But I haven’t spent time IN the word. I haven’t STUDIED the word.
I think I read through the bible all the way because as a new believer, I didn’t know how to approach the Word of God.
I think I’ll start with John. I heard someone say that was a good place to start.
I don’t know about you, but when I first met God I felt totally unqualified to join His organization. I had no experience being a Christian and didn’t know if they took people like me. Aside from the fact that I didn’t look, act or talk like a Christian, I was overwhelmingly underqualified in every way to be part of this spotless team. But I was desperate.
My spiritual bank account was overdrawn. I had quit all my previous positions and was currently self-employed and didn’t like my boss all that much. I was ready for a new employer. However, I didn’t have a clue how to get my foot in the door.
How does one prepare a resume to be a Christian?
Under previous employment do I list all the faiths that I have dabbled in during my lifetime? What work history do I detail? I am not a Sunday school teacher. I have never been on a mission, anywhere. I haven’t led a bible study and can’t quote scripture.
My resume would look something like this:
Name: Jennifer Wilson
Best method of contact: Prayer
Position sought: Christian
Practicing Catholic 1968 –1984
Born to Catholic parents. Fulfilled the responsibilities of Catholic, including, but not limited to, Sunday school and church attendance, confession, genuflecting, standing, sitting. Able to recite the Hail Mary and The Lord’s Prayer. Received communion on a regular basis. Lit an Advent candle or two. Observed Lent, for the most part. Participated in several church functions. Owned a bible, probably.
Non-Practicing Catholic 1990 – 2004
Attended churches of all denominations for acceptance. Married by an Episcopalian minister. Had child baptized by a Catholic priest. Attended Methodist church out of convenience. Enrolled son in the Awana program through the Baptist Church for self-gratification. Participated in regular church service at least twelve times during a 15-year span. Developed the skill of relying only on myself and my abilities alone. When needed, and only when needed, relied on the counsel of friends, family, many antidepressants and paid professional therapists.
Wounded Soul 2004 –2006
After being confronted with circumstances I truly believed were beyond my control, sought refuge in local Christian church. Read bulletin and listened to the music. Expertly ignored the weekly message and diligently relied on guidance from paid professionals and well-meaning friends instead. Began to feel a familiarity with said church, however, made no commitment to it.
Know-It-All 2006 –2009
Performed all tasks required by single mother of three. Worked to support household, barely. Cleaned only when absolutely necessary. Cooked when I had to. Whined, moaned and cried on a consistent basis to any willing and unwilling ear. Developed a finely honed skill for blaming others for my circumstances. Strived to control every event and dilemma in my family’s life. Achieved the all too common status of well-meaning, pity-inducing, self-destructive Know-It-All.
Believer October 2009 – Eternity
Surrendered. Accepted that my ways had failed. Realized that problems in my life were too big for my mortal hands to fix. Turned everything over to an unfamiliar God, unwillingly. Trusted because there was no other option.
Achievements and Awards:
- Baptism, at infancy
- First Communion
- Accepting Jesus Christ as my savior.
Pretty pathetic, huh? If I were applying for any job in today’s market, I don’t think this would make the grade. My qualifications are far too sketchy. My only long-term commitment is not to commit at all. What an asset I would be! Can you imagine a prospective employer perusing this valuable body of work?
“Wow,” they would say. “Here’s just what we’ve been looking for. A person that has years of minimal experience in every area. No real expertise anywhere, except for messing things up.”
The only way my resume would escape the shredder is if the boss needed a good laugh! This shoddy sum of my life’s experience would never land me a job in the real world. But in the spiritual world, that’s a different story. When God got a glimpse of this, what did He do? Did He laugh at my misguided attempts to be a good person? Did He recount the times He presented challenges in my life and I turned away from Him? Did He rub my nose in my many past failures and sins which I conveniently omitted from the resume? Did He chastise me and scold me with an I Told You So attitude? No, He didn’t. Instead, He hired me.
