In Which Life Stopped but Didn’t

Somewhere, hidden deeply on this blog of rambles and rants is a wise quote. A quote so wise that I’m pretty sure I didn’t say it and that I just paraphrased it. And I’m going to paraphrase it again because I literally cannot remember what I originally wrote.

“when a person doth die, it feeleth as though thine world should cease. Alas, it doth not.”

Moral of that story is that I couldn’t hang with Shakespeare on my best day.  A greater moral is that life truly does move right along with someone dies, and this truth is disturbing to say the least.

After finals wrapped up and I finally conquered Chemistry with a passing grade this summer, I thought that life was on it’s way up hill. Things were looking better and brighter. I felt like I was a young David and my stone had just pierced the delicate flesh on Goliath’s forehead.  Yes, I was victorious that Friday. And then Saturday rolled around. It was hot, of course, and sunny. I mean, it’s Mississippi. It’s hotter than….hot things….My stepdad came in the house, smelling like wildlife and magnolia trees, and told me that he was taking the neighbors fishing.  He’d already been fishing that morning, but was really excited about finally going to this secret fishing spot way out in the woods that our young neighbor knew about. I love to fish, but in that heat I let him have it all to himself. I figured I’d catch a fishing trip with him in the brief weeks between that weekend and the start of the fall semester. So we shared a good laugh, and I joked about him having to drive back to the house to get his phone that he left on the charger. As I watched him through the peep hole of the door, to ensure that he would not be knocking at the door for anything else he had forgotten, I didn’t quite realize that our jovial exchange would be our last.

Earlier that week I’d been having an odd feeling. I kept asking myself what I would do if David (my stepdad) died out of the blue. It was sort of the feeling I got right before my Grandfather passed away, but he had been sick for over a year so death was looming over all of our heads like a storm cloud waiting to erupt. I chalked the feeling up me just being paranoid. When you have anxiety, you’ll ALWAYS think, “well, what if the worst thing that could happen actually happens.” Never fails. It’s the unfortunate part of anxiety.  Well, Ma and I were customizing a pizza order for dinner when the neighbor’s mom came knocking at our door, looking agitated and pained.  As her and ma conversed, I thought that perhaps she was just wondering when David would be delivering her son home, as it was getting dark and the rain, which suddenly began pouring down minutes before, was not letting up.  But my anxiety started escalating as I heard them talking, and I knew something was wrong. And when I heard Ma say the words, “heart attack,” my heart sank. I rushed into the living room to stand beside her as she talked on the phone with the neighbor who had gone fishing with David.  From what I could understand, something had happened and they were thinking it was a heart attack.  Of course, I’m mulling this over like, “A heart attack? Okay, we’re going to go to the hospital and he’s going to have emergency surgery and everything is going to be okay.” Wrong. What Ma failed to tell me is that the coroner was already on their way to the fishing pool. That the neighbor had done CPR for 20 straight minutes to no avail. And that David was already gone.

Driving that long ass forty-five minute drive to the middle of Edwards, MS was like an out-of-body experience. The whole time I just kept thinking this isn’t happening. This isn’t real. This isn’t really happening to us. When we finally made it to the scene, the police standing at the road immediately took off their hats and began with the apologies. But Ma was a woman on a mission. Through their explanation of what happened Ma stopped the sheriff and asked, “Okay, where is he?” They pointed us up a long, gravel drive way and allowed us to walk up to where David was laying. Even as we saw him on the porch of the pond owner’s home covered in a black tarp the reality of the situation did not set in. Ma was praying and went bent over David, moving his head so that he faced her. Saying his name and patting him, praying that he could be that Saturday’s Lazarus. But it was not to be. And when they had to move him to a body-bag to prevent the ants from attacking, I just knew deep down inside, where faith and denial intertwine, that he was going to move. That a miracle was going to happen and he was going to bust the zipper on the bag or cry that he couldn’t breath in there. But it didn’t happen. Ma walked around, dazed and calling David’s friend for the name of a funeral home. I was dazed as I saw them lay him on the back of the firetruck and drive him to the front of the driveway to await the funeral home. And we were eerily calm. I’m sure the police officers out there were puzzled as they asked us if we were okay, and we said in even tones, “Yes. We’re fine.” And the wait. THE WAIT. The funeral home did not arrive until 10:00 PM.  So we had to drive home in complete darkness. And if I thought the drive there was bad, the drive home was worse. First off, we got lost, SUPER lost. My phone battery had died and Ma’s was dying, but thank God, we arrived in a church parking lot that was clear enough for us to pick up an internet signal. After Ma’s phone directed us to our designated street which would lead us to the interstate, it died as well. On a night that can make you question the inner workings of God, it also affirms that God was looking out for us. But we silently drove home. No music. No talking. No prayer. Just silence. And this thick cloud of disbelief. He was just fifty-five. It was a beautiful day. He never showed any signs. He is no longer here.

