Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Worship

One day, I will feel the joy of keys under my fingertips again.  I like buttons; touch screens are overrated.  But here goes, week 5 of FMF kindle style.

Worship

The lights flicker to signal for people to find seats.  The amps get turned on, the electric guitar straps are hung over shoulders, microphones are checked.  And we worship.

Across the country, a few hours earlier, a piano plays a classical piece with strains of a hymn strung across the complex chords.  An ancient tune and even more ancient words rings beneath the steeple.  And they worship.

In the time zone in between, a piano plays, but its tune is a little newer.  An acoustic guitar accompanies, and ancient words echo through the gym to a tune written by some college students a few years ago.  And they worship.

Worship.  Nothing to do with the building.  Nothing to do with the musical instruments.  All to do with the heart attitude of the people, who gather to worship together.  Young moms learning to worship in 30 second spurts in between settling sibling squabbles and retrieving rolling pacifiers.  Elderly learning that it's okay to sing sitting down.  Middle aged folks putting the battle of the teenage years to the back of their mind and hoping some bit of the beauty sinks into the heart of the slouching and pouting walking hormone beside them.

Rejuvenating our spirits for the week ahead, when our moments of worship are interrupted by screams and leaks and requests for a certain book to be read for the fifth time today.  Or does the moment of worship simply change direction, change focus?  Caretakers of giant eternal souls in little messy toddling tornado bodies.  What greater act of worship is there, than giving a cup of water to the least of these?  I'm pretty sure Jesus is okay with us substituting milk or juice. =)

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa Jo's blog every Friday to write without obsessing over perfection and the "not good enough" bug.  Then we read, get encouraged, and pass along encouragement.  Come join us!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Streams of Water

I felt it again.  The squeezing, pressing weight in my chest.  The spiraling of my mind to an ever growing list of needs and wants.  I felt the fog of anxiety creep around me like the dampness found near the Tennessee River in the early morning.  It penetrates to my soul and grasps it in its clutches.

This battle starts before my feet ever touch the floor.  I stumble into the kitchen and make a cup of coffee, in hopes that the warmth will drive away those icey fingers that are digging their nails into my mind.  And yet the onslaught continues.  As I wake up, the list grows longer.  Driver's licenses. Vehicle registration and tags. UHaul to get our stuff.  Brake problems. Transmission problems. Deposits and rent.  Shoes. Winter clothes.  Engine blankets.  Credit card bills. Medical bills. On and on.

I see the chicken carcass on the stove. The bottle cap on the counter.  The food that was supposed to be refrigerated that is still in the sink.  The missing coffee mug that appears from the bedroom.  And my blood boils.  And I struggle to hold my tongue.  At least I succeed more in that than I do restraining my mind.

Stress cleaning would be easy right now.  Returning to bed, pulling the covers over my head and blocking the world out is tempting.  But neither will help my heart.  Tomorrow, there will be other things to grate my nerves.  The bills will be more numerous since I need to call the post office to inquire where my two weeks worth of bills are and why they haven't been forwarded.

Instead, I open the leather bound pages and beg for relief.  For my soul to be stilled.  For the peace beyond understanding to flood my mind.  On my own, I whither, shrivel, rot.  Only when I return to the root, the life giving stream, can I even hope to love, trust, and serve.

Stay quiet a few more moments sweet babies.  For your mommy to feed and care for you, she must first be fed and cared for herself.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Picture in Words

Since I still have no way of posting pictures from my camera, and therefore haven't bothered taking them, I finally decided to record in words what our new town looks like.

If you've never been west, it's foreign.  I'd never even seen the Mississippi River, so this was all completely new to me.  (Btw, I drove over the Mississippi. It wasn't impressive. Of course, it was also no bigger than a creek.)  And I'm told Western Montana is very different from here, but since I've only seen pictures I'll just have to take their word that there really is a reason this state's name means mountain.

The two main words to describe it are flat, and brown.

Now, I must admit, it's not as flat as I thought it would be.  There are these strange, round knobs all pushed together on the northern side of town.  They wouldn't even count as hills in Tennessee, but surrounded by flat they seem like hills.  The National Weather Service has a station up there, the church we're attending is up there, and there are some really expensive houses along this strange ridge-like cluster just west of town.  More on those houses later.

