Monday, December 12, 2011
If you haven't read the book already, it might be because you know the story would disturb you; therefore, I am not sharing any explicit details of Ms. Dugard's captivity here. If you have read it, then you can possibly understand the inexpressible sadness I feel for the theft of a young woman's freedom.
As you might expect, there was little in the book I - or anyone who has not experienced the terror of kidnapping - could relate to. Page after page detailed Ms. Dugard's confusion about what was being done to her, concern for her mother, and the struggle to cling to the hope that she might someday be free. That hope was juxtaposed with the understanding that the real world might be too much for her to handle, even if she did gain her freedom. It is heart-rending to read - but exciting, knowing that she is, in fact, reclaiming her life even now!
Still, amid the chapters chronicling events that I had mercifully never had to endure, there were moments that felt as though they were stolen from my own ill-kept journals. Ms. Dugard mentions keeping a diary that she dedicated to a kitten given to her when she was, I believe, twelve years old. The words she chose and the way she expressed her love for that kitten brought tears to my eyes because I felt like I was reading my own thoughts, written by another - only this other was a child trapped by sexual predators. Strangely, if you didn't know her back story, I don't believe you could imagine that Ms. Dugard was trapped at all. Her words, her little doodles, her love letters to her pet seemed as though any compassionate, maturing child could have written them. Maybe even me.
Further along in the book, Ms. Dugard records a list of some of her favorite musicians during a time that would be (though she did not know it) close to her release from hell. I caught my breath and read the list a few more times. These were songs that I liked. Artists that I listened to on the radio, music I had downloaded from iTunes. Suddenly, again, I felt close to this stranger. Sure, they may well have simply been the popular songs that were getting airplay at the time...but to know that I was free to listen to them in my car, in my apartment, at a friend's house, at the gym...and this woman never was...well, that was sobering.
Also, in reading Ms. Dugard's impressions of her captor, I was appalled at what was done to her. Yes, physically, yes emotionally, but this self-deluded religious fanatic almost stole from her the precious gift of hope. As her brave story proves, there are times when hope is, quite literally, all we have left. For those who believe in Christ, He is our hope, as are the promises God made through the Bible. Even that hope was marred for Ms. Dugard, as her vile captor was a sexually sadsistic self-proclaimed prophet who perverted scripture even as he abused her.
I don't know what religious beliefs, if any, Ms. Dugard holds right now. But there is a power beyond her own that is allowing her to take an impossibly brave step, and forgive the people who contributed to her suffering. I am grateful, for whatever reason, that she is allowing herself to move on, establish a life for herself and her daughters, without the threat of bitterness to cloud her bright future. Surely that kind of decision must be made with a great deal of love, support, compassion and understanding from a great many hearts, and I thank God that Ms. Dugard is now surrounded by those kinds of people.
When I look back on the difficulties of my childhood - and there were many - I can cover them all with the blanket of knowing that I was always - always - safe among friends. In fact, I was always safe, even among "enemies", for those who I thought hated me never would have done to me what was done to this remarkable, beautiful and incredibly strong young woman.
May you be greatly blessed, and may every single second of your stolen life be returned you you a hundred-fold, Ms. Jaycee Dugard.
Monday, December 5, 2011
I won't spoil a thing for any of you who have yet to see it. It's worth it, worth it, WORTH IT. It's adorable, hysterical, and, most importantly, it maintains the original spirit of Jim Henson's Muppets: that innocent, enthusiastic, joyful feeling of optimism that rides on the back of catchy, silly sings and shines through big, googly eyes.
In light of the success of this latest installment, may I humbly make a few suggestions on some classics to revisit next?
"Pig and Prejudice", by Jane Austen: A pretty, prideful pig learns humility when she spurns a wealthy but misunderstood frog barrister. Musical score by Rowlf.
"The Three Muppeteers", by Alexandre Dumas: A frog, a bear and a weirdo are all that stands between a beautiful queen and a royal scandal (regarding pearls and swine, of course!)
"Cyrano de Bear-gerac", by Edmond Rostand: A wanna-be comedian fails miserably at wooing a crowd, so he enlists a "silent" partner to help him bowl them over! Unfortunately, the crowd falls for the weirdo instead, and the two struggle to make amends.
"Huckleberry Frog", by Mark Twain: A forward-thinking frog and his buddy, Bear Jim, a former slave, enjoy adventures on the Big River.
"The Hunchbear of Notre Dame", by Victor Hugo: A lonely bear, isolated by his duties as the dinner bell ringer on a dude ranch, learns that it's not hard to make friends if you start acting like one!
