How I Procrastinate!

I spent a good three hours at my primary care physician's office yesterday for evaluation of my incessant back pain that I have had off and on for, oh, SIX YEARS. The doctor looked at me and said girl, why you been livin' like this for so long? (Yes she really did. And I didn't have an answer. Hence my title.) One urinalysis, eight x-rays, and four vials of blood later, I was diagnosed with scoliosis (though not in the area of my back where I experience the most severe pain) and sent to both an orthopedist and a physical therapist to treat both that condition and my lower back pain, whatever is causing it.

And she gave me drugs.

Muscle-relaxers that I take twice a day. Because what I need first thing in the morning is something to make me dizzy or drowsy.

But they WORK!!! I took my first one yesterday evening before dinner and a movie. Joel walked in the door from his class and I told him I had taken my first muscle-relaxer, and he said, "I know." How well my husband knows me. Apparently I was somewhat, shall we say, relaxed in my demeanor. But the pain was so much less that it's possible I was simply giddy with relief. We watched a movie and when I rose from the couch I got STRAIGHT UP. Easily. And could wiggle around without feeling muscle tension rippling through my back.

And the skies parted and light shone down from heaven, and the sound of angels praising God in the highest filled my living room.

Or at least my head. Might have been those muscle relaxers?

Blows My Mind

"What wondrous love is this, that though I raise my clenched fist He opened up my hand to receive His gifts." (What Wondrous Love is This, Indelible Grace II: Pilgrim Days)

But for His grace, I am among the throng of angry people crying for His crucifixion. Without His breath upon me, I am still a heart of stone. Though it is my clenched fist that I raise against him, to war against His love, He meets it with mercy. It is the tenderness of a father who looks down upon his little child, beating against his knees in anger that belies despair. In my desperate state, I can do naught to save myself; yet without His opening of my eyes, I see not my own peril. I am drowning as I curse the shore, infatuated with the danger that is my undoing.

But deep calls unto deep, and the One who first gave my heart life suddenly causes it to throb anew within me. Though I struggle and fight, He holds me gently, yet strongly. Finally I realize that it is He who gives life, not I who claim it. My salvation is in my submission to the grace that irresistibly calls my name.

Peace, my daughter. Peace, and be still (Psalm 46:10). Know that I am the Lord who rescues you from the muck and the mire, and sets your feet upon a firm place (Psalm 40:2). I who knit you together in a fearful, wonderful way have written your name indelibly in heaven, in My book of life (Psalm 139:14, Hebrews 12:23). You are mine, and those who the Father has given to Me will never be snatched from My hand (John 10:29).

Be assured of these, My promises. I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:14), and My Word is true and eternal (Matthew 24:35).

Beloved, your salvation lies not in your own hands, but you are in the hand of the Father who holds you fast (Psalm 139:5-10). In the darkest of nights, the stormiest of places, rely not on your own surety but have confidence that the One who redeemed you will be faithful (Psalm 100:5). When you are pressed, you will not be crushed. Though persecuted, not abandoned. Struck down, but never destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:7-9). We are blessed beyond the curse, for His promise endures that He will preserve our life forever (Psalm 119:50).

It is neither feelings nor experience that saves you. Trust not your soul to high places made by man, through music and pretty words - anyone can be swept away by a charismatic leader and catchy tune.

But trust the Word of the Lord, which is true. You who believe in your hearts that Jesus is the Christ, crucified in atonement and raised from the dead in glory, and confess Him as Lord over your life, you are rescued (Romans 10:9). Doubt not, for neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Well Hello There

This may well be the most seductive picture of a cat I've ever seen. It started out innocently enough, with little baby Niko curled up on the couch next to me, sleeping. Then she stretched out her little paw and it was the CUTEST thing I had ever seen, so of course I had to take a picture. The sound effects from my computer as it snapped the shot prompted her to open her eyes, and the result reminded me of a lady with her shoulder forward, tossing an eyes-half-closed sultry look toward the camera. Can you see it? What, she just looks like a sleepy, half-awake, annoyed-with-mom kitty to you?

Well, she looks much different in person. So there.

Either way, she's adorable, and don't you just love my new Target pillows that you can barely see the corner of?

