Thursday, March 12, 2009

All day long, everyone kept asking why I was so goofy. On the level, I didn’t think I was being silly at all. I was just enjoying life. I woke up this morning knowing without a doubt that Yahweh is in control, that He has blessed me with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, that I am His daughter and that He will conform me to the image of His beloved Son. Gurus advocate meditation for a sense of well-being. I can’t imagine what they could meditate on that would boost them like knowing the Author of the Universe—and calling Him “Abba.”

Josiah and I made the trek to our namesake town, looking at a property for Glenn’s family. I’m afraid to say anything after the last attempt. I didn’t like the last property at all, but I’ve never seen where they live or what they’ve worked with in the past and I’m a poor hand at construction. Please limit me to screwing screws or destroying sheetrock. Or sanding. There’s nothing to be destroyed sanding. This house seemed much more inviting and certainly better cared for. Dutifully, we took pictures and notes and will offer our observations to those wiser than we. The most delightful event of the trip was a quaint bridge we crossed on our way. Josiah is a perfect companion for me, since he is always more than willing to stop and take pictures. Except, he likes to take pictures, which means he wants to use my camera and force me to be the model.

The ever increasing disorder in the back rooms at the clinic is going to finally drive me over the edge. After spending several hours working on tangled paperwork, a client finally showed up for her appointment. “She’s here to see you,” Linda handed me her file. “Uh, yeah,” I answered, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” We scurried to a back room before I blurted out, “She’s here for a follow-up and ultrasound, there weren’t any issues—what am I supposed to talk to her about?” We had excellent, thorough training on dealing with tough issues, but I found myself panicking as I realized I didn’t know what to do when everything was smooth sailing. Thankfully, that simply meant a short visit, the ultrasound and then passing her down to a mentor. Which left me plenty of time to begin to feel trapped in a kitchen littered with random items. “Look, Josiah!” I exclaimed, opening the refrigerator door. “At least we could keep all the soda cans in one place, don’t you think?” He was sanding the ceiling tile he and Donnie had patched and looked at least forty years older, covered in sheetrock dust as he laughingly answered, “You sound like Papa.” As they rounded up purses and coats at seven-thirty, the ladies found me sitting on the kitchen counter, cleaning out cabinets and consolidating. Becki sat down in a chair laughing at me, which I found rather uncharitable. “Girl, you’re crazy!” Of course, she can vanish into her tidy, little office any time the piles of the undone grow too daunting. Bonnie just giggled, “Have you been eating goofy pills?” Actually, I did have two hamburgers for lunch. Perhaps that was the problem. But someday I’m going to get that place spit-shined clean. It just may be someday a very long time in the future.

Emily had a “surprise” for me, on our way home. Thank you notes from her classroom of second-graders. It wasn’t hard to tell which story was the favorite, thanks to the pictures at the top of each page. “The Little Red Hen” hands down. Emily was embarrassed as she pointed to a letter at the bottom of the pile. “He asked me for a third sheet, and I told him to write on the back. He said he already had. It’s…well, he’s a little odd.” She proceeded to read me a lengthy, rambling letter in which this young man professed over and over that I was the nicest teacher ever and he hoped I would never die. Emily found it embarrassing, but I think it sure beats being told I’m silly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I was scouring the walls of my shower this morning when I straightened up, bumped my head against the water knob and gave myself a surprise shower. As I walked into the kitchen to start lunch, Mom passed me in the hallway and asked, “Why are you all wet?”

Papa valiantly loaded himself into the Camry to go to work this afternoon. Around six o’clock he came rolling back up the driveway. The nurse had sent him home on limited disability for at least a month. My head was spinning as I heard the verdict. At least a month! What an odd shape for a blessing to come in. Having Papa home for a month is both exciting and daunting—a totally new thought. What in the world are we going to do for a month? And then I laugh. All kinds of thoughts begin to fill our minds—we can finally invite some of the families over that we’ve been hoping to see. And I have some confusion and questions that have been nagging me for months—things I couldn’t seem to resolve on my own but tried to cheerfully ignore. I’m not sure if I can even put words to them, but Papa has been just so busy and tired that I didn’t want to exhaust him. Perhaps he’ll have time to dissipate the fog that surrounds most of my brain and clouds my convictions. So much for recuperation for him--perhaps I'd better hold off a while yet.