"Janice in Wonderland", by Lewis Carroll: An already spaced-out blond maiden enters a dreamlike world where nothing is as it seems...and then writes a hit album.
"Gonzo with the Wind", by Margaret Miller: A strong-willed weirdo learns how to rebuild after everything he's ever known is destroyed in a battle over cotton vs. polyester leisure suits.
"Frogenstein", by Mary Shelley: A mad scientist and his companion, who only communicates with squeaks, resurrect the lifeless body of a biology lab frog...with disastrous results!
"The Mark of Rizzo", by Johnston MaCulley: A wealthy, benevolent, land-owning rat, disturbed by the government's treatment of his people, dons a mask and cape and brings evildoers to justice...in style!
"20,000 Frogs Under the Sea", by Jules Verne: A team of brave, felt-faced adventurers face ocean-dwelling dangers and make exciting discoveries.
"The Taming of the Sow", by William Shakespeare: A beautiful but quarrelsome pig finally meets her match through deception and a battle of wits.
(I, of course, would happily make myself available as a literary consultant for Disney.)
Friday, November 11, 2011
True masculinity doesn't dwell in the purchase of muscle cars, the keeping of a mistress, or a paycheck. Even though we know this, we buy the lie that real men don't cry. They play sports - tough sports. They have jobs - important jobs. We joke about the dim-wittedness of the average American father figure (Homer Simpson, anyone?) We encourage men to be sexual and aggressive, andif they are not, we dismiss them as weak or effeminate.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Here's the thing. I really didn't want to discuss this sort of thing at all - not on my blog, not in person, not anywhere. Too much has already been said; too many hurtful, judgmental words, and too much arrogant criticism...especially by Christians.
I was disturbed to read that a Christian leader whom I greatly admire had shot off a few snarky comments on Twitter about the state of Ms. Kardashian's marriage, and about celebrities in general. What was said was both perceptive and accurate...but it was also unnecessary and not helpful. And it made me stop and think about my initial reaction to the whole debacle. I had joined in on the discussion around the water cooler, denouncing the Kardashian family's lifestyle, bemoaning the fact that, for $20 million, whole villages in Africa could have eaten for months, or hundreds of battered women in big cities could have been given safety, or reconstruction and rescue attempts could continue in Turkey. I had scathingly agreed that the two couldn't possibly have attended any type of pre-marital counseling, because any self-respecting counselor would have, despite their celebrity status, warned them to proceed very cautiously. I shook my head as I said, aloud, that my goal was to have my future children grow up in a world where they would have to ask, "Who were the Kardashians?" because such lavish celebrity lifestyles would have long since vanished.
But, after hearing from some other Christian sources who advocated prayer for Kim and Kris, I had to rethink my stance. I still believe that the wedding had been an obscene waste of money, and that the whole "famous-for-being-famous" trend simply has to stop, but now I'm starting to wonder...why wasn't sympathy my first response to this situation? No, I don't know them. No, I can't fathom what it is like to have more money than I could ever properly spend. No, I am not photographed for endorsements and advertisements, nor do I have my name attached to lines of perfume, clothing, and make-up. But, like Kim, I longed for a fairy tale romance. Granted, that's surely where the similarities end (oh, and I had to get x-rays of my butt, too, to prove that I am totally the real deal), but what if I had friends whose new marriage was crumbling? Maybe there had been some deception, or some disappointment, or a tragedy that one of the spouses had never needed to deal with before.
Frankly, I am sure that there are couples whose marriage fell apart over what Ross and I had to endure this year. It's so easy to blame, to accuse, to condemn when something horrific happens - a death or an accident. Our faith alone allowed us to grow closer together in the midst of great sorrow.
Maybe celebrities are at no higher a risk for divorce than the rest of us, but their troubles are surely more available for us to review. Just as one would examine a fine collectible up for auction, we appraise them, prod them, poke them, and finally, sit back and make our offer. "Shameful," we finally sigh. "Terrible home life." "Wasteful." "All beauty, no brains." "Is this the best you can do?"
I am fairly certain that I would have made entirely different lifestyle choices if I had Kim Kardashian's looks, money, or fame. But then again, I couldn't promise that, could I? I am not excusing anything she has done. I stand by my belief that, even if her marriage had lasted, the money spend on the wedding would have been wasted. I still maintain that the American public's morbid fascination with Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and the Kardashians needs to stop. It's not doing us - or the celebrities - any real good. Still, Kim Kardashian is a person. I don't know her character or her nature, but God knows her and loves her and does want the best for her. I just have a feeling that his idea of the best and hers are very different.
I also have a feeling that his idea is much, much better.
