Thursday, November 17, 2011

Faith in Doubt: A Guy Named Job

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

How can we trust a God who allows so much suffering in the world? 

Some don’t realize it, but the Bible actually addresses this question directly.  The main point of an entire book is to deal with this question.  This book is often misunderstood.  It is about a man named Job. 

Job was a guy who was very faithful to God, and consequently God had blessed him.  He was rich. He had tons of kids.  His servants were loyal.  He had sheep coming out of his ears.   This is the good life in the Bronze Age.   Then one day, for reasons completely hidden from Job, God allows it all to be taken away.  His calamity is very theatrical.  The whole book plays out like a kind of theatre production.  The story goes like this.

One day Job is sitting in his house enjoying a cup of tea, and in rushes one of his servants. 
“Job, Job! A group of Sabeans attacked us and killed all your servants and stole all the Oxen.  They’re all gone Job!” 
And before Job’s jaw can even drop another servant runs in and says “Job, there was a meteor!  It fell from the sky and incinerated all your sheep.  I’m the only one who survived.” 
Then in comes another.  “Job!  Your camels Job!  The Babylonians attacked us and killed everyone and stole the camels!” 
Then another.  “Your children Job, they’re all dead!  They were eating together and a storm came and knocked the house clean over.  They were all crushed!”

Just like that, Job’s world falls apart.  It only takes about 200 words in my Bible.  It happens so fast it seems more like a poorly executed practical joke, but Job isn’t laughing.  It’s real.  Before the week is out, he is huddled up in the middle of a field, scraping at the burning boils that now cover his skin, and wondering what the hell God is doing up there. 

Job’s loss is so complete that it sets him up as a kind of ultimate sufferer.  A guy whose suffering is so unexpected and so severe that few could compare themselves to him.  And then, he and his friends begin to talk.

Most of the rest of the book is lengthy dialogues between Job and his friends as they wrestle through the reasons for his suffering.  The summary is something like this:  Job’s friends are convinced that God is just, and therefore he would never do something like this to Job unless he deserved it. But Job argues for his innocence. He insists that some mistake has been made, and if he just had the chance to present his case before God then all would be made right again.  Both he and his friends agree that since God is just, nothing like this could rightly happen to a person like Job.  Either Job has done something to deserve it (Job’s friends’ argument) or Job is being treated unfairly (Job’s argument).  They battle back and forth and back and forth, until God appears.  Enter God, stage left.  

What would we want or expect God to say in a situation like this?
Maybe:  I’m so sorry Job.  I didn’t want this to happen to you either, but sometimes bad things just happen to good people. 
Maybe:  Job, don’t worry.  This has just been a trial and it will pass, and you will receive even more from me later (which he does at the end of the book). 
Maybe even:  Job, I know that you are suffering, but if you could see it from my perspective, you would understand why things have to be this way. 
From the perspective of the book, I think this last answer is a true answer, but this is not the answer that is given to Job.

Here’s how God starts his reply to Job.
 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Wait…what?) “Tell me, if you think you’re so smart.”  It goes on like this for a while.  It is everything from “do you know the measurements of the earth?” to trivial stuff like “do you know when the mountain goats give birth?”   God replies to Job’s suffering by spending three chapters cutting him down to size, without even addressing the question that has driven the entire book.  The entire book has been a debate about whether or not Job’s suffering is just, yet God does not weigh into this debate.  The reader is given a reason why Job is suffering, but God does not convey even this to Job.  He sticks to “I am God, and you are not.” 

On the surface, God kinda looks like a jerk.  Here is a guy who had everything taken away from him for no good reason, and all God can say is “I’m better than you so pipe down.”  If you come to Job looking for an intellectual argument for why a just God would allow a good person like Job to suffer, then you may be disappointed.  

But Job is not disappointed, and if we miss this we miss the whole point of the book.  I don’t think that God’s speech is intended to be an intellectual argument.  God’s speech is meant to convey verbally what Job is undergoing experientially.  Job has been begging for the opportunity to present his case before God, but when God actually shows up, Job realizes that he is the one who has made a mistake. The experience of facing God is nothing like he expected.  The categories in his mind explode in the face of God.  He has been following God faithfully his entire life, but meeting him is a shock that realigns everything.  The petition that Job has prepared against his unjust treatment melts away.  It seems downright foolish.  God asks Job, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the almighty, He who argues with God, let him answer it.”  And all Job can say is “Look at me, I am nothing, what could I say to you.” 

In Job’s final words he summarizes his experience of God like this: 
“I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Job was seeking an answer.   God’s answer was himself. 

So why does God allow so much suffering in the world?  The answer is simple:  We don’t know.  We can’t know.  We can guess and we can imagine, and many Christian thinkers have produced some compelling explanations (I hope to blog about a few of these eventually).  Yet at the end of the day we will acknowledge that there is something lacking in our explanation.  Whenever there is a famine or an earthquake in a third world country, the images will always call back our confusion. 

However, someday we will meet God, and it will be very different than we had expected. 
Someday the answer to this big question will be unmistakable.
It will be the most obvious thing in the world. 
Children and philosophers will both laugh at the thought of such a question.
The answer will be plain before our eyes.
We will see God, and God will be our answer.  
Why do Christians trust a God that allows so much suffering and cruelty in the world?
We trust him because he is greater than us. 
We trust him because he loves us. 
We trust him because we don’t have access to all the information.
We trust him because we have experienced a fractional part of the awe that overwhelmed Job. 
We trust him because he is our Father.
We trust him because he is God.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Faith in Doubt: The Biggies

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

I started this series of posts with two motivations.  The first was simply to tell my story.  There are many of my friends and family who were shocked when I left the faith and were never given any context for why I came back, and others who I thought might benefit from hearing it.

In addition, the questions that I worked through over the last six years are the same questions that most thoughtful people struggle with, whether inside the church or not.  Therefore, my second goal of writing is to try to address some of these big issues.  In my experience, church communities struggle to address these kinds of issues.  We have some heroes out there doing good work, but our actual communities don’t seem prepared to receive people who still have serious questions.

I had a conversation with someone recently that finally convinced me to write about how I deal with some of these big questions.  This person was introduced to Christianity late in life, and still seems very interested in it.  But like a lot of us, this person has struggled with the question of why there is so much suffering in the world.  Why would the world be so cruel if there is a sovereign God?  They said something that I found very sad.  They said that going to church had only exacerbated their anger and confusion about these issues.  This makes me upset, so for my next series of posts, I am going to take a shot at some of these big questions.  