I'd scoffed at the official ground hog who, reportedly, turned tail and climbed back into his hole back in February. "He saw his shadow!" they announced. "Six more weeks of winter!" I've never given much credence to weathermen, hairy or otherwise, and we've been enjoying days of warmth and sunshine. "It wasn't his shadow he saw," I declared to Josiah, "It was the new presidential administration that sent him back into hibernation." Today the weather grew nasty again. Cold. Drizzly. Uninviting. The political climate is at least as nasty. I think we're on a collision course with socialism, thanks to nodding, smiling politicians who swear to uphold the constitution and then go at it with a grappling hook. Even Hillary Clinton as Secretary of state didn't turn my stomach like seeing our own Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sibelius, appointed to the cabinet. Bleak is the political horizon, which reminds me once again that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities of darkness--and I should be spreading light to individual hearts and pleading that Christ will soon return.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Miss Lydia and I signed in to the Sequoyah grade school at about one forty-five and navigated the hallway to find the second grade room of Mrs. Underwood. Our mission? Visiting Emily’s classroom and telling stories! We started off with the version of Little Red Riding Hood I’d pulled out for the homeschool talent show so many years ago—the year I called up the parents and made them perform for the rest of us. Which they did admirably. This time the kids were so delighted they asked to keep their masks. Then we followed it up with the Three Billy Goats Gruff, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. Lydia played a delightful Little Red Riding Hood, carrying her basket of goodies around the room to distribute marigold seeds. So there went last night’s hasty preparation. The kids begged us not to leave. Perhaps I’m ridiculous, but the whole time I was reading Puss in Boots, my mind kept nagging me miserably—Puss was a blatant liar. No matter what kind of a hero we’ve made of him and how funny his antics are, he’s a liar—something God’s word speaks very strongly against. How inconsistent I am to decry lying in life only to glorify it before a classroom of second graders because it is performed in a fairy tale by a clever kitty sporting boots. I’m at a loss what to do…apologize to Emily for endorsing such a story? My mind wants to argue that it is so trivial, but my conscience insists that if lying lips are an abomination to God and the liar has his place in the lake of fire, how could even a joking lie be trivial to the Lord?

Which turns my stomach with guilt and dread because, even though others often say I “speak truth”, I know the truth and it is far from their opinion of me. I know how deceitful I am, how willing to skew truth in my favor, how at ease in telling partial truths, how comfortable withholding information or pretending ignorance. Tonight on the phone I was nearly brought to tears as Lauryn prayed for me and coupled my name with truth. I only wish it were true, but my heart is wicked and deceitful above all things, who can know it? Sometimes I'm not even sure in my own mind what is true--how can I tell it?

Always I am brought back to the Way, the Truth, the Life and humbled in His presence--no deceit was found in Him.

Father, lead me in the truth. Thy word is truth.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An X-ray revealed that Papa’s collar-bone was broken in three pieces. The M.D. told him he might need surgery and shuttled him on to an Orthopedic Surgeon who gave him a sling that fit and a pat on the back and sent him home. In the medical field, they are all still practicing, you know, and none have yet reached perfection. At least they no longer use leeches or seek to balance bile and phlemm and blood. There’s simply nothing to be done for a broken collar-bone, except try to keep it from getting jostled. In the meanwhile, Papa’s neck and chest have turned a rainbow of purples and greens. “It’s kind of fun taking care of him,” Mom announced this evening, “Well, except for the flossing. That didn’t go too well.” As for her, she forgets she has a sore knee at times. Like tonight when she got excited and slapped her knee—then bounced out of her chair crying, “Ow, ow, ow!” Lydia and I strove desperately to control our giggles, but when Mom’s amazing sense of humor won out, we joined her laughing.

