Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Living in the Shadows- Toes in the Light

In so many ways, when I look back over all my years (I feel like I should not use that sentence unless I'm 95, but too late. I already did.) I feel like I'm exactly the same as the girl I was in high school. (I haven't grown taller, that's for sure.) Of course, there are the many ways I'm not the same (I haven't come my hair on fire in years. That's gotta be a plus.) Tonight I'm talking about the parts of me that are the same.

I was a worrier and a thinker and a wonderer. I was a closet creator, not quite sure of where I belonged and how my weirdness was not something to be worried about, but just something to be. I would worry though. And think. And I would wonder. What should I be? What should I do? How should I do it? Where should I go? Is it the right thing? Will I know if I am wrong?

I moved in to college doing the same worrying and thinking and wondering. Of course worrying, thinking and wondering can cause you to miss out on the activities that happened in front of you. So I faked my way around. Pretending I was living in the day all the while trying to turn the page and peek into tomorrow. I remember laying on my bed in my dorm room, talking to my mom and saying, "What am I gonna do? What should I do? Tell me what to do." And with all her wisdom she said these words.
"Stephanie. Just be. Where you are right now. That's what you are supposed to do. Be right now. Do what is right now. Not tomorrow."

It should not have been surprising to me that when I went to see Beth Moore a few weeks ago (a speaker, and writer, a mom, a Jesus fan) that when she spoke to the 190,000 listening (including pod-casters) that she was speaking directly to me. I should have just set up on the platform right next to her because while I was listening to her I literally said, (Okay, I literally whispered it) "Okay God. You told her to say this." As she was speaking, and giving her seven points, in there was a line directed toward me. And so I paraphrase the message that God has been sending to me for weeks before (and now two weeks after):

Stop. Just stop. Stop worrying. Stop thinking. Stop wondering. Stop flurrying around trying to figure out what and where and when, and how. Do today. Don't worry about tomorrow. Do today. Don't worry about where to go tomorrow, what you are going to do tomorrow, if you'll wear real pants tomorrow. Just stop. Do today. Be the Light today. Be You today. But STOP.

I don't like it. I have to be honest. I do not like it. I do not like the waiting. The stopping. The holding still. I want to be moving. Sometimes I think even if I were to go sideways, it's be better than being still because I'd rather be moving. And it's true that in the land of the Trains, there have been many times that instead of waiting for the train to finish I have flipped a U-ie (how on earth do you type that?), and gone around a whole block only to find that I did not get where I was going any faster.

The truth, the definite, no questions asked, truth is that I am not being productive with all this hoopla that I am putting myself through. I probably waste a lot of gas driving blocks out of my way when instead I should just be waiting. And in the mean time I'm setting up a tent and staking claim on a piece of property in the Land of Insanity. (It's jest not pretty.)

In all my thinking and wondering and worrying I'm also questioning myself. At times I find myself becoming edgy (not fun hipster edgy), but moody and uncertain. Unsettled. Cranky. When I do this thinking and worrying and wondering, when I refuse to just let go and trust God, and do not rest where I am, I shrink into the shadows.

I know that God is working. I just can't always physically see it. I have to believe that He has good plans for me because He did say it. I just can't always hear it. I have to hold on to the fact that He has someone good for me... I just haven't met him yet. I also know when I let go, open my hands and ask for peace (and actually sit still long enough) God provides it. I know it's true because in those moments the shadows dissipate and instead of sitting with only a foot and an elbow in the sunshine, I move all the way into the Light.

So now I have to ask myself, what's it gonna be little Weirdo?
More needless driving?
Or perhaps a little waiting would be just the thing?

Much love and chocolate,

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Becoming a Doer Being a Human

The last few months I have been truly considering what I wanted to be when I grew up. Since technically I arrived at "grown up" sometime over the last 15-ish years I am possibly arriving late to the game. However, the quest is on.

I could write.
I could be an interior designer.
Motivational Speaker.
I could be a fashion designer.
I could be an investigative journalist, or write for National Geographic/ National Geographic Adventure (Which would technically be awesome).
I could be a Jammer in Roller-derby (which seems totally exciting and yet absolutely terrifying/horrifying. Me. Traveling at high speeds on wheels) and you get a super cool name (which saying super cool probably lost me all the super cool points I earned today).
Lead guitarist in a garage band, appropriately named something like Garage Band.

All while working with the kidlings at my church (which I honestly love love love doing!)

Part of the trouble is that I don't want to do just one thing. I want to do them all. I want to write and design and create. I want to shoot photos and investigate. I want to learn Spanish and be able to play the piano and the guitar. I may be stretching it just a touch when I say I really want to Roller-derby gal (because again, me on wheels... terrifying!)

I've been considering them all. Calculating time- which is short. We don't know how much time we will have. Given that, I need to do with it things truly amazing and meaningful.

