Writing Practice

Before this past summer, I never really thought of writing as something to be practiced. To be honest, I’ve never been too good with the idea of “practice,” anyway. It always felt unproductive. I practiced my trumpet in school mainly because we had to log how many hours of practice we did at home and get graded on it, and I was too strict with myself to lie about the time spent practicing.

I’m pretty sure the only reason I learned to type properly was due to my awesome keyboarding teacher Mrs. Smith, who made a song and dance to the sound of our practice typing.

FJF (space) FJF (space) *Mrs. Smith does a little dance*

Usually, though, I’m too interested in the finished product.  I guess I thought that all writing needed to be awesome in order to be valuable. I didn’t think that I could just write nonsense in a spiral notebook and practice my craft so that my writing is better when it comes to creating that final product.

I knew that writers write and that if I wanted to be a writer I should write more. But I thought that meant, “write more good, finished products.” Now, I know better. I’ve been reading library books and trying to take in all the advice about writing practice. Two of my favorites so far have been Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Finding Your Writer’s Voice by Thaisa Frank & Dorothy Wall.

Tips for practicing writing:

  • Use pen and paper. At least try it. It feels totally different from typing, and the words seem to flow more naturally.
  • Write regularly. Be as regular as you can, and write SOMETHING. Anything.
  • Write in different circumstances. When you’re alert or tired, when you’re alone or in company, when you’re stressed and calm, when you’re inside or outside, with a cat on your lap, in poor lighting, with a brownie on the table, with tea steeping on the counter, with distractions and without. Change it up. Try everything.
  • Don’t read back over your writing practice right away.
  • Find things to write about. Make notes (in your journal, on your phone, through email, whatever), and take inspiration from life. Take notice if a neat phrase crosses  your mind out of nowhere. It won’t stick with you for long. Watch people. Look at things. Use these notes as prompts to begin your writing practice.

Writers must write

Writers do write and must write, and the truth is that practice is far from unproductive. In fact, whatever your craft is, you have to do it over and over and over again if you want to become great. Great cooks cook. Great painters paint. Great musicians music. (Yeah, I just said that. Deal with it.) Great writers write.

Practice: to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

Some bits and pieces from my notebook:

The hot-pink high-heel dangled from one finger. . .

At the first sound of raindrops, the cat dashed for cover under the couch. . .

The waves were huge. I had never seen them so big, so violent. So green. . .

I’m gripping his hand. Partly for the security, partly to ground me in reality. Partly because I can’t explain or express what I’m feeling, but I know it’s okay because he’s there. . .

Libraries are cool. All the books smell of books. . .

Green crunchy cabbage is good in ramen. . .

The fan of the AC whirrs and blows and motors on. . .

League of Legends: the game where you die. The game that kills you, enrages you, addicts you. . .

Spoons

Christine Miserandino wrote an article about a metaphor she used to explain her chronic illness (Lupus) to a friend. The metaphor was called The Spoon Theory. You should read it if you haven’t already. Please, go read it. It is interesting and eye-opening, and it will shed a lot of light on the rest of this post, too.

As I read Christine’s article, I was surprised how much I felt my own eyes were being opened. At first I thought, yeah, she’s ill, and she’s fatigued, and she has to think more about things that much of the world takes for granted. I knew that. I didn’t think I’d be learning too much, but I really wanted to see how the spoons came into play. As she got into the metaphor/comparison/whatever, I started to feel a little twinge of guilt. I thought I knew it all, but some of those things were catching me off-guard. It brought up emotions I didn’t expect to feel. It surprised me. I came away with a deeper understanding and sympathy, and I also began to form an idea for how I might be able to explain at least one aspect of Asperger’s to those who don’t have any experience with it.

I thought about changing the name and the metaphor around more, but I want to stick with Christine’s idea of the spoon theory because she should really get the credit for the creativity. I don’t want to change it to forks and distance myself from her original thought. Or whatever. So here we have The Reverse Spoon Theory – Too Many Spoons.

Here’s the background: you have an Autism spectrum disorder, but you are considered “high-functioning.” You work from home, you live alone with your cat, and you’re going through a stressful time. You can pick the stressor. Maybe you just found out you’re pregnant. Maybe you’re separated from your spouse. Maybe a friend or parent is terminally ill. Maybe you are about to lose your apartment and you have to move right away.

