Lessons from the Queen of Hearts

img_0277“I’m just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the Queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Six impossible things. I have a little notebook I keep in my purse. Sometimes I write down a quick grocery list, sometimes sermon notes, sometimes random musings. Always, though, I have my impossible prayer list in the back. These are the things that are not humanly possible for me to accomplish no matter how hard I try, how late I stay up, no matter how many hours I work at whichever place. I just can’t do these. And yet, they need doing. So I pray for the peace that passes all understanding to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus and I beg God for grace and mercy over these things and to send an impossible answer for each one.

I just opened my notebook and counted them. Currently there are six. And I’m wondering if I need to take a cue from the Queen of Hearts and spend thirty minutes each day before breakfast believing that God will take care of these things in some form or fashion in a way that will be unexplainable apart from His own intervention.

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When the Church is the Church

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It’s been a bit of a fall and winter around here. We kicked things off in September when Maddie (17yo) suddenly had an onset of stroke symptoms one Sunday night, complete with no feeling on her left side, droopy left side of her face, inability to grab words in either speech or writing, and a tremendous amount of fear. We took her to the ER. THEY also thought she had stroke symptoms, which, when they start acting in a way that confirms the thing you were afraid of… I had to leave the room for a bit to have my cry away from Maddie. It turns out she didn’t have a  stroke that night, but instead had a hemiplegic migraine – something I’d never even heard of before – but will be constantly on guard for from now on. But to get to that diagnosis, she had to have two CT scans, one MRI, and a tele-consult with the stroke team from the University of Utah. We don’t question for a moment what all the doctors needed to do that night to rule out all possibility of actual stroke, but all of those things don’t come cheaply.

Fast forward another month. All the bills started coming in and we discovered that our insurance benefit didn’t cover as much as we were thinking it would, to the tune of our owing the hospital almost $5,000. At this point I felt really silly, since I ignored my friend’s advice to switch over to a plan from OneSureInsurance.co.uk. This was the same time Bozeman started the hiring process for a bunch of seasonal retail jobs. I knew it seemed crazy to take on another job, but a $5,000 bill doesn’t just pay itself, you know. In the meantime, we put in a financial appeal with the hospital and they waived 40%, so we were down to a more manageable amount of close to $3,000 between the two hospitals and various doctors and techs we had to pay.

I started sewing like crazy in a crazy attempt to tackle a portion of the bill that way. I also accepted a seasonal position at Target. And let me say this: I’m thankful for available work to help meet needs, even if it’s tough to do for a little bit.

But also let me say this: I AM tired. And I think you’d have to be blind not to notice that, though I’m always a little surprised when anyone does express concern or care for me, for us. I’m rather hard-wired to believe I don’t deserve either from anyone.

So that could be part of the reason why I cried when we got a surprise check in the mail from our church. The people in our growth group had noticed. And they helped. In a massive way. Between their check and sewing madness of 2016, we have enough to cover Maddie’s hospital bills.

And then Millie got a stress fracture. And two x-rays. And an MRI. And once again, I’m tired, but grateful the Target position is already in place to help. But then we got another surprise check in the mail from friends from our past and I’m once again humbled and undone. We haven’t even received the bills for Millie’s round of needs, but we should have enough in place to cover them right now.

The box of pillows in the photo above is representative of what we’re about to start delivering around town to those we know contributed. It’s a very small way to say, “You saved me from needing to make 181 of these, and we’re so very grateful.”

Sometimes you pray for provision and seek a job simultaneously because that’s the next logical step. And you’re grateful when you get it because it will help, even if it means a temporary sacrifice.

Sometimes you pray for provision and God surprises you with manna you never saw coming. And you pick up the portion you need for today and you say, “Thank you.”

And so here we are: humbled, grateful, and blessed.

Be Thou My Vision

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Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one

It’s October 17, 2016 and I’m sitting here in my living room. My 17yo just kissed me on the head and said, “Now don’t stay up too late, Mom,” in a funny turn-around of advice. And yet, I have that potential tonight. Potential to sit and ponder. Sometimes pondering is good for the soul and sometimes it just brings up the dregs of the past.

