Sunday, November 27, 2005

In a few days...

So, next Wednesday, I will face again the exam that will decide my immediate future...either staying where I am, or moving forward into something completely new. I have done a lot of focused studying since I last took the exam, and feel confident that I can pass it this time around. Still, I do feel a fear of hearing those words again..."You didn't make it, Stephanie." After all the studying and hard work, to hear those words again would be more than a little upsetting.

But, I do not think courage means not being afraid. I think courage means doing what you have to do, even if you are afraid to do it. So, facing this exam again, and the possibility (however slim) of failure is an act of courage for me. Not too long ago, I would have let my first attempt be my last. The failure would have seemed so enormous to me, it would have been insurmountable. However, I have grown...and grown up...a lot since then, and I realize that the failure following my first attempt does not necessarily mean the next attempt will not be successful.

God continues to provide along the way of this new path. I have a free place to stay this time (thanks, Pat!), which is enormously helpful, since my hours at work were cut and my last paycheck was roughly $140 less than what I am accustomed to. I trust He will provide for my needs over the next couple of weeks after this trip, as funds will be especially tight until I get my next paycheck. Through all of this, I am learning more about God's heart toward us, and I know I can trust Him to meet my needs in His way, in His time.

I am currently reading "The Prayer of Jabez", by Bruce Wilkinson. A few years ago, when this book was so popular, I refused to read it. I tend to think that anything that gains popularity that quickly is more or less a gospel of the "feel good" variety. However, my niece, in her beautiful innocence, toddled over to me a couple days ago, carrying this book. She found it in one of the baskets in her room, where it had somehow become mixed in with all her baby things. It does not look like its rightful owner has even read it. When she handed it to me,though, I thought it was as good a sign as any that I should just give the book a glance.

I am only three chapters into the book, and it has already given me some new insight into things happening at this time in my life.

My prayers over the last few weeks have been along the lines of asking God to help me remember information so I can pass my exam so I can sell insurance so I can get into a better financial situation so I can bless my mom and dad and others...And none of those things are wrong things to ask for. However, I am realizing that, in being so specific about the blessings I am asking for, I am perhaps tying God's hands in other blessings He would like to give me, if only I would ask.

Jabez's prayer began with a simple, "Oh, that You would bless me, indeed...". He trusted in God's heart enough to believe that God desired good things for him, and desired to bless him. He did not ask for specific blessings. Only that he would be blessed indeed...which essentially translates to, "Oh, that You would bless me A LOT!".

However the Lord chose to bless Jabez, we will not know this side of heaven. However, He thought Jabez's prayer so significant that He had it written in His word. Jabez's simple prayer, which began for a request for God's big blessings, found its way into God's book of essentials.

God knows the desires of my heart. He knows how much I want to move forward in this new opportunity, not for the sake of my own financial gain (though that certainly is a consideration), but also in order to bless others as my own income grows. God knows that my deepest wish is to be able to assist my parents in their desire to either majorly renovate this house, or build a new house on the property. I would love to be able to give them the gift of major financial assistance as they do this. God knows that. He also knows the deeper desires of my be loved, to get married, to build a life with someone...He knows all of that. And He desires to give me good things.

So, in an act of faith, my prayers over the last couple of days have simply began with something along the same vein of, "Oh that You would bless me indeed....".

What a bold request. And yet, so obvious a thing to ask of God, who loves us and desires to give us good things.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


As it turns out, the court did not see things in quite the same light as my sister. Parenting time is to resume as ordered, as of Wednesday. Meaning, my little niece, utterly unable to defend herself, is going to be going to her father's house for three overnight visits a week. This child will continue to be subjected to an environment that is, by all appearances, unhealthy and possibly dangerous for her, and the court does not care.

My niece has been evaluated by a child psychologist, who says there are clear indicators that something traumatic happened to her around nine months old. That was about the same time she began overnight visits with her father. Since then, she has been consistently underweight, has been slow in her development in some areas, has come home with suspicious bruising, etc...and the court DOES NOT CARE. They continue to send that child back into the lion's den, and the only thing that will change that is if she comes home so broken and beaten that they can't argue that it was anything but abuse. When presented with the testimony of the child psychologist today, the referee at the hearing said she did not care what the psychologist said, she didn't believe in it so it didn't matter.

I am disgusted by our court system. It sickens me on a level I can't even begin to express. They do not care about the interests of the child, until something so terrible happens to the child that the court has no choice but to step in.

I know God is a just God. I know He is the defender of the helpless. What I cannot understand is why, even after so much, He allows this to continue. Those of us who love my niece and want only to protect her are made out to be the bad guys, and her father and his cronies, whose interest in my niece is only in proportion to their desire to hurt my sister, continually get away with whatever they set their mind to do.

My niece's father has not seen her in three weeks. When asked if he would like to see her today, he declined, saying he could wait until Wednesday.

That alone speaks volumes.

