Sunday, January 29, 2012

Weary


wea·ry
   /ˈwɪəri/ [weer-ee]
1.
physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exertion, strain, etc.; fatigued; tired: weary eyes; a weary brain.
2.
characterized by or causing fatigue: a weary journey.
3.
impatient or dissatisfied with something (often followed by of ): weary of excuses.

Yes, I am these things. I am physically and mentally exhausted from my jobs, not just the coffee shop, but the housecleaning, taking care of our own house and laundry and grocery shopping. I am fatigued by hard work, exertion, strain... and mostly stress. I am weary to be around for others, because my mind is a constant loop of the same thought processes -- when will things get better, when will I have a baby, when will life start to look up, when will bad things stop happening to me, why do the cars keep falling apart.

I am impatient and dissatisfied with life. I am weary of it.

I am weary.

I am burdened.

Aren't we all?

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -- Matthew 11:28.

I spend most of my time, most of my life, trying to improve things. I try to improve relations between my family members, and I fail at it. I try to improve our financial peace, and sometimes that works, but mostly it's one step forward and two steps back. I try to improve our quality of life and health by buying a better stock of food for the house, and people just go to McDonald's. I try to improve my level of positivity and something else just drags me down. I try to improve my capacity for tolerance but, when it comes right down to it, I'm weak and selfish just like every other human being on the planet. I can't do it. I want what I want, and though I can live with not having it most of the time, I sure want it some of the time or I'm not satisfied, and I get cranky, and I snap at other people, and I mope. Like a twelve year old who is grounded, I mope.

It's as though I'm hardwired to think that I can fix things. I can improve things. I have the power and ability to change everything. And all of that might be true, if I take out the "I" and replace it with "God". Scratch that -- it's completely true. Not 'might be'. IS.

God can fix things. God can improve things. God has the power and ability to change everything.

So what makes me think that I have to do it?

Because I'm human, and stubborn, and I live in a perpetual state of want. I want things I can't have. I want things I don't deserve. I want things I'm not ready for. And I stomp and I pout and I cry, and I still don't get them, so I mope.

What a sad, sad existence, no?

I have to take a breath. I have to fall into that soft bed of down once in awhile, where I stop running around on my little hamster wheel and let God be God. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." He doesn't say He 'might'. He doesn't say 'some' of you. He doesn't say 'If I, in my Infinite Wisdom, feel like it'. He says 'all of you', and He says 'I will'. It's a promise.

The only choice I have to make is whether or not to let Him.

Stephanie Jean

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wasted Worries


Something in my devotional book sparked a longing inside of me. The question was, "How different would your life be if it were truly worry-free?" Such a thought, to me, is nearly unfathomable. I can only begin a list of things I worry about, I can never finish it. Chances are, while writing it out, I'd become worried that I'd never finish it and then frantically attempt to finish it, then worry that I should be working on something else and not procrastinating by writing a list of things I worry about.

But to live a truly "worry-free" life? How is that even possible?

Then I have to stop and ask myself, "Self?" (Because I always begin that way to make sure I'm listening... "What good has worrying ever done you in your life?"

There's no point in worrying about whether or not something bad is going to happen. Worrying about it isn't going to stop it from happening.

There's no point in worrying about whether something good is going to occur or not. Worrying about it will not enable it to occur.

So why do I spend so very much of my energy on such a pointless past-time? I'd say it's hereditary, to begin with. I believe some of us are just predisposed to worry. If you ever met my Grandma Juhasz, you'd agree. She was a hypochondriac. It doesn't matter what it was, from hypothermia to hyperactivity, she thought she had it. And she'd begin every conversation about it the same way.

"Have you ever had a lump on your tongue?"
"What do you mean, Grandma?"
"Like a little bump, and it hurts. It's a little tiny swollen lump. Do you think it could be cancer?"
"No, Grandma. I'm pretty sure it's just an inflamed taste bud, or you bit your tongue."
"I should get it checked."
"Okay, but it's really nothing."