Also, welcome, Brittany, to beautiful Virginia Beach! Thanks for the chocolate cake last night :-). I still don't have pictures from graduation to post, but when I do, be sure they'll be up here for all to see!

Pomp and Circumstance

Today marks the entrance of our final Grover into the family of GCC alumni. Congratulations, baby sister! We're so proud!

Pictures to come :-)

And There Was Much Rejoicing

The elusive Fan Assembly hath arrived! Even now it resides beneath the hood of my vehicle. My heart is faint within me for joy at this marvelous news, and my speech welleth up in ye Olde English, for some reason.

Que Pasa?

Today is Tuesday. I haven't blogged in almost a week, so I feel I should update all three of you on what's been going on (even though I spent the entire weekend with Becca, so that takes care of one of my readers...).

1. I'm tired.

2. We had a fabulous weekend with Scott and Becca and the rest of the family. Many thanks to the New Jersey Pearces for your love and hospitality. It was so good to see you! Also, congratulations to Dan for earning enough points to be allowed back.

3. My car. is STILL. NOT. DONE. Don't even get me started.

4. The zoom-zoom was, thankfully, finished on Wednesday in time for us to get a late-ish start to New Jersey. We were there by 12:30, which wasn't too bad, and Scott and Becca even stayed up (sort of) to welcome us.

5. Joel and I began the summer semester at our respective schools yesterday. Yippee skippee for more classes!

6. Brittany will graduate this weekend and then come live with us to be our personal domestic servant for the whole summer! Er, I mean our esteemed guest. We can't wait!

7. Welcome home to Mom and Dad Steele, who were wined and dined in a castle in Switzerland, overlooking Geneva Lake, for a week thanks to my dad's astronomical work performance in the last year. Kudos, and we can't wait to see pictures!

I think that about sums it up. Sorry for my brevity today, but consider it a reprieve from the lengthy posts last week. I'm pooped, and I blame our weekend travel and my incredible productivity in the last few days. Did I mention we're getting ready for a houseguest?

In Which We Learn Patience and Trust

With the weekend post safely taken care of and published, let me now move to the DRAMA THAT IS OUR VEHICLES.

Deep breath. We accept and rejoice in the Lord's will for our lives, even when that will involves being stranded at 7-11 with places to go and no way to get there. May He be glorified in this telling of the story. Oh the crazy ridiculous frustrating hilarious story.

So last week, we took my car in for planned maintenance. It was due for inspection and ended up needing new brakes pads and shoes, as well as a new fan assembly and valve for the air conditioning.

I'm very good at sounding like I know what is going on in the automotive world. I actually just took very detailed notes when Ray called to tell me what everything would cost. More deep breaths.

So that was all well and good, because we are expecting my loan refund check and that great economy stimulus check later this week. But there was this problem with the fan assembly - Ray ordered it from Somewhere, whose employees are apparently unfamiliar with regular shipping conventions. The part was expected Friday....then Monday....oooh then it arrived Tuesday but....it was the wrong fan assembly. Do you see what I'm dealing with already here?

Meanwhile, I have places to go, people to see. Joel's doing great zooming around in his zoom-zoom, while I am canceling music lessons like nobody's business and begging rides from friends who stopped answering their phones after awhile (kidding). So we are already experiencing the stress and life-juggling of having only one car. Including the necessity of Joel picking me up from Covenant yesterday on his way (sort of) home from work.

Now for the fun part.

Joel and I are riding home. I had just (JUST) been on the phone with Ray, being informed that my car was not ready but should be done tomorrow (this is sounding familiar). He offered me a Chevy Tahoe as a loaner, but Joel and I conferred and decided that we could make it work with one car for a day (again). Our friends had all fled the state at this point, leaving no available free rides, but I could drop Joel off at work and pick him up, then hit the road for Jersey. Sweet.

So here's the timeline of the next little while:
5:40 Call Ray back and graciously refuse offer of Tahoe (because it's so big and Joel is uncomfortable with us driving it).

5:50 The zoom-zoom COMPLETELY OVERHEATED. Radiator = TOAST. Car = NEEDS TO BE TOWED. You see the problem here, of course.

