Saturday, December 31, 2011

An Open Letter to God

Dear God,

It's the end of 2011. I'm feeling pretty good about the beginning of a new year. No, I don't believe all the hype about the world ending in 2012. That book You had a bunch of people write says that 'no one knows the day nor the hour except the Father', and that's You, so I don't listen to all the yahoos who make crazy predictions. I don't even listen to movie critics, why should I listen to end-of-the-world-shouters? Anyway, I guess I just wanted to look back on the past year one last time before starting January.

It was a pretty crummy year for me. I know, I don't have to tell You, You saw it all. But I'm not even talking about all the junk that happened TO me, or TO my family, I'm talking more about the things I've screwed up, things I'm just not proud of.

I've spent 87 months trying to have a baby. Obviously, I haven't been meant to have one, or ready to have one, or whatever, in all that time. I understand that it's not up to me, that it's up to You. I understand that You have a plan, and when and if I have a baby is Your prerogative, not mine. I've just gotten to the point of coveting, and it's my fault I've let myself get that way. I want to be able to enjoy time with my friends and family and all their adorable little ones without internally sighing that they have something I want so, SO badly I can barely breathe. I love them all so much, you know? I don't want to keep letting that love get clouded by my desperate desire to have that experience for myself.

What makes a mother, really? I have my own ideas, and I wonder if they're the same as Yours? I think a mother is someone who loves deeply and fully and unconditionally from every depth of her heart. Someone who would give her life for her children. Someone who puts her children's needs, and potential, and goals, and good above her own, regardless of what sacrifices she has to make, regardless of what dreams she has to give up. A mother is someone who takes 1 Peter 5:2-3 literally: "Tend the flock of God that is your charge not by constraint, but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock". I have three children. I don't see them as stepchildren, regardless of how they refer to me. I know I'm not their mother, I know they have a mother. But I don't feel that makes me any less of "a" mother. I love them, deeply and fully and unconditionally from every depth of my heart, I would give my life for them, and I put their needs and potential and goals and good above my own, even if it means working in a coffee shop and living in Middlebury and being taken for granted 99% of the time. I don't do it for any other reason than Love. And if I never go through the joyful experience of being able to have a child with my husband, I'm grateful that You gave me the experience of helping him get custody of them and helping him raise them into the men and woman you had in mind when you created them. I'm grateful enough just to be along for the ride.

I know that, often, I am impatient and unkind. I know I'm often demanding, and bitter, and resentful, and that I can say things in the heat of the moment that are hurtful. There's no need for me to list them all because, for one thing, it happens so often that it's impossible for me to do that and, for another, You already know. You've seen me at my worst and at my best, and even at my best I fail miserably. I want nothing more than to be able to touch people with the words You've given me, to be a spot of brightness in someone's life, anyone's life, ONE person's life even. I need to eliminate as much negativity from my persona as humanly possible, and let You do the Divinely possible through me. "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

I don't profess to be any type of guru. These thoughts on virtual paper that I toss onto the blog from time to time, they're just ideas. I sometimes feel they're unrealistic, these dreams of Forgiveness, and Generosity, and Unconditional Love. But then I remember that they MUST be realistic. You embody them all, and You're more real than anything I've ever encountered face to face. You've given me so much, so many blessings, so many abilities, so much love in my life. You've given me a husband who, though he's a flawed human being just like me, knows the true meaning of love, and marriage, and commitment, and devotion. You've given me children to raise even though I haven't given birth. You've given me a wonderful home, a wonderful family, and so many gifts I just cannot begin to count.

As awful as I felt 2011 was, I'm just thankful to be alive and grateful for another year. Thank you for all your blessings, and please help me to remember them every moment of every day.

Love,
Stephanie Jean

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Simply Christmas


The snow was missing, but I wasn't necessarily missing the snow. It's always nice to see the beauty of it, just never nice to have to drive around in it. That's the blessing and the curse of living in the midwest.