EVERY. CONVERSATION. Fill in the blank, it began with, "Have you ever had _______" and then it would proceed to whatever horrendous thing she thought it might be, usually cancer. One time, the conversation went like this:

"Have you ever had an ache in your head?"
"NO! Grandma, you should go to the doctor right away, you might have brain cancer!"
"DO YOU THINK SO!? OH!!!!"
"No, Grandma, I think you have a headache. That's what an ache in your head is called. Take some Tylenol."

This is funny, yes... but how am I any different? Why is it that, each time the phone rings, without fail, I think it's going to be bad news? Or that each time I'm in the house with a small, sleeping child, I have to check on it, even when it's not my kid? Or that, if I'm across the country on vacation, I assume that something horrible is going to happen while I'm gone? Or that every time someone comes over, I am positive they're going to let the dogs out the front door, and they'll run away and get hit by a car on the highway? Why can't I just... breathe?

Here we are, a couple of days belated, with my new verse to memorize for the week:

Matthew 6:34: "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Is it wrong to say, "PREACH IT, Jesus!"?

Why can't I just wrap my head around this one simple verse? I'd save myself so much stress, so many control issues, so many freak-outs, and probably years of my life if I could just practice this. And how true! Each day DOES have enough trouble of its own. For instance, I woke up this morning to a freezing cold house because our furnace stopped working in the middle of the night. I could not have foreseen this. I couldn't have worried about it yesterday. Which is good, because yesterday I was busy worrying about plenty of other things, none of which were the furnace. And we got it fixed in less than ten minutes by our furnace guru this morning, so it's nice and toasty warm in here once again... but now? Now I'm worrying about waking up tomorrow to a freezing cold house and it NOT being something easily fixable. Why would I add this to my list of worries for today? And why am I worrying about anything today at all?

Worries do not prevent struggles or even decrease them. Worries do not solve problems. Worries do not help me to feel better. Worries do not alleviate pain or cure any diseases. Worries do not build anyone up or help anyone out.

I'm going to try an experiment. Each time something triggers me to worry this week, I'm going to stop the cycle of anxiety before it occurs. I'm going to sit back, take a deep breath, laugh a little either internally or externally, then go about my business. I'm also going to recite the verse of the week, and remind myself that Jesus said it -- not some psychologist or president or Oprah -- it was Jesus.

And He's way cooler than Oprah is, so it must be true.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Kind of Town



We finally got away for a getaway weekend! I love Chicago. I love big cities in general, because there is always something to do, no matter what time it is. We stayed at the Club Quarters Central Loop hotel, a little gem I found online for a great price. It was .68 miles from the theatre our first show was in, and .3 miles from the second show, so we could walk to both. The only negative was the ridiculous cold. Apparently 20 degrees feels colder in Chicago than back home. "The Windy City", you know. It's also the "Instantaneously Freezing Face City", a moniker which is not quite as well-known.

Saturday afternoon, we saw "In The Heights", which I've been wanting to see since I heard about it on the Tony Awards a few years back. Set in a barrio in Manhattan, it's a hip-hop musical with a Latino theme. It was very "Rent"-like in its entirety -- there are so many different layers going on at the same time, and it was beautiful the way it was woven together. I'd like to get the soundtrack to it and then watch it again.

Our hotel happened to have a restaurant in it called "Elephant & Castle", an English pub, which we'd eaten at before in Chicago, but in a different location. We attempted to find the one we'd eaten at before, but with the cold, we didn't want to roam around too much, so we went back to eat at the hotel. We had fish bites, chicken skewers, brownie bites, and I had a bacon and bleu cheese burger which was delicious. Steve had the Shepherd's Pie.

Then we went on to our second show. "Come Fly Away" was a modern, fast-paced ballet of sorts, set to all music of Frank Sinatra. I was excited because I had paid for better tickets than I usually do -- rather than nosebleed territory, I went one balcony lower. As we sat down, I wished I'd saved the money. The top balcony overhang cut off the top of the screen behind the stage. We got over our irritation with this pretty quickly, but the people behind us were so annoyed by it they decided to annoy us as well, by talking loudly through the entire first thirty minutes of the show about how awful their seats were. I turned and glared the evil eye at one lady, who very shorty thereafter stood with her husband and found different seats elsewhere. I turned again and applauded them when they did so.

