Night Ravings

Life has turned upside down for me these days. I ran my 5K in January, and it seems it went downhill  medical tests prove there was more than I thought brewing in the background. You see, I went from being ecstatic that I finished (really, that is huge, since I had heel trouble and zero energy for a long time), but I felt as if I ran a marathon and couldn’t quite recover. Symptoms I viewed as separate oddities over a span of eight years or so (and have been treating for a while) have compounded and flared up since then in an autoimmune sort of way. I’ve been to two doctors this week without a diagnosis; I guess that’s why Brian calls me a medical mystery.

The thing is, I am tired of being mysterious.

So, a few nights ago Brian and I were reading in bed, and I felt a wild need to pray about this stuff. Sometimes, as we hold hands under the sheets, our prayers are calmly spoken, and other times require nothing less than a relentless pursuit of answers. I heard my voice match my desperate, frustrated, ALL CAPS words.

My night raving went a little like this:

OKAY GOD,

I AM TIRED OF THIS! EVERYTHING IS UP IN THE AIR, AND I’M TIRED OF HURTING! WHAT IS GOING ON?

THERE ARE THINGS WE WANT TO DO TO OUR HOUSE–UPGRADING THE KITCHEN AND BATHROOM, CUTTING DOWN TREES IN THE BACKYARD, OUR DRYER NEEDS TO BE REPLACED. WE’VE SPENT TONS OF MONEY TO FIGURE OUT WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME OVER THE PAST YEAR, AND THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE! WE HAVE BILLS TO PAY, AND I WANT A VACATION! I WANT TO GO TO FRANCE. WE’RE TRYING TO SELL THIS HOUSE, BUT NOTHING IS HAPPENING!

WILL YOU HELP US?!?

I WANT AN ADVENTURE. I WANT SOMETHING FUN FOR A CHANGE. I WANT TO FEEL BETTER! I WANT TO BE HAPPY WITHOUT THE WEIGHT OF ALL OF THIS.

AND IF MY STRATEGY IS ALL WRONG, FINE. MAYBE I SHOULD STOP DICTATING TO YOU HOW ALL THIS NEEDS TO TURN OUT. I’LL TAKE any VACATION… TO FRANCE, NIGER (peeking through my eyelashes at Brian just to see his expression because that idea does not AT ALL appeal to him), COLORADO, ANYWHERE… EXCEPT IN THE SOUTH BECAUSE THAT WOULDN’T BE A VACATION. WE NEED SOME FUN! SERIOUSLY, JUST TELL US ALREADY! WHAT’S THE DEAL? WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? AND HOW SHOULD WE SPEND OUR MONEY?

…(after a deep breath and more calmly) And thank you for Brian and the pups and our jobs and friends and family.

Amen.

And after all those words, I looked over at my Lovey, who had a touchingly sweet grin on his face. “That’s the best prayer I’ve ever heard you pray,” he said. 

–Jen

How do you feel about questioning God when things don’t make sense?

Like Oil and Water

But I don’t want to jump into something new!

Funny (or irritating really), this pattern I have noticed. It has become fact that when I post something, my words slap me in the face the next day or few days or over the past week. It stings a little and sometimes a lot, mostly because I feel like I have figured out some things.

For example, I called my last post Nothing Changes Unless We Do, so naturally, most of last week I wanted to rant and complain…about the change that was coming, ready or not.

I love my job working with children and parents and teachers. Like any job, there are good and tough days. For me, I am blessed that the good widely outnumber the bad.

However.

This summer has been amazing (as summers usually are). I have relished time for me, time to sleep, time to write, time to travel, time for friends to visit, etc., etc., etc. Over a week ago, I went back to work–to school in July.  I know, I know, all of you who read this and work year round have no sympathy, and I get it. Just try to understand.

I DO NOT like change.