But with the exception of those, it's flat.  When you look towards the horizon, it's a long way away.  There are no tall buildings to obstruct the view. Very few trees unless you're on the riverbank.  You can see for miles and miles... and there's not much in those miles.  That's why the speed limit on the roads outside of town is 70mph; there is nothing to limit visibility so if you're willing to shake your vehicle to death from the bumpy roads it's safe to go fast.  And if you don't believe in giving your vehicle Shaken SUV Syndrome you can be passed on the extremely long dotted line stretches.
MY
It is just as brown as I imagined.  Oh, there are some green yards, but only if the owners water them.  And if you have a well, you can't water, so there's a lot of brown grass.  But a lot of the brown doesn't come from dead grass.  A lot of it is very much alive; around here, brown often means money.  The majority of land is farm land, and I'm guessing what is grown is wheat and hay.  It's definitely not corn and tobacco and soybeans.  There are many varieties of brown, but... it's still brown.

Even the river is brown.  The Milk River runs just south of town, but it's not your typical river, nor is it white like the name implies.  I don't recall if it was Lewis and Clark, (who came right through here; the main street through town is the Lewis and Clark Trail) or some other explorers, but whoever it was called it the Milk River because it looked like tea with a little milk in it.  It's really rather nasty looking, especially having just come from the shores of Lake Superior, with the bluest water I've ever seen.

And then there are the roads.  Which are also brown, for the most part.  See, in Montana, "road" has a broad definition. It may mean a smooth paved road.  It may mean a road full of holes, I guess because of the salt during the winter.  It may mean a gravel road, or a dirt road.  It may mean a washboard.

Here are two examples: just after we crossed the border from North Dakota into Montana, I saw a sign on Highway 2.  "Pavement ends"  There are quite a few of those signs here.  That sign didn't begin to describe what was ahead.  We came to a dead stop a mile or so after the pavement ended. Now, keep in mind that I don't drive on unpaved roads.  I have never had reason to drive on an unpaved road.  The South is not as uncivilized as people make it out to be.  While stopped, a lady in a hardhat came walking up the "road" talking to each car.  So I turned off Patty the Pilot and rolled down the window.  I was greeted by a "Welcome, Chattanooga, where is that?"  When I told her SE TN, she asked what brought us here, and I told her where we were moving, she assured me the road used to be paved, and would be again, and there was only about five miles of unpaved road that we would be escorted through before we reached pavement again.  And she ended with "Welcome to Montana!"  Great...

The other example was found while yard-saling Friday.  One of the very nice houses, I'd guess $250,000-500,000, was hosting a neighborhood yard sale with lots of kid stuff.  Unfortunately, in order to get there, I had to drive up one of those lump-knobs on a washboard gravel road.  I had a line of cars 4 deep behind me.  I apologized to the lady behind me who stopped to chat as we walked to the sale and explained that I was from TN where everything was paved.  She laughed and said she'd grown up on that kind of road so was used to them.

Clearly, the people are going to be what endears this area to me, not the scenery.  98% of the people I've met have been very nice, the drivers for the most part are understanding of the out of towners' wrong turns and prolonged blinker use since I'm not quite sure where my turn is.  Perhaps the snow that may appear as early as October and stick around till April will cover the brown and soften the lines of this new world outside my window.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Last

Still on my kindle; one day, I'll be able to spill my thoughts onto a keyboard without watching for a machine to figure out what word I'm thinking of, which is very distracting. But, here goes...

Last

Three thoughts jump to my mind when I hear this word, last.  

No. Not acceptable.  Work harder. Work smarter.  Study more.  Train more.  First place.  Top of the class.  99th percentile.  Last means you're doing something wrong.  To whom much is given, much is required.

These thoughts are imbedded so deeply into my soul that it still cringes when I compare myself with others.  Just this morning, I made my husband breakfast.  Not because of kindness, but because I needed to make up for being the last adult out of bed every morning this week.  I don't do last.  I don't always come across as competitive, but take me out of the athletic arena and I'll compete, silently, with you on just about anything else.  

