Well, I chose to delay my trip by a day, on the advice of my doctor. However, I got the car packed and ready to go, minus my guitar and my kitty. Those came along with me on the day of departure.

It was only supposed to be a 16 hour drive to LV, but inclement weather dragged it out to a 20 hour drive, with a 4 hour nap. I rolled into town exactly 24 hours after I had left Idaho! How funny.

The trip from LV to Y went well, without any incidents but my kitten deciding that she enjoyed the space below the gas and brake pedals more than any other place in the universe, and trying to obtain lodging in her favored location... while I was driving!! (She was out of the cat carrier pretty much the whole drive with no problems. She just sat perched on my mountain of belongings like she owned the place. It was a sight to see!)

I had only intended to spend the night with my friends in LV. Instead, I spent the whole weekend!
My friends from SOULS insisted that I MUST meet their house mom, because she and I are just alike. I thought, "Yeah, yeah, sure... one of these situations..."

Funnily enough, they were right! She is, of course, a bit different, as we are different people, but we're remarkably similar. I could probably pass for her daughter, definitely a niece or some other close relative. We even have a similar facial structure and body build. She's taller than I am, though.

The absolute best part is how chill she is, especially when it came to my food allergies. She loves to cook, so it was just another challenge to her. This ranks among one of the first times I've visited someone and not felt like an imposition or a drag. The only other ppl I feel that way with are the C's, because their daughter S was GF, too. Anyway, I ate good. And I learned several new recipes, which I love. Oh, and I made copies of our Daughters of Summer Hill cd's and my solo Sound of Music cd for everyone in the house. To pay me back, K took me shopping at Goodwill and the dollar store to stock me up for my trip. What a blessing that was! (Today I ate the green beans for lunch, but they weren't ripe, so they haven't set well. Bummer. I love green beans.)

I accompanied my bible worker friends to the evangelistic series that was going on at the time, both meetings a day. I was so blessed! I love hearing truth out of the Bible, especially the way this speaker presents it. He's so balanced. The only thing I disagreed with was when he was talking about the "Mosaic law" and the statutes and feast days and all that. I mentioned it to S later, only to find out that her dad is a feast keeper, and he studied it with a mutual friend of ours, who is now a feast keeper as well! I guess it's nice to know about others of similar persuasions and convictions... Fellowship, you know. And, quite frankly, it's not safe to talk about with everyone. From what I understand, there's quite a bit of animosity about the subject, and you can get yourself kicked out of church by bringing it up. So, knowing who's "safe" is helpful. (So sad that it should be so in Christian churches. I mean, even if you disagree, do you really have to be hateful about it? So not Christ-like. "Kinda reminds me of the Jewelry Nazi," says Mom. LOL)

My canvasser/Bible worker friends, predictably, canvassed me on canvassing again. No, not canvassing, but leading canvassing teams this summer. I told them, "I don't do that anymore. It's not an option." They said, "Pray about it." I said, "No way am I gonna pray about it! It's not even an option!" They said, "Pray about it."

I did. Haven't heard any word from the Lord yet, though. I did have a nightmare about canvassing that night. LOL

L had a good talk with me. I actually came out and explained to him why I don't Bible work anymore, and why I don't plan to. (I never thought I'd tell him about that! I mean, he's the big guns. It would be impudent, right? Plus there goes my cover of "good SOULS graduate".) He basically told me that he hated canvassing too, but he did it because it was the work of God, and it was what God asked him to do. And he hasn't done it this whole time, either-- it was what God used to take him to the next steps. And God really used him in a powerful way. I mean, if he hadn't done it, SOULS wouldn't be here, and then I wouldn't have gone, and would I still be with C? The ripple effect is astounding.

He told me, though, something very profound-- "Christians are to change people's lives. That's just what we do." And we know that the avenue is between us and God. That is to say, that the specific means for that is dependent on the call God gives us, if that makes sense. Like, Ben Carson for example. God led him to be a neurosurgeon, and that's how he changes lives. L was led to be a canvasser, and to start a school, and other things, and that's how he changes lives.

I can't be afraid of the hard things God asks me to do. I've been thinking, and I realized that I've kinda swung outward farther than I should. Like, the abuse taught me, and the world around me corrobrated, "What you want doesn't matter." And that's how I thought God was. "What you want doesn't matter. You do what I say, because I say it, and that's the end of the story."

