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?