Monday, September 16, 2013

A Bit of A Review

Better fasten your seat belts because this could be a long one - I'm thinking back on the past year and reflecting on so many lessons...

This time last year I had just cleared out my desk, said good bye to my career in nuclear pharmacy, & I was officially unemployed.  I remember feeling so many things - sadness, loss, anxiety, & just a twinge of hope that I would actually get some things done & get caught up on some sleep.  It was a weird feeling.  I was grateful that I had time to do things I hadn't had time for before - time to  help take my grandma to the doctor, time to spring clean the house, I even took time for a couple of  Girl's Shopping Days with my aunt, sister, & grandma.  Since G-ma's death in January I'm so glad that I was able to have those extra special days with her.  And looking back, during that time I got to spend a lot of time with people that I wouldn't have otherwise...crafting days with Beth & Laura, Missy came from Vienna for a three day visit, my annual college girlfriend get was wonderful.
So I spent most of September visiting & also working on wood crafts for our first ever attempt at manning a booth for a craft fair.  Mike & I slaved away for hours making different little goodies for our booth.  We had a lot of fun & there was a tremendous amount of nervousness before & during those days in the big tent.  It was a disappointment on many levels but it was good, too.  I love how God does that, by the way.  Just when everything seems awful He opens my eyes to the blessings in the situation.  Maybe we didn't sell much but we spent extra time with family & that was so very good for our souls.  Maybe we have tons of leftover inventory but Mike & I spent so much time side by side helping each other create & enjoying each other's company on a new level.  And of course, since a year has passed the sting of disappointment has numbed & it's easier to see the blessings.  Would I do it again?  Not exactly the same way but yes, I think I would take that leap again.  And with the little business tricks we learned I think maybe we would be more successful the second time around...maybe.
Then in October the job hunt began in earnest.  I updated my resume & began the search by dropping a copy at every pharmacy here in town that was closed on Sunday.  I felt kind of silly doing that because not one of them was actually hiring at the time.  I just knew it was possibly a way to get into a field I was already qualified for without working for a national chain that would be open 24/7.  Then I began looking online.  Online job hunting is so miserable I would take a break and spring clean.  Yep, I'd rather move furniture so that I could vacuum behind it than surf the web looking for a job.  It took me forever to fill out applications & upload resumes & blah, blah, blah.  Right about this time I started day dreaming about what I would do instead of getting a job...I would become a world famous blogger!  But suddenly I had nothing to say.  I would write a book!  But suddenly I had no attention span for sitting still.  I would get pregnant!  With twins!  God had other plans on that one, too.  So I kept slogging through it day by day.  It was discouraging.  I thought maybe I would look for another type of job, start another career.  The thought of going back to school gave my stomach a twist.  So I kept waiting & praying & looking & cleaning.
Then I got a phone call from a cheerful sounding lady named Roxanne.  She is the pharmacy manager of a clinic pharmacy here in town (one of the pharmacies where I had dropped a resume).  I was really startled to get a call from her because I knew that her pharmacy had virtually no turnover.  There are only two pharmacists & two technicians, all of whom had been there over 10 years.  It turns out, one of her techs was leaving to be a nanny for her new grandson.  And all the things that fell into place for that to happen I don't have the time to tell you, but it blew my mind when I heard the whole story.  It just made me realize how involved God is in our lives.  He can open any door.  Long story short, I began working at that clinic full time, Monday through Friday, last November.  And I even started out at a higher hourly rate than I was previously earning.  Exceedingly abundantly above all I had been praying for.
But then there were some bumps in the road.  Retail pharmacy is not a very fun job.  I had a bit of a hard time acclimating.  I was coming from a job where I rarely spent the whole day in the office.  I had plenty of down time & a boss who didn't care what I did with it.  We didn't punch a time clock & lunch was on the clock so I worked just an 8 hour day.  Plus, I hadn't had to work directly with patients or any of the billing to insurance companies.  Then there are the inevitable issues with coworkers.  I really like my coworkers on most levels.  There are just those little niggly issues - control issues, communication issues, frustration issues.  I decided I was miserable & needed to start looking for something different.
And before I had cracked that first online job search, I got a phone call.  It was from another pharmacy that I had left a resume with on that day last fall.  I went through the interview process with them & waited for a call with a job offer.  No such call came.  So I dismissed it.  A month later they called again & wanted another interview.  I went in & had such a nice interview.  These were people that I really seemed to click with.  They offered me a full time position for a comparable hourly rate & somewhat better benefits.  The only real difference was that I would be working four 10-hour shifts.  That extra day off every week was looking extremely good to me.  I could spend more time with Grandpa & Dad!  It would be like an extra Saturday!  No more scrambling around late in the evening trying to get housework done!  I was thoroughly enticed.
But I knew that I should really discuss it with Mike.  We sat down & drew out a pros & cons worksheet.  I was feeling the Lord tug my heart one way & I was wanting to pull the other.  This new job would be so good for me!  I could get away from things that irk me & have a different schedule & it would be great!  But I couldn't get over the notion that the new schedule would be bad for us, the Mike+MaryAnn.  If I worked a ten hour day I would be getting off work 3-5 hours after Mike.  We wouldn't be able to eat dinner together on those nights.  I kept hearing the echo of a proverb ring in my mind, "A wise woman buildeth her house, but a foolish woman tears it down."  I'm not even sure if that is all in one verse or if it's a snippet from two different verses that I put together but I could not get away from that truth.  I could choose what was good for me or I could choose what was good for my marriage.
So I stayed put.  And some days I just shake my head & choose joy because it's not easy to be there.  But it's just fine because I have this other verse, II Corinthians 4:1 "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy we FAINT NOT."  I remind myself that this job is indeed a ministry.  God will strengthen me for it.  He will cause me to be effective if I yield to Him.  And there is no doubt that I daily rub shoulders with people who need Jesus in their hearts & in their lives.  I'm grateful He found me worthy of the position.  I hope I can be salt (being distinctively different) & light (a visible testimony) right there in that pharmacy, where He put me.
It's been a big year.  Lots of events, lots of feelings, lots of lessons, & so much to be thankful for.  God is faithful.  That's one of the things I love about Him most!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I have a bit of a distinction in my family.