Then there's the last time. The last time I walked through my Church Hill house.  The last time I drove through Knoxville.  The last time I scratched my dogs behind their ears.  The last time I drove either of our cars before they got smashed in Atlanta.  I tend to dwell on lasts... and sometimes I dwell so much in memories that I forget to live in the present.

And that brings me to this: the last child.  The child that is yet to exist in this world, but that is being planned for and calculated about and sometimes debated about. (I will not have another September baby! I refuse!)  I'm going to be a basket case.  Poor kid... with Ladybug, anything she did for the last time would be followed quickly by her sister.  Yes, it sends a twinge through my heart when she decides that she can go down the big slide by herself, but I still have Turkey to slide with, and swing in the baby swing. And as she crawls all over and I miss the stationary bouncy seat days, I comfort myself with the thought that there will be another floppy infant who can't quite coordinate hands with mind.  

But assuming we are blessed with one more... am I going to be so troubled by the last of everything that I end up a tearful mother rather than a joyful mother?  Or will I have the opposite problem?  Will I be so overwhelmed by the challenge of 3 that I miss noticing those last times?  

It's a fine line to walk, between first and last.  Overly competitive and apathetic.  Prideful and lazy.  Melancholy and flighty. Mournful and frantic.  

Contentment.  Contentment to be right where I am, surrounded by the people I am, doing the things I am.  Whether I'm in first or last place, doing a task for the first or last time, doing it with the first or last child, or the one in the middle... grant me grace to be content in whatever state I am.

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers, who gather at Lisa Jo's blog every Friday to write about a prompt word, without obsessing over perfection.  Come join us!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Home... but not home

It's sinking in. This isn't a vacation. It's not a trip. It's permanent, at least for the foreseeable future.

This is home.

But it doesn't feel like home.

And there's not a thing anyone can do to help.  People are nice. The church has folks who have gone above and beyond to help and welcome us.  We've gotten involved.  But it just doesn't feel like home.

It's a process, I suppose.  Something that only time can do.  They say home is where your heart is.  And a large part of my heart is here.  But there's a piece of my heart in two furry critters in Michigan, one of which is still in the pound. And there's a piece of my heart in the green mountains of the Appalachians.

Watching my children struggle has made today especially difficult. I was unpacking a box and unwrapped a family picture, and I showed it to Ladybug. Usually, I'll point out family members and she'll try to say their names. Not today.  She sat in my lap, held the picture, and didn't say a word. And in her own toddler way, I think she was missing them.

I can put pictures on the mantle. I can meet people.  I can unpack boxes and hang up clothes. I can stop making wrong turns.

But can I accept this place as home?  In my heart, not just in my head?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Trials of almost two

So much I want to write about, so many pictures I want to post, and I'm still restricted to a Kindle.  But, we had internet installed today, much sooner than I'd thought, and we might be making the treck to Billings this weekend to get our stuff, which finally made it the 30 hours.  All in time...

I wanted to record a little of what this move has been like for Ladybug.  She'll be two in about six weeks, and that's a hard time in the best of circumstances.  She's at that age of developing independence, yet still needing so much help.  She's at that age where she knows those blocks stack a certain way, that puzzle piece goes there, but she's just not coordinated enough to get them how they're supposed to go.  She's at the age where she knows what she wants, but can't quite express what exactly she needs us to do. And it's very frustrating to her. And to me as her mommy too.  Many times a day we have conversations that sound like this: "elpa elpa!" "Help with what?" *puzzled look* "elpa elpa, peese?" "What do you need help with?" *stomp feet, scream*

I try to remember that this is normal (right?), and that the screaming and tears are going to be worse than before because everything is different. To add to the madness, I'm also limiting the Wubbanubs to nap and bedtime only, for both girls. Turkey doesn't care, but this is difficult for Ladybug.  I know, though, that we'll be moving homes at least twice more in the next few years, so I can't justify waiting any longer.

We took Ladybug into church with us Sunday, and that's the most subdued I've ever seen her not sick. She just laid her head on her daddy's chest and held her Wubbanub.  It is very different from what she's used to, so I guess she was just coping... makes me wonder what's going through her head.  Really hoping that this is the last time we make such a move and that this truly becomes home.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Small

A small hand tugs on my arm.  A smaller hand reaches her spoon before I can get it into her mouth and smacks it onto her tray.  And instead of feeling big, I feel small.  Inadequate.  In over my head.