The show itself was only an hour and fifteen minutes, and barring the people behind us, the loud and obnoxious couple a few rows in front of us who had to get up and down to go to the bathroom at two different times, the two people who arrived late and stood in front of us for part of the first number, and the extremely tall guy who was sitting on his coat in front of my not-quite-as-tall husband... the show was phenomenal. I'm saying that as someone who is not Frank Sinatra's biggest fan.

The dancing was the most incredible dancing I think I've ever seen. It was flawless. They moved as though they were the music. And the way they threw themselves and their partners up, over, on the floor, in the air, into others' arms was dazzling. But the dancing wasn't even the important part. The stage could've been blank, as far as I was concerned. The music was, in my opinion and my husband's, worth more than the price of admission.

All of the music was Frank Sinatra's voice, which was isolated from the musical tracks, and so crystal clear it was as though he was somewhere in the room, and we just couldn't see him. If that wasn't incredible enough, their was a band/orchestra/whatever you want to call it, PLAYING all of the music. The way they synced Sinatra's voice with the live music being played was (and I know I already used this adjective in an earlier paragraph but I can't help it) flawless. I would see both of these shows again in a heartbeat. But I most certainly wouldn't spring for the more expensive seats.

This morning, it was back to real life. We headed to the parking garage (only $20 for 24 hours!) and grabbed a bunch of Dunkin' Donuts food and coffee for breakfast, then drove back home. I picked up Aria from her Aunt's house, sat down for a nice visit with my sister-in-law, hung with the niece and nephew and got to hold my new baby niece, who decided to smile a lot for me this time. Then I overhauled the office closet at home, played on Spotify a lot and got some new songs for my computer, watched a little football, chomped on Chinese food, picked our son up from work, and sat down to write this blog. Now you're caught up with my life.

If you're watching the Golden Globes, as I am, I want you to be aware that THE HELP should win absolutely everything it's nominated for, because it was possibly one of the best movies I have ever seen.

What did I learn this weekend? I learned that no matter how much you attempt to respect God's decision to give you a day off, no one else will respect your attempts to do that. I learned that a trip to Chicago in the winter requires a scarf. I learned that, even after all these years of living, acting, directing, and working together, I love to be with my husband. And I learned that our dogs are just as excited to see us when we come home from a weekend jaunt as when we come home from a week-long vacation.

Here's to another week of work, of accomplishments, of overcoming the negatives and pulling through to the next weekend!

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sense of Accomplishment


There are few things that make me feel quite as good as crossing a bunch of things off my internal to-do list. Today, I cleaned a house, dropped at Walmart for a few things I forgot during my massive grocery shopping and Steve needed new windshield wipers desperately, especially with this crazy weather coming. Then I stopped at the bank to cash the housecleaning check, and went to town on our home.

I finally removed all of the Christmas decorations and took down the tree. I lovingly combed all of the tinsel off each branch and tossed it in the trash, pondering the whole time why I can't just put the tinseled tree back in the box as is, since I'm just going to put more tinsel on it next year. I came to the conclusion that it's to help employ the people at the tinsel factory. Then I went to work on bleaching. I bleached the sink in the kitchen, the bathtub and sink in the big bathroom, and the floor in the little bathroom. I cleaned the rest of the house, vacuumed meticulously, took a shower, and lit about ten candles to burn off the bleach scent in the house, then started making dinner. At the same time, I did laundry, and made pudding desserts in wine glasses with whipped cream and shaved chocolate on top.

*This* is what I would do if I didn't have to work all day long.

Well, this and writing, of course.

