and surely into another year.

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By kindly powers surrounded, peaceful and true,
wonderfully protected with consolation dear,
safely, I dwell with you this whole day through,
and surely into another year.

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Though from the old our hearts are still in pain,
while evil days oppress with burdens still,
Lord, give to our frightened souls again,
salvation and thy promises fulfill.

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And shouldst thou offer us the bitter cup, resembling
sorrow, filled to the brim and overflowing,
we will receive it thankfully, without trembling,
from thy hand, so good and ever-loving.

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But if it be thy will again to give
joy of this world and bright sunshine,
then in our minds we will past times relive
and all our days be wholly thine.

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Let candles burn, both warm and bright,
which to our darkness thou has brought,
and, if that can be, bring us together in the light,
thy light shines in the night unsought.
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When we are wrapped in silence most profound,
may we hear that song most fully raised
from all the unseen world that lies around
and thou art by all thy children praised.

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By kindly powers protected wonderfully,
confident, we wait for come what may.
Night and morning, God is by us, faithfully
and surely at each new born day.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1944

wp-1483506062752.jpgAnd now more poetry/a meditation with random pictures… this time just bad, disjointed, self-written… Prepare yourself.

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Another year past.

Did I doubt Your grace?

How could I when you would not let me grieve,
overwhelmed,
drowning in the contradictions of your
blessings.

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How I wish I could cry without laughing,
curse you, without clinging to you,
run without finding you my destination.

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I ache to fall to pieces
and, I think, to be forsaken.
And again You bind these fragments
and reiterate them to Yourself.

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Grace.
I did not doubt it.
I did not want it.

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Jesus loves me
this I know
for His song,
my brother,
the Savior
showed me so.

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I have been weak.
He has been here.

-me, Imperfect thoughts on Thanksgiving 2016

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If you did not receive a family Christmas letter this year, it was not because we didn’t wish to send one. It was because none of the drafts ever saw the light of day.

If you are part of my and/or our family’s life, thank you. It’s cliche and probably true every year, but 2016 was intense…in all the ways that hurt, but also in God’s grace. Which also hurt, but was beautiful and good and continues to open up the world and our hearts and makes every moment greater… Every breath more Life than we imagined. Life foreign to ourselves. This Life that knocks you on your knees and makes your eyes water and everything okay. Beyond understanding.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise God that you are a blessing in our lives.

Happy New Year.

An Ode to My Neighbor in my Sickness

To sick people and not sick people everywhere, and particularly to some.

If I try to run away,
it is from myself.

You ask me how I am feeling,
I wish you wouldn’t.
It is the same as yesterday
and the day before.
Although it might not be,
I suppose. It’s hard to remember pain,
it is always the worst when you are feeling it.
Which is why someday everything will be okay.

I wish, for one day, you would act like I was normal
and could climb mountains
and drink coffee
and talk about having money.

How do you just sit there
and forget that I am in pain.
Can’t you sympathize?
Can’t you ask me how I am?
To climb out of bed was like climbing Everest.

You think I don’t know what living is like
but I do.
Because much of life is dying
dying dreams
dying suns
dying teeth
decay. I know about it.
Why don’t you tell me about the rest?

I am a normal person
with normal hopes and dreams.

Frustrated.
Can’t hold more than one thought at a time.
multitask no

It is so exhausting
The normal things
I spend 15 minutes willing myself to go brush my teeth
It took this whole donut that will make me throw up later
to smile through church.
I close my door
and there are so many things to do
I want to write you and ask how your baby is growing
I want to catch up on work to pay bills
I want to read to train my mind
I want to change the world.
I lay down
and I cry
because I am not strong enough
Not my body–
my mind.
I know I could do it.
It would be hard
But I could
And so I hate myself.

Please understand that I love you
I am just thinking about my pancreas
and I am very selfish.

I don’t know what I want.
Less what you can do.
I wish you would help me figure that out.
But quit asking questions.

You pity me.
You seem to think my life would be so much better
if it wasn’t this way
But I wouldn’t be me.
If there hadn’t been all the ways before that you wish to eliminate. Would I?
How could I let go of everything?
(But sure, if you’re offering your life, I’ll take it.)