Being new to Big Sky Country reinforces the feeling of smallness.  The sky is bigger.  The horizon is further away.  Even the mosquitoes are bigger.

I've never been described as big, except my belly while pregnant. But nothing has made me feel as small as two little girls. And being so far from everything familiar causes the smallness to resonate, louder and louder, till it becomes deafening.

So what is there to do? One small thing at a time. One small diaper. One small outfit. One small bowl of mush and one sippie cup at a time. One small room clean at a time. One small box unpacked at a time.

Little by little, inch by inch, by the yard it's hard, by the inch, what a cinch. Never stare up the stairs just step up the steps, little by little, inch by inch. ~Patch the Pirate

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Homeless

Still on my kindle.  I keep waiting till we get our computer set up, so I can use a real keyboard. But it's somewhere between Chattanooga TN and Billings MT.  And even if it were here, it's not like there's room to put it in this motel room.

See, that's where we live right now. A shabby, decor straight from the 70s, brown shag carpet, hard mattress and pancake pillows motel room.  With a dorm fridge and a microwave.

When I tell a local where we're staying, I get a look.  And some say something along the lines of "at least it's not the __, there are drugs there." And I quickly explain that this place has new owners, it's clean, sort of, and the weekly rate here is less than two nights at the nice place in town.

We went two weeks between jobs. Drove over 4000 miles between the two vehicles. Left behind the majority of our furniture and stuff.  McDonalds has become a second home and is now the definition of real food. This is us. We're not rich. Not in material things.

But this is what we chose. We wanted to drive into town together. To have our first visit to church as a family.  And the housing market out here is such that we have two pack and plays, a high chair, a booster seat, and a child's rocking chair in a run down motel room and call it home.

The good news is, this shabby little room makes that basement apartment look like a gorgeous mansion. Hoping to get a lease for that new home today.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Lonely

FMF on my kindle, so I'm not being as strict on the five minutes as usual.

Lonely

I drove across the open prairies, in Patty the Pilot with my children in the backseat and every inch of space full. The sky was huge, bigger than anything I'd ever seen.  It was flat, flatter than anything I'd ever seen.  The sun seemed far away.  And it was beautiful.  This was the spacious skies and amber waves of grain the song spoke of.  And yet, I had tears running down my face. Not tears in awe of beauty.  But tears of loneliness.  Tears because it was so different.  My eyes and brain created illusions of mountains where there were none, forming them out of clouds and shadows. Behind me were family, friends, my dogs.  Before me... flat.  Different.  Foreign.  Lonely.

I was thankful the Mechanic was behind me, otherwise it might have been tempting to do a u-turn and head back to the Upper Peninsula, where there were at least familiar looking woods. 

Then Rich Mullins sang "I am home anywhere, if You are where I am."  Are we ever truly alone?  There's always Someone who knows my story.  Always Someone who understands me.  God is just as much present in the middle of nowhere Montana as He was in East Tennessee.

Stop

Written as part of a community of bloggers who gather at Lisa-Jo's blog on Fridays to write about a prompt word without obsessing over perfection. Come join us!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Confidence

"Therefore do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."  Heb. 10:35-36

I've read the Bible through several times in the last two decades, but I don't recall ever noticing this passage.  Funny how different things can jump out at you, depending on what point you're at in your life.

I'm currently anxiously waiting the Mechanic's call to the realtor to find out if we have a house in our new town.  If the answer is yes, we get to make the 18 hour journey together, this week, and start our new life together.  If the answer is no, he will make that journey alone, and the girls and dogs and I will be left in the cabin in the woods for an unknown amount of time, the fate of the dogs unknown as well.

I've said recently that I'm all out of optimism.  I was optimistic when we had two interviews in the town we really wanted to move back to, and I was optimistic when those interviews went really well, but when those doors were slammed shut in our face I began to lose my optimism.  I was optimistic when we got the job in Montana, but when I started trying to locate a rental house I lost even more of my optimism.  The closer we got to D-Day, the more my optimism waned.  The horrible journey up here killed it completely.