Change and I just don’t go together like oil and water. Last week, I turned into a whiny, teary, dramatic weirdo. I was exhausted and felt annoyed, oh, about just everything. You know, it was like wearing a tight, itchy sweater with sleeves that are too short.

In less than a week, I felt overloaded by things I routinely would have done and haven’t (including a blog post) or all I hoped to do and still haven’t (blog post done!). Suddenly I felt like I was complaining constantly and worrying– tightening my grip around all I could. I must have apologized to Brian at least 10 times…and then turned around and had to do it all over again.

So, over the weekend, I realized again (as I do every time I go through this) that awareness is part of the process. Just recognizing that I need to be open to the change rather than fearing it is important. Then, opening my mind and heart, loosening my grip on everything, and asking God for peace and strength and direction make a world of difference. After all, the dread over the coming change is ridiculously inflated in relation to the actual event.

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students, and I loved seeing the smiling faces I realize I’ve missed over June and most of July.

I think I’ll go back tomorrow.

An Unexpected Lesson (Review)

A couple weeks ago we were on our way to sun and fun. Swimsuits, flip flops, beach towels were packed (sunscreen was forgotten–isn’t there always something?). Despite the packed cooler filled with goodies for the drive, we had to make a stop for M&Ms and kettle chips. Oooh, junk just adds to the fun of going on vacation!

It was my turn in the driver’s seat, and Brian settled in for a nap.

If you’ve never driven through South Carolina, let’s just say there’s nothing redeeming during that journey. Flat and boring, boring and flat. If you have to go to the bathroom, take some toilet paper since you might drive for hours without finding an exit or even seeing a billboard. This particular drive felt like the real neverending story without that almost-cute-but-just-too-strange dog-faced creature (children of the ’80’s, do you remember that movie?).

So, I drove on and on and on and saw a green and yellow car on the side of the road, flashers on. Whew! That sucks. It’s such a hot day, I thought and then actually closed the vents, since the A/C was a little too cold. As I passed, I noticed the lone driver was pregnant.

I continued on. We have vacation to start! Yet, as I tried to forget her, I felt a little less excited about getting there and a little more like a heartless heap of snot.

Why didn’t I stop? What could have I done anyway? Who knows if and how far she would have needed us to drive her? This could take all day!

And then, I realized even if I did nothing else, I could have given her a very cold bottle of water from our cooler packed with goodies.

But I didn’t. And I didn’t go back (I felt better since there was no exit anywhere nearby to turn around, but then I felt even. worse. for her since there was no exit nearby).

About a hour later, I passed someone else whose car was parked on the side of the road with the hood up. As I kept driving, he was walking…walking down this monotonous road on this incredibly hot day. At least there actually happened to be an exit about half a mile away.

Once we reached our destination and for days filled our stomachs with deliciousness, I walked past a woman crying for food in a place where people spend money like it truly does grow on trees. Ah, I didn’t have my wallet with me and couldn’t have helped her. So glad I dodged that one! It can be so… awkward.

You know, I still wonder how it would have been if I would have just stopped to talk to her like the couple I later saw who did that very thing. Oh, and on our initial drive, eventually, that green and yellow car sped past us, but I didn’t feel much better.

I was reminded that I have been on the side of the road with a flat tire waiting for help to arrive. No strangers stopped to help me, either. As I sweated in my car for close to a hour, I saw hundreds of cars and trucks speed past my own with a force that shook me.

I have not, however, been the crying woman asking for food.

If I needed money so I could eat, I would want to be seen and heard and treated like a living, breathing and very hungry person.

We see these kinds of situations everyday. While at times I’d like to jump in and help, it’s true to say that most of the time I don’t. Is it just easier to walk as if we have blinders on or to tell ourselves that it’s “safer” to stay away? After all, we’ve heard the stories of people who make the choice to beg for money instead of taking an available job or appear to be homeless with a nice car parked around the corner. And oh, the dangers! (Really, I am aware that putting myself in certain situations is not safe, but this is not my point.)

