We are living a miracle: home

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Home. We’re home! WE are home.

I’ve realized things in a hospital move super slow, like the evolution of your fashion standards into something like this:
  (You’re welcome)

or super fast, like being admitted or, as it turns out, discharged. Which is, by the way, equal parts wonderful and terrifying because you do get a bit used to nurses and doctors and life-saving equipment being a call button away. Still, after a few shared tears as we face our new and unknown normal, it was all smiles from there:

     
 

  

 Gods hand has been in
countless details. More on those later. But one of tonight’s was that our song, Out of the Woods, came on as soon as I turned on our car. For reals though. It’s the song Jason says is how he felt while pursuing my heart all those years ago. It will hold even more meaning to me now.
And we came home to the most beautiful displays of love for us – more to come on all our friends have taught us about love. I mean wow. Our home was filled with flowers, our fridge and pantry stocked with heart healthy foods, our laundry done, our sinks and floors cleaner than I can keep them, and our chalk wall declaring Jason’s LIFE verse. 

 
As we settle into our new normal, beginning with a few DAYS of sleep, we will be telling ourselves of the great things God has done as we read messages and cards and our own hearts.

“Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭105:1‬ ‭

Because the world was a part of the great things He’s done – we got messages from around the U.S., Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Australia – as people stood in prayer, stormed the gates, and rejoiced over Jason in singing – I’d love your help in capturing some of those stories and moments before they’re lost. If you have a picture or video or story of prayer and praise over this man of mine or how God met you as WE ALL are living this miracle, will you get it to me? And please to be sure to include your location.

Here’s a few ways:

1) use the hashtag #teamjasonmiller and #wearelivingamiracle on Facebook or Instagram 

2) comment here

3) email me at brooke@brookemardell.com

Because living a miracle isn’t something you do alone.

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We are living a miracle: who moved my yellow brick road?

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When they said long road to recovery, I may or may not have envisioned a rather straight path through a meadow – long, yes, but it might have had a yellow-brick-tinge in my minds eye because I’d get to walk it holding my mans hand.

So when nurses raced into my husbands hospital room on the first night after being released from ICU, I may or may not have had a post-traumatic reaction (spoiler alert: that’s gonna keep happening). All of a sudden I was hearing alarms and bells that I had categorized as last weeks trauma, and I was very unready to live it again.

So no, this long road to recovery isn’t a smooth path through rolling hills. It’s got some funky detours, wide turns, caution signs and even some u-turns. And in some sections, it has two distinct footpaths, because only one of us was awake for five days of it – so our stories, our memories, our lessons from this will look and sound different from each other.

This long road will involve many more tests, some days will have more questions than answers, rehab will teach the heart and muscles to rebuild, therapy will help our souls heal, friends and family will continue to enrich our lives with selfless love, meaningless drama (here’s looking at you, Oscars 2016) will be its own form of medicine, cooking and grocery shopping and marriage will look different, and our stories will unfold. Emphasis on OUR. 

Because living a miracle takes time.

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We are living a miracle: eyes wide open 

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3am here and I just spent the last 21 hours with my husbands eyes back open, focused, and knowing me. Words can’t even begin to express the warmth that flooded me when his eyes first flickered open, I half-whispered the question “can you see me?” and his head nodded the gentlest and most powerful of all yes’s.
And so began a slow and sacred day of regaining vocal chords, motor skills, etc. I had been warned that this would be a hard day, and it was. Extremely hard. But it was also one of my most favorite of my life. 

And as I slowly fill Jason in on the past five days, I too am having a slow dawn as to the breadth of the story unfolding. So stay tuned with us … With eyes wide open. 

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We won’t fix this.

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I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been making my way through my newsfeed much as I go past “that aisle” at Costco. I hunch my shoulders, lean closer to the things I’ve chosen, and casually avert my eyes.

But I know it’s there. I know it’s real. I know it’s uncomfortable. And I know that it may become a part of my story someday.

The adult-diaper aisle.

You guys, they sell. them. in. bulk. You’re welcome.

