I sorted and labeled about 500 digital pictures last night, as Corey sat next to me on the couch and schizophrenically flipped between "Grendel" on Sci-Fi and "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior" on Disney. (Wendy Wu got my vote. I know it's terribly uncool for me to say that, but Disney movies -- even the silly ones made for the tween set -- always make me smile. They are corny but they know they are corny. They celebrate their wacky sappiness. And unlike movies on Sci-Fi, they don't give me nightmares.)

I hadn't gone through my pictures since early March. I don't take many pictures in the spring, so I knew I could put it off for a while and not get buried.

But summer is upon us, and I know the camera will be snapping pictures almost daily for the next few months -- "Oh look! It's the sun! Quick, kids, go stand next to the lake so I can remember this moment!" -- so I figured I'd better wade through the swaths of snapshots already in My Pictures folder before the deluge overtakes me.

As usual, looking through pictures from the last few months made me nostalgic and a little weepy.

I mean, the kids are growing so fast. It's alarming, really. It's true what the sage said: "The days are long, but the years are short." I see that so clearly when I look back at pictures, even pictures that were taken fairly recently, in the grand scheme of time.

But overall, I was struck by the simple joy that is our life right now. The kids are young and happy and they want to be next to us all the time (!!) and hold our hands. We laugh constantly, like it's our family's theme song, and we tease and make jokes and enjoy each other.

Life is good. It's not perfect, it's not necessarily easy. But it's good. It's achingly beautiful, every minute.

I can't drink deeply enough of this sweetness. My heart overflows with gratitude.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 7)

------ 1 ------
A good friend of mine wrote on my Facebook wall yesterday, "No updates for a while. The weather must be nice there in MN!"

She knows me well.

Sunshine + warm temperatures + open beaches = no blogging. Or Twittering. Or Facebooking. Or commenting.

Sorry. I feel vaguely guilty. At this point in the blog game, y'all are my friends; when I'm not online, I feel like I'm ignoring your phone calls or something. But such is life, and I know you understand.

If only we could all meet up for an iced coffee. That would solve everything, wouldn't it?

------ 2 ------
The nice weather has also lead to a rash of after-school stops at the neighborhood A&W. It's an honest-to-the-1950s drive-in, and it sells icy cold draft root beer, which is the only soda worth drinking, in my opinion.

Problem is, both times I've stopped this week I've spilled my drink as I've been driving -- as in, the cup drops out of my hand in slow motion, the root beer sloshes under the center console and runs toward the gas petal, I gasp and reach for the cup even as I steer in traffic.

It's getting annoying. And sticky.

I think I need a sippy cup.

------ 3 ------
My mailbox has been catalog central, lately. Most of them go straight into the recycling. They don't catch my eye in the least.

And then yesterday, I got a catalog called Athleta.

Apparently, it's a catalog for women who are athletically inclined, so how I got on this list I have no idea. I have an athletic build, according to most magazine quizzes, but that's the only time the word "athlete" has been attached to my name. I have never, in all my life, played a sport. I like to be active and I love to be outdoors, mind you, but I have never been on a team.

But this catalog! Oh my. They have the cutest swimsuits and cover-ups.

I love their casual dresses.

And this pants and t-shirt combo? This is how I dress every day of my life. (Except for the day of my wedding. But otherwise? I live casual.)

So while I have no money to buy anything right now, I'm keeping this catalog on my desk just so I can smile at it. It makes me happy.

(Note to the people at Athleta: If you need a blogger to promote you, I'm your girl. Also? If I could order the abs of this model...

... and the arms and legs of this model ...

... I'd be yours for life.)

------ 4 ------
A few weeks ago, I inquired on Twitter about water and sand tables. Since we're sans yard right now, the only place Teyla can play semi-safely (this is Teyla, after all) is our tiny little deck, and a water table seemed like a better way to keep her occupied than my newly planted pots of flowers.