So I've been going to a lot of effort to prove to myself and those around me that what I want does matter, and I can do what I want! I do things because I want to, and that's the end of the story. I don't do things that I don't want to do anymore. People need to RESPECT my free choice, alright?!

Now, however, I hear God saying to me, "What you want does matter, and you have the choice to go that way. However, it may not be the best thing for you in the grand scheme of things. Do you trust me to do what I ask, even if you don't want to at the time? I love you. I'm not out to wound you or take away your freedom."

And... I'm getting the message that I'm to keep my car and not go after the truck and trailer right now. That is hard for me to take, because I had this whole idea of freedom and independence and security built up in my mind... and now I have to give that up?

Yet, I sense God saying to me, "I have blessed you so richly. Why do you want to throw that aside? This is what you need! Trust me. It's okay to want the truck, but trust me to give you what you need. I know the plans I have for you, and what fits into those plans best. Will you trust me more than you trust your anxious thoughts, or your dreams for the future?"

Oh my.

But, yes. I want to trust God more than anything else. I want the grand scheme, far flung, eternally solid happiness more than I want the immediate fulfillment of my dreams and desires.

Because, really... how long do we have here, anyway? Even if I got to keep my truck and trailer till I die... 70 years isn't that long. I think I can endure a little "discomfort" for those few years, especially when you compare 70 of that to a million of the other.

Eternity is waiting.

Trust is ensuing.
I celebrated my last day in Idaho by going cross country skiing for the first time. It was... actually fun! Both less and more work than I anticipated, all at the same time.

I was getting the hang of it, and after lunch, I swooshed semi-confidently around a downhill corner, only to find K seated in the middle of the path where she'd fallen. Immediately, a thought flashed through my mind and spewed itself out of my mouth- "I don't know how to STOP!!" In an effort not to take her out, or to fly off the edge of the path, I chose, instead, to wipe out.

In wiping out, I landed badly and strained/sprained my left knee. (I'll find out the official diagnosis from a doctor tomorrow.) The bad news? We were several miles into the back-country, with only one way out. So I kept on skiing. I feel like a warrior! LOL

Oh, well. All's well that ends well, right? Oh, yeah, and I'm going to lose a toenail, because I traded B his too-tight boots for my looser ones. (We're about the same size. Weird, huh?) They cramped my feet less than they would have him.

What an adventure!

I ended up hanging on to B for dear life when I wiped out a second time, re-hurting my knee. (You guessed it... K was in the path again. *sigh* lol) Oh, yeah, that wasn't the second time that day I'd wiped out, just to clarify. Probably the second thousandth! But the second time with injuries.

My legs were twisted awkwardly, the skis trapped beneath me, and I couldn't lean to one side or the other without seriously hurting myself. So it ended up being kind of awkward when B came over to help, and all I could do was cling to him and try to hoist myself high enough to reach my bindings. Well, I was crying out in pain, so he knows it wasn't just  a ploy. Still, awkward... as was our goodbye. What can you do in that kind of situation that isn't awkward, anyway?

It was good. I'm so glad I went. I hope I can pack my car tomorrow. Heck, I hope I can leave tomorrow!

I don't feel anything, really. A little nostalgic... but it hasn't hit home that this will no longer be home. We exchanged "going away" gifts on Friday night, and last night was a game night that a bunch of friends came over for. Both filled me in different ways, and left me wishing wistfully that I might stay... but, alas, the wandering foot is itching, and I must be on my way.

Still, though... this is the last night I sleep in my bed. Tomorrow is the last time I fix food in that kitchen.

Hmm. I'm going to miss them, and this life that I've been a part of. But I know I can't settle here forever, nor do I want to.

But, oh... I think I'm going to cry tomorrow... and on the drive down.

Tears of joy. Tears of joy. Remembering all the dear ones that hold pieces of my heart up here in the northwest. (K, you're included in that, you know.)

I'll be back. I hope.
At least this intense frustration and heartache and confusion has led to a strengthening of my relationship with my parents. Heh. No great loss without some small gain, eh? I've called them a few times, and they've been great with the advice and consolation and the reassurances that I am, in fact, awesome. Whew.

I have found that I experience extreme anxiety and "freaking out-ness" when I'm not able to fit all of my possessions in my car. I have too much stuff to just pack up and go, and that bothers me. In a big way. And I'm not totally sure why, but I'm asking God to show me and help me work through it.

Just when you think that moving is easy... it's not.