Open your eyes, Ms. Kardashian. There's so much more to life.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I thought things would get easier. They've gotten harder. It's been two months since we lost the baby (technically, three), and I'm thinking more about her, not less. I've said before that we'll never know if it was a boy or girl, but in my mind, she's Olivia. And I am still aching because I will never hold her until I am swept up into heaven, or until I perish.
A few weeks ago, an old friend sent me a message sharing some very personal thoughts. It seemed that she'd been following my baby news and admitted she had mixed feelings about it. And she wanted to apologize. You see, this lovely young woman, who is a medical miracle on her own, is unable to bear children. Her heart is for kids, so you can imagine the almost physical pain she must endure each time a friend announces a pregnancy, or a baby shower invitation comes in the mail. I hadn't really even considered the kind of heartache that she undergoes on a regular basis until just recently.
A very close friend of mine joyously "went public". Although I have friends who had been pregnant before I lost the baby, this was the first announcement of a new pregnancy that I have heard. I am truly happy for her. I know it has been her heart's desire, and that this baby will bring a opportunity for healing, wholeness and peace to her, her husband, and her friends and family - including me. Eventually. But when I sat down last night, alone with my thoughts, I examined my feelings, and I wept. Then I hated myself for it. Why should even a small part of me not be delighted for this dear friend, who is receiving a blessing in her life? Why should I close myself up when I hear news about babies - hers or anyone else's? Why should she fret about sharing exciting details with me?
I couldn't answer those questions right away. But when I attended my women's leadership small group the next day, I asked for prayer. I confessed to these women I love so dearly that I was struggling. I was so grateful for the encouragement that I received! Not only did they assure me that my feelings were normal because I was still grieving, but they suggested I share those feelings with my friend, so that they wouldn't grow into bitterness or resentment. They also prayed for me and loved on me and reminded me that God has indeed promised me children, and I will have a child in my arms in his perfect timing!
I can't say that all my pain magically disappeared at that moment. Unanswered questions still roll around in my head. Every so often, still, stray pain stabs at me...like it did last night when my husband asked what I wanted for my 30th birthday and I replied, "To be 6 months pregnant like I was supposed to." But, knowing what some of these incredible women are dealing with on a daily basis - job troubles, family situations, health issues or financial challenges - and being able to see their sincere, peaceful, loving smiles, I regained my hope.
The next morning, my friend actually approached me to discuss the situation. She wanted to be sure that she was being sensitive enough, and wanted to let me know that God had laid my situation on her heart, and she'd prayed for me the night before.
Not only am I grateful for her sensitivity to my needs and to what the Holy Spirit was telling her, but now I can view my other friend - the one who is still coming to terms with being biologically childless - in a completely new light. I have been in both their shoes, and I'm learning that's the only way to truly gain perspective.
If David had been crowned and recognized as king as soon as Samuel had anointed him, he probably would not have had to endure the ordeals that the jealousy-crazed Saul forced upon him. He would not have had to hide in caves, build an army of thieves and rabble-rousers, or feign madness to survive. He also would not have become the powerful, humble, quick-to-repent ruler that he later proved to be.
If I have to endure the storms, I don't simply want to come out of them sopping wet, complaining about the rains. I want to come through them knowing I've shared my umbrella with others, and they've gotten through a little less battered by the weather.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Today is gonna be AWESOME!!!
It's been great so far. First, when I woke up - before the big bright ball lights up the sky - I went to perform my most important duty of the day. I have to wake up my People!
They don't let me sleep with them in their Big Kitty Bed, even though there is room for me. (But that's okay. Sometimes, when they leave for the day, I test it, just to make sure it is still a good bed for them.) So I wait outside the door every morning and I meow to make sure they don't sleep in. Sometimes, they don't hear me and I worry that they won't wake up in time to feed me, so I meow louder, and I keep meowing. Usually it's the Short Curvy One who gets up first, and I follow her into the White Room. She uses her litter box (which transforms into a water bowl, OMG!) and pets me. If I purr, she hugs me. Which is great, but she squeezes kind of hard. Then the Furless One wakes up and goes downstairs. He looks at my bowls and ignores them. Sometimes he goes into my toilet and scoops out my poo. What could the People possibly want with that stuff? He puts it into little bags, like he is going to save it for later. People are so gross sometimes. After he looks at my bowls, I lick myself several times.
The Furless One doesn't feed me, so I play with his feet. He LOVES it! He picks me up and shoves his face in mine. He keeps making a noise that sounds like "NONOSTOPITNOCUTITOUTNONO!" Actually, the Short Curvy One does, too. That must be how they say they love me! That's so cute! They also try to give me baths a lot, with water from a little blue bottle, when I sit on the tables. Silly People. They don't understand that I clean MYSELF. Several times a day. In fact, I'm doing it right now.