Home is not a place.
Not where the heart is.
It is where the PJs are
and the pillow that lets you cry into it without either of you trying to be the strong one.
And people who at least know not to expect too much out of you
and know that you are okay sometimes.

When you try to cheer me up,
I feel like you’re not taking this situation seriously.
When you help me wallow in self-pity
and half-gallons of ice cream,
I feel like I will never be anything but what I am
And you don’t care I am failing.

Would you tell your best friend,
after her husband has left her,
to try essential oils?
I appreciate the detective work,
I wish my doctor would try it.
But could you, for a moment,
acknowledge the grief?

I can’t imagine anyone more faithful than you
more understanding
more loving
more dogged.
I have not put up with me.
You have.

Just keep loving me please.
And tell me to buck up sometimes.
And sometimes to lay down.
Tea helps.
Hugs without squeezing sometimes.
Forgiveness all the time.

Help me to learn…
Find my west.

Sometimes when I need it
on a foggy day
put a compass back in my hands.
Don’t tell me what I must feel like
or ask how I am doing
or say everything is going to be okay
just show me where the sun sets
and remind me that the race will end

Give me Jesus.
Give me an always want for Jesus.
That never gets sick.


And from Real Poets: 

People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed.
-Bob Dylan

Long and Wasted Years
-Bob Dylan

Ultimately this Hymn to God, my God in my Sickness
-John Donne

writer not writing [summer]

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Night off on the town Part #1.
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Night off on the town #2.
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The better half of my room…
Harrison enjoys that North Pacific shore.
Dog vs. sand.
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Our fridge after moving into our apartment. All you need for life and luxury.
Some dreams come true.
Jobness.
Green beans from the apartment pot garden. (Also featuring our various roadside furniture finds.)
Grocery Outlet meal days. Also, sometimes your dad doesn’t recognize you if you try to run him down in the store wearing scrubs and coming off of a 16 hour shift.
When you swing by your parents and don’t want to roll off the bed and they bring you a hamburger… That’s nice.
Ukraine stamps. ❤ Also fake rat because mine are now in Idaho. Also, this plant. Also, very happy my window faces west.
Yaжevoo contemplates life in the Lviv airport. He was having a hard time saying goodbye to the tree and his secret-soul-land.
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Carpathian Mountains, Ukraine.
Climbing mountains with pneumonia 😛 and Ukrainians. 🙂
You beautiful country.
Wild blueberries got us this far.
Carpathian glade mid mushroom hunt.
Okay, back to the Pacific Northwest.

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Now the East Coast.

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Brooklyn Heights.

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And back home again.

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I wish I was more like my [brother’s] dog.

Recently, we got a new puppy. It is my mom’s dog and not what this story is about.

In May, I had the first two weeks of life without a family dog. My family has always had dogs. They mesh well with us. This is probably because we are like dogs. But is this because we have always been around dogs? Or just because we hold common values?

Anyways..

Henry was the best dog.

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Henry looking uncharacteristaclly forlorn while I drove off to the airport. Photo cred: LMS

But the first dog I remember was a poodle mix. She was black and chose our neighbor over us when we moved. This is understandable because six children between 12-2 are not as luxury friendly as a retired gentleman with liver treats. But I will never forgive her. We never had another female dog.

Henry was our last “family” dog. He grew up on our mini-farm with Rebel, the pig-vet cornering, sprinkler chasing Blue Heeler, and Bobby, the pig-like Border Collie and something-else-unfortunate, good-natured earth crawler.

Bobby got puny at a ripe old age and held out long enough to die in my arms a few hours after flying back from Ukraine several years ago (and you ask me why I’m morbid?!).

During my following trip to Ukraine, Rebel outlasted the vet’s prediction by half-a-car-chasing-decade and passed on to a place where biting duck heads has no consequences.

Henry was the lean and mean fighting machine (okay…he didn’t fight and he wasn’t mean, but he was lean and fast and the best that’s ever been). He was the only animal to make the move with us to suburbia. At age 12 or so, he was probably ready to retire from UPS alert and critter chasing, but for a fit boxer/lab, the change was probably as rough on him as it was to my mother-hubbard’s view-needing-soul.

