My Story Revisited

It was my turn to tell my story at my small group on Sunday. I didn’t want to tell the same story I told in church last year, mainly focused on my divorce and all I learned from that.

So – I focused more on growing up in a big family and growing up as a rule-follower in a conservative Christian family – basically becoming a Pharisee.

I’d been thinking about what to say for awhile. I didn’t, however, write it out ahead of time, as our small group leader suggested that we do. And when I was done, I was dissatisfied, even a little depressed. Because I talked about some hard things that happened to me, but I didn’t bring out all the good results.

So, now that it’s after the fact – I want to pull some things out of my story. What’s the important part? Not that I got hurt in certain specific ways, but that the person who I am today was shaped by the things that happened to me.

The approach I’m going to take is: Who am I? I’m going to pull out what feels true about me, and talk about how I know that from my story.

The things that follow may be in random order, but they feel true about me:

I’m a person who needs to live near some green. Something wild, or something beautiful in nature, or where you can walk in the woods, or near some rolling hills.

They asked why I was so upset to leave Kent, Washington, when I was a little kid and move to the Los Angeles area. As if it wasn’t obvious. And, apparently, it’s not. Apparently most other people can happily live where the sidewalks are a grid and you’d never ever see a deer run by (or a great blue heron).

Okay, living in a place like that didn’t really happen for me until I was 32 years old and we moved to Germany. And that is the big thing I loved, loved, loved about living in Germany – in the countryside. The view fed my soul. The walks in the woods. The deer running by. But that yearning for beauty in nature had already gotten into my heart in Kent. But I’ve gotten to live places like that for at least 20 years now. And now it’s a need.

Hmmm. I also love castles, too. But I pretty much have to do without that now.

This is also tied with loving to travel. I mostly like to travel to beautiful places – you know, places with castles! Or perhaps with forests or mountains or ocean….

And it’s tied with loving to take photos. A photo of a beautiful place I’ve been can pull me right back.

I need a little snow in my life.

When I was 4 years old and not in school yet, Seattle got a “big snow.” Ricky and Becky got to get out of school early and walk up the hill in the snow. We played in the snow and made snowmen. The next year, when I was in Kindergarten – the *only* time it snowed that year was a tiny bit of snow – while I was supposed to be taking a nap. Gone when I was allowed to go outside. I overheard our bus driver actually say she was glad we hadn’t gotten any snow! I vowed then and there never to be the kind of grown-up who didn’t like snow! I have pretty much kept that vow, though it’s challenged a bit when I have to drive in it. (But when I was an adjunct math instructor, a snow day was the only way I got paid time off – so I liked snow even more.)

This is, actually, closely tied to needing to live where there’s some green. I’m not a fan of heat or deserts or bright headache-inducing sun.

Christian music – and singing along – is important to me.

And, what do you know, it’s been important since I was 4 years old, dancing around the house and singing along to Little Marcy records.

Then singing hymns with my sister Becky with our little faces out the back windows of the van on vacations and all the way to church and back for years. Then A Capella Choir in high school and the Biola Chorale in college. The William Locke singers. Even the German-American choir. And still, music filling my home, and singing a hymn every morning while making breakfast.

I’ve read that affirmations are good for you. Well, I prefer to sing my affirmations. And put them straight into my heart.

I do love babies.

I’ve often said, if you catch a little girl when she’s eight years old and put her around a lot of babies, she’s always going to be confident taking care of them. I love babies.

I did, however, learn from my mother that just because you love babies doesn’t mean you have to give birth to them.

My own babies, though, were the most wonderful of all! And the two people who were once my babies are the two people I love most in all the world.

Loving babies is perfect, though, for being a children’s librarian.

I love reading. And I love reading to kids.