I did tons of research online. (Story of my life, y'all. Story of my life. Corey should be glad Google wasn't around when we started dating.) I ended up with the Sand and Water Transportation Station (which I got at Target, naturally, and on sale, bonus).

I'm completely delighted with it. It's got two compartments, so we could theoretically put sand in one and water in the other. (It's all water for now. I don't need the mess.) The water pours down those funnels and splashes through do-dads and is carried around by the trains. The boats can also be scoops and the table has a cover and the compartments have plugs to the water can be drained when it gets too murky. (Also, in Minnesota, standing water is like a seedy motel to mosquitoes. I'm not allowing that kind of behavior on my deck.)

Awesome buy. Teyla is using it right now.

------ 5 and 6 ------
Can we pretend this is point five and six? Because Natalie just got home from school, and wow, the last four points took me an hour to write. Guess those blogging muscles get lax quickly when you don't use them.

Sort of like my ab muscles. (See point #3 above.)

------ 7 ------
Quote of the week, courtesy a devotional from Chuck Swindoll:
C. S. Lewis once likened his role as a Christian writer to an adjective humbly striving to point others to the Noun of truth. For people to believe that Noun, we Christian writers must improve our adjectives.

"Work at Home" Winner

Holy cow. How is it Sunday already?

The beautiful weather is playing tricks with my mind. It's a little like the way the long daylight at this time of the year fools with dinner. One minute, you're standing in your driveway, watching your kids play tag, wondering if you should maybe go inside and think about starting dinner. The next minute, you're doing all sorts of gymnastics because you looked at your watch and saw that it's technically 7:30 PM already.

Never trust the sunlight this time of year; just enjoy it. That's my wise lesson for the day.

So the reason I'm stunned that it's Sunday already is that I had intended to post the winner for Mary Byer's book "Making Work at Home Work" Friday evening. But apparently, I got sucked in by "Shanghai Noon" (and I'm so honest and/or carefree that I'll admit that publicly, which says a lot, now that I think about it) and my brain was left so addled, I went straight to bed.

And yesterday was a blur of sunshine and a baby who acted tired but refused to sleep. As a result, I was held hostage most of the day, waiting for the nap that never came.

Which is all a long, lame, rambling excuse, really. But what's a blog for, right, except to ramble when you feel like it AND give away cool swag to your readers?

So, Sarah at themommylogues, commenter #4 on the book post, Random.org declares YOU ARE THE WINNER of the "Making Work at Home Work" book. In case you missed Sarah's original comment, here's what she had to say:
I've been doing freelance graphic design from home since my 4 year old was born. And I totally identify with Mylestones -- I've had more than one work phone call that's had to end because I hear "MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM, I pooped!" in the background. Good times.
Yes. And I'm writing this with Teyla doing a pole dance on my right leg, whining and crying and wiping strings of snot all over my formerly clean pajamas.

We are a glamorous bunch, are we not?

So happy Sunday, Sarah, and to the rest of you, I've got EVEN MORE swag to giveaway in the coming days. I'll leave this as a teaser: CFA.

And now I've got to go change a stinky diaper. Why should Sunday be different than any other day?

"Little House" After School

When I was a little girl, I watched "Little House on the Prairie" every afternoon when I got home from school. Between the books and the TV show, I literally grew up on the adventures of Laura, Mary and Carrie. (And Nellie. And later, Almanzo. And much, much later, Albert. Remember him? That might have been when "Little House" jumped the shark, to reference another 1970s TV show.)

Anyway. In an ironic twist of fate, Natalie spent her after-school hours with "Little House" yesterday. Only this was a homework project.

You can read about it at 5 Minutes for Parenting today.

And if you want, leave me your favorite "Little House" memory in the comments here. Because I think a whole generation of kids grew up watching Pa cry at every halfway sentimental moment.

Here's some trivia to get you started: Did you know the Carrie falling in the opening sequence was an accident? It wasn't supposed to happen, but they were filming, she tumbled down the hill and refused to run again after that, so the fall ended up making history.


