Monday, March 20, 2017

The Next Forty Years

I remember when I was a teenager and the daughter of a family friend was turning thirty. I thought how very old that seemed. I couldn't picture myself at thirty -- what I would look like, what I'd be doing, what I'd say or even where I'd be living. And being in my thirties for the past decade, I kept looking at forty sideways thinking, I know... you're on your way. I won't be ready for you when you get here. I'm too young to be so old.

I'm not sure what I expected as I turned 40 this past weekend. I knew the world wasn't going to end, of course. I knew it was just one more day past 39, and I'd already felt old for some time. But I realized that day that it wasn't the big monster I'd made it out to be, just like thirty wasn't.

The truth is, we never know how much time we have here. I might not even be halfway through my lifespan. I might have a heart attack tomorrow. There's no possible way to predict, so what's the point in trying? Why focus on how much time you may or may not have left? Why not, instead, focus on what you can be doing with the time you DO have, day by day?

I spent a great deal of my life waiting for The Next Thing. I've spoken of this before (well, written.) When I was in elementary school, I couldn't wait to be in high school because my brother was so cool and his friends were so cool and I wanted to be like them. I couldn't wait to drive. I couldn't wait to get out of my parents' house and go to college. I couldn't wait to be married out of college and move closer to my parents. I couldn't wait to get divorced and stop feeling miserable all the time. I couldn't wait to be single, to date, to have an apartment of my own. On, and on, and on. At some point, I learned that I regretted things so much more often when I couldn't wait to do them, jumped in, and then pined away for the good old days. The good old days before I had bills and responsibilities and pressures, before I had obligations and payments and expectations laid upon me. So I lived my life in this torpor between wanting the future and missing the past.

So I was never happy.

Do you know what I am now? Right now, in this moment? I'm happy.

Not because I have finally gotten to the place where I want to be, but because I have learned to enjoy where I am while I'm there. Instead of complaining that the baby never sleeps well, I'm taking advantage of this delightful nap he's taking by getting some things done I've been wanting to do. Instead of lamenting that we had to buy a new washer the day after we had to fix our garage door, I'm loving the fact that I can do my laundry and press a single button to lift my door up and down. Instead of wishing for the day when I can move out of this area to somewhere I can get good coffee and have pizza delivered, I'm finding joy in the things I CAN do while I'm here.

I'm thinking about the next forty years, but realizing that I can wait for them. I can wait, day by day, living in the moment, basking in the joys when they're here and scurrying past the sorrows when they're near.

As I look back, these last forty years went pretty quickly. My goal is to fill each moment with as much impact as I can so that, when I'm eighty, I can look back without regret and look forward to whatever the next forty will bring...

Stephanie Jean

Monday, March 6, 2017

Breaking the Silence

I cannot believe that it has been 3/4 of a year since my last post. My life has become a whirlwind named Stevie. He's 17 months old now, still not sleeping through the night, running everywhere, climbing everything, and as exhausted as I am, it's exhilarating at the same time. To have wanted and waited so long, and then to be given this magical little creature -- it's indescribable.

But there is life aside from crazy toddlers, yes? And currently it is enmeshed in political turmoil and media overload (both traditional and social). I had to step back. I used Lent as the reason for removing myself from Facebook for several weeks but the truth is, I couldn't stand myself anymore.

After very little, and quite sporadic, sleep, I would awaken to a cranky child pulling at me to carry him while I fixed my coffee and his breakfast, and we would sit down to eat at the breakfast table where he refuses food unless he watches a video of some sort on YouTube (hey, whatever it takes.) On the second window, I would be scrolling. At one point, I had 1100+ 'friends' on Facebook and had pared that down to a mere 700. I now stand at 550. Let's be honest, nobody has 550 'friends', right? So there I scrolled, through an endless sea of food pictures, kid pictures, political rants, political memes, 'fooled you' videos, screaming goats, and so much more, but so little at the same time. And I realized (as my toddler pulled at me, because now I wasn't on the computer while feeding him anymore, I was walking around the house glued to my phone, begging carpal tunnel with my thumb and finger blooping scroll, scroll, scroll...) that I had had enough.

I won't change anybody's mind politically, spiritually, emotionally. And they won't change mine.

I don't really care what someone else made for dinner because they didn't make it for me, I wasn't hanging out with them, and I know nobody cared what I made for dinner no matter how good my Instagrammed photo of tuna casserole looked.

I didn't care whether the news was fake or real because the lines had become so blurred, so skewed, that I just wanted to pull my eyes out.

Yes, your kid is cute. Yes, my kid is cute. But I was wasting so much time with my phone in front of me trying to take the perfect picture and post it so you could see just HOW cute he was, that I wasn't enjoying my time with him. I was upset with him for moving while I tried to take a picture. Of his cuteness. Because he was moving, cutely.

