August 31 marked the year anniversary of my beginning this blog. When I wrote my last post, I felt it was time to end the blog. Everything had come to its proper conclusion with an artistic happily-ever-after moment.

But it was not to be. We were not through the fires yet.

That morning, I did some errands in Redmond and sat down at a coffee shop to write what I thought would be my last post. Instead, Paul called. His voice was shaking and he asked if I could step outside.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“What is going on?”

I’ll summarize. Paul applied for a one period art position and a full-time science position at the middle school. He approached the principal about combining the full-time science position and the one class of art. The principal seemed agreeable to this. What the principal did, however, was give the full time science position to someone else and created a position for one period of art and one period of science for Paul.

Paul was shocked to find that he had turned down a full time position in Madras for a combined .36 position in Bend. He later learned that the administrator is notorious for failing to communicate well. I’m sure Paul would be the first to admit he’s not the best at it either. The result was disastrous.

Paul is gifted in many things, one of them being very cool and calm in moments of emergency. Through the phone, I could hear that cool being tested. He left the school to get some fresh air. Then, he called Madras to see if they had given the job to someone else.

He left a message.

He returned to the middle school in Bend and asked about the likelihood of his being able to get a full time position the next year. A .36 position in Bend would almost approach what he would be getting as a construction worker in the valley. Maybe we could shift for work like we’d been doing and get us by until something else opened up?

The principal shrugged and gave very little assurance of the possibility.

The Madras principal called. He hadn’t given the position to someone else. But … the position was grant funded and the funds only lasted until March 1.

Another dilemma.

Should Paul stay in the place he longed to be on a .36 salary or go to a full salary that would perhaps end in March?

When Paul called me, I remained calm and felt that everything was going to be okay. But as I drove to Bend to Paul’s brother’s house, my confidence disintegrated.

I was foolish for believing that faith had overcome common sense. I had bragged about going against good advice to stay true to what we believed was really important, and the experiment was a failure. We’d lost our home. At this juncture, we may never be offered a real position again. There’s a stigma when you’ve been out of work for this long. Our prayers had ceilings on them. They were not heard. They were not answered. God had forsaken us. Why had this happened?

Strangely, we would have been quite happy with the Madras job. But to be offered a permanent position in Bend, the dream place, the dream job, the security of being in. And have it snatched away?

When I reached the house, I held it together until Paul’s brothers left and then gave in to the sobs of disappointment. The entire day was given over to it. I had so many plans. I had my path to run on. We had a new start. A beginning. The wretching ache of displacement and wandering in the desert was over. So we thought. Paul laid beside me, patting my shoulder, and feeling miserable. I’m sure his pain was greater, and I was only adding to it. I tried a few times to make an appearance to the girls, to make dinner, to exert myself in a positive direction. But I couldn’t. Eventually, my pain spilled over to them, causing each of them to be miserable with me. They cried. I could not shake the sadness and anger off enough to shield them from it.

It’s all a lie,” I said. “The belief that staying true to who you are and what you believe will overcome. It’s all a lie.

I should have taken the common sense route. I should have taken the jobs offered and put the girls in school like everyone else. Who was I to think we could live differently? Who was I to believe that we could escape this grinding world, this biting culture, this failing economy?

“My God is my strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Where is the strength? Where is the help?

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

God just missed a golden opportunity.

Once again, I don’t question whether there is a God, but I question His nature. Is He really safe? Trustworthy? Does He really have our best interest in mind? Does He care at all? Is He a sadist? Does He enjoy watching us suffer?

It is also written:

My tears have been my food day and night while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

And though I accused God of many, many things and said things I probably shouldn’t, though I caused my family pain with my selfishness, though I writhed with the frustration of a dream believed to be attained and it all being an illusion, the next morning it was all over and I found all the foundations of my faith firmly intact — perhaps an even more intimate possession than before. There are really only two choices — either your faith will grow harder and stronger … or it will die.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

I’ve given myself up now, relaxed, and though I don’t know which way is up or whether I’ll ever find the surface, there is really nothing I can do but wait. I will either find the surface or I won’t. But I’ll search for it believing God does care and hasn’t forgotten and that this isn’t the end but only the beginning.

Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him.  

Paul asked for my advice about what he should do as I ironed his shirt yesterday morning. I said, “You’ve always wanted to be in Bend and here you are. It’s not what you expected, but it’s something, just the same. It’s only a part-time job, but maybe you can run art classes or I can get a part-time job.”

He listened. When he showed up yesterday, he found he was overdressed. Everyone was in their shorts and flipflops. I fetched his jeans from the back of the car and handed them to him.

He held the jeans rolled up in his hand for a moment, staring at the wall. Then, he tossed them in a bag and put on his slacks…

and left for Madras.

I’m proud of him. He’s got full-time work for now. We have benefits. We have six months of security. What will happen then, who knows? So far, we’ve never gone hungry. Paul refuses to collect unemployment but still manages to care for us all — with a little of this and that to get us by. He’s quite wonderful.

What next? Well, perhaps we’ll look for rentals in Redmond or … Prineville.

Life is stranger than fiction.

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