They offer features like “barely there” and “all day comfort”. On my last trip to Costco I realized with horror: someday my friends and I are going to give each other advice about the best-barely-there-diaper-we’ve-found. Have mercy. I quickly silenced the voice in my head that reminded me of what already happens when I laugh too hard, cough too loud, or even think about one hop on a trampoline.

And just like that dang aisle, my newsfeed is filled with so many uncomfortable things. That I know are there. That I know are real. That I know may become a part of my story someday.

And on Thursday they came to my backyard. When terror came to San Bernardino, my home county. Our world is experiencing crISIS all over the place. Whether this specific shooting is ever officially credited to them or not, I think that ISIS and their ideology is my generation’s Nazis. And I have absolutely no idea what to do. I don’t know how to fix it.

I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to have an opinion. I’m supposed to take a stand on something “more practical than prayer.” We live in the world of polarizing beliefs and insta-convictions, creating both insta-saints and insta-assholes everywhere. And it’s unacceptable for me not to have formed a solid conviction within 24 hours of the latest horror and posted it all over social media. Or waiting a respectable 48 hours and then posting snarky quips about everyone else’s position.

Well, here’s a feeling I have and you’re welcome to share, tweet, or repost to your heart’s content: I have absolutely no idea what to do. What to think. Or what to feel. So I’m hitting my knees.

I know it’s not popular, this idea of real prayer to a real Jesus in response to real crisis.

Because “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

I get it. The people who wrote that headline probably think that God is either nonexistent or a total bastard that flung the stars into the universe and hasn’t been involved since. And I also get that they were making a political point not a religious one.

Still, in just about every crisis, God’s name is invoked one way or another. It’s a natural response to crisis, to wonder where the heck He is, who the heck He is, and maybe even IF He is.

And sometimes we back down. Those of us who believe in Him. Because we’ve seen lots of things He didn’t “fix.” We’ve had prayers go unanswered. And their shouts of denial fuel our hidden sense of doubt. So we tag along with moments of silence and positive thoughts and walking eggshells around what we say we believe.

But that’s exhausting. I’d far rather stand on my two feet of belief and have you do the same on two feet of thinking-I’m-a-wackadoo, than both wobble around on peg-legs because we’re afraid of offending one another.

So if you don’t think God will fix this, say it. And I’ll say that I think He’s the only one who can.

Nine years ago I got to go to Bangladesh. It’s a tiny, green, fierce country. (True confession, before I went, I really didn’t know anything about the country except that my Banana Republic jeans were made there.) But their people taught me. We lived with a Muslim family and volunteered each day with a Christian family. It was fascinating to see life there through both lenses. They both spoke with equal pride of their country and what they had survived and overcome. They told us of the war their generation had waged with Pakistan. It was a horrible, ugly, devastating war as Bangli citizens sought (and ultimately won) their independence. But at great great cost. I had no idea. Now I’ll never forget.

One day, we were being toured through an independence museum. Think concrete building riddled with bullet holes, more like walking through someone’s house, but with pictures and war relics on display inside. Now take away all ideas of censorship or filters in choosing what to display. Yeah, it was graphic. My guide was a sweet young girl, and we chatted as we wandered. I asked her bluntly “Where do you place your faith?”, and she answered quickly, “I believe in humanity.”

It’s a nice sentiment. I’ve heard it plenty of times over a Starbucks drink, but I’d never heard it while standing where she and I were. In front of us was a large poster, nearly life-size, of a woman in the streets of Dhaka during the war. She was naked. And her limbs sprawled at wrong angles. It was clear she’d been raped. Probably repeatedly. Her eyes were open. Her throat was slit. It was the ultimate picture of what humanity can do to humanity.

Yet it’s where she was placing her faith. And it’s where thousands millions are placing their faith today, too. It’s a very popular view, and sometimes I want it to be true too. I know we all want to fix it. I love that we want to. I want to believe that we could. But we are kidding ourselves if we think we will. If we think we can.

We won’t fix this.

