Category Archives: Thoughts About Life

A Month of Gratefulness: My Final Thoughts

I’m in Oregon right now, and so far this has been kind-of a weird trip. First we were over the mountains attending Alison’s wedding, and then we came home but didn’t quite do the traditional Thanksgiving because we’re prepping for Kenya. Heading out tomorrow. Woo-hoo! So this will be the last post in my gratefulness series.

Monday: Oregon…and Blacksburg

Turns out that leaving to go overseas the day after Thanksgiving is a bit of a mess. On Monday we were preoccupied with getting our Covid tests, since we needed our results back before Thanksgiving break. At 2:30 Dad found a drive-in place in Albany that offered free tests, but they closed at 3:30, so we jumped into his car and took off.

On the way he called his doctor. “I know I had a 3:00 appointment, but I’m gonna be 15 minutes late because I need to go get a Covid test first.”

This, of course, meant that I had to tag along to his doctor’s appointment afterwards. It wasn’t a big deal because it went quickly and I just sat out in the car and read The Blue Castle for about the 25’th time. Meanwhile, I saw multiple people I knew, because apparently every Mennonite in the area goes to the same doctor.

I felt a certain gratefulness for this. I’ve felt for a while that I don’t “belong” in Oregon long term, and I don’t really have a friend group here anymore. But I do know lots of people, and there is something nice about bumping into people you know. I am grateful to be from someplace that I can go home to.

However. I must admit that this brief trip back to Oregon has made me tremendously grateful for a few things in Blacksburg.

First, the weather. I love the Oregon summers, and I love that you can have nice days at the beach all winter, but I absolutely do not miss the dismal dingy skies that stretch from autumn through spring. In Blacksburg we’ve mostly gotten either cold crisp sunny days or satisfying rainy ones. None of these endless gray skies.

Second, while I enjoy living in the country during the summer, I really don’t miss it at all. I love the way you can walk to all sorts of places in Blacksburg, and spy on your neighbors out the window. I get way more exercise by default because it’s just so easy to walk to, say, the library. And if you need to drive somewhere it takes, like, ten minutes, whereas here it takes half an hour (unless you’re headed to Dollar General.) (I do actually miss Dollar General, though. The Dollar General is kind-of like the Doctor’s office because I often see people I know, while the Dollar Generals back east are just kinda gross.)

Tuesday: The Job Interview

I got up super early on Tuesday to have a zoom interview for a remote writing job. They were all on Eastern time, and they asked me if Oregon was in Central or Mountain time, which I thought was really funny. East Coasters don’t tend to have a great sense of how large the USA actually is. (Once a friend told me that it takes “like 20 hours” to get to Oregon from PA. I replied, “yes, but only if you fly,” and then giggled over my own cleverness.)

Overall though, the interview went really well and I was grateful for the opportunity. And of course if the job works out the time zone thing won’t be a big deal, as I’ll be back on the east coast.

Tuesday was actually a really blessed day. Besides the interview in the morning I was able to meet up with multiple friends, although that was much more complicated than I’d anticipated because I don’t have my car here. I’m used to just zipping off whenever I feel like it.

Wednesday: The Ocean

The Oregon Coast is still my favorite place in the universe. Jenny, Mom and I spent Wednesday there.

Thursday: The Kenya Trip

So far, today has been a fairly chill day. No big Thanksgiving meal for us, as we prep to go to Kenya and such. However, we’re all gonna hang out and eat fish tacos tonight, so fun times.

Today, I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go to Kenya. With the pandemic, I haven’t traveled in what seems like forever. I had to cancel a trip to India and a trip to Italy, so I’m just really grateful to get a chance to take this trip.

I don’t know how much I’ll have a chance to post when I’m in Kenya, but we’ll see.

Goodness though…I really had a spectacular November, all things considered. I’ve never liked November much. But blessings rained on me this month. I hope you all have a day full of gratefulness and a spectacular Christmas season. But goodbye for now, I’m off to Kenya!

***

Order my book:
Print Version
Kindle Version

Follow me on:
Instagram: @emilytheduchess
Twitter: @emilysmucker
Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog
YouTube: youtube.com/emilysmucker
Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month.)

I Am Undone: My Second Week of Thankfulness

At the beginning of last week it was very hard to find things to be thankful for. At the end of last week I could have named 100 things. That’s how my life seems to go these days⁠—stretches of mundanity punctuated with vibrant beauty. But I’m trying to be thankful in the mundanity too, because mundanity is when my body rests.

Monday

On Monday I was thankful for tea on tap. I’m not sure if that’s the correct phrasing, but my latest favorite coffee shop has a hot brewed “tea of the day” that they keep in an insulated carafe. Instant tea! No waiting for it to brew! It reminds me of that feeling of coming downstairs and seeing that someone else has brewed a pot of tea to share, and all you have to do is pour.

Tuesday

Last week my health was pretty dubious. Tuesday was the worst day, and neither Jenny nor I did much of anything. I couldn’t stomach much besides brothy soup and saltines, but I didn’t have the energy to stand at the stove and cook up brothy soup. 

Then I remembered…crock pots exist!

I filled a crock pot with pork chops, broth, potatoes, and some random veggies from the fridge. Then I went back to bed. The soup cooked itself to a digestible mush and that’s what I ate for the rest of the week. 

So on Tuesday I was grateful for crock pots.

Wednesday

On Wednesday I couldn’t decide what to be thankful for. I have a pretty view out my bedroom window, I thought, but it was hard to be grateful because it just reminded me of how much of this gorgeous fall weather I’ve wasted by being indoors. 

However, later I changed my mind. If I had to be indoors and unwell, having a lovely bedroom-window view is nothing but a blessing. Orange leaves and quaint brick buildings. I am grateful. 

Thursday

Thursday I was grateful for a different sort of thing. I was grateful that I don’t have to carry my burdens alone.

Sometimes I get the idea that it’s just me and Jesus in this big world, but it’s not. God gave people other people for a reason. I felt a little convicted when Vanya Hooley wrote on Twitter, “I’ll tell my friends my thoughts. I’ll tell my friends my thoughts about my feelings. But I rarely tell even my best friends about my *actual* feelings, and it just occurred to me that that probably hurts both of us.”

Maybe it’s an Enneagram 5 thing. Nevertheless I decided to tell one of my best friends about my *actual* feelings, and her empathy lifted a burden from my soul.

Friday

On Friday I was grateful for old friends. The ones who understand everything about where you come from.

I drove to Pennsylvania this weekend because a group of new-ish friends invited me to go see Hamilton in Philadelphia with them. I was pretty apprehensive because my schedule is so booked up through early December that I was afraid any misstep could send my health tumbling into the abyss. I know so many people in PA that I always tend to overbook myself. So I tried to plan for as few people and as much sleep as possible.