I wait for the Short Curvy One to put food into my bowl. She keeps filling it with this hard crunchy stuff but it is SOOO gross. If I dance around and sing loudly enough, for a long enough time, when she seems pre-occupied with something that isn't me, she will sometimes reward my talents with some soft gooey food from a can. OMG I love that stuff! I could swim in it! I mean, I would if I liked to swim, of course.
Then they hurry to leave me alone and guard then house until they come home. I lick myself a few more times, and watch them leave from the back of the chair - my chair, that is. I heard the Short Curvy One say something about it being my throne. I don't know exactly what a throne is, but it sounds like something very special and I should probably be proud to have one of my own.
I eat a couple more bites of that nasty crunchy stuff, but then I get really bored. I wish that they'd leave that bright box on for me. The one in the food room, that beeps and spins things in circles. That is the coolest thing I've ever seen! The best part is that when the things start to turn inside, they also smell really yummy! I keep hoping it'll pop open and drop a treat for me, but it never does. Maybe I have to dance better and sing louder for it.
Well, there's plenty more to do today, so I made myself a list so I wouldn't forget anything:
8:30 - 8:45 - Lick myself
8:45 - 10:30 - Nap on rug
10:30 - 11:15 - Watch birds
11:15 - 12:00 - Tease neighbor's idiot beagle
12:00 - 1:30 - Lick myself
1:30 - 2:15 - Nap on couch
2:15 - 3:00 - Explore basement
3:00 - 3:05 - Try to eat dry kibble
3:05 - 3:30 - Sniff in trash can for something better to eat
3:30 - 3:45 - Lick myself
3:45 - 4:30 - Nap on bed (remember: leave thank-you present!)
4:30 - 10:15 - Attempt to secure treats from the Short Curvy One
10:15 - 10:30 - Poop in litter box WHILE Furless One is cleaning it
10:30 - ? - Guard the People's bedroom from intruders and/or insects
Wow, so much to do! Well, dear diary, I'd better get started. I'm exhausted just thinking about it! Maybe I'll switch things up and take my nap first, after all.
Love and licks,
Thor "Thundercat" Godlove
God, where did you go? Can't you hear me anymore?
I am crying out at the top of my lungs -
My prayers couldn't possibly be louder.
Don't stop your ears to me now, Lord.
No one else is listening.
I am utterly alone in my sorrow.
At dawn and at dusk it haunts me.
It is like a wild animal closing in for the kill.
Emotions control me.
I am their puppet, a slave to bitterness and heartbreak.
Through my tears I see those who were once my close friends
Laugh and talk and commune with you.
That door seems closed to me now.
I see their joy as through dusty windows -
Outside, looking in,
But shut out entirely from happiness.
When I consider the days I knew so lately,
Days of peace, of hope and great wonder,
I come before your throne.
I am broken and beaten.
I plead for the return of my joy.
I cry out, Lord, I'm shouting!
Compensation for my struggles!
Retribution for my pain!
I ache, I weep, I lay dying here,
Bled dry of my own solutions,
Of tears, of time.
I am a cracked shell of who I was
And who you called me to be,
Dust crushed under the feet of those who do not understand me.
And yet you, Lord,
Breather of life into man,
Speak no words,
Whisper no apology as you raise me,
Gently lifting my face to meet yours.
You hold my trembling hands
As you help me to stand, to walk,
Like a child taking hesitant steps.
Do not hide your face from me again, Lord,
Without a word you speak to me,
Softly in my heart,
And I know it is I who hid from you,
Rejecting the promises you laid before me,
Simply because they were yet unseen.
I should turn away again, this time in shame, oh, God,
Because of all my imperfections.
But you keep me in your tender gaze,
Aware of my sins, my stains,
Loving me still,
And waiting for our eyes to meet again.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
But this time, Ross and I were the touristy sort. I shamelessly flashed my camera everywhere, including places it was prohibited (I got three clean shots before being shut down but the polite but stern security guard). I was surprised, though, at how many of the Smithsonian Institute Museums actually DO allow photography. It was a sightseer's dream come true.
There was a particularly cool exhibit about the government's influence on America's eating habits, including rationing and government-sponsored food campaigns. One was about eating more carp. It was awesome. I also noticed no apologies issued for America's over-consumption of simple carbohydrates, but then, you can't have it all. To my delight, there was a small patch, much like a Boy or Girl Scout badge, that advertized "Heinz's Ketchup". How charming! Representin' the Steel City, baby!
