Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Check. Check. Check check.

I am totally an obsessive doer. As such, I like checklists and goals.
My current job: PERFECT. (Especially because I work from home) My job benefits me, but also benefits those who manage me, because every day I work off an electronic "to-do" list. I actually am able to check "COMPLETE," when I'm done with any given particular task. Ba-da-bam. Just what I like.

Even in my home life, I am a lister. I take pride in crossing off tasks on my lists. Occasionally, I write down things I may have already completed, just so that I can … cross them off.

What I am not certain about is when exactly worrying became a "doing" activity, right up there with cleaning, vacuuming, project-ing, planning, and somehow also a replacement for praying.

I pace. When I worked in an office, I would get into an empty elevator, and walk in circles. I'll fuss with my hair, I'll bite my lip. I'll clean and reorganize, redecorate, paint a wall… all in an effort to stay busy and be productive.

Then, the lights go out. The mind night light pops on and the wheels start a-turnin'. Was that a noise? Or lightning?
Was that a car door? Did I turn off the stove? Where's Nelson?

Earlier tonight I spoke with a friend and told a story about my basement at home. (Home (parents'  home, not Pearl home.)) I was around sixth grade, and it was the summer, and I had been roller skating in the basement- yes, I already know I'm cool.  I decided it was time to walk upstairs. Only I didn't just walk. Instead I imagined someone chasing after me, running faster and faster… so I quickly ran faster and faster up the stairs (keep in mind, this was a game I often played) I reached the top, turned the corner, and was knocked to the floor when I was smashed in the head with a heavy object! I may have hollered. To be honest, I threw my hands over my head, threw myself against the wall, and sank to the floor... and I screamed like they pay big money in Hollywood if you can scream-scream. Was my imagination that good? Did I actually dream up and create a real-life intruder who decided to run upstairs after me?

Nope. It just so happened that the hallway light fixture fell from the ceiling and bashed me in the head in the exact moment I was running underneath it.

Coincidence. Yes. I think so…
Although, if I had not let my imagination, crazy mind go wild, I would not have been running like a maniac through the house. Very possible that the light fixture would not have come loose at the moment I was below it. Would not have hit me on the head.
In the middle of my crazy "game," I ran into danger- or really danger hit me over the head. (No worries, I was totally fine.)

In a doers life, we like to be productive. I know I'm not alone.

The trouble is at some point there are items that cannot be completed with a check mark.
John is here with me for a few days. Although he is the same whether with me, or home, I am a crazy monitoring fool when I have him. I watch him. Make him look at me in the face so I can look at his eyes. I make him sit if he looks shaky, sleep if he seems tired. Doing. That's what I am is doing.

I also worry. Worry which becomes an obsession. Worry prevents sleep. Causes ulcers. Worry results in a fully lit house and high electric bill. Worry is not doing. It undos the work we want to do.

Here tonight, on the morning of New Year's Eve, I am setting my mind to the productive doer I want to be. Time is precious. We can hold on trying to grip minutes and hold them tightly, but we cannot. I cannot. I cannot spend seconds, minutes, hours worrying in 2014. I have things to do.

In 2014, I will work on being the Stephanie who takes moments of concern in order to pray. I will be the one who asks for wisdom to know the difference between reality and imagined. I will not be the sleep-deprived-Psycho-wild-haired-smelling-like-a-banchee-Stephanie, screaming through the house.
And, I think I'll save my wild imagination for stories that I put on paper.

Tomorrow will wait. Let's conquer today in a way that will amaze them all.

"Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."

~Corrie Ten Boom

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tied up with a Bow

Christmas 2013 is over.
The last few weeks involved lots of family, cleaning and surprises.

Pearl and I hosted our first Christmas family meal. As all of us were were casually adorned (I was in some new fancy jammies) we ate on my newest fine China (literally straight from China) and we drank sweet tea from the fanciest of goblets.

Then just as quickly, it was over. Family gone. Secrets over. Then I realize 2013 is quickly coming to a close.

Growing up, my parents had a hard and fast rule when it came to Christmas presents. You peek, you get nothing. You find, it all goes back. As a people pleaser, and an ambitious be-gooder, I believed them. We could never even pick up the presents and give a shake. To make matters worse, they would not even be labeled with our names. There was no way to know what present belonged with whom until Christmas morning and they were passed out.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the anticipation, the looking forward-to, surprises. I love surprises. Even now, I'm usually one of the last to finish opening, as I love watching other people and seeing the surprise, and excitement on their faces.

This year was no different. It came too slowly and then sped away.

This year is going by too fast. Too quick. As excited as I am about tomorrow, I'm reluctant to leave today. I don't know about tomorrow. I don't know what is going to happen in 2014.  No idea. But, I think that while the Christmas trees are being packed away, there are quite a few surprises headed my way. Kinda exciting.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Can ya Dig It

I had a record player. It had been a Christmas present that I had received sometime during the elementary school years. I loved it. It only made sense that come time for college, I’d pack it up and bring it with.