...ever wish that you could just stop sharing yourself? I mean, to close up, lock down, and not let who you are inside out? I wish I could do that. But it's not who I am. But sometimes I wish it were.

I want to be the silent, taciturn one with the impenetrable walls, the enigma, the... the one that doesn't get hurt.

Alas, no matter how firm my resolve to just shut up and not share myself anymore... I find myself spilling out of myself, splashing out into the world around me... and sometimes it really, really sucks.

P.S.-- I can't say it to your face, so I'll say it here-- I have nothing to prove to you. If you don't like who I am, what I'm about, and the way I've chosen to live my life, then you can go imitate a lemming. I don't need your approval, and I certainly don't need your love. And I'm NOT dependent! Chew on that. Grr.
"It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."
I used to think this expression was silly and pointless, but now I begin to see the truth of it.
Loving someone can be a beautiful thing, even if it's an unrequited love. That makes it hard, but it's still beautiful and special. I did not know I could experience love like this, and it's pleasantly surprising.
I've been thinking about D a lot lately, especially on this trip for some reason. Mom and I have talked it over quite a bit, as she's quite knowledgeable in the inner workings of men. (At least, it seems that way to me-- she's had a lot more time and experience than I have. That applies to life knowledge, period.)
A couple of days ago, I set things up to go work for his mom, S, when I get back from my trip. That'll earn me some gas money for my little/big adventure. After S and I finished our conversation, I realized that it's been almost a year since I've seen D, and it's been the better part of 6 months since I've even heard his voice. I realized that I miss him. I miss him a lot. Still.
In bed that night, I was tossing and turning, and crying. I asked God (again) to take this love out of my heart and replace it with a platonic love. (It hasn't happened yet.) It's so weird... it's like, the more time passes, the more my feelings increase, increment by increment. That's so DUMB! I want to be over him, I want to move on, and I don't want to feel this way anymore!
Part of the reason I know it's love and not lust or infatuation or whatever is because a.) I recognize lust, and I'm not pining after his body (although he is good looking), and b.) I'm concerned about what's best for him instead of what I  want-- a new concept in relationships for me. Oh, and c.) I'm willing to let him go. I don't have to have him, especially if that would be detrimental to him.
And I've evaluated several times whether or not writing to him is the right thing for me to do, in the light of "What's best for D?" (Or, at least, trying, since I'm still new at this kind of thing, and because I don't have any input from his side to help me balance out my evaluations.) It was the right thing for me to do, but now I've come to the place where I realize that to continue would be selfish of me.
I cried and prayed for D (and then some other people after I stopped crying) and tossed and turned for two hours. Could NOT sleep. So, as I was praying some more and thinking, the idea came to me that perhaps I cannot sleep because I need to actually write the letter I was thinking about writing at the beginning of the two hours, telling D the truth about how I feel, and basically saying goodbye.
So, I did. I wrote D a letter telling him how I feel, how I felt hurt when he stopped talking to me, that I'm praying for him and his future wife, and that I won't be writing to him anymore.
And then I mailed it.
And then I panicked a little.
However, I believed that night, and still firmly believe, that it was the right thing to do.
I didn't do it to "get him back". I mean, sure, there's a little hope there that he will read the letter and come sweep me off my feet, so to speak. I won't lie. However, that is outweighed by the near certainty of absolute silence and no response whatsoever, which is what I'm in the process of resigning myself to.
So why? Why write a letter that won't change anything? Because I feel that it is fair for him to know, so that when he goes into a future relationship, he has a bigger knowledge base for decision making. If I do not tell him the truth about what happened on my end of things in the relationship, I'm robbing him of the ability to really make a decision, because he is acting on limited information. Like, how can I be upset if I never hear from him again if he thinks that I never really cared in the first place, so why bother?
I guess I just felt that it was important to the health of his future relationships for him to understand what happened in this one. I've felt that way for a long time, but never knew how to bring it up. "Yes, the garden is doing great... the radishes are up now, and by the way, never just stop talking to your girlfriend 'cause you'll break her heart like you did mine. Oh, and our cole crop seedlings are simply thriving!" Riiiight.
As for me, it was kind of a freedom thing, a step forward in moving on.
Yes, I love and have loved him, and there is no shame in that. It's not a bad thing, and I don't have to hide it. It proves that I'm human, thank goodness.
I freaked out a little, though, because egads-- what will he think of me?! And what if he reads it and does do something? What if he calls me?
And, honestly, though I'm resigning myself to the likely reality of not hearing from him, I will be sad and disappointed at some point, because it's kind of like rejection, and who wants to risk that? But I know that someday I can and will love someone who loves me in return, and that will be glorious. So, until that day, I'm just resting in God and his timing.
For now, I want to learn how to love God better.
