Wednesday, April 11, 2012

and now, the rest of the story...

*this is the last post in a series i'm writing to introduce myself. if you want to read from the beginning, start here and then make your way forward in time...*

fast forward a few months from when our baby boy was born, and i'm a physics major with 2 kids under the age of 3. i thought i had no study time with one toddler at home...

ha!
with 2 babies at home while i was taking upper level physics courses, i was lucky to get out with my sanity intact (though that may be debatable). i can probably count on one hand the number of times my text books were open at home.

i still had no idea what i was going to do with my degree, but i had learned one important fact: a bachelor's degree in physics doesn't really get you anywhere. i had decided against optometry school due in large part to me not wanting to stay in school that long with a family at home. now i was faced with the fact that i would need to go to grad school if i wanted to do anything worthwhile with my degree.

great. grad school? that hadn't been part of the plan, not even the new plan.
i had no idea what i wanted to do; how in the world was i going to find a grad school?

i was doing a general search for careers in physics when i stumbled across a brochure. it said something to this effect: "if you like puzzles, medicine, and physics, try out medical physics!" in my search for grad schools, i found an internship in medical physics. it was a bit past the application date, but i figured there was no harm in trying anyways.


to my surprise, i got accepted. my family packed everything (though we left almost all of it in storage) and moved up to spend 10 weeks in toledo, oh, for the summer of 2010. we didn't move our furniture, so we basically camped out in an apartment for 2 months with a little girl who was 3 and a half and a little boy who turned 1 that summer.

believe it or not, we had a blast!

 *how my babies spent the drive north...*

that summer also showed me that medical physics was where my heart was, and i just knew that i had found what God had planned for me.

i even started to see the good in all the stuff we had gone through. after all, i never would have told you back in 2002 when i graduated from high school that i would end up with a degree in physics. for that matter, there were a few days right up until december 2010 that i still would have said there was no way i would make it through! (i definitely credit nathan with pulling me through, though dr. musser and dr. hemmati at tech both did their share of pushing!)

if nathan hadn't been in the coast guard when his lphs started, there's no way we would have ever been able to afford all the doctor visits required to get him a diagnosis. the lphs itself, as horrible as it is, hasn't done to us what it has to some people. through the magical world of the internet, we've "met" others with lphs. many of them spend a week or two out of every month in the hospital, hooked up to iv pain meds. a lot of them are on disability and can't work. nathan, though, has been able to stay out of the hospital and work through the pain.

if nathan had gone to flight school, he would have probably had to drop out in the middle because of the pain. he wouldn't have been able to pass the flight physical. i don't see how i would have ended up getting a bachelor's in physics, either.

through nathan's time in the coast guard, we've been blessed to be able to keep that insurance. it has paid for both our babies... and numerous doctors' visits for nathan... and monthly pain med prescriptions... so, though we were 2 broke college kids when our own babies were born, we had insurance to cover them.


slowly, i was starting to get over my own anger and disappointment with God. i was learning to see His hand in all the horrible stuff that had happened. i could even see Him working through michael's death.


i graduated in december 2010 and was offered a job teaching physical science labs at arkansas tech. life was great--i taught a couple days a week, so the rest of the time i was home with the kids. nathan worked nights as a security guard in conway so we didn't see each other very much, but it was temporary. we could deal with anything for a short time.

but then, i started getting letters (emails, actually) from grad schools saying i hadn't gotten in.

what?
but...medical physics was what God had chosen for me, right? it had stolen my heart, even if it meant i had to go to school for another 5 years. we had a new plan, one completely foreign to us but completely amazing. though i was deflated a bit by each letter i got, i wasn't totally shut down. after all, i was still waiting on the toledo letter. i had done an internship up there, so surely that one would work out. i even started thinking, "good. this way i don't have to make a choice because it's already been made for me."

then, that letter came in april 2011. i hadn't gotten in.
 
ouch.
talk about a punch in the gut.

i wanted to fall apart. the thing was, though, i had these two little faces staring up at me. it didn't matter that my plan hadn't worked out--they were counting on me.

i had to find a job.

to make an already long story a bit shorter, i ended up in the arkansas non-traditional teacher program and started teaching science to 7th, 8th, and 10th graders.

so, we were starting over again. again.
my teaching job was an answer to prayer, though, so after quite a few tears and a lot of stressing out, i started thinking that maybe this was what God had planned for me instead of medical physics. i have to admit, i was really wondering what the point of all those physics classes was, though! teaching was my original college major, so it seemed like all those years had been quite a detour for me to end up on the same path.

it takes a special kind of person to be a teacher. you have to be able to love all the kids without taking all their problems home with you. you need to be able to separate yourself from the job a bit while still showing the kids how much you care about them. you need to be able to think on your feet and change things up when your carefully planned lesson is putting all the kids to sleep. you need to be able to deal with the politics that have unfortunately become a part of education. you have to deal with rules and regulations being made by people working in state offices who never step foot in a classroom. you need to be able to carve out time to grade papers, plan lessons, make dinner, spend time with the family, and still manage to sleep.

the thing is, i found out pretty early on that i'm not that person.
i took everything home with me.
when the kids at school had driven me crazy, my own babies got snapped at.
as soon as the kids were in bed, i would all but pass out.
i was stressed and crying most nights.
to be honest, i really felt like a failure.

and, i was back to the drawing board--what in the world did God want from me? hadn't He led us here? hadn't He opened this door for us after the other one was closed?

i was crushed, i was hurt, and i was mad.
do you ever feel like that? you think you're doing everything you can to follow where God's leading, but for some reason each path seems to end up being a dead end.
i really felt like giving up.

i also realized something. when i had applied for grad school, i had only applied for phD programs. i told myself that that was because i would need those letters after my name to be respected in the field, but that wasn't true.
truthfully, i wanted those letters because i wanted those letters. though my intentions had started out pure, they had gotten tainted.


fast forward to today. i've been told (preliminarily, since i haven't gotten an official letter from the grad school) that i should be in toledo this fall. i'm writing this blog, as crazy as it is, and i feel like it is something God has truly led me to do.


i've also finished (well, that may not ever be the right word since i'll always see things to change) writing my first novel and am starting a second.


i still don't know why we've gone through all we have.
i don't know what exactly God has been teaching us or what He has in store for us in the future.
i do know, though, that i wouldn't be who i am today without everything that has happened up to this point in my life.


don't get me wrong--there's a lot that has happened that i would have happily done without. mixed in with all the bad stuff, though, there's been a lot i wouldn't ever trade.

i'm pretty hard headed and stubborn, so i'm sure there are some lessons i've learned along the way that i wouldn't have learned any other way:
about clinging to God through everything.
about holding family close no matter what.
about being strong when all you want to do is collapse.
about my strengths and weaknesses.
about faith
            hope
                love.

as crazy as this path has been, i'm starting to see that we have gone right where God has been leading us. despite all the times i've felt like He's been distant, He's been right there. He's given me the strength to get through everything, and when that hasn't been enough He's carried me through.


to wrap this up, i'll leave you with some verses that i recently discovered tell my story...


"i love You, o LORD, my strength. the LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom i take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold
i call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and i am saved from my enemies. 
He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. 
as for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him
for who is God besides the LORD? and who is the Rock except our God? 
 it is God 
who arms me with strength 
and makes my way perfect
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; 
He enables me to stand on the heights. 
the LORD lives! 
praise be to my Rock! 
exalted be God my Savior! 
therefore i will praise You among the nations, o LORD; i will sing praises to Your name." 
~psalm 18:1-3, 16, 30-33, 46, & 49

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Thoughts? I would love to hear them!
~Mandy