Christmas this year was an emotional grab bag. The pressure at work has been building, things in our home life have been pushed back so everything has been last minute for Christmas. Friday night, our little dog ate enough chocolate to give himself chocolate toxicity, and of course he did so when the vet was closed and it was Christmas weekend. I had to induce vomiting, buy activated charcoal capsules and rip them apart, mix them with water, hold him down and syringe them down his throat, then clean up seven piles of vomit all night long. That same night, as I was wallowing in my bad luck and worrying about my dog, my mom told me to watch the news. It turns out my cousin Heidi was robbed. They took everything out from beneath her tree, and several other items from the house. She'd gotten over a thousand dollars in presents for her family, all three kids, and it was all gone. I was devastated for her, and to think that there is anyone out there who could do such a thing.

I got to see my parents and little sister last night for a bit, which was wonderful. Today was Christmas at home with the kids, and it was the first year our oldest son was not here for morning presents, since he moved out in September, so that felt not-so-good. He met up with us at Steve's parents' house today for Salisbury Christmas, so that was nice. He got us all gift cards to the places we love the most -- I got Dunkin' Donuts :) Hoping to spend some time with my brother and his family in the coming week as well.

The kids got few things under the tree this year, but we spent more than we have in the past. Aria got a Kindle and Batman Converse, and she couldn't possibly have been more excited. Michael got a cell phone (finally!) that's also an MP3 player, so he's psyched, and we paid for the first month of service. He also got some nice gloves for his punching bag downstairs. I might steal them from time to time to work out some of my excess aggression. Daily.

With January right around the corner, I start the resolutions in my head once again. There are so many things I always want to change, to improve upon, to evolve. There are so many things I want to better about myself, about my surroundings. Goals, ideas, lists. All part of the Journey, you know.

Really, what I'm looking for is peace. I've been told that peace comes through acceptance. I can accept that. Heh. It makes sense, doesn't it? We can't stop the struggles from coming, we can't stop the trials from occurring. Bad, bad things will happen. They just will. We have no power over them. But being able to accept whatever life throws at us and to roll with the punches, that's what gives us peace. We can attempt to minimize our own negative input, and we can attempt to show compassion and forgiveness towards others. Perhaps these are my new goals -- minimize negativity and maximize compassion.

Now, if only I can get all these stupid jerks in my society to do the same.

(Yes, that was a joke.)

I might not have mentioned it yet, but I'm wearing the fluffiest, fuzziest robe ever which my loving husband got me for Christmas, along with the fluffiest, fuzziest Michigan slippers. I adore him. He's not one of the aforementioned stupid jerks. At least, not usually.

I hope that everyone out there had a blessed Christmas. Here's to the rest of 2011 treating you well, and 2012 being the best year ever for us all.

Stephanie Jean

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On The Third Day of Christmas...



1 Peter 4:8 -- Above all, love each other, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Let's say you find a baby. It's on your doorstep. It's crying. What's the first thing you do? Do you stick a bottle in its mouth? Do you spoon some baby food into its mouth? Do you leave it on the porch and dial 911? No. At least, I hope not. You pick it up and hold it.

We all want to feel safe, secure, and loved. There are very few needs we have as humans -- food, water, some bodily functions -- but a life without love is rarely survived. I'm not talking about ooey, gooey, mushy, sweet, sap-covered, "I love yOOooOOooOOu more" kind of love. I'm talking about the sort of love that covers a multitude of sins.

In any relationship, two people will not always see eye to eye. Spouses, siblings, best friends, colleagues. There will be strife, and tension, and arguments. The question is, are you going to let it get in the way of loving one another? Is your desire to be right more important than your desire to be peaceful? To love and be loved? To be happy?

Let's say your significant other leaves his or her dirty t-shirt on the floor next to the laundry. Choices: yell at them until they get it right, ask them nicely to put it where it belongs, pick it up yourself and put it where it belongs because that takes two seconds and isn't demeaning at all.

Next level: Let's say your significant other pulls your car out of the garage and breaks off the mirror. Choices: make a scene about how awful and irresponsible that was, tell them it's their responsibility to call and make an appointment to get it taken care of, bash their mirror with a baseball bat, or duct tape it up and make an appointment yourself.

