Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Still here, still trying

I’m still alive!  That seems a very egocentric thing to say, although it is unquestionably true.

I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been busy.  Of course, that hasn’t ever really stopped me before. I’ve also not been blogging because of privacy issues.  So many privacy issues.  So many people in crises.  So many unsharable things on my heart.  So much need for wisdom that is beyond me.

Also, in the middle of August, I slammed my left index finger in the front door, hard.  It bled for days, and then became numb for weeks.  Just recently, it grew enough to to expose the dead part of the nail that had been under the skin, so now the loose, dead, back edge of the nail is starting to catch on everything, and I have to keep a bandaid over it.  All this, simply to explain that typing is difficult with an impaired left index finger.

We have arrived in NC and landed in our new home, with all our boxes and some furniture.  Precious friends from our church helped us with this process, and it was a true and bountiful provision from God.  We could not have done it without them; yet, here we are, and I even made a batch of gluten free cookies on Sunday.  We are that functional!

Unpacking proceeded slowly, but steadily, until Sunday evening when I began a headache.  It escalated throughout Monday, but I kept chipping away at my list until about 6 p.m. when I placed a dish of enchiladas into the oven to bake, and collapsed in a lupus haze.

Today I sit in bed, resting, thinking about blog posts I want to write (i.e. ideas I want to explore)

(1) The difference between worry and empathy, and also the fine line between them, and possibly how frustrating it can be when people tell you not to worry when you are really only empathizing, and you wonder how they can avoid empathizing, and not only that, but how they can avoid empathizing and experience no guilt for their lack of compassion.

(2) Two kinds of approaches to living: living to win, and living to experience.  Both have some benefits; both have some drawbacks.  Which direction is our culture skewed, and how can we find a healthy balance?  (Also how does the structure of our educational system feed into this?)

(3) Stages in Christian growth and development, and how our cultural abhorrence for any kind of pain inhibits it.  I suspect that one must experience suffering in order to become spiritually mature, but in addition to exploring that, I want to try to figure out what stages of growth may accompany or precede the stage of suffering.  There is also a connection between humility and suffering, in giving up one’s own interests for the interests of others, and yet ultimately this leads to joy.  I need to spend some extended time thinking through these things.

Will I ever come back to these things?  Maybe after some long rest, and after unpacking another bunch of boxes.  After updating my driver’s license and making an appointment with a new primary care doctor.  After many other things, perhaps so many that the thoughts will all have vanished by the time I get back here.

I have to admit, although it is simply lovely here, it doesn’t feel like home.  It feels like being on vacation. The Midwest felt like home... such an odd thing that I have beautiful memories and impressions of my time in the Midwest, even though it is where I experienced the greatest tragedies of my life, so far.








Friday, September 27, 2019

Paint colors



Righteous or not, I have been consumed with paint colors recently.  That's what happens when you get a new house with someone else's paint colors.

This house was a builder's spec home originally, and the previous owners did not change any colors, so they are "good" colors, chosen by a designer.  Mostly, they make sense.

They are not what I would have chosen.

All the trim is Dover White (SW), which is more creamy yellow than I care for these days.  But whatever.  I think we're stuck with it.  There is a lot of trim in this house: crown moulding everywhere, shadowboxing in the dining room and the foyer, a coffered ceiling in the dining room, all kinds of built-ins in the entryway, built-in shelves all over the upstairs... and every bit of it is Dover White.  I will deal with it.

The walls are nearly all Neutral Ground (SW), which is a warm beige with an LRV of 70.  It should be okay, probably, but it just isn't fresh at all.  At least it matches the Dover White, because that isn't fresh either.  In this house, the Neutral Ground looks very rosy most of the time, like a pink that was not committed to.  Sometimes in the darker corners, it looks decidedly golden.

I can see why they chose these colors.  We have a lot of windows, but they face north.  A screen porch shields the family room windows, and tall trees surround and shade the back yard.  It is a cool, dim exposure.  They were undoubtedly trying to brighten and warm.  Yet, somehow it just feels heavy.

And, oddly, the kitchen cabinets are gray.  They registered as white originally, but they are decidedly gray.  I don't have a record of what color they are, but they are surprisingly close to Revere Pewter (BM).  This poses the biggest problem with the Neutral Ground.  To my eye, the gray cabinet color looks terrible with Neutral Ground.