That’s the beauty of God’s grace. Although my qualifications seem underwhelming at best, I am fully qualified to be a Christian. Now, let’s take a step back for a moment. I know, because of what the bible tells me, that I am accepted by God. I know that Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross. I know that no matter what I do, if I ask for forgiveness, I will receive it. And I know that God loves me. Even though God sees me as fully qualified, based on my lack of experience, I still feel unqualified. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV
My spiritual awakenings don’t always come from recovery meetings. Sometimes they come when I least expect them.
I recently moved my living room furniture around, again. I am an avid furniture mover. Some would call it an obsession. I prefer to call my need for constant change courageous and bold. So many people are afraid of change, especially people in recovery. They are afraid to change jobs, change hairstyles or change homes. They are petrified to move out of their comfort zones and try something different. Not me. I embrace change. I thrive on it.
Before I got into recovery, I always felt like I needed more. More money, more house, more prestige, more recognition, more love. I filled the sense of lack by changing things outside of myself. I bought new cars, new toys, new clothes. I repainted the rooms of my house every year and moved the furniture almost monthly. Now that I’ve been in recovery for a while I’m better in a lot of ways.
I realize that I will never find the things I was looking for on the outside. I will only find them inside of myself. But I still like to move my furniture.
Shortly after Christmas, I pulled the living room apart again and tried to come up with some new and creative design for our living room furniture. I have lived in the same house for almost six years, so I’ve tried just about every arrangement. Some I’ve liked more than others. But one in particular, the one where the sofa sits tightly against the wall, bugs me. I can’t stand having the furniture against the wall. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that every picture I’ve ever seen of high end homes shows spacious living rooms with wide openings and traffic areas around the furniture. These pictures also almost always show the furniture facing fireplaces and never the television. That should have been a clue that this type of set-up was a complete fantasy. Regardless, I always felt better when my furniture was positioned with walking room behind it.
I pulled and pushed the three larger pieces of furniture off my area rug and surveyed the room. The walls were pretty far apart and the bookshelves and fireplace were still sitting where I had left them. The long wall of sliders provided a beautiful view onto our rarely used pool and patio area. I looked at the furniture and began imagining various ways to arrange it so that I could see outside, see the television and still have room to walk through comfortably. The living room sits squarely between the master bedroom and the rest of the house, so the foot traffic is quite heavy.
In the past I have positioned the pieces tightly together, leaving wide walking paths behind the sofa or chairs. I’ve also created narrow walkways beside end tables and between furniture at different times and that worked well for a while. But each of these strategies left me walking behind, around or over obstacles. And although I liked the look of the room each time, I really thought it was the way it should be, each of these arrangements caused me to exert more energy than necessary as I made the countless trips from bedroom to anywhere else in the house, bobbing and weaving around tables and sofas.
I thought about all of this as I pulled the two chairs to one side of the room and left the sofa against the far wall. I had no intention of keeping it there. But as I looked around, I realized that doing so left a wide, clear path through the living room. It opened up so much space and provided direct access to the most utilized rooms in the house. It allowed me to walk to the places I needed to go most, with the least obstruction. I fought the urge to pull the sofa away from the wall and instead went and sat down on it.
Hmmm, I thought as I looked across the wide room and out onto the pool and trees beyond. Not bad. Then I looked at the two chairs cozied up together several feet away. Okay, so the room wasn’t snug and comfy with all the furniture cuddled up together. It wasn’t elegant, with each piece tilted gently toward the other as if waiting for the perfect book club chat. It was, however, perfectly suited for our lifestyle. The chairs were almost like theater seats, aimed directly at the television with perfectly positioned end tables and a big, soft ottoman. The sofa was far enough away to escape from the rest of the family, but close enough to engage with them, too. And the path in between, the wide open space in the middle of the room allowed unobstructed, direct access to all points of the house.
I laughed at the irony of my situation and how similar it was to my recovery journey. I had fought for years to keep the furniture the way I thought it should be.
I had gotten bruised and banged up walking through the room because I had insisted on jamming chairs and sofas together. Corners of tables and edges of ottomans had tripped me up more times than I care to remember, all because I had insisted on doing it my way. And now, even though this set-up wasn’t my first choice, I realized it was the best choice right now. It gave me what I needed – comfort, engagement with others, safety – and most of all, the shortest, easiest, softest path to where I needed to go.
