Update

I always feel so silly for posting prayer requests, especially when they get answered so quickly. I know that that’s actually the silly feeling, because I’m positive the prayer helps get them answered. Anyway, I sent an email bomb of sorts to every possibly relevant email address I could find for my insurance company and got someone who not only fixed the problem, but also apologized. Now, I suppose I should wait to throw the party until I know for sure, but it looks like it should be good. Thanks so much for your encouraging words and for your prayer.

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Here I am again with the links

If you only watch one thing on the Internet, ever, you should watch this (and I really mean that). It’s Steven Curtis Chapman and his family talking for the first time about their daughter’s death last May. They’re amazing. I can’t belief this hasn’t gotten more publicity.

(Sorry…I can never remember how to imbed videos in WordPress…but it’s not the intuitive way!)

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I’m so stinkin’ angry…

Ok, so I wrote most of a post on how much I love the Olympics, and I’ll probably post it later. Right now, though, I’m so angry I wish I had something (someone?) to throw across the room.

Please, please pray that my health insurance company starts doing what they’re supposed to do (i.e. help me pay for medical attention) and stops what they’re doing now (i.e. losing papers, processing claims incorrectly, not entering information right or at all, and generally NOT helping me pay for medical attention in most of the ways I can imagine). At this point, there’s not much more I can do to avoid paying a small chunk of money out of pocket for care that should be covered. And pray that I can let it go and let it be their incompetence, not my fault.

Thanks, guys!

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Linkydinks

I don’t usually do this, but there are several things on the web that have my attention today.

This article almost made me cry. Imagine that, a gymnast who performs better because she has permission to make mistakes, and whose coach is not only proud of her gymnastics, but of who she is as “a real person.”

Here’s the game that I can’t stop playing. Seriously, I don’t close my browser so it doesn’t lose it. If you get addicted, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And this is the funniest thing the web has given me in the last several weeks. I think it sums up, just about perfectly, how I feel about politics right now. And, while I’ll most likely vote for the man, the image of Obama riding a sparkly-rainbow pooping unicorn while singing about change? Priceless.

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Vacation, Take II

So, there were definitely hard parts about my vacation. There was the letting go that comes with letting down and tears that come with unwrapping white-knuckled fingers from what they’ve been clutching. And then, there was joy.

There were the fireworks:

Followed closely by the fire:

And the firetrucks (for which we were all very thankful):

There were flowers:

(wild columbines...you NEVER see these!)

(wild columbines...you NEVER see these!)

(I have a thing for flowers.)

There were rocks:

And mountains:

I don't care who you are, that's high!

I don't care who you are, that's high!

A lake:

Some streams and rivers:

And the clouds. Oh, Lordy, the clouds…

This last one is how I remember the sky looking every afternoon of the summer. You can see it get dark blue in the distance and watch it come toward you over the plains.

There were furry critters:

They're marmots!

They're marmots!

And not-so-furry ones:

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

The one you haven't seen before is my Grandma Jane

The one you haven't seen before is my Grandma Jane

When stalking the Dave in his natural habitat, it is wise to begin your approach from behind.

When stalking the Dave in his natural habitat, it is wise to begin your approach from behind.

As you swing around to a side view, make sure he's distracted.

And then there were the things you can’t photograph: the hiking at least 7 miles, all of them above 8500 feet, all in one day; the conversations and the stories; the getting to spend time sitting next to Dave just watching the river flow; the good beer and the better wine; the jumping into the rapids only to get sucked in and spit out downriver; the sterile, simple beauty of the tundra; the joy of not having anything you have to do.

I SO needed this vacation.

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Vacation, Take I

Gosh, I haven’t been around here in quite a while. Things are crazy, and I’m using lots of my writing time to finish the second first draft of the novel and, yeah, it’s been a little nuts. But I DID want to say a few things about that vacation I came back from a couple of weeks ago. This might have to come off in multiple parts.