Even though I’ve gone to PA several times since I’ve moved, I haven’t had a chance to catch up with Shanea yet, so I asked her if I could spend Friday night there. So Friday I was able to get up late and take my time cleaning up the house and leaving. I arrived at her house around dinner time, and we spent all evening chatting.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call Shanea an “old friend” because we weren’t friends growing up. She was quite a bit younger than me. But like, Shanea’s best friend’s brother, Trent, was my brother’s best friend, and Shanea’s sister Janane was my sister’s best friend, and Shanea’s brother was my other brother’s best friend. We were in the same very small circle of acquaintances.

I think we became real friends in the 2017/2018 school year when she taught grades 3-5 and I was the secretary. That was an…interesting year, and let’s just say we bonded. Shanea saw a side of Brownsville that I never did, and I really credit her for helping me understand so many of the dynamics of the church and school where I grew up. 

As we were talking, I got a text from someone I haven’t really talked to in years. “Trent just texted me,” I said. There was something wonderful in not having to explain who “Trent” was. 

“What? Why?” Shanea asked.

Turns out he was in Blacksburg and wanted to hang out with Jenny and I. He also relocated to VA from Oregon, and wanted to connect. Trent, of course, is in that same tiny group of people that Shanea is in. He once climbed in my bedroom window because he wanted to hang out with Steven and didn’t want to use the front door.

Anyway, of course I wasn’t in VA but Trent and his wife ended up hanging out with Jenny and I’m sure I’ll connect with them at some point. I was grateful, for Shanea and Trent and all the others who “get” what it was like in our tiny Brownsville universe. 

Saturday

At the end of 2019 I wrote down my top 10 moments of the 2010s. In 2029, if I write the top 20 moments of the 2020s, it is very likely that Saturday will be on that list.

Saturday, see, I was grateful for Hamilton. 

Usually when I talk about the things that deeply move me, they’re very uncool, semi-obscure things. It’s always either musicals or fantasy books. I have to explain why I like them while also understanding that most people won’t like them. And not in a cool way. 

But Hamilton is extremely popular. So maybe you’d love it too, who knows!

In 2016 a friend played me two songs from Hamilton and I really loved them. However, I didn’t allow myself to listen to the full soundtrack because I knew it was a sung-through musical and I didn’t want to “spoil” it. But tickets were hundreds of dollars and hard to get so I didn’t see much chance that I’d ever see it for real, at least not for a very long time.

Near the end of 2019, I was in Delaware and I saw that the library had a copy of “The Hamilton Mixtape.” This is an album of some of the songs from the musical and a few related songs or songs that were cut from the musical. I popped it into the CD player of my car and was blown away. Which is kinda funny because I had never remotely liked hip hop music before, but I guess it goes to show that I’ll like any “genre” of music as long as it’s a show tune.

Anyway. During the pandemic I learned that they were going to release a recorded Broadway performance of Hamilton and stream it on Disney+. I watched it with my sisters and didn’t think they were impressed enough, so after it was over I went wandering over the moonlit fields by myself, feeling my feelings like I was some sort of enneagram 4. 

Last summer, a friend reached out and wondered if I’d be interested in seeing Hamilton live in Philadelphia with her friend group. At first I was apprehensive about the cost⁠—aren’t tickets obscenely expensive? But if I was willing to sit in an “obstructed view” seat I could get a ticket for $47, which was doable. 

We were waaaay up in the theater, but it wasn’t super spread out so I could still see quite well. Although it did give me that weird feeling like if I leaned forward too far I might tumble onto the stage.

As you can see in the picture, the balcony post blocked part of my view, which is why the ticket was cheap. But lucky me, no one bought the seat next to me, so I scooted one seat to my left and had a perfect view.

Then I watched the show, and it was amazing. It made me feel like I understood everything.

It’s hard to explain why I’m so moved by the things that move me. I guess I never like my stories to be too “realistic,” because life is so much more than what we can see and hear. Most of what we experience we experience internally, so we invented metaphors and music to try and convey our internal world to others. In fantasy you can use giant fantastical metaphors that aren’t “allowed” in realistic fiction or nonfiction. And in musicals you can tell the story with music, and thus everyone can feel the emotions of the story as they watch. 

Most of the time I exist in the expanse of my own ignorance*, longing to know everything. But in these moments I feel like I understand everything about myself, the universe, even Spirituality. Before seeing Hamilton I felt weak. After seeing Hamilton I felt like God’s strength would be made perfect in my weakness.

So afterwards everyone kept asking, “how was Hamilton?” And I’d say, “amazing,” and hope that if they saw it they wouldn’t be disappointed. After all, it is quite popular. But I do think that most people don’t feel that same sort of transcendence after seeing a spectacular musical. Or maybe they do and no one talks about it.

Sunday

Dana, one of the girls I went to see Hamilton with, was staying at her parent’s house that weekend while they were out of town. So four of us ended up spending the night there, and in the morning we sat around sipping tea and coffee. Then they went to church and I began the long drive home.

I decided that I was grateful for those slow, tea-sipping mornings with friends. I experienced a number of them that weekend. First on Saturday morning with Shanea, then late Saturday morning when I spent an hour at Esta’s house, and then Sunday morning.

The Week in General

I was super dooper grateful because my plan worked. I specifically scheduled my trip to include lots of sleep and fewer people, and I had good health the whole time with no crash upon return. Hallelujah! 

The Rest of November

Originally I wanted to keep up this grateful-for-one-thing-every-day plan through the rest of November. However, the day after Thanksgiving I’m taking a trip to Kenya, and if I have time to post I just want to post about Kenya. 

So what I’m thinking is, next Monday I’ll write another gratefulness post, and then I’ll do a gratefulness post on Thanksgiving as well which will end the series.

Take care, and stay grateful!

*I must credit Darren Sensenig, who was part of the Hamilton group, for this turn of phrase. I asked him why he went to college and he said, “I think the expanse of my ignorance was a motivating factor.” I thought that was a really cool way to say it. 

***

Order my book:
Print Version
Kindle Version

Follow me on:
Instagram: @emilytheduchess
Twitter: @emilysmucker
Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog
YouTube: youtube.com/emilysmucker
Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month.)

I Need Your Ideas and Opinions

I suppose this is the time of year when you can expect the least from me, writing wise. In years past I’ve somehow managed to write blog posts during harvest, but I’m not sure how I did that. But this morning I suddenly felt like writing, so here I am.

I didn’t drive a truck into a ditch this year. The combine didn’t get plugged up. In fact, nothing went wrong, and now I can say that I’ve combined for seven summers and my biggest fear has never happened–I’ve never started a fire.

Some summers I do tractor work after combining is finished, and some summers I don’t. This summer I wasn’t going to. Because I don’t know, I still have three weeks before I leave. I might as well do something useful.

As far as writing goes, I’m kind-of having a hard time with it. Patreon is going well as usual, but I would really love to write another book. I’m just not sure what exactly that next book should be. I really, really want to write fiction, and I was sure I was finally becoming a fiction writer. I worked on one novel for an entire year, which is something I’ve never done before. But I think it’s a practice novel. It’s just so bad.

So now I’m thinking I should write another nonfiction book, and maybe then I’ll be talented enough for fiction.

But if I wrote nonfiction, what would I write about?

Or maybe I should ask, what do you want to read?