Yesterday was a bad day for you, and you got to bed late. You were exhausted and stressed, so you didn’t sleep well, and you had bad dreams. Come this morning, you wake up to your alarm tired and grumpy, and you have six spoons in your hand already. You know that every action you take today could land you with another (one or more) spoon(s), so you must choose wisely what you will do.

You shut off your alarm and throw back the covers and manage to get out of bed. Maybe the first thing you do once you’re up is get dressed. A blue button-up shirt catches your eye, and you put that on. It has a big brown stain right in the middle, and you know you have a video call this morning for work and a trip to the store to make later, so that won’t do. There’s another spoon for you to hold on to. Stinks because it was a comfy shirt, too. You throw it on your bed and search the closet. Two more spoons in hand because you can’t seem to decide which outfit to wear. Finally, you throw on another outfit. As soon as you get it on, you know it was a mistake, because the way the collar is rubbing on your neck is driving you crazy and you feel so constrained that you can’t even move. You’re holding on to 10 spoons now as you try to undo the tiny buttons, but you’re getting anxious so it takes much longer than it should. Now, you throw that shirt on the bed and start the process all over. Eleven spoons. twelve spoons. The longer you stand there, the more spoons you get. You find a comfortable t-shirt and throw it on, deciding you can always change later – at least you’re dressed.

Leaving the discarded outfits on the bed, you move on with your morning. It’s just about time to get to work, which simply means getting your computer running. Hopefully, it will be a good day. An easy day. You could use an easy day.

Fifteen spoons now jingle in your pockets as you sit down at the computer and find a grumpy email from a client that gets you down. Then you have to make a phone call where you get stuck on hold, passed around to 4 different representatives, and finally end up with someone who refuses to help and says there’s no supervisor for you to speak with and eventually hangs up on you because you accidentally started to yell because you have a hard time controlling your voice. By the time you hang up, you have 20 spoons altogether, and what’s more you’re shaking and your face is red and you realize, suddenly, that you forgot to eat anything for breakfast.

As lunch time approaches, you’re starting to feel a bit sick, and you have 20 spoons in your pockets and 5 more in your hands. Simple things start to become more difficult. They require more concentration and effort. Lunch time arrives, but you can’t cook lunch. You can’t cook because the frying pans are all dirty and the sink is full so you can’t wash them and there are no clean bowls so you can’t eat cereal or soup and the sink is full so you can’t wash any bowls and you’re so hungry you feel sick but you can’t wash any dishes but you’re hungry and you can’t cook lunch or prepare anything because the sink is full and all the counters and tables are full.and on and on. For each time you think the same loop, you gain a spoon or two, until both your pockets and your hands are full, and you know  you can’t take much more.

Don’t think. Whatever you do, don’t think about the clothes on the bed or the dirty litter box. One thing at a time.

Just before you lose it, instinct kicks in, and you start to stim. You start flapping your hands and pacing around on tiptoe. A few spoons disappear, to your relief, and you are finally realizing that you simply have to clean some dishes or you’ll be stuck forever.

You get in to the dirty sink and rearrange some dishes, getting your hands dirty but managing to get just enough space cleared out so you can wash a pot and make some ramen for lunch. You eat it, and you lose another few spoons. You can breathe again, even though you gain back a couple spoons when you go to put the bowl in the sink and catch sight of the pile of dirty dishes that you know you can’t tackle right now.

What will you do with the rest of your day? You still have over 20 spoons, and you can only hold so many. The problem is that any number of things can add spoons:

  • a messy environment
  • an annoying “feeling” (from your clothes, hair on your neck, moistness, light touch, grit underfoot, the button on your pants)
  • certain sounds (types of music, a piercing voice, snoring, ticking clocks, someone clearing his throat, coughing, too much bass)
  • bright lights
  • not enough light
  • forgetting something simple
  • getting stuck in a loop (like the lunch situation)
  • being hungry
  • having to repeat yourself
  • having to ask others to repeat themselves
  • being in a crowd
  • going shopping
  • making decisions
  • trying on clothes
  • chaotic environments

If you get into enough bad situations, you will end up with simply more spoons than you can carry. Then it just takes one more. A wrong look, a complaint from someone, a stray thought. You may be home alone, or walking the dog, or at Walmart, or in front of your parents / kids / spouse / friends / strangers.

