Journal

Me, Myself and I Before, During, and After.

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In case you missed last weeks blog, here it is. It was an intro to this week’s, giving a clue to what today’s was going to be about. Notice I said it was going to be about.

I’ve decided to add a bit more before that story is given. Why? I just realized how I’d like to explain a bit more what lead up to that day, or better yet, moment. I want to share a few things to help you understand how I came to be the person that I am today, in hopes my story shows a bit more why it was one unforgettable time for me.

For starters, I had some of those normal ups and downs most have gone through: It’s officially called Growing Up. I was the youngest of seven but my two oldest siblings were already out of the house when I was about six. By that time I was living in a great neighborhood south of Seattle, Washington called Normandy Park. My parents, three brothers, one sister and, of course, Sam, our terrier dog, never complained about our decent-sized home with a beautiful yard that even had a creek down a little hill. To top it off, it was on one of those perfect dead-end streets with friendly neighbors all around. Mom stayed home while Dad worked for Boeing, a very secure, well-paying job. My mom, however, was one who loved thrift stores and  devoured those Seattle Times Sunday-morning grocery-store ads.

It seemed to me that my four siblings still at home, the oldest being thirteen years older, to the youngest only two years older, got to do so much more than I did.

“It’s not fair!” I often yelled to whomever could hear. “I never get to sit in the front seat! I’m tired of being the youngest. Mom, why can’t you take just ME to school today?”

Here is a taste of a well- known conversation:

“It’s your turn!” one of us would bark when told to feed our dog Sammy.

“No, I did it last time,” the other would reply.

“BOTH of you do it,” was our mom’s common reply.

As I write this, I can’t help but picture how David, the one closest to my age, and I often went into the laundry room, and one of us would get up on the washer to reach way up high to the shelf to grab the bag of dog treats. One time, for sure, I’ll never forget.

“Dare you to eat it.”

“You eat it first..”

“No, you.”

Back and forth, back and forth. Finally we agreed that we both try it.

“It’s not so bad!” and happily took turns giving  Sam a few of the goodies along with his normal food. I also remember being surprised when David said, “Here, I’ll get him some fresh water,” Yep. He offered without being told. Shocked I sure was.

We grew up going to a Catholic church every Sunday. I had it mastered when we would stand up, sit down, get down on our knees, stand up again, and, of course, cross ourselves. I felt almost grown up when I was old enough to take communion. Of course I felt extra special when, a few years later, I became one to help serve it. I learned from church how to be a good person and, having been baptized as a baby, that I would go to heaven. Catholicism was really the only religion I knew anything about all through grade school.

That church had a private school, which I attended from first through eighth grade. My only concern going there was why we couldn’t be like the public schools and wear whatever we wanted. The first three years I had to wear the same red-and-white striped skirt, a white button-up dress shirt and a red button-up sweater. More often than not, I made sure I wore shorts under my uniform skirt. After all, I was proud that I could jump off the swing when way up high during recess. I was not going to let my skirt keep me from showing off my skills. Such a relief in fourth grade when we were allowed to wear black pants. But still, every day? I sure wished we had more free-dress days.

Here’s one journal writing from way back then. I chose this being it doesn’t embarrass me too much.

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Jan 1980 (12 years old – 8th grade)

Diary – Today was pretty lazy. Me, Mom and David went shopping for food. After that I went to the twins and played Ping-Pong. It was fun. I forgot to say I rearranged my room yesterday. It looks really awesome now. I’m also getting all set to begin taking my saxophone lessons. I hope it all works out. I have to say, too, that I hope Chuck starts liking me because I sure now like him. I keep putting off my twenty-five page report. I had better start. By until tomorrow.

I shared this now just to give a taste of the normal-ness I had before my pre-teen years.

Next time you get to read how things were going as my, gulp, teen years began.

 

The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up – part 3

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Did you ever predict you would learn something but didn’t know what the lesson might be? That was me a few years back. After a few tougher-than-normal trials had taken place, I grasped the fact that I would learn something from them, but just wasn’t sure what. Here, let me explain.

As my last two posts shared, (1*2*) two somewhat life-changing ordeals had my thoughts of thankfulness all folded up and tossed in the back pocket of my jeans. (Pictorially speaking, of course.) But God guided me to understand that He was writing the story and had bigger plans I couldn’t yet see.

As years went by, I took a few verses to heart: Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

So, I waited…and waited…and yes, waited, as our family of four turned into a family of six. I had shared my unplanned pregnancy and illness story with many by this time. As each year passed, comments of “You should let others know about what God did for you” kept popping up. Slowly but surely, the question of why I’m thankful for these trials was beginning to get answered.

First, my pregnancy. An older post shares how different comments and requests to share my pregnancy were God’s way to get that story in writing; thus my book, God and My Pillow. (3*) Helping others going through that same ordeal is now a must, knowing God’s been encouraging me from the start.

