Funny how life can throw curve balls, grinders, heaters and the occasional wild pitch that make us double over in horrific shock. What I find amazing is how MLB players never consider the whole ball game in one pitch or one season, but a series of seasons. If you are a die hard Cubs fan you know this reality, still chasing the pennant, still cheering from the stands, joyous spirits flying high in the bleachers whether at Spring training or regular season at Wrigley. Somehow our fanaticism and forgiveness for our baseball teams never seem to carry over to our personal lives or those with whom we interact. Suddenly the story of their life is the whole ball game as opposed to a series of seasons.
I entered a new season just this week. This season made me reflect on comments haphazardly spoken to and about me in the last several months during my stint working ministry. Some of these comments stung like the wild pitch I never expected while others I gave a check swing, thanks for the bait but I choose not to let my bat and swing cross the plate on those. While I would love to bore you with my baseball jargon I will get to the point. On Monday I resigned from my position in ministry. The decision was not light, nor angry, nor bitter, nor hasty, but a firm standing that I refuse to be put in a box, classified, categorized, told who I am, am not and who I am to become.
You see my story, my whole ball game, is still a work in progress.
“For in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1b.
I could not help but to giggle wildly that some individuals would wrap my entire life into a definitive outcome based solely on a few seasons. I gather they must not be baseball fans?
The other day I celebrated 13,514 days of life! Year 37 if you are doing the math. Not that this year was an astounding year, or anything of great impact, but a year of great reflection. An old friend had messaged me a few nights earlier with the most touching words I have read in some time, ” I admire your strength and dedication and that you never let things get you down.” Moved to tears of joy and humility, if only she knew my dark moments, the devious passengers who would hijack my mind, moods, days, months and what seemed to be years. Yet, she had a point, I never let these specks in time prevent me from perseverance, grasping the truth of the bigger picture.
Born the oldest of three to Vance and Sandy who separated and divorced before I was 10. People took pity upon me as if my life was so devastating with parents who were divorced. Product of the 80s divorce trend, classified as coming from a “broken home.” My parents split was one of great strength for me, though not determined at the time.
“For I know the plans I have for you,â€ declares the Lord, â€œplans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Somehow though divorce is seen as damaging to children and in some cases this is probably true, but my parents divorce was one of the most pivotal events in my life. You see all homes are “broken” just not in the sense as they relate to divorce. So being from a “broken home” the classification is so pregnant with ignorance I scoff at the idea. During the season of my parents divorce I learned survival, strength, and unyielding courage. Loyalty of family, love, truth, honesty and justice were values I clung to and are what made me “whole.” Qualities that shaped my persona and inspired me to be much of who I am today.
As a teen I was forced into a small town, foreign and frightening. I learned about living in the country, driving through mud, snow, rocky terrain, dodging elk, deer and kamikaze jack-rabbits in night driving. Finagling small town gossip and the “everyone knows your name” stigma. Oil changes, head gasket replacement, horsepower and axle swaps became part of basic dinner conversation. Again I was in an unfamiliar place as I felt the outcast, not another definition, but seasons of growth, self-reflection, understanding and drive. At one point my mother was unemployed with a broken arm and I had to resort to rolling change in order to pay for gas to get to school. When she did find work again we maintained on a limited household income, I learned about budgeting and finance management and to make five dollars last an entire week for school lunch and gas.
Some might also find this pitying during my youth, that finances were tight and opportunities were limited. I found beauty in the simplicity of my teen years and never once thought I was going without. Many life skills were obtained that some adults struggle to achieve well into their 30s and 40s.
Young adulthood slapped me silly with a missed opportunity to run off to college like all the other kids. One of the few times I ever felt entitled, a genius IQ and stellar GPA should have sufficed entry into any reputable university. Yet money was the hindrance to pay for more than just classes, acceptance to names like Columbia, Harvard and a full tuition payment to the University of Arizona were simply not enough. Money was required for books, housing, food, the expenses were mountainous and money was not. So I ventured across state lines to Albuquerque to work for a living, maybe go to college, reconcile a relationship with my estranged father, and experience life through self-exploration. Trying new things, meeting new people, life was like being on vacation without being on vacation.