If just one more spoon appears, you drop them all. Your pockets rip apart. You lose it, and you are suddenly unable to see or focus on anything but your spoons. You know where each on e came from, and they’re all laid out in front of you. You will very likely lose the ability to form sentences or even words, so forget trying to explain to anyone around why you’re freaking out. For the duration of your meltdown, you’re pretty much incapable of doing anything productive. If you’re like me, you’ll be bawling the whole time, but it’s slightly different for everyone. There do not need to be tears for it to be a meltdown.

Meltdowns feel a little like what I imagine a panic attack to feel like. A little. Anyway, it’s terrible, especially if you’re in public.

You may think you’re free & clear after a meltdown since you dropped all your spoons – not so. It has a lasting effect, and you come away with a lot of spoons back in hand. Not quite as many, but you’re already well on your way to the next meltdown. Spoons multiply like that.

Christina, who wrote the original spoon theory, has a trick for dealing with a spoon shortage: she always keeps a spare tucked away. For me, the problem is an abundance, and the trick I have had to learn in that situation is to keep the numbers down consistently. I’ve got to recognize if I’m on an upward trend and catch myself long before I reach the breaking point. If I wait too long, it will be too late. I’ve got to find things to do and ways to think that break the trend and bring the number of spoons down to a manageable handful. I may need to “veg out” in front of the TV, nap, vent, or have some time with my current “special interest.” I may need to stim or do something creative or change my environment. None of these will work every time, so I also have to know when to do which thing to manage my spoons.

It’s a challenge, and this is far from the perfect way to explain it. but I thought I’d try, anyway. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please share them in the comments section below. Smile

Budgeting 101

Do you want some very basic tips and suggestions for budgeting? This is geared towards you if you are brand new to budgeting – as in, if you’ve never budgeted (successfully). My desire for new budgeters is that they will get a good, realistic picture of what they have and where it’s going. I do not expect a new budgeter to strictly limit his spending, necessarily. What you need, to start, is a foundation of knowledge, and that’s what I’d like to help you get!

Why You Need a Budget

You need a budget because you have financial goals that you want to meet. It’s as simple as that. Think about it! What are your financial goals? Write them down somewhere so that you can remember why you’re doing it! Do you want to own a boat or RV? Do you want to just be financially independent? Do you want to save for college for yourself or for your kids?

Your financial goals make budgeting totally worth it. Worth the trouble and the effort. They are your motivation!

Some of MY financial goals:

  • Get the RV electrical problems fixed
  • Purchase fishing equipment
  • Take a trip for my 5-year anniversary next year
  • Replenish my emergency savings account which got depleted this year
  • Become a homeowner

How To Get Started

Budgeting is a form of organization, and I love organization. Here’s the thing: it’s hard to reach your goals without a little organization. You will usually get further and be more efficient with a plan, and that’s what budgeting is about. At the most basic level, you need to know what’s currently happening with your money. From there, you can add on limits and rules and other things to help change what’s happening with your money.

Get out a notebook or open up notepad on your computer and just take down some notes.

A) At the top, you’ll want to write down your income (or projected income, if you’re planning ahead for a new financial situation). Ideally, this would be your income after taxes. You can pull out existing paystubs to figure out how much that is, or you can estimate. If you know the exact percentages that will be taken out for taxes and SI, you can do the math. Otherwise, plan to cut out around 30% of your gross pay. Whatever is left is your take-home income, and that’s the number you want to make note of.

B) Next, it’s time to look at your expenses. Write down every recurring expense you can think of. Phone bills, cable, DSL, car payments, rent/mortgage, medicine. Remember, gas & groceries aren’t fixed bills, but they are regular expenses. Estimate what you spend, and write it down. Do you have anything on auto-pay that might slip your notice, like a Hulu subscription or your Everquest account?

C) Finally, subtract B from A, and you have C, your remainder. Hopefully, your C is a positive number, because that means you have a little cash left over. If you’re in the negative, you probably already knew you were in trouble before starting this exercise. Later, I can follow up on ideas to help change that number. But if you do have a positive remainder – congrats! Now you get to decide what to do with it! Your choice is simple: you will either spend it, save it, or invest it.