When Natalie finished her dinner last night -- Ina Garten's chicken pot pie, which is to die for, by the way, and includes enough butter and cream to make that a pleasant reality -- she asked if she'd eaten enough to have a treat.

We negotiated a bit; she had to eat some melon to round out her meal. But in the end, I pronounced her treat-worthy.

I climbed onto the step-stool and got down The Candy Bag, which is a familial collection of treats. And lo, I realized some of those treats had been in the bag since last Halloween. And in the back of the cupboard, behind the candy bag, I found two boxes of Hershey's bars, leftover from the cousins' reunion we hosted in June 2007.

Apparently, our candy cabinet is where candy goes to die.

It sounds noble, doesn't it? Candy doesn't get eaten at our house. We're simply too busy munching on carrots and hummus (which is true) and apples and soy nuts (also true) to mess with it.

But that's not the whole story. The truth is, candy isn't my thing. A bag of M&Ms holds no allure for me. (Unless they are peanut butter M&Ms. I can handle a few of those.) Candy bars are too big and too sweet. Even grown-up candy like squares of dark-chocolate Ghiradelli don't do much for me.

But these?


Oh baby.

They SCREAM my name. Especially homemade old-fashioneds. They pull me in, like little circles of seduction -- crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, freckled with nutmeg and cinnamon and dusted with powdered sugar. The perfect match to a cup of dark Sumatra with toffee nut cream.

In fact, if you take my donuts away, I might feel a little like Teyla when I was taking these pictures.

"What do you mean I can't have another one?"

"Bbbbut. But. I .... like them. And they like me! You can't take them away!"

"You're so mean! Waaaaa!"

I guess the good news is, I know my weakness. So I don't make or buy donuts all that often. (And, strangely enough, the Twin Cities have no donut stores -- no Dunkins, no Tim Horton's, no Krispy Kremes.) I don't trust myself to stay strong in the face of fried dough. Better to avoid the enticement and be the weaker brother than to pretend I'm strong enough to handle the allure and end up eating six donuts a day.

So how about you? What's your temptation?

Work At Home

Five years ago, when Connor was just a baby, I got a job working outside the home -- with an actual salary and everything -- using the oldest trick in the book.

I was sleeping with my boss.

Of course, the fact that my boss was also my husband made it less shameful. And to hear him tell it, my writing experience was the biggest factor in his hiring decision.

Either way, I got the job, and for a time, I went into the office every Thursday and played like I was a grown-up. (I even wore real clothes! Cute clothes! Without spit-up or PB&J on them! And I went out to lunch with my boss without a diaper bag. It was like a date. Only we were working!) The rest of the time, I worked from home.

Ideally, that meant I worked while the kids napped. In reality, that meant I occasionally locked screaming, crying children out of my office and hid in the closet so I could finish a conference call.

It was tough. Much tougher than I thought it would be. Working from home meant I could continue being a (mostly) stay-at-home mom while simultaneously earning an income. But it was like trying to balance a bucket of sloshing water on a tightrope.

Enter Mary Byers' new book "Making Work at Home Work." It's stuffed with all sorts of extremely practical ideas to make that balancing act work out. Plus, it profiles scores of real moms who have run the maze of having a successful home-based business and a happy family. Their hold-nothing-back stories are refreshingly honest. (My favorite part of every profile was the question "What's the most mortifying 'mom moment' you've had in running your at-home business?" Talk about blog-worthy stories.)

But Mary's book isn't just about balancing the family-work continuum. Being a successful entrepreneur herself, she covers important topics such as developing a successful business philosophy, setting realistic goals, dealing with demanding clients and maximizing your profits.

To be honest, I signed up to read Mary's book because blogging feels like an at-home job to me. (Only I do it without getting paid! I'm that dedicated!) I wondered how many of her balancing principles would apply to a person like me, who tries her darndest to balance the roles of "Mommy" and "writer."