In addition, Ross and I meandered over to the public archives to do a little digging about our respective family histories. I've always been fascinated about my unusual maiden name, and why it was so hard to trace my lineage back to my family's native Belgium. Well, I found out why when I saw a copy of my great-grand-uncle's marriage certificate. Louise Paulette married a Geroges Henri TILLIETTE on June 8, 1890. The spelling of my family's name had, in fact, been changed when they came to America! I was enraptured! Finally, I might be able to trace my history further back than Ellis Island records indicate! Still, there are some "holes" in my history that are proving more difficult than delightful. For example, there's no record of Georges Henri actually coming to America, nor his brother Joseph, who was my great-grandfather. In addition, there were three seperate women named Pauline in the family tree, making things even more twisted. I learned more about both my grandfathers' service records, and that there is no birth record of my mother, my aunt, or myself. Still, those records are being updated all the time, and since there aren't a lot of people searching for Thielets and Kuskils, I don't imagine they're being worked on too hastily.
We ate a quick but delicious lunch at Taqeria Nacional, a tiny Mexican joint wedged behind and incredibly classy seafood house. We joyfully clutched our greasy bag of delicious tacos and our bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola and squeezed past the huge sea of "regulars" - almost all middle-class power-suited whites - and sat down against the building across the street. With Ross's huge backpack and our scrubby jeans, people must have thought we were homeless. I didn't care. My fish taco was awesome.
As fun as everything was, the best part, for me, came when we stopped at a Sheetz in Maryland. There was a trio of noisy pre-teen girls jabbering about a boy or something, in front of us as we waited for my sandwich (turkey on wheat with veggies, no dressing) and Ross's smoothie (epic strawberry banana masterpiece). The employee called out Ross's drink, and the littlest girl looked towards us, saying, "Is this yours?" Immediately, we had all their attention. "Are you really in the army?" one girl asked, indicating Ross's shirt. "No," I apologized, feeling his muscles. "But he looks like he could be, doesn't he?" "Are you boyfriend-girlfriend?" the other girl asked. "We're married," Ross replied, showing them his wedding ring. "We're from Pittsburgh," I offered. "Oooh, I bet you're Steelers fans! I'm sorry about that last game, but you guys have the whole season to make it up!" I laughed. Were these the girls who had irritated me only minutes before because they were being too noisy? How unfair of me. The ringleader of the group turned to me. "You're really pretty!" she said. I melted. Me? Pretty? A few moments before, in the car, I had been mercilessly picking at a pimple on my chin, complaining to Ross that I still had to lose the few pounds I had put on during my pregnancy. I was in a shapeless black dress and dumpy sweater. But this little girl thought I was pretty?
"Thank you, sweetie," I said humbly. Ross came back from paying for our food, and the girls beamed. "I wish you a happy marriage!" one said.
"God bless you girls," I said, silently thanking the Lord that he had arranged for that chance meeting.
"God bless you, too!" they replied proudly.
Monday, September 19, 2011
No, it is not. But there's little I can do these days, I feel, but brace myself for the storms of life. So I will slurp my chicken soup and slather on the Vapo-Rub and get on with my writing.
And my contemplating.
Things haven't stopped rapidly changing for Ross and me since I last updated you all, gentle readers. I was hoping that September was going to be a calmer month, with less drama. Not so! The month started out with good news: the doctor gave me the thumbs-up that my surgery went well and I should be "ready to go" when Ross and I decide to try to start a family again. Of course, we're not planning that anytime soon. We're still dealing with our loss and a number of other changes in our lives, making this a particularly bad time to think about babies. More good news followed, however; we learned that, despite a doctor's fears, my father did not, in fact, have skin cancer! Hallelujah!
Then, we had to cancel our vacation (the first since our honeymoon almost two years ago) because Ross's truck needed repairs.
Look. I try to be optimistic. I have tried, with every job I've had, to be the friendly one. The cheerful one. The one who tries to see the good in people. I wasn't always successful, but I tried. I am still trying. But I genuinely don't know how much more I can take! Lord, help me bear this burden, because I feel like it's crushing my spirit!
Amid all this, two more huge changes occurred in my life. The first was my accepting a new job. Now, I hope I made it clear to everyone involved, and everyone who has asked, that I had no problems with Dollar Bank. I enjoyed my job; I feel like I had good relationships with my co-workers, and I believed in the company. I am just entering a time in my life where my personal responsibilities are becoming increasingly important to me, and I needed a work schedule that made those other responsibilities possible. Although the manager who created the weekly schedules was more than fair in granting my schedule requests, I knew they would soon be too many to be fair to the rest of the team. With rehearsal times, I would need every Thursday night off. Tuesday nights would be nice, too. And I really couldn't work Saturdays anymore. I had to be available for church events. For me, that was more important than a career I already understood, a swanky title, and job security.