Now, at least, you know where your money is going. Keep track of it! Start working on keeping an awareness of your money habits. There are some great tools around that can help you track your spending and categorize your bank transactions to help with budgeting (more on that later). In a couple weeks, I plan to post a more detailed instructional on budgeting, including a real-life, real-numbers example budget – so check back for that!

Living in 250 Square Feet

It’s hard to believe. In early 2012, we were living in almost  3,000 square feet. In early 2013, our rental home was somewhere between 1,500-2,000 square feet. Now, 250. That means everything in our current home could fit in a single room of one of our previous places. Easily.

It’s pretty interesting. We do a lot of squeezing. Squeezing past each other in the kitchen. Squeezing past the dog or the rabbit’s cage. We squeeze around the bed so we can get into our closets. Making the bed is an adventure.

When we leave the “house”. the outside world just feels that much bigger.

The funny thing is that I had no trouble imagining living in such a tiny space when we were in full-sized homes, but now that we’ve gone mini I have a really hard time imagining moving back into a larger space. What would we do with all that room? What would we fill it up with? Will this forever change our lives?

Interesting Facts.

This weekend we had to completely rearrange our freezer to cram in a frozen pizza. When we took the pizza out, it was crumpled up almost like an accordion.

I keep my cat’s water in a plastic cup in a cup-holder by my desk – which also happens to be the passenger chair of the RV.

Our dining table doubles as Marty’s desk for his laptop and for doing homework. Also, it serves as our only real counter space for preparing food.

Our shower is a drying rack, a storage space, and a shower.

Our pantry holds food, school supplies, coats, and paper towels.

Are You Ready to Go Mini?

How big is your home? Our last place was a split-level rental home with 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms. I wish I knew the exact square footage, but I’d estimate it at about 1500.

Now. Now, we’re full-timers. We live in a space around 250 square feet. Far less than that is actual free space that you can walk through. Again, how big did you say your home was? Are you ready to downsize? If so, this is for you.

Why Choose to Live in Such a Small Space?

Maybe you’re alone and considering a small studio apartment. Maybe you’re a married couple thinking of going to a smaller apartment or an RV. Maybe you have kids, but you’re considering a small home for your first purchase. Maybe you, like us, want a change, want freedom, want to get away from the “stuff” mentality, and want to save money.leela moving

  • Money. Living in a smaller space saves you money. Payments are low. Can be very, very low. Energy consumption is considerably lower than in a large house, which means you save on utilities. Overall, you spend less on your living space – meaning that you can spend or save more on/for things that matter more.
  • Time. I could put a ton of time into cleaning and maintaining a 1500+ sq ft home. I was once in a 5 bed, 2.5 bath house, and luckily we only used half of it because it would have taken all my free time to keep it clean! Now, though, there’s just only so much space for messes to collect. It can get overwhelmingly messy if you don’t keep up, but it takes a fraction of the time to clean.
  • Stuff. We are too into our stuff. Or is that just me? Sometimes it seems as if all of my money, time, and energy either goes into my current stuff or into getting more stuff. I guess I’m just never satisfied. One thing we noticed when taking the RV for a test run (before deciding to move in) was that we spent much less time indoors playing with our stuff. Small spaces force you to get OUT, which is healthy for you both mentally and physically, and they take away some of the opportunity to collect more stuff because there’s just no place to put it!
  • Freedom. This goes a bit hand-in-hand with all of the three aspects I mentioned above, but small-space living also gives you a bit of freedom. especially if your small space has wheels, but even if it’s stationary. For us, it means freedom to live a 10 minute walk from a beautiful Florida beach – something we could never do otherwise (not at this stage in our lives, at least).

Are you convinced? You can do it! It can be a challenge, but it will pay off in the end. (I keep telling myself this!) Set your mind, and be ready to learn and adapt as you grow into your new, smaller living space.

Six Things You Can Do to Prepare to Go Mini

  1. Budget!

    Write down all your expenses and really crunch the numbers in advance to see exactly where you stand both currently as well as where you will stand after the move. Knowledge is power. I’ll be posting more about budgeting soon, so keep an eye out!