It’s funny to be in this new life with an almost totally different identity than I had before. Occasionally I will mention to someone that I used to homeschool the girls and they are usually surprised. Bozeman only knows me as the working mom whose kids all attend a 5-day Classical Christian school. They don’t know the me who directed a Classical Conversations group for three years or the me who was always available to do all the school things when the girls started in at the blended-model school, or the me who cried over giving newborns and preschoolers back to the state to hand over to someone else. They don’t know the me who spent all the weekends driving between two cities, two-hours apart, to help with my mom during her last months of ALS. They don’t know the me I think I am. And maybe I’m not that me anymore. Or maybe I’m not willing to let anyone else in on the me I think I am.

The me that I thought I was was seriously rejected. And, yes, it’s been 21 months now and you’d think time enough to let things go already, but I don’t know that you can ever let that kind of rejection go. It colors everything you do moving forward. Every conversation has a giant “what if” in the background. What if I say something to someone who ends up keeping a list of things I said. What if I confess a marriage or parenting struggle to someone in friendship-confidence and it ends up being used against us later as a reason to fire my husband? What if I trust people again and…later realize I never should have?

And I find myself praying again. Sometimes for vindication of the past, sometimes for the grace to move on. Sometimes for both.

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And then sometimes I lift up my head and take a good look around me and thank God for bringing us to this place. And sometimes I thank him without the qualification of the how we ended up here. Because if I believe God to be sovereign…and I do…then I need to believe he took us out of the one place and brought us to another. And I need to stop grieving over the process.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all

I Expected to Cry Last Night

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I long ago lost count of how many  graduations I’ve attended over the years. Suffice to say, I’ve been to a lot. There are the years of my own graduations and those of my friends – high school, college. Then we had students we worked with begin graduating. Then we went to seminary and another round began. Then Craig began teaching in a high school and the rest, as they say, is history.

I love the symbolism and significance of graduations, but, honestly, I don’t always love attending them. They can be long, tedious, and sappy. Sometimes you are forced to bear that burden on behalf of people you don’t even really know. Sometimes others are forced to bear it on your behalf. But the one we attended last night at Petra Academy, was both a joy and an honor. I can’t remember the last time I thought that after attending a graduation ceremony.

The speeches given by the Valedictorian and Salutatorian were excellent as was the faculty charge. I’m still kind of shaking my head at the wonder of it all and I’m tempted to ask the students who spoke if I can have copies of their speeches to share here. But I’ll respect their night of wonder and let it stay in my memory.

Even though I don’t know the eight students who walked across the stage and into the next phase of life last night very well, I expected to feel a bit overwhelmed by the nearness of this same experience to my own girls. Next year Maddie will make this trek, quickly followed by Chloe the year after. The older I get, the more freely the emotions show themselves in public, despite my best attempts to prevent them from doing so. But I didn’t cry last night and I’m still a little surprised by that.

I’m sure I won’t be able to say the same this time next year. Oh, 2016-2017, you are coming way too quickly. There’s someone in my house who is totally ready for you. That someone is not me.

 

Change. It’s Coming.

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It’s May 22 and schools across our newsfeeds are wrapping things up. We still have two weeks left and when I learned the Bozeman schedule last year I thought I wouldn’t love that this year, but now that we’re in the middle of it, I’m totally fine with things. Ask my kids, though… *grin*

Seriously, I think they are as well. Katie and I dashed out to Cold Smoke today so she could get a jump start on making finals study guides and I wanted to do some more digital work which I can do anywhere there’s a signal, so here we are. I have the perfect cup of English Breakfast tea and I’m working my way through blog entries from August of 2007, editing, cleaning, purging. It feels good.

The one big change this summer, other than the obvious one of school letting out on June 3 and, well, we’re in Bozeman, is that I’m working outside the home and that has never been our family scenario before. We Actually had a accident in the house the same day and called our window replacement CT to help repair the damage. And while I enjoy my job and I’m grateful for it, I’m already feeling a loss over what the summer could be and what it likely won’t because I’ll be out of the picture for 30 hours/week.

