Sunday, November 3, 2019

The But God Writer

Not so long ago I was talking to my oldest daughter about writing. She (unlike her mother) has now graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in creative writing. It is her dream to be a writer and she is quite talented. Her professors seemed to think so as well so I'm not so bias as you might think.

As we discussed the fact that we have the same, yet different, dreams she expressed her fear of comparison.  She wants to be taken seriously as a writer and not as a kid who does as her mother does. Let me just take a moment here to address the fact that we as humans (especially women) spend FAR too much time living life in the land of comparison.  Comparison only exists to steal joy. If you want to look at where someone is and use that as incentive to work harder? Fine.  But do not look at others and lose sight of the blessings that you DO have in the process. Comparison is the work of the enemy and it does nothing to further the kingdom of God nor does it do anything to help your mind or heart.  

But I digress...I pointed out to her that we have very different styles in writing.  I can only write what I know and while I have many ideas for works of fiction, I lack the know-how for getting any of it written. She, however, has the education to do just that. It was about that time that she said, "Yeah you just write about how much your life sucks and then add something about God at the end."  I'm not sure if that is exactly how she sees what I do or if she was trying to feel better or more confident in what she does.  I don't really remember my exact response to that.  I will say that my life doesn't suck but I do go through trials much like everyone else and I find that writing about those trials and how God gets me through them helps me and maybe they can help others too.  I think that I tried to explain that to her. Maybe....  

Life does get hard for us sometimes, doesn't it?  I struggle with anxiety and sometimes depression.  I have control issues.  I doubt often that I'm a good enough wife and mother.  The point is that we all do struggle in life at some time or another. But God says that, “in this life you will have trouble but take heart for I have conquered the world.”  As for adding something about God, that is the point. I need the reminder and maybe someone else does too.  That is why I do what I do.

I struggle with anxiety.... but God.  Philippians 4:6 says: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests before God.

I struggle with worry...but God. Matthew 6:25-27 says: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

I feel like I’m not enough…but God. 1Peter 2:9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness and into his wonderful light.   

I could go on and on about the struggles that we have as humans or maybe you don’t struggle at all.  Maybe your life is full of sunshine and rainbows and you are perfection and quite possibly an alien from another planet because who doesn’t struggle in life from time to time.  A pastor once said, you are either going into a storm, in storm, or coming out of one. I don’t know what your storm is, but I know that if you live on this planet if you aren’t in one now there will be one coming at some point. My God is bigger than all of it.  So maybe I am the but God writer and maybe that’s ok.  I hold no fancy degrees.  I doubt if I did it would change anything anyway.  I said I am only capable of writing what I know at least so far.  But God…. I don’t know what his plans are for me.  I’m not on the planning committee for what happens from here. When I try to plan it never works out.  It is better if I am just a willing servant.

My daughter is full of ideas and has a passion for writing that I have no doubt will take her far once she hits her stride.  Once she lets go of her fears and figures out the but God part.  As I explained it to her, I realize that I cannot do anything apart from Him.  I’m not smart enough, strong enough, or equipped enough but God….is. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Fighting Anxiety

I was in a kayak once or maybe it was a had two seats and I sat in front which meant the person in the back was steering us, at least that is what I was told. We were on intercoastal waters and at one point we were heading straight for a wall that was covered with spiders that was reminiscent of the spiders from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. At least that was what popped in my head when I saw it. I immediately used my oar to push away from the wall and began to try and steer.  Isn't that what we do, or is that just me?  I'm always trying to steer.

I had never been in a canoe in my life and at one point I was pretty sure that would be the end of me. I was going by way of manatee or spider, not what I would have chosen but it would make for quite the story. As I type this out several years later having never stepped foot in a canoe again I can say I think we're safe from that fate.

As I looked at those spiders on the wall that beautiful sunny day though they were huge.  The largest I had ever witnessed and so many of them that I panicked. I hadn't prepared for this situation. A wall to the right of me and a wall not ten feet to the left of me and the only way out was forward or back the way we had come.  Life feels that way sometimes.

