God knows how much I like to know ‘the plan’–uncertainty scares me and leaves me feeling vulnerable. Yet He is the one thing that will never change. I need to not lean on my own understanding and turn to Him. My devotional led me to Revelation 22:8-9 in my Bible. I love the notes that explain the verses.
It seems perfect timing–a little backstory–It’s 5:30 AM, Logan and Nate are still sleeping, Dillon is lying on the bed, getting over a head cold and watching his iPad, and we’re in our new ‘art room’ downstairs. The $20 desk we found on Facebook is perfect for him to sit next to me and create his art too. It’s turned in a space to keep my art & crafts without them taking over the house, and a space we can retreat to and not worry about having to be too quiet like we did upstairs. Nate takes one look at the ‘clutter’ and shakes his head, but I see organized chaos, a happy place, my heaven on earth.
This morning is the first time I’ve come down here to do my devotional, instead of sitting upstairs on the couch. It only seems fitting, perfect timing, that I would find this footnote in my Bible for Revelation 22:8,9:
“The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before me”. Jesus said that the greatest command of Moses’ laws was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. Here at the end of the Bible, this truth is reiterated. The angel instructs John to worship God, and worship is a major emphasis in Revelation. The first step toward meaningful worship is a desire to know God. If we thirst for him, the Bible promises that he will provide for us and satisfy our needs. Would you like your worship to be completely transformed? Confess any sins that might be hindering your fellowship with God. Then ask God to stir your heart, to instill within you and unquenchable thirst to know him. Meditate upon how God has revealed himself in the Bible, and ask him to reveal himself to you again. When you see God in a new way, worship will be your only fitting response.”
It seems like there are times when I can hear Him whispering clearly, and other times He feels so painfully distant I can’t hardly try to call out.
But this footnote gives me black and white instructions on how to approach Him as I do my daily devotions:
1) He promises that if I thirst for Him, He will provide for me and give me what I need. It might not be what I had in mind, but He has never broken a promise and I can only see a pixel of the great billboard He has planned.
2) Confess anything that might keep me from hearing God and ask for forgiveness. I can always tell if it’s sin because it makes me uncomfortable thinking about it–like this morning I know I’ve been letting my pride and ego get in the way of putting together this Skillshare class, looking to Instagram for approval. I need to be humble, and trust everything will work out the way it should. Like my mom said, if people like it, they will find a way to get it without me beating down their door.
3) Ask God to stir my heart, to instill an unquenchable thirst to know Him. It’s so easy to look to other things to try to fill that “God hole” in my heart but nothing can, at least for very long. This has been a painful, eye-opening, breath-taking experience turning away from alcohol, seeing an art therapist, confessing to my family, friends, co-workers, feeling the highs and lows without self-medicating. The lows are painful and uncomfortable, but they make the highs so much sweeter. And when I’m feeling that itch to get away from it all, to self-medicate, to do something when I’m feeling down, I’m realizing it’s God calling me, telling me it’s time to get away for a little bit and recharge.
4) Meditate on how He has revealed Himself in the Bible, and ask Him to reveal Himself to me again. This one is a little harder for me to decipher. I guess what comes to mind is reading a Bible verse about God taking care of birds who don’t worry about anything and promising to take even better care of me–then seeing sparrows, swallows, hawks and robins throughout the day and feeling reassured by His promise. The gentle tugs, the little things that catch my eye when I think I should be reading something else, those are the things I’m realizing I need to pay attention to…those are the moments when I find Him the closest.
5) “When you see Me in a new way, worship will be your only fitting response…”
As I finished up this post I refilled my coffee and let Teddy out. As I waited for him I looked at the horizon. I loved the way the clouds are wispy so I snapped a picture just as two birds flew in the frame. God is good…
The odds of you being born:
You are here for a reason!
I know I’ve been MIA lately…I’ve been putting together my Skillshare class! Thought I’d pop in and let you know all is well. If you’re squeamish, you might want to stop reading here!
Last night I let my gray cat, Gracie, in as we were getting ready for bed. She darted in like she always does and headed for our bedroom. I crawled into bed and was looking at my phone when I heard Nate yell some not so gentlemanly things. Apparently Gracie had a live mouse in her mouth when she came in and it was loose in our bedroom. It headed straight for our closet. Nate threw some shoes on and started pulling shoes out of the closet to find it. I grabbed our other cat, Duma, with the naive hope she would take care of the problem. She just laid down and watched Nate and I (me very searching very tentatively & praying Nate got to it before I did).
In the midst of our search I tried to be optimistic and asked Nate–at least she brought it in our room so we knew about it, right? And won’t this be something we’ll look back on and laugh? Too soon.
Nate luckily found it first and…took care of it. I have a picture I sent to my brother but out of respect for my mom I won’t post it here.
Lesson learned–make sure the cats don’t have any live objects before letting them inside…
It’s been a crazy last few weeks, and I am finally on the other side. I feel better, mentally and physically. I’m ready to get back to work and get on with all these projects and ideas I have. Spring is finally here, and I finally feel good.
But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t embarrassed. Really? TB? Cancer? And I put this out there for everyone to read just how bonkers I was acting?
My dad warned Nate when I first started the prednisone that it could have some interesting side effects. Poor Nate has just kind of sat back and watched me over the last week, shaking his head.
