Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Toothbrush is Lonely

I've always admired women that live alone. At times, I have even been a little jealous. I mean, they get to be in charge of everything and no one ever argues! If women who take on the world alone are full of moxy and are to be respected, then a woman who lives in her in-laws' basement without a car for escape or a husband to confide in have a truckload of grace and deserve a giant trophy.

This week, PK left me. OK, he didn't abandon his family and run off with a young cocktail waitress (at least, I don't think so). He actually found a job at last. Unfortunately, the job is six hours away from the 70's wood paneling and orange floral sofas that we now call home. The job is only temporary contract position, so it didn't make sense to re-locate the family and spend money on an apartment when we might end up right back here in a matter of weeks. So, here I am hanging with the folks while I try to say sane in the middle of frozen nowhere with no transportation of my own for escape. I'm not saying it's horrible torture to be here and I am extremely grateful for the home that has been offered to us at no charge. It can just be a little awkward finding your place in a household when you aren't quite family and traditions and routines are very rigid. When CT was invited to a friend's for dinner, I was happy that he was fitting in and making connections, but I really wanted to fall to the floor, grab his leg and beg him not to leave me alone with the uncomfortableness of being in someone else's home.

Our financial situation hit like an oncoming semi sliding across black ice on the freeway on Monday. In all our recent travels, we noticed a strange noise coming from the car. After sitting for a year in the barn, that didn't surprise us. We took it for an oil change, which seemed to improve things for a little while, but the noise returned. So, after PK left for his new job, I drove into town to the mechanic expecting to replace the spark plugs as someone had suggested. I left with an estimate of $875 worth of work that was "not optional". When I called PK to give him the bad news, he greeted it with a grim warning. "Please don't use the card. We're $200 overdrawn right now." I tearfully accepted the in-laws' offer to loan us the car money, but I was sure they could see the tail between my legs as I headed down to our basement for a good cry alone. When CT returned from school complaining about being teased because he gets the free lunch at school, my moment of weakness turned into a full-fledged pity party and I spent the rest of the evening wallowing in worry and oppressive sadness. Add in a buried late notice that our health insurance was in jeopardy of being cancelled due to non-payment, a cold coming on and the constant updates from El Sembrador about a new school year beginning...without us. I felt like I was being suffocated. When I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and found my toothbrush standing all alone on the counter, I burst into tears again. I felt utterly alone and scared.

After a few minutes, I did what people at their wit's end tend to do. I found my Bible in the bottom of my suitcase. Then something amazing happened. As I prayed for God to give me the strength to move forward, my mind started to wander mid-prayer. I started thinking about how we got ourselves into this situation with the intent of sinking further into desperation, I tried to scold myself for putting the future of our family at risk like this. I gave myself the "what were we thinking?" speech. But instead of making me feel worse, I started thinking about our time at El Sembrador. I thought about Rommel and the dirt floors of his tiny home. I thought of Reyes and his desperate need for a mother's love. I thought of Jorge singing while he used a machete in the grass...of CT with his Bible open on the front porch preaching to any kid who would listen....of the day we went to town and picked up garbage and of the day I wanted to give up and come home. Suddenly, my prayer changed from one of begging for God's intervention to one of praise for all that he has allowed me to experience in the last 12 months. Everything became focused and I could feel myself giving up the control...and the worry. Of course it is all worth it. My pride got in the way of seeing it for a little while. Being back in my own domain had led me to old habits. But Minnesota belongs to God just as much as Honduras does. So, I did what I did when we started this whole thing....I let go.

Things are starting to look up. I found a notice that my stock plan at my old job was still active and it still had $2000 in it. I sold it and we're awaiting the check. We also expect PK's first paycheck next week. The car repairs actually came in $100 less than we were quoted and now the car runs perfectly. Mom sent us $100 for PK's birthday (and because she took pity on me). And I made a trip to the Cities to see PK. We still have a long road to go for security...or maybe we'll never have it again. But I'm kind of ok with that. And I've come to almost enjoy the lifestyle of never knowing what the next day will hold, much less next week. It feels like we're still on an adventure together. I still miss having some stability and having the family together. Afterall, we've barely been apart in over a year and we're the only ones that can possibly understand how the others are feeling. But I know that I am not alone. My toothbrush may be lonely, but I'm not anymore.

One day I'm going to look back on this time and our time in Honduras as the best time of my life...a time where I was drawn closer to my family and closer to God. And I'll have no regrets.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Glorious Goodwill

No, I don't mean the kindness of our family and friends that we've experienced in the weeks since we returned to the States (although that, too, has been quite impressive). I mean that magnificent, under-appreciated shopping mecca that is the Wal-Mart of those of us too poor for Wal-Mart. Why did I not notice it before? I mean, sure, I donated a box or two of CT's clothes every year just to avoid the hassle of a yard sale, but never really paid much attention to our local Goodwill store...I mean, not really.

I've never really considered myself a snob, especially when it comes to finding a good deal. In fact, I have had to work very hard at a bridal shower not to excitedly blurt out how I scored that special wedding gift on clearance for $2.99. And I have been known to frequent the yard sales in the neighborhood, pawing through the tables and complaining that 15 cents was entirely too much to pay for that potholder featuring a large brown rooster and slightly-singed edges. So, why did I never consider the values at Goodwill before now?

