How writing is like mountain climbing...

...but not the way you would think that it's like mountain climbing.

The other day, I posted this on Twitter:

Is that what happened? Yes. We did that. It was awesome.

Is that how it happened? Yes and no.

A few days before the mountain adventure, Josh and the boys and I were walking down by Medina Lake, throwing rocks and looking at the pretty water. Josh sees the mountain. Josh goes, "You see that mountain over there?" I go, "I can't do this with you right now." Undeterred Josh says, "One of these days, I'm gonna climb that mountainmountainountainountainountain..."

The next day, while it's raining, we talk about how awesome it would be to kayak across the lake and climb the mountain. We could take a lunch! The boys would love it. Now if we just had some sunlight and less wind, that mountain would be ours. The forecast for Wednesday said it was going to be sunny and 75. We had our date with destiny.

Wednesday dawned even more beautiful than the weatherbots had claimed it would. We loaded up the boys and took the kayaks down to the water. Let me take a second here to explain something to you about kayaks: It's nothing to get a kayak off a truck. You're pumped. You're ready to get in and paddle away. You just lift it down, throw your seat in, and pack it to the water with your kayak buddy, boom, done.

All life-vested and water-shoed up, we hopped in and paddled toward the face of that shining mount. Which at this point in the morning was in shadow, but you get the idea.

About fifteen minutes later, as often happens with distances over water, the adults in the expedition started to realize just how far away that shining mount was. Fifteen minutes paddling in low waves and we were still only about halfway there.

No problem! No problem! It's always a little farther than it looks! We can do it and it's totally going to be worth it. Just keep paddling! And so, to the sound of several more "You see that mountain over there?"s from Joshua and "Night Begins to Shine" singalongs with Bear, the intrepid family of gypsy pirates made their way across the last half of the lake. Whew! That was fun.

There were rocks and fallen trees washed up on the shore and all kinds of cool stuff to explore. We did that for a bit. Then it was time to start the climb to the top. Joshua grabbed the dry-bag full of lunch, Bear grabbed a spear he'd fashioned upon landing, Oak grabbed nothing, I grabbed the phone, and up we went.

Or up we started to go. From far away, the mountain looked like it had a pretty thick canopy of tree cover, but when you see it from a distance (and through the eyes of a Missourian or Arkansan), you think, "Trees? Hot dog! The more shade for the climb the merrier! It isn't even a very big mountain!" But in Texas, trees on mountains are not trees like you and I think of trees. They are a nefarious mix of scrubby brush, brambles, squat little cedars, and fire ants. You don't walk up the side of a mountain in Texas. You crawl up it.

To give you an idea what I'm talking about, a visual aid:

This was the biggest clearing all the way up the side of this mountain. I was almost able to stand up to take this picture.

We climbed and crawled and scratched and clawed our way through the underbrush (everyone in our luncheon party over three feet tall did, anyway). Thorns and cedar boughs snagged at our clothes and hair and skin. Ants attacked the boys. The warmth of the seventy-five degree day settled in. Josh picked a path through a cluster of trees and brambles I didn't think I could squeeze through. I got hung up trying to get to the marginally-less-brushy other side. My clothes snagged. Thorns scratched me up. A bee roughly five times the size of a Missouri bee came at me, bro. I was being pushed and pulled and abraded and I did not like it.

I won't lie to you, friend. I looked up the side of the mountain, completely unable to see the top or any other measure of progress and I considered telling Josh that we should either stop there and call it good enough or go back down and eat lunch on the shore. The shore was pretty nice. The brambles were not. The going got tough and the eden was like, "No way, dude. I quit."

But then, as it often does when I'm caught in the middle of doing something I don't care for, this other wheel started turning in my head. That wheel was thinking about stories and how they related to mountain climbing. Not from a reader's perspective. Not your basic dramatic structure of rising action, climax, falling action. No, other-wheel was thinking about how much it sucked to be in the thick of it writing the rising action when you couldn't even see the climax, let alone the resolution to the story you're pouring your heart and soul into.

I feel like you're going to think I'm making this up for the sake of a well-rounded blog post--Oh, adorable, a life lesson about never giving up that applies to writing, how quaint!--but I'm not. I wasn't thinking about how you had to keep plugging away at the story so you could get to the climax where you would stand with your face in the sun, looking out over the gorgeous landscape of your creation, and for a second, just a moment in time, all that hardship would be worth it.