6:00 Safely pulled over into 7-11. Assessed damage, phoned service people, discovered need for towing and repair. Car no zoom-zoom anymore. Zoom-zoom leaked out all over the engine.
Also. Places close at 6:00. Like Ray, with that Tahoe. And all rental car agencies within 50 miles. Oh, the irony.

6:?? Spent a good twenty minutes calling everyone we know. Finally found a friend within the state borders who could at least come drive us home (LOVE the Shomos! Thanks again, Ken!). He offered us their other car, but it's a manual. Figures. Driving stick is not a skill set we were prepared to refine on someone else's vehicle.

So here are Joel and I, at the complete mercy of anyone willing to drive us or lend a vehicle, lugging around all our stuff, including a big nTelos sign and his golf clubs.

Praise the Lord for His amazing provision. Ken was able to drive us to Joe's house, who has two trucks. He lent us the F-250, a.k.a. Great White. Remember how Joel was uncomfortable with us driving around a Tahoe for a day because it's so big? Well...


That tiny figure in the foreground is Joel.

In summary: In all our many years (1.5ish) of marriage, Joel and I have never felt so alone and helpless as we did when our one remaining car was stricken. Smitten, even. And afflicted? Perhaps. But at the very same time, we have never been more acutely aware of God's hand of provision in our lives. From the timing of my loan refund and the tax rebate to our winning a $500 raffle last week, the Lord has allowed us a strange peace (that surpasses understanding) about paying for all this car work. He has placed friends in our lives who show us the meaning of generosity; without our brothers and sisters in Christ, we would still be at that 7-11 (or about halfway home on foot). It is humbling to be forced to rely on others for something as basic as transportation, and yet we marvel at the grace demonstrated by all involved.

Needless to say, we spent an extra few minutes bowed over our Chinese take-out last night, thanking our sovereign Rock and Shield for lavishing His blessings upon us. For safety, for finances, for friends, and for Great White. We prayed confidently for one of our vehicles to be finished today in time for our New Jersey departure.

In the words of one John Newton, as re-sung by Matthew Smith:

Though troubles assail,
And dangers affright;
Though friends should all fail,
And foes all unite,
Yet one thing secures us,
Whatever betide:
The Scripture assures us,
“The Lord will provide.”

The birds, without barn
Or storehouse, are fed;
From them let us learn
To trust for our bread;
His saints what is fitting
Shall ne’er be denied,
So long as ’tis written,
“The Lord will provide.”

....(verses omitted)....

No strength of our own,
Nor goodness we claim;
Our trust is all thrown
On Jesus’ dear name.
In this our strong tower
For safety we hide;
The Lord is our power,
“The Lord will provide.”

When life sinks apace,
And death is in view,
The word of His grace
Shall comfort us through;
Not fearing or doubting,
With Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting,
“The Lord will provide.”

("The Lord Will Provide", from the album "All I Owe". Available at www.igracemusic.com)

What a Weekend!

You may have noticed that I took the weekend off from blogging (all two of you who are regular readers :-)). Well, I posted on Saturday I guess. But after that, we were having WAY too much fun to even think about the interweb!

Saturday:
With the help of our friends the Shomos, we discovered the beauty of First Landing State Park. The Shomos brought baby Cullen in his Jeep stroller (definitely built for some off-roading) and their two whippets, Smarty and Scoche. We brought....sunglasses. And a camera!

Here is Cullen all ready to go in his seriously hardcore stroller (it has an odometer, built-in tunes, and check out those wheels!).



And the entire happy family...Joel walked in the back, so there really are no pictures of anyone's face but Cullen's (not necessarily a bad thing, he's cute enough for all of us).



We enjoyed two hours of pleasant, if not aimless, hiking. Some of us may have experienced difficulty interpreting the complicated maps provided at the service building. But I'm not mentioning any names. We saw a LOT more of the park than we intended...or maybe it's a lot less, since we never made it to that lake... Regardless, we had a fantastic time walking and talking with Cheryl and Ken and co., and it was great to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather we've been having. Thanks, Shomos, for introducing us to First Landing!

Sunday:
Was, of course, Joel's birthday! He's the big 2-4!

Happy birthday, oh husband of my youth!

