"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Is He REALLY Good?

Last weekend I was texting someone I love about a serious medical emergency she had witnessed.  Things ended happily, and her response was "God is good."

Which made my stomach ache.

You see, I struggle with that statement.

God is good.

Is He?  Or more like is He always good?

Sure, I see His goodness when things end happily.  In those moments when my children laugh, a medical test comes back negative, a car accident is not fatal, a bill is miraculously paid.

But how about those other moments. . .

When a mom in her prime is fighting for her life?

When the bills are not paid and there is no job in sight?

When a child is dying?

When an accident changes one's path forever?

In those moments, can I still raise my heart and say, "God is good."

I once watched a man I respect immensely sing that song, "God is good all the time. . ." as his first born was struggling for her life in an ICU room.  The memory is seared in my brain because my heart and my head just could not reconcile those words.  I remember standing in that sanctuary asking God to forgive me because I just could not understand.

Just this week, I was studying the book of Mark.  Mark 9:24 is one of my most frequently whispered prayers.  "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

I SO identify with the father in that story who is seeking the help of Jesus.  He knows Jesus can heal, but yet. . . 

That "but yet" is where I hover so often.

Jesus could BUT will He? 

Do I believe in Him enough to trust His decision even IF it is not the one I think is good, right, best?

In a commentary I read about the passage the author says, "I am still learning to trust God to define what is good for me."


Oh, me too!

Oh, Lord Jesus.  I believe.  Help me overcome my unbelief.  Help me to trust You to define what is GOOD.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Concert Ready

 It was one of those momma moments that take your breath away.

My Brenna-girl glided down the stairs looking so grown up, poised, and stunningly beautiful.

And I thought, "How does this happen?  I savor each stage.  Leave my house as rarely as possible. Live as fully present as I can.  All so I don't miss anything.  And STILL there are moments like these.  Moments when my children surprise me.  They are all of the sudden years older than my heart is ready for them to be.  And so incredibly beautiful."

In moments like that, I grab my camera.  

Oh, Brenna-girl.  What a joy you are.  On the night these pictures were taken, you sang in your first high school Christmas concert.  You were the only freshman girl to be featured in any way.  You sang in a trio with two young men during "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman."  You sang as beautifully and with as much poise as one would expect given your loveliness.  Many people told me what a good job you did as I left the concert hall.  And then we went to Wings and Rings with Grandma and Grandpa.  I soaked up every moment, knowing next year you will drive, which means the post concert treat will be with peers instead of with me.  You are a gift, precious daughter.  And although I make many mistakes as your mom, however, one thing I do right is taking joy in every moment.  

Sunday, December 3, 2017


I am someone who loves stories.  Remembering. Preserving. 


However lately, between the beauty of Christmas surrounding me, a bit of extra time (I have decided not to go to the lake this month), and the knowledge that life is a fleeting gift, my desire to record some of my most precious memories has escalated.  Which means instead of a simple "Happy 20th Birthday Jamison!" post, you will get a recap of his childhood.

I don't actually think my kids read this.  In fact, although I write for them, it is not with the desire that they will read it now.  Some day, when they are old enough to really know me, I hope they find me here and see their childhood through the eyes of my heart.  Until that day, my children, I apologize if I over share.  As we often tell Joshua, "You will get it when you're older!"

Anyway. . .

Before Chad and I had children I did not plan to be a stay at home mom.  I wanted to be an elementary teacher.  I went through college like a woman on a crazy mission, taking a HUGE class load and maintaining a 4.0 GPA.  When I "finally" convinced Chad we should have a baby, and after that beautiful girl was born my plan did not change.  I finished my final year of college as a full-time working mom, and I was happy.  Very happy.

I am not sure what happened, but at some point just months before I graduated, I knew in my soul that acquiring a full time job would change our family dynamic in ways we did not want.  Although I had everything ready to apply for jobs, great references, and a ton of enthusiasm - something stopped me.  When I told Chad, he was stunned.

But supportive.

Chad has always, always, always supported my hopes and dreams.  He never questions.  He just opens any door possible to make them happen.

He did have a suggestion.  He said that if I were going to try being a stay at home mom for a year, perhaps we should have another baby.  Looking back and remembering that our first baby was only about seven months old at the time makes me smile. . . now.  At the time, we didn't think about how close in age the children would be, just that we were in love with each other and with parenting.  Why not have another baby?