Yesterday I was considering all this, determining Stephanie's next step, when suddenly a word slapped me in the forehead.
Yep. Do. Do. (Did I say I work with kids? Because that's the excuse I have for reading those words before this sentence and then laughing.)
Do.  The thing about Do or doing is that it is a reflection of who we are, who we be. I have a tendency of putting so much effort in doing that I forget about the being. 

Being. Totally a weird word when it's just said alone. However, it's such an important one because what we are busy doing is usually a reflection of what we are being. The being is so much more than the doing. And what is it about my being, my inner "guts" that are requiring my attention? What qualities of my being am I displaying by my doing? Are my actions kind? Are my actions nice? Are they helpful? Do people see me and see Light? Or do my actions display anger, and meanness? Am I a gossiper? Do people leave me feeling better?
Ultimately, who I want to be is so much more important than what I want to do.

I am most certainly going to keep on doing. Paying extra close attention to my being. I am going to be kind. I'm going to check my attitude. I'm going to be a Light in the great darkness. I'm going to dance good to weird music (or is it dance weird to good music?). I am going to focus on my *guts* so that by the time I do I exude. And when (not if but when) I make a misstep and fall? I'm going to get back up. Clean up my tunic and give it another go.
I cannot write this without saying that God is who I want at my core. I don't always do Him justice, but I'll certainly keep giving it a go.

What about you? What are you being that is causing you to do? Are you going in circles? Not finding you? Talk to me because I have been there.

Life is messy. Deliciously messy. And my "do-ing" dilemma will most likely go on.  But in the midst of that you will find me being here at Pearl and more than likely making some type of mess in one of these rooms.

Jesus-follower. Great-Nelson-Tamer. Motivational Speaker. Daughter. Best Friend. Nerd. Crafter. Photographer. Guitarist. Planner. Designer. Teacher. Niece-r (sounded weird with no "r"). Love-spreader. Sister. Truth-teller. Writer. Geographer. Language(s) speaker.
And all in a day's work.

Be True,

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Setting Sail

I cannot lie. The first week of our intertwined lives, I was positive that one of us would not make it out alive. Almost 8 months later, Nelson is my friend. We not only survived, but lived, and I am quite certain I do not know what I would do without my little cat.  I was not quite sure how he would respond to be first abandoning him (he was well cared for), and then returning home. Would he be angry? Would I have weird "gifts" (you know what I'm sayin') hidden in strategic locations (between sheets and in walking paths)? The answer no.
The answer is that Nelson is even more of what he has always been; my friend.

I bought him a harness and a leash. Being an indoor cat, and me being paranoid I cannot let him out into the wild. Not on his own. Each day this week I have harnessed him and dragged him outside (literally dragged or carried) and we have begun "leash training."

Total side note: It is HILARIOUS. As soon as the harness is on, for a few minutes he has no idea what to do. He falls to the floor limp. (Not hurt in the least.) Then we make it outside and the hilarity continues. Seriously. Literally one of the funniest things I have seen. Ever.

Moving on.

Nelson has become more used to the leash. A few days ago I took him out for a leisurely stroll in the alley and we ended  up in my front yard. It hadn't been mowed yet, so it was like a wild cat oasis. Long grasses and the like.   The evening was beautiful. The sky was still it's day-blue hue, but the start of the pinks and purples were appearing. The puffy clouds were still deliciously white, not a stormy cloud among them, and the breeze was the perfect blend of cool and warm.

(I was looking particularly fetching in my "house sockish-things", and my new cat comfy pants and blue-shirt to match, and reading my book standing on the sidewalk.) But Nelson, walked over to the grass, and just sank down. He's been on grass before. It was just this moment though, of pure contentedness.  I don't know that he would have ever moved (except that there are probably things out there he'd try to eat, if not at least play with) should they have appeared in the yard.

I saw something in him, yes my cat, in that moment. He was content. His belly full. He has a home. Someone who feeds him tartar control treats, gives him Cat Sip and on fun days, baked chicken (skinless and boneless, mind you). He has everything he needs. Somehow that has transformed itself into contentment and even happiness.

I had just spoken to another friend on this topic of contentedness when the sight of my Nelson caused it to hit me again. Life is not perfect, and it's often really not fair. However, life wasn't made to be perfect, and no one said it would always be fair. I have everything I need. Beyond a place to live and clothes to wear. Beyond food to eat and water to drink. I have a good job. I have a great family- which is really a bunch of weird people who are my friends. I have great friends - which they are really a bunch of weird people are are my family.

Sometimes though. I want more. We want more and more. Contentedness is shaken off by the new shiny and bright.  And after all, Nelson is a cat. He doesn't have to worry about the bills. He does not have to go to the grocery store and find the buggy without the squeaky wheel. He does not have to do anything but show up.