I think of my recovery every time I walk through my living room. I think about how in the beginning, I fought the suggestions. I held on to my beliefs, my thoughts, my ways, sure that I could rearrange the recovery steps and the suggestions to suit my tastes. I wasn’t ready to move the furniture against the wall. It took a lot of scrapes and bruises before I became willing to try that. And sometimes, I still want to position things my way, regardless of how much more work it makes for me in the long run. But when I walk though my living room, I realize that this way, the suggested path of recovery, is not only the shortest distance between two points, it is also the easier, softer way.
The 2007 movie the Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, made it to the Academy Awards because it resonated with millions of people. We could identify with Morgan Freeman’s character, a man who had dreams he wanted to fulfill before he died. For many of us, if we didn’t have a bucket list before that movie, we did after.
My bucket list has several things on it, some of which may be on yours. I want to travel to Egypt and see the pyramids. I want to see the Redwood Forest in California. I want to write a bestselling book. And I want to go to the Academy Awards.
When my husband and I were discussing our bucket lists, this one came as a surprise to him. “Really? The Academy Awards?” he said, a puzzled look on his face. “That would be kind of cool, but I’ve never heard you mention that before.”
Oh yes. I’ve always wanted to go to the Academy Awards.
In my younger year I watched the Academy Awards every year. My girlfriends and I were avid readers of the tabloids and knew all of the actors by name, age and dress size. Many of my early years as a stay-at-home mother were spent flipping through the latest version of US Weekly or People, reading the latest gossip on who was having an affair with whom. And what was the hottest fashion trend that season. My personal favorite was the What Not To Wear section featured in the back of the magazines. In it, expert fashionistas would deftly and comically rip apart the unfortunate ensemble of some pop icon. My friends and I would eat it up, adding our own comments.
I always saw being at the Academy Awards as some great achievement.
Oh, to be in a room with that much fame, fortune and stature. To me, talent took a back seat to the diamonds, good looks and ridiculous amounts of money that would engulf me as I sat among the stars. I never had the desire to be one of them, just rub shoulders with them. I just wanted to inhale their wealth and popularity. I thought that if I got lucky, some of their good fortune would rub off on me.
One year, during the height of my idol worship, I researched the Academy Awards to see if average nobodies like myself could actually buy a ticket. Just as I thought, this was not an option, exactly. Hollywood award ceremonies, like most award ceremonies, are more about illusion than excellence. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are many worthy works of art and artists that receive well deserved recognition. But to us, the people on the other side of the flat screen, it’s about fantasy and illusion.
We see brightly shining diamonds. They’re on loan from Harry Winston. We see beautifully cut dresses wrapped against flawless bodies. The Spanx never show. We see perfectly straight, brighter than white teeth, smiling into our living rooms. The coffee and cigarette stains were bleached away hours before. And we see joy in the eyes of the happy couple, Hollywood love on the red carpet. The divorce papers were filed the following day.
But to me, being there would have been enough. And I discovered that I could go as a seat filler. That’s right. Because to the viewers at home, the illusion of grandeur and perfection has to be maintained at all times. What would we think if there were empty seats at such a glitzy event as the Academy Awards? I mean, really? If the stars don’t want to attend, then it can’t be that good, right? Why should I watch if they can’t even fill the house? So seats are raffled off for a price.
Would I have done it? You bet! And if I had, I know I would have loved it. I would have sat among Hollywood royalty. I would have dined with kings, laughed with queens and applauded with fame. No one would have ever read my name off of a card, and I certainly wouldn’t be escorted off the stage by a Venus-like model, holding my shiny Oscar. But I would have acted the part. And no one sitting at home would have ever known the difference.
I have long since overcome my adoration of all things Hollywood. But I find that I still only act the part in my faith life.
And I know other people do it, too. Are you a seat filler for God? When you finally attend the greatest award show of all, and we all will, will you be sitting in the audience unnoticed? Or will your name be called? Will the holiest academy of all recognize your contribution?