I know someday we’ll look back and laugh at this, but yes, it is embarrassing.
Yet why is this so embarrassing in a way any other disease would never be? Why am I so embarrassed that I needed a medication that had side effects that put my mental health in a more fragile state?
And why is any topic related to mental health so taboo?
I never thought I had an issue with anxiety. Life is full of stressors, and it’s your body’s fight-or-flight response. If anything, I felt like I was weak, because everyone else seemed like they could keep their shit together except me. I knew stress is part of life, and I knew it was not normal to self-medicate. If you have to hide it from your loved ones, it’s not normal. I knew this, yet I couldn’t, wouldn’t reach out to anyone because I was embarrassed.
Once I started going back to church again and realized I didn’t even miss the wine, I couldn’t help but wondering…so I asked my mom if she thought I traded in one addiction for another–wine for God. Her answer made me cry. No. My faith is not an addiction. My faith is what is good for my soul, and it is what my soul needs. I don’t need to hide my faith and I don’t think I could if I tried. There is nothing wrong with relying on a higher power for inner strength.
I know I have to give myself time–alcohol is a depressant, and one I relied on a for a long time. I’m not going to be 100% overnight. It’s okay that I might have some anxiety. It’s what I do to manage it that’s important. I have my faith, my family, my art, yoga with Adrienne, etc.
One thing that really helps is I started listening to my soul more. More and more I realize how the littlest things make me think, “Yes! This makes me happy!” Seeing a bald eagle in the air, the sunrise, scratching the new cow under the chin like a cat, going for a walk, tickling my boys and dancing to music as we eat breakfast, talking to Nate as we cook dinner…all these little moments add up and make you realize that hey, life is good!
I realized how a lot of things didn’t make me happy–not truly. Candy Crush, politics, The Bachelor/any reality TV show–and were just…fillers. I don’t watch Netflix anymore. I watch SkillShare and learn new art techniques. I read books that move me and I talk to others who make me feel happy when I interact with them. I spend time with Nate outside, or marvel at Dillon’s amazing personality that is emerging as we talk.
I started to listen to podcasts (Rachael Hart especially) about the think-feel-act cycle (which I believe is cognitive behavioral therapy–retraining your brain to think of things in a non-judgmental, non-threatening matter). This was huge. I never realized how pessimistic I was before and by re-framing my thoughts I completely changed my outlook on everything.
I started paying attention to what I was eating. There’s a reason they call foods like Chicken Noodle Soup good for the soul. By eating too much processed food and not enough real food, my body was missing out on nutrients it needed. Now I would love to start growing some of my own food. I also started eating more dark chocolate. 🙂
I felt like I was doing better, and I like the idea of treating these negative feelings without pharmaceuticals.
But going off my antidepressant/anxiety medication while being sick was not the best idea. And there’s nothing wrong with needing to keep taking it. Maybe in the future I can wean off it, but for now, I just need to let my mind recalibrate and know this doesn’t make me any weaker of a person than a diabetic who needs insulin.
As for putting it all out there, there are times I wonder if I’m going to regret it. But the more I open up about my struggles, the more people open up to me and reveal that they’ve been going through something similar. The idea of anyone suffering in silence breaks my heart.
We’re walking around, trying to pretend like we’re fine when we should be reaching out to each other and realizing that we are not alone.
Friday started as such a beautiful day. I took Dillon to school, Logan to daycare so I could get some rest, then on a whim decided to take the back roads via Bootlegger Road home. The standing water on the side of the road left various ponds; swans, geese, and even a few Mallard ducks graced me with their presence. Dillon came home from school, we napped, then he got Logan as Nate went to buy a plow from a retiring farmer. We came home and Dillon left to go to the circus.
Then after Dillon left for the circus with his friend I looked at my hospital results. My CT scan report said a 1.5 cm opacity in the right upper lobe, likely infectious–follow up with CT in 4 months to make sure it was resolved. Despite my ER doctor reassuring me it was infectious, my mind went to the worst case scenario after looking through the CT scan report.
I Googled it. Dear Lord, everyone knows how much I love my Google search, but please break my Google search engine when it comes to me looking up anything medical pertaining to me!!!! I am a nurse, not a doctor…I know enough to scare myself silly and not enough to be practical!
After wasting so much time wondering, “What if…” I finally made myself do my devotions and dear old Oswald is waiting for me. I feel like Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest is like my discipline devotion–he’s not afraid to tell me like it is, even if it does make me flinch sometimes–he has a way of getting to the core of any idea or belief that is not of God and exposing it.
“Have we been slandering God by daring to worry when He has said, ‘Seek he first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you?’
By worrying, I am pretty much telling God I don’t trust Him and I believe He means to leave me in a lurch, despite all that He has done and how often He has shown me the opposite.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid…” John 14:27
I woke up Saturday feeling worse. Despite Oswald telling me to trust God, I was miserable and couldn’t help thinking of the worst. I think it was because I had taken my last dose of the prednisone that I felt like let me function—and my neck was killing me. Motrin, narcotics, nothing was helping but heat. (Nate should have been a doctor–he took one look at my posture on the couch with my cell phone and diagnosed it–text neck!!) We had arranged for the boys to have their pictures taken Sunday and Logan still needed his first haircut. His hair was getting so long my daycare provider’s husband started to tease me when I was going to get it cut. As Nate attempted to hold on to Logan at the beauty shop the ER called for me. One of my cultures had grown out strep. They added on another antibiotic after I told them I was still feeling pretty crummy. In less than 1 minute this phone call resolved my worries and reassured me. Then I found this page on the internet that explained more about strep pneumonia and it made so much more sense.