As I look at the storm we currently find ourselves in, not one we haven't been in before mind you, but one I never thought I'd be in again to this degree. and one with several complications,  I can feel the panic rising. I feel like I'm in a canoe and there is a wall of spiders on either side of me and the water is beginning to get waves that are rocking the boat.  There is only one way out, I know that, and it isn't the way I came.  What is done is done and there is no going back. All I can see are the waves and the spiders and I didn't bring a life jacket and I was never a good swimmer and I'm pretty sure there are alligators in that water.  Fear and panic rise. I can't breathe.  I can't see. My inability to rationalize and think are gone and I'm probably going to have a bit of a breakdown before it ends. I'm exhausted.  I need rest. I can't find it. I'm consumed by trying to steer and find a way out.

That is what anxiety and stress does to me.  I'm not sure how else to describe it.  I'm not sure how it plays out for others who go through it. All I know is I am so tired. I am ill equipped to deal with the ongoing stress of trying to steer a boat I don't even hold a license to drive.  I tell myself I need to work more. I need to work more. I need to work harder.  I just need to work more and just work harder and my heart races and time speeds up and slows down at the same time. I can't possibly work every hour of every day. I will die...or maybe I will just wish for it. Do you feel that?  Do you get to that place?  Or maybe you talk yourself out of things. I'm an expert at that. You may not know this but I can't do anything.  It's not true, if I slow down and get out of my own head long enough to see truth, I know that. It's not always easy.  In my memories on Facebook recently I was reminded of a quote from one of my coworkers, she said, "We're drowning but we're still swimming."  I laughed so hard when she said it at work.  I still chuckle when I think about it.

But what if...even though we are drowning we kept swimming?  What if instead of concentrating on the waves and the walls and the spiders and the alligators and whatever else we just kept focused on the shore?  What if we shifted our focus and searched for Jesus in the midst of the sinking ship we think we are in? I'm a runner you know. I mean I don't actually run. I'm a 0.0 miles of actual shoes to the pavement in running kind of girl. If you see that I am running, a zombie apocalypse may have arrived.  I don't run but I'm a runner. I will run away from my source trying to figure out my own problems and stress myself to the brink of a breakdown every single time before I will surrender it to the one who is capable of carrying it for me.  I am a from the belly of the whale kind of girl.  I have no idea why...better story perhaps?  Pure stupidity?  Probably the latter though I wish it were the former.

In all of the worry and working I have forgotten how to dream.  I have forgotten that I moved here in the pursuit of dream fulfillment and I've made it so that all I'm chasing is my own tail. I'm not having fun.  I don't lounge by a pool sipping iced drinks making plans for if and when. I'm living as though I've come here to die.  Not reading books for fear I won't live long enough to finish. It also came up in my memories on facebook recently that a few years ago I had finished reading over forty books in a month. I am unrecognizable to myself. My husband reads more than I do at this point which is unheard of.  As though he is confident that all things will work for the good.  As though he can see the other side of this and we won't drown by exhaustion from treading water for too long. Oh how I long to be more like him in most areas of life.

Living a what if life can be good if your what ifs get you excited about what could be. It's only when you fear the change that the what if can turn to crippling anxiety about whether the change is for the good or for the bad.  I've often said I'm a cross between a Moses and Jonah in my faith but what if I could be David?  What if I could have an even though faith like David? Wouldn't that be easier?  I want to walk through the fire knowing that I don't walk alone.  I don't want to be blinded by anxiety and fear.  I want to head to the battle ground of a sword fight with only a rock and a sling and know that I will not perish because it isn't my fight and that God will win it for me.  I want to be a woman who dreams again, who tells stories and isn't bothered by what others think of her because she isn't writing for them, she's writing to further the kingdom of God.  Where did she go? I really liked her.  She was cool.  What if she could resurface and believe in the One who could see her through the battles she faces and share the stories?  Who knows what could happen....only God.  It's time to draw a line in the sand.  It's time to choose.  It's time to tell the devil who whispers in our ears that we do not belong to him. It's time to fight.  It's going to be hard.  It's going to wear us to the brink.  It's going to be worth it.  Are you ready?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Fifteen Years...

