My friend Kiert asked me a lot of update questions the other day, and I'd been thinking I needed to give a general update about how we're doing, so I decided to turn her questions into blog prompts and inform the rest of you who care.
1) How's life these days?
Life is precious, life is sweet!
Like the earth beneath my feet!
Sorry. 90's attack.
Life is good and hard and full of grace.
Our vehicles have been giving us fits, and Jeff spends a large majority of his free time fixing them. Which he's quite good at. It's great that we don't have to pay a lot for vehicle repairs, but it's hard on him physically, and it's less time with his family, and we're all getting bored and impatient with the process. The grace to me is that I hate going out, and right now, I don't have to! Cuz I don't have a very reliable vehicle. And there's a happy produce stand and a glorious riverbank both in walking distance. So I'm good to go. Also we're spending way less on gas. So that's happy.
My health has been pretty cranky lately. Boooooooo. I've had a lot of intense fibro flare-ups this spring. I'm still recuperating from my endometriosis surgery last fall and adjusting to my post-surgery treatment plan. I have gastro-esophageal reflux disease which burns my throat and keeps me awake at night. I dislocated my sternoclavicular joint last month and now it pops in and out at random, which means sometimes I have free movement of my arms and sometimes I don't. I continue to have mystery abdominal pain, which is most likely a hernia. I had a hernia surgery in 2000 that the doctor said would be good for about ten years or so. My guess is that it's time to go back in with the mesh thingy he said would be the next step. So if that needs to happen, it will be my fifth abdominal surgery. Bleh. And yesterday, I dislocated my shoulder and my arm is in a sling. So that's fun times.
The grace to me is manifold. For the fibro flare-ups, God has given me time to delve more deeply into his Word, learn more about prayer, read some great books, and hang out with my kiddos. For the endometriosis treatment plan, God has given me a few days each month to learn new ways to respond to upsetting situations and change my chemical hardwiring for the better. I'm very thankful for this. For gerd, my hours of insomnia have given me glorious alone time. For my SC joint, hmmmm... I learned a new word. Sternoclavicular. For my dislocated shoulder, my specific grace is that I have double-jointed shoulders. So what popped out also pretty much popped right back in. And for my mystery abdominal pain, God has challenged me to find joy in it, in the midst of it, to think on what is true, to look to Jesus. It's slow going. Some days are better than others. There's grace for that, too.
Part of the reason my health has been cranky is that I haven't really been taking very good care of myself. I'm not eating properly, or taking my vitamins, or exercising. I'm mostly reading novels. I have good excuses. I shopped wrong, the vitamins are all the way over in the pantry, I don't feel well enough to take a leisurely two-block stroll to the river. But really, it's a heart issue. I'm not sure what the heart issue is, but I know that's what's going on. The grace to me is that God let me see that it's a heart issue. Which gives me hope for actual change.
There are some days that I don't consciously think about Dad. There are some days that I'm shocked and horrified all over again about his death and the way he died. I've learned to be patient with myself and give myself time to work through the feelings accompanying my memories and triggers. When grief shows up, I say, "Oh. You again? Well, come on in. Would you like some tea? How long are you staying this time? You can stay a few nights, but don't forget that fish and company smell after three days." The grace to me is that God provides a specific comfort to those who've lost a loved one to suicide, and this comfort has been lavished on me.
2) How did homeschooling work out these past few months?
Homeschooling was excellent. James loved the format, and he made good progress in math. The main thing, though, is that his outlook on life has improved, and he is exhibiting better coping skills as he matures. He writes novels, and his writing is good. I have no doubt that he will be published someday. I am going to homeschool him for sixth grade as well, and we are pursuing a medical diagnosis for him so we can continue to get him the help he needs. We discovered that we are both pretty passionate about U.S. History, so that will be our primary focus this next year. I'm looking forward to it.
3) How's Jeff's job going?
Jeff's job has pretty long hours, which is difficult for him because he is such a family man. The grace to us, of course, is steady income. Who doesn't love steady income, yo. But also, Jeff's work is appreciated and valued, which is always a good thing. His boss told him this week that he's been knocking it out of the park. Yeah... Jeff's pretty cool.
4) How are you two?
Some of you may recall a post we shared about our marriage a year and a half ago. God had brought us through a period of demolition and excavation so he could remove our flimsy foundation and replace it with himself. Kiert was my personal counselor during that time and she has prayed fervently and faithfully for our marriage for many years. So when Kiert asks how the two of us are doing, she knows what she's asking.
The answer is grace, grace, grace, grace, grace. By grace, we are getting along better than we ever have. By grace, we are resolving conflict quickly. By grace, we (usually) freely offer apologies for hurts we've inflicted. By grace, we are learning to identify the lies we've believed about ourselves, marriage, men, women, etc., and by grace, we are finding the truth. By grace, we can see that our marriage will always be a little (and sometimes a lot) messy, and by grace, we are learning to respond within the framework of trust. By grace, we are best friends.
5) Have you found a church?
We have found a church. Jeff found it basically as soon as he got here last fall. It's called The Bridge Church. We love it. We love the leadership's ministry philosophies, and there is much grace extended to our whole family there. We haven't made it to church much this summer, but when we go, nobody puts hands on hips and says, "Where have you been?" They say, "Welcome back!" Well, actually, most of them say "Welcome to The Bridge!" because there are so many new faces all the time that a lot of people think we are first time visitors.
One of the elders is counseling James, and he's also keeping tabs on Jeff and me, since we told him our recent history and where we're at in life. He heard our story, and then he said, "I haven't had a chance to sit down with every family, but as far as I'm aware, I'd say you are in the top 2% of sufferers in our church right now." That felt validating.
God has also given me a mentor who is committed to challenging me out of my comfort zone. So far, she is teaching me to answer the phone more often and communicate with people even when I am completely introverted. She seems to have an uncanny ability to quickly name my fears and speak the life-giving truth that refutes them. I'm thankful.
6) Are you adjusting to life in your new place?
We are slowly adjusting to life in our new place. We're not super near any shopping, so I still shop pretty randomly and routinelessly right now, but we're getting there.
I am very close to being completely unpacked. I just have one more box to sort through. It's full of my keepsake papers and has stuff from Dad in it, so I've mainly avoided it religiously. But I'm bored of not being unpacked, so I hope to get through it soon.
As far as making friends, I am enjoying the continuation of several lifelong friendships with family, and so far, I have several acquaintances at church who have great friend potential. It takes a while to form lasting friendships in a new place, and I'm mostly okay with the process and my current status.
For the first time in the boys' lives, they have neighborhood friends to play with. There are four boys close to their age right across the street, and nearly every day, they can be found scooting, jumping on the trampoline, swimming in the neighbor's backyard pool, playing nerf gun wars, or watching each other play video games. I am so beyond thankful, and I crack up listening to them all the time. They say "Dude!" a lot.
7) It's been waaaaaaay too long since we communicated. How did that happen?
Kiert and I both went through a huge adjustment recently, so we get how it happened between us, but I'm explaining to the rest of you why it's been so long since I've shared an update. Sometimes I'm just quiet. Sometimes for a long time. Sometimes I forget that people want to know how we're doing. Sometimes I can't articulate anything but complaint, and I think no one wants to hear that. Sometimes I feel like my sharing would be saccharine compared to what everyone else is going through. Sometimes I just tell one person everything and then I'm all talked out. Sometimes I don't have anything to say.
Sometimes I need someone to ask me update questions. Thanks, Kiert. :)