Saturday, June 8, 2013

Childless in Church is OK

I can tell my church is more sensitive to women like me and I'm so appreciative. I still skipped this Mother's Day service as I usually do (I also skip baby showers), but in several services the pastor has recognized women that aren't mothers and challenged us to consider ourselves as mothers to other younger women or kids in our life and community. I do appreciate that, but hollowly wondered how I could share my love and wisdom with others? I still had feelings of loneliness and longing. Despite these feelings, I knew I'd grown in my walk with the Lord and had made it to a good place to deal with my feelings in light of being surrounded by model families. 

It hasn't been easy. In fact, I would say this has been one of the hardest things I've gone through in my life. My past coping mechanisms of squelching emotions that may well up and keeping "busy" has mostly kept me focused on work, feeling unhealthy, imbalanced and sedentary. Writing helps me think this through and work out emotions; however, I've obviously avoided it and writing just twice a year doesn't yield many results!  I feel like I've been stuck on a deserted island but have only halfheartedly tried to get off. 

What keeps us in these ruts? Surely God has a better purpose for our life. This reminds me of "The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis. Satan would like nothing more than for me to take the easy way out, the "do nothing" option. I've done that for a long time. It is easy. But it is hollow and not gratifying  It feels like groundhog day, and I catch myself looking at a) how glad I am that I'm not as depressed/frustrated/sad as I was in the past about not having kids, but b) how shallow my life still feels. Three months would pass and again I would have the same conversation in my head. 

In an effort to move forward from this rut, I joined a nine month women's discovery class / mentor group in my church to draw closer to the Lord and to "figure out God's purpose for my life." I quickly learned on day one, of course, that while I will never truly know God's purpose for my life, I can come up with a personal mission statement to help guide my direction. What a relief - I got off the desert island! While I don't know exactly where I'll land from here, at least I feel like I am in a canoe paddling in a forward direction. Check that: let's go instead with a catamaran sailing in the Caribbean in a forward direction. I'll share the exact mission statement in another post, but suffice it to say it reinforced my desire to communicate with others through writing, teaching, and helping. Specifically, communicating God's redemptive powers and love! So as a first step, I just started teaching 3rd grade Sunday school.

While I was in the discovery class, I was also helping out on Sundays with the 3rd graders as an assistant. But I realized as the intense work progressed in the class that I could do more. That I should do more. I've been passive for many years, receiving great support from my church family and other Christian resources, but it is time for me to give back. 

Now, I am really excited about leading these kids and teaching the lesson beginning this summer. But talk about stepping out on a ledge! Did I mention I wasn't brought up in the church and don't know all these stories by heart? The church provides a  curriculum so all I have to do is study ahead and prepare some crafts, and it isn't so bad! I am sticking with the same class I assisted last year, and I like how I can continue to be more involved in the kids' lives. In the past, one of the things that bothered me when people suggested I work with kids was that I wouldn't really get to know them, so what was the point. Maybe by teaching and staying connected to the same grade I can make better connections and see God work in their lives. 

After this commitment...who knows? I'm taking my first bonafide international mission trip this fall to Trinidad - another step out on a ledge. Yet I'm not afraid of these challenges - because "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35) He has healed me and held me and I wouldn't have made it this far without Him. By focusing on Him, the blessings in my life have been amazing. 

I think the first challenge He got me through this year was the hysterectomy. My focus narrowed so much heading into it. I was truly petrified of what this surgery would find. This was my third surgery since 2002 and I hope it is my last. With each one, I experienced more and more dread. Yet, I came out just fine and without a single complication. I have given some serious praise on this one; thank you, Jesus. I'm at 150%! 

I had to get beyond the surgery to close a chapter, and I am so glad I had the experience with the discovery class to give me the framework to begin writing the new one. 

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  
Romans 8:38

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Writing The Next Chapter. What Will Yours Be?

Happy New Year and welcome to the entrance of 2013. I started my year with a rainy day "chillaxing" at home after more than a week of baking, partying, wrapping, traveling, unwrapping, eating and generally being frenzied.  I still want another day off! My New Year’s resolutions haven’t changed much since those made in 2009, so I will just say “ditto” and resolve this year to no longer make resolutions. There are a few noteworthy items I should mention to wrap up 2012. 

First, I enjoyed helping out in the Learning Center for our church, believe it or not. I worked with 5th grade girls last summer and am now involved with 3rd grade boys and girls. I’d like to say it took a lot of courage for me to sign up to for this and that it has been part of my healing process, but that would only be partly true. The church was desperate for assistants and teachers and I really felt that it was my turn to help out. I felt God tell me: “Go ahead, I’m with you, you can do it and you’ll enjoy it”. Turns out, He was right. Maybe I could compare this to someone with a fear of heights who parachutes out of a perfectly good airplane, or maybe I’ve just reached that point of confidence where I’m not as emotional about not having kids as I used to be, who knows. I believe my paradigm has shifted to focusing on what I do have to offer in this life rather than on what I don’t have to offer, and this has made a big difference on my life outlook.

Second, I joined a women’s “Discovery Class” – this has been part bible study, part writing club, part group therapy, but all about writing your life story and determining how to write your next chapters more intentionally.  I’m stopping short of describing it as something that will help me discover my purpose in life as I’m not sure I will ever know what that is on this side of the afterlife. Meaning, I could have multiple purposes in life.  Or perhaps I have just one purpose that was satisfied long ago and now my purpose is to enjoy the rest of the ride and perform random acts of kindness now and then.  Someday I’ll know for sure. The class is a long term session, so I can’t treat it like a 6 week study that I complete and move on to another topic. I’m stuck with these great women, and they are stuck with me! I am learning how to journal and spend more time in the Word, reading some great books, and writing.

Third, we got two more Golden Retrievers, Chickie and Ash.  These brilliant creatures have continued to pull me out of myself, provide me comfort, make me laugh, get me outside, get me walking, and shower me with love.  I felt Ash (7) needed a companion after a few months – she was so prim and proper during the day, the perfect house dog that wouldn’t move or mess anything up.  At night she craved attention. With the addition of Chickie (2), they can wrestle, chase and conspire with each other and they are really fun to watch. We feel like we’ve started Noah’s Ark, however, with two dogs, two birds and two humans. What’s next?

And finally, I've scheduled my hysterectomy for January 29th. I still have moments where I want to call it off, crying “I feel fine!” But I am resigned to getting this done. I have heard that I will feel SO much better from so many women who have gone through this. I think I’ve dealt with the emotional issues well enough to be able to handle this next step, but I am sure I’ll be surprised as I draw nearer to that date.  

I think 2013 will be a great year in a number of ways, but can’t really focus on writing the next chapter or chapters until I get through this surgery.  I have ideas about where I’d like to be by the end of the year, by time I turn 50, or by the time I retire, but I just don’t want to articulate them right now.  As I will have 4 weeks of downtime to recover, I hope to write more about that during that time.

In the meantime, I hope you are finding peace and courage to take you through every day, and are confident in the knowledge that God has plan to prosper you, to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). While we aren't told literally what that plan is, what do you hope your next chapter will hold? Are you moving confidently toward it? 

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
John 14:27