Nope, I was thinking about how I've spent almost four years writing about the people of Halo, and to be quite honest, I'm tired of it. Oh, I still love them. I still love their hometown. I always will. But some days I think, "I swear, Tough, if you screw one more thing up, I'm going to wring your scrawny neck!" I'm in the middle of the third book and some days--okay, a lot of the days--it's a chore just to think about working on it. I'm tired of it. I want to work on something else, play something new, phone this one in and call that good enough. Where I'm at right now in Godkiller, I can't see a climax or any sort of resolution. I can't see any progress at all. The brush is too thick, I'm all tangled up, and something creepy-crawly is biting my leg.

If you're a writer, or if you know any writers, you've probably heard that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The object of this game is to write 50,000 words in one month (the equivalent of a short novel). I've been really intent on keeping up with NaNo this year for a lot of reasons. One is now that we're living on the road, I want to make sure I keep writing every day. Always be hustling, do work, etc, etc. Another is that I really want to have Godkiller out by the end of this year (a goal that's looking admittedly ridiculous at the moment), and 50k more words sure wouldn't hurt.

But one benefit of NaNoWriMo that I didn't see coming was this: It's fun. I've made the target word count exactly 1 time out of the last 20, but every single day I put my butt in a seat and I write. I write in laundromats, passenger seats of trucks, on couches, in booths, on beds, on floors, on porches, inside, outside, with kittens sleeping on my tummy, with little and big boys playing Super Smash Bros next to me, while I'm making supper or waiting for my turn to teach home school. I pour words out without worrying what the next scene is going to be or where the story is going or how they're going to survive this. I stretch out descriptions and conversations and sentences until it feels like I'm padding a college English essay and then I laugh because I remember that terrible essay I turned in once about Enkidu and Gilgamesh and this is that kind of fun. I know it's not good, but it's not about being good. It's a race. It's a video game. It's make-believe. It's FUN.

I'd forgotten that writing was just plain fun.

Sometimes I get so bogged down in worrying about what will come next and how the story will end and whether it's even worth telling that I forget how great it is to just sit down and play make-believe for a while. I wrap myself in the brambles of trying to Write Good and Satisfy Readers and Stay True to My Characters until I forget that this is just a first draft. First drafts are for the writer. We can play to our heart's content, entertain ourselves, and laugh like nutcases at stuff no one's even going to see. Second and subsequent drafts are for worrying about the audience and Good Writing and such. Later will come the editing. Later will come fixing. Later will come agonizing over every sentence until I can recite whole scenes back to you verbatim. Oh, and I will do that. I'll do it for about a month before I publish and about a month afterward, while I'm lying in bed and supposed to be asleep, to make sure I'm paranoid enough about every potential typo or misplaced comma.

Right now, though, I'm just having fun, playing make-believe, and finding out what my characters are going to do next.

This is the stuff I was thinking about while clawing my way up that mountainside after Joshua and our sons--occasionally interrupted by violent thoughts about short people whenever someone yelled back down, "Why's it taking you so long, Mama? Just go faster!"

Then, suddenly, we were standing on a rocky outcropping looking out over the tops of scrubby trees and cacti at a brilliant blue sky above and a shining lake below.

"I think this is the only clearing up here," Josh said.
"Yeah, looks like it," I puffed.
"Let's eat."
So we did. We we sat on rocks and we took off our sweaty shoes and we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gulped down lukewarm water.

We still had the trek down. We still had the much-longer-than-expected kayak ride back to the campsite. We still had to drain the kayaks and put them up on the truck's racks--and let me take a minute to tell you about putting kayaks back. It's no easy feat. You're tired. You're sunburned. Your arms feel like jelly. You're ready to go back to the camper and lay on the couch without moving while your kids watch a cartoon until you convince your spouse that you should get Mexican for supper rather than cook.

We still had all that ahead of us. But right then we were just sitting on a mountain eating sandwiches. They were delicious.


Josh's Last Day Out

Today was Josh's last day of work at the shop. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't crazy-excited that I get to spend every hour of every day from here on out traveling the country, raising the boys, and just generally being gypsy-pirates with the guy I love, but I wouldn't be able to do any of that if God hadn't put Tom and Kelly in our lives. They gave Josh a job when we moved back to Missouri, tipped us off about what would become our house, gave us the resources to renovate it, introduced us to the Crossing which would eventually become our church home, took us on countless adventures, and encouraged us every day by example to become better people. We wouldn't be where we are now without them. This dream would not have been possible without them.

