A Season of Poverty and Compassion

Life, as it turns out, is constantly changing. There are seasons that feel stagnant, but in reality, that’s all they are: seasons. No matter how long the winter may seem, spring eventually comes. This season in my life is completely unique, and through it, God’s teaching me new lessons. To be honest, I’ve struggled with how raw this post should be. The vague, generic phrases I originally wrote were ineffective and pointless. However, if I am honest, I open myself and my family up to criticism and judgment.

Then again, why bother writing if I’m not honest?

This season’s lesson: compassion.

One of God’s favorite ways of getting a point across is through experience. It’s hard to truly find compassion for a situation if you can’t relate to it personally. Pity, yes. Empathy, no. Compassion, possibly.

There are some things I would rather not allow into my seasons, no matter how empathetic they may make me.

And yet, this season is one of poverty.

I hesitate to use that word, because one hand, I know that I am rich by the rest of the world’s standards. I have a roof over my head, some food in my pantry, clean water to drink, indoor plumbing, heat and air conditioning, running cars, a cell phone, a computer, and so much more.

On the other hand, paying rent is a struggle every month. It’s incredibly difficult to pay for food, let alone healthy food. The utilities, cell phone, and internet bills are usually late. Basic amenities that were once seen as essential are now optional.

In America, my little family and I are well under the poverty line. This is not a place that we want to be. I don’t enjoy the stress that it brings. I don’t enjoy asking for delayed payments in order to avoid losing power. I don’t enjoy conserving light bulbs. I don’t enjoy wearing the same clothes over and over. I don’t enjoy admitting that I need help.

I always said that I would never get government assistance, no matter how poor, unless I had a child. Well, guess what—I have a child. And I’ve had to ask for government assistance. Yes, it’s true—you, the American taxpayer, are paying for my son’s health insurance. You are paying for my milk and eggs.

I’ve learned to be okay with that.

I’m not a lazy good-for-nothing who sits around breeding kids and thinking up ways to screw the system out of more assistance. Despite the opinions of some, this stereotype actually isn’t common at all. Most of us—that’s right, us—the people who need help—are simply in a season where we have to admit we need help. This season won’t last forever. My husband and I won’t be students forever. We won’t have to work low-end jobs for forever. We do these things now to better our future. We accept the present in the hope and knowledge that it will end.

I know, though, that many people in my acquaintance will disagree with this stance. I’ll be honest: the things that you post online and the things you say regarding assistance hurt. They hurt because they are things I used to say. They hurt because I understand now how alienating, closed-minded, and judgmental they are. I understand now how the woman using WIC feels when the people behind her in line whisper complaints and the cashier treats her with disdain. The things you say hurt because, now, you’re saying them about me.

“I’m tired of lazy people sitting around all day and using my tax dollars to live. Get a job!” (I’m not lazy. I’m a full-time student with a three month old baby. I can’t work a normal job because childcare costs more than I could make and my child has a panic attack any time I leave him for more than an hour. My husband, also a full-time student, works at a pizza place. He’s constantly exhausted and is literally doing as much as he can. Our family of three is somehow supposed to survive on one part-time income. It isn’t possible.)

“The government needs to stop enabling people and cut assistance.” (Enabling people to… eat? Because that’s literally all I want the government to help me do. Eat. Others get help with things like a place to live, etc. It is horrible how people are enabled to have a place to live. I respectfully disagree with the stereotype that anyone who uses government assistance will use it forever.)

“People working jobs that don’t pay enough need to get motivated and get something better. It isn’t my job to pay for them!” (We are motivated to get something better. We’re trying. But there’s a season that has to happen before that’s a reality, and we need help during it. Side note: who exactly should work those jobs? As much as you disdain the lazy McDonalds worker, someone has to make your fries.)

“People who can’t afford kids shouldn’t have them.” (First off: babies happen. Please accept that. If we are truly to consider ourselves pro-life, we can’t make those kinds of statements. It implies that it’s better if the baby wasn’t born at all. If we want the babies to be born, shouldn’t we also want to make sure they are cared for after birth?)

“Maybe you’re working hard, but most people on assistance aren’t.” (Disagree. People have difficult times. It happens.)

“It’s the church’s responsibility to make sure the poor are taken care of, not the government’s.” (In an ideal world, yes, I do agree with this. Our beautiful church family has taken our breath away with their generosity on more than one occasion, and we are incredibly grateful to them. But that’s not real life. Your average church is not equipped to handle the day-to-day struggles of all of the poverty in their community. It just isn’t realistic.)

I don’t feel the need to defend myself, despite this rather long treatise. I accept my season. In fact, I find joy in it. I have an amazing husband and the best baby to ever grace this earth. I have the opportunity to go to school and earn my degree. Our season may be hard, but it’s full of reward. This isn’t at all a plea for pity or political statement—this has just weighed on my heart and I had to share it.

The point is this: you don’t know people’s stories. Be careful who you judge. Be careful the sweeping statements that you flippantly make. Perhaps, instead of stereotyping, try to understand. Try to show compassion. It’s a lesson I’m learning every day.

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” (Psalm 116:5)

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I Will Never Be SuperPinterest Woman

I hate Pinterest.

I have absolutely no patience for the adorable, cute style ideas that are “so easy.” Do people’s live really look like that?