Too many of us are seat fillers. I have been one. Who knows? Maybe I still am. I know I’m not alone. I go to church and see the same people in regular attendance every week. But when they leave, do they discard their Vera Wangs and don their Dockers, back to normal life? Do they look like a star one hour a week, only to be unrecognizable the rest of the seven days? Or after the show, do they get into character, their true character, and risk embarrassment at the expense of great achievement? Do they try to hone their God-given talents and bring joy to the audience of mankind regardless of whether they ever get an Academy Award or not? All true stars do. They strive to be the best at what they do. Have you ever cried at a movie? Have you laughed so hard you almost peed during a great comedy? The artists responsible have touched millions and their works have moved us. Some have even changed our lives.
For all of us seat fillers out there, when’s the last time we’ve touched someone else’s life? When have we chosen, rather than sitting idly by as others take the risks, to actively strive to use the gifts God gave us to make a difference?When have we made the conscious decision, after the sermon and snacks, to be a star for God? And whether we feel qualified or not, God made us to shine for him. No raffles here folks. There’s only one way to get to the ultimate award show – we must use the talents he blessed us with to bless others. Taking what we do and using it to impact others for God guarantees us not only an invitation, but also a pretty good shot at getting the greatest award of all.
– from Confessions of a Clumsy Christian – Unqualified (get more information here)
Good morning God,
I have to do this thing for a family member this weekend and I really don’t want to. I mean, I work all week and look forward to the weekends for ME time. I want to get out of this commitment but don’t know how. What do you think I should do?
When you serve others it pleases me. Serving others when it is inconvenient for you honors me. Keeping your commitments to serve others when it is inconvenient for you thrills me. I think you know where I’m going with this.
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I don’t know the shooter’s name. I don’t know what he struggled with, or if he struggled at all. All I know is that while I sit here, feeling the effects of a new bipolar medication, I’m watching President Obama talk about yet another mass shooting. And I am disgusted.
I’m disgusted because two and half months ago I was having a severe episode of mood cycling from depression to hypo-mania. I had gone weeks with an average of two to three hours of sleep a night. I was irritable, confused, unmotivated, hyper, tired, angry, sad, scared and annoyed. I knew it was bad and I knew I needed help. So I called my psychiatrist and was told I wouldn’t be able to get in for six weeks.
SIX WEEKS! I don’t think the killer at the movie theater could have waited six weeks. I doubt the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary would have holstered his weapon and waited for his evaluation. I am pretty sure that the killer at the church, the movies, the college campus, the military base, the high school, anywhere, everywhere – I’m just guessing here that they wouldn’t have been able to get their emotions in check for six weeks. I know I couldn’t.
So I called every psychiatrist on my health insurance network within a 50 mile radius. And none, NONE could see me for at least three weeks. THREE WEEKS! I was not able to put my anger, my insanity on the back burner and go about life for three weeks. I doubt anybody in such a critical mental state could.
I asked the offices that couldn’t see me, I asked the receptionists – what do I do? The answer was always the same: go to the emergency room.
I wasn’t in need of emergency care… yet. That was what I was trying to avoid – a mental health emergency. I was trying to avoid a $5,000 deductible, a 72 hour hold with new meds and a script to see a psychiatrist that I couldn’t get into, an emotional shoot up at the not so OK corral of my home, my job, my life. I was trying to avoid the emergency by doing what I knew whas the next right thing.
I had a sponsor that I talked to daily. I had a support group and meetings that I used as therapy. I had a faith and fellowship that I leaned on. I had a family that I informed so that they could tell me when I was slipping further down the hellish rabbit hole. What I didn’t have was a psychiatrist willing to see me and evaluate me for a medication adjustment – or something, anything! I had the ER.
I finally got in to my psychiatrist a few days later. I got a little better for a little while. But then I slid backwards a little. The bipolar seesaw is like that. And I’m tired of riding it. So today I went to see my psychiatrist for a follow-up. And I lost it. I think she saw the severity of the issue.
Before today’s appointment, I was at a meeting and a woman shared about her own struggles with bipolar. She shared the frustration, the fear, the desperation of it all. And then she shared, through her tears, how she couldn’t get into a psychiatrist. I thought about the appointment I was heading to after the meeting. I almost offered it to her. She was worse off than me, or so I thought. An hour later, the seesaw dropped and I was reduced to a ball of angry, self-loathing tears. When friends offered support I had visions of doing physical harm to them. I decided I should keep the appointment.