This morning I woke up for work, and had no electricity. Typically you could drive a train through the room when I'm asleep and I'm out. However, last night that was not the case. I was awake and terrified as the storm swirled it's way around the area. As I drove over to my parents' I remembered the story in the Bible about the disciples being with Jesus on the boat. I was safe in my dry albeit dark house (although yes, I did periodically sneak a peek at my tomatoes in the front yard, which are doing quite remarkable still), and I was afraid. There was nothing I could do to stop the storm. I could not put up a barrier. I could not build a fence or a wall. My pleadings with the storm itself to stop were ignored. I cannot imagine being on a boat in that type of weather. I know why the disciples were afraid; they were going to sink. The boat was going to take on water. They would be struck by lightning. I can imagine Jesus rolling his eyes and saying to His disciples (yes I'm paraphrasing), "Seriously guys? Seriously?" Then turning to wind and the waves saying, "Peace. Be still." Suddenly, where there was a storm, there was calm. Where there were waves, there was a body of water with not one ripple. Where there were bolts of lightning, there was nothing but the deep dark blue sky. He silenced that storm.

Perhaps you would say that you are in a storm. Maybe it's a storm worry, bills to pay, a roof to replace. Maybe it's a storm of discontentment, a dishwasher calling your name (that could just be me). Maybe it's a storm of sorrow that envelopes you. Or a storm of bitterness that you cannot scrub away.

This is when Jesus wants to step in and say, "Peace. Be still." You just have to ask. He will not come to you until you do. However, when you do ask, you'll find He's right there at your side.

Sure, the waves may still rock the boat, but when I keep my eyes on Him, my heart knows the calm of a quiet sea.

I Timothy 6:6
Much love,

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Unpack the Bags

There's a saying in my house. Since it's really just me and Nelson most of the time, I am the one who uses the phrase. (I actually fear the day Nelson, or one of my "dormant" plants actually starts speaking.)

It can happen at any point, any room, or any time.
"Ohhhhh, Nelson." Typically followed up with a sigh (on my part again).

Nelson, my nine month old cat is very adept at finding himself in precarious situations.
"He'll learn, Stephanie," some might say.  Sometimes, though, I sit back and watch and I wonder if he truly will learn. On top of that, sometimes his actions result in consequences for others- not just himself. Unfortunately, my plant loves know that all too well. (Still holding out hope for some springtime growth. Don't give up on me Blanche!)

How can I truly blame him, my nine month old cat, when I, the grown up, the responsible adult, manages to find myself in dangerous situations. Situations that are treacherous to my mind and body. I could list them here, and most who would be honest would probably find at least one of them to be applicable to his or her own life. Or maybe you have your own list, with your own precarious cliffs.

Over the last eleven months I have come face to face with my own perilous condition.
There is one major shortcoming that I cannot seem to discard and leave it where it belongs- in the trash. Instead, I pack up this particular foible in one of my bags, between my Kindle and HGTV magazine, and I set off into the day.

This weekend left me tired. More exhausted in mind, but it translated into bodily exhaustion (new word find one). This afternoon as I contemplated what life over the next three months would look like, I realized once again I was beginning to worry. Not actually just begin, but set up a dwelling; and actually, it is more of a city.

When this reality struck me,  I was about knocked over with another realization immediately after that.

What is it that causes me to stop in my tracks?
My old frenemy- Worry.
Whenever I do get caught up in worry, I imagine God responding much like I do to Nelson.
"Ohhh, Stephanie."

God looks for us to have enjoyment in life. He gifts us with different talents and abilities. Even more so He rewards hard work. We know practice makes perfect. Unfotunately, I wouldn't even be able to claim a gold medal under worry, (despite the hours of time I spend "practicing"), basically because I'm no good at it.

If God had wanted me to be a worrier, he would have equipped me to be able to use it for some good. With my worry I would remove creases and wrinkles. Sickness? Gone would be gone because of the power of my worry. If God had wanted us to worry, I truly believe it would be because it would bring us to a desired ending. Instead, worry brings pain, creases in foreheads, frowns, restless sleep.

What should I do instead? Aside from painting, cleaning, laundry-ing, playing, (sleeping), there are a gamut of fun activities, and ultimately more productive. The worry that I pack in my bag each morning, I need to toss out, and leave behind.

This week God has reminded me of a couple of things.
Instead of worrying:

Look Up- Pray. Of course, I pray. But what about pray. What about pouring out my heart, saying what God already knows, but saying it anyways? Not enough. I suffer when I forget to look up and spend time really praying. Maybe the desired outcome was not reached? I've seen that. I've been disappointed and heartbroken more than I can explain at times. But, sleep in peace? Yes, when life made no sense, and my heart was aching, God breathed a calmness and surrounded me.  Who has seen someone recover? I have. Was it due to the doctors? Sure. But I believe that God gives wisdom to doctors. Who has known someone in need of true healing, die, and leave us? I have. I have grieved. I still grieve many losses. But who provides the hope that I can see them again? God. When we pray, we are looking to God, and He does always answer. Sometimes with a no, or a later. Sometimes with a yes. However, when we truly pray, he does provide us with peace that is transcendent beyond what we can imagine or hope for....