My Mom taught me to read when I was 3 years old. And I’ve always loved it. I remember her reading to me when I was small enough to fit on her lap. And I remember later reading to my younger siblings. And I remember the one-hour naps she made us take every day (when we were home) – and we could spend it reading instead of sleeping if we wanted to. I remember once I stayed in bed after the nap was over and spent 5 hours reading until I’d finished The Black Stallion Revolts. I also remember when my Mom made me go to bed awfully early (when I was still in elementary school but my older brother and sister weren’t), and I went into my walk-in closet and read books instead of going to bed. I remember reading Little Women that way and crying when Beth died.

I’m an introvert who loves attention.

I’m an introvert – so I love time to myself and time to read. Living alone actually feels like a luxurious privilege.

But – I’m from a big family and somewhat starved for attention. When someone actually notices me, listens to me, pays attention to my thoughts and feelings – that feels amazingly good.

I mentioned these things were in random order, right?

I love Jesus.

I remember my Mom being my Sunday School teacher when we lived in Kent and I was 3 or 4 years old. I played with flannel graph Bible story pieces. I believed it – and God has walked with me my whole life.

As early as junior high, I started doing the Bible Fellowship, a devotional system by mail that was fond of check charts. Then our high school youth group put a big emphasis on daily quiet times – and that’s still an important part of my daily routine. I spend some time reading the Bible, memorizing, reading some other books, and especially journaling about it. I think that’s an important part of keeping my eyes on what life is about.

I know an awful lot about the Bible.

My parents paid me to memorize Scripture. I love God’s word. I’ve memorized (a chapter at a time) all of the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Hosea, and more. I also attended Christian schools from 3rd grade through college – Long Beach Brethren Elementary School, Brethren Junior/Senior High School, and Biola University.

Now, my memorizing Scripture meant that I didn’t swallow what people told me the Bible said easily. I can read it for myself. If you think the Bible supports your view, tell me where it says that, and I will consider for myself if I think that’s a valid interpretation. When political groups tried to say the Bible teaches what only one political party believes, I knew full well it was a load of hogwash.

My eyes were opened when I memorized John 9, where the Pharisees proved from Scripture (what they thought their Scriptures said) that Jesus was not from God — “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

Since Jesus surprised the theologians of his day when he came the first time, who’s to say he’s not going to surprise everyone the second time? As C. S. Lewis says, “He’s not a tame lion.”

I believe that God will eventually save everyone.

I came to this belief as an adult, from reading the writings of George MacDonald. He obviously knew and loved the Bible, so how could he think this was true? Well, I searched the Scriptures (I began by reading the New Testament and looking for the words “all” and “every.”) – and I came to believe that this fits beautifully with the pervasive teaching of the Scriptures.

I still believe in hell – but not that it is unending. I’ve done some reading in many other books and learned that the word translated “eternal” in English is better translated “of the eons” – it means an indefinitely long time, but not necessarily unending. And – that fits with the overwhelmingly consistent message of Scripture that God loves everyone, while they are still sinners, that Jesus died for the whole world – and God’s punishment is to restore us. Nowhere does the Bible say that death is the deadline for coming to Christ. On the contrary, one day “Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And one day Christ will be all in all.

This belief changed my whole outlook. If God is really going to search for every lost sheep until they are found – then it cuts off my pride at the feet. Then my privilege of growing up in a Christian family and hearing of God’s love from an early age – is nothing to be proud of. It’s a responsibility to then grow to be loving like Christ. And that love reaches to everyone.

I believe God is personal, and God speaks, and God leads each person on their own path. I believe that God delights in His children and that He knows and loves us for being the quirky people He created us to be.

I learned more about that as God walked with me through my divorce and as I’ve connected with the people at Gateway Community Church here in Virginia.

I’m politically liberal.

This is not how I grew up. I think it came out of living in downtown Los Angeles as a young adult and then in Germany as an older adult. I saw some common sense things that worked really well there – better health care and much better social safety net (even “Kindergeld” – money for children!) and better gun laws. I felt safe to walk around outside at night. Also no billboards by the Autobahns and hiking trails everywhere.

Besides, Libraries are socialism done right! When communities invest in the good of the community (like libraries) – everyone benefits.

I’ve been tremendously blessed in my jobs.

Okay, the first job – MacDonald’s – was nothing special.