Let’s go with that. What sort of book would you love to read, written by me? Please tell me. Comment, email, DM, I want to know.

If I had more brain space right now I’d do a giveaway. It would be transactional–you tell me what sort of book I should write, and I enter you into the giveaway. But I don’t know what to give away besides another copy of my book, and those of you with the best ideas have probably already read my book by this point.

This blog post is so scattered and random it’s like I’m 19 again. Ha. Oh well. I need to go pack my lunch. Please tell me your ideas. I truly want to know.

***

Order my book:
Print Version
Kindle Version

Follow me on:
Instagram: @emilytheduchess
Twitter: @emilysmucker
Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog
YouTube: youtube.com/emilysmucker
Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month.)

The Miracle House and the Beautiful Sea

It was a gray morning in Coos Bay, and my siblings and I slumped lazily on the couch watching Bride and Prejudice. Finally, knowing that if we were going to go hiking in the afternoon I should make sure my hair was properly washed and dried in time, I left my siblings to enjoy the random Bollywood dance numbers and went into the bathroom to prepare for the day.

When I emerged again, I saw to my surprise that for the first time all vacation, the sun had come out!

I went out on the terrace to soak it up and dry my hair, and presently Steven joined me. Together we looked out across the bay. It was low tide, and people with buckets and boots were spread out across the bare bay bed.

“Are they digging clams?” Steven asked.

“I think so,” I said. “Maybe we should go ask them.”

Steven was a fan of this idea, but unfortunately, at the bottom of the garden was a locked gate with a sign that said “no beach access.” Steven proposed just jumping over it anyway. But I’m not greatly skilled at leaping fences, and instead proposed that we walk down the street to the actual beach access.

So we did, my wet hair still blowing in the wind.

The beach access was just down the street, and after Steven talked to the clam diggers a bit I kicked off my flip flops and we ventured onto the bay. At first it was just the regular beach sand, but then it was soft gray clay between my toes. It reminded me of being in Alaska again, and walking in the clay along the glacial river.

There were tiny living things everywhere, and I carefully avoided stepping on any crabs or sea anemones. We also avoided the kelp forests because they stank, and also, I didn’t relish the thought of walking through them with bare feet. Once we came upon a whole city of tiny, penny-sided sea anemones so close together that we walked around instead of across, and then we found hundreds of tiny piles of some sort of sea poop. Little spirals of gray clay. Perhaps some creatures burrow under the sand, Steven thought, and send their poop upwards.

Coos Bay meets the ocean near a tiny town called Charleston, and the coastline past Charleston is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. It’s full of odd slanted rocks, secluded coves with beaches that are often impossible to access, seals, birds, and overall an abundance of strange and breathtaking geology.

I’ve hiked it probably five times in the last five years, but I still adore it unconditionally. After wandering the paths and peeking into secluded coves for a bit, you’ll suddenly find yourself in the gorgeously manicured gardens of Shore Acres state park. Shore Acres was once owned by a rich man with a mansion and impeccable gardens, but eventually the mansion burned and he sold the land to the state of Oregon to use as a park.

Unfortunately, this year we were a bit too early for the roses. I saw buds, but no blooms. However, we did catch the rhododendrons, explosions of towering color.

(Shore acres also has a path to access one of those hidden cove beaches, but we didn’t go down this time.)

Unfortunately, the burst of sunshine that dried my hair as I walked the empty bay with Steven was the only sun we got all weekend. The Shore Acres hike was cold. And the next day, when we went to Bastendorff Beach before heading home, it was even colder and windier. I piled on clothing, heedless of fashion.

I’ve been to Bastendorff Beach before, but I guess I’ve never walked to the end of it, where the sands meet the cliff. I guess I’ve never climbed on top of the large flattish rock and looked into the tide pools, teeming with sea anemones, starfish, muscles, and barnacles. I guess I’ve never put my ear to the wall of muscles on the south side of the rock, listening to the whistles and snaps of the hidden life within the shells, or peered into the crevices to find the tiny crabs, one with a little barnacle between its beady eyes.

Sea anemones are funny things. Sitting in their pools, spread open like a flower, they are so beautiful. But hanging droopily from the underside of a rock, their tentacles withdrawn and hidden away, they’re unbelievably ugly and unsettling, a slimy greenish mud color.

Of course my first instinct, every time I see one, is to touch their sticky little tentacles and watch them close up.

“Don’t do that!” Jenny said. “You could spread diseases to them!”

She was probably right, but I was very bitter about it. I have formative memories of that shallow pool at the Marine Science center, where sea anemones, sea urchins, and starfish were all fair game to touch with my wee fingers. I’m pretty sure that cemented in my impressionable mind that sea life was safe to touch.

Anyway.

We ate lunch in Charleston, at a seafood shack that was almost a food truck but didn’t have wheels. It smelled delicious, like sea breezes and fried food, and we ate clam chowder and fish and chips while a lame seagull stood around hopefully begging for crumbs.

Earlier, when Steven and I had walked in the clay of the drained bay, we’d had a disagreement about whether or not we’d want to live permanently at the coast. To him, living here would make vacations less special. To me, why would you live in an ugly place if you could instead live in a beautiful place?

Speaking of beautiful places, let me backtrack a bit and talk about The Miracle House (or, I should say, the miracle apartment.)

I feel like I’ve mentioned this quite a bit on my blog, but my family members have spent the last year living either here with my parents or in Ben’s house in Corvallis. It’s been a unique experience, as for the previous ten years or so we were all scattered hither and yon. This trip was meant to be our last hurrah of sorts before Amy moves back to Thailand, and who knows when we’ll all be together again.

In August, Jenny is moving to Blacksburg VA to go to grad school, and I’m planning to move with her.

Now, when I dream of houses I dream of places beautiful and small. I dream of hardwood floors, sunny windows, and quirky arched doorways. I dream of golden morning light, a record spinning on my stereo from the ’80s, tea in hand. It has to be pretty, it has to smell nice, and it can’t be too big or too falling-apart-in-the-corners or else it doesn’t fit into my daydream.

Jenny had dreams too, but instead of windows and floors, she imagined living only a short distance from campus. A brisk walk in the morning breeze, or a few minutes on a bicycle, and voila! She’d be at her building. No more endless commutes. No more hastily-defrosted morning windshields. No more fruitless searches for a parking space.

But daydreams are one thing, reality another. Jenny and I started compromising more and more on our ideals while watching apartment after apartment get snatched up.

We were beginning to feel stressed and desperate. We pawed through pictures of dim places with dirty carpets. Was it worth it to pay the $40 application fee when we might not get it? We don’t really have a choice, do we now? Unless we want that other place that’s $200 over our budget?

It’s just a year lease…we can survive anything for a year, right? And look for something better once we’re there?

We both prayed, but Jenny prayed harder and was rewarded with The Miracle.

It happened like this: During class one morning, she absent-mindedly clicked on the Blacksburg Craigslist tab which was still open in her browser. It automatically refreshed, and Jenny saw that there was a new listing. It had only been posted 2 hours before!!! Jenny texted the owner immediately.