I was alone with my record player. Others (including my roommate) had moved on to the new fangled multi-disc cd players. My music-playing machine didn’t make it out of the box when I arrived at school. Instead it slid quietly under my bed where it stayed. Until my first break, when it inconspicuously made it way back to the safety of home.

We all have secrets about ourselves. Some things appear to others when we don’t realize anyone is watching. Other things we tuck away so carefully that only those who stay around the longest and watch the closest could even hope to find out. For me, there are things that I kept secret even from myself.  

There are a few people that I have met over the years, more than a few actually, who knew who they were, with no question. It would be the way that they walked, or how they embraced details about themselves, that gave it away. They would shrug off uncertainty because those things that made them them, did not cause them embarrassment.

These things about myself, the things that others wear so proudly, I have tried to hide them. Random comments? I could be queen. I was highly embarrassed about this, but now, try to beat me.

And yes, I can talk a long time. I have a lot of words to say.  I would try to tuck them away, but now try to stop me.

I really love laughing. Really laughing, and I try to as often as possible.

I’m obsessed with owls, little birdies and elephants. I use a scale involving the words: like, love, awesome, totally, and absolutely when explaining how I feel about things. And yes, I make up my own words and use them on a regular basis. Oh and the word, “Seriously,” well, I should have a t-shirt made that says, “seriously,” so that I could just point to it as needed. Because, seriously? I say it all the time.

So in the life and times of Stephanie, as I attempt to find my groove, the groove that so many others seem to just have, I have learned a few things. About myself. And I'm pretty okay about it.

I squeeze the toothpaste bottle from the middle, (I cannot be stopped) and I love collecting interesting notebooks and wearing multiple layers and scarves, even mid summer.

What I know now, even more in my quest to my groove, is that wrapped up in my apparent quirkiness, eclectic-ness, and eccentricities, I am a bit retro. If only I had a record player.

And maybe I’ve been closer to my groove than I ever thought. 

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Eating My Cake and Wanting the Bakery

Nelson Rutherford Beene Davis Hunter.
Right now he is outside my door mewing. It's pitiful. Being nocturnal, in the early am hours he turns into psycho kitten.  Normally, he spends his days and nights in the lower level of my house, and the stairway. However, my brother is sleeping on the couch, and has had little sleep since little Nelson used John's head as a scratch post.

I'll keep him in the stairway.  With his toys, food, light, etc…… And then the crying started. 
My Auntie, in the guest room, saw my face as I heard Nelson giving his pitiful cry. 

"He's fine. I know he's fine. But it's quite terrible." 

"Oh, let him up here. I'll keep him." 

Under the condition that she would vanquish him to the stairway if needed, I agreed, and shut my door. He was happy. For a minute. He had an extra room to explore. Then. Then he saw my closed door and the unhappy cry began.  

Here, I think we are offering a kindness, but he takes the extra, and he still wants more.

We are most certainly talking about Nelson. Not me. 

I do not stare longingly at things others want, coveting it for myself. Why would I? I have everything I could ever need. 

Or. Am I like the girl on the commercial, "We want more and more and more." 

Half of us watch this commercial laughing, all the while we nod in agreement knowing she's so right. 
I demand. "They" supply.

I personally have a problem because the things I want most, I cannot buy in a store. What do I do as a result? I buy anyways. Apparently I hope that I find something that fills the hole that otherwise is empty and aching. 

I buy. 
I often return. 
I buy again. 

I chase down *things,* stuff, items and trinkets to fill my space. 
I empty my pockets, crowd my home, and at the end of the day, have a heart that will still ache. 

It's Christmas time. The season of giving and rejoicing and remembering. Families gather. We eat. We play. We sing.   

Most of the time I am happy*. The true, honest, joyful happy. Most of the time I hold onto hope that I will one day find what I truly want.  (Husband to be claimed; aisle three. Adorable children for sale! Freckles included!) 

What do I do in the meantime? It's an honest question. One I've heard many others ask. Oftentimes the question isn't spoken out loud, but it's there. What do I do to fill the hole, the void, the want

We wait. 
We wait.
We look to hope. We cling to hope. 
In doing so, we remind ourselves, God reminds us, that we are not alone. 
That He has plans bigger than what we can imagine. 
We stop looking inward, and we start looking upward, and outward.

Tonight, I have challenged myself again to remember that while so many have so much, there are many who have so little. 

Eating the cake is usually quite nice. 
                   Wanting the whole bakery? I'd need a tailor. 

Send flowers to someone. 
Write a love note. 
Wash a car. 
Smile in Walmart. 
Say please and thank you. 

Be Thankful. 

Shine your Light.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Making Magic

I am a cheater. 
I read the endings. 
Sometimes I will fast-forward to see the endings. 
I usually* (99.99% usually always) go back through and watch back to the beginning, but, sigh, the endings.

The ending. I love a perfect ending. Even if it's messy and uncertain. The ending that comes right when you knew it would. The ending that you knew belonged to the end of the story, but always upon seeing it or reading it, you have confirmation. I've always thought that there is magic in the ending. The resolution in the end is absolute. The ending is the finale. The ending is the Magic.....