My love affair started when I saw mountains and mountains of collected junk disappear from our home as we prepared to leave the country a little over a year ago. As the worker steadily unloaded each truckload piled high with box after box of old candles and my "skinny" jeans and stacked them into bins for sorting, I marveled as the house grew emptier and emptier while our new life in Honduras grew closer and closer. But this was just a small taste of the magic of Goodwill. I didn't fully appreciate this icon of shopping bliss until we returned a few weeks ago. With a son rapidly outgrowing his underwear and our suitcases full of impractical summer clothes, I really had little other choice than to rely on the endless rows of racks and inexpensive prices I found when visiting a Goodwill out of sheer boredom one recent afternoon. Now I find myself hooked by name-brand jeans and trendy hoodies affordable to even me. While PK was filling out forms for his first contract position, I bided my time at the nearby Goodwill store. And when he casually mentioned that the new position would require more formal attire than he had crumpled up in our suitcase, we made an immediate b-line to yet another Goodwill spotted from the highway.

Yep, I'm in love. Even when we are both gainfully employed again and dollar bills stuff our wallets, I'll never again be free of my compulsion for the bargains of the Goodwill. And why should I? I can spend hours shopping and spend less than I would spend on a Starbucks frappacino. You see, there is hope for the unemployed shopaholic in all of us...and it's name is Goodwill. My only regret is that I wasted all those years at Wal-Mart.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Proof that God is in Control

The Lord took yesterday's routine search of the classifieds and job boards as an opportunity to remind me that He is in control and that He always has my back. I came across an interesting posting on the newspaper's website for a graphic designer to work for a publisher with authors and editors to produce books. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity to learn about the publishing industry and the job description fit my skills perfectly. So I applied using the link on the newspaper's site. Almost immediately, I received an e-mail declaring that the application was not received due to technical error. I tried again with the same result. By this time I was tired of filling out the same web form over and over and decided to take my chances on the publisher's website to see if the posting was listed there. My faithful friend, Google, lead my way to the site which proudly claimed to be the "#1 pagan, new age and mystical publisher in North America".

Wow, am I glad that my God loves me enough to save me from my own persistence!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Gypsie Living

I know I should have posted sooner. I write best when I am alone with my thoughts and without interruption. Sadly, I've had very little of that lately.

So, it's a new year and we are "home" in the States. I use the quotes because we are, in fact, homeless to a certain extent. We are living like gypsies traveling from home to home living out of our suitcases and painfully aware that we may outstay our welcome at any moment. Don't get me wrong. We have been welcomed with open arms and are unspeakably grateful for the shelter and support offered by our family. But I crave the ability to leave my towel on the floor in the bathroom or to get out of bed without having to navigate around a complicated maze of suitcases and boxes or maybe just to have a moment to myself. I have to say we have withstood this last month remarkably well with very few arguments and only small frustrations despite being on top of eachother at all times. I don't mean to whine. So many have it far worse than us. Therefore, I will have to consider myself lucky to have these two whom I adore to share this strange time with.

As expected at this late time of year, we've had trouble finding jobs immediately. So, we've traveled a lot and visited both sides of the family. We received a small respite in Fort Smith when Mom kindly got us a hotel room and allowed us to have space of our own for a precious few days. Even though we still had to share the room with eachother, I  relished being able to watch the television and leave the bed unmade. We enjoyed the holidays as usual, but to me they seemed to pass in a sort of dream-like state. While my mind is adequately preoccupied with our current situation, it is the loss of El Sembrador that keeps me awake at night. I say "loss" because that's how it a death that I am still grieving. I miss our kids wonder about them almost constantly. At times, I have even finished my evening prayers without even mentioning our lack of job or money because I am so absorbed in prayer for our missionary family and friends. I long to be with them every time I get one of their update e-mails or am reminded of a time we were together. So it is in this state of mind that I celebrated Christmas...elated to be with my family, but devastated to be so far from where my heart is.

Thankfully, this melancholy has managed to stave off the panic and frustration that would normally permeate every fiber of my being had I been a similar desperate financial situation a year ago. I can't decide if I've actually managed to give it to God or if I'm just in some strange honeymoon period and it hasn't quite sunk in yet. Certainly, I have prayed to be without worry. But I can't remember it ever really working like this before. Of course, I am planning and scheming to solve the current situation on my own. But it isn't the desperate, panic-stricken obsession that I would expect of myself. And more often than not I am able to remind myself that God is in control and can easily turn my mind to other, more positive things. More than once things have not quite worked out how I would have wanted, but somehow I have managed to adjust and look ahead with very little despair. I can't really explain how this has surprised me. It's like I know I should be boiling over with hysteria, but I'm astonished to find myself in a bubble of tranquility. I don't mean to say I haven't had a few moments when I have wanted to burst in tears. I just have handled those moments much better than I could have ever imagined for myself. Even the moment when we were 500 miles from anyone we knew and found ourselves $530 overdrawn and without a dime for gasoline on a Sunday afternoon didn't send me reeling into hopelessness. We simply borrowed from CT for our fast-food lunch and then calmly searched for a grocery store that would cash a check that PK had forgotten to deposit so we could go on our way. Christmas cash covered our deficit and we were able to make a deposit into our account the following Monday. As time goes on, I wonder if I will find myself back to my frenzied self, desperate to be in control of our situation. For now, I am praying that the Lord will sustain my peaceful bubble for just a little while longer.