Archive for the ‘insecurity’ Category

Conflicted

September 23, 2011

After we left our church, we decided to visit another nearby church. Our attention had been caught by banners proclaiming that the church was in the middle of a series on poverty, so we took our social-justice selves and bruised egos on in through the door.

The service was…eh. The music was painful, and the well-meaning sermon was somewhat lacking in a call to thought or action. But the people were friendly. Even if there was a dearth of young families, no one seemed to mind my daughter’s wiggles.

A few days later, we received a letter in the mail. The new church was hosting something of a prospective member brunch, and we were invited by name.

At this point, I must admit, I was struggling. And grieving. Despite the fact that we had spent more than two years at our old church, despite the fact that I had been in the choir, despite the fact that one of my business partners was a member, despite the fact that it had felt like home…not one single person had called to talk to us. Not my business partner. Not a fellow choir member. Not the head of the children’s ministry.

It was as if we had never been there. As if no one even noticed that we were gone.

I was crushed.

But part of me still wanted to go back.

Why? Michael asked. Why do you want to go back, after how they treated us? When here we have a letter inviting us BY NAME to return to a new church? Why?

The answer, of course, is complicated.

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The Awkward Phase

May 17, 2011

We decided to find a new church in the fall. I wanted to let the pastor and congregation know why we had left, but hadn’t yet figured out the best way to do it. The pastor had only been installed a few weeks previously, and I really didn’t know him at all. Besides, I’m not very good at telling uncomfortable personal truths face-to-face.

I thought a letter would be best. Or maybe an article for the semi-monthly church newsletter. Something.

Before I had a chance to decide, the church called me. Rather, the church secretary–who periodically checked in to see if we were ready to officially join the congregation–called. “We’re welcoming new members in a few weeks,” she began. “I know you weren’t interested before, but we would love to have you if you want to join.”

And I was caught. What could I say? The thought of lying crossed my mind, but I didn’t really want to. But neither did I really want to tell her everything that had happened, because–among other reasons–that would mean crying. Again.

The silence lengthened. “Well…” I began, the high pitch of my voice betraying my emotions. “We’re not really going to church there anymore.”

“You aren’t? Why not?”

Slowly the story came out. About my noisy daughter and the reactions of people around us. About the man who said my child did not belong in church. The secretary is a very sympathetic woman and was much disturbed by what I had to say. She asked if I would tell the pastor, and I reluctantly agreed.

“We don’t all feel that way about kids in church,” she said before transferring me.

With the pastor listening, I hashed through it all again, my stomach tight, my face wet with tears. And he couldn’t say that the people who had rejected us were a minority, because he was new and barely knew anyone at the church. But he did say that they were wrong, and that it bothered him, and that he would address it.

He asked if we would be back at church; I said I didn’t know. I asked that they not call us, that he would know our decision by our presence–or lack thereof–at church.

insecurity and prayer

August 18, 2010

Lately I have had a hard time praying. It’s weird, because I have always been comfortable talking to God. Maybe because I have always had a good relationship with my parents, and that comfort is easily transferred to the Father.

But lately…lately, no. I still feel great with my parents, but now I feel inferior when it comes to God. Like I don’t think I’m doing a good job, so it’s hard to face the boss. Or like it’s been too long since I’ve called an old friend, and now talking to him is all weird.

Whenever I start to pray, I think, “Is this something I should be praying about? Is it too shallow? Am I offending God with my stupid little request?” Even when I know it isn’t shallow, I think, “What if this is God’s will? What if I’m asking God to do something completely at odds with his greater plan?”

Thus my prayers have been unsatisfactory, awkward and far between.

Am I the only one who struggles with this?

Recently my mom called to tell me that my uncle has cancer and would be in the hospital for surgery. She asked me to pray, and I said I would, even though I was already uncomfortable.

(In my mind, praying is one of those things, like attending weddings and baptisms, that you just DO if someone asks you to. I think Jews call these things mitzvahs, or something along those lines.)

Anyway, I wanted to pray for my uncle. But I couldn’t find the words. I didn’t know what to say, what to ask for. Healing? Comfort? Ease of pain? The cancer to totally and miraculously disappear?

I finally prayed and asked God to be present with my uncle and his family, but I didn’t feel happy about what I had said. Fortunately, at the time, my recently-baptized daughter was riding in the car with me. I glimpsed her in the rearview mirror and thought, “Faith like a child.”

I asked the Bean to pray for her uncle, and I explained why. She said okay, then closed her eyes, folded her hands, and prayed. Simple as that. The prayer was finished in less than a minute. I didn’t hear what she said, but she had talked to God, and she was obviously at peace with the conversation.

