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Busy-ness

Even very good things can sometimes become very bad for you.

I’ve been thinking lately about how full my life is. And I’ve noticed a pattern.

I fill my life to the brim in an effort to not have to think about how my life is void of everything I’ve ever desired in life.

When I was growing up, I dared to dream of having a husband and children. I knew it wasn’t likely to happen, but I thought maybe, if I played the cards right, things could work out.

As much as I want the desire to go away, it just won’t.

So I try to drown the sorrow of disappointment in a flood of activity.

Volunteering for every opportunity to serve at church.

Taking on every friend’s sorrows and trials.

Picking up every open shift at work.

Pursuing degrees, certifications and other educational opportunities.

Studying voraciously any number of topics. Health. Natural wellness. Oils, oils, oils. Psychology.

Reading everything I can get my hands on. Books. Magazines. Textbooks. Fiction and non-fiction. Then giving up fiction because the fantasy world in many works of fiction hurts my heart.

This past holiday season, I worked tirelessly because I could. It was holiday pay and overtime and it made everyone else feel good about their situation so there I was. It wasn’t bad. I love my job and if I can’t do holidays with my family, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than at my job. It doesn’t feel too much like a job so it was ok. (For the record, I asked to work a lot because I couldn’t get enough time off to go anywhere. I figured that if my options were to sit at home alone or to be at work, I’d rather be at work where I’d at least have someone to talk to.)

But they gave me several days before New Year’s off.

I had a mini crisis during my time off because for the first time in months, I had time to think and I felt like I was losing it. I cried for like 4 days straight.

It was then that I realized that for the past (roughly) 15 years, I’d crammed my life so full of good things that it numbed the pain of disappointment. As long as I was doing something or going somewhere, I was ok because I didn’t have to face how empty my life was.

I don’t think busy-ness is bad or wrong. I think sometimes God works through us in our deepest pain. Sometimes we need the activity just to give us a reason to get out of bed and sometimes many beautiful and lovely things can come out of those places of sorrow. Sometimes, for short periods of time, keeping busy is necessary and good. It helps us and it helps our families and friends, our churches and schools. Sometimes, busy-ness is a good thing.

But when it goes on…. for 15…. years….

That is when it becomes unhealthy.

Well, maybe it becomes unhealthy many years sooner than that. My point is, if you have to be that busy for a long time (longer than a few weeks to a few months), something is wrong and you need to address it.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what to tell anyone who might be struggling with this. I don’t even know how to help myself with this.

I’ve been thinking in the weeks since New Year’s about faith and how it pertains to the concept of busy-ness.

For many years, I was at church every time the door was open. I prayed. I read the Bible. I volunteered in ministries. I did everything I could. I did it to numb the pain and forget the sorrow. I found joy and laughter in it (sometimes) but it did nothing to heal the ache that no one saw.

I think it’s easy for us to think that if we’re focusing on God, we are doing good. It’s especially easy to think that by praying, serving and seeking God, we are moving in the direction of healing. Jesus is the healer, right? If we’re seeking Jesus, the Healer, we’re bound to find healing and restoration eventually, right?

Looking back on it, I can tell you that is not always the case. There have been times when I’ve used the words “I’ll pray about that” as a way to avoid making difficult decisions that would propel me into freedom. Sometimes I used church or ministry opportunities as an excuse to not do the things that would bring true restoration to my soul. Sometimes very good things — like prayer, ministry opportunities, church meetings and Bible studies — are the reason we stay stuck.

Don’t let good things come in the way of the best things.

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.
John 10:10

I’m not saying that everything a person does to keep busy is bad. I’m not saying that church and Christianity are bad. I’m saying that busy-ness can be the thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy. I’m saying that sometimes the thief (Satan) uses very good things to destroy us or to keep us in places of pain. Our job is to honestly assess the motives behind what we are doing and only do those things that will bring us abundant life.

If the Son sets you free, you are free, indeed!
John 8:36

Jesus has already set us free. We have only to figure out how to live free. We aren’t living free if we’re filling our lives to the brim with things that are designed to numb our pain.