Plus, I was tired of the pantyhose.
But that's neither here nor there.
The second big change actually occurred only a few days ago. At Ross's urging, I auditioned for a company called AMTC (Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ). The process is fairly simple: you audition. If you get a callback, you take some online courses, meet with coaches, and prepare for a weeklong series of workshops and classes, culminating in auditions before some of the best in the industry - representatives from VH1, MGM, and plenty of other well-known companies. It like finishing school for performers. The difference is, the focus is on how not to compromise what you believe in an industry that is well-known for its questionable - or at least unpredictable - morals.
At any rate, I auditioned. I spent little time preparing. I had a lot of other things on my plate. When I was 13, I had stored in a little but very cultured corner of my brain Margaret's monologue from Richard III. It has served me well these past 17 years, rising up whenever an audition piece is needed. I chose "God Bless the Child", a blues piece I had sung for a concert in college. Neither piece was anything exemplary, but I owned them entirely. They had become signature pieces. So, armed with little more than my husband's encouragement, I auditioned.
On my audition form, I had been entirely honest. I stated that I had performed in some shows in college that no longer reflect my values and beliefs. I didn't want to return to the stage unless it was in a way that would glorify God. Seems narrow-minded, maybe, yes, but it is what I want. I listed my previous experience, including lead roles in college and the fact that I had continued writing and directing after college.
"Ah," said the elegant-looking German lady for whom I was auditioning. "Ah, I see you played Fraulein Schneider!"
"Yes, I did," I said proudly. It had been one of my favorite roles.
"I did, too!"
Her accent was better, of course, but I gave it a go anyway. I chatted briefly with her, in my best German accent, about the particulars of learning dialects. She seemed charmed - I couldn't quite tell.
Then I performed my monologue and my song. She asked me to perform a few more pieces, read a few lines, then thanked me. She kindly asked what I would do if I were to get a callback. I looked back at Ross and assured her that we would strongly consider moving forward.
I got a phone call the next day. I had been prepared. My answer was "no thank you."
Well...to be honest, it really wasn't a "no". It was more of a "not right now." I had prayed long and hard about my acting career the night before, and I had been in conflict all day about it. It would involve a lot of hard work, time and money...not all of which I have in abundance right now. I still believe completely that God has called me to use my talents on a larger scale...but I also believe that this isn't yet the time for me to move into that arena.
I sincerely thanked her, and let her know that my experience had been wonderful. I told her that it meant the world to me for a total stranger to believe that I had potential. Of course your parents think you're great, and teachers are supposed to build you up and encourage you...but for someone who doesn't know you from Adam (or, in my case, Eve), to say, "Yes, there is something here we can work with"...man, that means a lot. She encouraged me to audition again when they were in town. I believe that I will.
For now, I have a youth group to support, a theatrical group to co-lead, skits to write, a new job to learn, a husband to encourage, a family to love, a kitten to photograph, and disasters to avert. My life is pretty full right now.
The stage can wait. Maybe I'll be a star in my golden years...who's to say? Only God knows. And I'm trusting that his timing is perfect.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Man, it's been a crappy month.
I've always wanted, and tried, to use my blog as a voice of encouragement, humor, and creativity - an outlet for the expression of my relationship with God, my friends and family, with only the occasional venture into lecturing and pontificating. And yet...this month has been sucking all that humor and creativity out of me!
August started out just fine, with an appointment to check on the baby's health and a lot of excitement about Ross's new job - which is going very well, by the way! Then, on the 16th, everything fell apart. It was that day that we learned our baby had gone to heaven almost 3 weeks before. The next day I endured severe pain and headed to the ER as my body finally decided to release what was left of the pregnancy. The next day, I spent 7 hours at the hospital, having a routine (but incredibly depressing) D and C performed to help prevent infection and to help ready my body for a future pregnancy.
The only glimmer of joy that week for us was when we held our first Youth Night of Prayer (YNoP) at church, and we had over a dozen young people come, pray, worship, love on each other, and learn more about God. The response was overwhelming, and many of the kids immediately asked when we could get together again. I was so honored and touched that God would allow us, in the midst of terrible pain, to be an encouragement to young people who wanted nothing more than to learn about him.