In another older post (4*) I shared about connecting with that encephalitic support website, meeting others who had gone through the same type of illness. Being it was years after I was hit with encephalitis, having experienced for some time how that illness can affect your life, I wound up encouraging others who were recently hit with similar brain damage. Phone calls and skyping I began using.  They needed to hear from one who had experienced what they were, at the time, dealing with. A book is now in the making to cover that, in hopes of encouraging those, showing how God held me and how He can hold them as well.

Hearing others tell me how helpful these efforts have been has caused me, in a way, to be almost thankful for these two events. I appreciate so much more now, knowing that if you never experienced pain, sorrow, and hurt, you would never recognize good health, the simple joys in life, and just how precious having Christ by your side can be.  Most people have had their share of hard times and I’m certain they are far from over. But instead of being sad, frustrated, and/or angry about them, I hope my stories help others pull that little piece of paper with the word ‘thankful’ on it out of their back pockets too. 

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The Word ‘Thankful’ All Folded Up – part 2

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In my last post, (1*) I wrote about the word ‘thankful’ and how that word didn’t fit too well inside my heart as I underwent my two extremely tough afflictions. (2* & 3*) No one found me relaxed on a recliner, smiling ear to ear while thinking, “I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so thankful God is having me go through this incredibly tough time.” Nope. Thankfulness was tightly folded up and hiding in the back pocket of my jeans.

After each ordeal took place, however, my mind knew God was in charge. I began realizing more and more that as things were getting better, I was actually thinking of pulling that Thankful sign out of my jeans and putting it on the table, but of course still folded up. As more positive things began to appear through each ordeal, I actually unfolded that paper. Sensing God’s help via family, friends, doctors, and the like, I finally decided to unfold the paper and read it each time I walked by. More thankful thoughts were growing in size and frequency. I finally got a magnet and —drumroll, please— stuck that Thankful sign up on my refrigerator!

I wasn’t becoming thankful I was pregnant, or for my month-long stay at a hospital. Not yet anyway. Thankfulness was there for feeling Christ was supporting me, caring for me, and letting me know He wasn’t just King, but my Father.

I was growing in the understanding that God is the One who puts us through what comes our way, good or bad. I was on the road that was planned by Him, whether smooth and serene, or unpaved, or one filled with countless sinkholes. I still felt a bit shattered and broken, not able to do what I had planned in life, but finally understanding that God’s plans are perfect, and that He was going to use me somehow, some way sure helped. 

Peace was growing inside as each year went by, and a few verses began to stand out.

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Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. 

Attached is a song – The Very Next Thing – by Casting Crowns, which shares how I had began to slowly feel as time went by, using words such as…

– With my very next step – be on the road that was planned by you

– Lord, wherever you’re leading me – that’s where I want to be

Even though I did not know which direction that path was going, thankfulness, tied with peace, permanently got pinned to my heart and I was eager to see how He might use what He put me through to serve Him.

Finally, doors were opening and I began to see what His plans were. 

– to be continued.

Two Phone Calls That Showed Me God’s Plans – 2

One day, thirty years ago, I had to make one important phone call that possible would be the beginning of a major change in my life. (*1)

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Pressing that last phone number to call a place I’ve never heard about caused my heart to pound. That place? Planned Parenthood.

Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring.

Hmmm. No answer. Darn it. I’ll try another one. Let’s see. 

Flipping backwards a bit through the phone book I found another place: Crisis Pregnancy Center.

I have to try this place. If I’m pregnant, then it sure will be a crisis for me.

Ring, ring. Ring, ring.

Oh, please. Oh, please be open! PLEASE be op…

“Hello. Crisis Pregnancy Center. How can I help you?”

I can still picture that building and how I felt as I drove up. But more so, I can picture the look on my face once I learned what the pregnancy test result ‘Positive’ meant. I also learned what feeling numb felt like. After a short spell, the lady asked, “Is it okay if I ask you, now that this test shows you are pregnant, what you think you should do?”

I took a deep breath, feeling like I needed to be strong and not fall into a pit of despair.

“Yes, you can. I…I think I should get an abortion. I can’t be a bad example as a Christian. You may not understand what the Christian faith is all about, but I want to please God and be a good witness to others.” Deep down, escaping the embarrassment was a big reason as well.

Those next few minutes were priceless, as I learned the place I was in was a Christian organization. God used that one woman to open my eyes to a few facts I needed to know.

She could tell I was young and uninformed, so her showing me verse after verse of what God’s Word says about abortion was valuable. Learning how God knew this baby was forming in me, and that he or she was planned, changed my entire view on abortion.