Because the problem – the “this” to fix – isn’t gun control or refugee policies or even ISIS. To think that people kill like this because guns are available is like saying people pee on themselves because diapers are available. The logic is inherently flawed. It addresses the symptom only, when really the problem goes much deeper.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t respond with ideas and protective measures, because we should. We need to take care of each other as best as we’re able. I am saying we are missing the big picture if we think those will fix the problem – they will respond to the symptom, not the cause.

People don’t kill, ISIS doesn’t declare jihad, because guns are available. But because evil is available. All ideologies recognize evil and depravity. Where we part ways is the “fixing” of it.

This is actually the good news of the Christmas story. See, all the generations of the Old Testament, had tried to “fix this.” Had tried to make sense of the world. Had tried to redeem evil. Isaiah says all their efforts were like adult diapers (my paraphrase of Isaiah 64:6).

The good news of that babe showing up in that manger was God saying “I’m here. I’ll fix this.”

I wish just like you that it had meant an instant end to evil, but it didn’t. Not yet. Because we all want Him to go after symptoms, and He goes after causes – He goes after hearts. Even in ISIS camps. Last night I saw this comment on Instagram: “I wish I knew the cure for evil. I wish I could soothe the heartache of my fellow man.” I believe Jesus is both of those things. Not in a hide-from-the-world bit of nonsense, not in an excused-from-making-decisions-about-laws kind of way, not in a bury-your-head-in-the-sand-because-heaven-sounds-nice-and-warm-and-fuzzy-and-we-all-want-to-go-there but BECAUSE I BELIEVE IT IS TRUE, and because I believe He is the only one who can actually cure what ails us. Prayer may sound like a weak response, but I dare say it’s the bravest one of all.

We make adult diapers, you guys. And we sell them at Costco. We aren’t the fixers of the world.

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Introvercations, Polar Bears, and new (scary good) Prayers

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I don’t like to overspiritualize things. But I don’t like to underspiritualize them, either.

This last week in Maui literally just dropped in my lap. A phone call from a friend here, a slight adjustment to the calendar there, airline miles here, and a text or two from generous friends there, and BOOM, this girl landed in tropical paradise for an introvercation. An introvert’s vacation.

It wasn’t coincidence. It was a flat out gift from God, affirmed by a generous husband, and addressed to a weary heart that needed time and space to just be alone and just be quiet and just be woo’d by creation.

And boy did Maui deliver …

… like long hikes where I was only slightly terrified of seeing a Polar Bear.

 

… like long snorkels alongside giant sea turtles. 

 

… like rainbows.

  

… and sunsets.

  

… and rainbows and sunsets sharing the show (I know, right!?).

  
… and shooting stars and lightning storms in the same sky.
… and time to write and think and feel and escape all the noise.

  

Quiet is one of the things most missing in my life – one of my favorite sounds in the whole world is the sound of no sound at all.

It’s extremely rare. Especially in the middle of Over Crowded, California. Oh, I mean Orange County. I digress.

So yeah, the sound of no sound – it’s like music to an introvert’s ears. It’s one reason I love diving. When I don the dive mask, the sounds of the world shut down. There is the sound of no sound. Many are scared of the “big blue”, that moment when you are transitioning from sky to sea and can only see blue above, below and all around you – it can unnerve some divers. I consider it one of my happiest places. All is quiet.

I think growing up in the mountains gave me this love for the sound-of-no-sound moments. I remember one distinctly. I was driving down the mountain in a blizzard – in a section appropriately called “Arctic Circle.” My dad would have FREAKED if he’d known how bad the conditions were and that I’d decided to keep going. Absolutely no one was on the road. No. One. Except a young girl in her shiny new Tacoma. Gosh, I loved that truck. Oh, again, I digress.

So this blizzard. There was so much snow coming down that it was what they call a white-out. All parts of the road and countryside were blanketed in a thick, thorough white, and even my windshield wipers couldn’t keep pace with the snowfall, so every few minutes I would have to stop, step out into freshly laden snow, and wipe my wipers clean with a towel.

On one of those stops, I stopped. Didn’t move.

I remember it vividly, even though it’s half a lifetime back.

No. Sound.

None.

The snow was blanketing us in. No footsteps. No tires cruising the blacktop. No horns. No wind. And snow falling on snow is as silent as it gets.

