Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Who are You Trying to Impress?

     When I was in school, I figured out pretty early that the area I could excel in was being the “good one”. I might not have been the smartest one in the class,or the most popular, but I could impress teachers by always doing what they asked and never causing problems. I never had one teacher call me disrespectful until I was a senior in high school, and it bothered me for months. I guess it’s just in my nature to be a people pleaser, because I've carried those habits with me into adulthood.
Last week, I had a painful experience that hurt my feelings in a lot of ways, and also really hurt my "good kid" pride. To put it concisely, I was told that mostly because of one person’s negative perception of me, I would no longer get to do something I really enjoyed, and connections I spent almost four months making would be taken away from me. This news took came as a complete surprise to me, and hasn't been easy for me to process. It would be easy and temporarily satisfying to reveal all of the details and call people out, but I know that would be wrong of me and definitely backfire at some point, and I'm trying very hard not to become bitter, so I won't do that.
Even though several people that I have a lot of respect for reassured me that I had done everything I could and was not at fault in this situation, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could have done differently to make this person happy. After about a week of coming up with no answer to that question, and through a lot of agonizing and talking it over with friends, I finally came to the conclusion that making any person happy shouldn't even be my goal.
I'm starting to realize that even if I do my absolute best to get everything right, there are just some people who won't be satisfied. As frustrating as that is to me, it serves as a reminder that pleasing God needs to be my focus. Sure, I need to be respectful to people who are in positions above me and try my best to do what I'm expected too, but I shouldn't be so upset when people aren't satisfied, because at the end of the day, and at the end of my life, God is the one who has the final word, and what He thinks about me is really all that matters. I'm sure it's going to be a long process, but I'm ready to start becoming a God pleaser instead of a people pleaser.

Monday, September 21, 2015

To the Worried Mother in the Hospital Waiting Room : I'll See You on the Outside.

I noticed you sitting quietly by yourself, holding your son's hand in the corner of this noisy waiting room. I see the worry on your face, and even though we are total strangers, I feel like I can relate in some small way to what you are feeling. I was the patient, not the parent, but I am familiar with the look of pain on your face, because I have seen that look on the faces of my own parents at certain times in my past, and I wanted to let you know that you're not alone.
Right now, I am a twenty year old student, working part time at a job that challenges and fulfills me, and I am very happy. But that's not my whole story, and I want you to know how much struggling it took for me to reach this point. Words like "infectious disease" and "Anaphylactic shock", were at one time a very vivid part of my reality. I am familiar with pick-lines, home health, and medical equipment like wound- vacs and fixators that seem like they belong in a low budget horror movie instead of real life.  Sometimes I'll hear a sound that resembles the beeping of an IV pump, or catch a whiff of something that "smells like a hospital", and it can throw off my whole mood for a few minutes or a week. Right now I am fortunate enough to be in a period of life where hospital visits are only for occasional checkups, but I am painfully aware of the fact that this could change at a moments notice. I am twenty now, and since the 7th grade I have been trying to learn how to let myself be happy without constantly keeping that happiness in check so that it I don't have too far to fall the next time I am yanked away from the happiness of ordinary life because an x-ray or CT scan shows that something has gone wrong. I have come a long way, but I will always struggle with that. Yes, I am happy right now, but I just wanted you to know that there is a long story behind that happiness.
Right now you're sitting in a hospital waiting room holding your son's hand, and I just wanted to tell you that you're doing a good job. You might feel helpless, and devastated because your child has problems that you don't have the ability to fix, but I wanted to somehow tell you that I have been that child, and my parents have been the worried ones holding my hand, and it is exactly the right thing to do. Having a familiar hand to hold in an unfamiliar, scary hospital is essential, especially for a child. You might feel powerless, but you are a hero because you are giving that child something that no one else can, because parents have the rare ability to feel a child's pain with them and understand their needs in a way that no doctor can.
Today was my last visit with my jovial neurosurgeon, because I am at the age where I have to start transitioning out of the children's hospital, and his parting words to me were "See you on the outside." It was a funny thing for a doctor to say, but also somehow profoundly fitting, because sometimes the horrors we face within the walls of a hospital make it seem like a different world. So to you, worried mother, I just wanted to say "I'll see you on the outside." I don't necessarily know if our paths will cross again, but I do know that one day, even if it is only for a brief moment, you will catch yourself doing something shockingly ordinary with your sweet son, like shopping at the grocery store or spending a lazy Sunday afternoon at home, and it will strike you that against all odds, you have made it back to that beloved place that everyone takes for granted, ordinary life in the outside world. I don't know how long it will take, or how long you will get to stay before the cruel realities of having a sick child come knocking at your door again, but I do know that one day, no matter how impossible it seems right now, you will get there. I know because I did.
It is not often you meet a neurosurgeon with a great sense of humor who sings when you come into his office and nicknames you "boss lady" when it feels like everything is out of your control. See you on the outside, Dr. B.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Sunset Photography and Acceptance: Part 1