This morning I sat cross-legged in beg and opened my Bible to Job. And sighed. Sometimes it seems like a passage in scripture is just alive and teeming with amazing truths and encouragement for exactly whatever I’m experiencing. I’ve eaten up Job in the past, but my mind was blank this morning because Job was a godly man under intense attack. I’m not a godly person and my life is cruising along comfortably. Too comfortably perhaps. Truly, I have nothing at all of which to complain. But as I waded in, the Lord proved Himself all-wise with a completely different angle from a story I thought I knew. Behold the wonderful friends who came to comfort Job in his misery—it truly does bespeak devotion that they came and sat in the ashes with him for days before speaking. But when they spoke, they spoke not the truth of God, nor with compassion and they tore apart everything Job expressed. And God rebuked them for their “counsel without knowledge.” I drew in my breath, reminded again how vital is compassion when offering counsel and how necessary is truth and how dangerous the task of taking on responsibility to rebuke or exhort or offer wisdom. How necessary it is for me know God if I would speak to others of Him and not incur His holy rebuke. And how closed my heart so often is to the possibility that someone might suffer in testing—that they haven’t necessarily sinned. My response to suffering should be to embrace, to listen, to weep with those who weep and only rebuke or counsel when I am certain of the truth from scripture.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

It’s a glorious, quiet Sunday afternoon and my French door is standing wide open. Freckles just galloped by on the rickety porch, her tongue lolling out of her mouth, in pursuit of an insect. In the other room, I can hear Mom and Papa talking about insurance and local doctors and ER costs and nausea.

Sometimes you just know what’s going to happen, but it almost seems as if the knowledge is removed—somewhere outside yourself. When Mom told me she and Papa were going for a motorcycle ride, we started talking about the dangers. In fact, it’s the statistics and dangers of motorcycles that led Papa to decide he’d rather I didn’t have a motorcycle license. As they aired up the tire I had an odd, eerie sensation. Mom tells me she did, too. The whole ride she kept praying for the Lord’s protection, but even more that He would just help her to be calm and to trust Him. As soon as Mom’s ring-tone started, I knew something was wrong—I knew they’d wrecked. Mom’s voice was calm and deliberate, explaining where they were and what had happened and asking me to bring the truck and have Josiah and Tommy drive separately. My mind flashed back to the time, several years ago, when Papa had cut his knee open with the chainsaw. Now, I could hear the same tone in her voice as she said, measured, “I’m fine. The motorcycle is fine. Papa’s injured, but we can take him in ourselves. He’s up at some folks’ house.”

That’s why Mom and Papa are discussing medical procedures. From the way he hunches and winces, Papa must have his broken collar-bone and perhaps even have a broken or bruised rib or two. Mom has a banged up knee.

It could have been so much worse. What Mom and I had actually discussed before they left is how many motorcycle wrecks are fatal. Even little spills can do big damage. With their helmets and layers of protection, Mom and Papa had no scratches. They spilled into the ditch on a hairpin curve right in front of a house where people were out in the yard. And they had cell-phone reception—barely. All near-miracles for those of us living out here in the boonies.

Papa just now hobbled through the open glass door in my room, his arm in a sling, a smile on his face. “It’s a pretty day, isn’t it?”

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Little Rock Zoo was a zoo today. Redundancy is not something of which I make a common habit but in this case I’ll make an unusual exception. Tommy didn’t know when he invited us to come see the zoo, that the zoo had invited everyone the same day—for a free day at the zoo. They expected at most 8,000. By the time we escaped the massive gates in mid-afternoon, at least 20, 000 had been through the front gates. I found myself studying people with as much curiosity as ever I studied primates or reptiles or pachyderms. Hairdos resembling the plumage of exotic birds, outfits that rivaled peacocks and all kinds of faces with all kinds of expressions that might frighten even the apes. Among the hordes of people that crowded so thickly as to make me feel like I was inside a pressure cooker, I lost myself in watching and forgot that others might find me of interest: until a group of Indian men caught my attention, clearly discussing me inside the tropical rain forest exhibit. Not checking me out, but discussing my clothing—a blue Punjabi and flip flops. Likely they were noting that I had the scarf around my neck incorrectly or that the pattern was severely out of style, or even that the make was certainly from farther East into the Orient than Asia—from Thailand to be exact.