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Henry had already had a long journey with us, listening to at least all the females’ problems in the family, taking long walks as we got ready for Mount Saint Helen’s hikes, getting dragged to agility classes despite is laid-back sensitive personality, sitting up all night with me on my last day on the property, etc.

What was great about Henry (and about any dog that does not abandon you for your liver-treat-feeding neighbor), is their ability to listen without interrupting. Henry never interrupted. And he understood everything. (I’m sorry, but it’s true. He was very intuitive.) He never told me what I should do. He never even said it would be okay or that it wouldn’t be okay. He just looked at me and I knew that I was loved and would never be rejected as long as we both breathed on this mortal orb.

Well, we don’t both breath anymore. Henry got cancer. And, like you would expect, he never complained, he didn’t give up but went on with his loving life, he never told anyone their problems didn’t compare, he never blamed anyone for moving from country air or switching to cheaper dog food or not getting a $$$$ treatment. In fact, he didn’t have any important last things to wrap up because he had done them all as they reached his ears and his nose and his big, grubby paws. He had never turned his back on a loved one and he had never snubbed a stranger. He did not need to ask any apologizes because he had always met those who mattered to him with love (sometimes too much). When he had seen something to do (like chase a cat), he had done it to the utmost.

He didn’t need closure or a chaplain at his bedside. He had been who he was supposed to be and he had done what he was supposed to do. He had obeyed his Maker to the word. He had been named DOG and had acted and loved like a dog.

He had sat in the back of my stupid old Honda patiently, breathing in the air of the countryside on his car ride to the vet. Enjoying it, even though he couldn’t sit up. And he had not been angry or bitter at the lady in the vet office who made remarks about how pathetic his once powerful self seemed.

Even though his track records with vets was filled with anxiety, he had been the calm and collected one for my sake. And he laid down on the blanket and sat with me and tried to get up and lick my face whenever I sobbed. Which, of course, made me sob more. And then he didn’t want to kill the vet (like I did) when they put a muzzle on him to give him a relaxant. And he didn’t ask us what we were doing when they gave him another shot, he only moved his head from my lap and laid it where I couldn’t see and stopped being there for me.

The end.

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Last night at ye olde’ homestead.

Well, to make a tidy ending to my sob story that would have been something I would have shared wordlessly with Henry for some closure and now I have to make you endure it instead, I just want to say happy retirement Henry, from loving so hard, and I love you very much.

I’m not one of those people that thinks animals can be human or that they should be treated like children. (And when you are talking to me, you should interupt sometimes and tell me I am being an idiot!)

All of our dogs were outside dogs. Henry was a farm dog. He tromped through ice and he sacked out under trees in the heat. He was a dog. But he was just so much better at being a dog than I am at being a human.

He knew no pride.

And I guess that’s what I want to learn from him. And what mattered to me. That pride thing.

I want to look at people and listen and love them, even when what they say, in the grand scheme of existence, is stupid. To love them when they come after me with a PVC pipe and I don’t understand. To be freakishly loyal and cheerful, even when leaving could mean a much more comfortable (liver-filled?) life. To not know what bitterness means.

To be good at being human. And not freak out about the rest.

And, never to go to bed at night thinking about myself and all the things I did wrong or did right or how much of an idiot I am…trying to chase myself in a circle all over the map pride-filled-self-worth feelings. Henry knew what chasing your tail was. It was a joke and pretty soon you should stop and go chase a squirrel or a car or find someone to make happy.

 

“It is sweet to think I was a companion in an expedition that never ends”

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A real lunch break last weekend. Tried to quite one job, isolate, and focus… So far it has just meant doing three jobs. Awkward.

And it refuses to end, Czeslaw Milosz. And I’m so glad I met you recently and you allowed me to fall in love with you. Even if you are already (technically) dead.

“I am composed of contradictions, which is why poetry is a better form for me than philosophy”
Czesław Miłosz

signs of life (and Harrison’s debut)

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Went to Alaska.

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did not get eaten by bears, but narrowly escaped certain death from ptarmigans.