And you know what? As hard as it is to love someone who seems to ignore you, this has given me a tear-filled glimpse into the heart of God that yearns over humanity. It's both beautiful and tragic at the same time.
However, as Mom pointed out earlier today... D can't forget about me, either. I mean, I left, and he was leaving... and that's when he calls me and wants to get together? And then we break up, time passes, he's seemingly forgotten about me... and I get that text about how he thinks about me a lot.
So maybe there's more there than I thought there was. Mom also mused upon the fact that, since he's been married before, it's obvious that he's, as she put it, a "leaper". He gets involved in relationships, not runs away from them. So his running away might mean that he's defending himself against hurt because he has some strong feelings too, or because he didn't think that I was really interested, etc.
And we both pondered the situation of his past-- after getting involved in drugs and drinking and stuff, then moving back home to help take care of his mom, this is the first time he's really been“straight”on his own, by himself, for himself... not to please someone else. And he's chasing a dream he's had for years. I think, she thinks, we all think that he really needs this time to learn, to grow, and to figure out who he is and what he wants.
In the meantime, I'll be moving to one of the Adventist capitals of the world, practically, and meeting plenty of nice, handsome, young men. Won't that just be wonderful? :) Have fun in Alaska, D. I love you, but I'm chasing my dream, too.
Besides... I'm too restless to settle down! Hehe.
*Note: I never actually used the “L-word” in the letter. I just told him that I came to care about him deeply, and still do.
Mom and I are on the road now back to I. We are going to spend 5 days working on the house-- basically just deep cleaning, getting it ready to show for selling. We may do a little touch up painting, but probably not.
I enjoy traveling with my mom, because we travel similar, you know what I mean? We caught sight of this place called “Apple Holler”, a family farm and restaurant thing, so we pulled in on a whim and looked around. It was super cute! They had a live bluegrass band playing inside the restaurant while we were there, and they sounded good. Outside of the restaurant and gift shop, there were places where (when those parts are open) you could pick your own apples, visit a petting zoo, get a ride in a horse-drawn sleigh, pick out your own pig for roasting, etc. When we got back to the car, there was a beautiful, BIG, collie-type dog hanging around, so we played with her for a while before we left.
We still made it in time to a kosher market in Chicago we had planned on stopping at. We didn’t know exactly what would be open, so we went to the Jewish section and drove the main drag until we saw one open. When I caught sight of all these very obviously Jewish guys hanging around inside, I was concerned it would be awkward or uncomfortable (like when you walk into a Middle Eastern or Indian store and they all kind of stare awkwardly and shift around?), but they were quite friendly and very funny. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I fancy that I’ll enjoy my kosher pot roast just as much! lol I was very glad that Mom was with me, though. She is gregarious and outgoing, and I was relying on that. She didn’t let me down. :)
Mom took me out to lunch the other day. We had intended to hit up this raw, vegan restaurant in GB, and they were supposed to be open, but when we got there they were closed!! However, down the street was this awesome little place called the Urban Frog, and they had lots of yummy stuff too. After our delicious salads, Mom and I decided to pop into the antique mall next door, just for fun. We were window-shopping there long enough that the shift changed, and a lady came in to work the register where previously there had been a man. We kind of started chatting when I found a dress I wanted to try on, and while I was waiting for Mom afterward we struck up a conversation. Turns out she had a pretty lousy holiday stretch, because she has no family to speak of. So, I invited her to have Christmas or New Year’s with us next year, and she accepted! Mom joined us and our conversation, and was just as excited at the prospect as we were. Mom intends to visit from time to time and maintain a friendship with S. I think she could use a friend-- she kinda seemed like she just needed to talk, and I didn’t mind listening. I was thinking later... wouldn’t it be totally hilarious if she ended up becoming a beloved addition to the family? I mean, really, you never know.
I realized tonight that I have two weeks until I move away from I. What a thought. Everything I’ve known for the last two years is about to change... again. Seems to be an established pattern, now-- move, stay two years, move, stay two years, move, stay two years, move... But, how can I ever expect to have adventures if I stay in the same place all the time? (Speaking of adventure, did you know that raw tuna is actually good? I was dubious, but proven wrong today. Let’s just say that my mom is slightly crazy and leave it at that...)
I am quite looking forward to some of the things I’ll have the opportunity to do in Y, though, that I’ve missed. For instance, there’s this annual spring thing called Midnight At the Oasis, which is basically a gigantic vintage car show that lasts for several days, augmented by cool booths and concerts. My great-aunt took me for my 13th birthday, and I was hooked. Then, there’s the Renaissance Festival in P, just 4 hours away, which takes place every spring. I can finally put my costume to good use again! One of the kids borrowed it for the Christmas program to be an angel, but it was a little big on her lol... Closer to summertime, there’s the county fair, which is a BIG DEAL, there’s an art festival on the library lawn (at least, there used to be), and then there’s always swimming and stuff once summer actually hits. However, I just learned that chlorine inhibits normal thyroid function, so I’ll probably skip the public pools for the most part this year. Besides, who knows what the kids do in that water?! Ahh, yes, and I’ll be hiking Mt. Whitney with the S's this summer. And possibly working on that organic farm for a month or so.