So what are the biggies?  At the very least, they include the following:  If God is in control, then why is there so much suffering in the world?   How can hell be considered just?  How can we believe the Bible when it seems to be based in outdated worldviews, and seems full of inaccuracies and contradictions?  How can Christians claim the universality of a single religion in light of the multitude of world religions?  In addition, there are questions that often arise around conservative Christian views of women, families and homosexuality.  (This all suddenly seems a little ambitious…)

I titled this whole series Faith in Doubt.  I love this title because it has a double meaning.  On the one hand it includes my story about a time when my faith was in doubt.  But it has another meaning as well.  It expresses how I can still live in faith even when doubt remains.   Faith and doubt may be antonyms, but that does not mean that they cannot exist together.  I have faith in God and the Bible, but that faith exists in the midst of my ongoing questions.  I don’t have everything figured out, and I don’t have to pretend like I do.  My doubts are legitimate, but that does not stop me from trusting God.  If push comes to shove I’m going to trust God, but right now I have the freedom to think and struggle and learn. 

I do not have satisfying answers to every question, but what I hope to model in these posts is a life and mind that can live in faith, while still remaining honest about doubts.  It is not one or the other.  I invite readers to add questions and critiques of what I say, and I look forward to the discussion.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Faith in Doubt (Part 4): Loving God

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

Phase 4:  Love God
Even after three years of living like a pretty good Christian, I still thought of God as a distant force, like a world leader whose policies I respect.  I liked God, but I knew I did not love God. I knew what love was supposed to look like.  I had been married for several years, and during this time my first son was born, who continues to teach me about another kind of love that I think only parents can know. 

But this is not how I felt about God. Love springs from familiarity, yet never ceases to produce awe.  Mine was the awe you might feel for a celebrity.  Love inspires a kind of reckless loyalty.  My relationship with God was still on certain terms.

This time I have no idea when the change happened.  One day I woke up and realized that God was as familiar and present to me as my wife or son.  After a thousand tiny steps I loved God again. 

But how can you love a transcendent being you have never met?  I have always found it difficult describe this to those who have not experienced it.  The best I can say is that I have met him.  He’s around quite a lot actually.  I don’t hear voices or anything.  It is much more subtle than that.  But like I said before, he’s there and at this point it doesn’t make much sense denying it.

This love completely changed my attitude toward God.  For example, there have been times when I have defended God because of the threat to my identity.  Like if God isn’t real…then what am I going to do next!  I wasn’t defending someone I love, I was just defending the idea of God.  This God is nothing but a proposition, an intellectual crutch to hold up my dilapidated life. When people attack God now, there is something profane about it, and sad, yet completely unthreatening.  When I engage in this kind of discussion now, it is almost always for the benefit of another.  Otherwise, what would be the point?  God and I are just fine.  I no longer feel the need to argue for God’s existence for the same reason I do not try to argue for the existence of my mother.

As this love crept in, so did the desire to serve God in full-time ministry.  Since we were in high school, both Jaymi and I had felt sure that ministry was what God had called us to do, and that certainty was returning by the day.   I remember having a conversation with a pastor around this time, and he was trying to encourage me by saying that I didn’t have to be in ministry to serve God.  Many people are faithful servants even if it isn’t their profession.  I completely agree with this in principle, and there are some amazing people in my church community living it out, but this is not me.  As soon as my love for God returned I became restless.  I began to feel like I was wasting my life. 

As soon as we could manage it, I returned to school to get more training, and we began looking into how God could use our life.  For those of you who have read our blog before, you know that this drive is currently pointing us toward Africa, and if you want the rest of the story you will have to read what Jaymi has written about it. 

So what does it mean? 
I turned away from God with no intention of ever returning, and now I have gone from being a functional atheist to a future missionary.  I would not be here if God had not gone out of his way to bring me back.  I know I have not been very specific about why I am so sure that God was there (when he “punched me in the face”).  I do not think this is the appropriate place to describe a thing like that, but it was powerful.   Powerful enough that it has continued to define me as a person ever since. 

There are a lot of people in my life who have struggled with the same questions, but who were not given the kind of gift that God has given to me.  When their questions came up, God seemed silent.  I have no idea why he does this.  It frustrates me.  But I cannot deny the fact that he has been gracious to me, and I hope that he will be gracious to them too. 

By complete accident I came across a verse about a year or two ago.  This verse comes from a very sad book that was written after Jerusalem had been destroyed and the Israelites were being forcibly resettled.  In effect there was no nation of Israel anymore, just her people.  A prophet named Jeremiah was mourning all that had been lost when he said this:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
The bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed
For his compassions never fail
They are new every morning
Great is your faithfulness
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.” (Lam 3:19-24)

This verse is a summary of my life.  I often think of all that I wasted in those years, yet God did not abandon me.  He was faithful. He is still faithful.  I find new grace all the time.  I still feel doubt and confusion about a lot of things, and I certainly do not have satisfying answers to every question.  Yet what can I say now except “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for him.” 

He is God.  He has been good to me.  And I trust him.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Faith in Doubt (Part 3): The Long Climb Back

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

So Sure, God exists.  Now I believed it.  I even believed that Jesus was God.  Yet there was no rush of joy in this realization.  This was not a happy moment.  I was quite miserable in fact.  God had intruded where he was not wanted, and now my life was a contradiction.  All of the questions and hurt that had led me away from my faith were still burning inside, yet I could not deny that Jesus was God.  Because of this, the phases of this four year journey might surprise you.  They certainly don’t match any salvation narratives I have ever heard.

Phase 1:  Hate God
When my journey began, I hated God.  He let people suffer and did not rescue them.  He called people to live to standards they could not achieve.  More than anything, I could not make sense of hell.  I could not make sense of God torturing people for eternity (More on this later).  It was around this time that we started going to church again, and the conflict in my faith was evident.  We would go for two weeks, then get frustrated and skip the next week, but by the fourth week we’d try again.  I remember one week walking out in anger in the middle of the service during a song that I still do not like.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t go back for a month. 

Phase 2:  Fear God 
During this phase I began to make some headway philosophically.  For example, some people draw a false dichotomy about God.  They say that either God is good and loving and everything I want him to be, or he doesn’t exist.  During this time I realized that the two things have nothing to do with one another.  Even if God is a jerk to us, he is still God and there is nothing we can do but serve him.  You cannot protest the Almighty.  God can do whatever he wants, and demand whatever he wants.  He’s God, so I had better pay attention. 

Phase 3:  Respect God
As I worked through my philosophical objections, I began to calm down emotionally.  By this point we had already settled back into our church, and I had begun studying the Bible again.  I felt like I was reading it with fresh eyes.  The texture and depth of both God and his people were leaping out at me, both from the text and in our church community.  All of this culminated in a realization: God is pretty cool.  He is not indifferent and inactive, he’s doing stuff all the time.  There may be a lot of crap going on in the world, but there is a lot of good too. 