There's something to be said about this incredible sense of accomplishment. Sometime last year, or the year before, I thought I'd take Thursdays off for a 'mental health day' so I could do just this sort of thing. It turned into a housecleaning day, grocery shopping day, random errand day, and it seemed never to get off the ground as a day I could really get the house cleaned up and put a nice dinner on the table. Today is what I was hoping every Thursday could be, and I'm not getting my hopes up for that this coming year, but it was nice to have it at least once!

So, let's talk about the inevitable. Winter. Yeah, it's finally here, and with a vengeance. We're supposed to get 8-12 inches of snow tonight. I'm hoping it clears up by Saturday morning and that the roads are clear, else it's going to sincerely put a damper on my weekend. Winter is not my favorite. I do like sledding, and we didn't get a chance to do so last year, but I want to get out there and do some this year. Something about sitting down on a saucer and letting go, the adrenaline rush I get on the way down -- it's not like being in a roller coaster or behind the wheel of a car where I'm putting my faith in machinery not to fail. It's me, on a plate, in the air, down a hill. I love it.

It reminds me of what life is really like. I can plan and plan, I can decide to do something, I can search out the right path, I can bundle up against the elements, but in the end it's me throwing everything up in the air to God and saying, "It's all you, Man. I'll see you at the end of the hill!"

Plus, it's really fun to walk up behind one of the kids while they're debating whether or not to go down the hill and push them. Heh. Yeah, I'm that kind of mom.

Here's to the weekend...

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Week, New Verse


Here it is, Sunday, the first day of the week once again. I have great determination and zeal to get through the new week at work with peace and contentment, to finish the article I have awaiting me, to tear down the Christmas decorations (yeah, they're still up...) and to lose a few pounds. Don't remind me yet that that zeal will fade somewhere around my first cup of coffee on Monday. Just let me bask in this moment of possibility and potential.

My new verse for the week is, and let me see if I can type this all from my brain already without looking:

Philippians 4:11-13

"Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

I feel that context is important. A lot of times, people will just pick and choose a verse and decide it's going to be their go-to verse, without ever really having a clue what the context of that particular verse is. You can take the verse "Jesus wept" and decide that you need to be an overly sensitive person, crying whenever emotion strikes you, breaking down and letting things get to you, because Jesus wept, so why shouldn't you? In this particular case, He was so fully overtaken by empathy for another person that He wept. He wasn't just a crybaby. So, it's important to know your context. Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." Does this mean you can walk out of your house and lift up your car? Does it mean you should uproot your family, throw caution to the wind, and move to a foreign country to raise alpacas because you want to try it? Does it mean that you are invincible? No. Don't be an idiot. God's not strengthening you to do whatever you want to do, He's strengthening you to be who He wants you to be.

Are you going through a lot of junk in your life right now and you can't figure out why? There's a reason. Are you having a hard time with a family member? Are you in the middle of an ugly divorce? Is it cancer? Is it death? Do you feel like you can't function anymore, and you don't know how you're going to find the strength to open your eyes and wake up in the morning?

This is your verse. Read it in context. In whatever situation you're in, be content in the fact that God has you there for a reason. You might not like it. It might be uncomfortable, hurtful, or painful. But when you get through it -- with HIS strength, not yours -- and you're looking at it from the other side, what will you have learned from the experience? Who will you be able to help see another day because He helped you see another day? The counsel and advice you can give on your own pales in comparison to how you can counsel and advise someone after you have been through what they're going through.

A very well-meaning pastor once tried to counsel me during my divorce. He told me that love is a choice, not a feeling. This is all well and good, and I agree. But this pastor had never had the heartbreak of a failed marriage, or gone through the depths of despair in the relationship that I'd gone through. There is no trite, concise answer to divorce that will magically make everything all better with one flip of a switch inside of your mind. However, having gone through that particular heartbreak of devoting eight years of my life to someone only to have it not work out, despite prayers and attempts at reconciliation and sacrifices galore on both our parts -- I am now on the other side, looking back. God has given me a handle on how to help others cope, on what a fresh start means, on what sort of foundation a marriage should be laid. There's also not a chance I would ever have appreciated the man I have now and the marriage covenant I have now if I hadn't gone through the long and winding road of divorce the first time around.

