I Have No Mercy for Kids With Mono and Other Tales

I found out last Saturday that my five-year-old daughter has mononucleosis. Of course like any good parent, I felt sympathy for my poor little girl who didn’t feel well. Then I felt relief. And guilt.

For the month prior, my daughter’s behavior was beyond horrible. Even asking her to put on her clothes was a battle. She would throw uncharacteristic temper tantrums, screaming that she was so tired and couldn’t do it. Her room remained a condemned area, as she refused for two weeks to clean it. She was grounded from a birthday party, the playground, dinner with the family–anything else I could think of–and yet she still refused to put even one dirty shirt in the hamper.

Hannah Grace has always been stubborn; refusing to do chores or taking forever to get ready in the morning was not beyond her capabilities, but she had reached such an impressive level of defiance that my visions of her future all involved jail time.

I spent nights crying in bed. All of my prayers started with her. In fact, I spent many nights after the kids had gone to bed walking up and down the hallway, prayer walking, casting out the demons that surrounded her room in Jesus’ name.

In fact, one night the urge to pray was so intense that I went to her room and laid hands on her sleeping body, assuming God wanted me to perform a mini exorcism. That night, Hannah Grace climbed into bed between Matt and me, and we could feel the heat emanating off her limbs as she snuggled next to us. She clearly had a fever. I figured God was giving me a sign that He was burning up the demons.

A few hours later, the fever was gone, and Hannah Grace was back to her defiant self. She said she didn’t want to go to school with venom in her voice, and I knew it was just another of her evil ploys. After all, I had already picked her up from school previously when she said she didn’t feel well, and she bounced around the house all day. We had gone to the doctor another time when she said her throat and stomach hurt, but her strep test came back negative. Clearly, I lived with a manipulative little faker.

So when the nurse called on Saturday and said, “Hannah Grace has mono,” I felt immediate relief that my daughter was not possessed by Satan. And then I felt guilt that I had thought my daughter was possessed by Satan. And guilt that I didn’t renew her gymnastics classes due to her defiant behavior and refusal to do chores.

Yep, that’s motherhood–doing my best to raise my kids well, seeking the Lord, only to realize that I wasn’t reading the signs He was giving me correctly; having to kneel before my child humbly, asking her forgiveness for not understanding.

And, yet, motherhood, is experiencing the biggest smile in my soul, the kind that runs from my stretched cheeks to my toes, as I watch my son round home plate and jog towards his dad who scoops him up in celebration. An in-the-park home run caused this little boy to run to his dad, his coach with tears streaming down his face because, as he explained, “I was just so happy.” These days are what make motherhood, life, amazing; the constant swinging of the pendulum through guilt and relief and compassion to joy and feelings that I don’t even know how to describe.

But I want to try.

I’ve know for some time what I’ve wanted to do, but, honestly, I’ve been afraid. A few weeks ago, God stirred in me that desire again. I attended Hutchmoot with my best friend Wendy, and I fell in love with the story, God’s story. His amazing Creation. His love story told through the pages of the Bible, a story that doesn’t end with Revelation but is just beginning.

I want to tell part of His story; I don’t know what part or where I’m starting, but I want to tap into the creative spirit that He’s given me, that’s He’s shown all of us by every beat of our heart, each breath that we take.

In order to write, though, to capture these moments of life that point toward God’s bigger story of hope and redemption, I have to give myself permission to let go of my blog. I already haven’t written as much as I would like, and that fact hovers over me and actually causes me guilt and disappointment.

The fact is that I want to write without the need to hit publish. I want to write and continue to write and see where my story takes me, but I can’t unless I release this need to write in this space.

These words are hard for me to type because this place has been such a significant part of my life for the last three years. I have shared my joys, my struggles–most of my heart–right here. And while I don’t have a large following, I am very aware that I have a great following of some of the most loyal and faithful readers out in this strange and wonderful world of the blogosphere. I call many of you my friends even though I’ve never seen you face to face!