God, what are You doing?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Now is the time

As I write this, my sister is in court, facing her estranged husband and defending actions taken to protect her daughter. Her actions have placed her in contempt of court, but were utterly necessary to protect the welfare of her little girl.

God's Word speaks over and over again about Him being the defender of the helpless and vulnerable. It has been my prayer today that the Lord would defend my niece, and that He would do so through her mother, as she stands under the scrutiny of the court. I believe He will do it. I believe that today is going to be the day of reckoning for those who have sought to harm my sister and her daughter, and this is the day those individuals will begin to reap what they have sown.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Your Underwear Says About You

You have a lucky pair of underwear. And you wear it more than you should.

You're sexy, in that pinup girl, tease sort of way.
The Underwear Oracle

Well, I took my exam this morning. And I failed. Only by two questions, but I failed nonetheless. That state doesn't care if you fail by two questions or twenty, if you don't make it, you just don't make it.

It was quite a disappointment, and I spent much of the drive home thinking about it. Two little questions were all that stood between me and obtaining my license. It was so frustrating. Maddening, really.

I called a couple of friends, neither of whom were available to take my call at the time. That didn't offer much encouragement, nor did it make the drive home any easier. I just wanted someone to talk to...

As it turned out, though, the solitude was probably good for me. When I arrived home, I was so determined that I would not let two little questions get the better of me, I immediately got on the phone and reserved a spot to take the exam on November 30th, then called and reserved my hotel room. I have fourteen days to study my material again, so next time, I can kick those two little questions' butts.

I am still a little bummed about the whole thing, but I am making the effort to look at the positive elements of this. I now have a better idea of what I can expect on the exam, so I know where to focus my studies. I have a better idea of how to get where I need to go in Lansing, which is no small feat for this small town girl, so my next trip will be less stressful and much more relaxing. All in all, though I may be tempted to think otherwise, this trip was fruitful and will only make my next trip that much easier.

I think God is continuing to stretch me, challenging me to trust Him with the things that just don't make any sense from our perspective.

Almost time...

I hardly slept last night. I think I got a total of MAYBE three hours of sleep, but that is a very generous estimation. In roughly forty minutes, I'll be leaving for the exam, and a couple of hours after that, I'll know if I'm going to begin my new career or not.

At this point, I have done all I can do to prepare. I've studied as much as I can study, and the rest of it is in God's hands. If He wants me to pass this exam, I will do so.

Nervous? You better believe it. Worried? No. God is in control, and one thing I've learned on this journey is that when God is in control, you do not need to worry.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Wednesday Morning

So, tomorrow I head down to Lansing to jump over the final hurdle as I race toward my new career. On Wednesday morning, at 8 a.m., I'll be taking my exam to get my insurance license.

I know without a doubt that I am heading in the right direction. I received yet another confirmation yesterday that God is in this. I'll share...

As I began making plans for this trip, and the cost of the hotel room, the gas, the exam, my license application, and food all started adding up, I had no idea how I was going to pay for all of this, and still make it through until my next paycheck without starving and running on an empty gas tank.

I mentioned this at Oasis, asking for prayer for financial provision, but did not go any further than that. Years ago, I asked the church for help, and was turned down flat. So, with this new obstacle, I thought...why bother asking the church? They won't help me.

Still, I continued making my plans...I reserved my spot for the exam, reserved a hotel room, and crunched the numbers for fuel and food, arriving at the conclusion that it would leave me exactly zero dollars for the next two weeks. But, I figured, I've been in rough spots before and muddled through somehow. This would be no different. I wasn't looking forward to it, but I would manage.

I did pray that God would provide finances from somewhere, but really did not know where it would come from, since I had not asked anyone for help...not really.

I went to church on Sunday, and all was as it usually is...I listened to the message, talked with friends afterward, and started heading toward the door. Just then, a friend of mine stopped me.

She handed me an envelope and said she had a gift for me. She said she felt awkward about it, but didn't want me to feel awkward, because it was something she believed God was telling her to do. She said that she knew I had a need, and she had the finances to give, and God told her to help me.

I didn't know what to say. I was surprised, thankful, and once again reminded of the fact that God is ALWAYS working, we just don't always see how He is working.

I took the envelope, thanked her, hugged her, and we talked for a few minutes about what an exciting time this is in my life. She encouraged me and told me she would be praying for me regarding the exam.

When I got home, I opened the envelope and read the card, which put in writing everything we talked about an hour earlier. She told me in the note that God had instructed her to offer some financial support as I move ahead in my new career. I counted the money, and was tremendously blessed as I realized that there was more than enough money there to cover the expense of the trip. I wouldn't have to starve or let my gas tank run empty in order to make the trip...God had once again provided!!

I am humbled as I think about all of this...Not only this most recent event, but everything that has lead me to this place. God is so abundant in His grace to us. He is so merciful. So faithful. And He doesn't use His grace toward us to bring us shame, but He instead uses it to draw us closer to Him, and in doing so, peel away all the things in us that are keeping us from who He made us to be.