It was absolutely the quietest moment this girl has ever had.

I think I’ve been trying to get back to it ever since.

Because it’s noisy out there. And it’s noisy in here. I’ve got all the feels, and they’re loud right now. For good reason. Like a best friends’ dad dying. And another friends’ ten year old fighting cancer. Like jobs ending and traffic and bills and DMV and ISIS and North Korea and health insurance and terminal diseases and orphans and neighbor’s dogs and babies with tumors and doubts and fears and tears and brown-is-the-new-green and the loud noise of putting one foot in front of the other every dang day.

All the feels: they’re even louder than Orange County’s traffic. And they don’t run on nearly as predictable of a time schedule.

And thus the introvercation.

To you extroverts out there, a week alone probably sounds like hell. But go find an introvert and tap them on the shoulder – if you can find them in their hiding place under a rock – and I’ll bet they get glassy eyed at the idea.

In the quiet, all the feels could find their voice. Or better said, I could go slow enough to hear them one at a time. The ones that are thrilled and delighted by this life, the ones with big question marks, and those that are breaking my heart wide open.

I also brought a prayer I’ve never before prayed … last week in Bible Study we were talking about how often our prayers go something like this … “Please show me what You want me to do … today … this week … with my life.” There’s a sense of duty, of servanthood inherent in that prayer. It’s not all bad.

But there’s another way of asking about how to use our time that is far riskier, far more dangerous, far more … personal. It goes something like this … “Please show me what I want to do right now.” I know, right!? Yikes! I mean, are we even ALLOWED to pray like that!? Is that too, gulp, SELFISH?

But the conversation was birthed in this idea that maybe most of our ideas about God are … wrong. Or just not quite right. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t submit ourselves to His will, and I’m not saying He doesn’t have plans and hopes and requests of us. And Lord knows I’ve fought Him time after time on things He’s asked me to do that I didn’t want to do. He’s big enough to get His point across when He wants to.

But He also talks about us being His children, not his servants (Romans 8:15). And about giving us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). What does that even mean? Well much of this week was an experiment in that for me. What if I actually believed this verse? What if I actually believed that God could show me what He wants by showing me what I want?

So that was my one prayer – I had it on repeat. “God, will you show me what I want to do next?”

I know, it sounds kind of silly, right? But you know, it was FASCINATING. Because sometimes it led to a nap. Sometimes to a hike. Sometimes to writing. And even sometimes to mundane work and productivity that just had to get done (no seriously!). And of course sometimes to Hawaiian shaved ice – with coconut ice cream, yes please.

But you know what it led to every time? This new glimpse of glee, and freedom, and wonder … because when I asked Him, when I really asked, even though the moments and requests were small, He really answered. 

It’s my new scary good prayer.

And don’t get me wrong, I know that this looks different in Maui than in everyday real life. But I wonder just HOW different it looks. I’m daring to find out. Because I’m going to keep asking Him this question. “Will you show me what I want to do … next … today … this week … and beyond?” I’m asking it in the big things as well as the small. I’m daring to trust that He will answer. And that I will hear.

I’d love you to join me in this prayer. And I’d love to hear what it opens up.

It’s scary. And delightful. Like taking a walk through a rain forest just kind of wondering if you’ll run into a polar bear …   

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The Prettiest Taste of Summer You Ever Did See (also, a death-defying approach to the Tart of Death)

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Don’t Let Summer End Without Tasting this Pie. Quick, before summer ends. Make this pie. Be your own hero.

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Daunted much? I was too.

(Photo cred to this girl as my inspiration ala Pinterest.)

I mean, it’s only the prettiest pie I ever did see. This is not a baking blog. I am not a baker. BUT YOU GUYS THIS PIE. When I grabbed this pie recipe online in a fluke I-feel-like-making-a-pie-moment, it was basically a jump from zero to hero on the first pie I ever attempted. But it was so pretty. Staring at me. I had to make it.

A normal, prudent, reasonable non-baker might have also paid attention to the many blogs that cursed the day this pie was invented, calling it “the tart of death, a “slow descent into madness” and cussing out the G*%D(*$ rosettes as just one more way Martha Stewart helps the rest of us feel inferior.