Our vacation was fantastic for a lot of ways. One unexpected reason is that I have remembered what I teach my students and apparently, need to keep learning and practicing.

We are all people with very real needs and hurts with a desire to be seen and heard and loved. Everywhere I look, I want to really see and treat people as if they are in fact, precious. And newsflash: It’s just not my job to decide if they are being authentic or not.

So, giving money doesn’t feel right? Well, even a kind word and a smile can make an impact.

Is this something you struggle with, too? How do you decide in those moments how to deal with it?

Vacation!

I love getting out the suitcase and heading just about anywhere! Well, all over the past few weeks I’ve been to the beach, visited out of state family and had friends stay for weekend fun.

While I love having time off from anything, I always find myself itching to get back into my own real-life routine. It’s like leaving the exhilaration of being somewhere else for my own kind of comfy comfort. So, I’m back, and I’m thankful you are, too!

Here are some pics from some of our adventures:

Yes, happy birhtday, America!

Eat More Beef at Brookgreen Gardens (we call it Bacon!)

View from Waterfront Park in Charleston, SC

Funny how riding this was my idea. NOT funny how I hated every minute of it despite the air conditioning.

How many people can you fit on a sailboat?

Brookgreen Gardens

I love this! No yard. A few flowers… and a dog door with a window?

Huntington Beach, SC

Having a Place To Go Is a Home

My older brother and I were usually with my dad and stepmom for the 4th of July. There was just something about watching the fireworks from the roof deck of their apartment and then making the mad dash down the seven flights of stairs to beat the rush to Friendly’s for ice cream sundaes.

If we were back at home (with our other parents) for the holiday, we loaded up the car with watermelon and other yumminess after cooking out in the summer heat. We always found a fireworks show and ooh-ed and ahh-ed with everyone else, before sitting in a very long line of cars, all trying to make it home. Still, I love watching fireworks.

After reading my friend Joy’s post this morning, I was reminded of those days of splitting holidays with both families, something that became a part of me–so much that it still feels like something is off if I don’t travel for Christmas or Thanksgiving.

It’s ironic then, that the past two weeks held travels to two homes to see family, which included both sets of parents. One house, I haven’t even seen in almost ten years and wondered how I would feel once there. The other, well, I never lived there, but it is special just the same.

Last night, after some time of catching up, plenty of food and hugs for the road, the car was loaded and the journey home began. There’s something about being alone for a couple of hours. My mind wanders….

There is a framed card on my fireplace mantle that I bought years ago when I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. The picture is of a dilapidated blue truck with a family’s belongings piled on top. Even with the absence of excess packed in boxes marked kitchen or bathroom, there is happiness. How do I know? Well, the people inside–the ones crammed inside the truck are smiling

The caption says: Having a place to go — is a home.  Having someone to love — is a family.

I am thankful that during those childhood days of the drives and flights back and forth from one set of parents to another I had a place to go. I had two places to go, even though things were not perfect in lots of ways. With two families, I have lots of people to love.

I am also grateful for the ways they love others.

I am amazed by my older brother’s love and strength and humility when it comes to his adopted daughter. His selflessness shines through by just being there for her and loving her and trying to help her navigate her teenage years. He also has been a source of support for my other brother who, well, just needs more support than anyone of us really know.

Then, there is my sister, who has cared for our mom after surgery. She has a huge heart and will get up in the middle of the night to help someone even is she is sick herself or has to work the next day.

For quite a while, my dad and stepmother were the primary caregivers for my aunt, who could no longer care for herself. I doubt this was part of their retirement dreams way back when, but they stepped in and did it anyway.

No one can prepare for any of the tough stuff that happens. It’s just what life hands us. During difficult situations, we find out what we are made of; don’t we?

When everything about life is unpredictable, I know to the depths of my soul how much I am loved.

After driving for several hours through lightning and driving rain, I made it back to my own home sweet home. I am thankful for my own place to go.