What’s Up With Mary???


A Penny for Your Thoughts, OR What’s Up With Mary?

November 16, 2013

It’s not all about the penny, people. Or the pennies.

When I conduct my writing workshops I always cover the importance of social media in promoting and marketing ourselves as authors. Develop an author website, utilize Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn wisely, begin a blog, and whatever you do, don’t let a week go by that you don’t update that blog. Blah, blah, blah, blah… Too bad I didn’t follow my own advice. My last blog posting was nearly two months ago. This is unprecedented for me. In the four years I’ve been blogging I’ve never failed to update my blog at least once a week, not even during those early days after the death of my husband in March 2012. I could make up lots of excuses: I’ve been busy promoting my book, Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession.

I’ve been working with my editor on editing and revising Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage, which will be released in April. I’ve also been working on speeches I will be presenting and a manuscript for my next book, Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief, and Grace. I’ve also been conducting couponing workshops at libraries throughout Iowa.

I’ve been busy.

But it isn’t really about the busy. I’ve been busy before.

In early November one of my sisters mentioned the upcoming anniversary of our mother’s death, which also happens to coincide with my birthday.

“It will be three years since Mom died on November 3rd,” she said. I dispassionately observed how her eyes filled with tears as she said those words. I felt guilty for not conjuring up some tears of my own. It wasn’t that I didn’t care: I loved my mother very much, and miss her every day. I would wonder later why I wasn’t experiencing the same sharp loss my sister was evidently still feeling over the loss of our mother.

Sixteen months after my mother’s death, David died. Seventeen months later, we lost Jacob. Loss piled upon loss, piled upon loss…

I’ve felt wounded, emotionally bereft. I have been unable to blissfully blog and resisting the urge to continually blog about loss. So I didn’t blog at all.

Oh, I was writing, just not on here. I’ve been reliving some of the feelings of loss of my mother and David as I’ve been working Refined By Fire, revisiting some of that sharpness of pain through journal entries and blog postings I am incorporating into the manuscript. It has been healing for me. When I reached the chapter detailing Jacob’s death, however, it became too painful to continue. I had to set it aside for now.

In a Bible study I have been facilitating these past eight weeks we have covered subjects as diverse as hopeless, loneliness, envy, fear, and anger. If you’d asked me two months ago I would have said the only topic that was pertinent to me was that of loneliness, but it turned out that I discovered something about myself each and every week. Lo and behold, I had been harboring some anger in my heart- who knew? God knew. As for prayer, I realized I had fallen back into one of my worst prayer habits; that of adding codicils to my prayers, informing God just how he should answer them. As a Type-A control freak, this is something I have struggled with for years. When I caught myself worrying myself into a frenzy about things like finances and the future, I realized I needed to trust God. After all, everything I was busy with was because of Him: the book contracts, workshops, and even the group of people in my Bible study who had begun to feel like family. As a friend of mine was working herself up into her own worrying frenzy, I thought to write her a note as if it were from God her father. I wrote myself one, too, and it went something like this:

“Oh, ye of little faith. Have I not shown you repeatedly that I have plans for you? That you are not to worry? My child, quiet your busy mind and busy life, and listen. Be patient. I will show you how much I care about you and the direction you should go. Do not worry. Do not fret about things. Things are not important. People are important. Have you not learned this yet? Those you mourn now reside with me.”

God has been faithful. As I have worked on the books and speeches that He inspired me to write, I have clearly seen the direction to go, even to the point of ripping apart entire chapters that I thought were completed.

It was just a few days ago I was worrying (will I never learn) about December bills and the cessation of workshops for the winter, and my daughter Elizabeth asked, “Well, how much money would make you feel more confident about getting through December?” and I’d answered, “Oh, between $300 and $400 would make up the difference from the classes and workshops I’ve been doing.”

This morning Abby and I attended a “Festival of Trees” event. I splurged and purchased $10 worth of tickets to enter some drawings, including one for a $1000 tree. (as in literally holding $1000 worth of bills and coins). I let Abby choose which drawings we would put our limited tickets into and while most of them went into the tree drawing, some went for chances at gift certificates for gas and food. When someone announced another drawing coming up; for a chance at a 50/50 drawing at 2:00, I asked Abby if we should enter that one and she initially said no. I agreed in theory; it doesn’t make much sense for someone on a limited budget to be blowing money on frivolous things like drawings. When Abby returned from a brief visit to a candy booth, she spotted a penny on the floor near my chair. She handed it to me with widened eyes. We are both getting used to her finding coins in odd places and at odd times since her Dad’s death. Sometimes the dates of the coins meant something to us: 2003 for Abby’s year of birth, 1978 or 1979 for the years we met or got married. 2005 for the year Jacob was born.

1999. The date on the coin meant nothing to me. And yet, I felt there was a message in the discovery of it.

“Hmmm, I wonder if this means Daddy wants us to enter that blue ticket drawing,” I mused out loud, and Abby immediately agreed. After all, the event was coordinated by David’s previous employer and he’d always had a little bit of a gambler in him, buying scratch tickets every time he got gas in the car.

“Let’s just purchase as many tickets as I have money for in my purse,” I decided and we dug into the deep recesses of my purse, coming up with a total of $5 for five tickets. It was getting close to 2:00, so we decided to just wait for the drawing to be held. We watched as last-minute gamblers threw down $20 bills and grabbed long strands of tickets. Surely our measly $5 investment was a rash decision?

It was a surreal moment when the number announced was one of my five tickets. I had to look once, twice, and then three times to believe it. We had won! I felt like crying as I went up to compare my ticket to the winning ticket. My hand shook a little as the numbers were compared and it was verified that I was, indeed, the winner of the 50/50 drawing. It turned out there had been 750 entries and the odds of my winning were 5 out of 750.

On the phone on the way home, it was Elizabeth who reminded me of what I had said about the amount of money that would make the difference in my life next month: $300-$400. And now I have $375.

Attempt to convince me that was not God.

While I have temporarily set aside the chapters of my book that detail the loss of Jacob, I now have a perfect ending chapter, “A Room of One’s Own.” The idea came to me as I have been contemplating what it means to trust in God and how I have been transformed through the experience of loss.

I have been spending a lot of time recently in this room I decorated myself, after my daughter Katie kindly painted the walls a light blue. (blue is supposed to be a color conducive to creativity) I am 54 years old and this is the first time I have had a “room of my own,” other than the three months I spent at my brother Lyle’s house in the summer of 1978. I decorated with a butterfly theme and each time I sit in the chair with a cup of hot tea on the table next to me, it serves as a quiet and healing oasis for me. I do much more than just sleep in this room: I write, read, and pray in this room. Moving into the room was a turning point in my journey of grief. It signified I was moving on with life, a life without the man who had been at my side for most of my adult life. We met when I was 18, married when I was 19, and were together for nearly 33 years. It is within the walls of this room I will complete the book that will hopefully help others through grief.

This room is also where I have been working on a speech for tomorrow, one that ends like this:

I am still on my faith journey: spending time in prayer each day, studying the Bible, learning to listen to God’s plans for me, and striving to be more like Jesus. I’ve managed to find meaning even in the short life of a child I loved and lost.

But you don’t have to wait for darkness and despair in your life to find God. Through prayer and studying the Bible, you can build up a real relationship with your Savior now.

That way, someday when you need God, you will already know Him.

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