It is a strange thing to think about for me.  The thought that in just three short days it will have been fifteen years since my mother went to be with Jesus.  How can it be fifteen years when the hurt still feels so fresh every time July rolls around?  The replay of the last few weeks, days, and hours play as though they are playing in slow motion. I could describe the evening of her passing to you with as much clarity today as I could the day after and yet the days after...nay the two years after are a blur.  Almost as though a part of me shut down not to be reawakened until I was ready.  The view out the window of the lightening show, the feeling of the room, the feel of her hand in mine, the moment Jesus stood at the foot of her bed, every expression of her face, and yet I cannot quite remember how many days it had been since I had heard her voice.  The days when she didn't even know who I was and the days she was so mad at me because she didn't even know who she was and missed out on an entire day those I remember with extreme clarity....but then she was always mad at me for something.  I miss that actually.  If she was mad at me it meant she was around.  Perhaps that is why I don't remember when she went silent, lost in her own mind and unable to communicate with me.

To think of all the things she has missed seems strange.  Girls driving, girls graduating, getting jobs, the boy getting hair...driving, getting a job. The boy doesn't have a single memory of her.  The younger of the two girls barely remembers her.  This hurts my heart. It seems absurd really the rotation of the universe, days turning to weeks turning to months turning to so many years. The idea that in just four days I will be only five years younger than she was when she died.  How distant that age seemed so many years ago and now I'm in the front yard of it slowly and quickly walking towards the door.  I have so many mixed emotions that I don't know how to process.

I don't know how to put away the pain or make it stop showing up every year.  The hurt...the guilt of not being able to perform miracles that I'm not qualified to even perform arrive on schedule every year.  I hold it close to me and try to push it down, then I get up and put one foot in front of the other and decide that though she is not here I am still here and there must be some reason for it.  Some unknown, unfathomable reason why God wants me here though I do not know why.  I offer no great contribution to the world at large.  I cannot stop the oncoming train of despair from barreling towards me even fifteen years later.  I don't even know how to help others deal with their pain.

All I know is that every morning, July or January, it doesn't really matter the date on the calendar I wake up with a choice.  I can choose to wallow or I can choose to make an attempt at thriving.  I can choose to be happy or sad.  I can choose a good day or a bad day.  I cannot choose the events around me.  I cannot choose the decisions of others.  I cannot choose anything other than my reactions and how I choose to live in spite of the things I cannot control.  So it is July and the oncoming train is barreling at me at 180 miles per hour and my heart hurts though it was yesterday, but I am putting one foot in front of the other and I'm going to work instead of laying in my bed.  I choose to show up and be present because I know I wasn't before.  I know there where two years that I missed.  I have had to learn to hold my thoughts captive.  To sort out what is true and what is not and dismiss the ones that are not.  I'm a slow learner in this.  I still struggle.  I can't do things on my own.  I can't function any other way.  I pray in the shower, in my car, I fall asleep with one thought "you know" because he does know.  God knows what I can't put into words because I'm fighting the quicksand of my emotions.  I'm exhausted, my energy depleted from just breathing in and out and fighting the attack of my mind that I know will come every year.

Last night I was trying to remember her at my age.  How old were the girls then?  What were we all doing? I would call her when I was making dinner. She worked all the time.  She slept with the television on QVC.  She would find a shirt or shoes she liked and buy it in every color.  She drank hot coffee year round black with nothing in it to actually make it taste consumable. When I meet her again in heaven I want to introduce her to a caramel macchiato because I feel like she missed out on that.  The places and experiences I've missed out on taking her to, the life and love she shared, I miss it all. It crushes my soul...and yet I have the hope that I will one day see her again. Until then mom know that I love you always and think of you daily.  I look forward to the day I hear your voice again.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

No one Can Love you Like Jesus and Your Mom

No one but no one can love you like Jesus and your mom.  That's the thought that occurred to me this morning. As I approach the fifteen year mark of the loss of my mom I am still struck by that fact.  I can't wrap my mind around all the things she has missed. Her two granddaughters have graduated from high school, with the oldest about the graduate from college. The baby boy she last saw before he was two years old is now sixteen and learning to drive. As for me...well I'm not sure what all has changed so much other than the never ending ups and downs on the scales and perhaps a few wrinkles and grey hairs that I like to cover up. She's not here and I feel her absence today just as fully as I did ten, five, and even one year after she went home to be with Jesus.

