I woke up discouraged. I'd spent the night before on accounting...one of my least favorite tasks ever. Right above cleaning toilets, there's accounting. Maybe it's the black and white nature of the thing. No matter how many colors I add to my spreadsheet, it's the same numbers. Numbers, they say, never lie. But I say they're wrong. Numbers are pathological liars...they don't begin speak the truth, numbers hide behind cold little lines...what they symbolize, all the bales of hay and feed and sweat and tears and heartbreak and sacrifice and loss.
Perhaps the Chinese had this right...a character, an hour to painstakingly paint a single red symbol absolutely perfect...rather than dashes and dots and lines on a spreadsheet to make heartless numbers on a screen.
Since the Hee Haw for Health event, we've been in the trenches, so to speak. We've lost another newborn baby donkey, and we've lost our Mindy. We lost the newborn twins just weeks before that. And along with the heart break, we lost all of the milk with each of those losses and were set back another year and a half before the possibility of having another baby....or any of the milk we would have shared with them.
We've faced discouragement and criticism from those closest to us.
And the sun shines less every day. (Literally. I loathe Daylight Savings time.)
I began to question our sanity. Not long ago someone told me to "Quit being a martyr...life doesn't have to be so hard, you don't have to work so hard! You're too smart for this!" Those words taunted me. While they're "living their best life," we're sweating and crying over baby donkeys and spilled milk....so to speak.
This doesn't make sense.
But then again, none of this does.
The pictures of the children sent by grateful parents. They don't make sense...the smiles they wear instead of anxiety, depression, and fear, the healthy pink cheeks and smooth skin where eczema reigned, the easy breaths where asthma tormented.
For the price of a few ounces of...donkey milk.
"Go back to building. Construction and design. You're good at it. And there's MONEY there." The words that echo on sleepless nights. It sounds so easy. So simple.
Stop being such a martyr.
Why be a martyr indeed.
Since when did martyrdom become a dirty word? We live in a culture where we disdain suffering. We avoid it at all costs. It's completely unnecessary and unneeded in a land of milk and honey.
In a land where children suffer without answers.
A land where insurance refuses to pay for conditions they deem unworthy. Treatments they deem "experimental" for children they deem...expendable?
IVIG for PANDAS disease? $10,000 per infusion. Last I heard, they recommend 6 infusions for this particular disease.
A single appointment with an LLMD (Lyme Literate MD), $2,000-$4,000.
While "the one thing that instantly brings our daughter out of a flare is one tablespoon of....." something only a few brave Doctors are willing to recommend.
One Tablespoon. Twice a day.
I could do that math for you, but a years' worth of donkey milk at two tablespoons a day isn't even close to the cost of one dose of IVIG. Or a single appointment with that LLMD.
My Grandpa lived through the Great Depression. He remembered how hard it was then, and it changed him. His perspective on wealth, and having enough. He worried about money, even when he had more than enough.
I didn't understand my Grandpa then. But I think I know him now. We've lived through our own Great Depression. Watching your child suffer with an illness no one understands and no one has answers for...it changed us. What we think is important is different now. What is a necessity and what is a want. What is worthy and what is not.
Sometimes, what is necessary and worthy doesn't make a lick of sense. And it certainly doesn't add up. And you wake up discouraged and downhearted and you ask God to please, please, just send someone, somehow, to encourage you to keep on.
And then you open your laptop to an email from a sister you've never met...who woke up with you on her heart, and took the time to write exactly the words you needed to hear.
"Good Morning 🌞Saundra!
God has truly smiled and is still smiling at YOU! He is saying, "Well Done My Child!". You are so Valuable to so many people, even if you don't feel it. Never forget, God has chosen you to change the lives of his children and others so HE is your business partner! I'm here to support you! Love You!!!! ...Remember your value and remember God is your business partner. He gave you everything you need for the donkey business! Take care and continue to do a great job!
Thank you, sweet sister. For this reminder of what is true. And that we do have the best Business Partner anyone could ever ask for, who sends us some pretty amazing cheerleaders, and Veterinarians, and friends, and family, and volunteers, and food trucks, and givers, and, and...all just when we need them most...
"I woke up with you on my mind and this is what was in my heart️! I'm glad it helped you. I wished I could just hug you to remind you that You are chosen, and ONLY you to complete God's mission to help children with PANDAS, etc. Do you realize that you, Saundra, are the only one who does what YOU DO with AMAZING testimonials from your patrons??????? Hee Haw for Health, etc. Television and newspaper coverage. This is rare, but God chose Saundra! I have never met you, but I feel your spirit. I'm your personal cheerleader! "
Pretty terrifying words from a stranger / friend / sister in Christ.
But then again, sometimes terrified is a pretty awesome place to be.
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:8-20
Because after the terror, there's the Peace.
Those shepherds? They were still poor shepherds.
They returned to their stinky sheep and their daily life of...shepherding. They didn't suddenly have all life's luxuries and niceties just because they'd met the Lord. They didn't get a reality TV show and a mansion in Hollywood. They just went back and kept on shepherding.
And they praised God, because it was exactly what He had promised them, and it was enough.
More than enough....
They got to witness the Lord, and they way He works, through His Son. And it didn't make sense. That He would choose the poor. The dirty. The manger.
It was completely inconceivable.
And completely perfect.
And then they went back to work, but, they had been given a gift. They had His Peace. And it was enough.
For those of you still reading...that night, less than 12 hours from these words of encouragement, we got a phone call from another sweet sister and brother in Christ. They know and love a child who also drinks our donkey milk. This sweet little one needs less than 2 teaspoons of milk (once...twice a day?), and she is "back" to the healthy girl God created her to be.
This sister and brother saw a man, milking in the cold, on his knee, making a difference to one with two teaspoons of milk.
And they decided to make a difference too.
This time, it was a $10,000 check, to put toward our growing barn fund.
Because, "It matters to this one."
If you doubt today that He cares...I hope this will remind you that He still gives us his Peace. His Comfort. His unmerited favor and blessing.
That email from sweet Tabitha? It's for you too.
You are Valuable. You are loved. Never forget, God has chosen YOU to do something on this earth that no one else can.
And someday, when we hear "Well Done My Child," it will be the end of the tears, and the terror, and the fears. And it will be the beginning of Peace.
And that's more than enough.