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Posted by on March 2, 2018 in Current Events, Profundities

 

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Significance

In the span of two days, I had two conversations with people about how and why I’m not going to get married.

The first conversation took place after someone introduced me to an eligible bachelor. Several hours later, she asked why I didn’t talk about him after he left.

There comes a point in life when you know that no matter what you do, nothing is going to change and you just don’t try anymore because every effort you put into it just breaks your heart a little more.

I’m reminded of a time when my friend called me and said “My car won’t start! Can you fix it?”

It was so cold that day. I gave it my best shot and tears froze on my cheeks as I banged around trying to get that dang car going. By the time I gave up in frustration, I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes anymore. I cussed out her worthless husband who had more important things to do than to be tied down by his wife and children and their needs. I told her to tell him to get his good-for-nothin derrière over there and fix it. I took my tools and went home.

I sat there and shivered and cried and God said, “Some things are not meant for you. Fixing cars is one of those things.”

It was such a freeing moment for me. I wanted to help but nothing I could do would make a difference. And God said, “It’s ok. This trial is not meant for you.” I took a few minutes to brainstorm with my friend to develop a plan for next time — because there will be a next time. And fixing cars will never be a task that is meant for me. But that was the last time I worried about somebody else’ car — because that stuff isn’t meant for me and we have a plan for next time.

Marriage is another of those things. I will never be married. I’ve known this since I was 3 years old. Sometimes you just know these things.

I told my friend that I have no reason to think this will ever change because there was the guy who just wanted a place to live without having to put any money into it. She laughed and said he wasn’t worth my time anyway. Unequivocally.

Then there was the guy who told me I was hot while he was drunk, in front of the girl who had had a crush on him for years and years and she destroyed my life because of it. (Because it’s my fault he was more interested in me than he was in her?)

There was the other one who never showed up for most of the dates he scheduled with me because he slept through them.

My friend chuckled at these anecdotes.

There was the guy that my “friends” tried to hook me up with but I said no because I didn’t much feel like being a nice little doormat for him to wipe his shoes on for the rest of my life and when I asked why they were so convinced that he and I should be a thing, they said, “Because if you were together, he’d talk to you instead of bugging us all the time.”

Dang.

There was the guy who monopolized my time for 8 months and then I found out that he had a girlfriend in another state the whole time.

My friend had stopped laughing by this time.

The guy who kept giving vague promises of “maybe….. Someday…..” and ended up breaking up with me 4 times in the same restaurant over the course of about a year. Two of the breakups happened in the same booth at that restaurant.

The guy who hadn’t been employed for 4 years and was content to not talk about it until after I confronted him with the evidence I found 2 days before he came to meet me in person. It turned out that he looked like he was at least 25 years older than he said he was and he was looking for someone to be his mother or nurse or something. He was very disappointed when I told him that his dishonesty was a deal-breaker for me. Maybe I was a jerk, but I thought it should go without saying that no girl wants to be stuck with an old man who won’t work.

The guy who asked me to commit to seeing him not less than 4 times before deciding for sure about him. He emotionally and mentally checked out about halfway through the second date and although he was physically present for the other two, he never emotionally or mentally returned. He was shocked when I told him I knew half-way through the second date that he wasn’t into it and I had seriously contemplated telling him he didn’t need to come for #3 or #4. (Oh, why did I waste my time on that one?)

With a history like that, what reason do I have to think anything will ever be different?

Her response was “You need therapy.”

(I’m getting used to being told that I need therapy. It happens approximately 3 times a week these days.)

What reason do I have to dream of ever being something more than a pile of garbage to anyone? It just doesn’t seem worth it to make an effort toward this anymore.

A few days later, I talked to my grandma. My grandma is amazing. I love her so much.

Grandma was telling me about gifts she had made for my cousins and brothers for their weddings and I said in a dry, sarcastic tone, “I’m not going to get married so I guess I don’t get any.”