This, however, is not a post to bash Pinterest or those who love it. It’s simply acknowledging that, while jars and pallets and striped fingernails seem to inspire other women’s innate desire to be creative, they merely frustrate me. My husband and I are blessed to live in a delightful little house while we’re in school, and I’m sure my decorating has left a lot to be desired. Our home may not be as darling as some could make it, but it’s our sanctuary in the midst of our crazy lives. We have our comfy orange couches, our bright kitchen, our stacks of books, and bunnies and squirrels that frolic in the back yard. The baby’s room (after we paint it–a first for us) will be cheerful and as efficient as I can make it.

Household concerns have never been a priority for me. However, this twenty-three week old living dinosaur inside my stomach has already started changing me. I’m not just talking about the boobs or the swollen feet. I’m starting to think about how to re-schedule my life completely to have as much time with him as possible, and how to keep him safe. I suddenly desire typical American housewife things like living in an area with a good school system and the perfect dresser that can double as a changing table. I’m suddenly afraid of changes in our life plans, of anything that isn’t perfectly safe and known. I have a child to think about now–isn’t it right that I fear those things?

When is fear ever right?

God gave me my husband with his wild dreams and unconventional life goals. It’s why I fell in love with him. God also gave us this baby to raise and protect and teach. Somehow, those two things–wild dreams and raising a child–can coincide. Who am I to fear what God calls us to do? Though my life may be full of crazy schedules, classes and work–though I just discovered what I thought were plants are actually very large weeds in my yard–though I have never been able to keep up with laundry–and though my house may not be perfectly Pinterest-styled–this is my life. This is what God has given me and this is who he made me to be. My life will never be like Pinterest, but it’s mine.

Hope-ful

How does one come back to a blog after over a year and begin writing again?

I’m just going to do it.

My life has changed so much in the last year, but it’s really just been a natural evolving of my passions and what God has called me to do. My husband and I went back to school last fall and are both working diligently toward our Bachelor’s: his in Political Science and mine in English with a writing emphasis.

Frankly, the past year has been hard for me. I don’t enjoy school and I’m basically going because I know it’s something I need to do. I’ve felt a bit lost. I have little in common with the traditional students at our school, and yet I don’t quite fit into the “adult” world of real jobs and couples and families. It’s a strange position and it started to chafe.

The chafing began with fear. I haven’t written much about it on this blog, but my husband and I practice Natural Family Planning. NFP is a way of avoiding or achieving pregnancy through observing a woman’s natural fertility signs. My husband and I decided we would wait until after one of us graduated before we start a family. At first, it worked beautifully for us, despite my confusing cycles. Then, my body just stopped working. I wasn’t fertile. I had cycle after cycle of no fertility. I’ve always dreamed of a large family of biological and adopted children, and the reality that my body might not allow that terrified me.

I finally reached my breaking point and made an appointment with a doctor to discuss my symptoms. Every doctor’s dream, I diagnosed myself before the appointment and went in ready to discuss how to fix my problem. The doctor didn’t know what to do with a woman who wasn’t fertile but also wasn’t actively trying to achieve pregnancy. He told me there was nothing he could do until I was ready to try to have a baby.

It broke my heart. I couldn’t imagine waiting another two or three years in that limbo of uncertainty. I begged God to just let me be fertile or infertile, to know for sure. I began researching natural methods such as acupuncture and tried to arm myself with knowledge to bring back to my doctor.

My initial appointment with my doctor was in March 2014. I had another appointment at the end of May. As I mentioned before, I have odd cycles—long and irregular. It wasn’t unusual for me to experience a sixty or eighty day cycle (versus the typical twenty-eight day cycle). As my appointment in May approached, I realized I hadn’t had a period in months, but thought nothing of it. I had also gained a little bit of weight. Then, I began to get these really odd charley horses at night. I WebMD’d the charley horses and saw that they could a side effect of pregnancy.

On May 23, I bought a pregnancy test, just to be sure.

On May 23, I took the test, fully expecting it to be negative and hating that I even had to take it after all I’d felt the past few months.

On May 23, that pregnancy test immediately turned positive.

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My church’s worship band sang a song the Sunday before I took the test. I heard it and silently took it as my anthem:

I speak to barrenness
I command life within
Come live you desolate
Spring up you living well…

Healing power flow like a river
Reveal your mending heart
To every tormented soul
Emmanuel come quick to deliver

So let hope in
Open up your walls
Hope conquers all

 

Less than a week later, I sat in the doctor’s office and watched an ultrasound screen as they told me that I was thirteen weeks pregnant with a little baby boy, due December 4th.

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Some days I’m afraid that this isn’t real. Despite my growing stomach and insatiable appetite, it feels too good to be true. Other days I’m overwhelmed with how incredibly redeemed I feel and how miraculous this life inside of me is. Every day, though, I’m thankful for this blessing. Apparently God agreed with me and knew that I couldn’t handle years of uncertainty.

This is going to be hard, obviously. Neither I nor my husband plan to drop out of school, and we have to provide for our little one. We’re still working out the logistics, and there are lots of decisions to be made. All of those issues feel less burdensome, though, when I think about the past few months. God gave us this baby and he will provide what we need.

I don’t feel lost anymore. This is what God has called me to in this part of my life: wife and mother, supporting my husband in his blossoming experiences, finishing my degree, and discovering another facet of God’s love for his children.

Life is certainly full.