It's not necessarily a horrible thing to be left behind.  The cabin in the woods is beautiful, and it's not as isolated as I'd imagined.  The grocery store and gas station isn't more than 10 minutes away, the beach is even closer, and I've learned my way around enough to feel comfortable getting out on my own.  It's the uncertainty.  The wondering if we're going to be able to keep our dogs or have to leave them at a shelter.  The wondering how long I'll be here alone with the kids.  The wondering if the Mechanic will be able to find a decent house to rent, or if we'll end up in some cat-urine covered trailer 20 miles away from the nearest grocery store.  (Yes, that happened to someone out there.)

But I'm commanded to remain confident.  What promises can I be confident in?  I'm promised to have my needs met.  Of course, Christians have gone hungry.  They've been homeless.  And I'm in no danger of either one of those; one way or another we will have food and a roof over our heads.  There must be something else, then, that has been promised.  Something more than simple material possessions.  That all will work to my good.  The good He has planned for me, not the good I have planned for myself.  That He will meet all my needs.  The needs as He sees them, not the needs as I perceive them.  That He will never leave or forsake me.  That He will give a peace that passes all understanding.

It's confidence in the Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who gives good things to His children.  Not the prayer of Jabez kind of thing, where I expect a mansion and maid service.  But He will give what is good for me, when it's good for me.  And that's not always what I want when I want it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Beauty of Quiet

You really can't appreciate quiet until you've experienced noise.

It's quiet now.

All I can hear is the rustle of leaves and the whisper of wind through the evergreens (or Christmas trees, as I call them), and an occasional bird.  The windows are open, there's a cool breeze blowing, and a beautiful blue sky to compliment the sun beaming through the windows.

My children are both asleep.  BOTH asleep.  At the same time.  You'd have to have been with us the last few days to know how precious this is to have during the day.

We had planned on leaving Wednesday morning around 10-11am, with the Mechanic and the dogs heading to Kingsport to take care of some business before moving out of state, and the girls and I making a stop in Kingston to meet my friend's newborn baby.  The Mechanic made it out by 11, but unfortunately the house was in a such a state that I didn't leave until after 5pm.  Only seven hours behind schedule!  If it hadn't been for my brother-in-law/sister-in-law helping me out, and my mother-in-law's grace of not requiring her renters to remove all personal belongings and clean the house before leaving, I'd probably still be in that house.

I'm a lousy housekeeper.  I know that.  But this was beyond lousy housekeeping.  This was taking all the stuff that took a 26 foot truck, filled to the brim, plus multiple SUV/car load fulls to move down, and reducing it to what would fit into a single UBox and two SUV's, with three warm bodies in each.  That's quite a reduction in space.

I have no laundry baskets.  No hampers.  No hangers.  No food.  My turkey platter, which I just got this last Christmas, was left behind.  I had a lovely set of glass bowls which were left.  My Rubbermaid canisters for flour and sugar were left.  I no longer own a mattress.  Or a bedroom suite.  Both cribs were left behind.  The couch was left.  My grandmother's rocking chair was left.

It's just stuff.  I kept reminding myself of that while trying to cram one more thing into Patty the Pilot.  But it's my stuff.  And it's hard to let it go.  It's hard to trust that you can live without it.  Or that you can get another one later.  Especially when you're moving to a place 277 miles from the nearest Walmart.  And having grown up in a home where you washed the ziplock bags and let them air dry so you could reuse them, leaving behind perfectly good things went against every fiber of my being.

But anyway... Ladybug slept most of the way to my friend's house an hour away, and then after a short visit there we carried on in hopes of catching up with the Mechanic at the hotel we'd made pet-friendly reservations at.  Not so much.  The plan was to be an hour south of the MI border when we stopped for the night.  Instead, the girls and I stopped half an hour south of the OH border.  I was tired, and Ladybug had screamed for most of the last 2 hours.  But the Hampton Inn staff was very helpful and had two pack and plays set up complete with sheets by the time I got the girls and teddy bears up to the room.  (It's more complicated than you would think to travel alone with two small children, especially one that can't walk.)