Only the dining room is not painted Neutral Ground.  The dining room is a super dark blue-gray:


This does provide a striking contrast for the woodwork, but it is so very heavy.  And it will look terrible with my dark cherry dining room furniture, which is classic and I love it and I'm definitely hanging on to it.  (We went furniture shopping yesterday, and there is no beautiful classic furniture anymore; only tremendously disappointing modern stuff of dubious quality for outrageous prices.) .Also, this room has a southern exposure, and I expect that perhaps if these walls were not soaking up all the light, some brightness would bounce through to the kitchen.

I've been consumed with figuring out how to fix these colors to suit my taste.  I cannot spend more time on it.  I have other things I must do.  So, I'm recording my work here for future reference.

I love light blue--wispy, airy, touch of sky blue.  With all the northern exposure here, I think I need to go for a warm blue with some aqua tones, but this is where I think I'm heading:

Great Room (family room plus kitchen and breakfast nook) walls:  BM Ocean Air.  This is a lovely greenish blue with some gray in it, and an LRV of 73.15.  For reference, it seems to me that an LRV above 65 starts to register as a shade of white.  When we painted our halls and stairway Tapestry Beige at Lake Pointe, I spent months trying to find the right color, and once it was up, I thought, "Oh.  It's white."  Of course, it isn't really, and I do love the color.  It has an LRV of 67.35, and it is very light and bright, sort of a pale pastel form of olive khaki.  Ocean Air is considerably lighter than that, so I think it will be very freshening, and pretty, even with the north exposure.

This will also be the color that will touch the cabinets, and I think it will enhance them much more than the Neutral Ground does.

Ocean Air next to the cabinets (sorry for the blur).

vs

Neutral Ground next to the cabinets.

I hope this will work out.  I also hope it will actually someday get implemented.

Then that dark dining room.  Ahhhhgh.



I want to paint the dining room walls Annapolis Green (LRV 62.39--about as light as you can go and still have it register more as a color than as white).  This is really blue, as far as I can tell.  It is a lighter shade of the paint I used on my Lake Pointe front door, Seacliff Heights, which I've never heard of anyone using, but I love.  I chose it over Palladian Blue, because Palladian Blue looked green to me, and Seacliff Heights was similar but bluer.  Oh the irony.  Palladian Blue is green, and Annapolis Green is blue.  You just have to try hard to use your eyes.

So yes.  Annapolis Green on the dining room walls, and then Blue Bonnet on the dining room ceiling between the coffers.  I think it will be luminescently beautiful.

I'd like to continue the Blue Bonnet in the adjacent foyer that opens to the right (or, technically, I guess we would be starting in the foyer... based on one's impressions upon entering the house).

Our master bathroom has venetian gold granite and some sort of cocoa-beige tile, and then the Neutral Ground walls, which definitely cast pink in there.  They're all fighting each other.  I'm pretty sure Tapestry Beige on the walls will calm things down, but given the colors in there (including a purple-burgundy fleck in the granite), I don't think it will be possible for me to have my signature blue bedroom and maintain any sort of flow from bed to bath.

I'm considering this for my bedroom walls, and doing my bed in ivory, light tan and softest blush, with pale mauve and deeper plum linens in the bathroom (since I can't even find a beige or tan that doesn't clash).  Am I crazy???





Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Do you feel forgiven?



During a recent spate of time when my mind was free to think with virtually limitless scope, I ended up pondering forgiveness again.

Forgiveness is both wonderful and terribly difficult.  I could say that it is wonderful to receive forgiveness and terribly difficult to extend it, but even that is not strictly true.  Forgiveness extended can be the most tremendous, freeing release you will ever experience.  At the same time, accepting forgiveness, particularly from God, can be almost impossibly difficult when you live in a place of shame and regret.

The other day, as I pondered, I realized that I sometimes struggle to forgive when I feel that someone's sin against me made me extra prone to sin against someone else.  When I feel unforgiven, full of guilt and regrets, I also feel hindered in my ability to forgive those whom I feel ought to share some of the shame I am under.  Notice how many times I have used the word, "feel" in the preceding sentences of this paragraph:

I feel that someone's sin against me contributed to my participation in sin.
I feel guilty, regretful, and unforgiven for the sin I committed.
I feel that these people ought to share my shame and my blame.
I feel unable to forgive, to let them off the hook, because I feel like I am still on the hook, and they had a part in putting me there.