Grandma knows my heart. She knows I wasn’t asking for anything. I was just stating a fact. We’ve talked about the state of my life before and she understands better than anyone.

The next day, I drove the 3+ hours to her home. Last year, she and I and several other family members had gone on a genealogical expedition in which we had visited dead relatives in several cemeteries. My family likes studying genealogy and whenever we get together, Grandma tells me about the latest pieces of information she has found. It’s really fascinating and I love hearing stories about my people.

But it’s also really, really heartbreaking. There will come a day when no one is going to care about whether I had ever existed. No one will care where my grave is. No one is ever going to say “And this was my great, great grandmother Mari…..”

I cry about this sometimes.

Actually, I cry every time I think about it.

Some of my family members think I need to be part of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Mayflower Society or some such thing that I really don’t care about. Those things are for people who have children and people who have the possibility of having children. That will never be me. I wish they would stop asking me. It’s just another reminder of how insignificant I am.

Grandma told me a story about when someone wanted to get me into those clubs and I reiterated that I don’t see a point in it because I’m never going to have children.

We went about our business. You know, playing cards, fixing the stapler, and failing miserably at trying to fix the showerhead — apparently staplers aren’t the right tool for that. And, showerhead fixing isn’t meant for me either, apparently.

A little while later, Grandma brought in a soft, patchwork baby blanket she had started making. She said, “Would you like this to put in your hope chest for when you get to adopt a baby? I can finish it for you if you want it.”

I almost cried.

Yes! Yes, I want it!

I want it because it’s a symbol that someone believes there is hope, even when I just can’t.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Current Events, My Story, Uncategorized

 

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When Your Safe Place is No Longer Safe

I used to love to write.

Words were my safe place.

In the peaceful solitude of the written word, I found comfort in my darkest moments. In the midst of chaos and upheaval, words grounded me. They allowed me to push through the hardest moments of my life.

Then something went horribly, awfully wrong.

My professors in college suggested that since I could express thoughts and emotions so beautifully in writing, I should consider pursuing a degree in writing.

Let me begin by saying that I do not regret exposing myself any of the valuable ideas and concepts I learned while pursuing this degree. Let me also say that I have utmost respect for my professors and I am grateful for everything they poured into me. I am absolutely grateful for them and for all of the things I learned.

But.

There is always a “but.”

I want to continue by saying that everything I’m about to say is a “me” thing. It is my problem and I have to be responsible for solving it.

Emotionally, I was a wreck when I entered the program.

That’s ok. Things happen, but “things” don’t have to paralyze you. Even if you’re an emotional wreck, education is good. It is helpful. It is meant to be a growing experience.

But for me, it wasn’t.

I entered the program having only ever written privately. I wrote for myself, which means that 100% of the time, everyone who read what I wrote loved every word, every sentence, every punctuation mark. I’d never been critiqued or offered guidance on how to be better.

I took Freshman English Comp and I loved it. For the first time in my life, someone wanted to read what I had to say and my professor loved every word.

It was September 2002 and we were given the assignment to write a reflection regarding September 11, 2001. I wrote mine and turned it in and then we were told that each group would be given one random paper for each person in the group and we had to read them and choose one to read to the class and comment on why we chose that one.

My group consisted of myself and a bunch of teenage boys and I did not enjoy this part of the assignment because they insisted on reading the one in which every other word was an expletive. This rankled my sensitive spirit.

Really, fellas? Really?

But then…. someone read mine. They said they liked it because it was so different from everyone else’ experience and that they thought there were many striking things about it.

Afterward, the teacher asked me to stay after class and she invited me to enter the writing program.

It was a difficult decision for me because I was very religious and felt that everything I did should have some sort of spiritual meaning. How do you get spiritual meaning out of putting words on the page to make pretty sentences?

I put this idea on the back burner for a couple of years. I wanted to be a nurse and I was going to do everything I could to realize that dream. But then there was Microbiology. I didn’t have a good grasp of biology to begin with and the class was hard for even those who had done well in previous science classes.