The exhibits Tommy showed off with the most pride were the ones he’d built—tall posts wrapped with rope and covered with a thatched roof. Papa walked along almost in a daze. By the time we left the zoo, his exhaustion was dripping down his face like perspiration. Poor guy. He dislikes crowds as much as I dislike chocolate cake.

We followed Tommy and his sister Shazelle…er…Jennifer….home for supper. His poor mom has been begging to come with him to visit us for weeks. She’s quite certain he’s keeping her away on purpose. I can’t imagine why Tommy would do that? (end sarcasm) His family is certainly unique with a capital “Q” (which translates to slightly odd), but splendidly hospitable and splendid cooks. “Tommy said to be sure there was ice cream in the house,” his mom announced, proud that she was quite prepared, not only with ice cream, but also with an enormous, gooey chocolate cake. How does one politely refuse chocolate cake? That’s an honest question, since I wasn’t successful.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My training with Choices has been accelerated, to put it simply. Folks ask about my involvement and I almost feel embarrassed in my attempt to explain what I do and why and how. Almost a year ago I joined Christy and Daniel, a Crisis counselor and a local youth pastor, as part of a team to teach abstinence in the public schools. It was Papa’s suggestion; I had to warm up to the idea. By summer I’d applied as a volunteer at the clinic and been scheduled to come in on Tuesday for training. My training consisted of a quick introduction to the phone system, scheduling and reception procedures. In the previous sentence, we’ll define quick as five minutes. And that was that. Before I knew it I was not only handling reception work, but also designing promo literature, doing some fundraising and assisting the administration. Then a Bible study client dropped in my lap when Christy went on bed rest for her baby at Christmas time. It was about that time that the Lord started bringing more volunteers in and Sherry suddenly realized I’d fallen through the cracks. I joined a group for initial and mentor training and then began training others for office work. Ordinarily, the ladies come in and shadow a mentor in the non-crisis counseling for several weeks and then launch out with Earn While You Learn on their own. I was familiar with the curriculum after making scores of copies, but I’d still never managed to shadow a session when Becky turned to Sherry at a prayer meeting and said, “I was going to schedule Abigail for some Earn While You Learn clients. Is that okay?” Sherry’s face was blank as she replied, “We’ll talk about that later.”

By this time I was also handling finances, after a quick training session with our secretary, Maggie, who started the clinic with Sherry seventeen years ago and is about to move to Idaho. In the previous sentence, quick is defined as half an hour.

The rest of the afternoon I worried, fretted and racked my mind to figure out what I was lacking, why Sherry wouldn’t be comfortable with me being a mentor. Before I left that night she caught me and I sensed an explanation was on the way. “As you know, several of the ladies are retiring and several are taking extended vacations. In February we’ll be down to one Crisis counselor. I need Crisis counselors. I’m working on a date for some training for you and a couple of the mentors so that we can hopefully get you ladies onto the pregnancy tests as soon as possible. I know that’s where your heart really is and since you’re so much younger, you’ll be able to relate well to many of our younger clients.” I probably didn't hear anything else she said. So that’s how I happened to skip the typical year or so of mentoring and waltzed through five weeks of intensive Crisis Peer Counseling training. I couldn’t believe how perfectly everything we were learning fit into what the Lord had been teaching me for the last year or two: the difference between goals and desires, learning to obey and leave the results to God, learning to gently confront and listening, truly listening to a person’s heart behind their words.

Tonight it all came together as I waded through my first sets of intake forms, pregnancy tests and Earn While You Learn applications. How ironic that, as the youngest Crisis counselor at Choices, supposedly especially able to relate to the younger clients, my first client should be a woman with a daughter my age. Sometimes irony can be the very finger of God.