Our feelings are not to be trusted.  Feelings are not bad, but neither are they trustworthy.  They are what they are, and we need to learn to deal with them.  This is very important.  We cannot merely invalidate our negative feelings and say, "These feelings are irrational; therefore, I do not accept these feelings."  Feelings do not evaporate when we try to stuff them down.  Stuffed feelings grow into terrible things: depression, heart disease, headaches, nausea, insomnia, random emotional outbursts, and even cancer.

Negative feelings are not the only ones that lead us into danger.  Sometimes we reap positive feelings from doing things we ought not do, and thus fall into the trap of following our deceitful hearts right down a corridor to death ("... With her smooth talk she compels him.  All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast... he does not know that it will cost him his life." ~Proverbs 7:21-23).

We need to be self-aware, or, as the Bible says, we need to examine ourselves.  When we feel something, we need to acknowledge and identify what we feel.  At the same time, we must not allow our feelings to master us.  Fortunately, in identifying our feelings and contemplating them, we actually begin the path of mastering them.

The Bible does not tell us it is wrong to be afraid.  The Bible tells us that when we are afraid we should trust in God and cast our anxieties on Him (Psalm 56:3, 1 Peter 5:7).  The Bible does not command us never to be angry.  The Bible tells us that when we are angry, we should not sin, and we should work to resolve our disputes without delay.  The Bible does not tell us it is wrong to be tempted to sin.  The Bible tells us that when we are tempted, we should look to the supremacy of Christ, asking and trusting that He will show us a way of escape.

When I feel unforgiven, I may not immediately identify the feeling for what it is.  I may think I feel hurt, or cross, or perhaps anxious.  I may be annoyed with someone, or have a dread of going somewhere.  The enemy of our souls does not want us to identify when we feel unforgiven, because God has a powerful truth for us to use to combat that lie:  God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The truth is, sin weaves an intricate and elaborate web all around us.  We are constantly influenced by the sins of others, and even by the second- and third- and fourth-hand sins of others, just as others are influenced by our sins and the disastrous ripples all sin has produced throughout history.  Our only hope is in the righteousness of Christ.  He lifts our sin off us, and grants us His perfect righteousness in exchange, infusing our mortal beings with His own perfect Holy Spirit, who takes up residence in us, changing us from one degree of glory to another into His own image, over the course of the rest of our lives.  In heaven, all sin will be gone, and I don't think we can begin to grasp how amazingly different existence will be with no sin and none of the effects of sin.  Sometimes we talk about feeling like we can breathe.  When we get to heaven, the Spirit Himself will be our perfect breath, filling our beings with something so much better than oxygen, pure and free and nourishing and mighty.  We will have all the ecstasy with no frenzy, and all the calm peace with no languor, and all the power and strength with no selfish impulses.  It is going to be beyond all comparison, this weight of glory.  We will get there.

But, working in that direction is most often a slow and painstaking process.  We are declared righteous through the atoning blood of Christ in a single instant when faith takes root in us.  In this instant, we receive His forgiveness and His Spirit enters into our body, mind and spirit.  However, following this instant, the ensuing process of becoming righteous in a practical and observable way can sometimes be exceedingly slow.  Once in awhile, a new believer takes to the new life with impressively visible and victorious ability, making amazing strides into holiness.  But it is much more common for baby Christians to embark on a pathway of stumbles and trip-ups, falling down and getting up again, two steps forward and one step back, practicing perseverance and resilience over and over again.

Not surprisingly, then, as we stumble along we sometimes find ourselves failing to feel forgiven. A few things contribute to this feeling, but two seem to be the most troubling (at least, to me):

(1) We don't feel forgiven when the consequences of our sins linger around us.

As a mother of now-adult children, this is a difficulty for me.  When I see places where I failed to help my children develop particular key skills, where I failed to understand their needs, where I failed to reflect the grace of God, I feel overwhelmed with grief for my maternal shortcomings.  Never mind that I simply did not own certain skills to pass on, much as I desired to be a good parent.  Never mind that the world has changed faster than any of us ever imagined, and it is probably true that I could not possibly have known to watch out for some of the issues that arose.  Never mind that it takes a lot of us more than 35 years to attain maturity and wisdom.  I see the effects of where I let my children down, and I grieve because the consequences of my shortcomings, my failures, my sins are right in front of my eyes, and I cannot go back and fix them.