I'm the dreamer.

No, not the person who thinks of huge fantastic pursuits or fabulous lofty goals or fun extraordinary escapes.

I'm the girl who goes to bed and during my sleep I dream.  Crazy dreams.  Wild, bright colors, slow motion, insane conglomerations of real events and movies and imagined things.  Sometimes the dreams are fun and the next morning is story time for whoever wants to listen.  Sometimes the dreams are exhausting and baffling.  Every once in while they are scary (thankfully not often).  Upon occasion I pray the Lord helps me forget the dream quickly because it upsets me and sometimes I thank Him for the happy things that have flitted through my mind during slumber.

Last night was just like most other nights - I had a dream.  I (dreamt? dreamed?) that I was at my parent's house.  I was inside the house and apparently in my dream Mom was still alive.  I went out the front door to find her and she was sprawled out on the front sidewalk in her teal bathrobe, the one with the zipper down the front that she had for almost all of my growing up years (that bathrobe appears in more Christmas morning photos than my dad does).  When I saw her lying there of course I knew something was wrong.  I ran to her side and got down on my knees and in my dream I did exactly what I did that night we found her dead on the couch.  I started yelling, "Momma! Momma!" and I rubbed her sternum hard with my knuckles.  I don't know where I got that little first aid tip but somehow I thought it would help.  After a couple moments of my knuckle-rub screaming routine her eyelids fluttered and she woke up.  We started trying to figure out what had happened and she decided that some of her medicine must be interacting and that's why she stopped breathing.  Dream over.

And that is where my realities merged.  The night of my mom's death and the everyday hum of my workday smooshed into one odd story line.  It's baffling how my mind knit together the many drug interactions we review at the pharmacy on a daily basis and my mom's passing.  The mind is amazing and weird and obviously very busy while I'm sleeping.