So now I sit here watching President Obama deliver a disgusted, fed-up statement to our desensitized country. And when people bring up the shooting tomorrow – wait, they won’t. It has become back page news. But if they do, if anyone mentions it and asks my opinion I will say with honesty that I don’t know how I feel. I of course feel for the families of the victims. I of course, feel for the survivors and their trauma. I of course, feel for the sprinkling of people who might feel shocked and horrified by this tragedy.
But I will also feel for the shooter. I will wonder if that person had an untreated episode. I will wonder if that person had tried to do the next right thing and reach out for help, even through their own insurance, only to be brushed aside. I will wonder if that person had to make phone calls, fill out forms and face rejection after rejection while fighting intense suicidal and homicidal thoughts that they couldn’t share with anyone. I will wonder if they were lucky enough to get treatment, to nab that precious ten minute/$250 appointment – were they able to afford the astronomically priced medications that can prevent the volcano from erupting? I will wonder if they were willing to try the meds, regardless of the insomnia, dry mouth and weight gain that result, just to feel better, to have a moment of lucidity and normalcy. I will wonder if they wanted to stop the insanity but without treatment, without being able to afford treatment and medication, I will wonder if they had no choice but to succumb to the strength and power of their illness. I will wonder all of these things and more and I will feel for them.
The shooter is almost always me. It is almost always someone who didn’t get what they needed and instead grabbed hold of what they could – what was available. They grabbed drugs, alcohol, anger, vengeance and weapons. They used them all to self-medicate. They used them all to find relief in the midst of the agonizing, intense, suffocating pain. And in the process, they created more. We always do.
I do not condone the actions of any of these shooters and murderers. I abhor their self-seeking, callous, insensitive actions that have such devastating consequences in the same way that I abhor the self-seeking, callous, insensitive actions of the insurance companies, medical organizations, pharmaceutical companies and medical professionals – their actions that also have such devastating consequences.
It’s not the guns. It’s not the security that is or isn’t in place at these institutions. It is not the movie, the school, the teacher. It’s the health, the unhealth of the shooter. It’s the brokenness of that person, the brokenness of our healthcare system, the brokenness of our attitude toward mental health that needs to be fixed.
October is breast cancer awareness month. I think that’s awesome. I just wish we had as much attention, as much awareness, colored shirts, walks, benefits, marches, commercials and fundraising for mental health. Mental health for the women suffering with breast cancer. Mental healthcare for the families of those fighting cancer. Mental healthcare for those who lost someone to cancer, drugs, domestic violence, mass shootings. I wish, I wish, I wish we had mental healthcare – emphasis on the word care.
We need it. We need affordable mental health care. We need affordable medications. We need access to care. We need to be able to say it out loud. We need to pray for it, beg for it, demand it and take action to get it. Because it is a matter of life and death – yours, mine and everyone else’s.
We need to stop the insanity of mass shootings. And that begins with stopping the insanity. We need radical, swift and immediate mental healthcare changes.
I’m doing what I can by writing this. Please forward, share, post, tweet,
write congress – no wait, write someone who will actually do something about it, picket pharmaceutical companies – do SOMETHING!
Thanks for letting me share.
I slept in yesterday and was woken up by my dog who had to pee terribly. That was a first – her having to go before me. When I walked out into the living room, I stopped short and took it all in – the clean floors, free of dog toys, shoes and general messiness; the sofa and chairs with their pillows arranged so beautifully that the furniture actually looked like it did when we bought it. I took a few more steps and saw my kitchen free of dishes, sticky counters and other odds and ends that send my anal retentive tendencies into overdrive. On the kitchen counter was the pot of gold – a pile of birthday presents wrapped in a variety of brightly colored paper. Among them were striped papers, solid papers and a cellophane wrapped fruit basket – all smiling up at me with rainbow colored cards and bows.