I was expecting immediately.  However, I discovered my pregnancy in a crazy way. 

I was student teaching in a middle school.  Sixth grade.  One day I had three separate students ask me if I were pregnant.  It was totally random.  Totally odd.  But because we were hoping. . . I laughingly told Chad about it at dinner.  I took a test that evening and was delighted to discover that Jamison was on the way.  (My students were never told!)

Although all my pregnancies were delightful,  I think this one was the easiest.  Life was so simple.  I had a tiny rental home to care for, one baby, no job and no friends.  It may sound lonely, but at the time it was golden.  After years of being so busy and working so hard through college, I was able to nap.  Cook.  Take long walks.  Read books to my baby girl.  Count baby kicks in my belly.  It was a precious time.

Like all my babies, Jamison was very happy in my belly.  We waited until I was five days overdue and five centimeters dilated to induce labor.  When I got to the hospital, the nurse was pretty sure he would just fall out when the doctor broke my water.  She had everything ready for delivery.  He did not arrive quite that quickly, but after a very brief and nearly painless labor, we were delighted to meet our son.  Where Krissy's delivery was not at all what I had hoped, Jamison's was nearly magical.  I felt so incredibly blessed.

As an infant Jamison only had eyes for me.  My mom jokes that she held Jamison in the hospital, but not again until he was a year old.  The only thing he liked, other than me, was a vibrating bouncy chair.  However, he cried unless it was also being rocked.  I could do anything balanced on one foot, bouncing his chair with the other.  Literally anything.  I moved our family from our tiny rental house in Minot into an apartment in Bismarck all while bouncing him in that chair.  God gave me such peace and joy through that time.  I do not remember it as stressful, I remember it with laughter and gratitude.  That chair was the best thing ever, and I have always delighted in our son.

Growing up, Jamison was easy, obedient, and respectful.  BUT when he threw a fit, it was EPIC.  He definitely holds the record for best temper tantrums thrown by a Dietrich child.

When he was 2.5 he ran away from me when I said it was time to leave the park.  I had to chase him for two blocks - while his sisters ages 4 years and 6 months waited buckled in the van.  I carried his thrashing body back to the van and had to wrestle him into his car seat.  He could not settle down.  He yelled and screamed and thrashed the entire way home. When we arrived home, I carried him to his room, explaining he could come out when he had settled down.  He literally tore his entire room apart.  He threw all his toys down the stairs in a complete rage and eventually had his twin size mattress part way down the steps before he ran out of energy and anger. 

Another time, he broke his window in an angry fit.

Looking back it makes me belly laugh.

I am also deeply thankful as I think back on these fits - because rather than being an angry person, Jamison has chosen self-control.  As an teen and adult he has always been very kind, compassionate, and in control of his anger and behavior.

One of my favorite memories with Jamison was watching him shoot a pheasant, perhaps his first.  We were hunting with a large group, and I was walking near Jay.  A bird popped up in front of us and he shot it with confidence and ease.  When we walked up to it, it was still flopping around.  Now I am not a hunter.  I took a couple quick steps backward and said (slightly panicked), "What do we do now?!?"  He looked at me incredulously, picked up the bird, rung its neck, shoved it into his vest, and kept on walking.  A few steps down the field he looked over his shoulder and grinned his mischievous dimpled grin.  That memory is seared in my brain.  It was THE MOMENT, the very first moment that I saw a man where my baby boy had been.  He was around 12 and far from grown, but I saw it.  A glimpse of the man he would become.  Competent.  Calm.  Courageous.  And fun.

This past year, he has more fully become that man I glimpsed on the pheasant field years ago. 

I have watched him fall crazy in love, and choose her needs over his as he cared for her tenderly after surgery. 

I have watched him wrestle through changing dreams as he discovered the root of his never-ending battle with stress fractures was not bad training but low bone density.  If he had life as he wished, he would be running 90 miles a week and racing every chance he could.  But his body has said no.  And while he is far from happy, rather than throw a huge fit, he is instead pursuing his passion for coaching.  Just as many dreams felt lost forever, a door opened for him to coach at the high school level.  He jumped in and was a part of a state champion team.  Coach Jam was officially born in what was one of the most disappointing seasons of my son's life.  I am so proud that rather than wallow, he tried something new and reaped the rich rewards.