And yeah, I've kind of struggled today with wanting to be upset that I'm dreaming about Mom's death.  I've been tempted to tell God that it wasn't very nice of Him to let all that pass through the filters and be remembered upon waking.  But instead, I've been grateful - that after a dream like that it didn't even cross my mind to call in sick to work and stay home and mope.  I've been grateful that I can see the humorous bits of the story and I've been grateful that I haven't cried today.  These little things are all victories.  They are all evidence of the healing that the Lord is faithfully doing in my heart in His time.  I would like Him to work faster.  But when I trust Him, I trust His timing (that's totally a quote from a pic I pinned on Pinterest this week - so very true, don't you think?!).  

The idea of my grief being a 'disease' God needs to heal made me think of Psalm 103:1-5:

  Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
  Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
  who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
  who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
  who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

I don't know about you, but those verses give me a lot of hope.

Now here's to a good night's sleep for you and for me!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


According to

life [lahyf] 

the condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms

According to me, life is the days passing, the grand sum total of the triumphs and struggles, the tick-tock of time wasting away while we endure what we must, and the rushing sound of time flying by as we soak up the pleasures.

Life is fleeting.  Life is fragile.  Life can end in a moment.  Eventually this life as we know it will end for all of us.

But I realized something different about life as I was weeding the flower beds this evening.  Life is tenacious.  Life can flourish in the most unlikely places with the smallest amount of nurturing and watch-care.  

Somehow in the midst of a whole lot of discouragement - jobs that are more frustrating than fulfilling, grief that still wants a stranglehold on my joy, to-do lists that grow more and more overwhelming,  and relationships that have stagnated - in the midst of all of that, the Lord brought me hope through weeding a flower bed.

Life is tenacious.  God's love is tenacious.  For tonight, that's enough for my soul.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

And So It Goes...

It's been a year.

A year since that frantic phone call from Dad in the middle of the night.  I had recently assigned their home phone number a funny ring tone - it sounded like dogs barking.  At 3:15 in the morning it confused me big time when the dogs started barking.  All I could think was that surely it wasn't time to get up yet.  I'll never forget the panic in his voice...and I never use that ring tone anymore.

A year...365 days...we've hit all the calendar 'firsts' without her...our first birthday without her, our first Christmas, Dad's first wedding anniversary alone, and now our first anniversary of her flight to heaven.

There are a few things I've learned this year.  And even though I don't want this blog to be all about death (that's why I've avoided being here lately) I do feel like I need to record some things for my own benefit.  I need to raise my memorials, my stones in the desert, raise my own feeble Ebenezers so that I can look back and be reminded of the faithfulness of my Lord Jesus.

I've learned that what the sweet older ladies told me at the visitation and funeral is true: I'll never get over losing my momma.  I just won't.  There won't be a day where there won't be a slight ache in my heart, a longing to talk to her, a need to hug her.  It won't rule my life or ruin my days but I will always miss her.  And it's true, I don't grieve like those who have no hope but I do grieve, in a deep way, every day.

Never in my life has my faith been tested as it has been tested this past year.  I've never cried so much, questioned so much, doubted so much.  But in all of it the Lord has stood fast beside me; His Word has never failed me.  And I have been ashamed to see how shallow my commitment to Him has been.  I've been convicted over & over in the song service at church.  Hymns I sang with no real thought before have stuck in my throat as I've contemplated just what they mean...

All the way my Savior leads me; what have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy, who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, here by faith with Him to dwell!
For I know whate're befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me, cheers each winding path I tread,
Give me grace for ev'ry trial, feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter, and my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me, lo! a spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me; Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father's house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way.
Fanny J. Crosby

I've had to think through questions like, "All the way my Savior leads me? Really?  Even with all of this mom, several friends of the family, my G-ma...all in a year?  All of this loss?  He leads me?  This is right?!" And His Word comforts me with verses like "Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me," and "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." And so many other verses where I am forced to recognize, yes!  it's true! I don't understand it, but Jesus does do all things well.  I can trust Him.