I tilted my head up above the pile and looked at the banner. We do banners in our house. We always have. My mom and dad started this tradition when I was a kid and it stuck. We do banners for every occasion – birthdays, graduations, new jobs, welcome homes, just because we love you. There are only three rules with our banners: they have to be made on paper towels; they have to be drawn on in marker; and they have to have the birthday year or special occasion date clearly defined in each corner. This year mine was 47. That’s a big number – 47. There have been several years in the recent past that I’ve looked at that number scrawled in marker on the corner of my banner and caught my breath at the enormity of it.
But not this year. Nope.
I took one more look at the banner, the pile of loot and gave my tidy surroundings a once over. Then I danced.
“I’m 47! I’m 47! My house is clean! They love me!”
This song is a just little something that came to me in the moment. But it encapsulated everything that I was feeling. It took my adult gratitude, little girl giddiness and everything in between and wrapped them all up into a neat little birthday ditty.
You see, I felt giddy. The presents, the festive wrapping paper and shiny bows touched the little girl inside me. The banner with my husband’s and children’s names on it touched the mom and wife in me. The clean kitchen touched the woman in me who often feels underappreciated and overwhelmed. The pictures on the banner – the book (coming soon), the keyboard, the big boat of a car that I’m back in after letting our son buy my much newer, much smaller car, hearts and kisses; those all touched the Jen in me, the Jen that sometimes forgets that she is living mostly on purpose, that she is sometimes generous and that she is always loved – even when she doesn’t feel lovable.
But what made me dance the most, what got deep into my soul and seeped down to the tips of my toes and made them jump up and down – that was the fact that at midnight last night, while laying in bed watching the second airing of Rachel Maddow, I heard my family bustling around tidying, cleaning and straightening. I heard the sounds of delegating, vacuuming, laughing and genuine love for each other and me.
Let me pause here to say that this wasn’t something that they just did because they thought it would make me happy. They did it because they knew it would. I ask for the same thing every mother’s day and birthday. I want to wake up to fresh coffee and a clean, tidy house with no dishes or crap laying around. I have to be very specific on this, but that’s okay. We get what we ask for, right? So before I went to bed I made sure that my hubby and children knew what I meant by clean. And as I layed there with Rachel, I heard them making my birthday wish come true.
I got some great stuff for my birthday. I got a new television for my office so I can stay on top of Olivia Benson’s latest cases while I work. I got a new yoga mat that I hope to break in before the dogs do. I got pajama pants, a Seminole’s t-shirt and a beautiful necklace that my hubby had engraved with two wedding rings and a cross. I got lots of other wonderful gifts, like spending the day with my family paddle boarding (cross that off the bucket list), having a delicious lunch at Santo’s and getting tons of b-day wishes from friends, family and FB peeps. Thank you all!
Each and every one of those were great gifts and I am grateful for all of them them. But the best gift, the one that wasn’t found in a store or wrapped with a bow – the best gift was the one my family gave me through their actions. By working together and cleaning they told me I was worth the effort of doing something they don’t want to do. By going out and buying new wrapping paper just for me they let me know that I’m worth going the extra mile for. By taking the time to color the banner, come up with silly pictures and sign their names – even Zack’s who is away at college, they told me they love who I am and what I do.
It isn’t about what’s in the colored paper or how few moments the house will look showroom clean. It isn’t about how big the number on the banner is or what pictures accompany it. And it isn’t about the great lunch and money spent paddle boarding. This year it was all about feeling valued, appreciated and loved. My family put time and effort into making my birthday perfect., from start to finish. And to know that they did that for ME was the best present of all.
So guys, I expect the same next year. Until then, I hope that I can make you feel as valued and loved as you made me feel on my special day!
47 Year Old Jen
P.S. And after seeing those pictures… OMG! Clean eating starts tomorrow! Pray for me! 🙂
I just returned from Women of Faith on Saturday night, one night earlier than I expected. I left my tribe on Friday afternoon after making sure the dogs were in the crate, the dishes were done, my kids had their house keys and the bed was made. Why I made the bed, I’m still not sure. I knew I wouldn’t be sleeping in it. And I don’t usually go out of my way to be nice to other people for no reason at all. Honestly, I just don’t. It requires thought and effort for me to be nice. I’m just not a naturally generous person. So, unless I’m going to be sleeping in the bed, I’m usually not going to make it. But for whatever reason, it was made.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ride up, the fellowship with other crazy women, the speakers, the music and the experience of being reminded of just how brokenly human and humanly broken we all are. I was reminded that it’s okay to scream, nag and fail. I was urged to be gentle with myself and those who are put in my path. I was encouraged to be vulnerable, honest and to share my story. I cried, laughed and soaked it all in. I left exhausted and recharged, ready to take on the world and eager to put my feet up and sleep in my own bed.
