Me, not writing

See this picture of me with my laptop? This is what it looks like to be on a writer’s retreat and instead of writing be doing inane things, like making the touch-pad scroll, or finding how to get to the Control Panel. I’m sitting here in a small cabin in the backwoods of Kentucky at a “writer’s retreat.” That’s what my sister Jan and I call it when we come because we both hope to get lots of writing done (around hiking and eating).

Sounds ideal doesn’t it? It is, though there are a few flies in the ointment, or more specifically, gnats. We’re also keeping our eyes out for ticks and copperheads, but the biggest fly for me is that yesterday the hard drive on my laptop keeled over and died. There was no resuscitating it so I was facing a writer’s retreat using nothing but paper and a pen, which would have been doable but certainly not ideal. Yesterday afternoon I walked out of Best Buy with a brand new hard drive installed and a clean slate. I am eternally thankful to God that I had backed up my important files six weeks and one day earlier (not that I’m counting), but six weeks is a lot when you’re on your computer every day, though it could have been much worse and I realize that in the whole scheme of things this is a first-world problem.

As I sit here writing this the only sounds around me are the birds chirruping and the computer keys clicking. It’s early, okay, not that early, 8:05, and I can see woods and sky out the four windows of our cabin. There is no Wi-Fi and my cell phone can’t connect to anything. In fact, I can’t even call out on my phone but if someone calls me I can talk.

Well okay, I can still text, but that’s a bit like saying, “Well, I can still send smoke signals.” My laptop currently has no pictures, music, or programs except Office. All my Contacts in Outlook are gone except the three I entered yesterday.

Our cabin

Our cabin

Those of you who use a computer can understand how hard it is to set up a program-less computer from scratch with no Wi-Fi, causing it to be just a little bit itsy-bitsy painful to be so cut off from the world. Before technology this was life, post-technology this feels a bit like the apocalypse. Is anyone else out there?

Have there ever been times in your life where you felt like you started over? I can think of some right off the bat. When our oldest son was four we left our newly-built house on nine acres for a few weeks and when we got home it was an empty shell—someone had carted off everything inside, even personal things no one else would want like wedding pictures and old love letters and the things I’d saved from Thailand for my children. We moved to Atlanta with the clothes on our backs and started over, sharing one towel amongst the three of us and sleeping on sheets (with no pillows) on the carpet of our empty duplex.

Another time after my husband Terry was laid off we started over, moving from our home into a two-room apartment on Main Street up over an insurance company. It was quite the fourteen-month adventure, downsizing that much and sleeping two adults plus two teenagers in one room.

I love swings!

Not our cabin, just enjoying the swing

I started over when Terry died, and a month later I had no home, no job, no bank account, no car (it quit for good right after he died), and the only key on my keyring was to the office where we had our business.

Yet here’s the thing—life is often built from scratch and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think about getting married, that’s a positive “starting over” that turns your life upside-down, as does having a baby. Starting over is just building something that looks differently from before, and attitude makes all the difference in what your new start-up looks like.

Here’s what I’ve learned—that if you’re looking for miracles and if you’re holding God’s hand it makes all the difference. After our things were stolen and we moved to Atlanta, Terry was driving to work a few days later and praying, pointing out to God how his wife was pregnant and sleeping on the floor, please help! As he prayed he passed something on the interstate, then turned around and picked it up. It was a brand-new lounge-chair pad, still in the plastic, that had blown off someone’s truck. I slept on that pad until we saved enough to buy a mattress.

After Terry was laid off and before we moved into the two room apartment our oldest son had graduated from high school and moved into his own life, yet we were struggling to create a family of four, we were still a family of five with a hole in it. Living in this tiny space did that for us and now, when my children talk about living in those two rooms, they’ll tell you that it’s one of their favorite times as a family.

Ready to write!

Ready to write!

When Terry died the miracles were still there and I couldn’t help but see them. Terry got to see Jessie in her wedding dress, he’d ordered her shoes she wanted to wear with it and when they arrived she came over to model her dress with the shoes. He died a month and a half before her wedding and it meant the world to Jessie that her dad saw her in her wedding dress. Also, shortly before Terry died, I’d casually asked him one day what would happen to our business if something happened to him, and he named the five people who knew enough to run it without him.

Life is full of starting over, in both the hard ways and the fun ways, and we will survive it, but we have the option of doing more than just surviving, we can dance through those waves with Jesus, and that makes all the difference!