My mother was a hugger.  She could give such great mom hugs.  She would stroke my hair to help me fall asleep.  I would call her while I was making dinner. She could love me and talk to me in a way to make me feel better and yet she could infuriate me like no one else in the same paragraph.  Who can do that? It's a skill I'm not so certain I didn't inherit from her. She made the best spaghetti, the best cookies of every kind, the best cakes, and her fudge was too dry.  Which she would get mad at me about when I told her.  She made hamburger helper with cottage cheese and green beans as a side dish.  She told stories of being so poor when she was growing up they had to have popcorn for dinner some nights and when she made Popeye spinach as a side dish I would ask if I could have popcorn for dinner. She had a look that she could give and you knew it was time to retreat.  I didn't get that.  My look is more hilarious than scary.  I'm told I have no game.  My mother had game.  Oh but did she have game.

I remember the first time I said a cuss word because I was trying to get a game from the top of my closet and they all fell on my head.  When I came out from my room with a game she said, "What did I hear you say?"  I was in trouble but yet when I explained why I said it, she still played the game with me.  Also she was pretty sure I had learned it from her.  I remember getting chased around the house with a fly swatter.  Mom didn't play. It was her way or the highway and she informed me that I had to be home before dark because a little girl disappeared and was never seen again because she didn't make it home before dark and she was taken.  I believed her every word and I didn't test her boundaries until much later.

She taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels...well she tried to but then she got mad at me and went into the house. Which in turn made me mad at her so I picked my bike up and taught myself out of anger.  So in actuality she taught me to figure things out for myself. She let me drive her around in parking lots when I was learning to drive and then she had a professional teach me in driver's ed. Yet she was fearless to drive us to North Carolina or anywhere else she decided she wanted to go.

She taught me a meat tenderizer can me used as a hammer to hang a picture if you can't find your hammer.  She taught me to look for sales and never pay retail.  She taught me how to overcome and to be picky with my choices. She had terrible taste in men.  She had excellent taste in shoes.  She drank coffee hot year round without any cream or sugar which is nonsensical because she had the biggest sweet tooth of any human I ever met...which I may or may not have inherited from her.  She smoked and drank coffee at the same time while watching Days of our Lives.  Which woke her up and calmed her down at the same time and I'm pretty sure kept her at a size 4.  Not a plan I intend on trying out but I think that is how that worked out.  She loved yellow and sunflowers and she loved me.  Even when I felt like she hated me or was disappointed in me or was mad at me she. loved. me. I can only hope that my own children know that I love them, even if, even when, no matter what.

It was me and it was her and we grew up together.  She clung to her mom and I clung to her waiting for my turn for her to cling to me.  And she did...but then she died...and I was broken. As I sat at her bedside and felt the presence of Jesus at the foot of her bed, it never occurred to me at that moment that I would fall so far into a state of hopelessness and depression.  Instead of being held by the comfort only Jesus could provide I held onto my loss and pain.

The key word in this is 'was'.  The shattered pieces of my heart slowly were picked up and glued back together by a God who understands heartache, a God who understands pain, a God who understands loss. Even if nearly fifteen years later I still hurt and miss what in my mind should have been, I rest in the fact that my mom is now whole.  Her journey complete even as I still tread mine.

I find myself struggling with things I can't control, things I can't fix, things that aren't going according to the plan I had imagined.  In such a time as this I find myself reflecting on what I have already endured.  On what God has already completed.  I have to remind myself that it is not my will but His.  I'm not the author of life, I am not the one who has to spin everything into orbit, I do not hold the world in the palm of my hand.  I can't.  I'm not meant to.  I'm not strong enough to. And I am relieved as my heart hurts and I struggle with things I cannot "fix".