  2. Check out storage units.

    If you have the money, you can get a self-storage unit to house extra sentimental stuff that won’t fit. We have some sentimental items in storage, including a dining room set from my husband’s father – which we will be able to use in our future home. Prices on these can range from around $30-100.

  3. Aggressive downsizing.

    Be ruthless when you downsize right from the start. I’d recommend using the opportunity to really purge. Don’t keep things you don’t need or use. Be very realistic when it comes to the amount of storage available in your new living space and start 3-6 months in advance, especially if you work full time.

  4. Learn to live with less and consider the sacrifices you might be willing to make.

    I got rid of my coffee-maker and my toaster. There is just no space for them in the RV! Are there any “essentials” you can do without? Time for some self-evaluation!

  5. Make some lists.

    I’d suggest making a 3-part list for things to get rid of, things to keep, and things you’re not sure about. If you’re not sure about something, watch yourself over several weeks and see how much you really need/use it. Ask yourself : is it replaceable? And is there room for it? Prioritize your “not sure” list so you can see which things are more/less important for you to be able to keep. That way, if you discover some extra room, you’ll know which things should move from “maybe” to “definitely” keepers.

  6. Save up!!

    There are always unexpected expenses during moves. If you’re able, it would be wise to skip eating out too much and skip those expensive date nights for a while to give yourself a little cushion. Spend more time outside. Find free or cheap things to do with your partner/kids. Save the money-spending for after you settle in to your new abode and and the hidden costs are behind you.

Trusting the Only One I Can Conclusion

Part Two

Very shortly before we moved, we finally settled where we would be living. A first-time landlord was renting out a beautiful country home for a price we could just afford, and, man, the pictures were just beautiful. They even helped us move in and flew down from another state to sign the papers with us the very day after we arrived in Missouri, so we only had to spend two nights in an expensive hotel.

Fantastic. Beautiful house, tons of space, living in the country with plans to grow tons of veggies in the big garden, almost fully unpacked quicker than I thought possible. Marty’s work was going great, and they were promising him a promotion, and we even found a church to visit that seemed good. Yup, it was a good 2 weeks or so.

Then Marty ended up at the hospital. And I had a wreck. And I started resenting the stupid country home. Stupid house, with stupid gravel roads, and stupid ambulances and tow trucks that couldn’t ever find it, and stupid lack of cellphone and internet reception, and stupid everything. I felt unsafe, and I was worried about having an accident or emergency and being unable to get help. I was afraid to drive over 10 MPH, and my anxiety and depression went through the roof.

Mom, my hero, came to my rescue again. She stayed with me for a month at the beginning of Marty’s deployment when I was falling apart, and she stayed with me for three weeks here in Missouri when I was falling apart. She helped me a lot, and I got some support from my doctor, and I got back into counseling, and we attended church regularly at the church Marty and I had visited twice, but I was hardly praying, and I wasn’t really acting as if I trusted God.

Right after my mom had to leave, Marty and I spoke on the phone, and he revealed some things to me that were extremely painful. Things from his past that he had been advised never to tell me… but he decided he wanted to be open (and, in my opinion, he probably needed to get these things out in the open in order to heal). At first, the pain was excruciating, but that didn’t last as long as I’d expected. It faded and was replaced by an extremely heavy burden. It was so heavy, and I cried not because I was hurting so much as because I just didn’t know what in the world to do with this burden, this information. Where did life go from here, and what was I supposed to do every day? I felt kind of numb, kind of depressed, very burdened.

But God never abandoned me. Never, in everything I’ve gone through, and only a few of you really know everything that I’ve gone through. When I’m in true need, he always has made a way. My jobs and living situations, in so many more instances than the ones I’ve mentioned above… He always provided. Financially, always. When I had a wreck and was panicked? When we had to pay thousands of dollars for fixing the car and having a rental? When Marty was in the hospital? My mom was able to come, the money came just in time for our DITY move, and God put us in exactly the right place.

It took that kind of breaking that happened when Marty revealed those things to me to get to another level. Because for two days I carried that burden, and then it was Sunday. I planned to get up early and go to church, and I was going to talk to the Pastor’s wife that morning before service and try to get some help or perspective or prayer or something. When I woke up, though, I said screw it. Nevermind. I can’t do it. I’m tired, and I’m depressed, and I’m going back to sleep. I did. I went back to sleep. And then I woke up, and I had just enough time to go to church. I went.