Shock is the most powerful stage of grief I have ever experienced. When my grandfather died, I wasn’t at all shocked. I was expectant. And I was shamefully glad. He had been suffering for months with no relief. His kidneys were failing. He was in pain every second of the day that he was awake. He’d lost more than fifty pounds. I was happy that he no longer had to be in pain in an Earthly vessel which no longer functioned in a manner conducive to living. And when my biological father died I was only five years old. I understood that he was no longer coming back even though I didn’t understand death (and Ma didn’t tell me either), but with the support of our family who assisted us financially and emotionally I adapted to the loss. But when David died all I could think about was how he laughed on his way out of the door. How we were just planning to call him to see what he wanted for dinner right before the fateful knock at the door.  And to make matters oh so worse, we got up Sunday morning and the sun was shining. Cars were driving to wherever their destinations were. And life went right along. Monday came and we searched frantically for life insurance information and life moved on. Tuesday, my brother and Ma had to finalize a funeral home and life moved on. Wednesday, the stress took a toll on my brother and we had to take him to the emergency room. Shortly after getting him back home to rest, Ma and I rushed to a meeting at the cemetery. And life fucking moved on and in my mind I thought this is the most messed up thing. I felt like the whole world should have stopped. I wondered how we could live on, move on. What I needed to do about school. What ma needed to do about the house. Did we need to move back to our hometown? Did we need to sell everything? Panic consumed me and I just wanted everything to cease for just a minute so that I could catch up with the chaos that had unfolded. But it didn’t. It never does.

And then Friday, the day before the funeral, my sister gave birth to a six pound, nineteen inch healthy little girl and I realized that I needed to accept that life does not stop when a life stops. As the newborn baby squirmed in her bassinet, trying to warm up under the heater, the epitome of continuance sank in. Probably for Ma more so than me.  As crazy as it is, we have to move on, and it even sounds heartless to say. We have to move on. Our bodies are still functioning. Our lungs still filling up with air. Our hearts still beating. And we are still living even when we don’t know how.

Every time a person would ask me am I okay I smile and say yes. I joke. I laugh. Not because my stepdad meant nothing to me. Not because I’m made of stone. But because I can cry anytime alone. Anytime. All hours of the day and night. But I’d rather laugh and smile with others, enjoy that moment in life when I have it because once it’s gone it’s gone. Time will not pause for me to grieve. This isn’t to say that everyone should just stop crying and accept death. We each move at our own pace and mourn in our own ways. It’s perfectly healthy and normal to cry or to not cry. So don’t let anyone tell you how you should grieve. And I was fortunate and blessed enough to have enjoyed a moment of banter. To have seen his smile and heard his laugh. And when I think of him I see his happiness. His mischief. His annoying habit of busting into the room while I’m taking a quiz, talking on speakerphone with one of his fishing buddies. Or how he always ended a text or a phone call with, “10-4 good buddy.”  I’m glad I got experience having a dad, even if it was for a brief time. And I’m especially glad Ma got to spend a decade with someone who loved her and cared for her. To think that the day that would have been their 12th anniversary was the day she placed a rose on the casket before they lowered it into the ground is gut wrenching. But we’re still here. And we have each other. Plus, all of our family came to town and it was good for us all to be together again. It was like a signal that we needed to do it more often and on more joyous occasions. But we’ll have that chance because, once again, life remains. It hasn’t stopped at all.

I like to think that David is celebrating in Heaven. That he hates he left early and suddenly, but that he knows that where he is now is paradise. I’m still nervous about the future and what it holds for Ma and our family, but I plan to make the best of it. I’m still enrolled in school, and I know that David would want me to finish (he was more excited than me when I returned). And Ma has so many people looking out for her. Trust me, we got mobbed at church yesterday and our family has been texting nonstop.  So while life going on is pretty crazy, it’s also kinda beautiful in a way. But definitely more crazy.