Look In- Sometimes what I see is UGLY. I'm not just talking about bed head. (Believe me, I can really sport crazy hair, even without having gone to sleep.) What do my insides (my guts) really show? When I worry, what I am displaying, if not pride.  Pride says that only I can take care of this situation, no one else. I do that a lot. I have to rid myself of that destructive behavior; it can only take me down.

Look Around- I become self-centered. Without meaning too, I do. I shut down and close people out. While things feel difficult I forget that others are out there with arms needing to keep busy, and who want to help. Folks who want to pray as well. When I stop focusing on me me me me me, and I look around and then move into action, I am making a difference. I am doing.

I heard something, and behind it was a message that I find resonating everywhere with as of late.  Why do I accept conditions of (unhappiness) instead of accepting that God has better for me. Better than worry.  He does not have a cure-all pill. We do live in a world of heartache and pain, and sin. I do not have to accept that as my own story. I have  a different ending already written for me.

Just a little somethin' to think about,

Friday, February 21, 2014

All We Want

All we want is time
Time to move ahead quickly
To jump to our favorite moments
and days
To speed forward
To bring us to what we've been waiting for
To give us love
and Flowers tossing in air

All we want is
Time to circle in repeat
to give us do-overs
to pass over moments of sorrow
Time for second chances
To erase regrets
To find our courage
For extra moments in bravery

All we want is
Time to slow down
Time to be close
to not require goodbyes
To bring us backwards
To not race ahead
All we want is time
to stop and hold still

All we want is
You to be brought back to us
To not have to let go
Time for healing
Time for one more
and Kiss
and conversation
Time to laugh together
To walk together
Time to not be cruel
and not say there is no more time

All we want is
More time

Monday, February 17, 2014

La Vie en Rose

This week my heart is heavy. A wonderful lady, who happens to be a wife and a mother and a friend, is at home with hospice. Her family is surrounding her, and friends are visiting and many are praying.  Cancer.

I do not know her well, but I have friends who do and I have spent time with her family - her girls.  Her Facebook wall is filled with messages of love and encouraging words. They have been busy over the years loving people and serving Jesus. Her husband, Ray, writes on Facebook, providing updates and in the updates he writes little snippets of their story:

My wife of 28 years (this year) was informed today that there is nothing that can be done for her and the fight with cancer is over. The best thing we could do is get her comfortable and the only time we got the doctor to state was, "it will be soon". Hospice not only came by but already has a hospital bed in place with oxygen and other items needed. Barb wanted her bed in the front living room so she could see people. We love people and plan on closing another chapter in our life doing what we always have done. Being a relationship building family and loving on others...
I have always loved to watch my wife do just about anything as she always had a smile on her face and she made me happy all the time for all these years. I keep praying and pressing for a miracle no matter what the doctor says We have spoke about all of our years together and broke out the pictures of the past We had an adventure in the last 28 years...

I found a letter she wrote in 1986 about us and it ends like this: "We have many new days ahead to make what we want of them. We are the sculptors, the days are the clay. What a wonderful piece of art we will make! ...

She would fill me in on the world events at dinner every night so I could skip the news. We had started walking together to train for a 5K before she fell sick... I rub her feet and think of all the good miles we have walked together in our 28 years and all the good news she spread with her love.

We look for romance, and we are jealous of those who's lives seem more exciting, forgetting that real true romance, the real mystery of love is moving forward together, through the future unknown. It's holding hands and taking out the trash. Kissing your crying babies and washing dishes. It is hard work and paying bills, and being together.  It is not knowing what is yet to come, but knowing that you are together and that you will make it.  Ray, who is longing for another day, another week, month, year wrote: 

Do not take for granted your loved ones, do something about it, dont dare close your eyes if you are upset with one another, tell them everyday you love them ( We did and even twenty times more right now) well at least I'm telling her but I know how she feels about me, still her eyes tell me. Married couples can get caught up in the world, kids, needs and forget how it all started. Start to remember and get to loving again... 

La Vie en Rose, a life in pink happiness. It is not hard to find. It is a choice and every day we that we awake and we choose to accept the joy that God has for us,  despite our circumstances we will live a life of love.  

Take time to hug those you love,  make phone calls, and send letters. Laugh together and offer forgiveness. While time is all ever want, we are not promised tomorrow.  

We love you Randolph family. We are praying for you.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

An Eclipsing

Oh Beautiful February.

By the time we get to February, I am already celebrating spring. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's (and my birthday) are the main winter holidays in my world, and as a result, winter is no longer necessary once those holidays have passed. I'm tucking away the decorations, I'm closing the door, locking the deadbolt, and fastening the chain.