During the past five weeks of training, while the seasoned counselors were gone in a dozen directions, we had very few calls. But as Sherry left for a trip to Georgia, she dashed me off an e-mail saying, “You have clients this week.” I'd have been nervously nauseated if I'd known what she really meant. Clients: I was booked solid. As were the rest of the new counselors. Now I feel intensely guilty for having booked the ladies with a client every hour. I walked dreamily from one appointment to the next, hardly able to clear my mind in between. From the lady who was forty-one, knew the Lord and was ecstatic about being pregnant to the young teen who thought there might be Someone “up there” but had never heard of Jesus and declared she was painfully shy (though she talked a million miles an hour to me) to the young lady who already had a little girl and was certain she was pregnant again, but who couldn’t contain her wonder as I led her through a pictoral description of the baby’s growth inside her womb, I loved every minute of every session.

They were all easy situations, I know, but I marvel at the wonder of it: walking into a small, dimly lit room with a woman I’ve never met before and loving her, for whatever crazy reason. Knowing that the Lord knows every detail of her life. Hearing the story of someone God created and desires to know Him fully even as He fully knows them. Seeing the nervous hands twiddling or the eyes that dare to look up and make eye-contact for the first time and watching the fear drain from her as she relaxes and opens up. What forever amazes me is the response to confrontation. “I see you were using condoms…did you know about the holes in condoms?” Her interest is peaked as she sees that I must be telling her the truth—since she’s pregnant. And the door is open for me to bring up another issue, “Did you know about some of the studies about living together?” No anger, rejection or scoffing. That’s what amazes me. Whether or not she’ll take to heart and put into practice my recommendations, she receives them as though they have value. An hour ago I was a complete stranger. Then I listened to her. Now she’s ready to listen to me. It’s the remarkable truths that Sherry told us: loving equals listening which equals respect and treating someone with respect earns their respect in return. That’s why I see in hundreds of exit forms that come through our filing system, “I was scared when I came here, but now I feel much better.”

Sometimes I wonder what in the world I am doing at Choices. Sometimes I wonder if it's the right thing. I don't always agree with every aspect of how the clinic is run. I doubt my abilities. Which is just fine, since any good is accomplished through the Lord. I doubt my wisdom. Which certainly needs to be doubted. I doubt my choices, my decisions, my convictions. In truth, I doubt everything but my salvation. The Lord mercifully squared me away on that one several years back through proving His complete responsibility for my salvation. And, in truth, it's through my salvation that I have any hope of accomplishing anything of worth--only because Jesus bought me at the price of His own blood and will continue to perfect me and work through me. That's the only thing of which I feel confidently certain. It's the only true wisdom I have to share with anyone.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I was half-way through my tooth brushing late last night when I suddenly realized the toothbrush protruding from my mouth was purple instead of silver. Don’t tell Lydia.

Impulsive shopping is a wonderful fault when coupled with generosity—at least in the case of our neighbors. I arrived, ready to clean, to find a note with my pay directing me to take home an enormous cedar jewelry box, a bag of apples and a huge bowel of fresh berries. Mary also keeps me in facial wash and lotion, has supplied me with tennis shoes, hair items, jewelry and purses and given me more lip gloss than I’ll ever manage to use. I hardly own any jewelry since I wear basically none, but the apples and the berries were a welcome surprise.

Fernando Ortega prophesied truly: “This time next year there’ll be a red-headed grandson sitting on your knee.” That’s what we’ve all been secretly believing and the grandson part, at least, is true. Lauren and Nathaniel called today after their ultrasound with the news that Peanut Scott truly is a boy! So they’re back to the drawing board on names, but certainly delighted. I maintain he will have red hair.