 

Dream on, Kid

Fantasies of being someone else

is not really about the belief

the hope

that it is possible

this truth now fails to evade me

and I have made a sensible amount of peace with it

You see,

it actually boils down to that hour

that minute

those few seconds where I escape the madness of being myself

therein lies the cause of craving

In Which I Shouldn’t Drink Coffee

You know how people are mushy drunks??? I’m a mushy coffee drinker. As soon as caffeine hits my system I’m an emotional wreck. If ever anyone has been fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) to receive an “I love you!” or “I’m so proud of you!” text from me trust I just finished a mug of coffee…..Welp, could be worse! Or could it….

My friend in Alabama sent me a message last night with the link to her home health website for me to take a gander at.  She’s been working on the idea for a while, but never really started putting it into action because while she was in Mississippi, work ate most of her time and also did not allot her any disposable income to put her plans into motion.  After receiving a better paying job offer in Alabama, she loaded up her truck, tossed her two sons in the back seat, and hit the dusty trail.  But she even with her more comfortable living arrangement and higher rank job, she still had the itch to start her own business.  Well it took a while, but she’s been getting her business license paperwork, designing her business card, and completing the website.  Even though she sent me the message last night, I fell asleep before I could open it (it had been raining all day here and as you know, rain is perfect reading and sleeping weather) so I didn’t open it until I was sitting at the kitchen table reading “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and drinking my morning coffee. And I just had to tell her that I was incredibly proud of her. And I am. I probably would have told her that regardless of my choice of beverage, but still, it intensified the need to tell her. Coffee. It’ll make you do things. It won’t help you be productive, but…it’ll make you do other things…..

I’m a bit of a weirdo when it comes to such things.  My friend Bianca used to tell me all of the time, “Amber, you know why you’re cool? Because you have friends, but you act like you don’t need them. That’s cool.” And in my mind I was thinking, “that probably means your standards of cool are pretty low…..and also that I’m apparently a bit of an asshole….” But as I’ve said before, I’m very defensive of myself. I may act like I don’t need someone for the simple fact that I know that it’ll hurt less if that person ever decides that my companionship is not needed.  At the same time, I habitually ask my friends what their life dreams and goals are. Some don’t have any dreams or goals other than to survive in this crazed world, and others have very specific goals. If they tell me a goal they have in mind I’ll let them know I believe that they can do it or be it, whatever the “it” may be. Because, for one, that’s what friends do. I suck at being a friend, but I’m pretty good in that area if I say so myself.  And also because life has a funny, not funny, way of kicking you in the shin and going, “NOT TODAY!” whenever you start inching closer and closer towards your dreams.  Some times your family may tell you that what you’re hoping for is not realistic. Maybe an article pops up on your timeline that says, “Top Useless Degrees” and right there on the list is your degree. Or maybe you’re still in the progress stage and you feel like you’re going to be stuck there forever. And all you really want and need is for your slightly asshole-ish friend to randomly say, “I believe in you.”

It’s funny how time can bring about a change, because back in the dizzle I would be the last person to express anything of the like.  Well, when I was kid I would because I was born to be a delicate little muffin. I remember when I was about five or six, I told my granny, “Granny. I love you. Even after I die and go to heaven, I’ll still love you in heaven.” That’s just the kind of person I was. All kids are kind of like that: hopeful, gentle, optimistic. Then puberty drop kicks you in the neck and well….it was nice while it lasted. After that, being kind is an uphill battle. Specifically, once I hit high-school I lost my gentle edge for a while.  Mostly because during this period you’re trying to find your place in the world. So I was mostly struggling with just being myself, and it bothered me if I did something that my friends liked so they would do it too. It legitimately bothered me. Because I figured if they did it, especially since they were more popular, they’d get the most attention for it. Yea yea yea, I know. Sad *Donald Trump voice* Even when I dyed my hair freshman year of college, both of my closest friends dyed theirs afterwards and I hated it. HATED IT. *Big Sean voice* Poor self image and envy are a terrible mix. *shakes my head* The thought of someone doing better didn’t sit well with me because it made me realize just how NOT better I was doing. But now I know that’s really a sucky mindset and poor heart condition to have.  If someone is doing well then you should rejoice, unless they’re a criminal….And if someone isn’t doing too great then you should empathize because we’re all human and none of us like to suffer. If you extend kindness to someone they will return it to you in your time of need (hopefully. We all know that doesn’t always work out). If you practice being a hater, then you’ll receive hate in return.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can make it through life alone. And when you act maliciously then you increase your chances of spending your life by yourself, with no one to celebrate your success or lift you from your own despair. That’s a tough life to live.