It was finals week and I was supposed to be studying for the Microbiology final. I could not focus. I knew I wouldn’t do well enough on the final and I wasn’t going to be getting into a nursing program. I tried to study. I gave up and I prayed instead.

I remember exactly where I was, sitting in my dorm room, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do now.

God, what do I do? I have nowhere to go….

And then I heard an inaudible voice. A searing of my soul. The words “You have a story to tell….” etched in my spirit. And peace, because I finally knew what I was supposed to do.

A few weeks later, I began my writing career. The first few classes were terrific. I learned a lot. I enjoyed reading everyone else’ work and providing feedback.

The problem came when it was my turn to be critiqued. I don’t know how other programs work, but at my school, during each class period, one or two students would sign up to provide a piece for the class to read and critique. You produced 2-4 pieces each semester and then you had to take the information you got during your session and use it to rework your piece for your final portfolio.

I’m not saying that this is bad or wrong.

I’m saying it ought to be done with utmost care.

No matter what your genre, you write from your experience and everything you write is very, very personal.

The feedback process felt, to me, like I had produced a baby and it was being stabbed repeatedly by people who didn’t realize that it was a baby.

But it went deeper. The “baby” was part of my soul.

Every negative comment tore me apart.

After 4 semesters of writing workshops, I produced my final portfolio, I participated in my Senior Reading event (which was actually really fun!) and then I was done.

I was so done.

I couldn’t even write for myself anymore. My words were gone.

Prior to graduation, I told myself that I was going to write a memoir one day. I gave myself a timeline. I developed a title and a rough idea of what the cover would look like. Four years later, I started this blog as a way to get my creative side going again and to brainstorm my stories.

I wrote what I believe will become part of my book. But the thing about memoir is that you have to be ok with your story. If telling your story traumatizes you, you aren’t going to get very far, very fast.

I hit a brick wall when I got to the part about going off to college. My story really begins in college and I didn’t have words for it. So, I gave up.

I have not written at all for the past several years. Not in this format, nor in any other. I haven’t been able to bring myself to do so because it doesn’t feel safe.

You have a story to tell….

It echoes in my soul in a tortuous way. The story is there, but it won’t come out.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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30 Things, 4 Years Later: Day 27

image

That being said:

30 Things to Accomplish in my 30s:
#27. Visit Ireland. And Iran. And India. And Iraq. And maybe even Afghanistan. I want to go to Ireland because I’ve always been fascinated with the beauty, and I want to go to the other countries because I feel so much compassion for the women and girls who are in bondage because of religion and culture.

This illustrates why this hasn’t happened yet:
image
And, here is a solution to this problem:
image

(I didn’t say it was a good solution!)

A serious look at the feasibility of international travel:
image
For me, it would be slower going than that because I only spend $10 or more on a meal maybe 3 times a year. I never get drinks and I don’t think I’ve ever had more than 4 meals out in any given 7-day period, unless I was traveling.

But, if I cut those 1-4 weekly meals out, I might be able to save enough for a ticket somewhere once a year. Maybe.

At any rate…. I’ve been thinking about why I listed the countries I did.

I mean…. Iran? Iraq? Afghanistan? Seriously?

When I wrote the original list, ISIS hadn’t become a thing yet.

I’m not as daring today as I was then.

My heart still breaks for the mamas and the little girls in those countries who are property, not people. My heart aches for the young boys who are brainwashed into believing that blowing themselves up is somehow a good idea. I weep for the mothers who have to watch their babies train for suicide missions.

It’s so wrong on so many levels.

So, no, I haven’t traveled. I won’t get to the Middle East any time soon. I may never go anywhere. Who knows what will happen?

Now, to commence with the eating at home thing so I can go to Canada so I can check out the Hot Springs and see Aurora Borealis.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2016 in 30 Things

 

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Broken Glass

In prayer this morning, the Lord reminded me of John 8:36, which talks about freedom. If the Son (Jesus) sets you free, you are free indeed.

