Thursday, May 20, 2010

Last Post For Awhile

This will be my last post for awhile. To be honest, I've been struggling with pride and ambition about my writing, and even though I pray about it almost daily, I can't seem to shake it. I do believe God has given me a gift for writing and stories to share, but for now I need to take a break.

Many times over the last few months the thought has crossed my mind, "What if God wants me to stop blogging?" Each time, I've dismissed the thought. In my quiet time this morning, I once again asked God to help me let go of my pride. Immediately, the thought about giving up blogging recurred, but I tried to shrug it off.

"How do I know if this thought is from You, or if it's just me?" I asked. And then I remembered this devotional from Joyce Meyer: (from New Day New You, May 2nd)

"For many years, I wanted God to talk to me, but I wanted to pick and choose when to obey. I wanted to do what He said if I thought it was a good idea. If I didn't like what I was hearing, then I would act like it wasn't from God. God has given us the capacity both to hear Him and to obey Him. He does not require a higher sacrifice than obedience..." 

I know that I can't ignore this nudging any longer. I'm still not sure whether it's God talking to me, but I have to be obedient. So I'm taking a break. I don't know how long it will be, or how I'll know when it's time to pick up the pen again. I was feeling very afraid and anxious about it today, but I had a good talk with God tonight, and I'm feeling at peace about it now.

If God lays it on your heart, please pray for me. Pray that he shows me any offensive ways in me and leads me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24). Pray that He teaches me to incline my ear to his leading, and to obey without question--to delight in his commands, and to delight in his presence. I know if I learn to do that, He will give me the desires of my heart, but those desires might well be different from the desires I have now.

I love you guys. Thank you for reading.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Carla Incident

A few months ago I referred to a future blog entry that might need a melodrama alert. Well, it's been a lot more than "a couple of weeks," but here's that story. Consider yourself warned....

It's been over a month since I shared the last chapter in my love story with Bill, the one in which he FINALLY proposed. Maybe you were thinking we just lived happily ever after from that point. Or maybe you know me better than that. In any case, I guess that's what I thought--not that everything would be perfect, but that my major struggles with insecurities would be over. Ha!!!

I greatly enjoyed our six-month engagement, now that I knew exactly how long the wait would be. I took delight in all the wedding and honeymoon decisions, which I analyzed in a spreadsheet of my own design. (Yes, I'm that anal.) We decided on a destination wedding, far from us but close to Bill's family, on Vancouver Island. We found a kind and personable minister over the Internet. Most importantly, my mom and my sister Emily helped me find the perfect dress, a flowing, rather ethereal gown that was neither too formal nor too casual.

So by December 2002, the only thing left to do was to savor the last couple of months until our March wedding. We'd planned our usual trip to Vancouver around Christmas, at which time we would apply for our marriage license and Bill would go for his final tux fitting. But just before that trip, Bill flew to Chicago for two weeks of training.

I'd been suppressing a mild sense of dread over his trip for months because I knew he'd be traveling with an attractive coworker whom I'll call Carla. She was cute, outgoing, and funny, and she was admired by many of the men at our office. [Carla, if you happen to read this and recognize yourself, please forgive me. This story is not about you at all, but about me and my insecurities.]

Now Bill had never given me any indication that he would be unfaithful; in fact, I'd never even seen him turn his head to look at a pretty woman. But as I pictured the two of them in Chicago, the place we'd fallen in love, that niggling fear grew into a cold, tight fist that constricted my heart and threatened to suffocate me. I imagined them talking endlessly in the rental car, visiting the same sites we'd frequented, staring into each other's eyes over dinner each night. I just knew she'd be inexorably drawn to Bill's warm brown eyes and his little boy laugh--and his muscles!

For nearly three days, I kept my crazy in the bottle. I chatted with Bill cheerfully each night, telling him about my day at work and Ethan's latest antics, and I tried to avoid questioning him too closely about who all went to dinner and who hung out at the mall.

But on the third night, Tuesday, I fell apart. Bill left a message that he'd probably be out late but would call when he got in. I waited up until 11:30 or so, but there was no phone call. I finally went to bed but couldn't sleep. Where was he? By 12:15, I had really worked myself up. I was angry and hurt, and I couldn't talk myself out of calling. Maybe he was back but was thinking I was asleep, I reasoned. There was no answer, and I fought the urge to leave a snotty message. Instead, I lay in bed and sobbed.

At 12:23, the phone rang. I dried my tears and tried to put a smile in my voice. Bill explained that the group had gone to the 10:00-12:00 special at Gameworks, a huge arcade, and he'd just now gotten back. Relief surged through me, but only for a moment. Next he mentioned that they hadn't really done anything the night before.