Jamison Chad Dietrich, your momma is proud of you.  You dig deep.  You have a strength of character that is admirable.  You love big.  You know how to ask for help and say thank you.  And yet your dimples remain, though hidden by that beard!  You know how to joke, laugh, tease, and have fun.  I love that!

I am sorry for the times I mommy you.  Old habits are hard to break, but I am trying.  I DO see it.  You are all grown up, and I am very thankful for the man you have become.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thirty Days of Thanks - Living My Dream

I have spent much of the last 10 days with tears simmering just under the surface.

Grateful tears.

Like deeply, deeply, deeply grateful.

Grateful at soul level.

You see, once in a while, it just amazes me.

This life.

It is so different from what I expected.  It is so much harder.  So much more confusing.  So much more disappointing.  So much more sad.

While at the same time it is so much better.  So much richer.  So much more joy-filled.  So much deeper.

And in all reality, it is exactly what I always hoped.

For as far back as I can remember my true, ultimate dream. . . the life I always imagined. . . the person I felt created to be IS the very life I am living.

Being married to a man who would do anything to make me laugh, surrounded by six noisy, kind, smart, energetic, and deeply loving kids. . .

THIS is my dream.

In the busy and the noise and the chaos and the rush and the bills and the dishes and the carpool and the baths and the laundry and the grocery shopping and ALL the rest of the daily mundane I sometimes forget.  I grow weary, overwhelmed, and unappreciative.

But on Thanksgiving Day, as I sat at a table filled with my parents, my husband, every one of our children and each grandchild, my chin quivered and the tears fell because they are my dream come true.

Thank you, Jesus.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thirty Days of Thanks - 18 Years

We are celebrating Sierra's eighteenth birthday this weekend.


A legal adult.

Sort of. (In my estimation, eighteen is really clumsy.  Young people are told that this birthday equals adulthood, yet they most are far from capable of providing for themselves.  As a parent, I dread this stage.  I just find it soooo awkward.  But, that is not what is truly on my heart.)

Eighteen and "all grown up" brings up all sorts of nostalgia.

Sierra always claims to be our only surprise baby.  In truth, Chad and I had decided to have  another baby - but then got cold feet, wondering if we could afford one.  We found out a week or so later that Sierra was on the way!  Her middle name is Faith because that was our lesson while waiting for her to arrive.  God always had and always would be faithful to provide.  While pregnant with her, our insurance company had a special prenatal program. The entire pregnancy and delivery only cost $252 out of pocket.  We rejoiced in His faithfulness and named her Faith, praying that she, like we, would grow in faith daily.

She and Krissy are three years and four months apart.  Which means I was basically pregnant or nursing for five years in my early twenties.  I was so blessed with joyous pregnancies.  It was a precious time.  When the time for Sierra's delivery drew near, my doctor (who had not delivered Krissy and Jamison) asked me how this would go.  I explained that my first two babies were induced.  Since Sierra was due on Thanksgiving Day, and I did not want to be in the hospital on Thanksgiving, I suggested we induce a few days early.  We set the date of November 18.

Bright and early on November 18, we arrived at the hospital.  The doctor asked me, again, how this should go.  I remember cheekily telling him to break my water, start the pit, and come back in two hours to deliver our baby.  He laughed - but followed my advice.

Two hours and two pushes later, Sierra was placed on my chest.  The doctor was shocked - but pleased. (I actually remember him high-fiving the medical student who was with him.  Which I would not call great bedside manners, but it was memorable!)

I can recall the moment she was born with complete clarity.  Chad was standing near my head, and just as Sierra was crowning, the phone in our room began to ring.  She slipped into the doctors waiting hands, was declared a girl, and placed on my chest as that phone continued to ring.  I gazed deep into her eyes and then looked up at Chad and said, "Would you answer that, please?"  It was truly hilarious.

On the phone was our dear friend Sally.  She is a nurse and was checking on my progress, never dreaming baby would have arrived.  Sally was the first to know of our baby's arrival and her gender!  And she is someone Sierra adores to this day.

After Chad got off the phone, the doctor asked, "So what is her name?"