When you look at it like that, saying something like "Thank you" feels pretty lame.

Tom, Kelly, Grant, we love you guys like family and we're going to miss you. We thank God for you all every day, and pray that He blesses you as much as you've blessed us over the last six years. Thank you.


Some days, some nights...

Some nights I realize we're hanging onto this sobriety thing by a string. It's bound to snap at any second. And wouldn't that be better than hanging on, watching it fray, wondering when it's going to fall apart? There's no way that string can last forever. Why fight the inevitable?

Then some days I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I realize I don't hate the person I'm looking at that much anymore. I might not hate her much at all. Maybe hanging on is worth it. Not just for my kids, not just for my husband and my family. Maybe it's worth it for me, too.


Ultimate Road Trip FAQs

Moving is weird.

This is how weird moving is: Tonight is our last night in this house. Tomorrow morning we'll sign it over to the new owner and put our check in the bank. Tomorrow afternoon we'll start our search for a camper. The way our luck tends to work, we'll probably be moving our junk into our new home on wheels by the day after tomorrow. We've lived here for six years. Joshua rebuilt this entire house from the basement up. We've had two children here, buried two cats here, written millions of words here. And in a couple days, we're leaving here forever.

But this is also how weird moving is: Ten years ago almost to the day, Joshua asked me to marry him. A few weeks later, I loaded everything I owned into the back of my dad's truck, and left for Brooklyn where I was pretty sure my future awaited.

Six years ago—again almost to the day—Joshua and I packed everything we owned into the back of, and on top of, our Explorer, loaded up our cats, and drove 18 hours back home to Missouri. We were homeless, jobless, $40,000 in debt, and expecting our first child.

In a few days, we'll be homeless again, jobless again, with two little boys in tow. Except this time we're up $40,000, with the highway stretching out ahead of us like a Welcome Home party that never ends.

When people find out that our plan is to sell our house, buy a camper, and bum around the country for the rest of our lives (or until we get bored of the US and decide to branch out to the international bumming circuit), they inevitably have questions. For the sake of convenience (mine, mostly), I've compiled our answers to the most Frequently Aed Qs here.

1. How's this going to work?
My guess is pretty well. Josh and I both love traveling and the boys love "going on long trips."

2. With kids, though?
I'll assume from your tone that you've either met Oak and Bear or have two little boys of your own, and you're wondering how Josh and I are going to keep from losing our minds on the days it's too stormy to shove them out the door and tell them not to come back until they need a flashlight. Excellent question! Next.

3. What about money?
Money will figure itself out. It always does.

4. Seriously, trucks don't run on dreams and gas doesn't grow on trees. What are you going to do about money?
Let me take a moment to note that this question is most often asked by practical, plan-centric people or our parents—a.k.a. "people who worry too much." But for the sake of argument, I'll entertain it.

In theory, we'll have the house money until that runs out. By the time the house money runs out, we're hoping that my book sales will support us, with some help from Joshua's cover design business and whatever else he cooks up. He's pretty ingenious as providers go. If his family needs something, you can count on that guy figuring out a way to get it.

In practice, though, our money/living plan is a lot simpler. God takes care of His idiots, as my dad likes to say. He's always taken care of me. Remember us leaving Brooklyn homeless, jobless, expecting, and $40k in debt? The Monday after we got back, Josh started work at the local cabinet shop. A couple weeks later, we'd bought this house. We haven't wanted for anything since.

This money thing is where a lot of people get hung up. They're willing to say that they believe God will take care of them, but in reality they won't rest easy until the money's actually in the bank. Me, I think worrying is stupid on every level, but worrying about money more so than the rest. I can look back on every place in my life where I needed help in monetary form, and then I can see where my help came from. My faith is grounded in a trust that was built over 28 years of being taken care of by God. Maybe I am one of His idiots, but I'm a well-protected one, so I'm fine with that.

5. What about the boys? They're almost school age, so...
This question has a simple answer, but the carrying out of said answer is going to be a lot of work. The answer is road school. There are a lot of philosophies and curriculums and tedium you can get into if you actually want to (and take the word of someone who's done the research—you can sink tons and tons of time into reading about the philosophies alone), but the simplest answer is that Josh and I will teach the boys.