But really, the magic, the real magic to the story,  of the whole of it,  has always been in the middle. Otherwise, stories would only end and begin. There would be no need for a middle. There would only be here it is, or there it was. No music, no cueing up for part 2, or for chapter 9. 

The middle is the story. The middle is profound. Full of lessons, and heartaches. It's full of laughing and driving. The middle is the story. The middle is where we see Mr. Darcy walked across the field... The middle is where great love is found, where battles are won, tears are cried, eyes are dried, babies are born; in the middle you find who you are, and learn to live with great delight. In the middle a man made it to the moon.  

I cannot cannot get to the ending, and so I've been in the middle, forgetting to look for the magic.

But it's been here, all along...

The magic is found in a warm room full of friends, in a message, in a memory, in the sunrise, in the light of the moon, in the sound of a guitar. The magic is in the coming home, the turkey cooking in the oven. There's magic in every day music and in every day songs. The magic is in making messes, and making up, walking in the twilight. The magic is in the meeting...The magic is there in the middle.

I need to start wearing glitter,

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Waking Dream

I was clueless. We had just arrived back home from.  Officially I had graduated into eighteendom. I had no idea that there would be any additional type of celebration. I was spending the afternoon with my two besties, and I just never knew how those days would roll.

As it was they had planned a surprise, and me, naively clueless, made it easy to execute.  We drove up to Bethany's driveway, and it was lined with cars.  She flipped her hair over her shoulder (she did this a LOT) and stated, "Oh, our family came over to visit."
Despite the fact that one of the cars belonged to another one of my best friends, the explanation worked for me, and I thought nothing more of it...until moments later I opened the door.

Talk about surprised.

I cannot quite explain why I did not anticipate or expect any such event. Everyone who knows me can attest that I do not let my birthday go by without making it known. However, I'm also easy to please and spending an afternoon doing nothing suited me (and still suits me) perfectly.  I still laugh at myself now, knowing what I know.  A large obstacle had been thrown in their way as one of our friends tried convincing me that many many people were on their way to Bethany's.
"No." I insisted. "Kim is just dropping them off. I don't know what you are talking about. It's just us."

I was wrong.
I was delighted.

I still remember sitting in a room full of friends, and smiling until my face hurt.

I did not expect that day.

That was one day. One afternoon many years ago.

Despite the fact that my friends can plan a simple, yet wonderful, afternoon I forget that God has something planned out way better for me than that surprise party. I become distraught. I dwell in the land of the, "I will never receive. I will never find what it is I most want. No one remembers me. No one cares. I am alone. No hope. No future."

I live with no expectation, no anticipation that there is anything good ahead of me. But I am wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

I can choose to live defeated; recalling only what I have lost, or what I do not have. Or, I can breathe in the hope that surrounds me everywhere I go. Recognizing that God's promises are true.

And it's true that things are not exactly as I would like them to be. But the reality, the true and honest reality is that things are actually better than what I could have ever imagined.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Extraordinarily Ordinary

I love words.
There are thousands and thousands of words that we can use on a daily basis. 
Extraordinary (someday)
I love words. 
I love words because they dance around me all day long. Some of them sound delicious, phrases and sentences we combine together to describe what we see, and feel... 
To our children, full of energy and emotions, new and learning how to explain instead of hitting, or yelling, we say, "Use your words..."
We sing, and sing and sing.

And, as adults, we use our words...
As we are driving down the freeway, we sing songs, our favorite lyrics; we croon to make loved ones feel better; we tell jokes to bring a laugh; we bring life with what we speak. 

I love words. Mostly. 
When it's in the dark, in the forest where all is calm, our words can speak death. Oh we can be hateful to each other. We mutter under our breath; we shout out our impatience at waiting in lines. 
While we shout angrily at others, our worst, our worst words our uttered to ourselves. We say these words, I  say these words out loud; in our minds, my mind. I am downright cruel. 

Over the years I have worked and practiced at positive self talk. I have written down affirmations. Repeated encouraging words and phrases out loud, in other languages, used post-it notes, emailed myself. I was mastering my technique in positive affirmation. 
Then I woke up the next day. 

While I can certainly look backward, and I've come so far, the truth is a lot of what I've stopped saying out loud, I just keep inward.

But I don't want to be that way. I don't want to tuck it in. I don't want to think it all.

Hard work.

I can't quite get a handle on it. But, I'll not quit trying.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Chicken, Red Shoes and The VVA

I moved into my first apartment alone, and was terrified. It was a studio apartment, I was living paycheck to paycheck in northern Illinois. I found Vacation Village, the "VVA," which had a guard and a fence.  Despite the mocking I received (I know that anyone could jump the fence, and I could probably run faster than the guard on his golf cart) but it was a comfort to me knowing they were there. Guarding. 24-7. 