Watching a video showing what a five-week-old in the womb actually looked like had me in tears for even thinking of having an abortion. I grasped the fact that God is my Father, He loves me, and He knew this baby that was forming inside me.

I left that building fully at peace. Yes, I knew a tough road was most likely ahead but more importantly knew God would be right there with me.

He knew what was best for me: to make that phone call when one place was open while the other place was not. If that first call was answered, I’m almost certain Planned Parenthood would have let my emotions take over and resort to abortion. God knew it was best for me to have this baby and, as I continue sharing bits and pieces in my book, you’ll find out why.

God still hears my thanks to this day, 30 years later. I cling to all that took place back then  knowing it has helped me go through other tough trials since.

cropped-open-book1.jpgI’m telling my story to encourage others going through any tough times. Things may not turn out picture perfect as we hope, but God’s plans are always for our good.

#1 Click here to read what finally got me to that phone.

Marianne Petersen is a former volunteer at a local pregnancy help organization and is actively involved in her local pro-life community. She is also a member of Northwest Christian Writers Association and author of a forthcoming memoir, God and My Pillow. You can follow Marianne on Twitter at @7winnipoops7 and read more at her blog, http://www.MariMemiors7.wordpress.com.

God’s Puzzle Began Making Sense

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God’s plans and timing are perfect, as my first blog about my encephalitis shows.  *1

What started as one crazy puzzle seemed to have many pieces thrown all around. Thankfully, however, a few important pieces were obviously put together by God that first day. He knew when and where it was best to place me when I had my seizure, and who was best to have right there with me. That day I left the hospital, eighteen days later, was also perfectly planned.

If you are assuming that God’s plan for me was to be going home that day, with a quick stop at McDonald’s on the way, you are wrong. That stop was on my way to another hospital.

The first hospital I went to was the closest for the ambulance to take me to on that snow-filled day in December. It was there that it was discovered I was, for the most part, physically fine. Much worry still, for they realized that my brain was far from being fine and needed more care. They knew a hospital that specialized in brain damage was a must. The car ride that day—shared in my last blog—was to my next new home, the next hospital where I had to spend a few more weeks.

This part of the story shows, again, how God went the extra mile in planning, with love, this entire ordeal He knew I needed. That second hospital, a forty-five-minute drive from the first hospital, wasn’t even two miles away from Chris’s parents’ home. But that’s not it. They both worked at that hospital! Yes, you read it right. Both his parents worked there. Their hours were very flexible, and both were able to help immensely. I can’t write enough how thankful I am for that simple fact. Dorothy, Chris’s mother, was able to adjust her hours to help watch one or both of our two girls from the start. Their home was the perfect spot for Chris and the girls to spend many nights while I was in that hospital just down the street.

Having been sent to that second hospital showed us that God was putting a few more puzzle pieces together.  It sure felt like it was one huge puzzle, but we were comforted knowing God was the one who made it. 

As I started my next chapter of recovery, God kept His fatherly love right there. Even though the ‘why, God?’ question was still floating around, knowing my brain wasn’t affected nearly as much as it could have been sure helped. And, knowing that God was there helped the most. brainpuzzleillo-worked

We all just hoped He would put that puzzle—me—back together very soon, and that no pieces would be missing.

#1 – Click here to read about when I was hit with Encephalitis.

That Unforgettable Drive

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The first week of each new year gets me thinking of what the future holds. And, it also gets me thinking of what’s taken place in the past, specifically during the first week of January in 1991.

The next part of my encephalitis illness story fits perfectly right now.  *1   

Why? Because it was during the first week of January in 1991 that I left my eighteen-day stay at Highline Community Hospital. *2

I was fine physically, but my brain was dealing with remembering a majority of what things were for, or what they were called, and what many words meant. I didn’t have to re-learn so many facts. They were all still in there, but had to be pulled out over and over again in order for me to happily say, “I know that!” Thankfully, though, it would be getting better.

Leaving the hospital on that day, I was nervous, excited, and scared at the same time. Keep in mind how that hospital—because of my illness which caused me to not retain most of what took place in the past—was the only place I could ever recall living in. Leaving that place was starting, for me, one major adventure. My thoughts were filled with questions about everything I saw outside the hospital. I had no idea what life was like on that road ahead.

My husband, Chris, was chaperoning me to our car. As he opened the passenger door, I looked in as if I had never even been in a car.  After looking all around inside, I eventually sat down next to Chris.

“We have this here to keep us safe in the car,” he said. “It’s called a seat belt.”

That was just one of many facts he was warned he’d need to tell me. For Chris, it was all a bit funny, but sad as well, with him wondering if I would be this way from then on.

My head was constantly turning back and forth, looking out the windows while the car was going down that first street. I’ll never forget thinking how all the cars looked so different from one another. It wasn’t long before Chris’s ears were drowning with my repeated three words: What is that? He knew it was best to keep the answers simple, so he tried to explain things in such a way that I could understand. One of the tougher examples was why some streets had weird lights that made you stop, while other streets, called freeways, didn’t make you stop nearly as much.