Road schooling is something I'm simultaneously nervous and excited about. I'm afraid I won't be good enough, won't be able to explain well enough, won't have enough patience—something, I'll do something wrong and short-change my children. But I'm also really excited. Working outside the traditional curriculum leaves room for tons of cool stuff like studying local plants, geology, and history. Can you imagine how much more impact learning about the Civil War would've had if you'd been standing in the ruins of a plantation house burned by Sherman? How much more exciting astronomy might've been if you got to visit an observatory or use the stars to navigate your way back to your camper? What about that unit on plate tectonics? What if you could've gone to a fault line or a volcano and seen the metamorphosis of the planet for yourself? Here in Missouri, there's nothing the boys would get to know as well as amber waves of grain. But what if I could show them the purple mountains' majesty? Blinding miles of desert broken up by rocky canyons and the little spirit oases hidden in between? What if they could splash in the ocean, then spend a day searching tide pools for beach creatures?

The point is my excitement about teaching the boys far outweighs my fear of not being good enough. Josh feels the same way—except in addition to all the awesome hands-on history and science stuff, he's geeking out about teaching the boys chess. What a nerd.

6. What about all your stuff?
To be honest, we don't have much left. We got rid of all our furniture a few months ago, along with a ton of books we weren't going to reread, dishes, appliances, and so on. Good thing, too. Packing made me see how much junk we still have. How in the world does a pack-rat move?

6a. Bullhockey! Where do you  sleep, then, genius?
On the floor. Duh.

The boys have been sleeping pretty much the same way in their room, but with a slight modification. 

Want to see our breakfast nook?

I think three is enough examples for this joke. Minimalist family is minimalist, etc, etc.
The point is that, as a family, we're not really stuff-people. We're more like experience-people. Don't get me wrong, the boys have what seems like tons of toys, but they spend a lot more time outside climbing trees or riding bikes or making piles of walnuts from our neighbor's tree than they do playing with those toys. Their parents are kind of the same way. We like doing, not having. This comes in handy when it's time to pick up and go. We just pick up...and go.

So, to answer your original question—"What about your stuff?"—all of our earthly belongings fit comfortably into the front half of a 12-ft cargo trailer without even having to stack any boxes. Do you need some help moving a sectional or a baby grand piano this week? Because we've got plenty of room to spare.

7. That's so cool! I wish I could move into a camper and travel around for as long as I wanted!
That's not technically a question, but I'll answer it anyway. You could. And you should. As a wise man once said, "These things are fun and fun is good."


Let Me See Redemption Win

It feels like this song has been my prayer for the last four or five years. It got to the point where I didn't think I had anything left to give—not for the people I loved, and definitely not for myself—but this summer God's been revealing to me the ways He's been working all along. It feels like someone was holding my soul underwater these last few years, trying to drown it, but God set it free; like I can breathe again, and I'm so thankful.

"Worn" by Tenth Avenue North
I’m tired, I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah, I’m worn


Sometimes the Light Don't Shine

Anyone who has watched my "Sober Chats with eden" videos knows Josh and I quit drinking "for good this time" last September. Instead of being each other's bad influence, we became each other's rock. On nights when I was dying for a drink, Josh was strong. On nights he was craving, I stood firm. We made each other mad. We argued. We shamed each other when a situation where we normally had a drink (or 50) was becoming too much to handle and one of us wanted to give in. We weren't proud or graciouswe went for insecurities like they were the carotid. Anything to keep each other from drinking. We pulled each other up as if letting go would drown us both.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, we started to figure this sobriety thing out. We replaced alcohol with Monster Ultra. We replaced going out with video games. We added the off-brand Cheetos to the mix because the off-brand Cheetos are delicious. We started going to bed tired instead of blacking out. We started waking up clearheaded instead of hungover.

As the numbness slipped away, even the smallest pains of life cut deeper. Everything hurt worse. But at the same time, the really beautiful moments glowed with this unworldly awesomeness that we had forgotten existedor maybe never appreciated before. And those moments were worth everything we'd gone through.

In May, we would have been sober for nine months.

Would have. If today I wasn't sitting here hungover and hating myself.