I know I can look out the window, and see that winter is still here. The Winter Storm season is not over, and apparently "Winter Storm Pax" is heading across the country next. I'm in desperate need of sunlight (So much so that I bought a "sun lamp" out of desperation, but have not used it yet) mainly because I've been looking particularly paste-y lately, more so than normal. While the sun is setting later and later (woot!) and the days are getting longer, we are not quite to the ten pm-ish sunsets that I love.

However, I'm moving on.
This does not mean that I'm begrudging you winter/snowman/sledding/snow-icecream lovers. Quite the contrary. I'm not. Secretly, I love the snow fall as long as I'm not obliged to drive in it. Given the opportunity, I'd slide down a hill or two.  I'll scoop up some snow ice cream (that I always believed was my Mama's invention... keep in mind it snowed ONCE during all the time we lived in Texas, and when it did, we had had snow ice cream. I still remember that!) and shovel my driveway. But. Winter is over. I would like for it to be that way for a long, long time.

It is one thing to have winter on the streets, and in the air. Winter on the rooftops and chimneys, and winter in the yard. It is entirely different when you have winter in your heart. There is a winter sun, and although it may be dim, or rare to appear, it does show up. However, when winter is in your heart, everything becomes grey.

Life will do that. Life brings winter in summer and spring. When new life is growing, and taking shape, winter of life will rob us of the green blessings. That is what I allowed to happen to me. I have been wondering around (not literally because last week I realized I didn't leave my house once I got there Sunday night, and didn't leave really until Saturday) desperate and uncertain. Holding onto,
"What do I do?" and "What should I be?" instead of living in  the "Here I am now."

This morning I went to church full of anxiety. It could be about anything. Anxiety makes a big deal out of something that is really a "no" deal.

In the music service, there was a song that was sung. It is a song I have sung hundreds of times over several years. I know the words. I have sung the words (sorry to those in front of me) loudly. I believed them. But today one phrase jumped out to me. "Afflictions eclipsed by glory." The meaning of those four words announced itself and while the song was going on and on I was caught up and I stopped still.

Afflictions eclipsed by glory. See, in my winter, glory was eclipsed by affliction. I allowed all of the every day, the weariness, the tiredness, the anxiousness over shadow everything that God has for me. God has peace for me. Peace, that quiet calm feeling, inside when nothing is actually quiet. I know God has been trying to speak to me. Trying to get me to stop listening to the winter and focus on Him. (In fact I won a magnet this past week that had the word peace on it and with a definition.) God had been talking to me all week. He was saying be still. But above my noise and my shouting I couldn't hear Him.  God has a purpose for me. God has a plan for me. My world I know is very small. Regardless of that God has the desire to use me for a purpose and to take care of me along the way.

Have you been in winter? Are you ready to lock the door and celebrate spring? 
Talk to me. I can help you move in the right direction. Then, we can go sledding and build that snowman.

Living in the light, trying not to get a sunburn,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Messy Message

Fair warning. This is not my best work. It's late. I've got the winter blues. But I wanted to say it now.

My family's claim to crazy  is no different than anyone else. Believe me when I say that I myself can wave that crazy flag with little to no shame. Yeah, I'm kinda quirky. I'm learning to accept it.  When I was younger, my mom and dad packed me and my brother up and we took off for the distant land of the North. Yankee territory. Behind us, we left our kinfolk. My cousins, and uncles and aunts, all of them. I often cried for them. (I mean often.) I missed them. My heart ached. It ached for Texas.

Speaking to the Texans out there, I know you know. Texas feels different. The sweet grass is sweet. The air always feels different... usually because it's so hot it's suffocating!

I love my family (I've never said extended, because, I don't know why. Do southern folk say extended family?). I might could write a little bit about all of them, but tonight, there are two in particular I need to send a message to.

My Mama has two older brothers. My Mama sits right in the middle, and after her she has two sisters.  These two Uncles...
They lost their own Mama when she was far too young, and so we did not meet her (we as in grandkids), and they lost their Daddy when he was far too young as well. While many of us did know him, time was short, and he was gone.

These two Uncles... I love to hear them talk. These brothers. They have stories. They will lean in toward the middle, elbow on the table. If I close my eyes, I can hear it. I can hear them laughing. And while I didn't get to know my Grandma and didn't know him enough (my Grandpa), they bring them to life. I can see them as they are being chased around by my Grandpa (probably getting in trouble I'm sure).  They are running through the woods, hooping and hollaring. As they tell the stories, the pictures come to life and I'm there with them. As they gathered around outside, while all the grown ups gathered inside. Suddenly, I am there too. I never want to leave when they are talking. I want more and more...

We all just want a little time.

One of my Uncles is sick now. The trouble is, I cannot cannot begin to imagine life without him, without either of them. I know they are far away. I know we aren't together often, but I just need them to know.  I can't begin to know what to do if they were to be gone from me. No matter when it is, it is too soon.