By letting my heart be troubled by worries, I am telling God I don’t believe in His promise, or His character. “His peace is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest…” Philippians 4:7
It was a good day today. Put together the chicken noodle soup blog post, spent time with my boys, Nate was ecstatic his new plow worked beautifully with his tractor, then Chelsea came out and took pictures of the boys. I pray for healing–I’m ready to get back to normal & see what You have next for me. I love Sarah Young’s message this morning–
“When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice…”
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand…” John 10:27-28
I don’t know why but for some reason when my mom tells me I should do something, my initial reaction is, “yeah, yeah…” Whether this is just a bad habit left over from being a know-it-all teenager or needing time to digest it for myself, I’m not sure. But in the end her advice is usually golden and as much as I hate to admit it, she is right.
Last week I was miserable. Mom told me I needed some good old fashioned chicken noodle soup to help boost my poor immune system. I am not a good cook, at all…I usually leave this to Nate and bake the cakes, cookies, etc instead. I actually made her Facetime to walk me through how to boil the whole chicken (organic…while talking to her at the store she made me put back the whole chicken that was on an amazing sale and pick this one up instead).
She walks me through how to clean out the non-existent gizzards (well, I thought it had a gizzard but turns out I was just trying to remove the neck from the ribs…whoops.) It boils until the meat falls off the bone and I strain the water. Once the meat is cooled I pull it from the skin and bones, throwing the skin away and the bones into another bowl. I put the meat back on the stove with fresh water and add the ingredients she wrote down for me:
I let it simmer until it’s ready. I really haven’t had any appetite but it does smell good. I threw the bones into the crockpot with a little cold water and apple cider vinegar to make bone broth.
The soup itself is finally ready and we eat. My oldest is a picky eater but he inhales it and asks for more. My youngest is not a picky eater and can’t eat it fast enough!
I let the bone broth do it’s thing for several hours, then strain and put it in a mason jar. I drink some of it from a mug and it might just be my imagination and wishful thinking, but I know I seem to feel a little better. Later I warm up the leftover soup–it’s a little dry so I add the bone broth and it is perfect.
Maybe moms do know what they’re talking about after all…
I can’t deny it anymore. I don’t know what it is, but I know things are happening. I have never been an ER patient before, and this morning was my 3rd visit in 3 weeks. God is going to get my attention, one way or the other…
He Knew Me before I was Born…
For some reason God has always called to me, even as a little girl. Like I’ve mentioned before, I was not raised in a church-going family. My mom had a framed scripture hanging up in our kitchen, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And I remember opening a Christmas present early (a nice outfit) because I wanted to go to the Christmas Eve service with my godmother at the Lutheran Church down the street. I received a Precious Moments Bible for Easter one year and I remember the pictures being so reassuring to me. My Aunt Sandy gave me my first diary, and ever since then, as long as I was writing, I was okay. Even back then I had the Lord’s Prayer written, on the left hand of the picture below.
It’s so fun to read some of the things I wrote back then. I read some of them to Dillon: “Ryan is such a pest! He does everything just to annoy me!” And together we giggle at my dramatic 7 year old self. “Nobody cares about me or ever gets me anything! Ryan gets everything! It’s not fair!” And literally the next line in the same entry reads, “I got a kitten!”
I felt compelled to put all my diaries together, chronologically. Trying to see where I veered off track for 13 whole years. I was actually surprised when I realized how many there were, and how therapeutic journaling had obviously been to me throughout my life. As long as I’m writing, I’m okay.
My Test of Faith
My last journal isn’t pictured. My last entry I’d written is interesting to me, dated March 5, 2005. I had been listening to one of my favorite songs at the time, Misty Edward’s “Simple Devotion”. I knew I was at a crossroads. “I’m at such a weird place, God. I feel like I’m no longer a baby Christian, but I haven’t been really growing either. I know there are plans for me…I wish You would bring a girl into my life that’s my age who can help me grow and I could trust [my best friend was away at college and my other friends were in different seasons–motherhood, moving away, etc]. I feel torn…we both want this godly relationship but we’re not sure how to go about it. We act like we’re married, but we’re not. I keep getting this idea of time apart…I know when we first started going out I had made a promise that I woudl be single for six months to a year, and I didn’t really go through with that. Are You calling me to go through with that?”
The sequence of events after that is kind of fuzzy. We kept dating. I started school to become an LPN. We had a lot of fun together, and with our friends, but they weren’t our church friends. We enjoyed each other’s company, but we didn’t include Him.
Through a set of circumstances the military is well known for, we were forced to make a decision…either separate or get married. He had gotten orders overseas for a year, and then would relocate away from Montana once he was back stateside. If I wanted the military to pay for me to go, we would need to get married, and soon. So we did.
People ask me what made me stop going to Church. It wasn’t a big dramatic moment, but a series of day to day choices to make other things a priority over spending time with God. It was no single moment of, “I’m not going to go to church anymore!” It started as, “I need to study…I can read my Bible later.” “I’m so busy, I just need to skip church this week.” It was a series of choices to put whatever earthly things I was caught up in first, before God. Yes, I was busy with school, but I had plenty of time to go out with my friends after, to the bar. Yes, I needed to study, but I also somehow managed to binge watch an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy. Then one day I realized how distant He had become, and instead of turning to Him, I turned away, uncomfortably pushing away my shame by tucking my Bible further out of sight.
