The Bambi Story

With tomorrow marking the beginning of October, it means fall. Which means hunting season begins in just one month.

I have been going hunting with my dad ever since I was a kid—and I mean a kid. At six, I was trailing behind him on the trails, keeping my eyes open for the flash of antlers in the already-brown California mountains, learning how to be silent. It’s been the largest factor to the bond I share with him.

A few months ago, my dad brought up hunting again on the east coast, something we have done since I was legally allowed to hunt at 12.

“It’s only an hour up the road from your mom’s…” he said hopefully.

“Of course!” I all but screamed into the phone. My first hunting trip in nearly seven years.

. . . . . .

With everything that has been happening in my life, I’ve had time to evaluate what is truly important to me. One of those things is writing, and, as I’ve expressed in past posts, I am striving to take my writing more seriously. One way I am doing that is by beginning to work on a memoir.

The memoir is about those experiences hunting with my dad—what they have meant to me, how they have shaped me, and how they have shaped my relationship with my dad. Hunting has always been the thing dad and I did together. There’s one story, though, my dad tells anyone who will listen. We call it “the Bambi story.” He’s told it so often, I could recite it for you. In fact, I’m pretty sure he told this story to my husband once when we were dating.

In the past, I didn’t understand why he would always choose this story to tell. Was he trying to embarrass me? Was he making fun of me? As I got older, though, I realized he told it because it was a moment he is truly proud of. Don’t misunderstand me; he’s told me he’s proud of me on numerous occasions, but those are all “typical”—graduations, birthdays, my wedding… This particular story makes him proud in another way, and I think it’s the same reason I mention I love it so much—how many other dads can claim this moment? To him, it’s one of the coolest moments he has experienced as a dad.

It’s also the first real memory I have of hunting, which, to me, makes it an even cooler shared memory. I hope you think so, too.

It’s been a few weeks…

It’s been a few weeks
since my eyes welled up
and mascara stained my cheeks.

But that doesn’t mean the depression
ends.

When night falls
so does the darkness
and it surrounds every bit of me.

As the blankets cover me
I try to lull myself to sleep
quietly praying
for peace

I feel the ghost of your hand
on my arm.

And it begins again.

Lost & Found

Have you ever lost something? You look for it for days, maybe weeks, and eventually you just give up, knowing you’ll never find it. Maybe one day it randomly shows up somewhere. But, then again, maybe it doesn’t. Yet we are always hoping it will make its return.

. . . . . .

The young man demands his share of possessions and goes out into the world, where he wastes everything. Driven to the lowest of the low, he finds the pigs he is feeding have it better than he does, so he decides to return home and beg his family to take him back, even if it means as a servant. Upon returning home, he is, surprisingly, greeted with open arms and a celebration of his return. His family accepts him back.

Does this story sound familiar? It should. It’s the story of the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32.

I found a new church this past weekend, and it was the first church I’ve been to here that felt natural, almost like home. It was their launch, so it was their first official service, but it somehow felt familiar. I will be going back. The message on grace and the prodigal son really impacted me, and I hope it will impact you, too.

The pastor explained the story like this: basically, the young man demanded his half of his inheritance, which he wouldn’t typically get until his father died, and he left home and squandered it. After hitting rock bottom, he eventually realized he had wronged his father and he desired to return home, asking his father to accept him in the household as a servant. However, when the son neared his home, the father saw him and welcomed him back with open arms and decided to throw a party to celebrate his return.

This youngest son chose to disrespect his father. He chose to live immorally, wildly, and waste what he had. He had made terrible decisions. The biggest thing is he had to come to his senses on his own.

. . . . . .

This decision I have been writing about beating myself up over was the decision to take a job, because my husband and I could no longer afford where we were living. We argued about it for days, but I thought we had come to a mutual decision, so I accepted the offer and made the move, believing he would follow within months.

Two months into the job, I not only began to realize it wasn’t for me, but my husband explained he was still extremely angry about it all. After not speaking for a month, he explained he wanted us to separate.

During that phone call, the calmest and most adult one we had had in a while, I asked if this was leading to a divorce. He sighed and said he did not see them as the same thing. When I asked if we can seek counseling in a few months, he said we would discuss that later.

It’s been six months now, and I haven’t received any sort of legal paperwork. But I also haven’t heard from him.

