As I was drawing that tree and writing on it “I am the vine” I also drew some wind and wrote on it “and He whispers on the wind” I heard that small, still voice in my head telling me “Give this drawing to the first person who tells you it’s beautiful.” But no one did. So I put the drawing away and I chit-chatted with some girls at a nearby table.
Then, this special friend I met, Stepahie Bowman, sits down next to me and says something…
“I saw you were drawing something. May I see it?”
In a moment I was hesitant and confused and a little excited, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. The drawing was in my purse, so I dug it out, flipped to the page and handed it over to Stephanie.
“It is beautiful.”
I smiled knowingly, not knowing that I was something special, not knowing that my drawing was spectacular, but knowing that I was praying, God spoke, and I listened.
Because I usually argue.
Stephanie was staring at the drawing and I think I kind of snatched it from her. I started tearing the page from the sketchbook, she asked what I was doing. I remained silent. Handed her the drawing and said this is for you. She cried, thanked me, we parted ways. I didn’t tell her why I did it. I simply obeyed.
to obey is better than sacrifice
In the grand scheme of things, it seems less than important that I drew a picture while I prayed and gave it away. I didn’t change the world. I didn’t provide money for a well for clean water to those in need. I didn’t do something spectacular or live-saving, or live-giving for that matter.
but I obeyed.
The weekend was over as quick as it had started. The airport was bulging at the seams, splitting and leaking. Flights were so overbooked, passengers were sent in cabs to cities hours away. I was flying standby. I kinda knew I wasn’t getting home Sunday. Brooke McGlothlin, my roommate, offered to take me to her home five hours away so I’d have a better chance of getting home. Stephanie (and another Stephanie) were also in the car for most of that trip. Yeah…God already knew that would happen.
We chatted about the conference. Again, I felt a little out of place, misfit that I am. After we dropped off the Stephanies that were riding along, Brooke and I talked. It was a deep, spiritual talk. The kind that I’ve not had–I can’t even remember the last time. maybe never.
One of the subjects stemmed from this:
The day before I left for the conference, someone I respect immensely, took a kind of big risk and told me something I might have reacted badly to. (I didn’t, but could’ve) I lugged the burden of my iniquity around not realizing the weight or impact.
In hindsight…pun totally intended…there may be cause to believe that God timed this person’s comments in such a way as to cause a complete emotional breakdown. The comment wasn’t intended to send me tailspin.
In summary, the context of the conversation was regarding my position in ccPublshing. Paraphrasing, this person believes and feels that I come off as cold and unemotional at times and I sometimes don’t appear to be conversing, but want instead to be obeyed.
And yeah, I’m a hard ass. I know. But I didn’t think, for a moment, that I was being dictator-esque. I took those statements and tried to wrap my brain around them. I was pretty certain that in all of the discussions, board meetings, and brainstorming sessions, I’d prefaced my ideas with, “I think maybe…” or “What are your thoughts…” or “I wonder if we should…” or similar lead-ins. I’d learned years ago, from a book called Jesus, CEOthat to lead, you have to put yourself at the bottom of the flow chart. And dude. I take that to heart. So yeah. Those statements bothered me. A lot.
Enough that I kept discussing things with Brooke. She asked me some hard questions.
“You say you’re not emotional & tender. But you sure seem like it to me, why do you keep saying this?”
Because I’m not as emotional as most women. I have my moments, but for the most part, I’m just not.
“Is that who you are, or is it something you’ve done to yourself?”
I know the answer. It is hard for me to say it here, out loud, to forever be recorded–because I’d rather keep it hidden, where I can somewhat control it. Part of me fears someone in my family might read this and I don’t know what will happen if they do. Part of me doesn’t give a flying fuck if they do read it. It’s a two part answer. Maybe more. The easy answer is: both. Being less emotional than other women is actually part of who I am, who I was created to be, but the other part, I’ve done to myself. Maybe not intentionally at first. And it’s difficult to unravel the answer because it goes way back.
