Saturday, January 31, 2009

B's hockey dream

Much to my dismay, both our boys (3 1/2 and 2 yrs) are huge into hockey (I'm hoping to avoid the cost of equipment and all the traveling hockey entails). It started over a year ago when B, the older child, started sleeping with a hockey puck rather than a stuffed bear. He insisted on it every night. This last Christmas, my mother-in-law gave the boys plastic goals and sticks, and so we have daily games, often back-to-back, in the kitchen, complete with the "National Anthem" and the two kids rocking back and forth like they see college hockey players do at their games, with a whistle blow (B sticking one finger in his mouth and making a high-pitched noise), a puck drop, "skating", shots on goal with one child falling onto his knees, and a siren signaling each goal.

B's latest thing is telling me, 2 weeks running, as I'm saying goodnight to him, that he's going to go downstairs to play hockey, and Jesus is going to be the goalie. I love it! Of course, he's also the kid that told us Jesus was going to give him a football helmet for Christmas and also told us Jesus is afraid of him when he's wearing his hockey helmet. I love seeing what the boys come up with!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poll - Children's Ages

Being a mother of two toddlers, I am not as "experienced" a mother as many. I would like to know what I have to look forward to - or if I am living the dream right now. So my question for more "experienced" mothers (or fathers) is this: As a parent, what is/has been your favorite age? Please see the sidebar between now and March 1 to answer or to check the results, and feel free to add any comments under this post!

Thanks, and happy voting!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Story - Conclusion... or is it?

Our story is still being written. A year and a half later, our boys are 3 1/2 and 2 years old and keep us running. I am working for a wonderful company 4 days per week and enjoying one day per week and weekends home with my family. My husband has shown an interest in business and went back to school at a local university, working toward his Bachelor's degree. I have done some writing and have found I rarely feel more alive than with a paper and pen, in prayer. Writing in this blog is really the first time I have written for anyone besides myself, and I put this and all my writing in God's hands, that He may do with it as He pleases. I wish I could say everything is continuing to fall into place as easily as it did as God was directing our move. We, like all people, have our difficulties, and I still struggle with surrendering to God. But we have no doubt He is with us and directing us, and we have no doubt He has led us here for a reason.

Learning to fully trust in God is a lifelong endeavor; we have to make a conscious effort every day to give our lives, including all our joys and struggles, to God. It is far too easy to try to maintain a firm grasp on the illusion that we are in control of any aspect our own lives, but once we open our hands to completely let go of that control and to give it to God, we also open ourselves to receive His blessings. It is a chance that is well worth taking. I am finding that, ironically, we are truly free only when we fully give our own wills to God. The freedom and joy that come with trusting in a loving God far outweigh the false sense of freedom we may experience in acting on our own whims but then feeling empty when the results do not meet our expectations. When we give everything we have and everything we are to our Lord, He fills our hearts with His joy and pours His mercy and love upon us, and we are made richer than when we had started. In doing so, we do truly find great hope and joy in the simple, yet profound, prayer, “Thy Will be done.”

Please pray for me, and I will pray for you, as we continue our journeys with God.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My Story - Part 2

Andy began to look for work in the [small town] area. At first, we assumed he would be the one to work. I had always told him that if we were ever to move, I would stay home with our children. Andy looked but could not find work near [small town]. Maybe God is closing the door on this move, I thought. I had not even considered the idea that I may have to work.

One week later, a letter came in the mail. As a physical therapist, I get almost daily mail seeking therapists to fill job openings. Usually, I look at them out of curiosity and then promptly discard them. But this one was different. This one was from a large, expanding Catholic organization in the Stevens Point area, calling therapists to “explore the back roads of your community” and to “bring strong Christian values and compassion to the people you serve.” It was a home health agency.

“I could do this,” I told Andy, as I stood at the entrance of the living room, reading it over. “I’ve had experience in an orthopedic clinic and in a nursing home. This would be a good way to combine those skills. And the job description is right up my alley.”

I secured a phone interview with the department head. Her further description of the position was not what I was hoping, though. This is going to be more like working in the nursing home and less like orthopedics, I thought. I had learned through working in both settings that I had enjoyed the orthopedic setting much more and felt my skills were much stronger there. She also told me the opening was in [another small city]. That would be a sixty-minute drive each way, plus all the driving between seeing patients. I was less than enthusiastic.

As I further considered that option, I felt drawn to work in orthopedics again. I also thought that I would like to be a part of a smaller, more personal group rather than a growing multi-disciplinary company. I remembered having driven by a small, privately owned physical therapy clinic in [small city]. I called their number and spoke with one of the clinic’s co-owners, also a physical therapist. We met two weeks later at the main office. As I spoke with her and looked around their treatment area, I was much more impressed. I could imagine myself working there. “But I’m not in a position to offer you a job,” she told me. I understood but felt excited about this possibility anyway.

Two months passed before any other significant developments occurred. My mom watched the boys one night around that time so that Andy and I could go out. Over dinner, we talked about our dating days, before getting married or having children, and about how God had brought us together.