When I was much younger and my family was attending a different church, I remember one summer at Bible school when there was a discussion about baptism that eventually resulted in several of my friends getting baptized, and at first I thought maybe I would be too.  I even went so far as to have the pastor come to my house and talk to me about it, but I never followed through with it. I don't regret that, because I know that it wasn't the right time for me to make that decision.
For a long time, I had a hard time understanding why getting dunked under water, or getting water sprinkled on your head (if you're a Methodist and get to do it the easy way!), was so important. It seemed more symbolic than anything, and I didn't understand what it really accomplished. But as I grew older and Salem started to really feel like "my church", my perspective on the subject began to change. My faith has grown and changed so much through what I've learned and how I've been welcomed there, and I began to consider the thought of baptism in a new light, because I liked the thought of being an official member of this church that embraced me so readily, and I've started to understand the importance of publicly demonstrating my faith even though I'm not always a fan of being the center of attention. Around the time that I began having these thoughts, an adult confirmation class was beginning, and I started attending with a vague thought of possibly getting baptized sometime soon.
One Tuesday evening, a pretty bad storm started just before I was about to leave for class. So bad, in fact, that I was wondering if anyone would even show up that night because of the crazy downpour and lightning that made driving conditions less than ideal. But people did show up, and we had class as usual, with occasional thunder as our background music. As class was ending, our pastor, who was teaching the class, went to look out the door and see if the rain had calmed down any. A few seconds passed, and suddenly he was calling us all to "Come look at this!", his trademark enthusiasm at full force. We did come look, and what we saw was a vivid sunset peeking out from behind the storm clouds, and being illuminated every few seconds by lightning that still remained even though the rain had stopped. I had never seen sunshine and lightning coexist like that before, it seemed to me to be a weather occurrence worthy of National Geographic. Pastor Brian's enthusiasm was contagious, not to mention the fact that I already have a habit of taking too many sunset pictures, and pretty soon our whole class was standing on the doorstep, phones pointed towards the sky. The unplanned excitement of that moment, and the natural sense of happiness it brought to me, make it one that I will remember for a very long time.
In that moment and the ones that followed, I never thought about how ridiculous I probably looked walking through wet grass to get closer and have a chance at a clearer picture, setting my Bible and papers down, and conducting an overzealous sunset photography shoot right there in the church parking lot. It doesn't sound like a big deal to say it, but I know myself, and I know that it took a lot of time and personal growth for me to have that genuine moment of giving in to my own enthusiasm without worrying about how I looked to other people. It was in that moment that I got what I wished for when I was younger and passed up a chance to get baptized. I felt God telling me that I was in the right place,a place where I found the acceptance and security that I had been craving for most of my life, and it was finally the right time for me to make that decision and take the step of publicly acknowledging my faith.
When my family first started coming to Salem, I was a very insecure teenager, and the social pressure of high school affected me even more than I probably realized at the time. Youth group became a comfort zone, and on days when I was sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch alone (that did happen a few days a week, I'm not trying to be dramatic), or sitting in class trying to ignore rude comments when I happened to know the right answer more than once in the same day, making me a "snob" or "nerd", the thought of Thursday's kitchen and the acceptance of my youth group that I knew came with it, became a sort of survival tactic. If I could just get through the week at school, I could go to church and know that I could let my guard down and be accepted and treated kindly without having to censor what I said or how I acted. And When I went off to college, cards from my youth group and church family and many long phone calls with my youth leader, who is now a close friend, helped me hold on to my faith during a time when it would have been easy to get caught up in so many other things.
For a long time, I have had the feeling that I probably should get baptized, but it was not until that moment when I was twenty years old and looking up at the sky with my pastor and some of my church family, that I finally had an encounter with God that made me experience a genuine desire to get baptized. I go to a church that truly feels like my church. It's members feel like family, and inside it's walls I feel at home. I will be baptized this Sunday, September 6, which is also sadly our pastor's last day, but I'm glad this is going to happen before he goes. Baptism, confirmation, and church membership are all complex subjects with too many variables to cover in a single blog post, (which is one reason why there will be a Part 2!), but I believe that the feeling of acceptance is a good starting point for me.