Indeed. If you’re on Jesus’ team, you’re free of whatever obstacle, problem, past experience, other people’s opinions, fear — whatever stands in your way. Those things have already been absolutely shattered.

We see all those things as closed doors. But they aren’t. They are more like panes of glass that cross our paths. And because of grace, Jesus flung a giant stone labeled TRUTH at every pane of glass in our way and the past experiences, the problems, the lies we believe, our fear — all of it lies in a pile of shattered glass at our feet.

Sometimes we see something that we really want and we might lean over that pile of shattered glass and touch the dreams we treasure in our hearts.

I have always wanted to be a mommy. I’ve leaned over my pile of shattered fears and I’d pick up my friends’ babies and snuggle them and sing to them and play with them and I’d be the best second mommy to those babies I could possibly be.

I leaned over because I didn’t believe that Jesus had shattered my fears.

I’ve always wanted to be a nurse and I’m particularly interested in midwifery. I’ve leaned over my pile of shattered “I can’ts” and I’ve touched it.

But I haven’t pursued it fully because I didn’t believe that Jesus had shattered my “I can’ts.”

I’ve wanted lots of things and I’ve leaned over many piles of shattered glass to briefly touch things that I so desperately wanted but didn’t believe could ever be mine.

I wasn’t believing that Jesus had already broken the things that made it feel impossible.

In the past several months, after beginning to realize that I’m already free, I took some giant leaps, hoping and praying that I’d clear the pile of glass and avoid the cuts that seem inevitable if we land in the wrong spot. I bought a house so I’d have a safe place for sweet babies to sleep and play. I became a foster parent. I can do this. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:14) I can be a mommy and the lack of husband is only a pile of shattered glass on the road in front of me.

Those leaps are difficult. I know they are. But I want to leave you with this piece of encouragement:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

He’s given us tools to help us step over the piles of broken glass in our way. The belt of truth. The breastplate of righteousness. The gospel of peace. The shield of faith. The helmet of salvation. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

He’s broken the things that stand in our way and He’s given us the tools to move forward with courage.

My prayer for you is that you will stand firm in what He’s done and who you are because of it. My prayer for you is that the mountains you see in front of you would be transformed in your mind to what they truly are — pitiful piles of broken glass. My prayer for you is that you would know the grace and peace of Jesus as you walk your path.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Grace For Even This

A long time ago, I loved to write.

As a child and teen, I had no outlet except for the blank page, and I filled many hundreds of pages with scribblings. Letters. A story now and again. Pain. Trauma. Loneliness. Desperation. Longing.

For a period of time, every single day, I wrote
God, give me patience!
in big letters on every single page, many times on each page.
I also wrote it in small letters, backhand letters, right slant letters, drunk-like scribbles, chicken scratch, beautiful swirly letters, block letters, angry letters, desperate letters. Broken letters.

I was going through some of the most difficult days I’d ever had.

God, grant me the serenity….
Ah, serenity. I could use some of that.
To accept the things I cannot change….
To accept… everything?
Courage to change the things I can….
Is there really anything I can change?
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Is there a difference?

When I got to be about 17 years old, my life was a mess. I don’t remember much from that time, except that I delivered newspapers twice a week and I made my first attempt at writing, editing and publishing. Those things were the…. happy times.

There were dark times. Many, many dark times. Times when I was paralyzed by fear. Anxiety rolled me up into a little ball and I’d spend most of my time curled up on the floor behind my bed or just laying on my bed, thinking. Depression gripped me. The two — anxiety and depression — gathered me up in their icy fingers and pulled me behind a translucent curtain that allowed me to see only grey shadows of all the wonderful things everybody else was experiencing while the voices of desperation and panic and fear eerily whispered in my ear.

That was then.


I didn’t know how bad it could get.

As days turned to weeks and weeks into years, experience piled on top of experience. Pain upon pain. Sadness upon pain and worry and loneliness. Desperation on top of sadness and depression on top of disappointment.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
Every hope was deferred.

