A couple of months ago I received four invitations from four different girls all within a few days of each other. One was of the social variety and three were God-related. Three of the girls I know from my church and the other one from school where our boys go, who also attends church, but not mine.
I know, I know, you’re like, come on, Jen, really? Cool, you have people who like you, you get invited places. Awesome. BUT!! These invitations were enough to catch my attention in an interesting way and I found it particularly noteworthy how and when they happened. Just hang in there with me and I’ll tell you why.
You see, in November when Chris’s third brain time began, something different happened with me. I stayed pretty exclusively within the safety parameters that my personal defenses set in place for me when panic mode took over. These parameters included the comfort of my home and family, the familiar faces of two friends that I see twice daily, at the morning drop-off and at the afternoon pick-up and also the familiar face of one other friend. That’s it. And, by the way, this is in no way, shape or form an announcement of dissatisfaction over any other dear ones who love me. Yes, there were times, obviously, that I saw others…at church, at the brewery, the coffee shop, here and there, etc…I didn’t become a hermit. But, on a regular day-to-day basis my comfort was very locked down and my defenses were really strict with me. They told me that people weren’t to be easily trusted this time. That they were judging me and tired of hearing about this journey we keep getting put back onto, that it made them uncomfortable and bored…I know this isn’t truth, but our minds do wacky things in the face of adversity.
So when these four invitations came in (which yes, just hold on, the deets are coming…like two paragraphs from here) my defenses, the ones that hijacked my desire to be around people, were put on alert in a big way. These girls, at no fault of their own, were outside the safety parameters that my defenses put in place for me. Picture an army, with shields and swords and a leader shouting, “No way! Not safe! Alert! Alert! Shields up!” This is them. My defense army. We all have one, you know.
And, its comical actually, when I indulge my imagination and picture these four harmless girls, just wanting to be with me, standing up to my army, looking upon it, kinda freaked out probably, unarmed, all the while assuring it of their good intentions and how they come in peace.
Well, this here, is the story of how these girls somehow reasoned with my army and brought me out…
The first invitation came via text one night from a lovely girl, well, lets just be clear, they.are.all.lovely.girls. But, Natalie, I’ve “known” from church for many many years, but we’re just recently becoming more aware of our commonalities, including, but not limited to our love for Captain America.
You see, she invited me to join with her in a bible study that would start soon. She hadn’t been involved in one for quite sometime and would I care to jump in with her?
I thought to myself, “Uh, NO! No, thank you.” And, before I knew it, the same thoughts that my mind just produced were being typed into my phone and my fingers were hitting the send button…. In an attempt to repair any damage that my hasty and rude reply might’ve made, I asked her for the details and proceeded to explain (to my relief) that I couldn’t attend anyway, even I’d wanted to (which I didn’t want to. I really really didn’t want to) because it was the time that Chris and I were still driving to his radiation treatments.
It wasn’t her, it was the bible study.
I hadn’t been to a bible study in like ten years, since Logan was a baby. I didn’t want to go ten years ago either, but back then, I was a new-ish mom, with no tattoos and normal hair. I thought a bible study was something I aught to do. But bible studies have women that cover their bibles in fabric and put lace around the edges. (I make judgements, I know. I’m sure they are nice women, the ones with the fabric-covered bibles). This was not for me, though. No thank you. Not interested. Hahaha, also, I digress about the tattoos and hair, but they do give me just a tad more confidence to work with nowadays. Just a small amount.
So, I declined and Natalie accepted it.
Fast forward 24 hours. Same spot on the couch, different TV show. I received a text from the second girl, Ann. This is the one from school. I hardly knew her. Her oldest and my oldest are besties and we’ve only met each other’s acquaintance while dropping them off at each other’s houses to play video games, until winter break, when Logan couldn’t play because he had to come with us to radiation. I gave her the long and short of our story and she so graciously offered to take both my boys on a couple of days so their break wouldn’t be totally wasted on multiple car rides up to Denver. My words, not her’s.
Her message was cute. I knew I was beginning to like her. Even though it was via text, I could hear her voice sounding sorta timid as she wrote how she felt lame to ask me, but that her church (the one across from mine) was starting a bible study soon and would I like to join her in it?