I think I found a way to make some “interesting” income between now and school starting. I made a couple of batches of “bath cookies” last night, and they turned out really cute, especially the Oatmeal Cinnamon ones. (A bath cookie is an inedible disc made of epsom salt, essential oils, and fragrances that you add to your bath water to help smooth and soften your skin, and to help you relax. The best part is... they actually look like cookies!) The Chocolate Chip ones need a little tweaking. Anyway, I made a bunch to give to some lovely ladies in my life (S included, but don’t tell her, k? It’s a surprise!), and then I got the idea... I could totally market these. I checked it out online, and I just may have a niche. There’s really no supply on the marketplace that I checked out, but the question really is, “Is there a demand?” Mom thinks there is, and I’m of the opinion that there probably is. I mean, people buy bath bombs and cute soaps and stuff, so why not this? It doesn’t take much capital to start, and I could even hit up the little shops in downtown/Old Y to see if they’ll carry my cookies. The key really is packaging-- that’ll be crucial. My sister already tested the cookies for me, and they work well. It was so cute! J, the youngest, was like, “I want to smell like a cookie! Can I take a bath with one?!” Hehe :)
I talked to S yesterday, and we’ve got it all set up for me to come and work for her when I get back. It sounds like she and M had a very good Christmas, and I’m so glad. Both C and C came! Wow! (I mean, you already know that, I’m just expressing my happiness and amazement.) I bet that totally made her year. I know you know she was sad that you couldn’t come, but I understand that you guys are having crazy heavy snow up there and it’s making work difficult? S has told me a little bit, but I didn’t know that it was record-breaking! That kinda makes me glad that I didn’t decide on A for school-- I mean, I like snow and all, but that’s a LOT of snow. I don’t know how this desert rat would acclimate to that... but, I suppose, that if I were there, I’d deal with it, same as I learned to deal with the snow in I. It’s amazing how the body and brain can adapt, isn’t it? I’ve been toying with the idea of pursuing a degree in neuropsychology after I’m done with massage, possibly... I think the two could integrate pretty well. Quite frankly, though, the function of the brain and subsequent human actions and emotion fascinate me. I never really thought of myself as a scientist, but... hey, it doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?
I think I have you to thank for helping me open up the door to dream. Towards the end of camp, you asked me what my dreams for the future were, do you remember? I was totally at a loss. I’ve been simply surviving for so long that to dream seems almost audacious. Since then, though... it’s like I’m more and more able to break through that thick, stale crust that was holding me back. I think my going to school is part of that-- daring to dream of a life that is more than little apartments and food stamps and minimum wage jobs and drunk boyfriends. A life that is about helping others and living authentically and truly loving God. Oh, yes, and good food. :) 
The more experiences I work through, the more I realize how much our time together truly taught me and grew me. Thank you. And thank God. He loves us too much to leave us the way we are, eh? We truly serve an awesome God, and I am more and more amazed at the way he pays such attention to detail in my life. It’s astounding, when you stop to think about it. So many people in the world, so many people who have already been and are no longer, and yet he knows and understands me so individually. He knows my favorite everything, my dislikes, my foibles, falls, and fantasies... and he turns those around, uses them to help me and others around me (for nothing, nothing is ever wasted with God), oftentimes without my having anything but a surface, superficial understanding of what’s going on.
I’m so glad he’s the one in charge, and not me!
Check out what I read this morning in my little devotional:
“You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me.
True dependence is not simply asking Me to bless what you have decided to do. It is coming to Me with an open mind and heart, inviting Me to plant My desires within you. I may infuse within you a dream that seems far beyond your reach. You know that in yourself you cannot achieve such a goal Thus begins your journey of profound reliance on Me. It is a faith-walk, taken one step at a time, leaning on Me as much as you need. This is not a path of continual success but of multiple failures. However, each failure is followed by a growth spurt, nourished by increased reliance on Me. Enjoy the blessedness of a victorious life, through deepening your dependence on Me.”
{Psalm 34:17, 18; 2 Corinthians 5:7}
Jude 24 points out that God is able to keep us from falling, but I think that oftentimes we don’t let him, you know? It’s like, we have to stub our toe, or trip and fall, or completely tap our energy and collapse before we’ll learn to rely on God in the situation we’re facing... when we could have avoided the mishaps in the first place, I think. At least, I seem to work that way. Is it just a “me” thing, or does that apply to the broader spectrum of humanity, I wonder?
No more time for wondering-- we made it safely to the house, and it’s one a.m. Two, actually, by local time. Time for sleeeeeeeeeeeep!
Good night. Take care. Sorry for rambling your ears/eyes off.