Once again, I remember looking up at Chad and waiting for a response.  The one thing about Sierra's arrival that was truly a surprise was her gender.  We had several boy's and girl's names chosen.  I was insistent that if she was a girl her middle name be Faith - but her first name was up to her Daddy. 

Chad replied, "This little girl's name is Sierra Faith."

And it has proven the perfect name.  Sierra Faith - faith as high and as beautiful as the mountains.

Sierra has always our easiest child in certain ways.  She sucked her thumb as a baby (OK so from infancy until grade 3!), which made her particularly content.  Sierra is tender, loyal, EXPRESSIVE, and fun.  She has always been irrepressible.  I envision her will like a helium-filled balloon pushed underwater.  Though she has had several hard-knocks in life, her irrepressible will quickly pops her back up and she is soaring again. 

Sierra is smart, hard-working, determined, and always has a plan.  She is very intentional - seeking to build-up others in very specific ways.

As a momma, Sierra has been such a gift to me because she has trusted me with her heart in a rare way.  And she understands mine.  We have broken the rules, she and I.  In these turbulent high school years, we have been friends.  Yes, I am momma first.  I have had to make rules and enforce them.  I have not chosen to be her friend rather than her parent.  Likewise, she respects me as mom.  But she gets my guts, and I get hers.  I know by her walk how her heart feels, and she knows by the angle of my shoulders how my heart is.  When I speak, she hears my heart not just my words and that is such a gift.

Next year, she plans to head off to UND.  Her majors will likely be pre-physicians assistant and Spanish.  Many people ask us how we will live apart - but I am not worried.  I am excited.  She is SOOOO ready to spread her wings and experience new things.  It will be awesome to witness.  And thanks to FaceTime, texting, phone calls, etc. . . our relationship will not end, it will deepen and expand.
Of all her senior pictures (and she had tons of gorgeous ones taken by TWO amazing photographers) this is my favorite because it totally reflects my daughter.  

It is bold, uniquely beautiful, slightly controversial, and oozing with personality.  It reflects her love of fashion (those shoes!) along with her love of outdoors.  It reminds me of what a hard working overcomer she is.  (Among other things, she blew out her shoulder freshman year and relearned to shoot left handed though she is right handed and right eye dominant.) And they smirk?!? Oh, it is soooooo Sierra! 

 Happy, Happy Golden Birthday Beautiful One! 
 I am deeply grateful for the gift you are!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Thirty Days of Thanks - Progress

This fall we made a big, scary change.  We pulled Joshua out of the local public school and enrolled him in a brand-new private school.  It was one of the hardest choices I have ever made - but two months later, I am deeply, tearfully grateful for the progress I see our Joshua making this school year.

To be completely honest, the biggest changes we see are behavioral rather than educational.

Before school started, Joshua was emotionally fragile and lacking self-worth.  He would cry often.  He expected to fail, thus often refused to try.  He was becoming increasingly argumentative and lacked control over his words when he felt "cornered."  We dreaded asking him to do anything, even a task as simple as taking out the trash, because a fit of some type would usually follow.

Changing schools has changed his entire outlook.  He is much happier, calmer, and emotionally under-control.  He is sleeping better.  He is excited to go to school each day.  When asked to do chores at home, he often complies with no complaint.  And just the other day, he was REALLY upset with me - but he held his tongue.  Where two months ago he would have used mean words, he simply stomped up the steps angrily and followed my instructions.

I am seeing MY CHILD again. 

When I had the exit meeting at his former elementary school his teacher and I discussed the fact that if something did not change, he would be labeled ODD.  Now I would be OK with him being labeled ODD if in fact he was ODD.  However, I knew in my heart that he was not ODD. Rather he was deeply frustrated and completely afraid.  The concrete-sequential, paper and pencil, remain in your desk for much of the day, and test-constantly type of learning that our public school teachers are forced to practice was draining the life from my son.   (He had an awesome teacher!  She understood exactly what he was going through.  She made many adaptations for him, and she also had the courage to send me info about his new school because she wanted him to be himself.  I am so grateful.)

From an educational standpoint, we are beginning to see progress.  He was so closed when school began that he didn't even want to read a menu and the idea of writing caused instant tears.  It was not that he was completely incapable, he was testing just below grade level - but he was feeling incapable - totally, completely, terrifyingly incapable.