Realizing I Need Him…
Fast forward 13 years, and I’ve realized instead of saying, “Yes, God, I hear Your whispers and I will admit I was wrong and come home…” I have stubbornly tried living life every way I can without Him, and even though I have everything that matters most to me–Nate, my boys, my family, my home, my job, my art, I have nothing without Him. Because even with everything going for me I was still so unbearably empty I needed to drink 3 boxes of wine a week to anesthetize that void, and in my worst moments of weakness, struggling with feeling maybe it would be best to just…slip away to end that haunting ache. I wasn’t joyful, sad, mad, or any other emotion. I was just going through the motions, empty.
I would like to say I have no regrets, but I do. I regret choosing anything over God, and in the process, hurting someone a whole lot more than if I would have chosen God to begin with. I regret missing out on all that time with God, but I also believe He knows me better than I know myself and He already knows what my life will bring, and so knew what choice I would make. I think He knew I wasn’t strong enough to get out of my own way and to just trust Him, so he led me to Nate, someone he knew would love me enough to let me be myself, flaws and all, and would love me enough to have no issue with me going to Church once I found my way back to Him. I’m sure sometimes Nate wonders who this person is that he married…he’s only ever known career-focused, family-loving Jen with wine as my vice of choice.
A side note: I know God will use my story for His purpose, and I would love to be able to reach young women who might not realize they’re looking to boys for their self-worth when they should be using all that amazing time to learn everything and anything they want—explore the world, see where your fascination with spelunking or surfing or fishing or orb weaving or whatever lights the tiniest spark in your soul. To see that there is such an amazing world out there, and all of the drama of middle/high school, cliques, and boyfriends just isn’t that important in the big picture. There are so many better things to focus on, to get your self-identity from! And whatever really makes you passionate–well, that’s your soul leading you down your path. Once you get married and especially once you have children, your time is no longer your own. Being married is a blessing, but so is being single!
He Leaves the Ninety-Nine…
I stumbled on art journaling in 2004, thanks to Pinterest, and was immediately hooked. I was starting to find my way back to writing again, but in a more exciting way of trying to understand what I was feeling. Looking back, it’s so painfully obvious, but when you’re in the middle of it, it just feels like you’re drowning.
But He is mighty to save, and He has a plan…I’ve written before what happened the night (February 15) that I was home sick and stumbled on Kelly Rae Robert’s art courses. That I decided to sacrifice my wine for her class and felt my soul leap.
So technically my last drink of wine was Valentine’s Day, February 14. I’m not counting steps, I don’t classify myself as an alcoholic, I just found something better.
But ever since I started on this journey in February I have been sick. I have worked in nursing homes and hospitals for the last 16 years and I have never been this sick. It started Valentine’s Day with a cold. No big deal, Robitussin for the cough, rest, get better. I loved watching Kelly Rae create her work as I laid on the couch, her words comforting and loving. I got better, but still had the dry hacking cough that just persisted, annoying enough for my co-worker to notice but not annoying enough to pay much attention to.
Then the ER visit for that pain in my RUQ abdomen that seemed to have spontaneously resolved. Is it from the Robitussin and cough drops I’ve been living off of? I don’t know but at least my liver is still functioning.
Then last week I started getting sick again, incapacitating headaches that aren’t touched by Motrin or narcotics, fevers, chills, night sweats. My dad makes me go to the ER Sunday and I’m diagnosed with pneumonia and started on antibiotics. I see my primary provider the next day, he adds some medicine to help with the cough. I take my Zpak faithfully and I just don’t feel like I’m getting better, and the steroids are messing me with my mind and emotions. I spent the first day on cloud 9, cleaning and cooking and dancing with Logan. Then spent most of yesterday crying as I watched Kelly Rae Roberts’ create her beautiful art…I laugh as I cry but I can’t help it.
In between her videos I consult Dr Google, trying to figure out why I have been sick for so long, and realize I might have consumption (tuberculosis). All the symptoms fit to my prednisone addled brain. This morning I wake up, drenched, I can feel my heart palpitating again and I know I’m getting dehydrated again. I have a peace about it as I wake poor Nate up to tell him I’m going to the ER.
He’s already missed too much work from me being sick to stay home with the boys and I call my dad and Brenda, who come right out, at 4:30 AM. Dad takes me to town as Brenda stays with the boys and Nate goes to work. I ask my dad if I’ve ever been this sick. He shakes his head no.
A Quick Lesson in Humility
I get the same nurse as last time, and my conversation with my mom echoes in my ears. I don’t really care for this nurse…strikes me as gruff and her bedside manner needs a little polishing, and to me it’s hard for me to answer her questions. I had talked to the ER manager about my experience last time, the good and the concern, ideas I had as someone on the “other side” instead of being the ER nurse, and noted how much progress they’ve made, how hard they’re working to become the best. He explains to me she’s new to Montana and new to nursing, which kinda surprises me; she carries herself differently–more confidently.