I had a sliding glass door as my front door, and with it the apartment came a trusty stick used to help "lock" the door. The first months I lived in my apartment, I would walk in, pick up the stick and check all possible hiding spots in my apartment, and only then could I rest easy. Since it was a studio apartment, and I hardly had any furniture,  there were really only two places a person could hide: the bathtub, and the oven (for those contortionist intruders out there).  Should I have ever catch anyone, the plan was to bash the person on the head with the stick, and make it out the front door...... Fortunately, I never had to carry out my fool proof plan. No one broke in. No one ever was found hiding in my oven. Quickly I learned to love living on my own. Aside from a few weeks, the love has continued.

My Mama has always said to me, "Stephanie, don't count your chickens!" I've never had chickens. Ever. (I did have a goldfish for a week and a cat for years, but never chickens.) But I knew what she was saying. Okay, so the girl in the story was planning on living a life of luxury; I was gearing up for the worst possible outcome. Either way you look at it, planning and depending on an outcome going one way or the other can hamper what you do today. 

My Mum has never been one to allow me to bemoan (bewail - mourn - lament - deplore - moan - weep - wail) what was about to happen.  Why? Because we don't know what is going to happen. I spent a lot of those first months in my studio, gated, guarded apartment, worrying, anxious, not sleeping. I would wake up and stay up for hours. I would turn on lights. Watch TV. Play music.  Why? Because of what might happen. What if someone wanted my $10 dollar tv stand/storage container? What if someone spotted my fantastic red Friday shoes (Yes for a while I had shoes I would wear on Friday) and they decided they had to have them? I borrowed trouble. I counted my chickens. I lost sleep, gained a twitch, and looked ridiculous taking a packed suitcase with me to work every day. (I didn't actually do that.)

I do like making plans. Not that you can currently tell, but I also like organization. I like straight lines and a lot of direction. Knowing what will happen the next day has always brought satisfaction. Trouble is I live. I live. In a world where there are other humans, only too eager to muck up my plans. Generally, for the most part, that just has meant that things have gone even better than I planned. A drive in the middle of the night to Southern Indiana (through cornfields) was more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined because people were involved. 

But... things happen. Other things that cause unhappy muckiness. It is during those times that the muck literally tries to grab a hold of my legs, and pull me down and drown and suffocate me. The only way it has come close to being able to do that is because I get a little to close to the muck. Actually I make it. "What if after I'm at school, wearing the sweatshirt I made a few weeks prior, I bend over a candle too far and end up with a head aflame and lose half my hair? What then?"
Wait. That really happened.
Trying again.
What if tomorrow I'm in a car accident and lose both my legs, and my right eye? I'll just stay home. I will never drive again. What if tonight, a flaming ember from a backyard bonfire 2 blocks away lands on my roof, and starts Pearl (my house) on fire? I'd better not sleep. What if, while I'm taking a walk in my neighborhood, I trip on a rock and fall, and scrape my knee in front of a bunch of neighbor kids? (This remarkably has not happened.) I'd better not walk. 

After all that, I'm not leaving home, not sleeping, not even walking. In that case I would say I just counted my chickens, and my chickens wound up dead. The truth is, whatever phrase you want to use, when you, me, we try to predict what is going to happen we hinder ourselves from being able to live and enjoy today. Tomorrow has the potential to be disastrous. We- all of us- have lived in those days. We have had "tomorrows" that shook us back into yesterday.  Those days will come. What I cannot do is refuse to live for fear of what may be. Or what may not be.
I have to trust. Trust in God. Trust that He will be with me, walk with me, stay with me. Even when times are tough, or ugly, or really really funny.

It has been a difficult year, and at the same time full, FULL, of happiness, and delight. Good times, visits (and food- usually always food (sigh)). I have been worried. I do worry. I worry about my Daddy. I worry about my brother. I worry about my best friends. I want them around forever and ever. I want them to be with me. Guess what? They are here NOW. I have them today. (Actually unless they are hiding in my basement, they are all (family and friends) technically at home sleeping.) I do not want to miss one second of time with them, whether it is in person, on the phone, via email.  It is for this reason, that while all day long I have been worried, and anxious, and had a backache, and a headache, that the moment, the few moments ago that I prayed and said, "Oh God, please help me..." that I now have peace. No backache. No headache. I have peace.  I will not borrow trouble tonight. And you can take that to the bank, Jack.

And just so we're clear, even if something should happen, God will grant His peace just as freely; I just have to ask.

Psalm 91:1-5Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snareand from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; 
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

On Fire

I have a journal. Actually, I probably have four or five. Yes, I have this here, but this isn't a place where I write everything. I write with purpose here. It's for me, yes, and for maybe someone else who needs a little light. I started writing in a journal when I was 14. I am not fanatical about it. I will go months and months without writing a word, and then I will write ten days straight.

Tonight, I found the journal (it wasn't really lost, but misplaced). I flipped through to the end of December 2012, and while I normally do not (actually not sure I have ever) shared on here what I wrote in there, I am tonight.

I don't remember this exact day. It was December 16, 2012. I do know that the calendar year was coming to a close. I had charged in to 2012, determined to find myself, to have adventures, and to paint hope everywhere I went. I know that I was tired that day. And, I also know I wanted to be home. I couldn't sleep, and so I would stay up until early morning, and drag into work the next day.