(Sidenote: This church is different from any I’ve been to. They call themselves non-denominational and Holy Spirit led. They’re truly unique. And at this church, the worship service is basically in the dark, and many of the congregation (which is only about 15 people on a good day) go up front to this open area where they sometimes dance or lift hands or kneel or lay flat on their faces or wave flags around or clap or just whatever they’re led to do. It’s all completely unique. I spent my first two months there standing by my pew and singing, like I would have anywhere else, but I kept feeling like I should go up. Go up front. Go up front. I felt like I needed to just do it. Go up front. I told God he had to be patient with me because I’m shy. Just be patient, God. I’m not trying to fight you, just trying to work up the courage.)

Worship began, and I felt that tug I’d been feeling for weeks. Go up front. I thought about it, but no, I couldn’t. See, so-and-so is standing right there, and I’d have to squeeze past and disturb her, and, see, on the other side there’s so-and-so, and he’s taking up the whole space. I won’t fit. We got to the second to the last song, and all the so-and-sos left. Errr.. Okay, God. I guess… I guess this is it. I started to go, I stopped. I almost took a step, I stopped. I took a step, I went back. Finally, though, I forced myself to walk up to the front. I stood awkwardly to the side with my arms crossed across my tummy and closed my eyes and sang.

The female deacon of the church came up to me shortly afterward and placed her hand on the center of my chest, starting to pray for me. I kept singing. She gently unfolded my arms till they were palm-up at my sides. She touched my head, told me to let go, let go, let go, breathe deep. From behind me, someone was touching my back, and someone was holding my arms up until I was reaching up to heaven, and I started to shake. It was hot. I was worried maybe nothing would happen, and how would I have faith then? But I was shaking, and I was breathing deep and telling God I let go, I don’t want it, You take it! My knees were weak, and at least three people were praying around me as the last song started up.

They say you’re slain in the Spirit when they touch you and pray over you and you fall down. I wanted that, but I couldn’t figure out where the line was between resisting and simply letting my legs give out. Eventually, though, I was at the point where I felt like I was going to faint, and I just went ahead and sat down. The others left, though one put a light blanket over my head, but the deacon stayed and prayed. She held my face and prayed and told me to let go, and I continued to just try and do what she said. Breathe deep. Let go of everything.

When worship ended, I sat for a while. When I opened my eyes, I was kind of seeing double. I was still shaky, and I felt a bit intoxicated. But oh, I felt joy. I felt light. I felt… my burden was gone. As if God said, of course you don’t know what to do with this burden. It’s not yours to carry! The sermon afterward felt like it was just for me, and that afternoon I got even more encouragement from talking to the pastor. God has never been so real to me as he has been since that day…

And I could finally see how God had worked everything out just perfectly. Now, Marty’s going to be medically discharged from the Army, but it wasn’t God’s will for him to deny the orders to Missouri and get out the way he wanted to. No, we had to come here. We had to come here so he could have the care he needed when he ended up in the hospital. We had to come here so we could grow in the ways we needed to grow. We had to come to this house, because otherwise we would never have gone to this tiny church in the middle of nowhere. We needed to be here, at this time, and things needed to happen in this way, and even when it was too much to handle, it was all right (and alright!) because God had things in hand. He always does.

God is the One who will never let me down. The only One I can fully trust with absolutely no doubt or fear of being let down. Because of what He has done in my life (definitely not because of what I have done), I’ve finally come to a point of what I believe is complete trust in Him. I think it will be tested, and I think I will have to really put forth effort to live out that trust when I’m tempted to worry about things, but I honestly believe that I can say that I trust him completely. With everything. And I hope to learn to keep giving over things to Him as I realize that I’m holding onto the control or worrying about the outcome. Even when my anxiety and depression tells me things are not ok, I know deep down that they are.

And I’m not sure what else I can say. I can’t make anyone else trust Him. I can’t convince you that my experiences are not just coincidental and emotional but truly spiritual. But that’s my story. And I just want to brag on my Heavenly Father and how amazing he is.