I don’t know where it all started, I don’t have access to those memories. My dad was a door-gunner in Vietnam. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and he’s also bipolar. But back then, these things didn’t have names and there was no help. What I knew then was I was the target of my dad’s anger. What I didn’t know was that he had no control of these things. I hated him. He beat me and I hated him more. He yelled at me and called me a slut and I hated him more. I disliked the fact that my mom didn’t leave him. I thought she should’ve protected me and removed me from harm’s way. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know he wasn’t in control. The fight of flight instinct? I’m a fighter (as if I had to tell you that?) I want to make it clear though, that several years ago, our relationship was healed. I’ll tell that story someday. And I have forgiven him. Fully. I’m telling you this stuff because it deal directly with what is happening in my life right now. This instant. I didn’t really make peace with my mom about it. I kinda did, I talked to her on her death bed. But that was just me talking to her and I don’t know if she heard.
Another facet to this thing I’m dealing with, whatever it’s called, is the fact that I was sexually violated as a child. My grandma (mom’s mom) lived across the alley from us and her father moved in with her. They both drank. a lot. He would touch me inappropriately in front of her and she’d pretend she was watching TV, pretend she didn’t see it, or she’d fall asleep on the couch in the living room and didn’t stop it and I didn’t know how to stop it. If there was more that happened, I don’t remember. This was violation enough. I talked to my grandma on her death bed, as well. But it was just me talking and I don’t know if she heard.
I did not have a safe place. And I didn’t believe there was a God. I didn’t believe that someone who loved me would sit back and watch all this. So truthfully, I didn’t think ANYone loved me. Because I’m sure a whole lot of people knew and saw and just sat back and did nothing.
That’s how it came to be that I shut down emotionally during stress or trauma, or emotionally charged times. It’s called survival.
I’ve worked so hard through the years at healing and learning to trust and I gotta be honest, I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job of it. Some of it happened during years I didn’t follow God and some it happened when I was walking with Him. I understand now, that He’s redeemed those years of pain and He knew all along how I’d best learn and change and be formed into this broken, but healed girl.
I’m pretty sure the deaths and grief I’ve had to deal with the past five years are bringing these things to the surface. Because honestly, I’ve not thought about this stuff. It hasn’t consumed me. I haven’t blamed all my shortcomings on my past. I have dealt with it, I have moved forward.
But it’s back and I guess I have to deal with it again. Different parts of it, I think.
Because the most influential adults from my childhood are now all dead.
I keep hearing this in my head:
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of sliver
Remove impurities from the silver and the silversmith can craft a fine chalice
He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more.
malachi 3:3. proverbs 25:4. john 15:2.
Along with the metaphor Brooke used when I argued with her that I didn’t think God would want me to go digging around in wounds that were already healed. The one where she told me that sometimes there are wounds that have little bits of shrapnel (for lack of a better term) and sometimes those pieces get infected. And I ended the metaphor knowing that if an infection gets bad enough, it will take over and poison the body.
I know this intimately.
While undergoing chemo, with really good chances of a full recovery, my mom’s white count dropped drastically, she developed several infections, which poisoned her body–and this is how she died. She was gone within days. Not because of the tumor, not because of the cancer, not because of the chemo, but because of the infection.
Confession: I don’t like having a roommate unless I know them beforehand.
Confession: I have a Relevant Roomie. I don’t really know her. What I know is one of my good friends Re-tweeted her request for a Relevant Roomie and I thought they knew each other. Turns out, it was random. My friend just re-tweeted without knowing Brooke. However, by the time I’d found out they didn’t know each other, Brooke and I had bonded over country music.
Go ahead. Laugh. 🙂 We did.
We’ve been having fun on Twitter describing our current mood with country music lyrics. Like, today, this is how I feel:
And I was listenin’ to the Opry
When all of my friends
were diggin’ Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm & Blues
I was Country, when Country wasn’t cool
And if you’re so inclined, here’s the whole song:
Then God decided to throw a curve ball. I wasn’t having the best of days and the lyrics I posted were from a song played at my mom’s funeral in June.
