I have read both The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Her research on shame is an amazing. My favorite of her work so far?
"Here's how I see the progression of my work:
The Gifts of Imperfection - Be you.
Daring Greatly -- Be all in.
Rising Strong -- Fall. Get up. Try again."
And THIS: No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It's going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn't change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.
I think I'm going to write a book. No, seriously. I could totally write a book about my experiences as a retail pharmacist, even if my only audience was those pharmacists and techs inside the profession who want to hear SOMEBODY say truth they understand.
Yesterday, I was approached by a man to help him find something with which he could cover a place on his face "in case he went to a party." Ummm, it's not my fault you got hit with a tennis racket and are so vain that you couldn't bear to tell people what happened." Yeah. I didn't say that. I will in my book. That took the cake in my 15 years of doing this as the worst, most ridiculous request from a customer EVER. And I've had people lift up their shirts to ask me if their scar was healing okay. I have identified head lice. Many times. I identified ringworm only yesterday (first of all, the patient had already identified it and was looking for clarification, and second of all, that was an easy recommendation). What I don't understand is that why when something is NOT a medical condition or emergency, you ask ME to help you deal with it. I can tell you if your scar looks bad but I can't tell you if you're on the right road to healing. I can tell you your tennis racket place looks okay but I can't tell you that you're vain. Please, people. Keep my job relegated to behind the counter.
I haven't written much since we sold our house, but I've been thinking a lot. I've been reading more, which is good. I've been reading up on (and practicing!) mindfulness for the last couple of days. In the Bible reading that I've done, fear has been prominent in my readings. With the readings came conviction. I live in fear daily. Fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of not making a difference. I got an email from a blogger I subscribe to today, and she was talking about this very thing. Know what their family motto is?
DO IT SCARED.
The first step is the worst. The scarier than scary. The scariest. I'd like to say that after the first step, they get easier, but I can't. I haven't taken the first one yet.
I want to make a go of a spa business with BeautiControl, but I'm scared. What if people won't come to my spas? What if people don't buy from me?
I want to take a couple of months off THEN get a job. What if people look at that and ask why I took some time off?
I have to take that first scared step so everything can open up. So I can do life on mine and God's terms.
I posted on Facebook the other day that we were selling our house, and that our cleaning for the last time was bittersweet (as were all the other things we experienced at the end).
We set out to make our house a place of rest for those who needed one. We had family in multiple times. D-man's immediate family stayed with
us (taking up all 4 bedrooms) when his grandmother died. His parents
stayed with us every time they came to visit. His aunt lived with us
when she left her daughter's house because they had a falling out. My
family came to visit and helped us furnish and decorate the house.
A woman from Alabama who we met in Brasil posted on Facebook a few years ago that her husband had been diagnosed with melanoma. They chose MD Anderson as his place of treatment, and they live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Immediately I messaged her to invite them into our home. Even though our old house is far from the Medical Center (the area of the city where MD Anderson is located), they wouldn't have to be in a hotel room with just each other and no one else to talk to in a totally stressful time. We got into a routine of eating Andy's special food (steak, mushrooms, broccoli, and rice) the night before his PET scan and gorging on pizza the day of. We have become unlikely friends through the experience. Amelia's response to my Facebook post was that she and Andy wouldn't have gotten through the first 4 years of his cancer treatment without us. I know that it sounds a little dramatic, but so often we don't realize the effect we have on others by opening ourselves up to them.
We were just doing what we felt God wanted us to do (and what brought us joy!), and have come out with so much blessing. My heart has been full for days, realizing that He gave us exactly what we wanted. God is so faithful. He tells us to rejoice in Him, and He will give us the desires of our hearts. Our heart has been hospitality, and He has granted blessings from that.
As many know, we've been in the process of selling our house. Our closing is tomorrow, and we will walk away from the table ready to pick up and move when we get jobs.