Last semester sucked. I don’t think I can say it any more clearly than that. It was one of the most awful experiences of my life and I’m not exaggerating (there have been other awful experiences, but this one’s definitely on the list). Don’t get me wrong–I love the people that I work with, and I think the program I’m helping to run is one that God loves and that is important in his kingdom. But it was handed to me in a shambles, along with a lot of expectations because (and here’s the catch) it didn’t LOOK like things were in a shambles until you gave it a significant examination beyond the surface. It’s always difficult to rearrange expectations, and that was definitely the case here. So I spent a semester trying to meet these high expectations while I had very little to work with. On top of that, my supervisor was on sabbatical and I found out that my very presence in the position I’m in is threatening to at least one person. Yeah, it sucked.

The thing is, it took a vacation for me to realize just how deeply the semester had cut me. I don’t know if I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, or if I just couldn’t bear the full weight of the hurt while I was still having to deal with it (though I suspect a combination of both), but stepping outside helped me feel. So I woke up at 6AM the second morning of my vacation crying. I’d dreamt about work and it wasn’t anything good. It took me a lot of tears to realize I was grieving, not so much because I’d lost things but because I’d hurt so much and carried so much so far and it was hard. Actually, the word that keeps coming to mind is “trauma.” I hesitate to use it because it seems so strong, but maybe it’s right. Last semester did trauma to my soul. I’ll recover, with some rest and some weeks that don’t involve crises, but it’s traumatic, I suppose in a way akin to the trauma done to a body if, out of the blue, it’s given a heavy load and told to walk up a steep hill for four months.

So a big part of my vacation was grief. I asked God so many times why he left me here, why he dumped me into this place and then didn’t change anything so that it didn’t hurt me. I asked him if this job was all I meant to him, if walking in this small place was all I’d ever get to do for him. I asked him if it bothered him that it had hurt me, that his people had hurt me, and no one did anything about it. I asked, and he answered. God said, “You think I left you there? You think I abandoned you someplace small and unimportant? I PUT you there. I CHOSE YOU to walk into that very place.”

I admit my first response came out somewhere along the lines of, “Gee, thanks, God, but if that’s what a gift looks like, could you refrain in the future?” but then, in a still, small moment, I could see. The place I work means a lot to God. And my particular program is close to his heart, too. He wanted the program to live, to survive the disintegrating structure, and so he brought me and the people I worked with last semester so it would. I also saw how heavily a program like ours could come under spiritual attack. We’re caring for the hearts of people who will go on to do ministry, and teaching them to watch and care for their own hearts. How important it must be to Satan to keep that from happening, and how much more attack that must bring on us!

When I saw all of this, I started to realize how so many of the things that went wrong last semester hit me right where I’m weakest. The DID do trauma, because they tore at old wounds, at questions I’d put away because I never found any answers, at deep, dark doubts I’ve carried around for years. And I truly believe that they were DESIGNED that way. It wasn’t just a hard semester. It wasn’t just a program that hadn’t been run well, and it wasn’t just a person before me who struggled with his job. It was a slow, steady peeling away at a program that has the potential to wreak some serious havoc in Satan’s future plans.

So my next question was, “What do we do now? How do we keep that from happening again? Because, seriously, God, I don’t think I can stand another semester like the last one.” And that was the second part of my vacation. And, wow. You know, don’t ask God any questions that you don’t really, really want answered. Because he has started to answer, and it’s rocking my world.

First of all, he said, “Pray. Pray over everything. Pray over your office and yourself and your co-workers and your events and your faculty, but most of all, pray over your students. Pray over their hearts and minds and spirits. And pray with others, your co-workers in particular. Let them share the burden of covering this project in prayer.”

And then he asked me, “Do I love you? Because if I love you, then it doesn’t matter what the expectations are. It doesn’t matter what people want and what they think. I know what you can do and what you can’t, when something is part of your job and when it isn’t, what you can and cannot handle. If I love you, and you walk and work and speak in that love, can you throw all the rest of that away?” And he asked, “What if my love is different than how you learned it was? What if there aren’t any expectations or any responsibilities, but instead a life lived in love? What if I’m a different God than the one you’ve worshiped all your life?”

