I cried in church yesterday.

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So we sang this song in church yesterday. Or at least everyone else did. I started to, but as you can see below, it actually went down a much different way for me. I attempted to put down what was actually going on with me instead of singing right next to each line below:

Through the love of God our Savior, all will be well (Uh oh, am I going to cry now?)
Free and changeless is His favor, all is well (Yep. I think I am going to cry now.)
Precious is the blood that healed us (God, please, I really don’t want to cry now.)
Perfect is the grace that sealed us (Do I really believe this? *tear*)
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us (Where’s that hand? I need some shielding here. *more tears*)
All must be well (It’s a lie. All is NOT well in my world.)

Though we pass through tribulation, all will be well (*sobbing*)
Ours is such a full salvation, all is well (All is NOT well)
Happy still in God confiding (Where’s the happy? I’d like some happy.)
Fruitful if in Christ abiding (Where’s the abiding? I’d like some abiding.)
Steadfast through the Spirit’s guiding (Where’s the guiding? I’d like some guiding.)
All must be well (It’s a lie. All is NOT well right now. *buried head in Craig’s side and sobbing*)

We expect a bright tomorrow; all will be well (I’m not expecting a bright tomorrow. I’m expecting a really sad tomorrow.)
Faith can sing through days of sorrow, all is well (I can’t sing. I’m sobbing. Do I have no faith?)
On our Father’s love relying (Where’s the relying? I’d like some relying.)
Jesus every need supplying (Where’s the supplying? I’d like some supplying.)
Yes in living or in dying (Where’s the living? Inside I’m dying.)
All must be well (I don’t think it’s a lie, but I’m not buying it right now. All is NOT well.)

It’s a strange thing, emotional stress. I generally feel like I have a pretty high stress capacity, but once I start to feel it, I feel it with crying. Crying in public. I hate to cry in public. That’s why, when we started to sing another song after taking communion, I got up and bolted right out of there. A gal can only take so much crying in public.

I’m grieving over the loss of the known, the ordinary. I’m grieving over the struggles and sadness my parents are facing. I’m grieving over the uncertainty to come. It does not feel like all is well right now.

Urgency never goes away

In less than 12 hours we will be going through a home study as one of the next steps in preparing to become foster parents. I’m nervous because I really don’t have a good idea of what to expect and we have plenty of closets and drawers that should be upended, cleared out, and reorganized, but I simply haven’t had the time to do that yet this fall. The laundry is mostly all clean right now, and it’s all been sorted/folded, but it’s all sitting on our guest bed right now awaiting the right moment to grab some kids to go put their clothes away. I can’t really remember what it means to “baby proof” a house, so I’m sure we don’t have everything done that needs to be done. In fact, I’m kind of looking at tomorrow to provide us with the checklist of what we have to do to get signed off on the home study. Crossing fingers.

Aside from the nerve wracking home study, there really are a thousand reasons why pursuing foster care just doesn’t make sense for us at this moment in time. My mom is struggling with her ALS diagnosis and I want to be as available as I can to help in whatever way is needed there. I’m also on the hunt for a part-time job to help pay for some of the needs we have. I’m also continuing to homeschool our kids three days/week. Oh, yes, and I still need to attempt to keep this house in order, prepare meals for my family, and be emotionally present.

Are we completely crazy? I know a lot of people think we are. Maybe we are.

Earlier last week we had three dead trees cut down in our yard. As part of a pretty significant language barrier breakdown, the trees did not get hauled away like we thought was going to happen. Instead, they continue to sit in a heap in our front yard and we’re scrambling to figure out what to do about it all before we get turned in by a certain neighbor who apparently likes turning us in to the trash police for various infractions.

Our front yard feels very much like our life right now. Moved by the urgent, we act and then are left to deal with the consequences. It’s so anti-everything we’ve trained ourselves to believe is the proper way to live.