When you set out to do something or become something and you screw up, there's this sense of pointlessness that seeps into everything. I feel like I failed and I'll keep on failing forever, so what's the point in fighting it? Why not give up and accept my fate?

I've seen people fight their demons and lose. People I loved. People I couldn't believe the world would keep turning without. And I've seen people fight their demons and win. I had a front row seat to my parents' struggle and victory over alcoholism. But what makes the difference? Why do some people succeed and other people give up?

Some part of me has always been sureeven since I was a little kidthat God was the key. He gives us the strength to overcome any obstacle. He forgives our sins and gives us a clean slate. We cry out to Him and He answers. It only makes sense that if someone struggling with alcoholism came to Him, He would help them overcome their addiction and put their life back together. Miraculous. A testimony of God's grace, a picture of His love.

But here's the thingI've got God. I know the peace that passes all understanding. "No guilt in life, no fear in death," right? And yet I've stumbled into church so hungover I was still drunk more times than I can count.

This inconsistency in my beliefs and my practices led me to something I've thought a lot about, but never written out or said aloud before: Non-Christians can turn to God and be freed from their shackles. But if you've already got God in your life, you can't suddenly find Him and be miraculously freed. You're already supposed to be free. So, what do you do?

What do I do?

There's a song by Alabama 3 called "R.E.H.A.B." My friend sent it to me a few years ago, during one of my earlier failed attempts to quit drinking, but I didn't start listening to it until recently. Its refrain?
Sometimes the light don't shine.
That's the time we got to open our eyes.
Say what you will about my friends, but never say they aren't topical.

What do you do when the light doesn't shine? You open your eyes.

Why do I drink? I can claim that I do it because I'm more sensitive than most people, that I can't ignore the bad in this world, that even the pain of others cuts me deeper than it does most people, but that's just an excuse. The truth is, I just like to drink. I like the way it shuts down my brain. I love the moment when I'm so far gone that I stop existing. A buzz isn't enough. Fall-down drunk isn't enough. I'm not satisfied until I black out. When I drink, I do it because I want to be gone, to not be able to think. I don't care about anything but drinking enough to shut off my brain.

Josh and I spent eight months fighting this. The first month was terrible. The second was impossible. The third was incredible. By the fourth, I thought we had won. We felt good, we were healthy, we were learning to deal with life instead of drowning it. I was learning to be okay with existing. I thought we would never drink again.

Our slide down the slippery slope started on a dark and stormy night. It was the first thunderstorm of the year. We got a bottle of wine, pulled the couch over by the window, shut off the lights, and watched the lightning flash and the rain pour. For one night at least, we were a normal couple who just so happened to be drinking wine.

The next dark and stormy night didn't come for a couple weeks, and it didn't come as a result of the weather. It came from inside me. I'd been growing steadily more paranoid for days, and with that, angrier and angrier at myself for believing things I knew I shouldn't. It got to the point where I knew that if I had a gun, I would use it just to shut my brain up.

Finally, I told Josh, "I wish I could Chekhov gun myself."

"You're scaring your partner, K," he said.

We both laughed a little too hard.

"Let's get some Camo Black," I said.



So we did.

A week later there was a night when we were exhausted. We'd both worked hard all day, our defenses were down, and the boys were spending the weekend with their grandparents. It seemed like the perfect time to let loose. We got enough Arrogant Bastard and Four Loko to kill a horse and went to work on the hangover to end all hangovers.

Flash forward another week to another blackout drunk, this one for no reason. Flash forward a few more nights to last Wednesday. And then every night after it.

It used to be that every time I said I was going to quit, my friend would joke, "You know, one of the symptoms of alcoholism is repeated failed attempts to stop drinking."

I thought this time we were done. I thought we had figured it out. Maybe I got cocky. Or maybe it was my black and white way of looking at the problem. My best friend has been trying to tell me for the longest time that black and white is the least healthy way to look at recovery from anything. You can't assume that if you fall down once, you'll never get back up. She's been trying to make me understand that you can't use that as a reason not to drink because when the day comes that you slip up, you'll believe it. You won't get back up.

Maybe that's why it feels like I'm circling the drain right now. Like this is the latest in a never-ending line of failed attempts. I don't know how to fix that switch in my brain that wants to be gone. Today I'm so far away from the light that I can't even remember what it looked like. So, what do I do?