The answer? There's a lot of crossover. Balance is balance, whether you're working for a boss or for your own satisfaction.

But I found this book has so much more to offer; it's really designed for someone who wants to make money with their at-home career, whether it's someone with a home-based business (like Creative Memories or Pampered Chef) or someone with flex benefits at their corporate job that allows them to work from home instead of their cubicle.

To that end, I have a copy of "Making Work at Home Work" to give away. My only request is that the book ultimately goes to someone who works from home. So in your comment, tell me about the person who needs this book -- be it yourself (because you run a home-based business) or a friend who works from home. It will be interesting to see what kind of at-home businesses are represented.

I'll leave comments open until next Thursday, May 21. The winner will be announced the following day.

(You can also win a copy of this book -- or one of Mary's other books -- AND a $25 Amazon gift card at her book tour site.)

And now I'm off to deal my new boss. She's about 22 pounds with a curly mop of hair, and right now, she's needs to be fast-tracked to a clean diaper. That's one of the best practices of a stay-at-home mom.

Diaper Diving

I got the biggest kick out of your comments on the post about the missing shoes, especially the variance within them. There are clearly two groups of people in the world: those who fear poop and those who are so far beyond the fear, they are numb to it.

I belong to the second group of people.

When faced with errant Polly shoes in a diaper of doo, I did what I never thought I'd do.

(Do. Doo. Doo-doo. Sorry. That's a lot of doo. I mean, do. I mean ... oh, never mind.)

I shut down my brain -- so I wouldn't have to acknowledge what was about to happen -- and turned off my texture receptors. Then I grabbed some extra diaper wipes, held my nose and grabbed those shoes out of the Pit of Poo-Poo.

I had to wait a few minutes, to quell the gags coming from the tips of my toes. Then I took the wipes to a sink and used LIBERAL amounts of soap and water -- like, Markos Moulitsas liberal -- to cleanse the shoes. I do believe they are the thickness of one layer of molecules now.

To answer your question, yes, Natalie knew where the missing shoes might reappear, and with her usual aplomb, merely shrugged at the information. Her only comment was that she really likes those purple cowboy boots.

But you better believe the Polly Pockets are nowhere NEAR the edge of Polly-land anymore. For now, we are keeping shoes on the feet and the diaper diving to a minimum.

Would this be a good time to tell you Teyla had corn for dinner?


If you're looking for more of Teyla's antics, be sure to read my 5 Minutes of Parenting post today. It involves Teyla dumping game pieces down the air vent in the kitchen, even as I'm trying desperately not to lose it. Lucky for her, she's both the saboteur and the savior in this story. Lucky for me, too.

Also? I didn't make the connection until now, but the title of the post is Do Over. Apparently, I have "do" on the brain. I can't imagine why.

The Missing Shoes

I was contentedly cooking dinner last weekend when Teyla toddled into the kitchen. She was carrying two Polly Pockets upside down in her chubby fists, waving them wildly with the glee that can only come from a younger sister snatching an object normally forbidden.

I narrowed my eyes in her general direction and zeroed in on the crime scene.

Miraculously, both Pollys still had clothes on.

But both were missing a shoe. A purple cowboy boot and a pink ballerina slipper, to be exact.

And Teyla was chewing.

Years of parenting have given me the deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes. I reached for the baby, who quickly scurried to the laundry room. But by the time I grabbed her and swiped her mouth, all evidence had disappeared.

She was no longer chewing.

Teyla gave a shriek of exultation and staggered into the living room. My mind raced. I wondered if I could pretend I hadn't seen what I just saw.

I looked down at the Pollys. Like roughed up miniature Cinderallas, they were -- hair askew, dresses messed. Missing a key piece of their outfits.

I suspected they might get their shoes back, someday. But I knew they wouldn’t be delivered on a velvet pillow.

If you know what I mean.

To rule out all other options, I did a through search of the Polly-land, also known as the northwest corner of the dining room table. No extra purple cowboy boot. No extra pink ballerina slipper.