I’ve also internalized the truth of the matter: If God can and will do it for someone else, he can and will do it for me.  Of course, I struggle with this from time to time. At some point later I’ll have a post about God NOT doing it for me because emotions…they’re fickle things….BUT I also know that if my heart is not in the right place, then he can’t give me anything or do anything for me, at least not to the extent he desires to.  So now when I see someone else being blessed, I thank God for it. Not solely because I know that he can do the same for me, but because I’m grateful that each of us has a great purpose for living.  We may struggle to get there, but it’s still there. “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you, not to harm you…” Yes. Yes I did use profanity and quote a bible verse in the same post. Forgive me, Lawd. I especially think of the people who swam through the swamp, and still ended up on the peak of the mountain. You never know what people went through to get where they are. It amazing to hear individuals’ stories about their backgrounds and compare that to their accomplishments. Truly amazing. Let that be encouraging, not envy inducing.  And believe that God has things in store for you as well. Now, it may not come in the same package as someone else’s and it definitely won’t come when you think it will, but it’s coming.

So in my caffeine chronicles I’m here to say that I’m proud of everyone here. Even if you don’t think you’re where you need to be or should be. I’m still proud and I still believe in you. *cue the national anthem playing in the background, and an Eagle perching on my shoulder….And my head on Barack Obama’s body….but with his smile….* Too much detail…..

In Which the Wave Ends

I knew the wave of mania would end at some point. It stuck around for a good while, which was fortunate. But I’ve been expecting it for days, and the end finally arrived today, riding in with a cloud of rain as opposed to the cloud of fire that accompanied Moses and the Israelites. During these times I tend to have a lot to say and absolutely no words to say them with.  It’s when you’re restless, but you’re struggling with idleness. Your hands search for anything and everything as a means of occupation. You clean the bathroom. You sweep the hall, the kitchen, the laundry-room. You wash the dishes three times. Four times. You wipe the stove top and the counter down. You open the window, close the window, open the window again.  You pick at the strings on your guitar, but your fingers and your mind are too disconnected at the moment. It’s not music. It’s noise. And you finally force yourself to sit down and accept that you don’t really know what to do anymore.  You’re itching for some sign of life. A roll of thunder. A burst of laughter. Something. Anything. But the weight of silence, which first came crashing down, seeps into your skin and you slowly accept that there’s nothing. Nothing but the sound of the fan whirring on medium and your shallow breathing to fill the void. It’s these times that I take a deep breath and tell myself, “all you’ve got to do is survive. Just keep surviving. It doesn’t matter if you don’t do anything productive at all. Eat cookies, drink water, watch television, read, don’t read, daydream, toss, turn, settle down or don’t.  Just don’t give in.”

In Which the Point is not Arrival

I think I can talk about tattoos all day. All day, everyday. Tattoos are awesome to me. Some tell stories, some don’t. Some look like an one-eyed inmate with cataracts did them and other’s look like they cost thousands of dollars for a celebrity artist to complete.  But ultimately, regardless of meaning or appearance, all tattoos go through the stages of itching and swelling.  Which is one reason why you probably want to make sure it looks the way and means what you want it to because you’ve got to do some suffering in the process of it retaining it’s permanency. I’ve currently just got two tattoos, a fact I’ve stated before so I apologize for my insistent redundancy. I want more, but I’m trying to save money right now so ink is currently at the bottom of my list of necessities.  Since mine are visible, as they are on my forearm and wrist, I get a couple of ink admirers who will compliment them. And most often I hear, “I want one! But I don’t want to go through the pain.” I usually try to calm their nerves and assure them that if their pain tolerance is high that they should be okay, but most often I think, “if you can’t endure the process, you can’t get the results.”And that’s true for most things in life.