Thank you for sharing this journey with me, and, perhaps, one day I’ll have a more substantial work to share with you again. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll visit this space from time to time as my kids always provide the best material–after all, if I don’t write about it, I”ll forget it. And since I don’t scrapbook, my writing really is the best record of my kids’ childhood that I can provide. And now that I’m freeing myself from this space, perhaps I’ll be better at visiting each of yours.

Please pray for me that I would have the discipline to keep writing. And please continue to pray for my family–especially now that I have two kids with mono (Caleb was diagnosed yesterday…I’m hoping my tiredness and headache are just allergies)!

Three years ago when my husband bought me this laptop, I was angry that he spent this money. However, now I can only thank him. He gave me a gift that I never would have expected by renewing my passion (But please, please, Matt, do not buy me another one…even if parts of  this laptop are cracking).

May God bless each of you as you continue on in His story….

Rediscovering Me

Life has a funny way of working out.

The other night when I was getting ready for bed, I began to think how I loved writing and questioned why I hadn’t been writing all along. This past year of my life has felt that much more full since recording all of my ideas; I needed this outlet.  However, this love of writing is not a new discovery–I just allowed it to get a little dusty, tucked away in the corner of a shelf.

When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be an author when I grew up.  I loved reading and  creating my own stories, and I knew an author was what I was meant to be.

A few years later I learned a fancier term: journalist.  Then I told everyone that I was going to be a journalist.  I constantly had to explain myself when people would respond to my desire by whipping out a pretend microphone and the stock sentence, “This is Jennifer Vignola, reporting live from the scene,” –that that wasn’t what I wanted to do.  I wanted to write.

So with the passion for writing that I developed as a child, I entered college without a clue as to my major and eventually became an English teacher.  Instead of writing myself, I attempted to teach those who hated the written word to write and then wondered why I didn’t look forward to my job in the morning.

Truth be told, I went years without writing, except for the required essays that I wrote as a student.  Somewhere along the way in high school, feeling the pressure of AP classes and competitive gymnastics, I pushed aside my love.

My incessant need to plan every moment of my life got in the way, too.  I always knew I wanted to be a mother and that I wanted to stay home when I had children, so I spent hours in the career counselor’s office trying to figure out what career would fit the best with motherhood.

I had so many interests, and there were a plethora of careers that sounded appealing: journalist, lawyer, psychologist, actress–too many to decide.  So when I went to college and agonized over my decision that first year, I decided to pick a career that used my passion for literature, forgetting about my passion for writing because I had stopped doing it.

I wanted a career that made a difference in the world, so teaching seemed the best choice.  If I decided to continue to work after my children (who didn’t yet exist) were grown, my teaching schedule would coincide easier with their own schedules than another career.  The only problem with this plan was that teaching wasn’t my passion--teaching others about one’s passion isn’t the same as doing one’s passion. I had chosen my career based on external factors that hadn’t yet come into play rather than my heart’s desire.

Luckily, I discovered I was in the wrong place before investing too much time in that career.  I left teaching and joined the Air Force.  For the first time, I looked forward to going to work in the morning.  I loved the discipline, the ritual, and the challenge of leading others. But shortly after joining, my husband and I found out we were going to have a baby a little sooner than we had planned, and I knew I was no longer in the right career.

So after three years and three children, my husband bought me a laptop.  He knew I had a passion sitting tucked away on a shelf that needed to come down and get a good dusting. And for the last year, I have written, and writing has changed me.

My children are my number one priority right now, but I can still challenge my mind and do what I love while giving them my full attention.  Writing is not a career, yet, but I now have a purpose in line with my passion.

I’m not sure why it took 11 years after I graduated from college to figure out what I knew when I was eight. Maybe God had a particular student I was supposed to reach or an airman I needed to lead.  Or perhaps God was shaking His head as I meandered along different paths while He gently nudged me back on the one He knew was best.

I’ll never know for sure, but I know now that, for the first time, this course feels right.

What did you want to do when you grew up?  Are you doing it now?  Share in the comments!