There are many levels to which we can take this. But my point is, there's always a choice in how we can deal with things. Letting Love rule is always the best option. Whether someone has hurt you emotionally, accidentally destroyed something you prized, or was simply thoughtless or careless, loving them through it, in spite of it, can place your relationship smack in the middle of something beautiful.

My husband loved me when I was at my lowest. When I did not deserve love. When I did not give love. When I could not love myself. He was compassionate to me when I was devoid of compassion. He taught me what true, unconditional love, was all about. Engraved on the inside of each of our wedding rings is, "The greatest thing..." The whole quote wouldn't fit. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." Without him, my husband, loving me... I would be lost. I feel that with this gift of love, I'm more equipped to love others. Loving him is easy. Loving others, not so much.

Loving people you already love, when they love you back, is usually pretty simple though, right? Learning to love people you can't stand isn't. Loving people that you don't think deserve your love is nearly impossible. "If you love those that love you, what credit is that to you?" -- Luke 6:32. "But I tell you who hear me, love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you." -- Luke 6:27

Wow. Talk about difficult! There may be nothing harder to do than to love someone who hates you. The people who treat you terribly. The people who you can always count on to make you feel like the smallest version of yourself. The people who get under your skin, who talk about you behind your back, who make your life a living Hell. I mean people who have lied to you, betrayed you, ruined your reputation, messed up your past, caused others to hate you, made fun of you, belittled you, condescended to you, lied about you, broke your heart, and stomped on your trust.

How do you love someone like that? Isn't it impossible?

How did God love the world so much that He sent His Son to die for us? To give us another chance?

We've treated Him terribly. We've wasted His gifts. We've talked badly to Him and about Him. We've tried to lie to Him, we've betrayed Him, we've spread falsehoods about Him, we've caused others to hate Him, we've belittled Him, put Him down, made Him inferior to our own wills, and broken His heart countless times. Every single one of us, every single day.

Sure, He can do it -- He can love us, because He's God. He's omniscient, omnipotent, eternal. He *is* perfect Love.

Oh, but wait... that same book also says that we're made in His image.

If that's the case, then inside each one of us dwells the spark of potential. We have the ability to love. We just have to exercise it. Some of us know what its like to want to exercise, but to be so exhausted at the end of the day that we have no desire left to do anything but eat potato chips and watch sitcoms. At the end of a long day of being bombarded by anything BUT love, the last thing we feel we can do is love others. But we can.

We can.

Start by looking deep within yourself and identifying your own flaws and problems and wrongdoings. Put yourself in another person's shoes -- how would you feel if you had to live their life? This isn't something that happens overnight. You don't just simply decide, "I'm gonna love people today" and then it happens instantaneously as though it were a made-for-tv movie. It takes soul-searching. It takes gut-wrenching honesty on your part. It takes courage, and strength, and wisdom. It takes prayer.

Oh, man -- does it take prayer.

I'm praying for each and every one of us, not just in the Christmas season, but all year long, to be able to love. To exercise that potential within us. To stretch our hearts as far as they will go. There's a little Grinch in each of us, isn't there? We might be surprised to find that our hearts are a few sizes too small... but if we place ourselves in the right circumstances, those hearts are bound to grow.

Our resolution starts today.

Stephanie Jean

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grown-Up Christmas List -- Item #2


The last post was about Forgiveness. (In case you haven't read that one yet, stop what you're doing here and read that first. I'll wait. Go ahead. Ok, are you back? Great.)

This post is about Give-Ness. (See what I did there?)

Chances are, if you're reading this right now, you have internet access. Granted, you might be reading it at the library where there's free internet on the free computers, but most likely you're reading it on your own computer, whether laptop or desktop, or on your cell phone, or some other form of electronic wizardry. This means, by definition, you are not dirt poor.