"You didn't do anything?" I asked. "Then why didn't you call?"

He explained that he and Carla had been playing cards in a classmate's room, and they wanted to go out, but the others refused to budge. So Carla asked Bill to drive her to the mall, where he followed her around for an hour or so while she shopped.

My stomach felt sort of queasy, but I kept quiet. Then he said they'd gone to the Cheesecake Factory afterward. My stomach was twisting in knots, but I bit my tongue. Then he said they'd sat around talking until 11:00! Since the mall usually closes at 9:00, I figured they must have been talking for two hours! (Actually it closed at 10:00, and he later told me they were there under an hour.)

I'd been determined to keep my insecurities to myself, but the angry words just spewed forth of their own accord. "That sounds like a date to me," I spat out.

Bill made a shocked noise and protested, "No it wasn't."

"Lingering an hour or two over cheesecake in a restaurant with a pretty girl seems like a date to me," I retorted.

He argued that she was happily married with three kids, and that all she'd talked about was her husband and family. I didn't really think any of that mattered, but I could feel that he was telling the truth, that nothing had happened.

I started crying and apologizing over and over. He didn't seem too upset, only surprised, but I had the sinking feeling that irreparable damage had been done. It wasn't that I thought something inappropriate had happened, I explained, but that I felt jealous of the time he'd spent with her. When he could have come home and talked to me on the phone, instead he was out talking with Carla.

Things slid downhill for the rest of the week. I was up each night for hours thinking and sobbing and thinking some more, and occasionally trying to pray. But my brain was too muddled, and the anxiety was relentless. I worried that Bill was having doubts about getting married, and then I started having my own doubts. I feared that I was incapable of having a healthy relationship and wondered if I should call the wedding off.

Somehow I made it through the long, lonely weekend and the following week. I wore a cheerful mask each time I spoke with Bill, and I was actually relieved when we missed each other and had to leave messages.

Bill didn't come home but flew straight to Vancouver, where I'd join him after a couple more days. By the time I climbed on the plane on Wednesday 12/11, I was utterly drained, and my heart felt bruised. I was fearful about the inevitable Relationship Talk, but I was too exhausted to worry any more. Instead, I spent most of the four-hour trip praying and reading my Bible.

I reviewed these scriptures, which God had given me earlier in the week:
Psalm 112:1, 7-8
Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands.... He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.
What a perfect passage, now that I was ready to meditate on it! I knew that my foes were fear, depression, anxiety, and doubt. I didn't feel quite triumphant, but I did feel at peace.

I also studied the following passage, which my counselor Debbie had recommended that I memorize. (I didn't memorize it for several more years, but now I realize how powerful these verses are in combating anxiety. I could have spared myself a lot of agony if I'd heeded her advice immediately.)
Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

"Okay, Lord," I prayed. "I'm finally ready to give you this burden.... I surrender my hurts and fears and hopes and dreams. I ask you to work it all out for my good. And I ask for that peace that you promised. I'm tired of leaning on my own understanding.... I'm giving up on solving this problem, and I'm coming to you with a thankful heart...."

I read on and on in my Bible, about how God's strength is made perfect in my weakness (Hebrews 4) and about how real love keeps no record of wrongs [real or imagined] but rejoices in the truth (I Corinthians 13). At last I sank into a peaceful, restful sleep.

When Bill picked me up at the airport, I was nervous and uncertain, but he was affectionate and happy, and everything felt normal. Still, I knew we had to talk. On my second day there, on the way back from the tuxedo shop, I asked Bill to stop in a parking lot so we could talk.

I was determined to be rational and logical, but naturally I started crying on the first sentence, which was, "I'm so sorry for the way I acted."

I couldn't seem to collect my thoughts and put them into words. [Imagine that!] I tried to explain why the Carla Incident had hurt so much, and how my own reaction had bothered me even more--I couldn't believe the jealous person I'd become. I told him I wasn't even sure we should go forward with the wedding because I was afraid I'd make him miserable, and I loved him too much to do that.

"Dear," he replied tenderly, "I'm not worried. I knew you were a basket case when I met you." He kissed my lips and my wet cheeks and asserted, "I know exactly what I'm getting into, and this is what I want to do."

My heart swelled with love for him. I'd never been this vulnerable with anyone, never allowed anyone to see the extent of my craziness. But he loved me anyway! In fact, I felt closer to him now than ever before, though I still regretted my immaturity--and the hours and hours of missed sleep and frenzied worry.