We are a very destination oriented people. My pastor calls us the microwave generation. We’re in a hurry to get what we want, with less work. So instead of throwing those frozen chicken pot pies in the oven to cook, we’ll put them in the microwave though we acknowledge that they taste better fresh from the oven.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing because our generation is continuously creating systems and inventing technology which does things faster and more efficiently. I remember dial-up internet with AOL. God, that was a dark period in history….Ma used to fuss at us everyday during the summer because she would be calling the house to check on us and couldn’t get through because we were on the internet. Doing what? God only knows. I can’t even think of any useful or entertaining things that we had on the computer back then. But other times, faster and easier isn’t always better. Yet and still, no one likes a journey. NO ONE. You. Yea, you right there. NOT EVEN YOU! I can think of a thousand things I would like to do which require patience and practice, and it’s the patience and practice part that gets me every time. I’m currently trying to learn to play guitar and chord transitioning is eating me alive. My fingers start fumbling, my chords are distorted, I can’t move fast enough. It’s even more frustrating than when I took piano.  But I also realize that if I want to play guitar like Lianne La Havas then I need to continue to practice. God didn’t see fit that I should be a musical prodigy (thanks for nothing 4-C Jesus!) thus I have to hang in there and keep practicing.

Maybe our issue is that we can easily see the success of our peers on social media. We look at their Mercedes or their budding careers and can only see their achievement or their “arrival.” But rarely do they allow us to see their journey.  Some of them struggled in school and failed a class two or three times.  Some worked low-rung jobs to pay for school. Some may have dropped out and then re-enrolled without anyone knowing.  These are things that we often do not witness. And quite honestly, we ensure that no one knows that we might be scraping along in our journey, too.  I’ve never posted a job update or school update on Facebook. I rarely talk about my personal struggles on other outlets because you always have someone who comes along with a shady post saying that people should stop crying on Facebook about their problems. Or worse, once they hear about someone’s struggle they use it to demean or berate them. So we internalize the feeling that not arriving is shameful. While I’m not advising anyone go out there and start stripping to pay for college, I tip my hat off to women who do.  I don’t have the stamina, flexibility, or upper body strength for that so I probably wouldn’t make enough money to buy a 6-piece nugget from McDonalds. But they work a legal job, save their money, and use it for their books, rent, daycare funds, tuition, whatever it is they have to pay for. And I can’t look down on their arrival because their journey did not fit my idea of what I thought a journey should look like. I very much look at common illegal activities such as drug dealing the same way. Yes it’s illegal and no I wouldn’t advise it. But some people are doing what they can to get what they need. They just want to keep their lights on or help their parents with the mortgage, and they don’t have access to a job for whatever reason (because note that the largest portion of drug dealers who are busted come from lower income neighborhoods with poor school districts) But sidenote: if you deal with drugs and you get a certain amount of money, take a portion and invest in stocks or a business. This way you can let your money make money without you being involved in a dangerous illegal activity.  So there’s that. But the issue also stems from our society being so focused on the goal. We see all sorts of wealth and riches flashing before our eyes on television or on the internet. Yet, the same society that exposes us to the “American Dream” doesn’t provide everyone with the proper, legal avenues (journeys) to possibly attain it. So you end up with crime for survival. That’s my sociology tidbit for the day.

All in all, we all have to start somewhere to end somewhere. It would be nice to start at the finish line, but it’s impossible. And yes, some people are fortunate to start closer to the finish line than you, but it doesn’t make them better than you. And if they arrive earlier it doesn’t mean you’re inadequate.  We should accept that much of life is a process. Very little in life doesn’t require waiting. So instead of yelling at the cashier working the register or the CSR who picks up after you’ve been on hold for thirty minutes (mostly because it’s not their faults. And if it is, still be kind. Don’t make people’s life hard just because you’ve got your panties in a knot) understand not everything is immediate. And don’t judge someone else’s story or journey. If they’re still working their way through the muck and mire that is adulthood, then strap on your rubber boots and help dig them out. Or encourage them. Pray for them. Share your journey with them. Let people know they are not alone and that they have nothing to be ashamed of.  And don’t be shady about it either. Don’t get on social media talking about your new car and how you worked harder than everybody and they’re still struggling and “hahaha look at me now!” Don’t be flashy about your arrival. As much as I think Black Youngsta is the funniest person on the planet, I think he needs to watch himself carefully. It’s okay to relish in your success, or even reveal the extent of your achievement so that your peers who had similar struggles will know they can make it too. But don’t use it to down others (especially women. I dislike when they use “bitches and hos” so much. We understand you don’t mean all women. But this misogynistic culture has got to stop). And please…PLEASE….if someone shares their journey with you, intentionally or unintentionally, don’t be the nosy neighbor who has to find out every detail. If you see scars on someone’s arm which probably means they used to self-harm don’t ask them a thousand questions or stare at them. It makes people self conscious. And don’t think you’re entitled to every detail in their lives if they do share a bit with you. It’s weird. Stop it.