There are people who are dirt poor. As much as I grumble and complain about customers that come in to my job and treat me as though I were inferior, this in itself says something pretty important: I have a job. I don't take that lightly. It's not a job I ever envisioned myself working, nor is it a job I foresee myself staying in for the rest of my pre-retirement years. However, with the unemployment rate being staggering at this moment, with friends of mine getting laid off left and right, with people on so many street corners with signs asking for work or money, I'll take what I can get right now. My car is over ten years old, has had a crack in its windshield since before I even met my husband. But I have a car. I buy my clothes at Goodwill. But I can buy clothes. I get my groceries at Aldi. But I can buy groceries. I have a plethora of blankets in my living room to ward off the cold because there aren't as many heat ducts in there as the rest of the house. But I have heat. I have running water. I have electricity. I have a roof over my head.

There are people who don't.

I'm not talking about third world countries, those devastating commercials they play on television and appeal to your more sensitive nature to please give them your credit card number, please sponsor a child, please help them survive their poverty and disease-ridden lives. That's horrible enough -- the thought that that sort of thing even exists breaks my heart. If I had millions of dollars, I'd sponsor thousands of children. But I'm talking about in our own country.

In our own state.

In our own town. There are people in our town, right now, this very moment, while we're online checking our Facebooks and emails and Twitters and whatnot, updating our status, posting pictures of our kids in various goofy settings in various silly outfits -- there are people right now who don't have a home. They don't have a bed, or a pillow, or a blanket, or a meal.

I'll fully admit that I'm jaded, and I despise that about myself. I hate that when I see someone asking for money on the street, the first thought that runs through my head is that they're not really poor. It's a ruse. They probably make more money standing on the corner in a few hours than I do at work all day. I hate that I think those things. Those things may or may not be true. But is that up to me to decide? If I have two dollars in change lying in the console of my car, is it really so important to me that I have to debate whether or not to give it to the person with the cardboard sign because they may or may not be telling the truth? What am I out, in the long run? Two bucks. What might that two bucks get that person if, in fact, they are for real? A coffee and a breakfast sandwich at McDonald's. A little warmth. A quelling of the hunger for a few hours. And how agonizing must it be to watch car after car drive by, likely shopping for something they don't truly need? How much faith in humanity, or faith in God, must these souls even have left when, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, we drive by and do

nothing.

I have some experience with this, actually. When I was in college, there were two homeless men that sat outside of one of the dorms and asked people for change. I noticed them there a few days in a row, sitting, waiting, asking, waving, hoping. And even then, at 18, 19 years old, my more crass nature told me to steer clear. But one day I stopped. I dropped a couple of dollars into their hats, and then I sat down. Their names were Jeff and Randy. They had made a series of poor decisions in their lives, and they no longer had anywhere to live. They'd sleep in alleys, sometimes shelters if there was room. Sometimes a do-gooder would offer them a room for the night, but never enough to help them get on their feet. The next day when I packed my lunch, I made sandwiches for them, brought them over, sat down and ate with them between classes, and helped them ask for money. You would be astonished at the number of people who act like they don't see homeless people. As though "out of sight, out of mind" actually works. As though, if you look straight ahead and don't make eye contact, they don't really exist.

They really exist.

Jesus didn't say, "Hey, if you deem it appropriate and you have an overabundance of cash on a particular day, you should give a few bucks to the poor." He didn't say, "As long as you don't get too close, or anything, you should rustle up a box of extra clothes that you don't like anymore or that don't fit you so that you can give them to someone who will probably appreciate that ugly cardigan your grandma gave you six years ago." He didn't say, "Do some good things before you die, because that's how you get into Heaven."

He said, "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will say, "... when did we do this for you Lord?" He said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:35-40

See, the thing is, it's not up to us to decide who deserves it and who doesn't. None of us deserve anything. It's not up to us to figure out how much we should give. It's not our money, anyhow. It's not our prerogative, it's His.

Christmas is about giving for a reason. We received the greatest Gift imaginable, and we give gifts to others to honor that Gift. It's not about getting the coolest, newest, shiniest, awesomest gadget. It's not about who has the most presents under the tree. It's not about how much money we spend, or whether or not our wrapping paper color coordinates with our bows and gift tags.