She’s efficient as she does her assessment. I speak up and tell her I wear hearing aids, and especially with the mask I have a hard time hearing her. She immediately speaks up and I can see her demeanor change. I talk to her as she starts the IV & gets the labs going. I compliment her ballsiness to move to Montana, away from her family, for a job. She’s meeting people and exploring Montana, and this makes me happy. I tell her she comes off a little condescending sometimes, but I have no doubt she is developing into an excellent ER nurse. She looks at me with surprise.
She had no idea how she came across to me, and her being a new nurse, she wasn’t able to chit chat like a more experienced nurse would. She was task oriented–carefully focusing on starting the IV when a more proficient nurse would be able to smoothly go through the motions, etc. I was way too hard on her and this was my lesson…for assuming she was looking down on me when actually, she was just trying to do the best job she could with her experience level. We don’t know where people are coming from, or their backgrounds. They probably don’t even realize how they’re coming across, and I was slipping back into my habit of making things about me that aren’t.
A Sight for Sore Eyes
She left at 7 am and my soul danced as Donna walked in. Now this is an experienced nurse…flight, charge, she’d seen it all. I always say she’s forgotten more about nursing than I’ll ever know. She’d also scared me witless when I first met her as I started on her shift and she was my charge nurse. She could be gruff and could easily give the impression she might not really care for you. What I quickly realized working under Donna was she has a heart of gold and if you want to get her to smile you just have to tease her a little. Donna did her eloquent nursing dance, getting things in order and picking up on things with her constantly assessing eyes, making sure I was comfortable, checking on my dad, without me even really noticing all that she was doing.
The doctor comes in and I’ve worked with her before…I’ll be in good hands. Whatever she tells me, I know I will trust her and not start down more rabbit holes of hantavirus, tuberculosis, and whatever crazy maladies Dr Google likes to taunt overwhelmed sick patients with. She listens to me and lays out her game plan. The pneumonia is still there, but it’s getting better. Follow up with the chest CT scan in a few months to make sure it’s resolved. Follow up with my primary provider. Continue my medications, and rest. She tells me I’m sick, and this pneumonia isn’t just going to go away overnight. It’s going to be a while getting back to my baseline, and to give myself time to get back to normal.
As my dad and I drive home I realize I don’t even know what my baseline healthy is anymore. If I wasn’t drinking a few times a week (in the beginning, when I fell away from church), or pregnant, or drinking a lot (after weaning Logan), I had been sick since February 14. But during this time (as all my ramblings detail) God has shown me He is right here, working behind the sciences, and He’s waiting for His prodigal daughter to come home…a friend got me hooked on this song, ‘Reckless Love’…
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
Whether being sick was His way of drawing me back to Him before I could slip away again, I don’t know. But being sick has forced me to dig up diaries, to be still and realize all that I have in the last few months. And what I’ve realize is the more I boast about my weaknesses, the stronger He becomes in me, and the more people respond to Him.
For when I am weak, You are strong…
As I was almost done writing this post, I looked out the window to this as Misty Edwards sang “Killing Me with Mercy”, her lyrics describing the way I feel perfectly as I gaze up at this spectacular cloud (this picture has no filter/edit aside from cropping)…
God is so good.
It’s been an amazing week for us. Everything we’ve been dreaming would happen in our wildest, most impossible dreams is starting to really happen…Nate saw one of his biggest dreams/goals come true this weekend.
Looking back on my life, especially since I found my God again in February, I am humbled with how blessed we are, how fortunate. God is so faithful.
With all that is happening around us since I stopped self-destructing in February and then being so sick with a cold virus & pneumonia over the last 2 weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect just how far we’ve come. Looking back now, we really started out with nothing but the most valuable thing our families could have ever given us: the foundation to build our dreams ourselves, with them supporting us every step of they way. They gave us roots and wings–roots to know where home is, and wings to fly. We will forever be grateful. There’s no way to ever repay them, but to pass this gift on to our own children.
Whenever I asked Nate what he would do for the rest of his life if money wasn’t an issue, the answer is always the same: “Cows.” He’s happiest working outdoors, knocking things off his to-do list. “I can sleep when I die.” After a Montana calving season with my aunt and uncle my brother Cory thinks he’s crazy but sees the same passion and determination in Nate’s eyes as I do. I couldn’t stop him if I wanted to…it’s in his blood.
A Painful Lesson for Me
December 2008. I visited my mom in Maine for the holidays. After a heart to heart conversation with my mom, I finally let myself admit to her and myself just how unhappy I was in my marriage. I flew home with a heavy heart, knowing what I had to do. I tried to end things as painlessly as I could with him. How do you explain to someone how amazing they are, but through no fault of their own, they’re just not the right one for you?
I loaded up my trusty, beat-up high school car–a green 1994 Eagle Vision–with my clothes and my hope chest and moved in with my dad & family. Being the last intense semester finishing my nursing degree, I had quit my job as a pharmacy technician at the hospital and was earning a meager income as an A&P tutor. I was broke.
A sidenote–one of my favorite memories came from this time. My mom had given me a few hundred dollars to file the papers for my divorce, but then asked if I could give the money to Cory to help him pay his rent and she would send me some more money. He was working in construction and had been laid off. I still remember that moment, me driving my Eagle Vision down Tenth Avenue with my brother, Cory, in the passenger seat. Between the two of us all we had $2 and some change…including our bank accounts. He made a joke about taking my divorce money to pay for his rent and we both laughed, hysterically. It was so pathetic it was hilarious. So with our last $2 we bought ice cream cones from Dairy Queen and as I dropped Cory off at his apartment, we agreed things could only get better from here, and no matter what happened, at least we had each other.