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snowshoed with my bf. Oh, the humiliations.

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snow machined to a frozen lake.

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it was nice.

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did not fall through the ice.

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that was also nice.

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did not meet these aliens that seem to be coming to earth in this photo.

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many of the best conversation of my life have involved SEMKI.

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cracked my head on the ice. Then saw this beautiful sunset (other people saw it too).

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then watched “Rambo” and ate salmon.

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Harrison’s first glimpse of these Pacific shores.

then had so many delays and airline misery coming home I made more money in vouchers than I do in a week a work. And my mom bought me a stuffed animal at the airport…

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and we went straight to the beach (did not pass Go, did not collect $200).

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and drove home on one of the paths of old.

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and I knew that the Willamette Valley is the most beautiful place on earth.

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and that spring was almost gone already.

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and some of my favorite trees had died. #oldmarleyatthelodgeisdead

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and so…

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i drank a lot of green tea to cope. lol. xP

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and everything went into quarantine, including Harrison, in a new attempt/idea about our illnesses.

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and then somehow we ended up at the beach again. #classic

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with all 12 (two hiding still) nieces and nephews.

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and lots of sunshine and chocolate.

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and then I came back to my meth house.

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this one time, I scheduled my eye exam at the wrong clinic and so mostly went Costco/New Seasons shopping. And so this is Harrison sitting on my coming nephew.

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and this is camels (aka tulips, aka you should watch Brothers Bloom more often).

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this is what I ate in celebration of a 65 hour lunch-breakless, running on your feet work week completed, because of my-brother-in-arms got me raisin snacks at Dollar Tree. And all people know that raisin snacks, at least in the days of childhood, are the measure of ones standing in the world.

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and now I am sitting here drinking chocolate, thinking about all the beautiful things in life, and how everything will leave you (including your dog that has cancer) and that all homes are either taken away from you or spit you out. And how it’s nearly impossible to make decisions, let alone know what you want.

And so… I really need Jesus. And that’s probably a fine place to be.

It’s one thing to know. It’s another to act on the knowing. It’s another to feel. But joy and thankfulness are not outside of our control, and…when it comes down to it…life is beautiful and mine is Jesus’ and it is good. And I have everything. More than I could have imagined.

But I need to stop having so many feelings so this blog isn’t such a loser. Call myself a writer… Blughadug.

what I learned living in a meth house…and other tales.

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January sunshine at the beach.

The concept of home is important to me. *cough, cough*

I remember very vividly throwing up in my car seat when we drove away from our first house for the last time. I had just learned how to climb the fruit trees crammed in our 1/2 acre lot.

Leaving our last house has already been documented and whined about sufficiently enough here. Suffice to say that I am, at heart, a homebody. The problem is, sometimes  you do something stupid and everything gets all discombobulated. Like, one day you get on a plane to Ukraine. That sort of thing.

And…BAM… Life is ruined and/or made into something even more wonderful and beautiful and filling-uppish than you ever imagined.

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But still… it kind of stinks. To be woken up to the fact that you will never be all home. On this side of alive anyways. Or something. I don’t know. And this is why we need to talk about meth.

I returned to America on October 29th. I would like to say that I began unpacking the next morning (not my stuff from Ukraine [I left most of it there]), but my entire life which had been so graciously boxed and moved in my absence. But I didn’t.
I “finished” unpacking on December 24th.

A few days later, we moved out.

This is because everyone had been sick since October. At first we were shut-ins. We naturally assumed we had a bout of the Black Plague. A few people, however,  braved our white chalked doors–comrades, my mom, the mailman–none of which contracted any crippling symptoms.

Eventually, after a lot of rounds of The Incredibles  and howling in the night, it was decided our issues must be provoked by environmental variables.

We tested the house. Methamphetamine and formaldehyde (and a few other things associated with addiction, crime, and the preservation of dead bodies) came back. But after more intense testing, all of these were below “threat levels.”

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When life is crazy, your mind can become really intense on finding the right planner. Alex Mahone intense.  If you have a good planner, it will make your life organized and grounded, right? And one day, you find it for $6.