That said, I think we’re all experiencing a bit of a stage-of-life adjustment. Maddie and Chloe will be giving five weeks of their summer to Eagle Lake Camp and the closer we get to that, the more second-guessing I’m starting to do. My second guessing has nothing to do with trusting the camp (I do) or trusting my kids (I do) and everything to do with me missing them this summer.

This is the way things are moving and I know it’s normal and natural and still, it’s a process that has to be adjusted to. Millie and I were taking a walk around our neighborhood pond last night and she confessed to feeling it too. She mentioned that it feels like the older two would rather spend more time away from home than in it.

To be clear, we’re still some of the tightest parents around and our girls are home quite a bit. And we are one of the last families on the planet to hold to a physical and digital curfew. But Maddie is 17 now and will be a senior in high school next year. Chloe will be 16 in August and a junior in high school next year. I get the pull to start branching out. I remember feeling it myself when I was in high school.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel that pull. Being stretched is painful, even if it’s necessary.

So I’m thinking ahead to the three weeks we have with all six of us home at the beginning of the summer, and the three weeks we will have with all six of us at home at the very end of the summer and I’m going to make the most of them. We may never have another summer that gives us six weeks together again.

A Written Scrapbook

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I’m experiencing a bit of a blog homecoming, if you will. Knowing that my hosting fee was due for renewal this month, but not wanting to pay it again since I haven’t been doing ANY paid blogging lately and very little personal blogging, I decided to just bring it all back over to a wordpress.com site. In the process of transferring 10+ years’ worth of content, though, I remembered why I started blogging in the first place. I have right here a written history. There are gaps, yes, but there are a lot of sweet family memories that I want to save…and add to.

So I’m doing an overhaul. It will take time to get it all cleaned up the way I want it to be, but I’m back in one spot and I think I’ve come full circle on what this space was initially intended to be for me, for my family.

As such, I’d like to introduce you to Andrew Carneige. He looks kind of jolly in the eyes, much like a certain 12yo girl who lives in my house. Today was our school’s 3rd-6th grade History Fair and it was fun to see all of the hard work of all the kids and to also hear some of the history of their friends here. We participated in other versions of school events, but not exactly like this. I’m glad Millie was able to get in on the end of it before joining the ranks next year of the upper school.

Bozeman kids go to school clear through the first week of June which is a bit of an adjustment for us, but since the weather is still generally pretty cool, I understand it. We will have three full months off and not begin again until after Labor Day in September. And we’re really looking forward to all that the next three months will bring here.

Indeed, Bozeman is a beautiful place. God has done much to redeem what was broken. I think we very well might be experiencing a time of relational jubilee. For that, I am grateful. Exceedingly.

 

Vengeance is the Lord’s

I’m not super good at participating in group discussions. I’ve always been the attendee who *maybe* has something to share, but usually waits………..to see if there is a reasonable pause before sharing it. ProTip: There is rarely a pause like this in Bible discussion groups, so I’m usually off the hook because I just assume what everyone else has to say should be heard and what I *maybe* might want to share probably shouldn’t. There’s my introvert group discussion therapy session for you. So, even though I had two opportunities this week to share this, I didn’t. So I thought I would now.

On Sunday one of our pastors, Jeff Hamling, preached on the vengeance of God (and, incidentally, I now know that the word vengeance has an “a” in it – this could come in handy the next time I want to throw some vengeance around) and, as usual, there were some things I was aware of, as well as that one thing that it seems was just revealed to me for the first time ever. That thing for me on Sunday was that if I’m to be perfectly frank, I know I’m supposed to leave vengeance in the hands of God, but, if I’m honest, and I mean HONEST, I don’t really trust God to do a very good job with that.

*gasp*

Confession, it’s good for the soul.

But, I think this is why I don’t really trust God to exact justice the way I think it should be meted out – I’ve talked myself into thinking I have a better plan and that better plan includes not only forgiveness and restoration, but first exposure and vindication! That’s right and fair, no?