The next morning, shortly after Teyla woke up, a strong odor came from her lower half.

The prince had arrived.

I sighed and carried her to the changing table. I removed the diaper. Sitting near the top layer of the … well, you know … were the missing shoes.

That’s when my faux OCD started to argue with my strong gag reflex.

On one hand, I needed those shoes. Natalie had already noticed they were missing, and I hate – HATE – losing pieces of our toys. I am the Mom who puts all the Little People back in their rightful spots each night. No cow or table left behind; that’s my motto.

On the other hand, well, EWWWWW! This was most certainly not in my contract.

So let’s take a survey: It's only one day past Mother's Day. Doubtlessly, you've been in similar -- or worse -- situations. What would you do?

If you don’t blog, you won’t get this, but I almost took a picture of the shoes once they were "found." I stopped myself before I actually grabbed the camera. Because, really. I’m dedicated. But the line has to be drawn somewhere. I chose to draw it here.

Update: If you're wondering what I actually did, you can read the rest here.


Guess what?

I've decided to cancel the Ben & Jerry's ice cream giveaway.

It's your fault. All your suggestions -- they sounded amazing. Dublin Mudslide? Half Baked? Brownie Batter?

Oh. My. Word.

How can I let these coupons for a free pint of creamy, rich, luscious ice cream leave my kitchen? My freezer needs restocking.

Just kidding.

My freezer is so full, I can barely shut the door. So I guess the contest is on, after all.

And here are the winners:

Mocha with Linda (who is apparently hoping B&J's comes out with a flavor called "Teyla's Toes")
Julie @ Smiling Baby (who is my sister-in-law, in the interest of full blog disclosure, but ladies, she's dealing with a house in ruins because of mold while she's pregnant and keeping tabs on her 18-month-old son, so if anyone ever deserved to win an ice cream contest, it's her)
Happy Geek (who is in Canada and has never had Ben & Jerry's, so I thank the Random.org math nerds for blessing her)
Angie @ Flibbertigibberish (who won thanks to her second comment that she earned by linking to the contest on Facebook, which was inventive)

Congratulations ladies. Send me an e-mail with your snail mail address, and I'll mail each of you two (two... two... two...) (sorry, it's hard to turn off car salesman echo once you start) coupons for a free pint of Ben & Jerry's.

Get your ice cream spoons ready. And thanks to everyone for entering. You all make me smile.

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 6)

Once again, thanks to Jennifer at Conversion Diary for hosting this weekly carnival.

------- 1 -------
When multi-tasking goes awry....

I just took a load of clean laundry out of the dryer -- and promptly threw the whole thing back into the washing machine, which was already filling with soapy water, instead of putting in the dirty clothes at my feet.

I fully expect to put the milk into the oven by the end of the day.

------- 2 -------
I love Trader Joe's. (If you don't know Trader Joe's -- and you have my sympathies if you don't -- they are a healthy, quirky grocery store with amazing prices. It's like a discount Whole Foods with a surfer attitude.)

I am absolutely giddy over their food; someday, I might do a post about my favorite TJ's products. But I love the store's sense of humor as much as I love their stuff.

This past week, I picked up their monthly flyer -- motto: As Always, Free, And Worth Every Penny -- and laughed out loud at the following line: "Trader Joe's Home Style Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potatoes and Carrots (henceforth slightly shortened to TJHSBBSRwP&C)....

Seriously. When was the last time your grocery store made you snort coffee out your nose?

------- 3 -------
Corey sent me this picture today; he snapped it outside his office window.

That would be a momma goose and a papa goose and 16 (SIXTEEN!) goslings (or "yellow puff balls," as Corey calls them). We didn't even know it was possible for a goose couple to have that many babies.

Do you think they used infertility treatments? (Just kidding.)

------- 4 -------
I Tweeted this on Wednesday, but I think it's worth sharing on the blog.