(The next morning, Mom hands me a holster and asks, “So, do you want the taser next to your bed or mine?” I thought that was too hilarious not to share. And it’s by my bed. I feel pretty tough lol. In all reality, I’m just the lighter sleeper of the two of us. And there’s no actual danger, it’s just that someone broke into the house once already, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you know? Plus, it makes a great little anecdote ^_^)
I didn't blog, since I haven't had internet, but I did write a couple letters to friends on my computer. Thought I'd share those.

Dear ______,
I can’t believe that another year has come and gone. What amazing twists and turns life has taken this past year, eh? I spent this New Year’s Eve in a nearly vacant house that my family owns in I. We head back to their home in W on Monday, but the kids wanted to see their friends back in N (where they lived for a couple of years), and Mom is going to take the opportunity of having me around to help her get the house ready for sale. Last year, I helped her recaulk and paint the master bedroom, and it looks pretty darn good if I say so myself. Of course, I am partial, since it’s grey paint... lol.
We were going to go to my aunt’s house to “ring in the new year”, but she wasn’t home, so I made supper and we sat around and read most of the evening away. I picked up a book about the Amish that was really good- I’m going to keep it and re-read it for sure. I got a book on the history of the Amish that Mom started reading, and it sounds quite fascinating. I’m also in the middle of the Count of Monte Cristo, but I find it rather dry for the most part (I’m really not terribly interested in the personal lives of the aristocracy of any time period). However, it’s a challenge I’ve undertaken, and I want to finish it before I leave. I’m 782 pages in, with 583 to go. I did the first portion in about a week, and I have a little under two weeks left here, so I’m pretty confident I can do it. However, I’ll be busier these next 2 weeks than I was the first week (I’ve done pretty much... nothing. How lame, right?), so I’m glad that I have less to go now.
After I finished my book, I wandered in to where K was watching Wall-E on my computer, and after a while Mom brought in the wine glasses and Martinelli’s, since we were falling asleep. So, we brought in the new year watching a Pixar movie and drinking  sparkling apple cider out of fancy glasses on my makeshift bed of blankets. It was memorable :) The neighbors on the corner set off fireworks at midnight, and practically the whole neighborhood poured out of their houses to watch. It was funny!
So... how did you bring in the new year? Sleeping? ;)
We threw a surprise birthday party for my dad the other day-- his birthday is the 29th--and it was a super sweet success. You might not think that’s a big deal, but my dad (step-dad, technically) is a super smart, super observant, kinda suspicious kinda guy. I mean, he’s got top-secret military clearance. He used to do special ops type stuff, and he tells me stories about being tailed by spies for crying out loud. Not an easy guy to fool. However... ^_^ we got him. A sherriff’s dept. guy from the airport he works at was having a birthday party at this bar and grill on R’s bday, so we pretended that us kids were going out to get some last minute stuff for a family birthday party that night. Unbeknownst to him, we picked up his birthday cake and went to the Stoneyard (the restaurant place) where we had reserved tables, and decorated them all camouflage. Jr. and J (my two youngest siblings) blew up the balloons while I took care of the table staging. K (the next one down in age from me) and her bf got lost on the way there, so they showed up after everything was done and decorated. (So much for GPS.)
So, while we’re doing all this, Mom (who had enlisted the aide of R’s co-worker M in her battle of persuasion) convinces R to kill the time before our “party” by going to this other guy’s party at the Stoneyard. He deigned to make an appearance, and it wasn’t until he actually reached the decorated table that all the puzzle pieces clicked together for him, and he was like, “Wait... this is for me!” just as we jumped up and yelled “Surprise!!” 
Keep in mind that this is all my Mom’s scheming. We brainstormed together, but it was mostly her idea. She’s really good at making things special. I can only hope to live up to her reputation.
Christmas itself was good, too. My family knows me and my penchant for cool, unique, crazy things, but they also recognize my desire for practicality, which means that I got some really interesting presents! For instance, my brother got me a set of ceramic measuring cups that are painted like Russian nesting dolls (matroyshka), and they actually nest inside each other to save space! Super cool. My mom got a set of salt and pepper shakers that are shaped like magic wands, so that when you want to season your food, you just wave a magic wand over it! Isn’t that awesome?! C wasn’t too thrilled when I was describing them... maybe it’s the whole “magic” thing... But I think they’re cute. We’ve been using them at every meal, and they work pretty well.