I had no real idea what my future held once nursing school ended in a few months. I’ve always liked knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and to have the future wide open like that was…terrifying. I did tarot spread after tarot spread, trying to look into the future, which was futile. I decided I would graduate, then move to Maine where my mom and family live. I liked having a plan, something to focus on. It was reassuring when everything was so unknown.
On the last day of my clinicals, one of my instructors, whom I had never been super close to (she kind of scared me to be honest–she was gruff in a military style and not overly warm), pulled me aside, told me she knew what I was going through, said she cared about me (which shocked me at the time), and out of this concern, wanted to give me some advice. “Don’t make any big changes when you’re already going through something so big. Give yourself some time to get your feet back underneath you. I thanked Cindy and returned her hug, thinking, “But…if I don’t move what am I going to do?!” I tucked her advice away, not quite sure what to do with it yet.
I had made up my my mind–I was done with men, I knew that. I was ready to be single for a while–looked forward to it even. One of my best friends convinced me to go to a party with her. I remember getting ready and feeling like whether or not I went was pivotal decision. Her friend Amber was throwing the party, so we went over to Amber’s house to get ready. I didn’t know Amber very well but I talked to her while we shared a mirror. Her brother was there, in the other room. She was happy he was going; he had been through a recent break-up and it was good for him to get out. I still remember her curling her hair and saying, “I love my brother more than myself. If a girl ever hurts him I’ll kill her.” Yikes!
I finished up and went into the living room. I knew Alana’s friend, Tyler, better than Amber’s brother, so we made small talk, about football. All guys like football, right? I tried to be polite and bring her brother into the conversation and he just looked at me. “This guy is a jerk!” I thought.
Amber did a great job with the party and everyone was having a great time. Suddenly Amber grabbed me and pretty much shoved me at her brother. “You need to dance with Nate!” I looked at her with confusion and she explained. Nate and his friend had been playing Beer Pong when Nate saw some guy hit a girl. Amber was worried Nate was going to get in a fight with the guy so she needed to distract him. She pulled him away from the guy and we danced. We are both awkward dancers and had I known then just how much Nate abhors dancing! I think I’ve gotten him to dance with me maybe twice since then!
Suddenly it was 4am and the party was over. I realized Nate wasn’t such a jerk after all. After talking with him, I realized I actually kinda liked the guy. He asked for my number so I gave it to him. He immediately called it. “Just wanted to make sure you didn’t give me a bad number.”
Nate and I continued to hit it off but I told him not to get attached. This sounds terrible looking back now, but I had my plan and I needed to stick to it. He knew I was finishing nursing school and moving to Maine, and said he understood. Eventually my dad realized I was seeing someone and he was not happy. We got into an argument. Looking back now, I can see how it could have looked like I left Chris for Nate. What are the odds I would meet my soulmate so quickly after walking away from Chris? I was mad that he would even think this of me, and I’m sure he was disappointed in me.
Once I sat down with my family and we talked everything through (this divorce deeply affected them, too, and they had been close to Chris), they understood where I was coming from. I graduated from nursing school and got a job as an LPN in August of 2009. Nate was working in a grain elevator, making good money but a terrible rotating shift. Life was pretty simple, but good. I was lucky and the first LPN-to-RN nursing program had been fast-tracked so I was able to get my RN in 2010. Halfway through the program I found out I was pregnant.
I had never been sure I wanted kids. I was always goal oriented towards my career and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with how kids might impact my progress. But once I saw those lines, I was in love. I graduated with my RN, and Gaye called me, asking me if I wanted to work for her again. I think she was almost as excited about Dillon as I was.
Nate and I were married in December 2010. In a hospital. We both knew we didn’t want an extravagant wedding, and getting married before my student insurance ended would be an added bonus. We filled out the paperwork and set the date: December 3rd.
I was devastated when I found out my dad wouldn’t be there. He became sick and needed IV antibiotics and was admitted to the hospital. I tried to hold back tears as I asked the judge if my brother could hold his cell phone on speaker so my dad could hear.
God, wherever she is, I pray you bless this judge abundantly.
With a smile, and a tone that said she had already made up her mind, she asked, “Well, why don’t we go up there?” I could feel all the curious glances as we walked through the hospital with a judge, dressed in her black robe. Cory joked since we got married in a hospital we had to have the baby at the courthouse.
Our wedding was pretty unorthodox, but it was perfect. We had each other and our family. It didn’t matter where we got married. I was a little bummed we didn’t get to spend our wedding night together…but Nate had to work. He had just been promoted to his own shift and his partner shift was vacant so there wouldn’t have been anyone to cover. Besides, I was already 6 months pregnant ha ha.
Babies Fill a Hole in Your Heart You Never Knew Was There…
My boss, Gaye, being the fabulous OB nurse she is, pulled me into her office on Friday, March 25th. “You won’t be back Monday so I need to do your employee evaluation now!” My original due date was March 30th. She could tell Dillon had dropped and knew he would be here before the weekend was over. She gave me a hug and I finished up my day.
