Tag Archives: seasons

Real Life

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Sometimes Real Life happens and it gets in the way of blogging. My last week has been very Real. Here’s what I haven’t been blogging about:

1) Boring, unpleasant health stuff. Migraines, an injury, illness, the whole shebang.

2) Work. My husband started his new job and has been away more, so I have been busy with the children. I’ve also been working on a side project to try and make a little extra money.

3) Arts & Crafts. I’ve been writing a book for some time and have been really focused on that this week. I’ve also made some fun items for a care package, and I’m knitting a little something just for me. Like many yarn crafters, I rarely make anything just for myself, but I found some beautiful unique yarn several months ago that I fell in love with. I’ve been searching for just the right project for it, and finally found a suitable one.

4) Prayer and study. God has been reaching and calling to me in this season, and I have hungered for Him. He has brought us so many blessings in this season that no one would choose for their family. He’s allowed me to participate in some exciting areas of ministry, and in the process my family underwent the most powerful spiritual attack we have ever seen. But God opened up the heavens and kept us safe. We experienced many wonderful surprises and crazy blessings.

So, that’s what’s been going on on this side of the blog. I hope to share some more details of what God is doing in, for, and with my family soon. Bless you all.

Love Story, Part III: Paper Hearts

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Our senior year of high school, around the time I met The Guitarist, my future husband met a girl on a school trip. She was smart and drop-dead gorgeous, and obviously into him. Things got serious quickly.

When The Guitarist broke my heart, my old friend offered me comfort. Only as a friend, of course, since he had a serious relationship with someone else at the time. “I never understood why you were with that guy anyway, he wasn’t good enough for you,” he told me. I mourned and waited and hoped for about a month, and then I went on the re-bound. I dated lots of boys casually, had a lot of fun but broke a heart or two in the process. When I had been back on the dating scene for a few months, my old friend’s girlfriend broke his heart. And I was there for him, just like he’d been there for me. We started hanging out more, talking more, even went on a few dates.

A couple of months after we started dating, I left for an internship across the country. The night before I left, I took a risk and told him that I might be falling for him. It was dark. He froze. My heart pounded for what felt like an eternity. Just when I was sure I’d made a terrible mistake, he drew me close and kissed me tenderly. “I think I am, too,” he whispered. Joy and relief washed over me as we embraced in the moonlight. I still had several suitors at that time, but I realized that night that I only wanted him.

When I left, we made no promises, but both secretly hoped that maybe when I came home we could begin a real relationship. We exchanged letters, postcards, and the occasional long-distance call. He sent me a couple of gifts, I sent him photos of my adventures. He made it clear in some of his early letters that there was no one else. I felt hesitant to trust someone new with my heart so soon, but oh, how I hoped.

Every time a letter came with that familiar handwriting on the front, my heart skipped a beat. I could hardly wait to find somewhere private and quiet to drink in every word. Those letters nourished our timid hearts, both healing, hoping, reaching. He won my heart not with slick manipulation, but with slow, honest sharing of himself.

When I came home, he met me at the airport with flowers, and soon we became inseparable. We went for long walks hand in hand, hiked mountain trails, had romantic picnics at the park, and generally made people sick with our sweetness. If happy ever after does exist, this was it.

In the Fall, we attended the same college. We studied together and attended free events on campus. We even took some classes together. We roasted marshmallows over back-yard campfires, and I further cemented my place in his heart with my signature hot chocolate and baked goods. Our relationship thrived, and life was good. We got involved in a local church together and talked about theology regularly, sharing our views and our questions. We didn’t agree on everything, but we respected and appreciated each other’s ideas and even won each other over occasionally with civil discourse.

As Fall gave way to Winter, I accepted my second internship. This one would take me to a far-off land filled with unknowns. I would live with the locals this time, potentially without phone or postal access for the duration of the assignment. It was a lot to ask of a still-new relationship, but we were young and believed in the power of our love. At the airport, we kissed and said our tearful goodbyes, and I promised to write if I could. We didn’t know what the following weeks might hold, for me, for us, but as I boarded the plane, I left behind a strong, courageous young man of sound character. This time, it went without saying, we each would wait for the other.

I have been abandoned.