I am also finding that this experience of grace teaches us to show ourselves and each other a greater measure of grace. I think God's grace acts sort of like a spiritual exfoliant, sluffing off all the things that diminish our "Jesus glow", and bringing to the surface a softer, more pure, more radiant reflection of Christ Himself.

It occurs to is a great honor to be in the service of the King.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The final countdown

I am tired...I was up all night, taking and retaking and retaking my practice exam, until I finally reached a score I was satisified with. I called today and had my Certificate of Completion sent to my regional manager, and made my reservation for the real exam...

So next Wednesday, bright and early in the morning, I'll be taking my exam to get my license and become a real live insurance agent.

I am nervous, but I know that God will help keep my mind clear, and will help me remember all that I have studied.

For now, I'm going to relax a bit. More later.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"I am not the new me!"

That is actually the name of a book I want to get, maybe with my next paycheck. It is about all the hope that you feel when you are losing weight, and the elusive happy endings that never seem to follow.

As you may know, I had gastric bypass surgery about 18 months ago. I have lost over 100 lbs, and I do not look anything like I used to. I actually have a shape Other than round, I mean.

Anyway, a couple nights ago at work, I was taking in the breakroom with one of the maintenance guys, and we were watching some Dateline thing on gastric bypass surgery, and I told him I had the surgery. I told him that if he saw pictures of me before the surgery, he would not even recognize me. He asked me to bring in some pictures.

So, I did. They ended up circulating through almost the entire night staff, and they all said that the difference was "amazing", that I looked "phenomenal" now, etc...And I was glad for the compliments. It felt good to be able to show those pictures, and share in the recognition that they are part of my PAST.

Still, with all that, I do not feel new. I still feel like the dumb fat girl, just in a smaller body. I still feel incredibly inadequate, socially inept, incompetent to do much of anything (despite my high aspirations to the contrary), and I am still very much at war with my body. I am not the new me!!

People do treat you differently when you are fat versus when you are a "normal" size (real people normal, not Hollywood normal). I have seen both sides of the coin. When you are fat, you might as well be invisible, even though you may well be one of the largest things in the room. People don't talk to you, or if they do, they do not look at you. Salespeople ignore you. People rarely ask you to go out and do anything, or if they do, there is always that underlying recognition that, in so many ways, you do not fit into their world. People make flippant, cruel comments about your weight or overall appearance, and act as though you have no feelings about it. They act as though you should be okay with receiving those comments because you are, after all, fat...and what can you expect when you're fat?

When you're thin, or at least a normal size, it is very different. People not only look AT you, but will even make eye contact with you. People talk to you, like you're a real person, not just at you, as though you are merely a factor in a business transaction. In clothing stores, the sales associates will actually take time to help you find just the right clothes, because they have a confidence that they might actually be able to help you look good. You don't get that when you're fat. When you're fat, they simply direct you to the rack with the appropriately sized clothing, and hope to God you can find something to cram yourself into.

I remember one time, I went to the mall with a friend (Kim, actually), and we went to...I can't remember, some clothing store. Anyway, I found a dress I liked, and when I held it up, it looked like it would fit. I was fat back then, but not as gargantuan as I would become before I finally had surgery. Anyway, I asked for a fitting room so I could try it on, and the slender salesgirl pointed me to an empty fitting room. I tried on the dress, and it looked very would actually become one of my favorite dresses. I changed back into my other clothes, and took the dress to the cash register to purchase it. The slender salesgirl with perfect skin and beautiful hair says to me, "So you got it all in there?".

Needless to say, my thrill over finding a dress that fit in a store that was not "plus size" was quickly deflated with one heartless comment.

I still feel fat. I still look in the mirror every day and think, "I need to lose 20 more pounds, then I'll feel normal." What is normal? Normal for me has been changing constantly over the last 18 months. Normal for me used to be 125 lbs overweight. I do not know what the elusive normal is that I am seeking.

I also don't know why I am thinking about this so much today. I think about it every time I eat. I should eat when I am hungry, but every time I do, I feel some guilt, thinking about that stubborn 20 lbs.

And this has been my struggle for as long as I can remember. This love/hate relationship with food that dominates my thought patterns. The ongoing war with my body. I've pushed myself to exhaustion at times, trying to win this war. But it doesn't stop.

I am not sure what I was expecting with the weight loss. Better health, of course, but that was a given. A lot of people say they get gastric bypass surgery for health reasons. I think that's a load of crap. Sure, your health will improve with the weight loss. That's a given. But, getting past all the crap we're supposed to tell our doctors about why we want the surgery, I think that most, if not all of us, who've had it would have to say we were hoping for a better life. A better self. As if losing 100 or more pounds would suddenly make everything in our lives fall into place.

I'm smaller and healthier, and I still feel like crap most of the time....ha!

At any rate, I am disturbed by the fact that one of my favorite radio stations recently became a "soft rock, great talk" radio station. I am more disturbed by the fact that I seem to prefer it over the old format. oy!

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