We spent the rest of that trip laughing and planning for our wedding, even visiting the hotel where we'd be married. But that's another story.

 Happier Moments During Our Vancouver Visit

  A Practice Run on Wedding Hair and Makeup

So now you know where the "Basket Case" in my blog title comes from. Maybe you're wondering why I chose to share this story. Well, I always knew that I would, though I'm still cringing at the thought of clicking the Publish button. This is part of my story, and I hope that sharing it might encourage someone else who struggles with insecurity and anxiety. I wish I could have let God transform me much more quickly, but that's just not how it happened. The really wonderful thing is that all those struggles I inflicted on myself ultimately drew me to God and made me love Him more when I finally allowed Him to set me free.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What I'm Reading These Days, Vol. 2

I just finished reading a delightful book called Wesley the Owl, by Stacey O'Brien. It's the true story of a young woman who adopted a barn owl when he was only a few days old. She kept him for nearly 20 years, letting him sleep in her bedroom. The story is very funny in a quirky sort of way. I loved reading about Stacey's adventures and embarrassing moments. It was also very educational; Stacey is a biologist, so she has both book knowledge and practical experience with owls. I had no idea barn owls were so intelligent and sensitive, nor that they eat absolutely nothing but mice.

Wesley's  loyalty to Stacey was inspiring, as was her dedication to his care. For example, she had to kill six mice per day to feed him, and she says she never got used to that. And for awhile she was never able to go away on vacation because she was the only person he would allow close to him.

The book really made me think about the intelligence of animals. In that regard, it reminded me of another book--which I borrowed from Christina, the same friend who loaned me this one--called When Elephants Weep. That book has a completely different style. It's more of a scientific book, and not such an easy read, but it's quite fascinating. It explores the emotional lives of all sorts of animals, from rats to elephants. I'll tell one story from that book that made me laugh so hard. Somehow, experimenters discovered that a particular type of rat has a strong instinct to rescue babies. They found that it would rescue over 50 rat babies from different mothers and try to cram them all into its nest. Then they tried putting babies from other species out there, and it tried to rescue them as well. It was absolutely determined to drag squawking ducks and scratching kittens into its nest. Bizarre! 

If you decide to check out either of these books, I'd love to know your thoughts. If you read Wesley the Owl, be sure to read the acknowledgment section at the end. As an aspiring author, I found the story of the book's publication to be very encouraging.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First Harvest

I've been remiss in chronicling our garden's progress these last few weeks. Here's what you've missed....

When our seedlings outgrew the tiny cells in their big grid, Bill painstakingly transplanted them into slightly larger pots, and they flourished in our kitchen window seat for a couple more weeks.

Original Planter

Ready for the Garden

In mid-April, we finally transferred them into the little garden plot in the corner of our backyard. It was an idyllic day with warm sunlight and a gentle breeze that felt like God playing with my hair. Just across the fence, the neighbors were playing soft, summery music by the pool--something by Eric Clapton, I think. The music had that dreamy, echoey quality that reminds me of drifting in the lake on a float, hovering on the edge of sleep.

Allyson Sporting Her Gardening Gear
A Gift From Nana (Bill's Mom)

Unlike last year, I decided to go ahead and get my hands dirty. I was surprised at how satisfying it was to plunge my hands into the moist, clumpy earth. Working alongside Bill and Allyson, I tenderly cradled the green bean seedlings, easing them into the shallow indentations Allyson had made and mounding dirt around them. (Ethan had long since lost interest; he was lurking in the front yard watching the girls who'd gathered across the street.)

We planted pumpkins, carrots, green beans, summer squash, bell peppers, cantaloupes--they did finally sprout--and lots of tomatoes.

Allyson's Idea of Helping

It's been a couple of weeks, and all the veggies look happy. On Sunday, we had our first harvest: seven utterly perfect green beans.

Allyson and my nephew Sam got to pick them, and I steamed them along with a big batch of green beans that we'd gotten from the co-op.

Just as I remembered from last year, our beans had a luxuriant downy feel, and we thought they were just a hint more crisp to the bite than the beans we'd bought. I served all of them with a touch of real butter and freshly chopped dill from my hanging baskets, which Bill planted for me a couple weeks ago.

My sister Emily and her family came out to pick up Sam, and they stayed for dinner (cabbage rolls, my first!). I was afraid I'd made too many green beans, but we made short work of them. Sam kept begging for more the way Allyson begs for candy.

We were grateful for our tiny harvest, and we're optimistic that there's more to come. The tallest tomato plant has eight yellow blossoms, and I'm checking each morning for those first tomatoes. Maybe I'll actually get to make my own sauce this year!


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