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My closest friend trampled me and kicked me off to the side like so much garbage. The one I trusted and loved like a sister, who was supposed to know me, has hardened her heart. I never saw it coming. It hurts. A lot. Like a bad break-up or a death in the family. Sadly, I know this pain well. My dad left us a lot. Mother was emotionally distant. Close friends turned and either left or actively caused damage, time and time again, until I learned to stop trusting. I shut down. I lived in books and daydreams, and I poured my heart out in music. Until high school, when God sent some amazing, beautiful, wonderful girls into my life. This girl. While God sent the others only for a short season, this one stayed. We loved each other through some deep, dark, dangerous woods. And when we came out the other side hand in hand, we partied hard, good girl-style. We prayed, we worshiped, we sang. We took long drives, drank too much coffee, borrowed and lent, and we LIVED. We were life-long friends, and now, suddenly we’re not. Though this SHOULD hurt more than those childhood wounds, because we shared so much for so very long, somehow this loss is different. Instead of crumbling in, I find myself reaching out, not to replace her but to build naturally on existing friendships. We cannot be who we’re meant to be without other people. We cannot minister effectively unless we let people in. We have to take the risk, time and time again, or miss out on fulfilling our God-given purpose. And God has proven to me that no matter the hurt, no matter the betrayal, He is bigger. Though I grieve and wonder how this could have happened, what went awry, I have a strange peace that only comes from the Holy Spirit living in me. I don’t know if we’ll ever mend, and if we do if we can regain what we had, but I know that whatever happens she is in God’s hands. I am in God’s hands. They are the only hands that can bind this wound, the only safe harbor for my heart. Sister, friend, I will always love you, but if our season together ends for good, this time I walk forward with my head held high, trusting my Savior to lead and to heal.

Merry Christmas

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We had a very merry Christmas indeed, and I hope you all did as well. This was our family’s best Christmas in many years, because we were able to spend it together. We have received abundant confirmations since the move that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing right now. Although most people would not want to be in our shoes and to the world outside things look pretty bleak, we are truly happy and all of our needs are met. This jobless time has brought our family closer together, and has presented SO many opportunities for God to show us how very big He is and how richly, extravagantly He loves us. We are getting to live Isaiah 61:3, and it is so much more beautiful than any of our own plans. Our future looks bright, but if it should fall, yet will I praise Him with my whole heart.

Now I See.

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

A part of God’s plan for our family became clear today. A tragedy struck an old friend last night. Soon, because of the eviction, we will live close by to help ease their suffering. Obviously I’d rather have a better reason than eviction, but I am glad and grateful that we can be there in time to bring some holiday cheer.

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

TheWeekendBrewButton Essential Fridays Linkup

Family Economics

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Mother had a stable but low-paying career working with children. Daddy worked at the family business, with a few short breaks. It was an extremely profitable but seasonal business. We maintained certain standards year-round: If we wanted a new toy or other luxury, we could either get it with our allowance or wait until Christmas/our birthday. We occasionally got a small amount of “allowance credit,” but were not taught anything about long-term planning. We didn’t go out to sit-down restaurants or order pizza very often (although we did eat a lot of fast food during the busy season.) We didn’t attend many movies, skating rinks, Chuck-E-Cheese, or other places that charged money for entertainment; except for special treats. And even during the brief time we were on food stamps, Mother always made sure to put a little something in the offering plate at church. My parents also maintained some luxuries whenever possible, even if that meant forgoing groceries or other necessities: Mom’s hair was always salon-dyed (as was mine once I reached the proper age), nails always painted, make-up always done. Mother forced me to have my hair dyed for years, but I could manage to avoid the nails and make-up if I really worked at it. She bullied me and sometimes withheld privileges if I failed to comply. We occasionally received hand-me-down clothing from our cousins, but we never purchased clothing or toys second-hand. Dad frequently traded his sports car or pickup truck for a newer model, owned the biggest TV on the market, and had a personal computer before anyone else on the block, in addition to the recreational drugs. We had a cleaning lady most of the time, but would occasionally cancel her services for a few weeks during the slower months. Even when the cleaning lady was on hiatus, we had very few chores.