So that’s all for today.  I’m off to do literature and algebra before I watch my cartoons.

 

In Which I Got a Second Chance

I’m trying to ride this wave of positivity as far as it’ll take me. So this post is another fairly optimistic one.

Yesterday, after I typed that post about forgiveness, restoration, and the like, I closed down my computer and told a lie.  Well, to be honest it was at least four hours later, but here’s the deal. What had happened was….My stepsister got a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze about two and a half years ago. Ever since she drove it off the lot, in all its silver and shiny chrome glory, it’s been giving her all sorts of trouble.  Not even six months after she became it’s official owner the engine light came on and stayed on no matter how many times she took it back to the dealership for them to fix. Last week my stepdad noticed a puddle in the driveway where she usually parked her car.  Upon investigation,he realized that her car was leaking something, but he couldn’t pinpoint the source. Assuming it was the antifreeze leaking, especially since later that week the car began running hot everyday, he took it to a mechanic that he knew personally to have it fixed.  Lo and behold,  the guy delivers worse news: the water pump needs to be completely replaced. In his opinion the car needs to be fixed as well as it can be and immediately traded, as he feels it’s going to end up being a money guzzler.  As a result, my stepsister has been bumming rides to work with her friend in the mornings, and I have been picking her up in the evenings.  Yesterday she messaged me asking could I take her to work this morning at 7:30 AM.  Well, my exams are at 8:00 so I honestly have time to take her to work and still be on time for the exam appointment. Except I like to be at least 35 minutes early since the parking lot fills up and traffic gets congested since a middle school is right down the road from the college. Guess what this girl did? *hangs head in shame* I lied and told her I had to be at school by 7:25 AM. She readily accepted my excuse and said she would try to find another ride. The reality is I could have easily said yes and dropped her off, but I was being selfish and going according to my personal comforts. I wanted to be at the school by 7:25 but I didn’t need to be. I wanted to be super early so I could sit in the car and cram, but I didn’t need to be.  So I told a useless, selfish lie.

Immediately after telling the lie I was convicted. I knew the Holy Spirit was jabbing me in the heart going, “You could have taken her to work. You’d want someone to give you a ride if you needed one!” And that’s true. If I were ever in a situation where I needed a ride to campus or somewhere and my car was on the putz, I’d want someone to be there to help me out. Yes yes, I know. THE SHAME!!!  While dropping her off at her apartment following her night class (I did let her use my car to go to school so don’t judge me too harshly) she told me that the friend who had been taking her lived across town and would probably have her an hour late today. And the Holy Spirit started jabbing me even harder. I think he upgraded from jabbing to stabbing at this point. Gawd, I was getting shanked by Jesus. “Tell her you’ll take her. TELL HER YOU’LL TAKE HER!” And yet I maintained my resistance, thinking to myself that I was justified to stick to my schedule without her interruptions.  But once I pulled into the driveway back home I knew I couldn’t keep up my selfish charade. I sent her a text letting her know that I could take her to work. I didn’t tell her I lied because….well….I don’t have a legitimate reason but you would have done it too!!! She messaged me back letting me know her coworker was going to pick her up and thanked me anyway. I sent a reply letting her know that if the ride didn’t work out to just hit me up. And that was the end of that conversation.

Later that night I asked the Lord to forgive me for lying and being self-serving.  Even though I knew he forgave me I still was disappointed in myself for not being a blessing to someone. Which is ironic because every morning when I say my prayer I ask God to let me be a blessing to someone. And when he gave me the chance I blew it. *shaking my head* The guilt ate me alive all night. I mean, ALL NIGHT. I got up to use the restroom at 2:00 AM and the guilt greeted me in the bathroom, along with the realization that there was no toilet paper on the roll.  WHY MUST YOU PUNISH ME, JESUS! I tried to soothe my remorse by reminding myself that while I didn’t admit to my lie, I did extend the invitation for a ride.  But it didn’t work. The whole situation didn’t sit well with me at all.