In the middle of that, this is what I wrote:

I'm writing at the end of (almost end of) the year. It's actually early morning on the 17th. I'm not the same as I once was. I'm not the same as three months ago. I am not the same as a year ago. The pain I had then is not there anymore. I had been wearing it like a heavy wool coat with weighted hems. I did not put it away. I took it off, and I burned it. I took off. Ripped it. Cut it. Threw it in a can, lit it on fire, and I burned it. Then I walked away and left it there burning. 
Freedom has never felt better.

"Even a small spark can become a flame and change everything."

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The End of a Long Haul

Not to just make this longer, but I preface this post to apologize for the length. Too tired to edit tonight!

I have watched my dad do this over and over, for thirty some years. He puts his hands together and rocks back and forth and then will quickly step back, and in a little voice he will say, "I do it myself." I should remember, I was there, and he is quoting me, but I don't remember. Except that I do, because I did it yesterday.

My dad tells of a little girl, blue eyes and a chub face who loved to do it all on her own. She was independent, even when it wasn't beneficial.  The thing about little girls is they grow up. Sure, there are (in my case) the same blue eyes, and freckles, and ... the stubborn streak. Cute, perhaps when younger, but maybe not so attractive when all grown up.

While I don't talk about it much on here, I am a single gal. Aside from periodically once in a while moping about, "Woah is me," I am good. I have Pearl. I have my family nearby (and family not nearby- don't worry I know how to find you!) I have friends in walking, phone-calling, traveling distances. I honestly love living. I love looking forward to God doing great things. I do, however, spend a lot of time with me. And, sometimes I am just short. (Not that I am every tall.... unless I wear tall shoes..another story) My arms are not long enough, and okay, I am just not always strong enough to do what I need to do.

That being said, why do I feel it necessary to show the world that I can do it all alone. Sure, I can whip up a good roast, along mashed "tators" (for all my Texans) and green beans. Yes, I can paint a wall. Sew? Yes. I can even go to sleep now, and walk around in the dark of my house, sans dog.

Ask for help?.... Who? Me? No. Nope. Uh-uh. And, it is to my detriment at times.

There have been many funny, funny stories, as I travel through the Life and Times of Stephanie. Yes, I poke at myself because I know I'm ridiculous. But tonight. Tonight I had a moment. For whatever reason I determined that I was going to move a large, large piece of furniture, up the stairs because I needed it to be moved tonight (?). I don't know why.  It was funny. I was actually laughing, until at one moment I was realizing the precarious position I put myself in (as the dresser-ish I was hauling up the stairs, tried to haul me back down with). That isn't even the point of my rambling tonight.

The point is, I don't ask. Not even that I don't ask people, friends, family. I don't ask God. The truth of what it says in the Bible is there in black and white.

"Come to me and I will give you rest." 
"Come to me you who are weary and heavy laden." 
"Peace I'll give to you." 

Furniture moving aside,  life has been feeling like a whirlwind, and I'm sucked in. There are very few moments when I feel the calm. Instead I feel the wind and the crazy waves sending me flying through the air. I want to yell at life to, "STOP!" It doesn't.

There are things, every day things, family things, worry things that pile up. "I do it myself," though. I can handle it all on my own.... Except I can't.

If I would just stop in those moments and say, "God please help," the winds don't all die down. The waves don't disappear, but the anchor I need to keep me grounded, is firmly wrapped around me, and I won't fly off anywhere. 

I am not alone. You, one of you (out of maybe the two who read this thing) is reading this thinking  you are alone, and that no one can help and that you have been sent to sea in a sinking ship with nothing to bail water but a banana. Life's circumstances are hard. There's no where to run to, and no where to hide.... but there is a Help. The Help we all need.

It can be humbling to ask for help. I never think of myself as a prideful person, but there it is. Ugly pride putting a stamp on my forehead. (And not even in a good color.) Tonight, Jesus met me on the stairs. Not literally (because I could have literally used his help!) but after securing my crazy dresser-ish in a good, non-falling position, he reminded me that I have been doing a lot of this lately. I have been piling on the burdens. I've been, "I do it myself,"-ing. Piling on the weight and carrying around everyone's weariness. It is NOT MINE and they do not belong to me.

Psalm 81 talks of a trying time, but then speaks of the promise that when we cry to God, when we say to Him, "help me," He does. Bam. That's it. He helps. If you are uncertain reading this, and you want to know more... ask. Ask me. I can point the way.

Life is hard. Doesn't it make it all the better when you have a great travel companion?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Welcoming Home

She's old and settled. But, she's sturdy. 
She creaks. But she is a character. 
She has little "nooks" and "crannies" where she can keep your treasures and hide your secrets.


I have often wondered how it is that certain people have a way of just knowing and being themselves. My whole life in fact. Those type of people, regardless of where they go, they have the ability to simply be, no matter where they are, they belong. Not me.

Of course, there were other places, and are places that take me in and let me be.There were. There are. There was the space on my floor, right in the corner of my couch. When days were long and stressful, or short and crazy, or even happy, I would settle myself in there by my couch, and just be.

 There's always home home. Home where my parents are and my brother lives. Home where I managed to live through middle school.

But at times it just didn't matter about a location. I wanted to belong to me. And I didn't. Even though I should have known myself best, I knew myself least. People would say to me, Stephanie I know you, I know what you are thinking, but I didn't know myself.

And then, a veil lifted. I cannot tell you when it happened, the exact moment, or how it happened, the exact process. I  can just tell you that slowly, I would wake up and there would be a spark, an awakening. I suddenly found what I had never known. Me. 

Me. Myself. I. "We" moved to Indiana. While the first week was a whirlwind, and about a week later I had a complete and total meltdown. 

How do you tell people that you are going? How do you make it make sense to the people that you are leaving? Especially knowing that you are leaving some of the people that you love the most, that you want to be with them, and that if you could you would take with them? How do you tell them?
How do you tell your friend that the draw to move back to Indiana does not make sense, but you have to go, even though being gone and apart does not make sense. 

How do you say that as much as you love them, you cannot stay? You have to go away? And that even though you are leaving, you are actually just arriving, and you are being right where you belong.


I've now told you about the beginning.
And, I explained the Craft Cabinet.
The keys on my laptop typed out the waiting.

The plan had always been to find an apartment. I was going to find my place. Move in. A month maybe. But then. The job came through. With rent prices the way they are, and with cute old style homes awaiting for my quirkiness to do some damage, buying seemed to be the way to go.

I hunted a lot. People came with me. Sometimes they did not.  Then I found her online on a Thursday and I knew. Saturday morning my mom and I met with the realtor. I stepped on to the porch, and within minutes they were moved on, and I yelled out to them, "This is my house." I knew.

From the date I first stepped onto the porch, to the day I signed, and was given the keys, only 47 days passed.

Because I cannot help but to name things, such as my plants, I cannot help but give a name to her now.  (I will also say that it helps differentiate between "home" my parents, and "home," my place.)


I came home, we did. I did. I was welcomed home by family and friends.  Cornfields and green pastures. 
I welcomed myself home. I used the key and opened the door, and breathed in deep.. 
When you come to my place, we, "she" and I will welcome you in.

Pearl it is.  We, as much as a house and a person can, belong together. 
She's older than I. At 113 years she is not perfect. She is, however, solid. 
Right now she's a mess. Some walls are painted. Almost nothing is unpacked.  
Regardless, peace lives here.  

“I don't even remember the season. I just remember walking between them and feeling for the first time that I belonged somewhere.” 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Other News

We have to rewind.

Take a step, or five, backwards.
Not quite to the beginning.

And, after the Craft Cabinet.

My parents' Pastor asked me to talk with him about an opportunity to work with kids at the church. I love kids. Always have. If you were to ask my friends, I annoy them, because I point out every cute child in every TV show, commercial, store..... usually it's all kids.  I did not think, however, that working with kids at a church would be something I would be doing again. Little did I realize..... God had other plans. As usual.

Of course, this gives me (as if I needed one) reason to have glue stuck to my arm, and paint on my face. 

Now...where to live?

More to come.

Cue the (dot dot dot) that Comes after more Waiting....

I quit.

Literally. I quit my job.  I have never and will never be one of those people who just says to someone on the edge of a life altering moment say, "Jump!" unless it's with absolute certainty that God is pushing them in that direction.  It has not been time to leave until that moment.  It was a Wednesday, March 13th to be exact (1 day shy of being 3 months ago). I went to bed and I knew that it was time. While friends and family knew I was going to move...eventually, it hadn't happened yet, life moves on,  and I wasn't really discussing it.

I woke up resolved. Had my resignation letter in hand, and written and saved in email, and asked my manager for a meeting.

He sighed. Loudly, and put his head down and said he was not looking forward to this day. I cried. But, it was done. I had given the two weeks notice to the job I had worked so hard to get. 

But, God.

Less than a week before I was moving, my co-manager asked me if I would be willing to work through the month of April; while a new manager was located, set into place; while I was looking for a new job. 

Of course. 
She said, "More to come."

(I have found these are my three favorite words from this lady. More to come.)

Later that afternoon, she pulled up a chair and informed me about a the possibility of another "virtual" opportunity. Would I be interested in giving it ago? Never a guarantee, but the promise of an opportunity (working from home in my pajamas!) sounded good. With ten years (almost) under my belt, (and all that vacation time!) I said of course, yes.

As of my last post, I was still waiting on the word. I had interviewed, multiple times, with the necessary people. I was waiting for word. Waiting when I knew, knew what was coming. Waiting nonetheless.

I did get the job.

"Seems like we all think God needs our help, but mostly, we just want him to hurry. Sometimes, He just lets us wave our arms, and flail around until we get tired enough to be still and pay attention to him." ~ Wise Uncle Robert (This is really my Uncle Robert)

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Waiting

I decided I was not going to apply for any more internal jobs.
I decided I was going to focus on looking for jobs elsewhere in Indiana.
I applied. I researched. I updated my resume.

I made calls, and prayed, and talked to people.

I got nowhere.

I learned to sew.
I painted a coffee/game table.

I got nowhere.

On one trip home, during Christmas time, I was at my parents' church.  I was broken-hearted knowing that I would have to leave home to go home. Al walked up to the front of the church and spoke.

"There is someone here who feels like God is not listening to you. But, He is. He knows exactly what you are looking for, and He has not forgotten you."

I felt the spotlight shining on me. He was talking to me. Of course he was. In that moment I was reminded again that God had great plans for me. Too bad being human takes its toll.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Middle and the Story of a Craft Cabinet

I talked with my manager.
My job, as a manager would not allow me to work from home- not on a long term basis anyway. Where I work, however, there are opportunities for "virtual" roles. Perfect situation in my mind. I had been with my company 9 years, and I didn't quite like the idea of quitting.  Aside from that, once ten years of service have been reached, an additional week of vacation is added, and who doesn't like vacation? 

Cue the months and months of applying for roles, and being turned down, one after the other.

Does God not hear me? Or, maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I'm selfish, and God's plans are different from what I'm wanting.

Cue the pity party.

I was at home laying on my couch after receiving another rejection. I pulled up Pinterest (Oh, how I love thee), and saw a beautiful craft cabinet.  I prayed then. A selfish prayer, but a prayer, none the less. "God, please help me to find something similar to this. I know that it won't be exactly the same, but help me to find something similar."

That evening I set out with my friend Cindy (my thrifter friend extraordinaire) and we headed out to one of her favorite thrift locations. We walked around the store, and to the back where they had their large furniture pieces.  I could not have been there more than 10 minutes when I found it. It was the craft cabinet of my dreams. I was beyond ecstatic.  The thing was huge, and I was certain I was looking at hundreds of dollars.  It was actually marked only $60.  Cindy and I went to the front of the store, and talked with the clerk.  I was about coming out of my skin, when I confirmed the price was actually $60. She smiled, and nodded.

While I was fidgeting with excitement, Cindy had the presence of mind to ask, "Do you do sales on furniture?"

Once again the clerk smiled. "Okay." She said. "I'll give it to you for $20."

"Twenty dollars?"


The thing about this craft cabinet, it had been there for three weeks before I had ever had my disappointing day. It had been there, delivered, and waiting, all in anticipation of my bad day, of my prayer to God, of my shopping trip with Cindy. God had it ready for me. 

In that moment, that evening, everything negative faded away. My worry. My anxiety. My fretting was gone. If God could put a craft cabinet in a store weeks ahead of time, just for me, then surely He must have big plans for me.

"Stephanie, are you sure this is important to you?" I was asked as we stood trying to determine how the monstrosity was going to make it up three flights of stairs into my apartment.

In the Old Testament, in the Bible, it talks frequently of making altars and reminding yourself of the great things God has done. For me, that craft cabinet became exactly that. A reminder that God had great plans for me. 

Too bad that I am human, and the way God reveals Himself became over shadowed by the every day.

The Beginning

I would say it began with a craft cabinet, but the truth is it began months before that.

Months and months.

The truth of my "story," my non-Lifetime, non-bookselling story began hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Oh, you're story was written then too, but I'll allow you to tell yours when you are ready.

In March of 2012 life was hopping. My friend Elle and I had determined we were going to make 2012 the best year ever. Whew. That required work. We visited Chicago, celebrated Leap Year, made multiple road trips. We laughed until we ached, and ate until we ached. We ran and walked and talked. We took pictures.

I traveled to Seattle with my Melissa, and made new friends of old. I visited states and people. I saw my Rita and watched my favorite photographer in her prime.

My dad was not well. My brother was not well. Life was busy. In the middle of fun and excitement, there was worry, concern, peace.

The whole time, I longed to go home. 

I had moved to Illinois on May 4, 2003 to work at a church as a children's pastor.  I remember knowing that I would be moving there. I had made a hasty decision in 2002, that had landed me in an odd situation- a learning situation, a difficult situation. I was in the middle of that situation, November 2002, when I heard the words, "Lake Villa, IL." I remember where I was sitting when I was talking with my dad.

"Tell Bob I'll be there."

The moment after I said those words, I remember thinking, "hmm not sure how this will work out," but I just had the knowing that it would. It did.

There it was, nearly 9 years later, and I just wanted to go home.  

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Spot of Fried, and Hat of Hilarity

I always recall, with a smile on my face, the summer I was 27. It was actually my "golden" year. 27th on the 27th.  My birthday in January including favorites: friends and food (or food and friends).

Then the summer rolled around and we had the party barge.  My group of friends made our way to Kenosha's finest beach week after week on Sunday afternoons.  The drive there included roads that wound through cornfields; the radio was turned high with songs to sing to.  We'd arrive at the beach, and the air was hot, and the water, (usually freezing, but a few times) actually perfect! 

We would pile on our barge, and off into Lake Michigan we'd go.  Normally we didn't get too far. It was after all Lake Michigan, and the actual boat boats, were impressive (and I might have been terrified we would be run over--- can you get run over by a boat?) and we were on something a little larger than a blow up raft. 