Two bible study invitations in two days.
I haven’t been invited to a single one in ten years! And now two in two days?!
Pastor Ben tells me that God is pursuing me. He’s told me this a lot since November and when he does, I’m all, “Ha! No, He most certainly isn’t. I’m mad at Him anyway, so I don’t buy it. He’s not interested in me.” (To myself, obviously!)
I’m difficult. But my response to Ann wasn’t as hasty as the one to Natalie just 24 hours before. I put the phone down in my lap and told Chris. He just chuckled a little. This time I asked her for the details before declining. It was on Tuesday nights. I told her I didn’t like going out at night, especially on the weeknights, so…I would think about it. She let me know that the seat next to her would be for me, if I wanted it.
Well, I went to Ann’s bible study. I fought it, though, you know. I mean, it was at another church!! With strangers!! I even asked Logan if he thought I should go. He answered a resounding yes, and when I asked him why, he gave me two answers. One, because I would learn more about Jesus and that’s always a good thing, and two, I’d become friends with his pal’s mom! But, listen, the movements getting me there didn’t feel like mine. I just went. I ended up there that first night and when they started with a couple of worship songs, I cried. And the girl who led the worship said something dumb, like “Jesus wants you here,” and I cried more, but I don’t think anyone saw. It wasn’t dumb what she said. It just makes me feel better to say that it was. Tonight is the last session and there’s no doubt in my mind that the spot right next to Ann is where I’m supposed to be. The study is on the Armor of God and each week its like my head rolls off in astonishment over how directly the words apply to me. Especially the lesson on fear. The question that continued to surface during the fear lesson was, “What does God want you to do?” And people were giving all these deep answers (maybe they weren’t deep, but I just assumed they were because other people have deep answers, not me)(that was actually a part of one of the lessons, comparison). I didn’t have a clue what my answer was. “What does God want me to do…?” I kept hearing the question and repeating it over and over to myself. It was like there was this thing that I knew I had to trust God with, and currently, of all the places I should place trust, it wasn’t willingly going towards Him because He let a third tumor into my husband’s brain, so why should I trust Him?
Then, a part of the lesson happened where I heard the speaker speak and I wrote down the following words…
Faith is stepping into a situation or circumstance where you put yourself into a position for God to HAVE to COME THROUGH.
I realized then, that my fear over Chris’s health and the outcome of radiation treatment and the rest of his and our lives wasn’t what God wanted me to focus on and trust Him with at this exact moment, although He does, and I want to, but we’re not there yet. What does God want you to do?
He wants me to trust Him in a seemingly much smaller, not-what-I-expected, place. He wants me to trust Him enough with my heart and mind and spirit to be able to leave my family this weekend and attend a women’s retreat with my church. This occurred to me at the church across the street from mine, the one with strangers in it. Ann’s not a stranger. The girls at the table where we sit aren’t strangers anymore, but you see what I’m saying.
Let me back up a little. Suppose you’re wondering where the heck my explanation for the third and fourth invitations are? Seriously Jen, you’ve dragged us through a book already, at least reveal the other two invitations, my gosh!
Right around the time of the bible study invites, I attended church one Sunday morning and normally I b-line out of the sanctuary straight to get my kids and leave. Let’s not socialize, then we’ll have to answer inquiries of how Chris is feeling and how am I and the boys holding up and we’re being prayed for, etc…
My gosh, I sound like a jerk!! And, I intend to hit the “publish” button on this bad boy? I’m nothing if not real when I write, so
(and im not actually a jerk, i don’t think)
Sometimes it all just becomes a little much having to answer people’s questions, but maybe they don’t even intend to ask this time…maybe i haven’t given them a chance to not to!! Huh. Everyone means well. I know this.
Well, on this one particular morning, Nora caught my eyes and my attention. She was manning the table with info on the Women’s Retreat coming up. She invited me to come to it and bribed me with chocolate, to which I laughed heartily and said, “No. No, thank you. I will not be attending this retreat.” With an emphasis on the three-letter-word NOT.
