Tuesday, April 17, 2007
A Change of Name is in Order
Friendship Club was just that -a club whose sole purpose was to be friendly. At 15, I longed to be one who wore the t-shirt with the yellow smiley face in the middle. It wasn't based on ability, or talent of any type. Just one of the 30 or so girls with silky long hair, tied up in ribbons and clear skin. If you woke up to a group of giggly girls telling you to come as you were - out for breakfast, wearing your newly acquired t-shirt and popularity, you knew you were in.

I woke up, alone in my bed. To make it worse, my best friend had been picked. I still have, buried somewhere in the basement, the little note she wrote me, telling me how sorry she was that I'd been left out.

It sounds trite, almost laughable, 35 years later, this lingering hurt. Looking back, it was the beginning of a feeling of being excluded. We were created for relationship, with God, and with each other. I began to pursue a different group - the members skipped school, smoked at the little store, weren't into "academics", didn't quite follow the rules. Didn't always wear a bra, cursed a bit, acted tough. This group didn't hand out bright t-shirts, but you just joined. What seems like youthful incident was actually life-shaping. I chose not to pursue college. To graduate early and begin working as a secretary the next day. To move out, on my own, at age 17. I chose to marry my high-school sweetheart, barely 19. Become a mother at the ripe age of 20.

Five years later, I was a young woman, married the second time, expecting a second child, with a five year old. We'd moved 750 miles away from family, and for the first time since age 16 I didn't work. I was a "stay at home mom", with no idea what that meant. I remember the phone ringing, Connie was on the other end. Connie, with three little ones underfoot, and she'd been home awhile. We talked, the conversation rambling here and there. It was only after I hung up, coming up with no purpose for the call, I realized she'd called "to talk". In this town of 1700 people, on the plains of North Dakota isolation was a fact of life. She was trying to fill the lonely hours of motherhood, drive away the isolation. I spent much of our four years there pregnant, or caring for a newborn. I felt the sting of loneliness more than the brutal temperatures. Some of that time was spent oil painting, some bowling, the Avon lady became my fast friend, although she never did know part of that time I was pregnant and not married. Or if she did, she didn't let on, possibly out of her need for a friend.

The loneliness led me to a home Bible study. I still remember her musical doorbell, the coffee cups that hung from underneath her kitchen cupboards, and her name, Judy. There I realized I was missing what I thought I had, a personal relationship with Christ. It was a gradual realization, not a lightening bolt, but when I moved away, leaving behind friends, I took that relationship with me. We were starting over, again. New state, new friends.

We moved to southern Illinois. I was 35, with three children, ages 7, 3 and 1 1/2. The town's main focus, the university, gave it a very transient feel. Don worked 7 days a week. Long, long hours where he was rarely home during the daylight. My loneliness and the constant caring for three little ones put me into a pit of darkness. I was not aware of the beginning of a habit. Not smoking, or drinking, but something that looked much better on the outside. Joining a church to belong. I began to pour myself into too many hours of volunteering, whatever was needed, just to be a part of something. We moved 40 miles away 4 years later. The busyness got me through those hard years of raising toddlers.

When we moved to the next town of 3,500 people, we again joined a church. Within a very short time, I'd taken on teaching Sunday School, leading Girl Scouts, and even went to work for the pastor. I filled the hours, I felt like I belonged to a group, and managed to make one fast friend. After a few years of attending this church, I was so dry, so burned out, so discouraged, I quit. Quit the job, quit the church. We didn't attend anywhere. For two solid years I'd sit on my front porch, watching all the Baptists pour up the sidewalk, heading into the church just down the street. After sending our kids to VBS there, and two of them deciding to get saved, we started attending. You couldn't hardly have your kids getting baptised, while you were just down the street, sitting on the porch. I began to volunteer, teaching, leading, the same ole stuff. That lasted for 7 years. Seven years of a very dry time spiritually. I worked now and then, at part-time jobs, even full-time for a stint. Not once do I remember taking a break, spending time at home just raising the kids and enjoying them. Rather the challenges that came with teens and tweens sent me back into volunteering or working. Escapes.

When we moved from our second home in Illinois, it was to Virginia for just under a year. In that year, I volunteered to sew all the costumes for the Christmas pagent, help with the final cleanup of the new building, scrub a few houses. All this in spite of just moving our kids across the country, trying to get settled into our own home. When we moved away 10 months later, I remember a group of women in my living room, saying goodbye. How much I'd be missed. I'd been included, and that had been my goal.

We moved to Pennsylvania. The day we closed on our home, I drove by a church nearby. My husband, who was not a Christian at the time, and dealing with the stress of beginning yet another job, told me to choose a church that had a good youth group for the kids, and women's ministry for me. It had both, and we started attending two weeks after we moved in, just as soon as we unpacked our Sunday clothes. Within a couple of weeks, I'd joined a weight-loss group, the only group that was running that time of year, in spite of the fact you couldn't really call me overweight. What you could call me was lonely. Looking for a place to fit, again.

Eleven years later, the last several being particularly hard in many ways, I began to sense God calling me to change. Maybe he just let me get completely worn out. I've come to realize something that for me is radical, and life-changing. 1 Peter 4:8-11 summed it up. "Above all, love each other...Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever."

In other words, the motivation for our service starts with a response to his love for us; simply loving each other, making love a verb, using our gifts to serve others, the strength to do this comes from God, and it's all about him, his glory.

I 'knew' this. I've come to KNOW it over the past few months, somewhere much deeper within me. For the last 20+ years, God has used my efforts, it wasn't all for naught. Sometimes my motives were pure, but mostly I served to be included, to fit in, to feel a part of it all, out of habit, or obligation, or wanting to please. I've served with a poor attitude, while bitter or hurt or discouraged, or tired, too proud/dumb to step aside and let someone else take my place, and become cynical over it all. I've neglected friendships, family members, and even God in the process.

Most who know me would say I'm a Martha. I truly don't know. I'm organized, efficient, a worker, but that may all be learned behavior, or habit that goes back to when I was all of 15. My soul is fed by painting, sewing, cooking, growing flowers, reading, writing, taking walks, and I'm not sure if that's typical Martha or not. I do know the past 25 years have trickled by with very little time spent in a Mary pose. Sitting, listening, being complete when it's just me and him.

So I quit. Everything. I gave notice in the bookstore three weeks ago, and am done the end of the month. For the first time in over 20 years, I am not volunteering in any capacity, anywhere. I'm just being fed. Because I need to be. I have no plans really. And that's the point. Just to wait and see - not even what does he want me to do, but rather how does he want me to grow?

My life verse, for years has been, "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. I have no idea if anyone else out there can relate to this. I do hope there is a young mom or two, who will take note if she can relate to this, and possibly stop. Savor the years, make a name change now, instead of waiting 25 years to do so. I'd like to start living my life verse, finally.

I'll have more on this to share, as time goes by. I know what's in my heart, and finally, it feels right. Martha is very, very tired. Tired of seeking, tired of trying so hard, tired of missing the point entirely. She's ready for a transformation, starting with changing her name.


  posted at 4:40 PM

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    Girl Raised in the South

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