In doing this exercise, I reminded myself that story turns are not just positive and negative experiences, but doors through which I could not return. I’ve had other positive and negative experiences, but they proved to be enjoyments or obstacles that did not necessarily change my course.

1) Positive turn: 9 — I began with Bible stories. In middle school, I discovered Shakespeare, Lord Byron, and Tanglewood Tales. C.S. Lewis describes this powerful love for stories and words as “northerness.” I read fairy tales, poems, novels and short stories and the northerness ushered me to the stars. I wanted to write since I was little.

2) Negative turn: 8 — I got involved with a rowdy boyfriend. We had some good times, but the relationship was sooooo consuming. I dissuade my daughters from making the same mistak. Don’t waste your time on boys during high school. Relationships are difficult things. Why spend your time on a difficult project when you’re not ready for a lasting relationship? Wait until a relationship makes sense. Wait until it can actually go somewhere worthwhile. In high school, it’s a farce, blunted from the beginning.

3) Negative turn: 10 — While living in Costa Rica, I had another negative relationship with a man in Costa Rica. The harrowing experience brought me to a crisis of faith.

4) Positive turn: 2 to infinity — I committed to a relationship with God that was no longer consumed with doubt and questioning. I emerged from the (Costa Rican) relationship sort of sick and weak and tottering. I felt … shaky. So the beginning of my positive turn was not accompanied so much with joy as much as relief. The rating of a “2” has to do with my feelings. To use an analogy, I felt pursued by something terrifying only to discover that I was being chased for my own good. The Hound of Heaven had terrified me away from danger. Not exactly a “10” experience. I look back and shiver at how close I tottered near the cliff in the fog. The “infinity” rating has to do with the practical implications of my choice. My decision to commit to God laid the foundation for everything else in my life. It doesn’t have to do with joy or pain or feeling. It just IS. It is definitely the hinge of my life, but feelings have little to do with it. It’s like rating air as a positive or negative experience. It’s definitely a positive but … duh.

3) Positive — 10: Met Paul. I’d never been in love before. With my other relationships, I lit fires and watched others burn. Relationships were interesting to me, but I was thoroughly detached, shrewdly (or so I imagined) trading things.  With Paul, I felt deeply. He could hurt me. He could heal me. I held nothing back. For the first time, I risked the deeper parts of my being by involving myself wholeheartedly. Being in love is soooo frightening and enlightening. When love is returned, heaven nears.

4) Negative — 8: I left writing to get my master’s in teaching.  Answering the beckoning of “practical,” I sold out for a “real career.” It put us in debt for the rest of our lives. All I learned went out of vogue long ago — a very expensive, impractical insurance policy for something to “fall back on” while raising children.

5) Positive — 10: The babies came.

6) Negative — 4: We wandered from job to job. Portland. Eastern Oregon. Texas. Central Oregon. Washington. Central Oregon. Before Elsa turned 6, she had moved 12 times.

7) Positive — 8: We decided to homeschool. The children reaped incredible benefits. The one-income family stretched us terribly. Difficult, yes. Worth it, hell yes.

8) Positive — 1: We built a log home, a long-standing dream. Paul did a beautiful job.We lived four good years in it.

9) Negative — 8: When we finished the house, we earned a sweat equity profit that equaled the cost. By the end of the year, the house wasn’t worth its cost in materials. I decided to work full time to save the house. We borrowed money to save the house. Lost it anyway. Hindsight’s 20/20. Considering the outcome, wasn’t worth it. It set us back further.

10) Negative — 8: Both Paul and I were riffed due to budget cuts. I embarked with a team of people to start a school. It failed. We wandered in unemployment for two, long years, working small project jobs to get us by.

11) Positive — 9: In the face of all this, I (with Paul’s encouragement and support) decided to turn down two job offers, start a blog, and go to Italy instead. Though this act of defiance didn’t help our financial position, it caused me to a) declare my desire to be a writer b) to write and c) to go on an adventure. I was tired of allowing external circumstances keep me from doing what I deeply wanted. The time to live is now.

11) Negative — 6: We lost our home. This is probably directly related to my not taking those full-time jobs. Even admitting that, I’m still glad we did what we did. I would have always wondered. I would have always despised my fear to take a risk. I’m proud of us for taking a chance. If we don’t take them, how will we ever know?

12) Positive — 7: In spite of busyness and rejections, I keep writing and submitting and querying. I am happy. I believe I’ll break through someday. I believe I’ll win. We’ll see.