Well this morning, I get a message asking me to pick her up so that she could use our shower at the house since the one in her apartment always clogs.  Five minutes after I told her I could, I get another message telling me that her coworker’s tire went flat and she wouldn’t be able to pick her up. And that was funny….even though it wasn’t funny. Immediately I realized that God was giving me another chance to be the blessing I blew the chance of being yesterday.  I’m not going to say he put the poor girl’s tire on flat because if you have never been to Jackson….well, let me tell you. The roads down here are terrible. Pot holes everywhere you turn. I wouldn’t drive a brand new car down here if ever I got one. But he used the present circumstances to extend the invitation of redemption. Like, “Okay, you said you’re sorry and I forgave you. But now I’m giving you another chance to do the right thing.”  So I took her to work and guess what? My usual parking space at school was still empty (even though I missed my parking lot buddy this morning. I have no idea who he is but every morning he parks on the opposite side of me bumping Gucci Mane) and the school traffic completely cleared out. Of course, I did have to ride through some congested traffic on the interstate but it was hardly a hindrance to me being on time for my exam. And I also got there at 7:50, ten minutes before I actually needed to be.

So I was grateful that God allowed me to correct my mistake since many times we are unable to go back to fix a flub of ours. Am I going to tell her I lied? OF COURSE NOT! So she can kill me?!?! Well she probably wouldn’t kill me; she would have done that when I backed her car into a brick post two years ago. But instead of murdering me in the yard, she pitied me. Most likely because by then she already started hating the car.  Now she likely would curse me out or strangle me. But I’d live. And I’m still gonna live….with that lie cleverly hidden on this blog where she’ll never ever ever ever see it. That’s right, I’m taking it to the grave guys. Sue me! (please don’t. I’m a college student…..)

 

In Which I was Encouraged

I’ve been staring at my title trying to reconcile with the fact that “encouraged” is spelled correctly because I’m having one of those moments where words don’t look correct…Moving on….

Those who are currently in school, or know people in school, are aware that this time of the semester is riddled with mid-terms. You smell that? *inhales deeply* that’s the smell of coffee, stress sweat, and tears.  Other than finals week, this is the most stress inducing period of school. So far I have taken three exams and have two left before my trial finally comes to an end.  Now I’ll spill on my grades because it relates to what I’ll say later.  I took my Spanish Exam first, about two weeks ago.  I only missed one question on the exam, but I would have actually made a perfect score if the exam allowed us to go back to previous questions and change the answers (it was a computerized test). Unfortunately our teacher’s requirements did not permit this *side eye* Thus I missed a question even though I literally realized my mistake on the following question.  BUMMER. Such is life. Yesterday I took my Algebra exam and surprisingly came out with a 98. You’re talking about somebody being excited????  After borderline failing AP Calculus senior year of high-school ( I had a D every semester…except the semester I had an F) my confidence in my math skills shattered so this was definitely the boost my deflated ego needed. This morning I had my exam in Marriage and Family, which has proven to be my hardest class second to Algebra. The class is interesting and I honestly love the materials we study; at the same time, it’s reading heavy so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I’ve been managing to maintain an A in the class, but today….today I made a B on my exam. Now you may say, “Amber that’s still passing. Why are you whining?” BECAUSE I CAN! No but really, I don’t like to make below A’s in class because for one, I’m a full time student and have ample time to study. Therefore I should be able to study efficiently and diligently enough to make an A on an exam. Secondly, I’ve sucked at a lot of things in life. Basketball? Sucked. Dodge-ball? Sucked. Popularity? Sucked. But I’ve always done well in school. As a result, much of my identity is tied to my academic performance. Don’t be like that….it’s a slippery slope, my friend. Due to this my confidence took a hit when I didn’t perform as well on the test as I believed I should have. I know, I know. It’s such a shallow complaint.  But regardless of the shallow depths of my complaint, I was still upset with my grade. I’ve been messaging my aunt, since she was the relative most adamant about me returning to school, giving her updates on my grades.  I texted her today to let her know that I made a B on the exam, thinking she may say something about me needing to study more or something along the lines of what I would say to myself.  After an hour, she messaged me back saying she felt like cheering and telling me to keep up the good work. And that almost made me cry. Almost….I tend to be a bigger crybaby when I’ve consumed coffee which is unfortunate since I love me some coffee! But her message was truly touching because it’s the encouragement I needed in that moment.