One of our neighbors told us about a former neighbor who had a "last supper" in their house with all their neighbors. They had pizza and ate on the floor, because there was no furniture. We followed Kristin's suggestion and invited whoever could come over for a last supper with pizza (good, local pizza) and BYOB. We stood around the kitchen and ate, as there were no chairs. We ate off paper plates. We drank out of beer bottles and SOLO cups. The only fancy things we had were good paper napkins and homemade salad dressing. Kristin's daughter Morgan brought a trash bag and toilet paper (just in case) over. The trash went to Kristin's house, as today was trash day and all the trash was gone by the time we got home. Katie even brought rice krispie treats with a plastic knife!
Over the last few weeks and driving into the neighborhood tonight, I have been realizing how surrounded we have been with blessings. Amazing neighbors, who will invite you over at the drop of a hat (okay, so any excuse for a party!) and when you're throwing a party will offer anything they have to help you pull it off. We have neighbors who don't care about your house, and don't even care about what you can offer. They care about their neighbors. We didn't have to be Martha, worrying about many things. We were Mary tonight, enjoying the company of people we love. We are blessed and thankful.
We are in the process of selling our house. I came to the realization today that selling one's house is what it's like to put yourself out there to people you don't even know. People tell you that you need to clean. People tell you that your house smells funny. People tell you that they don't like the power lines in the backyard, so they're not buying. It feels like people tell you that they don't like you. It's hard to separate that from your house. You've put yourself into the house, made it yours. And now people are judging you.
People come to look at your house, so you want to present the best version of your house. And it turns out that you want to present the best version of yourself. Of course I haven't thought about it that way because this is the first time I've (we've) sold a house. Mom said that people do it every day, but that doesn't make it any less stressful to put yourself out there.
As cheesy as the comparison is, selling a house is like life. Putting yourself out there is hard. It risks criticism. It risks rudeness. It risks others not liking you. And don't we all want to be liked? At the end of the day, the human answer is "YES." So much yes. The Christian answer is absolutely not, if it means obedience. Do we mean that all the time? It's hard to obey 100% of the time. But if we trust God's plan, we will find it easier to say yes to His plan, to take in the hard criticism. From Him or from anyone else.
I have determined in the last couple of weeks that my life is lacking because I'm not putting myself out there to other people, and that I'm totally going to try to do just that. It's scary, but aside from the house, it's been fantastic. I've met an internet knitting friend who was totally cool with my introvertedness, and I've called friends to talk that I haven't talked to in a YEAR. (This friend was in my WEDDING 7 years ago). Point? I don't reach out to my friends enough. If I reached out to my friends twice as often as I did now, I would be half as stressed. After I finish this post? I'll write an email to a friend that I've emailed in the last year but it's time to catch up. (We were trainees together in 2006 and she came to visit me in Brasil -- we took a crazy awesome vacation while I was there.)
Next? Who are friends on my street? I'll call my neighbor who just had a baby (her pics are in my texts) to find out when I can come visit. I'll text my friend Susanna who I've been friends with for almost 20 years. I'll call my friend Corrie who I talked to last week but she's pregnant so I have to find out how she's feeling. I'll call my sister who has my only blood niece (10 months!). I'll email my friend Julie who doesn't have kiddos. I'll call Miranda who lives in Germany and has 5 kiddos. I'll call Allison who has 4 kiddos and is always good for a talk, except when her kiddos are sick. I love the ladies that God has put into my life thus far, and I'm willing for new ones. I told Corrie not 3 days ago that my profession as a pharmacist is the means to an end of connecting to people. Those connections are hard and people are hard too. I want to genuinely connect to people, and it doesn't always have to be connected to anything else. I have no idea what my original post was about but came to the realization that it's about PEOPLE.
Of course, as I am figuring out through reaching out to friends and family in my grief, I don't reach out nearly enough. I use the excuse that I'm an introvert, but in reality, being an introvert and introspective traps feelings inside without being able to deal with them.
I talked to a dear friend, my mom, and my mother-in-law yesterday and sobbed. I talked to my sister-in-law (a dear friend) today and sobbed. It probably has to do somewhat with the grief I am feeling for the Lewis family as they grieve over baby Ava, but there is more.
