Hiding my Fear behind a Mask

Do you “believe” in masks? I am not sure actually. What I DO believe in is not dying LOL!

I am the Shelter Manager at an animal shelter and we have been closed since the middle of March. Next week, however, we will open back up. For appointments only, but we will actually be there for the people that inevitably pop in. I have installed a hand sanitizer right inside the door and I will have a basket of masks for those people who “forget” to wear one. I am NOT convinced they work but I would rather be safe than sorry! Today I have someone coming in to relinquish cat. Although I want to be a helpful member of my community, I have a sick feeling about meeting her. Not her necessarily, just strangers in general actually! It turns out that wishing for things to start moving forward was a nice little dream but I am pretty terrified of that happening. I know that if I am supposed to catch the COVID-19 virus, God has already written that. I know that He has plans and I am on a need to know basis with them. Does the fact that I am afraid anyway mean I don’t have faith?

I guess not doing something because I am afraid and I don’t trust that it will work out; and doing it EVEN THOUGH I am afraid because I know God has got me is the definition of faith for me. I am pretty sure if God didn’t want us to feel fear he wouldn’t have put that emotion in our makeup. Except when the Disciples were afraid during the storm on the sea , Jesus kind of chastised them for being afraid.  “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith at all yet?” – Mark 4:35-40. So which is it? Can someone explain this to me?!

My Retractable Key Chain

Happy Thanksgiving! This one is bittersweet for me. Although I miss my Beloved and everything I did today made me think of past years when he was well; it is also gloriously the last holiday I have to share alone for the first time. I will still be alone next year but it will be my new version of normal and not the “Poor Girl Who Lost Her Husband’s” Thanksgiving.

Yesterday marked a year that he has been gone. A day I had been dreading since he passed last year. A year that all I could see ahead of me was depression and sadness. A day marking the end of a year I was pretty sure I was not going to survive. But God has plans for me.

God knew I would survive and thrive during this year of uncomfortable pain. He gave me tools–like the realization that I had been checking the temperature of the room and adjusting myself to make everyone else comfortable. I didn’t even occur to me that someone else should be adjusting the room to meet MY needs.

When I was doubting my purpose he gave me a job that makes me feel empowered and strong. A job that reminded me of why I got into animal care in the first place when I was doubting if it is what I wanted to do. A job where I am surrounded by love and understanding, even when I am having one of my crazy episodes. A job with co-workers that remind me of what it feels like to be worthy and accepted for being me.

When I wanted to walk away from cat sitting, I prayed He would tell me what I should do. He reminded me that I needed to work hard and build up my behavior work before rushing into quitting. I have to be truthful, I tried to act like I didn’t hear Him on that one. I was really hoping He would tell me to go ahead and jump. Everything had been pretty good up until that point, nothing too uncomfortable or life changing. I really wanted to just move in a new direction without knowing what was next but God kept throwing thoughts in my head to make me doubt that move. I finally got it when I heard the Dave Ramsey quote, “Listen, children do what feels good, adults devise a plan and follow it…” OK, God. I devised a plan to keep cat sitting while focusing hard on getting behavior clients.

I have been listening to an audio book and one thing really sounded familiar, like it was a new thought; but one that I heard before. The author said when you are doing nothing because you are afraid, force yourself to do something. The act of doing something small will help remind you that you have the skills needed and help you move forward. I am paraphrasing but that was the jist. My therapist has told me basically the same thing in the past when I didn’t want to go to parties or out. She said to tell yourself you are going for a set amount of time and when the time is up you can decide if you want to continue or go home. Spoiler alert, I almost always end up staying! Once I get there I realize that no one thinks I am stupid, ugly, over-dressed, under-dressed, etc. The act of getting there is all I need to remind myself that none of the stuff Frank is screaming in my head is true. So in other words, this is a tool that God put in my toolbox a long time ago. When I was looking around for the “dropping-my-main-source-of-income-and-hoping-for-the-best” tool, I found that one instead.

I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back, last year this time I really felt like my one true friend was gone. My eyes are open to my world, I am no longer trying to stay in the place where Albert led me. Turns out that the tools God has been given me were keys. I am instead looking forward down the hallway and seeing all the new exciting doors for me to open that only I have the key for.

So even though this Thanksgiving was bittersweet, I am thankful for it. I am in a really good place for the first time in a long time and I wouldn’t be here if my life had stayed the same. Turns out being uncomfortable has an important place in my life!

Nehemiah 8:10 Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Hiding my light under a basket

Hi there! I was not planning on writing today but something happened that is threatening to send me into a spin. Jesus tells a parable about not lighting a lamp to cover it or put it under the bed but put it on a table so it can shine it’s light everywhere. Although not exactly what he meant, I feel like telling my story out loud is like putting that lamp out where it’s light will touch everyone around me. If I don’t talk about the grief or the anxiety when it hits me, it is akin to putting that light under a basket where I will know it is there but it won’t be seen and won’t be able to help anyone see the way.

