked like a “receptacle.” Again, after about a half hour, I Googled it. No wonder I couldn’t find it! The two spots are almost microscopic! But, with that done, I now knew everything I needed to know to go to Lowes and get parts…which, with a few other errands added in, took another 2 hours.

My plan to wiggle the pad in worked! It took quite a long time, but eventually, I got it in there. The other two pads were a breeze. Oiling the bearings—easy as pie. Then came the part I’d been dreading.

While we were suffocating in the house the night before, I’d tried to turn the cooler’s fan on, just to move some air. When I hit the switch, however, the world remained silent. If you know anything about swamp coolers, you know silence is not their strong point. So, now that the pads were changed and the bearings oiled, I needed to find two things: the power source and the water source. Both appeared to be under the house.

I’m not a large person, yet, but I was very aware of the cramped space as I crawled in through spider webs and dangling insulation and wires. In the end, I realized I wouldn’t have actually had to crawl in, if I had known what I was doing. The power source was not under there, and the water source was right inside the access panel. But, while I was under there, I realized how difficult it must have been for my dad all those years he worked under there on various wiring, plumbing and phone projects. I could manage to get up on my hands and knees and turn around. But at 6’2” and well over 200 lbs, he would have had to belly crawl in and belly crawl out—backwards.

After much fidgeting and poking around and investigating, I discovered the system was shut off, of all places, at the thermostat. Makes sense, I just forgot about the thermostat. It wasn’t until I was texting my sister, asking her to pray that I find the power source, that I thought of it. Then, with the flip of the switch we were up and running—what a beautiful sound that was.

 

Probably took me longer than most, but swamp cooler is up & running! YES! #victory sure miss you @KRichardMiller

Probably took me longer than most, but the swamp cooler is up & running! YES! #victory sure miss you @KRichardMiller #LifeWithoutDad

 

Insights for those adjusting to loss:

  • With God’s help we can take on tasks we never thought we’d be doing. Sometimes working on those tasks, the things are father/husband would have done, can be painful. Throughout the process, especially the first time, we are keenly aware of WHY we are doing it. Talk to God throughout the process, keep your eyes on Him—that is where we must be to experience His peace.
  • Pray about it. Sometimes when we get stuck on a project we’re tempted to just force our way through it. Don’t. That will only increase your frustration. Stop, take a deep breath, and pray. Ask the Lord to guide you with His eye, to give you understanding of how things works, wisdom as to what steps to take, and the strength to take them.
  • Sometimes we have to go into the dark to really appreciate someone. My dad was an amazing man. He could fix almost anything. In fact, we fixed pretty much everything together. I don’t mean that I helped him with all the house repairs. I mean when I had a problem, a question, an idea, a computer issue—whatever the situation—Dad and I worked through it together. I’ve always appreciated that about him, but as I crawled through that tight, dirty, spider-infested space I realized a little deeper how much he was willing to put himself through to provide for and protect his family. Take time in the darkness to remind yourself of the amazing man God put in your life. Write some of those things down. Thank God for them—for him.

 

Insights for churches:

  • I grew up in a home with no brothers and a Mr. Fix-it father. So, we girls learned the basics of how things work: how to use a screwdriver and a hammer and how to work through a problem. Not every girl is so fortunate. When a family loses their father/husband, they are also often losing their handyman, their yard crew, their plumber, their tech guy. Who in your church has those skills? This is the perfect opportunity to be caring for the fatherless and the widow as God commanded. For some, the needs may be primarily in the first year, until they get their feet under them. For others the need may go on for a long time—especially if they are elderly or have small children. TEACH those who are able bodied the skills they need to do the task, if it is something that can safely be done without the aid of a professional. Give them the tools to thrive. (I’m thinking skills, but sometimes they may actually need the tools.)
  • Be aware. Many people will say, “If you need anything just call me.” This puts the burden back on the family that is already carrying an amazing burden. They know the offer is sincere, but they also know the person making it is just as busy as everyone else. They know they are working or ministering, and won’t want to disrupt their lives. The needs do not stop the day after the funeral, but many of the calls and offers to help do. Stop by and offer to walk around the house to see if anything needs to be repaired. Are they dealing with leaky sinks, doors that won’t latch, dishwashers that won’t wash, etc? Find out what needs to be done and then present the needs to those who are able and willing to help.
  • Consider the others affected. As mentioned above, my dad set up swamp coolers for others. He also fixed plumbing problems, carpentry problems, computer problems, etc. for the widows in our church and did a great deal of house repair for our single missionary lady. These women have also now lost a great deal. Sit down with the family and find out who their father was helping and serving. Make sure the others whose lives he was touching have not been forgotten.

 

Insights for Individuals:

  • The insights shared for churches have to be carried out for individuals. Ask the Lord to help you know how you can help, to give you a willing heart, to help you see the investment of your time in their lives as a valuable investment for eternity.

 

Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?

Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?

Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?

Please, share in the comments below.

 

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Birds At The Brook

For the first time in two weeks the house is quiet. The phone has been mostly silent. Mom is resting. I hear the ceiling fan rock from time to time. The wall clock ticks faithfully, and a lovely, unusual-for-Montana rain falls softly against the roof and windows. It’s the kind of day that makes you want to curl up and sleep. It makes you want to settle in with a good book or movie and something hot to drink. It’s the kind of rainy, spring day that makes you think.

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I have taken the tasks I set out to complete this morning as far as I can take them for today. I should feel relieved, but as I sit down at the table I find myself confused. I don’t know what’s next. I’m not sure how to balance everything that is now on my plate with everything that was on it before…Before the world turned upside down.