Trusting the Only One I Can Continued

Part One

I was working a part-time job which I liked, but I needed income from a full-time job. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I got a call from an office I had faxed a resume to probably six months prior, and they gave me a job with a higher hourly pay and a promise to move me up to full time after a short while. My mom, always full of faith, said it must be God. I said ok. I was excited about the prospect of having enough money to support myself and move out of my parents’ house before they moved out of state.

I believe it was the very day after I got hired that I went to Goodwill during my lunch-break with my coworker from my original job, and there I found a couch. I needed this couch. It was in great condition, and I could afford it, and I knew I could store it in my mom’s house until I moved out. I can’t remember how it worked out, but somehow or other, my parents went to look at the couch themselves. My mom told me I should pray about it. I said ok. Later that night, I was whining to her about wanting the couch and asking her to make the decision for me. Could I have it? Her answer: did you pray about it? Me: …no… I pouted and went back into my room, laid on the bed, and prayed for the first time in a long time.

I asked God… should I get the couch? What should I do? And I heard…nothing. Not that I should do nothing, but I heard no reply. I heard nothing at all. I was frustrated. I went to work the next day still frustrated and still not sure what to do. Then I got a phonecall from my mom saying that, if I liked, they could meet me at the store after work to get the couch. I agreed, and we went.

When we got to the store, however, the couch was sold. I was a little taken aback. Like… *blink blink* … ok God. No couch. That was a pretty direct answer.

I left feeling pretty good, and I started to pray more. I prayed about my new job, thanking God for it. I went to work at the new job. I hated it. Okay… but God gave it to me, right? So I prayed, and I told God it was really hard, and I didn’t know whether to quit or not, and what should I do? Should I keep it? No answer.

I went to work again, and in the middle of the day, I was fired. Umm… *blink blink* … ok, God. Thanks for that. At least I didn’t have to quit.

I stayed at my original job, and before long they bumped up my pay and my hours. Then, again, they bumped it up, and I was working full time! When it was time to move out of my parents’ house, God directed me to a really great first apartment. Based on my previous experiences, I was confident when I prayed about whether to take the apartment, even though I didn’t hear a supernatural voice saying “DO IT!” because I had begun to trust that while I was seeking His will, He wasn’t going to lead me into something contrary to it. Around this time I also finally started reading the Bible regularly again.

Fast forward some, and we get to my dear husband’s reappearance in my life. We had known each other since we were twelve, but we had never dated. When it came down to deciding to date, I took it very seriously. I had been praying for months that God would prepare me to be a good wife but also to help me be content in singleness, which was something I had never been content in. Finally, I felt content, and there came Marty, and there came a new feeling about him that was more than what I’d felt for him the previous 7 years… So I prayed about it some more. A lot more. For about 3 months straight. And I sought advice from people I trusted, godly people. I felt peace with the decision that I should go ahead. All signs pointed to yes. And so we dated, and so we married, and so we fast-forward again.

Since that point in my life, I was kind of stagnant in my spiritual life. Actually, dating and getting married hampered things because I no longer made time for prayer and the Bible. I knew I shouldn’t make my husband my “god,” but I just couldn’t seem to get my priorities straight. So I kind of stayed where I was. I had a sort of confidence that God wasn’t going to let us walk into something awful if we were seeking Him, and that was about it. Then, during Marty’s last deployment, he got orders for Fort Leonard Wood, and Marty had to extend his time in the Army in order to take the orders.

He was basically forced to stay in longer, when he had been planning to get out. And we were both like… Ummm… ok God. If you say so… Missouri, here we come.

Things have been a struggle, let me tell you. Deployment was a struggle, but I grew some… Of course, my good habits of daily Bible reading and prayer didn’t really carry over once Marty came home. Things were just too hectic. We had trips to take and packing to do and a move on the horizon, and Marty was really struggling with stuff at work. The time between his coming home and our moving was hard. Deciding to do a DITY move, having to pack up our whole house and load the moving truck and drive ourselves and our three animals to another state… Oh, and there was the struggle of trying to figure out where we could live. I tried to trust God, but it sure felt like I was doing everything. Where in the world was He, and where in the world were we going to live, and how was I supposed to have any peace when it’s weeks till the move and we still have no place to live! See, really, I wasn’t trusting God at all.