This post is kind of like the writings in my Candy dish series but hopefully a little meatier and more substantial. I have a few ingredients swirling around in my head, and I thought I'd mix them up, pop them in the oven for a bit, and see what turns out. Enjoy!
When I was a teenager, long after all the other teenagers my age had gotten their driver's licenses, Dad decided that it was time to teach me how to drive. (I've probably blogged about this before, but I was thinking about it recently.) He made this decision spontaneously -- without consulting Mom -- at night. So, he put me behind the wheel of the family car for the first time -- AT NIGHT. In the dark. No prior training or pep talk that I can recall. Not in an empty parking lot. In actual functioning streets.
Dad was a natural basketcase, but riding with a brand-new student driver -- IN THE DARK -- made him all the more anxious. On top of that, he was a terrible instructor, so of course this was not a good experience for me. Thankfully (and mercifully), I didn't wreck the car, and we both made it through the ordeal alive.
Later on, I heard that he complained to my sister about how I didn't know what I was doing -- that I didn't even know how to use the turn signal. Well, duh, Einstein. You were supposed to teach me. And what a stroke of genius it was to give me my first driving lesson AT NIGHT.
In the past several months, I've been thinking about how God is a Father who's totally unlike my birth father. I know I've thought about this subject plenty in the past, but God has wanted me to think about it some more. So, while I was thinking about this first driving lesson recently, I wondered if maybe that experience was completely the opposite type of parenting that God does with us -- those of us whom He has adopted as His children. Then I realized that my first driving lesson wasn't really a "don't let this happen to you" type of parenting example. It was more of a metaphor for trials.
During a trial, you're suddenly forced into the driver's seat of a vehicle that you've never driven before -- and that you've never had any training on how to drive, ever. Everything is new and scary all at the same time. It's dark, you can't see where you're going, you don't KNOW where you're going, and you don't know what you're doing. And to make things worse, you've got the voice of fear freaking out in the front seat with you.
Maybe years later, you suddenly find yourself in the driver's seat of another vehicle that's just like the one you drove that night, only this time it's easier because you know what to expect. You've had practice, you have a piece of authority with you (driver's license), you know where you're going, you know what you're doing, and you no longer allow the voice of fear to ride with you. Not to mention, it's daylight now, because you've thought ahead and do most of your driving before the sun goes down.
So, you know it's going to be OK.
This casserole ingredient is rated R. Raw. Reality. Ready or not, here it comes.
See my little MeepMeep pictured above? Aww, so adorable. Her halo is blinding you, isn't it? I actually took this photo earlier today when she was calm and back to her normal self.
Earlier this week, she was not her normal self. She was in heat. In fact, she's gone into heat several times since she came to live with me. At first, I guess I was kind of naive and didn't know what, um, the body fluids were that she was emitting. But through internet research (where I learned more than I needed to know) and in consulting with the vet, I learned that it is possible for a female cat to go into heat after she has been fixed. In MeepMeep's case, what more than likely happened is that while she was carrying her kitten(s), giving birth, etc., the composition of her ovaries changed a bit -- causing them to be somewhat unrecognizable during the spaying surgery. So, any altered ovarian tissue that's been left behind has caused her to go into heat.
At first, I wondered if perhaps she could smell Macho's scent in my furniture. (The neighborhood cats always used to come looking for him through the window.) But I think her experiencing these amorous cycles is just a minor fluke.
When MeepMeep goes into heat, it can last for 1-2 days or 5-7 days at a time. It will start with acute separation anxiety and howling. My sweet little meep-meeping cat will turn into a horny little deep-growling beast who doesn't let me exist in a room by myself or sleep at night. She doesn't say, "MeepMeep"; she says, "WowWow." She will crouch on the ground, move her tail to the side, and do a little dance. When she's finished, she'll repeat her little dance almost indefinitely. I love my cat, but I like her a lot better when she isn't in heat (because when she's in heat, she isn't herself).
I tried almost everything I could think of to live with this freakish phenomenon: I would ignore her, or I would pet her and let her finish. I even downloaded some mood music onto my phone for her so that I could humor her and just ride out her little trial.
But when she started humping my arm (or my leg), she took things a little too far. I've said things that I never thought I would utter as a crazy cat lady: "They scooped out your equipment so that you wouldn't be able to have kitties anymore; this part of your life is over; I'm sorry." "I love you, but not that way." "Mama's not going to DO you." "Do you want a cigarette?" (It's OK to laugh.) Egad. Sorry, kitty, my arm just wants to be friends.
A few days ago, I finally found out how to snap her out of her mood: Vocal exercise #1, the humming exercise. When I buzz-sing my voice warmup, she immediately stops purring, her body perks up to listen, and she scurries away.
Aww, yeah. Being a musician is finally coming in handy.