At this point, he is reading menus again.  He will read a simple story to Mataya or a younger classmate.  He adds to my grocery list if I leave it laying out, in hopes of me purchasing some of his favorite junk food.  And one completely amazing morning, he read a really hard news article to me on the drive to school. . . voluntarily!  SO - he's getting there.

It is my belief that as his self-worth continues to rise, his learning curve will follow.  We have some educational "stuff" to figure out, but as his mind opens to his own potential that "stuff" will be much easier to navigate.  

In the end, while educational stuff matters whole lot (I am an educator at heart and by degree), Joshua's heart matters most.  I am grateful beyond words for the confidence and happiness I see in our son.  Seeing Joshua be Joshua again is priceless.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thirty Days of Thanks - Flexibility

(If this photo does not define flexibility mixed with exhaustion, I do not know what does?!?)

One of the biggest assets I have in life is a flexible schedule.  I truly do not know how our family would flourish if I were in a traditional work setting.  Daily, my schedule bends, changes, and flip-flops because of the ever changing needs of our family.  It is a rare day in which I do not have to rearrange something in order to serve my family better.  

This week, in a rare moment of clarity, I decided to use this asset for my own sanity!  Typically, I change my schedule backwards and forwards to make the lives of Chad and the kids easier.  I reroute in a moment to better suite their needs and wants.  However, I stick to schedules and deadlines for myself.  Even as things around me change, I refuse to move my own deadlines.  I sleep less, relax less, exercise less, whatever it takes - but I do not leave an assignment unaccomplished.

This week, I was stressed.  I had a work deadline (that someone outside of our company had imposed) that was possible to meet only if I gave up sleep and sanity.  Ordinarily I would have made it happen.  I would have chosen exhaustion and stress over admitting "defeat."

Thankfully, this week, I chose to give myself grace.

Did you hear that?!?


I realized that if I delayed a meeting by a day or two, my stress would dissipate.  The assignment would be completed without undo stress, loss of sleep, and sanity.  I would be much more peaceful, not to mention happier.  And the delay would affect NOTHING, except that my pride would sting a smidgen when I admitted I was not ready when I was "supposed to be" ready.

So, I delayed a meeting, took a nap, and caught up on some things that were truly urgent.


I am deeply grateful that I have such a flexible schedule.  Chad and I have worked hard to protect it because we know it is essential for the health of our family - however, it is also a gift the Lord has allowed.  I know many people that long for, yet do not have this luxury.  It is a gift that I do not take for granted, ever.  Our lifestyle does not allow for much "me time" but it does allow me to spend my days serving my family in a very hands-on way, more often than not as chauffeur, laundress, personal shopper, or cook with a large side order of "office manager" thrown in out of necessity.  No matter what I am doing, my focus is on how I can best serve our family.  I never have to choose between work goals and family goals because they all merge into one.  I am deeply, deeply thankful.

(Now, I better get to work on that assignment I delayed.  Flexible is great - but that doesn't mean I don't have work to do!  HA!)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thirty Days of Thanks - A Week In A Post

One thing with which I struggle is living life fully in the moment, while also being reflective enough to savor the moments.  I tend to vacillate between being too busy to let moments soak deep OR too busy trying to reflect and record that I live above the moment rather than in it.

This week was busy.  Extremely busy.  And while there were many moments that I allowed rush and fatigue to get in the way of fully savoring, there were many MORE moments in which beauty soaked deep into my being, filling me with the type of gratitude that brings goosebumps to my arms and tears to my eyes.

 Early this week, Chad sent Mataya and I to the cabin.  Our goal was to paint the master bedroom and do some organizing and cleaning because we would all be staying there this weekend for the very first time.  I had never slept in the cabin before.  I had also never been in charge of turning on the water, turning up the heat, unlocking the gate, etc. . .  I was both excited and nervous.  I was also feeling very rushed.  I had much to accomplish at the lake, at the office, and at home.  I was very much task-focused, but as always, as I drove the desolate gravel roads that lead to the cabin, my stress began to melt.  Just a mile and a half from the cabin, this stunning bald eagle greeted me.  We have been watching her from afar all summer - but there she was so close, perched on a tree right next to the road.  I came to a stop in the middle of the road, rolled down my window, and watched her.  As she looked at me looking at her, it was as if to God were saying, "I love you.  I have planted beauty on your path.  Open your eyes to it.  Savor it.  Recognize it as a gift from Me."  