The night my mother drove me to my father’s I cuddled in a twin bed with her, embracing my last fearful moment as a little girl. Terrified of the days to come, yet courageous to welcome each morning as a new adventure. During this adventure in Albuquerque I met the best man in the world who would later become the most amazing husband and father, a fairy tale come true.
My endeavors were plentiful while in the Burque, with a loving boyfriend, new apartment and estranged relationship with my father again, I found myself fighting for my life. Unknown of the fight at all. Stricken with what I thought was the worst case of food poisoning I lay in bed writhing for the pain to subside, the chills, aches, wishing for the lethargy to die or overtake me. Alone with no family, a terrified little girl again, but courageous to never let anyone smell my fear. Just short of falling victim to my situation a final trip to the ER resulted in hospitalization, antibiotics and misdiagnosis.
Not 24 hours later I was subjected to an emergency CT scan, blood work and medical release for morphine. What just happened? A diminished white blood cell count and organs on the verge of failure and shut down, infused with a shot of morphine to dull the senses of my body’s natural order to what was happening. Quickly calling to advise The Chad I was headed to surgery, having only enough sense to ask him to call my mom during our brief exchange. I felt like I was in a toilet bowl as staff whirred around me in blue scrubs, monitors, sweet talk of cocktails and intravenous infusions. Lights out.
Five days with a ruptured appendix. Apparently that shit can kill you. Who knew? Weeks of recovery and obstinate fighting to return to a normal life. I recalled many out of body experiences. Out of body experiences were attributed to the prescription opiate narcotics as part of pain management due to sepsis and gangrene. Something truly divine to watch and feel as if your life is peacefully and uncontrollably slipping away from the inside, observing people only through listening and being fully awake in your subconscious but having an obliterated waking consciousness. Discerning the price of life, a humility for the innate drive to fight and appreciate the most simplistic beauty this world has to offer.
Surviving what I thought would be a Detroit Tigers season, The Chad and I married a few years later. Just four years into our marriage, we had struggles with pregnancy and heartaches of human loss with the maternal desire of a biological ticking clock. At some point in these 24 years one might think that I would be jaded, rough, bitter or harsh, that I would be dreaming of something better or tossing in the towel. However I managed to combat what would be a defeat, survive the micro-bursts of what some would consider a losing streak and received the blessing through perseverance.
In my mid- to late 20s, my marriage was on the rocks at my own hand, a waffling career and I had no idea who I was anymore. Maneuvering adulthood and parenthood was laborious and had me crying for home, wishing that I did not have to grow up. Drowning my life in recreational drugs to numb my reality, cocktailed with alcohol and emotional silence, almost as damning as being Jose Canseco.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.â€ Jeremiah 29:12
On a wing and several hundred desperate prayers, The Chad (and God) helped see me through, loving me in a way never imagined – unconditional, forgiving, supportive and encouraging. Kicking myself in the ass, I got my shit together and realized this was not about me. Bringing my marriage and my family closer we started to rebuild and experience some new beginnings.
Struggle was(is) an ever present part of my life. Day-to-day life in my adolescent years, teen years, my twenties and now into my thirties has not been easy, but I revel in these moments. I embrace the challenge as if a test. Appreciative, humbled, confident to lean in to the curve balls, wild pitches and handed a few walks to remind me of where I have been, how far I have come and where I am going.
Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. “Easy” doesn’t enter into grown-up life.Â Michael Caine as Robert Spritzel in The Weatherman (2005).
During this walk I never have or will ask or feel pity, nor did I feel sorry for myself with my struggles. Never once did I fall on my face and question His plan for me and consider these challenges anything other than opportunity. What I did do was bear down, believe, sought truth and justice, followed my gut, kept the faith and exhibited bravery when I was batting a thousand. Appreciating all I have experienced in my young life, loving the lessons, the knowledge.Â Humbled in the opportunity to share that my seasons of life could give others hope, inspire others to never give up, encourage others to weather brutally damaging moments that would help shape and NOT define their identity. I have not, nor will I let any of these seasons define my identity or determine the whole ball game of life. These seasons, these moments have only added shape, character, to my testimony, to my story.