. . . . . .

There were two things in the message that I felt God meant me to hear.

The first was the face that the son had to come to his senses. He had made terrible choices, yes, but no one could have convinced him otherwise. No one could have told him to go home and beg for forgiveness. In fact, I picture this son fighting himself internally—he needed to return home, but he had done this to himself so how could he possibly face his father? He had to come to terms with his choices in his own time, and he had to make the decision to return home on his own.

The second thing that struck me was the pastor said he always pictured that father as sitting on the porch every night, waiting, and hoping to see his son on the horizon. Maybe he prayed every night for his son’s return. Maybe he shed some tears in quiet. Eventually, though, this patience paid off because the son came home.

I spent days, weeks, months even, writing to my husband in hopes that I could say the right thing that would make him turn his thinking around. But I can’t do that. He has to come to his senses on his own. So I continue to pray every day for him and our marriage.

The pastor also gave us the difference between justice, mercy, and grace, and I found them rather fitting.

Justice is getting what you deserve.

Mercy is not getting a punishment you deserve.

Grace is getting more than you deserve.

The son in the story surely deserved punishment, right? I’m sure none of us would disagree that he did. He received mercy. What he also received, though, was grace. His father could have made him a servant, could have given him exactly what he deserved. The son didn’t deserve a party. In fact, the oldest son says this at the end of the story, explaining he had never disrespected their father, yet he has not received this celebration.

His father’s reply was simple: “It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” [Italics mind.]

That is grace.

. . . . . .

No, this didn’t make my depression go away. Yes, I still went through today where some moments seemed hopeful and others hopeless. But the message of the prodigal son and grace has stuck with me.

I have seen friends having children and families, and I long for that. That is all I have ever wanted with my husband. And I can’t count the number of times I have prayed, trying to bargain with God: “if you just grant me this, I will do anything.”

I think right now, though, He is trying to tell me I need to be patient. I think, too, He is telling me I need to come to my own senses.

I realize now the decision was made out of fear, not out of genuine prayer. I realize now I was so desperate to prove myself, when I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I realize I should have been more patient then.

I can’t change what has been done, but I can work to truly put my faith into practice.

I will be waiting, as I promised. I will pray every day. My heart and soul are already on their knees. I will not give up. I will not stop fighting. And I will show more than mercy; I will show grace.

I don’t know how things will turn out, and, yes, that frustrates me. But the Bible is full of redemption and God is a god of restoration.

. . . . . .

Have you heard the story of the prodigal son before? How does it speak to you?

What do you need grace for today?

Reflections

I’ve completed the blending of my foundation, making my complexion more even than it already is. I’ve colored my eyes and darkened my eyelashes. I’ve scrunched and fluffed and run my fingers through my growing hair. I look at my appearance in my small bathroom mirror. The thought “this is as good as it’s gonna get,” like Mia from The Princess Diaries, whispers through my mind. I sigh, resigned.

. . . . . .

When I look in the mirror each morning, I do not see someone I am proud of. I see a disappointment. A disappointment to my husband, my family, and myself. I would like to clarify—I do not see a quitter; I think they are different. I just feel overwhelming disappointment in myself.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. Perhaps that isn’t a good thing. Then again, perhaps it’s an opportunity for God to teach me more about myself and my capabilities.

I’ve been disappointed I didn’t see this coming. I’m disappointed I was stupid enough to make decisions I did. I’m disappointed I’m stupid enough to beat myself up over things I cannot change. I’m disappointed I didn’t do everything I could earlier. I’m disappointed I didn’t stand up for myself at work. I’m disappointed at my expectations. I thought things were better than this and they turned out differently.

Most of all, I’m disappointed I’m allowing negative thoughts to once again take root in my mind. Lately, I have felt deep within me that things are changing. The anxiety and depression are getting to me more, and I’ve felt powerless to stop them or even slow them down. And I’m disappointed in that powerlessness and that I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.

. . . . . .

Driving back from an appointment, reflecting on things both “good” and “bad”, I was struck by a phenomenon in front of me: a rainbow.

The clouds had been thick and a little dark, but it hadn’t rained. The rainbow was a perfect half-arch, coming from a perfectly fluffy white cloud, against a darkening light blue sky, in front of after-hour commuters. As I was marveling at this image, I felt a gentle whisper on my spirit: I promise.

