Monday, March 24, 2014

The Next Phase

A bittersweet goodbye to our production of Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY at Elkhart Civic Theatre, and a gigantic embrace to the next leg of the Journey to come. Tomorrow evening is a very important meeting for Green Olive and I, for one, am greatly looking forward to it. Now that our first fundraising campaign is over, we are in fairly good shape to get started on the cloth diaper project and are trusting God to give us the rest of what we need financially and emotionally to make it happen as time marches on. This first project will be a trial so we can learn how to teach, learn what the women are needing besides what we're providing, and learn how to make this a well-run program for the future.

In the meantime, some changes are happening for me, personally, as well. I'm tired of looking at myself in the mirror, or jumping on the scale, and being disappointed. I recently listened to a CD from the Oasis Network where speaker Lucas Miles discussed how we should be seeing ourselves as God sees us, recognizing the power of Christ within us, and that we have the ability to make changes in our thoughts and actions even when we don't feel like we do. Couple that with reading the beginning of The Daniel Plan book which I've heard a bit about so I did some research, and I have a new found desire to overhaul my life once again.

I look at it as shedding skin. Seasons in my life all have a purpose and I don't regret or begrudge them their time. However, when it's done, it's done. I've learned and grown, and need to strip that skin off and grow into my next one. I believe wholeheartedly in evolution -- we are evolving every single day. My main goal in life, always, is to constantly find the path that God has set out for me and to follow it. It's not simple, you know. It's not just, "Oh, there it is..." and then bouncing along like Tigger, filled with joy. No, sometimes you'll go through a deep, scary forest. Sometimes a storm will wash the path from your view. Sometimes the darkness will overshadow it and you'll lose sight. So this Journey of life is just finding it over and over again and sticking to it as best you can, asking God for help all along the way.

It's not easy.

But it's totally worth it.

Stephanie Jean

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Remaining True

I've made a lot of compromises in my life. Some have been necessary, but many of them have been more out of my fear of defeat, my fear of others disliking me (because so MANY disliked me in the past), and my fear of failure.

I've found, however, that few things in life are more satisfying than making a decision and sticking with it, regardless of what others might think. I long ago grew tired of trying to please everyone all the time (because, you know... there's a saying...). My desire in life is to please God. As long as I'm doing what I feel I'm supposed to be doing in the manner I feel I'm supposed to be doing it, that's what really matters. Nothing else should stand in the way of this. It trickles down into every aspect of my life.

Let's take my work, for instance. I have a few different jobs. One of them, I get paid minimum wage for basically sitting on my butt all day. (The American Dream!) But I choose to make better use of my time - I create marketing strategies, do organizational and cleaning work to try to ensure more business (or at least keep the business we DO have). I do other work at the same time; editing, writing, research, and more. I take time to learn about the customers, their lives, their families, their interests. I'm not saying this to put myself up on a pedestal, it's just the way I live my life. Why? Why not do the bare minimum, if I'm not going to get paid any more? Because it's what I feel I'm supposed to do. People have tried to talk me out of this, if you believe it.

Let's take theatre. I'm directing a show and working with a great many talented people. I have a lot of input from different sources on how I should be directing. In the end, I must remain true to what I feel should be done regardless of the opinions of others, reviewers included, because they're all just opinions. What good is there in directing a show if I try to please everyone else? I'm greatly pleased with what I'm seeing on stage, so I won't change anything unless I feel it's disturbing the integrity of the show. So far, so good.

How about marriage? Sure, we all compromise in our relationships so that the other person can be happy from time to time but, ultimately, Doing The Right Thing is what's important. The way we treat one another, the things we say (or refrain from saying!) to each other, the life we make together - it's not cookie-cutter. It looks and feels different for every couple and, in the end, we're only beholden to God and to each other. I'm blissfully happy, regardless of any snide remarks and busy-bodying from folks in the past. I like to think my husband is, too, but I won't speak for him.

The bottom line is, as long as my feet are on the right path -- whatever that path looks like for me -- that's what matters. My choir teacher used to have a mock-Latin phrase on a board above her door in high school that read, "Don't let the b**tards wear you down" (or something to that effect; it was 20 years ago, I just remember there was a cuss word in it, hah!). At any rate, I have to keep remembering, every day, to leave the ones behind that bring me down and focus on the One who matters. If I keep that in mind, my life is filled with joy.

Stephanie Jean

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Being Alive

"Somebody, crowd me with love. 
Somebody, force me to care.
Somebody, let me come through;
I'll always be there, as frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive."

Yes, these are song lyrics. No, they're not on the radio. This is the last verse of "Being Alive" from the Stephen Sondheim musical COMPANY that I am currently directing for Elkhart Civic Theatre at the Bristol Opera House. It's been a long and sometimes grueling process over the last few months, but it's not without its rewards. This weekend, we opened our show and the audiences truly enjoyed what they saw and heard, and I was proud of my cast and my production staff for bringing their very best to the table.

But the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics. There is so much power in words, we don't realize it sometimes until they're set to music. So much of this show is about what it means to be part of a relationship with another person, and how you navigate emotions within that relationship. It makes me sit back and examine what my most important earthly relationship means to me.

In my life, God comes first above all else, then my husband. By committing your life to that one person, you sacrifice a lot of things (one of the themes in the show) but if it's right, you don't even notice those sacrifices for the bigger picture. You stop keeping score. You stop thinking in terms of 'missing out' and start living for the life you've built with one another. You understand that your happiness is not dependent upon another person, but upon your own outlook. You begin to realize that "alone is alone... not alive".

Married life is not a series of joyful events in rapid succession until you cease to exist. It's a covenant between two people who have decided to take the good and the bad and to remain on the same side of the field, tackling together anything that dares to get in their way. It's in the "little things you do together" that make life worth living.

I spent twenty-five years of my life alone... even when I was with someone else. Then an incredible man changed my life by loving me, unconditionally, even when what I was was detestable. Because of him, I've grown, changed, evolved, gained confidence, become loyal, learned to love myself, and I've realized that, regardless of what this life throws at me, he and I are always on the same side. I love and respect him more than any words, set to music or not, could ever express.

My joy comes from living in those little moments when we can, together, just enjoy being alive.

Stephanie Jean