That started me thinking. Why is talking to God so hard for me, when talking to other people I love isn’t? So I looked at my attitude toward prayer and compared it with my attitude toward talking to everyone else.

  1. Do I worry about saying the right thing with everyone? Well, yes, to some extent. I more or less speak my mind, but I tend to sprinkle my comments with disclaimers like: “I could be wrong.”
  2. Do I have to be in perfect agreement with everyone I talk to? No. I argue politics with my family all the time. I don’t like disagreements, but they happen. I can accept that.
  3. Does everything I say have to be profound? No. I would hardly talk at all if that were the case. (Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.)

So maybe, maybe I just need to loosen up a little. Stop condemning myself for being imperfect. God is my Father, after all, and he loves me. Maybe prayer needs to be less about saying the right thing and more about just spending time with Dad.

Just a thought.

Writing again

August 5, 2010

I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted anything, but that title really has nothing to do with the blog. It has to do with me, or rather, the rest of my writing.

I don’t know exactly why, but my confidence in my own abilities has been pretty low for awhile. I think it probably has a lot to do with being laid off, then being un- or under-employed ever since. Maybe also the fact that my current “job” is something I’m not terribly good at, so I feel incredibly inept whenever I am working.

This feeling was highlighted by a conversation I overheard earlier this summer. Two under-employed women I know were discussing their job searches and interviews. They were also complaining that their current employers seemed oblivious to the range and extent of their talents. While it is a shame that both extraordinary women are being underused, the main thought I came away with was: how can they both still feel so sure of themselves?

I mean, I’m an extraordinary person, too. I have a lot of talent that has been sitting completely idle. And yet every help-wanted ad that sounds intriguing also feels unattainable. Why bother applying when I know I won’t get it?

Anyway. For no apparent reason, this low-self-esteem season seems to be waning. Suddenly, I am feeling creative again. I’m cooking a lot, experimenting in the kitchen, even if it’s not as much as I’d like to be doing. Several of my stagnating stories have new life. Ideas keep popping into my head. And, quite inexplicably, I’m writing poetry.

Okay, so I still haven’t applied for a new job. But the job I’ve always wanted–writer–has never felt so within reach.

The two faces of Hope

December 11, 2009

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25

In eleven days, my daughter is supposed to have surgery to remove two small branchial cleft remnants on her face. Immediately afterward, before she wakes, she have a bone conduction hearing test to determine whether and to what extent her right ear works.

I am consumed with worry.

I am not, however, worried about her hearing. At least, not today. Today I am more-or-less at peace with her ear. Whatever will be, will be. And I have known many people who thrive with partial or total deafness, so even if her ear is completely nonfunctional, I know she will be fine.

I am worried about the general anesthesia she will undergo as part of the procedure. I am worried that she won’t wake up from the anesthesia–1 in 250,000 people don’t, and the risk is higher in infants. I am worried that we’re taking an enormous risk for a mostly cosmetic procedure, since the hearing test can be done with a much milder (but still general) sedation.

The doctors tell me that this isn’t just cosmetic, that there is a chance of infection or other problems with the remnants. And we should do it now, while she’s young, to minimize scarring. But I still can’t shake the feeling that the doctors are influenced by traditional ideas of beauty. Or, failing that, just expectations of how people “should” look.

My daughter is adorable. She has two little bumps on her face, but they are just bumps. Who cares if she has bumps on the edge of her face?

Here is where I admit that I am a hypocrite. I don’t want to care about physical beauty, but I do. Because I know that the wider world does, and I don’t want my daughter to feel inferior because she has bumps on her face. After surgery, her face will be different. No bumps.

I want to teach my girls that it is what is on the inside that counts. I want them to know that real beauty cannot be seen with the eyes. If I make a decision to alter Hope’s appearance, will they believe me?

Sincerity

November 18, 2009

Sincerity is such a tricky wicket.

According to wordnik, sincerity is “the quality or condition of being sincere; genuineness, honesty, and freedom from duplicity.” All good things, right?

Yet in this snarky, self-concious, hipper-than-thou culture of ours, it is cool to mock everything.

I am, I think, a painfully earnest person. (“Marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness”–I love you, wordnik.) I take what people say at face value, responding seriously to the most ironic of comments and embarassing myself tremendously in the process.

One of my closest friends rarely passes a moment without engaging in heavy sarcasm. I knew her FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR before I decided that yes, she did like me, and she wasn’t just putting up with me for a mutual friend’s sake. She is that snarky.