And it occurred to me that, a decade ago, two decades ago, three decades ago -- life was so much different. I'm not saying it was better or worse, it was just different. I remember saying a few years back that if I ever DID have a baby, he wouldn't be playing with my phone or a tablet or watching TV all the time. I remember looking at people in restaurants on their phones next to their spouses thinking how disrespectful it was, and where did romance go, and what could possibly be more important on that phone than the person in front of them?

Our disconnect has gone so much further than being absent physically from our loved ones. Technology bridges a gap between those overseas and across countries, but it creates a rift in front of those we are right next to, or want to be right next to, day and night.

I thought sure I'd miss it -- I'd want to scroll everyday, wondering what I was missing out on, what comments I could be making, what pictures I could be posting, what funny or tragic thing was happening that I wouldn't be privy to right away.

I don't.

I don't miss it.

I looked at the sky today. It was still up there, where it's always been, beautiful shades of grey and blue and white, tiny skyrocketing drops of rain pelting my face intermittently while I went to get the mail. I stared at the budding flowers bursting through the damp soil near the house, and the birds flitting from branch to branch debating whether or not to take wing because I was so near. I looked into the eyes of my toddler, and he smiled and kissed me, and was so much less fussy than usual as we shopped, and played, and ate breakfast. I read something REAL. I visited the library, ran errands, listened to music, read some more. And look -- I wrote! I actually wrote something for the first time in so many months I wouldn't even have been able to recall if it hadn't been right there in front of me when I logged in.

And I think about the people who didn't look at the sky, or the rain, or the plants, or their children and I'm telling you -- I don't miss it.

Not at all.

Stephanie

Monday, July 11, 2016

Again...and Again... and Again... and Again...

There's this fantastic song by Casting Crowns that I've already quoted in previous blogs. I know this because it's one of my favorite things I've ever heard and because I feel like I've written this before. I have this sense of deja vu lately, like all of this has happened, and it's happening again. It's probably because all of this has happened, and it's happening again.

If we are the body
Why aren't his arms reaching?
Why aren't his hands healing?
Why aren't his words teaching?

"Innocent" is such a powerful word, isn't it? Just as powerful as "guilty". Just as powerful as "truth".

The truth is, there's no such thing as innocent. The truth is, not everything is black and white. The truth is, nobody understands anything unless or until it affects them personally.

One of my readers asked me to write about the body of Christ, and how we are all a part of that. It's hard for me, because I try to keep this blog as non-"religious" as possible. I will admit that I'm a Christian (don't you just love how I said that like it's a confession, because so many people that say those words treat people in ways that contradict its very nature?) I'll admit it, but then I'll also be quick to tell you that I'm NOT innocent, that I'm NOT judgmental, and that I'm NOT the one with all the answers. Or any of them, most of the time. Just some ideas here and there. And right now, there are so many ideas swirling around in my head, it's like the movie Twister.

People are murdering people. And I don't understand why.

What is it about the color of a person's skin that makes someone else assume that person is guilty? What is it about the color of a person's skin that makes someone else feel frightened, or defensive, or superior, or entitled, or any number of other instantaneous thoughts, fleeting or otherwise?
What makes white people so incensed by hearing the words "Black Lives Matter"?
What makes anyone think that their God loves them any more than anyone else?

I grew up listening to vinyl (kids, ask your parents) and when the needle would get stuck and play the same thing over and over, I wouldn't just sit there and listen to it. I'd immediately get up, pick it up and put it back down, or 'scootch' it over even though that wasn't the best plan, but I couldn't stand just hearing it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again... you get the picture?

Yet, I feel like we're stuck in this endless loop right now. A loop of hatred, of retaliation, of revenge, of bitterness, of mistrust, of betrayal, of despair. It's deja vu. I've written this before because I've felt this before because this has happened before.

For those of you who consider yourselves Christians, we are to be the body of Christ. He did not judge, he did not show partiality, he did not kill. He loved, and he gave, and he healed, and he taught, and he was killed for it. Sometimes, you do absolutely nothing wrong and you're killed for it just because someone doesn't like who you are, even if you're the savior of the world.

Because they're afraid.

The Jesus you think you know doesn't look like those pretty white boy pictures you see in your churches. He wasn't a white, long-haired, clean-cut guy with a pretty white robe. His skin was probably just as dark as most of the people in those neighborhoods where you drive through and lock your doors.

Romans 2:11 and Acts 10:34 both say that God does not show partiality/favoritism. Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, offering her living water, when Jews didn't speak to Samaritans, much less male Jews to Samaritan women. Jesus railed against hypocrisy in Matthew 23 for pretty much the entire chapter, talking about how those in power weren't the special snowflakes they thought they were.