More than the gifts, though, it was nice to just be around my family. God is really doing an amazing work in them, healing them. The kids don’t argue and fight anywhere near as much as they used to, and that makes visiting home infinitely more enjoyable. There’s still conflict, yeah, and my family’s not exactly skilled in healthy conflict resolution, but... I see changes. I really do. And that excites me. Mom doesn’t, because she’s with the family all the time, you know? But I only get to see them once or twice a year, so the gaps make the changes pretty visible. Julia claims she doesn’t believe in God, but I’m not so sure about that... she has a soft heart. All the kids, actually, seem to be in the atheistic mindset, but they acknowledge and respect my love for God, and my desire for the family to have an active spiritual life.
The other day, J said something, and I misheard her. I thought she said “Laaaaame,” but she said something else. So as I was going back and forth with her on what she actually said, K jumps in with, “J! You can’t lie to C... That’s like lying to God!” Can you believe that?! I busted up laughing- I think it’s totally hilarious. However, I also see it as an indicator of how the kids perceive me, which is interesting. The farther along I am in my journey with God, the better we get along, it seems. I told them last week, all three of them, “I love you no matter what. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, or even whether you like it or not, I’m going to love you... and there’s nothing you can do about it! I may not appreciate or approve of your decisions, but I will love you, even if I mess up and don’t always show it.” I hope they believe it, because it’s the truth. God’s teaching me about love, and I confess that I don’t really understand it or know how to practically apply it, but I love my family passionately. And I always will.
God is teaching me about a lot of things... the past couple books I’ve read (excepting the Count of Monte Cristo) have helped to begin crystallizing in my mind and heart what I’ve been getting bits and pieces of for years and years... Simplicity. Generosity. Living a free, unencumbered, service-oriented life.
I read this book called Kisses from Katie, about a girl named Kate who gave up her life as an upper-middle class Tennessee girl, turned her back on college and a career, and broke up with the love of her life, all to follow God’s promptings to move to Uganda and help the poverty stricken areas there. God, through “Auntie Katie”, is putting food in the bellies of children who have never known consistent meals in their entire life. He and she are sending children to school so that they can have a hope and a future, not be trapped in the same cycle of poverty and ignorance that is grinding the life out of their parents and families. God, through her, is healing broken bodies ravaged by disease and neglect and starvation. God is showing his love in a practical way, through her little white hands, and she is telling people about Jesus’ love-- and they begin to understand what that means, because they actually see it in their lives. The kicker? She’s my age. And she has now adopted 13 beautiful little girls. That’s what God has asked her to do... and I think it’s fantastic. (Not that everyone should move to Uganda and adopt orphans and refugees, of course!)
I think that one of the beautifully captivating things is that she left luxury and comfort to live a hard life, to have little, to be nothing, so to speak... and it has filled her with so much joy and gratitude and love for Christ. She and her girls, they are happy with little, and what they have, they share. It’s not even a question. They just give, and God gives to them, and they keep giving, and it’s a beautiful, unbroken cycle. I want that to be my reality. Alas, I find that I am incredibly selfish, and that is not my reality... yet. But I want it to be.
I read that book on the plane, and I was lit with a fire and a passion that I was sure would never go out! And then... I hung out with my family for a week. My siblings, pretty much all they do is watch movies and play video games. And I rarely watch movies back home, so I tend to watch movies like crazy when I’m with my family. Otherwise, how do we spend time together? Plus, my family speaks in movie quotes a ton. It’s kind of just who we are. We’ve always done that. So I watch the movies... and I have realized... “garbage in, garbage out”. I really need to be careful what I put into my brain, because now I have all this “well, it’s not so bad, really” stuff floating around in my head, and all these swear words that want to pop out of my mouth in regular conversation, and all that junk has smothered the fire. Just like that. One week was all it took. Can you believe it? I mean, I had the best of intentions, but... *sigh* Don’t get me wrong-- I’m better than I used to be. I see improvement (because I’ve been doing this whole “visiting the folks for Christmas” thing for several years in a row, now, so I can compare and contrast), but I also see room for improvement. A lot of room for improvement. God help me.