@brookelmcg When I get where I’m going & I see my Maker’s face-I’ll stand forever in the light of His amazing grace.http://bit.ly/aX0AD6
The link is to the post Amazing Grace. It’s the hardest post I’ve ever had to write. And guess who God put in my life at that moment in time? Yep. My Relevant Roomie. She tweeted back:
@michpendergrass “And I’ll leave my heart wide open. I will love & have no fear…” I understand sister. http://bit.ly/c7E5rZ
God constantly speaks to me in numbers and dates. Here’s one example, my post 12:26. I know God was up there giggling like a schoolgirl when I found out my Relevant Roomie and share the same birthday.
THE SAME BIRTHDAY!
What are the odds?
God’s odds are so much different.
Brooke and I have decided that God’s up to something. We don’t know what. We can’t wait to find out. He’s got our full attention. And we know He’s bigger than we can imagine and we’re willing to bet that He’s got something in store for you, too. So we wanted everyone to post their own lists!
10 Things My Relevant Rommie Should Know About Me.
1. I snore. Especially when I need to see the chiropractor. I stop snoring after I see her. Chiropractor? Pedicure? Chiropractor? Pedicure?
2. I might be pure Yankee and bleed blue, but my heart belongs to the south. God misplaced me near Chicago but made it up to me by giving me a country boy with a southern drawl (and southern charm!)
3. I’m exactly 50% left brain and 50% right brain. That means I know it all. 😉
4. I write and read horror, Stephen King is my favorite author and no one will convince me that I can’t combine my love of Jesus with my ability to write horror.
5. I can’t remember how old I am unless I do the math. 2010 minus 1972…I’m 38. And I’m a grandma. Don’t judge.
6. One of our kids is married with our beautiful grandson, one of the kids is a senior in college, and the other is in sixth grade and homeshooled by yours truly.
7. I love Jesus but I drink a little. (If you’ve never heard that, try Google.)
8. I’m also exactly 50% introvert and 50% extrovert. I can turn it on and be extrovert, but when the conference is done and over, I hide in my house for days on end and I don’t leave.
9. I love my life. I love my husband. I love my kids and grandkids. I don’t know anyone quite as content and happy as we are.
10. I was thin, then my thyroid went kaput. Now I’m fat and happy. I’m grateful that I’m no longer sleeping 19 of 24 hours a day and will choose this fat body over losing my ability to function any day.
Bonus: 11. I wanted to be Barbara Mandrell when I was little and there was nothing more exciting for me than waiting for the next Mandrell Sisters show to come on. (Ok, maybe waiting for the next Quincy, M.E. show.)
* * *
Your turn! Link up!
Edit to add this great news!! Lindsey from The Pleated Poppy is giving away a gorgeous covered notebook to one of you just for linking up!
When grandmas find their youngest sons, dead by their own hand…when those grandmas slip into dementia and mini-strokes overtake them, even when special grandmas die
I Still Believe.
Though the questions still fog up my mind
With promises I still seem to bear
When moms have brain tumors and lymphoma and when prognosis looks good and things are hopeful hopeful. Even then, when she dies anyway
I Still Believe.
Even when answers slowly unwind
It’s my heart I see you prepare
When friends…people who call themselves friends, kick me while I’m down and knowingly inflict unbearable pain
I Still Believe.
But its now that I feel your grace fall like rain
From every fingertip washing away my pain
When I run away from home because I’m too pissed off to be around “friends”
I Still Believe.
The only place I can go is into your arms
Where I throw to you my feeble prayers
When You say in no uncertain terms, “Go back to your friend. Put up with her abuse.” I understand you are Jehovah Roi, the God Who Sees Me
I Still Believe.
In brokenness I can see that this is your will for me
Help me to know you are near
When I submit to Your authority and go back–and I hit a fawn still new with spots and it flies in the air and smashes down on the top of my car and I see it hit the road in the rearview mirror. Even when I see it’s mama right behind it. Even when the pain is too great to bear and I can’t see through my tears
In September of 2008, God allowed me to sing my grandma into eternity. She was a strong woman and fought to the very end, but went peacefully. A gift such as this would come along only once in a lifetime.
Not so much.
In the wee hours of Monday June 7, 2010, I was getting ready to sleep for a couple hours in the adjoining bed in mom’s hospital room. In these final days, we all knew her time was short, but only God knew the minute and hour he’d call her home. The nurse came in to take mom’s vitals. Asked me if I needed anything. I brushed my teeth. I leaned over mom and talked to her. Told her I was going to nap in the bed next to her, I wasn’t leaving the room, I’d be right there.