As I've thought about MeepMeep's condition and about how I ended up adopting a cat who, um, can still get very hormonal, I've thought about what God said right before I brought her home: She needs me, and I need her. I don't know if anyone else would be able to put up with her horniness but me. And it's not like I have no idea what comes over her.
If you followed my blog a couple of years ago, maybe you remember that I've struggled with lust. That struggle isn't over yet, but I've still been fighting, and I've learned a TON about God as He and I have been walking through that struggle together. When I talk to MeepMeep and tell her that she's not a piece of meat, it reminds me of the real talks that God and I have. When MeepMeep wakes me up in the middle of the night and does her little dance, it reminds me of all those late-night hours that God and I have wrestled through my issue together. When I play her mood music on my phone and let her finish, it reminds me of the way that God has been patient with me and hasn't slapped me away.
Because He adopted me, and He can't send me back. He's stuck with me forever. And we like it that way.
My church is very cool. They encourage their pastors to take a sabbatical every seven years (e.g., several weeks off every seven years so as to prevent burnout). When I woke up yesterday morning, it dawned on me that I've been involved in my church for a little over seven years (I started attending in 2009 but started to really dive in deep in the middle of 2010). This year, 2017, God strongly encouraged me to rest (and I'm really going to miss it when the clock strikes midnight tonight). So, even though I'm not on staff with my church (although I dream to be someday), I think God gave me my version of a sabbatical.
This has been a crazy life-season for me. I'm thankful to have a temp job, but since it pays about $7 an hour less than what I was making before, I've been struggling financially. But God has been encouraging me along the way. One thing He's said is, "This isn't for now. It's for later." I think that means that the lessons I've been learning, the opportunities I've been exploring, and the things that God has been setting me up for will come in handy in a future life-season. Even though I've been avoiding the harassing creditor phone calls in the meantime.
I think that means that I'm not a screw-up. I'm not a loser. I haven't taken several giant steps backwards in my life. I'm just letting God reposition my footing so that I can walk forward properly later. And maybe I'll meet somebody who will need to know the lessons that I'm learning now. Then maybe my story will help them.
That will be worth it.
Have you ever flushed a public toilet, only to not have everything flush all at once? Maybe it's one of those dinky environmental models that doesn't use much water pressure. One redneck way to trick it is to use momentum. You flush it the first time, and then right before it finishes filling up with water, you flush it a second time. Then WHOOSH -- the momentum from the second flush will create enough pressure to let everything all go down. (At least, that's my non-plumber guesstimate of what happens.) Then you can exit the stall and move on with your life.
Trials can be like that, too.
I've felt like God has been telling me that the purpose of 2017 was to show me how strong I am. Then in 2018, I'm going to use that strength.
Even though my 2017 was a year of rest, and most of it felt like I was on vacation, lots of crazy things happened to me -- especially during the last four months of the year. I lost my job, then WHOOSH my car battery died, then WHOOSH the fender liner of my car came undone, then WHOOSH I was denied unemployment benefits, then WHOOSH I lost my cat, then WHOOSH I got a job that only pays most of my bills. And look at me. I'm still alive and kicking. I'm still the badass that God has been creating me to be.
I just hope that everything that needed to be flushed out is already gone. I loved my 2017 as a whole, but I'll be darned if I'm going to go through the momentum of those last four months again.
I know for sure that God knows what He's doing. I trust Him.
"Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!" (Psalm 31:19)
Here's another thing that God has shown me: If I'm going to go through a financial struggle, Christmastime is the perfect time for it because at this time of year, frankly, people tend to be more generous than usual. (And in Texas, the weather in November/December tends to be pretty kind to my electric bill.)
I've shared one example of awesome generosity in a photo a few paragraphs up. Some very generous friends gave me containers full of food and Christmas desserts. (These actually aren't all of them.) I enjoyed their contents, washed them, and created some storage space for them. Yes, I had to make room for these blessings because they were more than what I had been prepared to receive. As I looked at the empty containers yesterday, I was thinking/talking to God, "That's like 2018." He replied, "Mm-hmm," kind of with a wide-eyed tone in His voice that maybe you'd use with a teenager who's finally catching a clue about how to live an adult life. ("Um, yeah, I already knew that, kid. Welcome to reality.") It wasn't condescending, but it was a light-bulb moment for me.
Yes! That's it! My 2018 is already set up for me. It's like a set of empty containers that are waiting to be filled with the good things that God's stored up for me. And we've had to make room to receive all the blessings. It is going to be that overwhelming of an amount.
I've been talking about me and my life, but maybe 2018 will be like that for you, too, reader. I'm sure God has some awesome things up His sleeve for you, too. Maybe they're good things that will require some preparation to receive. Just some food for thought.
Earlier today, I felt like God told me that life would gradually go back to normal, and then it would suddenly become awesome.
I'm ready. BRING IT ON.