I just finished Ezra and Nehemiah. The spiritual correlations are really neat to see--Revival. For the Jews, it was restoration of outward religion (and renovation of their hearts, as well), but the pictures play over. They read the entire law to the people in one day! Revival starts with listening and loving the Word of God. Then they began reinstating sacrifices--for us we know God desires broken and contrite hearts. They confessed and put away their sin. Next they renovated the temple. God wants us to offer ourselves living sacrifices, keeping our bodies pure and undefiled. They rebuilt the wall--setting up boundaries and protection to keep out unholiness and enemies. And the enemies ridiculed and attacked, especially as they saw the walls going up and the place being rebuilt! But by preparation and faith the Jews fought them off and continued in triumph! And I love what Nehemiah and Ezra told the people after they read the law, "This day is holy to Yahweh your God, do not mourn or weep!" God wanted them to rejoice in the new life He was building, not weep over the past that couldn't be undone. It's interesting, too, that the book of Nehemiah seems to be taken from Nehemiah's journals and he says several times at the end, "Remember me, O God, for good." His prayer made it into scripture, so I think he must have been heard.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I saw one of the most romantic things I think I've ever seen last night. Josiah and I went with Grandma Sandy to a stroke recovery meeting--for Uncle Ed. As we settled into the huge hospital lobby chairs and watched folks arrive, in came a young couple. The husband had a few grew hairs, but the wife looked younger than forty--strapped into a wheelchair, struggling to hold her head up. As the meeting progressed, she shared her story, speaking with difficulty. She'd had her stroke at the age of thirty-two, six years ago, and she was excited to finally be able to control her own wheelchair button--with difficulty. She was dressed carefully, neatly and stylishly. Her hair was done to perfection, her make-up carefully applied, her jewelry tidy and trendy. Several times during the meeting, her husband gently removed her glasses and applied eye-drops to her eyes, unobtrusively. He was a quiet man, saying very little, yet his wife's appearance spoke volumes. Six years ago she suffered a massive stroke, leaving her completely incapacitated to take care of herself, much less her little son. It might have seemed like a good time to put her in an assisted living and move on with his life, but this husband has stuck by her, faithfully for six years. Not just helped her get by, but been careful to help her feel beautiful, valued and womanly. That's a pretty devoted husband. To me, this "for better or for worse" love is the most romantic thing I can imagine. Why? Because it's for real. Gushy romance and emotion? Kids can play at that, but it takes real men and women to love for six years of helplessness.

My mind turns to Jesus, by whom we know what love is: He laid down His life for us. He didn't come to be served, but to serve. While we were still helpless, Christ died for us. Friends insist I'm not romantic because I turn away when the movie heroes kiss or I'm embarrassed when twitterpated couples goo-goo at each other and I roll my eyes at Valentine's Day. But tell me again the tale of the lost sinner, purchased by the King of the Universe and I'll weep and clasp my hands like a love-sick school-girl. Real romance moves me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I can’t seem to catch up and I hate to move on, leaving behind all the unimportant little things that happen. I’m silly, but dates just stick out in my mind and today makes exactly a year and a half in Arkansas. I realized I’m beginning to conform to the culture. Sunday night, Grandma Sandy offered me a Coke and I asked her “What kind?” She looked at me blankly before answering, “Well…Cherry.”

Just a few things of possible interest before I move on:

Freckles got herself caught in a trap. We rescued her, certain she’d be feeling pretty mellow for the next few days. No such happening. Apparently it was a pretty pathetic trap.

Jacindarella boarded a plane and moved to Peru, with a long-term goal of winding up in Bolivia.

Dathan moved back to Arkansas, one semester short of graduating with his master’s degree, under rather interesting circumstances—involving false accusations and an unjust campus judiciary system. That didn’t stop him from filming several new Homely Hobo videos.

We spent the month of January milking the neighbor’s cow while Olga was in Russia trying to straighten out citizenship issues. Josh Potts was right: milk comes from Wal-mart. The stuff I squeezed from the lumpy udder of Maxine was pure and undiluted labor: unfiltered, unpasturized, unhomoginized. It’s been sometime since my milking days.