The verse found in John chapter 11 verse 35 is "Jesus Wept"  In this I take solace knowing Jesus himself wept.  He who holds the world in the palm of His hand, He who is the author of life, He who spins everything into orbit, He who knows every hair on my head, He who formed me in my mothers womb, He who died to save me so that one day I could walk with him in eternity, He wept.  How can I get through all of what I'm going through?  How can I put one foot in front of the other when all I want to do is cry?  Because Jesus wept.  I have a father who knows.  I have a father who can put back together all my broken pieces.  What was old can be new again.  Nothing but nothing can ever happen to snatch me from His hand.  So I pace and I pray.  I pray and I pace and I try to remember to eat. I try to remember that I can do what is needed because of a father who wept.

Friday, February 1, 2019

To Menopause or Not to Menopause

In life there are things that you enjoy and things that you don't.  I enjoy wearing soft fuzzy slippers, watching movies, and eating ice cream.  I do not enjoy going to the doctor...any doctor (except the eye doctor I love to go there) but most especially I HATE to go to the lady doctor. I have had the same doctor since I moved here three years ago and this year they changed my appointment and put me with a nurse practitioner/midwife.  Don't get me wrong, I think she is more than qualified to perform an annual exam.  Here's the thing: I don't make it a habit to meet people in my birthday suit.  It's not my thing. In fact, I don't even like to be in my birthday suit at all.  I like my big soft "The Comfy" that I got for Christmas and my soft fuzzy memory foam slippers.  Basically I want to be covered in soft fuzzy fabrics at all times but I digress.

They called Friday morning to change my appointment because the doctor was called away to surgery.  They asked if they could put me with a nurse practitioner on Wednesday and I said that was fine.  What can I say, I had just woken up and was about to get ready for this appointment and they caught me off guard. At the time all I registered that I was agreeing to was a postponement and more sleep on a day off.  Fast forward to Wednesday morning as I'm getting ready for work and they call again.  Now in my mind I'm thinking, "I'm going to get out of this.  This is fantastic.  This is when you know that God is real and wants us to be happy." So I answer the phone and it is the doctor's office.  The nurse practitioner they had scheduled me with was out but if I could come in at 2:30 then I could see the other nurse practitioner.  First of all...when they called the first time to change the appointment was the first time I was even aware they had nurse practitioners working there.  Now they have not one but two.  I'm going to now continue going down the chain of command here until I don't have to go.  This could work.  Unfortunately for me, they didn't call to cancel the whole thing later in the day and by two o'clock I'm calling my friend FREAKING out because I'm really going to have to go meet a woman I have never seen before while in a gown open in the front and covered in a paper sheet.  I don't know about you but I don't hang out like that around people I DO know. So I call my friend and she is trying to tell me this is going to be ok. Let me preface this by saying that this friend I have known only for the three years I have lived here.  I love her but I'm afraid now that she thinks I'm a bit unstable to say the least. I called her on my way home from work, I may have called her on the way to the appointment I'm not sure but I was definitely texting her while waiting to be called back and I called her on the way home.

While we are talking we talked about a story we had both read about a woman who had been getting ready for her annual appointment and happened to grab a wash cloth that she didn't realize had glitter on it before she used it to shall we say...tidy up?  We laughed then I started panicking about grooming.  How much is too much? This was not covered in health class.  "How to Prepare for the Lady Doctor 101" was not a chapter in any of my classes nor was "How to Maintain Dignity While Naked in Front of Strangers (aka The Lady Doctor). Once upon arriving at home after work to prepare for this appointment I changed clothes, used the restroom, brushed my teeth, and ran a brush through my hair, general maintenance.  I left my house and actually drove around the block and back home just to make sure I was good to go. This stranger woman has made it her life's purpose to look at women naked all day long and I was not going to be the one she remembered and talked about around the water cooler later.  On the way to the appointment I realized I had made a mistake.  I had used the restroom.  They always have to give a sample to make sure you aren't pregnant and now I have to drink my entire Tervis of water to make myself have to go when I get there and I only have at best fifteen minutes drive to make this happen.  Now I have pee anxiety.  Leave me alone and I have to pee all the time.  Tell me to go on command and I can't do it.  The last time I was asked to go on command I had to sing the potty song to myself from the video my kids watched when we were potty training them.