Tears upon tears, wounds wound with bandages that served only to keep the pain in and the outside out.

A decade turned into two.
Heart-sick and broken.
Words came no more.
What had once been delightful ideas, hopeful thoughts and beautiful pictures turned into two word sentences, repeated over and over again.

Help me.


Help me, in backhand. Help me! in curly-qs and swirly letters. Help me! in desperation, in brokenness, in pain. Help me! because there were no other words that my brain could put together.

Just.
HELP.
ME!

Hope deferred.
It makes the heart sick.
It makes the mind sick.
It makes the body sick.

I have a mental illness.

Looking at my history, it makes sense that I would.
My other grandma was crazy enough that I was scared of her.Childhood trauma often leads to mental illness of one kind or another.
And, of course, hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Five years ago, I had it all together. I worked. I paid my bills. I budgeted and paid off thousands in loans. I went to church. I was involved in ministry at church. I sang, I prayed, I served, I loved.

And then my world collapsed.
When my world collapsed, my already fragile psyche teetered one more time before one by one, the support beams came crashing down.

I was so “down” that I was down and out.
I was down in the dumps and out of commission.

But I tried. Oh, how I tried.
I did well enough that only two people suspected that something was off. One was a man I knew very briefly and the other was my best friend. The man was the first one to confront me. He told me to go get help. I saw a psychologist who referred me to a medical doctor for a prescription.

I was terrified to take it. Because demons. Because spiritual sickness. Because it was all my fault. Because addiction? Because unknowns.

The day I filled the prescription, I prayed that it would work. I took the first capsule, drifted off to sleep and the next morning, I woke up and noticed that the sun was shining and the fact that the sun was shining made me happy.

I couldn’t remember the last time something actually made me happy.

I lay in bed for several minutes with a goofy grin on my face, then I got up and went about my day like being happy and having a peaceful mind were something I did every day.

It worked for a while.

Then stress. Then desperation. Then pain.

Everything I had experienced before was magnified by 10.

Then more stress. More pain. More unknowns.
(Another magnification by 10)
Medication change, additional medication, an as needed medication added.

Every change helped — for a while. But eventually, I’d revert back to where I had been before. Many times, I’d hit an uncontrollable downward spiral.

That is where I am right now.
I had the most recent medication change in April, and by August, it isn’t working so well anymore.
True, I can at least put words together again. That’s a comfort. It means that in some ways I’m better.
But….
But- the sadness and fear linger.

I worry.

I worry that no man will ever want to love me.
Should I even entertain the idea of hoping for romance?
I worry that something will happen at work and I won’t know what to do.
Should I even be a nurse at all?
I worry that I won’t be able to pay my bills.
I should never have bought a house.
I worry that if by some fluke I get married and get pregnant, I’ll go off the deep end.
Maybe I could just give up that idea.
I worry that people will hate me because I’m scared.
Is isolation a better choice?
I worry that my car will break down, my food will make me sick, I won’t be able to afford lunch, my doctor won’t know how to help me, pastors might exploit my willing and generous spirit. I worry about the kids I love, about bird flu and cancer and the possibility of having a horrendous winter.
Oh, how I worry.

This is my life. This is what mental illness is like. It’s hard. It’s awful. It’s terrifying.

The past few days, I’ve been thinking specifically about romance and babies and laughter and happiness.
It all seems so elusive to me.
It’s really not fair to ask a man to love me. Not with all the cray-cray in my brain.
It’s not fair to ask him to choose between living with an unstable and moody woman for 9-10 months while she gestates a baby or giving up the possibility of having biological children. How would you even make that decision?
It wouldn’t be fair to the child if I were to take medication while pregnant — because birth defects.

Who would even want to love somebody like that????

I stewed over this for a couple of days. I thought about possibilities for alternative treatments. I thought about lots of things. I studied gene mutations to see if maybe that could be “it.”
Because I want to be better.
Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have a peaceful mind!