Well, duh. I wouldn't have brought up the song if it wasn't a recurring theme.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter why I drink. What matters is why I need to stop.

The proverbial wake up call came a year ago as Josh, me, and the boys were driving through town one evening. From the backseat, Oak said, "Wait! Don't we need to go there to get you guys something?"

He was pointing at the liquor store.

It felt like someone had kicked me in the lungs. I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to breathe. My four-year-old wanted to know why we weren't stopping at the liquor store. Even worse, the answer was because by some fluke WE ALREADY HAD BOOZE AT HOME. It was unreal. Josh and I gave each other the look. You know the one—where you're both about to laugh because something is so wrong that if you start crying, you'll never stop? Yeah, that one.

I have a friend who likes to say that if he can't be a role model, he'll settle for being a cautionary tale. The day I became a parent, I lost that luxury. Maybe even before that. The day my parents decided that they wanted more than one child, I became a role model by default. Up to now, I've been a poor example for my siblings. But I still have the chance to be a good one for my sons.

"Wait! Don't we need to go there to get you guys something?" Oak asked, pointing his tiny finger at the liquor store.

Josh and I gave each other The Look.

"Uh...no," Josh said. "We're not going there anymore."

"Why not?" Oak asked.

"Because it's bad," I said. "The drinks we got there are bad."

"Then why do you always get them?" Oak has never been one to leave it at the simple answer.

"We thought they would make us happy," I said. "But they never do. They just make us feel worse."

"What makes us happy?" This kid, I swear.

I thought about it. "God's the only thing that will make us happy."

"Why didn't you know that before?"

Because your mom is an idiot, son. Please stop asking questions that force her to search her soul. "Some people don't know better. We didn't. But then we learned."

"Oh," Oak said, finally satisfied. He sat back in his seat. "If I was a grownup, I would tell all those people at that place that it was bad."

That was the night we started fighting in earnest to quit. We had slip-ups, and it was still months before we started to get it right, but we finally had a reason, a real reason to quit. Not our health, not our faith, not our finances. Our kids.

I'm the kind of person who rebels against the slightest hint of authority. I hate being told what to do, even by my own body. I don't want my babies chained to alcohol, too. I don't want them to think they need to drink. I want them to be free. I want to be free.

So, what do I do? Jesus has been my constant companion since I was six or seven and here I am, twenty-eight years old, stronger in my faith than I've ever felt before, and I'm still struggling with alcoholism. I don't have the benefit of that miraculous discovery. I can't get Saved and turn my life around.

It turns out I've been guilty of a logical fallacy this whole time. I've believed that because I have God in my life, because I know that through Him I can overcome anything, He will overcome anything for me. Somewhere along the way, I started to equate His help, support, and love with the promise of an Easy Button. But here's the thingthe Bible never says, "Hey, if you love Me and walk with Me, I'll do everything for you. Just kick your seat back and put it on autopilot, bro. I got this." Not even if you paraphrase really egregiously.

What it does say is, "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle." (Ps. 144:1 ESV)

Do I really think it was easy for my dad to quit? I was there. I got to see the pain in his face, the realization that all his friends were turning their backs on him, the anger, the shame. I went from being afraid of him and hoping Mom would get a divorce to knowing that he was the best dad who ever lived.

Do I think it was simple for my mom? After all the nights I prayed with her while she cried? After all the times I watched her stand up to a man twice her size and lay down the law? I've never met a stronger human being than her.

"I'm your hero, e," Dad tells me sometimes. And he's right. He and Mom are my heroes because it was never easy for either of them, but they never gave up. They kept fighting.

That's the difference. That's why some people beat their demons while other people lose to them. Through failures, through screw-ups, through hard times, through months of victory followed by a sudden downward spiralno matter what happens, they never, ever stop fighting.

Sounds exhausting. Sounds like I'm going to be fighting for the rest of my life. But when I open my eyes and look at things for what they really are, I can see that God prepared me for this war. My parents are my example. Oak and Bear's freedom, their future, is my motivation. Joshua is my partner. We can fight this together, like we did before. When one of us is weak, the other can protect them. When one of us falls, the other can pull them back up. God helped us do it once. He'll help us do it again. He trained us for this battle and gave us everything we needed to fight it, all we have to do is not give up. And when the light don't shine, remember to open our eyes.