I grieve because I know the Lewises walked into a situation they knew there was no happy ending to (except for Ava being in the presence of Jesus). I grieve because I'm homesick -- I'm tired of being away from family. I'm grieving somewhat because I don't often encounter actual suffering -- just self-entitled bitching. Sorry for that, but it's where I am.
I have told several people over the last few days: The suffering of the world hurts me. And by that, I mean the real suffering. I have a sensitive BS meter and the ones who are "lifestyle suffering" people meet callousness. The real ones meet tears. Include the wife whose husband had a massive heart attack the other day at 55, with no warning. Include my friends who have had to bury their not even 6 month old daughter. Include the time I cried all the way home from work when one of my favorite patients had to go on dialysis. I don't like to admit it, but I am sensitive to suffering. I just hurt when the world doesn't turn out the way God intended. And I just don't know how to deal with it.
I would love to know how to make a living out of helping other people through their suffering. Retail pharmacy these days is not that way. I know the Lord has a plan, and I'm trusting that while I bide my time in my current job.
These days, I find myself crying more than usual. There's some deep grief going on, but there's no one specific thing that I can point to as the cause. There's so much cause for grief right now. The passing of a not even 6-month-old child. Leaving our house. Leaving Houston. Being so far away from family and friends. Being in a job that is hopeless. Feeling like I'm not good enough (extending to my job, house, marriage, relationships).
The grief is deep today. Let me sink into it and acknowledge it. Let me feel heartache, and let that heartache make me reach to the One who can assuage that ache. Let me be real. Let me remember that the turbulence of life, much like the current of a river upon stones, wears away our sharp edges over time.
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It
takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who
break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved
off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very
shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real
you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
The Velveteen Rabbit
I'd like to say that the grief is ebbing and that joy is beginning to flow, but that's simply not the case right now. I am in the midst of a dark night, with only the light of the Holy Spirit to light my way. I'm not seeing that light shining very brightly right now. I know it's there because I know it's there, but the knowing doesn't bring much comfort.
Let me sink into the grief and into the dark night and the reality of brokenness. Let me acknowledge it as fact without judgement or anger. While that in itself is neither something to stay in nor a means to an end, it is the only way to be made whole in Christ and comforted by the Holy Spirit.
In my last post I talked about baby Ava, who was born with only a brain stem. She passed away on Thursday, and I've been processing. I cannot imagine how her parents are grieving, for I am grieving only for her story (the good and the bad), and tears are copious. Josh and Allison and their 6 other children had to bury Ava today, and I can't imagine how that felt, even though she has a new life now.
Allison posted a conversation between herself and Josh on Facebook today that re-hashed why they did foster care training months ago. Why did they do foster training when they were going to adopt? Josh's answer gave fantastic perspective -- foster training is to prepare parents to love a child as their own and eventually give them back to the one who gave them life, if possible. They gave Ava back to the One who gave her life.
I am in tears as I write, and I am thankful for reminders from Scripture:
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job 1:21b
good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the
Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to
change." James 1:17
We are but stewards of the gifts the Lord gives us, only to have to give them back one day. Mostly, it's things, but sometimes, it's a human. Are you married? It's your spouse. Are you a parent? It's your kids. And your spouse, if you have one. Are you single? It's your heart friends. Are you human? It's your neighbor. I can surely say that makes me think differently about my relationships, and reminds me that everything in this life is fleeting except God. Only He is forever.
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! 20 They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
Verses 13-16 are very touching to me right now, as I am following the story of two parents I attended college with. They have adopted twins, one of whom (Sam) is a normal, healthy baby, and one of whom (Ava) was basically born with out a brain (she has a condition called hydranencephaly). God knew this little girl. He knew what she would go through. He has used her short life (she will die soon and be buried by her parents and 6 siblings) to remind people that He has known us from before we were born. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made, even if we are broken. God knows our inmost being, and He knows our days.
I have been so encouraged by the Lewises' story, simply because it has reminded me that no matter how broken I am, He has formed every one of my days. He has known me from before even my mother knew me. While I weep for the Lewis family, I am encouraged for me, and everyone else who forgets this on a regular basis. Probably all of us.
Here is a link to their story (including a video): Ava Lewis