Throughout these phases there is a theme that has continued to define my faith:   “Faith seeking understanding.”  I believe first, but I am still working out the details.  One thing that is difficult for many is that they do not want to accept Christianity until the big questions have been answered.  The problem is that you may never get there.  There are some questions that require faith and interaction with God in order to comprehend.  I realize this seems like backward logic, because it seems like we are creating bias in our beliefs prior to examining the questions themselves.  However, for me the answers came because the faith was there first.  I’m not sure if I ever would have made it this far if I hadn’t first believed in God. 

After this, there was one more phase that completed this process and sent our life onto a new trajectory.  (Coming Tomorrow)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Faith in Doubt (Part 2 cont'd): A Poem

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

During this confusing time I wrote this poem.  

I look at the sea
Do you know what I see?
No master’s canvas
No ruler’s order
Just water in Chaos

I turn to the stars
Do you know what I hear?
No slamming gavel
No compassionate cry
No angry horde
Vast Quiet

The stars are silent
The seas are brutal
Faint cries persist
Sometimes not so faint
No matter

The world has moved on
What use is a child’s fancy?
We are older now
As it ought to be
Yet, I am still troubled
My awe remains

Novelty is gold
Away from the light
But awe remains

Our games have ended
The afternoon is through
We’ve washed up for supper
In preparation for the night
But awe remains

How can the same spark light truth and madness?
Perhaps awe is madness

The stars are quiet
The seas are brutal
Faint cries heighten to horrific bellows
But no matter
Awe remains
My madness still speaks
It tells me to wait
It tells me that the show is about to start

Is it madness or is it truth?
Ask the stars and the sea
Because I really don’t know

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Faith in Doubt (Part 2): Getting Punched in the Face by God

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

When I first left the Church it felt like a weight had been cut off my back.  It felt like I was breathing fresh air for the first time in years.  My mind was free to consider ideas that I had been suppressing, and for the first time in a long time my heart felt free from the burden of guilt.  All of the demands that I thought were required of me vanished, and it felt good. Really good.  The experience was almost religious.  It felt like I had been saved from ignorance, and reborn into a new life.  I didn’t have to “capture” every stupid little thought that came through my head, and I didn’t have to believe that the God of the universe would be torturing people for all eternity.  I could just live my life, and learn, and try not to hurt anyone, and that felt like a fine life to me.  

I emphasize the joy of this moment because of what happened next.  It was unexpected and unwanted.  It was simple. 

God was there
Like a burning in my chest
Like a splinter in my mind
In defiance of everything I had built up against him
God was there, and I couldn’t deny it

You may believe me and you may not, but that’s the only sense I can make of it
In spite of all my philosophical objections
In spite of all the seeming inconsistencies
In spite of all the horrors that I now associated with God
He was there
He was God
And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. 

There is an analogy for God that I think is quite underutilized. 
God is like a punch in the face.
You may not see it coming, you may not understand why it happened, but you cannot deny that it happened. 
For me, the existence of God is not a proposition to be proved or disproved
Nor is the ministry of Jesus
God is a punch in the face
God is something so real that the rest of your life must bend to it

After this I began a long climb back to God.  I battled with God for several more years, but there was no longer any question about where I was going.  

(more coming soon)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Faith in Doubt (Part 1): Why My Faith Died

A continuation of the series by Luke, Faith in Doubt.

My fall away from God began while I was at Moody Bible Institute studying to become a pastor. Somewhere during my time there, I noticed a shift in my relationship with God.  My passion for God cooled.  My love turned into commitment.  I relied on God less, I prayed less, and I read my Bible less.  I also learned how to obey God through discipline instead of love.  I could pray when my faith felt weak, I could love others even if I didn’t feel compassion, and I could obey God even when I didn’t understand His commands.   I was no super-Christian, but I could often fight through my own feelings and do what I thought God expected of me.  At the time, this felt like a victory over myself, but in retrospect I believe this was a terrible mistake.  As my obedient actions increasingly failed to reflect my true desires, I became hollow. My faith during this time was like a walnut as its insides deteriorate.  Instead of addressing my dwindling desire to serve God, I maintained my shell through discipline.   
Then, when I was twenty-one, my faith was rocked by a series of questions that challenged the vacant core of my faith.  If God is sovereign, then isn’t he responsible for all the terrible things in the world?  Why do so many “Spirit-filled” Christians commit so many blunders?   And most importantly for me, “Is this the kind of world we would have if there was a God in heaven?” 
These questions were percolating in my mind when I had another kind of crisis.  I fell in love with a girl (Jaymi), and I fell hard.  We’re talking like romance movie hard.  Within a few weeks we were talking about marriage.  Some people started telling us to slow down, but that just didn’t feel like an option.  It still doesn’t feel like it was an option.  We were in love and that was just the fact of the matter.  Along with this love came a desire for more physical intimacy, and before long we were getting into trouble.  Now waiting until we were married didn’t feel like an option either.  
For two kids preparing for ministry this was a devastating problem. We came to a moment where we needed to make a tough decision.  If we did not break off the relationship (even if only temporarily) we were going to continue getting into trouble.  I remember talking about it in the park near her old apartment.  The relationship I had with her felt more real to me than anything I had felt for God in a long time.  Could I really risk giving her up for my hollow shell of a faith?  When the question was posed, the answer was obvious.  No, I could not.  The shell of my faith collapsed, and together we abandoned our faith and left the Church.   

Friday, September 23, 2011

Faith in Doubt: Introduction

Welcome to a new series written by Luke, titled "Faith in Doubt."

Not everyone in our life knows this, but about seven years ago Jaymi and I left the Church without any firm intentions of ever returning.  We were finished with Christianity, or at least ready to look at some other options. It took us a long time to get back to where we are now.  Recently I have been reflecting on this period of our life, and a desire has been growing in me to blog about it.  So, over the next few weeks I would like to recount the history of why I left the faith, and why I came back.  My story overlaps a lot with Jaymi’s, however we each came back to Christ through different means, for different reasons, and in a different timing, so these posts will focus on my story and my thoughts.     

After telling my story, I would also like to write about some of the philosophical issues that I worked through during this period.  A lot of these issues are the same ones that many struggle with, both inside the Church and outside.  How can hell be just?  Why should we trust the Bible when it seems to have so many contradictions? If a sovereign God exists, then why would the world be as messed up and cruel as it is?  I would like to share my thoughts on these questions, and explain why I still believe in Christ in spite of these challenges.  Some of the answers are taken directly from things I have read, and others I came up with on my own.  In either case, I doubt that any of my thoughts are truly original, but they may be new to you. 

Someone asked me recently, “Are you really 100% sure that Christianity is true?”  The answer to that question is yes.  Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I understand it all. 
Yes, but there are still a lot of truths that I am uncomfortable with, though I still accept them as true.
Yes, but that does not mean that I stand behind every idiot who calls himself a Christian. 
Yes, because even factoring in as many seemingly silly things that I may believe as a Christian, my life makes no sense if Christ is not God. 