I cannot go back and fix anything, but I have a Sovereign God who promises that He is for me, on my side.  He promises that He will work all things for good in the end.  He has a history of bringing beauty from ashes.  I rest in the power of my redeeming Lord and believe Him when He says, "Behold, I am making all things new."

(2) We don't feel forgiven when we sense the condemnation and disapproval of other people.  In other words, when other people do not forgive us, it can mess with our ability to feel that God has forgiven us.

Yet, I know my own struggles to forgive.  I know how hard it can be, even when I believe that forgiveness is crucial, mandatory, absolutely essential.  I know that God requires me to forgive, and I know that withholding forgiveness is not only a sin a against Him, but it is also a fatal poison to my soul, my health and my sanity.  If I can know and believe all these truths, and still struggle to forgive, then I must have mercy and compassion for those who withhold forgiveness from me.

I may not feel forgiven, but I must rest in the truth that God has forgiven me in Christ, that the agony of the cross is what Jesus did for me, to "purchase my pardon" as the song says.  If I can truly believe, in the depth of my heart, that God has forgiven me, that Christ took the penalty for me, that it has been dealt with and I am free to go on without this load on my back, if I can get this into my inner consciousness, then I will be able to forgive, because I will know that other people's accountability for their sin has absolutely nothing to do with me.  This should be a terrific relief, because it works both ways: I am not accountable for their sins either, in the same way that they are not accountable for mine.  This is hard for me.  I feel responsible, and I want others also to feel responsible.  But Jesus, who never sinned and never influenced anyone to sin, Jesus is the one who took responsibility for all our sin. 

I do not need to hold people accountable for how they may have influenced me to sin,
because I am not held accountable for those sins,
because Jesus died for all the sins, all of mine, all of theirs,
and it is finished.



For more about forgiveness, check out these posts.



Thursday, September 19, 2019

The eye of the storm

I'm adjusting to my new house in North Carolina right now.  We arrived a few days ago with a 15 foot U-Haul that Shawn drove, while I drove his car.  We brought the various and sundry knick-knacks that I had scooped out of view and packed into boxes when we began to try to sell our IL house, as well as a good proportion of our clothing, some sheets and towels, most of my pots and pans, eight place settings of Pfaltzgraff, the contents of my utensil drawer, the vacuum, and our computers.  Shawn also threw in a couple TVs and his ham radio equipment, along with a number of things from the garage: the mower, for instance, and his power saws.  Oh, and I brought a giant bin of things I call, "writing," as well as two extremely heavy bins full of family pictures.

Yes.  And we brought my computer desk.  For Shawn's workspace, we brought our big oak kitchen table, and we also brought the six heavy, library style chairs that go with it.  Let me tell you, we have been thankful for those chairs; most of them have found wonderful uses far from their mother table.

We brought our leather sectional, which is looking a little worse for the wear after this move and the last one.  It fits beautifully in the upstairs family room here, though, and will probably never leave this space, because it was quite hard on the stairway coming up.  We also brought our leather recliner, which did not fit anywhere in our last house, and had been relegated to the basement for the past six years.  Presently it presides in a nook at the top of our stairs, but it will eventually go into Shawn's workspace, when we get the rug situation figured out.

We transported the oak bedroom set that Shawn's parents gave us when we got married.  It is in the primary guest bedroom upstairs: queen bed, dresser with mirror, chest of drawers.  We sleep on a king-sized mattress on the floor in our bedroom downstairs, using coolers for nightstands.



That's basically it... except for a bookshelf my dad made for me, and a few boxes of books--the only boxes I haven't unpacked, because I'm not yet sure where I want them, and books, being heavy, are a pain to rearrange.

There is a peace in all this.  Shawn said today, "Except for the fact that there isn't anywhere to sit, I am enjoying this minimalist lifestyle."

I feel very peaceful here, so far away from all my "stuff."  I still would like to bring the dining room set, and my china, and a few sundry things that I miss now and then, but really, it is peaceful to have so few things around, to know exactly what I have, and where it is.

