Monday, February 28, 2011

A lesson in receiving...

I'm a gift person! It is definitely one of my top love languages...but when I say I'm a gift person I'm not talking about flashy jewelry, expensive purses, or a $500 pair of shoes. I'm talking about little things like the ping pong ball one of my students in Thailand gave me years ago, a handmade card or note, or wildflowers picked off the side of the road. I also absolutely LOVE to give gifts! Birthdays and Christmas are always so hard for me because I feel so pressured to get a great gift for those I love and treasure...something that truly expresses my heart and appreciation for them. I find I give better gifts at random times...when I happen across the perfect tea cup for Heather, the picture frame that completely screams Katie P., the floor pillow that reminds me of movie nights at Meghan's, and the cutest scarf for Katie G. It's in those moments that I get giddy with excitement about the way in which I can tell the people in my life that I thought of them today.

But something that I'm realizing more and more is that I'm not too great at receiving gifts, or more accurately I don't open myself up to be in need of help from anyone. I find that I'm really good at listening to others and helping them along their journeys but when it comes to me...well I'm ok thank you very much! This thought came pouring out of my mouth in class a couple of weeks ago (yes I'm back in school...well sort of...that's a blog for another day!) and it started me thinking about how difficult going to see a spiritual director was going to be (part of my school program)...I have to talk about me for an hour? That's not what I do...I do the giving, the listening, the caring...I don't play the recipient very well!

A few months ago, when I had my surgery, the beginnings of this thought process came up. I didn't want people visiting me in the hospital, heck I had a hard time asking people to pray for me...I mean this was a routine surgery right, I was going to be fine! Then a day or two after my surgery a dear friend shows up at my house with a bag full of brand new beautiful scarves so that when I go out I can cover up my super large scar. I didn't know what to say...and I instantly thought how can I pay her back? What can I buy her to show her I appreciate her? Oh no, I made too big a deal about wearing scarves all winter and she felt guilted into buying me these scarves!

So back to present day. Last week I went down to the Rainbow Sandal Factory to help my mom pick out a pair of Rainbows and while I was there I texted several friends and asked them if they needed any sandals. A couple of them responded so I bought the sandals and throughout the week I delivered them (knowing they would pay me back). Then on Sunday night I was dropping off the last two pairs with a friend at church. He hands me a $100 bill and I was like...umm I don't have change on me, you can just pay me next week. His response, "Don't worry about it, keep the change." I think I actually laughed out loud and responded with "No way, that's like $30! There is no way I can keep your $30! I will bring you change next week." He sort of chuckled and told me that he wanted me to keep it, that he wanted me to have it, that I needed it more than he did. I admit, in my mind I was really offended! "What, I don't need your $30! I'm fine financially thank you very much!" But thankfully I didn't say that out loud! I said thank you, but I feel like I had a quizzical look on my face...why was it so hard for me to receive a gift from a friend who is well aware that I haven't worked in 9 months? Wouldn't I have done the same thing for a friend? Probably, but that's different!

The whole rest of the evening I tried to figure out how I could give the money back, how could I give him something that would be equal (or better yet greater) than what he had just given me? Basically I wanted to be the giver, not the receiver...receiving things is very humbling! And that's when I began to unravel the real issue, my pride! I don't like receiving because it means that I am in a position of need, I have to admit that there is something out there that I can't provide for myself...a place in life where my accomplishments, abilities, or strength isn't going to be able to cut it. And I'm pretty sure the pride thing goes deeper than just receiving gifts from my friends...I think it cuts to the core of my spiritual being. I have a hard time receiving grace and love from God...I get in the way, thinking that I can take care of myself, that I can solve my own problems and make my life wonderful...but what I'm basically saying is, God you are awesome and I think your gifts of grace, mercy, and redemption are pretty wonderful, but I've got it...I can handle it. But the God honest truth is that I am so desperately in need of my Savior's grace and He died to give it to me! And there is absolutely no way I can ever pay him back, say thank you enough, or get God something bigger or better in return! His love for us is truly a gift!

I don't want to become a "needy" person, but I am in need of grace and forgiveness and the only way to relieve that need is to learn to receive. So for the journey ahead I will continue to give with my whole heart, but I will also begin to let go of my pride and learn to receive the most amazing gift ever given.

Just to Catch You Up

I haven't blogged in about 8 months, which probably is not a record for me! It isn't that I haven't had anything to write about that's for sure, I just haven't really found the ability to put into words my thoughts or emotions and/or was too worried about what people would think if I really wrote what was truly going on in my mind.