I left the Church for good reasons, and came back for better ones. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Faraway Place

I first knew her as a faraway place
With unthinkable violence
And pain
And strife
I was young
I didn't think of her again

Out of nowhere she reappeared
An unexpected tinge of joy
At the mention of her name
Friendly and loving
Beautiful and temperate
Seeking the things that we have
Calling for us to come to her

We went
She captured us
The flowers and rolling hills
The warm sun and the cool rains
Her outward beauty
Showing the true beauty within her people
And still she called to us
With her pleas for the knowledge of Truth
We were desperate to return

She stood as a mountain in the distance
We began our trek
We climbed
And crawled
And fell
And continued climbing
Then we found the cruel valley in-between
Mocking us and teasing us
It is so long and deep
And the mountain behind it so high
I turn away
I scold my thoughts for going to her
I avoid reading about her
I am asked about her and I change the subject
And still she lingers on the horizon

Oh, Rwanda!
Will we ever return to you?
Does the path in this valley lead to you?
Our love for you is a thorn
Will we ever see the rose?
We want to be led back to you
Yet you are so far away

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Leaps and Bounds

Judah's development recently is more than a FB status can handle; he needs an entire blog post!

Today marks 11 months for the little guy.

Less than 2 weeks ago (15th) Judah took his first step on his own. Since then, he has been practicing with 2-3 steps at a time between furniture or into our encouraging arms. Today, he took it to a new level. He lets go of whatever he is holding onto and just goes, with no concrete end in sight. He is still only getting about 5 steps at a time without falling, but something has clearly changed in his thinking. Every opportunity that he can get, he takes off without holding on. Even if he is walking alongside the couch, he lets go of it so he can walk on his own. 

Meanwhile, he's been actively teething for a few weeks (without any visible results). A few days ago, I was feeling in his gums and all FOUR of his front teeth are just under the surface. I think he is trying for four first teeth at once, and it could be any day now. 

In other news, it's been a few months since we first heard "Mama" pop out of his mouth, with a pleased grin on his face. He added a few other words right away, such as: duh-dee (daddy), buh-duh (brother), ud-dee (Ayden), and more recently, NEH-NEH-NEH-NEH-NEH-NEH-NEH-NEH!!! (NO). But other than that handful of words, he was mostly babbling and didn't seem to have any interest in expanding his vocabulary. Until today. This morning he was whining during breakfast, so I got him a glass of water and said, "do you want some water?" (not really expecting a reply). Immediately he smiled and said, "wuh-duh." Then later, when Luke was changing his diaper, he began mimicking Luke and saying some version of "diaper." I wasn't there, so I don't know how it all went down, but two intentional words in one day is quite the leap for him!

Judah is one. smart. kid. Like really. I know, I know, I am his mom and that totally invalidates my opion of of his intelligence (or anything else I might compliment him on!). But when he was at Luke's sister's house a few days ago, he proved to us all his amazing intellect and skill. She had left him downstairs in the living room while she went upstairs to change her baby's diaper. She blocked the passage to the entryway (where the staircase is) using a baby gate, and blocked the dining room with a bunch of chairs. My little Schmo found a way through the chairs into the dining room, turned and crawled through the kitchen, and turned again to come back into the entryway so he was on the other side of the gate. He then proceeded to crawl an entire flight of stairs (that curves at two places!!) and peeped his head up at the top of the stairs to say hi and join in on all of the fun. Pretty darn brilliant, eh?

I suppose that's it for now; if I do any more Mama-bragging, no is going to come back and read anything! However I will say that by his first birthday, I think I will be dealing with a completely different child than I have right now. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snowglobes and Mud and Conversations with Jesus

I'm just going to give you a heads up right now: this will not be the best-written post I've had. It will be scattered and maybe even confusing. You've been warned.

In fact, nothing that I am doing these days would really qualify as the best I've done. Emails aren't being returned in a timely manner, despite the fact that I actually have had time to do it. My prep time for our Bible study has been lacking. My patience with the boys is virtually non-existent. Even in regular conversation with people, I feel like I am perpetually missing normal conversational cues, and saying things that aren't always appropriate. I've found ways to carve out time to sit and work on the bajillion things that I am responsible for, yet I'm still behind.

Quite simply, my brain is fuzzy. I can't seem to concentrate properly on anything. I'll try to read something that I need to respond to and I find myself re-reading it over and over and over and over again. I attempt to play with Ayden, and I soon realize that I am zoning out and not engaging.

Have you ever walked through mud? Like knee-deep stuff, not just around your ankles? I loved doing that as a kid. It was pretty much the. coolest. thing. ever. But it was hard work. Your entire body must strain and pull and it's not uncommon to lose a shoe or two in the process. Moving even a foot or two forward is tedious and time-consuming, and you are often off-balance and never end up quite where you intended.

That's my brain. My brain on mud.

I'm straining and struggling to complete even the simplest of tasks and even then I don't quite do what I wanted to do.

Why is my brain so muddy right now? No, I am not pregnant again (although pregnancy does have a similar effect on my brain). I think the problem is that I am thinking too much. And none of the thinking is coming to any resolution, so my brain just keeps turning it around and around and evaluating things from every possible angle, hoping that maybe this time everything will suddenly make sense.

In addition to the sudden uncertainty about our future plans, we are now suddenly asking a triquillion (yes, I just made up that number) questions about the present. Luke's job was the perfect position for flexibility (which we would need as we prepared for Rwanda), but not a great position for settling in for a few years. Our apartment is small and crowded and was acceptable as a cheap way to live until we moved to Africa, but it's an entirely different prospect when we are looking at 2 or more years. Which, of course, demands that we think about schooling. I expected Ayden to start preschool and kindergarten in Rwanda, not here. Everyone knows that around here, you gotta plan WAY ahead to get your kid into a good school. Are we too late to start planning?

Everything that I thought I had planned out (or at least good expectations) for the next few years of our life has been turned upside down. Like a snow-globe whose pieces didn't get glued down properly. All the little buildings and trees are just bumbling around, knocking into each other, and never settling anywhere. And if I manage to get one house upright, another one falls sideways.

My poor little brain is desperately trying to make sense of it all and plan for everything, and figure out where to live, and work, and go to school, and a million other little things. And all of that extra running-in-circles thinking is rendering my brain useless to everyday things like, say, playing with my 2-yr old.

And I know the Truth. I know God's got it all under control. How appropriate is this little chunk of teaching from Jesus: 
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? 
 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
Seriously, did you read that? That's like He was just thinking of me sitting here, 2,000 years later. He knows where we should live and how to educate Ayden and even how He's going to bring us through some future bump in the road that I don't even know exists yet.