What trials have you been through that will help you help others? What scars linger forever on your heart that will make you stronger, enable you to be the man or woman God meant for you to be when he knit you together in your mother's womb? What atrocities have you seen or been a part of that you're thankfully on the other side of now, looking back at the wreckage, sometimes feeling it as though it were yesterday, but also knowing it's over and done with -- that sense of relief, that sense of strength, that breath of fresh air that your life has meaning, that sense of purpose that, regardless of how painful it was, you went through it for a reason...

This is your verse.

"I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."

How do you know? Because you did. And if you haven't yet, you will.

Trust me. You will. Whatever circumstance you're in, be content -- take up that particular cross and follow Him. You won't be ashamed, and you won't regret it.

Stephanie Jean

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mission Accomplished

Is what I would like to say. But there's still an overly-large Christmas tree spread with tinsel, lower branches covered in husky fur, standing in (well, let's be honest -- overtaking!) my front room. I had all the intentions in the world of bringing up the ginormous box from the basement and undressing that bad boy of its bulbs and baubles and bedazzlements. Hey, it's a word if I say it's a word. But I didn't do any of that. Part of me wants to stamp my foot on the ground with a pouty face and scream, "I DON'T WANNA!" The other part just wants to have my front room back.

The problem is, every time November comes around, I have these lofty expectations of how I want Christmas to be this year. I want to be organized, to have my presents purchased and wrapped early, to plan a big family dinner where we all sit around and talk about our year, to write long personal notes inside of Christmas cards and send them out on December 1st, to get a group of friends together to adopt a needy family and buy their presents and Christmas meal, and to dismantle the tree and all the decorations by December 31st, having approximately 100 people over for a fabulous New Year's Eve party.

Then I blink, and it's January 7th.

What happens during that time!? Is there some sort of worm hole I get sucked into and spat out the other side of? I haven't been grocery shopping in almost four weeks. FOUR WEEKS! I ate a bagel and a can of knock-off Spaghetti-Os last night for dinner. Seriously. Today, I was so proud of myself because I went shopping and put food in my house. This is the most enormous accomplishment I've made in the past month, I think.

I'm getting excited because it's closing in on tax time. I know, who says that? But we always get somewhat of a refund, and this year's should get us out of that debt that's been lingering. I'll be able to breathe a little more freely when that happens. Not a lot, mind you, but enough. Then it's time for saving. I'm a little perturbed that I'm going on 35 and have nothing saved towards retirement. Not that I'm actually ever going to see retirement, but it's the principle of the thing.

We watched "Crazy Stupid Love" tonight. It wasn't as funny as I thought it was going to be, but it ended up being pretty good. If you haven't seen it, you should. So go rent it, so we can talk about it. I don't want to give anything away.

Tomorrow we're going to church. Not just because it's the new year, either. Hehe. I like it there. It rejuvenates me. Check it out sometime at GCCWIRED, and you'll see why.

But now... A Walking Dead marathon with our daughter! FAMILY TIME!

I know. We're freaks. But I love it.

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Living the Dream


It's my first thought whenever someone asks me "How's it going?" or "What's up?" A lot of times I actually answer, "Living the dream." As though the dream is to be struggling to make ends meet, slinging espresso and cleaning toilets to pay the mortgage, working at a job where I'm getting fewer hours by the week and sales are the lowest I can remember them. As though the dream is to be demeaned by people on a daily basis, almost to the point where I feel like giving up. Strike that -- TO the point where I feel like giving up.

What is "the dream", really? For me, it's being able to work from home, to make a living with my writing, to have and raise a baby or two, to be out of debt and comfortable enough to stop struggling and have more than just my head above water. These are the things for which I strive.

What banal expectations. Is my standard of living so poor that something this simple could seem so out of reach that I have to call it "the dream"? Have I so little faith in the abilities God gave me? Have I so little faith in God?

