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Hello?

* tap… tap… tap… *

Is this thing on?

I’m a little sad (and by a little, I mean MORE THAN THERE ARE MILES FROM HERE TO JUPITER) that Spring Break is over.  Plus, Hubs and I finished watching ALL of the Raising Hope episodes, and I’m not sure how we’ll even be able to carry on without Burt and Virginia in our lives on a nightly basis.  We both feel like some fun family has, at most, DIED, or, at least, MOVED TO ICELAND, because we flat-out, stinking adored the Chance family and all their crazy antics, and now they’re just gone.  But that’s exactly what Netflix does.  It offers us four seasons of hilarity, that we watch in back-to-back episodes.  We’re completely done in sixteen hours and we wonder why our eyeballs are bloodshot, and then IT’S OVER.

And there is no more Raising Hope for us.

So really, our Monday dawned with the prospect of me having to make the boy a lunch and send him back to school, and contemplate my own lesson plans for my PE classes this week, and we don’t even have our favorite landscaper or housekeeper to look forward to seeing in the evenings.

These are some dark times.

And those, people, are the two excuses that I lay before you for why the cobwebs and the overall look of total desertion are currently clinging to the blog.  It was Spring Break, and we celebrated in all manner of total laziness, while we wrapped up the final season of one of our favorite shows.

Speaking of total desertion — which I keep wanting to spell as DESSERTION, because clearly my mind is on sweeter topics this evening — I have to tell you a little story, which is a rabbit trail and completely unrelated to tonight’s blog post.

(Like every paragraph in my blog posts are always related, easy to follow, and not at all filled with sentences written by a crazy lady, who should never be given unsupervised access to a computer keyboard.)

Hubs inherited an old Chevy pickup when we were building our house.  When I say inherited, I don’t mean that anyone actually died to leave it to him, but he sort of ended up with it by default.  The truck had belonged to his dad, and his dad was moving on to bigger vehicles, in the form of CHEVY AVALANCHE, which made Hubs’ heart pound with joy, because of the word AVALANCHE.  (Oh, Hubs!  You’re such a hockey nerd!)  We had just recently become Suburban owners, having traded in our own LEMON-OF-A-DODGE-TRUCK to secure three rows of seats and a hitch that could pull an aircraft carrier to shore.  With all of our trips to the lumber store during our home construction days, we needed something to put 2’x4’s in, especially since Hubs had tried hauling a couple of them in the Suburban, by laying them across the expanse of all three seats and resting them on my dashboard.  LET’S TALK ABOUT THE SPOT THAT’S THE SIZE OF A NICKEL THAT RUBBED OFF OF MY DASHBOARD BENEATH ONE OF THOSE BOARDS AND MADE ME LOOK LIKE A HILLBILLY.  (And no.  I have no tendencies for the dramatic, whatsoever.)

Hubs’ dad loaned him this truck, which had already been through some previous construction sites, as Hubs’ brother had just built his house before we built ours.  The truck boasted some dents and dings and a V-shaped tailgate, which we certainly added to.

(I think it was the fourteen thousand pounds of river rock that we used for landscaping that was dumped into the truck’s bed from a front-end loader.)

Last summer, a hail storm moved through Small Town with hail the size of baseballs, and the truck just happened to be parked on the wrong side of town at the time, which is where the brunt of all that hail and ice peaked.  The windshield shattered, and the insurance company said, “Um… yeah… We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but replacing that windshield is actually going to cost more than what the truck books at.”

I believe the agent was looking at the plethora of dents and the fact that there was no air conditioning any longer, and maybe the issue of IF YOU DRIVE THIS TRUCK FASTER THAN 4O MILES PER HOUR, IT SHAKES AND TRIES TO EXPLODE, and ALL THESE WIRES IS WHERE THE STEREO USED TO BE.  Then there was the lovely smell of oil and grease and everything else that is associated with a construction vehicle, right down to the cardboard box from a Big Mac from 2007.

In other words, STELLAR.

So Hubs bought a Honda.  I’m pretty sure that the air conditioning is what sold him on it.  I believe he moved on up, exactly like the Jeffersons did, with that working bit of cold air swirling around like it should in his vehicle.

The truck was parked in our cul de sac, and driven very little, because WHO COULD SEE OUT THE WINDSHIELD?  We still use it for dump runs and trips to the green-waste dumpsters, to discard piles of grass clippings and broken tree branches, since Burt Chance isn’t here to do our landscaping for us.

And then… the tire went flat.

I’m telling you, it was an utter vision parked there in the cul de sac, but HER TAGS WERE CURRENT, PEOPLE!  Yes, ma’am.  Her tags were current.

And then one day last week, we came home to see a fluorescent green sticker on that truck’s window that said YOU HAVE TWENTY-FOUR HOURS TO MOVE YOUR ABANDONED VEHICLE, BEFORE WE TOW IT AND THROW YOU IN PRISON AND TAKE YOUR TAX REFUND AND DISCONTINUE YOUR BIRTHDAY.

Something like that.

I’d say that Hubs was upset about this, but he saw it as nothing more than THE GREAT CHALLENGE OF 2015.  He kept saying, “Let the city tow it!  It’s not abandoned!  The tags and insurance are up-to-date.  Just because the windshield is shattered and the tire is flat and she doesn’t LOOK PRETTY, doesn’t mean that we’ve left her.  I’m going to take a discrimination suit to the Supreme Court.”