Scientifically, a rainbow is caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays with drops of rain. In mourning, especially for a pet, we are often given the Rainbow Bridge poem, which tells of a beautiful place where the pet rests, yet reflects on the human they miss. In the Bible, the rainbow is a symbol of a covenant, of God’s promise to an individual or group of people (take Noah and humankind after the flood).

I was hit with the need for reflection when I saw this rainbow, but a different type of reflection than I have been doing. I felt compelled to begin reflecting on the good God has done in my life, on the promises He has made. There have been times I have not been certain if I have heard Him making promises, or if those things were just me stubbornly saying to Him “this is how it’s going to be.” I suddenly realized I needed to begin actually thinking about those times and asking God for guidance to again show me the promises He has made, to remind me, since I have gone off track.

That rainbow, to me, was a sign that He hears me, and He is working and will keep His promises.

. . . . . .

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m disappointed because I have not been expending my mental energy the way I should. I’m disappointed because I am allowing the enemy space in my head to take over the reflections of the good God has done. I am disappointed because I have not been reflecting on God’s word or work enough.

I am unhappy with my reflection because the enemy has control of it right now, and I need to give that control back to God. I am unhappy with my reflection because I have allowed myself to be so burdened by negativity and the enemy’s screams that I haven’t chosen to look deeper for God’s whispers.

I want to change that.

. . . . . .

Have you been unhappy with your reflection? What’s one thing you do to boost your self-esteem?

What have you been reflecting on? Have you been giving the enemy too much power in your reflection? How can you change that?

What are the promises God has spoken to you that you need to reacquaint yourself with?

Processing

Does suffering beget art?
Or does art beget suffering?
(Is there a third option?
Or a fourth?)

Writing is my way of...

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But maybe...

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I had to suffer
(somehow)
to get to this point

Maybe...

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God is showing me
how to use this gift
and I had to suffer
(something)
to listen.

The Most Magical Library

Large dark marble columns. Bronze statues of influential authors encircling the uppermost levels. Stained glass windows reflect the white and gold of the ornate domed ceiling. Curved wooden desks with glass tops and desk lamps that take you back to university libraries of old, a matching wooden desk chair sits at each station. Dark patterned carpet muffles any footsteps that may fall.

There’s no denying the beauty and sacredness of this place.

 . . . . . .

LOC_Main_Reading_Room_Highsmith
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress may be the most ornate room I have ever been in. The feeling begins the moment you walk into the building and make your way toward the Room.

Once you check your bag, bringing only what you need in a clear plastic carry bag, you make your way through the marble lobby of the Library and into a winding hallway. I felt I was being led down a secret passage, like I was being let in on an age-old secret. Take the elevator one level up, and you walk into the entry to the research area.

I stopped to take in my surroundings and just oogle at everything in front of me. I almost cried at the mere sight of it all. I was overwhelmed, in the best way possible, and I couldn’t wait to spend time there working. The receptionists and research assistants asked me a few times if I needed any help.

“Oh, no,” I told them, politely giddy, “I’m just exploring.”

They gave me polite nods in return, with a “let me know if you need anything,” but their expressions told me I may have been the most excited person they had seen enter the building. They probably thought I was crazy.

. . . . . .

Ever since I learned to read, I have been enamored with words and books. I used to annoy my parents just reading every sign I encountered. I would check out stacks of books from the library only to return them a few days later and replace them with more. I was the child that read multiple books at a time. In fact, I got in trouble for reading. Specifically, I once got reprimanded in a junior high English class because I was trying to read my book under the table while we were watching Romeo & Juliet (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio).

Being someone who loves books, I love libraries. I love looking at the architecture, the layout, the offerings of texts. When I got to my first university, I had to drag my mom to the library just to look around. I would hang out on a high-level floor in-between classes just because I reveled in the silence. When that library was redone, I spent even more time there. When my husband and I transferred universities, he chuckled as I begged him to let us explore the library of this new college so I could just see it.

Being an hour from Washington D.C., I decided a few months ago to get my Reader Card for the Library of Congress. This gives the card holder access to the Reading Rooms of the Library, which means access to the books. Granted, you can’t remove books from the premises, but it was still so magical to me.

Unfortunately, photos are strictly prohibited, but I guess that means I’ll just have to go back.