But that’s kind of the way foster care works. Nobody plans to have their kids removed from their home. The agencies don’t get an email that says, “Be sure to keep next Wednesday open because Baby Jane Doe is going to be taken from her home and she will need a temporary place to stay.” Nope. I’m pretty sure things don’t happen on that kind of schedule there. It’s going to be more of an “act on the urgent, sort out the ramifications later” kind of existence.

And you know what? Urgency never goes away. So we can say we don’t want our lives to be dictated by the urgent, but sometimes I just don’t think you can get around it. I’m thinking right now the key for us is how to manage the urgent in the midst of the everyday ordinary chaos we’re already got going on.

Because if I have to choose between a predictable, calm, and dust-free existence that says emergency foster care is someone else’s problem or our current state of the opposite of that that says we believe children belong in families, not shelters, even if it means our family, even if it means in the midst of everything else, then I’ll choose the chaos and the uncertainty.

I’ll choose it every time.

On the eve of my 20th high school class reunion

Dear Maddie and Chloe (and in four more years Katie and Millie),

It doesn’t really seem that long ago that I was in 7th and 8th grade. My educational experience was pretty different from yours in that my class size was over 300 whereas yours hovers around 16. I never read Julius Caesar, though we did have a Shakespeare festival during high school, so I’m assuming that means we did read some Shakespeare at some point during those years. I was a straight A student, but I don’t know how much I actually learned, other than how to be a really good test taker and how to sound like I knew what I was talking about by writing a killer paper. Those skills carried me through college, too, by the way.

But there are some similarities in our experiences too. The middle grade years are rough seas to navigate. With all the other blessings and burdens of being 12, 13, 14-ish, we are also given the awesome gift of relational paranoia. Hours that could have been spent doing a thousand other things, thinking way more noble thoughts, were instead dedicated to convincing myself that *most* of the girls in my class and *all* of the boys in my class thought I was fat and boring. I was never a cheerleader. I tried out for the school basketball team in both 6th and 7th grade and didn’t make it either year. I thought you had to already know how to play an instrument to join band, so I never did. Anything I could do to divert attention from myself was exactly what I did. Except for those late-80’s Baptist-culture Little House on the Prairie jumpers I thought were so awesome to wear. I’m guessing those didn’t do a very good job of diverting attention from myself, but I digress.

Cool girls were in every one of my classes. Girls who were popular with everyone, including the teachers. Girls who looked cute in everything they wore and everything they wore had “Guess” or “Izod” on the pocket. Aunt Michelle and I begged for a pair of Guess Jeans overalls one year and we traded off wearing them. She was in high school and I was in jr. high, so I don’t think anyone ever really noticed that we shared them. Swatch watches and colored Keds. Those were my attempts at fitting in during those years.

But I heard the popular girls giggle and whisper as I walked by. I made the natural 13yo assumption they were making fun of me and I spent most of those years devastated by what I thought others thought of me. What never occurred to me at all at that time was that more often than not they probably weren’t thinking about me at all…

Girls, I see the turmoil that churns in your hearts at times. For one of you it churns much more rapidly. For the other of you, you keep it to yourself most of the time. But I wish with all my heart I could convince both of you that you’re beautiful just the way you are. I know. You may not believe me and I know it sounds cliché, but it is so true. And character trumps jeans-size both when you are 13 and when you are 38 and I see the character that is developing in both of you and I’m thankful. So very thankful.

But there’s a confidence that has to be grown into that, darn it, just doesn’t come naturally to most of us. And it makes living in community with our peers hard sometimes. I want you to know I understand that. And when I try to tell you to push through it, it isn’t because I don’t believe you, it’s just that I know these seasons pass. And then, like winter, they come back again, but then they pass again. The cycle of life you are experiencing right now will be repeated again later on, but the big difference will be in your growth as both a woman and a child of God. You may still feel the churning in your heart, but you will be able to better rest in the security afforded you in Christ.