The load doesn’t seem heavy; Christ is carrying it. Of that, I am very aware. But I’m not sure which task to pick up first, which I’m going to need to put off for a while, which I need to pursue because it is most important to this new chapter of my life…the chapter without my Dad.

For five years, since I moved back to Billings and began headquartering my work and ministry from my parent’s home, my dad has been the first person I’ve seen nearly every morning. As I stumbled blindly from my room to the kitchen to make my tea each morning, he was always on the couch, coffee nearby, breathe right strip still clinging to his nose; computer, book or Bible open in his lap. He was very often the last person I saw at night. We always seemed to be shutting the lights out at the same (usually very late) hour.

It’s Tuesday. He should be in the living room printing the materials for a meeting for which he’ll most likely have to rush out the door as soon as supper is over—But the living room is silent.

He should be preparing for tomorrow night’s Bible study—But he won’t be there.

One week before Dad went to Heaven I posted a two-part blog series called Out of Sight: Lessons from a Storm. I had been struggling with seeing where the path was leading, and committed even as I wrote to stop and spend extra time with the Lord. That time came Easter Sunday. After celebrating the resurrection at church that morning, we came home and had a delicious Russian meal. Then I went to a favorite spot along the river and sat down with God.

I hadn’t been there long when the Lord brought Psalm 91:1 to my heart. I turned there and began to read. The entire psalm grabbed my attention. Like applying aloe to a sunburn, it soothed the frayed, frightened places of my heart.

I didn’t know how much I was about to need it.

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Tuesday morning, my Dad somewhat casually told my mom he thought he needed to find a doctor for the symptoms he’d been self-treating for quite some time. (None of the rest us realized how serious those symptoms had been.) My parents had their Bible reading and prayer time together. They ate breakfast together. They headed for the ER but not before stopping to get gas. No one realized, not even Dad, how serious the situation was. Within just a couple of hours he had been whisked into emergency surgery for a six-way bypass. SIX bypasses. How had he even been functioning! The surgery went well. The hospital staff sent us home, and told us Dad would need us more in the morning than he would during the night.

As I woke up the next morning, I turned on a recording of Scripture that I have been working my way through. That morning’s reading was I Kings 17. I hadn’t even gotten past the first three verses when I realized what story I was about to hear. Elijah was about to tell Ahab there would be no rain for three and a half years. Elijah would have to flee from the king and live in exile—But God had things prepared for his servant. He already had a place of safety set aside and had commanded the birds to feed him by the brook. He had already prepared a widow to take care of him when the brook dried up.

As I listened, an overwhelming peace came over me. Yes, Dad’s recovery would be long and hard, but God had everything in control—the birds were already at the brook.

Wednesday was a hard day. Dad was in pain. Breathing was almost impossible; no matter what they tried he couldn’t seem to get enough oxygen. That day I lived moments, which I will never forget: Moments that for now are to be pondered in my heart alone.

As we left the hospital that night, I said, “Good night, Dad. I love you. See you in the morning.”

Which just goes to show how little we know.

I might have made it to the hospital in time the next morning if I had seen the voicemail a few minutes sooner. I drove for all I was worth, possibly breaking more laws in those ten miles than I have broken in my entire life. But I was too late. We were all too late. Dad had already gone Home.

He was ready to go, but we were not ready to say goodbye.

 

I began working with orphans and fatherless children when I was 18. On April 24th, I became one.

The tears I have wiped away in the past became my own. Their hurts became acutely familiar to my own heart. Their questions became my questions: How did this happen? Is he really gone? What will happen to me? What will happen to my mom? Will my sisters be okay? What will we do without him?

Even the affliction, which God so strongly warns His people against throughout the Scriptures, found its way into our lives…but so did Christ. The God of all Comforts has proven himself to be just that. Just as I have pointed the children to God as the Father of the fatherless, I have found Him to be faithful to us.

As I consider that heap of tasks and responsibilities in my Savior’s hands, I am content to leave them there, and to ask Him one step at a time which one I am to take from the pile next. I cannot carry the burden, but He can. I cannot sort through the mess of both new and old responsibilities tangled up like a bunch of Christmas lights in the emotion the last two weeks have brought—but God can.

He has been faithful already. He has sent loving friends to comfort and care for us. He has sent notes and phone calls and hugs, wonderful hugs, to soothe the pain. He has fixed problems before we even had a chance to take action. He has wrapped His arms around us through His Word and wiped away the tears in the night with His peace.

He has been to us the birds at the brook.

 

My story is mine, but it is not entirely unique. How has God comforted you in times of sorrow?

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King's Daughter: A Story of Redemption

King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption

 

ABOUT RACHEL MILLER

I am the author of three books, including The King’s Daughter: A Story of Redemption. You can check them all out here. I also run a Christian editing and writing service. Check it out and let me know how I can help you.

 

Faceted

When God removes something from our lives, the process often hurts. But, He always has a purpose. As a lapidary who cuts away the surface of a gemstone to bring out its beauty, so God chisels away the blemishes that hinder His light from passing through our lives.

This is the theme of a new book I just finished outlining this morning.

Faceted* will look at the amazing beauty God brings to a life as He cuts and polishes. Luster, brilliance, fire, and scintillation—the things most wanted in a gemstone—all come from the careful labors of the Lapidary. Without them we are nothing more than dead stones.

The book is still in the very early stages. But, Lord willing, over the next few weeks I will begin to post little bits and pieces to give you a glimpse of what is to come. I can’t wait to share it with you!

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*Working title, will probably change before publication. Suggestions welcome! 😉