I am not that prudent.

And you guys, sometimes imprudence finds the death-defying path. This is such a story. Here is the death-defying way to make the tart of death, and taste LIFE in every sweet amazing summery bite.

Step one, according to Martha, can be found here.

Step one, according to me, is: Buy a pieshell. I mean, seriously, Mrs. Smith has got this down. This would also be a good time to buy your other ingredients:

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 large egg

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp Chambord or brandy

1 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

8ish small-medium nectarines or 4-5 large nectarines

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Step two: Pre-bake the pie crust and let it cool completely.

Step three: thinly slice nectarines. As thin as you can. I find slicing to be therapeutic somehow. Seriously, if you ever invite me into your kitchen to cook or bake, assign me the slicing duty. I am treacherously slow at it, but I can slice a mean, thin nectarine. Hint: you need a REALLY sharp knife to get these sweet fruits thinly sliced, especially the more ripe they are (and the thinner/riper they are, the easier time you’ll have in step four).

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Step four: create rosettes. This is the death part. I mean, really, it’s hell to try and do it Martha’s way. She says to wrap the slices as tight as you can, wrapping from the inner core to the outside until you have a beautiful little rose in your hand. The romantic notion that these slimy nectarine pieces want to cooperate with you and stick to each other in this lovely rose pattern is bull*%&!. I may or may not have realized in this moment that I was way out of my league, and should have paid better attention to the many warnings of those who had gone before me.

But then. Then death died. Right there in my slimy, nectarine-covered hands. Right as I was about to give up and throw the whole idea into the trash-can, along with any hope of ever baking anything for the rest of time, a light dawned. Martha ain’t got nothin’ on this. Grab a mini-muffin tin and form the rosettes in there, from the outside-in. Place a slice around the outer edge, and then work your way inwards. I may or may not have starting cackling with glee as my first rosette took shape.

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And there I stood, with a mini-muffin pan full of the prettiest nectarine rosettes in the whole Country, and I realized my plan stopped there. The whole transfer-to-the-pie-shell-thing was a different beast.

And then I remembered why God invented freezers.

Voila, thirty minutes later I had the most beautiful little frozen rosettes, easy to pop out of the tin and into the pie shell. I mean, could baking BE any prettier?

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If you want the rosettes to stand a little higher in your pieshell, you can also add a layer of nectarine slices at the bottom. But make sure they look pretty, or else they won’t taste as good. Obvs.

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The rest of the recipe makes you feel like a rockstar as you brown butter and add brandy. Yes, all the yums. IMG_5678

This custard-ish mix gets poured over the top of your beautiful rosettes and fills in the wee cracks and crevices in between.

–> Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, whisk occasionally until butter solids begin to brown, about 5 mins. Remove from heat, set aside.

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–> In separate bowl, whisk egg, sugar, lemon juice, Chambord and salt until light in color and double in volume, about 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and reserved brown butter, whisk until well combined. Pour over fruit in the shell, filling in any empty spaces.

Bake this sucker at 375 for about 40-50 minutes, basically until the custard looks poofy (technical baker’s term) and You. Will. Have. Conquered. The. World.

Or at least you’ll feel that way when you pull it out, let it cool, and present the prettiest pie anyone ever did see. Oh and the taste … Summer. It’s summer in a pie. Everything wonderful and fresh and sweet and just the right amount of alcohol. I prefer mine fully cooled, refrigerated. And I may or may not have been known to eat a whole one. Over a few days’ time. Don’t hate.

So seriously, go get yourself a taste of summer. And if you need any help slicing, I’m your gal.

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She Came Back

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You guys, she doesn’t get to come back this year.

It will be my first Royal Family Camp experience without that curly mop of hair.

I may feel a bit lost.

But there will be 100 other faces for Abby to kiss this August. She’s getting in her lazy-dog-days-of-summer now as she gears up to be the therapy-dog for camp week, a role she was born to play. I mean, really, she looks great in a tutu and pearls, amiright!?