I warned my family that I would be returning a night early and they were thrilled, mostly. My dear friend Nancy drove us home and we told stories about bugs and our reaction to them. We discussed the gargantuan size of arachnids in Costa Rica and shared stories of our pasts, our children and our husbands – of which we had seven in total.
And then we arrived at my house. We pulled up the driveway to a closed garage door and no exterior lights. Looking back, I think that’s when it began. It was as if my driveway was some sort of invisible portal that transformed me from good Christian woman of faith Jen to Linda Blair or Mommy Dearest. But it didn’t happen to my friend. It was only me. So I’m pretty sure the portal was hidden in my front door. My very dark, closed, uninviting, anti-welcome-home-mom front door.
I waved goodbye as Nancy backed her car down the driveway after shining her lights on the dark front door so I could see my way inside. I never heard the portal close as I shut the door behind me. I made my way down the short foyer and into the dark great room, noticing the crap on the dining room table, the morning coffee still in the pot, the food and dishes on the counter and the scattered, tattered, dog toy stuffing all over the house. I caught a glimpse of three and half pairs of shoes belonging to my daughter and saw a hole in one of my favorite blankets as it hung from the edge of the couch. I noticed all of this in less than two minutes in very dim lighting.
I opened my mouth and after a quick hug and hello, spewed a number of irritating questions to my husband and daughter who had jumped up from their television show when they heard me come in. My daughter had jumped up eagerly but I’m pretty sure my husband Josh jumped up worried about what I’d complain about. Jack, my 18 year old, was smart enough to stay in his room. He must have known about the portal.
“What’s all over the table? Is the coffee made? What’s with all the food? Why is there French toast sitting on a plate on the counter? Did you feed the dogs?” I assaulted my tribe with a few more nasty quips before disappearing into the bedroom. “And thanks for leaving the lights on for me.”
I floated past the bed, which was, of course, unmade. I rolled my eyes and turned back around, stuck my head out the bedroom door and said, “Could you please turn the television down one or five notches?” I shut the bedroom door behind me, walked into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet.
I had been inside my house for less than five minutes and had managed to criticize, insult, offend and disrupt the two members of my family that actually wanted to see me.
I realized in that moment what a monster I had just been. And yet they weren’t shocked. My hubby and child were not surprised by my nastiness. That made it worse. When Josh had jumped up from the sofa he didn’t look at me first. His eyes darted around the kitchen because he was trying to figure out if he had enough time to quickly pick everything up so that I wouldn’t yell at him. That was probably his first thought. That is reality. And that sucks.
After I calmed down and relaxed by unpacking my bag and making the bed, I apologized because that’s what I do now. Some days I only have to apologize a little. Other days I have to make big bad apologies. Most days I just have to say I’m sorry a lot. I looked at Josh and said, “I bet you wish I’d stayed the extra night.” He did.
You see, it wasn’t that he wasn’t glad to see me. He just would have been happier to see me before I went through the portal. Before the goodness of the weekend was washed off of me. But the goodness is like beach sand. Even though most of it washes off, a lot of sticks. It sticks in the little cracks of my character, gritty and salty. It rubs me in between my normal nagginess and reminds me of the fresh ocean air and the awesomeness of the waves. The goodness of a recharge weekend like this one, the power of it gets stuck between my toes and under my fingernails. Even though the portal of reality tries to wash it all away, some of it will stick with me.
My husband wanted only to spend a few more hours sitting on the sofa watching shows that I don’t like. He only wanted a few more precious moments of HIM time, listening to the TV too loudly, letting food sit on the counter too long, doing nothing important or relevant or chore-ish too much. God bless the man. He never gets the chance to do those things when I’m home, ever.