Today, as I unpacked a couple of the last boxes we have, I thanked God for this impetus to inventory my belongings.  It's a job I hate, and have avoided for years and years.  But it is good, good to take inventory and good to release things that are neither beautiful nor useful.  I hope and pray that things I discover and give away can somehow be a blessing to someone.  I hope and pray that I am not simply defiling the environment with things that will be dumped into a landfill.  As I unpacked my boxes of knick-knacks, I looked at them numbly, and wondered why I had brought them, and figured it was a good exercise to prepare me to have better discernment in the next (and final) phase of packing.

With so little stuff, and so far away from life as I am used to knowing it, I have a lot of time to think.  Actually, my thinking time began with the drive out, when I spent 14 hours behind the wheel of Shawn's Honda Accord, by myself.  I thought about many things, and I listened to my Scripture Lullabies and to Colin Smith sermons on CD.  I prayed about my fears, and I prayed for help with the drive, and I prayed prayers of praise and thanksgiving.  It is so nice that God is always with me, always a listening ear and a quiet voice of wisdom, even when I am otherwise alone.

At the end of our drive, it was getting on towards 2 a.m. and I was exhausted.  We drew near to our home, driving a twisty back road through a Carolina forest in the dead of night, and suddenly a deer leapt into our path.  Shawn veered to avoid it, and I watched, numb and exhausted, slowing down to give space for Shawn's maneuvers and to look for any additional deer.  Sure enough, a tiny deer, about the size of a large dog, materialized from the shadows and darted in front of my car.  I slammed on the brakes, causing my computer to fly forward from the back seat with a loud thump while my CD collection in the front seat slid in a myriad of chaotic directions.  I was sure I had hit the deer, but when we arrived in our new garage and turned on the lights to inspect the car, we could find no sign of damage.

I am thankful and tired, and I have very little to do, other than to figure out where is a good place to walk, and to work on picking out paint colors, and to shop for stools to use at our massive kitchen island counter.  The work, the busy-busy, the packing-purging-planning, the stress of trying to sell a home, these will resume when we get back to Illinois.



Friday, September 6, 2019

insignificant



When I was younger, I always enjoyed going to historical homes.  Technically, these are a type of museum, but I hesitate to use the term "museum," because I don't particularly like museums in general.  However, I was always entranced by historical homes and farm museums, where a dreamy young girl could walk through and imagine the lives of people from the past.

Some historical homes are period homes, while others are the homes of famous people, whose personal artifacts are on display.  When my own children were younger, one winter during the infamous New York February Break, we traveled to the Poughkeepsie area to see FDR's childhood home, Eleanor Roosevelt's home (where she lived when she and FDR were not on amicable terms), and the Vanderbilt Mansion at Hyde Park, NY.  This was an interesting and memorable trip.

At FDR's home, we perused a myriad of exhibits, including glass cases full of his childhood toys, and boyhood letters he had written in pencil, which were carefully curated, laid out in displays so we could read them and see what a young prodigy he had always been.

I mention this because I am going through boxes of memorabilia in my basement, old notebooks where, as a child, I had painstakingly scrawled the beginnings of story after story, projects our children did for school, awards, newspaper clippings, adjudication forms from music auditions, homemade birthday cards, copies of a magazine that published one of my early stories as a contest winner, a seemingly infinite collection of things that all feel unbearably special if I sit down and start to ponder them.

In my mind, the thought hovers (I think, though I am ashamed to confess) that if one of us becomes famous someday, all these things will matter.  But I am fixing to move back east, across the United States of America, in a truck that we will rent and pack and drive unprofessionally at our own personal cost.  The boxes of salvaged memories will have to be discarded, once and for all.  I am not and will never be FDR, and when I think about it that way, I am not much more surprised by the fact than anyone else would be.  Nobody cares about this stuff except me, and honestly, I have other, more important places to apply my mind and energy.

All I really need is a bed, a kitchen, a bathroom, a place for a visiting friend to sleep, my Bible, and a few books.  A comfortable reading chair.  A few clothes, dishes, pots and pans, blankets and sheets.  That is honestly all I need.  I need to live and shine for Jesus.  Musty boxes weighed down with past memories do not contribute to a productive life.

We should have an event and call it, "Bonfire of the Basement."  We should burn away all the things that make us feel wistful, or awkward, or prideful, or bitter, just burn them up in the back corner of the back yard and watch the smoke drift away into the night sky.