President Obama was sworn into office and lied through his teeth when he swore to uphold and defend the constitution. Every action since has been in total opposition of his oath. Hillary Clinton was appointed Secretary of State and Kansas’ own witch of a governor, Kathleen Sibelius has been appointed to his cabinet. I shudder, I quake, I groan. One thing it certainly accomplishes is turning my mind away from politics and back to the nitty gritty of seeking hearts for Christ.

Mom and Papa celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary. In honor of the special occasion, dinner and entertainment were provided by Wynkyn, Blinkyn and Nod aka Stop, Drop and Roll aka Larry, Curly and Mo aka Sin, Cosin and Tangent aka Knife, Fork and Spoon aka Uno, Dos and Tres aka A, B and C etc, etc, etc.

We’re now a family of night owls. Well, sort of. Papa was put on second shift at ConAgra, meaning he works from right after lunch until eleven at night. That’s a little different schedule from heading out for work at 5 AM. But we’re enjoying having the mornings together.

Tommy got himself fired for overstaying at our house. Over speaker phone. We almost felt sorry for him before he confessed that it was a set-up he and his boss had hatched to prank us.

Lydia turned twelve and in honor of her birthday she hosted a tea party. Unfortunately, she has no young lady friends her own age, so her special event was attended by a group of terribly excited young men—between the ages of 20 and 30.

Josiah finished the front deck for our house. Finished with finesse, I must add. It’s simply beautiful, even devoid of his original plan for a grand staircase. We hauled in a load of gravel and added a parking lot out front.

Nathaniel turned twenty-five. Twenty-five sounds so old. At least for my brother.

I set a new personal running record: five miles in fifty-four minutes.

Josiah’s been writing rap for some time now and it’s been steadily growing better. He brings pieces to me, pleading for help and the concept finally rubbed off. I never intended to show my first attempt in that genre to anyone but him, but he enjoyed rapping it so much he wanted to show it to Zach and then the cat was out of the bag. I’ve never labored over a piece of poetry, but that style certainly requires effort, so I take off my hat to those who make a regular habit of it.

Judy was admitted to the hospital for a blockage in her stomach and gave all of us something of a scare. I’ll confess I had no clue whether or not she’d ever come home again, but the Lord cleared up the blockage and brought her home safely. Of course, their car gave up the ghost not long ago, so life is a tight circle of daily happenings for them.

This week I navigated the streets of the Kansas City metropolis in snowy weather all by myself. Well, Josiah was with me, but he’s no help when it comes to navigation. It’d been nearly a year since I’d seen my grandma—my Mom’s mom, so we decided to make the trip. “This is so much fun,” said my eighty-two-year-old grandma who runs a hundred miles an hour (as long as her pacemaker battery is charged), “I’m so glad we get to spend time together without any adults present.” Because at twenty-one, eighteen and eighty-two, we’re all still kids.

That’s all the measurable changes. My mind has been busy running a million different directions. I started over again in the Old Testament in January and I just wrapped up Second Chronicles. I’m always in awe of the concept that I am God’s temple—and He has chosen to indwell me. I find myself lying awake at night trying to fathom God—His size, His majesty, His eternity, His beauty, His power, His glory, His love. It’s when people try to accuse me of being smart that I feel most stupid, knowing I lack wisdom and understanding and feeling foolish in my vain efforts to understand God or to plan His ways. But always, always His ways are good. Dissatisfaction and restlessness have been pervading my attitude for the past several months—some for my spiritual good, some reflective of my selfish tendencies. I can’t bear the thought of mediocrity, or status quo Christianity, so different from the life of Christ. I rage against the expectations of the world, and also of conservative Christendom that seems so content with so much safety, tranquility and comfort and would counsel me to be as well. Yet, how am I set apart and holy? In my raging, I forget that idealism can be a lovely thing when applied to oneself, but a devastating poison when prescribed for others. And I neglect to remember that God was no fool when He placed me exactly where He placed me and that my part is to joyfully submit to my authorities and to sing His praise with every tone in my body and trust Him to orchestrate the majestic symphony of time. I always come back to the same lessons, like a dog chasing her tail, alternately confused and enthusiastic. Obviously, I didn’t earn God’s favor.