Saturday, July 20, 2013

Loving All the Many Days

By Linda Grupp Boutin

This year I must especially appreciate all the days the Lord has granted me. The challenges got revved up in January when my kidneys shut down. It took me by surprise that once again my body could revolt and not do what it needed to do to keep myself well. I should not have been taken unaware, I know all too well the hazards my digestion pose. But still, who wants to live life looking over your shoulder constantly. Checking that you are
Celebrating with creme brulee
replacing as much or more than all the fluids you lose. And watch out especially when the Crohn's cranks up and starts forcing fluids out of your digestion at lightning speed.

So yes, I enjoyed a January Sunday morning, shared lunch with my hubby at a restaurant, and spent 12 hours fighting the losing battle of staying hydrated. After the third bath and uncontrollable charley horses in my legs, back and feet, I relented and went to the ER. The next week disappeared while prayers combined with the skills of nurses and doctors to coax my kidneys back to doing their job. The following Sunday, after discharge and a bath in my own tub, Gary and I drove over to attend my nephew, Alex's, Eagle Scout Court of Honor. I rejoiced that the Lord allowed me out just in the nick of time to be there for him.

And 2013 has repeated the theme over and over to take better care of myself. With chronic illness, this takes both focus and consistency. The payoff is being able to do the things I want or need to do on my timetable. By July I felt well enough to celebrate my birthday with my brother Greg and his wife Donna. They brought us to a fabulous restaurant. We sat on the patio overlooking Orange County with the Pacific Ocean off in the distance.

Greg, Linda, Gary, Donna (left to right)
The meal was memorable, but the company and conversation stuck with me. There are special people in our lives that make such a big difference and for Gary and me, that is who Greg and Donna are. Their counsel over the years has helped us through many a difficult moment. They made it possible for us to live in our current home. Their steadfast support through fun and tears make life worth living.

So though this birthday adds one more year to a life now entering senior citizen status, I say love all your days. Appreciate the many things in life you might be tempted to take for granted. Be generous with your time when people need you. What you give comes back tenfold, so share what you have. As Jesus advised, love God and love your neighbor. Treat others like you want to be treated. And never forget to celebrate the wonders of life all around you. It is from this gratitude that contentment grows.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Walking in Freedom in the USA

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Psalm 119:45 (NIV)

I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

With Independence Day here, I could not possibly skip posting about our First Amendment in the United States entitling those blessed enough to hail from America to air their thoughts. According to Wikipedia, the text of the First Amendment reads like this:    
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

In one carefully crafted sentence our Forefathers set the tone for what our country would become. They gave us the right to practice religion with no laws telling us what or how to do so. They provided us the freedom to Celebrate Our Voices, to read or publish whatever we choose, the chance to assemble and associate with whom we decide to, and the opportunity to question our government and require accountability of our leaders. Think about what King George would have thought of that!

So what responsibilities do we bear because we live in the Land of the Free? Some are obvious, like voting in each election. Taking your vote seriously and researching the candidates and ramifications. Even the special elections, especially the elections that don't involve a president. We have one coming up in July this year and Gary and I will go in to cast that vote, though only one decision is required this time.

When I think about it, the person who influenced me most about the importance of voting and the blessings of being an American carried a green card for many years. Yes, Gary was born in Montreal, Canada and only arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 12. French ruled in his family's homes and he learned English to come and join his mother in the states after a prolonged separation as she got settled in their new home.

It took me by surprise when on our first date Gary pulled out his green card proudly to show me. He said, "You Americans, you just don't realize that you live in the greatest country in the world." The year being 1975, I certainly didn't agree with his opinion. We had been through years of protest against the draft and Vietnam War. As he continued to speak I quickly learned that he could have returned to Canada with no shame when his draft number came up #2 of the young men born in 1952. Having a brother whose birthday came up in the high 300s, I knew that draft would have called Gary to serve in the Army and go overseas to fight a seemingly hopeless undeclared war.

So what did this man do? He didn't wait for the draft, but instead signed up for the United State Air Force. He served 4 years and in October 1975 tried to resume a normal life as a civilian. In those days, you didn't get any special help with citizenship just because you had risked your life for the USA. One of the first things Gary wanted after we got married was to become a US citizen.

And we started the saga of going to the Federal Building in San Diego, waiting in seemingly endless lines, paid fee after fee. Meantime, Gary studied our government and took classes to try and lose his French accent. On one great day, accompanied by 2 family friends we went one last time down to the Federal Building for Gary to test and fulfill all the requirements to become a US citizen.

After what seemed like forever, Gary came out of a meeting with shoulders slumped. His sponsors and I asked what had happened and he said the judge would not allow him to take the test. I got upset and asked why not. That's when he said he might already be a US citizen because Gary's long deceased father had been born in the great state of Maine. He had a list of documents that would be required for Gary to establish himself as a "born" US citizen because of his father's birthplace.

Now we spent 2 years gathering over a dozen documents including birth certificates, his father's death certificate, notarized letters from family and friends in Montreal, his parent's marriage certificate, the list went on and on...Oh and because Quebec had decided all documents would be printed in French, we would need to pay for official translations of any French documents into English. Meeting followed meeting, the judge required a variety of hoops for us to jump through, but eventually we fulfilled everything needed.

This time, only I went to the Federal Building with Gary. This time while I waited Gary came out of the judge's office in a flash. The moment I saw him, his wide grin told me we had accomplished his dream. "I am an American! I always have been!" And tears rolled down my face just like they are now.

So the next time you want to complain about our country and its leaders, consider the young man who came to our country at 12 and made it his home and fought to protect us and fulfilled all the bureaucratic rules and regulations to be able to declare, "I am an American." And he declared it with pride and pleasure.

And if you remember, next time someone belittles our country or how we do things or complains that things could be much better, it is YOUR JOB to stand up for our country. It is the responsibility for all of us to declare that the United States of America is a special place with special privileges and heavy responsibilities. It will be your turn to make the difference and just maybe the story of a young Montreal boy might inspire you to be brave enough to undertake the fight for freedom. After all since The Revolution, Americans have been fighting to protect our land and our freedoms. And then you will join the ranks of those of us who say they are: PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!