We celebrated by worshiping together in spirit and in truth, and then eating lots of yummy food at the College & Career lunch after church. It's nice of them to let us attend things, because we're not in college anymore and not so much on the career track yet either. Anyway, I brought an orange cake (Joel's request - so unconventional, that one!) and Turkey Hill ice cream (his favorite!) to make it a true birthday celebration. And of course we all sang to him. Joel was grateful for his First Landing-induced sunburn, which hid his flaming embarrassment at being the center of attention.

In between church and lunch, we hurried home so I could make the cake, and so that he could open his presents (who wants to wait til after lunch?). Doesn't he look lovely surrounded by his gifts?


Incidentally, there is no birthday wrapping paper in our home. Hence, multitudes of gift bags that we have received from others along the way. If I had been able to successfully upload a photo from my birthday, you would have noticed that it looks remarkably similar. Almost as though all the same gifts were present at my birthday, and simply a different smiling birthday face hovering above them. Ah, the beauty of re-gifting. We're starting to really get attached to these bags - especially the Hawaiian shirt one, and the huge one on the left that is useful for ironically giving really tiny gifts. It'll be a sad day when we have to let one go and buy a new one. Or (gasp) wrapping paper! Maybe we should do that sooner rather than later. We're probably stunting the development of our gift-wrapping skills. I wonder when the critical period is, beyond which it will be impossible to learn how to wrap tightly with sharp corners.

Oh, the Geekdom that is my life.

At least my husband thinks I'm funny. Although...I wasn't really trying to be funny. This is the WAY I THINK, people. The nerdy psychology jokes just COME to me. Consider yourself warned: Stay away from psychology school if you're not prepared for it to happen to you!

Niko Needs Treatment

Niko, fondly referred to as Little Baby Niko even though she has blossomed into kitty adolescence, likes to sit in the window and make a noise somewhere between a purr, a growl, and a meow. Observe:


video


Should we be concerned?

Our (My) Very First Yardwork

Today, for the first time EVER, I did yard work in my VERY OWN YARD. Or as close as I've ever had to my very own yard. We may not own the dirt, but the people who do are very very far away and what they don't know won't hurt us.

Behold, the Before Pictures:




In case you can't tell from the pictures (ha), the front of our house is UGLY. The beds are full of nasty multicolored gravelly rocks and subsequently rocky dirt, a plethora of weeds, and in the third picture, nothing at all. Just dirt. Right out next to our front stoop. Nasty! Something needs to be done.

And that something involves completely pulling everything out and starting over with something hardy and non-direct-sunlight-requiring. And lots of mulch.

Today I made a start (the pictures above are Mostly Before...I had actually already weeded a LOT out of the long bed). Then I realized that shoveling rocks makes my back hurt, and decided that my husband is infinitely better suited for manual labor than I. I am a delicate flower, and he is a big strong man who has years of landscaping experience. But it makes me sad that shoveling causes me so much pain, because I really enjoy working with my hands and seeing something shaped and changed because of my work.

Do you think that's how God feels about working on us? I wonder if he tools around in my life with big gloves on, pulling out weeds and roots and whistling while he does it because he enjoys it SO MUCH and can't wait to see the finished product. What a neat thought! I bet his lower back doesn't seize up when he breaks out the shovel though.

Kind of Like Me

So my blog has been undergoing a bit of a wardrobe crisis lately.

It's like when you have to go somewhere important (like, say, the grocery store) and you care a lot about how you look, so you go through about five outfits on your way to The One.

So if you've been visiting my blog with any regularity recently, you may have noticed about three or four different background templates. Picture my blog twirling around in front of a virtual mirror, deciding whether this background is really "it". Or "me". Whatever.

Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of whatever template is currently up. Since they're changing, maybe include some clue as to which one you're commenting on - like "the hummus-colored background" or "the block-y one with a pinkish red part at the top". Allow your descriptive genius to run wild.

I realize this is the online equivalent of running over to my sister's room to ask "Hey how about this? Does this look good on me?" but a strategy that worked for 18 years can't be all bad when transfered to the interweb, can it?

At least my husband doesn't have to bear alone the inordinate pressure of deciding whether to tell me that my blog really looks a little too wide in hummus.