Working as a Student Programmer for Computer Services, programming for the university administration, was an awesome college job.

A teaching assistantship paid for grad school.

Turning around and teaching at Biola was a great way to start my adult life. They were good to me with maternity leave, too. And then I was able to get part-time adjunct math instructor jobs quickly when we moved to New Jersey and then Illinois.

I wasn’t *crazy* about teaching kids who didn’t want to learn math, but I learned to enjoy it – and it enabled me to spend most of my time with my kids and not put them into day care. Their dad took care of them while I was teaching – and that was fantastic for his relationship with them and his confidence as a father. Especially that first year when I was working full-time, so he was full-time with our baby.

I taught college math for ten years. It also enabled my husband to get an Associate’s degree in Computer Science (on top of his Bachelor’s in music) for a deep discount.

And then after we moved to Germany, I got a half-time job at the base library – and found my calling. I worked there for eight years.

When I came to Germany, while I was still taking library science classes, I got a part-time job at almost the closest library to my house.

When I finished my MLIS, I got a full-time job at the very closest library to my house.

The worst part was when I got RIF’d and had to work for the Office for Children for six months. But the good part of that was I still had a job – and it brought me to the regional library where I still work now and eventually got the Youth Services Manager position.

I am doing what I love and what I am called to do. I am blessed that way.

Let’s see. Also true about me:

I love telling people about good books.

I began my website of book reviews, Sonderbooks, in 2001 as an email newsletter. It’s still going strong, and now I’m on the Newbery committee as well.

I almost forgot to mention:

I love math.

I was a math major at Biola, got a Master’s in Math from UCLA, taught college math for ten years – and now make mathematical knitting projects, which delight me.

Tied with this, I love logic puzzles and playing Euro games (which is often like solving a puzzle).

It was a shock when my youngest went to college and I had to find people to play games with outside of my own home. Growing up, of course, that was never ever a problem. And I trained my kids to play games with me. Fortunately, I found some gaming groups and now get to play games most weeks. Intellectual stimulation plus getting to connect with friends – an all-round win.

I love to write.

Blogs and emails and book reviews are the main way this gets out now. I do have two books written – some day I’ll get published, though that’s on the back burner now that I’m on the Newbery committee. And I also write daily in my quiet time journal, writing out prayers to God about what’s going on.

I like to keep my friends.

I’ve been friends with Kathe and Darlene since 3rd grade and with Ruth since 7th grade. I love Facebook – because I get to hear about people who have touched my life, people I care about.

I wanted to keep my best-friend-that-was, my ex-husband, and tried to stand for my marriage for a very long time, but I did learn that you can’t keep a marriage by yourself.

I’ve talked about the divorce process elsewhere, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. But I’m still glad I married him. He was my best friend, and we became adults together. Being married to him meant I got to live in Europe for ten years and discover how much I loved working in a library – getting a job via Spouse Preference. And we adventured in Europe together for several years before things went sour. I loved his sense of humor, and he was a great dad to our kids – and even recently spent two weeks when our daughter had a crisis and I couldn’t be there.

Now, at this point I’m also thankful we’re divorced. I hope that a new life partner is in my future, because living with your best friend brings joy and challenges you to grow. But I have to admit I’m enjoying this interlude of living alone in a beautiful place with plenty of books to read.

I made this “Visual Mission Statement” a few years back. I think everything I said above is included in it somewhere.

So – it didn’t come out as a coherent “story,” but I hope this gives you an idea of who I am.

I guess I forgot this one:

I believe that God works all things together for good. I believe that Joy is the hallmark of the Christian.

That statement about Joy was something a Biola professor used to say. I think Joy is important. Because I believe it’s part of trusting God.

So that’s why I wanted to post this addendum to the story I told yesterday. That story (which I didn’t write out) focused too much on things that happened to me. I wanted to finish up by thinking about what it meant and who I am.

God is so good, and He has walked with me all my life.

Right now, my life is very happy and full. And I’m excited to find out what comes next!

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