After that weekend, we returned to work. I was fortunate in that most of my co-workers were very supportive and caring. Shannon, usually the "goofy" one, took the time to pick out a beautiful sympathy card with scripture and a tender message of encouragement for Ross and me. A few women I work with came forward and said that they'd experienced the same thing, and they shared how they felt and what helped them get through the grief. The women at church did the same thing. In a way, I felt like a part of a silent sisterhood - an "underground" circle of women who have dealt alternately with guilt, fear, shame, anger, relief, and jealousy - and who have also experienced healing. For that reason, I do want to start a blog that shares messages of sorrow and hope with women who are dealing with the loss of a child. There is so much strength in words!
And as we rounded the bend on that week, things fell apart yet again. My stepmum, Deana, has been going through a battery of tests lately to determine the cause of abdominal pain and some other issues. They've finally determined that she may have had a mini-stoke and, this week, she'll be undergoing a day of testing to discover if there are blockages or problems in her brain or arteries. The same day I learned that, my father told me that he would be headed to the doctor, too, as they think that a small mole on his face has become cancerous.
Seriously? Are you kidding me? Should we all just rent a wing at St. Clair Hospital?
As Ross and I were thinking about all this, another ray of hope sprang into our lives. my little sister, Jules, asked me to be the matron of honor in her June 2 wedding next year. Of course I would do it, I told her. The bonus is that I have all of nine months to slim down and help her plan her dream wedding (a western theme, of course, but I am hoping there will be no lariats involved in any way...).
Then, our fridge died. Completely without warning. I now have three dirty old coolers and a mini-fridge humming in the middle of my kitchen, full of soggy boxes, half-thawed meats, lumpy ice cream and questionable vegetables. And the new fridge won't be delivered until Saturday.
That same day, I locked my keys in the car while shopping and had to wait two hours for help. "Help" was supposed to be AAA but they got backed up, so Ross left work early to come and rescue me. Then, last night, I smashed my toe with a chair. Accidentally, of course. The good news was, we had plenty of bagged ice to help ease the pain. But this month...geez! Then there was the earthquake (Ross felt it; I did not), the threats of Hurricane Irene smashing into the mainland, and Ross's fear that he also may need surgery (we checked with the doctor; he is fine).
All of these things individually aren't really so bad (except, I'm afraid, for the health issues and the natural disasters). Some of them are even laughable. But when almost-funny things happen on top of really traumatic things, they become not-funny. They become an additional brick in the weary load.
The words of Jesus, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30), come to mind. I realized this week that this verse has absolutely nothing to do with work itself, or with troubles, or with anyone else lightening your own load in any way. It's about you and Jesus, and that's it. It's about you surrendering your worries and anxieties to Him! It's not about life getting easier, or troubles diminishing. It's about you focusing so intently on the Lord that your issues seem less significant in the light of His love for you and others. It's about obeying God's commands and enjoying a life without the troubles that our own sin and selfish nature make for us. That's not to say that when we focus on God, all our bills get paid, our cars get fixed, our children get along and our laundry gets done. It is to say that, when we put him first and truly try to follow after him, listen to his word and serve him and others, we have less time to wallow in our own problems and give in to our fears.
This month has been a torrent of emotions for us. We've been sad, angry, afraid, hopeful...but mostly, just exhausted. The sheer mental strain of the past few weeks has knocked my sleeping patterns completely out of whack, and I am waking up confused and disoriented (although I am tossing less in my sleep). Ross and I are still struggling to find exactly what our role is at church. We're still trying to be good kids, good leaders, good employees, good for each other. We're trying to trust God when much of the world still sees that trust and faith as weakness and foolishness. We're learning to love each other more deeply, appreciate each other more, depend on technology less. We're walking through this one step at a time, as we must, and we're well aware of the fact that God has ordered and guided our steps, and nothing this month has caught him by surprise.
Still wishing he'd sometimes let us in on a little sneak preview of the rough stuff...but we walk by faith, not by sight. Sometimes, you just have to take that walk with tiny little baby steps, carefully, slowly. As long as you're still walking forward, the light of Christ's love will illuminate the path ahead - even if it's only one step at a time.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
And it's all been for the best.
Don't get me wrong...it's been incredibly difficult and painful. We are still sad. People say many things to a grieving woman; although it's all well-meant, it's not all terribly soothing. I don't entirely buy into the idea that God "spared me" from having a special needs or sickly child. This is a quote I often hear when people attempt to comfort a woman who has miscarried. "Maybe God was saving you and the baby from trouble and pain." Distilled to its implied meaning, it says that God "loved me more" than the parents of children who do have special needs, which is ridiculous, arrogant, and untrue. I know it isn't what people mean when they say such a thing, but that's what it comes down to. Therefore, I do not believe it.