If you're reading this, you can do something for someone that will mean something. You can help someone -- it doesn't matter who -- that needs help. You can offer the gift of money, or food, or time, or a listening ear. You can offer them the gift of encouragement, and prayer, and support of some sort. You can give. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, where or if you work, how much money you make or don't make, what church you go to or even if you go to church or even if you believe in God. You have the ability to give.

The only question left is: why wouldn't you?

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, December 18, 2011

(Forgiveness)(70)(7)


Yes, I just used a mathematical term to name my blog post for the day. Forgiveness Times Seventy Times Seven. It's in the bible, you know. Matthew 18:21-35 gives both a clear statement about forgiveness and a parable to illustrate the meaning. We are to forgive. It doesn't matter if the person deserves it or not, if they asked for it or not, if we want to or not. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone causes strife, or pain, or does things they will live to regret, if they don't already regret them. Everyone needs forgiveness. Not just "everyone else" -- EVERYONE. That includes me, and it includes you.

It's not easy. Believe me, I know. I've had people treat me despicably. I've been lied to, betrayed, hurt, put down, and made fun of. I've been disrespected, made to feel I was inferior, unintelligent, unimportant. I've been talked about behind my back and I've been diminished to my face. The lesson I've learned is this: it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of me, or what anyone else does to me. I'm not on this Earth to please them. Their thoughts of me, their ideas of how I should be, are meaningless. We're all equals -- my friends, my family, my enemies, and myself -- regardless of belief system, color, agenda, orientation, finances, or anything else. I'm not here to judge them and they're not here to judge me.

So what happens when someone you love slips? A modern day parable, if you will:

Someone you love is climbing a mountain but the two of you are on the outs, so to speak. This person -- they don't have the gear necessary to climb the mountain, they're full of snide remarks about your lack of ability to climb the mountain, and you're angry at them for being stupid enough to think they can do it their way and not the proper way. You turn away, walking back to the car in anger, when suddenly you hear the sound of rocks slipping, a small scream, and when you look back all you can see is one hand desperately grabbing on to a root hanging off the side of the cliff. You are at the decision making point. Are you going to let their pride, their stupid choices, and their insistence on their own way dictate who YOU are? Are you going to say, "Well, they obviously didn't want my help or my opinion, they thought I was weaker than they are, less intelligent than they are. They made fun of me. They're in this position because of their own poor choices, so they're going to have to get out of it on their own. I'm not going to help."

Or -- do you run, just as desperate to save their life as they are, throw yourself down and grab them with both hands, pulling them to safety?

See, the thing is, we're all struggling. We're all a bunch of self-centered, egotistical, "My way is right and yours is wrong", stubborn people. We all want what we want, when we want it. We all think our way is the best way. EVERYONE. Not just other people. We're like this, too. What would happen if we were off the side of the mountain, slipping to our death? We'd want someone to save us. We might think that we're not stupid enough to fall off the side of a mountain, but we all have our own mountain.

A mountain of debt -- some financial curse that keeps us from achieving any new, safe ground. A pile that we can't seem to get out from under, regardless of how hard we try or how much we sacrifice.

A mountain of hurt -- we've treated someone we love like trash, but we're too proud to apologize.

A mountain of vice -- alcohol or drugs or food has become the all-encompassing goddess of our lives, it's ruining everything else in our existence, but we can't seem to shake it though we know how much we have to.

A mountain of betrayal. A mountain of faithlessness. Disorganization. Hatred. Anger. Resentment. Bitterness.

We all have our own mountain, and we'd all want someone to throw themselves at us in desperation to save us if we slip. When we slip. As we slip.

We're slipping right now.

Listen, friends -- there's a reason that part of the Lord's prayer is "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We have nothing we can offer God. He's not beholden to forgive us when we make mistakes. He's not obligated to give us a new start. We've offended and hurt him so much, every day of our lives, by our words, our actions, our lack of faith, our hatred towards Him and towards humankind -- but he forgives us anyway. He loves us anyway. Why would He do that, if not to model that sort of a lifestyle for us?