From that summer on, trips to Kenosha always remind me of a few things, namely friends, music and a yellow blow up raft that surprisingly did quite well in Lake Michigan.

Before leaving my home of ten years, Kenosha was on the list of things to do. Of course I can always visit, but.... I messaged the one person that I knew would really really know. 

"What do you want before you go?"
"Kenosha. The beach. The lighthouses. Music."

My ride was a blue pickup. The music was perfect, and we drove on up to Kenosha singing (kinda singing- I had laryngitis) and looking at the perfect fields and the gorgeous sky.

We ate at The Spot, a perfectly Kenosha location, and had "homemade" root beer and orange drink and of course ate fried.

Then there was the beach. It was cold. Bitterly cold, but no worries as we bundled up in warm fuzzy German hats (I was forced to wear the black one) and trounced along the beach taking pictures, finding rocks and remembering.

I am not so far that Kenosha cannot be reached.  Now there are just a few more beaches between here and there.

Michael, you always bring the music.
This next time though, maybe I'll bring my own hat.

Always, Stefonos

Sunday, March 03, 2013

On the Going... And the Coming Back

I have always been a fan of the open road. The high seas. Nothin' but the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, walking the road toward adventure.  Over all the years that I have been living, I have done quite a bit of traveling. I would spend weeks at camp.Weekends on trips out of the state.  Mission Trips and vacations. Here and there.  You would think (at least I would think) that I would become an expert at travel. 
Sadly, that is an incorrect assumption.  But after this week, two checked bags, a large purse and another carry on, a coughing fit, and the inability to make it through the airport with my luggage, I've realized my Vacationing technique is greatly amiss. While this is not comprehensive list, it is a start.

Clean before you go. Nothing greater than coming home to a clean place. No dishes, bed made. It's a great feeling when you arrive home and all you have to do is unpack your bags and throw yourself on your bed to sleep. Remember, you are going on vacation. Coming home to a mess, unvacations a person real quick! I'd like to point out, I was not quite this good this time around.

Take a packing class. Make more room for souvenirs! You can fit a lot in a suitcase, and possibly even more in three.  However, when you are not an efficient packer, it will not matter how many cases you have, it just ain't gonna happen.Don't pack 2 hours before you leave (especially when that means you are packing at 2 am).  Take a double look at what you have in your bag. Are you missing something? Do you need something else? Band aids? Toiletries? Of course you can always pick up those things along the way, but if you are going somewhere out of the country (or even to international waters on a cruise ship), the item you desire may not be available; and if it is, it may be 4xs the cost.

Need transportation? Sometimes it may not matter what the reviews say. If you are needing a ride, and the ride isn't there....well, I don't need to explain the rest.  Know your options!  Are you in a good area with other resources available? Are the drivers qualified to drive? Are the vehicles in good shape and road (and passenger) worthy? What if A falls through? Will B be available? When it's all said and done, go back and provide your review on the transportation provided.  It'll help a fellow traveler!

Have a planner. No, really, a planner. And, by planner, I mean a person with the great ability to organize, highlight, protect, print, document, reserve, call...Plan.  My family has always been a site seeing bunch, but when having folks from multiple locations, it's way easier to have one SPOC. (Special Point of Contact). Why not find someone who loves taking charge and organizing? While you're at it, create a special travel packet for each person.  While I love organizing, there are times when life is simply too busy. There is work, school, cleaning, laundry. Instead of me and my mom having conversations that basically involved, "You call." "No, you call." "No. You!" We'll go a different route the next time. (My mom did a great job!)

Buy a T-shirt. Make a T-shirt. Sure, it's easy to pick up a t-shirt. I have many a sweat-shirt with the name of the city, state, country proudly displayed across the front. It shouts (reads?), "Look at me! I've been to this location!"  While that may be fun, making your own t-shirt, more fun. You can pick your own colors, and proudly display all the fun conversations you had and no one will be the wiser. (Gaslamps anyone?)

Take pictures.  Just know, turnabout is fair play. Take a pic, post a pic, don't be surprised when one of you miraculously appears at a party (or on Facebook)!

Hasta La Vista. Goodbyes. Never been a fan. They sound complete, and final, as though a "hello" would never again be a possibility.  My long line of "ciaos"  started Saturday as we parted way to some great, interesting people at sea. This afternoon I left me Mum, Brother, Papaw and Daddy-o at an airport in Houston. My Ma, grabbed my shoulders and said with all assurance, "It's all gonna be alright. No fretting." Driving away, however, never feels alright. And no one should ever have to do the leaving, or be the left behind. 

Ellen, Melissa and I were escorted across town by our driver to the other airport. We ate at Chilis at the airport, and once again I was forced to part ways. Melissa walked away, down the hallway to her terminal, waving her hand, and yelling. "Don't let her cry Ellen! No tears!! Hasta La Vista! No crying!"

Lastly, Dance. After all, you are on vacation, and what's vacation without a little party?

Catch ya'll on the flip side.

Traveler out,