"This is how you know you live in Minnesota: The neighbors have turned on their AC because the forecasted high for today is 75."

That is SO TRUE. My in-laws, who are quintessential Minnesotans, start complaining about the "heat" when it gets 78. They keep their house -- winter and summer -- around 65, because that's comfortable to them. When I first started dating Corey, I had to take over an extra sweatshirt just to eat dinner at their house.

Minnesotans crack me up.

------- 5 -------
Here are two pictures I took of Teyla in the last 24 hours. Between the two of them, they perfectly capture the cuteness and curiosity that is Teyla.

------- 6 -------
I bought this coat at Target a few weeks ago, and I get about 10 shades of happy when I wear it.

I have actually coordinated outfits to go with the coat, instead of letting the coat be an accessory to the clothes. This is unusual behavior for me. But it makes me smile, so I'm going with it.

------- 7 -------
If you haven't already, don't forget to enter my Ben & Jerry's giveaway. I'm going to close comments Saturday night and announce the four winners on Sunday morning.

They are Tears of Happiness, I Promise

Can I be totally honest and real with you for a moment?

My parents put their Northern California house on the market this past weekend.

It sold today.

TODAY. Five days after they put the "For Sale" sign out front.

I'm so happy for them I could cry.

At the same time, I'm so frustrated for us, I could cry.

God's timing. God's timing. God's timing. God's timing. ...

If you'd rather not stay here and sigh deep sighs with me, feel free to check out my post over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today, in which I tell the story of Natalie transitioning from a bath to a shower (and then make it into a metaphor for the passing of time, because I'm apparently in a very melancholic mood on Tuesday nights).

Natalie's seven (and a half, she would tell you) -- and maybe that's late for making the shower leap? I don't know. But she's the oldest, so she has to break the ground for everything.

When did your kids start taking showers?

Have A Pint On Me

I had plans to write a story tonight, a story that is long overdue -- almost as overdue as a decision in the Minnesota Senate race.

But it was 72 and sunny here today, and the leaves are popping out all over, and the grass is that impossible neon green, and I didn't even have the heart to make dinner tonight (which was supposed to be mustard sirloin steak with roasted potatoes and asparagus) since we were outside all day and didn't come in until 6:30 PM.

So I'm bagging my original post and going instead with a giveaway. An appropriately summer-like giveaway. A giveaway I've been hoarding and maybe even hoping I would (ahem) forget about and thus get to keep all the prizes for myself.

But that's not Christian. Or right. Or health conscious.

Anyone like some ice cream?

Specifically, does anyone like Ben and Jerry's ice cream?

I have eight free pints to give away. (More correctly, I have eight certificates for a free pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream that you can redeem at your favorite food mart. It's less messy than mailing the actual pints via the U.S. Postal Service. But it's a heckuva mouthful when it comes time to announce a contest, which might explain the tiny legalese at the bottom of ads these days, now that I think about it.)

In order to spread the joy, I've decided to give away four packages of two certificates each.

That means we'll have four winners by next Sunday.

If I was a car salesman, I might say, "That's FOUR chances to win. Four! FOUR! Four chances!"

But I'm not. So I won't.

To enter, just leave me a comment here telling me your favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor. How would you spend your wealth, if so chosen?

Tweet the contest or put it on your blog for a second entry.

And then enjoy your Monday. May God bless you with the vibrancy of spring today.

(And maybe some Ben & Jerry's to go with it.)

The Ruination of a Good Pity Party

I used to throw a decent pity party.

I sent black and gray invitations (only to me, of course). I served Woe-Is-Me Hors D'oeuvres and Nobody-Loves-Me-I'll-Just-Eat-Dirt Pies and washed it all down with a hefty serving of whine. I didn't call it a night until I had wallowed in all the unfair circumstances in my life at the time.

Then I married Corey.

He doesn't allow pity parties under his roof. Maybe it's because he spent his early years without food, shelter, medicine or love. Maybe it's because he knows how useless pity parties are. Maybe it's because he's part Vulcan.

