Shampoo Heads

“Are you afraid you will die if you sit still?”

I gasp, and blink back tears so as not to be betrayed.

This isn’t therapy, I want to say.  This is a job interview.

But I know better, because the only way to be a good counselor is to have good self-care, and to add the ministry layer to it with this chaplaincy work forces my hand and causes me to step up the whole integrated-being concept.

My answer doesn’t matter so much as how quickly I can respond, according to Jung, and how smoothly I can slip into brutally-honest-with-myself mode is more significant than the actual content.

I really am okay, though I am grateful for so many to be concerned about me.  I need the reminders, and far more help than I know how to ask for, and am not yet entirely well.  The work, though?  Working is what I love, and helping people is the ministry I have been given.  It is true that working is one way to keep me alive, and it is also true that to work now, very hard, in finding ways to help others, only counts as gratitude for so many who have helped me.

My VA phone interview call went really well, and I am super excited.  They have three different schedules, so Nathan and I will be able to pick what best works for our family and my job.  It’s a little more than an hour away to drive, but only for a certain number of weeks, and no different than driving to Bartlesville from Tulsa before we finally moved.

Will it be a crazy couple of months?  It will, of course.  I will be in three graduate schools at once, which probably means I will be getting up at 4am everyday instead of just twice a week.  I will be working more Saturdays, either to do my paperwork for my job or to cover shifts at the hospital.  I will be locked to a pager again on weekends, which I had hoped never to have to do again, but is necessary once again for a short season.

But our life is already crazy, and somethings won’t change much.  The gas money for driving will be covered by the stipend I will get, even if that won’t leave anything extra as a paycheck.  The scholarships for school cover my classes (but not my books).  I will still do the laundry and finish my Hebrew homework on the nights Nathan is at symphony rehearsal anyway, and he will still make frito chili pie or pick up tacos on the nights I work late same as now.  I will still have five preschool heads to wash on bath night.

There are things we will sacrifice: weekends away at the cabin (but Silver Dollar City won’t be free for us next year, anyway), meeting up for lunchtime most days, and Friday afternoons off for rest time together before weekend children.

There are things I will miss sometimes: pancakes on Saturday mornings, quiet weekends without interruption, and sleep.

Residency does that to a family, and it is a hard thing.  Many of my doctor friends have endured it far longer, and that plays into our choices of scheduling my program at the VA.  Really, what it comes down to, is how long we want our lives to be disrupted like that.  I could work 60 hours a week and get it done quickly, for example, but it would completely destroy our family life and I could not keep my other job that I love.  I could work just four hours a week, and our family be disrupted by this process for several years.  These are not good options!  We will choose a program in between, that balances both our quality of family life and how long it takes for us to endure this season of schedule (and distance) disruption.

We must be cautious and wise, but also bold and obedient.

It is always an adventure, this life we have been given.

And I have been given life, so I really would like to live it as fully as possible.

Maybe that has always been my prayer, and maybe that is why my life has unfolded as it has.

I was once told in a blessing that Heavenly Father knows we can only progress through experience, and that He knows how much I want to progress (and how far yet I have to go), and so He has granted me so many experiences in so short a time so that I can indeed progress, and progress quickly.

He has brought me so far, it is true.  I know it is true.

Did you know that when Salt Lake first called about the chaplaincy, that he said we would be seeing our area authority later, so to talk more about it with them then?  And that we laughed and said no, that we were on vacation, but that we knew him and so could send an email.  And that as soon as we hung up the phone, we sat down to lunch, and said our prayers for our food, and then looked up and Elder Southward was at the table across from us, eating lunch with his family?  It was unreal!  We were so delighted to see them, and it felt like a miracle in the moment.  Also creepy.  But wonderful!

We did start our interviews this week with the church, besides the job interviews.  The initial interview with Salt Lake had to do with my education, and work experience, and our finances, and Nathan’s work, and our children, and things like that.  The bishop interview questions were intense, like temple recommends except also about if we abstain from pornography, and the nature and quality of our marriage relationship, and if we are capable and worthy of representing the Church and ministering to the people and helping people of other faiths.  Gulp.  Our stake president tonight pointed out that all the questions were for both of us, none of them just about me.  All of them were about us together, and how this was a calling for both of us, and how I could not have done it without Nathan, and how the Lord planned it this way and we got married at exactly the right time.

This is true.

I love Nathan with more than just a sappy love, and more than just a best friend love.  He is a part of me, not in an enmeshed way, but in a completion way.  I love not just that I got married, but that it was him I got to marry.  We are helpmeets, and work hard together in all things, from working to children to dishes to laundry.

Tonight I folded and hung up and put away seven loads of kid laundry.

I totally get credit for that.

But only because it was Nathan who kept the laundry going from washer to dryer all day long while he was working at home.

Because he loves me, and because he is committed to this relationship and to our family.

And then, when he went off to symphony, and I finally got all the kids fed and clean and into bed, I had several amazing hours of quiet that I could hide and do anything.

But I love him, and I am committed to this relationship and to our family.

So I did dishes, and laundry, and homework while it wasn’t taking time away from anyone.

Because one of the things we know is true is that love is a verb, and if love is true, then service will be real.

“The most difficult thing for us seems to be to give of ourselves, to do away with selfishness. If we really love someone, nothing is a hardship.”
~ N. Eldon Tanner, Conference Report, 4/67, pg. 104.

Service used to be really, really hard for me.  I knew what to do, and that it was the right thing to do, but I murmured and cried and had such very weak muscles.  It was my mother I was trying to serve, back when she lived with me, and it was painful and hard because I could not do it well as I knew I should.  But trying made me love her more than ever, and trying even more built muscles that now make it possible to do what I do for Nathan and these kids.

So really, the answer is that my mom gets the credit for everything, naturally.

As she should.

So it seems a natural thing, that if I finally learned how to serve my family, even if just barely and even if imperfectly, that now the Lord would call me to learn how to serve others, too.

Some of my favorite friends are people who are gifted at serving, and I think that’s why I had to get this calling while they get to continue being awesome: because they are already good at it, and I have to do the work to learn.

But it is the most important thing to learn, how to love others, and so I know it is time for me to go to school in chaplaincy world:

“A man who is full of the love of God is not content with blessing his family only,
but thinks about all of the people in the world,
anxious to bless the whole human race.”
~ Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, pg. 227.

I probably don’t have much to offer the whole human race.

But I am really good at shampooing toddler heads.

And I can do that, one head at a time, just like we do one name at the temple at a time.

So that makes it sacred, right?

Except maybe it’s a good thing I am about to find myself in the circumstance of learning some compassion, real quick, because with the way I scrub those heads, my kids probably think they will die if they don’t sit still.

Posted in Faith, Family, Work permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Shampoo Heads — 4 Comments

  1. OK first of all I am stealing the Tanner quote and sharing this post on Facebook and second… I have been married for going on 27 years and I have to honestly say NO ONE has taught me more about marriage than you and Nathan. You are a blessing to my family walk and my relationship with those around me!!

  2. Hi There! So my wonderful neighbor (Alicia) introduced me to your blog. I love it. I have found a lot of encouragement and inspiration for my own life in your words here, so thank you! I had to smile when I saw this post because I saw Adams picture and thought “I know that guy!” :o) We love living by them it is so fun.. and their baby is adorable! Anyways, the wonderfulness must run in the family, wonderful blog, wonderful people, wonderful family! :o) Wishing you and your family well, Katherine!