When I woke up she excitedly showed me the pictures. I couldn’t believe it. It was all there…a 2-bedroom apartment with hardwood floors, sunny windows, and quaint arched doorways. It was a mere jaunt from campus. And $200 below our budget!

But would we get it? That was still uncertain. “The landlord is contacting the current tenant, and she’s going to give me a virtual tour,” Jenny said.

“Honestly, at this point I feel like we’d take it sight unseen,” I said.

“Yeah, well, it was sort-of a ‘have you stopped beating your wife yet’ situation because he asked me ‘do you want a virtual tour or an in-person tour?'”

We laughed.

The next day at noon we had our virtual tour, and I was able to fully admire the quaint corner windows and odd closets. I tried not to get my hopes up, because two other potential tenants were in the zoom call with us, but it was hard. Were they ahead of us in line, or behind us? We had no clue.

Immediately after the tour, scared of wasting any time, Jenny started texting the landlord saying we want it if it’s available. Turns out we were technically second in line…that is, someone else had responded to the Craigslist ad before Jenny had. But the landlord had a 1 bedroom he hadn’t listed, and apparently he convinced the person ahead of us to take that one instead.

He did tell us that he wasn’t going to promise it to us without a deposit, and Jenny was like “well, here’s my Venmo, I can pay that right now.” So he requested, and Jenny paid, and it was ours!

Seriously, it was that easy. I mean obviously we signed a lease too, but there were no headaches of applications and proof of income and all that. Jenny just said she was a grad student, and he’d never had any issues with grad students, so that was enough for him.

We’re moving in August. How I’ll miss August in Oregon, but then. If the world burns again this year, I’d rather miss it.

***

Order my book:
Print Version
Kindle Version

Follow me on:
Instagram: @emilytheduchess
Twitter: @emilysmucker
Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog
YouTube: youtube.com/emilysmucker
Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month.)

Giveaway Winners, and a Few Random Thoughts

Last Thursday I did three giveaways: One here on my blog, one on Facebook, and one on Instagram. Today, I randomly selected the winners!

First up we have our Blog giveaway where I asked for your favorite Christmas tradition. Our winner, Laura, wrote, “My birthday is near Christmas and I think it’s neat how everyone feels so celebratory around my birthday! 🙂” Congrats, Laura!

Next, our Facebook Winner. On Facebook I asked entrants to name their least favorite Christmas song, and our winner, Nikki, wrote “I really dislike All I Want For Christmas Is You!!”

Finally, on Instagram, Lyn was our winner. Lyn wrote, “I entered because, well, it’s not often my friend’s imaginary and ill-fated romance for me enters into a book.”

Yes, Lyn was in my book, at the end of chapter 7. Congrats Lyn! You may not have won the heart of the architect, but you won a copy of my book!

(By the way, a big thanks to all 3 of you for responding to my email/DMs so promptly! I’ll have your books in the mail tomorrow.)

Now, on to my random thoughts.

I found my Instagram comments so fascinating. I asked people to write one thing they hoped to do in 2021 (although any sort of comment counted as an entry), and I’d say 90% of the responses were “travel.”

Of course, that would be my response too. But it made me think: do most humans have an inborn desire to travel?

If so, how can that be so? Haven’t most humans, for most of human history, not really traveled much?

Why do we travel so much? Because it’s cheap and easy? Because we see so many amazing places on Instagram? Because the ease of travel mean that our loved ones move to far-flung corners of the earth?

Or do we just want to travel because of all the Covid-related travel bans? Do we just want what we can’t have?

I was also fascinated by how many people thanked me for not requiring them to tag friends in order to enter the giveaway. I know that the whole “tag all your friends, follow this whole list of people” strategy probably nets an Instagram page an impressive amount of new followers, especially if they’re giving away really expensive, awesome stuff. But it’s such an annoying system, and it’s strange to me that it’s just the Accepted Way Instagram Giveaways Are Done.

Another random thought: I enjoyed reading people’s least favorite Christmas songs, but compared to the other two questions I asked, I didn’t get nearly as many interesting answers. Here’s my theory: a positive will always be more interesting than a negative. Liking something is inherently more interesting than not liking something.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I’ve noticed this about people in general. The guy who was obsessed with trees, and could name every species in his home state, was much more interesting than the guy who never watched Star Wars. And yet people often mention things they don’t like, or movies they have never seen, to try to prove that they’re interesting.

(This is not to say that everyone who entered the Facebook giveway was boring, LOL. I mean, I was the one who asked for your least favorite Christmas song. It just made me think about that concept in general.)

The one exception, I think, is coffee. No one cares that you like coffee. (But then again, no one cares if you dislike it either.)

(Although to be fair, no one probably cares that I like tea either, and yet I put it in the title of my book. Haha. I’d better stop now.)

Those are my random thoughts of the day. Thank you all so much for participating! I loved reading through your comments.

Update on Everything

Part 1: Update On My Book

Self-publishing is a process, I’ll tell you that.

Throughout the past couple months, I’ve been finished with the writing part of my book, and just trying to figure out everything else: Hiring a photographer, having a photo shoot, hiring a cover designer, hiring a copy editor/proofreader, sending out portions of my book to 26 people I’d written about (just in case they had any objections/corrections), choosing a printer, and hiring someone to format the interior. Whew!

Finally, over the weekend I made ALL the final corrections. Most of these were from my copy editor/proofreader, so I just had to click “accept, accept, accept” a lot. Although there were a few larger issues I had to think through, like giving a bit of explanation about words like “Beachy” and “Anabaptist.”

Then, I had to make all the corrections from the 26 people I’d written about. Well, maybe only about 10 of them issued corrections, and most of those corrections were pretty small, but sometimes it took a bit of brain power to make the narrative still flow well.

But finally it was done. Done! Hands shaking, I sent it off to the printer.

I still have a few hurdles to jump through, and I don’t know when I’ll have books in hand. But hopefully before too long I’ll be able to announce the cover, official release date, and pre-order link.

Part 2: Update On My Dad

IMG_4921 (2)

I feel like a lot of my life is still oriented around caring for Dad, but there aren’t really a lot of updates to give.

His right hand is healing very well, and his legs and feet are great, so he could really do almost everything for himself if it wasn’t for his left arm and his neck. He still can’t lift his left arm. And his neck brace prevents him from fully watching his feet as he walks. So he can walk around the house with his arm in a sling, but on the road, where it’s more uneven, he needs to use his walker still.

Part 3: Update On My Family

IMG_4926 (2)

My family is in this very interesting stage of life right now. I never thought we’d be a family that all lived in the same area, and yet, here we are.

Jenny, Amy, and I live in the upstairs rooms of our house, while Mom and Dad inhabit the downstairs. Steven was downstairs too for a while, but he moved to Corvallis to live with Ben so that we could have a guest room again. One or the other of them often comes down and spends a night in the guest room.

And Matt and Phoebe are in an Airstream in the yard. I love having them so close.

Part 4: Update On My Life

At the end of my year of travel, I decided to stay in Oregon at least until I could get my health and finances somewhat sorted out. I had basically no travel scheduled between September and February, but after that I had a lot of random stuff I was going to do, like take a trip to India, and take a trip to Italy, and maybe live in Houston for a while.