I arrive at the appointment and check in.  I texted with my friend and laughed a bit before getting called back.  Scales.  I am overweight and can we discuss how to remedy this situation because me being overweight makes little to no sense because of the way my work schedule is.  Basically I stand up all day, rarely ever take a break, barely eat anything or drink anything, maybe use the restroom once or twice in a 9-12 hour time frame and so please explain to me why I'm not a size 4, thank you very much.  The nurse didn't know but she told me to let her know if I figure it out.

New development: We went straight to the room after the scales without passing go.  No restroom stop on the way.  So what we can surmise from this is that I look like an overweight middle aged woman who couldn't possibly be pregnant.  This is correct because we took care of that years ago but it is kind of like getting asked to a party or to go out with friends on the weekend.  You don't want to go, even though you want to see them, you have no intention of going but you still want to be asked.  So I didn't get invited to that party....weird.

I had a great time chatting with the nurse who I thought was the nurse practitioner because I'm an idiot.  She was quite nice to talk to and said that my blood pressure was great.  We discussed that I might be starting menopause because I have convinced myself that obviously we are there now.  My mother had started early so surely I would too.  I had research (I asked my cousin about her mom and menopause and she feels she started early so obviously we will start early too), I have been moody, I have had some hot flashes, and I'm a pretty happy person in general but something isn't quite right so menopause makes sense.  She then told me that the nurse practitioner would be in soon and that I needed to get in the gown open I the front and cover with the paper sheet.  (I had such high hopes that I was making a friend here and now....not so much.)

I prepared and waited.  She came in and introduced herself and sat down.  We talked about all sorts of stuff.  I get very chatty when I'm nervous.  I discovered this as did she as I talked and talked and talked all in an effort to feel better about what was to happen once we stopped talking and I would be forced to be naked in front of this stranger.  It's uncomfortable and I told her that.  She responded with, "Yes, but that is what you are here for."  So basically I have to pay this woman who I have just met to talk to me, see me naked, essentially violate me in the name of medical science and I don't even get dinner out of it.  AND while she is a lovely person and we could potentially be friends we can't.  You can't go to coffee and Target with a woman who has seen you in all of your glory unless that woman gave birth to you and changed your diapers.  It's a rule...I made it up...but I think it could be real.  We eventually got down to the task at hand and I, of course, never stopped talking because I'm uncomfortable with silence when I am uncomfortable.

Side Note: When I was pregnant for my third child I went to get a massage and ended up with a male masseuse.  Absolutely could not relax at all and never once shut up.  Chatted the entire time because I was so uncomfortable and I never ever returned. The only massages I had after that experience was when I went to a spa night at a friend's house for the MOPS group I helped with once all my kids were in school.

OK so back to the story. Once she finished she told me the nurse would be in to draw my blood so they could test my hormone levels and then she sprinted for the door.  I dressed as quickly as I could and waited.  The nurse returned and I told her she had one shot at it.  If she didn't get my vein the first time we were not doing it.  I don't like needles. We chatted and chatted and she actually said, "I feel like we're friends now."  We might be able to be friends because she did get my blood on the first try and she hasn't seen me naked.

I received a call the next day.  I am not in menopause. Apparently I'm just in my terrible forties as I saw on Facebook recently.  I'm moody, I'm having hot flashes, and I'm gaining weight, I thought sure I was starting menopause.  Now I'm just a terrible person who apparently needs medicated. I'd rather get a kitten and eat chocolate.  If this is the forties, I can't wait to see what the fifties hold.  Maybe I will get uninvited to my next yearly.  One can only hope.