The truth is, this year has hurt like the dickens.  I've been so sad; I've been changed; I've struggled; I've been pathetic; I've been angry; I have kicked, screamed, fought, & yelled.  My emotions have fought powerfully for control of my life.  Some days they have won the battle.  Other days I have actually yielded to the Holy Spirit & He has helped me life by truth instead of feelings.  Not surprisingly, those have been the better days.

The saddest, worst days are days like today when the calendar forces me to recognize the passage of time, the milestones without Mom.  And then there are the days when I see three generation photos & I remember that any child we ever have will not know their Grandma & there will be no three generation photo for us.  Or when I remember that there will probably never be that confusion again of whether I'm Mary Ann or Mary Lee or Mary Lou because I'm the only one left.  And my heart breaks a little again...

So I cling to another favorite verse & hymn that have come to mean so much to me over the past months...

"As for God, His way is perfect: the Word of the Lord is tried: He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him." Psalm 18:30

Simply trusting ev'ry day, trusting through a stormy way;
Even when my faith is small, trusting Jesus - that is all.

Brightly doth His Spirit shine into this poor heart of mine;
While He leads I cannot fall, trusting Jesus - that is all.

Singing if my way is clear, praying if the path be drear;
If in danger, for Him call - trusting Jesus that is all.

Trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate'er befall, trusting Jesus - that is all.
Edgar Page Stites

Trust, faith, hope, dependence upon my God...these are all lessons I've learned this year.  And I've learned how worthy He is, how faithful He will always be.  Each day He proves it to me when I have the wherewithal to get out of bed, go to work, choose joy, carry on.  Because there are days left for me to live, work left for me to do, thanksgiving to give, joy to experience...this grief isn't all that's left to me.  It's part of my lot but it isn't all of it.  So He strengthens me to live on, trying to obey, trying to trust, trying to live the abundant life I know that the Lord wants me for me & that I know my momma would want for me, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Is Finally Here!

To say this week has not gone according to my plans would be a major understatement.  I didn't feel well Sunday night but I attributed it to being tired - surely a good night's rest was all I needed!  Monday dawned bright & early with a long To Do list & a queasy stomach.  And so goes 24+ hours of my life.  I doctored myself up as best as I could, dutifully munched the toast Mike fixed, & prayed I'd be well enough to go vote.

God is gracious.  I woke up this morning with a broken fever & no body aches.  I had the strength to get cleaned up, drive to the polls, wait in a short line, & cast my vote.  What a privilege!  I pray it's something I never take for granted.

Recently as I was reading my Bible I was taking in some of the Old Testament accounts of Israel & Judah.  Talk about political upheaval - kings were coming & going & wars were starting & finishing fast enough to make my head spin!  And this is what I wrote in my journal:
I have been reminded that from the very beginning God has been in control of the kings & kingdoms - He determined who would be established & who would fall.  The Lord always honored those who obeyed & those who humbled themselves & repented of their disobedience.
And so it is today.  May American leaders have the wisdom to humble themselves & repent of their disobedience.  And even if they do not, the Lord is still in control.  He will still work out His plan.  As an American I probably will not be able to confidently say, "It's all going to work out; it's all going to be OK!"  But as a daughter of the Most High King, I certainly can say "All is well.  The battle is already won & my future is bright with the Light of Heaven."

I hope you were able to go out & vote today.  God bless America. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Not Giving Up!

I took on a big project yesterday.  It's a project that I've taken on for the past three years with varying degrees of completion/success.  The Project = Raking the Leaves.

Oy.  Autumn is a beautiful time of year but the shedding of leaves has to be part of the curse.  God help me if I have to raise my arms, lift anything, or grip anything tomorrow.

But it's all done - the leaves have been raked & bagged! 
 I even mowed the grass!