There were a number of reasons that my aunt’s text encouraged me.  For one, it was nice to be reassured that my “under performance” was not as big a deal as I thought it was. And secondly it reminded me of my relationship with God. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before but I watch Steven Furtick’s sermons online each week. I started this tradition last year because while I worked at the hotel I never had Sunday’s off so I couldn’t attend church. Even though I’ve quit the hotel (because I’m obviously a quitter) I still watch each week because I genuinely enjoy his teachings. At some point this week I heard either him or the campus minsters at the church speak about how even when you feel like you didn’t live up to your potential or you feel like you slipped, God is still cheering you on. Don’t ask me which sermon. My brain is brimming with facts about cohabitation, distance formulas, and libertarianism so I can’t remember. But to me, my aunt’s message was God reminding me that God still sees the best in me.

This reminder is not only in regards to my grades but in my life in general. I’m hard on myself about everything I do. If I mess up I don’t handle it like, “Ah, well it happens. Get em next time, tiger!” It’s like, “What is life? Why am I failure? Why is crustless bread higher than regular bread? Woe is me!” I hang on to failure like I’m breastfeeding it, nurturing it, raising it.  I have a hard time letting things go. Most times I have to take a deep breath and chant, “It’s not that deep. It’s not that deep. Yea but I coul-IT’S NOT THAT DEEP!”  Thus when I fall short I’m thinking God is responding the same way that I would. We get this thought in our minds that God is shaking his head at us and questioning how he could have created such a flawed creature. When really he’s waiting to pick us up, dust us off, smile on us, and tell us keep going. And he never stops rooting for us.  A couple of weeks ago Pastor Furtick had a guest pastor speak and at the end of the sermon the pastor admitted to losing his job because of his alcoholism. As a preacher you have to imagine that was hard on him. It would feel shameful and embarrassing because you’re supposed to lead your congregation, but you’re struggling with an addiction which has now become public.  He ended up going to rehab and the weight of his condemnation burdened him to the point where the ONLY thing he enjoyed was walking and watching the sunset.  It was during one of these walks that he said God spoke to him, telling him, “I’m not done with you yet.” And that’s such an uplifting message because when you’ve fallen, whether intentionally or unintentionally, if you allow God to work towards your renewal and restoration he will. But that’s if you allow him to. So I’m trying to learn to take my disappointments to God in prayer and say, “God I know I didn’t do the best I could have or should have done. But I can’t hang on to this any longer. I’ve allowed myself to cry about it, but now it’s time to get back on the move. You’ve still got good plans for me and still see the best in me so I know that this isn’t the end.” As Pastor Furtick said, “God is the God of our dead ends.”

Now I do plan to change up my study habits and try to study harder, but at the same time I know that this slip up is minor in the bigger scheme of things. Of course, someone may be saying, “well I did something really bad! I mean…REALLY BAD,” which may be the case.  But God always allows for correction and always extends forgiveness.  One of the campus ministers from Elevation Church said in his devotional yesterday that forgiveness is a gift. It’s not just a dreadful shot to help you get well. We shouldn’t look at forgiveness as burdensome because needing it means we screwed up. But we should instead look at it like, “Wow, God loves me this much that he’s giving me forgiveness. He’s giving me the opportunity to start over again.” I know this may seem contradictory to what I said a couple of posts ago when I spoke about the infamous pastor accused of sexual assault by a few young men. But there is an important difference that must be noted. While sin is equal in God’s eyes, no sin is greater than the other, it is not in society’s eyes. So we take certain blunders more seriously, such as rape, murder, assault, etc. It is also vital to make sure people are aware that these things do not go unnoticed nor should they be tolerated because they harm others. Was I harsh in the way I said it? Yes. I tend to have the terrible habit of typing a post in the height of my emotional distress and thus being very abrasive. I later considered the fact that I could have maintained a strong stance but with a more gentle approach. Yea yea, I’m working on it.  At the same time, I stand by what I said about those issues being prevalent and needing to be addressed. But we have this habit, in general, of equating the world’s punishment with God’s forgiveness. Truly, if you commit a crime you will suffer some sort of punishment because we are not immune from the laws of this world. But if you have committed a crime or done something that would be deemed serious and you wholeheartedly ask for God’s forgiveness he will give it. This may not block repercussions, but it does make you right with him which is ultimately the most important thing. I know that’s difficult for those who have suffered to hear because I, like many people, have a hard time with forgiveness when I know I’ve been wronged. So I know those who have been wronged are justifiably upset. But it is still the truth of the matter that forgiveness is always available.

So I’m going to go ahead and wrap this post up. I’ve got to finish my philosophy for the week because I sense that this man’s exam is going to be tough.  Hopefully I helped encourage someone today. If not then just forgive me for crying about my grades; I am, after all, a sensitive little muffin.