After work today, I sat down to read a few scriptures before going on to the next task. I thought about all the things I’ve looked into and all the problems and issues I have and how happiness is so far out of my league. I thought about a lot of things.

And then I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to me….
But you try.
I do.
You know what it is and you are learning what your triggers are.
I hope so!
You are always trying to find answers and you’re willing to do whatever it talks to get better.
Yes! I don’t want to be another version of the other grandma!
You aren’t simply giving in to it like so many others do.
Gosh, I hope not!
It’s ok.
Oh, how I hope so!
Grace covers even this.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Year of Ambiguity

(And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….)

Toward the end of July of the year I finished home school, I found a job in a bakery at a grocery store. It was the first in a long string of food-related jobs that I’ve had. And I’ve never liked working with food. Yuck.

I was a terrible employee. Not because I had a bad work ethic or was a crabby, mean person. It was just that I was clueless in so many ways and that made working with me not so fun for some people and way too much fun for other people.

I thought I had to have permission to do anything. For some people, this manifests as slacking off and not doing anything. I’m not that type of person, so I was constantly pestering my boss, asking what I was supposed to do next, and should I do this or that? After a few weeks of this, my boss said, “You don’t need permission to do your job. If you see something that needs to be done, do it.” Well dang…. Who knew pleasing the boss could be that simple?

The consequences of that new rule was that sometimes I would start doing something and the boss would ask me to do something else instead. And every time I was redirected, I thought she was mad at me and I’d get so stressed out I almost couldn’t function.

My cluelessness provided a lot of entertainment for my male coworkers. They would make sexual jokes about me and since I was clueless about the fact that their comments were sexual in nature and the fact that this was harassment, they kept on making jokes.

After I’d worked there a few months, my boss told me that they had hired another person who would be working the same shift as me, and it was going to be my job to train her. My response to this announcement was “Are you sure about that? I don’t even know what I’m doing. How am I supposed to train somebody when I don’t know what I’m doing?” My boss gave me a funny look and said, “You’re kidding, right? You learned this job faster than anybody I’ve ever trained.”

My response to this was, “For real?”

I had been convinced I was an imbecile. This was the first time anybody had ever given me a reason to rethink that conclusion.

I began to train my coworker.

My new coworker was a middle-aged disabled woman that I’ll call Ginny. (Name changed.) Ginny had been brain damaged at birth, had never graduated from high school or learned to drive a car and sometimes she couldn’t remember how to count to 24. It was a challenge, but I loved every minute of it. We would finish our work and then we would role play with me being the customer and Ginny taking my pretend cake orders.

I told my coworker bits and pieces about myself as the weeks went by, and after a while, Ginny started to ask questions. One of the observations she made to me on several occasions was, “You’re so smart…. If I were as smart as you, I’d get my GED. Then I’d take Driver’s Ed and get my driver’s license. And after that, I’d go to college.”

Ginny was convinced that she was perfectly capable of doing all those things — even though she sometimes got lost on her way to 24 as she was counting cookies. Day after day, I’d hear, “I’m going to get my GED. I’m going to take Driver’s Ed. I’m going to college….”

* * * * *

Meanwhile, back at my Tuesday morning church gig….

I had been working with home school kids on Tuesday mornings, but when the new school year started, somebody decided not to do the home school kid tutor thing anymore, so they asked if I preferred to work with the toddler group or the baby group instead.

I asked to be placed in the baby room. Babies are the best.

I began to work with a mom-type woman that I’ll call Hannah. (Name changed.) She had lots of experience being mom to several kids and foster mom to (literally) dozens of others.

In the beginning, I didn’t say much. I changed diapers and soothed babies. I rocked babies to sleep and played peek-a-boo. But I never said anything to the other people I was working with unless it pertained to the babies.

(I want to take a moment to say that this was the most rewarding and fun job I’ve ever had in my life. There’s nothing quite like being the center of the universe for 6 squealing, squalling, rambunctious little people who all want your attention at the same time, but they all want you to be doing something different. It’s quite a challenge — but you always know if you’re doing a good job or not, and if you aren’t, you have infinite re-dos. It’s awesome. I love hanging out with little people.)