Therein lies the rub. Like most of my generation, I think sarcasm and irony are funny. I love The Daily Show and Tom Lehrer. I try to be quick-witted and smart-mouthed at parties, because that is entertaining to me and my circle. Sometimes I even feel my face burn when a quip goes awry, especially in the presence of my second-snarkiest friend, whom I have for some reason never stopped trying to impress.

And yet. And yet.

I feel vaguely guilty and hypocritical when I’m sarcastic. Especially when it’s mean sarcasm. (To be honest, when is sarcasm not mean?) It’s hard for me to meet anyone’s eye when I’m snarky.

It’s a vicious circle. I’m not a sarcastic person. But I enjoy sarcasm, or perhaps I just enjoy the company of people who do. So I employ sarcasm. But it doesn’t come naturally to me, so I embarass myself. And the whole time I wonder if I’m doing something wrong, acting so blase and snarky about things and people I really do care about.

Too sincere for sarcasm, I think. Does that make me boring? Does it matter? Perhaps I should stop trying to be something I’m not.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” — Galatians 1:10

Baby

April 22, 2009

(Restaurants later this week, I promise.)

I think most of the folks who read my blog already know this, but in case you don’t…I’m pregnant. Baby 2 is due in June. Apparently I have been too distracted to share this information as widely as I thought I had.

So here we are, two months out, and completely unprepared. Well, not completely. We have the Bean’s old car seats (in various states of assembly). We have a bassinet (at my parents’ house). We have baby clothes (in boxes in the basement).

But I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the level of preparation we have accomplished, especially since I am now having Braxton-Hicks contractions every time I stand up. For the entire time I stand up.

Grocery shopping is a nightmare.

Plus, I have so little energy these days. And, paradoxically, so much to accomplish.

I only have two months to earn as much money as I can, since we will essentially be a one-income family once the baby arrives. I doubt I would be doing much substitute teaching in the summer, anyway, but proofreading is theoretically a year-round occupation.

I also have to get everything situated with my business so that my partners can take over my duties (booking events, bookkeeping, publicity, web designer, customer service) with a minimum of fuss. This is a time when I curse my reluctance to delegate, since now I’m the only one who knows how to work our Quickbooks account and our website. Yay.

Stress is obviously not helping with the contractions.

Despite all of this, I am excited and happy about the little one on the way. It’s fun to play tap-the-belly with my hidden wonder. We have spent hours thinking of baby names (without a resolution in sight–if only Michael would start to like “Seymour”). Even the Bean is excited and adjusting reasonably well to the idea of NOT being the baby anymore.

I guess we’ll see how that holds up. =)

Kicking the Can

April 3, 2009

Note: I wrote this more than a year ago, but it has been lingering unread in my “files” since then. I decided the time was ripe to share it.

I have been drinking a can of Coca-cola, at least one, every single day for more than 20 years. When I was a student, it was my after-school snack. As an adult, it became my default lunchtime beverage. I loved it. The bubbles, the caffeine, the sweet-but-not-too-sweet taste.

After a time, though, I began to have misgivings about my love affair with the red-and-white can.

39 grams of sugars per can–the equivalent of nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar. Off-limits for diabetics–how good is it for me?

Accusations of human rights abuses abroad. As I attempt to be a conscientious consumer, how can I justify this purchase that may encourage oppression?

Big business. I’m trying to foster a local economy. Why not spend my money on a small-batch local root beer instead?

Budget. Money is a little tight in these here parts. Why tithe $4 to Coke each week?

And then my infant daughter started grabbing my Cokes. At first I thought it was cute–evidence of her early fine taste…and then I thought again. I’ve been addicted to Coke against my better judgement for more than four years. Did I really want to start my baby down this path?

But I still didn’t stop. I kept the Coke away from little hands, but I kept drinking it.

Until one day…when the price of Coke went up. Nearly $5 for a case. And I thought, this is ridiculous.

“Aren’t you getting anything?” My husband asked, as he swung his customary case of Mountain Dew into the shopping cart.

“No, I’m going to try it without. It’s too expensive right now.”

“Okay.” Unconcerned. My husband is well-accustomed to my eccentricities.

The first week I missed it. Oh, how I craved the caffeine! I drank 2, 3, 4 cups of tea in a day. I spurned water. Flavor! I needed flavor!

I broke down and bought a 65-cent can of Coke from a vending machine. Cracked it open. Took a sip.

It was syrupy. Didn’t taste right. I left it on my desk overnight.