Jesus to Jaymi: It's cool, girl. I got it all worked out. Chill a little. It's not your job to worry about all of this, it's mine. Your job is to simply seek me and my kingdom. Period. I'll figure all this stuff out way better than you ever could. Now shoo! I've given you work to do and kids to raise and you're spending all your time trying to do My job and all you're doing is falling behind on the things you are supposed to do and not getting anywhere on the things you aren't supposed to do.*

Jaymi to Jesus: Ok, ok, I get it. You do Your thing, I'll do mine. But just make sure You don't forget that Luke doesn't li-

Jesus: STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT ALREADY! I've got it under control. Girl, you're going to stress Me out with all that worrying.**

And so my brain continues: round and round, and up-side-down, and listening-to-Jesus-but-not-really-listening, and sluggishly pushing through all the mud.
* Yes, I just imagined Jesus shooing me away. That's probably not really a correct picture. You know, the whole, "come to me all of you who are weary and burdened" thing? Yeah, that's probably more accurate. 
**Again, I'm not claiming any accuracy in this depiction of Jesus

Monday, July 11, 2011

All the Children of the World

I'm supposed to be preparing right now for the Bible study that I will be leading in 2 days, but I just read this post by a friend of mine and now I find myself unable to think about anything but all of the children in the world. Ya know, the ones that Jesus loves according to the Sunday School song. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.

Stories like this rattle me. I question God's compassion and justice. I question how naive and/or heartless we are in the US.

Maybe the publicity of that blog post will bring in enough sponsorship money that that little boy will be able to have a future with his birth mother. But maybe not. And that is certainly not the case for all of the other children around the world in similar situations who don't have the good fortune of a kind-hearted westerner looking on, ready to tell the blogosphere that there is a little boy in need of help.

What happens to these kids? How do we help?

It seems sponsorship is one of the best and most effective means of help (I know Compassion International is an excellent organization in this regard). But what about the kids who are HIV+ and will be neglected in their home culture? Or who have such severe medical needs that they need medical care that is too hard to get in a poor country? Or those who's parents have died and there is no one nearby to take on their care? What happens to those kids?

International adoption is becoming increasingly popular these days. But why are the majority of these adoptions for young, healthy kids? Why not an older child who has literally no one left to care for them? Why not one of the many children who have medical conditions that could be treated so much more easily in our wealthy country? (and what about all of the kids in the US foster care system who are waiting for adoption?)

The two blogs that I absolutely will not miss a post (we're talking shameless stalking/addiction here) are from families that have adopted internationally and are constantly thinking and evaluating these very questions of mine. Both of them have thought about it and researched it and lived it and written about it and they still don't have answers.

These needs in our world break my heart and I wish I had unlimited money and time to just do something about it. And the wisdom to know what to do with that unlimited time and money. And as I write that, I recall that God has all of that and will give it freely to those who seek Him and follow Him. Maybe I just need to ask Him for the wisdom and resources to follow His heart for all the children of the world.

I welcome any thoughts/discussion.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Sometimes in life, things happen that have such a far-reaching effect that it manages to shake every other area of life too. Sometimes that event seems small or insignificant in itself, despite its impact. Sometimes you aren't even sure what to make of the change or even how to describe it.

I'm in the midst of one of those times.

Whatever "certainty" that we felt we had about our future was taken away this week. Our application to the mission board has been put on hold for at least a year. The circumstances and reasons have shaken me, and the uncertainty of our life has left me feeling overwhelmingly aimless.

I came to my blog today to read some of my own recent words. I've found that I tend to be the best person to talk some sense into me, so re-reading old journals (or, in this case, blog entries) is quite therapeutic. The first thing I saw on the homepage of the blog was that there was a new post in my "Blogs I'm Reading" section from a blog that I just started following about George Muller. It was titled "Something Better." It was a very short post that included this quote: "Our heavenly Father never takes anything from his children unless he means to give them something better." - George Muller

God has something better for us. What an encouragement to read!

I dove into my archives and started reading. Sure enough, many of my own words were incredibly fitting to my needs, especially from this post about surrender.
I have so many hopes and dreams and ideas of what my life should look like. But God has even better ideas and dreams. He has a better future for me than I could ever imagine. I cannot have both. I must give up my own and grasp the mystery of His. 
And later, in the same post:
A wise teacher recently said: 
"Sometimes following God feels like death. You look at what He calls you to do and think, 'God, doing this will KILL me!!' But be assured, there is freedom and joy in following Him." 
Yes, death. Surrendering my dreams and hopes and identity and love feels like death. God may be calling me to things that look very different than what I have in mind for my life. To follow feels like more than I can bear. It's one thing to follow God when you think you know what the future holds (but who really does?!?!). It's a whole 'nother thing to follow blindly, surrendering to whatever He may bring, wherever He may lead. To picture what I want least and love least and choose that even that would be ok, if it was where God had lead me.  
And in that death and surrender is where I will find life. I must take up my cross, and the shame and torture that it brings, and follow Him. Yet His yolk is light, and I won't be burdened by it. It is easier to endure the death of surrender than to go my own way. What a joyful and true paradox that is! I have seen it to be true so many times in my life. May it be true again. 
I recently added a new "page" to the blog, titled, "Our Future." I started it in the following way:
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”
~James 4:13-15 (NLT)
Obviously, we don't have any real idea about what the future holds for us. But this page is an explanation of what we are planning for, with the expectation that God can do with us whatever He wants, whenever He wants.
Isn't it amazing when God prepares us in advance for things, even when we don't even realize that He is doing it?