In that moment, her respirations dropped in half. I got closer, kissed her forehead, caressed her cheek, told her I love her. I said, “Ok mom. I’m not going to sleep. I’m just going to stay right here with you, ok?” And I did. More talking. More kissing. More breathing in her scent.
Without even knowing what was happening, I said, “Mom? I don’t know if you want me to sing to you like I did grandma, but I sure will.”
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
Mom’s mouth moved for the first time in days, as if she was singing with me. I started over because I couldn’t remember any other words.
How sweet the sound
And she breathed her last.
Twice in a lifetime I sang the two most important women in my life into eternity. There is no such thing as coincidence.
It was very hard for me to hit “publish” on this one.
* * *
In October of 1999, Zane was born. Phil was driving our semi over the road and he was home one day out of every thirty. That year, Jill and I spent New Year’s Eve together afraid for Y2K. We survived.
In 2000, we filed bankruptcy on that semi and moved back to Indiana and lived with my parents for a short time. Phil found a driving in job in Chicago and he was home two days out of every seven.
In 2001, 9/11 happened and I was scared for our lives. I’d never, ever heard it so quiet outside as when all planes were grounded. That month, we found a duplex to rent, Zane turned 2, potty-trained and I was still trying to decide if I was a good mom or not.
In 2002…Phil got a local job hauling fuel and was home EVERY night.
In 2003, Phil and I bought the Knox house. I started attending a church for the first time since I was let down by a different church back in 1992.
In 2004, doctors thought Phil had cancer. He didn’t. He did, however, punch a wall and break his hand and have to have pins put in.
In 2005, I was reading my Bible daily, active in Women’s ministry (and Phil in men’s ministry) and I was really getting to know God. Jill told me she had breast cancer and had already been battling it for a year. She’d already had a mastectomy and chemo and radiation. She made me get a breast exam. And I think they thought I had cancer. I then had an ultra sound. Then a mammogram (and platypus poop.) Then I had to see a surgeon. He told me I didn’t have breast cancer.
In 2006, I was called to write. “Write.” (I noticed I posted that on 12/02/06. Wonder if that has anything to do with 12:26?) That year, I also lost my Uncle Ed. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when I felt as close to God. And that’s also the year my church gave me a wake up call–lying about me, accusing me of ridiculous things, and leaving me alone during a time of huge, monumental need. Phil thought he was having a heart attack. Our fridge broke. Phil lost his job. Phil had double hernia surgery. We almost lost our house. 2006 was probably the hardest year of my life. I felt so alone that year. And God taught me more about His love than I could’ve ever expected.
In 2007, my thyroid completely shut down and I’ve been trying to get my brain (and my body and my life) back ever since. It’s also the year I was asked to be on the editing team at The Midnight Diner.
In 2008, I lost my best friend, Jill in January. She might have survived Y2K, but she did not survive breast cancer. And then my grandma passed away in September. I was asked to be Editor-in-chief of The Midnight Diner.
In 2009, We were taken on a trip of a lifetime to Key West and Marco Island, Florida in March. Phil quit truck driving altogether! He started working as property manager for a local retreat center. We were blessed with a grandson in April. Around May, I finally started feeling like myself again with the help of some replacement thyroid hormone. We moved in June and I’ve been trying to figure out what life is now that Phil’s home all day, every day and now that everything has changed.
* * *
I started this post with the intention of talking about how I feel separated from God right now. I mean, I know He’s there, He just feels distant to me and I remember hearing people talk about feeling this way and I distinctly remember thinking, “I will NEVER feel that way. I will always feel as close to God as I do at this very moment.”
I was going to talk about this new Bible I got, The Books of the Bible–with no verse references–and how I was going to start reading that for the New Year.
But I got caught up in looking at the way things got so ugly during the time I was closest to God. I remember what I went through and the lessons I learned after I did Beth Moore’s Believing God study. Things I haven’t found the courage to write about.
And though God says, “Do not be afraid.”
I am afraid.
I’m afraid that if I get close to Him again, something worse will happen. And I don’t know how to let go of that fear.