What's His dream for me? Really, that's the question. It's not even a dream, it's His plan. My destiny. I should awaken each morning with fresh hope that perhaps today is going to be the day my path is revealed to me. After searching, hoping, praying every day, this could be the moment it all comes to fruition. Not just getting out of debt, but prospering enough to be able to help others get out of their debt. Not just having my head above water, but wearing the lifeguard uniform and dragging others away from drowning.

When I say "living the dream" right now, it's sarcastic and off-handed (one of my many flaws) -- but what if I really meant that when I said it? What if, when it came out of my mouth, it really meant "abiding in the destiny that God has for me at this moment until His next goal for me becomes apparent"? What if it meant, "I have enough faith in Him to know that I'm not going to be right here, doing exactly this, forever? I'm meant for more, and He's going to lead me to that, and my job is to listen and learn and follow"?

I'm fully aware that, to talk to me in person, you probably wouldn't assume that I'm the writer of these overly optimistic views. I don't think that makes me a hypocrite, because I've never claimed to be anything or anyone good, or spiritual, or wise. I only claim what I am: a fellow sojourner and student. I'm trying. I'm going to fail so many times I can't even begin to fathom the counting. But I'm trying.

My hope for the Journey this year is that others will try, too.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fifty For the New Year!


Welcome, Purple Whipped Cupcake! I've been trying to break that 49-follower-mark for the longest time, and it's a great way to start the new year. Let's see if I can break 100 by the end of 2012.

I'd like to start off the new year by thanking each and every one of you for following along with my musings, for commenting, for all of your support and encouragement in my writing and in my Journey -- OUR Journey, as we're all in this together. (Insert High School Musical Music with Guy From Modern Family dancing.)

I have some goals this year, in lieu of resolutions, because I'm not so great at those. I want to do some memorization this year, but on a realistic level. I think memorizing a verse a week is about what I can handle. I'm beginning with Galatians 5:22-23, which is the Fruit of the Spirit passage. I opened my new devotional by Max Lucado (love him) this morning, and the entire book began with two pages of choices. As you might know from reading, I like that idea. "I choose love", "I choose joy", "I choose peace", and a blurb under each of them as to what that means, going through each of the fruits of the spirit (the rest of which are patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). Seeing as how I have great difficulty nurturing these fruits within myself, it was a great way to begin the book, and that particular verse seemed to be the best way to begin my memorization for the year.

Another goal is to practice, in all things, this 'acceptance' which I've so recently been taught to live by. I ran into my guru/spiritual mentor in the grocery store last night while my husband and I were buying junk food for our stay-at-home celebration. Just seeing his face brought a smile to mine, and it gave me a little more motivation for the new year. God knew I needed to see him, I think, so there he was and there I was. I digress -- acceptance is the only way to survive this life. Acceptance of circumstances, of situations, of God's will for me, of the good along with the bad. This will help me live with peace and joy in all things. The less I try to fight and control, the better I will feel and the more I will enjoy life.

I've stopped trying to lose a certain amount of weight, because it misses the point. What I really want is to be in good shape, to be healthy. I need to make improvements in my diet, my exercise plan, my sleep patterns, and my general stress level. If I can simply make some improvements, I think my quality of life will be better, and I will be more energized and more able to handle whatever comes my way.

The last thing I'd like to accomplish is to get out of debt. I'm not talking about the house, because there's no way to pay *that* off this year, but there's just a small amount of creeping debt still laying around that shouldn't be too much of a problem. The rest of that goal is to stay out of debt from now on. I don't want to put anything else on the two credit cards we have. I want to be able to build a small savings to use in case of emergencies, to have a little "net", just in case, so we won't even have to use the credit cards if something goes wrong with our cars or house.

I find that when I make resolutions, I give up pretty quickly and I feel like a failure. I find that when I set goals, I have a better chance of accomplishing something and feeling good about that. I know I can memorize things, I know I can make healthier choices, I know I can learn to accept life, and I know I can get rid of this debt and stay out of it. Instead of setting myself up for failure, I'm setting myself up for reliance on Him to get me through whatever comes my way.

That's a New Year I can handle!

Stephanie Jean