The next morning, I brought out my journal from that time, and Andy and I sat on the couch and read it together. I was reminded of my prayer of surrender to God just before Andy and I met. Never before had I given myself to God in the way I did on that day. I had always wanted to get married, and I had been growing more impatient about it, doing whatever I could within my power to find someone to date and, eventually, marry. All my efforts had turned up nothing but frustration and embarrassment. Having exhausted my own efforts, in near-desperation, I gave it all up to God, praying, “I place my trust in You, Lord, knowing that Your Will for me, Your plan for me, whatever it is, is far better than anything I could plan for myself. Your plan, while it may be more difficult, will bring me more joy and peace than I could bring myself. You know I want to marry, but I place my life in Your hands. May Your Will be done.”

That next week, at the outpatient clinic where I worked, one of my patients and I were talking about her new boyfriend as she practiced a few new exercises I had instructed her in. Casually, she asked me, “Are you seeing anyone?”

Just as casually, without revealing any hint of the recent struggle I had put myself through, I answered, “No, I’m just waiting for the right person to come along.”

She told me, “I work with this guy…. He reminds me a lot of you.” Uh, oh, I thought, she is trying to set me up! I was very hesitant to blindly pursue an unknown relationship at this point. I didn’t think much more of it until the next week when she brought in a small, folded piece of paper and handed it to me at the front desk as she checked in. Not remembering our earlier conversation, I opened it curiously. “Andy,” I read, followed by a number, written in a man’s handwriting. I joked with her about it, but inside I was struggling. On that particular day, I wasn’t planning on calling.

A few days later, on a Sunday, I sat on my couch, holding the phone. “He did write his own name and number on the paper; he’s probably expecting my call,” I reasoned. I dialed the number on the paper several times but hung up each time before it rang. After I finally let it ring, Andy picked up. Nervously, I introduced myself, and he knew who I was immediately. “What are you up to today?” I asked after the normal initial conversation. Amid laundry and dishes, he said he had gone to church that morning. Church? “Where do you go to church?” I interrupted him. “The Cathedral,” he said. He’s Catholic!

Sharing my faith was very important to me. I quickly made a decision: getting to know Andy better might be well worth the risk of being too forward. “Do you have plans this afternoon?” I asked. “Just finishing laundry” was the reply. “Would you like to go rollerblading?”

Andy and I were married sixteen months later. I fully believe that God was just waiting for me to surrender my will to Him so that I would know that it was not through my own efforts that we met, but through God’s grace.

Sitting on the couch with Andy four years later, remembering this, I realized suddenly that I had not fully given our search for work to God; I had maintained a portion of control for myself. I silently said a quick prayer, “Lord, no matter what Your plan is for us, may Your Will - not my will - be done,” And wholeheartedly gave God everything with the hope that He would work in our lives then the same way he had when we had met. I stood up then, with a peace and trust in my heart I had not felt since the moment I had first considered God’s call that we move to [small town], and announced I was going to take a shower.

As I finished my shower, I heard the phone ring. Andy was busy with the boys and couldn’t answer it. The answering machine picked up. It was another physical therapist from the orthopedic clinic I had interest in. I rushed out of the bathroom to hear. “We would like to set up a time for an interview if you’re still interested.” Interested? Yes, I’m still interested! “One of our therapists just gave her notice yesterday. We have an opening we need to fill in our [another small town] clinic.” Thanking God, I rushed into the bedroom, dressed, and called to set up an interview. God definitely wanted us to know that He was in charge. Again, I knew He had just been waiting for me to surrender my will to Him before offering us this answer to our prayers.

Throughout the following two months, God continued to teach us about the importance of surrendering to His Will. I was offered the position with the orthopedic clinic soon after the interview. Then, when our initial search for a duplex in the [small town] area turned up nothing, He provided the perfect duplex for our family - once we had put it into His hands. The same happened when we sold our house. God certainly had His hand in our move to [small town], and He wanted us to understand, in no uncertain terms, that He was taking care of us. He left nothing out.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Story - Part I

Giving it to God: How My Complete Surrender Gave Me the Freedom I Yearned For

“Kim, you have to get home.”

I had just come out of my counselor’s office and was sitting in my car, praying, when my phone rang.

“Why? What’s going on?” I was concerned. The serious tone in my husband’s voice was obvious.

“Everything’s caving in,” he explained.

Both of us had been feeling depressed, crushed by the ins and outs of daily life, tired of the rush and hurry of our lives and the get-ahead mentality. Like many people, we needed to slow down. We were both working and raising two boys, ages 4 months and 20 months, and I was suffering with postpartum depression. City life was not for Andy, my husband of nearly three years, and he believed it wasn’t good for me either, that I would also feel better in a slower, less hurried environment.

I rushed home. “We need to get out of here,” he said as I walked into the living room where he was sitting. I knew immediately what he meant. “Let’s pack a bottle and some snacks. Maybe the kids will sleep in the car. Where should we go?”

We had talked two months earlier about moving, but I hadn’t been ready. I had told a friend about it then: “I think this is God’s Will for us, but now is not the time.” With two young boys and postpartum depression, I had reasoned, God would not expect me to leave my family and friends, my support. The truth was that it was the time for us to move. I had had that distinct sense. I just hadn’t wanted to admit it. So when I saw how serious Andy was, I knew immediately that I couldn’t deny God’s Will any longer.