But, no. It’s neither. And God does not need my help in developing the plan of restitution for wrongs done. He never has.

On Sunday, I think the light bulb moment came for me not in hearing that my place isn’t to condemn and pass out demerits (blast…my ISTJ loves doing just that) – I know those things. The moment of realization came when Jeff said that God IS a God of Justice. And he WILL act on our behalf. And he WILL restore all things. And…here it is: The way He enacts his justice will ultimately be satisfying for me.

Seriously? I can trust God to do this? To not just ask me to forgive and move on, but that He will take care of wrongs done in a way that I will say, “That is exactly what I was hoping for.”

Because maybe He will change my own heart in the process to move my desires to be more in line with His, hence ushering in the perfect plan of restitution that leaves me wanting nothing more.

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

A Sweet, Sad Tree

I stare at my tree. It’s not a real tree. It’s artificial. It’s not super tall. It’s not super wide. But it’s super full of memories…memories in knick-knack form hanging from a hook next to the remaining candy canes and two humble strands of lights. My tree would not win any decor awards (are there even awards for trees? probably…I actually have no idea), but I’m not going for any anyway. What it does do, though, is worth more than any awards could give. I can look at any given ornament and remember.

Years of good. Years of bad. Years of growth. Years in Oklahoma. Years in Colorado. Years in Missouri. Years in Oklahoma again. And now a year in Montana.

And soon the fullness of my tree will start to shed a little as one by one my girls start their own lives and pack away the memories of our tree that belong to them. My heart already aches at the thought of it

And so I’ll treasure this tree and it’s bursting branches for as many more years as I’m able. And I’ll thank God for the memories it holds both now and for the saplings that will form in the future.

On the Eve of my 42nd Birthday

You know those memory flashbacks that Facebook is so fond of posting, giving us the choice as to whether or not we want to remind others of what happened on that day 1 year, 2 years, or 5 years ago? So this one came up for me today: On the eve of my 40th birthday. Sometimes I’m hesitant to look at the memories of the past because…they hurt too much. And yet I don’t hide that option from my timeline. I’m trying very hard to look back and deal with, if not make sense of, the past couple of years of life. I haven’t wanted to feel the hurt there. There is a major part of me that thinks that feeling the hurt is the same thing as letting bitterness take root. And I want to be very clear – they can be co-mingled for sure, but they are not necessarily the same thing.

And I’m finding a bit of release in embracing the fact that I can still hurt over very real relational wounds without being bitter. I’m allowing myself to feel things a bit more and that means more tears, darn it, but so be it.

I was reading again in the Psalms this week and read this from Psalm 15:

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

I think I understood something that day. From January through the end of May we were not allowed to speak of what happened. I really wanted to. I REALLY wanted to come June. I didn’t. But there has always been this thought inside me that one of these days I will. I’ll write out the whole thing from our perspective just so there’s a fair representation of what happened. I’ve been waiting for some untold amount of time to pass so I can finally unleash it all.

And yet. He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend…that is the one who will sojourn in the tent of the Lord, dwell in His holy hill.

I got the message that day. There are some hurts that may linger for a lifetime. There are some stories never meant to be shared. God hears and that’s enough. It has to be.

So on the eve of this 42nd birthday, while I’m storing a prepped turkey in the front seat of the car in the garage here in Bozeman, Montana, I’m remembering an evening of sweet girls making pies and taking silly photos and watching a Christmas movie and then eating one of the pies and I’m grateful for this space of our lives. We’re in a good place. Educationally, we’re in a better place. Spiritually we’re working towards the same in our hearts. And I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for parents who stayed together through the good and the horrible. I’m thankful for a 4-year period of time where I could live close enough to them to be involved in my mom’s care during her last years. I’m thankful for fourteen little ones who softened our hearts in a fresh way over and over and over. I’m thankful…for the winter here (because if I say that one enough it has to come true, right? Where’s my sweater…)

I’m thankful for the hope of selling our OKC house soon. I’m thankful for the new relationships God is building into our lives. I’m thankful for a warm house here. I’m thankful for hope, for hope is sometimes all I have.