Of course Covid canceled all my plans, but on the other hand, the health and money angles of my life are much more optimistic. I have all kinds of ideas about what fun stuff I want to do as soon as I can get myself properly vaccinated.

For now, I find myself deeply content despite my circumstances. I miss adventures, but I know this lifestyle is temporary. Between Covid and Dad’s accident, I’m in a unique stage of life. The adventures can wait.

I enjoy having family so near. I enjoy all the visitors who come sit on our porch and chat. And besides that, publishing a book makes me feel so creatively fulfilled. Which brings a deeper, more lasting contentment than adventures do.

*****

Find Me On

Instagram: @emilytheduchess

Twitter: @emilysmucker

Facebook: facebook.com/emilysmuckerblog

YouTube: youtube.com/emilysmucker

Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker

 

The Story of Dad’s Accident

It was a damp chilly morning, the day after my birthday, and I couldn’t help but think about what a nice birthday it had been.

I’d been afraid that my 30th would pass with little fanfare, since we’re still rather in Covid times. But it had been so lovely. Many people had reached out to wish me many happy returns. On Sunday I’d had friends over for an outdoor tea party. On Monday, the actual day of my birth, I’d arrived at work to find a light-up “Happy Birthday” sign in the combine. And this morning, my whole family had gathered for breakfast, both to celebrate my birthday and to have one last get-together before Matt and Phoebe left for Houston.

“What time are you going to work today?” I asked Jenny.

“1 pm. You?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’m waiting for a call from Darrell.”

Jenny and I both work as combine drivers, me for our neighbor, and Jenny for a farmer north of here. On these cloudier mornings, it takes a while for the grass to dry out enough to harvest. So after the rest of our siblings went to work, Jenny and I hung out in my room.

At 11:57 am I got the call, not from Darrell, but from his wife Simone. I thought it was strange that she was calling, but whatever. “Hello?” I said.

“Hi Emily. I just want to let you know that if you don’t want to come into work today because of your Dad’s accident, that’s fine.”

“Wait…what? Dad was in an accident?” I exchanged a horrified look with Jenny, who was close enough to also hear Simone’s words.

“Yes, he fell off a forklift at the warehouse. He has a gash in his head and his arm hurts. They’re about to take him away in an ambulance. Your Mom and Amy are here right now. So if you don’t want to come in to work today, that’s fine. We’ll figure something out.”

At that point I was too shocked and confused to make a decision about coming in to work.

It took a while for us to figure out exactly what happened to Dad, and even now there are a lot of things we don’t know. Only Dad was there when it happened. But here’s what we do know:

In one building of the warehouse, there was an auger high up on the wall. Dad had raised a pile of pallets on a forklift, set up a ladder, and climbed onto the pallets to fix the auger.

And then he fell.

He doesn’t remember falling. He remembers coming down the ladder with his hands full of tools, so for a while we were saying that he fell off the ladder. But the ladder itself never fell over, and his tools were still up on the forklift pallets. So did he actually fall off the forklift or the ladder?

We’re not sure.

There is a large pool of blood on the floor, where Amy later found his glasses and hearing aid. It seems he lay there unconscious for a while until his head wound clotted up. Then he got up, and called Mom at 11:15 am. How he called Mom when both his wrists were shattered and flopping unnaturally is beyond me. “It was hard,” he remembers.

Mom was taking a nap and didn’t hear her phone. Dad left a voicemail, but he didn’t manage to actually talk. So it’s a voicemail of eerie silence.

It was Chavon Baker, a 14 (I think?) year old boy who does odd jobs around the warehouse, who found him. And from what they say, Dad was a horrific sight, with blood all over his face, even in his teeth and eyeballs, and his bloodstained beard sticking out in all directions.

Chavon ran and got Kevin Birky, my cousin who runs the warehouse. Kevin called 911, and then called Mom. For some reason, Mom heard her phone this time, and she ran out the door without telling Jenny or I what was going on.

The warehouse is surrounded by the farm where I work, since it was all the same property back when my great-grandpa owned it. So Simone was driving through, saw what was going on, and ran to get Amy, who is also working for them this summer. Only Amy does housework, so she goes to work at a set, non-weather-dependent time.

In this way, both Amy and Mom were there to see Dad as he was splinted and bandaged and shuttled away in the ambulance. Then they came home, and we were all confused and agitated, trying to figure out what to do. Jenny had to leave for work, but I decided not to go to work, and to drive Mom to the hospital. Amy opted to stay home and make sure things ran smoothly on that end.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen. I did have a vague idea that I probably wouldn’t be able to go in and see Dad because of Covid, but I still wanted to be close by as moral support for Mom. So she went in, and I parked, and started wandering around the beautiful woods next to the hospital.

All alone.

The next two hours were achingly lonely. Mom sent a couple meager updates to the family WhattsApp group telling us that they were doing a CAT scan. Then, there was no info for over an hour.

I’ve been spotty with responding to texts these last several days, but there at the hospital I eagerly and instantly responded to everything that came in. I was starving for connection.

The grounds were lovely, though.

20200707_132730

Finally the CAT scan results came back.

“Talked to Dr,” Mom wrote. “Brace yourselves: Both wrists shattered. Skull fracture above left eye. A few bleeds on brain. Back broken in 3 places.”

Prior to this, all we knew was that there was a gash in his head and he had one sore arm. We had no idea it was this bad. Later, we learned that there were a few breaks in his neck as well, but nothing that was in danger of paralyzing him, thank God.

Finally, Mom had a chance to call me. Basically, Dad was going to be in there for a long time. He needed surgery. I might as well go home.

So I did, and there was something about sitting on the porch steps with Amy, talking about everything, that was so wonderful after being so alone. But it made me really worried for Mom, by herself at the hospital, with no support. I know we were lucky that there were no Covid patients at the hospital, and that Dad didn’t have to be there alone, but still, I knew that this must be so isolating and stressful for Mom.

Steven works an early shift so he came home in the afternoon, and Ben was unable to concentrate on his work so he came home too.

Oh yes, there was one added layer of weirdness to this whole day. The electricity was out! They were working on the power lines. So I was trying to make myself a late lunch on a propane camp stove, since I didn’t have anything to eat while I was at the hospital, and then just as I was finished it came back on. Ha.

Jenny called us frequently, and she was in a weird head space too. But when she told her boss what was going on, he told her to go home and be with her family. So she came home, and Matt and Phoebe came over, and all of us siblings were together.

Matt and Phoebe decided to delay their move to Houston. Matt is still able to work remotely, due to Covid. It’s so strange, how Covid is separating us in some ways yet bringing us together in others.

We all called Mom that evening, and she put us on speakerphone so we could talk to Dad. It was bizarre…he sounded completely normal and sane, but then the sentences that left his mouth didn’t quite logically connect to each other.