After I’d worked there for about 4 months, Hannah started asking questions about my background. I don’t remember a lot about the conversation, but I imagine my responses were probably one or two words. I was painfully shy. Somehow, the conversation turned to my plans for the future.

I didn’t have plans for my future. I was told my plans for my future were that I was going to get married, have babies and then home school those babies and live happily ever after as a stay-at-home mom and wife. What no one (absolutely no one) knew was that I had been questioning the plausibility of that plan since I was 3 years old. I was convinced that even though this was the “plan” for my life, there was no way this was going to happen. I was so convinced that one time when I was in the midst of one of those parent/kid interactions where the parent says, “When you have kids….” my response was, “I’m not going to have any kids.” And I was completely convinced that this was the gospel truth.)

Of course, I didn’t explain all that to Hannah. I just said, “I don’t know.”

Hannah and I went back to tending babies.

After a while, Hannah said, “I have an assignment for you.” She told me that she wanted me to think about what I would like to do with my life, and the next Tuesday we would talk about it. She said she wanted to know what kind of job would make me just as happy as I could possibly be.

This kind of thinking was completely new to me. Thinking in terms of possibilities and thinking about the possibility of doing and being something other than what I was told to do and be was a little beyond my comprehension. But I thought back to when I was about 3 years old when I had a strange fascination with nurses and everything medical. Sometime in the seven-day period between shifts with Hannah, I decided that I wanted to work in the medical field and that I was specifically interested in becoming a nurse-midwife.

It only took me 7 days to come up with that cockamamie scheme. Once someone told me it was ok to dream, I began to dream big.

I told Hannah what I wanted to do and she told me exactly what I needed to do to get there. I hadn’t officially graduated from high school. When I told Hannah this, she asked why. I said, “Because I’m stupid. I’ll fail the GED test.”

* * * * *

Throughout the next few months, my conversations with Ginny and Hannah centered on the importance of graduating from high school. They both worked very hard to show me that I was smarter than I thought. But I was scared. Very, very scared. I had always tested well above my publicly and privately educated peers, but somehow, I was convinced that somewhere between 8th and 12th grade, I had lost everything I’d ever known.

Hannah must have been praying about this. Finally, toward the end of April, I decided to bite the bullet and get it over with. (Knowing myself like I do, I can assure you that this never would have happened without fervent prayer.) The worst I could do is fail, and if I fail, I would have still won, because at least I wouldn’t be disappointed about it. (I know — strange way to look at it, but that was the way my brain worked.) I reserved my spot to take the GED test in early May.

Back then, you took 5 different tests during the course of one full day and then you would go home and wait for 2-3 weeks for your results. I don’t remember what my thoughts were as I was taking the test, but when I was done, I was sure I had completely bombed the whole thing.

Fortunately for me, I went to work every day and Ginny and Hannah reminded me of it constantly. They wanted to know everything, and they weren’t going to let me get by without letting them know if I had graduated or not.

* * * * *

I graduated, alright, much to my astonishment.

I walked to the testing site and I told the receptionist my name and asked if I had passed or not. She found my file, looked in it and smiled at me and told me I had. That was the first big shock of the day. I waited while she copied the information for me. She handed it to me and said, “Congratulations.” I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to look at my scores.

When I opened the envelope, my first thought was, “there has to be a mistake.” I asked if she was sure these were mine. She said she was sure.

I had somehow managed to score higher than 88-98% of people who had taken the test in 4 out of 5 subjects. How was this even possible?

Was it possible that I might be smart after all?

* * * * *

The first thing I did was run to work to show Ginny. I think we were both crying all over the place as we examined the sheet with my test scores scribbled on it. Ginny gave me a huge hug and said, “If I was as smart as you, I’d go to college.”

“I am.” I said.

The decision was made. I was going to college.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in My Story

 

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