I realized that he was probably looking forward to my time away as much as I was. But for different reasons. And when we came back together, me sailing down to earth with a thud, crashing his man party, we were both reminded of how much we need that. We need time apart to be better together. I need to have my Law & Order like he needs his Hobbit. I need to spend time writing in the same way he needs to Chive On. It is good for us. Good for us as individuals. It is good that I don’t like everything he does and he doesn’t like everything I do. It is good that we have our differences and are safe in the knowledge that we can go our own ways for an hour, a day or a weekend and trust, love and miss each other – a little or a lot.
It’s also good for me to know that as much as I need me time, I crave me time and demand everyone in my life respect that, I must also respect his me time even though it looks different than mine. Instead of reading, writing, girl time, yoga, coffee talk, naps, things that refresh and recharge, my husband’s me time involves binging on bad Netflix shows, twelve pillows, a dark room and underwear – shorts optional. But still, it is his. And it is not up to me to judge it. It’s up to me to love him because he loves me enough to let me have my time. He loves me enough to make the dinner that resulted in the dirty dishes. He loves me enough to spend time watching bad Netflix shows with our daughter.
And he loves me enough to let me figure out that I just walked through the portal and will eventually find the sandy places. He waits for those moments. He knows it might not be quickly. It might take all day and only occur when I slide my foot under the sheets to pull his leg hair with my toes. But the goodness will eventually fall out. The little pieces of glittery goodness will fall into our lives at unexpected moments, shiny and fresh. They will stop me in my tracks like the sand in the bottom of a tote bag. I will remember where they came from and what they mean.
The little pieces are filled with love, music, faith, gentleness, grace, forgiveness and sisterhood. They are magical little pieces of mightiness. They are laden with salty tears from fresh wounds and are heavy with decades of guilt and shame finally unburdened. They are miracles. And I will remember that even the smallest, stickiest little bit of goodness has the power to heal, restore and renew. So bring it on portal. I’m not afraid of you. Because you will never, ever be able to wash away all of God’s grains of sands. I’ve got too many crevasses.
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, there are a few things you should know. If you are thinking about suicide, please remember…
- You may want desperately to end your pain through suicide, but others only survive their pain because they watch you get through yours. They look at you, at your circumstances, at everything you’ve been through and think, “Wow, if they can do it, so can I.” Your very existence may have saved countless lives already.You may not love yourself, but someone else does. They may not be able to show you or tell you, but that is their issue, not yours.
- You may not think you’re worth anything, but the people whose lives you touch do. They base their own self-worth on the people around them, you included. They may be helpers, nurturers, parents, children or just people who feel your pain. They are the people who have openly worried about you and secretly prayed for you. To them, you are worth the effort, the time and life.
- You may think life is too unbearable, but you don’t realize your existence is the only thing that makes life bearable for others. You may be the bright spot in someone else’s day. That person who goes home to an abusive husband or parent may count you as their only blessing. The friend who watches you struggle may be so grateful that you are showing others how strong a person can be.
- You might believe there is no way out, but you just haven’t found the door. It is there, just waiting for you to open it. And behind that door are people just like you, people who have felt alone, abandoned, hurt, rejected and full of failure. Behind that door are other desperate people full of shame, guilt, regret and hopelessness. And they will rally around you, lift you up and tell you the one thing you need to hear… you are not alone. And, they will tell you that suicide is not the only option.
- You are probably tired, but please don’t close your eyes just yet. There is more to see. There is more to this life than the hurt and pain you are feeling right now. There is a rainbow, waiting to be found behind the clouds and clouds, behind the cutting and suicide attempts. Please stay to see the beauty.
Please don’t commit suicide right now. Please stay alive for just one more day. Stay alive for those who can’t live without you. Stay alive for me.
If you are thinking about suicide, there is help. I know because I found my way out of the pain. I found my way to do the door. I kept my eyes open for just one more day. And I’m here to tell you that you can do it too.
Read my personal experience with suicide here.
And if no one has told you this today, let me…
YOU ARE LOVED
1 (800) 273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline