Coming to terms with it all

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while.  In all honesty, probably even before starting to write for the blog.  How to write it, what exactly to say, and doing it with honesty and vulnerability.  I’ve written a lot here that is bare bones honest and maybe overly direct.  I’ve talked about my diagnosis, my first sexual experiences, my counseling and therapy, and even my time in the military.  If you’ve purchased Courageous products from me, you’ve seen this blurb: “On that day, {the day of my diagnosis} my world quietly shattered.  My hopes, my dreams, my plans, everything I thought I would or could do with my life…shattered.  Yet, somehow my life continued.  As I look back on my young life, the things I did and didn’t do…I look back at a young woman who learned to be Courageous.”

I work to spread the message that you WILL get through this.  You WILL grow and you WILL find the inner strength you need to also be Courageous.  I also work to ensure that every young woman who is diagnosed with MRKH never has to feel the utter isolation I felt for over 25 years.  I never met another woman with MRKH until an evening in August 2014 when I met and had dinner with 2 MRKH sisters.  I’ve since had many more occasions to get together with MRKH sisters; time to bond and share stories, but to share hope and to heal as well.  I do believe it’s a necessary part of the healing process: to meet someone who has the same thing as you do, to remove the isolation and to talk with someone who totally gets it!

But for 25 years, I essentially walked this path on my own.  I knew what I had, I knew what it was called, and I knew what it kept me from doing.  I didn’t have trusted girlfriends and sisters that I could ask awkward questions to.  I had to vaguely explain to acquaintances that no, we don’t have children, I was born without a uterus.  Family and close friends knew some of my struggles and the inner fear and sorrow I felt, but most did not.  I’m a pretty private person about most things.  I sit on the fringes and watch rather than participate fully in picnics and parties.  I can’t relate to most women my age because I don’t have children or grandchildren of my own – both because I hold myself back…but also because they unwittingly say “oh, how would you know, you’ve never raised a child!” That comment in particular hurts me, because there have been many times in my life where I’ve wanted a child of my own so badly I cry and scream and shout at the unfairness of it all.

Through many therapy sessions, and over 100 pages of journaling for answers I began to notice a pattern.  Times when I was distraught, angry, grieving, and the paths I took in those times to find some peace.  Some were destructive paths that I’m not proud to have traveled – but travel them I did.  Over time it became clear that I got the most peace and comfort when I spent more time on my relationship with God.  Please, don’t run for the hills because I’m bringing up religion.  Give me a chance to explain.

I was raised in the early 70s by two loving hardworking parents.  My dad worked in the shipyards of Seattle – blue collar union jobs.  It wasn’t glamorous, and he got laid off a few times.  We had a beat up, run-down farm house.  The roof leaked, the floor creaked, it had character…and it had love.  My mom stayed home and managed our little farm and raised “us kids”.  We had dairy goats, a garden, she baked bread and cookies, and we had chickens, pigs, and raised cows for beef every year.  She did everything to give us the best she could on a very fixed income – we even received food baskets a few times.  We said Grace before dinner for the holidays, but we didn’t go to church – it just wasn’t important to them.

As a little girl, I went to Sunday School and/or church with different friends in the neighborhood sometimes, and a few times with my Grandma.  With Kathy, we sat near the front of the church and I was fascinated by the organ and watching her feet when she played.  I was part of the Christmas pageant that year and we learned to sing the alphabet backwards.  I still can!  With Tina and Lori, we went to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School in the summer.  One year we got invited to participate in AWANA.  It was a group meeting in the evenings, and we played games and learned bible stories and we learned to pray and ask Jesus to forgive our sins.  It was at an AWANA meeting that I asked Jesus to be my savior and accepted him into my heart.  I asked my parents for a bible, and they bought me one.  When I asked them why we didn’t go to church, my mom told me that she believed that you don’t have to go to church to believe and to pray and ask God for forgiveness and help when you need it.  She said you just have to close your eyes and believe.  I took it at face value, and used it as my model to follow as I grew up.  I went to church with my friends when I could, but I mostly just believed that God was there if I needed him.

Fast forward to me as a late teen, getting diagnosed with MRKH, graduating high school, and planning a wedding.  My fiance was raised Catholic – I didn’t know what that meant really, just that it was one of the Christian denominations, but he wasn’t a practicing Catholic, wasn’t a member of any church or anything.  So the whole “where are we going to get married?” question came up.  My grandparents had attended a Unity church in Seattle, but now they had moved, so we looked at the Unity churches north of Seattle.  My grandma made a connection with a Unity pastor she knew and asked her if she would marry us.  We also got in touch with the Unity church in Everett.  And so that’s what happened…we had a place and a preacher…problem solved.  But I really liked that pretty little church on the corner, and so we started attending services.  I was an adult now (in my mind anyway!), and with my new found adult freedom and these really friendly people in the church office, it felt right to attend.  Unity is a Christian based non-denominational church.  We sang hymns, we read scripture, we prayed, and we drank coffee and ate cookies.  But Unity’s focus is leaning a bit on the side of metaphysical, inner peace, spirituality, connection with the world as a whole, and less on the ritualistic side of religion.  Each sermon ended with some guided meditative prayer and visualization to promote peace.  It worked well for me.  It wasn’t scripture being shoved down my throat, but it afforded me an opportunity to foster a connection with faith and like minded people.  When I joined the Army I kept in touch with my pastor for several months, and again it gave me the strength and peace I needed in a time of great stress and transition.