So then I read this book about the Amish today, and I was impressed by how similar are the principles that they live by. A flame was again kindled within me, and this time I’m going to guard it much more diligently.
The message I keep getting over and over again is: simplicity. Have what you need, use what you have, and don’t get caught up in clutter. Give of yourself and your resources freely-- don’t bother counting a cost, because you can’t put a price on it. Forgive. Love as Jesus loved.
It’s so desirable. I want it. I always knew I wanted to be Amish! LOL
Truly, though, it’s the principles of Jesus’ life that I see mirrored in these two books, and I feel an answering tug within me. I want that practical Christianity that makes an impact in the world around me. I want that peace that living in total surrender to God and his ways brings. Yup. I want to be a Christian. Does that sound funny?
I have this fear that I’m going to end up settling, living a “small” life, one without lasting impact or meaning. But I think that if one lives the way God is calling each one of us to- the same way that he called Jesus to live- that you cannot live a “small” life. Mundane? Perhaps. Odds are I probably won’t end up in an orphanage in Uganda, or serving street people in Honduras, or helping to rehabilitate child prostitutes in Thailand. I may. I may not. The particulars differ with each person, but the important thing is surrender.
And I wonder, _____, I really wonder... what is God calling you to? Where is he calling you? I’ve thought about that sometimes- I wonder what your life is going to look like, now that you’ve given it to God. Seriously, what an adventure, right?! Sure, you may not be David Livingston the Second, but I know for a fact that you have quite a few talents and admirable personality traits. (Actually, David Livingston wasn’t necessarily a very personable guy... but oh, he was zealous! And stubborn. lol) I think that God can use you in a deep, meaningful way. I don’t know what that will look like, but I feel that you are meant for more than average... even if “more than average” doesn’t look like much to the watching world. (After all, Jesus never owned a house, did he?)
Well, another epistle from C... I’m sorry, I just have a lot to say. I like to tell stories. But, apparently, I’m not the only one like me out there! A couple of my friends from Bible college texted me tonight to tell me that the lady they’re staying with in Las Vegas (they’re doing a practicum there) is my long-lost mother, because she “resembles you physically (esp. when she was younger, of course), has a similar personality, loves tie dye, etc. etc.” They want me to visit very badly, which actually works out perfectly, since Vegas makes a great stopping point on the drive down to Yuma, and then I won’t have to do the whole 24 hours straight. I know I can, but it’s safer if I don’t.
I ought to sign my name and be done with this letter. Mom and I are going to work on the house tomorrow, so I’ll need to be up bright and early to make breakfast. (It’s so cute-- she says I eat better than the family does! So she really enjoys my visits, for more reasons than one. K’s very excited, because I’m making her favorite soup for supper tomorrow night- potato leek. Yum!)
I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. Your dog should have had her puppies by now, yes? I’d like a picture, if you wouldn’t mind... (Another thing I’ve realized being home... is that I want a dog!! My family has 2 border collie mixes, and they’re the best thing ever. Since my base of operations is pretty much my car, I don’t exactly have room for one right now, though. It’s a dream for the future. But count yourself lucky, my friend. A dog for a companion is a priceless treasure-- and you have 3!)
Happy New Year!
Take care.
P.S.- I finished the Count of Monte Cristo! Mom didn’t really want to work on the house today, after all, so I just did a little bit, mostly read the morning away. I, uh... had to “cheat” a little... that is, I skipped several hundred pages of useless banter and frivolous intrigue. I’m glad I did, or else I might have lost heart in the middle of the book. Come to find out... this is perhaps the one and only time that I like the movie better than the book!