On one of those freeways I was feeling a bit down, because it started hitting me just how little I knew. That is, however, until I noticed something ahead.  A sign off to the side began getting bigger as we drove closer. A smile on my face began to form. That smile began getting bigger the closer we got to that sign.

“What… what is that up there? It looks… it looks like I know what it is!”  I still can remember how I felt, feeling a sense of hope was found!

“What do you see?” asked Chris. “What looks familiar?”

“The big picture thing over that building. Isn’t that some letter?” I said while pointing, feeling a spark growing inside. “Isn’t that some place where you can get these little, weird, long-shaped things? And then you put this… this liquid stuff on it. It’s a certain color. And isn’t it something people eat?”

My excitement could be heard and seen, as my smile extended from ear to ear.

Chris must have felt like I was some little girl who just thought she saw Santa.

“What are they called, those things with runny stuff on them?” I asked.

“Marianne, that building is a place everyone goes to eat, called McDonald’s. And what you are thinking about is called a french frie, with this red runny stuff you put on it is called ketchup.

My brain was soaking in all he was saying.

“That makes a lot of sense to me now. I sort of remember I loved eating that! Right? Do you think…”

“I’m taking the exit right now to go there.”

Happy as could be, I learned what a drive-through was as we got closer to that big sign which was now right in front of me. And a minute or two later those fries were also right in front of me on my lap. That first bite instantly had me remembered why I remembered that sign. Yum!

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To this day, whenever I’m at McDonald’s, I feel this little piece of kid still in me, enjoying that weird red runny stuff on those fries.

*1 –Click here to Read how this entire story began.

*2 – click here to read how this entire story began.

The Hardest Phone Call to Make – part 2

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As I continue my story, it’s time to share a piece directly from my book about my unplanned pregnancy which I dealt with when I was nineteen years old. The title is God and My Pillow because those are the only two who really knew all of my heart, soul, and mind during this difficult time. My last post shared what got me to finally make the hardest thing I’ve ever had to make: a phone call.   Click here  to read my last post

Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ri…

“Hello.”

It was him. It hit me hard.  It’s him.

“Hello.”  Does he recognize my voice?  “Is this Greg?”

“Yes, it is. Is this… Marianne?” I could tell from his tone of voice that he was surprised.

“Yes, it is.”

“Oh. Well, hello.”

Should I talk about the weather for a spell? No.

“If you’re wondering why I’m calling, I’m… I’m  calling to let you know… I’m pregnant and that the… the baby is yours.”

Silence.

“You’re–pregnant?” A little space between those words.

“Yes.”

Silence. I knew I needed to allow him a little time to breathe and come out of shock, but finally I had to say something. I said, a bit slower than normal, “So, what are you thinking?”

His answer showed that he didn’t know what in the world to think. I was rather bold, and told him right up front that an abortion was not an option. I could tell he was disappointed, but thankfully he didn’t make a big deal about that decision.  A sudden trap, I’m sure he felt.

We ended the talk by agreeing to go through this together, but that he would wait to hear from me on what I decided to do. I was a bit sad that there was no bold, mature, adult response like, “No matter what, I’m right by your side and will aim at making this the best thing for us both. I love you and will do anything that’s best for our baby. I’m eager to meet your parents, to show them I will take care of us all.” Instead, he had a more of a “yeah, whatever” attitude. I just told myself that it was better he be that way than have some selfish, mean, I don’t care attitude. He agreed it was his responsibility to do something, even if it meant we would get married and keep the baby.

Me? Getting married? Now? I knew I didn’t want to decide right then over the phone, so I told him I’d get back with him in a few days. I hung up, telling myself the talk went pretty well. But I also found myself needing to find something good out of everything lately.

After hanging up the phone, I felt like hiding from the world for a while. My thoughts of deciding what to do had begun, but they were too hard to share with anyone.hommes-naiment-chez-femmes-fuir

I could give the baby up for adoption and have no connection with Greg; have the baby and not get married; or have the baby and get married. I didn’t want to hear from anyone right then and I didn’t feel like deciding. I just wanted God to tell me.

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Why am I sharing this particular part from God and My Pillow? To make up for not including more here of what followed with Greg. It’s better to wait to read what I like to call the soap-opera part of my book. I feel it’s best for my book to show how God carried me through this entire ordeal, from beginning to end, with this young man.

My story is written to help readers understand how God may decide to put you through your own soap opera, one you’re not sure you can survive. I want to show you He can, and will, get you through it, holding you tightly and never letting go.

(1) Click here  to read blog prior to this one, and/or click here  to see how this entire story began.