What I do need to believe is not that the child would have had physical or mental disabilities, but that, based on the way it (I think it was a she; we named her Olivia Rae) was forming, that life outside the womb could not have been possible at all - not that it would have been possible with some degree of difficulty or special care. Thinking this does bring me some peace...although I still have so many questions. Please don't think that my faith allows me to blindly, cheerfully accept everything that life sends my way. I think that people who see me responding to life in a fairly well-adjusted way assume that I am either 1.) in denial or 2.) faking it.
Believe me, I have plenty of questions for God. My heart is breaking. I can't understand why things happened the way they did. I had just accepted the idea of being pregnant. I had already bought a few pieces of maternity clothing. We were looking at cribs and paint for the baby's room. I was beginning to fantasize about how I would look at Christmas time, seven months pregnant, struggling to appear glowing and radiant in photographs. And, suddenly, none of those things mattered or even applied to me anymore. What a crushing blow! But, in a deeper place in my heart than all my doubt and disappointment, lives my faith. What happened to me has not changed God's character or his love for me - or his sorrow when I weep. I told a co-worker yesterday, a young woman of whom I am very fond, that the sorrow in my life doesn't cancel out the joy. When I feel sorrow, I will weep. When I feel joy - even fleeting happiness in a silly situation or with a good friend - I will laugh. Why should grief smother joy? They can exist in the same heart. When depression settles in and pushes joy aside entirely, that is when we should be concerned. I know that the depth of my grief, even though I truly believe I lost a child, and not just a pregnancy, can't quite compare to the mother who felt the baby's kicks or held the baby in her arms before her loss, but it's still profound.
It's also strangely comforting.
For many people, death and tragedy is a heart-stopping and depressing reminder that we are not promised tomorrow. Some people wise up and begin to treasure their loved ones a little more and their belongings a little less. Some people continue to chase pleasure and wealth because, for them, death is a confirmation that there is nothing beyond this life, and we should enjoy things while we can.
For me, death is a promise that those of us who have called on the name of Jesus will be reunited in glory. Although we sorrow and mourn now, our loved ones have seen Christ face-to-face and have embraced his beautiful, nail-scarred hands and wrists.
And they have the fullness of joy.
Last week, God gave me a little glimpse of that joy when we gathered the youth group together for our first-ever YNoP (Youth Night of Prayer). Although we had literally experienced the miscarriage only days before, Ross and I both felt very strongly that we were to continue with the event rather than postpone it (we had scheduled it all the way back in June). Carry on we did, and it was amazing. Guest speakers from the church came to talk to the teenagers about praying for Jerusalem and about who the Holy Spirit really is. We had times of prayer for the church, for our friends, our families, and, possibly most importantly, ourselves (if you think that is prideful or conceited, read this). At the end of the evening, as the sun was coming up, we began to pray for each other. It was incredibly powerful, with thirteen and fourteen-year-old kids exhorting and encouraging each other with scripture, words of knowledge, and prophecy. Some of these children had never before had the boldness to speak out in love for a fellow Christian. I really believe their lives were changed that night. They came to me afterward and asked when the next YNoP would be. A dozen kids genuinely on fire for God? Most churches should even be so lucky! Although Ross and I were bone-tired by the end of the event, we were satisfied. Our presence there was a firm stand that even grief cannot oppress God's plans and purpose. It wasn't our will that carried us there; it was his.
And I am at peace. God is taking care of my child right now. I will do my best to take care of his.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
But there is one thing we can change: the healing process.
When I posted yesterday's difficult message, I was literally inundated with calls, texts, private messages, and responses full of love, encouragement, compassion...and empathy. It turns out that a large percentage of my friends had actually endured at least one miscarriage. But, of course, since most women don't talk about their families by saying "I have two sons, a daughter, two miscarriages and a Golden retriever", it's a topic that is rarely discussed.
I find that giving voice to a situation helps to disarm it. The same way that women who have been raped, or children who have been abused, or people who have been robbed, begin to find healing when they find the courage to give words to their experience, a woman who feels she has "failed" at becoming a mother might be able to better deal with the loss if she shares it.
So, that being said, I am asking my friends to be brave and bold, and help other women heal. Ladies, will you give your experience a voice? I would like to create a new blog, solely for the purpose of telling your stories of miscarriage, mourning, and healing. Everyone deals with grief differently, but sometimes, your journey may encourage another woman on hers. If this is something you want to do, I would ask that you would e-mail me at RebeccaGodlove@hotmail.com and tell me your story. If you wish to remain anonymous, indicate that. Tell me whatever you feel comfortable sharing. I am asking you to pray and consider doing this because I already know that my sharing has helped other women, and their response has helped me.
Will you consider blessing your sisters with the gift of compassion? Please think about it.