The hospital rule is, only one person per 24-hour period. So none of us could give Mom a 4-hour break to get some rest, and none of us could be in there with Mom. Dad hardly slept those first two nights because he was in such terrible pain. (Oddly, it’s mostly his wrists that hurt, not his head.)

Dad had surgery on his wrists on Wednesday. So far, the plan is to heal his back and neck by using a brace. We’ll see how that goes.

Thursday morning, Amy went in to take Mom’s place. Jenny and I went back to work, although I asked to get off early. And then it rained, so I got off extra early. That was nice…it meant I was home when Mom woke up, and was able to debrief with her.

Then, this morning I took Mom back to the hospital to switch with Amy again. It’s a little cloudy still, so I don’t need to go to work until 1:00 pm. So now I have time to write this blog post, I guess.

I guess the real question is, “how is Dad doing?”

This is a hard question to answer. In some ways, he’s very lucky he didn’t end up killed or paralyzed. He has a healthy body that should recover well, and he really is quite “with it” considering how hard he whacked his head open.

The two things, right now, that feel the most heartbreaking are his confusion and his pain.

He can’t seem to get on top of the pain in his wrists, and it’s making it really hard for him to sleep.

As for his confusion, he’s in that terrible place, almost normal brain function, but not quite. I sent a video clip to my friend Esta because I didn’t know how to explain what he was like, she she said, “it’s like he has a clear coherent thought, and then halfway through saying it he forgets it.”

Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like. And how awful that must feel! It seems like it might be more of a mercy if he were completely out of it.

Dad is a problem solver by nature, and he seems to be in constant state of wanting to fix things. The “things to fix” are mostly his pain, and warehouse problems. This is the beginning of harvest, and while Dad had trained Kevin to run the warehouse, there are still a lot of things Dad takes care of by himself. So he keeps remembering things he needs to do about the warehouse, but then not quite connecting all the dots, and not quite being able to communicate.

In his worst moments, right after surgery, he kept getting mixed up about the wedding as well. Once he said that if people want to know what’s going on with warehouse stuff, they should ask Phoebe.

Still, I think a lot of this confusion is due to the surgery anesthesia, not the head injury. Amy had a moment with Dad where he was back to his old self mentally, although it didn’t last. But hopefully these moments will happen with more frequency as the anesthesia wears off.

Anyway, that’s where we’re at now. It’s hard to keep people updated because we keep learning of new random problems. According to Mom, the nurse just told her, “This is what happens with trauma patients. New stuff shows up every day.”

I might write more when I know more, and I might not. Right now, we’re looking at a long and difficult recovery.

Stop Trying to Fix the World with Condescending Love

black love and black heart on white background

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

When I was a teenager, a well-intentioned woman in my church decided that she wanted to “love on” us youth girls. To “connect” with us. To “hear our hearts.” Maybe I should give her credit for caring and trying. But the truth is, none of us liked her.

When she talked, she always sounded holier than us. Like we should be grateful that she, such a wonderful, godly, loving person, was taking time out of her day to tell us how to live our lives.

Spoiler alert: we weren’t that grateful. We’d never asked for this. We didn’t want to share our hearts with her. It was awkward.

Instead there was a different woman in our church, named Arlene, whom we kept begging to be our Sunday school teacher. Instead of talking with a soft voice and a tumbling stream of holy-sounding words, Arlene treated us like we were normal people. People she enjoyed conversing with.

Which one of them loved us more?

Your first thought may be, “Arlene, of course.” But I don’t think that’s true. They both loved us, and perhaps the other woman felt it even more deeply. I don’t know. The difference between the two woman was not one of love, it was one of respect.

The other woman was holier than us. We were supposed to be grateful for her. It was the sort of love you give to children, and what teenager wants to be loved like a child?

But Arlene respected us.

I thought about this again today, because of a comment I saw on the Internet. Ha. Actually, because of lots of comments I saw on the Internet. In response to George Floyd’s death in particular, and in response to racism in general, white people like to say, “we just need to love each other more.”

But the comment that struck me the most was in a discussion about George Floyd’s deep faith and apparent struggle with drugs. Some well-intentioned person commented about how they wish they could have known Floyd, to love him, and to help set him free from drugs.

Um. Wait a minute.

A man who has struggled with poverty, with drugs, and with crime, who then comes to Jesus and turns his life around, but who has to fight a daily battle with addiction…your first thought should not be, “I could have helped that person.”

Your first thought should be, “that person could have helped me.”

I mean, imagine what a privilege it would have been to hear George Floyd’s testimony. Imagine. I hope one day in Heaven, I’ll be able to.

I hear condescending love from Christians all the time. A classic example would be the mission trips to orphanages, which contribute to terrible attachment disorders in children.

Those children are being genuinely loved by the people who play with them for a week on mission trips. How could genuine love have such devastating consequences?

The truth is, love is not enough.

We can’t fix any problem by simply loving. We westerners should have listened to the native people of the lands we tried to fix. We should have asked them what they needed, instead of giving them what we thought they needed. We had the love, but we were missing the respect, and the humility to shut up and listen.

And we’re still missing it, right here in the United States of America. We’ve decided that maybe racism is real after all, and the solution is to love people more. But have you noticed? Have you stopped to listen? The black community isn’t asking us to love them more, like that will fix all the problems.

They’re asking us to listen, and to march with them.

They’re asking us not to leave when the cameras leave.

They’re asking us to put our money where our mouths are.

They’re asking us to say, “It should not have to be this way, and I will spend my life beside yours testifying to the values that the Christian tradition places on your black life.”

To invite them to speak, and pay them fairly. To visit their churches.

I’ve seen white person after white person say some variation of, “if only we could just love each other more!” But I haven’t seen a single black person say that.

Now, you may be upset at my apparent dismissal of the fact that “loving others” is the second greatest commandment. And I’ll give you that one. Loving others is extremely important. More important, it would seem, than even respect and humility. Second in importance only to loving God.

But I find it telling that the Bible doesn’t command us to simply “love others,” it commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Why add the “as yourself?” What does “as yourself” have to do with anything? What if you don’t love yourself in the first place?

As I understand it, the “as yourself” means that you’re loving the person as a peer of equal value to yourself, not as a child. Not as someone who pulls on your heartstrings and makes you think, “aww, the poor thing, I just want to give them a big ‘ole hug.” But as someone whom you could learn a thing or two from.

Someone you respect.

Someone you will listen to, in humility.

 

Five Actual Romantic Lessons from the Life of Ruth

Note: This piece was originally published on my Patreon last May. To celebrate my 1 year anniversary on the platform, I decided to dig into the archives and share one of my posts on my regular blog. 

Confession: I missed out on a lot of Christian Purity Culture because I found it so mind-numbingly boring. But in the last 24 hours I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole so to speak.

I’m writing a play about the life of Ruth. Writing a play is a great way to really dive into Scripture, because you have to get to the root of what people were actually saying, putting it into as simple language as possible. I giggled and giggled to myself, because Ruth legit just asked Boaz to marry her.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” I posted on Facebook, “if there was a Christian dating advice book based on the story of Ruth? Ladies, find a rich guy, sneak up to him while he’s sleeping, and ask him to marry you.”