Tomorrow night I will put on my only pair of nice pants and my black shirt I bought at Walmart for “nice” events two years ago. I will walk into a room to people I was so afraid of in 1992 and I will probably still be a little nervous. But the difference this time is that I don’t view my worth anymore by what I *think* they think of me. My worth comes, not on the basis of anything I have done, but only because of what Christ has done for me. I knew that in 1992, but I believe it in 2012. And it makes a significant difference.

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Girls, my prayer for you at this moment is that you will not just know that, but you will know it very well.

I love you. I loved you through your baby years, I loved you through the grammar school years, I will love you through the rhetoric years and as an adult. But right now: I love you through the logic years, as tricky as they sometimes are.

I hope you believe that.

Love, Mom

PS – There may come a time during high school when you think it would be a really good idea to ask one of your friends to ask her boyfriend to call a boy you like and see if he might want to take you to a school dance. Please don’t do that. You might regret those foolish five minutes for the next twenty years of your life.

Facebook Status Updates: A September Recap

While I’m trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing here with my blog, here’s what really happened around here in September. Ahem:

September 1: Nothing says love like smoking all of your kids in an epic 3-hour game of Monopoly. Okay, Millie was on my team, so I didn’t thrash EVERYBODY. We did it together.

September 4: Just finished resetting the sleeves in two tuxedo shirts for choir. I will never understand why children’s choirs require tuxedo shirts for kids. They NEVER fit correctly.

September 7: Double batch of chocolate chip cookie dough is made and the Dunhams are officially ready for Friday night. Bring it!

September 8: Ah, I loves me some rich people appetizer leftovers. #IHaveNoPride #MoreSmokedSalmonPlease

September 9: When you buy a box of Hershey bars from Sam’s Club, it will be listed in your receipt as “Hershey Barf.” Now we know how Sam’s Club really feels.

September 10: Wondering if anyone in my family will mind if I just serve leftover retreat chips and cookies for dinner tonight.

September 11: Nine 13-year-old girls in my house right now. Nine of them. 13yo’s. Nine.

September 12: Retreat 2012:2 – In which I feel like I’ve been dipped in a vat of lemonade and rolled around in crushed cheese puffs. But in a good way, of course.

September 13: Katie and Millie and I were just doing some school work together to get a jump start on tomorrow. After grading Katie’s math I said that was enough, that we’d gotten a good start and it was time to get ready for bed. Katie agreed and said, “We’re off like a pack of hurdles.” Indeed. She knows our home days pretty well, huh?

September 17: After sharing an overpriced (but very good) lemonade with 5 others, and getting approximately 4 gulps each, I just went to Chick-fil-A and brought home a whole gallon. That oughta do it.

September 18: Wishing that running didn’t require the actual moving of my body in a rapid forward motion.

September 19: 6:20am in which I explain to someone who is meeting us soon that we’ll be showing up in a tan Oldsmobile cat. #NeedCoffee

September 21: Reading Wendell Berry while my kids art in art class. And all is right with the world. — at The Conservatory For Classical Art.

September 21: You know your kids are getting a better education than you had when you find yourself leaning over multiple times during a live production of Julius Caesar to ask them what the heck is going on. And they know.

September 23: My first 5K is officially less than a week away now. This would probably be a really bad time to overdose on Krispy Kreme donuts.

September 26: You have not because you ask not, much? Thankful for our new dryer – picked out, paid for, delivered, installed, and old one hauled away all with the last hour. Dryer Fairy, you know who you are. We thank you with all our hearts.

September 28: Dropping off paperwork. — at Angels Foster Family Network OKC.

September 28: Katie, Millie, and I made bacon wrapped little smokies rolled in brown sugar and baked crisp as an appetizer to take to a dinner tonight and… we can’t stop eating them so we may have to pick up a bag of chips on our way to the party…

September 30: We did it! Slow (man, there were a lot of hills – a LOT) and I discovered I’m a whiny racer. And Chloe’s pretty much a drill sergeant. But without her I might not have actually finished.

September 30: What every mom wants to hear when dashing between running a 5K and getting ready for 5pm church: “Mom! Your pants match your face!” (as in, both are quite red) Thanks, Maddie.