In 2006, I moved to Harrisonburg ( Bridgewater) area with Brandon. We lived there for about a year. During that year, I met so many wonderful people. If you aren’t familiar with Harrisonburg, you would not know that a large sect of religion is Mennonite. We had an apartment on Bridgewater College’s campus ( all boy dorm–yea yea, I lived there with all those stinky college boys as a newlywed and I SURVIVED). It was hot in that apartment. I’m talking, you should probably just call it the depths of hell hot. We had the windows opened a lot ( even in the winter). Every night, when Brandon was doing his Resident Director rounds, I would here clap clap clap clap . The first time I heard it, I thought “Oh my word, the headless horseman is coming to get me and I really am in Sleepy Hollow!” Seriously, ya’ll are thinking dramatic much??, but I thought that. I ran outside to see. I had absolutely no clue why a horse in a buggy would be running on the main stretch of road through Bridgewater. I desperately wanted to make sure my eyes saw what my ears had heard. I watched ten horses with buggies race by from the steps of that all boys dorm. It was around midnight. I’m sure I had big eyes and seemed a bit on edge. It was a night sound that I had never witnessed. I found out later of the Mennonite community in the area and obviously connected their lifestyle with this event. I was ecstatic and found their lifestyle and culture dreamy. I shopped and found every farmer’s market around to support their community. I spoke with the women and men and found the children to be absolutely adorable, with the best manners. I envied their work ethic and desire to be good people.
I took a part-time job working in a English as Second Language classroom for mothers who were obtaining their GED. The United Way funded the program. I worked four days a week. Almost all the students were Spanish speaking in the classroom. There were a few mothers who spoke only Arabic. My job was to help their children assimilate to a classroom setting. I found this job was one of the most rewarding jobs I would ever have. I loved those children and I often think about where and what they are doing today. My supervisor was “Betty”. She had been working with the United Way program for twenty-six years and had been teaching this particular program for the past ten. Ms. Betty was also Mennonite. She was in her fifties and had a way of grace. I gravitated to her. Just being in her presence made me feel at peace. One day, after what seemed like a trying day, she stopped me in the parking lot and asked me if I was going to go home to visit my family soon. I explained that my Dad had recently moved to a smaller place and Brandon had limited time off, but I did feel the need to go home. That I was homesick. Ms. Betty believed in family and visiting. You could almost sense from the question that she was concerned that I didn’t talk about mine. Oh, how I wanted to though. The thought of explaining it all was nerve-racking. I had never mentioned that over the past six months; I had graduated from college, lost my mother, and was newly married, and that I seriously had no friends in the area. I would have broken down at that moment had I said anything other than my backward response.
A few weeks went by. I still felt a strong urgency to be around Ms. Betty. I would stay and ask her opinion about lesson plans or we would discuss the struggle or accomplishment of the students.
One day, Ms. Betty asked me if I was happy. I stood still. I said “Yes, I’m extremely happy. Maybe a little homesick, but I’m happy!” I was lying. Lighting should have struck me lying. I really didn’t want to go into detail about how I married the love of my life five months ago, but I really just wanted to go home because I was missing my Dad and was angry at God for taking my Mom. So I smiled and said “I’m good. Things are good.”
She came over and gave me the biggest sweetest hug. One of those hugs that wraps around your heart and makes you feel at ease. She firmly said, “It’s okay to be sad. God doesn’t expect us to understand, he only expects us to ask him to help us get through it. It’s okay to cry, to yell, to scream, just don’t stay there. Cry, scream, hit a wall if you need to, but don’t stay there. God wants us to be happy. You are gonna be okay, I know it. I knew immediately Ms. Betty had been placed in my life to comfort me and to give me hope. At that moment, I knew God had not forgotten me, but sent this sweet woman to give me peace. It was though an angelic choir sang and the light around her was beaming. Yes, I thought she was MY angel sent just for me. Of course, I cried. Did you expect anything less? I told you earlier, I’m a tad dramatic.
Reality was, Ms. Betty was just that good of a person. She was good at reading people. She saw right through you. Good and Bad. She was the type of the person you felt like you had known forever. She honestly cared about each and everyone she met. She loved her children, her husband, and her faith. You didn’t need to know Ms. Betty to see that she loved God. She showed people she loved God, by just loving them. No judgement. No questions. Just love.
When Brandon decided in March to come back home to teach at his hometown High School, I could not have been more thrilled. He came back to our apartment and asked when I was ready to move back to Giles. I was enjoying our newlywed life in Bridgewater, but I desperately wanted to come home to my mountains and family. I’m pretty sure I started packing that day.
When I told Ms. Betty of our news, she was delighted! I spent short nine teaching months with Ms. Betty, but she still continues to teach me.
When the infertility trial struck, she reminded me to get mad and angry, but don’t stay there. She didn’t have to call, email, or write me to remind me of that. Her words resonated with me that hot fall day sitting at a children’s art table. I can vividly see her face, her concern, hear her voice… “Just don’t stay there”.
When I get mad, I go there. When I get sad, I go there. When I have ugly cries, I go there. When I want to hit the wall, I go for a walk. When I feel lonely, I go there. When I feel like God has forsaken me, I go there in prayer. When I feel like I need to reach out and talk about it, I confide. When I need a hug, I ask for it. When I need to detach, I detach for a while. When I want to eat chocolate, and have a pity party, I just embrace the moment of a pity party. I’m not strong, but I do know that if I validate my emotions and deal with them, I’ll feel better in the end. However, I don’t stay there. It may take a while, but I always tell myself you aren’t staying here. Get up, move forward, and get on with life.
I’ve learned that by acknowledging all those emotions; really getting down and feeling them with your whole heart, it heals your soul. Ms. Betty couldn’t have taught me a better lesson. Something GOOD has always come after one of those spells. Not right away, but it happens. She was right. God has not forgotten me. He has not forgotten me and he continues to remind me of that.
I send Ms. Betty a Christmas card every year. She sends me one back. After our little Ms. Sunshine came along, she wrote “looks like God is still blessing you….” and she is right. God is blessing me. He blessed me when my mom passed, when I gave myself fertility shots, and when I gave birth. He blesses me with a great family. Food on my table. Good Jobs. He blesses me everyday. I often wonder, if I really looked so sad that entire year or if Ms. Betty was just that good at seeing through people. Whatever it was, she help heal me.
BE MAD. BE SAD. EMBRACE THE ANGER. GO THERE. FEEL IT. EAT A GALLON OF ICECREAM. GO HIKE. GO SCREAM FROM THE TOP OF BARNEY’S WALL. GO PUNCH A RANDOM WALL.HAVE AN UGLY CRY. Just don’t stay there.( Literally, don’t stay there. It’s cold up there on Barney’s Wall in July and walls can break your fingers, and ugly cries ruin your makeup. LOL.)
With the Thanskgiving holiday approaching, I am so so grateful for Ms. Betty. For her presence, for her hugs, for her advice, for her unwavering faith in God. For her grace.
If I can achieve 1/4 of Ms. Betty in my life, I will feel like an accomplished woman.
“You don’t drown by falling in the water. You drown by staying there….” – Edwin Louis Cole