A little over three months ago, I wrote a post that I never published. Here it is, unedited from its original form.
We're not going to Rwanda.
The phrase came into my mind as though it was audible. I didn't feel emotional about it or question it. It was as indisputable and unemotional as though I had been told that there was going to be a full moon tonight. I heard it and was certain of it and knew that the there was no question about it. 
Of course, I did question it. Well, what ARE we going to do then? No answer--except an inkling of a feeling like that question just really didn't matter. Like it was ultimately irrelevant. Should I say something to Luke? No answer. Except that it just didn't seem right to say anything. Well I have to say something eventually! If we aren't going, let's stop stressing about this application! No answer. Except, again, the feeling that it didn't matter. Like wondering where you are going to sit to eat, when in reality there is no food to eat--where you are going to sit is just not relevant. 
It is simultaneously unsettling, yet very calm. No matter how much I try to analyze it or question it or make sense of it--I just feel this calm certainty. I really want to go to Rwanda. We just got an update today and I am excited about it. Two other families are moving there in the coming months and I am burning with jealousy for them. But we're not going to Rwanda. It's as simple as that. 
I've felt this way on two other occasions. In both instances, I "heard" a simple sentence with long-reaching effects. Both times it was something that seemed less likely than its opposite. Both times it was completely true. Both times I couldn't fathom (in the moment) how or why it would be that way. Both times I felt this same calm certainty. Both times it came from nowhere--I wasn't thinking about it or anything, then BAM! I had a realization. Both times I just accepted it and told no one and waited to see how it would play out. 
So here I am. Waiting. I have a thousand questions running through my head: Why would God so clearly lead us down this path, just to stop us for no reason in the middle. What about all of the people that have supported us to go last May? What about the team there that is expecting us to join them? And most of all, if we don't go to Rwanda, what ARE we going to do? All of our plans have hinged on that goal. 
I feel unsettled and lost. But at the same time I don't. I am simply sure that this is what God has revealed to me. And when it so clearly comes from God, it is a lot easier to just sit back and watch Him work. It should be exciting. But this is so weird........
At the time that I wrote this, I was very confused by it. There was no indication that we should back away from our plans for Rwanda. Although it felt certain that God was speaking to me, I was careful to not rest all of my expectations upon it. However, in the past month or so, there have been a number of things (that I'm not going to go into here and now, but most of them completely out of our control) that have been piling up and pushing us away from our original expectations about going to Rwanda. I did eventually tell Luke, when the first of the tangible circumstances arose that caused hesitation for us. We continued to press on in the application process because we felt like God hadn't yet told us to do otherwise.

But in light of the decision made about us this past week, we're back to square one. God, what do you want with us? Where do you want us? And while we're in the questioning mode, Why did you lead us so clearly in this direction just to halt it later? We really don't know what the future holds. God may still lead us toward missions, maybe even in Rwanda or a nearby country. God may be calling us to stay here in the states and do something entirely different. Or He may have something in store for us that we couldn't even fathom on our own.

God was clearly leading us on the path we have taken so far in preparing for Rwanda. In addition, God seems to have also been leading my thoughts in the past few months. And now current circumstances demand that we reevaluate our original plans. I have no idea how to reconcile those seemingly contradictory facts except by analogy:

When we were in Denver last month, Luke's aunt pointed to some mountains in the distance. She explained that the peaks that were one shade of color were only an hour away, but the peaks (seemingly in the same place) of a different color were at least three hours away! As I was picturing that, I realized that there was a valley (or hills) at least 100 miles wide between them, but from our point of view, they were right next to each other!

I wonder if God's leading has been similar to that. Maybe there is something in His plan for us that rests in the valley between the peaks. Maybe the best way to lead us over the first set of mountains and into that place was to pinpoint the peaks of the second mountains and tell us to go there. Now we've walked and we've followed and He is ready to adjust our direction and lead us on to where He wants us. Maybe Rwanda was just the second set of mountaintops in the distance, used by God to bring us into the valley that couldn't be seen from where we started.

Meanwhile, the valley is dark and confusing. We simply don't know where we are going. And yet again my own words come back to me: Following Jesus One Step at a Time...

God, give us the patience to follow You wherever You are leading us. Show us the next step and give us the strength to follow. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Compliant Toddler

Ayden decided to have a few minutes of exceptional behavior this afternoon while we were out walking. This is in no way a normal occurrence, but it was filled with too many adorable moments for me to pass up an opportunity to record it. 

As we approached an intersection, before I got a chance to tell Ayden to wait for me, he stopped and said, "dere's a street, Mama. Ayden hold da stroller now." We've been working on this lesson for so long, and this is the first time that he did it on his own!

I immediately began praising him for obeying me and said, "what does God say about obeying Mama and Daddy?" I didn't expect him to have the answer because I only started teaching this a few days ago. But without hesitation he replied, "Obey your parents in da yord." 

As we arrived home, I was absolutely beaming with pride for the little guy. As I was getting Judah out of the stroller, Ayden runs up with one of the "flowers" (weeds?) from our yard and proclaims, "MAMA! I got a flower for you!"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sleepless in Chicago

I was driving home at about 10:00 tonight when I saw a middle-aged woman carrying a heavy bag and wandering as though she was lost, drunk, or both. She stumbled into the street at least twice. At this particular corner, it's not unusual to see a lot of homeless people, drunks, or other loiterers because it is the end of the train line from the city. But for some reason, this woman caught my attention. It was like the little girl wearing red in Schindler's List; as she wove through the people and across the street, I just couldn't help but watch.

I immediately felt an absurd compassion. I didn't have any reason to think twice about her or help her, but everything in me felt like I needed to do it anyway. I ignored the urge and drove past, only to feel a heaviness like I had just made a mistake. I turned around and as she walked by, I again didn't do anything. Again the heaviness. Again I turned around. I think I passed her three times before I finally pulled to the side of the road and rolled down the window. I felt like some creepy stalker, but I simply could not ignore this woman.

Me: Excuse me, ma'am?
She peered cautiously into the car
Me: Would you like a ride?
Her: Oh! I'm so afraid of the africans, but I'm only going a few blocks. 
Me: Well, I noticed that your bag seems heavy so I thought I could give you a ride if you wanted it. 
Her: It is really heavy, but I am just going a few blocks. 
Me: Ok, well if you want a ride, you can have one (in a conclusive, this-conversation-is-over sort of tone)
Her: Well, yes. Yes, I want a ride! 

She got in the car.

And we talked

and talked

and talked

and talked.

This is what I can piece together of her story:

Gloria is 62 and has been homeless for 15 years. Prior to becoming homeless, she had been a chef in a restaurant for many years, then went on to become a high-level architect for over 10 years. She had three children: a son and daughter who were teens and another daughter who was elementary-aged (8?). She found that her husband had inappropriate pictures of her daughters and when she tried to report it, he managed to turn everything against her instead. Soon she found herself without a home, money, or any of her children.

In the 15 years since then, she has been beaten, robbed, and raped numerous times while she has lived homeless in a number of cities. All of these attacks were done by either "africans" or "mexicans," but mostly "africans." As a result she is terrified of anyone in either of those groups and incredibly judgmental towards them. Her life seems to revolve around avoiding anyone that she considers to fit one of those descriptions.

I haven't heard such blatant, ignorant racism in my life, except as portrayed in movies or books from pre-civil-rights era. It was utterly appalling. Yet, as disgusted as I was with her negative depictions of people, I couldn't help but feel a deep sorrow for the injustices that she has encountered.

We talked for over an hour; she would have talked all night if I would have let her. Maybe I should have. At some point, I tried to wind down the conversation:

Me: Is there anything I can do to help you?
Gloria, shrugging: What can you do?
Me: Well, what do you need? If you could have anything at all, what would help you get back on your feet?
Gloria: In the past 15 years, I have been so abandoned and hurt......There is nothing that can be done. You just don't forget all of that. 