When Shawn and I went to the Michael Card conference in 2017, Michael Card taught us through the Gospel of Luke.  At one point, he shared about how he had taught a class once on all the gospels, and he had a mathematic, engineering sort of woman in the class, so he gave her an assignment.  He told her to go through the gospels and add up how much time they covered from Jesus' life on earth.  So, she read through the gospels, and made notes on each event from Jesus' life that they recorded, estimating how long each event lasted.  She compared and deleted duplicate events.  I do not remember the amount of time that she ended up with, but she did the math and divided it out, and it came to some incredibly small percentage of Jesus life, like 0.0005%, or something like that.  I think the total was less than a week, when she added it all up.  Michael Card said, "It's like if Jesus' life was $100, we got five cents, one nickel." (**)

This is mind-blowing if you think about a David McCullough biography.  People have written chapter upon chapter upon chapter about each other in tomes that pile up in libraries around the world.  Yet, after the God of the Universe sent His only begotten Son into the world, the record that remains of His time here consists of four short books, narrating a strategically tiny part of His life.  28 chapters in Matthew, 16 in Mark, 24 in Luke, 21 in John, and that is all there is.  It's perfect, and it's enough; it tells us exactly what we need to know.  It is short, succinct.

If Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all we needed from the life of Christ--the very life of God incarnate, Himself--then I certainly have too much memorabilia in my current possession.




** I may be off on exact numbers here, as I am going from memory, and my memory is often faulty.  But the point I am making is true and valid.






Thursday, August 22, 2019

So many books

In the packing process, one thing I find we have in super-abundance is . . .  books.

So many books.  Especially old textbooks.

There is a charity here called Orphan's Treasure Box.  They take book donations, and then they resell the books both online and in a sweet little bookshop.  All their profits go to support orphans.  We have been taking lots of books there.  Used textbooks can be of good value, especially if they are fairly current.

Last night, I was having trouble sleeping, thinking about books. 

Our kids tell us to get rid of their college textbooks.  "I can find whatever I need online," they say.  They never knew a time, like we do, when the internet did not exist.  The instant access to nearly infinite information is normal for them.  Not new, normal.

Last night, I thought about Revelation 18 and wondered if the fall of Babylon is about the fall of the internet.

The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud... (Revelation 18:15)

For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw her burning.  "What city was like the great city?"  And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, "Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste." (Revelation 18:17-19)

If we throw away all the books and trust in the internet to catalogue and store all our information, research and learning, we will be devastated if the internet crashes and all is lost.  The internet is so new, so ethereal.  When I think how many times I've lost a document on my computer, after hours of work, I cannot imagine entrusting this electronic nexus with the wealth of the collective studies of mankind throughout history.  Even if it doesn't crash, it could easily fall into hands that do not share information, but parcel it out to only the highest bidders.  Information could become the currency of the future.

I'm just saying.

I might keep a few more of these old science and math textbooks, if I can keep track of them.  I think we already mistakenly donated at least one box of books we had set aside to save.  Sigh. 

So many books.





Thursday, August 15, 2019

Fighting for air

(my glads were short-lived; they are gone now)



I am beyond exhausted.  It's the middle of the night, and I can't sleep.

Aren't there psalms called Psalms of Complaint?  Or is it only Psalms of Lament?

My feelings are terrible right now.  I've been working myself into the ground, trying to get our house ready to go on the market, and we finally got it ready, and now there is an issue with the pictures they took, and I'm not even going to get a moment to relax, and the listing will be delayed yet again, and it's all running into the most terrifying schedule implications at this point.

I'm just going to list my feelings right now:

1.  I feel exhausted, worn out, depleted.

2.  I feel frightened about what the next two weeks will entail, and overwhelmed at the thought of managing the schedule.

3.  I feel terrified that we will have to complete the purchase of our North Carolina home before we are even able to get this house on the market.

4.  I feel disappointed that we are running out of time to visit our parents before the rollercoaster of this situation takes off.

5.  I cannot even believe that we are supposed to have a beach vacation with the kids, right when we need to be home keeping the house ready to show (my flowers will all surely die).  I cannot wrap my mind around the need to be planning and packing for this vacation.  I think I may have to skip this vacation and stay home to watch over the house sale and the dog, and miss my baby grandson's first trip to the beach.  I am heartsick.

6.  I feel like God has abandoned me.

7.  I feel like I am a very bad person, and I am being punished.

8.  I feel like I should be pictured on a poster that says, "Terrible Reflection of the Heavenly Father's Grace."

9.  I struggle with doubts of God's love for me, not so much because everything isn't going well, but because I am dealing so badly with how things are not going well.  I feel like a spectacular failure.

