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Summer Sabbath is what my church calls That Time In The Summer When Everyone Is Away. It is also my favorite time of the church year because we all cram into the church for one service. Usually we have three services–one contemporary, one traditional, and one for the college students–and I don’t especially like to choose just one.  In the summer I can sit in the balcony and look down and see people I never get to see during the year. Also, the style of services are combined so that there is a mix of formal with the informal: amazing organ music and classic hymns holding hands with drum sets and guitars. I like the fact that each of us in the community has to give up the right to ‘preference’, and just worship together.

Sadie, on the other hand, doesn’t especially enjoy Summer Sabbath because there is no Jr. Church. In the summer, Sadie is subjected to the torture of sitting through the ENTIRE service, instead of getting to leave after the offering (and before the sermon…) Five minutes into the service, she is rolling her eyes and sighing and fidgeting and asking How Much Longer???! So Dan has been packing a surprise bag for her each week filled with fun stuff for her to do–pens, notebook, little dolls etc. He also packs a little snack and a bottle of water.

So this morning, as the service is starting, Sadie is pawing through the bag, looking for something to share with her friend Emma. We are sitting in the first row of the balcony and Emma is six rows behind us. Sadie pulls a screwdriver out of the bag and cracks up. She stands up and holds it over her head to show Emma what her crazy daddy packed in her surprise bag. Then she pulls out a fortune cookie. And a piece of plastic tubing. And a gym sock. Each item she gets she stands up and shows Emma. By this time we are into the first song and I am laughing too–I had no idea what Dan had packed for her and I was wondering what she was going to pull out next. A bag of Apple Jacks. A little package of elastic cord. Binoculars. A kitchen sponge. A chocolate covered granola bar.

What on earth!? It was all just so RANDOM. I’m nearly snorting with laughter and then the older gentleman behind us taps Sadie on the shoulder and says ‘Who packed your bag?’ I was relieved to see a sparkle in his eye–he seemed to find the whole thing as amusing as I did.

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I started running after my sister died. Well, running is a little ambitious to describe it. Let’s just say someone walking at a very brisk pace could lap me repeatedly. I always thought I hated running, but somehow–right now–it is the only thing that seems to make sense to me. When I’m running, I feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing. I don’t have mundane things over my head like ‘I should be unloading the dishwasher right now,’ or even meaningful things like ‘I should be sending thank you cards to people so they know I’ve appreciated their kindness during my sorrow.’ Both of those things are important to do, and both feel like insurmountable tasks sometimes. I may not be able to do them, but I CAN run.

I was trying to figure out what is it about running that feels right, and I wrote this in my journal on Tuesday after I came home from the gym:

Running and stretching open me up. I feel creative and alive and connected to myself. I like the feeling of being present–I’m all there when I’m running. It’s like meditation: focused but loose–and I feel released and peaceful afterward. The rock-huge boulder that holds my mind back from motivation is rolled away. I feel worshipful. Joyful. Open.

I’m intrigued by this joy I feel in spite of my sorrow. I don’t know how connected to running it is, but I am experiencing something I never understood before. That I can be mourning and grieving, but underneath know deep joy. Not happiness, necessarily. But a right-ness. Peace that passes all understanding, perhaps?

The sun and the beauty and leaves and the smell of wood stoves and the crisp fall weather–even the pinecones on the tree in my backyard–they are all trying to tell me something. Being in this place, connected to these people at this very time–all of it feels like God is saying: I’m with you. I love you. This grief is not forever. I have plans for you. Look around! See my hand. I am here.

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I’m feeling a little better today. Although Dan has been telling me for YEARS, and every book on depression mentions EXERCISE, I finally have begun a routine. I have been sporadic for years with exercise, but thanks to some great motivational friends here, I have been reaping some benefits of those wonderful endorphins.

I never thought I’d say this, but I like running. Not like I’m actually RUNNING per se…more like jogging reeeeallly slowly, but enough to get my heart going and give my mood a kick. My friend Betsy won’t let me run any more than a mile right now (even if I feel like running more…)–I’m amazed that God gave me a friend who seems to know that I have a teensy tendency to over do it at the beginning.

So we’ll be side by side on the treadmills (she runs FOUR miles…) and I’ll see that I’ve hit one mile, and I keep going and try to block her view of my numbers, yet she still somehow KNOWS and says “Shelley, are you sure you shouldn’t be WALKING right now???” Yes, I mumble with my head hanging because she caught me. “You can run more NEXT week.” she promises me.

Oh, goody, can I?? 🙂 (You bet I will…)

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Roller Coaster is so cliche, but it fittingly describes my summer. When we first arrived in NY I felt this sense of home–a comfortable familiar even though we we’ve been away from this town for 11 years. I was in wonderland–a cool breezy land of green enchantment. The trees, of course, but also the people. The extrovert in me was 100 percent GO–meeting new people everyday, reconnecting with old friends, barbecues, play group–where am I Heaven? People dropping cookies off on our doorstep, coming home to a gift of homemade bread; feeling so embraced, so welcomed. Top of the coaster excitement.