Whatever the reason, from the first year of our marriage (which was 16 years ago today, by the way), he made it blatantly clear: Pity parties are a waste of time, in addition to the height of self-absoprtion, and thus will not be tolerated in Chez Love Well.

It took me a few years to drop out of the pity party scene altogether. (After all, I had stocked up on What-About-Me Meatballs when I found them on sale.) But eventually, this whole marriage, two-become-one thing started to pay off.

I no longer had fun at my pity parties. So I stopped throwing them.

I'm telling this so you know -- I don't have many days like Tuesday anymore.

But sometimes, the emotions are too heavy to shake off without help.

So Tuesday, with my lungs thick with sighs and my eyes filled with tears, I decided to reach out.

I called a few friends. No one was home. I called my parents. They were busy getting their house ready to go on the market in Northern California. ("It will probably sell before ours," I sighed to myself.) I surfed the Interent and checked my e-mail and Twitter. I even called Corey at work, which is an option of last resort.

The conversation went like this:

Me: "Hi." (Meaningful silence while I swallowed the tears.) "I'm having a really bad day. I'm just so (sigh) discouraged."
Corey: "I'm sorry Nina. I'll pray for you."
Me: "Is there any chance you could, you know, come home early and we could all go to the park or something?"
Corey: (Meaningful silence while he rolled his eyes heavenward.) "I'll try, Nina, but it's really busy here."
Me: "Ummm..... OK. I understand. ... See you later."

Poor, poor me. I wanted to dissolve in tears and lay on the couch and let HGTV and The Food Network numb my soul. But Connor needed lunch and Teyla wouldn't nap and Natalie was going to be home soon and I had a pile of laundry that absolutely had to be tamed lest it take over my kitchen.

"You see, Lord?" I pouted. "I'm all alone. I have no one but You."

(Meaningful silence from God while Kelly gets it.)


This is a lesson God is gently but constantly teaching me. Because I am one of the most blessed women in the world when it comes to deep, rich, authentic friendships, I tend to gravitate toward people when I need a hug.

I want them to encourage me, point me to God, remind me of His truths.

And there's nothing wrong with that. What a blessing it is to be "Jesus-with-skin-on" to those we love.

But what God is teaching me is that He wants to be my comfort, my rock and my shelter. He wants to be my first option, not my only-if-no-one-else-has-time-for-me-today option.

So, with His gentle reprimand echoing in my heart, I sat with my Maker and let Him infuse my soul with fresh courage (which is literally what the word "encourage" means).

By the end of our time, I didn't feel listless anymore. I felt strong. I didn't feel disappointed. I felt hopeful.

And by the end of the week (such as today), I even felt a holy roar rise in my chest. Disappointment is a normal human emotion in response to what happened this week (or more correctly, what didn't happen). But buried in that disappointment was a nugget of unbelief. "Is God really good? Is God going to keep His promises? Can I really believe Him?" And when I saw that root, I was beyond annoyed. I was full-out mad. Compared to what I have already seen God do in my life -- and in circumstances much more impossible and painful than this -- how dare I doubt the One who is 100% trustworthy?

I don't know why God is choosing to keep us shackled to our old house. But I do believe that He is in charge of even this small matter. In the words of Daniel, heaven rules. He has a purpose, and it is for our good. I believe that with all my heart.

Yesterday, I likened my situation to a swimmer treading water in the ocean, facing wave after wave of crashing saltwater. To keep with that analogy -- reaching out to others is like that swimmer looking around for other swimmers to help her out in her time of distress. Not a bad idea, and there are times when it's the right thing to do.

But leaning into God to fight the discouragement is like that same swimmer stretching her toes down toward the bottom of the sea -- and finding solid rock on which to stand.

The situation doesn't change. The waves are still pounding, the water is still neck-deep.

But now, she has security and a strong place to stand.

That makes all the difference.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
- Psalms 62:1-2