Well, it turns out that I really am out of the loop on the world of Christian dating advice books. Because there are plenty, my Facebook friends informed me. Books with titles like…

  • Lady in Waiting: Becoming God’s best while waiting for Mr. Right
  • Boaz, the Promise and the Wait
  • Lord, is Boaz lost? Or am I just in the wrong field?
  • She was waiting on Boaz and lost a real man
  • Your Boaz will come
  • How to be found by the man you’ve been looking for

And I don’t know, maybe there’s some good advice in those books. But I’m weirded out by all the references to “waiting,” and to Boaz “coming.” BECAUSE THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE STORY OF RUTH.

My roommate had Lady in Waiting on her bookshelf, so I read it…and by “read” I mean “skimmed” because I still find it boring…and wow. Okay.

Lady in Waiting is based on an idea: If you just “wait,” not chasing after a boy at all, not going to Bible College or whatever just because there are eligible guys there…if you focus on following God instead…if you stay a virgin…ta da! The perfect man will just…appear. God will bring him along, and somehow, magically, you’ll be all married and stuff.

And look, I can see how that sentiment might be useful for teenage girls. They have plenty of time. Focusing on their spiritual life instead of their romantic life, learning to wait on the Lord, that’s solid. My primary beef with the book is this dubious connection to the life of Ruth.

Like, there was a whole chapter dedicated to the importance of remaining a virgin until you’re married. Is this a Biblical concept? Sure. So just use plain Scripture to back up your point. Don’t use the story of Ruth. Because Ruth was not a virgin when she married Boaz. Why would you go on and on about how special it is to save this one special gift for your husband, and then base your argument entirely on a romantic story where Ruth’s “special gift” was gone? 

Yes, I’m irritated.

Moving on. Can we get good romantic advice from the life of Ruth? I think we can. Here are five ACTUAL romantic lessons I’ve gleaned (hee hee, see what I did there?) from Ruth.

1. It’s okay, even good, to get married for practical reasons.

I think it’s fair to say that Ruth and Boaz were genuinely, madly in love with each other. It’s not stated in Scripture, but it’s implied in the way Ruth gushes about how kind Boaz is, and Boaz enthusiastically agrees to marry Ruth and then rushes off early in the morning to get things settled with his relative who technically has “first dibs.”

But Scripture makes it very clear that their romance was about practicality.

First, from a survival standpoint. The only way for Ruth and Naomi to not starve was for Ruth to work, dawn until dusk, picking up random bits of grain that the harvesters had left behind. It was heavily implied that Ruth was in grave danger of being raped while gleaning. Boaz says “I have told the men not to touch you,” in Ruth 2:9, and later, when Ruth tells Naomi about Boaz’s kindness, Naomi says, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go with his girls, because in someone else’s field you might be harmed” (Ruth 2:22).

So basically, singleness for Ruth was not a time of patiently waiting, finding fulfillment in God instead of a husband. It was a time when she was, except for the kindness of Boaz, in daily danger of rape and starvation.

Second, while Naomi implies in Ruth 1:8-13 that Ruth will have difficulty finding a husband in Israel, Boaz implies in Ruth 3:10 that Ruth could easily marry a younger, perhaps handsomer, man than himself. “You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor,” he says.

Lady in Waiting uses that statement as proof that Ruth didn’t “chase boys,” even though she’d literally just asked Boaz to marry her, LOL. From context, though, it appears that Boaz is complimenting her on choosing a practical husband, one who could provide for her and be her kinsman redeemer, instead of just going for a hot guy.

And obviously, the times are much different now than they were in Ruth’s day. Singleness does not mean rape and starvation anymore, thank God.

But there are still tons of practical reasons to get married. Companionship, sexual satisfaction, children…I mean, maybe you don’t think you need children, but who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?

Ruth needed a husband for practical reason, so she found a practical solution. Why shouldn’t we do the same? If you need a job, or a car, or a tooth pulled, you don’t just sit around “waiting,” hoping it will magically happen to you. You make an effort to overcome the obstacles in your way.

(Added caveat, since this is my real blog where people still frequently misunderstand me: of course I think you should be in love with the person you’re going to marry. Obviously. I’m just saying, we should’t be ashamed to admit that we want marriage for practical reasons too, and we shouldn’t be ashamed to look for practical solutions.)

2. Be a person of character. Seek a person of character to marry.

Lady in Waiting talked a lot about being a woman of character, like Ruth. I think this is solid. Boaz’s comment about Ruth choosing him instead of the younger men makes me think that he probably thought Ruth was very pretty, able to snag a hotter guy if she wished. But he mostly admires her character. When he first meets her he praises her kindness to Naomi (Ruth 2:11), and when he agrees to marry her, he says, “all my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of character” (Ruth 3:11).

But it irritated me that Lady in Waiting implied that if only you did everything right, you would end up with your “prince.” “When you picture the perfect man for you, what is your prince like?” The book asks on page 56. “To marry a prince, you must first become a princess.”

Who says we get to marry a “prince?” Boaz was no “prince.” He had good character, sure. He was able to provide, and he was very kind. But his comment on “younger men” makes it sound like he wasn’t the youngest or hottest man available.

Ultimately, just as he chose Ruth because of her character, Ruth also chose him because of his character and usefulness. This idea of waiting for your “prince” is kinda weird, not Scriptural, and certainly not practical.

3. Let others meddle in your love life

An enormous aspect of the story of Ruth that we usually brush over is the way that Naomi meddled. 

I mean, sure, Ruth did some pretty brazen things like spend the night with Boaz (innocently) and ask him to marry her. But it was 100% Naomi’s idea.

After my first point, where I argued that we should think more practically about marriage and not be afraid to “make something happen,” you probably wondered, “Does Emily think that girls should ask guys out? What is she really saying here?”

What I’m really saying is that I think we should let others meddle in our love lives.

And parents, married people, concerned aunts, I think you should meddle. Set people up on blind dates. Invite single people to your parties so they can all hang out and get to know each other. Chatter with your married friends about the single people they know that might be good matches for the single people you know.

I mean, obviously if the single person expresses discomfort, back off. But I just think it’s weird that our culture is all about single people, on their own, with no help whatsoever from meddlers, finding their perfect match. I guess it’s because the USA is the most individualistic culture in the world. But it’s honestly not that practical.

4. Your spiritual life is more important than your love life

This point, central to Lady in Waiting, is actually true. And it actually can be backed up by the story of Ruth.

Like I said before, it’s a little hard to say how many marriage options Ruth actually had in Israel. Naomi implies that the options are limited, while Boaz implies that Ruth could have married a younger man than himself.

However, it’s clear that whatever Ruth’s options were in Israel, they were worse than her options in Moab. Naomi’s motive for sending Ruth home was all about the provision and protection she’d have there. “May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband,” she says (Ruth 1:9).

Instead, Ruth chose God. “Your people will be my people, and your God my God,” she says in Ruth 1:16.

She chose God, even though it put her in danger of starvation and rape. And I think that is extremely powerful.

