Saturday, March 19, 2011

It Just Creeps Up On You

BOO! (Did that scare you?) Yeah, birthdays. They lay in rest for 364 days a year, and then all of a sudden they just sort of jump up and scare the crap out of you. This one wasn't horrible, or anything. Not one of those decade milestones like 20 (you're not a teenager anymore), 30 (you have no excuse not to be mature anymore), or 40 (your life is half over, chump). This was birthday number 34 (but thank you to those of you who asked if it was my 29th). It did hit me, in a very good way, that my life has changed dramatically for the better in the last decade, however. Ten years ago I was on the verge of a divorce, living in misery, wanting to be anywhere but where I was in that moment. I was consumed by fear, depression, guilt, and intermittent moments of rage that I'd allowed myself to get to that point. I had no faith, no beliefs, no God, no hope, and no salvation. What a wonder I survived it at all.

Not a wonder, really. God's plan for my life was unfolding even then. I would see an ad in the paper for an audition at an Opera House run by Elkhart Civic Theatre for "Steel Magnolias". On the same day, I would meet my best friend there, and the man who would, a few years later, become my husband. I would make all kinds of new friends, find courage and strength, travel a new and interesting (yet sometimes still heartbreaking) road to become the person I am today, and be happier than I could ever imagine being with my husband and our kids in the po-dunk town of Middlebury, Indiana. I would find my way to Granger Community Church. I would find my way back to faith, but 100% more of it than I'd ever had before. I would find my way back to God, but understand Him in ways that had never been made clear to me. I would find my way back to Jesus, but not to a cold and distant historical figure that may or may not have existed; rather, to a personal and overwhelmingly understanding and loving Jesus who is along for the ride no matter where I am, who I'm with, or what I'm doing.

Yeah, this has definitely been the best decade of my life.

In light of all this, it's amazing that I continue to search and seek the path. I could fall into the trap of complacency, but I choose to believe that there are more wonders and happiness to be found. I could fall into the snare of discontent, forgetting the blessings I already have and wishing for more: money, power, fame, friends, stuff -- but I choose to believe that I have more than I deserve or could have hoped for, so what more do I need than to pass on the generosity that's been so graciously given to me in the first place? I could let myself sink in the mire of fear that I might lose all of this: my job, my home, my family, my security, my life -- but I choose to believe that God is faithful to his promises. Jeremiah 29:11 says he has plans for my future, plans for good and for prosperity, not for failure.

Feeling grateful is so much more fulfilling than allowing myself to be overwhelmed with anxiety. It's all in the attitude. When I let jealousy in, it overtakes me in a heartbeat. When I let discontent in, it pervades every aspect of my being with negativity. It's like opening Pandora's box -- I can't force the top back down, but I can be smart enough to leave it locked in the first place.

Think of a little kid at a birthday party. One guest gives her a $100 savings bond, just a piece of paper that she can't do anything with. She chucks it aside, thankless, and delights in the shiny new plastic charm bracelet that she breaks in a week. At the age of 18, the necklace has been years and years forgotten, but the savings bond that she threw aside and pouted over is now the greatest gift anyone has ever given her.

Every day I have is a gift from God. I have two options: I can chuck it aside and wish for something better, showing my disappointment to the world that I didn't get what I wanted, wishing for momentary distraction and delight in material things that will fade or disappear ...

OR I can embrace the gift I've been given, knowing that my life, my family, and the love and mercy and grace of God are the greatest gifts I'll ever be given on this Earth.

Yep. It's all in the attitude.

Stephanie Jean


  1. Amazing how far you have come, and your realization of it reminded me how far I have come in just the past 2 years. Although I did not know the person you were, and only partly know the person you are now, I could not help but brim with pride as to what you have overcome and the accomplishments you have suffered through. your journey has not been easy, but with bruised and tattered body you kept on. You are an inspiration and proof that if you keep on keeping on you will prevail.

  2. P.s. Happy belated birthday. I am ashamed that I missed it.

  3. Thanks, Kris (and Kim, too :)

    The best part of my journey is that it's never over. I always like a good book, but when I'm finished with it, I feel a sense of anti-climax. My life has been like a good book -- somewhat poignant, somewhat horrific and embarrassing, somewhat beautiful. All that, and I get to keep reading it, every day.