When the Church is the Church

fullsizerender

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.

Advertisements

Be Thou My Vision

dsc_0164

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.

dsc_0128

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

Change. It’s Coming.

Screenshot 2016-05-22 13.47.01
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.

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

Bozeman, Bozeman, Take Me In. Are You Aware the Shape I’m In?

During the month of May my family succumbed to the Whole30 eating plan, which was equal parts crazy and brilliant. Brilliant, because we were moving, so I was able to either toss or give away everything that was non-compliant with the plan, but crazy, because we were moving, so I was also packing up the kitchen and cooking became more and more difficult as the month wore on.

Still. We did it. And now that we’re traveling for three weeks, we’re kind of in a maintenance mode until we settle again, at which point we will likely do it again. For a stress eater who is under a tremendous amount of stress and not able to eat all the things, I needed another outlet. I began cross stitching again, a craft I haven’t done in easily fifteen years or more. I called it stress stitching and I just completed my second project last night and prepped for a third. It’s been a great project during this interim stage of living, as I can stitch while conversing with people, or while watching a movie, or while traveling if I’m not driving (this is less likely because we’re moving with two vehicles and I’m usually driving one of them). Still, it’s been good and I’m liking the mental release it provides while simultaneously producing a tangible outcome, one I’m happy with, one I will frame once we land somewhere again.

Ah, the blank slate. It’s a metaphor for the summer, really. As we put more and more distance from the physical location of Oklahoma City and the pain that locale still represents, I find myself thinking about the pain of the past few months less and less and thinking more about the people we loved while there, who loved us too, who we will miss (are missing), as well as the hope of what it is to come. There is healing in the distance that I’m not sure would ever be able to come without it.

As we look ahead to what is to come, I’m finding a scary hope spring forth in my heart that our family is entering into a season of jubilee and God will put a spiritual salve over our hearts and heal so much of the hurt. I’m not so naive as to think we will never be hurt again nor never hurt anyone else again, but the blank slate makes me hopeful in a way I haven’t been for a long time.


Load the car and write the note
Grab your bag and grab your coat
Tell the ones that need to know
We are headed north

One foot in and one foot back
But it don’t pay to live like that
So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks
For never to return

Ah Bozeman Bozeman take me in
Are you aware the shape I’m in
My hands they shake my head it spins
Ah Bozeman Bozeman take me in