My cousin sent me a Facebook invite to the annual Thanksgiving family Football game. It brought back memories of all the years previous with my Beloved and how much he looked forward to this tradition. I remembered when he threw a snow ball into the megaphone my Aunt was using to cheer her team (not his team!) during the first game he had participated in and how I was mortified and certain that no one would ever want me to bring him anywhere after that. Of course, everyone loved him and maybe even more because he stood up for his team even when he probably didn’t even know the names of the people he was playing with yet! I remembered how every year when we got the invitation he would say he wasn’t playing this year, he was too sore after last year’s game, blah blah blah. And then we would go and he would play. I remember that he never told me if his team won or lost, just about all the fun things that happened or how different people did stuff on the field. I remembered that last year he was barely walking and the idea of bringing him to this state park with its dirt road and grassy fields was too much to even plan. Even when Al was just getting to know us, he was a part of the family when it came to playing football. After crying on the couch, I responded to her invite with an enthusiastic “Can’t wait!” (Fake it till you make it, right?!) And I can’t wait for real. Even though every part of me wants to spend this holiday alone in my pjs, I don’t think that is what I am meant to do. My sister in law always tells me “Life is for the living, go live!

My Pastor talked about forgiveness in the last sermon and how it is truly for the person who is holding the grudge. I realized while he spoke that I am holding a grudge against Al for leaving me here to go through all this alone. I know it isn’t realistic to be mad at someone for something they couldn’t control, and I am sure if he could have Al would be here. Still, I need to be angry at someone so why not be mad at someone who can’t fight back or defend themselves, right? I wrote Al’s name on a piece of paper and put it at the foot of the cross. Symbolic but also part of my memory now. Whenever I start to feel that anger bubbling up I recall writing his name down and giving it to God to take away the feelings of hurt. Maybe it is simplistic, but that truly helps me to stop and thank God for the experience.

I am trying my hardest to be a light in the darkness for those who will go through this experience. It isn’t always easy (actually, it is almost always NOT easy!) but God gave me the power of a voice while Al was sick and I don’t think it was a tool he wanted me to use then and discard after!

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehamiah 8:10

An Interesting Town Character

My friend Jenny told me to pray to God for guidance about whether to get a side job or not. I talked to Him on my walk but He didn’t answer my question! The thoughts that He kept putting in my head were about remembering my worth. What? I know I am worthy yada yada yada. What about the job dilemma?

But…Okay, God. Because I have vowed to listen even when it is uncomfortable (or I think it is wrong!!!) I started listing all my gifts that God had given to me and all the reasons why I am worthy. Out loud. While I walked home. Truthfully I didn’t even notice if people were staring at me or anything because I was very intent on listing them all. With my tight capri leggings and tank top, I did not once think about whether anything was jiggling or ugly to people driving past me as I walked and talked to myself. Making a name for myself as an interesting town character hahaha.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to remember all the times I had buried my opinion to make someone else happy or satisfied. I don’t even remember a time when I did something without thinking about the repercussions on my reputation. Right now, I am already thinking about what to do to make myself more “date-able”. I got my hair cut really short after Al died and I LOVE it. But…guys like girls with longer hair so I will have to start growing it out. I am exercising like a mad woman because I have to be thin to be noticed, right? I am wearing colors that compliment me according to (fill in the blank,) I am listening to music that is “normal”, not like the BeeGees (even though I love them!). What if I did stuff to make ME happy and started using my many gifts to attract someone instead? Listing my gifts is really making me feel strong and reminding me of who He has made me to be. Thanks God!

After my walk, I actually went to the store and bought myself 3 new shirts. Two are yellow, even though (fill in the blank) said that yellow is not a good color on me and I look better in blues. Yellow makes me happy and I can’t think of anything that looks better on me than that! And I will be keeping my hair short for now. I love it and my opinion should be the only one that matters on the subject. I am still walking every day but that is more for my mental fitness then my physical fitness. I want to be a size that makes me happy, not a size I think will be appropriate. I am giving up the gym for right now. It is a pretty big chunk of my budget and I can do almost everything at home. Besides, I spend a lot of my time looking for approval while I am there instead of being thankful for the strength and determination God has gifted to me so I can lift the weights or do the different exercises.

I still had the job dilemma but I figured God was trying to get me to remember who I am first. Even with the job search I was not thinking right. I was definitely trying to find a job where I would get the most exposure. Do I work near my gym? In a place where my church family might see me? There are a couple of potential future fellows I have been listing, if I work near them it would be a good way to open the lines of communication. Maybe I feel like I would be respected more because I have to work so hard without Al to help me. As if working every day, caring for my home and pulling myself out of the darkness that tries to engulf me isn’t enough! God knows my heart and He knows I need to build myself up before I am released into the world in a part time job. The attitude of putting myself second to make others happy or to make things easier for them is a hard one to break.

I woke up this morning, listened to the BeeGees as I walked to the beach and put on one of my new yellow shirts after my shower. Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from a friend about a job that would be perfect for me. I haven’t even started looking yet! Thank you, God!

“For I know the plans I have for you”–this is the Lord’s declaration–“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11