During the busy months, Mom and Dad saved for the slower months, but it seemed they never put back enough. They kept a specific fund that could not be touched unless a dire emergency arose: the Christmas fund. Christmas was an elaborate celebration in our family. We wore brand-new matching outfits to the Christmas eve service at church. We opened our brand-new matching Christmas PJs Christmas eve, to wear to bed and then for pictures Christmas morning. Mother prepared a feast for our extended family on Christmas day. And the gifts, oh, the gifts. Each year we prepared a list of desired presents at Mother’s prompting. This list had to be long enough to share with the extended family and still leave enough to flood the house with gifts from Mother, Father, and Santa on Christmas morning. If the first list wasn’t long enough, we had to add to it. Gifts would be piled everywhere, under the tree, on the furniture, under the dining room table, around the hearth. Mother would choose the items from our lists that she found acceptable and would pass some of them on to extended family to purchase for us. The rest, if she deemed them acceptable she tried to find them at the best possible prices. If she could not glean enough gift ideas from our lists, she still felt compelled to drain the Christmas fund, so she purchased things seemingly at random, or things that fit her taste, things she wanted us to like.  As an example, once I reached the appropriate age, I usually received large amounts of make-up, especially kits, either from expensive department store brands or even occasionally drug store brands. Mother trained us not only to smile and say thank you, but to effuse over each gift and spend some time playing with it enthusiastically for the camera. Christmas meant more than just gifts, of course, but I will save the rest of the traditions and memories for another entry.

So even though an abundant Christmas fund sat in the bank, if the money ran out during the slow season Mother and Father would not touch it unless a true emergency arose. This meant that sometimes we ate nothing but pasta and hamburger for weeks at a time. Other times it meant we had three meager meals and no snacks, left with rumbling tummies for much of the day and night. Complaints about hunger elicited a number of responses, ranging from denial to charges of ungratefulness, belittling to annoyance. Meal and snack times and amounts were set and they had better be enough or we could “get over it.” Sometimes I would sneak food, even hiding boxes and wrappers in my room or in strategic places around the house. If I got caught I was reprimanded, and punished by missing the next snack or meal. As I got older, I would gorge myself in secret on grocery day so that at least for one day I wouldn’t go hungry.

We also had to wear worn-out and out-grown clothing and shoes until Christmas, and then whatever we got for Christmas had to last us until the busy season, growth spurts not being accounted for. This meant that some years we went without winter coats, appropriate shoes, and occasionally no socks and one fitting pair of underwear. If we got down to no underwear that fit, then mother would pick up a few pairs, but that was pretty much the only exception. Child Services got involved on a couple of occasions, but that would only fix the clothing situation for that year. The following winter we reverted to the old way of doing things.

During the busy season, we lived the high life. With Daddy’s first big paycheck or two, Mom and Dad would catch up on the mortgage and any other lapsed bills. Then, right before Spring Break, we’d go on a huge shopping spree for our Spring wardrobes. We shopped the sales racks first, but after exhausting those we paid full price for the remainder. We’d get new water shoes or flip flops, sandals (sometimes two or three pairs for the girls), hiking boots, sneakers, at least two pairs of dress shoes, at least two swim suits and a cover-up each, church clothes, school clothes, and of course, play clothes for the long summer. We’d also each get one especially fancy outfit just for Easter. After Easter, the special outfits might be worn to a Summer wedding, but we usually only wore them once or twice and then donated them. We always did something for Spring Break; sometimes just an inexpensive camping trip to the lake or a park, other years Disney World or the beach or a water park, depending on how the busy season started out that year. We would have another huge shopping trip at the end of the school year to replace any outgrown clothing and fill out our Summer wardrobes. During the Summer, we always made at least one trip to an exclusive beach resort or theme park. We stayed in luxury suites, condos, or even rented a townhouse. We attended lots of summer camps: some VBSes, some educational day camps, and some sleep-away camps. We did lots of what people now call “staycation” stuff, seeing local attractions and such. And some years, we took an educational trip, such as visiting Washington, D.C.; Colonial Williamsburg, VA; the Grand Canyon; Mt. Rushmore, to name a few. Some of these trips early in the season went on credit cards that my parents then ended up making payments on into the Winter, contributing to our economic difficulties in the lean months.

My parents saved for retirement, but a tragedy wiped out most of those savings in my teen years. More on that later. They did not, however, save for our college educations and even with an upper-class income between the two of them, they paid for a lot of things with credit for a long, long time.

My Junior year of college, Mother called me out of the blue one day to tell me that there was no more money. And that was that. I’d chosen an intense major and didn’t even have time to look for a job, let alone actually work one. It was too late in the semester to drop any classes without penalty to find work, so I did the only thing I knew how to do: I paid for everything with credit. Car insurance and gas, cell phone, prescription medication, and any incidentals that came up. That semester I flunked out, mainly for unrelated reasons but it would be naive to say that stress had no effect on my studies. I don’t know how my brother managed to get by. My sister managed to pick up more hours at her part-time job, and allowed her boyfriend to help her make ends meet. Mother has no recollection of this. She and Dad managed to get through that Winter somehow.