Then Dan actually has to go to work. Oh. So this isn’t Playtime Summer Vacation? I have to readjust to planning meals and keeping the house in order and wrangling an extremely social and extroverted near 6 year old–you know, do my part to contribute to Team Noyes. But now I have to relearn everything because I keep opening the wrong drawer when I want to grab a spoon, and my shopping/meal planning system doesn’t work here because I live out in freaking nowhere now, and Sadie is asking me four hundred times a minute: what are the plans for the day? I miss my friends in Arkansas–the ones you could pop in on, or call and say ‘we’re comin’ over, get the coffee on (Where IS my coffee, Shannon!?) And it dawns on me that I really have to start all over again with all my background because lots of people here don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, and these things take time. So I feel all lonely and wonder where I fit in, and worry that people are just being nice to me because they feel sorry for me because I’m really that annoying person who is totally intense and shares too much the first time I talk to someone. So my insecurity makes me all irrational and  tight faced, and I’m sure I’m missing out on everything EVEN THOUGH I have been invited to many things. I keep wondering why I feel random bouts of depression, and Dan reminds me that TIME is the answer, and that feeling at the bottom of the roller coaster is totally normal when you move to a new place and reality sets in.

Despite everything, though, the great thing is that I know we are supposed to be here. I feel excited and hopeful for the plans God has in store for us. For me. I don’t know yet how my day to day life is going to shake down once school starts and I can go to a Bible study and we get into more of a routine. I know that sooner than later I’ll find my place here in this community–the people here have been awesome to me, and I’m so thankful for being included so far. I know it’s going to be alright, even though I panic once in a while.

It’s about trusting, really. And letting go. Which I do when I ride roller coasters, by the way.  I love those wooden rickety ones that make you feel like you are going to fly right out of your seat. I purposely go slack and not hold on because I like the feeling of being held in, even when I think I’m going to fall out. The less I resist the twists and jerks, the smoother the ride feels. If I’m clenching on for dear life, I get whiplash.

Holy Cow, what a ride.

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A few pictures of our journey so far:

(when we finally found the camera!)

Sadie in new living room

I love our new house. I call it The Treehouse. My favorite thing to do is sit out on the back deck. I am decompressing here. I can’t believe how peaceful, how rested, I feel. Of course it’s maddening to have all of my worldly possessions half in/half out of boxes, but we’re slowly getting it done.

We have been WARMLY welcomed here. It is a small community, and people have been dropping cookies off at our doorstep, inviting us to dinner, making us lunch when the movers came, and just popping in to say ‘welcome to the neighborhood.’

Also, I LOVE the weather. Today I had to get out my wool cardigan. We had all of the windows open, and it was only like 60 degrees. Dan and I keep going outside and rubbing our eyes and saying ‘are we dreaming?’ I had forgotten how much I like to be outside.

Sadie counted it up, and she has 8 friends to date. I’ve reconnected with some old friends, and have met several new ones. The church here is really the center of the community–I feel like we’ve gone back in time, and I am loving it. Sometimes I think we are living in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. Everyone knows everyone else, and news travels FAST. When we got here, the former owners of the house had a long haired cat. Although the house was SPOTLESS, I was still sneezing. We had to get the carpets professionally cleaned, and the next day a person I hadn’t seen in 11 years came over to our house and asked how my allergies were doing. That was the first thing she asked me. How did she know? ‘Get used to it’, I’m told.

I love it here. The fresh air has done wonders for my soul. I feel like God has given me this amazing gift of a place, and I am overwhelmed with the joy of it. I am so grateful.

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Quick update…

Three families are looking at our house today. At least one of the three is so interested they are going to the bank, and may have an offer for us. We leave in 5.4 days. Talk about the 11th hour.

Thanks, dear ones, for praying. Now I must speed to make the house BEAUTIFUL…

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I’d like to say I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been busy, but that is just not true. I’ve been rather mopey–wandering around the house wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. We had the whirlwind of getting ready to show the house and my adrenaline was running high, and now it’s like I just ate a pixie stick and am heading for the sugar crash.

I’m trying not to panic about my depressed state. I have a lot of things changing in my life in a very short time, and that is bound to bring on the blahs. I feel suspended, like time has stopped for me, but I’m watching the world race by at lightening speed. I’m trying to live in the moment, but each moment brings me closer to the precipice of the unknown.

I’ve been thinking about how quickly life as I know it can change. One day I’m sitting in my friend’s kitchen having coffee and in a blink nothing is the same anymore. I rely on routine and familiar so much, and the truth is, life as I know it is precarious at best. The stability I feel is as solid as vapor, really.

Which brings me to the solid truth: Only God is stable. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. And all I really have is Now. So I’ll be thankful for that, and trust the rest to the Rock (and I don’t mean Dwayne Johnson…)


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