So again, if we are the body... why aren't we healing those who are emotionally sick, why aren't we reaching our arms out and embracing those who look different from us, why aren't we teaching our children that racism is one more of the evils of this world? Why aren't we walking towards justice and peace? Why aren't we using our voices to speak up for the oppressed as Jesus did when he was on the Earth?

Stand up, pick up the record needle, and fix the problem. People need to stop murdering people. People need to be heard. People need to be loved. People need to be rescued.

What can we do?
What can YOU do?

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Antidote

In the wake of the devastating news from Orlando, I've been unable to find the words to describe just how I feel about such a circumstance. It is wholly undeniable, however, that this is an attack on the LGBTQ community and that makes it attack on my heart. The biggest mass shooting in the history of the United States was perpetrated by a man who walked into a nightclub - more specifically, a gay nightclub - and killed 50, wounding over 50 more. Lives ended, lives changed, lives forever damaged by the choice of a single person with a gun and a terrible idea. Blame it on ISIS, blame it on homophobia, blame it on a lack of gun laws, but in the end there's only one thing to which the blame will really stick.

Hatred.

"Whoever says, 'I love God' yet hates his brother is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." --1 John 4:20

Of course guns don't kill people. Guns are inanimate objects, they do not choose their owners or their victims. But a gun in the hands of the wrong owner can wreak havoc on not just a hundred people, not just a community, but an entire country. Because of hatred.

Words don't kill people. They are simply a construction of 26 letters of the alphabet in different lengths and orders to make up our language. But words chosen by the wrong person in the wrong order with the wrong motives can ruin a person for a lifetime. Because of hatred.

Beliefs don't kill people. The wrong actions perpetrated by those who carry certain beliefs can devastate the masses. Because of hatred.

If love does not reign supreme in our hearts, in our country, in our world, then slowly another ruler will find its way onto the throne. Hatred is borne of ignorance and ignorance is born of misunderstanding, misinformation, and apathy. Choose to educate yourself, choose to care, and choose to love.

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Good, Good, Good... Good Vibrations!

Wah, WAHHHH. 
I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to let myself get totally thrown off track when something unforeseen happens. I'm an organizer. I like to plan, make lists, cross things off as I go -- it gives me a sense of accomplishment which, to me, is like a drug. On days when I don't feel like I've accomplished something, I find myself more depressed and annoyed. But even the best laid plans must be waylaid from time to time and, when that happens, how do you respond?

I know how I respond. I get really upset right away, start listing all the awful things that are going to happen because of the unforeseen problem, then I commence complaining about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. I mutter under my breath, I use phrases like, "I hate this" or "This drives me crazy" or "Why does this crap always happen to me?"

Newsflash: none of that helps the situation. Nor does it make me feel any better, not in the long run or the short run. It just makes me sound like one of those people I don't want to be around; you know the kind? There's always something negative falling off their lips even in the most joyous of times. Like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live, you expect the dismal "Wah, WAHHH" sound to follow them every time they speak. Man, I don't wanna be that guy.

I keep re-reading stuff Joyce Meyers writes about 'words'. "Change Your Words, Change Your Life", "Power Words"... things like that. And I get very enthusiastic about it, deciding 'once and for all' to change the way I phrase things, to eliminate negativity from my speech, to speak good things as if they were (not that I can conjure them into existence, but just to breed positivity in my spirit while I wait and hope). And I'll go through a really great period of time when I focus on this and I'm all in.

Unfortunately, that period of time is about three hours.

What is it about us that lets things eat away at our spirits so much and so quickly that we can't just enjoy each day of our lives? Someone I love with all my heart can do something that irritates me, just something small, no big deal... and it's like it's the end of the world to me if I'm already in a negative mood. But therein lies the rub -- just as we can breed positivity in our spirits, negativity also breeds more negativity. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need an infusion of positivity.

My highly anemic sister has, in the past, had to go to the doctor to receive an infusion from time to time to get her blood counts to be in the right place. Beforehand, she'll be lethargic and afterwards she's like a new person, full of life and energy and color.

What the doctor does for her blood, we need to do for our spirits. Soak up positive vibes, do things we thoroughly enjoy with the people we love, express ourselves through art and other passions. We need to talk to other people with encouragement, talk about situations with hope and joy, and talk to ourselves -- yes, ourselves -- with affection.