I need to hear the stories. I need to hear your voices and listen to the words and the laughter.

I need you to know that I love you. Even if I haven't said it enough or loud enough or in the right way. I love you.

You are always home to me.
Stephnie ('A' missing on purpose, because when you talk Texan, the 'A' just isn't there. Try it. You'll see.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Raising a Toddler- and How I will never be the same

Probably all of you are shaking your heads right now; especially those of you who have actual toddlers, or have had toddlers in your home, because you know that I have no such toddler in my home. So, that's correct. I have no human toddlers.  The truth of the matter is that I do actually have a real "toddler," but he's just short of nine months old. He has fur, and  he's a cat.

Nelson Rutherford Beene Davis Hunter

Over the last ten, eleven months I've been a single dweller.  Aside from my plant loves, I've really been responsible for keeping one person alive: that'd be me. While that seems to be a relatively easy task for most people, I sometimes get a little off task. (Really, I'm as boring as this current winter/polar vortex/snow/roads of death is long.) However, because I live alone I often find myself in precarious situations, well, because, I can do it myself.  

Nelson has changed everything. 

My friend brought him over, and he was this bitty thing. Cute and purring. He would hide under my couch because he was afraid. I hid in my bed because I was afraid. I prayed, "Oh God, (this is not a joke, I really prayed) please do not let me kill him. Please help me to keep him alive." He was new. Tiny. I had to feed him. Make sure he had his water. We did survive that weekend, and the week, and the weeks after that. For three months we've been partners in life. I'm fairly certain I'm in love.

It's been a learning experience.
Phrases you will hear often at my house:
Nelson, use your words.
Nelson, I'm gonna count to three....
Nelson, no you cannot eat anymore plastic. 

Blanche, my first love (who I hope is merely hibernating in winter, and not dead) was always there when I arrived home. Cheerfully green. But no words. Nelson though, especially at first could be heard outside my house, outside of two doors, mewing for me, unsure if I would come back for him. When I did arrive back home, he was at the door before I was hardly out of my car. 

1) Things are things. Love is love.
I am sentimental. There are things that I hold dear, and usually it is because they were a gift from someone. One reason why Blanche, and Solaris are so important to me is because they were bought and given to me by two of my great friends. There are other treasures that I have that I've had to put away, lock up safely because my little buddy could break them. How do we measure something's value? Is it based on its beauty? Or, what it cost? 
Truly, I can replace a couch.  (And hairbands (he eats them... ewwww.) And toilet paper. And paper towels.)
But what do you love? If you could live with only those* that you love, what would it be?
Nelson, despite his toddler-ish ways, is one of a kind. And, he's definitely a keeper (although, he's being really quiet in the other room right now, I'm sure it's bad news...) 

2) We all just need a little time.
I've always been people-y. Ironic that I now work from home and often go days and days (polar vortex anyone- I'm not edgy) without leaving the house and seeing anyone else. I adjust, as a result. I have learned how to be content (ish) on my own. I still need my people though. I recharge and renew when I'm with friends. There is something wonderful about being with people who are encouraging and uplifting. When you can walk away knowing you are a better person because of your friend- you can rest assured that person is a keeper. 
Nelson is not too proud to need a little time. He will often sit on my lap and sleep while I'm working all day, typing on my computer.  There's a difference though between that, and really spending a little time.  He doesn't want just one hand rubbing his head. He wants my attention. 
Where do you spend your time? 
Are the questions you asking, the questions that really matter?
Are you drifting off into games to get away when you should be elsewhere or are you investing a little time into what really matters?

3) Anger Management isn't just for the court ordered.
I've always considered myself patient. Screaming baby? Challenge accepted. Nerves calm? Absolutely. But Nelson has had this way of brining out a little something inside me. It was nearer to the beginning. He scared me, because I believe I scared him. As a result, I got scratched. I was so angry. Then I was angry at myself- for being angry. That's not who I want to be. I want to be slow to anger. 
If you know me, you know I love words, and words and words. Are all the words always necessary? 
Are there ones that should not be said? 
Are there ones that should not be thought? 
What is in you that needs to be rooted out?
Was there any reason for me to be angry that night? Nope. Did I need to learn something new? Yes. Sometimes "we" may feel like we are right, because... well, we're right. But is it worth it? Is the cause behind the anger really just? Or, are we just angry because it's our "right" to be? I don't want that to be the way it is in my case. 
I've come a long way with Nelson. I have learned to avoid situations that could get him into trouble. Paper towels all over the kitchen floor, literally ripped in pieces? No big deal. I've found a new hiding spot. While I talk with him all the time, we really cannot communicate with words (although sometimes I imagine he is talking to me). Instead of words, he measures my voice with how it sounds. 
I prayed that night too, that night so long ago when I was angry. I asked Nelson for forgiveness (he is purr-ty (heh) forgiving. I asked God to help me lose the attitude and to lose the anger. The thing is, if I can be angry with a little kitten, how will I respond to people? To my own kids? To my friends, family? Angry? That's just not who I want to be.