It's still not a prize winning yard by any means.  But I am grateful that the Lord granted me the time & the strength to get it done!  And I'm most grateful that it only has to be done once a year *grin*

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Bit of An "Ah-ha" Moment

I have really kind of struggled this week.  It's been a physical/emotional kind of struggle.  No matter how much sleep I get, I'm tired.  No matter how much I get done, it feels like I'm wasting time.  No matter how many job searches I do, I can't seem to find the place that could be the right fit for me.  And then there are people in my life that I love who are also struggling.  And being the person that I am, when I hear about those other struggles I try to pick them up & carry them, stacking them on top of the burdens that are already weighing me down.

Oy.  What a way to live!  I'm pretty sure that this is not the abundant life that Jesus talks about giving to us.  But you know, I wasn't even aware of what I was doing until I had a conversation with Mike today on his lunch break.  

I was asking him if he thought I should see our doctor to check out whether or not I am struggling with depression.  Yep, it's kinda been that bad (that's part of the reason I have been hiding out from this space; who wants to read sad junk all the time?!).  I told him that some days I feel like I don't remember how to smile & when I try to, my face just feels twisted.  

Of course, Mike was loving, kind, & supportive in his response.  He told me I could if I thought it was necessary.  He told me there was nothing wrong with exploring the situation.  And he told me he knew how I felt because he had been in that same place before.  He calls it feeling 'blue'.  

Somehow, after he told me that I wasn't comforted.  I was kind of mad, actually & so, so sad.  Where is our joy?  Why are we so sad?  What are we missing that the Lord is trying to work out in us?

As I drove home I had a miniature pity party fit.  I cried & told God that I really just missed my mom so much.  And that I just wanted a job, for crying out loud!  And hadn't this been enough?  Wasn't He going to fix anything anytime soon?!

And I don't know what brought these thoughts to mind, but I started thinking about Thanksgiving.  Most of my Thanksgiving thoughts so far have been to fuss & worry about how we are going to plan & pull off the family meal because Mom was the genius behind all of that.  But today I actually had some genuine Thanksgiving thoughts.  I wondered, If I really start trying to be grateful for what I have, rather than mourn what I have lost, will I recover my joy?  Will I start to have some hope?  Will I learn to trust God?  Because I am really struggling with that...

And you probably really don't want to know where my thoughts went from there because it will just highlight to you what a freak I am.  I thought, Maybe I can list 1,000 gifts by the end of the year!  I'll be just like Ann Voskamp!  And I'll post them here on the blog every day!  Then I got to trying to do the math in my head...there are 61 days left in the year, 1,000/61=I-have-no-idea-but-it's-a-lot!  And then I got real with myself & admitted that I can in no way commit to posting here on the blog every single day.  I'm just too scattered for that.

Then my mind went into an even scarier place: I thought, I'll get on Pinterest & find some sort of Thanksgiving chart thing to make where Mike & I can daily list our blessings!  That idea is nuts for so many reasons, number one being that I don't have even a single sheet of construction paper in this house & number two being that Mike truly feels that stuff like that belongs in a elementary school classroom & not in our home, plastered on the kitchen wall, for example.

So I guess maybe I just need to make a change in my thinking.  And I know that the Lord will help me do that.  He already has, truthfully.  Right after I came home from meeting Mike on his lunch break (a perk of unemployment that I'm so grateful for) I came home & started raking/bagging the leaves in our yard.  As you all know, this is a somewhat exhausting chore & awkward (dumb leaves, GET.IN.THE.BAG!).  But as I raked & piled & scooped & bagged I thought about how we have a yard!  we have trees!  we have a rake! & bags! I'm healthy & strong enough to do the job!

Maybe what I'm finally beginning to learn is to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  I Thessalonians 5:18

Because "all circumstances" includes the death of your mom, the loss of your job, the disappointment of expectations, the death of dreams, all circumstances = ALL circumstances.  And the Lord wouldn't ask me to do it if He couldn't help me accomplish it.

So I'm putting on my Turkey hat & starting the work of being thankful.  I hope you are, too!