I know this is June 2 and I'm a day late if we're doing one of those 'for the month' things, but, hey, better a day late than trying to start next month, right? Here's what I'm envisioning:

For the rest of this month, commit to a few things together. First, identify your phrases like I did. "I hate this" or "This drives me crazy" or whatever yours happens to be. When you find yourself thinking it, try not to say it out loud. Try to find something else to replace it with, like "I'm frustrated but this will pass" or "I'm annoyed right now but not for long". This is the first step in changing a negative to a positive. It's hard work, right? You can't just quit cold turkey or become one of those people who sing a simple tune and woodland creatures come to help you with your laundry. (P.S., if you CAN do that, please get in touch with me. I have a lot of housework and could use the help of you and your rodents.) Next, find some time or some situations each day in which you can compliment someone, express joy out loud over a situation that's happening, and/or uplift yourself by remarking on something positive about YOU. And last but never least, do at least one thing you love each day. Whether it's a short walk outside, listening to an 80s song you haven't heard in forever and dancing your heart out alone in your living room, reading for a half hour, drawing a rainbow with sidewalk chalk, or whatever happens to bring  you joy... DO it. Do something

We need joy in our lives. We need to be positive as often as possible. And trust me, with the regular media and social media, we certainly could do with a lot less doom and gloom every day.

-Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Purpose, Purpose, Purpose

It's becoming increasingly apparent to me as time goes on (though it has been revealing itself since I was in second grade) that my purpose in life is to write. After years of halfheartedly clocking into different jobs, always writing on the side, in the background, in one of a thousand notebooks, I'm finally working for myself from home. As a freelance writer and editor, a blogger on spirituality, a minister-for-hire for weddings and speaking engagements, I don't bring in a lot of income but it is with the support of my readers that I plow through and keep doing what I do.

I follow 'The Christian Left' on Facebook and while I don't agree with everything they post, much of it resonates with me. I have seen that they have a call for donations each weekend and have struggled with whether or not I should do the same. I don't get paid for blogging, nor do I think most people should, but I feel that it can't hurt to put a donate button at the bottom of my page and let the chips fall where they may. I actually do run my writing and editing as a business, so I'm not a non-profit. I just don't make much profit, hah! Donations would be claimed as income and I pay my share of the taxes that we all do, so while you wouldn't receive a tax deduction for donating, you'd certainly be helping me put baby food on the table (and sometimes his face, shirt, bib, high chair, the table, the floor, and/or the dog.)

None of this is said to make you feel, in any way, like a donation is mandatory or that you should feel obligated. If what I write resonates with YOU, and you feel it's a worthy cause and want to make a one-time or recurring donation to A Journey of Reinvention, I will be incredibly humbled and appreciative. Should you choose not to do that, I'm still humbled and appreciative that you read this blog at all, and very thankful for each and every follower who takes the time to scan through these words that I feel so drawn to write.

If you go to www.AJourneyofReinvention.com on any given day, you'll see the donation button at the very bottom on the left if you scroll all the way down. PayPal and all major credit cards are accepted. I've also placed the button here in this post so you can click here anytime as well.

Thank you, whether you choose to donate or not, because without you, I'd just be typing to the air.

With Sincere Gratitude,
-Stephanie Jean


Friday, April 29, 2016

Words. Great Words. All the Words.

There's something that's been irritating me for quite awhile now and, while I rarely get political on here in such a blatant way, it's too disturbing for me not to comment anymore.

I can see how some people may find Donald Trump a viable candidate for president. I've heard the 'he can't be bought' arguments, the 'we need someone that's not a politician' arguments, the 'he tells it like it is' arguments and while I disagree with any and all of these being a reason to elect someone, something else bothers me much, much more.

Those people who are calling themselves Christians who are firmly behind this man as president. Unabashedly rooting for him, a paragon of wealth, greed, arrogance, and bigotry. All of the things that Jesus would have stood firmly against had He and Trump wandered this Earth at the same time. I've found a way to put this into a visual aid that I think might finally get through to these people and, hopefully, point out a few of the more glaring reasons why this man should not get their vote.

Behold, I give you JesusTrump. Pictures of Jesus with quotes from Donald Trump. If you cannot imagine your Lord and Savior uttering these phrases, if you feel that what I have done here is somehow blasphemous, then I urge you to reconsider your vote for this man and try to find a much more sane choice.

Said to a breastfeeding mother who needed to pump.

Because those were definitely Jesus's priorities.

Definitely putting down people's looks, that was Jesus's M.O.

Blessed are the very rich because they can buy the stairway to heaven.

Just so everybody knows.

Am I right? Greed is good!

I can't even imagine Jesus saying this, and He's the Son of GOD.

Murder the innocents! Make them pay!

Looks  are really, really important because God looks at the outward appearance.

Keep those dirty Mexicans out, you guys.
I think this blog stands on its own, but if not, I'd like to encourage you to read what Jesus said about material wealth, those who think too highly of themselves, and what loving people actually entails...

BEFORE you vote.

--Stephanie Jean