Days passed. I still missed the flavor of something in my drink, but I was determined not to fall back to Coke out of pure habit. If I started drinking Coke again, it would be because I wanted Coke.

We made an “emergency” late-night run to the supermarket. Bought Lemon Zinger tea and Ovaltine.

Another week passed. I ceased missing my daily Coke.

We went to the market. Coke was 2 cases for $5.

“Do you want some?” My darling husband asked.

“Nah,” I replied, walking on by.

I wish I could explain why I was successful in quitting Coke this time, after so many abortive attempts in the past. I wish I could say it was my iron will and moral certitude. But honestly, my willpower resembles jello more than steel. And my morality…well, I try.

The truth is, for whatever reason, Coke just doesn’t taste good anymore.

And I’ve got a half-empty can on my desk to prove it.

Feeling poor

February 22, 2009

I’m pretty lucky. I know that. I have a lovely husband and daughter, a cat (even if she does whine and keep me up at night), a roof over my head, a decent income, plenty of friends, God and so on.

But sometimes, SOMEtimes I feel worried about what I don’t have. Times like now, when I’m worried about money. When I’m worried enough to feel uncomfortable buying food, because I’m afraid that might cause a check to bounce.

I know, I should be thankful for what I do have. I should appreciate my blessings. I should listen to my husband, who says to relax. We always make the finances work somehow, right?

Yeah.

Right.

I still worry. It’s a hard habit to break.

But even I know that worrying never actually accomplished anything, so I’m also going to take some constructive action. Because food is my main personal expense, I’m going to plan a week’s worth of meals that require no new purchases.

I actually started this afternoon, by making hummus (yay, food processor) and baking two loaves of pumpkin bread. So I can use those for breakfast and/or lunch at least a few days this week.

Monday

  • Breakfast: tea and pumpkin bread with neufchatel cheese
  • Lunch: a hard-boiled egg, carrot sticks and horseradish-beet salad
  • Snack: hummus and crackers
  • Supper: lamb kebobs, saffron rice and romanesco broccoli

Tuesday

  • Breakfast: cherry juice and pumpkin bread with neufchatel cheese
  • Lunch: roasted pork sandwich, pickled okra and a coke
  • Snack: vanilla peach smoothie
  • Supper: spinach pesto lasagne and steamed carrots with Spike

Wednesday

  • Breakfast: peanut butter crunch with milk
  • Lunch: tea and a hummus wrap with spinach and olives
  • Snack: pumpkin bread with neufchatel cheese
  • Supper: pumpkin soup with coconut-lime bread

Thursday

  • Breakfast: tea and pumpkin bread with neufchatel cheese
  • Lunch: leftover pumpkin soup and coconut-lime bread
  • Snack: graham crackers and hot cocoa
  • Supper: pineapple bratwurst, mashed potatoes and marinated cauliflower

Friday

  • Breakfast: granola
  • Lunch: roasted pork sandwich, pickled okra and tea
  • Snack: carrot sticks and hummus
  • Supper: pumpkin gnocchi with sage browned butter and a green salad

I WAS going to make Ragu Napoletano for dinner one night. I found a gorgeous recipe in How To Read A French Fry, by Russ Parsons, and I’ve been saving it for…almost a year. Yikes. But I have no onions, nor fettucine, nor parsley, nor tomato paste. So it will have to wait a little longer.

My goal is to stick to this meal plan, give or take a few day-switches, and to BUY NOTHING for the whole week. No additional groceries, no emergency snacks, no maternity clothes…

We’ll see how it goes.

Money

February 21, 2008

Almost a year ago, I lost my job.

In the time since, I have worried about money quite a bit. Oh, we’re not on the brink of starvation. Michael still has a job, which pays enough for us to get by (or would if we were less spendy).

But every month, when I pay bills, I worry. Will we have enough? Will we have to borrow money? Will I have to buy questionable food, just because it’s cheaper? Will we have to go back to using the credit cards to pay bills?

I pray, but I have trouble letting go of these worries. It’s the uncertainty I can’t handle, I think. Just trust me, God says. And like Martha, I say, “who’s going to pay these bills?” Who will take care of it if I don’t?

There have been times when there wasn’t enough money for what we needed. Or what we thought we needed, anyway. I fretted and stayed awake and crabbed at my family.

It dawned on me around Christmas, when I opened a card that held a gift check. Every time we have run out of money, every time I have been at the end of my rope…money has shown up. Sometimes through gifts, sometimes through insurance checks, once through an enormous and unexpected bonus from Michael’s employer.

Who will take care of it if I don’t? God will, of course.