10.  I have a headache, and adrenaline is coursing through my body, and I need badly to sleep, but my mind races when I lie down, so here I am spewing my angst into the computer.

11.  I feel disappointed in my prayer time.  I tried to pray with Shawn before bed, but I couldn't do it right.  All I could do was beg God for help, all the while doubting that He will help me.

12.  I'm damp from my own tears, and I feel from the stinging in my eyes that they are starting up again.

God, I don't want to doubt You.  I don't want to doubt that You are there.  All this stuff around me had to come from somewhere.  I came from somewhere.  You have to be real, but I struggle to embrace that with confidence.  God, please hold me together.  Job prayed that You would let him die before he denied You, because he was afraid he would deny You.

Oh that I might have my request, that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!  Then I would still have this consolation--my joy in unrelenting pain--that I had not denied the words of the Holy One.  (Job 6:8-10)

I just need to be able to rest, to sleep.  Some people can turn off their minds.  How I wish I could turn off my mind.

At the end of the adrenaline, when I crash, I usually get very sick.  Once I had a particularly rough, sleepless night of mental anguish, and in the morning I had a blood test.  It came out with super high--actually diabetic--blood sugar levels.  They redid it a few days later, and I was back to my regular, healthy levels, but stress is really bad for you.  Stress actually can harm or even kill you.

I should be able to control this stress, but I cannot.  I cannot figure out how to control it.  Praying has not been helping.

God does love me.  He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sin.  God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  I know this.  How I wish I could feel it.

I need so badly to be praying for others, but right now I can't even master my own doubts.

What am I thankful for?

1.  I am thankful for the blooming pink impatiens in my flower bed.

2.  I am thankful for Shawn, who helped me wash windows this morning, and made me eat leftover pizza for lunch, which he heated up for me when I was too frantic and distracted to stop and eat.

3.  I am thankful that we had leftover pizza.

4.  I am thankful for Ken and Tascha who invited us to go out for lunch on Sunday after church, and introduced us to a place that makes great gluten-free pizza.  I am thankful for their friendship and Christian fellowship.

5.  I am thankful that Ken offered to help us get our piano to North Carolina, and even offered to drive a truck out there for us.  Amazing.

6.  I am thankful for my faithful friend Joy, who prays with me every week and shares her heart with me and listens to me share mine.  I am thankful for her special support and understanding about many things.

7.  I am thankful for my friend Carolyn, who has sold a number of beautiful houses, who was willing to come over and help me "stage" my home and even loaned me some of her lovely accessories.

8.  I am thankful for kind neighbors who stop by and tell us they will miss us.

9.  I am thankful for a loving church, and for people who ask us how we are doing, pray for us, and tell us they will come over and help us pack if we say when.

10.  I am thankful to live next to a beautiful nature preserve where we can go and walk when we need to de-stress.

11.  I am thankful for beautiful summer weather.

12.  I am thankful for water, which we need when the sun always shines and the rain doesn't fall, thankful for water and hoses and spray nozzles.

13.  I am thankful for the hope of a New Heaven and New Earth where there won't be any stress, or any other trouble.

14.  I am thankful that God showed his love for us in Christ, who died so that we could be made righteous, so that we can someday inhabit the New Heaven and the New Earth and be released from this poor broken world.

15.  I am thankful for air conditioning!  (It's blowing on me right now, and my shoulders are cold, but that's a blessing, because outside it is hot and sticky!)

16.  I am thankful that there were Rice Krispies in the cupboard, and I could eat them for dinner, even though I couldn't mess up my very, very clean kitchen.  I guess I am thankful that my kitchen is clean.  But it is usually quite clean.  It's just that usually I have the things I use handy to use, and now they are all stuffed away who-knows-where, out of sight.  Anyway, I am thankful for those Rice Krispies, because some supper is far better than no supper.

17.  I am thankful for comfortable beds, and I am thinking about trying to sleep in one again, before too much longer.

18.  I am thankful for a sweet friend who moved away, who was willing to share some advice and encouragement earlier tonight.  She told me that God is in control, and He is at work.  She didn't even know that I was upset about how things were going.  She was a blessing.

19.  I am thankful that I have neither a migraine nor back spasms.

20.  I am thankful for feather pillows.