5. It’s okay if your love story is weird and unconventional.

This right here is why I ultimately love the story of Ruth and Boaz.

Lady in Waiting tries to skew Ruth’s unusual courtship method as a common practice of the day, hardly worth noting. Heh. I find that unlikely.

I mean, come on. It’s just so weird. There are no other courtship stories like it in Scripture.

Furthermore, the book of Ruth implies that Ruth was in a very unfortunate, sad situation, because she did not have a man to advocate for her. Not only did she lose her husband, but she lost all the men in her husband’s family, and she left her own brothers and father behind in Moab.

You could use the story of Ruth to argue that women should chase men, and ask them out, or even ask them to marry them. You could, alternatively, argue that Ruth only dared to do such a thing because she had no man in her life to find a husband for her.

But I think the most obvious takeaway is that romance can happen in very strange ways. There is no perfect cookie-cutter formula to finding a mate.

And that, I think, is what annoys me most about books like Ladies in Waiting. They imply that if you just do everything according to their foolproof plan, everything will turn out okay for you. And then they stretch and pinch the bizarrely beautiful romance of Ruth, trying to make it fit into the perfect mold they’ve created.

That’s not the point.

The point is that things go wrong, but God’s redemption is still there. Romance is bizarre, but we work with what we’ve got. There are countless ways you might end up with a kind husband or wife who is a good, practical match for you.

And will it involve sneaking up to them in the middle of the night and asking them to marry you?

Well, who knows?

 

In April 2019 I launched my Patreon, and it has been the most amazing, wonderful experience for me. Much, much more so than I could ever have imagined.

First, because that extra bit of income every month, though small, is steady. Most of my writer income is extremely unsteady, so having one thing I can count on is a blessing. In one year I’ve been able, while charging only $1 a month, to earn enough to buy a camera to make YouTube videos with, pay for my domain name, buy and ship some fun giveaway items, and pay for other odds and ends related to this blog.

But more importantly, my Patreon has allowed me to grow as a writer. At first I was only posting opinionated pieces. But then one month I posted an extremely vulnerable essay I’d written about a friend who’d cut me out of her life. I ended up taking that one down, because it was just too personal, but it started me on a path of experimenting with openness and vulnerability in my writing.

My Patreon supporters don’t always agree with me, which is good and healthy, but I’ve never felt misunderstood by them. What a gift. And their response to my vulnerable writing was so encouraging that it fundamentally changed how I wrote my book, and even how I process my life. They made me feel like my feelings matter, and that meant everything to me.

All I’m saying is, it’s been a good year, and I’m so grateful.

Up until now, my Patreon has been like the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Every post I’d ever written was available, so someone who signed up in March got the same content as someone who’d been signed up from the beginning. But I’m going to start taking posts down once they’ve been up for a year. So on Thursday, I’m going to take down my first post, Is Toxic Masculinity a Thing? And on May 13 I’m going to take down How Mennonites Set Women Up to Reject the Head Covering. Etc. You get the picture. (If you want to subscribe to my Patreon, you can do so by clicking here.)

And lastly, April is drawing to a close, and with it, the April Blogging Challenge is ending! Mom will post tomorrow, I’ll post on Wednesday (probably with another video) and Mom will close the month with a post on Thursday. Thank you so much for following along, and be sure to hop over to Mom’s blog and catch up on all her posts that you might have missed!

Rambling Quarantine Thoughts

20200412_073325

Thought 1: Nutria

Our house sits at an intersection, and our yard is full of wide open spaces. If I spend time outdoors on these beautiful spring days I feel very looked at. So I’ve taken to hanging out down by the creek, where bushy trees screen me from the rest of the world, although I can still hear the trucks roaring by.

Apparently a nutria has moved into our old swimming hole. I’ve seen it several times. It swims up, looks at me with its ugly face, and then swims away again or dives under the water.

It’s weird to me that we’ve always acted like nutria are normal. As we swam in the creek as children, nutria poop would float by, and we could see the nutria burrows along the banks, but we rarely saw actual nutria. Still, it never occurred to us to be scared of them, or worried that they’d interrupt our play.

Why not? Isn’t a raccoon-sized rat inherently frightening?

Thought 2: Masks

Remember in 2011 when that gigantic earthquake hit Japan? Weirdly what stands out in my memory is the way that in the news photos, everyone was wearing face masks. And it just seemed so bizarre to me.

I did wear a mask in public once, in 2014. I was extremely sick but I had to go to school anyway because in one of my classes, pretty much my entire grade was based on attendance. And you couldn’t get an excused absence unless you had a doctor’s note. And I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Welcome to America. I wore a face mask even though I knew I looked ridiculous. I was too miserable to care.

It’s so odd to see so many Americans, now, in face masks. Today as I waited to cross the road in front of my house to go down by the creek, a lady drove by, all alone in her car, wearing a face mask. It almost doesn’t seem like real life anymore.

Some say that the virus will create a new normal. I hope that the new normal will be to wear face masks when you’re sick, without people thinking you’re weird (or dangerous). Although wearing one while you drive alone is a bit much, IMHO.

I also can’t help but ponder of the stupidity of that class where I couldn’t be absent without a doctor’s note. It was a stadium classroom with like, 300 other students crammed in there with me. Dumb dumb dumb. How have we all not perished long ago? I hope we re-think situations like that in the future as well.

Thought 3: In-Between Times

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about what they’re going to do when this is all over. The trips they’re going to go on. The people they’re going to hug. The concerts they’re going to attend.

To be honest, it’s really hard for me to imagine normal life at this point. It seems a hazy thing in the future, maybe a year or more from now, when there’s a proper vaccine. Looking that far ahead seems mystifyingly uncertain.

I have, however, grown intrigued with the idea of what the in-between could look like. And what innovations it could bring. What if we could meet in groups of 25 again? Could we do small in-home church services? What if outdoor activities were permitted again, provided that fewer than 100 people attended them? Could restaurants set up tables in their parking lots, or on the lawn? Could we use the outdoor seating at Starbucks? What if little outdoor concerts in every park became a thing?

Right now I want to be able to go to coffee shops again, when I get tired of working at home.

And I want to take road trips again. Long drives though Utah, along endless stretches of highway, sipping McDonald’s half-sweet iced tea and praying the air conditioner doesn’t quit working.

But right now I have no desire to enter any sort of stadium, or even get on an airplane. Maybe in the hazy future I’ll fully enjoy those things again. But currently, just thinking about it makes me feel anxious.

For more quarantine thoughts, here are the latest two episodes of my podcast with Jenny. Last week we recorded Episode 7, and yesterday we recorded Episode 8.

Episode 7: A Question-less Episode
April 16, 2020
In this episode, Jenny and Emily talk about surreal moments, the books they’re reading, and the stresses that moving everything online can bring. They also give updates on the snails, the kittens, their upload schedule, and Emily’s YouTube channel.

 

Episode 8: The Personal Growth Podcast Episode
April 23, 2020
In this episode, Jenny and Emily cover their brother’s research, what superpowers they would like to have, and mostly, their personal growth goals and how to achieve personal growth.