There was once a time when hard things happened in our life and I lost my way. I’m thankful God led me through that wilderness into a place of trust again. And trust in such a way that this time, though I’ve been wandering again for a while, I have not been lost.

And, in fact, I have a pretty clear view of where I’m heading.

And I’m grateful. Tears and all.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

It’s a Chili Night

Have you ever gone to bed and lay there wondering why you can’t fall asleep even though it’s late and you have a lot to do the next day, but the laundry has been done, and the dog has been taken out, and you found the paperwork you have to take with you tomorrow, and…OH NO YOU LEFT THE CHILI OUT AND YOU MADE A QUADRUPLE BATCH SO YOU COULD FREEZE IT SO IF YOU DON’T GET UP AND DEAL WITH IT RIGHT NOW YOU WILL LOSE A QUADRUPLE BATCH OF CHILI, thus ushering you into the next hour of heart-pumping adrenaline which will keep you from sleeping even though you finally did that thing that you’d forgotten to do that was keeping you up in the first place?

No? Just me?

We’ve been in Bozeman for two months now. Just a touch over two months. Just long enough to start to realize you aren’t actually on vacation with everything you own, but you do, in fact, live here now and you have a local bank account to prove it. Except normal life really hasn’t started for us yet like it would have if we were still living in Oklahoma and that’s a weird thing all in itself. Social media, for all the ways I love it for keeping up with people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to, has been stabbing us in the heart for the past few days as we watch the life we once had begin again. Without us.

School starts late in Montana, but it’s funny to hear people here talk about schools in other places and how early they all start. It’s all relative, I suppose. September 8 is our magic go-time. My girls have transitioned as well as you can expect four teens and tweens who have been moved across the country to transition. They miss friends. They miss the familiar songs of our old church. They miss the familiar everything.

And I understand. And I don’t know if they cried on Thursday when school in Oklahoma began again or not, but I did for them and my heart aches on their behalf. There is a true grief aspect to a transition like this that hits in waves. Sometimes it hits when one of us says a common phrase that A2 used to say and we all laugh a second and then get quiet because…he’s not here with us anymore. Sometimes it hits when we watch a movie that has a theme or a scene that hits a little too close to home in the betrayal or loneliness category. Sometimes it just hits because it just does.

Leaving a hard situation helps because you don’t have to think about it all the time anymore – it’s not constantly in your face anymore…but it also makes it easier to just stuff the hurt away. And when you stuff the hurt away…eventually it has to bubble up again and so it does. This is one of those weeks it’s spilling over.

The songs that theme this time waffle between Sheryl Crow’s Change  and Matt Maher’s Lord, I Need You and Wayne Kirkpatrick’s It’s Me Again.

Basically, I’m the same mess I’ve always been in a much prettier setting.

And yet, at some level I can’t even name or explain we are still being sustained. And the hurt and the need is drawing me back to the Word again in a way I haven’t been drawn to in a very long time.

And so I will continue to cling to the promises of the only One I know who will keep them. And I continue to pray through my impossible list. And I continue on.

Okay, maybe I’m not as strong as I pretend to be
Okay, maybe I’m just as insecure as everybody else

But I tell myself, maybe
I can work it out alone
And no one else will ever know

You there, watching and waiting with the patience of a saint
While I wallow in self-indulgent, paranoid philosophies

But I’m no Socrates, baby
And in the end it’s like a marathon
I’m running straight to you

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
It’s me again

Tonight, while all the world is sleeping I will roam the halls
Consumed, with the obsessions of a terminal insomniac

Under attack, save me
From the poets and the poltergeists
Playing in my head

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
Yeah, me again

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Me again

So you tell me not to worry
But I’m a frightened little child
With a strong imagination
That can always be found
Running free and wild

I can’t seem to take this ride with ease
I can’t see the forest for the trees
I’m coming undone
Hello, it’s me again
Yeah, it’s me again