Although sometimes I feel like I’m on an island, I’m sure that 9 times out of 10, there are others who very much live in the chaos that I deem normal. But this specific day I am thinking I was in that 10 percent. Those around me didn’t give any indication as such, but my internal crazy radar sure was proving it.
Having three kids poses lots of daily struggles, and on top of the basics of who goes where when, my husband and I are constantly outnumbered. Our life is wild enough on good days when everyone eats their dinner, doesn’t irritate each other, and gets to bed at a decent hour. So throw in a sick kid, or three, and it’s bound to upset the applecart. And this day was a perfect example of just that.
I had been to the pediatrician multiple times in a short time span with each kid independently, so when my youngest was sick yet again, to describe me as utterly exhausted would have been an understatement. I was holding together by a string, and I was prepared for the littlest of things to snap that string and me to unravel. It’s a safe place to do that at home when the kids go to bed, but at the doctor’s office, not so much.
So I was trying to have a pep talk with myself on the way up the elevator as we ran into the “sick” waiting room several minutes past our scheduled appointment time. I didn’t have many positive thoughts to throw my way, so my pep talk was something as simple as “Stephanie, try everything to not lose it in here! You don’t want them to think that you are crazy!” Good thing I was never a coach because this pep talk didn’t get me, myself and I to the finish line in one piece. Not. One. Bit.
The pediatrician had allowed us the opportunity to take the last appointment slot of the day, one I suspect she made just for us knowing that it was the soonest we could get to her office in one piece. I’m sure she had had a long day, too, and was counting the minutes until it was time to turn off the lights, step away from the germs of the day, and head home to see her little ones. But she never showed it.
Instead, she walked into the patient room, sat down on the rolling chair and scooted close to me and my youngest. We were there for him and the latest germs he had picked up from his lovely and quite giving friends. But instead of investigating the culprit to Luke’s cough, runny nose and irritability, she turned and looked at me. Two sentences were all it took for me to come completely unraveled right there on the spot. “Stephanie, are doing okay? Have you lost some weight?”
Such a sweet soul our pediatricians are, and many times I feel like they are more like family to us. They’ve watched all of my kids grow and helped talk me off of cliffs when it came to kid concerns. But to talk me off my mental cliff I realize probably required more than what this doctor had signed up for that day. The tears started and once they did, I couldn’t hold them back any more. It was like the muscles in my eyes were paralyzed as she willingly let me gush the challenges that I had currently been facing.
Never did her gaze falter, and grateful I was of that. You know how there are some people who when you look at them, you really SEE them for all that they are. This doctor is the epitome of that all wrapped up into one person, and that day, as she looked at me, I saw her. I saw her caring spirit. I saw her concern for me. But most of all, I saw her belief that I could get through it.
She didn’t just hear my words; she listened to my cry for help. She didn’t shuffle me along; she put down her chart and told me that she would stay for as long as I needed.
After I came up for air from what I can only describe as an embarrassing and unwarranted meltdown, she put her hand on my shoulder and went out on a limb to offer me help. She wasn’t sure of my faith, but knew I was a believer. And she told me that she had no idea how close her church was to me, but that she felt at that moment she needed to tell me about a Bible study that was just for women that would be starting in a few weeks and she’d love for me to join her.
No, she didn’t think I was crazy, or at least if she did she didn’t say those words exactly. But she did see I needed something, and what better way to provide help than spiritual healing. This Catholic girl, who can’t recite a Bible verse if my life depended on it, had no clue what to expect at a Bible study, and especially one outside of the Catholic faith. But something in my heart told me I needed this. So I said I would.
I was late getting to the first session as I obviously didn’t plan my timing right to get from one end of town to the other. And I didn’t have the Bible study book yet, so I was completely unprepared to say the least. I walked into this room of 25 or so women who all looked put together, prepared to learn and to share. Me… that string that was holding me together was just as frayed as it was before and all I could do was pray that no one else in the room noticed.
She found me, my pediatrician, and when she noticed that there were no other seats for this late newcomer, she offered me her’s so that I could get the full experience. We did introductions and when the Bible study book was handed to me, my heart nearly stopped. Call me crazy… well at this time I probably was on the brink of it… but the number 23 has followed me for some time. It was the day my grandma passed and the time that my grandpa took his last breath. And it was the Psalm that was sung at both funerals; a Psalm that I will always hold dear.
This Bible study… the one that I randomly was invited to nearly 30 miles from my house… was a Bible study dissecting Psalm 23. The purpose of this group was to trade panic for peace by understanding each word that God sent to us through this verse.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
I had no idea the topic of this study. I had no idea how many weeks I had committed or the homework I was expected to do. But the moment that I learned that Psalm 23 was our guide, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Weeks went by, and while I was unprepared for the first session, I made a pact to myself that I would be prepared for all of the rest. I learned so much about what a shepherd does and how finicky sheep are. I learned how we are so similar to sheep and the analogy of Jesus as our shepherd is no coincidence. It didn’t take long for me to feel the panic slip away and the peace make its residence in my heart. You should always follow doctor’s orders, and our pediatrician know just what my soul needed.
In preparation for one week’s session, this peace that I had been feeling had a new emotion attached to it. It was one of nervousness and excitement woven together. Like that feeling when you are going up on a roller-coaster (or at least what I would speculate it feels like since I get motion sickness and all!). That anticipatory feeling right before you go over the edge; right before you take a leap of faith. And a leap of faith I took. I sent an email… and I believe that was the email that set it all into motion.
I’ve been writing for a while, on the side in my limited spare time. I’ve felt called to put my thoughts on paper, and I had written a few chapters for a book I envisioned for the future. I had written a few chapters, but not shared them with many people. It was so personal, and to be honest, I was scared of rejection from others. But something told me that it was time to share, and one of the chapters in our Bible study connected closely with a chapter I had written, so I emailed the leaders and asked if I could share it with the group.
That feeling of anticipation I felt the first time I set foot in this church I felt yet again on the night that I was to read my chapter to the small group of women. You know, as a public relations practitioner during the day, I would think that getting in front of groups would be easy peasy for me. But alas, the sweaty hands reappeared and I made sure to wear a shirt that covered my neck as I have this habit of breaking out in red splotches when I get nervous.
I got up in front of the group and told them of my bucket list dream to publish a book and read this one chapter to them. And then I returned to my seat. I tried to not make eye contact with anyone. It was scary reading my chapter, but even scarier was waiting for the reaction. Or worse… no reaction.
The lady sitting next to me scribbled on a paper, and I thought she was making a note to recall later, but she ripped the note out of the paper and pushed the folded up note my way. As we moved to the next section of the book she whispered what would propel my dream into a reality.
Nothing happens by circumstance. Nothing. My mental break was meant to happen that day at the pediatrician’s office with that specific doctor who was willing to stay late to listen to me. I was meant to join that Bible study group as I’ve not only made lasting friendships from it, but that crumpled up piece of paper had the name of a lady who helps people make their books a reality, and she’s the person who I am working with now to hopefully help spread my words with those who need it by getting my book published!
Cause and effect occurs literally every second of every day. Our lives are like those “choose your own adventure” games we all enjoyed as a kid, except every move we make is critical to shaping who we become. It may be safer to choose the path that you know, but a risk may be just what you need to take you where God plans for you to land. The risks may be uncomfortable. You may get sweaty hands of break out in red splotches. But sometimes it’s in your weakest moment that you find your true destiny. Because just when I thought I was unraveling, God was actually helping me build a new beautiful tapestry.