The next morning I woke up and I just knew Dillon was on his way. I woke Nate and up told him today was the day. I was excited but peaceful. I was having very mild contractions. We got up and ate breakfast at The Loft, the same restaurant we ate at when we finally decided on a name. Then we went to Herbergers and got this adorable outfit both of our boys came home in. Went home, walked around for a bit. It was starting to get uncomfortable so Nate and I went in around dinnertime. I made it until 8:00 and decided I wanted the epidural.
The relief was amazing, but I didn’t get to enjoy it for more than a minute before alarms were going off and nurses and my doctor were flooding into the room. Dillon was in trouble, so they took us in for an emergency c-section. He wasn’t really responding when they got him out but they knew what they were doing and he quickly came around. After a few hours in the observation NICU he was all ours.
I remember looking at this baby and thinking, “Where is this bond I’m supposed to instantly form?” He was beautiful, and I loved him, but I thought I would instantly be obsessed with him. Looking back now, this was completely normal. I hadn’t been able to see him until my epidural wore off several hours later, and I had had my delivery all planned out in my mind. So when things went so off-track, I felt…almost robbed. (Side note–my birth plan for Logan was pretty much: get him out safely, and if he’s stable, give him to me asap! How naive of me to think I could order how everything was to go!) I quickly got over my disappointment and developed this bond with Dillon–I can’t imagine life without him and they are the best things to ever happen to us.
Our First Home & a New Job for Me
Nate was promoted again to maintenance with a much better schedule, Monday through Friday with call at times. He also got a nice pay raise. We decided we needed to find a house…our two bedroom apartment was getting pretty cramped. We found the perfect house fairly quickly and moved in. Our realtor, Beth, was like a second mom to Nate and actually took a cut in her profit to make it work. God, I pray you bless Beth abundantly, beyond what she can imagine!!!!!
I loved my co-workers but I felt like I needed to venture out in nursing. The ER was hiring so I applied, was accepted, and started working. I learned an incredible amount quickly, but the schedule was pretty grueling for Nate. He never complained, just quietly took care of Dillon and kept up with the household chores. It was advertised as three 12’s a week, but these quickly became 14 hour shifts, three being Thursday, Friday, Saturday one week, then two more the following week Sunday & Monday. So it was actually 5 12-16 hour shifts in a row, plus 24 hours of call a month. Which if nurses were short…they had no choice but to use call. Patients had to be taken care. It was nice having long breaks in between these string of shifts, but I found it took me 2 full days to just recover & catch up on my sleep.
Eventually the stress started getting to me, and I was starting to get a little burnt out. I turned to wine to help me relax at the end of the day. I had a hard time leaving some of the more emotional situations at work and my mind would ruminate on them while I was trying to sleep.
Finally, a few years later, after missing nearly all of 4 year old Dillon’s soccer games, I realized I was sacrificing my family to be an ER nurse. It was a no brainer what meant more to me. It was time for a change.
God is so Faithful
Soon after I realized this, I bumped into my former co-worker while getting lunch at the cafeteria. She told me my former job was open if I wanted to apply. This was too good to be true!!! I applied, interviewed, and accepted their offer. I would be working as a MDS coordinator for Gaye’s unit, completing Medicare reports for federal reimbursement and quality measures (but more importantly for care planning–making sure our patients’ pain was controlled, that we were trying to mitigate fall & skin risks, etc). My supervisor, Sue, and lead MDS coordinator, Marci, shared my values when it came to family and went above and beyond to let me tailor my work schedule around my family, even letting me work from home if needed by remoting in. I couldn’t have asked for a better set up, or better people to work with. God, I pray you bless Sue, Gaye, and Marci in a special way. I thank You for bringing them into my life!
During all this, the December when Dillon was 4, we decided to have another baby. Dillon had happened so easily, I thought we would have no problem getting pregnant. A year past of casually trying, and nothing. Then I got pregnant but miscarried early. This was devastating, and I can’t fathom the pain of losing a baby further along or especially a child.
Nate had been keeping his eye on the local housing market and found something interesting. A house on 80 acres. It didn’t have a shop, the basement was unfinished, and it wasn’t fenced (it was mostly planted in wheat), but it had amazing potential. We reached out to Beth again and before she had a chance to work her realtor magic it sold. We had looked at it and I knew Nate had had his heart set on it. It was a mother in law house, on land that had originally been 160 acres split in half. On the other half was an amazing set-up: Nate’s dream shop, two car garage, completed basement…everything! But it was way out of our budget, and we knew it.
We saw both houses disappear from the housing market and heartbroken, kept looking. Suddenly, a few months later, our dream house popped back up, it’s price reduced by $100,000 to a price we could afford! We had to scrape and come up with 10% down since all the land made it a little more complicated, but by the grace of God we did it.
Once we moved in, Nate told me the only way he’s moving from here is in a wooden casket!
(I’m not sure where the original picture is…this is from a Facebook profile pic in support of Manchester shootings back then–reason for the logo).
Within a few months of moving in, I found out I was pregnant. I was scared, but I also had a peace that this time around would be okay. It just hadn’t been the right time for me to get pregnant before…God knew what he was doing.