Someone might not deserve it. Someone might not change because of it. Someone might go right on hurting, or hating, or living their self-centered ways for the rest of their lives.

Forgive them anyway.

In the end, it's not what they've done to you or what they haven't done for you that matters. It's what God did for you, and what He does for you every day. We aren't supposed to model ourselves after other flawed human beings. We're already flawed human beings. We're supposed to model ourselves after Jesus. He didn't say, "Hey, knock it off with the beating! This crucifixion shouldn't be happening! I don't deserve this! I didn't do anything wrong! You guys are the jerks! You guys are the ones in the wrong!"

"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." -- Luke 23:34

This is the Christmas season. We're excited about the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Let's not forget what the reason was for that birth. It was for the redemption of the world, the salvation of every single one of us from our own mountain. The forgiveness we don't deserve. Our reconciliation that we could not bring about ourselves.

Let every heart prepare Him room.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Charlie Brown Christmas



My favorite show to watch every year at this time is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Don't get me wrong, I love How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the cartoon one, not the Jim Carrey movie), and Elf, and Christmas Vacation, and A Christmas Carol, and I'll tolerate It's a Wonderful Life once a year because of my husband's affection for it... but A Charlie Brown Christmas seems to mean the most to me. I still tear up every single time the lights go down and Linus quotes scripture.

I try not to get caught up in the materialism of the holidays. We don't spend a lot (mainly because we don't have a lot to spend), but I really just enjoy spending time with people I love, sitting by a warm fire, drinking hot cocoa, going to church, and listening to Christmas music (as long as it's past Thanksgiving, which it has been for awhile now!)

This year, we did the Christmas show at Elkhart Civic Theatre. It's only the second time we've done it -- the first time, it was still called "A Season's Serenade", but now it's called "Winterlude". I have a solo, which is scary to me because I'm not used to being the only person on stage. It freaks me out. Tomorrow is our last performance, and a lot of family is coming which simultaneously makes me nervous and puts me at ease, if that makes any sense at all.

I'm learning peace. The key to that is acceptance, which I've also been learning. Its strange how it's washed over me recently. Things that used to make me just flare up in anger are rolling off my back. Things that would once make me panic don't seem to have any effect. This is not to say its the norm -- in fact, I had a massive anxiety attack this past week that kept me up half the night in fits of wrenching sobs for absolutely no good reason. But in comparison to the constant anxiety-filled days I had up until recently, one crummy attack ain't nuthin'. (See, I'm even playing fast and loose with my English and not being anal retentive about it. It's a whole new me.)

The thing is, I can't control everything. In fact, there are very few things I can control at all. I can control my temper, my attitude, my outlook... I can't control my circumstances, but I can keep my circumstances from controlling me.

I'm learning and changing and growing every day. Most of the days, I don't look like it on the outside, but I can certainly feel a change on the inside.

I guess that's the part that really matters, isn't it?

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Choosing Joy


Snarky. Sarcastic. Scathing. These are the comments, the posts, the statuses, and the 'likes' that seem to rule Facebook. My husband deleted his account recently because of how rampant passive-aggressiveness runs there. I can't say that I disagree with him. My original view of Facebook wasn't wrong -- I never wanted to join, because I knew it would take up a great deal of my time, it would keep me from doing a great deal of things I need to do, and it would become more of a burden than a friend. That being said, I'm not to the point where I want to delete my account. At least, not quite.

I've decided to make the rest of December "Positive Status Month", at least for myself. I'm so sick of feeling sorry for myself, and the temptation to post something so that other people feel sorry for me, too. I appreciate the forum that this blog allows me. I attempt in every way possible to use it for the betterment of myself and perhaps for the few others that are in the habit of reading it. I want very much to join into whatever positive realm around me that God has provided as an outlet. So this month, I'll be posting at least one positive status on Facebook each day, along with positive and inspirational quotes and/or stories in my newsfeed. It's my hope that others might join in with me and that, by January, the feeling won't fade. A high goal, I realize, but it's worth a shot, don't you think?