Last time I wrote I was summing up the first 3 weeks of a month long trip to Asia...that truly feels like a million years ago! Since June both of my grandmothers have passed away (about a month apart) and my dad had knee replacement surgery. A few weeks after my dad went back to work I found out I might have thyroid cancer - talk about a reality check! You know it's not a good phone call from the Dr. when she asks you if you are sitting down and have some time to talk. So ensued a rapid fire couple of weeks of dr's visits and surgery a mear 3 weeks later to remove my thyroid. The verdict was that my thyroid was really big (my dr. couldn't believe that I hadn't noticed...sure cause I know what a normal thyroid should feel like, that's why I go to the dr.!) and that there was a possiblity of the surgeon suggested I just get the whole thing taken out...fine with me, it's not like it has worked right in years! LOL! The surgery went super great and I was never in any major pain (though the morphin in the immediate hours after the surgery may have helped a little with that!). I was even able to eat some macaroni and cheese the next day, which I wasn't planning on any "solid" food for a few days. The worst part of the whole surgery was getting the drain and the stitches out...I almost threw up on the guy who was taking out the drain...he even made a comment about me not looking too good at the moment and wanted to know if I "typically have issues with medical procedures?" I wanted to respond..."well typically I don't have to deal with people pulling tubes out of my neck while I'm awake!" But I think I just mumbled something to the effect of "it just grosses me out". (I can't believe I ever wanted to be a neuro-surgeon!) The lab results from the surgery came back and the good news was that there was no cancer...though my surgeon said he is certain that within a couple of years cancer would have developed.

One possible side effect of the surgery was the possiblity of my voice permanently becoming raspy and/or losing my ability to sing. Now for those of you who know me you know I have been singing since I was a little kid. I'm definitely not a rock star, but it's something I have always enjoyed. Prior to the surgery I didn't think too much about the possibility of actually losing "my voice" or the emotions that would come along with that reality. For about the 1st week after surgery, it didn't even occur to me to try and sing - my voice was still really raspy and my throat was still super swollen; but, by the second week I quickly discovered that I could sing 2 notes to a song that was playing on the radio. I freaked out! It was so weird...I could hear the pitch in my head but I couldn't sing it, it was like my mind and my vocal chords weren't acknowleding each other. Then came the weirdest moment...a church service. I couldn't sing! Nothing would come out! I literally began to cry, for the first time that I could remember I couldn't use my voice to worship. My prayer during the next few weeks was twofold - God, please give me my voice back! and God, if you aren't going to give me my voice back then teach me how to worship you without singing! Worship is so many many things, but singing had been my way of connecting with God for so long and now it wasn't there. At Christmas I couldn't sing Christmas carols or rock out to my favorite Mariah Carey and N*Sync Christmas sounds weird but I felt so lost. And then it happend, one day in the car a song came on and without thinking about it a few on key notes came out of my mouth. I hoped and continued to pray that over time my voice would come back...I'm sooo excited to say that it's almost back completely! I have been so very blessed to be given this gift!

The other big process that has been going on is "the job search." During grad school I took a class and one of the topics we discussed was how when people lose their jobs and can't find a new one they easily become depressed and really struggle with their identity because so much of who we are in society is based upon our jobs. I remember thinking...that would never happen to me, I know who I am whether I have a job or not....HA! I ended my temporary position at APU in May and within a couple of days I left for Asia with full confidence that once I returned I would quickly find a new job...yeah 9 months later I'm still jobless!! The process has been painful, depressing, hurtful, and has caused me to spend many many days and weeks really searching out what my role is in this big big world of ours!

There was the job that I interviewed for and quickly became one of the top two candidates for; the job would have required a move and wasn't exactly the kind of job I was hoping for but I felt honored to even be considered for the position. Then as quickly as it had materialized I found out that they chose the other candidate. It's a weird feeling - relief and rejection. Relief that I didn't have to move away from my family and friends. Rejection that I wasn't the person that fit into their mold. There was the job the popped up in December that seemed like an amazing mix of opportunities! The VP basically told me after the interview that I had the job...I couldn't believe it! I had nailed the interview, they liked was going to be awesome. Then I got the email...we're sorry, we aren't going to hire you. Really??? Then there are all the applications in haven't lived over seas long enough, oh you don't have an M.Div., you are too qualified, we lost our funding and won't be hiring for that position at this time...ahhhh!!! After about 50 rejection emails it starts to get to you!

So here it is a couple of hours from March 1st and I stil don't have a job! My friends have been so supportive and so encouraging, making sure that I don't give up and that I continue to hope and trust. But I admit, there are still many many days when I wonder what this elusive job is actually going to be...because at this point I have no idea!

So yes, that has been my life for the last 9 months! Full of busyness and extreme bouts of rest, full of love and loss of loved ones, full and empty all at the same time.