 When we arrived at the cabin, Mataya insisted on helping me prime and paint the bedroom.  Though it would have been easier (not to mention less messy) to paint by myself, it would not have been better.  She is SO proud of the work she did.  What a precious blessing to see her work so hard and feel so good about what we accomplished.  She is such a gift.
 Later in the week, we celebrated our darling granddaughter's first birthday.  Sophia Jean Marie is the most delightful little thing.  She it tiny - the size her brother was at about 7 months - but mighty.  She walks like a boss and radiates joy.  When she comes around the corner, grinning at me and squeezing her chubby little fingers in and out excitedly, my whole world stops.  She loves to cuddle and adores food - so we have a few things in common! 

There is something so unique about being a grandparent.  I do not know my grandbabies inside and out as I did my own children.  I am often out of touch with day to day accomplishments, and I do not understand all their babbled words.  But I love them with a tenderness and ferocity that defies all logic.  Sophie-girl, I love you more than I can even explain.  

Though he is not such a "baby-guy" Grandpa agrees, you are the definition of sweetness.

The week ended and the weekend began with our family staying at the cabin for the very first time.  Though the only room that is totally complete is the main floor bathroom, we have heat, a functioning kitchen, and cots to sleep on.  The floors and most of the walls are unfinished, the furniture is make-shift, but that did not stop us from having a wonderful time.  There is nothing that fills my soul like having my kids nearby, and this weekend I was surrounded by nearly all of them (except Krissy and her family).

 This is not even a good picture, but so many of my kids around the same table makes my heart so happy that I had to snap a photo.
 The only one who loves Jamison and Ida coming home more than I do is Mataya!  She follows them everywhere, and if I talk to either of them too much she says, "Mom go away!  It's MY turn!!!!"
 Late one afternoon, Mataya insisted on sleeping snuggled up under my chin.  It was a rare moment.  Everyone else was gone. Dinner was simmering silently.  The only task that beckoned was holding my littlest daughter.  Oh what a precious gift that hour was.
 As was watching her daddy hold her as they watched a movie later that same day.

The actual purpose of the weekend was to hunt for deer - but in my heart the purpose was to relax and savor the moments.  And to cook!  I spent a ton of time happily preparing meals and snacks for my hunters to come home to.

I also spent time exploring outside with Mataya.  I am determined to spend more time outside this winter - so I pulled on warm clothes and went hiking with Mataya daily.  

 We discovered the tiniest little birds nest.

Fresh air is good for the soul.  Even icy air!

This week I read, "The antidote to exhaustion isn't rest.  It's nature." Shikoba.  
And while rest is so very important, I do agree.  Nature resets my focus and brings a calm that few other things bring.

Even icy nature. (That is HUGE coming from a recovering winter-hater!)

Without a doubt, my week was filled with beauty.  True, physical, natural beauty.  Along with relational, soul-filling beauty.

BUT it was also filled with MESS.
Take a good look at this photo.  Filthy floors, piles of tools, tons of clutter, "creative" furniture etc. . .  Though there are many beautiful elements at the cabin - the countertops, shower, appliances, paint color - the VAST majority of it is rough.  Unfinished.  Partially complete.  Messy.  It is a place brimming with potential - but much work remains.

As I sat at my make-shift kitchen table, sipping coffee and doing my devotional this week, God whispered.  "Look around.  This is how I see you, how I see your family.  I see the beauty.  I see the potential.  Each of you have areas in which you are complete - but larger areas that need to be worked on.  Polished.  Painted.  Refinished.  Or remodeled."  In those minutes, He challenged me to love like He loves.  To love deeply, graciously, and mercifully - without judgement - in the messy places.  To watch expectantly as He works on each of us, polishing our rough spots, so that we can glow with the finished beauty only He can create.

More than anything else this week, I am thankful for His craftsmanship.  I am thankful that He is creating beauty in the mess all around me.  And I am completely in AWE of the pure beauty that He revealed to me, even in the midst of much mess.