I can’t answer those questions yet, not really. I can say words, but I can’t answer them with my life. And yet, things are changing. The expectations I encounter at work feel more like opportunities. They seem more like chances to learn rather than things I’m somehow supposed to already know through absorption. The messages I receive that reek of power-grabbing and control seem almost funny because they’re totally unnecessary. I’m learning how to do mental judo throws and turn their power against itself. And I’m learning great and wonderful things about God.

*********

I feel like I need to offer a couple of caveats here at the end, or else I either see my comments section exploding or people praying, trueheartedly but misguidedly, for the wellbeing of my soul. First of all, I’m not hearing voices. Where I’ve put quotations and noted “God said,” I’m phrasing the things that I heard and thought and read in books. While I believe God guided and directed those times tenderly and lovingly, and while I believe he can speak audibly if he so desires, he did not to me. It’s creative license, and I think it makes God smile.

Secondly, I don’t want to single out my workplace as under more or less spiritual attack than other places, or make it sound more important to God than other ministries. I do think Satan found some footholds here that might not be available other places, and he worked with what he found. Most people should probably be praying over themselves, their co-workers, and their workplace, though we don’t often think about it.

Finally, I’m not worshiping another God. I don’t think there are any others. I do think that I’ve had wrong conceptualizations of God and ideas that have hurt me and my relationship with him, and these are what he’s rooting out. In some ways, he LOOKS totally different than I’ve seen him before, but he’s the same, yesterday, today, forever.

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The greatest of these…

(Updates below!)

I had planned for my next post to be about our vacation, but as I’m learning every day now, God changes our plans…sometimes drastically.

For all the years that I’ve known Dave, he’s wondered what he wants to do with his life. It’s not that he doesn’t know what he likes, but that he likes so many different things that there’s not much out there that will really help him feel more whole.

Last fall, he stumbled on an idea. I cried at first, because it scared me, and then I began to incorporate it into my daily existence and found it yummy on so many sides. It had just the right combination of fun and family and scary and money and challenge that we decided to try it out, to see if it could actually become real.

This summer, after our vacation, Dave exchanged some emails with the people who would have to agree to hire him for this to happen. They wanted all sorts of information–height, weight, date of discharge from the military–and we found it and gave it to them. Then we waited.

It only took a couple of days for us to get an answer, but it felt like forever. We talked, dreamed, schemed together. And then it came. He told me and I cried.

The truth is, this door isn’t shut, but they’ve determined that Dave is currently unqualified. It has nothing to do with his mind or his heart or his desire to minister. It has everything to do with some health concerns they have for him based on some current information and some history.

Are these things we can change? Maybe, with a lot of work and even more grace. But we’re a little bewildered, left wondering what God is trying to say to us and how hard we push this before we change our minds and hearts and plans and walk another direction. We had narrowed so much of our lives down to focus on this goal–I work so he can get a discount and go to school to get the degree that would make this job possible, he works so we have enough to live on while he’s going to school to get the degree that would make this job possible, we work out so that he can be in good shape to pass the prerequisite physical, we don’t know how much we should commit to a church because we might be gone in a couple of years–and it hurts to wonder if it was all for nothing.

No.

Nothing is for nothing with our God. None of this last year, none of last sememster which was harder than any one when I was in school, none of it. But we thought we knew what it was about and now we find that maybe we don’t and that’s hard.

I think that’s the summation of this post–it’s hard right now. Not “I’m going out of my mind because it hurts so bad” hard, but “Life doesn’t look quite as bright and tears are often near and I pray that God’s making something beautiful out of all of this because I can’t” hard. If vacation was a mountaintop, this is a valley. And so we walk, hand in hand, through our valley, praying that we have the faith to take each step, the hope to see resolution where we don’t expect it, and the love to draw nearer to each other as we answer these questions.

Update: Dave decided to go for it. That makes it sound more unilateral than it was, but the truth is that it was his decision to make since it’s his body. So pray for us as we investigate some options and try to figure out what will work best for us. There are a lot of changes we need to make if this is all going to work out, so pray for courage and stamina and whatever else God leads to to ask for. Thanks!!

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