Dillon started school at Carter Elementary that fall. Seven other children were in his school that served Kindergarten through 5th grade. I was nervous and prayed his teacher would be a good fit for him. Mrs. Scott is better than anything I could have ever asked. She soon had Dillon wrapped around her finger, along with her husband, Mr. Scott, who acted as her aide, bringing with him his own vast experience in education. Dillon thrived. God, I pray you pour out on Margie and her family. Reward them for the immeasurable amount of love, time, and energy they have devoted to the children of this community. They deserve it!!
I quickly learned how interconnected everyone is out here. I work closely with a girl from out here and told her how amazing our mail lady was…how she came in and welcomed us, etc. “Oh! That’s my husband’s aunt!” I also learned she is on the school board and is Dillon’s classmate’s close relative, etc etc. Dillon’s classmates and their families all welcomed us with open arms. God, I truly pray You’ll rain down on this community and make it thrive. Pour out on these people who work so hard and love so deeply. I have never met so many people who would truly give you the clothes off their back and their last penny if you needed it and I pray you bless them extravagantly.
Logan came along in December. I chose to have a repeat c-section so I could have my tubes tied. After the experience with Dillon, everything went perfectly. I ran into my favorite OB nurse in Starbucks one day and told her I would love to have her as my nurse! We laughed, knowing it probably wouldn’t happen because she’s one of the head flight RNs and only works the floor if she is on call. So December 4th eventually came, and Nate and I headed in. I was pleasantly surprised when Lisa walked in and announced she would be my nurse!!! She had just happened to be on-call that day and they had to call her in and I just happened to be assigned to her. I could have cried. My stay was amazing, my nurses were amazing, everything was amazing. Two days later we checked out and went home so Nate could have his surgery the next day.
Nate had been struggling with a hernia, suffering with the pain all year but stubbornly waiting to have it fixed so he didn’t use all his time off and could be home with us in December. His surgeon just laughed when Nate told him he was scheduling his surgery three days after mine and cracked a few jokes about wheeling him down to me after he was done.
I was adamant Nate & I could manage alone–don’t ask me why I was so stubbornly foolish–and insisted we didn’t need any help. I wanted to breastfeed and I was still insecure about this and to me it was just easier if a bunch of people weren’t around. My dad and Brenda just nodded their heads and waited. They knew…
Thank God for Brenda. She stayed with us for a few days, giving Nate a chance to recuperate instead of waiting on Logan and me and taking care of Dillon.
Time Marches On
Logan’s first year flew by, Dillon finished Kindergarten and is just about to finish up 1st Grade. I decided to make my art a business so I could maybe write off some of the supplies on our tax returns (I have invested a good chunk into Michael’s & Hobby Lobby over the years!) if possible. Nate was a little frustrated last week, feeling like his dream of cows were never going to happen. We decided to try the Dave Ramsey way of managing our finances with the goal to get rid of all debt and completed the first step–$1000 cash available at all times–and started the second step–snowballing our debt by paying the most on the lowest amount we owed.
I tried to remind him just how far we’d come in 7 years. Everything would work out. A few days later, he got a phone call from his stepdad that someone was selling cows CHEAP. It just so happened we had the money readily available–there’d have been no way for him to get it out of the bank so quickly on a weekend–and he was off.
And here we are. It definitely hasn’t all been rainbows and unicorns. I know I put Nate through so incredibly much with my drinking and I will forever appreciate him for loving me even when I couldn’t love myself. There are hard times, saying good-bye to loved ones, dealing with tragedies and the messier parts of life, but in the grand scheme of it all,
Life is pretty good.
There are so many people not mentioned in this post that have also played a huge role in supporting us–too many to list! Please know Nate & I love you and how much we appreciate everything you have ever done for us!! We are so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love and support us–thank you!! And for my family, I didn’t pray for you here, but you better believe I do…a lot. 🙂
I was struggling last night. Nothing had happened, nothing was wrong, I just felt so…blah. These are my true moments of weakness, when my mood is low and I have no energy and I just want to make the clouds go away. Before I would have reached for a glass of wine or six. Instead I just curled up on the couch and fell asleep early, cuddling Dillon as he watched a movie.
I woke up and after getting the boys settled and helping Nate with laundry, went downstairs this morning knowing something was weighing on me, but not quite able to put my finger on it. I ended up in my first foray into Bible journaling. This is my older Bible that I dropped in the bath while I was trying to read and soak (this Bible is much too heavy for me to try to hold up in the bath!) so I didn’t have as much of an issue marking it up.
After picking out the colors I wanted to use, I pulled out some stamps and stickers that spoke to me. One Tim Holtz sticker really caught my attention: “do more than exist”. By numbing my uncomfortable feelings and falling back into that vicious cycle, was I really doing much more than just existing?
The verse that has been popping up for me a lot lately is Romans 6:6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should not longer be slaves to sin…” I know I have to shed my old way of living, no longer giving in to my old temptations, because I’m not a slave to them anymore. I’m not a slave to wine, and I won’t live a life of just existing.
I had Todd Agnew’s song in my head as I worked, “Grace like Rain” and copied some of the lines on one edge. I liked that imagery–grace falling like rain–so I used the teal foil/confetti to appear like rain.
Driving home this afternoon, I recalled something I’d once heard…life isn’t fair, and you will feel discomfort. I’ve become so accustomed to doing anything and everything I could to get rid of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions by anesthetizing myself when maybe I needed to just accept this is the way I’m feeling and maybe there’s a reason I’m feeling like this.
As I finished up on the pages, I felt lighter, more buoyant.