. . . . . .

Today I got to put that Reader Card to use.

I spent about three hours in the Library. Maybe two of those hours were me writing, working on my memoir, and exploring what books I may find. The last hour was me perusing the Library Shop because there’s no way I could leave without purchasing something. (I went for a t-shirt with a Hermione Granger-inspired quote: “When in doubt, go to the library.”)

IMG_6861
Exterior of the Library of Congress

I could have spent much more time there, but I got really cold. (They must have had the air conditioning turned on super high.)

This was one way for me to get in “the writing zone” and take my writing seriously. And in that room, I felt like a writer. It was an incredible feeling. I worked on my memoir, editing and adding, and separating certain paragraphs that would fit better in another location of the memoir. I began constructing the layout of the memoir, the general theme, and stories I could add to it.

I felt so inspired.

It was a moment where I thought this is what God has me doing… I suddenly felt this is what it means to take my writing seriously.

I can’t wait to go back.

I Finally Did It…

Stomach in knots. Racing heart. I feel like I’m shaking. I close my eyes and pray, “Father, if this is your will…” I open them again to find minutes have passed. There are papers piled on my desk, but it’s the paper hidden at the bottom of the stack that’s causing my anxiety.

Why is it we are most anxious to do something when we know it’s something we must do? Shouldn’t we have peace from God in that moment, especially if we feel He is the one telling us to do the thing?

I needed to take back my decision-making ability. I need to find what I am capable of. I need to find what really gives me that spark.

. . . . . .

I walk into the office, the feeling that I’m shaking more pronounced. I don’t think I am. I take my time, allow this to flow naturally. The time comes. 

“I would like to take this moment to tender my resignation.”

. . . . . .

I’ve thought about ways to use that phrase, “tender my resignation,” since I started my first job. It always sounded so adult to me, so professional.

In case you are wondering: yes, you have interpreted correctly. I quit my (main) job today. Rather, I gave my notice.

Once I did and I walked out of the meeting, I felt better. Calm finally settled over me. I had the conviction that I had done the right thing.

. . . . . .

I am going to take this time to do a few things.

First: I am going to invest in my writing. I’m going to buy a big pin board to use as a giant, physical story board or idea board. I need to physically write things down, post them up somewhere, and look at them frequently. I need to be able to move them as needed, to touch them.

I’m going to work on my memoir. I wrote a brief one for a creative nonfiction class in college, and I’ve always wanted to expand on it. I just never felt I had the time. I know, now, that was an excuse. I had the time, I just wasn’t managing myself properly.

Which leads me to the second thing: I’m going to work on managing myself and my time. For those logical people out there, I do still have a job—an adjunct position. I’m basically going to start from scratch, though. Whatever I did in college is out the window. I’m going to try new techniques.

Finally: I’m going to learn about myself. I realized recently that I’m not really sure what I want out of a career; I just knew where I was wasn’t it. I’m going to take time to find what makes me tick, what really gives me a spark.

. . . . . .

We have to realize God has created us for something special, something unique, something only we can do. When He calls on us to move forward into the unknown, it’s a test of our faith.

Do we move without knowing what will happen, but trusting He has a plan? Or do we keep plugging away at something He has not designed for us? If we do the latter, we may never find fulfillment, and we may move through life completely unsatisfied.

If we do the former, though, so many possibilities await.

The unknown is terrifying. It’s the unknown after all; by definition, we don’t know what’s to come. But if we put our faith in God and remember all things will work for the good of those who believe…then, just maybe, the unknown can be less scary.

It’s still something I am working on, believe me. I still have to practice my faith. I still have to work to reorganize my priorities. I have to constantly work to reorganize my mind to focus on Him. When I do, though, I can feel a change.

Like now.

. . . . . .

Do I feel better? I think so. The anxiousness I initially had went away as soon as I handed over my letter.

For the first time in at least five months, I feel like I have control of something. And, right now, that is important for me. For the first time since graduation, I do not really know what’s going to happen next. My life has turned so many ways in the past few months, I’m not sure what to expect. For once, though, I’m okay with that. I’m getting better at taking things one day at a time. I don’t know what’s in store, but I know God has a plan for me, that I am made for more.

I may have decided to quit my job, but, for the first time, I don’t feel like a quitter.