My nieces and nephews missed literally every Christmas and New Years extravaganza. Some of us have seen some improvement since moving out. Some have gotten worse in the last week or two. We still have no clue what is going on. Or what to do next. YOLO. xP

Although it is the worst to watch little people be sick (and I’m sure their parents would have a thing or two to say about four months of sleepless nights), they do help you keep your sense of humor/reality.

3-year-old-nephew: draw me a fridge.
*I draw fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: draw a biiiiiigggg fridge. with a water thing.
*I draw a fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: draw me a really tallllllll fridge. don’t forget the water thing.
*I draw a fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: draw me a fridge with the door open. And ice cream.
*I draw a fridge*
3-year-old-nephew: me a tiny, tiny fridge.
*I draw a fridge.*
3-year-old-nephew: awe. It’s sooo cuuute.
*we pause*
3-year-old-nephew: make it on fire.

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What might happen when you get on the floor to color with little people.

6-year-old-niece: what does that say?
me: can you read any of it?
6-year-old-niece: there is “all.” And “love.” Because it is almost Valentine’s Day.
me: it’s actually a gift for [person I was staying with at the time’s] wedding. It says, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” And, “love never fails.”
*extended moment of contemplation*
6-year-old-niece: but sometimes it does.

Aw, yes. But not Jesus.

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Northwest waves are a sort of home in our blood. This is my sister. And the baby she will bring into this world. And the beach. All these things which excite me painfully. 

This may sound more angry Godish than I intend, but life seems kind of like a series of God showing you the stupidity of the idols you’ve been leaning on. I feel like there has been a very distinct chain of this in my life. And all things have hurt, and all things have been good.

“Security” and “knowing what to do” are getting a hard hitting at the moment.

 

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Note for the future: Think twice about becoming responsible for other living things if you are about to become a wandering nomad. But…these gals are the best. 

 

Also, since last we spoke, I started my worst paying, most labor intensive job of all time. Which I love tremendously and which makes me invariably high (no drug houses needed, thank you very much).

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Somehow, two of my nearest and dearest sensed my sudden love for tulips. Previously, tulips and my relationship has been “meh.” This year they area always on my mind. Also, matcha tea. And this tea pot, the esteemed and portly, G.K. Lewis…here for all your emotional and hydration needs.

I’ve never had just one job at once and I’ve had a wide variety of jobs in general…but this is the first job ever that I can’t really take home with me (or does not exist in my home, on the desk two inches from my bed when I try to sleep, or in my laptop, Hector, etc.). It is a weird experience. And it is good when you’re on the move/homeless. 😉

Basically I get to go through the rituals of normal living and make people eat and drink coffee and get paid for it. Also, hang out with old people.

Quote from a resident observer on my 3rd week or so: Well, it looks like she’s still incompetent, but she’s having fun!

Basically, yes.

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New Sunday morning tradition (now that I [normally] live within a few minutes from church) = chocolate mug cake. 
This post is deceitfully titled for effect (I learned how to do that in journalism school). We aren’t really on the other side of this yet. I’m not sure I’ve actually learned anything. In general my nervous system and brain are just freaking out these days anyways.

I mostly just feel, right now, that I am watching “my wonderful plan for my life (and/or next summer)” crumble up with days off work and doctor and being homeless bills.

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Don’t forget to get help when you need to Nicholas Cage your sister’s house.

But, the Lord puts a table in the valley and in front of our enemies when there’s still a lot of fighting to be done. Celebration occurs in the valley. It is with Jesus.

There are many ways of shepherding. And many ways of needing to be shepherded.

And we lack nothing.

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Window. Mountain. Moldy car. It’s a good life.

And I feel like a idiot. And I sound like an idiot. And this is the most writing I’ve done since our family Christmas letter that I’m not even sure we ever sent out.

Goodbye.

p.s. if you feel let down by this blog post and/or me and need some emotions to move on to, try these guys which are really getting to me right now…

1. some Steinbeck + Vietnam vet vibes that will make you nostalgic for the farm you never cared about

2.
get creeped out and then kicked in the gut. Also, brush up your French.

3.
let this voice from my childhood help you let go of your children/true love/pet rat. While experiencing some questionable saxophone.