I have no idea how much of her story is true. But regardless of how she got there, Gloria has no hope. None.

How do you just go to bed after an encounter like this?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Random Things About the Kids

One of the bloggers that I follow occasionally does "baby book" entries with recent info about the kids, since she never got around to doing their real baby books. I may not ever do it again, or I might get hooked on doing it regularly. But here it is for today...

  • In the past week or so, Judah has started taking little steps when he is standing. Today he "walked" about 5-10 feet like that. I expect that he will be independently running by this time next week. 
  • I just sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" to Ayden before bed and he sang along to the entire first verse and chorus. 
  • Judah's first word was "Mama," followed closely by "Dah-dee." I thought I caught an "Ay-duh" out of him a few days ago, but wasn't sure. However, today he was clearly saying both "Ay-duh" and "buh-duh" (brother) as he was looking for Ayden. He has also reputedly said some version of "Grampa," although he has been quite uncooperative with Grammie Joy about doing it for his Mama to hear. 
  • Both boys are wearing size 4 diapers, and can easily share shorts and some t-shirts. Judah is 20 lbs of pure muscle, while Ayden is 30 lbs of skin and bones. 
  • Despite numerous attempts, we have still not succeeded in getting Ayden to stay in his toddler bed, especially when Judah is around. Right now Ayden takes naps in the PNP in our bedroom, and starts the night there. Then we move him to his own bed before we go to bed (to any mom's reading this---I would love any tips you have!!). This is an improvement over a month or so ago. At that time, Ayden was sleeping in a PNP in their bedroom and Judah was sleeping in a PNP in the living room. We lived with that arrangement for many months. 
  • We usually put Ayden to bed at about 8 or 9 but he usually stays up until nearly 10 playing. Meanwhile, Judah wakes up between 5-6 every morning. Neither of them seem willing to shift their sleeping times. This does bad things for their parents (especially daddy, since he is usually the one to get up with Judah). Again, I will take any and all advice offered on this issue. 
  • The boys absolutely adore each other (they always have, but it is becoming even stronger as time goes by). If Judah is not nearby, Ayden immediately asks where he is. Judah is whiny all morning until Ayden gets up (a few hours after him). A few days ago, Judah was playing in the living room when Ayden woke up from his nap. He heard Ayden talking to himself in our bedroom and immediately crawled to our bedroom door, then turned and looked at me expectantly. When I let him in, both kids squealed with delight. 
  • Judah loves to give kisses (especially to his Mama). Unfortunately, his kisses involve grabbing chunks of my skin and pulling my face to his, where he then opens his mouth wide and then starts sucking. His kisses also usually come in multiples (at least 2-3 at a time). Somehow I still love them. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Life is Crazy"

At any given time, if you ask how I am or what's up in our life, I will often reply with, "life is crazy." Meaning, "I don't feel like I can quite keep up with everything, and a lot of unexpected things keep happening." And that is usually true.

Although I hate to admit it, we could cut back on our involvement in church activities, slow down on things like preparing for Rwanda or finishing school, or just generally minimize the variables in our life. And if we did those things, we would probably not feel behind as often. And there would be less opportunity for unexpected things to arise - or at least more time to deal with those things when they do come up.

I am learning that there is much wisdom in enjoying today and not pushing as hard and as fast as I can to the future. The process of going to Rwanda seems to be in perpetual delay, for one reason or another. But all of those delays have already given us much time to learn and grow in ways that will be valuable in our future. In addition, the "slowing down" has given us an opportunity to dive deeper into the ministries and relationships that we already have right now. And there has been great richness in that. 

So sometimes slowing down and cutting back on things can be good. But sometimes it can be a waste of the time, talents, and gifts that God has given us. I recall periods in our life where we weren't really involved in much outside of ourselves. In those times, we often found ourselves bored or indulging in unnecessary things. And in those times, if the unexpected arose, it was still just as jarring and overwhelming. Life was slower and "easier," but not any happier.

It seems as though, like most things, there is a balance to be found. We should not be wasting day after day on frivolous activity (or inactivity, as it may be). Nor should we be taking on so many things that we can't do any of them well (I've been guilty of this lately). The fullness found in serving God wholeheartedly and without reservation is not present when you are out of balance. You can't sit idle nor can you say "yes" to absolutely everything. 

In addition, "balance" is not something that can be decided equally for everyone. Some people get quite stressed with too much activity, while others get restless with too much free time. I imagine that those who are stressed with too much activity tend to err on the side of too little activity, while those who get restless with free time tend to err on the side of too much activity. 

I'm in the second group. I get restless with too much free time. I am chronically over-committed. I would be bored if I wasn't feeling a bit behind on something, or if I allowed enough free time for me to not be a bit frazzled by the unexpected. But I do need to slow down sometimes. It's good for me to enjoy a date with my husband and not take any of that time to go over the calendar for the month or discuss the next parenting hurdle.

I'm not sure that I will ever again be at a point where I don't feel like life is a bit crazy -- that comes with the territory of being busy, which I enjoy. But it is good for me to slow down sometimes and realize that not every minute of every day should be crazy. Sometimes calm and boring is ok. But only sometimes. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011


After my crazy post from yesterday, I am happy to report that we are alive, and the string of crazy events has not continued. 

Luke went to bed still feeling a lot of pain, but by this afternoon, he was bouncing around the house all hyper from sitting still for 24 hours. He says it still hurts, but you wouldn't know that from how he's acting; hopefully he won't become too stir crazy and re-injure it. 

Our car will be fixed by the end of the day and I'll pick it up tomorrow so we can head out of town and see our boys! Fixing it is going to cost an arm and a leg, and we haven't decided yet who has to give up what. I figure since Luke's back is already hurting, he won't even notice a few amputations. And does he really need both arms and legs to study? He disagrees with me though. 

I also went to bed sore (and with weird pains springing up as the day progressed), but woke up feeling fine. So whatever damage she did to me, it was only temporary. In addition, I got a text message from a friend saying she knows of an awesome masseuse and is going to buy me another massage! I seriously felt like crying when I read that. It's like an extra dose of grace--I don't really need to be pampered like that, but I was kinda looking forward to it. What a sweet gift.

And tomorrow we get to see our little guys!! I think it will be a shock to suddenly have to do the work of taking care of them again, but I'm really excited to see them!! This is why rich people have live-in nannies: you get to have your kids with you all the time, but you don't have to endure the endless cycle of diapers and bottles and snacks and diapers and toys and did I mention the diapers yet? 

Today Luke is working on his paper (he won't get as much done as we had hoped, but he's still making great progress) and I got my hair cut (finally!). I'm taking the day to catch up on some projects around the house. Despite the setbacks of yesterday, I think we're still going to get a lot more done than if we had the kids here. 