4) And Sometimes we just need a little fun.
Ain't that just the truth?

Later folks, 
Seriously, he's being way too quiet in there!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Itsy Bitsy.....

The song is cute, right? There are even hand motions. It's so sweet watching little ones sing about a spider... actually- why is this cute?

I was in Guatemala. It was 1998, and I was with my youth group in a town called La Libertad. It was gorgeous. Literally gorgeous.

Our days were packed. The evenings were also packed. But, when we weren't out busy doing what we were doing we were staying in a beautiful home. All of the rooms opened out onto a large patio which overlooked the mountain and hillside areas. (Did I mention gorgeous?)

There was a rooster situation, which resulted in a song. Which I still know.  (Another story.) Anyways. We were sleeping on these mattresses upstairs. Totally bundled up, sweatshirt/pants, blankets (pretty sure they were moldy- can blankets mold? or mildew-whatever- but they were warm!)

One morning, early I was startled to hear the word, "Tarantula! Tarantula!" being yelled over and over. Being a committed sleeper, I did what one would expect. I turned over and went back to sleep.
A bit later, everyone was talking about a tarantula had gone rogue and was running around on the porch. "Stephanie! You were sleeping on the ground! The tarantula could have gotten you! Didn't you hear us yelling?"

"Well, yeah. But I wasn't worried." The truth is, I was not. Maybe it was because I was sleeping, but I really think it was more than that. I knew that the people that were there had the situation handled. And they did. I was not needed. Nor was my worry. And there's the rub.

The worry. (Goodness, anyone sense a theme?)

It's like a disease that debilitates. It cripples. Worry transforms into many things, usually uglier, bigger and nastier than a tarantula. It's hideous.
Is anyone else tired of worry? Because I am.

So tonight, I'm going to close up my laptop. Have a little chat with the One who knows me best. Again. About this worry thing. And then tomorrow (actually today!) I'm going to throw off my (not moldy or mildew-y, and in fact a lovely yellow) blankets and not worry about the day. I'm not going to worry about my job. I'm not going to worry about the snow, or heaters or cars not working. I'm gonna worry about nothing. The tarantula, I mean the worry that I have been putting in my bag every morning as I head out the door to work (you know) I'm gonna leave it behind.

God's got this.

Stay warm! Shine bright!

Thursday, January 09, 2014

My New Old Friend

When I was younger, I had five, yes FIVE, imaginary friends. They weren't necessarily the best playmates (because they weren't real, duh!) but I would write about the great adventures we would have together. As a group of friends goes, we got along amazingly well. We belonged together. , Who would ever want to write the story where they are the outsider? Even Nancy Drew has her trusty besties at her side. In life, however, there is no script. Life is not fair, and things don't always make sense.

Every group it seems has its key players. There's the "glue," that person that makes everyone stick together. There's the funny one. The responsible one. The smart one. Of course somewhere squeezed in there is the rebel. All of them together make sense.  Like an orchestra where each instrument works in harmony with one another. Separately they have their own jobs, they make their own music, but together they are powerful and overwhelmingly in accord and absolutely beautiful.

Then, there is oftentimes the outsider. The one who doesn't quite belong; think octagon trying to squeeze into the hexagon shape.  In an orchestra it's like the unusual instruments that do not normally appear, like a contrabassoon.

When I write, I write what I know. Right now, I know moving. I know starting over. From the depths of my soul, I know being new. I know not belonging.  It's hard- this being new. It requires stamina, and the ability to try and try again. It requires a lot of breathing. And stretching.

These moments, these moments of not belonging, are the moments when my friend, Uncertainty, arrives and settles in for a visit. She is comfortable with me, no matter where I have lived or gone she often comes with. She'll show up late. Leave early.  We know each other well. There is not necessarily a rhyme or reason as to why she visits when she does. Sometimes I usher her out in a most terrible-hostess sort of a way. I shoo-shoo her ideas and notions. This has become more common- the dismissal of her attempt at intruding. I have become less willing to accept her visits the more I learn about myself. But there are times, like today, I pass her some hot chocolate and the TV changer and curl up beside on the couch and determine that maybe a little break is in order. Uncertainty knows me so well.

One day my friendship with Uncertainty will be dissolved in total.  One day, and I look forward to this day, the contrabassoon will have its place in an orchestra of distinguished peers. One day, the octagon won't need to be a hexagon. One day I will belong in total to myself, with my own spot in my own mind and my own heart, knowing fully that wherever I am, I belong. One day.