Except his wife got a little stressed out by that and encouraged him to just CHANGE THAT FLAT TIRE ALREADY.  So Hubs did.  And then he spent approximately nineteen hours trying to scrub that fluorescent green sticker off the window.  When an officer of the law slaps one of those onto your vehicle, you can bet your last dollar that he means business with that thing sticking through wind and rain and the fiery apocalypse.

(See?  I’m not kidding when I tell you that we are nothing but extremely high class citizens over here at our house.  All we need are a few free range goats and a lawn sofa to complete our look.)

Anyway.

I’m sure I’ll pack some snapshots that happened over Spring Break into blog posts later this week, but tonight I’ll just leave you with this one thing…

… and it’s THIS book.

indexIt’s called Wherever the River Runs, and it’s by Kelly Minter.  Honestly, I think Kelly and I could be BFFs, if it wasn’t for the small fact that she’s sort of famous and I’ve never actually met her before.  (I’m not famous, because I harbor things like abandoned vehicles in my cul de sac; you never see that sort of thing on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.)  It’s kind of like my WE COULD BE BFFs FOREVER attitude with Beth Moore and Jen Hatmaker.  I’d love nothing more than the three of those women to collaborate and buy a home together in our cul de sac, so that I could march over every single morning and have coffee with them on their deck.

(Because there’s nothing weird at all about a creeper neighbor who shows up, uninvited, every morning with her empty mug, hoping you’ll pour something straight from your Keurig right into it and share your lives with her.)

When I wasn’t frightfully busy over Spring Break lugging the boy to the golf course or watching the last stretch of Raising Hope episodes, I was very busy reading this book.

People, it has changed me.

The entire concept of the book is that Kelly Minter, who lives in Tennessee, carries on a ministry in the Amazon, stretching out her arms and resources and love, and sharing the message of the Gospel with a forgotten people.  These people carve out an existence for themselves on the banks of the big river.  That was all fine and dandy, because I don’t know that God has called me to board an airplane and go to Brazil every year, like Kelly does.  I think He’s giving me a nice PASS there, because he knows that I’ll more than likely puke a blue streak on the plane, and then puke even more on the rickety boats that Kelly uses to travel up and down the mighty river, once she gets to the Amazon.

The motion sickness and I are quite tight.  It would be nothing for me to lean over and vomit in front of famous people after a boat ride.

I started reading this book because KELLY MINTER!  And I would literally read that girl’s grocery list, if she’d let me.  I started it, thinking that it would be a fantastically written book, and I would still be safe here, in Small Town, USA, knowing that I wasn’t called to the rain forest.

But then Kelly lets us know that you don’t have to travel to the Amazon to reach your arms and your resources out to the poor and the hurting, the needy and the forgotten, because THOSE PEOPLE LIVE RIGHT BESIDE YOU.  There are so many people to help HERE, and we’re not doing our job by overlooking them.  She said that helping the needy in the Amazon opened her eyes to the needy in her own U.S. neighborhood.

I think the part of the book that had the most impact on me was when Kelly visited a woman who had an adult daughter with severe cerebral palsy, which had distorted her limbs and given her a life confined to a hammock in their jungle home.  This handicapped woman was fully dependent upon her mother for her care, because she was unable to physically meet any of her own needs.  All she could do, day in and day out, was lie in a hammock.  Then, this woman… the mother… had been left by her husband, when he took a mistress and moved a couple of huts down the riverbank from her.  Because his mistress had two very young daughters who needed to be looked after, this woman took it upon herself to help raise them, because those little girls NEEDED HER.  And because there are no grocery stores in this area, she spent the bulk of her days tending to small plants for vegetables and trying to reel in fish when the season was right, just so she would have enough food to sustain her family on.

She has no electricity in the jungle.  She has no running water.  She has known extreme hardship.  She has no free time, because every daylight hour is spent caring for someone else and working in manual labor to keep food on their table.  Their home floods when the waters of the river rise.

And yet she knows Jesus.

Kelly asked this woman what the biggest struggle in her life is.  She expected a list to be rattled off, because she has an adult daughter that she must carry, if she is to be moved, and her hands are calloused with years of exhausting labor.  Her kitchen shelves are often empty, and the man she married left her for someone else.

Kelly said that this woman thought about her question for a moment, and then replied, “I don’t know how to answer that.  I don’t think my life is really all that hard.”

While I bemoan the fact that I have no more episodes of Raising Hope to watch.

While I complain that my toddler refuses to sleep most nights, and keeps me awake for hours on end.

While I complain that Spring Break is over.

While I complain that our favorite sliced bread wasn’t on the shelf at the grocery store one week.

While I complain that my spacious home, which is never flooded by muddy water from the Amazon, isn’t decorated as nicely as I’d like it to be.

I can’t get this story out of my head.  It has wrapped itself around my brain and around my heart, and fallen deep into my soul.  I want to be more like this woman in the Amazon, who can say, “I don’t think my life is really all that hard.”

Sometimes… I think some of us in America just have NO IDEA of the hardships so many others face daily.

You cannot read this book and not be changed.  I don’t think it’s possible.  You can’t read this book and not understand how much God cares for the least of His people.  You can’t read this book and not want to stand up and do something for someone else.

Because of those things, it’s a hard read.

Because, just like the truck with the flat tire and the shattered windshield and all the UN-PRETTY, the people of the Amazon haven’t been abandoned by their God, and neither have those struggling right here on our own home soil.  I’m just hoping now that my eyes can be opened even wider now to what I can do for others.

Have a happy Monday, everyone.

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