We went driving, partially to get out of the city, partially to scout out small towns nearby. We drove through various towns and stopped in several small cafes and shops, but nothing stood out.

When we returned home that evening, we were both frustrated. I took a half mile run, just enough to rid myself of the stress I had picked up that day. I felt torn; after visiting many small towns that day, I wasn’t sure that small town life was for me. If we were to continue to consider moving, I would have to trust that Andy knew more than I did about what we needed. I knew, also, that after driving and talking about moving as we had that day, I couldn’t simply dismiss the issue and dash Andy’s hopes of slowing down and simplifying. And I could no longer ignore what I had then realized to be God’s call that we move.

“Where do You want us to go, God?” I desperately asked while running.

“[Specific small town],” I heard with my heart.

[Small town] is a small town that we had passed through many times on our way to visit my in-laws in [small city]. Andy and I had both felt drawn to the town each time we had driven through it.

“But it’s more than an hour away from here,” I argued. If we were to move, I would have rather stayed within thirty minutes of my family and our friends.

“[Small town],” I heard again. I felt a sense of peace as I considered it, in great contrast to the frustration and turmoil I had felt before. I knew I couldn’t ignore it.

I returned home. I took a deep breath and said the words I dreaded to hear: “Andy, I think we need to take a look at [Small town]. We’ll just check it out.” I tried to reassure myself that we wouldn’t really move so far. Andy quietly agreed. He knew what I was giving up by even considering [small town].

I started to think about what my counselor and I had talked about earlier that day. Sitting in her office, I had told her that I had been feeling a deep sense of emptiness, hopelessness, and isolation from God; I had been feeling as if the circumstances of my life and the expectations placed on me were dictating my life and as if God was absent. She reassured me that God does very much want to be a part of my life and that He will lead me if I listen for Him and the desires He’s placed in my heart. She then asked me what I wanted to do, what I felt called to.

The truth was I didn’t know. I was a mother and a wife; I hadn’t had time to think about my own deep desires for a while. But I did know one thing. “I want to do whatever is God’s Will,” I replied.

“What do you want to do?” she repeated. I looked at her blankly. “God puts longings deep in our hearts. Look into your heart. What do you long to do?”

I thought a while longer. Then I remembered something I had not had time to think about for a while. “Well,” I said, pausing, “I’ve always felt called to write a book for God.” I could feel my excitement growing as I explained this long and deep-seated desire, and a genuine smile formed on my face for the first time in over three months. “But I don’t know when I’ll have the time to write. And I’ve never written anything except in my journal.”

My therapist again reassured me, “I believe God has given you that desire; I can see it in your face and hear it in your voice. He will provide. If He’s calling you to write a book, He will find a way for you to do it.”

As Andy and I talked that evening about the possibility of moving to [small town], the memories of this conversation continued to replay in my mind. All along, Andy had been telling me that we would have more time if we moved to a smaller town, and, financially, we would have more freedom. Maybe, I thought, I could find the time to write my book. And, without the need to work, I could stay home with the kids and give them a full-time mother. I would also be able to find more time to pray and to grow in my faith. Though still not letting myself be fully convinced, I was beginning to grow excited about the possibility of moving.

We took a trip to [small town] the next Sunday and went to Mass. The priest, in his homily, confirmed the importance of what we were seeking in our desire to move. He said so many of us are too busy, spending time on many things but not spending time on the important things, on God first and on togetherness as a family second. We all need to continuously evaluate where we place our priorities and how we spend our time, keeping our lives centered on Christ and growing as people of faith. Andy and I felt as if the priest was talking directly to us. By the end of the Mass, we were even more convinced of our need to slow down and simplify our lives.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Hope

While I am not a writer or a theologian by training, I am a writer in that I love to write and rarely feel more alive than when I do write. And I am a theologian in that I love to study about God and to pray. I am one of those crazy people that learn the most through writing, especially when that writing is done in prayer and contemplation. And I feel that God has placed the desire to learn about Him and the desire to write on my heart. I hope that He will bless my efforts to praise Him through the use of the gifts He has given me and that He will help me to develop those gifts through their continued use so that I am able to give Him all the more glory.

I am also not a counselor or a psychologist, but I do have some first hand knowledge of depression and anxiety and have learned much about both through experience. I have learned that depression and anxiety can be seen as an opportunity to fall on the grace of God, to learn to trust Him, and to allow ourselves to be drawn closer to Him. As a person with chronic depression, I believe I have a special gift in knowing the need to surrender and rely on our Heavenly Father and the the hope and joy that can result from doing just that. As I continue to write and pray, I hope I can continue to learn to surrender to Him and trust Him always more. And I hope to share my experiences with others, especially those who may be going through a similar trial or who wish to grow further in faith.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Prayer

Mary, I wish to consecrate the writing I do in this blog to you and to your Immaculate Heart, and through you to your Son, Jesus, and His Sacred Heart, for the GLORY OF OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN. Please pray for me and my project and guide my hand as I write.