The quote I most recently posted was one I've written upon before. It's painted above my husband's work space at our job: "I discovered I always have choices, and sometimes it's only a choice of attitude." -- Judith Knowlton. It's the truth. I might be enduring what I feel to be unimaginable circumstances, great pain emotionally and/or physically, and I might feel trapped, or that I have no choice in anything that's happening to me. But I do always have the choice of attitude. I can let the negativity pervade my spirit and leave me bitter, jaded, resentful, and full of anger and hatred. Or I can choose to "accept life on life's terms" (p. 417, Big Blue Book) and remain positive and joyful regardless of the circumstances. The bottom line is, the circumstances are going to occur regardless of my attitude. Why waste time allowing the bitterness and resentment to grow, thereby doing nothing but making me feel worse and worse with each passing day, inevitably making things worse for those around me because negativity breeds negativity? Why not focus on the positive things (which there always are, even if not on the surface) and allow my heart to be grateful, full of hope and happiness, even in the midst of a crisis? I reiterate: the crises will occur anyhow. The choice is in what we make of them.

Today has been restful, a rare occurrence in our weeks and months. Football, coffee, robes all day, time together as a family, no rehearsal, nowhere to go, no obligations. Just a warm, comfy couch covered in blankets. I'm grateful. I'm joyful. I'm close to being unemployed after Christmas, but I'm joyful.

That's a choice of attitude.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Closer to the Beginning


Each day that progresses at work seems to be closer and closer to the end of an era. I've been there for five and a half years, and the sales are the worst they've ever been right now, whether it's the economy, the weather, the construction, the Christmas season, or the randomness of the gods of schadenfraude. I'm meant to be doing something else. It was clear when it began that this was where I was supposed to be. And, I feel just as clearly now, this is no longer where I am supposed to be.

I had the privilege of attending the Broadway Tour of Beauty and the Beast today at the Morris Civic Auditorium. It was very well done. There were a few songs that, if they were in the Disney movie, I don't remember it -- and one in particular touched me. The words were:

"There's been a change in me
A kind of moving on
Though what I used to be
I still depend on
For now I realize
That good can come from bad
That may not make me wise
But oh, it makes me glad

And I-- I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams
But I don't mind
For now I love the world I see
No change of heart; a change in me.

For in my dark despair
I slowly understood
My perfect world out there
Had disappeared for good
But in its place I feel
A truer life begin
And it's so good and real
It must come from within

And I-- I never thought I'd leave behind
My childhood dreams but I don't mind
I'm where and who I want to be
No change of heart'
A change in me."

I feel like I'm closer to the beginning of something than I am the end of it. For years, my every thought was of making it big: whether it was a bestselling novel, a singing contract, a place on Broadway, a role in a movie. Perhaps it's the age I've come to, or the experiences I've had, but I find that I've left behind my childhood dreams. It doesn't mean that I don't still think of them from time to time, but I haven't set my whole heart upon them as if they were fact. I didn't have a change of heart. I didn't change my mind and decide that I want to be a wife and mother instead. I changed. It was a change in me.

Lately, I've felt that I want nothing more than to be at home, taking care of my husband, the kids, the house, the dogs, the organizational things that need to be done, and I feel like maybe that's where God's putting me. If I lose my job, it's because something better -- the beginning of something wonderful -- is on its way. I don't feel that God closes doors to open windows. I feel that He closes a door because it's time to turn around.

I'm still writing. If I'm meant to do great things with that, it will happen. It's not going to fall into my lap as I once thought it would when I was a child. But after writing, working, cleaning houses, taking care of the home, acting, directing, and trying to get us out of debt, I'm stretched like a rubber band between two football posts. If I'm losing hours at work (which I am), and things just keep getting worse (which they do), then I have to believe that's a door in the middle of closing, and it's time for me to turn around.

I have to have more confidence in myself and the abilities God gave me but, more importantly, I have to have more faith in Him to fulfill His promises. It's one thing to say I believe and I trust, but it's another thing entirely when it gets to the point where I am only living on faith. I have a feeling that's where He's taking me, taking our whole family.

I'm ready.

Stephanie Jean