Nora said that was fine, but handed me the info card anyway, and told me I didn’t have to decide right away. Then handed me some more chocolate. She’s great.
Our worship director, Beth, happened to be standing nearby the table with Nora and asked me what I was doing that upcoming Tuesday night. Yep, you guessed it, here comes the fourth and final invitation!!
“Nothing,” I told her as my army began gathering themselves up, finding their swords and erecting their shields, the leader shouting battle positions…
By the way, we’re all around the same age, myself and these girls…late 20s, early to mid 30s…OH! Ahem, not me, I’m turning 40 soon. Well, nevermind.
Beth asked me if I’d like to go to her house Tuesday night with Nora, Natalie and Katie. You know, nothing serious, just for some fun visiting, a little food and drink, should be a great time! “And I’d love it if you’d come!” she says.
“Ohhhh, no thank you,” was my immediate response. “I have no plans, but I don’t like to go out at night without my family. Thank you anyway, I hope you have fun!”
How come this can’t just be my response and I can look at Chris, give him the nod and we’d head home? Seriously? But I kid. It was all pleasant and lovely. Chris and I enjoyed a little conversation with the girls and I sort of realized what a tool I’ve become, but my army stood really, really strong. It’s a devoted army, I tell you what.
Beth told me I could text her Tuesday and let her know if I’d be there or not. You see, and I learned this later, these girls aren’t wringing their wrists over the outcome of whether or not I go socialize with them for a few hours. It’s me, wringing my wrists over whether or not I go socialize with them for a few hours. They aren’t within my safety parameters and at this point, remember, I hadn’t begun the bible study at the “stranger’s” church yet. Nothing was safe.
Chris and I turned away from the retreat table to find Pastor Ben standing there. “Oh Jen!” he said. “Are you going to go to the women’s retreat?” (And also, I really really wish that for this moment alone that I had little to no integrity because I’d love to tell a little story about how Ben would’ve told me that I should go because God is pursuing me. That would make for really great story telling, but alas, I do come complete with integrity and he did not speak those words to me (maybe he thought them?!)). He did, however, encourage me to go, telling me I might be very surprised by it.
Also, as you might’ve guessed, I went to Beth’s house that Tuesday a couple months ago. I brought with me one can and one bottle of beer right along side my slippers contained tightly within my Pikes Peak Brewing Co insulated bag. I’m laughing at my ridiculousness as I write this.
I won’t go on about the details of the night, but I will say that I’m very glad I went and, although I came away with a lot that night, like ,really a lot of good things, the two that really relate today are…number one: I can be myself around girls that don’t know me very well, who are outside my safety parameters and they still like me and care about me and are without judgement. Number two: When Natalie told me that attending the retreat would be good for me because I’ve taken such care of Chris during his brain time and the boys, that I should offer myself a fulfilling break and attending the retreat would be a good way to do that. She may be right, but my response to her, which took me aback and maybe her a little too, was, this: The last time I went away from my family for a little self-care was when I went to visit my sister in California in September and when I returned, we learned almost immediately that Chris’s brain had grown another tumor.
So you see, the only self-care that works for me is when I’m in my house with my family. As long as I’m with him, he will surely be healthy and alright.
And yet, tomorrow I will begin packing my bags for the women’s retreat. Yep. I’m going. Again, my movements haven’t felt like my movements, but here I go. My army isn’t happy about it. But, I’m going because I have to. I want to a little bit, yes, but mostly I have to. I have to believe that Pastor Ben is right. God must be pursuing me. I have to believe that there is something GIANT that I am to learn about myself on this three-day outing-in the mountains, without beer and no cell signal (that is not in order of importance, mind you). I have to believe what I realized and learned in my study–that God needs me to trust him in this circumstance. That MY faith right now is ME stepping onto this retreat and WATCHING Him come through. That’s the position I’m putting Him in. His love never fails. I know it. I’m just stubborn about it and mad, still.
This is really big, friends. I can feel my heart a little bit. I think I believe God brought along these four girls, ones from outside my safety parameter, to quiet my army and allow me to come out.