In Colorado, once I was settled into a routine with the Army, I started looking for a church home.  I found a couple of Unity churches in the yellow pages, found out their worship times and packed myself off to church on Sunday morning.  The first one I went to was a bit shocking.  I kind of felt like Forrest Gump in church, with lots of large black women in choir robes and me the only “white chick” in the building.  They welcomed me profusely, but this was way out of my comfort zone, and so I did some more research.  The second Unity church I found was quite a bit further form where I lived, but I felt much more at home there.  I went several times, but the congregation was much larger than my small church “back home” so I struggled to make any connections.  But I went whenever I had the time.  I had a few friends in the Army too, and as so many of us were the same age and same stages of life, we often were doing the same kinds of things and trying to find our niche.  My friend Donna had found a great church that she was LOVING, and she asked me to come with them to service.  While I enjoyed the time with Donna, it was not a church I was comfortable in.  It was one of those mega-churches with several hundred people, pastors with head sets and lots of charisma.  There was no quiet time with solemn connection with the Lord.  It was not for me, and I only went the one time.  And so I just kind of quietly drifted away, feeling a bit like an outsider, but remembering the lessons from my mom and the Unity church that “where ever you are, God is, and always will be.”

The next chapter of my life, I met Jeremy and his family.  His mother’s family was from the Lutheran church, and while they didn’t attend regularly, they were members along with his grandparents.  We said Grace before holiday meals, and when we decided to get married, were married by their friend and Lutheran Pastor Darlene.  I was content in my life and my relationship with God.  I knew if I needed something, I could (and would) quietly close my eyes and ask for help – aka divine intervention.  It was trivial and superficial, but it was a connection I knew I could fall back on if I needed it.  And so my life continued on – quietly content but without any true religious structure.

Eventually Jeremy and I moved to Idaho, and we started our lives up here.  We met many people over the years, and got a few invitations to attend services with this or that friend.  We never went.  We attended a couple funerals, a couple of weddings, but that was pretty much the only time we spent in churches.  As time went on, and “life happened”, and the seasons of our life started shifting I started struggling more with depression and my overall state of mind.  It affected relationships, decisions, and came to a point when I realized I needed to get back into counseling to try and mediate some of my stress.  This started the ball rolling.  I started to really work at my life and to take a good hard honest look at what I had going on and who was in my life and the rolls they played.  I started journaling at my counselor’s suggestion, and as I’ve said, patterns started to reveal themselves.  It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t without a lot of anger and frustration and pain.  I thought long and hard about my life, my actions, my behaviors, and what I was going to do about it all.  What was I going to change in order to be a better/stronger/healthier person?

It was a long process, but eventually I saw what had been in front of my face for a long time, just waiting for me to notice.  When I had been at my most peaceful were at the times following great strains in my life.  I instinctively knew that when I was at my lowest, I had relied solely on my faith to get me through.  Where ever you are, God is, and always will be.  I of course had to question the obvious, deny it over and over…but then maybe?  Once the thought was planted, and I allowed myself the chance to acknowledge it…things started to make themselves known to me.  How many times did God send me a sign that I didn’t ever really see?  How many times was I nudged a certain direction?  So I really opened my eyes to it….started keeping track.  I looked at the people in my life that had been there for ages, and some that were new.  I started watering that seed….checking on it regularly to see what was growing there….and making adjustments.  I read a lot.  I searched the internet.  I searched my heart.  I started to ask God for some input, and he finally gave me the strength and courage to reach out.  Or maybe he just showed me that I had it all along.  So I called her.  Then I emailed her, and I asked her to walk with me, pray with and for me, and be my rock as I fostered my faith in a more deliberate way.

So we got together, and we talked, and laughed, and cried…and we prayed.  And I went to church.  And she held my hand as I cried and we prayed some more.  Week after week I continued to go to church.  I cried a lot.  I prayed a lot.  It was emotionally draining – but necessary.  I made connections within the church, and bolstered myself as I listened to the sermons and reaffirmed my faith and fostered my relationship with God.  It’s been a couple months now, and I can see and feel a difference in my life.  I am more peaceful, loving, and forgiving.  I still cry some, moved by the humble grace and mercy shown by these beautiful souls that I have chosen to spend my Sunday’s with.  I’ve journaled a lot about my first few weeks attending services, and can recognize that I was finally letting go of some long held grief and sorrow and worries, and by doing so I was overcome with profound relief.  There is freedom in letting go.  There is freedom in trusting a belief in something greater than yourself.  While I have been walking this planet mostly on my own for the better part of 45 years, carrying the burdens of normal life – I’ve also been carrying around a diagnosis that has shaped my life, and at times overpowered my life.  What I try to see clearly now is that I can allow my diagnosis of MRKH to empower me to do bigger and better things.  I can trust in my faith and my relationship with God to ease my worried mind and let him do the heavy lifting.

I know this is long, and I’m wrapping up I promise, I just want to give a shout out to some beautiful women in my life who have inspired me and impacted me and my decision to walk closer to God recently.  My thanks to each of you! xoxo     Janice, Karen, Eileen, Chel, Lisa, Angela, Julie, Diane, Amy, Janine, Erica, Chris, Lindsie, Janet, Debbie, Linda, Carole, Sally, Mary, Crystal, Christina, Judy, Cathy, Phyllis, Carrie, Leslie, Tina, Kristen, Janna, Laura, Denise, Laurie, Barb, Dawn, and probably a million or so others.



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