One day.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Reflection and a bit of Pandiculation

The Proform Stretch Pro. "Stretch dozens of different muscles to maximize your workout performance and reduce risk of injury." Of course, this little beauty is just one stretching machine on the market. Pilates, Yoga, even football teams sing the benefits of stretching.  Even my Nelson cat stretches frequently. (I'm watching him stretch right now as he sleeps in a chair across the room.) 

Last year was full. Full of the stuff of life. Full of heartbreak and sadness, and yet full of life and joy and laughing. I would conquer the world, only to meet reality. Like ice to the face. Even moving to a new office location (i.e., my house. Pearl. Where I work alone every day!) brings its own set of challenges.  I have found over the last months (really my entire life)  that I have been stretched. Sometimes reluctantly.  But what is life if not an opportunity to learn and grow... and change. 

One of the hardest things for me is not being totally in control. This last year there have been multiple times with my dad or my brother that I was definitely not in control. Mainly because, well, I'm not a doctor, and I'm certainly not God. I was scared. Scared because I didn't know what was wrong, and because  want them to feel better. I was given two choices in those moments (and I still have only two choices). I can learn to accept the peace that God and God alone can grant. Or, I can contort myself into a raging, sleepless, lunatic. One who bites her nails, eats Cheetos and laughs maniacally at inappropriate times. I choose the peace route, but it still requires WORK. I want to master this in one day. But, I just cannot. I am too much of a human, and instead I must daily surrender and give up those feelings of helplessness and instead accept peace... The quiet calm feeling that swallows doubt and fears and all things negative and ugly whole. 

As I have gone through life I have learned and applied. One thing I do know for sure, life is not mastered overnight, in one moment. It requires over and over and over.  

What do I want people to see and know when they look at me? 

I want people to see someone who is highly imperfect (but has finally managed to keep her hair brushed, and not lit on fire).
Someone who loves Jesus, and does her best to spread the love around.
Someone who has a little gleam in her eye. 
Someone who has learned to not make so many faces when people say weird things.
I want people to know that I will love them with no exceptions. 
I want people to know that I lean heavy on the quirky side, and that I am comfortable with it. 
I don't want to be mean. 
I will not laugh at someone because they are different. I will hug someone even if they smell funny, and I will give you a glass of sweet tea if you come to my porch. 
I will accept a challenge. I won't back down. While I may struggle through the sludge of change and trials of becoming new, I will make it through to the other side. 
I will be flexible. 

This I want people to see. 

And I want it to all be true.

2014, (My self proclaimed year of love; seriously,  who wouldn't love to have dinner with me? I'm fun.) I want to sit back on December 31, and be able to say, "I'm not the same as I once was," and know that it is true. 

That being said, stretching doesn't seem to be all that bad, does it?

"It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer."
Gerald Brenan

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Random Facts

2014 I decided to call out for some Blog-assistance. Specifically asking for additional ideas or topics that my two readers might want to read about. The challenge in that is to also make sure that it stays me.

In High School I took a creative writing course. While there were a few assignments that allowed for free writing- writing whatever you choose- the majority of the assignments included specific requirements that had to be met. I have always loved writing for myself. But I have found that I enjoy when other people enjoy what I have written. So by chance if you do read this, and you want to hear something from me, let me know! Seriously. Let me know.

That being said, here we are January 2, 2014.
And here is my first post for the year. (And only 51 to go!)

Things you may not know (and will wish you never did know) about me:
1. Pre college graduation I always hated people looking at my feet. I rarely wore sandals. Friends thought that they would help me to get over my phobia by holding me down, taking off my shoes and socks and starring at my feet. That only traumatized me. After I went to work at a camp in California, I got over it.   There are far weirder feet out there than mine!
2. My favorite color is red. The red like a bubble gum ball machine red. It makes me happy. If you look at those quizzes online, "What does your favorite color say about you?" it says many things about folks who love red. Apparently I'm always in a hurry, wanting to do everything right now. Patience not being a strong point.... Unfortunately, that's totally accurate.
3. While shopping in a store a few weeks ago, I accidentally touched velvet. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard.
4. I love fall, the smell of burning leaves, hot chocolate, s'mores and roasting hot dogs.
5. I like the music from the ballet, "The Nutcracker," but I've never seen it. Every year at Christmas time I would listen to my record on my trustee record player. Nothing sounds better than vinyl and I so wish I still had a record player.
6. I used to think that I would grow to be five feet, five inches tall. I didn't even make it to five feet three. In high school the kid who's locker was by mine was over six feet tall. He would constantly (though accidentally) hit me in the head with the locker cubby.
7. I still remember my locker combination.
8. I bought a house in June 2013. I named her Pearl. She was built in 1900. We pretty much get along most of the time. Especially now that I have a new furnace and am warm again.
9. I love sharp cheddar cheese.
10. Today I realized that 2014 is actually almost like 2/14, which is Valentine's Day. That means that this year is the year of love. That means someone out there would love to buy me dinner. Takers?

Happy New Year folks!