And really, if we are going to have a day like yesterday, I'd much rather that it happen without the boys around! Can you imagine all of that with the kids in tow? Thank you, God, for Your generous grace.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thunderstorms Today

Nope, I'm not talking about the local weather. Nope, not about the not-so-local weather. Remember that expression "when it rains, it pours"? Yeah, we're having thunderstorms today.

Let's start with how today was supposed to go. The kids are still at their Grandparents' house and loving every minute of it. Luke and I just took the past 4 days doing whatever we wanted (um, within budget, that is) and it was stupendous. We set aside today, tomorrow and early Friday to be hyper-productive while the kids are still gone. Luke was going to work 2 full days, and spend the rest of the time on a marathon-paper-writing-binge with the hopes of getting a solid first draft of his first section. That accomplishment would bring much joy and satisfaction and encouragement to both of us. I was planning on getting a hair cut that I needed about 2 months ago, and cashing in on an awesome deal for a massage that I spent the last of my Christmas money on. Then I was going to go to Bible study tonight and spend the next two days catching up on things that are hard to do with kids around (delivering donations of clothes we don't need anymore, organizing the file cabinet, etc). We expected it to be as awesome as the past few days have been---in a very different, but equally satisfying way.

Then I woke up this morning. The clock told me that it was an hour after the time that Luke had set his alarm for. I immediately woke Luke up, announcing the time, and he jump out of bed. And screamed. And then spent the next half hour nursing a (presumably) pulled muscle in his back.

In hindsight, we should have just crawled back into bed right then and there. Oh, how silly of us for thinking things would improve.

He eventually made it to work (very late) and even manged to get a few things done, but he is in a lot of pain right now. He's certainly not in a condition to abuse his body and stay up all night fervently working on a paper. So, yeah, I guess that whole "let's be encouraged by getting a big chunk of the paper done" was merely an exciting daydream. Awesome.

Meanwhile, the craziness and tardiness of the morning forced me to cancel my hair cut. It's rescheduled for tomorrow, but I've given up on optimism at the moment. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not planning to make it through writing this blog post without dumping water on my laptop or something. You think I am being overly dramatic, but you haven't heard about the rest of the day yet.

So I go to my massage. Did I mention I paid the last of my Christmas money on this? And then used my valuable kid-free time to actually go and get it? And, ya know, it's a 90-minute professional full-body massage. There are a lot of reasons for me to have very high expectations. Right?

I should have been worried when the masseuse was waiting outside the bathroom door for me. Um, awkward. Or I should have thought twice about my expectations when she couldn't get the fitted sheet to stay on the table. Or maybe the self-conscious conversation that she kept making should have been a hint. But no, I was still optimistic at that point in the day, so I missed all of those clues.

I began being a little concerned when I simultaneously noticed two things: 1) the hip-hop music from outside the room was as loud as the soothing instrumental stuff she had playing from the boom-box on the floor, and 2) when she was massaging my hand, she meticulously got every finger, but completely ignored the palm. Despite my momentary doubts, optimism prevailed. Ok, so it isn't going to be utterly perfect, I thought to myself,  but at least it will be a massage. I'll just enjoy what I can of it. Mistake've lost count.

By about halfway through, I realized that I was wondering how much longer it would be. Not in the "I could lay here forever" sort of way, but in the "I've got better things to do" sort of way. There were points (like my feet) where I realized that Luke can (and does!) give MUCH better massages. Then the fitted sheet came off again and was curled around my toes and when I pointed it out, she asked if it was ok to just leave it that way. Um. No. After awhile I noticed that my neck was uncomfortable and I was getting a headache. I tried to change positions to make it better. The hip hop music was still blending with the instrumental stuff. When will this thing be over?!?!

It did finally end, and as I was getting dressed afterwards, I noticed that they had set the clock in the room ten minutes ahead of my cell phone. Up until that point I was still trying to stay positive about them and assume the best: they are merely unprofessional (the music, the sheets, etc) and the masseuse is simply not that good at her trade. But the clock was the final straw. Now they are intentionally trying to cheat their customers. For a moment, I considered not tipping her at all.

So I left there disgruntled and with a headache and hopped on the highway to find a coffeeshop to sit in while I prepared for Bible study and waited for it to start. The optimism returned. Oh how foolish of me.

Traffic hit a bottleneck and I was forced to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of me. That's a fairly normal occurrence for that road. What isn't normal is that my brake pedal felt like there was a brick sitting under it. I succeeded in slowing down enough to avoid an accident, but now I found myself on a busy highway in a big city with stop-and-go traffic and no brakes (nor any shoulder to stop in even if I could manage to stop).

Somehow I made it to an exit ramp and was able stop and make some phone calls. From those conversations I figured out that there was a good mechanic about 2 miles away on streets that I knew well, and that the brakes were there (if I pushed hard enough, and with enough stopping time). I decided to drive to the mechanic with my flashers on. I don't know why a pedestrian would dart in front of a car with their flashers on, but that woman is lucky to be alive.

I made it to the mechanic with nothing more than a few heart-stopping situations and a very sore ankle (did I mention I sprained it a few weeks ago? It's pretty much ok now, unless I use it too much---like braking in city traffic with no power brakes).

So now I am dehydrated from the crappy massage (I didn't stay to drink the water that I should have because I was so annoyed) and I have a tension headache from the crappy massage and I am pretty emotionally drained from the crazy car stuff. And you are all thinking that this story is over. NOPE.

So I walked (on the now-hurting-again sprained ankle) to find somewhere to sit and calm down (facebook, of course) and get some water and a snack. As I am walking, my knee starts hurting. This knee acts up sometimes (and has done so for years), but I know what triggers it and can avoid those things or be prepared for the pain, so it's usually not a big deal. But I recall that as she was massaging my knee it hurt. Awesome. Now my knee is screwed up. I shouldn't have left her a tip. Are you keeping track of this? My right ankle is sprained and my left knee is screwed up, and my car broke down. I can't figure out which side to limp on.

I hobble past a few Starbucks because I don't really feel like a hot chocolate and that's the only thing I like from there. I settle on a bagel shop because they told me the wifi from the hotel next to them works in their restaurant. Liars.

As I finish this and consider whether I should go to Bible study tonight (I could theoretically get there and home on the train, but do I really want to? And I'm not at all prepared), or just go home, I notice that the wind has picked up and the sky is dark and I recall that they said there were supposed to be severe thunderstorms this afternoon and I haven't seen those yet. I guess they are arriving now, right when I plan to limp to the train to go somewhere.

So maybe this post was about real thunderstorms after all. Didn't I tell you something else was going to go wrong? I guess the sky is going to spill water on my computer for me. And here I was thinking I had been so careful with it.