The next morning is when things got really ugly.  It had rained some the night before, and it continued raining much of Thursday.  Here's what I learned.  If you have two small children, and you realize after strapping them both into their car seats, that one's pacifier is nowhere to be found, take both children out and go back to the room and search it.  The extra 45 minutes of searching and re-buckling is far better than nearly 16 hours of screaming.  To add to the no pacifier problem, my power adapters in Patty the Pilot went on the fritz and so my DVD player wouldn't work.  So that lovely easily accessible shoebox full of DVD's did absolutely no good.  So Ladybug screamed.  And screamed.  And screamed.  I tried toys.  I tried new toys.  I tried magnets.  I tried music.  I tried singing.  I tried taking a long break at Cabella's.  I tried threats.  I tried pleading.  I tried distraction.  I tried food.  She took one nap, about an hour long, the entire day.  The rest of the time, she screamed.

It was ugly.

I also learned there are some roads in northern MI that aren't on the US Atlas.  And they don't believe in putting signs pointing towards the interstate in small towns.  So I drove 32 extra miles because I headed south on a highway instead of north; it was cloudy, I had no compass, and I missed one single turn.  It still got me to the interstate, just meant I drove one very boring 15 mile stretch twice.  But for driving over 900 miles alone with only an atlas I think I did pretty darn good!

I hit The Bridge (Mackinac Bridge) at around 10pm, in the rain, so it was dark.  It really wasn't impressive at all to me.  Maybe because of the rain, maybe because of the dark, or maybe because I'd been in the car for 13 hours with a screaming toddler.  Who thankfully, by that time, because I'd given her her sister's paci, was asleep.  Then I followed the text directions from my mother-in-law through the wilds of the Upper Peninsula.  I drove along the shores of Lake Michigan, which I couldn't really see because it was dark, but figured was over there since there were signs along the road saying "road may be covered by sand."  Then I hit the wall.  The wall of custard fog.  The very white wall.  The wall that makes your eyes feel like they're going crazy because all you can see is one and a half orange lines.  The wall that makes you think your family is pulling your leg and there really isn't a cabin in the woods and this road is just going to dead end into the lake.  Or, even worse, you're going to miss a turn because the fog has covered the signs on the side of the road and you're going to keep driving clear into Wisconsin.  The wall that also occludes deer on the side of the road (thankfully they stayed on the side of the road) and raccoons the size of a large bear cub that aren't staying on the side of the road.

Thankfully, I didn't miss any turns, and at 1215am I saw the headlights of the CRV in the dirt driveway of the cabin.  MI was not in my good graces at that point.

I promise, though, it gets better.  The children are still quite grumpy, but Ladybug likes the beach and Turkey is sprouting her two top teeth.  The next part of the story needs pictures, though, so that'll have to wait till a better internet connection.  The side effect of a quiet cabin in the woods is a slow internet connection.  And both my children are screaming again.

To be continued...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Five Minute Friday

Story


I drove.  And drove.  And drove.  And screamed at my child to please stop screaming.  Because that made sense at the time.  And it rained.  And it misted.  And the child kept screaming.  And I kept driving.

And some day, this will be worked into a story about the first trip I took to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  How I was tempted to just pull off at an exit and settle and call my husband and tell him if he wanted us with him, he'd have to send a plane.  How I thought I was going to lose my mind.  How it seemed like everyone was playing a big joke on me and there really wasn't a cabin in the woods at all, it was just woods until the road ran into a lake.

My mind does strange things at midnight, in the fog, after being on the road since 9am.  With a screaming toddler.

But this is a part of our story now.  It will some day be humorous.  It's not really funny right now.

But how many of us like to read a book where everything is happy and pleasant all the way through?  No good writer creates a storyline like that.  A good writer puts in an antagonist.  A trouble maker.  A rough patch for the character.  That's what endears the character to us.  That's what gives a chance to root for him.
Without fog, without screaming toddlers, without lost pacis, without broken cigarette lighters which means no DVD player, without miles upon miles upon miles of woods... Our story would be pretty boring.

Stop.

Written this week from the cabin in the woods on the shores of Lake Superior, as part of a community of bloggers spending five minutes of our busy lives simply writing without worries.  Come join us at Lisa Jo's blog!