Abby at Camp

So we will be back. Again and again, listening and watching for the next part of the Story (mine, theirs, and His) to unfold.

We’d love your help – our group is raising funds to make sure that kids can come at zero cost to them or their caretakers. Here’s the link …
https://grouprev.com/sendabbytocamp

Hugs and cheers and many thanks!

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FRIDAY’S RAIN: Week 2

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Oh you guys, I can’t even.

“It is eye-opening and a true joy going through FRIDAY’S RAIN. A highlight of my day to sit down, work through it and be taught by God.”

AMEN!

Week 2 is now available as a free download HERE. Each Sunday for the next three weeks I’ll be releasing the following week’s study – email subscribers will receive it DIRECTLY in their Inbox. SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL HERE

Friday's Rain Card - Choose Joy 2015 copy FRIDAY’S RAIN: revealing what grief washes away

I’d love to know about YOUR journey through this E-Study. Post thoughts, comments or questions here on this site or via Facebook or Instagram.

Standing in the storm with you,

just name

*Update May 2016: Thank you to everyone who participated in the e-launch to make Friday’s Rain great! It is now available to order here!

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The Quest for the Perfect Egg: And other messy problems

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Six months ago, we set out on our craziest idea yet:  to renovate and remodel our first home.  I love that we are crazy enough to take on crazy projects.  And we’re talking crazy.  Move a wall here, build a wall there, not to mention gutting two kitchens and three bathrooms.   And don’t even get me started on the invisible stuff.

And I love the results. I am over-the-moon for our new kitchen, our new bathrooms, and the Air Conditioning that has saved our sanity this summer.  Our new house is slowly becoming a home.  One of my love languages is having our living room, kitchen, and yard filled with faces, and soon we’ll have guest rooms ready and the door will officially be opened wide!

And yes, before and after pictures will definitely be in order.

But before the after, there’s the messy.   The crazy.  The dust.  The just-one-more-thing-to-do.

This remodel project has taught me a lot about myself, and about being messy.  I’m a big fan of before-and-after, and sometimes I wait to share stories until I have the “after” figured out.  But messy is where life happens.

Having now lived through six months of a remodel, this is how I would describe it:  Remodeling is like issuing an invitation to all first-world problems to come through your front door.

Enter: the Story of a Stove.  Yes, a stove.  The Stove that has been bought twice and delivered thrice.

We grinned as we made grown-up purchases to replace our once-upon-a-college-student’s appliance collection of the past.  Our smiles faded when problem after problem arose.  It shouldn’t be so hard.  But it has been.  Countless obstacles have attacked this one part of our home, despite our best research, consumer-reporting, and careful purchasing.

Let me tell you, nothing makes you hate the first world more than fighting with a stove company about delivery, damage, broken promises, bad service, and all the requisite cash that comes from those issues.  I mean, it’s just a stove.  The classic first-world problem.  It’s not like I’m scouring to find food in the first place.

But also, it’s a stove.  My stove.  Where pancakes and spaghetti and cookies and over-easy eggs are destined to be made.  Where onions are sizzled and peppers are stir-fried and bacon sizzles.  A critical ingredient to a house becoming a home.

The Story of the Stove – with its grueling hours, mind-numbing delays, and costly detours – ended this week.  This week I got my stove.  I got to turn on my burner and see the beautiful blue of burning gas.  This, after driving like a bat out of hell to meet the handyman for installation.  Bat-out–of-hell, people.

The first night I made a beautiful egg with a golden yolk and celebrated the end of this particular first-world problem.  But I won’t pretend it wasn’t one heckofa messy road to get this “simple” thing done, and I’ll have an extra dose of grace for the next time a friend faces a first-world problem.

I think a lot of us face this – we come up against things that “shouldn’t be this hard.”  But sometimes they are.    Sometimes the things that should be the simplest can end up being the hardest.  Sometimes the things that should take minutes take hours.  Sometimes the things that seem so easy for someone (everyone?) else are your personal nemesis.

That’s life.  It gets messy.  But then again, the messy is what makes you appreciate the beauty all the more – like the golden hue of a perfect egg.

Stove

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